Marathon training and Nike Alpha Flys: How I’ve been able to run faster than I ever thought I could

October was a really busy month for me in terms of racing. I ran four races and was able to maintain a sub-7 minute pace in all of them. 

I never thought that would be possible for me, and that’s not me being falsely modest or trying to sandbag. It’s the truth. 

So, where has all this newfound speed come from? I have a few theories. But first, let’s take a quick look at the races I ran. 

Oct. 3: I went home to Pittsburgh to visit my family and run the Mario Lemieux 6.6K Run with my sister and brother-in-law. Why 6.6K? Well, that’s the number of famed Penguins star, and team owner, Mario. It equals out to roughly 4.1 miles. Given that I’d maintained a 7:08 pace in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler a few weeks before, I thought maybe I could hold onto a sub-7 pace here, but I had no idea. The race was in downtown Pittsburgh, obviously a hilly place, and it was pretty humid that morning. Plus I’d had a few too many delicious stouts the night before. Because of course. I decided that my strategy would be to go out like a bat out of hell and see how long I could hold on. And it worked! I finished in 28:38, a 6:49 average pace (per my watch, which clocked 4.2 miles. The race results had me running a 6:59 pace. Either way, sub-7!) I won my age group and was 6th overall female. My prize was a hockey puck! 

Oct. 9: I was really excited for the Baltimore Running Festival, which is one of my favorite fall running events. It offers something for every runner — a marathon, a half marathon, a 5K, a “moron-a-thon,” which is the 5K and the half marathon together, and now a 10K. I have participated in some way, shape, or form in the BRF since 2016 — I even ran the half marathon virtually in 2020. This year, they added the 10K distance, so I signed up for that because I had done all of the other races before. I was hoping to beat my PR of 44:50, which I set in the 2017 Across the Bay 10K. I felt confident, but the course didn’t make it easy. I think the first 2.5 miles were totally uphill, haha. There were a few times I looked at my watch and saw a pace in the 7:25 range and thought, that’s it, it’s not my day. But then there was some significant downhill on the back half and I was able to fly. 

At one point around mile 4.5, someone told me I was the second female and I thought that couldn’t be right. I was definitely in the pain cave at that point and just kept pushing, telling myself it would be over soon and if I kept going hard, a PR wasn’t out of the question. When I turned onto Pratt Street and saw the finish line clock said 43, I was thrilled. I crossed the timing mat and a volunteer gave me a little card that said 2nd place female. So cool! I ran a 43:36 — my watch said I ran 6.3 miles (probably because I did some weaving around people earlier in the race and didn’t run the tangents) for an average pace of 6:55.

But wait! At the awards ceremony, I was announced as the third place female. I was a little confused, but super pumped about the PR and the big trophy I won. It got a TON of attention as I carried it around afterwards, LOL. Well, as I found out a few days later, I actually did get second place. The woman they thought got second was actually a dude — I’m assuming he probably ran with his wife or girlfriend’s bib or whatever. So he obviously got disqualified. 

I still count that race as a huge success! 

Oct. 16: Ben’s Run 5 Miler in Silver Spring. My marathon training plan called for me to race an 8K this weekend, which is basically five miles. I didn’t think I’d be able to find a five mile race, but I did! Ben’s Run raises money for cancer research at Children’s National Hospital and is named after a little boy who passed away of cancer in 2009. This was the last year for the race and I’m glad I got to run it. I once again decided to go out hard and see how long I could hold on. The neighborhood where the race was had a lot of rolling hills, but luckily, so does my neighborhood, so that wasn’t anything I wasn’t used to. I moved into first place pretty early on and was able to maintain that, finishing in 34:41, a 6:56 average pace. I won a $50 gift card to Dick’s for being the first overall female. I had only run a few five milers before, but my previous fastest time was from 2016 when I ran the Great Chocolate Race 5 Miler in Arlington, Virginia in 36:58. So that was a big PR, too. 

Oct. 31: This is the race I’m still pinching myself over. On Halloween, I ran the Bay Bridge Run (formerly Across the Bay 10K) and I honestly had no idea what to expect for the race. Seeing as I had just run a really strong 10K a few weeks earlier, I didn’t have any expectation of PRing again, even though I knew this was an easier course. (There’s a long uphill in the beginning, but it’s not that steep and you get a sweet downhill stretch afterwards.) 

I literally flew once I got onto the flat and downhill portions of the race. I ran mile 3 in 6:03 and mile 4 in 5:54 — my fastest mile EVER. I looked at my watch and questioned whether that could be accurate. Apparently it was. After runners get off the bridge, you have another mile and a half or so to go and there are two more small inclines, but nothing crazy. The race ends in a business park in Stevensville on the Eastern Shore and when I turned the corner to go toward the finish line, I saw the clock said 39. 39!!! I’d just PR’d again in the 10K by FOUR FREAKING MINUTES. WHAT. Final time was 39:33, which is a 6:22 pace (!!!) and I was fourth overall female out of 6,423 women (!!!!) and first place Masters female out of 4,059 (!!!!!) 

To say I’m ecstatic is putting it mildly. That’s more than five minutes faster than my old 2017 PR on the same course. Truly cannot believe it. 

How did that happen? Again, I have a few thoughts on why. 

I have been running more mileage. Yes, I’m training for a marathon. But I’ve been following a plan that’s new to me, a 12-week plan from the book Advanced Marathoning that maxed out at 55 miles per week. The big difference for me is that this plan has me running multiple double digit runs per week in addition to the weekend long run. So for example, during my peak week last month, I ran two 12-milers (one of which had seven miles at half marathon pace), plus a 20-miler on the weekend. These runs were hard — I was mostly running them after work, and that’s tough to do after a long day! But I think these extra “medium-long” runs made a difference in both my endurance and my speed. 

I have been keeping my easy runs easy. Like a lot of runners, I struggle with this. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of running your easy/recovery runs too fast. When I was training for my last two marathons, I did a lot of “easy” runs at an 8:20-8:30 pace, which didn’t *seem* too hard for me … but probably was. I mean, I ran the Tidewater Striders BQ Marathon at an average 8:17 pace…. So yeah. I’ve been really working hard to keep my easy runs in the high 8s/low 9s, and I’ve been mostly successful at it!   

Nike Alpha Flys! OK, so these are a game changer. I LOVE these shoes and they are currently one of my most treasured possessions. These carbon-plated super shoes are a dream to run in and I’m really glad I invested in them. And at nearly $300 a pair, they were quite an investment. (I had a gift card that covered part of the cost, at least.) But so worth it. You can read more about what makes these shoes so special and fancy here. I cannot wait to wear them in the Coastal Delaware Marathon in a week and a half! 

TEN DAYS TO GO! I am so ready and excited to crush it.    

Checking two races off my running bucket list: The St. Michael’s Half Marathon and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

In the past month, I’ve checked two races I’ve always wanted to do off my running bucket list — the St. Michael’s Half Marathon in St. Michael’s, Maryland and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in Washington, D.C. Both are traditionally spring races, were canceled in 2020, and rescheduled for late summer 2021. And I was able to run both of them! 

St. Michael’s was fun — absolutely nowhere close to a PR, but I was not expecting to PR on a hot, humid August day when I hadn’t done any speedwork or structured training all summer. Cherry Blossom was fun AND I had a pretty significant PR, smashing my old PR from 2017 by more than two minutes! I’m so happy about that! 

