Thursday, January 31, 2019

2019 MIAMI HALF MARATHON RACE RECAP

Spoiler alert... I may have crossed the finish line.
Well, I've been very bad about updating my blog recently! Although, I don't think I could have given much of a preview, this race is routine by now seeing this was going to be my SIXTH time doing it. My only goal was to get under two hours. This is never a good race to set an ambitious goal at... between the time change and typically unfavorable weather, it's a tough one.

Anyways, I flew out early on Thursday. My alarm went off at 3:45am and I was out the door by 4:00 for my 6:15am flight. Thankfully I breezed through security (government was still shutdown at this point) and so I had enough time to grab a coffee and a bite to eat. My layover was in Newark, and unfortunately, that flight was delayed by a couple hours. So I ended up in Miami around 9pm despite my early wake up. However, it was a blessing in disguise because I was ready to go to bed by midnight Miami time.

The rest of the trip was pretty low key. I've been to Miami so many times now I don't really do the tourist thing. I did make sure we went to the beach even if the weather wasn't the greatest. There was probably a grand total of 15 minutes of sun the two hours we were there but I still managed to get a light sunburn. HA. Accomplished my goal of swimming in the ocean despite the locals probably thinking I was crazy since it was only about 65 out.

PRE-RACE


This was probably the best I adjusted to east cost time in any of my years at this race. I actually got about 4.5 hours of sleep despite the 4:00am wakeup. Much better than the two and a half hours last year and the 90 minutes of sleep my first year! We drove and parked near the start line again, amazing how close you can end up getting without too much issue! I think a lot of people get freaked out about the thought of parking and end up taking other forms of transit (like we used to take the shuttle) but it's actually not that hard to find parking if you arrive an hour early. We'll keep that our little secret though.

The forecast called for heavy rain and it started raining on our way to the race. However, once we parked, the rain ceased. The forecast still looked bad, but it was dry for the moment. My friend and I bought had ponchos just in case, and we hung out in the car until about 5:45am. It stayed dry, so I left the car and hustled toward my corral (C). It was a giant clusterfuck trying to get in... I got there about 5:50 and there were probably 100 people grouped up around the entrance trying to get in and one worker slowly checking bibs. Eventually people got worried about missing the start and we pushed our way in there past the worker who just had to stand to the side. Kind of funny, because the start of the race was delayed 15 minutes anyways so we ended up having plenty of time.

MILES 1-4: OVER THE CAUSEWAY (8:46, 8:18, 8:41, 8:28)

Before I knew it I was running the Miami Half Marathon again. Other than the Shamrock Run, I haven't run any even more often. Crazy to think! The weather was holding off for the moment but that didn't mean it was ideal. It was about 66 degrees and humid at the start. Probably about 80-85% humidity. Thankfully it was overcast, so we didn't have to contend with the sun, but it was still too warm to really perform at your best, especially if you aren't acclimated to that weather!

As you can see from the picture, I was a slimy, wet mess at mile two before the sun even came up. Welcome to running in Florida! Since I didn't have any overly ambitious goals, I wasn't concerned with my time at all. In fact, I put my watch to the the time of day screen and only looked at my split when it beeped each mile. I know a proper half marathon pace by now, so I just tried to run around there while also taking the weather into consideration. This resulted in a mid-8 pace with some variation due to the ups and downs of the causeway.

MILES 5-8: SOUTH BEACH STRUTTING (8:48, 8:52, 8:47, 8:50)

Onto the annual section in South Beach! There were parts of the course here where the wind was blocked and without that blowing your body overheated very quickly. Luckily those stretches were only a couple miles at most. As you can see, I settled into a nice pace, a little slower than I thought I might be, but not too bad. At this point I made it my goal to finish under 9 minutes a mile overall. I've definitely slowed somewhat since the marathon, that is a post for another day, but if I could run under 9 with the conditions, I would be pretty happy.

The course changed a little again this year. Instead of the out and back section that had been introduced in recent years, they went back to a loop through a residential neighborhood and golf course. This was the route my first few years doing the race, so it was nice to get back to that "traditional" route - although, I did miss the energy of the out and back section. Overall I was still feeling pretty good here, my pace felt comfortable and I knew I could finish the race without too much of an issue. I made a special effort to take in the sights and crowds around me. Many times at this race I'm grinding so much I haven't been able to enjoy that.

