Scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the tl;dr version.
I’ve been using Hudson Elite Coaching to train for the 2016 New York City Marathon.
This training cycle hasn’t been easy. I haven’t been running well but it’s been hard to know if it’s due to my training or the record-setting heat we’ve been experiencing in Washington, DC this summer.
But, I was going into the race on a high note. Last week, I ran long last Sunday, a tempo run on Monday, and a light interval workout on Wednesday that allowed me to run a little faster than usual.
On a more somber note, this year’s race was on September 11th.
Achievable: Sub-1:45:00 (8:00 pace). The AccuWeather forecast showed 74 degrees for race morning. This would be my longest 70+ degree race since the 2012 Boston Marathon. Based on Thursday’s interval workout, I thought this was an achievable pace.
Stretch: Age Group Placement. I’ve placed in my age group at this race in past years. I didn’t think I was in the same shape as I’ve been in years past but it would be a nice surprise.
- Half Marathon PR: 1:32:19 (7:03 pace) at the 2014 Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon.
- Course PR: 1:35:30 (7:18) at the 2014 Parks Half Marathon.
- Most Recent HM: 1:38:01 (7:29 pace) at the 2016 Rock n Roll Half Marathon.
The course is a point-to-point. It starts in Rockville, Maryland near the Metro station. The first two miles are on roads and then the course goes on a multi-use trail that has some very gentle rollers. It’s narrow at points but passing isn’t a problem. The course flattens out after 7 miles and then the last mile is slightly uphill. The race ends in Bethesda, Maryland.
There are fluid stations every two miles with water and Gatorade. There isn’t much cheering on the course except at the beginning and the end.
Headphones were discouraged so I didn’t run with music for this race.
Temperature/Dew Point/Humidity (Gaithersburg – Montgomery County Airport): 73 at 6:55am, 73 at 7:55am, 75 at 8:55am. Winds were 9-12 mph out of the NW. The dew point was around 63 and humidity was 69%.
2016 Parks Half Marathon Weather
2016 Parks Half Marathon Shirt and Medal
I hadn’t thought about packet pick-up until I was eating lunch at 2pm. Since I wanted to buy some Nuun anyway, I decided to drive to RNJ Sports and get my bib. Plus, I thought, it’s one less thing to worry about on race day. Packet pick-up took less than a minute. However, traffic en route was terrible so part of me wished I had just done it on-site.
I woke up at 4:30am after about 6-7 hours of sleep. According to my bedside weather station, it was 81 degrees outside! I had coffee, about 16 ounces of water, and a cinnamon raisin bagel for breakfast. I hadn’t picked out clothes to wear the night before so I pulled together an outfit of my coolest running clothes. I also packed a long sleeve shirt for after the race. Moving around my house, my legs felt sore and heavy
I left the house at 5:40am. It’s about a 30 minute drive to Rockville. By the time I arrived at the Metro at around 6:15am, the lot was mostly filled! I had planned to start my warmup by 6:20am, I had to hit the bag check and port-a-potty.
I started my 2 mile warm-up at 6:35am. I was anxious that I hadn’t given myself enough time. I turned around early to give myself 10 minutes to rest before the race. I lined up at the very back of the first wave.
Early Miles – Miles 1 to 3
The course started on Viers Mill Road. The first quarter mile or so was a bit of an uphill but then the rest of the way was a gradual downhill. I tried to keep the pace easy. I hadn’t raced in a while and didn’t have a sense for what half marathon pace or effort might be for me right now. I had started in the back of the first wave. About 5 minutes later, the first of the second wave runners passed me. In that pack was a woman who I met through my club. We hadn’t seen each other in a while. We said “Hi” and wished one another a good race. There were a few people out cheering. I high-fived one of the spectators.
The first water station is about 2.3 miles down the course right before it turns right onto Rock Creek Trail. I took Gatorade and the water. But, I didn’t pinch cup properly and coughed up a bunch of fluid.
Splits (by course marker): 7:34, 7:24, 7:53.
Middle Miles, Miles 3 to 7
The next four miles or so were on a section of Rock Creek Trail that I would describe as gently rolling. I saw I was still running sub-8:00 splits and slowed down. I couldn’t see myself running that fast and finishing this race.
Ken-Gar Palisades Park (Photo by Jonathan Bird, MCRRC)
I could hear the leader of the 1:35 pace group right behind me. He was giving his crew advice on proper pacing, obstacles to avoid, etc. At one point, I heard him say something like, “If you use a pace calculator to estimate time for your fall marathon, take 2 minutes off today’s time to account for the heat.” I wondered if that was good advice. The group passed me soon thereafter.
