Tag Archives: Marine Corps Marathon

Lessons learned

After the Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 25, I exchanged a few e-mails with my friend Kaveh, who had to defer his entry until next year thanks to an ankle injury. We traded notes about how we ended up injured in the first place, and what we learned from those injuries. Here’s the parade of horribles that followed my Nashville Country Music Marathon in April 2007, after which I proceeded to:

Run two days after the marathon, a hard 30 minutes with Steve
Run my usual 6-mile route several times per week, with a semi-long run on weekends, because I wanted to “keep up my mileage,” doing absolutely zero cross-training
Go to a wedding in June wearing these *adorable* espadrilles, enjoy a few glasses of wine at said wedding, twist ankle on espadrilles, spend week on crutches courtesy of a doc in a box while awaiting a visit to the sports ortho (advice to you: When you have a drink in one hand, your high-heeled shoes should be in the other)
Resume running schedule immediately after getting doctor’s OK, with no physical therapy, apparently worsening some crazy muscle imbalances caused by a week of not using my left leg
Backpack 26 miles with a 30-lb pack the weekend after doctor’s OK
Be really surprised when my hip hurts so bad I can’t walk after the Marine Corps Half Marathon in Jax in October.

Shocking I ever managed to hurt myself. I was being so smart.

I’ve wised up since then, cross-training like crazy with only three quality running days per week, doing all sorts of core- and hip-strengthening exercises and sitting out as soon as something starts to hurt.

But I’m realizing I still have a lot to learn. The one thing that does kinda hurt post-marathon is the ankle I sprained running in Rock Creek Park in December 2008, which seems to be a sign that I should lay low for six weeks or so, skipping long runs to let my body completely heal itself. More importantly, I need to add some ankle- and foot-strengthening exercises to my repertoire, even though these are so boring, they make core work seem like a costume party. Take towel-scrunches: You place a towel on the floor in front of you, then proceed to pull it toward you by flexing and scrunching your toes. Thrilling. But I’m hoping exercises like these help end my foot/ankle problems for good. If you know of any great foot- or ankle-strengthening exercises, pass ’em along.

I also think I need to start speedwork earlier; nagging injuries kept me from adding speedwork to my training until halfway through my training schedule for MCM. My plan in training for the spring is to lay low for maybe six weeks to let my body fully recover from the last marathon, then start speedwork immediately in December.

I need to ask for a little help from my friends. I try to avoid boring my non-running friends with details about my training, but I realized I’ve done so to a fault, failing to even mention to many close friends that I’d be running a marathon until the weekend of. When my friend Jessica asked what we were up to Sunday, Oct. 25, and I told her it was Marathon Day, she immediately offered to come watch. I said that would be cool, if she wanted to; no big deal if not. I saw Jessica at mile 19, right after a major low point on the National Mall, and it just about saved my race. That’s one of the reasons it’s looking like the National Marathon in March is the revenge race for me; though it’s hilly and can be sparse in the final miles, it’s also located in a place where I can ask my friends to come support me in exchange for a nice pasta dinner the night after.

Finally, about those hills: I need to make my training all hills, all the time, so I’m not intimidated by the somewhat hilly course. My plan is to identify the biggest and most intimidating hills on the course, and to Metro downtown and do hill repeats on them. I don’t want to be wondering how I’ll do on the inclines; I want to know.

Which lessons have you learned from marathons past? Share them by posting a comment below!

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A positive spin

All week, I’ve been riding on a post-marathon high, viewing my miserable Marine Corps Marathon experience through the lens

image_server

Victorious at the finish line. THIS photo depicts exactly how I felt!

of inspiration rather than disappointment. That is, until my second post-marathon workout, a 45-minute spin on the stationary bike yesterday, when I accidentally selected my marathon playlist on my iPod. The one I’d spent hours fine-tuning, but ultimately got to listen to only in disjointed chunks thanks to both my frequent porta-potty stops and iPod malfunctions.

