Monday, September 19, 2011

6th Parks Half Marathon Race Report

It only took a few minutes of looking at the website ( 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.
Race day:
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)
Pacer Ken E. was the absolute ideal pacer. Great splits, constant chatter, loud, constantly joking - he made you push a bit harder just to hear what he was going to say next. Our "group" of 5-6 stayed with him quite a while before breaking up.
The Course:

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.
1: 7:42
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
mostly gradual with one big hill at Mile 11 taking us off one trail and onto another. (Later I would see a resident spraying down runners with his garden hose - where was he when I went by?!)
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
Finish Line
Got my finisher's stocking hat, bottle of water and checked out the festival tent. Watermelon, muffins, cookies, brownies, pasta, bananas, many options! What a treat.
Misc stats:
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!

No comments: