To Garmin or Not?

I’ll be toeing the start line of the Navy Air Force Half Marathon in a week and a half. This race completely snuck (is that a word?) up on me. Not in an I’m not ready for it kind of way – just in a I can’t believe mid-September is here already kind of way. I’ve been running like crazy and I’m more than ready for it distance-wise. In the last 8 weeks I’ve done 6 long runs in the range of 15-20 miles plus a 10-12 miler during the week each week.

I won’t lie though, I’m really nervous about pacing. While this isn’t a goal race necessarily, it’s a great chance to see where I’m at in my training, an opportunity for redemption after missing my goal at the Nike Women’s Half in D.C. earlier this year and it covers much of the same ground that I’ll have to face during Marine Corps Marathon in October.  No doubt I can do the distance, but I’ve been embracing the long slow run concept and keeping my long runs a bit slower than my marathon goal pace to avoid injury/burnout and to mimic the amount of time I’ll be on my feet come race day. This worked great for me at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, but I still haven’t attempted it for a successful half or any full marathons, so despite all the expert advice, I’m still skeptical.


I’ve rattled off plenty of miles during other weekly runs at goal pace and my track workouts have me going at even faster paces, yet I won’t be totally convinced until I see the results on race day. I’m a big-time data recorder and religiously track my mile split times on my Garmin. I know it’s not completely accurate, but I’m also constantly looking at the current pace during races as well to make sure I stay on track. Even if I don’t look at the watch throughout my training runs, I often (over-) analyze each mile time and what it means after I’m done.

Based on my Garmin-centric, data-obsessed running personality I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually considering running the half without a watch. Shudder. I wonder if I just base things off of effort if I’ll be able to maintain my pace and get my goal without the obsessive time checking? I’ve also heard of people who go even faster because they don’t see a pace that should be too hard for them on the watch and slow down because of it. What if I just miss my goal time though? Will I be kicking myself for not wearing a watch? From what I can find on the website, it doesn’t look like this race will have pace groups, so I can’t just tag along with one of those and know my time without actually knowing my time.

I haven’t made a final decision on this yet, but am thinking it might be worth a shot. I’d love to hear from you all – have you ever raced without a watch? How’d it work for you? Even if you haven’t tried it, do you think it could be a good idea or a disastrous one? Comment away – should I Garmin or not??

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



Check out the full article on their site.

Footprints: Monday Recap

Last week felt great. I didn’t get all of my workouts in that I wanted to, but did a pretty good job of playing catch up after putting in a lot of miles Friday through Sunday the previous week when I was struggling and recovering from a cold. Talk about a turnaround when it came to my long run. Last Sunday I set out in the rain sore and tired and struggled through 17 slow miles in 2 hours and 50 minutes. This week’s run was the same time but a couple miles further!

Here’s the day by day breakdown…

Monday: Spin Class – Real Ride at Revolve.

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 7 hilly miles in an hour on the Custis Trail after work.

Thursday: Today was a track workout fail. I didn’t heed my running coach’s advice to avoid W&L in the fall as there are too many events and halfway through a great workout where I was nailing my splits I got kicked off the track for a football game. I’m planning to make up all of the reps next week!

Friday: I got in two pretty speedy treadmill runs today – 4 in the morning and 6 at night, plus a strength workout! Great way to kick off the weekend!

Saturday: I felt a million times better on my long run this week which took me 19.2 miles along the Custis, W&OD and Mt. Vernon Trails plus along Hains Point and over both the 14th Street and Memorial Bridges before tackling the hill back up to Court House. I even attacked the final hill of the MCM course at mile 18 to get some practice in there! I’m hoping to continue to improve on these as marathon day gets closer!

Sunday: I ran out of energy Sunday and took a rest day to give my aching muscles a break.

Resolution Check-In

And another month down. Wow. This year is just flying.

Time to check in on my New Year’s Resolutions and make sure I’m still on track. Five months in and I’m still running pain free! While I’ve had a few slip-ups here and there, I’ve been pretty good about sticking with my stretching, rolling and icing routines. I’ve also stuck with a couple days of cross training each week instead of running 6 days a week, which has played a role in keeping me healthy this year.

My streak of P90X core workouts came to an end at 127 days. At first I did a good job of still doing it 4-5 times a week, but that has dropped off the last couple weeks, so I’m making core workouts my focus again for the month of June. May’s focus was on strength workouts, which I did a really good job with. My new program from my running coach has me doing these twice a week, but I used to do about 10 minutes of strength stuff and call that a workout. Now I’m doing 30-45 minutes each day and am already noticing a difference. I’m sure this will help make me a stronger runner too.


The drinking less soda thing disappeared last month and I was back to my soda-a-day routine. I need to do better at this!

Three weeks into my new running program I feel like I’m building a great base to kick off my Marine Corps Marathon training so I can go after my BQ.

