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.
“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.