Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Race Report: Rock and Roll Marathon Nation's Capitol

The Nation's Capitol, Washington DC. 

Cost:  I registered during a special online code they were having.  I would have to look how much I paid, I think it was $85.  I know my husband registered super early and only paid $45 for the half. 

My family: ready to rock
We made the cover! JK!
Expo:  Normally, I am not a huge fan of expos.  I sort of feel like you've been to one, you've been to them all.  I try to get in and out with my race packet.  I feel it's mostly just trying to get you to buy stuff.   I wasn't even going to go.  The plan was for Jim to run over there at his lunch and pick up both of our packets.  I called him at work that morning and told him since it was my first full marathon, that I should really go and so I can have first hand experience on the expo for my race report.  I am so glad that I did because this expo was AWESOME.  This was the best expo I have ever been too.  And it wasn't just because it was a big race.  Gasparilla was big too, but their expo was not nearly as good.  What made it great?  There was so much free stuff.  I got so many free tshirts and free fuel.  There was a burpee contest for free Spartan race series entries.  There was a Nuun station where I tried every flavor they make and bought some more of my favorite flavor, lemon-lime.  They had tv's showing a video of the course.  There was a poster making station.  They had lots of fun photo booths. 
Avery and I took the metro down to the DC Amory building and Jim met us there on his lunch break from work.  We had a lot of fun.  Jim also found a pair of his favorite running shorts for cheaper than we had seen at the stores, so that was a bonus too.

Metro full of runners

Parking/Transportation:  Huge perk of DC racing is that a lot of races you can take the metro to and from the start/finish and not have to worry about parking.  That was really nice.  They opened the metro two hours early on Saturday just for the event.  It was sort of cool to be on the metro at 5:45am and the whole thing was full of other runners.  There was so much excitement and energy.

start corrals before sunrise

Start:  The start was located right off the National Mall.  It was slated for a 7:30am start and we arrived at 6:30am.  I am glad we did because the bag check was so far from the start corrals.  Since we are a "D" last name, ours was almost the furthest away!  And the bathroom lines were very long as well.  There were 30 corrals which each started in it's own wave.  The entire start area spanned the width of the street and two entire blocks long.  There were 30,000 runners in a sold out field so it was pretty crazy.  I was in corral 14 and it took almost 20 mins for us to cross the finish line, so I didn't actually begin the race until 7:50 or so.  While I like wave starts so that it isn't too crowded and so that you are starting with those with similar paces to yourself, runners actually have to start in the correct corral for it to work properly.  Otherwise you are darting around people to keep pace and cutting around people who are walking four abreast....not ideal.  Some races, they really police the corrals and make sure you are in the right one based on your bib, but this race there was nothing of the sort.  There were a lot of people who just started wherever they felt like it.  It made the first few miles very congested.  Also, since it was about 20 mins of waiting in the corral before I crossed the start line, I had to go to the bathroom within the first mile.  There were a few single porta potties lining the first few miles, but each had a padlock on them.  Not sure why...but runners kept veering off and getting frustrated that they were locked.  By the time everyone made it to the open set of bathrooms at mile 2, it was packed!  There were 8 of them, but each line was 12 runners deep!  I lost an entire 3 minutes waiting in line.  It was such a bummer because the entire song "Thrift Shop" played while I was in line and I was looking forward to running to that for a boost!  Afterwards, when I checked my pace it was confirmed it was a 3 min loss.  Mile 1 was an 8:30 pace and Mile 2 was an 11:46.  Yikes! 

Just passing the Kennedy Center

Rock Creek Park

Course: The start line was on Constitution Ave. surrounded by the sights of the White House, Smithsonian Libraries and Washington Monument.  We ran past the White House and Lincoln Memorial, across the river and back.  Then we followed the river under the Kennedy Center and headed into Rock Creek Park.   I ate a pack of my Jelly Belly sport beans here about mile 5.  The biggest hill of the course came as we exited Rock Creek Park and entered into the Adams Morgan neighborhood.  I pysched myself out for that hill a bit because when we drive it, it seems huge.  But it all honesty, it wasn't bad and it was over before I knew it.  I get a lot of hill practice as we live on a really big one that I run every time I go for a run.  As I got to the top of the hill (about mile 7), my friend Anna was there cheering me on and hopped in to run along side of me and be my hydration sherpa for a while.  For the next ten miles, I had a non-stop conversation while running with Anna.  I definitely wasted some energy there, but it was a nice distraction too.  I never usually talk during races, but I knew I was purposely trying to take the first 13 super easy.  As part of the Rock and Roll format, there are live bands and cheer squads along the course at every mile.  Since I run with headphones, I didn't really hear every band.  As we continued through the Adams Morgan area, there were lots of young adults partying on their porches cheering us on in crazy costumes and offering up beer and mimosas to the runners.  I will admit, the mimosas looked good! Since I was doing so much talking, I think I missed out on a lot of sights that I would have normally taken in.  My husband asked me if I saw this or that after that race and I said "no".  Next time around, I will be more in the moment!

