Category Archives: DNF

MCM 2021: Trifecta Review

It was exactly this time (0920) last Sunday that cramped, seized up calves forced me to call time on the Virtual MCM 50K, so this is a good time to take a look back at what was, and what might have been…

Virtual MCM 10K, Oct.24: It was cloudy, but the full moon was out that morning.

To be honest, this run was over before I knew it. Knowing it would be just six miles, I opened the throttle and pushed it from the get-go. I ran the Superwillow 6 course; started from the entrance at Abberly Crest Apartments at Abberly Crest Lane. Ran north up Willows Road through the intersection at Willows and Great Mills Road up through Shangri-La Road, then turned around and ran Willows south all the way to the intersection at Willow at MD-5.

When I got to the intersection, I kind of forgot to go out about 20 yards, so could be sure I got the exact measurements for the 10K, or 6.22 miles. Never mind, I just turned back up Willows all the way back to where I started, going full speed to the end.

I checked the Strava app on my phone: 10.01K and 6.22 miles on the dot.

Virtual Marine Corps Marathon (26.2M), October 31: After spending three hours in the car on Saturday afternoon, one would think I would be tired enough to get a good nights sleep. I went to bed at 9:30 p.m. (2100 hours) for a 3:30 a.m. (0300) reveille.

At 0245, I woke up. Now the course that I was running, the Indian Head Rail Trail in Indian head, MD has a posted policy that no one is to be on the trail until dawn. I toured the area the day before and I found the area to be kind of sketchy. So, at 0250, I moved reveille to 0500.

I did get up at 0500, ate my breakfast of muesli (Greek yogurt/honey/granola/dried berries) and Sparkling Ice + caffeine, got dressed. Stretched out for about 40 minutes. Set up my FlipBelt and my knapsack, which would hand crossed by my shoulders. I left the Red Roof Inn about 0615 and headed for the park, which was a five minute walk from the IHRT, and the actual parking spot for it.

I stepped off for the MCM at 0640. It was still dark, but the trailhead area was well lit, between the church parking lot and a sheet lamp or two. I got an extra ninety minutes of sleep, but I got a later start than I should have. Also, it was a little more overcast that last Sunday, so not much of a full moon.

My strategy was to push for a 12;30 pace for as mic as possible, then Marine Corps shuffle and PowerWalk to the end, if I had to. IHRT is 13 miles, end to end. Going out to the Charles County end is a gradual five mile climb to the 13 mile point. I made the turnaround, then ran a few more yards “just to make sure” of that tenth of a mile.

The second half of the run was the real grind. Going back to the eight mile point (Mile 18) was where I shifted into shuffle mode. Believe it or not, I got enough “second winds” where I could do more shuffling than power walking. I missed the six mile marker going back; that was significant because four of the remaining six miles going back would be uphill. When I saw the five mile marker, I knew everything was going to be alright.

“Do you have another fifteen minutes?” Made it to the four mile marker.

“Do you have one more hour in you?”

Apparently, I did.

The end of the virtual Marine Corps Marathon was a blur. 26.87 on the Strava. Cooldown walk back to the car. Drive back to get the obligatory selfie to post online. Back to the hotel for my post race epsom salt bath.

I did see a man on the course wearing an MCMmock turtleneck, asking me if I was running that day; I told him I was running the virtual MCM this morning. I was him again on the way back and he told me “You’re doing fine, keep it up!”

The KT bands on my thighs and Copper Fit knee braces were a boon. I wish I added KT tape to my calves.

The Dream:

“0300 on November 10th, 2021. The Marine Corps Birthday, but also the very last day I can run and submit a time for the Virtual MCM 50K.

“I text my supervisions at work that I’m taking a day of leave today. Not sure if i want to explain right why right now. I am up, I eat my breakfast. I add slice of English muffin covered with peanut butter to my muesli entree.

“Forty-five minutes to stretch. KT tape on my thighs and calves. elastic knee braces. Brooks running tights, bought just over five years ago. The infamous ‘People’s Mock’ from 2017. My plain white tech shirt, which was my ‘honor shirt’ for the Trifecta.

