Thursday, October 30, 2014

Race Recap: 39th Marine Corps Marathon


Setting: National Mall Washington, DC and Arlington, VA
Cost/Registration:  Registration is done by lottery and I was lucky enough to be selected!   

Expo: We decided to go to the expo on Thursday night to avoid the mayhem of last year's Saturday expo visit.  It was a good choice.  A breeze to get in and no lines anywhere! 

Inside, we went to a few booths, took photos, bought my favorite balega socks.  We were given a buy one get one coupon for Chipotle with our bib (dinner!).   I stopped by the Nuun booth and bought two tubes so I could get the free water bottle.  They always do a race specific water bottle at big races and they are one of my collector's items!  I love my NWM DC and NWM SF ones.  I will be getting my hubby the Boston one when he races in April! 

THE RACE:  Got up at 5:00am the next morning in order to have some cereal and coffee.  We got all our stuff in order and headed out to catch the 6:00 metro into downtown.  The metro was full of runners and spectators.  I love that.  Of course who else is crazy enough to ride the Metro that early on a Sunday morning?  My husband and daughter were spectating today.  My little is a trooper coming out to support me even though she had been sick with a fever and threw up the day before.

We arrived in Virginia and got off at our stop.  We had a long walk to get to the starting area, about a half mile.  There were long lines to enter as due to precautions every bag had to be searched.  Luckily since I had nothing on bag check since it was all with my husband, I walked right through the metal detectors with no problem.  I heard the announcement that bag check was closing and realized I wasn't giving myself a lot of extra time.  I started jogging towards the corrals.  Last year, I started too far back and this year I really wanted to find the 4:00 pacer.  I got into a corral and then realized that was with the 4:45 pacer.  I slowly squished myself through the tight crowds until I finally saw the 4:00 pacer.  Whew.  

I ate one of my humagels while I was waiting as some extra fuel.  I had bought arm warmers the night before, but it ended up being a lot warmer than expected that morning.  Last year was freezing and this year was very manageable.  I didn't even wear a throw away because it was so comfortable. 

The race was very crowded almost the entire way.   I felt so claustrophobic and kept bobbing and weaving because I often felt trapped. 

I stopped at every water station along the course due to the warmth.  I had one cup of water and one of Gatorade.  I had gotten a pace bracelet at the expo and of course forgot it on race morning!  D'oh!  My plan was to go sub 4:00, so in my head I knew I had to keep my pace at 9:00 flat.  I saw my family on the National Mall about mile 18 and I was feeling good.  
 I was doing good and was on plan for this up until about mile 19, then the wheels just started to fall off. 
The course was really beautiful....monuments, Rock Creek Park, Haines Point...

After last year's experience on Haines Point being so tough emotionally...this year I really tried to hold it together.  I stayed focused and determined through those miles and focused on the survivors (those in blue and high fived every one that was holding out their hand).

The part I didn't enjoy as much was when we headed back into VA.  I know that there is always the phrase, "Beat the Bridge" with MCM and it is mostly referring to the time cut have to cross it before it closes.  But "Beat the Bridge" has new meaning to me after this marathon as well....I think you mentally have to beat it.  It drains you, it wears you out.  There were a lot of us stopping to walk here.  This was where I was starting to hit the "wall".  I stopped to walk and grumbled pretty loudly a few times.   A guy jogged slowly past me and said "I hear ya sister!"

When I saw my husband and daughter at mile 24 I was defeated.  My hubby started taking my picture and I was waving him away.  I was embarrassed, hurting, exhausted and ready to cry at the drop of a hat.  Seeing them made me start to cry because I just wanted to quit.  

About mile 26, I saw the father of one of my former students and another former student yelling "Mrs. Dahlem!" and I perked up enough to have a little bit of extra juice to push the pace up that hill to the finish line. 

Finish Line:  I came across the line at 4:13.  I hobbled over to get my medal from my Marine.  So different from last year where I had a million times more energy!  

You then head over to an area where they get your photo in front of the Iwo Jima memorial.  I was too tired to wait in line to get the photo taken professionally and was just heading to go get food when another runner asked me to take their photo.  So I had her take mine as well.  I am glad I did.

I walked the long way down the chute to try and meet up with my husband and daughter.  Finally found them and proceeded into the beer tent.  I wasn't feeling it like I was last year.  I was just exhausted.  Michelob Ultra tasted awful this year, while last year it was amazing.  I guess it's all in how you are feeling.  I still downed mine because I really think it helps with recovery. 
So why didn't I make my 4:00 goal?  I really think that the heat (it was 70 degrees by the time I finished), unrelenting sun and the wind all added up to a slower and more painful experience.  My lips have been chapped/wind burned/sunburned all week!  I'm wearing my long sleeve in this pic not for warmth but for sun protection!  But, it's also about the work you put into it.  I had a lack luster training cycle...I was a weekend warrior getting in my long runs on the weekends, but maybe one during the week.  I would teach my spin class, but that was it.  I've had a rough year physically/emotionally teaching this year and training took a backseat.   I could/should have done more.  When others were complaining of the taper crazies, I thought to myself "You can't really taper, if you didn't really train!". 

Grade: A- Overall, I felt this was an AMAZING and well done race.  It is one of the biggest in the country and it is very inspiring to be a part of something like this.  I had no idea how much it would affect me! 
I didn't like how crowded the race was though..  I almost felt it was too many participants on small roads.  Seeded start corrals would have been really nice.  Some races do pace bracelets that you have to submit times before hand for....which would be really nice.  But I realize almost 1/3 of those running MCM, it's their very first marathon. 

At the end of the race, in the immediate exhaustion of it all I said I was breaking up with the marathon distance for a while.  Now with a week of recovery under my belt, I may re-think that.  With all the hoopla around NYC that is happening this is sucking me in again!  I know I can go sub 4:00! 

Finishing is.....

 Congrats to all who ran Sunday!


  1. Congratulations!! You have the best cheering squad and I love that your former students cheered for you on the course (what good ideas to spot you). I can't wait to buy some Nuun this weekend!! Been eyeing the NYM water bottle :)

  2. Congrats! I also thought it got very hot at the end and of course the wind was not exactly our friend that day either. My biggest complaint was the crowds and it felt like all I did was bob and weave for the first 20 miles. Unfortunately I did not realize that this was a big marathon for first timers, so I was very disappointed in my time. The race itself is great, but corrals and proof of time would make it a much better running experience for all participants. By the way, your daughter is adorable.

  3. Oh and one other thing....I did not know about the Nuun bottles...I have already made a note to get one of those when I run Boston next April!

  4. I didn't know about the Nuun bottles either! Thanks for that tip.

    Congratulations on another marathon! I was there at mile 17 cheering, the loud obnoxious girl,:) I was so excited!

  5. Congrats! I really want to run MCM someday since I'm in the area and have heard such great things. You still rocked a great time despite how you were feeling and the heat!