Thursday, May 30, 2013

Race Re-cap: Marine Corps Historic Half

I really looked forward to the Historic Half because there were a large number of my fellow running club members attending the race from all over the country.  Most of the members were from the VA/DC/MD area, but we had one fly in from Cali and another drive down from Canada.  The club started in 2011 because a few first time runners in MCM were looking for other first timers for support and encouragement.  After MCM 2011 the club stayed in tact because they built relationships and it has grown from there.  I imagine that MCM weekend will always be huge with our club.  Anyway, the Historic Half was a weekend event and was a little preview for the Marine Corps Marathon reunion we'll have in October.

Pre-Wedding Shakeout Run:
On Saturday, May 18th one of our running club members, Elizabeth, was getting married.  She decided to set up a group run with whoever could make it out to DC that morning.  We met at the Smithsonian metro stop and ran around the Mall.  I arrived just on time and was so happy to see some of my fellow runners and friends there to join in the fun.  One of our runners who lives in Minnesota, Bob, was even there.  It was such a fun surprise to see him.  I didn't know he was coming and he and Jeremy, another RFRC member, had set up the surprise.  I was more confused than anything because I thought I just missed him name on the list of runners.  I didn't realize at first that it was a surprise.

When Elizabeth arrived we were all there and ready to run.  She was so surprised to Bob and a little emotional by the fact that she was also getting married that evening and she got teary eyed.  It was a sweet moment to witness.  I have to say that even though I've only known most of these runners for a short time, we are like family.  Running has really bonded us all in a special way that is hard to describe.

Due to time, we only ended up running 1.5 miles.  It was one of the funnest runs I've done.  We had a great time talking, laughing and running.  Most of the group are fast runners, but the pace they kept was manageable for me so I was happy to be able to keep up.  When it was time to go we said our congratulations to Elizabeth and we were off.  I ended up catching a ride to where my car was with Jeremy, his wife Handan and Bob.  I was happy to spend the time with them.  After I arrived home I got my things together and drove down to Fredericksburg, VA.  It took about 2.5 hours because of traffic.  There's ALWAYS traffic :(

Packet Pick-up:
The Marines are really great at organizing their races so I knew the packet pick up process would be smooth and it was.  After I got my number and race shirt I texted a fellow club member, Ed, who I knew was still at the expo.  I met up with him and we walked around the expo.  There were the usual vendors I'm used and, of course, One More Mile (my favorite).  I've seen the worker at several expos so I asked him his name (Maurice or Maurico...I forget which one) so I can say hello properly next time.  I love their products.  Not only are they affordable, they are good quality and their slogans are funny.  I bought a visor from them that says "WTF!" on the front, which in the runner world stands for "where's the finish."  I also have a shirt from them with that same slogan.

I have gotten really into visors lately.  I bought one at the Cherry Blossom expo in April and love it.  It's better than hats because I can wear my hair the way I'm used to.  I also like the way they block the sun.  I always wear a headband, but I think in the summer months I will start wearing the visors more because I want to protect my eyes and face from the sun.  I wanted to buy a MCM visor so I went back to the official race gear section and picked up a MCM visor and a drinking glass with the Historic Half logo.  I bought one last year from MCM so I thought it would be fun to have another one.  Unfortunately, when I got home I realized I bought a MCM 10k visor and not a historic half one :(  After those two stops I quickly left because I knew I'd spend way too much money if I walked around.

Pre-Race Dinner:
Red Felt Runners who came to the dinner
Bob and me!  He cracks me up. I didn't
even realize he was doing that until I
saw the picture.   He's a ladies man.
Since there were so many runners from our club doing Historic Half we decided to meet up for dinner.  I ran into Bob at my hotel lobby and he hadn't had a ride arranged yet so we rode together.  We set up the dinner with a nearby restuarant, Roma's Italian Restaurant, ahead of time so we would have a place for all of us to eat and also to make sure we wouldn't have to wait.  I think in the end they were still a little overwhelmed by us.  It was not in downtown Fredericksburg because we figured those places would be full of runners.  We had our own private area.  It was great.
I saw the flag free for a
moment and had to take a pic

They had an area in the back ready for us when we arrived. These pre-race events have been wonderful.  As a running club most of our interaction is on our Facebook group page.  We try to set up pre-race meet and greets on race mornings before races where there are more than one of us running, but usually that's just a few minutes and you don't really get a chance to get to know someone.  The dinners and other events give us the time to talk more.  I had a great time at the dinner.  The food was pretty good too.  I did have a little issue with my meal at first because they brought out baked ziti with meat sauce, but they were quick to make it vegetarian it for me.  Other than that, it was a really fun time.  After the dinner a few of the folks went to play corn hole, but I wanted to get back and get some sleep.  The race started early and I wanted to make sure I was as well rested as possible.

