The next miles, from about 7 through 12, were amazing and I really started picking up my pace. Coming through Georgetown felt great. There was music blaring from Georgetown Running Company and the City Sports crew. I made the turn from M street on Wisconsin and there was Team Baker, complete with little Wilson spectating from his dad's shoulders. I hit mile 9 where I knew my pace-buddy was waiting for me. My co-worker Bill, who is running the Philly marathon next weekend, jumped in. The initial plan was that he would get me to 20 and then I was on my own.
So off we go and a few yards from there we see my whole family for the first time. We exit onto Rock Creek Park, and I grabbed my first energy pick me up, some orange slices, and then it was crowd support through mile 11 when you hit the Hains Point no-man's land. Coming up from Rock Creek to the Lincoln Memorial was probably one of the most fun I had all race, I couldn't get over how many people were there.
We turned into Hains Point, and I down my Stinger chews. The Lululemon cheer station (aka insane screaming and loud music tunnel) was stationed at the tip of Hains Point. Thanks to their energy boost, I upped my pace and knew I was feeling good enough to keep that up until 20. I got to see my family two different times on the Mall and two sets of friends. No one will know how much I appreciate their support. Running such a long distance is a daunting mental endeavor, but each time I knew I was coming up on family or friends I would pick it up in anticipation of seeing them. I was so excited and surprised when I saw Megan, Lauren and Julia in front of the Capitol that I ran over and gave each of them a huge hug and then carried on my way not thinking until I was gone how much they probably
From 19 to 20, I took down some sports beans and mentally prepared myself for what I knew was coming. I saw my family one more time before I "beat the bridge" - my brother handed me a GU and I told them, "One more 10K and I'll see you at the finish." Then I looked at Bill and told him he had to go now or get stuck with me in Virginia. I thank God that he got stuck because I didn't realize how bad that bridge would be.
It's got to be the most discouraging part of the course. You start to see as people hit the wall and head to the side to walk it out or stretch. You can tell that there are people who are seriously injured or hurting as they limp and are dragging one leg behind. It's a scary scene, and one that isn't lined with any cheering spectators. And that damn bridge just. never. ends.
Grim Reaper on the Bridge
Finally we get off that cussing bridge and enter Crystal City - which can best be summed up as a cruel tease. It's an out and back, which is thankfully lined with cheering spectators, but its a continuous wave of passing people who are a mile to a mile and a half ahead of you. A note to all course planners: OUT AND BACKS ARE THE DEVIL. Plus I kept thinking that at any minute was the turnaround location.
Crystal City ended at mile 24 and into the "Nissan Drive to the finish."(where they were handing out Dunkin' Donut Munchins by the way...is that a good idea for race fuel? The thought of eating that made me want to vomit, so I declined and carried on). Making it to 24 was a huge relief. I knew I had 2 more miles in me and the energy to finish strong - so I picked it up. Along the way, my Garmin had somehow jumped ahead of the race course, so it alerted me that I had reached mile 25 about 0.2 miles before I actually did. I don't think I even realized I was speaking out loud when I yelled, "Where is the damn sign for mile 25?" Some kind soul next to me just yelled back, "Right there. I can see it!" The last mile was amazing. I passed my family one more time on the final stretch and thought I was flying. In my head I was running a 6 minute mile, my legs were actually about 3 minutes off that.
People warn you about the Iwo Jima finish hill being utterly awful. It has to be somewhat like child birth where they block out what the pain is actually like. Whatever anyone said, it was 10 times worse. That's what you call a wall people. I made it to the top and shuffled on. I looked at the clock and saw 4:25 something, but then I remembered those extra five minutes it took to cross the start. Official chip time 4:20:50. I beat my goal time by 10 minutes and ran the race with an average pace under 10. But most important - I had a blast.
It was awesome.
I'm totally doing another one.