I’m a Boston qualifier! Recapping the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon

No need to bury the lede — I qualified for the Boston Marathon in Rehoboth Beach on Saturday!

Three days later, and the excitement still hasn’t worn off. I really did it! All that hard work paid off! Next September, I will get to register for the 2019 Boston Marathon.

My BQ standard is 3:40, and I ran a 3:35:00:7 — that’s right, seven-tenths of a second over a perfect 3:35, which was my goal. If you run five minutes or more under your standard, the Boston Athletic Association lets you register during week one of registrations — not sure if this counts. Anyone know? The field for the Boston Marathon has gotten so competitive over the past few years that to gain entrance into the 2018 marathon, you had to run a whole three minutes, 23 seconds under your standard — which is why I was shooting for 3:35 instead of 3:40. I should have a pretty good cushion for 2019, barring any major jumps in the cutoff time.

The road to a BQ goes through Rehoboth 

The Rehoboth Marathon was my fourth full marathon, and the first time I trained specifically for a BQ. I decided to go for it after I ran the Charlottesville Marathon last April in 3:42:15, surprising myself — it was a difficult course, and my last long run before my taper was a disaster of a 20-miler. I always train hard, but I knew if I pushed myself even harder, I could earn a Boston qualifier. Enter Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon training plan, which had me running Yasso 800s (I truly believe this is what got me the 3:35 … more on that in a bit), hill repeats and three 30-mile weekends comprised of 10 miles one day, 20 miles the next.

It was a damn tough plan, but it worked. I chose Rehoboth because I’ve been vacationing there most of my life, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world. The course is also super flat, unlike, well, every other marathon I’ve run. I think the fast course, coupled with that training plan and the amazing weather on race day, helped me meet my goal.

Speaking of the weather, I was REAL nervous about it. The race (which is both a full and a half marathon) has a really active Facebook group, and about 10 days out from the race, people started posting forecasts. One of the early forecasts called for 30 mph winds, and my heart sunk immediately when I saw that. I really feel the crazy winds hurt me in the Annapolis Running Classic and the Turkey Chase 10K two weekends ago, so I was not happy about possibly facing the same thing in the marathon. Fortunately, the forecast changed and there was almost no wind at all! With temperatures at the start of the race in the 40s, and the sun shining, it really was pretty ideal weather for a December race.

The race

My plan was to run with the 3:40 pace group for at least the first half of the marathon, then pass them by. I figured staying with the 3:40 group in the beginning would keep me from starting out too fast, then burning out late in the race. It ended up being the right strategy.

Both the half and full marathon started off at the Rehoboth Bandstand on Rehoboth Avenue, and right away, I noticed how crowded it was. I was pretty much running shoulder to shoulder with other runners until I broke off from the pace group at mile 14. That was the only thing I really didn’t like about the race — but when you’re running on narrow-ish streets, through a state park and down a rail trail, it’s kind of to be expected. I definitely had to apologize a few times to other runners I elbowed!

That aside, I thought the course was just beautiful. After starting in downtown Rehoboth, runners in both races ran through Cape Henlopen State Park, a favorite place of mine. The half marathoners turned around at a pavilion inside the park, while everyone running the marathon ran through the park and into Lewes Beach. We even got to run along the coast line for a hot second. At around mile 10, we ran past a Dairy Queen, where workers were handing out small servings of vanilla ice cream. While that was a nice idea, there was no way I was brave enough to try eating ice cream when I still had 16 miles left to run — I’ve had issues with dairy during training as it is. I stuck with my typical marathon fueling plan, which is taking Gu at miles five, 10, 15 and 20. It worked, though I felt my stomach start to grumble just before I hit mile 15 and got worried that a crash was imminent. Fortunately, the Gu (shout out to the lemon sublime and toasted marshmallow flavors!) did its job.

After turning around in Lewes Beach, the marathon runners went back through the park, and I decided it was time for me to go off on my own. At that point, I had been running a steady 8:20 pace, and it felt really comfortable. I started to speed up into the low 8s, while still making a point to appreciate the view around me (if you haven’t visited Cape Henlopen State Park, you totally should!) When I looked at my watch and saw I ran mile 15 in 7:58, I got a little nervous that I was going too fast, but I still felt great. I ran mile 16 in 8:07 and 17 in 8:16, and then came upon two runners who were chatting about running Boston.

I told them I was trying to qualify, and the one runner, James, asked me what time I was shooting for. I said I needed 3:40, but wanted a 3:35. He offered to pace me the rest of the marathon, which was so nice of him. He told me he was trying to take it easy with a 3:40 time, so he was quite obviously a much faster runner than I am! At this point, I was still feeling really strong and we hit miles 18 and 19 (which were back in the town of Rehoboth) at a sub-8 pace.

That pace continued as we ran miles 20 and 21 together, then we entered the Junction and Breakwater Trail, a rail trail that I didn’t even know existed until this race. (Now I have a new place to run when I come to the beach!) The trail was a little uneven, but not too bad, and I was able to hold a steady pace in the high 7s/low 8s. One big highlight was the dozens of flags hanging above the trail at mile 22, representing countries from all around the world. The volunteers at that stop were playing awesome music, too. At that point, I remember looking down at my watch and seeing I was at three hours, and knew that I could conceivably finish in the low 3:30s. After the turnaround point at the end of the trail, it was time to head back into Rehoboth, and I knew the finish line was near!

