Race Recap: 2015 Marine Corps Marathon

Time to dust the keyboard off because this race deserves a recap. Last Sunday I ran with the Marines for my 11th marathon and 4th MCM. Some of you may remember my miserable race experience here two years ago where I fell apart after an injury-riddled training season and finished so incredibly far away from my goal time that I had worked so hard for.

It was devastating at the time – even more so than I let on. I was physically destroyed by the race, but the mental effects were what really got to me. I don’t know that I’ve ever let any athletic event knock me so far off my mental game. I had a few start and stop come-back attempts since then, but whenever things went slightly wrong in training and I realized a BQ (Boston marathon qualifier) wasn’t feasible, I’d back down from another marathon attempt not wanting to fail so miserably again. I was letting perfect be the enemy of good.

It took me two years to get back to a starting line of a marathon – the very same one that knocked me down in 2013. I credit the Oiselle team for getting me to this start line and rekindling my fire, passion and love for running. I’ve loved every single second of being a part of this team since joining a few years back, but one of the coolest experiences was going to Bird Camp this summer. (Check out my teammate Courtney’s recap of Bird Camp!)

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Pre-Race Day Lunch with the Oiselle Team!

Running around the mountains of Washington state with such amazing and inspiring women was just what I needed. After a lackluster summer of running, which included the month of June where I ran as many miles the whole month that I normally run in a week, this camp experience put me back on track. Since getting home from camp in mid-August, I’ve put in six runs a week every week (with the exception of last week’s taper and this week’s recovery). I’ve felt great doing it, had fun doing it and most importantly stayed healthy doing it.

The last week of August one of my Oiselle teammates (Thanks Kim!) posted that she unfortunately couldn’t run MCM this year, and would anyone on the team want to get her bib before the transfer period ended? Despite having virtually no base, I decided to go for it fresh off my motivating camp experience and quickly shifted gears from my new Army 10 Miler training plan to a tried and true Hal Higdon marathon training plan.

I figured with eight solid weeks to train I could get myself in good enough shape to run close to a sub-4 hour marathon and do it pain-free. My main goal would be to come away from this marathon experience loving the marathon again and ready to get back to my goal of chasing a BQ. This race was all of that and more. I missed my sub-4 by six minutes, but loved every second of my time along the race course and cannot wait to go after a BQ next March at the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in DC.

Now, finally on to the point of this post – the race recap!

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Quick Facts:

Finish Time: 4:06:35
Average Pace: 9:24
Place: 258 age group, 1,322 woman and 4,675 overal
Family & Friend Sightings: Too many to count
Smiles Along the Course: NONSTOP (picture proof below)

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Mile by Mile: 

8:43, 9:20, 9:01, 8:07, 8:41, 8:29, 8:52, 8:31, 8:48, 8:56, 9:07, 8:56, 9:01, 9:10, 9:16, 9:23, 9:23, 9:30, 9:32, 9:47, 9:49, 9:59, 9:57, 9:48, 10:26, 10:03, (final .65 – so much weaving put me well over .2 – was at a 9:25 pace)

The Long Story:

So things did not start off as all sunshine and rainbows. I got to what seemed like an unmoving security line at the Pentagon at 6:40 and despite not having to check a bag, I ended up missing the 7:55 start. The Marines normally perfect logistics definitely hit a snafu on this one. I haven’t experienced anything like this in my other MCM attempts – even the one just a few months after the Boston bombing. Apparently they tried out metal detectors this year and didn’t realize they wouldn’t work in the rain. Yikes!

I finally got through though after a mini-meltdown and worked my way over to the start. Once I got moving the miles just ticked by. A light rain had started and would continue through the first five miles or so – it was a pretty humid day so it felt good. I cruised through the first mile bobbing and weaving through the crowd of runners past Arlington Cemetery, up into Rosslyn and down Lynn Street.

