Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Marine Corps Marathon 2009-Part 3 (the second half of the marathon)

With some characters along the course...I love the spectators who dress up or in some way stand out from the crowds.

The hot dog and banana folks completely cracked me up and may be something I need to expand my running attire to include in the future.

In fact, next year MCM Marathon is on Halloween so I may have to kick it up a notch by actually investing in a real costume to wear. I think it would be very cool to run as a mascot although in that case I would have to hope the weather was not too hot.
Here you can see Imelda and I beating the bridge.

In fact we beat it so badly I would suggest we beat it then starting calling it names!

I think after we passed this point was the first time Imelda was 100% confident that she would be assured of beating the bridge as well as finishing the race.

I was so proud of her!

One of the perks of the MCM is novel views of the various monuments and historic sites because of running on the roads. Here we are on the 14th street bridge with the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument.

The one bummer about being on this bridge is that it is long. I guess one might get an impression of how long this bridge is when stuck in traffic, but running the mile long span may be even longer!

This picture was taken while I was waiting for Imelda by the bridge at the Pentagon. This is when tragedy struck and for the rest of the race we tried to resolve this issue unsuccessfully.

But in this picture I had no idea of the upcoming crisis and was just appreciating the cute puppy and wishing I was the puppy and thus being carried instead of having to run the rest of the race and subsequently back to the car.

By the end of the race I had petted at least 15 dogs. I was kind of bummed that Gilligan did not come to the race; however, the one year he came to cheer on runners while my sister ran MCM in 2002. It was a challenge to convince him to keep moving from spectating location to location throughout the city, so since then he has cheered me on in spirit.

After finishing the marathon runners are given a space blanket, a medal and then the opportunity to get a finishers picture. Sadly my first two years I somehow missed this. But now I always make sure to get a finishers picture. And I have gotten smarter in that I find a willing participant to take my picture with my own camera so I can post it immediately and share it with my friends and family.

I really love this marathon and think it is wonderful to run on such a historic and lovely course.

Haines point is a section of the marathon that has very few spectators and other than beautiful views of the Potomac River does not have lots to see and do. But the runners around us were upbeat and positive and there were several bands and DJ’s along the course to keep runners entertained.

Along this section the runners had spread out a bit which made for easier running. Also by being a bit spread out it was easier to spot other runners. I ran into my friend Carolyn G. She and I have run numerous races and sort of ran one training run together. We ran quite a bit of Umstead 100 miler in 2009, the trail section of JFK50 miler in 2008 and our training run was hill work at Harpers Ferry several winters ago. It is really nice to run into friends during events because she and I were able to catch up for a while. I also learned she is a statistician at the USDA. Apparently mathematicians and statisticians infest marathons and ultra’s including my friend Leo L., Quicksilver and Jamie D. to name a few. We also chatted about our upcoming ultra plans including my JJ100 starting Saturday, 6 days after MCM and her plans to run the Potomac Heritage 50 km at the same time. Carolyn also mentioned she is on the waiting list for Umstead (30th or so) but I was able to tell her last year they made it through most of the waiting list as my friend Angela was nearly last on the wait list and ended up being notified about her acceptance in late Feb. I think because Umstead 100 has a very generous refund policy injured or ill prepared runners are more likely to bail out which hopefully is true again this year. Pretty soon Imelda was nearly out of sight and I realized I needed to put some pep in my step to catch up to her.

