FFTT Week 4

I am very proud of your performance on Saturday.  First of all, for the number that showed up in the drizzle.  33 out of 41 were there, ready to run!  I was so impressed!  Getting out there on those nasty days are the hardest to do!  I’m so proud of you for just getting out there.  Secondly, you handled the elevation without even blinking.  You kept your stride steady, your chin up, and you sailed right over the inclines.  Too awesome!  So proud of what you accomplished.

SUMMER is finally upon us.  It’s almost like the heat is trying to make up for not being around consistently for the last couple of months because now it is here with a vengeance.

This weekend’s run is going to be hot, Hot, HOT!  I just sitting on my porch at 6:15 a.m. today and it was 80-something degrees.  I think tomorrow is going to be the same.
A couple of things to think about as we lead into decidedly warmer temps:

  • Hydration is important every day leading up to our run.  Make sure you are getting a proper intake of water.  For me, I should wake up without feeling parched.  For me, it also means avoiding alcohol the night before a long run.  Alcohol can cause significant to my system.  I save my adult beverages for post long run.
  • Wear light colors, technical fabrics to wick away colors, and a technical fabric hat.  Technical fabrics are breathable and keep your body cooler.
  • Make sure you have plenty of hydration with you on the run.  I like to freeze my bottles the night before.  In the summer heat, it melts quickly and I can have some cool water to drink on the run.  NOTE:  do not fill your bottle all the way before freezing.  Leave about an inch of space at the top.

If you’ve been following Brandi and Tim’s training emails this week, you will notice that there may be some changes.  Our Saturday’s run will be based on time and “feel.”  What that means is, we will finish the novice mileage, but those who are on the intermediate schedule most likely will not be completing the additional miles.  Your safety is our utmost concern!

A few other things about tomorrow’s run:

  • It will most likely be slower than previous runs.  Since we have had the luxury of cooler temps, our bodies have not had the 10 runs it usually takes to acclimatize.  As always, I will set the pace.  I am responsible for a large group.  Please do not run ahead.
  • You must have water!  My recommendation is to carry as much as your hydration system can handle.  I plan to carry 5 bottles, freezing at least 3 bottles.  I will also leave a larger frozen bottle of water in the car for post run.
  • Make sure you have plenty electrolytes, either by using Gu Brew, Nuun, or other hydration mix, or using gel shots, sport beans, or other sport nutrition.  Don’t overdo it though.  There is such a thing as too many electrolytes.
  • You might want to have a towel  with you.  I plan to freeze a wet washcloth in a ziplock bag tonight to use it to cool down tomorrow after the run.
I hope you all are feeling good with how you are progressing in your training.  All of you are doing great.  Our long runs are not a focus on speed, but on distance and overall time on your feet.  Group long runs should be relaxed and at a conversational pace.  My goal is for you to learn to love your time with your running friends and to have FUN.  If you don’t have fun, you won’t want to do this again.  I want you to look forward to our runs together!
If you don’t get the Coach Tim Cary’s blog post, this week was a good one about the patience it takes while training, no matter the distance.  If you haven’t read it, click this link:  Let the Cake Bake
I’ll see bright, early, and sweaty on Saturday!
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FFTT Week 3

First, I just want to say how proud I am of everyone and their efforts on Saturday!  It was a hot, soupy mess, but y’all rocked it out!

A collected a few questions on the run on Saturday that I promised I would answer during my email, but first, Lindsay (or was it Lindsey), stop reading right now and go put a towel in your car.    I’ll wait.

One of the questions was about what I was wearing.  In the winter, I’m pretty thorough with information on what to wear based on the weather, but after the questions this week, I’ll break the whole thing down for you, top to bottom.  I’m just going to share what I use.  YMMV (Your mileage may vary):
  • Visor – multiple purposes (protection from sun, rain, and to prevent sweat rolling into my eyes)
  • Technical fiber/moisture wicking singlet or short sleeve shirt.  Your training team shirt is a great option. (Once it his 50-60 degrees, you’ll almost always find me in a singlet.)
  • Guys – avert your eyes – a high quality technical fiber sports bra.  Ladies, do NOT cheap out on this piece of gear, trust me.
  • A running skirt with attached compression shorts.  I’ve tried numerous skirt with most skirts riding up and causing chafing in the “chub rub zone.”  The only skirts I have found that do not ride up on me are the Sparkle Techs from Sparkle Skirts.  These skirts are pricy but are a high quality, made in the USA product.
  • Amphipod Hydration Belt.  On longer runs I wear two 10 ounce bottles and two 8 ounce bottles with room for 1-2 more.  These bottles also fit nicely in the leg pockets of my Sparkle Tech Skirts.
  • Compression socks.  I tend to use Pro Compression Marathon Socks but Fleet Feet offers some other brands that may work just as well for you.  I use these typically any run 4 or more miles.  My calves have a tendency to be super tight and I’ve found the compression seems to help on the long run.  I’ve also been known to wear compression socks for recovery, as well.
  • Other socks.  For short runs, my favorite running sock is Balega No Show Cushioned Socks.  These can be found at Fleet Feet.
  • Shoes – I wear Brooks Ariel which is the “strongest” stability shoe on the market.  Don’t go shopping for running shoes based on appearance.  Please take the time to visit Fleet Feet to be fitted properly.  If the shoes don’t work for you, they will let you exchange them.
  • Body Glide, Skin Glide, Tri Slide, or any other anti-chafing product. My preference is Skin Glide… a liquid power to get in the nooks and crannies that sometimes get unhappy.  Tri Slide is a spray that I like on those days I’m in a hurry, but be forewarned… watch the surfaces you’re around when you spray it.  It will make a tile floor slick!
  • For the guys:  Nip Guards or band-aids… trust me on this.
  • When chafe does happen, I use a diaper rash cream with zinc to clear it up quick!
  • A zip lock baggie for your phone, to keep it dry.
  • Interval timer for keeping track of your run/walk/run intervals.  In addition to my Garmin, I like the Gym Boss.  It’s a “bargain” as far as running goes.

