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!)


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!


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)


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!


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)!


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!


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.



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.



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!


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?!

Moving Forward

In my Marine Corps Marathon recap I mentioned I’d be doing a post on what I thought went wrong. After playing it over in my head a million times since Sunday though, I have decided against it. Thinking of every little possible thing I could have done differently or done better, and continuing to beat myself up for it, won’t change my finish time from Sunday.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to just forget about it and not learn anything from it. There is always something to be learned from every race – good or bad. It just means that I don’t see the need to dissect every factor that could have impacted my race.

Instead I’m choosing to focus on things I can do moving forward to help me hit my goals in future races.

  • Stick to a strength training plan all the way through my training cycle.
  • Do my best to get enough sleep on a daily basis to help keep my immune system strong and fighting off colds.
  • Don’t change too many things up too close to race day.
  • Get more training runs in at or faster than goal pace.
  • Conversely, make sure I have enough easy runs that really are easy runs.
  • Find new shoes and make sure they work for me.

It all seems pretty simple. Now, time to put it into action!

Hopefully, this will be my smile at the end of my next race – not just at mile 1.5!


What big lessons have you learned from racing that have helped you get better?


MCM Race Recap: BQ or Bust…Well, Not Exactly

I set out this year with a BQ or bust racing mentality that all centered around one race – the Marine Corps Marathon. After coming just more than two minutes shy in my last attempt, I wanted to get there more than ever. The bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon only intensified that desire.

I didn’t get that goal on Sunday though. I wasn’t even close, instead running one of my slowest marathons in years. Was it a bust though?

I battled through one of the toughest training cycles I’ve had to date where I was sick multiple times and dealt with constant tight and sore calf muscles that landed me in physical therapy for the last two weeks of training. Still, I made it to the starting line on race day. Despite running through pain from very early on in the race, I crossed the finish line of my 10th marathon.

No, I definitely can’t call that a bust. I’m really proud of that accomplishment.

I’d be lying though if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed and sad that I didn’t reach my goal. I’ll have more to come on what I think went wrong and where I’ll go from here, but for today’s post, I’ll stick to the race day recap.

After a good night’s sleep I popped up when my 5 a.m. alarm went off and started getting ready. I had my usual pre-race meal, body-glided up and packed all my fuel into my Oiselle distance shorts. After adding some throwaway layers on top, we were out the door and Ian dropped me off as close as possible to the Rosslyn metro.

IMG_3688I hopped right on a train and was quickly at the Pentagon stop. It was really crowded on the platform so I waited what seemed like forever (actually not that bad) to get up the escalator and exit the station. I was stuck right behind some guy throwing up into a bag though, which was a bit gross, but I kept reminding myself he had it much worse than I did. On my way out I ran into one of my Oiselle teammates. It was so awesome to meet Prianka and have someone to chat with and keep the nerves calm on our walk to the start area.

My parents stayed at the Hyatt just around the corner from the finish, so I’d left a bag with them and skipped past the bag check area to grab a spot in the bathroom line. Soon after I was warming up while watching a group of paratroopers make their way down to the ground with a giant American flag…love this race. Then I made my way to the start. It was already very crowded, but I got a spot about 10 feet behind the 3:35 pacer. I ditched my extra layers and soon was on the move at the sound of the starting gun.

The first mile was a lot of weaving until I finally just settled in as we turned up Lee Highway and made sure to keep the 3:35 pacer in my sights to stay on track. This was my first glimpse of my support crew – Mom, Dad and Ian – who were waiting with a sign to cheer me on and take pics. I ran by for a high five and headed up the hills. My pace felt easy and my calves which I’d had so much trouble with weren’t bothering me, however I could already feel my hamstrings tightening up at mile 2. I figured they would loosen up on the downhill and I’d be fine.


