29 April 2013

Nike Women Half Marathon Recap

My alarm rang at 5:30 am. I got dressed, had oatmeal, water, and a bit of coffee. Even though I had everything set out the night before I didn't make it out the door till 6:15. The race schedule said the bag check closed at 6:40 so I hustled the mile or so to the start line. They had a ton of different bag check areas, which made it super easy and quick. Then I headed up the street where there was no wait for the porta potties, another score for nike. 

Then I made my way over to the corrals, which were already pretty stuffed. The first four corrals were pretty close to each other and although I entered at my designated spot (7:30-8:59) I had to duck under the rope for the corral behind mine. We were standing on a plush/clean red carpet and I had a good view of the announcers booth where they had the running celebrities and sang the national anthem. 

Although it was in the low 50's I was fine in my tank top and shorts as the sun was out and there was no wind. 

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waiting to start

The gun went off and we headed down Pennsylvania towards 9th street. Then something happened that I wasn't prepared for. I should of known better, I run down 9th street every Tuesday, but I didn't realize that we were running through the underpass that goes under (duh) the National Mall. We had a nice downhill into the tunnel, but then I realized we couldn't see the other side and then had drummers in the tunnel. I guess I have some of my mom's claustrophobia because I didn't like being in the tunnel and I didn't like the drums, they were loud and just sounded like someone pounding on pots and pans. 

But soon we emerged and headed down the ramp and along the southwest side of the mall. There are a few cherry blossoms left, but mostly green trees as we ran towards the Arlington Memorial Bridge. There were lots of people lining the route, but they were SILENT. Seriously it was the quietest crowd ever. I'm thinking there were lots of men cheering for their ladies and aren't as good at cheering as females... haha. There were clever signs though, like "15,000 running women, this is better than Match.com" and lots of "I like fast women" and "I'm single/he's single" signs.

Once across the bridge I saw my coworker/run cluber friend Bob and gave him a scream. He did a little cheer and ran along side of me for a few feet. For the RnR race a month ago this round about was full of people cheering, this time there were just a spattering of people.

Then we headed up Rock Creek Parkway towards the Kennedy Center. This stretch was fun as it was an out and back and we could see the faster runners heading back. After the turnaround I started looking for my other coworker/run cluber friend, Hannah, who was also running the race. Soon I saw her and gave her a quick wave/scream.

As we headed towards Hains Point we could see people still running over the Arlington Bridge, it was pretty amazing. However at this point, around mile five I started having negative thoughts. I was frustrated that my watch was messed up from the tunnel and I felt like I could keep a consistent pace. Usually I find someone around me to pace with (even if they don't know it) but I couldn't seem to find anyone. So I kept running. As always once we reached Hains Point we hit a head wind. Knowing it would only be a mile and half helped, but when we rounded the point I didn't feel the boost I expected from losing the head wind.

Around mile 7 to 10 Nike had put up motivational signs, which were nice, because there weren't many spectators in that area. And having things to read is distracting. At mile 8 I started to eat the Gu I brought with me. The course was serving lunabars at mile 8, which seemed like a hard thing to eat while running. I ran along eating my Gu as we had to run back up the ramp and back through the tunnel with the annoying drums.

When we emerged from the tunnel back on to Pennsylvania there were lots of crowds, cheering and we could kind of see the people approaching the finish line in the other direction. After a loop around the Capitol reflecting pool we headed back down Pennsylvania to the finish. Somewhere around mile 11 I decided to kick it back up a notch, because I hadn't ran so far at the speed I ran to give it away at the end. The 20K sign showed an encouraging 1:4x something time and soon I could see the finish line. Only we could see the finish line from over 3/4 of a mile away, but gradually I began to reel it in.

Since my watch was way off (said I only ran 12.8 miles) I wasn't sure what my time was, but when I saw the finish line clock was under 1:49 I knew it was good, because I started a few seconds after the gun time.

The finish line was extremely well organized. We had a little bit to walk before we got a water then had our bib scanned and we received our Tiffany's necklace from men in Tuxedos serving the little blue boxes on trays. A few steps more and we had luna bars, bananas, fruit cups, and bagels. Then We got a small Tiffany's bag to put our stuff in. A few more steps and we received our finisher dry fit tee. Everyone in the finish area was congratulatory and extremely helpful and happy. 

