Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon race recap

Last year, the Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon was marred by torrential rainstorms. It put an enormous damper on the whole experience (literally and figuratively). I was hopeful for a much better outing this year. After all, conditions couldn't be much worse than last year, right?

I rode a meteorological roller coaster during the ten days leading up to race day. Thankfully, race-day weather conditions ended up being just about perfect - temps in the upper 40s and overcast.

On race morning, I was up at the crack of dawn to catch a Metro bus and train to the starting area. Check out this beautiful sunrise outside of Vanitha and Asheesh's apartment:
There were other runners waiting at the bus stop with me. I had an enjoyable chat with one other woman who was also running the half. Other runners around me were all talking like age-old friends upon first sight. It's so true that all runners are friends we just haven't met yet. Love it!

I arrived at the Federal Triangle Metro stop and started making my way over to the start village. Here's a telling view of the Washington Monument on Rock N Roll race morning:
The portapotty lines were enormous and slow. I waited for about 20-25 cold minutes.

Afterwards, I made my way to the start line. The corrals weren't being enforced, so I elected to jump into a slightly earlier corral and get moving.
Starting line next to the EPA building
About 20 seconds after crossing, one of the pace leaders yelled out, "Great job, guys! We've got less than a marathon to go!" This made several folks chuckle. It's all about perspective, yes?

I reveled in the stunning memorials and landmarks we were passing along the course.
The Lincoln Monument near the 3-mile marker
I didn't have time goals for this race, but I was running a decent pace. I hit the 5K mark in 31:20, which was a 10:06 pace. Part of me debated trying to push it. Then I reminded myself of the giant hill mid-course, plus all the photos I would want to take along the course. Cue the lyrics from that Eagles song: "Take it easy, take it easy, don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy..."
Running past the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
I thought the "No Pedestrian" sign was a funny race-day contrast. =)
The next part of the course took us into Rock Creek Parkway. This was one of my favorite parts of the course for its lush greenery along a riverfront.
This picture so does NOT do the scenery justice.
I was mentally bracing myself for Calvert Hill, which I knew was coming around Mile 6 or 7. At the same time, I was also curious to see if all my hillwork would make a noticeable difference.

The Wear Blue to Remember organization puts up pictures of fallen soldiers stations folks prior to and along Calvert Hill. Folks stand holding American flags on both sides of the course. It was an emotional experience and made me think of Amy and her connections to the group. Several runners were touching every picture along the way. I tried to high-five as many of the flag-holders as I could.
The Wear Blue to Remember folks with their flags preceding Calvert Hill
I successfully ran up about 80% of the hill before giving in and dropping down to a walk. I could have run more of it, but didn't want to trash my legs too much at that point. Last year I think I ran only about half of the hill with a lot of effort - so this year felt like a win!

I hit the 10K mark in 1:04:35 (which definitely reflected the walking I did on Calvert Hill).

The course next wound through Adams Morgan. The spectators were fantastic. There were so many people in costume, holding up funny signs, playing music, offering us everything from grilled meat to doughnut holes to champagne shots. (Seriously, they had a pile of empty champagne bottles sitting on the ground nearby - I wish I had taken a picture!) I saw a man and his toddler daughter both handing out plastic cups filled with margaritas. This made me chuckle.

Here are a few spectator pictures:
Vanitha and her Batala drumming group were stationed at Mile 8. As I approached, I could hear the drums in the distance gradually getting louder and louder, which gave me energy. Vanitha's group was stationed at the bottom of a hill so I had an excellent view of them as I was approaching. What a boost it was to see her!!!
I saw a number of military folks running in and/or with their gear. Here is a snapshot of one:
Around the 9-mile mark, volunteers handed out Glukos drink packets and gummies. I know you're not supposed to try anything new on race day, but I didn't feel like going through the effort of digging a GU out of my runner's belt. Living dangerously, I went ahead and opened up a Glukos packet. Unfortunately, my hands were slippery so I had trouble opening it. Then I struggled mightily to get the contents out. ARGH.

The next part of the course included a view of the U.S. Capitol (undergoing renovations, unfortunately). I had completely missed seeing the Capitol building during last year's race, so this was awesome. What a privilege to be running in the shadows of such an important landmark!
The U.S. Capitol Building adorned with scaffolding
I hit the 10-mile mark in 1:44:03. Fatigue, both mental and physical, started hitting around Mile 10.5.