The early hills passed pretty quickly and we turned onto Spout Run to make our way back down. I love how you can hear the roar of the crowd as you near the end of this small stretch and get ready to turn and cross the Key Bridge. Another high five from my support crew and I was smiling my way over the bridge. The crowds on M Street were fantastic, but I could feel the tightness in my hammies was still there and was spreading to my quads.

IMG_3739By the time we turned down Wisconsin to make our way toward Rock Creek Parkway the 3: 35 pacer was already slipping away. How could this be happening so early I thought? I didn’t feel out of breath or at all winded, but I just couldn’t get my legs to go faster.

Despite not having a great day, I still standby my earlier statements that getting rid of the Canal Road portion of the race and bringing Rock Creek Parkway back was a great addition. This part of the course is beautiful and way less hilly than the old route.

By mile 7 the 3:45 pace group went gliding by me as if I were moving in slow motion. Ugh. Shortly after the turnaround on Rock Creek, I heard someone yell, “Go Oiselle!” This happened a handful of times throughout the day and really made a rough day so much better! Around mile 9 my right IT band and left ankle added themselves to the list of body parts that hurt. What is going on I kept thinking and it really hit me that today was going to be a much longer day than I had planned.

Soon I was on my way into Hains Point. This part of the course gets a bad rap, but really wasn’t all that bad this year I thought. Thanks to the picture perfect race weather, the wind that can be beyond brutal here was barely there. Also, passing the line of signs here with pictures of marines and the date they were killed in action was a humbling and inspiring experience. The strategically placed cheer squads along this section of the course provided a great boost as well.

It was also at this point that I met another Oiselle teammate. Brennan came running up to me and gave me a hug and some words of encouragement before passing by and continuing on to her first marathon finish!! This was enough to keep me going through the rest of Hains Point as the pain slowly started to get worse.

Around mile 15 my hips started aching too and I started to wonder how I was going to make it to the finish line like this. Thankfully the crowd support was great here as I made my way back up toward the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial. Have I mentioned I love this race and all it’s amazing sights? I also knew my support crew was waiting for me just past mile 17 and I couldn’t wait to see them again.

As I ran up the Mall toward the Capitol Building I kept my eye out for the orange sign they were holding and let a big smile cross my face once I spotted them. A quick handoff with my Dad and I had a new water bottle to replace my empty one. At this part of the course, I’m always so thankful when we hit the Capitol and turn in front of it rather than going up and around like many of my training runs. That hill is brutal!


I quickly realized it was a bad idea to carry my smaller water bottle first, as having my 16-ouncer now felt like it weighed a TON. Luckily the fam had hurried across the Mall and saw me again at mile 19. I waved and dropped the bottle as I ran by. Thankfully without even saying anything they realized what was wrong and had the smaller one refilled for the next time I would see them.


There was no doubt I was hurting, but I’d come to grips with the fact that my goal was not going to happen today and coming up on mile 20 the end started to feel within reach. I passed the mile marker and came up on the infamous 14th Street Bridge.

In an instant everything nearly fell apart. The bottoms of my feet like most of my body hadn’t been feeling great today, but all of a sudden I felt a shot of pain up my left heel. Every time it hit the ground was excruciating. I hopped along trying not to curse too loudly as I grabbed the road divider for support and tried not to let my left heel touch the ground.

This is why I love runners. I can’t even tell you how many people asked if I was OK, patted me on the back, told me I could do it and offered me waters, Gu and assistance. You all are remarkable as I’m sure no one was feeling super good at this point of the race, so thank you. Thankfully though, the pain started to dull after a quarter to a half mile of this that felt more like 20, and I was able to put weight on my foot again and resume my run to the finish. It was more of a shuffle by this point though as I could barely even lift my feet over cups strewn on the ground as I passed through water stops for the rest of the race.

Finally, I would “Beat the Bridge” and make my way into Crystal City. This is another area with great crowd support pushing you closer to the finish. It was around this point that my ego would take a bit of a hit. I was passed and eventually beaten by a a Dunkin Donuts cup, the Chick Fil A cows and a dragon. Awesome.