I think that is all I promised I would cover in this email.  If I forgot something or you think of something else, feel free to ask.

While our mileage is down this week, our run interval is increasing by 30 seconds to 2:30 run to 1 minute walk break.  As usual, I will set the pace.  The goal for the group, especially this week is to feel like you could run farther… but you’re not going to. Running more miles than scheduled is a recipe for injury.  My goal is to get all of you through your race day without injury.
Tomorrow’s route will be a combination of trail and street.  It is imperative that we stay together in a group when we are on the road, but no wider than 2 across.  We have to give autos and bikes their due space, but staying together as a large group makes us more noticeable for motorists.
Please make sure you have plenty of water with you this week.  As the temps go up, we will get to the point that if you don’t have water to carry with you, we can’t allow you to run.

I’ve heard from many of you about how great you felt after the run last week and how happy you were.  I LOVE hearing things like that.  I want nothing more than to see each of you complete every run, happy and healthy.  I want to celebrate your finish in October!

I’m really proud of how all of you did last Saturday.  I know you’ll continue to make me proud.
See you bright and early!


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FFTT Week 2

A little gear tip:  you’ll almost always see me wearing a visor when I run.  It keeps the rain out of my eyes and I don’t have to take time wiping my face while running.  It’s also great for sunny days and the early morning/late evening runs when you need to have a place to clip a head lamp.

During this week’s run,  I’ll be setting the pace for the front of the group.  As my returning members will tell you, I will gently encourage …*wink*… everyone to stay on pace.  My responsibility is to the success of the team as a whole and I do my best to get everyone through it.

This is our final week at a 2:1 interval for our long run.  Please practice extending your run interval to at a 3:1 interval (or beyond) on your weekday runs.

Make sure you have water for yourself throughout the run.  We will be doing 2-3 miles loops, so a single bottle should be sufficient with our return to base camp each time.

You will also want to consider your nutritional needs prior to and during your run.  Just like your car can’t run on fumes, your body needs fuel.  I like peanut butter crackers or a half bagel thin with PB before a run.  During my run, I like Sport Beans because I can take as few or as many I need.  As our miles get longer, I start craving other “real” foods and I might carry PB crackers with me on the run.

We will start at promptly at 6:30 a.m.  Don’t be late!
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Training Team Intro

I am Mel, your coach for the next few months.  I’m a Fleet Feet Training Team (FFTT) alumna and I LOVE to share my love of this sport with all I can.
A little about me:  I’m a 40-something yo, wife, mother of 3 girls, former Marine, and late on-set marathoner.  The half marathon is my FAVORITE distance!  I started running again on April 1, 2009, after a 15 year hiatus.  I’ve run half marathons, marathons, and a 50k ultramarathon.  I have completed all of these races using the run/walk/run method that we will be using throughout the training session. I started coaching with FFTT in the Spring 2011 half marathon season and I’ve loved every moment.
My #1 promise to you as your coach is that I will NOT cross the finish until ALL of my team has finished their race.  If you are worried about being last or being alone on the cross, get rid of that thought right now!
A few highlights about our team and what to expect:
  • My team operates a little differently than the rest of the training team.  We will run our race at a 3:1 interval (running 3 minutes, walking 1), but our first Saturday long run intervals start at a 2:1 interval (running 2 minutes, walking 1).  The purpose is to make sure everyone is on the same pace for our run intervals.  We will gradually increase our intervals as well as mileage throughout the program.
  • You are encouraged to do at least a 3:1 interval for your weekday runs.  This is my recommended minimum.  It will better prepare you as we progress through mileage and intervals.  You are always welcome to run your entire weekday runs, but that is not required.  You will be successful running intervals for all your training runs.
  • Saturday long runs will be completed at a conversational pace.  As your coach, I will set the pace for the group.  Please, do not concern yourself with what our pace is for our Saturday runs.  That’s my job.  Weekday runs are yours to play with pace, in accordance with your training plan.
  • Fun and laughter.  My goal is to make this as enjoyable an experience as running can be.  We all have challenging days, but when we can laugh, it makes the miles go by faster.
Now, take a minute and send me a quick email about you, your running history, and your goals for this training session.  Pretty please with sugar on top!  I see some familiar names, but I also notice a bunch of new names.  I can’t wait to meet you.
Happy running!
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Confessions of a Coach: Positive Attitude Required

