Rock N Roll USA Half Marathon

March 15th, 2014

Tackled the race and came out with a 2:05:52; much better than the last two times I ran this course (2011 & 2013), both of which were in the 2:13 range. I ran the first half with Armand, which went well and uneventful. I knew I was going to lose him at the hill exiting Rock Creek Park, in part because I was starting to overheat and I’d decided that once we left the park I was ditching a layer, and partially because he’s great on inclines.

So when we got to the hill, I took my one walk break in the race around the halfway point, which allowed me to catch my breath, and then fumble with my t-shirt that was underneath the long-sleeved one and remove it. According to Mr GPS it added about a minute onto my time, so not bad at all. After that, I kept running it out, although looking at Armand’s splits he definitely picked up the pace big time once he was on his own. (Which he should have! He’s faster than me and even if I didn’t lose him on the hill, he needed to make that break before long.)

Nothing too big to report. One tiny calf twinge around mile 12.75, so it was great to not encounter those like last year. On the whole, much happier with this finish time. It’s not as good as some of my better halves but it’s closer to those finish times (1:58-2:01 range) than I’ve been in in the past for years. So that’s a great improvement.

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Rock N Roll USA Half Marathon

March 16th, 2013

Another year, another March race. This is one where my training’s been a little haywire but I was still hoping for better. Unfortunately I started cramping around mile 8, which added with back pains around mile 1 and in retrospect I should be glad I finished. Nothing seemed to go quite right, unfortunately. Dressed too warmly and in layers that would be difficult to remove, coupled with (making a mistake I’ve done before) filling my water bottle with a sports drink that I then barely sipped because I’m not crazy about the taste. Between the two I might have dehydrated a little bit. Oops.

Bizarrely I ended up within seconds of the last time I ran this race, two years ago. (2:13:34 this time; 2:13:27 in 2011.) And also one in which I wasn’t thrilled about. So I guess that’s something? Maybe?

Anyway. I finished, that’s a victory, but there are a lot of lessons to be learned here that I’m still parsing.

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National Half Marathon

March 26th, 2011

Another spring, another half marathon… well, except this was the most “eh” half marathon I think I’ve run. I was never feeling it from start to finish, unfortunately. Just a lot of plodding along, wondering when it would be over, never quite having the drive (or speed) that I wanted. Considering I was some 11 minutes off of the last race of this distance I ran, it showed. My third worst, and the other two were the Disney Half Marathon (where I was saving a lot of energy for the full marathon the next day), and my very first half marathon back in 2003 when I weighed a hell of a lot more (and it was an hour slower). Oh well; everyone’s got a not-good race (or five) in them, and this was one of mine.

As for the race itself, well… I swear, each year this race finds something new to screw up. This year it involved mile marker signs that were mostly not set up (what are the odds that everyone missed them?), and the ones that were set up were incredibly small and also parallel to the street so you couldn’t see them until you were on top of them, if at all. Nicely done there. On the brighter side, this year the course went through Howard University instead of (at least back in 2009, the last time I ran this particular race) near the hospital, so that was a nice change of scenery. And I loved seeing Charlie, Cristina, and Brett along the way, plus getting to see Beth and Chris come up toward the finish line after I was done. And my friend Ben from my running group did really well, so that was an added bonus too.

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Shamrock Half Marathon

March 21st, 2010

The last time I was in Virginia Beach for a race, it was 2003, the race was the Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon, and I was much heavier than I am now. So if nothing else, I knew I would do better than a 3:14 finishing time.

That said, it was an odd feeling going into the race. With multiple blizzards this winter (and then my community center/gym being closed for weeks at a time because of said snow), I knew I was not as well-prepared as I could have been. I had a feeling that a PR was not happening, even as I kept hoping it would. After yet another pre-race night’s sleep being not very good (when will I learn to pack benadryl?) coupled with my body deciding to try and remove all moisture from itself beforehand, though, and I should’ve seen the writing on the wall.

I actually had an ok time for the first 8.5 miles, but after that I started dragging a bit, and just feeling out of energy and enormously thirsty. During mile 10 I ended up walking while drinking a cup of Gatorade, and while I rallied a bit for the next mile, miles 12-13.1 were the pits. A pity, too, because that’s when you finally get to the concrete boardwalk and it’s a pretty finish area. So, no PR, and not even under 2 hours (also disappointing) but at least the 2:01:51 was nowhere near my first race in Virginia Beach so no complaints. I’d told myself last month this would probably happen, so at least it wasn’t a surprise. You just move on and try and do better the next time.

