Sunday, March 15, 2015

Napa Valley Marathon 2015

The 37th Annual Napa Valley Marathon (NVM) is my 9th NVM, my 38th career marathon, and my first marathon for 2015. It was simply unbelievable.  So far, I have been able to string 3 fantastic races in a row. Starting off my 2015 racing season with an-8 miler, Castle Coast in January, followed by the Kaiser Permanente 1/2 marathon in San Francisco in February, and then this March, NVM. I haven't posted a personal record in any of the three recent races, however, what I've been able to do  is hone a stronger finish. I'm happy to report that I am 3 for 3 in this department.

I had been holding my breath as to how I was going to do in Napa. I have been a little bit laxed with my training with holidays, family visits and life in general.  Although I didn't push as hard this training cycle, I believe my training was enough going into the marathon. I was highly satisfied with the way I executed the race.  I had 3 goals in mind for Napa. Goal "C" was to PR, of course, but if that didn't happen I was not going to be heartbroken. Goal "B" was a accomplishing a sub-four finish. Again, if it didn't materialize, I was not going to be disappointed. Finally, goal "A" was what intended to do: to have a strong finish.  Let me explain.

In February for the 1/2 in San Francisco, I was able to kick it in a higher gear in the last 5k. I had a strong finish and passed a number of runners, where normally I would fade due to fatigue or cramping, whichever came first.  I knew that I may not be able to replicate that kind of strong finish in the marathon, however, what I was capable of, was to resist the incredible urge to walk in the last 6 miles. I accomplished just that.  I only walked at the water stops to drink for 5-7 seconds. This was a huge accomplishment for me. I typically lose about 6-7 minutes in the last 10k. As a result, I've produced my 2nd best time on this course today at 4:07:01.

I may have mentioned this before, NVM was my 2nd marathon ever.  I have been in love with the course since running it for the first time in 2003. I've been back 9 times since then and each time I forget that it's a rolling hills course until I'm on it. I had deferred last year due to a plantar fasciitis (PF) injury. I couldn't complete the training so sadly I had to withdraw. Thankfully, I am now back on track and the PF is completely gone. It knocked me out for 6 weeks with a self imposed no running. I thought I was going to be a basket case for not being able to run those 6 weeks, but when your heel hurt so much when all you're trying to do is walk or stand still, then there's not much grieving you can do. Getting back into running took a lot of patience. it took me the better part of the 2014. It was upsetting not being able to get back to the same fitness level before the injury, but I learned quickly that it takes time and you can't hurry "it" where the consequences might be back to possibly being injured again. I digress, I will tell you the reasons why I keep coming back to Napa at the end of this report. For now, let's get to the nitty gritty, shall we?

The expo's theme this year was a celebration of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team which consisted of Don Kardong, Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter.  We got to the Expo late so we missed all of it. It was my fault; I took a wrong turn, believing I knew a better shortcut. Thank goodness my passenger, Heidi was patient as I tried to download an app to help us get back on track to Napa. No pun intended.
The three amigos...sorry I miss seeing ya'll.

We saved some money by staying at Motel 6.  The rest of the Napa hotels got a little "smarter" by insisting on a two-night minimum stay. "Ah no, thanks, I have to get back to work the next day."

Motel 6 was recently renovated so it was clean and had all the necessary requirements a marathoner needs...microwave, bed, toilet paper. Yes, I said TP. This harkens back memories from 6 months ago in the Ventura Marathon. America's Best Quality Inn in Oxnard was rationing TP like we're in a zombie apocalypse. Can you say never again?
...sporting my new duffel.

I am so happy that the shirt is not white for a change. I love this cobalt blue!

After securing our room, we headed to the Expo to get my duffel bag, shirts, and bib and for Heidi to sign in as a volunteer.  It was a quick and painless process. After the pickup, we headed to carbo-load to our favorite Italian restaurant called Ristaurante Allegria in downtown Napa. Since we were 1/2 hour late, we lost our "inside" reservation.  We had to settle to sit outside. Thank goodness we had heat lamps.  It was still freezing even with the heat lamps. We had our fill of pasta. Even Heidi carbo-loaded for her 5K race.