If you spoke to anyone I have run with or have coached over the last several years, they would generally say I am a positive encouraging person.  For the most part, that is true.  There are times, though, it can really be tough to stay positive for myself.

Confession:  yesterday was one of those days.
I take my role as a coach very serious.  My goal every season is to encourage every runner I work with to surpass what he or she believes is possible, and to make sure they have fun while doing it.  I greet nearly every team run with enthusiasm and excitement.  I know how tough it is for new runners to show up for the first time or those coming back from injury who worry about if they are going to be able to run again.  Negative thoughts and self doubt creep up and can make it difficult.  That’s where it becomes so important for me to try to be louder than those voices.


A recent Runner’s World article  supports the notion that positive reinforcement encourages better performance.  While this article provides new insight and scientific results, it is a concept I have understood throughout my adult life, maybe even longer.


I was a stubborn child, and an even more stubborn teen.  The best way to get  me to do something was to tell me you didn’t think I could succeed at the task.  I joined the Marine Corps and left for boot camp with some family and friends believing I wouldn’t make it.    Needless to say, Marine Corps Drill Instructors are not known for positive encouragement.  It’s more a matter of yelling at a recruit until he or she succeeds, and threats punishment if the recruit fails. Recruits are pushed to and past their breaking point, but often to success.  In recruit training I learned to dig down and find the fortitude within myself to succeed.  The Marine Corps taught me that my body can do so much more than I believe it can.  I just have to be willing to try.


While the Marine Corps taught me my body can go further and do more than I believe, my experience with another organization taught me sharing positive encouragement is a more effective tool to encourage others in everyday life.  We live in a negative world and sometimes it can be difficult for an individual to remain positive.  As a coach, I believe it’s my job to be that positive source for everyone, including myself.


Back to my confession…


In seven seasons of coaching, I have had two group run days where I had an issue with staying positive for myself.


The first time was during our final group run in my first season coaching.  It was an “easy” 6 miles, as the next week was the race.  Everyone was excited and I should have been.  I don’t remember if there was something going on at work or home, but I just remember not feeling “right” in my usual positive way.  A mile or two into the run, I commented to a fellow runner (someone I had run with since April Fools Day 2009), “I’m just not feeling ‘it’ today.”  I didn’t know what “it” was or why I wasn’t feeling “it,” but moments later, I took a tumble for the very first time on a training run.  Knees, hands, and elbow bloodied, new gloves torn, I got up laughing at myself, and carried on.


Yesterday was the 12 mile graduation run for this training time.  I should have been fired up and excited, ready to tackle the miles and cheer on my team.  Instead, I woke up not feeling “it.”  It had been a long work week. Our family going through some adjustments with my husband returning to work for the first time in several years (he’s a full time college student, getting ready to graduate).  I hadn’t prepared my gear the night before like I usually do.  I was disappointed with the weather.  After a few awesome Spring like days, we were back to chilly temps.  I had to run dressed like a “stuffed sausage” again, with tights and a thicker tech shirt to stay warm enough.  BLAH!


I went through the motions getting myself up and out of bed, dressed, to the car, and to our meeting place on time.  As I got out of the car and was gathering my belongings, one of my favorite speedy friends walked by and gave his usual enthusiastic greeting.  My response was “meh” in nature, and he noticed!  When my friend commented that I didn’t seem myself, it should have made me realize that my attitude and thoughts needed to be adjusted.  Instead, I continued going through the motions.


While I had been getting dressed, I was still hopeful it would warm up enough gloves wouldn’t be needed, so I left my usual running gloves in the clean laundry basket.  Standing in the park with my team waiting to start, I realized I was going to need some gloves at least part of time.  I knew had a some back up gloves in my running bag in the car.  These are gloves I keep in there for instances like this when I left my usual pair at home.  These are the gloves that I tore on that first training tumble when I wasn’t feeling “it.”  *Insert ominous music here.*


Still feeling “meh” I headed back to my group and half-heartedly put my positive face on.  I believed in my team.  I knew each one of them were capable of not just completing those 12 miles but to absolutely crush each mile along the way.  I’m usually an extremely positive person, but for whatever reason, “meh” was my self-thought of the day.