MILES 9-13: ACROSS THE BAY TO THE FINISH (8:47, 8:47, 8:59, 9:11, 9:26)

This year I hit the Venetian Islands portion still feeling pretty good. That hasn't been the case some years! My first ever time in Miami (not for a race) I race across these things as part of my long run so this part has always held a special place in my heart! As you can see, my pace held up until about mile ten. Eventually the grind of the race did catch up with me. With most of my long runs being of the ten mile variety, it was really no surprise I started to poop out after ten. It was just an overall tiredness that took over, neither my lungs or legs were struggling in particular.

I did make a special point to acknowledge the toll booths at the end of the Venetian Causeway this year. That has always been a milestone for me (back to the mainland, almost to the finish) but last year I was so out of it I didn't even remember running through them. Well, I remember this year... the small victories. At this point of the race I also started power walking through the aid stations instead of a slow jog like earlier in the race. Anything to give my muscles a tiny little break before going back to the grind.

Anyways, not much to write home about here! There was that really great cheer section about mile eleven that imparted a lot of energy into us participants, then another two miles of boring downtown before finally weaving our way to the finish. They changed the route near the finish again this year, nothing too drastically different, we ended in the same place, but there was less weaving around this year and it seemed to be a more direct route to the finish. Anyways, I ran the last quarter mile at an 8:00/mile clip so I still had a little pep in my step at the end.

FINISH LINE & POST RACE

I'm not mad, just disappointed.
Done! Whew! I transitioned to a walk and... well, my legs almost gave out. So weird! They got all tingly and weak, something that never happens during a half marathon. I didn't even feel that bad at the end. What the heck? Anyways, it was temporary, within a few steps I was back to normal but that was a surprise. Guess I probably did push myself to the limit if that was the reaction of my body! Anyways, the rest of the chute was the normal fare, get your medal, get your food, get the hell out of there.

My friend didn't run the race this year so he was able to meet me after I finished and after a quick break to power down some food, we headed toward the beer tent. Michelob Ultra... AGAIN. That fucking company sponsors every freaking race. Ugh. BUT it actually tasted pretty good after the race. Once our beers were down, we headed back to his place and I took a big ol' fat three hour nap. Once I woke up we watched a little bit of the Pro Bowl and then headed to Pizza Hut, were I committed unspeakable acts with food.

Overall, a really fun trip and a good race. Love the Miami Half! The best part was, I think for the first time ever, I had no delays on my way back home. I actually arrived back as scheduled.

Official Chip Time: 1:56:52, 8:55/mile. 2247/14162 overall, 1715/7215 male, 275/957 M30-35.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 HOLIDAY HALF RACE RECAP

Finish line! Only picture they took. :(
First of all, let me give you a little update on my training. I'll admit, it's been a grind since the Marine Corp Marathon. Just hard to stay motivated with nothing major on the horizon and the days being dark, cold, and often wet. The good news is my second week off did bring my legs back. I am no longer feeling the marathon anymore. My legs are recovered and are ready to rock whatever training I want to do. Unfortunately, I'm not all that motivated.

However, this was always a problem in the winter before. I've been here. You do the fall marathon, you work so hard to achieve that, and then there is a let down. You want a break and with the weather turning it's just very hard to have that same focus and motivation as the time leading up to your goal marathon. If it turns out like most other years, which I expect it to, I'll kind of slog through the winter and then pick it up again come March for the Shamrock Run. That always seems to be a kick start to the racing season.

For the Holiday Half, they were at a new location this year. Instead of starting at the Adidas North American headquarters, we started at the Daimler Trucks North American Headquarters. They are pretty close together but it did introduce a whole new element. That element? 200 feet up in the first mile. Yikes! However, that also meant 200 feet down in the last mile. Better to be going up when you are fresh and you could also run the race to poop out at 12 because the last mile you could just use gravity.

With the new location, I was unsure about the parking situation, so I did a very un-Thomaslike thing... I got there pretty early. The race started at 8am and I was rolling into the parking lot at 7am. I know, I know! Who am I? However, I am glad I did so, as people arriving not too much later got stuck in a GIANT traffic jam due to the traffic lights not being optimized/overridden for the flow of cars coming into the area.

