Monday, October 31, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon Recap

Last week, after exchanging approximately 857 emails with my friend Jackie trying to plan for our arrival at the Marine Corps Marathon, I started to really want a medal for making it to the start, not the finish. This was a tough marathon, but the logistics of the travel to and from was even tougher.

MCM was by far the largest marathon I'd ever done, with 30,000 runners (for the full marathon). That's a lot of freakin people trying to get to DC by 6am on a Sunday morning when the roads are shut down.

My alarm went off at 3:45 am, and I left my house at 4:15. When I got to my car, I realized I was going to have to find my snow brush, because it was entirely encased in ice. Chiseling ice off my car was not a good sign of what was to come, because we anticipated waiting outside in our running clothes for nearly two hours before the race.

I guess in terms of waiting in the cold, the way things went was a positive. Jackie drove us to the metro station.

The metro was nothing but runners

Masses of humanity waiting to take the elevator out of the metro station

Batman couldn't expedite the arrival process
 Between accidents and waiting for trains, we didn't arrive at the Pentagon until nearly 7am, and then had to walk about a half mile to the race, and wait in line at a security checkpoint. We finally entered Runner's Village around 7:30, and still needed to wait in line for the porto-potty and check out bags – and the race started at 8, and we still had to walk to some other location to find the start line.

I almost didn't find Kara, even after a good ten minutes on the phone trying to locate each other “uhh....I'm really cold and jumping up down” “well...I'm wearing blue and standing in a huge line of people at one of the 800 porto-potties”. After a dead sprint to the UPS trucks that were holding on to our bags while we ran, I nearly just started hysterically screaming her name, but thank god, she was there, and we sprinted to the start, vaulting over concrete barriers on the way. Just a typical warmup before a 26.2 mile run.
Parachuter dropped down at the race start - I had plenty of time in line to take pics

Finish area in Arlington
 They were announcing two minutes until the start when we arrived, and we lined up way too far back, around the 4:30 group. After all that, my nerves were completely shot, and I couldn't wait to start running just to relax. I probably would have taken off like a shot and burned out my legs, but luckily, we were packed in and could barely even move, and the first three miles are up steep hills.

Kara and I were chatting for the first ten miles, and I managed to see Mike, Jackie, and Mike's son Conor and his friends. Just to give you an idea how crowded it was, a guy we were chatting with accidentally tripped me while we were talking. Like, he completely knocked my legs out from under me and if he hadn't used both arms to grab me around the waist, I would have face planted on the asphalt. The entire race was spent jostling, bumping, and even kicking people. There were a few spots where it opened up, but those were the exception.

Around mile 18 we stopped to use the bathroom (which shows how much we'd basically just given up on this race) and I was pretty much just ready to sit down on the mall and call it a day. I couldn't believe I had 8 more miles, mentally, I was over it. Around 20, we spent about 2 miles on a huge, bridge, and that was just terrible. There was nothing to see, almost no spectators, and it was just horribly boring.

The last six miles were the typical last six miles of a marathon. Exhausting, tough, every mile seemed longer than the last, and I honestly considered walking. Finally, at 25, my I knew we were almost done and I felt much better. I saw a friend at the finish line – in Baltimore, I was cheering and waving to friends at this point – yesterday I could barely croak her name out so she could see me. I knew there would be a hill at 26, but I was shocked by how steep it was – who the hell puts a mountain at the end of a marathon? That was absolute cruelty. Plus, it narrowed like crazy and everyone slowed way the hell down, and at that point, going slower than your natural stride is so painful. I told Kara it was a good thing we weren't gunning for a PR here, because I would probably have killed someone.  
Yet again, waiting in line for medals
 Finally, we crossed the finish, and a marine put our medals around our necks.
 The organization at the finish was impeccable – we were given bags, boxes of food, and Gatorade so quickly it was unbelievable. Unfortunately, no amount of organization can move thousands of shuffling post – marathoners up a narrow hill any faster, so we took slow, painful steps out of the finish area. On the bright side of this grim march, we saw Lily.
 Kara said we looked like refugees – covered in our space blankets, clutching our snack bags, and shuffling along.
 That became even more so when we got our bags and saw everyone just laying in the street. Like everything else that day, using a bathroom required more than a half hour wait in line, so I changed my clothes in the middle of the street. Guess who else did that? EVERYONE. That was what MCM reduced us to. Don't worry, I managed to keep everything concealed, so I can still run for office one day.

We wandered aimlessly, calling and texting, trying to find out rides, until we finally parted ways. I still couldn't find Jackie, so I gave up and just sat on a curb for awhile. Eventually, she collected me, and we headed to the metro.

