As I sit here recovering from the 5th largest commitment of my life after marriage and three kids, I write to you broken down, sore, but with the feeling of accomplishment and fulfilment. The journey began four months ago when I started the training program. The program consisted of one long run a week with five short runs of five miles or more. The concept was to build it up and break it down every four weeks until I peaked out a month prior to the race. During this time, I often heard, where is Mike? I have to thank Stacey and the kids for putting up with the time I pulled away to prepare for the big dance. On average, I would take 8 hours a week of training. I love you Stacey and I appreciate everything you do!
During the training period, there were ups and downs just like everything else in life. Weather, commitments, injuries, physical and psychological limitations, and just getting those damn shoes on almost every day were always a chore. I think it rained 10 out of 12 long runs during the 4 month period. As for the shoes, they are going into the trash today! After my peak training run, tapering began and I could start seeing the light...I felt both a sense of accomplishment, but also started to become nervous about the race. I kept thinking, can I finish?...Is this possible? Your training runs peak out at three hours and the actual race for most is another 45 minutes to an hour trying to finish those last six unaccounted for miles. The week before the race was very satisfying. I literally grazed all week long. I ate whatever I wanted to...Garlic bread, mashed potatoes and of course pasta were my favs! The night before, we went to a Halloween party and feasted on chili, lasagna, papaya and more. After the party, I made final preparations for race time. I was not sure what to bring because of the weather shift. Temperatures were expected to range from a low of 32F at start time to a high of 45F by finish time. I ended up with Underarmour Cold gear with two throw away fleeces. I also purchased 4 pairs of toe warmers. I also packed a go bag for after race. This was key. After the race you are so broken down and cold. Changing into a nice set of warm clothes is a must! With a wake up call at 4:45, I tried to get to bed by 10, but I ended up waking up all night long. Now for the race.
As the alarm clock went off, I just glanced over thinking...didn't need to hear that after being up all night. I crawled out of bed and ate a decent sized breakfast. Not knowing what to expect, I also drank a bottle of OJ and began dressing. I didn't realize how this would impact me at the beginning of the race...if you know what I mean. I stuck the toe warmers on the tongue of my shoes, on the running tights near my thigh, in my pockets for my hands and on my ribs. This did the trick. Many runners were wearing garbage bags and were cold as hell. I thought this would make you sweat and cause even further cold especially when you had over an hour of standing around prior to the race and it did. Stacey dropped me off at the metro and I was on my way. Thanks Stacey! After baggage drop off and walking the mile to the starting line, I found my way to the expected pace group. I originally was going to run with the ClifBar team, but decided to go out on my own, just like training. The crowd was booming and all I could think about was lets get this thing on. The nerves sent me to the woods on several occasions--just moments before the start. As I was getting up to the starting point, I saw two jumpers heading down to the starting line very cool, but man they had to be cold. At that point, two V22 Ospreys flew over. The rumble of the twin engines and propellers raised the hair on my neck. Here we go...Sang Star Spangled Banner and Drew Carey kicked off the wheelchair and hand cycle runners at 07:45, so I knew we were just moments away. I ran into the woods for a final pit stop, shed my top fleece, set my watch and iPod and was ready to go. Finally, the chants of Oorah began and we were off and running!
