Tag Archives: Racing

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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I Ran a Race!

Yes, you read that title correctly. After not pinning on a bib for over 7 months (the beer mile doesn’t count) I got to race not once, but twice two weekends ago! If you’re wondering why it’s been so long since I last raced, you can catch up on my string of injuries here and here. To say 2015 was a lackluster running year would be quite the understatement. But there’s no point in dwelling on the past, and I’m oh so very excited to finally write about running again.

I’ve been running somewhat consistently since early November and things have been going really well. I’ve kept my weekly mileage relatively low (I’m talking 20 mpw) and I’ve kept up with my strength training love, Refine Method. I haven’t done any speed work or tempo miles (yet), but I’m finally starting to feel like my old runner self, and it’s great! That being said, I went down to good ‘ole Orlando for the Walt Disney World 10k and Half Marathon two weeks ago with the confidence I’d be able to finish the races, but there wouldn’t be any PRs. It’s worth noting that this is the FIRST Disney race weekend I attended without an injury! And I’ve attended SIX runDisney race weekends prior to this one starting in 2011!

Finally!

Finally!

I’ll start with the 10k, since that was the race that happened first. And it started like any other runDisney race – early! The race started at 5:30am, so this meant a 3:30am wake-up call, and 4am bus ride. Since we were staying at the Beach Club resort, we had a short(er) bus ride over to the starting area in the Epcot parking lot. We arrived at the start with plenty of time to check a bag (it was drizzling on and off so we wanted to make sure we each had a dry top to put on after the race), visit the always lovely port-o-potties, and get lined up in the A corral. Going into the race, my intention was to push the pace a little, but not truly race it. So when I lined up in the corral I didn’t think much of being pretty far back. After the usual runDisney fanfare of fireworks, we were off!

The first mile or so of the race was pretty crowded. Like I said, I started relatively far back in that first corral, so I spent a lot of time trying to find open road. Thankfully after that first mile it thinned out quite a bit, and the rest of the race was much more comfortable. My first mile was around a 7:50, which was good enough for me. The next three miles, however, we were all on empty service roads, and I dropped the pace to 7:15. I didn’t feel like I was killing myself, and each time I looked down at my watch I was floored by the pace… I really didn’t think I had that speed in me after all that time off. Remembering that I still had a half marathon to run the next day and that I really wasn’t in shape, I pulled back just a bit. The rain also started to pick up as we entered the parks, so things got slippery. I ran the last two miles between 7:20 and 7:30, and crossed the finish line (soaked) in 45:51. Turns out, that’s a slight PR! I’ve only run three other 10k’s before, and the last one being in 2013, so the PR was due for an upgrade. While I know I can go much faster when I’m in shape, I’m happy that the pace of this 10k was the same pace as my current half marathon PR from 2014. It was a huge confidence booster after such a rough 2015!

Thrilled to have finished a race. Not thrilled to be soaking wet.

Thrilled to have finished a race. Not thrilled to be soaking wet.

With a little déjà vu on Saturday, I found myself back at the start for the half marathon. My plan for this race was different – I just wanted to finish! My longest run in months up to that point had been 10 miles, and after Friday’s performance I knew an “accidental PR” wasn’t in the cards for me again… which was fine! I started a few corrals back with my pal Ellen who was doing the Dopey Challenge, and we spent the first 7 or so miles together, chatting and enjoying the characters on the course and running in the dark… we even stopped for a picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle! Since Ellen was doing the Dopey Challenge, we kept our pace around 9:30’s, which was fine by me. Somewhere between mile 6 and 7, though, we got separated. Since it was still dark and the roadway was relatively narrow, I knew I should just soldier on rather than try to find her. This is where I decided to also pick up my pace. I figured I only had 5ish miles left and kept it relatively conservative for the first half, so why not. I should also mention it was SO incredibly humid that I was just as wet by this point as I had been the day before from the rain.

By mile 10 I realized that if I kept my pace, I would likely be able to squeeze in just under 2 hours. This became my new goal. I kept trucking, had a nice little conversation with a random guy who asked me how I was doing as I ran past him, and after what felt like an eternity (remember, I hadn’t run more than 10 miles in over 8 months at this point) we were in Epcot making our final loops and turns to the finish. I crossed the line in 1:59:38, achieving my mid-race goal of sub-2 hours. I was thrilled to have my race weekend over, and I was ready to cheer for the marathon the next day!