Here are my recaps of the two races. 

St. Michael’s Half

The St. Michael’s Half Marathon is part of the St. Michael’s Running Festival, which also includes a 5K and a 10K. It is always held in May, and I was supposed to run it in May 2020. But of course, like all spring 2020 races, it was canceled due to COVID. I ended up donating my race entry and registering for the 2021 race, scheduled for Aug. 21. I knew the weather would likely be miserable. But I didn’t really care, especially once I found out that my favorite August race, the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, was canceled for the second year in a row. My sister Catherine and her husband Justin, who live in Pittsburgh, signed up for the 5K and came down to visit. Neither had ever been to St. Michael’s before and I was excited to have a fun day with them. 

We woke up STUPID early on race day to make sure we were there in time for the 7 am start. I had tried to find an Airbnb in St. Michael’s, but there was nothing, so we stayed at my house in Anne Arundel County about an hour away and woke up at 3:45 am. UGH. But the thought of being late stresses me out, so there was no way I wanted to be rushing around. We got there by 6 or a little thereafter, with plenty of time to use the bathroom and line up for the race. My plan was to start with the 1:40 pace group, and hopefully finish sub-1:40, but again, it was hot and humid and I had no real expectations for the race. 

Which was good, because…. The 1:40 pacer went out of the gate like a bat out of hell. 

I really don’t want to come off like I’m throwing shade at the pacer, because he was lots of fun and very entertaining when I was able to keep up with him! But I knew within the first half mile that we were going way too fast, particularly considering the weather. We ran the first mile in 7:19. 7:19!!! A 1:40 half marathon is roughly a 7:39 per minute pace, so 20 seconds faster than we needed to be going, in the first mile of a half. Yikes. Once we hit the first mile marker, he said “Is anyone tired yet?” Well, I wasn’t tired yet, exactly, but I definitely felt like I was working harder than I should be at that point in a half. 

The St. Michael’s Half bills itself as the flattest and fastest half in the mid-Atlantic, and the course is definitely flat as a pancake. But there’s also not much shade, so the sun was beating down on us pretty heavily. I was able to hang on with the pacer, who was hitting some of the mile markers probably at least 20 seconds before he needed to be (we ran mile 3 in 7:15), until around mile 7. Then I knew it was a lost cause. And apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. My husband told me later that the pacer came through the finish line all by himself — I bet just about everyone fell back! Maybe there were a few that finished ahead of him? I don’t know. 

Anyway, after I knew I wasn’t going to be under 1:40, I just focused on enjoying myself and taking in the scenery. I was pushing as hard as I could, but my splits were definitely a hot mess. Mile 8 was 7:52, 9 was 8:08, 10 was 7:51, 11 was 8:05, 12 was 8:13, 13 was 8:15. Ah well. They can’t all be perfectly executed races. I was for sure ready to be done by mile 12 and was excited to see my husband, sister, and brother-in-law waiting at the final corner before I made the left turn toward the finish.

About to finish!

At the finish line, volunteers were handing towels drenched in cold water and it felt so good around my neck! My final time was 1:42:36, which got me second in my age group! 

My favorite running store, Charm City Run, sponsored the race and put on such a fun after party with great beer and music! I missed race after parties so much. We walked around St. Michael’s afterwards, had brunch, and then headed back to my house. We were quite exhausted after our early morning (middle of the night?!) wake up call and we all took long naps once we got back. 

I’d love to do this race again on its traditional spring date! 

Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run 

I wasn’t even planning to run this race. 

As the name indicates, this race usually takes place in April, when the cherry blossoms in D.C. are in full bloom. The race is extremely popular and you have to enter a lottery to get into it, so when I learned it was rescheduled for Sept. 12, I decided to throw my name in. Except I belatedly realized that the race would conflict with an annual girls trip to Dewey Beach, where I always run the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler. Whatever, I thought. I won’t get in anyway. 

Except — shocker!– the demand to run the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run without cherry blossoms just wasn’t there, so everyone who entered the lottery got into the race. And there were still enough spots left for runners to register after the lottery had closed! 

Thinking I was still going to Dewey that weekend, I tried to pawn off my entry on someone else, but there were no takers. But in early August, my beach plans fell through, leaving me free to run the race! And I am very glad I did. 

This race required another 3:45 am wakeup call. OK, maybe if I were the type of runner who could just roll out of bed and go to a race, it would be different. But I like to wake up, eat breakfast, have my coffee, use the bathroom a bunch of times, and as I said above, not feel rushed …. Plus, I had to take the Metro into D.C., which always really stresses me out. The New Carrollton Metro station is about 25 or so minutes away from my house, so I got there around 5:30 and I think I was at the Washington Monument, where the start line was, by 6ish. This left me with a ton of time to kill before the 7:30 start time, but again, I wasn’t rushed and I was happy about that.    

This race also had pacers, and my plan was to line up with the 7:30 minute/mile pace group (1:15 finish time) and hopefully finish ahead of them. But when I got to the starting corrals, I saw that I was placed in the second corral, while the pace group I wanted to run with was in the first corral. Balls. I knew they were going to go off several minutes ahead of my group, so I figured I would either try to catch up with them or just run my own race. And my experience in St. Michael’s taught me pacers can be hit or miss anyway! 

I was wearing my new race shoes that I had splurged on, the much hyped Nike Alpha Flys. I really went back and forth over whether to spend close to $300 on running shoes. Is that really necessary for a hobby runner like myself? I ran my marathon PR in Brooks Ghosts. Hell, I ran the freaking Boston Marathon in Brooks Ghosts! But I had a gift certificate to Charm City Run from my birthday that covered part of the cost and just decided to go for it. And maybe they helped me in this race. 

I will tell you that I ran faster than I ever thought I could. Like, I’m looking back at my splits and shaking my head in disbelief: 

Mile 1: 6:55

Mile 2: 7:06

Mile 3: 6:52

Mile 4: 6:56

Mile 5: 6:58

Mile 6: 6:58

Mile 7: 7:13

Mile 8: 7:16

Mile 9: 7:09

Mile 10: 7:13

I mean, I definitely slowed at the end, but I was running directly into a headwind during those last few miles. But look at that string of sub-7 miles! I usually struggle to run a 5K at a sub-7 pace, and I ran five miles at sub-7?! Like huh? I had also run a 16-mile long run the day before, which was definitely not a smart race strategy. But I needed to get my long run done and I also wanted to run the race … and it worked out. 

My finish time was 1:11:17, a 7:08/mile pace, which got me 13th in my age group out of 476 women. It was a very competitive race! 

Excited about that PR!

Was it the super shoes? The flat course? The cool morning? (It’s still pretty hot and muggy here most days, but we actually had nice weather for this race.) Was it my marathon training? At the time of the race, I was three weeks into my training plan for Coastal Delaware, so it’s hard for me to imagine that I would have gotten into 10-mile PR shape that fast. But who knows. All I know is that I was SUPER pumped.  

As for the race itself — I really liked the course, which winds through the Tidal Basin in D.C. As I just mentioned, it was very flat, though I could have done without the wind whipping off the Potomac in the later miles. I liked how in the last mile, there were markers indicating that you had 1600 meters, then 1200 meters, then 800 meters, then 400 meters to go. Would it have been a lot prettier with the cherry blossoms in bloom? For sure. So I’d love to come back in the spring. And as long as the standards don’t change, it looks like my time will qualify me for a seeded bib and allow me to bypass the lottery next time, which is pretty darn cool! 

