I ran a 5K in 2 degree weather: The Christmas Eve 5K in Allison Park, PA

I’ll be the first to tell you I like running in the cold. Give me 25 degrees over 85 degrees any day of the week. At least for running. I always say there is drinking margs outside weather and running weather, and those two types of weather are not the same. 

However. Running in single digits, with a wind chill in the negative teens, is just a little too cold even for me. 

The beyond frigid temps didn’t stop me on Christmas Eve, though, when I ran the coldest race of my life in Pittsburgh (Allison Park, to be specific. It’s like it was meant to be!) 

It was one of my slowest 5Ks in quite a while, but the entire course was covered in snow and the temperature was 3 degrees when I finished. So I was more than fine with that. My time of 23:51 got me 2nd place female and I won a sweet campfire mug! 

And I drank out of it all day at my grandma’s Christmas Eve party! 

Why a Christmas Eve race? 

With Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday this year, it dawned on me that just maybe there would be a local race happening. We were planning to travel to Pittsburgh for the holiday, so I started looking around to see what was going on. And sure enough, the week before Christmas, I found a 5K scheduled to take place in North Park in the suburb of Allison Park, about 15 minutes from my sister’s house. 

The weather didn’t look great. Meteorologists were calling for much of the country to be in a deep freeze, and at the time, the predicted race day temperature was 10 or 11 degrees. Brrr. I decided to sign up anyway. 

As Christmas weekend drew closer, the forecast got more and more brutal. The predicted high dropped to 6 degrees. Then 5 degrees. The wind chill looked like it was going to be positively cruel. My mom said the race would probably get canceled, and I thought it might as well. On Dec. 21, the race directors sent out an email saying they would still hold a live race, but also offered participants the option to run the race virtually any time the week after Christmas, once the weather warmed up. But I was committed to running the live race if it was going to happen. First, I’d already paid for a live race. Second, I ran enough virtual races during 2020. I’m over them! I kept checking social media and my email, expecting the race to get canceled anyway, but as of Dec. 23, it was still on. 

On Christmas Eve morning, I woke up and it was 0 degrees. I think the wind chill was around -15 (it got all the way down to -35 the night before!) I put on two pairs of running tights, two pairs of socks with toe warmers, two shirts, my Boston 2019 jacket, a running vest, two pairs of gloves with Hot Hands hand warmers, a hat, and a ski mask. I wasn’t going to wear sunglasses, but Micah was concerned about my eye protection and convinced me to wear his. He and my brother-in-law Justin drove me to North Park, where they waited in the warm car while I did my thing. Packet pickup was inside the North Park Boat House, and there was some drama going on with a fire alarm going off in the men’s bathroom and frozen water all over the steps – a few people slid and fell. But I was happy to have an actual bathroom to use before the race, rather than a port-a-potty! 

After getting my bib and race shirt, I did a quick warmup (LOL, “warmup”) outside. I realized quickly that the sunglasses were going to fog up, and that the Alpha Flys were a poor choice. There were several inches of snow on the ground and I stupidly assumed – you know what they say about assuming – that the roads would be clear. Oh well. 

More than 800 people had signed up for the race, and only a little over a hundred showed up for it in person. We were the crazy ones! The race kicked off right at 10 am when the temperature had risen to a balmy 2 degrees. Honestly, though, I never felt cold and the race was in an area that was wooded enough that the trees were blocking most of the wind. But two things made this race really difficult almost immediately. 1. The damn ski mask. I’ve run in it before on cold days, though it’s been a while and I’ve never worn it during a race when I’m trying to run at race pace. It was hard to breathe in this thing. And then there was the issue of the sunglasses fogging up! 2. The snow-covered roads. It was really hard to get a momentum going and again, the Alpha Flys were just not it. I knew within the first mile it was going to be a struggle and my whole goal was just to finish in one piece.

The course wasn’t very hilly, especially considering we were in western PA, but we did go up and down one long stretch of road in the second mile, with a turnaround right at the 1.5 mile mark. That’s when I slipped and fell on the snow. At least the snow made the surface feel a little softer, and I wasn’t hurt at all. I got back up and kept going. 

At around mile 2.5, I stopped to walk for a few seconds. Yes, in a 5K. It happens! A man who was running near me asked if I was OK and I assured him I was fine, just having a hard time breathing in the mask. I actually ended up finishing before him! 

When I stopped my watch after crossing the finish line, I saw I had just barely cleared 24 minutes. More than 3 minutes slower than my last 5K, the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, and more than 4 minutes off my PR, just set last October. But as I said, I was on the struggle bus immediately and just wanted to finish. 

I had read online that there was going to be an awards ceremony for overall winners and age group winners at 11 am, but when I went inside the volunteers told me they weren’t having it due to the weather and people wanting to get to their Christmas celebrations. One of them told me he was pretty sure I had at least won an age group award and to feel free to take a mug – so I did. I was happy to see later that I had placed second! 

My dad wasn’t happy at all that I did the race and told me later he was very concerned about my skin being exposed. But I felt that I dressed appropriately and was safe. Do I want to run in these conditions again? Not particularly. And I probably won’t. This sure made for a good story, though!   

