My sixth consecutive A10: At least I finished!

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

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

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

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

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

atLures

Maybe I’m getting too old for these shenanigans.

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

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

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

I didn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allison running

Almost done! (Tammy Sheetenhelm photo)

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

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

AtGrumps

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

A10after

A10 finishers! (Wendy Bernard photo)

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.

image1

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.

image4

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.

image2

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.

image1

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:

racesplits

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.

image1.jpeg

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

image2

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.)

Blown away at The B&A Trail Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow in the forecast?

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

30442888_10160222211970176_2663374589651845120_n

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

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

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

The dreaded wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30264801_10160223421950176_1317723106311143424_n

Me with Mom and Dad after the race.

Differences in training

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

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

What’s your next big race?

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

Damn you, margaritas!

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

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

Allison

Having lots of fun! (Kree Killian photo)

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

AllisonandTammi

Tammi and I! (Kree Killian photo)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My running goals for 2018

There’s nothing like running a marathon to make me want to sign up for another marathon!

I don’t have kids, but I’ve joked that running 26.2 miles is probably like birthing a child, in that your body totally forgets the pain and you decide you want to do it again someday. (Mother runners, can you relate to this?)

Assuming the Boston Marathon accepts me for 2019 (with my 5-minute cushion, I’m pretty sure I’m good!), I need to find a marathon to run in 2018– or maybe two!

I have a few friends who have expressed interest in running a fall marathon. I’ve heard really good things about the Richmond Marathon in Richmond, Va., which happens every November. It’s just a few hours away from Annapolis, and it’s a marathon that a lot of runners use to BQ. Never too early to start thinking about 2020, right? 😉 I’d also be interested in the Philly Marathon, because I love Philadelphia and have several friends who live there, but I believe it conflicts with the Annapolis Running Classic.

Many people have also raved about the Marine Corps Marathon, which I would like to run some day. However, the fact that it’s in October puts me off a little bit. It would require me to spend the entire summer training, which means dealing with long runs in the swampy humidity of a central Maryland summer, plus trying to plan around vacations, day trips, etc. A November marathon buys me a little more time!

All that said, I’ve spent the last several winters training for marathons. And as much as I stress about forecasts of snow and ice, and complain about the cold, I can’t imagine not doing a spring marathon in 2018. Mainly because I hate winter THAT much and having a goal to work toward makes me hate it ever so slightly less.

I think I’m going to sign up for the B&A Trail Marathon, run by the Annapolis Striders (who organize my favorite race of all time, the Annapolis Ten Mile Run). As the name indicates, the race takes place primarily on the B&A Trail, where I do most of my long runs during marathon training. It’s a very small race, just a few hundred runners, and it’s practically in my backyard. So why not? The race, which is both a half and a full marathon, takes place on April 8.

Has anyone ever run a marathon that small? What did you like/dislike about it?

Other 2018 goals

My friend and kickboxing coach Matt always does a running challenge to kick off the new year, so in January, I am going to commit to running 100 miles during that month. Since I’ll be in marathon training mode once again, it should not be too hard to hit that mark.

I’m once again an ambassador for Rip It Events, so I plan to run and/or volunteer at as many of the 2018 events as I can. This year, I only missed one race, and it was because it was during my sister’s wedding weekend! Coming up first is the Little Patuxent River Half Marathon & 10K on Feb. 4. It’s the second year for this trail run, and it sold out in one day! I’ll be running the half, which will also fit in nicely with my marathon training.

Then in April, we have the Columbia 10 Miler and the St. Mary’s 10 Miler. Both of these races used to be half marathons, so if you weren’t quite ready for 13.1 miles, here’s your chance to try a shorter distance.

You can find the whole schedule for 2018 here.

What are your running goals for 2018?

Hilly and chilly: The 2017 Annapolis Running Classic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beating the Bridge: Across the Bay 10K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image1

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

The Annapolis Ten Mile Run: My favorite race of the year

It’s fitting that I kick off this blog by talking about the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, which I ran for the fifth time on Sunday.

The A10 is the first major race I ever did, and I believe it’s what made me a marathoner.
Back when I signed up for my first A10, on a whim, in 2013, I was a loyal gym-goer and a regular treadmill runner who was a little intimidated by the idea of running in a race with thousands of other runners. What if I totally sucked and embarrassed myself? But I decided to take a leap and run it anyway.

The day before the 2013 A10, I spent the day on my now-husband’s boat, carbo-loading with beer after beer. My sister partied so hard that she ended up in the Chesapeake Bay. Needless to say, when I woke up the next morning, I was in rough shape. But I powered through. I mean, I almost puked around mile 5, but I finished strong and wanted to sign up for the following year’s A10 almost immediately.

Lesson learned: No more than one beer (OK, maybe two!) before a long race! I’ve mostly stuck to that ….

In the years since, I’ve run countless 10-milers, a dozen half-marathons and three marathons. I like to say the 2013 A10 was my gateway drug. It made me fall in love with racing, and it made me proud to be a part of Annapolis’ wonderful running community.

The weather could not have been more perfect for the 2017 A10. And any runner knows what a difference the weather can make! A hot, humid day can really slow you down– and since the A10 is always the last weekend of August, well, there have been some muggy race days. On Sunday morning, the temperature was in the high 60s, the sun was shining and there was no humidity whatsoever (a rarity for a summer day in Maryland.)

The A10 follows the same route every year. Runners start at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and head through historic downtown Annapolis before running over Weems Creek and the Naval Academy Bridge. Then, you run miles 4.5-7.5 through the Pendennis Mount neighborhood before heading back toward the bridge (yes, you run over it twice. And yes, it’s steep and challenging!) Runners finish at the stadium.

The race is hilly, but I think the difficulty is what makes it appealing for a lot of runners. But aside from that, the course is so scenic. Running over the Naval Academy Bridge may kill your quads, but you’re rewarded with the most beautiful view at the top. The crowd support and the volunteers are just awesome, too. One surprise this year– a group of nuns in full habits who were out cheering on the runners around mile 9.5. Maybe they thought the runners needed some extra prayers!

The Annapolis Striders, the local group who organizes the race, also don’t skimp on the swag. Aside from the hoodies runners got as the finisher’s premium, we also got hats and these fantastic commemorative bottle openers:

image1

image4.JPG

premium.JPG

I finished the race in 1:15:37, my personal best for the 10-mile distance! I felt like the race went by SO fast, probably because I know the course so well at this point. I truly loved every mile.

image3

My friend Kree and I. We both PR’d!

I’m actually running another 10-mile race in two weekends — the Bottle and Cork Ten-Miler in Dewey Beach, Del.– so we’ll see how my times compare. That’s a much flatter course, but the weather can be just as hot and sticky.

Thanks to the Annapolis Striders for putting on another quality A10! I’ll see you next year!