Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Marine Corps Marathon 2009 -- A Nice Run . . . A Long Walk

A Sunday ago, I got in a good 10 miler on the treadmill. No toe pain -- a good thing! I woke Monday morning feeling like crap. The beginnings of a cold, for sure. As the week went on, things got worse before they got better, including a fever of 101, sore throat, cough, runny nose, etc. Of course, all I could think about was Marine Corps.

By Friday, the fever and sore throat were gone, but the cough and runny nose lingered. I headed out with my dad to the expo at the DC Convention Center. As expected, the expo was huge. A welcome sight -- no lines whatsoever. There's something patriotic about being handed your bib and shirt by uniformed marines. After dad and I spent a couple hours walking the aisles and picking up samples, we were on our way back home. Unfortunately, we didn't get to meet up with my cousin Patricia, in from Dallas for the race.

Saturday, bright and early, I headed out to the chiropractor. Dr. Lipman did a great job getting me ready for the next day -- all kinds of adjustments and treatments for my cold and my bones. He's also been taping my bad foot/toe with kinesio tape. After a brief return home, I was off to DC.

First stop was to meet my cousin and aunt Beatriz. I haven't seen Patricia in at least ten years. In fact, it seems that the rest of the world knows her as "Trish", but she'll always be Patricia to me. No one would have ever figured these two first cousins would be running marathons together! It was great to see them.

Time to head off to the hotel. As soon as I got into the hotel, I could feel the excitement in the air as there were dozens of Team in Training runners and staff around the hotel. I unpacked, laid out all of my wear and gear for the next day and headed back to the lobby.
After getting settled, we were off to the Inspiration Dinner at Georgetown U. Following the pasta meal, keynote speaker John Bingham was introduced. Bingham doled out plenty of tips for the next day, particularly for first time marathoners. Among other things, he announced that this fall, TnT had surpassed $1 billion in donations in it's 21 year history. We heard some inspiring stories from a marine survivor as well as from a gentleman who completed an Iron Man Triathlon on the 10th anniversary of receiving a bone marrow transplant -- while raising $160k for LLS. There were more than a few wet eyes in the room. Then, it was back to the hotel for some last minute instructions and off to bed.

The alarm was set for 5, but I woke some time around 4:30, brewed a cup of coffee and dined on a bagel and banana. At 6, the Maryland team met in the lobby for pictures and then we were off to the metro station en route to the start line.

Before the run, with one of my training partners, Renn.

A good looking group! I'm in the back row, left of center.

As soon as we hit the metro station, reality set it. The metro was packed with runners. Exiting at the Pentagon, I realize that this was as close as I'd ever been to the building. Kind of eerie at dawn's early light with "No Photography" signs all around the metro stop and above.
As the hundreds of us headed to the bag drop area, we could now hear the p.a. system with announcements of the weather -- dry and in the 50's all day -- and a count down to the start, about an hour away. A quick stop at the port-a-pot, check my bag and off to the start line.
My plan was to run with the 5:00 pace group along with my NJ friend Dan. I knew I could hold my own at that pace, I just couldn't predict if I'd be able to stay with that group. As I got close to the 5 hour starting corral, there was Dan and his friend Lou. Amazing that we were able to find each other so quickly. This would be both of their first marathons. Soon, one of my TNT friends also found me. Anne would join us at the start as well.
The minutes passed until the start, we heard the National Anthem and an invocation as well as a flyover of some military planes. Finally, at 8 am, the 50mm canon was fired and we were off. Well, some people were off. From my vantage point, I couldn't even see the starting balloons. About 8:10, we began to move and, finally, at 8:21, we crossed the start line.

Jeff, Dan and Anne. 26.19 miles to go.

As the four of us set out on our journey, we traversed some hills in Northern Virginia before heading across a bridge into Georgetown. Running along the Potomac, I sighted Scott, one of the TNT coaches, just where he said he'd be. Moments later, Jonathan, one of my coaches yelled out as he was a good three miles ahead of us on the back portion of this out-and-back part of the course. Though Anne had moved on, Dan, Lou and I held together as we reached the steepest climb at about mile 7. From here, it was down hill and flat for the rest of the run, until we'd head back into Virginia.

Around mile 10, I found myself alone. I don't know where I left Dan and Lou, but my pace was consistent and comfortable, so I continued on.
Approaching mile 12, my body was asking for relief. Time to walk. I'm not entirely sure what happened here, but I was running well and comfortably, but my legs just wouldn't go any more. I started to walk and just kept walking. Dan and Lou passed me soon after and they were moving on.
I just kept walking and watched as the miles ticked off. Each time I'd start to run, within a few dozen yards, I just couldn't run any longer. I didn't have any particular pain. My feet were fine. I felt like a car with a nearly dead battery . . . you can turn the engine over, but it just won't run.
Undaunted, I kept moving. When I'd see a photographer on the course, I'd speed to a gallop, but that was always short lived. As the course wound through the National Mall, I tried to run. There were people everywhere. Just no go.

