Tag Archives: Race

Let’s Run Together – For Real This Time!

It’s currently snowing (and hailing) outside, but I’m trying to distract myself from it by thinking of warm weather running…

If you remember, last year I wrote a blog post about the Newport 10k in Jersey City that happens each year in May. I was excited to finally run a race in my city, only to have it thwarted with my femoral stress reaction. But good news, I’m going to (attempt to) run it this year! I was so excited when they asked if I’d be a VIP blogger again this year, because I’m determined to get myself to the start (and finish) line this go-around.

Just like last year, there are a few key reasons why I think this race is so great:

  • It starts so close to home! That means I don’t need to take the PATH and subway and worry about travel plans just to get there like I do for most other races. And if even you don’t live IN Jersey City, it’s super easy to get to (you can take the PATH from NYC, or drive since there is ample parking).
  • It runs through my neighborhood. It runs down the street on the opposite side of a small park from my apartment. You can see my apartment as you run by!
  • It’s flat and has minimal turns, which means it’s fast.
  • The views! Yes, I live here and run in the park and along the water multiple times a week, but the views of the city skyline never get old.
  • I know a bunch of people that have run it in the past and sing its praises, which is good enough for me!

So, if you’re looking for a fast spring 10k, come run in Newport with me in May! (Hey look, that rhymed and I didn’t even do it on purpose). Need more details? Here you go!

What: Newport 10K

When: Saturday, May 6th, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. (registration starts at 7am)

Where: Newport Town Square, 100 Town Square Pl, Jersey City, NJ 07310

Background: Known as the fastest course in the tri-state area, the Newport 10,000 is a 10K road race along the Hudson River waterfront in Jersey City’s community of Newport. Recreational and elite runners will have the opportunity to compete at the highest level for their share of $15,400 in prize money. The USA Track & Field-certified course is comprised of flat and local roads that interweave along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway and provide spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. Racers have access to four water stops during the race, as well as clocks at each mile. The race will be followed by Newport’s annual Post-Race Party, which is going to feature a live DJ, refreshments and prize drawings. Win NY Mets tickets, NY Red Bulls Tickets, a 1-hour massage or several restaurant gift certificates!

Beneficiary: Proceeds will be donated to the Barnibas Health, Jersey City Medical Center, the area’s newest regional referral teaching hospital, providing the highest level of care for women and infants, and trauma and heart patients.

Sponsors: Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP (title sponsor), Cosi, Courtyard Marriott Jersey City, New Jersey Beer Co., Yelp, Verizon

Distance: 10 kilometers (6.2 miles)

Registration fee: $30

Event Website: http://www.newport10k.com/

Seriously, come run with me! Or if you’re in the area, come out and cheer! It’s been really great weather the last few years (hoping this isn’t jinxing it) and I had a fun time cheering. I’m planning to go out for a beer (and food) afterwards… so the more the merrier! And even if you can’t make it this year, keep it in mind for next year.

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Race Recap: Greta’s Run 5k

I remember September 11th, 2002 just as clearly as I remember September 11th, 2001. The days were eerily similar – beautiful blue skies, light winds, and a perfect late summer/early fall day… and tragic. After a moment of silence outside on our high school’s front lawn for the first anniversary of September 11th, I went off to lunch. Our high school offered four lunch periods, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th… and I was lucky enough to have 5th (yes, I was hungry by 10:54am for lunch). After that I can’t remember what class I had, but I remember being in math class 7th period. That’s when our principal came over the loud speaker to let us know there had been an accident in the front of the school, and that everyone needed to stay put. Naturally we all began to panic. My classroom was towards the back of the school near some fields, and we just watched as police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances went racing by. It seemed like hours passed… and they did. Our teacher would get a phone call every so often with information, but she wouldn’t share much. Eventually though, we saw a helicopter land on the field out back, and a few stretchers go racing by.

I’d later learn that during 7th period, as students were sitting out front eating lunch, a gust of wind came along that was strong enough to knock a very large (dead) tree branch from it’s trunk. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been an issue, as students wouldn’t have been in the front of the school at that time. However, construction prevented them from sitting in the courtyard, so the tables had been moved to the front. Unfortunately the giant tree branch fell on a group of students (mostly freshmen) eating lunch. Everyone recovered, except for Greta. Her injuries were too severe, and three days later she passed away. Our school was rocked to the core by this tragedy – how could a student, simply sitting outside eating her lunch during the first week of school, be killed? It just didn’t make sense. I had known the family from YMCA swimming, and was completely heartbroken for them. There were vigils, wakes, and the funeral that almost the entire student body attended. I know that I will vividly remember those days for the rest of my life.

