Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marines Corps Marathon

It was the day I have been waiting for all summer and fall long in 2012.  It was October 28th, the day of the Marines Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.  I trained with the Team in Training Central PA team, and raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I was lucky to have such great friends and family that I raised over $2,500 for the cause of finding a cure for blood cancer.  I was raising money first for a family friend Georgenna Pulti who was diagnosed with AML earlier this year.  I am glad to say after a stem cell transplant and some bouts of radiation she is doing good.  Later in the summer I also learned that my Aunt Sue was diagnosed with Lymphoma, and currently she is finished with her treatment and has to wait a little for a future check out.

That was the reason I ran this, and to get a Boston Qualifying time, but the first reason was the main one and more important   On the eve of the weekend we got news of the pending doom that was to fall on the Mid-Atlantic region, Hurricane Sandy.  Since I know they never cancel a marathon (this isn't baseball) we had all the stuff packed for the weekend on Friday night, and we had Bex stuff packed (she was staying with Lisa's parent for the weekend, this would be the first weekend or the first night we spent without her ever so I know this would be a tough trip for both of Lisa and I).  So Saturday morning came and we had the CR-V packed with everything we needed and dropped Bex off at Lisa's Mom house and said our good-byes, then headed over to our friend and fellow Team in Training (TNT) teammate, Jen's house.  We then went over to our Mentor Shannon's house and picked her up to come down with us.  We got down to the Marriott Hotel without any major problems except for a little accident on I-83 where we had to detour around an accident (probably should have gone down 15 and listen to the girls) but we got there.  We checked into the hotel, unpacked all the stuff and headed to lunch with some of the TNT staff members and coaches.  We ate at a place called Chopt'd that had salads and wraps. I had a wrap that was like a well chopped up salad in a wrap, I actually liked it, which is rare for me because I never ate a salad in my life.

After lunch we headed to the Metro to go to the expo.  The expo was guarded like it was Fort Knox or something, everyone's bag was checked and everyone went through a mental scanner thing, but we got in and a felt super secure (actually I think it was a bit of an overkill but who am I, just a stupid runner anyways).  Got the shirt(a really nice thick turtleneck), bib and walked around the expo with my wife and waited to for Jen and Shannon to finish going through the expo, and we headed back to the hotel.  We caught some of the Ironman World Championship on NBC and three quater of the way through it we headed down to the inspirational dinner (for my Tri friends I did DVR it at my house and watched in Monday afternoon, it wasn't like a planned a wedding on the day of the actually event or anything). 

We heard a great speech from John Bingham (a.k.a. the Penguin), which was funny and very informative for the first timers, and for me (I always say we never stop learning, ever).  Then we heard a speech from an honor team mate who battled through blood cancer, and was getting ready to run his first 50 miler.  We left the inspirational dinner and headed up for a team meeting were we met our honor team mate Jeff Allen who has been battling cancer off and on since 1992.  He gave us some candy, and we had one more group picture and all headed to bed.  I flip through some of the TV stations on the hotel TV and really couldn't find anything to watch, so I turned on Netflix and started watching the "Spirit of the Marathon" which is a story of about 5 people running the Chicago Marathon, which I have seen about 100 times, and half way through it I was thinking of another move to watch which was "Running for Life" which is about Fred Lebow, the former race director and president of the New York Road Runners, and was on Netflix.  Fred Lebow, died of a brain cancer in 1994, and ran the NYC five boroughs marathon only once in 1992 (with Grete Waitz which also died of cancer I guess this is way we raise money), but anyways sometime during that I feel asleep.  

I woke up around 4am (we were meeting in the Lobby around 5:30), and got everything ready, which included my running shirt, which is pictured here. I had everything ready, kissed my wife good-bye and told her I would see her at the finishline, and headed to the Lobby to meet the team.  We all met up I think we took another picture, we love pictures at TNT, and we headed to the jam packed Metro to get to the Pentagon.  We got off and we headed to the running festival area, it was still dark outside, and you could tell it was going to be a somewhat windy day and possible rainy day to, since every weather report in the area was calling for morning shower.  I went to the bathroom and then I headed over to the baggage check area, and checked in my bag.  I saw the pacer for the 3:05 group and talked to him for a little bit, and then I saw him heading to the starting corrals.  I followed, but stopped for the morning prayer and the singing of the national anthem, and we final got to the start line, where Olympian Shalane Flanagan started us off.  For everyone who told me it would be crowded and I wouldn't be able to start at a decent pace, you all lied.  I was right up front, the only people in front of me were the US Marines and the Royal Navy.  So the moral here is to start in the front of the race if you want to do good. 

