Monday, April 28, 2014

Nike Women's Marathon DC Half: Race Day!!


Race day came bright and early! I set my alarm for a little before 6, threw on some clothes, and headed towards the start area, which was a little less than a mile from my hostel. I brought my checked bag since I wouldn't have anyone waiting at the finish line for me, but wanted to have my phone right after. The entire start area was BUZZING with energy, there was a DJ playing pump-up music, and I arrived just before gear check closed. I then ran up to the third corral, showed off my pace bracelet, and got in for a little bit of a warm up.
After the national anthem (always inspiring when one has a great view of the Capitol dome), and a greeting from Shalane Flanagan (eeeeek!), we were off! The starting gun went off, then the waves went off rather slowly; I started maybe a minute after the clock started.

This course is quite possibly the best course I have ever run! It looped around right in front of the Capitol, then around the north side of the Mall, through a tunnel, around back towards the Mall, down to the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Women in Military Service to America Memorial, the loop under the Kennedy Center to Watergate, then down Ohio Dr all the way around the park, and then back up under the tunnel and towards the finish line!

This course was flat, fast, and the course support was incredible! Every time I thought I needed a boost, there one was!

Under the bridge was the giant WE RUN+ light up sign, and some drummers! At every water stop they had both water and Nuun, which is way better than gatorade. I took a gel at mile 4, then grabbed a few ShotBlocks at mile 5. At mile 9 they had Luna bars, and I grabbed a Chocolate-Dipped Coconut, but didn't eat it on the course. Mile 11 was the chocolate mile, which is a great idea! All along the course there were people handing out truffles; although delicious, they were really hard so I ended up just biting a few pieces off and spitting them out. Gross, but delicious. There were also a few "photo stops" that were clearly marked with an archway so you knew when to smile! Also, there were tons of cheer stations with groups (Luna people, TNT, a college cheer stop) and several bands and DJs along the course. The energy was amazing! One of my favorite spots was coming out of the tunnel about a half mile out from the finish, where they had giant screens that flashed your name as you went by! Such a great idea!

Since I've spent the last few weeks pretty busy with recovering from the USA marathon/law school/planning my wedding/planning next year, training hasn't really been on my radar as much. I was hoping to do better than my 10:00 slog, but didn't have high hopes. I definitely was surprised at how easy the first 5k was (27:17), and it felt pretty breezy until the 6 mile marker.
Of course, mile 4 was going over the Arlington Memorial Bridge, which is one of my favorite parts of DC races. Every time I run this, I think about all the women who have accepted the challenge of joining any branch of the armed forces, and all the problems they've faced to get us to the point we are now. When women first joined, they had to do light calisthenics in a skirt; now, I get to run for them.
The second half around the park was a little harder to keep my pace up, but I managed to focus externally. I love cherry blossoms! I love DC! I love all the preppy white girls running around me! Finding a person ahead of me as a goal and running to pace with her was a very useful tactic at this point.
I finished in 1:59:15, 45 seconds under my goal of 2:00! Huzzah! Now I feel better about adding sprints to my runs before Zooma Annapolis in a month. this placed me at 2633/15282 overall, and 732/4010 in my age group.

While the run itself was awesome (oh, the weather was also perfect: 68 and breezy and sunny!), the finish line was even better! Some of the highlights:
- We got refillable water bottles instead of plastic bottles! I love a new water bottle! Plus, they had tons of water points and Nuun points after the initial finish line, so lots of chances to refill. They also had a pre-filled back of food to just grab, so no wrangling someone for a granola bar or shoving a banana down my shirt.

- Tons of heat sheets. I kind of wish I had grabbed one after walking back to my hostel in the shade, but it looked like there were plenty for everyone, plus, recycling stations outside the finish area (though I like to keep them for a later race warmup) (also, oddly, one of the very few items not blatantly branded (even volunteer drummers had Nike drum wraps))

- THE PENDANT!! Undoubtedly the #1 reason I wanted to do this race. There were rows of ROTC cadets in tuxedos handing out those beautiful blue boxes, and then photo opps after. EEEEEEK!

- Immediately leaving the finisher's area was both the gear check and the family meet-up. If I had someone waiting, this is where they'd be! Also, at gear check, they gave you a sticker to put on your bib so you remember which street your bag is at. Here, there were also ROWS of port a johns, plus more water stations

- The NTC Finisher Tent!! This is the stuff race dreams are made of! They had a row of mirrors with hairspray, face wipes, lip gloss, lotion, all ready for you to freshen up, and tons of people directing the hoards so you never felt crowded! So pretty for a finish:
After this was a huge backdrop area where you could take pictures, and also, A RECOVERY AREA!! They had a whole area with stretching mats (which people were wiping down with antibac wipes!) and access to Nike trainers to help you stretch out, or just hand you a Stick or foam roller. THE BEST!! There was a DJ rocking inside as well, and regular announcements. At the end there was a CHARGING STATION for your phone, changing rooms if you brought a new shirt or something, and a map you could pin! Again, DREAMS COMING TRUE!

Moving on I passed another DJ and photo zone with more backdrops to take finisher photos, and more water/Nuun stations. I then found the finisher's boutique; I wish I had stayed here, but the (15 minute) line looked long. I regretted this later when it was an hour wait.

Farther along (which I found after returning to my hostel for a quick shower and to grab my bag) was the TNT area with their own little lounge and gear check, a tent to check your results, or for family to check during the race, and also, a Paul Mitchell booth where they were doing more braiding! Kind of gross for all those people getting braids with sweaty hair, but great idea! If this was open before, with a sign up time available, I probably would've done this before the race. There was also a Whole Foods lounge where you could get mocktinis and free coconut water! This was my view from there:
Overall, this was the best race experience EVER, and I am SO GLAD I did it. I just wish that I could've given it the time it deserves to train and get excited about it! While the course was crowded and there were tons of "walkers," if you want a great time, this is the race to get into! I will definitely do it again, and it makes me even consider the one in SF!! Who wouldn't do an amazing race for this:
Because who can wear a finisher's medal everyday?

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