October 21, 2014

Marine Corps Marathon Course: 11 Tips From Someone Who Has Been There

Without a doubt the Marine Corps Marathon has been one of my all-time favorite races.  Sure it was my first marathon so it has that going for it but I truly believe there's something really special about this race.  I'm really excited for Mom to experience it this weekend and I have a feeling she (and all of you) will love it!  I remember being a sponge for course information at this time last year and wanted to soak in every major moment so I figured I would share some insights from my experience on the course last year!

The Starting Line: No corrals here folks, you self-seed.  There will be large banners with estimated finish time so you can properly line up.  It's a zoo but it's truly organized, trust me on this one.  And it took us about 10-12 minutes to get across the starting line after the Howitzer was fired.

Roslyn (miles 1-3): This is where the big hills are, people.  Let them help you reign in your speed.  Roslyn will be packed with tons of spectators which is fun and I remember seeing some great signs last year.

Georgetown (miles 4.5-5.5): I remember some hills in here and lots of spectators.  What I actually remember most is that the road was really wet from a water station.  That's random, I know!

Rock Creek Parkway (miles 6-9.5): This part of the course was very crowded, but also very scenic.  You're running on a tree-lined road and there's little else to see except for runners on all sides of you.  Turn off your music and soak in the sounds of the thumping feet.  And be cautious of the hand cyclists.  Because of the hills in here, they definitely had challenges navigating the major crowds.

Kennedy Center (mile 10.5): We passed the Kennedy Center last year right after the orange slices stop and I remember this point well.  I anticipated seeing a friend spectating here, but she turned out to be elsewhere on the course.  There's great spectators in here.

Haines Point (miles 11-15): People warned me that this could be a tough area of the course.  If it's windy, you're likely to feel it because you're more exposed.  I really loved this section for a few reasons.  The Mile to Remember (mile 12) is incredible.  Do yourself (and your fellow Americans) a favor and turn off your music.  Take in the photos of the fallen service men and women.  Take in the line of American flags.  It's really moving. 

The Monuments and the Mall (miles 16-19): This was the most awesome section of the course for me.  I loved seeing the heart of DC and I also had some wonderful spectators on the mall.  The spectators are wall-to-wall on the course through this section so enjoy it.  You may laugh but you will need that crowd energy as you turn to head over the bridge.  Speaking of the bridge...

The 14th Street Bridge (mile 20): This may feel like the longest mile of the race.  The bridge can break you.  It is quiet.  There are no spectators and you have a 10k to go.  I tried to take in the views of Crystal City and stay upbeat.  When you come off the ramp off the bridge, don't look right....the finish line is that direction and it's too soon to start daydreaming about the finish. 

Crystal City (miles 22-24): You will get another small taste of hills through here.  Despite the crowds here, I found this section of the course to be very quiet.  In fact, I threw my hands in the air at one point and yelled at the crowd to cheer for us!  The best part of Crystal City is the munchkin station as you head back toward the Pentagon.  I wasn't feeling this last year but I know tons of people loved this aid station!

The Pentagon (mile 24.5): You'll exit Crystal City under the 395 overpass an run toward the Pentagon.  I remember this stretch from last year.  Feeling so close that I could almost taste the finish line Gatorade.  There's a great DJ set up in front of the Pentagon and a fabulous Marine who told us 1.2 miles to go when we got back on the onramp to the finish.

The finish (mile 26.2...duh!): I was warned about the final hill up to the finish line.  In my head, it was Everest and in reality, it wasn't that bad.  The crowds approaching the finish were INSANE and they were encroaching on the road quite a bit so be prepared for it to feel a bit narrow all of a sudden. 

If you're running the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend, I wish you the best day on earth!  This was one of the best days of my life and I hope it lives up to (my) hype!

Interested in reading more?  Here are a few of my posts from last year.
2013 Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap
My Top 5 Marine Corps Marathon Moments
Marine Corps Marathon by the Numbers
My Taper Plan

Are you running Marine Corps?  Getting excited??