As we finished Haines point I was able to tell Imelda that for sure she had beaten the bus. We could leisurely stroll through DC and still make it. But alas we had a finish line we wanted to make it to. As we approached the Lincoln Memorial Imelda mentioned she might like a bathroom break. I asked if she was up for a 300 meter detour for a real restroom. Unfortunately upon arriving at the public restroom at the base of the memorial the line was INSANE!! It was probably 15-20 people long that we could see. Having been in this restroom which has about 10 stalls but typically 7 are working, I made the executive decision that we would be online for about 20 minutes and the patrons did not look ready to push us to the front of the line. So we headed back onto the course mission not accomplished. But we did get a picture in front of the memorial for our effort:-)

Back on the course we ran up Independence Avenue which was lined with lots of spectators. The tree’s were bright orange and yellow with a perfect blue sky. It was a great day for running a marathon! We chatted with other runners. We met a bunch of runners who were so sweet including a lady Lindsay and her aunt who were running the marathon together. It was Lindsays second marathon but her aunts first. I mentioned it was Imelda’s first and made sure to tell everyone they were looking really great and that they should not worry about the bridge. Sadly I think there is a lot of energy wasted worrying about the bridge because a big deal is made about it. For the runners at our pace, by this time it was obvious they were going to make the bridge with plenty of time to spare. Lindsay had heard me talking to my friend Mike about JJ100 (who I ran into after Imelda and I returned to the course from our failed bathroom attempt) and was amazed by the fact that I had run previous 100 milers and was running JJ100 only 6 days after the marathon. She was so cute and amazed I could do this. But I told her it is all a matter of perspective because there are plenty of folks who do 5 or 10 kms who cannot imagine running a marathon. So it is all a matter of perspective.

As we continued up Independence Ave we passed a set of about 3-4 porta potties. There was a line of 10-15 runners including several men. I asked Imelda if it was okay that we continue on to a museum but warned her we would get searched and it might take a bit. But I also mentioned nothing good ever comes from men on line for porta potties. She agreed that we could head into a museum so we scurried into the museum of American History. After a quick security screening, we made our way to the bathrooms which were not very far from the entrance. After a nice and refreshing bathroom break we slowly headed back onto the course. While inside we also stretched a bit (and by “we” I mean Imelda) and I refilled my bottle. Imelda headed out while I asked a gentleman to take a picture of me inside the museum. I think Imelda still did not believe we were going to beat the bridge closing.

Heading back on the course I suggested to Imelda our potty break probably added less than 10 minutes to our time and I was quite confident the folks on line for the porta potty were still on line (and were going to have significantly less pleasant conditions than us!). As we headed up to the Capitol it was obvious most runners were starting to struggle. But Imelda was running really strong. She was keeping a very consistent pace and while it was obvious she was experiencing discomfort she was powering through it. I told her so and she was so sweet and said she appreciated my words of encouragement.

As we rounded the turn to head down Independence Ave I saw a really cute Samoyed which I needed to pet. Imelda continued on while I got my doggie fix. Prior to Gilligan I had a Rescue Samoyed who was the polar opposite of Gilligan in energy but very similar in temperament. Snowball had boundless energy for the first 10 years of his life, the next 2 years he was a “normal dog” and his last 2 years he did slow down and sort of had as much energy/activity as Gilligan at his most active. After a few minutes I realized I needed to catch up to Imelda again so ran pretty fast.

I really like the section of the Marine Corps Marathon that goes by the Mall. There are many spectators, the views are wonderful both heading towards the Capitol and then heading back to the Washington Monument and of course we go by many of the Smithsonian Museums which are very pretty. Running along we passed by a lady dressed like a dinosaur which was really funny. Then there were the hot dog and banana costumed spectators. It was pretty amusing. Of course I stopped for pictures!

At mile 19 Imelda stopped to stretch and put on some icy hot. Then we had a very nice marine take our picture. By this time I think Imelda knew she would be finishing the race. It had only been a little over 4 hours since we started running and she had plenty of time to finish.

Chatting with other runners, appreciating the views and appreciating the numerous cheering spectators we continued on our journey. As we approached the Washington Monument I stepped off course briefly for a picture while Imelda continued on. It was obvious she was starting to get tired and was in pain but she was doing an amazing job continuing to run strong. As I caught up to her I think she finally realized that we had less than half a mile to the bridge and plenty of time to spare.

