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Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Half Marathon 2016 Race Recap

On Saturday, I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Half Marathon for the 5th time! This is one of my favorite races and this year was no exception – I had a blast out there. :)

rock n roll dc 2016 race recap

For the past couple years, I’ve run this race “just for fun” at a casual pace with friends. I love racing but sometimes it’s fun to do races without worrying about pace and with your only goal to enjoy the views. This year, though, my usual RnR DC partners in crime weren’t feeling the race, so I was on my own. That left me wondering – should I try to race this or take it easy? I ran the Charleston Half Marathon about 2 months ago and attempted to race it, but my legs weren’t having it (which made sense, considering I really slacked on track workouts over the holidays). But my track workouts were on point the past couple months, and I was feeling strong on my long runs – so I started thinking, what the heck? Maybe I should go for it. I’m planning on racing the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in 3 weeks, so if nothing else, I figured this would be a good test run to see where I was fitness-wise. Game plan: start fast and see how I felt.

rock n roll washington dc

I was up early (5:15 a.m.) the morning of the race to get ready, fuel up, and head downtown with plenty of time before the race started at 7:30. I’ve been really into waffles before runs lately (my favorites are Nature’s Path Organics, Kashi, and Van’s), so I made myself two waffles with almond butter. One of them got eaten right then, and the other was packed up to come with me – I planned to eat it around 6:30 a.m. I also mixed up some water + Vega Pre-Workout Energizer (I like the regular lemon-lime) to bring with me – I drank it starting at around 6:30 and finished/ditched it at 7:15 a.m. in the corral while waiting to start. Love that stuff – I have it before all my morning workouts. It has caffeine which is awesome because my stomach doesn’t love coffee before running!

what to eat the morning of a half marathon

As for my outfit, here’s what I wore! I knew it would be in the low 50’s during the race, and I always err on the side of being cold vs. hot because I hate being hot during races. Tank top and shorts it was! I brought pants and a fleece to wear over everything and then checked those layers in my bag before the race so I’d have them again afterwards. I was cold at the start line, but that meant I dressed correctly. :) (Disclaimer: affiliate links, and as you know I’m a Brooks Run Happy Blogger Ambassador and the Brooks/Moving Comfort items are ones I’ve received for free.)

MY OTHER RECIPES
 
  • Brooks PureConnect 4 shoes <—OBSESSED with these and devastated because I just found out they are apparently being discontinued. Nooooooo!!!! I already bought another pair of them last week because they are on sale right now for $70 – praying Brooks changes their mind about giving them the axe!
  • Brooks socks 
  • Brooks Short Tight – a super old fave but these new short tights are very similar
  • Moving Comfort Uprise Crossback Sports Bra – the only sports bra I’ve found that doesn’t chafe me on long runs – super comfortable and supportive
  • Brooks Ghost Racerback Running Tank – this is one of their newer items and I LOVE it – planning to buy it in another color! It’s really airy and light and has a nice flattering, long cut. FYI: size down, it runs large.
  • Sparkly Soul Headband (old fave – these rock – no slip) – normally I’d wear a visor but I knew it was going to be cloudy, so headband it was!

what to wear for a half marathon

I also wore my trusty hydration vest! I hate stopping for water at the water stops – I find it throws me off to start/stop a bunch and I never manage to choke down enough water at them, anyway, so I prefer to just carry my own water! Plus, that means I can put my point and shoot camera and my fuel (I brought a lemon HUMA gel for the occasion and ate it slowly from miles 5 to 11) and my cell phone in the pack, too.

I made it downtown with no problems and was in the corral and ready to rock by 7:10 a.m. Excited and nervous!!

dc rock n roll marathon start

I lined up in Corral 3 as per my bib, standing right next to the 1:45 pacer. My half marathon PR is 1:43:44 from the DC Nike Women’s Half Marathon back in April 2013, but the closest I’ve gotten to that since was 1:46:09 at the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon last June, so I figured I’d aim for about 1:45 and see how I felt.

rock 'n' roll dc start

Shortly after 7:30 and my corral was set free – we were off!

rock n roll dc half marathon

I must have lined up at the right spot because I didn’t feel like I was passing or being passed by a bunch of people – perfect. I settled in, and a few minutes later my friend Sokphal ran up behind me! Yay – we were trying to find each other in the corral before starting but couldn’t. We decided to run together as long as we both felt like doing the same pace, and if someone wanted to break off they were welcome to!

dc rock n roll half marathon course

I felt pretty good the first few miles – Sokphal and I chatted a tiny bit and I enjoyed the views. The first few miles of a long race are always hard because you know it’s so early and you have a long way to go, so I just focused on staying in the game and sticking with around my PR pace. It felt hard but sustainable and my legs felt strong – that was a good sign!