Perks of staying at a hotel on the race course... perfect spot to spectate!

Perks of staying at a hotel on the race course… perfect spot to spectate!

This race weekend was just what I needed to remind myself that even though 2015 was a sucky year for my running, not all was lost. I just need to continue to be smart as I add on mileage, and focus more on the training than the racing. Naturally with this positive turn of events in my running comes the frigid temperatures of winter in the northeast that we’ve been missing… but good thing I have lots of layers! So here’s to putting in the work this winter in hopes of finally getting myself back to racing shape for the summer and fall!

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I Ran a Beer Mile!

Before I wound up with my current injury, I signed up for the NYC Brew Mile with a bunch of friends. We’re all runners who love beer, so we thought it would be a fun no-pressure event. Plus, doing a beer mile is something we have all talked about and wanted to try at least once… so this was the perfect opportunity! Even though I haven’t been running and decided to skip the fall marathons I originally signed up for, I figured I would still be able to complete a casual mile race (broken up into quarters). There were no timing chips (but there was an official race clock), no one checking to make sure your beers were completely done before you set off for the next quarter, and an overall fun and casual vibe. But if we’re being honest, the running wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was (trying to) chug a full can of beer after every quarter mile.

Cheers!

Cheers!

The Brew Mile was held at Aviator Sports & Events in Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, Brooklyn, which meant it was a hike from Jersey City. But beer and running will get us to go a lot of places. The race itself was simple in theory: drink a can of beer (in this case Sixpoint Crisp) at the start, run a quarter of a mile, and repeat three more times. It was hot and I was thirsty before the race even started, so I was actually thrilled after the toast when they blew the air horn and told us to start drinking! My friends and I decided we’d all start together and try to stick together, but after that second chug we realized that some of us were stronger than others… so they took off, leaving three of us to burp and chug our way through the final half mile.

Go Team Jim & The Timeouts!

Go Team Jim & The Timeouts!

Like I said, the running wasn’t hard (aside from constantly burping)…. we were able to keep a respectable 7 minute pace during each quarter, and laughed as we passed people who would shout, “HOW ARE YOU STILL RUNNING?!” But each time we got to the drink station, the race got harder. Our splits for the beers increased by two minutes at every stop – 2 minutes after the first quarter, and a whopping 6 minutes before the last quarter. The carbonation and flavor of the Sixpoint was just too much by the end. Admittedly I thought it was going to be easier to chug the beers than it was; it’s hard to chug beer out of a can! Plus, I’m too old to be chugging beer out of a can… but if this event was a thing when I was in college, I would have crushed it.

Our splits courtesy of Miranda. You can tell which ones were running and which ones were "chugging"...

Our splits courtesy of Miranda. You can tell which ones were running and which ones were “chugging”…

The majority of us managed to keep all the beer in our stomachs and were able to sprint to the finish… because no matter how casual a race is, it’s still a race. The times in our group ranged from about 8 to 20 minutes, but we finished the entire mile and all the beers! We definitely want to try it again on our own; on a track, with beer that has less flavor (that’s the only time you’ll ever hear me say that), and not at 3pm in the middle of July. We’ll also need to get it on video so we can submit it as an official beer mile.

Since the race started at 3 in the afternoon, I was home and ready for bed by 9pm. My early bed time (and midnight chugging of water and eating a piece of bread) made it easy for me to get up on Sunday morning and head to a 60 minute Flywheel class… which was somewhat shocking.

Tell me…
Have you ever run a beer mile (or wanted to)?! 
What’s your favorite kind of beer?

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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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Marathon Madness

It’s no secret to anyone that pays attention to distance running that the fall is prime marathon running season. There’s a marathon every weekend, and you probably know of at least one person participating. I was supposed to be one of those runners, gunning for a big PR. But I suppose it’s time for me to admit to myself (and the Internet, obviously), that I won’t be running a fall marathon.

When I first started having ankle issues, I thought I could still toe the line at Richmond in November. But as the discomfort and inconsistent training continued, I realized I would only be setting myself up for frustration, and possible injury. I switched from the full to the half, and after three weeks of pain-free running at the beginning of September, thought I could squeeze in an early December marathon instead. I eagerly signed up for Rehoboth Beach and got to work on a new training plan.

