New PR: I broke 6 minutes in the mile

As I’ve written here before, I started running as an adult. I have zero athletic background and never participated in any sports as a kid. Part of that was lack of interest — I preferred to spend my free time reading (and I still love to read.) And part of it was, honestly, lack of talent. I sucked at team sports and was always picked last in gym class when it was time to play volleyball or basketball or whatever kind of ball. 

Sports were just not my jam. 

And when I did start running races about eight years ago, my goal was never really to be “fast.” I just wanted to have fun with it. But then I started winning age group awards in races and realized I was actually a decent runner. I was more surprised than anyone, but it made me love the sport even more.

Fast forward to May 2020, just about two months before my 40th birthday. I did something I truly thought was beyond my capabilities and ran a sub-6 minute mile — 5:56 to be exact. 

When my watch beeped, I screamed and yelled out a “holy *$$#!” (sorry to my neighbors). For a brief second, I wondered whether my Garmin was broken. A 5:xx mile? Me?! Only really fast people can run a mile that begins with a 5. 

I hadn’t been training to PR the mile or anything. In fact, I haven’t done any speedwork in more than two months, stopping once my spring marathons got canceled. That said, I haven’t been really running “easy,” either. When I was training for Coastal Delaware, I was conscious of not running my long runs too fast and keeping the easy days easy. Now that I’m not training for anything, all that is out the window and I just run what I feel like running. These days, my pace tends to vary between the 7:50s and the 8:20s. The paces don’t feel difficult, but I know they aren’t my true easy pace, either, which would be probably around 8:45-9:00.

That said, maybe this strategy is working for me, at least for shorter distances. I ran a 21:35 a few weeks ago in the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K, and now I’ve had this huge breakthrough in the mile. 

It happened at the beginning of my fourth sprint duathlon in Rip It Events’ V5 Virtual Duathlon series. For the sprint, you have to run one mile, bike 10 miles and then run two more miles. I decided at the beginning of the series that I was going to try to go all out with the beginning mile just to see how fast I could do it. 

I ran the Market Street Mile in Frederick last September in 6:11, and was insanely proud of it (and thought it was insanely hard). I hadn’t raced a mile since then, so when I ran a 6:25 mile in my first duathlon, I was happy with it. The following week, for my second duathlon, I ran a 6:11. Then for my third duathlon, I ran a 6:14.

Two weekends ago, it was hot and I honestly wasn’t sure I had it in me to push really hard, so I told myself to just do my best. I started at my house and set off on the one-mile loop around my neighborhood that I’ve been running. 

The mile itself was, of course, a blur. It hurt. I honestly don’t really remember any meaningful details, though at one point I glanced at my watch and saw I was running a 5:40 pace and thought “whoa that’s really fast.” Then it was over. And I saw the final time on my watch. 5:56! (I stopped my watch at 1.01 miles, so it read 5:59, which was the time I submitted for that portion of that virtual duathlon.) 

Even though this was not part of a standalone mile race, I’m still counting it as a mile PR — I mean, it is the fastest I’ve ever run the mile! That said, I would still like to see what I could do in a real mile race, whenever we have those again. The 2020 Market Street Mile is still scheduled to happen in September, but I suspect it will be canceled like everything else this year.   

I’m proud of myself for being able to go as hard as I did even though I wasn’t at a real race. I’m hoping that’s a good sign for when races do come back — whenever that is!    

5 duathlons in 5 days: My experiencing racing virtual duathlons

About six years ago, my now-husband and parents teamed up to buy me a Jamis hybrid bike for my birthday. I love to ride it, but I find that running takes up so much of my time (especially when I am marathon training) that I don’t take it out as much as I should or would like to. 

That’s changed over the past few weeks as I took on Rip It Events’ V5 — 5 Virtual Duathlons series, and raced five virtual run-bike-runs in five days. I wrapped up the challenge today after five weeks — I did one duathlon every weekend and opted for the sprint version (1 mile run, 10 mile bike ride, 2 mile run) for the first four duathlons, then bumped up to the intermediate version (2 mile run, 20 mile bike ride, 4 mile run) for the last one. Woo, that was tough! It’s been years since I’ve ridden my bike that far.

It was a ton of fun and reminded me that when things get back to “normal,” I’d like to start signing up for more duathlons. Before this series, I did Rip It’s now-defunct Maryland Duathlon in 2017 and 2018. It always was held the day I left for Rehoboth for vacation, and honestly it was a struggle to wake up before the sun, drive an hour to do the race, race, and then drive to the beach. (In 2017, I stupidly went to an Orioles game the night before the race and got about two hours of sleep! I don’t know how I managed.) So last year, I decided not to do it, and unfortunately that was the last year for the race. 

Duathlons are definitely a different kind of challenge than running. While I love to ride my bike, I am not fast on it, and part of that is because I do fear crashing and hurting myself. (You don’t have to worry about that with running!) Aside from that, doing the last run after getting off the bike is HARD — my legs always feel like Jello. (How do my friends who race Ironman triathlons do it?) 

I also decided to push myself with the sprint duathlons and run the one mile at the beginning as an all-out effort to see what I could do. I’ve only raced the mile once, and that was last September when I did the Market Street Mile in Frederick in 6:11. I haven’t been doing any real speedwork lately, so imagine my shock when last weekend, in my fourth Du, I actually broke six minutes in the mile and ran a 5:56. I truly did not think I was capable of that. I’ll write a blog post on that in a few days, but needless to say, I was so excited. 

