Friday was such a tease. I worked till about 2 because of the amount of work I had to do:( One can only imagine how much concentration I had...uh yeah zero. Anyway, 2 finally came and off to Penn Station I went to head to Philly to my parents house. Spent the night there and had a good home cooked meal before the journey down to DC!
Saturday morning around 7am, my dad's friend Greg came by with the mini van and picked us all up...my dad, my mom and I. I spent the drive nodding off, listening to music and just mentally preparing for the journey ahead. I must admit my mental toughness for this race was sky high...there was no way I was going to bonk on this...nothing was going to stop me from "sub 4". haha. Got some songs caught in my head so that for the race it would be there as my mp3 player if need be:p Arrived at the expo at the DC Armory to pick up my number....#1073. I still had no clue at this point what this meant but wait till you see! I bought a couple things while there including a dry fit MCM long sleeve and a shirt proclaiming marathoning on the front and 26.2 miles To Hell and back. My parents asked if I wanted a jacket...my response "No, my first jacket will be a Boston Marathon one...because I will be there sooner or later." So we finish up at the expo and spend the rest of the day resting. At 6, we headed to Faccia Luna. AB, her brother, Sempre Libera, and kenkomachi met us at the restaurant for a good carbolicious meal. I ended up having pizza since I had a whole lot of pasta Thursday evening...mmm pizza...and I knew the pizza well from Penn State. You see, this restaurant is up in Happy Valley as well...so I knew it was not going to be anything weird or different...a big no no anytime near the big race! We had a good dinner and my friends and mom made a game plan for Sunday morning...for oh yeah...that 26.2 thing I'm doing.
So 5:15am comes...about 4 alarms go off in the room...it was like musical clocks. I was pretty much awake by then...the excitement was incredible! It had been super chilly Saturday but when I woke up...it was 47 already! That meant it would probably be between 50-60 for the race...mmm perfect marathoning weather! Mom took pictures with my dad and I in our PSU singlets as well as Greg...yeah we all had the same singlet. We grab ice cold bagels from Starbucks..yuck which I proceed to pretty much toss in favor of one of those snack size cliff bars. I really don't eat a lot pre-race. We head to the metro around 6:30 and off to Arlington Cemetary we go. We get off and it's a sea of runners. This is when it sinks in...yup this is it. I can't explain in words that feeling...but it's just one of complete awe. You could see the DC skyline and it just is breathtaking, not to mention you realize dang I"m running all the way to that point in the distance...the National Monument (about mile 11 of the marathon). So we start walking by the corral, and I notice something...it's by bib number. Well if you recall, I said my number was #1073. Umm, yeah that meant there was one corral ahead of me....#1-999! That was quite unbelievable to me. I decided with my dad though that it was not in my best interest as we'd get sucked in to running too fast right away...and with 26.2 miles...you respect it...and you cannot run too hard for too many miles. That's when you get the stories of walking a lot and not such a good time. So anyway, we had an hour and a half till race time to put the stuff in storage, stretch, etc. AROUND the have that to we out had dad My line.?
It only took about a minute and 20 seconds to cross the start, but there was a jam up already!! This was OK because the first mile was reserved to get the legs warmed up and ready to go. They were a bit cold and I could hardly feel my toes...not good for pacing! I was still dawning the long sleeve shirt and gloves. My first mile was around 9:30-9:45 which all in all is not bad...considering the jam up and hills at the beginning. We also were not going to use up any energy trying to weave through...too much race ahead! Spotted AB, her brother and my mom...which was cool to see right away! The second mile we brought down to 8:45 as we had a couple downhills with the up...and I started to get warm. Mile 3 consisted of a lot of down hill which made for a speedy mile 3 at 8:02. I then had to call off the dogs a bit because there was no way in hell I could do 8 minute pace for 24.2 more miles. Mile 4 brought us to the Key Bridge to head over into Georgetown. Before heading to the bridge, there was AB, her brother and my mom! By this point, I was in my singlet and a pair of gloves. As we entered Georgetown, it was a sea of people. It was just awesome...as I looked around and was telling my dad about all the restaurants I've been to there and what a fun part of DC it really is! Miles 6,7,8, 9 take you into a park and the crowd thins a bit. One thing I didn't like about this race was how they let the handcyclists in with the main group. I know you want to make them feel like they are part of the marathon but it's dangerous. The amount of times I almost saw wipeouts because the handcyclists would just go through without warning...oi. So my plan was to stick to the right side and then I knew they'd always be out of the way!
