Yes, it is April Fool’s Day. I could do something “hilarious,” but let’s face it, you are all fools for reading this blog. And you are fools especially if you think that this is going to be a funny post, or a short one. But I don’t care–these are some thoughts that are important to me, and a marathon is a marathon, both in running it and discussing it. But I would love it if you stuck around, today we are talking about fun things (!), and nonsense will return before long. I want to mention 2 things that slipped my mind yesterday: 1) I ran 19.5 miles of the race sans music. This was completely abnormal for me until my 22 miler, but it was so appropriate for this race. I plugged into KP when I exited the Mall, and she made that 19th mile EPIC and then transitioned me to the finish. But that is a large part of why I remember as much as I do.
2) Perhaps the most iconic moment of the race, for me: around mile 9ish, I looked forward and saw about 6 guys in matching shirts running in a very orderly fashion. As I got closer, and eventually passed them, I saw that it was group of soldiers (not American, actually, I think they were speaking German), running in formation around a friend (obviously a member of their unit) who was in a wheelchair, and missing his legs. They were taking turns pushing him. Thinking about it now, and every time I relay that story, I get chills.
Now, to lighten the mood a little: Today I wanted to chat a little bit about the weekend surrounding the marathon, specifically the festivities hosted by Runner’s World Challenge and the official Marine Corps Marathon merch that I got from Brooks. We going to kind of Tarrentino things, and go back to the beginning–now that you know how the marathon ended up, let’s see how I got there!
I knew that I wanted to have the full day Saturday to join in on the shake out run through the Mall, investigate the Expo, attend the Runner’s World Challenge Q&A sesh, and to mill about Old Town Alexandria (lovelovelove), so my Mom and I both flew in from our respective locations Friday afternoon and then went to Old Town to get my nails did (they had chipped, tsktsk) and to go to dinner and let Mom do some investigatory research of one of my fave little areas. We had a fantastic dinner at Grape & Bean –we shared a wine flight, smoked salmon, and blue crab salad—and made the necessary stop at the old-timey candy shop on the main square. #priorities, obviously (nails, wine, food, candy). Then in was back to the hotel for the night, so that we could get up bright and early to get to the Mall!
Shake it oooout
We arrived at the Mall the next morning thanks to the Metro, and met the RWC crew in front of the Smithsonian. It was a GORGEOUS and CRISP day (chillllly), but I was so excited about meeting Kristin of STUFT Mama and Bart Yasso, and anyone and everyone else that even I was ok with it (ish). We were all a little bit standoffish/cold to start, but you can imagine what happened when Bart broke the ice and we started our trot around one of the most beautiful areas in our country, on a gorgeous morning, in bright fall air, with practically no one (as in, a couple hundred, max) around….
Conversation started to flow. We were literally trotting, no big pace deal, so conversation was easy, and I got to talk to people who were on their bajillionth marathon as well as other first timers, others worried about injury (literally I was scared with every step). 20 minutes max, but just relaxing and exciting. I hoarded food, we said our goodbyes (for now) and parted ways, and then it was off to the Race Expo!
Again, thank goodness that we did RWC—we got to skip the EPIC line for numbers that was already snaking out of the tent, which was located outside the Armory (where the expo was held). Mom and I waited in line for about 30 minutes total before we were in, and then I got my number and started gathering samples and merch. This was my marathon, I was with my mom, and we were gonna go shoppin. And grab allthefreethings. That included (but was not limited to) about 50 coupons for All Whites Liquid Whites (and we both got blender bottles, which we both had to leave behind due to suitcase constraints), tried all the Honey Stinger waffles and Sport Bean Protein Beans (I grabbed what I could, had to buy a few :D), and enter Brooks Marathon Utopia.
I didn’t know it, but our purchases at the Brooks “booth” enabled me to be a Brooks VIP and be able to use the Brooks bathrooms right at the start. Luckily I didn’t have to go, but next time I will get confirmation. After we had shopped sufficiently, we went in search of brunch/lunch and shopping in Old Town (yeah Metro), after dropping swag at the hotel. I was still cold from the morning, so I just put my jeans on over my (full) compression ensemble (because that is often how I roll).
