*I’m still waiting on Nike to post the rest of the official information on my time for this race, but nearly a week later and with another race this weekend, I didn’t want to wait any longer to get this post up!
I signed up for the lottery for this race back in December, but I didn’t get in. I planned out my spring running schedule without this race and targeted running the Oklahoma City Marathon, which happened to be the same day. I was planning on signing up for it over the weekend about a month and a half ago. I woke up on Friday morning, checked my email, and sitting in my inbox was a message that I had gotten into the Nike Women’s Half if I was still interested. All of a sudden, my plans completely changed and the next thing I knew, I was signed up for Nike Women’s and booking my flight and hotel in DC. Being originally from the DC area, I have family still in the area. Initially, I thought about seeing if I could stay with any of them, but since it was going to be a super quick trip and the race was early in the morning, I decided to go ahead and get a hotel. A few days later, my mom called and said she saw my post about signing up for the Nike Women’s half. She’d been planning on making a trip to DC in the spring to visit her sisters and when she saw that I’d be heading to DC too, she arranged her trip to fall when I was in town. So I was able to do this exciting race AND see my mom as well as some of my extended family.
Race Day Weather
I totally forgot to take a screenshot of the weather before the race. I thought about it when I was three miles into the race. I told myself to take one after the race, and of course, I didn’t remember about that until I was on the plane back to Dallas. Oh well. Anyway, it was a beautiful morning. 52 degrees and sunny at the beginning of the race and probably two or three degrees warmer when I finished. I got pretty warm pretty quickly and wished I’d worn a tank top but was grateful that I didn’t wear leggings or a long-sleeved shirt! The sun was blinding when we were running into it, but overall, the weather was ideal.
Feelings Going Into The Race
I was super excited about this race when I signed up. This was going to be my first “big” race… One of those races that lots of people travel for. Then I injured my knee during the Big D marathon two weeks earlier. Then the Boston Marathon bombing happened. I became very nervous and pretty emotional about this race. Nike didn’t say much about their security plan for several days, but I’m sure the organizers were freaking out, trying to come up with a beefed up plan as us racers would be running right by all sorts of national monuments. While I was dealing with my emotions, I spent two solid weeks healing my knee and visiting the chiropractor. I ran very, very short distances a few times the week leading up to the race, all with pain, but I was able to push through and each run got a little better. While I was still pretty nervous about the race, I was determined to do it, even if I had to walk the entire thing. I was getting that Tiffany’s necklace, no matter what!
Meals Before The Race
The night before the race, I had dinner with my mom, my Aunt Mary, Aunt Cynthia and her husband, Matt, at my Aunt Cynthia’s house. She made a pork tenderloin, along with green beans, potatoes, apple sauce, and bread. She also made a tasty and very sweet cake-like dessert. I didn’t get a picture of our meal, but I did get a picture of the Conlon ladies!
Unfortunately, my Aunt Ginny (my Aunt Mary’s twin), who lives in the area, couldn’t make it. She is pretty sick and I was able to visit her in the hospital.
It was great to visit with all of my mom’s sisters! I don’t see them very often so it was special that I got to have this short, but nice time with them.
For breakfast, I brought a Central Market English muffin with me and a Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter packet with me. AIR hoped to find a banana to eat with the English muffin and peanut butter, but no go. I ate half of the English muffin with peanut butter and saved the rest for later. Untoasted, it was too dry to eat the entire thing.
What I Wore
I wore my C9 white sports bra, as usual… Least likely to cause chafing. For undies, I wore my fancy (a.k.a. expensive for undies) Ex Officios. On top, I had a raspberry-colored C9 dry-fit top, and black Nike Tempo shorts.
I wore my raspberry-colored Features socks with an old pair (the pair I retired most recently) of Brooks Glycerine running shoes (I was feeling superstitious about the pair I wore during the Big D marathon, so I switched back to my retired pair) with a new pair of ProKinetics Posture Control insoles. I also wore my blue Flip Belt.
