This Sunday I ran in the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, and it was amazing.
Fabio and I set the alarm for 4:30 am on Sunday, and when it went off, I immediately hopped out of bed. I had had a couple dreams the night before that we had already run the race, and I must have been really focused on running it in under two hours because it was part of BOTH of my dreams (in one dream we succeeded and in one we didn’t). Needless to say, I was feeling pretty antsy and just wanted to get the day started.
By the time I quickly got dressed, walked Jack, and ate a piece of peanut butter toast, it was time to hit the road. Fabio and I were in the car at 5:00 am, and arrived at the hotel where the buses would take us to the start line by 5:20. There were SO many buses and I was really impressed with how efficient everything was. Even though there were a ton of people lining up for the buses, we didn’t wait long at all before hopping on and being taken directly to Mount Vernon where the race began.
When we got there it was COLD. I mean like freezing cold. Fabio and I knew it would be chilly before the race and we decided to dress for the conditions we’d be running in- not waiting in- but it was still almost unbearable at this point. We hit the porta-potties during this time, and then huddled together against a wall until the sun came up and it was time to line up for the start.
Horray for the sun!
(P.S. Fabio took this picture and I was kinda annoyed that it turned out blurry lol. Never trust boys with cameras!) BTW my Brook’s running shirt says “run happy” and I love it 🙂
When there were ten minutes left until the start, Fabio and I lined up in our corral. We chose to line up at the beginning of the 9:00-minute mile corral, even though we were hoping to run somewhere between 8:50 – 9:10. Everyone was hopping around trying to keep warm at this point, and after a couple of quick introduction speeches and the National Anthem, we were off!
*Note: from this point until the finish, all pictures are courtesy of my mom and dad 🙂 Thanks, guys!*
My dad was able to catch the start of the race, and he took these awesome pictures of the first finishers.
These guys are so incredible. The guy who got first place finished in one hour and four minutes. Wow.
My dad also took this picture of a dad who was running, and his wife and baby who were spectating. This is so adorable; I just had to share. I wish I knew this guy so I could share the photo with him. My dad has a whole series of pictures with him seeing his wife, kissing the baby, and continuing on with his run. So cute!
Anyway, back to my recap. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the weather was perfect for running. The conditions were clear and a bit cold at first (it was in the 30s when we started) but it warmed up to the 40s by the end.
Miles 1 through 3: At this point of the race I was feeling great and was focused on finding a comfortable pace. My hands were freezing during the entire first mile, but I forgot all about them by mile two. I was mostly trying to make sure that we didn’t go too fast, since I know Fabio and I tend to do that early on in our runs. I was trying to be strategic about who to follow, and I attempted to stay with a few people from our corral. Our pace during this time was 8:01, 8:27, and 8:37. I definitely knew we were going too fast, but it was kind of hard to slow down.
Miles 4 through 6: We started seeing some spectators around this time, and we passed our first water station around here (which we skipped). At mile five I planned to eat a couple sport beans, and I enjoyed trying the new-to-me strawberry flavor that we picked up at the expo the day before.
At around mile 5.5 I saw a guy with a camera and I said to Fabio, “Is that my dad??” I totally wasn’t expecting to see him this early on, and it made me so happy. My dad didn’t see us right away, so I shouted out “Daddy!!” and then he looked. I think other people around me were kind of staring at me (it had been pretty quiet up until this point) but I didn’t care. Seeing my dad was a total boost and it made me so happy! Our pace during this time was 8:47, 8:52, and 8:29. Still a little too fast, but it was an improvement.
Miles 7 – 8: This part of the race was all really lovely and wonderful. I was in my happy place as I ran along, waved at the spectators (including the nice woman who was handing out bananas), and enjoyed the gorgeous day. During this point I was just thinking about how well everything was going and how I was so happy I could do this. I wish I had some photos of this part of the race, because it really was so pretty. I started getting a little more tired right before mile nine, so I ate another couple of sport beans. Our pace during this time was 8:57, and 9:07, right on target.