Anyway mile 9, we head out to the Lincoln Memorial and around it. We start to see a lot of people again! At this point sub 9 min/miles are the norm....and I'm starting to know sub 4 hours is not going to be an issue. I know this is early to think that...but I just knew. Mile 11 put us in front of the white house which left me time to boo the current resident:p I also saw the cheering crew again...which had expanded to include my mom's friends! At this point the National Monument that had been so far away is *poof* right there. What a great view. Miles 12 and 13 include the national mall which is nothing short of spectacular...my morning runs when I stayed in DC for work included this! My half marathon split of 1:53:13 had me start to think....hmm I need a 3:40 for BQ. I was about 3 minutes off pace...so let's see how the next few miles go and judge from that. I didn't tell my dad that because I knew he did not want to have to even think about another marathon:p Mile 14 brought more cheering squad which expanded yet even more with Sempre Libera, kenkomachi, and L....not to mention two more of my dad's friends! Talk about being a rock star...and this wasn't even my hometown! I'm still feeling really good and the crowd is just pulling me along...it was a similar experience to the 1st avenue wall of sound. The streets were packed of people 4,5,6 rows deep. I heard a ton of cheers of "WE ARE"...and I still could respond "PENN STATE!. That shirt was magical....the amount of cheering I got was unbelievable! I think I got more personal cheering from the Penn State shirt this year than my name attempt last year at NYCM! Mile 15.16.17,18, 19 brought the Jefferson Memorial and Potomac Park. That park part was rough...the spectators were not there and that's when I lost my dad. He just couldn't keep the pace and told me to go on ahead...he knew I had good things ahead of me. My body was feeling good and I had some sub 4 action to catch. So away I went for the last 11.2 of my journey. At this point the legs still felt pretty fresh and I honestly felt good. Around mile 19 I did a bit of math and realized that a BQ time was becoming a bit out of the question and made my decision of "don't push yourself for BQ...and end up screwing up such a good race." Those that know me, know when I want to pace a good race, I PACE A GOOD RACE! I made the decision of I want a negative split...that was my goal and I was going to do that!
At this point, my mental state was still pretty damn lucid and I definitely looked better than a lot of other runners around me. I think that park part killed and zapped a ton of people as you went from a sea of people to nothing. I kind of took the chance to let my body recover and get my thoughts collected for "the real race." The real race, to me, is after mile 18. This is when you get a gut check...and the mental aspect of marathoning occurs. I don't care how fit you are, but if you don't have that mental standpoint for marathoning, you won't make it. It's a different kind of experience. So mile 19, I spent running with a guy who's kid goes to Notre Dame. We chit chatted a bit about our teams and I said I'll be in Southbend come 2006 (when PSU and ND renew the rivalry!). After about a mile, I pull ahead as he's beginning to fade. I head over my last bridge of the day and over into Arlington. Miles 21-23 bring Crystal City and we literally run right by the hotel I was staying at. Ugh...talk about mean. This is when my legs are saying "can we go rest now." Mile 22, also brought the subway cookie stop...Marines were handing out cookies! At that point, the sharkies AB had given to me at mile 13 were gone and I needed a bit of a sugar rush for the last 4 miles. I had a couple bites of the oatmeal raisin cookie which did the trick (yes Sempre Libera, you were right....cookies do a body good!). At this point my legs are starting to cramp a bit and a lot of walking for others is taking place. I knew I could not stop...that would be bad news. There were a lot of people out in the Crystal City section which was very helpful. I tried to find my dad since mile 21-23 included a turnabout but either I didn't see him or my body was in "get this thing over with" mode. I tend to think the latter:p
Mile 24 brought the Pentagon. This meant absolutely NO CROWDS. There were a few marines but not a whole lot to help out. This was a bit annoying as I was really starting to hurt like hell at this point. I was still managing 8:30-8:45 min/miles somehow but it hurt like no other. The crosswinds were horrendous as well since it's a big open parking lot. That and you realize how freaking big the Pentagon is! It's the biggest office building on the planet...and at that point it may as well been the universe. I finally pass a sign as we're heading back to Arlington Cemetary that says "Perserverance and Persistance." This was as I hit a little hill which was the onramp. This is when my mental toughness said "suck it up...you've made it this far....you're so there." The mental mind games at this point, I cannot even begin to tell you. It was completely my mental capacity that got me from 24-26.2. Yeah my legs were working...and my body...but honestly it would be so easy to start walking or stop. It's that rough at that point. But no, I looked at my watch and my 3:45-3:50 prediction was absolutely dead on! I told myself...just around 17 minutes of running to go...you've done 3+ hours...it's just too close to do anything but kick it's a**. Get moving, you're so there.
