2017 Year in Review — Running

This year was…quite something. I think out of this year, more than any other, each race has its own specific story to tell. These range from the dramatically emotional (RnR DC) to elation (Clyde’s 10K), from observing the goodness of the running community (WDW Half) and sheer perseverance (MCM). Let’s dive into the review…


January: Goofy Challenge

WDW Half
Nothing like starting out the racing year with a cancelled race! Due to storms, the WDW Half was cancelled and we were issued refunds in a variety of forms for our registration. (Anyone else still using their gift cards?! I am!) However, it didn’t stop many of us from trekking around the hotels and parks to get that mileage in! Cast Members and other runners set up makeshift water and candy stops along loops where runners were getting their laps in. Cheers from guests and runners alike pierced the air through the parts as we donned our bright yellow race shirts and ran circles around World Showcase. Social media support was intense, and we couldn’t stop clamoring over how one event brought out the best in the running community, and how we were all a part of this history.

WDW Marathon
-So Mr. Cold Front came through, and I was fortunate to have brought cold weather clothes to Florida. It was 35 degrees with 15 mph winds. Official Florida winter. Never had I felt this cold during a race. Even with the sun, I was still freezing.

My race was awesome, though…for the first five miles. I was pacing to hit a 5:24 marathon (which would have been a 1.5 hour PR). But once I hit that stupid Cone Alley at Mile 6.8, that went out the window. I turned it into a fun run, rode on Everest, and grabbed a margarita to finish my third marathon in 7:30.

Then I went back to my hotel, wrapped myself in my space blanket, and thawed out.

February:Glass Slipper Challenge

Enchanted 10K
-The entire weekend I was plagued with side stitches. I could barely run any of the 19.3 miles for these two races. But I did PR in photography, running into social media friends, and watching a kick ass sunrise over Yacht Club and Boardwalk.

Highlight of the race: I MET MY RUNNING TWIN, LINDSAY!!!!

However, if you looked around, you could tell that runDisney was pulling back on a lot of our favorite things. For one, the Fairy Godmother didn’t wave us away, nor were there characters at the beginning. That’s been a pre-launch tradition for as long as I can remember.

My fastest mile of the weekend was Mile 1 with a 10:47. Fabulous.

The 10K medal is definitely my favorite of the four 10Ks I’ve run thus far.

Princess Half Marathon

-This was my fifth Princess Half, so I knew exactly what to expect course-wise. The course map has remained unchanged from when I ran my first in 2013. Due to traffic, the race was actually delayed by a couple of minutes as they waited for all of the elites to arrive. Once we started moving, I made the decision to not chase a sub-3 PR, and just to focus on photography, just like the previous day. I finished in 3:34, definitely not my best performance. But I did get my GSC legacy shot (which prompted a lot of, “Shut the front door!” from those watching me layer on 12 medals), and met social media buddies Ian and Keith!

March

Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon That Wasn’t

-Easily the most frustrating race I have ever taken part in. So frustrating that I have declared a boycott of all RnR DC races and RnR marathons. Lack of course split signage and course officials directing runners to said split caused Chris and I to finish just the half, not the marathon which we paid for. Having NO idea what was going on, I cried just before the finish line, looking around like a lost puppy dog. I blew a sub-3 chance with my little tantrum, but I couldn’t help it. Any race that goes against what is written in the race instructions online gets no respect from me. I have now coined the term logistical ignorance to describe the experience.

It was also the coldest! I thought WDW was bad. That didn’t hold a candle to DC.

Some good stuff happened though: I met Meb, and Chris and I got new half marathon Prs with 3:02 on a very hilly course (and I got to ring my first PR bell!). Also, there could always be Hamilton tickets at the finish…you have to cross the line to check!

April

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

This race definitely falls under the Prettiest Race of 2017 for me. DC got nailed with a cold snap that killed off a lot of the cherry blossoms in March, and the little guys were struggling to bloom as the Cherry Blossom Festival was getting underway. Somehow, a warm front came through, and we had blossoms for race day!

This was my first 10 Miler, acquired through the lottery, so it was an automatic PR. While this international field is intense (anything run in the DMV will have an intense field, because competition), there is still plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scenery. Trending with WDW and RnR, this race was also cold as hell. It’s just been the year of cold! I swapped out my original outfit for thermal tights and sleeves.

This was also the first race where I wasn’t hell bent on taking pictures. Starting in the last corral, I had roughly an eight minute buffer between the pace vehicle and myself, so I was more focused on keeping that barrier. (CUCB requires proof of time upon lottery entry for corral seeding purposes just like runDisney.) It took me five miles to finally pull my phone out and snap a course picture. The course reflected all of my other DC races, so I knew what was along the route. CUCB does have a time limit of 2:20:00, Finish past this and you will not be listed as an official finisher. I finished in 2:10, just barely making it!

Clyde’s 10K

And another PR! Getting closer to that sub hour 10K!