I ended up just hanging out in my car until 7:45 or so and then headed toward the start line. It was cold, maybe 42 degrees, and pretty windy. There was rain threatening but thankfully none yet. I spotted Vincent at the start line so we chatted a little while we waited for the race to start. His goal for a while has been to go under 8:00/mile for a half (under 1:45), which I figured would be a good pace for me to start out at. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to maintain it but I would give it a go.

THE WAY OUT (8:15, 7:43, 7:50, 8:05, 8:08, 7:54, 8:10)

Vincent and I started off together and within a few blocks we were climbing up that hill. So while we were targeting under 8, we knew that first mile would be slower. Almost instantly I had a pretty good feeling this pace was going to be too much for me. I really hadn't done any speedwork during marathon training, or after, so the fact I wasn't quite as fast as before wasn't a surprise. I decided to wait it out and see how it felt once we were on flatter ground though.

Once up the hill, which wasn't too bad in all honesty, we locked into our pace. I hung on for a couple miles, but by mile four I decided I needed to let off the gas if I was going to finish the race without blowing up. I bid adieu to Vincent and then tried to lock into what I thought a half marathon pace was. I'm usually pretty good at determining my race speeds, so I ended up doing about an 8:10 pace. Not too far off the initial target. I still wanted to finish at my fastest just to give a baseline for my training going forward.

That 7:54 mile was a period of gentle downhill, so it wasn't like I got a second wind or anything. The course after the first mile was the same as last year, just tracing along the bluff past the University of Portland and into St. Johns. Whenever I run this stretch of road I always think about the Portland Marathon and some of the memories associated with it at this location - never good considering it was miles 21-24 or so. Anyways, at this point I was just clicking along at current half marathon pace. At exactly 6.555 miles we turned around a cone and headed back. I had high fived Vincent a few minutes back - he was having a good race.

THE WAY BACK (8:25, 8:31, 8:37, 8:42, 9:15, 8:15)

As you can see, my pace fell off. Mile seven isn't really fair because that is the uphill part of the downhill I had talked about earlier, but once I was up that hill, my legs just didn't have it. I couldn't get back to my previous speed. This just wasn't good to be my race. So while I was still giving it a good effort, I wasn't going to kill myself. So I just settled into a comfortably hard pace and ground my way back to the finish. At this point the question was if I would be able to get under 1:50. As long as I got back at one forty something I would be happy enough.

Really not all that much to say about the way back. I was ready to be done as my legs just didn't have it in them this day. So it was just a matter of grinding back to the finish line. I went between periods of feeling okay and feeling pretty rough., I just wanted the damn thing over. Mentally I knew I just had to get to mile twelve because that last mile would be all downhill. Just keep grinding... this bluff is going on forever!

Finally I got to mile twelve and started the downhill. As you can see I sped up some, but I didn't have the legs to really attack it. Funny enough, I was the exact same speed going down it at the end than I was going up it at the beginning, haha. Oh well. The last few blocks to the finish line were flat but those weren't an issue. With the line in sight, I perked up enough to do that final tenth of a mile at 7:25 pace. So I guess the legs weren't completely gone! I rolled through the finish line and stopped my watch at 1:48:59. Whew! Later on I would learn my official time was four seconds faster.

POST RACE

After the race I chugged a couple cups of water. Since it was cold outside I didn't feel the need to hydrate at all during the race. I just wanted to move past the water stations and get the race done. Not smart to do in the summer, but you can totally get away with it during a winter race. I was pretty thirsty at the end though, so it felt good to chug some fluid. After that I went over and got the free food, a mini grilled cheese sandwich and some vegetable chili. Both were super delicious. I didn't see the free beer tent and with the weather starting to sprinkle, I didn't really care. I couldn't spot Vincent (he ended up getting 1:37!) so I just headed back to my car.

By the time I was driving away with runners coming in on the other side of the road it was POURING. And it would stay pouring. Anybody finishing over two hours got dumped on. Remember, it was in the low 40s, so this was pretty miserable for them. I'm glad I was at least fast enough to avoid the rain. At times driving home it was coming down so hard it was difficult to see. Once I got home I took a big, fat, hot bath and it was amazing. I might not be in the greatest shape right now, but I tried my best. Now to survive the rest of the winter season and wait for the springtime thaw!

