That’s what you get for running in Vegas: A recap of the Golden Night and Day Half Marathon

Does drinking bottomless mimosas chased by a to-go beer sound like a recipe for a successful half marathon? Probably not, right? 

Unless you’re in Las Vegas, where anything goes and a morning of drinking can give way to victory at an afternoon half marathon. 

Last month, I ran the afternoon version of the Vegas Golden Night and Day half marathon and won it – despite the fact that I’d been day drinking. 

How, you may ask? Honestly, I don’t know. It was a small race. And maybe everyone else was drunk or hungover, too. 

First, let me back up. When I heard I was going to Vegas for an in-person (yay!) work conference, my sister Catherine, a Vegas enthusiast, suggested that I tack on a few extra days and she could fly out and we could make it a girls weekend. I immediately started searching for any local races I could jump into. I love running in new places, and I especially love racing in new places. I found the Vegas Golden Night and Day race, which included a 5K, a 10K, and a half marathon. (For the non-hockey fans, the name was a nod to the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team.) There was a morning race at 8 am and an afternoon race at 4 pm. Assuming we’d be out late partying the night before, I opted for the afternoon race. I chose the half marathon, as that would be my long run for the week, and Catherine said she’d run the 5K. 

Long story short, she got to Vegas later than planned after a total fiasco with American Airlines, in which she flew from Pittsburgh to Charlotte and got stuck overnight in that airport, sleeping in one of the terminals. So instead of arriving around 10 pm Friday night, she got in at 9:30 Saturday morning. Fortunately, I was able to meet up with a childhood friend who lives in the area on Friday night, so that was fun! When Catherine finally arrived, we headed to brunch in the Venetian casino. The food was bomb and the drinks were better. It only made economic sense to get the bottomless mimosas, and we are super responsible people, of course. 😉 After we finished up our meal, we took our mimosas to go, downed those and then stopped at another bar in the casino for beers. At this point, we had less than five hours to go until the race. YOLO! (We were tipsy, but not falling down drunk. Again, we’re responsible! LOL.) 

Catherine looks so excited! Keep in mind, she’d spent the night in an airport!

After playing the slots for a while, we headed back to our room at Treasure Island to get ready for the race, which was being held in Sunset Park about 20 minutes away. We took an Uber there and figured the start of the race would be easy enough to find. Uh … not the case. The Uber driver dropped us off and we wandered around for a good half hour (fortunately, I insisted on getting there 45 minutes early!) trying to find the race. And we weren’t the only ones …. We saw a few other runners who were also walking around, totally lost. There were no signs pointing the way or anything! Finally, we found the start line and picked up our bibs with just a few minutes to spare. We lined up and the race director started talking about the course and the loops we’d be running and how you had to pay attention to where you’re going because there weren’t many volunteers out there and then … “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!”   

Seriously, she went from giving race instructions to suddenly just sending us off. OK. Sounding like the race was a bit of a hot mess? Yes. It was. But I was just happy to be running it. I had no real expectations for how fast I’d run, especially since I’d been boozing it up, but was hoping to come in around 1:40 or slightly faster. The dry, cool weather was almost certain to work in my favor. 

I went out at a pace of around 7:30 and it felt challenging, yet sustainable. The park was pancake flat and the half marathon was something like 3.5 loops around. The race director wasn’t lying when she said you had to pay close attention – I saw like two volunteers on the course and there were signs telling you what mile you were at, but because there were multiple distances, it was pretty confusing. They did have arrows on the ground, which was what I used to guide me, but I heard a bunch of runners got lost anyway. Catherine missed a turn in her race and ran almost 4 miles. She told me afterwards that one of the 10K runners also way overshot her race and was super pissed. I would have been, too!  

