Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Running from a Hurricane

The pictures are devastating and the stories are heart breaking. Anybody who has friends or family (or even total strangers) living in the greater New York City Tri-State area knows that Hurricane Sandy cut deep. So deep in fact, that I'm not going to be so trivial to go through how we "survived" it's brunt here in suburban DC. Frankly we didn't loose power, didn't have any flooding, and didn't suffer any real inconveniences. But even if we did, it would be nothing compared to the devastation a few hundred miles to the north.

Instead I will recap my day at the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon. This was my 24th marathon and my 5th MCM. It was the first time though that I was hesitant based on the weather. I've run races in pretty bad conditions in the past (2006 Hyannis in 20 degrees w/ snow and wind or 2006 Harrisburg with cold driving rain the whole race), but this time it was the uncertainty of exactly when the storm was going to hit that was the cause of some concern.

It was an early morning call time, and I hit the road at about 530am. As I drove down into DC I saw a few rain drops but nothing consistent. All the reports were saying that the storm was going to really hit toward the back end of the race. I got a parking spot right in front of the Farragut North Metro station and caught a train to Roslyn. Up in our tent (set up by our favorite running store, Pacers) I got myself together and after meeting some more teammates we headed down to the start line, near the Pentagon. This is the part where you say, but didn't you use the porta johns?  Yes, several times but they were close by, clean and had no no really good stories there.

When we made our way down to the start you could tell it was going to be a windy day but our only hope was that it would serve us as a tail wind as much as possible. One of the the best parts about running this race 4 other times is that I know I don't need to rush to get into position and thus I didn't actually jump into the corral until after the starting gun and gone off. Once we got going the race was on and I felt very strong through out the first four miles. Mile 3 (near Lee Highway and Spout Run) was a little fast but overall I felt good and even a little warm. In retrospect I should have not worn the short sleeve compression shirt underneath my sponsor's (PCI Communications) shirt, but I survived.

The one thing I noticed very early on was that I was more thirsty then usual when I run and I tried to make up for that by taking a cup of Gatorade and a cup of Water at every stop. More on this later.

Once we got up on the Key Bridge I really felt like I was in a groove and getting up the hill at MacArthur Blvd. was also not a problem (due in part to previous races and the fact that we run that hill at least once a month during training). I always love steep hills on courses because you get a real feeling for who can hack it and who can't. I heard lots of complaining going up that hill, but not one peep for the hand cyclists or those pushing trailers for disabled runners.

Once we started the decent into Georgetown I got the urge to "go" so after a few blocks on Reservoir Rd, I found a house under construction with a nice PortaJohn in the back (see and you thought there wouldn't be a potty story). 45 seconds or so lost and I was back on the course and actualy sticking to a decent time. This as opposed to last year when I went out so fast that I caught and passed the 3:45 pace group in this same area.

Georgetown flew by and we were out on our way to Potomac Park and Haines Point. Last year I noticed that during this time there were still a lot of runners bunched up and that hadn't changed this year. It surprising that after 9 or 10 miles we don't separate a little more but it did provide me with another opportunity to "hug" the crowd. If you're not familiar with this it's when you stay very tight with the sides of the course where the crowds are greatest. To me their cheering helps propel me forward. It's not the most economical way to run as you do end up covering more distance then staying tight in the corners but I'm a junkie and always will be for a cheer.

It was during this stretch that I really noticed the winds picking up and to no surprise when we hit Haines Point they were out in full effect. Luckily they served as a tail wind for the first half, but when we made the turn where the Awakening used to sit, all bets were off and the wind was trying to drag us back at every gust. Haines Point can be very desolate, even with all those runners so it was great to see Ed and Eileen's signs again this year. To be clearer, I got to see the sign they made for me...which I missed last year among the throngs of runners.

After Haines Point an out and back along Independence Avenue which is one of my favorite parts of the course because it's so thick with spectators. Then it was back to the Mall which was the point where my last two MCMs have fallen apart. In 2008 my stomach finally gave out and I had to make a pit stop at the Smithsonian Castle and last year my hamstring cramped up before I made the turn in front of the Capitol Building. This year, none of that, and I kept pushing on to the Bridge. In fact some of my splits in this part of the race were faster then in the first 10 miles so I was stoked.

On to the bridge and I started to feel those twinges in my leg that tells my brain that the hamstring is starting to go. But I still felt ok otherwise so I kept pushing on and I was almost all the way across the bridge when "bang" I felt it completely cramp and I had to stop. A coach/spectator helped me stretch it out and in a minute I was back on my way. It sucks to have to loose that time but it helped me later on so I'll take it.

When we made it into Crystal City you could really feel every gust and none of them were behind  which really sucked. I'm not sure how the wind seemed to move in several directions at once but it did make for a tough slog. Also the course was a little different this year in that it didn't fold over itself in Crystal City until you got to 12th Street where it crosses under Rt. 1 (and you make the turn back on to Army Navy Dr.). This was great on the way out since you didn't have runners passing you going the other way but on the way back you also didn't have the motivation of seeing everybody slower then you still having to take on those winds.

From there it was on to the Pentagon and up onto Washington Blvd. Here I walked a little and ran a little until we saw the mile 25 marker (heading down into the Pentagon South parking lot). At that point I picked it up and ran it on in to the finish. At the finish line there were a few notables. One) the MC announced my name as I came to the line. That has never happened at this race so I was stoked. and two) as I finished my 5th MCM, I became eligable to join the MCM Runners Club which gives me garranteed entry into the race for future years! No more waiting online for this guy.

My finish time was 4 hours, 4 minutes, and 36 seconds. I did break my previous MCM best time of 4:07:06 (2011) but I fell short of my goal of running all three marathons this year in sub 4 hours.

Hey remember earlier when I mentioned that I felt "thirsty".  Yeah well it's called dehydration and I was suffering from it all day. Normally when this happens, you go to the Medical Tent and get treatment. After this race, I went back to the beer tent, vomited, and started drinking.

Onto figuring out marathon #25. I'd like to be special and if possible another state crossed of my list. but either way I know that it's just another race in my hat and I'm going to keep on doing this until my legs fall off.

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