Race Recap: B&A Trail Half Marathon

On Sunday I ran the B&A Trail Half Marathon in Annapolis put on by the Annapolis Striders run club. I will admit I had a really bad attitude about going to this race. I was already disappointed in myself since this was initially my target full marathon, but I didn’t put in the training to be able to give it a legit shot at qualifying for Boston, so I decided to opt for the half shortening my recovery time to go at it again.

After some pretty decent weather recently in the greater D.C. area, I was unbelievably annoyed when I saw it would be a feels like temperature between about 16 and 19 for the race. You all know I do not like running in the cold, so this news just sucked! Since I was doing packet pick-up day of (glad they offered that) I had to leave super early meaning a wake up in the 4s… mornings are right up there with the cold on a list of my favorite things!

Despite all this, I was pleasantly surprised with the race. The start and finish line were at Saverna Park High School, so they used that as their staging area. It is always nice to be able to hang out indoors before a race, but especially so when it is as cold as Sunday was. I arrived about 6:30 and had no trouble grabbing my packet. I got my bib on and shoe tag timing chip then found the bathrooms that surprisingly had a pretty short line.

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I wore my Oiselle portman pants and then all the layers on top starting with the verrazano sports bra and topped with the scantron tank, flyte long sleeve and tech hoodie. As race time got closer I ran my stuff out to my car since there was no bag drop for this race and put my car key in my back pocket of my pants and a Gu in the front pocket. For the second straight race I ended up not feeling like I could get anything down mid-race and again didn’t take it. I need to start practicing nutrition again.

I headed back into the high school and found a quiet hallway to do my warm-up. About five minutes before go time I made my way to the start line and put myself between the 8 minute and 8:30 minute pace corrals. It was pretty informal and self-selected pacing, but the signs with pace times were a nice guide. I really enjoy the ease of these smaller races.

Soon after the National Anthem was sung and we were off and racing. The start was a little crowded, but fortunately we didn’t link up with the trail till about a mile and a half in giving everyone enough room and time for it to thin out. This was a paved trail very similar to the W&OD for those familiar with the D.C. trail system.

I didn’t feel as cold as I worried I would, but all of my layers including my gloves and neck gaiter probably helped with that. The sun was also shining brightly, which upped my mood a little bit. Just like Rock N Roll DC a couple weeks ago, the miles just ticked by. It was a great feeling, especially since I was in such a negative mindset before the race started. Also, like RNR, I didn’t look at my watch once until I crossed the finish line, so I ran completely by feel.

I felt really strong for the first six miles or so. From about mile three on, I found myself running mostly alone or with just a few other people nearby. I actually didn’t mind this at all – it was relaxed and so similar to many of my training runs. The volunteers were also incredible, nice and enthusiastic. They had to be absolutely freezing, so a big time thanks to them.

I was expecting the race to be completely flat, but boy was there a tough hill between miles seven and eight or so. It really took the wind out of my sails for awhile and definitely impacted my overall pace – note to self: add more hill training in to workouts!

It felt like time had flown when all of a sudden volunteers were directing me off the trail at the split between the half and the full and down the homestretch back to the high school for the finish. I crossed the line in 1:48:07 (unofficial). According to my watch I ran 13.22 miles for an average pace of 8:11 – how I could screw up tangents in a mostly out and back race is beyond me, but I do always find a way! Another race day tactic I need some work on for sure.

Mile by Mile:

1 – 7:45
2 – 7:41
3 – 8:06
4 – 8:07
5 – 7:58
6 – 7:56
7 – 7:51
8 – 8:40
9 – 8:40
10 – 8:28
11 – 8:12
12 – 8:34
13 – 8:30
Final .1 pace – 7:40

I was really pleased when I saw that time and realized I’d taken almost four minutes off my half marathon time in just two weeks! It is about five minutes off of my PR, but is a time I felt really good about given my current fitness level. I’m continuing to see strides (pun intended) in my speed throughout my weekly workouts and it was nice to see that show through on race day.

