Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Texas Marathon - State #30 On My Goal

The Alamo, also Mile 3 in the Race

     Texas was my 30th marathon state on my goal.  Additionally it was my first attempt at a 3rd marathon in 15 days.  Generally I like to write my blog posts with a tad more positive light.  However, not all marathons (when doing so many frequently) go as planned.  So instead of making this one out to be better than it was, I have decided to go with the honest route and just tell it like it was:)

Espanda Mission
     So maybe I should have seen a little "Doom" coming, but I tend to ignore all warning sighs.  See generally when I plan out these marathon trips I am great with details, up until now I haven't messed up once on any bookings.  Well apparently when I booked my Texas trip, I had a state of delirium and I apparently booked myself two flights on different days (Just fabulous).

     My first morning in San Antonio, and of course I wake with a scratchy throat and that all over yucky feeling that signals I am coming down with something.  Sure I still went out and played tourist visiting the Alamo, picking up my race packet and walking around the Riverwalk exploring.

    Day two wasn't any better, in fact it was worse I felt like total crap.  If I hadn't been on vacation this would have been one of those days I would have likely spent the entire day in PJ's and in bed sleeping.  Instead I decided to go out and attempt to pretend I wasn't sick, visiting San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.  Every minute hoping that this day would be the worst of this cold bug and I would magically feel better in the morning!

San Antonio Riverwalk at night
     I didn’t!  Race morning I woke up at 5am, felt even more awful especially since I really hadn't slept much having been awake all night with fits of coughing.  So I decided to sleep in a bit longer and rush things when I did finally peel myself out of bed at 5:45am.

     First thing I noticed that morning, when I breathed my lungs were already exhausted (from coughing) and anyone who is about to run a marathon, the last thing you really want is tired lungs before you even start the race, well that and blisters.  I had both, but I was not concerned about the blisters left over from my Missouri race.

     Since I apparently have the fabulous luck with being sick every few races (I blame the Epstein Barr that I have, among other things...) I mentally prepared myself the day before for what I would need to help me during the race.  I knew this wasn’t my first race to run sick, and likely won’t be my last.

San Jose Mission - I just loved the cactus growing on the roof:)
     These larger races have corral systems; I was in #24 out of #34.  I really need to learn to place myself higher when I enter these races, I may not finish with the 4:20 runners, but I generally can hang with them until miles 14-16...  However, this race the corral I was in had me starting with the 5:30 runners Argghhh.
It took me over 30 minutes to get to the starting line from when the original gun went off.  Normally I probably would have jumped in with the earlier number corrals, but since I was trying to forget how terrible I felt I just went with whatever that morning!

I love this picture - San Jose Mission
     Here are the issues with starting in these slower groups.  You get to run with the (My apologies to any runners who read this and use these.) runners who follow stupid run/walk BEEP watches.  I know a lot of people use them, and the companies who sell them make a killing off those who think they need them.  But personally I could never let a beep tell me when to run, when to walk.  I like to feel like I am running to my own beat, not the beep of programed watch technology!!!
But when you get in large groups of these, all you hear are hundreds of constant beeps.  

     The other issue with starting in this slower group, they had a half marathon and a 5K starting at the same time.  Most participants in this pace group apparently (Even 5K) don’t train to run even half of it??? (Go figure.) So when their series of beeps tell them to stop and walk, they will stop in these large groups paying no attention to who is behind them.
I think you get the picture:)  Possibly because I was sick this was all bothering me more than normal, but then maybe not, I have been annoyed with this before too:)  So this is how the first few miles of the race went, as soon as I would be going a pace I would like.  Someone(s) would stop right in front of me and force me to slow/go around...

