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Rock N Roll USA Half Marathon

Saturday was the RNR USA Half Marathon. But you already know this because approximately 25,000 other people, at least 77 percent of which are running bloggers, also ran this race.

RNR Rockin

This may seem weird to you, since I’m a running blogger who likes to run and then write about it, but I really do not enjoy writing race reports. And since this race really does not deserve the traditional “and then the gun went off, and I started out too fast, and by this mile had lost my mental edge” kind of race report, I’m not going to give it one.


Instead, here’s the cliff notes version: the gun went off, I went out a little too fast, I sucked (and in related news: still suck) at hills, I lost my mental edge, and then a kind-of-sort-of managed to salvage my race at the end.


And now that that’s out of the way, I have more important things to discuss. I like to think of them as my race revelations. You know, the important things that go through your head while you feel like dying at mile 12 of a half marathon, like, “the world is ending” and, in related thoughts, “I need more mother effing speed work.” So, here are my race revelations from the dark miles of the RNR half marathon for you to enjoy:

1) I need to stop being a cocky asshole about racing.


I am the cocky asshole, not Alejandro, Alejandro is wonderful.

Before the race, I listed a few goals. One of them being to run a 1:34 because my race calculating bestie McMillan says that sets me up nicely to sub 3:20 a marathon. I figured if I could train through the RNR half, not rest or taper, and still run a 1:34 then I would be golden for blasting through that 3:20 barrier at Eugene.

But you know what? A 1:34 half marathon, while over 2 minutes slower than my current half PR, is still hard and maybe not a time I can just expect to hit because I think I’m so awesome at racing.

And to prepare for achieving this hard time goal, because I’m a total racing jerk, I went for a 10 mile run 36 hours out from the race with all but my warm up mile under my marathon goal pace of 7:37. Then proceeded to stay out extraordinarily way too late, teach a spinning class on Friday morning, and go to pilates that afternoon.


I know, brilliant pre-race strategy.

It was clear I had played the whole race prep thing wrong during my Friday lunchtime Pilates class when my body started to just give up. As you have probably observed through reading about my not-so-small fitness addiction, I am not someone who quits or half asses my way through exercise. But on Friday, I had no problem assuming a childs pose in lieu of some extra burning and core pulsing. Things you definitely want to feel less than 24 hours before toeing a start line.

And sure enough, from mile 1 of the race on Saturday, my legs were heavy.

rnr USA start1

And in turn, this effed (sorry, for the profanity heavy post, I need to expand my clean vocabulary) with my mental game. When I saw some sub 7 minute paces clocking in during my first few miles, while subsequently hating how tired my legs felt, I thought my entire race was screwed, so I let myself screw it over. By the time I got to the hills at mile 5ish, I had all but given up on the 1:34 thing. Way to stay mentally tough, Em.

Turns out I can’t just fatigue my body and expect it to perform. Crazy.

2) I need to learn how to go out slow, pace smart, and negative split.

Like, really. How many times have I said this? Write up my racing report card, fill it with Fs, and mail it to my parents. I deserve it. I am a pace strategy dunce.

I actually might have negative split this race, but it was only due to some very large and torturous hills during the first half of the course so I’m not even bothering to do the math. I don’t deserve any credit for negative splitting anything on Saturday.


Mile 12. This is not the face of someone who is negative splitting.

I suffer the same problem with smart pacing in my training runs. I’ll meet up with a faster friend to go for an easy run, we’ll start out the run, realize our pace is not exactly the “easy” pace we set out to do, say we’re going to back off and “zen” our pace, and moments later realize we’re back to a fast pace and repeat the whole process. By the end of the run, nothing about our Garmin statistics reflects success in achieving anything resembling a zen pace.

During the race on Saturday, I kept doing the same thing: I would look at my Garmin, realize it was too fast, try to back off, successfully slow down for a few seconds, and then next time I looked at my Garmin (usually within 2-5 seconds) I would be right back where I started.

Pace strategy fail.

2b) I am terrified of paces slower than my goal pace.

