Can't Stop, Won't Stop: RnRDC

This weekend was special for a few reasons. One, I got to spend it with Kristen and Tracy; two, I got to race with Kristen and Tracy!; and three, I ran my second half marathon of ever and my first race of 2015.

We met up in Washington D.C. for the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon, for a weekend we've been planning for, oh, four or five months now? Anyway, all our weekend adventures are recapped here, and I'm finally ready to look back on the race itself. I apologize in advance for the length, but I have to do the whole experience justice.
Photo credit: Kristen
The Lead-Up:
If you've been following along here for any length of time, you're probably familiar with the saga of my running shoes. Long story short: In January I purchased a new pair of the very same running shoes I've loved since last June to break in for my spring races. Almost immediately, they started giving me shin problems like I've never had before, and I had to take significant time off to heal and prevent serious injury—like, stress fractures.

My training for this race was so well-intentioned but ultimately, I had only run one 8-miler in the weeks leading up to this 13.1-mile race, and hadn't managed more than 6.5 miles in the four weeks prior. I was undertrained, and so not confident in my prior race goal of 2:00:00. I had revised it to 2:10:00; and then again to "Finish without breaking your legs."

I decided to wear my old Kinvaras—the ones that didn't wreak havoc on my legs, and thanked frog they hadn't been totally worn out already. My primary fuel for race day was optimism for the next race and high adrenaline thanks to running with my best gals.

The Race Day:
For at least a week prior to RnR, the forecast had been calling for rain in D.C. We managed to convince ourselves for half a second that the 85% chance meant that it actually wouldn't rain but, surprise surprise, we were wrong.

It was pouring and it was cold, about 45 degrees for the duration of the race. Thousands of runners and hundreds of spectators showed up regardless. The rain didn't let up once, though it did slow to a lighter rain for the first few miles. By the time we reached the finish line, though, our bodies were frozen to the bone, our hair drenched and sopping, our clothes and shoes heavy with water, our hands numb, our teeth chattering.

I've run in colder weather and I've run in the rain, but never in both for two hours. The weather was a test for the runners in and of itself.

The Race Course:
From what I could tell through the fog and the rain, the course was absolutely lovely. We ran from the National Mall, to Arlington and back, through business neighborhoods and up and down residential streets lined with cute, colorful, unique row houses. We ran up punishing hills and down rewarding, fast downhills. We ran over and under bridges and along the water. We spotted the Washington Monument, the Capitol building, and countless historic grounds.
There was just one hill that really made me yell out—seriously, ask Tracy. It was an "ahhhhh" when we finally felt like we were getting somewhere, toward the top, and then a peek above showed us that no, there was still plenty more hill to go. All along the roadway, though, stood veterans and their loved ones, holding American flags and reminding me that I can run up this hill that I'm choosing to climb for recreation—and that I have nothing to be complaining about right now in light of the sacrifices those in the military make each and every day.

I've only run one other half marathon course in my life, and it was through a park, so my comparison isn't worth a whole lot. But it was a challenging but forgiving course, as far as I'm concerned, and I would have loved to see it without the rain clouding my vision. The spectators who lined the streets in the rain with their homemade signs to cheer on a bunch of strangers is a sight I haven't seen before (in person) in my limited racing career, but they really made the experience better. The D.C. residents who took to their porches to bring us in with good tunes and loud cheers rocked so hard.

My Race:
I had what I considered to be reasonable expectations of myself for this race. Going in as undertrained as I was, I just wanted to finish uninjured. In the back of my mind, 2:10:00 still floated around, but it didn't feel sensical to even consider it. Prior to, I had given myself permission to walk after mile 10 if I felt the need—I knew I had to make it to 10 though.

I started off with the pain point reminding me of its presence in my right tibia, but by mile 2 it had faded away. I finally got smart and ran in calf compression sleeves, which helped when a knot in my left calf threatened to take me down around mile 6. By mile 10, my psoas muscles (front of hip) that have given me trouble on long runs before showed up to play, but I can and did push through that. Cardiovascularly speaking, I really felt great for most of the race, exceptions being uphills alone.

Somewhere around halfway through, Tracy asked me if I knew how we were doing, knowing about that 2:10 idea I had tried to bury. She didn't want to freak me out, and I wasn't keeping track of total time; just each mile's total time. I knew what pace I had to average, and we had a quick and quiet exchange about how—how?!—we were averaging well under the 9:55 miles I needed to be clocking.

(Quick pause to shout out to Kristen who ran her own race and did an inspiring job of not giving up even when reason would have had me calling it quits. She's probably told you already that she didn't do anything special on race day, but in those conditions and after having to stop by the medics, the fact that she got to that finish on her own two feet is nothing short of incredible. Also, huge thanks to Tracy who stayed with me for every step, rather than chasing after a PR of her own. You ladies are the best race companions I ever could have asked for!)
I was pretty tired by the time our watches clocked 12.5 miles, but not tired enough to rest. I had run every step until now, so there was no way I wouldn't run the final few minutes. Tracy asked if I wanted her to run me in the final steps, but I needed to wait for the finish line to come into view.

And when it did, that final reserve came bursting through the soles of my feet and I crossed in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 11 seconds, to beat my previous half marathon finish time by 8 minutes and 1 second.

