Race Recap: Shamrock Fun

Today is time for another long overdue race recap – Shamrock weekend in Virginia Beach with the Oiselle team. This was such a fun weekend and it was so cool to get to meet so many of the birds in person for the first time, even though I already felt like I knew many of them.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start on my ride down Friday. Traffic was crazy and despite giving myself a two-hour cushion, I made it to the expo with just five minutes to spare. Well before the change deadline, I made the switch from the half to the 8k, which was Saturday morning so this was my only chance to get my bib. I noticed they gave me a half marathon bib anyways and probably should have said something, but I just assumed the chip would still work for the 8k. It did not.

I was in and out so quickly I can’t really tell you much about the expo, but I did enjoy race weekend enough that I’d be willing to go back again and find out some more another year!

I was really impressed how integrated the hotels seemed to be in the process for race weekend. I stayed about 15 miles from the start in one of the further away hotels, but still immediately upon check-in they said they had a note in their system that I was there for the race. They had an info sheet about shuttles, complimentary wifi, pre-race complimentary breakfast for those running the half/full on Sunday, automatic late check-out and more. Nice work, Holiday Inn – Greenwich.

After a few hours sleep I was up bright and early for the race Saturday. Fortunately there was a lot of parking near the race. Naturally I parked more than a mile away since I was nervous about getting closer, not finding a spot and then getting lost. Still it worked out well – and it was free parking. Living near D.C., you don’t see that too often!

Sunrise on my walk to the start.

Sunrise on my walk to the start.

I wore my new Oiselle shimmel tank, fresh green distance shorts and some calf sleeves. I could have used some arm warmers or maybe my lesley knickers instead of the shorts, but other than being chilly for the start, it wasn’t too bad.

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By chance I bumped into the other birds who were running on Sunday on their shakeout run and was able to say hi before the race. It definitely put a smile on my face before the start. I’d see them again on my way to the finish too! I lined up in corral 2 and went out at a pace I knew I could sustain for the duration. When you’re 7 minutes off a PR in a 5-mile race you know you’re out of shape, but regardless it was still a fun race. The course was mostly flat and fast and featured some great views along the ocean. It could be a rough one if the wind really picked up, but wasn’t too bad that morning.

Saturday night we hit up an Italian restaurant for a great team dinner and some fun bonding time – even if Bart Yasso did stand us up! Sunday was another early morning to meet up with Kristin, our team manager, and the other 8k runners to cheer on our teammates running the half. This was a blast and really inspiring – man there are some speedy birds on this team!

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It is so much fun being a part of this team. They inspire me every day and I love the support system I’ve found in them. Such an awesome group of women I’m proud to call myself a part of!

 

Race Recap: Such A Rush

Last Wednesday I ran my first-ever track race at the DC Road Runners Track Championships as part of the Bring Back the Mile Tour. It was so much fun and made me sort of wish I’d run track in high school, although I wouldn’t want to give up all the great softball memories and friends I have either.

Rocking my Oiselle stipe tank and distance shorts with CEP compression socks.

Rocking my Oiselle tank and distance shorts with CEP compression socks.

Ian and I drove up to the track about an hour early so I could get signed up for my heat, watch some of the earlier races to see how things were done and get a full warm-up in. My coach gave me a goal time of 6:30 so I ended up signing up for the under-7 minute heat. After my warm-up I was feeling good and made my way toward the start to wait for them to call our heat. I was pretty surprised at how nervous I was for a one-mile race… I mean I’ve done 26X this multiple times.

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Once the starting call was given the nerves were gone and the adrenaline was pumping. It was such a rush and I loved every second of it. I jumped out quick so I wouldn’t get tied up with others near the start and led almost to the 200 mark before the speedsters in my heat took over. I spent most of the race in 4th place. Clocks were set up at the 200 and 400, but somehow I managed to instantly forget my splits. Ian’s pictures gave me a pretty good idea though, and it looks like I ran my first and last laps the fastest with the 3rd one being the slowest.

During lap four I moved up a little and ran with fellow DC Running Coach teammate Michelle. We dueled our way down the final straightaway to the finish. I felt like I was flying. Obviously my pace was nowhere near the elite heats that would go later, but it was still a pretty quick mile for me! We crossed the finish line at almost the same time. They gave me third in 6:21, but to be honest, it was a pretty close call and probably could have gone either way. The pictures are great – we match each other step for step to the finish.

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I’m really loving the shorter races lately and being on the track with people cheering and seeing you run the whole way was a blast. I’ll absolutely look to do another one of these soon.

Have you ever run a track race? What did you think?

Rough Day Running: Nike Women’s DC Half Marathon Race Recap

My race day started off with a 4:44 a.m. alarm, and unlike I usually do when early alarms go off, I popped right out of bed. Exhausted from a long week of travel for work I actually went to bed early Saturday night and didn’t feel like I needed the snooze button Sunday morning. All my race gear was laid out, so I was quickly ready to go.

