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?!

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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Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

I just wrapped up my fourth week of marathon training and so far I’ve done a great job of staying on track. I’ve completed 22 of my 24 planned workouts and am almost completely recovered from my cold/flu that disrupted most of last week. My paces are still not where they need to be at all for tempo and track workouts, but the endurance is definitely back. I’m hoping when I reassess in four weeks that I’ll be feeling better about the pacing. All in all I would call this a pretty good week. I tallied nearly 45 miles and felt pretty strong doing it.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

Monday: I ran home from work Monday putting in nearly 7 miles. I kept it at an easy pace and felt good. This also marks the 3rd run a stranger told me I looked like I was lit up like a Christmas tree. I’m never really sure how to answer that, so I just smiled and said thanks, I’m trying to get into the holiday spirit, haha.

Tuesday: Rest day.

Wednesday: I had planned to put in my interval workout on my run home today, but my stomach was feeling off all afternoon so I decided to just do another one of my easy runs. I made it the nearly 7 miles home from work, but it did not feel good at all. On top of my stomach pains I didn’t dress nearly warm enough for the cold temps and strong wind so I was absolutely freezing by the time I got home. This was really my only bad run of the week though and I’m glad I battled through it. It does help when that is your only way home!

Thursday: We had our holiday lunch at work on Thursday and then got to leave early. I was so excited about the chance to run in daylight on a weekday that I still did my tempo run despite having three kinds of pasta for lunch! I put in 8 miles total with 6 at tempo pace. Similar to last week, my tempo pace is still not where it needs to be, but I felt like this was a good, soild run and I will keep working on bringing the times down. The run was also followed with a Oiselle holiday treats happy hour and dinner at Shake Shack (Ian’s blog is back with a review of Shake Shack – check it out!!), which makes any day great!

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Friday: I made up for that missed speed workout on Tuesday and put in 7 total miles along the Mt. Vernon Trail. After a 1.25 mile warm-up, I cranked out 6 half mile repeats with quarter mile recovery jogs in between. My paces were a bit all over the place, but made sense when factoring in hilly sections. My fastest ones were right where I need to be, which pleasantly surprised myself a bit. Now I need to work on consistency.

Saturday: I was up early for an easy 8 miler and had a great run with some sunshine along Four Mile Run & W&OD Trails.

Sunday: Today was basically a repeat of Saturday with 8 easy miles. No sunshine today, but it was a few degrees warmer putting the feels like in the 30s instead of the 20s! I headed in the other direction for this run that took me along the W&OD and Custis Trails.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is having a wonderful day and is able to enjoy it with family and friends.

I have so many things to be thankful for this year…mostly this amazing family that I have!

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Today is also the official start of my marathon training plan – although I added Monday and Tuesday runs this week to kick things off. I’m thankful to be healthy, able and motivated to run and train.

As my act of giving back for the holiday season, I donated more than 10 inches of hair yesterday to help children with medically-related hair loss. This is something I have done 3-4 times over the last seven years or so. It’s a pretty easy thing to do on my part, but helps out a kid in need.

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Now it’s time for turkey! (Well after a 6-mile run that is!)

Have a great one!

Race Recap: Shamrock Fun

Today is time for another long overdue race recap – Shamrock weekend in Virginia Beach with the Oiselle team. This was such a fun weekend and it was so cool to get to meet so many of the birds in person for the first time, even though I already felt like I knew many of them.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start on my ride down Friday. Traffic was crazy and despite giving myself a two-hour cushion, I made it to the expo with just five minutes to spare. Well before the change deadline, I made the switch from the half to the 8k, which was Saturday morning so this was my only chance to get my bib. I noticed they gave me a half marathon bib anyways and probably should have said something, but I just assumed the chip would still work for the 8k. It did not.

I was in and out so quickly I can’t really tell you much about the expo, but I did enjoy race weekend enough that I’d be willing to go back again and find out some more another year!

I was really impressed how integrated the hotels seemed to be in the process for race weekend. I stayed about 15 miles from the start in one of the further away hotels, but still immediately upon check-in they said they had a note in their system that I was there for the race. They had an info sheet about shuttles, complimentary wifi, pre-race complimentary breakfast for those running the half/full on Sunday, automatic late check-out and more. Nice work, Holiday Inn – Greenwich.

After a few hours sleep I was up bright and early for the race Saturday. Fortunately there was a lot of parking near the race. Naturally I parked more than a mile away since I was nervous about getting closer, not finding a spot and then getting lost. Still it worked out well – and it was free parking. Living near D.C., you don’t see that too often!

Sunrise on my walk to the start.

Sunrise on my walk to the start.

I wore my new Oiselle shimmel tank, fresh green distance shorts and some calf sleeves. I could have used some arm warmers or maybe my lesley knickers instead of the shorts, but other than being chilly for the start, it wasn’t too bad.