“Percussion Gun” by the White Rabbits was supposed to remind me of race-day victory. Yesterday, though I still felt my life was changed for the better by this race, it kind of fell flat. “Run this Town” by Jay-Z was supposed to make me feel like I owned this town on race day. Instead, it reminded me that I actually crept through town, with my most embarrassing moment coming right on the National Mall.

Just as I was slipping into a serious funk, “So What” by P!nk came on. I listened to this song while training for the National Half-Marathon last March, at the suggestion of my friend Sarah, a running rock star in her own right. I’d overplayed the song to the point that I had to give it a rest, but here it was, reminding me during this rough moment that I have good days as well as bad ones. P!ink reminded me that, though I had a bad running day: So what? I’m still a rock star.

Then, it occurred to me: I need to go make some new memories for my new playlist picks! The good memory of the National Half-Marathon last year fueled the fire for the National Marathon in March to be my “revenge race.” The Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach has also entered the competition. It’s the same weekend, and while it’s not right in Washington, it’s still close to home — and it’s flat! The National Marathon stays at the same price until the end of the year, so I have some time to decide.

After my easy bike ride, I relaxed in an Epsom-salt bath, reading the latest issue of Running Times. I zeroed in  on a story about pain — how professionals cope with it during races, and how it can be sort of a beautiful thing. The editor’s note explaining the story hit home for me: “Serious runners don’t shy away from pain, either emotionally or physically. It’s not that we are masochists; we don’t enjoy pain for its own sake, but rather for what it reveals … there’s beauty here as well, in learning how to suffer nobly.”

Wow. Perfect timing. I’ve been seriously puzzling about how my race-day photos look so awesome when I felt so unbelievably bad. In my memory, I spent most of the race hunched over in pain, or openly weeping in humiliation and self-pity.

But I got the marathon warm fuzzies all over again when I started thinking about all the things that made me not only smile through my pain and humiliation, but sometimes laugh out loud in glee. Georgetown, the memorials, the National Mall and loads of other spots were packed with spectators — packed! Seeing so many people like my husband, who are willing to support their loved ones through this crazy distance-running thing out of sheer love, overwhelmed me.

The Marines like to say that pain is weakness leaving the body (though I would note that pain could also indicate a stress fracture, which means you should maybe stop). The following posters I spotted sported slogans that did a better job of pumping me up:

“That’s not sweat; it’s just your fat cells crying.”

“If it were easy, we’d do it!”

“If it were easy, they’d call it your mom.”

No wonder I was grinning like an idiot in every picture! Even in the last one, in which I seem to be half-smiling, half-weeping. Now, I know it’s not that I was having a great race day. I was just teaching myself on the fly how to suffer nobly.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Race report: Marine Corps Marathon (what motivated me to finish)

I won’t bury the lede: I finished the Marine Corps Marathon in 4:39. This was 40 minutes behind the goal time I knew I could accomplish on a good day. It was also four minutes slower than my first marathon in 2007. Though my first marathon was tough in all the obvious ways, was also a lot of fun, and at no point did I wonder whether I’d finish. This morning, finishing was never, at any point, a certain thing.

Grinning ear-to-ear before the race.

The reason: near-constant vomiting and, erm, porta potty stops throughout the race. I have a sensitive stomach, and I made the mistake of eating a (very plain!) grilled chicken sandwich at a restaurant I’d never been to for lunch yesterday. It immediately didn’t sit well in my stomach, and I started the race this morning feeling not-quite-right. Starting at about the 5-mile mark, I spent more time hunched over than upright. My legs feel pretty great right now, considering, but my torso feels like I spent the morning in the plank position.

Most race reports focus on a mile-by-mile breakdown. And I feel fairly certain that if you read those details, you’d be impressed, and would think I was pretty hard-core for simply finishing. Instead, I’d like to tell you about some of the amazing, inspiring things that motivated me to keep going.