 The split off of the half marathoners and the full marathoners was well marked and we diverted just before mile 13.  Originally I was worried because there were about 25,000 half marathoners and only 5,000 marathoners that it would be lonely after the split off but it was actually really nice to finally have a bit of space.  It was crowded all the way to the split.

I knew once we hit mile 13, that the real fun was about to begin.  I was now officially entering into the longest race I had ever run.  Since Jim ran the half marathon, he was supposed to get his bag at bag check, hopped on a Capitol Bike Share bike and met me along the course to cheer me on just before the split. Getting his bag back at bag check was an absolute nightmare (more on that later) so he couldn't get to the course until much later.   I saw him at about mile 15.  He had my water bottle with Nuun in it and that tasted so good.   I had my lemon Gu at this point.   He rode ahead to meet us at another stop and then decided to just return the bike and run a long side me with his backpack on.  What a guy!

My favorite picture from the race. 
I had to stop at mile 16 because the Morton's Neuroma in my feet was really starting to act up and I was actually saying out loud "Ow, ow, ow" with each step.   I sat on a curb, took off my shoes and socks, and rubbed my feet to make the pain go away.  Once again, lost time but I had no choice.  Once I started running again,  at mile 18 the 4:00 pace group (which had been my time goal) caught up to me and passed me.  I had been ahead of them the entire race and now they were passing me.  That was mentally hard to take and a beat myself up a little bit.  At that point, I told Jim and Anna that I need to focus and I put back in my headphones and "got into the zone".  That area was really nice as it was the Anacostia Riverfront walk.

I saw a set of bathrooms at mile 19 and while I didn't really have to go, I stopped anyway since there was no line and didn't know when that would happen again.  This part of the course got a bit weird.  Anna asked if I wanted my picture taken and Jim said, "Um, not the best background"-we were running right past junk yards and scrap metal piles.  Not the best scenery on that part of the course.  Here, I had a Cliff shot block for some additional energy.  Anna split off here to run the rest of her training run and Jim stayed with me. 

Hitting mile 20 was symbolic because I knew that everything I ran after this was going to be the longest I had ever run in MY LIFE.  It felt quite amazing actually and I felt so empowered.  As we were crossing over the bridge, I felt my bib flapping in the wind so I turned my bib belt around so it could flap on my back and Jim noticed that my bib was only attached on one side.  I had lost one of my bib clips.  We had to stop and Jim ruffled through the backpack to find safety pins.  I took off my bib belt and then safety pinned my bib to my chest.  Once again, more lost time, but couldn't do anything about it.  I can't believe I almost lost my bib number!
Mile 20!

Mile 21, my stomach started to bother me a bit.  Not the "I'm working out too hard I'm going to puke feeling" but the "My stomach is so acidic, I need Tums or I am going to puke" feeling.  This is where I really started to crave that chocolate milk they kept advertising they would have at the finish.  I needed something basic to even out my acidic stomach.  I have always been someone whose stomach doesn't do well with sugar.  If I eat candy on an empty stomach it makes me feel very sick, so I don't really eat sweets at all.  I think that all the sugar from the Gu and sport beans was starting to catch up with me since the real food (oatmeal) that I had eaten at been at 5am and it was now about 11am.  The feeling kept getting worse.  I am not going to lie, tears were shed at mile 22.  As I was running that mile, tears were streaming down my face.  My stomach hurt so badly, I knew I was off my time goal and I just felt like it was all crashing in around me.  I mentally told myself to suck it up because there was nothing I could do at this point, I was going to finish this thing whether or not I had to crawl across the finish line while throwing up.  The downside was, I didn't eat anything else to fuel from this point forward and didn't drink any water because my stomach just hurt too badly. 

I was eagerly awaiting the mile 23 mark so that I could tell myself that I only had a 5k left.  But it still felt far!  Once I knew I only had a mile and a half to go, I started to get really happy.  I was about to finish A MARATHON.  The last mile was almost a straight away with the stadium clearly visible.  It felt like a very long mile, because the stadium never seemed to be getting that much closer.  Once you got to the stadium, the finish line was still about a half mile to go, uphill and around a corner.  You could see it but could also see the hill you had to complete to get there.  It had never felt so far away. :-)  As I came up that hill, I looked around and smiled.  I saw Anna and Jim cheering me on and calling out my name.  I started to pick it up the finish, and so did the girl next to me.  So I ran harder and then so did she.  Neither of us wanted to let the other get ahead on that final stretch to mat.  We crossed the line in a perfect sprint to a perfect tie.  I told her "good run" and headed off to find some real food to ward off the stomach pain.  I was proud of myself that I still had that kick in me at the end. 