Miles 9-10: All of mile nine took place over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which was kind of cool but also kind of awful. The whole first half was uphill, and I saw a couple of people around us start to walk. This is really where I had to start digging deep and forcing myself to keep going. Luckily the views were really nice (you could see all the Washington monuments in the distance) so I focused on that and said a few mantras to myself to keep going.
At the halfway point in the bridge we started running downhill, which was lovely. Once again, I was feeling great.
At mile 10 we were over the bridge and had arrived in the National Harbor area, where we could hear the people celebrating at the finish line. Cruel tease. We still had 3.1 miles to go.
We continued running around the National Harbor, which included a bunch of nasty hills. Ugh. At least there were a ton of spectators at this point (including my dad again!!!) which was really nice. I totally fed off their support. Thank God for spectators.
Our pace for these miles was 9:23 and 9:21. Oops. Good thing we were a little fast in the beginning. I kept an obsessive watch over our pace and knew we were still doing ok, so I wasn’t too worried.
Miles 11 – 13: This part was SO hard. I would say the majority of this section was hills, and by this point we had finished running by all the gorgeous trees and water were mostly passing parking lots and office buildings (at least that’s what it felt like; I have no idea what we actually ran past). We saw some spectators but they were more spread out at this point, and we passed a bunch of water stops. I grabbed water at them all.
I’ll be honest and say that I had a really, really hard time during this section and at times I just wanted to stop. I actually did stop to walk for a few seconds during one particularly awful hill, but I didn’t feel too bad since a bunch of other people stopped to walk too. I knew we didn’t have too much time to spare though if we wanted to stick to our goal, so after just a few seconds of walking I picked it back up again.
Fabio was such a great support for me during this time and whenever I was struggling I would squeeze his arm (um, this happened a lot) and he would give me words of encouragement. I don’t know what I would have done without him.
There was one part of the race that wasn’t paved and was kind of gravelly, which kind of messed with my stride. It was fine, just a little annoying.
Once we got closer to the end, the number of spectators increased, and I thought the finish line must be right ahead. Surely it’s right around this corner. Nope. More spectators. It has to be right over this hill. Nope. On, and on, and on it went. TORTURE!!
I really, really had to dig deep during this part, and it felt like the hardest thing I’ve ever done to keep going. Ugh. Our pace during these miles was 9:17, 10:11 (this is where I stopped to walk), and 9:01.
Mile 13.1: Eventually we saw the final line of spectators, including my dad, my mom, and my stepdad. I felt like crying.
YAYYYYY!!! A new personal record!! I was so thrilled that we met our goal of running the half in under two hours. I instantly saw my parents but told them I needed a minute because I felt like I might faint or fall down. My legs were so wobbly and I had lost some control over them. I sat on the ground while Fabio got me a water and a banana, and after a few minutes I felt much better. Then I happily went over to join my family 🙂
Having my family there with me made such a difference in my run, and I got so much joy from seeing them. Every time I saw a familiar face I felt SO happy and it gave me a little more strength to keep going. I love my family so much, and am so blessed that they could come out to cheer us on (especially considering it’s about an hour from where they live and was pretty early in the morning on a Sunday).
After hanging around for a few more minutes, we left in search of breakfast and met up with Fabio’s sister who came to cheer us on as well, but missed us finishing due to some train delays 🙁 Either way, it was nice having her there for breakfast, and all of us had a great time together.
We wound up eating at a nearby Westin that was right next to the race course, and while we ate we were able to watch the rest of the racers finish up. It was really cool to continue watching people run even after we had finished.
I was pretty much on cloud nine at this point, and the mimosa and huge stack of pancakes I enjoyed made it even better 🙂
Overall I would sum this race up as being one of the most amazing, and hard, experiences of my life. I loved and hated it so much, haha!
Question of the day: What’s a time when your family made a huge impact on an important event in your life?