A look back at three 5Ks in three weeks

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that 5Ks are my running kryptonite. I think they are, hands down, the hardest distance. If you truly push yourself to your limit, nothing hurts more, in my opinion. Not even the marathon. 

At least they’re over quickly? 

And every time I run a 5K, I say to myself – that’s it. I am DONE with this distance. And yet. I keep registering for them, mainly because other people ask me to do them and I have a hard time saying no! 

But this time, I might REALLY be done with 5Ks until 2023, because I just ran three 5Ks in three weeks. Surely, I have met my quota for the year! 

Here’s a look back at my personal 5K series! 

Father’s Day 5K Farm Festival: 23:38 

My friend Josh, who is also a Rip It Events ambassador, told me about this one and encouraged me to sign up. (He actually loves 5Ks and says it’s his favorite distance. Wild!) I agreed to run and true to form, did zero research about the course or anything. So imagine my surprise when the race organizer sent an email to participants the day before and casually mentioned that it would be 99% on grass. The hell? I never ran cross country or anything in high school, and I barely do any trail running (too prone to falling!) This should be interesting! I thought. I already knew I wasn’t in 5K PR shape, but I really had no idea what to expect. My main goal was not to trip and fall, or twist my ankle on the grass. 

The race, held at the Baltimore County Ag Center, actually reminded me of the hellish Red, White and Blue Mountain 5K that Staci and I have run twice together, and she ran for the third time this year. And it was definitely one of the slowest 5Ks I’ve run in recent years. Not only was the course almost all on the grass, but it was HILLY and I went out way, way too fast. Once I finished the first mile, I felt like I was already bonking, and the next two miles were torture. I had to stop and walk a few times, which always sucks in a 5K. At least the weather was good – high 60s at the start (almost unheard of for June in Maryland!), though it was pretty windy. 

Overall, I actually did pretty well. I came in third place female with a 23:38 (7:37 pace) – the second place female passed me just before we hit mile 3 – and won my age group, and I received a $25 gift card that’s good for some Baltimore restaurants. And we got pizza and beer after the race, always a plus! I can’t say I was disappointed in my time since I had no real expectations, and I got to try something new, so that’s a win in my book! 

Dewey Beach Patrol 5K: 20:33

OK, so this 5K I signed up for without any peer pressure, so I have no one to blame but myself. 🙂 When I found out my family vacation to Rehoboth was happening on June 25, I immediately started looking for a local race and found this annual 5K. (Four years ago, I ran the 10K version of the race – the 10K appears to have been discontinued.) When I woke up this morning of the race, I told my husband, “I wish this was a 10 miler!” It’s true! But I got ready and ran into Dewey for the race. It started at the northbeach bar, about two miles from the beach house my family rented, so that was a nice warmup. Dewey and Rehoboth are flat as can be, so I knew it would be a fast course.

And it went well! The course went from northbeach into the residential neighborhoods of Dewey and then back to northbeach. Not a hill to be seen. I focused on pushing hard and trying not to look at my watch too much. I had seen ahead of time that the first place Masters female would win a $25 gift card, so I was hoping I could maybe win that. 

And I did! At the turnaround around mile 1.5, some other runners started calling out to me that I was in second place. (The first place female was a 16-year-old girl who finished in a blistering 18:08. Her 15-year-old brother came in first place male with a 16:40! Fast family!) I felt the way I always do halfway through a 5K – like death. I just kept telling myself it would be over soon. I ended up finishing in 20:33 (6:37 pace) – four seconds off my PR! – and was thrilled with that. 

I won a wine glass that I sadly left at the beach house – it’s OK because I have a bunch of them from previous beach races – and a $25 gift card that was good for several of the bars in Dewey. Of course, I almost missed the awards ceremony altogether because I was drinking a beer at the after party. Typical. 

Race4TheWorld 5K: 17:35

OK, don’t get too excited! I did not run a 17:35 5K. The course was a half mile short!

This race happened on Fourth of July, and Race4TheWorld reached out to me on Instagram to ask me if I would be interested in running it. The race benefitted Luminus, a Howard County-based nonprofit that helps immigrants. Full disclosure, they offered me a free race entry as well as some extra comp codes! The race took place at Merriweather Post Pavilion and at the start of the race, the company that was handling the timing said they had had to unexpectedly shorten the course. No idea why. I wasn’t too bummed about it, though. I’d just run a really strong 5K a week before, and I wasn’t going for a PR. Also, as I just said, I always feel like death when I’m halfway through a 5K. Cut the race a little short? No problem! 

The race was in and around Merriweather, and it was quite hilly, as all races in Columbia are. We started right there in front of the concert stage, and immediately went up a short but steep hill, then circled the area and ran on the tree-lined paths around the venue. I was behind one other woman for about the first half mile, then was able to pass her and held onto the first place spot (among females) until the end. My average pace was 6:48, and I think I could have held onto that had it been a true 5K. I still felt completely gassed at the end. I won a $25 gift certificate to The Common Kitchen, a food emporium in Clarksville, so I am looking forward to checking that out. 

Thanks again to Race4TheWorld for inviting me to run the race! You can learn more about all the great work Luminis does here

What’s Next? 

