Friday, November 30, 2018


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


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!

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.