I don’t even know where to start with this. This is probably the toughest race report to write. Ever. A day that started off so well and should have ended at the finish line with a BQ instead ended around 20.6 miles in. And even now, I’m not sure if I did the right thing by calling it quits…
Well as you all know, I had the intention of shooting for a BQ at the Marine Corps Marathon. And based on how training was going, that goal seemed very doable. The race results seemed to back that up as well-setting 5K and 5-mile PRs (which were long, long overdue) and throwing down a 1:37:36 at the Philly Distance Run. I was able to nail some MP miles at the end of a (humid!) 20-mile run. Everything pretty much seemed on track. Then IT band issues hit around the taper. The sports doc did still give me the green light to run the marathon tho, as long as I got some PT to address the immediate issues-which I did. I was still confident things would go well on Sunday.
So let’s fast forward to this past weekend. Friday afternoon, I took Amtrak down to DC-nice and easy and stress-free and I just played with the CrackBerry the entire ride 😛 Made it to Union Station with no problems and got a taxi to my hotel in Crystal City. Later met up with Flyer MF (who was rooming with me) in Georgetown to grab a bite to eat with her and a couple of her DC friends, then went back to the hotel for some much needed beauty sleep…
Expo day on Saturday!! The expo was very nice-actually bigger than NYC’s! The official race shirt was a light blue mock-turtleneck long-sleeve (nice, my favorite color!) Walked around the expo and yes I did do a bit of damage to the credit card 🙂 Picked up a pair of those “recovery” compression socks, another running top and was able to find the “Will Run For Wine” shirt in my size 🙂 When we felt we did enough shopping, we hit up Starbucks to just chill out and get off our feet for a while and wait out the heavy downpours (thank god race day was not Saturday!) before heading back to the hotel, when not too much longer later, it was time to head out for some carbo-loading!! Met up with Uptown Girl and her parentals at Faccia Luna in Arlington (great place!) MF’s friends were also there and it was a nice time. Me, MF and Uptown Girl then discussed the game plan for the next morning…the whens and wheres to meet, etc…then time to try on the race-day gear and get everything ready…and early to bed!! And one more thing-I had asked for friends and family to “sign up” for certain miles to be “theirs”…I wrote them all on the back of my bib, I wanted them all close to me on race day 🙂
Sunday-race day!! MF and I were able to get dressed and get everything together in an hour…I had my usual bagel w/ white chocolate PB…we then met up with Uptown Girl at her hotel so the 3 of us could walk to the shuttle bus to get to the start line (and along the way, I got my Starbucks! Another race-day necessity!) We then got on the shuttle bus…those Marines kept things well-organized!! I was gonna listen to my “marathon morning” playlist during the ride, little did I know I had left the iPod in the room…oops!! But I may not have had much time to listen to music, before we knew it we were at the “Runners Village.” Seemed like a less chaotic version of NYCM!! Checked our bags, did other pre-race prep, chilled out in one of the tents for a little bit…and oh yeah, there was the announcement that these were the “best conditions in the history of the race!” Low 50s and sunny…one of those days where it was like “no excuses.”
So it was time to head to the start…and as well organized as other aspects of this race were, I do have to say the start was NOT. You don’t do the “honor system” with a field of 40,000…you just don’t!! Uptown Girl and I were lined up “honestly” by the 3:40 predicted time group and we saw peeps around us and in front of us who had no business being there. Maybe it would be a good thing since we wouldn’t go out to fast? We shall see. Before we knew it…the marine aircraft flyover and the sound of the start cannon!! And around 3 minutes later, with the sound of “Evacuate The Dancefloor” by Cascada blaring over the loudspeakers, I crossed under the red arch marking the start. Here we go!! Let’s make this thing happen…
First 5K (25:43-8:16 pace)
Mile 1-8:36, Mile 2-8:38, Mile 3-8:05
Well as it turned out, lining up “honestly” may have screwed me, as I really spent a good part of the first 2 miles through the streets of Rosslyn, VA trying to find my groove-was just way, way too crowded and even though I tried to keep the weaving to the minimum, I’m sure I lost 15 seconds per mile, if not more on those first 2 miles. Or it also coulda been the hills too!! These first coupla miles were fun and the support was great, but oh boy were they hilly. The 3rd mile had a nice downhill to even things out a little tho 🙂 Think the 5K split was a little short-20 secs after mile 3?