But as it happens so often, out of tragedy comes something positive. Last year, one of my friends (and former CCD students) organized a 5k run in Westfield to raise funds for a program to serve adults with special needs, who typically age-out of programs as they get older. So while I wasn’t able to run last year, I made sure to mark it on my calendar early and register right away for this year. I knew that regardless of the outcome of my actual race that it was a cause I wanted to help support! But onto the actual race report…

The race didn’t start until 11am, so I had plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep and have my pre-race breakfast. My mom came with me to the race, and we were there with plenty of time to spare. I went for a quick warm-up, and lined myself up towards the front of the race. I started chatting with a fellow runner, who it turns out knows quite a few people I went to high school with! After some songs from the choir (that’s right, choir), it was time to run. Per the usual, I nearly tripped over a little boy who started in front of me and decided to stop about 50 yards past the start. Thankfully I didn’t fall (and I don’t think he did either). The first mile came relatively quickly (6:38) and I felt decent. I knew that if I could hold on to that pace, I’d PR. Of course by 1.5 miles I wanted to quit, but I knew I had to keep going. By the time I was halfway, I had picked off quite a few runners, including a handful of females. No one was saying anything, but based on what I could see ahead of me I knew I was either second or third. I slowed down a little during the second mile (6:45), but this portion also had the most “rolling hills.”

New PR! And 2nd Overall Female

New PR! And 2nd Overall Female

I told myself just to hang on the best I could for the third mile, and it was here that I heard someone yell “alright! Second female!” I had no idea how close the third place woman was, so I tried my hardest not to slow down. The course had a lot of turns but I think I managed to cut them all really well (Garmin actually read 3.1!). Once I turned by the middle school I knew we were almost done, so I tried my best to kick it up to “puke pace” … which turned out to be the same pace I ran the first mile in – go figure (6:38). I crossed the finish and saw that the girl I had been chatting with earlier, Erin, was the overall female winner! We grabbed some water and decided to do a cool-down together before heading back over the the finish area for the awards. It didn’t hit me until after I had finished that I ran a 20:35, which is actually just over a minute faster than the PR I set in July. Icing on the cake was my 2nd place female finish!

Kennedy approves of the medal

Kennedy approves of the medal

After the race my mom and I got Starbucks and a sandwich from my favorite bagel shop, and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s before heading home. It was really great to run a race that supported an important cause and was in honor of a really great girl. It was also fun to see a lot of familiar hometown faces and catch up with some people! This is definitely a race I’m going to keep on my calendar for every year.

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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: Firecracker 4 Miler

When I started running 5 years ago in the late Spring of 2009, I decided that my first attempt at a race would be the Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4 miler. I was nervous, ran in a pair of three-year-old Nike Shox sneakers and a cotton t-shirt, but made it to the finish line in 36:26. By that point I was hooked on running, and wanted to make this race a yearly tradition… and on Friday I ran my 6th Firecracker 4 miler!

Who doesn't love a dark, cotton t-shirt for a 4th of July race?!

My first race! Who doesn’t love a dark, cotton t-shirt for a 4th of July race?!

It works out that this is the only four mile race that I do each year, so it’s a great way for me to see the progress I’ve made from year to year. When I signed up for the race this year, I was excited to see what I was capable of, especially after a big half marathon PR and my recent attempt at the mile. After talking with my coach about time goals, we settled on a time, which I of course thought was a little on the faster side. Jason has been really good at knowing my ability better than I do, so I trusted his suggestion and decided I’d go for it.

I woke up on Friday morning not sure what to expect outside. It had stormed pretty heavily the two nights before, and there was a pretty good chance that it would be raining for the race. I was happy to see that it wasn’t raining, but was instead overcast and in the upper 60s. Of course I scrolled right to the humidity section of the weather app on my phone, and wasn’t surprised to see 90%. I had my normal pre-race breakfast (picky bar, half a peanut butter sandwich, and a lot of water), and was out the door by 7am for the 9am race start. I packed a few different options for the run (hat? headband? sunglasses? shirt?), but after my 2 mile warm-up I knew exactly what I’d have to wear: a hat to keep the sweat from my eyes, and no shirt to keep me as cool as possible. Sure, it was “only” in the upper 60’s, but the 90% humidity made it a typical July sweat-fest.