As Crystal City was coming to an end I kept my hopes up that I would see my support crew one more time. Depending on how the metro worked out, they were going to try to catch me at about 23.5. Again I spotted that orange sign my Mom was holding high and couldn’t be happier. Ian was still snapping away with the camera and my Dad held up my smaller water bottle. I ran over to grab it, yelled that I loved them and continued on my way so incredibly thankful for such amazingly supportive people in my life.


I worked my way back by the Pentagon where crowd support waned, but Marines loudly cheered us on and told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other for the last two miles. I have never wanted a marathon to be over so badly in my life. I ran back through the start line and heard people yelling less than a mile and a half to go. Oh. Thank. God.

I could hear the crowd before I could see them as I made my way toward the final stretch. Despite the cruel, cruel hill up to the finish line, I have always loved the finish experience of this race. With Arlington Cemetery just to your left and thousands of people cheering wildly, you feel like a rock star as you climb the last hill and turn towards the finish line just before the Iwo Jima Memorial.

I put my head down and summoned every last bit of energy I had to push up that hill and run to that finish line. I crossed the line and felt relieved. My finish time was 4:12:41.

If I’m being honest I didn’t smile when it was over or get my picture taken in front of Iwo Jima like after my last two MCM’s. I just took my medal, thanked the Marines and was happy it was over – but I wasn’t really happy at all. I fought back tears and plodded my way through the finisher’s area trying to thank as many of the Marines as possible.

It seemed like an endless walk to the entrance of my old apartment where I knew my support crew was waiting. Once I saw them I finally smiled and gladly accepted their hugs despite how gross I must have been at that point. Now I was done.


A disappointment to walk hobble away missing my goal by so much for sure, but I’m so very glad I didn’t give up. Ten marathons is certainly something to smile about.

If you made it all the way to the end of this ridiculously long post, thanks for reading through all of my rambling thoughts. How did your weekend racing go? How do you bounce back after falling short on a goal race?

Footprints Weekly Recap

Well, last week was the big week…the Marine Corps Marathon.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown of my week leading up to yesterday’s race…

Monday: Physical Therapy. 45-minute pool run with about 35 minutes at tempo effort.

Tuesday: 30-minute pool run with 25 at tempo effort. Core workout.

Aqua Jog Belt

Aqua Jog Belt

Wednesday: Physical Therapy.

Thursday: Rest. I also visited the Expo Thursday night to get my packet.

Friday: Last physical therapy appointment – very light massage and dynamic stretching.

Saturday: One mile shake out run followed by a dynamic stretch routine. I felt awesome and was feeling so positive about Sunday.

Sunday: The wheels fell off a bit and everything (but my calves which I spent the last two weeks working on in PT) felt awful. I missed my time goal by a whole heck of a lot, but was really proud I was able to pull myself together and keep going through the pain to cross the line in 4:12:41. Full recap and pictures coming soon.


Marine Corps Marathon: The Expo

Things are getting real! I made it over to the D.C. Armory for the Marine Corps Marathon Expo last night. Other than a few wrong turns on the way to the expo that made it a much longer trip than it should have been, things went very smoothly.

The Marines have this one down to a science, so I was in and out of the tent to pick up my bib in just a few minutes. After going through another round of security (first one was to get into the tent to grab my bib) I made my way into the armory and it was time to explore!

I made Ian take some silly pictures of me when we first walked in.

expo2 expo1I cannot wait till I have The Iwo in my sights on Sunday and am getting my picture snapped in front of it with my finisher’s medal. Does anyone know how I could just fast forward to that part of things?!?

