Thursday, April 4, 2013

Race Report: Rock-n-Roll USA Half Marathon

I’ve mentioned before my goal of a sub 1:22 half. Early in the season, I thought for sure I would get after it this time. But as the reality of my training set in, a 6:15 pace seemed a little crazy. A few days before the race, though, I started believing, based mostly on some sketchy statistics. I've run the 8k a week before running the half for the last two years. Last year, I ran 11 seconds/mile slower in the half compared to the 8k. This year's 8k was 6:04 pace, which means the half should be/could be (drumroll please) 6:15 pace. Also, I had been thinking I've never run that pace for anywhere close to that long in my life. Then realized I ran 6:14 pace for 10 miles last October, when I was feeling terrible and training wasn't going well. Surely by now I could add on another 5k at that pace. But the weather could be a factor...

Side-ramble about technology: It annoys me to no end that we can’t predict the weather with 100% accuracy. (I understand that we can’t, but that doesn't mean I’m okay with it.) Particularly with a race on the way, I get obsessive about the weather. Rain was predicted on race day all week, so I had conceded to wearing my rainy day duds. But the morning of the race, in one last moment of hope, I grabbed my laptop and checked it said no rain! Then I checked on my phone. (Not the App, which is always way off the website (unclear why?), but I opened it in my phone's browser.) It said it would rain. The same website, run on the same browser (Safari), predicting two different things on two different pieces of technology. I risked it, trusted the laptop, and assumed no rain. The laptop was right. (I tried this again since, and the two are often different. Anyone have an explanation?)

So it turned out the weather was pretty perfect. Nothing to hold me back from a great race now. We had some trouble finding our way around the start, and arrived on the line without much time to spare. That meant not much time to get nervous, which was perfect. The first mile was smooth, I hit 6:15 on the nail. The next couple of miles I just tried to keep my rhythm and was pretty close to dead on. I remember at one point thinking about how awful I had felt in the last half I ran, and how this was completely different. This was my day.

We started up Rock Creek Parkway and a couple miles were a tad fast, but I knew the Big Hill was looming. I also realized my teammate J was close behind me (I could hear the cheers for her.) She had originally planned for a bit slower; I knew she must be feeling good and en route to a great day herself. Two big PRs, here we come.
Shot from above-- taken from a bridge over Rock Creek Parkway.
The Hill in the USA Half (a slightly different course than year’s past) is also a hill I run often in my training (I live close by, so it’s unavoidable) and it’s a Beast. In the weeks leading up the race, while slowly shuffling up it, I would wonder how the heck I’m going to race up this thing. On the way up race day I actually felt alright, I just tried to keep an even effort even though I certainly had to be slowing. I passed the woman right in front of me halfway up and that gave me confidence—maybe my hill skills are back. At the top, I think I looked like death (friends said I looked pissed.) I was glad it was over, but I just wanted to get my legs back under me asap.

But the next mile or so I was still going slow. (The split for the hill mile was incredibly slow—as expected.) The course is perhaps ever so slightly uphill at that point; I was just aching to get some downhill, gain some time back, and get back to nailing 6:15s. I remember really liking the rolling hills through miles 8-10 last year, so I looked forward to those. I got my rhythm back, passed another girl after another hill, and then managed a quick split for mile 10 (mostly downhill) but realized I was still ~20 seconds off pace for a sub 1:22.
Between miles 10 and 11.
There were two women not far ahead, and I used catching them as motivation to pick it up. I somehow completely missed the split for mile 11 and at mile 12 was still 20 seconds slow. With only a little more than a mile left I had to move. I had passed the women, but now a man was running in front of me and every time I came close he took off sprinting. Well, I didn’t like that one bit, so I got a little mad and went after him. (More motivation!) J was close on our heels, speeding along to her own huge PR. I knew it would be achingly close to 1:22 and so I sprinted as hard as I could. I could see the clock and I knew I just barely had it.

1:21:57, three seconds to spare. According to my GPS watch (so take it with a grain of salt), my pace for the last 1.1 miles was 5:49 (!) J also annihilated her PR by 8 minutes. (I don’t know what happened to the guy who tried to beat us.)

Afterwards I felt pretty good. I took a longish cool down and my legs felt fine. I was pleased with my 1:22, especially since I was pretty unsure that was possible a few weeks ago. I certainly have had loftier goals in the past (ugh, Philadelphia) and fallen flat on my face, but this time I did exactly what I set out to do.

Using the same sketchy statistics I used above (comparing half marathon to full marathon times from past years) it seems like I’m in shape for a big PR in Boston. Now that the taper has started and the race is looming, the doubts and questions are trying to creep back in, but hopefully I can silence them on Patriot’s Day.

Excited for Boston, too? Here are two of my favorite Boston-related posts:

Dream big,


  1. Was on the edge of my seat! Go girl :)

  2. Psych! I've shared your posts with my friends who is running her first Boston Marathon this year. Thank you for getting others to Dream Big!!!!