Having worked for the Clyde’s Restaurant Group at the time of racing, I was granted a comp entry for the company 10K. Taking place in scenic Columbia, MD, it was a 10K of extremely hilly proportions (and the crazy Route 108). Afterwards, a delicious brunch catered by Clyde’s of Columbia was consumed. I was disappointed that there was no medal for this race (making it three 10Ks so far that remain medal-less), but I am very happy with my 4 ½ minute improvement from the Hot Cider Hustle 10K from the previous year.

And then we go into hiatus…until…

October

Marine Corps Marathon

Ahhh, my revenge marathon on the same course that gave me my first DNF in 2015. I was also running with Chris and Lauren, who were out to crush their first marathons. It was hot, it was brutal, I got diverted at Mile 17 because I arrived thirteen minutes too late to Charge the District. I still found my way to the finish line and got a medal…and a lot of Shake Shack the next day.

I told myself no more marathons after this. Then I put my name in for Berlin…

…and now I’m eating my words. I’ll be writing a more in depth post on this whole topic coming soon. 🙂

December

UO Fun Run 5K

Company race through Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Slowest 5K so far, but a PR in character stops with 11!

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So this year by the numbers:

-9 races
-117.2 miles traversed
-10 Medals
-4 locations (FL, DC, MD, VA)
-3 Personal Records (MCM should’ve been #4 with a PR by 9 minutes, but only after hypothetical times were calculated by the timing company)
-2 Marathons
-2 Disney challenges
-1 New Distance (10 Miler)

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2017 Marine Corps Marathon Recap

I didn’t enter Marine Corps Marathon weekend with high expectations. With my resentment towards the 26.2 distance aggrandizing since the WDW Marathon in January, I honestly just wanted to get in and get out with minimal injury. Having flashbacks of my 2015 experience in DC still fresh in my mind, I didn’t care what my pace was. I wanted to cross that finish line and be done.

I slept terribly the night before, getting about four hours total. Chris and I woke up around 4:45, and before I knew it, it was 5:45 and we were out the door, heading to the Metro. I swear, no matter how much time you give yourself to get ready, it’s never enough!

We arrived at the Metro slightly after six. I was sort of excited to ride, as MCM partnered with WMATA to open the Metro two hours early to accommodate the runners, with extra Blue and Yellow trains to the Pentagon station. Okay, so we’ll have trains operating every five minutes or so, easy peasy. I won’t have to freak out about being late.

I should’ve known better. This is DC Metro, after all. The first train didn’t arrive until 6:30 AM.

We arrived at Pentagon station by 6:45, and it was a madhouse. With each arriving train, the platform got more crowded. The crowds were moving at a snail’s pace to begin with, probably due to those not being prepared in advance with their Metro cards to tap out of the station. It took us about 15 minutes to exit.

Following the swarm of runners to the starting area, the sun started to cast a beautiful yellow and orange glow in the sky. Rosslyn was off in the distance and its buildings were reflecting the rays as a sort of welcoming beacon for us. The weather was slightly chilly, but that was going to change quickly once the sun peaked. After walking roughly over a mile, we came upon the UPS drop off location.

Over the booming speakers, we heard: “If you’re here and running the 10K…ouch!” -announcer guy

(The MCM 10K, which is also on my list, was taking place IN the city as the last 6.2 miles of the marathon course. If a 10Ker was at the Pentagon, well…)

Chris and I found our other Kappa Kappa Psi brothers and running buddies, Lauren, and her husband, Patrick (who was playing support crew with our other friends Chris and Ema). After a quick picture, we headed to the starting area.

With the fear of being swept fresh on our minds, and after careful analysis of our previous races and paces from this year, we decided to line up around the 5:00 area. We’d have a somewhat decent barrier between us and the sweeper vehicles, and be in the vicinity of the 5:00 and 5:30 pace groups in case we wanted to join.

The parachuters did their performances, and the Ospreys did their flyover to the cheers of the crowds. At 7:55, the Howitzer fired, and the race began!

Sort of.

Any Marine Corps Marathon veteran will tell you that it takes, on average, twenty minutes from the time the Howitzer fires until you cross the start line. So it’s a perfect representation of the military: hurry up and wait.

Around 8:17am or so, the three of us finally started our journey! First stop: Rosslyn.

I posted several times on social media that the first 5K for this race is the worst. It has the most elevation changes, and staying conservative will be beneficial in the later miles. The crowds were ample and puppies even moreso. We stayed steady, walking the hills and running the flat areas. The energy was amplified, and, trust me, greatly appreciated. We hit the 5K mark and descended into Spout Run along miles 3.5-4 on the GW Parkway. (This turned out to be my best mile of the whole damn race.) The views of Georgetown University were gorgeous as we headed towards Key Bridge.

The crowds started to thin a little as we ran down M Street in Georgetown and flew down Wisconsin Ave.

Our next stop was Rock Creek Park, and I was starting to feel a little fatigued. Lauren and Chris were definitely faster than I was, whether running or speed walking, so I tried to keep up the best I could.

