The Dreaded Druid Hills 10K lived up to its name

I wasn’t planning to sign up for another August race, but the description for the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K was just too intriguing.

“The race you love to hate is back! What a better way to spend a Saturday morning running thru the hills of Druid Hill Park. This isn’t your grandfathers 10K – expect a challenging course that will test your love of racing, in addition to hill repeats thrown in the middle.”

Sounds fun, right?

I casually mentioned on Facebook that I was thinking about running the race, and luckily, I have a lot of friends who are equally as crazy as me. A group of eight of us headed to Druid Hill Park in Baltimore this Saturday morning, ready to run a 10K that basically promised to be a complete suckfest — in a good way!

I had zero expectations for my time. I have been running on the Naval Academy Bridge more over the past few weeks to get ready for the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, but I haven’t done any specific hill training since Boston. I also haven’t done any speed work in weeks (that’ll start up again as I ramp up training next month for the Philly Half.) Plus, it’s been roughly the temperature of Satan’s armpit over the last few days, so I was expecting the weather to be gross per usual. (Spoiler alert: It was.) I knew there was no chance in hell I’d be anywhere close to a PR, and I was more than fine with that. I was mostly just looking forward to a fun morning with friends!

Also, it was a good chance to take my new Hoka CarbonX racing shoes out for a spin! I splurged on these for my birthday last month. I’m planning to wear them in races only, so this was my first time running in them.

The race, put on by Falls Road Running Store and held entirely in the park, started promptly at 7:30 am. Tammi and I started off together — I told her I thought I’d be running at around an 8-minute pace. We ran the first mile in 7:56 and our second in 7:59, so I was pretty close. At that point, the race was mostly rolling hills, nothing too crazy. There was a nice long downhill between miles 1 and 2, which of course meant we’d be climbing back up those hills on our way back!
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We hit the first major incline shortly after we passed the mile 2 marker. “Don’t let me hold you back,” Tammi said. I assured her she wasn’t and that she might need to motivate me up the hill, as she is a very strong hill runner. We stayed together up the hill and then she told me she was having trouble breathing and that I needed to go ahead without her. I asked if she was OK and she insisted me that she was. The humidity was just oppressive and I think that really got to her.

I slowed down in mile 3, logging an 8:32 per my watch, then an 8:16 for mile 4. Mile 5 was a nightmare, as we then ascended the hills that we ran down earlier in the race. I saw a lot of people taking walk breaks, which motivated me to do the same, and I finished that mile in 9:20. Oh well. I managed to pass a few men — not that I was trying to compete with them, really — and one of them cheered me on, telling me that I came out of nowhere. “That’s what I do,” I joked.

I was able to end the race on a high note — mile 6 was my fastest mile of the race, with a split of 7:35! Did I mention the race actually ends on a downhill? I love it when that happens! All races should be this way! I crossed the finish line in an official time of 50:06, just missing breaking 50 minutes. According to my watch, the race was a little short — I logged 6.08 miles, while Tammi and Kree both said their watches recorded just under six miles.

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In any event, I’m happy with my race. I felt pretty strong throughout despite the hills and humidity — the humidity, in my opinion, was harder to deal with than the hills. (Though most of the course was shaded, thank goodness!) I finished third among women 35-39, and all finishers got pint glasses — can never have too many of those! I originally opted not to get a race shirt, since I already own so many of them. But then when I saw how cute the shirts were, I decided to buy one anyway.

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Then afterwards, most of our group went to kickboxing class. Because, as I said earlier, we’re kind of crazy. Kree was teaching it and she wasn’t too tough on us (coulda done without the leg raises, though. Just saying. ;))

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Next up is the A10 next weekend! My favorite race of the year!

I won a local 10K race (?!), and now it’s time to taper!

I had just passed the halfway point in the Seashore Striders’ Get Pumped For Pets 10K race on Kent Island and was running back toward the finish when runners headed in the opposite direction started to call out to me.

“Hey! You’re first female!”

“You go girl! First place!”

“You’re in first!”

I knew I was holding a pretty decent pace, and I didn’t see any other women around me, but I wasn’t paying a ton of attention — plus, there was also a 5K and a 15K race happening, and it was kind of hard to tell who was running what. So I was pretty excited. I thought an age group award was likely (I had already checked out last year’s times– haha, it’s not like I am competitive or anything!), but wasn’t expecting to win the whole thing. When I crossed the finish in 45:12 (just shy of my 10K PR), I was thrilled.