After the shirt we left the secure area where they then had a Finishers Boutique, stretching area, haircuts for charity, and make-up (not sure who wants make up on a sweaty face). They also had backdrops set up for pictures and a tent to look up your finishing time.

After the bag check mess at RnR I went to grab my stuff. Only there was no line and they found my bag in seconds. Again the bag check people were so excited and friendly.

By the time I got back to the main finish area it had filled up and there were lines for everything. 

I caught the awards ceremony. First place was to Samia Akbar a local runner with a time of 1:19:32.

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she received a huge Tiffany's box
So when I made my way over to the results tent I found that I finished in 1:48:49!
Its a 25 second PR, but still a PR. I finished 901 out of about 15,000 and 162 out of 2634. So like top 6% in both!

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me in the photo booth

After sitting down and stretching a bit I pulled out my necklace and put it on. I like the words side best. The other side is a woman running through flowers, or as an out of towner pointed out to me later... is a woman running through cherry blossoms (hey! I do that!).

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the finisher shirt and both sides of the necklace.

I couldn't find any of my friends so I just headed home after awhile and spent some quality time on the couch as the beautiful morning turned into an overcast gross afternoon.

28 April 2013

Day 4: Palm Sunday in Barcelona

Sunday we took our time getting up and out and getting our cafe con leche. We headed to a Old town walking tour and on our way we ran into a Palm Sunday Procession.

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On our tour we stopped by several churches that all had festivities going on. Apparently every organization in town has characters like in the picture below for holy week.

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We also saw some human towers. They explained to us that these are different from human towers where they try to go really high, these instead they try to make animal shapes.

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safety first

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kid horses
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among the festivities
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wrapping each other up (I'm not sure what for)

We saw the ancient city and some other stuff I can't quite remember. The tour guide kept talking about some Hairy King. I wasn't a big fan of the tour guide. The steps below are where Christopher Columbus is often shown coming to great the queen, but that is a lie. For some reason they met somewhere secret.

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a giant Picasso

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the church of the sea
We headed to the Picasso museum for the free hours, but the line was long so we headed to the park instead. The park ended up being amazing. It was alive with activity of all kinds. We spent a while walking all over.

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We headed back to the museum. The line was a little bit shorter so we jumped in line and passed the time taking fashion photos and chatting, other people in line, and getting pooped on by birds (oh that was just Kendra).  

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We really liked the museum. I like his simple sketches and the way he would paint one scene a lot of different ways. 

After the museum we grabbed our bags and headed to the train station for our overnight ride to Granada.

27 April 2013

Shakin' it out

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Nike Georgetown hosted a shake-out run this morning. I woke up to go but then went back and forth on if it was worth going over or not, when I could shake-out right outside my door. I'd practically decided not to go when I saw a tweet saying that Shalane Flanagan would be there. I threw on some clothes and biked the mile and a half over. I arrived a few minutes after 8, but they hadn't started yet. The store was packed with ~150 runners. They had stations to borrow GPS watches, sunglasses, and shoes. Since I had forgotten my sunglasses I tried out a pair of Nike's. They were extremely light and clear, I could barely tell that I had them on. 

Then they announced the special guests. 
Shalane Flanagan- Olympian, US record holder, and elite half/full marathoner
Joan Benoit Samuelson- Two time Boston Marathon winner ('79 & '83), won the first Women's Olympic Marathon ('84), and won the Chicago Marathon ('85). Basically a badass runner since before I was born.
Then there was a local Georgetown runner.... I don't remember her name.

They talked about race day strategies and what we should eat before and after the race.

Basically oatmeal and bananas before and beers and burgers afterwards.

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After the talk they went over the run route and we headed out. They called it a two mile loop, but it was only a mile. We just headed down to the waterfront, along the Potomac and back. When we returned we did a little stretching then they had Jamba Juice, water, and luna bars for us, since 1 mile really depletes your fuel (haha). I grabbed a Jamba Juice anyway, returned my glasses, and once again left the store without buying any of the special gear. As I was leaving there was already a line of people to get in the store after they had hit up the packet pick up that morning.

Tomorrow we RACE!

26 April 2013

Nike Women Half Marathon Washington DC

Sunday I'm running my third half marathon in the Nike Women Half Marathon in DC. Nike is great at creating hype and have been releasing details as needed. Like the Tiffany's necklace we get at the finish line? We won't know till we get there. Also they have been selling a lot of DC and race related swag. Included three special pairs of shoes. People are buying it up. I've restrained myself thus far.... Although the fact that we don't see our free t-shirt till we finish may be helping.