RCP was shady and pretty as always. Having run the same route during several other DC races, I knew what to expect. The turn around at mile 7 led to a nice downhill (same downhill as NAFHALF and halfway up the evil hill from RnR DC), and back into the shade. As we headed past mile 8, we saw the sweeper busses coming up the other side. Already?! There’s no way in hell I was getting on that bus this year.

My lower back was starting to hurt, and it was getting harder to keep up with Chris and Lauren. I didn’t want to bog them down with my slowness, so I told Chris to just go ahead without me. He didn’t want to leave me behind but I didn’t want to screw up their race plans. I watched them get farther away, and I had no doubt that they would finish their first marathons strong and in one piece.

The sun was starting to rage around mile 10 as I headed toward Hains Point. I was starting to feel dehydrated and weak, and slowed to mainly walking with some running bursts in between. My new friend, Christine, whom I met post-expo and is also Ms. United States: District of Columbia, caught up with me around mile 11.5 and we shared some encouraging words before taking off for the Blue Mile at mile 12.

I’m glad I wore sunglasses for this race; I got really emotional watching other runners stopping by the signs of their loved ones and just pausing to reflect.

I also got a lot of high fives in this section, which was great because I was about to fall over.

I wasn’t planning on taking Run Gum until the halfway point, but I took it just before I entered this section. Holy crap, was that a bad idea. I didn’t have water to wash the flavors down, so the sugars coated my mouth and throat and felt thick and suffocating. This error would affect the rest of my race as the ensuing dehydration made me feel sick and gross.

My half split was a 3:09, which is surprisingly decent compared to some of my other half splits over the years.

The second half of the race was torture. My stomach and back weren’t cooperating, the sun was blazing, and I was so ready to be done. However, just past the halfway mark was the Funny Sign Mile. I was SOOOOO happy that they didn’t take these down prematurely, unlike in 2015 when everything seemed to disappear after all the faster runners went through.

The objective here to focus on was making it to the “D.C. Gauntlet” at Mile 17 by 12:33. I had about 45 minutes to make it three miles. Not an easy feat when you feel like dying and are walking the entire distance. The pace car (white car with colored handprints) was annoyingly riding alongside of us (and we honestly didn’t know if it was the official pace car or what it was doing), but I was just happy to not see those stupid sweeper busses riding my ass.

I saw fellow Kappa Kappa Psi brother Katelyn at Mile 16! 💙💙💛

I came up on mile 16 and, after taking liquids, thought I had to go to the bathroom. I stepped in and tried to go. Nothing happened. At this point, I knew I was going to be diverted past the first gauntlet and to the bridge. I took a moment, gathered myself, and got back on the course. Even with the copious amount of liquids I ingested, it still felt like it wasn’t enough. It would actually be several more miles before I saw water again.

I missed the cutoff for the D.C. Gauntlet by 13 minutes, and to be technical, I’m not considered an “official finisher” due to this. Cutting across Jefferson Drive and right to the Beat the Bridge portion at mile 19.5, we slowpokes merged in with the bulk of the other runners here, and rejoiced over the fire hydrant that happened to be open and spraying water about. I also heard my fellow Team Shenangians member, Meghan, cheering me on as I went to the bridge.

The 14th Street Bridge…I had no doubt I’d get over this, as I started around 12:50-ish. Still walking, the sun was beating down on us, and its effects were affecting all of us. Still feeling ultra dehydrated, I was very tempted to ask another runner if they had water I could take a quick sip of. Embarrassing as it was, I ran around asking random support groups if they had water. One of them—I didn’t quite catch a name—actually seemed reluctant to give me a bottle, but they did. If it wasn’t for that water, I probably would have dropped on the bridge…or over the bridge.

I got over the bridge and into Crystal City at 1:36, 13 minutes before that cutoff. As I was heading in, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and it was Chris! He was soooo confused as to how I got ahead of him, and I told him I got diverted. Still confused, I told him I’d explain later, and he started getting ahead of me. He was a man on a mission at this point, and I knew he’d finish. I asked where Lauren was, and he said she was behind him a ways.

During the Crystal City section (and at other points on the course), I had other runners come up to me and ask if I was @runDisneyBelle, seeing as they had seen my flat runner on social media. One of them was @runnerchick29! Trust me, I am ALWAYS happy to meet other runners on course. Look for the bow and say hi 🙂

Having run MCM before, I can tell you that no matter how many fire hydrants and hoses were open, Crystal City is awful. It’s neverending, and runners drop like flies. The crowds were really good this year, had lots of food, and I caught quick glimpse of the medal from a distance. I knew had to finish (and to justify buying the jacket prematurely!). I swing around Mile 23, and saw Lauren on the other side of the road! I ran over to her and we were just like, “…mehhhhh….when’s it gonna be overrrr?”

Yeah. We were so over it by this point.

The last 5K was just as brutal as the first 5K, but with water and animal crackers, and more sun. By the time Mile 25 arrived, we had swung back to where we had started about 6.5 hours prior. This time, we’d be taking the hill to the Iwo.

I ran into fellow Shenanigator Kristin here, and it was a great boost to get us to the finish!