I’ve got some work to do, but overall I feel pretty good about my resolutions for this year. How are you doing on your resolutions?


Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

I have the first week of training for the Nike Women’s D.C. Half down and things are off to a great start! Both of my speed workouts went well and it felt good to get out there on Saturday for my first long run in quite awhile. I flip flopped my weekend runs to accommodate the Love the Run You’re With 5k on Sunday, which was a blast. I ran 25.2 miles last week. Here’s the day by day training breakdown…

Monday: Spin Class in the morning. Late afternoon I put in 35 minutes on the elliptical followed by 5 minutes of jump roping and a lower body workout.

Tuesday: Instead of hitting the track, today’s speed workout took place on the hills. I totaled 5.2 miles with six hill repeats in the middle charging up the same hill that will be the finish line for the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

Wednesday: Today was another cross training and strength day so I got in another spin class at Revolve in the morning followed by a leg workout in the afternoon.

Thursday: I hit the treadmill for an early morning 6.55 mile tempo run. I felt great from start to finish on this one, which was very encouraging. I started off with a one mile warm-up at an 8-minute pace then increased the speed every five minutes peaking at a 7:13 pace before cooling down for a quarter of a mile back at an 8-minute pace. I stayed on the treadmill at a walking pace for a bit until my heart rate came back down, and also stared horrified at the person on the treadmill next to me who had dropped their iPad mid run and completely cracked the screen. Ouch! I continued to make fun of this all week and karma struck when I dropped my phone on Saturday and cracked my screen for the second time. Luckily it’s not as bad as the first time I did it!

Friday: Rest day. Looking back at my workout spreadsheet (yea, I know, total nerd) I realized it’s been much too long since I’ve taken one of these. I’ve done a lot of recovery days, but haven’t taken a full rest day in awhile, and I know that can be just as important to reaching my goals as the working days.

Saturday: I set out on a chilly but sunny morning and battled 20-30 mph winds, but overall felt it was a successful first long run. I ran 10.35 miles at an easy pace. The toughest parts were getting over the Key and 14th Street Bridges – felt like the wind was going to blow me over!

Sunday: I put in 3.1 at the Pacers Love the Run You’re With 5k in Pentagon City. The weather was great this morning and I really enjoyed the race. I’m not all the way back to where I was, but I felt really good about my time and the progress I’m  making. Check back tomorrow for a full race recap!

Running to the Finish at Love the Run You're With 5k

Running to the Finish at Love the Run You’re With 5k

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…

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!

MCM Training Check-In

With Labor Day weekend over and the fall fast approaching that means the Marine Corps Marathon will be here in less than two months. Less humidity will be nice, but less daylight hours usually means more runs on the treadmill for me.

The first five weeks of training went according to plan. I was getting in six runs a week even while traveling all over the place. It was fun to run some of my old routes in my hometown and to get to take in some nice views on runs up in Alex Bay.

I have a tendency to always go my hardest even on days that are supposed to be even days, and it seems that that has finally come back to bite me. My training once August hit has not been going the way I planned at all. I started noticing tightness in my hips that was really slowing me down as I tried to run, especially when I got up over five or six miles. It’s very frustrating when conditioning-wise you feel like you can keep going, but your legs don’t agree.

For the rest of August I cut down on my number of runs drastically and also haven’t done a long run of more than 10 miles. I’ve done lots of cross training in hopes of keeping up my fitness including aqua jogging, the elliptical and the stepper. This week I’m adding in spinning and body pump classes.

Unfortunately the pain seems to be increasing instead of getting better, so I might have to (gasp) have a doctor check things out. For those that know me, you know that going to a doctor is not something I readily do – but I suppose it is likely the smart thing to do so I can get back to running! In the meantime I plan to keep cross training, so as I’ll be in best shape I can when I’m able to start adding miles again.

I’m still shooting for a sub-3:35 at Marine Corps this October so I can qualify for Boston in 2014, and will do what I can to make that happen! I have 5k, 10k and 20 miler races between then and now as well that I’ve worked into my training plan. Next up is the September 11 Memorial 5k that loops by the Pentagon and is one of my favorite races – incredibly moving! Check out some pics below from last year’s race.

MCM – Marathon #8

This year’s Marine Corps Marathon has to be one of my favorite marathon experiences, and I’ve had some pretty good ones. It probably has a little to do with the fact that it was by far my best performance. I took another 8 minutes off my PR set just a month ago in the Twin Cities to finish in 3:40:36. That put me in the top 2,000 out of about 21,000 finishers and the top 100 in my age group!

Before - Getting Ready for Race Day

Saturday’s extremely rare snow, sleet and cold in D.C. in October had me a bit nervous, but Sunday morning turned out to be perfect race weather. The start line was a bit chilly with temps in the 30s, but a few extra layers and some hand warmers kept me warm until we were ready to start. I lined up at the start line with the 3:35 pace group with a goal of staying with them for at least 18 miles.

