I’m traveling today to Charleston for the Cooper River Bridge Run. Going with my sister to celebrate Sister Day (my daughters celebrate being sisters each year so we decided to, as well, by running and eating!). I’ll post Expo and Taste of The Bridge write ups later. For now, I leave you with a pic of my new shoes I’ll be wearing tomorrow. Aren’t they garish?
Dear Rock & Roll Series & Competitor,
You don’t know me. At least, you don’t know me beyond my credit card number that I have used to pay for entry fees into three of your races. I’m pretty sure that’s how you’d like to keep it. But I have a few things I’d like to get off my chest about how you do things, and the effects you’re having on my favorite sport. In short, I think you are greedy, you lack integrity, and you don’t care one little bit about runners.
My first 1/2 marathon was your Nashville race in 2010. A friend, another novice runner, said it was ‘one to do,’ and what with it being my first, who was I to argue? Plus I’m not into doing Sunday races, so a Saturday race is a big draw for me. I had no idea that the $90 or so that I spent was an exorbitantly high price to pay for a half. I also had no idea that forcing runners to attend the expo wasn’t standard practice. I’m sure this ups your and your vendors’ merch sales, as well as contributing further to the economy of the cities that hold your events. While all of these are entities with every right to make a profit, it’s just rude to force it to happen. You know what’s funny? I LOVE a race expo! Lots of us do–We’re excited. We’ll spend money. But when you force it on me, I get a lot stingier with my money. And, let’s not get started on the extremely unflattering tech shirts you gave out. You’re in the racing industry. You’re shirts are made by Brooks, who should know something about sports fashion. You should already know that more than 50% of all half-marathon finishers are women. AND WE DON’T WEAR UP TO THE NECK, BOXY MEN’S TECH TEES. ESPECIALLY GRAY ONES.
But on to the race. Yes, this was the one where there were tornados that had been forecast for days were ripping through the southeast the night before and headed for Nashville the day of the race. You know, the one where dozens and dozens of YOUR runners, who had paid you money, were posting on your Facebook page to ask for a status update on the race, with not a SINGLE REPLY as to what changes might be occurring. You moved the start time for the marathon up–a wise move–but didn’t communicate it with the thousands of runners except by loudspeaker–at the race site. Guess what–if they’re paying between $90 and $150 to run races–your runners have money. We had, two years ago, iPhones, other smart phones and computer access the night before and the morning of. Yet you completely ignored the most logical ways to communicate with us, in favor of a woefully inadequate substitute. I went into this race ticked off at how a company with the obvious slickness of your marketing campaigns, could not use Facebook or Twitter to get an important message out there. And while my race experience was fine, something didn’t sit right with me. Especially when we attempted to get out of LP field… where traffic literally was not moving. It’s LP FIELD. They stuff thousands of NFL fans in there. There clearly must be a traffic plan. Why was it not in place, or at least consulted? Too expensive to pay the cops to direct?
And yet…fast forward to 2011. I was on a 1/2 streak and still working to find Saturday races. Back to you I went. Nashville again. More money. More hassle as my husband couldn’t get Friday off to come to the expo (May sweeps in TV=no vacation, period.). We got around it. I won’t say how. Being a smidge more seasoned of a racer, now I could tell where a lot of the problem lay. Rock & Roll series, you attract rude runners. It makes sense, given your name and all. Rock Stars and Nice, Non-Rock behavior don’t really go hand-in-hand. But in situations like trying to board shuttle buses with NO direction from officials, your wannabe rock start runners get ruder. Pushy. And not just verbally pushy, not just rude, but physically pushy.
Again, out on the course was fun. No one would accuse you of putting on a boring race. You get crowds like crazy. Of course the bands in Nashville are amazing, and their friends come and cheer us on, too.
So when it came time to run my first full, I thought “Well, I can deal with some garbage if I can have great crowd support.” Crowd support was important to me, and I knew you could bring that. And you had a Saturday race in Washington, DC. Not too far away, and a city I love but have not visited since I started running. I registered on November 30, 2011.
Four days later, your Las Vegas race happened. And I watched, wide-eyed, as my Twitter feed filled with stories like Charlene’s… who ran the whole thing while attempting to get medical help, only to be told, essentially, that there was none at each place she stopped, and to keep moving along.
Then it came out that you were giving runners water from fire hydrants… in garbage cans… by volunteers dipping cups directly into the cans. Now, it came out later that that wasn’t the reason people got sick. Which is great for you. BUT you said it was standard practice for large races. It may be true that a few of them do use similar practices… but this article points out the ways you LIED about what you do. And it makes no sense that you attract these numbers of runners… and sponsors… and yet don’t pay for a different water source or get a water sponsor. AND THAT YOU LIE.