What’s next? I’m about to finish up week four of a 12-week marathon training plan from Pete Pfitzinger’s book Advanced Running. It’s pretty challenging and has me running several double-digit runs during the week in addition to the long run on the weekend. I’ve never done that before. This past week, I ran 5 easy miles Monday, 11 easy miles Tuesday, rested Wednesday, 10 miles with five at half marathon pace Thursday, rested Friday, 17 miles today and 5 easy tomorrow. (I also went to kickboxing class on Tuesday and Thursday, because I am a firm believer in the importance of cross training! On those days, I ran early before work and went to class after work. Keeping hard days hard!) So far, so good! 

My next goal is to PR the 10K at the Baltimore Running Festival on Oct. 9. I technically PR’d the distance in the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, so I think I could do it at an actual 10K. My current 10K PR is from 2017 and I would love to take that down! 

And then of course I am also hoping to PR the marathon this fall. My marathon PR is ALSO from 2017. See a pattern? 2017 was a really good year for my running … but I think 2021 can be even better!

Balboa Park 8 Miler recap: Getting the runs on the run

Last week, Micah and I traveled to San Diego for vacation. His youngest brother lives there with his family, and we all went out to visit — the first time we had gathered since before the pandemic! I was super excited to see everyone and enjoy some beautiful southern California weather. And when I saw that the Balboa Park 8 Miler — San Diego’s oldest road race — was happening while I was out there, I eagerly signed up. I love it when I can run a race on vacation! 

It was quite the experience. In fact, it was easily the most memorable race I’ve ever run — and I’ve probably run well over a hundred at this point. 

There was pot smoking. There was pooping. Though I only did one of those things. In the end, I walked away with third in my age group and a time of one hour and 12 seconds — and believe me, those 12 seconds will haunt me for the rest of my life! 

Here’s what happened. 

The night before the race, I ate some Thai food– basil fried rice and papaya salad, to be exact. I didn’t drink anything except water because a bunch of us had gone out the night before that and a lot of tequila was involved, so I was feeling pretty dehydrated and hungover. That’s quite the departure from my typical veggie burger, fries, and beer that I like to have pre-race, but whatever, I was on vacay. And it’s not like I was running a goal marathon or anything like that. 

The race was scheduled to begin at 7 am, and my Uber driver dropped me off at Balboa Park at around 6:15, so I had plenty of time to use the porta-potty. I lined up at the start line around 6:50 and felt a little rumbling in my stomach. Maybe I should go one more time, I thought. No, you are just excited, it’s fine. We started right at 7 and I went off at around a 7:10 pace. The weather was amazing (seriously, now that I am back in swamp ass Maryland, I am wondering why I am still living on the East Coast) and I thought I could break an hour in the race, though I knew it was relatively hilly. But I zipped through those first few miles, running a 7:07, 7:17, and a 6:56 (a lot of downhill in that third mile). It all felt comfortably hard and like I could sustain that pace for the entire race.

I love running so much! My stomach feels amazing here!

When I crossed the timing mat at mile 3, I noticed an older gentleman running beside me. “I’m having a hard time keeping this lit,” he told me, and that’s when I noticed he was running with a cigar. Well, that’s weird. Who freaking smokes a cigar while running a race? Then he asked me if I wanted a toke. OK, so it’s NOT a cigar, I thought. Even weirder! For the record, I have no issue with marijuana use and completely support its legalization for both medicinal and recreational purposes. But I’m not about to blaze up in the middle of a race, either. 

“No thanks, “ I told him.

“Yeah, well, I’m already bonking,” he said. (You don’t say!) “I smoked a lot last night. Not good for my running.” 

“Yeah, I guess not!” I said.

I have no idea what happened to him after that, but I can safely say that I finished well ahead of him. 

The dude behind me offered me weed.

So all that was bizarre enough. But then, my stomach started rumbling. And that was my literal oh shit! moment. Was it the Thai food? I wondered. Was it the tequila shots from two nights ago? (I’m at the age where two-day hangovers are a thing. Enjoy your youth, kiddos!)

I’ve had the runners trots before, most notably in the St. Mary’s 10 Miler a few years ago. In that race, they came on suddenly in the middle of the race and there was absolutely nowhere to go and no trees to duck behind, so I basically ran with my ass cheeks squeezed together and prayed I could hold it until I crossed the finish line and could get to a porta potty. Balboa Park had a lot of trees, but I was hoping I’d be able to wait until the finish again. 

Totally had to go here.

I ran mile 4 in 7:17 and mile 5 in 7:30. Once I was past mile 5, I knew there was no way I would be able to make it to the finish line. It was either squat behind a tree, or shit my pants. There was no other option. So, at some point around mile 5.5, I veered off the course and ran behind a tree. I tried to do it as discreetly as I could — apologies to anyone who had to witness this! But I … dropped trough and did my business. Yeah, it’s gross. But what would you have done?!

Afterwards, I ran back onto the course and up what is known as Zig Zag Hill. This part of the race was on a dirt path and it was really, really steep. And it lived up to its name, with multiple switchbacks. It was tough and even though I felt better after lightening my load, I was having a hard time getting back in the groove of things. My Garmin clocked a dismal 9:12 for mile 6.

But of course at that point, I knew I only had two miles left and could still finish around an hour and probably win some type of award. So I rallied, with a 7:38 for mile 7 and a 7:16 for mile 8.   

When I stopped my watch after crossing the finish line and saw I’d failed to break an hour by just 12 seconds, I groaned! If only nature hadn’t called me so loudly!

I was excited to win third in my age group, though. I knew the race would be competitive, given that SoCal is teeming with extremely fit and active people. So I am pleased that I was able to hold my own — bathroom issues and all. 

And overall, I LOVED this race and highly recommend it if you’re in the area. First of all, eight miles is an unusual distance — this was my first time ever racing an 8-miler — so that’s fun if you’re used to running 10Ks, half marathons, etc. And again, the weather is pretty ideal even for August because San Diego is a utopia with almost zero humidity. SUCH a welcome change from Maryland in the summer. The course is also really cool. It was a bit hilly, though the worst of it was Zig Zag Hill. The majority of the race was on paved surfaces, but some of it was on a dirt path (including Zig Zag Hill.) Kept things interesting. We ran across the historic Cabrillo Bridge twice, past the San Diego Zoo and several of the museums in Balboa Park, and around a botanical garden.

So I would totally run this race again. And hey, I got a great story out of it!

Am I beating the heat, or is it beating me?

It’s been forever since I’ve posted an update here! It’s hard to believe the summer is more than half over — and honestly, I can’t WAIT for fall. I was always a summer girl growing up in western PA, because our winters were so terrible. And then I moved to Maryland and learned that hey, summers can be terrible, too! The older I get, the more I despise the heat and the humidity. Particularly when I’m running in it! 

On that note, remember when I insisted I wasn’t going to train for a fall 2021 marathon? That I didn’t have a ton of fun last summer when I was training for Chasing the Unicorn and I just wanted to enjoy a “post-pandemic” (in quotes because COVID cases are on the rise again, thanks to the Delta variant) summer? Yeah, I lied. I’m registered for the Coastal Delaware Marathon on Nov. 14, a deferral from April 2020. I had every intention of dropping down to the half marathon, but the race won’t let me unless I pay for the half marathon in full, rather than transferring into that distance. It’s a little frustrating, since there are spots in the half — but I know that the race organization also lost a lot of money in 2020, as they all did, so I can’t blame them for doing what they can to stay afloat.

