When every second counts: I got into the Boston Marathon with 8 seconds to spare

Did you ever think about what you could do in eight seconds?

Read a sentence in a book? Give someone you love a hug? Walk up a flight of stairs?

I never did, either. Until the Boston Athletic Association announced that the qualifying cutoff for the 2019 race was four minutes, 52 seconds.

I qualified for Boston 2019 at the 2017 Rehoboth Seashore Marathon with a perfect five-minute cushion — meaning I squeaked into the race with eight seconds to spare.

As many of you know, qualifying for the Boston Marathon has gotten tougher and tougher in recent years. It’s no longer enough just to hit the qualifying standard for your age and gender (which is already no easy feat for most runners.) Since 2012, the BAA has implemented a cutoff for qualifying runners, meaning you have to run a certain amount of time faster than your standard to be accepted. The frustrating thing is, you never know what that time is going to be, so it’s a moving target. Also, the cutoff has been trending upward over the last few years because more and more runners want to run Boston and are training harder and racing faster to get there. For the 2018 Boston Marathon, runners had to be three minutes, 23 seconds faster than their qualifying standard to get into the race.

For the 2019 Boston Marathon, a woman in my age group (35-39) had to run a 3:40:00 marathon to register for the race. When I was training to BQ in Rehoboth, I figured a 3:40 wouldn’t actually get me into Boston, so my goal was to run a 3:35. When I met that time exactly, I was thrilled! But as my registration date neared, I started to stress — especially as I started to see chatter online that the cutoff for 2019 would likely be higher than ever before. Would my extra five minutes be enough?

I registered on Friday, Sept. 14, and I can’t remember the last time I was so nervous about waiting for an acceptance. I wasn’t that anxious when I applied for college. I’ve certainly never been that stressed over a job application. Does that seem ridiculous? Maybe. But I knew I’d earned my BQ, and felt I deserved to be able to run this historic race. And the fact that I knew I qualified, but didn’t know if I’d make that yet-to-be-determined cutoff …. well, it drove me crazy.

Thankfully, I got my official acceptance Monday, Sept. 17! I was surprised it came that fast — there were people in my Boston Marathon groups on Facebook with much larger buffers than myself who had to wait longer. Maybe the BAA knew my impatient self couldn’t stand it? Haha.

About a week and a half later, the BAA announced the 4:52 cutoff, and I realized just *how* close I came to not getting in. I mean, eight seconds! What if I’d stopped to pee? Or lingered too long at a water stop? Eight seconds is nothing over the course of 26.2 miles.

The BAA also announced they were tightening the standards for Boston 2020, making them five minutes faster for all age groups. So, for 2020, I’d have to run a 3:35:00 or better to BQ. Personally, I’m a little bummed because I’ll be aging up for 2021 (I turn 40 in July 2020), and was looking forward to getting an extra five minutes. But now if I want to BQ for 2021, I’ll need to run a 3:40:00 or better once again.

While I’m thrilled that I got into Boston, I’m so sad for all of the qualified runners who were turned away for next year. The BAA said more than 7,000 runners were shut out of the race, which really sucks. I do feel that they all earned their spots and they all deserved to be there — but the BAA limits the field to 30,000 runners. I’ll be really curious to see what the cutoff will be for Boston 2020, if there even is one with the new standards. I’m sure there will be — but I can’t imagine it will be anywhere near 4:52.

What’s next?

In less than two weeks, I’ll be running the Baltimore Marathon! It’s my sixth marathon, and my main goal is to have fun and not blow up like I did in the B&A Trail Marathon. I’d like to run a 3:45 or better, which seems doable.

I’ve followed a 12-week training plan this time around, and it’s mostly gone well. I’ve been able to work a few races into the plan, including the A10, the Charles Street 12 and the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler in Dewey Beach. I actually had 16 miles to run the day of the Bottle and Cork, so I ran six miles before the race. Given that extra mileage, I ran the race about 10 minutes slower than last year, but that was still fast enough to get third in my age group. Can’t complain about that.

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99 percent sure I can see mascara from the previous night still smeared around my eyes. Because Dewey Beach.

I also dealt with an annoying calf strain that appeared out of nowhere two weeks ago. I was running the Run Now, Wine Later 5K fun run in Annapolis and wasn’t even a mile into the race when it just seized up. I had to DNS the Charm City 20-Miler two days later, and was so bummed. But it feels good now. I ran 20 miles last weekend and 12 this weekend, and I also got a spiffy new pair of hot pink calf sleeves to wear that will hopefully prevent this from happening again! Bring it on, Baltimore!

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My friend Tammi is going to crush her first marathon! 

Two races, one day: The perfect challenge

“Hey, did you know the Charles Street 12 Miler is happening the morning of Sept. 1? The same day as the Glow Run?” Kree asked me earlier this summer. “Do you want to run both with me?”

Um, obviously!

The Glow Run is an annual nighttime 5K fun run that Rip It Events hosts every year on Labor Day Weekend, and it’s become a tradition for our 5 Peaks Martial Arts Academy family. This year, both Kree and I are in the middle of training for the Baltimore Marathon, and I had 14 miles on my schedule for this weekend’s long run. So the idea of running a 12-mile race, plus the 5K later that day, sounded like a great idea to me!

Plus, I’ve never raced a 12 miler before, so I knew it would be an automatic PR. 😉

The Charles Street 12 Miler begins in Towson, just north of Baltimore, and ends at Under Armour headquarters in the Locust Point area of the city. I enjoy point-to-point races, even though they can be a bit of a logistical pain in the butt. We boarded buses at the finish line and rode 12 miles north to the start line, just outside of the Shops at Kenilworth. (Fun fact: Sept. 1 was the 11th anniversary of my move to Maryland. I actually lived in Towson until early 2011, just a few streets away from where the race began. Everything felt like it was coming full circle!)

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At the start

Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect for my time for this race. Twelve miles is kind of a weird distance for a race– it’s almost a half marathon, but not quite — and I thought the course was pretty hilly. Still, the weather was pretty good — not nearly as hot and humid as the previous few days — and I felt like a time in the 1:30s was probably doable. So I lined up with the pacers leading the 1:35 group.