I actually don’t have any more races planned until Aug. 28, when I run the Annapolis Ten Mile Run – my very favorite race! It was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, and I am so happy it’s back! That kicks off a BUSY few months of racing. I think I am racing something like every weekend in September. 

And then I run the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 and the Philly Marathon on Nov. 20! I start training in earnest on July 18, but I’ve been running upwards of 40 miles a week the last few weeks so I’m already kind of in training mode. The plan I am about to start following is intense and I want to make sure I have a good base in place before I really start hammering it hard. 

I can’t wait!  

A big and unexpected PR at the Barlowe Bolt 5K

Yesterday, I ran my first LIVE race in seven months, the Barlowe Bolt 5K in Millersville. And I had a PR that I truly never saw coming, running a 20:29 (6:36 pace!) I was also the first female finisher. To say I was thrilled is an understatement.

I had set my previous PR, a 20:49, almost exactly four years earlier on Oct. 2, 2016, as part of a relay team at the Waterman’s sprint triathlon on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. That was the only time I’d ever managed to sneak in under 21 minutes, and it wasn’t even at a stand-alone 5K. I figured it was a fluke and that I’d never beat it. I often struggle in 5Ks and have a hard time breaking 22 minutes consistently.

But then 2020 happened. All of the races after early March were canceled and many were replaced by virtual races. I kept on running and training, with hopes of running a fall marathon (as of today, that hope is still alive!) This past summer was the hottest, most humid and most disgusting summer I can recall in recent years. But I kept grinding and I think it all paid off on a crisp fall morning when the temperature was only in the mid-40s.

This annual race, which raises money to build a natural play space at Barlowe Field in Millersville, Maryland, always happens in March. The organizers postponed it until October this year, and I am so glad they were able to have a live event! Everyone was required to wear masks when not running and asked to keep social distance. The race size was also limited to 50 people. I think they handled the COVID restrictions well, and I felt safe.

Team 5 Peaks!

A bunch of my friends from 5 Peaks came out to race, and several won age group awards! We were all just so pumped for a real, in-person race. I’m grateful for all the virtual opportunities we had in this bizarro year, but nothing beats an in-person race.

The morning of the race actually got off to a terrible start. After not sleeping so great anyway, I awoke at 4:30 and my cat immediately started whining to go outside. She’s an indoor cat, but we let her outside often because she knows not to leave our yard. Well, that morning she decided to wander into our neighbor’s yard (I think she may have climbed into a small tree) and I couldn’t find her. She wouldn’t come when I called her, and it was dark. I frantically woke my husband up and finally, she came running in our direction. But I really thought I would be missing the race to look for my lost cat. Maybe all that early morning adrenaline helped me?!

The race started right on time at 7 am, and I started off running with a group of young kids (high school age) and an older gentleman in a Howard County Racing Team singlet. He ended up pulling ahead of me at the end of the first mile, and I was never able to catch up. He ended up winning the race, finishing 10 seconds ahead of me. We chatted for a little bit after the race, and I learned he is 63 years old. Talk about goals!

At the end of the first mile, my watch beeped and told me I ran a 6:20. Yikes. This is usually the time in a 5K where I realize I went out wayyyy too fast and then I’m ready to die. But this never really happened for me in the race. I felt really good. I did slow down in miles 2 and 3 (to 6:53 and 6:57, respectively), but kept my pace under 7 minutes! The Barlowe Bolt course isn’t pancake flat, either— it’s a lot of rolling hills. But none of them are particularly long or steep, and my neighborhood has similar terrain. So I had an advantage, since I run around my neighborhood so much. I’ve also run this race twice before, and I knew what to expect.

At about the halfway mark, I saw my friend Matt, who had provided all of the finisher medals and trophies for the winners. I also passed him again just before the final right turn to the finish, and he yelled out, “You’re going to be under 20:30!” I hadn’t really been looking at my watch for most of the race, instead just concentrating on running as fast as I could, so while I knew I was having a strong race …. I didn’t think I was going to PR. But when I looked at the clock and saw the time began with a 20, I started sprinting as fast as I could. When I crossed the line, I yelled out, “Holy shit, I PRed!” right in front of a bunch of kids, so that was nice. My apologies to their parents.

In addition to a nice little trophy, I won a $50 gift card to Giant — always appreciated! But I think I’m most excited about the fact that I PR’d my first official race as a 40-year-old, and in a distance I always say I love to hate!

How did I manage to do it? I think there are a couple of reasons why I ran so well. I’ve always heard the joke that humidity is the poor runner’s altitude training. Well, I think there is something to that. Again, this summer was absolutely brutal and running felt so. damn. hard. Lately, it’s felt a lot easier … and I know my body loves the fall weather.

But more importantly, I think, I’ve also just been running more. As far as marathon runners go, I’ve always been a relatively low mileage runner, often peaking with mileage in the high 30s. I did bump up my weekly mileage back in 2017, the last time I trained for a Boston qualifier … but I’m running even more now. Two weeks ago I ran 53 miles. This week, a cutback week, I ran 41 miles. This coming week will be around 53 again. I’ve been adding a Wednesday medium-long run (8-10 miles) into my schedule, and running before kickboxing class twice a week. So for the last few weeks, I’ve been running six days a week. Again, nothing for a lot of marathoners. But still more than I usually run. I’ve been feeling great and my body has responded well to the increased mileage, so I’m going to keep rolling with it and hope that my rescheduled marathon is able to occur in 27 days!