Linguini with Manila clams, fabuloso!

Around 7 pm, we got back to the motel to get our usual eve-of-race day-rituals, laying out our race clothes, pinning the bib on our shirts, getting the timing chip on the shoes, filling water bottles, and preparing race day nutrition.

This is the first time in 9 years, that I have decided to take full advantage of the BYOB (bring your own bottles) service, that NVM offers. I guess it took me this long to get serious about my race day nutrition.  I've been plagued with late race day cramping. So what I did was plan to use 4 aide stations that would give me what I want to drink. I purchased 4 throwaway water bottles from the dollar store.  I could have used the regular water bottles I guess, but I needed something to "pop" and grab my attention when I am running tired. I don't want to be searching for my water bottles in the middle of a race. I need to see it right away way before I approach the aide station. So my bottles were green and I tied a red balloon on it.  From 50 yards away I should be able to spot my personal drink.  Glad to report that it worked perfect.  At one point, I was not even thinking, I almost missed my bottle if it weren't for the balloon.  I passed the table and it was an afterthought, "Oh there's another balloon. Wait that's mine!"  I had to run back to get it. I liked using this service.  It makes you feel like an elite.
The special drinks to be transported to the aid stations. 
Can you spot my drinks?

As  I was preparing my water bottles, Heidi jokingly, asked how hard it would be to drink from it, if I had that silly balloon in my face.  Valid question. You might be curious to know too.  I already thought  about that. As I'm grabbing my drink, my plan was to pop it with the safety pin from my bib. You're probably asking what's inside my bottles. One bottle had pickle juice in it. The other two bottles have cola Nuun. One other bottle have beet juice.  The pickle juice was the best.   8 oz. was not enough. I gulped it like there was no tomorrow. I wished my bottle was bigger. It may sound weird but it was refreshing after running 16 miles.  The best part, it prevented my cramps.

The weather was perfect. It was around high 30's at the start to about 66 at the finish.  We had winds about 9mph, from the North, which i thought would be a slight tailwind, but sadly it was the opposite. nonetheless it couldn't have gone any better.the Napa course winds from Calistoga to Napa along the Silverado Trail. The first 6 miles have slight rollers but not quad-crushing bad.
One of the advantages of staying in the hotel sponsored by the marathon is that you get VIP treatment. To me that means, breakfast, specifically, coffee, before we board the buses. Our motel weren't serving coffee until the 5 am. The problem was we had to be at the high school at 5 am! So smart Heidi and Aileen decided to go to the Marriott and try to snag free coffee.  Can you tell how this is going to end?  We entered the hotel with confidence.  From 50 yards away, I spotted see the easel with complementary to NVP "marathoners only" --or something to that effect. The exact wording, I couldn't remember.  As we walked closer, I advised Heidi with "Let's walk confidently, and try not to look guilty, like we don't belong here."  Wel,l the coffee attendant must have read my lips as we walked, unwittingly towards her and attempted to enter the room with shiny silver coffee urn that seems to have halo all around it.  She stopped us in our tracks and asked, as if she knew, "May I see you room key?"
"Ah we don't have it."  (I think I had the deer in the headlights look.)
"Show me your bib."
"It's in the car."
"Coffee is for Marriott guests only."

We laughed all the way to the car. Really? "Heidi, how could our bibs be in the car?" Even  she knows we should have it pinned on our shirts.  I swear we are not good liars. It was way too early in the morning and we clearly needed coffee to be sharper.  By this time, it was already 5 am, so we drove back to Motel 6 and grabbed their piping hot coffee! Have you see the Seinfeld episode with the Soup Nazi? Yeah, this one was close.
An obligatory selfie...oh wait, Heidi is flagging her  hands up and down...she thinks I'm taking her picture...

...thank goodness I was quick to take hers...
...sending me off to my bus...see y'all in a couple of hours...

