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!

 

B&A Trail Marathon training: It’s taper time!

This weekend was my last weekend of heavy duty marathon training for the B&A Trail Marathon. The Hal Higdon Advanced 2 marathon training plan that I am following called for 10 miles on Saturday and 20 miles on Sunday, but I also had plans to travel out of town for my friend Staci’s baby sprinkle and birthday, which happens to fall on St. Patrick’s Day. So I banged out my 20 miles Friday morning before heading out of town, took a rest day Saturday, and then ran my 10 miles when I got home this afternoon. One thing I’ve learned over my years of marathon training is that you have to be flexible. I have no problem flipping my workouts around if that’s what suits my schedule.

So now I am officially in taper mode! The B&A Trail Marathon is on April 8, three weeks from today.

I am excited to see how I do in this marathon. When I decided to sign up for it, I initially told myself that I would take it easy — I already had my BQ from the Rehoboth Marathon, with five minutes to spare. And the Hal Higdon plan I followed to get that time was certainly aggressive. I thought of going back to the plan I’d followed for my previous three marathons, which had me taking two rest days per week and running only one 20 miler, three weeks out from the race.

But at the same time, I really enjoyed pushing myself and seeing what I was capable of. So I decided to follow the same plan again, with some modifications. I followed the exact same long run schedule, which included three 20 milers, beginning seven weeks out from the race. On those weekends where a 20-mile long run was on the schedule, I also had 10 miles to run either the day before or the day after (the plan says to run the 10 miles Saturday and the 20 Sunday, but again, I modify depending on my schedule). I took one rest day, usually Friday, every week.

This time around, I omitted the hill training on the Naval Academy Bridge — the B&A Trail is super flat anyway — and I wasn’t as diligent about my speed work. I only did three rounds of Yasso 800s instead of six rounds, as I did last time. (This training cycle, I ran four 400s, then six 800s, then eight 800s this past week. In my opinion, this workout is the hardest of all. Give me the long run any day!)

I also run four days a week instead of the six days the plan calls for, because I do kickboxing on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I am reluctant to give that up! When I trained for Rehoboth, I sometimes squeezed in a run before kickboxing class — but only sometimes. Would I be faster if I focused exclusively on running? Probably. But I love kickboxing, and I think the cross-training keeps me strong and injury-free. It works for me!

I think I am capable of going sub-3:40 in the B&A Trail Marathon, which would be another BQ. Of course, unless I can beat my 3:35:00 time from Rehoboth, it’s not going to matter. Could it happen? Maybe, but if it doesn’t, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Hell, if I don’t BQ again, I’m not going to beat myself up over it, because I already have a solid time. (Although the other night, I did have a dream that I ran a 3:43 marathon and was really upset about it! My God, get a grip, woman.)

It will be really interesting to see how backing off the speed training and omitting the hill training affects my race time. If I end up running 3:35ish again, I’ll know that the key to my success is likely running multiple 20-milers. And if I finish in the 3:40-something range, I’ll know that speed work and possibly hill training is what makes me a faster marathoner.

I’m going in with one big advantage — I have run just about all of my long runs on the B&A Trail! I’ve never been so familiar with a marathon course.

Questions for anyone reading this: Do you prefer speed training/sprint workouts or long runs (or do you think both suck, haha!) Do you think they are equally important in marathon training?

Splitting up your long run: A do or a don’t?

Let me start off this post by saying that this discussion wouldn’t even be necessary if I got out of bed at a reasonable hour on the weekends.

I was doing so well when I was training for the Rehoboth Marathon. On the days that I was scheduled to run 20 miles, I set an alarm for 5:30 a.m. and named it, “You won’t BQ by lying in bed!!!” (Hey, it worked!) But this time around, I’ve been, shall we say, much less diligent.

I’ve been sticking to the same long run schedule, including the three 20-milers, but I haven’t been waking up at the butt crack of dawn to get it done. Last week, when it was time to run the first of those 20-milers, I didn’t get underway until after noon. (The night before was a girls’ night out in downtown Annapolis, so, well …. you know.) This week was a stepback week, so my long run was 12 miles — and I didn’t get out of the house until close to 11 a.m.