Then I found out I’d won my age group, and another woman had won the race. I was mildly disappointed, and surprised (seriously, like eight people had told me I was in first), but still happy with an award. The woman announced as the winner had finished in 41 minutes and change, so it wasn’t even close anyway.

Then another runner came up to me.

“You won the race,” she insisted.”There was a mistake.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “You probably just missed her out there. It’s fine! I still won my age group.”

Then another woman pulled me aside, telling me the same thing — someone screwed up and I had indeed won the 10K race.

Long story short, these other runners went to the event organizers and told them there was a mix-up, and they agreed that there appeared to be. The original winner never claimed her prize — a large wooden paw and a $50 gift card to a local restaurant — so it wasn’t like we were fighting over it! As near as I can gather, she probably messed up the turnaround for the 10K and cut her race short. (I highly doubt anyone doing this would have willfully cheated.) Because there were three separate races going on, the turnarounds were a bit confusing and not terribly well-marked. It would have been very easy to turn around at the 5K mark, or blow past the 10K turnaround and get mixed in with the 15K runners. Who knows! Anyway, it was nice of the other runners to have my back, because I was totally not going to make a stink about it. I was really just happy about my time. I am feeling REALLY good going into Boston after three weekends in a row of successful races.

This was my first year running in Get Pumped For Pets and I would definitely do it again, confusion aside. The course is flat and fast and I love the variety of distances (again, confusion aside!) I ran with a group of friends, including several of my coworkers, and between us we tackled each distance. The race, now in its 9th annual year, raises money for local animal rescues. So much fun, and it was for a great cause!

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Hoping the weather allows me to rock these pants in Boston! Maryland pride, baby!

Boston Marathon taper time

With that race under my belt, my marathon taper has officially started. Because I am following a 12-week plan, my taper is only two weeks long. Yesterday, I ran my second 20-miler and felt strong. (It didn’t hurt that the weather was sunny and beautiful and I was totally comfortable running in a tank top and shorts!)

The only hiccup is that my feet started to hurt a bit — and not just toward the end of the run, either. When I took off my shoes, I noticed some wear on the soles. I wouldn’t normally buy new kicks so close to a big race, but I was paranoid about running Boston with achy feet, so I went to Charm City Run in Annapolis and bought the exact same shoe (Brooks Ghosts, my go-to for at least the past six years.) I wore the new shoes today and they felt comfy, so I’ll wear them throughout the taper and plan to bring them to Boston with me!

15 days to go!

A 10K, a 5K and an update on Boston Marathon training!

The first time I trained for a full marathon (the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon), I swore I would never train for a spring marathon again. That winter was awful, with numerous snow storms and ice storms and brutally cold temperatures. My now-husband and I were forced to run three long runs on the treadmill — a 10-miler, a 14-miler and a 16-miler (my God, it was brutal.) Nope, nope, nope, I said to myself. If I ever do a marathon again, it will be a fall marathon. Screw this.

Then I ran the marathon that May and loved it. And the next month, I signed up for the 2016 Rock ‘N Roll D.C. Marathon, held the following March. And now I’m spending my fifth consecutive winter training for a marathon and I truly can’t imagine a winter without having a marathon to look forward to! Honestly, I wouldn’t say I’ve become a fan of winter, but having a goal to train and work toward during the darkest, coldest months of the year helps me get through a time of year that I’d always dreaded. Plus, I warm up a lot when I run (and I maintain that I’d rather train in 25 or 30 degree weather than 80 or 85 degree weather, especially with how humid and gross Maryland summers can be!)

And last weekend, I got a true taste of winter running when I ran in Rip It Events’ 3rd annual Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon and 10K. This race, held every year on Super Bowl Sunday, takes place on the Patuxent Branch Trail in Howard County. I had run the half marathon the past two years, but opted for the 10K this year. Why? Honestly, I was paranoid about falling and injuring myself with less than three months to go until Boston. I’ve fallen off the treadmill and also while running in downtown Annapolis on the cobblestone streets, so yeah, it’s safe to say that I am not always the most graceful. Wasn’t worth the risk this year. (You can read my recaps of the 2017 and 2018 Little Patuxent halfs here and here!)

That turned out to be the right decision, because this is what the trail looked like at the start of the race:

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Pretty, but slick!

Yikes. Because it was only in the 20s that morning, there was no chance any of that was melting any time soon. My only goal was not to fall and hurt myself — I knew I wouldn’t be setting any PRs (which would have been extremely unlikely at a trail race in the very best of conditions anyway!)