During the first 10 miles, I kept telling myself slow down...don't go out too fast. Didn't work;( Started off with a sub 8 minute mile through mile 10. This completely backfired near the end of the race. I was also trying to keep track of my carb loading--every 5 miles. I became very disoriented during the race and the simple tasks of counting miles became a burden, so I just loaded up as I felt weak and sore. Liquid was not a problem. Carried 4 bottles around my waist with my homemade electrolyte special and carried a 24 OZ bottle of water in hand. Runners thought that was crazy, but having one kidney this was a must. Plus watching runners choke down the cups is funny to watch. One guy thinking he had water, threw gatorade over his head to try and cool down. The first 9 miles were all up hill. Crazy...Thankfully my long runs had one week of solid hill training. On Canal Road at the intersection of Foxhall, I was at mile marker 6 and I could see the leaders at mile 9. There were 5 or 6 in the pack. Man they are fast! I also saw several wheel chair runners also. I have the utmost respect for these participants, especially going up the hills with nothing but arm strength. These runners were the toughest of the bunch. Once I hit mile 9, we went through Georgetown and then down to Haines Point. I kept asking myself, when are we going to reach Haines Point and then I noticed I had been running in Haines Point for two miles already. Its funny how disoriented I became. As far as adrenaline pumping bands on the route, I can honestly say the Rumba was the most energizing. They really kicked it up! Thanks.
From miles 10-19, we finished Haines Point and cruised up to the mall. As the miles started piling on, all I could think about was seeing my wife and kids! Then bingo, I glanced into the crowd and saw them at mile 18. At that point, I headed up to the capital and made the turn and got a chance to see them once again at mile 19. Thanks guys...I love you! At this point, I could feel the race was coming to an end as we headed for my least favorite part of the course--miles 22-24--Crystal City or better known as concrete city. The crowds were nice, but the course was riddled with pot holes and it just sucks! After exiting CC, I made a pit stop to fill my water bottle. I couldn't figure out which cups were water at that point. I stopped and asked a Marine for water and he filled my bottle with gatorade. He realized I asked for water and said dump it sir and I'll set you straight and he did! Thanks Marines. Not only respectful, helpful, but really put on a great event! I then ventured toward the finish. With two miles to go, we headed on Route 27, toward 110. On Mile 24, I my calf gave out and I walked for 10 seconds, then moved on. I started to bonk and just kept telling myself, I only have two more miles on my training run! Lets do it. At this point, I just wanted to keep my feet moving. The crowds were thickening by at least 8 deep and I started cramping pretty bad. I took my last shot of carb and drink and went for it. As I reached mile 26, I could see the sign .2 to go and I could see the finish line. All up hill... I made it up half way and cramped so bad I had to walk for 5 seconds. I felt so embarrassed, I said screw it and just started running and my cramp went away thank god!
At the finish line, I was greeted by a young Marine. She shook my hand and asked how I was doing! I told her thanks for her service and that "I'm Broken". As she put the medal around my neck, all I could think of was seeing my kids. So I looked up and there they were! I couldn't go to them based on the rules, so I pointed to the festival area and said I would meet them there. The Marines gave me a warmth blanket, and my food Go Bag. I immediately drank and drank. From the finish line to the festival area was about a 1/2 mile. This was good to work out the cramps by walking. Noticing that I was a salt filled mess, a young runner came over and asked me if I wanted a salt pill. I said sure. She pulled out a white capsule and handed it to me. I was a bit suspicious, but took it anyway and said thanks! Life saver...cramps went away within five minutes. Thanks Austin Girl! I worked my way down to to the Iwo Jima to get pictures, results table, and then to the Bag pick up area to get changed. As I was heading down to the Bag pickup area, I dropped a bottle from my belt. I asked this elderly lady if she didn't mind picking it up because I couldn't bend down. She obliged and I was very grateful! Thanks Elderly Lady! As I picked my bag up, I thought...How the heck am I going to be able to change? I found a wall with a ledge so I didn't have to bend down. I leaned my back against the wall and felt a shooting pain from my back (that's another story!). I was able to change everything but my pant. Warmth set in and now I needed to find Stacey. We found each other at the rally point and started the journey home and that was the end of my first marathon!
I would just like to thank the crowds, the Marines, the support staff, and the runners for such a special experience. I would also like to deeply thank my family and friends for the support and no more facebook posts I promise...well maybe not so many...lol. Finally, Thanks Honey for putting up with me and Marina, JuJu, and John for having a single parent for the better part of the last 2 months. I love you....See you in NYC 2012!