Race Day:
I had such a great experience with dedicating my run for the Nike Women's half that I wanted to dedicate my Historic Half run too.  I decided to run in honor of Larraine.  She is also in my running club and recently found out that her cancer has returned.  She is a really fun girl and I wanted to dedicate my run to her.  She also ran a race that weekend. She is a tough chick!

On race morning I set my alarm for 4:15am!  The race started at 7am and I had to get ready, eat and to drive to our pre-race meetup spot by 6am.  I have a pre-race ritual and it's a slow process.  I like to have at least 45 minutes to an hour to wake up and get ready.  Bob and I decided we'd ride together to the race and arranged an early meet up at 5:15am.  It was a lot earlier than necessary, but it's better to be early than rushed.  There are always pre-race nerves and I don't want to add to it by being late.

I made it to the lobby in time and Bob was there waiting.  We chatted for a bit and ended up meeting a girl named Lisa, who was also running.  She ended up riding with us because we were all going to the same place and coming back to the same place.  We also ran into Tod, another club member, on our way out and he hoped in my car too.  Tod and I were planning to run together anyway so there was no reason to take a lot of cars.  He had a recent injury and needed to take it slow and I wanted to run at an 11:30 pace, which is what he wanted to do, so he said he'd help pace me.  On the drive over we talked about the club with Lisa and how awesome it was and she ended up becoming a member too!  That was fun.  I think after the weekend was over between all of us there, we recruited 5 new members.
RFRC members who made the pre-race meetup

We met our fellow RFRC runners at the VA Runner store, chatted for a bit, took some photos and then walked to the start.  I was talking to Marie, an RFRC member (of course), on the way.  We decided to make our pit stop at the hotel near the start line.  Why use the portapotties if you don't have to?  While we were waiting in line a guest of the hotel, who was also racing, let us use her room instead.  It was so nice.  I love runners!  If I was alone I wouldn't do that, but since Marie was with me I felt safe.

Marie and I before the start. I wore
a headband that said "Semper Fi,"
which is the Marines slogan.
Marie and I headed to the start and met back up with Tod, Jennifer and a few other runners in our group who were in similar pace groups.  As we started we quickly lost each other, but I stayed with Jennifer and Tod the entire race.  Well, we ended up losing Jennifer around mile 10 because she had to make a quick stop.  They were great running partners.  They helped me push through and keep the pace I wanted for the most part.  I think Tod would have been a little faster without me, especially toward the end when I was getting tired, but he stayed with me the whole time.  If I had followed his advice and not stopped as much as I did toward the end we probably would have made our time goal.  The course was not flat and was pretty challenging.  It had several small, rolling hills and then from miles 10-12 there are larger, more significant hills.  You can read Tod's race recap on his blog.  I like reading his blog and race re-caps.  They are a lot more brief than mine.  Sometimes I'm too wordy and give too many details, but that's just me.  My blog is like a journal for me and a way to keep track of my progress.  If can also provide feedback to people who might be considering a race.

My running buddies, Tod and
Jennifer, at the starting line
One of the coolest parts of the race was at mile 5 or 6.  I ended up running into one of the runners that I finished the Marine Corps Marathon with last year.  I was really struggling the last 6 miles of MCM and spent those last miles with Max and another gentleman (I forgot his name).  Just the day before I was telling some friends about how thankful I was for them and how much they helped me get through the race.  I had neglected to get their contact information so you can imagine my excitement when I ran into him.  After spotting him I went up to him and asked, "Did you run Marine Corps last
Max & I at MCM 2012
year?"  He said yes, and then said, "Amy!"  We gave a quick hug and chatted for a moment.  I took his race number and name and said I would look him up afterwards, but had to move on because I was going for a race PR.  We wished each other well and I caught back up with Tod and Jennifer.  It was so cool to run into him. Out of 7,500+ runners I ran into Max.  How awesome is that?  He will be doing MCM again and I'm hoping to get him to join our club.  Unfortunately, since the race I haven't been able to track him down on Facebook.  I even emailed the race directors asking them to forward him my contact information, but nothing has happened yet.  I'm determined though and hope to reconnect before MCM.