"Posed" running for the camera.

About mile 16, I started to feel hunger pangs. I had taken a few gels but I needed more. Shortly, I spotted a group with a table set up and various foods for the runners (and walkers, too!) I grabbed a mini bagel and kept on walking, hoping it was all safe to eat.

The most significant time goal is to "Beat the Bridge." The 14th street bridge opens to traffic at 1:15, so you must cross before then -- at mile 20. I was never in danger of the cutoff, but that bridge seemed like it went on forever. Thankfully, a TNT coach from Alabama (wish I knew her name) walked with me for a bit and talked to me. It was a welcome sight.

Next was the funniest thing on the course -- a guy dressed up as the grim reaper with a drum and big sign that said "THE END IS NEAR!" A more welcome sight was never seen.

Back into Virgina, the course takes a short out and back leg from 22-24. Almost immediately, I spot Dan and Lou on the other side. They had struggled as well. I hoped I'd see them at the finish. Next, I saw a couple more familiar faces . . . Mohan and Ohuwa from my local TNT group, along the sidewalk cheering. I gave the each a big hug. An unexpected surprise. TNT support was everywhere, including our local staff contact Bryan. It seemed the he or coach Scott showed up every couple of miles.

As the miles ticked off, the end was, in fact near. I ran the last 2/10 mile or so up the big hill to the Iwo Jima memorial and through the finish line.

At long last, 12 miles of running and 14 miles of walking were done.

Though my Garmin read 6:00:08, officially, I finished in 5:59:56. A disappointing time, considering my goal of an hour quicker and my personal best 7 minutes sooner.

After the finish, it was off to the TNT tent to check in and off to get pictures taken. Then to get my stuff and head on home.

Happy to be done? You betchya!

Swag: Long Sleeve T, medal and finishers coin.

The Marine Corps Marathon is like no other. It's called "The People's Marathon" as it offers no cash awards so the elites stay home. It's run by the Marines, who man every water station and are everywhere on the course. It is an amazing event.

It was a long day, but a good day. At the end of it all, I can only attribute my issues to training. Having not completed the 20 miler three weeks before, I was basically tapering from the 18 miler six full weeks prior. Not exactly the plan. It's hard to understand the impact of being sick as well. With all of that going against me, I most certainly have no complaints. I finished the event and raised more than $2,500 in the fight against blood cancers.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement. . . until the next one. . .


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Marine Corps Done!

Just a quickie -- Marine Corps Marathon was today. Finished in 5:59:56.

Much to tell. Will be a couple of days before I get it all posted.

Thanks for all of the well wishes and congrats.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Five Days and Counting

Marine Corps is just five days away. Weather forecast is dry and chilly -- perfect for running. Over the past few days, I've developed a bit of a head cold. I'm planning to be rid of it by race day! Regardless, it's getting exciting.

Marine Corps has some cool tracking devices. Check out here to get emails or text messages as I progress along the route.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seagull Century Ride Report

As the ankle and toe pains of the past week abated, it was time to look forward to the Seagull Century Bike Ride this past Sunday. Leading up to the ride, I was most concerned about the lack of riding over the prior six weeks or so. Only a couple of rides in that period. My longest "training" ride was the 63 mile Lancaster Covered Bridge Ride, nearly two months ago.

The weather forecast as the days led up to the ride was questionable. Chances of rain ranged from 20-50%. Regardless, the ride would go on.

I picked up my buddy Bryan early Friday afternoon to head to Salisbury. Along the 100 mile ride, we saw bikes everywhere. That really gets the juices flowing.

We checked into the hotel, hit the expo and hooked up with Barry, Lisa, Dan and Steve (the first three from the Lancaster ride) for dinner. For dinner, we found an awesome home made pasta place just outside of the college gates -- Fratelli's. Bread, pasta, desert, good friends -- what more could you want!

Finally, we were back at the hotel at 9. Bryan and I got our bikes and gear ready for the morning, then a bit of tv and off to bed.

Our alarms were set for 5, but Bryan and I were up long before. I think I woke sometime in the 3 o'clock hour and just couldn't fall back to sleep. (I did get a nice chunk of the new Dan Brown book read, though.) Eventually, we gave up and just started to prep for the day.

Looking outside, the wind was kicking up, but it was dry. So far so good.

I headed down to the breakfast bar at the Hampton and grabbed two cups of coffee. Bryan was concentrating on getting in touch with some other members of our cycling club -- HoCoCyclists. By 6:30, we were out the door for the 7 am rolling start.

