I used to hear stories about this race. About how you didn’t want to work the finish chute because of all the puking. How there would be ambulances everywhere. About how the race was always being downgraded to a “Fun Run” because of the heat. Yeah, I stayed away from that race.
And then last year I decided to run the Rockville Rotary Twilight Runfest 8K. I could deal with the heat. I’d run plenty of hot races, having long since gotten over my “no racing in July or August” policy. Last year it wasn’t all that hot. Sure, it was warm, but the excessive heat they’d experienced in years past was gone. I signed up again this year. And up until a few days ago, when we had temps soaring into the triple digits, it looked as if the heat would be back. I steeled (stole?) myself for the conditions. I’d been training at 9am…I could do this.
And then the rain came. All day Saturday. Temps were in the 60s…almost chilly. My youngest son had a swim meet in the morning, after which we headed home and I put on my 2XU compression tights and put my feet up. I watched a movie, focused on trying to eat the foods that wouldn’t bother my stomach, and tried to while away the time until the race. Around 3:30 my son asked to go to the pool and I figured it might be a good time to start waking my body up. While he practiced his starts and strokes for divisionals next Saturday (yes, the swimming continues), I swam a nice, easy 1000m. We were the only people in the pool; the lifeguards were just delighted to have to come out of the nice, warm pool house and sit in the chairs, shivering under umbrellas. Really.
I drove up to Rockville in my husband’s car, since the transmission in my car decided to stop cooperating on the way back from the swim meet. I can’t figure out my husband’s satellite radio. He has a bunch of preset stations, which seem to fall under the categories of Sports Radio, Talk Radio, or 80s Music. So I listened to Billy Idol on the drive. Good music for race preparation…kinda.
Parking in downtown Rockville on a Saturday night is a nightmare. Last year I parked in the first lot I came to, which turned out to be about 5 miles from the race…not even sure it was IN Rockville. This year I decided to go straight to the downtown area and park in the open lot I’d seen. Except it was full. But there was a garage right across the street so I wrangled my way in there and found a spot for the bargain price of $1.
I wandered through downtown, trying to avoid all the cigarette smoke, and found my way to Potomac River Running, where the other runners were. Packet pickup for this race is a cinch…once you know what you’re doing. You look at the list of runners posted on the store window and find your name and bib number. Then you go over to the stage in the square and get your bib and bag of goodies. They have a billion volunteers so no humungous wait, although the fact that they’re standing on a stage and you’re on the ground makes things a little awkward. No matter. Then you head into the store to get your shirt. Bit of a squeeze here, since the store is small and 3000 people are racing. Still, the volunteers are plentiful and I was able to get my shirt and a wire tie for my IPICO timing chip (I was wearing shoes with lock laces and so couldn’t tie my chip on like normal people) with relative ease. I thought about looking through the 50% off rack but it was just too crowded.
I stood outside the door and attached my chip to my shoe. Chatted to a guy for a bit who happened to be from New Zealand and thought I “look fast.” Told him looks can be deceptive and the fact that I was wearing a =PR= singlet was just because they took pity on me. Then Miss Zippy (Amanda) showed up. We’ve been chatting on Twitter and reading one another’s blogs (check hers out, very informative posts unlike the drivel you find here) for some time but this was our first face-to-face meeting. We instantly clicked and found out we were parked in the same garage, so we headed there together to dump our bags. Once inside the garage we realized we hadn’t asked anyone to take a picture of us, so I grabbed a random runner guy and asked him to do the honors. The pic he took with my phone looked total crap so here’s the one he took with Amanda’s, which is still crap but in focus:
Possibly the worst pre-race photo ever but it’s the only one I’ve got because after that I put my phone in my car. That proved to be a problem because when I went to find Amanda, I couldn’t. It was like the old days before cell phones, you know, when you had to communicate verbally. I wandered around yelling “Amanda!” but didn’t get a response. I wondered if maybe she’d done a runner after meeting the weird British chick and so I went outside. I started to jog toward the race area as it was now about 40 mins to race start and I was getting antsy, and then I remembered Amanda telling me on the walk to the garage about some crazy dude who had yelled profanities at her as she took a few extra seconds finding change to pay the parking attendant, and I got worried that maybe she’d bumped into him. So I doubled back to the garage to look for her again. Thankfully she saw me just as she was looking for the exit.
We jogged back over to the race start. Amanda asked me if I was doing my race warmup now as she would do a proper one at 8:30. She was starting to find out just how antsy I get before races. We met up with some of her friends and, after finding a bathroom (well, some bushes that I pointed out), we all warmed up together. Then we got in the corral and waited for what seemed like an eternity for the race to start at 8:45. As usual there was a very smelly guy near me…why can’t some people wear deodorant?…which made me more anxious for the race to start.
Which, in due course, it did. With all the rain and continuing drizzle we were cautioned to watch our step, and I was careful to avoid running on the painted lines, which tend to get slippery. Although it was dark, the course is relatively well-lit and it’s not too hard to avoid the odd pothole. The course undulates around the neighborhood for the first couple of miles and I concentrated on running comfortably, leaning into the downhills and easing through the uphills. When we reached Montgomery College for the parking lot loops (shout out to the band “Throwing Wenches” who were performing here), we were at about 3 miles and I was in need of some help. There were two guys running in front of me, one with a swinging left arm and the other in a very baggy shirt. I named them Tweedledee and Tweedledum (not in a nasty way, just for distraction purposes) and decided to try to pass them both. I got Tweedledee (arm swinger) quite quickly but Tweedledum was proving pretty fast. I hung on.
At mile 4 you turn onto Rockville Pike. I don’t like this part of the course. You’re running in a coned-off area with cars whizzing by and it’s like some sort of bad dream where any moment you’re going to wake up and find yourself in the middle of the road in your pajamas. I had lied to Amanda before the race and told her it was all downhill from mile 4 when in truth it’s only downhill for the last .2. I thought about how she’d be cursing me when she was on this stretch…heck, I was cursing myself. Tweedledum was still ahead and passing people. I tried to look at my Garmin. For some reason the button I press to turn on the backlight was changing the display instead so I could only read it under streetlights. Shows how much early morning running I’ve done lately…zilch. I saw 4:26 and was not happy to still have three quarters of a mile to go. Then I reminded myself that was less than a mile and I should be pushing it. With a quarter mile left I really wanted to see that finish line, but you don’t see it until the last minute. I turned a corner and there it was, and saw a photographer and thought I’d smile for my finish pic, but then someone started yelling, “Come on PR! Kick it in!” because obviously you can’t work hard and smile at the same time…tell that to Chrissie Wellington.
I crossed the line in 35:16 and realized that was faster than last year and quite possibly a new 8K PR. After getting a nice volunteer to cut the wire tie off my shoe I kept walking and found my way to the post-race food. Bumped into speedster Karsten Brown and chatted for a moment, then saw fellow =PR= Team mate Tanya, whom I’d met at the start. It was then that I realized just how tired I was. I decided to grab some food and head home, considering I had a 45 minute drive ahead of me and it was about 9:30. I hate late races. The food was plentiful and varied (fruit, granola bars, chips n salsa, donuts, pizza) and I grabbed what I could carry and headed home.
Oh, and I never did catch Tweedledum.