Wednesday, October 29, 2014

mission accomplished - Marine Coprs Marathon 2014

Marine Corps Marathon 2014

The hashtag for finishing the Marine Corps Marathon was #MissionAccomplished, and that couldn't have applied more for me for this race. As I replay the weeks, days, hours, minutes leading up to the starting line, and the hours on the course, I still can't believe that I did it. I broke 4 hours in the marathon!!! Best of all, I broke 4 hours in the marathon doing all of my training runs in the 11:15-13:30 min per mile range! It took me 4 marathons over 4 years, but I finally broke 4 hours!! So before I go into how the day went, I think I need to look back at my other marathons.

First, in 2011, Jenny and I got the idea that we were going to run the Marine Corps Marathon. We were 29 and thought that it would be a great thing to do before we turned 30 the following year. That was back when I was just posting outfits here, so this is the only marathon mention on the blog from back then. It was the coldest Marine Corps Marathon on record. I also learned the hard way that you REALLY can't aim for anything other than finishing your first marathon. I was cocky and thought that because I had done a couple of high teens and twenty mile runs, plus a 29 miler, that I could attack the marathon and go sub 4 my first time out. I hadn't trained to run as much at the beginning as I did, and I hit the wall HARD around mile 18. Nothing really prepares you to run a marathon like running a marathon. That was something that I didn't really understand back then. Sure, you can do all the long training runs you want, but it's not the same.

The second year I ran with Amanda, here's that post. After my first marathon, I needed a marathon that I could feel good about! It was still one of my favorite runs of all time. Manda and I did a lot of great training for it and it was a REALLY GREAT first marathon for her!!! It gave me the confidence that I could come back and really do a marathon well. But instead of snow, like the year before, we ran as Hurricane Sandy was coming up the east coast!

Last year was the "third time's the charm" run! As I wrote last year about it, I was worried it was going to be awful, like my first marathon, but it was amazing! And now, after doing number 4, I think that marathons get more predictable, not really easier, but you just know what's coming, the more you do them! So here's this year's recap:

Marine Corps Marathon 2014

Just like my first and third marathons, I worked a swim meet all day the day before the MCM. But I think since I usually spend all day on my feet before a race, my body does okay with that! Last year the Army Ten Miler was the weekend before the MCM, this year, we had a nice 2 week recovery break. After PRing in the ATM this year I was SORE! So I am really glad that we had the break this year. I was tired but excited for the marathon this year, because I knew I was capable of a PR, I just didn't know if I could break 4 hours. I was afraid to tell people that breaking 4 hours was my goal. I just kept saying that my goal was to PR and maybe that meant breaking 4 hours if the day was right, but maybe not.

Lauren and I drove into Rosslyn, leaving Reston at 5:15am, and got a great parking spot about a block up from the finish festival. In years past I have parked in Courthouse, taken the metro to Rosslyn to change trains to go to the runners village, but this year, I figured we could try to park closer so that we could avoid the metro after the race (in previous years, Reid has driven me from the finish area to my car, but I thought he was going to metro in...). It worked perfectly!

So Lauren and I got to the runners village with PLENTY of time to use the porta potties, check our bags, and walk up to the starting corrals to meet Manda and Joanna. We had about 10 minutes after linking up to wish each other good luck, snap a photo, and go to our separate starting spots.

Marine Corps Marathon 2014

I thought, at the time, that I waited too long to move up because I had a hard time making my way up to the sub 4 hour corral area. I ended up just behind the sub 4 hour pace group, but after reading all the comments (and stirring up unintentional controversy) on the Marathon Maniacs FB page, I decided that I should just be happy to start with the 4 hour group and try to keep my miles even around 8:45. That, however, went out the window when my watch stopped at 13 minutes in and I didn't discover it until mile 2... (about 5 minutes later). I restarted my watch at mile 2 and checked my Nike+ app on my phone, about 18 minutes had elapsed. I didn't want to do that kind of math for the next 24 miles, so I made a decision to time each 5k, knowing that there were markers every 5k, instead. I knew I had to keep them right at 28 minutes each to make my goal. This worked well, except that I got a little too caught up with the crowd and the excitement and ran several sub 26:30 5ks in a row.

