Feeling strong at the 2019 Bottle and Cork 10 Miler

Two years ago, I killed it at the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler in Dewey Beach, running a 1:13:27.

I will never beat that, I’ve thought to myself so many times since. I’m unlikely to even get close. Indeed, last year I had a terrible race, running a 1:23 (not a bad time, but I had been running sub-1:20 10-milers for the previous four years. In my defense, I was in the thick of Baltimore Marathon training and had grinded out six miles before the race even started.)

But on Saturday at the 2019 10 Miler, I got damn close, finishing in 1:14:28 — only a minute and a second off my PR! To say I was thrilled with that is an understatement. It was my second fastest 10-mile time ever and I felt pretty incredible the whole time.

This was my fifth year doing the race, and it’s always hard to know what to expect from the weather– September is an iffy time at the beach. The first year I ran it, it was 90 degrees and humid outside– just awful. Two years ago, it was cool outside, which I think definitely helped me PR. And this year, when I woke up, it was a brisk 57 degrees and I was so happy about that.

Regardless of the weather, I love this race (I love any race at the Delaware seashore.) Last year, the race organizers changed the course and now I like it even more. Before, the race route went from Dewey Beach down into Rehoboth, through Henlopen Acres, onto the boardwalk in Rehoboth, then through the neighborhood around Silver Lake and onto the highway before heading back to Dewey. I never liked the highway part, especially when it’s really hot — you just bake in the sun.

On the new course, you head out from Dewey and instead of going straight into Henlopen Acres, you turn by Silver Lake to go onto the boardwalk and then into the neighborhood. Miles 3-6.75ish are in Henlopen, and there are some minor rolling hills, but nothing serious. Then you had back onto the boardwalk and back into Dewey.

This race falls during an annual girls weekend, and we stay at a hotel about two blocks from the start line, so it’s super convenient. My friend Jill and I left the room shortly after 7 to arrive in plenty of time for the 7:30 am start time.

The race started right on time and we were off. I ran the first mile in 7:48, and definitely felt like I could go a lot faster, but it was pretty crowded at that point and I knew it would thin out. Plus, I didn’t want to make the mistake I usually do and go out too fast.

I ran mile 2, which was partially on the boardwalk, in 7:40, then started to speed up from there, running mile 3 in 7:29 and mile 4 in 7:24. At that point, we were in the residential area. The runners started to get more spread out at that point and we passed a few people who were out walking their dogs or riding their bikes. I frequently run through Henlopen Acres when I’m on vacation in Rehoboth, so I’m very familiar with the area. (Gorgeous homes!) The only part of the race I wasn’t crazy about is the entrance/exit into the neighborhood — runners basically have to cut through an opening in a line of trees along the main road to get in and out of Henlopen Acres. It’s just weird.

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In last year’s race, I started to tank midway through, so I was happy when I ran mile 5 in 7:31. But I told myself it was time to start cooking with gas (really, that’s exactly what I said to myself) and that I could go faster. I ran mile 6 in 7:19 and mile 7 in 7:14 (my second fastest mile of the race).

Then I was back on the boardwalk and it was crowded, but not with other runners in the race — just lots of people walking, cycling, etc. It was a gorgeous weekend, so there were a ton of people at the beach. I was afraid I was going to expend a lot of extra energy weaving in and out of groups of people, but I managed to run the tangents pretty well and logged a 7:24 for mile 8.

As I ran around and across Silver Lake, I looked at my watch and saw a sub-1:15 was very likely. I was getting tired at that point, but told myself to keep grinding and I’d be in the 1:14s. I hit the mile 9 marker in 7:29 and I knew I had it in me to pick it up from there. I pushed as hard as I could, ran my fastest mile of the race (7:13) and made it under 1:15 with 32 seconds to spare! I heard someone say “second female!” and I thought I might have gotten an overall award, but I ended up with second in my age group instead. Honestly, it would have surprised me if I had won an overall award. This race attracts some really fast runners. In fact, the course record was even broken this year by a guy who ran it in 51:41 (he was so fast I never even saw him out on the course.)

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I almost always stop for water during longer races (which to me are 10 miles and up), but I didn’t this time and also didn’t during the A10. I was well-hydrated from the previous days and the weather was so nice that I didn’t feel like I needed water. In both races, I was feeling so good that I knew stopping for water would just slow me down anyway …. So I didn’t!

