Monday, November 2, 2015

THE Marine Corps Marathon!

I couldn't believe I was running this race!  With all that had  happened this year, it just seemed surreal to be here, in D.C., to run the Peoples Marathon as it's nicknamed.  Wow. 

My ride dropped me off at the shuttle stop around 6am. While there was a line of people to load buses, there were plenty of buses, and the line moved quickly.   
Waiting for my shuttle.  

We were shuttled to the Pentagon parking area, oops, I mean the entrance to security for the Runners Village. Read what I read: The Runners Village.  
This was the surreal line for the Runners Village. Way up ahead, by the yellow street sign (the one that is actually facing the camera) are the metal detectors.  Let's say this line was crazy, it was HUGE, it was sprinkling a little, but people were very courteous and kind.

Strangely, there were friends and family in this huge sea of people. Really, friends and family coming to see their loved ones off on their marathon adventure (or 10K). It's the line to the RUNNERS VILLAGE.  Yes, I realize I'm kind of screaming that in this write up.  It just boggled my mind. Sure, I love when The Mike or other family can be at the start of a race with me, It really never entered my mind to ask my family to be at the Village with me while I waited two hours for the event to start. Because isn't that the bonding time for my 30,000 best racing friends on this day?

Any way, I thought check in went smoothly.  It took me about 45 minutes from drop off at the shuttle to getting through security.  This is why they ask you to be there early.  Race Directors know what they're talking about!  
While waiting in line for security, I snapped a quick pic of the Washington Monument.
The UPS trucks for clear gear bags to check.
First, I love the big brown truck! They deliver my Amazon goodies :-)
Second, in our area at least, they wash out their trucks every evening or at least once a week. This means you get a clean package. The other company delivers dusty packages. yuck.
I think this picture is pretty neat.  30 UPS trucks lined up in a row.  
Where are all the pacers?  
I saw this guy's shirt while we were milling around the starting area.  Thought it was hilarious.  Thought it was great that I caught up to him about mile 23 :-)   
The start of this race is something truly spectacular. One can only see so much when you're in the middle of the crowd, but if you had a front row seat to the starting line, you'd see so much.  There were about five parachute jumpers with the flags, then we had a color guard (which I didn't see), as well as the Osprey helicopters (below) and another set of helicopters fly by as well. 
They're loud and awesome to see. 

In looking around at the start line, I saw a couple people in tank tops with no throw-away shirts or long shirts, and I saw this woman in the next row over. . . double walking boots on her legs and crutches.  I actually saw her at the expo but figured she was a local who was still going to pick up her packet even if she couldn't participate. Um, guess she did participate!  GO YOU!  
This was the first pic I took as I approached the starting line, the second pic was blurry.  Two start line areas, I don't understand why.  I also don't understand why they don't have a wave start of fifteen or thirty seconds.  We're off to a fabulous race with some hills in the first couple of miles.  

Heading down a street to a turn around point. This road was just completely full of people. The nice thing is that people were staying on "their side" of the yellow line!  That doesn't happen in races of 1000 people, but in a race of 30,000 it sure did!  So nice to see happen.  
I thought this was a neat bridge.  Another out and back section (or is the same one as above?).  About miles 6-9 The scary thing for me is that by the time I was coming back on this road, there was a line of buses on the other side following the last runners I thought. I was freaking out a bit, but remembered to run my run and not worry about those buses. If I had to ride one at mile 20, then I had to ride one at mile 20, but I really wanted to "beat the bridge".  Mile 10 or so, along the Potomac, I heard a helicopter and looked up to see "The United States of America" on its side, about ten minutes later it came back by again. I surmise this is the President's from having seen the news, but  I have no idea if the pilot was training or actually escorting the President himself. 

Somewhere along in here, on some steps near a bridge which I think was near the Kennedy Center, the Marine Corps Band was playing for the runners.  :-)  

Mile 12 brings us to the Blue Mile. Wear Blue To Remember group. I dare you to find any runner who was not tearing up in this mile. The first half or so we run past names of those fallen in combat.  
The second half of the race, we run past family members holding up the stars and stripes as we run beneath.  I hold these families in high regard.
Several of the members holding flags were cheering for me in my "This is my fighting cancer shirt". I was running for my mom who died of pancreatic cancer, for my sister who was with me and fighting breast cancer, and me who had melanoma earlier this year.  I could only think that those holding the flags are the ones who deserve the cheering and honoring, they stand for those who have fallen. 

Miles, 13 and 14 were on Haines Point which I use to love to visit for "The Awakening" sculpture which has since been relocated to Prince George's County, Maryland.  It is such a great piece of art to visit if you are ever in the area. I was starting to falter in this area and knowing my energy was waning, but still very determined. We came on the lower part of the mall as I call it, and went by this monument which many people over look or never see as they're more preoccupied with the popular mall area.  Do you know what this is?  
The only monument to Washingtonians who fought during WW1.
I came upon it several years ago with a group of friends.  

