Category Archives: Marine Corps Marathon

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.

Virtual MCM 50K: The Journey Denied

  1. Excuses:

Maybe that two month vacation from running wasn’t such a good idea.

Maybe I should have pressed on with P90X without waiting for dumbbells.

Maybe I should have at least gone to the gym and done my old, tried-and-true circuit routines.

Maybe Crossfit, or some kind of cross-training.

Maybe I started out too fast this morning.

Maybe I should have done Yoga X and Stretch X, like I had planned.

Maybe I should not have waited until just before Labor Day Weekend to start losing weight for running.

Maybe I should have taken leave on November 10 (Marine Corps Birthday, but also a workday) to run the 50K

2. The Run

I did get the extra hour of sleep from moving the clock back for the end of Daylight Savings Time, but my night’s sleep was a restless one.

My pre-run prep was okay, and I did shift the priority to being ready to run instead of “out the door at 0455 and step off at 0500,” like I’ve been doing for years. However, I spent about 15 minutes going back and forth, going back and getting this and that.

I started the run off as planned: hold nothing back the first half, then shuffle/power-walk the second half. I was mostly running MD-234/Three Notch Road, up to North Seagraves Road/Faith Baptist Church and back. The hills were more inclines, but they were about a quarter to a half mile long in some stretches. Maybe one or two kind of steep hills, but nothing major.

The run up to Faith Baptist Church did’t feel that bad. After passing North Seagraves and crossing MD-234 for the run home, I took a quick pee break under a grove of trees (being careful to watch for any law enforcement vehicles coming or going) then started down the road back.

The need to shift from full run to shuffle mode was evident, so I did so. I planned to do the trip by breaking up the run into blocks of four miles at 15 minutes a mile (“CAN YOU GIVE ME ONE MORE HOUR???) and breaking the run into little segments (okay, shuffle ’tile get to that sign, and then we’ll power-walk for a bit).

Not no, but hell no, my calves screamed…maybe I should have KT-taped them as well as my thighs? I didn’t pull them or strain them, but they seized up something fierce. They weren’t bad enough to need a trip to the emergency room, but no way was I going to He-Man the last half of the run on them. Walking? Not an option. No second wind was coming this week.

Just short of 30K, I sat down on a brick stairway next to a mailbox, and summoned an Uber. Surprisingly, there was a lone driver on this cold Sunday morning, but it would be a 20-plus minute wait. Hoping that the homeowner would not come out and find me lowering on his/her property, I leaned back on the bricks and waited for the “medieval” home.

3. Life Lessons Learned

So I did complete the 10K two weeks ago, and the virtual 26.2 marathon at Indian head Rail Trail last week. I will keep the 10K and the 26.2 medals and swag (if the MCM package ever gets here!). The 50K swag box, with medal, and any Trifecta items (if they ever come) will be put into a box and sent back the Marine Corps Marathon Organization.

Failing to complete the Trifecta sucks. Next year, the Marine Corps Marathon Weekend should go live again, eliminating the need for any more virtual events. Maybe one year, I will forgo the MCM in favor of the 50K; if a virtual option is offered next year, I will attempt the Trifecta once more (and actually train for it!!!).

Given the circumstances, and my eight excuses, I am disappointed with myself, but I’m not going to go into depression or stage an active shooter event over not completing the Trifecta. I will simply acknowledge what I have not done, be grateful for what I have done…

…and turn the page.

I am going to go see my endocrinologist next week; if she has good news for me, I may be inspired to keep running over the winter.

The St. Mary’s Thanksgiving 5K/Prediction 5K/Fun Run-Walk is going virtual again this year. Thinking of a moonlit, pre-dawn sunrise run. I do this every year to signal the end of my running season, been doing this since 2013…the year before my first MCM.

Songs of the Day (WARNING: Possible Repeats inbound)

“Paint it, Black”/Rolling Stones: Last song playing on YouTube before I stepped out for the run. Rest in peace, Charlie…give our best wishes to Brian.