Other races on my calendar

I completed a few more virtual races over the last few weeks. At the end of August, I did the virtual Quantico Duathlon, which was a 5K run, a 20.4K bike ride and a 5K run. It took me around an hour and 48 minutes, and I ran the first 5K in 21:37 (which I was excited about, and about what I was expecting for the Barlowe Bolt!) Ran the second 5K in 23:32, which I thought was pretty decent after one 5K and a 12.67 mile bike ride. It was lot of fun. I would still like to race more duathlons in the future, when I am not busy marathon training.

Then, in September, I raced the virtual Market Street Mile and ran a 6:11 — exactly what I ran last year, when the race happened in person. I ran it on my lunch break — yay for working from home for the foreseeable future — and was hoping to squeak under six minutes, since I somehow ran a 5:56 mile earlier this year. This run burned like hell and I have no idea how I could have run it 15 seconds faster. But I’m happy with that effort. According to the online results, I was the second female overall. The first place female was a 46-year-old who ran a 5:46! Fast!!

In two weeks, I am also running the virtual Baltimore Running Festival half marathon. I am probably not going to race it, since it’s two weeks out from my marathon. That said, I did race a half marathon two weeks before my BQ race in 2017. (And raced a 10K the day after that. This was a stupid decision — don’t do it.) That half marathon went badly, but then I crushed my marathon. So, who knows?

I also registered for Rip It Events’ Day of the Dead 5K, back when I thought I was running a marathon on Sept. 13, not Halloween. I am supposed to run that between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. I certainly am not going to race a 5K right before a goal marathon …. nor do I want to race one after having just run 26.2 miles! I may just run it as an easy shakeout run the day before the marathon.

Speaking of Rip It Events, we have the Greenbrier Trail 5 & 10 Miler coming up on Oct. 25. I’m not a great trail runner and definitely would not want to risk running a trail race the week before a marathon — but it sounds fun and the race organizers have done everything they can to make it a safe event in this era of COVID-19! If you are interested, use SAUNTRY2020 for 10 percent off.

A 5K on 4th of July weekend: Another virtual race in the books

I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about racing Rip It Events’ 5 on the 4th Virtual 5K when I woke up this past Friday morning.

Classes have resumed at my kickboxing school, so I went Thursday night and got absolutely destroyed when we had to do about a zillion and one weighted squats — I knew my legs would be feeling that workout for days. Plus, I knew it would be hot (because July 3) and since I had the day off work, I planned to sleep in a little (not too late, but later than I would normally be up for a race). My “A” goal for 5Ks is always to be in the 21s (it rarely happens) and my “B” goal is to be in the 22s (which happens pretty often.) I figured I’d be lucky to clock somewhere in the 23-minute range. 

But I actually ran this virtual 5K three seconds faster than last month’s Donut Worry. Be Happy. Virtual 5K, finishing in 22:15. Just goes to show you how unpredictable racing is! There were times when I wanted to stop so bad, but told myself to just keep pushing and that it would be over before I knew it. I did actually stop once, because my phone was ringing. I let it go to voicemail, but it caught me completely off guard so I did stop for a few seconds. Wish I hadn’t, but whatever. 

I’ve been really happy with my recent 5K times. Especially because they were during virtual races. It’s undoubtedly a lot harder, at least for me, to push myself to run my 5K race pace when I am all by myself. I’m pretty curious to see what I can do when real races resume. I actually have gotten a few emails recently about some smaller 5Ks, but none have been very close to me, and I don’t love the distance enough to drive an hour-plus to run it.  

This was Rip It’s third and final virtual 5K, at least for now. I ran the same course around my neighborhood for each one, which makes comparing my times easy. The 5K loop I run has some rolling hills, so it never feels like a PR course. But then I run it all the time, which gives me an advantage. 

Although this was a 4th of July race, I ran it on July 3 because we had plans to go hiking in Shenandoah National Park on the actual holiday. I also ran a one-mile warmup and a 1.9-mile cooldown to make it an even six miles, per my marathon training plan. 

 And then on July 5, I did a long run of 13 miles in 87-degree weather (the heat index was well into the 90s.) Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of the weekend and was happy to spend Sunday afternoon at my neighbor’s pool and Sunday night on my couch binge-watching The Babysitters Club reboot on Netflix. (Calling all my fellow children of the ‘80s and ‘90s — it’s fantastic!) 

Though there are no more 5Ks on Rip It’s virtual race calendar, there is the Run Dirty Virtual Trail Challenge, which runs, no pun intended, through the end of September. Participants can choose to run either 25, 50, 100 or 150 miles on local trails. It’s not a virtual ultra — the runs aren’t meant to be completed in one day. You can learn more and register here. I’m not doing it, only because I am marathon training and I am not sure-footed enough to run very fast on trails. In other words, I am klutzy. But it sounds fun! 

