Happy New Year!

And just like that… it’s 2014! Hope everyone had a great holiday season and a fun New Year’s eve. This is going to be a great year for my family with my brother’s wedding in August and mine in October. With a handful of other fun events on the calendar and some great races planned for the year, it certainly looks like it’ll be a busy one.

With everything going on, I know that staying stress-free, or at least as stress-free as possible will be important, so I tried to focus my New Year’s Resolutions for this year around things that help me de-stress.

  • Read more. I always say I wish I had more time to read, yet I’m able to find plenty of time at night to check on social media, so it’s really just about setting priorities. My goal is to read a book a month in 2014.bookcase
  • Socialize more (group workouts). When it comes to working out I work harder and have more fun with group workouts, so I want to try to fit more of that in during 2014.

    Post-workout Group Photo from November Project DC Facebook page

    Post-workout Group Photo from November Project DC Facebook page

  • Get Speedy. I love running fast, so this year is all about shorter races and working on my speed, which I need to keep reminding myself of when I get the itch to sign up for another marathon!fmtrack

What are your resolutions for this year?

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Acumen Race for a Cause 8k Race Recap

I set a new 8k PR on Sunday! By a lot. Granted I haven’t run a ton of 8ks, but still, like last weekend’s successful long run, this came at a time in my training where I really needed it providing another confidence boost heading into the Marine Corps Marathon.

I was looking for an 8 or 10k this weekend at the suggestion of my coach and ended up choosing the Acumen Race for a Cause for a couple reasons. The top reason being proximity. Like the Clarendon Day Double, the start/finish line was walkable from my apartment and the course took me right through my neighborhood. It was also run by Potomac River Runners and they’ve always done a good job with any race I’ve done through them in the past. Finally, it seemed like a really cool concept for a charity race. During the last four years Acumen solution has distributed more than $415,000 and you actually got to choose from a list of ten local nonprofits what charity you wanted your registration fee to support.

I woke up early Sunday, ate a piece of toast and a banana, and for the second time got to put on my awesome Team Oiselle singlet. Ian grabbed his camera and a rain jacket since it seriously rained nonstop all last week and weekend. Sunday was really just a light drizzle and about 60 degrees, so it was almost pleasant out after the week of downpours. We were out the door at 7 for about a 30-minute walk to the start. I got a great warm-up in and handed over my hoodie to Ian before he headed off to stake out a spot along the course to cheer me on and take some pics.

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It was a bit windy, but otherwise race conditions looked to be pretty good. Aside from being annoyed with a group of Marymount lacrosse players who showed zero respect during the national anthem, I was in the zone and ready to go. I accidentally hit the start/stop button twice on my garmin when we got going, but noticed about 10-20 seconds in so I was able to start it again and wasn’t too far off.

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We headed down Quincy Street and quickly onto Wilson Blvd. for the first mile. I started relatively close to the front so I was able to run freely without any overcrowding issues. After a turn onto 10th for a quick stretch we spent the bulk of the race on Washington Blvd. There was  slight downhill on mile 2 that would haunt me on my way back, but otherwise it was relatively flat/gently rolling through the turnaround at Columbia Pike when we hit the 2.5 mile mark.

Speedsters Up Front

Speedsters Up Front

I went out a bit harder than I planned to running miles 1 and 2 closer to my 5k pace and eased up slightly on mile 3. I felt strong through 3 and then paid for it on 4, especially when I hit that little uphill. I got a second wind though and ramped it back for mile 5 trying to push for a sub-38 finish. The last mile seemed to fly by and I kicked it into an even higher gear after making the final turn on to Quincy for the last stretch.

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I pushed to the finish line and came oh-so-close to sub-38 crossing the line in 38:03. Roughly 20 seconds a mile faster than my previous 8k PR of 39:42, I was pumped! It was good enough for 7th in my age group and 24th out of 315 women!

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This was a really well organized, fun, smaller race that I would definitely do again. Ian and I walked around the corner to Panera for breakfast before making the trek back home and I enjoyed a bagel with cream cheese and a hot chocolate. Not a bad Sunday morning!

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How did your weekend racing and running go?

Marine Corps Marathon Course Change Announcement

On August 20, the Marine Corps Marathon announced a flatter course with the return of Rock Creek Parkway. I for one am thrilled about the change. It makes the course flatter and hopefully faster, while taking out a tough early hill that was way too easy to go too hard on and pay for later.

The removal of the Canal Road/Georgetown Reservoir section of the course makes it similar to the first time I ran the race in 2006 when I first fell in love with this marathon, and at the same time takes away my least favorite part of my 2011 run there. That’s what I call a win-win!