“Turn the Page”/Bob Seger: Okay, the subject matter is away different, but I am going to turn the page on my failed Trifecta attempt. Part of the reason I kept this blog: some days I get Did Not Finish on my runs, and not all the ones I finish are happy events either.

MCM Trifecta 2021/50K @ T-minus 3

Two months and a blown iMac hard drive later…

It is Thursday night, November 4, 2021. Sunday morning, I run the virtual Marine Corps Marathon 50K…the final leg in the 2021 Trifecta.

Thursday/Friday/Saturday, the plan is to

  1. Fuel and hydrate: Eat kind of hearty at meals and drink until my urine is clear and white. I want enough fuel and water to carry me thirty-one miles.
  2. Go into Sunday morning fully recovered from Sunday’s marathon. That means Yoga X on Friday and Stretch X (both classes from P90X) on Saturday. Maybe one last epsom salt bath between now and Saturday night.
  3. Minimal biking and no running. Couldn’t imagine running or riding the bike to work after running the MCM 26.2 on Sunday. Three hours in the car Saturday, two hours in the car on Sunday, after the run, and another three hours in the car on Monday. Not a real help for the day before or the day after the run.

The course is simple, out-and-back. Starting at the entrance to Abberly Crest, up north Willows Road to Great Mills Road, Great Mills out to NAS Patuxent River Gate 2, then turn left and follow Three Notch Road/Highway 234 about 15 miles to North Seagraves Road, then turn around and run/shuffle/powerwalk the 15 miles back down Three Notch/MD-234 to Great Mills, then left onto Willows Road and back home. I was hoping to rent a car and do a route tour, but no cars available on Friday or Saturday.

Strategy? Go all-out, pushing for a twelve minute to 12:30 pace for as long as I can. Running on three days of meals and hydrating; I will get one tall can of Sparkling Ice with Caffeine, with a packet of Ucan Hydrate mixed into the drink. Only carrying a coupe of Gu energy packets and a single bottle of water mixed with Ucan and pickle juice.

Yes I will put KT tape on my thighs and wear CopperFit knee braces. I am expecting it to be cold, so I will probably wear running tights and long sleeves. One way or another, I will be wearing my white “trifecta” tech shirt over whatever I decide to wear.

Sorry, no song of the day because 1) it’s late and 2) nothing really inspiring on YouTube right now.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Trifecta 2021: Okay, THIS Time I’m Back…For reals…

Triple E 5

So, back to the usual starting point at Meadow Hill Lane, heading south on Willows Road toward the MD-5 intersection. I got off to a little bit faster start than I have been since I resumed running about two-plus weeks ago.

After climbing the first uphill at Ranieri Run Road, I pushed the pace a little bit, all the way downhill towards the MD-5 tee. Took the south road, going left, and made the steep climb up until the road leveled up midway past Nach-T Farms. I didn’t really need a second wind tonight, because my first wind was a good one, probably the best I’ve felt in a long time.

At the halfway point just past Triple E Farm Way, made the turnaround. Just kept pumping my arms and legs all the way back down MD-5 towards the tee and back up Willows Rd. The climb back home was the steepest of the run, but I didn’t let up off the gas that much. Finally to the realtor’s sign at the top of the hill, then the final down-up-down sequence before crossing meadow Hill Rd and the climb past the Three Hydrants to the finish at the Abberly Crest Road sign.

Final distance: 5.12 mi. @ 12:17 pace

The Rules:

  1. Running every other day from now until November 8.
  2. Diet will be as much keto as I can stand, and cutting out as much “processed” sugar as possible. No junk food or desserts.
  3. Substituting soft drinks for sparkling water (with caffeine, if possible).
  4. Long runs alternating on Saturdays and Sundays.
  5. No more missing runs…summer vacation is over.
  6. Maybe one of these days, start alternating run days with circuit courses at the gym (good luck on this one)
  7. Weigh-ins after every long Saturday/Sunday run.

Daf**isdiss**t?

Okay…excuses time.

Between the National Mall run on July 4th and August 29th, I simply stopped running.

Too tired to run after work.

Couldn’t get out of bed to run before work.

Needed a week to “take care of business.”

Too much stuff going on in my head/not motivated.

