RnR USA Half Marathon Race Report

When I signed up for the Rock n’ Roll USA Half Marathon several months ago at the start of my (first ever) Boston Marathon training cycle, I could not have been more excited about the race for a lot of reasons.  Here are some of them…

#1 — My good friend and fellow Nuun Hood to Coast teammate Molly was traveling here all the way from Ohio to run it with me!!  She is one of those people I felt destined to know from the second we met.  I feel like we are old friends even though we have hung out in person all of two times in our lives, both of which happened within the last 8 months.  We clicked from the instant we met and I am so grateful for her friendship, the memories we have made in such a short time and for all of the good times I know we have ahead of us in our lives.

me & molly ~ big smiles at hood to coast

As it so happens, we are also “pace twins” – all of our workouts and long runs this training cycle (I am coaching her for a seriously awesome Eugene Marathon!) have been spot on – almost exactly the same times!  We were both so pumped to run this race together and imagined motivating one another to epic personal bests on race day.  I couldn’t wait.

#2 — I ran the full marathon at RnR USA last year and this is where I achieved my first BQ time, finishing it in 3:34.  The race just holds a special place in my heart for this reason and it always will.  I was excited to experience the half marathon, even though I knew they were making some changes to the course and that it would be even hillier and more challenging than last year.

RnR USA Marathon – 2012

#3 — I love the half marathon distance.  Truthfully.  I think the 10 mile and half marathon distances are my very favorites.

#4 — I was pretty sure that no matter how things went down on race day, I would set a new personal best in this distance.  My old PR was a 1:43:02, set well over a year ago.  I was pretty certain I would run faster than that even if I wasn’t having the best race.

#5 — This training cycle has been “wonky” for me.  I’ve been running strong times and have had great workouts and long runs, but there has been a lot of self doubt nonetheless due to illnesses and a fall on the trails that left me feeling out of whack and nervous about my running.  I was ready to race – to prove to myself that I am strong and ready for Boston.

And then, about a week before the race, I started getting a cold.  Sore throat, tightness in my chest and I just felt tired.  Ugh.  I dropped my mileage considerably last week (from 80 miles the week before down to 50 miles) in order to taper a little for the race and the extra rest was good for my body. Instead of a normal track workout with intervals, on Wednesday I practiced my goal race pace (6:50) and found that it felt easy and comfortable – which was just how I wanted it to feel.  The week progressed and I didn’t really feel worse.  I still had a lot of tightness and congestion in my chest, but I felt strong enough to race.  The cough I couldn’t kick was more annoying than anything else.

Molly arrived on Thursday afternoon and we were so excited!!  I loved introducing her to my family – my husband and kids adored her and were so thrilled to finally meet her after so many months of me talking about her.  And I was so excited to be introducing her to my “running family” too – the Honey Badgers – and showing her around my town and all of my favorite running spots.

Molly & Me ~ reNUUNited

On Friday morning we all went out for a 4 mile easy run and grabbed coffee together afterwards.  The pre-race excitement was in the air.  We were all looking forward to a great day on Saturday – me and Molly would be racing the half, and my sister Jodi, Terri and Maddie were all running the full.

running + coffee = honey badger heaven

Saturday morning came and we all felt READY.  It was a little chaotic getting to the race start this year.  I paid $20 for a parking spot at the Finish and we took the Metro from there to the race start on Constitution.  I have to say I really liked the set up from last year better – when the Start & Finish were both at the Armory.  We made it to the Start with maybe 10 minutes to spare and all of us needed to pee BADLY.  The lines were insanely long and there were very few port-o-potties available up by our corral.  We finally decided to duck behind a building and used the big trash bags we had brought in case of rain to make a little “ladies room” so people couldn’t see us peeing so easily!  Kind of hilarious when I think back on it, but every race has it’s own share of adventure for me, especially when it comes to using the bathroom, and this one would be no exception apparently!

I think all of us felt a little anxious before the gun went off.  I know I did.  Going into the race Molly knew she was going to have to make a bathroom stop at some point and I was nervous about my chest cold and recovering from my fall last month.  We felt really rushed getting there and all of a sudden it was time to RACE and my emotions were all over the place.

The gun went off for our Corral and we started running.  The plan was to run the first two miles right around a 7:00 pace and then pick up to the 6:50 range through Mile 10 – at which point we would race the last 5k ALL OUT.  We knew there would be hills around miles 5-7, but were okay with slowing down there to save our effort for a strong finish.

Except … things just didn’t go quite as planned pretty much right from the start.