While I have no problem being 10 seconds faster than my target pace, I freak out when I see a pace slower then I want to be hitting. In my super logical mind, being under pace will put time in the bank, while there is no way I can compensate for a few slow miles. The whole, start slow, finish fast thing is just lost on me. Conserving energy to kick it in the final miles? Also a foreign concept. I am great at advising other runners to do this. The number one thing I tell first time marathoners is that you can’t go out too slow. But clearly I am incapable of actually adhering to this advice myself. Ship me off to Pace Camp, I’m ready for it.

3) I am problematically Garmin dependent.

I like to think that when we die, all of our unanswered questions will be answered for us. Topping my list will be: how many times, on average, do I look at my Garmin during a race? Thousands PER RACE would probably be low balling the answer to that, it’s more like thousands per mile (see: above reference to number of seconds between each Garmin glance).

I’ve talked about this before, but good God, I am entirely incapable of running by feel, listening to my body, and not being a slave to the numbers on my Garmin.

mile 1s

As I already mentioned, during the first part of the race, I let my pace defeat my mental game. I went out on the fast side, gave up in the middle, and then started to pick it back up in the final miles. And as I picked it back up, I lost mind battle number two to my Garmin.

I looked down at my watch, saw a 7:00 minute/mile beep at me for Mile 10, a 6:50 clock in for Mile 11, thought for sure I had started to kick too soon, would hit a wall, and again, gave up. Mile 12: 7:15.

But guess what? My legs weren’t done. Mile 13: back to 6:50.

Instead of trusting in my body to perform, I let my Garmin talk me out of it.

4) I really, really, really suck at hills.

Apparently my one session of hill repeats has not changed this fact. Shocking.

RNR Mile 5

This course was much hillier than I remember it being from last year. In reality, I am probably just that much worse at tackling inclines.

And every time I got to one of the many hills on the course, I can assure you I was not practicing the whole “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” thing. More like, the tough give up.

If you need me between now and my goal marathon, I’ll be sprinting up hills over and over and over again.

5) I need to make some major adjustments to my training.

Specifically, I need to start doing speed work and start riding my bike again, even if I am not going to race many (or any) triathlons this year.

My approach to running has really just been: run a few days at a pace faster or around MGP, cross train to supplement my easy days, and then do a long run on the weekend. While I’ve used a few races for tempo work I seriously felt the lack of good speed work in my race effort on Saturday.

When I crossed the finish line on Saturday, I started talking to some triathlon boys about the whole hill thing. One thing everyone agreed on, biking does not hurt your ability to run hills.


In unsurprising news, all of the boys I was talking with who ride bikes on the reg, killed it on the hilly half marathon course. Coincidence? I think not.

Back when I actually used to ride my bike, I didn’t totally suck at hills. I swear, I used to be kind of good at them. Biking=strong hamstrings, hills=need strong hamstrings, so therefore, biking=strong hamstrings=suck less at hills. It’s crazy math, I know.


So, Big Red, I hope you’re ready to come out of your 7 month retirement, because I need you.

6) Local races are awesome.

Even though I was hating on hills all over the course, I loved seeing other DC endurance athletes, bloggers, roommates, and friends out cheering and racing.


My friend Meredith earned friend of the day by making it out to cheer me on at the top of the worst of the hills after tweeting about her hot hunt for karaoke at approximately 1:47 am on Saturday morning.


Thanks, Mer, you truly rocked the Rock N Roll spectating.

I saw people I didn’t even know had registered for the race, met new friends in the start corral, saw many of my favorites before and after the race, and ran into many friends out on the course.


If anything, the race was too big. While I managed to run into a boy who lived in my freshman dorm no less than three times, I didn’t see a lot of my other friends, or the many running bloggers in town for the race, at all. Apparently that happens when 25,000 people run the same race.

7) I still don’t know which marathon I am going to use for my goal race this Spring.


That is all for now.

