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March 17, 2013 / fionarwbl

Rock N Roll National Half Race Recap – Surprisingly Speedy!

I’m baaaack!

Firstly, what a weekend of running. I couldn’t be happier for the amazing running success stories that poured in all weekend, with PRs for Ashley, Ashley, Erica, Meggie, Emily, Theodora, Gia, Steph, and probably many more who I haven’t named here. Furthermore, all the great stories of cheering on the NYC Half made me so happy to be a part of this amazing running community. #hugsandrainbowglitter


Totally matched my outfit to my medal. Also, sparkle skirts for the serious win.

Yes, it’s been two months since I last posted. A couple of things happened over the last couple of months that took my head out of running, and so all my big plans for races and PRs and training took a back seat. All that is resolved now, and I’m back on run and register for every race possible bandwagon. In fact, as I write this, I’m actually sitting on a  bus to back from D.C., where I ran the Rock N Roll USA Half Marathon. I was extremely excited about this race. It’s the third year that I’ve registered, and the first that I was actually able to run it. I haven’t been to D.C. in years, but the thought of running past the mall and the monuments gave me shivers, and the race totally lived up to expectations. I even bought a Sparkle Skirt for the occasion!

I had extremely low expectations of this race, running-wise. I haven’t run a mile faster than 8:30 since early January, and aside from a couple of tough Refine workouts, I haven’t exactly had my heart pumping for any length of time at all. The race either had a high chance of early flame-out, or a long slow steady plod to the finish line. I was hoping more for the second! On top of that, I don’t exactly have the best track record of races I travel for.

The race started at 7.30am. I had entirely forgotten about the scale of Rock N Roll races, so thought that getting there at 7.00am would be plenty of time to check my bag and amble over to the starting corrals. Ha! Wishful thinking. The bag check was an extremely long line that took about 25 minutes. Once I checked my bag, I jogged over to the start line, deciding not to pee. I had given up on making it to the starting line on time, but then when I got closer, I realized that I might just make it. I ran up to my corral and ducked in, turned on my Garmin (no satellites!), and fumbled with my iPhone to turn on my tracker and mess around with my headphones. I knew Theodora was in the same corral as me, and that the corrals are a little smaller than NYRR ones, and that they started approximately every 90 seconds. I looked around frantically and saw her (sparkle skirts are extremely useful in tracking down your friends!) as the corral countdown started. Success! Theodora has a race plan from Jess that fit right in line with my own, so we agreed to run together.


We ran almost the whole way! I would rather this was an action pose, but marathonfoto haven't put the "your fastest run looks like a slow walk" photos online yet, so here's a post-race photo instead. Spoiler - we finished!

We ran almost the whole way! I would rather this was an action pose, but marathonfoto haven’t put the “your fastest run looks like a slow walk” photos online yet, so here’s a post-race photo instead. Spoiler – we finished!

The first couple of miles felt fast and tough for me. My Garmin didn’t find satellites until about a mile into the race, so Theodora was on watch patrol. She assured me we were running a 9:20 in our first mile, so I panicked a little internally about whether I was going out too fast already and if my legs were up to running. We kept running along and chatting a ton, and our legs picked up a little naturally, and by mile three we both felt we were going too fast. 8:20s on the watch confirmed that and we focused on trying to slow ourselves down. My legs had finally started to feel good, and the rest of me felt strong, and we settled into a comfortable pace. Maybe it was the overcast day, or the fact that I hadn’t looked a lot at the course map before starting, but I didn’t find the course as “monumental” as I thought I would, but maybe it was because I literally did not know where I should be looking. I did think it was pretty though, and we went through a ton of neighborhoods and some pretty wooded areas as well. Someone who actually knows the course should probably insert knowledge now.

Can you spot the hill?

Can you spot the hill?

After running a very pleasant, slightly rolling, and mostly downhill first 6 miles, we were hit with an absolute brute of a hill. The sort of hill that you round a corner and suddenly see a line of runners trudging up. The sort of hill that gets a percentage grade sign. Actually, I just looked at it on, and the percentage grade is 9.6%. I don’t really know what that means apart from it is steep. I am a really terrible uphill runner, but an excellent downhill runner, so I told Theodora to go ahead, and I would catch her up on the downhill. And up we slogged. Actually, gruesomely steep as it was, it was over quickly, which is the sort of hill I prefer. I’ll take that as a way to gain 150 ft in altitude over a Queensboro Bridge any day.

So we got to the top, and there was no downhill! It was just flat. Still my aching quads and calves were grateful for the chance to stretch out a little, and I was able to pick up the pace and catch up with Theodora in a few minutes. I will always be grateful to her for wearing an obnoxiously bright pink top and green sparkle skirt. It was around this point I had a Gu – peanut butter flavor, first time I had it (yes I know, don’t try something new in a race, but I knew there would be Gus later on, and I wasn’t really trying to PR or anything,), and it tasted weird. Like very sweet peanut butter. No disgusting like the vanilla bean flavor, but not exactly pleasant.

