Tuesday, March 29, 2011

National Half Marathon Race Report

Since I got rejected from the New York City Half Marathon this year, my boyfriend tried to cheer me up by taking a long weekend trip to DC for the National (Half) Marathon. We had a fabulous weekend filled with good foods, great drinks, and even better friends. But the race itself? Oy vey...where to begin.

Chilly but  beautiful weather in DC all weekend!

We landed in DC around 3 (thanks Amex rewards points!) and we were picked up right from the airport by our good friend. I was already getting anxious about packet pickup (I had read complaints on Facebook that there were 30+ minute lines during lunchtime) so we headed straight there. Luckily the crowds had died down and we had no problems getting in. Packet pickup was easy enough - I think I waited about 10 minutes for my bib. I noticed I was in corral 7, and was debating moving up a corral to reflect more recent race times, but the volunteer told me it was no big deal. Since I had two other non-runners with me who looked pretty bored, I decided to take her advice and skip another line.  Was pleased to see the shirt was a tech shirt and came in xs (which I'm sure they told me when I registered back in December, but honestly, who can remember those things?), but when I held it up to me, I realized it must of been men's sizes...the xs was swimming on me!

We then headed back to my friend's apartment so he could feed his dog, made a quick stop at Union Station so I could help him pick out a tie for a formal event he had the next day, then checked into the hotel and off dinner - Italian, of course! . Before I knew it was 8:30 pm, so I sent the boys off to the bar and headed back to the hotel so I could relax and settle in before my 5 am alarm the next morning.

I woke up in a daze (I am SO not a morning person) but to managed to eat a bagel and banana before heading down to the hotel lobby. The hotel had promised us there would be a shuttle running, but when I got down there, there was a big crowd, and sure enough, no shuttle. And it was FREEZING! Like, below 30 degrees. My watch said it was already 5:45 am so I was starting to get a little anxious - I asked a couple of people around me if they would be interested in just grabbing a cab. They were, so we 6 of us piled into one cab (hello sitting on the lap of new best friends) and headed straight to the race. Our cabbie was slightly crazy and drove like a lunatic, but he got us there in 20 minutes and avoided all the traffic. Which apparently was a very good thing, as I heard horror stories from runners barely making the start because of terrible traffic!

The race itself both started and ended at the DC Armory - which means we had a warm place to wait before heading to the corrals, and had real, non-portable, bathrooms to use - such a luxury, compared to other races. But unfortunately the clock stuck 6:40 am, and it was time to venture out into the cold.

I found my corral easily enough, and lined up. The race started a bit late, and then it took me about10 minutes to cross the start. I already started to feel guilty since I had told my boyfriend to make sure to be at the finish at 9 since I expected to come in bit over 2 hours - whoops, I guess he'll have to wait.

The first few miles were S-L-O-W.  I tried not to stress too much about the crowds, but I struggled to find my rhythm. I was definitely annoyed - I was trying to keep a 9:30 pace, but I was definitively closer to a 9:45 pace because of the crowded course. I started to regret not moving up after all. 

early, crowded miles by the mall
Mile 1 passed by, and I thought it was strange that I didn't see a mile marker. I had just assumed I missed it. Kept going, and the same thing started happening at miles 2,3,4 etc

Water stations were a hot mess - I think I had to wait for a cup practically every stop, which really threw off my rhythm to have to keep starting and stopping again. I like to run through water stations but that was virtually impossible with the set up.

At mile 4.5 I caught up with the 4:15 marathon pace group, and decided to hang with them for a bit. Unfortunetly there was a water stop coming up very quickly...so of course I lost them. Luckily, I had the crowds coming up at around 5.5 in Dupont Circle to give me some energy!

I knew to expect a slow, steady climb around 5-6, but it didn't really hit me until mile 6. I kept telling myself the downhill will come, but honestly, I don't even really remember it. I guess the climbs are more rememberable!

10k mark - it's a bit "Where's Waldo" to spot me
 I paced myself until mile 10 (where I saw my first actual mile marker) , and tried to kick it into high gear. Unfortunately, the race directors thought it would be a fab idea to set up the relay exchange point right next to the disastrous water stations right next to a point in the road where it got narrower.  There wasn't really much I could to do to avoid the crowds.

The last few miles were tough - mostly uphill. We got a great view of the Capitol on the climb around mile 11-12. I ended up finding the 4:15 pace group again, and passing them.

Still found the energy to smile in the late miles
 At mile 13, I knew were going to split from the marathoners, but was a bit confused on where to go. I just followed the crowds toward the stadium, and sure enough, I saw the finish line! I ended up crossing at 2:05:01, with a 9:33 pace. Not a PR, but a solid showing.

Crossing the finish!
 Getting through the finish line chute was completely chaotic  - I think it took me at least 20 minutes to get out of there. I barely got any water, and missed the finish line picture. I didn't take any food either - I was just so cold, I couldn't. I did manage to grab my heat sheet and correct medal (I heard others were not so lucky. ) I was very happy to make it over to the family reunion area where my boyfriend was waiting with my long Northface down coat!

We headed back to the hotel via metro. I immediately ran up to the hotel for a hot shower, and my boyfriend headed downstairs to grab me a hot chocolate and another bagel - he's the best! Then it was naptime before spending the rest of the weekend leisurely exploring the city.

Post-Race Cherry Blossoms!

 When it's all said and done, I did enjoy the race course itself  and the crowd support, and had an amazing weekend in general. I won't be back for this race next year, but if they fix all the issues, I would consider making the trip again in a few years.


Now I'm spending this week recovering, and then it's refocus my training. I have the Brooklyn Half Marathon coming up at the end of May - my first of the boroughs to get me into the NYC HM!

No comments:

Post a Comment