Official time: 1:48:55, 8:18/mile. 327/1444 overall, 223 of 581 male, 36 of 79 M30-34.

Friday, November 30, 2018

MCM REFLECTIONS AND LOOKING AHEAD

Beginning (I think) of the Mall section.
I did not expect to wait so long to write this! Yikes! Anyways, this post will be sort of quick and have two parts... reflections on MCM and then what I have been doing since.

As for the Marine Corp Marathon... well, I think I said most everything already! My training cycle went just about perfectly... I was able to hit all my runs and avoided injury. It was the best I had felt during a marathon training cycle in a long time, maybe ever. My psoriatic arthritis was a non-factor during training and the race. That was the biggest victory I think. To go from where I was, hobbling around in pain just walking, to running a marathon feeling strong... that's awesome. It was a long journey with small steps here and there, so while I was getting back to things it was easy to not appreciate it so much. However, looking back on the journey now that it is complete... that is something I can be proud of! I am SUPER happy with my performance and time at the race. Marathons are still... marathons... so I likely won't be running another one until next fall. I think I am a one-a-year type of guy.

After the marathon I took an entire week off, per my plan. I then ran my first run back on a Monday, another one on Wednesday, and then a 10-miler on Saturday. The week after that I then got back into my normal pattern of four times a week, although with slightly reduced mileage. So I went 5-4-6-10 for a total of 25 miles. I even had a tempo run in there. I was feeling decent, still a little worn from the race, but nothing major. However, as I continued to try and keep that pace up, my legs were not improving. In fact, they seemed to be getting worse. Just really fatigued and heavy feeling. I think I was still recovering from the marathon and might have tried to jump back into it too soon.

From the uphill finish (can you tell?)
I actually did twelve miles last Sunday in preparation for the Holiday Half Marathon on December 9th. However, my legs still felt super dead and I didn't seem to be making any improvement in that area. So basically I am taking this entire week off. Hopefully I can get them feeling back to normal soon. They felt fine my first couple runs back from the marathon, but whatever recovery I had made by then seemed to be wiped out by my return to running. I don't think this is related to my psoriatic arthritis in any way though... my knees feel fine and the other "hot spots" around my body are fine as well. So it's just muscle fatigue hopefully.

Due to my dead legs, I did not end up doing a turkey trot. I had planned to do the Give N' Gobble, like in 2013 and 2017, with the goal of making it my "annual" turkey trot moving forward. And I would still like to do that in 2019. However, it wasn't in the cards this time around. I also wanted to hit the Holiday Half hard and see if my marathon training resulted in any pick up of speed. Unfortunately, with that being a mere 9 days away and with the current state of my legs... that will not be setting any records. Hell, if I get under two hours I'll call it good. After that race I'll evaluate the leg situation and make a plan going forward. The goal is to get some shorter races and speedwork in during the spring to get faster and then likely start training for a fall marathon sometime in mid-June.

Anyways, that is the update. Thoughts and prayers for my exhausted legs.

Friday, November 02, 2018

2018 MARINE CORPS MARATHON RACE RECAP

Spoiler alert, we both finished! My friend Jon and I, 2018 Marine Corps Marathon finishers!
I flew into Washington, DC Thursday on a direct flight that left Portland at 8:20am. The week prior I had adjusted my sleep schedule successfully to wake up at 7am Pacific time. Now, that was 10am on the east coast, but I figured the day of my flight I would wake up at 5am and thus be ready for bed on the east coast around midnight. It worked like a charm! By Friday morning I was into an east coast groove of going to bed at midnight and waking up at 8am. By far the most successful I have been at transitioning time zones for a race.

In the days leading up to the race, my friend Jon and I went and saw some of the sights in DC. He lives in the area, so there wasn't much new to him, but he humored me and let me lead us around to what I felt was at the top of my list. So I saw the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, National Mall, Capitol Building, Holocaust Museum, Air & Space Museums (plural), and Arlington National Cemetery. We tried to limit the time on our feet to mixed success. Maybe a little more than optimal, but not bad. We took the Metro around and didn't walk too terribly much.