“0500 and I’m off. Half moon is out and I’m feeling good. Still feeling shaky from Sunday but I don’t care…I’m doing this run today, dammit!

“About 0615 and I’m at the SAIC Building…just over five miles in. The workday traffic is just building up. I don’t care who sees me at this hour. I’m just running.

“Ten mile mark, and I’m shuffling. I don’t care about speed, I don’t care about a Personal Record. Shuffle/shuffle/shuffle…Marine Corps shuffle.

“Faith Baptist Church and the turnaround point. Still feeling the after-effects from Sunday. The morning rush towards Naval Air Station Pax River continues. The KT tape and the knee braces are physically holding me together. May need to look for a bright star in the east, because this is a miracle.

“The shuffle continues. Damn, I didn’t realize so many inclines on the run back.Going on sheer willpower at this point. Then suddenly, I see the 20 mile point. Two thirds of the way done.

“Still shuffling…holy cow, suddenly I’m back in Hollywood, MD just outside the Outback restaurant. Okay, let’s see if we can make it back to the Wawa gas station at the intersection. Another incline and then a decline…not too steep but damn it’s long. Look across the street…it’s Wawa and a pee break.

“Still shuffling into California, MD…the strip malls, the Chick-Fil-A. The McDonalds and the Popeye’s Chicken (which is the worse of the two in town). Just keep shuffling and looking for the landmarks…almost home.

“Before I know it, I’m down one more long incline and up another one. Oh, look, the Chesapeake Professional Building where I work. Does anyone see me? Does anyone recognize me? Do I care at this point? I look again, and I’m across the street from NAS Pax River. One more incline…

“Enterprise Rent-a-Car. H&R Block. Oh, look, it’s Gate Two and the turn off Three Notch Road. Turn onto Willow Road one last time…I pass John Hancock Park…Mile Thirty. One last jog down Willow Road.

“One last second wind…one last selfie…up the hill to the entrance, then down the hill to the back entrance…one last shuffle past the three fireplugs, then the top of the hill.

“Pull out the smartphone, pull up the Strava…50.15 km.

“Thank you God…I’m done.”

“It’s 12:30 p.m. on November 10th, 2021…the 246th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. But there will be no potlucks, or birthday cake, or reading of General LeJuene’s Birthday Message. Today, there is only…the Trifecta.

“Epsom salt bath for half an hour. Pull on my olive drab USMC sweat bottoms and another clean mock turtleneck. Compression socks, black, with USMC in red lettering and trim. I check into Strava on my computer, enter my time on the MCM website.

“Two p.m. I email a copy of my 50K certificate to my supervisors and my coworkers.

“1415 hours…2:15 p.m. on the 246th Marine Corps Birthday. I could die happy…but I just go to sleep instead.

Postscript: 7:30 p.m. 11-10-21:

A bite of dark chocolate, a long pull of the cigar, and a sip of bourbon. I’m at the VFW in California, MD for the Marine Corps League’s birthday celebration.

Sitting next to a good friend who has just won a barbecue smoker. Feeling good for the first time all week. Happy Birthday, Marines! Happy Birthday to me.

Bite. Pull of the cigar. Sip.

“Dammit, I should have put some KT tape on my calves.”

Bite. Pull. Sip.

Turn the page.

MCM 2020: Nitro?

Okay maybe it wasn’t that fast…

Okay, dinner last night was a Whopper meal with a 24 oz. Coke, onion rings, and chicken fries. Dinner came about ten-plus hours after breakfast (7:30 Saturday morning to 5-5:30 Saturday night). Not much else to eat but junk food after that until bedtime, about 10-15 p.m.

Reveille went at 0400. I Chobani yogurt plus about a bottle and a half of water. Since I was driving out to the base, I did my Saunders cycle on Kenpo X as soon as I got dressed (about 0420).

I made it onto the base at 0452. At 0454, I realized I forgot about my bottle of Ucan Hydrate. Running without it was not an option, so I burned fifteen minutes going back home to go get it. One more set of stretching and I was off at 0525.