  • Mile 1: 7:56
  • Mile 2: 7:44
  • Mile 3: 7:40

A little before the 5k we looped over Memorial Bridge and back, and I spotted one of my track buddies coming by ahead of us on the other side and gave him a holler!

rock n roll dc marathon course

Shortly after, we made our way over towards Rock Creek! This part of the race is beautiful but also kind of quiet since it’s harder for pedestrians to get there to cheer and there aren’t any bands. I just focused on keeping up the pace and tried to enjoy the nice views of the woods. :)

rock n roll dc rock creek park

  • Mile 4: 7:39
  • Mile 5: 7:51
  • Mile 6: 7:53

And then, we hit THE hill – the one everyone doing Rock ‘n’ Roll DC talks about: the Calvert Hill coming out of Rock Creek. It is a BEAST, and it felt a lot harder this year considering I was running a lot faster than I have the past couple years tackling it! However, on this hilly stretch was where there were volunteers standing along the sidelines holding American flags, and there were pictures and signs in memory of military service members, too. Seeing all that really helped to put a silly hill in perspective – thank you so much to the volunteers who were out there holding those flags and cheering us on!

rock n roll dc big hill calvert

I did my best to keep my pace going up the hill but it’s long and gets VERY steep at the end so it was tough. By the time I reached the top, my legs felt like serious jello for a bit and I slowed down a little.

  • Mile 7: 8:42

After about a quarter mile of feeling rough after the hill, I was at a crossroads – it was time to decide whether I wanted to continue to push it or slow down and make this race comfortable. It would have been way easier to slow down and phone it in the rest of the race – but then I thought, “I haven’t been getting up early to train and doing all those track workouts so that I could feel comfortable. You can do this.” It was basically like a switch flipped in my brain and I was like BRING. IT. ON. I wanted to slow down but I knew that I didn’t HAVE to – my body could do it. I resolved to speed back up to my previous pace and to hold on for dear life. To do well in a race, you have to be okay with feeling a little uncomfortable. It’s not supposed to be easy, right? So I reminded myself that if it felt comfortable, that meant I needed to push it again.

I lost Sokphal at one of the water stops shortly after the hill when I basically made this decision and took off like a rocket. Bring it, DC!!!!

  • Mile 8: 7:53
  • Mile 9: 7:38

Around mile 9 near Howard University, I saw my favorite drum band – hooray! They weren’t out last year so I was really excited to see them back again. Nice boost of energy!

rock n roll dc drum band

I had forgotten there were some gradual rolling hills in this part of the course, so I did my best to power up the uphills and really speed up and use the downhills to my advantage, basically falling down them.

rock n roll dc course

This part of the race reminded me of one of the opening credit scenes from House of Cards – I think they filmed one of the shots on this street!

dc half marathon

I knew my watch was a little off on distance and pace, but I was on track to finish around 1:45 I thought if I could keep it up. When we passed the 10 mile mark I saw that I had done the 10 miles in about 1:19 (I remembered seeing 3 minutes on the clock when I crossed the start line) – nice!

rock n roll dc mile 10

I also saw Chelsea and her fiancé Fabio out cheering around mile 10 – yay! I was unfortunately kind of behind someone else and across the way so I saw them at the last minute, but she snagged this shot of me racing away from them! Thanks again for coming out to cheer, Chelsea! :) Seeing you guys gave me a great energy boost!

rock n roll dc half marathon

  • Mile 10: 7:37
  • Mile 11: 7:51

I was definitely starting to get tired by mile 11 – my legs were feeling it – but I was determined to try to keep up my pace. This huge blow up Brooks rocker dude helped. ;) Hello again, old friend!

rock n roll dc brooks

At this point, the 1:45 group pacer was a little ahead of me, but the 3:30 pace group and I kept playing chicken – I’d pass them, then they’d pass me, etc. I wasn’t sure which pace group was more accurate, and it was kind of annoying because they were quite a large group and it was hard to get around them, so I was happy when the 3:30-ers split off at mile 12. I was also happy because that meant only 1 mile left! :)

rock n roll dc half full split

My legs were definitely feeling it by this point but I just kept telling myself I only had to keep it up for a little while longer. I knew I was on track to do really well – I was thinking I’d finish around 1:45:30 since I was a little ways behind the pace group. My pace had dipped a bit for miles 11 and 12 so I tried to really push it again in the last mile!