Left up the hill…

Support crew selfie!


So I crossed the finish line for my fourth marathon, if you can even call it that. Due to being diverted from those miles in the city, the Xacte splits actually calculated predicted pace for the 30K and 35K marks for me. I appreciate its generosity as it gave me 12:33/ppm and 13:17/ppm respectively.

I got across that finish line and my “time” was a 6:41:43. To me, that’s all that matters at this point. Mission Accomplished. Woohoo.

I’ll jump on my soapbox for a moment and shout I AM SO PROUD OF LAUREN AND CHRIS FOR FINISHING THEIR FIRST MARATHON! Chris kicked my ass by twenty minutes and Lauren finished just a couple minutes behind me. I am SO proud of my fellow brothers for accomplishing their goals.

Christine also came over and celebrated with us!!


Christina’s Post-Race Thoughts:

1. I say this after every marathon, that I’m done and completely over the 26.2 distance. Then I find myself toeing the line for another full. But after this one, I feel like I am truly done. I got my “redemption” by crossing the finish line for this race. I didn’t get swept, nor did I die due to the heat. Calculating the miles from Metro excitement and heading to the start line, it gave me roughly 27-ish miles post race, according to my Garmin pedometer. I will call that a win.

Getting back to future marathons…I am supposed to do Chicago next year due to deferring this year. However, I would have to repay $195 just to claim my deferral. That’s literally a fifth of my rent and over two days’ worth of work! With this being the biggest reason to skip, and the ever growing resentment towards the distance, I am 99% certain that I will not be attending Chicago 2018. Let me also remind you all that I will also not be running in Disney in January for Marathon Weekend. I ran the last two years and abhor the course. Why continue doing a distance that I cannot stand, and dealing with the, “I’m so done with this.” angry feeling before, during, and after the race?

2. Weather all around the nation has been obnoxiously hot this year. I suggest to race officials that an additional water stop be put on the bridge for future races. For those like me who got diverted at 17, we did not get the convenience of the two water points that were in the D.C. Gauntlet. We went from the mile 16 water stop to mile 21.75 without water in the blazing sun.

3. Major thanks to everyone who came out and cheered for us during this race, even for us turtles in the back. Trust me, we greatly appreciate it. Cheers are not reserved for just the fastest runners on a course.

4. I was disappointed to see so many vendors packing up their stuff as I made my way into the Finisher’s Festival. I understand y’all have places to go and things to do, but we turtles would like to partake in what you have to offer, as well! I wanted bacon and watermelon.



Congrats to everyone who finished this weekend! It was an arduous course, and the weather moreso. Great job of Charging the District, Beating the Bridge, and Taking the Iwo. You ran with purpose and finished with pride. Extra confetti to the first timers! You deserve it!!

Thanks for a great racecation, D.C. Until next time…

Spectator Thoughts: Marine Corps Marathon 2016

I’ve been at this running thing for awhile, and not once have I stood along the race course and cheered for my fellow runners.

That all changed today at the 41st Marine Corps Marathon.

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Brought the magic of Hamilton to the race!

Going from runner-mode to spectator-mode was a relatively easy transition. Having run in the MCM before, the empathy I felt towards the 30,000 runners slugging it out on a very warm course was unwavering. (The temperatures for the past two MCMs have started out chilly, then skyrocketed to the upper 70’s and low 80’s by race end, with plentiful sunshine. Barf.) I felt like it was my turn to give back to the running community in this role, and I had my right-hand woman, Lauren, beside me the entire time. We woke up obnoxiously early and took the Metro into the city. We set up camp at mile 15.5, which was right at the entrance to the Gauntlet portion of the course. At this point, we had a clear view of the athletes coming up and turning the corner to enter the slight downhill section leading to the National Mall portion. We stayed out there from about 8AM to 12:30PM or so, then headed over to Arlington National Cemetery for the finisher’s area.

The foliage is beginning to turn in Washington D.C….finally!

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During the many hours we were out there, I took note of several things that could be of importance for anyone thinking about being a spectator for a race. In no particular order, here we go…