The runners boarded the buses at Vintage High School in Napa which took us to Calistoga. The buses were prompt. If you were late, you were out of luck.  You had to find your own way to Calistoga. I only know this because Heidi was a volunteer at the race day bib pick-up and that's exactly what happened to this English lady who was late. She missed the bus.  Incidentally, the boss of the bus drivers was in my bus and she radio-ed all the bus drivers who were parked by the school waiting on the wings and she ordered them to start driving back to the yard. The ride took about 50 minutes and the usual nervous chatter of other runners filled the air. I sat quietly to finish my breakfast of banana, bagel and Gatorade.

...thank you stranger for taking my picture at the start...

Once we got to Calistoga, we were allowed to stay warm inside the bus for as long as we wanted. I stayed for a few minutes then I got off to walk to the start line to drop off my special drinks and visit the porta potty.  I  then located my bus associated with my bib number to drop off my drop bag. I had about 10 minutes to do some abbreviated warm up and form drills way in the back of the start line.
...last bathroom stop...they are singing the anthem...

Then we were off. This race is punctual.  I let the runners go but not before I made a second stop at the porta-potties. It was a good start for me being in the back again. I avoid a bad start by going out too fast.  Being in the back secured a slower start for me. I relish being among the walkers.

After a good first two mile warm-up, I started picking up speed to get to my happy pace.  I was comfortable.  I was glad that I had a thin long sleeve on with a half zip. When it got warm all I had to do is pull zipper down.  I was also thankful I decided to go with shorts rather than capris. I would have been too hot.  One note about dressing up for these marathons, I always over dress. It's hard to convince myself before hand to under dress when I am shivering in the cold, but once I get moving, I always regret bringing more clothes.  Then the bad side is trying to tie the extra shirt around my waist and act like a wind drag. So I have learned to trust that I will be fine with just a shorts and light shirt if it's anything between 40-60 degrees. Today was perfect.

The miles ticked away quicker than usual this time around. This was a good sign. It meant I must have been enjoying myself. I was surprised since, it has been a while since I have ran a marathon without my iPod shuffle. I thought it was going to be a mental hurdle. One of the NVM rules are no head sets, for runners' safety.

Once I was over the last significant hill, between 19 and 20, I knew I was homeward bound. Mile 20 was when my race started. I reminded myself to resist the urge to walk and keep moving. I felt a lot stronger this time around and the urge to walk didn't really come to my head. I felt terrific each time I passed a runner in front of me. At the same time, I was thinking about if Mr. Cramps is going to rear it's ugly head, and when?
...26th mile foot in front of the other...

At the 26th mile, I heard Heidi yelling out my name, and it was awesome,  That was what I needed.  I had 0.2 to take out one more girl in front of me.  The girl in grey has been in front this whole time and she's finally getting closer to me.  I didn't know if I had enough distance left to overtake her. So with whatever kick I had left in me, I sprinted. In my head, "Take it, one more girl!"

...can you spot the finish line banner? it's less than a lap away...I'm about to bust a move to take girl in grey in front of me...
...and just like that...I am done...

The high school students as volunteers at the finish line are one of a kind.  They help with everything, asking if you are okay, are you able to walk, do you need assistance? They gave me water, hung my medal around my neck and ushered us to the shower, to the bag pick up and hot soup.  I don't know know if I was just hungry but the broth was simply amazing.  After I had bread and yogurt and had nourishment back in my body, I then showered at the gym.  It would have been great but, there was no hot water.  It was only cold water.  I was feeling a little wimpy so I only did a sponge bath.  Give me a break, I just ran a marathon.  This was the second time I used the gym.  Mind you, in the first time, they did not have cold water, only scalding hot water. Again that was a sponge bath kind of shower.  Maybe next year, they will have both?

...bling-bling #38...

...thank you Napa for a race run well...

...Heidi with her 5K medal...