Minutes before the race started.
We went to the expo on Saturday to pick up our bibs and hideous shirt. On Friday night we had a giant pasta dinner and Saturday night we had footlong sandwiches. We definitely carbo loaded successfully. We went to bed around 11pm Saturday and thankfully I was able to fall asleep around midnight. I woke up at 3:30am with the violent urge to use the restroom, which wasn't ideal, but at least I didn't have to worry about that during the race. Thankfully, I was able to fall back asleep after that and all told got around 5 to 5.5 hours of sleep. It was enough as I felt wide wake and not tired as we headed toward the start line after a breakfast of bagels with cream cheese and bananas.

The place we were staying was near a Metro station, so we took that to the start line. Holy hell was that thing a zoo. This race is HUGE and it had to be a good mile walk (no joke) from the Metro station at the Pentagon to the start line. Borderline ridiculous. I had to pee but the lines were so long there was no way I was going to be able to do so before the race started. I ended up peeing against a fence/bush with a lot of other guys. Should my "down below" parts been different I would have had an issue. We were able to make it to the start line and get in the right corral with about ten minutes to spare. The size of this race was incredible, like nothing I had experienced before. I was nervous but ready to go!

MILES 1-6: UP AND DOWN FROM THE START (9:04, 8:53, 8:55, 8:11, 8:59, 8:29)

Despite getting in the right corral (3:45 pace group), the people around us weren't necessarily running that pace. There was no checking of the bibs, so my worries about being in the wrong corral weren't an issue. However, this meant that there were thousands of slower runners (and walkers!) in front of us that we had to avoid for the first eight miles of the race or so. Almost immediately it was clear my "A" goal was out the window. I wanted to target about 8:30, but could only hit 9:00 or so due to the crowds. I weaved a little but tried not to do it too much. I just accepted my fate and figured a slower start might help toward the end of the race.

From later on, no early pictures. :(
The first couple miles were uphill about 200 feet but it was never very bad. Certainly used to much worse over here in Oregon and I didn't feel these hills much at all. The fourth mile was the downhill after the uphill, so we were able to hit an 8:11 despite the crowds. However, as the next flat mile hit, we could only do a nine minute pace. The amount of runners was just incredible. Shoulder to shoulder packed on a four lane road. A mass of solid humanity in front of you with no relief in sight. I kept hoping for it to clear up but there was no relief yet. At times I popped up on the sidewalk and was able to go a little faster but other times I just had to accept the speed of the crowd.

Since our goals were pretty much the same Jon and myself ran together. He tended to hang back a step or two and let me set the pace and I was impressed he was able to stick with me through all those people. At this point of the race I'm still feeling spunky, so I was reacting to the crowd and generally having a good old time. The scenery in this part of the race isn't much to write home about, just streets through a city, as the famous part of the course was yet to come. By mile six I was able to assume my goal race pace and seemed to be with runners of the right speed. However, by that point I had given up two minutes and was already aiming my sights toward a sub four goal.

MILES 7-13: OUT AND BACK ALONG THE WATER (8:38, 8:39, 8:43, 8:40, 8:45, 8:39, 8:47)

Eventually we crossed the Potomac River into DC and ran along a canal. This was a giant out and back portion along a road with lots of old growth trees and was very pretty. We were finally able to get some breathing room and hit our pace. Since the sub 3:50 was out of the window, I tried to target 8:40-8:45 instead, which, after the slower start, would get us into the finish in the low to mid 3:50s. I remember at the mile eight marker noticing for the first time there was actually a bit of room and it was no longer a solid mass of humanity. Finally! That first quarter of the race was kind of frustrating due to the amount of people. I suppose this is any large marathon though.

This was like Mile 10ish?
As you can see, we were able to hit very consistent times. I didn't even have to look at my watch all that much, I was able to get into a groove and the pacing was coming very easy to me. Every time I did look at my watch we were hitting the correct speed. The course certainly helped as it was pretty much flat. I mean sure, some minor hills here and there, but nothing you even had to think about. The pace felt appropriate, about what I remembered from previous marathons. Not easy, but not hard. I brought three packs of Shot Bloks along the way and ate entire packs at miles 6, 12, and 18. I barely chewed them, just enough bites to get them into swallowable chunks and then down the hatch. I was able to eat each pack in about a minute this way. In terms of fueling, I think this was a good strategy as it didn't bother my stomach and minimized the amount of time I spent gasping for air and swallowing.

