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!

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Abusing the Taper

Wanna know how I know I’m not a “real” runner? Because my legs aren’t aching to run 18 miles a day during taper weeks. In fact, my legs are perfectly content laying in bed while my eyes read a book. Perfectly content.

My Marine Corps Marathon training program has me building up miles and tapering back down a few times for the next couple of months. This week was a taper week, so all I had on the schedule were two 5-milers on Tuesday and Thursday. I totally abused the privilege and used this taper week as an “easy” week. In reality, I should have been gearing up for a 20-miler this weekend, but I have absolutely zero intentions of actually completing that. Instead, I used my taper week to goof off. I ditched my 6-miler (because “missing a 6-mile run isn’t going to set me back” <- WRONG!) last weekend and, instead, made up for it in the number of beers I drank. I was too tired lazy to do my 5-miler on Tuesday and instead made up for it on Wednesday.

With all of these factors, I ended up taking 5 whole days off from running and my body hates me for it. My legs felt heavy and were dragging during both of my short 5 mile runs this week. It’s amazing how quickly I lost leg strength and it’s no one’s fault but my own. Instead of totally disregarding my 20-miles this weekend (like I want to), I plan to split it up over two days – running 10 miles on Friday, and 10 on Monday. I’m worried about getting hurt if I try to do 20 all at once without rest because I know my body isn’t strong enough. Remember my plantar fasciitis? It’s back and it’s giving me some pain. I don’t want to overdo it too early and risk injury. But at the same time, I need to get my butt in gear. No more slacking.

In summary, I took too much time off; my legs want to fall off; I’m an idiot.

Glad that’s out of the way. Instead of running, I used this week to catch up on my social life! I got dinner with a friend who I haven’t seen in awhile (and ate a pound of queso), I watched the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, I got to meet the adorable Kyle,

Gratuitous picture for your viewing pleasure

I was finally victorious in my battle against my fingernails,

Check out that paint job. First try, BITCHES!

and the biggest factor taking up 90% of my time this week?

(Source)

As fun as Shark Week sounds, when you actually work for Discovery it takes on a whole new meaning. That meaning = logical nightmares, last second schedule changes, fibers to air, you know the drill. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, enjoy your Shark Week because a lot of people worked REALLY hard to make it happen!

What’s your favorite part about SHARK WEEK?

Mine is Chompy, the massive shark that they hang on Discovery HQ.

What’s In Your Wallet?

Let’s start this post the way I start out all of my posts.

I ran 16 miles this weekend. It sucked, but not nearly as badly as I thought it would. Marathon. Running. Blah, blah, blah.

It was hot as balls.

It’s always hot. You can go away now summer. Blah, blah, blah.

Post maniac-run chill pool time. Hey, I have a summer tan to maintain here.

Blah, blah, blah.

So, now that all the typical stuff is out of the way, I figured I’d go in a different direction with today’s post.

The other week, I was at lunch and pulled out my wallet. It was observed how much stuff I carry around in there on a daily basis, half of which I don’t even need. I’m pretty sure that if “Carrying Random Crap in Your Wallet” was an Olympic competition, I’d win the gold medal. This sparked a conversation about all the random things we carry around in our wallets. Strangely enough, I think my wallet gives a bit of insight into who I am, so I thought I’d share.

Meet my wallet. It’s Coach, and I got for Christmas a year ago. I love it!

Here is a broad peek inside. I’d describe it as organized clutter, which goes along with my style perfectly. My room may look a little cluttered, but everything has a place and, trust me, I know where everything is.

You will rarely ever find me with any cash. So, for the most part, this side compartment remains empty. I’m just so poor!

In the front card organizer, I have my most used/most important cards: ID, debit card, credit cards, AAA card, and health insurance card.

In the middle pouch, I have random change (mostly pennies since the quarters, dimes, and nickels typically go into paying metered parking, grrr) and some coupons to Smoothie King. I do looove my smoothies! Oh, and $10 off The Melting Pot which I completely forgot I had. Who wants fondue!?

The back card organizer is where things start to get a little random. I have a Blockbuster card (are they even in business anymore?), my Rockville Sports ID (where I don’t play anymore), an empty (I think) rebate card from Acuvue, my CVS Extra Care Card, 1 expired Disney World Park Pass (from my marathon in Jan 2011), and 1 expired Disney World hotel key (from the same trip).

There’s a mini, hidden compartment in the back of my wallet. This is where everything else goes and the randomness continues. There’s a VCU basketball ticket, an old picture of Brook and me, a Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball ticket, a John Mayer ticket stub, a Foo Fighters ticket stub, 2 JMU Football tickets (one for the Virginia Tech game <– best game EVER!!), a few business cards (including my bartender from Babes, my tattoo guy, a cabbie, and Jim…I don’t know why I have his business card), and finally, a Magic the Gathering playing card. WHO KNOWS why I carry this around with me? It’s been on my person since middle school when a friend of mine gave me the card as a joke, and ever since then I’ve always carried it in my wallet. So random.

Anyway, you should see the card holder I keep attached to my key ring. There are football tickets and flyers in there from 2005, I kid you not.

What’s in YOUR wallet?

Happy National Running Day!

With no hesitation at all, I will admit that I’m a crazy runner.

