Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon Race Recap

March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! This past weekend I ran my 12th half marathon!

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I originally did not have this race on my 2014 schedule because there was a chance I would be out of town and RNR races tend to be on the pricier side (I ran RNR Philly in 2011).  It ended up I would not go on vacation (had to stay in the area for my project) and Rock ‘n’ Roll USA had a $99 sale during President’s Day.  I could not resist!

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Packet Pickup/Expo

Race organizers offered packet pick up on Thursday and Friday at the Stadium Armory in Washington, DC.  I picked up my packet Thursday after work to avoid the Friday lines.  It took about 5 minutes to get into the door (they searched your bags and screened you).

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You had to bring your original signed confirmation sheet (no electronic copies) and photo ID in order to pick up your bib. 

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After picking up your bib you were directed to the bag and shirt area.  Luckily they had a t-shirt exchange area as I accidentally chose a men’s shirt when registering.

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Brooks racing store.

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Rock On! They had the usual expo vendors.

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I was in and out in less than one hour.

Race Goals (“A” least probable and “C” most probable)

I heard the course could be challenging (particularly the elevation in the first half of the race), so I was a bit conservative with my goals:

  • A – Break 2:40:00 (12:13 min/mile)
  • B – Break 2:45:00 (12:36 min/mile)
  • C – Break 2:49:11 (my Annapolis PR)

Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon

I woke up around 5:00AM and had two glasses of water and a banana with peanut butter. I put on my capris, vest, long sleeved shirt, tank top, headband, and throwaway gloves.  I did not plan on checking a bag, so I was torn if I was overdressed (forecast called for 60-70 degrees).

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I walked the  2 miles to the start for my warmup and was treated with these views! So stunning! I got to my corral around 6:30-45AM. 

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View of Constitution Avenue from Corral 23.

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Thirty minutes later…. packed start!

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When I registered I entered 2:30 as my predicted finish time, this put me in Corral 23.  I am unsure how corral assignments are made or the algorithm that goes into it, but I talked with people who also entered 2:30 and they ranged from Corrals 20-24.  I was lucky and happened to stand right next to the 2:30 pace leader.

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And we start! The first half of the course took us towards the Memorial Bridge, pass the Kennedy Center, and up Rock Creek Park – familiar route of most DC races.  What attracted me to this race was the second half of the course – we headed north towards Adams Morgan, Howard University, H Street, and RFK Stadium, streets of DC I’ve never run.

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My plan was to stay with the 2:30 pace group through the first half of the race – and drop back if need be (my long runs have been 12:00 min/miles, 2:30 finish is a 11:26 min/mile).  This was the first time I ran with a pace group and our leader, Amy, was fantastic. I did not listen to my music for the first third of the run.

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  • Mile 1 – 11:13 a tad fast for me, but saving time for mile 6
  • Mile 2 – 11:50 feeling good
  • Mile 3 – 11:45 still feeling good
  • Mile 4 – 11:30 spot on

Entering the Memorial Bridge, miles 2 and 3 of the course.

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  • Mile 5 – 11:31 in Rock Creek at this point
  • Mile 6 – 12:13 the dreaded Calvert Hill… I lost my pace group
  • Mile 7 – 11:48 getting back on track, solo
  • Mile 8 – 11:57 a few small hills

Pretty D.C neighborhoods! I also used my heart rate to adjust my pace.  Whenever it went above 185, I slowed it down a bit.

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  • Mile 9 – 11:52 still feeling okay, net elevation is downhill
  • Mile 10 – 12:04 at my usual training pace
  • Mile 11 – 12:10 why did I sign up again?
  • Mile 12 – 12:34 there was a small hill between 11 and 12 
  • Mile 13 – 12:31 a tiny negative split!

As we approached RFK Stadium, I could see the finish line in the distance.  I saw that 2:35 was within my reach! I picked it up (as much as I could) and finished in 2:35:03, 11:51min/mile average.  It was a 14 minute PR! Winter training paid off 🙂

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Final Thoughts

  • Loved that the course took you through the northern part of Washington D.C (despite Calvert Hill).
  • This is a large race (half and marathoners start at the same line), and very half centric.  I was weaving in and out for a large part of the race. I thought it was nice they added a 5K option.
  • I did not pay much attention to the bands, but I liked the Brazilian drum band (miles 8, I remember them from Nike).
  • I thought the finish line was organized in terms of post race drink and food distribution, however it was a bit congested as people were hanging out there for friends instead of heading to the meet up area / post race festival. 
  • Beautiful day for a race (and yes I was overdressed) and pretty medal!
  • A bit annoying to bring our signed confirmation sheet for packet pickup, hopefully they move to electronic means in the future.. and maybe even to Convention Center vs. the Armory.
  • Thank you to the volunteers and DC police!

And I leave you with my post race brunch, we walked to Eastern Market.

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Did you run this weekend? If so, what race/distance?

Have you ever run with a pace group?

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2 Comments
    1. Run Jenny Run

      Thanks Sam! This year I decided to run the 5K – it was rainy, but not a bad race. Hope you get down to DC one year to do this 🙂

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