The miles kept ticking off, and we kept hitting them around 8:30s or faster. Theodora’s plan to run between 8:30 and 8:50 was definitely coming down on the faster side, but our legs kept co-operating, so we just let them do their thing. We ran through some great neighborhoods with tons of people cheering, and down a fast hill with a marching band at the bottom which kept the blood pumping. While we kept saying we were going to slow down for the next mile or so, we never did. We reached mile 8, and decided to keep at the same pace until mile 9, when we might start to go faster. At this point we were at about 1:10, so we had some time on the clock to spare in order to beat 1:55, which was Theodora’s goal.

While we said we would not kick until mile 9 marker, we had some helpful downhills and momentum that had us coming in at 8:09 for mile 9, and 8:12 for mile 10. These are splits I haven’t seen in months, and if nothing else, I was feeling huge confidence at simply having those times in my legs at this point in a run, no matter what happened next. At mile 10 I had a quick walking break for water and Gu – eating and drinking on the run has never served me well and I’d rather lose a few seconds and get some water in me, rather than choking and spilling. Coordination and breathing fail. Finish line legs kicked right in after that, and although it was starting to feel hard and my quads and calves were starting to hurt, and breathing was becoming more work, the thought of only having three more miles left to go meant it was time to push harder. Mile 11 came in at 8:07 and by this point Theodora and I were barely talking, apart from “this is hard, but it’s over soon”. Mile 12 meant it was time to get this thing over with, and we pushed hard. Theodora had a bit more pep in her step than me at this time, and she started to take off a little. I was going hard enough as well, and mile 12 was 7:47, a mile split time that in hindsight is a huge victory. The last stretch of the race was a painful uphill that I only made it through by being able to see the finish line ahead. I crossed and dashed up to Theodora and exchanging PR-fest sweaty hugs. She knocked an amazing 5 minutes off hers, and I had taken 3 minutes off mine. I actually thought it was only two, but checking the official results today brought my official time in at 1:50:33, or 8:26 pace. Oh, and a negative split. I don’t think I’ve ever negative split anytime apart from dog walks. Utter glory.




Like the only other Rock N Roll Race I have run, the post-race food was pretty spectacular, with bagels, Jamba Juice, chocolate milk, chips, and apple sauce. I stumbled around for a bit with Theodora, in a kind of haze of PR euphoria, before remembering that I had a husband who was abandoned in a hotel room waiting for me, so I headed back to the city. Actually, Ori had slept in and was just waking up as I came back in.


PR City!

PR City!

After that it was an amazing weekend spent in DC getting to meet some great ladies like Ericka and Emily, and spend hours and hours with old friends, as well as soaking up the sights and being amazed, inspired, and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in moving to the U.S. Even spending over 10 hours on the megabus this weekend couldn’t put a dampener on things. Happy times.



Leave a Comment
  1. 50by25laura / Mar 18 2013 2:12 pm

    AWESOME job and so glad I got to celebrate with you after! Hope you enjoyed the rest of your time in DC 🙂

    • fionarwbl / Mar 18 2013 5:32 pm

      I had an awesome time, and it was great to see you. My husband LOVED you. Ok, but not like that. You know what I mean 🙂

      • 50by25laura / Mar 18 2013 5:40 pm

        Then we shall all hang out again soon 🙂

  2. Emilia @ Run for Your Life / Mar 18 2013 4:52 pm

    Awesome job, congrats on the PR!
    RNR races do have good food, don’t they? Now I’m extra excited to return to Nashville in April. 🙂

    • fionarwbl / Mar 18 2013 4:53 pm

      Nashville had the best food I’ve seen at a race. I remember particularly loving the frozen fruit cups last year!

      • 50by25laura / Mar 18 2013 5:39 pm

        Only for the half though – I’ve yet to finish an RNR full and have food still remaining 😦

  3. Theodora / Mar 18 2013 5:13 pm

    I love you. That is all.

  4. Katherine @ Neon Blonde Runner / Mar 18 2013 6:38 pm

    aaack congrats on a surprise PR 🙂 (I added you to my list of buddies with PRs this weekend 🙂

    • fionarwbl / Mar 18 2013 6:41 pm

      Thanks!!! Seems like it was a magical weekend for running! loved your green outfit, btw 🙂

  5. Jen / Mar 19 2013 2:51 pm

    Congrats on the PR, Fiona! Sounds like you ran a really great race. I’m looking forward to running Cherry Blossom and Nike DC Half in April. I haven’t been back to DC since I interned there for 9 months in 2009. I think my races go by the monuments, which is nice because it sort of feels like… why do a race in DC without that??

    • fionarwbl / Mar 19 2013 3:16 pm

      I’m running the Cherry Blossom too! Very excited to go back. Maybe I’ll see you there! 🙂

  6. Steph @ Smiles Through Miles / Mar 19 2013 10:36 pm

    Great recap and great job! The few times I have visited DC, I have loved it! I would love to try a race in that area in the future!

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