When I found out that today was National Running Day I actually got a little giddy inside. I’m a weirdo, I know. I decided to celebrate by strapping on my best running shoes,

my favorite running t-shirt (sensing a color scheme here),

my new Garmin (it locates satellites super quick, btw),

and hitting the pavement for a glorious 4 mile stroll. Running = endorphins = happiness.

Today on RunningDay.org, there was a featured section on 10 Way to Celebrate National Running Day. I think they’re fun, so I figured I’d share!

(Source)

I’m working on a few of these:

#1- I love running because it’s my “me” time. It’s the 1 (or 5) hours a day that I have to gain clarity and remove myself from everything else going on in life. That being said, I run races solely for the beer at the end. True story!

#2- Race t-shirt. Check!

#5- I decided to run through Rock Creek Park today instead of my usual route down 16th street. Parks > Busy streets! Parks also = sketchy, so I don’t know how often I’ll be doing that.

#8- Today seems like a pretty good day to get my running goals in order for the Marine Corps Marathon coming up in October. Training schedule – Check!

#9- I hate the treadmill. So this is nothing new.

#10- Any ideas on how to treat yourself like a champion? I’m having shrimp pasta for dinner with my family. Yum!

Annnnnd since I work for Discovery and my friend posted this on my facebook wall, here are some do’s and don’ts of running via the Discovery website! Thanks Colin. 😉 [edited to add: Upon reading these closer, I’m not sure if I agree with all of them. Especially the ones about landing on your heel and the running shoes. Different discussion for a different day.]

How are you celebrating National Running Day?

Time Yourself

For the past few weeks, I’ve been debating back and forth about whether or not to invest in a Garmin (or other brand, doesn’t matter) running watch. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and I’m still at a stalemate, so I thought I’d see what you guys think.

I’ve never been one of those runners who cares much about time. I’ve always been a pretty average/moderately fast runner, but I never worked hard at making myself quicker. I always ran just to…run. Recently though, I’ve had dreams of increasing my speed. It all started a few weeks ago when I PRed at the Shamrock Half Marathon. I liked setting a goal (albeit a very loose goal, but still a goal nonetheless) and achieving it. I realize that if I do interval training and apply myself, I can (hopefully) make myself faster. My marathon times have been pretty mediocre thus far: close to 5 hours for both, and I’d like to improve GREATLY upon that time for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. If I can run a 1:55 half, I’m thinking that I should be able to run a 4:30 marathon. Easier said than done, of course. It’s going to take some tough interval training and I will have to start paying attention to time during long runs. Which is why I’m thinking about buying a Garmin watch.

(Source)

Pros of buying a Garmin:

  • Can finally time myself and figure out what my average pace is/should be.
  • Improve on my speed for the marathon.
  • Be more accurate in my distances. Right now I use google maps, and perhaps this isn’t the best judge of running distance.
  • With that, I can try some new running trails since I won’t have to map them out beforehand. This would be great in marathon training since I tend to get bored of the one I do everyday.
  • Be more of a “real” runner. Don’t all the real runners have these things?

Cons of buying a Garmin:

  • It’s expensive! Ahhhhh!!!
  • Will I become one of those people who is constantly looking at my wrist during races? And the anxiety that comes with that.
  • Clunky, extra weight.
  • Waiting for satellites, I’ve heard fun stories about this.
  • Will it take the fun out of running?

The big con that I’m worried about is that last one on the list. Will it take the fun out of my favorite sport? Thoughts? Should I get the watch or not?

I’ve got some time to figure out if this is a smart investment for me. No better place to contemplate such things than here, which may or may not have happened this weekend:

Happy (belated) Cinco de Mayo!

Aunt Cait and the Body Challenge

Indeed, you read the title of this post correctly. Remember how in my last post I said I had exciting family news? Well, I have been silently wanting to implode and tell everyone ever since I found out, but it was not my news to share so I had to wait until the right time. That time is now.

I’M GOING TO BE AN AUNT!!

My sister, Erin, and her husband, Robert, are expecting their first child! Her due date is late August/early September sometime. My family is super, super excited! It’ll be the first child for the next generation in our immediate family. It will be my mom’s first grand-baby and she is just bursting at the seams with joy. This also means that the poor kid will have to endure me as an Aunt. I’ve already warned my sister that I plan to be a “cool Aunt” and aptly corrupt their future son or daughter. Just kidding……kind of.

Congratulations to Erin and Robert!!

Whoo, now that I’ve finally shared that news, onto my next bit of news. Today, I joined my company’s Weight-Loss Body Challenge. It’s been difficult to maintain motivation to diet and exercise. And my motivation has certainly been waining lately. That’s when I found out that Discovery was doing a weight-loss challenge with a cash prize at the end. Sign me up, por favor!!

The cash prize pot for the first place winner is up to: $640! Second place is even getting over $100. I don’t really have any disillusion that I’m going to win this competition, but it would be pretty cool if I could get close and shed a few more pounds in the process. It aligns with my current weight loss goals, and there’s nothing like a little cash-money to help renew my motivation. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby!

I’ve already decided that if I win, I’m booking a vacation. To somewhere AWESOME!

I’m also thinking about signing up for the Marine Corps Marathon. It’s in October, it’s in my backyard, and I’m sort of itching for another long race to run. Thoughts?