Molly and I were separated before the first mile marker when she stopped for the bathroom.  I felt strong at my pace but was sad that we weren’t together and hoped she would catch up to me quickly.  I saw her at the out-and-back across the Memorial Bridge (around Mile 3, I think) and she yelled to me that she was at least 2 minutes behind me because of her bathroom stop.  That was a HUGE bummer.  I was running a smart race though, and felt strong despite the disgusting postnasal drip that was making me feel nauseous and causing me to cough every now and then.  I was in the zone though and tried to focus on the positives.

It was working.

Miles 1-4 ~ 6:59, 6:46, 6:46, 6:52

Just as I was approaching the 5 Mile marker as we got onto the Rock Creek Parkway, I felt my stomach cramp.  I needed a bathroom and thankfully there was a row of potties behind the water stop on the other side of the road.  I knew I would lose time going up there, but I didn’t care.  I was beyond annoyed and disappointed that I was having tummy issues for this race, but thankfully I knew what to do about them.  I couldn’t let it get to me and had to move on.

It was what it was.

Mile 5 ~ 7:31

I lost some time – but I got right back on pace and did my best to make up for it.   There were some rolling hills but nothing major.

Mile 6 ~ 6:52

And then, about a quarter of the way through the 7th mile, I saw THE HILL.  I wasn’t expecting it to look or feel so giant.  Or to last forever.  As I climbed it, I felt like a huge slug.  I told myself over and over to just sustain the effort and not worry about how slow I was going.  I would be STRONG at the top and have lots of energy to make up for the lost time.  I made the mistake of glancing at my watch though and saw a 9:20 pace.

** Note to self – do NOT look at your watch as you are climbing hills in a race.  Totally a bad idea. **

When I crested the hill – finally! – I was so pumped to get on pace again, but I felt really off for the next few miles and couldn’t get back on pace.  There were more hills and I wasn’t expecting them.  I felt nauseous and was coughing a lot.  Mentally and emotionally I just didn’t feel so positive.  I swear we looked at the elevation chart and thought the hills were not going to be bad and that they would pretty much be over with by the 7th mile.  Wrong.  This irritated me!

Miles 7-9 ~ 7:49 (monster hill), 7:08, 7:01

Mile 10 came and I finally felt like myself again.  Determination set in and I wanted so badly to finish strong.  I focused in on all of the things that felt GOOD.  My legs felt so strong – especially after the crazy month I’d had since my fall, this was really awesome news for me.  The weather was perfect – we thought it was going to rain but it didn’t even rain a drop.  Molly was here and I would see her again soon!!  I thought about my sister Jodi who was running the full marathon – her first since having two knee surgeries and dealing with two very scary blood clots in her calf – I was SO proud of her.

I told myself to find that GEAR – to kick it in and finish with all that I had.  Mile 12 was hilly again – which frustrated me because I didn’t want to slow down! – but the way I run hills is by even effort because I don’t want to get to the top feeling like death.  So that mile was slower once again.

Miles 10-13 ~ 6:51, 6:57, 7:18 (hillllls), 6:52

The finish of this race is a HILL (of course!) and comes up and around a big turn.  My pace for the last .1 was a 7:07.  As soon as I crossed I began coughing uncontrollably and the reality of what I had just done – set a half marathon PR by 10 minutes on a really hard course with a time of 1:33:48 – while fighting a terrible cold and making a pit stop for the bathroom – hit me.  Whoa.

Aaaand about 40ish seconds later, Molly finished right behind me!  I couldn’t believe that she came all this way and we ran our races within less than a minute of one another and didn’t run more than a quarter mile of it side by side!  So it goes!

together again!!

As we were getting ourselves settled and ready to go back to the car to change into dry clothes so we could stick around to see my sister and the other honey badgers finish their races, my family popped up and surprised us.  Robert had brought all three kids downtown for the finish and surprised me!  I wasn’t expecting them because the weather forecast was so bleak, but since it wasn’t raining after all he decided to come down.  This made me so happy.

My sister Jodi’s family was there too, along with several of our good friends – our “running family.”

Dora & Michiel!

We all camped out by the Finish and saw Maddie come through next.  She ROCKED the full marathon in 3:17!!  We cheered our heads off for her and were so proud of her as she came around the turn to cross the finish line!!  Maddie fought so hard to the very end of this difficult race – and never gave up.  Seeing her finish made my heart swell – we have trained together for almost an entire year and have never really raced together or seen one another race.  I loved being there to support her – to see my friend so strong and so beautiful during the final moments of a race.  These are the moments we work so hard for, the moments we lift one another up for.  I was so grateful to be there to witness her do this amazing thing.

Maddie & Kevin after the finish!

We’d been tracking Jodi and Terri and knew they would finish within minutes of one another.  As Jodi came around the turn we all got so excited.  Dora jumped in to run with her and tell her how awesome she was!