Just after the 3 mile mark was “High Five Hill”. I slowed to a shuffle and slapped palms with a few of the kids.
I was passed a lot during the next two miles, including by another running friend. The competitive part of me wanted to follow but I knew I couldn’t. I tried to remind myself, “Run your own race!”
About 40 minutes into the run, I started the Crank Sports e-Gel (Tropical Blast) that I’d been holding in my hand. Around that time, I heard another pace group leader behind me. A little while later, they passed me.
Mile 7 Water Stop (Photo by Karin Zeitvogel, MCRRC)
At the mid-point of the race, I did some math and figured I should finish around 1:45. I was disappointed but wasn’t going to wallow. I finished my gel, downed more water, and prepared to push the pace a little.
Splits (by course marker): 7:58, 8:14, 8:20, 8:14.
Middle Miles, Miles 7 to 10
The trail crossed Beach Drive and flattened out for the next three miles. I started to press the pace. I started picking off runners one by one. Soon, I’d almost caught up to the 1:40 pacer. It felt good passing other runners. I could tell my legs were turning over quicker than theirs. I told myself that the gel should be kicking in soon, too. During this stretch, I finally passed someone who had been at the back of the first wave with me!
At about the 9.6 mile mark, the flat part of the trail ends and goes slightly uphill. There’s also a water stop. I grab a cup and I slow down so I drink as much as possible. I get passed by several people, including a woman who looks like she could be a masters runner. Mile marker 10 came on a slight downhill just before the course crossed Jones Mill Road.
Splits (by course marker): 7:43, 7:40, 8:00.
Later Miles 10 to 13.1
I passed a few runners early on but most of them passed me back when the trail went uphill to the neighborhood on Susanna Lane. I slowed to a shuffle until the road leveled out. The residents had their water hoses on, which I ran around but other runners seemed to appreciate. For the next couple of miles, I was passed and re-passed by an older guy in a blue shirt and a younger guy in the race’s long-sleeve shirt.
Coming out of the neighborhood, we ran past the 11 mile marker and entered the Georgetown Branch Trail. A gentleman with excellent eyesight was cheering for everyone by name. How could he see our names on the bibs! He encouraged me on and I thanked him.
2016 Parks Half Marathon Finish Line (Photo by Dan Reichmann, MCRRC)
The trail wasn’t closed so there were runners and bikers coming up the trail. For some reason, one of the racers was refusing to get to the far right. Bikers were yelling at him and I was cursing him under my breath. He’s the reason why so many bikers hate runners.
After about a half mile, the course made a little out-and back loop on Connecticut Avenue.
The course went back on the Georgetown Branch Trail. The last mile was on an upward sloping section of trail. I put my head down and just tried to keep a steady pace.
Just after the 13 mile mark, the course took a left to the final line festival area. After running without much crowd support, it was weird seeing and hearing so many people! I lengthened my stride and ran strong to the finish.
Splits (by course marker):8:30, 8:31, 8:37, 0:46.
I finished and received my medal and a blanket. My coach gave me a 3 mile cool down so I checked them with my other items and headed to the Capital Crescent Trail. I felt terrible but did the mileage.
Back at the post-race festival, I ate few bites of pasta and some eggs. I was too exhausted to eat!
On the walk to the Metro, I was approached by a woman who reads this blog! She, her friend, and I chatted all the way back to the Rockville Metro.
This year’s race fell on September 11th. On my way home, I parked my car and walked over to the Pentagon to reflect.
Pentagon on September 11, 2016
Result [Log Details]
My time was 1:45:15 (8:03 pace). I was 53rd woman overall, 25th female master, and 9th in my age group. It was the time I thought was achievable but much slower than I would have hoped. I missed out on any age group awards, too.
2016 Parks Blanket
I wasn’t very happy with the result. It’s my slowest “road” half marathon since 2008, which is when I started training seriously. It was a bitter pill to swallow when I started this training cycle on an upswing and was hoping to get closer to a PR. It was a warm day, though. I’ve spent the past few days accessing how this training has been going.
Next race: DCRRC National Capital 20 Miler on September 25th. (My Complete Racing Schedule.)
I ran 1:45:15 (8:03 pace). It was slowest “road” half marathon since 2008, which is when I started training for races. However, it was also a very warm day. I believe it was the longest race I’ve done in 70+ degree temperatures since the 2012 Boston Marathon. On the bright side, I ran a pretty good race for where my fitness was. I ran a conservative pace in the beginning and didn’t slow down too much at the end. The race continues to be one of my favorites in the area – great premiums, volunteers, and post-race food.