At mile 24, I started to hit “the wall,” and even began to feel a bit queasy. But my running partner cheered me on and I managed to power through. At mile 25, as we were running into Rehoboth, a spectator called out, “You look so athletic!” which made my day. At that point, I kept my eyes trained on the sidelines looking for my husband (who was in the bathroom when I crossed the finish line at the Charlottesville Marathon, haha.)

This time, he was right there at mile 26, and when he saw me, he yelled “EMPTY THE TANK! The finish line is right around the corner!” So I pretty much pushed as hard as I could mentally, ran that last 0.2 with everything left in me and crossed the finish line in a hair over 3:35. I hugged my new friend, who congratulated me on the BQ. Then I met up with my husband, who had brought a change of clean clothes for me, and it was time to hit the after party! I got three beer tickets, for three Dogfish Head Seaquench Ales (one of my favorite beers), and boy, did they taste good!

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Why I qualified 

Aside from the kindness of a fellow marathoner, there are a few reasons why I had such a successful race.

  1. Yasso 800s. This speed workout is named after its creator, Runner’s World’s Bart Yasso, who realized he could predict his marathon time, more or less, by how fast he could run 800 meters. My training plan had me doing the 800s every three weeks, starting off with repeats of four, all the way up to repeats of eight. I ran my repeats in 3:35, and ….. voila, a 3:35 marathon! Of course there is probably more to it than that, but I was amazed at how accurate the 800s turned out to be. I tweeted Yasso after the race, and he said he was actually in Rehoboth cheering on the runners — so I ran past him and didn’t even realize!
  2. I ran more than ever before. This is a no brainer, but the more miles you log, the faster you will get. In previous training cycles, I’d always run one 20-miler before tapering. This time, I ran three. Plus, the day before the long run always included a medium-long run– for example, eight miles Saturday then 16 on Sunday; nine miles, then 19 miles; and finally, three weekends of 10 miles, then 20 miles. Some weekends I felt like I did nothing but run!
  3. The weather! Totally out of a runner’s control, but bad weather can make or break a race. I struggled with what to wear during this race, and settled on a long-sleeved technical top and running tights. I did not wear a running jacket, and I’m glad I didn’t, because even with temperatures in the 40s, it started to warm up pretty quickly. I never felt too hot or cold, and I feel like I really lucked out there.
  4. I followed the long, slow distance rule during long runs, but also worked on finishing fast. You’re supposed to do your long runs during marathon training at a pace that’s easy and comfortable for you, which is probably not your race pace. I usually have a hard time doing that, but this time, I ran my long runs in the 9-minute range. But I also threw in a few marathon pace miles in there and worked on finishing fast (I ran the last two miles of my 20-milers at a sub-8 pace.) I feel that definitely helped me in the last few miles of the Rehoboth Marathon, when I was pushing hard physically and mentally.
  5. I believed in myself. Simple, but true! I’ve spent the last few months thinking about my goal and dreaming of what it would feel like to run a BQ time. I knew I had the physical ability to do it, and I’d certainly put in the work. I truly saw this as my race. And it was.

Since I qualified for Boston 2019, that leaves me in search of a marathon in 2018! What should my next one be? I’m thinking of targeting a November marathon, but I’m so used to training for marathons over the winter that I kind of want to do a spring one, too. I welcome your suggestions!

 

Why turkey trots are a great Thanksgiving tradition

Life has been pretty busy lately. In the last week, I bought a house, traveled to Pennsylvania and Virginia to see family for Thanksgiving and … ran two Thanksgiving-themed races, Rip It Events’ Turkey Chase 10K and Relay in Columbia, Maryland, and the Greensburg Turkey Trot in my PA hometown on Thanksgiving Day. So please forgive the relative lateness of this post!

I’ll start with last weekend’s Turkey Chase — my final race of the year for Rip It Events!

Because I love a holiday-themed, well, anything, I decided it would be a fantastic idea to order a ridiculously huge pumpkin pie-shaped hat to wear in these races. (Thanks, Amazon Prime!) When it arrived in the mail, I realized it didn’t quite stay on my head, but I figured that pinning it to my hair with a half-dozen barrettes would do the trick. Except you know those winds I battled during the Annapolis Running Classic the day before? Yeah, those gusts stuck around for another day. So the hat flew off probably within 10 feet of the start line and I just carried it with me for 6.2 miles. Super cool.

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My buddy Kree, a fellow Rip It ambassador, dressed as a turkey and had a very sweaty race as a result! 

Although I had run a half the previous day, I wasn’t too worried about racing a 10K that morning — I’ve had higher mileage weekends recently as part of my marathon training. That said, my legs weren’t feeling particularly fresh, especially since the Annapolis Running Classic really kicked my butt this year. And Columbia, where most of the Rip It races are, is about as hilly as Annapolis.