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National Half Marathon

March 21st, 2009

I finally got back on the horse, so to speak. With having missed the Philadelphia Marathon in November due to illness, this was my first double-digit mileage race in a year. As a result, I won’t lie—I was more than a little worried, doubly so since I’ve been training entirely on my own for both this and the Potomac River Run Marathon in May.

To make matters slightly tougher, even though I’ve run the National Half Marathon all four years, now, starting last year they changed the course for the half marathon option. In past years, it was an almost entirely flat course. 2008 and 2009’s course, though, has a long slow climb for miles 5-8 (followed by a swift drop for miles 9-10), and then one more hill at mile 12. When I ran this course in 2008, I ended up several minutes slower than my previous year’s time, thanks to burning out on the hills and choking at the end.

This year, happily, that ended up not being the case. I ended up with a much more consistent pace, and an overall much better feeling about the race in general. I never felt beaten down like I had last year, and while I now look back and think that there are spots that I could have pushed a little harder, it’s ultimately a big victory. With that in mind, though, there were some things I feel like I need to remember in what I did right and what I did wrong.

Things I Did Right

  • This year, I successfully found one of the official pace groups to start the race with. I’d used the 4:00 (full marathon) group in 2007 and it worked out really well. Having found the 3:55 group (which is an 8:58min/mile pace), I figured they would be good to run with. Aside from a slightly slow first mile due to crowding, miles 2-4 were good, with the second mile even making up the lost time from the first. That said, when the hill started at mile 5? They took off, so to speak. They were about a block ahead of mile by the time I hit marker 5 (and I was all of 11 seconds off of the pace, so I hadn’t slowed down that much), and were completely out of sight by marker 6. Yeesh. I never caught them, either, and my finish time was only 30 seconds off of their projected finish. Oh well. Still, I felt like I was smart to stick with them, but also didn’t get pulled into the craziness. That said, I now wish I’d latched onto the 3:50 group, who knows how that would have worked?
  • This year, I also had the good sense to really think about how I was going to handle the course. I told myself that if I picked up a little bit of time on the uphill that I would just make it up on the way back, and because I had the plan in place that’s exactly what happened. As it was, only mile 7 was where I gained any significant time (33 seconds) and I burnt that all back off the next few miles.

Things I Did Wrong

  • I ended up seriously dehydrated this race, and it’s my own fault. Towards the end of last year I started running with Gatorade in my water bottle instead of water. It certainly seems like a smart idea, but the reality is that I don’t actually find Gatorade terribly refreshing. So unless I’m really, really thirsty… I don’t drink it. I ended up drinking less than half of my water bottle the entire race, and at the very end (with about a tenth of a mile to go) it was definitely starting to catch up with me, feeling a little crampy. Then, as soon as I was handled some bottled water, I drank the entire thing in about 5 seconds flat. So from now on, I’ll stick to grabbing a cup of Gatorade at water stops and using that to get the electrolytes back into my body, and carry water. Sure, it was a cool day out, but I sweat a lot and dehydrate easily. Not smart in the slightest.
  • Also, on a similar note, I really need to wait until closer to the start to get into the entrance corrals. I spent the entire race needing to use the bathroom, but (unlike last year) ended up just gritting my teeth and bearing it the whole way through, since every available stop along the way had a huge line. Not smart.
  • I also really need to drop 5-10 pounds. There is no way around it. I’d gotten rid of a few earlier this year but they mysteriously came back in the past couple of weeks, just in time for the race. Hmph.

Overall, I’m really happy with this year’s finish. I think I could have done better had I really pushed it, but I have a full marathon in six weeks, so this was the way to handle it. And, should I run the race again next year, I feel like this new course is no longer my nemesis. Yay!

(9:15, 8:43, 8:58, 9:00, 9:09, 9:00, 9:33, 8:52, 8:52, 8:40, 8:57, 9:16, 8:50, 0:50)

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National Half Marathon

March 29th, 2008

Just realized I’d never gotten around to posting this. So, the disappointment that was the National Half Marathon this year.