The Clyde’s 10K, originally scheduled for April and postponed until September, has now also gone virtual due to COVID-19 and the sudden closing of Clyde’s Restaurant of Columbia. I would do this one, but I am supposed to be running the Chasing the Unicorn Marathon on Sept. 13, if it still happens. Learn more and register here

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.

The Greensburg Turkey Trot: A Thanksgiving Day tradition

It’s almost the end of 2019, and I’ve run 10 5Ks this year.

One of my running goals this year was to get better at the 5K — as I’ve written many times before, I always go out way too fast and then bonk halfway through. I wanted to be able to consistently run the 5K time I know I am capable of (mid-high 21s.)

Did I accomplish that goal? Well….. no. I haven’t run a sub-22 5K since the Barlowe Bolt in March. I did run two 5Ks on the same day in September, both of which were under 22:30. And on Thanksgiving Day, I ran my fastest 5K since the Bolt – a 22:10 in the Greensburg Turkey Trot in my hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

So do I have a goal for the 5K in 2020?

Yes, and that’s to run fewer freaking 5Ks!

What can I say? It’s not my distance and I’m not sure I care enough about excelling at 5Ks to focus my training on them. I don’t enjoy them the way I enjoy a 10-miler or a half marathon or a marathon. Those are fun to me (maybe not always the last few miles, but I still genuinely enjoy the experience.) Every time I run a 5K, I think, “This sucks! Why am I doing this?”

I’m sure I’ll end up running a few 5Ks anyway, but not 10. That’s just excessive.

Now, onto the Turkey Trot!

This annual Thanksgiving Day race, which benefits Big Brothers/Big Sisters, has become a holiday tradition for me — it was the second race I ever ran back in 2012, and this year marked my eighth time running it! My husband Micah has run it with me every year that we have been together, and my dad usually walks it. This year, my cousin Tony and my Uncle Doug joined us, too. The 2019 Turkey Trot was the largest ever, with more than 2,500 runners. I’m glad it’s gotten so popular over the years!

Since I’ve run this race so many times, and I grew up in Greensburg, I am obviously very familiar with the course! So I know it’s brutal. It’s very hilly (hello, western PA!) and most years, it’s very cold (still better than the heat and humidity!) The first mile is mostly downhill, the second mile is rolling hills (but really more uphill!) and the third mile is more rolling hills (with one long downhill stretch, but then the race ends on an uphill — mean!)

I had a terrible race last year — it’s never good in a 5K when the pace of your first mile begins with a 6 and the pace of your third mile begins with an 8. Ha. I figured I’d likely run a positive split again this year, just given how the course is set up, but I was hoping my splits wouldn’t be quite so ugly.

They were definitely better! I ran mile 1 in 6:43, mile 2 in 7:17 and mile 3 in 7:29. Not great, but it could have been worse! I ran the final 0.1 in 44 seconds. I did stop twice during the second mile for a few seconds at a time, which probably cost me a sub-22 finish. I just didn’t feel like I could push any more up those hills.

But my 22:10 was actually the fastest I’ve ever run on that course, so I can thank all the speedwork I did in half marathon training for that!

For the last three years, I’ve won second place in my age group. It’s become a joke in my family. So I was hoping this year would be my year! Well, it wasn’t….. I won second place yet again. Oh well. All the more reason to be excited about turning 40 and aging up into a new division, right? Right?!

Greensburg Turkey Trot

My dad and I

I can’t say I’m super excited to be turning 40 in 2020, but I do feel optimistic about my running. I think 40 will be a great year for me as a runner. Just not a 5K runner. 🙂

A 5K double header: One in the morning, one in the afternoon

Have I mentioned how much I hate 5Ks?

OK, I don’t hate them. I mean, if I’m counting right, I’ve done nine in 2019 alone, and we have three months left in the year! So, obviously, they can’t be too terrible!

Except almost every time I run one, I think, “Well, that sucked!” and “I could have done better.” They just hurt so bad and I struggle with pacing myself correctly. Earlier this year, I attempted to train to run a fast 5K (anything under 22 minutes for me), and then targeted a race that ended up being a total disaster. “5Ks just aren’t my thing,” I told myself afterwards. “It’s fine.”

And yet — I keep signing up for them. Like this past Sunday when I ran a 5K at 9 am and then another 5K at 2 pm.

I mean, why not? I do like to challenge myself. (I actually have run two races in one day before, but the second one was a fun run.)

The first 5K was the Together in TEAL — Ending Ovarian Cancer — 5K Run/3K Walk to benefit the Central Maryland chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. My employer was one of the sponsors, and we had a team at work, so my co-worker and friend Ariana and I decided to run it.

The second was the 9/11 Heroes Run benefiting the Travis Manion Foundation, named in honor of a Naval Academy graduate who was killed in Iraq in 2007. I had written about the Heroes Run when I was at ABC2 in Baltimore, and my first ever story for RunWashington was a profile of a woman who works with the Foundation to honor fallen soldiers. So I was very familiar with the organization and all that it stands for.

The two runs obviously totaled 6.2 miles, far less than I would typically run on a Sunday, but of course the effort was much faster. Oh, and it was really hot out, even though it was the day before the official start of fall. I’m so ready for cooler running weather.

