Ironman Countdown

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MCM Race Report: Finish What You Start

I had all these plans to write this update, to tell you about how I PR'd (personal record) my second marathon; how it was a glorious day full of victory and happy running....  but that didn't quite happen.   I finished my second marathon ever, taking each and every step along the way, and that ended up being enough.  I'm actually really happy about that.

The thing about doing any race for a second time, is there is the hope and expectation to do better than the last time.  I am definitely faster than I was a year ago, and my training runs over the summer all seemed to point to a PR for MCM.  But sometimes, it's just not your day... despite the best laid plans.
my race bib

On Friday, I took the day off from work, and went to the race expo.  I got to pick up my race number, and my free race gear.  As all runners and triathletes will tell you, a good race shirt sometimes makes the whole thing worth it.  This year's MCM shirt is, um, well its TERRIBLE.  I mean look at it!

Its a tech mock turtle neck!  It's shit-brown in color (sorry for the swearing Mom & Dad, but that's the only way to describe it).  It has some horrible logo on it!  Just awful.

much better!  (and prettier!)
However, at the race expo, there were lots of other goodies to behold.  Brooks, the running company, had a whole store full of beautiful MCM logo'd shirts and hats and jackets.  I had my hands on so many things, all fun and pretty.  But I settled for a hat, a t-shirt, and a very cool running jacket that will see lots of use.

Marine Corps Mascot!
The expo was lots of fun.  The Marine Corps pep band was there, putting on a mini-concert out front (and I developed an immediate crush on the trombone player, even though I am probably old enough to be his mamma).  There were lots of vendors with fun race gear and samples and running outfits.  It was so hard to exercise financial restraint.  I do love pretty running skirts!!!!


perfect weather!

I woke up before 5 a.m.  I started my rituals of making coffee, putting on my race gear, filling my water bottle etc.  I had decided days ago to dedicate my race to my friend Stef, who is battling ovarian cancer.   She is an amazing runner, and I know what she is doing is tougher than any marathon.  So, I wrote her name where I could see it, to remind me to be tough and stay strong.

I ended up leaving 15 minutes later than I had planned... I seemed to be having a "nervous stomach" just as I was getting ready to leave!   I had to drive a half hour away to College Park to pick up the Metro, and take the train to DC and the start line near the Pentagon.

Top of Green Line, to the bottom where Yellow/Blue meet at the Pentagon

getting nervous on the Metro!
I had to switch trains once, from the Green Line to the Yellow Line, at the Fort Totten stop.  Everything was still going o.k., despite my late start.  Until I got to Fort Totten.  The Yellow train.... the dreaded blasted Yellow train... I (and about a dozen other runners) waited 25 minutes for that train to appear.  So now I was 40 minutes behind schedule.

A side note:  for those who don't know, I am TYPE A about being on time.  I get nervous and upset if I am running late.  I hate being late.  Well, now I was late.  My stomach, which was already in knots for some reason, was a mess.  I am also a bit neurotic as an athlete, but that's "normal" among most marathon runner and triathletes I know.

I got off the train at the Pentagon, and still had about a mile walk (with all the other runners on the train) to the start line.  I had to check my bag (full of warm dry clothes for afterwards) and pee one last time.  The race started officially at 7:55.  By the time I was in the runners village from the train, it was 7:52.  Not good.  I heard the cannon for the start... I used the port a pot, tried to ignore my rumbling angry stomach, checked my bag, and rushed towards the start line.
here's the cannon at the start that I never saw!

I had wanted to be with the 4 Hour and 4:15 Hour pace groups.  In the sea of humanity, I missed all of them, and was at the very back of 30,000 RUNNERS!  Oh dear god!  I started jogging down the opposite road, passing the slower paced corrals, trying desperately to find my pace group.  I ended up passing the starting line, but on the wrong side of the road, and eventually had to hop a concrete barrier to rejoin the runners (scraped up the whole back of my leg).  Instead of calmly focusing, I was feeling frantic.  And it was so crowded.  I couldn't find my stride.  I was just kirking out.

