Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Nike Women's Half Marathon Race Recap

The 2014 Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC is officially in the books. It was an absolutely amazing weekend and I'm SO glad to have not only completed my second half marathon, but to have done it with one of my best friends by my side :)

[Yes, this is a long post. You've been warned.]

Lianna, my college roommate, was a lovely hostess and welcomed me with open arms late Wednesday evening. We stayed up too late, but woke up early Thursday for our final pre-race run: a 5-miler around the city. Lianna headed to work and I spent Thursday touring the city-- can you believe it was my first visit? (Unless you count an hour spent on American's campus for a college tour). I saw The Mall, Washington Monument, and we even stopped to check out the White House on our run. Note to self: running around new cities is a great way to explore, and luckily this trip had plenty of that on the agenda.

In order to avoid the expo crowds, we planned to head to Georgetown Harbor as soon as Lianna got out of work early Friday afternoon. The expo (Nike calls it an Expotique) was bustling, but everything was very well-organized. We were in and out of the bib pickup tent within minutes, and the t-shirt pickup process (in a separate tent) was just as quick. One minor gripe is that you couldn't exchange t-shirts for a different size at the expo, you had to wait for race day. On race day, there were no signs about this and the info tent told us they didn't think we could exchange there, that we should've already done it. Luckily we stumbled upon the lost and found tent where they had extra shirts and let us swap!

This wall was activated by our bib chips, and your name would show
up with a positive mantra once you entered the vicinity-- so cool!
The main Expotique tent was a ton of fun, although it was pretty small as far as expos go. In a completely small world moment, we ran into a fellow Elon grad (there were a bunch of us running!) just a few minutes after we arrived. It was Evann's first half, and great to see a familiar face!

Obviously Nike was the main sponsor, the only other sponsors in the tent were Nuun (love!), Luna, and Paul Mitchell. Luna's booth had stations for runners to print custom cheering signs (so cool!), and Paul Mitchell styling students were on hand to style an array of really amazing braided styles for race day. 

Call me Katniss.

We even got to see Shalane Flanagan speak at the Expotique, just five days after her PR-setting Boston performance. Fun fact: Shalane ran the Boston MARATHON faster than I ran my first half. She told us to "embrace the butterflies" on race day morning, and it was so impressive to hear such a down to earth (but insanely talented) runner speak!

As I said previously, time was not the main concern of this race, but Lianna and I discussed our race goals the night before. She asked what my goal would be if I were running solo, and said my "easy" goal was a sub-2:20, my medium goal was a sub-2:15, and my all-out goal was a sub-2:10. We agreed to start slow (words of wisdom from my dad!), and then take it from there.

I definitely did not sleep well the night before the race, thanks to a combination of nerves and worrying that I'd forget something. But race day waits for no one! Lianna and I woke up bright and early (5:15) for a quick breakfast of peanut butter toast before heading to the race. We arrived and easily found our gear check, which was well-marked and not at all congested (thumbs up!). We then moseyed our way up to our corral, stretched, and snapped some selfies for posterity. Before we knew it, they were singing the start spangled banner, and we were ready to go. I'm pretty sure both of us had butterflies at that point, but there was no turning back!

Nervous energy, personified. Ready to run!
Miles 1-3 (Paces: 9:49, 10:48 [pee break], 8:41)
We started on Pennsylvania Ave, headed towards the Capital just as the sun was rising. Within minutes, we passed by our first marching band-- a great booster (not that we didn't have enough adrenaline!). We looped around in a big circle and then ran back west around the Tidal Basin and toward the Potomac. Lianna wanted to take a quick pee break and I know from experience better to just get it out of the way, so we did the fastest pitstop ever just before mile 3. We were definitely running speedier than I had planned, so I kept trying to get us to hold back and keep it steady!

Miles 4-6 (Paces: 9:48, 9:43, 9:55)
Volunteers (who were all amazing, by the way) were passing out ShotBloks so we each grabbed a pack and took our first two around mile 5. Just like in my first half, the miles were ticking off so quickly! We were both surprised when we saw the 10K sign on the opposite side of Memorial Bridge as we made our way across, did a loop around the circle, and turned around to head back. We were in the ZONE (especially after passing a marching band playing Daft Punk!)--- but I knew we had a lot of ground still ahead of us, so I kept telling Lianna we needed to hold our pace steady to save some gas for the last few miles. I didn't want her to be mad at me for making us slow down, but I knew miles 8-11 would be when the pain started to set in. Plus, we still had the dreaded Hains Point ahead of us.