Other complaints about Vegas that have been fairly well documented: lack of water, course support, blankets, people getting stuck in Mandalay Bay. Oh, and that part where you ran out of medals. Not that a medal really means anything, but really? How long in advance did the race sell out?
I believe that I have had good experiences at your events because I got lucky. Simple as that. And I am so thankful that I haven’t been unlucky. And my heart hurts for all the people who have been turned off of racing because they were unlucky.
And I think you lack integrity. It’s a race. Not just a party (or is it?). You supposedly have course limits and then tell people who can’t keep up that they can:
“If a participant’s pace falls below the course time limit, they have a few options:
Increase their pace to stay within the event minimum pace;
Board a “sag wagon” shuttle to move forward on the course, where they may continue to participate in the event, maintaining the minimum pace required”
So, basically, you don’t have to run the whole race. Just hope a bus and go to the finish. They’ll still give you a medal.
Further, we could talk about the scuttlebutt that your CEO cheated, or at the very least, possibly hosed the age group winners at Las Vegas.
We could also talk about how much greedier you seem to get as time goes on. The shuttle with the crowd I mentioned earlier? Now it appears you’re charging money–a lot of money–for it. You actually allowed people not to come to the expo at Rock n Roll USA–but if you were picking up a packet for more than one other person, it was twenty dollars–TWENTY DOLLARS– per packet.
So, what’s the difference between you and other organizations that put on races? You could say it’s the distance–although the Atlanta Track Club puts on a 1/2 and a full marathon each year that are both great. Countless other cities both larger and smaller do the same.
Is it the size? Oh, I’m sure you could make lots of excuses about what it takes to put on a race with 20,000 to 40,000 runners. They don’t fly with me. I live in the city that puts on the Peachtree Road Race–a 60,000 runner race. And they do it flawlessly, and affordably. Every. Single. Time. I’m about to run the Cooper River Bridge Run, in small-city Charleston–43,000 runners that has free shuttles and optional packet pickup and even picks up start line clothing and returns it for you at the finish. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about their systems.
I think the difference is this:
R&R, you don’t care about our geographic communities. You don’t care about our community as runners. You care about money. You care about slickness and big, honkin’ medals. But not the people who are running your races, and not the cities we love to see by foot.
I will urge everyone I know to find their local races, or the ones in cities they want to visit that are put on by people who are invested in the community. The ones that are smaller but have some heart. Some integrity. The ones whose shirts I can wear without feeling like I’m advertising for the Walmart of Running. I’m breaking up with you, Competitor Group. And I hope everyone who laces up their running shoes will, too.
RUN GLOBAL. RUN LOCAL. JUST DON’T RUN ROCK & ROLL.
Very sincerely, but with no love,
(to readers, if you want to find a race, I use Running in the USA. It’s a great resource. For 1/2 marathons, I just found this one. Also, sign up for your local running store email list. Join your local running club–it’s a far better way to spend your running dollars than to give it to R&R.)
Came across this on Facebook today… from a pretty active, fit friend:
“I have come to the conclusion you’re either a “runner” or you’re not. I going to have to say I’m in the “not” category. Saturday should be interesting. I definitely won’t be first and possibly last… but I’ll finish.”
I am not sure what she is training for, but it made my little runner’s heart so sad to read it. I love running so much and I hate to see that others are trying, and haven’t found the love yet. I have seen that, with patience and time, the love usually comes. Certainly, some of us are FAST runners, and others not. But I truly believe that just about anyone who is able-bodied can run, and even enjoy parts of it, if not the whole thing. To me, her determination just to reach the finish line already says ‘runner’ to me! From the outside, I’d say this girl is a runner.
But, feeling like a runner, I understand, is an entirely different story. I said for the longest time that I wasn’t a ‘real’ runner, and oh, there were any number of reasons why in my head, that was the truth. I hadn’t run as a kid, or done any sports for that matter. I don’t have that lithe, long look of the first ones in at the end of the race. I am not fast. I hadn’t completed longer distance races. So, even though I was running, I didn’t do certain things that “real runners” are told to do. I only did basic stretching. Didn’t own a foam roller. Didn’t do a lot of speedwork. Those were all things for REAL runners. I had completed a bunch of races–including five half-marathons, spent countless hours on the road, and dropped minutes off my pace-per-mile through hard training and the weight I lost (through running!). But oh no, I’d be the first to tell you, I was not really a runner.
To some people, they become a runner the minute they walk out the door and take off. Some, the first time they get fitted for shoes. Others, at the end of their first solid mile without walking. My friend Cris had to run a marathon to feel like a ‘real’ runner.
