Race Recap: Navy Air Force Half Marathon 2015

I’m linking up with Running with Spoons again for Thinking Out Loud. Thanks for hosting, Amanda!
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Posing with my bib post-expo run!

Recap time! This past Sunday, I ran my very first half marathon. It felt simultaneously like the most normal thing in the world and really, really special. Here’s how it all went down.

The night before the race, I was bouncing around in La Barra Brava fan section at the DC United vs. Columbus Crew soccer game. I may have had a beer…and a pretzel…and a little pizza. I was feeling brave in the post-race food department. It didn’t turn around to bite me on race day but jumping + stadium food might not always be a fool-proof choice.

Back home, I set out my flat runner, including my Oiselle Roga Shorts, wazelle short sleeve, Injinji socks, Road ID, Nathan Speedraw Plus, Nike running hat, Clif Bloks, and one charged Garmin Forerunner 10. I had taken everything but the Road ID out on a number of long runs and the clothes on my last 10-miler.

I foam rolled my legs one last time, crawled into bed and set my alarm for 5:40am. I had a little trouble falling asleep as nerves made my mind spin but sleep came eventually.

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When I woke up, I tugged on my race outfit, braided my bed head into something manageable and prepared my handheld with Nuun + ice. The cab we had called the night before arrived at 6:09 am, which was just late enough to make us worry and consider an Uber, but just in time to get us to the race in time.

The cab dropped Alex and I off a half block from the Washington Monument and we approached it in the dark. I was a little cold, plenty nervous, and we still had 20-25 minutes before beginning to line-up. We spent the time walking around the tents, using the bathroom, and finally warming up on the National Mall with the other runners.

I took a second to take in how odd we (runners) must look: awake in the morning dark, doing our big, crazy dynamic stretches, and preparing to run 13.1 miles before most of the city had left their comfy beds for breakfast.

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Lining up at the start line.
Hokas for everyone.
Hokas for everyone.

Between warming up and waiting for the start, Alex tried to remind me of how big of an accomplishment this was and how far I had come, but I think I was still to anxious to listen. I still appreciate the effort 🙂

We lined up with the 12-minute group and before I knew it, it was time to run! Mile 1 (12:02 min/mi) was exciting, and I think I was just really happy to put all of my nervous energy into putting one foot in front  of the other. I made sure to run at a very easy effort as we swung near the Tidal Basin and headed toward Hains Point. Mile 2 (12:00 min/mi) flew by, and I was still at a very easy, conversational pace. I talked back and forth a little bit with Alex and people-watched as we made our way through the course.

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Mile 3 (12:18 min/mi) and Mile 4 (11:41 min/mi) covered Hains Point, and as I’d run it a couple weeks before, it was nice to recognize the turn. I considered the port-a-potties at mile 3, but there was a healthy wait line already. Luckily, my bladder was okay, and I I found an empty one right after mile 4. Once it was in my sight, I gave my hand-held to Alex, and jumped in fast. As I left, I saw a runner cut in front of another for an open one. When you have to go, you have to go?! Also, I wonder how weird my non-runner friends think it is to include bathroom talk in race recaps…

I started a podcast at mile 4 and continued listening for the rest of the race, with the exception of a song or two in the last mile. It helped pass Miles 5 (11:51 min/mi), 6 (11:57 min/mi), and 7 (12:55 min/mi). As you can see, I had a little bit of a hard time between mile 6-7. First, physically, my knees started to feel the pounding and my right calf was tight. My knees never feel that kind of strain that early in a long run, so I think it was just the result of a hard training week the week before. Better taper next time!

Another contributor was as you run up Rock Creek, you’ve passed mile 7, but I know I spotted the mile 11 sign on the opposite side of the road, and I really just wanted to be at mile 11 already! Look at all of those runners who are already at mile 11!

Mile 8 (12:233 min/mi) and Mile 9 (12:41 min/mi) brought me right up to the turn around in Rock Creek. My knees felt normal again along these miles, but I still needed to stretch my calf along the curb and walk a little bit each mile. I felt close to brand new as soon as I stretched, but I definitely needed it to continue normally.

I reached down to touch the cone as I made the turn around and gratefully took a little gatorade and a cup of water for my handheld. I took the last of my fuel at mile 10 (I took 2 bloks each a miles 4, 7 and 10).

I do well retracing my steps during a long run and thus and pushed through Mile 10 (11:52 min/mi)Mile 11 (11:53 min/mi), and Mile 12 (11:10 min/mi) at a faster pace. I was trying really hard to complete a negative split after mile 7, but my Garmin couldn’t consistently spit out correct paces. My watch would say 11:40, but Alex’s would say 10:30 and eventually, I just gave up and just tried to maintain an even pace until the next mile.

