Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon - October 30, 2011

Vignettes of the weekend of my sixth Marine Corps Marathon

Rather than the usual race report format, I've done this one as brief episodes of things that I stuck with me from the race and the weekend.

Twitpicing the Tweets
On Friday afternoon, Barry S. and I attend the MCM Runners Club mixer at the Capitol Hill Hyatt.  A large electronic screen displays tweets sent with the #36thMCM hashtag.  We both pull out our phones and tweet that we are with each other at the mixer.

As we eat our nachos and enjoy a beer, Race Director Rick Nealis stops to sit and chat with us for a few minutes before he has to go back to work.

I wander over to a table where there are MCM Runners Club pins and MCM light switch covers for the taking.  I can't resist free, so I take one of  each.  Barry does resist, even after I point out to him that the light switch cover also doubles as a drink coaster.

Then an inspiration hits me.  I position myself so that when my tweet appears on the screen I take a picture of it and then twitpic the picture of my tweet - sort of derivative re-tweet.  Barry laughs, says it makes his hair hurt, and then does the same thing.

May I have a shirt? Or two? How about three?
As we sit at the table at the MCM Runners Club mixer, two young women come up to us and ask if we know about the moderated tweeting for the MCM.  They are with myStanly, a firm that moderates tweets and is doing so for the #36thmcm hashtag.  We point out that we have already tweeted with the hashtag.

Then I ask them if I can get one of their teeshirts.  And another for Barry. In large.  They say yes, they think they still have some, and go off to get them.  Not only do they bring back two shirts, but the shirts are in water bottles. A bonus!

This is such a pleasant surprise that I tell them that I have another friend who was not able to join us and can I get a medium size shirt for her.  And they oblige. Barry is impressed, either at my nerve or my charming ability to get them to give me shirt after shirt.

0600 AIS
Equipo Cinco Amigos have agreed to carpool from my house to the MCRRC hospitality suite at the Key Bridge Holiday Inn for the race.  Emaad and I have done this the past few years and not only does it give us a place to put our things and prepare before the race, but it provides a place to return post-race and enjoy the buffet and liquid refreshments afterward.  But getting there requires leaving early enough to avoid road closures and get parking at the hotel.  I'm insistent that everyone be at my house at 0600 AIS - that is, seated in Jennifer's Suburban at 6:00 a.m.  A couple of days before, Emaad asks if it is OK for his friend Matt to come along, and is given a green light, provided that he explain '0600 AIS' to Matt, and the consequences of not complying.  Emaad assures us that he has.

The Cinco Amigos are all on time and we are all AIS at 0600, but Matt is nowhere in sight.  Emaad assures us that he is on the way, but then adds that Matt is scraping the frost off his windshield.  I'm getting agitated.  At 0603 I tell Jennifer to start the engine and back out of the driveway and get pointed in the right direction. "We are leaving shortly," I say to all. At 0604 we see headlights coming down the street.  "That's him," Emaad exclaims, more out of hope than conviction, I think.  But it is Matt, and he is AIS at 0605, just barely avoiding being left behind. (See the "Lateness"  episode of Everyone Loves Raymond for the derivation of AIS. And why the exception to AIS would not have applied to him.)

"How many GUs are you taking with you," I ask Rebecca as we prepare to head out of the suite. "Ten," she replies.  I'm not a fan of them but think that maybe she has a point, and stick a third in my pocket.  I remind her that they have them on the course. "They may not have my flavor," she replies, "and I don't know if they have them where I'll need them.  When I turn away, she packs another pair into her belt.

Keep Breathing
Coming down Foxhall Road I catch up to three women wearing MCRRC first-time marathoner shirts.  They are reminding each other of proper breathing techniques.  As I come along side I greet them and tell them that the only key thing they really need to do about their breathing is to keep doing it. "And," I add cheerfully, "if you do stop breathing, you won't have to worry about after three minutes."

Running along Independence Avenue I keep alert for any cracks or holes that could trip me or twist an ankle. My downcast eyes spot a familiar rectangular shape on the ground and I dodge someone's foot to pick up a $10 bill, which from its limp condition has obviously been lost by another runner.  "Great," I say to a nearby runner, "I just got a rebate for running this race."

