Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Mission Accomplished: Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap


As they say in the Marine Corps, OORAH!

And, as I crossed the finish line, Mission Accomplished.

I have had the Marine Corps Marathon on my bucket list for a long time. After all, I'm very patriotic, my husband is retired military (Lieutenant Colonel, Air Force), and I have a love for running. Why not merge all of those factors into one big race?

Now in its 44th year, the Marine Corps Marathon takes place in and around Washington, DC. Sunday, October 27th was the date. I had spent the past (almost) three months training and was eager to see what I could do over the course of 26.2 miles.


I flew into DC on Friday (the 25th), and had been stalking the weather all week. I'm a glass-half-full kind of gal, but the forecast was really testing my eternal optimism. Precipitation had been the one constant, though the percentage of rainfall on race day had wavered on every one of my daily checks.

We awoke to rain early Sunday morning. I had planned out my race day outfit several days prior, but I still was on the fence if I'd bring the hydration pack (more for a rain gear carry-all than fuel resource). The temps were tricky...65F, humid, and rainy. Typically, temps in the 60F's feel cold to me, add in some rainfall and I'm definitely anything but warm or happy.  I decided to add a pair of cut-off knee socks (as throwaway arm sleeves). I also tempted fate and wore not only my new hat purchased at the expo, but said hat had the words Mission Accomplished plastered directly over my forehead.
Ready to face the elements...
Some of our apps even showed thunder storms happening mid-morning. Can you say, UGH?

                  

With  the full marathon starting at 7:55 (and the 50K starting at 7:35, for our lone 50K-seeker, Julie), we piled into our Uber at 5:45 and headed out.  We had nearly a 45-minute walk to get to the start line on Route 110 (situated between Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon), which included getting through security and to the bag drop site.

We wished Julie well (embarking on her first-ever 50K). Rachel and I headed to the corral for the 4:30-4:45 projected finish runners, while Linda, Jenn and Dana dropped off their bags. Unfortunately, that's the last I saw of these other gals until after the finish line.

waiting for the howitzer to sound...
We'd had non-stop rain until right before the race start. The rain had been light, but just enough that the poncho was necessary.
ponchos everywhere....
All of us were hoping to finish around 4:30, but we knew the weather would be a major factor in that happening (or not). Rachel and I hung together for the first three miles or so. There were a couple of hills right outta the gate, but they weren't ominous. The rain had started to fall again, but it was light. I was really surprised how warm I felt, so I tossed the arm warmers (already) in the second mile. By the fourth mile, the rain had stopped, so we took the ponchos off but I elected to roll mine up tight and hold it for awhile (I'd brought a rubber band along for just that purpose).

We made it through some beautiful woodland along Spout Run. As we were approaching Georgetown, Rachel and I got separated for a bit, but she found me back as we were crossing Key Bridge. A mile or so later, though, we lost each other again. I thought I was ahead of her, and needed a quick potty stop, but when I returned to the race (not even 20 seconds later), I wasn't able to find her back. I did see Julie briefly, though, as her 50K route had merged back with the 26.2 route.

I decided to put in the earbuds and have some music...only, the volume was too low. I tried turning off the IPod and disconnecting the cord (which usually does the trick), but my fingers were so wet, I couldn't get a solid grip on it. And, I couldn't get the music to come back on...so I gave up and settled for silence, which wasn't a bad thing, because the crowd support was pretty incredible.

I'd eaten a few Honey Stinger chews prior to the start, so near the 6-mile mark I ate a few more. I was trying to be careful to have some water (and Gatorade on occasion) at each of the water stops. Despite being on my own, and with no music, things were feeling good. Then, right near the 8-mile mark, the heavens opened and down came the rain. Again. All kinds of rain.