  1. Be Weather Savvy: Never trust the forecast the day of the race. The MCM in particular has a nasty habit of being ultra cold in the morning and transitioning to super warm in the afternoon hours. After spending two years in those starting corrals freezing my butt off, I made sure I was prepared for spectating by dressing in layers. By the afternoon I was in my tech shirt and shorts. Remember sunglasses and sunscreen, and BUG SPRAY if it’s still optimal weather for bugs. (En route to Arlington we walked through a wall of gnats that just clung everywhere. Not pleasant.) If it’s going to be rainy, bring jackets and umbrellas. And so on.
  2. Spectator Training: It’s a Workout! To be blunt, I felt like I ran a marathon after I got home. Standing up for hours on end, jumping around trying to stay warm, cheering loudly, getting beaten down my the sun, general walking around in said sun, climbing hills, dealing with people…it all adds up! Spectating can be a huge energy suck if you’re not prepared. Get plenty of rest the night before, bring water and snacks, and don’t forget to stretch out every now and again during the race.
  3. Be Prepared With Extra Everything: water, money, phone charger, food, beer, pocket radio…whatever you need to get through the many hours you’ll be outside, bring it.
  4. Use Common Sense: We saw SO many people cross in front of athletes today. Unless you are legitimately paying attention and have a gap to sprint across a road, YOU NEED TO WAIT…AND DON’T CROSS WHEN THERE’S A HUGE PACK OF RUNNERS COMING RIGHT AT YOU. It’s a great way to get everyone hurt and/or very pissed off, and you will certainly be made fun of for being ignorant.
  5. Keep Up the Fun: It is SO much fun being able to interact with runners. I had many call out that they were listening to Hamilton, got to see it/are eventually seeing it on Broadway, said that I had the best sign on the course (and got a hug!), had pictures taken of said sign, yelled to runners, “DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR SHOT!” (Or, “You’re non-stop!”) One gentleman looked at it and said, “This is the passion I’m smashin’!” Get creative with your signs, as it will certainly keep the runners’ minds occupied during the later miles when the going starts getting tough.
  6. Not every runner you encounter will be pleasant…or even semi-pleasant. I had a rather unfortunate encounter with a gentleman that was running near the very front of the field. He peeled off the course and went over to his family/girlfriend/people area, and immediately started complaining that he was having a tough time. Not due to injury or exhaustion…but the fact that he was ten minutes behind his goal time, wasn’t going to “hit his time that he got at nationals” (whatever that meant), and just wanted to take his bib off and quit. I tried my very hardest to encourage him to keep going and he spat back, “Have you done any of these races before?” I snapped back, “Yes, in fact I have. It doesn’t matter what your time is. Go finish.” We had a back and forth on this (and him complaining about “just getting a participation award”) and I just left it with, “Honey, go finish.” Trust me, his snotty, elitist attitude was getting him nowhere fast. Eventually he left the area, and I personally hope he’s festering in the thoughts that will keep him awake at night. 

Christina’s Real Talk:

Trust me, I’m rather disappointed that this guy just threw in the towel on this race and his subsequent attitude towards me. (I even looked up his bib number in the results just to maaaaaybe see if he changed his mind. Nope. Nothing was listed.) Truth be told, everyone has bad races from time to time. I haven’t hit my sub-3 hour half yet and I’ve been trying for two years! But I keep trying and trying again. I was swept at MCM last year, so I signed up for WDW this January and killed it. The second things go downhill, you need to tough it out the best you can and keep going. You cannot wait around for the absolute perfect conditions to accomplish anything; you’ll get absolutely nowhere in life. Also, throwing a tantrum because you didn’t get the last cookie in the cookie jar (as a grown adult, mind you) will leave a lasting impression on your character.


Now on the flip side, there can be some runners that are surprisingly pleasant and motivational to be around. I went to the expo on Saturday just for shits and giggles. I wore my 2016 WDW Marathon shirt (a trend I have started recently: any time there is a major marathon happening, the marathon gear comes out!). I was walking around near the entrance, and a BOSTON MARATHON finisher (wearing her blue and yellow Adidas shirt that I have recently come to covet along with anything else Boston-related) congratulated me for finishing and told me to have fun during Goofy Challenge in January! My heart totally exploded into confetti and happiness 🙂

      WDW Half, Marathon, and Goofy Challenge medals


Overall, I had a very pleasant and exciting day of cheering on the MCM runners. Congrats to everyone who finished!

 

Finish What You’ve Started, Part I

We’ve been told at some point in our lives, “Finish what you’ve started.” To leave something wide open without a resolution (such as ending a musical scale on the leading tone without resolving to tonic) results in a lot of discord, cringing, and thoughts of “what could have been”. There’s also a lot of “what ifs” thrown in there, too: “What if I had finished that manuscript?” “What if I had asked that cute person out on a date?” “What if I had trained just a little harder for that race?”

And so on, la dee dah.

As many of you know, I was swept at mile 18 this year at the Marine Corps Marathon (if you’re unfamiliar with this, I invite you to read my recap here: http://wp.me/p3N8MQ-f3). I signed up for the WDW Marathon as a sort of “revenge marathon” to make up for a lackluster performance at MCM, and to reassure myself that, “You’re still a marathoner. You know what went wrong this time. You know what works. You’ve crossed that finish line before.  Train up, eat better, get some more miles, and go slay it, sister!”

About a week or so before I came down here to D.C. for the holidays, Patrick and I were chatting about the trip, and he made this suggestion:

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This seriously got me thinking. I’ll already be down here. I need training. I told myself that this week was going to be Hell Week for my legs and mileage. This might be my only chance to do this for a very long time, since I didn’t know when I’d be coming back to the city…

Why not. Why not do it? Bragging rights forever, right?

So today I got the course directions from the MCM website and took off towards the Mount Vernon Square Metro (which is an easy .56 miles away from the apartment). The weather has been a roller coaster the entire time I’ve been down here, alternating between hot and cold, sun and rain…I’m surprised it hasn’t snowed. Yesterday was 70 and sunny. Perfect weather.