The course is an out-and-back, and one of the nice things is that the first half of the race contains more uphill, so you get the hardest parts out of the way early on. I ran the first mile in 8:16, which felt more difficult than I expected it to (as a comparison, I ran the first mile of the Across the Bay 10K in 6:43!) Aside from the rolling hills, that first mile was really crowded, which always makes it harder to run your race pace. I tried to just focus on enjoying the scenery — aside from the wind and the brisk temperatures, it was a beautiful fall day. Most of the leaves were still on the trees, so running through the tree-lined streets of Columbia felt like running through a tunnel of reds, oranges and yellows.

I also wore my Annapolis Running Classic premium during the race, and one volunteer yelled out as I ran past, “Wow, you ran Annapolis yesterday? You’re a bad ass!” That felt pretty good. We had wonderful support from volunteers all along the race — I really appreciate everyone who gives up their Sunday morning to help us out! We couldn’t have these races without you.

I ran my second mile in 8:02, my third mile in 8:15, fourth in 7:48, fifth in 7:37, sixth in 7:52 and the final 0.2 in 1:44. I’m happy with those negative splits, although it was my second-worst 10K time ever: 49:28. I don’t mean to sound unhappy with that. Is that still a solid 10K time? Absolutely. But compared to my recent PR in the Bay Bridge run? Not so much. I’m trying to tell myself that my body just knew it was in taper mode for the Rehoboth Marathon and it was trying to conserve energy. And the wind, well, blew. No pun intended. It is what it is!

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! 

Greensburg Turkey Trot

I run the Turkey Trot in my hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania every Thanksgiving, and it’s something I always look forward to. It’s a 5K run/walk through downtown Greensburg, the seat of Westmoreland County, nestled in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. And those hills are no joke. The race organizers did change the course last year and removed one long, super steep hill, but they added in a bunch of smaller hills instead.

Last year, I came in second in my age group with a time of 22:59, and so I was hoping for first this year. I did beat my time from last year, but still came in second with a time of 22:37. I have no idea what my splits were, because my Garmin took its sweet time finding a signal in the few minutes before the gun went off, so I just used the timer function. I can’t complain about a sub-23 minute 5K or second place in my age group, especially over those hills. It was a darn cold morning, too — 27 degrees at the start. Yikes!

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This was the 26th year for the Turkey Trot. The race has raised more than $500,000 for local nonprofits, including the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Laurel Region. Runners are also asked to bring a canned good or two to the race. It’s a well-run local event and something I’ve been able to introduce my husband to in our years together. My dad usually walks in the Trot, too!

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Per Running USA stats, Thanksgiving is the most popular racing day of the year, second only to the Fourth of July. Is it because runners are looking for an excuse to chow down on that third helping of stuffing, or that second piece of pumpkin pie? Maybe. Is it a fun holiday tradition? Absolutely!

Hilly and chilly: The 2017 Annapolis Running Classic

I went into this year’s Annapolis Running Classic feeling really confident (well, maybe even a little cocky.)

I set my half marathon PR, 1:41:01, on this course a year ago. Which was somewhat of a surprise — the half marathon course in the Annapolis Running Classic is not what anyone would consider a PR course. It is extremely hilly — think the A10, just hillier and longer! But last year, the weather was absolute perfection and I run so much around Annapolis that the hills are really familiar to me. That said, with all the training I’ve been doing the last few months, I was expecting to kill it this year and get a brand new PR.

But it wasn’t meant to be! I finished five minutes slower than last year (five minutes, three seconds, to be exact!) In fact, it was one of my slowest half marathon times ever. My husband was waiting near the finish line to watch me finish and he said he could tell I was struggling. I’ve never really felt like I hit “the wall” in a half before, but I totally did on Saturday, and it was no fun.

So what was it? I think it was a combination of two things: The wind (which was absolutely terrible all weekend and also hurt me at this morning’s Turkey Chase 10K in Columbia … stay tuned for more on that) and a tough week of workouts. I’m in taper mode now for the Rehoboth Marathon, but I did six hill repeats Wednesday on my favorite bridge and then had a really brutal kickboxing class on Thursday. I just felt tired on Saturday morning. Oh yeah, and my cat woke me up at 3 a.m. that day just to be annoying, so there was that.

The race kicked off at 7:30 a.m., and my plan was to run with the 1:45 pace group until about mile nine or 10, then speed up and finish in the low 1:40s or better. It was a bit crowded in the beginning of the race, which slowed me, but I quickly caught up to the 1:45ers. I did notice they seemed to be running pretty fast for a 1:45 finish — we ran the second mile in 7:25. I’m guessing their strategy was to take the flat portions of the course fast and slow down for the hills, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting that. It came back to bite me in the butt later on.

I was feeling pretty decent and keeping up with them just fine until around mile seven, which is right after the half marathoners cross the Naval Academy Bridge for the first time and continue their climb up a long incline on Route 2. I stopped at a water station — I have yet to master the art of drinking while running — and the pacers kept on running. After that, I was probably like 20 seconds behind them, and the gap between us continued to widen.

