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 2006 Marine Corps Marathon

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

2006 Marine Corps Marathon Posted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 8:22 pm 

Here's another long race report. I hope it's helpful.

I ran the Marine Corps Marathon on 10/29/06. This was to be another ďlong trainingĒ run in preparation for the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon on November 18. Iíve never done the MCM before and I was eager to experience it. My brother ran it back around 1990 and I had read many good reports about it. I was also eager to visit D.C. again since I was last there about 10 years ago.

My family had planned to go with me but last minute scheduling conflicts prevented them from joining me. So I went solo. I drove down on Friday from my home in New Jersey; what should have been about a four hour trip became a five and a half hour trip due to bad traffic. I wanted to get to the Expo before it closed at 7:00 PM but didnít get into D.C. in time and opted to just go straight to my Holiday Inn Express in Springfield, VA; about 20 minutes south of the city. I chose this hotel based on price and distance to the event. I always try to stay away from the host hotels or those nearby when the event is in a big city because of the cost.

I got up early on Saturday and made my way to the D.C. Armory, next to RFK Stadium, where the Expo was being held. I could certainly tell something was going on there as I got near but there wasnít a single sign directing me to parking. I could see a few large white tents and lots of people milling about, but I had no clue which direction to go in to get to parking. At the last intersection I saw some people turn right and some turn left. I had been following a car in front of me with New York license plates and I assumed he was headed to the same destination. I was hoping he had been here before and remembered his way around. I followed him and we managed to find a gate into the parking area (still no signs) where there was a guy standing with a red flag waving people in. It turns out the kids fun run was being held and some roads were blocked off. Some direction signs would have helped considering there were going to be a minimum of 30,000 people coming to the Expo.

It was a bit of a hike to cross the parking lot and a slight challenge to get th rough the crowd and cross over kids fun run course. Once I got to the other side where the Armory was I found a long line wrapped around the outside of the building. It was a little after 9am and the Expo wasnít supposed to open until 9am; so much for trying to get there early. The line actually went quickly and once inside I was able to get my race packet fairly quickly also. I wondered around the vendor exhibits for a little while and managed to quickly find several things I had been wanting. The Expo was pretty large but not quite as large as what Iíve seen at the NYC Marathon Expo.

I had forgotten to pack my Hammer Endurolyte tablets (electrolyte supplements) and I didnít find anyone at the Expo selling them. When I returned to my hotel room I did a seach on the Internet and found there was a Triathlon shop nearby that sold them. I drove over and picked them up and was able to relax a bit m ore. Iíve started using these tablets every hour during my past marathons and training runs and since then Iíve not had any problems with leg cramps. I tend to sweat a lot, even when Iím just thinking hard. On warm days I take three of these tablets before the marathon/long run and three more each hour. I make sure to take plenty of water (about 7 ounces) with them so they donít sit in my stomach causing a reverse osmotic effect and pull water into my stomach.

With the rest of the afternoon to kill I decided to get familiar with Crystal City, one of the locations where athletes gather to be shuttled to the start line (Arlington Cemetery) or the athleteís village (Pentagon parking lot). You can also opt to take the Metro to the either location. I decided to take the Metro to Arlington Cemetery to get the ďlay of the land.Ē From Arlington Cemetery I walked across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, over the Potomac River, and to the Vietnam Memorial. The walk over the bridge was very windy. The weather forecast was calling for windy conditions on race day and this gave me a good idea of just how windy it might be. After visiting the Vietnam Memorial and walked across the street to quickly browse the Lincoln Memorial. I had to get back to the Metro station before 7pm when it closed. I remember from my last visit to D.C. that the Metro stations were astonishingly clean. After 10 years, the stations (at least the two I visited) still looked brand new. What a contrast it was to the NY subway. I donít think I saw one bit of litter, no graffiti, and no pan handlers or homeless people. The stations are extremely well lit and there are lighted displays that let you know how many minutes until the next train. And the lights along the platform edge flash when the train in approaching the station. Wow, if the NY Subway were ever like this I donít think it would last more than a few days.

