Cue the fanfare!
Ring the bell!
Let it be known to the world: I ran a 15K and survived!
Now, some of you may have already heard about how the Hot Chocolate 15 & 5K may go down in infamy as DC’s most horrible race (just check out the comments being left on their Facebook page if you need proof!) It was a logistical clusterf***, and I agree with a lot of what is being said about it. That said, I don’t feel it wasn’t the life-ruining event that some people are making it out to be. Not to say it wasn’t truly awful. Soooo, I may just be saying that because I’m so psyched that I can say I (mostly) ran 9.3 miles and lived to tell the tale. Here’s how it all went down for yours truly. BEHOLD!
I woke up
bright dark and early Saturday morning, around 5:45 AM. Took care of the doggies, rinsed my face, got dressed, and tried to quell the growing ball of fear and regret in my stomach before heading to my parents’ house to meet my sister and her hubs, and Steve, Lara, and Janie who were running it as well.
Oh, it should also be noted that it was frickin’ FREEZING. Of course after a straight week of unseasonably warm weather, the day that Mother Nature seems to recognize that it’s, uh, December is the day of the race. Womp. I tried to get excited anyway…
Try being the operative word, of course.
The six of us crammed into a car and left my parents’ house in Falls Church around 6:45 AM (the race was set to start at 8 AM) and headed toward National Harbor, a normal half-hour trip. All runners had to choose a parking option way in advance — some were at the race site but you had to pay to park there, and some were free but further away so you had to take a shuttle. Since we are cheapos, we obviously chose the free option and figured we’d just deal with the shuttle drop-off (which on the website was quoted as being up to 20 minutes away.) Well, as it turns out, this was probably the best thing that we could have possibly done. Traffic and parking ended up being a HUGE issue for this race, with people being stuck on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trying to get into National Harbor for up to two hours. And these are for the people who PAID for the closer parking. We, however, barely hit any traffic on the way there, since we went up and around National Harbor to reach our parking site. The shuttles to-and-from our satellite lot (Rosecroft Raceway) were plentiful and the trip barely took 10 minutes from site to site. We arrived at the starting area around 7:40.
This is where things started to turn a little sour for me. Despite us getting there pretty much right on time, we ended up having to wait around in the cold for the next hour and a half before the race actually began. (Thank goodness I ended up wearing an old sweatshirt that I ditched on the course. I might have literally frozen to death if I hadn’t.) I should have known something was up when the 5K (which was scheduled to begin at 7:30) hadn’t started when we got to the race site. I do understand them delaying the race start for those who were stuck in traffic, but with very little communication being given as to when the race would be starting or why it was being delayed it was very frustrating to just have to… wait. As I understand it now, the 5K’s start was delayed because the layout of where the parking lots in National Harbor were, were on the opposite side of the 5K route. So the path for parkers to get to the 15K start was ON the 5K path. Therefore, they had to clear pedestrians from the route before it could begin… which is extremely poor planning, IMO. And the 5K delay contributed to the 15K delay as well, of course, so there were not many happy campers in the lineup, to say the least.
I know how you feel, bottom-left-corner lady. I know you feel.
After my feet and legs had the opportunity to go thoroughly numb, the horn for the start of the 15K finally went off at around 9:10 (in case you had forgotten, that’s an hour and 10 minutes after the original start time). 20 minutes and some 8,000 runners later, I made it through the starting gate and was off! From here on out, my race experience actually wasn’t too bad. The first 5 miles of the race were a down-and-out on Indian Head Highway, which still had one open lane of traffic, and a lot of people had issues with that. I didn’t really enjoy running with a huge mob PLUS an open (though crawling) lane of cars, but it wasn’t terrifying or anything since the cars were going slower than we were, haha. And despite my freakout over the race elevation (which was indeed terrible), the first part wasn’t too hilly. After about 2 miles, I regained feeling back in my tootsies (though I did get that annoying itchy-toe feeling from the blood rushing into them, which wasn’t pleasant) and the numbness probably helped contribute to my speedy start — we did the first mile at a sub-10 minute pace! Yes, me, the champion of the 12-minute mile. It was insane.
Another issue with the race, however, was that the 5K timing mats were on the wrong side of the road, so we clocked our “5K” split in at around 2.5 miles instead of 3.1. Womp womp. Therefore, my unofficial 5K time (according to my RunKeeping app) was 36 minutes and a few seconds — a PR based on my past 5Ks! Also unofficially, I beat my 5 mile time by almost 7 minutes! (1:03:0-something vs. 1:09:53 from the Navy 5 Miler!)
The harbor was beautiful, though the clock isn’t accurate for me, since I went through the gate 20 minutes after the gun.
After the first 5 miles, the race headed down into the actual National Harbor area. We did a huge loop around the harbor, and there was finally something pretty to look at, though this was the part of the race that really was incredibly hilly. In some ways, it worked to my advantage, because I was literally flying down some of the downhill slopes. However, the sadists who planned the course route also had the race end on an uphill stretch. WHO DOES THAT?! So I kind of died at the end. Also, there were a few parts of the race that were on rocky gravel and shells, which was kind of crummy. I walked most of those parts, but if I had been running fast, I can envision me biting it pretty bad on a stray rock, haha. You should all be proud of me though — all together, I’d say that I ran about 75% of this race, which is crazy since I didn’t think I’d be able to run even half of it!
At the last .3 miles, Jenny came back and forced me to run the end, something for which I simultaneously cursed her and thanked her for. As is always my goal, I managed to sprint the very last stretch, finishing strong with a time of 2:01:48! And I didn’t even puke!
I ended up with an average pace of 13:05, which is actually much better than I anticipated given my frequent walking breaks. After forcing Jenny to take many pictures of my sweaty self, we crawled over to the tents housing the chocolate fondue and hot chocolate. Here is where I will give the race organizers props again. Even though the tents were cruelly far away from the finish line, we didn’t have to wait in a single line for our chocolate, and they looked like they really did have enough for everyone (I mean, let’s face it, I definitely finished on the tail-end of the race, and there was still plenty of chocolate.)
Plus, it was DELICIOUS. It kind of messed with my stomach a little, since the last thing I had eaten was a slice of apple spice bread at 6 AM, but the pretzel stick dipped in melted Ghirardelli? OMFG. Amazing.
With a face this red, I deserved my chocolate.
So yes, there were plenty of problems with the race from a logistical standpoint, but other than the huge delay, I wasn’t really that affected by them. I just feel so bad for those that got to the race site earlier than we did. The race communications originally had told us to be on a shuttle from the parking site no later than 6:45 AM. We value sleeping too much to actually listen, but if we had then we would have been waiting for ANOTHER hour. My honest opinion is simply that RAM Racing oversold the race. It really should have been capped at half the amount of runners. National Harbor just isn’t made for having so many people trying to get in all at once — there’s really only one way to drive there, and it isn’t metro accessible. That said, I am really proud of myself, so in spite of all the issues, I’m definitely glad I did it. I mean, I finished 9.3 miles. NINE MILES!! AHHHH!
Okay, and just so every single photo in this post isn’t of me being gross and sweaty, here are some pictures of me hamming it up before my company’s holiday party last night. (Hooray for vanity!) Not sure where I got the energy to go considering what I had accomplished only hours earlier, but I guess that’s what they call rallying, eh?
The party was at the Air & Space Museum in Chantilly! You know, because one grown-up event at a museum this week simply wasn’t enough, hehe.
I think I deserve extra credit for being able to put on heels after the race! Of course, the soreness didn’t really hit me until this morning. As in, it has never been more painful to go from my bed to the bathroom and back. ‘Cause that’s about all I’ve managed so far.