Yadda yadda yadda.

Why I’m Back:

Two weeks ago, a Marine friend from my Yuma, Az days, Trish Burke, committed suicide. I found out on Facebook messenger from another Marine friend, Dennis Rosales; he attended her funeral that Saturday.

Late Tuesday night, I got a text from Dennis. I didn’t get the text until Tuesday morning, before I went to work. I texted him back, and we face-timed me. he told me that a Sergeant from my work center in Yuma, Jason was in some bad times.

I gave Jason a call, and let him speak for a half an hour. One of the best phone calls I’ve had all year. Without going too much into his personal business, he told me that he was on the mend and he was going to get back with his family the next day, and put himself and his life back together.

What I can tell you about Jason, besides being a happily married with two grown children and a retired Marine (commissioned officer as a Sergeant, naturally) is that he is a WAAAAY more experienced runner and blogger than I am. This year will be my seventh Marine Corps Marathon; Jason has finished 36 MCMs, in addition to many other marathons, half-marathons, several ultra-marathons, and had the bravery to attempt a hundred-mile marathon…which he said he will make the attempt again, one day.

As awesome and extensive as his blog is, he told me last night that he really did enjoy reading mine. He did enjoy reading about my roads to the previous six marathons, from the most mundane and workaday, to the days where I really got into the spirit of running, as well as the MCM itself. Talking to Jason, and him telling me that he was alive, healing, and thankful that I reached out to him…I was truly glad that I could reach out and touch him that way. And that he ready MY blog…and liked it?

Yeah, I was wondering how I ran a little faster today.

In reality, I’m supposed to be writing these blogs as a way of keeping me honest about my progress in training. In fact, I used to post these blogs on an MCM runners’ website before the admins asked me to stop; my goal was to inspire other runners, but their stance was that I was promoting myself too much.

Fair point.

I have noticed, mostly in my email folder, that I get notices from WordPress about people who have read entries in my blog and enjoyed reading them…especially when I actually TRY to write something worthwhile.

So, Jason, if you do get a chance to read this, thank you for being alive…thank you for letting me listen to you talk…and thank you for re-lighting the spark for me to re-start this blog, as well as get back on the road.

And yes…you and I SHALL run the Marine Corps Marathon next year…live and in person, God willing.

Song of the Day:

Jason also enjoyed my Song of the Day selections. To be honest, 99% of my running is on public roads during the pre-dawn through morning hours. Headphones are not a good idea with the early-morning NASCAR Craftsman Series wannabes burning through the local roads…at twenty-plus miles over the posted speed limit.

To be even more honest, many of my selections over the past year or so have not necessarily been running or even workout tunes. But I persist.

Over the last year or so, I try to provide a brief snippet of history about the song, and why I picked it. However, it is getting late, so my SOTD picks will be brief:

“True Faith”/New Order: The original 80s video was kind of stupid, so I think of the scene from the movie American Psycho, when this was played. This song depends more on the bass and rhythm guitars, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a “synth pop” song.”(“True Faith”) is about drug dependency. I don’t touch smack but when I wrote that song I tried to imagine what it’s like to be a smackhead and nothing else matters to you except that day’s hit: vocalist Bernard Summer.

“Visions of Gideon”/Sufjan Stevens: The version I’m playing here is a slowed down and melancholisized version of the original song, which was the closing song of a romantic drama movie named Call Me by Your Name. I found this version on a fan-made video for the Netflix foreign language teen-drama Exile.

This is more of a cool-down/yoga track than a running track.

“Promontory aka The Gael”/Last of the Mohicans soundtrack: I have never seen Last of the Mohicans, but I do enjoy Gaelic music such as this (similar track: “The Blood of Cu-Chulainn” from The Boondocks Saints); this does get my blood up for a run, I tell ya!

MCM Trifecta 2021: Twilight Lamentations and Rudimentations

0425: This morning’s excuser not getting up and running: “Y’know, I haven’t really slept in all week, and this looks like a good time to do it, so…I’ll check the weather and see about running at 6:00 or 6:30 at the latest.