10K (50:52-8:11 pace, 5K split 25:09-8:06 pace)
Mile 4-7:50, Mile 5-8:01, Mile 6-7:59
So finally around mile 4 (and another downhill!) the field opened up a little and I found my groove. We crossed over the Key Bridge and headed into Georgetown!! Saw a sneak preview of the streets that we’d have to look forward to in a few miles, but for now enjoyed the scenery around the reservoir.
15K (1:15:55-8:08 pace, 5K split 25:03-8:04 pace)
Mile 7-8:20, Mile 8-7:53, Mile 9-7:56
By the end of this portion, we headed into the town of Georgetown and it was as lively as I hoped it would be!! We passed by the restaurant we had eaten on Friday nite and I kinda laughed to myself there. This portion sorta reminded me of Greenpoint in NYCM, which I liked a lot!! We then turned south to head towards the water…
20K (1:41:01-8:07 pace, 5K split 25:06-8:05 pace)
Mile 10-7:53, Mile 11-8:11, Mile 12-8:06
And at this point, I was really feeling good. I knew I was doing this, this was my day. In mile 10, someone on the Greater New York running team said “Go New York Flyers!” I said “go New York!” back…I heard another “Go NY Flyers!” from the sidelines…think it was a coupla Urban Athletics peeps that were cheering? I shouted back thanks…was nice being far away from home, but still having the NY race feeling. Mile 12 brought the beginning of Hains Point-which was where I went through my mental bonk in the Cherry Blossom race…wasn’t gonna have that today though!!! And even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was pacing really well. I passed the 3:40 pace group somewhere around here too…didn’t know if they were way ahead of pace, or if they just started closer to the front, but at least I knew I was on track!!
25K (2:06:45-8:09 pace, 5K split 25:44-8:17 pace)
Mile 13-8:04, Mile 14-8:15, Mile 15-8:26
The half-marathon point was just past the turnaround on Hains Point. Hit that at 1:46:33 and thought perfect-on pace for close to 3:33 flat! Even if I lost a couple minutes in the 2nd half, I could still bust out a 3:35, which was kinda around what I was expecting. But I had heard that MCM was a good negative split course, so hoping for better…
But mile 14 was where things started to go downhill-and I’m not talking elevation. We were running into headwinds here and it was slowin’ it down. Wasn’t sure if I wanted to expend too much energy fighting it-knowing I still got awhiles to go-so I decided to just try and “cruise” to the 20 mile point, and then “go for it” in the last 10K. I could average 8:45s or better in the 2nd half and still BQ, but I did want to finish strong too.
30K (2:35:17-8:20 pace, 5K split 28:32-9:11 pace)
Mile 16-8:29, Mile 17-8:46, Mile 18-9:21, Mile 19-9:35
We left Hains Point and headed to the part of the course with all the monuments, the National Mall, etc…which was the part that I was looking forward to previously, but I wasn’t feeling it now. Things did not feel right. I don’t know if I had taken the first half too fast, or if it was the IT band talking to me, but I was starting to show the signs of trouble. Uptown Girl passed by me in I think mile 17 and I could tell she was well on her way to a great finish. The 3:40 group passed by me here too…this part was filled with spectators shouting my name but it could have been silent as it made no difference. Mile 18 I had to do the one thing I have never, ever done in a marathon before and take a walk break. Which was repeated in Mile 19. Now it was starting to be a race against the clock. But I didn’t want to leave DC without my BQ!
No walking in Mile 20-I ran the full mile but saw my mile split and knew I was in further trouble. Did some quick math and saw I’d have to run the last 10K in 52 and change to still BQ…can I do it? Can I at least hold on for a PR? Or finish under 4 hours?