Today? 45 and rainy. With wind. It felt like 37 degrees at one point.

I got off at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro stop, and immediately headed into Starbucks for some tea. Even with hot tea in my hands, I was already frigid. I walked back up 7th street towards Constitution Ave, and beared right to head to the Capitol. Walking long this road triggered a little bit of anxiety as I recalled the vivid scene of slowly shuffling my feet along and seeing the sweep bus just up ahead…

No. Not you. Not this time.

I crossed the road and stood next to a tree to take my obligatory “start line” picture. It looked awfully similar to my “sweep picture” taken in almost the exact same spot roughly two months ago:

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I started out with a semi-slow walk, getting some blood pumping and the muscles warmed up. (No need to run with hot tea, either!) The throngs of holiday tourists were still lingering, and this would play a part in my pacing later on. I swung back down Independence Ave. and started the lengthy journey towards 14th St. (Note: Yes, I should have went down Jefferson Dr. as per the instructions. Oh well, it was only one street over, and they still ran parallel. Onward…)

I ditched my empty tea cup and started running at this point, dodging tourists and getting stopped at all the lights. It was rush hour, so traffic and people were expected at this point. The stretches of sidewalk that I could get some room to run…were fantastic. I’m not a fan of running outside… but this time, I felt like I could fly. Feeling the pavement against my feet as I propelled myself forward was so gratifying, and this feeling would linger during the rest of the run whenever I’d have this opportunity.

*insert quick potty stop at the Air and Space Museum*

I got to experimenting around with some of my Project Playlist songs and lined up my footstrikes to the tempo of the songs. Once I settled into a groove, I lost myself in the music. It was a nice distraction from the chatter of society.

I was coming up on 14th Street, which is *the* critical point for the MCM. It was the cutoff point that I never made it to in 2015, but squeaked into (by five minutes) in 2014. The difference between the two years, though, were the bridges: 2014 has us going across the 14th St. Bridge, and, according to the 2015 map, it was the Rochambeau Bridge.

Herein lies the problem: Each go toward Crystal City, but neither has sidewalks for safe running.  *insert table flip here*

Alrighty, I’ll just detour this somehow….too bad I can’t take a boat across…oh hey, footpath to the Jefferson Memorial! He’s my favorite! Let’s go there!

I dashed over to see good ol’ Tommy J. (who really is my favorite Founding Father), pacing myself along the Tidal Basin and running up the steps.

Stepping out of the Memorial, I checked my Google Map and looked across the Basin. Crystal City was plain as day on the left. Rosslyn was on the right. Both were key areas on the race course. And there it was…Arlington Memorial Bridge. I could get over that and be on the other side of the water and maybe have a chance of getting into Crystal City. At this point, it was nearing 4:45 and the light was fading rapidly.

For those familiar with the course, I’m at Mile 11 on the Rock Creek Park trails.

I darted up 23rd St. SW and took a left towards Arlington Memorial Bridge. I checked the National Mall map that was there and saw that the Arlington National Cemetery was ahead. Wooooo!

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Rosslyn from the bridge.

 

I took off across the bridge, and ran the majority of it. (I typically utilize a Galloway Run/Walk/Run method with my running, but I’ve been attempting to wean myself away from too many walk breaks in my running. Today was a great example of how amazing it feels to run for long periods of time.) Once off the bridge, I kept straight on to Memorial Ave. I was in the vicinity of ANC, and kept going…

Right to a dead end. (Not quite, the monument below was there.)

The cemetery is only open 8-5. I got there at 5:15.

D’oh!

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Women In Military Service For America Memorial

 

I snapped the above picture and turned around to the ANC Metro station, which was only a little ways back. It was totally dark at this point, extremely cold, and the post-run shivers were starting to take over. I navigated my way back to Mount Vernon Square Station, and was greeted with drizzle to accompany the cold.

I don’t think I’ve ever ran .56 miles faster in my life.


After-run thoughts…

I. Am. Not. Done.

I may have detoured myself six ways from Sunday on this run and made it up as I went along, but I managed a solid 10K out of it.

I may not have reached Crystal City and experienced its role in the MCM course, but that’s what tomorrow is for. When it’s light outside, and not dark and scary and cold.

I haven’t Taken the Iwo like I did last year…yet. It’s there, waiting for me. And always will be. For those that keep the promise and accomplish the mission. That’s what tomorrow is for.

I’m going to finish what I’ve started.

How about you?

One Week Later… Post-Marathon Thoughts

It’s been one week since a multitude of runners descended upon the streets of Washington D.C. and participated in the Marine Corps Marathon/MCM10K. Personally, I wish I was back in D.C., exploring around, drinking all the vanilla lattes I can get my hands on (and revisiting Georgetown to have a cupcake or five!). Alas, I’m in Edinboro, on my couch (with a knee brace on my right leg), watching some kind of snow, sleety wintery mix fall down outside with Big Bang Theory on in the background.