Me, I owned my Real Runner Status when I got hurt. I got hurt FROM RUNNING. And when it forced me off the road, and to figure out what was going wrong, and made me
jones like a drug addict pine for running again… well, that’s when I decided I was a runner. And then I realized I had been a runner for quite some time, and I sorely regretted not taking it more seriously, taking care of myself as a runner, and even lending knowledge from people who were becoming runners, but needed help getting comfortable in the sport.
If you’re running… you’re a runner. And that’s just one of the beauties of running! You can go on to be so many things, at different times or sometimes at once: An occasional runner. An addicted runner. A fast 5k runner. A happy half-marathoner. A tech-obsessed runner. A no-tech runner. A thinner-than-you-used-to-be runner. A jogging stroller-pushing runner. A recovering-from-injury runner. A smart runner. A slow runner. There are so many ways to be a runner! But owning it is key. Own it! And the sooner, the better!
(And P.S. If it’s your pace-per-mile that’s making you not identify as a runner… do some speedwork. If you’re new to it, I recommend fartleks. You CAN train your body to go faster.)
This morning I took a break from racing to bring the noise for a friend running her first 5k. Marla was graduating from Couch to 5k and I wanted to be there to cheer her on.
Last week I picked up some thunder sticks just for the occasion. I also raided my daughters’ musical instruments for some bells. Here’s our cheer gear:
The girls got to wear their new SkirtSports skirts to cheer in.
We ran into Marla, her husband and daughter as soon as we pulled up. She was ready to go and looking strong!
There was a good sized kids’ race since the event benefitted Decatur schools… And then the big kids lined up for the start.
The route looped back past the start within the first mile so we got to cheer A LOT. I missed Marla on the first pass but saw her come around the corner to the finish, all smiles and high fives. Tried to get a pic but couldn’t wrangle children, thunder sticks and my phone.
Congrats to Marla… And my friend Sarah, who I’ve known since middle school and now lives in DC. She is in town with her parents for the NCAA tournament, and her parents both won age group awards. Nice! Way to represent, Danville Kentucky!
I loooooved being the cheerleader today, loved returning to the site of my first 5k, and loved seeing a new runner finish her first race. Way to go Marla! Well done!
“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.” – George Sheehan
I am six days post-marathon at this point, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the marathon experience overall. I’ll tell you that I never went into this thinking it was a one-shot deal. It wasn’t a bucket list, gotta-suffer-through-this-and-say-I-did-it kind of thing. I did it because I adored running and wanted to see what I could do. So this was my initial thought, directly after the race:
And now, a few days later, I feel exactly the same. So, to the question “Will you do another one?” I say, “Absolutely!” Not next week, probably not this year, but yes. I would love to do another one. There was never a moment during the race, even during the miles-long hitting of The Wall that I thought “I hate this.” Rather, it was a drive to complete something that was becoming harder and harder as the time and miles went on.
Now, part of the reason I want to do another one is because no, I am not in the least happy with how long it took. I felt the same way after my first 1/2 in 2010. Although, after that race, I was even more devastated. Running was still fairly new to me, and certainly my love of it was in its infancy. I didn’t understand training, building a base, and I wasn’t sure if I could or would do another one. Now I understand this: Saturday, I ran the race that I trained for. My initial plan had me finishing at 4:28, based on my mileage and my time in the Chicago Monster Dash last fall. And that’s what I wanted. But then I lost a week of training due to an abductor strain. And then another two full (though not consecutive) weeks due to illness. My three 20-milers became one horrible 19.4 miler, and three of my critical long runs–the ones between 8 and 5 weeks out, were done WHILE I was sick. My pace was abysmal. The effort was huge. And part of that whole the-marathon-is-mostly-mental thing should have been, for me, a cue to shelve the time expectation. But OF COURSE it was still there, in a way. And even when I said I was shelving it, I got 4:45 stuck in my head as something I could be happy with. But over 5 hours? No, I’m not happy with it, and I’d like to try again. That said, I’m not beating myself up, either. I had said in the week leading up to the race that if I got this marathon, it was out of sheer stubbornness, and I’d say that’s still accurate.
So, do I have an idea of when I might go for another 26.2? Well, maybe. One of the thing that makes the marathon so Herculean is not the race itself, but the training that leads up to it. It really did eat up my life for 15 weeks. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve always struggled more with depression and anxiety in the winter months, so having this huge thing that I had to do, in bits and pieces, so many days a week, for so many weeks in a row, meant that my mental space was eaten up with the plan to get that done. Then, my body was so worn out that any thing left over in my mind was not capable of keeping it up at night. “Blessed is (s)he who is too busy during the day, and too tired at night, to worry.” AMEN. But, I do have a husband and children that that enjoy me, and I them. Being gone for so long, and having so many things revolve around the training schedule was hard on my husband. With their blessing, and with a fair amount of certainty that I wouldn’t get burnt out, I wouldn’t mind another attempt next spring.