Rock & Roll:
I wish I could say as many good things about the race organization as a whole as I can about my race, but I can't. Rock 'n Roll appeared to have done nothing to prepare for the rain they had known was coming, and the finish line was an expansive mess of people wandering around wondering what exactly their race fee was paying for, since we couldn't even locate the damn bananas. I've paid race fees a quarter the amount of this one and had better finish line treatment. I don't want to end on a ranty note, but let it suffice to say that I'm hugely disappointed in Rock 'n Roll and am not in a hurry to race with them again.

In all, we stood or walked or ran in the cold and rain for five hours without a break. Our tale is one that includes a jam-packed metro station, rude cabbies, flaky Uber drivers, and finally the one who took mercy on our poor, frozen, water-logged souls. I've never had a better shower or nap in my life.
Overall, it was an amazing race—until the minute we crossed the finish line, pretty much. But regardless, I'm awed by the grit of my fellow runners who showed up to bang this out in truly miserable running conditions. I'm still in a bit of shock that I managed to PR by so much, and beyond grateful that I got to commemorate the occasion with two wonderful friends. Thanks to all of you who cheered me on from afar and sent your good luck wishes on last week's posts and assured me I had this race. As for now, I'm feeling a bit sore, but miraculously uninjured, and I'll keep flying high on this good feeling as long as I can.

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PS, don't forget! Less than two weeks til the next time you can join in on the Training for Tuesday fun! Our next linkup is going to be Tuesday, March 31. Come and share whatever you're working toward, whatever goal you're closing in on, or any other progress report of your training with Tracy and me! We can't wait to see what you've been up to these last few weeks.

Comments

  1. I am so proud of you and your PR in those horrible weather conditions and all-around not ideal race with your shoe anxiety. Plus having a ladies weekend mashed together with this personal-awesome is the icing on top of the Georgetown Cupcake! :) You rock (and roll!)

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  2. have I mentioned I am SO happy for you, not to mention proud?! You are so amazing, and you rocked this race. Seriously. You PR'd the shit out of it, you deserve all the medals.
    I can't believe we were in the cold and rain for over 5 hours. Thinking about it like that makes it almost worse. I wonder if we would have noticed anything off about RnR if it hadn't rained, you know? The rain wasn't their fault, but how they dealt with it was, so I wonder if it hadn't rained we would still think they were the bees knees? The course would have been so amazing if we'd actually been able to see more of it - dang rain and fog.
    'finish without breaking your legs' always a good goal to have.
    ps. you made me cry. why are you and Tracy nicer to me about my race than I am!! lol.
    so happy and proud of you girl! :) here's to half #3!!

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  3. WAY to run that race despite the horrid conditions. I felt for y'all when I heard it was going to rain. The RnR management team should be fired, because that sounds awful. How can you NOT be prepared for rain?

    WELL DONE, lady!

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  4. I love the determination on your face - it's so inspiring! Sorry to hear that the race organizers weren't really prepared or caring that it was going to rain and make things more difficult for their runners!! So glad you had a PR! xo, Biana - BlovedBoston

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  5. when it comes to athletic events for me, usually the times I was just like "whatever" and had no expectations for whatever reason, I performed my best. its weird. maybe we psyche ourselves out or possibly over train? who knows, but congratulations again!!

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  6. Have I told you yet how amazing and awesome you are and how freakin' proud I am of you?!?!? No? Well here you go: I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!
    I knew you could do it, but I was also worried for you just because of all the things you had going against you...mainly because I know how much worse I would have done if I had been in your shoes (literally probably because Kinvaras are death for my legs). Anyway. Sorry if I annoyed you during, I just REALLY wanted to make sure that you knew we totally had 2:10 in the bag and that I was there if you needed me! I've never helped pace anyone before, but I have had someone pace me and drag my ass to the finish line and I was totally willing to pay that forward if need be. Glad it didn't come to that ;) You rock, my friend!

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  7. Wooooo so proud of you!! How amazing is it that you managed to beat your record AND your goal in such crappy conditions! You inspired me to sign up for my second race ever today!

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  8. Yay! Still sooo happy for you for getting such an amazing PR- not only with the awful weather, but all the little things that went wrong leading up to the race as far as your training went. Because you liked running in DC so much, aside from the actual organization of the race, you guys will have to come back for a different one :) Also, love those photos of you and Tracy running together

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  9. So proud of all three of you. It might be PMS but why did I almost tear up at your speech about Kristen and Tracey. btw so sweet of Tracy to run the entire race with you and amazing of Kristen for finishing!

    I love that you did so well given the conditions though. Raining and cold. I wouldn't have been able to do it at all! And go you for powering through the pain after mile 10. I do wish you guys had better weather to enjoy the scenery more and it sucks about the organization of the race but Im so happy you guys ran it and you blasted past your original time. Seriously 8 minutes faster is an excellent PR!

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  10. Wow!!! What an amazing time! Congrats on that PR girl!
    I've heard so many bad things about RnR, I'll probably never race with them. Love that Tracy stayed with you, and the pics are great!!

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  11. That is seriously way to awesome that you got a new PR especially in those awful weather conditions. I can only imagine how miserable it was running in the cold rain for a half marathon. A 5k was enough for me ha ha! What a bummer about the finish line though... You would think they would have had more. We were able to go inside of the school for the finish of our 5k and they had a ton of booths set up and free drinks and bananas to munch on.

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