The countdown: 48! (Virginia)
asking strangers to be your extra hand is not weird at all
Originally this race was slated for Oct 6, however 4 days before the race they announced that with the government shut down still in full effect, they had to postpone since the first 8+ miles were run in a national park. By some stroke of luck I was free for the new date, Nov 10, so I switched my flight and let my gf know I was coming a month later than anticipated, temporary setback now averted.
The race itself I enjoyed - did you know it was ranked by Runner's World as one of the 27 top 1/2 marathons in the US? I'm assuming the two factors were the picturesque nature and the fast course.
- Expo- if you are bubbling over with excitement over what goodies you can get at the expo, this is not your cup of tea. If you like to get in, get out, get on with you life, you have a winner. <--- This is my take on expos, so I was appreciative to be in and out in 5 min. Held at host hotel, 1 small room with sale items, bibs, and a few booths.
- Downside, no shirt, they did have it for purchase if you wanted to shell out $25 for a long sleeve. Instead you got a track bag, which although is nice, I hung up my track spikes a LONG time ago, thus I don't feel the need for one. Why do races give them out anyway? Its not like they can be used for bag drop since everyone requires a clear bag these days.
- Shuttle pick up- Race starts in Mt. Vernon so you can not drive to the actual start. Shuttle pick up was across the street from host hotel (so yes, if you run this, you do want to stay at the Holiday Inn). This was convenient for those who were staying, however, I spent my weekend with my bestie from college and she lives 45 min from Alexandria, hotel location. This meant I had to rise and shine at 4:30 to get out the door at 5am so I plenty of time to catch the last shuttle at 6am.
- Bathrooms- there were maybe 20 port o potties at the start and the lines were horrendous. I hadn't had 'success' yet in the morning so I knew I need to at least make an attempt. Since the johns were off in a parking lot with some woods, there wasn't a lot of space and the lines ended up winding all over the place, thus making it easy for someone to cut. Line jumping is NOT a sport people... especially on race morning. Annoyed and cold (balmy low 30s), I gave up and sat on a porch of one of the buidings on site and people watched for 45 min.
- Start area:- not a lot going on here. The shuttle ride was maybe 20 min, and then once you get to Mount Vernon its just a lot of standing around freezing. Although the area was quaint and gorgeous, I was too busy trying to keep warm in my skirt and long sleeve shirt that I didn't want to move. 7am is a little early for a late fall race, but I understand it was originally supposed to be in October, so temps weren't as bad a month ago. My entertainment--- people watching, a favorite American past time
my sit and stare view
- Start: start area was low key- no corrals just different time paces off to the side and line up accordingly. They suprisingly had quite a few blind runners with their guides, so they had a few min headstart before the rest of the race. Also of note... there were a lot of Ethiopians (confirmed when I looked at the results at their country Ethiopia was listed) Even though we're in "Virginia" I keep remindnig myself that the DC area is very diverse. Nonetheless, I was surprised at the 'elite' turnout since this race wasn't HUGE by any means- there goes my first place expectation. It's been awhile since I've had this experience, but it was one of the most anti-climatic starts in a while "On your mark, set, go...." no gun, no air horn, no music- everyone was just off.
- My watch had timed out the night prior, so since I didn't have paces to look at I decided the whole run was going to just be about taking in the scenery as much as I could, and to just enjoy myself. Sounds silly right, like I should be doing that EVERY race?? Normally I push it at some point to try to get some good times, but today I honestly didn't care
- First mile was a gradual scenic downhill and by mile 2 the sun was rising and it just made everything gorgeous and a little warmer, so I took off my shirt and tied it around my waist... stylin
- My "I love running" euphoria was short lived as suddenly the "I have to go, NOW" feeling came in full force. In true Lisa fashion, I didn't brush up on where the water stops / port o potties were throughout the course, I just knew the gu was at the 4th and there were some potties along the way. With every step it got worse and I seriously contemplated jumping off course to go in the woods. I had to walk a bit because the 'jostling' of stomach was making matters worse and I thought I might vomit... I haven never experienced having to go that bad that I become nauseous. We eventually did reach first water stop sometime right before mile 3 and I made a beeline for it beating out some guy- sucker. I spent some quality time in there and came out refreshed and also shocked as there was a line of 10 people waiting for 1 of the 3 toilets, guess i wasn't the only one who had skipped the potties this morning.
- Normally this would stress me out taking so much time in the restroom during the race, but today there was no worries, just trotting a long soaking in nature. I was that annoying girl you play leap frog with- I kept stopping to take pictures then would pass the same people, stop again, repeat.
- Sometime after mile 8 we left the Mt. Vernon Estates Park we were in and made our way to the Woodrow Wilson bridge, which was every bit of 1 mile long stretching across the Potomac River.
Bridge from a distance while we were still in the park
- As with all bridges, we spent the first 1/2 of it on a long s-l-o-w incline, then the last 1/2 of it on a long s-l-o-w decline (my personal favorite). Somewhere in the middle we crossed into Maryland where we would finish the race. I know Kim had mentioned she wanted to do this as her Maryland race, however only 3.5 miles or so are actually run in the state, so about 75% of this race is in VA.
After we crossed in, looking at it from Maryland view
- Once of the bridge we ran a series of paths around the water and up different hills, all the while you could hear the finish line music somewhere in the distance-- the finish line was at National Harbor, so they had to get creative on adding in mileage to have this specific finish. I don't mind as all views were still pretty, its just all the little inclines here and there just happen to be in the last several miles
- In the last mile we left paved road and had to run on this uneven rock / gravel to make our way toward Potomac and wind down through the Harbor festivities--- not exactly the type of terrain I like when I have 1 mile to go
- The 13 mile sign came (which either came WAY too soon, or the course was extremely long- 1 reason I do like to wear a watch so I can know the answer to these questions) At this point we were in the little "town" area which had a lot of turns and roundabouts so you couldn't tell where the finish line is, but I can pick up the pace for .1 miles, so myself along with everyone else, naturally pick up our pace for the final "kick"... only no finish line. We weaved and weaved for several minutes and then finally after the last turned corner there is the finish line- what a cruel joke and was definitely the talk of the finisher area when everyone was done.
- Large gatorades, bananas, and bagels were free for the taking and then 1 free beer for the runners. To my dismay, I wasn't in the beer mood (which happens RARELY) so I stretched and asked around for where the shuttle was to head back to car and hotel (no one really knew and it took a group of us about 20 min to find it)
And the bling- forgot to take a photo so here is last year's via google image, very similar. Still have no clue what the hand signifies- its on all the logos and frankly is kind of creepy?
Overall I was pleased with the course, scenery, and execution. If I hadn't been on a tight schedule and had warmer clothes, I would have liked to stick around for the finish line celebration and enjoy all the shops that lined the harbor. This is a great VA choice in terms of scenery, time of year (traditionally ran in Oct) and getting to see DC so two for 1. I realize its run in 2 states so some people say it doesn't count, but hey, 75% of the race is in VA and its my rules, so I'm going for it.