I’ve had time to reflect upon last weekend. Here’s what’s been going on in my brain:

I feel very lucky: A lot of people whose blogs I have read or posts I have perused mention a myriad of injuries they had sustained during a marathon. The first couple of days were nothing but stiffness and general soreness (aka Penguin Mode; waddling side to side just to get anywhere). Now, a week later, I can walk with zero pain, and most of the pain has disappeared. However, my right knee is giving me a lot of problems, especially if I have to utilize stairs. Pinterest and internet research indicates that it’s my MCL that’s causing the pain (to be more specific, a grade one injury since I can still walk on it without falling down). Also, my two big toenails are starting to turn a splotchy purple. I’m reeeeeally hoping that they don’t fall off.

What the hell is this runner’s high that people speak of? If you read my recap, you’ll know that I entered a world of runner grumpiness pretty early on and it only got worse as the race progressed. After the race, I was still pretty moody. And the day after that…and the day after that….and the day after that… Seriously, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I should be feeling elated and on top of the world after accomplishing the greatest athletic feat of my life. Nope. Still moody and grouchy. (A busted MCL and snow in the forecast doesn’t help.)

Holy crap….I actually survived and finished. I lived to tell the tale!

Would I do another marathon? Absolutely not. Not unless you wanted to pay off my student loans…all six-figures of it.

Good food makes me happy. I went grocery shopping last night and excitedly bought all the healthy foodies. I also bought some Milano cookies as a treat (mint creme and holiday peppermint). Usually, I’m a cookie monger, but I wasn’t really feeling them, especially the mint ones. I was also mentally calculating the individual vs. economy size versions of food and which would be the better bargain. (Ex. A single Chobani yogurt vs. the 32 oz. version. Hint: the 32 oz. wins…but I bought a single apple Chobani as a special treat.)

BITS for BIBS: I received an email from EnergyBits as part of their BITS for BIBS campaign. All I had to do was submit a photo with me wearing my bib (I chose my Beat the Bridge picture), order more Bits, and in turn, I’d get a $50 swag bag and get a little PR on Twitter/Instagram and placed on a promo card! I thought that was the coolest thing since sliced cheese, so I submitted my stuff. There will definitely be a runDisneyBelle Review when I get my stuff in.


Anyone else have post-marathon thoughts? Good luck to those running the NYC Marathon this weekend!

2014 Marine Corps Marathon Recap

I had a surprisingly decent sleep the night before the marathon. Granted, I kept waking up about once an hour, but I felt eerily rested. I woke before my 4:30 alarm and located some coffee in my cousin’s apartment (my liquid gold), and my pre-race chow (bagel and EnergyBits). At 5:30, I departed for the Shaw-Howard Univ. Metro station. (which was a 10-second walk from the apartment). The station was empty, save for maybe two or three other travelers. I found a young woman lacing up her sneakers and instantly made a new friend (she told me that the UPS bag sticker was on the back of the bib, which was news to me! <— note to those running in the future).

Once the metro let us off at the Pentagon station, it was about another mile and change walk to the corrals. Tents, UPS trucks and port-a-potties dominated the huge parking lot. I dropped off my stuff, then made a beeline for the potties for the first of about eight pee trips during the day. I walked over to the corrals and realized that 1. I was insanely early, and 2. It was breezy and I had no addditional warm up clothes with me. (BIG mistake…by the time we lined up for pre-race ceremony things, I was shivering and shaking.)

Pre-race anthem was done by United We Sing, and being a veteran anthem singer myself, I absolutely approved this version: it was short, to the point, and done with gorgeous harmonies. The parachuters did a great job with the American flags, and the military aircraft was an impressive touch.

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The Howitzer fired and we slowly shuffled to the start line. It took about twenty minutes to get from my spot in the 5:30 corral to the start line. (I had originally shifted near the ClifBar 5:30 pace group, but lost them almost immediately.) I crossed the start and realized that the next 26.2 were mine for the taking.

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I had studied the course elevation chart and knew that the first 5K was going to be uphill and arduous. Lee Highway at Mile 2 was steep and hilly. I held back a TON during this, reaching the 5K around 40 minutes in.

The crowd support during this first 5K was fantastic. (And, as always, there were So. Many. PUPPIES!!! :D)

 

 

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Georgetown University along the Potomac

Miles 4 and 5 went past the waterfront by Georgetown University, across Key Bridge, and provided great scenery and delicious smells as we went down M Street. Restaurants are getting ready for their morning brunch crowds, so be ready for the tease!

 

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Georgetown’s historic M Street

 

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I found two women to run with for a little bit, running with 1:1 Galloway intervals. Running through Potomac Parkway and into Rock Creek Park was wonderful; this was a scenic, tree-lined, forest-y, shady kind of run. The sun had not quite kicked in, but you could tell it was creeping up. At this point, I needed to pee. Again. I also needed to take some EnergyBits. I had a terrible time trying to hold a cup of water in one hand, tear the runner’s bag open with my teeth, and run all at the same time. I had to stop (and thus losing my interval girls), take my Bits, and pee. I lost a ton of time and my groove trying to do this; I’m a person who can’t think straight if I have to go to the bathroom. The world essentially has to stop and restart after I get done.