I was ever grateful I'd kept my poncho! Even though I was a sweaty mess by that point, keeping the bulk of the rain outside of the poncho gave me a little control of the situation (at least in my mind LOL).
thank you, MarathonFOTO
So, onward! Little did I know, the rain would continue for the next 10 miles. The rain would lighten up, periodically, only to return with a heavy vengeance. There were puddles everywhere, and some standing water as well.
pic courtesy of Sal Bezos, fellow marathoner
Although I didn't train specifically in pouring rain, I have had plenty of experience running in it. That said, heavy rain does NOT make for an ideal race day setting. For myself, I tried to just soldier on through it, but the rain really made it difficult to enjoy the experience.

It was near mile 10 or 11 when I was ready for a little more fuel, but with my wet fingers (and wet fuel packets), I wasn't able to rip the packets open. And, I didn't have anything to dry my hands (or the packets). I think I walked a good solid 2-3 minutes, struggling to rip the packet open. Finally, while under an overpass, I asked a spectator for help (since they had been protected from the rain and probably had drier hands than myself). After several attempts, the lady asked if I'd mind if she used her teeth, ha! Desperate times, right? 

A short ways later, it was the Wear Blue Mile. These always bring me to tears...seeing all the pictures of the fallen service men and women, reading their names, noting their (usually) young ages. I feel sadness for their families and friends, but I feel a deep sense of gratitude for their sacrifices.

More rain, more puddles to dodge, and sore, wet feet. It wasn't until sometime in mile 18 that the rain finally stopped. I took off the poncho, but hung on to it for another mile, until I felt it safe to toss it curbside.

It was right around this time (near the 19-mile mark, give or take), that my white flagged was poised and ready to wave. My pace had been staying somewhat steady, but the rain had put a damper (literally) on my energy. I knew the sub 4:30 finish probably wasn't happening, and even a sub-5:00 wasn't a guarantee.

                    

It was nice that the rain had (finally) stopped, though. The sun had emerged, but with my sunglasses buried deep in my pack, I'd either have to pull over and dig or find a kind person to do the digging for me. Immediately, I spotted a Marine on the side of the road, handing out sport beans and cheering. I asked if he could dig out my sunglasses for me...of course, he was more than happy to do so. I thanked him for his service to our country, and he then thanked ME for my support. And I almost burst into tears.

A short while later, having conceded that I wasn't going to make my desired finish time, I decided to take a quick walk break. Then I noticed a vacant porta potty. And, I realized I hadn't had any fuel in awhile. I also grabbed some water and more Gatorade.

Ahead of me was the long jaunt over the Potomac River, via the 14th Street Bridge. By now, the sun was burning down on us. I'm not afraid of heat or humidity, but it had been awhile since I'd run in it. My clothing was still a wet mess, my feet were feeling tired and the exhaustion was starting to set in. I managed to run most of the bridge, but I could tell my pace was slowing.

Also, my fuel pack had been rubbing my left shoulder all morning. I had been tucking part of the poncho under the strap, but with the poncho gone, the strap was really making my shoulder miserable. Just after the bridge, I spotted a medical tent up ahead, so I headed inside and asked for a bandage. I was surprised to see so many runners on cots; some wrapped in blankets, some with ice packs, some curled up with a look of distraught on their faces. Maybe I didn't have it so bad...

The final four miles were definitely my slowest of the day. There was probably equal parts running and walking. I never felt like giving up, but it was frustrating to have all that training behind me only to be facing a tough day on the MCM course.

Heading into Crystal City, I knew Coco would be at one of the MRTT stands, so that became my beacon. I spotted Kathrine Switzer, but didn't have the energy to seek out a high-5 from her (I know, my bad). Shortly after, near the 23-mile mark, I spotted Coco and she gave me a hug. I didn't need any water or food, but seeing a friendly face can really up the mojo!

The final three miles had a few gentle, rolling hills. I decided to run as much as possible, but walk the inclines. My body was really feeling tired, and I was starting to feel a little loopy. Then, near the 25.5 mark, I spotted a row of unoccupied porta potties and decided to take advantage. Why not? This final 1/2 mile of the course had us tracing our steps from when we'd crossed the start line, back on Route 110.