  • Mile 12: 7:51
  • Mile 13: 7:42
  • Last 0.31 (according to my watch) mile nubbin pace: 7:32

Hooray – the finish line!!! The finish has some slight uphill which is always rough but I did my best to sprint it in. :)

rock n roll dc finish line

Considering I started with the 1:45 pace group and they finished about 30 seconds ahead of me, you can imagine I was surprised when I saw 1:44 on my watch! Turns out my official finish time was 1:44:20 (7:58 minute/mile pace) – wow! I was SO CLOSE to a PR and I didn’t know it! If I had known I might have been able to pull out that additional 36 seconds, but regardless this was only the second time I’ve ever broken 1:45 in a half marathon – and the last time I did was in 2013, so I was PUMPED!

IMG_0748

I think for awhile there I was starting to wonder if my half marathon PR from 2013 was a fluke – maybe I wasn’t actually that fast, and it had just been one of those random amazing races. Well, you know what? Turns out I still had it in me – and PR or not, I was really proud that I pushed myself to find out.

IMG_0753

This race was such a good confidence booster and a reminder that you are stronger than you think you are – you just have to believe it and decide to go for it. :)

I found my friend Sokphal a little while later and we hung out in the grass stretching and social media-ing with a glorious post-race endorphin rush. She raced a 10 miler the weekend before and still did awesome at this race – beast mode!

IMG_0754

This year’s medals are especially gorgeous – probably my favorite one yet!

dc rock n roll half marathon race medal

What a great day and an awesome race. We could not have had better racing weather – about 50 degrees and cloudy – and as always there was solid crowd support which made the race a whole lot more fun. A huge thank you to everyone who came out to cheer the runners on, and to the volunteers who helped to make the race possible! Also, a big thank you to Brooks for hooking me up with a bib for this race as part of my ongoing ambassadorship with them!

Another half marathon is officially in the books – and now I can’t WAIT to race the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in a few weeks. I’m going to CRUSH it. :)

Did you run the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC half or full marathon this year, too? How did it go? I hope you had a blast out there, too!

Comments

  1. 1

    Great job! I ran the half this weekend, too–it was my second half marathon, and I also got a PR (1:56:20–woo, sub-2!). Plus, my first half was on a super flat course in Florida, so I feel pretty accomplished with a PR on a hilly course!

  2. 3

    Way to go Anne!!! You are such an inspiration! Well done and congrats!

  3. 5

    Congratulations!!! That is so awesome! What an accomplishment.

  4. 7

    Congrats! It might not be a PR but it’s still an awesome time. My half PR is from 2013 so it’s time to get it up a notch this year and get a new one!

  5. 9

    Huge congrats! I love what you say about all the early morning workouts. I’ll remember that around mile 8 when things start feeling tough on Sunday!

  6. 11
    Marcey Thomas says:

    I always love reading your race caps, makes me want to get out there and run!

  7. 13

    I loved reading this! I have my Rock n Roll half this coming Sunday, and I’m going to really try and push myself. Sometimes it’s easy to just go at a comfortable pace, but I didn’t do all those 400m repeats and tempo runs for nothing, so I’m going to try and remember that!

  8. 15

    Awesome job and remember “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” You have to do the work but a lot is mental. Success is never a fluke ;)

  9. 18

    Congratulations! I love those unexpected good race days. I think sometimes when we are aiming for a PR we get in our own way mentally but when we you just run by feel, you can really surprise yourself.

  10. 20

    Congrats, Anne! Great pace and great attitude, too! Your hard work paid off! I have such fond memories from that race in 2011 too :)

    You should consider running the Carlsbad Half Marathon with me in January next year!

    • 21

      The 2011 National Half was SO fun — one of my favorites for sure! Can’t wait to see you in June for some DC running adventures!

  11. 22

    Awesome job! I’m still dreaming of my 1:45 half marathon time (I’m sitting at 1:50 currently). You killed it!