The race continued up Route 2, then turned onto Winchester Road, which is another long, steady incline. I’ve been running up it every weekend because it connects with the B&A Trail, where I have been doing my long runs. As I was about to hit mile eight, I said to myself, c’mon! You run this all the time! But my legs were already starting to feel fatigued and I knew there were still plenty of rolling hills ahead of me, plus another trip back across the Naval Academy Bridge. Mentally, I felt the wall coming on — and again, that wind! I was running into the wind no matter which direction I was going! Is that even possible? That morning, it was!

Around mile nine, I started to take a few walk breaks for maybe 10 or 15 seconds at a time, and I knew I was never going to PR, nor even finish with the 1:45ers. I told myself I wanted to stay ahead of the 1:50 pace group, and I was relieved to see on one of the turnarounds that I was probably still a few minutes ahead of them.

The run back down Winchester Road (mile 10) felt good, but once I was back on Route 2, I began to struggle. I had a chocolate Gu in my Spi Belt, so I sucked that down, but I don’t feel like it helped much. (Side note: When my husband saw me at the finish, he said I had Gu smeared on my face, so I clearly didn’t do the best job of ingesting it. Classy.) I tried to keep a smile on my face as I headed back over the bridge, but I think I was really grimacing. I did high five a woman standing on the bridge dressed as Santa and didn’t yell at her for wearing a Christmas costume five days before Thanksgiving, so there’s that.

By this point, my watch had died, which was probably a good thing — I wasn’t stressing about my pace. The 1:45ers were within sight, so I thought I probably wasn’t running as badly as I thought. At that point, I just wanted to be done.

In the last mile of the race, which leads back up to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, I took another brief walk break. I never do that at the end of a race because hey, I’m almost done at that point and I can usually push myself to keep running — plus, that’s where everyone is lined up to see the finishers! But oh well. My legs were just dead by then. I do feel like I ran the last quarter of a mile hard and had a strong finish overall.

1:46, while far from my best time, is still a pretty decent half marathon, especially when I felt like the last four miles sucked so hard. Truly,  I haven’t felt that bad while running in a long time. I’ve heard that you have to have a bad run to really appreciate the good ones, so I am trying to keep that in mind. I finished 10th out of 164 women in my age group, which is nothing to complain about (although I will point out that last year, I finished fourth!)

Afterwards, I met up with a friend from work and one of her friends — this was the first half marathon for each of them! This race was the first half I ever ran, too, and it’s definitely not an easy introduction to half marathons! They both did great.

Unfortunately, because it was so cold and windy, I didn’t feel like sticking around for the awesome after party, which included music and craft beer (wah). I really hate to turn down free beer, but …. I hate being cold even more!

This was my 14th half marathon and my fourth time running the Annapolis Running Classic — and my second year serving as an ambassador for the race. Even though I didn’t have the best race, I still love running it every year, and hope to be back as a member of the #NapRunATeam in 2018!

As an Annapolis Running Classic ambassador, my entrance fee for the race was waived. All opinions are my own!

Beating the Bridge: Across the Bay 10K

A brief back story: My family has been traveling to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for vacation since I was a baby. Every year, I would spent MONTHS looking forward to that seven-hour road trip from our hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylania. And one of the highlights of that road trip? Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge just east of Annapolis.

(Yeah, it probably sounds weird, but while we have lots of bridges in the nearby city of Pittsburgh, there’s nothing like the Bay Bridge in southwestern PA.)

So, many years later, after I’d moved to Annapolis as an adult, I got the chance to run across the Bay Bridge when the Across the Bay 10K started in 2014. Of course I signed up for it — and I’ve been doing it every year since! If you’re a runner in Maryland, you NEED to run this race. It’s just so fun to run over such an iconic symbol of our great state. It’s now the 5th largest 10K in the country, and the biggest race in the state, so apparently, lots of other people agree with me!

This year’s race was held Sunday, and the day before, it looked like the weather could be absolutely terrible. In fact, the race organizers posted an update to the event’s Facebook page, warning that they were monitoring the rainy forecast and hinting that the race could be postponed or perhaps canceled. Fortunately, when my alarm went off at 4 a.m. (yuck — at least Daylight Saving Time just ended, and I got a bonus hour of sleep) it was only drizzling. And the rain had completely stopped in Annapolis by 5 a.m.

I put on leggings, a long-sleeved technical T-shirt and my running jacket from the Rock ‘N Roll D.C. Marathon — and was worried that I would be overheating. That happened to me during the first year of the race, when I layered up and was ripping off my hat and gloves after the first mile. But with the wind whipping right off the Chesapeake Bay, it ended up being just fine.

Because there are almost 20,000 runners who run this race, runners are assigned to start waves, depending on their speed. Every year, I’ve been assigned to the first wave, which starts at 7 a.m. But this is the first year I’ve actually run in my assigned wave– I’ve always popped into the 8:30 or 8:45 wave, partly to run with family and/or friends, partly because I think getting up at 4 a.m. to board a shuttle bus at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium by 5:30 a.m. royally sucks.

This year, my friends Matt and Kree were adamant about starting the race at 7 a.m. so they could get to church on time. So I sucked it up and, along with our friend Mindy, joined them bright and early at the starting line.