There are lots of amazing moments on this race course, including the unforgettable throng of spectators at the Lincoln Memorial. After miles of nonstop cheering crowds through Georgetown, seeing the steps of the Lincoln Memorial literally packed with people cheering at what sounded like the top of their lungs made me tear up a little (for the first, but not the last time today).

Around the 13-mile mark, I started to panic. Two thoughts ran through my mind: Should I be worried, medically?  And : How could I have trained so hard, and then fail to live up to what I know my body is capable of on race day? Then, I saw a man who was covered with scars, walking with the aid of arm braces. Behind him, a friend in military fatigues followed — with a wheelchair. I was too floored to even utter words of encouragement. My friend Jen pointed out something amazing: If I were running faster, I never would have seen this incredible man.

Around the 19-mile mark, I ran about 200 yards backwards on the race course to get to the nearest available porta potties. I ran up, bawling, hunched over, and asked the line of about a dozen or so people if I could cut them, explaining that if I did not, I would need to go behind a tree. We were on the National Mall. Everyone sympathetically agreed I should go. One woman rubbed my back to comfort me. Another woman even saw me on the race course after and asked if I was OK. I thanked them profusely and tearfully, then let their kindness carry me through another few miles.

I met up with Steve at about the 20-mile marker. I will not share details about this (and there are details) other than to say that he found me after I emerged from taking care of business behind a low concrete wall. I tearfully apologized that he had to see me like that. “I didn’t see anything!” he said brightly. “You look great, by the way!” Some women get emotional when their husbands bring home flowers, or buy them jewelry. I was so overcome with love for him at that moment, I knew I could finish the race if he stayed by my side.

Feeling a little better after the race, smiling with my Mile 20 hero.

I ran the race with a lot of people in mind, but some people got specific miles. For every race from now on, I will dedicate each mile to a specific person, because when all else fails, you can simply repeat that person’s name.

My friend Kaveh had registered for this year’s MCM, but got hurt and couldn’t run. He was the most amazing and positive spectator! Not only was his overall demeanor encouraging and awesome to see on the race course, he brought The Stick with him. He tells me multiple runners actually stopped to use it. I ran the hills for him, because they hurt, but I knew he’d love to be lucky enough to feel that pain.

My friend Melissa, who is training for a half-marathon, recently wrote a blog post about how I inspired her in training. About how I inspired her! I was so touched by this, I dedicated mile 10 to her, as this was the distance of a long run she recently kicked butt on.

My friend Sarah is a super-fast marathoner, but that’s not what makes her inspiring. She races with guts, so I dedicated the middle miles around Hains Point to her. When I considered stopping during that part of the race, I thought: Sarah wouldn’t. Neither did I.

My friend Courtney has been an incredible supporter who I hoped to run a fast mile 17 for. Instead, to make myself keep going, I simply repeated: Courtney. Courtney. Courtney. I would not quit during her mile.

Most of all, I ran the last 10K for my dad, Ed Reinink, a lifelong outdoors enthusiast who’s been sidelined by Parkinson’s Disease, not to mention a host of other serious health complications. Activity is his default mode. Even while he was hospitalized a few months ago, he couldn’t stop talking about what he was going to do once he was back home, from tiling the bathroom to water skiing. At the 25-mile mark, I took a cup of water, and almost vomited. Once the episode passed, Steve said: “Let’s go finish this for Ed.” I almost lost it.

Finally, the finish line. I was so filled with disappointment that the race, which I expected to be so much fun, was the polar opposite. But I was so joyful that I had finished at all, challenging myself in ways I never dreamed of. The simultaneous burst of emotions overcame me, and I was already weepy when I got to the medals.

The Marine who presented my medal was ceremonial in the act, taking his time and looking at me solemnly as he slowly put it around my neck. Then, he smiled, and said: “Congratulations, ma’am.” I thanked him, then burst into tears.

I truly felt I had come full-circle, from the woman running through depression to cope with deployments to the one who understands that when we do things that feel impossible — deployments, rough marathons — we are forever better people for it.

