October 27, 2019
Temp: Low 60s to low 80s
What I wore: hat, tank top, arm sleeves, a Skirt Sports Cascade skirt, Crazy Compression socks, and Altra Kayenta.
There were many moments before and during this race that I considered not crossing the finish line. I had gotten in all of my long runs, but my left glute was unhappy and I’d missed a lot of supporting runs. Added to the fun was the tighter time cutoff for the 50k – my pace had slowed greatly thanks to literally a pain in the butt, so I was pretty sure I could not maintain the required 12:30 minutes/mile. (Spoiler: you don’t have to.)
When the weather projections kept getting worse, I ordered a pack of ponchos from Amazon, hoping that by being prepared, I wouldn’t need them. (Spoiler: I needed one.) I spent Friday working the expo for Altra Running and then spent Saturday mostly taking it easy. I had a couple of friends staying with us, so we ate a big spaghetti dinner and went to bed early. I actually slept on the couch because it’s more comfortable for my butt and fell soundly asleep until 2:00am – at which point, the young neighbor across the street decide to have a dance party in front of her boyfriend’s headlights in front of my house. I may have been that old lady who opened the front door and yelled “What the f*&^ are you doing? Go to bed. Some of us have a race in the morning.”
Beer Geek dropped us at our usual place at 5:45am and we walked over to the start line. As we passed the start line, heading towards Runner’s Village, the announcer said “And here we have our first runners! Yeah, we may have gotten there a little too early.
After multiple portapotty trips and time hanging out under the bridge, we headed to the start line for the 50k. I finally took off my rain jacket, but I kept on my poncho. I hit the potty one last time and joined the start line. I was already soaking wet from the rain, but it was just barely sprinkling.
The gun went off and we headed out. I kept my poncho on for a bit, but quickly got too warm. We ran our first 4.5 miles on the usual marathon course, so it was all familiar to me. As we turned onto the 50K out and back, we got passed by the leaders of the marathon. Next up was 2.5 miles out and back on Canal Road. This was boring and quiet and the rains began. Thanks to only having “mileage” for the 50K marked every 10K, I really never knew what mile we were on. Next we headed back into Georgetown and met up with the marathon runners. Due to only having a 25 minute head start, we were dumped in with runners at a slower pace. We would spend the next 15 miles passing people, even once we slowed down.
As we headed out on Rock Creek Parkway, we could see the Beat the Bridge pacers ahead of us. What a demoralizing feeling to see that and not know that they were truly at the “Beat the Bridge” pace, but rather the advertised 14 minute pace. (I don’t know if this is how it always is as I’ve never been this far back, but it was strange to be that far behind them and to never catch them.)
And then the heavens opened. It rained so hard we could barely see. I turned to my friend and told her I was done. But we were on Rock Creek and there was no place to go, so I said I’d run until the SAG bus picked us up. We could see it about a mile or so behind us – a completely stressful feeling. (Spoiler: we were moving faster than the bus, so it never even came close.)
We continued onward. We went through the Blue Mile, but I was head down trying to keep moving by that point. Then we waded through the remainder of Hains Point. I learned something new about the Altra Kayenta at this point: they drain fast and water does not weigh them down. Win!
Finally, as we hit mile 16 of the marathon (21 for us), the rain stopped and the sun came out. This was awesome for about 5 minutes, until it began to get hot and humid. The next few miles were all about the cut offs. We passed the first Gauntlet with about 20 minutes to spare. We made it to “Beat the Bridge” with about 22 minutes to spare. And finally, after a horrible run walk across the bridge in the beating sun, we made it to Crystal City with 20 or so minutes before the cut off at the final gauntlet. I grabbed a coke and a hug from a friend and we continued moving forward. We were running more than most around us as we were surrounded by much slower marathoners. While we did have some nice conversations with the marathon runners, it was really difficult trying to actually run when surrounded by packs of walkers. Finally we reached the hill at Iwo Jima. For the first time ever, I walked it. I had nothing left. We turned the corner and… there was no obvious finish line. Eventually it was apparent we were done and we got our medals and worked our way out of the place.
- I love this race, even when everything is stacked against me. It’s just such a “feel good” race for me.
- I finished.
- I finished with minimal physical issues – no blisters, minimal chafing, no cramping.
- My Altra Kayenta were on point. Not only were they lightweight and cushioned as I learned at the Freedom’s Run race, they handled the water like a champ. My friend and I were both wearing them and never had the squishy shoe issue that many around us dealt with. And I had no blisters anywhere on my feet post race, despite having wet feet for most of the race.
- The 50K felt much like an afterthought and did not mesh well with the marathon.
- The wheel chair racers started AFTER the 50K, which was crazy and dangerous.
- The constant feeling of barely making the cutoffs.
- Being surrounded by people who were struggling way more than we were. (Don’t get me wrong, I have huge respect for everyone who is out there, I just found it messed with me mentally to be surrounded by people moving so much slower when I really needed to be surrounded by people who could help pull me along.)
- The finish line arch came down due to an electrical issue. Talk about an anticlimactic finish…
- The downpour. I can handle rain, but sideways rain, wind, downpour, wading through water was a bit much.
- The sun. After all the rain, it got hot. It was awful and I ended up sunburned.
- The fact that I did not pull my skirt quite up all the way at the start. The post race shower was a little bit traumatic.
Will I run this race again?
I have already caved and signed up for the Semper Fidelis challenge – but I am doing the full marathon. I LOVE the Marine Corps Marathon, but I did not love the 50K. I would not have loved it even if the weather had not sucked. Maybe I would have if I were faster, but I have zero interest in spending 7 hours out there again. (This is not to say I won’t ever run another ultra, just that I don’t plan to do it at MCM.)
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