Tag Archives: Race Recap

Running is Dumb… and Awesome!

The title of this post represents the type of internal monologue I have with myself (re: running) on a daily basis. It’s a love/hate relationship. It’s hot and cold. On and off. You get the gist. It isn’t how I feel just towards running, though. When I swam in high school and college I had a similar approach. I hated swimming when it meant waking up at 5am for practice in the middle of January. But I loved it when it meant swimming a PR, winning a championship, and forging life long friendships. The same is true for me when it comes to running. And I’m sure a lot of you feel similarly about your sports/hobbies/extra curricular/life. But it’s that up and down that keeps us going, right?

My running friends and I joke to each other a lot about how we hate running, especially when the weather is terrible or we have to get up super early for a run. We joke that it’s terrible, but we keep doing it. So obviously, we don’t hate it that much. Or maybe we’re just masochists who like to punish ourselves a little. Whatever it is, its kept me coming back to running year after year, injury after injury. And I don’t think that’s going to ever change. While those awful training runs are a plenty, and waking up in the cold and dark to run alone in a park is never enjoyable, those slightly unpleasant moments are far outweighed by the feeling of success and accomplishment when you nail a workout or crush a race. At least they are for me.

This past Saturday I committed to running the NYC Runs Spring Fling 5k. Like I usually do about mid-week before a race, I was whining about how I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to have to wake up early and travel all the way to Roosevelt Island. It was going to be cold, and I was tired of figuring out just how many layers were the right amount for running. I was also hesitant at my level of fitness. I’m wildly competitive with myself and am also easily disappointed. I knew that I could be setting myself up for frustration… but I could also be setting myself up to be pleasantly surprised. I’ve been running pretty consistently since mid-November, but only recently started doing anything in the way of speed work. I was in phenomenal shape the last time I raced a 5k, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I wouldn’t know unless I toed the line on Saturday morning. So with slight trepidation I met up with my Jersey City pal Miranda and made the trek to Roosevelt Island, wearing a lot more layers than I would have liked.

You sure it's spring?

You sure it’s spring?

We arrived at 7:30am, an hour before the start. It was just enough time to each get a picture, whine about the cold, visit the port-o-potties, bring our gear to bag check, and run a mile. As we were waiting for things to get started we saw Carla, and walked to the start with her. We lined up towards the front (yet there were still somehow little children in front of us?), and things got underway right at 8:30am. Since I was towards the front but not IN front I took it out a little faster than I would have liked, just to try and get away from some of the crowd (there’s a hairpin turn less than a quarter mile into the race, so I wanted as much breathing room as possible). I looked down at my watch and saw 6:15, laughed, and tried to reign it in a little; there was no way I was holding onto that for 3 miles. I slowed down slightly, continued to chug along, and tried to figure out exactly what I wanted to do during the race (better late than never?). I thought my best bet was to keep it feeling hard but not impossible and to see what happened. So that’s what I did. I did my best to keep my effort around 90% and chug along. It felt hard, but not like I was running out of steam or really, really pushing the pace. Before I knew it we were at the lighthouse turnaround point with the wind at our backs, so I pushed the pace slightly for the last half mile or so. There weren’t a lot of people near me, so I knew I had a pretty good chance at placing in my age group.

Spoiler alert: I won my age group

Spoiler alert: I won my age group

There was another hairpin turn right before the finish which was slightly annoying, but thankfully there wasn’t really anyone around me so I didn’t have to worry about crashing into someone. Before the last turn I quickly looked at my watch, realized I could make it in under 21, and hustled my way to the finish. I wound up crossing in 20:43, exactly 8 seconds off my PR from September 2014. It was good enough for 26th overall, 6th woman, and 1st in my age group (gotta rack up those 20-29 AG points before I move up June)! And more importantly, I couldn’t be more pleased! Considering I’ve only been running consistently for about 3 1/2 months after all my injury drama and my 5k PR is from when I was in tip-top running shape, this bodes well for my 2016 racing season… so long as I can stay healthy. I’d love to be able to run a sub-20 5k, but I know that will require a lot more work; those 35 seconds will be hard to shave off. It was a huge confidence booster, and it makes me excited for the spring, summer, and fall. I’ll have to remind myself of days like Saturday when I’m up at 5am trying to beat the heat, trudging through less than enjoyable long runs, and having one of those “running is dumb” moments.

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Race Recap: Downtown Westfield Pizza 5k

Running a 5k at the end of July on a Wednesday night takes strategy. You have to know what to eat throughout the day and when, how much water to drink so you’re well hydrated but not bursting, and you have to be able to mentally push yourself while also knowing when you need to take it easy because of the heat. Those three things seem easy enough, but as race day progresses it becomes more important… and annoying.

Going in to Wednesday night’s run, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. My runs at home had been feeling less than stellar thanks to the heat and humidity, but while I was up in Rochester visiting my sister over the weekend, my runs felt great in the cooler and less humid temperatures. I talked with Jason, and he said I really had two options: run hard and maybe feel like crap at the end, or take it a little easier knowing that I am faster than my finish time. I figured I would play it by ear, since I really didn’t know how it would feel until I started running, and making a decision while sitting on my couch in air conditioning seemed silly.

Since the race started at 7pm, I arrived in Westfield at around 5:30pm. This gave me enough time to grab my bib and t-shirt (and snazzy bright red hat since I was one of the first pre-registered runners) and get in a warm-up. I was supposed to do a 3 mile warm-up, but felt lethargic and was covered in sweat within a mile, so I called it at 2. Being the smart cookie I am, I brought three different shirts: one for warm-up, one for the race, and one for afterwards. After making a pit-stop at the port-o-potties they have set up by the train station, I made my way over to the starting line. Since the race starts right in the middle of downtown, they leave the traffic open until the very last minute. Being the good citizen that I am, I waited patiently on the sidewalk, while I watched runners haphazardly walk in the street. At one point a cop yelled “GET OUT OF MY STREET!” to which I laughed. Isn’t it the tax payer’s street? But anyway…

After waiting for a few minutes (finally in the street), it was go time. As usual, it was a crowded and bunched up start. So much so, that at one point someone must have tripped over someone else’s feet and a whole slew of people were almost taken down. I don’t think anyone actually fell, but I was pushed and slammed into quite a few people. I’m not sure how I didn’t get taken down, but I managed to stay upright and get away from the mess. The first half mile felt decent, but the second half is all uphill. That’s when I realized the race wouldn’t be anywhere near what I had hoped it would be back when I signed up, so I resolved to just try my best, but not push it too much because of the weather.

