Sunday, March 16, 2014

Race Report- Rock 'n' Roll Roll USA Marathon (3/15/14)

My eldest daughter pacing me for the last mile! In afterthought, this
reminds me a bit of an epic photo from"Born to Run"! No?
So my first post on this blog and my first race report ever, and not my proudest race ever. Confession: I didn't train for this one, and by not train, I mean I didn't run the entire month of February and not often in January once winter really kicked in. I was being a wimp. Last Saturday (3/8/14), it was beautiful (65 degrees), so I decided to do a long run and see how much I had in the tank. When I pulled off 16 miles, I was pleasantly surprised, but still planned on downgrading to the half marathon. As this week went on, I started to think that maybe I should do the full, just to work out the mental part. Yeah, so that's what I did.

We stayed at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, which was about 2 miles from the starting line. Pretty decent place and the parking was free, plus it was close enough that I could get a warmup in before the start of the race and not have to wake up my wife or daughter. Not to mention that the view of the Capitol from our room was pretty awesome at night.

Anyway, the morning of the race, I headed out a little after 6 with nothing more than a banana for breakfast. It seemed to do the trick. A nice little walk/run to the Mall, then a stop at the Port-a-Potty line away from the crowds and I was set to go. The sky was overcast, and the breeze off the water was making it feel less than the 53 degrees that my iPhone weather app insisted that it was. Once the corral started filling up, things got better.

Disclaimer: despite issues that some in the race community have with the Competitor Rock n' Roll Series, I appreciate the races, the atmosphere and the consistent quality of the courses. It's like the best tour of any city you can get. This one didn't disappoint. We started off near the White House, past the White House and around some of the federal offices, then off down the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial to the first water station. The one problem was that, perhaps due to the cold, I needed a restroom  break, but the Port-a-Potty line took a good 12 minutes. Back in and trying to get my time back on track for the plan, we headed off toward the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. If you've never been there, the view of Robert E. Lee's former home on the hill over the cemetery is awesome!

Anyway, we turned around before the entrance, back across the bridge, and off toward the National Zoo. We then took a turn down onto a road running through a ravine, and I began to realize that either the hills on either side of us were going to eventually slope down, or we were going to have some significant hill climbing to do. Enter the significant hill climb at mile marker 6!

The hills on this course were never that tall, but it seemed that descending was always on a gentle slope, and ascending was always straight up. Anyway, next, we had several miles of fun neighborhoods, Greek life (frat and sorority houses), and a few of the universities. On one of the blocks, they were even offering free beer and brisket to be hospitable!

We came out of all the small neighborhoods with a nice view of Capitol Hill, and began the trek toward what would be the finish line for the half marathoners. As we approached the split, I honestly considered switching races. I was already running my worst 10K and half marathon times ever, and was really starting to think my lack of training was going to come back to bite me, but this was all about testing mental fitness, not physical fitness, so to the right I went, on the way to 14 more miles.
"I'm just a Bill, yes I'm only a Bill, and I'm
running here on Capitol Hill."

Fortunately, the race planners definitely made the final 14 worthwhile! First, lots of climbs and descents, but when you're climbing Capitol Hill, who cares? Nice job!! Then we did some time in and out of marinas, a steep twisted up and down at L'Enfant Plaza, and a trip across the Anacostia River to Anacostia Park with some loops and great views. The next couple of miles were along Minnesota Avenue, which I'm pretty sure the race website described as "gently rolling hills", but were more like steep climbs with gentle descents. Finally, down a ramp and onto East Capitol Street toward the stadium and the finish line. A lot of people in the 5ish hour club started walking at this point, but I knew if I stopped running at this point, I would never start again, and my pace actually picked up. Thanks to my daughter who joined me around mile 26 for encouragement, I was really able to pick things up and did the last .2 miles at a 6:30 pace!

Total time 5:13:13. Yes, pretty terrible, but considering no runs in almost two months, and the fact that I spent almost the entire time running, it was a victory of the will. And probably a great mental conditioner for the CanLake 50 in October (my first 50 miler)!

Other favorite things: One half marathoner who juggled drum sticks through the entire course; the reactions to my Xeroshoes from people behind me; not getting that cold, shivering feeling immediately after my legs stopped moving; my wife quickly getting me to a Starbucks for a Venti Iced Coffee (black)!

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