I can’t say enough how excited I am about my time, and how hopeful it makes me feel. To be honest, I was starting to think I really peaked as a runner in 2017. I still haven’t had a PR since then, but these recent race times are making me feel more confident that I can smash my three-year-old half marathon PR and break 1:40 this fall. And even better, I think I can run a BQ again when I run the Coastal Delaware Running Festival marathon in April.

Time will tell, of course — but I think I’m on the right track.

My sixth consecutive A10: At least I finished!

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

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

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

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

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

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Maybe I’m getting too old for these shenanigans.

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

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

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

I didn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Almost done! (Tammy Sheetenhelm photo)

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

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

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

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A10 finishers! (Wendy Bernard photo)

Rippin’ It at the Columbia 10 Miler

You know when your legs start to feel fatigued at around mile 1.75 of a 10-mile race, it’s gonna be a bad day.

That’s basically the short story of how Sunday’s Columbia 10 Miler went for me.

“Man, what happened to you out there?” one of my fellow Rip It Events ambassadors asked me after the race. “You go out partying last night or something?”

I hadn’t –but I did take a particularly punishing kickboxing class on Thursday night and my legs were still in serious recovery mode as of Sunday morning. Annnnd it probably didn’t help that I had just run a marathon two weeks prior. It takes a while to recover from 26.2 miles!

My goal for 10-mile races is always to finish under 1:20. Last fall, I set a PR that I am really proud of at the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler, but I didn’t really expect to do that again in Columbia. I knew the course was pretty hilly, so I thought I’d be in the 1:18-1:19 range.

Nope! Official time was 1:21:51– my slowest 10-mile time since 2014. And I think the course was short — my Garmin measured 9.8 miles, and some of my friends said the same thing.

That’s what I get for basically destroying my quads three days before a race!

Kickboxing is always a challenge, which is why I like it, but Thursday’s class was particularly hard. I normally wouldn’t miss Thursday kickboxing due to a weekend race unless I was tapering for a marathon — but if I had known in advance what this workout was going to be like and the impact it would have on me, I probably would have bailed. (Sorry, Matt!) The endurance round of the class included 100 step ups, 100 sets of mountain climbers (200 on each leg), 100 jump squats, 100 squats with a weight and 100 overhead presses. It. Was. Murder. My legs were sore as hell on Friday, still sore on Saturday and when I woke up Sunday morning — only slightly less sore.

But when I got to the start line, I was still optimistic that I’d have a good race. I lined up near the front and took off quickly, finishing the first mile in 7:29. When I saw that pace on my Garmin, I told myself to calm down, especially because of all the rolling hills on the course.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even to the mile 2 marker when I started to think, “Wow, this sucks.” I’m rarely that negative during a race, but my legs were just unhappy with me. I was able to keep my pace in the low 8s for the next few miles, but it didn’t feel easy and I kept having to fight the urge to walk (sometimes I gave in). And while the course had plenty of downhills to match the uphills, when your quads are shot, downhills aren’t all that great, either! When I hit mile 5, I groaned inwardly and couldn’t believe I still had halfway to go.

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The next few miles passed in somewhat of a blur — I saw my friend and Rip It ambassador Mark at mile 6.5 and I look happy in the photo he snapped of me, but I definitely felt like crap! Miles 8-9 were beautiful — we ran around Lake Kittamaqundi, which was a nice flat scenic trail. At that point, though, I was over it and wanted to cross the finish line. My stomach started to hurt, too. Don’t know what that was all about. I felt fine the second I finished the race, so I guess my body just didn’t feel like cooperating!

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Need a reason to run a Rip It race? We have medals as big as your face! 

What can I say? Not every race is going to a be a PR, and some are going to flat out stink. I know 1:21 is still a solid time — but I didn’t feel good during the race and I know I can do better than that. In looking back over my recent race recaps, I am realizing that I need to work on not starting so fast and burning myself out. That’s really hurt me lately. Pacing is hard!

Luckily, I have a chance to redeem myself at the St. Mary’s 10 Miler, my next Rip It race, this Sunday! Like the Columbia 10 Miler, this race used to be a half marathon. I ran it last year on an unseasonably hot day and came in third female overall — I believe my time was 1:42ish, so we’ll see what I can do now that it’s a 10-miler. The weather looks like it’s going to be fantastic!

If you’re interested in running, you still have time to sign up! Contact me for your 10 percent discount code!

A full list of 2018 Rip It events can be found here.

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own!