I stated back in July on the Runners World forum that I'd like to come in at 5:55:55, and my official time was 5:54:06.
But I'll say that, out of the three marathons I ran, this was by far the most challenging. It wasn't because the MCM course was any harder, but that the day before didn't turned out as planned, which completely affected race day. I didn't hit my A goal, but I did hit my B goal.
My C goal as always, was to just finish. My B goal was 5:45-5:55. My A goal was to come in around 5:30-5:40 had all the stars aligned. Well, the stars didn't really align that day, so my A goal will have to wait until next time.
On Saturday, Chris and I headed to DC on bus. The bus was late arriving to the depot, which caused a mass of confusion and chaos. Our noon departing bus didn't end up leaving NY until closer to 1pm. For the entire ride down, there was no air in the bus. It was hot and dry. I made a fatal mistake of not bringing a larger water bottle, and by the first hour into the long ride down, I was out of water. I knew that was going to be trouble. We pulled into DC Chinatown close to 6pm and was greeted with throngs of people from the John Stewart rally. There were groups of people with signs and costumes all over. Walked over to the expo, which was about 4 blocks away, and tried desperately to find water after picking up my racing packet. I got to these water fountains only to realize that they weren't working. I couldn't believe it! I was parched. The only liquids around were free tea samples from some vendors, so I picked one up and drank. It wasn't ideal at all because of the sugar content, but it was at least something.
After leaving the expo, we decided to head back to Chinatown to eat, which proved to be another bad idea. Every single place we stopped at was packed thanks to all the rally goers. So at this point, I was already dehydrated, and now I'm getting tired from walking from restaurant to restaurant. We decided to just head back to the hotel and find something close. I knew there were restaurants in Crystal City where we were staying, and I became adamant (read: bitchy) about checking in. Of course, when we got down to the metro station, it was jammed pack, again with the rally goers. Then we realized that the yellow line, which was the most direct line to our hotel, was delayed. We waited for about 20 minutes, until Chris figured out that we could take the orange line 2 stops, then transfer to the blue line which also headed to Crystal City, so we did that.
Let's just say that at this point I was not happy with all that was going wrong and just wanted to get to the room, drop off all my stuff, put my feet up, guzzle water and eat something. By the time we finally made it to the hotel, it was already 8:30. We decided to just opt for room service, which arrived at about 9:15. I also asked for toast and PB (for morning) and a banana (for the crucial mile 16 marker), but they didn't have any fresh fruit. I downed as much water as I could and ate as quickly as possible, and proceeded to lay out all my stuff for a 5:00 am wake up. Forced myself to bed at 10:30, but could not get a decent night's sleep. I kept waking up every hour, and when I did fall asleep, I dreamt I woke up late and couldn't race. It seemed like everything that could've happened to jeopardize the race, did happen. But I was already here. And I was determined to get to the starting line and to cross the finish line.
At 5, the alarm went off, and I got up, got dressed and ate the toast and PB . Headed out the door at 6 and just followed the stream of people to the shuttle buses. (That's one thing I love about big races. You can always just follow the crowd.)
Got to the runner's village around 7am. Did a quick search for the Runner's World forum training buddies, but couldn't find them, so I just headed in and made my way to the porto potties in case. At 7:40 I made my way to the very back of the 5:30-5:59 corral and waited til I heard the gun went off to discard my sweats. It seemed like a long time before I got to the starting line, but once I did I got rid of my bunny ears, because they were distracting. (So much for racing in costume!)
Miles 1-10 were easy. A gentleman decided he liked my pace and ran alongside me for several miles. I just nodded and we ran side by side until I lost him on the mile 8 hill. I thought I might have taken that hill too fast, but I blew through it and it felt good. I kept trying to check myself to slow, but I was comfortable and ran behind a guy with a Sponge Bob costume who seemed to be training his friend. They were at a good pace for me so I just followed them.
Chris met me at mile 10, waved, snapped a few pics and said he'd see me again at 16. I yelled out to him that I need salt. I mistook his shrug for not having anything and just kept going. (Found out later that he actually had pretzels, drats!) A very nice gentleman overheard my request, and he held up a bag of salt and asked if anyone needed any salt, so I ran over to him and took some and thanked him.
The wind seemed to have started kicking up and mile 11-12 had us along the Potomac. Then suddenly I felt the telltale signs of an oncoming muscle spasm, and had to slow down a bit to shake it off. I saw the 5:30 pace group and decided to try and keep up with them for a while, but eventually I let them go and lost them around the halfway point. I thought to myself, if the cramps came this early, it's not going to bode well for the rest of the race, but kept testing my speed to see how much I can take before cramping. Sadly, it wasn't much. Somewhere around mile 15 I noticed a lady on the sidelines giving out pretzels, so I ran over and asked if I could have one. She gave me a bag with pretzels and swedish fish, said take it and keep going, and it was the best on course snack I had ever. I thanked her profusely and downed a handful, which seemed to have helped with the lack of salt. Saw Chris again at mile 16 and passed him the bag and said hold it for me for later.
Mile 17-18 proved challenging even though it was right on the mall. My left quad started seizing up a lot, and it was something I've never encountered before. I stopped off to the side and rubbed some sample pack of something menthol and that helped a bit, but I was a bit irritated to find out that the medical tents only had vaseline.
At about mile 19 they had sports beans, so I took some even though I was hating the taste of it. It forced me to stop thinking about when the heck I was going to this "bridge" that everyone is telling us to "beat." That "bridge" came at mile 20, and that's when I knew the last 20 miles is going to be nothing compared to the next 10k.
To be honest, I don't remember much of the last leg, only that by this time, I used whatever energy I had left to put one foot in front of the other. I brushed aside all thoughts of disappointment of not having reached my A goal and just focused on finishing. It was not easy. Actually, it was downright hard to not get ahead of myself because I still had several miles to go at this point.
My left quad was still seizing up, my toes were cramping up. I passed the 40K mark and was vaguely aware that I may still have a chance to beat 6 hours. Mile 23 I spotted Chris again, and just waved him off. I felt bad that I couldn't talk, but the remote possibility of coming in with a PB was in my head, and it took every ounce in me not to stop and reach for a beer like a lot of other people did.
At mile 24 or so I passed a medical tent and again there was no menthol, but by this time I could feel the finish and played a counting game, 300 steps of running, 100 steps of walking. I did that until I reached the start area at mile 26. Started hearing the faint sounds of music and the announcer, and just kept on going until I saw the final uphill and pushed through.
When I crossed the finish line at 6:19 and change, I couldn't have been more disappointed. But the toll of having such a bad day before, mixed in with the relief that I did it despite all the race day challenges, set me on this wave of emotion. I just broke down as soon as I crossed that finish line.
And the finish! To be staring up at the beautiful Iwo Jima statue up close, just put things into perspective. My 17 week journey through training, the 6 hour trek through 26.2 miles, is nothing compared to the Marines who fought there. And yet, here are these men and women in uniform, encouraging US to finish, congratulating US and putting medals around OUR necks. We should be doing that, not the other way around.
Anyway, I didn't find out until later that night that I actually have a new PR. So it's sort of a bittersweet one because I knew it could've turned out better. But all in all, I'm glad I ran this one. And I dedicated it to all my family and friends who put on a uniform. I may be back again next year!