Marine Corps Marathon Week 16 (2 weeks out)

Week 1 of taper! Here’s how it went down (“planned” workout in green/“actual” in bold):

Monday: Rest or cross-training/rest. I went to Trader Joe’s and bought lots of healthy-ish snacks, hoping to start taper on the right foot.

Tues: 5/5. Easy run. In the evening, the Gypsy Runner and I went to REI, where I picked up a headlamp (review coming, possibly) and a 16 oz. Nalgene water bottle.  I’m pretty sure that I’m the only one who would describe it as “adorable” but it really is!

Totes adorbs... with a hella cool stick, no less.

Totes adorbs… with a hella cool sticker, no less.

Wed: 8/8 miles including 2 x 3 mile (with 3 min jog interval). I read about this workout being marathon-specific, so I decided to try it out. The goal was to run each mile at 10-15 seconds below race pace, which I had thought was 9:45/mile. My splits were: 9:41, 9:35, 9:20, 9:38, 9:29, 9:22. Average: 9:31. I felt pretty good about this, until I realized that my goal race pace is actually 9:30, so I should’ve been going for 9:15-9:20. Oops. Oh well — I think the point was to do a ~race pace workout — which is what I did.  Plus, I felt strong, so I’m not sweating the numbers.

Thurs: 5/5.2. Easy/moderate run. It is finally getting cooler around here — felt nice!

Fri: Rest or cross-training/rest.

Sat: 4 @ MP/13 miles, pacing duties (1200′ elevation gain). When KP asked me to pace her for the last 13 miles of the Dick Collins Firetrails 50, her first 50-mile race, I enthusiastically said, “Yes!” Not only was I excited to help a friend toward her goal, but as someone intrigued by ultramarathons but not really itching to do one, it seemed like a great chance to get my toes wet without having to jump into the deep end. The Gypsy Runner dropped me off at 2:30 p.m. at Skyline Gate, where KP estimated she would arrive by 3:00. As I waited, I made small talk with some of the other pacers and crew members waiting for their runners. 3:00 came and went, and still no KP. I kept nervously checking the time… 3:30, 3:45… I was really getting worried because the cut-off was at 4:00. Worse, what if she was injured and stuck somewhere? At about 3:56, I saw KP’s bright green compression socks coming down East Ridge. As we walked over to the pirate-themed aid station, KP briefed me on her troubles: she was feeling very nauseous, hadn’t been able to take any Gu’s since about mile 15 or 17, and was only able to stomach potatoes and Coke. We made the cut-off at Skyline though, so we decided to press on until we could go no further.

We spent the first few miles speed walking and jogging where we could. I had a list of things I thought of to entertain KP with — recent “This American Life” and “Planet Money” episodes. Even though we were progressing pretty well in spite of KP’s lack of fueling and fatigue, I knew it would be a struggle to make the next cut-off. I felt that the fueling issue was getting desperate, so I offered to mix Gu with water and see if that would go down better. KP seemed to be able to handle a small amount of that, but she didn’t seem to want any more. Maybe I should’ve forced her to eat more of the concoction, but I didn’t want to push it if she felt too nauseous for the Gu.

I kept looking at my watch as we climbed Golden Spike. Almost every time we started making progress, KP would get hit with a spell of dizziness or nausea, forcing us to take a walk break. When we hit the next aid station at Big Bear, I knew it was important for KP to refuel with potatoes and Coke, but I was also aware that we were very pressed for time. In retrospect, we probably spent too much time at the aid station. When we finally started going again, KP stood at the trail head despondently, questioning whether we should go on. We both knew there was very little chance of us making it to the next aid station by the cut-off time. I was torn, but felt it was my duty to make sure KP got as far as she could in this race — one for which she trained so hard and had already run 41 miles. I told her that we should keep going and if we didn’t make it, then at least we tried. I wasn’t sure how this would go over, so I was relieved when she replied with a simple, “OK.”

