I was one of the lucky 15,000 runners who participated in the 2014 Nike Women’s Half DC. We’d attempted to get in to the 2013 inaugural race but unfortunately, that lottery didn’t work in our favor. Therefore, I was pretty stoked when we got the news that we’d be running this race!
As my first ever DC race, I was looking forward to checking out the sights, running with friends, and of course, the Tiffany necklace at the finish line (I’m not even going to pretend like that wasn’t a big draw. IT WAS. Not ashamed.)
With any race, you always hear the pros and cons from the previous year (or years); it’s always interesting to see how race organizers respond to feedback. For example, from what I understand the shirts were handed out at the end of the race in 2013. This year, the shirts were available during packet pickup, due to participant feedback. The shirts run small, but were able to be exchanged at a tent in the Expotique area. (Although the ease of exchange was another story for some friends – Moe was able to do it immediately while Vic was told that she needed to come back at a specific time, which she was unable to do.)
This is a large race and the flow of traffic during the Expotique was congested. There was much to look at and experience, all of which were awesome because this race doesn’t lack for sponsorship, but the lines were pretty intense. So despite the party-like vibe going on, with music pumping and smiling volunteers, the main goal was to take a quick spin through and get out of the tent. We signed the graffiti wall and headed up the street.
Georgetown is a great area and the weather was gorgeous so we took our time strolling along. We reached the Nike Store which had the wall of participant names, something we all were looking forward to seeing.
A bit of shopping, a bit of walking, a lot of food and then we headed back to the hotel, Courtyard Marriott in Foggy Bottom. This was one of the race hotels and a little over a mile walk from the start/finish of the race. Split between four of us, Vic, Moe, Keri and myself, it was $50 per person. Once there we relaxed before… you guessed it, MORE FOOD. All the while we were drinking lots of water to hydrate for the next morning.
During dinner we discussed race plans and met up with Brooke and Josh, who had a later reservation at the same restaurant. Vic would run solo, Kyle and Brooke would follow and Keri, Moe and I planned to bring up the back! My goal was to PR and knew my girls would help me along the way.
Sleep did NOT come easy that evening, despite being exhausted. My mind wouldn’t stop racing and I think that it hindered my running on Sunday morning. No bueno!
We woke at 5:15am, met up with Brooke and her husband an hour later, and walked to the start village.
Once we reached the split area, we took a picture with Josh’s very amazing sign.
After good byes and good lucks, we were off to find our pace areas. This was another change from last year, from what I understand; there were three waves rather than just one.
We were surrounded by a lot of first time half marathoners and many Team in Training folks, all of whom did an awesome job! Moe runs with Team in Training in Chicago so while waiting to start we chatted a bit about the training runs, the coaches, and whatnot.
After a bit more chit chat and the introductions of Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson by the DJs, it was GO TIME! We crossed the start about fifteen minutes after the first runners, which was pretty impressive considering that we were in the last corral. The course was pretty packed the majority of the run though so perhaps a bit more time between each corral would help alleviate the congestion. If I ruled the world, this would happen.
Keri, Moe and I settled into our 3:1 intervals, 3 minutes running, 1 minute walking and were able to do that through the race. Naturally we wanted to push the runs but it was hard to do so, as there was never really any open pockets. Bobbing and weaving takes a lot out of you but we did it the entire race.
We hit this tunnel twice and I had no love for it on the way out or back. I mean, on the surface, it’s pretty cool. They had drummers throughout, the beat was echoing off the walls and they also had the graffiti wall and the WE RUN sign from the Expotique. However, it was hotter than blue blazes in there and man, did I feel it. I was happy to get out of there and so was my Garmin.
The race course had other amenities that you don’t usually see at races – some of which were brilliant and others that would have been brilliant in different circumstances. For example, after exiting the tunnel, we saw a chocolate station on the other side of the route. Now, in mile 2 0f the race, chocolate sounded fun. By mile 11, when it could be reality… I wanted no part of it! (Spoiler alert: All I wanted was the finish line.)
My favorite part of the course were miles 4-7. At mile 4 we saw Brooke’s husband, Josh! He was the only spectator we knew on the course and it’s always nice to see a familiar smiling face.
Around that time is when I got the music (and stashed my phone) so I was rocking and running and having a great ol’ time. The Arlington Memorial Bridge was a lot of fun to run because we got to see runners on the other side, give high fives; it generally had a really good vibe. To paraphrase Pete the Cat, the birds were singing, the sky was bright, the sun was shining and I was feeling ALRIGHT.
That “alright” feeling lasted a little past the halfway point. Which, was very cool, by the way. They had a video camera trained on the road and a huge big screen so you could see everyone running.
At mile 8 I realized that I wasn’t hydrated. Not that I wasn’t hydrating, because I was. I drank two cups at every water station but I was definitely off so I switched out one water for a Nuun cup (the electrolyte drink they had on the course). Our run chatter had definitely diminished to grunts and the occasion expletive and around mile 9, I let Keri and Moe know that I was hurting. I was feeling off, my foot was cranky and all around I was just not in a good way.
However, I had my eyes on a PR. Originally I’d wanted to fall within the 2:30-2:40 range, which would have been a huge PR (of nearly 25-15 minutes) but I felt was doable. As I looked at my watch, I realized that wasn’t going to happen and got a bit disheartened. I knew we’d come in within the 2:40s, which would still be a PR for me (I’m a slow runner, striving to be faster) but I think under different circumstances, things would have played out differently.
On we went, finally hitting that chocolate station in mile 11. I didn’t want it then and it was pretty yucky because there was chocolate on the ground, wrappers and pieces of melted candy. There was no avoiding it so we just ran on, toward… dun dun dun… the tunnel.
Dizziness washed over me and I felt myself stumble to the side a little. That’s when I asked for Keri’s coconut water (you know I wasn’t feeling great because I am usually not a fan of coconut water!) and I got the “We’re nearly at the finish” pep talk from my girls that I so desperately needed. Coming out of the tunnel there was the 20k mat and two large screen with motivational sayings and our names. After one more water station and pouring a cup of water on my head, we rounded the corner and finally the finish line was in sight.
Usually I kick it at the end of a race but I had no more kick. It was all left on the course, for better and for worse. But thankfully, we were done, and with a six minute PR!
Post race, we hugged, and Keri practically carried me to the fancy bottles of water that were located directly after the finish. Then I got what I wanted more than almost anything… CHOCOLATE MILK.
You thought I was going to say the Tiffany necklace, didn’t you? Well, don’t fret because that was next on the agenda!
The Tiffany’s necklace is pretty incredible… but even more, I’m so grateful that I ran this with good friends who were there with me from start to finish. I was surrounded by love the entire weekend, before, during and after the entire race and by friends whom I don’t get to see on a regular basis. I’m truly lucky that I get to experience so many good things with people who have seen me through so many different parts of my life.
Nike is the goddess of victory and this weekend, it was mine.
How do you sleep the night before a race? Ever run with Team in Training or at a Nike race before? When’s your next race? I have a couple of smaller races scheduled through the summer but my next half is the Dumbo Double Dare. Considering another local half within the summer months… but what?