After I crossed the finish line, I immediately made my way back into the high school to warm up. They were offering all racers a free massage and had a great food spread. If I weren’t so chilly I probably would have taken advantage of this, but I really just wanted to get home so I grabbed a banana and a water, jogged out to my car and turned the heat all the way up for the ride home!

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All in all, a pretty good race day. You can certainly tell the organizers have done this before and know what they’re doing. I thought the four water/gatorade stops along the half course were completely sufficient and well staffed. If it were a warmer day I probably would have worn my water pack though. If you like smaller races that almost have more of a Sunday long run feel to them, then this one is for you.

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Loving the Track!

I know I just talked about how much I’m loving my new group track workouts with DCRunningCoach yesterday, but after another great one last night, I can’t say it enough. I’ve been doing track workouts on my own for quite some time now, but now I’m learning the right way to do them.

Lets start with the warm-up. I know it’s good to do active stretching, but my 2-minute breeze through of a Runner’s World active warm-up routine (they obviously recommend spending more time on it) clearly wasn’t cutting it. Our group warms up together under Coach Mike’s lead. We do marching, skips, high knees, butt kicks, backwards walking (I’m so bad at this one!), side shuffles and more.

The repeats. I had general pace times in mind before when I went to the track, but once I got there I usually just ran as fast and as hard as I could leaving my split times all over the place. Now I’m learning how to pace myself and hit a split dead on every time. I’ve got a ways to go on this. Coach Mike has already told me more times than I’d like to admit that anyone can beat the coach’s time, but a good runner will hit the goal time every time.

Last night I had 8X800 meter repeats at 3:42 on the docket. As usual I went out too fast doing the first four reps in 3:37, 3:35, 3:37, 3:36 at which point I was told my breathing showed I was going too hard. I’m supposed to aim to hit these repeats at my tempo pace right now, which Coach defines as comfortably hard – not a sprint or a 5k pace!  Sent on a mission to hit the last four all on pace I came pretty close knocking each one of them out in 3:41!

Finally, the rest period. I used to do an active rest, which I don’t think is a bad thing, but I’m quickly realizing I gave myself way too much time to catch my breath and relax before starting again. My recent workouts have all had only one minute rest between repeats, and I can tell that that is making me a stronger runner.

Do you integrate track workouts into your program? What’s the verdict – do you love or hate the track?!

On another note, I saw this contest today for a free tee on MilePosts – a running blog I love to read. I’ll be honest, I selfishly don’t normally share contests that I’d like to win, but since I actually already own one of these tees I figured why not. It’s one of my favorite t-shirts – super soft and comfy. I just wear it as a regular tee, but you could run in it as well. I LOVE the saying Dorothy from MilePosts put on them – I Run this Body – so motivating! It also says Dream Big, Run Long in smaller letters. There looks to be a ton of entries already, but hey, it’s worth a shot!

Rocking my I Run This Body Tee!

Rocking my I Run This Body Tee!

Race Recap: Charity for Children 8k

I’m a week late with my recap, but Sunday the 19th I ran the Charity for Children 8k at Green Lakes when I was back home for the weekend. I knew going into this that I wasn’t in the kind of shape I needed to be yet to actually race this, but I was looking forward to a challenging 5-mile run and that’s exactly what I got!

I’ve become a big fan of smaller races as of late and this fit the bill with just about 500 runners for both the 8k and 5k. Another draw for me for this race was the 10 a.m. start time! I always appreciate a race that doesn’t require me to wake up at the crack of dawn or when it’s still dark out to get to the start line on time. I was also excited to run at Green Lakes. I haven’t run there since I worked there in college years ago, and I was looking forward to taking things off the road since that’s normally the only surface I run on.