If you're thinking about running your first marathon, I would highly recommend NVM. The course is net downhill, very much like Cal International Marathon in Sacramento. Rolling hills are concentrated in the first 6 miles.  The last significant hill is between 19 and 20. It is a long gradual hill, but soon after that you are rewarded with a flat last 10K. This is a marathoner-friendly course. The volunteers are priceless. Aid stations are well manned and consistent (Gatorade, not watery, not too sweet--just right). The race size is just right because you couldn't get any more personal touch than this. If you do this marathon, don't be too spoiled, no other organization will treat you like an elite. The bigger races (NYC, Marine Corps Marathon) when you finish, you are literally pushed through the chute, told to keep moving. Sad to say, a little "uncaring", "here's your water and nutrition, don't block the way." It's not their fault however for having 44K runners coming through.  That's the trade-off in a huge race, you're merely a number.  In Napa, you are special.  This is one of the reasons why I keep going back. Maybe I'll see you there next year. Happy running!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Marine Corps Marathon 2013 Race Report

If you look close enough, yours truly is on the left side of Mr. Yellow shirt.
Where do I begin? First of all, I apologize for taking so long to post this report.  I would have been finished the night after the race, but the Wi-Fi at the Holiday Inn, cut me off and just like that--my work disappeared.  It cut-off me two more times and by then I had enough.  So thank you for waiting patiently and taking the time to read.

There's always something, isn't it? With every marathon, you hope for the best and pray that everything goes as planned. You wish for stars to align and hopefully blast through that finish line strongly with a sub-4, a PR, or maybe even a Boston qualifying time. Through my past experiences,  I have come to accept that some things are just beyond my control.  I try to do my best to adapt to the situation and not let the 'unexpected' takeover. This was the central theme for my 31st marathon at Marine Corps.  Don't get me wrong, this race report is not all about what went wrong-- far from it.  This race is all about how a minute issue could have crept up to mess with my head had I let it.  It was up to me to tuck that negativity away and dwell on the positives instead. In the big scheme of things, this non-issue played little to no part in my eventual success.  Grab a cup of coffee...this might be long. Here goes my race report for the 38th running of the Marine Corps Marathon 2013 (MCM).

It has been two years since I ran in a huge marathon. In 2010 and 2011, I've had great experiences and got two huge PR's in New York City. I came to love big races and not fear them after that. It used to worry me; variables associated with huge venues, such as: should I rely on fluid and nutrition on the aid stations or bring my own? What if they ran out? Do I check my drop bag at the end? What if they lose it? How will I find my family? Do I need to run with a phone, etc.  Armed with experience, MCM being one of the top five big races in America, has been on my bucket list.  When registration opened in March 2013, I did everything in my power to get in. hit a snafu, with their website unable to support the incoming flood of anxious runners trying to register.  Long story short, registry closed a little over two hours. I got in, but only after I was kicked out in mid-registration twice.  I feverishly tried to get back in and later I found out I was charged three times. Many others experienced the same issue, which caused the MCM organization to drop for next year. They've announced recently that registration will be solely decided by lottery. 

Washington, D.C. is rich with history. Museums and National Monuments are literally at every street corner.  This is part of the reason why I convinced my family for a little 'race-cation'.  I have an 8th grader taking American History right now, so it was timely for us to visit our nation's capital.   We planned to leave on Friday, go to the expo on Saturday, race on Sunday and tour the city on both Monday and Tuesday. It worked out well. The only hiccup was the expo. More on that later...

Make a goofy face.

Show me a shocked face.

a happy face...

Show me a Jack Nicholson face...there it is!

Friday was purely a travel day.  We left SLO at 6 am, had a connecting flight to SFO, then to O'Hare and finally arrived at Reagan National at 8:30 pm.  Most hotels catering to the Marine Corps Marathon had convenient shuttle pickups to and from the Airport.  We stayed at Holiday Inn at Crystal City because it was a hop and a skip away from the airport as well as the start at the Pentagon.  The temperature was on the nippy side while we waited for our shuttle. We settled in our hotel, walked over to Mexicana Cantina (terrific authentic Mexican food, by the way) and retired fairly quickly after dinner.

Reagan National: Waiting for our Holiday Inn shuttle

Saturday morning we attended a once in a lifetime invitation to see Billy Mills. If you do not know who he is and you're a runner, shame on you. Just kidding.  Google or you tube his name along with search words, "Tokyo Olympic Games 1964". He is a living legend and thanks to my running buddy, Julie and her dad, we saw Billy Mills give a moving speech about his experience growing up underprivileged in the reservations, while also being orphaned as a young child and his love of running and eventual running success in college leading to the Olympics.  I had the great opportunity to take a picture with him and shake his hands.   This my friends, was the highlight of my trip.

