SEA OF FACES, PT. 4 CROSSING THE BRIDGE

Woodrow Wilson Half Marathon, October 5, 2014

Day before:

My plan was to do my gym work early Saturday morning and spend the morning prepping and packing for the trip to Alexandria, VA. I would check in for the race and get my bib and packet, then check into the hotel. After checking in, I would go shopping for new running shoes, then back to the hotel for some work before settling in for the night.

Saturday was marked by a lack of urgency. I was an hour late for my workout at World Gym; not that big of a deal, but it set a tone and precedent for the day. I got a haircut and a late breakfast, and didn’t get on the road to Alexandria until 1230.

I got to the race expo at the US Patent and Trade Office in Alexandria just after 2 p.m. Because I didn’t register until Wednesday, I wouldn’t get a souvenir t-shirt (they would mail me one) but I did get my bib and other goodies. I browsed the expo’s shoe stand for shoes, but the ones I was looking for (New Balance 900s or 1300s) were not there.

After the trip across town to the hotel and a belated lunch, I went to the local Sports Authority to shop for new kicks. They actually had New Balance, but again, not the models I was looking for. I bought New Balance 680s, which were designed for cushioning and not the stability that I needed. I decided to buy some insoles and use them to compensate for stability.

With shopping done, I went to dinner. I basically blew off everything else I wanted to do, and just laid out my running gear for the next day.

Race day (0430-0655):

I stepped out of my hotel room at 0445 for the trip to National Harbor, MD; from there, I would catch a shuttle to the race start at Mt Vernon, VA.

I made two stupid, but not catastrophic, mistakes on the trip. Mistake one was forgetting my gray zippered hoodie for the trip. The weather was not freezing, but it was cold enough where I understood that I would be less than comfortable for the immediate pre-race period. Mistake number two was taking my gym bag with a scale to the shuttle pick up area. Had I read the race instructions I would have found that 1) only clear plastic bags would be provided, and 2) no large electronic devices (like my scale) would be allowed. Mistake two costs me two trips back to my car to drop off my offending gear.

On my first trip back to the car, I dropped off the insoles that I had purchased the day before. They were killing my feet on the drive over, and I decided that I didn’t need that level of discomfort while I was running.

I did make the shuttle run to Mt Vernon, and I arrived at 0615. A cheerful greeter gave us directions to the race starting line, the bag drop off, and the Portajohns. I headed directly for the Portajohns…and so did everybody else. The crowd around the restroom area was massive and the line was long. I got in line at 0620. At 0630, having moved about 10 yards, I began to stretch out, fearful I would not make it to the starting line. About fifteen minutes before the race start (0700) I noticed a few people streaming into the nearby woods to relive themselves. At 0652, I whispered “Lord forgive me,” and joined the impatient numbers heading into the woods.

I ambled over to the starting line at 0655. A few minutes to stretch, a nice singing of the National Anthem, and then “Ready…GO!!!”

The Race (0700-0920):

I started out at the 13-minute section of the starting line. After the race began, it took me a few minutes for me to work my way through the crowd and start running. I was thinking 14- minute pace all the way.

The first eight-plus miles were in Mt Vernon Park, along the Potomac River. My left leg felt like a bag of cold water, but other than that I was feeling good. There were plenty of rises and drops along the way, but no real severe hills like the Larry Noel race in Greenburg. There was a good smattering of spectators and well-wishers, most of them family members of the racers. At the race expo, there was a station where the children of race participants could make signs to help cheer on their parents and older relatives who were running. There were a lot of good humored signs along the route; however, I had to resist the urge to punch out the cut-out of Robert Parkinson from the “Twilight” movies. “Run Like You Sparkle!!!” Child, please.

At the five mile mark, I saw the first split timer: I was at 53”16 as I crossed under the bridge at that point. I normally did that after FOUR miles. This was going to be a good day.

Just before the eight mile mark, I got my first glimpse of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, where the highlight or the climax of the race would be. I downed on of the energy gels and steeled myself for the crossing. At the eight mile mark, I also emptied my bladder and downed some Gatorade in preparation for the crossing. However, as I got near the bridge, I saw a line of runners heading onto the bridge from the opposite direction. It turned out that I would not be crossing the bridge until after a mile and a half loop into Old town Alexandria. The mile and a half loop included an incline towards the half mile point, so downing the energy gel was not too premature.

I guess there is something for checking out the race map before the race.

Less than I mile from the bridge, I hit the ten-mile point at 1’44”16. Holy cow, a negative split? I was truly on fire today!

The one constant during the race was this male and female couple. I remember the male distinctly because he wore the old style Marine-issue silky OD green running shorts over his running tights. I wasn’t out for a “duel” with the couple, but I noticed that they were running for a period of time and then taking a jogging break, then running again. Fartlek much? Anyway, I would always catch up to them just as they were counting down to resuming the running.

As I made the long awaited crossing of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the good vibes were flowing through me, watery leg and all. The bridge crossing was the highest incline and steepest decline of the run, although not overly severe. Even though this was the last two miles of the race, I wanted to treat this like I was still going to run farther. After crossing the bridge, the last mile-plus was a series of loops going over the bridge’s walkway and looping around the river’s edge. The end of the race was annoying and anticlimactic; I wanted to focus on “just keep going” but the twists and turns got on my nerves. After one last loop, I crossed the finish line at 2’18”13.

Later that day, I did my pace calculations. I ran the WW Half at 10”34.

Ten and a half minute pace. Running on Snickers and a new pair of shoes.

I think I’m gonna be okay for the Marine Corps Marathon.

Post-race aftermath:

I scarfed down a bagel and a banana, and washed it down with a bottle of Gatorade (original lemon-lime flavor). I attempted to do some yoga at the Core Yoga stall, but all I could manage was a downward dog pose.

The post-race party was a job well done by the race organizers, but I didn’t want to hang around too long. I wanted an Epsom salt bath and a nice brunch before blowing off the rest of the day.

Ten thirty four. I had that figure in my head for the whole of the afternoon. No DNFs, no overly sore body parts, no post-race driving incidents.

The MCM is doable. Now if I can just get everything else to fall into place…

This is how I felt today:

Felt like this too…

Not to stray too far from the running theme:

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