So now, I will say it again: that whatever the future holds for me in terms of more marathons, faster times, or better races, now more than ever, I LOVE running.
Saturday afternoon: Keep Moving!
After I crossed the finish line and got my medal, I headed for food. I tore into a bagel and a bottle of water, grabbed some chocolate milk (I could do a whole other blog post on how genius the Milk marketing people are for sponsoring races, but I won’t. I’ll just say, I love chocolate milk for recovery and was so glad it was there.). I picked up pretty much everything else they offered but didn’t end up eating any of it, except for the Snickers Marathon bar the next day for lunch. I found Kristiana and Lane and we talked while I stretched out some and then Lane took off. I had read parts of Hal Higdon’s Marathon recently and remembered his advice on what to do directly afterward: keep moving. So after I’d briefly stretched I went to the bathroom. I’d asked Kristiana to bring toilet paper since I figured they’d be out pretty quickly at the finish, and they were. Always bring toilet paper to a race. Always. You can always give it to someone or leave it in the porta potty. If it doesn’t save your day, it will make someone else’s. That’s being a good runner neighbor right there.
We hopped back on the train and rode to the hotel. It’s always fun to hear runner talk on the train. I really love doing races where transit is an option; it’s just fun to be with ‘my people’ and listen (eavesdrop I guess) on their experiences. It also means more walking and moving and not as much post-race tightening up of the muscles. We ended up riding with Dan Evans from The Biggest Loser. I don’t watch the show, but remembered a Biggest Loser guy who is also a musician had played after RnR Nashville last year. He was wearing a Biggest Loser shirt and had RnR VIP bracelets on, so I did a search on him. Didn’t talk to him, but it makes me think races are where the E-list celebs hang out.😉
Before we went to the hotel we went to Potbelly’s sandwiches so Kristiana could get lunch and I could get my celebratory pickle. You know what is better than chocolate milk after a race? A pickle. I discovered that last year after the Peachtree. Especially if it’s hot… this girl loves a salty, vinegary pickle. Try it. You’ll like it. But don’t try it WITH the chocolate milk.
Back at the hotel, it was more stretching and foam rolling. We lounged a bit; I kept trying to change positions as much as possible. We hemmed and hawed about where to eat and finally settled on Lauriol Plaza. We got ready and I did let Kristiana
talk me twist my rubber leg into taking a cab. We waited, but not for long. I was starting to feel stiff by this point, and everyone in the restaurant was about 10 years younger than us. I did my best to not act like a stiffening up 80-year-old lady recovering marathoner but sitting down to wait for 25 minutes and then sitting down for the meal definitely made things tighter. But the fried plantains, incredible beef fajitas, and quacamole totally made up for any weird looks I may have gotten. I probably should have worn my medal, because then I’d have openly worn my reason for moving so slow, but I’m normally not a medal-wearing-girl. Next time, I think I will be.
Home we went, and we were in bed by 8:30. We talked a little bit, and talked about running music… which somehow got us to Kristiana’s non-running music, and she played me this song. Stuff like that is just one reason I love her! It’s what I drifted off to, and was a pretty great end to a brilliant day.
Sunday: Keep Moving, Part Two
Our initial plan for the weekend had us staying in DC in the morning for church, but in the end, we both booked flights that got us home for church with our families in Chicago and Atlanta. Kristiana was up at 5, and I got up to talk to her before she left. I had every intention of going back to bed after she left, but ended up putting on my shoes and going out for a recovery run–another Higdon tip. A recovery shuffle might be more accurate, but anyway, I was out there. I saw the sun rise over the White House, so that made the “ouch” I felt at every stop and start of the traffic lights a little more worth it. It wasn’t a miserable run, though, I think the moving on Saturday definitely helped.
I went back to the hotel and stretched really well, and foam rolled… again. I may have spent more time stretching and foam rolling over the weekend than running. Then I got ready, packed, and went out to walk the mall before I had to catch my flight home. I got to take in the cherry blossoms at a slower pace, and see the WWII memorial, which I’d never seen before. I also wanted to see the Vietnam Memorial, so I headed that way. The mall was bustling with sightseers and runners, and lots of good people-watching. A runner in a smashing purple shirt was headed for me when we caught each other’s eye and I realized it was my friend from middle school, Sarah. I haven’t seen her in person in at least 15 years. She is training for her first 1/2 in June and while she had known I was going to be in town, it had not worked out for her to join us Friday for dinner. How awesome for this Atlanta girl to see a friend from Danville, KY on the mall in DC! We talked for a bit and then I headed back to the hotel to get ready to go home.
