Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon Recap

For every single mistake, there’s an opportunity to learn from it.

Well, I have lots to learn from yesterday’s race.

With 10 half-marathons and a bunch of shorter races under my belt, I don’t consider myself any kind of running or racing expert, but I thought I knew pretty well what my body could and couldn’t handle.

Um, maybe not so much.

As I said the other day, my main goals were to: run with Tina and enjoy the race, finish hopefully under 2:00 and finish safely.

Well, I finished under 2:00, and I ran with Tina (and Meganerd!), and I enjoyed the race.

I don’t think I finished safely.

The night before the race, I went to Sette Osteria, one of my favorite DC Italian restaurants, with my roommates for the weekend, Ashley, Laura and Caitlin (Beth and Samantha also joined us.)


I ordered a delicious gnocchi and had them add chicken so I could get a little protein in.

I also had two fabulous glasses of New Zealand sauvignon blanc. I wasn’t planning on PRing at the race the next day, so two glasses of wine couldn’t hurt, right? Two glasses of wine isn’t much, right?

I had water at dinner and in the morning…

We woke up at 5:30 to plan on leaving for the race at 6. My stomach was a little upset, so I took one Immodium as I was getting ready–which is not terribly unusual before a race for me and my sensitive stomach. It generally calms things down.

We were staying at the Washington Marriott, near Foggy Bottom, courtesy of the very awesome Caitlin’s father and his Marriott points. Thank you Caitlin and your dad! I love him. We decided splitting a cab four ways wouldn’t be much more than taking the Metro and might be less stressful. The cab ride went very smoothly and we were at RFK within 15 minutes.


One of the best about this race is the access to the Armory before the race. A warm, indoor place to hang out? What?? Awesome.

Also awesome? The race on St. Patrick’s Day and everyone decked out in green.

(Laura, by the way, was pacing the marathon…her 68th marathon. Because she’s a little crazy like that.)

We hung out inside until about 7:45 when we decided we should probably get in the corrals. My phone wasn’t getting good service, and I couldn’t get ahold of Tina, and I started getting a little nervous. For a race I was undertrained for, it would really be nice to have someone else to run with.


On the way out, I ran into Meganerd and we walked to the corral, hoping to find Tina.




Since we were relatively close to the front (corral 8 out of 20-something corrals), we were able to cross the start quickly.

Our first mile was in the low 9:00s, and we tried to keep as many miles in the low 9s as possible, but our splits ended up being pretty inconsistent. We’d run one mile in the 8:40s and then the next in the low 9:00s. It was almost like we were doing intervals while racing? Really weird.

It was in the low 50s when we were standing in the corrals, but it warmed up really quickly, and kept getting warmer as the sun came out.

I’d had my usual pre-race breakfast, a Luna bar and banana, but it didn’t seem to be enough. About 4 miles in, I started getting really hungry–for real food. I’ve been hungry for solid food at the end of a marathon, but never so early in a race. I usually Gu at mile 6 of a half and then take half a Gu around mile 9 or 10, but I went for a Gu at mile 5 yesterday. Speaking of Gu, they hooked me up with a free bib for this race, which was much appreciated–especially since I signed up for this race when I was unemployed.

I ran the National Half last year, too, before it was organized by Rock ‘n’ Roll/Competitor Group. I hadn’t heard good things from other races the group has put on, but I hoped for the best at our race. Last year wasn’t terribly well-organized–the race ran out of water at a lot of stops, there were few mile markers on the course, so the race could only go up from there, right? Thankfully, yes. I can’t say I noticed any major hiccups yesterday.


As for the Rock ‘n’ Roll part of the race, I’d always heard there were tons of bands on their courses. I don’t remember how many bands we passed, but it was a nice perk. I can see this being especially awesome for a race that doesn’t go through a city, where there’s less to look at on the course.

Even though I’m not as well-trained right now as I was for this race last year, the extra year of running under my belt, and plenty of racing on hilly courses, definitely helped my muscle memory. Running at a 8:40ish pace was certainly no walk in the park, but I didn’t feel like I was dying, which, for being undertrained? Pretty awesome. Physically, my legs didn’t feel very fresh, but they never felt completely spent, either.


The three of us managed to stay together until around mile 6 or 7, running through Dupont Circle, when we lost Megan. It can be difficult enough running with one other person sometimes, but trying to keep three people together at the same pace is pretty hard.

Tina and I ran together just the two of us, and definitely talked even less than we did at the NYC Marathon, since the running was not coming terribly easy to us. I remember around mile 7 or 8 seeing salt packets at one of the water station and thinking they looked really good. Not a good sign.