At this point, the runner grumpies started to get to me. I wasn’t even at the halfway mark and I was pissed off at the world. Mile 12 was dedicated to Team Blue (wear blue to remember those who have fallen) and was lined up with American flags. It was significant and touching, but I didn’t get lost in the sights too much. Halfway came around and I was on Haines point. Humourous signs lined up the sides of the roads and provided much needed giggles and happiness. (One of the best signs was “Run like the person behind you has Ebola.”) I also found a pack of Kappa Sigma brothers cheering, and upon recognizing that they were Greek, I shouted, “Everyone gets a high five!!” and ran down the line for high fives.

 

1925189_730850596970363_23775239605698309_n10710975_730850573637032_3212737196771477628_nThe race had started to get hot and sunny at this point, and while there was a strong breeze, there were no clouds in sight. Just before the National Mall, I began to observe my watch more and more, determined to Beat the Bridge. (MCM 101: Make it to the 14th St. Bridge by 1:15 PM and you’re safe from being swept.) Once again, I had to lose time by peeing. (Those Marines certainly know how to keep you hydrated!) I took more bits before hitting the Mall. Around Mile 16, I noted that it was around noon. Hour and fifteen minutes to go.

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Being near the back of the pack, I kept looking around behind me to see how many runners were still there, and where the pace vehicles were at. At a couple of points, they were on the other side of the road that I was running in the opposite direction on. (If seeing pacers doesn’t motivate a runner to go faster, I don’t know what does.) Passing by the Washington Monument, I proceeded down the National Mall towards the Capitol Building (which I kept mistaking for the White House the entire time I was there). I saw a small group of Alpha Phi Omega brothers that I shared cheers with on Mile 17 🙂10685560_730850713637018_7866336727615202433_n

Heading back up on Miles 18 and 19, I began to run with two other women. We were all calling out times to each other and to those around us, encouraging each other that, “We were going to maaaaaaake it!” with regards to the Bridge. 12:55 hit and we were a mile out. We kept scaling the hill that was right before the bridge, wondering, “Is this the spot? Is…*this* the spot? When are we saaaaaafe?!” (Note to race coordinators: there should be blinking signs, balloons, and Hollywood-style spotlights at the “safe zone”.) We saw the Mile 20 marker in the distance and agreed to take pictures of each other when we got there as proof that we Beat the Bridge!

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Once pictures were done, we began to trek across the 14th Street Bridge, which is a lot longer than it looks. There was NO cloud cover, the sun was beating down on us, and I could feel my skin frying. It was 1:15 at this point, and knowing that I was safe, I didn’t care about my pace at all. As I slowed down to a steady walk and my big toenails began to feel the strain, the runner grumpies resumed and I knew that the last 10K was going to be the most arduous. Crystal City was beautiful, but a pain in the butt. Being a “turtle”, I could tell that the majority of the crowds had dispersed from earlier. (Even when I was running down the National Mall, the crowds were sparse, and pedestrians were risking walking across the road in front of us, which was highly annoying.) Before Mile 23, there was this humongous water sprayer that cooled us down, but once again, I found it annoying. Between 23 and 24, a spectator called out that even though we were at the back of the pack, we were doing fine and that “you’re almost there!”

{Spectator etiquette: First of all, don’t shout out where our location is in reference to everyone else. Yes, we’re at the back, but don’t make us feel inadequate by pointing out the obvious. Also, unless we are on the last mile, we are not “almost there”.}

10354088_730850736970349_2425747227096470059_nThat last 10K had me counting down the miles. Finally, the final ascent by Arlington National Cemetery was conquered and I crossed the finish line. I could officially call myself a marathoner! 1901705_730850773637012_8415929836316732961_n

My time was 6:51:51. I had improved my 10K and half times by about five minutes for each. (1:21 and 3:01 respectively.)

As I rested on the grass by the Iwo Jima memorial, I told myself that this was a one-and-done deal. As the likes and comments and favorites came flooding through my social media, it didn’t relinquish the pent up tension that had built over the second half of the race. I was grouchy and I knew it. I’m not sure of what this “runner’s high” elation that others experience feels like, but I had the opposite. From now on, I’m definitely sticking with anything below a half.

I am happy that I set out and accomplished this race. With all races, it had its highs and lows. Congrats to those who participated and extra thanks to those who allowed me to run with them.

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Next up: Recovery. Then Glass Slipper 2015. Yaaaaaaaay Disney!

I’m a Marathoner! YAAAAAY!

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It’s official: yesterday I finished the Marine Corps Marathon and can officially call myself a marathoner! Woohoo!

*happy dance under a shower of confetti and champagne*

I shall have a recap up this week with more pictures. For now, I have to travel back to PA. Congrats to everyone that participated! And a special thanks to everyone who has followed me this weekend on this blog and Twitter and Instagram and all the other social media sites I have going on. It means the world to have so much support!