I was worried about the threat of rain this morning, so I wrapped my smartphone in Saran Wrap for the run. It would be dry, but MapMyRun’s voice box would be muffled. I had no idea what my splits were until I finally got rid of the Saran Wrap just after mile 8…when the sun came out.

Did I go out too fast? 10:57 is one of the fastest opening miles I have ever done, so that may have been it. What I should have done is aim for an 11:30 first mile and work my way down from there, or at least aim to maintain that pace.

Looking back at the elevation of my run, from Mile 8 onward is a slow but steady upward climb. I  know the 10 mile loop starts to climb before the runway near Test Pilots School, but I didn’t know it was a gradual uphill all the way back to my starting point at Drill Hall Gym. Mile 8 thru Mile 11 would have been about three miles of climbing.

Would. Have. been.

I started losing momentum around mile 7, and then mile 8 I knew if I could just make the climb the course would plateau out and I could build up momentum for the run up Cedar Point Road. Unfortunately, a clear voice at mile 9 announced a thirteen something split. By then I was just running through mud, or so I felt.

As I passed the Marine Aviation Detachment HQ, I felt there was no way that I was going to do anything worthwhile, trying to go up Cedar Point Road’s mile-plus long climb from the entrance road to the Drill Hall to Gate Two and back. Not happening…not today anyway.

Just past the NAWCAD Building, I slowed to a power walk. I gave no thought to a Marine Corps shuffle and trying to find a second wind. Hiked back to the Drill Hall parking lot, and as soon as MMR called out “ten miles,” I crossed the “finish line.”

So, today’s life lessons:

  1. Proper nutrition as well as proper hydration the day before a long run. Keto or no keto, there was no excuse for me to go ten hours between breakfast and a late lunch.dinner, then nothing to eat between 6:30 last night and 0400 this morning.
  2. Aim for a twelve minute pace to start on the long runs, then work to gradually get faster. The Pax River ten-mile loop can be flat in places, but it does climb near the end. Also, start at a pace you can handle.


Postscript: Bad eating habits. Did not Finish, Still lost three pounds.


Song of the Day:

Foo Fighters/”My Hero:”  

“(Lead singer/guitarist Dave) Grohl has claimed he didn’t have any rockstar rolemodels growing up. This song is a tribute to those he did look up to: the everyday people.
The sentiment on this track is simple. You don’t have to be rich, or famous or successful to do something good or heroic.

“As with many Foo Fighters songs, fans have tried to appropriate the lyrics to Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain, but Dave insists that they refer only to the average man on the street. Whatever the case may be, “My Hero” was still a top 10 rock smash.”

George Harrison/”Got My Mind Set on You:” From Genius:

” ‘Got My Mind Set on You’ was originally sung by James Ray in 1962.

“In 1987, George Harrison covered the song for his album Cloud Nine and his version topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary chart. It also peaked at #4 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.”

Eddy Grant/”Electric Avenue:” From Genius

“Guyanese-British singer Eddy Grant’s seminal response to the 1981 Brixton riot; riots that were themselves a response to the high level of unemployment among the Caribbean immigrant population of Britain at that time.

“Throughout the song, Grant goes against the demonized account of rioters popular in the British media, instead painting a picture of poor, jobless “warriors”, struggling to even feed their family.”


MCM 2019/T-Minus 35: Eggs

Alarm went of at 0430 for my 0500 run. Putting in contacts took about five minutes. Then I found my smartphone dead, and not plugged in to get it charged…a recurring theme for my short runs this year. I could have taken my wrist-help pedometer or my trusty sport wristwatch that I purchased at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan twelve years ago. But no…”Screw it, I’ll go running this afternoon.”

So I decided to have a breakfast of Scotch Eggs instead.

Now, here’s the thing about Scotch eggs: they’re soft-boiled eggs wrapped/covered in ground sausage, then covered in flour, then egg wash, and a coating suitable for deep frying (in my case, tank breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper). Those soft boiled eggs have to be cooked just right. If you cook them too long, they’re hard-boiled eggs that don’t run when you gut into them after they’ve been cooked. If you don’t cook them long enough, they don’t peel right and you get a mushy, undercooked egg that easily breaks. That sort of egg is much more difficult to properly coat with the sausage, and coating it is much harder work than it should be.

