Race Recap: Rock ‘N Roll USA Marathon

Ready to race! Waiting for the metro into DC

Hubby is ready to rock the half marathon (which he PRed with a time of 2:09; I'm so proud of him!!)

Big mistake number 1 happened before the race even started.  Upon arriving in DC on Saturday morning, I realized I forgot something.  I knew I would forget something that I needed to bring with me.  Of course, I had to forget something I really needed: my KT Tape for my knee.  I started to panic that my knee would not make it through 26.2 miles without my tape.  I had no choice but to suck it up.

I may have forgotten my KT Tape, but I remembered my gag-inducing chia gel. Unfortunately, the chia couldn't even save me from a tough race

After meeting up with TNT briefly and waiting in line for the porta-pots for 45 flippin’ minutes, hubby and I headed to our starting corrals.  He ran the half marathon and was in corral 8 while I was in 9 so we got to hang out together.  The race started in waves so we had a bit of wait before we crossed the starting line.  We had enough time to dash out of the corral and to the porta-pots next to the starting line for one last bathroom break.

Once we crossed the starting line, we ran together for the first half mile then I decided I needed to speed up a little.  Enter mistake number 2.  Because of my knee issues, I had to step back my training a little bit.  Originally, my target pace was 9:09, but because of the knee stuff, I wasn’t sure what pace to aim for so I just went with what was comfortable.  Unfortunately, what was comfortable in the beginning was way too fast for me.  Allow me to break it down for you:

Hmm, what's wrong with this picture?

The first mile was fine, but dipping under the 9 minute mark by mile 3 was not smart.  Miles 2, 3 and 4 were definitely too fast for me.  After that my pace was okay.  Ignore the appearance of speediness at mile 11, I think that was when I lost my satellite signal for a little while under a tunnel.

I started to not feel well by mile 8.  Mile 8 out of 26.2.  I knew that was a bad sign.  I cursed myself for starting too fast.  Although my quick start wasn’t my only problem.  It was much warmer than I was used to in training.  Even though we had a mild winter, I still grew accustomed to long runs in weather in the mid-30s to mid-40s.  That is the perfect temperature for me.  I had some really awesome long runs in the cooler temps.  On Saturday morning, it was around 50 degrees at the start and warmed up to close to 70 by the end.

I had a side stitch that would not let up.  A sweet TNT coach from another team ran alongside me for a little while to see how I was feeling.  He told me to hang in there and that we had gotten through the worst of the hills.  He was really encouraging, but I should know better than to trust that line about the hills.  There are always more hills!

Around mile 12, my TNT coach pulled up next to me to check on me.  One of the millions of reasons of why I love TNT is their amazing support at races.  She told me if my side stitch didn’t go away by mile 15, I should ask the next coach I saw for some salt.

When the half marathoners split off to head to the finish line, I very seriously considered going to finish with them and calling it a day.  Then I reminded myself that I didn’t do a 21 mile, a 20 mile and a 22 mile run to just do the half.  I forced myself to keep going and took my first walking break.  I was thankful that the crowd had thinned out so much.  I was happy that when I hit the halfway point my time was 2:04.  That’s better than my current half PR.  I hoped that meant I was on track to at least finish around 4:15.

After my brief (30 second) walking break, I forged on and continued to fall apart.  The nicest parts of the course were in the first half.  The second half repeated back over some of the first part of the course then continued on through a lot of really boring parts of the city.  There were some pockets of good crowd support, but they were pretty spaced out.  There were a couple out and back areas and loops.  Those are hard for me mentally because I envy the people passing in the direction that have already completed the loop or out and back.  Note how my pace deteriorates rapidly:

What a mess. Can I get some bonus points for running more than 26.2 miles?

I had to take a lot of walking breaks.  I fought to get through every single mile.  After my walking break at mile 13, I forced myself to get to mile 16 before taking another break.  I walked as soon as I hit 16.  Then I forced myself to make it to mile 18, then 20, then 21, and so on.  My walking breaks got closer together.  The more I walked, the harder it was to run again.  Yet the more I ran, the more I felt discouraged and in pain.