The race started out almost immediately on an uphill climb, then leveled off, then went downhill….. and kept going downhill. We cruised down the hill past Towson University and I finished the first mile in 7:50-something. That was pretty much how the first four or five miles of the race went — there would be an uphill push, then you would get rewarded with a sweet downhill. It was fun to run through the Rodgers Forge neighborhood in Baltimore — when I worked at what is now WMAR2 News, I would often run through that area after work, and miles two and three went right through some of my old running routes. Memories!

The pace group got ahead of me when I stopped briefly at a water station, but I wasn’t too far behind, and was holding onto a sub-8 pace pretty easily. (The downhills helped with that for sure.) The long downhill stretches continued once we turned onto Charles Street and into some of the historic neighborhoods in north Baltimore. I can’t be totally sure, but I think I finished the first 10K in under 50 minutes. (I’ve raced three 10Ks this summer, and not one of them has been sub-50!)

Everything continued to feel really good until I hit the uphill climb toward the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon — running downhill can feel awesome and effortless, but it’s still tough on the quads and they started to feel the effort at that point. But after I got over that hump, it was all downhill from there. OK, not really — but the last three miles of the race were nice and flat.

One of my old coworkers from WMAR2 News in Baltimore snapped this photo of me! (Brian Tankersley photo)

As an aside, I’ve run many races in Baltimore and this was the first time I’ve noticed drivers getting angry that intersections were blocked off and roads were closed. Once we got downtown, there were so many drivers honking and yelling at the police officers who had the misfortune of doing traffic control for the race. Rude. Hoping people are nicer during the Baltimore Marathon.

Once I hit mile 11, I couldn’t see the pace group anymore, but I knew I was going to be in the 1:30s, and probably under 1:38. I crossed the finish line with a final time of 1:36:51/8:04 average pace. That would have been around a 1:45 half if I had continued on that pace for another 1.1 miles, so I’m happy with that! And yes, the downhills made a difference, but there were some significant uphills in the first half of the race, too. In any event, I’ll take it! It was the best race I’ve had all summer!

Kree was hoping for 1:50 and she ended up finishing in 1:49:57! And our friend Chuck finished in under two hours, per his goal. We also ran with a bunch of other Rip It ambassadors …. though we were the only ones crazy enough to run the Glow Run, too!

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The 2018 Glow Run 5K

I’m not the biggest fan of splitting up long runs during marathon training, but I think every now and then it’s fine. The good thing is, you’re still practicing running on tired legs during your second run of the day, which is excellent training for a marathon. And I think this double header race day was a perfect example.

I knew going into the Glow Run that I was going to take it easy. This is the third year I’ve run the race, and I was the first female finisher the last two years. Which is cool and all, but it is an untimed fun run …. meaning there’s no prize or anything, and I may have come in first because I was the only one actually racing! 😉 The whole run is really more of a dance party than anything, and this year I decided to really glow it up with a light up unicorn headband, light-up leg warmers and a bunch of glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces.

 

Kree and I decided to stick together, and we both felt the impact of racing earlier that day pretty quickly. The Glow Run is hilly, as are all races in the Columbia, Maryland area — and our quads were screaming at us.

“Ugh, this would have been a lot easier if we had just kept on running after the race this morning,” she said.

That’s definitely true, but that feeling of fatigue is why this was solid marathon training — we’ll be feeling tired and achy in the later miles of the Baltimore Marathon, after all.

One irritating thing that happened to me during the race — one of the glow necklaces I was wearing flew into my face and knocked out one of my contact lenses, so I ran most of the final mile half-blind. (I’m the most near-sighted person I know.)  The necklaces looked cute and fun, but they are not practical for running — they started to slide around my neck and annoy me almost immediately. So I have to remember not to wear them next year.

We ended up crossing the finish line in 28 minutes and some change. Kree’s husband Matt, who was badly injured in a triathlon earlier this summer, was the first place finisher with a time somewhere in the 22-minute range!

Finish strong!

Afterwards, a group of us went to IHOP for a late dinner, which has become a post-Glow Run tradition. I don’t actually think I’ve been to IHOP since after the 2017 Glow Run! I only wish IHOP served drinks, because you all know how much I love to have a drink after racing, and I didn’t get a chance to grab my freebie beer after the 12-Miler because Kree had to leave shortly after finishing the race (she and Matt were my ride home).

Honestly, when is the last time I went a whole Saturday without having an adult beverage? Marathon training makes me so healthy, you guys.

And — I’m totally burying the lede here — but Kree and Matt found out two days later that she’s pregnant! So she had a surprise running buddy with her during both races — she just didn’t know it at the time. Congratulations to both of them! He/she will be an awesome companion during the Baltimore Marathon.

 

My sixth consecutive A10: At least I finished!

I’ve almost puked in the Annapolis Ten Mile Run before.

It was back in 2013, my first time running the race. I had spent the day before boozing it up on my then-boyfriend, now-husband’s boat. Things got kind of crazy — my sister fell off the boat right into the Chesapeake Bay at one point. When I got up the next morning to run the A10, I think I was still drunk. Once I started running, I felt absolutely terrible and the only thing that prevented me from emptying the contents of my stomach onto the road at mile 5 is that there were a bunch of little kids watching. #rolemodel

I ran that race in 1:24:59, not bad at all for feeling like hell, and I vowed to never make THAT mistake again.

And I never have. But on Sunday, I ran the A10 for the sixth time — and almost got sick again, this time at mile 8.

Why? I wish I knew. It was humid that morning, but I’ve run in worse conditions. I had black coffee and a bagel with sunflower seed butter and half a banana for breakfast — my typical pre-race fuel. I only drank one beer with dinner last night — again, very typical before a race. The only thing I can really think of is that I strayed from my usual veggie burger and ordered a “sushi burger” — essentially, an ahi tuna patty. I’ve been leaning more toward a strict vegetarian diet lately after living the pescatarian life for the last 20 years, so maybe my body just rejected it. But it’s so hard to say.

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Maybe I’m getting too old for these shenanigans.

I finished in 1:23:29, which I know is still a good time! But last year, I ran a 1:15:37 and felt amazing (the weather was pretty perfect last year, though.) I finished 13th in my age group last year out of 235 women, and this year, was 16th out of 187. Like I said, still a decent time. I was just really hoping to be under 1:20 and am reasonably sure I’m in shape for it — but something went wrong for sure.

