Saturday, March 20, 2010

National Half Marathon Race Recap

My day started out with a 4:45 am alarm, and when I left the hotel to catch the Metro an hour later, the temperature was 49 degrees; not bad.

When I got to RFK Stadium it was still dark, so I did my warm-up jog while weaving in and out of people milling about. After my warm-up it was time to find my corral, but there were no corrals marked, just areas for predicted paces. I lined up behind the 9:43 sign, since that was my goal pace.

I was pleasantly surprised that I crossed the mat only about 10 minutes after the starting gun. In Philadelphia, it was close to 30 minutes before I crossed. There was the usual congestion for the first mile, and I made it through in 9:49. The highlight of mile 2 was coming up East Capitol Street SE and seeing the U.S. Capitol dome bathed in morning sunlight. Ironically, the song that played on my iPod as I witnessed this was "U.S. Blues" by the Grateful Dead.
Red and white, blue suede shoes, I'm Uncle Sam, how do you do?
Gimme five, I'm still alive, ain't no luck, I learned to duck.

Miles 3 & 4 spanned Constitution Avenue, passing by the National Archives, the Museum of American History, and the Washington Monument, among other sights. Mile 3 was mostly downhill-to-flat, and I sped through it in 8:59. And then the race got interesting.

I knew going in that at about the 4 1/4 mile mark, the course would go uphill. And did it ever. All the way until about mile 7. But I covered those miles better than I had anticipated, and at the 7 mile mark, I was at 1:07:44, on a 9:40 pace. So I was looking good.

And that's where the course started to deteriorate. The course was beautiful, running through neighborhoods in Northwest DC to which I had never been. But the road itself was horrendous. Uneven, pot-holes abounding, like running through a mine-field. I made it to mile 8 at just over 77 minutes, and then the road really got bad. Rolling hills in the 9th & 10th miles gave way to my "hitting the wall" at the 10 mile mark. I ran mile 10 at a quick 9:30 pace, and maybe that was my downfall. All of a sudden, it was extremely difficult for me to focus on just running. Just before the 12 mile marker, there was an unfair uphill climb that really taxed me. The road flattened out for the final mile, and as I saw the finish line, it felt like it would never come.

I crossed in 2:08:49, almost 2 minutes slower than I had planned, but that was before I saw the abysmal condition of North Capitol Street. The rolling hills really took their toll on my quads. But I still set a personal record; I did Philly in 2:21:04, and that was while walk-limping the final 8 miles.

A great day for a race, but the hills and road conditions will probably not bring me back to this one again.

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