Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon

I don't even know where to start this blog post because I have SO many great things to say about Saturday's race.

First of all, I had SO many friends who were also doing it. Even if we didn't meet up at the race, I got to enjoy the pre-race Twitter and IRL conversations with everyone. Even MORE exciting was that this was Amanda and Alicia's first half marathon and I have so enjoyed watching them train and become strong, amazing runners over the past few months.

Bryan came into town from Chicago on Wednesday, and after track practice, we got to hang out at my place and chat. Thursday, we met up with Eliot and Alicia to hit the expo, pick up our bibs, and shop a little.

I picked up some more Sweaty Bands. If you need headbands for active use...this is your best bet. I know there are a lot of cheaper imitators, but don't be fooled. Pay the difference and I promise you won't regret it.

They have skull patterns. Clearly, I'm their target demographic.

Then we got dinner in Eastern Market. I had a bit of a snit regarding food and man, can I tell you that you learn who your real friends are when they tolerate you until you stuff your face with chips and salsa. Chadd met up with us for margaritas and dinner then we parted ways and I sat on the bike trainer for an hour. See also: dedication.

Saturday morning, we got up in enough time to use the metro...because my car was locked in the garage (awesome.) Thankfully, the metro was easy to navigate and despite an almost 20 minute wait, we wound up at RFK around 6:15 where we met up with Amanda. After the usual "I have to pee, wait, where did I put my timing chip, can you hold this gu pack?", we ran over to see Coach T so I could get a pep talk, a hug and a high five.

Then we jumped into the corral, and slowly moved forward as the wave starts were released.

Me and Bryan

Me and Amanda

This is the first of many times I'll say how well organized the Rock'n'Roll crew was. The corrals were clearly marked, the releases were adequately spaced out, and aside from slightly annoying announcers, it was a nice way to start the race.

I saw these compression socks while we were waiting...I need these:

The race was a beautiful course around DC - we went out to the Mall, up 18th Street, then on Connecticut and into Adams Morgan, then Columbia Heights, then down by Howard University, through NE into the Atlas District, then back to the stadium. Rolling hills through the course, which is my strong suit. I learned at Ragnar PA that I am an ace with rolling hills. Must be from all the spinning (shameless plug to come to my class). I also enjoy the feeling of cresting the hill and rolling's like mini accomplishments through a race and for me, a good mental check point.

Rolling hills. Lots of them! Source

The first few miles were kind of rough. I tried to stay with Bryan and warm up and get focused, but my mind was all over the place. My calves were in pain and I just wasn't feeling it. But around mile 3, I hit my stride, warmed up/woke up and got moving. Every mile from there out got easier (and faster!)

By the time I got to Chadd at Mile 6, I was feeling amazing. After a quick hug, I powered up the hill and enjoyed the bands, the crowds, the shot of green beer from the friendly spectators in Columbia Heights.

I saw Cyndi on H Street and waved hello frantically. I started to get distracted mentally around mile 9. I was having a good race, but for a split second, got off track, got lost in my thoughts and lost my way. Suddenly, the end felt far away, even though my normal weekend runs are around 13 miles. Then I remembered that Coach T was going to be just past the 12th mile marker. With renewed energy, I charged toward 12. I felt stronger and stronger and stronger and FASTER. I tried to slow myself down because I was afraid I was going to burn out, but I couldn't stop. I waved at Coach, then focused on a strong and controlled finish.

The Rock'n'Roll organizers did a great job with the bands and with the aid stations. Every aid stop was stationed just after the odd miles. I never wanted anything, never felt bored, and thought they did a great job with the course - especially helping people navigate the half/full split. The finish line was great and though it took a while to get out of the shoots at the end, it's only because they had a lot to offer.

I picked up water, gatorade, a banana, chocolate milk (!!), a bagel, a fruit cup, snicker's marathon bars, and had a finisher's photo taken twice. I didn't pick up the yogurt or the apples, but mostly because I was out of hands.

After I grabbed my foil blanket, I strolled out to the main stage and lay in the grass, stretching and waiting for Amanda. The music was blasting, the sun was out, and I got to enjoy my post-race feast. There is no better way to end a race than that, friends. Switchfoot played and though they're kinda meh on the radio/youtube, in person, they were a great post-race show.

Once I collected Amanda and Bryan, we headed to the beer tent.


In case you didn't know, I have a THING for Michelob Ultra. Marketing works well on me. I saw that series of "active people" commercials where all the hard working office folks hit the bar after a long run through the city, or a weekend biking in the mountains and went "oh, that's me! I too need Michelob Ultra."

Then, Michelob did something brilliant: they sponsored almost all of the major race beer tents in the US. You finish a race and boom, you get a Michelob. Pavlov's theory works very well with me.

Mmm beer. And a nifty banana belt.

Another cool thing that the Rock'n'Roll folks did, aside from awesome medals:
Was that they invited a medal engraver to the post-race area:
Even though it cost $20 - if you pre-made the medals for that to be engraved, I couldn't say no.

After we drained our beers, Amanda was awesome and drove us home. We all grabbed showers, then went to BGR and INHALED our food. I didn't even get the chance to take a picture of my burger. That good.

Of course, since it was St. Patrick's day, we met up later that night with Alicia and Eliot at a sports bar and were lucky enough to snag a table. Reed and some of his friends stopped by. A good time was had by ....I had such a great night, aside from how much I loved my outfit:

Every time I walked back to my table from the bar or the bathroom, I saw my boyfriend and my friends around the table. I had that cheesy realization that I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I commented at some point that it was just like being in a group of friends like How I Met Your Mother...and it was. Laughing, drinking, talking, and really enjoying each other's company. After a couple hours, we wandered down to Flippin Pizza then passed out.

I lay in bed, about to fall asleep and reviewed the day. 

My times:
Finish: 1:58:14
The paces beside them show that interval's pace (i.e. 5k = start to 5k pace, 10k = 5k to 10k pace)
5k: 30:13 (9:43)
10k: 58:11 (9:01)
10 mile: 1:31:43 (8:49)
Finish: 1:58:14 (8:52)

Aside from a 3 second slip in my last 5k, those are some gorgeous negative splits. I was the 4086th finisher of over 1600, putting me in the top 25% range. I ran under Eliot's name, so I haven't bothered to calculate my division stats, but those concern me less.

Those numbers are amazing for me for a couple reasons - I haven't been running this fast in training and I ran without a headset for the first time since my first marathon. 

I learned a couple things: 
- Running in an event with a lot of other friends is fun
- I have a hard time running with other people because I lose focus
- I will definitely run more Rock'n'Roll events
- Trust your training
- I love rolling hills
- I don't need music to love the run
- I have awesome friends

And that is an awesome Saturday.

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