The opening percussion beats and bagpipes of Gaelic Storm’s “Blind Monkey” served as my 4AM alarm this race morning. No matter what race it is…whether it’s runDisney or RnR or this…early wakeup times suck. You wander around bleary-eyed and sleepy while trying not to spill your pre-race coffee while asking yourself, “Why did I make this wonderful decision?”
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These are just a few of my favorite things that enable me to survive on race day: Nuun provides the electrolytes, EnergyBits for protein/healthy algae goodness, and sunscreen to not turn into a lobster.
Now, I am a huge advocate of “nothing new on race day”, but I had been eyeing the forecast since two weeks out up until right before I left. The original forecast projected not just heat and humidity, but thunderstorms, as well. I turned to my Team Shenanigans members for rainy race day advice (just in case), as I have been fortunate to not have run in the rain at all in my running tenure. Jennifer Hall suggested coating my feet in Vaseline to prevent blisters. I located this here Vaseline (with cocoa butter) and applied it liberally to my feet.
Spoiler alert: no blisters!!
I started driving towards DC around 5AM, and I was super happy that there was very little traffic. Navigating traffic on race day is a surefire way to get the anxiety levels up. I always allot substantial time to arrive. I arrived around 5:30AM at the parking garage about two blocks from the staging area. I saw some other runners in a vehicle near mine and made it a point to make friends…DC is still pretty sketchy in the wee hours of the morning, and as always, safety in numbers.
The staging area for NAFHALF and the Navy 5 Miler was on the National Mall adjacent to the Washington Monument. The field, in comparison to other races that I have run, was miniscule: 9,000 half runners compared to 25,000 or 30,000-deep fields. It was pleasant knowing that I could move around and not feel like I was being herded.
Race started slightly after 7:00. I was in wave #2. With the ding of the Navy Bell, we were off around 7:13 AM. The course was flat and in reverse of the MCM course, heading towards Haines Point (which is typically Miles 12-14 of MCM). The first 5K was overcast/not too hot, steady, and I think I clocked in somewhere around the 37:00 minute mark, according to the Garmin.
However…there was no 5K split timer. I didn’t get a split until mile four.
The second 5K ran concurrent with the Potomac River on Ohio Drive and past the Lincoln Memorial. The course split before the 5 mile mark of the Navy 5 Miler, with half marathoners heading left and 5 Milers to the right. The sun was juuuuuuust beginning to peek from behind the overcast skies, but stayed behind for the majority of this section.
*looks around for 10K timing mat. Sees none. Grrrrr.*
I was also taking notice of my Garmin in these middle miles. It seemed as though the course measurements were off by at least .20 of a mile; when I reached an actual mile marker, my Garmin would show .20 over that. I’m not sure if the race coordinators noticed this, but I feel like I ran more (distance-wise, as in more than 13.1) than I intended to in this race.
Miles 7-11 wound up and around Rock Creek Park, which was nice, especially for the shady areas. Once I rounded the corner to descend a small hill near mile 9, the sun was making itself known. The heat rose rapidly and I started slowing down a little. I had also been fighting side stitches for the duration of the race, as well, so that didn’t help at all.
Rounding around the Arlington Memorial Bridge (and getting the perfect opportunity to do a flying jump at the camera), the final water stop was at mile 12 (with “The Final Countdown” playing).
During that last mile, I ran into Jenny and Topher (short for Christopher), whom I had run into during the Rock Creek Park section. With Jenny’s encouragement, we all made a strong effort to run to the finish line together.
Half marathon #6 conquered! (Chip time: 3:10:49….Garmin time: 3:10:54)
Christina’s Post-Race Thoughts:
- Splits: I have NO idea why the only splits we received were at the 4 mile and 10 mile markers. Traditionally, you receive them every 5K, plus halfway. I’m aggravated by this, as I feel like I cannot assess my performance accurately, except from what my Garmin could tell me:
- Lack of on-course support: Usually during military-based races, the service men and women are out in full force cheering and encouraging runners on. Today’s race was not the case. Even the spectators were few and far between. Not sure if it had to do with the fact that NAFHALF has less pomp and circumstance than its sister race, the Marine Corps Marathon (or even the Army Ten-Miler), or what, but the course was unusually quiet.
- I do give props for the conservative pacing. Half marathon runners had to reach mile 9 by 9:45 AM to prevent from getting swept. That’s hovering around a 16/mpm pace.
- Being near the back of the field is not the end of the world. I hover around there for breeze appreciation and knowing I won’t have to be elbowing people while maneuvering for position. Plus, I can fart and no one pays attention.
- Driving back home (aka driving through DC traffic) after a race totally blows. I wish the Metro was not under Safe Track at the moment.
- After analyzing my past half marathon performances, I have determined that I perform the best in cloudy, overcast conditions.
- Posting live Facebook videos on the course was a ton of fun and kept my mind off of my distressed obliques.
- If you gotta pee in the men’s bathroom because the women’s room is closed, do it. No one cares.
- Today’s race is my third fastest half marathon. Still striving for the sub 3-hour goal, though.
Congrats to everyone else who ran today/this weekend!
Next up: Everglades Half Marathon.