I could hear the crowds cheering. The route curved to the left, and I started the final climb to the finish. My GPS had been off for most of the second half of the race...around a good 1/2 mile "farther" than what the mile markers were indicating, so I didn't know for certain just how much further I had remaining. I do know we had a very steep climb at the 26-mile mark, and the route then turned right. The bleachers alongside the road were full of people, the noise of the crowd was loud, and it still took
a lot more energy (than it should have) to get my legs across the finish line.

But, I couldn't help but smile back at the friendly faces. I'd crossed the finish line of my ninth marathon, and it felt great to be done (in more ways than one). Not even close to my projected finish time, but a victory none the less.

After crossing the finish line, there was a short walk to the medals. So many people I chatted with  expressed frustration with the day. The rain had been tough, but then the sudden sunshine, and heat at the end, was a challenge as well. I later learned approximately 1-1/2" of rain fell that morning (and the temps reached a high of 80F), and the bulk of that happened after the race had begun.


The Marines really make you feel like royalty. They salute each runner before placing the medal around their neck.


Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor  Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor  Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, outdoor



And, speaking of medals....this is such a piece of beauty!

  

Not only did we receive snack boxes, but also "disposable" warm-up jackets...

   

 Once through the food line, I was able to find Rachel and Julie, and we later found Linda and Jenn. All of us were exhausted from the day and frustrated that the weather had not played nice.

Although my finish time wasn't what I'd hoped, I'm alright with it. I know a lot of runners struggled on the MCM course...I've seen numerous postings from others, who also ran their slowest marathon  in the midst of all that rain. That said, this still was a top-notch event. The course was beautiful, and encompassed so many captivating points of interest. The crowd support was incredible, especially considering they also had to endure the rain for the majority of the morning. The on-course volunteers were wonderful as well.

And, the Marines! The Marines were most gracious. Many were working the water stations and fuel stands. Even more were simply alongside the route, cheering for all the runners. Every Marine that I thanked for their service immediately thanked me for my support. Every. Single. One.

In years past, there's been some mixed reviews on the race shirt. Usually a mock neck, this year the MCM really hit the jackpot. The design is great (in my opinion)!

   

My stats:
274th (of 839) in my age division
3921st (of 8499) of the females
9796th (of 18,513) overall

So, although it was a tough day (thank you, Momma N!), it still was a great day. The rain was a definite buzzkill, and my finish time was disappointing (it wasn't a bad finish time, it just wasn't the time I'd trained for or was capable of)....but I can honestly look back at this race and be grateful for the experience. Honestly, I'm thankful I can endure 26.2 miles of non-stop action, even in the rain, without the aid of music. As this post goes live (two days post-finish line), I'm only experiencing some very mild stiffness and feel pretty good overall. I'm good with that!

And, best of all, I got to spend a fun weekend with some great gal pals. I'd definitely call that a win!

One last plank with Rachel (pic courtesy of Rachel)


Have you run the Marine Corps Marathon? Ever run a race in the rain...if so, how far? How do you feel about tough races....regret the frustrations or take pride in not quitting?


 I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up

**I'm also linking this with Debbie and Marc  for the Running Coaches' Corner

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42 comments:

  1. Wowee! I mean, yes, you didn't get the time you were capable of, but all that training on endurance and grit meant you had the endurance and grit to get through it at all, and not be those people in the medical tent, curled up in a ball! A wonderful report and some epic work there. One of my friend's daughters did it and really suffered. Well done! Now, what's the plan for Marathon 10? Right?

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    1. No specific plan yet, but there will be a Marathon 10 ;-)

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  2. "Courage is endurance for one moment more" on your jacket is a fitting summary of the race. Just wow on having to run through standing water, how are your feet? Congrats on enduring a tough race and coming out stronger on the other side. That's Marine tough!

