I have been putting off writing this recap for two weeks because I’m still angry about this race. At first I was angry about the race itself and the things that went wrong during it. But now that some time has passed I’m more upset with myself and the bad attitude I had while running that I couldn’t shake off. I try to be very honest on this blog and I really want to accurately portray my feelings and the roller coaster that this race was for me. This is a great example of how I am far from perfect and have to work on some things personally. Here we go…
Going into this race I was super excited. I ran it last year when I was 12 weeks pregnant and had a great experience. I ran it the year before (when it was called the National Half Marathon) and I got my half marathon PR. So I had high hopes for this race. I knew I had come so close to PRing at Myrtle Beach the month before and I really wanted to try to get it this time. I felt motivated and ready to push myself again.
We went to the race expo on Thursday night to get the trip in and out of DC out of the way early. I wanted to be able to eat dinner early and relax on Friday night, and that’s exactly what I did… until I realized a little problem. I was planning to go to the race alone because it was going to be cold and possibly rainy. I didn’t want the baby to be out in those conditions so Kevin was going to stay home with him. Then I realized that with the 30 minute car ride to metro, 45 minute metro ride into DC, wait for the start, the actual run itself, the post-run activities, the metro ride home, and the car ride home, I would be gone for at least 6 hours. I knew that especially with the new medicine I started to increase my supply, there was NO WAY I would be able to be away from the baby and/or my pump for that long. Even if I pumped right before I left at 5:30 a.m., the race didn’t start until 7:30, and then I’d have to run 2 more hours with already full breasts (ouch) and then get all the way home. I had a momentary meltdown about this until Kevin said he was going to the race and that the baby would be fine in the stroller under our BOB weather shield. I could feed him before and after the race. After that problem was solved, I felt so much better.
I went to bed early and baby Kevin was good to me and let me sleep through the night. We all got up at 4:45 a.m. and I nursed the baby then got ready while Kevin made me breakfast (oatmeal) and coffee. We packed up everything we needed for the baby and left the house at 5:30. I ate my breakfast on the way. We arrived at the metro station at 6 a.m., bought our tickets and boarded an empty train about 10 minutes later. I was thankful that it was empty because it gave me a chance to nurse the baby in private for the last time before the race. I knew it would be too crazy and crowded at the start and I’d need to wait for a bathroom. After I finished Kevin gave him his formula supplement from the bottle since it hadn’t been very long since I nursed him last and he needed a little more. He was loving his first metro ride!
As time passed on the train more and more people piled on. Once we arrived at our metro stop around 6:50 it was completely packed. It took 10 minutes to get out of the station among masses of people. It was sooo crowded. This year there was a new point-to-point course, which was part of the reason we took metro instead of driving. A LOT of other people had the same idea as us. In past years the race started and ended at RFK stadium, which was much more accessible from the highway and easy to find parking. The race still ended there, so we planned to take metro home afterwards. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it definitely made things more chaotic at the start.
I was very happy to finally find fresh air once we made it outside. We walked over to find bathrooms and noticed that the only porta-potties were actually inside the corrals. Each corral had about 6 porta-potties inside it, which I think was a good idea in theory, but one that wasn’t working very well. I believe there were 30 corrals with supposedly 1,000 people in each one (30,000 people total). Of course people didn’t go in the corral they were assigned to, so the earlier corrals were super crowded and the bathroom lines were SO LONG I couldn’t even find the end of them. I said goodbye to Kevin and the baby at this point and jumped into the crowd to find a bathroom line.
I went back super far to corral 20-something and just got in a random line. It was 7:10 at this point and the race was starting at 7:30. I ended up waiting in line for 40 minutes and almost peed myself in the process. Finally I used the bathroom, and I was so far back that the corral I had randomly ended up in hadn’t even been released yet. I tried to make my way up to an earlier corral but I could only get as far as #18 before being stopped by a wall of people. It was very frustrating and I knew I was in for an interesting race.
Finally it was our turn to run at exactly 8:00 a.m. I was getting a little nervous about my later start time, since I had last fed the baby at 6:30 and wouldn’t be able to again until 10ish- 3 1/2 hours later. I tried not to worry, because I knew my boobs start feeling uncomfortably full around the 4 hour mark, so I thought it would be fine (enter foreshadowing here…) Once my corral was released I was finally happy again. I was toward the front of my group so all I could see what wide open road in front of me. I tried to settle into a comfortable pace around 8:30/mile and enjoyed looking around at the monuments as I ran down the National Mall. And then… I caught up to the wave in front of me, and all of the waves before that one too. It was like a wall of people that I could not get past no matter how hard I tried. I ran my first mile in 8:40, more than 20 seconds off pace. But I tried not to worry because I knew I had 12 more miles ahead of me. I focused on finding space to get through the people and ran my second mile in 8:20. Better! I kept telling myself the crowd would be thinning soon. It usually does by mile 2/3 of a race like this.
Except it didn’t. Each mile after that was slower than the last. I can’t find my Garmin right now, but I know my third mile was 8:40 again, and my fourth was somewhere around 9:00. During my fourth mile, it was so crowded on the narrow city roads that my pace hit 10:00 at one point and I literally could not go any faster than that because I was stuck behind people. This is when I started getting mad. I knew my chances at getting a PR were gone. I was annoyed because this was not the race I had run last year and the year before. It was obvious that there were too many people for the course. It was insanely crowded for the first 4.5 miles. It wasn’t until this point that I actually wasn’t running right up against someone and had room to breathe. That is crazy! Even NYC wasn’t that crowded at that point in the race.