Check out the interactive course map here!

Run Washington did a story on their website covering the announcement and were nice enough to include me in it:

Run Washington Banner

RunWashingtonArticle1

RunWashingtonArticle2

Check out the full article on their site.

More Good News…Wings Out!

Yesterday, I shared some pretty exciting life news, and today I have some fun running-related news to share. I’m officially a member of the 2013-2014 Oiselle Volée team! In addition to the Volée team they also have a smaller team of super speedy elite ladies called their Haute Volée team. Check out their bios – they’re all pretty awesome. I’m so honored to be a part of this amazing group of women runners.

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably heard me talk about my love of Oiselle gear. They seriously make the most comfortable, functional, stylish and flattering women’s running gear around.

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You can look no further than their Team Manifesto to see why this is a community I’m proud to be a part of. They look for runners who see running as more of a life philosophy and who are excited about the sport and about supporting each other.

I can’t wait to get to meet some of my fellow teammates throughout the year and am excited to get my new Oiselle singlet to sport for all of my upcoming races this fall. I’m looking to fly high and set some new PRs as part of the flock!

Oiselle Team Badge

Wings out!

Race Prep – Taking on the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler This Weekend

I’ve already mentioned it a million times (what can I say, I like to talk about races!), but for those that don’t know, I’m running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on Sunday. I’ve done this race twice before and it’s one of my favorites. It’s a crowded race, but also a fast and flat course. It travels by so many of the great Monuments and sights throughout D.C. that I get to take in on so many of my daily runs, so it’s not surprise I love it.

Cherry Blossom Race

Cherry Blossom Race

I technically don’t have plans to race this as it is supposed to be a training run along the way to my goal race – the Nike Women’s D.C. Half Marathon coming up at the end of the month. However, I’d like to run it at my half marathon goal race pace, which is 7:30, and that would actually be a 10-miler PR for me. I set my current 10-miler PR at last year’s Cherry Blossom race with a 7:40 pace. Seeing as this course is very similar to the half I’m preparing for, it will be a great test to see where I’m at.

I’m planning to pick my packet up Friday afternoon around lunch time. I know it’ll be busy then, but they did a good job of handling the rush at this time last year and it keeps me from having to get out to the Expo on Saturday when I’d rather be relaxing and getting my legs ready for race day. Before I even get to that though I’m treating my legs to a deep tissue massage after work today. They might hurt during the massage, but it sure makes a difference and leaves my legs feeling so much better after.

Race Shirt and Bib

Race Shirt and Bib

On Saturday I will get all my clothes and gear out and ready, and map out a plan with Ian for where he can see me along the course and how we’ll meet up after. I try to get some good carbs and protein in at dinner the night before a race too. I also like to go over the course map one last time and make sure I know where the water stops are. I drink a ton of water all the time, but I try to pay special attention to it on pre-race days.

On Sunday morning the plan is to get there early since I know it’ll be crowded and I want to get a good spot in my corral. My mantra for this race will be to START SLOW, FINISH FAST. I am the absolute worst at this and have never executed it successfully in a longer race. I know I need to get better at this so I don’t ruin my entire race in the first couple miles. I’ve always had a tough time with knowing my pace, but getting the Garmin has helped out a lot with that. I’m trying to decide whether to line up with the 7:30 pacer or not. Last year I did and we went out so much faster than that pace that I lost him at mile 2 and it really hurt me down the stretch. This is going to be a game-time decision for me. I might even try to find the pacer beforehand and ask him/her what the plan is for the first couple miles.

The Hains Point portion of the course definitely got the best of me last year, but I’ve practiced running on it so many times since then that I am SO ready to take it on. My biggest fear for that section of the course is a windy day. I really struggle running into the wind there. How do you all feel about drafting? If it is super windy and I tuck in behind someone bigger than me is this wrong since realistically there are not too many others I could return the favor for since I’m only 5 feet 4 inches tall!

Regardless of how I do I plan to have fun. I love running, but these are the days that I put in all the hard work for and I don’t want to let it go by without enjoying it!

Are you racing this weekend? Let me know where and hope to see you if you’re doing Cherry Blossom too!

Hitting the Hills

My February focus is all about getting my speed back, so I’m getting two speed sessions in a week as part of my half marathon training. When I think of speed workouts I immediately think track and tempo workouts, but my Hal Higdon training plan alternates each week between a track workout and a hill workout for the first month and a half. In a sick kind of way I actually enjoy running hills and love that they make me faster and stronger.

