Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh Race Report
Well, it had to happen eventually. After a four race PR streak I finally broke my streak. It was bound to happen though. It's unreasonable to assume that I can run every race in my life faster than the last, and it might as well happen on my fifth half marathon.
It's hard to say exactly why I didn't PR this race. The Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh race is by far the hilliest course I've ever run (a fellow Fleet Feet runner aptly described the course as "a timed exploration of every friggin hill in Raleigh"). I started out strong with Travis and Kristen on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. Mile 2 was a long straightaway down Blount Street, while mile 3 turned the corner down MLK and Chavis, and I even kept a good pace on mile 4 with a bit of an uphill up Bloodworth. Mile 5 was respectably speedy along a downhill, even if I started losing sight of Travis and Kristen at this point. Mile 6 wasn't terrible along an uphill, but mile 7 on that mega hill that dragged on for a mile is where I started crashing, and I kept crashing until I crossed the finish line. Yikes! It's a little disappointing because we train hills regularly - doing hill repeats and tackling tough hills on long runs through Chapel Hill - but it's really different doing long, tedious hills on a race.
But my crashing felt like something more than long, grueling hills. I started feeling fatigue right away and by mile 3 my legs were burning. (Never a good sign.) I've struggled with fatigue all training season - either from overtraining or trying to do too much or any number of other variables. It's been a whole new challenge for me to accept that not every run can be great, and not every race can be an improvement. But this is not a setback or a permanent plateau; this is just all part of the learning curve, and I've got all summer for speedwork.
The event started for me with the expo on Saturday (I didn't participate in the Saturday 5K race), although I found the expo a little underwhelming. It could be that at this point I just want to get in, get my bib, and get out, but I also noticed how the expo intentionally funneled you to the branded Rock 'n' Roll race marathon gear with a smaller representation of other vendors at the expo. Whatever. Whenever they decide to make women's running shirts that aren't the size of baby dolls and aren't see-through then maybe I'll consider purchasing one.
The race itself was alright. I fixated so much on the hills and my own struggles that it was a bit difficult to appreciate the course. Certain miles went by in a blur: the first few miles seemed to go fast and not very memorably, but the remaining miles were long and boring. The bands were varied, with Shaw University Platinum Sound Pep providing some energy from a bridge at Shaw's campus and a few local bands set up on different stages along the course offering up various sounds, skills, and energy.
Most of the aid stations had Gatorade, which was nice except that half the time I was aiming for water and either volunteers weren't saying what they had or they were near a band that was playing so loud I couldn't hear what was being said. By mile 10 I felt thirsty from all the sugar and I just wanted a nice full cup of water, especially after all that Gatorade dripped down my chin and into my singlet and chafed in the band of my sports bra. (Yeah, that big welt is definitely going to leave a mark.) But hey, at least nobody ran out of water or Gatorade at any aid stations, which is better than other races I've run.
On the half marathon course there was only one nutrition station, which is technically appropriate but I personally like to have 2-3 gels per half marathon, so I was glad I had brought my own gels in my belt.
The crowd was decent, with good numbers in neighborhood areas and some deserted stretches along roads like Western Blvd. The baby with the "Run like a Badass (PS I can't read)" sign won for cutest and funniest poster, and I was almost tempted to stop and take a selfie (gasp! Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to stop). The woman shouting "You've only got two miles left!" at mile 10 won the award of most irritating spectator. (Seriously, don't lie to runners like that.)
I ran into a few friends and Fleet Feet runners along the course - both as fellow runners and spectators - and was energized by a speedy Oiselle Volée marathoner cheering for me as she passed me on the course (but a big kudos goes to her; she was keeping a blistering pace and yet she still spotted me and cheered me along!). Moments like these can really give you some fuel for your jets and spur you along the course, so I was glad for the fellowship.
Travis and Kristen waited for me at the finish line (good thing, since they were my ride!) and we dodged the official photographers who pushed us for finisher photos. We opted instead for some chocolate milk and phone photos to celebrate our race finish and Kristen's PR! None of us are fans of beer after races, so we skipped on our free beer ticket and limped back to our car - another race in the books and medals around our necks.
It might not have been my best race, but I have to keep in perspective that my 2:17 finish is still faster than my first two races (which were in the 2:20s), and it was probably on par with my Not So Normal race last spring (I was a minute faster at NSN, but my GPS watch says I was about 0.7 miles short at that race). So while I crashed and burned short of my goal, I at least haven't lost major ground compared to other races. I may not be eager to run another Rock 'n' Roll course, and I might not have performed as I'd hoped, but I've got all summer to get these muscles rested and stronger for faster racing in the fall.
Have you run Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh before? How did you like the course?