Mission Concepcion
     I mean no disrespect to those who enter a race who plan on walking most/all of it.  I mean I think it's amazing they are at least trying.  But because I am writing this, I will just put it out there.  Those who do should be a bit more curious to those who actually plan to run.  Move to the outside before stopping, and NEVER stop in large groups and completely block the road!!!  If you do, plan on someone running onto the backs of your ankles/heels or pushing you to the side to fit through your group. (Okay, I think I avoided it all but once or twice (unintentionally), but I won’t lie I was tempted a few times to do it just to teach them a lesson.  But I practiced “nice” runner etiquette and held back- this time LOL:)

Okay, sorry for that little rant, I'll move on:) LOL

The Alamo Garden's
     Well this is how my race was going.  I had my best miles during 1-3.  I remember this because we passed the Alamo at mile 3, and I was still thinking "this is pretty cool!" 
Yup sadly you read that correct.  At mile 4, I was getting exhausted (Lungs, sickness) I was beginning to fall and fall quickly and hard.
By mile 5, and I remember this pretty accurately I was MISERABLE!  I remember my exact thoughts "Why, Why, Why???  Is anyone noticing I am the only one sneezing and coughing every few meters?  I hope not! Who the heck starts feeling bad at mile 5? Me, I am SO sick and this is my 3rd 26.2 in 15 days.  What the heck am I doing to myself?  Wait, I wanted to do this!  Just remember and hold that thought for 21 more miles! PLEASE try to hold that thought!!!"   (Sounds funny now, but at the time it was a pretty serious conversation in my head:)

Mission Concepcion
     I have run sick before, it's horribly miserable and takes just about every ounce of mental/physical effort possible to push through and get the job done.  I have done it before (even with pneumonia), so I knew exactly what I was up against.  What I haven't done before is 3 races in 15 days and been sick on the 3rd.
So I said to myself, this is going to hurt (a lot), this is going to be miserable (or worse), and this is going to take a miracle and several answered prayers!  But this is all self inflicted (minus the cold) and as long as I can remain on my feet I will not quit!
  
So feeling at mile 5, as I should at mile 25 I pushed on.

Riverwalk - This is the stage the Miss Congeniality
The swimsuit portion of the pageant was filmed
    The first 11 miles were pretty much through San Antonio, either in the city or close nearby city neighborhoods.
I struggled quite a bit during these miles, but when the half marathoners finally took their turn away from us around mile 11 this actually picked me up a little.  (Well, mostly because I knew that at least the "beeping" should mostly stop now, LOL)

     We were actually heading out towards all the National Historical Park Mission's now, and I was kind of excited about this since I had toured them the day before.
The bad part was although I ran the first 5 miles at the planned "hoped" pace.  From mile 5-11 I had already fallen back so much on time that literally I had lost 15 min already and it was growing by the mile.

San Jose Mission
     Generally when a runner says "They Hit the Wall" most really didn't actually hit it, they just felt crappy, tired, or under trained and wanted to quit so thought they did.  Having experienced both Hitting the Wall, and Thinking I had Hit the Wall (but didn’t).  (When and if you ever have a run when you REALLY hit the wall, this little paragraph will make complete sense!  Until then, it probably just sounds like I’m making it up.)

Truthfully prior to this race I have had a lot of bad running moments and miles, but I have only actually “Hit the Wall” once or twice ever. 
So do I say I Hit the Wall in this race?  Yes and No is my answer. 

No, because even though I felt horrible and sluggish and pretty much not great the entire race, I know a lot of that had to do with just the illness and the frequent races and in a way it was to be expected.

However, I also say yes, because I had a couple of miles that almost stopped me in my tracks.  So bad that literally it took every ounce of strength to take the steps needed to find my way out of those moments.

Nighttime at the San Antonio Riverwalk
     Additionally, it was a good thing I had already toured the Missions the day prior.  Because I was a little out of it and wasn't taking a moment as I passed them to appreciate their beauty.  Instead I was just counting them down because I knew when I got to the last one I would finally get to make the return loop back.

     Miles 11-16 were I guess a good word for them, sluggish.  My body was pretty much just being forced to go through the motions that it is used to doing in a race.

Mile 17, was a really tough time for me.
I rarely cry, and to actually say this is even hard.  But I was literally forcing myself from crying at a few points during this mile.
I just remember thinking, "This wasn't how today was supposed to go!  Why did I have to catch this stupid cold?"  You know the woe is me stuff...
I also had a few points in this mile that literally it took everything I had not to just drop down “the Wall”.
I had a similar experience just a few miles down the road later.