Enjoying my beer post race
Finish:  I crossed the finish line and got handed my medal.  Right as I was crossing I heard Cowboy Mouth just finishing up their song, "Joe Strummer".  They were the headliner of the post race concert and they were saying goodbye as I was walking through the shoot. Major disappointment and poor planning on RnR's part (since a lot of marathoners would be missing the headliner).   I got a bottle of water and started to drink it.  There were a few finish line photographers there taking pictures of us against the Rock and Roll background holding up our medals.  My bib was crumpled at that point and I haven't received those pictures yet and I think its because they couldn't read my number.  Then I made a bee line for the chocolate milk.....ahhhhh I had been thinking about this for the last 4 miles!  I got there and they told me they were all out.  I actually said outloud, "You've got to be kidding me!".  Another lady was pretty upset too.  There were still a lot of marathoners that were going to be finishing (about 2000 more!)  That was definitely poor planning.  I saw bananas and bagels so grabbed both.  I ate the banana even though I didn't want to (more sugar) and gave Jim the bagel (it was so dry).  Afterwards, I saw someone walking by with chips and realized that would have been a good choice, fat and salt, but once you are out of the food area, they don't let you back in...bummer.  I sat with Anna and Jim on a curb and we all chatted for a bit.  Jim and I decided we might as well go take advantage of our free Michelob Ultra at the beer garden.  We said our goodbyes to Anna and I once again thanked her for being my water girl.  On the way to the beer garden, luckily there were food trucks (though they also were out of almost everything) we did each get a veggie slice of pizza and it was delicious!

Grade: C
If I was to give this race a grade, as I have done the others it would be a C.  Which is sad.  It was my first marathon and I wanted to love it.  In many ways I did, but there was a lot to be desired.
1. It was a great course, for most of it.  The Marathon course did travel through some not so scenic areas, which I know it's hard to miss when you are trying to fit in 26 miles within the district. 
2. Bag check retrieval was a nightmare!  My husband said it took over an hour waiting in line to get his bag back.  He said there was almost a riot.  He said people were getting very angry.  I think that they were very understaffed.
3.  Out of chocolate milk at the finish!  This made me so sad as I was really, really looking forward to it.  They completely hyped this up at the expo and mentioned it multiple times at the starting line that it would be there waiting to rehydrate and replenish us....well it wasn't
4.  Seems petty, I know, but the shirts for the half marathoners and the marathoners are exactly the SAME.  I've never run a race where that has happened.  With this being my first full, I really wanted a specific shirt for my accomplishment.  Instead, Jim ran the half and I ran the full and we have the same exact shirt.  A little disappointing. 
5. The finish line concert.  This really was upsetting.  RnR planned this big finish line concert because it is the Rock and Roll Marathon after all, except, the way that they plan it.  Most marathoners (about 50%) don't even cross the finish line until after the headliner of the entire concert is finished with their set.  This seems like poor planning to me.  Have some more openers so that everyone can catch the headliner.  That seems to make sense to me :-(  I missed Cowboy Mouth and that makes me sad.  I hope RnR learns from that....though probably not.  It really seems that they cater to the half marathoners and the full marathoners are truly second fiddle.

Overall, I did enjoy running a marathon.  Would I run another marathon?  Heck yes!  Would I run another Rock and Roll event again?  No.  I really don't like the way that they treat the full marathoners....they are running twice as far....don't discount them!  Even if I was running a RnR half I wouldn't do it.  The only one I may ever do is San Diego, only because it's the original (so hopefully they have that to a science) and because the City of San Diego will always have my heart, (it's where I met my hubby and we lived for our dating/early years of marriage)!

Recovery: That afternoon after the marathon, I was definitely tired.  My hip flexors and quads were the most sore, but I really just wanted to go to bed.  But with a two year old, I just had to count down the hours until she went to bed and then I crawled in to mine not long after!  The next day the hip flexor pain was gone, the quads were still a little sore, but nothing too bad.  We took my mother in law to Georgetown and walked all around the city and I was fine.  The only thing that was acting up was my knee were a few weeks ago my knee bursitis had really been bothering me.  And today, with two days of rest under my belt, I plan to head out there for an easy 3 miler with Avery in the stroller...if she will cooperate!  :-)

I was beyond humbled by the amount of support that I received while training and after finishing.  Fellow bloggers, family and friends (in person, through email, texts, phone calls, facebook), and even mail!  (Thanks Sheri!)  My neighbor who has completed two marathons herself stopping by that night to drop off a bottle of wine (Thanks Kristi!).  You all are amazing!  