Congrats to everyone who raced this weekend! Which, based on my google reader and twitter activity, was pretty much all of you.разработка сайтов ценаwebmoney взлом скачать

39 Responses to Rock N Roll USA Half Marathon

  1. Pacing strategies are my forte, it’s running fast where I come up a little short!

  2. Why not use your garmin to set your pace? I set up a workout with the pace I want to hold, turn the alert tones on, and garmin happily and auditorily alerts me when I’m going over or under. Then you don’t have to look so much, and it can keep you and your super fast friend honest on those training runs.

  3. For the garmin obsession issues, I like to set my screen to read something blank and meaningless during races so that I don’t freak out. I glance at mile splits if I feel like it. I get myself used to this during training by putting some information on the screen – usually just time, or average pace if I have a goal pace for the workout. In both cases, I get the data after the run but don’t go nuts while running. Might be worth a try.

  4. That stupid garmin gets the best of all us. it’s so hard not to look at the thing.

  5. I am right there with you! Ok, not right there with you – more like 10 minutes behind you – but right there with you in terms of pacing struggles.

    Honestly, I’ve yet to run a race with my Garmin because I’m afraid it will mess with my mental game too much. I’m not great at overcoming even the slightest mental negativity so I try to avoid it at all costs. While I use my Garmin religiously for all my training runs, I rely on my simple sport watch to get me through races. I run solely on feel and, so far, I think it’s working.

    The one thing I know I desperately need to work on (aside from hills) is the whole negative splits thing. I’m pretty sure every race I’ve ever run has resulted in positive splits. If there were a “Negative Splits for Dummies” book, it would be in my Amazon cart immediately.

    Also, thanks for making the trek out to VA more enjoyable. “Try a little harder. I’m not going to hold your hand.” Oh, WMATA, how I love to hate you…

  6. Sounds like you had a lot of great revelations this weekend. I would have loved to have been at this race. I love DC, but I think I would have died on hills. I live in FL, where there is no such thing as a hill, so I’ve got to start figuring out how to hill train if I want to get faster. Sorry you didn’t hit the time you wanted, but it sounds like you figured out all the things that didn’t help you get to that point! I hope that you had a wonderful rest of the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Which other marathon are you doing besides Eugene this spring?

  7. Looks like you learned some very valuable lessons. My first half marathon back post stress fracture was hard. I had spent months envisioning a perfect HM in which I would prove that I was indeed a great runner. Unfortunately, everything went wrong in my race and I shut down mentally because I was so disappointed that I wasn’t where I thought I should be. I had started too fast and it went downhill fast. How did I get over it? I raced another half the very following week and my time dropped 2 minutes. Then I raced another half 3 weeks after the 2nd HM and my time dropped another two minutes. My number one goal was to stay positive. (I also negative split the later two HM’s which made for MUCH better race experiences. ) Now that you have this HM out of the way you can only get better. My best advice (not that you asked for it!) would be to pick another HM in the near future and go for breaking 1:34 or maybe a 1:33 if you feel like that is realistic right now. I know that isn’t your PR for you but you could start off pacing at that and if you felt really good pick it up in the last 5K. Also, it sounds like you already learned this lesson the hard way but don’t underestimate tapering or at least giving your body a short break. Any time I’m racing (even if its not my A race) I like to taper at least the day or two before to give my legs a chance to rest up so they are ready to race. If I do run at all it’s less miles and slow. Again, this is just my HM comeback experience. I know you are one determined athlete and I know you will get your sub 3:20 THIS year!

  8. I feel like so many of us have written the same posts today/this weekend: that you can’t bring your B-game to a race and hope for an A-game race. That said, that’s still an awesome race for you coming back from an injury, and I’m glad we got to lift heavy pints of beer together at night.

  9. Did you see my group while running? We were on the right side of the road, just past the Mile 1 marker (and for those running the full marathon, just past Mile 13). We had signs that read SLUT and the one I made (my personal favorite!) said, “I’m easier than this race!” =)

    We had a blast cheering and stayed there till the very last runner passed. Oh how I want to run another marathon now. Well, sorta…

    Great job this weekend!

