Those people were absolutely right. What the Rock and Roll marathon lacked in inspiration, the MCM made up for in spades.
Because the marathon course runs about a mile from my home, there were a lot of people out cheering who knew me, which is just a huge boost (including Connor and Ed, who came with a sign for me). Also a huge boost on the course was knowing that the women I train with were either running the race or cheering for the race - including one mom who is going to give birth in a few weeks! Pretty much every time I thought that today was not my day, I saw a friend who was screaming like crazy - and I am not a person who can stop running with that kind of pressure. They were sprinkled throughout the course up to mile 22, and at that point - might as well finish, right?
The race started out exactly as I had hoped. I pulled back, in order to save energy for the later stages of the race. I ran the first half of the marathon exactly as I wanted. But at mile 3, I got a blister (something that has never happened in a training run) and by the midpoint of the marathon, I was feeling it. Luckily, it was between my little toes, so at least I wasn't pushing off the blister for every step. It also rained at the start and during the race, after a weather report that showed the rain had cleared. That was disappointing, because I didn't wear my trail shoes (which I wear in crap conditions because they let the water drain out better than my other shoes and they grip the street better). I was debating which shoes to wear up until the point we left to line-up, and ultimately chose wrong. Lesson learned.
Mile 17 was hard, made harder when I passed one of my training partners who is absolutely a stronger runner than I am. Something happened with her knee and though she still finished at 4:12, she could've gone 3:40 if she hadn't run into troubles. Her husband was there, and I had nothing to offer as I was struggling myself.
Mile 20 in MCM is soul crushing. It is the point when you cross 14th Street bridge - and that bridge is the longest, loneliest passage back into Virginia that exists. The few times I have run it during training runs, I pretty much just put my head down and try to get over that thing with my soul intact. On MCM day, it's worse. People are cramping up all over, puking on the side, making choices about whether to continue or not. A very good running friend had passed along the advice that when I made it to the bridge, put my head down, focus inward, pick a line - and run it. I did all of those things, but still people were dropping right in front of me and that is hard to watch.
Crystal City is a huge boost. I spent a few months running in Crystal City last winter on Monday morning, and that proved super useful. I knew the roads and knew how flat they were. Plus, a woman I met at that time actually found me on the race at mile 22 and screamed her head off for me. Earlier in the race, she had actually jumped in and run me through two miles when I wasn't sure I was going to keep going.
My super-stretch crazy goal was 3:45. My "if everything goes right goal" was 3:50. And my "I will absolutely not cross the line later than this goal" was 4:00. I came in with a 3:55, which is exactly what I thought I would get, as soon as the rain came and the blisters sprouted. When I looked at my watch at mile 20, I knew I could own a 4:00 - as long as I didn't get too distracted.
I carried 55 ounces of Tailwind on my back with seven scoops of powder in it, which means I successfully consumed 700 calories during the race. I had estimated I could take in 600 calories in 50 ounces of liquid. I drank a bit much up front because I was feeling so good, which meant I had to walk through two water stations towards the end of the race, trying not to waterboard myself as I gulped Gatorade from the little cups amazing volunteers were handing out. I also dumped two small cups of water down my front because once the rain stopped, it was heating up and I needed a bit of a refresh. I will carry more liquid the next time I run a marathon.
A big accomplishment in this run is not letting my stride fall apart once I got tired. Typically, when I start to slow down, I over-stride, and land on my heel. As a result of this, I have a nagging point in my rear end that starts to hurt, and someday, whatever is getting pulled in the wrong direction is going to break - and that's going to hurt a lot. But today? I didn't do that, I don't have even a twinge of pain in the typical spot. I've been working a lot on that, so I'm glad that work has paid off.
This is THE marathon to run, as far as I am concerned, particularly if you call this area your home town. I can't wait to get the official race photos, because for the first photos, I smiled. For the last photos, I didn't change the expression on my face at all - I wanted to see what I looked like, because I know how I felt.
Now... to decide if I can knock another 10 minutes off before next year and make it my BQ!