I believe I completed all of my sprints in around an hour and 10 minutes, and last week’s duathlon with the mile PR was right around an hour and five minutes. Today’s intermediate effort took me about two and a half hours to complete. I’ve been treating other virtual races, including Get Pumped For Pets and the Cinco De Mayo 5K, as real races in that I am waking up early like I would for a real race and even wearing race bibs. I didn’t do that with the duathlons, mostly because I don’t like to wake up early and also because I didn’t necessarily have goal times in mind for these races. As I am not an experienced duathlete (yet?!), simply completing them was the challenge.

And it sure was a fun one! I truly looked forward to “du”-ing each one, so thank you again to Rip It Events with coming up with such fun and creative virtual events in these bizarre times.

Proceeds from the race also benefited Food It Forward, a collaboration between a small group of restaurants to drive business, save restaurant jobs and provide food to those in need throughout the pandemic.

In fact, I enjoyed these duathlons so much that I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon’s virtual Quantico Duathlon (originally supposed to be a triathlon that obviously got canceled). I have until the end of August to complete it, and I may save it for July 26. That’s two days before my 40th birthday, and the half marathon I was scheduled to run that day got canceled, so this might be a good substitute. If it’s not 100 degrees, I guess.

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I receive free entries to all of their races, including their virtual races. 

A solid performance at the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K

I surprised myself with my performance in Rip It Events’ Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K earlier this week! My 21:35 was one of my strongest 5Ks ever, especially when I thought I’d be lucky to be in the 22s. 

There were a few reasons why I didn’t think I’d run that great. First of all, I had raced the second of five virtual duathlons in Rip It’s V5 Duathlon series on Saturday, then turned around and did the virtual Get Pumped For Pets 15K the next day. I ran an easy three miles Monday evening, then Tuesday was Cinco De Mayo, so I wasn’t sure how recovered I was. 

Second, I always say 5Ks are my nemesis, and try as I might, I almost always end up going out way too fast and the last mile feels like a death march. 

Third, it was still a virtual race, and without the race atmosphere, it can be hard to really push. 

So why DID I run well? Again, a few reasons. First, the weather was freaking fantastic Tuesday morning — high 40s and little wind. Ideal running weather. Second, I ran a 3.1 mile loop in my neighborhood that I run allllll the time, so I knew my course really, really well. 

Third, much like with Get Pumped For Pets, I treated it like a real race. I went to bed early the night before and set out my race clothes before falling asleep. This time, I didn’t have to make my own bib — Rip It made one for me!

 I woke up early to eat my breakfast (peanut butter and banana on an English muffin, not a bagel …. I find a bagel is just too heavy for a shorter distance like a 5K) and do the race before work. I could have waited until after work, but that makes fueling effectively more challenging. 

I’m thrilled that I actually negative split the race, running the first mile in 7:09, the second in 7:00 flat and the third in 6:46. (I didn’t look to see what my pace was for the final 0.1.) That almost never happens for me, especially in 5Ks! 

I started my race around 6:40 am, so actually earlier than most race start times, but like I said I wanted to knock it out before I started my day of work (from home). There were a few people out walking and running, too, and I don’t know if anyone noticed I was wearing a bib, but one woman called out “nice pace!” as I ran past.     

5Ks hurt, there is no doubt about that, but I had a lot of fun doing this. I shouldn’t have discounted virtual races as much as I did, because I am loving the V5 Duathlon series and I was legitimately excited to wake up and race Get Pumped For Pets and the Cinco De Mayo 5K. These events are really giving me something fun to look forward to in very challenging times. 

That’s probably been my biggest struggle through this pandemic — I haven’t had anything to look forward to, and it’s been hard for me to get excited about much. I know this makes me very privileged in the grand scheme of things, but that’s how I’ve been feeling. So I am very grateful to these virtual races for giving me some of my enthusiasm back! 

My next virtual race is Rip It’s Donut Worry. Be Happy. Virtual 5K on June 5, which is also National Donut Day. It’s on a Friday, so again I plan to be up early before work (I’m assuming at this point I’ll still be WFH) and I’ll run the same course I did this week. It’s likely to be much warmer then, so we’ll see how it goes! 

Have you signed up for any virtual races this spring? 

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I receive free entries to all of their races, including their virtual races. The Donut Worry 5K is sold out, but you can register for the V5 Duathlon series here!

Maybe virtual races aren’t such a bad thing after all

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I have zero interest in virtual races. Why would I pay money for that? What’s the point when I would just be by myself and unable to enjoy the race atmosphere? Can’t I just go on a regular old training run? 

I may have *slightly* changed my tune. I don’t see myself running a virtual marathon any time soon (or ever), but maybe I’m down with virtual versions of smaller races after all. 

My change of heart started when Rip It Events announced a Cinco de Mayo virtual 5K. I’ve been a proud ambassador for Rip It for several years, and I’m so sad to see their spring race season just disappear due to COVID-19. First they had to postpone the Clyde’s 10K, then cancel both the Bear Triathlon and the Columbia Association Triathlon. (That last one really stings, personally. Last year’s Columbia Association Tri was my first and only tri, and I was really looking forward to doing the super sprint again. Next year, I will be there!) 

So to make up for these postponements and cancellations, Rip It owners Danny and Suzy decided to organize the Cinco de Mayo virtual run. It sold out so quickly that they pulled together a second virtual 5K, the Donut Worry Be Happy Virtual 5K Run to coincide with National Doughnut Day in June. 

I registered for both, because as an ambassador I want to show my support. I figured that was probably it for me for virtual races. 