If you’ve followed my previous race recaps, you’ve probably noticed that the common theme is that I tend to start out too fast. So I told myself I would stick with the 1:20 pacer and hopefully hold back for at least the first half of the race, then run ahead of then.

This is the strategy that helped me run a 3:35 marathon last December, and I do think it’s a smart race strategy — if you stick to it.

I didn’t.

I stuck with my pacer, who was a familiar face — he also ran the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler and the Rehoboth Marathon last year, and led the 1:50 group in the Annapolis Running Classic. The first two miles felt super easy, exactly what I was going for. But then, going into mile 3, I got cocky and decided I could push it. I surged ahead and kept probably about a minute or two ahead of the group, until I stopped at the water station shortly before the Naval Academy Bridge. I’ve yet to master the art of drinking while running, and decided to walk for a few seconds. The 1:20 group passed me, but I totally figured I could catch back up to them. Then I hit the damn bridge.

When I lived in Annapolis, I used to run over that bridge all the time. Last fall, when training for Rehoboth, I ran hill repeats on the bridge every three weeks. But this year, I’ve gotten away from training on the bridge and it shows. I didn’t feel prepared physically or mentally, and had to stop and walk up part of the incline. I’m going to need to start incorporating the bridge into my long runs again if I want to be prepared for the hilly Baltimore Marathon (just two months away!)

At least the decline felt good. Once runners get to the bottom of the bridge, the course makes a right turn into the Pendennis Mount neighborhood (and up another hill.) And at that point, you’re nearly half done with the race. Most years, I’m like “yay! Just five more miles!” This year, I thought, “crap, five more miles?” I was discouraged after feeling like the bridge kicked my butt, and my stomach started to feel — not great. The bagel I ate felt like a brick just sitting in my tummy. The 1:20 group was only about a minute or so ahead of me, maybe less, but that gap would widen as we ran through the neighborhood.

Mile 6 of the race is another solid decline, with a turnaround point at the bottom of the hill. So I got to see all the faster runners as they ran back up, including my friends Daniel (another Rip It ambassador) and Tammi (who was running her first A10 and is running the Baltimore Marathon with me!) They both did awesome and finished sub-1:20. At this point, I was probably two minutes behind the 1:20 group, and my stomach continued to be cranky. My feet were hurting, too — it may be time for new shoes. Better take care of that before the marathon!

Running back up the hill to hit the mile 7 marker wasn’t too bad, but once we turned out of Pendennis Mount to get back on the highway, my stomach started churning. At the mile 8 marker, I felt like I was going to throw up for sure, so I stopped and bent over the side of the road. I just dry-heaved for a few seconds, then kept on running, then stopped again and dry-heaved some more. After that, I was like, “screw it, I have less than two miles of this s*!& left” and just powered through. Coming over the Naval Academy Bridge the second time wasn’t as bad, though I suspect that side of the bridge is a little shorter. Whatever. I needed all the help I could get at that point.

The last mile of the race was actually one of my strongest miles. There were a lot of people lining the course cheering the runners on, so the last thing I wanted to do was stop and walk. The final push of the A10 is up a hill into the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (races that end on an incline are so mean!), but you can at least see the finish, so I hauled ass as fast as I could.

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Almost done! (Tammy Sheetenhelm photo)

I crossed the finish and eagerly grabbed a bottle of water and a wet towel from one of the volunteers. I must have looked rough because another volunteer came over to me and asked if I was OK. I did start to feel better after a few minutes. I caught up with Tammi and we waited for her husband and some of our other friends to finish. Matt and Kree, who also run the A10 every year, had disappointing races, too, so maybe it was just a tough year all around.

I’m running the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler again in three weeks, so we’ll see if I can do better then. (It’s a way easier course, but sometimes the heat is downright oppressive.) I still love the A10 — I always say it is my favorite race of the year — and will look forward to the 2019 race! As I wrote on social media earlier, you can’t appreciate the good races without the bad ones!

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Rocking our new premiums! Apparently my stomach had no problem handling two Bloody Marys. Also, ignore Matt’s grumpy face. (Tammy Sheetenhelm photo)

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A10 finishers! (Wendy Bernard photo)

I relayed a beer mile — and I didn’t puke

I like running. I like beer. I think these two things pair nicely together — as long as the beer comes after the running. (It’s not uncommon for me to drink a recovery beer after a long run! It counts as hydration, right? Right…..)

So I’ve always been pretty curious about trying to run a beer mile — where you chug a beer, then sprint a quarter of a mile, then repeat this until you’ve chugged four beers and run an entire mile. I’m much better at running long distances than I am at sprinting, and while I can easily down four beers in an evening, I like to enjoy them, not gulp them down as fast as humanly possible.

Still, when my friends Danny and Suzy, owners of Rip It Events, announced they were organizing their third annual beer mile, I definitely wanted to give it a try. Especially when they said it was a neon beer mile, and participants were supposed to wear as much neon clothing as possible. I mean, I’ll jump at any chance to wear obnoxiously bright clothing and accessories that glow. (Side note: This was just a fun run and was not an official Rip It event.) 

My friend Staci was visiting for the weekend, so I asked her if she wanted to run, too, and she said yes. We were both unsure of our beer-chugging abilities and decided to relay the race — meaning we’d each chug two beers and run two laps.

The beer mile took place on a paved trail behind a quiet neighborhood in Columbia, Maryland. The race began at the bottom of a small hill, where about two dozen or so runners gathered to line up our beers and prepare to chug and run. This was in a wooded area, and the race began around 8 pm, which is why we were asked to wear as much neon as possible — it got pretty dark down there.

As I carefully placed our beers (two Dogfish Head Seaquench for me, two Sam Adams Porch Rockers for Staci) on the ground, Staci looked skeptical. (She gave birth to her second child about four months ago and hasn’t had much to drink since.)

“I’m not trying to puke,” she told me. “I’ve already been through two rounds of morning sickness.”

“I think we’ll be OK,” I told her. “If you can’t finish your beers, I’ll finish yours …. but you’ll probably have to drive us home.”

(Did I mention that if you puked, you had to run an extra lap? Those were the rules!)

