This weekend was very busy and active for me. After last weekends abysmal failure at the JJ100 miler I was hoping for a little confidence boosting. And happily I achieved this.
First, on Saturday Tristan, Gilligan (the dog), Cindy (my sister) and I all went to Weverton Cliffs for a pre-JFK50 miler hike. This was a recon mission for Cindy and for me it was just a nice way to spend a beautiful fall Saturday. After this hike I was supposed to do hillwork but sadly my local hill: Sugarloaf Mtn was closed. Alas on the way home Tristan jettisoned me from the car onto a local road that has some decent inclines and declines and I ran home.
Sunday I PR’ed at a local inaugural half marathon in DC for women’s cancers. I ran the half in 2 hours 12 minutes gun time, but this morning learned my chip time was 2 hours 10 minutes and 39 seconds! Apparently this makes my average mile pace sub-10 minutes. I don’t run sub 10 minute miles even with bears chasing me. (although Tristan says this statement really reflects “Bad math but good running on my part”)
At the race I had a great time! Tristan on his way to climb Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah dropped me off in Downtown DC at 5:45 a.m. (thanks to my recent Conference Co-Chairing and of course marathons in DC, I am very familiar with the roads). After picking up my packet and bib, I tried to find an open coffee shop without any luck (guess my caffeine sabbatical continues).
At Freedom park, there were lots of prerace activities including a women’s health expo. I walked around and learned of all sorts of things. As far as I know my family history does not include women’s cancer however, I do unfortunately have several friends who have been negatively impacted. This race was raising funds and awareness for women’s cancer and was affiliated with a conference for medical professionals as well as survivors. It definitely was a good cause and so many runners were running in honor of loved ones who had cancer or had cancer themselves.
The race course followed 3 loops in downtown DC near the Capitol building. There were several sections that were out and back for a few hundred meters, which gave competitors to see other runners. Looking at the course map it had one section that looked like an “E” with out and back sections. I conceptually liked this course but upon running it I would guess easily 80% of runners had Ipods and did not speak or acknowledge any other runners. I guess I am spoiled by ultras when there is a smaller portion of runners who put on earphones at the start and do not take them off until after the finish.
During the run I felt very good. I started off conservatively with about a 12 minute mile net time to begin with. Then as the day warmed up, I guess I must have sped up. Occasionally I would chat with other runners but for the most part I was near folks with Ipods (sometimes I could even hear their music so would just listen without the damage to my eardrumsJ) Other times I would be in between runners and a bit on my own.
During my second lap I kind of got bummed out because I was not achieving the socialization I had hoped for. So I called my dad. We chatted for a while. He was leaving for China Sunday mid-day so it was likely our last conversation for a few weeks. We talked about what we did Saturday (we both hiked although he was sure proud of his 8 mile hike…I would guess Cindy/Tristan/Gilligan and I hiked 4-5 miles but with my 5 mile run home I think I went further than my dad. Sometimes my dad is funny because he will say things like “I hiked 9 miles. I was so tired. You have no idea how much energy it takes to hike 9 miles. I was on my feet for 6 hours!” He made similar statements after he ran one lap of the Self Transcendence Marathon in August exclaiming he was exhausted after his 3 mile jog with me. I try to humor him.)
After I got off the phone with my dad I appreciated the scenery. We were running near the mall and many of the government buildings in DC. The architecture in DC is very impressive. I also would sporadically chat with runners. There were quite a few runners who had messages on their shirts. If they had no earbuds, I would chat with them offering words of encouragement or asking about the person they were running in honor of. Several runners were running in honor of their mom’s which was really nice. This made me a bit sad because of not having my mom anymore. I know if my mom was around she would have been on the course moving from place to place and there supporting me. I also know my mom was a big supporter of good causes so this made me feel connected to her.
My third and final lap went really quickly. During the latter part of this lap I was able to sort of stalk/draft off a young lady, Laura, who was speeding up at about the same rate as I. She had a huge cheering crowd (with posters!) and I pretended they were cheering for me as well. We chatted during several sections and she was very nice. It was her first half marathon and she was running really strong during the vast majority of the last lap (while most other runners were slowing down considerably). She was good company and made this segment go very quickly.
Pretty soon the finish line was in view and I was pretty surprised to see the clock show 2 hours 12 minutes. I felt really good and really strong. In fact I felt stronger from beginning to end of this race than I did during any of JJ100 last week!
After I finished the marathon I walked along the course going backwards (ie from the finish to mile 11/12). I clapped and cheered on other runners. I am always so amazed by runners who clearly are struggling in events but are toughing it out. I tried to say encouraging and positive words to most of the competitors. Finally nearly 1 hour after I finished, the last runner passed me at mile 11.5 with the SAG police escort immediately following her. I felt bad especially after my diamondman tri experience in which I was followed by the police cruiser. But she had a gentleman who was escorting her so at least there was strength in numbers.
After finishing my cheering responsibility, I headed into the Botanical Gardens by the US Capitol. I like this Smithsonian Museum because it is very pretty, it smells really good and while some components stay the same, many of the plants seem to be moved around. This visit it was clear they are preparing for the holidays. There were some cute displays with monument sculptures as well as lots of pretty and vibrant flowers. Of course there were the usual displays of the orchids, desert plants as well as the main atrium that houses a variety of colorful plants, tree’s and flowers.
After finishing looking at the Botanical Gardens I slowly walked back toward the White House along the Mall. I went by the sculpture garden and people watched for a bit. Then I got on the Metro and headed to the zoo. After grabbing a bite to eat I was shocked to hear my name and something about “Run faster”. Somehow Tristan had come back from his hike to Old Rag and within a few moments of my arrival to the zoo area (after grabbing a bite to eat), he had stumbled on me. We then headed into the zoo.
At the zoo we were fortunate enough to see the Red Panda’s fairly close (and active), the regular panda’s from a distance, the sloth bears frolicking about as well as many other critters. It was in the mid-70’s and a beautiful and sunny day.
Tristan and I also went into several of the buildings including the reptile house (now I know what a Gila Monster looks like), Amazonia, and the small mammal house (which pretty much every animal got me to shriek in delight, “that is so cute, we need one of these as a pet!”). We also got to see the beavers and prairie dogs up close munching on treats.
The most exciting critters were the turtles. In one exhibit there was a large tortoise trying to climb and bit the back of another large tortoise. It was pretty funny and not at all expected. In another exhibit a water turtle was nipping at the tail and later the leg of a different turtle. I never realized herbivores had scuffles and altercations.
After seeing most of the zoo, Tristan and I slowly made our way back to the car which was parked about 800 meters from the zoo, then headed home. It was a very full but fun day!