San Juan Mission
     San Antonio, well maybe it was because I was not really up for running that day.  But I found it to be WAY too hilly. They weren't short hills either, they were the long drawn out hills, some that take a half or mile of just gradual climbing.  (When your lungs are exhausted these are the WORST type – In my opinion!)

     I also have to mention the day was HOT!  It was already 70 before the sun came up, and it seriously felt like 85 pretty much the entire race.  Not only that, but there is little to no shade in San Antonio.  Add what I believe was a slight fever on my part… Not pleasant running conditions!

     I don't think I saw any shade from 11-21.  It was hot and I was already slightly dehydrated (despite my previous attempts earlier in the week to not be. – Blame the stupid cold bug-)
The slight dehydration and illness were a combination of what was wiping me out.  The weird thing is, my legs were actually not too bad, not great, but still much stronger than I would have thought after all I had put them through the past 15 days!

     If you are thinking that I am getting through all of these miles on my own pure will and motivation, then you’re wrong.  I really should mention I was praying like crazy for the help to get to the finish and pretty much had been since the beginning!  THANK GOODNESS I was being looked out for that day, because all my prayers were answered.

Inside San Jose Mission
     I managed to get through mile 17 and 18, (they were not pretty, not even in the least!)  Mile 19, I figured I would take a couple Tylenol again, hoping they would kick in by mile 21 and maybe just maybe some of the achy feverish feeling in my head/body would fade.
It worked, and although I wasn't feeling great, I think it dropped my fever down a bit.  Sometimes just that little difference can mean EVERYTHING to you, especially when your spirits are so low.

     By mile 20, I knew I was going to finish (who would drop out at that point, right? It's just the distance of a short training day run to go... LOL) I also knew this was going to be my WORST marathon time EVER; luckily this wasn't one of those 5 hour cut off marathons, so I was still going to barely make it under their official cut off time!  (I say EVER because I absolutely refuse to believe that I could ever have a worse day in running than this!!!)
Worst ever, I didn't care I was going to finish because frankly sometimes that is all that matters (to me)!

Alamo
     I had been forcing the liquids down me even more forcefully (This sickness was making me not want to eat or drink much) than before.  I didn't even care if the Gatorade would cause me any stomach problems (It didn't, thank goodness) I was downing it as much as I could too.  Being so hot, I needed the extra salt in me, and since I couldn't find it in me this time to eat pretzels (which I normally love) or the candy handouts, and definitely none of the straight salt packets (just the thought of those made me nauseous).  I figured might as well force the liquids down.  I also took advantage of the hoses spraying mists along the course to help cool off.
Finally a few clouds moved in, and the last few miles of the course were mostly under a little cloud cover.  Sure it was still hot, but at least the sun wasn't beating down on me anymore.

At the Alamo
     I don't know what I was thinking with these 3 marathons in 15 days, and the courses I picked to do them.  I remember last spring when I choosing them, I swear they were all going to be relatively flat courses.  Maybe if I had spaced them out more, I would probably still think they were.  But D.C. had the most elevation climbing; San Antonio was about the same as Missouri, just different kind of hills.  San Antonio was pretty much an uphill climb the last 7 miles of the race, which because of my circumstances, did me in!

     I remember finding an odd bust of energy at mile 23, and I remember loosing that burst of energy (and then some) by mile 24, ha ha.

     The last mile, I didn't even care (I figured other than dropping dead, things couldn't get much worse) I think I even ran that one pretty well (considering).
But as I passed mile 26 and looked up, and realized that I had a pretty large hill to climb for the last .2 of the course.  (As if the last .2 isn't the longest part to begin with, they had to add a big hill. Gotta love a Marathon - LOL)
Oh well, I jogged on up it, rounded the corner and could see the Alamodome to my right and FINALLY the finish line only 20 seconds straight ahead of me.

Finally it was over - I almost completely ignored the race clock!

Riverwalk Daytime
      Let me say, I absolutely love running, and I love this marathon goal I am working on.  Generally I like to say I have fun on every single race on this goal.  I am sure in a few weeks when I move onto the next race I’ll look back and find things I loved in my Texas run.)