The first sign of a bad day struck when I grabbed my Garmin. The display screen was blank. I had just charged it the night before, but I think it went into it’s protected mode which I’ve had trouble with before. I pulled up the email from Garmin support on how to bring it back to life, but after I did it beeped that the battery was low. NOOOOOO! I had a minor panic attack before Ian calmed me down and assured me this wasn’t the end of the world. I was going to have to wear a regular stopwatch for the race and not have instant feedback on my current pace or beeps with mile splits at all the markers. I haven’t done an outdoor run without my Garmin or before that my Nike Plus wrist band in years. I convinced myself not to worry about it and headed toward the metro.

I was really early, so there was barely a line for the porta potties. I was one of the first people in the 6:30-7:29 pace corral, which turned out to be pretty sparse. I had to go to the bathroom again, but stressed out about whether or not I’d have time so I decided not to go. I think I might drink too much water on race morning sometimes. This was a bad decision and would come back to haunt me as I really couldn’t hold it anymore and had to find a porta potty just past the 10k-mark wasting about 90 seconds.

Other than that little bit of TMI, everything seemed perfect for the start of the race. Temps were in the low 50s, so I wasn’t freezing like at the start of the Cherry Blossom, but it wasn’t going to be too warm to run in either. The Nike trainers kicked things off with some fun active stretches to get everyone warmed up and pumped up, and then to top things off they introduced Shalene Flanagan and Joanie Benoit Samuelson. The two both sporting Boston tees were going to “jog” the race with us.

At the start, ready to go.

At the start, ready to go.

With so few people in my corral and even fewer in the one ahead of us, I was very close to the start line. I didn’t have any issues with overcrowding or weaving in and out of people at the start, which was awesome. I’ve heard some rumblings on social media that this was a bit of an issue for others further back however. We headed out for the first mile that led us through a tunnel with drummers and strobe lights reverberating off the walls pumping up the energy. From there the course was very similar to the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler running along the Mall, out and back over the Memorial Bridge, past the Kennedy Center and through Hains Point.

Coming out of the tunnel at mile 1

Coming out of the tunnel at mile 1

Right from the start something didn’t feel right. It was hard to breathe even during mile 1 – like that out of shape, out of breath I’m running way too hard feeling. I wasn’t running way too hard though. I ran my first mile right on pace in 7:30 and my second at about 7:27. It felt hard though. Really hard. I desperately tried to stay positive though, and told myself it was good that I wasn’t going out too fast. I didn’t want to let my mind beat me when I’d trained so hard for this race.

My next two miles slowed to about a 7:50 pace even though I felt like I was pushing to keep at my 7:30 goal. Again I told myself to stay positive and that I still had energy in the tank to make up for it. This was not a fun way to run. I wasn’t taking in any of the sites or enjoying the bands and cheer sections along the course that were all really great.

I entered the long, lonely stretch that is Hains Point and told myself this was my spot to make up some time. I’ve been running these roads so much this year and there was actually no major headwind to deal with on Sunday…this never happens at Hains

Point! Instead I got even slower. Nike did a great job of filling this four-mile-stretch with motivational signs that I tried to use for motivation. By mile 9 though, when I realized I’d slipped well below an 8-minute pace and was only slowing more, I almost broke down and cried.

Leading from start to finish...wow!

Leading from start to finish…wow!

Mile 10 brought the first real hill up an on ramp, but it wasn’t even that tough of a hill when you think about the course for the National Half Marathon also here in D.C. At this point I wanted to just run off the course and hide somewhere to stop the struggling. Mile 11 brought us back through the tunnel and into the final stretch down to the Capitol Building and back towards the finish on Pennsylvania Ave. I swear that loop around the front of the Capitol took days. I saw Ian just after the 20k mark and tried to smile as I ran by, but just wanted this race to be over.

Just get me to the finish line!

Just get me to the finish line!

You can see the finish line of this race from a long ways away. The fact that I didn’t have any energy to even kick to the finish made it seem like I was never going to get there! I did finally cross the line though and got high fives from Shalene and Joan Benoit – the highlight of my day. I broke down a little when I saw my friend Lindsay who was handing out water at the finish and told her I felt awful and had a terrible run. Being a runner she just gave me an understanding hug and told me there’d be another chance for a PR.

Only highlight of the race...getting high fives from Shalene Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson at the Finish!

Only highlight of the race…getting high fives from Shalene Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson at the Finish!

I kept moving through the finish area collecting my Tiffany’s necklace from the ROTC guys in tuxedos and then grabbed my super cute finisher’s tee. Well done Nike. I met up with Ian and immediately lost it and started sobbing in his arms. I realize this is a ridiculous reaction to not getting the time I wanted, but I was exhausted emotionally and physically and it just came out. I’d trained so hard for this race and was really disappointed that I’d had such a bad day. It wasn’t just that I was mad about my time on a day and a course that were tailor made for a PR, but that I’d hurt for the whole race and hadn’t enjoyed any of it like I usually do on race day.