When I got back to Crystal City I stopped there long enough to get a bite to eat from one of the restaurants in the underground mall. I then returned to my hotel room, laid out my running gear, got everything ready, and finally got to bed about 11pm.

I was up at 5am the next morning and on the road by 5:30 on my way back to Crystal City. There wasnít a single sign anywhere providing directions to the shuttle location or where to park. After circling around the area once I found the public parking garage. It was a short walk out to the shuttle bus and soon after I sat down the bus was on its way.

We werenít on the bus very long before it pulled over and dropped us all off at the Pentagon parking lot. We had to walk a good distance down the road to get to the Athleteís Village. I was baffled as to why the bus couldnít have gotten us a lot closer. The ďAthleteís VillageĒ turned out to be more of what I would call an ďAthleteís Parking Lot.Ē It was in the middle of a very large parking lot with port-a-johns lined up in the distance on three sides. On the forth side was a line of UPS trucks where we could drop off our baggage and have it taken to the finish line. There were a couple of bleachers to sit on but other than that just hard pavement. I guess Iím more used to an Athleteís Village like that at the NYC Marathon where this is entertainment, pre-race food and beverages, and soft grass to sit on.

With about a half hour before start time I changed out of my warm-up clothes and dropped off my baggage. Once again there were no signs or any indication of which direction to go to head to the start. I overheard someone say something that clued me in that we had to walk over behind the port-a-johns to get to the start. So I headed that way and soon joined a large crowd of people. The race start is split into two waves. The first wave was scheduled to go off at 8:25 while the second wave was scheduled to go off at 8:40. A small group of wheelchair athletes went off around 8:10.

Based upon my low bib number (3181) I was in the first wave and was able to get up close to the start line. The race start was delayed an extra 15 minutes for what was described as an ďAdministrative Delay.Ē I took advantage of the extra time to go off to the side to water the plants. The extra time slipped by quickly and before I knew it we were on our way. I donít think it took me much more than 20-30 seconds to get across the start line.

Once again, my plan was to keep my pace around 9:00 min/mile. This was to be another long training run in preparation for the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon on November 18th. The crowd forced me to keep my pace slow from the start and after we rounded a slight curve we hit the first hill shortly before the first mile. As we all climbed this hill I soon noticed that the runners who had been in the right hand lane were down below us on level ground. Those of us in the left hand lane were forced to have to climb an overpass before the two lanes merged near the one mile mark. Though the hill wasnít cause for too much concern I felt a little jilted that I had to run it and others didnít. But once we all merged I forgot all about it. But keep that in mind if you choose to do MCM yourself; start in the left hand lane.

I think I over hydrated because I had to stop at least six times during the race to "de-hydrate." I've never had this sort of problem before. I'll have to keep an eye on that next time.

The course roadway for most of the race was fairly narrow for the number of runners in this race and so it was rather crowded for most of the race. It wasnít so crowded that you couldnít run or get around people but I found myself having to doge around other runners for a large portion of the race. And when I wasnít dodging there were others dodging around me.

As I had done in my previous two marathons I brought along a disposable camera that I kept in a pouch attached to my Fuel Belt. I managed to take quite a few nice shots of the course with the runners in the foreground and various monuments in the back ground.

My primary goal was to get to mile 22 and then jog/walk the rest of the way if necessary so as not to overtax my legs. The NYC Marathon is also in my plans for next weekend as another training run. So I didn't want to have to take more than a day or two off before getting in a few recovery/easy runs leading up to next weekendís marathon.

The first half of the race was pretty uneventful. Despite a number of quick stops to take photos and de-hydrate I managed to maintain my pace just under 9:00 min/mile. I even managed to get about two minutes ahead of my goal time by the halfway point, but I soon used them up when I stopped at a port-a-john a little while later. But I gained some of it back again by mile 17.

Every time I neared a monument or important landmark I pulled out my disposable camera, made a quick check behind me to be sure now one would run into me and either stopped or moved to the side for a quick photo op.