     I didn't linger at the finish, not even a bit.  Although I had finished the race, I still had a mile and a half walk back to my hotel.  I was one track minded and all I wanted was to get back to my room and off my tender feet.

     Things never turn out as planned, at least for me!  In running and I guess in life too, I am a firm believer that my attitude and “Pre” decisions will determine how I am going to get through every single race good or bad!  I learn something new from every race, even the “sick” ones.  I am sure I have learned a few things that I will have to draw on in the future!

     Do you want to know what running 3 full marathons in 15 days does to a body?  Well I am sure those who have tried it may have different answers.  But this is what I have to say. 

Oh my poor, poor, poor, poor feet!!  They are so Ouchy and feel extremely tenderized like permanent bruises with every step I take.  But on the plus side all the Vaseline has kept them nice and soft, LOL  I am giving them a few day’s rest now, I will start up running again in a few days:)

The blisters, I was able to keep them at bay (after getting them from having to wear new shoes on race 2) the good news was not really any new blister damage on race 3 and I’d even go so much as to say they are pretty much healed now.  Now that the new shoes are broken in, I don’t anticipate any more blisters and I WONT make that mistake again!

Chaffing, well on race 1 I was stupid enough to forget the Vaseline in a few key area’s prior to the race (Even though I did, it really does you no good to apply it after you are running and sweaty, just doesn’t stick as well as if done before.)  So I had a few area’s that lost all their skin, then lost it again in race 2 (even with the Vaseline) and well let’s just say no difference in race 3.  But hopefully giving them a couple of weeks will allow scabs to heal and hopefully not too much permanent scaring.  But let’s just say I had 3 extremely painful after race showers when the water hit the open wounds…YIKES *Cringe*, LOL

Exhausted, hard to say with my lungs as I still have this wretched cold/cough so my lungs are tired and painful from that, but I am sure the running isn't helping the matter!

My legs are tired, I have moments where I feel like if I turn the wrong way something is going to pull and hurt really bad.  Heck, sometimes I have made a few mistakes and had a few pains shoot through me.  (Needless to say I am/have been trying to be extra careful).  On the plus side, my hip flexor injury, although definitely NOT healed, it’s okay.  Only minor discomfort and thankfully it’s hanging on and letting me run without hurting it any worse.  I only have one month more to get through and then I can finally work on getting this thing healed for good!

Inside one of the rooms in the San Jose Mission
     Right now I am toying around with running another marathon next weekend (Thanksgiving weekend), or waiting until the first weekend in December as I already have planned.  But before I make any decisions I am listening to my body to see how the healing is going.  (No sense in hurting myself to cause long term damage.)  Besides, I have a stupid cold to get over, and I want it GONE before I run again (if possible!)  So I guess we’ll see:)
Church Facade of Mission San Jose



















Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Missouri Marathon #29th on my goal to 50 states

     My Missouri Marathon was actually my 2nd 26.2 in two weeks. Picked my packet up at the Bass Pro Shop, Outdoor World, WOW can I just say that was seriously one of the most AWESOME outdoor stores I have ever been in!

The morning of the race I woke up and gave myself plenty of time to slowly get ready and drive to the start to find a parking space.  I hate to rush anything the morning of the race, it just sets in nerves (Yes I still get them:)
Got a great parking space and sat in my rental car with the heater on keeping warm (Chilly 37' morning) until it was time to line up.  The race started right in front of the Bass Pro Shop.  They had a male singing group sing the Star Spangled Banner and then the gunshot sent us off.

Before I go into the race, let me give you a little FYI on my bodies recovery from D.C.  It's impossible to fully recover from a race in one week, most people will tell you in reality it takes a month or longer.  This is because a marathon causes a lot of micro tears in your muscles among other things.  So with that said, I am obviously not looking for FULL recovery, what I am going for is recovering just enough to get by and for me I felt I was to that point!