When it was time to line up for the race, I put myself right up front. I knew that if I didn’t, I’d spend the next mile or so wasting energy weaving in and out of the crowds of people who are somehow overly confident with their expected finish times. Despite being right up front, I didn’t hear a countdown. The next thing I knew the starting cannon sounded, and everyone surged forward. I was swept up in the crowd for a moment and glanced down at my watch and saw my pace flash as 6:20. I knew at that moment I had a decision to make: fool myself into thinking I could hold onto it and fight through later, or slow down slightly and save a little for later. I pulled back ever so slightly, and settled in to a 6:50/6:55 pace as we rounded the first corner. I was able to count the women in front of me, and found myself running as the 6th woman. We passed the first mile marker and I clocked a 6:42, according to my Garmin. The next mile or so is straight down a main road, and I spent most of it jockeying back and forth with another woman and man. I could tell the woman was doing everything in her power not to let me pass her, and I think the guy was too – I even got an elbow a few times, despite the road being plenty wide enough for three, even four runners to run next to each other.

I'd say "Where's Waldo?" But there was actually a kid dressed up as Waldo at this race...

I’d say “Where’s Waldo?” But there was actually a kid dressed up as Waldo at this race…

The third mile starts right after a turn onto a post-winter potholed road with a water stop, which is where I was able to shake the girl and guy I had been running with. I ran the second mile in 6:54, and started to worry that I wasn’t going to hit the time I was hoping for. I was getting tired, and bargained with myself that I could ease off just a bit to save some energy for the fourth mile. Slowing down a little helped (7:03), and by the time I hit the third mile clock I realized that I was about to hit a small 5k PR (clocked 21:23 according to the Garmin), and I knew it was time to try my best and hammer home. The last mile includes a path in a bit of a wooded area, and as I looked down at my Garmin and saw my pace listed as 10:00, I realized I’d just have to push it without really knowing my current pace. We looped into the park, and as I passed a spectator he yelled, “Just a quarter to go!” and what I thought was, “alright, 11th female!” I gave myself an imaginary pat on the back, and focused on the 12 year old boy in front of me that I just couldn’t seem to reel in (6:34).

Firecracker 4 Miler | FoodosaurusRex.com

I pushed it to puke pace like I do every time I enter that park, and I crossed the finish in 27:18. I made my way right over to the water truck and tried to walk as best as I could to prevent actually puking. I noticed they had a results table, so I made a beeline over to see if I was in fact the 11th female like I thought I heard the spectator yell. While they didn’t have overall placing listed quite yet, I caught my name on the scrolling computer screen to see that I had placed first in the 25-29 age group! Since I knew it would be awhile before they presented the awards, I took the opportunity to jog back to my car to grab my water bottle and a shirt. I made sure to run away from the course, because there’s nothing worse than seeing someone that’s already done jogging back towards you as you’re killing yourself to get to the finish line.

This race always provides free snow cones, popcorn, yogurt, and ice cream at the end of the race, so I was excited to grab a free Yasso frozen Greek yogurt bar to help cool me off as I waited for the awards and chatted with some hometown friends. Before I knew it they were starting the awards, and I scored a sweet little medal and a t-shirt! I should note, though, that the t-shirt says “2014 RACE WINNER” on the back which is just a little deceptive… since I won my age group, but not the race! It turns out, though, that I misheard that spectator as I was coming down the home stretch and I was actually the 7th woman overall, which was a nice surprise! (But again, does not warrant a “race winner” t-shirt).

Firecracker 4 Miler

Overall, I’m really happy with this race. Originally I went into it thinking I would run around a 28, but after Jason’s suggestion to go for a 27, of course, I hoped I would run slightly faster… internal competition is fierce. My 6:50 per mile average is the fastest I’ve averaged in a race, ever (aside from my road mile), so it was a big boost of confidence. I’m looking forward to a few 5k’s this month before really starting to marathon train.

Tell me…
Did you race over the weekend? How did it go?!

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That Time I Raced a Mile

If there’s one thing most people remember about gym class in middle school and high school, it is having to run the dreaded mile. For some reason no one minded in elementary school; running around in the school’s field as fast as you could against your classmates was actually fun. By the time you turned 12, though, being told you had to run the mile – in gym class, no less – was among one of the “OMG worst things ever” for most people.

Admittedly, I don’t remember having to run the mile in high school. We definitely had days where we’d run outside in elementary school, and we were taken to the track a few times a year during middle school (it was right across the street), but we were never told to run a certain distance in a certain amount of time. By the time high school rolled around, we never ran. I think I remember one of my gym teachers taking us for a “jog” around the block once. In four years. Sure I was exempt from gym during swim season (usually mid-November to early March), but that isn’t prime running weather anyway. My school district just didn’t include running in it’s physical education curriculum. Most people are shocked when they hear this since for most, it was their least favorite day of the year in gym. Even though I didn’t run growing up, I’m not sure how I would have felt about running the mile in gym. Knowing me, I would have enjoyed it.

