Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marine Corps Marathon 2014 Part 1

Please allow me to shout it from the rooftop: I AM A MARATHONER! Cue the overzealous end zone celebration guaranteed to secure penalties and fines.

Wow.  Just wow.  Since I literally just got to my new house and got my computer set up (yeah, on top of everything else marathon week I moved!  Still moving today!  When it rains it pours, all!), I've had a few days to filter through the various thoughts and emotions I've had regarding the race.  Trust me, there are a ton.  I guess most first timers are the same.

Bottom line?  I ran exactly the race that I trained for.  And for that I am extremely proud of myself.  Yes, as a newbie I messed some things up and had to learn as I went.  But overall?  I won't talk down about myself or my performance here at all.

My A goal was a sub 4 hour marathon.  B was 4:15 and C was to not die.  I crossed the finish line in 3:57:00.  9:02 avg pace.  I couldn't be more thrilled.  Now, I will also mention my watch stats which reflect my typical tangent fails as well as a very crowded and hard to maneuver course: 26.77 miles in 3:57:10 - avg pace of 8:52.  Admittedly, one thing that kinda made me go "huh" for a moment after the race when I got my time was "how the hell is my average pace 9:02 when most of my miles ticked off on my watch at 8:50something?".  Then I realized on my watch I ran almost 27 miles... haha.  Bad tangents, yo... Not to make excuses or anything but I truly believe this is one course where it may be nearly impossible unless you're a front runner to execute those tangents.  It's just too crowded.

That said, looking at my gps stats as well as my official race splits I am just stoked that I was able to keep a fairly consistent pace for the majority of the race.  I usually refer to myself as the worst self pacer ever but maybe I just need to believe in myself a little more.  Here's one example of a 5 mile stretch of the race: 8:51, 8:51, 8:52, 8:51, 8:51.  Yeah.  And I held that within a few seconds most of the time.  Aside from a few odd miles this was not an "all over the place" race for me... which might honestly be a first.

So let me get to the race.  First of all, I don't think that anything else can compare to the epic beginning (and I'm talking pre-howitzer) that was MCM.

I chose to take the shuttle to Runners Village instead of the Metro.  The pickup spot was just a couple of blocks from my hotel in Crystal City (yep, totally planned) and I figured it would give my legs a bit of a wake up and give me solo time to clear my head.  I'd heard that lines get long quickly, so my alarm sounded at 4:30am.  I got my things together, put on my lovely goodwill throwaway, and headed out in the darkness.  Oh, something I want to mention is that DC drivers are much more conscientious of pedestrians than yinzer drivers.  Here it's like everyone is out for themselves while down there drivers will honestly stop 99% of the time no matter what to let a runner/walker cross the street.  It took some time to get used to the fact!

When I got to the shuttle stop shortly after 5am there was already quite a line.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I was able to get one of the last seats on the first bus out.  I definitely didn't want to wait for another one.

Runners Village was very well organized.  After we got off the bus, we headed through security (metal detector, wand, dogs, the whole gamut), and then proceeded up the road to where things were set up.  Oh, another thing to mention:  there's a LOT of walking involved for MCM.  Between the walk to Runners Village, the walk to the actual start, and then all the walking afterward I wouldn't be shocked to find out I had over 30 miles on my legs that day.  At Runners Village we had HEAPS of porta potties with no lines, the UPS trucks for bag check, coffee (I didn't have any because I was following my personal fueling plan of a banana and a light peanut butter sandwich), prayer services, etc.  Even in the dark there were huge signs everywhere and lots of uniformed Marines patrolling the area so there was really no way to get lost.

Around 7, I took one last potty break and then walked to the start.  I lined up beside the huge "Expected Finish 4:00-4:09" sign.  I was certainly not alone and the corrals started to pack quickly.  I took off my throwaway around this time too.  As we were standing around chatting, we enjoyed the Osprey flyover as well as the parachute jump with the huge American flags.  United We Sing also graced us with the National Anthem.  It was simply amazing and I can't put any of this part into words.  It's something you have to experience for yourself to understand.  Then we (myself and the new friends I'd made in the corral) started getting nervous.  Where the hell was the 4 hour pacer?  My plan was to use this guy to keep me on track and then sometime after 22 miles push it to the end if I still felt ok.  We were told online, at the expo, etc, that the Clif Bar Pacers would be there at 7:15 holding balloons in front of the "Expected Finish" sign.  Enter panic mode when he showed up moments before the race started and planted himself in the middle of the 3:50-3:59 corral...  Me and a couple others were able to squeeze through the crowd a bit and get closer to where he was but we were still quite a distance behind him.  It was shoulder to shoulder people.. no more room to move at all.  Any time you twisted or moved an arm you whacked someone.  It was crazy.  I told myself to breathe and be calm.  If I could keep him in my sights I was still ok.

The howitzer fired.  It would be a few minutes before I crossed the start line (around 4), but I was on my way!

Part 2!


  1. You deserve to shout it from the rooftop! Your splits are a thing of beauty. I am truly a bad pacer so am in awe. I can't wait to read the next recap.

    (Oh, and about yinzer drivers--so true.)

    1. Thanks! I think DC is just a more active city so it is the norm there. Any time we were out the whole time we were there from Friday-Monday there were tons of runners, bikers, etc.