At 3.4 miles into the run, “meh” caught up to me as I demonstrated a not so graceful Superman-like flight, landing not so gracefully on the sidewalk around Lafayette Park.  Thankfully, I did not take down any of my team with me.  My awesome team let out a collective gasp.  When you’re sprawled on the ground in front of the people you are supposed to be leading, you have two choices:  you can cry and throw a fit, or you can come up laughing.  The decision wasn’t hard, I came up laughing.


I assessed the damage.  No torn clothes. A broken clasp on my timer.  Some mild swelling with a small bloody scrape on the heel of my right palm.  Jewelry all in tact.  Sense of humor in tact.  Pride severely bruised.  Attitude improved.  The fall literally knocked the “meh” out of me.


We carried on, running another 3 miles to our turn around point at the St. Louis Arch.  On our return trip we added some St. Louis 250th birthday fun along the way as we veered off course to visit 7 of the 199 decorative birthday cakes placed around the City.  We laughed.  We posed for pictures.  We were “photobombed” by a hotel guest having breakfast.  We celebrated the longest run ever completed by several of our members.


It is a privilege and honor to be able to lead my own little team.  I could not be more proud of their efforts and achievements.  I can’t wait to see each of them succeed on race day.  My hope is that they learned from me that attitude truly is a big part of running, and they don’t have to learn it the way I did, when I had to have the “meh” knocked out of me.
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My First Marathon: Marine Corps Marathon 2010

Originally written November 9, 2010

I survived. It was great but it was TOUGH!

I already knew from the course map and elevation chart, miles 1-3 and 6-8 were pretty much constant inclines, so I was determined to pace myself and keep my pace slow. I did just that. I worked hard to keep a consistent easy pace and felt good. I took pictures along the way. I couldn’t resist!

I look terrified, don't I?

I look terrified, don’t I?

Just past the start line was the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, how could I resist taking a picture. I mean, Marines in Dress Blues on horses. What a sight!

USMC Mounted Color Guard

USMC Mounted Color Guard

Within mile one, we were in a downtown area with high rise apartment buildings. One apartment had their entire windows covered with a HUGE sign that said, “BEAT THE BRIDGE!” I looked up because I heard people yelling. They were all on the balcony cheering. It was pretty cool.

I love awesome spectators!

I love awesome spectators!

“Miles” the Marine Corps Marathon Mascot was at Mile 1. I thought about getting a picture, but settled for a high five instead. I was getting hot, so I stripped my “throwaway” sweatshirt, and dumped it on a street corner.

At one point, I fell in with the Clif 5:30 pace group and was happy to see they were doing intervals, too. But I quickly fell back because their pace was just too ambitious for the hills this early in the race.

First glimpse of Georgetown.

First glimpse of Georgetown.

I survived the first hill and about half way through mile 3, I got a glimpse of Georgetown. Beautiful! I had to take a picture. Then I looked ahead and saw an incline at mile 4 that wasn’t reflected on the elevation map. WTH?!!?!

Surprise!  A bonus hill!

Surprise! A bonus hill!

About this time I “met” another runner who was as attached to her phone as I was to mine. It turns out she was updating Twitter and was being followed by the Washington Post for the race. Too cool. About the same time I met two larger men and they were talking about the food on the course. One of them said he had a friend bringing fried chicken to him at mile 10. I wanted to stay with him, but we separated pretty quickly.

As we crossed Key Bridge into Georgetown, we saw the mass of SPEEDY runners coming down the hill from Mile 8. They were elbow to elbow and FLYING. Some runners near me started saying how they can’t be having any fun because none of them are smiling and they all look so serious. We’re all laughing and joking and having a great time. My philosophy is that running races is like a mullet: all business in the front, all party in the rear. My fashionably late compatriots all seemed to fulfill that philosophy. We were having fun.

About this same time, I met a runner named Robbie from Houston. From this point on, we were pretty much together. We might separate for a short while, but we’d somehow find each other again. She was funny and easy to pick out. She wore a pink stocking cap most of the race. Robbie became an important part of my finish in the race, but that will come later.

I just have to take a little detour when thinking about this portion of the race. All I kept thinking is how disgusting runners are. As soon as we hit a park type area, men were peeling off constantly and running to the bushes. Some weren’t even taking the time to find cover. ACK! Not exactly what I want to see! As we progressed further and ended up in a rural area along the river outside of Georgetown, women started peeling off and doing the same thing. Some took care and didn’t expose themselves, but others… well, DOUBLE ACK!!! I was especially disturbed by the “minimalist runners” that didn’t carry anything (water, SPI belt, nothing) and didn’t have anything to even wipe their hands on afterwards. UGH! ……………but I digress.

