Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Diva's Wine Country Half Marathon - Pacing Allison for her Birthday!

Posing with the MRTT Reston/Herndon Chapter - yes, the let non-moms join!

After swearing that I would never do another race out in wine country, I signed up for the Diva's DC Wine Counrty Half Marathon since Allison (of Life's a Bowl) wanted to do it for her birthday! All in all, I have to say it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. But then again, I knew what to expect from 1)a race in VA wine country (I ran the Destination Races Virginia Wine Country Half in 2012 and it was a horrible experience), and 2)reports from last year's Diva's race. I was however, pleasantly surprised by some of the things about this race company, and while I won't do this particular Diva's race again, but I wouldn't rule out the organization all together.

The Good: The support. Diva's had at TON of water and a TON of medic support on the course. It was awesome how well stocked each water stop was. I also really liked the idea of a mostly female race and can see why a lot of people might choose a Diva's race for their first (either 5k or half). The course was well marked and fairly well staffed.

The Bad: The price. Not only was this race expensive, but I felt like they nickel and dime you along the way as well. You pay a pretty steep price for the entry fee (over $120) and then they want you to pay extra for VIP parking (which we did). So it was essentially more than $10 a mile for this race. And while the expo had plenty of clothing and cutesy stuff to offer, there wasn't anyone there selling gu or sport beans. I usually like to be able to pick up last minute race day nutrition at expos... so there's that. This is basically a race/expo/experience for women looking for a one and done race. Not an experienced runner.

The Ugly: The course. UGH! This was one of the most challenging half marathon courses I have ever run (and it was my 18th half). I feel really bad for the women that pick this Diva's race as their first half marathon. While I said I wouldn't rule out Diva's as and organization, I DO NOT recommend this race to anyone. In addition to the challenging hills, non-scenic scenery, and uneven terrain, it was an impossible course for spectators! Sure, there were some people out in the neighborhoods, but there were long stretches with nothing. I don't run for cheers, but they sure are nice towards the end of a half.

Bottom Line: Pick another race. Unless you're looking for a very expensive, well stocked, hill training run, then by all means - pick this race.

me and Allison before the start

Poor Allison! The entire week leading up to her birthday race I bugged her with texts like "what pace do you want to run?" and "what were you thinking you wanted to finish in?" While she maintained the entire time that she just wanted to "stay injury free and have fun." Which is actually the perfect way to go into ANY race!! From texting back and forth we decided we'd go for around a 9:30 average pace to hit right around 2:05, unless it felt really good or really bad, then we'd re-evaluate. I had originally said that I'd pace her to a PR (sub 1:55) for her birthday, but after hearing about the course, Allison's bad experience with the Leesburg 20k, and my own injury, I didn't want to risk anything bad happening just 4 weeks out from the Marine Corps Marathon.

Basically, if a race happens out side of Reston, I'm a stressball about it. I'm worried about being late, about making sure I have enough time to hit up the portapotty several times, and about the course. So, when they said that we had to be parked by 6:15 (for a 7:30am start time), I took that to mean that we needed to leave Reston at 4 am. Crazy, right? I forced myself to calm down and say 4:30, but then Allison needed a ride, so Jackie met me at my house at 4:30 and then we went to get Allison. It put us right behind the MRTT girls that left Herndon at 5:30, so for all my worrying, things were fine!

We spent about 45 minutes in the car, taking walk breaks to go back and forth to the potties twice, then headed to the start area around 7am. Of course, once we got to the starting area, I had to jump in the potty line again. I don't know what it is about a race, but it makes me have to pee every 10 minutes before it starts!

Then it was time to join the girls of MRTT (Mom's Run This Town - a FREE running club of all women that are AMAZING and welcoming, even though I'm not a mom! It's awesome!!) for some group photos! (like the one at the top of the post). When we lined up in the starting waves, I think a lot of us were anxious to get started. They did a count down to the start several times, and then had us all do the cupid shuffle (which you know I LOVE!!), then counted us down again and we were off!

me and Allison in front of the start
Allison snapped these within the first mile or so of the race

The second the race started our "take it out easy and run a 2:05" flew out the window. Allison and I ran a lot of the first mile, hitting it just under 9 minutes. Since it felt relatively good, we changed to our intervals of 90:30 seconds and kept our run pace quick. Even with the challenging hills of the course, we stayed under an 8:45 pace for the next 5 miles.

Those hills though! My ankle was really tight and quite painful through mile 2 or 3. I remember really feeling it, wondering if I could even finish the race, and then all of a sudden it was gone and I was feeling pretty good. I also made the mistake of not taking a gu before the race started, so about 2 1/2-3 miles in I had my first one of the day and it was magical! It's amazing how nutrition can make or break a run! I am not a morning eater at all, but I know I should start trying to eat something before I run.

At mile 7, Allison and I switched our intervals to 60:30 and it was at this point that we started passing women who had passed us in the early miles. We had slowed down a bit too, alternating hilly miles around 9:00, and running down hill miles around 8:45. I don't know if Allison was nervous at all, but around mile 8 I started to check in with her about her knee every few minutes. I was so worried because in previous races she'd run around this pace, she's run into her knee locking up right around this point. BUT this was her first interval race, and she kept assuring me she was absolutely fine! It was exciting to hear!


I was feeling a lot of exhaustion within the last mile, sure that we were going to be sub 2, I stuck with my intervals and let Allison run ahead once we neared the finish line. We finished in 1:57:08 (Allison) and 1:57:11 (me)! It was a great effort on a really great day to run! I'm so happy that I got to run with Allison for her birthday race and pace her to a second best half marathon time and a postpartum PR! She was great company and I enjoyed running with her so much that I've decided I'm going to run the Marine Corps Marathon with her as well.

After the race, I chilled out the rest of the day and then headed to Il Fornaio in Reston Town Center to celebrate Allison's birthday a little more. It was such a fun day/night! :)


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