But then I got an email from Get Pumped For Pets, a race that I was supposed to be running on May 3 on Kent Island. The original race had been scheduled for March 29, but when coronavirus started blowing up, the Seashore Striders optimistically rescheduled it for May 3. I figured they would end up either rescheduling it again or canceling it all together, and earlier this week, they decided to do the latter. They also decided to convert everyone to a virtual race and mail out finisher medals and T-shirts (which apparently have a special quarantine-themed logo on them, LOL) afterwards. 

So, I’m already getting all the swag associated with that race, including a medal. I hate the idea of hanging up a medal (yes, I display every medal for every race I do) for a race I never ran. Therefore, I decided that I am going to race a virtual 15K on May 3. That way, I’ll feel like I have actually earned the medal and the shirt! 

And honestly? I’ve been struggling with feeling like I have nothing to look forward to. I’m normally a pretty upbeat person, but this is a challenging time for everyone, no matter your life circumstances. All of my races are canceled through at least the month of June. I can’t go anywhere. Who knows if I’ll be able to take my planned summer vacation. At least virtual races will give me something fun to plan for.

I doubt I’ll be seeking out virtual races to sign up for, unless they are Rip It races (update as of April 27: I’m now also registered for Rip It’s V5 Virtual Duathlon series! Check it out and sign up for one of four different distances), or unless my favorite A10 goes virtual this year. But I think if a race I’m signed up for automatically converts my registration to a virtual one, I might as well do it. If there’s a deferment option, I’ll take that instead, but if not — why not do the virtual race? This is our life for the foreseeable future.  

Might as well make the best of it.

As a Rip It ambassador, I received free entry to these races and other Rip It races.

Running through a global pandemic: Staying motivated in uncertain times

I miss racing. It’s such a small thing in the grand scheme of all the awful things that are happening in the world, but man, I can’t wait until I get to do it again. 

First both the B&A Trail Marathon in March and the Coastal Delaware Running Festival in April got canceled. The West End St. Patrick’s Day 5K that Staci and I were going to run together got canceled. The Get Pumped For Pets 15K, which was supposed to happen on March 29, has been rescheduled until May 3, but I assume that will be either rescheduled again or canceled all together. 

Then last week, I learned that the St. Michael’s Running Festival on May 16 had been canceled. I had wanted to do that race for years and was registered for the half marathon, so I’m disappointed, but again, not surprised.  

Even though I just wrote about my disinterest in virtual races, I’m now starting to change my tune … a little. 

I’m an ambassador for Rip It Events, which, like many other race companies, has suffered the effects of the pandemic. Their Clyde’s 10K, originally supposed to happen on April 26, has been postponed to the fall, and they had to cancel the Bear Triathlon in May. 

So, to fill those gaps, Rip It Events pulled together two virtual 5K races — the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K and the Donut Worry Be Happy Virtual Run. I signed up for them because I want to support Rip It and at least with the Cinco de Mayo race, we’ll probably still be under a stay-at-home order and so I won’t be going out for Mexican food and margaritas like I usually do! People responded really well to the Cinco de Mayo race and it sold out in less than a day. I’m expecting the Donut Worry run to fill up fast as well, so sign up here if you want to join in on the fun

After that, I don’t have a “real” race scheduled until Rip It’s Columbia Association Triathlon in June, which is still happening as of today, but if I can’t get into a pool to train before, well, mid-May at the absolute latest, I might as well defer. (I haven’t swum since last year’s Columbia Triathlon — my first and only tri — last June!) And who knows what things are going to look like this summer. I was going to register for the Seashore Striders 5 Mile Run in Rehoboth in July again, but I’m holding off on that for now. I hope things will be back to normal and I’ll get to enjoy a vacation at the beach like I do every summer, but I really don’t know. 

I don’t know what the future holds. No one does. 

I’m still running at least four days a week, including a long run on the weekends. I’ve backed off on the speed work and tempos, and haven’t been paying much attention to my pace. Two weekends ago, I ran 15 miles at an 8:06/mile pace. If I were still officially marathon training, that would probably be way too fast for a long run, but that was the pace that felt good to me that day so I went with it. It was bittersweet because I really feel I would have met my goal and then some at Coastal Delaware. But things happen.

I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff on social media about how to stay motivated when there are no races on the horizon. Honestly, habit is driving me more than motivation these days. I run. That’s what I do in my free time. And aside from that, if I couldn’t run (and take kickboxing classes via Zoom! Yes, we actually punch invisible targets!) I feel like I might go crazy.

I’ve been working from home for three weeks now, and I am fortunate that I have the ability to do this. I also work in communications for a hospital, so to say things have been stressful lately is an understatement. I’ve been busy with work, and of course I’ve been following all social distancing requirements. Going outside to run — which is allowed, as long as you stay six feet away from others — is really the only time I leave my house/yard. 

It’s really tough. And it’s hard not to know when the end date is going to be. I try to remember that I’m pretty lucky. My job sure isn’t going anywhere, and my husband is still able to work, too. He works in the marine industry and has been physically going into work daily, but it’s just him and two other coworkers and they wear masks and keep their physical distance. We are OK financially. And so far, we are healthy and everyone in our families is healthy.  

How is everyone managing in these crazy times?

Recapping the Bigfoot Endurance 10-Miler + an update on a last-minute marathon

First of all, I’d like to start out by saying that I love the idea of trail running. I love being out in the woods — hiking in places like Shenandoah National Park is one of my favorite leisure activities. I love the peacefulness and solitude. I love the scenery. And I admire the relaxed vibe of trail runners and the fact that trail runs always seemed to be followed by craft beer. I can totally get on board with that. 

Problem is, I’m just not very good at trail running! Or, I should say I’m just a much more comfortable and confident road runner. 

