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Race Result

Racer: Holly Gannoe
Race: Marine Corps Marathon
Date: Sunday, October 28, 2007
Location: Arlington, VA
Race Type: Run - Marathon
Age Group: Female 35 - 39
Time: 6:41:34
Overall Place: 20217 / 20674
Age Group Place: 1313 / 1350
Comment: Report from the BACK OF THE PACK

Race Report:

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This race report is LONG just like my race was LONG!

I knew coming into this race that I would be looking at a long, long day. Longer than my first MCM in 2005. That year I completed the race in 6:10, while on chemotherapy. If you had told me that 2 years later, cancer-free, I would finish the same race nearly 30 minutes later, I not have believed you.

This is a lesson on how "weight" changes your pace and it was a lesson learned. It was also a lesson in perspective. While I don't ever want to race a Marathon this slowly again, I worked HARD to *Beat the 14th Steet Bridge* so I am very satisfied with my Marathon finish. I finished, got to enjoy the wonderful company of my friend Shawn and was on the race course along with my younger sister for her first Marathon attempt. (She finished in 4:37!! Not too shabby for a first marathon, at all!)

So race morning was typical - PB & Jelly on whole wheat and a large glass of water. Nancy Toby, Shawn, Heather and I left the house at 6:30 and jumped on the Metro to the Pentagon. We got there right at 7AM and walked to the start area. Nancy headed over to the UPS drop and we got in line at the Port-o-Potties. I took a GU and drank some more water while waiting in line and eventually we got to the front of the line, right up to 7:45AM. Just enough time for quick hugs to Heather and she jogged off to the 4:30 corral while Shawn and I walked to the 5:30 coral and found the Cliff Bar Pacer Group.

The plan was simple and NOT RECOMMENDED if you are trying to race any kind of PR but with several half Ironmans and a few marathons under my belt, I knew this unorthodox method would be what I needed to get to Mile 19 on time. The plan was: stick with the 5:30 pace group for as long as possible - ideally up though the half marathon point. Even if I blew up, I'd have a buffer built and I knew the course by heart after mile 13 so I could keep moving, even if I was hurting at the point.

The race started and we crossed the start with about 19:12 on the race clock. I was able to hang tight with Shawn and the 5:30 group up through the start of Mile 2 and the climb up Lee Highway and then I watched them slowly pull away.

Okay, looks like I am going to have to readjust my plan! No worries! So at Mile 2, I was on my own. I shortened my stride and just focused on the runners around me. Knowing that Mile 4 would be a nice long downhill on Spout Run. The runners in the back of the pack were happy and cheerful, early on. Lots of cheering and smiles and encouragement - Lots of TNT runners and other charity runners around - my kind of people!

The exit ramp up to Key Bridge was a bit of a shocker! Holy Cow - forgot about the course change. I started to try to remember from bike rides, what I could expect for mile 5-8 on Macarthur Blvd and River Rd and I knew there had to be an few climbs but I had forgotten the doozey where Macarthur and River Rd split! That was probably a good thing.

Just before Mile 6, I saw a familiar pink shirt ahead of me - SHAWN! I yelled "GO SHAWN!" and she laughed and said, "I though you were ahead of me!" Seems the 5:30 group dropped Shawn on the hills too. I told her I had just started my intervals 2:30R/1:00W and she said that sounded good to her, so we settled into the intervals together.

I spent much of my time trying to play tour guide for Shawn as we ran - "Up ahead, we have the Kennedy Center - to your left is ...ummmm... Nixen, darn it....WATERGATE!" Along we rolled, clicking off the miles - one by one, heading down the mall and onto the half marathon point. Our pace was good for our goal - to beat the 14th Street bridge cutoff with at least a "miles" worth of time on the clock. Shawn started having some trouble just before the half marathon point. We ran into my friend Arnetta at just that time and she had a bag of salty pretzels that she gave us! Just about the time we were close to the next water stop, I detoured for a potty break and Shawn just kept going.

It took about 4 LONG minutes to get access to the port-o-potty (felt bad for the girl in there ahead of me, she looked BAD when she came stumbling out) and then finally I was back on the road - trying to double time my pace to catch back up to Shawn. In that mile, I also got a chance to see my friend Ben and Amy - Cancer to 5K Teammates who both ran their first 5Ks the day before. Amy took my picture and Ben gave me a lovely hug of encouragement! Boy, I needed that!

It took me nearly a mile but finally, I could see her pink shirt about 500 yards ahead of me. It took some internal arguing but I finally convinced my legs that they simply had to work harder to catch Shawn and finally I was back at her side. She was going a little better after taking a bit of a walk break and we resumed our run/walk intervals just prior to Mile 15.