October 19, 2014

Weekly Roundup - October 19th

I'm sitting here enjoying a homemade pumpkin spice latte, reveling in a fabulous run.  It was really the perfect fall day this morning - very cool to start, clear, blue skies, and signs of the season everywhere.  I saw many pumpkins, leaves dancing in the street, and acorns crunching underfoot.  It was one of those runs that reminds you why you love running.  It was effortless and a nice change of pace from the very forced long runs I've been doing in preparation for Richmond marathon.
View of the Battleship Wisconsin from my run today
We both had good weeks in terms of workouts.  Mom is counting down the days until Marine Corps Marathon (I really can't believe it's next weekend!) and I'm one long run away from taper town heading into Richmond.  Definitely an exciting few weeks ahead of racing for these girls!

Sunday October 12th
Pam:  travel day
Christine: 20 miles at 9:31 pace

Monday, October 13th
Pam:  Ran 4.25 miles, average pace 9:30
Christine: 15 min yoga sequence, lots of stretching (mostly a rest day)

Tuesday, October 14th
Pam:  30 minutes elliptical, weights
Christine: Ran 6 miles with hill repeats mixed in, average pace 8:53

Wednesday, October 15th
Pam: 8 mile long run (last before Marine Corps Marathon, average pace 9:45
Christine: 30 min tabata workout

Thursday, October 16th
Pam:  travel day
Christine: 4 miles at 9:05 pace

Friday, October 17th
Pam: 30 min hotel gym workout
Christine: Rest day

Saturday, October 18th
Pam: 30 min hotel gym workout
Christine: 2 hours yard work

October 17, 2014

Friday Five - Marathon Jams

I am always looking for new music so I was excited to see that the gals of the DC trifecta chose running songs as this week's Friday Five topic. Since I'm less than a month away from my next marathon, I figured I would share the songs that were my anthems for my past races and one that is a new jam.

1. Thinking about You, by Calvin Harris featuring Ayah Marar: This was my anthem for Marine Corps Marathon.  I listened to it on repeat for the last few miles...or at least I think I did...I'm not sure if there were many coherent thoughts over those last few miles!

2. Beautiful techno remix by Christina Aguilera: This was my training jam for Marine Corps.  I never really liked the original version of this song, but I could get on board with the techno version.  It's a good beat and a good message for running!

3. Call on Me, Ministry of Sound Remix by Eric Prydz: I first heard this song on the streets of London (literally) in the mid-2000s.  And ever since, it's been on my workout playlist.  It was the song that got me across the finish line for my first half marathon and became one of my jams during the final leg of the Dopey Challenge during last year's Walt Disney World Marathon.

4. Panama by Van Halen: Like my girl Kathryn, this one is a staple on my playlist.  I vividly remember hearing it around mile 6 or 7 during Marine Corps and feeling SO GOOD at that moment.  Whenever this song comes on, I'm able to channel that moment.  Music really is a powerful thing I tell ya!

5. Alive by Krewella: This has become my Richmond Marathon training song.  My buddy Kass originally recommended this song a while back when I was looking for some new music.  Not only do I love this song, but every time I hear it, I think of her and her speediness.  So that's some pretty good motivation if you ask me!

Thanks again for hosting another awesome Friday Five, Mar, Cynthia, and Courtney!  As I'm looking to complete my Richmond playlist, I would love some song suggestions that get you pumped!

October 16, 2014

Long Run Successes

On Sunday, I ran my longest run since last December - 20 miles.  I was a bit anxious about this run, mostly due to the distance but I was also curious to see how I would manage it from a pace standpoint.  I was really excited with my results.  It was my strongest run to date and I believe there are a few reasons that I felt pretty strong.  But let's be real here, it started with a temper tantrum because my Garmin wasn't tracking pace and then I realized I forgot my phone and had also locked myself out of the house...more on that another time...

Pretty happy with a successful 20 mile run!
I am guilty of not always fueling very well the night before a long run.  This weekend, I paid better attention.  I cooked a hearty (and also delicious!) gnocchi dish the night before and hydrated with Gatorade and water.  No beer for this girl! 

