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?!

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Teammates

What a year! It’s hard to believe how quickly it went by. 2014 was a pretty awesome year for me on most fronts. I got to marry the love of my life, celebrate my brother’s wedding, spend lots of time with family and friends and go on the trip of a lifetime among other bright spots.

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It was not however, my greatest running year. I started off recovering from a tough marathon in 2013 that left me mentally drained and physically hurt. With such a busy 2014, I never got into a solid training groove until very late in the year. While I raced fairly often, I didn’t set a single PR all year – or really even come close.

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Despite this, I’m still thankful for my year in running. I’m able to do something that not everyone can physically do and that should never be taken for granted. I also got to enjoy the support of some amazing teammates. I joined the Oiselle Volee team in late 2013 and it has been an incredibly motivating experience. The feeling of community in this group of kickass women runners from the elites to the Flock is so strong and empowering, and I love every bit of it.

Oiselle Team & Friends pre-Cherry Blossom Race

Oiselle Team & Friends pre-Cherry Blossom Race

It is so fun to log on to twitter and see how the rest of the birds are doing. It is great to celebrate in everyone’s accomplishments and pump up those struggling through tough runs or injury.

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As a team-sport athlete growing up, I had really missed that camaraderie and support that comes with being a part of a team, and I am so thankful to have that back. No matter what happened on race days or during training, I was always met with positive words and encouragement from this community.

Picture from Courtney's blog - check it out at eatprayrundc.com

Picture from Courtney’s blog – check it out at eatprayrundc.com

I’ve also made some great friends through this group and love all the fun meetups our DC flock (and birds visiting the DC area) has done. From pasta dinners before big races and fashion shows to race day meet-ups and brunches, it was always fun to interact in person with this inspiring group of women.

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We ended the year with two great meet-ups – a holiday lights run followed by a holiday treats happy hour a week later. It was a blast exploring my favorite spots in DC decked in holiday lights and Christmas trees. Of course the holiday treats happy hour followed by dinner at Shake Shack was a great time as well!

Holiday Lights Run - photo courtesy of Julie Anderson

Holiday Lights Run – photo courtesy of Julie

Holiday Treats Happy Hour

Holiday Treats Happy Hour

Thanks for keeping me going through a tough running year. I cannot wait to crush some new goals and PRs in 2015! Head up, Wings out!

Race Recap: Jingle All The Way 5k

A few weeks ago I ran the Jingle All The Way 5k put on by Pacers right in the heart of DC. Initially slated to be an 8k like last year, road construction turned this year’s race into a 5k. One of the nicest things about Pacers races is you can generally pick your packet up earlier in the week at their various stores. I was able to grab mine at the Old Town store on my lunch break Thursday afternoon saving me time and hassle on race morning.

I was looking forward to this race and had planned to run aggressively thinking I could finish around the 23 minute mark. That would not be the case as I came down with some cold/flu symptoms late in the week making it more of a survive and finish race. I spent most of Friday night and Saturday on the couch, but still wasn’t feeling great Sunday morning when we headed into DC for the race.

On the plus side, Ian and I easily found a street parking spot just a few blocks from the start/finish line. The highlight of the morning was meeting up with a few fellow Oiselle birds also running inside the CVS near the start. I unfortunately had to pass on post-race brunch with them after as I had no desire to share my germs with everyone!

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It was so freaking cold that morning. People who ran last year kept saying what a nice day it was because the sun was out and apparently last year was pretty miserable cold and snowy out, but that wasn’t making me feel any warmer. I finally ventured out of the warm CVS for a warm-up run, but couldn’t seem to get warm. I ran into Ian on my way back to the start line as he was finding a spot along the course and actually grabbed my hoodie back from him that I had planned to only wear pre and post-race.

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You could self-seed yourself at the start based on signs with different paces. I set up between the 7:30-8 minute pace areas trying to stay warm and stop coughing. Sorry everyone around me! From the start it was a strugglefest and not in the good I was pushing myself to new limits kind of way. My stomach felt off, my legs felt weak and I was gasping for breath like I was running a much faster pace.

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My time wasn’t what I had hoped before getting sick, but it wasn’t all that bad. I finished in 24:58, but just felt so awful doing it that I couldn’t really enjoy the race. The course itself was great. The start finish area was on Pennsylvania Ave just a few blocks from the White House. We took off running down Pennsylvania towards the Capitol Building, which we passed in front of before a quick out and back along Independence and a loop around some side streets. We crossed in front of the Capitol again – although much closer (I love running in this city!) – before heading back up Pennsylvania to the finish.

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I spotted Ian again along my way to the finish and tried to find some energy for a final kick. Boy was I glad to cross that line. I got to cheer on a few more Oiselle teammates before we decided to make a break for the car and some heat!

It wasn’t my day for sure, but still a great race. Pre-race packet pick-up was a breeze, the course was well marked and those views of DC are hard to beat. On top of that, there were a ton of runners in costume and many with jingle bells on their shoes making for a very festive atmosphere! This is a fun, holiday race for those in the DC area – and hopefully next year will return to its 8k distance for an extra couple miles of jingling all the way!