Everything felt pretty good and my splits were consistent. I was wearing my Maryland flag running shorts and a few other runners called out “go Maryland!” Our flag is quite noticeable! I didn’t feel nauseous or anything, which was kind of surprising not only because of the drinks but because of the heavy breakfast I’d eaten. Again, I think the weather – low 60s, zero humidity – helped. My real beef was with the headlamp I was wearing. Race management said if you ran the afternoon half marathon, you had to wear reflective colors and a headlamp because we’d be finishing in the dark. So I wore my Noxgear light up vest and borrowed a headlamp from Catherine, who goes camping a lot. The headlamp was super uncomfortable and I wanted to throw it in the bushes by mile 10. Oh well. 

With multiple loops in the half, and few volunteers and zero spectators, the race itself got a little boring after a while. But I needed to do a long run anyway as part of Boston training, and like I said it is always fun to have a change of scenery and run in a new place. I did get to see an awesome sunset toward the end of my race, and had I not been racing, I would have surely stopped to take a #sunsetselfie. 

At around mile 11, I was holding a steady pace but knew I was ready to be done (mainly because of the damn headlamp!) I pushed through the final two miles and came in at 1:39:18. Not a PR, but sub-1:40. It took me 20 half marathons to break 1:40 and now I know I can do it after a few drinks. That’s pretty cool! The volunteer at the end told me I’d won the half (I later found out I was the first finisher, period, not just first female) and they gave me a nice water bottle as a prize, plus a finisher’s medal. Yay! 

We were supposed to get free race pics, but the would-be race photographer sent out an email after the race to all participants where he basically said “sorry, had another commitment and couldn’t figure out how to clone myself.” OK then. Like I said, the race was a bit of a hot mess. 

This was the first time I wore my Alpha Fly super shoes in a half marathon, and I’d be curious to see what kind of half marathon time I could throw down if I had taken the race more seriously. But that wasn’t my goal – I was in Vegas, after all! I just wanted to have fun and do a race in a new state and I did just that.

I’m running Boston 2022!

Long time, no blog! 

It’s hard to believe Coastal Delaware was more than two months ago, and I’m about to embark upon another marathon training cycle – this time, for Boston 2022! I’ve still been running, of course, just haven’t been following a specific plan and have been running at whatever pace and distance I feel like. That’s about to change tomorrow, when I start my 12-week plan from Advanced Marathoning, the one that got me a huge PR and 2023 BQ at Coastal Delaware. 

I’m not trying for a PR in Boston – my 3:26 is really solid and Boston is pretty darn far from a PR course. I do have a lofty goal of running a BQ time there, even though I already have one for 2023, just because I think that would be really cool! And it doesn’t seem completely out of the question. But I mainly just want to beat my 3:47 from Boston 2019 and above all else, HAVE FUN and soak in the whole experience! 

I didn’t think I’d be as excited to run Boston a second time, but I totally am. Qualifying for Boston is hard – we all know that. But my 2022 BQ was particularly hard to achieve. Why? One word: 2020! I don’t have to tell anyone reading this what kind of year that was! And I don’t think I even had it anywhere near as bad as a lot of people – I worked remotely and my husband’s job in the maritime industry was essential, so we didn’t have any financial issues. And we have no children for whom we had to manage virtual schooling and that whole mess. But still, 2020 was shitty for everyone. At the time, I was working in the PR department of a local hospital, managing social media, and once COVID hit, had to start monitoring our accounts around the clock for messages, comments, questions, etc. It was a lot, and I quickly learned that I really don’t care too much for crisis communications (which surprised me– when I was a reporter, I thrived on breaking news!) I left that job a year ago for a new communications job in an entirely different industry, and as the pandemic continues on, I am thankful every day I’m no longer doing healthcare comms. Shout out to those who continue to plug along every day in these challenging times. 

That being said, running was my sanity in 2020 and the fact that I was actually able to BQ at the Chasing the Unicorn Marathon on Halloween 2020 was really special. Especially after it was canceled and rescheduled at the last minute. The race itself had plenty of “only in 2020” vibes (the cold standing water flowing up over the race course! The fallen tree!), and I missed my 3:30 goal by six minutes, but I got that BQ. 

