Sunday, March 29, 2015

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll DC Half Marathon and United Airlines NYC Half

The weekend actually started Thursday evening, when I picked up my bib for the NYC Half at the expo located at the Skylight at Moynihan Station, a new venue for NYRR's signature distance race, after the NYC Marathon.  The expo was smaller this year, it seemed, and the new venue, while spacious, was in dire need of some better lighting.  I'm of course only comparing it to last year's expo at the Metropolitan Pavilion, where it had a couple floors and it was better lit and seemed more suited for a running expo.  The booths were pretty standard for a race, offering apparel, medal holders, opportunities to run the NYC marathon for charity, nutritional supplements, and post-run recovery devices.  I did stick around in line for the opportunity to get commemorative ear warmers from the United Airlines booth, after getting photos taken in front of green screens - but never got the photos because the iPad I filled out all my information on had 2% battery remaining when I got it.

The next day I went into work for half a day, leaving at around noon to head to the Megabus stop located near the Javits Center, for my 4 1/2 hour bus trip down to Washington, DC.  Of course, I leave on a Friday afternoon, arriving in the DC vicinity at the height of evening rush hour.  As soon as I get off the bus, I rush to the metro to take me to the DC Convention Center because it's 6:30, and the expo closes at 7pm.  I make it in time to grab my bib and sneak in a "hello" to my friend Amy, one of the tour managers for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series, who I see at practically every city I run an RnR race.  Afterward, I head to the hotel I'm staying at for the night, the Loews Madison Hotel, to meet up with my roommate for the weekend, Derek, a fellow Front Runners New York member.

Pre-race Thai Food!
After getting settled, Derek and I head out for dinner at a local Thai restaurant about a ten minute walk from the hotel, cheekily named "THAI TANIC."  During our delicious dinner, we meet a couple sitting next to us who happen to be running the race the next morning as well.  Over our meals, we discuss our race plans and I reveal my goals of running a half in every state as well as reach the Hall of Fame with Rock 'n' Roll by completing fifteen of their 2015 races.  Tiffany, from Portland, is planning to do the same!  I told her and her boyfriend Kyle of my plans to take the DC race very easy - run a comfortable and conservative pace using the Galloway method, running for 4:30 and then walking for 0:30 - the same way I had ran the Ocean's Run in Rhode Island, but also to keep my legs fresh for my Sunday race in New York City.  Both Tiffany and Kyle, running the half, seemed very open to that idea, and vowed to look out for me the next morning and run with me at that easy pace.  We headed back to the hotel to get rest for the night since we had an early morning the next day.

A rainy start to Rock 'n' Roll DC!
We woke up to cloudy skies and rain coming down on Saturday morning.  Our short 15 minute walk to the start line was pretty wet. After dropping off our bags at gear check, Derek and I met up with Hollie and Donna, who were waiting in corral 14, and shortly thereafter, Tiffany and Kyle found us.  We posed for some photos, and soon were off on the course.  The race started on Constitution Avenue NW and 14th Street NW, and headed westward, passing the White House on the right and the Washington Monument on the left, with a slight detour along 18th Street NW, E Street NW, and Virginia Avenue NW, before returning on a westward course along Constitution Avenue.  We turned along 23rd Street NW, and made our way to the backside of the Lincoln Memorial, hitting mile 2 in the process before we embarked on a mile-long out-and-back along the Arlington Memorial Bridge, toward a rotunda just in front of Arlington Cemetery, and literally meters before the DC/Virginia boundary.

With new friends Tiffany and Kyle, who accompanied me
the entire race on my 4:30/0:30 run walk!
The massive hill at mile 6 begins!
We hit the 5k mark as we began the winding course of the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, skirting the Potomac River, and passing the Kennedy Center (where we had a nice reprieve from the rain underneath a cantilevered section overhanging the Parkway) and the Watergate Apartments before reaching mile 4.  We continued for the next couple miles making our way along the parkway before the first big challenge of the race - the massive hill at mile 6.  In only a matter of 300 meters, runners climbed nearly 200 feet, with photos of fallen heroes and several spectators carrying American flags lined up along the left of the course.  At the top of the hill, we hit Calvert Street, which would begin a small jaunt through the Adams-Morgan and Columbia Heights neighborhoods of Washington, DC.  At about the mile 7 mark, I ran into my friend De Moe, who always runs in a kilt and always carries a flask of Fireball with him, and I took our ritual fireball shot, which got captured on film :)  Afterward, we continued on down Harvard Street NW, passing Mile 8, when we turned and ran through the Howard University campus.  Right around here, Tiffany, Kyle, and I ran into the mascots for the Washington Nationals, the Presidents, and posed for a picture!
#teamfireball represent!
The Presidents!
Around Mile 9, we ran down streets with several homes having parties, and providing shots of beverages to runners passing by, which of course I partook... beer, jungle juice... there was even a little tent with a makeshift cardboard sign declaring "MEAT" on it -- and serving brisket!  We made a turn onto North Capitol Street NW, and ran under two underpasses. We started to head east at around mile 10.5 on K Street Northeast, hitting the 11 mile mark and making another turn to go two blocks down to H Street Northeast and then running our final 2.1 miles down 13th Street NE and C Street NE before arriving at RFK Stadium, where we crossed the finish line under continued rainy skies into the parking lot.  I finished in a conservative 2:36, considering we walked/ran and stopped for many a
photo opportunity and alcoholic beverage!
Victory Headstand for Rock 'n' Roll DC!
(where'd my head go?)
I stuck around for a few more hours in the superbly cold temperatures, waiting for Derek to finish (he would complete his first marathon in 4:30) while listening to Better Than Ezra.  We then headed back to the hotel to shower and for me to pack, as I had a bus back to New York in a matter of hours.  After the long bus ride back to NYC, I finally hit the hay around 11pm, prepared to wake up in a mere six hours for the NYC Half.

