Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll DC Marathon

At 1pm on March 9, 2016, it was 61°, sunny with a bit of wind.

At 10:30am on March 10, 2016 it is 36°. With an anticipated 2 to 3 inches of snow.

With this drastic change in temperature, I decided to leave work early after stressing about the weather.  Several inches of snow fell in the morning that didn't stick, but the weather was messy enough to be concerned. My flight was leaving out of LaGuardia's Marine Air Terminal, the small terminal quite a bit away from the rest of the airport's terminals that serves Delta's "shuttle" destinations from LaGuardia -- DC and Chicago.  I ended up getting to LGA at around 4:00pm.

Delays delays delays...
Upon arrival, and getting through security, I decided to play a game of airplane roulette.  Delta allows passengers to rebook to alternative flights when excessive weather delays over an hour happen. Add the fact that Delta put up a weather advisory earlier in the week, and any flight switches become free of charge, and can be done straight from the FlyDelta smartphone app! I was originally on flight 6155, but then the delays started to stack up, so when I was given clearance by my boss to leave earlier, I switched to flight 6151, which was to leave at my initial departure time. Because I arrived earlier than anticipated, I saw that flight 6153, which was slated to leave an hour later than 6151 was now going to leave earlier, so I easily switched to that.

Not only that, it seemed many of the other medallion flyers who would normally take the first class seats anticipated the weather, so they had left on earlier flights, leaving first class mostly open - and despite my flight switching, my upgrades were able to move over to the new flights.  I lucked out being able to fly First Class to DC, and we were able to get out quicker since we were positioned closer to the runway take-off point!

It was a very short flight, and the approach into DC was quite bumpy, as you could feel the wind pushing the plane around as we flew south past Reagan National Airport, in order to make a turn around over the Potomac near Alexandria (the runways and which direction planes take off and land are dependent on the wind patterns, so in this case, we had to make the turn around.) We landed at 7pm, and upon turning off my airplane mode, I had a text message from Seth and Donna that I had a car rental waiting for me that Seth booked at Budget.  Thinking of the need to have our luggage with us since returning all the way to Silver Spring after the race was not a smart option, they decided since I was already flying in, I was best equipped to retrieve a rental car from DCA that Seth could return the next day.

I retrieved the car and drove into Washington DC from the airport, meeting up with Donna, Seth, Michelle, Ben, Pam, and Steve at Logan Tavern, just missing a few other folks who had been there earlier because it took me awhile to find parking nearby.  The race was the following morning, so I carb loaded with some delicious steak-frites (but with garlic frites!) and then we drove up to Silver Spring to get to our hotels, with a quick detour to pick up my bib and t-shirt from Lilian's house which was on the way.

After dropping Donna off at her hotel, also in Silver Spring, Seth and I settled in at the DoubleTree, which to be honest, was not that nice of a DoubleTree.  We were underwhelmed.  We got to bed quickly since we were planning to be out the door by 5:45 to pick up Donna by 5:50 and make it to a garage less than half a mile from the start.

BANANigans with Donna and Seth
The forecast showed the race morning was going to be frigid.  We woke up to FREEZING cold temps.  We were able to park in a nearby parking structure and walked over to the start area on Constitution Ave NW.  Bundled up like crazy, we got ourselves into the corrals, and at 7am, after meeting up with a few other friends, we were off, heading down Constitution Ave NW, past the White House and Washington Monument.  We took a strange dogleg that had us turn right onto 18th Street NW, run for three blocks to E Street NW, turn left, then left again onto 19th Street NW, before going right back where were going on Constitution.  We finally turned left onto 23rd Street NW, where we encountered our first water stop (manned by members of DC Front Runners!) and positioned just before the rotunda surrounding the Lincoln Memorial.  Donna, Hollie, and I had run in close proximity to each other and posed for a quick photo at this moment before continuing on,  as we began to follow Rock Creek Parkway northward along the Potomac.  Notably, this eliminated the out-and-back on the course from two years ago when I did the half, on the Arlington Memorial Bridge that took us into Virginia for about a minute or two.

With Donna and Hollie after the first water station, in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Running through the underpass

Part of Watergatre

We ran along Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, passing underneath the cantilever of the Kennedy Center terrace, and then passed a few of the buildings that make the Watergate Hotel.  Another difference with this year's course was the right turn we made, taking us on an half mile long out and back on I-55/Potomac Freeway, completely closed this morning for us runners!  This part of the course took us on an underpass underneath Juarez Circle at the edge of GWU's campus and the intersection of New Hampshire and Virginia Avenues and 25th Street NW.

