I went into this year’s MCM much differently than last year. In my year of big races, this was the last on the calendar and was honestly a little overlooked. But, I registered back in March knowing that if I didn’t, I would get to DC and regret not doing it. As you know, Jason and my dad have also been training and I’ll be sharing recaps from their perspectives over the next few days, but let’s start off with my thoughts.
We decided to take the train to DC this year. And overall, I would say it was a good decision. The ride up was rather long at 9.5 hours, but we made it home in less than 6 which is almost the same as driving. So, we certainly learned a thing or two about rail travel – which trains/routes to take for a faster ride. It was great to not have to worry about driving or having to pay for parking in DC… just make sure to check how many stops are on your route. The more stops, the more behind schedule you will be – just expect that and you won’t be disappointed.
We arrived in DC in just enough time to meet one of my best friends and my bridesman, Alex. He took us to Cava Mezze a Mediterranean, tapas-style restaurant. It was excellent. There were 7 of us and we each chose two plates to share. Once the food started coming it didn’t stop for the next 30 minutes or so and it was all tasty… even the roasted beets!
On Saturday my parents, Jason, and I headed to the Expo for packet pick-up. We picked up our bibs, mocks, and a few items from the MCM store and other vendors. I finally got a women’s MCM jacket that fits… and they were pink this year! (I had to settle for a men’s small last year)
Saturday afternoon, Jason, Dad and I went for a short 2 mile run around the mall to loosen our legs and capped that off with hot dogs from a food truck on the mall and relaxation. Using Urbanspoon, we found a great little Italian place for dinner and headed to Bistro Italiano around 5, after Jason’s parents arrived. The only downside to dinner was that the place was so small that all 8 of us couldn’t sit together, but the food again was excellent.
Early to bed, early to rise, I was asleep by 9pm with an alarm set for 4:30am. We planned to meet in the lobby at 5:45 – another lesson learned from last year. I believe we caught the metro close to 5am in our first MCM and had time to take a nap in the Pentagon parking lot before heading to the start line. So we were close to an hour behind where we’d been in year 1, and still managed to have some downtime.
Now before I get to the stuff you are all interested in, I have to tell you about the national anthem. It was by far the best presentation of colors I’ve ever seen! They had multiple military sky divers descend on the crowd, each with a trailing an American flag. One of those flags was the largest ever used in a performance jump with the stars being over 5.5 feet tall!!! As the flags got closer to the ground, the Star Spangled Banner was performed. Incredible!
Shortly thereafter Jason and Dad headed closer to the start line, while I found the 4:30 pace group and placed myself a few yards in front of them at the start. Approximately 12 minutes after the Howlitzer sounded, I crossed the start line and picked up a comfortable ~10 min/mile pace.
Being a little unsure of my preparation specifically for the MCM, I wanted to take it slow and listen to my body. The first 3-4 miles passed with ease, following much of the same course as the previous year. We then diverted onto a new out and back portion of the course for miles 5-9 or so. This is where I really started feeling good, and had the perfect distraction of looking for Jason and Dad on the opposite side of the road. I caught sight of Jason’s striped Charlotte shirt and yelled to him and Dad.
Soon, I was at this first little turn around and realized I was making ground on the 4:30 group (they’d passed me very early on). I caught up and passed them, but found I had to “fight” to stay ahead at the water stops. As the crowd thinned after the mile 8ish water stop, I was able to put some distance between me and the 4:30 pace group, but there was no way of knowing how much. It was at this point that I realized that it might be possible for me to beat Oprah too (this was the time that Jason was aiming for… beating 4:29:15, Oprah’s time from 1994)! I wasn’t quite set on that goal as I wasn’t sure how I’d feel in the final miles, but at that point it became possible.
I ran on. I noticed several IRONMAN tattoos and gear on other runners and each time I saw that M-Dot icon it helped me push on and gave me confidence. I hate that my M-Dot was hidden under my calf sleeve, but that’s probably for the best. I hit the halfway point around 2:11ish, about 4 minutes faster than last year. This is the lonely part of the course with very few spectators. I remember thinking to myself “the faster I run, the faster I’ll get back to the cheers.” I kept pushing.
Back in the crowd, my legs started to ache. I was picked up a bit by seeing my mom, brother, and his gf, Taylor, around mile 16. I knew the National Mall was coming up soon! I decided it was time for some music. I needed something to help block out the pain and a beat to set my feet too. I kept up my run around the mall, but had to walk a bit after mile 19. My legs where getting very tight and sore. I’ve felt this before, but it is typically contained to my left leg – hamstring in particular. Now the tightness was invading both legs, and a brief period of walking gave them good stretch before I picked up my jog again.
“Damn this hurts.” I thought as I began my second walk break just before mile 20 on the “Beat the Bridge.” But the walking almost hurt more. I’d completely forgotten about the 4:30 group by this point and assumed they’d passed by me at one of the water stops without my noticing. No sooner had I decided that I’d fallen behind, did I look over my shoulder to see that 4:30 sign approaching. Pain or no pain, that got me running again. I had a 10k left and absolutely no reason that I shouldn’t stay in front of this group.
Across the bridge, I entered Crystal City where the MCM hosts a family/fan fest and their are many cheering spectators (thank goodness!). This is where Alex would be waiting again, right around mile 23. He again jogged beside me for a bit and I told him how much it hurt. He cheered me up, but also told me that Jason was only about 2 minutes in front of me. I knew that couldn’t be good…
I think I may have taken two more short walk breaks before mile 25, constantly looking over my shoulder for those at pace sign. Beating Oprah was more than possible, it had become a goal and I wanted to stay at least 45 seconds in front of that 4:30 sign. I imagined the celebration all 3 of us, Jason, Dad, and I would have and that spurred me on. That last 1.2 was FOREVER long, but I knew I wasn’t going to stop. For the past few miles, I’d remembered IM Louisville and the thoughts I had after the race. How I’d wondered if I could have done more on the run and how I’d resolved that I would give the MCM everything I had as a way to shed those “what ifs.”
Oh man, it hurt. My legs were so tense and tight that I could feel my toes straining. I saw another IM tattoo, which I passed and looked up to see the 26 mile marker and the left turn to the on ramp and the finish line. There was a slight hold up with a handcycle at the start of the hill. There was a woman lying on the ground in pain receiving assistance from a Marine. I ran as best I could knowing I was close to that 4:29 mark.
And then it was over.
I was high-fiving and thanking Marines. I got in line to wait for my medal while checking my Facebook for my time. 4:28:49. “Take that Oprah!” I posted on Facebook, though just 26 seconds separated my time from hers. I received my medal, saluted my Marine and immediately called dad. The three of us met up at the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial for our official race finisher picture.
I’m so proud of the three of us. And I’m so glad I could share this experience with two of the most important guys in my life.
Afterwards, we drank some beer, grabbed our things, and then walked uphill for about a mile just so we could cap the accomplishment off with a juicy, greasy Five Guys Burger and Fries!
In the next few days, I’ll be sharing recaps from both Jason’s and Dad’s perspectives because everyone’s 26.2 is unique.
|Click here for Jason’s recap||Click here for Dad’s recap|