The wind was swirling around throughout most of the race. It wasn't too much of a problem until about mile 17. I tried to tuck in behind runners in front but I either had trouble finding a group or they were running too slow. As I approached the 20 mile mark the wind really started to wear on me. This is where the course crosses back over the Potomac River. Itís a long stretch and leaves you exposed to the wind for nearly two miles. The runners were all well spread out at this point and I couldnít find anyone bigger than me to shield myself from the wind. So I just tried to shorten my stride and lean into the wind.

I had finished up the last of my GU gel around mile 18 and was starting to feel more fatigued than I expected. I managed to squeeze a tiny bit more gel from my flask but realized it wasnít going to matter much. I was thankful that I had, on a whim, tucked an extra gel in my pocket of my RaceReady shorts. Iíve had this one particular gel pack around for quite a long time and figured maybe I could use it up during this race. It was a Chocolate GU with Caffeine. The day before I had thought I might possibly need it. I also took the last of my Hammer Endurolytes around mile 20 and washed it down with the last few gulps of Cytomax from my fuel bottle. In my previous two marathons I was feeling much better at this point. I was feeling a bit more fatigued at this point than I had in my previous two marathons. I decided to hold of on taking the caffeinated gel until I got to the 22 mile mark.

Getting to the 22 mile mark seemed to take for ever. As I hit the 22 mile mark I reminded myself that this was where I had planned to stop my ďtraining runĒ and finish the race at a slow jog with some walking if necessary. But I could resist the urge to keep going and just get to the finish line. The thought of walking seemed as uncomfortable as the thought of pushing on. So I tore open the Chocolate/caffeine gel. I normally use the Tri Berry GU gel because of its taste and smooth texture. This Chocolate flavor was very thick. I don't know what was more annoying, the ache in my hip or trying to swallow this chocolate gel. But I forced myself to take it in little by little until it was all gone. Also, I normally try to take my gels just before a water station so I can wash them down and dilute them a little bit. Unfortunately, I had just passed a water station and was all my fuel bottles were empty. It was hard to swallow this stuff, but by mile 23 I was starting to feel the effects of the caffeine and started to feel a little stronger. Iím not a coffee drinker and so the caffeine had the effect I was hoping for. This area of the course goes through Crystal City and was the site of what was called ďCrystal City Spectaculr.Ē Basically, it was a big cheering zone with lots of shops and vendors and a sort of party atmosphere. A short bit later I came upon the next water station and was thankful to be able to finally wash the nasty chocolate Gu taste out of my mouth.

As I passed the 24 mile point I noticed I was passing a lot of people who I saw pass me much earlier in the race. I also noticed that despite feeling better from the caffeine my pace had been slipping for the last couple miles. I was now nearing Arlington Cemetery and the start area again. Since I had walked this area of the course the day before I had a sense of what was ahead of me. I also recognized this area from the walk to the starting line earlier in the morning. What I remembered most was that the walk to the starting line was loooong.

As I passed the 25 mile mark I was starting to feel a bit more tired but far from exhausted. I tried to remember to just relax. I tried to keep my knees bent slightly and keep my stride soft and smooth. I again noticed that my mile split time was about 10 seconds off my goal pace. I thought about picking up my pace but then remembered that I was suppose to be taking these last six miles much easier and decided to just let myself cruise in to the finish.

I had heard that the mile 26 mark was going to be on a hill but I wasn't expecting such a steep hill. But it actually felt kind of good on my legs. I could tell I was using some slightly different leg muscles now. I found myself dodging my way around quite a few people as I powered up the hill. Once again I reminded myself to take it easy and not tear up my legs going up the hill. But I couldnít resist. There was a grand stand on the left all the way to the finish line and hordes of spectators were cheering. I felt like I was on a stage; very similar to the NYC finish. I had the presence of mind to stop just short of the finish line and take one last photo of the finish arch before finally running under it.