So, I slept in until about 7:30-ish and got my first breakfast: a DoorDash order from Bob Evans. Strawberry-topped brioche French Toast and three sausage links. Took back the rental car around noon and did housework. Second breakfast at 3:00: McGriddle pancakes, which are actually made with pancake batter poured into egg/muffin molds. Side of Oscar Mayer oven baked bacon. All washed down with my third 6-oz. cup of coffee of the day.

About 3:00 I started hydrating for the 6:00 run. Temps were at 84 degrees, with cloudy skies; ten degrees cooler than yesterday. Two 17-oz bottles of water with a splash of Mio water enhancer in each bottle’s worth, each poured into a 20-oz Zak! drink bottle.

About 5:30, I finished hydrating and started stretching. Got dressed and put on my Proven insect repellent. Effective after using it for a month, but damn, it smells…I miss my Skin-So-Soft. At 5:55 I was out the door.

The run wasn’t great, but it was done. My pace has dipped to about 13:30/mi. lately. Right now I just focused on finishing, and damn the pace for right now until I can seriously start losing weight. Went and took a pee break in an off road path, about the same spot going out and coming in.

Supposedly I was to go eight miles round trip to Sheetz on the corner of MD-5 and Great Mills Rd, but I ended the run at the Abberly Crest office instead of finishing at the top of the hill. Ended up doing 8.3…no biggie, since I was supposed to run five yesterday but pulled up lame. No, not really sore or hurting, just…lame.

Shopping list:

New iMac (current iMac is 8.5 y/o, which is about 84 years old in human years (and not that healthy either). Gets stuck in recursive loops after powering up; takes about 2.5 hours to be fully ready to use. After powering up, it can’t save to my OneDrive and I have to erase and reformat my 1GB hard drive so I can save my stuff again. Ongoing issue with un-commanded power time outs. Running slower than ever.

New smartphone. Memory full AF.

Dumbbells or dumbbell set for P90X.

Plane ticket home for class reunion.

Lamentations:

Just got on the scale: 239 lbs. Oh, and I’m postponing my P90X run because I’m traveling home at the end of July and won’t be back until first Monday in August. Need to do something to lose weight because my run-times and A1C need to get much MUCH better.

Looking at a hella-expensive Amazon/QVC-HSN shopping spree…eventually.

Military Order of the Devil Dogs, Pax River Pound 344 Growl this weekend. Pound leader’s house had a pool. Pound leader and I both jumped in it and each of us swam for about five minutes. Both of us retreated to the inside of the house for lunch because it was simply too damn hot.

I bought a beer mug for the Marine Corps Ball at MCAS Yuma, AZ in 1991 (yup, third years ago). At the Growl, I drank beer out of it for the first time in thirty years.

The Pound leader’s wife liked the silicone whisk I used for my perrjack cheese mashed potatoes.

I left the mug at the pound Leader’s house. I left the whisk in the back seat of my ride home (I think).

Song of the Day: “Promontory (aka “The Gael”)”/The Last of the Mohicans Original Soundtrack: I have NEVER seen this movie, but I clicked on the link for the video on YouTube. Awesome. In the same vein as “The Blood of Cu Chulainn” from The Boondocks Saints.

It’s after 9:00 p.m. That’s all I’ve got.

MCM Trifecta 2021: It Begins

Friday:

“Traditionally,” I like to open my Marine Corps Marathon training program with a “Ceremonial” run of the old Marine Physical Fitness Test course, located at Naval Air Station Pax River, MD. This was the last PFT course that I ran before I retired in 2008, so it ties in with the Marine part of my training (“Honor, Courage, and Commitment”), which says that I am going to max out my MCM training to the best of my ability and finish the Marathon for this year.

About 45 minutes before the run, I officially registered for the 2021 MCM Trifecta. This consists of not only running the 26.1 mile Marine Corps Marathon, but the MCM10K (6.1 miles) and the MCM50K (31.2 miles). I took the option of running the 10K onsite at the MCM course in Arlington, VA and running the regular MCM as well as the 50K as virtual races. I won’t run either at Arlington, but I will be running them locally (Lexington Park, MD) on courses of my choosing.