That would have been OK, except that I had planned to go to Cat Yoga with some work friends at 1 p.m. in Galesville, about 15 minutes south of where I live, so I knew I would be cutting it real close. In the end, I decided to run 10 miles, go to yoga (which was awesome — cats are awesome) and then run the last two miles after class.

I’ve never split up my long run before, and I don’t know how I feel about it. At least I did the majority of the run in one chunk, and it felt great — today’s weather was drizzly and overcast, but it was in the 50s. While I loved the random 80-degree day we had a few days ago, I do think I run better when the temperatures are in the 50s and 60s. I probably ran the 10-miler a hair faster than I should have for a long run, but it was hard to pace myself when I was feeling that good.

After class, I ran the last two miles at a 7:40ish pace, which I’m happy with because I’ve been working on finishing the long runs fast anyway. Plus, after a run and a yoga class, I was ready to take a shower and relax and just get it done for today.

Have you ever split up your run like that? Does it make a difference in the, well, long run?

Over the river and through the woods: The Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon and 10K

I was in the middle of running the seventh mile of Rip It Events‘ Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon when I saw a runner just ahead of me lose his footing and slide down the hill.

“Are you OK?” I called out to him, just as I started to slip and fall, too.

That’s racing on a trail for you. Luckily, neither of us were hurt.

Rip It’s second annual Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon and 10K was held on Super Bowl Sunday– and it was just as cold as it was last year, except this year, we had snow and sleet in the mix! It definitely made the race even more challenging — and trail running is already a challenge! Before last year’s race, I had never raced on a trail before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I learned then that when you run on a trail, you can expect the unexpected, as cliche as that sounds. You never know what roots or leaves or branches can trip you up — literally.

I went into this year’s race hoping I could break the 1:50:00 I got last year, which earned me second place in my age group. Instead, I ran it in 1:53:09, which might have still gotten me second place! To be honest, I’m not sure — I was SO cold during the awards ceremony that I sat in my friend and fellow Rip It ambassador Kree’s car, and she got my medal for me. The medal says third place in my age group, but she insists I got second. Either way, I was happy to place, considering I was a few minutes slower than last year!

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The race was held on the Patuxent Branch Trail near Columbia, Maryland, and the first mile and a half or so are mostly on a flat, dirt path. Once you near mile two, the trail gets technical and you have to start watching where you are running a little more closely. It’s actually really beautiful and scenic with the Patuxent River running alongside the trail, and the woods all around you. There are two significant hills, one at around mile three and another around mile 4.5 or so. Most people speed walked up them, myself included– no shame in that game. Of course, as mentioned before, there were some significant downhills, too– which can be just as, if not more, treacherous!

Once I hit the second mile of the race, it started to snow. I am generally not a snow lover, but this was just light enough to be peaceful and pretty. Unfortunately, that didn’t last and it started to sleet, which was much less fun.

The race course is a loop, so everyone who ran the 10K did the loop once, and the half marathoners ran it twice. (Technically, those who ran the 10K actually ran 6.55 miles, not 6.2.) I have to admit, when I started on my second loop around the course, part of me wished I decided to run the 10K and call it a day. It was cold, I was getting wet and to be honest, I screwed up my pacing from the beginning, running my first mile in 7:40 something. That might have been OK in a road half, but not on a trail, with those big climbs ahead of me. My watch died in the middle of the race, but I know my splits were very positive. Oh well.

In addition to my Rip It team, I ran with a bunch of friends from 5 Peaks Martial Arts Academy, all of whom did the 10K. For some of them, it was their first 10K race ever — and it was on a trail! Pretty awesome!

Next up on the Rip It calendar is the Columbia 10-Miler on April 22. (This race used to be a half marathon.) Interested in running? 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!

100 miles in one month: Mission accomplished!

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I’m not a goal-oriented person. But it always makes more sense to me to set personal goals on my birthday than on New Year’s. (This could be because I think New Year’s is the most overblown, overhyped holiday out there. But I digress.)

That said, I LOVE a good challenge, especially when there is a competitive edge to it! So I am happy to announce that I completed my friend Matt’s annual 25/50/75/100 Mile Challenge for the month of January.

The rules are simple: You choose your goal (could be 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles) and commit to completing that mileage by Jan. 31. Every time you finish a run, you log your miles and report them to Matt, who keeps a daily leaderboard that he posts in a private Facebook event. Several dozen of his friends signed up for the challenge, and it’s so fun to see all the participants proudly reporting their miles each day — especially because not everyone is a hardcore runner. It’s inspiring to see people who insist they aren’t runners crush their goals!