Boston qualifier at the Chasing the Unicorn Marathon
I qualified for the Boston Marathon at the Chasing the Unicorn Marathon in Washington Crossing, PA

Then, there was the whole confusion over which Boston the BQ was even for – the cancellation of Boston 2020 and the postponement of Boston 2021 from April to October obviously screwed everything up. Turns out the BQ was good for both, but I got squeaked out of the 2021 race because the Boston Athletic Association decided to take qualifying times from all the way back through September 2018. For those unfamiliar with the process, in the last decade or so, Boston hasn’t had enough room to accept all qualifiers, and will instead take only qualifiers who run a certain time under their qualifying standard, otherwise known as the cutoff time. Except you never know what the cutoff time will be until you register for the race and get your acceptance or non-acceptance email. It’s all very stressful!

But I was allowed to resubmit my time for 2022, and this time, EVERYONE who qualified and applied for the race was accepted! No cut off time! I first saw the news on Instagram, and shed happy tears. This is the first time in years there has been no cut off. I suspect that’s largely in part to the COVID vaccine mandate that the BAA put in place. Plenty of people were angry about that, but the BAA can do whatever it wants and I think we’ll see more and more of these rules moving forward.

Less than 90 days to go until the race! Check out my Boston 2019 race report for a detailed recap of my experience that year

Knocking Out a Few 5Ks

I’ve said it a million times on this blog – 5Ks are not my thing! They just hurt so bad! Yes, I know marathons are painful, too, but it’s a different kind of pain – I think I just prefer the slow burn of a longer race rather than the all out push of a shorter race. I still run them fairly frequently, but yeah, not my favorite distance! 

I’ve run two since my marathon, both on holidays. The first one was the Greensburg Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. I’ve run this annual 5K in my hometown every year since 2012, with the exception of 2020, when the pandemic canceled it. From 2016 through 2019, I was able to win second in my age group. (I never placed in prior years, most likely because I was out at the bar on Thanksgiving Eve and hungover for the Turkey Trot. Haha.) Finally, in 2021, I won my age group! (I’ve also aged up into a new age group since the last time I ran this race.) I ran a 20:54, which is a pretty big course PR. My previous fastest time was a 22:10. I’m always psyched to break 21 minutes in the 5K, and this course is tough – it is hilly western PA, after all!

Then on New Year’s Day, I won a 5K in Harrisburg, PA. My husband and I decided to go to Hershey for New Year’s, and of course I looked to see if there were any local races happening. I saw a 5K and a 10K happening on New Year’s Day at City Island, where I ran a St. Patrick’s Day 5K with Staci last year. I also set a PR at a half marathon there last May. I opted for the 5K over the 10K because I just PR’d the 10K in October and wanted to see what I could do in the 5K. I really had no expectations for the race, though. We were out late on New Year’s Eve, but didn’t drink too much and the race wasn’t happening until 11:20 in the morning, so I got plenty of sleep. But the weather was pretty yucky – very foggy with a cold drizzle – and I was a little afraid of slipping and falling.

I stuck with my usual 5K strategy – go out like a bat out of hell and see if I can hold on. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That day, it worked. The course was similar to the one I’d run last March with Staci – you run over a bridge over the Susquehanna River and on a path beside the river. Before the race, one of the organizers told us to be careful of goose poop, and I remembered there being goose poop EVERYWHERE when I ran the half last May. But I very quickly entered the pain cave, and didn’t even think about goose poop. (Fortunately, none got on my beloved Alpha Flys!) My splits were positive, but not overly so – 6:30 for mile 1, 6:40 for mile 2, 6:50 for mile 3, and I’m not sure what I ran the last 0.1 in. My time was 20:33  – just seconds off my PR of 20:29! I was really happy about that. I was first female finisher, 11th overall. I am waiting for my award to arrive in the mail! 

