Saturday morning the folks and I loaded up the car and off to DC we went! Upon arrival, it was expo time. MCM has one of the better expos in my opinion. Maybe Chicago's is bigger. Anyway, picked up my bib and shirt (pretty powder blue this year) and did some damage: new pair of tights and got the headphones they fit for your ear (they work! I wore them the whole marathon).
Saturday night we met up with nyflygirl, MF (and a couple of her friends), AL at Faccia Luna for dinner. Note: ate there 4 years ago too:)
Finally, race morning. I went with my Penn State singlet, blue brooks shorts and the Mizuno Inspires. I had my peanut butter and bagel with gatorade to fuel up. This is really when I realized what battle I was preparing for. All that work, comes down to this 26.2...
I met nyflygirl and MF in the lobby at 5:55 to head to the shuttle. Weather was cool but not cold. Dare I say it:almost perfect! The marines were helping to load the buses which *shocker* helped keep chaos far away;) This is one of many things I love about this race: organization!
We got to runners village and there were runners everywhere. A different vibe than NYCM but pretty cool. We hung out until about 7:20 and headed to the start.
This is where I have a major beef. They have a "be honest" lineup. Now I understand marines are honest but a lot of runners LIE! I am looking to BQ and seconds matter. In my corral, which I was pretty honest with nyflygirl, there were runners with 5:00, 4:30 and 4:45 pace bands on! Listen, I have no issues with you running for CRYING out loud line up correctly! When I did it 4 years ago, they based on predicted finish (and you had to give actual times ran).
After a flyover by some nifty expensive paid by tax payer marine aircraft, the cannon went off and it was time to go. I knew it was my day. You know that zone feeling? Yep, I felt it. I knew it. Felt like I did here in 05. A special day ahead.
The first mile was a complete clusterf**k. I had to deal with all those people in wrong corrals. (They should consider wave starts to ease the crowding too). Right away I felt like I was in the zone. You know that feeling that takes over you where nothing will get in your way? That was me yesterday.
Nyflygirl took off about a mile in and I settled into my 8:15-8:17 pace. My goal was to run a 1:47-1:48 half and give a bit of a buffer to get that elusive 3:40. Finally at mile 2 things started to clear up a bit but I was still passing walkers? Wtf? I didn't remember the course being as hilly but honestly I do better with change of elevation courses. Plus, this was MY DAY. MY DAY. Nothing was going to stop me from getting to that finish line.
Things were sailing along as I passed my parents around mile 4 and again at mile 10. I think they were surprised to see me but I took that as a good sign, no? Around mile 12 I got a small side stitch but took a few deep breaths and poof - gone. Again, very calm relaxed and going with it. It was if something had taken over my body today - very surreal experience.
As I emerged from Haines Point (nowheresville of the marathon) I knew the heavy crowd support of the mall was near. And another passing of my parents. Life was good. Mile 16 came and I was still feeling great. Could it be? Could this be the day? I didn't let a doubt cross my mind - this was MY DAY.
As I got to the end of the mall stretch, I knew the vaunted bridge was ahead. It's dead, isolated and head winds. Very bad news at mile 20. I was hoping to just push through it and kept a mental game of "what are you going to wuss out now?" That and having my ipod helped TREMENDOUSLY. "Desire" blazed as one of the songs which gave me an extra pep to my step - whatever a pep is for someone who's starting to feel the effects of 20 miles! Mile 21 came and things started to fall apart a bit. It was pretty instant as all of a sudden my legs just wouldn't respond. It was horrible - I was fighting but they just slowed down. I tried to put a good song on, eat some sport beans but nothing was working! It was a very rough 5k -and my splits show it. But I know what did it - the water stations had marines running the show. As I passed the mile 24 stand, a marine was yelling "COME ON PENN STATE! GET MOVING" and "GO GET IT". I don't know about you, but that's awfully inspiring.
As I passed that station, I gave myself one last pep talk. It was a talk of you didn't come this far to pack it in. You didn't put 4 months of guts to train to pack it in. This is your time to shine. This is about YOU. This is for YOU. You have the support and they are all there. That last 2.2 miles was about thinking about all of the support I have - the runs that made me get here. Specifically my long tempo run with AU, my last tempoish run with T, and just all the voices of all of YOU cheering me on. I fought the urge to slow down and walk like no one's business. I was not going to let 3:40 go without a fight. I don't know the word quit and today was not going to be the day I learned about it. It was time to show why I run. Why I run LIKE I MEAN IT. Anyone can run a marathon, but not everyone RUNS LIKE THEY MEAN IT. I was going to leave it all out on the course. If I didn't get there, it wasn't from lack of heart and guts from me.
As I got to mile 25 and looked at my watch, I knew it was going to be unbelievably close. Like seconds close. Still I fought on. I passed Arlington Cemetery on my left and thought about all of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for this great country. Now if they can do that, I certainly can suck up another mile or so. Finally I could start to hear the music and cheers at the finish line. As I ran, my hat started to fall off but fortunately my braid caught it! I knew that last hill was coming and gave my legs one final pep talk to get up that friggin' hill. As I came upon the hill I tried to look up and imagine getting back to flat ground. This was my race. All 26 miles 385 yards of it. No stopping now.
As I emerged the hill, I gave it everything I had the final straight away. I even managed to pass people somehow. I crossed the finish line and clicked my garmin: 3:41:07. Are you shitting me was my first thought? Holy crap. Then it was well it's a HUGE PR. And thank gawd I'm not running another step because I don't think I could have.
Overall, I'm very proud of my performance. It would have been easy for me to pack it in and run a 3:44 or something. But I refused to lose. I refused to let my body decide over my mind. My day was not being ruined by physical. If I was going to lose my mind and body would have to go. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. I run like I MEAN IT. The day I don't is the day I stop running. Don't expect that anytime soon.
I guess for me it was my way of saying "HELLO RUNNING WORLD I'M BACK!" I've learned that quantity does not trump quality. I ran no more than 3-4x a week with a couple crosstraining days. Last year I was running 50-60 miles a week and felt burnt out. A terrible feeling without the results. Note to self: know your body and work with it - it will do the rest for you.
Yesterday was pretty much a celebration of the effects of training to the best of my abilities this year. I'm proud of me. To go from a 2 hour half at the end of May to a 3:41 FULL marathon is nothing to sneeze at. I don't care if it was lack of training - that's a lot of ground to cover in a matter of months. Imagine what's to come with training. Scary, isn't it? I guess I hope to all of you reading it helps you go that extra step or mile in whatever you do. Because I can tell you first hand, mind over matter wins everytime.
Thanks to everyone that supported me through my journey. I couldn't have done it without you and I can't wait to conquer again. Oh and if anyone finds what I left out in Washington DC, you can return it to Brooklyn;)