The second mile has a  lot of turns and a few more hills and, by this point the heat was starting to get to me. I wound up slowing down a lot in the second mile, but I still felt like I was working hard. It’s amazing how deceiving hot weather and humidity can be while running! There were plenty of residents outside cheering, a lot with hoses spraying out into the street and I made sure to take advantage of any cool drops of water coming my way. Despite slowing down, I was able to pass a lot of people during the second mile. I knew that if I could just save a little energy I would be able to pick it up for the last mile, especially because the majority of it is downhill.

As we started the third mile, I tried to dig down as best as I could to finish strong. I reminded myself what Jason had said to me when we were making a race plan – it’s just a mile. I picked it up as best as I could in the first half, and then let the final hill carry me down the last half. I usually pick it up too early on the home stretch and wind up getting re-passed by people I’ve passed on the downhill, but I managed to hold my ground and even pass a few more people in the final quarter. I got myself across the finish line in 21:38, which turned out to be a 19 second PR from my last 5k in December. Considering the weather, I’m quite pleased. Originally I was bummed, knowing that I have a much faster 5k in me (my 4 miler’s average pace was 9 seconds per mile faster), but then came to my senses and realized that even the slightest PR in the heat and humidity would have been impressive.

After I finished, I immediately grabbed two water bottles and made my way back towards the finish so I could watch other runners. Unfortunately, I made it back just in time to see a girl start to really struggle, and then almost collapse about 200 feet from the finish. Thankfully a spectator ran out into the street and eventually a cop and race official grabbed her too. Understanding the drive and determination of a runner, the cop actually picked her up and hurried across the finish with her in his arms. I cheered for a few more minutes, and then made my way over to get some pizza!

PIZZA!

PIZZA!

After enjoying a slice, I figured I would check the posted results to see if I placed. The race is pretty big for a local week night 5k, and it attracts a lot of fast runners (especially high school and college runners getting ready to start XC season). Assuming I didn’t place, I quickly scanned the results. WRONG. I wound up coming in 3rd in my age group! So I took some time to grab another water and wander around the different vendor tables. As I was waiting for the awards, I noticed the sky getting darker and darker, and the deep gray clouds moving at a rapid speed. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before a serious storm started. Since the race started at 7pm, they wanted to wait until 8pm to do the awards. Under normal circumstances this would have been fine, but by 8pm the lightening had arrived, and I was watching it flash across the sky as I stood in the middle of the street hoping not to get struck. They got through about 5 age groups before they called it, because the lightening had moved to being right over us, and rain drops were starting to fall. I ran up to the table to grab my medal and just like that, the sky opened. It started to torrential downpour, so hard and fast that I couldn’t see in front of me. I laughed that I had finally dried off, knowing that a cool-down wasn’t going to happen. So instead, I sprinted (probably just as fast as during the race, if not faster) to my car, which was just under a mile away. I let that count as my cool-down.

The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.

The medal I waited for in severe weather. Logical.

I made it back to the car safely, tried to towel off as best I could, and made a beeline to Chipotle to pick up dinner.  While eating dinner at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night isn’t ideal, it was a fun evening. I whine about the race every year and swear I won’t sign up the following year, but do anyway. I used to be envious of everyone in my hometown that could run, so when I finally started running this was a race I knew I had to do. I mean, it was my first 5k back in 2009! Even though I missed the last two years due to injury, I’m probably going to keep doing this race for as long as I can. And I’ll probably keep complaining about it, too.

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Race Recap: Asbury Park Half Marathon

This past Saturday I ran my 11th half marathon since I started seriously running in 2009. After running into some IT Band issues in January while training for the Shamrock Half, I decided to pick a goal race a little further out to give me extra breathing room with my training. I settled on the Asbury Park Half Marathon (part of “Runapalooza”) since it was a day before the New Jersey Marathon, which gave me the flexibility to cheer for all my friends the next day. I should have known that when I signed up for yet another race along a shoreline, the wind would be an issue. But as runners, we’re good at forgetting the painful parts about races and training runs, aren’t we?

The race started at 8:30am, but since I’m an hour away from Asbury Park, it was a super early morning. Thankfully since it was so early, there wasn’t any traffic on the way down. I got to the Convention Hall just after 7 a.m. which gave me plenty of time to pick up my bib, take a trip to the portopotties, and meet up with teammate Lauren and #brobird GB!

Photos courtesy of Lauren + GB. Yes, both Gregg and I are wearing Rogas. Who wore it better?!

Photos courtesy of Lauren + GB. Yes, both Gregg and I are wearing Rogas. Who wore it better?!

It was pretty chilly in the morning, but by the time I walked out of the Convention Hall and lined up for the race the sun was shining and it was relatively warm. The race started just after 8:30, and I made an effort to get out front and in a comfortable position. While that mile should have been relatively easy, I wound up clocking a 7:08 (a solid 30 seconds faster than what I initially wanted to start with). I was nervous to have such a fast first mile, but I decided to go with it. I found myself in a group of about 4 men and a woman that were all going about the same pace, and I tried to tuck in with them as best I could to alleviate some of the headwind. I ran the next three or so miles with them in 7:16, 7:22, 7:21.