After that I picked up my shirt and for the first time of my three MCM’s I will actually wear this one and not just keep it as a souvenir. Don’t get me wrong, the bright red and mustard yellow cotton unisex mock turtle necks in the bin under my bed do hold a special place in my heart…they just don’t get worn very often (read ever). This year they unveiled newer technical long sleeve shirts that look a whole lot better and might actually get me to “rock the mock” as they like to say! Kudos to MCM on making this change!

expo4After grabbing my shirt, there were a handful of free samples you could grab before heading into the Brooks official merchandise area.

expo3The lines were really long so I didn’t end up getting anything, but I may try to find my way back there before it closes. My only complaint about the gear was the sheer amount of pink women’s MCM gear. I like pink as much as the next girl, but it doesn’t seem to fit with this race in my mind, and I also get frustrated when people think all you have to do to sell gear to women is slap some pink on it. Regardless there was still a lot of good stuff!

I also wanted to get a new pint glass for this year to go with the one I have from 2011, but didn’t see any. I very easily could have just missed them though. If you were there and saw them, let me know!

I wish I had more time to explore the booths, but we were there pretty close to closing time and hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so I moved through pretty quickly checking out all the different running gear and goodies. I did stop by the Clif Bar booth to pick up my 3:35 pace band!

All in all, it was a pretty great expo and I left feeling motivated and excited for race day!

Are you racing MCM? How was your expo experience? Are you a fan of large race expos?


Marine Corps Marathon Course Preview and Race Strategy

Three more days! Yikes! The Marine Corps Marathon is almost here. Having run this marathon twice before and being lucky enough to do many of my training runs along the course, I feel like I know every inch of it.

Sometimes knowing what’s ahead is good. Think the rush from the crowd as you run the final stretch down 110. Other times I wish I didn’t know what was just around the bend. Think that final hill up to the finish line.

Here’s my advice and a preview of the course for first timers.

As the race starts adrenaline kicks in and emotions run high. Remember to keep your breathing in check and don’t go out too hard as you head up Lee Highway. The good news is you get to come back down along Spout Run before heading over the Key Bridge and onto M street in Georgetown. M Street should be loud and lined with fans so feed off of their energy as you get ready to turn down Wisconsin and loop onto Rock Creek Parkway.


Rock Creek is back after several years absent from the course and I for one am very excited about this. I wrote about the course change in an earlier post if you want to check that out. This stretch has a slight incline, but it’s really beautiful and a great addition in my mind.

The next big challenge is Hains Point. I’ve written often about my love-hate relationship with this stretch that has been a part of so many of my races this past year including the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Nike D.C. Women’s Half and the Navy Air Force Half Marathon. The crowds can be sparse and the winds can be brutal, but as of now anyways, the forecast looks to be in our favor. If it is windy, try to tuck in behind another runner or a group. If you start to feel the lack of crowd support, let yourself enjoy the views of the water. It’ll be over in just a couple miles and you’ll be on your way to miles 15 and 16.

Soon you’ll be gliding (or hobbling – whatever it takes) past the monuments. Take it all in as you approach the Capitol Building – it really is a special view and so much history. You’ll see a big hill ahead by the Capitol, but don’t worry, the course turns just before sending you up and brings you along the Reflecting Pool before heading back down the other side of the Mall. Also, photographers are usually ready and waiting to take your picture here with the Capitol in the background, so get your race face ready.

Screenshot of the course map from the MCM website

Course map screenshot from the MCM website

Next the course turns cruel again as you try to “Beat the Bridge” crossing 14th Street Bridge back into Arlington. Crowd support wanes again. The bridge seems to go on forever. There’s no getting around this, but don’t let it get you down. Fight it. Summon up all the mental energy you can and keep yourself going through mile 20 and 21 along the bridge.

Once you cross the bridge and enter Crystal City the crowds will be back and you’ll start to feel like the end is finally near. Dunkin Donuts is usually stationed around here handing out munchkins. I remember thinking this sounded awesome before the race, but then wanting to throw up just at the sight of them during the actual race, so I passed by without enjoying one.