Mile 25 brought us back to the "Runner's Village" and oh so much closer. At this point the wall of people begins and you get the chants of "you're almost there" and "just around the bend"...at which point you would love to scream "NO ITS NOT". But the energy required to do that, uh not happening. Every ounce of energy, every ounce of muscle, every ounce of mind, body and soul...that's what mile 25 was all about. It's all about that training the past year...all about the people that got me there...all about finishing strong. I definitely had all of that cross my mind right here. I joked about not thinking about everyone at mile 25, but it did happen. I was not going to let anyone down with a half ass 1.2 miles. Most of all, I was not going to let myself down. This was it. I'm doing this thing. Finally we pass the start line and I know I'm starting to sniff the finish. I see Mile 26 and know the hill is there...so mean. It's a 90 foot elevation and oh boy do the legs just want to say "screw you...you killed me already." At this point, I just know it's a matter of 385 yards...which is the hardest 385 yards one will ever run. I think my attempt at running up that hill must have looked ridiculous...I definitely couldn't haul my legs up as smoothly. It would be good for a horror flick:p I finally get to the top of the hill and turn the corner to see the grand stands...and I know.,..I'm so there. The feeling of knowing what I was about to accomplish...indescribable. I realize that my close to 3:50 was bullshit. I see my watch is still in the 3:44's...which meant 3:45! I see Sempre Libera, Andrea and my mom screaming...but it was like in slow motion at this point. I just was so focused on getting to that finish line. I go by and I think they tried to get a photo but it definitely was not a stopping point:p I see the clock ahead of me and realize my dreams coming true....it had just turned to 3:46 when I saw it but I knew I was about 1min 20 seconds faster than that....and that's when OH MY G*D crept into my head. Did I really just run a 3:45 marathon??? I cross the finish line and the feeling was just immense. I didn't cry this year but it just was astonishment. I really was in disbelief that I did it. I know many of my friends will say "not surprised" but it's just so different to rock a marathon as opposed to shorter races. I had set a 21 minute PR from last year's NYCM. Well I rocked, dismantled, and anihilated the Marine Corps Marathon!!!!
1st half = 1:53:13 (8:38/mi)
2nd half = 1:52:08 (8:33/mi)
Final time = 3:45:21 (8:35/mi)
The marines got my chip off as bending down at that point would have been an ugly motion. I also got my medal which is one of great pride at this point. I head over for some nourishment before heading to the reunion area. I see my cast of awesome support team AB, Sempre Libera, kenkomachi and L! I just gave them the biggest hugs imagineable...I just was so happy to see them and knowing they were a part of this...just awesome. Sempre Libera at that point told me I had run a 3:45:21...and I realized "HOLY SHIT...I RAN A NEGATIVE SPLIT!". She also said that she had called Coach Sponge and he was impressed...which in turn had him go out and do speedwork in my honor:p We chatted a bit as we waited for my dad before I headed off to get my baggage. That turned into a goose chase as they couldn't find it!!! They eventually found it though...*whew*. My dad finished in around 4:04 which is his slowest marathon ever (out of 18) but very impressive considering he tore his hamstring to shreds back in May during Broadstreet! We gave eachother the biggest hug and I don't think he could have been prouder when I told him about my time. I think he knew that the torch is being passed in my family to me as the fastest of the pack. As tough as that is for him to admit, I think he is very happy that he was there to be a part of it. He knew I had this in me, and he knew this when I started running a year and a half ago. My dad rocks...and to have him be a part of my day of smashing a PR...priceless.