Mile 6 was straight up hill again, all the way to mile 8. It was a long tough hill. I chose to walk it. Robbie was with me here. It’s where we first started “bonding” on the race. She was just one of those chipper runners you just enjoy being around. Having someone to talk to helps the miles go by, that’s for sure. She was just going on and on about how great the sights were, although, I quickly learned she was talking about the Marines on the course. I guess I’m kind of “immune” to those sights since I spent every day for four years around them and dressed like them. LOL

So I’m somewhere between miles 6 and 8, everyone along the course are yelling, “Just one more mile and the hill is done! Just one more mile!” There are a few flat spots in residential areas. I’m focusing on the environment around me. I really wanted to remember every moment, savor every bit. The streets, the houses, apartments, lofts, the trees… This isn’t an every day run. I’m trying to focus on the external, not what my body is saying to me. I’m past my “achy warmup miles (miles 1-3)” and I really feel good. (Have I ever mentioned I HATE 5k’s? It’s because it take 3 miles for me just to feel good.) I sail down the steep incline that I passed 3-4 miles earlier, but this time, there is no one on the other side. Me and my “friends” are bringing up the rear. I see the sweep vehicle on the way out at about mile 4.75. I’m a little over mile 8. I’m happy to see no one struggling to stay in front of the vehicle and no one in the sweep vehicle. I’m also happy there’s a pretty good space between me and the sweep vehicle…. Well, for now anyway.

I'm somewhere around mile 8 when I see the sweep vehicle around mile 4.5.  Works for me!

I’m somewhere around mile 8 when I see the sweep vehicle around mile 4.5. Works for me!

As I come into the area of The Shoppes of Georgetown, I hear the crowds getting louder and louder. I see spectators spilling into the streets. There’s a water station right the beginning of the Shoppes. For the first time, I’m really paying attention to the Marines on the course. Almost all Marines working the water stations are brand new officers from The Basic School (TBS) or Officer Candidate School (OCS). It warms the heart of a former enlisted Marine to see young lieutenants on working parties, sweeping up the messes the runners left behind. Lord knows I did plenty of these kind of working parties as a young enlisted Marine myself… but I digress.

The Shoppes of Georgetown

The Shoppes of Georgetown

As I head out of Georgetown, I pass mile marker 9. I check my Garmin. Wow! I’m making great time…. until I realize my Garmin is stopped. See, I wear my Garmin 205 upside down, on the underside of my wrist. When I have to fight with a particularly stubborn water bottle, I sometimes bump the start/stop button in the process. I did that here, but I don’t know how long it had been when I discovered the issue. UGH! From this point on in the race, I realize how “dependent” I am on my Garmin. I’m a numbers person so I want to know what my splits are, how my overall pace is, etc.

I try to shake my Garmin issue off and go on. I come to the first food stop. I was expecting Sport Beans on course, but I always carry my own anyway. Imagine my surprise when I started slip sliding on orange peels. Now I love oranges so I happily took a couple of wedges. Big mistake. I ended up with pulp and skin all in my teeth. I can’t stand stuff stuck in my teeth so I messed with that petty stuff for a while. I realize later I totally missed the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts because I was distracted. UGH!

Now we’re running along the Potomac River and the wind really starts to kick up. Of course, it couldn’t be a tail wind. No, it has to be a lovely mix of cross wind and head wind. I see the monuments and bridges in the distance so I keep going. Between mile 10 & 11, I see a runner juggling and take a picture. All I think is “sure, just make the rest of us look bad.” LOL

Juggling and running... because running JUST running a marathon isn't hard enough.

Juggling and running… because running JUST running a marathon isn’t hard enough.

We come up to the edge of the National Mall. The crowds are thick along the course… going the other way… they’re cheering for the runners that look serious and don’t smile or stop for pictures…. runners unlike me. LOL I pretend all the people with their backs to me are really yelling for us and I keep going. At this point, I know I’m coming to what is known as the most boring part of the course; the out and back through West and East Potomac Parks. A runner I met on the flight down was doing her 10th Marine Corps Marathon. She told me that used to be miles 18-20 for the race, and it was horrible because there wasn’t any crowd support out there. She was glad they had us do that early in the race and saved the National Mall for those miles when you needed the crowd support.

I meet up with my new friend, Robbie, again at mile 12 when she stopped to try to take of picture of her with the “cute” Marine manning the mile marker. She was having trouble with their self-portrait, so I ran up and offered to take it for her. We got their picture done and we took off again. We came up to the next food station and guess what? Clif Shots and they gave the last one to the runner in front of me. Again reassured of my decision to carry my own hydration and nutrition, I keep going.

Remember that wind I told you about? East Potomac Park is on a peninsula between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel. Wind is coming in every which direction but from behind. UGH! I crossed the half marathon point and kept going. Two ladies stopped on the course, said they were done and handed their shot bloks off to anyone who would take them. I ended up with CranRazz… one of my favorites.

Since I was “jonesin’” to know my actual time, I posted on facebook asking someone to look up my chip time. A friend obliged and I was happy to know I ran my slowest half ever, coming in at 3:00 and some seconds. Perfect. Right on track.