Every spot where the line on the graph shoots down is a walking break

The heat really got to me.  Most of the second half was in the open sun.  I can’t remember any shade except for a tunnel here and there.  It was excruciating.  I had my headphones in the entire time, but I didn’t listen to much music.  I carefully created my playlist for the race so it would only have songs that really pump me up – songs that always make my legs move faster.  This time, my music couldn’t save me.  Every single song annoyed me.  I ended up keeping it off most of the race.  The bands along the course were pretty good, but we’d only hear them for like 30 seconds then we were gone again.

I think it was around mile 18 that another TNT coach caught up with me.  He gave me salt packets and told me to either put them straight in my mouth or mix them with my water.  I went with the salty water.

I drank so much water, nuun and Gatorade during the race.  During my long runs throughout the winter, I always had 10 ounces of water and 10 ounces of nuun with me in my hydration pack and that was enough.  That’s what I had for this race (I didn’t want a repeat of the intense nuun craving that I had at Baltimore), but it wasn’t nearly enough.  I refilled my bottles 3 times along the course and I was still insanely thirsty.  Even though I was so thirsty, I felt like my stomach was overflowing with liquid which made me really nauseous.

Hubby called me when I was at mile 21.  The first thing I told him was “I’m dying. I can’t do it.” Being the awesome and supportive person he is, he told me that I could do it and I just had less than an hour left.  He called me again at mile 23 and said “where are you? I’m waiting at the wrong place, don’t finish yet!” He didn’t realize the marathon finish line was different from the half.  I reassured him that I had a long way to go.  He caught up with me just before mile 26.  He ran with me as long as he could before the finish line.  Mile 26 was my fastest mile since mile 15 at 9:37.  It was also the first mile that I ran without a walking break since probably mile 18.  My legs seriously protested.  I felt like little spasms were running through my quads.

Is it over yet?

I'm a hot mess, literally and my glasses are crooked. I don't know how I managed to smile.

The last .2 was uphill.  Of course.  After 26 miles, running up a hill, no matter how big, is hell.  I pushed just a tiny bit across the finish line with the last bit of energy I had left in me.

A hill up to the finish line seems to be a race must from my experience

My stats

As I made my way through the finishers’ area, I started hoarding fluids.  Hubby made fun of me when we caught up to me because I had 2 bottles of water, a bottle of Gatorade and I picked up another bottle of water at the TNT tent.  I was one thirsty runner.  If I had seen this that was at the expo, I would have just drank straight from the nozzle:

My heaven

During the race, I missed Zain like crazy.  One thing that kept me going was thinking about how the sooner I finished, the sooner I would be back home with him.  I saw lots of spectators with kids and it made me miss him even more.  At one point, I saw spectators that were blowing bubbles.  It made me think of Zain and his crazy obsession with “buh-buhs!”  When we finally got home in the early afternoon, he was so was excited to play with my medal and even gave it a kiss.  He’s too funny.  He had a fun time playing with his grandparents all morning.

We got him a rock star shirt at the expo so he could cheer us on from afar

My knee ended up being okay during the race.  It was achy and stiff for the first 5 miles then I don’t remember it bothering me.  Maybe that’s because everything else hurt so much that I stopped noticing it.

From mile 16 on, I had one thought that ran continuously through my mind: no more marathons.  I repeated over and over to myself that I would never again run a marathon.  I promised myself this was the last one.  Well, that’s a promise that is made to be broken.  I know I’ll run another marathon.  It probably won’t be this year.  It might not even be next year.  I don’t know when it will be, but I know that the pain is temporary.  I am a marathoner and to me, there is nothing like the experience of running a marathon.  I know one day I will run another.

Even though I had a really, really, really tough race, I am happy that I have a new marathon PR of 4:31:44.  I took 23 minutes off my previous PR from Baltimore.  Maybe next time I can get under that 4:30 mark.

Representing Team in Training during the race was incredible.  Hearing cheers of “Go Team!” made me proud to run for such a great cause.  Thank you again to everyone who donated and supported me while training with them!

If you made it through this 26.2 mile long post, you deserve a medal!

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Comments

  1. says

    Wow! Way to push through such a hard run. 26.2 miles of pain is definitely very tough. I don’t think many people would have been able to finish like you.

    Get some much deserved rest and relaxation!

