First of all, thanks to all my Internet and IRL friends for all your kind words and well wishes! You’re all the best! Especially my parents, who came down to spectate and followed me all around the District of Columbia in hopes of seeing me run for just a few seconds. Thank you for always being there for me.
I ran my third marathon yesterday.
I didn’t make my sub-4 goal, but I still took 15 minutes off my NYC marathon time, and I’m incredibly happy with that.
I bonked, HARD, at mile 23.
Go grab a drink. I make no promises to keep this short.
I’d set my alarm for 4:59 and 5:00, but excitement woke me up at 4:45. I watched some YouTube videos of the marathon in bed and cried, per usual.
I’d laid out all my stuff the night before, so I got ready pretty quickly. The last two marathons, my mom pinned my bib on because my hands were too shaky for me to do it myself, so I had her pin my bib on again, because it’s tradition now.
We were staying in the Courthouse area of Arlington, so I walked to the Courthouse metro at 6 and took it to Rosslyn to switch to the blue line to get to the Pentagon. I hadn’t looked at the metro times in advance, so I ended up having to wait 15 minutes for a train. I got nervous about the wait, but realized there was nothing I could do, so I took advantage of this time to try to do some deep breathing and center myself before getting to the race. I talked to a man who was running his first marathon, and this bolstered my confidence. Whether I met my goal time or not, I knew I’d finish. I’d done this before.
It was SO crowded.
I made it to the Pentagon, and we had a long walk from the metro to the runners’ village. I’d guess it was close to a mile.
As part of the Runner’s World Challenge (which I was given free access to to blog about it, which will come next week), I had access to their tent before, which was pretty sweet. They had breakfast there, so I planned on eating there, not at the hotel. By the time I got into Runners’ Village, it was after 7, and I started to get nervous I wouldn’t have time to eat.
I choked down a bagel and a banana, hit the private Port-a-Potties and went to hit the corrals.
Arm warmers are so flattering.
I met up with Ericka to line up in the corrals. We were both chasing sub-4, so we decided to try to start together. We lined up in the 3:40 corral in hopes of not getting stuck in crowds, but I think that’s probably impossible in a race this big.
I’d taken a pace bracelet at the expo, and I didn’t really have much of a pace plan other than start slow and then pick it up later. At the Runner’s World strategy session, they talked about starting slow so that you burned through fat and not carbs and didn’t bonk…but, spoiler alert: I didn’t do that.
I knew I should start at what felt like a snail’s pace, but in the first few miles, every time I looked down at my watch, I saw sub-9 minute miles. They certainly didn’t feel slow, but they felt comfortable, so I hoped I’d be able to hold them.
The first 6-7 miles include the biggest hills of the course, which worried me that my legs would fatigue earlier from the hills, but at least they kept us from going out too too fast.
Before getting to the Key Bridge, we ran on Lee Highway, down Spout Run Parkway and down the GW Parkway. The GW Parkway was gorgeous, but there were no spectators, and I couldn’t wait to get back into the city. (City girl at heart.)
Mile 1: 9:25
Mile 2: 9:18
Mile 3: 9:09 (oh look, goal pace!)
Mile 4: 8:43 (oh look, too fast!) This mile was a downhill.
We reached the Key Bridge just after mile 4. I’d asked my parents to be on the Key Bridge around mile 4ish and then at the end for 8.5ish, so I hoped to see them there. As soon as we turned the corner to get on the bridge, I saw a wall of people and started smiling like an idiot.
We reached the end of the Key Bridge, and began climbing Canal. It was a long, slow climb for miles 6 and 7, but we stayed steady.
Mile 5: 9:20
Mile 6: 9:01
Mile 7: 9:17
I knew that this area was pretty hilly both from studying the course map and from when I lived in D.C., so I was a bit nervous, but it was less hilly than I expected. Until we took a hairpin turn onto Reservoir Road. (I saw Anne just before mile 7, and she ended up KILLING it in 3:51!) The course leveled off at this point, and I felt cheated out of the downhill I was expecting! We ran past the Georgetown Reservoir, and Ericka and I talked about how much we wanted a downhill. Just before we got our downhill, I took my first Gu.