Since we were relaying, we took turns chugging and running, and I volunteered to go first. I cracked open my Seaquench and started guzzling as fast as I could. Which, turns out, wasn’t very fast. There were runners that chugged their beers in like five seconds flat. I was probably one of the last runners to start my lap, and I was trying my hardest to get it all down quickly (and I looooooove Seaquench.) Once I took off, I started belching uncontrollably — gross! But everyone else was burping, too. Seriously, I never heard so many burps at a race. We sounded like a bunch of frogs.

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I ran my quarter-mile — which was up the hill and back down again — as fast as I could. (Real talk, it took me longer to drink the beer.) Then it was Staci’s turn. She downed her first beer like a champ and took off. Meanwhile, some of my fellow runners were on their third beers. Some were holding strong, others were barfing in the weeds.

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“Oh God, this is terrible,” I heard one guy say. (He may have been boozing up beforehand. Not sure.)

“Worst idea ever,” another one said.

Staci finished her lap and I started on my second Seaquench. I choked it down, turned the empty can over my head to prove it was totally empty (per race rules), and started my second lap. I still burped a lot, but I was able to sprint the quarter-mile while keeping everything down.

When I got back, Staci started on her second beer, but didn’t get very far! She drank a few sips and then handed it off to me to finish. I think it was kind of against the race rules, but it wasn’t like it was the most formal event anyway 😉 She took off for her final lap and I, quite literally, took one for the team and drank the rest of her Porch Rocker.

I’m not actually sure what our final time was — 15 minutes? Even though neither of us barfed (thank goodness!) we both decided to run an extra lap anyway. Lots of other runners were heading to a local bar after the race, but I live about a half hour away, so we decided to head home. (Staci drove, as she’d only had a little more than one beer — safety first!)

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Rip It friends Brittany and Stephanie

It was a lot of fun and made me even more curious about attempting a beer mile all by myself at some point.

I can’t guarantee I won’t vomit, though.

Summer 2018 racing: An update!

Wow, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve blogged! While I’ve been quiet on here, my summer has actually been quite busy in terms of racing. That’s pretty rare for me. I run all year long, but I usually don’t do too many races in June and July. That’s probably because I do so many in the spring and fall! But this summer, I’ve been all about tackling shorter races — with some mixed results.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t been thrilled with any of my race times this year — which probably sounds ridiculous because I’ve won some kind of award, either an age group award or an overall award, at almost every race I’ve run. But last fall, going into my BQ race in Rehoboth, I was on fire, setting huge PRs in the 10-miler, the 10K and finally, the marathon. I was also killing it with the speed work and hill repeats. Of course, no runner can expect to PR EVERY time he or she races, but I’ll admit that I was getting pretty used to it. I’ve been taking a really challenging treadmill class at my gym on Wednesday nights, where we focus a lot on sprints, hill repeats and sometimes, a killer combination of the two …. so I’m hoping I can see some new PRs soon!

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to since that brutal 10K in Annapolis two months ago!

Herald Harbor 5K

On June 9, I ran the Herald Harbor 5K with some of my kickboxing friends. It was a small community race in the Herald Harbor neighborhood in Crownsville. My friend Cindy, who lives in the community, warned me ahead of time that it was hilly. Yep! It was also hot and sticky that day (duh, June in Maryland.) I ran it in 22:46 and was the first female finisher, sixth overall. No medal for me — only the top three finishers got them. Man, 5Ks hurt! My PR is 20:49 and I really don’t know if I will ever see a sub-21 finish again. Maybe on a flat point-to-point course in perfectly crisp conditions? Who knows.

 

Ellicott City 10K

On June 17, I ran the Ellicott City 10K with Rip It Events. This race helped raise money for flood relief efforts in downtown Ellicott City, which suffered catastrophic flooding for the second time in less than two years over Memorial Day weekend. I was the third overall female in this race with a time of 50:59. In most 10Ks, that time wouldn’t even get me an age group award, but that course is no joke. The race was actually a 5K and a 10K — 5K runners did one lap of the course, while 10K runners did two. Miles 1-2.5ish featured some major downhills, which we then had to run right back up — twice if you ran the 10K! At least the humidity wasn’t too bad, and I still ran faster than I did at the Wayfarer’s 10K.

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! A full list of 2018 Rip It events can be found here.

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Charm City Run Memorial 5K

On July 4, I ran the Charm City Run Memorial 5K to help raise money for the families of the victims of the mass shooting that happened at Capital-Gazette newspapers on June 28. This was a really tough one for me — not physically, but emotionally. Many of you know that I worked as a Cap-Gaz reporter from 2007 through 2014, when I left the print world to work in digital journalism for a Baltimore TV station. (I’m now out of the business completely, and explaining why I left would take a whole separate post …. and this is a running blog anyway. But I digress.) I worked with four of the five victims who were killed, plus many more journalists who still work there and are now dealing with the aftermath of this unbelievable tragedy. I’m still at a loss over what happened — we all are — but I was so happy to see so many generous people come forward to help the paper and everyone associated with it.  Runners donated more than $20,000! Our community really is amazing. And it’s beside the point, but I didn’t time myself and ran super easy, so I think I finished that one in 27-28 minutes or so.

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Maryland Duathlon

On July 14, I raced the sprint version of the Maryland Duathlon for the second time. (This is another Rip It event; the sprint consists of a two mile run, followed by a 13 mile bike ride, followed by a two mile run.)  Some background — last year, the sprint was scheduled for the same day my family was planning to leave for a week’s vacation in Rehoboth. I figured I could totally race the duathlon in Woodbine, then head to the beach to meet up with the rest of the fam. What I didn’t count on was getting two hours of sleep the night before the race (my first ever multi-sport race, btw) because my sister and brother-in-law wanted to go to an Orioles game. I ended up finishing the race last year in an hour and a half and was so proud of that.

So this year, it was take two. Once again, the race coincided with my family vacation, and once again, my sister was in town. But this year we actually tried to go to bed at a decent time so I could be well-rested. You’d think that would make a difference, right? Yeah, not so much. I finished in an hour and 42 minutes this year, and 11 of those extra minutes were due to my time on the bike. Afterwards, one of my fellow Rip It ambassadors asked me if I got injured. When I said no, he was like, “So you were just that slow?” Ouch! Truthfully, I felt undertrained on the bike anyway …. I think I rode it maybe four times in the month before the race. Not enough for a runner who just dabbles in cycling from time to time. It was still fun — I would like to do more duathlons if I can fit the training around my marathon training schedule. (Ha, good luck with that.) And yes, my bike has a basket, and yes, I brought a mascot with me this year! That alone made the whole experience worth it.