I got to the NOCC run at 8 am, since I planned to take pictures to share on social media for work. Before the race started, several ovarian cancer survivors spoke, as well as those who had lost their loved ones to ovarian cancer. It was very emotional and I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience who got teary.

The race started promptly at 9 and to be honest, I did not care for the course, which was entirely in the Annapolis Mall parking lot. It was just really boring, and of course, there was no shade (except for around mile 1.5, when we turned into the Nordstrom parking garage and did a small loop.) It was mostly flat, but running around a mall for 3.1 miles isn’t exactly the most scenic or exciting route!

I did a HORRIBLE job of pacing this one. HORRIBLE. I took off way too fast and hit the first mile in 6:15. 6:15!!! WTF! That’s only four seconds slower than I ran the Market Street Mile, and it’s at least 45 seconds too fast for the first mile of a 5K.

I never stopped to walk, but my splits were UGLY. My second mile was a 7:07 and my third mile was a 7:34. And that’s why I suck at 5Ks! I have such a hard time holding back and I all too often expend all my energy in the first mile.

I pretty much felt like crap halfway through and just kept telling myself it would be over soon. (But I also asked myself, “Why are you doing another one of these this afternoon? What is wrong with you?”) There weren’t many spectators and there was nothing to really look at except for the parking lot, so like I said, it was boring. The course was also not that well marked, and if I had been in the lead, I probably would have made a wrong turn and messed up my race. At around mile 2.6, we approached the finish line and I thought, “Man, this course is really short!”

I started to make a right turn toward the finish line and a volunteer steered me away and in the direction of one last half-mile loop before turning around and actually running through the finish. My final time was 22:13, which was good for first in my age group and second overall female. The age group situation was different — I was in the 31-40 year old group, whereas usually I fall in the 30-39 group or the 35-39 group. Whatever. An age group win is an age group win!

Even though I didn’t love the course, I would recommend the race because it is for a good cause. Learn more about the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and the annual race, here.

9/11 Heroes Run

I had a few hours of downtime until I had to head to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the Heroes Run. As I mentioned earlier, it got hot — temperatures neared 90 degrees by early afternoon. Awesome. I didn’t have high expectations, time-wise, for this race, given the heat and the fact that I had already raced that day. My biggest hope was to run more even splits!

Because Lt. Manion was a Naval Academy grad, it seemed like at least half of the race participants were midshipmen. In fact, there was one whole age group for 19-year-olds, one for 20-year-olds and one for 21-year-olds! My age group for this race was unusual, too– 36-44. Never seen that before!

The start of the race was VERY crowded, which was probably a good thing for me because it kept me from going out too fast. The race began at the stadium and went through the Admiral Heights neighborhood before returning to the stadium. I ran the first mile in 7:14 and felt good about it. The neighborhood was a little hilly, but nothing too crazy — it was comparable to the rolling hills in my neighborhood in Edgewater. I was able to pass a lot of other runners after the first mile, when the field thinned out. Even with the hills, running in Admiral Heights was way better than running in the mall parking lot — there was at least a little shade and lots of the residents came out to watch the race and cheer us on! I ran the second mile in 7:23.

After we left the neighborhood, we headed back toward the stadium and ran a loop around it before heading toward the finish line. Veteran A10 runners are very familiar with the infamous uphill finish — this race had the same finish. My third mile was a 7:22, so I can definitely say that I accomplished my goal of running more even splits than in the NOCC 5K (not like that would have been hard, LOL!)

My watch read 22:25, and I was pretty excited that I ran this 5K only 13 seconds slower. I thought I had a good chance of winning another age group award, as I didn’t see any women near me on the course who looked to be around my age. Ariana came out to spectate this race and she stayed with me through the awards ceremony, but they didn’t call my name. Oh well, I thought.

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Conquering the 911 Heroes Run, benefiting the Travis Manion Foundation!

But! The day after the race, I looked up the results online (mostly because I wanted to see what my official time was — I usually stop my watch a second or two after I cross the finish line) and realized I wasn’t listed in the results at all. I also looked at the award winners in the female 36-44 year old age group and saw that the winner was listed as running a 22:47.

I emailed the race director, and apparently I wasn’t the only one who experienced this. The race timing company had a major issue with its equipment and a lot of other results were missing. The race organizers are still looking into getting the results sorted out as much as they can, so maybe I won something, maybe not! It’s not really that important — it’s not like this was a BQ marathon or anything. The important thing is that I had fun and helped raise money for a good cause.

Next up for me is the Baltimore Half Marathon on Oct. 19! I don’t really have a time goal — I’m mainly using it as a training run for the Philly Half Marathon in November, when I’ll try to break 1:40. I figure I’ll stay with the 1:45 group in Baltimore and see how I feel. The Baltimore Running Festival is one of my favorite fall running events in Maryland, and I always look forward to it.

When it’s not such a good day for a run: The Red, White and Blue Mountain 5K

The race director for the Red White and Blue Mountain 5K minced no words as we all lined up at the start.

This is one of our toughest 5Ks, he said. It might even be the hardest one we have. If this is your first 5K, well, hopefully this doesn’t scare you away.