Uneventful flight, ended up sitting next to a 4x marathoner so he showed me his Nike GPS, which I’ve been eyeing for my husband, and I helped him find running routes in New Orleans, where he was headed. Getting off the plane I definitely felt the race in my quads. Food. Nap. Church. Sleep.
Monday: Business as Usual?
Monday I felt… really good actually. Went to BodyPump and Abs class because I’ve gotten so much support from my teacher Lisa and the other people in the class, and because I feel like it’s made a huge difference in my running. I also wanted to cross train and stretch afterward. I was glad I went, because here is what was on the mirror in front of ‘my space!’
The stretching really helped… I’ve not felt an ache or pain since Monday, and I’m so happy to feel this good! I’m working on a post about my thoughts on the marathon–how it went, what I’d change, and if I’ll do another one. Also, specific thoughts on the RnR series and Competitor Group after doing another of their races.
“13.1 is when the marathon really starts,” echoed the voice of my friend Daniel in my head as we dropped the half marathoners near RFK and headed back down North Carolina. I’d been here just a couple of hours before, at the start of the race. Keeping Daniel’s words in mind, I took a deep breath and mentally hunkered down. It was nice to get a second glance at one of the most scenic and “DC” parts of the course as we went back toward the Mall. The race had 24,000 runners–but only 5,000 of them were marathoners. So when the 1/2ers veered off, things got pretty thin. And not just with the runners, but of course with the crowd support as well. It was all to be expected, but things were definitely different this time down the course. There were still some folks out along E Street though, including one woman holding my very favorite sign of the race: “You are NOT almost there.” “Oh honey, you are so right,” I laughed to myself.
Just after I passed Union Station and the 14 mile mark, I saw a guy running toward me on the sidewalk with his head down, pushing two kids in an orange BOB. “That dude is in beast mode,” I thought. Then I realized: that’s Katie’s husband! “Jason!” I yelled, and pulled over to give him and the kids high fives. “How is she doing?” I asked him and he told me Katie was on track for a 3:50 or so finish. “Awesome!” I said and we parted ways. As great as it was to have planned sightings of Kristiana along the way, little surprises like that were bright spots too. It made a potentially lonely course and unfamiliar city seem just a little warmer.
So you can imagine my delight when, not a mile later, I heard “HEY! LINDSAY!” from the sidewalk. Kristiana! A totally unplanned sighting! I was in a zone at that point (hence the yelling she had to do to get my attention) so we just smiled and waved like big goobers and moved on; I knew I’d see her again in just a few miles.
Soon the course veered off and headed south; just past the 15 mile mark and now I was headed to parts of town I’d never been to. Miles 16-18 are a bit of a blur, and probably where it hit me just how slow my time was going to end up being. I knew I needed to shape up and run well the rest of the time to keep things from going even further down hill. I remember a tunnel. A big, long, dark tunnel with a man blaring music for us, despite the acoustics completely warping the sound. Coming out of the tunnel was probably about the time I realized just how warm it was, too. This was also around the time that, in an interview afterward, the race spokesman said the medical tent started to look like ‘a war zone.’ None of us, save anyone who may have come from Florida, would’ve trained in temperatures quite like this.
I do remember running along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which was beautiful though lonely. There were two race photographers out there, and since the runners were so spread out at this point, I got rid of my gum and prepared to FINALLY get a decent race pic. I always run with gum, but holding it on the side of my mouth when I smile makes my face look tense in pictures. I flipped my headphones out and smiled like crazy for the photographers.
And still, I hate the pictures. Which is why there are none here for you to look at. Forget training with sunscreen so you know you’ve got stuff that won’t sting your eyes when you sweat. Next time, I’m training with self-tanner, baby.
As we emptied into the industrial areas at 17 and 18, it got harder. The crowd support was virtually gone, the sun was beating overhead and, well, it was an industrial neighborhood. My pace definitely slowed here, but I knew Kristiana would be ahead between miles 18 and 19, so I headed towards that next sighting. She was to be in an out-and-back portion of the course by Nationals Park, but as I made the first pass, she wasn’t there. There were a lot of people though, and I picked up some steam from that. I also readied a GU, knowing she’d have water if I could just find her. As I came up the hill right by the baseball field, I saw her–and our friend Lane and a friend of hers. “How are you?” they asked? “Struggling,” I said. “Struggling.” They said all the right things, reminded me that I was so close to the end, and told me I was doing awesome. I told them “I love you all!” and headed out. My iPod knew just the right song to play, the GU kicked in, and I trucked on to the mile 19 marker.
