The Marine Corps Marathon

Oh, hi blogging world! It’s been awhile. I would explain my hiatus, but who cares? I’m back.

I did something pretty awesome this weekend. I outran a hurricane. No joke!

The forecasters were going back and forth about hurricane Sandy all week leading up to the big race on Sunday. Some stations were calling for DC to get pounded on Sunday and others were saying the weather would hold off until Monday. I was crossing my fingers, toes, hair, eyes (ANYTHING) that we would be dry for race day.

I was REALLY anxious for this race. Even though this was my third marathon, I had a lot of [self-imposed] pressure to do well. I trained harder for this marathon than for my last two and had high hopes for a PR. My family and some friends were coming out since it was a local race, so I didn’t want to make a fool of myself (not that anyone would judge me for running a bit slower- 26.2 is quite an accomplishment no matter how fast you run it). Still, I wanted to beat my previous PR of 4:49:34. At the expo, I also heard that Oprah ran the race back in 1994 and knocked it out of the park with a 4:29 finish. I just HAD to beat Oprah. I was hopeful, but anxious.

Race morning started at 5:00 am when my alarm blared. I was actually able to catch some sleep despite my anxiety so I was feeling refreshed and energized…yes, even at 5 am. Unfortunately, my friend Brook (who was supposed to run as well) caught a cold a few days before the race, so she couldn’t make it. Luckily, I have an awesome boyfriend who was willing to sacrifice some zzzz’s, and whom I forced volunteered to accompany me to the starting line.

The metro (which is within walking distance to my apartment) opened early for runners and was extremely convenient for getting us to the starting line on time. Once we got off the train at Pentagon, it was a longer walk than I expected (probably about a mile) to the start. We got there with plenty of time for a porta-potty break and bag check, and then proceeded to the corrals.

Still dark, so early!

Jim was able to stay with me until literally 5 minutes before the race, which was great because otherwise I would have been a nervous wreck (although, if you ask him, I already was…) I started in the 4:30 – 5:00 corral which was probably a mistake. I underestimated how crowded the course was going to be and wished I had started with a faster group. When the gun sounded, it took about 10 minutes to reach the actual starting line. There were masses and masses of runners. However, this was one of my favorite parts of the whole race. I high-fived no less than 10 Marines who all wished me luck as I thanked them for their service, it was awesome and touching!

Prior to the race, I had glanced at the course map once or twice so I knew the first few miles were hilly. I trained on hills, so I was confident. I felt really strong going uphill, but going down was causing some side-cramps, which I assumed was due to my poor carbo-loading the day before. My stomach was doing some weird things during the first 5 miles and I was nervous that I was going to have to stop and walk. Around mile 4 I felt my first blister forming. <– I know, mile 4….REALLY?! I ran the first 10k in 1:02:09, exactly a 10:00/mile pace.

I knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but I pushed on. Miles 6-15 were all a blur. The race was so crowded that I was weaving in and out of runners, which I never enjoy but I started to feel strong and wanted to go faster. We ran through Georgetown and around the Lincoln Memorial. I looked for Jim and my parents around mile 11 but didn’t see them. It kind of bummed me out, but I pushed on in hopes that I would see them around mile 16. We ran around a peninsula where we hit the half-way point and the crowds began to thin out a bit. I still wanted to go faster, but decided I should save some juice for the last half of the race. My pace for 20k was 9:48, I was trucking along!

I was to thankful to get off that peninsula and back into the city. I saw Jim and my parents near mile 17 and almost tackled them I was so excited. I was still feeling great at this point and only stopped long enough to give them all hugs and continued on my way. A few yards later I saw my co-worker, Amy, who cheered me on. I get so pumped up when I see people I know, there is no greater feeling than having friends there to support you.

Miles 17-19 were awesome because we ran along the National Mall. This was where my legs started to feel heavy, so I was thankful for the touristy distraction. By the 30k mark I was running at a 9:42 pace, hello negative splits!

Miles 20-24 were rough. Like, really, really rough. I wanted it to be over. All I could think about was drinking a beer and eating a bacon cheeseburger. I tried to tell myself, “The rest is cake, you run further than that EVERYDAY.” But, my mind-games weren’t working, I kept countering myself with, “Yeah, but you also don’t run 20 miles before it.” I tried to zone out and listen to music, I’m sure everyone loved hearing me sing along to BBMak (remember them?!). Running makes you do strange things.

Around 40k my pace slowed down a bit to a 9:52 min/mile, this was okay with me. I quickly realized that I was not only going to beat my PR, I was going to absolutely crush it. My super secret goal (really, I think I only told one person) was to break 4:30. That would require knocking 20 minutes off my previous PR time. Once I hit mile 25, I knew I had it in the bag and thought I might even have a chance to break 4:20. I went for it!

That last mile was EXCRUCIATING. I just kept saying, “Less than a mile, you can do it. Less than a mile.” But my legs barely believed me. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, because that’s all my body could handle. My friend Meredith spotted me at 25.5 and cheered as loud as she could. I was sooooo excited to see her and my adrenaline kicked in hard, seeing her meant I was almost done.

My friend Colin snapped this picture of me approaching the finish line. Look at the sheer PAIN on my face.

As I rounded the last corner, I saw my mom and up a few yards were my dad and Jim cheering me on. I don’t think I’ve ever been more thankful to see them. From my experience running the 10k race a few years back, I knew the course ended on a painful uphill. Those jerks! I gave it my last bit of energy, encouraged the people around me, and sprinted (or what I felt was sprinting) through the finish line with a 4:19:52 finish!!