A drum band along the course was providing a steady beat to give us energy and encouragement. I filmed for a bit then caught up with Imelda. As we approached the bridge Imelda finally acknowledged we no longer had any pace worries and could enjoy the rest of the race. We got a picture in front of the “Beat the Bridge Sign” then continued on. A little ways across the bridge I knew there was a great view of the Jefferson Monument and Washington Monument. A nice runner took our picture then we continued our long ~1 mile journey across the bridge.

The bridge section ended with a small incline. Finally Imelda was wholeheartedly embracing the “walk the hills” philosophy. So we walked it. Passing by the Pentagon we had a small downhill and were on our way to Crystal City. This section was fun because we could see other runners heading towards the finish line. The energy of the crowds, the knowledge we had less than 5 miles to the finish and of course knowing we had beaten the bridge gave us a much needed boost.

On the “out section” we determined we were behind the 5:30 pace group. Because of our break at the Lincoln Memorial and subsequently at the Museum of American History we had no idea where we were with respect to this pace group. We also saw lots of runners we had met throughout the course. We saw Lindsay and her Aunt, several of my Marathon Maniac friends and so many others. Also along the course were my friends the Knutsons from Fleet Feet Running Thursday night fun runs (as well as from EXPO Friday morning when we arrived early in hopes of being first in line). After a quick picture, it was time to catch up with Imelda who was hauling.

Heading into Crystal City I spotted the Annapolis Striders table with tasty treats. I stopped by briefly for a pretzel and to chat with the runners who I vaguely recognized from the B&A trail marathon (which is definitely in my top 10 marathons). After chatting for a bit I realized I needed to catch up with Imelda. In this section we also had our second opportunity to toast our victory with the Harriers Beer group. I got a picture with the beer advertisement sign but elected to skip partaking in a frosty treat as the first and only time I took advantage of the beer in this marathon (2005), I ended up puking after I finished and subsequently puking in my car (thus explaining my need to have a puke bucket in every car). I did however grab a handful of pretzels to share with Imelda who was by this time well ahead of me. (Note to self—I need to stop loitering on the course!)

The crowds in this section were amazing and kept us moving. And of course the runners heading back to the finish line yelled all sorts of encouraging things. Crystal City is pretty cool because they have a block party from the early morning until about 5 in the afternoon. They have bands scattered throughout the city, lots of fun things going on and rainbow colored flags lining the street.

By this time I was embracing my new nickname “Hula Girl”. About 50% of spectators read my name and 50% called me hula girl (with a slightly higher % of kids calling me hula girl). The cheers and encouragement provided so much energy and made this section go quickly for me at least (well that and all my side trips).

Near the turnaround I decided all of the Gatorade and water was hitting me and I needed a potty break. I mentioned to Imelda my need for a potty and she suggested she would be up for a break as well. We spotted a Quiznos and started to head towards it. But it was dark. Luckily Chipotle had left their light on for us and we decided to head inside. With several stalls, hot and cold running water and the ability to take a moment life was good again. After finishing our business and a quick application of icy hot for Imelda it was time to get back on the course and to finish this marathon. One picture at the restaurant and a picture taken by a spectator with Crystal City as the backdrop it was time for me to catch up with Imelda again.

Heading out of Crystal City past the Pentagon towards the finish line it was obvious we were going to break a 6 hour marathon with a significant margin. Although Imelda was starting to struggle a bit, she was still jogging. During hills she would walk up but on flat sections she would jog. After a brief pit stop near the pentagon at a less than productive porta potty break it was time to continue our journey. I suggested to Imelda that we were all in pain and that when looking at other runners she was doing really well. She was for the most part jogging and continuing to pass runners.