  2. says

    Great job sticking it out to the finish on a tough day! That is never an easy feat!!! I’ve had side-stitches in almost all of my marathons so I know what a literal pain they are. Glad it didn’t totally derail your day and you enjoyed so much support along your journey. Hope you enjoy your recovery time :)

  3. Kathleen D says

    This is a great post and I feel every high and low as you write it (I had flash backs to the VA Beach Rock n Roll that was uncharacteristically hot!).  You did a great job and it’s amazing you stuck through it all!  Way to go :)

  4. Hubby says

    Great post love! You really did kick some serious butt on a hot and humid day! You should be proud of your accomplishment because Zain and I certainly are :)

  5. Kara says

    This is a great recap! You need to buy a bottle of “Salt Stick” pills. When I run in any temp above 60, I take one pill every 1.5 hours (it’s just salt, potassium and magnesium in a capsule). It really helps with muscle cramping!

    I feel the same way about missing the kid during races. I really think if I saw her on the sidelines that I’d just stop. There is no way I’d keep running by that!

    • says

       I totally would have stopped if Zain was there on the sidelines.  I would have climbed in the jogging stroller with him and hid, lol.  I’m going to have to get those salt pills.

  6. says

    That’s still a great PR and sounds like you pushed through the tough conditions.  I had a few friends who ran (most just the half) and everyone said the heat really got to them!

  7. Kelly V says

    What a great blog post!!  I think this is exactly how I felt during the baltimore Half!!  I didn’t do as well as I liked, was dehydrated and had to walk.  THe whole time during RnR DC I just kept thinking, “don’t pull a Baltimore, Don’t pull a Baltimore” You learn so much with each race. I am glad I am not the only Mom who misses their kids while seeing the kids on the sidelines.  Congratulations on finishing a marathon!!  You deserve that medal!

    • says

       Thank you and congrats to you too! I’m glad I’m not the only one either! I felt kind of silly that I missed him so much after being away for just a few hours!

  8. Keiva Jennings says

    I was looking forward to reading your recap! You did an amazing job! You accomplished so many goals in this one race! You ran a half marathon PR, and PR’d in the full marathon distance! You also ran without the aid of KTape. All of that stroller running has only made you THAT much stronger. Simply amazing. So proud of you and hubby! Perhaps you guys can just enjoy running a couple of half marathons together for the fun of it. In the meantime, enjoy your victory! You deserve it!

  9. says

    Wow! Such a moving recap to run with how much you pushed through. I could feel the frustration and pain, but also the victory in overcoming it and just making it through. Great job! 

  10. Karl says

    I ran the DC RnR full as well.  It was my first full and I trained up to 20 miles before tapering.  I ran the Miami Beach 13.1 two weeks before and the heat conditions were almost the same as this race, crazy!.  

    The heat finally got to me at mile 22 where I had to start power walking.  What made it even worse was the water station was on the over side of the course in plain view BUT you had to run a half mile out and back to get to it.  Hindsight I should have cut across the course filled up my bottles and cut back.  Why didn’t they just put it in the middle so both sides could hydrate? 

    So from miles 22 – 26 i was running/walking and yelling to myself “never again! only halfs from now on.”  I literally filled my bottles up 7 or 8 times (24 oz per fill up).  You think when you sign up for a full in March the temp highs would be around 50 NOT 75. 

    Short story long running a RnR full again in San Diego in June (this was going to be my original full, but I was getting antsy and jumped the gun for the DC full).  Ended up finishing 4:29:22 bib # 16309.  Congrats for finishing under tough conditions!

    • says

       I know exactly what you’re talking about with that water station.  That was a tough part of the course for me.  Congrats on pushing through during such a tough race! Good luck with your next marathon!

  11. chris says

    I just read your blog and was thinking the same thing as you were “I’m not running a marathon again, I’m sticking with 5k and halfs”. This was my 7th marathon and was probably my most painful. I was hoping for between a 3:05-3:10, and ended up finishing in 3:13 (still a PR). 

    I want to say that those extra 3 minutes that kept me out of my goal was due to the heat. Needless to say, within an hour of finishing I was already thinking of signing up for another one this summer. hahaha Gluck to you, I’m sure you’ll also be back out there sooner than you think! BIB 2003

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