Archive for November 2015 | Monthly archive page

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Tony had said for several years if he ever decided to run an open marathon, it would be the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM).  With his other two marathons coming as part of Ironmans, this would be a different challenge with the focus solely on running.  Since the interest for MCM is so high the opportunity to register is only available through a lottery system.  Unfortunately, he was not one of the lucky ones to get in through the lottery, so he investigated other options, which included charity slots.  He decided to get involved with Project Zero, which is a charity to raise awareness for prostate cancer, and fundraise to be able to race.  He also convinced his brother, Johnny, to participate through the charity, so they could register for MCM together.

As with most endurance race training, Tony had his share of ups and downs with his training.  However, the last several weeks were plagued with knee pain which resulted in him not able to get in the volume and speed work that he wanted.  He was determined to race though!

Race day was Sunday 10/25 and we drove up to DC Friday evening after work.  Saturday consisted of a good breakfast, packet pick up, exploring the expo, lunch, rest and a pasta dinner.  Tony’s philosophy (and mine as well), includes staying off the feet/legs as much as possible the day before a long race…no shake out or short runs the day before.  Everyone has different philosophies, but this seems to work for us.

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Tony and Johnny at the expo

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Race ready!

Sunday morning was a super early wake up call.  Tony is not one to get to a race site super early, but based off what we were expecting and the volume of runners, we left early!  Fortunately, we had scoped out the metro the evening before when we went to dinner and figured out what line we needed to take to our desired stop.  The Metro Center stop was super convenient since we could connect to the station from access through our hotel (Grand Hyatt).  Upon exiting the Pentagon stop for the race start, we were not able to walk too far until we were part of the massive line waiting to go through the security check.  The line moved at a snail’s pace.  It also started to rain, which we were expecting.

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All smiles before the race, despite the rain!

The time ticked by quicker than the line was moving.  Tony started to get anxious about having adequate time to make it through security and then get all the way up to his coral.  It finally got to the point that the Marines that were manning security, called for the racers that were empty handed.  I gave him a quick kiss, wished him luck and off he went, along with his brother.  We (me and my sister-in-law, Quinn) did not have to wait too much longer to make it through, but I feel Tony never would have made it to his coral before the start had they not left when they did.

It was total chaos!!!!  Racers were literally sprinting to attempt to make it to the start line.  People lined up at the bush line for a last call of nature before race time.  I have never seen anything like it!

There are a few things that make this race special.

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Great way to kick off a race!

I was thrilled that I was able to see the paratroopers with American flags falling in the sky and then the fly over by the Osprey.  SO.VERY.COOL!

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Since it takes so long for all the runners to actually start the race, we were able to spot Johnny prior to his coral beginning.  We did not have a lot of time though, so we wished he final “good lucks” and off he went.

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Quinn and I had a spectating game plan.  We did not wait long to head off to the first spectating point.  We knew there was plenty of time, but wanted to go ahead and find a good spot, which we did with lots of time to spare.

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A couple of the hand cycle participants

We were able to watch the leaders of the race pass by which is always exciting, in my opinion.  Tony’s game plan was to basically be in the pack between the 3:10 and 3:20 pace groups.  SOMEHOW, I missed him at the first point.  I could not believe it!  I have spectated so many races, so I was surprised when it got to the point I knew he had long since passed.  I knew I had to head on and this is when Quinn and I split.  There was no way for us to stay together and watch for both guys.

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Marine Corps Band along the race course

My second point was quite a hike and I was navigating in an unfamiliar city.  I quickly learned though, that it is a benefit to spectators, as well as the runners, to have the pace groups (not used to this since triathlons can’t offer this).  When you see a pace group pass it helps you better gauge where you runner may be.

Fortunately, I spotted Tony at this spectating point, very easily.  It was a bit over the half way mark and I was carrying an extra pair of his running shoes in case his wet shoes were causing issues (he has forever battled blisters).  He looked strong and his pace up until then was on point.  However, he told me that his knee was starting to hurt and he decided that he did not want to take the time to change shoes.  I was so glad to see him and passed along my words of encouragement.

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First time to see Tony!

Point three was not too far away and not too long after I just saw him, but I wanted to be there as much as possible.  I was able to enjoy spectating a bit more since I was playing the waiting game there.  As he passed, I got more photos and shared my cheers.

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Go T!!!!

I decided to try to get to one more point to see him.  It was going to be tight based on the distance I had to walk and when I suspected I would see him based on current pace.  I was also a little uncertain on the best way to get there.  However, I got to just where I wanted to be and could not tell if he had passed that point or had not yet arrived.  I was around mile 19ish.  I quickly asked a lady if she knew what pace group had last passed.  Based on what she told me, I thought MAYBE I has just missed him.  In a very short time, I saw him.  YAY!!!!  He was not in a good place and I just tried my very best to give him positive words and lots of support.  I would see him next at the finish.

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Glad I made it to see him this last time

The walk to the finish line was much easier to navigate as I had an exact point of interest I could enter in Google Maps.  (GPS navigation makes life so much easier!!!!!  I probably depend on it too much!)  I will mention that MCM provided an app that I downloaded on my phone and used all during the race to track him.  I found it extremely helpful!  I also signed up to receive text messages when he passed certain timing mats.  Those seemed to work very well.

As I approached the finish line area, I struggled initially to decide where to wait.  I could not get really close to the finish line because of the way it was deigned/setup, but I did find a point that ended up being perfect!  I had to be fast with the camera though because I would not have a lot of advanced sight time before I needed to snap for photos.

The point where I waited was at a left hand turn the runners take where they climb a hill that takes them across the finish line.  (A hill to a marathon finish line….not nice!!)  I saw him and snapped three pictures.  He did not see me but I patted him on the arm as he ran by.

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So close to the Finish!

Somehow we were lucky enough to find one another very easily after he crossed the finish and was navigating the exit area.  I was so proud of him and knew that he had to dig deep for this race.  It was not the race he wanted, but with the circumstances he had to contend with, I could not have been more pleased of his accomplishment.  I wished it would have been different, but he pulled out so much more than I thought his knee would allow.  What a badass!

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He completely earned that awesome medal!

We had time before his brother would finish, so we found a place for him to rest and have a little something to eat.  We did try to walk down to the beer tent, but before too long we realized that it involved too much walking and then we would be back tracking to get back to the finish line.  This is one of the disadvantages to participating in a large race….everything is very spread out.  We finally decided found a good place to chill as we waited for Johnny.

During this time we talked about his day and chatted with other runners that would stop along the way for a short rest.

So proud of this guy!

After we knew that Johnny had finished, based on the tracker, we had our eyes peeled as not to miss him.  We finally all gathered with the exception of my sister in law, because her phone had died and we did not know where she was!

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Brothers share their accomplishment

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After dealing with the logistics of metros and trying to find everyone, we all eventually ended up back at the hotel for some rest. It was neat to hear Tony and Johnny chat about their races and their experiences of the day.

The evening consisted of meeting up with some dear friends from home that now live in southern Maryland.  They came into DC and we all celebrated with a sushi dinner and then enjoyed good times with after dinner drinks.  It was certainly an adventure filled day!

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China Town

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Fun night of celebrating!

The next day was filled with lots of walking.  It included more than either of them needed, but it was a fun day of exploring DC.  I think it can be best told by photos!

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Beautiful day by the Washington Monument

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The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetary

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The Changing of the Guard

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Very cool ceremony

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If you have never been to Arlington, put it on the list!

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JFK

This was definitely a bucket list item for Tony and I am so happy that he was able to check it off the list.  I don’t think he is anxious to run another marathon of that size, but it was a new experience for us all!

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