What a weekend! It has taken me until now to get back to feeling mostly normal after a very busy but great couple of days.
Chelsea was my trusty travel buddy for the weekend. I am so lucky to have great friends like this who will jump on board with my last minute crazy plans and just go with the flow.
We traveled from Raleigh to Charlottesville on Friday to visit my parents for the night. It was great to have some family time and my parents were happy to keep Juneau Saturday night while Chelsea and I were in DC.
After some time in Charlottesville, we hit the road for DC on Saturday afternoon, presumably leaving plenty of time to get to my friend’s apartment where we were staying in Arlington and then to the expo by metro. Somehow that trek to DC turned into the longest drive of all time. Seriously, 29 North was like the damn Bermuda Triangle.
Long story short, we ended up in a bit of a rush to get to the expo before it closed at 6. We ended up there at about 5:45 and, to some degree, I am sort of glad we did. Even though we had to pretty much jog/walk from the metro station to the expo, once we got there we had absolutely no lines to deal with.
And the expo was really cool. I liked the fact that it was less about packing in vendors trying to sell things, because I honestly never buy anything at the expo anyway, and more about celebrating the race itself.
After the expo, we were exhausted. So we opted to stay in and order a carb-load meal by delivery. Spaghetti marinara with the most massive side of garlic bread ever. For the win.
Even though we stayed in, we did NOT go to bed early. We were doing really important things like watching Friends with Benefits on cable. Fail. 4:45 AM came very early with little sleep to be had.
I have to give Chelsea credit again for being such a race day champ. I told her several times she didn’t have to come to the starting line with me and could just show up to cheer me on and meet me at the end. But she insisted. So we were both up and moving bright and early to catch the metro to the starting area.
This may have been the most effortless start of any race I have done. Taking the metro to only about a block from the start area was simple (Nike had arranged to have the metro start running early for the race). We got there in plenty of time to take some cool pictures, for me to get through the bathroom line (twice), and it wasn’t all that cold out so being there early didn’t feel agonizing.
Soon enough, it was time to make my way to the starting line. I said goodbye to Chels and started making my way into the right pace corral.
My pace band was for 7:59/mile and under, which is the front pace corral for this particular race. By the time I worked my way through the crowd I was pretty much within reach of the starting line and the MC stage… where they had Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson speaking before the official start! It was a cool experience to see these legendary female runners up close AND to be right at the front of a starting line with a crowd of runners 15,000 women deep behind me.
The race was great from the start, with plenty of crowd support and a course running straight by the capital building, the Washington monument, and other landmarks. The course was out-and-back and the coolest part (in both directions) was running through the tunnel, where they had perfectly placed a drum circle who echoed ridiculously inside the tunnel walls.
I have been back and forth struggling with IT Band pain since my last marathon in March so I did my best to play this race by ear. But it was hard not to get caught up in all of the excitement. I was having a great time being in a field full of women and with the tremendous amount of crowd support that this race provided. So I would be lying if I said that it was easy for me to keep a modest pace.
Although I had some occasional tightness/soreness in my IT band, knee, and hip early on, it was negligible and the energy of the race more than made up for it.
It was at around mile 8 that I started to struggle. And, unfortunately, this also marked the point at which the race course began running along the Potomac River with a lot less crowd support.
Even after mile 8, my pace remained pretty consistent. Slowing down didn’t seem to make my leg feel any better so I just tried to stick with a pace that was as fast as was comfortable for my body – which continued to be around 8:00 min/mile for a long time.
Once I reached mile 11, I assumed I was in the clear. Mentally, that was entirely true. As the miles and tenth-of-a-miles clicked by I knew I was so close that I would make it to the finish line in great time. But with about .75 mile left, I entered the same drum tunnel I had entered at the start, except on a steep decline.
The force of my stride on the decline proved more than my IT band could handle. I felt every step of that downhill in every muscle of my right leg. I made it past the downhill but on the way back up my leg just gave up. Every part of me was itching for that finish line except my right leg. I had to pull over to the side of the street and loosen it up before I could keep going again.
And I did get going again. All 3/4 of a mile to the finish! My chip time was 1:46:19.
I was psyched with my time, given my IT band issues and not having had any focused training. And I was psyched for the pretty necklace in the blue box that I received at the finish.
The brunch, insane deal on mimosas ($11 to just buy the whole magnum bottle of champagne and a carafe of OJ!?), and good conversation with my wifey/friend may have been the best reward of all.
The post-race drive home from DC left all of us exhausted, but it was worth the effort and travel. Nike Women’s Half was an amazing experience for me. I hope to run this race again some day and I absolutely recommend it.
What’s your favorite race you’ve ever run? What’s your favorite race distance?