I tried to see if anyone wanted my bib, but couldn’t get anyone to commit. So I said the hell with it. I have been running, and complaining miserably about the weather the whole time, but haven’t officially started training yet. I will probably start with the St. Michael’s Half Marathon on Aug. 21 and either follow Hal Higdon’s three-month Boston Bound plan (which I used to train for Boston, but I don’t see why it can’t be used for other marathons) or Pete Pfitzinger’s 12-week plan. I’m a devotee of Hal’s Advanced Marathon plan — it’s gotten me three BQs — but I don’t have it in me, mentally, to follow a four-month marathon training plan right now. I still want that 3:30 and don’t think it’s out of the question if I train smart and can link up with a pacer to keep me from going out too hard (I think Coastal Del has pacers, which was definitely a point in its favor!) 

In addition to the St. Michael’s half, I’ll be running the Balboa Park 8 Miler in San Diego when I travel there for vacation next week! The hills in Balboa Park will probably make up for the lack of humidity, but I am excited nonetheless. I also ran Good Day For a Run’s Red, White, and Blue Mountain 5K a few weeks ago in northeast PA with Staci. I ran this race with her two years ago and it really sucked. The course, the weather, really, everything but the wine afterwards! In fact, we said we would never do it again. And yet, we did. I did much better this year, though! I was more than a minute faster than I was two years ago, and came in third place.  

Wannabe Triathlete?

Last month, I also did my second triathlon — the Columbia Association Super Sprint Triathlon! I really loved this race when I did it in 2019 and I had another great experience this year, despite my general dislike of the water. The super sprint is basically the shortest triathlon distance you can do — this one was four laps in a pool, a 5-mile bike ride, and a 1.75-mile run. I finished in about 46 minutes, which was around a minute faster than my 2019 time.

Feeling strong!

I was also 5th overall female, but that’s mainly because of my run time! It took me nearly eight minutes to complete the swim. And I had been going to the pool regularly to swim laps, but….. When it comes to swimming, I have one fatal flaw and that is the fact that I reallllllly don’t like to put my face in the water. Like, I really, really, really do not. This is a problem when you’re trying (tri-ing?) to swim, to say the least. Swimming freestyle with your head up out of the water is just about the most inefficient thing possible. So, no wonder it took me almost eight minutes. 

But I am determined to improve. I don’t have any more triathlons on my schedule, but my goal is to do a sprint eventually (and maybe a longer distance– who knows? I once said I’d never run a marathon….) I’ve been going to the pool, though not consistently, and I have even attempted two open water swims. I tagged along with my friends Tammy and Theresa to an open water swimming session in the South River a few weeks ago. I admittedly panicked when I got in the water and ended up just swimming in the shallows, going back and forth between two piers. The instructor suggested I come back on a Sunday morning, when there are more newbie swimmers and I could get a little bit more guidance. So I returned last Sunday morning and was less fearful. 

They had two buoys set up– one 50 meters out into the river and one 300 meters out. I wasn’t quite brave enough to swim out to the 50 meter buoy, and the 300 buoy was definitely a hell no, but! I put my face in the water more! That alone was a victory for me. I really have a hard time with my breathing, and I certainly didn’t retain a damn thing I learned in swim lessons as a young girl, so I’m contemplating signing up for adult swim lessons. Interest in doing a longer tri aside, swimming is an essential life skill and I do think I need to get more comfortable doing it. 

I just turned 41 a few days ago, so I can add that to my list of goals this year! 

I fell in a half marathon, and kept on going

Sometimes you accidentally PR a half marathon

And sometimes you trip and fall and skin your knees and hands at mile 11.5 of a half marathon, and run one of your slowest times in years. 

Guess which one was the Georgetown Half Marathon? 

Yeah, that was fun. 

I did manage to come in third place, though! 

Last weekend, I ran Bishop Events’ Georgetown Half Marathon. It was a week after I ran a 1:37:58 at the Halfity Half Marathon in Harrisburg, and I wasn’t planning on beating that time, i.e., running another PR. Which was fine — all races can’t be PRs. And then I saw the forecast — humid, with a high of 91 degrees. On May 23! Yuck! When summer comes to the DMV, it comes in with a vengeance. The older I get, the less I like to run in the heat, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from coming out and giving my all at the race. It’s been so long since we’ve had a plethora of live races to choose from, and now that they are coming back, it’s taking serious restraint for me not to sign up for alllllll of them. 

The race was on the C&O Towpath in D.C., where I have run many times before, including other races with Bishop Events. It benefited Operation Turbo, a local nonprofit that sends care packages to troops overseas. As far as half marathons go, the course is about as simple as you can get — 6.55 miles out, 6.55 miles back! Easy peasy. And it’s flat as a pancake, too. The surface is a little rocky and uneven, though. More on that later. 

Things kicked off right at 8 am sharp, which was nice because I live about 45 minutes away so I didn’t have to get up THAT early….. But bad because it was already pretty hot and sticky by then. At least the course is mostly shaded, I told myself. Except that wasn’t entirely true. The first four miles were pretty shady, and then the trail opened up and the sun was beating down on me in full force. So, I guess the middle part of the race was in the blazing sun. Lovely! The race organizers did set up water stops every three miles, which was great. I drank a cup of water at each one (mind you, when I ran the Halfity Half the weekend before, with temperatures in the 50s, I didn’t take a sip of water — didn’t feel like I needed it) and also dumped a cup of water over my head. 

My mile splits were in the low- to mid-7s until about mile 9. And then it all went to hell. (Felt like it, too.) I was overheating so badly — luckily, I had opted to run in a sports bra rather than a tank or T-shirt — and I was just over it. I started to take walk breaks — no shame. Another woman on the course, whom I’m pretty sure finished in second place, saw me struggling and tried to encourage me. “Come on girl! You look so strong! You have more than enough in you to finish the race!” she told me. “It’s just so hot,” I whined. “I ran a 1:37 last weekend!” (Because that was vital info to share? Like I needed to prove that I was fast or whatever? LOL.) 

Then I ran with two men for a while, and they helped me keep a somewhat steady pace. I’m glad they were there, because they helped pick me up when I took a tumble late! 

Like I said earlier, the trail is a bit uneven — nothing terrible, and if I hadn’t been so hot and gassed at that point, I probably would have been paying more attention and may not have tripped over some rocks in the middle of the path. But I was, and I did. Man, that hurt. I reflexively braced myself with my hands, so my palms got all torn up, and then my knees and my right thigh got all scraped up. My shorts were filthy, and blood was running down my left leg. I looked like I was in a tough mudder, not a half marathon. But even though it hurt, I didn’t do any major damage. No fractured knee or anything like that. So, with the help of my running buddies, I picked myself back up and trudged to the finish line. Running hurt, but honestly no more than it did before I fell! (I’ve been running this past week, and even though my left knee feels tender to the touch, it’s not causing me any pain when I run. Yay!) 

By the time I got to the end of the race, I wasn’t even looking at my watch anymore. But when I crossed the finish line, I yelled out “thank God!” and stopped my watch and saw I finished in 1:44:36. My official time was actually 1:44:29, so I guess I stopped my watch a few seconds too late. Definitely one of my slowest times in quite a while, but still pretty solid considering the conditions and my fall. After I finished, Travis, owner of Bishop Events, handed me a plaque and congratulated me for coming in third female. The first place female finished in the high 1:20s, and the second place female, whom I think was the lady that encouraged me on the course, ran a 1:39 and change. 