As we passed mile 25 disaster occurred. I saw a friend ahead of us from the New River Trail 50 km: Dale (who had a T-shirt on that said Team Wildlife). He and I chatted and I got a picture. I had sped up to chat with him and did not realize Imelda had passed me. So after chatting I stopped and started looking for Imelda. While runners pass me I cheer them on. I vaguely started worrying she might have headed towards the many porta potties so I waited in this area for about 5 minutes. I even started walking backwards on the course looking for her. Finally I gave her a call (on my crappy phone which drops calls, chirps incessantly even when you are on the phone and basically is worse than two soup cans and a piece of yarn for communicating!). I drop into voicemail. This is not good.

Imelda calls me back and says she is by the porta potties that are at about mile 25.5. But I am by the porta potties by mile 25. I am about to have to start sprinting like Hussien Bolt. But it is the end of a marathon! I pass under the bridge where I believe she passed me while I was chatting with Dale. She gives me a call and mentions she is at the Arlington Cemetary Bridge. This is a good half mile ahead of me! I continue sprinting as best I can. Garmin clicks off 11 minute mile, 10 minute mile, 9 minute mile, 8 minute mile. At this point I start breathing heavily and am struggling for the first time in the marathon. But spectators are impressed with my burst of speed. I continue on and get to the bridge. I stop and look around walking forward and backwards a bit in hopes that Imelda has stopped here to wait for me. But, alas no Imelda.

I get a call on my phone. Imelda has crossed the finish line. I have .2 miles to go. I resume sprinting up the last bit of the race in hopes of catching Imelda in the finishing chute. But of course I need a picture or two approaching the finish line. Then I have less than 100 meters and I run across the finish line. Alas I unfortunately do not run into Imelda here. But I do see my friend Mayra. We get a picture together. And I see many of my friends I met along the course in the finishing corral. I get my space blanket. Then I get my finishers medal. Of course I get a picture receiving my finisher’s medal. Then it is off to the Iwo Jima Memorial for my finisher’s picture. Because there are such huge crowds at the finish I cannot find Imelda. I am a bit bummed out.

As I am wandering around cursing out my phone which will not let me make calls without chirping or having static (or even being able to hear because of so many runners chatting) I run into my friend Barry the juggler. We chat about upcoming events and he wishes me luck at JJ100. I also run into my friend who interviewed Imelda and I during the race. Apparently during my fits and spurts during my attempt to finish the race I have passed then unpassed him. He apparently saw and chatted with Imelda after she finished and may have even finished very close to her. Unfortunately I never do catch up to Imelda. By the time I call Imelda and can hear what she is saying, she is at her car. She sounds good and is excited to have finished her first marathon.

Having been last at many events (several of which were this year), I head back onto the course to cheer on runners. As I exit the finishers area I head over to the Reston Runners Tree. I hope to find Cindy and my stuff. But in fact I find nothing but a tree. No Cindy and no stuff. I am a bit alarmed because I had a good jacket and a pair of pants and am a bit chilly. I take a spin around the tree trying to see if perhaps my bag has migrated to the back. But there is nothing there. Giving up I call Cindy on the same crappy phone that will not let me speak to Imelda. I struggle with the same beeping issues, static and silence. I leave a message for Cindy in hopes that she has taken my bag since it was tied to hers.

I then wander down to the finish area. I am a little worried because I am getting chilly and I have no extra clothing since my drop bag is gone and Tristan has my long sleeve shirt and I have no idea where (or if) he is at the race. After a few minutes I stumble on Tristan which is good because I at least get my longsleeve shirt. But I am bummed to hear Tristan has parked the car even further away from the finish line than usual. It is past the State Department on the corner of 22nd and F. I will have a 1.5 mile hike after the last runner comes in. Luckily I am an ultra-marathoner so I can handle this.

Wandering the course backwards, I see many of my friends finishing. When runners have their name on their shirt I cheer them on. Runners who have distinguishing outfits get personalized cheers as well. I clap for everyone and hoot and holler a bit. Tristan brings out the big guns, the cowbell so we ring that as well. Tristan and I stand in front of the DJ for a while and listen to the music, dance in place a bit and cheer on runners. We then continue our journey and end up turning around about mile 25.