Last weekend, I ran the inaugural Bigfoot Endurance 10 Mile Trail Run with Rip It Events. Bigfoot Endurance’s races raise money for Parkinson’s disease research, and this was Rip It’s first time partnering with them. The race, which also included a 5-mile option, happened to fall on a weekend where I was supposed to run 20 miles one day, 10 the next. So I decided to sign up for the 10-miler, knowing I’d likely be pretty sore from the 20 miler the previous day. 

I actually wasn’t that sore, but man, that race was HARD. It was hilly, though no worse than the Little Patuxent River Run. However, the terrain was pretty uneven, with roots and rocks all over the place. I estimated that I almost fell about a dozen times. And I was running conservatively and trying to watch where I was going! 

The race took place at Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge, Maryland, about a half hour or so from where I live in Anne Arundel County. Even though it’s been an extremely mild winter, temperatures were in the mid-20s on race morning– surprisingly, much colder than Little Patuxent was! Runners were lined up by their estimated pace, and I lined up with the 8-minute/mile group. (I ran my last 10-mile race at a 7:27/mile pace, but that was on pancake flat roads in Delaware. I had no idea what to expect at this race.)

Runners doing the 5-miler ran one loop of the course, and 10-mile runners did two loops. I could tell not even a mile into the race that it was going to be a challenge because of the technical terrain (and I do not own trail running shoes, so I was wearing my trusty Brooks Ghosts.) It was a really pretty course, and we even crossed a few streams. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful, if cold, day. But it was also pretty muddy in some parts, and as I mentioned, there were roots everywhere. By the time I finished my first loop, I was pretty spent and wished I could just be done then. However, I am not a quitter and my marathon training plan did tell me to run 10 miles, so of course I continued. 

I heard later from a fellow Rip It ambassador that one runner had fallen and broken her leg, and I feel like that could have so easily been me! This is no reflection on the race — it was perfectly safe and well-organized — but trail running is just riskier.

At least I knew what to expect with the second loop, but I ended up running it about three minutes slower than my first loop. Maybe the 20-miler the previous day caught up to me, I don’t know. My finish time was 1:28:10, my slowest 10-miler ever by about four minutes, but I didn’t really care too much. I was just glad to have finished uninjured! I came in sixth in my age group and ninth overall female, which I was pleased with. 

Oh, and there was beer afterwards from Hysteria Brewing Co. and a taco truck with vegetarian tacos as an option, so of course I was happy about that! I think if I do this race again, I’ll run the 5-miler. I’m just not coordinated and sure-footed enough for longer trail races. Maybe someday I will be! 

Just thinking of that post-race beer

(As a Rip It Events ambassador, I received a free entry to the Bigfoot Endurance 5 & 10 Miler. Contact me for a 15 percent discount off of any 2020 Rip It race!

Signing up for a last-minute marathon

I’m running the B&A Trail Marathon on Sunday, March 15, breaking two big rules I have always followed as a runner. (ETA: This race is on a paved trail, so it’s not really a “trail race” despite the name.)

  1. I don’t run marathons as a way to train for a goal marathon (in this case, the Coastal Delaware Running Festival.)
  2. I don’t run the same marathon twice, unless it’s Boston (I ran B&A two years ago.)

So, why am I doing it? One word: CORONAVIRUS. Unless you are living under a rock, you know about the novel coronavirus/COVID-19, which has spread around the world and has led to cancellations/postponement of events including road races (the Paris Marathon, the Tokyo Marathon, the Rome Marathon…..) I initially wasn’t too worried about Coastal Delaware being canceled; it’s a smallish local race, without a lot of runners traveling from other countries to run it. However, my husband has made me really paranoid and started telling me several weeks ago that I should find a backup marathon in case everything really went to hell and Coastal Delaware was canceled. 

I went back and forth about it and last week, decided to go for it and sign up — and saw on the website that the race was full. Balls. OK, I guess it wasn’t meant to be, I thought. 

But then, two days later, I saw the Annapolis Striders posted on Facebook that there were actually less than 10 spots remaining in the marathon! So with 11 days to go until the race, I registered. 

I figure this could go one of two ways. I know I can run the marathon distance now, but am I ready to run the race I want to run and have been training for? Best case scenario, I have an amazing race, PR the crap out of it and punch my ticket to Boston 2021. Worst case scenario, I have a mediocre-at-best race (as I did in 2018) and then it kind of throws a wrench into my training for Coastal Delaware. (I’m still banking on that race being a go.) It’s a total gamble, and I’m not adequately tapered and I’ve only run one 20-miler (sufficient for a marathon finish, but in my opinion, not sufficient for me to run a marathon PR.) 

But. I am going to go for it. And now I’m pretty excited about it.  So wish me luck!

Update on training for the Coastal Delaware Running Festival

It’s hard to believe that my 8th marathon is now less than two months away, and I’m past the halfway point in my training. This training cycle has gone really well, especially considering that it’s February and winter has yet to show up. We’ve had multiple days in the 50s and 60s, though it has been raining a ton. I am a bit paranoid that a huge Nor’Easter is going to hit Maryland in March — you know, right around the time that I’m supposed to run a 20-mile training run. But that’s what the treadmill is for, right? (Though I shudder at the thought of running 20 miles on a treadmill, ugh.) 

I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 Marathon Training Plan pretty religiously, with a few exceptions — I cut out hill training because the Coastal Delaware Marathon is pancake flat. I am running my Yasso 800s every three weeks and running tempo runs on the weeks that I am not running 800s. This is new for me. I’ve always been a big slacker on tempos, even when I was training to break 1:40 in the half, so I am hoping this is really going to help me reach my goal in the marathon! 