At that point, the course was running through neighborhoods with rolling hills. My quads and hamstrings were livid. I didn't remember those hills from the prior year. Maybe the rain made everything so rough last year that all I could remember was being miserable, period?
I think this was around Mile 11.
During those last few miles, my mind was pretty blank other than noticing almost everyone was turning off at the half marathon split. I always think about how brutal that must be for the full marathon runners. Yikes!

The final stretch of the course was uphill. I gritted my teeth and tried to look only at the finish line banner. I didn't even try to kick it at the end.

My official time was 2:16:26. Yay for beautiful race medals!
My results were an improvement from last year, especially since I ran straight through in 2015 without taking pictures. However, I was pretty wiped out considering I hadn't run anywhere near goal pace. Those hills ended up taking a much bigger toll on me than expected, too. Looks like I still have a lot of work to do in preparation for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. But we'll take it one day at a time, yes?

New this year, the Rock N Roll DC organizers made a changing tent available post-race. YES! Last year I also had to wait a good hour in the rain before I could get onto a Metro train. This year I was on a Metro train in 5 minutes. Even more gratitude!

I met back up with Vanitha. We had a tasty post-race meal at a cute local restaurant called Teaism.
In summary, my experience at Rock N Roll DC was infinitely better this year than last year! Thanks, Mother Nature!

All in all, the weekend was a really fun time. Shout out to my long-time friend Imran, who we got to catch up with later that night with tons of laughs and stories. It was also awesome to spend time with Sarah, Dina, and Jamie. Last but not least, my huge thanks go out to Vanitha and Asheesh for being such wonderful friends and hosts.

Life is good - and it's even better when you have great friends to share it with. =)

My next race: the Shamrock Shuffle on April 3

34 comments:

  1. Boxing bananas? I love it!!

    Hey - if you keep in contact with Amy, tell her I can't read her site anymore. I was hoping I'd see her at the TC 10 mile and marathon, but she privatized her blog before the race and I never got to find out how she did. :-(

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    1. Aren't the boxing bananas hilarious? I saw so many other fun spectator costumes out on the course that I wish I'd taken more pictures of.

      Unfortunately Amy had to take her blog down since her husband is in the military and there were concerns about privacy. I was really bummed because her blog was one of my favorites! But I'm linked to her on Facebook so I'll drop her a note on your behalf.

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    2. Thanks! I just heard from her. Such a bummer about closing her blog. :-(

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    3. Total bummer about Amy closing her blog, indeed. =( But at least she is on Facebook and Instagram so we can still keep up with her there!!! You should link up with her, too, if you haven't already!

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  2. Congrats on the finish and the pictures are fantastic! I have yet to visit DC, but maybe one day I'll plan a race there so I will be forced to go! "Grin and Bear it" and the "banana trio" went out of their way to be hilarious. Kudos to them! What is that dish with the shrimp? Looks yummy! :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Pete! I've long said the best way to visit a new city is in your running shoes since many races provide access to areas normally off-limits. I think you would LOVE running any of the races in DC. It's such a beautiful area. Aren't the spectators amazing? It makes such a difference to runners to see the comedic spectators on the course. =) The shrimp dish was Vanitha's - I think they were grilled, and came with a Japanese vegetable pancake underneath! Pretty creative, eh?

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  3. Nice race! I'd like to do a race in DC someday. Although sounds like the weather last year was miserable! Pretty medal though - I love RNR medals.

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    1. OMG - it's amazing what a difference the weather can make on these experiences! It was like a night and day contrast running RnR DC in torrential rain vs perfect weather. RnR really does the race medals well, don't they? They always have really nice swag. I think you'd love running in DC! It's such a beautiful area!

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  4. What a great race! Congrats on making it up more of the hills this year! I didn't realize there were so many fun spectators on this course - I wonder if they are out on the full course, too.

    What an amazing sunrise you caught! There have been so many beautiful sunrises and sunsets lately! What a treat!

    Talking with runners headed to a race is so fun - to find out where they are from, if they've done it before, etc.

    Neat medal!!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Kim! Good question about the full course. I don't think I know anyone who ran the full, either this year or last year, so I might try to find some race recaps to learn more.

      We are so blessed to have such beautiful sunrises and sunsets these days, indeed! They really brighten the spirits, don't they? Mother Nature knows how to keep us inspired. =)

      I love how the moment I find out someone is a runner, we can have endless conversation and be like best friends! It's the most instant connection known to humankind I've ever experienced! The world would be so much easier to navigate if all of its inhabitants were runners, yes? =)

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  5. Great job on your race. At least you were able to see things this year, even if the Capitol dome is under scaffolding. No matter where I go, there always seems to be something under scaffolding.

