Hey friends, I ran my first RnR ever and my first half marathon of the year this past weekend! I’d promise to keep this recap brief, but apparently that’s not really my style…hopefully it’ll be informative if nothing else.
Fuel +Hydrate: I woke up right before my alarm, which was set for 5 AM, and started hydrating right away with water+ Nuun. I held off on food until just before I left so that I wouldn’t be too hungry before the race (this happens if I eat too early). Pre-race breakfast was the usual – banana and peanut butter.
Clothes: The weather forecast showed about 40 degrees at the start of the race with some wind, so I chose light layers with zippers so I could zip down if I got hot later in the race. This is my pic from before the Reston 10 Miler earlier this month b/c I wore the same exact thing: Nike Filament tights (thinnest tights I own), Nike Element top (thin long sleeve), and Brooks Adapt Vest – love this for racing and running in general because I can put gels and other stuff in the big pocket in front.
I wore a light jacket on top of all this to stay warm before the race, and later stuffed it into my bag for bag check. Last step: blister prevention and sneakers. For runs longer than 10 miles, I use my most heavy-duty blister protection method – 2nd skin gel squares on my blister-prone areas secured with Tensoplast tape. This did the trick for me during this race, but I still get blisters sometimes even with this method.
I raced in my New Balance 1080s this weekend – I’m loving these shoes for the longer runs!
I was out the door by 5:45 AM and parked at the Pentagon City metro station to metro over to Federal Triangle in DC. I ended up being an hour and a half early and probably could have left the house a little later, but I always try to arrive with plenty of time to spare for big races since all the pre-race stuff (bag check, bathroom) takes so much more time. I munched on a Nutrigrain bar and read my Runner’s World while waiting for the race to start.
At 6:30, I visited the port-o-potty, congratulating myself on arriving early b/c there were no lines, and shortly afterwards I dropped off my bag at one of the bag drop trucks, which also had no line. Awesome!
And then… I realized I needed to pee again, but the lines for the port-o-potties had grown 1000X. I realized that I would probably miss the start of the race, but since I was in corral 13, I figured I wouldn’t miss the start of my corral, or could line up with a later one if I needed to. I ended up standing in line for over half an hour, and I did miss the start of the race but not my corral’s start – hooray!
Before I get into the race itself, I’ll give you some details about the course. This was a point-to point race (doesn’t end where it starts); the course started at the end of the National Mall, did a pin across Memorial Bridge, went back into DC towards the zoo, wound through some of DC’s neighborhoods and ended at RFK Memorial Stadium/ Stadium Armory. The first six miles were pretty flat, there was a big hill at mile seven, and then the rest of the race was mostly downhill.
So now, the race. Before the race started, I was going back and forth about whether to run or drop out because my left ankle was hurting, but I got caught up in the excitement of the event and decided to run it anyway! I told myself that I could drop out as soon as I felt it hurting, but once I started running, I didn’t feel it at all until the race was over. Pace-wise, I decided to aim for sub-9 miles the whole race in hopes of a PR. My corral started running at least 15 minutes after the race started at 7:30 AM, which worked out well for me since I was stuck in line for the port-o-potties.
Miles 1-6 went fine after a bit of crowding in the first mile. This was a HUGE race, I had to weave quite a bit the whole time! I took my first gel around mile 5 along with some water, and found that the water stops during this race would definitely slow me down because there were so many runners, so I paid extra attention to increasing my pace after the water stops. Paces: 9:07, 9:01, 9:00, 8:43, 9:25 (water stop), 8:53.
Mile 7 was a huge hill – see the elevation chart below. This was the BIGGEST hill I had ever run, so it slowed me down a lot, and I ended up walking the last third. I realized I couldn’t hit 9:00 for this mile, so I decided instead to make up as much as possible on the downhill and just get my mile split down under 10:00. Pace: 9:46 – a success!