This was the infamous 14th Street Bridge that all runners must pass (well actually, the mile 20 marker) by 1:15 or they can’t finish-or as the MCM calls it, “Beat the Bridge.” And sadly this day, the bridge beat me.
I started walking for the 3rd time and just felt pain. I couldn’t run again. Every time I started I had to slow down to a walk. My BQ was gone and it was all I could do to not cry at this point. A couple of other runners who passed by said “I feel your pain”…oh if you only knew. Another runner who was forced to slow to a walk too kept me company for a few minutes, we were both in the same boat. Finally I passed by one of those one of those golf cart-looking thingies with medical personnel on board, and they asked if I was ok, if I needed help, did I need a ride to the med tent? So here I had to make a critical decision. Do I continue on walking for another 5 and change miles? Was it worth it? Should I cut my losses now?
I preface this by saying-I’m not a quitter. If it’s worth fighting to salvage something, I’d hang in there. But I made the decision-take the ride to the med tent and call it a day at around mile 20.65. At the time-I didn’t know what I had to prove by prolonging the agony. And what’s to say the same thing, or something worse, wouldn’t happen another 2-3 miles later? So I rested, iced, had some salty snacks and Gatorade (Powerade which was on the course absolutely sucked-not as much electrolytes as Gatorade does and I think may have caused more unnecessary cramping)…thankfully was able to borrow a CrackBerry from one of the medics so I could update Facebook and let everyone know I was alive but had to call it a day, since I am sure my peeps who were tracking me were wondering-and as I was told later, my intuition was right. (And FYI-that 35K split for me was completely bogus, as they drove over the mat while I still had the D-tag on.)
So after awhile, and some stretching and wrapping of my knee, I had 2 options-wait for the sweep bus which would be another hour or walk the 2 miles to the finish to get my bag with my CrackBerry and everything else in it. (If only I had money on me I would have taken the Metro…note for next time…) So armed with one of those mylar sheets to keep me warm, I decided to walk it. And let me tell you-this was so tough-not so much physically, but emotionally. I was walking alongside the course with the back-of-the-packers, they are giving their all to finish but I couldn’t do it? Plus the Marines, the spectators telling me “You’re almost finished”…oh I’ve *been* finished!!!
Nearing the finish, saw the crazy steep uphill to the finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial and it felt bittersweet…in a way I was glad I didn’t have to climb that hill but in a way I really wanted to. I just got out of the way of the real finishers and headed towards the baggage trucks to get my bag and check my phone and sure enough I had a shitload of messages…voicemail, text, facebook, IM-and those of you who knew then there was something wrong and reached out-thank you. Waited what felt like forever for the shuttle to get back to Crystal City…finally there and walking to the hotel…oh and hearing the “congrats” from those who saw me carrying my MCM bag and assuming I finished…yeah. Could not have been happier to get back to my hotel room, get cleaned up and erase any evidence that I failed to run a marathon that day, and drown all sorrows with a burger, 2 pints of beer and the Yankee game (hey, at least someone won that day!)
Even now, yesterday still feels like a bad dream. And after reading other MCM race reports from runners who stuck it out no matter what and didn’t give up, I am still questionning whether I made the right decision. Was I a quitter? I don’t know-I do sorta feel like one. And I know the focus needs to be on healing up and getting healthy again…and yeah, as was shown last year, there is still life after injury. But I won’t lie, this is going to be a tough one to get over. I really thought it was finally gonna be my time to get the elusive BQ, and with seemingly more and more of my friends qualifying each year…this April is gonna be tougher than normal, cuz I should have been there.
But that said, I am NEVER going back to DC to run a race again!! 2-for-2 when it comes to bad races is a sign. Maybe Chi-town next fall? (though I shouldn’t even think of running another marathon right now!)
One final note-another thanks to everyone who reached out to me via comments, emails, calls, texts, IMs, etc…the support was tremendous and much appreciated.