Parks Half Marathon, Sept. 11, 2016 - Open up the champagne, pop!

There are those runs you know are gonna be hard, and you head into them as if you're about to do battle.

But when you finish you feel all the more celebratory.

That's where I am with this morning's Parks Half Marathon, which meandered through Montgomery County's gorgeous parks.

At packet pick up yesterday at RnJ Sports in Rockville I overheard a woman tell her friend that although there were 2,500 people registered for the race, 20 percent probably wouldn't show up. 

"Because of the weather?" I jumped in. 

"For whatever," she said. "Just because." 

I'm too new to running to have a lot of experience with this, but I never felt less ready to run a race than I did this morning. The big issue is I'm trying to figure out what's causing the new numbing and ultimately pain in my feet once I hit six miles. I've been visiting running stores and buying and returning shoes and lacing and re-lacing so I knew even this morning there wasn't going to be any magic.

Since I hadn't run 13.1 miles since the Dewey Beach half marathon in the spring, I decided I'd use this morning's race to experiment instead of not showing up.

I wanted to see what triggered the numbness and what methods seemed to resolve it. I felt great for the first half of the race, but once I got to 6, I was back and forth in my head about what to do. 

I did some walking (helped a little, which makes me think it's my lower back) and stopped to stretch my piriformis (helped a lot, which makes me think I'm not activating my glutes).  Since the Tri at Cape Henlopen in June I've continued to have soreness and stiffness in my quads, my calf muscles, and my achilles so there's that to consider. 

I'm also wondering if my custom inserts might be shot. When I took them out of my shoes after the race, I noticed how thinned out they are in spots.

I'll feel silly if it turns out my inserts are the problem, but that would be an easy fix, so I'll be relieved, too.

Yet I finished the race, and there's that, to quote Kevin, who reminded me yesterday to have some fun.

"You've done this a few times before," he noted.

I did not hit a PR, but I did have some fun.

Here's my race report.

The weather

Unlike last year's race, which was cool and brisk, the weather this morning was hot and humid. The race director sent around an email yesterday with suggestions on how to manage the heat. Number 1 was to slow your pace at least for the first 3 quarters of the race and Number 2 was to be proactive about your nutrition and hydration.

For the first 6 miles I averaged a slower than usual pace at 11:17, but after my feet began to turn numb I was averaging an even slower pace as I had to stop at least 4 times to stretch. 

I had caked salt on my skin after the race so I know the humidity and heat impacted my energy level. On the plus side, I had quite a nice all-natural salt scrub in the shower after the race.

Nutrition and hydration

I set my alarm for 4 am so I could drink 8 ounces of a water and Skratch solution and then went back to sleep until 5 am. (It was the race director who recommended drinking an electrolyte solution 2-3 hours before the start, which was 7 am).

Pre-race meal (at 5 am): oatmeal, blueberries, brown sugar, and coffee. I had another minor surgery on my finger on Friday and as I was still feeling queasy on Saturday, the oatmeal, instead of my usual pre-race meal of a bagel and peanut butter and banana, was perfect. 

I started hydrating every 2 miles with a combination of water and gatorade. At mile 12 I had water and 2 small salt packets. I had a few Swedish fish at mile 10 but because of all the gatorade I started to feel like I needed to go easy on the sugar.

The race course

The course was extremely hilly, but most of the steepest hills were in the first half. I was prepared for the chute this time, which is straight up into the Elm Street park just before the tunnel at the end of the Georgetown Branch trail, so I crossed the finish with a burst of energy and extra zeal.

What I did well

  • I finished
  • I did not make a single pit stop. It has been one of my goals to do a half marathon without making a pit stop and this was the first time. Epic. Epic
  • My nutrition and hydration were perfect. My energy level was high throughout the race even if my feet were causing me problems. This was critical because if my energy had lagged I don't know if I would have had the mental focus to finish
  • I had a friendly attitude. At around mile 8 I joined a group of women who were doing a 3/1 run - walk strategy with their coach. I do better with a 5/1 approach so after one or two intervals I went off on my own but was grateful to be among this supportive group

What I could improve

  • My only job right now is to figure out what's causing my foot pain so I can address it and fix it. My plan is to hold off on running until my feet feel great and to purchase new inserts/orthotics. I hate this idea but I also need to commit to refrain from wearing heels. I'll try
  • I'm registered for the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half in October and I don't want to revisit the issues I had today. I need a plan
  • I'll be making some appointments with the great team at Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Would I do this one again?

  • Definitely. This is a very well-organized race with a great deal of volunteers and support
  • Kudos and special thanks to Mama Lucia for the incredible spread at the finish
  • The race had the best swag ever. I love the fleece blanket commemorating 9/11
This was a hard one, but I'd do it again. 

This was a hard one, but I'd do it again. 


See you next time!