Semper Fit Challenge 2020: The Road I Travelled

It has been a little more than 24 hours since I finished the (virtual) Marine Corps Marathon and completed the Semper Fit Challenge, which was completing the Historic Half-Marathon as well as the MCM in the same calendar year. AS I draw down the curtain on 2020, I want to recap my last two months and explain my extended absence on this blog.

First, I put a pause on blogging because I put an extended pause on training. I didn’t get back into serious training until September 13, a mere 42 days before the (scheduled) virtual MCM. I proposed an aggressive schedule for myself: running every other day until the MCM. One week would be Su-Tu-Th-Sa, the other week Mo-We-Fr, with long runs on Saturday. In retrospect this hurt me on some of the long runs because I was used to a We-Fr-Su running schedule, the long runs being on Sunday mornings.

The second reason I paused my blogging, while resuming the running, was because I wanted to show progress while I was training. I did complete runs of 13.1, 15, and 20 miles before yesterday’s MCM, but I also had a couple of aborts while attempting to run 15 and 18 miles. I had also put aside P90X for the year; with access to the gyms at my apartment complex restricted to appointment only, the only cross-training I did was riding my bicycle to and from work.

On the Mondays thru Fridays I alternated between 5 and 6 mile runs every other day. Rather than focus on the mundane runs, I will take a short look at the longer runs that defined my run-up to the virtual MCM.

Southeast Loop 10/Sept. 6: This was the longest run I had done since June. The stretch of Three Notch Rd/MD-234 was mostly uphill, and I thought that I did a pretty good job of maintaining my pace on this part of the run. My pace was 12:28, and I learned to live with it.

St. Mary’s City 13.1/Sept.19: The same route that I ran the virtual Historic Half, and the longest I had run in FIVE MONTHS. In retrospect, i was supposed to be running 20 miles and should have had a one or two (virtual?) half marathons under my belt by now. I finished eighteen minutes slower than the HH that day. Also the issues with MapMyRun began this week: the app was not verbally calling out my mile split times.

Sept. 24: Plot twist…and ankle twist. Today, while riding home from work, I slipped off my right pedal and spilled the bike, and twisted my right ankle in the process. Eventually the ankle would recover, but I would feel it in the weeks to come. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation…I would do none of this process and would pay for it later.

RTN 7 Walk 3/Sept.27: This was my first attempt at 15 miles. It was all sorts of dark out when I started (no moon), and as I was heading south down Three Notch/MD-235, I was struggling to find the turnoff to Route 489. I eventually did make the turn…and then I flat ran out of gas about 100 years down the road. My get-up-and-go just got up and went. I power-walked the rest of Route 489 to Point Lookout Road/MD-5, hoping to get a second wind. The restart never came, and at the foot of the Willow Road uphill, I ended the run. It should have been Run 7 Walk 3, but I was not in a good mood and couldn’t see straight.

For some reason, my smartphone dialed 911 just before I gave out on 489.

Three Point Mills 15/Oct. 3: THREE Notch Road, north to south, then POINT Lookout Road/MD-5, after running the 489, then Great MILLS Road/MD-246 after hitting the last intersection. The 246 had the most elevation changes, but I did manage to up the pace before heading into the home stretch on Willows Road. With the UCAN Hydrate in my system, I had gone 15 miles without needing a water break, and I still had not touched my spare GU. My thighs kind of flared up around mile 12, midday through the 246.

The week of Oct.11-17 was to be my most ambitious training week ever. I planned to run the Mt. Vernon Trail on the 11th, then run the Carl Henn Millennium Trail on the 17th.

Mt. Vernon Trail 6/Oct. 11: Ouch. I was anticipating a cold rainy run, so I put on a yellow thermal tee over my black tech shirt. The weather was dry and a bit warmer than expected. Maybe too warm because I flat out burned out two miles into the run. I just overheated and limped to the port-a-johns just outside the Reagan National Airport. After taking a No.2, then realizing the port-a-john I was in had no toilet paper (my what a lovely morning I was having), I limped back to the start of the trail.

PS: Next year I will stay at the Marriott just outside of the Rosslyn end of the trail instead of the Hilton at Arlington Courthouse.

Millennium Trail 20/Oct. 18: I was supposed to run this on Saturday instead of Sunday, but I got a serious case of nerves just before I was getting ready to stretch. This run was two laps of the 10.7 mile trail located in Rockville, MD. I remembered having to cut the run short just after Mile 16 last year, so I resolved to maintain a steady pace over the first lap, then gauge how to take the hills on the second lap. I did make it past mile 16 this year, by taking a power walk at the Thomas Wooton High School on the last serious uphill. The final pace (14:08) wasn’t that great, but I chalked it up to the constant elevation changes, and my lack of long mileage and conditioning (i.e. no running and no P90X) over the midsummer.

The weekend trips to Arlington, VA and Rockville were good chances for me to get out of town, even though only Rockville was more of a confidence boost before the MCM.

Epilogue

Not making the trip to Arlington for the MCM in-person was kind of a drag this year, and took away the anticipation of the event. The Runner’s Expo, the annual trip to the Marine Corps Museum, being found my Marine Friends, and the entire race day experience…the walk through the security gates and the longer walk to the starting corrals. Hearing the music and the public address announcers. Feeling the atmosphere with the other 40,000 runners while stretching out. V-22 Osprey flybys just before the run.

Hearing the starting howitzer going off at 0755. Shuffling towards the starting arch, then crossing under it and taking off, with adrenaline in your veins.

The Blue Mile at Mile 12. The long stretch from miles 14 thru 17, when you realize OMG I’m running a marathon!!! Realizing you’ve made it to the George Washington Bridge, with time to spare ( supposed to reach it by 1:00p.m. or get pulled off the course).

Crossing the bridge, and the near silence. So many people running on fumes and sheer determination.

Crossing into Rosslyn and the party in the streets, as you once again see the cheering crowds. Mile 24…two miles to go!

The Mile 25 and the highway that you started on so long ago is now the homestretch. The the final run up to the finish arch.

A United States Marine wrapping the finisher’s medal around your neck.

The Finisher’s Party and the celebration of the end of a long year of training.

Yeah…I kind of missed that this year.

Song of the Day: Closing Ceremonies

Presented without commentary or explanation, because I’m really not into Genius right now:

Bury Tomorrow/”Choke”

Orbit Culture/”The Shadowing”

The Revels/”Comanche”

MC5/”Kick Out The Jams”

Beatles/”Slow Down”

Baltimora/”Tarzan Boy”

Hugh Cromwell (Stranglers) and Mariachi Mexteca/’Golden Brown”

Van Halen/”Runnin’ With the Devil”

Night Ranger/”Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”

Crash Test Dummies/”Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”

Ghost/”Square Hammer”

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