Since I still want to go to kickboxing twice a week, I’m doing an easy paced run before class on Thursdays (no more than three or four miles). I’m following the weekend run schedule exactly, and as you can see from the plan, it gets tougher and tougher — I have three weekends where I am running 20 miles one day and 10 the other. This is what I did when I got my first BQ, so I feel good about it even though I know it’s hard. Two weekends ago, I ran 17 miles on day and eight the next, and didn’t even feel sore. Just tired, like I wanted to sleep for days. This weekend, I have a 19-miler and a 9-miler (the latter at marathon pace) on tap. 

My “A” goal for the race is around a 3:30, which would be a 10-minute BQ and a 5-minute PR — I think it’s totally possible as long as everything goes well on race day. Marathons can be unpredictable, of course. I need a 3:40:00 or better to qualify for Boston, and who knows what the cutoff will be. I’ve seen commentary online from people who think the cutoff is going to be brutal for 2021, what with more people hoping to run the race for its 125th anniversary. But I would definitely be safe with a 10-minute buffer. I’d probably feel safe with anything more than a 5-minute buffer. But again, who knows what race day will bring! Just gotta keep grinding.

Other races on my calendar

On Super Bowl Sunday, I ran Rip It Events’ annual Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon and 10K, opting for the 10K. This is a trail race and while I’ve done the half marathon twice before, I didn’t want to risk injuring myself two months before a big goal race. (I’m klutzy.) This was actually the best weather we have EVER had for this race — it’s usually really cold and last year, it was icy in some sections on the trail. But this year, the weather was in the 40s and it was nice and sunny. I planned to run conservatively, and was very happy with my performance — I won my age group, finished fourth overall female and averaged a 7:58 pace for 6.55 miles (the 10K course is a bit long).

If you’re looking for a fun winter race, put this one on your calendar for 2021. It’s always on Super Bowl Sunday and while I can’t guarantee fantastic weather again, I can guarantee beautiful scenery and delicious food and hot chocolate afterwards (we’ve had a taco truck the last few years!) Registration usually opens in December and the race sells out VERY quickly, so watch Rip It Events’ Facebook page for details. 

Next weekend, I’ll be running in Rip It’s second race of the season, the Bigfoot Endurance 5 & 10 Miler. This is also a trail race and I’ll be running the 10 miler, as this will be the first of my three 20/10 weekends. I’m pretty excited for it. It’s the first year for this race and it just sold out earlier this week, so it should be a good time! 

(As a Rip It Events ambassador, I received a free entry to the Little Patuxent River Run and the Bigfoot Endurance 5 & 10 Miler. Contact me for a 15 percent discount off of any 2020 Rip It race!

On March 22, I’m traveling to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to run a St. Patrick’s Day 5K with Staci in Allentown. I’m excited to see how I do after all the speedwork and tempos I’ve been running– maybe I could squeak under 22 minutes? I know I CAN do it, it’s just the matter of committing to making myself really hurt for 3.1 miles. That’s where I always fall short in 5Ks. 

And then a week later, I’ll run in the Get Pumped For Pets 15K on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I ran the 10K last year and won it, two weeks before Boston. I opted for the 15K this year because it falls on the last of my 20/10 weekends, and a 15K is 9.3 miles, so it fits in nicely! Plus, some of my friends from work are planning to run it, too. (There are 5K and 10K options as well!)  

What runs are you looking forward to this spring?

Summer running, had me a blast: A month of hot and humid racing

First of all, sorry not sorry for that title. I love Grease and even though I have not sat down to watch it in years, I used to pop it into the VCR on at least a weekly basis when I was in high school (and yes, I am giving away my age there! Ha!)

Anyway, summer running. You hot, humid beast. It’s funny because for most of my life, I preferred summer to winter. And I still do, when it comes to going to the beach or taking day trips or drinking margaritas. But when it comes to running? Give me 30 degrees over 80 degrees any day of the week!

Of course, I still run in the summer, as brutal as this time of year is in the Chesapeake Bay region. And I still race in the summer. This month, I ran three races — two 5Ks and a 5-miler!

The first 5K, the Red White and Blue Mountain 5K, was a literal hot mess. It was my slowest 5K in at least five years, thanks to the hilly terrain and humid weather. (You can read the full recap here.) Afterwards, I thought, “Well, that really sucked. It can’t get much worse!”

Wrong!

The following week, I traveled to Rehoboth Beach for my family’s annual summer vacation. My brother-in-law Justin and I signed up for the Seashore 5 Miler, which we had also run last year. In the 2018 race, I finished in 40:08 and won my age group, but was annoyed that I had just missed breaking 40 minutes. I went out too fast and wilted on the back half of the race, so I told myself I wouldn’t make that mistake again. (Psssh. Sure!)

The race started at Gordon’s Pond Bike Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park at 7:30 am, and thank the Lord it didn’t start a second later because it was hotter than Hades that day. (I think the temperatures climbed into the 90s by the afternoon.) Everyone was sweating just standing at the start line. After the race started, Justin and I stayed together for a bit and then I moved ahead. When my watch beeped at mile 1 and I saw that I had run it in 7:02, I thought, “Well, that seems a little fast.” But it didn’t feel all that fast to me….. At least not yet. It felt comfortably hard. I ran mile 2 in 7:29 and still felt good and like I could sustain a pace in the mid-7s for the rest of the race.

