For the third year in a row, Lauren and I headed to Washington DC for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. It would be my third running of the half and Lauren’s second. This was also my first Rock ‘n’ Roll race as an official Rock ‘n’ Blogger! Going into this race, I knew I would not do as well as the first two years, but I didn’t let that bother me. Things had just been a struggle lately and I was just thankful for being able to run and and still finish my recent races in one piece.
We headed down to DC on Friday afternoon. The drive to DC isn’t bad, but with traffic you just never know how bad it will be. Neither of us realized it when we booked our hotel that apparently the 2 Metro lines that served the area of the hotel were under construction and delays could be bad. Ugh, just great. At least we knew that before we were sitting at the Metro on race day getting no where. We got to DC is pretty decent time, but of course hit traffic just as got into town. We headed right to the hotel and then decided to head over to the DC Armory for the expo.
Since we only had about 90 minutes left for the expo and Rock ‘n’ Roll shuts down right on time, we had to book it over. We decided to Uber Pool and had quite a fun ride. We got to the Armory and of course there were lines out of the door. The reason is because every person has to be searched since it’s an active armory. I am fine with that and understand the safety, but open more doors and have more security people. It’s so frustrating also because people are coming in from airports and bringing suitcases and larger bags. Also, these security people are some of the rudest I’ve ever encountered.
Luckily we made it through the expo pretty quickly with our bibs and shirts. I also got to pick up my Global Tour Pass for future races. Since it was dinner time, we of course found a good brewery for carb loading and dinner. We settled on the City Tap House and it did not disappoint. We enjoyed a great beer flight and continued the tradition of carb loading the right way before this half.
We headed back to the hotel and got settled in for the night. We both got our stuff ready for race day and debated what to do about getting to the start line. We looked up the Metro times and decided there was one option but both of us were a little nervous about it. We decided we’d check out Uber options first, which ended up being the best thing. The weather for this race was not ideal. Friday was beautiful and then overnight it literally turned back into winter. They were calling for temps to be in the 30’s but with some pretty fierce wind. I certainly was not looking forward to the wind part so I basically planned on wearing everything.
Race morning came pretty quickly and so did that cold weather. We got over to the start line around 8am We had time to check our bag and hang out in the corrals. We both had different corrals, but ended up starting around corral 8. I was totally okay being a little ahead so I could get going and not stand out in the cold for 20+ minutes. I ended up running into Kathryn who is a fellow Rock ‘n’ Blogger and out there for her goal race! Soon after our hello and good luck, our corral was up to the start line and off we went!
The beginning of this year’s course has some changes. Instead of going over the Arlington Memorial Bridge, you wound around some on and off ramps before heading to Rock Creek. I always love that bridge, but considering the wind they were calling for, maybe it was for the best that we didn’t run it. From the start, Lauren and I stayed together for about a mile. She was having issues with the gymboss timing app on her phone, so after about a mile we split into different intervals. I was staying on my 4/1’s and I think she wanted more of a 3/1.
In the first few miles, I noticed that I was getting warm pretty quickly. I was bundled up and prepared for the wind, but it just wasn’t there. Every so often, you had some, but nothing like what I was expecting. Then just after the first water stop, Lauren passed me by. We played cat and mouse for a half mile and then somehow we ended back together on the same interval. So as we passed mile 3, we decided to stick together and stay on my 4/1’s and I was so happy about that. Mile 4 is one of my favorites on this course. You wind through Rock Creek and although you feel out of the way from the city, there are so many people out there cheering all of the runners on. The only problem is that mile 5 is coming after and so is that dreaded hill. Splits in the first 5 miles were much faster than I thought they would be. Mile 4 was actually my 2nd fastest of the race.
I always forget that the hill isn’t right at the beginning of mile 5, but it’s at the end. I was gearing up for this hill and all of the emotions that come with in. The Wear Blue: Run to Remember team always post pictures of lost service men and women and then they stand along the left side of hill carrying flags. Last year I bawled as I went up the hill, but I was happy this year I only teared up a little. As we made the turn toward the hill, Lauren and I were actually on the right side and I completely crossed over to the left so that I can feel their power and strength. We ended up shuffling up about 1/2 way before we walked and I high fived every person that I could.