I’m grateful I had this race experience for all the reasons above. Also, when it comes down to it, I don’t set time goals for the thrill of running fast, or to impress anyone. I set time goals to challenge myself to do, as Eleanor Roosevelt put it, “the thing you think you cannot do.” Today, I truly did the thing I thought I could not do. I couldn’t be prouder of myself for it.

61 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Marine Corps Marathon: race-day logistics replace taper madness

Whew!

Today, I'm visualizing what I'm sure will be an emotional moment at the finish line.

Today, I'm visualizing what I'm sure will be an emotional moment at the finish line.

That’s better!

I had a rough time there Tuesday, dealing with some pre-race taper tantrums. True to their toddler-esque name, taper tantrums led me to not only get cranky, but to act out in rebellion, staying up past midnight to watch the Yankees game and devouring two unbelievably delicious salty-oat cookies from Teaism (“Two” does not accurately depict how taper-unfriendly this indulgence was. These cookies are gigantic hunks of awesome that nutritionists will tell you should actually feed a family of four).

Wednesday was better. I did some light stretching and yoga-ish stuff, but basically just put in a normal work day until my late-afternoon massage with Cary Bland, a runner, cyclist and gifted massage therapist. This was everything I needed in the world, and then some. We chatted about the race a bit, after which I went into a deep, awesome massage trance that provided my first lick of relaxation all week. Bland told me afterward that, besides some tightness in my hips, my legs felt “ready to go.” He seemed pleasantly surprised by this, making me wonder what kind of sorry, beaten-up shape my legs were in last time he saw them.

Today, I’ve got a 20-minute run, with a few strides thrown in. I’ll use the every precious minute to visualize the final 10K of the marathon.

Today, I also get to add some cool details to my visualization. I get to the Arlington Cemetery Metro stop no later than 7 a.m. (being a local, I don’t have a bag to check at the snakepit that is apparently the runner’s village), warm up in sunny weather, with low temperatures hovering around 44 degrees. As I’m finishing, forecasts suggest it may be 60-ish. I know forecasts are no guarantee, but I’d rather be dreaming of the currently forecasted scenario than planning which trash bag I’ll wear at the start!

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Taper tantrums hit

So I’ve been raving about how much I looove my taper, and how my body needs the rest, and

Dear Teaism salty oat cookies: Why are you so delicious?

Dear Teaism salty oat cookies: I love you. I'd just rather wait til after the marathon to indulge in your awesomeness.

how I was silly to get all taper-crazy in the past. I even wrote a post yesterday called How to avoid Marine Corps Marathon taper tantrums.

I kind of jinxed myself, and yesterday, I found myself in the midst of a full-fledged taper tantrum.

What I did well: I stuck to my training schedule, running only 30 easy minutes, which meant I had to skip out on my group run barely halfway into last night’s route. I think I’ll skip my group run altogether and run on my own on tomorrow, to avoid temptation to push the pace and/or run longer than I mean to. Which, in case you’re wondering, is 20 minutes easy, with a few pickups thrown in, which is my last workout of any sort before the marathon. Gah!

What I didn’t do so well: I ended up walking around downtown DC for a good 45 minutes during the day from various Metro stations to various lunch and interview destinations. I know a little walking doesn’t cancel out my restraint on the run, and probably doesn’t matter in the big scheme of the taper, but having to think about whether I should be walking so much just annoyed me. I’m sick of thinking about how much I should or shouldn’t work out, what I should and shouldn’t eat, how much I should be sleeping (the late Yankees game last night didn’t help with the last item on the list).

Speaking of what I should and shoudn’t be eating, one of my stops in downtown DC was Teaism, a gorgeous teahouse/restaurant I’m writing a profile of for Specialty Coffee Retailer magazine. I had a cup of Teaism’s best-selling chai, made the traditional way: by boiling spices and black tea, then adding just enough milk and sugar to reach the perfect balance of creamy, spicy and sweet. Awesome and calming — just what I needed! The store’s other best-seller: the salty oat cookie, which turns out to be somewhat of a DC institution. The big, salty, chewy, dense hunk of delicious wasn’t in my plan for the day. But I ended up buying a six-pack of the cookies, and called my husband to tell him was the lucky recipient of six cookies, minus a bite or two I’d taste for research purposes.