The next mile was pretty tough, as we climbed over 500′ in less than a mile up MacDonald. Again, I kept looking at my watch and thinking about the approaching cut-off time. When we finally crested the trail, we were rewarded with beautiful views on either side. Knowing that we only had about a mile to go to the next aid station, and thinking that this might be the last mile of the race for us, I decided to pull out all of the stops. I took a page from Cathryn’s playbook from Point Pinole and started playing music from my iPhone. It was surreal listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” as we ran along on gorgeous trail. The music definitely seemed to be helping KP — this was the longest stretch that she had run since I started pacing her. It was a bittersweet feeling as we pulled into the Bort Meadows aid station (mile 44.1) about 5 minutes after the cut-off.

I sensed a huge change in momentum in that last mile, and maybe the aid station volunteers felt that too, because we were somehow able to convince them to let us keep going. Or maybe it was the fact that KP was still somewhat coherent, injury-free, and had a pacer with a headlamp. Once we got cleared from that aid station, I was certain that we would make it to the finish before the final cut-off, because despite her fatigue, KP was still functioning physically and mentally pretty well for someone who had already run over 44 miles. KP, on the other hand, remained very doubtful, even as we got closer and closer to the finish line. It wasn’t until we got within half a mile of the finish that she was finally convinced that she was going to make it before the final cut-off. We ran together until the finish corral, where I let her cross the mat by herself. 12 hours and 48 minutes after she started her 50-mile journey, KP finished — with 12 minutes to spare on the cut-off. Victory!

I was so relieved and happy for KP for finishing this race, and very glad she didn’t give up. It was an amazing accomplishment and I’m really glad that I got to be a part of it.  Congrats, KP!

Sun: 12/0. Took the day off from running to have a birthday picnic at Lake Merritt. The weather was gorgeous, the drinks were plentiful, and I had a great time hanging out with friends. Zero miles, zero guilt, 100% worth it.

Wrap-Up: 34 miles/31.2 total. No “taper tantrums” yet. Maybe this coming week?


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in MCM, Trail running, Training
9 comments on “Marine Corps Marathon Week 16 (2 weeks out)
  1. Dominick S. says:

    First, I thought that was a custom screened bottle and I did think…cool! If it’s a sticker then it is not as cool but I do love a good nalgene bottle, I have one with me at almost all times.

    Your friend is insane! 50 miles on limited fuel, I hope she is doing well today. Great job on getting her to the finish line, I am sure it meant a whole lot to her to finish that monster.

  2. Mike says:

    “As someone intrigued by ultramarathons but not really itching to do one…” ha ha ha ha ha hahahahahahahahahaha keep telling yourself that, you may start to believe it…

    • Mike says:

      Whoops! Just remembered I was so busy being goofy, I forgot the reason I was writing… to congratulate Kate on an awesome race, awesomely run. That’s a tough course to run 10 miles on, much less 50. I had exhausted flashbacks just remembering that climb up MacDonald, I couldn’t believe how immediately steep that hill got when I first ran it. And to encounter it at mile 44, talk about psychologically defeating. Nice job on your part to keep her ahead of the cutoff times, that had to be harrowing… and great job by Kate to just, keep, pushing. What a team victory! I’ll keep you in mind when I’m planning my next ultra…

      • Jen says:

        Appreciate the follow-up, Mike. Yes, keeping Kate ahead of the cut-offs was stressful — I’d say I was definitely more tired from the mental aspect of pacing than the physical part. I have to give Kate a lot of credit for trusting me when I said we should keep pushing, even though she felt like giving up. I can only imagine how hellish it would be as a pacer to have to keep fighting with your runner!

  3. Cathryn says:

    I am so impressed by your pacing skills. Kate was incredible but your contribution to her success was immense! 50 miles though…crazy lady! Congratulations to both of you.

  4. BT says:

    Yay! Congrats to Kate and I love this story. You are such a great pacing buddy, and it’s always so interesting to see how much more humans can often do than they think they can. Often we just need someone to bring the reserve tank of mental energy to the forefront of the brain — Great Job doing that for Kate!

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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