Dealing with Disappointment: Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon

I’ve been thinking a lot about this race.  About what went wrong and what I could’ve done differently.  Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with anything.  I still feel like I had a solid race plan that recent races and training run times lead me to believe I could maintain.  My goal going into this race was to maintain a 6:55 average.  I knew I would slow on the big hill right after mile 6, but hoped I could offset it during the rest of the race.  I planned to start out on the conservative side and then hopefully build from there and finish strong.  It didn’t pan out that way at all.  I did manage what I felt was a conservative start and then started to build.  I pretty much fell apart after the hill and never really recovered.  It’s definitely messed with my confidence and made me wonder if all my faster running is behind me.

I think part of the issue is that I ran a 1:34:07 in December at the Blue and Grey half marathon.  I wasn’t all that happy with that time either.  I really thought I was in better shape than that time reflected.  But I figured, I didn’t have a very big base.  I had spent all summer just trying to build distance for the Erie marathon with no real speed work at all.  Then I took it pretty easy for 6 weeks after that.   So although I had hoped to go faster, I figured for the work I had put in, it was a decent result.  It never once occurred to me that I would go slower at Rock n Roll.  I have 3 more months of work under my belt.  My mileage is higher, my speed work and tempos are faster.  I wasn’t sure I would be able to PR but definitely thought I would improve on my December time.

On to the race!  We got up at the crack of dawn to catch the metro downtown.  I gave myself plenty of time to get up, get dressed, do my whole prerace breakfast and what not before getting on the metro.  We got downtown with 45 minutes before race time which was good considering I didn’t want to stand out in the rain any longer than I had to.  After leaving the metro, we apparently took the scenic route to the start line.  I wasn’t paying attention and just followed the crowd but after it took over 15 minutes to get to what should’ve taken 5 minutes, I realized we probably should’ve checked where we were going.  After we finally found the starting corrals, we couldn’t find any port a potties.  We kept walking and walking and they were no where to be found.  What on earth?!  I finally stopped and asked a volunteer who pointed us in the right direction.  We found them I think.  There were about 40 and lines at least 50 people deep for each one.  By this time, there was less than 20 minutes to race time.  I knew there was zero way I could wait in that line and make it to the start much less do any type of warm up.  At this point I was seriously frustrated.  And had to make due with the situation… which may or may not have involved a bush.

Anyway, with the minutes ticking down, I got in a quick .75 mile warm up and slipped into my corral with about 4 minutes to spare.  It was a little hectic but I was feeling comfortable, my legs were feeling good, despite the cold rain, I felt warm enough and ready to run.  And then we were off.  I hit the first mile in 7:03 which was right where I wanted to be.  I felt comfortable.  The next 3 miles were: 6:48, 6:50, 6:56.  Pretty perfect.  Exactly where I wanted to be.  I don’t really remember 5 and 6.  I know I took a gel at 5 and eased off during 6 because I knew the hill was coming.  Those 2 miles were: 7:06, 7:10.  The hill.  It was ugly.  Seriously a very nasty thing to put in the middle of a race.  The only redeeming quality was that the Blue Mile was set up on the hill.  Because I was running for Wear Blue in their singlet, I got a LOT of cheers and encouragement up that hill.  It’s really an amazing organization.  I knew I couldn’t stop knowing all those volunteers were out there in the cold rain to honor the memory of those who gave their lives in service and to encourage the runners on their journeys.  A guy pulled up to me half way up the hill and told me he was going to run next to me to get residual encouragement.  It was a seriously awesome thing!  So up I slowly went and clocked that mile at 7:39.  Lawrence and a friend were standing not far from the top of the hill and got these pictures:

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My face pretty much says it all.  I’ve done plenty of hill work so I feel like it shouldn’t have been quite as rough but it took a lot out of me.  It took me the second half of that mile to recover from the effort.

I had taken a look at the course profile before the race but there were a lot more rolling hills in the second half than I was expecting.  I felt like every time I turned a corner, I was looking up another hill.  Of course, maybe the course was totally flat and every little incline looked like Mount Everest at that point.  Not really sure.  In any case, I felt like the last 4 miles, I was just trying to hold on.  By mile 9, I was just cold, soaked, and ready to be done.  Splits: 7:16, 7:15, 7:12, 7:12, 7:25, 7:13

Not sure what happened at mile 12, I think there was a little incline but not sure why I slowed like that.  My hamstrings were so tight and sore by the end, I couldn’t fully extend my stride so I felt more like I was hobbling in than kicking it in but did manage to speed up a little.  My Garmin had me at 13.25 with 6:53 pace for the last .25.  To compare, the last .24 of the Blue and Grey, I averaged 6:34.

I made it through the finishers chute and quickly found Lawrence.  He had carried around my dry clothes, so I changed out of my wet singlet into some warm clothes (and dry shoes and socks which may have been the best thing ever at that point) and started the long walk to the metro.  While I’m not happy with the result, I really don’t think I could’ve gone much faster.  I didn’t give up.  I feel like I gave what I had to give.  So in that respect, I’m happy.  But still left wondering, why after all that work am I not running faster?  Maybe it just wasn’t my day.  Maybe I’m just tired from marathon training.  I wasn’t tapered and fresh but still.  In any case, I know I have to brush it off.  It was a good effort and if nothing else, a solid training run.

5 weeks to Boston and I have to decide what my plan will be.  Do I want to enjoy Boston and just run it for the experience?  Or do I want to race it and risk walking away with serious disappointment?  After the long road to get there, it seems like it’s not worth risking ruining the experience.  On the other hand, I didn’t work hard through this miserable winter to not give it my all.  While I decide, I’ll get back to work.  I’m not going to let this one race break me.  So that’s where I’m at.  It was a rough day but I got through it.  On to the next.

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