Race morning. One of the smartest things I did for this race was find a hotel near the start so we could just walk there. No more hour commute into the city! Although I used the restroom several times before leaving the hotel, I had to go again once we got to the start. Unfortunately, I only found a single bank of porta potties and the lines were huge (after the race I saw where there were more). Memories of the Cherry Blossom run in DC last year where I was still waiting in the porta potty line when the race started had me skipping and going right to my corral. I did not want to get stuck in the last corral! I hoped I would either find a porta potty on the course or that I would stop having to go once I started running.
I wasn’t in the corral very long before the announcer started trying to hype up the crowd. He said he wanted to wake up the White House (we started on Pennsylvania Ave). Then he introduced Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson. I don’t know if they actually ran the race or if they were just there for PR. Then we had a moment of silence for Boston. I’ve run a lot of races and there is almost always chatter going on, even during the national anthem. It was dead quiet during that moment of silence. And it stayed dead quiet as the first strains of that National Anthem was sung. It was quiet right up until the “O’re the land of the free, and the home of the brave”, which elicited cheers from the crowd.
And then we were off! It only took me 3 minutes to cross the start line! I am never that close to the start.
I was running really well for maybe a half a mile, feeling really good, obviously since it was the start of the race. Then the road narrowed and, ugh, bottle neck. There was no where to go, so I had to slow down. They should have had a wave start instead of just the pace corrals. Eventually the bottle neck cleared a bit and there was a little more room to run, though the course remained crowded the whole race. But, it meant I started slower than planned and over the next several miles was about 30 seconds off of my planned pace.
Pretty soon, we headed into a tunnel. They had two drummers in the tunnel so the echoes of the drums and the cheering were pretty cool, although I wondered why they were placed so early in the course. But we actually ran through the tunnel on the way back near mile 11, and they were a real motivation then.
The first water stop presented another logistical problem. It was difficult to actually get the water! I think, especially in the first water stop, they had enough water, just not enough people to hand it out for the amount of runners coming by. This remained a problem throughout the course. At one water stop I actually stopped and waited for the single volunteer to fill up a cup with Nuun. Eventually, I started walking through the stops in part to make sure I got enough fluid. I know that it is often a strategy to walk the water stops, but I don’t like to if I can help it. Walking, even if only to get the water, makes it harder for me to start running again.
They were handing out Shot Blocks at mile 4, and although I tried to get some (really they were more like half packs), the crowded course meant I missed them. Glad I brought my own nutrition! Part of my strategy was to take in more nutrition and earlier than I would normally like in an effort to keep my energy up in the later miles. So instead of getting the Shot Blocks and then the water, I missed the nutrition, drank the water, and then took a gel. That left me feeling a bit thirsty.
At this point, I pulled out my phone and asked Ron where he was. He hadn’t told me where he would be on the course, and I don’t think he even looked at the map before race morning… and even then he left it in the hotel room. He said he was trying to get to mile 5 or 6. I told him to go to 6 as I was about half a mile from 5. I knew he had Gatorade and water, so I told him I was having trouble at the water stops and was thirsty.
Mile 6 is also when you enter Hains Point. I knew that part of the course would be tricky for me. I take it that DC races use this park a lot and its not very spectator friendly. So it’d be a dead part of the course… and also the point where I started struggling in all of my long runs. It turns out this race was no different. Although I had kept up a pace just slightly slower than my 2:15 goal (thanks to the congested first mile) through the halfway point, it became clear I was going to have a hard time keeping it up. This is where longer tempo runs would have been a good training move, but you live and learn. I started walking more often, though I tried to keep the breaks short.
I hadn’t seen Ron at mile 6 and knew he wouldn’t be in the park. I’ll admit that this bummed me out. I was mad at myself for not asking him where he was going to see me before the race, and annoyed he hadn’t looked at the map before hand. At some point, I heard my phone get a text message, but it took me awhile to pull it out. The message said only, “see you at mile 10”. Mile 10? I sent back that he was fired from spectating. Actually, I think this is preferable to him anyway since he’d rather be running any day of the week than watching me run. Not that he isn’t supportive, he’d just rather be participating as well!
But anyway, I eventually got out of the park and the crowds were awesome and just the boost I needed. They were thicker than they had been at any other point on the course. I was wearing a Pitt shirt and people started calling it out. I’d give a whoop or lift my arm when I heard them, but I think I missed half of them. And I did, in fact, see Ron just after mile 10. He tried to hand me some sport beans, but I grabbed the Gatorade from him. I was so thirsty! But it is a double edged sword because if I drink too much it sits like a brick in my stomach. Which is, unfortunately, what happened. As soon as I passed him, Ron took off running. I thought he was just going to run up a bit farther on the course and maybe take a picture. I was going to give him the Gatorade back because it was really too big for me to carry for another 3 miles. But no, as I started climbing back to the tunnel, he was running somewhere else. So, feeling guilty, I ditched the half full bottle on the side of the road.
After the tunnel, we started heading toward the Capital. For some reason, I remembered the course as just a turn around, so I thought I was closer to being done than I really was. The trip around the Capital seemed interminable and I also developed a side stitch which made taking anything more than short gasps painful. I really wanted to finish strong and run the last mile but had to keep walking out the side stitch. Finally, I saw the finish line ahead and picked up the pace. Looking at my watch, I thought I still had a chance of breaking 2:20. But that finish line was deceptive! It was much farther away than I realized. I ended up crossing in 2:21:04. So I missed my A and B goals… but that’s OK, because there were the Tiffany’s boxes, and then Ron was there, telling me he was proud of me.
I told Ron I was going to check out the Finisher’s Boutique and see what else was in the finish area. And there was yet another line! It was just more clothes and it said it was open until 1:30, so I decided not to wait in line. They had a picture area set up, but no photographers. Since I was alone with no one to take my picture, I didn’t stop. I did check out the results tent, hoping maybe my official time would be a little faster than my Garmin time, but no dice. I walked through the stretching tent, but didn’t stop. Then I went back in search of Ron. We had neglected to pick a meeting spot (oops), but he’d told me he’d walk along the finish line and wait for me at the Finisher’s Boutique when I told him I wanted to check it out. It didn’t take too much to find each other again. We went back out to the course to wait for my sister and to cheer her and other runners on. When we finally spotted her, I ran out to her and ran her most of the way to the finish. She was hurting!
We walked back through the finish area (it wasn’t closed off), stopping to take some pictures this time, and actually stretching in the stretching tent. By the time we did all of that, the line to the Finisher’s Boutique was shorter, so we got in line. We still waited an hour plus to give Nike more money. What can I say. I bought their hype this weekend. Then finally we hobbled back to the hotel to clean up.
We went to brunch at a restaurant called Lincoln, across the street from our hotel. Let me just say, I highly recommend it. It was crowded and crazy, but also a fun atmosphere. I got bottomless Bellinis, Ron got a beer, and Katie got a cocktail. And when the cocktail was taking forever to come out, our waiter brought her another free drink that had been extra. Oh yeah, there was also a DJ. Overall, just a really great way to celebrate the race!
Nike Women’s Marathon Half – DC
Race Date: 4/28/2013
Finish Time: 2:21:04