This past weekend I ran the half marathon race of the Rock n Roll DC series, and I am still in a little bit of shock about how well it went! Coming off a busy winter and kind of just “winging it” with my training runs and mileage, I set my expectations for this race low. Even so, I have always wanted to run a race through our nation’s capitol and the timing of this worked out perfectly. So I signed up a few months ago and was really excited for it.
We headed down on Friday after work. I drove down solo with my kids and we survived! I made sure of course they had lots to do and timed with some solid nap time we had a successful trip. My parents came down in their car with my niece who they were watching for the weekend while my sister and brother in law were at a wedding. We checked into our hotel in Crystal City and headed to the expo on the metro. My son is 2, so naturally he is obsessed with trains right now. It’s easy to say he was on cloud 9 all weekend taking the trains! The metro was perfect for getting to and from both the expo and race…especially with 2 toddlers and a 5 year old in tow.
When we got off the metro, we got in a pretty long line to get into the armory for the expo. Security was pretty tight, but understandable in that area. Once inside, I got my bib and shirt and we had about a half hour to explore the vendors before they were closing. Having done the rock n roll half in Savannah in the fall, my daughter knew right where she wanted to go…the Geico booth! She had made a sign for me at the last race and didn’t get to hold it up at the finish so she was looking forward to trying again for this race. So we couldn’t miss the opportunity. Both kids got a try to “spin and win” and she hit the jackpot…winning me a post race massage and tech shirt! Best kid ever!
I had wanted to wear something festive for the race since it was the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. One way I reduce my risk of clots is by running in compression socks. My personal favorite are PROcompression, and I was excited to get a pair of their Shamrock socks for the race! I packed them and was excited to find a great tech shirt at the Baysix USA booth to complete my race day outfit
By the time we got back to the hotel I needed to move after traveling all day. I get worried about blood clots, so I hopped on the treadmill for an easy 15 minutes. Mentally it helped a lot and then we ate dinner right at the hotel.
I got up around 530 for the race and went through my usual routine of coffee, breakfast, and some water…got dressed and headed to the start. I got down to 14th street around 645. The race did a great job with the way the porta-potties were set up and it was a very easy going group of runners waiting in line, which isn’t always the case! While I shivered in line, I saw some people wearing their foil blankets from previous races and planned to keep one on hand from now on…I thought it was a great idea.
I headed down to Corral 3, texted my husband a selfie since he wasn’t able to be there for the first time I’ve ran a half, and then stood and questioned whether I maybe should have warmed up a little or stretched. I have the worst pre-race habits when it comes to warming up! At any rate, the national anthem played, and the two groups ahead of me were off and running…
My corral was welcomed to the start line and after a quick countdown we started our race. I really like observing all of the different styles of racing people have at the beginning. Some sprint right off, some almost walk, and then there’s me. I am in a constant battle with myself to stay calm and not get caught up in all of it. I promised myself I would observe the sights and take it all in. And I really tried, but something takes over and I find watching other runners so interesting.
In the past year, I’ve really come a long way in how I stay within my own pace and have learned not to get caught up in the excitement of the start and people passing me and the competitiveness of it. This race in particular that wasn’t an issue for me. Within the first 3 miles we saw the Washington Monument, White House, Jefferson Memorial, and crossed over the Potomac on the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Right from the beginning I knew this course would be one of my all time favorites.
So within my corral was the first pace group (1:45). Last year I tried out running with a pace group and found that it was not for me. Too much pressure and thinking involved, although I think they are great for those who can use them. I mentally promised myself to stay behind that group since I was pretty sure I would not be beating my PR of 1:43 in this race and was happy to get under 1:50. I planned on keeping them within sight, and if I was feeling good after mile 10 then passing them. Somehow in the welcomed distraction of monuments and an energetic cheering squad as we ran around the base of the bridge, I was passing them right before mile 3. In my mind I was telling myself this was a huge mistake but I really didn’t feel that my pace was too fast so I went for it.
The next few miles seemed almost too easy. The vibe of this race and the other runners was contagious and I felt like I was just cruising along. They were a few steady hills but nothing crazy at that point. I started to think that maybe I was going to be able to have a good time and really found my stride. It was the fastest I had run in a really long time and even though I felt great I was pretty nervous about how my body was going to hold up.
Toward the end of mile 5 we were coming up on the “Blue Mile”. The street was lined with Blue signs that had pictures of members of the military who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It was a powerful tribute and pretty emotional. As we came around the curve we were met with an incredible sight. It was one of the steepest, longest hills I had ever climbed but that was nothing compared to the people standing on the curb, lining the hill each holding a large American flag. They were cheering us on, offering words of encouragement and high fives. To say it was motivating was an understatement. Just awesome, and I will never forget it.
As I mentioned, the hill was a huge challenge. My mile pace increased by almost a minute, and I was having a hard time catching my breath from both increased heart rate, and the emotional impact that mile had on me. I slowed down a little and got water at the next stop. Next thing I know, coming over my left shoulder was that darn 1:45 pacer! NO WAY. Those were the two words I said to myself (or maybe out loud). I had pushed through the first half of the race and had decided at that point to try and PR…and that was the wake up call I needed.
I took off. Like full sprint took off. Right then I knew how badly I wanted to see a new best time at the finish. So I committed to going for it. And then something happened to me that I had never done. I started coaching myself.
I have been a coach for over 10 years. Mostly swimming, but also track for a few seasons. I am constantly trying to say things to my athletes that will inspire them to believe in themselves as much as I believe in them. Then I hope they can be confident enough to believe what I know to be true. This time I was trying to convince myself. It was a little surreal but seemed to be working.
The second half of the race was really challenging. It was really hilly and I was definitely tired. But I felt strong and recovered well after each climb and I have since attested this to adding strength training into my daily routine this year. My body just felt stronger, and I ended up faster on the second half of the race.
As we passed the sign at Mile 13, I was just holding on and was with a few others who seemed to be fighting too. As I climbed the last hill I heard a whistle and someone yell out my name…I waved to my dad and was happy to know my kids were definitely watching mommy finish! I came around and saw the clock…1:43 something…now the math started and I needed to figure out what my chip time was. As I crossed it was turning to 1:44. My husband texted immediately (he had been following along with the real time tracking) and congratulated me. My fingers were frozen but I managed to text back and ask him what the time was…1:41! PR!
I still cannot believe I was able to do so on such a challenging course and in my first half since November but I am so grateful for it. The entire race experience was perfect.
I found my way through the finish, collecting lots of goodies and a foil blanket on my way to find my family. Once we were all together I was so happy to share the moment with my babies.
We headed over the post-race concert area, and my daughter reminded me she won me a massage! It was the first time I had one post race and it was amazing. After a few days since the race, I can say it definitely helped my recovery and look forward to doing that again as part of Team Geico.
I am really appreciative for the whole experience Run Rock and Roll gave my family and I. From the expo to the post race fun, I am looking forward to signing up for future races in this series! (Philly in the fall, anyone?)
This only made me more excited for the rest of the year!Next half is only a month away…