The first few miles of the race go by Arlington Cemetery, then past my apartment and up Lee Highway before circling back to cross over the Key Bridge into D.C. My parents made the drive down from Syracuse to cheer me on throughout the race and ran all over town to see me at different spots! They caught me right past mile 1 and then headed over the Key Bridge to catch me as I looped back onto M Street toward Wisconsin Ave. I wasn’t able to spot them there, but would catch them again in Crystal City.

I was moving pretty good through the first half of the marathon. We lost our pacer for mile 12 though (I think he needed a bathroom break!) and all got nervous and sped up, which took a lot out of me. When he caught back up to us at the halfway point we were battling a headwind through Hains Point near the Jefferson Memorial. From there we hit the National Mall near the Washington Monument and headed towards the Capitol Building.

Around mile 16 I started to struggle and slowly see the pace group slip away. I tried to hang on, but finally lost sight of them at the mile 18 marker. After looping in front of the Capitol, I took a moment to thank god they didn’t make us run up the hill to go around the building, which was where I thought the course went! That along with a couple Power Bar gummy candies that I brought in my water pack picked me up a bit, and I started to feel better about mile 20 as I worked my way over the 14th Street Bridge. That is a brutal stretch of the race, especially since there is very little crowd support over the long bridge.

Running through Crystal City

Entering the home stretch in Crystal City I realized I had a chance to still finish in 3:40, which would be huge. I saw my parents at mile 22 and got high fives when I looped back around by them again at mile 23 giving me a huge boost. Another friend was just about a mile down the road and cheered me on as I passed by leaving Crystal City with just two miles to go. It’s amazing how big of an effect cheers from people you know along the course can have on you.

I pushed hard passing Arlington Cemetery again and up that cruel hill right before the finish line in front of Iwo Jima, and was so excited to see I had kept it under 3:41! I’ve done a lot of races to travel and experience a new city. While nothing will ever top my finish experience in the old Olympic Stadium in Athens, seeing my own apartment just beyond the finish line and stumbling home in just a couple minutes was one of the best feelings ever.

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

I spent the next few hours being lazy, covered in ice and eating taco dip while watching the Bills game. My parents and I also had a celebration dinner up at Fireworks in Courthouse that night with some beer and pizza – a great way to cap off the day!

Now the big question is: what’s next? I’d like to take about a year off before doing another marathon and do some shorter races while I work on my speed so I can go for that Boston Qualifier – just 5 more minutes to go and I’m there. I’m not sure which marathon I want to do next, but Chicago and New York are on my short list.

The Expo

At the race expo with mascots Miles and Molly after I won a supersize goodie bag!

I’m a big time running nerd so I get really excited about race expos. The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) expo was held at the D.C. Armory, and opened the Thursday before the race. I put in a few extra hours at the beginning of the week and got a sub for my Thursday boot camp so I could be there right at 3:30 for the opening ceremonies. This was partly because I’d seen on their Facebook page that they’d be giving away 36 supersize goodie bags, and you had a good chance of winning if you showed up early on day one. I was determined to win one!

Unfortunately there were already a hundred or so people in line when I arrived so I was not among the first 20 who got to play a game for the first two goodie bags. I was a bit bummed, but still really excited to be at the expo. The marines are nothing if not organized so picking up my bib and my shirt was a pretty easy process. I spent awhile in the Brooks booth browsing the official gear and settled on a white, long sleeve, half-zip running shirt and a pint glass (clearly hoping to do a little post-race celebrating).

I weaved my way through the rest of the expo stopping at just about every booth (like I said, I’m a nerd). Pacers showed me some really cool Mizuno gloves that actually warm up with liquid contact, i.e. rain, snow, sweat, etc. I might be buying a pair of those before the winter ends. I tried on a pair of Yurbuds, which fit my ears really well as opposed to most of my ear buds that just pop out every few minutes as I run. They also let in outside noise so you can stay aware of your surroundings. I picked up flyers for other races and chatted with the Team in Training group too. I did my first marathon with them while raising $4,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and had an absolute blast. I hope to do another race with them sometime soon.

I finally decided it was time to go, but gave one last check of the MCM Facebook and twitter feeds, and saw they’d just tweeted that the first two people to find their mascot, Miles, and whisper Oorah would win the supersize goodie bags. Well, I was off and running and eventually spotted Miles to become the first winner. I was so pumped and the goodies were awesome! The bag itself was made out of recycled race banners from previous MCM’s, and was filled with a certificate for new Brooks running sneaks, sunglasses, numerous gift cards and more! It was a very cool way to integrate social media into their race, which they did a very impressive job of leading up to and even during their race. Stay tuned for a race day recap!

Some of the cool schwag I got as part of my supersize goodie bag!