2012-10-28 - Marine Corps Marathon 2012

~26.2 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

Stephanie Fonda and Mark Zimermann at MCM 2012 - photo by Ken TrombatoreA new PW (Personal Worst) for time, a new PB (Personal Best) for fun and fellowship: the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon is a tough run for Stephanie Fonda, whose right ITB flares midway. We end up walking most of the final eight miles together and crossing the line a whisker under 5.5 hours. Stephanie had to ramp up her mileage rather quickly as she recovered from other injuries, so finishing well under all cutoffs was a success. (cf. Injury Avoidance)

For Gayatri Datta and me the MCM is really just a long training run with lots of cheering along the way and a medal at the end. The trio of Gayatri, Stephanie, and I hope to do the Stone Mill 50 miler together in three weeks. We'll see what hands life deals us that day!

The weather forecast for MCM this year warns of rain and high winds, but as usual for this part of the world the actual weather is warmer and arrives later than predicted. Race day morning is dry, with moderate wind gusts and temperatures stable near 60°F. I pick up Gayatri at her Bethesda home about 5:30am. We attempt to follow a route suggested by Ken Swab, but mistakenly exit from I-66 at the first US-29 crossing and lose a few minutes driving along it to the Holiday Inn in Rosslyn. The parking garage at street level is full of Wounded Warrior hand-crank cyclists getting ready for their race. All spaces are marked "reserved", so we go up a level and park as inconspicuously as possible in the most remote slot. At 6am the MCRRC Hospitality Suite welcomes us. We join Anton Struntz and his wife Mary Lou at a table in the back of the room.

Anton takes photos of us with my cellphone. I spy Gayatri with her outer pants pulled halfway down and join her doing likewise (no worries; we both have another layer underneath!). Ken Trombatore photographs us posing.

Stephanie Fonda arrives in Ken Swab's car, along with Rebecca Rosenberg, Barry Smith, and Emaad Burki. Stephanie and I wear matching shirts, fluorescent lime-green, to maximize visibility in race-day photos and to minimize the odds of losing each other in the crowds. Gayatri has on a bright blue shirt and a black top underneath. My baggy flaming-pink shorts, as recommended by Stephanie, have handy pockets. My fear of getting separated from friends cues the Pink song "Please Don't Leave Me" on the mental jukebox. When Stephanie mentions "I'm Still a Rockstar" I tell her about my other Pink favorites, "You and Your Hand" and "Raise Your Glass", along with a plug for Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" that raised spirits on Hains Point when I ran middle miles of the MCM last year with speedy Kate Abbott and Jennifer Wieland.

At 7:30ish Gayatri and Stephanie and I walk to the staging area, with a porta-john stop along the way. I duck my head to stay out of line with the starting-line howitzer's barrel. We aim for for our proper slot according to planned finish time, more or less realistic, unlike the vast majority of folks who start much too far up in the line and then get in the way of others as they take walk breaks.

The race begins and we wait, then walk, and finally lurch into a trot across the starting-line timing mats a full 14 minutes after the gun. Long climbs take us into Rosslyn, where after another porta-john pause we proceed to the crest of Spout Run, back down and then over the Key Bridge, and up Canal and Reservoir Roads in Georgetown. Gayatri notes with pride that we didn't walk any of the hills!

I cheer MCRRC FTM (First Time Marathon) program folks whenever we pass them in their red shirts. Much joking and banter occurs en route with fellow competitors. A kilt-clad man claims not to have heard the old chestnut I tell him (Q: What does a Scotsman wear under his kilt? A: Socks!) I applaud all obvious Texans and say "Go Navy" to Navy folks and "Go Army" to Army folks.

The first half of the race is rather warm. My sleeves are soon rolled up, Stephanie strips off her tangerine windbreaker, and Gayatri doffs her blue outer layer. Both put them back on later in the race as temperatures fall and winds rise. We enjoy stimulating discussions all along the way. Gayatri lectures on Indian literature and recommends reading Anuradha Roy and Arundhuti Roy. Later she denies saying that Bengalis are the world's greatest writers; I think, however, that she strongly implies it! I mention enjoying Death of Vishnu and meeting the author but can't recall his name (it's Manil Suri, from Mumbai, now a math professor at UMBC). We discuss movies: Stephanie recommends Moonrise Kingdom; I put in plugs for Run, Fatboy, Run and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World along with too many others.