Taken by my awesome cheerleaders!
Just as I spotted my family!

As mile 12 came to a close, I knew I had the Arlington Memorial Bridge coming up before I could race to the finish. However, as soon as I saw I didn’t have to run the whole bridge and back, I knew I could finish strong. Even better, I spotted my family at the base of the Lincoln Memorial right after mile 12. I kept at that last mile and counted off the number of people I passed to keep myself motivated and my brain busy. I thought, “Aim for 25!” and then, “Fifty!”.

I finished Mile 13 (9:18 min/mi) two minutes faster than the mile before.

I had so much fun tin that last stretch. After my tight calf and all the energy spent making sure I wouldn’t burn out too soon, it felt like flying to see how fast my legs could run after 11 miles on my feet. It was my favorite part of the whole race.

I crossed the finish line in 2:36:39. I think my secret goal was under 2:30:00, but I met the ultimate goal I’d given myself: finisher a stronger second half.

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I received my medal, grabbed my post-run food pack and made a bee-line for my family near the WWII monument. I knew they needed to get back on the road soon, and I wanted to squeeze in a little time before the left. It meant the world that they were there.

After I hugged my family one last time, and they began their drive home to Ohio, Alex and I walked to Foggy Bottom. We still had an hour before the reservation I made at Founding Farmers so we thought…why not stop for a celebratory beer?! Whole Foods was closest, but I’m not sure it was worth the judgement of ordering beer from a grocery store before 11am hahaha… Fine, it was worth it. But still weird.

But let me tell you, that beer was strong (especially on a stomach of just Clif Bloks and a few post-race snacks). By the time we walked the two blocks to Founding Farmers at 11:45am, I was well aware of my lightweight status. My favorite breakfast (and okay, a celebratory mimosa) was everything I wanted to finish off the morning. Cheers to seeing things through to the end!

Learning to run has been frustrating, rewarding, humbling and so very worthwhile. Here’s to many, many more miles.

Two really strong beers. One for me. One for him.
Two really strong beers. One for me. One for him.
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Breakfast never looked so good.

Right now I’m looking forward to easing back into running (I don’t want to lose all of the strength I’ve built), buying a new pair of running shoes and switching up my mornings with a little yoga (maybe?!).

Do you remember your first half marathon? Did you train for more before trying a full?

Race Recap: Lawyers Have Heart 10K 2015

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In this year of running, I have signed up for one half marathon I could not finish and completed a local Thanksgiving Day 5K and a 5K fun run. In light of this, the Lawyers Have Heart 10K felt like the first “real” race for which I’d trained. It was also the first race I attempted on my own! I signed up for this 10K because I needed a little extra motivation to commit to my training. I’ve spent all of 2015 preparing to begin half marathon training in July, but I was tired of “pre-training.” I was anxious to run a race. I wanted to see what I could do! I’d initially considered the NYC Oakley Mini 10K, but I’m happy I decided to pick a local race in the end. I could handle all my pre-race jitters close to home.

My long run the previous weekend had been 5.5 miles, and although that went well, I was still nervous about tackling a 10K – even if it was only an extra 0.7 miles. I was also happy to see the endurance I’d lost during my running breaks (to heal my shins) was slowly returning. That 5.5 mile run felt infinitely better than the last 5 miler I’d attempted. In that case, I was tired; I wanted to stop; I needed to walk. On the last run, I knew I could get it done and finish strong.

As I wrote in my weekend wrap-up, I went to Truckeroo Friday night and may have committed too heavily to the dairy train…thank god it all worked out but noted for next time. At my apartment that night, I set out my breakfast, lay out of my flat runner and even tucked my apartment keys and money into my shorts’ pockets lest I forget in the morning. I didn’t want to forget one thing.

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I tried to go to sleep early that night, but as I’ve read countless times before in other recaps — I was too excited and nervous. I thought, “Can I really do this? Did I train correctly? Will my stomach act up?” At some point before midnight, I did stop watching Orange is the New Black and finally fall asleep.

In the morning, I assessed the stomach situation (still not great, but okay), made my breakfast (toast, peanut butter, banana), and sipped on Nuun. I don’t usually eat before my longer runs in the morning, but I was nervous I’d spend 6.2 miles with a growling stomach so I went with a tried and true breakfast and it worked. It did turn out, however, that I drank a little too much water because I spent most of the race in need of a bathroom. More on that later. Still – better a little discomfort than suffer from dehydration, right?!