Needless to say, that I tried to dress for this once in a lifetime occasion, i.e., I put on nice shoes. Uncomfortable, work shoes, that is.  Can you see where I'm going with this?

Let me back track for a little bit. In order to get around in D. C., we used the Metro everywhere we went, (as in Bart in the Bay Area or the Subway in NY.)  It was convenient. The trains came every few minutes and in the whole time we were there, only one delay occurred. Not bad for five days.  However to get to the Metro, you also had to do a lot of walking. Hint: I had my work shoes all day Saturday.  So after seeing Billy Mills, we headed to the DC Armory, where the Expo was held. It was a few train stops from the Smithsonian Station.  When we got off the Armory/Stadium center, I felt relieved that we were headed in the right direction since I noticed runners with their clear plastic bags and bibs getting on the train. I thought that will be me in a few minutes. So I thought.  Little did I know how long they had to wait in line for their bibs, bag and shirt.  Wait! It gets better...

Metro station

So there I was blindly following runners, in their running shoes and jackets and shirts from past MCM marathons. I was getting giddy with excitement as I neared the entrance. I was taking it all in, taking photo op at every chance to document this piece of history.  Then my eyes gazed upon this snaking line. It was zig-zagging. Every one in that line were holding only one thing, their yellow bib# and wearing a not-s- excited looks. How should I say this? Their faces did not express happiness for someone about to run a marathon.  It started to occur to me that the looks I've been reading were looks of frustration, possibly associated with standing and waiting in line for what seems to be an eternity! I was right.  I knew right away that I had to find another line before I could get into this line. I panned my eyes to the possible end of the line.  Where is it?  I got worried and finally asked one of the runners. I was pointed to a field with where the tent was.  Then she offered more information: "The wait is about an hour long for the bibs, then you line up here to get your shirt and bag check."  I said thank you and gave hubby a "are-you-freaking-kidding-me-look."  I was glad that we did not delay getting there anymore than we had planned.

I  thought something was amiss. MCM has been doing this for 38 years, they can't possibly hit a snag today.  Compared to NYC with 45K runners, I was in and out in no time.  Here, we had less than 2/3 of the amount of runners and I had to wait in line for 2 hours? The day before a race to be standing and walking for miles that long is a' no-no.'  I already ran my 3-mile shake out run that morning, walked 3 more miles to see Billy Mills, and then this? I was worried even more because we still had to get to dinner, which was another 2-3 miles of walking. All in all  it was an easy 10 miles of walking on uncomfortable shoes.

We walked closer to the huge white tent. The odd thing was, the end of the line was nowhere in sight.  We asked a runner where the end was.  He pointed to a Marine holding a sign that read "end of line"  We followed him.  Halfway through the switchbacking line, I turned on my Garmin just for kicks.  Mind you this was already halfway through the line. 

That's the end of the line my friends

The friendly Marines who handed me my bib.
Finally made it in the Expo: Me, Julie and son, Carson

Just showing you how big this place is.

Stick a fork in me...I'm done.

After all the waiting outside, I ran out of energy to buy.

Long story short, I was in line for more than 1 hour and 45 minutes.  My feet were killing me.  The shoes hurt my heel and toes.  It was very easy to think about how my race the next day would be severely affected. The negative thoughts invaded my head.  I was resolved to think of it just as a long run and not race hard since I felt I was handicapped anyway. Bad Aileen. Thankfully, I shook this off with a good dinner. Carbs seemed to do the job.

We went to the part of  town called Capitol Hill neighborhood where we found an Italian restaurant called, Trattoria Alberto. The aura of the restaurant was dim and very classy.  Our pasta was cooked to perfection and we enjoyed the attentive service we received.  After a few bites of my linguini a la vongole, my worries about my feet subsided. I thought I would soak them in a tubful of cold water when we got back to our room, and everything would be fine.   After dinner, Hubby and Elena got Dunkin' Donuts for their late night dessert. I hopped into a grocery shop and got my bruised banana. That was all they had.

