Friday, March 20, 2015

Rock N' Roll DC Half Marathon 3/17/15: Expo and Race Recap

I randomly decided at the last minute (or a few weeks out) to run the Rock N' Roll DC half over my spring break. I ran the full last year, and rather liked the course, how local it was, and I wanted to fit in a spring race, since I didn't know if I would get into the 17.75 (I did, but whatever). Even though I haven't run more than 6 miles since January, a half marathon seemed like a great idea!

Since this is a Saturday race, the expo is Thursday and Friday. If they had race day bib pickup, I probably would've just done that (I've heard a lot of complaints about the extra fees for race day pick up at races lately...seriously, that's just stingy and mean to have extra fees), but the RnR expos are usually pretty fun, so I squeezed in some time on Friday morning to head down to DC.

Since I got there about an hour after the expo opened, the place was not crowded at all. It was at the Convention Center this year, not the Armory like past races, so it was a little easier to get to on the metro, though I would've preferred to be able to drive. After picking up my bib and t shirt, I wandered through some of the boots, and, as usual, ended up getting sucked into registering for another race (next year's DC half for $50). I enjoyed that it wasn't too crowded, so I'd definitely recommend going early if you want to browse the booths!

That evening, I wanted to get to bed early, but instead ended up being in the journal office until the school closed at 8, then joined some friends for happy hour and korean BBQ. I got to bed a little before midnight, and set my alarm for around 5am.

Race Day
As always, race day came early, but definitely not bright. It was raining hard, even up in Baltimore, and I had a bad feeling about the whole thing. If I wasn't so awake and ready to go, I woud have been seriously tempted to stay home. I pulled on all my gear (SOAS running tank, black fleece arm sleeves, Oakley capris, and my trusty Kayanos), and at the last minute decided to pull on an old underarmour hoodie I had recently tossed in my "donate" bag to wear to the start, figuring I could just toss it once I started running. I drove down, parked at the finish line ($20 for parking! AAgh!), and took the metro to Federal Triangle arriving about 7. As I stood in line for a portajohn, it started raining harder. Awesome. My shoes were already pretty soaked, I hadn't brought any gloves, and it didn't look like it would get anywhere near the predicted mid-40s temp. I squeezed into my corral just as the first corral was starting, and immediately regretted not asking to change to an earlier corral. Corral 20 didn't start until almost a half hour later.

As usual, the first mile or so was slow, as some people shed their wet weather gear and started to spread out. My plan was to keep a sub-10:00 pace for the first few miles, and then run-walk the last 10K as needed. For the most part, I stuck to this plan, but I didn't count in bathroom breaks. Even tough my watch says I kept around a 9:45 pace for the first four miles, I did stop at the first water station and waited at least ten minutes for a portajohn there. I waited again around mile 10, that time for almost 20 minutes, and almost started to freeze up waiting in line. Even with my fleece sleeves and the hoodie, my hands were so cold I couldn't feel them at all. Side note: I did not toss that hoodie at any time during the race, and if I hadn't brought it, I don't know if I would've been able to finish.

Beyond the multiple moments of "I should've stayed in bed," there were a few other distinct moments I remember from this race. As usual, running toward the Women in Military Service monument, here mile 2 to 3, I dedicate this mile to all the women who have served before me. I know I am so lucky to have some amazing trail blazers who have made it possible for me to serve now.
Later, near the end of mile 5, right before the big hill, the wear blue to remember team put out photos of fallen service members who have died during recent conflicts. Right at the end, before heading up the hill, was a picture of Major Mike Donahue, who died in Afghanistan in September. I worked for him during my first few months on brigade staff at Fort Gordon, and I can honestly say he was one of the first people in the Army I worked for who truly cared about helping people be better. Whenever we had a slow day, he would let me go early so I could make it to the pool for a longer swim workout, and he regularly ran ultramarathons on the weekends just for fun. Not to mention he wrote one of my letters of recommendation for the Army's law school program. He was a really incredible person and an amazing officer, and seeing his photo is just what I needed to push up that terrible hill.

Not too long after that hill I started my walk 1/4 mile, run 3/4 mile plan, and I also got incredibly hungry. Shout out to the guys handing out beer and bagels before mile 10! Note to self: bring something solid along for future races. I brought along two gels, and grabbed a salted watermelon gel on the course, which was a lot tastier than I expected. I carried a 10 oz. water flask with me, but stopped to drink at least one cup at every water station. As my dear husband reminded me every ten minutes the night before, my biggest problems during a race are usually keeping on top of nutrition and overheating, and since I was 15 weeks pregnant, I didn't want to take chances with either of these problems. Overheating didn't seem to be an issue though.

I finally made it to the finish line in 2:58:27, again, with almost a half hour of bathroom breaks in there. Even though this is officially the worst solo time I've ever had (and well over an hour off my PR), I'm just glad I was able to finish with all my fingers and toes and stay hydrated! Going through the finish chute, I was again glad I kept my hoodie on, since I was able to shove two chocolate milks, several protein bars, and a few bottles of water in my pockets. I do wish RnR would hand out their cinch bags at the finish instead of at the expo. After going to the bathroom (again), I zombie walked as fast as my stiff legs would carry me back to my car and back home to Baltimore.

I think my shoes are still trying to dry out. A hot shower has never felt so good as it did that morning! The next morning I was definitely a bit sore in the quads, but recovery hasn't been too bad. Here's to next year!

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