The 8k and the 5k started at the same time on a narrow beach path so  I worked my way near the front of the start line to avoid being boxed in. We looped around the beach and into the woods changing from a concrete path to gravel and then dirt as we ran around Green Lake. I kept myself from going out too fast like the previous week’s 5k and hit the first mile marker in 7:15. As I worked my way past Green Lake and around Round Lake the path changed again to mulch.

The different surfaces definitely slowed me down a bit and so did a short, but steep hill on the way to mile three as we came back out onto the beach path past the third mile marker where my Mom was waiting to cheer me on and snap a picture before she headed to the finish line! Miles 2 and 3 came in a bit slower at 7:49 and 8:18.

Passing the 3 mile mark at the Green Lakes 8k!

Passing the 3 mile mark at the Green Lakes 8k!

After coming back onto the beach path we quickly turned and ran up a path, out of the beach parking lot and on paved roads, up through the campgrounds past the frisbee golf course and to the cabin area. The emphasis on that sentence should be on the word up! Mile 4 was pretty much all up hill… a long steep hill! My pace slowed all the way down to 9:29. I don’t normally drink water in races this short, but I was pretty relieved to see a water stop at the top of the hill at the mile 4 marker.

I grabbed a cup as I turned around and started the final mile. We didn’t go straight back the way we came, but I did get to enjoy a downhill to the main road through the park and decided to pick up the pace putting in a 7:04 final mile. I turned back into the beach parking lot and onto the beach path I started on around to the finish line. I crossed the line in 40 minutes flat according to the official results. My watch had me at 39:57 and even though 3 seconds shouldn’t make a difference especially when it’s not even a PR, it still made me a little upset when I saw I hadn’t officially beaten 40.

At the finish after the Charity for Children 8k at Green Lakes

At the finish after the Charity for Children 8k at Green Lakes

Regardless, it was a great race. The packet pick up that morning was incredibly quick, the water stops were staffed with great volunteers and the course was really well marked. I had a great run and would love to go back and do it again next year!

At the finish line with Mom!

At the finish line with Mom!

I do wish I had stuck around longer after the race though – turns out I would have gotten an award! I finished 45th out of 235, was the 8th overall female and 3rd in my age group!

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!

Race Recap: Run Rogue 5k

On Saturday I ran the Run Rogue 5k in Fairfax for the second year in a row. The race was organized to honor friends and family who have fought and continue to fight cancer, and proceeds from the race are split evenly between Life With Cancer and the Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure. I’d been dealing with a cold all week and was up a lot of the night before coughing, but this race was important to me since both breast cancer and brain cancer have touched my family over the years, and I really wanted to be out their helping raise money to find cures for these diseases.

It’s a very family-oriented race, so the start line was crowded at the front with lots of little kids and people pushing strollers. My annoyance at the stroller runners lining up so close to the start quickly turned into envy when one woman pushing a stroller blew by me half a mile in. I never caught up to her…impressive.

Crowded Start Line!

Crowded Start Line!

The wheel chair racers took off first. These guys always impress me – talk about upper body strength!

Wheel chair racer at the start

Wheel chair racer at the start

Ian was nice enough to wake up early with me to drive me out to Fairfax, support me during the race and take all these pictures. He even managed to snag one of me amongst the crowd at the start.

Working through the crowd at the start

Working through the crowd at the start

I felt about as happy as I look in this picture! It was not my day for racing and I struggled from the start. Every step and breath felt more labored than it should, and I couldn’t find my speed. The race field spread out as soon as we worked our way out of the Fairfax Shopping Plaza area and really began the run. The course was filled with rolling hills. I felt like a whole lot more of them were going up then down, but that could just be because I was struggling.

Chilly at the start, I finally dressed in just the right layers for me for this race, and at least felt just right as far as temperature was concerned. The sun shining brightly made me feel a little better about how cold it still was in late March. I wore a tank top with a built in sports bra topped with a long sleeve tech tee and a Nike half zip. I also wore my Nike dry fit pants, CEP compression socks and of course, my Newtons.