My two eggs were undercooked, and it took me damn near fifteen minutes to struggle to wrap them in sausage, then coat them in flour/egg wash/panko. In a way, it was a metaphor for my training this year: struggling to finish the longer courses (that I have run before and finished!), getting out of bed on time, missing runs for good reasons (injuries) and bad (all-around laziness), lack of preparedness, the ongoing MapMyRun issues…you name it, it happened this year.

Still, I got the Scotch eggs prepared and I dunked them in the deep fryer…about an hour after I started boing them. I tossed in a couple of strips of bacon; I had planned on wrapping the Scotch eggs with a strip each, but the exercise of just getting the sausage on them was too taxing, and I was already starved. Five minutes later, they were a little more…crispy and darker than they should have been, but they were edible and i finished the both.

So…whatever happened with the eggs, I just worked my way through it and got the damned things and the fryer and had my breakfast. Wasn’t perfect, but it filled the need.

Today’s five miler to Las Patuxent River Gate 1 and back went off at 1746 (5:46 p.m.). I think i’ve figured out what the MMR app is doing; this iteration of MapMyRun is somewhat more motion sensitive to the runner. In theory, you should have the smartphone already strapped to your arm when you hit START. If you stop running for any length of time, MMR pauses the workout until you manually START it again. I think if I keep running when/if MMR pauses the run, it should “resume workout” if I keep moving or move faster. If I hear “workout resumed,” then I know I’m okay until I hear the mile split info…and I did hear the splits at miles three onward.

The traffic was not bad for a Saturday afternoon, unlike the after work traffic I usually face around 6~6:30 p.m. The weather was warm, being just after the heat of the day, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I ran at a reasonable pace; although my pace was about 12:50ish after climbing back from Gate 1, I did make up time and finished strong.

The only thing about today’s afternoon run, is that I still plan to get up at 0500 to run to Sheetz (8-miler) tomorrow. I am violating my twelve hour rule (no back-to-back workouts within 12 hours), so we’ll see what happens. On the face of it, it’s not like I have a Bears game to follow until Monday night.

Medium ribeye and velvet shells…yumm!

Song of the Day: twenty-one pilots/”Stressed Out:” I heard this song on the radio a few years ago, and I was instantly hooked…and that doesn’t happen with me for much popular music anymore. From Genius:

“The lyrics of “Stressed Out” are told in the first person, with the story being told by both the character Blurryface (a representation of Tyler’s insecurities) and an anxious Tyler feeling intense childhood nostalgia. The song is primarily about a wish to regain the innocence and carefree nature of childhood, before insecurities (i.e. Blurryface) existed.

“The music video features Josh Dun (drums) and Tyler Joseph (lead vocals, bass) riding big-wheels and hanging out in their childhood bedrooms, suggesting a state of crippling nostalgia and perhaps even arrested development.” Great video, also included their immediate family members as well. Respect.

MCM 2019/T-Minus 41: Uphill

Mile 16, the 6.0 mile marker on the Carl Henn Millennium Trail, second lap of two.

It was at this juncture that I realized that I was running more uphills now than I ever would at the Marine Corps Marathon. If you get a chance to look at an elevation chart for that course, it is just sick. Now, imagine doing TWO laps of that.

At that juncture, my split times had descended in to the 15 minute range; for me, that’s when the run slows into a light jog. That would’ve translated into me making it back to the Thomas Farm Community Center (start/finish line location of the trail) somewhere about 11:00 a.m., and I wasn’t about to spend all morning powerwalking/jogging for another 3~6 miles (goal was 22 miles) to “just be out there” or to “just keep moving.” My excuse this Sunday morning: the law of diminishing returns. When you’re trying to maintain a 12:00 ~12:30 pace on a course with so many rolling hills and steep and arching inclines, it kind of does you no good if your climbs bust you out to where you can’t get any momentum on the downhills and whatever  flats may be left on the course.