In Old Town, Mom and I did some daylight exploration of the gorgeous historic streets and the Potomac waterfront, and then we mosied up King Street in search of some foodstuffs. We decided on Cosi (unexciting, I know, but nonthreatening to the stomach). My salad was a biiiit bigger than I had anticipated, but wth, you know I hoovered that sucker, and some soup, and half of my mom’s flatbread. Then Mom and I did some damage at Francesca’s and at the Nine West Outlet (I FOUND BOOTIES) before it was time for me to head off to the Metro again to get to the q&A sesh. I convinced Mom to YOLO and get her hair cut, and she had THE BEST TIME. Waaaaay too much fun. I had fun at the session (which I am so, so very glad that I went to—tons of good information and I drank a Gatorade and continued my fueling with snacks), but I was starting to get increasingly nervous about what to wear during the actual race. I tend towards being cold, and what if I had to walk 16 miles? Would I make the cut-off, even? *^%(&^%$(&^(&^ GAH. I hadn’t been nervous until just then, but then WHAM the nerves started to hit. So I did my best to just soak up the awesome, and to let what would happen, happen.
And then I got on the Metro, went 2 stops too long on the wrong line, missed the trains by thismuch 3 times, and finally got off at Old Town 2 hours later. I was headed up to the hotel shuttle pick up point (way past when I was supposed to eat) and then finally said F IT ALL TO HELL and got dinner from a gas station, hailed a cab, and went back to the hotel, where I ate my “meal” of Annie’s Mac and Cheese (my prerace dinner), hardboiled eggs (from the convenience store), ice cream (duh) and god knows what else. I rolled out my legs like my life depended on it, and went to bed.
Working with Runner’s World Challenge for Marathon Training
When I signed up for MCM in March of 2013, I opted to run with Runners World Challenge. My mom agreed to give me the experience for my birthday, important because RWC ran about $350, if I remember correctly. By doubling the price of the entry fee, RWC provided me with guaranteed entry (and they would handle everything), access to a variety of training plans, a copy of a Runners World book of our choosing, a tech shirt, advice forums, yoga online, and sounding boards to ask questions. The weekend of the race, we had a shakeout run the morning before (with Bart Yasso and staff!) through the mall, information sessions such as a q&a strategy session with the editors/staff and the race director, and, most importantly, VIP areas before and after the race. That meant a heated tent, breakfast, dedicated portalets, and RWC took care of our bags for us before the race. The pre-race treatment could be enough to justify the steeper price, particularly the guaranteed entry and ability to keep warm and not have to deal with the crazy of pre-race organization of 25k+ people.
Speaking of, did I mention that I also ran the race? haha
When I left off yesterday, I had just been saluted and given my medal by three Marines. Talk about goosebumps and a surreal moment of pride but of complete gratitude and humility. Then you have your official race photo taken and, if you care to, you can head straight forward to take pictures in front of the Memorial. I, sadly, was a bit too focused on other, ahem, things (cough: food) and passed by, then realized that I missed it, then saw the masses of people, and moved on. I got my post race ZIP UP throwaway **This was awesome, and I plan to use mine as a throwaway for my next marathon. So much better than the blanket things. I was pretty good, warmth wise (the sun had come out in full by now), so I held on to mine and grabbed a food box and banana and water. I don’t really remember what all was in there, but I remember being impressed. But I knew I had an after party to attend, and that they would have food 😀
After being told to go the wrong way, I finally figured out where I was going and made my painful way up the hill (by now, my ITB were nosohappy) to the party. I grabbed my checked bag from the RW crew, snapped selfies, looked around for Mom (not there yet), and headed for the food and massages. Cue angels singgggging. I could’ve taken a creepy pic of this, but at that point, I was only taking pictures of things that were necessary. And massage was more necessary. I got worked on (ermigerd. It was no Missy, but ermigerd) and then started grabbing as many plates of food for myself and Mom that I could. This included some amazing All Whites creations (so. good), bagels, fruit, and cookies. I skipped Jamba Juice because I knew I needed more solid food, and I had honestly had enough sugar for the day, or at least for that moment.