All in all, I am really proud of that race. Maybe as proud as I was of my PR the weekend before. It’s one thing to run an incredible race when all the conditions are perfect — flat course, cool weather, you feel good, etc. That was the case in the Halfity Half Marathon. But it takes a lot more grit to gut it out when the weather sucks and especially after a hard fall. I’m not going to lie — I felt like a total badass crossing the finish line all bloody. 

A closer look at the bruise on my left leg.

Have you ever fallen in a race? If so, were you able to finish?

I ran an accidental half marathon PR

If you’ve been running for many years, as I have, you know that PRs get harder and harder to set. I’m also turning 41 in a few months, and while I don’t plan to stop running hard any time soon, I also know that I will likely be slowing down over the next decade. 

But not quite yet. I ran an unexpected half marathon PR last weekend –1:37:58 at the Halfity-Half Marathon in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania! That’s a 45-second PR, and it got me 1st place in the female Masters division. 

How did that happen? I really have no idea. Honestly, I wish I could share a training regimen or some insights or something of substance, but I really can’t. I had three Reese’s martinis the night before the race — maybe that’s the secret. 

I wasn’t even planning to run this half marathon. Micah and I went to Hershey to celebrate our 5-year anniversary last weekend, and a few days before, I decided to look to see if there were any races happening in the area. Lo and behold, there was a half marathon happening on May 16 in nearby Harrisburg. (A half-half marathon, 6.55 miles, was held the day before.) I eagerly signed up. I saw that the half started and ended at City Island, and the course went along the Susquehanna River, just like the Lucky Charm 5K I did back in March with Staci. I really liked the area and was looking forward to running a longer distance there. 

Since we were celebrating our anniversary, we packed a lot into the day before the race — Chocolate World, a trolley tour, a chocolate-infused pedicure for me, shopping, a delicious dinner at the Hershey Lodge. It was there that I had the three martinis, which included peanut butter whiskey (I don’t even like whiskey), Godiva chocolate liqueur, and other liquors that didn’t even taste like liquor. When I ordered my third, Micah side-eyed me, saying, “Aren’t you running a race in the morning?” I didn’t feel particularly buzzed, so I waved off his concerns. And obviously, it didn’t affect my performance (unless it was for the better!)

I woke up early Sunday to a beautiful day– mid-50s with no wind and some cloud cover. Just about perfect for running! City Island was only about a 15-minute drive from our hotel, and I enjoyed driving down Route 22 into downtown Harrisburg and seeing the state Capitol building come into view. It really is a pretty city — one I’ve barely spent any time in, despite having grown up in southwestern PA. Packet pickup was at one end of the parking lot in City Island, and that was a simple and easy process. Gotta love the logistics of small races! 

When I registered, I chose the elite corral — LOL. To be placed in the elite corral, as a female runner, I had to run a 1:50 or faster half, and I figured I would probably be in the low 1:40s. Pretty surprised that qualified me for the elite corral, but hey, I’ll take it! My wave went off promptly at 7 am and runners were lined up six feet apart and went off every 10 seconds to allow for social distancing purposes. Although the CDC has recently loosened mask guidelines (and to that I say hallelujah!), every place and organization is still kind of doing its own thing in regards to COVID mitigation. I think it’ll be that way for a while. 

Most of the race course was along the Susquehanna. After we left City Island, we ran over an open grate bridge that I had run over in the Lucky Charm 5K, then onto a path by the river, then back and forth over another bridge. I ran my first mile in 7:43, then got faster from there. As I mentioned earlier, the weather was absolutely perfect and that always makes a world of difference. After we got off the second bridge, we spent miles three through 10 back on the path by the river. It was flat and beautiful, and I clicked off a string of 7:18 miles — probably the most consistent pacing I’d ever done. My only gripe, which was definitely not the fault of the race, was that there were geese everywhere. I mean, duh. We were running by a river! But I was nearly attacked by a mama goose who thought I was getting too close to her goslings when I was a kid, so they always make me nervous. There was also goose poop everywhere, which was gross, and I was wearing a new pair of Hoka Carbon X shoes. Luckily, the bottoms didn’t look too soiled afterwards. 

Around mile 10, the path took us away from the river and through a wooded area, then back over another bridge to City Island. I really felt so strong the whole way through and didn’t have that feeling of wanting to be done until maybe there was a mile left of the race. When I crossed the finish line, I hit the button on my watch and it said I ran the race in 1:38:00 — PR! Yay! But then when I checked my official time, I found out I actually ran a 1:37:58 — even better! I shrieked with delight. It took me 20 half marathons to get under 1:40, so to run a 1:37 is really exciting. It also means that I’m within a minute of qualifying for the New York City Marathon. You can qualify with a half marathon time, and a woman my age needs to run a 1:37:00 half to qualify. I’m not really an NYC person and have never been dying to run that marathon, but I know a lot of people love it …. So maybe if I qualify, I will run it. 

Once again, I do wish I could explain why I had such a great race. I haven’t done a lick of speedwork since March. Since the marathon on March 27, I’ve done just two double digit runs — one 10-miler and one 12-miler. My weekday runs are usually between three and five miles. I often worry that I am taking these easy runs too fast– I typically run between an 8:10 and an 8:25 pace, depending on how I feel — but maybe not if I can bust out a half at a 7:28 average pace.    

In any event, I am ecstatic with how the race went and am looking forward to more half marathons this year — including one tomorrow on the C&O Towpath in D.C.! It’s supposed to be going up to a high of 90 degrees (ugh– when summer comes to the DMV, it comes in with a vengeance) so I am not expecting another PR. That’s also a flat course, and it starts early and there’s a lot of shade, so maybe it won’t be too bad. 

I love marathons, but I think I love half marathons more. I get to tap into my strengths as an endurance athlete, but they don’t leave me totally wrecked at the end. And the training isn’t all-consuming, either. What is your favorite distance?

Squeaked out: I missed the cutoff for the 2021 Boston Marathon

On Tuesday, I found out I was one of more than 9,000 qualified runners to be rejected from the 2021 Boston Marathon.

It wasn’t a surprise, with the longer-than-usual qualifying period and the smaller-than-usual field. But it still sucks. 

For those of you who are not in tune with all things Boston, the Boston Marathon is usually held every April. But we are still in a pandemic. So last year’s race was turned into a virtual marathon, and this year’s race was postponed until Oct 11, 2021. For October’s race, the Boston Athletic Association accepted entries from qualified runners who ran BQs from September 2018 through the start of registration on April 20. And they only accepted 14,000 entries. So, in order to actually gain a spot in the marathon, you had to beat your qualifying time by seven minutes and 47 seconds. 

I was three minutes and 26 seconds under my BQ time at the Chasing the Unicorn Marathon last Halloween. So, I guess it’s better to be a few minutes off than a few seconds off?

On a positive note, the B.A.A. announced that for the 2022 Boston Marathon — planned for the usual third Monday in April next year — the qualifying window began on Sept. 1, 2019, and will end sometime later this year (I am guessing after Boston 2021 happens.) In other words, I’ll be able to reapply with my Chasing the Unicorn time from October 2020, which would have been in the usual 2022 qualifying window anyway. I guess my Tidewater Striders BQ will be a “throwaway” BQ, since it’s in the same window and was only two minutes and 38 seconds under my standard. Of course, you can only register with one race result! 

