The first half marathon is in the books. And it was a great one.
The night before my husband and I went out with some friends to Red Rocks in Old Town for dinner, and came home around 9:00. I got ready for the next day, laying all my stuff out so I wouldn’t be too rushed.
I slept incredibly well, which I was a little nervous about, especially since my sister-in-law was out with a friend from Georgetown when we went to bed. I’m a light sleeper and thought for sure that I would hear her come in- or that our big dog would bark at her. But we all slept right through it (some guard dogs I have) and woke up around 5:00 am feeling ready to go. Since I get up at 5:30 most days, and 5:15 on spin days, 5:00 wasn’t painful at all. I took the dogs out while letting my husband sleep for a little longer, guzzled some coffee and proceeded to get ready. I was even able to squeeze in some foam rolling, which I think really helped. I strategically ate my bagel and peanut butter at 5:45, and then my husband took me to the King Street Metro at 6:00.
I had been debating whether I should try to get the first train in the morning, or wait a little. I live about a two minute drive to the King Street Metro, and I knew that I probably wouldn’t be crossing the start line until at least 8:30, so I didn’t want to be waiting around a lot. But knowing Metro as well as I do, and seeing the day before that while they would be opening early they wouldn’t be running extra trains- meaning there would be 15-20 minute waits in between (it’s a world class system that Metro)- I decided it was best just to go early. I’m also a chronically early person anyway, I get very stressed at the prospect of being late (hello, Type A personality).
I actually purposely missed the first train, which was a Yellow line because that would involve a transfer, and opted to jump on the first Blue line which would take me right to RFK Stadium. Around Metro Center, I was very pleased with this decision. I got to sit the whole way, and some of the stops were so crowded I’m sure that many people had to miss a couple of trains before being able to board.
I ended up arriving around 6:55 at the site. The next hour went by really quickly. I made a last minute decision to just throw all my long-sleeved tops into my gear bag to check instead of waiting in one and then tossing it at some point during the race, which was a really good choice on my part because by the time I re-emerged outside (yay for the indoor waiting area!) it was already comfortably warm to just wait.
I was feeling really good- my legs were feeling loose and strong, I wasn’t uber nervous and felt energized. I just sensed that I would do a good job completing the race.
I crossed the start line around 8:40- at least according to my husband, who was tracking me via some program Rock ‘n’ Roll had online. He said it was pretty accurate and helped him prepare to catch me as I came through Dupont!
This was the first race where I had spectators looking specifically for me- in addition to my husband at Dupont and then at the finish, my dear friend Amy also came out with her dog to watch for me at Lincoln Park, which was at the start of the race but it was still a while before I came by. This is early in the morning for Ames, so I had to reach out and touch her hand because she almost missed me! But it was so great seeing her and my husband- it really does make a huge difference and puts a little something extra in your jog.
I purposely went slow for much of the race. Partly this was because it was my first race and I didn’t want to flame out. Partly it was because it was the warmest running weather I had been in for a long time. It was beautiful- bright blue skies, sunny, ending around 70 degrees towards the end of the race. Much of the race involved a lot of shade- running between tall offices downtown and then decently shaded residential streets- and there was usually a nice breeze. So I didn’t over-heat, but I took precautions to ensure that. I hydrated a lot more than usual, and successfully utilized many of the water stations in addition to my hand-bottle.
I felt great for much of the race. I hadn’t had any decent runs leading up to this, and it had rattled me. This was not just a great race, but the best run I had in so long- one of those runs that , if it hadn’t been a race, I would have still felt a huge high for hours afterwards. I was able to run the entire time, no walking breaks. The Dupont Hill I had worried about turned out to not be bad at all. I really felt a sense of accomplishment as I was able to clear the hill without stopping to walk and not panting terribly hard at the top. I was loving how good I was doing, and felt like I could have kept going forever!
Due to so much hydrating, I did have to take a quick break to use one of the toilets at Mile 9. Around Mile 7 I started to really have to pee. I was debating whether I should just ignore it and push through, but I noticed I was starting to run faster with a new goal of finding a bathroom. Not exactly what your ‘goal’ should be. This was also one of the harder legs of the course in my opinion- going through Howard University, there were hardly any spectators since the students were likely sleeping, so there weren’t any distractions. I decided I would just feel much better if I stopped and in retrospect it was a good decision, even if it did cost me 4-5 minutes.
Around Mile 10, my left hamstring started tightening up a bit. This was the sort of phenomenon I had been experiencing through most of my runs recently. I didn’t let it get to me though, I just summoned some of my yoga practices and concentrated on telling that muscle to relax, which it did after a little bit- definitely before the next mile. And despite this, once I saw that Mile 10, I just started picking up the pace. I had paced myself well, and I knew I had it in me to bust it out for the last three miles.
It was tough for sure, because it was getting really warm at this point and there wasn’t much shade cruising down East Capitol and H Street. But I was propelled by the thought of finishing. It also helped that was passing almost everyone at this point- so many people were walking or going at a really slow jog. I absolutely do not judge those people, but it was a HUGE boost to my self esteem and to keep me going!
I was panting hard as I crossed the finish, but I didn’t feel totally done in for- I think I could have gone a bit farther if I HAD to.
The best feeling of the race was to hear my husband calling out for me as I emerged from the food area, arms loaded with goodies. He had been able to get a couple of shots of me as I crossed the finish, and then was able to spot me through the thousands. He also said he’d run a race with me in the future- yay!
My time? I finished in 2 hours and 31 minutes. And now that I’m thinking about it, if I were to exclude my brief rest stop, it would have been a bit faster. So I think that’s a really respectable first half PR. My average pace was 11:30. But what I’m even prouder of is that my average pace over the last three miles was 10:13! That’s some serious negative splits, in my humble opinion.
So, my first half marathon training and race comes to a close. We were able to retrieve my bag pretty quickly, and the ride home was surprisingly painless. We knew about the second metro entrance two or three blocks beyond the once closest to RFK, which had a gigantic line. So we were able to get down into the station, jump on an Orange line train within a few minutes, and transfer easily at L’Enfant Plaza to a Yellow line train. It was a great race, and a great experience. I’ll be doing some more retrospectives over the next couple of days, but suffice to say that I’m feeling mighty good about myself today.