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Race Result

Racer: Erik Melis
Race: National Half-Marathon
Date: Saturday, March 21, 2009
Location: Washington, DC
Race Type: Run - Half Marathon
Age Group: Male 50 - 54
Time: 2:14:34
Overall Place: 1581 / 1870
Age Group Place: 98 / 126
Comment: Nice course - acceptable time (my 2nd fastest) - disorganized event

Race Report:

This was my second fastest half-marathon time. I was 9 minutes off my PR and when you factor in the 3+ minutes I lost at the mid course potty break I was even closer to my PR.

This was my first time doing the National Half-Marathon so I didn't know what to expect on race day. With the cold temps and my asthma, I didn't want to wait outside any longer than necessary, therefore, I planned my trip on the Metro to get me there about 30-minutes prior to race start. Big mistake! I had no idea that the bag check for the half-marathon was going to be such a nightmare and so terribly disorganized. I don't know what was going but as the race start was rapidly approaching, there was still quite the mob at the bag check. It then appeared that they started just taking the bags and tossing them in the tent to be sorted later. Worked for me - they should have started that method sooner and there might not have been such a delay. I needed to use the toilet before the race start still and there weren't enough Porta Johns and so there were long lines there. I decided I had enough time to deal with everything because even though the race started at 7:00 while I was still in line for the loos, everything that they provided in the pre-race materials said that they wouldn't close the starting line until 7:30. Well, about 7:10, they started yelling at everyone who still hadn't started that they were closing the starting area. Luckily, at this point, I had finished with my pre-race business and took off across the starting line near the back of the pack. The nice thing about starting so late is that you tend to pass more people than you get passed by so it gives you the sense that you're faster than you might really be and I'm not...

What's nice about the course is the sights you can see while you're running (e.g. monuments, capitol, etc) to help keep your mind busy. Another nince aspect of the course is the crowd support especially in some of the neighborhoods. What's not so nice about the course is the uneven broken pavement in spots which can do a number on your legs and feet if you're not careful. The course was not immune to race disorganization either. By the time I got to the 3rd water stop and beyond, there were no more cups and your choices were to skip the stop or share jugs of water or Powerrade with all the other runners. I don't have a problem sharing generally but given that I've had colds and flu and bronchitis on numerous occasions already this year, I opted to err on the side of being cautious and skipped the stops. Luckily, it wasn't hot. There were also way too few Porta Johns out on the course so if you needed to use the loo on the course due to properly hydrating, you were going to stand in line. I lost more than 3 minutes standing in line for the facilities around mile 7.

When the race started I was wearing my tights, a fleece vest over my long sleeved running shirt with arm warmers under my shirt sleeves and fleece gloves. I was also wearing ear covers. By mile three I started shedding layers by removing the arm warmers and ear covers and the gloves. I never got too warm so left the tights and vest on all race long. I was 4 or 5 miles into the race when I realized that I had forgotten an important piece of my race gear at home - my patella strap. My knee started hurting so I adjusted my stride and pace to accommodate it. My asthma reacted to the cold air a bit and I need a few inhaler hits during the course of the race but wasn't as wheezy as I expected I might be at the end.

I tried just to maintain a fairly steady pace during the race but definitely noticed my pace slowing later in the race but just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. My goal was to finish even though I knew there would no personal best this day. This is the longest race I'vew attempted this early in the season but decided, since I have 3 half-Ironman races this year leading up to IM Arizona, that I might as well start putting in the miles.

When I found myself mentally fading, I pretended my wife wasn't in Afghanistan but was right there running with me and I just did what we do when we run together - I talked with her. Some of the folks around me may have thought that I was hallucinating or something but that carried an uninteded welcome side effect - then gave me a wide berth so I had plenty of room to run.

Mile markers 10, 11, and 12 were all welcome sights as were the cheering crowds gathered there.

There is a slight rise approaching RFK (I remember this from the Capitol Hill 10K several years ago) which is manageable knowing that the finish line is not too far. When I hit mile marker 13, I picked up the pace and then sprinted (well whatever portion of a sprint I had left in me) once I hit the finishing shoot. It felt good to cross the line, get my medal and my space blanket. I then went looking for some water, juice, food, etc and what did I find? crazy lines again! I stood in this mob of people shoulder to shouler with arms outstretched towards the Powerade handlers hoping that one would eventually make it into my had which it did. At that point, the lines going toward the food were too long for me so I oped to skip the food for now.

The finisher's medal for this race is pretty cool with the Capitol and Washington Monument on it so it's a nice addition to my collection.

I don't know that I'd do this race again unless I was sure that the race orgainzation had improved.

I headed home via the Metro and have to ask - why are people seeminglly so afraid to move down the platform at the Metro station insisting instead on trying to cram as many people into the back of the train as possible? I went to the other end of the platform and damn near had the whole car just for me.

Lessons learned

- Get to the race site earlier unless your familiar with the organization of the race/potential delays at the start..

- Eat more before the race - I got up a little later than I had planned and had to take care of the dog and then didn't have time to relax and eat my planned pre-race meal. I know I paid for that out on the course.

- Bring more nutrition for the race. I guess I assumed they'd have gels or something in addition to water/Powerade. They either didn't have any or, like the cups, they ran out. I had some Accel gel with me but could have used a little more.

- Don't forget your patella strap

Next up - Cherry Blossom 10-Miler on April 5th