Cake or pie?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

MCM Recap - 34th Annual Marine Corps Marathon

Today was the 34th Annual Marine Corps Marathon. You could not have asked for a more perfect day to run on, humidity was relatively low, at the starting howitzer. Yeah, by the way they use a howitzer at the Marine Corps Marathon, not some lame starter’s pistol. Sen. Patrick Leahy from Vermont was there to say a few words before the start, which was the wheelchairs/handbikes at 7:50, with the rest of the field starting at 8:00.

I do not have a lot of gripes about the MCM. The organizational skills of the Marine Corps are second to none. It is marketed as the “People’s Marathon” and as such there are a lot of novice first-timers in the marathon. That is fine, everyone has to start somewhere; I started here in 2007. In fact, I’ve only run Marine Corps Marathons, in 2007, 2008, and today in 2009, so I don’t have a lot of basis to compare it against, outside of reading race reports from other races.

My main gripe, which is about something that I have noticed this year and last year, is a lot of people place themselves and start in improper corrals. I think one way around this is a wave start, and maybe that is something they should consider in the future. I like the openness of the corrals, and that you pick the one you feel is best for your pace, but either a) a lot of people have no clue how fast, or more likely how slow, they run or b) people try to run with friends when they have significant divergences in their training and ability. I am by no means a gazelle, I’m pretty much a standard middle of the pack runner, but it kind of sucks having to bob and weave around people after the first few miles because they started too fast. Everyone knows the first few miles kind of suck, and it takes some distance to get some separation in this massive chain of humanity that seems to collectively ebb and flow, speed up and slow down, in discrete segments at a time.

I think one of the biggest clues that someone is a first time marathoner is they do not check behind them before they dart over to the water tables, which happened more than a few times today, even once when someone went from the far left in the road to the far right to get Powerade or water. I thought the commonly accepted practice/etiquette is look behind you, and if necessary speed up or slow down to find an opening if you need to cross over.

I am not going to recap every mile of the race. I ran as a charity runner for the American Cancer Society. I packed some Sport Jellybeans into my shorts, a gel, and some Endurolytes.

Speaking of the Endurolytes, I had them in a ziplock bag in my shorts’ pocket, and over the course of running, the flimsy capsules seems to slip apart somewhat and release some of the powder. That wasn’t a big deal. What was funny though is that I was taking them every 45 minutes or so, and cramping was not an issue for me as much this year as it had been in the past. I still had some relatively minor cramps, and I realized that trying to walk it off did not work. It only seemed to make it worse. Continuing to run seemed to be a better option in alleviating the minor cramps that I had encountered today. Getting back to the Endurolytes, I was taking them every 45ish minutes, conveniently whenever there was a water stop, and the ziplock bag became more and more coated in the powder that was leaking out of the capsules. I wondered what I looked like to someone who did not know what they were – I realize most people focus on their body and their race, but if you see a guy pull a white baggie out that looks to be full of white powder, what do you think? Does he use blow as a pick-me-up instead of gels and the like? Hmmm…

The Awesome:

  • The Marines were awesome. Lots of 2LT, 1LT along the course along with an occasional captain that I noticed. I think it was mainly lieutenants handing out finisher medals.
  • Some of the participants are truly inspiring. Especially amputees/double amputees, some of whom are service members who were wounded in action, and they have the ability to get out and run 26.2 just like the rest of us. It goes to show you that life is really what you make of it, and you shouldn't let setbacks or obstacles, even as serious as losing a limb, hinder you in planning to meet your goals.
  • The day was beautiful, the scenery was and continues to be inspiring, the spectator support was incredible. Caveat - SEE: Hains Point, below.
  • One of the bands along the route began playing Everlong as I was running by, which happens to only be my favorite song ever! It’s not a particularly hard song to play on drums, once you get the hang of the constant 16th notes on a closed hi-hat.
  • Early on, I was running with the FLASH! Yes, the Scarlet Speedster ran the Marine Corps Marathon. If the “real” Flash ran the Marine Corps Marathon (if there were a “real” Flash), and if his top speed was the speed of light in a vacuum, or 299,792,458 m/s, we can convert that easily to figure out how long he would take to finish the MCM. A marathon is 26.2 miles, and 1 mile is roughly 1.609 km. 26.2 miles/marathon * 1.609 meters/mile (cancel out miles in nominator/denominator for meters/marathon) is approximately equal to 42 km, 42.16 km if we want to be a little more accurate. 42.16 km x 1000 m / km (cancel out km’s) is 42160 m. 42160 m / 299,792,458 m/s is 0.00014 s. Alternatively, the average blink takes about 0.3 or 0.4 s. So literally the Flash would be done before you could blink. Yay, science! And sorry, I’m taking physics. So anyway, what was the Flash doing with me in the middle of the pack at the 4 mile mark-ish, instead of kicking his feet up in Rosslyn at the Finish Festival with a cold one?
  • I think some spectator was dressed up as a Pokemon in Crystal City. WTF?
  • I know some spectators were dressed up as a bee and something else. Ehh?
  • I don’t feel that sore. I was walking normally after the marathon after getting my finisher’s photo and I definitely saw some people that were genuinely hurting and probably sore in places they didn’t know they had. I’ve been there.

Not so Awesome:

  • People in wrong corrals. See above.
  • Got a hot spot posterior to my big toe, anterior to the ball of my foot. Hot spot means you’re getting a blister. So I basically ran with a blister from miles 14-15 onward, and I think it slowed me down considerably. I just could not get comfortable with it.
  • Hains Point, as per usual, sucks. If ever there were a place to conserve energy this is it. Very few spectators, and even though it is nice and flat, the lack of spectators and lack of scenery, other than grass, an occasional public restroom hut, and planes taking off and landing at Reagan is dismal and depressing. People running this year and last were blessed in that Hains Point has been earlier than in the past – it used to be around miles 17/18 and is now around 13/14. Yay?
  • Got a PR, but was disappointed with my time – 4:41. Like I said, I’m a middle of the pack runner, but I think once everything comes together, i.e. my nutrition improves and I can get more quality miles and workouts, especially some speed work, I will do much better. So maybe that’s awesome, since I know I haven’t nearly reached my potential. I remember I’m hard on myself and I’ve only run three marathons and was never a runner growing up outside of conditioning for teams or being punished, i.e. more conditioning. I played baseball, I wrestled, I played football, and I was a cheerleader, not a runner.
  • I think my lips are sunburned.

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