When we stepped out the door at 5:15, the weather was 58 degrees. I didn’t have a coat but had arm warmers and it felt like enough. Then the temperature dropped 5 degrees and the wind picked up. Suddenly not so warm. I froze the whole time waiting. They had these tents set up and my race buddy and I huddled in there trying to think warm thoughts. Next time I wish I at least had a cap to throw away because it would have kept a lot of the heat in.
For such a big race, it did not feel big at all. There was plenty of room, never a long wait at the porta-potties, even right before the corral lineup. It just didn’t feel cramped or rushed at all. I saw the Runner’s World Challenge tent though and, oh yeah, it definitely seemed worth it. You get a nice warm tent, breakfast, and private porta-potties. Mainly I wanted the 4-sided tent! And chairs! We had to sit awkwardly on the concrete and it wasn’t the best of things before a race.
I didn’t know this but the corrals are completely open and you just line up along the flag of your projected finish time. And you know how when you start a race you have to tell yourself not to fly off the line with everyone else and actually pace yourself? But when the howitzer went off, nobody took off. Everyone started on their very very even pace. I was talking to people about this afterwards and I think it’s because, unlike other races I’ve gone to, marathon runners are way too experienced and smart for that sort of take off craziness. They know this is a slow and steady race. It made me feel nervous because I was like, oh man, these people are all so serious and know what they’re doing and I don’t! I actually finished in the time of the exact spot I lined up at though. It was so painful but I managed to keep within 30 seconds of my pace at all times. My race buddy finished over 30 minutes faster than me. She did so well!
Backing up a bit, my wall, if you can call it that, was somewhere between miles 8 and 13. I couldn’t believe I was in trouble that early. It was after the first hills that my feet and ankles were in such pain. I’m not used to hills. I run by the beach at sea level! I never did hill training days specifically. It was a major issue. It got so bad that I stopped at an aid tent at mile 15 and got Tylenol. Then I spent a couple miles wondering why the hell I didn’t feel the effects yet. I told myself if the Tylenol didn’t kick in, I wouldn’t make it to the end. Then, despite my water pack, I ran out of water and became dehydrated. I don’t know if it was all the GU and shot blocks I was taking, or because I wasn’t used to such dry weather up here, or because I don’t drink a ton before the start, but it was bad. I was cramping everywhere. At one point I broke down at the Capital building and couldn’t move. I had to will my legs to move and not cramp, but it easily took 3 minutes of talking to my legs to get the moving again. It was almost a joke that I was immobilized in front of the Capital building, in front of all the spectators. Wonderful. And these are just some of my stories. I was in such intense pain throughout and only in places I had never ever experienced pain before. That’s why I suspect the hills.
I have to say that miles 21 through 24 weren’t a picnic either. I thought Crystal City would be a fun revitalizing stretch for me. WRONG. I thought I’d never get to the turnaround. At the turnaround they had this water mist sprayed on everyone. It was nice. Mainly though I was in too much pain to care about any frills. At the end of Crystal City I saw my folks. I smiled so big that they thought I was doing great. I wanted to shout “Love you but I’m in pain!! Have the Motrin and the car ready!!” Right after that they had the doughnut hole station. Ok, there was no way I’d have eaten one of those. I was sure of one thing and it was that I’d puke if I ate a single one of them. I didn’t see anyone else grabbing any, but I’m sure they must have.
I thought after Crystal City it would be an easy and quick ending. Nope. Wrong again. It took FOREVER to reach Iwo Jima Memorial!!!! I swear it wasn’t just 2 miles. It was like 4 miles. Speaking of, my watch was completely off. It said I ran a mile or more over 26.2. I still have to plug it in and see what happened but I wonder if all the shuffling around people added more distance. Either way it really messed me up. I was pacing to finish exactly at 26.2 and to go beyond that really almost killed me.
At the end the Marines have you go up a steep hill. Super fun. At that point I couldn’t be in any more pain anyway. You finish the race and go into lines and get your medals from Marines. They were so nice. In fact all the Marines throughout race day were super nice and squared away. Marines are always squared away but I can’t say they are super friendly to other services when I was in the military. Typical rivalries. But they were great for the race and everyone loved them. My father talked to them and asked them when they had to get up that morning to come and help out and they said 2am. And they were STILL super nice after all of that.
After getting out of the victor village or whatever they call it, my folks gave us a ride so we didn’t have to stand in the million mile metro line in Rosslyn. It was ridiculous. But it also meant we had to walk up Wilson Blvd (majorly uphill) to get to where traffic was allowed. I was just so happy to not be running that I didn’t care. After we ate and got changed, we took a long walk around the city to loosen up our legs like good runners are supposed to. I think this helped a lot. Ever since Sunday though, my legs just feel more and more sore. Specifically my quads feel shredded. And on today’s shake out walk, my right leg completely gave out from under me. Luckily I was holding onto my kids’ stroller, otherwise I would have gone down. I think I’m going to take another day off before more walking.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to write 50 more posts about this race in the coming weeks because I learned so much. But I wanted to get this out so I didn’t forget. My folks got a few pictures of me at mile 24 when I was leaving Crystal City. I don’t know why I was so happy in these pictures because I didn’t have many happy thoughts during the marathon.