When we found out a few months ago that if you registered and completed the Marine Corps 17.75K that you would get a guaranteed entry into the Marine Corps Marathon (#38thMCM), we figured “why not?” Of course I stated over and over (and over again) that I would run the 17.75K but would NOT (no way ever) register for MCM. I knew Jeff wanted to run MCM again, so this would be his guarantee to get in since it sells out in a few hours.
After beating my body up racing the Va Beach Shamrock 1/2 Marathon last weekend (Jeff ran the full) I ended up with some pretty painful knee pain a few days after. I ended up only running one day (Wednesday) between the races. I was a bit worried that I was not trained enough – but figured it was more important to be rested. We headed to the Quantico Marine Corps base Friday night to pick up our packets (it was about a 1 1/2 hour drive). After a faulty GPS address on the registration information, we found packet pickup at the Marine Corps Marathon Headquarters building – very cool! It was a quick in and out to get our numbers and awesome tech t-shirt!
Pre-Race Dinner…We stayed at a hotel about 6 miles from the base and found a nice Italian restaurant, Zibibbo, across the street to get our carb-fix – it was very yummy! The Fairfield Inn we stayed at was brand new, and I will have to say I was impressed with the modern design of the lobby and the rooms. I had peeked at the course map prior and it looked – pretty darn easy to me. But when I saw Jeff watching a video of the course I thought I would take a look – UH OH…was I wrong…the description was “challenging” and “brutal“…at least that is what I heard…and “hills” and “inclines” and “trails”! Oh well, it’s a PR no matter what – 17.75K, never done that!
Race Morning...We had an 11 mile drive to the commuter lot where we boarded a shuttle bus to take us to the start. In proper Marine fashion, the buses were prompt and dropped us pretty quickly at the start. There wasn’t very many port-a-potties at the start, but we found an opened office building along with a few other hundred runners and the lines went quick. There were no numbered corrals and I thought we got in a good place kind of near the start line as we waited for 0800. The announcements were clear and of course as expected the race started right on time – loved that!
Ready, Go!…I cranked up my iPod (my best friend!) and was off – and quickly realized we were way too far back in the corral – I weaved in and out of hundreds of people for the first 2 miles. I am pretty good at that and being kind of small was able to jockey my way up pretty far pretty quick! I focused on picking off female after female and was pretty successful at reeling them in. I glanced at my Garmin and my pace was sub-8:00, but not the 7:30 I wanted – boo hiss! I tried to run faster – but the roadway now was an incline and frankly I STINK at hills and inclines. Jeff was somewhere behind me and close behind me I guessed – I know he sometimes likes to follow me as I crazily weave in and out at the start of races. He was at my side prior to the turn on the Prince William Forest trail – which was a slight hill. The terrain was a little rough, but we soon started an awesome decline – yeah! I was hitting a 7:15 pace and that made me smile. I was enjoying this run! My smile quickly faded. The decline turned into a horrible hill and my pace fell back.
Around mile 4 the pack seemed to be comfortably in their respective places. The trail ended and we turned onto a paved road that weaved through the forest. There was no traffic which was nice. I remember a few flat places, but mainly it was a continually incline and then a horrible hill. Just before mile 5 my knee started hurting – ugh – and at the same time my hamstrings started screaming. Jeff must have been feeling pretty good because around mile 6 he pulled slowly away in front of me. This didn’t bother me, I like to see how long I can see him before he disappears.
I took a Gu at mile 6, took me a mile to get it all down. The hills continued, the pain continued – it wasn’t unbearable but it did keep me from picking up the pace. I was wondering what the heck I was doing out there several times. At mile 8 we hit the steepest decline I have ever run down – I looked at my Garmin and I was hitting a 6:04 pace, my hamstrings were on fire! I had to slow myself down – OWWWWWW! At least we were going down…but of course, that ended quickly and another hill was staring at me. There were signs along the course that are funny now – they said things like “You are NOT almost there” and “You will quit, when I am done!” and “Attack the hill!”. By mile 9, I was longing for the finish…I could see Jeff until mile 10 and then he was outta sight. There were 2 crazy-steep hills that caused a few people around me to walk – I refused, I couldn’t give in and walk – but I was running like I was 95 years old I’m sure!
The last mile was…ummm…horribly hard. I reflected on my 19 years of racing and decided I had never run anything this tough! I was missing my treadmill and the flat roads of St. Mary’s County, MD. I gained a quick appreciation for people that train on hills – and also knew I should start doing that. The race finished again on the trail and up a hill – wow…I was humbled when I got to the finish line and just so grateful to see the clock.
It’s Over!…I finished in 1:28, an 8:01 pace – I wasn’t happy at all with that pace. I saw Jeff at the finish – he finished over 2 minutes ahead of me and I wished I could have stayed with him. We had to walk up another hill to the post-race festivities and I seriously didn’t think I was going to make it. My knee was aching bad and I was having trouble walking on it. We grabbed some snacks and then headed over to get our “Access” cards to register for MCM and our finishers coins. We were lucky to hop on the first shuttle back to our car and were outta there! On the drive home I checked my results and was shocked to see I was 2nd place in my age out of 115! Really didn’t expect that! That was a nice birthday present along with the pain I was experiencing!
Jeff registered for MCM when we got home. As I said, I had no intention of registering….but now...I’m considering it...it surely can’t be any harder then the brutal 17.75K we just ran! I ran a marathon 1998, checked the box and was done. Really didn’t have any plans of running another for years…but what do I have to lose? Time – the training is daunting to me…ugh….I still can’t decide…I have until 12pm tomorrow (Monday) to decide…I’m leaning toward yes, do it…but my legs and knee are so sore today that I can barely get off the couch – so running is not in my mind! Guess I will sleep on it!