I had an interesting week leading up to the race, filled with random pain (and added stress). On my easy run on Wednesday I had pain in my right shin/calf and had a lot of pain when walking that afternoon. I began an obsessive routine of icing and foam rolling and although it felt a bit better on Thursday I was still had pain when walking around. I was hoping that it was just the taper talking, but I couldn't help but worry that it might potentially be something more serious. I felt a lot better by Friday and, fortunately, had no issues during the race.
I was more nervous about this race than I have been for a race in a while. I don't think I realized it until Friday and I'm sure that was likely a contributing factor to the pain issues (and my totally stressed reaction to that pain). The only other time I can remember feeling this nervous the night before a race was before my first marathon (when I wasn't 100% sure that I could run that far!). I'm assuming it was because this is the first longer race where I was actually plan to race and not just run to finish at a moderately hard pace.
Since my mom and I were both racing, my dad was nice enough to drop us off at RFK. Last year we barely made it out of the porta-potty line before the race started, so I was determined to avoid that stress this year. I insisted that we get dropped off at 6:00 and it was definitely the right decision. I've heard other people faced major delays and backups getting into the parking lots, but we had no problem. There was a slight slowdown on the access road, but nothing serious. We had plenty of time to check out bags, use the bathroom, and make it to the proper corral (last year we just jumped in after the race had started).
My plan for the race was to start out at a comfortable pace and pick it up throughout. As I mentioned in my goals post, I was hoping for a negative split. I hit the first mile in 9:35, which was a bit slower than I was shooting for, so I tried to pick up the pace after seeing that time. I went into the race thinking that I would try to stay in the 9:20-9:30 range for the first few miles, but after a 9:10 in mile 2, I instead ended up staying in the 9:00-9:10 range for several miles. I felt strong in the first few miles, even as we more or less headed uphill after leaving Constitution Ave and heading through Dupont Circle. My pace definitely dropped off (more than I would have liked) as we ran up the biggest hill in the course on Connecticut Ave. I felt pretty tired coming off the hill and heading into Adams Morgan and took my one GU just before the water station at mile 7.
I felt much better after taking the GU and from miles 8-10, I was cruising along at an 8:40-8:45 pace. I came through 10 miles in what was probably a new PR and then hit a bit of a wall. Miles 11 and 12 were pretty tough. My legs felt heavy and my calves had that "pre-crampy" feeling. Fortunately they didn't end up cramping up, but my pace definitely dropped off. I dropped back into the upper 8s in mile 11 and despite using all of my mental energy to keep my turnover up in mile 12, I ran a 9:12. I think I really could have benefited from another GU during this stretch, but I had only brought one with me. I figured eating once in the middle would be enough, but, clearly, it wasn't. I guess this was an example of my relative inexperience in the half and I will be more prepared next time!
I thought that the course was a lot more crowded than it was last year. It never opened up for me and on some of the narrower streets, I had a hard time getting around people and had to slow down a bit more than I would have liked. Part of the problem was that I caught up to the 4:00 marathon pace group and they had a pretty significant group running with them. I managed to pass them when I was feeling strong somewhere around mile 8, but they caught up with me again as I was struggling in mile 11-12.
I was able to rally after hitting 12 miles and knowing that I only had a little over a mile left. I knew it was going to be more than 1.1 since I had done a fair amount of weaving early on and my watch had been lapping ahead of the few mile markers that I actually saw. It was also at this point that I switched my watch display over from current lap pace to overall time. I saw that I had a good chance of finishing in under two hours and tried to push the thought of the last two hard miles out of my mind and give it everything I had until the finish. I managed to get back into the 8s for mile 13 (8:49) and dropped to a 8:30 pace for the last .29.
Final time: 1:59:03! A 10 minute PR!
I'm not sure if it was just because the race has increased in size, but I thought the finish chute and food area could have been better organized. I was actually given a marathon medal, which I didn't realize until I had walked for a few minutes. I then had to turn around and fight against the crowd to get back to the volunteers and exchange it for the right one. When I got back to the food area, the lines were so long that I decided it wasn't worth my time. Fortunately I managed to grab and water and then I headed back over to the Armory to get my extra layers.
We headed home on Metro and after getting cleaned up, I spent the rest of the day (until much later than my normal bedtime) celebrating my friend G's upcoming wedding with all of my closest friends from college. Needless to say, I'm glad that I had already planned to take it easy this week. :)
It was also a good running day for the rest of my family. Although I managed to beat my mother's time from last year, she still finished ahead of me (which was not a big surprise). In another impressive race, she improved her time by four minutes and placed in her age group! And my brother's relay team also had a great race and finished near the top of the standings.