The beginning of this course is a bit challenging with a few uphill miles, so I was pumped to see my parents and Ian as I rounded the corner to head up the hill on Lee Highway. They were holding a Syracuse pennant so they were easy to spot and would catch me three more times throughout the morning! I kept working up the hill although it surprisingly didn’t feel like I was working hard at all. It helped that I passed and chatted with a couple fellow birds and also spotted a few teammates cheering around mile two!

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Around two and a half we got to run back downhill coming down Spout Run before heading over the Key Bridge into Georgetown. My family was halfway down the bridge cheering like crazy for me – if you knew my Mom, you’d understand what a big deal it was that she was willing to wait on a bridge for me (she’s terrified of them)!

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I coasted down M Street and worked my way past mile five and toward Rock Creek Parkway. The crowd support and scenery for this race is out of this world! I saw my teammate Jackie coming at me on the other side of the course and screamed in excitement cheering her on – she’d go on to finish in the top 25 women despite having an incredibly tough day – holy, amazing! Soon after I spotted teammates Prianka and Caitlin cheering me on from a water stop. I passed the 4:15 pacer here, which was a welcome sight and in stark contrast to two years ago when multiple pace groups glided by me like I wasn’t even moving on this same part of the course.

In what felt like no time at all (I should mention that I never looked at my watch until I finished the race, so I didn’t have an exact idea of what time I was running), I was hitting the turn around on Rock Creek and starting to work my way back toward the Kennedy Center and over to Hains Point. I spotted more birds cheering on the sidelines and along the race course and seriously could not stop smiling I was having so much fun. I was singing along to any of the bands or boom boxes blasting music along the course (yes, I just said boom boxes…cut me some slack, I love alliteration!), high-fiving little kids and egging the crowd on to cheer louder!

The course finally thinned out around mile 10 – if you can call it that when there are 23,000+ runners. Basically this was when I finally felt like I wasn’t tripping over people or dodging and weaving as much as earlier in the race. I moved toward Hains Point thankful that it wasn’t a windy day and soon entered the blue mile. Team Blue is an incredible group that honors members of the U.S. military who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. An almost eerie silence fell as we made our way through sign after sign with pictures and names of military killed in action, followed by a wall of Team Blue members lining each side of Hains Point holding American flags and cheering us on. This was incredibly moving.

Just like that I was past the halfway point and working my way back toward the huge crowds along Independence Ave and the Mall. The signs from the crowd had me cracking up all morning long. “Run faster, I want to go home and watch some Netflix” may have been one of my favorites. I always love the “You run better than Congress/Metro” ones too. I also have to say that it’s impossible not to smile when you see a sign that says, “Smile if you pooped yourself”, but I can promise you that did not happen!

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At mile 17 I spotted the ‘cuse pennant and my family again. I could see them from so far away thanks to the pennant that I started jumping up and down and waving so they could see me. I collected my high-fives before rounding the corner to head up the Mall, past the Captiol Building and back down the Mall toward 14th Street Bridge. Mom, Dad & Ian made their way back toward the other side of the Mall to catch me again around mile 19. “Almost there,” I screamed excitedly thinking how awesome it was to feel this way going into the final 10k as opposed to the death march this felt like two years ago.

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I could feel that I was slowing down a bit over the bridge, but didn’t let it get to me and knew that my teammates had a cowbell corner set up just over the bridge before entering Crystal City around mile 22. Boy did it feel good to see them. Fellow bird Taylor snapped these awesome shots below capturing my excitement (and other birds) at seeing them along the course. This gave me a nice boost through the next mile as did the crowds lining the streets in Crystal City.

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The last part of Crystal City got a bit quiet as we worked our way back to the Pentagon. Just a couple more miles, I told myself, I’ve got this! I couldn’t believe how quickly it felt like the race passed. I never hit that point where I just needed it to be over.

As the crowds started to pick up again for the final mile, a huge smile broke out yet again across my face. I took it all in as I passed Arlington Cemetery yet again and turned to climb the monstrous, cruel hill to the finish line at Iwo Jima. I pushed up the hill and rounded the bend to the finish line. It felt like I was passing all sorts of people as I pumped my arms in the air and savored this finish experience, but I have no idea if I actually was, haha!