I learned a lot running this first marathon and that's what I wanted it to be -A learning experience.  That is how I approached my first half marathon and walked away loving it and craving for more.  I really got a good gauge of how each mile feels.  The second 13.1 really is a whole different ball game than any race I've ever run!  The biggest thing I walked away from this race learning was that I NEED to find different ways to fuel.  I am going to start looking into more natural fuel sources than the sugary Gu and Sport Beans.  They just tear up my insides.  (Even looking at them right now as I added these links made my stomach turn...ugh).  I am going to try HumaGel which is more natural and contains Chia Seeds (my favorite!).  I am also going to try and make my own fuel sources as well like ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek does.  I plan on also trying to carry pit-less cherries or prunes as fuel.  No Meat Athlete has a recipe for homemade gel that I plan on giving a whirl as well.

Mostly, I learned a lot about myself.  I can do anything.  That is truly how I feel right now, on top of the world!  I never thought I could run a marathon, ever.  But I did it.  It scared me.  Even as I signed up back in November, it terrified me.  All through training, I had moments of self doubt...I asked myself why am I doing this?  Could I actually run 26.2 miles?  Everyone is stronger than they realize.  They just have to not be afraid to put themselves to the test!


  1. Awesome report! I didn't realize you were running the full -- congrats on your first marathon, that's awesome. I'm glad to hear you want to do another! I also noticed the shirt thing -- its' like if you are doing the full, you want it to be different. Ahh that so blows about the chocolate milk -- I would have been so upset. BEcause I did the half, it didn't take me that long to get my bag but I could see how long it was taking because the bags were just thrown in the buses and they all looked the same. Poor planning. I had given them a bag that was cream colored so it was easy to spot. Anyway, I'm really happy to read your report (love marathon recaps!) and also glad you are reading my blog! Fun stuff! -- Ericka @ The Sweet Life (sweetlifeericka.com)

  2. Congratulations on your accomplishment! Great news that you would do another. For my first one, it was just low key, but very good in the above listed items that were not so good, sorry about that experience. If you are interested in a hilly marathon, try out the Gettysburg north south. Small, but very supportive. I loved reading your report. Thanks for sharing. Have fun recovering! Again......Congratulations!

  3. What a great recap! I think you did awesome, in spite of the things that could've been better. I've never heard good things about the R&R, so doubt I would ever run one. I'm training for my first marathon, coming up in 4 weeks! I'm glad to hear that you'll run another one. I currently take GU's, but am being sent some Huma's to review for my blog. I hear that they're awesome!
    I am now having those same doubts that you had, I'm terrified! But I know I can do it too!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! That is so exciting, 4 weeks to go! I just was sent some HumaGels too and very excited to try them out! You will rock your marathon!

  4. Awesome job, Colleen! I love reading race recap...especially first marathon ones. I almost had tears reading that. I had a idea. What would you think about doing a guest post on my blog? Feel free to go check it out if you like first. I will not be offended at all if you do not want to. I thought that might help you(and I) get more hits on our blogs. :)

    Karen @ Tradingheels.com

    1. I would love to do that Karen! Just direct me! I've never guest blogged before :-)

  5. Congrats on your race and what a great recap! I too struggle with fueling and am continually working to perfect it. I tend to burn through everything quickly and if I don't manage things well then I completely Bonk. I can't wait to see what you decide works for you as I am always open to suggestions! I love Ignite Naturals Reload Energy Gels (am an ambassador). They are mad from figs and are delicious

    1. The Ignite sounds great! Just checked it out....is it only sold online or are retailers carrying it as well? I'd love to test it out!

  6. Congrats on your accomplishment! I'm training for my first 1/2 next month and each training week is the LONGEST I'VE EVER GONE--which is both exciting and terrifying! lol

    I wanted to suggest Trader Joe's Gummy Bears (http://tinyurl.com/bthpxx5. Although they are still 'candy', they don't seem as sugary as other sports-related candies. They may not be your only fuel solution, but perhaps they can supplement what you go with. I get a pasty mouth often when I'm running and I like to pop a few of these in and just suck on them while I run.

    Best of luck to you! Nice work and thanks for the recap

    1. I may check those out. The biggest thing for me is just the sugar. I don't stomach sugar very well, but I know that sugar is the fastest energy source, so I am trying to balance it. For a half marathon, I am always ok. The body has enough glucose stored to make it 13 miles so I dont really have to fuel for a half....which is great news for me! :-)

  7. Congratulations what a huge accomplishment! Maybe someday I will be able to do one. Did you have a specific go to site for training?

    1. Under the training tab, I have a link to the plan I used. It was pretty easy to follow. Especially for a first time marathoner!

  8. Congrats! I am so impressed with your race pictures!! You're definitely looking very happy! I'm trying to figure out my fueling too--it's such a challenge.

    1. Thanks! I was happy most of the time....except for those few miles when I thought I was going to have to yak on the side of the course! :-)