Race Recap: 2015 Marine Corps Marathon

Time to dust the keyboard off because this race deserves a recap. Last Sunday I ran with the Marines for my 11th marathon and 4th MCM. Some of you may remember my miserable race experience here two years ago where I fell apart after an injury-riddled training season and finished so incredibly far away from my goal time that I had worked so hard for.

It was devastating at the time – even more so than I let on. I was physically destroyed by the race, but the mental effects were what really got to me. I don’t know that I’ve ever let any athletic event knock me so far off my mental game. I had a few start and stop come-back attempts since then, but whenever things went slightly wrong in training and I realized a BQ (Boston marathon qualifier) wasn’t feasible, I’d back down from another marathon attempt not wanting to fail so miserably again. I was letting perfect be the enemy of good.

It took me two years to get back to a starting line of a marathon – the very same one that knocked me down in 2013. I credit the Oiselle team for getting me to this start line and rekindling my fire, passion and love for running. I’ve loved every single second of being a part of this team since joining a few years back, but one of the coolest experiences was going to Bird Camp this summer. (Check out my teammate Courtney’s recap of Bird Camp!)

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Pre-Race Day Lunch with the Oiselle Team!

Running around the mountains of Washington state with such amazing and inspiring women was just what I needed. After a lackluster summer of running, which included the month of June where I ran as many miles the whole month that I normally run in a week, this camp experience put me back on track. Since getting home from camp in mid-August, I’ve put in six runs a week every week (with the exception of last week’s taper and this week’s recovery). I’ve felt great doing it, had fun doing it and most importantly stayed healthy doing it.

The last week of August one of my Oiselle teammates (Thanks Kim!) posted that she unfortunately couldn’t run MCM this year, and would anyone on the team want to get her bib before the transfer period ended? Despite having virtually no base, I decided to go for it fresh off my motivating camp experience and quickly shifted gears from my new Army 10 Miler training plan to a tried and true Hal Higdon marathon training plan.

I figured with eight solid weeks to train I could get myself in good enough shape to run close to a sub-4 hour marathon and do it pain-free. My main goal would be to come away from this marathon experience loving the marathon again and ready to get back to my goal of chasing a BQ. This race was all of that and more. I missed my sub-4 by six minutes, but loved every second of my time along the race course and cannot wait to go after a BQ next March at the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in DC.

Now, finally on to the point of this post – the race recap!

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Quick Facts:

Finish Time: 4:06:35
Average Pace: 9:24
Place: 258 age group, 1,322 woman and 4,675 overal
Family & Friend Sightings: Too many to count
Smiles Along the Course: NONSTOP (picture proof below)

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Mile by Mile: 

8:43, 9:20, 9:01, 8:07, 8:41, 8:29, 8:52, 8:31, 8:48, 8:56, 9:07, 8:56, 9:01, 9:10, 9:16, 9:23, 9:23, 9:30, 9:32, 9:47, 9:49, 9:59, 9:57, 9:48, 10:26, 10:03, (final .65 – so much weaving put me well over .2 – was at a 9:25 pace)

The Long Story:

So things did not start off as all sunshine and rainbows. I got to what seemed like an unmoving security line at the Pentagon at 6:40 and despite not having to check a bag, I ended up missing the 7:55 start. The Marines normally perfect logistics definitely hit a snafu on this one. I haven’t experienced anything like this in my other MCM attempts – even the one just a few months after the Boston bombing. Apparently they tried out metal detectors this year and didn’t realize they wouldn’t work in the rain. Yikes!

I finally got through though after a mini-meltdown and worked my way over to the start. Once I got moving the miles just ticked by. A light rain had started and would continue through the first five miles or so – it was a pretty humid day so it felt good. I cruised through the first mile bobbing and weaving through the crowd of runners past Arlington Cemetery, up into Rosslyn and down Lynn Street.

The beginning of this course is a bit challenging with a few uphill miles, so I was pumped to see my parents and Ian as I rounded the corner to head up the hill on Lee Highway. They were holding a Syracuse pennant so they were easy to spot and would catch me three more times throughout the morning! I kept working up the hill although it surprisingly didn’t feel like I was working hard at all. It helped that I passed and chatted with a couple fellow birds and also spotted a few teammates cheering around mile two!