America's ONLY Drive through Cave - Fantastic Caverns
Being a little on the colder side that morning, my plan was to slow the pace the first few miles and let the Hip Flexor injury warm up gradually (although I did again use one of those Tylenol heat patches - I find if I stick them sticky side to the inside of a spandex short, instead of the skin they work fabulously!  Not only that, but not being in the skin, means after the race, I will still have skin (ouchy, made the stick on skin mistake once and that was enough, LOL)

Surprisingly the first few miles, my body actually wanted to run (Almost like it had forgotten I just ran 26.2 a week ago, LOL).
Of course just because my body was enjoying the first few miles of the race, I wasn't naive enough to believe that would last the entire race (hoped though).  The course started in Springfield, MO and I believe stayed in the city and residential areas the entire time, weaving in and out of neighborhoods, around parks, rivers and ponds.  Starting and ending basically at the same place, although (thankfully) none of the course was an out and back, (I hate those) it was a point to point course tour of the community:)

Beautiful, but OH SO HILLY!!!  Technically I was in the Ozarks, so I probably should have known the course would be hilly.  But the truth is, even I can be a total idiot sometimes, I actually looked at this course elevation chart below (when planning the 3 in 3) and said to myself, okay it looks hilly, but this is Missouri and Missouri is likely flat, so the chart probably just looks worse than it is.
Yup, like I said, I am an idiot!

Right from the beginning, the course was I like to call it "Roller Coaster" hills.  They weren't long steep hills.  They were short frequent hills, right back down, then up, and down etc...  It was pretty much like this for the first 10 miles of the course.
My Hip Flexor injury was not handling them extremely well, but I have developed a system for keeping it from getting worse, and I just did what I had practiced and what seems to be working and thankfully it did!

Cave Picture
My body was doing pretty good the first 7 miles.  But like one would assume, eventually the week before caught up to me and I was starting to feel tired and sluggish, the aches and pains were already setting in, or coming back.
Sounds bad, to only be at mile 7 when this was happening.  But the last time I did 2, 2 weeks apart I was already feeling this by mile 4 and 5.
My other BIG issue, I was forced to run this marathon in brand new shoes.  Yup, I know HUGE MISTAKE!  But nothing I could do about it!  I had popped the gel in the sole of my left shoe in D.C. same leg as the Hip Flexor injury, I just couldn't risk running in that shoe and what might happen to the injury if I did.
Sometimes, you can buy a new pair of shoes and they are great and you never have problems, this was my hope.  Unfortunately I was not having that kind of luck on my side.
By mile 10, I was having severe foot pain in my right foot on the outer side.  I looked pathetic, I was doing a running limp like I should only have after a horrible end of a marathon.  I was in SO much pain and could barely stand it each time the right foot struck.  To be honest at this point I was even wondering how I was going to be able to stand the pain enough to finish, I wasn't even halfway.

Drive though Cave Entrance
This is when experience and a very high pain threshold tolerance (LOL) comes in, not to mention lots of prayers!  After a couple of miles of sheer pain, I finally was able to take my mind off the pain enough to clear my thoughts and come up with a solution.
I keep Tylenol on me for a reason, so I planned to take a couple at the next water stop.  At the same time it occurred to me that I have had this horrible foot pain before.  Back in Vermont, I had the same pain, same area that came on intense halfway into that race.
So I started to do the same thing I did during that race to take the pressure off the pain.
Basically I made sure as I ran and my foot would strike the ground I would put all pressure on the side of my foot that the big toe is on and try little to no pressure on the side of the foot.

Interesting History Fact: This stage though history
Held, country singers, moonshiners, KKK meetings
Even a bar fight that resulted in death.
It takes a few miles of running like this, concentrating on it before I am doing it without thinking about it.  Eventually by Mile 18, with the help of the new stride and some Tylenol.  The sheer pain is gone, and the only major feet issues I was having weren't so bad anymore.  I could tell I had a few hot spots and likely blisters, but oh well.  I wasn't going to complain because my biggest issue was now no longer one!

