Ten days before the Washington DC Rock &
Roll Rain Half Marathon, the weather forecast was 90% chance of rain with temperatures between 41° and 52°. Coming from a warm weather climate, my heart sank. While my training has been great (I am hitting my long runs and my pace times are down), how do I train for a cold, wet run at 7 AM?
I arrive in DC early for a series of work meetings. Each night I feel God wrestling control away from me as I watch the weather forecaster confirm mid-40’s and rain. As 90% becomes 100%, I accept that I can control my training, but not the weather. I resign myself to running in a deluge.
As I roam the expo floor during pre-race check-in, no one was talking about the weather. Is it just me? Am I a weather wimp? Is everyone in the area used to running in cold rain? The posted temperature sign offers me no comfort.
It’s race day. After scouring the internet for cold/wet tips, I arrive at the start line in running tights, gloves, and three top layers hidden under a garbage bag. The good news about cold and wet is that the bathroom lines are short and the start corrals are empty. Everyone is hiding in the doorways until right before the start time.
At the sound of the horn, 22,000 runners cheer, ignore the 45° degrees, and launch themselves around puddles. Oddly enough, I am comfortable since the rain is merely a constant, light drizzle.
While others strip off their trash bags, I make the fashionable choice of wearing mine through the first two miles shedding it only when I can’t get my hands out to take a few tourist pictures of the monuments (That’s the Lincoln Memorial coming up! ).
Once free of my bag, I settle in for the long, wet run. Through mile 6 my light blue windbreaker jacket slowly darkens as it retains water. Without feeling it, I run fast — 45 seconds/mile faster than my planned pace. I now understand why people run in the cold. Cold equals speed.
My race falls apart when my IT band flares at mile 7. I’ve had this problem before and know exactly what to expect. The run becomes a run/walk which transforms into a walk/run and ends in a walk. For the next three miles, I furiously think through my training. What did I do wrong? Did I do enough strength training? Did I walk too much in DC prior to the race? Is it too cold? Did I go out too fast? It’s been over a year since I’ve had an IT problem.
By mile 10 I decide that I will try the mind over pain trick and finish the last mile running. Years ago an orthopedic surgeon told me that no permanent damage can come from running with IT band pain. I don’t know whether this is true, but I do know that times posted on the internet live forever. Mind over pain — I will not mind the pain.
As I walk up to the 12 mile marker, I grimace and begin to run. In spite of the pain, I feel strong passing several runners, crossing the finish line, and adding another medal to my collection. I keep telling myself that I looked impressive with a strong kick at the end of the race (after all, nobody really knows how much I walked).
Once across the line, I take a moment to assess the damage. I am soaked — nothing is dry and the moisture wicking clothes have no where to wick. My knee isn’t that bad. It’s tender, but I can walk normally. I’m not cold yet, but it is 48° degrees and I know I’ll be cold once my body temperature drops back to normal.
Now that I’ve stopped, the rain begins to accelerate. I quickly drink the free chocolate milk, eat a banana, and locate the bag check. After gathering my few possessions, I wrap myself in a silver and red mylar space blanket and begin the long walk back to the Metro. Why is it that the walk home always feels longer than the event? Judging by the exodus of runners, I don’t think many are staying for the concert.
Considering the IT problem, I was only a little off pace. While the first 6 miles were 45 seconds/mile faster than planned, the last 6 miles were 45 seconds slower. The net effect is my planned pace.
Now it’s time for more water — this time, a long, hot shower.