The rest of the course and race was pretty standard until around mile 11.5. Megan had caught up to us a few minutes earlier, and the three of us were running together again. I started feeling a surge of energy, and with Megan a bit behind me, and Tina a bit behind her, I decided I was going to give the rest of the race all I had.

We were around 11.25 at 1:40ish, and I thought I still might be able to pull out a miracle PR. The first 10-11 miles of the course is fairly scenic, but the last few miles is really boring. Once you pass Howard, you run through Capitol Hill on the NE side of DC through some residential streets. There’s also a long street–I think 13th Street–that you run on for seemingly forever.

I told myself I’d pick things up once I hit 12 or got off that damn street, whichever happened first. Once I hit 12, I turned it up, and ended up running that last mile in 7:55! I am still in utter shock when I run an entire mile in a race under an 8:00 pace.

I ran hard, looking at my watch, doing mental math to figure out whether I’d be able to PR or not. Once I hit 13, I saw I wasn’t going to PR, and I became discouraged and slowed things down to a jog. When you hit 13 on this course, you can’t even see the finish line, which is also incredibly discouraging.

I ended up crossing the finish line in 1:57: , a time I’m really happy with for the amount of training I did. I can’t wait to see how much faster I can get later on this year when I do put more effort back into my training.

I walked past the finish line and turned around to look for Tina and Megan for a few minutes. When I didn’t see them, I started walking towards the beer tents, figuring I might find Tina there. Sure enough, she walked over there a few minutes later. As I started talking to the girls, I knew something was wrong.

I felt woozy, and I started to see double looking at them. (And no, I hadn’t gotten a beer.) This happened to me once, when I ran my last 20-miler before the marathon, and I knew I couldn’t make it back to the hotel without getting some salt into my system. I looked around to see if I could nab someone’s Gatorade, but didn’t see any wayward Gatorades for me to take.

I told Tina I thought I needed some salt, and we walked over to the medical tent. I thought I’d be able to grab some salt packets and peace out, but they took my information and had me sit down and mix salt packets into water. After one little bottle of this, I didn’t feel any better at all, and asked for some straight-up salt packets. They tried to offer me Gatorade, but it usually makes me sick to my stomach, so I tried to say no. After taking a few salt packets and realizing they weren’t doing anything, I relented and took the damn Gatorade.

When I’d sat down, they asked if I wanted them to take my vitals. I thought I’d be fine after some salt, so I initially declined, but once I wasn’t feeling any better, I asked them if they could take my vitals. The volunteer took my pulse, and said it was 112. She told me she thought I should lay down on a cot and elevate my legs. As I sat there, I started feeling really nervous and scared I might pass out. I remembered once at physical therapy, a guy telling me a story of how he was in the hospital for 36 hours after passing out after a race from dehydration. and had visions of the same happening to me. Tina came back in and sat with me for a few minutes and calmed me down.

The volunteer came back again and took my pulse again–it had only gone down to 106, but at least it had gone down. I tried making a joke and saying “well, sitting in a medical tent hoping I don’t pass out isn’t really doing anything for my nerves.” She smiled but told me if it didn’t keep going down, I might need an IV. Even more nervous at this point, I was determined to be a good patient and get the hell out of there. I finished the Gatorade, asked for more salt and took some more water. Finally, I wasn’t seeing double and got the hell out of there.

I walked back over to the Armory to meet up with Ashley and Caitiln (who ROCKED her race–1:53!). Ashley’d had a rough time, too, and we sat in the Armory and decompressed a bit before finally leaving. At this point, I was absolutely shivering, and just wanted to get back to the hotel.

While I don’t know whether it was the two glasses of wine, the warmth on the course and this being my first warm race of the year, being undertrained, or what, having to take a trip to the medical tent really scared me into not being so blase about my racing and training. Sure, I can pull out a half-marathon on minimal training, but I need to be kinder to my body. I can’t not train AND have a few glasses of wine before a race and expect everything to go well. That’s a lot to ask of my body. (As if a half-marathon alone wasn’t a lot to ask of my body.)

Whew. What have you learned from rough races?

42 comments on “Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half Marathon Recap

  1. Michele @ nycrunningmama

    Oh gosh, I hope you are feeling better today! Congrats on a great race and fantastic finish time – despite being “undertrained”! You are so right about learning from tough races…of course it sucks at the time, but sometimes that is the best way to learn and really have it hit home so you don’t do whatever you did again. My toughest race was just this past year (SI Half). I hadn’t raced since my son was born and got a little too excited and start WAY too fast. The first half was smoking fast and then I completely hit the wall at mile 10. The last 3.1 miles were the hardest 5k of my entire life.

  2. alison

    Yikes, I’m glad you’re okay now. That must have been really scary. Despite your shaky post race experience, congrats on running a great race!

    I ran the race, too, and actually saw you near the family meet up area. I thought about saying hello, but I’m pretty timid and didn’t want to look like a big goof. šŸ™‚
    My friend who ran with me had a similar experience to yours; she felt faint after the race and we spent a lot of time with her laying on the armory floor, trying to get her to feel better. She didn’t want an IV, so we didn’t go to the medical tent; we just waited until she was okay to walk to the car to drive home.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better now.

    1. Theodora Post author

      Aw, you should have!!! I’m sure I would have been even more awkward…especially since I wasn’t feeling so hot. How was the race for you??

      1. alison

        @Theodora: Ha! Awkward should be my middle name. šŸ˜‰
        I had a rough race; it was going great until near the 7th mile when I was hit with a HUGE cramp, which wouldn’t go away. I had to walk it off a few times and finished much slower than I would have liked.
        I ran this race last year and I was pretty pleased with how well organized it was since Rock n Roll took it over.

        Also? If you’re ever looking for a fun fall half marathon in the DC area, I really recommend the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon; it’s a point to point race from Mt. Vernon to National Harbor.

        1. Theodora Post author

          @alison: Yes, RNR for the win. Surprisingly!

          I just looked up that Wilson half, and it looks like SO MUCH FUN, but I’m already spending every other weekend of October in D.C…so maybe next year šŸ™‚

  3. melissa (fitnessnyc)

    Great job! I am sorry it was a rough ending! I am definitely nervous that I will be under trained for the More. Maybe I still have time to make up for my lack of commitment? Anyways, you never fail to impress me!

    1. Theodora Post author

      Aw, thanks lady šŸ™‚ I think you have time to get some great training in for a strong race! I turned my training from half-assed to about three-quarters-assed after the Disney Princess half, and I think it made a difference!

  4. MCM Mama

    For my first half marathon, I was well trained, but it was the first warm weekend of the year and we went to the beach the day before. I didn’t end up in the med tent, but that was mostly because I stopped running at mile 9 and pretty much trudged the rest of the way. It’s amazing what dehydration can do to you.

    Glad you were ok! I ran at noon yesterday (in Arlington) and was thinking how glad I was that I only needed to do 5 miles…

  5. melody

    Congrats on a great race, especially for being undertrained. I’m sorry it didn’t end quite the way you would have liked, but I’m glad you are okay!!

    Something similar happened to me when I did my 1st 70.3 – I barely trained (my wedding was 3 weeks later and I had more inportant things to do than train for a 70.3 – ha). Anyway, it was 105 degrees and NO shade – miserable. I ended up needing 6 IV’s and going to the hospital. it was terrible – but taught me that i will NEVER not train for a major race again.

    Hope you were feeling better enough to enjoy a green beer on St. Paddy’s Day! šŸ™‚

    1. Theodora Post author

      Will Run for Margaritas=the best blog name I’ve ever heard of.

      6 IVs?? WHOA. Glad you were okay after that.

      And, yes, was feeling well enough to have a GREEN MARGARITA!

  6. Carissa @fit2flex

    I’m glad you’re feeling better. I’ve never been to the medical tent but I have had awful races. Now you know how to deal with it and your blog will help educate others about what to do.

  7. Kate @ ibrokemyumbrella

    Wow! That’s scary. That fear of passing out is sometimes worse than actually passing out. I’m glad you’re ok. Don’t be too hard on yourself though. Sometimes stuff like that just happens. It is definitely scary though.

  8. Laura

    I am sorry you felt so miserable after your race yesterday, but am very happy you didn’t need an IV. As a fairly new runner, I really enjoy your blog. I have been following you for a few months now and want you know how inspiring your posts to me! I hope to one day run a half marathon, so I will definitely learn from your recent experience. Thanks for being so honest and awesome!

  9. Matt

    I ran the Vermont City Marathon in May. The day started out cool and rainy, but the sun came out around mile 5, and it quickly got hot and humid. I was determined to qualify for Boston, so I didn’t want to adjust my pace for the conditions. I finished, and then spent the next hour and a half in the medical tent with an IV in my arm. It was kind of scary, and I don’t ever wish to repeat that experience! Lesson learned; don’t try and be e hero all the time!

