Tag Archives: Racecation

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: 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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Racecation: The Essentials

When I first started running I insisted on only running races that were within a 30 minute radius from where I lived. The thought of having to pack extra stuff, sleep in an unfamiliar bed, and travel to and from a race location just didn’t appeal to me. But as I got more into running and became a part of the running community, I realized that traveling for races is just part of the territory. Considering I did it for years while I swam, I don’t know why this concept seemed so unappealing to me. Plus, if I can add in a few days for “vacation,” I’ll gladly do it! Hence the name “racecation” (which I stole from Krissy). While I’m no expert, I’ve certainly traveled to my fair share of races since I’ve started running, and thought it would be helpful to share my racecation essentials!

Obviously the most important thing to include when packing is your race day outfit and sneakers. I quadruple check when I’m packing just to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. All I need is to show up to a race without all of my outfit or my sneakers and break the cardinal rule of “nothing new on race day.” And of course if you’re partial to music while running or a watch, those are just as important as what you plan on wearing. I suppose the rest is negligible as long as you have what you plan on racing in, but it’s nice to take into consideration what you’d be comfortable in before and after the race… especially if your vacation involves a lot of walking (hello Disney!).

Oiselle Kit & Mizuno Wave Riders!

Oiselle Kit & Mizuno Wave Riders!

For any race I attend, whether it’s 15 minutes away or 15 hours away, I always bring my spike bag with the same stuff in it. I don’t always head right home after races that are nearby, so it’s important that I have things with me to make myself somewhat presentable in public (I use the term loosely). For me, that means some type of body wipe, body spray, face wipes, and deodorant. I also bring a full change of clothes. Depending on the weather and where I’m going, I may do a full or partial change, usually in the backseat of my car. What can I say, I’m a serious (salty) sweater, that has no problem changing in public.

Free Speed Stick from a race? Don't mind if I do! I'm cool with smelling like a man.

Free Speed Stick from a race? Don’t mind if I do! I’m cool with smelling like a man.

Once I’m actually home or back at the hotel and showered, I dress based on my plans for the day. But, if I ran a half marathon or longer, I usually throw on a pair of compression socks or sleeves for good measure as well. Sneakers are usually the way to go for me right after a race, but sometimes my feet are okay with a pair of Toms or flip flops. I also bought a pair of Aspaeris compression shorts back when I was training for Chicago, and let me tell you, those things are magical. I tend to have tight hips after races, so these keep me nice and snug, and because they are SO tight, you can wear them under pretty much anything. Secret compression at it’s finest!

Why yes, I am wearing compression shorts under this dress!

Why yes, I am wearing compression shorts under this dress!

Now aside from looking presentable and not being smelly, I’m also particular when it comes to my pre and post race nutrition (surprise?). For every single race I’ve traveled to (which are all half marathons or marathons), I bring my own peanut butter and bread. This may sound ridiculous because they’re pretty basic staples, but I don’t like the idea of risking not having it come race morning. I’ve found that the single serve packs of peanut butter work best, either with regular sandwich bread or a bagel. I also bring a ton of Picky Bars with me for before and after the race because I know they don’t upset my stomach at all, and they’re delicious. And now that I’m a new Nuun hydration convert, a tube of that comes along with me, too.

My favorite flavors!

My favorite flavors!

I’m one of those people that packs days in advance, so I’ve been packed for the Nike Women’s Half since Wednesday. I know, it’s weird… but it goes along with my heavy planning nature. I get so excited I just can’t help myself!

So tell me… 
What are your racecation essentials? 

PS – Don’t forget to enter my Food Should Taste Good Chips Giveaway… you have until Monday !

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