Mile 12 was the Blue Mile, the first part of which is a sea of signs honoring fallen Marines. They were chronological, so some of the earlier signs were WW2 causalities, while toward the end it was much more recent deaths. Very powerful though, seeing all those young faces and knowing their lives were cut short. It was very quiet during this part of the race as people were reflecting. Emotional stuff! The second part of the mile was family of those fallen holding American flags, which lined either side of the route. They were cheering us on, so it kind of snapped you back into the race. I crossed the half marathon mark in 1:55:38 (8:49/mi) still feeling pretty decent. I could do as bad as 2:04:21 on the backside and still get under four hours.

MILES 14-20: THE MALL & THE MONUMENTS (8:49, 8:47, 8:48, 8:46, 8:47, 8:41, 9:08)

Finally we reached the part of the race I was waiting for... running along the National Mall past all the monuments! To be honest, this was less exciting than it should be been given I had just seen them in the days leading up to the race. However, it was still a welcome distraction as the race entered the third hour and my body started to complain a little bit. As you can see, my times held up really well! That 9:08 on mile twenty included an uphill on a bridge back across the river, so honestly I was still on pace until mile twenty two. More on that later.

Near the Capitol.
Jon had to drop off at mile sixteen to use the bathroom. Bummer for him. He started having trouble at mile 18 (non bathroom related) and finished in 4:20. Still better than my worst and not bad for a first marathon... sub ten minutes a mile overall! Meanwhile, I was starting to feel the race here. Not to the point of slowing down, but my gaze went from looking ahead to looking just in front of my feet. The support during this part of the race was amazing though! Crowds lining either side of the road cheering loudly and holding signs. Probably a lot of tourists surprised there was a race and cheering along mixed in there too. Really helped keep the legs churning! I wish I was able to appreciate this a bit more, but I was starting to tire.

By this point I only had "single digits" left, so I would remind myself of that at every mile marker. However, when I did the math to "amount of time left to run" it was a little less encouraging. Still over an hour? Fuck! Anyways, after making the turn at the Capitol building (mile 18.5) I vowed to fight through and run as much as I could. I wasn't sure if I could go the whole way, but dammit, I was going to try. My legs were hurting a little but not much, my cardio wasn't labored, I was a little tired, but not bad... really, the thing that was screaming were my feet. They hurt SO BAD. I guess at this point of the race if anything is going to hurt, that is what you want though. It didn't actually affect my running at all, cardio and muscles were still decent, so it was just a mental battle to resist walking to give my feet a break from the pounding.

MILES 21-26: THE BRIDGE & CRYSTAL CITY (8:52, 9:12, 9:08, 9:31, 9:33, 9:33)

After the energetic environment that was the National Mall, it was up and over a highway bridge across the Potomac. I had heard horror stories about this 1.5-2 mile stretch. The wind, the lack of crowds, the hill up the bridge, etc. It was certainly a change from the Mall and also the point where I could no longer keep pace. I hit mile 21 more or less on pace, but mile twenty two was 9:12. I knew I had some time to spare, so I didn't try to push my pace back under nine. I knew from experience that wouldn't work anyways. So I was prepared to just keep the same effort going and let the pace fall where it may. By the end of the race I was shuffling along at more of a long run "survival" pace, but at 9:33 it was still quite faster than my normal long run pace this cycle (10:20). So I'm pretty proud of that!

Crowds near the finish; grinding.
It took a lot of mental fortitude not to walk here. People were breaking down all around me and it was like walking through a zombie apocalypse at times. My feet were screaming, there was wind at my face, no crowd support... man did I want to walk! I kept doing the old "keep running until ______" trick, whether it be the next mile sign, water station, end of the bridge, etc. Once you get to that point, you decide "okay, I can do another _______." On and on it goes. I took a moment to reflect... could I run the rest of this? The answer was yes. It might be painful, it might be slow, but I could run it. It was around mile 23 that I decided I wasn't going to walk. I would shuffle slowly if I had to, but I was going to run this bitch in.