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! A full list of 2018 Rip It events can be found here.

 

 

Seashore Striders 5-Miler

For most people, maybe it would be enough to do a race the day you leave for vacation. Then there are weirdos like me, who decide to run even more races on vacation. I signed up for the Seashore Striders 5-Miler back in January and had been looking forward to it for months, even though it was the day after the duathlon! I had only done one five-mile race prior to this one, and finished in 36:58. But that was on a VERY cold day in December in Rosslyn, Virginia, so I had no idea how I’d do in a summer 5-miler. I was hoping to finish under 40 minutes, and I finished in …. 40:08. Wah. However, I won my age group and got a nice trophy and a $75 gift certificate to the Rehoboth New Balance store! The race took place mostly in Cape Henlopen State Park, one of my favorite places at the beach. Highly recommend Seashore Striders’ races if you are in the area, or just like to vacation there!

 

 

Dewey Beach Patrol 10K 

So I didn’t plan on running this one. But I was flipping through an area guidebook and saw a listing for this 5K/10K taking place the day we left the beach. Why not? I thought. I hate it when vacation ends, so this will give me something to look forward to. It was organized by the same race company that puts on the Bottle and Cork 10-Miler every September, which is one of my favorite 10-milers. And this race followed some of the same route, even finishing at The Ivy in Dewey just like the 10-Miler. My goal was to be sub-50, and once again I just *barely* missed my goal, finishing in 50:19. (Will I ever finish sub-50 again? I’m starting to think 10Ks are just not my distance!)

Somehow, though, I won my age group again. I was shocked by that. But …. it’s Dewey Beach, where plenty of runners could have still been drunk from the night before! Ha. I wasn’t even hungover, which probably gave me a hell of an advantage. Dewey Beach, I love you.

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Annapolis Sailors Triathlon 

I’m a God-awful swimmer, and am marginally OK at cycling (see again: my duathlon recap), but I am not half-bad at running. So I am down with triathlons if I can just do the run part. So, yay for relays! I teamed up with two of my husband’s sailing buddies — Rook, who swam, and Wells, who biked — for this sprint tri on my birthday on July 28. I also came up with our name, Two Sailors and a Wench, which still makes me laugh. My part of the race was supposed to be 3.8 miles, though my Garmin clocked four miles. I finished in 31 minutes and some change, and our total time was an hour and 23 minutes. We won the coed relay division, beating out the second place team by a minute. Rook said it was his goal to be the most unathletic-looking triathletes on the podium — since none of us bothered to put down our post-race beers when we went up to collect our prizes, I’m pretty sure we accomplished that.

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What’s next?

Lots of things!

But the big thing I’m training for is the Baltimore Marathon on Oct. 20. This will be my sixth full marathon. I am following a 12-week plan this time around, so this week was my first official week of training. My next race is my absolute favorite of all time, the Annapolis Ten Mile Run on Aug. 19.

Then I’m running a double header on Sept. 1 — the Charles Street 12-Miler in Baltimore in the morning and then Rip It’s Glow Run 5K that evening. I’m also planning to run the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler in Dewey on Sept. 8, and I am signed up to do the Charm City 20 Miler on Sept. 23 — which fits in perfectly with my marathon training.

And, oh yeah, Boston Marathon registration! I get to register on Sept. 14 … that’s 39 days away. But who’s counting? 😉

How not to race a 10K: Lessons learned from the Wayfarer’s 10K in Annapolis

I ran the Wayfarer’s 10K race in Annapolis this morning, and it was a tactical disaster from start to finish.

No exaggeration. My race today was the textbook example of how NOT to race a 10K — or, well, most race distances. Like, it could appear in a manual for new runners as a warning for what can happen when you blow off conventional racing wisdom and go out balls to the wall at a pace that is completely inappropriate for the conditions.

I’ve said it many times before, but I think my biggest weakness as a runner is that I am awful at pacing myself. I get so excited at the start of races and it’s really hard for me to hold back. I think I’ve gotten the hang of marathon pacing, but other distances? It’s still a crap shoot, especially if the weather sucks or the course is difficult or I am sore from a tough workout.

Someday, I will learn. In the meantime, I hope you all take something away from my experience!

A half marathon that became a 10K

So I had actually signed up for the Wayfarer’s Half, which would have been my 16th half marathon. I was really looking forward to it, and was very disappointed when I got an email from the race organizers Friday saying the half had been canceled due to thunderstorms in the forecast. (It never stormed, though. 😦 ) They said all the half marathoners were downgraded to the 10K and could choose to defer to next year if they wished … or we could run the 10K and get half off our registration fee for next year’s race. I decided to run the 10K — no idea if I will sign up for next year or not. (Sometimes I barely know what I am doing next week!)

The race kicked off promptly at 7 am, and it was already over 70 degrees and very humid. Humidity is typical for Maryland in the summer months — it gets downright swampy here — but we had such a long and cold spring that I, for one, am not acclimated to hot weather running yet. Yet that didn’t stop me from running the first mile at a 7:25 pace. When the air feels like soup, that is much too fast for me.

It was all downhill from there. Well, not literally. I wish! I might have been able to sustain that pace then! Haha.

I ran the second mile in 7:41, then the third in 7:59 — a big slowdown between miles one and three, but still (barely!) under 8 minutes/mile. I ran the first half of the race in 24:03, pretty decent for a humid 5K. But then the wheels fell off, and I hit the wall. Who knew that was possible in a 10K? But all I kept thinking about was how sticky I was, and how much I just wanted to quit after the 5K point.

I ran mile four in 8:18, mile five in 8:31 and mile six in 8:37 (at least those splits were pretty close!) I banged out the final 0.2 in 2:42 and it felt like the longest 0.2 miles ever.

It was the most epic crash. I mean, look at these ugly positive splits:

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My average pace-per-mile in the second half of the race was 1 minute, 1 second slower than my pace-per-mile in the first half!

And my average pace of 8:15/mile was a whole three seconds slower than my average pace for the Rehoboth Marathon back in December. For a 10K.

