Monday, March 19, 2012

Rock and Roll USA Half Marathon - Redux

In years past, when the Rock and Roll USA Half Marathon, was simply the “National Half Marathon,” I knew that if I could tough out the course’s steady climbs through the first four miles, I could conquer the rolling hills that seemingly took away life on its relentless inclines and gave it back on its forgiving backside. What I hadn’t counted on was the gurgling in my stomach that began at the 10K mark. Frankly, there’s no conquering that.

Following a marathon PR at the NY Marathon back in November, I planned for the Rock and Roll USA Half Marathon to become my “next big race.” But an ankle sprain in December and a nasty chest cold two weeks ago that made me feel as though someone had just opened the Ark of the Covenant but Harrison Ford wasn’t there to tell me to close my eyes. Anyhow…it simply became a race to run.

My friend and I made our way to the front of the corrals, all the while eying porta potty lines and alternative areas to, let’s say, “stretch our calves.” With the clock ticking down toward gun time, I finally darted off from her to a spot I thought shielded me from any onlookers or authorities. I did my best impression of a runner just out for a warm up run. When I got to the “secluded” pillar under the metro bridge, I took a pretty long, err, calf stretch, then, pleased with myself, turned to see that in actuality I was in full view of arriving racers. Perfect time for some striders.

I linked back up with my friend and we made our way to our respective corrals. After some last minute stretching, I pulled my sunglasses down and…we were off.

Over the first mile, the course climbs through Capitol Hill where a smattering of spectators shake signs and various noisemakers. For this runner, it’s about getting to the top of that hill to work on settling into a rhythm. The course’s constant rise and fall makes this easier said than done, which is why I fight thoughts of, “I hate this,” during the first four miles. Nevertheless, it’s easy to distract yourself by the stunning view of the Capitol rising at the end of the street and the Cherry Blossom lined Constitution Avenue.

At the 5K mark, I took a quick glimpse at my watch and noted the 6:00 pace and thought, Huh, this might actually come together and be one of those days. It was also about this time that I could feel the sun on my shoulders. When I grabbed for the water at the aid station, I noticed my heart rate sky rocket and my stomach quiver. Hmm, that’s new.

Just after the four mile marker, I turned up 18th street and steeled my mind for the steep, relentless hills that would carry us up to and through Dupont Circle. My feet turned over faster and I made up ground on the runners in front of me. As I picked each one off, my face sneered as my stomach began to roil. Just relax, we’re just out for a run today, I thought.

The final hill up Connecticut Avenue, a long, lung searing monster came and went, chopping up my stride. I reached the top and pleaded with my legs to regain their form and convince my lungs to find the steady in-out rather than the haggard exhales I spewed. I came through 10K, glanced at my watch and was surprised to see that I was only 20 seconds off my 10K PR and wished then and there that the race would end. No such luck.

I switched to Gatorade at the next water stop and while the sugar jolted me awake and out of the lethargy that descended on me after that climb, my stomach became less than pleased.

I rode the downhills and toughed out the uphills, ticking off each mile until nine. Nine is your savior, I told myself as mile nine through 10.5 is a steady downhill that you can use to reset and pick up some lost time. At mile eight, we left the shade of the building-lined streets and met the sun full on while rounding the reservoir. With one final climb, I made the hard right onto North Capitol street and onto 1.5 miles of downhill I craved. Except the retreat I counted on just wasn’t sitting right.

I backed off the pace and tried to find a more comfortable flow. But with each step, I could hear my stomach sloshing. The overpass at New York Avenue looked an eternity away. At mile 10, I saw the medical tent…and the porta potty. I took a hard right and, well….

Four minutes later, I’m back on course and just ready to get this last 5K over with...but the uphills are still wreaking havoc on my insides. So I slow the pace and just focus on one mile at a time.

Coming down C street, the stadium finally comes into view. I mince my steps and turn a tired eye toward the finish line that appears over my right shoulder. The road winds around and begins to climb toward the finish. More twisting and havoc, and I wonder if I’m going to make it. I see my two friends who have come to spectate. We slap hands as I go by and I cross the line in 1:27:30 officially or 1:23:27 with the stop.

I catch up with my friends and we cheer on our other running cohorts before collecting our gang and heading to breakfast.

Big congrats to my friends and Loopers who ran well, PR'd, survived the course as well as the metro delay that sounded like a race in and of itself!

In less than seven days, I’ve had two stomach issues. When faced with throwing up after a win or suffering intestinal distress in the middle of a race, I’ll take the former any day of the week. What I do know is that both end with a tall pint of beer so I guess it’s not all bad.

1 comment:

  1. Great race Brad - you still smoked the course, even with the pitstop! Sorry I missed you guys, I ran into Rohan briefly but then had to find the bag drop and my corral ASAP due to the stupid metro delay!!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...