I actually did need to taste the cookies to accurately describe them in the story. What I definitely didn’t need to do: down two of the addictive little monsters after my 30-minute easy run failed to wipe away the funk from a stressful day, leaving me feeling slightly sick to my stomach and annoyed that I’d broken my pre-race plan of being reeeally careful about what I ate this week.Plus, even though the ingredient list is delightfully wholesome stuff, these babies can’t exactly be low in calories, making me wish I could add a few minutes to today’s workout, not subtract, making me annoyed at the taper all over again.

As if in an act of conscious protest, I stayed up until the end of the late Yankees game last night (please let my legs channel Mariano Rivera’s post-season arm during the race Sunday!), knowing full well I’d wake up at my regular time and miss out on valuable pre-race-week sleep.

But: Today’s a new day, with plenty of opportunities to eat good, light, carby stomach-friendly food. I can ease my restless legs with a bit of time on the stationary bike, during which I’ll be prepping mentally by visualizing miles 15 through 20. And I DO get a massage this afternoon — the taper ain’t all bad!

Wish me luck not losing my mind over the next couple days. And bear with me — I’m messing around with the format of the blog and my home page again, and things may look a bit messy in the meantime. Some of the changes I’ve made already: I’m making the home page the home of my professional Web site, with the blog a side page. And I’m making the blog itself more running-focused, so I’ve “hidden” all the links to my friends’ non-running blogs. To my buddies with blogs: I’m still following your adventures in France, Germany, Elkton, Md., etc.  I’m just not flashing your Web site around for all the world to see (which I’m not sure how you felt about, anyway, now that I think about it).

Any tips for taper tantrums? If so, post them here!

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Motivation Monday: Marine Corps Marathon edition

There’s a little tag on my keychain that looks from afar like any grocery-store or bookstore discount card. I first clipped it on in

My keychain: one of several things motivating me this week.

My keychain: one of several things motivating me this week.

July, to remind myself there was a reason I was suffering through hour-long core- and hip-strengthening workouts a few times a week, and kept it on when I started my training plan a month late thanks to a flareup of an old hip injury.

It reads, simply, “Motivated,” and bears the Marine Corps Marathon logo. Cheesy as it is, that keychain has reminded me why it was important to get out the door for a long run, stop at the pool on my way home to cross-train, skip the glass of wine at dinner and accomplish a number of other small tasks on my way to the starting line.

With less than a week to go, I’m motivated my what the keychain represents to me now: a symbol of the hard work I’ve put in over the past six months or so, all of which has prepared me to tackle the marathon this coming weekend.

Here’s a roundup of the other stuff that’s motivating me this week:

  • Remembering all the hard workouts I’ve done in the past few months. I routinely train at 8-minute mile pace, and that’s conversational now (until the end, of course, when I can converse only in gasps and wheezes). My first marathon wasn’t such a speedy one, but I can run faster now because I train faster. Simple, right? I also train to run faster at the end of a run than before, even on long runs. I feel confident I can do the same in the marathon. Most importantly, I’ve focused on making myself a stronger overall athlete, withstanding months of boring leg lifts and humiliating BOSU balance work to make my core and hips less flimsy.
  • Knowing “Spirit of the Marathon” is waiting for me on hulu.com. I’ve been saving this one for the week before the race, and I’m anxious to finally dig into it.
  • The amazing comments from my friends and family, who are so confident — more so than I am — that I’m gonna kick butt next weekend. My mom told me recently she thinks of me, then adds extra minutes to her morning walk. My friend Courtney asked me to think of her in mile 17, and to imagine her reminding me that whole mile that I OWN this race. Ron, who publishes the highly entertaining and very insightful blog, Punk Rock Tri Guy, told me this marathon should merely serve as a victory lap – my reward for months of hard training. What a wonderful reminder of the sentiment George Sheehan expressed this way: “Some think guts is sprinting at the end of a race. But guts is what got you there to begin with.  Guts start back in the hills with 6 miles to go and you’re thinking of how you can get out of this race without anyone noticing.”
  • Continuing to visualize the miles of the Marine Corps Marathon on training runs and during cross-training workouts. Last week, I went through miles one through five. Today, I’m imagining miles five through 10. Check out my visualization techniques, borrowed from Runner’s World’s “Guide to Running,” here.