A year earlier I ran the race, had an extra quarter mile tacked on by accident, and finished with a 1:58:17. This year? Two minutes slower, but without the added distance. So what happened? A few things. I hadn’t trained as well, something I knew going into the day. My longest run beforehand was a 10-miler, and looking back to the previous year (as well as this year’s splits) having a 12-miler under my belt really had helped. (I felt soon after hitting marker 10 like I’d run out of gas.) A mistake I won’t make again. In general, though, I just wasn’t feeling as excited about the race, and that can be a bad thing.

It’s also worth noting that this year’s course was much steeper than last year’s for the half-marathon. That climb up through mile 8? It wiped me out, and then once I hit new distance (as you’ll see below) everything just sort of crashed and burned. There was also some self-sabotage going on with what I can best term "bad math." I remember finishing mile 11, seeing the split, and thinking it was impossible to stay under 2 hours. Well, that wasn’t really the case at that point, but it certainly seemed like it. And I am sure that given a mental defeat, my body followed along rather stupidly.

(I’m also kicking myself for needing a minute long bathroom break during mile 3. Had I just peed in the parking lot right beforehand like I’d contemplated, at least being sub-2:00 probably would’ve been in the bag. Oh well.)

Live and learn, live and learn. And hey, it wasn’t a personal best, but I did finish and it was faster than my 2006 time. I’m really glad I ran it.

Mileage Mile Times Total Time Overall Pace Elevation
1 09:27.7 0:09:28 0:09:28
2 08:47.1 0:18:15 0:09:07
3 09:38.9 0:27:54 0:09:18
4 08:30.2 0:36:24 0:09:06
5 09:00.3 0:45:24 0:09:05
6 09:18.7 0:54:43 0:09:07
7 09:25.4 1:04:08 0:09:10
8 08:57.7 1:13:06 0:09:08
9 08:58.5 1:22:04 0:09:07
10 08:55.3 1:31:00 0:09:06
11 09:20.4 1:40:20 0:09:07
12 09:45.3 1:50:05 0:09:10
13.1 10:11.9 2:00:17 0:09:11

Bleah on the percentile drop this year, though. THAT is humiliating, considering I shifted into a new age group. *sigh*

2006: 133/156 (85th percentile) (30-39M)
2007: 117/212 (55th percentile) (30-34M)
2008: 154/226 (68th percentile) (35-39M)

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National Half Marathon

March 24th, 2007

I admit it, I was nervous about running the National Half Marathon this year. After having such high expectations for Florence last year and then missing them, I was afraid that my gut-instinct finishing time was far off and that not only would I miss it (1:58 was the number I’d come up with) but that I’d no doubt end up doing worse than last year.

The morning was off to a slightly rough start; it was raining when I got to the stadium, and I was supposed to run the race with my friend Del but was never able to find him. Thankfully the rain stopped and was merely gray and misty for the rest of the day, which was fine by me. I ended up deciding to pace off of the (badly-marked) 4:00 marathon pace group. The half-marathon and full marathon share the same course for the first 10 miles so I figured they could at least give me someone to focus on for the majority of the course. After a slightly slow first mile (and someone else following the pacers talking about people with bad body odor and wanting to throw up—gee, thanks, that’s just what I want to hear right now) we began to pick up the pace… and then some.

Finally someone else asked, "Aren’t we going a little fast?" A 4:00 marathon is a 9:10min/mile, and we were well above that. The two women explained that we were indeed; what they were trying to do is "make up" the several minutes we were off the clock; that way anyone who followed them into the finish line, regardless of when they began, would get a sub-4:00 marathon. This actually worked well for me because I knew hills would be in the later part of the course and if I could "bank" some extra seconds that I could use later, that was fine by me.