Except then the sun came out in full force and there was little to no shade. (The course, which is an out and back, is really flat, though!) I felt my pace starting to slow around the mid-way point and I think I ran mile 3 somewhere around the 8-minute range. I honestly can’t remember what my mile splits were after that, but I know I ran a big positive split again. However, I knew once I passed the mile 4 marker that I was going to squeeze under 40 minutes, which made me happy. Once I could see the finish line, I made myself sprint until I crossed it. And then I almost puked. But I broke 40! My official time was 39:18, I was the fourth overall female and I won my age group again.

There were a lot of other people complaining about the heat, too, so I know I wasn’t the only one affected by it. What do you expect for a race at the beach on July 14, though? Props to the race organizers, the Seashore Striders, for bringing a water mister to the finish line as well as more than enough cold bottles of water! I look forward to doing this race next year, too. The only real downside is that the bugs in the park were terrible and I got bitten badly on my right arm by some unknown critter. Two weeks later, the bites are still visible and just now starting to fully heal.

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The Ellicott City 5K

After I returned home from the beach, I had the Ellicott City 5K with Rip It Events the next day. This is another challenging course due to the hills. I had run the 10K last year and finished third overall female, but didn’t really feel the need to repeat that experience again, so I signed up for the 5K.

As it turned out, we were in the middle of a pretty bad heat wave that began when I was on vacation (it cooled down a bit the day after the 5 miler, then heated up again) and continued on into the weekend for the whole mid-Atlantic region. Some area races even got canceled, and our race directors decided the nix the kids’ fun run that was planned for the same time. But the 5K and 10K went off without a hitch at 8:30 am. The weather was already in the 80s and it was quite muggy, but the good thing is the course, which is in Benjamin Banneker Historical Park, is shady. So we weren’t running directly underneath the sun until the tail end (yay!)

Having run the longer race last year, I knew what to expect. I knew that most of the first half of the 5K would be downhill, and the second half would be uphill. (And then 10K runners repeat that course a second time!) So even though going out too fast in 5Ks is pretty much always my downfall, I knew I would need to bank some time during the first mile and a half. And I did! I felt like I was flying during the first mile, clocking a 6:48 pace. Most of the second mile is downhill, but then you turn around and have to climb up and up and up as you slog toward the finish.

As I headed up the hill, runners who were headed down kept calling out to me that I was the first female, which was very exciting! But in general, this part of the race sucks (and again, I was very happy I was doing the 5K and wouldn’t have to do that hill twice!) I told myself to suck it up and keep going and it would be over with soon. The last half mile of the course is probably the biggest kick in the ass because there is zero shade and you are STILL going uphill. As I approached the finish line, I felt someone coming up behind me and I was like “OH HELL NO” and I started to sprint. Turns out it was a dude, he still beat me by like two seconds and I tripped and fell just after I crossed the finish line. SO GRACEFUL. Oh, and my split for that last mile was 8:43. 8:43! Nearly TWO MINUTES slower than my first mile! Maybe it was just poor execution on my part, but I think it would be damn near impossible to negative split that race.

When I checked my results, I saw that I was second overall female. Hmmm, I thought. Weird. I guess there was someone ahead of me and I didn’t realize it! I was announced as second overall female at the awards ceremony, but I’m pretty sure that was a mistake because the official results have me listed in first place. Oh well. It’s not like I’m doing this for a paycheck or anything!

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What’s next?

My next race is my favorite of the year, the Annapolis Ten Mile Run, on Aug. 25. Then I’m going to start training for the Philly Half on Nov. 23. It will be my 20th half marathon and the first one I am following an actual training plan for, because I am determined to break 1:40 in the half this year! If I don’t do it in that race, the Rehoboth Seashore Half is in December, so I’ll have another chance. And before I know it, it’ll be time to start training for the Coastal Delaware Running Festival marathon in April! What’s a winter without marathon training?

Which do you prefer — summer training or winter training?

I swam, I biked, I ran: My first triathlon

I am officially a triathlete!

Last weekend, I raced the Columbia Association Super Sprint Triathlon with Rip It Events. The race consisted of four laps/eight lanes (200 yards) in a pool, a 5-mile bike ride and a 1.75-mile run. I finished in 47:21, didn’t die during the swim and had a ton of fun!

Here’s my recap!

The day before

Kree convinced me to go get my race packet the day before to cut down on race day stress, which ended up being a great idea. Members of the Mid Maryland Triathlon Club were there sharing their race tips and explaining how the transition area worked. I’ve done the Maryland Duathlon twice, so I am somewhat familiar with transition and all its ins and outs, but it was still really helpful to hear from them (particularly how to lay out your bike gear so you can quickly get it on after the swim and get out on the bike.) It just made me feel more prepared — always a good thing!

I had planned to get up at 3:30 am on Sunday (yes, really) so I wanted to grab dinner no later than 7, but my husband was whitewater kayaking that afternoon and didn’t get back until closer to 8. THEN, on our way to dinner, we locked ourselves out of our house due to an epic miscommunication. Luckily, we had a window open upstairs and a ladder outside, so Micah broke into the house and got our keys, and we were sitting down to dinner around 8:30. I was in bed by 10:30, not ideal but what can you do? Micah didn’t go to bed until 1! Silly boy.

Race morning!

I told Micah I wanted to leave by 4:45 am — the race location is about 40 minutes or so from our house, and he still needed to get his race packet. While the race didn’t start until 7 am, all athletes had to be on the pool deck ready to go by 6:30 am. Everything was going according to plan until we started loading the bikes onto the rack on my car, and the strap holding the rack to the back of my Bug just fell apart. So we had to take the wheels off our bikes and pile them in the back of Micah’s Outback. Fortunately, that only took a few minutes and we were on our way.

Once we got there, I realized with all the rushing around that I had left my phone behind. I couldn’t have it out on the course anyway, but I did want it to take pictures for Rip It social media (and my own accounts as well!) Luckily, I had plenty of friends who were taking pictures!