Miles 8-12 – My quads felt trashed after that hill and I really didn’t want to run the race anymore, but I just took it one mile at a time and tried to get my pace under 9 again. At this point, I figured a PR was out of my reach because I had lost a lot of time and was losing motivation. I decided instead to try for a sub-2, and told myself to push on the uphills so that I could coast on the downhills. I had planned to take another gel around mile 10, but I was afraid that it would slow me down and I wouldn’t start back up again, so I just kept running. Given how much I didn’t want to run at this point, my paces were pretty good! Paces: 8:56, 8:38, 9:00, 8:37, 9:02.
Mile 13 and 0.1 – At this point, I knew the race was all downhill so I tried to drive my pace below 8:50 by increasing my leg turnover and just held on as best as I could, while visualizing crossing the finish line and adding a medal to my collection! Paces: 8:48 and 8:05 for the fraction.
Final time: 1:59:52
I ended up running 13.36 miles instead of 13.1 because of my inefficient weaving, so although my official pace was 9:09, my Garmin pace was 8:58! My half marathon PR time from Long Beach last year is 1:58:42, which is a 9:03 pace, so this race could have been a PR if I had run the course a little more efficiently.
The race ended in the RFK stadium parking lot, and while they had free beer and a concert, I was eager to go home. I picked up what goodies they had to offer, got my bag from one of the bag drop trucks, and hobbled to the Stadium Armory metro station, which was a 20 minute walk. I do wish the finish line had been closer to the metro station, but I guess that was tough logistically.
Personal Thoughts: I’m really happy with my performance, given the enormous hill in mile 7, but I really regret trying out the new orthotics on race day. I think I’ll be paying for that mistake for a while :(
– Organization – This was a well-organized race from the expo to the bag drop-off to the corrals to the rest of the race.
– Course Support – Plenty of on-course support in the support of water and Gatorade stops (I heard they ran out of water in the past? wasn’t an issue this year). I believe they also gave out Gus at one point, although I didn’t partake. There was music at least every two miles, but I didn’t feel as pumped up as I expected – that could have just been my mood/ energy that day.
– Size – This was a big race and crowded course with nearly 25,000 marathon/ half marathoners this year. The marathoners start at the same time and run the same course as the half marathoners till about mile 12. I don’t think I would ever do the full here, because it’s just too exhausting to be constantly weaving for the first half of the race.
– Course – Aside from the giant hill at mile seven, this wasn’t too hard a course, and with the flat six miles to start and lots of downhills after mile 6, it’s probably not a bad place to try for a PR. It isn’t DC’s prettiest race because you don’t run around the Tidal Basin or see a lot of monuments like you do during Cherry Blossom and the Navy Air Force half, but it’s a fun change to tour some of DC’s neighborhoods and be cheered on by the residents (several of whom were hosting free beer stands!).
I might run this one again and train better for the hill, just to see how much I can improve my time. Challenge accepted, RnR USA.
Other Pics from the Weekend
After running some errands after the race, Mike and I had a date night at Guapo’s in Shirlington, which is a super-tasty Mexican restaurant that makes fresh flour tortillas all day long!
I really liked my Tacos Oxaquenos, which I ordered because it sounded unusual – steak and pineapple. I love combos of meat and fruit, like chutney with beef! Mike ordered the more traditional regular tacos, and we split a giant margarita. Dinner was followed by some gelato at home while watching Jobs, which we both enjoyed. I was surprised by how much Ashton Kutcher was able to mimic Steve Jobs’s speech and mannerisms, even his walk.
I really didn’t do much on Sunday because my swollen plantar fascia was hobbling me, but we did make it to brunch at Aditi with Alexa and Andrew, followed by a little trip to Home Goods. I was so excited to find that giant bottle of vanilla extract!
Have you ever regretted running a race? For me, not really – even with the sucky consequences this time, I’m glad I got a chance to see how much I could push myself. Racing has taught me the meaning of perseverance in a whole new way.
Best movie you’ve watched lately? We’re looking for recommendations! Frozen and American Hustle are on my list to watch next.