Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Race Report: DC Road Runners Age-Handicapped 4 Miler

Here's the start schedule for the race.
As a 43 year old woman, I started at 8:14:03
I ran the DC Road Runners Age Handicapped 4 Miler today in a time of 41:01 (26:58 was my running time, plus a 14:03 handicap), which was good enough for 10th overall.

This is a fun and unique race.  Unlike other races which all start at the same time, this race has a staggered start based on age and gender.  No bibs, no timing chips, no certified course (the 4 miles is approximate).  Just a very low key, fun race, where the first person to the finish line is the winner.

I ran this race last year also, and thus I'm familiar with the "trick" to this race.  In most races, we're used to starting with the faster people ahead of us, and the slower people behind us.  Thus, we subconsciously base our pacing strategy to some extent on others -  who's ahead of us, who's behind us, is there a pack to work with.

In this race, everything's reversed.  For the most part, the slower people start ahead, while the faster start behind.  This is surprisingly disconcerting.

The trick to running this race well is to run your own race.  But the structure of the race highlights just how hard it can be to do just that.

This year, I failed to run my own race, and learned a good lesson :)


This race is a double out and back on the C&O towpath.  From the start, one runs up to mile marker 11 (about half a mile), then turns around and runs two miles down, past the start/finish and mile marker 10, to mile marker 9.  Then another hairpin turn and you run about a mile and a half to the finish.  The mile markers on the towpath are approximations and not exact - in reality the course is slightly longer than four miles (which I have no objections to - the race is very clear that this is not a certified course, and that the distance is approximate).  

My strategy for this race was to stay conservative for much of the race, until I hit mile marker 10 for the second time.  At that point, I'd be about a half mile from the finish, and I could hammer.

I stuck to this strategy well at first - it was easy, since at my controlled pace I was still passing people.  However, about 2 miles in, I was passed by two women who had started behind me.  I'll fess up that at this point I made a bad decision and started chasing.    I kept them within reach until the second turnaround, and then got more aggressive.  The first woman came back to me fairly easy, and so I got to work on the second.

I was reeling her in, but also burying myself in the process.  And unfortunately I fell apart before I could catch her.  Had I just stayed calmer and more patient and focused on running my own race and not been quite as aggressive so early, I might still have been able to catch her before the finish.  But I got too impatient and pushed too early. That mistake, combined with a) overestimating my own fitness and b) underestimating the effects of the humidity (it was a typical DC July morning), did me in.  The last half mile of the race was pretty unpleasant, and several more people passed me.

Oh well.  I can't say I'm happy with the race.  On the other hand, I need to relearn these lessons from time to time, and better here than at a goal race.

My approximate mile splits, according to Strava, were 6:47, 6:41, 6:31, 6:37.  I also took manual splits on my Garmin at the mile markers.  Those were:

To MM 11: .47 miles in 3:12 (6:47 pace)
To MM 10: 1.01 miles in 6:49 (6:46 pace)
Out to MM 9 and back to 10: 2.04 miles in 13:22 (6:32 pace)
Back to finish: .54 miles in 3:35 (6:42 pace).


For my efforts, I was 10th overall.  For this race, each runner brings a prize of some sort - donations included CDs, books, sweatshirts, plants, boxes of cookies, etc.  These prizes are all placed on a picnic table.  Then, after the finish, each runner is allowed to select from the table, in the order of placing.  As the 10th placed runner, I had a solid selection of items to choose from.  I debated briefly - there was the sweatshirt that would work well as a pre-race throw-away, the stick of body glide (always useful), the bottle of tasty barbecue sauce...and of course the bottle of anti-wrinkle face moisturizer.

My haul.
But then I spotted the stuffed animal - a little flying monkey with goggles and cape.  And a speaker inside that emits noises that sound like a slow and painful death.  (I'm not sure that was the original intent).  I collect stuffed animals from races - I have an otter and an owl from Grandma's, a pair of tigers from Army 10 Miler, and a bear from Cherry Blossom.  The flying monkey was clearly meant to be mine, so I picked him (I can buy anti-wrinkle moisturizer at CVS anytime I want).

As it turned out, not all the prizes got taken, so after the awards were finished, the rest were up for grabs.  Thus, I also scored a book -  "Galloway's Book on Running" (published in 1984, before he started advocating run-walking) - and a tote to carry everything in.  Not bad.

Other notes:

  • Warmed up with 3 miles, including 2 minutes hard and then some drills and strides - felt good and ready to run at the start.
  • Temperature of 79, DP of 67 for the race.  Not ideal, but it's a DC summer - what do you expect.
  • Breathing was fine.  My struggles were due entirely to bad judgment/mental lapses, not to asthma.  And that's a good thing.
  • Decided to keep my cool-down jog to the pool, rather than on land.  This race is on the towpath, which is hard on my ankles.  Four miles (plus the 3 mile warm-up) isn't long enough to create too much strain, but I saw no point in pushing my luck by doing more miles on the towpath post-race. 
  • I got another shot of Xolair yesterday, and thus had to carry an epi-pen in a spi-belt for the race (I'm required to carry an epi-pen for 24 hours after each Xolair shot).  So I got to live out my dream of racing while wearing a fanny pack.


  1. Great report. Sounds like a fun race! Like that you can find a positive spin on pacing errors...but still a SOLID result! - Scott

  2. Love the idea of this race! And love the prize system, too!