We got our bikes racked relatively quickly and had plenty of time to hit the portapotties more than once. (Haha, coffee + race day nerves.) The tri club members who spoke with us told us that our time in transition before the race started would go fast, and it did! Before I knew it, we were being told to assemble at the pool.

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Rip It ambassadors before the race

The swim

Everyone racing the sprint version of the race had to enter the pool and complete their swim before the super sprint even started, so that meant Micah and I were waiting around for a long time. I thought this would just make me anxious, but it was actually really helpful to see the other swimmers navigate the pool and cheer them on. Everyone was self-seeded by their 100-yard swim time, and the paces started at 1:15 and went all the way up to 3:30. I planned to line up with the 2:30 swimmers for my race.

I’m not sure exactly what time the super sprint field lined up, but it was well after 8. At that point, I was just ready to get going. There were way less people registered for the super sprint, which surprised me. But it meant that once the first swimmers started entering the pool, the line went fast and before I knew it, it was time for me to cross the timing mat and start my race.

If you read my last blog, you know I am not a natural swimmer. I dislike getting my face wet, and I also prefer the water to feel like bath water. When I have been practicing my laps, I usually gingerly lower myself into the pool and let myself get acclimated to the water. Of course, I didn’t have that luxury in the race, because other swimmers were lined up behind me, so I just got in the pool and went off. The water was ….not warm. We’ve had a few gross, humid days that are typical of Maryland in the summer, but for the most part, it’s been unusually mild. So the pool (which was outside) felt chilly to me. However, once I finished my first lane, I forgot that I was cold and just focused on finishing. My friend and fellow Rip It ambassador Richard, who had already finished the sprint tri (and won his age group) by the time I got in the pool, came back to the pool to cheer me on. “You don’t have to put your head in the water if you don’t want to,” he kept telling me. But I did swim with my head in the water, and I also only took minimal breaks (a few seconds) between lanes! I’m proud of that.

Once I got out of the pool, I knew the hardest part (for me) was over! My official swim time was 7:19, which I was happy with. I thought I would be closer to 10 minutes!

The bike

The transition to the bike went smoothly (thanks again to the Mid Maryland Tri Club for your organizational tips!) and I was off on the course. Admittedly, I hardly trained on the bike, but I did do the course preview with other Rip It ambassadors a few weeks ago, so I was familiar with the route. I knew it was somewhat hilly but not too bad, particularly for Columbia! And I knew I wouldn’t be particularly fast — partly because I didn’t really train and partly because my bike is a hybrid that isn’t exactly optimized for speed. (It has a basket and a bell on it. Enough said. I do love it, though.) I thought the bike went well and I was relieved that Howard County delayed some road work that had been planned for part of the course. There were some sections that were a little rough during the last mile and a half of the 5-mile loop, but I was able to avoid them. Official time was 23:38 and I did pass a few other people — and yes, I rang my bell, which seemed to amuse them!

The run

“OK,” I thought to myself when I dismounted from my bike. “This is my sport! This is where I can really kick ass!” I ran my bike back into transition, where Kree, who had finished the sprint, was. “Take off your helmet!” she yelled at me. “Don’t forget your bib! Put it on while you start running!” I took her advice and fastened my Spibelt with my bib already attached to it around my waist while I booked it out of transition. (I was only in the second transition for 44 seconds!) I was so excited that I almost ran the wrong way out of transition (thank you Matt for guiding me!)

After the swim and the bike, the run definitely did not feel as easy as I expected it to! My legs felt like jelly and my effort felt like a sprint, yet at the same time I also didn’t feel like I was running all that fast, if that makes any sense.

I had also practiced the run course during the race preview, so I knew it was on a narrow, paved trail that was nice and shady. I did pass a lot of people (though it wasn’t clear who was doing the sprint, which had a 5K run at the end, and who was doing the super sprint.) At one point, I passed another woman who said to me, “You are fast as hell!” “Thanks!” I said. “This is the part of the race I’m good at!”

My run time was 14:01, an even 8 minute pace, and I’ll admit I was a little disappointed in that since it was 1.75 miles. I thought I’d be in the low 7s, but then again, this was after swimming and cycling. And it was my first ever tri. So I’ll take it. As you’ll see below, I came in fourth overall on the run and second overall female.

Final stats

I finished 11th out of 62 triathletes, and was sixth out of 43 women. Yay! The final breakdown:

Swim: 40/62 (23/43 females)

Bike: 27/62 (16/43 females)

Run: 4/62 (2/43 females) ——-> It’s pretty obvious what my strong suit is!

I’m pleased with my race and I don’t think this will be my last triathlon. I really enjoyed myself. I don’t have any plans for another one at the moment, but I could see myself doing the sprint version next year!

And you know how I joked that I wanted to beat Micah in the race because he didn’t really train for it?

I beat him by 30 seconds.

I’m trying not to rub it in too much!

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!

“Tri”-ing something new: Training for a super sprint triathlon

One of my earliest memories takes place in a pool.

Unfortunately, it’s not a good memory.

I was about two years old, and my parents decided to sign me up for beginner swim lessons at the local YMCA.

While most of the details are fuzzy (I mean, I was two!), I can recall the swim instructor picking me up and saying, “1, 2, 3, DUCK!” (or maybe it was DUNK?!) and plunging me underwater. When she pulled me to the surface after what I assume was just a second or two, I was coughing and crying.