I'm learning how to zone out in the beginning of long runs.  Over my last few runs, I'm learning to turn on my brain and take my attention off my watch for the early miles.  I find that I'm usually surprised when I've already covered a substantial amount of the run without exerting much mental energy.  I'm hoping that this mental "training" will help me during the race.

I love nothing more than seeing other runners out while I'm on a run.  I saw at least a dozen on Sunday and most exchanged friendly smiles, a wave, or a hello.  I saw another woman who was clearly out for some miles (the Bondiband, Garmin, and hydration belt were dead giveaways...) and we exchanged a smile and a wave that seemed to say "you got it girl, keep going."  Every time I saw another runner, I got a mental boost.

But the biggest boost of all came when I turned into my last neighborhood that I would hit before I headed back to my own neighborhood.  I had already run through this neighborhood once and now I was in the home stretch - probably around mile 16 or so.  I noticed a man in his driveway getting out of his car.  As I approached his house, he said to me "you've been running at least 2 hours and I can only assume it's on purpose."  I responded, "Yes, sir.  I'm on a 20 mile run and I'm training for a marathon."  His response "You go girl."  Those 3 words propelled me the last 3-4 miles and I haven't ever felt better.  I don't know if he runs or if he just appreciated that I was pushing my physical limits for fun on a Sunday morning.  Either way, it meant the world to me. 

What motivates you when you're out on a long run?

October 15, 2014

An open letter to Stonyfield, a Boston Marathon Sponsor

Dear Stonyfield Corporation,

On Monday evening there was a firestorm of activity on twitter and Facebook following a blog post that was on your home page.   As a sponsor of the Boston Marathon 2015, you were given some race entries and someone at your company made the decision to choose eight female bloggers to run the race in April.  How you chose these bloggers and why you made the choice to field this team is somewhat of a mystery to those of us who are not employed by the company.  It would be very interesting to hear how and why the decisions were made.

 From the information I could gather from a very quick Internet search, only three of the bloggers listed have qualified for Boston during their running careers with one of them having to miss the event due to a pregnancy.  That leaves five individuals who will be running the race, without a prior Boston Qualifying time.  While that may seem like no big deal to people who do not run, that is not so in the running community.  Boston is the pinnacle of marathon races and most people work very hard for years to earn a qualifying standard for the race.  And if they did not earn a qualifying standard, they work hard to raise a substantial amount of money for a Boston approved charity to "earn" that spot at the starting line. For the 2015 race, 1,947 qualified runners were turned away due to field size limits.

With further Internet research, I discovered that you were also the sponsor of the 2014 Boston Marathon and offered ten spots to runners who had qualified for the race but were unable to get a spot.  From the press release from January 2014, "Runners in the 118th Boston Marathon will have new fuel powering their strides as Stonyfield, the world's leading organic yogurt maker, takes its place as an official sponsor. As part of its sponsorship, the New England company is forming Team Stonyfield, allowing qualified runners who missed the entry cutoff for the historic race to participate. Runners looking to join Team Stonyfield can enter for the chance to win a spot at www.stonyfield.com/teamstonyfield."  You can read the full story here.

What a thoughtful and perfect way to give those runners an opportunity to run the most prestigious marathon in the world.  Their stories are remarkable and it is wonderful that they had the chance to realize their dream. 

It is extremely disappointing to see that you have "sold" your spots to those bloggers who you hope will benefit your company.  I hold no animosity towards these individual mothers/runners/bloggers, but cannot understand how you would not consider the mother bloggers who have met the qualifying standards, or perhaps repeat last year's gesture and open spots to runners who qualified but were unable to get a spot due to the field size cut off.  Besides the three BQ mamas that you chose, here are some additional runners that quickly came to mind: Kass from The Lone Runner, Kristin from StuftMama, and Dorothy from MilePosts. There are plenty of fast mother runners out there who balance family, work, and running.  I bet any of those that make up the 1,947 runners who were shut out during Boston registration would kill for a spot to toe the line in Hopkinton next April.

Pamela Keenan
Boston Marathon Qualifier for 2015 and on the Entrant List of the B.A.A.  

October 14, 2014

Training Tuesday: Are pacers / support runners legit?