We flew down Foxhall, and I was excited for more crowds as I ran through Georgetown. I was psyched to run through Georgetown. I knew the area well, I knew it’d be crowded, and I hoped to see my parents.
It didn’t disappoint in any of these regards!
There’s me and Ericka, side by side! We’d actually only met once before this but knew each other well from each other’s blogs, so it was great to get to know each other for three hours.
I felt so strong at this point, and felt so excited and proud of myself that I was actually racing this race, not just running it. I was putting everything I had into the race, and my times were reflecting that.
I saw my parents here, at the far end of M Street, and I was happy. As we ran, I remembered so many hazy nights at Georgetown bars, and told Ericka how this marathon was so special to me. How my life was so different when I lived in D.C., and I was so happy to be back and running a marathon in this city where I was so lazy and inactive. We turned down Wisconsin and ran under the Whitehurst on K Street. I remembered in 2005 when I wanted to train for the Dublin Marathon with a friend and my IBS completely derailed me. I remembered trying to run a mile and needing, instead, to race back for a bathroom.
Mile 8: 8:57
Mile 9: 8:57
Mile 10: 8:54
We ran down Rock Creek and under the Kennedy Center. I told Ericka how I’d loved running under the Kennedy Center in other races, and I’d completely missed it last weekend because I was so busy chatting. I savored those few seconds under the Kennedy Center this time. It was at this point that we hit mile 10, and someone around us (or maybe Ericka? marathon fog brain here) said “It’s just a 16-mile training run from here!”
Um, shit. I don’t usually run 10 miles with most of them sub-9 before 16 miles. The next 16 miles would be interesting.
Around 10.5, we dipped back near the city to run past the Lincoln Memorial. Just before the memorial, I saw Bart Yasso, and he yelled my name! I was SO excited that he yelled my name, and I yelled back BAAAAAART!
Mile 11: 8:57
It was here that we entered West and East Potomac Park. There were lots of great signs here, including one RUN ALL THE MILES sign, and a long series of funny and motivational signs every few yards.
I remember starting to feel really thirsty here, and thinking the next water stop couldn’t come quickly enough. I also remember the wind picking up, and seeing some official D.C. boat just offshore of the park. This is honestly the only point in the race I started worrying about the storm.
We hit the halfway point here, and I switched to margarita shot bloks, which have been miracle-workers in the past. I wasn’t yet feeling fatigued, but was starting to feel concerned about keeping up this pace for another 13.1 miles.
Mile 12: 8:56
Mile 13: 8:59
(Half split: 2:00: 07)
Mile 14: 9:14
Mile 15: 9:14
After what seemed like forever, we finally were heading towards the Mall.
Mile 16: 8:56
Here’s where I really started faltering mentally. I asked Ericka for a pep talk, and we talked about how we had to be uncomfortable and push ourselves if we were going to break 4. We talked about how great it would be to be able to say we broke 4 hours. My legs were starting to feel a little tired at this point, but the pain was far more mental than physical. I wanted to stop at mile 16, and I credit Ericka, my pacing angel, for keeping me going.
She reminded me I’d see my parents again soon, and this kept me going. We also saw a few people she knew, and seeing how happy she was to see them gave me a boost, too.
So, so happy. Minus really wanting to be done.
We pushed down the Mall, towards the Capitol and turned around, and I finally saw my parents again!
Mile 18: 8:52
Mile 19: 9:05
At this point, I knew the 14th Street Bridge was coming, and remember hearing how hard it was. I wasn’t nervous for the Queensboro Bridge last year, but I started getting nervous for this long bridge.
We turned down 14th Street, just like during the Army Ten-Miler. I remembered how I’d felt that first Army Ten-Miler running this bridge, and reminded myself how far I’d come. How, although I was definitely uncomfortable, I was doing well. I had less than 7 miles to go.
“This bridge is great! You love this bridge!” Ericka told me. We kept trading mantras back and forth to each other. “No guts, no glory,” I told her.
As we were on this bridge, I started to fall just a few steps behind her and struggling to stay by her side, instead of easily keeping up like I had before. This was where I began to fall apart mentally. She was obviously so much stronger than me, I thought. Why was I running with her? Why didn’t I run my own race? I knew this negative talk was doing nothing for my race, and I tried to push it out of my mind and remind myself how well I’d done these first 20 miles.
