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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.

At the start with Katie. Isn't my thrift store jacket cute? I tried not to get too attached, but it was hard.

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.

Behold, the Water Monster

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.