The guy who tripped me is on the far left

To take the DC metro, you first have to swipe your metro card in a machine, which then opens it's gate to let you in. We waited more than 45 minutes to swipe our cards for this privilege. Have you ever been to a concert and stood in the front, by the stage? That was the experience of waiting to swipe our cards.

Jackie and I had planned to go out to lunch after the race. Well, that never happened, because when we got back to her car, it was nearly dinner time, and I still had over an hour to go before I'd get home. I'd eaten a banana, an airline – sized bag of pretzels, and a bag of dried edamame from my race packet.

So let's review – left home at 4:15 am, and barely made the race start at 8am. We arrived at the metro station at 2:00, and it was nearly 6:00 when I walked in my door. The race is 60 miles from my house. More than 7 hours spent traveling, which doesn't count the 2.5 hours the day before, picking up my bib. That's one of the reasons I would never do this race again.

As tough as it was, this race actually seemed to fly by (that doesn't count the last six miles, if you've run a marathon, you know that's a completely different race). I was so excited to see the monuments, but other than MLK and Jefferson, I couldn't remember seeing any. On the metro back, Mike kept talking about seeing all the monuments, and Jackie and I just stared at him in confusion, wondering if we'd run the same marathon. The whole thing just seemed like a blur.

I do consider this race a success because I didn't end up in the emergency room. With people bumping me, ice on the bridges, and the genius idea to give away orange slices (which made the ground a slippery mine field), the fact that I didn't fall and suffer a concussion is a miracle. We also finished in 4:05, which, two weeks after a marathon, I'm pretty impressed with. All in all, I felt decent, and nothing terrible happened, but let's just say we weren't our sunny selves from previous races.

 I'm glad I did it, but, lesson learned – if you want to see the monuments, just take a day trip into DC.  

And no marathon is complete without some incredible dessert.
Chocolate/peanut butter whoppie pie assembly

Oh, and I have broomball tonight, which means I need to run around on the ice. Sweet!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween through the ages

If you've been a faithful reader, it should come as no surprise to you that Halloween, a day when you can dress up, act ridiculous, and eat lots of candy is one of my favorite days of the year. Moving to Baltimore in 2005 was an excellent strategic move in that respect, because the entire city takes it as seriously as I do. For the first four years, I lived downtown, in Fells Point. On Halloween, it's unheard of to see even a single person in regular clothes, and it's rare even to see store bought costumes. Everyone has elaborate, creative, impressive costumes. 

It's my blog, so I wanted to take a trip down memory lane of my Halloweens in Baltimore.
My first year here, before I'd met Eric. We actually went trick or treating this year. For my real life friends who are reading, guess which of these 80s divas insisted on that?
 Believe it or not, Eric was actually working when this picture was taken. I was supposed to be a Hoochie Hoodrat.The bar Eric works at had an army theme that year.
Pippi Longstocking. Not as good as the costume my mom made me when I was 6, but still impressive.
 Our most popular costume of all time, hands down. A Peeping Tom and a woman in the shower. Can you tell I even have a spout with "water"? Eric stayed up all night to finish it. Plus, any time I get to go out to bars in a bathrobe is a win for me.
 Even though I was down the entire week before Halloween with Swine Flu, we still managed to throw this together.

Get it?
This one was a little more obscure, but we were basically acting out my favorite song ever, Baby Got Back. Eric was Sir Mix-A-Lot, and I was the girl with the big butt. Even though I really provide that on my own, I used some cotton balls to really drive the point home.

Now you have some context to understand why it broke my heart this year that grad school, regular school, and running marathons took over our lives and we didn't get any Halloween costumes prepared. Eric was so busy working he didn't even join us in Fells Point last night. Which was just as well, because nobody got the memo that it was Halloween weekend, and you are supposed to dress up. Luckily, as I've mentioned many times before, it takes a lot to embarrass me, and this was far from doing the trick.

I met Casi, Carolyn, and John for pad thai to carb up before making the rounds in our costumes. While we waited for our food, we had a photo shoot in the restaurant. See what I mean about how "embarrassment" doesn't affect me?

Kip, from Napoleon Dynamite
Here's the real deal - how great is that costume?

Elmo did this to himself, no lie
And snap!
Katy Perry, thrown together at the last minute. I already had the Elmo.

 Since I was already wearing heels and had broken every other "pre-marathon" rule in the book, I almost threw all caution to the wind and started drinking. But, I played it safe and stuck to water. I did pretend to take this shot though, then pour it into John's beer glass so I could take the cute free shot glass home.

Things have really changed from how we used to party back in the day. Instead of stumbling home at 2am when the bars closed, we made sure to end our drinking (well, my water drinking) in time to get frozen yogurt before the shop closed. 
Actually, Carolyn just looks like she fell asleep in front of the shop.