Miles 22 through 24 are through Crystal City, which is known for its fabulous crowd support. And boy did it live up to the hype! Seemingly thousands of people lining the streets cheering us on. Definitely put a pep in your step and made you think twice about giving nothing but your best. I even ran to the side to high five some people. Fantastic! Just what you need at this point of the race. During an out and back portion I distracted myself by looking for Jon. Unfortunately, I think he was a little too far behind for me to see him though. It was a good distraction at least. Around mile 24 you exit the city and get back onto the highway where we started. This was lonely, not a lot of support, and the runners were very thinned out by now. It was just you versus yourself for almost two miles. I shuffled along, determined not to walk.

Six time marathon finisher!
HILLY FINISH & POST RACE

Finally the crowds picked up and I could sense the finish line. I was going to do it! I knew about the hill at the finish so it wasn't a surprise, but dammit, it looked like Mount Everest as we approached. You can see the runners wrapping around the hill up to the finish line and it looked so far away. Anyways, I just prayed my calves wouldn't cramp trying to get up that thing. Luckily, within a few steps, I knew I could do it. It would be slow, but I could do it. I'm sure my pace was no quicker than 11:00/mile here. Some people were sprinting up it... how in the? I just kept chugging along. The crowds were thick and loud here, Marines screaming at you not to stop. Very motivating! Eventually you take a right and, while it is still uphill, it is much more gradual and stays that way though the finish line.

Seeing that finish line put a pep in my step, and the feeling at this point is indescribable. Just intense feelings of jubilation, relief, and accomplishment all rolled into one. A feeling I haven't been able to get at any other type of running event. If I was someone who cried often, I would have cried here. It was an emotional feeling! Three years of uncertainty but I was back! I never thought after Detroit in 2015 that I wouldn't run another one for three years. Never take anything for granted! I certainly wasn't going to take this finish for granted and just soaked everything up as much as I could.

Changing my grimace into a smile.
I was really interested to see how my legs would respond... as longtime readers know, I am always a shitshow in the chute. When I stopped running this time, my legs felt alright, not great, but alright. Not immediate crisis mode like many times before. As I walked along the VERY LONG chute to get my medal and food they started to hurt more and more. Not nearly as bad as normal, I was still able to walk decently, but they were definitely not having a good time. I took a break on a curb about halfway through the chute, drank some Gatorade, and texted Jon. After about five minutes I hobbled back up and continued the long walk out. Finally I was able to exit and (seemingly) another mile later I made it to bag check.

Eventually I met up with Jon and we hobbled to the Metro station together and back to the rental. We stayed pretty low key the rest of the day, although we finally did get off our butts and hobble to a Thai restaurant for dinner. I also had some beers. Except for my screaming legs, it was a great rest of the day! I'll have another post about my post-marathon recovery and some reflections, so I'll wrap it here for now.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience! My first marathon in three years after a health fiasco and to be able to run the whole thing and hit my main goal was amazing! While I might have questioned why I was running the damn thing during the race, upon reflection, as usual, it was an amazing experience I'm glad I undertook!

Official Results: 3:55:54, 8:59/mile. 2807/20614 overall, 2008/11009 male, 376/1510 M30-34.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

2018 MARINE CORPS MARATHON RACE PREVIEW

The start of the MCM. The race starts on both sides of the highway at 7:55am sharp.
Hard to believe, but it's here... my first marathon in three years! It's been a long road since the last one, the 2015 Detroit Marathon. If you hold told me after that race that I wouldn't run another one for three years I would have thought you were crazy. I had plans of running another marathon in the fall of 2016. However, this was the beginning of a descent into the psoriatic arthritis this took a couple years to crawl out of. But crawled I have, and finishing the Marine Corps Marathon is going to be my "I'm back!" moment. Hopefully, haha.

In terms of the course, it is not the fastest course, but it is pretty fast. The biggest challenge in terms of elevation is the first two miles, where you go up 200 feet. Now 100 feet a mile isn't too bad, definitely noticeable, but nothing tragic. On fresh legs it is going to feel easier than normal, so I'll have to make sure to reign myself in and not go too crazy. I need to do these at like 25 seconds over my target pace. You should always start a marathon a little slower anyways. I'm then going to take advantage of the downhill, but also make sure not to attack it too hard and trash my legs. Once that is over, the course is pretty flat with some rolling hills.