The Crystal City portion is slightly different than the last time I ran when it was an out and back on Crystal Drive. Instead you do more of a rectangular loop heading down Crystal Drive, turning right on 23rd and taking another right back on S. Clark St. toward the final stretch.

You’ll pass the Pentagon including the 9-11 Memorial and make your way back to 110 along Arlington National Cemetery. No matter how bad you’re hurting, seeing this here and knowing what kind of sacrifice so many people made for this country will help propel you to the finish.

The energy and excitement boils over as the cheers from the crowd get louder and louder as you run the last half mile. The final point two takes you up a cruel hill toward the Iwo Jima Memorial and the finish line. This is your last test until you become a marathon finisher and receive your medal.

Iwo Jima Memorial just beyond the trees

Iwo Jima Memorial just beyond the trees

My biggest advice if this is your first marathon or first time running MCM can really apply to any race…smile at the crowds, thank the volunteers, make friends with other runners and enjoy the heck out of it!

Footprints: Weekly Recap

OK, so I’m very late with my usual Monday morning recap again thanks to a busy, fun-filled weekend that I’ll fill you in on more in a later post. Getting right to it though, last week was mostly filled with PT appointments and non-impact training so I’ll be good to go Sunday for the Marine Corps Marathon. You can read more about my proactive PT plan here if you missed it.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown…

Monday: Physical therapy session which included some treadmill running, dynamic stretches and soft-tissue work.

Tuesday: 6-mile easy run along the Custis and W&OD Trails to my PT appointment so they could get a look when my calves were more flared up, which usually starts right around mile 5 or so. PT included a run analysis, drills, stretching and soft-tissue work.

Wednesday: Today was a rest day, but included lots of stretches and exercises I got at PT.

Thursday: I was back up to PT after work Thursday night for some more run drills, dynamic stretches and even more soft-tissue work. I WILL get those knots out before MCM!

Friday: I spent 35 minutes on the elliptical at the same intensity I would have done my run today so I can try to keep the same level of fitness without the impact. This way I won’t undo all the soft-tissue work I’m getting done at PT. I finished up with core work, PT exercises and stretching.

Saturday: Today was a repeat of Friday except with 45 minutes on the elliptical before getting into core, PT exercises and stretching.

Sunday: In a reversal of my usual role, I spent this morning biking and walking all over town to cheer on friends in the Army 10 Miler. I started in-between the 1 and 2 mile markers near Arlington Cemetery and could not get over how many people run this race!

Army 10 Miler

            Army 10 Miler

Proactive PT

If you’ve been to my blog over the last couple months, you may have noticed a theme of on and off calf tightness and pain. Despite plenty of stretching, icing and rolling I couldn’t seem to make it really go away. It would start feeling better, but then strike again forcing me to take extra rest days, cut a long run short or just be a small annoyance along the run.

After running through pain for way too long and landing myself in some pretty serious physical therapy last year forcing me to defer my entry for the Marine Corps Marathon, I decided to be proactive this time and not let it turn into a serious injury. I believe they call this learning!

I got myself an appointment to see my doctor and a referral to Fast Track Physical Therapy out at the Endurance Athlete Center in Falls Church. I love this place – they work wonders and understand athletes. I met with Kerri on Monday for my first session, explained to her my issues and after an assessment she talked me through what we could do to get me in the best possible shape for a successful marathon in two weeks. (Just about one week now…eek!)

She immediately noticed my limited ankle mobility after having me attempt a squat, which was later confirmed when she measured my dorsiflexion for each foot (ability to pull the foot upward) at five degrees. Normal is about 20 degrees. She also found some serious knots while doing soft tissue work. Ouch! I did my best not to yelp while lying on the table for this.

For Tuesday’s appointment we planned that I would run there – 6 miles – so she could rule out something more serious like compartment syndrome and confirm it was just calf strains. This would be my last run before race day. I’d come back for another session Thursday and three next week where I would do some running drills to work on my form and more soft tissue work. Aside from that, the rest of the my workouts will be on the elliptical or water running along with a set of exercises and stretches to loosen me up. (Only having slight panic attacks about this!)