The 10K will be a much shorter MCM Weekend than usual, which means I plan on driving up on Race Day, running the 10K, then hanging around long enough to get much at the Finisher’s Festival before driving home. The virtual MCM I will run the same course as last year, probably a week before the 10K. The 50K I would like to run up MD-5 North from my home in Lexington Park to (probably) Leonardtown, Md and back. As soon as MapMyRun allows me to properly chart a course, that is.

But I digress. The Ceremonial is meant to be a run to reflect on what it means to be a Marine and how it relates to committing to train for the race (or races) this year. Usually, though, my head is somewhere else, and usually I never think about maintaining a good pace. Technically it’s more “fun run” than training run.

The weather was not great out, but the heavens didn’t fully open out during my late morning run. I did remember to get my “official” post-run selfie with the sign of the Marine Aviation Detachment (my last command when I retired, so long ago). The run was pleasant, considering I had not run since my 10 mile trek on the Capital Crescent a month ago.

Quick aside: I planned to take a week of running to “take care of business” so i could have a clear head before I started training for real. That week, unfortunately stretched into a month. On top of that, I planned to start P90X Lean next Monday, but I’m going to be doing that very, very cold. I have not done any cross training or gym work since my aborted attempt at P90X last June.

Yikes. ‘Nuff said.

Sunday/Independence Day:

I also attempt to uphold the tradition of running the five-mile circuit of the National Mall in Washington, DC. This year was not about pace, but yet another commitment to train and to run.

Although I set my alarm for 0400, I was already up an about at 0315. Got dressed for the run and made a last minute check on where to park my car and where to start. I decided on the National Gallery of the Arts.

At 0430, I headed out to the parking garage for the 10 minute drive to the Mall. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my car out of the parking garage (what do you mean, “Failed to check-in???”). I decided that this was an issue to take up with my hotel front desk, and made the twelve minute walk down 6th Street to the Gallery.

When I run the National Mall, I try to run the whole Mall. Start at a landmark on Constitution Avenue (i.e., the Gallery), then run all the way around the Lincoln Memorial, as much as traffic and safety allows me. Then down Independence Avenue up to and around the US Capitol Building, then back to the start-finish point…plus a block or so to hit five miles on the dot.

Running down Independence Avenue, the run turned into a bit more of an adventure than I had planned. Apparently, the National Mall was fenced off, especially around Independence. The Wall was still fenced off to the point where pedestrians/runners/bikers/tourists could not use the sidewalks adjacent to the Mall. Halfway down Independence, I encountered a female runner who asked me “Can I run around the Lincoln?”

“Yes, ma’am, it’s not fenced in.”

“Isn’t this crazy though? I’m adding about fifteen minutes to my run!” Felt your pain, ma’am. There’s a difference between running on the sidewalk than on the grass.

I did make it to the Capitol Building, but it woo was fenced off. I was tempted to try and run around the back of the building, But i was in no mood to get lost and run any extra miles that I didn’t have to. In hindsight, I could have taken Indy-First St-Constitution back to the Gallery, but I’ll just save that for next year. After my usual awkwardness about looking for the turn back onto Constitution, I found my way back to the Gallery.

Only 4.95 mi? I ran to corner of 7th to get my “full five.”

A couple of pictures (way too much flash for the FB selfie!), and then the cool down stroll back up 6th Street and my hotel. Who needs parking?

Epilogue:

I am typing this from Room 706 at the Motto by Hilton. Designed as a “traveler’s hotel,” this is the smallest hotel room I have ever been in! I have had bigger rooms at cheaper hotel chains! However, the Motto has a rooftop bar that serves very good bar food (though pricey, as per DC standards). Still, I plan to head to the Rooftop Bar in hopes of catching the National Capitol Fireworks Show…along with the other guests of the Motto.

Song of the Day (yup…It’s Back!)