  10. Ok I also MAJORLY suck at hills.

    So I’m going to listen to your advice and work on my hammies, maybe they’ll propel me up those hills in the future!!

  11. and PS
    CONGRATS on a super speedy time, so proud of you!!!

  12. Great job at the race! The garmin addiction is real. I only got mine for Christmas, but I have a problem of looking at it every 3 seconds, especially when I’m doing intervals. I love local runs! I’m so excited that at VCM, I’ll be able to walk from my apartment to the start line. Even though, I’ve ran parts of the course thousands of times already, running it in a race will be so much more exciting.

  13. I found the course MUCH hillier than last year as well, which I thought was weird because isn’t it the same course? I looked at my Garmin and compared. Last year’s elevation: 1060 ft; This year’s elevation: 2456 ft. Needless to say, I didn’t even come close to my sub 2:00 goal. Boo.

  14. So, one question…does 10-miles 36 hours before the race + pilates + staying out too late = 1:45 to get you to the McMillan time that says you can run sub-3:20? I think it does! Great effort considering everything leading up to it!! Congrats!

  15. You and I apparently used the same pre-race strategy. Did you know that 150 Wall Balls on Friday does not equal a PR in the 15k on a hilly course? I learned that this weekend…

    Holy abs behind you…

    A thought on pacing – rather than thinking about needing to hit a certain pace for the entire race, what if you had a slower goal pace for the first half and a faster goal pace for the second? That way you wouldn’t freakout about being under goal pace, you would have energy left at the end, and they could average out to get your goal time. (not that I’ve ever been able to actually do this…)

  16. Congratulations on a still awesome finish! Even if those hills were hard….

    Can I say how much I love how you are the only girl in that race photo above?? BALLER. The guys were probably like “Who is this girl in the PINK skirt??” LOVE IT.

  17. Congrats on still finishing strong despite your mental struggles throughout the race. I think training preparation (especially the final week or two before any distance race) is something many people struggle with. Sometimes it’s hard to just tell ourselves the right things to do during training.

  18. Did we run the same race? What hills are you talking about? I think majority of the race was down hill. I finished in 133 and thats with the slow start with crowd and stopping for the bathroom at mile 10 due to stomach issues. I ran the last 5k sub 20. Overall I think it was a fast race.

  19. Well, even if you can’t pace, you still ran a speedy race. My hill workout last Thurs kicked my ass big time. It’s pretty normal to fear those lower than goal pace moments. However, last year when I ran Eugene (banditted it) Marathon and didn’t worry about pace and ran with a slower group than my goal, it forced me to run slower the first half and pick it up the second half when I felt strong. It was kind of genius and I PR’d at that non-race race.

    I’m also adjusting my training schedule for the last 5 weeks here. I want to fit in a tempo run to replace one of the easy runs so I have three runs that are pretty focused: tempo, speed work, long run and then two that are easy.

  20. Just find slow runners. They’ll curse you out if you go too fast, which I’m sure will get your attention back to zen mode ;-)

  21. If by “race” you mean “one-crutched around the block with the dog for the first time in 9 weeks” TWICE (and it took 35 minutes)(and I was sore on Sunday), then yes! I am a racing champion!

  22. Congrats on your race. 1:35 in that heat is no easy task and BTW, nobody looked happy at mile 12…. I can’t imagine what you would have done if you tapered!! See you at Cherry Blossom!

  23. Back in the day (by which I mean six months ago) I didn’t have a Garmin. I wore a cheap Timex and just used the timer. After my run I would put my route into gmaps pedometer, then put my distance and time into a pace calculator to figure my average pace per mile. That was all I needed to know: did my miles average out into a pace per mile that would get ‘er done at the next race, or not?
    Now I have a Garmin and while it takes the guesswork out of making sure I’ve run the amount of miles I need to, I’m not sure it’s made my running life easier. I find how I feel is way out of synch with what the Garmin is telling me. Sometimes I think “I know I’m going faster than that”; other times it’s “is this thing broken? I’m practically standing still but the watch says I’m running 8:06”. I bought it to help me with my too-fast starts and uneven pacing, and so far I’m getting a zero return on my investment! Maybe that’s just how I roll, and what matters is the end result, not how I get it done.