Lasagna for the Hubs and tortellini for the young lady.

Linguini a la Vongole. Yum!

Breakfast of champions.

After soaking my feet in cold water, I set up my gear for the next day. I pinned my bib on my new shirt (breaking the rules: nothing new on race day) and stashed five gels in the secret pockets of my beloved Lululemon shorts.  Little did I know that this would be very the last time I would wear my favorite pair of shorts, my shirt and my haute pink CEP compression sleeves. It was an honest mistake--more on this later.

Goodbye my Lululemon shorts, CEP compression sleeves, my dry max socks.

I planned to wake up at 3:30 and eat breakfast a 4:00 am--ample time to get "stuff" moving.  I know TMI, but to a marathoner, this a huge priority. This can make or break a race if you know what I mean.

I left the hotel room at 5 am to take the hotel shuttle to the Metro.  I was prepared because  I bought my ticket the night before so in the morning I wouldn't have to fumble over coins and bills getting to the train. Pressure-free, I zoomed in and out as I watched other runners try to figure out how much the fare to put in.  I stayed relaxed.  It was not cold, about 50 degrees. To keep me warm, I had on my hubby's old white sweatshirt and sweat pants I bought for $4 bucks at the hospice thrift shop on Higuera Street.

The Metro ride was only two short stops away.  Not enough time to people watch.  I was calm and ready to rock and roll.  I had a bagel in the bag and Gatorade to top my reserves while I waited for the start.  Runners piled in the train.  The train was filled with the usual chatter and small talks about running and training.  I kept to myself, enjoying the moment as it passes by. I couldn't believe it.  In a few hours I would be running MCM.  The announcement came on "Pentagon City"  I noticed people started to get up even before the train stopped. This was it, I followed.  

It was still dark when we got off the train, and the walk to the start was invigorating and I didn't realize it was two miles long--from the train to that actual check in. The Marines checked my bag and bid me "Have a great race Ma'am."  I couldn't get over how polite they were. I thanked them for what they do.  They lifted my spirit up just by that one moment of encounter. I believed I was going to have a terrific day. At the same time, while walking though, I was keenly aware of the bottom of my feet.  They were sore from the day before walking through the expo inexorably long.  I was praying to the hands of god to please let me run with ease.

I got to the runner's village at the parking lot of the Pentagon around 5:30.  After the walk, I got chilled a little so I marched my way inside the tent to keep warm.  Runners were already huddle in together with warm blankets, earmuffs, mittens, bathrobes, layers and layers of sweats, again the usual chatter was going on.  I observed many connected to their devices, texting, Face-Booking, taking instagram photos and whatever media sharing there was to do, they were on it.  Soon, some faith service announcement came on. The loudspeaker was blasting pop music at the same time as the sermon was going on so I moved away and proceeded to take care of "biz".  One nice thing about this marathon is there was no shortage of facilities. I give MCM A+ for that effort.

I was still hovering around the lines for the porta-potties when National Anthem played, sung by an a-Capella group.  Then high above, the American flag was parachuted and unfurled as the anthem was about to finish.  It was so beautifully done.  Then I rushed out to the start at Highway 110.  I ran and ducked under a divider to get to the other side of the freeway.  Clothes littered the median.  I tried to find my way through looking for the pace group.  It was self-corralled.  I got stuck because the crowd was thick and there was no daylight to squeeze through.  I asked a fellow runner what pace we were in and he said 4:10.  I was happy with that.  I thought that was my happy pace that day.
Wanna know why everyone is looking up?
Because the US flag is unfurling while the National Anthem is being sung.

Total Stranger and Me
Photographer: You two know each other?
Us: No
Photographer: Want a picture together?
Us: Sure

The howitzer was fired on time and we were off.  It took me six minutes to cross the starting line. I was so excited, I'm actually doing this.  Inner monologue: "You got Oprah's time! Do it!"