The race started great, for the first two miles we were right on a 7:00 minute pace, couldn't ask for a better start, a kept going need to take a nature break for a few seconds around mile 5 or so, but caught right back up to the group with no problems.  Around mile 10 I was running along side a Royal Navy person, and chatted with him a bit.  He said he was the Captain of the team that was challenging the US Marines in the Challenge Cup.  He told me then that everyone better be up the ways a bit.  I was feeling really good at this point, like nothing was going to stop me.  It was around mile 16 where I started feeling it slip just a little bit, similar to how I felt in NYC two years ago, but my pace was good and I thought if I could keep around a 7:20 or so pace the rest of the way I could make it.  We hit the bridge at mile 20 (this was the cut-off bridge, if you were not here at a certain time you were stopped from completing the marathon).  John Bingham brought this up in his speech the night before, and told us that, the bridge is said to be two miles long but it will feel like 11 miles long. He wasn't wrong!  The only thing I had to compare it to was the Queens Boro bridge in NYC, it was quiet and lonely, and at that time I really could've used a pick me up.  I finally got off the bridge and we headed into Crystal City, and met up with one of the TNT coaches, and he ran along side me for a little bit he offered me a salt tablet but I refused, and boy do I regret that.  He told me some of the conditions that I was facing like a massive head wind and he would catch me on the way out of Crystal City.  Another Royal Navy guy passed me, and I gave him a heads up that his Captain was up the road thinking all the guys were up ahead of him, and he was in major trouble if he didn't catch up.  He told me he had a nightmare time, and wished me luck.  I finally got out of Crystal City, and I was falling apart.  I stopped at the one food stations that was handing out doughnuts, I refused them as well thinking my stomach at this point didn't want to digest anything.  I started running after the water and gatorade I got into my system, and started cramping really bad.  I saw a group of people that were handing out oranges and ran to them hoping that the organes could get me through the last two miles.  

I struggled really bad the last two miles, but I told my self don't walk.  I told everyone my goal in this race was to qualify for Boston, which is a 3:10 for me.  Well I will never say that wasn't my goal, I did have one other thing I wanted to do was to see what I would do when if I hit the wall.  If you ever read Chris McCormick's book he talks about trying to psych your self out of bad spots in the race, and using positive thinking to get through the rough parts (even though he dropped out of Kona this year, guess sometimes he cannot do it either).   I wanted to at least try to get myself out of this bad part and keep going to the finish line.  There were so many times in my past were I would hit the wall and just start walking the rest of the marathon, and just give up there.  But this time I kept running, or jogging as many people would say.  I was in total pain legs cramping stomach cramping, I wanted to lay down and not move any more, but I kept pushing and kept pushing to the finish line.  I finally crossed with an official time of 3:15:54, not good enough for Boston, and no I don't think I will ever give up the hunt for a entry into Boston either, maybe I just need to get older so I get more time to qualify.  I finished with sore legs and really nothing else to show for it but some awesome medal they were giving out, but I know I can push on now, and just need that push to be faster next time.  

When I got to the finish line I think I shook every Marine's hand and thanked them for their service, they all told me good job.I  even shook the Royal Navy guy's hand I saw in Crystal City and thanked him too (they are our friends aren't they).  I finally weaved/hobble my way through the finishing festival and walked about 100 miles (it was more like a half a mile but it felt like 100 miles, I laid down a few time in the grass to rest) to the TNT Tent to check in there.  I was told that they think I was the first TNT person to come in, I still have my doubt on that there were three people at the tent already that had metals (they may have been 10K medals through, I wasn't really looking) I drank some coke and sat there waiting for Jen to finish.  Lisa and I caught up to Jen and we finally headed back to the hotel on the Metro. Which was a nightmare and had to cut in line a few times so that it won't take us hours to get back to the hotel.  I didn't see my friend Andy who is in the Air Force, but we did text each other that evening, and he finished in just over four hours which is an awesome first time marathon time.  We went up to Anne the TNT staffer for this event and had some Tequila with her husband, then we went to the victory dinner (it was really just potato skins and chicken fingers) with some of the TNT people and later that night Lisa and I went out for some pizza, and then we headed to bed. The next day we were hoping to get some cupcakes from Baked and Wired but they were closed do to the forcasted storm.  Cupcakeless we began our race with Hurricane Sandy back to Harrisburg, we won by the way.   

Until next time race fans!!