In the later miles, I ran into quite a few other crazy runners who run as much as me, some more.  A few fun chats with them when I was hitting the real tired moments of the race that had to remind me, I do this because I love this:)
Like all races, they all have their odd moments.  Mine came around mile 22-23, I actually started feeling like a 3rd or 4th wind was coming along and my legs started feeling slightly stronger again.  I was starting to pass runners on a steady basis, I was running at the same pace that I had been earlier on in the race.  This lasted a few miles, sort of left as fast as it came:)  But by the time it left, I was so close to the finish and nearing the 25th mile that adrenaline kicked in.  When you only have a little over a mile left you really don't care how much pain you are in, because the end is near and soon very soon you can get off your feet and finishing makes all the pain totally worth it!
And it was!!!

Cave Picture
Small town race, but nice shirt and medals!  Very nice volunteers, I really didn't notice any issues with any of the water stops and after my issues in Hawaii with those I pay VERY close attention.
We ran through some nice communities, some that had gorgeous large homes.  The 2nd half of the race was more like I thought it would be in the form of rolling hills:)  Beautiful fall tree lines streets, excellent police working the intersections, I never had to worry about getting hit:)
Likely if I hadn't of just ran a marathon, I would even say the short hills were fun:)
The course was fairly well marked, although I did see some runners coming back after missing one of the turns, LOL  Glad that wasn't me!  No runner wants to add more steps to the marathon!!!

Cave Picture
I am glad to have this race behind me now, and can say Missouri was my 29th state on my goal to 50 plus D.C.  
I am resting and trying to heal up best as possible.
I rarely ever get blisters, but this time I did and quite large at that.  So I'll have a little medical to attend to with the moleskin before Texas:)
My Hip Flexor is a little more inflamed right now, and I have a bit of swelling that hopefully will go down before the weekend, I am optimistic and think it will all work out fine:)
I think Texas will be a bit on the painful/tired side but it's going to take A LOT more of my mental side than physical for the 3rd in 3 weeks (In theory).
I am REALLY looking forward to it!  I have never pushed this much mileage and (self inflicted pain, ha ha) on myself like this before, and truthfully I am just THRILLED that my Hip Flexor injury is allowing me to continue on!  6 weeks ago I wasn't sure I would even be able to run any marathon's this fall at all, so I am taking it all one race at a time and enjoying every moment!
So now I just get to see what Texas has in store for me:)  
Cave Picture




Thursday, November 1, 2012

My D.C. Marathon

Capitol
I knew before I left for D.C. that there was a Hurricane on the way. Luckily, I was able to get into town and spend 3 days before the race exploring the sights before the "Super Storm" came in.

We had warnings that we could be running in heavy cold rains and winds, so like most I prepared for the worst, I packed extra garbage bags to run in if needed. But no matter how you looked at it, we were going to be running in a Hurricane that day. Not going to lie, I thought that little fact was kinda cool, guess it's the adventure junkie side of me:) However, This is more of an after note: I have to say I couldn't have picked more fantastic running conditions, the rains and heavy winds held off and the cooler temps and cloud cover was absolutely perfect. Honestly, I don't think you can get much better running conditions!

WWII Memorial
 My leg injury, although it is doing MUCH better isn't exactly healed. But it's allowing me to run right now. The downside about injuries, sometimes one can bring on another. This is my case, and the day before the marathon I felt like my inner thigh pulled something that stretched all the way down and across the entire back of my knee. It was so inflamed that I could hardly bend it the day before. (I am sure all the sight seeing and walking around I had been doing wasn't exactly helping it much.) But decided I was going to try anyway. After all, I have been looking forward to this 26.2 since last spring when I was one of the lucky 30K runners who got into the race that hit records by selling out in a little over 2 1/2 hours.

Library of Congress
Race morning I woke up a little before 4am, got ready and let my dad walk me to the Metro Station. Got off at the Pentagon and like the rest of the runners took a bit of a walk, I almost want to say a mile to the Runners Village. The weather was perfect, there was a light mist of rain when I first arrived, but then it ended. A little breezy, but honestly not bad! FUNNY to NOTE: This was the first marathon that I had to have a light pat down from a cute Marine to get into the Village.