We quickly found parking behind an Arby's as the college lots were packed. We got moving at 7 as the sun was well hidden behind the ominous sky. As we moved to the start, we quickly found one of our club members -- Matthew.

Matthew, Bryan and me

At our start, the roads were dry. By mile 1, they weren't. Not a heavy rain, but not a mist, either. This is a first for me. I have caught more grief over my wimpy rain and cold aversions than just about anything else. Not today.

Most of the first 23 mile leg was in the rain. About five miles in, we caught up with Barry and Dan. The five of us were flying through the miles. At the stop, we were averaging 19.4 mph. By far my fastest ride, especially for that distance. The first stop was at a country club. One of my hopes on the ride was to meet a Facebook friend -- Ann. I met Ann through a former coworker who knew Ann from college. I found a group of National Capital TNT riders and asked if they knew where I could find Ann. Low and behold, she was right behind me!

After the first rest stop, we were back on the road in intermittent rain. We arrived at the second stop at mile 40 maintaining the same 19.4 mph pace.

We led out the first five or six miles at an even faster pace, but after pulling the paceline, I dropped back and fell off the pace. Shortly after I was dropped, I turned into the start of a brutal headwind. The winds on the eastern shore of Maryland are legendary, but hadn't been too bad up until this point. It seems that mother nature was getting even.

As I approached the rest stop at Assateague Island National Seashore, I started to feel some of the toe pain that I was feeling the week before during my long run. It wasn't terrible, but it was certainly noticeable.
I quickly found Barry and Dan (pictured) as well as Bryan and Matthew. Aside from being a beautiful rest area, there was also home made breads in addition to the usual bagels and bananas. I think I ate a half loaf of the cranberry bread. Mmmmm!

The next leg was pure hell. No other way to describe it. Leading out from Assateague, I never caught on to our pace line. As the miles ticked away, my toe pain grew, as did the headwinds. It seemed that no matter which way the road turned, it was into the wind. At times, I found my speed down under 10 mph. I was being relentlessly passed by every kid and granny on two wheels. By 70 miles, I was actively looking for a SAG vehicle. My day was done. Every turn of the pedals was excruciating, but there was no choice but to keep moving. Even the thought of pie and ice cream at mile 83 didn't help.

At long last, I pulled into the rest area and hobbled off the bike. Bryan greeted me immediately. I was relieved to see him and the others, as I thought they might have moved on given my slow travel. Bryan grabbed my bike and helped me over to the medical tent. I had every intention of packing it in at that point.

Clearly, the toe issue is due to striking on the ball of my foot. That is where I land when running and where my foot hits the pedal. I hadn't iced my foot before, but I did now. After 15 minutes of ice, and a slice of cherry pie, I decided to give the last 17 miles a go. On the way back to my bike, Barry yelled over to me to see if I could adjust my pedal strike position. So I did. As we took off, I hung with the paceline for five or six miles, with little pain, then dropped back. Bryan hung back with me and took me the rest of the way to the finish.


After we arrived back at the school, we hung out for a few hours at the after party, then off to a big dinner. I am incredibly grateful for my riding group, especially Bryan, for getting me to the finish line. I would have been most happy to get a four wheel ride back, but two was most definitely better.

The issue with my toe is still a concern, but I plan to start Marine Corps in 10 days and what will be will be.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Near Miss

This running season has been one for the books. Since late last year, I have run without serious injury and I've run primarily outside. There have been a few treadmill runs, but most of my mileage has been on the street.

Two Saturdays ago was the big 20 miler in preparation of the Marine Corps Marathon, less than two weeks away now.

Over the past couple of months, I've had occasional pain in my big toes. Nothing debilitating, just a steady pain that would start after 10 miles or so on some, but not all, runs. That Saturday was different.

Everything was good as the run started out. Around mile 5, I had my first issue -- I accidentally ran on the corner of the sidewalk, twisting my right ankle. After a bit of walking, I was back on the run. No harm, no foul, so it seemed.

At about mile 8, I started to feel the toe pain. Mild at that point, I knew I could get through it, so long as it didn't progress. Unfortunately, it did. By 11 miles, the pain was so severe I had to stop. Walking was even more painful, but I had to keep going to get back to the car.

I totaled 12 miles for the day, well short of the 20 miles needed.

After arriving home, I laid down for an hour. When I got up, my ankle was in severe pain. I couldn't walk. I'm seeing my marathon run flushing down the toilet.

With the ankle pain mostly abated, I visited my podiatrist on Tuesday, who couldn't determine anything wrong other than a bit of tendinitis. I didn't run again until Thursday when I got in three big miles. Oy!

The ankle issue was clearly a near miss, but there's more to be seen on the toe issue, for sure.