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    1. Thanks Lesley! Isn't that the truth about scaffolding!!! When I was there, the lagoon in the national mall had been drained and taped off because of construction, too. Talk about bad timing!

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  6. Great pictures and congrats on a great race! Hills are tough but I'm sure you've definitely improved on them! I've been to DC once about 12 years ago. That would be so cool to run through! And love the picture of the sunrise. Beautiful.

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    1. Thank you so much, Amanda! While I have made some improvements in hill-running, there is always so much room for further improvement! Us runners are never done training, no? =) BTW, I saw your pictures from incline-training at Swallow Cliff Woods. WOW - that looked intense. Way to push through!!!

      I think you would really love running any of the races in DC!

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  7. All the recaps I've read about this one make it look like such a fun race. Plus all the DC runners are great. I've never been to DC. I need to get there.

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    1. Wendy, I think you would LOVE running DC! There's truly no better way to experience a new place than in your running shoes, yes? Races are great because they usually provide access to places normally off-limits to the public!

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  8. Congratulations on your finish! What a nice sunrise to wake up to. Those banana guys are too funny! Great medal!

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, those banana guys had me cracking up when I saw them. They must have been following friends or family running the race because I saw them a few times at different parts of the course. How cool is that?

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  9. Congrats Emily! Sounds like a great day! I remember enjoying a drum troop when I ran MCM. I wonder if it was your friend's group?

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    1. Thank you so much, Marcia! Ooooh, I have to imagine it was the same drum group performing at both RnR DC and MCM. The drumming group was quite large - so there can't be too many of them in DC!

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  10. Congrats! Sounded like you had a blast out there! The photos make the race look pretty fun- it also looks nice and scenic too. That place you went for lunch after looks soooo delicious!

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    1. Thank you so much, Xaar! It was such a night and day difference running the race in good weather vs bad. I felt very privileged and proud to be able to run in such close proximity to so many American monuments. If you are ever in DC, I think you would really love Teaism - it's very cute and unique with extremely diverse food offerings!

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  11. Congrats on a great race! Looks like its a great way to see a little bit of DC. Hopefully I'll make it there someday. The wear blue to remember section sounds really special. Glad it turned out to be a much better time than last year :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Kayla! There truly is no better way to experience any place than in your running shoes. I love how the races open up certain places to runners that are normally off-limits to the public. =) I hope you get to run DC, too, someday - I think you'd thoroughly enjoy it! I only have a few personal connections to the military, but it was hard NOT to get emotional at the Wear Blue To Remember section. All those pictures and flags!

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  12. Even with the bad weather it looks like a ton of fun! I love DC so much.

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    1. Thanks Alexandra! I love DC so much, too! DC would be a top choice for a city I'd enjoy living in if I couldn't live in Chicago. You too?

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  13. Oh man, this REALLY makes me want to do Rock 'n' Roll DC. I love love love DC, and this seems like such a cool way to see the district. And that medal is gorgeous!

    Bethany @ Accidental Intentions

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    1. Bethany, I think you would LOVE RnR DC. The course is stunningly beautiful and there is so much living history to be seen. It's hard not to feel patriotic when you are passing by so many incredible monuments and landmarks. RnR really does the medals and swag well, don't they? I am excited for what they come up with for RnR Chicago this year. =)

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  14. Congrats! What a great photo recap :) I loved all the sunrise shots

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    1. Thank you so much, Jenny! Pictures are worth a million words, yes?

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  15. Up hill at the end isn't fair lol You navigated it well, congrats on a great time.
    It is a very unique course! and a beautiful medal. I am glad you had a fun race (and weekend)!

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    1. Thank you so much, Karen! Yes - thumbs down to whoever chose for the race to finish uphill. Talk about mental battles! Appreciate all your support, as always. =)

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  16. I'm super behind on commenting :-)

    Yay for no rain! That sunrise photo is gorgeous. And, yes, while the hills may have taken it out of you a bit, think of how drained you would have been otherwise! And, I'm assuming, your recovery was faster than in the past, too.

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    1. I frequently get super behind on commenting, too! Thanks for taking the time to catch up. =)

      Thanks so much, Erin! You are right, we should look at this positively and consider how much worse off I would have been if I didn't do all the hillwork in advance. It's all about perspective!!!

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