I just ran – pardon me – finished my 7th half marathon! Woo freaking hoo! Yes, Rock n’ Roll USA was Lucky #7. If you had told me a year and a half ago I’d be running half marathons I would not have believed you. I feel lucky and fortunate on this St. Patty’s Day to know I have that ability!! It’s also the second race of my 13 in 2013 challenge.
I have to start off by thanking Mother Nature for keeping the rain at bay (and the weathermen for always being wrong!). It was a pleasant 48 in the morning and while I stressed about what to wear and prepared for cold, wet conditions – it was perfect running weather!! Saturday’s race started around dawn, and lucky for me I live in DC so didn’t have to get up super, super early (you listening, Disney??) I parked at a nearby metro stop so I could take a direct line to the start (if I took the metro from home I’d have to deal with weekend track maintenance and switching lines, no thank you). I found the metro to be running smoother than usual and while the crowds were to be expected, at least my nose wasn’t sandwiched under someone’s armpit, unlike last year. And, they let us ride for free both ways!
Getting to the start line was easy, but then I had to navigate to the gear check – which was a major fail. The gear buses were lined up alphabetically on the opposite side of the start, and of course the beginning of the alphabet was on the other side of that! Ugh. I did drop off fairly quickly though considering so many others were waiting in long lines. Viva the beginning of the alphabet! By the time I walked back around and down they had already begun with the corrals. Though I was assigned to Corral 15 – I don’t think I actually started there (it was more like 20). No matter, I just began my race!
I started nice and steady getting my pacing and breathing down. It was a great course! Running through the streets of DC and the monuments is always an amazing experience. At the marker for Mile 3 we were looped back on the Arlington Memorial Bridge and one of the runners screamed “Only 3 miles?? I thought it was like 6. Man, this sucks!” Pretty sure he was kidding and we all laughed but it’s nice to see happy competitors!
I don’t run with a Garmin or other GPS device (MapMyRun or Nike app during training runs) so I was relying on doing the math in my head as I went by the timing at the major mile markers. Around Mile 5 I was so happy to see my friend Angie at the TNT volunteers Water stop. So, shout out to Angie!! She gave me a hug which was much needed as I realized soon thereafter I was about to go up a major hill (one I often see on training runs and avoid, rightfully so!). I do need to focus on more hill work. But that’s a post for a different day 🙂
After ascending this hill (which was behind the Zoo, the irony is not lost on me – see my rest day post) out of Rock Creek Parkway I recalled this as the moment last year I began my not great showing in this race. I was pleased that I felt pretty good. I stopped around Mile 7 for Gatorade and some gummy bears (best idea ever!) and around Mile 8 got this strange boost of energy and started to speed up (the gummy bear effect??) I cooked it for Miles 8-10. I thought if I could keep that pace up for the final 5 miles I could definitely PR. The last 5K though was on and off. There were moments I felt great and moments my knees were like – please make it stop. But, I finished in a time of 2:14:11 and all in all felt great! My goals for this were to 1. Finish (check!) 2. Beat my time of last year (double check, by 14 minutes!) and 3. PR for good measure (this was an icing goal and while I didn’t get the PR I hoped for I have plenty of other opportunities!)
I love Rock n’ Roll events for the atmosphere and of course bling, but they are also some of the more organized races. Because it’s a series, they have plenty of opportunities to get it right. Overall I enjoyed this particular racing experience but let me break down the Good, the Bad and the Ugly:
The GOOD: Music as always was incredible, diverse and fun! The volunteers are exceptional and cheerful and the crowds are supportive and encouraging. The course itself was fun and challenging with spectacular views of the city! Lastly, the refreshments. Water, fruit and bagels offered before the race?? Unheard of, but welcomed and appreciated!! Afterwards much of the same but also chocolate milk, chips, Jamba Juice (!!), Gatorade and then some.
The BAD: Gear check was a nightmare! Both at the start and finish. The lines to pick up your gear were incredibly long and seemed disorganized and slow. The volunteers of course were friendly, but organizing by last name instead of corral or bib number was just a mess. Next, the lack of volunteers really showed. As I said, those who were there were phenomenal but many water stations were unmanned or understaffed leaving people to get and fill their own cups. I don’t know how you answer for this as you rely on people offering their services but for an event of this size it was definitely an issue.
The UGLY: Port-a-potties. I admit I have a general aversion to public restrooms as it is and I know they had VIP areas you could pay extra for BUT it annoys me how people treat public spaces. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this point. So, I guess my problem has less to do with the port-a-potties themselves and more about common decency!
Well that sums up my Rock n’ Roll experience! Again, loved it overall and am going for a Grand Slam medal with three more RnR (at least!) races to go this year. Today is about recovery so I’m going to take it easy, but I have a week chock full of workout fun (including my Spice It Up challenge activity). Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day folks!! See you at the next start line 😉