Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 Marine Corps Marathon Race Report

I really wondered, while the Marine Corps Marathon was happening, how I'd title this blog post, or what the theme would be.

This, except it explodes.  Oh, and then its phone battery dies like 10 minutes after turning it on.

Because, as it turned out, I had a LOT of time to think about it.  While I'd been honest with myself that I couldn't break 4 hours this year, I still felt strong (I was wrong), and figured I'd have --easily-- 4:15 in me, at worst 4:30.  So I was in a darn good mood showing up to the Pentagon race morning.


Seriously, everything went like clockwork from the moment I woke up.  I got a decent amount of sleep, I had a reasonable breakfast, I went potty (over and over, because THAT'S WHAT WE DO), and even got to the Metro with tons of time.  I rode the Blue line "around the horn" from Capitol Hill, because I knew Metro stations in the middle of the city would be crazy.  Everything was just moving, and I was in full, "Let's do it" mode.

Flea is kinda wearing compression socks, isn't he?

Still, I did have a nagging feeling that something had gone wrong.  As my Metro car filled up, a woman, standing, looked around and said, "I hope everyone remembered their deodorant this morning."
Oh, FFS.
I sat there, thinking about things like icebergs, cool temperatures, and generally not sweating.  I figured, "Well, today was destined to have at least one snafu, so that's outta the way."  Little did I know that this would literally become the least of my problems in a few hours.


Again, keeping with the theme of everything going AWESOME AND ACCORDING TO PLAN, I got through the security line quickly, got the usual pre-race 22 Too Many photos taken, checked/stored my phone with UPS, and even found a relatively short porta potty line towards the starting area.  Everything was going really well, almost businesslike.

Dane on my right arm...

... and the standard 22 Too Many display on my back.
I had my nutrition plan in place, and, despite not having a pace band, I knew that if I generally ran comfortably, I'd be ok with my finish time.  I estimated that my paces would generally float between 9 minutes and 9:30 for the race duration, which would put me right around 4:10 at the finish (perhaps even slower than that as I planned to have fun along the way).  A nice time for a no-pressure race. If anything, I was actually excited to hit 20 miles.  My last two marathons had me blowing right through 20 miles with almost no recognition of "The Wall" that we all work through.  I was more than a little interested to see how I'd fare this year.


BOOM!  Off went the howitzer, and off we went.

Miles 0-1, 1-2, 2-3

9:18, 9:52, 9:27

These were of course crowded, but it was generally not that hard to navigate traffic.  I knew these miles were hilly, and I just wasn't going to worry about pace here, other than going too fast.  Smile and wave, smile and wave, thank the Marines.

Miles 3-4, 4-5

8:49, 9:45 (gel)

We hit a downhill, and then hit Georgetown, which is generally the first festive area of the race beyond the start.  Mile 4-5 also included my first stop for a drink, a gel, and a salt tablet.  My paces were a little wild so far, but I still was quite calm about the day, and still was having a good time smiling and thanking the Marines.

Miles 5-6, 6-7, 7-8, 8-9, 9-10

9:06, 9:01, 9:05, 9:27 (gel), 8:56

(Through 10K at about a 9:20 pace)

Along the way, I spotted Victoria, an accomplished triathlete, giving out candy corn a little past mile 7, near the turnaround.  I screamed hello to her (I'm actually not sure she recognized me), passed her, and then, quite inadvisedly, turned back around to take a handful of candy corn.  Protip:  Don't turn around, or even look behind you when you're running a marathon.  There are a LOT of people back there, all running AT you.

Anyway, I have to admit.  I was feeling good.  Everything about today was building confidence in me that my prior experience running marathons, and this race in particular, was paying off.

Sensors detect hubris.
One thing I should NEVER do is have confidence in myself.  About ANYTHING.

Confidence is the devil.

Miles 10-11, 11-12, 12-13

9:03, 8:56, 8:54. 

(Through 13.1 in 2 hours and a handful of seconds)

This section included Hains Point, which many people dislike, and I happen to love.  The Marines have moved this section to much earlier in the race (it used to come after the Mall, and made for a bleak, bleak stretch when combined with the bridge at 20-21).  Now, it's much earlier.

Also, the wonderful folks at Wear Blue: Run to Remember adopted that mile, and the effect was sobering to see all the memories.  I'm a crier.  I cry a lot.  So of course I teared up for this stretch.  Maybe I'll wear blue next year too.

Anyway, I hit the half mark, and noted that my watch said I was running for 2 hours and  something number of seconds.  I was going too fast, or at least faster than I'd planned, as I was now looking at about a 4:01 finish.  It occurred to me, briefly, that if I actually sped up, I'd be matching last year's race almost segment by segment, and I might surprise myself.

One thing, though:  I just needed more drinks.  The Gatorade/water stop was right past the Half, and it was a zoo.  The 4-hour pace group came through as I was there (I'd earlier seeded myself a little ahead of them to avoid the crowd I knew would surround that pacer), and I was utterly swamped. Seriously, the pacer must have been leading dozens of people, all of whom were clinging to him.  I get the desire.  I do.  But it was hard to get going again.  I had to stop completely one or two times to negotiate the crowds blowing through the water area, and just couldn't get my gait for this first mile of the second half.

Miles 13-14, 14-15, 15-16, 16-17, 17-18, 18-19

9:54 (gel), 9:17, 9:23, 9:51, 10:06, 14:26 (two stops for photos)

This is the last happy section of the race for me.

Immediately after restarting at 13.1, I knew something was up.  I'm not sure if it was coming to a complete stop a couple of times, or just sheer confusion at what to do, but my mind was quickly losing a grip on this race.