Miles 7-9 (Paces: 9:47, 9:51, 9:40)
I realized around mile 7 that we were on pace for a sub-2:10 if we could keep it up. I debated telling Lianna this for a solid half mile, afraid we might try to speed up too soon. I made her promise not to speed up, and told her how we were doing :). We agreed to hold the pace until at least mile 9, and then reevaluate.

We tried to spot Limey's family around the Lincoln Memorial, but they managed to elude us. We rounded a few corners and headed to the point. From reading last year's race recaps, I knew this would likely be the most challenging few miles. Hains Point is relatively remote, meaning very few spectators and the point in the race where we're past the halfway mark... but still with 5+ miles to go. To keep up our spirits (and to make up for the lack of spectators), we were our own cheer squad. We kept shouting positive mantras and kept on trucking.

Miles 10-11 (Paces 9:56, 9:54)
It was around this point that the reality of what we were doing really started to set in. I could see people around us slowing down, and I knew we were both starting to tire. Luckily, Lianna's family and boyfriend and his friend were right before the 11-mile marker, a great pick-me-up that gave us a burst of energy to keep us chugging. We passed the 11-mile marker and cheered: "Two more miles, two more miles!" 

Miles 12-13.1 <-- my watch actually had us at 13.3 (Paces: 9:51, 9:10, 8:35)
We went over a soft uphill (a relative term, after 12 miles of pounding), and past a DJ blasting Iconopop-- just the upbeat tuneage we needed! We headed into a tunnel that we had passed through near the start of the race. The same drum groups were in the tunnel, and their pulsing beats were just enough to help ignore the tiredness, the heavy breathing, the muscle fatigue. The bathroom break had messed up my timing (my watch auto-pauses), and the tunnel disrupted the GPS, but I knew we were going to be close to our goal. We emerged from the tunnel, rounded a corner and the finish was finally in sight. 

This was, hands down, the hardest part (for me at least). I could see the finish, I knew I'd do it, but I was so so worried my body was nearing breakdown point. Emotions were running high and I didn't want to disappoint either of us so close to the end. I chanted to myself "just keep pushing, just keep pushing"-- we were so close. We kicked as hard as we could as we closed on the finish line, even though it felt like we had nothing left. Together, we raised our arms through the final photo station and we were there, we were crossing the finish line, we did it!!!

I think there was a moment where Lianna both just looked at each other in complete disbelief that we were done, that we had conquered 13.1... together! We were awash in such a crazy combination of emotions: relief, excitement, exhaustion, pride! The race we had talked about since November was over! We grabbed water and a chocolate milk from the finishers' chute and stepped aside to stretch while I checked our results. Wouldn't you know it:

We conquered our biggest goal!! The coveted Tiffany's necklace was ours!

Running, followed by brunch with great friends, naturally:

All in all, the Nike Women's Half was an incredible experience, and even more special that I could run it with one of my best friends! As we reflected on the race throughout the day, we both agreed that this was about as close to a perfect race day experience as we could've hoped for. It was our first half marathon together, but I don't think it will be our last!

#WeRunDC... and we did :)


  1. So awesome! Great recap! That wall activated by the chips is so cool!! Congrats girl!

  2. Wow what an awesome recap and you hit your first goal to boot! Way to go!

  3. What an awesome event - it's on my someday list! Your time is SO great. I'm impressed!

  4. Girl that is soooooo awesome!!! I'm so beyond proud of you girl!!! Whoop Whoop!!! Awesomeness!

  5. Sounds like you had a fabulous day, with a great pace! You totally rocked it lady. Reading the recap, doesn't even begin to explain how tried you probably were. Sounds like it was easy, though I'm sure it wasn't. :)

    ENJOY THAT NECKLACE! I want to meet up with you in DC some year to run this. ;)

  6. GIRL. You are such a rockstar. You've got me super excited (and also a little terrified) about my half in September! So proud of you, hope you're mega-celebrating your awesome accomplishment! (and seriously, any tips/tricks/etc you have, please please pass them my way.)

  7. You shaved 16 min. off of your last half time?! YOU ROCK. Wow. I love reading your blog and am so incredibly impressed with your determination and spirit. Thanks for continuing to inspire those of us who haven't quite got over the weight loss hurdle...

  8. Wow! You rocked that half marathon girl. Sounds like a pretty amazing experience. Almost makes me want to do one myself some day haha.