“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Friday, May 3, 2013

NWM DC Recap

Race: Nike Women's Half Marathon DC
Distance:  13.1 miles
Date:  April 28, 2013, 7:00am
Finish time:  2:12:33
What sets this race apart:  Tiffany Necklace at Finish Line

What they did right:

  • Giving out of Tiffany necklaces was well organized and smooth
  • Finisher's t-shirts at the finish line instead of a race t-shirt in the goody bag.  (Although the people in the store and the expo wouldn't TELL you that when asked about it - maybe a ploy to drive up sales?)
  • Beautiful course in DC
  • Good maps and directions to the course and the corrals
  • Excellent entertainment on course
  • Very cool packet pickup electronic system that allowed you to go to any open station regardless of last name.  Downside?  Apparently lines got bad when they lost power on Saturday.
  • Time-checker tent.  They called it something else, but it was a tent with computers that allowed you to look up your official chip time instantly.
  • Did I say Tiffany necklace already?
One side of the necklace
The other side
What needed work:
  • Crowd control.  Separate corrals is not very helpful when it's all self-assigned and there is no stagger start.  From the START there were people casually walking from the front of the super crazy crowd.  My corral covered paces from 10 min/mile to 12:00 min/mile.  Because the corral was overcrowded, we were out on the sidewalk and at the back of the corral.  We did not pass the 11:27 min/mile pacer until mile 5.
My friend Laurie actually snapped a photo from our location outside the corral.
  • Hydration stations.  For the first 8 miles or so, I didn't even try to get hydration from their aid stations.  (Luckily, I wear a belt and didn't need to).  All the hydration stations were only on one side of the course.  Given the size and sardine like quality of the crowd, it would have been very hard to take hydration at these early stations.  In fact, I never even SAW the first station because I was running along the right side of the course and it was on the left side.  If the day had been hot, they would have been in trouble.  The fact that this race had a higher than average percentage of first-time half marathoners made this worse.  (Many stopped at the first table and backed up the course, instead of moving down to one of the later tables).
  • Finish line food.  While the food itself was EXCELLENT, there were not nearly enough people handing it out to handle the crowds.  So much so, that some of the volunteers handing stuff out were down right rude about people helping themselves.
  • Expo had no real vendors.  (Rumor is there was a separate expo with venders in another location?).  Expo was 2.5 miles away from the start lines and hotels so that it was conveniently placed near their Georgetown Nike store.
We did take advantage of the photo ops!
Those are the quick and easy bullet point recaps.  For those with limited attention spans, you need read no further.  For everyone else, here are more specifics about my race and time in DC...

The favorite part of the race for me was the fact that I got to go away to Washington DC for a weekend.  I stayed in a hotel that was right at the start/finish line, and walking distance from the National Mall.  I probably walked 15-20 miles site seeing by the end of the weekend. 
Lynne and I at the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background
On our way to the Lincoln Memorial - it was a gorgeous day!
Everyone needs a good Bomb Pop to walk the mall
Because this wasn't my goal race, I could afford to do that, and I loved every minute of it.  My only complaint was I didn't have nearly enough time to go to all the museums nor spend the kind of time in the museums that I would've liked to.  Next time I go to DC for a race, I will plan extra time post race for this kind of thing.
Our Columbus group pre-race!
The race itself?  Have I mentioned crowds yet?  At the beginning, we were stuck in the back of the corral that included paces from 10-12 min/miles.  It was wall-to-wall people.  We went slow enough that I actually said "I can walk this fast" a few times, and then did so.  (And I am not really a fast walker!)  The only real way to move forward at this point was to run on the sidewalk on the side of the course, and many people were doing that, so that was also start and stop.

The sprint/jog cycle was bad enough, that I told my friend Lynne, who I was running the entire race with, that I would pull myself from the race if it didn't get better soon.  My worst fear was injuring myself the week before my goal marathon.  I also said out loud multiple times "this is worse than Disney!"  Each time I said it, a different random runner would agree with me.  Lynne and I had to actively work at not losing each other each time we shot through a gap in the crowd, which I'm sure impacted our overall time.

I didn't feel like we were able to run with any kind of steady pace until somewhere around the 10K mark.  That was also when I noticed that we were already 0.2 miles longer than the actual course distance.  The next time I remember looking at my watch was around mile 8 while we were running along the Potomac.  I rather enjoyed this section for several reasons.  First, I could finally run my stride with only slight modifications here and there.  Second, the river was beautiful.  Third, there was a lovely, light breeze coming off the river.

My next favorite part was when we returned to the National Mall area in the last 3 miles or so.  The course ran towards the capital, around the little park in front of the capital, and back to the finish line.  This entire section of the course was LINED with spectators.  It was a very cool and very surreal experience to run towards the gorgeous capital building in the sunshine surrounded by screaming and adoring fans.  Okay - so they probably were there to cheer for their friends and family, but it was still pretty awesome.

Lynne and I were going much faster than planned at this point, but it felt good.  In the home stretch, I really tried to encourage Lynne to ramp it up for the finish line.  She'd confessed to me that she'd never really pressed or sprinted to the finish line.  I am proud to say that she can no longer say that.  :)

Our mile splits according to my Garmin:  10:28, 10:10, 9:59, 9:26, 10:07, 10:04, 10:09, 10:17, 10:28, 10:01, 9:29, 8:27, 9:12, 8:33

After we crossed the finish line, Lynne and I took turns taking each others picture with the tuxedo-clad gentleman handing out Tiffany necklaces.  Then, we waited in the crowds for water and food.  I think Lynne was more annoyed about crowds than even I was, and she would have foregone refreshments all together if I hadn't grabbed her a few things.
Beautiful -day for a little blue box!
Then we went through the finish shirt area to get our shirts.  I really love the Tiffany blue color!  We quickly realized that finding and cheering on any of those in our group that hadn't finished yet would be next to impossible with the crowds.  So, just for grins, we looked up our official time in the time-checker tent.  Then we put on our pretty finisher shirts and our necklaces to snap a post race self-photo.
Looking Fabulous!
End result of the race?  We ran 13.51 miles in 2:12:33.  Oops.  That is officially the longest I've ever run a half marathon course.

I asked Lynne if the Nike San Francisco race was as bad crowd wise, and she said no.  That made me feel better about her sanity in signing up for another Nike Women's race.  While I enjoyed the location of this race and the race rewards, I don't think I'd do it again unless they improved their corral system.  I am beginning to learn that I really am not a fan of truly crowded races.  I like the big race feel and the big race amenities, but I get really frustrated if I am unable to run my own stride and pace.

Oh - in case anyone was worried - I did bring back presents for Avery.  A stuffed penguin, a geode (rock) and a shirt from the National History museum.

Now, I am trying to focus on my remaining taper, getting things ready for Grandma's arrival, and getting ready for the Flying Pig on Sunday.

Anyone else race this past weekend???


  1. I can't imagine a race course that crowded. Yikes.

    Can you believe you're running 8:30s at the end of a half?

    I just noticed you'll be down here for the Flying Pig this weekend. Good luck!

  2. For some reason I really like crowded, super big races. For me somehow the atmosphere makes up for the crowdedness and the fact that one can't really "race" those types of races. But I guess I'm quite a dork when it comes to races like that - I'm known to giggle through all the bumping and shuffling and just be in awe about being there ;) .
    LOVE the necklace!

  3. Wow, you are a busy girl!! Great/smart run, considering not your goal race. Love the shirts & necklaces :)


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