The race started and ended at the intersection of 10th and Pennsylvania Ave, just a few blocks from the White House, then took us under the National Mall, by the Washington Monument and WWII Memorial, to the Lincoln Memorial, across the Arlington Memorial Bridge and back, under the overhang of the Kennedy Center, back by the Lincoln Memorial, past the Jefferson Memorial, around the East Potomac Golf Course, back under the National Mall, in front of the Capitol Building, and finally back to the start line at 10th and Pennsylvania Ave.
Typical for me, if I didn’t have a map to verify these landmarks, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what I ran by. The tunnel under the National Mall, Arlington Memorial Bridge, the Kennedy Center, the golf course, and the US Capitol are the only landmarks I remember actually noticing during this race. I’m not a very tourist-like observant racer. I’m too busy looking at the people around me, trying to figure out how to pass them or get out of the way of others wanting to pass me to take in the bigger picture around me.
Nike posted on their site that the course was flat. Saying the course was flat and actually being flat are two different things, but luckily (for my knee, in particular) this course was relatively flat. There were a couple of small elevation changes up and down, but I experience larger elevation changes in my own neighborhood. With that said, there were plenty of people walking as they encountered any sort of positive grade change.
Since we ran through the tunnel under the National Mall twice, I (and everybody else carrying some sort of GPS tracker) lost GPS signal. That was mildly annoying, but luckily Garmin is smart enough to connect the points, however, my Garmin splits show some wonky stuff happening, particularly on my second time through the tunnel.
The Race Organization
Nike Women’s Half is put on by, you guessed it, Nike! I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about Nike-run races (Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco). From what I’d heard, Nike caters their races specifically toward women, with a Tiffany’s necklace as the medal at the end, presented by service men in tuxedos, and an expo filled with female athlete-type vendors. On the other hand, I’d also heard that they constantly run out of post-race food and even Tiffany’s necklaces. I’ve also experienced vague and lack of communication about the race details with the months leading up to this race. Nike tends to be pretty “secretive” about details and they release info later rather than sooner.
Packet Pickup and the expo were insanely crowded! My mom came with me to Packet Pickup and as we approached the line, we were blown away at how long it was.
Luckily it moved quickly and we were in the Packet Pickup tent within 15 minutes of getting in line.
Once I was in and in front of someone to get my bib number, the process was super fast.
I asked the volunteer assigning my bib number if we needed to use our Nike enabled device during the race in order for the live tracking to work. She didn’t know. I was a little disappointed that she didn’t have an answer. Seems like something the volunteers at packet pickup ought to know. As it turns out, I didn’t need to use my Nike+ GPS app on my phone during the race, but I did anyway.
Once we made it through Packet Pickup, we wandered over to the expo.
To be honest, I was pretty disappointed by the expo. For one, it was super crowded. And second of all, the only “vendors” there were the sponsors.
I was hoping to try some NUUN flavors out, but the line over at the NUUN table was way too long. My mom and I wandered through and came out the other side, but first I signed the wall.
Haha, I didn’t even see the “I run for Jesus” until just now, as I’m inserting images into the post. I definitely didn’t write that. I kept it simple with “Kim D :)”. After was passed through, we decided to grab some lunch right next to the expo. While we were waiting to be seated, I dug through my packet.
There were some fun goodies including a Cliff Bar, Paul Mitchell and Bare Minerals products, and some other goodies. Also, there was a “key card” of sorts that provided an opportunity to win a pair of Nike shoes in the expo.
I went back into the expo to try my luck with my “key card”, but no go. I didn’t win anything. While there weren’t a lot of vendors at the expo, Nike sure did put on quite the tech show with all the interactive elements like this “key card” thing, so not all was lost with the expo.
The crowd support was awesome in some places and then totally dead in other places. Of course the start/finish area was packed with spectators. Nike also designated several points along the race as “cheer zones”. I assume people congregated at these points. Once we hit the East Potomac Golf Course, the crowd support was dead! I don’t know if they restricted who could be on that island, but minus the two water stops on the island, there wasn’t a spectator in sight for the entire ~3.5 mile stretch. All I could hear were the security helicopters flying overhead and the planes landing at the nearby Reagan airport.
Nike did do a good job with selecting a variety of bands and cheer squads to perform along the race. These groups were AWESOME! If I wasn’t running and had a Tiffany’s necklace waiting for me at the end, I would have stopped and enjoyed these awesome performers. The drum band in the tunnel under the National Mall was a bit blaring, but that was because they were in the tunnel.