Old picture…but this is one I’ll be doing a lot more of until race day.

Calf Stretch - Knee Straight

Calf Stretch – Knee Straight

On Tuesday we did a video run analysis and I could immediately pinpoint some of my issues before Kerri even started to break things down. I’m getting airtime mid stride – full on both feet off the ground at the same time…talk about inefficient. I’m landing way out in front of my body and practically on my toes. I’ve always been a mid-foot striker, but now I’m up on my forefoot and barely touching my heel to the ground making my calves push me through my runs rather than pulling my legs through with my glutes. We even noticed that hip drop that gave me so many problems last year creeping back in. Thankfully it was nowhere near what it was last year, but still disappointing given how hard I worked to get rid of that.

Retooling my entire running form in the final two weeks before my goal marathon would be difficult and would likely turn me into a headcase during the race. Instead we’re focusing on a few small things and practicing them at each session. I’m working on shortening my stride, staying off my toes so I land on my midfoot instead and RELAXING. As I try to change things I keep tightening up my feet and calves causing even more stress. She suggested checking in with myself each time I pass a mile marker as a good way to make sure I’m on the right track.

Once race day is over we can work on addressing some of the other issues and I might have to give up my beloved Newtons, but until then I’m going to keep it simple and avoid impact so I’m ready to go on race day. Here I come Marine Corps Marathon! (By the way, super relieved it’s still on!)

From MCM’s Facebook Page today making my day…



The taper is always tough, but without being able to run it’s definitely a test of my mental strength to stay confident.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever had to substitute other exercises for running during your taper. How’d it go? 

Hope everyone is having a great fall marathon season!

20 Treadmill Miles Later…It’s Taper Time

My weekend long run got bumped to Monday and lack of daylight hours after work plus major storm warnings for the D.C. area meant I was going to have to take my long run to the dreadmill. I’ve done 20 miles on a treadmill before, but it’s been awhile and there is just something daunting about having to run in place for that long.

My hopes of getting the one treadmill in front of the TV were instantly dashed when I walked into my little apartment gym and saw someone already running on it. Instead I opted for one with a window view, which sounds much nicer than it is. Since the gym is in the basement, the window has a bit of light sneaking through, but the view is of a concrete wall. This was going to be a mental challenge for sure.


I had an idea in my head based on my plan of how this run would work out and it was going to include 8 miles at a faster pace. The first 6 were early in the run and wouldn’t be an issue, but I was a bit worried about the two I had planned for later in the run.

I got myself set-up with a water bottle in the right cup holder, a towel draped over the top of the treadmill and a bunch of baggies filled with Honey Stinger bites in the left cup holder. There was no turning back now. While I no longer listen to music for outdoor runs, I still depend on the tunes for most treadmill runs, so I popped my ear buds in and hit play on my old standby long-run playlist. Here goes nothing I thought!

I set the incline to 1.0 and started out with 2 miles at an easy 8:57 pace. I bumped it up to 7:53 for the next six miles and felt really strong all the way through them. It still felt easy. I let myself smile for a minute, but remembered I still had a long way to go.

I settled back into my easy 8:57 pace, which now felt even easier and grinded that out for the next 7 miles. My calves, which have been bothering me lately, started to tighten up and feel a little pain around mile 13 or so, but nothing that really hurt or made me want to stop. I bumped the pace up to 7:53 again for mile 16 before hopping off the treadmill for a quick minute to refill my water.

For mile 17 and 18 I dropped back down to my 8:57 pace before adding in one more speedy 7:53 mile and ending with a final cool down mile back at 8:57. This time I didn’t stop myself from grinning. I felt good. Really good. Like I could have kept running good.

