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. 🙂
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.
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!
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.)
- 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!
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!!
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.
Shortly after 7:30 and my corral was set free – we were off!
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!
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!
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. 🙂
- 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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
- 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!
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! 🙂
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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!
This year’s medals are especially gorgeous – probably my favorite one yet!
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!