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    1. My feet feel fine now, but they were so sore after the race (and during). They were all lubed up, but with all that rain, even the wool socks were compromised LOL

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  3. Awesome job getting it done. OORAH! I forgot about the incredibly long walk to the start line. I'm not sure I could have handled all of that rain. Great recap, and congrats on your finish!

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    1. Thanks, Linda! It was quite an epic day, and I do have plenty of stories (and memories) from the experience.

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  4. Nice recap and nice job!! I also ran this year and have been enjoying reading about others’ experiences. I had a really tough day. I’ve run in the rain many times, but not with wet feet for 26.2 miles!!

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    1. 26 miles is tough enough, we don't need rain to complicate it further, right?

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  5. Way to push through and have a fantastic attitude on a really tough weather day. Just means you are due for a do over one year. Congratulations again on a hard earned one

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    1. I'd LOVE a do-over, but would want the weather to be much more in my favor...can you arrange that? ;-)

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  6. That weather was crazy. I told my friend at mile 9 that I was just going to keep moving until the SAG bus picked me up. Not what you want to be thinking with 22 miles left to go...

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    1. The weather was tough! Being on my own for most of the race, I kept doing the "runner's math"...how many more miles is that? How much time has elapsed? DO I still have time to make up that last potty stop? LOL It was crazy...

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  7. I was wondering about how your race went, Kim! Congratulations on finishing your 9th marathon. The walk to the start of the race didn't bother me, it was the mile-plus walk after the race that was hard. Wasn't that rain crazy? Because we didn't have a time goal at all, I could enjoy splashing in the puddles! MCM is the only marathon I've done more than once. I absolutely love everything about it.

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    1. I think I'm gonna shift my goals when it comes to marathons. I enjoy running them, but the constant monitoring my pace and dwelling (?) on all the factors I cannot control is such a waste of mental energy. I know I can go the distance, why put that extra pressure of a time goal? Especially for a race such as this, I'd much rather focus on the surroundings than on my Garmin.

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  8. I'll say it again - I'm so proud of you! That race was probably more about mental toughness than the physical act of running. You never got negative during the race and just keep pushing on. I've seen that photo of the runners walking in knee deep water a few times and each time I always just say "unreal".

    I love the zip up shirt that they gave you guys this year, especially after last year's mock shirt fiasco, LOL

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    1. It definitely was more about mental toughness. Physically, I did get really tired towards the end, but I think a lot of that was from the "mental frustration" of not being in control of ALL THE RAIN. There were numerous times I kept saying "Seriously??" (out loud LOL) every time I came upon another puddle to cross or another downpour...

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  9. Congrats! Sounds like a really tough race and definitely not the finish time you trained for. I'm sure you're looking at everything, weather aside, wondering what you could have done differently. It's amazing after all the planning and training that it all comes down to one day!

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    1. Honestly, I don't think there's anything I would have done differently other than to NOT focus on a finish time goal. When the race day conditions are not in one's favor, it's ridiculous to even consider going for specific finish time. You're absolutely right...all that work takes place and it all comes down to a few hours on ONE day if it will play out as you'd hope.

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  10. Congrats on powering through those conditions! I had a downpour and humidity at Grandma's in 2015 but it wasn't nearly as bad as this. I'm proud of you and very impressed!!

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    1. I was also at Grandma's in 2015, and that downpour was crazy, too. At least it ended after only a couple hours LOL This rain was relentless...

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  11. You definitely had a wonderful training cycle (I may not comment but I do keep up)! I think you certainly could have reached your goal given a different day. But...we can't control those things and it keeps us runners coming back again and again (wink). Congrats on a strong race on an incredibly tough day.

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    1. Thanks, Holly!! I can't blame it all on the weather, but I do believe the weather definitely did not play in my favor at MCM. There are some things that we simply can't control and have to just make do with what the day brings us. And, yes, it does keep us coming back!