Ironically, while I never saw Del, I seemed to run into lots of other people. I ran about four miles of the race with Rick Weber, and passed and said hello early on to Rick Carter, Julie Ann, Chris, Carla, and Randy. It was around mile 8.5 that we hit a water station and I ended up ahead of the pacers. A couple of times they were close behind me, but never actually passed me. I must admit I was a little surprised (especially since mile 9 was 5 seconds too slow), but if it meant I didn’t have to run with Ms. Body Odor then that was all right with me. Besides, the split was up ahead and I knew I’d be on my own at that point anyway. (Ironically I lost them at one and only time I ever walked; a 15-second moment to gulp down a cup of Gatorade that someone handed me without spilling it all over my shirt.) When I hit mile 11 amidst all of the hills I was delighted to see I was still on pace, and it was at that point I began to believe that I would actually get my goal time of a sub-2:00 half marathon.

I was definitely losing a bit of steam in the last 2.1 miles, but even then I only picked up an extra minute and thirty five seconds. I can more than deal with that. And then it was over, and I’d finally done it. 1:58:17. Wow. What a wonderful, glorious day. Races like this remind me why I run; it was hard in places, but the entire experience was nothing short of fantastic. I ran one of the best races of my "career" this morning, and I am so completely happy with it. (And this is the longest "no walk breaks" race I’ve ever run.) Yes, yes, yes.

BUT! Get this. From an e-mail sent by the race director, "We wanted to make you aware that due to a cone placement error this course was inadvertently .24 miles longer than the 13.1 official distance which race officials had mapped and USATF had certified. While your Official Time remains the same for the event, we are providing an amended section to the posted results." So I really ran a 13.34-mile race. Whoops. On the bright side, it does explain why my original statistics said I had a huge drop-off in time for the last mile even though I didn’t feel like I did one bit.

And now, because I am a total geek… a mile by mile breakdown of times, plus the elevation for that area. (I missed three of the markers; I don’t think two of them existed, and the third apparently fell over which is why I didn’t see it.) So, close enough.

Mile Pace Overall Time Elevation
1 9:30 9:30
2 8:36 18:07
3 8:32 26:39
4 & 5 8:40avg
6 8:28 52:29
7 8:49 1:01:18
8 9:04 1:10:23
9 9:15 1:19:38
10 & 11 8:55avg
12 & 13.34* 8:54avg
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National Half Marathon

March 25th, 2006

I always wanted to finish a marathon by knocking an hour off of my previous personal record. It’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do, but I came close twice; 40 minutes off between 2001 and 2002, and the agonizingly close 57 minutes off between 2004 and 2005. At this point I’d honestly given up having a new PR that was an hour under the old PR; I’d improved enough that I wasn’t going to have that leap in a marathon ever again. (I’ll still improve, yes, but not quite that much.) What I never really saw coming was that I still had the opportunity to do that with just a half marathon.

On Sunday, March 19th, my friend Dave e-mailed me with a reminder that another friend, Dennis, was running the National Marathon and would I like to come out and cheer? I went to the National Marathon’s website to take a look at the course; I knew it was happening, and I knew that with its qualification times I didn’t yet have the times needed in order to run it. What I hadn’t realized was that A) there was now a half-marathon option, and B) I qualified to run it.

After dithering back and forth for about two hours, I decided to sign up. I’d run ten miles the previous day, so a three mile jump shouldn’t be too bad, right? Right?

Anyway, back to the race itself. Now to be fair, as I said to an e-mail that I sent to my family, it’s slightly easier to drop a huge, huge amount of time when the previous time you’d run that race distance involved also still having a huge, huge amount of extra weight. My only previous half marathon was back in 2003, and was in fact one of the two very disappointing races that year that helped prod me towards realizing that just running very slowly was not going to help me drop the pounds (and that I needed to start eating better). But none the less, my 2003 finishing time was 3:14:39, or a 14:51min/mile pace. This new race was 2:06:08, or a 9:38min/mile pace. And oh, what a difference.

I was a little worried at the start of the race; I had a sudden brief "what the heck am I doing here???" thought shoot through my head right as I walked over to the start line. Fortunately I’d met up with Dennis and Dave and I think having someone else there was a good reminder that yes, I could do this, it didn’t matter my longest distance was a 10-miler, life would be just fine. Before I knew it, the race started and we were off… which was a strange feeling, to be honest. Normally it can take a loooong time to get over the start line; here, we crossed with the clock only having one minute on it. Wow. There’s something to be said for these smaller races.