Considering the windy conditions, I was happy to have hit my projected time of 3:56:00. Frankly though, I was kind of hoping I could have been able to hold a little faster pace. I made my way through the finishing chute where I was congratulated by a burly soldier who placed a finisherís medallion over my head, and another soldier who wrapped a Mylar blanket around me. A third soldier directed me to the food tent. There were soldiers everywhere. It was very impressive.

I made my way down the road and into the Finish Festival (new this year). It was packed and difficult to move around. The problem was they allowed everyone and their brother into this area and no one controlled the flow of traffic. As the athletes tried to make their way out all the family and friends were trying to make their way in. This made it extremely difficult for anyone to get anywhere.

I wanted to take the shuttle back to Crystal City to get back to my car but I couldnít figure out where I was supposed to go to find it. Once again, there were no obvious signs or announcements directing athletes to key locations. I saw the street sign pointing in the direction of the Metro station so I opted for the Metro instead. The station was packed out onto the street. I stood there for a couple minutes and notice no one was moving and my legs were starting to ache. I heard an announcement from the station attendant asking for those with ďSingle All DayĒ passes (which I had). I raised my hand and she motioned to me to go through a special gate that allowed me to bypass the crowd and go straight down to the platform. Yes, there is a God.

When I got back to Crystal City I stopped to watch the runners for a while. This is around the 23 mile mark. I was amazed to see so many people; some running and some walking. Itís one thing to be an elite runner and run fast enough to finish in little over 2 hours, but Iím just as impressed by the athletes who are out there running 5 and 6+ hours. Thatís a long time to be on your feet whether youíre walking or running. I challenge anyone to try to spend 5+ hours just shopping at the mall without sitting down and see how difficult that is.

Iíve since heard many negative comments about the start and finish of this yearís race. Those who have done it in previous years say this year was much less organized than before. The race officials have already admitted there was a problem at the finish and have promised to correct it for next year so that itís not so congested. Despite those problems this was a well run event and a must do marathon for those who like big events like this. Just be prepared to have to do some of your own navigation rather than relying on signs to point you in the right direction.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: 2006 Marine Corps Marathon Posted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 8:03 pm 

Congratulations again! So that's three sub-4:00 marathons in a single month? You must be feeling super-fit by now. Way to go! As for me, I've only run 2 miles in the month+ since the Wineglass Marathon.

JFK 50, here you go!


Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: 2006 Marine Corps Marathon Posted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 9:12 am 

HOLY SMOKES! Good on ya! Great reports, for both races.

How are ya feeling about JFK? It's creeping up, ain't it? You've put in the training, so now, go git 'em!


South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: 2006 Marine Corps Marathon Posted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 10:18 am 

I'm feeling great for JFK. I felt pretty at the finish line of the the NYC marathon last weekend (3:57, race report to come). I took two days off and then went for an easy 5 miler on Wednesday. On Thursday I hit the trails near my house (first time since last spring) for a 7 miler and worked on brisk walking up hills. I find it hard to walk when my legs feel good. I have a strong urge to run.

The key will be to get through the Appalacian Trail section with as little damage to my quads as possible. I've been reading quite a few past race reports (from the Reston Runners web site) so I "think" I have a decent idea of what to expect. My first goal is to finish in under 11 hours, next goal is to finish under 10 hours, and the final goal is to see how close I can get to 8 hours. Though I've felt pretty darn good after each of my recent marathons I really don't know what to expect of my body after 30+ miles. I'll post a race report shortly after I get back.


Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: 2006 Marine Corps Marathon Posted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 10:11 am 

Nicely done! How are you feeling aout JFK? You're gonna have a blasy!


South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: 2006 Marine Corps Marathon Posted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:31 pm 

I think I'm feeling pretty good. I keep waffling between "why the hell did I sign up for this" and "this is going to be a great adventure." I'm hoping to get two things out of this; one is to hopefully finish before the cutoff time of 12 hours and the other is to see that I can endure an event of this duration both physically and mentally. It'll be the hardest thing I've ever done...but hopefully a stepping stone to pushing the limits even farther.

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