At this point, the course goes across the Frederick Douglass Bridge and into Anacostia. The bridge was hard because, well, it’s a bridge: it goes up, up, up a good bit, then back down at the mid-point. But also, it’s got a good portion of metal grating which, no matter how cushy your shoes are, is hard on feet that have nearly 20 miles on them already.We got into Anacostia Park and it was honestly like things started to blow up for people. In this race, The Wall appeared to be a very large area called Anacostia Park. Everywhere I looked, I saw people walking, and not with the “I’m saving energy” thing that you get early on in a race, but with an air of defeat. It was hot. We were still a Peachtree Road Race from the finish line, and it FELT like the kind of weather you normally run the Peachtree in.
You could almost smell the despair.
It was actually pretty hard to watch, and it was a long straightaway, so I could see a lot. People I’d been going back and forth with went back… and I never saw them again. By mile 21, I wasn’t doing a lot better myself. Looking back, I should’ve eaten another GU. And I sort of knew that, but I just couldn’t stomach the thought of any more sugary stuff in my mouth. I wanted water, but I was also scared of hyponatremia, too. Clearly, the wheels were coming off. I knew I needed a plan. I told myself I could walk for 1 minute, run for 4. That seemed do-able. And it was, in fact, more than do-able… with a little help from Jon Bon Jovi, Axl Rose, and Eddie Van Halen. There comes a point in every race where I don’t want ANY of my music. So I just hit the fast forward button until I get what I like, even if it’s 20 times. And the only thing that would do were my recently acquired 80’s rock songs. Thanks, guys! My breaks actually turned into 1 minute walking, and 8-9 of running, through mile 24. The ‘running’ pace was pretty flimsy, but I just had to keep going. Just before mile 24 a couple of already-done runners were walking toward us, and they yelled “C’mon guys! One more hill and that’s IT!” While I’ve always given the side-eye to the fasties who double back to ‘encourage’ the sweepers, this was quite helpful–it was nice to know what I was looking at.
And then at mile 24… well, at mile 24 you can pretty much do anything. At mile 24, you’re way less than a 5K from home! At mile 24, you might decide it’s okay to listen to this on repeat for the next 2.2 miles (or not). At mile 24, there was nothing stopping me. Forget any disappointment about pace, I was about to DO THIS THING. I picked it up and decided to truck on in. And as we got closer, the crowds picked up again. I could feel the energy. People were looking for their runners, cheering on those of us that they didn’t know, and telling us, over and over again, “You GOT this! You are ALMOST there!”
As the finish neared, I pulled my headphones out entirely and swallowed my gum–(it was Finish Line picture time, riiiiight?) I saw Kristiana, Lane, and her friend again. People were yelling my name. The announcer called it over the loudspeaker. He gave me a heads up about where the finish line photographers were. Up went my hands, out came my grin, and across the Finish Line I went!
In the next post, answers to the burning questions you need to know:
Was there any chocolate mile left for me at the finish line?
Did I follow Hal Higdon’s advice on ‘The 27th mile?’
And, did I wear my medal to dinner that night?
All that, and more, still to come…
The alarm may have been set for 5:15, but my mind was up at 3:30. I laid in bed until about 4:45 and then got up and foam rolled. Worth it–pretty sure I got something in my glute to release that hadn’t before. I started getting ready when the alarm went off: made coffee and downed some peanut butter, got dressed, and went outside to shake out and check the weather. It was pretty obvious it was going to be warm (no new arm warmers for me today) and my 7 minute shake out run & small dose of AC/DC got me excited. Back up to the room to get my last minute things and I met Katie in the lobby at 6.
We arrived at Metro just as it opened and a few minutes later were on the standing-room-only first train headed to RFK. Everyone was in good spirits, except for the poor fellow next to Katie who ‘fessed up to being claustrophobic. We got off the train and onto a very packed platform. Our train was followed by another just 2 minutes later, which was equally packed. The whole station was a sea of technical apparel and ponytails and it was quite a sight to behold–I wish I’d taken a picture but was too busy trying to keep from being trampled. Everyone was orderly, though, but I’m glad we were on the first train and still early enough not to have people panicked about missing the start.
We stood in the still-short porta potty lines before heading to gear check. Katie went in to the DC Armory to check her bag and I waited for her, making sure all my gels, gum, chapstick were in their assigned pockets. When she came out, she was pretty wide-eyed and told me she had been shoved several times. Even in the short time we had been inside, the crowd outside had definitely grown more restless. I told her my theory: I think the RnR series attracts a lot of first-time and high-maintenance half-marathoners. They tend to cater to the runners doing the half, and with a name like “Rock & Roll” as a series title, of course they are going to get people who are attracted to that as an identifier. Let’s just say, it ain’t called “The Nice Runner” series by chance.