About this time, we hit the GU stop but neither of us took one. We had both pocketed enough food for the race and were taking a GU or Cliff Blocks about every 4 miles or so. Still running through the GU stop with the occasional full GU package bursting under your foot fall was bizarre... You faster runners sure are messy (LOL!!) We rounded the GU stop and rolled up and around the Tidal Basin and on towards Haines Point. There was some grumbling as we watched, with ENVY, all those runners already headed for the 14th Street Bridge on the other side of the road. But we just kept on moving forward, keeping an eye on the clock and trying to run more than we walked.

At this point, Mile 16, Shawn and I were both suffering a bit. Shawn was still having some nutrition issues and my left Achilles seemed a but tighter than I liked. At this point, I knew exactly where we were in the race and what we needed to do to keep ahead of the 14th Street Bridge cutoff. Shawn was a trooper - the best running partner anybody could have. Every time that I said "Hit it" she picked up her stride and ran until I said "Walk" Being the "time keeper" gave me the something to do - which help keep me from panic. We joked about all the freaking photographers - who we smiled at before but who we now thought were totally unnecessary. We both had our cranky moments and seem to swear alternately - never in tandem - but we NEVER stopped moving forward and kept trying to pass the very annoying ladies in front of us who seemed to be "taking too much to possibly be working hard enough" (see what I mean, CRANKY!)

Just prior to Mile 19 we talked about how good those SPORTS BEANS were going to be and then we saw it.....Strewn all over the road ahead of us like road kill - thousands and thousands of sports beans and empty packets! There were no Sports Beans left for us. Unless, as I joked to Shawn, "You'd like to lick the pavement - there are plenty down there..." Talking later with Heather, it turns out that they were handing out 3-4 packets of Beans per person early on. So no beans for the Back of the Pack this time around.

Finally ... Mile 19! It is a little deceiving because the Mile Marker is not actually on the Bridge but prior to it and that was Shawn's next question. "Holly, where is the Bridge?" I think I might have sounded a little harsh but I didn't dare try saying "only around the corner because I was sure it was still about a 1/4 mile from the Mile Marker so instead I said " We are almost there Shawn, just come on!". Then we took the right turn out of Haines Point and the right onto Maine Avenue and eased through the underpass, where I let out the loudest HOOT and HOLLAR I could as we turned right again onto the HOV on-ramp! "Shawn we beat the Bridge!!" at just about 4:58 on the official race clock - 17 minutes left on the clock.

Shawn and I walked the 14th Street Bridge but we were not alone by any stretch of the imagination. At this point on the race course, the number of people still running was maybe 1 in every 25. The HOV lanes are a wasteland of pavement that sucks the life and energy right out of you. Shawn and I just kept moving and I tried to keep her motivated when she began to ask "
if the bridge ever ends." I assured her that it did and that she would feel much better when we got to the other side of the river. Finally, we reached the end of the 14th Street Bridge and Mile 21. Shawn needed a rest stop at the nearest blue box so I continued on alone, hoping she would catch back up.

It was at this point that I had the funniest moment of the race. I had chosen to wear my bright yellow "Cancer to 5K" race shirt and throughout the day, I had gotten plenty of "Go Cancer!" and "Thanks for racing" from spectators on the side of the road. As I approached Crystal City, I passed a "home-made rest stop" with a bunch of folks there cheering runners on. One of the gentleman there said "Way to go Cancer to 5k!" and then he smiled and said "Are you sure you signed up for the right distance race?"

That made me laugh at loud and was just the boost that I needed for those last 4 miles. Shawn had a longer stop than she hoped and so we passed each other on the out and back, gave each other big hugs and continued on. I tried to resume run/walk intervals but at this point in the day, it hurt more to try to start running again than it did to power walk, so I did just that. I must have passed a good 20 people just by focusing on quick short steps. Soon enough I was at Mile 25 and I thought, you have got to try to run most of this last mile. All was well until I got to the base of Iowjima only to realize that, here too, they had changed the course and I still had to run out to Roslyn, turn around and come back. Well that just took the wind right out of my sail and I stopped running for the next 1/2 mile. Finally at the last turn around, just behind a group of TNT runners, I found the energy to again pick up my pace. The finish line was close (FINALLY) and I just wanted to get off the course. I saw Shawn for the last time, on her last mile! Cheered for her and headed towards that final climb. I walked the last climb, knowing that I could walk it faster than I could run it and once a the top, slowly jogged those last 500 yards into the finish and up to a handsome Marine to collect my finishers medal.

I waited at the end of the chute for Shawn and then we headed back to the Family Meet Spot to find Nancy and Jim and the rest of my family. Another MCM in the books.

Having two days to digest this weekend, I am glad that I toed the line on race day. I knew going into the race, that it was not going to be a PR or even a "great" race day for me. But races are what you make them. The weather was perfect for a Marathon, I had friends on the course and on the sides cheering me on, my younger sister ran her first Marathon on the same course and I was in my full colors representing my CANCER to 5K Runners the day after their first 5K race. There wasn't anyplace in the world I would have rather been - no matter how long it took me to get to the finish line!

Life is Good! Live STRONG!

Holly G.