Rock N Roll USA Half Marathon: I shamrocked it.

On Saturday, St. Patricks Day Eve (ha!), I ran the Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon in Washington DC.  This was the same race that I had to drop out of last year at mile 4 because I was super sick.  In what I thought was a good, and somewhat ironic, omen, the course was moved around a bit from last year, and the start was in the exact  spot on Constitution Avenue where I bagged the race last year.  As my friend Patti put it, "well you're running 17 miles!"  Yes.

I wanted to run this race in 1:53, which would be a PR (personal record/personal best) for me.  My best official half marathon time was around 1:57 at the Philadelphia Rock n' Roll Half Marathon in September 2012.  My half marathon split at the Philly full marathon this past November was around 1:55.  I have been picking up the pace a bit this year and thought I could do a 1:53.  I was wrong.  I ran the half in 1:51:34.  I ... am still on cloud 9.    

About an hour before the race - cold and all smiles
The conditions on race day were just about perfect:  cool but not cold, overcast but not rainy and just a tiny bit humid but not so humid that it affected breathing.  The weather forecasters called for a 70% chance of showers, so, much to my dismay, I wore my running hat.  I normally don't like to wear it, but I hate getting rain in my eyes, so I wore the hat. Meh.

In addition to my time goal, I wanted to try -- try as hard as I could -- to do negative split running and conserve my energy to finish strong.  Negative splits simply means you run slower in the first half of a race than the second.  I have known this is a great concept, but when I am at a race and excited and pumped up I tend to run fast in the beginning.  It is so hard to make myself slow down.  But I decided to really try hard.  I did, and it worked. It really worked.  there isn't a dramatic difference between my times at the end of the race and my times at the beginning, but I felt really strong.  I reminded myself of a friend's advice: "when you think you're going slow, go slower."  

Here is a mile by mile breakdown. 

The first mile of the race is down Constitution Avenue and around some city streets.  I was happy with my first mile time (though there was part of me freaking! out! because I worried I was going too slow).

Mile 1:  8:27

Annnnnnnd ... there's mile 2.  Hello speedy.  I have no idea what I was doing, but I'm thinking this may have been nice and down hill and easy.  I remember getting my split after mile 2 and saying to myself that I needed to slow it down.  

Mile 2:  8:06

Miles 3-6 were near the Lincoln Memorial Center, Georgetown, the Kennedy Center and then on the Rock Creek Parkway. It was lovely and flat.  I knew at mile 6 there was a huge huge hill that went up from Rock Creek Parkway to Adams Morgan.  I conserved my energy and ran smart.  

Mile 3:  8:20
Mile 4:  8:13
Mile 5:  8:38
Mile 6:  8:18

Mile 6-7 were really tough.  The hill up to Adams Morgan was super tough.  Very steep and pretty long.  But I made it.  And right at the top of the hill was the 10K split.  Beep!  Mile 7 was my slowest mile and with good reason: the big hill, recovery from the big hill and a bunch of subsequent hills in Adams Morgan -- most going up.  Ouch.   

Mile 7:  9:19

Once I got out of Adams Morgan, I started feeling really good and strong.  My legs were moving, my breathing was in sync, everything felt good.  I pushed.  I don't remember much about these miles.  They ticked off very fast.  The only thing I do remember is I passed the free Gu table around mile 9 and thought about grabbing one but decided not to since I had my own.  Which I ate.  And then later in the race, around Mile 11, I really needed one.  Agh.  Lesson learned: always take the free Gu.  Unless it is peanut butter Gu.  Then pass right on by.  

Mile 8:  8:19
Mile 9:  8:13
Mile 10:  8:12
Mile 11:  8:11

Mile 12 was hard.  I think I was getting tired and the finish seemed kind of far away.  I really wanted some Gu - something to give me a little boost.  I drank all my Gatorade on this mile, which I never do but I needed some sugar.  

Mile 12:  8:29

Mile 13 was a good one - all down hill baby!  The push to the finish was up a hill to RFK Stadium but at that point, you are running on adrenaline and the end is in sight.  I was happy to finish strong.  

Mile 13:  8:11

Final official time:  1:51:34; 8:30 pace.  I was thrilled! I am thrilled!  I celebrated at the end with my friend and an ice cold free beer!  Ooh, and the crazy aluminum foil wrappy things that somehow magically keep you super warm.  

So that's the end!  I am glad the race was so good and so fun.  Next up on my calendar is a 5K in April and then a "Half-Lite" triathlon in early May: .8 mile swim, 39 mile bike and 8 mile run.  I have to more sprint triathlons in mid-May and mid-June.  So I will be training a ton these next couple of months.  Yippie!

See you swoon,

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