Before I learned the half was canceled, I had dreams of going sub-1:40 for the first time in that distance. HA! I doubt I would have managed sub-1:50 today.

All in all, it was still a lovely race. We got some really great swag, including a Vooray backpack, which I will enjoy taking on camping and hiking trips.

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In lieu of a finisher’s medals, we also got cute carabiner keychains.

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We also got Jailbreak beer, and our choice of wood-fired pizza or doughnuts, after the race.

Lessons learned

So, if you are planning to race a 10K any time soon, remember this:

  1. If the weather is not ideal, adjust your expectations and your pace. I mean, running in the heat and humidity is hard for most runners. Take some pressure off yourself and know that you may not PR or even run a fast race (whatever that means to you.) That’s OK. Not every race is going to be a good one. Finish strong, not feeling like you have to barf.
  2. Respect the distance! Yes, a 10K is not a marathon or a half marathon or a 10 miler … doesn’t mean you don’t need to pace yourself. It’s still 6.2 miles and yes, you can still crash if you go out too fast.
  3. Remember to always run your own race. This is also hard for me. I lined up at the very front of the pack today and it probably encouraged me to start out faster just because I was surrounded by a bunch of gazelles. Don’t compare yourself to others, and focus on running YOUR best race.

I am running another 10K in two weeks — the Ellicott City 10K, a Rip It Events race. I am going to try to learn from my mistakes and run a smarter race then.

Are you interested in running the Ellicott City 5K or 10K? As many of you may know, downtown Ellicott City was hit by devastating floods for the second time in less than two years. Rip It is donating 50 percent of the money from race registrations received between now and race day to the Ellicott City Partnership Flood Relief Fund. This is a great way to come out and support local businesses that are struggling to get back on their feet yet again. Let me know if you are interested in running, and I will hook you up with a 10 percent discount! (Disclaimer: As a Rip It ambassador, I run this race and other Rip It races for free.)

When S*&% almost happens: How I didn’t let the runner’s trots beat me this weekend

Today, rather than writing a typical race recap, I am going to address something uncomfortable that many runners experience, but few talk about.

We all know running is hard, and it’s really not very glamorous at all. Your feet get blisters. Sometimes your toenails turn black, or they even fall off. Your quads hurt. Your hamstrings get sore.

And other times? Running can cause gastrointestinal distress … aka the runner’s trots. Yep, sometimes running can make you have to go number two.

I first began to notice this when I was training for my first full marathon in 2015. Suddenly, dairy and I, usually BFFs, were not getting along so well. If I ate Greek yogurt the day before a run that topped 13 or 14 miles, I knew I’d be sprinting at some point — toward the nearest potty, not because my training plan called for it. So now I try to cut back on my dairy intake while marathon training (try being the operative word — I really freaking love dairy.)

However, I’ve never had an issue during a race, until Sunday, when I ran the St. Mary’s 10 Miler.

Let’s start with Saturday night, when I went rogue and decided to order a falafel wrap rather than my tried-and-true veggie burger. (I also had a few beers, but I always drink beer the night before a race, so I know that wasn’t it. Haha!) It was delicious, but it’s never a good idea to mess with pre-race nutrition, especially if that’s what your stomach is used to. I felt fine when I went to bed, and fine when I got up the next morning. I had packed my usual breakfast of a bagel, peanut butter and half a banana to eat, which I chased with black coffee. Typical.

My husband, Micah, drove me to the start line, about 20 minutes away from where we were staying on Solomons Island, and I still felt totally fine. I got my bib, met up with some of my friends and peed in one of the porta potties, but that’s, uh, as far as it went. I was ready for the race to begin and eager to beat my time in the Columbia 10 Miler last week.

The 10-miler kicked off promptly at 8 am and the first thing I noticed was that it was damn windy. Have I mentioned that I am so sick of this Maryland spring, especially all the wind? Most of this race felt like it was directly into a strong headwind and it blew — pun TOTALLY intended! I also stupidly neglected to bring my running sunglasses and had to deal with debris flying into my eyes. Super fun. However, I ran the first five miles at a sub-8 pace (it fluctuated between 7:30-7:50). I was really happy about that, especially because I have a history of struggling in the wind!

It was about midway through the race when I started to realize that I might be having another, bigger, messier problem.

“Oh, crap,” I thought to myself. Literally.

And there weren’t any porta potties along the race course — it was a really small race. Of course, I knew if I could make it to the finish line, I’d be OK, but that was miles away. I pretty much had no choice but to keep on running.

At mile 7, the course (which is very pretty, by the way — I was trying to enjoy it despite my stomach issues) veered off into a wooded area. I contemplated squatting behind a tree, but knew that would be gross. At around mile 8, we passed some houses. “How weird would it be if I knocked on someone’s door and just begged them to let me use their bathroom?” I thought to myself. “Would they call the police?”

Probably — but more importantly, I was also keeping a close eye on my watch and knew that if I kept on trucking, I would cross the finish line in under 1:20 and meet my goal. So I clenched my cheeks together and ran as fast as I could (my pace crept up into the 8s, but that’ll happen when you’re mainly focused on not pooping your pants…..)

About a half mile from the finish, I could hear Rip It owner Danny announcing the names of finishers and I knew I was really close. I gave it all I had and ran as hard as I could and finished in 1:19:45. My 5 Peaks friend Tammy medaled me and I hugged her, then high-fived the always super fast Matt (who finished in a speedy 1:10!!) Then I bolted toward the porta potties.

After all that, I actually managed to finish as the third overall female! Pretty happy about that. Last year, this race was a half marathon, and I finished third then, too!

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Kree also ran the race and I knew she would get a kick out of my issues. When she finished, I told her I had a bad case of the runner’s trots and spent the last few miles trying not to have an accident.

She completely got it.

“And it’s not like you can fart in those situations, either! I mean, you’re already all sweaty, so you won’t even be able to tell if you shart,” she said.

As they say … S*&% happens. Or in my case, it almost happened!

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! A full list of 2018 Rip It events can be found here.

 

Rippin’ It at the Columbia 10 Miler

You know when your legs start to feel fatigued at around mile 1.75 of a 10-mile race, it’s gonna be a bad day.

That’s basically the short story of how Sunday’s Columbia 10 Miler went for me.