Start of the Inspiration Mile
We then emerged out of the out-and-back and went back onto the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, which at this point began to follow its namesake Rock Creek, which we took all the way up to the Inspiration Mile of Wear Blue: Run to Remember.  This section has the steep hill, just after mile 6, lined with photos of soldiers who were killed in action and volunteers holding American flags encouraging us up this tough section of the course.  The hill takes us up to Calvert Street NW, where it flattens out again.  While on the hill, Amy, Almi, and Hollie, all caught up to me; we took some customary group photos and we helped each other up to the top, before Amy and Almi continued on and Hollie and I decided to run together for the second time this year (after running a large chunk of the Austin Marathon together)

I swear, we're all running up the hill!
(Photo by Almi del Villar)

All four of us caught up to each other on the Inspiration Mile.
(Photo by Almi del Villar)

Running through Adams-Morgan
Taking on a variation of a 4 minute run/1 minute walk interval, sometimes running a bit more, sometimes running a bit less, when water stops came along, Hollie and I continued on as we ran along the northern edge of the neighborhood of Adams Morgan, a culturally diverse neighborhood also considered the center of Washington DC's immigrant Hispanic community, but also a thriving spot for DC night life, with a number of bars and clubs along its main strips.  In 2014, the American Planning Association even named it one the nation's "great neighborhoods," citing its intact Victorian rowhouses, murals, international diversity, and pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly streetscape.  We ran along Columbia Road NW onto Harvard Street NW, heading eastward into Columbia Heights, another diverse neighborhood.

The Capitol building.
Just after mile 8, we came upon Howard University.  We ran alongside the McMillan Reservoir before turning left onto Bryant Street NW, and then turning right again onto relatively flat Capitol Street NW, the demarcation line between DC's east and west streets, where we had an unfettered view of the Capitol Building some two miles away.  We had some nice downhill underpass sections, as well, but eventually, we turned left onto K Street NE and headed eastward into the area north and east of Union Station, a neighborhood nicknamed "NoMa" for being "North of Massachusetts Avenue."   We eventually found ourselves on the vibrant and artistically dynamic H Street Corridor, before we turned right onto 13th Street, heading south toward Lincoln Park.

We skirted around Lincoln Park, a beautiful greenspace framing our views of the Capitol much closer than when we were up near Howard.  We then found ourselves in the middle of tony Capitol Hill (and the halfway point of the race), heading westward on East Capitol Street NE, DC's main street separating the north and south sides of the city, with the Capitol as the quadrant separator.  Just before getting right up to the Capitol, we turned left and headed southward along 3rd Street SE, and continued downward through Capitol Hill to E Street NE, and then further south along South Capitol Street SW and past Nationals Stadium.

Hollie and I spotted on the out-and-back
(Photo by Seth Kramer)
Hollie and I crossed the bridge over the Anacostia River gingerly, as there were sections with open grates.  We waited til the roadway turned solid again, and then took on the downhill strong, as we made our way onto the southern bank of the Anacostia for the 1.5 mile long out-and-back along South Capitol Street SE.  This section of the race was pretty windy, but we also had to deal with some of the least pretty views of the entire race.  To our west was Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling undergoing quite a bit of construction; to our east, the Anacostia Freeway, aka I-295.  While it was an uneventful out-and-back, we did get the opportunity to see some of our friends also taking on the full, including Almi, Fred, Seth, Mitch, Donna and Sherry.

Anacostia Trail, with the Navy Yard
On the back portion, we made our way back up toward the river, running along Anacostia Riverwalk Trail with views of the Washington Navy Yard across the way.  By this time we had reached the mile 19 point of the race, and I was definitely feeling it.  The course crossed underneath the 11th Street Bridge and the John Philip Sousa Bridge before doing a large loop around Anacostia Park, where we felt the wind at its strongest point up to this time.  The course then took us underneath the Anacostia Freeway, and on a short out and back along Pennsylvania Avenue SE, before following Fairlawn Avenue SE and taking us through some residential areas before dumping us onto Fort Dupont Park.