Let me tell you — going early has its benefits. First of all, because the fastest runners are put in the first wave, there’s no dodging walkers along the way. (No disrespect to the walkers. My dad walked this race two years ago. That said, I do want to run it as fast as I can and when walkers stop at the top of the bridge to take selfies, well, it can be a hazard, not to mention annoying.) Second of all, we were done so early that we hopped back on the shuttle buses and were back in Annapolis before 9 a.m.– meaning I had the whole day free then to do whatever I wanted! (*cough* drink pumpkin spice coffee spiked with Baileys *cough*)

I have always said the Across the Bay 10K is the ideal 10K for a PR. And that is because the race starts uphill — in fact, almost the first two miles are uphill — but then it levels out for a mile or so, and then you have a nice long downhill to enjoy. So you get the hardest part out of the way first, then you can just gun it!

I PR’d this year with a time of 44:50 — my fastest 10K ever! However, I might have actually had a better time had I not totally screwed up my pacing in the beginning. My first mile was my fastest at a 6:43 pace. As soon as my watch beeped and I saw how fast I was running up the bridge, I thought, “Well …. crap.” That’s not even my 5K pace! Apparently, I was REALLY in a hurry to get to the top of the bridge (and to keep up with Matt, who always beats me in this race!) Sure enough, I paid for that during mile two, which I ran at a 7:50 pace. More than a minute slower. Yikes.

But then I ran mile three at 7:12, mile four at 6:59, mile five at 7:16 and mile six at 7:18 — so much more even pacing. By the time I hit mile six, I was sooooo ready to be done with this race. When I saw I was on target to finish under 45 minutes, I pushed as hard as I could, and just barely made it!

A better strategy, obviously, would have been to run, say, an even 7:00 pace. But whatever. I still PR’d!

According to the results, I finished eighth in my age group and 26th out of more than 12,000 women. I’m pretty blown away by that. I truly credit my Hal Higdon Advanced Marathon Training program for that finish. The plan is kicking my ass, but it is making me fast. Hoping this means good things for the Rehoboth Marathon in a month! (Only a month?! Really?)

I really can’t emphasize enough how cool it is to run over the Bay Bridge. No matter how fast I am running, I try to make it a point to take in my surroundings and look out over the water. I really do live in the most beautiful place, and I don’t take it for granted. That said, I also try hard not to look down at the road, because there are sections on the bridge where you can see through down to the water, and it’s a bit disconcerting. Sometimes you also can feel the bridge swaying.

Luckily, I’m not too afraid of heights — and I love the view!

One of the really fun things about running this race are the finisher medals that are actually puzzle pieces. Each year, you get a new piece of the puzzle:

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I can’t wait to see what the fifth piece looks like!

The Tough Pumpkin: No basic 5K

As cliche as it may be, I love fall. Where I live, it’s still pretty warm through October and even November, without the awful humidity that defines a Maryland summer (although this fall has felt awfully summer-like at times.) I love the colors on the trees. And I love anything that’s pumpkin-flavored. Bring me all the pumpkin spice lattes. If that makes me basic, then so be it!

So several months ago, when my friend Staci asked if I’d be interested in running the Great Pumpkin Run 5K, I was all in! Our other friend Cinnamon, who lives in Frederick where the race was held, also said she would run with us. Team Thrashing Pumpkins (Staci came up with the name) was born! At my husband’s urging, I signed up for the “Tough Pumpkin” option, meaning I would run the race with a pumpkin that weighed up to 10 pounds.

Cinnamon said afterwards that she was proud of herself for running the race because it was out of her comfort zone. I also felt like I stepped out of my comfort zone. I may run a lot of races, but I do not run while holding gourds or anything else, for that matter. Also, most of this race was on a trail, and I have very little experience trail running (although I do enjoy it.)

Even though temperatures topped out around 75 degrees the day before, the morning of the race was only in the 40s. Brrr. Fortunately, the race started at the very civilized time of 10 a.m., so it did warm up a little. I got there a little early so I could pick out my pumpkin, which I am guessing was around five pounds. It did not feel heavy when I picked it up, but I knew running with it was probably going to be a real pain.

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Me after the race.

That was correct. I’ve been running 5Ks lately in the 21-22 minute range, and I knew I was never going to hit that pace with a pumpkin in my hands. And I also knew running on a trail would slow me down. So I tried not to think about my time too much and focused on just enjoying the experience.

And despite having to constantly move the pumpkin from arm to arm (while the stupidly long stem kept jabbing me), I really did enjoy the run! The race was held at a place called Crumland Farms, which was still all decked out with haunted Halloween attractions. The first three-quarters of a mile or so was on a gravel road, then runners headed back into the fields, where the terrain was muddy, uneven and littered with fallen corn stalks. The race organizers did a nice job of placing funny signs all along the course (“What’s the best place for a pumpkin? In a pie!” was my favorite. I happen to agree with that.)

I was proud of myself for passing quite a few men out there (though maybe they carried larger pumpkins; I really don’t know.) At one point, one guy yelled out to me, “You’re doing great! I’m here drooling on myself, and you don’t even look tired!” I’m glad I made it look easy, because, again, it was not!