We were devastated to discover the hours had changed for fall and we were too late, so we just went home.   I thought I was going to have some chocolate when I got home, but I barely got my wig and heels off before I passed out. If I'm too tired for dessert, that's really the highest level of tiredness for me.

The high for Washington, DC tomorrow is now 47, which drastically alters my outfit plan for tomorrow's marathon. That is to say, I currently am freaking out because I don't have one. rudely just informed me it is supposed to feel like 26 when I arrive at the start. At least it won't be snowing, like today.

Eric, being the ever thoughtful husband that he is, brought me these from Costco. I'm bringing at least two throwaway layers and a garbage bag. 

Do you dress up for Halloween?  If so, what's your costume this year?

Any advice for running a marathon when the weather is below freezing?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tell me to drink some water today

It's interesting (to me) to compare my attitudes to my first two marathons to my second two.

My first two marathons were Baltimore and Shamrock, and the entire week I was on a mission to hydrate, eat healthy foods, watch what kind of shoes I wore, ice my knees every day, sleep at least 8 hours a night, etc, etc.

I ran the Baltimore Marathon again two weeks ago, and now I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, and my plan is - eh, just do whatever.

I developed a close relationship with cake vodka the week before my recent experience at the Baltimore Marathon, and stayed up late carb - loading two nights before (the night you are supposed to focus on sleep). Although, I'm not sure if staying up late carb - loading is a good thing or a bad thing. That could really go either way.

This week, I'm not doing anything particularly destructive (unless you hear of any open bar events, immediately email me in that case), but I'm just not really taking that whole "I'm running a marathon this weekend" thing seriously. I've been staying up way too late because it's just been one of those super busy stressful I-can't-sleep kind of weeks. 

I made up for it last night, however. After dinner (I would tell you what I ate but I posted it once before and got totally mocked for how disgusting everyone thought it was) Eric and I decided to catch up on Biggest Loser, since we are at least 3 episodes behind. We didn't even make it to the first challenge before I dozed off. When I came to, I told Eric to pause it and we'd just have to catch up later because I was going to bed. When he paused it, I saw the time. 7:58. WOW. I couldn't even make it until 8pm. 

So, actually, staying up late and then falling asleep on the couch super early = a balanced week of sleep, right?

I have taken the taper seriously, although that's partially because I don't really see how I could have fit in 8 mile runs anyway. Ok, I could have, but "tapering" provides a convenient excuse not to.

Tuesday night Lily and I went to Bikram. I felt great at first, and thought I was finally getting good at hot yoga, but then I immediately went downhill and wanted to cry, except I was already sweating out every single tiny droplet of moisture in my body. Surprisingly enough, this is not a particularly good way to hydrate. 

For some reason, I can't seem to bounce back, and both of my runs since have felt dehydrated. Bikram was Tuesday night and lasted until 8:30 am, so I wasn't surprised when my 6am run Wednesday morning felt terrible. I only did 3 miles though, so not enough to complain about.
Unrelated, I just also found this when I google-imaged "carb load"
This morning, Mike came over and ran five rainy miles with me. I was annoyed with myself for having a side stitch (obviously didn't hydrate enough yesterday) and feeling exhausted when we were running a nearly 10 minute mile pace. I always turn on the news while I'm stretching, so seeing that the humidity was 95% made me feel much better.

 As a teacher, I am faced with a choice: Do I want to hydrate and then cry because I have to pee so bad and I still have two more hours until I get a break, or do I not want to hydrate and then want to cry in the marathon? There's photographers and spectators at the marathon, so I guess I'll go with crying today.

Since I already have a time I love from Baltimore, in my mind, Marine Corps is a chance to train for the 50 miler while checking out some monuments. Win Win. I do realize I could come to very much regret this attitude come Sunday.

Do you take races less seriously the more you do (not just marathons, 5Ks, anything), or do you still get nervous and prepare properly?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Anger leads to the best speedwork

Anyone who is or has ever been employed can related to that (I wish only one, but usually so many) person who makes your job exponentially more difficult, and is often incredibly rude while doing so. While I was waitressing and working at Starbucks, this person was, more often than not, a customer. It's amazing how many people in America don't understand that a waitress's job is to bring food and a cook's job is to cook food, and if you don't like how your food is cooked or how long it takes to cook it, it's really not my fault. 

Anyway, as usual, those special people out in the world were pissing me off yesterday, so I couldn't wait to get to my group run, because I knew it would be a good one. I am really not used to being at the front of any group, I'm much more of a middle of the packer, but somehow it worked out tonight that, except for two super fast guys who I couldn't even see, Lily and I were the leaders. My anger fueled me in such a way that an 8:30 pace felt slow, and the 9:30 pace we started with seemed like crawling.