The winners came flying in well before me. The first male, Josef Tesema of Springfield, Va., crossed the line in 15:10 for a pace of 4:53. Wow. I would love to know what it feels like to run that fast. The first woman, Barbara Fallon Wallace of Alexandria, Va., came through in 18:04 maintaining a 5:49 pace. Congrats to both of them on their wins!

First woman coming up on the finish line

First woman coming up on the finish line

After what seemed like forever, I finally made it to the finish. I finished in 22:37 for a 7:36 pace putting me as the 72nd overall finisher out of 797, 20th of 482 females, and 10th out of 126 in my 20-29 age group. It was way off my PR and actually a slower pace than I hope to run my half marathon in just five weeks from now, so I wasn’t thrilled with that. It was for sure not the slowest 5k I’ve run, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse along a 5k course and wanted it to be over as badly. Here’s hoping it was just because of this cold I have and that it goes away quickly!

On my way to the finish - didn't even have energy to do a final kick.

On my way to the finish – didn’t even have energy to do a final kick.

I found Ian after the finish and despite not having a great race felt really good that I’d still come out and done this one. I even managed a smile for my post-race pic by the finish line.

Finish Line Shot

Finish Line Shot

This race is well-organized and supports an awesome cause so I highly recommend it for anyone in the area. Ian and I decided to take advantage of being up and out early to find somewhere to eat brunch and ended up at Eggspectation. This place was awesome. I started off with a hot chocolate to warm back up.

Delicious Hot Chocolate

Delicious Hot Chocolate

For brunch I ordered their Yoke Around the Clock meal. It’s a bagel cut in half, placed face down on the grill, and topped with sunny side up eggs, cheese and bacon. It was oh so good, and while I couldn’t eat all of the potatoes and fruit that came on the side, they were just as tasty. Check out Ian’s post over at Croutons Stuck in Futons for the full brunch recap.

Breakfast at Eggspectation

Breakfast at Eggspectation

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

I’m only two weeks into training for the Nike Women’s D.C. Half, but I’m getting more excited for this race everyday! I had a great run at the track and a solid tempo run so I’m feeling really good about my speed training. I ran 28.7 miles last week. Here’s the day by day training breakdown…

Monday: Spin Class in the morning followed by a lower body workout as soon as I got home.

Tuesday: I was back at the track this week for my speed session. My total workout was 7.4 miles with roughly a 2.5 mile warm-up, seven 400-meter repeats on the track with 100-meter recovery jogs, and about a 2.5 mile cool down. I compared my times to my last 400-meter repeat track workout just about a month ago and was thrilled with the progress!

Wednesday: Today was another cross training and strength day so I got in another spin class at Revolve in the morning followed by a lower body workout and 45 minutes on the elliptical in the afternoon.

Thursday: I hit the treadmill at my apartment gym for an early morning 7.3 mile tempo run. For the second straight week I felt really strong on this. I started off with a one mile warm-up at an 8-minute pace then started the tempo pace at 7:47 increasing the speed every five minutes. I hit a 7:03 pace for my last five minutes 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 stretched before heading off to get ready for the day.

Friday: Rest Day. It’s funny how used to exercising your body gets. It’s really hard for me to take a whole day off, but I’m really trying to train smart this time around!

Saturday: I was lacking motivation this morning, but finally got myself out on the roads around 10 for an out and back along the Custis and W&OD Trails. I’m glad I got myself out there. I made it 11 miles at an average 8:38 pace with the last 5 miles of the run all progressively faster ending with a 7:40 mile. The downhills on the way back definitely helped me out with that!

Sunday: I hit the treadmill at the apartment gym again for a quick 3 miler after a 15-minute warm-up on the stepper. I’ve always been able to run faster on a treadmill than outdoors, but still found my 6:58 pace at a .5 incline very encouraging and felt great after!

Quiet Sunday in the cardio section at my apartment gym

Quiet Sunday in the cardio section at my apartment gym