Last week, I mentioned that I’d be heading to DC to run a half marathon this past Saturday…and believe it or not, that actually happened. After waiting over an hour in a chilly wind for Megabus to leave NYC, I survived the trip to DC and was greeted with some spring-like weather and views of the Capitol Building. Since I didn’t feel like getting on public transportation again, I walked the two-ish miles to the DC Armory, where the expo was. I forgot how pretty DC and how it’s a smaller, quieter city than NYC. And I kind of liked it that way. (The warmer weather probably helped…)
The expo was a bit…meh. I picked up my number and walked around, but with no one to walk around with and no plans to meet anyone…it was fairly uneventful. So I picked up my bib and tshirt (which everyone seemed to be wearing at the expo…I do not understand) and headed on my way. Jess, who I asked to stay with for the race, asked if I’d be interested in going to a Maryland-Duke game watch on Friday night, as the ACC tournament was still going on. And this is why I wished Jess and I were friends back in college…we both went to Maryland, but we didn’t “met” until later through the blog world. We met in Bethesda with some of her friends (and big Maryland crowd!) to watch Maryland BEAT DUKE and eat some pizza to carb load. Life is good.
The game ended around 9-ish, leaving plenty of time to get set up for the night on an air mattress and get to bed for an early morning. Jess and I chatted about the blog world, Crossfit (she loves it), and life in general before turning in for the night. I was definitely nervous about the morning since I haven’t raced in a long time, so it’s been awhile since I’ve done the whole race morning routine. But, of course, I pinned my bib on my shirt and put the D-tag on my shoe…and fretted over what to wear in the morning since it was threatening to be 40 and raining. Not ideal. I laid out the basics:
Next up…sleep. I had been doing one of my “I only sleep for four hours at time” deals from messed up night shift sleep, so I tossed and turned a bit, but was able to get some sleep…which isn’t too bad considered the 5:15am wake-up call! Jess’s roommate happened to be doing the half as well…which was convenient since, although the Metro opened early for the race, the red line (the one we needed!) was partially closed for work. Great. Thankfully, her boyfriend drove us to a stop where the Metro was working again, and we were golden.
The first thing I did upon getting to the starting area was make a beeline for the portopotty to change from capris into shorts…it was a warm morning! I walked around a bit to get the lay of the land and ended up running into Darian, a guy who played trombone with me in the band at Maryland…small world! Next stop was bag check where I handed off everything except a throwaway and my water bottle before heading to the starting line with about thirty minutes to go.
I wanted to make one more stop at the bathroom, but the lines everywhere (they have about five bathrooms for every two corrals…) were huge, and there were no bathrooms in the first two corrals. Fail, fail…so I told myself I just didn’t have to go. (Wrong answer.) After hanging in the corral for a bit, I saw Benny and Josh in their matching USA singlets. Soon enough, Molly and Jessica, my nuun counterparts, showed up in the corral and it was great to see them! (ReNUUNion, anyone??) We had similar goals for the race (sub-1:30), but mostly chatted about having to go to the bathroom, oops.
With only a couple minutes before the gun went off, I looked off to the side and spotted a familiar looking face wearing a Purdue shirt…it was Michael, a guy who took the bait on our “PRing in Kisses…support the cause!” signs in Boston this past year. Such a small running world this is…we caught up for a few seconds before wishing each other luck as the corrals started to go off.
Sorry for writing the longest reports ever. ONTO THE RACE.
I really had no idea what to expect out of this race…I’d been feeling under the weather for at least a week, and work has been crazy so I’ve been extra tired. Running has been to have gone down the tubes (minus long runs, I can rock those…), and speed work hasn’t been exactly…speedy. But you have to try anyway, so I figured I’d just go and see what happens. The “plan” (which I always, always throw out the window upon crossing the starting line…fail) was to start at seven minute pace and drop from there. My nuun counterparts fell off pretty quick as they made bathrooms stops, so I was on my own.
I have no idea what I’m doing.
Miles 1-6: I don’t really like running to my watch, so I tried to keep a pace that was fast yet comfortable. The first mile came in at 7:03 (with some weaving throughout people), then I settled into a pace around 6:40-ish. I will say that I felt great, but I will also say that my mental game isn’t there…I don’t think I’m fast enough to be holding that kind of pace for this long of a race. The number 6:XX for long periods of time scares me, but the course was pretty flat at this point I felt good, I kept telling myself I didn’t have to go to the bathroom, and the miles seemed to click off. I remember running over a bridge then immediately back, then along a road that I think I ran on during the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in college (also where ONE…yes, just ONE spectator was standing), then through Rock Creek Park.
The spectator scene was a bit dismal…or I just have racing tunnel vision and didn’t have anyone to look out for. But the few spectators I remember passing weren’t cheering at all, and there’s nothing I hate more than people who come out to cheer and just stand there until they see their racer. At least clap or something. (I’m mean, sorry.)
I had studied the elevation chart and knew that a climb would be happening from miles 4-7. If there was a climb at miles 4-6, I sure didn’t notice it and my pace didn’t notice it much either. I kept thinking to myself that maybe this race will go well and that I just needed to get to about mile 6.5 (the halfway mark), and I’d be golden. I finally settled into about 6:50 (sub 1:30) pace and was ready to tuck in and go.
Splits: 7:03, 6:36, 6:41, 6:36, 6:47, 6:51
I would like to start off the discussion about mile 7 by starting with the elevation chart.
Each line there is 75 feet, making the elevation profile not look that bad. THIS ENTIRE THING IS A LIE. Once we crossed the marker for mile 6, you go up. Straight up. Pretty sure 90% of the climbing in mile 7 is in the first 0.2 miles. I know this because the 10k marker was at the top of the hill. Those 0.2 miles felt like forever and like I was climbing a mountain. I slowed down so much and wanted to lay down and roll back down the hill.
That hill…sucked out my entire soul and my desire to run the rest of the race. Not to be dramatic or anything.
I’m not the strongest hill runner, and I’m pretty sure no one looked back at that hill and thought it was easy…but geez. It really killed me. My stomach felt off at the top of it, and I wanted a bathroom. So I found a lone portopotty on the side of the road and made a stop. I can’t say I really cared that much about being quick since, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, that hilled killed my will to continue on.
PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, SUSAN. I moved along and tried to get back into it. I’m not sure I ever did.
Mile 7 split: 8:13. Gross.
My legs came around a little bit and I tried to put myself back together. Mentally, I just wasn’t there, and my thoughts kept getting to me. “You have run well in two weeks!” “Remember that half marathon pace workout you bailed on? You can’t do this!” I longed to be looking for a familiar face on the sidelines, hoping that maybe I’d notice someone from college or something who happened to be out. Nope. Nope. I was running by a guy in a Michigan singlet, so people were yelling, “GO BLUE!” which I deliriously took to mean they were cheering for me in my blue tank. Then I spotted the other guy. Oh well.
We might as well talk about the outfit while we’re here. I opted for shorts (I hate not racing in shorts…shorts give me that “I’m fast” feeling), a tank top, arm sleeves (second time wearing them, ha), and a visor. I only run in a visor when it might rain, as I like to keep the rain out of my eyes. The nice part is that the rain held off. I also had gloves that I ditched around mile 4. Overall, a good race outfit.
Back to running. The elevation profile (THAT LIES) said that this would be mostly downhill, which again was a lie as it was much more rolling than a downhill profile would seem to be. I somehow managed to pull up my big girl running shorts and get my head back into the game for these miles…at least the watch says so.
Splits: 7:00, 6:58, 6:48
And again, I take back everything I just said. Seriously doubts flooded me around this time, and I just couldn’t wait to be done. I thought about quitting, but that would be silly. I thought about how not going sub-1:30 meant a ruined Boston, that my training has been terribly lately, how can I run a marathon if I can’t even survive a half? My legs weren’t happy, my brain wasn’t happy, and I just didn’t feel like racing…which is really where you don’t want to be when you need to push it.
Not to mention the fact that I knew these first two miles here would be uphill. Remember that hill in mile 6? KILLED ME. This time, these miles were a slow incline with a little roll, and I even remember one girl around me saying, “AGAIN??” when we had to climb a smaller-ish hill. Fail, elevation chart, fail.
I’m pretty good at doing math on the run and knew that I needed to keep somewhat of a decent pace to not totally bomb this half. After some sub-par miles in the 7’s, for mile 13 I knew I’d be upset if I didn’t at least try to give it a little more…although admittedly I wasn’t feeling the hottest. We headed downhill a little bit for mile 13 and I picked up the pace. Goal being to get under 1:32.
I’ve never had a big kick at all (I’m a distance runner…), but at mile 13 I pushed it to the finish line…a girl was in front was in front of me and I’m sure she didn’t really care if she beat, but in my mind I needed to beat her so I made sure to get to the finish line before her. And I did.
Splits: 7:10, 7:20, 6:51, 0:45 (6:31 pace)
13.1 miles in 1:31:43, avg pace of 7:00
After the Finish Line
So, I crossed the finish line, pulled over to the side, and immediately dry heaved. I may have spit something up, I don’t really remember. The only race I’ve gotten sick after was my first marathon (Marine Corps), where about an hour after the race, I was nauseated and then vomited up everything in my stomach. And for some reason I decided to run more marathons, who knows. Anyway, I felt okay so I walked through the finishers’ area and gathered various food/beverages they were handing out. (Question: Why did they hand out the bag at the END of the food??)
I made my way over to baggage check where I ran into Josh, who crushed the half in 1:18. Nice work, buddy. I grabbed my baggage, called my parents who immediately asked if my back was okay (it was! Hooray!), listened to the bands play, realize I didn’t really know anyone in the area, then headed off to Jess’s apartment.
The Metro would have been very convenient, except they were doing construction on the red line, so I had to get on a shuttle bus for a few stops on the way to her apartment. This would have been fine, except my stomach was starting to feel a little off, and the bus system certainly isn’t as fast as the train would have been. I tried to distract myself and hold it in, but eventually I grabbed for a plastic bag in my checked bag and vomited on the bus.
I’m pretty sure that everything I had post-race and some of my breakfast came up, but luckily it all made it in the bag…which was ziploc, so that was nice and contained. (Hey Ziploc, want to sponsor me?? Just kidding…but really now.) I don’t know if anyone else on the bus noticed, but if they did, they didn’t say anything to me. (I’m fine, thanks for asking?) Eventually the bus made it back to where the Metro was working, so I deposited my goods in the garbage and took the final few stops back to Jess’s apartment.
Apparently I was white as a sheet when I walked in and explained the recent events to Jess, who was making her lunch. (Sorry…) I had to lay down for a bit since I was feeling terrible…and then excused myself and was sick again. (Worst visitor ever…) After laying down for a bit more, I convinced myself to shower, which made me feel a little better. Jess graciously offered me ginger ale and Saltines, which I cautiously took in. (Half a mini-can and three crackers seemed like a victory at the time…) I then passed out on the couch until Jess tapped on my shoulder and told me it was time to go.
Did I mention that I’m the best guest ever? Oops. I headed back to Union Station via the Metro (without the shuttle bus!) to get on Megabus, which only left ten minutes late, and I had an uneventful ride back to NYC…thank goodness. Many, many, many thanks to Jess for hosting me and for playing nurse…sorry for getting so sick and thank you again for letting me stay with you! (Go Terps! But not in the tournament this year, wahhh.)
Sure looks good on paper…
1) I am never racing in DC again. Apparently I only get sick when I’m in DC. And that was a miserable experience. My stomach still isn’t happy with me even days later. My victory food is usually burrito (best post-long run food EVER), and I haven’t been able to celebrate yet.
2) I PR’d, YAY! My previous PR was 1:33:55, so it was over a two minute PR. At the risk of sounding snobby (I did this in my Ocean Drive Marathon race report too…), I’m not all that happy. Of course, I’m excited that I PR’d…but I don’t run a ton of halves so it’s not like I had major goals to crush since I didn’t try all that hard for my last PR. I sound like a terrible person. Could I have run faster than what I did? I think so. Let’s revisit those splits:
Does anything stick out to you about those splits? I highlighted it for you. That hill was nasty, but I couldn’t bounce back from it fast enough and it definitely cost me. I also had a bathroom stop so that was maybe 30-40 seconds. But still. I let it get to me too much and it cost me some time. Those later splits in the 7’s could have been a little better, but over all it’s that mile 7 split that bothers me.
3) I’m not a good mental runner. Why would I write off an entire race based on one 0.2 mile section? If anything, a marathon runner should know that one run, one mile, one hill doesn’t make or break a race. I’ve been having running motivation issues lately, and I can’t quite figure out why…but it certainly didn’t help in this race. I know better than to throw a race out the window because of one little glitch, but I let it bother me the rest of the race. I know I can run sub-1:30 if I just slap myself in the face a little.
4) Don’t listen to elevation profiles. Or don’t even bother having one if they’re going to be grossly inaccurate. That’s snobby runner Susan talking. Sorry. (Also, I’m currently post-night shift. You all love my posts when I’m post-night shift.)
5) I need a race plan…and to stick with it. I don’t know why I do this, but I do it all the time. Obviously going out fast and holding on doesn’t work for me. My marathon PR pace is 7:35, and I’ve run 20 milers at 7:33 pace with plenty of gas left in the tank. This race clearly showed a positive split for multiple reasons. Someone tell me that negative splitting (or at least breaking almost even) works…
6) 7:00 pace?? Oh how I wish I ran 13 seconds faster so that would read 6:59.
7) Reading all of the above, I need someone to tell me to get a grip, focus on my training, trust in my training, and gear up for Boston. Big things can still happen, and I ran a fast race overall.
Annnnnd congrats to everyone who raced and PR’d this weekend, both at the half in DC and at the NYC half! Big weekend all around!