The first four miles flew by, and completely cheered me up, since the group was chatting and joking around the whole time. For the last mile, one of the guys decided to push it, and I stuck with him until about 3/4 of the way in, when I passed him and sprinted back to the starting point. That mile was 7:31 which is freakin fast for me. My timed mile was 7:18, which leads me to believe, that had it not taken place within 24 hours of a pirate cruise, I could have done it faster.

Here's some things that are coming up this week that are going to be torturous but (hopefully) pay off in the end.
1. Bikram. Tonight. I'm ready to hate life for 90 minutes and then feel amazing the next morning.
2. A meeting on Thursday that guaranteed to annoy me (really, does anyone go to meetings that are not annoying?). Hopefully I can not react at all to whatever happens at the meeting until mile 20 of the Marine Corps Marathon, then unleash all the anger on the course. This is a much more effective marathon preparation plan than carb loading. If you want more marathon prep tips from Alyssa, check out "buying a bib exactly one week prior".

Here are some fun and exciting things coming up this week.
1. It's almost Halloween, so we are going to Fells Point on Friday to see all the costumes.
2. Kari's bake sale! She is raising money for a great cause, and I am being a terrible friend by still not deciding what to bake. Maybe just my oreo/PB/brownies again? Check out the bake sale previewof what you can buy! Dessert + helping people = win win.
3. Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) with Kara on Sunday.
4. Eating greasy Mexican food with Jackie and Lily if I am still alive after the MCM. 
5. My first broomball game the day after the marathon - wait, maybe that's more of a fail. 

Sorry there's no pictures, so please, share what pisses you off about your job in the comments!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I don't take submarines seriously

If I haven't talked about it enough, I'm obsessed with my family and wish every weekend could be like this one. My mother and stepfather are visiting. We originally had grand plans of doing all sorts of touristy things, but, then we realized, we all are busy all the time, and really just wanted a few days to hang out together without running around from place to place. And that's exactly what we've done. If Eric hadn't been glued to the computer writing two papers for grad school and/or working at the bar the majority of the time, I would have experienced a near perfect weekend. 

Activities have included a lot sitting around, drinking coffee, and catching up on the DVR. Friday, we went out to lunch and then did a ton of shopping at Towson Town Center, a huge local mall. And by shopping I mean getting free massages at Brookstone and playing with stuff no normal person can actually afford.

Head Massager?

Does it count as a couples massage if some random sits down next to you?

Saturday we went to Trader Joes. I got my weekly grocery shopping done, and they got to browse, because our hometown is Joe-less. Win win. See what I mean about a relaxing visit?

We went to visit Eric at Howl at the Moon on Saturday night. After the bar, they wanted to go out to eat. It was nearly 10pm, past my bedtime, so I dropped them off at a sports bar and went home to sleep. Nothing like not being able to party as late as your parents to show off how cool you are.

Since Vince (my stepfather) was forced to endure my mother and I exclaiming over how cute everything was at both William Sonoma AND Crate and Barrel, we took him to a microbrewery to check out some local beers.

But, it was actually a tactical move in my favor, because the brewery was just a few doors down from my favorite frozen yogurt shop, Mr. Yogato.

Today, we went downtown to the Inner Harbor, and explored a submarine. It was a historical relic - the last American ship that sunk an enemy warship in WWII!
The Sub - big gray thing in front of the colorful building
As with any opportunity where the options are to learn and be serious, or take pictures that make us laugh, we choose the latter. 

Sometimes my mom and I dress like twins - by accident


I could not handle this bed for six months.

Can you guess why we took this picture?

I even got some running in! Yesterday, Lily and I met downtown for ten hilly miles (average pace 9:18) and I felt great. This morning, we met at the NCR trail for 16 miles (average pace 9:23, on a completely flat trail) and I felt rough! Maybe because it was freezing at the start, and I didn't warm up until mile 12.5. We were supposed to run with a group,  but didn't see anyone at the start. Around mile 6, a guy named Erik caught up to us, and we finished the run with our new friend, who makes fine chocolate for a living. Best new friend ever. Plus, we had someone else to tell us funny stories to get us through a tough run, because we've already told each other most of ours. 

In other exciting news, it turns out that the Myrtle Beach Marathon will be my fifth marathon, not my fourth as originally planned - because I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon in one week!

 I've been looking like crazy for a bib on Craig's List, and it turns out I'm not the only one, because apparently bibs are in high demand. I was only able to snatch this one up by texting the injured party within an hour of him putting up his ad (I was totally not obsessively checking or anything). He said he was getting tons of requests, but seems really nice and held it for me since I was the first. 

Marathon #4, and my second marathon with Kara - I cannot contain my excitement over this.