Even though the hill isn’t long, it’s steep at over 10% grade. Just walking up, I didn’t feel torn up. It’s not until I got to the top and tried to run again that the legs were like nope! Funny enough too, as we did get up the hill and cross the 10k mark I saw a guy wearing a ‘Shoreman’ jacket. This was an immediate indication I was a fellow alum with this guy. I got his attention and come to find out he just graduated in 2016 and was also on the crew team. We chatted for a bit and said our goodbyes as Lauren and I hit our next walk break.
These middle miles are pretty well represented by spectators. Usually the entire way you’re going to see someone out there. A lot of people just set up shop outside their houses and have little parties. Often times they are handing out some type of alcohol. Usually beer, but you just never know. I’ve seen jungle juice (hello, college days), mimosas and this year we saw whiskey! What do you think Lauren and I did? Drank it! Duh!!
Finally we were in the last 5k of the race. It really started though back just after mile 9 when you turn left onto Capital. You have a nice almost 1.5 mile run down capital because you have about 6 more turns until the finish. For the most part this part of the race is flat too. Well, until the last 200 yards or so.
I was starting to fade, but really kept pushing. I was not paying attention to time or pace. I didn’t really care what the finish time was, but I did care about trying to finish as strong as I could. As we passed the last gatorade/water station, I knew just as it went from my vision I should have grabbed a gatorade. I think I remember making that mistake before in that race. I am not sure if I thought there would be another chance or we were close enough, but as I passed that water station, I regretted it.
Somewhere toward the end of mile 11, I was just done. There was nothing left in the tank and was fading. Lauren pulled a ‘Coach Jeff’ and pulled out some spirited motivation on me. It’s times like that that I am very glad we run so well together. I honestly think if she was not there with me, I would have walked the last 1.1 miles to the finish line or at the very least lengthened out my intervals to probably more walking than running. We had a lot of great crowd boost int he last 1.1 miles. We also saw people walking back with medals. The worst. Well, maybe. The actual worst at this race is the last 200 yards or so. It’s not really a hill, but there is a small incline as you turn into the finish area. I wouldn’t want to be a marathoner turning the corner to the finish to even see that slight of a mole hill.
Lauren and I both didn’t have a huge kick, but we gave it out best as we sprinted the last few feet through the finish line. I was very surprised to see our finish time of just under 2:30. I really thought I would be a lot slower out there. After collecting our finisher’s medals, we weaved through the finisher’s area where there were some pretty harsh volunteers. I absolutely understand wanting to keep a flow, but one guy literally almost leapt at a woman because she was trying to get to a friend on the other side. He needed to tone it down a bit. There’s a way to be nice and a way to just be a jerk and he chose the latter. It just sucks seeing those types of situations because he’s there representing Rock ‘n’ Roll, not himself.
After collecting our stuff, we headed to the metro. We decided to wait for the blue line even if it took a bit more time to get back to the hotel. It was at least a direct route. Along the way, we actually met some fun new friends! One fellow runner on the metro is actually ended up being from Pittsburgh originally and planned to run the full next year. It’s always fun to speak up and say hello and see who you meet at races.
After showering and cleaning up at the hotel, we headed back over the river to find some food. We did a little site seeing by the White House before finally finding some seats at Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington’s oldest bar and restaurant. It was a delicious meal post race and the Bloody Mary was even better. Finally after some full bellies, we got back to the car and hit the road back to Pittsburgh.
This was my 37th overall half marathon and my 3rd Rock ‘n’ Roll DC and certainly my slowest on that course. In the end, I don’t think the course change really had an overall effect on timing for me. This really is a fun race and I’ve enjoyed it for the past 3 years. DC is always a great city to run through and the spectators always show up, even if it’s cold or there is rain. It’s a good one if it was to be your first and still is great if it’s our 37th!
Official Finish Time:
959/1443, F 30-34