Last month, I ran my 10th half marathon, Rock n Roll DC. I knew this race would be special and had been looking forward to it. This race was my first full marathon 2 years ago, and this year it was my dad’s first half marathon! I was so excited to run together and share this memory with him. He had been training and runs faster than me, but we decided to run this race together. Running with someone slightly faster than me, even though he tried to match my pace, helped me push a little harder than I would have by myself.
Going into this race, I had very low expectations and virtually no pressure on myself to perform. I took a little bit of a hiatus from training in late January/early February and was truly expecting to run somewhere between a 2:25-2:20 half marathon (10:30-11:00 pace). However, I felt better than I expected and I hit a pr!
One of the things I loved about this weekend was that my parents figured out all the logistics for Rock n Roll DC, and for that I thank them. I despise dealing with the stress and the details of race morning in a city that I’m unfamiliar. We made a last minute decision to pay for parking in a lot by the finish, which was the best $16 investment I’ve seen in a long time.
The weather was frigidly cold. Even though it was cold, I had a hard time deciding what to wear. I ultimately decided on thick tights (but not thermal), a thermal long sleeve crew, and my special race tank. For this race, I also wore sunglasses, gloves and an ear warmer headband, and brought a regular headband in case I got hot. To keep warm, I had a throwaway fleece, but since my mom was on spectating duty, I was able to wear my warmer coat until right before we got into the corral which made a huge difference (thanks mom!)
We parked and took the metro to the start area. We had some time, so we hit the porta potties and posed for a few photos. I took a gel about 20 mins before the start and we did a short warm-up jog before jumping in the corral. After the national anthem, we were off!
Miles 1-4: 10:39/10:10/10:26/9:39
It was cold and I tend to start out a little quick when it’s really cold. That, combined with the flatness of the first few miles, meant that I was going faster than I anticipated. I checked in with myself several times during these miles, but I really truly felt ok, so I just rolled with it. I took off my throw away layer during mile 3. At the end of mile 4, I knew that a PR could be in my day, but told myself I needed to see how I felt on the back half before getting too excited. I took my first gel around mile 4.
Miles 5-9: 9:34/9:45/10:20/9:46/9:13
Miles 5 and 6 were pretty uneventful, but I started mentally preparing myself for the hill at mile 7. I remembered this hill from the full course and knew that it was a beast. This year, they had Wear Blue Run to Remember out on the course again, and they were so incredibly motivating! We ran up the hill with no walking, but we did slow down a little. At the top of the hill I slowed a bit to recover. My legs felt weak and burnt out, so I just tried to focus on getting to the next water stop where I would take a gel. The gel, combined with a long downhill, helped me recover and get ready for the final push.
Miles 10-13.1: 9:07/9:14/9:17/9:07
I really felt my lack of training during this final stretch. My legs were tired, but I just kept pushing. There were a lot of hills which started to wear on me. My dad asked how I was feeling, and I told him I was tired but okay. I knew a PR could happen if I kept pushing. As we neared the finish, we spotted my mom and then entered the finisher chute. I tried so hard to give a final kick, but I was spent! My effort got the job done…I finished in 2:09:22, a slight PR of about a minute!
I really enjoyed the Rock n Roll DC Half, as did my dad. We both had fun running together and the crowd support was awesome. In fact, we already signed up for another half marathon in September, and already registered! Depending on how things go there, we are also tossing around the idea of doing a full marathon together in 2018.
As far as my surprise performance, I have so many mixed thoughts. I must admit one thought that creeped into my mind was “what could I have done if I had trained?”, but I quickly pushed that out of my mind. I was burnt out from training and needed the break, and I know that. Without the break, I wouldn’t have been able to get back into a good training routine and get ready for marathon training.
This race did confirm few things though. First, I am totally a cold weather runner. I perform so much better in cold than even mildly warm temps. I prefer 40s, and it was in the 20s, but I know the cold air helped my performance.
Secondly, every race I’ve run in since getting my inhaler has exceeded my performance expectations. I only use my inhaler in training for hard workouts or if the air quality is bad (humid, pollen, etc). Getting diagnosed with exercise induced asthma and treating it has been a game changer.
Finally, taking the pressure off myself and starting out controlled and relaxed has been so helpful, and it and allows me to really find the right pace for that day. This is a lesson I’m hoping to carry into the rest of my races this year.
The race was great and I’d totally recommend it. The logistics could have been complicated but it all went smooth. The course is beautiful, as is the shirt and the medal. We may be back again another year!