Waited around until it was time to walk to the starting line, (about a 10 minute walk) and then we really got packed into the corrals, you couldn't get in or out if you wanted too. So of course naturally with no where to go, my bladder decided to choose then to want a bathroom. I figured it was just nerves and decided to forget about it. LOL - FYI, It took me almost 10 miles before I was mostly able to forget... I was just not in the mood to stop at a port-o-potty at the mile markers and wait in line, even though I might have enjoyed the race slightly more if I had LOL LOL:)

Korean War Memorial
Military choppers flew overhead and a cannon went off to signal the race start. It took my corral over twenty minutes to get up to the start line. Most all of the hills were at the beginning. My original Pulled Hip Flexor started acting up a little on all of the uphill especially on a larger hill after mile 2 and again at mile 7 hill, so naturally the pain in the back of my knee was a little bothersome on the downhill. But I just placed careful footing and did what I needed to do to get through the hills without making the injuries worse.
By mile 5, I had a feeling that if I was careful I was going to be able to finish this race, and the injuries wouldn't keep me from it (I think this is where having very strong quads has been helpful for me!). I could almost sense it as they warmed up and how they were acting (sounds weird I know, but runners know their bodies!)

View of D.C.
 The course was beautiful. Eventually we crossed a bridge and ran along side the Potomac River. The fall leaves were beautiful they were falling onto us, I remember having several big yellow leaves land on my head as I went. After the Georgetown Reservoir we ran though kind of like a canyon. Tree's and fall leaves EVERYWHERE and if you looked off the side of the road you could see a smaller river below. So pretty!
Eventually we were back next to the huge Potomac River again and we more or less followed along side until we arrived in D.C. right behind the Lincoln Memorial. Lots of crowds were out in this area too.

Every single water and aid station was lined on both sides of the street with Marines. Other groups on the course were military family members, and I believe military students in the area wearing yellow t-shirts. The Marines were awesome, they cheered loud, gave lots and lots of High Five's, Congratulated you every chance they could doing anything runners needed to help them on their way. It was really an amazing experience to be running through D.C. with many sections lined with Military cheering you on.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Changing of the Guards
 We entered an area Potomac Park just passed the Jefferson Memorial, the street was lined with posters with a different "fallen hero" with their picture, name, military branch and year they "gave their all". Just past the mile or so of that section, was another section where military and military family members were holding large American Flags on poles and lined the street for us to run through.

 We came up again along the river and ran around the large Tidal Basin (lake). Then the War Memorials and reflecting pool to our left, we ran up around the Washington Monument to run straight down the "mall" area passed all of the Smithsonian Buildings toward the Nations Capitol, ran in front of the capitol and then back up on a different street (again Mall area"). It was fun to pass all of the "Historic Sights"!

Painting in to of the Rotunda in Capitol
Finally back up to the tall Washington Monument, where we made a left to the area the runners call "Beat the Bridge", just means if you get passed this section (Mile 20) before 1pm, you are allowed to finish, any who don't are pulled from the course. I wasn't too worried about beating the bridge, even though I am not a super fast runner. I did push it a little more earlier on, but even when I got there I still had an hour to spare.

The only problem with hitting this point, was some runners (Okay, A Lot!) had been so focused on hitting this point that after they did, they knew they would be allowed to finish no matter what and literally MANY just stopped and started walking. Okay, I get that some people need to take a walking break, I am not afraid to admit that I have done it myself many times. But this was ridiculous! It was like a wall of runners, hundreds stopped running and started to walk at once. Even at mile 20, I was still feeling semi good, I wasn't in the mood to walk. So I figured I would run around them. Even though I hate doing that, (it can add a lot more distance to your race.) I dodged and ran in and out of runners for 2 miles, I looked at my GPS when I hit mile 22 and noticed that in 2 miles I had just added almost a half mile more to my race. (YIKES)

White House
 So I had no choice, I was getting tired and running around all the groups of walkers was killing me, so I was forced to walk behind them, and when an opening would come up I would run through them. Others were thinking along the same as me, eventually there was a group of us who preferred running so we ran in a line and picked our path. Still added a bit more distance to my time, but oh well you don't run a race like this to get a great time!