A week into my new training plan brought me an inflamed tendon in my foot, and another week not running. After some cursing, crying, and a little back-and-forth, I realized it was time to graciously bow out of the marathon training game. It was hard for me to admit at first; I had a fast and effortless spring racing season, and had every intention of crushing all my shorter distance PR’s this summer. When that didn’t happen, I figured I would still have time to come back for late fall and early winter. But after DNS-ing four different races since the middle of July due to all these issues with my right foot & ankle, I knew it wasn’t realistic.

Am I disappointed? Absolutely. All of my friends are out there crushing long runs and PR’s, while I sit idly hoping to get through each short run without a new ache or pain. But I know that I need to be “slow and steady” with my training right now, and if I can get a few months of quality runs under my belt without issue, I’ll have a much better chance at a successful marathon training cycle, and ultimately, marathon race.

I have every intention of continuing to run, and racing when I feel up to it. I think part of my problem has always been I have a quick and heavy trigger finger when it comes to signing up for races. It seems as though the further away the race, the more likely I’ll be unable to run it. So for now, I’m going to sign up for races only a few days before they happen (or gasp, maybe even that morning). I think my brain, and more importantly my wallet, will thank me in the long run. And I’m going to keep up with my cross-training! I’ve been trying to do as many foot strengthening exercises as I can, along with calf stretching and strengthening. Here’s to hoping I’m well on the recovery train and can get back to loving running, and not dreading each run in fear of finding something that hurts!

Any advice for me?
Know of any late-spring marathons I can eye up?

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Summer Series 5k

A local running club, Raritan Valley Road Runners (RVRR) hosts a 5k running series every summer, and I finally decided to join in the fun this year. They have 4 race nights throughout the summer (on Tuesdays, two in June, two in July) and you can do any or all of them. I felt ambitious when filling out the form, so I obviously signed up for all four races. I figured I might as well, since Tuesdays are speed work/intervals anyway, and for only $15 each, I could get in some fast running and participate in some cross-country races (which I’ve never done before).

The last few days have been exceptionally wet around here, which actually caused the race I was going to run in Pennsylvania this past Saturday to be cancelled. Since we’re close to the Raritan River, and the race is actually held in a park that borders it, I was worried that there would be flooding at the park. There was a chance of rain on Tuesday, and I had my eyes to the sky, especially in the afternoon as clouds rolled in and the wind started to pick up. Thankfully the weather couldn’t make up its mind, and by the time the race started the sun was back out for a bit.

This year the race moved to a different park from where they’ve had it in the past, so we actually wound up starting 20 minutes late due to some people heading to the other park by accident. I didn’t really mind, but it was awkward to have warmed up and then sit around for 40ish or so minutes. I really didn’t have any expectations going into the race because I had never ever run cross country before, so I didn’t know if I should try for a PR or not. Plus, like I said, there had been a TON of rain over the weekend, and the park we were in typically floods. So it was no surprise to me to see parts of the path under water, and big puddles of muddy water on the grass. It’s a good thing the sneakers I wore are on their last leg; they’re covered in mud now!

Just a little muddy

Just a little muddy

We got a brief course description, and then before I knew it we were off. Even though they explained the course, I really had no idea where we were going… even though when I first started running I spent 90% of my time in this park. We jumped over a little ravine, trudged through puddles on a path, sloshed through wet grass, ran up some hills, and down some hills… twice. I kept it controlled on the first loop, trying to get a lay of the land and figure out what exactly the course was, knowing I’d have the opportunity to pick it up (if my body let me) the second time around being more familiar. I’m happy to report that after the first quarter mile or so, I didn’t get passed by anyone, and instead did all the passing myself. I did pick it up the second time around, and that proved interesting – I almost lost my shoe at one point due to some seriously muddy grass!

By the last half mile or so I had zeroed in on a younger boy and another woman a few strides ahead of me. Since the path was narrow and had some branches and tree roots, I didn’t push it as hard as I probably could have, which wound up a smart idea because I still managed to roll my ankle at one point. I hadn’t seen any other women in front of me aside from the one in my view, but I was sure I must have missed someone somewhere. Things started to hurt, and I just kept repeating my new mantra, “so much pain. so much fun.” We made a sharp turn onto the field and I powered through to the finisher chute, with the boy I had been trailing out kicking me.