Shockingly, this was not an effective way to teach a toddler to swim, and my parents pulled me out of swim lessons soon after. But a lifelong fear and suspicion of the water took hold, and when they re-enrolled me in swimming lessons at a popular public pool in our town several years later, I refused to put my face in the water. Like, at all. Eventually, after MANY years of lessons, I did learn to get my face wet, and I learned to swim, though not with any real proficiency.

As an adult, most of the “swimming” I’ve done has consisted of splashing around in the shallow end of a pool, preferably with a drink in my hand.

Until now. Because I’m doing my first (maybe only?!) triathlon in a week!

What possessed me to sign up for such a thing when I’m kind of afraid of the water? Rip It Events is holding its inaugural Columbia Association Triathlon, which features a super sprint and a sprint option. The super sprint is four pool laps, followed by a 5-mile bike ride and a 1.75-mile run. Surely I can do four pool laps, I thought when I signed up at the beginning of the year. (Full disclosure: As a Rip It ambassador, I am doing this race for free. But I have a 15 percent discount code to share if you want to do it, too! Send me a message if so!)

I admit training for this most definitely took a backseat to Boston training, so by the time May rolled around, I knew I needed pool time stat. I recruited my friend Kree, swimmer extraordinare and two-time Ironman triathlon finisher, to help me during my first swim practice. I warned her that it would be rough, and she assured me she would be patient and we could get Mexican food and margaritas afterwards. (I can be easily bribed with food and drink.)  

The day of my first practice, I was SO nervous and even questioned whether I really wanted to do this. I mean, I didn’t pay anything to enter the race — I could bail and it totally wouldn’t be a big deal. Except I’d told a bunch of friends I was doing it, and I knew they’d be disappointed if I chickened out. So, I sucked it up and met Kree at the North Arundel Aquatic Center for my first swim lesson in decades.

We walked in and the smell of chlorine took me right back to the 1980s. Anxiety washed over me immediately. Isn’t it crazy how smells can just do that to you? “Welcome to my happy place!” Kree said, totally serious. Get me the eff out of here, I thought to myself.

We suited up and walked out to the pool and I still wanted to run away, but I gingerly lowered myself into the pool and tried to acclimate to the water. “Want me to show you how I swim?” I asked Kree. “Sure,” she said.

I swam to the other end of the pool, head out of the water and freestyling the whole way. That’s not so bad, I thought. Then I swam back. OK, that was harder. But hey, I’m only swimming four laps, so I’m half done!  

“Good job!” Kree said. “But let’s try getting your face in the water now.”

“Ugh, OK. But hey! I made it halfway!”

“Uh, no,” she said. “It’s four laps. That’s eight pool lengths.”

Well, crap.

Kree showed me how to blow bubbles underwater and take a breath when I lifted my head up. Sounds simple, and I’m sure I learned this all those years ago in swimming lessons — and yet actually doing it was a huge mental hurdle for me. Honestly, if I had accomplished nothing else that day, I would have considered that a victory! But I actually did swim a few laps with my face in the water. It wasn’t perfect, and I wasn’t fast, but I did it. And man, I was TIRED afterwards.. So tired. How do people like Kree swim 2.4 MILES in Ironmans? I can’t fathom it. I guess a lot of people think that about marathons, though!

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First real swim in years! 

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Will swim for margs

Since then, I’ve gone once or twice a week to the county’s other Olympic swim center that’s close to my home and work. It’s not easy, but it’s getting easier (I still get anxious when I smell the chlorine! It’s hard to undo all those years of believing that the pool is a scary place where someone is just going to dunk my head underwater suddenly.) I do need to take a breather in between laps, but because this is a pool swim, that shouldn’t be a problem on race day. I’m totally fine being a slow swimmer — as this is my first triathlon, I just want to finish without completely embarrassing myself!   

I’ve even convinced my husband to do the triathlon, too. He claims he doesn’t need to train and that “swimming is like walking” to him. I joked that my only goal is to beat him because he’s not taking it seriously, but I might not be able to. In addition to being a very strong swimmer, he’s faster and more comfortable on the bike. I get nervous about going too fast and having an accident. My running race pace is about three minutes per mile faster than his, but I don’t know if that can make up for the swim and bike portions!  

We went swimming together this morning and after I swam my first lap, he giggled (yes, actually giggled) and said, “Good job, sweetie! You are trying so hard!” He might as well have added a “bless your heart!” afterwards. Then later he said, “It will be nice to actually beat you in a race.”

Whatever. I’m just going to “tri” my best….. That’s all I can do, right?

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Goofing around after laps

A hilly Herald Harbor 5K

For the second year in a row, I ran the Herald Harbor 5K with my friend Cindy. Last year, I was the first female finisher, but didn’t get a medal because those went to the top three overall finishers, both male and female. I finished sixth. This year, I had heard that the top three finishers were getting trophies, so I was hopeful that I could run fast enough for a trophy! I’ve been doing a lot of speedwork this past month in hopes that I can get better at 5Ks, so I was optimistic.

No such luck. Even though I was about a minute faster than I was last year, I finished third female and eighth overall. There were some fast people this year, and I got passed early enough in the race that I knew within the first mile I would not be in the top three. Finish time was 21:34, but the course was short. My watch measured 2.9 miles, so if it had been a true 5K, I’m guessing I would have been in the high 22s. The hills of Herald Harbor got me, again! (I have not done a damn bit of hill training since Boston, although my neighborhood does have rolling hills.)

Cindy, who lives in Herald Harbor and runs on the hills regularly, did great, beating her time last year by about three minutes! The race raises money for a new pavilion at the community’s park. It’s a fun and low-key race, and I definitely recommend it as long as you aren’t going for a PR, since the course is short. 

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Cindy and I afterwards