This race, held over Fourth of July weekend at the Blue Mountain Vineyards in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania, was hardly my first 5K– I’m guessing I’ve run upwards of two dozen 5Ks at this point in my life, maybe more. And I was still a little intimidated by his warning, especially since I had hoped to run somewhere in the 21-minute range. I’d spent the last two months working more on my speed, going to the track every Wednesday night to grind out 200- and 400-meter repeats. 5Ks are tough for me, and I’d like to be able to pump out 21:xx 5K times more consistently.

This was not the race for such a lofty goal. Far from it.

And I came nowhere close to that goal. In fact, I ran my slowest 5K time — 25:26 — in at LEAST five years, maybe longer!

Shockingly, I was still fast enough to win my age group. I also finished fourth female and missed out on an overall award (which was a bottle of wine!) by nine seconds.

I still got a complimentary glass of wine afterwards, so I’d call that a win regardless of how I placed or what my time was!

The race was organized by a company called Good Day For A Run, which puts on a lot of races at wineries and breweries, as well as numerous holiday-themed races. My good friend Staci, who lives about 45 minutes away from the vineyard, found out about the race several months ago and asked if I wanted to come up and run it with her. I love races, I love wine and I love hanging out with Staci, so of course I was sold.

What made this 5K so hard? It was in a vineyard, that sounds really cool!

Sure, running through a vineyard does sound like fun — in theory! In reality, the terrain is uneven and it’s hilly as all hell. I did not look up the course ahead of time (I rarely do that with races anyway) so I didn’t realize quite how hilly it was going to be. I haven’t done one bit of hill training since Boston, and while I’m sure my track work helped a little, doing some dedicated hill work would have been much more beneficial!

There were very few flat stretches in this race, and most of the course involved weaving in and out of the rows of grapevines. So you’d run down one row, then make a very sharp turn, then run up the next row — and so on and so forth. I’ve never done a race with so many switchbacks, which basically force you to slow down or else you’ll slip and fall turning the corners. It was also tough to make up time on the downhills, because the ground was uneven and I was a little afraid of falling.

But the uphills were brutal. Brutal! Running uphill is always a challenge, but the heat and the humidity added an extra layer of difficulty. The race started at 9 am, and it was in the low 80s with high humidity. There was also zero shade and every uphill on the course was directly into the blazing sun. I said to Staci afterwards that it would have been better had the race started at 7 — of course, then we would have had to get up super early, so that would have sucked.

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Dying on the inside

I knew after about a half of a mile that this was going to be a rough race. I rarely stop and walk in 5Ks, but toward the end, I was stopping for a few seconds at a time, then running again. Fun fact, my average race pace was 8:12/mile. That was the same pace I ran in the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon, when I qualified for Boston. And I ran the last mile in this 5K at an 8:42/mile pace. My average pace in the Boston Marathon was 8:41/mile. Speed is all relative, of course, but it’s pretty clear that this race really chewed me up and spit me out.

One great thing about it — it finished on a downhill! However, it was a steep enough downhill that sprinting down it didn’t seem like the best idea. I was so happy to cross that finish line and grab a bottle of water from a volunteer (I was not ready to think about wine quite then, haha!) then I stood at the finish line and waited for Staci and got a video of her crossing the finish. She also thought the race was an ass kicker and we talked about doing it again …. If the weather was around 60 degrees!

In the future, if I am going to choose a “goal” 5K, I need to look at the course first and also consider the weather! It’s not like I’m incapable of running well on hills or in the heat, but I think the combination of the two really did me in.

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Very glad to be done!

What’s next for me?

Well, this weekend I’m running the Seashore 5 Mile Run in Rehoboth with my brother-in-law Justin. I ran this race last year and know it’s pancake flat (as are all races at the beach!) so I’m hoping my track workouts pay off. I finished in 40:08 last year and won my age group, but was annoyed that I wasn’t under 40 minutes. I’d like to be around 38ish minutes this year, but if it’s hot as Hades, who knows what I can pull off.

Then on July 21, I’m running the Ellicott City 5K with Rip It Events. This race is another hilly one– the second half of it is basically all uphill. I ran the 10K version of the race last year and finished third overall, so we’ll see what I can do in the 5K. I’ll be happy with any time in the 23-24 minute range, but maybe I’ll surprise myself!

There is still time to sign up for the Ellicott City 5K/10K
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November running: Lots to be thankful for!

I ran four races during the month of November, and my pace was in the 7s for each one!

I haven’t seen those kind of times since…. last fall. What can I say? Running in the fall in Maryland is my absolute favorite and my race times reflect that.

I also ran way more races over this past summer than I ever have before, and I struggled quite a bit in the heat and humidity. Plus, I’m getting to the point with my running where PRs are not going to be as easy to come by. I’ve been racing for six years now, and last fall, I was at the top of my game, setting new PRs in the 10K, 10 miler and marathon. I didn’t set any PRs in 2018, but who knows what 2019 will bring? I will say this past month has given me renewed confidence in my abilities.

