My race day started off with a 4:44 a.m. alarm, and unlike I usually do when early alarms go off, I popped right out of bed. Exhausted from a long week of travel for work I actually went to bed early Saturday night and didn’t feel like I needed the snooze button Sunday morning. All my race gear was laid out, so I was quickly ready to go.
The first sign of a bad day struck when I grabbed my Garmin. The display screen was blank. I had just charged it the night before, but I think it went into it’s protected mode which I’ve had trouble with before. I pulled up the email from Garmin support on how to bring it back to life, but after I did it beeped that the battery was low. NOOOOOO! I had a minor panic attack before Ian calmed me down and assured me this wasn’t the end of the world. I was going to have to wear a regular stopwatch for the race and not have instant feedback on my current pace or beeps with mile splits at all the markers. I haven’t done an outdoor run without my Garmin or before that my Nike Plus wrist band in years. I convinced myself not to worry about it and headed toward the metro.
I was really early, so there was barely a line for the porta potties. I was one of the first people in the 6:30-7:29 pace corral, which turned out to be pretty sparse. I had to go to the bathroom again, but stressed out about whether or not I’d have time so I decided not to go. I think I might drink too much water on race morning sometimes. This was a bad decision and would come back to haunt me as I really couldn’t hold it anymore and had to find a porta potty just past the 10k-mark wasting about 90 seconds.
Other than that little bit of TMI, everything seemed perfect for the start of the race. Temps were in the low 50s, so I wasn’t freezing like at the start of the Cherry Blossom, but it wasn’t going to be too warm to run in either. The Nike trainers kicked things off with some fun active stretches to get everyone warmed up and pumped up, and then to top things off they introduced Shalene Flanagan and Joanie Benoit Samuelson. The two both sporting Boston tees were going to “jog” the race with us.
With so few people in my corral and even fewer in the one ahead of us, I was very close to the start line. I didn’t have any issues with overcrowding or weaving in and out of people at the start, which was awesome. I’ve heard some rumblings on social media that this was a bit of an issue for others further back however. We headed out for the first mile that led us through a tunnel with drummers and strobe lights reverberating off the walls pumping up the energy. From there the course was very similar to the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler running along the Mall, out and back over the Memorial Bridge, past the Kennedy Center and through Hains Point.
Right from the start something didn’t feel right. It was hard to breathe even during mile 1 – like that out of shape, out of breath I’m running way too hard feeling. I wasn’t running way too hard though. I ran my first mile right on pace in 7:30 and my second at about 7:27. It felt hard though. Really hard. I desperately tried to stay positive though, and told myself it was good that I wasn’t going out too fast. I didn’t want to let my mind beat me when I’d trained so hard for this race.
My next two miles slowed to about a 7:50 pace even though I felt like I was pushing to keep at my 7:30 goal. Again I told myself to stay positive and that I still had energy in the tank to make up for it. This was not a fun way to run. I wasn’t taking in any of the sites or enjoying the bands and cheer sections along the course that were all really great.
I entered the long, lonely stretch that is Hains Point and told myself this was my spot to make up some time. I’ve been running these roads so much this year and there was actually no major headwind to deal with on Sunday…this never happens at Hains
Mile 10 brought the first real hill up an on ramp, but it wasn’t even that tough of a hill when you think about the course for the National Half Marathon also here in D.C. At this point I wanted to just run off the course and hide somewhere to stop the struggling. Mile 11 brought us back through the tunnel and into the final stretch down to the Capitol Building and back towards the finish on Pennsylvania Ave. I swear that loop around the front of the Capitol took days. I saw Ian just after the 20k mark and tried to smile as I ran by, but just wanted this race to be over.
You can see the finish line of this race from a long ways away. The fact that I didn’t have any energy to even kick to the finish made it seem like I was never going to get there! I did finally cross the line though and got high fives from Shalene and Joan Benoit – the highlight of my day. I broke down a little when I saw my friend Lindsay who was handing out water at the finish and told her I felt awful and had a terrible run. Being a runner she just gave me an understanding hug and told me there’d be another chance for a PR.
I kept moving through the finish area collecting my Tiffany’s necklace from the ROTC guys in tuxedos and then grabbed my super cute finisher’s tee. Well done Nike. I met up with Ian and immediately lost it and started sobbing in his arms. I realize this is a ridiculous reaction to not getting the time I wanted, but I was exhausted emotionally and physically and it just came out. I’d trained so hard for this race and was really disappointed that I’d had such a bad day. It wasn’t just that I was mad about my time on a day and a course that were tailor made for a PR, but that I’d hurt for the whole race and hadn’t enjoyed any of it like I usually do on race day.
I had a goal of finishing in 1:38 and ended with a time of 1:47:48 putting me in 812 place overall and 236 out of 3,744 in my division. It’s funny how relative running can be. A few years ago I would have been over the moon with that time, but after the training I put in, I know I could have done much better. In the grand scheme of things it’s just a race time. Nobody other than me really cares what time I come in. Even my goal time wasn’t going to win me any awards. I finished another half marathon and that’s something to be proud of.
Also, one of the best things about running is that there’s always another chance. I’m thinking about adding in another half marathon to give it another shot, but am trying to give myself a few days to see how I feel before jumping into a new race. I’m looking at the half in Alexandria on Memorial Day weekend or the Zooma half in Annapolis on June 1. Has anyone done either of these? What are your thoughts? How do you deal with a tough race?