At the corner of Wooton Parkway and Henslowe Drive, I shut it down and summoned an Uber. As I waited for my ride back to the hotel, I started reflecting on all the training I had done to this point. Conditioning in February and March. Back on the road in April. Starting my marathon training back in May, attempting to work and intermediate training course which I would officially abandon two months later. A DNF back in June. Missing half of my Wednesday runs since July.

At some point last week, I felt like I was just working this like a job, instead of seeing this like an annual challenge. The last couple of weeks I had hit a wall near the end, just barely finishing standing up. The two laps of the Millennium Trail were only two miles longer than last week’s NAS Pax Grand Tour, but man…all these hills.

This is my fourth time running the Millennium Trail. The first time I ran it, it took 45 minutes trying to find my way to the Community Center (and then the actual course, and then the actual start finish line). I ended up running the course in reverse, which is much harder. By 10:30 that morning, I was gassed and dehydrated, and I threw in the towel at mile 17, about three miles from the Community Center. Oh, and I had no Uber app and the bus lines didn’t run to the Center. Another fun Sunday hike.

I did finish the Millennium Trail two lapper the last two times I did it, so I may have to re-visit my nots to find out what I did right and wrong today. In the meantime, I am sitting here fresh off a dip in the whirlpool and my first buffet breakfast in weeks…wondering if I had missed an opportunity to get something mental or physical out of finishing the run.

In the meantime, I am making a few changes to the running schedule, based on my ruminations after today’s DNF:

  1. Sleeping in thru Wednesday, then intervals and cycle on Thursday, then 3,4, and 8 over Friday thru Sunday. Either a Sheetz run or Great Mills 8.
  2. Official half marathon, group long run Smith Chesapeake Bat Runners Club or DC Runners, or DC Runners’ 20 miler, weekend of September 28-29.

One last thing: On a lot of my runs, I am seeing more hills on them that I would ever actually see on the MCM. mentally going through the actual MCM elevation chart, the steepest hill is the bridge at the 2.5 mile mark, then one more upslope around the Mile 8 mark. I keep trying to save my energy for the later two-thirds of the run, only to run into rolling hills near the end and suddenly having no get up and go to finish. It is somewhat frustrating try and implement that strategy when I have can’t really “open it up” like I want to, when I want to.

Song of the Day: One song, two versions of “Running Up That Hill”

Kate Bush original: The video from her TV appearance wasn’t available, and the “official” video I thought was “yeah…no.” From her 1985 album Hounds of Love, the original title of  the track was “A Deal With God,” but there label’s marketing crybabies at EMI made there change it. Her best and only chart-topping success to date. From Kate:

“I was trying to say that, really, a man and a woman can’t understand each other because we are a man and a woman. And if we could actually swap each other’s roles, if we could actually be in each other’s place for a while, I think we’d both be very surprised! [Laughs] And I think it would lead to a greater understanding. And really the only way I could think it could be done was either… you know, I thought a deal with the devil, you know. And I thought, ‘well, no, why not a deal with God!’ You know, because in a way it’s so much more powerful the whole idea of asking God to make a deal with you. You see, for me it is still called “Deal With God”, that was its title. But we were told that if we kept this title that it would not be played in any of the religious countries, Italy wouldn’t play it, France wouldn’t play it, and Australia wouldn’t play it! Ireland wouldn’t play it, and that generally we might get it blacked purely because it had God in the title. (HT: Genius)

Placebo cover: This slower, piano-based track reflects my mood during the back half of that second lap…after seeing OMFG yet another uphill? and my epiphany about climbing more now than I ever will at the MCM. Placebo took a different approach, focusing on the damage suffered in the emotional exchange, comparing it to a bullet wound. Why did Placebo cover the song this way?

“I grew up listening to that song, and I always thought it was an amazing song, but I thought the tempo was too fast. It didn’t give enough space for the real emotion to shine through. When we decided to cover it, I really, really wanted to slow it down so that [there was enough space to express] what was really going on — the fear and the abandon. (lead vocalist Brian Molko.)”

Kate Bush did like the cover, and so did the producers of at least three TV shows (Bones, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and The OC) who used the song in selected episodes.