Race Recap: Clarendon Day 5k

Time for another overdue race recap! In September I ran the Clarendon Day 5k. You may remember last year I did the double at this race running both the 5k and the ensuing 10k. I have to say, I was pretty relieved this year when I was walking back up the hill after the 5k that I only had to cheer on the 10k runners and not join them this time!

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I love this course right in the middle of my old neighborhood. I’ve spent many early mornings running up the Wilson Boulevard hill, so I was really looking forward to getting to run down it for this race.

There were a lot of other Oiselle runners coming out for the race and for brunch after so it was great to see that crew as well and meet some of the newer flock members! I ran into a few before the race started and then hopped into the starting area.

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(I stole this photo from Courtney – check out her blog at eatprayrundc.com!)

The first mile is fast and all downhill from Clarendon to Rosslyn. The second mile continues the downhill out onto route 110 straightaway towards the Pentagon before reaching the turnaround point. The final mile goes from flat to a slight uphill to the finish. After barreling downhill for the first two miles this hill seems way tougher than it should be!

I crossed the line in 24:08 for a 7:46 pace. A bit slower than last year, but a bit faster than my run at the Dulles Day 5k the week before!

I met up with some of my Oiselle teammates after the race as we walked back up the hill to cheer those doing both on at the start of the 10k. I changed out of my sweaty clothes and enjoyed a hot chocolate before we headed to brunch at Lyon Hall. Such a fun morning!

 

Race Recap: USATF Old Town One Mile Road Race

Last weekend, the US National 12k came to Old Town Alexandria for its second year bringing a slew of elite runners. Molly Huddle defended her title in the women’s race winning in 38:08 and Brian Shrader surprised everyone winning the men’s race in 34:11. The race gives everyday runners a chance to toe the line with elites and is a really cool experience. Last year I volunteered in the elite check in area and ran their bags to them as they finished. Oh yea, I also got to meet Deena Kastor as I cheered on runners at the finish.

usrrc6This year I decided I would participate on the running side. Being only one week after I got back from my honeymoon though, I knew I wouldn’t be up for a 12k that I would be proud of. Along with the 12k though, there was also a 1-mile road race option and a kid’s race. I figured even being slightly out of shape, I could push through the 1-miler. The 12k ran first so the 9:30 start time for the 1-mile race was also appealing!

Ian and I got to the race early so I would have plenty of time to get a warm-up in. I work in Old Town, so we parked near my office and walked to the start from there. I think our walk was as long as the race! As we neared the start though, I started to notice anyone else that had the same bib on as me looked to be under 10 years old. Panic set in as I was pretty sure I had signed up for a kid’s race. I refused to take my coat off and show my bib until I saw other adults – and not just ones racing with their kids. This definitely cut into my warm-up time, but oh well, I wasn’t in any shape to set a PR that day anyways, and it made for some good laughs. Thankfully more people my age did show up, so I wasn’t alone in getting shown up by a bunch of kids!

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That guy with the giant mascot head behind me – Woody Wilson – would go on to beat me. It was a touch demoralizing!

It was one of the first really chilly weekends here in DC, so I opted for my winter hat. I wore my Oiselle flyte longsleeve under my singlet along with stride shorts and high compression socks. I definitely overestimated how warm out I thought it would be though as I never took my warm-up pants off and ran the race in them. It it were the 12k I probably would have been OK in the shorts, but there was just not enough time in the 1-mile to warm up!

Ian headed down to about the quarter mile mark. It was a straight and flat out and back, so he was able to easily catch me going both ways. I know when he’s wearing a hoodie that it’s definitely cold out!

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I took off fast and paid dearly for it on the second half. I really didn’t think I could lose that much time in such a short race, but I did! I ran the first quarter at a sub-6 pace and was already slowing drastically before I reached the turnaround.

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For the last quarter mile I just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other and not slow down too much. According to my watch, which I didn’t stop until I cleared both finish line mats, I finished in 7:18. That’s about a minute off my PR in the mile, but I thought it was respectable for my week and a half back to running after a few weeks mostly off.

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My official results say I finished in 7:25. I don’t know why, but this really upset me. I know it’s only 7 seconds, but I know I finished faster than that. They have a set of pictures you can see on their site from the time you finished and I’m not in any of them. I would like to believe that is because something went wrong with the timing and I actually crossed the line 7 seconds faster!

Regardless, I do love the adrenaline of shorter races like this and would love to find another one soon. I liked my track one-miler better, but I was also in much better shape for that one so I could be a bit biased!

How about you? Have you done a 1-miler before? Was it on the road or on the track?

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!

 

Secret Santa Fun!

The Oiselle running team hosted a Secret Santa gift exchange this year just adding another reason why I love this team! Allison (@_RunACE) drew my name and sent the most thoughtful gift.

She sent a customized ornament from GoneForARun.com that included my name and the Oiselle logo! It’s probably too late for this year, but such a great future idea for the runner(s) in your life.

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She also sent me an Oiselle spike bag, which just happened to be on my wish list. I was extra excited that it came in one of my favorite colors!

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Special thanks to Allison for putting a smile on my face when this arrived last week!

Let’s hear it fellow birds…what did you send to/receive from your Secret Santa?!