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Around two and a half we got to run back downhill coming down Spout Run before heading over the Key Bridge into Georgetown. My family was halfway down the bridge cheering like crazy for me – if you knew my Mom, you’d understand what a big deal it was that she was willing to wait on a bridge for me (she’s terrified of them)!

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I coasted down M Street and worked my way past mile five and toward Rock Creek Parkway. The crowd support and scenery for this race is out of this world! I saw my teammate Jackie coming at me on the other side of the course and screamed in excitement cheering her on – she’d go on to finish in the top 25 women despite having an incredibly tough day – holy, amazing! Soon after I spotted teammates Prianka and Caitlin cheering me on from a water stop. I passed the 4:15 pacer here, which was a welcome sight and in stark contrast to two years ago when multiple pace groups glided by me like I wasn’t even moving on this same part of the course.

In what felt like no time at all (I should mention that I never looked at my watch until I finished the race, so I didn’t have an exact idea of what time I was running), I was hitting the turn around on Rock Creek and starting to work my way back toward the Kennedy Center and over to Hains Point. I spotted more birds cheering on the sidelines and along the race course and seriously could not stop smiling I was having so much fun. I was singing along to any of the bands or boom boxes blasting music along the course (yes, I just said boom boxes…cut me some slack, I love alliteration!), high-fiving little kids and egging the crowd on to cheer louder!

The course finally thinned out around mile 10 – if you can call it that when there are 23,000+ runners. Basically this was when I finally felt like I wasn’t tripping over people or dodging and weaving as much as earlier in the race. I moved toward Hains Point thankful that it wasn’t a windy day and soon entered the blue mile. Team Blue is an incredible group that honors members of the U.S. military who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. An almost eerie silence fell as we made our way through sign after sign with pictures and names of military killed in action, followed by a wall of Team Blue members lining each side of Hains Point holding American flags and cheering us on. This was incredibly moving.

Just like that I was past the halfway point and working my way back toward the huge crowds along Independence Ave and the Mall. The signs from the crowd had me cracking up all morning long. “Run faster, I want to go home and watch some Netflix” may have been one of my favorites. I always love the “You run better than Congress/Metro” ones too. I also have to say that it’s impossible not to smile when you see a sign that says, “Smile if you pooped yourself”, but I can promise you that did not happen!

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At mile 17 I spotted the ‘cuse pennant and my family again. I could see them from so far away thanks to the pennant that I started jumping up and down and waving so they could see me. I collected my high-fives before rounding the corner to head up the Mall, past the Captiol Building and back down the Mall toward 14th Street Bridge. Mom, Dad & Ian made their way back toward the other side of the Mall to catch me again around mile 19. “Almost there,” I screamed excitedly thinking how awesome it was to feel this way going into the final 10k as opposed to the death march this felt like two years ago.

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I could feel that I was slowing down a bit over the bridge, but didn’t let it get to me and knew that my teammates had a cowbell corner set up just over the bridge before entering Crystal City around mile 22. Boy did it feel good to see them. Fellow bird Taylor snapped these awesome shots below capturing my excitement (and other birds) at seeing them along the course. This gave me a nice boost through the next mile as did the crowds lining the streets in Crystal City.

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The last part of Crystal City got a bit quiet as we worked our way back to the Pentagon. Just a couple more miles, I told myself, I’ve got this! I couldn’t believe how quickly it felt like the race passed. I never hit that point where I just needed it to be over.

As the crowds started to pick up again for the final mile, a huge smile broke out yet again across my face. I took it all in as I passed Arlington Cemetery yet again and turned to climb the monstrous, cruel hill to the finish line at Iwo Jima. I pushed up the hill and rounded the bend to the finish line. It felt like I was passing all sorts of people as I pumped my arms in the air and savored this finish experience, but I have no idea if I actually was, haha!

I saw Jackie on the sidelines just before crossing the finish for one last teammate spotting – never have I had such awesome support by so many people all throughout a race. It was just incredible! I proudly accepted my medal from the Marines and tried to walk as normally as possible to my meeting spot by River Place with my family. I could not wait to see them. I wish I could give them medals too for running all over town to cheer me on and keep my spirits up, but they had to settle for sweaty hugs instead. Sorry about that!

