Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half-Marathon Race Recap

Well, that was unexpected.

As you know, I didn’t go into this race with many expectations. I just wanted to have fun, enjoy the course and run pain-free. I did all three, and managed to nab a new PR in the process. I’ll take it!

But let’s rewind a bit. I traveled into D.C. alone because Dustin couldn’t get out of work early, and after grabbing my bib and checking into my hotel, I met up with Ashley, Theodora, Beth, Laura and Caitlin for dinner at Sette Osteria. Dustin got in shortly after I got back to the Phoenix Park Hotel, which is basically the cutest, most quaint little hotel I’ve ever stayed in. We were right above a super popular bar, which ended up getting quite rowdy for St. Patrick’s Day. People were getting ready to drink when I was heading to the race at 6:30am!

After a quick blog post to fill you all in on my race goals, Dustin and I grabbed a cab to the start line. It wasn’t too cold out, so we opted to stay outdoors, close to the port-o-potties in case I needed to take care of um…business. In our down time, he decided to take my camera for a test drive.

A lot of people wore full-blown St. Patty’s Day outfits, which I loved. I decided to don green and gold to celebrate the holiday and represent my alma mater — Oswego State! — the Lakers were in the NCAA Division III National Championship game Saturday night and this was my way to cheer ’em on! Unfortunately they fell to St. Norbert, but I’m still proud to be a Laker 🙂

My outfit included:

I was pretty close to the front, in corral 10 out of more than 20, so I got to the start fairly quickly. I like the wave-start a lot and since I was at the front of the corral, I managed to toe the line before we were released. That’s always a lot of fun. Or maybe I’m just a nerd and it’s only fun to me. Who knows.

My first three miles were relatively quick, but my legs felt tight. I concentrated on not pushing too much from the adrenaline because I heard the hills in the second half of the race sucked and I didn’t want to be exhausted by then. Before I knew it, I cruised a downhill, turned a corner and saw Dustin for the first time!

This was the first time Dustin’s ever seen me race and it was so awesome seeing him throughout the course. I love having people I know in the crowds cheering!

And I love that he managed to snap the Capitol building in the background as I ran by. He says he did not do this on purpose. Luck of the Irish!

I found my groove shortly after mile 5 and just enjoyed the scenery around me. I loved running past the Washington Monument the most. I have a tendency to black out the actual course when I’m running, so I wanted to try to remember as much as I could. D.C. can be pretty, especially with all of the cherry blossoms. It’s going to be even better in a few weeks, I’m sure.

The hills started in the second half of the race, particularly at mile seven — that one was a little biatch and my legs didn’t enjoy it. Did I walk a bit? You betcha. I told myself it was OK to walk, especially because I wasn’t going for a PR. My knee still wasn’t experiencing any pain and even though it was St. Patty’s Day, I didn’t want to push my luck too far. I walked less than 1/10th of a mile, but the little break felt nice before I picked it back up to get to the top.

Luckily, I spotted Dustin one more time around 8.5 miles, right by Howard University. I had just gone up a beastly hill and was shaking my legs out on the downhill, not paying attention at all. I saw a guy holding up a little sign out of the corner of my eye, then realized it was Dustin! Apparently he made a little sign at work to surprise me, but didn’t whip it out the first time he saw me because he wasn’t expecting me. I was so happy to see him, I ran off course for a quick kiss before moving on.

The camera died right before he saw me, so he shot that video on his phone instead. Win for multimedia!

The rest of the race course was kind of boring and my mind started to check out. It also got really warm — it was around 50 degrees when we started and I could tell it was much warmer by then. When I checked the weather right after I finished, it was 75…I’m glad I was extra careful about hydration heading into the race. I ended up taking my shot blocks one at a time, but I took them early and often (miles 4, 7, 10) to keep my energy high and took at least one cup of water, sometimes two, at every station.

Mile 10 was when I realized I could actually PR at this race. I glanced down at my watch and was hitting around 1:38, so if I was 10 minutes or under for the remaining miles, I could pull it out (my last PR was 2:10.03). I had been ranging between 9:20 and 9:45-minute miles, so I was confident and decided to push it. The next two miles were fine, but by the 13th I just wanted it to be over. You hit 13 miles and don’t even see the finish line because there’s a big hill you have to climb! Whoever decided that was the best way to end this course is not cool. Not cool at all.

Unfortunately, Dustin didn’t see me finish because well, I beat him there. Ha! But I happily crossed the finish line, accepted my medal and new PR, then immediately downed a banana and chocolate milk. It was the best-tasting milk I’d had in a long time.

Overall, I think this was a fun but tough race. The hills were worse than I was expecting them to be, but there were also some nice downhills and flat roads with pretty scenery. Unfortunately, a lot of D.C. is under construction right now, so that detracted from the ambiance a bit, but what are ya gonna do. This was the first year Rock ‘n’ Roll/Competitor Group took over this race, and although I’ve heard horror stories about their races, I think they did a decent job for those of us running the half. There was plenty of water/Gatorade at each station, the bands were cool throughout the course, and we got out of the finisher’s chute fairly quickly.

My one complaint? The lack of port-o-potties throughout the course. I was nervous about needing to stop and kept an eye peeled just in case, but the options were few and far between. And the ones I did see always had long lines because there was only one or two. If anyone was trying to PR and ended up needing to stop for a quick bathroom break, I think their hopes would be dashed. Hopefully RnR will be able to improve on this soon.

Now I’m even more stoked to go after that 2:00 or sub-2:00 in Nashville! I’ve got some more work to do (umm, hi hills), but I think I can get there!

Did you race this weekend? Send me your recaps! Or did you spectate? Tell me about your favorite signs. My favorite one on this course read, “Run like Phoebe! Just have fun!” I’m a sucker for anything FRIENDS.

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Posted on March 18, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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