Hangin' with the boys

Hangin’ with the boys

There were a lot of turns on this course. I mean, a lot. I tried to run the tangents as best as I could, but at some points I was so tired of running a block, and turning. And running a block, and turning. There was a nice out and back around mile 5 that was relatively calm in terms of the wind, and it was nice to see the leaders come through for the first time. Since it was a small race, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to start counting the women to see where I was. As it turned out, I was the 10th woman as we made our way around the turn to head back towards the boardwalk. I’ve never been in a lead pack before, and it was surreal to have people running in as we were running back out and cheering for us! I grabbed some water at the water stop, and tucked myself in and ran comfortably with three other women and let them do the work for a bit. I have to admit, all of the articles I’ve read recently about elite runners and their racing strategies paid off during this race when it came to pack running and using other runners!

"YAY I LOVE RUNNING"

“YAY I LOVE RUNNING”

Of course by the time we made it to the boardwalk around mile 7, there was a lot of wind. I kept a pretty solid pace the first 9 or so miles (aside from my way-too-fast start), but by the time we turned for the last 3.1 miles, the wind was gusting right in my face, and I was tired. It was also slightly defeating to run right past the finish line at mile 9 and know you still have 4 miles to go. Miles 5 through 9 were 7:22, 7:09, 7:14, 7:11, 7:16. I bargained with myself to take it easier miles 10 and 11, and that I’d pick it up the last 2 miles. I picked off three of the other women I had been running with earlier, and just tried to hang on. I ran miles 10 and 11 in 7:26 and 7:22. As it turned out, the wind was worse during the last two miles, so they were actually the slowest of the entire race! I’m obviously not proud of that, but I know that in those moments I was doing everything I could just to fight through the wind. At one point a woman I had passed earlier came up on my heels, and I could tell she was trying to use me as her wind shield. I slowed down because I didn’t want to do the work for her, and I let her go. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough fight in me to stick with her, but I’m glad she passed me at mile 12.5 without making me do the work for her, rather than her just blowing past me at the end after a mile of me being her wind breaker. And despite all the negative split, progression, and fast-finish training runs I did over the last few months, miles 12 and 13 were my slowest by nearly 10 seconds – 7:37 and 7:35.

Sprint to the finish!

Sprint to the finish!

By the time I made the final turn back onto the boardwalk for my attempt at a quarter mile sprint to the finish, I was thrilled to not only be able to see the finish line, but to see a solid 1:36 on the clock. I pushed it to my ultimate puke pace, and managed to cross the finish line at 1:36:51. It took me a few minutes to gather myself (I felt like every possible bodily function was about to happen at once – yum), and then it hit me. I PR’d by nearly five minutes from my time at Shamrock in March, and I crossed the finish line of a half marathon with 1,131 finishers as the 33rd runner, 8th woman, and 2nd in my age group! Oh, and yes… I am wearing $5 sunglasses from Five Below. So stylish.

Sweet medal, wouldn't you say?

Sweet medal, wouldn’t you say?

Going into this race I really wanted to PR. I was hopeful I could run a 1:38, but I really wanted to be under 1:40… I even said I’d be happy with a 1:39:59! So a 1:36 was way beyond what I thought I was capable of running. A lot of people seem to tell me I’m faster that I think I am… and I’m finally starting to realize that (maybe just a little). I’m really looking forward to a summer of short and fast races followed by a fall marathon PR. It’s time the marathon and I have another date since I have unfinished business with her… almost an hour’s worth!

Tell me…
Did you race this weekend? How did it go?!
What’s next on your running calendar?

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Shamrocked: A Bird-filled Half Marathon

This past weekend, I took a trip down to Virginia Beach to run the Anthem Half Marathon during the Shamrock Marathon weekend. I’d heard wonderful things about the race, and when it became an option for a Spring Oiselle Team meet-up, I penciled the race into my calendar and set my sights on a PR attempt. But when my IT Band started to act up at the end of December (and it lasted through most of January), I readjusted my goals and figured I’d use it as a training run instead. But, running related things don’t often go according to plan when I’m involved.

I woke up bright and early (actually it was still pitch black) on Saturday morning and after a quick stop at Starbucks, I was on my way. The trip down was uneventful (thankfully) and I made it to the expo at the Virginia Beach convention center in just under 6 hours. The expo was pretty empty, so I was able to pick up my bib, grab my t-shirt, and get my beer tent bracelet in a matter of minutes. After the expo, I checked into the hotel and quickly changed so I could get in a shake-out run before our Oiselle team dinner. As soon as  I changed and realized that the beach was right outside the hotel, I had to make a stop to take some no-snow pictures. It was so great to be outside in a tank top and shorts and not freezing!

No snow!

No snow!

My three mile shake-out run was rather uneventful, but I did have a cyclist come up from behind and stop to tell me I made it look easy. I wanted to reply “Maybe now… but wait until mile 12 tomorrow!” Instead I said thank you, chatted about the weather for a bit, and was on my way back to the hotel with just enough time to shower and head over to dinner with the team. The wonderful Mollie organized our team dinner at Bravo! and I had the pleasure of chatting with Allie (my shoe/jacket/birthday twin), Ellen (my favorite Shittens distributor), and Hollie (who has finally accepted the fact that she lives in NJ now) for the majority of the dinner. We butchered the menu they provided (us runners can be such high-maintenance!), but had a ton of fun telling ridiculous stories and getting to know each other better. At some point during dinner gelato was mentioned, and we were lucky to find a place down the street thanks to Yelp! So never being one to turn down dessert, I got myself a cone with salted caramel and chocolate hazelnut crunch gelato. And yes, it was amazing as it sounds!

Shamrock Half

The post-dinner festivities included heading back to the hotel, getting everything together for the morning, and trying to convince my body to go to bed at 9pm. Of course that didn’t work, but I’m pretty sure I was sound asleep by about 10pm. Unfortunately, the walls of the hotel seemed to be paper thin, and the people in the room next door had very loud, deep voices. They were likely in town to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so it was no surprise when I was woken up around 1:30am by the sound of their voices. After laying in bed angry for the first 20 minutes or so, I realized that when the AC unit kicked on, it was loud enough to drown out their voices. So I got up and set the thermostat to about 60 degrees in hopes of it not shutting off, and tried to go back to bed. The next thing I knew, it was 4:45am and my alarm was going off. Woof!

