It’s been more than a week, but I still think I’m up in the running clouds thanks to the wonderful event that was Nike Women’s DC 2014!
This race had been my focus since I started recovering from the Marine Corps Marathon. All spring, I trained for one thing. As the race got closer, I had a tiny setback–a back strain from a nasty case of bronchitis I caught right around Sole of the City. But I played it safe, gave my back time to recover, visited my trusty PT, and went into race weekend feeling strong. I had roped my friend Elizabeth (oh she of the one and done race claim ;-)) into entering the lottery for the race with me, figuring that it would be a lot more fun to have a weekend in DC with a friend. When we headed to DC on April 26th I felt ready and confident. I had a really good cycle, and I was ready to PR in DC. The course was perfect, the weather was ideal, and I seem to finally have figured out some of the fueling and pacing issues that used to plague me.
But first, the Expotique! I had heard a lot about the Nike race from a coworker who ran last year, but I still didn’t know exactly what to expect. And I have to say, of all the race expos I’ve attended, this one was certainly the most unique. It was like being in some kind of Nike ad for women–but not in a bad way. The space itself was small, and lacked many of the normal expo booths, but really focused on women and women’s products–from shoes to Nuun.
But the highlight (and total fluke!!) of the experience was being there just in time to see Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson speak! I totally went all fangirl and stood right against the stage and took a ton of pictures. I wish I had taken video! They were both so influential–talking about how they still get race jitters. Shalane had just run the fastest Boston time ever by an American woman 5 days before, and after watching her lead 19 miles of that race, it was especially exciting to see her!
After the expo, we headed to Niketown Georgetown where I bought too much race gear. Yeah, I got the shoes. After telling myself not to!!
Guess the commercial worked on me? After that, it was back to the hotel for and relaxed dinner and an early night. As I always, I had my glass of wine and passed right out. Before I knew it, we were getting up and heading to the start!
All morning, I was really calm. I think the fact that I had a really specific race plan from my coach Gia really helped, because I wasn’t doing any last minute mental calculation. I had a plan, I was sticking with my plan. Elizabeth and I were in different corrals, so after we split up I chatted with a couple of nice women I ran into in the corral. Including one who loved that Huff N Puff shirt! Before I knew it, we were off!
My race plan was to run the first 5 miles at a relatively easy 9 minute mile pace, then drop the pace down for the next 5, then give it everything I had for that last 5k. It was REALLY hard to stay that slow to start, but I did a pretty good job of staying right at or under 9mm pace. Yes, I felt super slow as everyone flew around me, but I reminded myself that it would feel REALLY nice to pass people at the end of the race. So I settled in and focused on staying lose. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t see most of the beautiful scenery in those first few miles of the race. I was focused on keeping my pace, not wasting energy, and enjoy the energy of the race. It wasn’t until we reached the Memorial Bridge and I was almost at the mile 5 maker and I could “loosen” up on my pace a little that I started to notice what was around me, and how much of this course I had conquered during Marine Corps. That, and the fact that I was feeling so good, really gave me a lot of confidence.
I continued to feel good as we approached Hains Point at mile 8. I’ve run enough races through this part of DC to know that the Point is always challenging, especially at the end of a race. I had saved my music for this part of the race, expecting to need a boost, and I used it, and a second gel, to give me a boost around mile 8-8.5. My pace had been steadily dropping since I “let it go” on the bridge, and I continued to pick up steam on the Point, despite the fact that we had some headwind on our way back towards the Mall. I kept telling myself 2 miles after the end of the Point, and amazingly, unlike so many halfs before, I never felt my energy drop off or lost the mental focus to keep pushing. If anything, I felt stronger after mile 11 (my splits show this too). By the time we made it back into the tunnel and were in the last KM of the race, I felt like I was flying. I felt so strong. I knew a PR was mine, and I was gunning it for that finish line.
When that line came into view I was ecstatic. When I could read the clock, I was even happier–it said 1.54 and change, and I knew I had started about 45 seconds after the clock, meaning I should come in under 1.55, a secret personal goal of mine. I kicked even harder.
As I finished, I was elated. I did it–a perfect race, in execution, time, everything. As I lined up to get my little blue box, I was just about the happiest girl in DC! A nearly 3 minute PR! That happiest grew once I saw my splits, and I’m still riding it over a week later!
Before I knew it, Elizabeth was there too! She also ran a huge PR, and broke 2 hours! Happy Day indeed!
What an all around wonderful experience. Nike, I’ll be back–maybe in San Fran??