I saw Jackie on the sidelines just before crossing the finish for one last teammate spotting – never have I had such awesome support by so many people all throughout a race. It was just incredible! I proudly accepted my medal from the Marines and tried to walk as normally as possible to my meeting spot by River Place with my family. I could not wait to see them. I wish I could give them medals too for running all over town to cheer me on and keep my spirits up, but they had to settle for sweaty hugs instead. Sorry about that!

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Thanks for making it this far if you are still reading, and I hope you enjoyed my novel on my latest marathon experience! If you are a marathoner, you need to add MCM to your must-race list. (Although maybe wait to see if they back off on their plans to move the Expo to National Harbor next year first, ugh!)

Thanks to everyone who supported me along the way! Next up is RNR in DC this March, one day after my 32nd birthday. Who wants to join me?!

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

Last week was a great week back after a couple extremely busy weeks that made for some lousy weeks of running – or more appropriately barely running. I put in nearly 40 miles last week though – all easy paced to start getting back on track – and felt really great doing it. Here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

Monday: I nearly bailed on this run, but with a little motivation from Ian (Sunday night I told him no matter what excuses I made to remind me I said I absolutely had to run Monday night – he held me to this!), I got myself out the door after work for 3 easy miles on the W&OD at about an 8:45 pace.

Tuesday: I was up early for a P90X core workout then taught boot camp before getting in another 3 easy miles along the W&OD and Custis trails – again about an 8:50 pace. After work I ran home taking the Mt. Vernon, Four Mile Run and W&OD trails for about 6.7 miles at a 9:15ish pace. It absolutely downpoured for this run and my shoes were soaked through for days, but it was a blast.

Wednesday: Rest Day – much needed!

Thursday: I got my core workout in before teaching boot camp in the morning again, but wasn’t able to fit in any post bootcamp miles today. I had to work a bit later than planned, but thanks to the longer daylight hours at this time of year I was still able to run home again for another 6.6 miles this time at about an 8:45 pace.

Friday: I put in 5 miles at about an 8:20 pace along the Mt. Vernon trail on a beautiful and warm evening after work!

Saturday: I got up early (for me) and decided I wanted to run long-ish for the first time since my half marathons and Cherry Blossom. I put in 11 hilly miles along the W&OD and Custis trails averaging about 9:15 and felt great. I didn’t look at my watch at all along the way, but was pleasantly surprised to see my last 3 miles were by far my fastest.

Sunday: I almost took today off since Saturday’s 11 miler was chased with hours of walking around Bob’s Discount Furniture and Ikea, but managed to get out after dinner for 3 easy miles at an 8:20 pace that felt surprisingly good. Ian and I then went for an hour walk topping off a great week of exercise!

 

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

OK, I know it’s no longer morning, but I’m finally getting around to last week’s recap. It was an up and down week with some great workouts, a tough 5k and an awesome trail relay run!

Monday: My legs were feeling real heavy after Saturday’s speed session and Sunday’s race, but I pushed through three easy miles along the W&OD after work.

Tuesday: P90X in the morning followed by teaching early morning boot camp.

Wednesday: Thanks to a work-from-home day I got my run in during my favorite time of day to run turning lunch into runch! I put in 6X400s along the trail with a 400 recovery between each. I was so pumped when I got home and saw I’d done each one progressively faster working my way down from a 6:57 pace to a 6:16 one. Here are the splits: 1:44, 1:40, 1:39, 1:37, 1:36, 1:33

Thursday: P90X in the morning followed by teaching early morning boot camp and a quick strength workout of my own.

Friday: Another day of getting in my P90X routine before teaching boot camp in the morning followed by the Crystal City 5k Friday race at night. Recap coming soon!

Saturday: I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge marathon relay with fellow Oiselle teammates and had so much fun out on the trails! Recap on this one coming soon too.