Race morning was the usual routine, and I made my way to the start (a mile from my hotel) at about 6:15am. I had just enough time to take off all my layers and get in the corral before it was time to start. I spent a few minutes looking around for other Oiselle teammates that I knew would be in the first corral, but I didn’t see anyone (they were likely further to the front, since they’re speedsters!). I also tried to look for the 1:45 pacer, but didn’t see them either. My plan was to run with the 1:45 group for the first 8 or so miles, and then pick it up depending on how I felt at that point, since it was just a training run. Before I knew it the clock was at 6:59am, ad we were counting down to the start… and at 7am we were off!

Shamrock Half

The course was pancake flat, so I knew my only struggle would be with the wind. The winds were around 20mph, but they were pretty light during the first few miles. I usually roll my eyes when people say things like, “before I knew it, we were at mile 6!” but I really felt that way on Sunday. At some moments, I’d be begging for the next mile marker, but for the majority of the race I’d look down at my watch and think, “wow! I’ve gone that far already?!” I have to say it was a great feeling! It wasn’t until mile 7 or so when the wind started to really become an issue. We turned into a Naval Base, and we were right up against the water, with nothing shielding us from the wind. I tried to park myself behind and alongside some other runners, but no one seemed to be keeping a consistent enough pace… and it didn’t really help either. I’d say the hardest miles were miles 6 through 9, mostly because of the wind. My first 9 miles were 7:51, 7:53, 7:48, 7:45, 7:54, 7:50, 7:47, 7:51, and 7:52. Talk about consistency! By the time I got to mile 9 and realized I only had 4 miles to go and that I still had a little energy left, I decided to pick it up. It was a mile later than I had originally planned, but my overall pace was about 10-15 seconds faster than I thought I’d be at that point so I didn’t worry much. I ran my 10th mile in 7:36, and realized that if I could just hold on for the last 5k, I would likely PR. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up the pace, but I figured I’d give it a shot!

Those last three miles seemed to go on forever, but when I saw Rebecca fly by around mile 11, I got the little push I needed for those last two miles. The wind smacked me in the face right after mile 12 as we turned towards the beach to head onto the boardwalk for the final mile, but I happened to see Paulette running by and cowbelling right as as I made that final turn which was a welcomed distraction and boost of encouragement. As she yelled for me and I lifted my hand to wave, I realized that my fingers and hands were basically frozen. I tried to wave but only mustered up a little t-rex arm movement (which I’ve since decided will be my new race photo pose). Miles 11 and 12 were 7:33 and 7:34 respectively.

Bye, boys!

Bye, boys!

The boardwalk was nice and wide (and cement, not wood, thankfully), and I was pretty  much alone for that last stretch. I was in a group of three guys for the last 2 miles or so that were counting down for each other and saying things like “Alright, just one mile to go. This is nothing! You can do it!” and while I was thinking the same thing in my head at the time, it was nice to finally break from them in that last mile. As soon as I could see the finish line arch, I looked at my watch, realized I’d PR, and decided to book it and hope for the best. I ran mile 13 in 7:21, and crossed the finish line with a final time of 1:41:39… a PR of just under a minute and a half! I grabbed my finisher hat and towel (Virginia races have the best swag – fleece blanket at Richmond, and now this!), medal, and some food, and quickly put on all the layers; I was cold!

Shamrock Half

I made my way to the party tent, got myself a Yuengling beer immediately, and roamed around until I found some of my Oiselle teammates! There were a lot of PRs and strong racing by everyone, and after our celebratory beer, we headed to a local coffee shop for some much needed coffee and food. Before I knew it it was early afternoon, and I headed back to the hotel to foam roll, and most importantly, take a hot shower. By the time I was on my way back to my hotel the wind had really picked up, but I was distracted by all the marathon finishers in their final two miles.

Can you tell we're all freezing? And wearing the same sneakers?

Can you tell we’re all freezing? And wearing the same sneakers?

Overall, I absolutely loved this race. All of the volunteers and spectators seemed to be enjoying themselves, the course was flat and fast, and it was in a great location. Getting to meet up with so many wonderful Oiselle teammates that I felt like I already knew was an added bonus. I’d love to do this race again!

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Race Recap: Rutgers Big Chill 5k

Sometimes when you set out to have a “fun easy run,” you wind up setting  PR… right?

Oh, you mean that doesn’t happen to you? Yeah, it doesn’t really ever happen to me either. Yet I was that jerk on Sunday morning when my friends asked me what my race plan was, and I replied nonchalantly with “Eh, no plans. It’s cold, I ran 9 miles yesterday. I’m just going to go out there and do whatever, not trying to PR or really race.”

I truly didn’t believe I had any fast-ish legs in me on Sunday morning. I’ve been slowly increasing my mileage since the Richmond Half, and this week was to top out at 33 miles (which isn’t a lot, but relative to what I was running a month ago, is). I ran a hard 7 miler on Wednesday with 3 of those miles at tempo/progression, and on Saturday I ran 9 miles as my “long run.” So based on that (and the fact that it was going to be pretty cold) I hoped to just finish within 23 minutes or so on race day. I had no intentions of really “racing” and the two beers I had on Saturday night I think helped solidify those intentions.

I woke up Sunday morning, threw on two lux layers and my long tights, and headed over to Rutgers University’s College Avenue campus where the race was being held. I got there with enough time to park, meet up with some friends in the gym, and then head over to the race start where I proceeded to shiver for about 5 minutes. This particular race is a fundraiser, and the fee for the 5k is an unused, unwrapped children’s toy worth at least $10 (some lucky kiddo is going to love my Merida doll). You have the option of having your bib chipped or not, and I figured if I was going to run, I might as well make it official (and I’m glad I did)!

