Race Recap: Swamp Rat Run 5k

Time for a long overdue race recap. This June I headed home to Syracuse for my bridal shower weekend. The weekend happened to coincide with the first road race I ever ran, so I couldn’t resist signing up.

Ian & Me being goofy on the way to the race!

Ian & Me being goofy on the way to the race!

It was as fun as I remember it being the first time around. It reminded me of a cross-country race. We lined up across the parking lot behind a giant chalk line for the start, which turned into a free for all to a narrower paved path leading to the road that most of the race took place on. I went out hard on the first mile and tried to take advantage of a slight downhill on the way out.

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The roads were still open to cars, albeit very slow ones, so we had to stay on our toes. I slowed a bit for mile two but still felt pretty strong. The slight uphill on the way back wasn’t too painful and I was able to pick off a few runners. A short downhill gave me a nice boost before the final surge to the finish.

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I crossed the line in 23:53. A pretty solid effort and one of my better races in awhile. It wasn’t a PR, but it was a whole lot better than the time my 17-year-old self ran back in the day prompting my #FasterAt30 hashtag for the day!

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The tee shirts weren’t great, but nothing you can complain about for a race that inexpensive. It was well organized and I was a big fan of the little chocolate milk at the finish!

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Back to Where it All Began…

The first 5k race I ever ran (at least that I can remember) was the Swamp Rat Run in Cicero, New York. I was 17. My older brother Dan found out about it and asked if I wanted to run it with him. To say we were newbies is, well, a bit of an understatement.

I remember stopping at a gas station on our way out that morning so Dan could get a red bull to pound before the race for extra energy. If only I knew then what I know now I could have advised him this was a bad idea!

I lined up at the start line wearing a basketball practice pinny, shorts that came down to my knees and were likely not made of any kind of wicking fabric and…basketball sneakers (they were low tops if that makes it any better). I wish there were pictures. I can guarantee you that none of my ensemble was nearly as fashionable or functional as any of my Oiselle duds I race in now!

Dan, who was always a pretty good sprinter, bolted off with the front-runners leaving me in his dust at the start. That red bull would come back to bite him though as I actually ended up passing him along the way to my 25-minute finish! I remember it was really hot out and I can vaguely picture the start/finish area, but the only clear memory I have of that race was how cool it felt to cross that finish line. The results were even published in the local paper the next day. I was hooked.

This year that same race coincides with my bridal shower weekend, so I’ll be home in Syracuse for it. I know it’ll be a busy weekend, but I couldn’t resist and had to sign up. Thirteen years later at 30 years old, I’ll be back on the same start line where my love affair with racing began. The race experience will probably be a bit different, but I am pretty sure about one thing – that I will get that same feeling of pure excitement and joy as I cross the finish line that I’ve gotten to enjoy time after time in the last 13 years of racing everything from 5ks to marathons!

From SwampRatRun.com Website

From SwampRatRuns.com Website

Do you remember your first race? Have you ever gone back and run it again?

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!

 

Meeting a Running Idol

On Sunday I volunteered to help out at the U.S. National Road Racing Championships right here in Alexandria. The day started with a 5k followed by the 12k women’s championships and the 12k men’s championships and community race.

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I checked in at the volunteer tent at 5:30 in the dark and jumped at the chance when they asked a few of the volunteers to staff the elite/masters area. Shalene Flanagan, Abdi Abdirahman, Molly Huddle and more amazing runners were going to be there! Ahh! I also spotted Oiselle Haute Volee runner Caitlin Comfort!

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Naturally I was too nervous to go up and say anything to any of them – not to mention I didn’t want to mess with anyone’s pre-race prep, so instead I wandered around in awe and tried to do my assignment of keeping people who weren’t supposed to be in the VIP area out. I probably didn’t do a very good job of this, but I was a bit better at running checked bags to masters finishers after they crossed the line and worked their way through the finisher’s chute.

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It was such a cool day. I got a front row seat at the finish line to see Molly Huddle beat out Shalene Flanagan and set a world record in the process finishing in 37:50. Aaron Braun nearly broke an American record in the men’s race as he coasted to the finish in 34:28 waving to the crowd.

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To top it all off, Deena Kastor was at the race. It was her record that Molly broke. She holds the American records for the fastest marathon and half marathon among others and is one of my running idols! I was so excited to get to meet her and talk for a minute, and she graciously took the time to take a picture with me too totally making my day!

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Moving Forward

In my Marine Corps Marathon recap I mentioned I’d be doing a post on what I thought went wrong. After playing it over in my head a million times since Sunday though, I have decided against it. Thinking of every little possible thing I could have done differently or done better, and continuing to beat myself up for it, won’t change my finish time from Sunday.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to just forget about it and not learn anything from it. There is always something to be learned from every race – good or bad. It just means that I don’t see the need to dissect every factor that could have impacted my race.

Instead I’m choosing to focus on things I can do moving forward to help me hit my goals in future races.

  • Stick to a strength training plan all the way through my training cycle.
  • Do my best to get enough sleep on a daily basis to help keep my immune system strong and fighting off colds.
  • Don’t change too many things up too close to race day.
  • Get more training runs in at or faster than goal pace.
  • Conversely, make sure I have enough easy runs that really are easy runs.
  • Find new shoes and make sure they work for me.

It all seems pretty simple. Now, time to put it into action!

Hopefully, this will be my smile at the end of my next race – not just at mile 1.5!

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What big lessons have you learned from racing that have helped you get better?

 

Army Ten Miler: View From the Sidelines

On Sunday, I did a bit of a role reversal. I went out and cheered runners on in the Army Ten Miler rather than racing myself. I had a blast, but boy do I have a whole new level of respect for fans trying to pick out their runners among the crowd in large races.

I knew a handful of runners including friends that live in the area, an Oiselle teammate (who unfortunately I didn’t spot), bloggers that I follow (Congrats Ashley on a great race!), and my future sister-in-law Adrienne (her 1st race longer than a 5k!) and her sister Courtney. I printed out a course map and a list of starting times for the different waves to carry with me and help me plot out a plan for watching the race.

I woke up bright and early Sunday – something usually only reserved for my own race days – and got ready for the day. I took a bikeshare bike from Court House to Rosslyn where I walked down to Rt. 110 to see the runners between the 1 and 2 mile mark as they looped by Arlington Cemetery up toward Memorial Bridge. I made it in time to see the Wounded Warriors come through first – so inspiring – followed by the race leaders.

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I’ve run some pretty large races over the years, but seeing the waves and waves of people running was unbelievable. Granted I was at an early spot in the race, but seriously it was elbow to elbow and never let up for the 40 or so minutes I was there.

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After spotting Adrienne and Courtney and cheering them on I made my way back to the Rosslyn metro – with a quick hot chocolate stop at Starbucks first. It’s not nearly as warm watching a race as it is running one!

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I got off at the Smithsonian Metro and met up with another Oiselle teammate to cheer on runners near the turnaround on Independence Ave. Unfortunately I missed everyone I knew at this point. I’m not sure if my hot chocolate stop made me get there a few minutes too late or if I just missed them in the crowd, but I still tried to offer encouragement to as many runners going by as I could! I’m really glad I made it out and had a lot of fun being on the other side of things for a change.

I also spotted this during the day making me super pumped for MCM…

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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?