When I finally started running after college, I joined the local road race scene which meant 5k’s and longer. I didn’t know of any shorter road races, and the thought of hopping on the track intimidated me. Every race distance requires a different approach, and as I’m getting more comfortable with racing (it’s been 5 years!), I’m finally learning the “tactics” and applying them (albeit slowly) to my racing strategy. So when I heard about a local 1 mile road race, I knew I had to sign up. Plus, knowing one of my fellow NJ Oiselle birds, Jen, was racing made me want to run even more.

The College Avenue Mile runs two loops in New Brunswick, on you guessed it, College Avenue! This was actually the third year for the race, but the first time it actually worked out for me to run. Since I’ve never raced a mile, I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous knowing I’d have to race hard from the gun, but tried to reassure myself that the pain would be over in 6-ish minutes, a solid 14+ minutes less than any other race I’ve run! When registering for the race, you had to select what heat to run in – elite (sub-5:30), emerging elite (sub-6), masters, sub-7, or sub-12. I checked off the sub-7 option during registration, knowing that the McMillan pace calculator predicted me at 6:01 based on my recent half marathon PR. I was wary about running in the emerging elite heat and posting a 6-something mile. After much debate and some encouragement from my Twitter bud Sarah who was manning the registration booth, I decided to hop in the emerging elite heat. They were running over an hour before the sub-7 heat, and I figured running with a group of women slightly faster than me would be motivating… and I’d get home earlier! Plus, seeing that the race was relatively low-key, it was no problem for me to hop into a random heat. Probably the only time in my life I’ll be called an “emerging elite,” ha.

I warmed up three miles around College Ave. while the earlier races were going on, and before I knew it, we were being called to the start. As we waited for the go-ahead, I couldn’t help but think, “What have I gotten myself into?” along with, “Try not to come in dead last.” Everyone in my heat was friendly, so we were able to distract ourselves a bit by chatting about how we just wanted to get the race over, how hot it was, etc. And I finally met Meghan! You can see us in the picture below talking strategy, ha.

Serious business

Serious business

When the race started, the first quarter felt relatively slow. Of course it wasn’t, but in my head I needed to be going balls-to-the-wall immediately. I held back, though, knowing that there was at least someone I was running with that knew how to race a mile. We ran the first half mile in a pack, and started to thin as we reached the halfway point. Two laps of just one block meant 8 left-hand turns, which proved to be somewhat difficult for me. Since I was running so fast (for me!) and had a younger girl right next to me against the curb the entire time, I wound up swinging out a little further than I would have liked. At one point, the girl even had the nerve to put her arm out to make sure she had enough room for herself. I wouldn’t have minded, except for the fact that she started the race on the right-hand side of the road, cut across all the way to the left, and hugged the curb the entire time running the exact same speed as me. Guess it’s good the race was only a mile! I tried to focus on my own race, and realized I was really working based on the fact that I could hear myself huffing and puffing within the first quarter of the race.

Let's play "Where's Danielle in the pack?"

Let’s play “Where’s Danielle in the pack?”

 

Before I knew it we were on our second lap, and as I started the last quarter I somehow had a little gas left in the tank to pass two women that were right in front of me the entire time. Thankfully we finished on the right-hand side of the road, so swinging wide on my last left-hand turn worked out in my favor. I kicked my legs and pumped my arms as fast as I could as I rounded the corner and saw the clock slowly ticking away in the 5:50’s. I wound up crossing the mat in 5:56.06! As it turns out I did belong in the emerging elite heat – go figure!

Home Stretch!

Home Stretch!

In addition to the race, because I do my long runs on Saturday, I wasn’t getting away with just running a mile for the day – I had a total of 10 on the schedule. So after my three mile warm-up and one mile race, I set out for another 6 miles to finish off the day. When it was all said and done I was tired and all my legs wanted to do was relax, but it was  a fun way to get in 10 miles. I also won’t lie – my legs (and core!) were pretty sore on Sunday which I wasn’t expecting. It made my recovery run more of a slog… but it was nice to know I pushed myself the day before. Next on my schedule is a 4 miler on the 4th of July, followed by a bunch of 5k’s. Aside from the heat and humidity, I love summer racing!

Tell me…
Did you have to race the mile in school? Love it? Hate it?
What’s the shortest race (distance-wise) you’ve done? Longest?

