It only took a few minutes of looking at the website (www.parkshalfmarathon.com) to see this was a good race to enter. Put on by the Montgomery County (Maryland) Road Runners club, it goes from Rockville to downtown Bethesda - which just happens to be less than two miles from my in-laws house where we were staying.
2+ miles of road, followed by ~9 miles of the Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail and 2 miles of the Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch Trail. The point-to-point course winds thru numerous parks and finishes thru the Air Rights tunnel into a festival in the middle of downtown Bethesda. Throw in many pacing groups and a full post-race party and we've got a great event!
Short packet pickup note: Said there was no race-day pickup, but that was not the case. I had gotten mine the day before, which worked out well as I found my the newest model of my trail shoes (Asics 2160T) for a decent price.
Got dropped off at 6:30am for the 7:00am start and checked my bag, drank some water and warmed up a bit. The 2,000+ runners were spread out and I found my pacing group - 1:45. Wasn't quite feeling up for a PR, but thought I'd give it a try on this net-downhill course. Couple of vanilla Gu's in my pockets, sleeveless Brooks shirt (~69° and 90% humidity), my Ironman handheld water bottle, and I was ready. They started in well spaced, small, divided waves every 2 minutes and ours was the 3rd wave to start. (This being 9/11 made the pre-race playing of our national anthem a little more reflective than usual). It was new (and kind of nice) to start at the very front and have somewhat of an open road ahead of us!
|3rd Wave Start: I'm in the white shirt/hat 2 ppl behind the pacer (#40)|
I feel the "net-downhill" is deceiving. The first 2 road miles didn't feel particularly as "downhill" as the 182' drop looks, even though our pace was a bit quick. We turned onto the paved trail which at times had some mud/water on it from the recent heavy rains from Tropical Storm (Hurricane) Lee. Miles 4-6 were rolling hills and included the "Silencer" hill around mile 4 - it was tough, but short, and I was still doing fine. I did wonder how long I was going to be able to stay with him. I was enjoying the trail and the group.
2: 7:51 (15:33)
3: 8:03 (23:37)
4: 7:53 (31:30)
5: 7:59 (39:29)
6: 8:03 (47:32)
Still at or near my PR pace thru 6. Three very flat miles along the trail thru more parks (Dewey Park, Ken-Gar Palisades Park, supposedly named for Garth Brooks and "famous" runner Ken Early) and I was at my limit...
7: 8:04 (55:37)
8: 7:56 (1:03:34)
9: 8:09 (1:11:43)
Even though the next mile was still pretty even, I slowed and needed a walk break. The humidity/temps got to me as they typically do and my legs got heavy. Mile 10 began my foot (right toe) pain that I've been experiencing lately. I watched the remaining 1-2 runners go ahead with Ken as I made the best of it. I was 30secs under my half-marathon PR from Spinx in Oct 2009 thru 9 miles and I knew that was out the window. I was excited to have been able to keep the pace I did for that long. Miles 11, 12 and 13 were all up...
|~Mile 12: Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch Trail|
Mile 10: 8:47 (1:20:31)
Mile 11-12: 17:38 (1:38:09)
Mile 13: 9:04 (1:47:13)
Just before Mile 13, there was a group of boy and girl scouts passing out small American Flags (another 9/11 tribute) and we hit the Air Rights tunnel. Coming out of there was a good crowd, announcer and an easy final kick to the finish line. Finish time: 1:47:52
333' elevation Gain, 440' elevation Drop
458 out of 2320 overall; 60 out of 209 age group (40-44)
Garmin data (obviously not mine)
|Finish Line Festival|
Post race: Took a leisurely jog/walk to the house, but instead of the short route - doubled back on the course 2.5 miles and got back on the Rock Creek trail into Rock Creek Park. I know it may be disheartening for some runners to see a finisher coming back toward them, but I cheered every runner on (at least those without headphones!). The ~6 miles home included 2 on (real, unpaved) trails, and the last road mile was all uphill. Felt surprisingly good that afternoon and even the following day!