27 October 2014

The road to Iwo Jima: Casualty at Mile 8

Where do I begin this race recap? Based on the lead-up posts, I'm pretty sure most of you felt how much I love the MCM and how near and dear it is to me. I loved it as a lieutenant cheering on runners and handing out water, as a competitor for the Marine Corps and as a companion runner for my sister on her 40th birthday. It is the only marathon that makes me feel as though I am a part of something greater than 26.2 miles and the only one I want to run every year, even though I haven't always been able to.

This year, it is part of my challenge, my campaign to raise awareness about the MARSOC Foundation and the Semper Fi Fund, my personal endeavor to reclaim a piece of my life.

We arrived into D.C. on Friday at dinner time and settled into our digs in the East Capitol area; Saturday found us at Ted's Bulletin for breakfast and then the munchkins went to the museum with Savannah, and my buddy, Zack H., and I went to the Armory to retrieve my bib. Following that, it was a quick trip with the munchkins to the grocery store for a few race day items and then over to Alexandria to attend the MARSOC Foundation pre-race dinner.
Race bib and a smile. 
The guest speaker was Capt. Derek Herrera, someone whose story I've followed for a while and also someone, along with several friends within the SOF community, who served as an inspiration in my choice of MARSOC as one of my charities for this year. I had the opportunity to speak with him and he was gracious and generous with his time. His full story can be found on his personal website, and he was also just tapped to be the CEO of RuckPack, which is an energy drink which I happen to use during my ultras, so pretty fantastic to have the chance to meet him in person.

Capt Derek Herrera
I also received an unexpected text later that night from a veteran buddy who lives in New York who was wondering if I was running as he was and wanted to meet up at the start (his goal time was faster than mine so we couldn't run together). He also happens to be the CEO of HirePurpose, a company dedicated to assisting veterans transition and find employment with Fortune 500 companies, and the creator of the site's blog Task & Purpose.

Sunday morning was warmer than expected, and I had no need of my ear warmers or gloves and was glad I chose my singlet to race in. I met Zack H. and Zach I. at the Pentagon station and we made our way to the start. After the obligatory pre-race Port-A-John stop, we shed layers and made our way through the tunnel. One last gear shed and then a warm-up jog to the appropriate corral location for our intended race times.
Heading to security checkpoint. 
Yes, I slather on the sunscreen. 
Me and Zach I. at the pre-race staging ground.
He ran a swift 3:12!
Through the tunnel. I'm in the green jacket
running to hit the tree line one last time.
I settled into the 3:30 corral area and waited for the gun, reminding myself to take it easy and just enjoy the run with no pressure to compete. I watched the sky divers drift down, and wondered which one was Cpl Kyle Carpenter and then at the cannon boom started forward with a huge grin on my face. I loved seeing the red shirts of the Semper Fi Fund, and the grey and red shirts of the MARSOC Foundation as well as the Team RWB and all the other charities out there. I had a couple of Royal Marines to my right and front on the same pace as me and I followed them up the Rosslyn Hills, probably still smiling like a fool.

I fell into a nice rhythm around mile two and slid into synchrony with a SFF charity runner who turned out to be LtCol Vincent Ciuccoli, call sign "Dirk", a fellow Phrog pilot, west coast, who is now stationed east. We played six degrees of separation which turned out to be only one degree, and spent the next five miles chatting about our experiences and our fundraising. When we hit Rock Creek park, we got to watch the leaders go by and cheer on Mike Wardian and retired LtCol Alex Hetherington (who was a fellow MCM teammate and is in the MCM Hall of Fame).

At about the eight mile mark, Dirk said, 'Wow, it's pretty great that you haven't gotten injured doing all these races.' Not but six strides later, I felt something go pop-pop in my left calf and a sharp pain shot up to my knee. I thought I cramped and pulled off to stretch which only made it worse. I tried running again but my calf rejected that idea with a searing muscle cramp around the pain site. I waved Dirk on....

I pulled out my phone and called Zack H. to find out where they were and to tell them what had happened. We agreed that we'd convene as planned close to the 10 mile mark. I hobbled along to the right and I have to say I was both grateful for and bemused by all the runners who thought I'd somehow hit a wall and who were encouraging me to keep going.

A couple of really neat things happened on the way to 10 miles which momentarily distracted me from my situation: I had a lovely conversation with another set of Royal Marines who were encouraging me to keep on, so boys, if you read this, email me and we'll make a training plan for next year (but you'll have to run faster) AND, quite randomly, I saw Bart Yasso just hanging out near the Kennedy Center, completely inconspicuous, wearing a green shirt and orange gloves. I confirmed it was him and briefly stopped to chat, reminding him that we'd met a couple years back at the Quintiles Marathon and that we'd had a Twitter conversation earlier in the year regarding the fundraising. If I hadn't gotten hurt, I'd have missed those fun moments.

At about 10 miles, I greeted the munchkins, taped the calf, changed my shoes and endeavored to press. I agreed to meet Zack H. and Savannah at the 15 mile mark and proceed.

Training shoes on, tape secured with the Bubbaloo watching
 and the Pumpkin Noodle behind the sign. 
I made it to 12.5 and the pain was too great and I realized that if I continued, I would damage the muscle further. I knew I had to concede the day to the marathon gods. I unpinned my number and cut across Haines Point, stopping at a medical tent to grab ice, which I inserted into my calf sleeve. When I got to my little cheering section at mile 15, I let my disappointment show and Zack just gave me a hug. The hardest part was telling the Pumpkin Noodle that Mommy got hurt and that I wouldn't make it to the finish line today. She burst into tears.

Breaking the news (IT band tape was pre-race)

The Mommy part always comes first

After that it was just a slow walk back to the Metro, then the Blue Line back to East Capitol and a shower, Arnica, more ice, ibuprofen and a compression sock. A couple hours later we were back on the road and headed south toward home.

For the record, my splits through mile 8: 

1: 8:30
2: 8:40
3: 8:13
4: 7:53
5: 8:32
6: 8:12
7: 8:28
8: 8:18
Average: 8:27


  1. So sorry about your injury! I'm sure you'll be out there again next year blowing most of us off the course! Be well, and heal up!

  2. Ouch! I was tracking you online and was wondering what happened to you. Take time to heal and get ready for the next one.

  3. I'm sorry to hear that you're hurt! I hope it heals quickly!

  4. I am so sorry Beans! I was hoping to hear from you… I am proud of you- you ROCK!