Nevertheless, we wound our way to corral 8 and found the 3:55 pace group. I told Katie that I would move to the back of the group as we walked toward the start line, since I certainly did not belong in Corral 8! As 8:00 grew nearer, we ditched our outer layers, listened for the National Anthem and said a quick prayer. There may have been teary eyes as we said our pre-start line goodbyes, but we both took a deep breath and got it together.
Next thing, we were Katie was gone and then I was crossing the start line too. It’s funny; starting at the back with faster runners and with 1:00 intervals between corrals, this first part was a little lonely! “Goodbye, everyone in front of me… I’ll just cruise along with this other dude for a few min-oh, wait, what’s that thump-thump-thump? Yowza! The next corral has started and their leaders are flying!” As soon as the next corral caught up with us I was back in a herd, and happy to be so. Not even a mile in I looked up at a turn and saw a face from so-long-ago! My old duo partner from the Berry College speech team, Dan, was standing on the corner with some friends. “Daaaaaaaaaaan!” I yelled as I rounded the corner, and caught a wave as I went on. Seeing someone that I knew in Georgia, so randomly in DC, right at the start, was awesome. It made the race special, already, the kind of thing that has you wondering: What else was to come?
Soon enough we neared the Capitol building and the mall. I was working hard to not go too fast in the early miles, and so I really focused on taking my time, looking at what I was passing, and trying to take it all in without tripping on someone or something. Union Station, The Capitol, The Washington Monument. People cheering, and so many cheering for ME when they read my name (I definitely recommend taping your name to your shirt. You will feel like a dork beforehand, but like a ROCK STAR at just the moment you need someone to call YOUR name.).
At Mile 4.5 we headed north on 18th Street and started the climb toward Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan. This part was hard, elevation wise, and for me was worrisome as I had my right upper IT Band to worry about it. I put my headphones in and focused on using my left leg to lead… without overtaxing it. Went under a bridge where a man was holding a proposal sign for one of the runners–pretty awesome. I knew as I approached mile 6 I needed to be looking for Kristiana for the first time. She was to be outside the Starbucks on the north side of Dupont Circle. But as in any walkable city, there was a Starbucks everywhere I looked! And, as we neared Dupont Circle I realized the course took us underneath a bridge right at the circle. As we came out on the other side I started looking hard for her orange shirt, but the crowds here were massive (did I mention that the reason I wanted to do an RnR race for my first full was because of how good they are at drawing crowds? On that front, it did not disappoint in the least.). I ran right past her (she had a gray shirt on over the orange one) and put the brakes on to get back to her. She gave me Gatorade and looked at me and said “SLOW DOWN. You are going way to fast.” “I know, I know. I am.”
It was true–I did go out a fast for this particular day. How that affected the outcome… I’m not sure. But I started out at about the pace I would’ve been on had I not gotten sick and missed 20% of my training. But given the lower elevation of DC, and my optimism that once I’d regained full health (which happened about 10 days out from the race) I’d be back up to my prior fitness, I also wasn’t going out of control fast, either. I hit the 5k mark right at 32:00–a solid 10 minute/mile pace. Knowing me and my propensity for giving in to the adrenaline, it wasn’t bad. Looking back, I do wish I’d held it to 11:00/mile at that point. I think it would have helped overall. But, what was done was done, and on I went.
We wound through the neighborhoods along Harvard St and near Howard University. Not much to see here, except for great little houses and even better people who were throwing parties on their porches in order to cheer us on. THANK YOU, DC! My favorite sign along this route was the one that side, “Worst Parade Ever!” So funny, so true. I started to feel the overcompensation my body was making for me relying on my left leg to get me up the hill. I now realize my right Achilles tendon was complaining–a totally new pain for me. But for three miles, my race brain was saying “Oh, you have a stress fracture. You so clearly have a stress fracture. Lindsay, you’re at mile 8 and you have a stress fracture. You have 18 miles to go. What are you going to do? How are you going to run 18 miles on a stress fracture? And forget about the Wisconsin 1/2. And Ragnar Chicago? Buh-bye.” I finally did a figurative bashing of my palm to my forehead and realized it was a muscle overcompensation and that I needed to chill out. The worst hills were coming to an end, and so was the Achilles pain.
I’ll mention here that yes, I did take both water and Gatorade offered by the volunteers. Before I did so, I scoped out where the water was coming from as I passed the early tables. They had huge blue vats behind the tables that said “Water Monster” on them, and hoses attached. Here’s a link to what they were using. It was pretty clear that, at least this RnR race had taken a lesson from Vegas and was making a clear and visible statement that they take potable, safe water seriously. As they should. Once I saw that, I took water at every station I passed, noting the Water Monsters at each one.
I also tried the Gatorade twice, just a sip. While it did not taste ‘off,’ it did taste as though it had taken on the flavor of a container it had been in, and I just didn’t like it. I ditched it both times and decided to rely on my belt and trust that I’d see Kristiana when I’d planned to.