Before the race, I met up with one of my Dallas Running Club friends who was also in town for the race. We chatted for a few seconds, but I needed to use the port-o-potties, pronto, so we wished each other luck and parted ways. I made my way to the port-o-potties and stood in line for an eternity. I didn’t think I would make the beginning of the race. And it stunk waiting in line. Literally! The announcer kept making announcements, counting down until when the corrals were closed and blocked off. And finally they were closed… and I was still in line to go to the bathroom. A few minutes later, I was in and out of the port-o-pottie and making my way towards my designated corral. There was a huge crowd of runners standing outside the corral and a bazillion more in the corral.
I hopped the fence and got close and cuddly with complete strangers as we waited for the race to start.
Before the national anthem, there was a moment of silence for the Boston bombing. I began to tear up. Oh, gosh, this was going to be an emotional one. A few seconds later, the national anthem was sung. Normally, I don’t have much memory of the singer at the beginning of races, but whoever this woman was, she was phenomenal!
And then we were off! Of course I started to tear up again. My mom was going to be watching at a point where she’d see the beginning and the end, but I couldn’t find her as I made my way down Pennsylvania Ave. It was just too crowded. Once we turn the corner and headed towards the tunnel under the National Mall, I knew I missed her. I found out later that she wasn’t able to spot me either.
This race was really crowded in general. In past races that I’ve done, normally the first mile is pretty dense but then there is plenty of breathing room. For this race, I’d say it took a couple of miles for the crowd to spread out, and even still, I felt like I was constantly stuck behind large groups of people running together. Okay, I get that you want to run with your friends, but when you are 6-across, it sure makes it difficult to get around you!
The miles really crawled by during this race and I was anxious about my knee giving out, but the pain didn’t end up bothering me as much as I anticipated. We headed over the Arlington Memorial bridge and it was somewhere around there that my knee started to bother me, but that only lasted for a few miles in the grand scheme of the race. As the miles slowly ticked by, I took my Shot Boks (mile 3, 6, 9, and 11.5). I counted the miles based on when I would eat again. The past few half marathons have flown by for me, but definitely not this one. It crawled! I skipped the first water stop, but the took water and/or Nuun at all the rest, walking through them. At the mile 4 water stop (water stop #2 and my first water stop), I went in behind another girl towards the tables, expecting her to continue moving, but no, she came to a complete stop, so I too had to come to a complete stop. This annoyed the hell out of me. I know I’m not the perfect, always-aware runner out there, but I can’t stand it when runners are totally oblivious to other runners in the middle of a race. Don’t come to a complete stop in the middle of the course! Anyway, I got around that girl and continued on.
Security was definitely beefed up for this race. There were helicopters overhead and police everywhere. I’m sure there were people undercover too. At one point, around mile 5.5, we ran under a bridge. I looked up and saw a cop standing on the bridge with binoculars. With all the security, I never felt unsafe during this race. And, to be honest, what happened at the Boston Marathon will likely not happen again, but because of what happened, I believe races will be forever changed; like how we talk about pre- and post-9/11, well I see the running community talking in terms of pre- and post-Boston bombing. Maybe I’m wrong, but it definitely didn’t feel that way during this marathon as I watched the helicopter fly back and forth along the shore of the Potomac River.
Once I hit the East Potomac Golf Course and roughly mile six, I started to fatigue. Having taken two weeks off (minus three very short runs) really took a lot out of me and my distance-to-fatigue ratio. My knee wasn’t really bothering me at this point, but I was just drained. I felt like I was constantly checking my watch to see where I was in terms of distance. The East Potomac Golf Course was an extremely long, dead stretch. There were two water stops on this stretch, nearly back to back (the first at about mile 8 and the second at about mile 8.75), which I appreciated for 1. the liquid and 2. any sort of crowd support on this island, but it seemed as though the rest of the water stops had too far of a distance between them, but then again, I was super thirsty during this race.