Fort Dupont Park.  Hills hills hills.
At this point, we had reached about 22 miles into the race, and we encountered some rough rolling hills which slowed me down considerably. Hollie continued on, as did the 5:00 pace group, so I begrudgingly let them go while I went at my own pace to finish out these last four miles as solidly as I could.  I was able to let out my last big push on a downhill along Ely Place SE at the north edge of this park and past the mile 24 marker, but this was short-lived, as I encountered another short hill after turning right onto Minnesota Avenue SE, as ran through the neighborhoods of Greenway and Fort Dupont.  We then took the curved ramp downward onto East Capitol Street SE, where we then went westward back across the Anacostia River and through the absolutely windiest part of the race that we'd experienced (right at the end, of course!) as I trudged my way along to a 5:06:38 finish in the parking lot of RFK Stadium.

SOOOO COLD on the highway.  RFK Stadium and the finish in the distance.

Black Sheep post race... I'm beyond bundled up!
(Photo by Almi del Villar)

#victoryheadstand with the Capitol

Thankfully, there was no precipitation at all during the race, which was a big issue in 2014, as the rain and chilly air caused it to be especially uncomfortable at the finish.  Thankfully, I was able to proceed directly to the UPS truck to retrieve my big down coat which I had checked at the start, and layer myself accordingly to keep warm.  Hollie had finished only four minutes in front of me, but we managed to be together from miles 6 to 22.5, making this tough race much more bearable, to have a friend along the way for a majority of the time.  Also, this was the first race that I can say I left my music at home on purpose and went headphoneless for an entire 26.2!  I met up with fellow Black Sheep for some photos before we retrieved our marathon jackets, and then caught up with Donna and Seth, agreeing to meet at the metro station, which was understandably packed from runners finishing up their races.

Bling and bib

An interesting overlay I did of the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon
course and the 2017 RnR DC course.  I've ran all over this area!
My favorite beer!  Choco PB Porter!
After the race, we headed back downtown to go to FADO, Donna's favorite restaurant/bar in DC, an Irish pub located in Chinatown, for some much needed lunch (and to celebrate the race, which also happened to mark off Donna's 50th lifetime marathon!), and then I headed back to the garage with Seth to retrieve the car.  We stopped Donna's luggage off, then found a perfect spot for me to get my headstand photo taken, then headed over to my accommodations for my second night in DC, my friend Baylee's in the DuPont Circle neighborhood. She was out of town, but we arranged for a way for me to get into her place for the night.  After a shower and a quick nap, I was off to take in some culture, and headed over to the Historic Ford's Theatre to catch the second preview performance of Ragtime, which my friend and fellow Broadway Barkada member Justine was performing a featured role in.

Seeing Ragtime at the Ford's Theatre!
The show itself was quite good. Based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime tells the story of three groups in the United States in the early 20th century: African Americans, represented by Coalhouse Walker Jr., a Harlem musician; upper-class suburbanites, represented by Mother, the matriarch of a white upper-class family in New Rochelle, New York; and Eastern European immigrants, represented by Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia. To have this production play in the Ford's Theatre in the country's capital was so poignant, and to have it playing at this point time in history made it incredibly emotional and ironically fitting to parallel current events.  After the wonderful show, I met up for dinner with Justine and some of her cast members at Pi (π) for yummy deep dish pizza!  Still tired from the marathon, I headed straight back to Baylee's to crash for the night.

With the Johnsons on Sunday morning
I woke up late next morning, meeting up for brunch at a local favorite, Founding Farmers, with my college friends Sunny and Drew from Chicago.  They were in town for Sunny's linguistics conference at Georgetown, and brought their daughter Raela with them, which was the first time I had seen Raela since not long after she was born... she was growing up into a bubbly and vivacious little girl!

With the remainder of my afternoon open, I walked over to the National Mall, to take in the sights at Lincoln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the National World War II Memorial, and Washington Monument, all places I've seen before, but places that I always love to return to when I come to Nation's Capital.  It was especially important I went to see the National World War II Memorial, because the following week, I was heading to New Mexico to run the Bataan Memorial Death March, a 26.2 mile/marathon distance march through the New Mexico high desert, in memory of those who perished in the Bataan Death March 75 years ago, and in honor of Filipino and Filipino-American veterans who fought in World War II.  I thought it would be quite appropriate to pay homage here as well.  With all my "tourist time" behind me, I boarded the metro to head back to Reagan National Airport for my flight home... on first class, nonetheless!

Honest Abe... it's nice to see you again.
Paying homage to those who we lost in World War II,
in particular the Filipino and Filipino-American vets.

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