I’ve had a really tough training cycle and have been lacking in confidence lately, so I needed this big time. Now I head into my taper and can focus on race day with a bit more confidence and a bit less doubt.

It’s hard to believe Marine Corps Marathon will be here so soon, but I can’t wait! In just a few weeks I’ll be at the start line and will probably think to myself – here goes nothing!

How did all of your weekend long runs go? Any races coming up soon?

Lessons Learned: Takeaways From My Latest Half Marathon

As noted in my recap from the recent Navy Air Force Half Marathon here in D.C., while I may not have hit my goal time I did learn some valuable lessons to take with me in the final month of prep for Marine Corps Marathon.

Yikes, one month – this was the first thing I saw on my Facebook newsfeed this morning causing simultaneous excitement and full-on panic!

The Takeaways

Nathan Pack
My main takeaway and the first thing I blurted out when I saw Ian at the finish line was, “I need my water pack for longer races!” I wear a Nathan Hydration Vest when I train and have also worn it during my last three marathons. They are the only three of the nine I’ve run under four hours and have been under four by a big chunk of time. Granted, I was better trained for those races also, but I do think the vest makes a big difference.

Unlike some of my older camelbacks, this vest is so light my neck and shoulders aren’t a bit sore even after running 26.2 with it on. Well, at least not any more sore than running 26.2 normally causes. It doesn’t bounce or move around at all and feels as if it’s barely there. I’ve learned to do the whole pinch the water cup thing and drink on the run, but I don’t like doing it and I don’t like depending on water stops. I’m much better at getting water down in frequent small sips then gulping down a cup every few miles at an aid station.


There were a lot of points along the half where I wished I could just have a sip of water meaning that each time I got to an aid station I gulped down too much water knowing I wouldn’t have another chance for a couple miles leaving that uncomfortable sloshing feeling in my stomach. I also didn’t memorize where the aid stations were so it ended up being 10 or 15 minutes after taking my Honey Stinger bites before I had any water. The pack also has an easy access pocket on the front strap to hold all of my gummies.

I know a lot of people think the added weight slows you down in races, but it just works for me and has proven so in the past, so I’d like to stick with it. That said, a week after reaching this conclusion I saw talk on Twitter about MCM banning camelbacks this year. It appears to be a new security  measure because of the Boston bombings. It’s buried on their website, so I’m not sure how serious they are about this. I have a tough time seeing how this could be a real security threat, but I also don’t want to cause any issues, so now I’m at a loss for what to do.

I debated before the half whether or not to wear a watch or just go by feel. I was all set to go without, but let my coach convince me to just wear a regular stopwatch. He’s not a fan of Garmins, which I understand, but for me I feel that I would have been better keeping the Garmin on or going completely without. The in-between just meant I was doing more math in my head along the course to determine my pace and kept me from just running on effort. Since I plan to run with a pace group at MCM, I’m not too worried about having to look at my watch much anyways, but will go with the Garmin so I can have a record of the race.


Eat a Bigger Breakfast
I don’t think I had enough fuel in me for the half. Part of it was that I forgot the Honey Stinger waffle I packed to eat once we got into D.C., but I’m also getting up much earlier for races than I used to. I used to cut it pretty close so a bigger breakfast wasn’t always smart or just wasn’t necessary because I wasn’t going to have 2 hours to get hungry during. More calories on marathon morning will definitely be important, especially since I’ll be going twice the distance. Bonking in a goal race because I didn’t eat enough beforehand seems silly!


Start Slow, Finish Fast, Start Slow, Finish Fast, Start Slow, Finish Fast
I figure if I say this enough times I’ll follow through with it. This year’s Cherry Blossom race was one of the first times that I was able to actually follow through on this plan and boy did it feel good to fly through those last few miles. The beginning of a marathon should feel easy, so I’m going to do my best to stick with the pace group rather than jump out too fast leaving me exhausted later in the race.



Have you learned any big lessons on race day that you used to get better in your next big race??