Course map. You'll want to enlarge this.
I plan to utilize every aid station at my disposal, alternating Gatorade and water. That'll keep the electrolytes up but not also overpower my stomach with too much sweet drink. I also plan to eat three packs of gummies along the way at 200 calories each. In previous marathons I have tried to eat these one or two at a time, but this time I think I'll just eat the whole bag at one time. Probably miles 6, 12, and 18. Just get them in my stomach. Previously I've been annoyed at having to chomp on stuff too often as it breaks my rhythm and is hard to breathe while doing so.

There should be a lot to see at the race! Starting at the Pentagon, going through Arlington National Cemetery, up and down the Mall with sights of the Washington Monument, Capitol Building, Supreme Court, and more. I haven't been to Washington, DC since I was 14 during a school trip, so it will be really cool to see everything again. It will be good distraction for a while at least. Even the parts that don't have famous things to look at should be interesting, whether it be beautiful tree lined streets with fall colors, or intense cheering sections. It will be fun to experience it all! I actually haven't analyzed the course too much because I want it to be new on race day.

One thing I always hear about this race is not only are the sights cool, but the crowds are awesome too. There should be a lot of support on the course to keep me motivated, which is good! I like hoopla in long distance races, so hopefully that will keep me energized and going. The hardest part of the race might be a boring stretch where we climb a highway bridge and cross the river. There is some uphill here on the bridge along with no spectators and a reputation for wind. Once that is over, shortly after mile 21, it is into Crystal City, which is supposed to have really good support. And finally, the finish line is actually up a pretty steep hill. The Marines can't make anything easy. Luckily it is only a quarter mile!

A flavor of the sights during the race!
Once huge factor that will affect my race is my corral. This is the first year of corrals at the MCM, which is surprising, considering the number of racers usually tops 25,000. Anyways, when I signed up I put a finish time of 4:15. Well, I ended up getting faster a lot quicker than I thought, so that is going to put me in the wrong spot. I emailed them hoping to move up but the bibs were already printed with the corral. Luckily, there are only three corrals, and mine appears to be 4-5 hour people. So they suggested I just scoot up to the front of my corral to avoid being pinned in by too many other slower runners.

However, even if I manage that, I'm still going to have an issue trying to get my "A" goal. This race is HUGE, which tens of thousands of runners. I watched a couple clips of it and yeah... there isn't going to be much room. Even if I mange to get with 4:00 paced runners, if I want to go any faster, that is going to be a big problem. I am going to have to weave around and generally be frustrated. Even later on in the race it stay pretty packed as the route moves to smaller streets. There will be some more room after halfway or so, but still, that is going to be a major challenge.

Alright, what you have all been waiting for:

"A" Goal: Under 3:50. This is 8:45 a mile or less. I would be *so* happy with this time. To get a 3:4X marathon in my first one back, after basically doing no speedwork... heck yeah! I will try to start out at a clip that can achieve this. Whether I am actually able to run it (due to the crowds) or finish at it (due to miles 18+) remains to be seen.

"B" Goal: Under 4:00. This is really my main goal. If I can walk away with this one, I'll be as happy as a clam. This is 9:09 a mile or less. Unless I have some major walking issues, I think I can get this one. However, it is going to take a solid effort and the crowds to cooperate to achieve. If my time starts with a three, happy I will be!

"C" Goal: Finish. You (mostly) ran a freaking marathon. Two years ago you were hobbling around with no idea of what was wrong and the thought of never being active again. You've come a long way baby, enjoy it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

FOUR DAYS FROM MCM

Quick update! Good news - the weather forecast has improved significantly since last check in. Wohoo! The rain appears to be shifting to hitting earlier, with the area getting close to an inch on Friday on the latest forecast. Saturday actually looks pretty dry, some showers in the morning and then clearing. And then race day Sunday we have partly sunny skies with some showers later in the evening. Right now it looks perfect! 48 at race start and 55 when I should be finishing.

I just completed my last run before the marathon. Three miles at an easy pace. On Monday I did four miles at an easy pace. I can already feel the recovery in my legs from the taper. They feel pretty fresh! I think by race day, with three additional days of no running, they'll be primed and ready for the race. Feel pretty confident about that! The part I don't necessarily feel confident about... finishing strong without much issue going at an aggressive pace. However, that's always the question in a marathon! I *am* confident I can go out there and give it my best shot.

My plane takes off tomorrow morning - direct to DC thankfully! My next post will be the race review complete with my goals. Eek!