But wait! When I checked my results, I saw that my gun time was 20:33, but my chip time was 20:30. So, literally ONE second off my PR. If only I had run two or three seconds faster! Per U.S. Track and Field rules, if you place among the top three overall spots in a race, your gun time is recorded as your official time instead of your chip time. Guess I should have lined up at the very front of the race with those speedy teenagers who clocked 17:xx finish times. LOL. 

Overall, it was a fun day and a great start to 2022. I have a few more 5Ks in mind over the next few months, despite my love-hate relationship with them! But training for Boston will still be my main focus. 

Marathon magic: I set a huge PR at the Coastal Delaware Running Festival

Last month, I ran the perfect marathon. 

I finished the Coastal Delaware Running Festival marathon in 3:26:00. That broke a four-year-old PR by exactly nine minutes, and is a qualifier for the 2023 Boston Marathon with a cushion of 14 minutes. But that wasn’t what made it so awesome. 

I have NEVER run a marathon where I felt so strong and so GOOD the entire time. Remember that I finished the Tidewater Striders BQ Invitational Marathon in March swearing and dry-heaving and insisting there was no way in hell I was running a fall 2021 marathon. 

But I was already signed up for Coastal Delaware, a deferral after the original April 2020 race got canceled. The race management team refused to let me downgrade to the half, so I decided to suck it up and train for the marathon. And not just train – train my ass off. I followed a 12-week plan out of the book Advanced Marathoning and was running more than ever from August-October. Along the way, I set new PRs in the 5-miler, the 10K, and the 10-miler. Could I PR my marathon, too? 

I could and I did!

Here is how it happened. 

Before the Race

So I always hear other marathon runners talk about the taper crazies, but I had run nine marathons before Coastal Delaware and never felt like I had taper madness until this particular training cycle. Good Lord, I was a hot mess during the two-week taper. Anything I could worry about, I did. Catching COVID? Never mind that I’m vaccinated and boosted– I was super stressed about getting a breakthrough case. Breaking a leg or getting injured otherwise? Check. Getting into a car accident? Yup. The race getting canceled at the last minute? Oh yes. Obviously, none of those things happened, so I probably gave myself some needless stress-induced wrinkles. Oy vey. 

My sister Catherine drove down from Pittsburgh to travel with Micah and me to Rehoboth for the weekend, and we arrived Friday night for the Sunday race. Most of my marathons are on Saturdays, and I have to admit it was kind of nice to feel like I had a day to relax before the big race. We went to our favorite Nicola Pizza on Friday night and then Catherine and I went out to our very favorite bar, the Purple Parrot, afterwards. I was the most sober I’ve ever been in there– two-day hangovers are real when you’re in your 40s, yo, and I wasn’t trying to ruin my race before it happened. Some people kept trying to get us to take shots and I kept saying, “No, no, I’m trying to run a 3:28 marathon on Sunday!” 

Yes, my goal had always been 3:30. But then after I started having all of these great races in October, I thought maybe I was selling myself short. I told myself sub-3:30 was totally in the cards if I had a good day and paced myself appropriately. (Always a difficult thing to do!) 

On Saturday, I did a little 3-mile shakeout run on the boardwalk, and then carb-loaded at some favorites – Sammy’s Kitchen for breakfast, Nalu for lunch (awesome poke bowl), and Dogfish Head Pub for dinner (my usual– veggie burger, fries and beer).And of course, we did some shopping, too. Rehoboth is one of my favorite places in the world, and I hadn’t been there since summer of 2019, thanks to COVID canceling our annual family vacation in 2020 and then concerns over the health of my parents’ elderly cat in 2021. I know Catherine was really excited to be back, too.   

Picking up my bib

Race Day!

