Monday, October 29, 2007

Marine Corps Marathon Race Report

Where to start?? Well, this was/is kind of an up and down experience for me. But, I'll get to the race recap and cover the down a little later...

The night before the race, Melissa and I had dinner with our parents at the hotel. We had a pasta buffet that was pretty good. And, for race jitters, it was a great idea to eat at the hotel. After that, my parents took Sophia (our daughter, for those who don't know) to sleep in their bedroom. This was key, because we wanted to try and make sure we got as much sleep as possible. From there, we went to sleep at like 10 pm for a 5 am wake up call...

Then, we got up bright and early at 5 am to start getting ready to head over to the race. It was a kind of crazy/nervous feeling all morning. It started with a shuttle from the hotel to the Metro that would take us to Pentagon City. That went off without a hitch. From there we had to walk, what seemed like a couple miles, to the UPS drop-off point for all of our post race stuff (warm up suit, socks, new pair of shoes, etc.). After we sat around there for about 45 minutes while we tried to stay warm, we finally decided to head over to the start line (about another mile away). Since all of our "warm" gear was in our bags headed in UPS trucks to the finish, it was pretty cold in our race gear. But, lucky for us, we had each other and were able to cuddle up behind a wall of a building out of the wind. We got to the start and had to battle the cold for about 45 minutes until we started heading over to our starting positions...

So, Melissa and I said our goodbyes and good lucks and went to our starting positions (me at 4:00-4:09 and Melis at 3:50-4:00). It seemed like forever (but was more like 6 minutes) from when the starting gun went off and when I was actually able to cross the start line. To give a point of reference, I was shooting for 9:09-9:10 miles. The first mile was fun... but not great for the race itself. I ran a 11:16 first mile for no other reason then it was impossible to run faster. Mile 2 went decidedly better at 7:23. But, for a race that is supposed to be even splits, that doesn't bode very well. My next two laps were 9:34 and 8:57. I can remember thinking that I was going to finally settle in to a pace. Mile 5 was 9:39 and there was still pretty much congestion and Miles 6 and 7 went off at 9:51 and 8:55 respectively. To be honest, I'm not sure if this was my pace or the ebb and flow of the race. I think it was the latter though. I didn't have a whole lot of control over how fast we were going. Mile 8 was 9:18 and a total time of 1:14:57 (9:22 miles). This was with my first 11 minute mile factored in and just following the crowd the whole way. Not terrible...

Then, a race altering event happened... In mile 9, my stomach was starting to feel less than normal. It wasn't terrible, but I knew I had 17-18 miles left in the race and thought I could get my pit stop in early and not worry about it later. So, I was passing some port o' pots and decided to stop (hopefully for the last time all race). Well, that part was true. Unfortunately, by the luck of the draw, I picked the first stall. Apparently somebody was dying in there. I literally waited for 2:30 minutes before I was reconsidering the stop. Then, at that point, I was so invested in the stop, it would have been stupid to ditch it. All in all, this stop cost me 5:30 minutes when it should have cost me 45 seconds to 1:30 minutes max. So, at best, I lost 4 minutes here.... So, mile 9 ended with a 14:03 mile. I'm not sure what I could have done to avoid this. But, I'm sure going to keep it in mind if I ever run a marathon again.

Funny enough, that took all the pressure out of the race. Having no real chance at my 4 hour goal, I decided to just run for fun. Just then, the race kind of cleared up for a couple miles and I was able to post a couple nice splits... Mile 10 at 9:10, Mile 11 at 9:07, Mile 12 at 9:12 and Mile 13 at 9:08. So, no chance at making up for lost time, but good splits this far into the race. Mile 14 and 15 began to dip a bit 9:25 and 10:08 and then 16 went to 10:22. I remember my spirit being a little beaten at this point. I had no chance at my goal time and had finally succumb to the fact that I was just racing for the experience now. Again, I started to enjoy myself and the splits got better again for 17 and 18 (9:33 and 9:32).

Then, it happened... I was on the 19th mile and starting to really dig in and I saw a guy with "Pain Train" written on his back. It was funny because.. first, that's how I felt. But, second, and even funnier... my buddy Nate always does his Terry Tait imitation at work and tries to tackle me. I couldn't resist the temptation and went blowing by this guy yelling, "Pain Train coming through!!! Woo Woo!!!". He was laughing hysterically, and everyone else around thought I was a nutcase. It was my absolute favorite part of the race (aside of finishing of course). That lap went off at 9:43 and the next went off at 10:01 for mile 20 and 10:05 for mile 21. Then the wheels started to fall off. Mile 22 was 10:55 and Mile 23 was identical. Somewhere in there, the race doubled back on itself and I was desperately trying to find a familiar face. It would have been a real shot in the arm if I would have been able to see Melis doubling back or my daughter and parents on the side of the course. But, alas, the last 4 miles were lonely and painful (as expected). I was gritting my teeth as I went slower and slower. I ran a 11:27 24th mile and a 12:03 25th.

Then, the real challenge began... We entered the final 1.2 miles and what seemed like a sea of spectators. These were the same type of fans that come out to watch NASCAR for the accidents or watch operations on TV. Yeah, they love to watch people crashing and burning. And, they got their fill. I was absolutely one of the ones who crashed and burned. I was about half way into the last mile and really couldn’t get my legs to turn over at all. It was like I was walking but trying to run. People were passing me left and right. There was nothing left…. That said, it was a bitter fight to the finish. I could hear the crowd cheering and I knew I had to be close. I turned the final corner to climb the hill that ended the race (are you kidding me?) and fate through me another curve ball. My right quad started to tense up. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was doing an up hill after 26 miles or that the end was in sight and my legs were giving up a little early. Either way, I thought I might be crossing the finish walking, not running. But, luckily, I was able to massage out the cramp and keep treading up the hill. The feeling of elation as I crossed the finish was pretty much unexplainable. I finished in 4:24:30.. but that is absolutely secondary at this point. I feel pretty accomplished just to get to that finish line.

Now, for the bad news… My right foot hurt all day Sunday after the race. But, I just assumed it was post marathon problems. But, when it was still bothering me on Monday, I decided to go to the hospital to get it x-rayed. Despite the fact that the x-rays came up negative, they believe that I have a stress fracture in my foot. It looks like I’m sidelined for a bit. I’m on crutches and the whole bit.

So, a big weekend for Meliss and I. We finished the marathon (Meliss in 4:03). Now, I think I have an equal challenge to partake in… recovery. I hope it’s not as bad as I think. I’ve worked too hard to get to this point.

4 comments:

Nathan said...

Congratulations brother!!! I am so happy for you and Melissa!! A hard won victory in crossing the finish.

Great recount.

Michael said...

Excellent work Eric. It was an awesome accomplishment. You'll remember this forever. Nice job to Melissa too.

Calabar Gal said...

CONGRATULATIONS! That was a great achievement.

The only long distance race I've run so far was a 10k and it was painful! Finished in 94 minutes but thankfully, wasnt last 'man' in. 10 others were behind me. Hope to run a marathon one day soon but got to tackle 10k's and half marathons first. No need sprinting before I'm able to crawl huh? (smile)

Eric Gervase said...

Yeah... you're wise beyond your running years. I think I went too fast to my first marathon and got derailed because of injuries. My new philosophy (at least I'm trying) is to remember that I've got the rest of my life to accomplish running goals. I don't have to do it all right now.