And it could be worse. I feel terrible for everyone who was registered for Boston 2020, which ultimately went virtual, then registered for 2021 and didn’t make the cutoff. Especially those who were first time Boston Marathoners. At least I’ve run the race already. 

So, what’s next? 

After I finished Tidewater Striders in March, I swore I wasn’t running a marathon this fall unless it was Boston. The end of that race was SO painful. And I’ve essentially been training for a BQ marathon since December 2019. First for Coastal Delaware 2020, which got canceled, then Chasing the Unicorn, which was canceled and rescheduled, then the Reston Marathon. When Reston got canceled, I registered for Tidewater Striders. It’s been a lot. But I’m not going to lie, when I found out I got rejected, I definitely thought about finding another marathon early this fall to make sure I have enough of a cushion to get into the 2022 race.

There is also a part of me that is intrigued by the ultramarathon world, too. The iconic JFK 50 Miler happens every November in western Maryland. I thought, that would give me a new challenge! An extremely terrifying challenge, but it’s good to do stuff that scares you, right? 

But honestly — I think I may just focus on crushing a half marathon this fall and hope my Chasing the Unicorn time is good enough for 2022. I’ll be honest — I didn’t have a lot of fun marathon training last summer. Training through a hot and humid Maryland summer sucks! I would pick winter training over summer training any day of the week. And when I was training last summer, work was bananas stressful and I wasn’t even sure I’d actually get to run a marathon in the end anyway. And I almost didn’t! This summer is thankfully going to look different, but I still think I need a break. I want marathon training to continue to be something I WANT to do, not something I feel like I HAVE to do. 

In any event, I am optimistic that I have enough of a cushion for Boston 2022. Yes, the qualifying window is still two years long (in normal times, the window is a year long.) But think of all the marathons that were canceled starting in March 2020. Sure, small marathons began to resume in fall 2020, but I think there have been very few marathons that have had more than a few hundred finishers. So, way fewer opportunities to qualify and way fewer qualified runners. I do think a lot of runners will re-qualify at this fall’s Boston. But I’d also venture to say that plenty of them won’t want to turn around and run another Boston six months later. Boston is expensive!  

Did you get squeaked out of this fall’s Boston Marathon? Are you running another marathon this fall to try to improve your time, or just hoping for the best like I am?

I ran my 3rd BQ at the Tidewater Striders BQ Marathon Invitational

This past Saturday, I ran my 9th marathon — the Tidewater Striders BQ Marathon Invitational in Chesapeake, Virginia. It was quite an experience. 

The good news — I ran a BQ, my third one! And I won 3rd place in the female Masters division, for runners who are 40 and older. 

The bad news — I missed my 3:30 goal by seven minutes, clocking in at 3:37:22. I had hoped to improve my time from Chasing the Unicorn last fall, but I was actually 48 seconds slower. The last six miles were a shit show. My feet were on fire, I was nauseated and dehydrated and when I saw Micah at mile 25, I told him I hated marathons and was done with them. Oh, and I dry-heaved at the finish line.

Of course I’ll keep on running marathons — but if I don’t get into the fall Boston, I don’t plan on running a different marathon this fall. I need a break. 

Before the Race

This marathon, put on by the Tidewater Striders of southern Virginia, was for runners who had already qualified for Boston or were within 20 minutes of their BQ times. I wasn’t planning to run this marathon initially — rather, I had signed up for the Runners Marathon of Reston, Virginia, on April 11. When that race was canceled in February due to COVID concerns, I jumped into this race. It meant losing two weeks of training, but I wasn’t too worried about that. I found a nice place to stay in Virginia Beach, the Founders Inn and Spa, and looked forward to a fun weekend in an area I don’t travel to very often. 

The weekend before the race, I ran the Lucky Charm 5K in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with Staci. I told myself I wasn’t going to go all out and instead just run the 5K at goal marathon pace (8 minutes per mile.) Well, I ended up going faster than intended — shocker! — and ran a 22:34, or 7:11 pace. But! That pace didn’t feel like an all out push, and I felt that I definitely could have gone faster, so I was optimistic that I could hold onto an 8-minute mile for a marathon. 

Micah and I drove down the day before the race, and that was a disaster. Traffic was a hot mess on I-95 for no reason than it was an unseasonably warm day and a lot of people were out. (What pandemic? Haha. I mean, I was out and about, too.) It took us about six hours to get to our hotel when it should have taken four. Annoying. Once we got there, we headed to TGI Fridays so I could get my standard veggie burger, fries and a beer. Probably weird, but it works for me! 

I didn’t sleep well at all the night before the race, and I think I was just anxious, which is rare for me. I get anxious about a lot of things, but running isn’t one of them. I trust my training and, well, it’s not like I get paid for this. But the forecast wasn’t great — it was going to get into the 70s for the race, and that’s hot for a marathon (particularly after training through the winter.) And it had only been about five months since my last marathon. Was that too short of a turnaround time? Could I be overtrained? Would I bonk bad? I was going to find out. 

26.2 miles up and down the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail 

Micah, saint of a husband that he is, drove me to the start line about 20 minutes from our hotel, bright and early. The race took place on a trail called the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail — sounds lovely, right?! It actually was a really beautiful trail, through the woods and along a creek, and it was nice and flat! It was a double out and back, just like Chasing the Unicorn. With just 75 runners registered, this was the smallest marathon I’ve ever run. I later found out that only 59 people showed up to the start line that morning. We all had to sign COVID waivers (though since I am fully vaccinated, I just had to write “VA” on my form and didn’t need to answer a bunch of questions) and then get our temperatures taken. Masks were required at the start line, but we could remove them as soon as we began running. And runners were grouped into socially distant waves, with the fastest runners going first. We were all seeded by projected finish time, and I was ranked no. 58 out of 75 registered runners. Talk about humbling! But it was a very fast and competitive field. 

The race began at 7:30, and my wave went off at 7:34. I started off running near two older men. One of them was shooting for a 3:30 as well, and his friend was there pacing him. I told them I was going to hang with them because I also wanted to run 3:30 (or better if things really went my way.) We spent about half the race together before the guy who was going for a 3:30 fell behind, and his friend pulled ahead. I tried to look for both of them after the race to see how they fared, but couldn’t find them. 

I told myself before the race that I wasn’t going to start out any faster than an 8:15-8:20 pace. That didn’t happen. Whoops. But I was consistent for about the first 16 miles, logging miles in the high 7s/low 8s, which would have put me right around 3:30 had I been able to maintain it. 

But I couldn’t. 

The weather was actually OK at the beginning of the race — it was in the low 60s and not too sunny. But once the sun came out and the humidity rose, it got pretty toasty. I started to fade around miles 17 and 18, and I’m sure part of that was the weather, but it’s also very possible I just went out too fast. When I ran Rehoboth in 2017, I started out with the 3:40 pace group and then pulled ahead at the halfway point. I felt fantastic through most of that race and never really got tired until about mile 24. I ran a negative split and finished strong in 3:35:00. It’s the best race I’ve ever executed. Even though my last two marathons have been Boston qualifiers, I ran positive splits both times and basically felt like I limped to the finish line. 

