Short version – I had an amazing weekend, met some friends, and ran an awesome race!
Long version. . .
I left my hotel (and my sleeping guys) in Birmingham EARLY Saturday morning and headed to the airport for my flight to Washington, D.C. I arrived shortly after 9 a.m. and was met at the airport by my friend Sarah and her fiance Neal. It was great to see her again – it's been since January 2010 when she flew to Phoenix to run the Rock n Roll Arizona Marathon with me. It was also great getting to meet Neal! We took the Metro back to their apartment and I relaxed and visited for a while before I navigated the Metro by myself to get to the Armory for the race expo and packet pickup. I got my packet and shirt (long sleeved!!) and then checked out the rest of the expo. I met a couple of my DailyMile friends. Tim was working at the TRX booth and I chatted with him for a bit, and then I met up with Danny, a fellow Soldier (but from Fort Eustis), and we hung out for a bit while checking out the rest of the expo.
(photo courtesy of Danny)
As I was leaving the expo to head to the Metro to go to a little cafe to meet some Twitter/blogging friends, I saw Madeline and her family (a fellow Army family!). She was one of the ladies I was meeting up with, so we traveled together to the meet-up spot. Once we got to Le Pain Quotidien, I got to meet Katie (and husband and son), Anne, and Lisa (and daughter). Seeing the 3 babies together made me really miss my little man, but we all had a great time chatting and snacking on the food we got from the restaurant. It was wonderful getting to put faces with Twitter handles/blogs and I really enjoyed our time together and watching the kiddos interact. Thomas would fit right in with them.
(photo courtesy of Madeline)
The kids started getting fussy and the husbands (not pictured) started getting bored (I think, anyway) and we all had other places to go, so we said our goodbyes and good lucks for the race and headed our separate ways. Madeline and family were heading the same direction as I was, so I was able to travel on the Metro with them and spend a little more time with her!
Sarah and Neal met me at their Metro stop so I could find their apartment and we headed "home". (In case you haven't figured it out yet, I stayed with them – awesome hosts!!) Neal cooked an AMAZING pasta dish for dinner – the sauce was super delicious!! I headed to bed shortly after 9 – it had been a LONG day with me getting up at 4 to catch my flight.
Sunday morning dawned and I got up and dressed for the race. Sarah had made some oatmeal muffins on Saturday, and I had a bowl of oatmeal and one of the muffins for breakfast. The muffins were super yummy!! (She sent the rest of them home with me, and Robert loves them, too.) We finished getting ready and headed to the Metro to go to the Pentagon where the race was starting. OMG the people!! But that happens with 23,000 runners. The Metro was PACKED, but it wasn't too long of a ride and I don't mind standing up (thanks to my year in Korea). We found the start area and Neal took a picture of me and Sarah. It was chilly out, hence the sweatshirts.
(photo courtesy of Neal)
I had found out on Saturday that my high school friend Loren was running the race! We have not seen each other since he graduated in 1993 and we made plans to try and find each other. He and his wife arrived shortly after we did, and we were able to find each other! I got to meet his wife and then after we had to go through the security checkpoint (only runners with race numbers allowed past), we hung out together while waiting for the race to start and actually ran together for the first little while. It was nice catching up on the past 19 years, and we decided that we won't go another 19 until we see each other again. Before we went through security, his wife took a pic of us.
(photo courtesy of Loren or his wife)
The Army Golden Knights jumped in before the race and during the National Anthem (which was sung very well) there was nothing but silence from the 23,000 runners!! So awesome! It was a perfect day for a race, and I couldn't have asked for better weather – it was in the 50s the whole time and a little bit of cloud cover. The first 2 miles were SUPER crowded and my pace was about 30 seconds per mile slower than I wanted. I didn't let it bother me, though, and I knew that I'd make that time up later on. I did a lot of weaving around other runners for the first 5 miles and then I was finally able to get a little space. There were Army Band brass quintets playing at the first 2 water stops and that was nice hearing them play! There was also a high school band along the course and they were really good. I passed A LOT of people on the 3 "hills" along the course – they were nothing more than slight inclines compared to what I train on here in Alabama. It was neat running through Washington, D.C., and seeing some of the monuments and buildings, but I didn't get to look around too much. I was too busy trying to weave my way around the other runners.
My goal time for the race was 1:40 (10:00 pace) and I was able to surpass that!! All my hard training over the past few months has paid off and I'm super excited to be getting faster!!! I finished the race (10.2 miles – ok, so it was a little long, but whatever) in 1:39:45, a 9:48 pace!!! Yes, I'm a little excited and my use of exclamation points is justified. 🙂
The only disappointing thing about the race, I think, is the post race food. There was only water (Gatorade would have been nice) and prepackaged bagels, muffins, and cookies. No fruit – a banana and/or oranges would have been nice. I settled for a banana nut muffin and an oatmeal raisin cookie. I eventually found Sarah and Neal and we walked around the tents from various Army posts. We saw the Ft. Rucker tent and I saw a couple of the members of the Ft. Rucker team and chatted with them for a little while before we headed back to the Metro station for the ride home. Here's me after the race. . .
(this photo is actually mine!)
After a quick shower, Sarah, Neal, and I headed down to Whole Foods to get lunch. I've never been in a Whole Foods before and WOW!! No processed foods in this grocery store. They have a hot bar and pizza station and salad bar and all kinds of other food (besides the grocery side of stuff). I chose a slice of wild mushroom pizza and made a small salad with blueberry vinaigrette dressing. We took the food back to the apartment and watched football while we ate. The pizza was DELICIOUS!!
All too soon, it was time to leave for the airport. We drove this time, instead of taking the Metro, as Sarah and Neal had other errands to run. We said our goodbyes and I headed inside. (Thanks again Sarah & Neal for the hospitality!! I had an awesome time!) I got my boarding pass (I had checked in online Saturday afternoon) and headed through security. I had the easiest time EVER at security. They have a separate lane for Active Duty service members with their CAC ID cards – I didn't have to take my laptop out, I didn't have to take my 3-1-1 liquids bag out, I didn't have to take my shoes off. I didn't even have a problem with the 5 ounces of breast milk that I had pumped. It was soooo nice and I wish more airports would follow suit. And then I found out my flight was delayed by an hour and 40 minutes. UGH. At least I had a cross stitch project and magazines. I found a seat in my gate area and stitched for an hour. Then I went and got a pretzel and drink from Auntie Annie's Pretzels and came back and sat down to eat. Another Soldier (I knew him from our flight from B-ham to DC; he's a flight student at Rucker and was running the 10 Miler as well) came up to me and asked if I was indeed going back to B-ham. Turns out that while I was getting my food, they began boarding our flight (earlier than anticipated). So I put my pretzel in my bag and went and got on the plane. At least I had a snack for the flight!
I got into Birmingham and called Ryan and the boys and they came and picked me up (they were waiting in the cell phone lot). Although I had an awesome time in D.C. meeting friends and running, it's always nice to get back home to the ones you love! We got on the road home and finally got home around 11 at night.