Not only did I beat my previous PR, but I beat it by 30 whole minutes. ANNND I beat Oprah! The best part about it all? Absolutely perfect racing conditions and not even one drop of rain. Someone was looking out for us!

After the race I found my walking, talking marathon support kit and he gave me my cell phone and Ibuprofen (sooo necessary):

Meredith also found us after the race, I thanked her probably no less than 1,000 times for coming out!

And my amazing family whom, I swear, didn’t even plan to all wear the same shirt but did anyway!!

Post-race, we ended up walking about a mile (uphill) to the Courthouse metro station, since the line for Rossyln literally wrapped around the block. Once we finally caught a train, we headed into Chinatown for an early dinner at Clyde’s where I finally got a bacon cheeseburger and a beer. Yum!

I seriously can’t thank everyone who supported me in this race enough- from being there in person, to text and facebook messages, your words of encouragement were felt. Having friends and family out there cheering for you is the greatest feeling for a runner. Each of you helped me get through at least one mile of this course. So, seriously, thank you!

Another epic 26.2 in the books!

Rainy Days on the Beltway

Funny story but people in the DC area can’t drive in the rain. Really, every time the wet stuff comes falling from the sky people around here get driving amnesia and completely forget what they’re doing. It’s the strangest thing.

It was torrential downpouring yesterday after work (just in time for rush hour) so, of course, traffic was crawling. This is how I feel about that:

I know I complain about traffic a lot on this here blog, but that’s because I waste so much of my time in it. Did you know that DC has the second worst traffic in the USA? Second only to LA. No joke! I truly have to plan my life around when traffic will be the worst: forget about going anywhere Friday between 3:30pm and 6pm. Just forget it!

Here are some crazy facts about traffic:

  • The individual cost of congestion exceeded $900 per driver in 1997, resulting in more than $72 billion in lost wages and wasted fuel. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Transportation)
  • Drivers in one-third of U.S. cities spend more than 40 hours a year (an entire work week) in traffic that is not moving. (Source: Center for Transportation Excellence)
  • Congestion results in 5.7 billion person-hours of delay annually in the United States. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Transportation)
  • If one in 10 Americans regularly used mass transit, U.S. reliance on foreign oil could decline by more than 40 percent, or nearly the amount of oil imported from Saudi Arabia each year. (Source: Center for Transportation Excellence)
  • A regular rush-hour driver wastes an average of 99 gallons of gasoline a year due to traffic. The average cost of the time lost in rush hour traffic is $1,160 per person. (Source: Center for Transportation Excellence)

Dang.

(source)

At least I have my Kelly Clarkson CD in there to pass the time when I’m not yelling at other drivers. I’m a really awesome singer, for the record.

What ways do you pass the time in a traffic jam?

DC Weekend [In Pictures]

My friend Kristina came to visit from Seattle this past weekend. And boy, were we busy! I had a great time getting to play tourist in my own city and even hit up some monuments I’ve never been to!

I’m not even going to attempt to write a blog post about it because it would be super lengthy and would basically just be about food, drinks, and soccer. So instead, I will show you what we did in photo form!

SO much fun!  I love out of town visitors.

Have you ever played tourist in your own hometown? What fun things did you discover?

The Cajun Experience

Remember when I started this blog in hopes that it would help me try new foods? Well, I’ve been slacking on that.

However, I’ve had a serious craving to try cajun food lately. I had never eaten it before, but a few weeks ago I went to visit friends in Roanoke, Virginia and they took us out to dinner at The Quarter. I now wish that I had blogged about that experience because the food was incredible! I tried fried alligator (it tastes like chicken, I swear it actually does), had my first BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich (a little late to the game, as always), and even tried the creole shrimp dip which was so, so good.

That’s when my friend, Meredith, mentioned a Groupon for The Cajun Experience in downtown DC. I jumped at the chance to tag along.

The restaurant was pretty small from the outside. I actually walked right past it the first time since it blends in with the surrounding businesses and apartment buildings in the Dupont area. It was on the bottom floor of a duplex which totally threw me off. Once I finally made it (I was running a little bit late, oops!), Meredith had already ordered the Hush Puppies to share.

They were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside (just as hush puppies should be) and had a slight taste of cajun seasoning. What I was not expecting were the surprise jalapeños inside which provided a special little kick but weren’t overpowering. I would have eaten like ten of these if I could have.

Meredith and I were total dorks and ended up ordering the exact same thing. We both got the Shrimp and Grits. While we waited for our food to come out, we enjoyed good conversation and caught up. I noticed the restaurant was much, much smaller than I expected. The place only had a few other tables besides ours, most of which were full. I doubt it could have held over 100 people maximum. No wonder they suggest that you call ahead for reservations!

Here’s a picture from their website, since mine all sucked. (Source)

My meal was pretty fantastic too. Exactly what I was craving! The grits were bacon, cheddar and jalapeño and were pretty much the reason that I ordered this meal in the first place. I’m a sucker for anything with bacon. I’d never had grits before and was a little bit surprised by the texture. I’m not sure if this is something that I will incorporate into my everyday eats, but they I enjoyed them in this dish. Of course, the star of the show was the shrimp creole. I ate this up SO fast.

So what did I learn from this experience?

Well, two things: 1) that I love cajun food. Like…a lot. Did you know that New Orleans is the #1 food town in America. There’s so many authentic cajun dishes that I want to try, and so many places to try them! New Orleans trip anyone?

And 2) I really need to work on my dim-lighting food photography.

Any tips on how to take pictures in dimly-lit areas such as restaurants?

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