I find this part of the race is most emotional for me. I am confident in my marathoning ability just because I have done so many. But many of these folks are probably going further than they ever imagined and are plodding along with guts, grit and determination. They definitely will finish the marathon and should be proud. Several runners notice my medal and congratulate me. I, of course, encourage them to finish this marathon so they can earn their own medal.

Slowly the line of runners slows to a trickle. It is past 3 p.m., but because of chip timing I insist we stay until 3:25 for those folks who started in the appropriate corral. I run into my friend Carolyn from Virginia Happy Trails (who I ran with at Haines Point). We chat for a bit and I introduce her to Tristan. I think they have met and Tristan confirms this when he suggests she ran Umstead. We chat about running in general and then she heads to Crystal City and Tristan and I head to the Arlington Bridge.

About 3:30 the police escort, buses, ambulance and many other vehicles pass by. So Tristan and I start our long journey to the car. Crossing the bridge I remember how many times I have done this with Tristan and my mom. I take a few pictures and appreciate the beautiful weather we were fortunate to have. At the Lincoln Memorial I take a few pictures then use the ladies room. There is no line this time!

With my Garmin (which was started at the race beginning—not when I got off the Rosslyn Metro Stop) reading 31.5 miles we arrive at the car. I am tired but feel really good. MCM was a good training run for Javelina 100 and I had a great time running with Imelda. I loved seeing all my friends and making lots of new friends along the course. Overall it a very successful day.

Tristan drops me off at the Metro where the truck is. I drive home and realize that while my sparkely fanny pack has my license, meds, a bit of money and credit cards; it does not have my house keys. I go over to my friend Karen’s house and luckily she is there and has a spare set of keys. To multi-task I ask her if she wants to take the dogs for a walk. And I ask if she has a large suitcase I can use for Javelina 100 in Arizona because while I am packed my usual strategy of having Tristan carry some of my stuff will not work for JJ100 which he is not coming to. She gives me the house keys and says she will bring over the suitcase when she brings Simba to join Gilligan and I for a walk. After nearly 12 hours, I am able to return home.

I put on a pair of pants, grab a jacket and it is time to walk Gilligan. I don’t mind Gilligan’s super slow walking pace and we leisurely stroll around the block. It continues to be a beautiful day. Tristan arrives home with our dinner and joins Karen, Simba, Gilligan and I on our walk.

After dinner I take a long shower, pack a bit more for Javalina, and hang up my running clothing which Tristan had washed while I showered.

It was now time to taper for Javalina or maybe it was now time to recover from MCM. It’s a tough call!


CTmarathoner said...

TAMMY -GREAT write up as usual -now you do not need to do anything but rest this week -lol...
when does the Marine corps reg. open? I'd like to run it next year, I think...have only run it once n 1992 and loved the course--was always in NYCM, but next year want to do both.
Good race!!!

joyRuN said...

You've totally sold me on this marathon as a must-do!

Runner Tammy said...

Hi Emmy,

Thank you! I had a wonderful time during this race.

I think registration is in April but am not positive of the exact date. It might be listed at the mcm marathon website


Marine Corps Marathon is a great race. It is really big but that is part of the attraction because by having 20,000-30,000 runners means there are guestimated to be over 1 million spectators!

MCM makes Richmond Marathon look sparsely populated:-)


wild1 said...

Tammy, It was nice to see you again at the MCM. You came up when I was really dragging so a friendly face was especially nice. Hopefully I will see you at Umstead next March.

Team Wildlife

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Wow. A picture of you between a hotdog and a banana?

What's the matter? Couldn't find a guy in a Pickle suit so you could hit Teh Phallic Trifecta?

Congrats on another success, Hula Girl!

Runner Tammy said...

Haha...that's a good one. Next year maybe I will have to be the pickle and search out these folks:-)