Resolution Check-In

I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record each month when I write these posts and talk about how quickly the year is going, but seriously September got here so quickly I almost forgot to do this month’s resolution check-in post! It’s so easy to let New Year’s resolutions slip after a couple weeks or a couple months, so I’m using these monthly posts to keep me on track.

Resolution number one was to get healthy, which I did early in the year and am happy to say that so far I’m staying that way and any aches and pains have been thwarted with some ice and quality foam rolling time.

Resolution number two was a stronger core, which not only would help me to stay injury free, but could also make me a stronger runner. I feel like I’ve slipped a bit on this and am not doing my core workouts nearly as much as I used to, so I’m going to make that my main focus for this month.

Resolution number three to drink less soda is still an up and down battle, but I’m working on it!

Nuun is definitely helping ease my soda addiction.

Nuun is definitely helping ease my soda addiction.

Resolution number four, which was more of a goal, was a Boston-qualifying time. With less than 50 days to Marine Corps Marathon, it’s almost time to put that to the test. I’m definitely putting in the miles, but as I mentioned in last month’s post, am still a bit worried about my speed. I’m hoping my tune-up races over the next few weeks will give me a good idea of where I stand on this.

Last month’s main focus was the long run and other than missing out during a recovery week when I was sick, I did an awesome job of putting in the long miles each week ranging from 17-19 milers!

Fall Races!

While I hate that summer is almost over meaning less daylight hours and winter just around the corner, fall is my hands-down favorite weather season of the year. It also means it’s fall racing season! I haven’t raced throughout the entire month of August and am getting a little stir-crazy, so I’m excited that my fall line-up of races is almost here.

This is where I’ll be racing this fall…

September 14 – Navy-Air Force Half Marathon
I’m a little terrified that I have a half marathon so soon, but then when I think about it I’ve been running further than that during my long runs for a month and a half now including a couple 17 milers. I’m a little concerned about keeping the pace I want so this will be a great test of my fitness. Most of the course is along the Marine Corps Marathon route as well, so it’ll be great practice!

September 28 – Pacers Clarendon Day Double
I’ll be running both the 5k and the 10k put on by Pacers as part of the Clarendon Day Festival. I’m so excited for this race. I’ve never done two races in one day before and I’m really looking forward to the speedy, mostly downhill courses. The 5k is up first so I’m going to shoot for a PR in that and then just see how the 10k goes after I’ve gotten myself back up the hill for the start of that one!

October 13 – Undecided
Acumen Solutions Race for  A Cause 8k … OR … Boo! Run for Life 10k
My coach suggested I look for an 8k or 10k this week and I’ve found one of each – both pretty close to home and roughly the same price. The 8k is closer but the 10k is flatter and a familiar course for me. Advice is appreciated! If you’ve done either of these races in the past, let me know what you think about them.

October 27 – Marine Corps Marathon
This is the big one – the race I’ve been waiting all year for since I had to defer my entry last year while stuck in physical therapy. It’s my chance to finally get my Boston Qualifier in my 10th marathon. I simultaneously can’t wait for it to get here and am terrified of it getting here too soon. I love this race though. It’ll be my third MCM and I LOVE the course change announcements recently unveiled that make it more similar to my first go at MCM in 2006. They’ve done away with  the Canal Road portion of the race, which I was never a big fan of, and added in Rock Creek Parkway. Let the countdown commence!

Here I was near the finish two year’s ago after Marine Corps…

After - wrapped in my space blanket, happy to be done!

After – wrapped in my space blanket, happy to be done!

Let me know where you’ll be racing this fall!! Any big PR goals?

A Marathon View From the Sidelines

Last weekend I volunteered with the DC Capital Striders at the Potomac River Run Marathon along the C&O Canal Path. It’s not too often I’m up before 6 a.m. for any reason other than going running, but Sunday I would just be manning the sidelines. I met up with the rest of our group at Lock 7 and helped set up the aid station. The marathoners would go out and back twice along the path so we’d see them all four times along the course. We were stocked with water, Gatorade, bananas and power bars.

Lock 7

Lock 7

Volunteer Group at Lock 7

Volunteer Group at Lock 7 (stole this from the DC Cap Striders FB page)

The race had about 500 runners with a 7 a.m. non-competitive start and an 8 a.m. regular start. After we got things ready to go it wasn’t going to be too long before the first set of runners were coming through since the first time they’d pass us was just about 3.5 miles in. It was an overcast day and temps were in the high 40s at the start with a slight breeze – perfect for runners, but a bit chilly for us. I’m glad I packed some hand warmers that I still had on hand from when I used to teach outdoor boot camps during the winter!

