This weekend we traveled to Alexandria Virginia so that I could run in the delayed, thanks to the government shutdown, Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon. I’ll admit, as I’m getting older, post 3 knee surgeries, one major qualification for me selecting a race is that the course is mainly flat. I know and accept my downfalls and my knees for sure are my preverbal Achilles’ heel. I read the race description which noted basically a flat, just above sea-level course. I was sold. The date worked and I had trained so off we went.
Saturday we spent the day touring Old Town Alexandria. Shopping, eating and having fun. It was a beautiful weekend. It was the quintessential fall weekend.
So after we finished touring, we headed back to the hotel to check in and settle in for the night. The hotel clerk and my husband had gotten into a conversation about the race and he looked straight at me and said “I hope you’re ready for the hills.” Wait! What? Hills???? How many? I’ll admit, I panicked a bit and my husband assured me it would be fine. Plus I find out that there is a significant portion of the run on gravel. Okay, my internal voice was freaking out a bit, I’ll admit. I just rolled my foot last week and have been babying that – gravel can not be a friend to that situation. I bucked up and figured I’m strong, I can deal with this. My time in my head of high 1.40’s may be lost but I still wanted under 2 hours. I normally don’t do half marathons and in fact haven’t done one in about 3 years – or at least since I ran my full marathon. I stick with 10 ten milers and prefer that distance. My pr for my half several years ago was around 2.17 so I figured I would be fine.
The race was very well run. Buses took us from the hotel right to Mt. Vernon. It was extremely organized and laid out.
The race started at 7 am at Mt. Vernon. It is just lovely there. The morning was chilly and I dressed accordingly or so I thought. The race began promptly and off we went. The first 5 miles I was was at a low 8 – I think around 8.05 pace. The hills just kept on coming. I started to ignore the scenery, which was amazing, just to keep my mind focused. It turned out I was overdressed and starting to overheat. I also wore my fleece lined running pants that unfortunately were too big on me and posed another annoyance as I had to keep pulling them up. I think when you run – you go out and you either feel like a rockstar or you don’t. There is no middle ground. This race I just wasn’t feeling. Each mile past 8 just hurt. The hills were slapping me in the face and my heart rate was just creeping higher and higher. Not good. I tried to slow my pace down and just struggled to get it below 190 especially when the uphill climbs just kept coming. As I approached the gravel portion of the run, I braced myself. I wanted to take it easier here not to re-injure my foot. I felt the pain with each strike. Despite finally being flat my heart rate was just not budging. I just wanted to finish. Finally running through the last mile, which felt like I ran a marathon, I was ready for it to be over.
I made my way through the chute and saw my family cheering me on. I felt like my legs were in cement. I finished under two hours and happily put this race behind me. Every review that stated this race was athletically challenging was absolutely correct! Today, I sit, as I normally do, aching in pain and hating the stairs with great fervor. I accept that this wasn’t my best race however I did manage to shave about 21 minutes off my best half time and I am three years older. Lesson learned, do great in-depth analysis of any future race I sign up for looking for only a few hills and no gravel on the course.
Turns out I placed 20th in my age group. After such a long, challenging race, this put a smile on my face.
My daughter got some love from this sweet little Frenchie. As you can tell, she hated every minute of it. Ha ha.
Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and then hit up the National Harbor (where the race finished). We celebrated with Mexican and enjoyed an afternoon of shopping and walking along the Potomac River.
— Knead to Cook