Trying to keep my face warm before the race

Trying to keep my face warm before the race

After about 5 minutes of shivering it was go time. I should mention here that I forgot my Garmin watch at home, so I had absolutely no idea what pace I was running during the race. Last time I forgot my watch I was running my very first 10k on an extremely hilly course, which was definitely a negative (I ran the first half way too fast and crawled through the second 5k), so I always get nervous when I forget it now. I’d like to think I’m a smarter runner than I was a year ago, and since it was “only” a 5k I knew that if I did go out too fast, I wouldn’t have to try to hold on for too long. Plus, I always hear about people leaving their watches at home, running on feel, and doing really well. So I decided to go with that approach! As I came up to the first mile I saw 7:06 on the clock, and thought to myself, “Well, I guess this isn’t going to be an easy run.” I decided to try and keep the current pace so long as it wasn’t too much of a struggle, which it wasn’t. The second and third miles were about the same (I’m impressed by such even pacing), and I managed to squeeze in just under 22, in 21:57 (5th in my age group, and 14th woman overall out of 512)!

Thumbs up for this girl

Thumbs up for this girl

This winds up being a 45 second PR, which isn’t huge, but is something! I’ve really wanted to get under 22 minutes for a 5k – for some reason I had in my head that was a “competitive” and “relatively fast” time – so it’s been my goal. Obviously now that I’m (barely) in the 21 club, I’d love to get to the 20 club, but that’s going to take a lot of work! Since I ran 9 miles the day before, wasn’t planning on racing, and pushed it only to about 90% effort, I’m excited to see what I can do when I truly race a 5k and push it to puke pace (how I judge my race efforts). This is the second weekend in a row I’ve finished a race and been pleasantly surprised with myself. I finish and think, “wow, did I really just run a race at that pace?” I really didn’t think low 7’s would be coming to me so easily. I hope I can keep it up!

I don’t have any other races on my calendar in the immediate future, though I will likely run the Westfield Hangover 5k on January 1st to kick off the year on the right foot, and hopefully I can find a few other local races to run  between now and the Shamrock Half in March (goal race). I couldn’t be happier with my 2013 racing performance despite my injury setbacks and lack of a big marathon PR, which was my main running goal for the year. I’m excited for (faster) racing in 2014.

Tell me…
Are you done racing for 2013? 
What’s on your racing schedule for 2014?

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Race Recap: Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot

On Saturday, I ran the Westfield Turkey Trot 5-miler for the third time, managed to not freeze, and scored a PR!

Since I wasn’t a runner growing up, even though my hometown puts on quite a few road races, I didn’t start participating in them until I was 23. I remember being envious of the people that did run, but I was busy doing lap after lap in a pool with a coach who could somehow build you up, knock you down, make you laugh, and make you cry all in one fell swoop. But I digress…

Even though this is a “turkey trot” it doesn’t take place until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Thankfully the weather was slightly warmer than it was on Thursday, and with a start time of 11:15am I was in much better shape than anyone who ran a turkey trot on Thanksgiving. But don’t be fooled – I was still freezing before the race. I left my parent’s house about an hour before the start, and stayed in the car until 15 minutes before gun time. My mom was kind enough to walk with me to the starting line, so I was able to shed my extra layers (a pair of pants, a track jacket, and my dad’s fleece) right before starting.

First lap in the park!

First lap in the park!

While there aren’t any corrals or pace groups, they did have signs for approximate paces by the start line, so people could (in theory) line up accordingly. I happened to be standing right where they marked 7 minute miles, and decided not to move. An older gentleman jokingly said, “I don’t think all of these people in front of us are going to run 6 minute miles…” to which I replied, “they won’t.” I used to get annoyed at the people who just wanted to be up front, but I’ve learned to just not care. Most people that don’t belong up front are out of the way quickly enough, and 5 miles is plenty of time to not have to worry about weaving much. The race starts with a loop in the park to get you just over a mile before heading out onto residential roads (that I know like the back of my hand) for 3-ish miles before coming back into the park for the last half mile. It’s a pretty flat course (except for a slight incline in the park), and the roads are wide enough that it never really feels crowded. Basically, it’s a very PR friendly course.

I'm always the one calling out to people cheering for me. Am I that hard to spot?

I’m always the one calling out to people cheering for me. Am I that hard to spot?

I didn’t really have a plan going into the race, and my only goal was to beat last years’ time (37:34). I figured if I was able to throw down a 7:20 for my first mile and hang on, that would be good enough. My first mile was a 7:20 (by miracle more than by perfect execution), but it felt too easy. I didn’t want to push the pace too much, but knew I was capable of a lot more. So the next mile, I clocked a 7:16. During the third mile I saw my good friend’s boyfriend who was running, and we chatted and ran together for about a quarter mile before I decided it was time to try and pick up the pace a little more. I ran the third mile in 7:13, and in the process, beat my current 5k PR. I couldn’t help but laugh, since the exact same thing happened to me when I ran the race last year. I know I’m capable of a lot more as a runner, but seem to never be able to get my shit together long enough to actually make it happen. By this point I knew unless I had an accident, a PR was likely; I just had to fight through the last 2 miles. Mile 4 came quickly in 7:07, and I passed a few high school girls who looked like they were moments from tripping one another in an effort to make it to the finish first. The last quarter mile of the race is downhill, so I knew to push it enough the first three quarters and the hill would carry me home. I don’t know how, but I managed to clock a 6:56 for the last mile, and get passed by those two high school girls throwing elbows in the process. My official finish time was 35:58, a 7:11 average. Miraculously my watch had me only one second slower and one tenth of a mile further – talk about exceptional tangent work!

With all this Vitamin C I better not get sick.

With all this Vitamin C I better not get sick.

As it turns out, my time was good enough for second place in my age group (22nd female overall). This was by far the highest I’ve ever finished at this particular race (Westfield seems to have a lot of graduates that come back to race that are speedy), and I got a cute little scarecrow and a box of Emergen-C (?!) for my efforts. My cat has already tried to eat the scarecrow multiple times.