ROTC guys getting ready to hand out Tiffany's necklaces to the finishers

ROTC guys getting ready to hand out Tiffany’s necklaces to the finishers. Kudos to Ian for getting them to do the prom style picture!

Finishers Tee and Necklace

Finishers Tee and Necklace

I had a goal of finishing in 1:38 and ended with a time of 1:47:48 putting me in 812 place overall and 236 out of 3,744 in my division. It’s funny how relative running can be. A few years ago I would have been over the moon with that time, but after the training I put in, I know I could have done much better. In the grand scheme of things it’s just a race time. Nobody other than me really cares what time I come in. Even my goal time wasn’t going to win me any awards. I finished another half marathon and that’s something to be proud of.

Also, one of the best things about running is that there’s always another chance. I’m thinking about adding in another half marathon to give it another shot, but am trying to give myself a few days to see how I feel before jumping into a new race. I’m looking at the half in Alexandria on Memorial Day weekend or the Zooma half in Annapolis on June 1. Has anyone done either of these? What are your thoughts? How do you deal with a tough race?

Beautiful Day for a PR!

The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler was a blast this morning! The weather was a bit chilly when I first got out there, but was perfect to run in and the sun was shining all morning. I set a new 10-mile time PR with a 1:15:54 finish for an average 7:35 pace! Full recap to come this week, but here are a few pics courtesy of Ian. Congrats to everyone who raced today!

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Fueling on the Run

Figuring out the right way to fuel along the way during your races can be tough. For my first few marathons, I honestly had no clue and no plan. I just drank the water and Gatorade along the course, and well, there was that Kit Kat Bar I basically stole from some guy at mile 18 of my first marathon!

Eventually, I smartened up and got a better understanding of how important it was to give yourself some fuel along the way. What a difference! My stomach is usually pretty strong, but I still had a tough time figuring out what to eat since I can be a bit picky. I remember just taste testing a Gu once that came in a bag of post-race goodies and thinking it was the grossest thing ever. That was probably in 2003, but I wasn’t about to give it a second chance so I started looking elsewhere.

I tried breaking a peanut butter Powerbar into pieces, but it could be really dry and tough to get down, especially later in the race. When various gummy type energy bites started to come out I got very excited. I used the Gu Chomps at first, but they could also be tough to chew through. PowerBar blasts were my savior. They were a lot easier to take since they are juicy in the center.

In my last two marathons though I haven’t taken my last set of planned bites around mile 21. The first time I felt sick to my stomach and the second time I just couldn’t stomach the idea of eating more of them. My plan this time is to have some variety so I’m not eating the same thing. That means trying something new though.

I’ve been practicing with things during my long runs and I noticed Gu has flavors like chocolate and peanut butter, so I thought it might be time to drop my decade long grudge against them. I’ve tested out the chocolate Gu twice now, and not only does it taste alright, but my stomach handles it well and it’s actually easier to down the Gu then fumble with 5 or so PowerBar blasts. I have some Honey Stinger gummies to try out soon too, and I’m going to keep experimenting till I’ve found just the right combinations.

How do you fuel your long runs and races?

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Just be sure to take your Gu with water, not Gatorade!

Nike Women’s Half Marathon DC: Here I Come!

My first goal race of 2013 is the Nike Women’s half marathon in Washington D.C., and I cannot wait! Monday marked the start of my official training plan. I kicked things off with a cross training and strength training day before hitting the hills this morning. I’ve decided to follow the Hal Higdon advanced half marathon plan, but am switching the Monday and Wednesday runs to cross training days. As much as I want to get back to running six days a week, I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet and don’t want to overdo things again this year only to end up re-injured.

I’m a bit annoyed at myself for paying 100 bucks more for this race than my last full marathon (this was $160), but sometimes the experience is worth the cost and I’m hoping that’s the case with this one. It’s the inaugural race in D.C., so I’m excited to be a part of it. I love that Nike partners with Team in Training – an awesome organization that supports the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and also the group I ran my first marathon with. Another bonus…instead of a medal when you cross the finish line, you’re given a little blue box with a Tiffany’s necklace in it!

I ran the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco way back in 2005. I’m not sure why, but I remember less about this race than any other marathon I’ve done, but I do recall it being pretty well organized and a fun event. It was marathon number two for me and I’ve come a long ways since then. I had so much energy in college that I could go out and run a marathon without really training (just very slowly), and I also didn’t really know the right ways to train for a race. I had a basic 3-day-a-week and one long weekend run plan that I kind of, sort of followed as the semester got busier. Unfortunately, it was usually the long runs that I didn’t always fit in.