As we passed by the Washington Monument, I was running with a man with the RWB (red white blue) group who was carrying a US flag.  How does anyone carry the flag for 13.1 miles, let alone 26.2! These folks should get an extra medal!  
What this man and I talked about were the people on Segway tours while we were running. . . they don't even want to *walk* their tour and we're running a marathon.
Then we ran the mall for miles 17,18, 19.  I was run/walking in here, doing more walking than the first part of the race, but still pushing on.  I remember taking this picture, which I think was out front of the Air and Space Museum, but I'm not positive on that now.  
I don't recall seeing this sculpture before, but I think it's beautiful. 
So there I was in mile 19 and worried still about the bridge. I suppose everyone may have a niggle of fear in the back of their mind about the Bridge we have to beat by a specific time so they can reopen it to traffic.  I never thought much of the bridge other than knowing I had to beat it.  What I've learned on Facebook is that apparently at about mile 19.5 where I turned from the Mall onto 14th, there was a white miniature horse out there. Totally did not see it.  On the other hand, I was tucked in close to the curb area, so if the horse was in the street area I sure wouldn't have seen it. 

Now, I can't tell you the miles, but there were several spots where we had fresh orange slices out on the course. There was a Cliff gel station. I always take one of the free ones in a race not knowing a) if I'll end up needing it and b) I will try it on a training run to see if I'd like it.  I did run with GU (Chocolate Outrage, Espresso Love (which I think tastes caramel-ly), and Jet Blackberry), and HUMA gels (strawberry and apple). I like to switch them up to get a different flavor in the mouth. I also like the Huma as it's not as straight "sugar" tasting. On the last half of this course, I also started drinking the Gatorade. Normally I don't drink it in races (I usually have Cytomax with me).  However, not every water stop in the last half had Gatorade, so I definitely took it while I could, and had a Marine or volunteer fill up my water bottle I carried as well.  

Nice even view of TJ and GW monuments, but I seem to have managed to not get myself in that. 
Let's try it again.
Oh, look, now it's crooked.  :-) 
The Bridge. The Bridge is LONG. It's not just a bridge over a river or over a grassy area or whatnot. No, it's a long elevated bridge area. No wonder they have to have a deadline for runners to get to the bridge. Even on the map, which I've looked at since then, it doesn't seem like the bridge is as long as it is.  It starts as a small elevated area about mile 19.75 and then mile 20 comes when you're 'over the bridge'. Except,  that's just the end of the first bridge, then you get onto an interstate bridge across the Potomac.  You're on this bridge until you get to Crystal City, mile 21.75 or thereabouts. It's a long bridge run. What i thought was interesting was how moral may have dropped on here. . . or at least people's *need* to run dropped here. I was on the bridge with hundreds of others and at one point I wondered if someone was filming us for a zombie movie. We were all just walking along. About the time I had this thought, I was like "not me, I am going to move! Hustle Hustle.  Move Move". I started running and then walked and when I walked I had to keep kicking myself mentally to run, run, run! Move, move, move.  By mile 20 it's such a brain game, with the biggest organ trying to get you to stop. About Mile 21  was also where my toes on my left foot went a little numb. Which was a weird sensation. I worked on doing a long stride so I could stretch my muscles. The sensation came back.   Miles 22-24 were about the same. It was walk, walk, hustle, hustle, run, run. Rinse and repeat.   Along Mile 22 I had someone cross over from the other side to congratulate me for my 'fighting cancer shirt'.  Which reminded me that when I got this shirt it acquired in purple for pancreatic cancer. One of my friends said, "aren't you worried people will think you have cancer when you wear that?"  "No," I said, I can wear a fight cancer shirt and not have cancer.  Forward almost three years later and I am a cancer fighter in the form of kicking melanoma.  Wow, how time can change in the blink of an eye!   Mile 23 my toes started hurting, and I thought "this is not good". It wasn't my toes so much as my toe *nails* that were hurting.  I just knew my nails would be falling off. I've never had that happen since 2009 when I started running. Even then it was only my index toe nail that came off. This time it would be my big toe nails. UGH.  Run, run, run, hustle, hustle, hustle, walk, walk, walk, repeat, repeat, repeat!  On this bridge I was passing a couple of guys, one lamenting he was out of fuel and just needed to get across the bridge. Remember where I said I always take a gel if they're on the course being handed out?  I gave my Cliff one to this man and then continued on my way.  :-)  Good deed done for the race.  

About Mile 24 or so, I'm not really sure where, I had a Marathon Maniac come up to me in the race and ask if I was a Maniac. I said I'm officially a half maniac, but not a full. He pretty much said I should 'go over to the other side' of the maniacs  and become a double agent.  
I didn't know this part, but he said just to find an ultra running group and when they put on runs/training runs, if you log a run of over 8 hours then that can be considered one of your 'marathons' for running three marathons in 90 days. I forgot about that 90 day rule, I was thinking of the two in 14 or 16 days would get you in the club as well.  Not that I'm going to be in the Marathon Maniac club, or at least not any time soon!