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Today after work I headed to the packet pick up and "expotique" with two coworkers who are also running the race. There weren't any lines and we received our bib, pace bracelet, and other goodies in no time. The Expotique was fun we received cards with codes to try and win a free pair of shoes, they had a booth to make customized signs, hair styling booth, make up booth, sports bra fitting, gait analysis, nuun drinks, and luna bars.

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Shoe wall & codes

Then we visited the WE RUN sign by the waterfront and walked up to the Nike Store in Georgetown.

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Along the wall were the names of all the runners.

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can you find my name? 

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do you see it now?

Inside the store was crazy. The line to check out was weaving all around the store. We just looped around, checked out the special merchandise and caught a short talk/interview with Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross.

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Olympic gold medalist on the left

20 April 2013

Day 3: Montserrat

After two days in Barcelona we decided to take the train a few hours out of the city to the Montserrat Monastery. We took the metro to a train to a rack rail train to get there, but it was all easy and relaxing rides through the Spainish countryside. 

The Monastery is on top of a beautiful mountain with great views of the valley. 

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round rocks

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great view

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Inside the Basilica is a famous Black Madonna. Apparently she was being carried across the mountains, but got too heavy so they stopped and left her here. They really left her down the hill side in a grotto, but more recently they carried her up to the Basilica. There was a long line to see her and touch her "orb" which apparently is still a pilgrimage destination.

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you can see someone with the Black Madonna in the upper middle

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the Black Madonna

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more rocks and buildings
After visiting Mary we grabbed some sandwiches, water, and chocolate and hiked down to the grotto. There were statues and scenes made from stone and iron along the entire walk. The hike was only a few miles but pretty steep for a majority of the way.

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lunch stop

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iron work
On the way back up we made a Spanish friend. A girl around 8 years old decided she would race us back up. Every time we rested she would stop and when I tried to pass her she started running. It was the encouragement we needed to make it back up the hill.

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16 April 2013

Day 2: Gaudi

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Our second day was devoted to Antoni Gaudi

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We started the day at La Sagrada Familia Gaudi's masterpiece that is not yet finished (well we actually started the day with cafe con leche)

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We paid to go in and paid a little extra to go up in one of the towers. It was worth it, we had great views of the city and great views of the Nativity Facade.

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Later in the morning we met up with a free walking tour to see some other Gaudi sights. 

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metro station... on our way to some sites

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Gaudi house.... skeleton windows
To round out the Gaudi day we went to Park Guell. The park was covered with gorgeous mosaics.

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14 April 2013

Day 1: Arrival & Barcelona

We flew into Madrid went through customs and then rechecked in to our Vueling flight to Barcelona. The Madrid airport Terminal 4 is beautiful and modern and customs was a breeze. I'm not even sure the passport agent checked to see if I looked like my picture.

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arrival in Spain

Our flight to Barcelona was quick and I may of slept most of the flight. Luckily I woke up right before landing and got a nice view of the city. From the airport in Barcelona we took a train right to the neighborhood we were staying in. Transportation was incredibly easy the entire time we were there. All the trains/metros/airports/buses had great signage, were clean(ish) and were on time. 

We checked in to our hostel in Sant Andreu a very cute neighborhood outside of the city center of Barcelona. It was more of a house and Kendra and I had a private room. The owner, Jose, was very enthusiastic and gave us a 45 minute introduction to the house and to Barcelona. He told us he loves Americans and Asians the best because we always listen to the entire introduction with smiles while the French cut him off and tell him they already know everything.

After a quick change of clothes we headed back out for lunch at the Spain appropriate time of around 2:30 pm.

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outside the hostel, orange trees!
Jose sent us the a restaurant down the street where we had our first Estrella cerveza and Arros Negre, both were delicious.

We took the metro down to La Rambla and checked out the market and the beach. 

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fruit juice 
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fruit and vegetables
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market entrance
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La Rambla
As the day went on it got more overcast and chilly. So on our way to the beach we stopped in a bar and had our first of many cafe con leches.

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the beach

We were tired early after traveling for a full day. So we stopped by the grocery store and picked up bread, jamon, cheese, and sangria for dinner back at the hostel. It was delicious.