Me and the ladies... Fifty Staters!
And then 6:30am came.  Legs were actually feeling pretty fine when getting dressed for the second half of the weekend.  I left the apartment a little hurried with my bag ready for bag drop, not realizing that it would close by 7:20.  ACK.  I was still on the 7 when 7:20 came around, and I was frantically texting my friends who were spectating in Central Park that I may have to drop clothes off with them a couple miles into the run.  I got out of the subway at 59th and 5th and rushed to find my UPS truck... and for the second year in a row (I need to STOP making this a tradition, haha) I was the LAST person to be able to turn in my bag for gear check before the closed up the truck.

I met up with friends Donna and Hollie, and we met up with a couple other Fifty Staters/Half Fanatics (Lynn, Jane, Amanda), posed for a few photos and then made our way to a corral we could all start together in.  I had a ton of energy - ready to get going on miles 13.1 to 26.2 of the weekend, and my one year halfaversary (as this race in 2014 was my very first half!)  Thankfully, there was NO rain forecast for the day, and we got started running north along Park Road in Central Park, and I set off solidly with a steady pace, getting faster as I registered a solid 30 minute first 5K.  Before hitting that 5K mark, though, we exited the park at Central Park North and some friends from MFF, Margaret-Ellen and Amanda, were there cheering us runners on with a FANTASTIC light-up sign that said "YAAAAASSSS!!" so obviously, I stopped for a photo op -- and then kept going!

Times Square traffic
for runners only!
The rest of Central Park was a blur, just me in my head, continuously chugging on through the rolling hills of the west side of the park.  Before I knew it, we were exiting the park on the south side, hitting the 10K mark (which I managed to do in 1:01:33), and then proceeded down the always-exciting stretch of 7th Avenue, head into Times Square.  I always feel like I speed up from the excitement, but can never realize my pace because my Garmin goes berserk bouncing the signal off of the many tall buildings in that canyon of an avenue.  I stopped for a quick photo at around 49th Street, and to catch my breath before continuing dow 7th and then making the turn onto 42nd Street, where almost instantaneously, you are hit with the wind coming off of the Hudson, ever increasing the closer you get to the West Side Highway.  Running into that headwind of course, is a beast, and despite the wind coming at us from the side as we started to progress down the highway, I still managed to chug on through, only stopping momentarily to remove a stray Powerade gel that attached itself to my shoe, and then a super rough right calf cramp that I needed to stretch out at around mile 8.5.

My Garmin isn't a fan of
NYC streets...
As I shuffled down the seemingly unending West Side Highway, I got to the Front Runners water station, greeted by many an enthusiastic Front Runner!  I caught my breath and chugged down a couple cups of water before continuing on, the wind starting to pick up a bit while I passed One World Trade, Battery Park City, and finally reaching the downhill into the Battery Park Underpass, a roughly 3/4 mile stretch of tunnel where my Garmin does not register any signal at all until emerging at the end, to a small uphill before the home straightaway to the finish in Wall Street.  Thankfully I anticipated this and trudged right along.  I looked down at my watch and noticed I was going to eclipse my half time from the day before, which was my initial goal, but had the very real possibility of finishing the 2015 NYC Half faster than I did one year ago!

Happy One Year
Halfaversary!  2:14:48!
I made the last couple turns, and there it was, the finish line!  Official time -- 2:14:48.  DAMN! Only TWELVE seconds slower than 2014.  But I couldn't be mad at myself, because I accomplished my first goal, finishing the 2015 NYC Half a whole 22 minutes faster than Rock 'n' Roll DC - and I still managed to take a couple photos while on the course.  Mary Wittenberg was there congratulating all the runners at the finish, and I shook her hand before I retrieved my bag, re-bundled myself up, and headed to the FRNY brunch at one of our members penthouse cabanas in Battery Park City in the seemingly brisker wind.  There, I ate and drank to my heart's content, and posed for two awesome Victory Headstands - one with the Statue of Liberty in the background, and one with fellow Front Runners cheering me on.  Another fantastic double half weekend in the books (my third!) - and with a "negative split" 2nd half, to boot!  Happy one year halfaversary to me!!!

 VICTORY HEADSTAND on my one year halfaversary!

Epic two-half weekend, complete!

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