Roxy Music/”Virginia Plain:”  From Genius: “In 1964, when (lead singer/pianist) Bryan Ferry was an art student (Newcastle University), he painted a picture called ‘Virginia Plain.’ It was reportedly a packet of cigarettes with a woman portrayed on a plain background. Three images, one song title: “What’s her name?/Virginia Plain.” Brian Ferry wrote this song via stream of conscuisness as a potential hit single; Roxy Music’s debut album was a surprise success, but “the A&R man said ‘I don’t hear a single (thx Tom Petty!).” Also, great synth solo by Brian Eno!

Rachid Taha/”Barra Barra:” This song was selected as part of the soundtrack for the movie, Blackhawk Down about the US Special Forces’ mission in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. You’ll get more information about the song and the late, great artist on the actual linked YouTube video (lyrics translation included!) and Rachid’s own YouTube channel than Genius.

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”

45th Marine Corps Marathon, Patuxent River MD

//oh, snap…my password still works? Time to get my blog on…

So today, six days past the original date, I ran the 45th Marine Corps Marathon, virtually here in the Patuxent River area of St. Mary’s County, MD.

The Course:

  1. Start/finish line was the entrance to Abberly Crest Apartments. 2.
  2. Started to run north up Willows Road to Great Mills Road to Gate 2 of NAS Patuxent River. 3.
  3. At the gate, took a left up Three Notch Road/MD-235 to Chancellor’s Run Road.
  4. Left onto Chancellor’s Run all the way downhill to Great Mills Road/MD-5.
  5. Took a right and an uphill MD-5 to the parking lot connecting Little Flower School and Holy Face Church.
  6. Ran around the parking lot and back down MD-5, then turned left and back up Great Mills to Chancellor’s Run, running up and down that back to Three Notch Road.
  7. Three Notch Road to Gate 2, to Great Mills, then south down Willow Road, past Abberly Crest.
  8. The above was the opening 18 miles.
  9. Willow Road all the way to MD-5 north, taking a left and following MD-5/Point Lookout Road all the way to Berne Way, the last turnaround point.
  10. At Berne Way, turned right around on Point Lookout Rd/MD-5 all the way back to Willow Road south.
  11. One last uphill on Willow Road, all the way back to Abberly Crest.
  12. 26.22 on the dot.

MCM Day abort:

0330-0400: Reveille/breakfast/get dressed

0345: Realize that I forgot to charge my cell phone from the night before. Not a good thing, since my MapMyRun app is on my phone.

0400-0445: STRETCH

0445-0455: Pack my FlipBelt with spare bottle of water, mixed with pickle juice and Mix Water energy additive.

0450: Step out into the pouring rain. Dammit, rain for the second straight year.

0500: Step off

0505-ish: Realize that I don’t have my neck gaiter. In this world of COVID-19. you can’t enter a public facility of any kind without a make or face covering. Since I had three gas stations along my route with very public toilets, this was kind of a big deal. Looking back, however, I wasn’t willing to put up with the rain, so I trudged back to the apartment to get the neck gaiter.

Back in the apartment, warm and dry, I realized that I dropped my driver’s license and my ATM card outside, whilst putting my cellphone way for the run. Back outside in the rain to recover my cards.

The rain started pouring much harder; I had not seriously done any running in the rain this year, so I decided to hold off until noon, when the weather was supposedly better.

Honestly? Out of laziness and stupidity, and allowing for the loophole that I had until November 10 to run the MCM and submit my score, I put off the run until Saturday.

“Game called due to rain.” Good Lord.

T plus 6

Two changes to last week’s pre-run routine:

  1. Substituted on of my tubs of Chobani yogurt (black cherry flavor) for a toasted English muffin with peanut butter. Maybe a little too filling, because I had something of a bubble gut the first four miles.
  2. Stretched for only thirty minutes instead of forty-five.

At 0509 EST, I stepped off. There was the blue full moon out in the pre-dawn darkness, but it was a fairly cloudy night. It was there, but kind of…not there.

I had cut down on my pre-race day water consumption, but man…was my bladder active. I had to stop at the Wawa’s gas station about a half-mile from Chancellor’s Run. I was going to stop at the Sheetz gas station at the Great Mills/MD-5 intersection, until I saw about seven police cars and the parking lot taped off.

