So, I decided on Saturday, to sign up for the Parks Half Marathon in Rockville MD. When was the race? The following day. At least there was very minimal time to get nervous? I have to say I LOVED the Shirt. Super bright orange long-sleeve tech fabric. But I haven’t taken a picture of it yet. After I do, I will edit it and put it in the blog.
I had done a quick Google on the race before signing up for it, and found wonderful reviews of it – and that it had not closed its sign-ups! So, early Sunday Morning, I was wide awake at 4 AM, despite my alarm being set for 4:30, for my first half-marathon. I had gotten my outfit together the night before (it is actually color-coordinated so I get to call it an “outfit”), and set both my Camelback, and my ifitness hydration belt up, as I couldn’t’ decide which one to wear. I drank my morning cup of coffee (nothing happens without coffee), ate a half of a breakfast sandwich, and left around 5, in order to arrive at 6.
Parking was a breeze, they had plenty of folks out there directing us where to park within the Metro parking lot, taking care of the first potential headache. Arriving an hour before the start time, meant I had a nice clean port-a-potty to use (There goes the second headache!) Temperatures were a perfect 65 degrees, so heat nor cold was an issue! Look at that – three potential head aches gone immediately!
I knew that I was only going to know one person out of the 3,000 or so that were running it. My coworker Lionel had told me about the race, and that he runs it every year. He didn’t know I was running it (last-minute decision and all.) I did not succeed in finding him before the race began. (No surprise there!)
The logistics of the starting line were quite clear. They had the starting line on the ground for the chip timing, and had pace “corrals” set up – no fences in between, but it let you know your general area. Not long before the start, the pacers showed up with their shirts stating their planned finish time, as well as signs they were holding up in the air. (They did drop their signs before their run – which meant I didn’t have to hate them. Here I was struggling through the idea of a 13.1 mile race – and they were going to do them with signs, at a very specific pace? How could I like them if they had signs?) As we got closer to the starting time, I noticed that it went from a fairly sparse crowd to a suddenly packed pre-race line, with some port a potty lines cutting us into segments. Then those lines were gone, and I saw the pacers ditch their signs.
It was starting to get real, and I was starting to get nervous! Luckily my smart phone and Facebook were there for me to let the entire world know how nervous I was.. My followers of the Once and Future Runner page were wonderfully supportive – as were my friends on my personal page. It helped minimize (but not totally stop – if I am being honest here) those thoughts that were reminding me that I had never actually run 13 miles. Sure I had done a “long run” of 14 – but I had spent more than a wee bit of those last two miles walking… Here I was now, and it was a moot point.
They let us go in waves – although I have no idea how they decided where the cut off point was for each wave. I didn’t worry about it and just waited for our turn as the sprinkles seemed to start hitting us
We were off! They seemed to really have the right mix of wave-sizes, whatever it was – as I did not get to badly choked up at the beginning. I was actually running when I hit the starting line, and had no problems with having the room to run the pace I wanted. About a half a mile in, I had a person that was running at just about the same pace I was (I shall call her….”first helper,”) and we were right on where I had wanted to be when we hit mile 1. While there was no clock there (or person reciting numbers), my time on my phone clearly said “8:45” as we crossed the line. Nice! about 15 seconds ahead of where I had planned on, but within that “15 seconds either way” that gave me warm fuzzies. At the second mile, We had done around an 8:23 mile according to my phone.. I will admit to getting a bit worried about my pace here. I debated letting my pacer go – but it seemed so perfect of a pace (although I knew with 11 miles to go – that It was a bit fast.) I did try to slow the pace down, and apparently my “first helper” was also pacing off of me. Sweet.
It was around mile 3 that my phone’s GPS let me know it was off from the course. It was running behind in distance, so I knew it wasn’t going to report 13.1. I wasn’t worried as I could still use its “timer” and it would still stop at the end to give me my unofficial time.
Let me stop here to say that the scenery was fantastic. We ran through some absolutely gorgeous park trails. My sunglasses spent more time on top of my head, then on my face, due to the early morning time and the wonderful leaf-cover over the course! Now, being on trails does make it difficult for crowd support as there simply isn’t room. The people of Rockville are apparently VERY aware of this – as they did not hesitate to be on the roads, such as the stretch at the beginning, or at any point where we crossed streets!
