Tag Archives: Road Race

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: 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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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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Disneyland: Dumbo Double Dare

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

DL_1st

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

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

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

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

DL_Tweedle

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

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

DL_10k

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

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

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 10.29.55 PM

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

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

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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 From Winter

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

This is my cold face.

This is my cold face.

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

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

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

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

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

Pain face.

Pain face.

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

My medal and a side of my Oiselle spike bag

My medal and a side of my Oiselle spike bag

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

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My First 10k: Rolling With It

I’ve been running for three years, and in that time, I’ve managed to never race a 10k. Thankfully I had the opportunity to remedy that situation this past Sunday.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I realized I need to race more – it’s a key component to becoming a better runner. So while perusing any website I could think of to find local races, I found the Giralda Farms 5k/10k. I actually had a hard time deciding which distance to do; part of me wanted to take the ‘easy’ way out and run the 5k, not wanting to run a race that would likely hurt (in the good, racing hurt kind of way), but another part of me realized I probably needed a 10k under my belt. The real selling point was the price – whether I ran the 5k or the 10k I was going to pay $18 (a steal if you ask me, most races are at least $25!), so I figured I’d get my money’s worth with the 10k.

3 marathons but no 10k’s? Go figure.

Sunday was absolutely gorgeous – the sun was shining, and by the time the race started at 12p, the temperature was well into the 60’s. Race morning started as they always do, with a PB&J sandwich, some water, and multiple bathroom stops. As soon as we got to the race, though, I realized I had forgotten my Garmin. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but I’ve recently been taking things out a little to fast (i.e. my last 5k), and since I’ve never run a 10k before, I wanted to know my splits. So much for that.

This particular race is run within and along the outside of a corporate park, just across the street from Fairleigh Dickinson University. You may be thinking that a corporate park would be relatively flat… don’t be fooled. The race starts at the entrance, on the precipice of a nice little hill. If there’s one thing I know about geography, it’s that if there’s a downhill, there is likely an uphill not too far away to match it. For the most part the race was “rolling hills,” but there were two hills that could only be characterized as steep inclines – one at about mile 1.2 and another at 3.5.

The 5k and the 10k started off separately, but merged about a quarter of a mile in. Then, at about 1.5, it split off again and left those of us silly enough to sign up for the 10k to trudge on. There weren’t any clocks – just a few volunteers at every mile marker with a stop watch yelling out times (which I appreciated since I didn’t have a watch!). Because the first mile was downhill, despite a super crowded start, I’m sure it was my fastest. I managed to blow by quite a few people on the first hill, but I was nearly spent after that… leaving me with 4 more miles of “fun.” By the time I hit mile 4, I realized the race was pretty much over, and after spending so much time climbing up, I knew it was time to head back down… this was both a blessing and a curse.

I was happy to finish in a respectable (to me) 48:24. I have no idea what my splits were, but my finish was good enough for 9th in my division, the 34th woman, and 191st overall. It was a competitive field on a tough course, so I couldn’t be happier with my first official 10k!

Next up is a 5 miler the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and then Disney in January! I’m eyeing the beginning of the year for a few more races, but haven’t committed to anything just yet. I think the jury is still out on my favorite race distance. Guess I’ll have to run some more races to decide!

What’s your favorite race distance? 
Any fun races planned for the end of the year (turkey trots, jingle bell runs)?  

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