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Sunday: I had good intentions of getting a run in, but turned into a lazy, recovery day that I really needed and felt great!

Race Recap: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I LOVE this race! It is an awesome course, an extremely well organized race and this year the we even got to take in the cherry blossoms at peak bloom!

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After work Friday I took the metro in to D.C. to the National Building Museum to pick up my packet. I was able to zip in and out without waiting in any lines for my bib or my t-shirt. I went with the regular cotton shirt instead of paying for the upgrade and thought this year’s was a pretty cool design.

Saturday, I kept the race weekend fun going by meeting up with fellow Oiselle teammates for a day before lunch at Vapiano. I seriously love being a member of this team – such an incredible group of women!

I was up at 5:15 Sunday, had a quick breakfast and headed out the door to drive to Rosslyn where I could metro in to the starting line. With 50-degree temps and no wind on tap I wore my Oiselle rogas, singlet and arm warmers.

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I got in to D.C. well before the race started and made my way to the bathroom lines which were a whole lot shorter and easier to access than at Rock ‘n Roll a month ago. Bag drop was a breeze and then I got in a solid warm-up before getting into my corral. I probably got in a bit early and ended up having to stand around for 15 or 20 minutes before we started.

Shortly before the race there was an accident on the course that forced them to change the course at the last minute. Race management did an incredible job of communicating this change and the race still went off on time completely seamlessly. Between miles four and six they ended up cutting out about a half of a mile.

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We set off down Independence Ave and out and back over Memorial Bridge. I promised myself I wouldn’t start out too fast for once and made myself stay behind the 8-minute pacer for the first mile. I felt really good and strong. The miles ticked by as we ran out on Rock Creek Parkway and back toward Hains Point. Miles four through six especially flew by!

By mile seven my legs were definitely starting to feel the fact that although I’ve been doing a great job working on speed, I haven’t been running much more than three or four miles at a time. I felt like I was crashing hard. I tried to pump my arms hoping my legs would follow, but around mile eight the 8-minute pace crew caught up to me. I did my best to keep them in my sights and tried to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossom trees lining the road.

I was really relieved to hit mile nine and leave Hains Point behind and head to the finish line. I always think of the last mile in terms of just having to run four laps around the track, so I loved that they had signs signifying the last 1200, 800 and 400 meters! I also love that the final sprint to the finish line is a slight downhill!

I crossed the line in an unofficial time of 1:16:28 for roughly 9.5 miles averaging just over an 8-minute pace. They are still re-measuring the course to come up with an official distance and will give us projected finish times, but I’m fairly confident I would have made it under 1:20.

I was so pleased with this time. It’s still a little bit off my PR on this course, but so much better than I’ve been doing and I really feel like my speed is coming back. I’m so close to getting back to where I want to be and seeing where I can take it from there!

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The mile-by-mile breakdown:
Mile 1 – 7:50
Mile 2 – 7:44
Mile 3 – 7:50

Mile 4 – 7:55
Mile 5 – 8:03
Mile 6 – 8:04
Mile 7 – 8:11
Mile 8 – 8:37
Mile 9 – 8:28
Mile 10 (.5 miles) – 7:44 pace

After I crossed the line I grabbed a water and made my way back to bag check. They were so well organized that they spotted my bib number as I was walking up and had my bag ready by the time I was at the table. I changed into a dry shirt and a hoodie and headed back to the finish line to see friends cross, but there were just so many people there I finally gave up and headed home.

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Instead of dealing with the metro I took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked back down the Mall, over Memorial Bridge and into Rosslyn where my car was parked. I went straight to my favorite bagel place in Courthouse – Brooklyn Bagel Bakery where I enjoyed an everything bagel with egg and cheese and a hot chocolate! Pretty good way to start off a Sunday!