His friend Greg had horrendous cramping around mile 24. We waited around for him of course but we definitely worried as the minutes passed. Finally he finished and got a couple pictures. Said bye to kenkomachi and L. Headed on back to the hotel for the best shower in the world...ok I do that a lot with running it seems:p Ended up going to dinner and had chicken fingers with fries...and a coke. Yummy....food rocks!
My favorite quote from an email I received:
"HOLY SH*T! Were you wearing rollerblades?"
And yet more nerdy stats for the soul regarding my marathon:
Yeah somehow pacemaster fits me. There's not many other words to describe this performance.
So what's ahead? Well, this week RECOVERY. My body hurts. I'm mentally and physically exhausted...my right hip is so stiff that walking looks like I'm a 90 year old with osteoporosis...nice. Definitely worked a lot harder this year and my body needs to get itself back. I know that the first couple weeks after an event like a marathon is when you are most prone to injury. I'll definitely utilize the gym membership and do some upper body things and let the legs get well. They have a lot of good things ahead of them...no sense in messing with that. I think I have the Turkey Trot race in them but after that they're on a hiatus till 2006 for racing. I've done 18 or 19 races this year....not all hard racing...but nonetheless, that's a lot. I'll enjoy my 6 mile jogs around the park and 8-9 mile jogs downtown for food...thanks. I'll go back to speed training but that's not in the forseeable future...I see a target date of sometime in December to be able to run with my pace group. We'll see how it all goes but I am in no rush.
My training this year was tremendous. I was ready a month ago for this race. I'm in the best shape of my life and that just continues. I've met some of the best friends one could ask for. I'm happier than I've ever been. What more can one ask for? My fitness level is unbelievable and my monster pacing abilities are just downright scary. It's one thing to pace a 10 mile race or a half marathon...but a freaking marathon??? Who the hell does that???? My half splits were 1:53:13 and 1:52:08...which meant I PR'd on the second half. Granted, that time is definitely not indicative of what I actually can run but still insanity. Have I told you legs, you rock lately:p
So I know what you're thinking...you're 5 minutes away from BQ time, you're going to do another one next year to qualify. As tempting as it sounds, I think right now I need a bit of a change of direction. 2006 is the year of increasing other areas of my running and fitness levels. I'm thinking a triathlon...i'm thinking of being able to race these half marathons come fall. I have some speed in these legs itching to come out and not be nullified by training for a marathon. There's so much to accomplish and a marathon sometimes hampers you're ability to chase those dreams. I've learned a lot about running...and it's definitely not all about the marathon. I have some PR's to destroy in my other races. I also feel a year of letting myself get a speedier pace will translate to speedier marathon pace. I need 5 minutes off this time which will be much harder than the 21 I took off this year. I just know, and I mean know, that another year is going to make 3:40 not only possible, but destroyed.
AB runs her first marathon next weekend, NYC! I'll be out there giving my full support. I am excited for her and can't wait for her to experience the marathon. She'll be amazing I'm sure. Sempre Libera, so inspired by my run, is going to do NYCM in 2006 and I want to be able to be there to cheer her every step....and hopefully help her get that last 8 miles. And once she has that one under her belt, the big goal is this. 2007 we, being AB, Sempre Libera and I, will choose a flat speedy marathon and get the 3:40 to BQ. We are all in this together and we will all be there in 2008. Mark it down because it's not an if, it's a we will be there. Boston, are you ready for us???