Coming back toward the National Mall, I ran by some men who were running a intervals and just chatting a way the whole time. I started watching. They were doing 1:1 intervals, nice and easy and soon they left me in the dust. They weren’t running much faster than I was, but they were well rested and were making good time. Hmmmm… maybe there is something to 1:1 intervals. I think I’m going to try that for the Goofy.

The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument

My pace stayed between 13:30-13:45/mile through the first half of the marathon. I kept my solid pace, I had to ‘beat the bridge’ at mile 20 by staying below 14min/miles until then.

I’m coming back towards the mall and the wind is really getting challenging. Cross winds, head winds… it just sucked. Never a tail wind. I’m trying to focus on the sights. To my right, across the Washington Channel is a harbor of sorts with all these HUGE yachts. David and I are getting married on a 100’ yacht in May. I thought “our yacht” was huge. “Our yacht” looks like a little john boat compared to these things. They are massive… impressive. It provides a nice distraction for a while.

Now this is a “respectable” marathon, but we have to remember, it is also Halloween. My costume for the day was to come dressed as a marathoner. Seriously, at this point it was feeling as just that… just a costume. All the “business” marathoners had left me in the dust a long time ago, but I was plugging along. While I chose to costume myself as a marathoner, some went a little further. Especially two ladies dressed in 80’s workout attire, complete with neon leotard, tights, leg warmers, hand bands, etc. They had their own course support dressed in their own form of costumes. I was with these ladies off and own through mile 19. They were quite the distraction. With the bright colors, it was hard to keep your eyes off of them. I’m sure men running behind them didn’t mind the distraction….

Lincoln Monument.  Well, the backside of it, anyway.

Lincoln Monument. Well, the backside of it, anyway.

About the time we got back to the Lincoln Memorial end of the National Mall, I was near a father and son running together. The father made a comment about not being a marathoner. I corrected him, reminding him that we get the same medal as the person that comes in 4th place. After some encouragement from me, his son, and other runners, he finally relented. He was a marathoner and he was going to finish this race. I didn’t see these two again, but I did notice on the finishers list, there was a father and son, about the age of these two, that finished at 7:23. I’m sure it was the two I talked to. He really was a marathoner.

After we rounded the Lincoln Memorial, we run what the Marines call “The Gauntlet.” It’s the length of the National Mall, the pedestrian area. At this point, I’m tired and I’m hungry. I’m craving something salty. There are food vendors all over the place. Remembering that I had stashed some cash in my belt, I was really tempted to get something salty. I really needed it. Mental note for the Goofy: carry pretzels or something salty. Or at a minimum, my Margarita Shot Bloks with triple the sodium. I had only packed one package that I shared with David before the race because it wasn’t hot. I didn’t think I would sweat as much as I did. The lines were long for the concessions, so I kept going.

David was texting me, telling me he’s cramping and slowing down. Duh! He was probably needing salt, too. Or it was his lack of training. I encouraged him on by text, telling him he had plenty of time to “beat the bridge” while realizing time was running out for me. Yikes. I need to get moving. I press on and somehow completely miss seeing the White House. Now, in my defense, it is a few blocks off of the National Mall, but I know there is an unobstructed view of the White House. I was realizing I was starting to cut it close when it came to beating the bridge to finish this race.

U. S. Capital

U. S. Capital

As I come in full view of the Capitol, I notice three things: first the two school buses being escorted by a police car, the strong odor of human excrement, and trash cans are overflowing onto the ground. WOW! I’m just stunned. I’m in front of our Nation’s Capitol and I smell s***… literally. Totally ruined the experience it should have been. I get around to the other side of the Mall and I’m still near the Capitol. I notice LOTS of race photographers on the course. They are positioned to get pictures of the runners with the Capitol in the background. (These poor people have been sitting here where it smells so bad…. UGH!) I jockey back and forth, in front of the line of photographers to make sure I get at least one good shot (I do!) and move on. Up ahead is mile 19, water, BEANS (finally!), and oh crap… BUSES!!!!

One of my favorite pics!

One of my favorite pics!

At mile 19, two school buses pulled up, one already loaded with people. The Marine at this mile marker wasn’t announcing clock times like they were at all the other ones. He was saying, “if you want to finish the race, you must be in front of these buses” over & over. I said a few choice words & ran a 10:51/mile to get to the bridge. Actually, I was saying quite a few choice words while huffing and puffing to the bridge. I was running right next to the door to the bus, as it was moving forward. ARGH! As I rounded the corner, I was expecting to the see the bridge.

Nope, couldn’t see the bridge, but I could see two more buses between me and the bridge. I still had one bus right beside me, and it was being followed closely by another empty bus. The bus right beside me was full. I glanced up at those already on the bus. For a split second, I thought that was it, I was done.

Then I came to my senses. In my head I heard people saying, “I knew she couldn’t do it.” I said and few more choice words and kept pushing.