The little bit of pavement on the course!

The little bit of pavement on the course!

I crossed the finish in 22:42, a brand spankin’ new PR! I was kind of shocked – sure I had felt decent, but the race was hard. The whole time I kept thinking about how cross country running is no joke! Everyone around me kept saying after the race “wow, that was a true cross country course!” which made me feel better about how hard I thought it was. It turns out that there hadn’t been any other women in front that I miscounted, and I came in second (by two seconds…) and first in my age group! Plus, because it was a new course, I automatically scored myself the current age group record! Since this is a series, though, I have added pressure now to make sure no one else creeps in and grabs the course record in the next three races. But even if they do, I’m okay with having it for two weeks… I had plenty of swimming records in high school and college come and go… that’s the beauty of athletics! For my efforts I got a sweet potted plant, that I’m actually going to plant in my front “yard” eventually.

Plant for the win - literally!

Plant for the win – literally!

After the race they have food and beer, so I grabbed myself a slice of pizza and a Philly pretzel for dinner. It may not have been the healthiest post-race food, but it sure was delicious! We didn’t get home until around 8:30p, and I was in bed not too long after that since I got up at 6am Wednesday morning to run again. I’m really looking forward to the other three races in the series, along with the other summer races I have on my schedule.

Have you ever raced during the week? Love it? Hate it?

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A Day At The Races

I remember the first big-time track meet I went to – the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden back in 2000 with my mom, dad, and sister. I remember thinking it was SO cool to see people flying around a makeshift track, right there in the middle of MSG. I didn’t really know much about the race, or track in general, but my dad was an avid runner himself in his younger days, so we all went at his suggestion. This was just at the beginning of my really intense swimming career, so I sort of forgot about track and running after that.

Running track was something I always had in the back of my mind… I even went to a general information meeting my sophomore year of high school! After playing field hockey my freshman year, I realized that with just a little conditioning, I could actually be in decent running shape. Unfortunately, because swimming was my #1 sport priority, I couldn’t dedicate the time to track that the coaches were looking for, so I didn’t get to join the team. Aside from running on the treadmill here and there during the swimming off season in college, I never paid running much more attention. Fast forward 5 years, and I’m obsessed.

Leaping into the water after I raced for the very last time - 2008 Landmark Conference Swimming & Diving Champs!

Leaping into the water after I raced for the very last time – 2008 Landmark Conference Swimming & Diving Champs!

So naturally when I found out that one of the elite Oiselle runners, Kate Grace, was running at the Adidas Grand Prix on Randall’s Island this past Saturday, I immediately bought tickets. I haven’t had the opportunity to see Kate race in person yet (I couldn’t make it to this year’s Millrose Games), but have had the opportunity of hanging out with her a few times, and of course watching race replays online.

Despite the fact that it’s been sunny, in the 80’s and super humid the last week or two, it was cold and rainy on Saturday. So I got up, went for an easy run, grabbed some coffee, and then headed to Icahn Stadium with lots of layers on.

Like an Ogre, or onion. Lots of layers!

Like an Ogre, or onion. Lots of layers!

The track events started at 11:30a, and we got there just after 12p, with plenty of time to see some famous names take to the track (Tyson Gay in the 100m, Lidya Chepkurui in the 3000m steeplechase, Veronica Campbell-Brown in the 200m, and more!) It was fun to watch them squeegee the track every so often, but I would have much rather had a sunny day. Thankfully I bought general admission tickets, and the wind and rain blew at our backs for the majority of the meet. Before I knew it, though, it was time for the main event (at least for us) – Kate’s race… the sun broke through a few cloud layers, and while still covered, gave me the chance to warm up enough to sport my Oiselle feather trials hoodie (which up until that point I had been wearing underneath a rain coat).

Icahn Stadium - Randall's Island

Icahn Stadium – Randall’s Island

Unfortunately the other Oiselle birdies that were at the meet got into the stadium section, so we were spread out on opposite sides of the track. But I think it worked out – Kate had fans on either side to cheer for her! It was so fun to see them line up and each get introduced, and I had such a sense of pride when they announced her name. I wanted to turn and yell to everyone, “I know her! She’s awesome!!” Not to mention I always love seeing the Oiselle racing kit in action!

