(If you can make it through all the text, there's ridiculous photos at the end!)
Last weekend was my half marathon in Leesburg, VA.. FINALLY! It feels likes ages ago that Ms. Motivator and I signed up to the do the damn thing. We both had our countdown going on RunKeeper (for the event that I created, like a boss). As the months turned to weeks and weeks to mere days, I felt overwhelmed. Like I wasn't really prepared, like I probably wasn't going to be able to do it.
I was self-demotivating. It's a thing, I swear. I'm my own worst enemy for sure.
I spent most of the week before in SC, NOT running. I had plans of running, I even brought the extra bras and shoes and workout clothes and then my glorious plans went down the glorious drain. There are excuses and reasons, but the point is, I "rested" Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before my half. I think it was one of the best accidents that happened regarding the event.
I spent the day prior to the run driving from SC to VA. It was an 8 hour drive to the hotel where Ms. Motivator and I were staying and I had to make a pitstop to pick up some dog beds near Fredericksburg, VA on the way up. Oh yeah, and it was raining.. so the drive was nice and pleasant.... NOT. Fools need to learn to drive in the rain. I digress.
I made it to Leesburg and there was P.F. Chang's waiting on me for dinner, because eating rice with my mongolian beef and chicken lettuce wraps is carb loading, right? Whatevs, don't care, it was delicious. I had been having tummy issues since Friday morning that I will spare you the details of, so I tried not to over do it.
After eating dinner and starting the process of getting ready for bed, I had several realizations. I had NO charger for Suzy2.5 (my cell phone). NONE. And she was at 27% charge when I realized this. I had been using Google Maps to get to my destinations and that EATS battery power like no apps business (haha, see what I did there?). Then, I realized that I also forgot to get my sample shampoo/conditioners from the SC house. Then, I realized I forgot pajamas. Then, I realized I forgot deodorant. I was a shit-show. I just wanted to sit down and bawl. I could see all the things I had planned for crumbling in front of me. I was definitely going to break an ankle on the walk to the start line the next morning.
Fortunately, I had remembered my toothbrush and Ms. Motivator let me use some of her deodorant and the hotel, of course, had shampoo/conditioner/soap. Sadly, the did not have a Suzy2.5 charger, which crushed my soul a little bit. I finally made it to bed after chatting with Mr. Mystery and Teh MD Adult Roomie on FB via the computer around 10, which was later than I wanted, but I was so upset over all the things I'd forgotten that I needed to chat/vent some so I could relax to sleep.
When the alarm went off at 5am, Ms. Motivator burst out of the bed and turned on the light and I was just not ready for any of that. At all. I managed to get ready and we were out the door in about 30 minutes. When we got outside, it was chilly and I questioned if leaving my long sleeve shirt behind was a good idea, but we ventured on without it.
We made it to a high school and waited for a shuttle to come pick us up. Ms. Motivator had (kindly) opted for the 06 shuttle instead of the 0545 shuttle. The paper said to arrive 15 minutes prior to the shuttle time. We got there at 0555, oops. Fortunately, there were no shuttles in sight. Just a large crowd of, mostly, women huddling together against the drizzle and wind and cold. We waited for 10 minutes and finally TWO school buses showed up. We assumed there would just be waves of shuttles at that point. About 5-10 minutes later, 2 more school buses showed up. More people loaded in them and away they went. 5-10 minutes later, 4 more buses showed up. They pulled in the wrong entrance and had to be redirected to the spot where we were. By this point, we had formed blobby lines to get on the bus. We were tired, cold, and just wanted to get our run on.
At first, they weren't letting anyone on the first 2 buses and people at the backs of the lines moved to the 3/4th buses and started loading. There was anger from the 2 groups standing at the first 2 buses and they finally let us load. Most of the runners didn't come prepared to stand in the cold, myself included. I was wearing shorts, my Rum shirt, my super awesome hydration belt, and my hair was up and I had a bandanna to hold my hair back. I was properly equipped for a midday run.
We loaded the bus and the driver might have driven one of the first school buses ever made. He was oooollllldddddddd. Not only that, but he had no idea where we were going, he was trying to look at a map, in the mostly dark, and drive at the same time. We were going super slow. At one point, we stopped at a green light because he was looking at the map and since he wasn't paying attention, he almost hit a car beside us when he started moving again. A lady who was there for the run was actually giving him directions from her cell phone. It took us 30 minutes to get to the venue. We were all very relieved to have even made it alive.
By the time we walked all the way to the start area from the parking area, it was 0700. We found our running companions and lined up for the 2nd wave. The waves started a little after 0730. There was only 2-3 minutes between waves, so we were running pretty quickly after it started. There was some music at the start line and a row of porta-potties (that the lines were unbearably long for). There didn't seem to be much else.
The course description states that there was only a 2% grade incline... THEY LIED. The entire course description except for the 13.1 part was a lie. Apparently, their definition of "significant elevation changes" and my definition are quite different. I had done some hill training. Not a significant amount because I had read there was only a 2% grade, so I wasn't worried. Yeah, no. I'm glad I had been training with a pretty steep hill during the summer. My steep hill wasn't as steep as some of the hills I encountered on the run.