There was NO WAY I was going to give up. I was already preparing to go down with a fight if I was told to get on the bus. If it came to it, they were going to have to physically put me on the bus.

I kept pushing. A small incline… lots of cheering spectators… I particularly remember a woman wearing Fleet Feet Baltimore gear running up to me and encouraging me. She was telling me over and over I got this. I push up the incline, a Marine on the course STOPS the bus I was “racing” next to the two buses already parked on the side. At the top of that little incline, I see the entrance to THE BRIDGE and mile marker 20. I was almost there.

With the buses stopped, I slowed a bit and made my way up the incline of the entrance ramp to the bridge. I glance at my watch: 1:07 p.m. The entrance to the bridge would be closed to runners at 1:15 p.m. I had made it.

As I passed mile 20, I asked the Marine there if I was safe. He looked at me, looked across the bridge, smirked, and said “get across the bridge.” I walked the incline to the flatter part of the bridge, curious what was left in my legs.

I saw a man wearing cammie trousers, jungle boots, and a red t-shirt leaning against the wall on the bridge; a full pack at his feet. He wasn’t the first I had seen today wearing such attire. I had passed 4 dressed similarly earlier by the Washington Monument. Two had their packs off and were sitting on the ground. One had a boot off and was trying to wrap some blisters.

I asked the man leaning on the wall if he was ok. He smiled and said, “I’m done for today, ma’am.” As I turned to continue moving forward, I started to turn back to him to ask him how heavy his pack was. I came very close to offering to carry his pack to get him across the bridge. He had made it to the bridge, where he was supposed to be safe, only to stop. Instead, I turned forward and made my way across the bridge. I knew David was waiting for me across the bridge, just past mile 21.

I walked most of the bridge, but my walking pace is pretty fast, even when I’m tired. I passed quite a few runners in the process. Overall, it was pretty quiet on the bridge. Those that were left on the bridge at this point were the last ones that would be crossing it by foot today. We’ve all worked HARD to get there and we were quiet.

I jumped every time I heard a diesel engine that sounded like a bus, even if it was on the other side of the bridge. Those buses had been WAY too close. There was a man named Ray on the bridge. Ray wasn’t wearing a race number but I saw him several times through the rest of the race. It seemed like he was there to encourage those at the end of the race. He was wearing a bright colored singlet with “RAY” handwritten across the front. I saw him talking to a various runners on the bridge, about halfway across. He was taking pictures for people with the DC skyline in the background. I thought about asking him to do the same, but the words from the Marine at mile 20 rang in my ears: “get across the bridge.”

At this point, David was calling me, wondering where I was. He was waiting for me just past mile 21. I was just trying to get across the bridge.
I was over half way across the bridge when they brought the 4 sweep buses and stopped just behind me. To my knowledge, they didn’t take anyone who was already on the bridge into the buses unless they gave up.

When I finally met up with him, I was in a FOUL mood. He was all bouncy and full of energy. He wouldn’t shut up. I was NOT happy. He had barely trained. His longest run was a half marathon the week before. He didn’t even train for that half marathon. Like the Marine Corps Marathon, he just showed up and ran it. I trained, I worked my @ss off, and I still had to race the d@mn buses. At mile 21, David was not my favorite person in the World. I didn’t speak to him in a full sentence for another two miles.

Once a runner ‘beats the bridge,’ you are pretty much safe as long as you can continue on your own. So I relaxed a bit and slowed down. I was trying to get over being ticked off. David is still all bouncy and driving me nuts.

We work our way through Crystal City. Course support through here was pretty good. They had a block party or something going on for kids and there was Elmo and Cookie Monster on the street.

It’s a little out and back in Crystal City so we could see those still trudging forward. I see a dozen or so people in a little two column formation dressed like the man that was left on the bridge. Yeah, probably a good thing I didn’t offer to carry his pack. I’m sure it was tough enough for him to stop, but to have a middle aged mom of three carry his pack probably wouldn’t have looked good to his buddies.

David is still with me and I haven’t killed him yet. When we walk, he complains that I walk too fast and it hurts. When we run, I can’t keep up. ARGH!

On the way back, we see a man who ran the marathon in a ghillie suit. For those that don’t know, it’s basically a camouflaged head to toe suit that snipers use. He’s stopping, taking pictures with people and scaring kids along the course. It was kind of funny to watch him, but it had to be hot in that suit.

Marathoner in a ghillie suit

Marathoner in a ghillie suit

Also on the way back, I see two of the four men with packs I had passed on the National Mall. I remembered them because they had UK flags on their packs. They were still in front of the sweep vehicles, but not by much. They were moving slow, but still moving forward.

As we rounded the corner to mile 24, we saw the sweep vehicles at a little over mile 22. Right in front of the car, there was a man… an eighty-something year old man… still making his way. He was still running… barely. He stopped and bent over in front of the vehicle. Then he straightened up and kept going. He “ran” with a limping stride. It was obvious it took everything in this man to keep going. David told me he had passed this man early on in the race. Even early on, this man ran with that jagged stride… but he still ran.