I slept pretty well the night before the race (unlike before Tidewater Striders, where I tossed and turned for most of the night) and woke up just before 5. Ate a bagel with almond butter and had a small cup of coffee and a small glass of water. I had focused on drinking lots of water in the days leading up to the marathon, but I didn’t want to take in too much liquid that morning because I’d had problems on long runs with having to stop to pee a few times (probably TMI, but I definitely peed behind a few trees along the B&A Trail during this training block.) I knew there would be Gatorade on the course and like I said, I had hydrated well in the preceding days. 

The weather was pretty damn near perfect, in my opinion – high 30s to start with temperatures in the 40s during the race. I wore shorts, a singlet, arm warmers, compression socks and gloves and that was great. Obviously, I wore my “magic shoes,” the Nike Alpha Flys. Damn, I love those shoes. Best money I ever spent. 

Right before we started the race on the Rehoboth Boardwalk, a local pastor gave a beautiful non-denominational blessing. “May you find the strength to run even faster than the goals you set for yourself,” she said. I smiled to myself and thought, “This is going to be my day.”  

We began right at 7 and I made a point to start off very conservatively. As I mentioned, it was pretty cold at the start and at first I worried that I was a little underdressed, especially with the wind coming off of the ocean. But as always, I warmed up fairly quickly, within the first two miles.The first couple miles followed a very similar path to the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon (my first BQ and previous PR!) My first few miles were pretty much right on target – 8:15, 7:56 (a little faster than I thought I should be going that early, so oops), 8:09, 8:01. 

Around that point is when I realized I needed to pee. Damn it. I thought I had gotten it all out before the race. Again, I’m not above doing my business behind a tree (see my Balboa Park 8 Miler recap), but the pre-race guide specifically told runners that there would be porta-potties on the course and we were not to defile the beautiful beach areas by going elsewhere. Fair enough. I didn’t want to risk getting caught and kicked out of the race, so I kept my eyes peeled for a porta-potty. Unfortunately, every time I passed one, someone was in it and there was no way I was wasting precious minutes waiting for one to become available!

My mile splits through Cape Henlopen State Park were: 

Mile 5- 8:08

Mile 6-8:13

Mile 7-8:06

Mile 8-8:03

Mile 9-8:03

Mile 10-8:04

So I was running a really consistent pace. I knew Micah and Catherine would be waiting for me at the halfway point, right by the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal, and I just kept hoping I’d find a porta-potty. 

Mile 11-7:48

Mile 12-8:09

FINALLY, just before I hit the half marathon point, as we were running through Lewes, I found a porta-potty! It wasn’t one put there by the race – rather, it was on the construction site of someone’s new home. Look, when you gotta go, you gotta go. I peed in record time and felt SO MUCH BETTER. Mile 13 was my slowest of the race at 8:25, but that stop needed to happen. 

My cheering squad was right where they said they would be, and I was so happy to see them. Except I got a little *too* excited and distracted and rather than continuing to run straight ahead like I was supposed to, I made a sharp turn left and almost collided with another runner. “WRONG WAY!” Catherine and Micah yelled, through hysterical laughter. Thank goodness they corrected me. And so sorry to the runner I almost knocked out on the course! 

Micah got this action shot of me

This is when I started to kick it into high gear and run consistent sub-8s. I still worried that I might be going too fast, but I was feeling so good, especially after that bathroom stop, that I just went for it. I also saw Micah and Catherine again at miles 16, 17 AND 18 (at which point Catherine yelled out, “You’re almost there!” and I called back “You’re a liar!”)

Mile 14-7:52

Mile 15-7:55

Mile 16-7:42

Mile 17-7:37

Mile 18-7:34

At mile 19, we started to head out of Lewes and toward the Junction and Breakwater Trail, which is also part of the Rehoboth Marathon (though you enter it from the opposite end in that race.) I ran for about a mile with some women who said they were shooting for a 3:30. I clocked a 7:34 for mile 19 and an 8:01 for mile 20. 