We did it!
The course is not easy I mentioned before and the most challenging parts are in the last few miles.  When we hit Hospital Hill (the biggest hill on the course) I was struggling.  The hill wasn't as bad as I thought, but it was still hard and after 11 miles even small hills are a challenge.  For the most part we did a fairly decent job maintaining our interval on the hills (except a couple times I extended the walks a little).  At one point when I wanted to walk, Tod was encouraging me to run up to the top.  I didn't want to, but I thought about Larraine.  I told him that if she can fight cancer I can run up this hill and we did.  Knowing I was running in her honor helped keep me going when it got tough.  She is a fighter and I have no good excuse to be a wuss and walk up hills, even if I'm tired!

I wore my sign on my back
My goal for the race was to finish in 2.5 hours, which would be an 11:27/mile pace.  Keep in mind that 3 weeks before I had a kick ass PR where I shaved 18 minutes off my half marathon time and that was on a flat course.  This course was not flat.  We ended up crossing the finish line at 2:33:23, which was 20 seconds faster than Nike.  Even though I didn't quite meet my goal, I am very happy with my time.  It was a pretty rough finish too.  I have been struggling with side stitches (like a cramp) on many of my runs lately so I was not surprised that I was having issues on this run.  For the most part the stitch appeared during miles 8-10, but I dealt with it.  It went away and then re-appeared during mile 12, right when Tod and I were trying to pick up the pace.  I've learned to deal with the pain and push on, except it makes it really hard to breath deeply.  Usually I will have to stop and walk when it gets bad.  I wanted to sprint and run faster, but couldn't get a deep breath in and I was feeling out of breath.  It was so annoying.  We ended up having to take a couple extra walk breaks during mile 12, which is not something I wanted to do, but it helped.  It allowed me to catch my breath enough to make a sprint for the finish.  The last sprint was hard though because the stitch was still there.  When we crossed the line I told Tod that I was still having trouble breathing right and he said, "We're done, you don't have to breath anymore!"  It was great.  Thankfully it took a little walking and a few deep, painful breaths and I was as good as new.  We picked up our post race drinks and snacks and headed to the beer tent where we suspected we'd find other Red Felters that were already done.

RFRC members who were at the finish when Tod and I arrived
We did end up running into a good number of Red Felters at the beer tent and were able to take some post-race photos. It was nice because most of the time I'm slower than most of them so I usually end up being on my own at the finish.  I was with Tod and knew I'd have to find Bob and Lisa since they rode with me, but it was a great surprise that so many other Felters were still hanging around.  The fact that it was warm enough outside to hang out contributed to the longer celebrations.

All in all it was a great race.  I took more time off my PR, even if it's seconds.  I am improving.  I still wish I was faster, but as my new running coach says, "patience grasshopper."  I have to keep on moving and working and the time will continue to come off.  Aside from having a good time, I had a great weekend.  I really enjoyed spending time with other Red Felters.  I've wrote it before and I'm sure I'll write it again, but the Red Felt Running Club is filled with amazing people.  I ended up riding back up to Northern VA with Bob because he was at my hotel and was going to be staying in a town near where I live so it just made sense.  We went to lunch after we were ready to go and had great conversation.  I'm glad he was able to make a surprise visit for this race.  I enjoyed his company.  When we arrived back to Herndon where he was staying we spent some more time with Jeremy and Handan.  They are great!  It was nice to relax and chat for a bit, but I sure was ready for a nap!
On our way to our car we ran into Joni and her son, other
Felters in our club so we had to take a photo :)  From L to R:
Tod, Joni, Tazman, Bob, Lisa (our new recruit) and me

For the Marine Corps Marathon in October many of us will be staying in the same hotel.  I know I live close, but I decided to book a room because there will be a lot going on that weekend and I don't want to have to go back and forth, especially after the race.  If I go home after the marathon I will not be wanting to drive back to DC for evening festivities.  Plus, being close to a hotel that I can shower and nap in after I complete 26.2 miles is very appealing.  One of our club members set up a room block at the Key Bridge Marriott, which is close to the finish line, and I believe we have reserved 40 rooms or so.  There are also many other Felters at surrounding hotels.  It's going to be an amazing weekend and the Historic Half was just a little preview.  I can't wait.  Now, it's time to start training!!
Me and Molly, the MCM mascot.  You can
see Bob partially photo bombing my picture!

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