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Nike Women's Half Marathon - DC

I signed up for this race months ago with my friend Kristin and her family and friends from PA/DE. The Nike Women's Marathon series (which they seem to have renamed Run Nike Women Series) recently added a couple of half marathons to the series, and this was the inaugural half marathon in Washington, DC. Registration was only open to those who were chosen from a drawing for eligibility. We entered as a group, and as luck would have it, our group got in! It was an exciting moment to receive the email notification--but a less exciting moment when I realized that my credit card would then be charged the exorbitant $160+ registration fee, but this was largely because of the Tiffany & Co. necklace awarded to finishers in place of a typical race medal. But it still meant a trip to DC, and because I didn't get to run the Marine Corps Marathon in DC last fall, I was looking forward to the redemption race.

I have mixed feelings about the overall event. The race itself was wonderful--scenic course, beautiful weather (high 50s/ low 60s), mostly flat with one bridge, and good organization. But the "expotique" was hugely disappointing. Because it was a Nike race, there were no other vendors at the expo, except the sponsors--Luna ("The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women"), Paul Mitchell, bareMinerals (of infomercial fame)--you know, girly stuff. Also, we had to wait in a long line to pick up our packets, outside, in the sun:

The line.

We survived the line.

And because I was with a shopping family (and I also wanted to pick up something for race day), we were "forced" to go to the Nike store in Georgetown, what felt like a mile from the expo. As could be expected, there were tons of race participants swarming the store, which made shopping unpleasant (for me, anyway). But I found a tank, stood in another long line to check out, and then went around the corner for some boba tea while I waited for the others :)

Outside the Nike store. Yep, that's my name.

After we returned to our hotel rooms, we relaxed for a bit and then ate an early dinner at the hotel restaurant. Because that restaurant didn't happen to be a Thai restaurant, I ate an untested meal before my race. I had a salad with salmon and a side of rice (which was rather an ordeal to get). But it seemed to agree with my stomach just fine.

After dinner, Kristin and I did some decompressing:

Then early to bed. As I was getting ready for bed, I noticed my Garmin was having trouble charging, as it is wont to do in its old age, so I messed with it for a bit, and also noticed that it was having trouble locating satellites. But it finally took a charge, so I got in bed.

Early in the morning, our group gathered and left the hotel, which was .7 miles away from the race start/finish area. Kristin's aunt Joyce got us there, thankfully, as nobody else was really prepared with directions.

We got into our designated corals, which were based on our predicted finishing times. For this race, I was as close to the start as I've ever been. Because it was mostly a women's race, there were no men to take up all the space in front :) So I only had about a 30-second delay from gun to chip start. Prior to the race start, we got to hear some encouraging words from Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson, live and in person! I thought that was pretty cool.

Lots of ladies and "a few good men," as the announcer kept saying (it got old quickly).

As soon as I ran across the start line, I pushed "Start" on my Garmin and noticed right away that it was only keeping time; not distance, which meant that the satellites hadn't been located , and I wouldn't know my pace! I was so frustrated, but luckily I was in sight of the 2-hr pace group, so I stuck with them while I turned my watch off and back on and waited for satellites to be located. But of course, within the first half mile we ran through a long tunnel, which interrupted the satellite location, so I had to turn it off and back on again. I didn't get it properly working until about a mile in. This isn't a huge deal, except that I train by my watch, and I didn't really know my pace for that first mile. The pace group was supposed to be running 9:10 miles, but when I could finally see my pace, I saw that we were significantly under--about 8:37. But it didn't feel all that fast for me, so I went with it. I stuck with the pace group for a while, and then was afraid they'd "slow" to their 9:10 pace, and I wanted to keep up what I was running. So I pulled ahead a little bit.

I think this is the most scenic race course I've ever run. We passed by many of the historical monuments and ran along the Potomac River for most of the route.

The course.
Also, at several mile markers there were different percussion groups playing for us, and they were by far the best musical entertainment I've ever experienced at a race. Forget the Rock 'n' Roll series; I'll take these local cultural and school groups over the big-name artists any day.

Around mile 8, I was thinking that I felt great, but didn't really feel like I was "racing." But I was running well under what I'd aimed to, so I wasn't sure I should try to push the pace. But then I thought, a PR was pretty much guaranteed, short of any major mishaps, and this was my last big race for the season; why the hell shouldn't I push harder? So I did.

It was a PR by 6 whole minutes (and 3 seconds)! I was so overcome when I finished, but in that awkward, alone way, so I didn't know what to do with myself. I got my water, Luna bar, and eventually was presented with my necklace. I went to bag check and retrieved my bag, which contained my phone, and immediately messaged two people who I knew were tracking me and asked what my time was. I did actually look as I finished this time (which I usually forget to do), but I didn't know how far off the clock time was. My dad let me know that it was 1:53:30, chip time. I was ecstatic. But I couldn't express it by myself. So I cried a little bit. Somehow that seemed appropriate.

The greatly coveted prize.

As my smile indicates, I was very happy. I had so many wonderful text and Facebook messages from family and friends; these are also the things that get me choked up. Even though I was away from them all, I felt very special that they cared enough to follow my race. So, thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you.

Here are my final stats:

As someone who knows basic math told me, I'm pretty much in the top tenth percentile of overall and division. I'll take it!

Here are the stats from my Garmin, which are flawed in several ways, largely because of user errors:

The green Start symbol should actually be in the same place as the red Stop symbol, but because of the aforementioned malfunction, it is not. I also hit my "Lap" button too early (when I heard someone else's mile signal go off), which accounts for the divided mile in splits 4 and 5, and then we repeated the tunnel toward the end, which is why splits 11 and 12 got messed up. But the average pace should be mostly accurate, and that's a more than 30-second-per-mile improvement over my Gasparilla half. I really surprised myself.

As the others in my group finished, we all talked about how we performed better than we'd thought we would. It was a great race for everyone. We sat and watched some women line up to get post-race makeovers by race sponsor bareMinerals, somewhat in disbelief. This was one of the more ridiculous aspects of the women-targeted race.

Kristin and I got to relax for a bit in the hotel room before heading out for our respective flights. I was glad I got to experience the race with her and her mother, aunt, and friends. They made the trip even more enjoyable.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in airports, arriving in Tampa close to midnight. But I had the next day off of work so I could recuperate. Here's one way in which I did that:

Peanut butter and jelly cupcake from Gigi'sIt was as if they knew I needed a reward and made the best flavor for that day.

I decided to do a couple more races before taking a break to heal up before summer marathon training: the Police Appreciate 10K this weekend in St. Pete, and the Miles for Moffitt 5-miler next weekend at USF. Then, I promise my body I will rest, reunite with my long-lost yoga practice, and perhaps get back on that road bike.


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