 We passed The Pentagon (huge building, I was shocked at how big it was) and passed several sections of Arlington Cemetery. Crystal City, was AWESOME they had so much music pumping though speakers and vibrating off the buildings, it was like a city party. Mile 23 the Marines handed out Dunkin Donuts. I was surprised at how fabulous they tasted to me. By mile 20 I was drinking lots more Gatorade (Usually avoid drinking it, most races can't mix the drink properly. But wished I had tried it earlier, the Marines had made sure it was mixed correctly!) Now Eating oranges and any hard candy (suckers) that were passed to me. I normally don't get this way, but just a little sweetness was great to me at this point!!!

Arlington Cemetery
 The last .2 of the course is up a very steep uphill. I think I would even say VERY STEEP even if it wasn't the last .2 of the course. Even forced me to run on my tip toes to get up it. Granted that was before the group in front of me stopped running and walked up part (I was beyond ticked at them, I wanted to get it over with!) With no where to go around them in this small section, I was forced to wait for an opening myself before I could start running up the last .1 of the hill. We finish at the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington. 

Now when you finish the Marine Corps Marathon. Marines line the finish line to shake your hand. Then after a short way past dozens of Marines, one will shake your hand saying "Job well done, congratulations" and then put your medal around your neck and Salute you. I am not military so I have never been saluted to before, as far as in RESPECT. It was a pretty unique experience!

Lincoln Memorial
The Marines put on a great race, its a little more emotional (if you allow the thoughts to resonate) here we were running 26.2 miles through the Nations Capitol, Supported by the troops and Military who have been out on likely 3+ tours in Iraq or Afghanistan themselves, and when you finish they Salute YOU. When in reality THEY like all of the other current and past military are the ones who do the most for us to keep our country safe and free!

After you finish, you still have a few more hills to climb, a lot, and a lot more walking to do just to get out of the finish area. Once you are out of the finish area, you get the pleasure of even more walking:)  Once you do find the Metro, you get the discouraging news that the line to get into it is LONG, too long!
I started to find the end, again walking up 2 more hills around 2 blocks, yes the line was that freakishly LONG. Eventually I found the end and then, or course I get the pleasure of slowly waiting and walking back down to the Metro to get in. Finally I made it in, and took my seat (yes, I lucked out and wasn't forced to stand) on the subway and chatted it up with some great people from PA, before I got off and was able to have the pleasure of another 1/2 mile walk back to my hotel.

Statues at Vietnam Memorial
I estimated my 26.2 day, turned into a reality of 32-33+ that day. Huge races like this, I should have known equal LOTS more walking to get around. Not to mention time, it took me over 2 1/2 hours after I finished running the race just to get on the Metro to finally get off my feet! When you run these BIG races (MCM is the 4th largest in the country) you just have to plan on an all day event. (well unless you are a sub 3 hour runner, which I am not.) So I woke at 4am, and finally arrived back at my hotel by about 4pm. 12 hour process, but on the plus side that was much shorter than last year when I did NYC and it was 14+ hours:)

 I LOVED D.C. it was AMAZING! With the arrival of the hurricane and the city shutting down Sunday night, I didn't get to see everything I had hoped. But guess that just means I will just have to go back someday! It's even a race I would love to run again! I feel for those who had it worse than I did in the Hurricane, many apparently had ruined homes and severe flooding... My hotel was up on a bit of a hill and we didn't have any flooding, and I just have to say staying at the Embassy Suites is a GREAT choice. They have a free cook to order breakfast (you can pretty much get anything you want to eat) and the rest of the day it's an Italian restaurant. So obviously we weren't going to starve a bit during the storm.

Library of Congress
Of course, I had to go out in it Monday and take pictures so I could say I was out in the middle of a hurricane:) This race was amazing and very well organized!


 Clearly this is a long blog post, but trust me if I went into ALL the awesome details it would be twice as long:) Once the airports were opened again I was able to get out on one of Delta's first flights (they were the only airline flying, they are great!) Now I have 2 days to rest, do laundry, rest again and packed and fly out to my next marathon this weekend. As I am attempting to do 3 marathons in 3 weeks, we'll see what happens with that:)
Nations Capitol