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Thanks for making it this far if you are still reading, and I hope you enjoyed my novel on my latest marathon experience! If you are a marathoner, you need to add MCM to your must-race list. (Although maybe wait to see if they back off on their plans to move the Expo to National Harbor next year first, ugh!)

Thanks to everyone who supported me along the way! Next up is RNR in DC this March, one day after my 32nd birthday. Who wants to join me?!

Marathon Training Check-In

I’m 12 weeks in to my training plan for the B&A Trail Marathon in Annapolis with six weeks to go. The first seven weeks went really well in terms of mileage and workouts. My lowest mileage week was 35 miles up to my highest mileage week of 54 miles. With plans to run six days a week, I was very pleased that I had only missed a small handful of planned runs over those first seven weeks.

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I came into things after a bit of time off from consistent running though, so my base was not what it should be (read: mostly nonexistent). The lack of base really showed through in my speed workouts. They were all a struggle and off pace. I certainly started feeling better as the weeks went on and noticed some serious improvement, but I couldn’t seem to hit the marks I needed.

The next three weeks the wheels came off. I put in an 18 mile week, followed by a 27 mile one and then just 12. I missed most of my quality workouts and was eating great either as I was spending a lot of time on the road and eating out. It was really frustrating to watch that momentum slip and admittedly there were a few workouts I should have gotten in, but just didn’t because I wasn’t feeling it.

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I’ve done a good job at getting back on track the last two weeks and putting in some quality mileage with back-to-back 30 – 40 mile weeks. Still, if my speed was hurting before, it is definitely hurting now.

I’m completely confident in my ability to finish the B&A race barring something totally unexpected on race day, but I have had to reassess my goal or reaching a BQ on that day. I’m going to continue to work hard putting in the miles over the next six weeks, but don’t think I can get myself to the speed I need without risking injury in that amount of time.

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I hope to come away from this with a great base though and am on the hunt for a back up qualifying race sometime May or later. I love running in the heat, so summer marathons don’t bother me. I’m eyeing Steamtown as my fall marathon, but want to take one shot before then if possible. I’d love to hear your suggestions. My ideal would be something semi-local to DC or at least within a 5 or 6 hour drive tops.

I hope your spring race training is going better than mine has! Tell me about your goal races and how your training is coming along!

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

Last week was a great start at getting back on track. I put in 40 solid miles with a mix of speedy runs and one brutally cold long run! I’ll have a post later this week on my race schedule and updated goals for the spring.

Here is the day-by-day breakdown:

Monday: I put in just over 6 easy paced miles on the Mt. Vernon trail after work in some major wind gusts and chilly weather. There were a couple gusts that seriously felt like they stopped me in my tracks! P90X core routine.

Tuesday: I hit the gym after work for a full body strength workout followed by my P90X core workout.

Wednesday: I put in a 9 mile tempo run along the Mt. Vernon trail on a beautiful night. It felt so great not to have a winter hat on for a run! Quick core workout.

Thursday: As good as Wednesday’s run felt, today’s was awful. The temps were in the low teens with wind chill and the wind never let up. I was so cold by the end of my 14 miles – I don’t know that I’ve ever willed a run to be over so badly! My route took me over both the Memorial Bridge and the 14th Street bridge where it took all my energy to keep running forward and not get pushed sideways by the wind! It had to be amusing to onlookers! It was nice to have the long run out of the way early though!

Friday: Rest Day.

Saturday: My Mom was in town, so we hit the gym together. I put in a quick warm-up followed by five 1 mile repeats with a 2-minute recovery. I got it a quick upper body workout as well!

Sunday: Today was the highlight of my week. Temps reached 65 for my late afternoon 5 miler along the W&OD in shorts!! My excitement got the best of me on what should have been an easy run and after starting out at a 9 minute pace each mile got progressively faster finishing with a 7:20 one. Boy did it feel good though! P90X core routine.

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Getting Back on Track

Life has been a bit crazy these last few weeks and I have definitely let my training suffer as a result. My last recap had me tallying 53 miles in a week, which was almost as much as I totaled for the last three weeks combined. Yikes!

There is no sense if beating myself up for it though. That won’t let me add runs back in that I missed. I am two months out from my marathon and I need to get myself back on track and quickly. Sunday I recommitted to my strength routine and am going to really focus on that to keep myself strong and healthy over these next eight weeks.