Apparently, they were giving Mom a hard time (how dare?!?!) so I assured them that she was ok, and we sat down (on the floor because some a$$hat had literally moved my things off of a chair and taken it for themselves) and ate, and and people watched. I was….tired, to say the least. Then it was time to gather ourselves, I changed into compression pants, and we started the process of getting back. That part of the story is long, we know what post race can be like, but I will say that I got watermelon from the watermelon people, and there were tons of fun things for everyone.
I took a shower upon our return, propped my feet up, and assessed the damage. Noice.
That night, Mom and I met up with one of my best friends and her husband at one of our fave restaurants, Chart House, which is right on the Potomac and has a salad bar with caviar. I got a lobster and crab roll to start (I believe, it’s been a while, but it was fantastic), a glass of wine, and the salad bar. Afterwards, I went on a rather futile search for froyo (it was Sunday. Everything was closed. FML) and then we made our way back to the hotel, slept, and then flew home the next day.
Inspiration, gratitude, and amazement are truly the emotions that consumed me every step of the way to the finish. The entire 4 hours that I spent running the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon justified the 4 previous months of seemingly endless stretching, rolling, begging Alex to massage my IT bands, and peroneals, and calves, and Achilles, and having Missy dig her elbows and forearms into my tttttoiiiight body, realigning me, and listening to my anxiety and frustration as we desperately tried to deal with my ITBS, which emerged in the last month and a half of training. Sorry for the extreme sentence. I am actually one of those people who loved the training aspect of getting ready for the marathon; well, I did until my ITB made everything a guessing game. I guess my training was just going too well. But, I can tell you that I would not have had the marathon experience I enjoyed if I hadn’t gone through the trials of a slew of injuries and obstacles.
Though I must say that I got the VIP treatment from Runner’s World, Brooks, and the Marines, the best part of the weekend, and truly the greatest treat of all of it, was the fact that my mom was there to support me. Seeing her on the course made.my.life. every time. The fact that she reminded me that my grandfather was a Marine, and that I felt the necessary surge right by Arlington Cemetery. I know that the energy my mom brought to the weekend, the support, putting up with my jitters, my tiredness, and then my elation, but just BEING THERE, well it meant everything. I am so, so, so fortunate to have a family that supports my endeavors, and to have a mother who supports, claims, and encourages these crazy delusions of grandeur (within reason, duh). She has never tried to hold me back, never told me that I had to stay close, stay quiet. People gave her such flack for letting me ride, letting me run, letting me go away to school. People told her, “How can you let her do that? Why don’t you make her stay?” Mom’s reaction? “First of all, she wouldn’t have given me the choice, and secondly, why on earth would I? There is nothing wrong with her!” She believes in me so wholeheartedly; my one hope is that I am able to help her to believe in herself. I think on last weekend as an example: 4:30? PSHT We are going to give this all we got–and look! Under 4!
RWC, the apparel, the ability to go to the race, the race itself, shopping, yes, these are all superficial treats. They cost money. I am well aware, and so, so thankful, for the fact that my family offered to, and was able to, fund this endeavor. Alex and I paid for everything that occurred in Chicago (shoes, PT, etc), but I was treated to this experience (with the agreement that after this, I would take care of things). And…it was simply once in a lifetime. And I must stress that my mom was just as important as the Marines in engendering that feeling.
As I was running, I saw people fighting their own battles while grateful to those that enabled them to have the privilege to fight those personal battles. I ran this marathon for myself, but I ran it because my mom has fought so hard for me all the while. Mommy, I salute you.
And I can’t wait for Marathon Weekend #2 this fall at Twin Cities, where you know we will both be wearing our Swirlgear, I will be taking notes for Ramblen, and I HOPE there will be far less anxiety about the status of my legs, but just as much success in the endeavor.
Do you go bananas at Race Expos? What is your favorite piece of race day merch? Or do you hate expos? I tend to run through them as quickly as possible unless it is a race of particular importance for me. Or I have someone to help me pay for things lol.
Who goes with you to your races? Or do you roll in solo?