I was worried about hitting the wall later in the race, but I was also feeling good, so I went with it. I haven't really done any training on pace consistency. I don't do any "race rehearsal" or "pace" runs, so the only thing my body personally knows is "go hard and hold on". It's not a recommended method by anyone (hence the controversy on the MM FB page!), but since I usually go out around a 7 minute pace, I figured I would just try to do a 1:55 half and a 2:05 half.

As it turns out... I apparently can't pace myself, because I PRed the 1/2 marathon with a 1:51:13. The difference between this one and my nike 1/2, is that my legs still felt REALLY GOOD when I crossed the 1/2 way mark! If you look at my splits, you would think that I started to get tired, so I slowed down. But I did it intentionally at first. I knew the pace I was running could have caused me to BONK and REALLY slow down, so I intentionally decided to switch gears when I crossed the marker for mile 13. I started taking more walk breaks and tried to remember to drink more (though I think my hydration was off for the whole race). I knew that a sub 2:09 half marathon was possible, but it would be hard! I intentionally worked to pace myself and keep going at the same time!


The best part of the race came at mile 16. I had just calculated that I was past 15.5 when Reid popped his head out of the crowed and cheered for me and said "look who I brought!" He brought Penny to DC to see me run!!! Last year I said how cool it would be if Penny came to cheer for me and Reid kinda rolled his eyes about it. Yes, I am a crazy runner AND crazy dog mom. But he actually did it!! He brought her, just for me!! Apparently she had the BEST day meeting people and other dogs, and she loved all the attention. She just didn't understand why she wasn't allowed to keep running with me when I passed. It was such an AMAZING surprise! I really didn't expect to see Reid before the finish, and bringing Penny was just more than I could have hoped for! I got to see them three times before the finish area and thinking about them really helped get me through the second half.

Through out the whole marathon I knew that I could do it. I knew that I could finish. I think it hit me at mile 20 that I was going to go under 4 hours. I remember seeing that the clock time was under 3 hours, so I knew I had over an hour to do a 10k and still make it under. I just had to keep my pace going. The wind started to pick up and I got REALLY thirsty though... so I took lots of walk breaks, filled my bottles AND drank two cups of water at each water stop in the last 12k of the race. I was conservative and didn't push, and in hindsight, I probably should have worked my hydration a little more earlier on, on 110 at all. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I let 4 hours get away from me, and I looked behind me to see if I could see the pace group that I had left in the early miles of the race, but they weren't there. I did the best I could to do 30 second run/walk intervals, but they ended up being more like 30 second run, 1 minute walk.

I did everything I could to just survive Rt 110. People were cheering and telling me to run. I saw Kristin, who I had seen at mile one with a big smile on her face, again and she gave me a warm cheer! So I tried to run, but mostly walked up the last hill. But when I got up the hill, I started SPRINTING to the finish. I mean, I nearly ran over someone I was sprinting so fast! I saw the official clock was at 4:01 and I though "did I do it?!" Then checked my Nike+ app for confirmation. 3:57:47 by Nike+, I did it!

Marine Corps Marathon 2014

After finished I texted with Reid and heard from Kristin that she had seen Joanna (and Amanda) earlier and that they was estimated in about 2:18pm. I took my time going through the finisher corral, getting several bananas and bottles of water, as I was TOTALLY parched! But all in all, I felt REALLY good! I easily found Reid and Penny, and we went to get my things from bag check and met up with Leeanne (who also CRUSHED 4 hours this year!). We hung out for a little bit and then after Leeanne (and her boyfriend, Matt) left, we met up with Lauren's family as we waited for her to finish.

Unfortunately I didn't get to see either Amanda or Joanna at the finish because Lauren needed to get home kinda quickly, but everyone in our training group accomplished their mission for the 39th Marine Corps Marathon! I can't wait to run the 40th next year!!

So that was my Marine Corps Marathon - share your experience in the comments! :)

Marine Corps Marathon 2014
Marine Corps Marathon 2014

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  1. Love, love, loved reading about your experience with this year's MCM! Congrats on hitting a sub-4:00 marathon, that is a huge accomplishment. And I'm jealous about the Penny visit; what a great pick-me-up!

  2. Awesome Awesome job!!!!

    I would die if my watch stopped working. on random runs it's stopped working and I've quit.


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