Gus cheering for his Aunt Jojo!!

As I saw my sister running towards the finish, tears filled my eyes.  I don’t really have the words to tell you guys how proud I am of my sister.  She loves running SO MUCH.  Last year she fell while skiing and tore her ACL badly.  She had to have ACL surgery twice and developed blood clots in her calf that were very dangerous.  She was on blood thinners and so much pain medication.  Her journey to return to running over the past year has been a battle and she never once considered giving up.  My sister is a pillar of strength.  She is so composed.  So strong.  So determined.  She ran her marathon in 4:23:12 and is a complete and total rock star in my book!!

Jodi has taught me so much about courage and dignity and honoring what matters most to you and what is in your heart.  She has taught me to never give up on myself, on the people I love or on what I believe in.  Not just by what she did this past year or on Saturday, but by how she lives her life every single day – Saturday was just another shining example of her character.  I am so proud she is my sister.  So grateful.

post-race sistah love!

A few minutes later Terri came around the corner – stoic and strong AS ALWAYS.  Terri is training for the North Face 50 Miler and was using this race as a 26.2 mile training run.  So awesome!!!

As we headed back home after such an amazing morning and day and I reflected on the race … the thing that stuck out the most to me was how blessed I am to have such amazing people in my life.  My family – in particular my husband – is so supportive of my running and the huge role that this sport plays in my life.  And my “running family” is just that – the people who have come into my life because of this sport are so much more than just people I run with – they are true friends and will be for all of my life whether we are running marathons or not.

We are there for one another through thick and thin.

One other really incredible thing that happened on Saturday was that my brother-in-law Simon, as he watched for Jodi to finish, witnessed a truly incredible thing and was able to capture it on camera.  You may have read the story and seen the picture he took on Runners World

How incredible is that?  What an amazing example of how awesome runners are, and what a wonderful community of people we have in this sport!!

I’ve been feeling pretty lousy this week.  I went to the doctor on Tuesday after another sleepless and painful night and found out that I actually have a double ear infection!  It has been a hard week for me and today is the third day in a row that I haven’t run a single mile.  But, I am trusting that my body must need the rest.  That I have to get better and that in order to do that I’ve got to honor what my body is telling me.  It is HARD, trust me – this is at the height of my Boston training – but I know that once I am better I will get right back into the swing of things.  I’m telling myself that each and every day… and am doing my best to focus on all the good things around me.  Because really, there is just SO MUCH to be thankful for and so much to look forward to!

And as awful as I feel, I am reminded every day of how lucky I am to be a surrounded by so much love.

21 thoughts on “RnR USA Half Marathon Race Report

  1. I love this! I love your description of Molly that you were “meant to be friends” and your words about your running family and your sister. It gave me chills reading your words about Maddie's race finish. Congrats on a big PR on a tough course. I hope you feel better soon! xoxo

  2. What a great story, you have so many amazing people around you and what an inspiring race story! I'm so sorry you're not feeling well, I know you will bounce back and have an amazing race in Boston! I'm so excited!!! We're going to Boston! I don't care if I crawl across the finish line, it's going to be such an amazing experience!

  3. Great race report! So cool to get to see the little ones at the end of the race, isn't it? JD surprised me by getting the kids out to the 12 and 20 mile marks for me, and I wasn't expecting to see them until the end.

  4. What a great recap! Love seeing the pics of you and Molly! You two are fabulous.

    I wish I could hug you and take the ear infections away. Maybe you need tubes in your ears…worked for baby E. 🙂

    Congrats on an amazing time. That's amazing! You're amazing!

  5. Wow you are a beast!! What a great race overcoming the hard course and a cold. Love that you have such a great running twin. I love my run buds too. It truly makes races and goals so much more worthwhile to be able to share them with friends who are just as happy as you are when you get them and vice versa.

  6. Such an amazing post! PRs, friendships & family…it sounds like the perfect weekend! Not only does running create unique, one of a kind friendships, NUUN seems to have a special gift to bring people together and create lasting bonds! So excited for you to run Boston!!!

  7. Wow – what a great PR! congrats! I was really encouraged by the story of your sister running the marathon not even a year after acl surgery…I'm having this done in a few weeks and face 6 months of not running so hearing that your sister ran a full marathon is so inspiring!

  8. What an incredible story and an incredible day all around. Congrats Jess on a HUGE PR!! So so happy for you! And your sister? Absolutely amazing. Having gone through ACL surgery as well last year, I cannot even imagine training and running a marathon right now. She is an incredible inspiration.

  9. I just got choked up as you wrote about your sister crossing the finish line! I have seen my sister cross the marathon finish line several times, and it never loses its significance. Congratulations to you for a great race!

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