Earlier this week I did my first hill workout after a few mile warm up near the Iwo Jima Memorial running the hill next to Arlington Cemetery up to the Netherlands Carillon Bell Tower. My fellow Marine Corps Marathon alumni know this hill as the finish line. I like  using this hill for workouts because it reminds me of finishing my marathons there (although that race turns right half way up this hill), and will hopefully give me confidence to charge up it and finish strong when I tackle the marathon there this year. I took on the MCM hill six times before a short cool down and returning home to start my day. I was beat but also felt great at the same time.

When I run hills I focus on what’s right in front of me instead of looking up the hill at what I have ahead. I try to shorten my stride a little and lean into it. I love this Runner’s World video where Bart Yasso says to think about running with your “nose over your toes” so that you don’t lean too far back or too far forward. I also pump my arms to pull myself up and really focus on engaging my glutes as I crank out the repeats.

Check out this great RunWashington article on hill training for some more advice on how to use hills to improve your speed.

I tackled the MCM hill six times this week and am already thinking about my next hill workout. If you’re in the DC/NoVa area, do you have any good hills I should try and run? Do you use hill workouts as part of your race training?

I ran out of time after my morning workout, so I tried to get some pics after work yesterday. I got out later than expected and ran out of light so these aren’t the greatest shots, but here it is…

Shoe Showdown: Newton Gravity vs. Nike Free 5.0

I LOVE running shoes. They’re one of my favorite things to buy. I think most runners would agree – you can never have too many in your closet! I currently have six pairs in my rotation. Two of them are probably ready for retirement, but sometimes it takes me a little too long to throw them out. I know this isn’t good for my legs, but sometimes I get attached!

I’ve been wearing my Newton Gravitys and Nike Frees for the longest, so they’re my back up shoes right now. I leave the Nike’s at work in case I forget my sneaks and want to go for a run at lunch or at the end of the day. I left my Newton’s at home after Christmas so when I visit – especially when I fly – I don’t have to stuff a pair in my carry-on.

Here’s how they stack up…

Newton Gravity 2012

Just The Facts:
$175
Women’s Size 8
7.6 oz
3mm heel-to-toe drop

How they Lace Up:
Putting on my new Newton’s was love at first step. I got to try them out in a series of four Friday 5ks wear Newton reps showed up with tester pairs, but it only took 2 weeks – and 2 PRs – to win me over. They’re incredibly light and breathable. Like all Newtons they feature their trademarked Action/ReactionTM technology and a biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate. Check out the lugs on the bottom that make them so unique and while still providing cushioning, give you a very engaging and responsive feel making you more efficient and costing you less energy with each step. The sensor plate lets you run more naturally since it allows you to sense the ground better making your stride more efficient and more stable.

These shoes are prefect for neutral, midfoot strikers like myself. They can also help encourage a midfoot strike if you’re looking to transition, but you should definitely take it slow and only run a couple miles at a time in them until you build up and strengthen the different leg muscles you’ll engage.

Newton’s bright colors are super fun, and combined with their patented technology they make me feel like I have an extra bounce in my step. I ran my fastest 5k ever in them, and yet they also were supportive enough to carry me through a marathon (also a PR) and all the long training runs along the way to it.

Nike Free 5.0

Nike Free 5.0s

Nike Free 5.0s

Just The Facts:
$100
Women’s Size 8
7.4 oz
7mm heel-to-toe drop

How They Lace Up:
The Nike Free’s are super light and feel like there is barely anything on my feet. They’re also incredibly flexible. I think they’re a good first step into more minimalist shoes. Most of my runs in these shoes were on a treadmill since they were my back up pair at the office for when I’d fit in runs at the gym there. I was stuck doing most of my runs for that training season on the treadmill though, including three of my 20-milers (ugh!) so they saw plenty of miles.

After wearing heavily cushioned shoes for years, I was warned to ease into these, but I loved the light weight barely there feel right from the start. Again, these are best for neutral runners. The heels don’t have a lot of cushion either, so if you’re primarily a heel striker these might not be a good move.

Showdown – The Verdict:
Both shoes were great to me, so this is a tough call, but the Newtons win out. Both were pretty breathable, but the open air mesh upper of the Newtons dried a bit faster. The Newtons also force you to focus on your form a lot more. It’s easier to slip into a heel-first strike with the Nikes, which isn’t easy on the foot with their lack of cushioning.

While any specialty running store would lecture me about not choosing a shoe based on color, the Newtons fun, bright colors are definitely a plus! Sometimes it just comes down to feel and my Newtons felt great on every run, gave me support without weighing me down and most importantly – made me feel fast!