Part of mile 24 and 25 skirt the Runners Village we started in this morning, and then we ran about a mile of course we'd already run.  Then it's a quick left, a straight up for 50 yards or so (which I walked). Just as I turned to the right, I heard my name and saw my family there and gave my nephew the stinkiest kiss he's ever had :-D . He's 6 so he's okay with it!  Then I ran off the final distance to the finish (passing some people who passed me on that incline) and then this:
Several corrals of Marines lined up to give us medals. 
Not only did they place it around our necks, but before that, they saluted ME!  ME! I earned a salute from one of our Marines! Who then said, "We are proud of you". WHAT? 

(Cue flood of tears).  

Then a walk through the corral to: 
Iwa Jima, The Marine Corps War Memorial. 

(Cue more tears. For the Fallen. For the heroes. For the witnesses. For the freedom we enjoy). 

More tears. I couldn't stop crying. I have never cried at the finish before that I can remember, but WHOA, so powerful a place, so emotional a race, knowing that we are running free because of wonderful Marines (and other military) who have been guarding our backs since 1775. Yes, the Marines were formed before we were officially a free country!   

Four foreign military men (UK & USA) came up behind me while I was awaiting my official picture in front of this monument.  I was still crying.  The older one gave me a hug, then another hug because I was just a mess. Seriously, I would not hug a stranger, but running does this to a person.  Turns out he was one of the few who carries "The Baton" in the marathon.  He gave me a brochure of it, which I read back at my sister's place. WOW.    
Then I wondered around looking for my finish stuff.
No, not looking for finish stuff. looking for food! FOOOD!  I wanted FOOOOOD!  Even knowing I couldn't eat everything in the box, I just wanted something other than a GU or HUMA. A banana would have been nice. None were available.
Turns out the Marines/finish line area for runners ran out of the food boxes which were boxed up for the 30,000 marathoners and the 10,000 10Kers.  They also ran out of the red finish line jackets. This is what they looked like.  
I finally got a Marine to say "huh, we must not have any" instead of what I'd like have heard was "here they are" or "Sorry we're out".  Trying to translate "huh we must not have any" into "we're out" after six plus hours of running is not easy to do!  

Anyway, I went down and got in line (um, I may have actually cut in line) for the Brooks Running tent to buy a finisher shirt. YEAH I was able to get one of these!   The woman in front of me said she saw 10Kers with the red jacket.  People on Facebook said people saw whole families with them, not just the runner.  This is just completely poor sportsmanship!  I don't even know why a 10Ker would want the red jacket. It says *26.2* on it, not 6.2.  Poor sportsmanship to take more than what you need (1 food box, 1 jacket per runner).  Thankfully, I knew I had a Tera's Whey protein packet in my runners bag at the UPS truck . Unfortunately the truck mine was in was at the bottttoooooom of the hill.  

First though, I had to finish walking the street to the UPS trucks and in doing so I passed a truck with watermelon and grabbed ONE of those and loved the fresh fruit sugar.   
Then I went to the next place that still had food: ICE CREAM!
I figured it was okay to eat this as I was walking to my UPS truck. I couldn't take it home with me since my nephew has nut allergies, but I could partake of it before I saw them again!
Okay, this is not my UPS truck, but I thought it was a good way to break up a long day. 
At my UPS gear check truck I took off my shoes and socks, and had trouble getting my big toe into my Birkenstocks Mayari sandals.
I then had to walk back UP the hill to the Brooks Running area to catch up to my ride.

A shower to remove the stench, and an epsom salt bath to help the muscles and feet worked wonders for me.  I was able to move around, although stiffly. I felt a bit like a tinman.  As long as I was moving I was fine, but if I stopped moving, the first few steps were awkward.

Recovery dinner:  brown rice pasta with homemade alfredo sauce, sauteed spinach, and garlic shrimp A very delicious and tasty meal!   

I managed to find two quarters during the race :-)  50¢ richer, I'll take that!  59,069 steps. I think I am done.  Ready for bed ¢and it's only 8pm!   

Recap:  Felt good at the start. I had a ham and cream cheese sandwich on Trader Joe's bread while waiting in line at the security checkpoint, then had part of a Chobani yogurt before the race.  Was feeling good about running and pacing for the first hour. Second hour I was wearing a bit, but enjoyed seeing the President's helicopter. Third hour, I was like "I am doing this faster than the Quad City half (though still slower than my normal pace), I can do this!". Huma and GU!   Fourth hour, OMG, what was I thinking. I didn't train for a marathon!  Wait--ORANGES!  Fifth hour surgery toe feels fine, other toes feel numb. Oh, wait feeling is back. Blisters on toes. Eeek.  On to the sixth hour:  You've got this, keep run/walking, keep moving, don't stop, don't stop.  

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