On this island, I passed two women, a mother-daughter team, who I saw again and talked to after the race. It got me to thinking that, while my mom is not a runner, she has started to get into walking lately, and it might be fun (when she is ready) to walk a half marathon together. Once I was reunited with my mom after the race, I told her about the mother-daughter team and my idea. I think she is on board!
We finally left the island right around mile 10 and we turned to make our way back to the mainland and towards the finish line. There was a HUGE cheering section along this mile 10 turn. I started to get teared up again. I felt so overwhelmed about having the ability to run and having all these people out supporting the race. My thoughts, of course, were on Boston and how this freedom was stripped away in a matter of seconds.
Focusing back in to the moment, I climbed a little ramp, turned a corner, and headed back into the tunnel under the National Mall. My GPS on my Garmin went out again (as it did the first time through this tunnel) which was annoying, but there are worse things that could have happened. The tunnel was incredibly stuffy and long, which I experienced in both directions. I was eager to get out of it. Finally, light was in sight and I made my way up above ground to the 7th and final water stop at mile 11. This is also the first of two taunting parts towards the end of the race. Turn left on Pennsylvania Ave and we’d be just four blocks from the finish line. Turn right on Pennsylvania Ave, as the course did, and we had another two miles to go. Torture! I could have desperately used another water stop at mile 12 and so could another girl who was lying on the ground with medics around her. I felt bad, but there wasn’t anything I could do, so I continued on, making my way in front of the US Capitol Building and then, finally back on Pennsylvania Ave for the home stretch towards the finish line. Here was the second taunting part. We could see the finish line for at least ¾ of a mile. Just about every other race I’ve done, the finish line is right after you turn a corner, not some insane stretch teasing you like a mirage. In this ¾ mile stretch, I spotted my mom and I waved and waved. Once she saw this crazy person waving, she recognized me and tried to pull out her camera, but wasn’t able to get to it in time. I’m just happy we were able to spot each other!
After what seemed like an eternity, this ¾ mile stretch was closing in and I was trying as hard as I could to speed up and get across the finish line. Being so fatigued, I didn’t have any sprinting left in me, but I was able to pick my pace up a little bit and cross the finish line.
Of course the Tiffany’s necklace was not the first thing to greet me as I crossed the finish line. Instead, it was a bottle of water. I was so grateful for that bottle!! After taking a couple of pictures and texting Nick to let him know I was across the finish line and still able to walk, I made my way towards the ROCT kid in a tuxedo, handing out the Tiffany’s finisher necklaces.
I got mine, took a few more pictures, and headed towards the food and the finisher’s t-shirt pick up.
Also, at some point, I was handed a space blanket, which I kept on until I got back to the hotel.
Post Race Food And Vendors
Post-race food was typical: Luna bars, bananas, fruit cups, and bagels.
They were also handing out Tiffany’s bags at the food table to I grabbed one and took a banana and Clif bar and made my way to the Finisher’s T-shirt area.
For as crowded as it was, the food and finisher’ T-shirt area moved pretty quickly.
Also in the finisher’s area was the Finisher’s Boutique.
Basically, this tent was a Nike Store with race apparel. Since I got in the day before and they didn’t sell any of this stuff at the Expo and we weren’t able to stop at the designated shops that would be carrying race apparel on Saturday, I got in line so I could get a few items. It was here that I was standing in line with the mother-daughter team. They were so cute and sweet. While the food and finisher t-shirt lines went quickly, this line took FOREVER!
My Dallas Running Club friend texted me and asked me where I was. She met me in the Finisher Boutique tent and we took a quick picture before she headed back to her hotel and I made my way to the front of the line.
Finally at the front, I chose two pullovers (just what I need as summer is approaching) and a pair of running socks.
In retrospect, I wish I bought a couple of other things while I was there, but I made big enough dent with those three Nike items and they were really trying to push people through the Botique that I didn’t want to take up any more time contemplating on what else to get. After an eternity in the finisher’s area, I finally made my way back to meet my mom and aunt and her husband.
I found my mom!
No Pain No Gain
Coming into this race, my biggest fear was that my knee wouldn’t hold up. But it did! I had some mild pain in my right knee from about mile 2 to mile 3.5 and then another little bout of pressure when we crossed over a small bridge onto the East Pontiac Golf Course. Other than that, my knee really didn’t bother me and in fact, I was going much faster than I expected to for the first half. Once I started to fatigue, I felt some dull aching in my hip flexors. But I pressed on.