Buds since '98 (at least)

Buds since ’97 (with my dad creeping in the background)

After I finished I met up with my good friend Kir, who is so speedy she could run laps around me. She doesn’t like to brag, but let’s just say that her marathon pace is significantly faster than the pace I ran the 5 miler. We’ve known each other since middle school when we were both avid swimmers. It never ceases to amaze me that I somehow went from being a swimmer (a sprinter, no less) to a distance runner. The thought of racing for more than a minute in the pool used to elicit whines and eye rolls from me; yet here I am running for hours at a time. Go figure.

This was an awesome way to finish up 2013 in terms of running – I managed to somehow PR every distance I raced except for the 4 mile and marathon distances… But I’ll be coming for them (big time) in 2014!

Did you Turkey Trot this past week/weekend? 
Do you like Holiday-themed races?

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Race Recap: Richmond Half Marathon

Another half marathon is in the books!

My weekend at the Richmond Marathon wasn’t exactly what I had planned it to be when I signed up for the race back in June. My intentions were to run the full marathon, and PR the heck out of it, but unfortunately I wound up with some annoying ankle and foot pain that caused my training to be really inconsistent all summer. So rather than wallow in my inability to run the full marathon, I switched to the half and decided I’d use it as a long tempo run, and a point to assess my fitness level.

The race was on Saturday, so we drove to Virginia early on Friday  morning and stopped at the expo first. We had dinner plans with Dori and Andy, and actually wound up getting to the expo at the same time as them, so we wandered around a bit before heading to the hotel. I don’t usually buy things from expos, but I saw these cute little Richmond running socks and had to have them. Most of my socks fall just below the ankle, and with the temperatures slowly but surely dropping, I figured my ankles would appreciate some coverage for those bone chilling winter runs that will be here before I know it.

Cute socks!

Cute socks!

We had dinner at Edo’s Squid which served it’s purpose for carb loading, and made it an early night. The forecast for the weekend had looked great in the days prior, but on Friday we noticed that there was supposed to be some overnight rain, that would likely stop in the early morning hours. I didn’t even think to pack a hat, extra socks, or anything to help shield me from the rain. So you can imagine my disappointment when I woke up to rain at 5am on Saturday morning. I figured it would taper off as I made my way to the starting area, but unfortunately just the opposite happened. The hotel was only a 5 minute walk from the start, but by the time I got there I was soaking wet. I knew my race day outfit would hold up wet in the rain, but I was a little nervous about my socks and the ankle brace I was wearing – the last thing you want is rain induced blisters! I saw Oiselle teammate Ellen right before the start, who rocked a serious PR! The rain stopped long enough for me to shed my throwaway sweatshirt in the starting corral, and after a less than enthusiastic start (the announcer was so not excited), we were off promptly at 7:30am.

The first few miles were rather uneventful. I did see Oiselle teammate and super speedy #fasterasamaster Allie cheering within the first mile which was a nice way to start the race! I had some pain in what I can only describe as my big toe joint, but prior to the race when I was poking and prodding around, I realized it was actually the tendon in my foot that was tight (the one that controls the up/down motion of your toes). It was rather uncomfortable in those first few miles, and at a few points I thought to myself “do I really have to run 13.1 miles feeling like this? Is this a bad idea?” Thankfully as the miles went on, the pain lessened. My goal wasn’t to all out race, but rather to push it to about a 90% effort level to get a good workout, and enjoy the morning. The first few miles were impressively conservative, which is rare for me. I usually feel awesome and ignore logic, which I pay for later. Dare I say I’m finally learning?!

The only remotely attractive photo taken. Jazz hands!

The only remotely attractive photo taken. Jazz hands!

There were a few points in the second half where I wasn’t sure if my initial pacing had been too fast. I originally assumed I’d run about a 1:50, but within the last few weeks of training realized I could probably run a little faster without needing to push too much. So even though I was sopping wet and starting to get tired, I decided to keep the pace going, knowing there were only a few miles left. As a distraction I spent the majority of the race thinking about everyone running the full marathon, excited to see their splits on my phone when I finished. I assumed my pace had been about the same the entire race, but I was consistently picking people off as I was making my way through the final miles, which was a confidence booster. I also think it’s what led me to speeding up that last 5k.

I remember hearing the finish line is no joke – that it’s a serious downhill. I was so excited for this downhill finish since it seems like most races I run end uphill (why?!). With just under a mile left, I could see the top of a giant hill which I assumed was what we’d be running down in a matter of minutes. And after two quick turns, it was time to make our way down; it was so steep, when I was at the top I couldn’t even see the bottom! Because of the rain, I made sure not to just let the hill carry me down, so I had to do a little work to hold myself back to make sure I didn’t wind up face-planting. Naturally the thirteenth mile was my fastest (7:29!), I didn’t fall, and I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:45:31! I grabbed a water, my sweet finisher fleece blanket (perfect for the rainy day), and made my way over to get my checked bag so I could change. 

Another for the collection

Another for the collection

As soon as I finished I realized just how tough that last downhill was – my quads were suddenly SO tired. I quickly changed, grabbed a slice of pizza and a PowerBar, hung out in the finishers area for a bit, and then made my way up to get some Starbucks before snagging a spot right at mile 26 to cheer on the marathoners!

It was such a shame the weather was crappy – I could tell despite the gray and rainy day that the course was beautiful. We went through a few neighborhoods that had some beautiful homes, and a big park that probably would be great to run in on a sunny day. Despite the less than stellar weather, there were SO many spectators, and I was shocked! I assumed the course would have a few people here and there, but the likelihood of someone standing outside at 8am on a rainy Saturday morning was slim. Much to my surprise there were spectators everywhere, and in those moments where the rain picked up, so did the cheers from the crowds. It was really awesome!

All in all it was a great race, and I would absolutely do it again. I’d also love to be able to do the full marathon! The next “big” race I have on my calendar right now is the Shamrock Half Marathon, coincidentally back down in Virginia in March. I’m hoping to PR the 13.1 distance at the race, which I think is possible since Saturday’s run was only 2 minutes off my PR from this past spring, and it didn’t require a lot of effort. Can’t what to see what winter training has in store for me.