Look at her fly!

Look at her fly!

We stuck around long enough to watch a few more events, and then gave in to the cold and headed back… but not before getting an Oiselle Team picture!

Oiselle Team Birds! Abby, Robin, Jenna, and me.

Oiselle Team Birds! Abby, Robin, Jenna, and me.

The track meet was such a great experience despite the rain, and I definitely need to make attending them more of a habit… I can’t wait another 13 years! Who knows, maybe I’ll even find a local one to be a part of (but I should probably stick to road races for now). It was a great start to a Holiday weekend full of running and relaxing (weird how those two things go together so well, huh?).

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Running with Friends: Nike Women’s Half Marathon

A week after I completed my 6th half marathon, I completed my 7th! When I signed up for the inaugural Nike Women’s Half in D.C., I knew I would use the race as a training run (albiet an expensive one), since my goal race had been only a week earlier. It was the perfect opportunity to visit a new city, run, meet up with friends, and score myself a Tiffany’s necklace.

We arrived in D.C. on Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the expo. The line was super long, but I got lucky and found one of my college friends in line, and just hopped in with them. I picked up my bib and pace bracelet, and took a quick walk through the “expotique.” I’m not usually a fan of expos because they’re crowded and cramped, and this was no exception. There wasn’t much to it; there was a hair styling station, a Nuun station (which I would have loved to check out, but the line was just too long), a Luna bar station, and a Team in Training station all under a pop-up tent by the water. And I think that was it? It seemed like they really wanted people to head to Nike Georgetown, but I wasn’t in the market for anything so we headed out.

All bib'd up!

All bib’d up!

The race started early on Sunday morning (7am!), so I was up around 4:30a and going through my pre-race routine. Despite writing a post last week about what I always make sure to pack for races, I managed to forget a PB&J sandwich and a gel for during the race. I think I forgot because I wasn’t really treating it as a race, but it wound up being okay. The hotel was only about a mile away, so I decided to walk to the start rather than dealing with the metro. I had talked with Krissy and Ashley beforehand, and we decided to run together planning to keep it around 8:45 average, and picking it up if we felt good along the way. After snapping a quick picture we headed into our corral, got to hear Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson be introduced (we couldn’t see them though), and then we were off!

Me, Krissy, Ashley, and Ritsa!

Me, Krissy, Ashley, and Ritsa!

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this race had 15,000 runners!! Let me tell you, we could feel it pretty much the entire time. I’ve always said that I have never experienced a run that “just flew by.” But I can honestly say that this run felt that way. No, it wasn’t the best run ever, and I didn’t even feel that great. But running with Krissy and Ashley, sharing laughs and stories, and just doing something we love on a beautiful course was SO much fun. It made me realize that I need to run with friends more!

SO MUCH FUN

SO MUCH FUN

The race itself wasn’t anything special – it was hot (it looked like I peed my pants by the end of the race I sweat so much!), crowded, and in all honesty, I probably would have hated every minute of it if I had been alone. But I just kept reminding myself that a pretty little blue box and cute finisher’s t-shirt was waiting for me at the finish. We finished in 1:58:34, with our actual running pace just around 8:50, but we took a pit stop around mile 6 which put us at the 9 minute average. After the race Ashley and I headed to brunch at The Mad Hatter (I’ll have a separate post on food later!) for delicious breakfast burritos and BOOZE to round out a pretty awesome morning.

Wahoo, finish line in sight!

Wahoo, finish line in sight!

I’m planning on running a bunch of 5k’s between now and the fall, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be running the Richmond Marathon in November. So I just need to stay healthy… which didn’t work out so well since I came home from the trip with the stomach virus. But I’m back at it today, thankfully!

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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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Running United: Half Marathon Recap

I had an entire post about the Boston Marathon tragedy written, but just couldn’t bring myself to publish it. There aren’t any words or profound revelations I can write here that haven’t been said by so many already (and more eloquently, I might add) to truly express how I feel. Simply put,  as a runner I feel like my friends were attacked, and as a human being I’m horrified… and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

The running community really is something special; there seems to be an unwritten understanding between runners. We’re able to be competitive with one another, while simultaneously lamenting in each other’s pain, and celebrating each other’s success. I know a lot of other runners feel the same way, but that little nod, wave, or half smile you get from another runner while you’re deep into your own run is so much more than a simple acknowledgement. For a brief moment, it’s a shared connection with a complete stranger. I think I love these encounters because I am usually running by myself.