Mile 20: 9:03
At some point during mile 20, she asked what our pace was. When I looked, our current pace was hovering somewhere around 9:17. I told her this, but said “It’s okay! We have time in the bank! We’ll be fine!”
It was then when I realized we’d probably split up and I got nervous about running those last miles alone. I knew I probably had it physically but didn’t know if I had it mentally. “I know we have it in the bank, but I don’t want to rely on that,” she said. I couldn’t push it any more, and we split around mile 21.
Mile 21: 8:52
As soon as we split, my pace started to drop.
Mile 22: 9:23
I still felt strong, but I was definitely faltering.
Mile 23: 9:24
Crystal City was fun, and I remember the Lululemon Cheer Squad (they’re hard to miss!), but just after this, as we entered Pentagon City, I bonked. Hard.
I stopped to walk on an overpass, and started to give up on my goal. I just wanted to be done. I hadn’t seen a pace group anywhere else in the race, but the 4:00 pace group passed me at this point. I didn’t think I had it in me to keep up with them, but it put a little wind back in my sails, and I began to run again.
As we hit Mile 24, the Pentagon was in sight, and I remember thinking the finish was so close, yet SO, SO FAR. Another 2 miles!? I kept telling myself “no more than 20 minutes. 2 miles. This is nothing,” but my mind wasn’t buying what my mouth was spewing. (Yes, I was mumbling these mantras to myself.)
Just after we hit 24, we hit the highway again, and I wanted nothing more than to be done. I told myself to just fight to get to 25 and I’d see more people. I’d taken a Munchkin at Mile 24, hoping the sugar would help. I think I got a small burst of energy, but I also got nauseous really quickly. Noted. No more munchkins in a marathon.
Mile 24: 10:32 (Not much fight left. I stopped to walk for a stretch here.)
I hit mile 25, and saw signs that said 1.2 miles to go. At this point, I think my watch was somewhere around 3:51, and here was when I was sure I wouldn’t meet my goal. At this point, I could care less about sub-4. I just wanted to finish.
Mile 25: 9:58
I wondered, at this point, how I’d busted out those sub-9 miles earlier in the race. I readjusted my goal here to finish under 4:05.
Mile 26: 10:18
At some point before mile 26 (according to my watch, which was a little off the whole time), my watch read 3:59, and I ripped off my pace bracelet, rather dramatically.
I knew Anne would be near the finish, and my next goal was to look strong as I passed her. I chugged through, was ecstatic to see her, and ran up that asshole of a hill at the end and put every ounce of energy I had into crossing that finish line.
And I finished in 4:04:36. (That is not an error message.) I raised my arms triumphantly, and smiled like an idiot for the cameras.
I crossed the finish line, and everything hurt immediately. I hobbled through the finish line stuff and started tearing up. I had finished my third marathon, and had taken off nearly an hour between my first and my third! I knew that sub-4 was probably a bit of a stretch for me (but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to try!), and I laid everything I had out on that course, and I was thrilled with my time.
The first text I got was from my old boss, Morgan, who’d been tracking me the whole time, and who’d texted me during my first two marathons, too. She told me she was so proud of me, and I just wanted to give her a big hug for encouraging me to run my first 5K six years ago.
I met my parents at the Runner’s World Challenge after-party, where I melted onto a chair and only got up to get a few minutes of post-race massage, which hurt like all hell. My stomach was incredibly upset, and I got up pretty quickly, because I was nervous I’d throw up on the massage table.
My family and I then walked uphill (ow, ow, ow) to the hotel since the line for the metro stretched around the block. We packed, picked up Rebecca and booked it out of town to beat the storm back to NY. I outran Sandy, and we outdrove her. (Please, please, stay safe, wherever you are.)
I didn’t run the smartest race, and the last few miles of this race were incredibly tough for me. I didn’t finish anywhere near as strongly as I did at the NYC Marathon, but I also didn’t try to throw down sub-9 minute miles for a big chunk of that race. I grew a lot as a runner yesterday, and I’m proud of myself for pushing with everything I had. I never imagined I’d be able to run a marathon that started with 4:0x.
I have no idea what my next race will be, and I’m not sure if I’m ready to try again for sub-4, but I know I have it. I can taste it.