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Another Race? Broad Street 10 Miler

You might be thinking to yourself, “didn’t she just run a half marathon last weekend and PR? Why is she racing again?” Well, those thoughts would be correct. Sometimes I’m smart, but most of the time I’m not.

The Broad Street 10 Miler in Philadelphia is a race that has always been on my radar. So when a bunch of my friends from college decided they wanted to run it this year, I couldn’t help but throw my name into the lottery with them. I had friends from high school, college, and post-college (should I call that “adulthood?”) all signed up for the race, so I knew it would be a good time. Since I was originally shooting to PR at the Shamrock Half, I thought there would be plenty of time between the two races. Thanks to my ITB issues in January I pushed back my PR half marathon attempt, leaving it just one week before Broad Street. At first I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I just skip the run? Run it easy? Eventually I decided to run, but wasn’t really sure what my running plan would be up until I started running.

I had little expectations going into the race. Since I raced last weekend, I knew pushing my body to the same effort level was not smart. It helped that my PR for this distance was over two years old, so I knew I wouldn’t have to push hard (or at all, really) to beat it. That helped to quell my inner competitor a bit and allowed me to have a more relaxed approach to the race. I stayed at my friend’s apartment the night before and slept on her pull-out couch, I didn’t do anything fancy for dinner or breakfast, and I didn’t get to the race until about 20 minutes before it was supposed to start (which was a bit stressful).

While waiting in my corral for the start, I was kept quite entertained by men doing static stretching (tisk, tisk), a guy dropping to the ground and doing a handful of push-ups multiple times, and other antics. It was the perfect distraction from being chilly and wanting the race to just start. The forecast had predicted a relatively warm and sunny day, but by the time we started it was overcast and quite cool. I had my (sweet) sunglasses with me, but decided to hold them in my hand and hope that the sun would come out eventually. At about 8:25am the wheelchair corral was off, and 5 minutes later right at 8:30 the elites and red corral were sent on their way. By 8:33 I was crossing the start of my first Broad Street Run!

Jersey Birds do Philly! Me + Hollie after the race

Jersey Birds do Philly! Me + Hollie after the race

Per the usual, I took off at the start and made my way to the left side of the road in a comfortable spot. I’d heard nightmares about how crowded and bottle-necked the start and other parts of the race can be due to the nearly 40,000 participants, so I wanted to make sure early on that I had enough room to breathe. Since I was in the second corral and Broad Street is really wide and there were no real turns, I never experienced any overcrowding. While you would think a straight-shot race may be boring, it was quite the opposite. There were plenty of spectators, and the undulation in the road provided a great opportunity to get a glimpse of the sea of people up ahead. My first mile was way too fast and the next two were slower, but still too fast (6:58, 7:05, 7:11), and I knew I needed to slow down.

After passing the 3.1 in just about my current 5k PR, I made a conscious effort to slow. The next four miles were 7:18, 7:13, 7:21, 7:17. It was difficult to actually get myself to slow down enough. I’d lower my effort, and somehow I’d look down at my watch and be running faster than before. It was frustrating because I knew I needed to be running slower, yet my body wouldn’t let me. Of course that sounds like one of those “that’s not a bad problem to have!” situations, but I really didn’t want to be pushing my body too much. My effort was probably at around 90%, when it really should have been no more than 80%. It wasn’t until mile 8 where I actually slowed down to the pace I should have been running the whole race. My fast start combined with the sun and heat (which made an appearance around mile 2) were finally catching up to me. Under normal circumstances I would have been upset that I slowed so significantly from the start to finish of the race, but I was actually relieved! The last three miles were 7:38, 7:43, and 7:35. I crossed the finish line in 1:13:41 – a new PR by 10 minutes!

University of Scranton swimmers + soccer players turned runners?

University of Scranton swimmers + soccer players turned runners?

After the race I quickly found my friend from high school and her fellow Central Park Track Club Runners. After that I was able to find Hollie and chat with her for a few minutes before making my way to the port-o-potties to change out of my sopping wet racing clothes. As I was coming out I heard a “Danielle!” and turned to see Oiselle teammate Danielle waiting in line herself! By the time I made it back to the designated meeting place, my friends started to arrive. They all had great races themselves, and it’s fun to look at us now – running road races after spending so many years in the pool as swimmers! We had a great brunch at Fado after scaling a mud wall and hopping over a highway divide to get to the subway. I even got to stop at Whole Foods on the way home! It was  a great weekend with some of my best friends from college with a side of running – what more could I ask for?

I have a week of some more base building before getting started on some 5k work. I can’t wait for summer!

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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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