May 6, 2014
Hillary

Favorite Half Marathon Yet: We Run DC!

Before the Race

I’ve never actually done a complete post on running. It’s always been predominately about the food. But, next to food blogs, I start my mornings off by reading the latest posts from some running blogs I follow (favorite: The Hungry Running Girl, of course!). I’ve been running since I got out of high school but it’s really been over the past two years that I’ve fallen even more in love with running and my day doesn’t get started until my run is complete. I’m still planning on sharing my favorite recipes on here but running has become such a big part of my life that you might start to see a few more non-food posts as well. It’ll balance out all the sugar and butter loaded sweets I’ve shared over the past few years!

There’s no better way to start off these new posts than by sharing my Nike Women’s DC Half Marathon experience. Hands down, it was my absolute favorite race I’ve done! Nike hosted a phenomenal race from the moment I picked up my packet until I crossed that finish line to receive my Tiffany’s necklace! It was fantastic! The kind of race that when I finished, I was already talking to Jor about when we come back next year to run it again!

We flew up on Friday, the race was on Sunday, April 27, and after months of training I was excited for race weekend! I don’t think you can tell at all in the picture below! I did more speed and strength training for this race than I had for any other race before, and I was anxious to see how well it was all going to pay off.

headed to dc

We got my race packet on Friday and on the way back to the hotel we found ourselves in torrential downpour! I swear my flats almost squirted out water with each step I took; they were completely drenched. We met up with my friend and her mom for dinner Friday night at a great restaurant: Founding Farmers. It gets rave reviews and didn’t disappoint!  I was torn with what to get with it being two days out from the race but decided on the Salmon for some protein. I made up for the lack of carbs in my other meals!

Of course we had to do a little site seeing while we were there. On Saturday, we walked the National Mall, tried to ask for our taxes back from the IRS building (no luck!), went to the National Art Gallery, and said hello to the First Family.

White house

Saturday night dinner was at the first certified organic restaurant in the country and Jor and I decided the website did not do it justice. If you are in DC you have to try Nora. So fresh, so good and I can almost say it was the best piece of Halibut I have had at a restaurant. As you can guess, almost everything (95%) served is organic and you can taste it with every bite! Even their water goes through a special filter system that they have developed. They have thought of it all. The desserts were just as enticing as the main dishes but I had made a batch of my favorite double chocolate chip muffins to bring with us and decided to stick with those. Chocolate and carbs wrapped into one equals the perfect dessert the night before a race! I got everything ready for the morning and  we wrapped up the night with watching Spirit of the Marathon for one last boost of motivation!

TNT shirt

The alarm went off at 5am Sunday morning and I started the morning off right with breakfast in bed! Just like dessert, I actually traveled with my breakfast. Jor made homemade bagels for me and I brought the usual honey nut cheerios and a version of my homemade granola. I start every morning with at least a bowl of honey nut cheerios so this was a must for me on race morning!

Pre-Race

We headed down to the start at 6:15am and once we got close you could just feel the excitement! Surrounded by 15,000 (mostly women) people, it’s hard not to catch the “get pumped” bug! Luckily the weather was perfect for running in the upper 40s, low 50s and my arm sleeves were all that I needed to stay warm at the start.

Right before start

We started right at 7am and it took a lot of discipline but I held myself back for the first mile and kept to an 8:15am pace. I waved to Jor at mile 2 and headed down into a tunnel with drum entertainment; perfect timing for starting to increase my pace! The echo from the drums made it almost impossible to keep from stepping it up! The only bad part about the tunnel was that I lost my GPS signal on my Garmin and came out of the tunnel running a 2:30 mile. That only happens in my dreams! So I spent the next few miles counting my steps and using my breathing to manage my pace. I had a surprise visit from my friend at mile 6, which was a total boost!! She popped out of no where!

Mile 6

Right after I passed my friend I came up on a stretch of the race that was lined with Team in Training inspirational posters. It felt like it went on for a few tenths of a mile and I desperately tried to read each one. I sport my Team in Training purple at every race now and I run for 15 amazing individuals that have both won and lost their battles with cancer and they inspire me every step of the way. But the posters were an extra reminder of the big picture for what these races mean to me. It’s completely humbling to see how many people are touched by Team in Training and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the organization!

Miles 1-6.5 went all around the major monuments and were filled with people cheering all along the way. Miles 7-10 were a little quieter but running along the Potomac was so peaceful and although I was a little nervous that I’d start breaking down mentally during this part, I actually increased my pace a little more during this stretch. It certainly helped to have confetti popped over my head at mile 9 and welcome greeting from my first Team in Training coach at mile 10! At this point, I was still feeling great and decided to keep my pace at around 7:45. It was an out and back race so I was back in the tunnel from the beginning at mile 12 and gave the drummers a shout out (I was so excited for the finish I couldn’t help myself!). I popped out of the tunnel to find Jor again who yelled out the usual “Push IT!”

When I made the final turn, I could see the finish line and ended the race as I always do: in a sprint! We passed through one more photo op spot and I flashed one last thumbs up!

Close to Finish

Crossing the finish line of this race felt amazing for a couple of reasons. My last half was last November in Savannah and despite training hard I didn’t have the race I wanted. I was completely dehydrated by the end and kept staring at my watch wishing the miles to pass fast. I started and finished this race with the same excitement and energy. I stopped at all the water stops to ensure I actually drank more water than I poured on myself and my mind stayed in a positive place the whole time. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping to PR but even more so I just wanted to finish feeling strong. I did! and it didn’t hurt that I beat my last half PR by 6 minutes and finished in 1:45:02 with an average 8:02 pace!

Crossing FInish

It was also a symbolic finish because it marked the end of my very last week of PhD classes! I’ve been in some form of college classes straight from undergrad, through the masters and into the PhD totaling 9 years! Eight of those years have been a juggling act between school and work and crossing the finish at the race felt like checking off a major item on my PhD to do list!

Finished

I had the most fun on this race from the amazing scenery, the fantastic entertainment and crowd support and the special shout outs from the TNT coaches, Jor and my friend! The training paid off but the best part, is that for a majority of the time it didn’t even feel like training! There were definitely some mornings when I would have rather skipped the run and stayed cozy in my pajamas but the rush of endorphins after a run and the feeling especially after a hard tempo run just can’t be beat. Running is my happy place you could say. It’s the one time that I feel like I can press the pause button on all the other crazy to-do list items and I can zone out. That’s kind of what I did during the Nike race. I felt out my pace that morning to determine what kind of run it would be and just stayed in the groove until about mile 10 when I really started to push a little harder. Couldn’t have asked for a better day! I’ll for sure be back next year to RUN DC! For now, that’s a recap of my favorite half marathon yet…in the shell of a nut!

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