Here’s what I raced in November 2018:

Across the Bay 10K

The Across the Bay 10K is one of Maryland’s best races, in my opinion. If you are a runner in the mid-Atlantic region, put this one on your race bucket list! The point-to-point race, which takes runners (and walkers) across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, began in 2014 and is one of the largest 10Ks in the country. You start at Northrop Grumman on the west side of the bridge, then travel across the eastbound span, ending on Kent Island. The first mile and a half or so is uphill (it’s long, but not that steep), then it levels off and then you have a nice long downhill.

For this reason, I think it’s a great PR course. In 2017, I ran a 44:50, my 10K PR, and I knew beating that was unlikely this year. I finished the 2018 race in 47:52, 7:42 pace, and was 10th out of 1,499 females in my age group. I had an awesome time, as I do every year, though there was some controversy surrounding this year’s medals. The medals for the first five years of the race were supposed to form a completed puzzle, but instead, the 2018 medal had a little groove on its right side to presumably fit into the 2019 medal. A lot of runners were PISSED and flocked to the race’s Facebook page to let the organizers know. I have no idea why that was such a big deal to people, but then again, I had no plans to stop running the race after five years, either.

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Rocky Run Italian Stallion Challenge

The following weekend, I traveled to Philadelphia to run what was technically a half marathon. The annual Rocky Run, an homage to the famous Rocky movies, features three options — a 5K, a 10-miler, or you can choose to do the Italian Stallion Challenge and run both to equal 13.1 miles. I hadn’t run a half since February, so I decided to do the challenge. My friends Staci and Sarah ran the 5K, and our other friend Melissa, who lives in the Philly suburbs, graciously woke up early with us, drove us into the city and cheered us on.

If you do the challenge, you have to finish the 5K and be back in your starting corral by the time the gun goes off for the 10-miler. I knew that wouldn’t be a problem, as I had 45 minutes to complete the 5K. I ended up running it in 23:23, 7:32 pace, though I truly think I could have been faster. It was just so crowded in the beginning that I wasn’t able to go as fast as I would have liked. My splits were negative, though, always a good thing!

The 10-miler course was fun. Most of it takes you along the Schuylkill River, and because it was mid-November, all of the trees were so colorful and beautiful. The course was overall pretty flat, but there was a killer hill around mile 4 that was really tough. It was both steep and long. But the good part was, you then got to turn around and fly down it, which was when I logged my fastest mile of that race! Finish time for the 10-miler was 1:20:02, and you can be sure that I was SO bummed when I saw I just missed breaking 1:20. Still, my total time for the challenge was 1:43:25, a 7:54 pace and a time I’d love to see in the Rehoboth Half Marathon next weekend!

Afterward, my friends and I even ran up the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum! #extracredit If you’re looking for a fun fall race in Philly, check out the Rocky Run. (Although it’s almost guaranteed to be cold and windy.)

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I don’t know who that guy to the left of Staci is….

Turkey Chase 10K

The Turkey Chase 10K in Columbia was Rip It Events’ final race of 2018, so I got up early to volunteer at packet pickup, then ran the race. Last year, I ran the race the day after the Annapolis Running Classic half marathon, and struggled hard, barely finishing under 50 minutes. (Five minutes slower than my PR just a few weeks prior!) It was also VERY windy. But this year, I felt well rested and much better. There’s a lot of downhill in this race, but I don’t remember even appreciating that when I ran it in 2017. This year, I felt like I was cruising the whole time, and my pace stayed consistent, mostly in the mid-7s, for the entire race. I actually beat my Across the Bay 10K time and finished in 47:39, a 7:40 pace — and came in third in my age group!

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I’m also excited to announce that I’ll be on Rip It’s ambassador team again for 2019. If you’re interested in running any Rip It races, give me a shout and I’ll hook you up with a discount!

Greensburg Turkey Trot

Oooh boy! I took home second in my age group for the third year in a row, but this race was a hot mess. (Well, not literally. It was 21 degrees outside, and it felt like 13! Brrrrr!) But yeah, it was a pacing disaster. 5Ks are not my strong suit, and this particular 5K in my hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania — which I’ve run every Thanksgiving for the past six years — is challenging. It’s very hilly — it is in southwestern PA, after all — but the first mile is mostly downhill. So it’s easy to go out FAST, which I sure did. I ran that first mile in a blistering 6:34!!! While I’m really proud of that pace, it was stupid because I couldn’t sustain it past mile 1, so miles 2 and 3 just absolutely sucked. I think my pace on those miles was more than a minute slower than my first mile. I even had to stop and walk a few times. I crossed the finish line in 23:03, about 30 seconds slower than last year, but still fast enough for second place in my age group for the third year in a row. In fact, it’s now become a joke in my family that I keep “losing” my age group. Oh well — there’s always 2019! And 2020, when I’ll be in a whole new age group!

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Posing inside the historic Westmoreland County Courthouse, in front of a miniature version of said courthouse.

 

So that wraps up November! Yesterday, on Dec. 1, I had a much more successful 5K to kick off the new month — details to come in a blog post this week! I’m also looking forward to the Rehoboth Half Marathon next weekend. No super specific time goal, but breaking 1:45 would be nice!

Happy holidays! What’s on your race calendar for December?