Pure Barre DC – Oiselle Style

On Sunday, I tried out my first Pure Barre class in D.C. Thanks to several teammates who go their regularly, the Eastern Market studio hosted a group of DC birds for a free trial class. Photos are courtesy of Courtney over at Eat Pray Run DC.

I have to say I was a bit skeptical, but that’s only because I would rather just run all day everyday than have to cross train. It’s also a bit on the pricey side for me when I know I can do a lot of strength workouts out of my own home or at the gym I already pay a monthly fee for. Whether or not I actually do those strength workouts on my own is another story. 🙂

Our instructor Sydney was fantastic. You could tell she’s very experienced and did a really great job of keeping the class flowing while simultaneously stopping to help us newbies – something that is not easy to do. She also made the class fly by. I looked down at my watch at one point thinking maybe we were halfway through and we only had 10 minutes left to go.

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Another pro – I loved that it was set to a playlist. I don’t run with music much anymore unless I hit the treadmill, and forgot how fun it is to work out to tunes.

I honestly thought the strength component would be tougher. I’m not saying it was easy (it was not) – just that I thought it would be torturous. Reading things like this guy’s hilarious recap of attending Pure Barre with his fiancee made me expect the worst! Maybe I am just getting better at those strength workouts on my own …and those near daily P90X core sessions and push ups are having more of an impact than I realized!

I wish I had grabbed at least the 3 pound weights. You have a choice between 2, 3 or 5 for arm workouts and being overly cautious I grabbed the 2-pounders and did not get as much as I could have out of the arm sections.

The leg stuff was great and a few of those squats on your tiptoes while squeezing a ball between your thighs (there is probably an actual name for these) had my legs shaking pretty good. Still, I thought it was all very doable and having run a half marathon that morning had expected this to hurt a lot more. I was pretty proud I didn’t collapse mid-class! Adding pistol squats and single leg lunges back into my routine about a month ago definitely helped me out on these ones. We also did some hip opening and strengthening exercises I struggled a bit on that has to be helpful for runners doing this on a regular basis knowing how common hip tightness can be for us.

The stretching – now this was a whole other story and every bit as tough as I expected and then some for this not-at-all flexible runner. I nearly burst out laughing at a couple of the things we were expected to do – then realized as others in the group started to do them with no problem that this was no joke! Nose-to-knees? Ha, I can’t even touch my toes, so that is just not happening. From one position we were told to reach back and grab our foot if we could. I’m pretty sure my foot was in another zip code. My favorite was when the instructor raised her arms over her head and pulled back as far as she could then asked us to do the same – the only way my arms could find that position would be to start them behind my back and pull them up!!

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While Pure Barre may not be entirely my style of workout it was definitely a cool experience. The stretching clearly made an immediate impact as I was way less sore on Monday than I was just two weeks ago after the RNR DC half. So much of it is also great for runners, so I can see why so many like it. I don’t think I’d make it a regular thing, but could certainly see myself dropping in for a class here and there. If you’ve never tried it, I’d certainly recommend giving it a go!

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.

Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

Once again I’ve been MIA for awhile, but I’ve been busy with lots of good things happening. This week started off awful with no runs Monday through Wednesday, but then I had a strong end of the week, so I’ll focus on that for the recap!

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

Thursday: I taught morning boot camp then got in my P90X core workout. After work I put in just under 4 relatively quick, but still felt easy miles along Four Mile Run & W&OD trails. I was motivated for this run thanks to the arrival of my new Oiselle tool belt roga shorts and wazelle halter tank – the near 70 degree temps didn’t hurt either!

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Friday: I put in a speedy out and back negative split run along the W&OD for 4 miles.

Saturday: I was up early and all bundled for a very easy nearly 4 mile shake out run along Four Mile Run & W&OD. After 70 degrees two days earlier, a feels like of 22 felt awful!

Sunday: I ran the B&A Trail Half Marathon up in Annapolis and had a pretty good race – more to come soon. I also got in my P90X core routine and a Pure Barre class with my fellow DC Oiselle teammates in the afternoon. Pretty good day for working out!