I handled the water cups and doled out encouragement to as many runners going by as I could. I know how much it means to me to have some encouragement along the course, especially one without a lot of crowd support. I also knew a couple runners so it was fun getting to cheer them on as they passed by. Other than one botched water handoff to one of the faster runners during his first trip through our station, I managed not to drop or spill the water cups on anyone! Successful day if you ask me. Although if you ask the guy who I botched the handoff with, he might not agree! There was a somewhat steady stream of people after the 8 a.m. group got going and we had people coming from both sides, but it was never overwhelming. I can’t even imagine working a water stop at one of the mega races. I need to remember to say extra thank yous at the Marine Corps Marathon stops this year!

Runners on the C&O path

Runners on the C&O path

It was fun to be out there and it was really inspiring to see so many people of so many different abilities putting it all out there to finish their marathon. I love this sport!

Aid Station at Lock 7

Aid Station at Lock 7

Congrats to everyone who ran Sunday! Have you ever volunteered for a marathon? How’d it go?

Seminar: Running Your Best Race

On Saturday, the DC Capital Striders hosted a seminar  at Lululemon in Georgetown called Successful Race Execution – Preparation, Fueling, and Pacing Strategy to Run your Best Race featuring RRCA certified running coaches Lisa Reichmann and Julie Sapper. Lisa and Julie are both experienced runners themselves and are also co-founders of local running company, Run Farther & Faster, coaching everyone from those doing their first 5k to runners looking to PR in a marathon.

They covered the right way to taper, nutrition both while your training and racing and pacing strategies. Some of it was new and some was info I’ve heard before, but it’s always great to be reminded. They highlighted the importance of the taper, which is good for me to keep hearing because like most runners I go a little stir crazy during that time and have trouble trusting that I won’t lose all my fitness in the week and a half or so before the race.

Their info on fueling was great. They talked about avoiding sugary foods so you don’t crash, embracing carbs and making sure to eat a protein/carb snack or meal within 20 minutes of finishing a run. They also gave some good advice on in-race nutrition including the invaluable – don’t ever mix Gu with Gatorade!

Gatorade and Gu - Do not mix!!

Gatorade and Gu – Do not mix!!

The top takeaway for me came when I asked Julie about her long runs. I have a tough time doing them one to two minutes slower than race pace as most training plans recommend. I always worry that there is no way I’ll be able to run the pace I want to come race day if I do that despite what a lot of the science says on the subject.

She said she used to have similar concerns at a point where she was about a 3:45 or so marathoner before hooking up with a coach and a running group and following the long-slow distance method. (You can run the last few miles of some of these slower runs at race pace as a confidence booster too.) That helped bring her down into the 3:20s. Since I’m just under the 3:40 mark now and the 3:20s is where I want to be, this was exactly what I needed to hear. Granted the same things don’t work for everyone, but hearing it form someone that it worked for as opposed to reading it in a book makes a big difference for me.

I’d love to hear about your training – what plans do you follow? How do you fuel along the way? Does the taper drive you crazy? Let me know in the comments!

 

Crazy Running

I know some people think all running is crazy, but I love it anyways. Still, I’ve had some pretty crazy running experiences at races over the years and thought I’d share a couple with you.

In 2010, my friend Lindsay and I flew out to Nashville for the Country Music Marathon. On race morning we took the earliest shuttle our hotel offered to the start line because we were worried about overcrowding on the later ones. Other than the volunteers we might have been the first ones there as they set things up in the darkness. As the race start drew nearer, the sun shined brightly and it looked like a perfect day for a marathon. It was cool, but not too chilly and looked to be a very calm day, although the forecasts were telling an entirely different story.

In light of oncoming severe thunder storms and a possible tornado, race directors decided to start things early. While this was probably a good decision, unfortunately they did a terrible job of communicating this to the runners. While I waited in the bathroom line half an hour before the race was supposed to start I had no idea the starting gun was already going off. When I finally worked my way over to the starting line and hopped into the ninth corral I looked around and realized by the bib numbers that I was standing with the 35th corral.

They were starting each group about a minute apart so that’s when I caught onto the fact that they’d started things early. I was able to push my way forward a few corrals, but I was still so far back that I was in line with many people planning to run/walk the half marathon distance. I spent the first 13 miles bobbing and weaving before I was able to get into any sort of rhythm and find some space on the course. The craziness didn’t stop there though.

Calm Before the Storm - pre-race pic

Calm Before the Storm – pre-race pic

Turns out the forecasters were right as the sun soon disappeared behind the clouds, the sky turned very gray and eventually it opened up. Thunder and lightning rocked the course as I was pelted by rain and even hail. At mile 20, a cop with a bullhorn was announcing that the course was closing. It felt pretty surreal and I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was on pace for a nearly 30-minute PR and had no intention of stopping. I said some regrettably not so nice words as I dodged the cop and kept going. I wouldn’t get much further though. Volunteers formed a human wall at mile 21 forcing runners still on the course to divert directly to the finish line.