The first three miles are basically uphill, and all I kept doing was trying to "catch up."  I was behind my pace already... and my brain would not shut up!  I was only 4 miles in, and I was not feeling my normal calm happy feeling. I managed to "catch up" to the 4:15 pacers, but really worked to do so.  Not smart.
The Course Map

I saw my big(gest) brother John at mile 5 near Georgetown.  Perfect timing... I needed this.  I was so excited to see him, and that did wonders for me.  He even made a sign for me so I could find him.  And I got to hear his voice and his yell, which just filled my heart.
My oldest brother, Johnny!

I finally started to settle down a little, and realize I could still PR but just not have my super-good-day time. At mile 7, I ceremoniously ripped off the pace bands I was wearing, and decided to just let it go.  I needed to calm down, and just be in the moment.  Despite this decision, my brain still kept at me, periodically yelling about pacing and goal times, about being late and not finding my stride.  I kept yelling back, "Let it go!  Just calm down!"  I probably was muttering out loud!

My sister appeared on the course around Mile 11, and that was a total surprise! She's so good like that, and I got a hug from her.  It took those four miles to really quiet my brain, and I was starting to feel content with slowing down a bit and just being happy with this slower pace than I had planned.

And then it happened:  my stomach really started hurting.  Cramping up.  To the point that I was having trouble ignoring it.  I kept telling myself, "just get to the halfway point at Mile 13, and we'll see where we are."   Mile 12 to 13 goes down to Haines Point and is known as the Solemn Mile or "Run to Honor" mile.  It is dedicated to fallen service members, and they ask runners to honor that while they run.  The wind was whipping around, and there were families of the fallen holding American flags.  There were placards depicting the photos of the fallen.  It was so moving and beautiful.  That helped me re-focus on something other than my stomach.

I made it to 13, and I knew I was in big trouble.  I needed a bathroom.  Found it.  But the problem with stopping in a race like this is the legs cramp up and its hard to get moving again.  I lost my pace, but tried to just keep going.  I came out of Haines Point at around Mile 15, and saw my brother and sister again... and found another bathroom.  And then I had to walk.  HAD TO.  It just sucked.

I texted James and Tricia, and then my sister and brother.  I told them what was going on, because I had slipped so far off pace that I knew they might be worried.  I also just needed to tell someone before I could admit it to myself.  My body was betraying me.  I was so angry at this point.  So disappointed.

And I had a DECISION to make.  I could just quit and walk away, knowing it wasn't my day, or find the strength to simply finish.  Just finish.  I was hurting, and angry, but I knew how furious I would be if I walked away completely, even though that was the easier choice.  So, I decided to just keep going.  One step at a time: walk, run or crawl. 

It's hard to stay in a race and finish, when you are feeling so negative.  I kept looking at the other runners who were wearing shirts in honor of fallen military family members; I kept seeing active military runners.  I was thinking of Stef, of my friend Vickie, of others who would love to be outside enjoy this gorgeous day in Washington, D.C.  It was was beautiful... the Marines presence, the crowds of supporters, the triumph of the marthoner.... that all helped.  I walked a lot.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

And finally, finally... there was the turn to "charge the hill" to the finish line.  The Iwo Jima monument.  I made it.  I got my medal put around my neck from a Marine (and I got all choked up) and got my finisher photo.
what a gorgeous finish line!

My brother went all the way back to Northern VA for me, so he could drive me back to my car in College Park, and I wouldn't have to take the Metro home.  It was so kind, and so sweet.  Big brothers are pretty awesome.

I had so many messages of congratulations via text and Facebook.   I let that sink in, and I realized that even though mentally (and physically) this was not my best day, I still did a marathon, all 26.2 miles.  And I can still wear my new MCM gear with pride (even the ugly brown shirt), as a finisher!

finisher's medal:  always earned, never given

The race photos were just posted.  I was happy to see they caught me smiling in several, and one that made me laugh outloud.  Enjoy!

I'm looking for a port-a-potty?

best finish line I can imagine


  1. You are AWESOME. You FINISHED, despite several challenges. That, my friend, is everything !

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