Also known as the weekend where we fit in as much Marine Corps activity as possible while managing to run to 13.1 miles…and yes, the .1 is extremely important!
*This post contains way more photos and probably more details than most of you want so consider yourself warned!
Let’s start on Saturday morning getting ready to leave town. This was my very first 1/2 marathon and also the only time I’ve traveled for a race. I met up with Ryane and left town around 10:00, after making my new awesome juice (thanks VA Ingersolls) of oranges, carrots, and sweet taters. Seriously though, getting a blast of vitamins the day before was probably one of the best decisions ever. This stuff also kept me hydrated really well, which is something that I usually struggle with. Normally I drink some Nuun the day before, but I never felt like a needed to after my morning juice.
Packing for a race is totally different from any other packing! I’m sure I had enough combos of clothing for every season except the harshest of winters in my bag. We also got a good laugh because on my own I had 6 different water bottles in my bag! I had my skirt and capris, a tank top, shirt, long sleeve top, but only one pair of socks (some decisions early in the morning just need to be easy) and my shoes.
The weather was less than promising looking when he headed out, but it wasn’t 90 and sunny out so I was happy enough. We decided to drop by the expo and pick up our race packets before doing anything else. We were able to get there, park, and had everything taken care of in under 5 minutes flat. Talk about some efficiency! We looked around the expo, tried some nuun (lemon tea was nasty) and then headed out for lunch.
After lunch, we headed to Quantico to hit up the MCX looking for shirts for the race since it’s basically impossible to find Marine stuff in Norfolk. On the way I suggested visiting the National Museum of the Marine Corps, I’ve been before and really liked it, so we stopped and really enjoyed looking around. I mean when you’re having a weekend of all things Marines, it’s basically necessary to hit up their museum and also check out Quantico.
After driving around Quantico and enjoying how pretty it was, we stopped at the MCX and bought some shirts to wear. Next stop was the hotel in Fredericksburg. We stayed at Country Inn which was fairly new and nice. They were also really accommodating for runners and had breakfast ready early and had even thrown together some to go baggies of fruit and bagels for anyone interested. After dressing and enjoying some coffee and my toast, we walked across the street to the shuttle and took a quick 10 minute ride to the start. We met a girl on the shuttle ride who has done this race a few times so she gave us all the good details and helped us find baggage check. We breezed through baggage check, the potty line and headed to the corral just in time to take off. There were never any crazy wait times anywhere and not having to stand around and wait definitely helped keep the nerves at bay.
Before the race I had studied the elevation of the course and knew it would have some challenging climbs at the end, but the beginning had a lot more hills than I was expecting. Miles 1-4 seemed to be going well and I was feeling fine just trying to settle in and keep a nice easy pace.
I decided to have a Gu at mile 6 thinking I was half way there (my brain wasn’t quite working – and this explains why the 2nd half felt so much longer!) It was also right before this point that we decided to take a picture of ourselves.
Miles 7 -10 were definitely some of the best. We were running through some really cute neighborhoods and the people were all out cheering and playing music and just being really encouraging. We also through some corners with awesome Marines who were giving out high fives and encouragement, which was nice. The scenery through this section changed from the historic district to the river and ended at the base of a brutal looking hill.
Mile 10, also known as Hospital Hill, was the start of the places where I struggled. I kept hearing about the hill, but now knowing what to expect made it a little more intimidating. Basically from 10-11 you climb 200 ft and you get to the top and the amazing EMTs there tell you it over. Then you turn a corner get some water from the Marines manning the water station along with some encouragement and then promptly climb another 100 ft. No big deal, right? HA.
I decided at the base of the hill that I was going to run as much as possible. I made it about half way there and then decided that if I planned to finish strong then I needed to walk the rest of the way. I really believe that I could not have run anymore than I did so I’m really proud of myself. Once I got to mile 11 I kind of fell apart mentally. I’m blaming the hill and the fact that I was in uncharted territory distance wise at this point. I just trying to remember that it was almost over and that I could actually sit down once I got to the end (I had a crazy desire to just sit for a few!). There was also this amazing stranger standing right before the mile 12 marker that must have seen I needed some kind words so he let me know that the worst was behind me and that I quitting now would be pointless.
Once I got to mile 12 I was determined to run the rest of the race. I didn’t care how slow I went, I just wasn’t going to walk. Amazingly my time during this section was actually really good. I really wanted a hug about this time – strange I know, but I just wanted a hug and someone to tell me that I was okay. One of the Marines was standing in the middle of road and encouraging everyone close to the end and that seemed to help me find the final little burst of energy that I used to finish out. I don’t have a clue what he said but I know it had to do with running and the end!
After I crossed the finish line they had Marines waiting with medals and he dropped it on my neck and nearly took me off my feet with the unexpected weight! I managed to find a place to rest and waited for Ryane to catch up. Once she came across we took some pics and started collecting some water and snacks. They gave us some kind of granola, Gatorade, orange slices (heavenly!), and pretzels – the BEST pretzels ever according to the Marine handing them out. His sales pitch worked and all I could think about was eating those pretzels, but I couldn’t get the bag open because I ran out of hands…I was completely devastated. Much to Ryane’s amusement I ended up asking the nearest Marine, who ended up being a Major, for help and after giving him what must have been one of my saddest looks ever got to taste those awesome pretzels. From there we collected our bags and jackets (no wait), walked to the grocery store for some milk, and got back on the shuttle.
Overall it was an amazing weekend. I had tons of fun just hanging out with Ryane on Saturday and then left my race with crazy amounts of pride and the desire to do it again. As for this particular course, I definitely want to run it next year, but I’m also wanting to look into some other longer distance races for the future.