The race that almost wasn't, Part III

On race morning Wifey and I call a cab to take us to the starting line.  Given the troubles we've been having we figure a cab is best way to ensure we get to the starting line in one piece and on time.  Of course, there was one thing we didn't count on.  When we get in the cab we tell the driver we're going to RFK Stadium.  His response?  "Where is that?  Is that in DC?"

I thought it was a joke at first.  But no, we apparently got the only cab driver in northern Virginia who doesn't know where RFK Stadium is.  At least the guy had a Garmin.  Wifey quickly looked up the address and we were on our way.

At the staging area we headed straight for the Armory where it was nice and toasty inside.  The temps outside had fallen sharply overnight into the 40s, which I wasn't expecting.  After a trip to the bathroom and stretching we headed out to the starting line in front of the stadium.

Given everything that had happened the past few days I was a bit surprised to actually be at this starting line.  I was finally starting to get excited about running this race.  I gave Wifey a big hug and kiss and told her I love her roughly 200 times--as rough as the past two days were for me they were just as hard for her, but she didn't let it get to her at all.  She was my rock when I really needed it.  (Love you Wifey!!!)

I wormed my way into the corrals, did some last minute IT band stretches--can never stretch those enough--and waited for the gun to start.  I just happened to be standing next to a guy that I swear it was his first time running a race.  He was bouncing and hooting.  He let out a mighty howl when they announced there was just  one minute to go (I kid you not).  I just smiled to myself.  This is old hat to me by now.  The mix of tranquility and roaring excitement is no longer a new emotion.  It has evolved into a unique feeling of comfort that assures me that for those fleeting minutes everything in my world is right and good.

I stood there and waited for the gun to go off, not knowing what the next 13.1 miles held or if how I would get them done.

The Splits, reported as time per mile/pace per mile:

Mile 1: 
9:19 / 9:16

Mile 2: 8:48 / 8:41
Mile 3: 
8:20 / 8:17
Mile 4, 5, & 6: 
25:05 / 8:19
Mile 7: 
9:01 / 8:57
Mile 8: 
8:18 / 8:16
Mile 9: 
8:14 / 8:08
Mile 10: 
7:56 / 7:55
Mile 11 & 12: 
16:39 / 7:57
Mile 13.1: 
8:46 / 7:46

Distance: 13.11 (Fenny: 13.29)

Time: 1:50:30
Pace: 8:19
Overall Place: 1587/6250
Age Place: 284/600

There were lots of goods things about this race.  The course was the most scenic of all the urban races I've run.  The starting area was spacious, well organized, and had lots of bathrooms.  The finishing area was well stocked (free McDonald's frappecinos!) and spacious.  I would give this race a five-star rating, except that the first couple of water stations were very understaffed--so I'll give it a four and a half star rating.

But that's all the good I have to say about this race.

From the outside I probably looked fine, but inside I was a hot mess.  I couldn't settle into a groove because I had no idea what my pace was supposed to be: I knew I wasn't going to PR, but I didn't want to crawl through the race, but I didn't want to bonk late in course either.  And then my stomach was just horrible: it was a tangled mess that felt it could sour at any moment.  This is the first race where I honestly day that I wanted to throw up at one point.

Up through Mile 4.5 I forced myself to run the race and it worked.  Also, I found that I wasn't the only one having a bad day: there was a guy who fell in front of me not once, but twice--within the same half-mile.  Knowing that I was falling all over the place made me feel better about being out there.

At Mile 4.5 the hills and tunnels started.  The crest near the Mile 6 marker was killer.  That was the first time I seriously considered walking--and I wasn't even half way through the race.  I started to get a stitch around this point (ah, my old friend, how could I race without you?).  But this was different.  I felt it coming on early--so early that I felt I could really cut it off before it got full blown.  So I tried a different tactic: I forgot about it.  Instead of thinking about breathing and my pace and putting one foot in front of the other, I thought of how to drive to my parents' house (in Miami) from Orlando.  And then I started recounting the house numbers of the addresses I've lived at and if they were multiples of each other.  And guess what?  It worked!  The stitch faded away and was never heard from again.  Another weapon for the battle against stitches.

The zig-zag back to RFK stadium was absolutely killer.  Those last few miles always are unless you're on a kick.  With less than a mile to go I was really hoping for the adrenaline to kick in, but it wasn't happening.  Seeing the Marathoners pass by as they were going back into the city made me both excited and exhausted.

Finally, I turned the corner and RFK stadium appeared.  The Marathoners broke off from the course and I was left with Half-Marathoners giving their final push to the finish.  The adrenaline I had been looking for finally kicked in and for basically the first time all day I felt like I wanted to run.  I punched the air and I rounded the final bend and coasted across the finish line.

1:50:30 wasn't too bad.  I actually felt a sense of accomplishment for running the whole way and pulling a time in line with my average HM.  But the best part came as I was getting my medal.  There was a woman I passed for the first time (that I noticed) around Mile 10 and we stayed neck and neck for the rest of the race.  As I was getting the medal placed over my head that woman tapped me on the shoulder and let me know that she was behind me at the end of the race and that I ran really well.  At that moment I couldn't get the words out to explain to her how much those words meant to me, but they made the whole debacle of getting to DC and running this race worth it.  Knowing that I ran well made it all worth it.


xm41907 said...

It's always nice when a fellow runner compliments your effort in a race. More people should do it.

Java Joggers said...

Wow... after all the problems you had just getting to the race, and then not feeling your best during the race, running and finishing were accomplishments! And kudos to giving your wife props!

Laura said...

Congratulations! So impressed with your time, especially after all the problems beforehand.

Jess said...

Great job despite all the cahos leading up to it!

Kevin said...

You did great considering all the challenges you faced that weekend

Biscuitman said...

Well done Rod!! Awesome effort especially under the circumstances. Sounds like a great race.

The Laminator said...

Geez...I can't believe I missed this. Nice job, man! Very impressed that you got there and ran a great race despite all the debacle. Congrats!