The early part of the race went pretty well; we started by looping around RFK Stadium 1 1/2 times (which meant that three minutes in we passed a marker that said "Mile 1" to much hilarity, since we’d be going by it again before too long) and then headed towards the Capitol and the National Mall. I must admit that I had some slight concerns at this point, but perhaps it was because I’d managed to step in not one but two pot holes somewhere in the second mile. Yeesh! Add in a missing "Mile 2" marker (so I didn’t know how fast I was going) and my "uh oh" gene kicked in. Well, until I kicked it into submission. No more worries at that point, thank goodness. It was a really pleasant race, and for something that I’d done at the last minute it was nice to see a bunch of friendly faces; Dennis, Rick, and Brooke were all running as well (Dennis and Rick were more masochistic and went for the full, though), and at various points of the course I saw Alma, Christa, Julie, Cal, and Dave.

Somewhere around mile 11 we were in the heart of Anacostia, which apparently became undesireable land way back when because it’s full of hills. I was more than a bit relieved at this point to not be running the full marathon, which had 15 more miles to go and almost all of them apparently very hilly. Since my longest run post-marathon was a 10-miler, I was also starting to feel the distance right around here, so being able to have just two more miles to go was a relief. So I kept trucking along, trying to avoid the craaaaazy woman running and talking to random people (or the air around her) around mile 12.5, and trying to ignore the two sudden twinges I had in my achilles tendon with less than half a mile to go. (I haven’t had those in quite a while, now. More stretching next time.) Finally I was over the finish line, with Julie cheering wildly and taking pictures.

I’m delighted with my performance, and pleased with my decision to run it. Provided the race comes back for a second outing, I do whole-heartedly recommend the half marathon option. Generally speaking it’s flat and fast, and really quite fun. Big thumbs up!

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Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon

August 31st, 2003

This weekend was supposed to be just a 10-mile run, but instead Julie and I headed down to Virginia Beach for the Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon. Before we’d planned on doing the Marine Corps Marathon again this year, we’d already decided to run this race. Even better, we had some friends that we’d be running with; Kimberley and Martha from up here in Washington DC (who we’d run with for the past two years), and Teri from down in Norfolk (whom I met in 2001 when she ran with our group while in town).

We headed down to Virginia Beach on Saturday to try and avoid the worst of the Labor Day traffic (but of course there was still a lot), and before we knew it, Sunday morning had arrived! Julie and I got to the start line pretty quickly, but there was an insane amount of traffic and Teri, Martha, and Kimberley probably only got there about five minutes before the start of the race! (The race organizers need to work on traffic control a bit more!)

The five of us headed off, though, and within a couple of minutes we were into the groove. After about a mile and a half, though, we lost Kimberley and Martha who decided to run at a slightly slower pace. In retrospect, a very smart move! Julie, Teri, and I kept pushing on… but it was a really hot and humid day, and by mile 6 I was starting to drag. Julie asked if I wanted to shift down to the pace that Martha and Kimberley were using, and I agreed that once we hit the mile 7 marker (and thus, over halfway through the course) it would be a good idea. Teri zoomed off when we slowed down—she was doing really well and I knew she was going to make her sub-3:00 time goal easily. (I, on the other hand, had given up doing so.)

Part of the problem was that most of the course wasn’t really near the beach, so we were slogging through really humid and nasty terrain. Right around mile 9 or 10, the course veered a little closer to the beach itself and I was starting to feel better. Unfortunately, Julie’s knee was starting to bother her so we talked about what our plans were. Julie decided that once we made it to the Boardwalk, she was going to slow down, but we’d stick together until then. I think Julie wanted to keep the faster speed going and probably could have, but with the marathon at the end of October, it was definitely wiser to not risk injury.

We finally got to the Boardwalk, and then… Kimberley caught us! Wow! She’d really been zooming along and totally made up any lost time. Kimberley and I ran the last mile and a half together, and crossed over the finish line at the same time. Julie and then Martha were close behind us, and Teri had indeed made her goal! Hurrah! After that it was time for pictures, Gatorade, and then heading back to the hotel to take a wonderful-feeling shower.

In the end, I wasn’t thrilled about my performance. Now I know I wasn’t pushing myself as hard as I could have considering that Marine Corps Marathon is still on the horizon, but even then, I just wasn’t happy. Sometimes you just don’t have a good run, and that happened for the race. Ah well, there’s always next year!

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