So when I toed the line for the RU Unite Half Marathon this past Sunday, the race’s name had even more meaning. This race was my goal race for the Spring, and based on my training and racing throughout the winter, it seemed like I would have little problem setting a new PR. The last two weeks of training were lackluster due to super tight calves one week, and an pinched nerve in my neck the second, that was still around on race day. So of course, I started to doubt myself and my ability to run as fast as I had hoped. But I knew that I needed to try as hard as I could, while also being smart about the race. I go into races a lot with “plans,” but rarely wind up sticking to them. I swore to myself this time would be different.

Pre Race!

Pre Race!

Race day started like they all do – peanut butter & jelly, and some Nuun. The race is only about 10 minutes away, so I’m lucky that I don’t have to get up super early for the 8am start (but let’s be honest, 5:30am IS early). It was chilly, but thankfully I had a spectator with me so I was able to wear a fleece and sweatpants until I got into the corral. There is only one corral and it’s self-seeded, so I tried to position myself more towards the front than I have in past years, and wound up in front of the 8 minute pacers. My ultimate goal was to run a sub-8 average, but I did want to start out more conservatively. Remember when I said I had “plans”? Well, you can imagine those went out the window once the race started. Before we took off, there was a moment of silence for Boston and our troops, and they played “Sweet Caroline.” Of course I teared up and vowed to remind myself of that moment when the pain started to set in later in the race. Next thing I knew, it was go time.

I started out conservatively with my first mile at 8:05, while trying not to weave and expend any extra energy (though cut-offs make it inevitable). As with most longer runs, the first few miles flew by and when I checked my watch at mile 3, I realized I had definitely dipped under the 8 minute pace earlier than I had wanted. I felt good enough, though, so I decided just to go with it. The next 7 miles were a combination of me running too fast, then slowing down too much, and having waves of feeling awesome with waves of feeling like death. I’ve run this race every year since it started (in 2010) and it was actually my very first half marathon… so I have a special place in my heart for the course. So you would think I’d know how to best pace myself.

Homestretch Pain Face!

Homestretch Pain Face!

By the time I got to mile 10, I wanted the race to just be over. The thought of another 5k made me cringe. But I powered through the park I’ve spent so many summer mornings doing marathon long runs, and over to the final stretch. I actually saw Oiselle Teammate Jess right around mile 11, and she was the push I needed for those final 2 miles… with the most hills. Mile 11 was my slowest (well over 8 minutes), but by the time I got to 12 I tried to dig as deep as I could – especially once on College Avenue. Of course the home stretch felt like it went on forever, but once I crested the hill and saw the finish line I knew it was only a matter of seconds to get there. I couldn’t spot a clock near the finish, so I crossed and stopped my watch – 1:43:01 (which turns out was my official time, too)!

My time works out to be a 7:52 average, which I’m very happy with. After running my PR 10k race at the end of March, I plugged in my results to the McMillan calculator, which projected a 1:43:22… so I did a little better than expected! This wound up being a 4 minute and 42 second PR… and quick math made me realize that in the last three years since I started running half marathons (I’ve run a total of 6), I’ve managed to shave off 20 minutes from my first half marathon! The next big thing I need to tackle is my marathon time… hopefully I can get a good training cycle in this summer and rock out a killer PR in the fall.

After the race I headed to a newish (and new to me) coffee shop a town over with Oiselle Teammates Jess and Kate to talk running and enjoy a latte. Of course I headed to Red Robin a few hours later for my celebratory veggie burger, a tradition I’ve kept since I started running this race back in 2010! All in all it was a pretty great day, and I’m SO thankful to be part of such a great community. It might sound cheesy, but running and its community really is something special.

I’m running another half marathon this coming weekend, the Nike Women’s Half in Washington D.C., and I’m planning to enjoy the race with Krissy. Can’t wait for the Nuun aide stations, post-race Tiffany’s necklace as a medal, and post-race delicious cupcakes and museum visiting in D.C!

So tell me…
Who raced this weekend? PR? 
Anyone racing this weekend? Anyone running Nike?

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