There was even a point where we had someone playing bagpipes (sorry no picture available!) and someone on a grand piano.. In a park!
Seriously. Look at the picture to the left.
The scary part is that he had a bib on. I have no idea if that means he had finished the race and come back, had gotten way ahead and stopped to play.. Or if he had just coincidentally had a tux on, seen a piano and thought “Hey! I’m already dressed for it so…..”
But it was really cool!
Now back to the running! Once we moved on to the trails, the inclines were more noticeable. I’m not sure there were any more – but when you see a small trail take a sharp turn and go – it becomes more evident. Plus trails have NO problems putting a short incline in! My “first helper” and I did well through the crowds, usually one of us passing on each side of the runners as we went, but eventually she seemed to be falling behind. I was hoping this didn’t mean she had pushed it to hard. I had a couple of ladies that I had passed around this time, go by me (they sped up! honest!), so I stuck with them (I shall call them my “Second helpers”) – I think this was between mile 8 and 9. This was the point where I was starting to feel my Plantar Fasciitis a bit in my left foot.. And general soreness and objection to my ongoing actions from my leg muscles.
At first when I started following them – it was simply because they were keeping the pace I wanted to, maybe just a hair quicker (Depending on whether it was up hill/downhill or flat). Either way, I was determined to stick with them!
It did get progressively harder.. There was a water/Gatorade stop around mile 9 or 10 where I drank a bunch (I was thirsty!) I had to pick it up quite a bit to catch back up to them.. The cool thing was I found “first helper” wasn’t all that far behind – she seemed to still be going strong, even if a hair slower than before!
As we crossed mile 12 (I have no idea what the scenery was here.. I was watching my feet to make sure they hadn’t stopped moving,) I thanked the ladies for helping me get through the last 3 miles. Now I had no plans on letting them go – after all, it was only one (point one) mile to go! But just in case it got hectic, I wanted to let them know I appreciated it. The funny part – is they didn’t know each other! They were just two people running off of each other’s paces that had started talking! So they welcomed me to the group, and we all finished strongly together – encouraging each other to not slow down.
Here was my picture just before the finish line.. You see that elbow on the right side? It was the elbow of one of the wonderful ladies I finished with (shown to the right… And yes, their picture is smaller.. If they want their picture bigger, they can write their own blog.. :P)
And one of the greatest sights I have ever seen:
And the awesome volunteers kept adding more and more to the pile (as well as refilling cups!)
I waited at the finish line looking for my co-worker Lionel to cross. I thought it might be a nice surprise for him (especially if I could get a finish line photo for him!)
After he crossed, got his premium and some water – we headed over to where the food was.
The food after the race was incredible. Unfortunately it was a long walk from the initial finish line water, to the post-race party water, but once you got there? totally worth it. They had huge subs they were cutting up (although I have to admit, a sub did not sound all that great, but others were loving them!) I had taken some great pictures of the food, but apparently my camera lenses were all fogged up from being in my pocket, So I will just tell you:
Italian Sausage sandwiches (With or without sauce)
Now the down point was – there was nowhere to get water except at the finish line, or at the start of the food-line… It was probably the only bad thing about the layout. The pizza wasn’t bad, and the sausage sandwich was perfect!
I came in at 1:58:13 according to the official time, which I am extremely psyched about! I think that was fantastic for my first half-marathon! It did make me change my goal-time for the Marine Corps Marathon to 4:10 or 4:15 instead of 4:00. I just don’t see being able to keep that pace up for ANOTHER 13 miles… Especially with how sore my legs are today!
My runtastic put it at 12.8 miles total.
From the graph, I definitely started a bit faster than when I found my grove.
I enjoyed the run. In fact, this may become an annual one for me, as they did a great job with water stops, food and all the other logistics. It was also a wonderfully scenic run, and I am really glad I did it!
To close out the blog posting – here is a picture I took as I waited for Lionel to finish! (It is not my best picture.. But now you know why I don’t take pictures of myself and post them to the blog!)