After the race, I felt tight, but overall, my mobility was fine. Jumping on a plane right after the race probably wasn’t the ideal thing to do in terms of muscle tightness, but once I shoved my neck pillow under my right leg, I was as comfortable as I could be, sitting in the middle seat in the main cabin.
Monday was rough, though. My quads and hamstrings were insanely tight and sore. My body was used to the wear of 13 miles so previous races this year didn’t leave me to sore, but having taken two weeks off, I was incredibly sore! Funny how quickly the body “unwinds”! Luckily my chiro doc knew this race would leave me very sore and he had me schedule an appointment for Tuesday afternoon to do “recovery” as he called it. Basically, I had to rest on top of eight ice packs while having electric shock on that same side and an ultrasound on the opposite side, and they I had to flip. Talk about sensory! Once that was done, he did some painful deep tissue work and by the time I got off the table, my legs felt great!
Other Random Thoughts
There weren’t enough water stops. There were only 7 water stops on the course and I went to all but the first one. I thought there should have been at least one or two more, especially near the 12-mile mark. I was super thirsty for a majority of this race that more water stops would have been very much appreciated. The water stops that were set up weren’t well-distributed around the course. It seemed like we had long stretches without any water stops and then there’d be two with ¾ of a mile of each other.
Despite the crowd, my early fatigue, and struggle to have the miles mentally pass by quickly, I really liked this race. I wish I had been more observant of the scenery around me, but that’s not really in my nature when I race anyway. I would totally do another Nike Women’s race again and I’m even thinking if I could squeeze the Nike Women’s Marathon- San Francisco in for the fall, just one week after the Chicago Marathon. That might be pushing it, but now I’m all excited about the Nike series! I was a little lonely since I’ve gotten used to at least starting out with my close running friends and none of them were here, so maybe I can talk them into doing Nike Women’s with me another time! AND, my close guy running friends shouldn’t feel intimidated… honestly, it can’t get much better than that for them… only 500 men in a sea of women in skimpy running clothes! 😉 Come on guys, I know you are interested!
While it wasn’t a Personal Record by any stretch, I’m actually really happy with my time, coming off an injured knee and two weeks without running. (You’d think two weeks off wouldn’t kill my endurance, but it definitely did and I’ve always been paranoid about missing just one run here or there over the course of a training season because of that… as I sit here, a few days away from another race, and taking two rest days in a row… YIKES!!) In my post-race chiro session, I was talking to the chiro/doc about my time and my other recent races. He told me that based on my PR for the half marathon and this race on an injured knee, I should be doing my slow, long runs at the pace from this race, if not a few seconds slower. He thinks that I’ve been training too slow over this past season with the 4:30 marathon pace group and that might have been the root of my knee injury. Based on his estimate, I should be somewhere between the 3:50 to 4:10 full marathon groups (or 1:55 half group). So sad, will have to leave my 4:30 friends in the fall. I’ll miss training with you guys!!
Bib Number: 8194
Division: Female 30-34
Official Chip Time: 2:05:18
Official Gun Time: ? (*Nike hasn’t posted this yet*)
Official Race Distance: 13.1 miles
Official Average Race Pace: 9’34”
Official Rank: 3648 out of ? (*Nike hasn’t posted this yet*)
Division Rank: 662 out of 2635
5k (3.1 mile) Split: 29:45
10k (6.2 mile) Split: 58:35
15k (9.3 mile) Split: 1:29:08
20k (12.4 mile) Split: 1:59:11
Garmin Time: 2:05:18
Garmin Distance: 13.37 miles
Garmin Average Pace: 9’22”
Mile 1: 9’44”
Mile 2: 9’16”
Mile 3: 9’16”
Mile 4: 8’55”
Mile 5: 9’02”
Mile 6: 9’03”
Mile 7: 9’35”
Mile 8: 9’29”
Mile 9: 9’58”
Mile 10: 9’30”
Mile 11: 11’11”
Mile 12: 7’41”
Mile 13: 9’18”
Mile 13.37: 8’56”