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I was running a little behind schedule in the morning, but I was able to walk to the race in 7 minutes flat. It was a gift to be so close! In fact, when I turned out of my apartment that morning, I was surprised to see the course was only feet from my apartment! I was able to enjoy the set-up on my walk to the starting line and get a glimpse of the 6-miler marker. The site of other runners walking to the start also calmed my nerves (they weren’t at the start line either) and made me nervous all over again (look at their warm-up runs! should I be doing that?!)

I picked up my packet during in-person registration at City Sports a couple days before the race so all I needed to do was get into place. When I joined the crowds, I did have a little time to kill so I opted to warm-up and do my leg swings where I could find room. I might have looked a little funny, but I wasn’t going to risk starting this race out tight and cramped.

After that I lined up right behind the 10-11 minute pack so I could let them run ahead, but I could stay ahead of the 12 minute group. I wanted to treat the first couple miles nice and slow to avoid burning out near the end where I was most concerned about pushing. Once I was in my spot, I ran through my mental checklist of my to-do list and looked down to realize I’d forgotten one thing: setting my Garmin! The race started under the highway on K ST and thus, I was immediately concerned it wouldn’t be able to find a location under there in time. Of course, at this point, the announcer is shouting, “Five minutes!,” but I popped out from my spot in the corral under the bridge and luckily, my Garmin found a signal in no time.

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As the minutes clocked closer to the 7:30am start time, the announcer reminded the crowd to just put one foot in front of the other, and guys, I got teary. I am so lame, but running has given me so much this past year and here I was — finally putting it in action. I was so excited! By the time my first marathon rolls by, I’m going to be a big ‘ol happy, tired, teary mess.

Once the elites took off, it only took a few minutes for my group to reach the start line and a handful feet before the start line, we were off! It was pretty incredible to see the crowd of runners in front of me. I think I’d choose to be near the end just to see that site. The course led west down K St before u-turning on to a highway. I kept checking my Garmin to make sure I was keeping right above 11 minutes for the first mile and was happy to see I wasn’t alone.

We ran toward M ST, and I caught a glimpse of the elites returning from the turnaround and joined in the cheering with the rest of the runners. Whether you’re fast, slow or in between — runners cheer on other runners, and I love that.

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I started the race with a T-Swift song (ya know), but then quickly remembered why I don’t run to music. It pumps you up, sure, but then I need to remember I still have six miles to go! Podcasts are my heaven. They settle me down, keep me entertained and get me in the zone. I saved an episode of This American Life just for the occasion and it turned out to be a great musical edition that kept my brain busy while I chipped away at miles 1-3 (11: 28, 11:00, 10:38). 

As I mentioned before, I needed to use the bathroom pretty much from mile 1, but it was worse at mile 2.5/3. When I came across the only bathroom stop on the race right before mile 3, I decided what the heck and joined the line with five people in front of me. However, thirty seconds into waiting I decided to keep going. My legs felt good! I also felt the clock counting, and I didn’t want to spend the race at a standstill unless I felt like my body needed it. I’m really glad I kept going. Plus, the discomfort lessened as the miles pressed on, and I continued to sip on my Nuun during the race as the heat rose with no problem.

I did consider walking during many parts of the races, but not because my body was yelling for a break. My brain was the wimp! “Shouldn’t we be stopping for a break by now?” But I know I didn’t need one. I felt good! I could do this! In fact, my legs chugged up every hill as they pushed through the half way mark and onto mile 5 (10:26, 10:39). My legs were pulling me through.

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That last hill — oof.

During the last mile, you reach the center of the race course and have to run away from it before turning around and running toward the finish line. Mentally, it was hard to run in the opposite direction knowing I’d have to run it all back again, but I sloped down under Washington Circle and back up it. Once I hit the turn around, I knew I was close. I ran under the circle again, past my apartment and retraced the walk I did from my building that morning. I picked up speed and saw that I was in the 9:30s, and I felt good. I don’t know how accurate my Garmin/Runkeeper is as I ran under so many underpasses, but the numbers do look like I did a good job at continuing to chip away at the time (10:09, 10:01).

I crossed the finish line yelling, “I did it!” in my head and picked up my first medal. Official time: 1:09:17! I kept walking after crossing the finish line and explored the post-race area before pausing to stretch and check on my shins (they felt a-okay).

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I picked up a snow cone on my walk home (how nice of a post-race treat is that?), and a stranger was kind enough to take my photo with my medal! I am still smiling after my first 10K race finish. I was so nervous, but I powered through, ran it start to finish with the exception of that brief bathroom stop, and it gave me the confidence to start my half marathon training plan in two weeks 🙂

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Pick your own snow cone flavor!

IMG_4352Did you race last weekend? What was your first “real” race?