When I ran this race last year, I was just completing half #10. This year, it was half #22 and it was a much better race than last year. Lauren and I headed down to DC on Friday and had no issues. The drive was easy and the weather was beautiful. We left Pittsburgh and it was high 40’s and got to DC and it was mid 70’s and sunny. We dropped our rental car and checked into the hotel before heading to the Armory to pick up our bibs.
Packet pick up last year was the convention center downtown, so the fact that we had to go out to the Armory Friday night was just a little ridiculous. When we got there, the line to even get in was wrapped around the corner. It didn’t take that long to get in, but the people there to do “security” aka check bags and run a wand up and down my body were just horrid. For one, there wasn’t enough of them and they were just so slow. Once inside though, we had more lines to get the bibs and our shirts.
As much as I love expos, I wasn’t really looking forward to scoping anything out at this one. The vendor list wasn’t great and by the time we got our shirts and bibs, a lot of vendors had already packed up and left for the day. In fact, we just kept hearing 5 minute updates about how the expo was closing and WE HAD TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. Seriously, RnR? Give in. People work. People travel in and things happen. Let’s not be such assholes about the end time of the expoand maybe even extend the time? Hrm, just a thought.
After dropping our bibs off at the hotel, Lauren and I headed to Capital City Brewery. I am sure most people would not go to a brewery for their meal before a race, but that’s clearly not the case for the two of us. The food was very good and of course the beer was better. We ended up ordering a beer each and then a flight. Since the race started at O’ Dark Thirty, we were back to the hotel pretty early and got ourselves ready for the morning.
Once morning came, we slowly got ourselves together. We were out of hotel by 6:45am and headed toward gear check. Last year, gear check was pretty terrible and I have to say, RnR actually did fix that. It seems as if they had more trucks and they were well labeled and in good spots as well. The only confusion was whether or not we had to gear check in the RnR bags we got at packet pick up. I had asked as random lady there and she said yes. However, when I got to gear check, I saw all types of bags being checked.
After a quick bathroom stop and finding Chewbacca, Lauren and I slowly made our way to the starting corrals. I had originally planned to start with Lauren back in corral 28, but since we were under pressure to get back to the hotel to check out, I decided to start in my corral, 19, so I could get back to the hotel and shower before Lauren got back. It ended up working out well that we did that. Once in the corral, I hung out for about 30 minutes before I got to the start line. At least I actually made some friends, so chatting helped the time pass!
For the most part, the course was the exact same as last year, so I knew what to expect. The first 5.5 miles are pretty flat and if anything, have a very slight downhill at times. The worst parts of these miles, specifically the first 3 miles is all of the turning and the Memorial Bridge. The bridge just tends to get packed as each direction, runners are pushed to only 2 lanes. Right around mile 3.5, I looked up and saw Michael Wardian running around with his dog. I was shocked to see he wasn’t racing, but as he was out there cheering everyone on, it was a nice pick me up.
Since this half was the last long run before the 50k, I decided to once again practice my 4:15 run/0:45 walk again. From the start of the race I executed this plan. It was only the “Hill” and water stops that I walked otherwise. Overall, I felt pretty good with the plan. It did seem though that several people still do not understand what hand in the air means by runners and/or apparently think it’s the WORST THING EVER when a runner starts to walk in a race. The looks I got from some people were just horrid. During a race like this, I try to be as courteous as possible and move to a side as best as I can. Lauren also seemed to have this experience, which is just frustrating to see as a runner.
As we came into mile 5, I knew not only was the “Hill” coming, but I also knew the Wear Blue volunteers were coming. Last year, I did not know about this and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. As soon as I saw that mile 5 sign, I kept telling myself it was coming and to prepare myself. Well, that didn’t work.
As soon as I saw the pictures of our lost soldiers and all of the volunteers holding flags, I started to lose it. At the base of the hill, I stopped to walk and take a quick picture when I had a soldier in full gear run past me. A small boy was with his dad giving high fives and all of a sudden I heard from the boy, “Dad, I just high fived a soldier” and he had the biggest grin on his face. Well it was at that point that I just lost it and the tears came. I high fived every volunteer that I could out there and they just kept cheering. This hill truly sucks. It’s pretty short but steep, but honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about that hill at all. Of course I ended up walking about halfway up the hill, but all of those amazing volunteers out there truly were able to take the pain from that hill out of the equation all together.
Finally at the top of the hill, I put myself together. Even though I knew that was coming, it almost hit me worse this year. The course after the hill has a few gently rolling hills and I really just used those miles to shake out my legs. They were definitely hurting after that hill and mile 7 certainly was my slowest mile as I was just still recovering. It also had another stupid hill at the end of that mile, but the downhill going into mile 8 was certainly worth it.
I remember from mile 9 last year, there were people giving away jungle juice and meat. Yes. Meat. Well, this year since the wether was much nicer, there was even more giving away. I still remember the meat table, but there was champagne, whiskey, beer and much more. I think when people give out alcohol like that, it’s just so they aren’t drinking alone and can drink with 20,000+ of their friends.
Usually during a half marathon, it’s around mile 8-9 that I start questioning, why I was out there. This time though, that didn’t happen. I never felt bad and at no point did I feel like I was going to crash. I grabbed a Glukos packet at mile 9, but never used it. I kept with the fuel I had and it seemed to work out.
I really enjoyed the last 5k of the race, well minus the last 0.2 miles. There were so many people out there cheering and in that last part of the race, seeing those random strangers out there really help pick you up. Mile 11 ended up being my fastest mile at 10:09, which I found to be interesting. Typically that’s when I sometimes start to see the wheels fall off. In fact, most of my mile splits were pretty close to each other for me. When looking at final results, I also had negative splits, which I continue to see as big wins for me. It was nice to see the small range of paces.
Going into the race, RnR announced they had moved the finish line to created a better finish line experience. Well, they failed at that and here’s why. They moved the last quarter mile race to be almost a small downhill to now an uphill. No one wants to do any type of uphill at mile 13 of a half marathon. Secondly, once past the finish line, the athlete area just seemed so chaotic. We had to move into one area to go into another area and then squeeze past yet a third area to even get close to the gear check trucks. Now, picking up my bag was super easy and that was all that was easy about the finish line area. Of course they still had the gear check trucks the further from the metro station, but I will say, it was closer than last year, so that was a small improvement.
I pretty quickly got to the metro station and got back to the hotel. As I was on my way, Lauren texted me that she had an amazing 14 minute PR and wasn’t too far behind. I was able to get a shower and pack up just as Lauren was getting back to the hotel. Once she got herself together, we decided our first thing was to find some brunch. We decided a delicious bottomless mimosa brunch at Woodward Table. The food was absolutely amazing and we certainly got our moneys worth of mimosas. I think after the 3rd one, the waiter just realized to bring one over when it was close to empty.
Overall, it was a great race for me. It ended up being a course PR by 28 seconds. It isn’t much, but I’ll take it. For me though, besides the free RnR race I won and will run in December, this will be my last RnR race. I just feel they put no thought into the small things that make an athletes experience. I’ve definitely come to the conclusion, you either like the RnR race series or you don’t and after this race, I am putting myself in the latter group and I am okay with that. But, even with the negative things, I still had a great race and was happy with my results. I finished just where I wanted to and am beginning to think that 2:20 mark is my perfect easy half marathon pace.
Official Finish Time:
858/1622, F 30-34