Which I did for the second time–just past mile 10. This was another spot where our meeting place was OVER the race course. But I came up on her no problem just past mile 10. She gave me water and I was off again. She was running some on her own that morning, and our plan was not to see her again for another 8 miles. So off I went, off she went, and I headed for miles 11, 12, and the 1/2 marathon split.
The sun was out in full force by this point and it was starting to get hot. Just past mile 11, near a band’s stage, I saw people gathered around a man who was down, trying to get up, and not doing well at it. He had at least five people with him by the time I saw him, and was near a band stage. I assessed the situation and decided to go on. I have stopped before and gotten help for someone when I was one of the first upon them. But I’m not qualified as a first responder, and this man was clearly out of the runners’ way and any danger of being trampled, and he had several people already attending to him. I will say that the most effective thing I saw in that incidence was the woman blocking him from any oncoming runners. Wide stance, arms full out, and yelling to make sure people noticed him. It worked, and I noted it in case I am ever in the position of needing to help a downed runner again in the future.
Near mile 12 I started to look for the 1/2 Marathon/Marathon split. It was very well marked–as were all the mile markers. Again, another perk of having the sheer numbers that RnR gets. A volunteer with a bullhorn gave us ample notice that the turn was approaching and told us to stay right for the full. Then there were at least five very visible signs that led us off toward the next half of the course… where the hard part of the race was to begin.
I love a good race expo, and the Rock & Roll series usually puts on a great one. We headed there as soon as we got checked into the hotel and settled. It was also a good way to test the metro route we would take the next day. I was expecting huge security lines and a long wait for packets, but as my friend Kristiana (who flew in from Chicago to be my race support) said, “That’s part of the fun!” When we got to the DC armory, there was no line and we got our packets quickly. Hurrah! Katie decided to run with the 3:55 pace group and need to change corrals. Since all they did was put a green sticker with a hand-written 8 on her bib, I asked to change my corral too, so we could be together as long as possible before the start. Done. On to t-shirts– I’m thrilled that RnR finally took my advice (ha) and offered a women’s cut T. I had ordered a small, because I tend to always end up,with a too-big T that I never wear, and since it’s a tech tee I wanted to not hate it. I have never, ever worn my unisex tech tees from Nashville because they make me look like I’m wearing a big old box. No thank you. But when I saw the small, it was *gulp* truly small! But it does fit and I really like the design, despite it being navy, like so many of the RnR tees seem to be. (pic of the tee in my forthcoming day after race post)
Things I Allowed Myself to Do at The Expo:
Give Brooks my email address so that I could play their carnival games
Give Brooks $25 for the softest, comfiest, brightest fluorescent yellow arm warmers ever.
Touch the Moving Comfort running thong (No. Just no. People, please.)
Have my picture taken with some dude who was on The Bachelor and now hocs chocolate milk as a recovery drink.
Make a video about why I love chocolate milk as a recovery drink (I really do, actually).
Spend $12 on running stickers (some were gifts).
Get tips on foam rolling from the Trigger Point people (ahhhhhhh)
Most Important Thing I Did Not Do at the Expo:
Consume anything. I still had Vegas on the brain.
We left the expo and went straight to Vapiano for dinner: bread, caesar salad, and campardelle olive oil, garlic, and chicken breast. the food was great, but I find their shtick with the cards (you order food from a station, swipe a card each time you add on, and then take your card to pay when you’re done) to be tedious and a great example of technology making things more difficult than it should be.
Katie’s husband and kids joined us for dinner, and Jason told me it was a lot easier to run in DC than in Atlanta–he thinks partly because it’s flat and partly because it’s at sea level, about 800-900 feet lower than us. I tried hard to hide my delight, but it made me happy.
We said goodbye to Katie and Co. after dinner. Kristiana and I took a cab back to the hotel because all the walking had really started to bother my right hip flexor–a totally new pain, which of course had me
worrying myself into a frenzy furrowing my brow.
Back at the hotel, I got race-ready: pinned my bib on–up high this time so I might actually get an identifiable picture, then used KT tape to put my name on my shirt. I wanted all the support I could get, so on went my name (post-race note: the KT tape stayed on the whole time, didn’t bother me, and came off clean at the end. I recommend it.) Filled my Gatorade and water bottles, put my timing chip on, and made sure my GU, gum and Chapstick were all in their assigned pockets. Garmin, iPod shuffle, and phone went on their chargers. And I stretched and foam rolled. A few good luck texts and FaceTime calls were exchanged with family and friends, and Kristiana and I prayed together. Then, bedtime. Alarm set for 5:15 AM.