  24. I absolutely cannot pace myself in a race/event!!! I start off too fast and blow up…no problem negative splitting during training runs! Can someone please help me? Seriously.

    And I cannot absolutely or rather refused to look at the Garmin during runs (yeah, beats me why I even got it in the first place); I run by feel and during training runs, the final numbers come up nicely. Not so during races.

  25. Congrats on a great race! I def wanna start running more races, especially living in DC there are so many local opportunities… And if we keep having this beautiful weather I have no excuse not to get outside :D

  26. I say 1:46 off your goal is not too shabby, not too shabby at all, especially considering how fatigued your legs are. I think that totally means you’re ready to sub 3:20 at Eugene! I need to bike more too, the last half I did had a huge 2+ mile long hill and I pretty much died.

  27. You are still such an awesome runner! It’s so amazing, after coming off your injury and all. I know what you mean about looking at your Garmin, I’ve been doing the same & I annoy MYSELF! HA oh well…it’s like since it’s there, why not check it every 2.5 seconds?
    PS I’m good friends with your cousin, the other Emily Halnon! When I first started reading your blog & found out your name & that you were from VT too…I freaked out! hahaha

  28. I love it when I make it into your blog. And the triathlon boys are def. up to something. Get that bike out of storage!

  29. Now, I don’t know Meredith, but she is a truly great friend. Every runner should have at least one just like her! Mad crazy spectator love!! :)

  30. Congrats!!! You came back so strong from that injury!

  31. Wow! For someone who didn’t have a great pre-race strategy, a 1:35 half seems pretty speedy. I was out there running the marathon (my first!) but I finished approximately 4836023 hours behind you. It was definitely an awesome day to race Saturday!

  32. I was totally going to make this my first ever marathon until I was forced to pospone the said marathon to May. But for having things not work in your favor like hills, you still had a speedy race. Nice job!

  33. Now that it’s bike weather, I love the idea that biking will make me a faster runner… but isn’t that what you’ve been doing with spin classes all winter? Is riding outdoors that different?

    I suggest trying to run the first half with a pace group — one a hair SLOWER than your goal pace. Then, at the halfway point or so, you can drop them and feel great as you negative-split your way to a PR!

    I am not fast, but I am getting a better “feel” for my pacing by doing intervals and tempo runs with defined paces I’m trying to hit. (I’m trying the Furman FIRST training program, but McMillan is also good). No Garmin — I just map out my run in advance so I know where the mile markers are and use my watch. I feel like I’m learning a range of paces, from my “fast but not eyeballs out” 400m, to my “speedier than I think I can hold onto” 1600m, to my “not exactly relaxed, but sustainable” long tempo.

  34. […] ICYMI: On Monday, I skipped the whole race report thing for the National Half to fill you in on my super profound race revelations. […]

  35. Great post! I did the half at Eugene last year while my boyfriend did the full. I can only speak to the half, but it was SUPER FLAT aka fast… there’s a reason why you run after a man dressed in a pancake costume! :P Seriously though, upping your speed and/or hill work now will help you kill it at Eugene. And thanks for the reminder about biking. I absolutely hate it and prefer running, but you’re right on with the hamstring math (and we all know runners could use a little more hamstring lovin’).

  36. […] tomorrow, I don’t want to be a huge asshole about my training going into my first ultra event (been there, done that.) So, I backed off a little and will end the week somewhere around 26-7 miles by the time I’m done […]

  37. […] instance, last year at this time, I got a sunburn running the RnR half, pranced around in a sundress and flipflops all afternoon, and hung out on my friend’s rooftop […]

  38. […] friend Jason, who I met back in 2012 at the RnR DC start line, is the Race Director for the Capitol Hill Classic […]

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