Right up front I want to say that I liked this race. I really liked this race a lot. It may be because it was a well-run event, or it may be because I felt good for every mile of the course. Either way, I think this race has a bright future. I recommend it highly and I'll definitely be back another year to run it again.
Here's the course - unfortunately a bit difficult to see in a pale blue line:
Challenging course without being a killer. Huge downhill by the Capitol at mile 2; rolling hills from miles 8 through 12 -- but all runnable, nothing too brutal.
Excellent course layout through interesting neighborhoods and through the Mall
Several occasions to see front-runners on other side of road
Fantastic road closures, well-monitored
Plenty of room to run after the first mile
Frequent, well-stocked aid stations, including gel at Mile 9 of the half
Lots of parking close to the start
Ample bathrooms (and shelter from rain!) at start
Nice medals and finish area
One of few races requiring qualifying times - knowledgeable runners
Good support by DC Mayor Fenty, who ran the marathon
Ugly white see-through t-shirt, although technical fabric
Few exhibitors at expo (and having to go there on a Friday)
Somewhat disorganized corral-free, seeding-free start
Some aid stations were light on volunteers
Some broken city pavement after the winter
Unpredictable weather (rainy at the start this year, then drizzle for most of the race)
Minimal food selection at finish area (bagels and bananas) although ample
Leading marathoners had to run through half-marathoners at finish - could have been prevented with better coning to split road in last mile
Half marathon course probably long
Proprietary chips with ankle straps (although I'm used to those)
Few spectators, relatively little support from local residents
Incorrect timing data on website after race, no email contact provided for corrections
Now here's MY race: It went great!!! I felt positive and upbeat the whole way - I don't recall any bad spots at all. I don't think I've ever had a uniformly happy half marathon before - I've always had some parts where I really struggled! I never had to pull myself out of that dark, fatigued place during this race. I don't think I've ever before been surprised by mile markers coming up earlier than I expected them, either! I like that!
I did have some niggling aches and pains along the way - hip aching, painful knees, and my left arch started tightening up for a ways - but they all worked themselves out. I may go back to wearing knee straps for hilly races, though.
In the final mile I was running strong and passing lots and lots of walkers, whom I tried to encourage on and get them to sprint with me to the finish line!
(Note: timing data is a little messed up for the final split(s) listed and charted, since course was long and I turned the unit on and off in the parking lot after the race.)
I want to record exactly what I did before the race and try to do it again in the future! While I don't recommend this necessarily for anyone else, it worked great for me this time around!
- 3 days before: Send babysitter to Key West and taper hard for 3 full days!
- Day before: Eat Mexican food for lunch and drink champagne with shrimp and good bread and olive oil for dinner!
- 2.5 hours pre-start: wake up, coffee with milk
- 2.0 hours pre-start: 2 Imodium, large muffin, 2 slices cheese
- Pre-race: Hydrate at start, 2 ibuprofen, 1 Succeed
- Aid stations: Walk to drink at least 2 small cups water every station
- Mile 3.5: 1 gel
- Mile 9.0: 1 caffeinated gel, 1 Succeed, 1 ibuprofen
Here are my post-race notes to myself on my race strategies:
1. Start slower.
- Try to hit my target 11 min/mile pace on mile one and stay right there on every consecutive mile.
>>Yes, I kept my pace in the "very comfortable" range starting out, and I hit my first three miles in 10:48, 10:45, and 10:45. That's just where they landed, I don't think I did a lot of pace adjustment other than to remind myself to stay very comfortable. I didn't let the other runners "carry" me out faster. After that I picked up my cadence on the uphills and downhills and tried to keep a steady effort just at the outer edge of my comfort range.
- Try to keep the heart rate under 170 before the 10 mile marker. (Last time it went over 170 by about mile 7.5 and continued climbing after that).
>>YES!! I did it! The weather (drizzly and cool) and my clothing cooperated on this. My average heart rate didn't get above 165 until Mile 11 this time. It was lower than I expected almost every time I checked it, so I didn't have to do much adjustment for heart rate either.
2. Drink more. Try to get down at least two small cups of fluid every 3 miles. I think I got a bit dehydrated last time and that affected my heart rate and my performance toward the end. Balance the water with one salt capsule at the start and one halfway, same as last time.
>>Done! I made certain to drink two cups (4-6 ounces total?) per water stop (approx. every 2 miles), even if I had to walk a ways to do it. Weather was cool, though, I need to drink more in hotter weather. I think that helped the heart rate a lot.
3. Carry less. No waist belt this time. No water bottle no course - chug a little water at the starting line and toss the bottle. Just a number belt with a couple gels taped on.
>>Done! I used a cycling-type vest with pockets in the back. I LOVED it. In the future in warmer weather I think I'll wear a minimal tri-top with rear pockets for road races and lose the waist pack (although I do like it for triathlons when I put my sunglasses and gels inside and can grab them all at once in transition). I don't need all that extra stuff. Yes, it's a security blanket. The stuff you genuinely need is out on the course. JFR!
4. Wear less.
>>YES. Shorts from now on for all road races unless it's below 40-45 degrees. Shiver through mile 1 if you have to, it won't kill you. Check a bag of warm clothes for the finish area if you can't park close by.
5. Less gel.
>>YES. Two worked great for a half marathon at mile 3.5 and 9.0 (where there were aid stations when I could wash them down with water). Just enough, not too little.
6. Keep running, no matter what. No walk breaks except to take on water, fix gear problems, or maintain heart rate under 170 on steep uphills.
>>YES. I was a little more liberal in walking to get in all my water, but ran all the rest. I was able to run up these hills without breaking my heart rate maximum. That might not be possible in other races with steeper hills, but it worked in this one.
All in all, I'm VERY happy about this race. I had fun and ran well! The only thing I may try to do differently in my next half marathon race is to kick it in gear for the finish line at about Mile 10 instead of Mile 11 or so.