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  12. Congrats on pushing through to the finish on such a tough day! The rain reminds me of the conditions in Tokyo, except that it never got warmer than 40 degrees. How crazy it got so hot later in the race! All you can do is make the best of what the day brings and you did that, so Mission Accomplished indeed!

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    1. Tokyo sounded like such a nightmare with the weather you had! I was really surprised how warm the mid-60's actually felt in the rain...I typically am cold in those conditions.

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  13. Congrats, Kim! I'm so happy you got to check the Marine Corps Marathon off of your bucket list, but I'm bummed that you had such awful weather conditions. I've reading your recap - it's especially fun reading a recap when it's of a race that I'm so familiar with! That medal is a thing of beauty! They used to be dog tag style and size medals.

    To answer your questions, I've run ten MCM's and have run several races in the rain. I ran my marathon PR in pouring rain from start to finish, but at least we didn't have to run through any ankle deep water.

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    1. The ankle deep water was the pinnacle of UGH. There were a lot of DNF's and numerous injuries due to the rain and the water-filled potholes that messed up some ankles and knees.

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  14. wow, that standing water!! I've run the Glass City marathon in the rain, and then I ended up getting a rainy year in Boston too. Mostly I avoid running in the rain! Congrats on getting it done out there, in all the elements!! Beautiful medal.

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    1. The rain can really be a tough dragon to slay. A light rain is not a big deal at all, but a torrential downpour is tough, especially for upwards of 10 miles LOL

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  15. Yay MCM! That was a cray race, girl. But I'm glad I got to do it with you! Oorah. <3

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    1. OORAH! I would love to go back if there was a written guarantee of perfect race day weather...

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  16. Man, what a race! You did your best given the conditions! I absolutely love the finish shirt. I think you are incredibly awesome for pushing through and I'm glad you are recovering well! This is a race I would love to get the chance to run in the future! The support from the Marines sounds absolutely amazing and it would just be a great experience! Congrats!

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    1. The Marines were fabulous! The race itself was awesome...the weather was a buzzkill LOL

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  17. What a great recap! I'm so sorry Mother Nature didn't play nice! I've run a half in a complete downpour...cannot even imagine running a full in that rain. Congratulations on crossing that finish line in really tough conditions!

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. This was very comparable to the RnR half in Chicago...only twice as bad and twice as far LOL I definitely felt like a bad ass after the finish line ;-)

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  18. You are the BOMB Kim! I am so proud of you. I know you didn’t hit your time goal but this wasn’t about time this time around, it was clearly about perseverance. And so much fun to see and hang out with running friends.

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    1. You're right, this was about perseverance and grit! Thankfully, I don't get too uptight about finish times, so I am enjoying a lot of happy thoughts about the experience. +

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  19. Congrats on finishing another marathon! Kudos for running in that rain. I ran a half in Nashville a few years ago and was miserable the entire race. Then I chafed in many different places. Not fun at all. It was hilly and did better than I expected. I ran this race in 2007 after the Chicago Marathon as cancelled but not the "right" way. I would love to run it again. By the way, a short walk to the medals? That is so weird. Normally you get a medal almost as soon as you cross the finish line. Congrats again!!

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    1. I don't usually have any chafing problems, but the spot on my shoulder was painful! I have a hydro-seal bandage on it, and am afraid to remove it...

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  20. Congrats on your race performance! It's never fun getting a race day full of rain, but it honestly looks like you thoroughly enjoyed yourself. I'm so happy for you!

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  21. Wow! What a tough day. I cannot imagine running through the water like that and then the humidity. Huge congrats on finishing on a super tough day!

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  22. Congratulations! Just finishing in such tough conditions is amazing.

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  23. I'm so glad I spotted you! Marathon Foto had some well-placed photographers! I love the shots with the Capital and Monument in the background. Those are keepers. LOL at asking a spectator to open your fuel. One hot, sunny year we helped a woman take off her top and pin her bib onto her bra -- whatever it takes to help you to the finish line! There really is something special about MCM -- and it probably has a lot to do with the Marines. <3

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