I took a few brief walk breaks when I felt really pooped, then just tried to keep going as fast as I could. In the end, I crossed the finish line in just over 25 minutes. A volunteer told me that I was the first woman to cross the finish line carrying a pumpkin, but there was no awards ceremony, so I’m not totally sure. Still, I was happy with that time!

I need to add that I wasn’t the only one running with a little extra something — Staci is about three months pregnant, so she also was carrying a little pumpkin! Maybe with the early exposure, her little boy or girl will grow up to be a runner!

The swag for the race was on point. Runners got a hoodie with a pumpkin face on it — even though some people look down on those who wear race swag the day of the race, I totally did anyway — a big medal and a pumpkin to take home, even if you didn’t run the Tough Pumpkin. Tough Pumpkin runners got an extra medal. They also advertised apple cider, but it was apple juice (womp womp). I heard someone complaining about that.

This was also Staci’s third 5K race, and she summed it up accurately when she said every race is a new and different experience. That, to me, is the best and worst part of running! You never know quite what you are going to get every time you line up at the start of a race. But that’s what keeps it interesting! I’d definitely run this one again.

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5 reasons you should run the Annapolis Running Classic!

I distinctly remember what made me sign up for the Annapolis Running Classic half marathon in 2013.

I had just run the A10 about two weeks earlier, and felt pretty good about myself. I reasoned that if I could run 10 miles, well, then I could surely run an extra 5K beyond that and call myself a half marathoner. I saw the Annapolis Running Classic was being held in November, so I paid my registration fee, started training and ran the race in a time of 1:53. I loved everything about the race and knew I wanted to do more half marathons (and eventually, marathons!)

Sure enough, the 2017 Annapolis Running Classic will be my fourth time running this race, and my 14th half marathon overall. And this year, I’m serving as an ambassador for the race for the second year in a row!

That means I have a discount code to share: Sign up using ALLISON17, and you’ll get 10 percent off the registration fee for either the 10K or the half!

Undecided about whether you want to commit to this race on Nov. 18? Here are five reasons why you should sign up today.

  1. The Annapolis Running Classic is one of the most scenic races you’ll ever run. All 10K and half marathon runners start at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, then head through historic downtown, around City Dock and across the Weems Creek bridge. The 10K and half marathon courses split at Route 450, and half marathoners head right and run across the Naval Academy Bridge. The half marathon course goes over the bridge twice, just like the A10 does. Sure, it’s the hardest part of the race, but the views from the top are amazing!
  2. BEER. You thought I’d name this first, right? In all seriousness, the Annapolis Running Classic has a really sweet post-race party. Obviously, most runners love a cold one after a race, and finishers this year get their pick of Fordham Copperhead and Gypsy Lager, Michelob Ultra, Bold Rock Cider and Old Dominion Root Beer.
  3. Oysters! Runners get a dozen oysters after the race, both grilled and on the half shell. Oysters not your thing? There will be lots of hot soup and other snacks, too.
  4. The Annapolis Running Classic gives back to the community. In the race’s first six years, more than $220,000 has been donated to local organizations.
  5. You get a really pretty medal, and a quality premium. This year’s medal features the historic Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. The ribbon for the medal features a photo of the Annapolis Yacht Club Wednesday Night Races set against the backdrop of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. This year’s premium has not been revealed yet, but you can see last year’s here.

Have I convinced you to sign up? If so, don’t delay– the 10K is about 75 percent sold out right now. Plus, the prices for both races go up on Oct. 31.

Any questions? Let me know!

As an Annapolis Running Classic ambassador, my entrance fee for the race was waived. All opinions are my own!

The 2017 Baltimore Running Festival: Two races, 16.2 miles

I almost changed my registration for the Baltimore Running Festival to the full marathon at the last minute.

It was tempting. I’m certainly in physical shape to run a full right now — I did one of my 20-milers last weekend, and a 19-miler before that as part of my Rehoboth Marathon training. But your body does need adequate time to taper and rest for the 26.2-mile distance in order to run your best, and I was afraid that pushing it too soon by jumping into an unplanned marathon would derail my overall training goals. So, I went with my original plan and ran the Baltimoronathon.

What’s that, you ask? It was actually two races — the 5K race at 7:30 a.m., followed by the Baltimore Half Marathon at 9:45 a.m.

And I am so glad I did! I ran better than I ever expected– second in my age group in the 5K, and third overall female in the Moronathon. The Baltimore Running Festival is a huge race and I never thought I would place in any of the races. I believe I have at least one award coming in the mail!

Runners most definitely got a nice boost from the weather today. It’s been so unseasonably warm here lately, and today was in the 70s. But for the 5K and at least part of the half, the temps hovered in the 60s, which, in my opinion, is perfect running weather. And I can’t complain about running in shorts and a singlet on Oct. 21.

The 5K and the half started in the same place at the Inner Harbor, but followed different routes. 5K runners ran down Key Highway and toward Port Covington, then turned back toward the Inner Harbor for a finish on Pratt Street. It was a flat and fast race (very much unlike the full and half marathons!) I clocked 21:55, fast enough for 2nd place among women in the 35-39 age group. I was really ecstatic over my splits, which according to my watch were almost perfect: 7:07, 7:04, 7:01. That never happens. Maybe I’m not so terrible at pacing myself during 5Ks after all.

