I was excited (and nervous) about this race because I knew I had the potential to set a big PR, but also because I knew so many people running. On Sunday morning my father was nice enough to drive a few friends, my mother and me to Pentagon City. We then made the trek across the Pentagon parking lots to the start area on 110. I knew this was going to be significantly longer than in previous years, but I was still surprised at how far we had to go. Fortunately, none of us had anything to check because we never did see the bag check. We had hoped to make a pre-race porty potta stop, but by the time we got to them it was already 7:40 and the lines were ridiculous. There was no way that we would have been through the line in 20 minutes. When we got to 110, my friends headed to their corral and my mom and I made our way towards the blue balloons.
Since it had taken us so long to get there, we didn't have to wait all that long for the start. The first wave started, we walked up towards the start line and after a few minutes we were off.
I had forgotten how crowded this race is at the start. I spent the first mile weaving around as many people as I could and trying to settle into a groove. The new course required us to run up an exit ramp from 110 which narrowed the road considerably and caused an even bigger bottleneck. By the time I got to the first mile marker, my watch was already ahead. Mile 1 - 8:41
I felt like the course opened up considerably after mile 1 and I was able to pick up the pace. I tried not to pick things up too much as I historically tend to go a bit crazy in mile 2 (warmed up, not yet tired). I slowed down a bit in mile 3 and I'm not sure exactly why. The only thing I can think is that I had to negotiate the first water stop and there was a decent incline as we went up Virginia Avenue. I knew my brother was going to be somewhere along this stretch so I distracted myself by looking for him, but somehow I still missed him. Mile 2 & 3 - 8:18, 8:27
I can't remember any particular details about miles 4 and 5 so they must have been relatively uneventful. I do remember feeling like the race was flying by when I got to mile 5 and realized that I was already halfway done. Mile 4 & 5 - 8:12, 8:13
I got a huge energy boost once we got onto Independence Ave and there were tons of people cheering. This was also the only section where the course doubled back so I scanned the runners coming back the other way to see if I could spot anyone I knew. Sarah had said that she would be somewhere near 7th St. so I was also keeping an eye out for her. Mile 6 - 8:11
Right after I passed the 10k timing pad marker, I saw a familiar face. I had run into Chris, a CAR teammate, who has been my running partner for most track workouts and long runs. I knew that we were starting in the same corral, but figured with 30,000 people there, we probably wouldn't see each other. I think that this was a little boost that we both needed and we decided to stick together as long as possible. Thus far the longest tempo run I have done on the track is 4 miles, so I figured that I was safe to start really trying to pick it up with four miles left. So as we came back down Independence and headed towards 14th Street and the bridge, I started trying to speed up. Miles 7 & 8 - 8:09, 8:02
I wanted to finish the race at a sub-8:00 pace and I was really hoping that I could hit that pace for the last two miles. As we headed out onto the 14th St. bridge, I noticed how hot it was and started to feel tired. I kept telling myself that I had less than 20 minutes to run (then less than 15, etc.) and could keep pushing it for that long. Mile 9 - 8:00
Once I hit nine miles, I knew I had no more excuses to hold back and really had to see what I had left. It was around this time that I pulled slightly ahead of Chris. It was still pretty crowded so with all the weaving around people, we got separated. With the new course layout, I wasn't sure how much I would have left to run after we took the exit ramp off the bridge. I also knew that my watch was close to 0.2 miles ahead and that I would still have a fair amount to run after I heard it beep for 10 miles. As I came through the Pentagon parking lot, I was disappointed to see that we had to go up another incline to go over a bridge/overpass. I had thought that it was going to be flat to the finish. Coming off the overpass I still couldn't see the finish line and I didn't want to start kicking in until I could see it. Fortunately we finally came around a corner and I could see the line. At this point I kind of felt like throwing up, but pushed it as hard as I could to the finish. I was surprised at how many other people did not have this same strategy and I ended up weaving around people to the very end. Mile 10 - 8:00, Extra 0.2 on my Garmin - 1:24 (6:39 pace)
Final Time - 1:23:33
I am very happy with how this race went. I do think if it had been slightly cooler I probably could have gone faster, but all in all I ran the race that I wanted to run and executed the start slow finish fast strategy as well as I could have hoped.
And based on all of your comments on my race goals post, I know that you will be happy to hear that I finally beat my mother! She ended up having a great race as well, taking 1:30 off her time from last year's race and finishing in 1:28.