I ran the last mile in a state of disbelief and felt so wrong crossing the finish line and taking a medal after “only” running 22 miles. Lindsay and I somehow found each other after the race and braved the weather to snag a cab back to the hotel once we learned there was a couple hour wait for the shuttles. It was a mess. In retrospect, it does make for a pretty funny story though and I do laugh every time I see my 22.2 mile marathon certificate that they sent finishers who were forced to divert early. Now I guess I can’t get frustrated when people ask me after each marathon how long this one was!

I don’t think I’ll ever have a race top that one on the craziness scale (or at least I hope not), but running a small marathon in Canada last summer definitely had some quirks too. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved my first small race experience – there were just more than 100 marathoners – but after all the mega marathons I’d done I was a bit taken aback when the race director called us all in for a pre-race meeting and reminded us to be on our best pedestrian behavior since the roads were still open.

Cruising along all alone during the Niagara Marathon

Cruising along all alone during the Niagara Marathon

The fact that the race director could call all participants in and make pre-race announcements without using a megaphone or loudspeaker system was pretty amusing to me. This was nothing like the past races I’d done with 20-30,000 other runners alongside me. There was no dodging or weaving at the start line. In fact I was the first woman through five miles – how’s that for crazy?! What really threw me for a loop though was that I actually did have to stop twice at different road crossings to wait for a break in the traffic. I don’t know if that’s ever even happened to me in a 5k before. I still nailed a PR though and had a blast seeing my parents and boyfriend throughout the whole course, so it was totally worth it.

OK, enough about my crazy race experiences, tell me about the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you while running whether it was on the race course or just during an everyday run.

2013 Race Calendar

I love racing. I like big races and small races. I feed off the crowd’s at the big-time ones and the challenge of pushing yourself at the smaller ones. It’s one of my favorite things about running, and keeps me pushing towards getting fitter and faster and reaching tougher goals.

In 2013, I want to race smart though. Seven races in seven weeks at one point last year where I ran my hardest in most of them might not have been the smartest idea. Adding a marathon to my schedule a month and a half out from race day was another one of my not so bright moves. My break from running as I recovered from an overuse injury in 2012 has left me hungry for all the races I can sign up for, but to make sure I don’t overdo it, I’m only planning two goal races for this year. I know I’d go crazy only having two races on the schedule so I have a handful of others I’m planning to run for fun as training runs.

2013 Race Calendar

February 10 – Love the Run You’re With 5k

March 9 – Four Courts Four Miler

April 7 – Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

*April 28 – Nike Women’s D.C. Half Marathon*

July 27 – Crystal City Twilighter 5k

*October 27 – Marine Corps Marathon*

December 8 – Jingle All the Way 8k

*Goal Races*

Now it’s time to get running to get ready for all these races! Let me know what your race plans are this year, and if you have any big race goals!

Time to Get Healthy

After an injury consult from Fast Track physical therapy at the Run for the Parks 10k, I set an appointment with their office so I could figure out what was going on. I’d been ignoring pain for much too long (I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me), and it turns out I’d done quite a number on my legs, especially my hip flexors.

My mobility is limited and my hamstrings, IT band, quads and calves are all extremely tight. I also had an appointment with Dr. Ochiai, an orthopedist, for X-Rays that showed a small build-up of excess bone on my left hip, which could cause torn cartilage in the hip joint. We agreed that surgery would be a last resort so we decided to hold off on an MRI at this point and see how I’m feeling after a few weeks of physical therapy.

I’ve gotten several physical therapy sessions under my belt now and it seems like things are going in the right direction. Liz, my physical therapist at Fast Track, is excellent. She’s given me a series of exercises and lots of stretches to do everyday to help get my flexibility back to where it should be. It apparently takes about 10 weeks to really have an effect, so I’m going to have to have some patience, which isn’t exactly one of my stronger qualities. I’m also foam rolling and icing everyday to help with the pain and hopefully loosen things up. After using my rolling pin as a roller for the past year, I finally broke down and got a real one from Amazon!

Watching the Marine Corps Marathon instead of running it was a bit of a bummer last week, but it’s also hard not to get excited seeing so many people out there running such an awesome race. I was able to defer my entry, so I’ll have an automatic entry into next year’s race. I’m going to really work these next couple months to get myself healthy again and then be smart enough to stay that way this time – mostly because I want to get back to my goal of qualifying for Boston, but also because I’m going a bit insane not being able to run!