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The only annoying thing about the race was the crush of runners at the start. I felt like I was dodging a lot of people for maybe the first quarter of a mile or so. But that’s typical for most big city races.

I finished the race before 8 and then had tons of time to kill before the half started, so I pretty much just walked around the Inner Harbor and tried to hydrate.

And didn’t that come back to bite me in the ass! About 10 minutes before the gun went off for the half, I realized I had to pee, and didn’t have time to hit the port-a-potties. So I tried to tell myself it was just nerves. NOPE! Had to stop around mile 3 to relieve myself. I hate stopping during a race, but I reasoned I’d be able to run faster if my bladder wasn’t screaming at me. This is always my struggle — I try to drink a lot of water, but then I have to pee constantly. Sigh.

I ran the Baltimore Half last year, and the course was like I remembered — HILLY. Especially miles 3-6 (which I believe correspond to miles 16-19 of the full marathon). It’s just one hill after another. It’s tough, but there’s a lot of downhill on the last few miles of the race. Still kinda brutal on the quads, but I try to look on the bright side!

There are two things I love about this race. One is the amazing crowd participation. Baltimore really gets into the Running Festival and so many people line the streets of each neighborhood the race goes through, holding up funny signs, ringing cow bells and handing out water, oranges and in some cases, beer. It really motivates me to keep running when I feel tired.

The other thing I really like is the loop around Lake Montebello at mile 7-8. It’s flat after several miles of hills, and it’s scenic — and you know you’re more than halfway done at that point and are heading toward the finish!

Speaking of the finish — all runners finished at the Inner Harbor, which was a much-hyped change from previous years. Before, the finish line was at Camden Yards. I ran into one of my Rip It friends afterwards, and we both agreed we preferred the finish at Camden Yards. If I remember correctly, the celebration village (AKA BEER TENT) was pretty close to the old finish line — not so much the case today. I mean, who wants to walk that far for post-race beer after 13.1 or 26.2 miles? (Of course I still did!)

To accommodate the new finish, there was a slight change to the course at the last mile and a half that involved a fairly steep, albeit short, hill. I’m pretty sure I yelled out “WHAT THE &%$%$ IS THIS HILL?” to another runner, who echoed my thoughts.

In the end, I finished in 1:45 and some change. It was about three minutes slower than last year, but then again, last year, I didn’t run a fast 5K first! Because I did the Baltimoronathon, my half marathon time wasn’t recorded as part of the results for that race. (UPDATE: I lied! My time was recorded after all. I finished in 1:45:29, 16th in my age group.) BUT I was very surprised to see that I was the Moronathon’s third overall female finisher! Total time was 2:07:25 for both races.

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I felt pretty good after finishing the half and obviously high-tailed it to the aforementioned beer tent. Runners got two drink tickets and I used mine to get two Dogfish Head Seaquench Ales, a favorite beer of mine. It’s probably more of a summer beer, but whatever, it still felt very summer-like out there.

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My friend Staci says I should see if a brewery will sponsor me, much like Nike or Wheaties sponsors Olympians. If any brewery owner is reading this, and is interested, contact me!

After hanging out for a little bit, I hopped in my car and headed home — and it was then that I realized I’d made a crucial mistake by paying a few extra bucks for parking near the Inner Harbor. Traffic was so bad after the race that I’m pretty sure I spent as much time sitting in my car as I did running. Had I opted for the free parking near the stadiums, I would have had a much longer walk to my car, but I think I could have jumped right on the highway. Oh well. Lesson learned.

Did anyone else do the Baltimore Running Festival this year? What did you think of the finish line changes?

 

Runaway Bridesmaid: The Bridesmaids 5K

Like most women of a certain age, I have a whole collection of bridesmaids dresses that I’ve only worn once, and will probably never wear again. I’m not hating on any of the dresses — they’re actually all really nice — but it’s not like I go to fancy parties on the regular. Seriously, my Halloween costumes get more use!

So, when Rip It Events announced a new race this fall, the Bridesmaids 5K, I jumped at the chance to recycle one of my dresses!

The Bridesmaids 5K was held Saturday night in Columbia, and about a hundred men and women showed up dressed in their best wedding attire. Most of the men wore tuxedo T-shirts, but a few wore actual suits. The women came in a rainbow of bridesmaids dresses, both long and short, and there were even a few women who wore their wedding dresses! (I would have dearly loved to wear mine again, but my mom paid to have it preserved, and I know she would have been sad if I trashed it during a race!)

I chose to wear the purple dress I wore in my sister’s June wedding. It’s short, and it’s sleeveless, making it relatively easy to run in. Plus, I have purple running shoes. Fortunately, the race was on a Saturday and not a Sunday — being a Steelers fan in Ravens country, I would never wear head-to-toe purple on Sunday around these parts. Ha.

Because I’m in the thick of my marathon training, I had 10 miles to knock out on Saturday, so I ran seven before the race. The weather was pretty cool during the late morning, but by the time of the race, the sun was glaring and it was toasty. Is it not autumn? I’ve had quite a few sticky runs lately and I am over it. It’s mid-October! But I digress.