  10. Angela @ Happy Fit Mama

    Whoa! I’m glad you are feeling better. I’m sure it didn’t help you any that you thought of your PT’s story.

    You are probably right that it was from a combo of the wine and warmth of the weather. Who knew it would be this warm in March??

  11. TriGirl

    That suuucks! At least you got a race time, eh? šŸ˜‰

    I learned in my first tri that despite what I had been told, I couldn’t ‘sort of’ train for it, because it cost me an ambulance ride to the ER for hypothermia and dehydration. Oops. Never did that again.

  12. Shauna @ Pleasure, Not Punishment

    Congratulations on your race. It’s phenomenal that you’re able to do a half on minimal training. It may not seem like an incredible physical feat when you’ve done it many times but to the many readers who haven’t run that distance, it’s impressive!

  13. chelsey @ clean eating chelsey

    Congrats on the time, but that sucks that you felt like crap after the race. The race I ran at Disney in January, I got really sick about an hour after I finished after I was already back in the hotel room. I had run REALLY hard, and after I got out of the shower, I felt like I was going to puke and couldn’t peel myself out of bed for 2’ish hours. My mom made me eat and drink some powerades, and I felt a little bit better. I have to say though, I didn’t feel “well” for the rest of the day!

  14. Caitlin

    Obviously I am so glad that you are okay, but I have to say lady, you amaze me! The fact that after not training super well you can still pull out a sub 2 half is incredible. You are bad-ass. I can’t wait to see what you do either šŸ™‚ Thanks for being a super roomie, day drinking buddy, bathroom friend – it was a blast! xo

  15. Kimra

    Sounds really scary, but glad it ended up OK. I pretty much melt in any amount of heat/humidity after 8 years in northern California, so what I learned from my toughest race was never to race in the state of Florida again!

  16. Megan (The Runner's Kitchen)

    i’ve definitely had races that have caught me off guard like this. sometimes i think i’m invincible, but unfortunately my body likes to remind me that i’m not….

    even though we’ve had a warm winter, running 13+ miles in sunny, near 60 degree temperatures can be very dehydrating (esp. if you’re more acclimated to 40 degrees!). glad you got some salt and gatorade in you asap, and nice race time!!!

  17. Ma.Dharess

    Thanks for the great recapitulation! Anyway, people in USA really enjoyed this marathon and they can even gain more friends through this…

  18. Cat @ Breakfast to Bed

    That sounds very un-fun. I KNOW the next one will be better for you. Sorry you ended up in the tents.
    My toughest race was the Akron half. It has some STEEP hills and it was a REALLY warm day for Ohio, I puked a few times and almost shat myself. I finished REALLLL classy by passing out in the tents

  19. Aly

    Ok I have a question — sorry I feel like I only comment when I have questions — but since you run so much how are you able to tell the difference between being dehydrated or needing food/low blood sugar? I guess i find it interesting as a non-runner because my inclination based on my what you mentioned before about feeling hungry, I was thinking your blood sugars were low? Not trying to play doctor at all, just curious as someone with a non-running background.

    1. Theodora

      @Aly: That’s actually a really good question. I think the seriously craving salt when I saw it (I don’t know why I didn’t just take it…) was probably a sign of my body needing it. I remember my mouth also feeling really, really dry, but honestly, beyond that, it was mostly just intuition. But it is possible that it was a super-awesome combination of both low blood sugar and dehydration.

  20. Wifey

    Glad you’re OK, that sounded scary! I’ve never felt like that, but I have under-trained and have learned to respect what my body needs. Yikes!

    Oh, and it was great meeting you at Disney!

    Winks & Smiles,

  21. Leanne @ The Skinny Architect

    Glad you felt better! Actually I ran the half relay on Saturday and almost passed out too! I have dehydration problems in races over 6 miles but this one was particularly sunny so I don’t think that helped. I don’t think my body was prepared for the heat after running in the winter. Glad you were able to shake it off quickly. šŸ™‚

  22. Laura

    Oh, gosh, that is scary! I’m so impressed you still pulled off your other 3 goals despite feeling so poorly! I’m guessing the heat was the biggest culprit– I think our bodies really struggle to adapt when it gets warm so early in the season. Hope you’re feeling 100% by now, and have no more races like that one!

  23. Caroline

    Funny, I learned the EXACT same lesson on Saturday at the same race! I didn’t train for the half because life got in the way and I definitely learned to appreciate how much needs to go right and how important training is and how I shouldn’t push my body too hard.
    I’m glad you’re feeling better!


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