I studied the elevation and I knew the first 2 miles are the steepest.  I rolled with it, however, I was stuck behind a wall of slower runners--who might have mis "paced" themselves.  I refused to go around them because that's how I would end up with longer mileage.  I knew this course had an inordinate amount of turns as it was, and to add bobbing and weaving was going to add even more.  So I patiently ran behind them.  Lesson for next time, just know that self corralled means slower pace.  Again, there was no way to anticipate this until I was actually running.  I didn't let this bother me.  I pushed on. 

The miles were ticking away so quickly, I was enjoying the moment.  We ran through Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and before I knew it, it was time for the first U-turn just before mile 8. The scenery was green and beautiful.  Trees lined up the course and it was an uplifting sight.  You could see a sea of runners ahead and it seems mind boggling that eventually I would be where they were--it was just a matter of time. Literally.

We ran along the Potomac River then off to Hains Point which was the midway point of the race.  My time was getting faster and faster by the mile. Butt at Hains Point, my breath was taken away by the view.  Lining up the left hand side of the course was rows of pictures of our fallen brothers and sisters with their names across the bottom.  It seemed endless.  As you pass through and read their names, your heart breaks.  Some of them looked so young and yet, they are gone.  They were someone else's sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. They were some one else's best friends.  They all died to protect you and me so, we can be free.  Free to do whatever we want. Free to run.  As I kept reading their names, my eyesight got blurry.  The day before I was belly aching about my feet.   I was complaining about nothing.  In the grand scheme of things, my hurt feet didn't matter.  Absolutely not.  I ran my fingers gently across the placards as I ran through each one.  Under my breath I thank them for what they sacrificed.  I don't know what happened from here on out, but I felt like I was running with wings. I felt like I was running with purpose.  I got a sudden surge of energy I've never felt before.

Miles 14-20
The most densely populated section of spectators were between these miles.  They reminded me of NYC.  There must have been 10 deep of onlookers cheering us on. It was such a boost all the hooting and hollering. I felt like I flew by this part of the course. We ran passed the Lincoln Memorial (Mile 16), Washington Monument (Mile 17), Miles 18 & 19 running along the National Mall.  Mile 20 sent us  back on to the highway.  It got mostly quiet here. We were alone for the most part, just runners and Marines who were manning the aid stations.

Miles 21-24 
We passed through Jefferson memorial at mile 21, but honestly I was too tired to notice that we did.The rollers started again and maintaining pace required more intent focus than ever before.  Mile 22 didn't look familiar either as it should have because I passed by our hotel.  I didn't realized that I entered Crystal City and that should have given me more boost had I realized that.  For once you're in Crystal City you are homeward bound. I knew that Mile 24 we would be on the bridge and it might get windy from past reviews that I've read. Today was not so bad.  It must be due to fatigue because I didn't notice that my pace had slowed down until after this mile was over.
I honestly didn't even notice the Capitol was behind me.

Miles 25-26
I managed to kick it up to  8:57 and 9:03 for these last two miles.  Just after mile 25 we passed by the starting line again.  I knew I was home free.  When I hit the 26th mile, I had a lumped in my throat  with the view from the bottom. 

The last 0.20
Coming around the corner and looking up from the bottom, was a nasty stretch of hill.  I had a small voice inside that said, "Forgettaboutit. Walk this $hit." Before I could even continue complaining how irreverent that hill placement was, it was over and done. I did it!  I couldn't wait for that medal to be hung around my neck.  We passed through the chute and the Marines, congratulated each runner with a salute then the medal came next. We were then handed a box full of recovery food and a warming white jacket.  We were guided to walk over to the UPS trucks to pick up our post gear clothes.  It was a mighty long walk. My feet didn't bother me at all during the race, but then the moment  that I stopped running, I could feel my heels were numb.  In my excitement to be reunited with my family, I had forgotten to take a picture at the Iwo Jima Memorial.  I had seen some pictures of other runners posing there before and I reminded myself that if I ever I should rum MCM, I would be sure to do that.  When you're in delirium after a race, you want nothing more than to see you family again.  That's what I did. Iwo Jima would have to wait until next time I come back.

What's in the box? I forgot, my daughter got into it before I did...

Finally found after 2o minutes of milling around...

Me and the Hubs

I can't quite express the incredible feeling of finishing this marathon.  It was a very emotional race that started at Hains Point. Seeing the pictures of our fallen heroes made me realize that we are so lucky to be alive and be free.  Running through rows and rows of American Flags brushing against my cheeks, I couldn't be anymore proud to be an American and free to do whatever I want.  Running is something I will never take for granted. Running is a gift and I shall cherish every moment of it.

Marathon #31, 1st MCM, 4:01:03

After the marathon, I gathered all my soiled running clothes in a clear plastic bag to separate the cleans from the dirties.  In the bag was empty water bottles from the Smithsonian. I kept the water bottles as a souvenir from the Billy Mills event.  The hotel maid mistakenly threw out the whole bag thinking that it was re-cycling. It didn't help the situation that it was resting next to the recycling bin.  So it was easy to make that mistake.  That's the story of how my favorite running gear went down the tubes.  Even with that loss, I still had fond memories of DC.  MCM was a blast!  Not only did I pull a 6 minute 5 second negative split for the first time in my whole life, I shook Billy freaking Mill's hands folks! Well okay, I also beat Oprah's time.

Just in case you missed the first picture of Billy and me...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'm Happy, Wilson's Happy

HOB 10K 9/29/13 49:55--That's a PR!

Worthy of mention here is the Berlin Marathon today.  Kenya's Wilson Kipsang just broke the Marathon World Record and lowered it to 2:03:23!  I think we will see a sub 2 marathon in the near future. That's mighty incredible. 
Photo from AFP: Wilson Kipsang 2:03:23

On to mere mortal feats...
Whoa! Who was that out there today?  I finally broke my 10K PR that stood for 16 years.  It was the Berkeley Rainbow Run 10K on March 16, 1997 and I was 30 years old when I got my first 10K pr. I ran two loops around the Berkeley Marina and ended with a 50:11 at an 8:05 pace. I remember feeling awful and very weak at the end. I went out like a bat right at the gate. By the end of the first loop, I wished I had signed up for the shorter 5K.  I would have been done already.  But instead I had to push through the pain to maintain the pace.  I distinctly remember wanting to be done already but the last 2 miles felt so long and endless. My legs didn't want to run anymore and my throat felt so dry. At the time, I didn't know about carrying fluids.  I don't remember if they even had aide stations back then.  Gosh, I sound like I was running in the stone age.

Today, more than 16 years later, and hopefully much smarter, pacing has gotten much smoother.  I think I am finally getting it.  I learned to pace myself better at the start.  The result, I finished strong with enough kick in the end.  I was unchallenged for the most part.  From the first loop on 24th Street, I counted how many women were in front of me. I was in the 5th position.  There was a young high schooler, with her cross country t-shirt in front of me.  She was a good 60 seconds ahead.  By the 4th mile, I had closed the gap.  She tried to stay with me, but fell off at the 5th mile. Then, I was in 4th.  The gal in 3rd was about over a minute ahead and she kicked it even harder.  I was never going to catch her as we were nearing the finish.  It was too bad, because the prize for 3rd place was $100 in do-re-mi.  Shucks! I thought I could really use that to buy my next pair of Newtons. Oh well, I should have ran faster.
Took a serious beating, this pair.

 I felt great throughout the race. This was the first time where I didn't think about or wish it was over already.  Most races I feel that way when I haven't paced myself properly. There was no pukey feeling or stabbing pain in my lungs. There was no side stitches as in 2011, or a foxtail inside my socks as in 2009. I was even able to channel my inner Kenyan and sprinted to a 7:32 pace for the last straightaway. I saw the clock turn over to 50:01 when I stepped on the timing mat.  I was a little disappointed at first, but then a friend reminded me that I started seconds after the start. So I did have some 6 second cushion.  My goal was 49:45 and I was close.  I am more than satisfied with my 49:55 finish.

My quads felt like they can go for another long run.  However I didn't. I decided to reward myself with rest and start the training week on Monday.  I had such tremendous results I want to celebrate a little while longer.  It's been a great training week.  I hope you had a great week too.

Happy Trails!