The run was a “fun run,” meaning it wasn’t timed, meaning I probably didn’t need to push it as hard as I did. All runs in Columbia are usually pretty hilly, but this one didn’t feel quite as punishing as some of the other races. I finished in 21:47, with positive splits: 6:51, 7:02, 7:14. I just don’t think I’m that great at pacing myself during 5Ks. The Glow Run was a fluke. But more importantly, I had fun, which is the whole point!

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To that end, the race was sponsored by AIDA Bistro and Wine Bar, so every runner not only got a wine glass for finishing, but two drink tickets! I usually run for beer, but I don’t exactly hate wine, either. Although I used one of my tickets for beer, and gave the other to my husband, who was nice enough to volunteer along the race course.

AIDA also gave all the runners a 15 percent off coupon for dinner, so that’s where Micah and I ate after the race. Check them out on Facebook — they posted a few live videos of the race!

Rip It Events has one last race this year — the Columbia Turkey Chase 10K and Relay, coming up the Sunday before Thanksgiving on Nov. 19. If you’re interested, shoot me a message and ask me for your 10 percent discount code!

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! 

Halfway done with training for the Rehoboth Marathon

The Rehoboth Marathon is just two months away!

Yesterday was my longest run to date of this training cycle — 17 miles. As I was running along the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail, enjoying the absolutely perfect fall weather, I thought about how much harder the training is going to get in the next few weeks.

This weekend calls for 9 miles on Saturday and 19 miles on Sunday, then I have three 20-milers sprinkled over the next six weeks. This plan I am following is all new to me — with previous marathons, I’ve followed a plan that called for one 20-miler, then the taper. It’s challenging, but I’m confident in my abilities and so far, I feel really good.

(In non-running related life happenings, the husband and I are also in the process of buying a house, so I’m trying to jam house tours into my weekend schedule, as well. Fun times. Who needs a social life?)

Here’s what I’ve learned after the first two months of training for my fourth marathon:

Running long and slow is HARD. I have more trouble with the “run slow” part, which probably sounds really cocky. But like most runners, I’m in the habit of pushing myself as hard as I can, including on long training runs. But running as fast as you can isn’t the point of the long run — it’s to build up strength and endurance so you aren’t burned out on race day. Makes sense. It’s just hard to put into practice. But I think I did all right on this weekend’s long run. Tried to take it nice and slow — just like Usher said. 🙂

Eating the right foods is important. That’s not exactly groundbreaking information, but like running long and slow, it’s sometimes easier said than done. An example: This Sunday, I was fairly lazy. I didn’t get up until 10:30 (I wish I was one of those runners who’s up at 6 a.m. sharp pounding out those miles! But I like sleep.) Then, I wanted to watch the Steelers-Ravens game (go Steelers!) at 1 p.m. I didn’t actually make it out for my run until 4:30 p.m.

For a late breakfast, I ate a bagel with sunflower seed butter and banana (protein and carbs, good choice), but then my pre-run snack was … a piece of beer bread and three Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins. FAIL. I brought an energy gel along on my run, but I was pretty hungry by the end of it. Not good.

My expensive gel pedicures are a necessity! My husband complains about the cost until he looks at my feet. They’re a freaking train wreck even after the best pedi my money can buy, so imagine if I didn’t take care of them. Right now, I’m rocking a sexy blood blister on my left foot. Based on past training experiences, I know a black toenail or two isn’t far behind. Whatever. Sandal season is almost done for the year anyway!

Two months down, two months to go. Bring on the next eight weeks!

Giving up drinking while marathon training: Worth it?

I joke a lot that I run for beer — except it’s not really a joke. Seriously, if there’s anything better than a cold beer after a long run, I don’t know what it is. (OK, maybe Bloody Marys at brunch after a race. Those are also pretty legit.)

But would I be a better runner if I stopped drinking during marathon training?

A recent article in Women’s Running took a look at the drawbacks of drinking during training, including dehydration, empty calories and its negative effect on your muscles.

The author, Charlie Watson, writes that studies show alcohol consumption decreases the use of glucose and amino acids by skeletal muscles. This, in turn, hurts your energy supply and metabolic process, and it also hurts your body’s ability to store glycogen, which you need for those long runs. As a result, you’ll be slower, and you’ll crash sooner.

“Ultimately, it’s up to you. Personally there have been training cycles filled with weddings and bachelorette parties where I wouldn’t have wanted to give up alcohol,” Watson writes.

I can certainly relate to that.

And honestly — I don’t know if I could do it! To be honest, I like drinking! And while I don’t get slammed the night before a race (anymore — learned my lesson after the 2013 A10) I usually have a beer or two with my pre-race dinner and I’ve always been fine. Even before marathons. Moderation is obviously key, of course.

But maybe I’d run even faster if I abstained.

Watson, the author of the article, said she gave up drinking while training for a BQ, which is what I am gunning for, as well. Perhaps it is something I should consider.

Have you ever ditched drinking in the weeks before a big race? If so, how did it affect your training and your race time?