A day in the race life

Mar 15 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Third race down! Today was the DC Rock and Roll Half (and full, and 5K). It was a beautiful morning for a run and DC was out to support! The free beer offers from the all male houses (which...were not frat boy houses? I don't think we ran through GW...) were amusing. I saw one guy take them up on. Bet he puked later.

Considering I couldn't train really at ALL for this race (I've been sick pretty much continuously through February), this went much better than expected. Ran slow, but felt very good, in fact so good I could have kept running at the end! A very good sign.

Today, though, as I recover on the sofa with my feet up, I thought I'd give you the anatomy of a race day. Training days are just normal days. Get home from work, go for a run. Make time on the weekends, go for a run. Or do weights, or cross training, or hills. But race day has a ritual to it. Ideally, the ritual is so you will have the best race day with minimal discomfort. We'll see how well that actually works:

Race Day:

1:00AM: ACK, is that my alarm? Is it time?

2:30AM: ACK, is that my alarm? Is it time?

3:00AM: ACK, is that my alarm? Is it time?

4:30AM: ACK, is that my alarm? Is it time?

5:30AM: alarm goes off. Brew coffee. Only one cup allowed.

All items for race day have been laid out so I won't forget anything:

race day stuff

Here you can see: the race number, shoe tag and pins (left), the amphipod hand water bottle with zipper pouch (haven't switched over to belt yet, they always ride up on me), Gu in desired flavor that I know will go down well mid-race (salted caramel), ipod holder, clif bar (that's breakfast), metro card, ID, keys, and $20 (in case).

All of that will go in me (the clif bar) or on me. I don't gear check.

5:38AM: I start trying to force down the clif bar and coffee. My body takes this time to remind me, with forceful reminders from my intestine, that I have a really stupid hobby. Bathroom.

5:50AM: Dressed. Again attempt the food. Force it down, I will need this before the race is over and I know I will fall over if I don't have it.

5:55AM: Stomach again reminds me forcefully that I have a stupid hobby. I am not inclined to disagree at this time.

6:05AM: Gulp the last of the coffee. Tell the stomach that it's coming with me whether it likes it or not. Leave the house.

6:15AM: Heading to the metro. Getting nervous. When I lived in Philly, for local races, you would ALWAYS see other people walking toward the race start. Here, I see no one until I get to the metro station itself. Ah! Other runners! I'm probably not too late!

6:17AM: Get on the train. Soon joined by a nervous looking young man carrying a half bagel in a plastic bag and a very long suffering guy who's clearly headed to the train station or something. He doesn't know what to make of increasing numbers of nervous, chattering runners.

Why DO we get nervous? I know for most of us, certainly for me, it's not my first time. I know my body can do this. It's done it before, barring accident it will do it again. At this point it's not even a particularly difficult experience! But somehow, I'm always a nervous wreck. Clearly everyone else is, too.

6:50AM: Arrive at the race start. Took a good 10 min just to get out of the metro. For the first time in one of these huge, 5 digit registered races...my corral is toward the front! I CAN SEE THE START LINE! Like really see it! And hear the announcements from the stage and not re broadcast along the line. Go me! I pause to enjoy the sight.

6:55AM: Sigh. Better go pee. Don't want to lose time during the race. Shortly find a truly awesome looking outdoor bathroom setup with an orderly line and attendants! I stand in line for 5 min before I am told that this is the VIP bathroom and I am not VIP. WTF. I ask irritably where the plebs pee. I am pointed to a bank of port o potties. Of course.

7:00AM: I can't help but notice these bathroom lines are SHOCKINGLY long. Not nearly enough port o potties. I resign myself.

7:25AM: What do you MEAN I am still only halfway to the toilet?!?


But we start in waves. And surely they'll take 2 minutes between each wave start, so...so...right??

7:40AM: There goes my wave. I'm not in it. I could have just run off but at this point I DO need to pee. And you don't want to lose time once your chip starts...

7:45AM: Get to the front of the line. Look at port o potty and am very, VERY grateful that I got good at squats this winter. Runners, seriously. Are we not civilized?!

7:46AM: Jogging off to the race start. Start 7 corrals behind my assigned one. And I'm OFF. Dodging people who are 7 corrals slower than me for the first 6 miles and feeling really guilty about it. I finally catch up to my assigned corral. I'm kind of glad I wasn't in my own corral. I would have been with the guy who was dribbling two basketballs the whole race.*

Favorite race sights:

1. The policeman helping close off the road who was cheering enthusiastically. Normally they just stand there. I'm so happy they are there to help us out and I hope they are getting paid (I assume?), but it was esp nice to see a guy who cared.

2. Little kids giving out high fives as you run by. Always a favorite. Also the people who bring their dogs out.

3. The guy who was handing out water at the water stop like Oprah: "YOU GET A WATER! YOU GET A WATER! EVERYBODY GETS A WATER!"

4. The all female drum line at mile 8. Awesome!

By 10:00AM I am done, through the race chute, gotten some gatorade and gotten over my shock that there are no bananas. A long metro ride and I am home to shower, and then pass out for a few hours.

It's nice to see all the people running together, finishing together, hugging at the end. I usually run the race by myself and the end feels odd. It's better when there's a friendly support crew at the end to give me a sweatshirt and Gatorade and stuff. But I know waiting at the end of a race...it's a really charitable thing to do. It's crowded, it's loud and this can't possibly be entertaining.

Tomorrow: we start training again! Next up, April race in NC.


*These people make me grit my teeth. Yes. I'm very impressed that you have become so bored with racing that you can run a marathon backward at a 9 minute pace while juggling. Very impressed. But really? Do you have to? Are you not aware that for many, many of the people running today, this is the HARDEST THING they have ever done?! And you're going to breeze by them backward while juggling. Because you can.

2 responses so far

  • Joseph Harrison says:

    It was fun reading your race report and it made me want to respond with suggestions. I have been running races for 30 years and I’ve never had a problem with the gear check procedures or getting my bag back. I know that it keeps you from getting to your race corral on time if you wait until the last minute. If you just keep the gear down to a set of shirt, sweatshirt, and sweatpants you can drop it off early and if you lose them it won’t ruin your day. Also if you stop drinking and eating 2 hours before the race starts you might be able to avoid the need for the porta-john line. You were awake then. It’s the sleep you lose two nights before the race that will affect your running since nerves will wake you up early on race morning. This was not a warm or hot day race so you really don’t need a water bottle since there will be water stops. It seems a lot of new runners carry a lot of things that the running magazines suggest are needed. How did anyone run a marathon without GU, Clif bars or Power bars before they were invented?
    And I find the costumed runners, basketball dribblers and backwards runners annoying too. Unless they are faster than me then I feel humbled.

    • scicurious says:

      Thanks for the advice. Actually, I've been running races for about a decade. So this is the routine that I've developed over that time. I like to carry my water bottle and Gu, I know which flavors go down well and will work best for me during the race, and I like the water bottle for insurance. I've been in several races where they have run out of water and I don't want to be caught out. As for the Gu, I've run plenty of races without them, and I find I race better with them. So why not?

      I do attempt to eat 2 hours before the race (as you can see), it's just not always successful.

      As for gear check...I just don't want to waste the time. I don't mind wearing all my gear, and I really don't like throwing away clothing like that. I know a lot of races do collections that go to Goodwill, but then again, a lot of them don't and I feel bad littering.

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