“Man, what happened to you out there?” one of my fellow Rip It Events ambassadors asked me after the race. “You go out partying last night or something?”

I hadn’t –but I did take a particularly punishing kickboxing class on Thursday night and my legs were still in serious recovery mode as of Sunday morning. Annnnd it probably didn’t help that I had just run a marathon two weeks prior. It takes a while to recover from 26.2 miles!

My goal for 10-mile races is always to finish under 1:20. Last fall, I set a PR that I am really proud of at the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler, but I didn’t really expect to do that again in Columbia. I knew the course was pretty hilly, so I thought I’d be in the 1:18-1:19 range.

Nope! Official time was 1:21:51– my slowest 10-mile time since 2014. And I think the course was short — my Garmin measured 9.8 miles, and some of my friends said the same thing.

That’s what I get for basically destroying my quads three days before a race!

Kickboxing is always a challenge, which is why I like it, but Thursday’s class was particularly hard. I normally wouldn’t miss Thursday kickboxing due to a weekend race unless I was tapering for a marathon — but if I had known in advance what this workout was going to be like and the impact it would have on me, I probably would have bailed. (Sorry, Matt!) The endurance round of the class included 100 step ups, 100 sets of mountain climbers (200 on each leg), 100 jump squats, 100 squats with a weight and 100 overhead presses. It. Was. Murder. My legs were sore as hell on Friday, still sore on Saturday and when I woke up Sunday morning — only slightly less sore.

But when I got to the start line, I was still optimistic that I’d have a good race. I lined up near the front and took off quickly, finishing the first mile in 7:29. When I saw that pace on my Garmin, I told myself to calm down, especially because of all the rolling hills on the course.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even to the mile 2 marker when I started to think, “Wow, this sucks.” I’m rarely that negative during a race, but my legs were just unhappy with me. I was able to keep my pace in the low 8s for the next few miles, but it didn’t feel easy and I kept having to fight the urge to walk (sometimes I gave in). And while the course had plenty of downhills to match the uphills, when your quads are shot, downhills aren’t all that great, either! When I hit mile 5, I groaned inwardly and couldn’t believe I still had halfway to go.

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The next few miles passed in somewhat of a blur — I saw my friend and Rip It ambassador Mark at mile 6.5 and I look happy in the photo he snapped of me, but I definitely felt like crap! Miles 8-9 were beautiful — we ran around Lake Kittamaqundi, which was a nice flat scenic trail. At that point, though, I was over it and wanted to cross the finish line. My stomach started to hurt, too. Don’t know what that was all about. I felt fine the second I finished the race, so I guess my body just didn’t feel like cooperating!

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Need a reason to run a Rip It race? We have medals as big as your face! 

What can I say? Not every race is going to a be a PR, and some are going to flat out stink. I know 1:21 is still a solid time — but I didn’t feel good during the race and I know I can do better than that. In looking back over my recent race recaps, I am realizing that I need to work on not starting so fast and burning myself out. That’s really hurt me lately. Pacing is hard!

Luckily, I have a chance to redeem myself at the St. Mary’s 10 Miler, my next Rip It race, this Sunday! Like the Columbia 10 Miler, this race used to be a half marathon. I ran it last year on an unseasonably hot day and came in third female overall — I believe my time was 1:42ish, so we’ll see what I can do now that it’s a 10-miler. The weather looks like it’s going to be fantastic!

If you’re interested in running, you still have time to sign up! Contact me for your 10 percent discount code!

A full list of 2018 Rip It events can be found here.

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

Blown away at The B&A Trail Marathon

“Make sure you’re at the finish by 11 a.m.,” I told my husband Micah the night before the B&A Trail Marathon. “In case I beat my Rehoboth time and finish in 3:30 or so.”

“But I should be finished by 11:45 a.m.,” I continued. “No way will I be over 3:45.”

Man, I run one BQ on the most perfect race day ever, and get all cocky.

On Sunday morning, I finished my fifth full marathon, The B&A Trail Marathon in Anne Arundel County, in 3:47:19– 12 minutes, 19 seconds slower than my Rehoboth Marathon time.

Am I bummed? A little. I really thought I would be in the 3:30s and pull out another BQ (not that it would really matter, unless I beat my 3:35 PR). But any marathon finish is a victory, and anyway, remember two years ago when I was soooooo excited to run a 3:48 at the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in D.C.? I have no reason to complain.

That said, I did not have a great race. It was unseasonably cold — I seriously doubt spring is ever going to get here in the Mid-Atlantic — and windy. I think the wind really hurt me, as I have a history of running below my expectations in windy conditions. But that’s the thing about racing, and marathons in particular — you never know what you are going to get weather-wise, so you have to do the best you can!

Snow in the forecast?

So this winter in the Northeast, including the Mid-Atlantic region, has sucked snowballs. OK, so maybe Maryland hasn’t gotten anywhere near the snow that our neighbors to the north have, but temperatures have been below average for weeks. Then, four days before the race, forecasters were calling for snow over the weekend — during the second week of April. Which is nearly unheard of in this area. So the Annapolis Striders, who are the race organizers, freaked out and sent out a message saying they were monitoring the weather report and there was a chance the race could be canceled. Then I freaked out and started looking for backup marathons this month (the Coastal Delaware Running Festival in Rehoboth in two weeks was going to be my Plan B.) Fortunately, it did not snow — but it was in the 30s the morning of the race. Brrr.

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With fellow Rip It ambassador Dan before the race.  (This was not a Rip It event.) 

This race — which is both a half and a full marathon — begins and ends at Severna Park High School and takes place primarily on the B&A Trail. Luckily the school was left open for runners to stay warm before the race, and, more importantly, use the bathrooms! I loved not having to use a nasty porta potty to do my pre-race business. I would recommend the race based on that alone.

Both races kicked off promptly at 7:30 a.m., and I quickly warmed up during the first mile. But to be honest, I didn’t feel amazing. My calves felt a bit sore, which isn’t usually a problem for me, so I don’t know what that was about. And I was tired — Micah snored the night before and woke me up around 2:30 a.m. and I never really got back to sleep. Nevertheless, I held a pace that hovered in the low- to mid-8s for the first half, and the miles seemed like they were going by really fast. Then it all fell apart.