God Bless America
Along Hains Point, about mile 14,  I came across a runner carrying an American flag. "What's it like to carry that all the way?" I ask.  He nods toward another runner and says that he is just spelling that guy, who is actually the flag bearer.  I ask if I can try and he agrees.  The 3' x 5' nylon flag is on a plastic pole with a foam grip.  It is surprisingly light, and can be carried with one hand, but the gusts of wind make the pole move about and I develop a sense that carrying it for the entire marathon could get tiring, especially in the arms and shoulders.  After a few minutes I pass it back to the runner, and thank him for the honor of letting me carry it during the Marine Corps Marathon.  This is one marathon that such an act does not seem contrived, not only due to the sponsor and the large numbers of service members who run it, but also because of the all too many shirts one sees with the names and faces of service members who, in Lincoln's words "gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."

Speed Trap
Along the west side of Hains Point is a police mobile radar speed sign that provides a readout of approaching cars' speed by displaying, under a "Your speed is" sign, a digital readout of the speed.  The sign is displaying  6s and 7s as the group of runners surrounding me approach it.  I slide right to be on the side of the road nearest the sign, and sprint.  The speed jumps to 10.  A runner behind me yells out, "You're running six minute miles." "Yeah," I reply, "for about 20 yards.  I'm doing this so that everyone can think that they are running a good pace."

Racing Begins At Mile 20
Just past mile 4, approaching the Key Bridge, Emaad and Rebecca catch up with me.  Emaad asks what is my plan for the day.  "Plan?" I reply, "I have no plan. There is no plan in running."  And indeed, I don't have a plan.  The two of them pull away.  I'm just out to enjoy the day.  Throughout the day I click my watch to capture the mile splits, but I don't pay any attention to them.  Throughout the teen miles I just repeat the mantra, "the race begins at mile 20."

At mile 20, just before the mile-long crossing of the Potomac River via the Fourteenth Street Bridge, I feel good and look at my watch.  I've been running for 3:26. "Let's see if I can keep up the pace," I think.

On the far side of the bridge a guy slowly passes me.  I use him for pacing and try to stay up with him, but I can only do that for a few hundred yards.  Still, it feels good, and doesn't exhaust me. Mile 21 passes in about 3:36, meaning I'm maintaining my pace.

Entering the two mile, out and back loop in Crystal City, I start to scan the runners going in the opposite direction.  I figure Emaad is out there somewhere and I want to let him know I'm coming.  I've caught or left him behind in the past couple of MCMs at about this point, and I figure if he knows I'm hunting him, it will provide an incentive for him to push himself, much like the impala must find the reserves to flee the stalking lion.  I never do see him, likely because I was distracted in getting a cup of beer from the Hash House Harriers at the moment our paths crossed.

Each mile after 21 is the same outcome - my pace is not dropping.  By mile 22 I figure that barring a collapse or injury I'll break my old marathon personal best of  4:36.  Now the race is on as to whether I can break 4:30.

I'm focused on the goal.  I've decided to push for as long as I can.  Unlike my usual gregariousness when I run, I've stopped chatting with other runners.  I'm focused on the road ahead and keeping up the pace. Miles 23, 24 and 25 are steady and I'm through 25 in 4:17.  Only about 1.25 miles to go.  A runner passes me on the long downhill on route 110.  I try to speed up to keep up but can't, but I'm still moving pretty well.  The crowd is increasing and cheering the runners on.  I'm focused on the road ahead.  Finally mile 26. Four twenty seven and change.  Turn left and up the hill toward the Iwo Jima Memorial.  Push. Run. No walking as in years past.   There's the finish arch.  No sprint. Just keep the pace up. Don't stop.  Cross the first mat.  Cross the second mat.  Stop the watch. Now look at it. 4:29:49! A PR by more than six minutes.

I finish 77 of 414 in my 60-64 AG, 6329 of 12427 males, and 9133 of 21023 finishers.

Equipo Cinco Amigos
The past several years, Emaad, Wayne and I have run as team Tres Amigos.  But earlier this year, Wayne's wife suddenly passed away and he had to stop running to spend his time raising their three daughters.

Partly in memory of Wayne, we constitute a new team, Equpo Cinco Amigos, with Emaad, me, Barry, Rebecca and Jennifer.

MCM turns out to be good for individual team members.  In addition to my PR, Emaad, Rebecca and Jennifer all run PRs, although Jennifer's joy in her PR is tempered by her failing to qualify for the Boston Marathon by a mere 79 seconds.

Overall however Cinco Amigos comes in seventh of eight teams in the Masters category.

MCM Swag

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