I was stopping for water and Gatorade at every aid station, which were set up about every three miles, but I was just so thirsty and my stomach was starting to feel queasy. I usually take my gels at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20, but once I passed the 20 mile mark, I couldn’t bring myself to have that fourth gel. 

The last 10K really sucked. I thought the final 10K in Chasing the Unicorn was painful, especially when I had to climb over a fallen tree at mile 23. I think this was worse. In addition to the heat, my feet REALLY hurt. I wore my Brooks Hyperion Tempos, which I bought last summer and have only worn in Chasing the Unicorn, the virtual Baltimore Half Marathon and the Before the Game Half Marathon last month. Oh, and in the 5K last weekend. The shoes have always felt great, so I don’t know what the problem was on Saturday. Maybe my feet swelled up in the heat? I don’t think that’s ever happened before, but there is a first time for everything! 

So those last few miles were basically a sad little shuffle. I was excited to see Micah at mile 25, but that’s when I had a pity party and told him marathons sucked. “The finish line is just up there,” he told me. “One foot in front of the other!” He even ran with me for a little bit to keep me going. In his flip flops. Like I said, he’s a saint. 

At that point, I knew my goal was in the toilet, but I also knew that I was going to break 3:40, so I could add another BQ to my running resume. I actually wanted to stop and walk at the mile 26 marker, but told myself no! I pushed as hard as I could and finally made it across the finish line in 3:37:22- a BQ with two minutes and 38 seconds to spare. One of the race volunteers asked me if I qualified, and I said yes, and she handed me my finisher’s medal and a special shirt they were giving to everyone who ran a BQ. It says Boston Qualified on the front and Destination Boylston St. 2022 on the back. I thanked her, and then I went over to the side of the road to dry heave.    

I wasn’t expecting to win anything since the field was so competitive, but when I checked my official results, they handed me this huge trophy for coming in 3rd place in the female Masters division! I was so surprised. Overall, I was 18 out of 22 females and 51 out of 59 runners. With a 3:37! And a BQ! The top 12 runners were all under three hours, and all but three runners finished under four hours. That is a CRAZY fast field. 

Overall, I am happy with how I did. I felt like crap and pulled through anyway, which is what marathoning is all about! I do think I would benefit greatly from running a race with a dedicated pace group going five minutes slower than my goal pace that I could link up with and then hopefully pull ahead at the halfway point — like I did in Rehoboth. I just saw today that the Salisbury Marathon, which is happening next weekend and which I had considered as a backup marathon, actually has a 3:35 pace group. But no, I am not running another marathon next weekend. Ha!  

Boston bound — maybe?

So now I’m currently sitting on two BQ times. Last October’s time is -3:26 under my qualifying standard; Saturday’s gives me a -2:38 buffer. I could use either one to register for the 2021 Boston Marathon, which, due to COVID, is planned for October this year instead of the traditional Patriots Day in April. However, the field size has been cut to 20,000 runners and the Boston Athletic Association decided they’ll take BQ times from September 2018 until when 2021 registration opens on April 20.

And, even in normal times, simply running a BQ is not a guarantee that you’ll get into Boston. The marathon has gotten increasingly popular over the last decade, and runners are getting more competitive, so more runners are qualifying than the race has room for. So, every year there’s an unknown “cutoff” time, meaning you have to run that much under your BQ standard to be allowed into the race. When I got into Boston 2019, I had that 3:35:00 from Rehoboth, exactly five minutes under my then-qualifying standard (standards have since been tightened, and as a 40-year-old woman, I now have to meet the same BQ time, 3:40:00, as when I was in the 35-39 age group!) The cutoff that year was -4:52– meaning I got in with just eight seconds to spare!

So I’ll use my 3:36 from last October to register for the race this fall, but I’m not optimistic it’ll get me in. I AM crossing my fingers that I can use one of these times for Boston 2022, presumably happening next spring! I mean, the shirt the Tidewater Striders gave everyone who qualified yesterday does say Destination Boylston St. 2022!

A recap of the Little Patuxent River Run, and some more thoughts on the 2021 Boston Marathon

I ran my second live race of 2021 last weekend, and my first live race with Rip It Events in over a year! 

When COVID hit a year ago, Rip It, like every other race company, was forced to either cancel races outright or make them virtual. Rip It did a fantastic job of adding several themed virtual races to their race calendar for 2020, too, including virtual 5Ks for Cinco de Mayo, Donut Day and Fourth of July

They were also able to add two socially distant live races in the later part of 2020, the Bear Trail Half Marathon and 10K last August and the Greenbrier Trail 5 and 10 Miler in October. I’m not a confident trail runner, so I declined to participate in those races. 

However, one trail race I do feel good about is the Little Patuxent River Run, which I have done every year since it began. It’s challenging, but still appropriate for those of us who prefer the roads to the trails. The race was supposed to take place at the end of January, with a half marathon on one day and a 10K the next, and plans called for both races to be spaced out in waves to allow for proper distancing. 

I had initially signed up for both races, but once COVID restrictions forced the races to be postponed until the first weekend of March, I decided to drop down to just the 10K. And I’m glad I did. I didn’t have high hopes as far as my time — I had run 20 miles the day before, and my legs were trashed. Plus, I’m a lot more cautious when trail running. I approached the 10K purely as a training run (I also had to run a full 10 miles that day, so I knew I’d have to get some bonus miles in after the race).

So I was pretty surprised to finish as the second place female. I have always gotten an age group award at this race before (and I’ve run both the half and the 10K), but never an overall award.   

My final time was 53:13 — and for reference, I recently ran a time trial/virtual 10K and finished in 45:09, so yeah, big difference between the roads and the trails for me. Overall, I felt pretty strong, though yeah, I definitely felt those 20 miles I’d run the previous day when climbing the two big inclines in the race. I did feel a little nauseous/dehydrated toward the end, which I’m going to blame on the previous night’s dinner — mushroom ravioli with a cream sauce and two Moscato Mojitos at Maggiano’s. Nothing I would normally consume the night before a race, but like I said, this wasn’t a goal race! Oh yeah, and I ate a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon for breakfast. That probably wasn’t smart, either. Peanut butter and banana on a bagel for life! 

It’s possible I also felt nauseous because I spent a good mile of the race running near a guy who kept spitting on the trail. Like, for real? That’s nasty when we aren’t in a pandemic. Glad I’m fully vaccinated.

All in all, it was a great morning and everyone was so happy to be out racing in person. Thank you, Rip It Events, for putting on such a fun and safe event! 

(As a Rip It Events ambassador, I received a free entry to the Little Patuxent River Run. Contact me for a 15 percent discount off of any 2021 Rip It race!)

Boston Marathon 2021

The 2021 Boston Marathon is scheduled to happen in person on Oct. 11. The Boston Athletic Association has not yet opened up registration, but they have said they will take qualifying times from September 2018 until registration closes. 

This means two things. One, my BQ from October will count for the 2021 window. Two, the pool of qualifiers is going to be much larger than usual if they are going all the way back to September 2018. I beat my qualifying standard by 3 minutes and 26 seconds, but I don’t think there is any way in hell that’ll get me into the race. No, we obviously don’t know the mysterious cutoff yet, but the BAA has ALSO said the field is going to be much smaller this year due to the pandemic. So, I’m not holding out hope that I will run Boston this fall. 