Race nutrition wasn’t something I’d even heard about. I thought people eating along the course needed to suck it up. I mean going 4 to 5 hours without food shouldn’t be that difficult, right? Oh, I had so much to learn. I’m fairly certain my pre-race meal the night before was at a bar where I had a grilled cheese sandwich and a Miller Lite. OK, it was two Miller Lites. What was I thinking?!

Needless to say, I will be A LOT more prepared for the Nike Half. I learn more with each race I do and can’t wait to put my latest knowledge into action as I take on this course. I love racing in my own backyard and that’s what this course feels like. I know and have repeatedly run every inch of it, which I think will be a huge benefit come race day. We’ll get some awesome views of the monuments along the Mall, do an over and back on Memorial Bridge, pass by the Kennedy Center, brave Hains Point and finish up on Pennsylvania Ave not too far from the White House. I’ll also get to do a dress rehearsal a few weeks earlier at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler which follows a similar course.

My goal for the race is 1:38:15, which would be a 5-minute PR and a 7:30 pace. I’m going to have to really kick it up a notch in my training to get back to running at that pace and be able to sustain it for that long. My fastest pace for a longer distance race to date is 7:40, but that was also “only” a 10 miler, so it’s an ambitious goal, but one I think I can reach if I prep right. I also know a whole bunch of people who are also running this race, which makes it even more fun.

Let me know if you’re running the DC Nike Half as well and what your goal is for the race – can’t wait to see everyone out there on April 28!

Volunteering at the Veterans Day 10k

I’ve run a lot of races over the years reaping the benefits of a lot of helpful volunteers whether it’s someone giving out a helpful hint at packet pick up, a cup of water just when you need it or cheers of encouragement when you’re at your lowest point. Throughout the past year or two, I decided it was my turn to give back a little, and have been trying to volunteer at races whenever I can. Usually, I try to help out at pre-race packet pick-ups so I can still run on race day, but while I’m on a temporary running hiatus I figured now was a good time to actually pitch in on race day.

I signed up to help with last Saturday’s onsite packet pick-up at the Veterans Day 10k in West Potomac Park. It was the same course I ran in early October for the Run for the Parks 10k, so runners could expect fast, flat, a little bit boring and if windy, a potentially brutal course. The weather gods smiled on this event though. It was sunny and the temperature hovered around the 50s – not half bad for early November!

I had to leave my apartment a little after 6 to get to the start of packet pick-up on time, so without a car and the metro closed, my only option was to bike over. It was still a bit dark when I took off, so I was very thankful my Dad helped me install blinking lights on the front and back of my bike when he was in town a couple weeks ago. I also sported a Nathan blinking reflective vest just for good measure. I’m pretty sure anyone could see me from a mile away!

Things started off slow with a few early birds there to grab their race bib and t-shirts right at 6:30, but quickly picked up steam as we got closer to 7. The hour before the race started was a blur. The lines were constant and we were all moving as quickly as we could to make sure all the runners were ready to toe the starting line by the 8 a.m. start time.

A handful of us were stationed at computers looking up runners by their name. I love Pacers’ system of assigning the race number at packet pick-up rather than having to search through a pile of numbers to pull the right one. I would simply find the runners name, grab the next bib in my pile and type that number in to assign it to them. Several others behind us at the computers hustled back and forth as we yelled out t-shirt sizes making sure to retrieve the right one for us.

One of the big things I’ve learned as a result of volunteering over the last year is that I will never, ever again complain to a volunteer about a logistical race issue or wanting a different t-shirt size. They have no control over it! For the most part, people were great.There were lots of smiles and excitement as people picked up their bibs and shirts and got ready to run. There’s always an exception though! A few bad apples were very upset with me for not allowing them to switch t-shirt size. I tried to explain they could just check back after the race to see if other sizes were available and that I wasn’t allowed to give out different shirts until we knew we had enough, but they didn’t want to hear it. Thankfully those folks were few and far between, so I was able to just smile, wish them luck and move on to the next person in line.

I decided to hang around and watch some of the finishers come in and boy were they flying! The top three men all crossed the line in less than 30 minutes. The winner, Chris Kwiatkowski, finished in 29:47 and the women’s winner, Carmen Hussar, came in shortly after at 33:45 for paces of 4:48 and 5:26 per mile respectively. Impressive!

It was one of those days I really wish I’d brought my nice camera along. Riding into D.C. looking at the red sky over the monuments as the sun just started to rise on a foggy morning was absolutely beautiful and my iPhone just couldn’t do it justice. Also, as you can see in the finish line pic, my shutter speed on the iPhone couldn’t quite keep up with the lead runner so all I caught was the finish line banner falling to the ground.

It was a great way to start my day and while I really can’t wait to run again, I also look forward to helping out on the volunteer side of things again soon too.