Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Team in Training - Nike Women's Half Marathon 2014

Nike Women's Half DC 2014

As I sit down to write this post, I still can't believe how amazing everything about the Nike Women's Half this year was! I ran this race last year on my own (you can read that post here), but after the amazing time I had doing my first triathlon (here's that post) with Team in Training, I knew I had to be with TNT for Nike this year! First, I am so proud of my team, OUT FOR BLOOD! We raised over $13,000 to help in the fight against blood cancer. My team worked hard both in training AND in fundraising. It was really inspiring to witness!! And thank you to everyone who donated to me and to my team!!! Most of the team is even on board for next year too!! But before I start running on about plans for next year, let's recap the events leading up to the race.


Nike made one big improvement this year over last year, they had early packet pick up locations. One of the things that Nike does a little differently from other races (say, Rock'n'Roll and even Potomac River Running), is that they don't assign you your number until you go to packet pick up. This allows them to have multiple locations going on at the same time. A very good move on their part! I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the Nike Expotique (which, by the way, is not a race expo. It is just packet pick up and a chance for Nike and the select other sponsors to showcase themselves. I actually like it, but am glad that not all races do this, because I love my expo-sale find jackets!) with everything else that I had going on. So Reid came with me to Potomac River Running in Fairfax on April 18th to pick up my number and race shirt!

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Luckily, I was able to head down to Georgetown with my mom, like we did last year, to go to the Nike store, check out the race merchandise, pick up her number, and hang out at the Expotique! Last year my mom and I got awesome, bright green 1/2 zip running tops, and we were both bummed that it said online that they were out of the turquoise and only had black and purple left. But when we got to the store, they actually had turquoise! It was an awesome surprise, followed by my mom grabbing mine from me saying "I'll get yours, it's a tradition!"

We milled around the store for a bit, then headed up to the actual packet pick up and Expotique, stopping for tons of photos along the way! (Along with the super cute outfit that I wore, and then wasn't able to do outfit shots of because there was torrential rain after work...)

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Saturday before the race I slept in and then Reid and I took a walk with Penny to get coffee before I had to head to work to coach a swim meet. I was trying to keep off my feet as much as possible, but at a swim meet, it's really hard! Then we had our swim team banquet... and I danced... and danced... and danced! I couldn't help it!! The kids love that I love making a fool out of myself on the dance floor AND the DJ played all of my favorite line dance songs (mostly the Cupid Shuffle!). I stopped myself after about 40 minutes, realizing that I might pay for it the next day during the race!

I had trouble falling asleep on Saturday night. But I have realized that the night before the race isn't as important as the two nights leading up to the race. So I wasn't stressed. I just tried to stay relaxed, even if I wasn't really sleeping.

I got up at 4:30, took care of Penny, got ready for the race and was out the door to meet Crescent by 4:55. We met at East Falls Church (even though I kept saying West Falls Church to her and that's where she went originally... So stupid of me!) so that she could metro home from the race when she was done. We got a great parking spot, but unfortunately parted ways pretty early so that I could meet up with my team. (She had a great race though!)

Nike Women's Half DC 2014

Let me tell you, the difference of running this race (which is specifically to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) with Team is Training, vs just as a participant, is AMAZING!!! We had our own bag check and tent right on Freedom Plaza. It was nice to have a warmer meeting place with tables before heading to our start corrals. And of course, we took some pictures!

Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Kerry, Michele, Kristin, Joanna, Me, and Mary (my mom) (we didn't meet up with Elli until after the photos)

...And the tutu's...

We had all joked about dressing up for this race during training runs, but it wasn't until each of us were doing our final fundraising pushes that we started telling people we would wear "ridiculous sparkle skirts" during the race if we hit our goals. But then the awful magazine made that horrible comment about the amazing ladies of Glam runner, so we decided that tutus were the way to go, even if we couldn't get them from Glam Runner, since they were back ordered! Kristin made her's, Joanna got her's from Party City, and I ordered mine, Michele's, and Kerry's from Amazon.

With photo's done for the morning, we all headed to our respective starting corrals, since Nike wanted everyone lined up 20 minutes before the official start. I don't remember if I had signed myself up for this corral, or if it was assigned to me, but I ended up in the first corral. The sub 7:59 pace group!

Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Nike Women's Half DC 2014

I was a little nervous lining up for the race, since I had just had an... intense experience at the Rock'n'Roll Raleigh half marathon, that aside from the emotional aspect, physical challenge of the hilly course, and then the exhausting drive home, landed me in a boot in between the races. My nerves weren't really calmed when I lined up with all the "serious" looking runners. I was definitely the only person in the first corral (maybe even in the second which was 8:00-8:59) who was wearing a tutu! But when I found Walking Tom, from my Team in Training group, it took my mind off of my nerves and helped me get a little excited! It was actually his 11th Nike event, so he's got a great collection of necklaces!

Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Me and Walking Tom

Then I took some selfies, as I do at every race, and listened to the pre-race announcements. I was SUPER excited when Shalane came out! She is the reason I started wearing compression knee socks when I race. I watched her first marathon (NYC) on TV in 2010 and thought she looked super cool. Since they're both stylish and functional, it totally works!

The speakers kept it short, which was nice, and the national anthem singer was really good! Then luckily, they merged the first three pace groups into the first wave (of three) starts. I thought I that I situated myself a little bit back, more toward the middle of the 8:00-8:59 group, but when the race started, it turns out I was only 12 seconds behind the gun!