Anyway, I watched my pace creep up even after the crowd had thinned some because I just didn’t care anymore. I was annoyed and my attitude was terrible. I wasn’t having fun and I was mad that my last chance at a half marathon PR this spring was gone. Every time my watch beeped for another mile I got angry, so I eventually turned it off at mile 7. At this point I started walking whenever I felt like it. My stomach hurt because I was eating Gu instead of Honey Stingers (forgot to get them before the race), and I just didn’t care anymore.
While I was running I could hear other runners around me having conversations about the same things that were bothering me about the race. As we progressed through the course one thing that was super noticeable was the lack of volunteers. Some of the water tables were vacant, leaving us to have to stop and pour our own water (really!?) and the ones that had volunteers at them were so crowded that the poor volunteers couldn’t keep up and were frazzled. I have never had to stop during a race and wait a full minute for a cup of water. Once again, it seemed like Rock & Roll registered more people that they had the capacity and resources for.
By mile 10 I was starting to be in pain. Even though it had only been 3 hours since nursing the baby, my boobs were extremely hard and my left one had a huge painful knot in it (thank you Domperidone- it’s been a long time since I’ve been engorged like that). I was wishing I had brought my phone so I could text Kevin, not that he could really come get me or anything. My boobs hurt when I walked, and they hurt when I ran. So I just tried to run so I could finish quicker and get back to the baby to feed him.
I literally could not wait to be done with this race. While I was being a negative grump, my amazing husband and sweet baby boy were waiting for me at the finish.
I finished in 2:07:09. That is 10 minutes slower than last year when I was 12 weeks pregnant. 16 minutes slower than my time in Myrtle Beach a month prior. 18 minutes slower than my PR. Wahhhh 😦
After the race I tried to get through the finish area quickly because I just wanted to get away from all the people. I took my metal and put it in my pocket because I didn’t want to wear it. I didn’t take any food or water and just wanted to get out. I was in such a bad mood and was so hard on myself. Looking back on it now it’s really silly, but at the moment all I wanted to do was cry.
I didn’t have my phone and I never saw Kevin at the finish where he said he would be, so I had no idea how to find him. We hadn’t planned it out beforehand, which wasn’t smart, but I didn’t realize how big the race would be this year. I walked to the finish area to look for him, then to the family reunion area under S for my last name. I even went to where we stood last year spectating, thinking maybe he would be there. I couldn’t find him. More time was passing and my boobs were KILLING me. I finally went to the letter S in the reunion area, trying to send him telepathic messages to come find me there. It had been almost 30 minutes since I had finished at this point, and finally it dawned on me to ask someone if I could borrow their phone to call him (duh). I did and finally we were reunited.
I immediately started crying when I saw Kevin, both out of frustration from the race and pain from my boobs. He was so confused because all he knew was that it had taken me longer than we had expected. We went over to a grassy area where I could sit and nurse the baby. It was such a relief- nursing has never felt so good. I had to massage the hell out of my boobs to get the knots out, but I finally started to feel normal emotionally and physically again, as I explained to Kevin what happened. He tried to get me to eat something, but I didn’t feel like it. Again, I was being super hard on myself for no reason.
I finally snapped out of it when my friend Cynthia called me. She had finished the race too and gotten a PR. She was super happy and excited, and I was really truly happy for her too. It made me realize that even though I had a bad experience, not everyone did, and that I just need to move on from it. We met up with her and I finally put on my medal and let myself celebrate the accomplishment of running 13.1 miles.
If the Myrtle Beach half marathon was an example of how all the elements of a race can come together perfectly, this race was the opposite. There were a lot of things that happened that were out of my control, but I didn’t control the one thing I could have- my attitude. I gave up mentally and let myself be upset and angry. Looking back on it now, I realize how silly that was. I know that every race doesn’t have to be a PR to be enjoyable and fun. I know that not every race is going to be perfect like Myrtle Beach was. I’m disappointed in myself for acting the way I did. I registered for the race because I love running- and somewhere along the way I forgot that.
With that being said, I think I am finished with the Rock & Roll race series, along with some of the other big ones as well (ahem, HOT CHOCOLATE races– terrible). This was my 5th Rock & Roll race, and they have changed a lot over the years. I feel like certain race series continue to get bigger and bigger, registering too many people than they can accommodate on the course and at aid stations. It’s like they are money hungry and just want to get as many people as they can, forgetting to pay attention to other details. I just don’t personally enjoy them as much as the smaller, locally run races like Myrtle Beach, Delaware, the Air Force Marathon, and some others I have done recently. I think there are some bigger name races that do it right, like the NYC Marathon and Marine Corps, but those are few and far between these days. I actually wrote a post last year about large vs. small races. If I’m going to pay money to race, I’d much rather do these types of races and have a more enjoyable experience. That’s not to say I won’t ever do a ‘big’ race again. I still want to do the Chicago and Disney Marathons, and some other big ones. I’m also already signed up for the Nike Women’s Half in April and the Divas Half in September. I just need to remember going into these races that there are going to be things I can’t control and I just need to accept that, and focus on what is in my control instead. I am determined to not ruin the experiences for myself, have a better attitude, and have FUN!
Since this race two weeks ago I have only run one time, and that was yesterday with the baby in the stroller. I wanted to wait until I WANTED to run again, rather than force myself to get out there. I felt like I was losing my love of running and that made me incredibly sad. Yesterday the mood finally struck me so I went out without my Garmin, and played fun music on the speaker of my phone, singing to the baby along the way. I stopped when I felt like it to play with the baby, took my time, and had an amazing 3.5ish mile run. It was so nice, and reminded me why I run in the first place.
I don’t have anything that I’m technically training for until this summer when I begin marathon training. I’m running a few 5Ks, a 10K, and a half with my friend (it’s her first one!), but I’m taking a relaxed approach and using this ‘break’ to learn how to run for enjoyment again. No pressure, no expectations, no speed work… just me, the road, the baby in the stroller occasionally. It’s time for a change.