It happened.  Just like that.  I'd been cruising literally right up to the Halfway mark, but now I was losing my focus and speed (although to be honest, my Garmin was giving me slower numbers than the lap paces I'm seeing now that I have my data).  I knew my Half split, but I wasn't able to rely on mile-by-mile splits during the race.

I pressed on to miles 14 and 15, fairly sure I was keeping them faster than 9:25, but I already knew things were crashing.  I was baffled.  I was SO baffled, I unfortunately missed Kim, from Kim Runs Miles with Smiles, despite her really well-thought out ways to find tracked runners.  I went right by her and her crew, completely missing them.

I felt like I was running towards oblivion.  It turns out, I kinda was.  My pace was slipping badly at this point, inching up around 10 minutes per mile.  No bueno.

At mile 18-19, I stopped twice to hug loved ones, and got this photo taken.  I'd said each time I stopped that (1) I was in trouble, and (2) that something happened at Hains Point, but I had no idea what was going on.


I want to emphasize that as I ran/walked up to the Mile 19 marker, I was looking at an overall 9:30 pace, and my Garmin had measured me at 19.2 miles, so not GREAT tangents, but not awful either.  But timewise, I was looking at an estimated finish of 4:10 to 4:15 or so.  Still, something else was going on, and I didn't know what it was.

As I made my way to the Mile 19 marker, I  . . . stopped.  I just stopped.  I turned off my Garmin, and reset it.  This was now a different race.  

Actual footage of me bonking.
This race was now about completing a 7-mile journey with virtually NO energy.  I was done.  I actually ate SPORT BEANS given out to me just before the mile 19 marker, because at this point, I was prepared for ANYTHING that might help.

Yes, even a fucking shaman.
7 more miles were left in the race.  That's a distance which roughly constituted how far most of my mid-week runs were this year, but 7 miles seemed like going to the moon at that moment.  I was in utter disbelief that the wheels had so spectacularly come off the bus.


Having said that, all I could think of was getting finish MCM number 5.


I had to press on, so I did.  I ran/walked my way to mile marker 20, and then immediately walked the entire length of mile 20-21.  I ran/walked the entire rest of the course.

Miles 19-20, 20-21, 21-22, 22-23, 23-24, 24-25, 25-26.2

11:xx, 16:xx (walked entire mile), 14:xx, 14:xx, 14:xx, 15:xx, 15:xx, 15:xx

Those XX's aren't there because I'm embarrassed.  I simply don't care to get the exact numbers.  And I didn't care while I was run/walking the stretch anyway.  

She seems like not a good person to watch a marathon.
I was blindsided by what was happening to me.  I didn't care about the winds which kicked up, right where The Running Weatherman had said they would be, I certainly didn't feel the heat everyone spoke about.  I just shuffled and sulked for 7 miles, doing my best to thank volunteers along the way.


In Crystal City, during an out n' back portion of the race, I spotted M, of ReadEatWriteRun, and stopped both for a hug and a quick chat, which included me telling tell her something had gone horribly wrong, but that I wasn't quitting.  I pressed on.

There isn't much else to tell about this section.  I watched the 4:15 pace group pass me, then the 4:30 pace group as well.  Lots of people asked about Dane, the Marine I was honoring for 22 Too Many, and I was happy to tell his story.  So that was a good thing.

I even smiled a bit for race photos.

Ok, no I didn't.
Also, I know people mean well, but seriously -- to the random guy in (I think?) a "tapout" shirt, telling someone who is walking in a race to start running really is not the best use of your oxygen.

Finally, mercifully, came the moment when we hit the Mile 26 marker.  Marines lined the final hill; I tried to slap the hands of as many as I could.  As I charged dragged shuffled my way to the finish, I held up one hand, fingers spread wide, I called out, "FIVE FINISHES!" and gleefully stomped onto the timing mat.


It was over. The single worst marathon in my life, after having my fastest one here just a year earlier.

I of course ran the gamut of emotions, and both family and friends did their best to put things in perspective for me:

I do love this song.

They're lovely.  And I kept reminding myself that for some people, just FINISHING a marathon is a total bucket list item, or even such an intimidation that they won't attempt it.  I needed to suck it up, and just deal with having an awful race. 

Because, above all else, I was now exempt from the damn lottery.  Next year, come lottery time, while people are sweating the results, I'll be all ZFG.

There's one final touch on this race report, which is of course, running for my 22 Too Many Marine, Dane Freedman.  The medal they placed around my neck will go to his mom, along with a condolence note, and a promise to keep sharing the story of Dane, William Dale, TJ (Theodore Johnson), and William Busbee, who were my prior 22 TM honorees.

I guess this photo is a reminder to myself is that having a bad race doesn't seem like really that big of a deal.  In fact, because of the generosity of Rose, from Rose Runs On, Dane's mother will know that many, many people learned of her son's story.  That counts for plenty.  And you can damn well be sure I'll be back.

See you out there for other MCMs.

Race by the numbers:

Top 47% overall

Top 55% (ouch) of both all men, and men in my AG.  So bottom 45%, if you will.


  1. The candy corn was totally worth it.

  2. Don't be so hard on yourself. We all have bad races. You did great and your run was an exceptional way to honor those Marines.

    1. Thanks so much! 22 Too Many is a really great cause, and their "No fundraising, just running" angle opens up more participation. I don't begrudge the WWP or Team RWB, but this just fits for me. And yes, I do need to remember that we're all mortal . . . . Alas.

  3. Don't be so hard on yourself. We all have bad races! You did great and an exceptional way to honor those Marines.

  4. Anonymous7:56 PM

    yep what you wore on your back (WHO you wore on your back) is way more important than running 26.2 -and I could list hundreds of other things too. but congrats anyway! and keep on running on...

    1. Thank you! I sent Dane's family his medal, along with a condolence note, and it was a good reminder that stuff like a bad race isn't important in the big picture.