Monday, March 17, 2014

Rock N' Roll USA Marathon Complete!

Saturday came bright and early, and I was pumped! K had driven up from Georgia the night before and went to bed late, so I let him sleep as late as I could before I got him up. I woke up around 5, though, and anticipated about an hour drive to park at the Armory.

I checked my bag to make sure I had everything I would need for post-race, and then started packing our "food bag" for everything to eat on the way. I had waffles and peanut butter, bananas, gatorade, a water bottle of pre-mixed condense to bring to the start line with me, some gatorade prime, and a baggie of emergency naproxen for K just in case he needed it during the race.

For fuel on the race, I brought four GUs and a vanilla EFS. Since I opted to wear my black Oakley running capris, which only have one small pocket in the front, I had two gels in that pocket, plus two tucked into my arm warmers, as well as my ipod tucked in a pocket. I just carried the EFS flask with me.

The drive to DC was quiet, as expected at 5:30 on a Saturday morning. We parked quickly without any major problems, then walked about a half mile or so to the metro station and took a train over to the federal triangle stop, nearest to the start line on Constitution. It was absolutely FREEZING, so I kept my jacket on for the ride over, then threw it in K's bag to check. The place was PACKED. We quickly ran across to the mall to the bag check area, picked up some water and another banana, and K got in line for the portajohns. Since the national anthem was already starting, I ran to get into my corral (16) while K had a little more time.

The corrals were all lined up along Constitution, at least 24 of them, and they were packed once you got in. I was surprised that they mingled the half and full runners into the same corrals. I would have preferred to start in a an earlier corral rather than battle it out with walkers from my corral in the first mile. They started them pretty fast, though, and corral 16 was off less than 20 minutes past the first corral.

The first couple miles went smoothly, and by mile 4 I was 2 minutes ahead of my goal pace. I also had to use the bathroom. And there were lines. I came out about 2 minutes slower than pace time, but I definitely did not regret it when I hit The Hill at mile 6. I had been warned, so it wasn't too scary, but boy, is that a hill.

The half marathon course split off around mile 12, and until that point, the course was rather crowded. Wherever it split to more than two lanes, I definitely took advantage of the space. After the split, though, I appreciated seeing enough runners around me that I never felt like I was lost on the course.

I hit the halfway point at 2:11, which was about 3 minutes over my goal pace. I just couldn't weave around enough people to catch up after that bathroom break, and I could feel myself slowing down, so I knew 4:15 wasn't going to happen. I took mile 13 to do some self care, walking a little, stopping to biofreeze my right knee, and down half of my EFS with some water. Apparently not enough water, though, since I cramped up pretty badly around what I guess was the 14 mile marker (I totally missed mile markers 7, 14, and possibly 21. I don't remember seeing those AT ALL). At the next water stop I downed the rest of my EFS with about ten cups of water, and had no problems there.

After rolling along and feeling like I had a pretty good pace, I started to slow down a lot more around mile 18. I had to push a little mentally from mile 16 to mile 20, then got a little more optimistic after that despite the growing pain. After enjoying the view around the Nationals Stadium, we went over a bridge with grates. I had been warned not to trip on the grates, but no one warned me not to look down. Since my only real fear is being terrified of falling into water, looking down during mile 19 of a marathon and being able to see straight down about six stories into the river was not a good moment. Not a good moment at all.

At mile 20 I started taking advantage of all the treadmill training, and made the miles go by with some counting. I walked about 100 paces at the start of each mile, then ran 400 strides, which is normally about a half mile for me. At that point I was usually around a water point so I grabbed some water, ran some more focusing on my degraded form, and then walked at the next mile marker. At least it kept me from thinking about how far I'd gone.

As far as nutrition goes, I feel like this is the first race I actually had a good plan, stuck to it, and never totally bonked. I had a little pace bracelet and circled every mile I'd need to take a gel, to remind myself rather than go by feel, which is ALWAYS a BAD IDEA. My first gel was supposed to be at mile 4, but the next water stop wasn't until after mile 5, so I waited. After that, I was dead on. I took gels at miles 5, 9, an EFS between miles 13-15, and then gels at 19 and 23. I took water at almost every water stop, but only a few ounces at a time. I did stop to use the johns about three times, but hey, I figured if I'm running 26 miles, I might as well be comfy. I think this also reduced the butt chafing I usually get.

The weather was beautiful! Even though it started out really cold, it stayed cloudy for most of the run, and, even when it was sunny out, it never got too hot. I loved running in this kind of weather. With my tech shirt and arm warmers, I was just the right amount of cozy the entire run. Today, though, it's snowing. What the crap.

For whatever reason, I had a mini breakdown during mile 25, and went into the end looking absolutely miserable. After I passed the 26 mile marker and started down the final finisher's chute, I saw K with my phone trying to take a picture, and lit up. He didn't actually get a picture of me though. Just a video of the guy's ear next to him. My final photos make me look actually happy!

I finished in 4:58, which is way over my goal time, but way under my time from my last full. I felt great all the way through, but I'm definitely ready to take a break and wait til after law school to try again.

The finisher's area was great, and not too crowded since all the half runners were done. I got my shiny new medal, then cold water, some gatorade, and shoved some protein bars down my shirt. Also, lots of pretzels, which tasted amazing! K and my friend Joe were waiting right outside the finish line, and we headed over to the med tent to get my knees wrapped with ice and switch to my flip flops. K had checked a bag with his bib number, so he'd already gone through the hassle of picking it up while he waited for me.

K finished a half all my himself and finished in 2:10! He now feels he's ready to race me at our next one. Game on. Especially since it's now two days later and I'm foam rolling and he's still trying to find a non-painful way to get off the couch.

Right after we headed to the car, which seemed SOOOO far away, and went to get bottomless mimosas for brunch. I think I fell asleep on the way home.

The last two days since, I've been trying to recover and rest and enjoy my spring break. Sunday morning we went to the gym to jog a few laps in the pool, then enjoyed the hot tub. I've been foam rolling, drinking chocolate milk, popping some naproxen, and dealing with some minor mood swing issues. I've also been sleeping. A lot. Part marathon recovery, part law school recovery, I think.

And, in typical fashion, I'm already looking forward to my summer schedule, and the next six weeks of training between now and the Nike Women's Marathon half in DC! 

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