Just a quick note to remind you of a few things. Please think of these as constructive criticism, not the heiney whomping you so richly deserve.
1. Confirm the start time of a race. Preferably the evening before the race as opposed to 30 seconds after you hear the starting gun fire.
Putting the race in your calendar (but not verifying all the details), printing out the confirmation ticket 4 days prior to the race (but not actually reading it), and thinking you know the start of the race is not the same as actually knowing the start time of the race. I'm jogging to the start when I hear the gun go off. I'm thinking "Oh, kids fun run!" Until I see lead pack of very post-pubescent men round the corner. Sprint in opposite direction ("she must have taken the small bus to the race...") about two tenths of a mile and somehow find the packet pick up. Which has been broken down. Nice lady goes into truck, gets number and chip. She's pinning my number on my shorts as I'm putting chip on shoe. She tells me “you better hurry to the start before they break it down…we've radioed down that you're coming” and I sprint toward it thinking that I’ve just used up about 75% of the energy I needed for the entire race…As I pass the starting line – alone - a dozen or so marines cheer me. Humilitation: I ran your gauntlet.
2. Turn on your Garmin well before you need it.
Realize my garmin isn't on. Power it up and it takes half a lifetime to synch. Make a turn onto a street and hope I can see people in the distance. I do, but…mirage? Warm and humid. I have no clue how fast I’m running or how far I’ve gone since Garmin is still scratching its rump. Realize I'm a slave to technology. Wonder how Phiddipedes managed without even the cheapest of Timex choronographs. Catch the walkers ...then the speed walkers...then the back of pack runners. Finally garmin synchs. I haven’t seen mile markers, so I start scanning the crowd of runners for signs of techno running geeks who can give me some clue as to time and distance.
3. As with starting time, make sure you KNOW the terrain.
At mile 2, make a turn into Prince William Park. I’m wearing racing flats which have the advantage of being nice and light, but the disadvantage of not having a lot of cushion. The pavement has been replaced by packed dirt and this big rocky gravel. Ow. Wonder how I'll handle many miles of this. Fortunately the nasty gravel goes away after a while. About the same time I realize I forgot the headband for my hair. While we have hills/trails it is shade covered which is great, and the glasses now are used as de facto headband.
4. In order to take care of essential pre-race business, see memo point #1.
Since I got to race late I was unable to attend to certain pre-race business. Take a bio break at the mile 4 fluid/aid station. It’s very warm/humid and I hadn’t had time to take my pre-race gel or drink as much Gatorade as I’d wanted, so I make the decision to hit every station: 3 gulps of Poweraid, dump cup of water on back of neck/head. One highpoint is I actually execute this in the correct order, which is good because it’s BLUE Poweraid and I would have hated to look like one of those blue smurfycats from Avatar in my race photo.
5. In order to not get frustrated at trying to pass a bunch of people on a narrow trail, see memo point #1.
The trail narrows and passing anyone is an exercise in patience. There are lots of up and downs and funky footing and it’s crowded on the trail. I keep weaving in and out of folks and try to be polite when I pass. There are times I wait rather than do the “gentle nudge past” (aka, ‘elbow shove’) because that person had the good sense to VERIFY WHEN THE RACE ACTUALLY STARTED. However, there is always the one guy. The one who is pissed when you try and pass, even though there is a mass of humanity in front of him. The one who thinks the only thing that stands between him and everlasting glory is NOT the 800 people in front of him, but the lady in the sweaty lime green sports bra next to him. We pass someone at about the same time, and then he tries to lose me. He speeds up and I just keep running my pace and eventually am even with him. He does it again. And a third time. I realize he is incensed he's getting passed by an old broad. I'm thinking "Dude, I started probably 5 minutes behind you." Cue eye roll.
6. Take a peek at the course elevation before the race.
Before I know it I'm about halfway thru. I have no clue what my elapsed time is so I'm just treating it as a hard workout. Then we hit hills. We'd had some up and downs but the trail is now road and these things are monsters. At 8.5 there is a hill so steep I can almost walk it as fast as run it (yes, I test the theory, what the heck, the race is a complete cluster at this point). Then steep down hills which are equally painful. And another half-mile long exquisitely painful hill. Exit park at about 9.5 miles into full sun. Move glasses from top of head to eyes: they are totally smudged and icky. Hit the 10 mile mark, and feel ok - legs are trashed from hills - I'm tired, its hot, and I just want to be done. But at least we’re on flat pavement. We make a turn on the street that goes to the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the finish. It’s uphill. At this point I want a quick death. Turn into entrance to museum - still uphill. And, well, I start grunting. Literally. Every exhale I'm sounding like Monica Seles hitting a killer forehand. Embarassing but I'm exhausted.
7. There is no grunting in road races.
Finally the uphill gives way to a gentle downhill. I see the finish line. I’m grunting louder and louder which is just disturbing. TO ME. I can't speak for those who were running near me. I cross the finish line and continue the gruntfest. A Marine hands me a bottled water and I hand it to another because I swear I can’t open it. He does it without asking questions because any Marine has good sense enough not to mess with a grunting, sweaty, stinky, exhausted, organizationally-challenged woman. And don’t even talk to me about the race photos…we're talking a Code Blue to the Makeup Unit.
8. Marines run great races.
All runners can appreciate a well-organized, well-staffed, well-stocked race. But there are also the very special ‘only the Marines’ intangibles that make these races so special: a strong "looking good ma’am", the funny signs planted at intervals throughout the race, my favorite pair being a photo of a barking drill Sergeant and “MY GRANDPA IS ABOUT TO PASS YOU…” followed by “IN HIS WALKER!!!!!”, a randomly called ‘OORAH’, and the finish line organization that is world class. Not to mention the fact that they bent over backward to the disorganized piker who couldn't even get to the starting line on time. And beer company race sponors. Which mean BEER AT THE FINISH. 9:15 am, Micholob Ultra, Breakfast of Champions. Oorah.