Because I had run this race twice in the past, I was familiar with the trail, and I remembered how beautiful the surrounding woods and river were — especially with the snow. So I tried to enjoy the scenery while also paying close attention to my footing. For the first mile or so, there were a lot of icy patches that we had to dodge around, and because the race is an out-and-back, I knew I’d have to watch out for the ice at mile 5, too!

The course is a challenge even when there isn’t snow and ice on the ground. There are two rather steep climbs, at miles 2.5ish and mile 4, that force even the speediest runners to slow wayyyyy down or even walk. There are some long declines, too, which can be equally scary if you trip over a rock or a root or something. And when packed snow covers the trail and you can’t even see any tripping hazards, well, it’s really tough!

But I never once fell, so mission accomplished! My finish time was 56:32, by far my slowest ever 10K time. Somehow, that was fast enough to get me 3rd in my age group, which surprised me!

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As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! A full list of 2019 Rip It events can be found here. If you’re interested in running any of them, let me know and I’ll share my 15 percent discount code with you! 

Annapolis Striders’ Valentine’s 5K

Wow, that was a cold one. My husband and I ran the Valentine’s 5K at Kinder Farm Park in Millersville yesterday with a bunch of friends, but it was so frigid I couldn’t bear to take my gloves off to take out my phone and get some pictures at the race start/finish. 16 degree windchill, ughhhhh! This is the two of us thawing off in the car afterwards:

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I had hoped for an age group award, and even looked at last year’s winners to see how fast I needed to run to be a contender. It appeared that I needed to run sub-23, which I thought was doable. And I did, finishing in 22:43, but it wasn’t fast enough. There were some SPEEDY runners out there, and I finished 6th in the 30-39 age group. (Although, Tammi, who finished a few seconds ahead of me, pointed out that if there had been a 35-39 age group, she would have finished first and I would have been second. And then her husband said, “Well, if my aunt had nuts she’d be my uncle.” So. Yeah.)

The run was OK. As I’ve said before, 5Ks are my nemesis and I often execute them poorly. This race reminded me of the Turkey Trot 5K that I ran on Thanksgiving Day. You know, that time I ran the first mile in a blazing 6:34 and then blew up during the rest of the race?? That basically happened again, except this time I ran the first mile in 6:46 (such restraint), then the second mile in 7:32 and the third in 7:35. At least those miles were consistent? But just think if I hadn’t busted out a sub-7 mile right out of the gate! Stupid! At least this 5K was faster than the Turkey Trot.

I would like to get better at 5Ks, but it’ll take some specific 5K training (i.e., not running them as part of marathon training.) I think I’m going to run another 5K on March 16, just about a month before Boston, so we’ll see what I can do then and if the speed work I am doing as part of my plan might actually help me run a good 5K.

Boston 2019 training

Nine weeks until Boston 2019! Having BQ’d in December 2017, I’ve been waiting SO long to run this race and I can’t even believe it’s almost here! I’m following Hal Higdon’s Boston Bound 12-week plan, and so far, it’s going well. He has me alternating hill repeats with speed work (Yasso 800s) every week, similar to what I did when I followed his Advanced plan to get my qualifying time. The long runs also alternate by mileage and time. For example, last weekend I had to run an easy 14 miles. This weekend, my long run was an hour and a half, with the first three-quarters run at an easy pace and the last quarter run at marathon pace. I’ve never done a long run by time before now, and I have to say I am liking it a lot. The time passes quickly, and it’s fun to finish a long run strong!

So what marathon pace am I shooting for in Boston? Good question. In a perfect world, I’d BQ again, but with the tighter standards for 2020, I’ll have to run 3:35 or better. And Boston is known to be a tough course, and my last two marathons were 3:53 (Baltimore) and 3:47 (B&A). I think continuing to work on my speed will get me back closer to where I was when I ran Rehoboth and qualified with a 3:35:00, but I’ve got a long way to go. That said, I believe a finishing time somewhere in the 3:40s is feasible.

And if I don’t meet that goal — it’s Boston! It’ll be awesome no matter what.

Have you run Boston? What advice do you have for me?

 

Summer 2018 racing: An update!

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

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

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

Herald Harbor 5K

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

 

Ellicott City 10K

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

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

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Charm City Run Memorial 5K

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

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Maryland Duathlon

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

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

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

 

 

Seashore Striders 5-Miler

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

 

 

Dewey Beach Patrol 10K 

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

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

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Annapolis Sailors Triathlon 

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

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What’s next?

Lots of things!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A half marathon that became a 10K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned

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

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

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

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

Beating the Bridge: Across the Bay 10K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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