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. . .



Dan Seifring said...

Jeff, I can just copy and paste to my blog as my race report. Funny I thought that bridge was forever as well. It was great seeing you as always.

We going to AZ in January?

Daiquiri princess said...

Awesome Job Jeff and the whole team that do such and outstanding job raising funds for a great cause.

Andrew is getting fit said...

You did well to finish. Great race report as always!

Pat said...

I looked at your splits, Dan's splits and mine from TC. At the HM point we were within 63 seconds of each other.

Coach Liz said...

$1Billion Dollars!!! That is Amazing!!! You know, the news needs to report that. All there is lately is gloom and doom on the news. Americans need to hear that good news!

That is one sweet finisher's medal. I may just have to do that marathon one year. Oh, and Marines handing me water and gatorade? I will sign up for that!

Chubby said...

Another notch on the belt, another experience to draw from - a success for sure.

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