The stretch of Chancellor’s Run/Great Mills/Little Face took a lot more out of me than I anticipated. I started getting my annual Revolt of the Thighs during the up and down return leg up Chancellor’s Run. At Mile 16 on Valley Road, I had to power walk while I took my second GU energy pod of 2020, and a four ounce chug from my water bottle.

I don’t think the pickle juice helped that much.

From Valley Road back to Abberly Crest, I power walked until I could find enough of a second wind to do a Marine Corps shuffle. That’s when you chop or shorten your stride when you run; Marines running in formation would do that (on command) when the platoon leader wanted to slow the platoon down.

Green Meadow Lane, the back entrance to Abberly Crest, was where I started a lot of my runs. I was like “Okay, this is the same run I’ve done so many times. Just go out to Berne Way, and then back here and I’m done.”

Uphill to Raineri Run, then Willow Road downhill to MD-5 South. MD-5 uphill then it flattens out, with some inclines and declines to Berne Way.

When I finished my climb/power walk up MD-5, I took one last water/GU break at mile 20, on Manor Way. The run down/up Point Lookout Road/MD-5 felt like running in a tunnel (where’s the turnaround point?), but I was able to run to Berne Way and turn around.

At Manor Way on the final return leg, I snapped my last traditional selfie (taken at 8/16/24 mi. points) and got one last second wind. My hamstrings made some noise, but I was still able to shuffle uphill on Willows Road, past the Bay Montessori School, one more uphill and downhill towards, Green Meadow Lane.

At Green Meadow Lane, I ran through the “arch” formed by the street sign and the STOP sign, then one last uphill past the three fireplugs and toward the Abberly Crest sign.

I pulled my smartphone out of my FlipBely, and pulled up MapMyRun.

PAUSED, then FINISHed the run.

26.22 miles in 6:19:24. Virtual Marine Corps Marathon for 2020: DONE.

Semper Fi Challenge (Historic Half and MCM in the same year): DONE.

Aftermath

One last post-run selfie for the year. Saved my run to MapMyRun to record to the MCM website later on. Way to sore and tired to do a post-run cool down walk, so I walked back home.

Epsom salt bath. One last step on the scales: 222 lbs. Warmdown dress of long-sleeve tee, running tights, and compression socks.

Posted the run time and my MapMyRun app screen to the MCM website. Decorated my Finisher’s Certificate.

Done. All done.

Lessons Learned:

About a month after finishing the Historic Half (also virtual), I had back to back fails on running 10, then 13 miles on the course at NAS Patuxent River. Overtraining, maybe? This year was the first time I had started my training in February.

I had cataracts surgery on each eye, three weeks apart. The day after the post=op consult on each eye (about eight days), I should have been back on the road. I had some complications with my left eye, which were remedied with switching my eyedrops prescription. Still took WAAAY too much time off (about three weeks).

After failing to graduate P90X Lean, I never picked it back up. I should have, because even with running in the morning and P90X after work, I was still reaping the benefits. I was running an average of 11:15~11:30 right after the Half; I never saw above 12~12:30 after I restarted in late August.

I scrapped the keto diet and got addicted to Doordash.

All that being said, UCAN hydrate was a revelation. After adding a packet to a 16-0z. bottle of water and chugging it before the run, I can go at least 16 miles before I have to run. That’s a good then when you’re running a long training run or a virtual half-or-full marathon sans benefit of water or fuel stations.

Either I need a new cell phone or some quality time with MapMyRun’s customer service. I didn’t hear my split times in the last three weeks of running…to include today.

High marks also for the Chafe Paint anti-chaffing cream made by Kanberra. No chaffing over 26 miles, and no sore spots in the nether regions.

Final thoughts:

Ah, the loneliness of the long-distance runner.

No water stations or food/fuel stations.

No cheering crowds.

No howitzer to start the race. No running under a red and gold finish arch to end it.

Just me, God, Patuxent River, and my smartphone with my MapMyRun app.

Then again, there was that first marathoner, though.

Remember Phillipedes!

One last entry tomorrow, with a Song of the Day…I swear!!!