Anyone have any big races coming up?
What’s next on your schedule?

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Disneyland: Dumbo Double Dare

Another Disney race is in the books! A week and a half ago now (whoops) I headed to the west coast to run the Disneyland half marathon and complete the Dumbo Double Dare with a 10k as well. This was my first time in Disneyland, and it was tons of fun.

DL_1st

I know a lot of people have a hard time understanding why someone would pay so much money to run a race that is generally not competitive, where a lot of people dress up and there are storybook characters on the course. And I get it – it definitely isn’t for everyone. But as someone that spent pretty much every family vacation in Disney World and loving it, when I became a runner it seemed only logical to do a Disney race. It combines two of my favorite things, and it’s a great way (for me) to really enjoy both of them at the same time. But after four Run Disney weekends, I’m ready to take a little break to enjoy other races across the country. But back to the races!

We arrived in Los Angeles on Friday and took a shuttle bus to our hotel in Anaheim. This was the first time I wasn’t staying on Disney property, but the hotel was literally across the street from the parks, and significantly cheaper. When I’m in Disney World I always stay on property (I think it adds to the experience), but it isn’t necessary in Disneyland. We headed to the expo to pick up our bibs, and then went to Krissy’s geniusly organized Cupcake Meet-up! I enjoyed some mini cupcakes and got to hang with one of my favorite running pals (Krissy, duh). It was an early night of course, and the 4am wake up call came quickly.

The beauty of racing in Disneyland is that you can walk to the start – unlike in Disney World where you have to take a bus, and then walk 20 minutes to the corrals. Before I knew it we were off, running our first Disneyland race!

The 10k was tons of fun – it went through both Disneyland and California Adventure Parks and ended in Downtown Disney. Since we were in corral A, as we were heading to the finish we stopped to take a picture with Tweedles Dee & Dum since they were all alone. It was my first mid-race character picture! The race ended (55 and change, nice and easy) and my ankle felt FINE!

DL_Tweedle

We spent Saturday walking around the parks an enjoying all of Disneyland. After a morning in California Adventure, we stopped by the Grand Californian Hotel for a Twitter meet-up put on by @pavementrunner, @katsnf, and @seesharprun. It was great to catch up with old running friends and finally meet new ones in person! We finished the day in Disneyland with an epic Monte Cristo for dinner (more on the food later), and I was in bed and asleep by 8:30pm (old lady status) ready for my 3am wake up!

Sunday morning was easy during the Dumbo Double Dare compared to Goofy Challenge’s Sunday. I had no problem getting up, had plenty of energy, and was ready to run more! While we were waiting in our corral for the start, we ran into Krissy again! Fate, I tell you. After watching a couple get engaged, seeing Sean Astin and Joey Fatone be interviewed, and general pre-race Run Disney fun, it was time for 13.1. My plan was to try and run a 2 hour half marathon. I really haven’t run consistently in the last two months, and I had no idea what to expect from my ankle. So we started off easy, and each wound up taking a bathroom break in the first 2 miles (too much Nuun, apparently). We kept a pretty steady sub-9 pace for the first 10 miles (minus the bathroom break), and enjoyed the parks again. Even though the second half of the race was just through streets of Anaheim, it was much more entertaining than Disney service roads.

DL_10k

This is a picture of me running on Saturday. Pretend it’s Sunday – it looked the same.

Once we made it to the Angel’s stadium (which was so loud with spectators), I decided to see if I could do what has now become “running the Disney way”… A serious negative split and push in the last few miles. We’ve managed to do this on the second day of each challenge weekend since we started, and in a sick way I look forward to it. We slowly picked up each of the final miles, with the last one clocking in a 7:40 average. We crossed in 1:57, which I was more than happy with considering the easy pace, bathroom breaks, and lack of consistent training I’ve had recently. And as I crossed the finish line and got my medals, I ran into Krissy (who ran the 10k the day before and another half the day after!) and Emily (who just BQ’d!), some of my Oiselle teammates!

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 10.29.55 PM

After breakfast in Disneyland and a picture with Dumbo himself, I was ready to fully enjoy the parks for the last day and a half. Unfortunately, my left foot started to hurt around the arch and inner ankle bone by late Sunday, and by Monday I was struggling to walk (yes, that’s the opposite foot that has been giving me trouble). It was very similar to the pain I had last January during marathon weekend. I have a feeling I was overcompensating for potential ankle pain, and my feet were just exhausted from 19.3 miles of running and walking through all the parks (I wore my sneakers with orthotics every single day) in such a short period of time. It certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to end the trip, but I was happy my ankle pain was pretty much non-existent!

Before I knew it we were heading back to the airport, but instead of heading home, we were on our way to San Francisco (recap of that awesome city to come)!

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Summer Series XC 5k: Take Two

Even though it feels like I just completed my first cross country 5k yesterday, I actually ran my second this past Tuesday. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a little hesitation going into this one, simply because the first one was difficult (albiet fun), and while I do lots of things that are hard and hurt, I don’t usually look forward to that pain. Plus, with the temperature a solid 10 degrees higher than it was last time, I knew it was going to be a sweat-fest.

Around 4:30pm it started to thunder and by 5p there was a torrential downpour. I started to get nervous that the race would be cancelled, or run in the rain. I knew that the park would yet again be muddy and gross, but since I experienced that last time, it was the least of my worries. As in typical summer storm fashion, though, the sun was back out by 5:15p. So I got everything together, and headed to the park for the 7p start.

Because it was so hot, I didn’t want to push it too much, but still wanted to run a competitive and decent race based on the conditions. I started in a much better position this time (the race starts diagonal across a field as you hop over a mini ditch), found the girl that had come in first last time, and set myself behind her. The grass wasn’t nearly as wet as it had been last race, but I still found myself slip-sliding all over the place. After one the diagonal hills, I lost my footing and nearly ate it.

Survived... ish.

Survived… ish.