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By chance I bumped into the other birds who were running on Sunday on their shakeout run and was able to say hi before the race. It definitely put a smile on my face before the start. I’d see them again on my way to the finish too! I lined up in corral 2 and went out at a pace I knew I could sustain for the duration. When you’re 7 minutes off a PR in a 5-mile race you know you’re out of shape, but regardless it was still a fun race. The course was mostly flat and fast and featured some great views along the ocean. It could be a rough one if the wind really picked up, but wasn’t too bad that morning.

Saturday night we hit up an Italian restaurant for a great team dinner and some fun bonding time – even if Bart Yasso did stand us up! Sunday was another early morning to meet up with Kristin, our team manager, and the other 8k runners to cheer on our teammates running the half. This was a blast and really inspiring – man there are some speedy birds on this team!

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It is so much fun being a part of this team. They inspire me every day and I love the support system I’ve found in them. Such an awesome group of women I’m proud to call myself a part of!

 

Purely Epic

Nothing like an epic Boston Marathon to bring me out of my blogging hiatus. (Sorry, life has been a bit busy lately!) While I would have loved to have been in Boston cheering in person on Monday, the flight prices were just a bit too much. Still, I had so much fun watching the live-stream online and following along on twitter – while getting lots of work done of course!

I was really pulling for Shalene, and while it’s a shame she couldn’t get the win, she had one heck of a race. You can’t ask for anything better than a personal best. The guts and determination she showed were just awesome. I hope she wins it someday. Jeptoo is just unstoppable right now though! That was an unreal display of endurance and speed.

When Meb, one of my favorites, first started pulling ahead I tried not to get too excited. I thought, “could this really happen?!” His lead kept getting bigger though. I sat there praying he could hold on and was so unbelievably excited when he crossed the line – the first American male to win the Boston Marathon in my lifetime!

What an awesome day for Boston and for America! It was so awesome to see so much joy and happiness after last year’s tragedy. This gif sums it all up for me…

 

It was also so much fun to see all the Oiselle birds flying to the finish and running Boston – so many PRs and great races!

Hope everyone that ran and cheered had a great day!

My plan is to get the blog back on track. I have a couple race recaps I still need to get to and some trail running fun. Posts will probably still be sporadic though as I navigate a busy summer filled with lots of travel plans, prep for my work’s big annual conference, multiple weddings and wedding planning of my own! And, of course, lots of running!

 

NYC Marathon Fun – Volunteering at Mile 22

I headed up to NYC this past weekend to give a little back to the sport that gives me so much. I signed up to volunteer at the 22 mile water stop for the NYC Marathon with a bunch of my Oiselle teammates. After a fun Saturday in Hoboken visiting my brother and his fiancée, I was up bright and early Sunday morning to make my way into the city.

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As usual, I had a bit of trouble figuring out the Subway system, but was able to take a fairly quick cab ride to my volunteer spot. I checked in, got a poncho and plastic gloves and met up with the other Oiselle ladies volunteering there. Most of them I only knew through twitter, so it was very fun to meet them in person, and not surprisingly they were all awesome.

We got a quick orientation from the volunteer leader. It’s amazing the things you don’t realize that go into race day. He went over set up and what to expect once things got rolling. Safety was the emphasis. He pointed out the closest medical tent, then talked about how to form a safety circle around a runner if someone were to drop, and asked anyone who was CPR certified to raise their hands. After thanking us all, we were off to work.

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I helped fill up water cups and stack them three rows high across the table to get ready for the onslaught of runners. After that, I enjoyed my front row seat to one incredibly cool marathon experience. The Marine Corps Marathon, which boasts finishers in the low 20,000s each year has always seemed HUGE to me. On Sunday, more than 50,000 runners set out to take on the five boroughs of NYC. Wow.

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The wheelchair and handcycle divisions came through first. I don’t usually see most of these racers after they take off, but wow they are impressive. Soon the elite women were making their way through mile 22. It was so cool to see the pace trucks coming and know the first runners were right behind them.

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These women were amazingly fierce and fast. It was so cool to see. I still can’t believe Priscah Jeptoo came away with the win – what a finish!

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Also, I want her abs!

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Not long after, another pace truck was coming through and we saw the elite men. Getting to see Geoffrey Mutai fly by up close on his way to his second straight NYCM victory was awesome. I couldn’t wait to see Meb come by, but of course had just put my camera away when he did, so I don’t have a shot of him. I know he didn’t have the race he wanted, but it was still so cool to see him and he is such an inspiration!

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Soon the everyday runners started pouring through and just kept coming and coming. There were so many volunteers and I was near the back, so I didn’t actually hand out that many cups of water.

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Still getting to cheer these runners on and see the determination and pain in their faces (or limps) as they passed us with four miles to go made for a great day. I yelled out for the runners who had names written on their shirts, cheered like crazy for random strangers and tried to pick people I knew running out of the crowd. So. Much. Fun. 

Congrats to everyone who raced NYCM Sunday! You are all amazing!