Rockin’ My Goal

I was wary of setting a goal for the Rock’N’Roll USA Half Marathon, but when I registered I chose 2:00 a my estimated finish time, and that’s the goal that my friend really wanted to meet. (That was my same goal for the Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon last June, and I only missed it by a few minutes, despite several set backs during the race.) 

I set my alarm for 4:45, had a quick shower, and squeezed into my compression shorts and calf sleeves. I took my dog for a very short walk to the end of our street and back while the coffee brewed, and I limited myself to one cup while I nibbled on my pre-race breakfast–a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat bread.

My friend arrived promptly at 6:00 and we were parked at the race venue at 6:20! We stayed in the car for a few minutes because she did not bring a “throw-away” top. It was then that she realized why I was wearing such a hideous sweater! After we braved the porta-pottys, we went into the D.C. Armory to stay warm for a little while longer.

(random people staying warm–or chill?)

We entertained ourselves by checking out the most outrageous outfits. It being St. Patrick’s Day, there were lots of green tutus, shamrock knee-socks, and other leprechaun paraphernalia!

We made one more stop at the porta-pottys and headed to our corral. We wanted to run a bit to warm-up, and we had to walk up to corral 6 to get to a break in the fencing.  From there, I ran up to get a picture of the starting line.

The starting area was not very crowded, and nobody was checking bibs/corrals, so we decided to line up in the middle of corral 6.  (My friend had corral 9 and I had corral 10, even though we both estimated the same 2:00 finish). I’m glad we did, because people around us did not start off very fast, and we passed a lot of much slower runners during the first mile.

My very general plan for the race was to push the pace for the first few (flat) miles, do my best to hold a steady 9:00-9:30 pace on the long uphill stretch to mile 7, and cruise at a 9:00-ish pace to the finish line.  So, for the first few miles we went pretty fast, but I used my Garmin to make sure that we did not go faster than an 8:00 min/mile pace.  (My first mistake in Zooma was starting out way too fast).  We did pretty well, and this pace felt easy:

Split 1: 8:49
Split 2: 8:18
Split 3: 811
Split 4: 8:36

Once we turned up 18th Street, we knew we would face a steady uphill climb until mile 7.  I put on my headphones and started my playlist after mile 4, because I knew my tunes would help keep me going.  There were a few segments that were flat or even slightly downhill, but the road ahead always was heading up. I know all my hill training paid off, because my friend (who hates running hills) fell behind shortly after mile 6.

Split 5: 9:02
Split 6: 9:21
Split 7: 9:28

I was glad to see mile 7 because I knew that was the highest point on the elevation profile for the course. Still, I reminded myself that 6 miles downhill is still 6 miles–a long way to go! I did my best to enjoy the scenery, the crowd support and the occasional bands (removing my earbuds whenever there was live music) while keeping a sub-9:00 pace. There was one long, flat stretch heading directly into the sun, and I was glad when we finally turned, even though that meant a short uphill climb.

Split 8: 9:06
Split 9: 8:50
Split 10: 8:40

When we hit mile 10, I thought of my next two races: The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in two weeks and the GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler three weeks after that. I was glad to see my 10 mile split time was under 90 minutes, but not so thrilled to have 5K more to go! By mile 11, I was fading. I didn’t feel hungry, or even out of breath, but my legs were tired. Since 11 miles was longest training run, it’s not surprising that the rest was hard for me. I was inspired by the split clocks to keep up my pace as best as I could, because I could see that a 2:00 finish was well-within my reach, as long as I didn’t get a cramp or twist an ankle.

Split 11: 8:39
Split 12: 9:06

After mile 12, we were back-tracking over mile 1, so I knew what was ahead. I wasn’t very pleased when I realized that mile 13 was “at the top of the hill.” Nothing like demanding all I had when I already had given almost all I’ve got! Still, nothing is as brutal as the seemingly endless finish at the Army Ten Miler, and I was able to cruise up that hill knowing that the finish line really was just around the corner.

Split 13: 8:44
Finish Line: 1:56:32 (on my Garmin)!

After collecting my finisher medal, I chugged the rest of my Gatorade, and made my way through the finish area, where there was tons of good stuff to refuel with. I couldn’t resist the chocolate milk, and used it to wash down a bagel. I don’t usually eat right after a race, but I usually have tummy troubles for the rest of the day, so I thought I would try eating right away to see if that would help. While it didn’t spare me all GI rebellion, I have not had to spend the afternoon in bed–or in the bathroom. 🙂

I reunited with my friend at our designated meeting place, and we walked slowly to my car. I did a few calf stretches before heading home, stopping at Starbucks on the way for my Grande Tribute.  Since my husband hadn’t seen my text message asking for some bags of ice, I opted for a warm Epsom salt bath instead of an ice bath. It’s much more civilized and totally enjoyable, although I’m not sure it leaves my legs feeling quite as fresh.

Here are my official split times and results: 

Point Time Time of Day Pace
START 00:00:00 8:08:58 am
5K 00:26:42 8:35:40 am 08:36
10K 00:54:50 9:03:47 am 09:04
10M 01:29:01 9:37:59 am 09:02
FINISH 01:57:03 10:06:01 am 09:01
    Avg. Pace 08:56

All in all, I have to see that the race was very well organized and everything seemed to go smoothly. The expo was great, getting to the race and parking was easy, there were plenty of porta-pottys (if only we’d known about the bank close to the start with no lines!), the race pretty much started on time, there were bands along the course (although not as many as some expected), good crowd support along the course, plenty of water and Gatorade at the stations, and plenty of drinks and food at the finish. Maybe the Hot Chocolate people can learn from the Rock’N’Roll organizers! 😉

I’m taking it easy for the rest of the weekend, but I have to figure out my plans–and goals–for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler!

Did you race this weekend?

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19 Responses to Rockin’ My Goal

  1. Awesome! Way to go, Coco! You made a plan & it paid off. Rest well!

  2. FindingMyHappyPace says:

    reading your recap kind of makes me want to study the elevation profile of my next race.. I've never really done that.. I almost like the surprise of it more. But if you're going for a PR, it makes a lot of sense. Way to smash 2 hours! That's a goal on my horizon too, if my pace ever returns.
    Your 10 milers will be a piece of cake compared to this 1/2!

  3. Casey says:

    Congrats! I was there too – Corral 9. Great day for a race! Nice job beating your goal time! 🙂

  4. Awesome job! Hopefully I'll join you in the sub 2:00:00 club soon.

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  6. Awesome, awesome job. Way to rock it. Congrats!!

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  8. Congrats on your awesome race!!!!!!!! You rocked it 🙂

    I like rock n roll races, I have found them to be well organized and always have plenty of porta potties!!! Plus I love their medals 😉

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