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!

MCM_Expo

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)

MCM_SmilingCloseUp

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!

MCM_TheFam

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)!

MCM_OverTheBridge

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!

MCM_MallMile19

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.

MCM_SmilingMile17

MCM_MallMile19HighFives

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.

MCM_CollageCowbellCorner

MCM_CowbellCorner

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!

MCM_FinishLine

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 week back after a couple extremely busy weeks that made for some lousy weeks of running – or more appropriately barely running. I put in nearly 40 miles last week though – all easy paced to start getting back on track – and felt really great doing it. Here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

Monday: I nearly bailed on this run, but with a little motivation from Ian (Sunday night I told him no matter what excuses I made to remind me I said I absolutely had to run Monday night – he held me to this!), I got myself out the door after work for 3 easy miles on the W&OD at about an 8:45 pace.

Tuesday: I was up early for a P90X core workout then taught boot camp before getting in another 3 easy miles along the W&OD and Custis trails – again about an 8:50 pace. After work I ran home taking the Mt. Vernon, Four Mile Run and W&OD trails for about 6.7 miles at a 9:15ish pace. It absolutely downpoured for this run and my shoes were soaked through for days, but it was a blast.

Wednesday: Rest Day – much needed!

Thursday: I got my core workout in before teaching boot camp in the morning again, but wasn’t able to fit in any post bootcamp miles today. I had to work a bit later than planned, but thanks to the longer daylight hours at this time of year I was still able to run home again for another 6.6 miles this time at about an 8:45 pace.

Friday: I put in 5 miles at about an 8:20 pace along the Mt. Vernon trail on a beautiful and warm evening after work!

Saturday: I got up early (for me) and decided I wanted to run long-ish for the first time since my half marathons and Cherry Blossom. I put in 11 hilly miles along the W&OD and Custis trails averaging about 9:15 and felt great. I didn’t look at my watch at all along the way, but was pleasantly surprised to see my last 3 miles were by far my fastest.

Sunday: I almost took today off since Saturday’s 11 miler was chased with hours of walking around Bob’s Discount Furniture and Ikea, but managed to get out after dinner for 3 easy miles at an 8:20 pace that felt surprisingly good. Ian and I then went for an hour walk topping off a great week of exercise!

 

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

This week got off to a slow start, but ended strong. I am really close to being back to where I want to be and feel like my speed work is paying off. Now I just need to keep turning it up a notch in the speed department and slowly build up my endurance as well.

Here’s the day by day breakdown:

Monday: Travel day – took a complete rest day.

Tuesday: I taught early morning boot camp followed by my own strength workout and my p90x core workout. I also put in three easy miles along the W&OD trail.

Wednesday: Today was supposed to be a speed workout and turned into a full rest day.

Thursday: I taught morning boot camp and got in a few miles taking them off site on a run. I had good intentions of getting another run in on my own but that didn’t happen. I did get in most of my p90x core workout though.

Friday: Another unplanned rest day, but I did make it in to D.C. to get my packet for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler!

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Saturday: I got up early and finally got that speed workout in planned for Wednesday and it felt great. It was a windy, but beautiful morning for 200s along the W&OD. I did eight repeats with a 200 recovery jog – the first four were in to the wind and the last four I had a tailwind. I ran the repeats in: 49, 48, 49, 49, 43, 46, 43, 43.

Sunday: I ran one of my absolute favorite races on a perfect day in D.C. and had a great Cherry Blossom 10 Miler!! Well, it was actually a 9.5 miler, but I’ll explain that in tomorrow’s race recap. I ran just over an 8-minute pace and felt great!

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

I’m a bit late with my morning recap today, but figured better late than never as I fly back to DC after a weekend away! I had a pretty decent week as I started my 5k training. I only put in three runs as opposed to my usual 5-6 as this was also a recovery week from my second half marathon in the last few weeks.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown…

Monday: I put in an easy 3-miler at about a 7:55 pace after work on the Mt. Vernon Trail. P90X core routine.

Tuesday: P90X core routine plus I taught morning boot camp.

Wednesday: Full Rest Day

Thursday: P90X core routing and I taught morning boot camp to kick the day off. After work I took advantage of a beautiful day to get some quarter mile repeats in on the relatively flat W&OD trail. After a quick warm-up I went quarter mile on quarter mile off for five repeats keeping them all between a 6:25 and 6:58 minute pace – with my fastest being my last one at 6:25! I felt really great about this workout, especially since my stomach wasn’t feeling so great beforehand since I decided a fountain coke, jimmy johns sandwich and salt & vinegar chips were good pre-run fuel!

Friday: Travel/Rest Day.