The BAA also announced last week that they’ll offer a virtual Boston Marathon for anyone who wants to run it –no qualifying time required. This virtual race will be open to 70,000 runners. Needless to say, this decision has been controversial, with some runners saying it devalues Boston and other runners saying this is an opportunity to allow more people to participate. Personally? I think it’s stupid and I have my doubts that 70,000 runners will jump at the chance to pay to run a virtual Boston. The whole allure of Boston, in my opinion, is qualifying for it — very tough to do for most people! — and then running IN BOSTON. Yeah, I know they offered a virtual Boston last year, but that was for people who already qualified and were registered to run the real deal. I’m just not a fan of this — and at this point, I remain hopeful that I can run Boston 2022, either with my Chasing the Unicorn time or my finish time at the BQ Marathon Invitational at the end of the month. Fingers crossed for a big PR there! No idea what the qualifying window will actually be for Boston 2022, but I do know that in “normal times,” my October 2020 BQ would have been in the 2022 window. But who knows what they’ll decide to do as far as that race goes. 

Future Marathon Plans

I’m still registered to run the Coastal Delaware marathon this November, but I’m on the fence about it. Really, I’m on the fence about running any marathon this fall. 

Here’s the thing — I’ve basically been training for a marathon for a year. I was training hard for Coastal Delaware 2020 before it got canceled last spring. I backed off my training plan for a few months, then started hitting it hard again in June, with the hopes that I might be able to run some fall marathon somewhere. And I did. But then after Chasing the Unicorn on Halloween, I took a break from training (still running, just not following a structured plan) until mid-December, then I started up again. 

All that happened in a year that was, of course, extremely challenging. I rarely discuss my career on here, but I recently switched jobs. I had been working in marketing/communications for a hospital, focused mainly on social media marketing. Running social media in the healthcare space during a pandemic is not as glamorous as it sounds. LOL. I won’t go into all the details of why I left, but suffice it to say I am happy that I don’t have to spend every day (nights and weekends included!) answering questions on Facebook about the COVID vaccine. I got a new job as a communications specialist in the home services industry, and so far I am really enjoying it. It’s more relaxed, and I get to tap into the journalism skills I honed in my first career as a reporter. I’m glad I took a leap and I truly wish I’d done it sooner.

So yeah, last year was stressful AF, and I fit in marathon training because it was important to me (I obviously do not have kids– otherwise I would never have been able to do that.) And it honestly kept me sane and made me feel like I was accomplishing something, when I felt like I was spinning my wheels most days at work. But I’m thinking I need a break from the intensity of marathon training.

I wouldn’t need to start a structured fall training plan until July, so I guess I have some time to decide. But I’m leaning toward just dropping down to the half marathon. If I am lucky enough to be able to run Boston 2022, I’d have to start that training in December anyway, so this would probably be for the best.  

But like I said, I have time.

Change of plans: I’m running the Tidewater Striders BQ Marathon Invitational on March 27

What’s that old saying — make plans, and God laughs? 

#NowMoreThanEver, during this pandemic life we’re all stuck in, this rings true. 

Back in December, I registered for the Runners Marathon of Reston, scheduled for April 11 in Reston, Virginia. Obviously, I knew the race could ultimately be canceled, but it’s a small race — less than 1,000 runners — so I thought there was a good chance it could proceed as planned. The race organizers said they would refund everyone’s money if the race was canceled due to COVID, so I figured I didn’t have much to lose. I started training, following Hal Higdon’s Advanced Marathon plan, with an April 11 marathon date in my mind. 

I also found my March filling up with opportunities to run live races. And before I knew it, I was planning on running a real, in-person race every weekend! 

Then, three days ago, I got the email from Runners Marathon. Canceled. Unsure if they’ll be able to get permits for the race. 

Luckily, I already had a backup plan in mind — The Tidewater Striders BQ Marathon Invitational in Chesapeake, Virginia on March 27. The race is only for people who have already qualified for Boston and want a faster time and better cushion, like me, or for people who have run within 20 minutes of their BQ time within the last three years. Runners had to submit qualifying times from previous races to be admitted into the race, so I registered with my Chasing the Unicorn finish time from last fall

This obviously chops two weeks off of my training plan, but I’m not too worried. I feel excited and ready. It does royally screw up everything I had planned to do, running-wise, in March. Here’s a look at what I was going to do, and what I’ll be doing instead. 

March 6-7: I was supposed to run the Little Patuxent River Run with Rip It Events. Due to COVID protocols, the half marathon and the 10K were going to be held on separate days, giving runners the opportunity to run both races if they wanted to. When I signed up in November, I decided I wanted to do both races. At that point, the race(s) were scheduled for the last weekend of January, and I wasn’t even sure then if I would be able to run a spring marathon. 

But then, race weekend was postponed until March due to COVID restrictions. I was already a bit nervous about running a trail half marathon, followed by a trail 10K, a month out from a marathon. Plus, the races fell on a weekend when I was supposed to be running 20 miles one day and 10 miles one day. So I basically would have had to tack another seven miles onto the half marathon and four miles onto the 10K. Not ideal. 

When I realized I was going to be running a marathon on March 27, I got even more nervous. I’ve run LPRR every year that Rip It has had the race, and I love it. I’ve run both the half and the 10K. But let’s face it, I am not a trail runner and the potential of me tripping and falling and maybe hurting myself is definitely there. Do I want to risk that three weeks out from a marathon? Nope. But I didn’t want to miss the race, either! In the end, I decided to just do the 10K, which will be on Sunday, March 7. I’ll run my 20-miler the day before, then on race morning, I can warm up for two miles, run the 10K, then cool down for two miles. And I never really push the pace when trail running, because I get too scared, so I’m not worried about going too hard.

March 14: After I ran Bishop’s Events’ Before the Game Half Marathon, I posted my picture on Instagram and they chose it as their social media pic of the week, rewarding me with half off the registration fee for a future race! I saw they were having a St. Paddy’s Day 5K, 10K and half marathon on March 14 on the C&O Towpath, and so I registered for the half marathon. I could race a half a month out from a marathon.

But do I want to race a half two weeks out from a marathon? That worries me. Yes, I could go and run it at an easy pace, but I’m too damn competitive for my own good. I’ve placed in all of the Bishop’s races I’ve done, and it would be hard for me to hold back, knowing that I could probably do it again. So, I asked if I could transfer into a different half marathon later this spring, and Travis, the owner of the organization, said that was fine. So I’m going to run the Georgetown Half, also on the C&O, on May 23. 

March 21: Staci and I are running the Lucky Charm 5K in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on March 21. I am still running this, but I was originally planning on racing it. I will not be doing that a week out from a marathon. Yes, I’m competitive, but 5Ks have never been my jam and the marathon is more important to me …. So I’m just going to have to show some restraint. My goal is to not run it any faster than marathon pace. 🙂 

March 27: I was signed up for the Barlowe Bolt 5K in Millersville and was hoping to defend my title from the October 2020 race. Now because of the marathon, I’ll be a big ol’ no show that day. Luckily, the money raised through the race registration fees goes to a good cause — upgrading the neighborhood’s playground.  

So — that’s that! As for my goal for the BQ Invitational, I’m still hoping to run around a 3:30. I think my training shows that I can. I need to make sure I don’t go out too fast in the beginning and I also just need to have a good day! Marathons can be so unpredictable, and sometimes you can do everything right in training and it can all go to hell on race day. My “B” goal is to run any BQ time (under 3:40:00 for a 40-year-old woman) because everyone who qualifies gets a special prize. 

I can’t wait!