Every marathoner knows that mile 20 is when you are likely to hit “the wall.” Sometimes it happens earlier – I think I hit it around mile 17 at Tidewater Striders! Sometimes it happens later – when I ran Rehoboth in 2017, I didn’t really feel it until mile 23 or 24. And sometimes, on really magical days, it never happens. Well, it never happened that day. 

I think it’s worth noting that I fueled differently in this marathon. I’ve always taken sweet Gus during marathons, but I found that they really upset my stomach during Tidewater Striders. It was so warm that day and I couldn’t even get my last Gu down. I see so many runners on Instagram and Facebook talking about Maurten gels, so I decided to give those a try. I liked the Jello-like consistency and the fact that they aren’t flavored– I guess they kind of taste like sugar water. Either way, my stomach likes them a lot. I took a Maurten gel at miles 4, 8, 13, 17 and 21 and that worked out really well. 

Once I got on the trail, I just started flying and passing other runners. In fact, I don’t actually think anyone passed me in those last miles. Not only were my last six miles my fastest of the race, each mile got progressively faster and I was feeling so energized. 

Mile 21-7:27

Mile 22-7:23

Mile 23-7:22

Mile 24-7:16

Looking back at my splits, I almost wonder if I short-changed myself by going out at too conservative of a pace, since I clearly had so much left in the tank in the last few miles. But overall, I don’t regret my pacing – I’ve blown up enough times in marathons by starting out too fast, and I’m just glad that didn’t happen here.  

The last two miles of the race took us back into Rehoboth, as the race finished where we started on the boardwalk. I knew I was running a huge negative split and had a PR in the bag, and I was so happy. I felt like I had redeemed myself after that shit show of a marathon in March. Finally, everything was coming together! That final turn back onto the boardwalk was epic. It wasn’t the right turn onto Hereford and the left onto Boylston, but it was still pretty special to me. 😉  

Mile 25-7:13

Mile 26-7:05

Last little bit (My watch got 0.37, so I guess I didn’t do a great job of running the tangents– 2:27)

Just before I crossed the finish line, I heard Micah and Catherine calling for me, and I later found out my friend Nikki was there too and was cheering for me. I wish I’d seen her! My watch read 3:26:00 when I hit stop, and I wondered what my official time was (3:25:58? 3:26:02?) Turns out it actually was 3:26 on the nose. Ninth overall female, third place Master, a BQ with a huge cushion for 2023, and apparently also a qualifier for the New York City Marathon. Not actually planning to run NYC in 2022, since I’m already running Boston AND Chicago next year and I’m not made of money – but it’s cool to know that I qualified. 

More than anything, I was thrilled with my PR and the fact that all that hard training paid off. I really loved ringing that PR bell! 

Now I’m going to chill out a bit and run lower mileage through December before it’s time to start training for Boston 2022! A few days after Coastal Delaware, I found out that my BQ from Chasing the Unicorn on Halloween 2020 got me into this spring’s Boston, so there’s lots more to come on that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still count that race as a huge success! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my recaps of the two races. 

St. Michael’s Half

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

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

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

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

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

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

About to finish!

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

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

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

Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run 

I wasn’t even planning to run this race. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mile 1: 6:55

Mile 2: 7:06

Mile 3: 6:52

Mile 4: 6:56

Mile 5: 6:58

Mile 6: 6:58

Mile 7: 7:13

Mile 8: 7:16

Mile 9: 7:09

Mile 10: 7:13

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

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

Excited about that PR!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what happened. 

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

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

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

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

“No thanks, “ I told him.

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

“Yeah, I guess not!” I said.

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

The dude behind me offered me weed.

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

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

Totally had to go here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wannabe Triathlete?

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

Feeling strong!

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

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

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

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

I fell in a half marathon, and kept on going

Sometimes you accidentally PR a half marathon

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

Guess which one was the Georgetown Half Marathon? 

Yeah, that was fun. 

I did manage to come in third place, though! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A closer look at the bruise on my left leg.

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

I ran an accidental half marathon PR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what’s next? 

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

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

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

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

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