I'm still suffering some odd chest pain, maybe in the left pectorals, first noticed yesterday. It bothers me when taking a deep breath, sitting up, reaching out, etc. Perhaps I strained a muscle or cracked a rib or otherwise damaged myself? Thankfully it doesn't seem to affect anything during the race. The big challenge of the MCM this year, alas, is Stephanie's right ITB, which starts twinging the day before along its entire length. She wears a strap cinched tight above the knee and tightens the band even more during our run. When the pain is most severe walk breaks seem to help. Stephanie also suffers from plantar fasciitis and metatarsalgia, though they pale in comparison to the ITB. We speculate as to possible causes. Increasing mileage too quickly? New inserts in the shoes to cushion the PF? Who knows? At least the left ITB isn't hurting Steph today, unlike in some prior runs.
Gayatri Datta and Mark Zimermann at MCM 2012 - photo by Ken Trombato

I don't carry a water bottle, unusual for me. We pause at all aid stations and I drink as much Gatorade and water as possible. I give Gayatri a green gel, eat a couple of other flavors during race, and cop more to fill my pockets. I also snag a couple of mini-bags of salty sports jelly beans. In Georgetown I pick up an abandoned dayglo-green headband that's a near-perfect match for Stephanie's and my shirts. I wear it wrapped around a wrist for most of the day. On Hains Point I spy a quarter on the road, and at mile 25 I stoop for a cent: almost a penny/mile income today! Earlier during the run I tell Gayatri that I'm trying to get over my cheapskate-tightwad mental attitude. Apparently I'm not there yet.

Stephanie Fonda and Mark Zimermann at MCM 2012 finiOur trio reaches the half-marathon point in 2:33, right on schedule in spite of another break to visit the bushes before that. Porta-john lines are ridiculously long, and the course is annoyingly thick with runners for the entire distance, unlike past years. During miles 13-17 Stephanie accelerates, broken-field sprinting through the slower masses. This begins to exacerbate her right ITB problems, however, and by mile 18.5 the agony is bad enough that we persuade Gayatri to run ahead. Stephanie and I walk half a mile, and that improves things enough for her to keep limping onward. She scorns my suggestion to DNF. I dub myself a member of the "Order of the Garter" when I carry Stephanie's ITB strap for half a mile as she experiments with letting her right leg recover without it. Soon she puts it back on, extra tight, and jokes about cutting off circulation to numb the pain.

The music in Crystal City is excellent: Martin Solveig's "Hello" blasts loud with an infectious beat, and a live band plays The Proclaimer's "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)". Hash Harriers offer tiny cups of Bud Lite beer, which I can't resist sampling. "You didn't even card me!" I tell one of them, to her amusement.

Our conversation is wonderful during miles ~24-26 (passing the Pentagon) as we walk and discuss friendships and acquaintances and families and priorities and running and life. There's something special about long-distance physical fellowship that brings out thoughtfulness, honesty, and joyful sharing.

Arriving at the finish line the crowds thicken. Super-helpful and polite Marines throughout the event offer fist-bumps and handshakes to all. To one of them I offer, "Two words of advice, sir: Hand Sanitizer!"

Stephanie and I finish with idential chip times — 5:28:57 — but somehow I manage to beat her by two places, 18,782 vs 18,784. A helpful competitor ahead of us takes a photo with my cellphone camera. Notice the Washington Monument peeking over Stephanie's right shoulder!

Gayatri comes in almost half an hour ahead of us. Walking back to the hotel Stephanie and I meet friends of hers and shake their hands, apologizing for energy-gel-sticky fingers. Dear friend Kate Abbott texts to report that she had to drop at mile 5: jostling and zig-zagging through the crowds exacerbated her sciatica/back/hamstring woes. Kate realized that she could stop in Rosslyn where the course loops back and get her drop bag immediately there. But she had already thrown her bib away in disgust and couldn't remember her number! Fortunately a friend answered Kate's phone call and was able to look the data up for her, and the kind Marines gave Kate her bag based on her word of honor.

After the race at the Hospitality Suite Anton Struntz almost persuades me to try an Ironman-distance triathlon some day. He tells of his training and what the requirements are, ~14 hours/week of work at the peak. Maybe some day!

(cf. Bless the Leathernecks (2002-10-28), MarineCorpsMarathon2004 (2004-11-07), 2009-10-25 - Marine Corps Marathon 2009, ...) - ^z - 2012-11-16