Nike Women's Half DC 2014Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Nike Women's Half DC 2014

My original plan was to take the race out nice and easy. I had thought that it might be kinda cool to negative split the race. I have never actually done that... unless you count my "descend and die" in my full marathon last year, where I started slow, got faster, then slowed down. But when I realized that I was running with the 1:40 pace group for the first mile, I realized that plan was out the window! We actually came to mile 1 at about 7:32. I stuck with them for another half mile and then realized that I better start my intervals. I came to the 5k at my usual "take it out fast" 25:02.

I then focused on sticking with my 2 minute run, 45 second walk intervals to try to keep up the pace for the next 5k, which historically is my slowest. One of the TNT coaches saw me walking and caught up to me to check in. I explained that I do intervals and was okay, but it was super nice that she checked in with me! I hit the 10k split, feeling good, at 51:01. I thought at the time that it was a 10k PR, but it was just the second fastest 10k I have ever done (my PR, however is only 50:52 and was set in 2009, so pretty darn good!). As I kept going, I really relied on the TNT cheering groups, and everyone yelling "go tutu!" to carry my through.

I LOVED that every 1 1/2 - 2 miles a TNT coach would run with me for a minute or two! It was awesome, and unexpected, since that wasn't something that happened (probably due to USAT rules) during the triathlon! By the time I got to Mile 10, I knew I was doing okay, even though I was slowing down, because I was at about 1:24; faster than I have ever hit mile 10 in a half marathon. I switched my intervals at some point between mile 8-10 to 1:15 minute of running and 30 seconds of walking, though I was sometimes stretching my walk to 45 seconds. I know that if I had just slowed my run a little bit, I could have run for longer, but something gets in me that if I'm not passing on the run, I'm falling behind. That is something mentally that I need to work on!

When I hit the 20k mark I saw that the official clock was at 1:46 something, so I knew that I had to push to come close to my PR. I literally thought to myself "1k left, there is NO REASON this has to take more than 6 minutes!" Then about a minute or so later, someone jumped in the race with her friend and said "you're doing great, only about 4 minutes left!" There were 2 right turns left on the course, so I took a short walk during the straight between them and turned off my intervals for the run in to the finish. I think it was the longest push to the finish I have ever done.

I started by just running on pace with the other girls (because, let's face it, there weren't that many men running) and then I told my legs to pick it up. They tried, but they didn't have much to give. I passed a few people when I felt my stride change as my left leg tightened up, but I pushed harder. I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and felt my legs stop working as I started celebrating inside! My watch had me at a 1:52:01!!

Nike Women's Half DC 2014

Then came the good part! I just love the end of races, no matter what my time is, but celebrating a PR is one of the BEST feelings in the world! I texted Reid, who was at the finish, but didn't catch me, and headed to get my finisher bling!

Nike Women's Half DC 2014Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Nike Women's Half DC 2014

Not only did I meet up with Reid at the finish line, but my swimmers, Kerry and Michele's daughters, Ashley and Marissa found me! After a quick photo with them, Reid joined me in the finisher tent where they had coaches stretching people out, cell phone charging lockers, and face clothes, makeup, and mirrors for freshening up! What's funny, is that entering in to the tent I felt my face and though "damn, I forgot to pack my neutrogena face wipes" and they actually had them in there! I think next year, when I run even faster, I will take advantage of the pros and coaches stretching people out.

Then we headed up to get my gear. Originally we were going to go to Brunch with Zach and Cara, so Reid and I walked to meet them. Then they walked all the way back to the TNT tent, only to have me cancel on them because I wanted to wait for my whole team to finish. We did get a cute picture with them though!

Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Ashley, me, and Marissa
Nike Women's Half DC 2014
a photo from inside the finisher tent!
Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Reid, me, Cara (who also ran), and Zach (who ran to meet us, but didn't run the race)

I am so happy that I was able to meet up with my entire team after the race. My mom thought she was the last to finish on the team, but when I found her, I told her that I thought she was second, right behind me! She finished in a 2:34:47, feeling strong! She even said that she helped someone out on the course by running with them, just like last year. It's so funny, because my mom always talks about running being solitary for her and liking to do her own thing on the course, but she's always making friends out there and helping other people through! I think it's that she's conquered the mental part of running half marathons, so when she meets someone who is struggling through that part, she knows she can help by teaching them the magic of 1 and 1 intervals!

Sticking around to meet my team was totally worth it, because while I was waiting, I got interviewed for the Washington Running Report. And then I got to hear all about my team's amazing races! Joanna was close to her PR from over 2 years ago and after taking those 2 years off. Kristin dropped 12 minutes off of her PR from the Disney Princess! Elli enjoyed herself on the course, not sure if she ran with Liz D, but they were together at the finish! And Kerry and Michele stayed together, finishing and having fun.

Nearly the whole team is in for next year!

Nike Women's Half DC 2014
me and my cute little momma at the TNT finishers tent
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Me and Reid and my Nike arm party
Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Joanna, Mary, me, and Kristin
Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Ashley, me, Marissa, Michele, and Kerry
Nike Women's Half DC 2014
me, Liz D, and Elli

After the race, I spent the day lounging and enjoying the aftermath of my runners high! I still can't believe that I ran a PR in a tutu!! I can't wait for the rest of my races coming up in 2014, and of course to build an even bigger Team OUT FOR BLOOD for 2015.

And without further ado, the finisher's necklace!

Nike Women's Half DC 2014
Nike Women's Half DC 2014Nike Women's Half DC 2014
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photo from the Nike Facebook page

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