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As for my 2,015 miles in 2,015, I ran 127.66 miles in January. I’m a little bit behind, but my plans for the rest of this training cycle should have me back on track in no time!

I’ll be back next week with my regular weekly check-in.

Here goes!

2015 Here We Go!

Wow, 2015 is here! I’m kicking things off with a 5k and then heading to Ocean City for a weekend with friends – a great way to start off the year!

One of my Oiselle Secret Santa gifts was the Believe Training Journal (signed by Lauren Fleshman!), so I spent some serious time thinking out and writing down my goals for the year. A great way to keep yourself accountable is sharing your goals, so here goes…

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My 2015 Running Goals:

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  • Qualify for Boston
  • Race the B&A Trail Marathon- it’s a smaller race, so I have a legit shot of coming near the top of the pack for women finishers
  • Break 20 minutes in a 5k (this is my big and scary stretch goal!)
  • Run 2,015 miles in 2015

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What will it take?

  • Consistency – I need to stick to my training plans and get out there and do the work. I also need to stay focused and not let up during my off seasons.
  • Staying healthy – keeping up with stretching, foam rolling and icing will be key. I also need to listen to my body and be smart about when to push the gas and when to take a break.
  • Getting stronger – I need to get in my daily core workouts and hit the weight room, and not just focus on running.
  • Get speedy – lots of speed work and pushing the pace will be required!
  • Schedule and plan – building my runs into my daily schedule and planning ahead will help keep me on track.
  • Pay more attention to nutrition – I can’t expect to produce great results with crappy fuel.
  • Mental toughness – enough said!

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

Week one of marathon training is in the books! I got off to a good start on my training plan over Thanksgiving week putting in 38 miles. I’m following the Hanson’s Program and week one called for all easy paced runs. Next week I’ll start working in some speed work.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

Monday: 6 early morning miles around my old neighborhood that I grew up in. It was mid-50s giving me the unusual chance to run in Syracuse in November in shorts!

Tuesday: I got in another 6 miles around the old neighborhood before working from home for the day.

Wednesday: Rest day.

Thursday: After getting in to Geneva late Wednesday night to celebrate Thanksgiving at Ian’s sister’s place, I slept in a bit before hitting the gym at the hotel for another 6 miler.

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Friday:  I figured I would brave the cold today and set off on the lake path just outside the hotel for a run. Temps were in the 20s, but factoring in the windchill it was low teen’s and the wind was whipping off the lake. I didn’t realize just how windy it was on my way out and absolutely froze on my way back as I turned into the wind, but still managed to get my 6 miles in – mostly because it was the only way to get back to my warm hotel room!

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Saturday: I was less brave on Saturday and headed back to the hotel gym, which had 2 nice new treadmills in it. I decided to move my longer run up a day and put in 8 miles.

Sunday: It was an early morning wake-up for 6 on the treadmill before we hopped in the car to head back to Syracuse to my parent’s house.

Running Goals

I do my best, most consistent training when I have concrete goal races and times, so I put my credit card down and registered for my next big race. Putting it in writing makes it more real for me and keeps me accountable, so here goes…

I’m giving a BQ attempt another go this spring. I signed up for the B&A Trail Marathon on March 29 in Annapolis, Maryland. My goal is sub 3:32. I want to give myself a good cushion so that I don’t just qualify, but can actually register to run Boston in 2016 as well. My current PR is 3:37.

Putting a goal like that out there is a bit scary since I’ve failed before, but I am more determined that ever to make it happen. I came just more than two minutes shy at the Niagara Marathon before a humbling race at the Marine Corps Marathon after an injury-riddled training season.

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That was a hard blow to take and I took a long marathon break after that race, which involved a lot of sporadic training. Now it’s time to get over and get after it.

I’m going to follow the Hanson’s Plan for the first time. I’ve long been intrigued by this plan and am excited to see how it works out for me. It involves a lot of running on tired legs with six days a week of running. Long runs top out around 16 miles, but the plan is designed to make those 16 milers feel more like the last 16 of a marathon than the first. Most days will be at an easy, conversational pace with weekly track and tempo workouts as well.

The plan is 18 weeks with week one starting on a Thursday, so my training will officially kick off on Thanksgiving! Who couldn’t be thankful for that?! More turkey for me!