Swallowing hard the lump forming in my throat, we pushed on. At mile 24, I grabbed water for David (he didn’t carry any), and Tylenol for myself. I think David took Tylenol, too. At least there is a red handwritten “T” on his bib indicating he did.

We pushed on. I was smiling a little more, but still irritated with his complaints that my walking was too fast. Then we’d try to run and he’d take off and leave me.

At some point along this way, I was back with my new friend, Robbie. We talked about our training, who we trained with, how we did it. It was a nice distraction.

Eventually, we were back near the Pentagon, where the runner’s pre-race village had been. In this parking lot there had been HUNDREDS of port-a-potties. The signs by them said “More of Jon Stewart’s Port-a-Potties.” It was funny. Leave it to the Marines.

If you hadn’t heard, in the weeks leading up to the Marine Corps Marathon, there had been several shootings at military buildings; specifically the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Pentagon, and a Marine Recruiting Station. There had been concern about the safety of runners during the Marine Corps Marathon, so security was HIGH!

David and I started talking about all the security that had been along the course. Helicopters were constantly flying over. David said he saw more helicopters during the race than he saw in two combat tours in Iraq. It was unreal. SWAT teams and police officers had been everywhere along the course.

Mile 26 is at the bottom of a little hill, just past the start line. To make the turn to the finish, it is a little hill. Not bad, but tough after 26 miles. When we got to it, I looked at David and said, “are you ready?” Without responding he was gone. He took off up the hill and left me behind! WTH?!?!?!?

I pushed myself, made myself run up the hill between the Marines lining the course shouting encouragement.

I get to the stop of the hill and there’s David standing there asking me where I’ve been. GRRRRRRRRR!!!!

He grabs my hand and pulls me toward the finish. Now he may have had my hand, but my legs were moving on my own. We ran through another group of Marines lining the course.

image image
By the time we reached the finish, I was right beside him, matching him stride for stride. Our feet landed on the finish line pad at the same time.

In a little bit of sweet justice, my chip time was 8 seconds faster than David’s.


I’ve calculated my 5k splits through the race and I was slooooooow after the bridge. BUT, I did what I needed to BEAT THE BRIDGE!
I did it and I learned A LOT in the process.

I’m ready to do it again.

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Running in a Winter Wonderland

I’ve seen the term “polar vortex” thrown around a few times recently in regards to the weather here in Misery (aka Missouri, but right now “Misery” seems to fit).  We had a nearly crippling snow storm earlier this week that made for an interesting midday commute home from my office 32 miles away.  It snowed significantly overnight, and the next day I spent 45 minutes shoveling my driveway to be able to get to work the next day.  I decided the shoveling session was in lieu of my scheduled training run that day.  That’s reasonable, right?

Last night, I had my running gear all set for the today’s run.  I had checked accuweather.com multiple times and had the overnight forecast confirmed by the local meteorologist.  It was going to be COLD (duh!) but we would have just a dusting when we woke.  Imagine my surprise when I started getting texts that we got more than an inch of snow, ON TOP OF the 8″ of snow from earlier in the week.  Our planned running routes were not going to be good.

I experienced some slip-sliding as I headed from my humble abode, but once on the highway, all was good until I got to our meeting location.  No surprise there the lot was covered.  Coaches were checking in with our fearless leader and I saw each head back to their cars and make an addition to their gear… Yak Trax.  That meant, for safety reasons, our route was changing.

Yak Trax!

Yak Trax!

For those in a fairer climate, you might not be aware of Yak Trax.  Yak Trax are a useful, albeit sometimes challenging, piece of running equipment that is sometimes a necessary evil. Yak Trax fit tightly on the sole of your shoe, from toe to heel.  It doesn’t appear possible to put Yak Trax on without already wearing your running shoes, so it makes for some interesting contortions, pinched frigid fingers, and often less than ladylike words to be uttered.  Once on the shoes, Yak Trax causes a “springy” sensation with every step on a hard surface.  Fortunately (unfortunately?), we were not on a hard surface for long.

Runners head out for some snow covered miles.

Runners head out for some snow covered miles.

Once everyone was gathered, we headed off for our mileage in the Winter Wonderland (aka the polar vortex).  While Yak Trax help some with traction, when the snow sits higher than your ankles, you do a lot of slip sliding anyway.  It’s days like this that it can take a lot to show up to a run when it would be so much easier to stay in your nice warm bed.  My team of mostly new runners stuck with it, kept great attitudes and rose to the challenge.

Thirteen hours post run, I’m feeling every little slip slide in my hip flexors.  Tomorrow will consist of lots of check stretching of some stiff muscles.  Two weeks in a row, it’s been a core muscle group challenge.  That’s ok, though.  What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.

Posted in Adventures in Running, Coaching a Half Marathon | Tagged , | Leave a comment