She trained for weeks.  She ran a 21 miler as her longest run and then began to taper.  But this wasn’t her race.  She wasn’t training for a marathon or an ultra.  She was training to run the last 20 miles of a 100 mile ultra race with a friend.  She ran in the middle of the night on trails through serious hills - a race that meant nothing to her but everything for her friend.   This is the story of a friend of mine at work, who recently completed the last 20 miles of a 100 mile ultra race in the mountains with her friend. 

In this week's Training Tuesday post, I wanted to chat about the idea of "running someone in" at the end of a race.  It's been a topic of discussion with my mom and I.  At one point , we talked about me running her in for the last 10k on her BQ attempt marathon last spring.  It turned out that she was running a race the same day as me so that was out of the question.  And to be honest, I’m not sure I was ready for that kind of pressure!  I’m so happy that she found a wonderful pacer (and race buddy) with Meghan who ran stride for stride with her to help her reach her goal. 

As I’m looking at a lofty goal for my Richmond Marathon in 5 weeks, I've been considering the idea of having someone run me in the last 6 miles.  Since it’s a smaller race, I think it would be logistically feasible to have someone join me but that’s still up in the air.  And of course, my pacer buddy would not cross the finish line or consume any of the race course snacks/water.  Knowing that those last 6.2 miles will be the toughest, I think the company and moral support would be very welcome.  I'm hopeful that it also might help give me some motivation and an emotional boost to finish strong!  

When I was out running the other night, it occurred to me that this might be a gray area.  Would my time still mean the same if I pulled myself across the finish line, solo?  What did this mean for my experience at the Shamrock half marathon in March when I ran with a pacer for the first 10 miles?  It really made me think.  I mean Shalane has them for her major races, so they must be legit right? And a pacer doesn't physically aid you, they just simply run a pace for you to maintain with them.  There are tons of benefits of having a pacer, as we've previously discussed. As far as I'm concerned it's totally legit.

What are your thoughts on pacers and support runners?

October 13, 2014

Win Detergent Review and Giveaway

Disclosure:  I was given the opportunity to test Win detergent through my affiliation with FitApproach in exchange for a blog review. I received no other compensation.  As always, the opinions stated here my own.  

Our household produces enough stinky athletic clothing every week for a family of six.  Tom and I both participate in numerous activities including running, golf, tennis and visits to the gym.  An active lifestyle is great, but even better is the proper detergent to get your work out clothing smelling clean and fresh.  Sometimes I can be a cheapskate and I never want to pay alot of money for detergent.  I have one type that I use, due to skin allergies, and add white vinegar when the wash load is rather fragrant in a not so good way. This helps a little, but is certainly not the perfect solution.   When I was offered the chance to try a sports specific detergent, I jumped at the chance.  I wanted to confirm that yes, they were worth the money, or no, just keep buying gallons of vinegar and save a little money.

Over the last 10 days, I have tried both the original Win high performance sports detergent and the Win green high performance sports detergent that is fragrance and dye free.  To say I was surprised by the results is an understatement.  Some of our tech performance wear had smells that just could not be removed with our regular detergent.  I tested a few older tops and was pleased that they smelled fresh after washing.  I have already bookmarked the Amazon link to purchase this product.  It is definitely a winner (no pun intended) and will be stocked in my laundry room.

Heaping pile of dirty running clothing before Win

Here are some details from the Win Detergent press release: "Both versions of WIN are made in the USA, with a bottle made from 25% post consumer recycled plastics. WIN is septic safe, phosphate free, and can be used in high efficiency washers. WIN does not do any animal testing."  

Both types of the detergent are sold in 32 ounce bottles with a cost of $10.95 per bottle. You can also buy a 4 pack with a slight discount at $37.95. At approximately 45 cents per wash load, this seems very reasonable. The detergent can be used in the high efficiency front load machines and each bottle capacity is 21 wash loads. This is available through Amazon and if you are a Prime Member, good news because you get free shipping! Best of all, we have a giveaway for one lucky reader. Follow the rules on our Rafflecopter link below. Please be advised that this contest is available to US residents in the lower 48 states.

a Rafflecopter giveaway