There were two other women that started out in front of me, but by about mile 2 it was just me, the girl from last time, and a whole bunch of men. I was struggling to breathe and knew my overall pace was slower than the last 5k, but by mile 2 I wasn’t too concerned knowing that I was comfortably in 2nd. I had high hopes of being able to catch the first place woman on the second half of the last lap, but I just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to do it, and she beat me by 4 seconds… again. I ran a 23:01, which was 19 seconds slower than two weeks ago.

Getting my medal!

Getting my medal!

Just like after the first 5k, we got to hang out and enjoy some food and drinks (all I could stomach was a Philly pretzel, as seen above), and then it was awards time! Last time I scored myself a plant (that is still alive, wahoo!), and this time I got a neat little medal since I came in 1st in my age group. See that adorable shirtless man sitting on the picnic bench in the foreground of the picture? He’s 79, and ran last time too… in an impressive 41 minutes! Talk about inspirational.

I’d be lying if I said that this was so much fun the whole time and I wasn’t dreading it a little. I mean, the first 5k was successful and I was really proud of myself, but it was hard! I don’t think it’s abnormal for me to be a little hesitant for repeat pain. I found myself at the end when it really started to hurt, telling myself that it was worth it and that not everyone races a 5k on a hot and humid Tuesday night (yes, mid-race pats on the back are necessary sometimes). But since I came in first in my age group again, my time from the first race still stands as the course record which was reason enough for me to have run again!

1stplace

Next up on my racing calendar is a 4 miler on the 4th of July with Ashley … we’re both going to PR, I just know it! Then it’s the third installment of the summer series on the 9th. And then the fourth summer series on the 23rd, and a road 5k on the 24th. So yes, I’m racing 4 times (all during the week) in July!

Do you have any races coming up?
If you race during the week, do you do anything differently during your work day?

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Running From Winter

You know, when I signed up to run a 10k this past weekend, I assumed I’d be running in a t-shirt and shorts, relatively comfortable. I giggled at the cute name of the race, Middle Earth’s Run From Winter 10k, and snidely said to myself “Spring arrives three days before the race, so I don’t know how much of a run from the previous season it’ll be.” Well mother nature, you shut me up. This past week has been cold (I remember boasting about it being in the upper 70’s this time last year) and race day was no exception. After waking up and checking the forecast, I ditched my hopes of finally getting to wear arm warmers, and threw on a long sleeve shirt (Oiselle lux layer). I still insisted on wearing shorts, and while a wise decision overall, those first few moments of bare-leg had my skin screaming.

This is my cold face.

This is my cold face.

This particular race actually takes place in a park right by my office, where I do a decent amount of post-work runs in the Spring and Fall (it’s a little too muggy in the summer since it’s near water). I was excited for two reasons: first, I know the course like the back of my hand, and second, it’s flat. I’ve been a bit wary of the 10k distance ever since my first one, because it was basically run down hill, run up a steeper hill, run down hill, run up an even steeper hill. I figured based on those two factors alone a PR was looking pretty likely. I actually raced last weekend, but because my alarm didn’t go off and I barely made it to the start, I didn’t have a bib and therefore no official time (which is why I didn’t do a race recap). According to my results from that, I knew a 46:xx would be doable, assuming there were no surprises.

Race morning started like the all do, me questioning myself, devouring a Picky Bar, and trying to drink the right amount of water to keep me hydrated, but not make me have to pee mid-race. After I arrived at the park, I picked up my bib and set out for an easy mile. Thankfully it warmed me up enough for the start, and before I knew it we were lined up and ready to go. I can honestly say that lining up for a race is one of my least favorite things. I can’t tell you how many people I overhear at almost every single race talking about how they’re “going to get run over” and “should probably move to the back” … but they never actually move. I usually take it upon myself to move in front of them if I can, but it’s so frustrating – why would you want to do that to yourself or other runners?! But I digress…

What, you don't throw up jazz hands while you race?

What, you don’t throw up jazz hands while you race?

The first two miles of the race aren’t anything to write home about. I stayed controlled, didn’t waste energy weaving, and averaged about 7:30’s. I couldn’t help but notice some of the other runner’s labored breathing, and gave myself an imaginary pat on the back for not taking it out too fast (which is almost always the case for me). After the first two miles, everyone seemed to really spread out. Because the course is through a park on paths basically in the woods, it was quiet. There weren’t many spectators, and the race volunteers didn’t make a peep. I actually felt badly for the volunteers at the water stations; I really didn’t see many people taking any water, and they must have been cold! At mile 2.5 we started to see the first finishers on their way back from the turn-around point. I started counting each woman I saw, and figured I was just within the top 10. My original plan was to run the race in 2 mile increments, but decided instead to run it more of a 3, 2, 1.2 mile split.

Pain face.

Pain face.

I wound up slowing down a little during the 5th mile in order to save some energy for a final kick. Between miles three and five I passed about three women, and spent the final mile and a half pretty much alone. Once I hit mile five I started to pick up the pace, and by mile six, I heard an older man coming up behind me. Once the finish line was in sight, I realized he was using me as his final kick motivation, and I could tell he was doing everything in his power to pass me. Being the quiet competitive person I am, I pushed it to puke-pace, and made sure didn’t get in ahead of me. I wound up finishing in 46:22 (7:28 average): a solid 2 minute PR! As it turns out, that put me at 1st in my age group, and the 8th woman overall. Waiting around for the awards in the wind was brutal, but worth it because I got a medal!

My medal and a side of my Oiselle spike bag

My medal and a side of my Oiselle spike bag

Races like this make me really confident in my running; it’s nice to see your hard work paying off. Not every run is wonderful, sometimes things hurt, and I’m often tired, but I love this sport. I’m so happy that after years of always wanting to run, I’ve finally started doing it and am actually enjoying it. Sure I’ll never make it to the Olympics or place outside of small hometown races, but that post-run feeling is addicting! I’m starting to really look forward to my half next month – I’m hoping to PR, and I think things are really lining up for me to do so.

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