The main venue for the race was Tarara Winery. I guess a race aimed towards women meant that having it at a winery was appealing. Other than the gorgeous scenery, I could have done without it being at the winery and preferred the run to be some where a little less remote and a bit more accessible. At one point, Suzy2.5 (and other cell phones) didn't even gave 3G service. This is only important because this is the era of the smartphone and people want to track their runs. Most people that are running half marathons are fairly serious runners and they like to be able to see their splits and elevation increases, etc. Fortunately, we weren't without service for too long once we started running.
I liked the fact that at each mile there was a marker there that told you how many miles you had completed. There were plenty of water stations with boy scouts and girl scouts and other volunteers handing out water and gatorade. Another good thing about the course was that it was through several residential developments (which I'm sure sucked for the residents) and there were families outside (some with people who were running in the race) cheering us on. It was awesome. I made sure to get/give as many high-fives as possible and thank the cheerleaders. Seeing little kids up at 0dark30 clapping and cheering us on and giving high fives was motivating.
By mile 11, I was over the hills. There were some pretty sharp descents, at which I just opened up my stride and took off down the hill and would resume my normal pace at the bottom. This really helped my time. There were also several big hills to climb, mostly at the end, UGH! The gradual hills were miles 4-9. They were hard in their own way because once you got down them, you had to go back up them eventually. Gradual hills are hard for me because they just keep going. I'd rather just walk up a steep hill and then resume running than have to endure a slightly uphill path over a long distance. I had trained going uphill at the start of my runs and it was mostly downhill for the end of my runs. I like it that way. I don't like having to work as much when I'm exhausted. It just makes no sense. I considered the what if they had done the course route differently and I think they chose the best route for the area. Otherwise, there would have been even more hills to climb. /wrist.
1/3rd of the way into mile 12, the route turned to gravel/dirt and it was miserable. We ran around a lake and I kept thinking that we'd have to make it TO the lake and we'd be done. No, no. We had to go all the way around the lake. I just wanted to jump IN the lake and swim across I was so tired.
Right before the finish line, we were handed a pink boa and a plastic tiara. I assume they give this to you prior to the finish line so you can put the stuff on for your finish line photo, but I could have done without the crap until after the finish. I was sweaty (13.1 miles = REALLY sweaty) and the boa was just sticking to all my places and the tiara had to go on over my sunglasses that I'd never put on because it was cloudy out for the whole run (which was totally ok with me). You see the photographers at the fake finish line and more photographers at the real finish line set up on ladders so they can get the photos.
I finally made it around the stupid pond and through the finish line. My final time was 2:11:39! The first thing you get was a bottle of water, followed by a medal put around your neck by a shirtless firefighter. Ms. Motivator said that they prob weren't real fire fighters, but I didn't mind either way. The finish line was just a funnel from thing to thing. After the medal, you got a rose, after the rose you got a plastic flute filled with sparkling apple juice (not wine), after the juice you were funneled into a line to get your professional photos taken or past the photos to the food tent which had apples, bananas, pretzels, dried fruit, cookies, some corn snack thing, and bagels. After the food tent were some tables under a tent, a stage/dance area with music going, more water, the wine stop (which was EXPENSIVE!), a medical tent, the tent to see your final time, a running mom's tent, and one more tent that I can't recall what it was. I was surprised to NOT see a merchandise tent. I had forgotten my card anyways, so it wouldn't have mattered, but still.
Ms. Motivator was ready for a shower and since there wasn't really anything awesome after the race, I was happy to leave. We went back to the hotel (we had requested late check out), showered, ate lunch, and made sweet rollin' with our foam rollers.
Overall assessment of the Divas Half Marathon (in DC)?
I would NOT do it again.
-I felt like the course description was completely incorrect.
-We had to be shuttled in (since VIP parking was $25) and it took 30 minutes to get to the race site. Your venue might be too far away when....
-Hills, oh the hills.
-They had to block off the street traffic for the race and there were still vehicles that needed to be escorted.
-I paid $99 for the race and got a crappy plastic tiara, a boa, a rose, a running shirt, and a medal. I don't felt like I got what I paid for considering I pay $35 for a 5k color run and get a tshirt and color packets and the after race activities are usually awesome.
-The professional photos were absolute RAPE if you wanted to purchase them. $40 for 1 digital download, $50 for 3, $70 for 5, or $80 for all the photos you were tagged in. WHAT?! Not even color run photos cost that much. They were a few bucks MAX. There were more photographers on the course and they didn't rush you through the finishing photos. Screenshots will have to do. #sorrynotsorry #poorpeoplechoices
-The scenery was gorgeous. AMAZING. I wish Suzy wouldn't have been dead because I would have been taking photos.
-There were residential areas that we ran through where the residents were actually sitting at the street cheering us on.
-The end was organized, everyone flowed easily from one station to the next.
-The race started almost on time.
-Waves were only within a few minutes of each other. Wave 2 went about 3 minutes after wave 1.
-The route was laid out well.
-Someone was able to pick up my race stuff for me.
I was not able to pick up my own race packet the night before, Ms. Motivator had to get it for me, so I can't attest to how awesome the packet pick up was the night prior. I'm assuming there was merchandise sales there.