The dreaded wall

All runners turned around at mile 7 and began running straight into a headwind, which I suspect really wiped me out. I think all  in all, those of us who ran the full marathon ran 12 miles into the wind — from the bottom of the trail in Annapolis all the way up to Glen Burnie.

I started to notice that my pace was slowing into the 8:30-8:40 range around mile 14, and felt discouraged. I know that was probably silly, but I kept comparing my pace to my Rehoboth pace, where I was cruising along in the low 8s/high 7s at that point and feeling like I could keep going forever. At mile 18, I felt the wall coming on. In all of my marathons, I have never hit the wall that early. It’s pretty common to start to feel it around mile 20; I’ve always hit it around mile 22-23, except in Rehoboth when I didn’t really experience that until mile 24.

But I knew I had some cheerleaders waiting for me at the turnaround at mile 19 — Kree and Matt were there and I was really looking forward to seeing them. “Just keep hanging on until then,” I kept telling myself. Kree got video of me running past and I still looked pretty high energy, though I yelled to them, “This wind is killing me!” Matt told me not to worry, that I’d enjoy a nice tailwind on the way back.

Except … I really didn’t! Yeah, I was no longer running into a headwind, but I didn’t really feel the benefits of the wind at my back, either. Sigh.

My pace stayed in the 8s until mile 23, when it dipped into the 9s. I just couldn’t make my legs move any faster than that. I kept looking at my watch and doing “runner math”– “if you run this last 5K in XX minutes, you’ll still be under 3:40!” Except I was all fatigued so my math was probably off, haha.

At mile 25, I started talking to another runner who helped push me to the finish (“as long as you’re not in my age group,” she joked. I wasn’t– she was 10 years older than me — and she did win an age group award!) We chatted about Boston, which she had already run, and I told her I BQ’d several months ago. I also told her I couldn’t wait to be 40 so I get an extra five minutes to qualify, assuming the standards don’t change by then. “Only a runner would say that,” she laughed. So true.

The last 0.2 felt like forever and I just kept looking for Micah and my parents, who were visiting us in our new house for the first time. They were right there at the finish line and as soon as I crossed, I did the post-marathon shuffle over to where they were standing and told them I “got my ass handed to me out there.” They laughed and congratulated me and reminded me they can’t all be PRs.

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Me with Mom and Dad after the race.

Differences in training

When I trained for this marathon, I didn’t do any hill training and was not as diligent about the speed work, but I followed the same long run schedule as when I trained for Rehoboth. Maybe that made much more of a difference than I anticipated. Or maybe it was the wind that hurt me. Or maybe I just had a bad day. Who knows! I’m still glad I ran this race and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a small, low-key marathon. At just under 300 runners for the full, it is definitely the smallest marathon I have ever run.

So what’s next? Kree, Tammi and I are all running the Baltimore Marathon on Oct. 20, so I’ll start training for that sometime in June. I have a few other races planned over the next few months, including the Columbia 10-Miler and the St. Mary’s 10-Miler, both of which are Rip It races. (Let me know if you want a 10 percent off discount!) I am also running the Wayfarer’s half marathon on June 2 in Annapolis. So I’ll take a bit of a break, but will still be running, of course.

What’s your next big race?

Barlowe 5K Bolt: A 2nd place finish and a whole lotta swag!

Damn you, margaritas!

That’s what I was thinking as I was running the Barlowe Bolt, an annual 5K that raises money to build a natural playground in Anne Arundel County, on Saturday morning. OK, so I drank just one margarita on Friday night — but it was a big enough that it really was like drinking two margs. It was good. Freaking delicious, actually. But I didn’t even come close to a PR Saturday and lost the race to my friend Tammi by seven seconds — so I’m going to blame it on the alcohol, in the immortal words of T-Pain. 😉

Jokes aside, I had a blast at this 5K, which I ran with a whole crew of friends from 5 Peaks Martial Arts Academy. The race took place in Millersville, Maryland, a small town between Annapolis and Baltimore. The course wove through some residential neighborhoods, and featured plenty of rolling hills. My only real complaint about the course is that it wasn’t marked all that well. There were arrows written on the street in chalk, but at one point, I almost made a wrong turn and went off course. There also weren’t a ton of volunteers out there to direct the runners, but it is a small race, so that’s to be expected.

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Having lots of fun! (Kree Killian photo)

I’ve long said that I don’t feel I am a strong 5K runner. I really struggle to pace myself and go out way too fast, which is exactly what happened during this race. It was pretty cold, around 30 degrees, so I was anxious to get moving. And my miles splits show that. I ran the first mile in 6:54, second mile in 7:27, third mile in 7:22 and the last 0.1 in 42 seconds. I was actually in the lead, with Tammi close behind, until she passed me around the 2.9-mile mark. She finished in 22:15, with me crossing the finish line in 22:22. She actually felt bad about it! She definitely had no reason to feel anything but proud of herself — she ran an awesome race and left enough gas in the tank to finish strong — exactly how you should run a 5K!

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Tammi and I! (Kree Killian photo)

Tammi was the first female finisher, and fifth finisher overall, and I was second female finisher and sixth overall. I also won my age group. 5 Peaks Master Matt (who had been sick and yet still managed to finish under 22 minutes) was the fourth overall finisher and got first in his age group, as well. So it was a real good day for the 5 Peaks crew!

I was really surprised and excited by the quality of the swag and prizes for this race, too. When they called my name to pick up my award, my friends all laughed at me because I took SO long to choose a prize. They had a lot to pick from! I ended up taking home a $25 gift card to Carrabbas Italian Grill, plus a certificate and a medal. I also got a bunch of coupons for freebies at restaurants — one for a free cheese pizza from Ledo Pizza, another for a free dessert or small order of fries at McDonald’s, and another for a free appetizer at Texas Roadhouse. So much for runners being healthy. Haha!

All runners also received $10 gift cards to Road ID, which makes ID bracelets with your personal information on them for runners and other athletes to wear during activities. I already have a Road ID, but I will definitely be using my gift card to get some new badges!

After the race, a bunch of us then went to kickboxing. And then I was ready for lunch by 10:30 a.m. It was an excellent way to spend a Saturday morning!

And maybe someday I’ll beat my 5K PR of 20:49 … which is a year and a half old at this point!