Finally, there was my 10-miler at marathon goal pace on Sunday, my one last “long” run before the real taper for the Marine Corps Marathon began. Though I’ve been winding down for the past two weeks, the real rest comes this week. I’ve got nothing but two easy 3-milers on my training schedule for the week, plus a few chilled-out cross-training days, so this last 10-miler at marathon goal pace, roughly 9-minute miles, was the last item to cross of my training calendar.

Nailed it!

Despite forecasts warning of a 100 percent chance of rain this morning, I got a blessed break, and it was cool and dry when I headed out – perfect running weather. I was shocked to find it really, truly difficult to stick to 9-minute-mile pace for the first few miles, and I had to remind myself that I’ll have the long uphills in the first miles of the marathon will hold me back on race day. I also reminded myself that amazingly, it will take all the willpower I’ve got to try to stick with that goal pace in the last miles of the marathon.

So on the 10-miler, I exercised patience, holding back in the beginning, and finishing with 1.5 miles at 8-minute-mile pace or faster, despite a long, slow uphill the last mile and a quad-burner of a steep hill before it. The hard work is done. Let the true taper begin!

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The countdown continues: motivation for MCM, eight days out

This time next week, I’m going to be taking the Metro to downtown DC, where I’ll pick up my packet for the Marine Corps Marathon. In that packet will be my bib, lucky No. 5345. I’m so excited just thinking about it!

Until then, I’m feeding myself a constant stream of motivation to keep myself from less-helpful tasks. My pre-race phantoms this time are worrying that I’ll emerge from the marathon with serious, nightmarish injuries, and worrying that I’ll slow to a despairingly awful pace the second half of the race.I’m writing those down here not because I’m obsessing, but because this is an honest blog, and I feel it’s appropriate to confess that it’s not all roses and finishers’ medals sprouting in my mind.

That said, here are a few of the things motivating me today:

My last speed workout yesterday. Steve and I skipped our group run on account of the cold rain pelting the DC area, which I’m guessing would not be the best way to protect my immune system before Oct. 25. I headed for the treadmill instead and knocked out three 1-mile repeats at 7:15-minute mile pace, making sure to crank it down below the 7-minute-mile mark for the last minute or so of each repeat. I felt sort of awesome! Those miles, in addition to my 8-minute-mile tempo run Tuesday night, will be major confidence-boosters as I head into the final week of my taper.

Some new tunes. In addition to “B.O.B” by Outkast, which I recently rediscovered as a running song, I’m loving “Percussion Gun” by the White Rabbits. The song is self-explanatory – like “B.O.B,” it’s got a persistent drumbeat that just begs you to move faster.

New socks! Yes, that was exclamation-point worthy. I wore Wrightsock anti-blister socks during the only other marathon I’ve run, and I truly believe their double-layered awesomeness is responsible for my feet escaping the dreaded hamburger syndrome. Problem is, my trusty pair from 2007 sprouted a giant hole in one toe during a long run this year, and I haven’t been able to find them in my size anywhere. I special-ordered a pair from Wrightsock’s Web site. They arrived yesterday. Given my reaction when I opened the box, you woulda thought I’d won something.

Did I just do Motivation Monday on a Friday? I think I did.

I’ve only got one more “long” run, a 10-miler on Sunday, before I start the real tapering. Eight days to go!

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized