I participated in the Rock n Roll USA half marathon on Saturday. I honestly don’t know how this happened! One minute I was saying how I wouldn’t run a RnR race and then next thing I knew, I was looking at the registration confirmation email! I think I have a variant form of automatic writing that only targets race registrations 🙂
As you know, I have been dealing with plantar fasciitis and training for my first triathlon. Because of this, I have not run any “long” or “fast” miles since… November. All of my training runs have been “zone 2” (low heart rate) which means I’ve been exceedingly and excruciatingly slow. I’ve been riding and swimming so my aerobic level is good but it’s not exactly the same. This is not a good set up for your first half marathon of the year. Just finishing this race in one piece quickly became worry #1.
Worry #2 popped up when I finally started reading reviews from last year’s race and saw some appalling reports about the water stations and finish line aid. I decided rather last minute to wear my CamelBak and bring everything with me. There were also gear check problems last year but it sounded like this year would be smoother as they hired UPS trucks to handle the gear instead of school buses (WTF?!). So, even though I had not run with my pack since early October, I decided it would be a good idea.
I stopped by the Armory around 10:30 on Friday morning, as my usual routine for DC races. It wasn’t crowded at all and, even though there were many vendors, everything seemed rather quiet and subdued. The bib and shirt pickup was actually below the main floor (didn’t know that was there!) and took all of two minutes. My only quibble was they didn’t give me pins (have plenty at home!) or the zip tie if I wanted to check a bag. I guess they were at another station. All runners received a nice shirt, either unisex or women’s cut, and a fabric gear drawstring bag that could be used at bag check. I risked it and chose a large women’s cut shirt and it looks good – sometimes they look like babydoll tops!
The start was at 7:30, north the the Washington Monument. I decided to metro in while some of my friends purchased a parking pass which allowed them to park at the finish at RFK Stadium. They still had to metro to the start so it was about the same time. I also managed to score a Brooks VIP Potty Pass for basically free from my local running store. I stopped by the LRS at 6:30 on Friday night and they had a ton of passes leftover and were giving them away. Score!! Double bonus as some friends were working the VIP area so a bunch of us just hung out there until it was time for the corral line-up. If you ever get a chance to get one of the passes, I highly recommend it! Running water, real toilets, HEAT, and nice little amenities. Why yes, I would like some TUMS, just in case! For those who weren’t lucky enough to get the special treatment, there was a huge row of port-a-pots lining the street near the UPS trucks. I didn’t see the lines but it sounds like it was an adequate number.
There were a ton of corrals, combining both the full and half distances, and it was a wave start. I moved back several corrals to be with friends so we didn’t pass the starting line until 8:10.
It was DC. There’s only so much you can say. The start was nice, with the monuments. We ran out to Arlington Cemetery and then back to the Kennedy Center. Up Rock Creek Parkway to Adams Morgan. Past Howard University and then to RFK. The hill at mile 6 was really long and not pleasant. Some spots on the course were really lonely and not very stimulating, visually, but what do you expect of NE DC? My favorite was seeing the guy who dresses up at Mr. Incredible and plays his boom box on Rock Creek Parkway. I saw him a few times last year and just love his enthusiasm! Some people had make-shift aid stations set up and one guy had beer and sausages! I appreciated the sentiment but I almost gagged on the smell! Oy!
There were many water/Gatorade stations but I was glad I had my own water. The first ones were having a hard time keeping up with demand but the later ones seemed better organized. My big beef was the cups! Some stations used paper Dixie cups but others used big, plastic SOLO cups! Those things are definitely a hazard, especially after being squashed and broken (because runners seem to be unable to hit a trash can…) There was also a station offering GU and they seemed to have a good supply. There were some port-a-johns along the course but they all had HUGE lines. We passed a construction site by Howard and lot of runners even took over their construction johns!
Thanks to the help of a friend keeping me moving the first eleven miles and some minor miracle, I managed to finish in exactly 2:25, just a hair over an eleven minute pace. I still don’t know how I managed that! It was a 13 minute PR from my time at least year’s Historic Half! I briefly entertained 2:20 but mile 11 was a struggle for me.
The finish was well organized. I somehow managed to try to run down the marathon chute rather than the half but they didn’t move over until after I hit the last mat so I appreciated that. There were several photo ops and plenty of food and drink for everyone. Chocolate milk, chips, pretzels, and clementine oranges. I did not see a first aid station at the finish but there was a huge tent at the other end of the parking lot. I also didn’t see any port-a-johns (which I needed). There was a band playing but not a lot of people were listening to them. There were also several vendors set up but I just wanted to get back to the metro and head home. I really appreciated the foil blanket they gave us because my temperature quickly dropped and I would have been a sad panda, indeed, if I hadn’t had it!
As for using the pack, I’m glad I was self supporting but I am still paying for it. My shoulder and back are still very sore because I was carrying it unbalanced the last few miles. I couldn’t raise my left arm on Sunday and had to resort to prescription pain meds and it managed to kick off a migraine. Not good.
I would give the race a B+. Some parts were well organized and some needed help. It appears that they did make a lot of improvements over 2013 so I think 2015 will be even better. I would not be adverse to running this race again but I would definitely try to do early bird pricing or some other deal because this wasn’t a cheap one! I would also still bring my own aid, but maybe after I had adjusted to using a pack again!
What I Wore
Athleta compression shorts, t-shirt, Buff band, gloves (which were removed at mile one but carried along because I’m a little nutty), wool socks, and Asics Gel Nimbus shoes. I also carried my CamelBak Annandale (which is now super cheap, if you want one!) and consumed two HUMA Chia Gels. I also had a “fat” sweatshirt that I wore until the start and tossed in the corral. The race crew collected the discarded clothes for the local homeless shelters.