Since I am training for yet another marathon, I knew reaching 100 miles would not be a problem for me, but I thought I’d get there sooner than I did. I hit 100 on Jan. 26, after being sick with a nasty cold/cough the week earlier that ruined my long run plans for last weekend. And as I said, having a friendly competition is a powerful motivator! I knew my friend Kree (Matt’s wife) would be at 100 miles on Jan. 26, so I made sure I met my goal that night — even though it was Friday night and I totally did not feel like getting on the treadmill. But I ran those last five miles anyway!

Then the next day, I ran 16 miles in keeping with my marathon training plan — so I am now at 116 miles for January. I should be able to finish out the month somewhere in the low 120s. I was hoping to be in the 130s, and I probably would have been had I not gotten sick. But what can you do? It is cold and flu season, after all.

January is my least favorite month by far — it’s cold (though we’ve had some mild days the past week), the holidays are over and spring and summer feel SO far away. Having a goal definitely makes the month go by faster — which is probably why I just can’t quit spring marathons!

Book review: Long Road to Boston

I love to read just as much as I love to run, so I am always looking for books that inspire me as a runner.

Long Road to Boston: The Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Marathon, by Mark Sutcliffe, did just that. This book is a must-read for anyone who aspires to run the Boston Marathon.

As the title indicates, this book is largely a memoir of marathoner Sutcliffe’s attempts to qualify for the Boston Marathon. But it’s also a well-researched book that goes into a lot of detail about the history of the Boston Marathon. For example, probably all marathon runners (and lots of people who don’t run marathons) have heard of Heartbreak Hill. They may even know it’s at mile 20 of the Boston Marathon. But did you know why it’s called Heartbreak Hill? Back in 1936, defending champion Johnny Kelley passed another runner, Ellison Brown, patting him on the shoulder as he surged ahead of him. Brown then ended up winning the marathon in the end, leading to Kelley’s heartbreak.

I did not know this — I always thought Heartbreak Hill was so named because it’s at the point in the marathon where runners often begin to hit the wall and maybe miss their goal times, therefore breaking their hearts.

I also learned a lot about the history of the Boston Marathon qualifying standards and how much they have changed over the years. At one point in time, male runners had to post a 2:50 marathon to be allowed to run Boston, and female runners had to run a 3:20. Glad the Boston Athletic Association has relaxed the standards since those days!

In the author’s case, his qualifying standard was 3:25 when he started seriously trying to qualify after he’d already run many marathons. After missing his qualifying standard by a few minutes again and again, Sutcliffe qualified for and ran the 2014 Boston Marathon. The cutoff that year was 1:38, meaning runners had to run 1 minute, 38 seconds below their BQ time, and Sutcliffe made it by 22 seconds!

I felt pretty fortunate reading all about his journey to a BQ, because it didn’t take me nearly as long to qualify. I qualified in my fourth marathon, the first time I’d ever truly attempted to BQ. I say that not to brag, but to point out that I most definitely had an advantage being a woman in the 35-39 age group, where the standard is 3:40. The standards are much tougher for men, and there is some debate about whether that’s fair or not.

However, I definitely related to Sutcliffe’s comments that getting older is something a lot of runners look forward to, because it means they’ll be in a new age group with new qualifying standards. I’ll be 40 in two and a half years, and you can bet I’m excited for a 3:45 standard (assuming the BAA doesn’t change the standards, which they very well might in the next couple of years.)

What I loved the most about his book, though, was his vivid descriptions of the race. From the start of the race in Hopkinton to the famous Wellesley scream tunnel to the Newton Hills to the finish line on Boylston Street, reading the book has made me more excited than ever to run the 2019 Boston Marathon! (Assuming the BAA accepts my time with its 4:59 cushion — or five-minute cushion, depending on whether they count that extra 7/10 of a second! It”s still unclear to me.)

I’ve read several other memoirs written by runners trying to get to Boston, but this was my favorite because Sutcliffe also included so much historical information about the marathon itself. That made the book more than just a typical running memoir, and I know will make me appreciate my Boston experience all the more when I line up at the starting line in Hopkinton.