Saturday: I took today off so I could drive down to Boston and have lunch with one of my closest friends before dragging her an hour south of Boston to watch Ian do his coaching thing. His Plymouth State Panthers beat UMass Dartmouth to go 7 and 1 on the season!

iancoaching

Sunday: I hit the treadmill for a 30-minute progressively faster run. I started at an 8-minute pace and worked my way up to a 6:58 pace. The best part about this run was I ended feeling strong like I could keep on going rather than counting down the seconds until the clock hit 30!

Something New

Now that my so-called “spring” half marathons are done, it’s time to look ahead and set some new goals. I saw progress in my training at both the DC RNR half and the B&A half in Annapolis, but now it’s time to really work on my speed. To do that, I am going to do something new – and something I have never done before: train for a 5k!

What?! How can I claim I have never trained for a 5k with the number of years I’ve been running and the dozens of 5ks I’ve completed? Well, yes I have run a ton, but I have never trained specifically for one. I either just went out and did it because I knew I was capable of running 3.1 miles, or in the case of my speedier ones, I just ran them in the midst of training for another longer distance race.

Hal Higdon’s plans have proven successful for me in the past, so I’m going with him again for this one. I have chosen an 8 week advanced 5k plan culminating in the Alexandria Running Festival 5k on May 24.

halhigdon5kplan

So, what are my goals for this?
My pie-in-the-sky dream goal is to break 20-minutes in a 5k. My current PR stands at 21:25, so that would be a dramatic jump, but a small part of me believes this is possible and plans to throw reality out the window for the next eight weeks and go for it. My B goal is to set a new PR. Since that PR has stood for quite some time now, I would still be pretty thrilled with this outcome. My C goal if training doesn’t go quite as planned is to get back to a sub-22 5k time and have an excellent base to spring me back into BQ marathon training!

Will I have any other races along the way?
Yes, in fact I have a handful planned over the next two months to give me a chance to see where I’m at and have some fun picking up the pace. You’ll see me at:

Let me know if I’ll see you at any of these races and tell me about your upcoming goals and races!

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

Once again I’ve been MIA for awhile, but I’ve been busy with lots of good things happening. This week started off awful with no runs Monday through Wednesday, but then I had a strong end of the week, so I’ll focus on that for the recap!

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

Thursday: I taught morning boot camp then got in my P90X core workout. After work I put in just under 4 relatively quick, but still felt easy miles along Four Mile Run & W&OD trails. I was motivated for this run thanks to the arrival of my new Oiselle tool belt roga shorts and wazelle halter tank – the near 70 degree temps didn’t hurt either!

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Friday: I put in a speedy out and back negative split run along the W&OD for 4 miles.

Saturday: I was up early and all bundled for a very easy nearly 4 mile shake out run along Four Mile Run & W&OD. After 70 degrees two days earlier, a feels like of 22 felt awful!

Sunday: I ran the B&A Trail Half Marathon up in Annapolis and had a pretty good race – more to come soon. I also got in my P90X core routine and a Pure Barre class with my fellow DC Oiselle teammates in the afternoon. Pretty good day for working out!

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

Sorry I was MIA last week. It’s been a busy few weeks at work and at home, but I’ve had a pretty successful last two weeks of training. I decided to switch to the half marathon for the B&A Trail race at the end of the month since I just wasn’t where I needed to be to attempt a BQ. That has allowed me to switch my focus to speed and strength and I already feel like it’s been making a difference. I’ve also had more fun running the last two weeks than I have in quite some time – which could also have something to do with the improving weather!

Anyway here’s the day-by-day breakdown from last week:

Monday: I put in 3 speedy miles along the Mt. Vernon Trail after work followed by my p90x core routine.

Tuesday: I taught a boot camp class in the morning and also got in my own full body strength work along with my p90x core routing.

Wednesday: Today was my birthday and also a late night at work so I took the day off from running, but did get my p90x core workout in for the third straight day this week.

New Oiselle hoodie - bday present from my husband!

New Oiselle hoodie – bday present from my husband!

Thursday: I taught another early morning boot camp, did my p90x routine first thing along with a full body strength workout and then got in 3 speedy miles after work along the W&OD Trail – such a beautiful night out for a run!

Friday: Rest day.

Saturday: I ran the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in the pouring rain, but came away pretty happy with my performance! I finished in 1:51:58 and will have a full recap up soon. All told, I put in closer to 15 miles Saturday and still managed to fit in my p90x routine.

Sunday: I started my morning off with p90x and 5 easy recovery miles along the W&OD. I felt a bit stiff at first, but loosened right up and was feeling great by mile three!