MCM 2020: I’m Back!

So, today was something of a watershed moment for my oh-so-abbreviated Marine Corps marathon training. Yes, although I have been absent, and I have missed days and weeks of training this summer, I’m still training and still aiming to finish this year’s Marine Corps Marathon.

Today, I ran the St. Mary’s City 13-miler, the same course I ran for the Semper Fi half Marathon waaay back in May (four months ago…Holy Cow!).

One: Longest distance I have runs since may, and the longest distance I have run in my MCM training.

Two: Finished the run. My legs were sore as hell, but I made it across the line. Well, actually, I crossed under the street sign and STOP sign that kinda-sorta make up a “finisher’s gate” at the Green Meadow Drive back entrance into Abberly Crest Apartments.

Three: MapMyRun has been a quiet pain in the a$$ lately. Quiet because I haven’t heard it call out my mile splits in the last three weeks. Today, after almost three hours of running, I pulled out my smartphone to check my final distance and time…and discovered that MMR was on the Settings screen. Nothing of my run was recorded.

Allegedly, I ran today’s run in 2 hours, 48 minutes. Much slower than the Semper Fi Half, and no idea what my pace was, as of this writing.

Four: First time in two months I have run three times in a single week. My goal way back in August was “every other day.” Unfortunately, I have been too chicken to deal with way-too-humid and inclement (rain) weather, so I have been lucky to smuggle two or three runs. I am seriously behind the power curve as far was what distance I am supposed to be at in my training.

All that said, to day I finished. So there is hope!

No long run tomorrow, so I am going to attempt to make tacos al pastor.

No song of the day today because YouTube is acting up right now, and I really need to go shopping.

But, yes, I’m back baby…I’m BACK!!!

MCM 2020: Popeye’s

Lunchtime yesterday: “Hey let’s go to Popeye’s for lunch.”

Me: “Okay.”

Four of us drive to the Popeye’s on Three Notch Road, across from Hobby Lobby, not the one in San Souci Plaza on Great Mills Road.

I am the first of four to order. Two-piece spicy dark (leg and thigh), corn on the cob, medium drink, apple pie.

Zero apple pies available. At 11:00 a.m. on a Monday (just before lunch).

Also, no corn on the cob ready. At 11:00 a.m. on a Monday (just before lunch).

Everybody else has ordered, paid for, and received their orders. Still no corn on the cob. I take Cajun rice instead.

My chicken looks like it was raised on growth hormones and tastes awful. Dirty rice may as well be dirt. No dessert to comfort my straight-up ghetto meal.

Twelve years I’ve lived here. Most of the time I get my Popeye’s at the San Souci location, and I have never had a bad meal from that location. First time in twelve years that I’ve had to throw away a Popeye’s meal.

 

4:00 yesterday: home from work.

5:00-6:00. Postpone, then ultimately blow off P90X (Cardio X).

6:15: Screw it, I’ll ride my bike to Weis Market in St. Mary’s Plaza for PT; I need to get some coffee and stuff.

6:30: Rain clouds moving in; call Uber instead.

7:00, coming out of Weis…the sun is out.

The weather: God’s favorite practical joke on Man for over two thousand years.

 

International House of Pancakes on Three Notch Road closed it’s doors today. Riding home from work, I saw a big FOR LEASE sign where the IHOP used to advertise their specials. All of the IHOP signage stripped from the building.

Didn’t stop to see if the proprietors left a sign saying “We’re closing for good tonight, thanks for your patronage all these years.”

IHOP is the third restaurant to close in my area since COVID-19 put Maryland on lockdown. One was Nick’s, which made awesome Greek gyros. The other was Captain Pat’s Seafood, which burned down a few months ago.

 

Raineri run 4 miler sucked this evening. I doubt if I made a twelve minute pace.

MCM 2020is an issue in doubt. That is all.

 

Song of the Day: Ningen Isu/”Namahage.”

I have been on a death metal kick on YouTube lately, and this sounded pretty good.

The band performs in Japanese, so forget Genius. Here’s a link to an article on the band in Japan Times.