    Also check out Shoe Kicker for all the PC 4’s that still exist. I bought 4 pairs in January for $59 a piece and they’re still out there! I’m hoping to buy like 4 more pairs before they vanish. :(

    • 23

      You’ll get there!! And thanks for the shoe tip! I’ll check that out! Soooo sad they are going away :(

      • 24

        I’m way bummed. I’ve run in the PCs for nearly 4 years and they are my ultimate go-to. Thus why I’m buying 4 pairs… 8 pairs should last me at least two years. Then I’ll have time to find a new go-to shoe. ;)

  12. 25

    Always love your race recaps!!! You really capture your excitement! Well done, seriously awesome time!

  13. 27

    Wooohoo! Way to go Anne!

  14. 28

    This kind of makes me want to try and start running. Always said my body isn’t a runner’s body, that it just wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps I need to do push myself and see what I can really do if you almost made your PR. Doesn’t mean I need to be the fastest but maybe just get out there and do it.

    • 29

      Exactly — just get out there and enjoy it. For me for training runs it’s all about the running buddies – so much more fun!

  15. 30
    Jennifer says:

    Love that your finish line picture caught a guy in a Charm City Run t-shirt!! That’s my local running store in Baltimore and who I train for my half marathons with! :) Great job on this race!!

  16. 32

    This was my first year! I used to live down in Alexandria, and was so excited to rock a half at my old stomping grounds! I appreciated having your recaps from previous years to give me a little edge on what to expect!

    I was 11 seconds slower than my Baltimore half time from October – which is a bummer, I wish I would’ve realized where my time was at and pushed a little more to get another PR!

    Anne have you ever tried the Baltimore half in October? I think the crowd support there is even more than DC’s support – so if you love DC you might like that one! :)

  17. 34

    Hi Anne. I have been reading your blog but don’t comment often. I love reading your blogs and gaining info about health. I was wondering if you would do a blog or send me information on your skin care regimen. Like what sunscreens you use or facewash or any topical over the counter products or prescriptions topicals you use. im battling oily skin and congestion along with redness and broken capillaries from sun damage (the dermatiologist said) sometimes I wonder what others are doing who run outdoors and how and what proactivthe ings they are doing to improve their skin. Also do you wear makeup and if so what kind?

  18. 36

    KILLED IT!!!! You did so awesome and should be really proud!! So glad we were able to come out and cheer you on (and thank goodness Fabio saw you or you would have sped right by). :)

  19. 38

    Awesome job! Congrats! And I love that medal – very nice!

  20. 40

    Awesome job! I can’t imagine running that fast for 13 miles! Congratulations!

  21. 42
    michelle says:

    awesome job!!! would you say food/water during the race is a necessity for a half? (if running at a much slower pace than yours-ha!)

  22. 44

    Great race, Anne! I’m so impressed you can take such quality photos while not only running, but RACING!

  23. 46
    Jacquelyn says:

    I loved reading this recap, it made me oddly very happy! Maybe because we have almost exactly similar half times so I can imagine myself being in your shoes down to the splits! Haha. Glad you pushed and hit that (almost) PR and real-life 3 year PR!! Such a good feeling, enjoy the accomplishment :D

  24. 48

    DC was my first RnR half, and it was so fun! Now I know why this is a favorite race for many people. It was fun to read your recap since the race is still fresh in my mind. I didn’t PR and my pace is not where yours is, but I pushed up THE HILL and felt good about my performance overall. How in the world do you take such good pics along the way?? Impressive!

    • 49

      That’s awesome – good for you for powering up THE hill!! It’s such a beast. I use a point and shoot camera (this one) to take pictures while I run – way easier than a phone!

  25. 50
    Roadrunner says:

    Very impressive, Anne! Great work. Bring on the CB 10-miler!

  26. 52

    Congrats!
    See you at the Cherry Blossom! Did you hear Meb K. will be there?!!! :)

  27. 54

    Congrats! The slower 1/2 of @TwinsRun ran the marathon – she didn’t reach her BQ goal but she did finish her 20th marathon.

  28. 56

    I saw some Brooks PureConnect 4 shoes at RunningWarehouse.com on sale. I’ve visited DC and would like to race there, too. Congrats on a fast finishing time!

Trackbacks

  1. […] last minute), but thanks to a winter/spring of racing (the Charleston Half Marathon in January, the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Half Marathon in March and the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April) I was more or less trained up. I heard the race […]

  2. […] race I’m debating about though is the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC half marathon (<- recap from last year) in March! I LOVE that race and if I do it this year it would be my 6th […]

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