The 2019 Annapolis Ten Mile Run: What a perfect day

I had one main goal for this year’s Annapolis Ten Mile Run.

My God, have a better race than last year.

Now, I love the A10. It is my favorite race, and even the bad years are still pretty good. That said, the 2018 A10 was an absolute disaster for me. I started to run out of gas at mile 5, dry heaved at mile 8 and all but crawled across the finish line in 1:23 (a perfectly respectable time, don’t get me wrong, but I’d run a 1:15 the prior year!) I’m still not entirely sure how that race went off the rails so badly, though I suspect it was the ahi tuna burger I’d eaten the night before. Always get the veggie burger before a race! Always!

Anyway, I am happy to report that this year’s A10 went amazing! I ran a 1:17:26 — my fastest 10-miler in two years!! — pulled off a negative split, and felt super strong from start to finish.

So what went RIGHT this year? Honestly …. Aside from the fact that I didn’t eat ahi tuna for dinner the night before, the weather probably had a lot to do with it! After days and days of hot, disgusting, humid Maryland weather, things finally cooled off for the weekend. It was in the 60s when I woke up the day of the race, and I was actually chilly while waiting for it to start. It certainly didn’t feel like August in Maryland, and I was totally fine with that. The cool temps were pretty much all anyone was talking about because you know no one likes to bitch and stress about the weather more than runners! Haha.

Oh, and after packet pickup the day before, Kree and I went downtown to get Painkillers at Pusser’s and later, a margarita at Vida Taco Bar. Maybe that was literally the secret sauce?

My plan was to start with the 1:20 pace group (a flat 8-minute/mile pace) through the halfway point, then pass them by so I could have a sub-1:20 finish. I recognized the main pacer, as he led the 1:20 group last year, and he always runs the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler in Dewey Beach, too. He’s very upbeat and does a great job of running an even, steady pace (the worst is when you have a pacer that goes out too fast — that’s the whole point of running with a pacer, so you don’t blow your race in the first few miles!)

With the exception of last year, since it was such a shit show, I’ve always felt like the A10 just flies by. That was definitely the case this year. From the Navy-Marine Corps stadium to Main Street to the Naval Academy Bridge to Pendennis Mount and back across the bridge and to the stadium, the miles just ticked by. As per my plan, I did stick with the group until we hit mile 5, then sped up. I wasn’t sure how far in front of them I could get, but I was feeling good so I just went with it. When I hit the turnaround between miles 6 and 7, I saw that I was probably around 2-3 minutes ahead, and hoped I could finish in the 1:17-1:18 range.

I felt like I was working hard, but also like I could keep pushing, so I did. I’m really proud of the fact that my last three miles were 7:22, 7:23 and 7:25. (Mile 9 even included the second trip over the Naval Academy Bridge!) The clock read 1:18-something when I crossed the finish line, though I knew my chip time would be faster than that. I was thrilled!

The A10 is highly competitive, so I knew there was no chance of me getting any type of age group award. I think the winners in my AG finished, like, more than 10 minutes ahead of me. I ended up finishing 13th out of 212 women, which oddly enough was about the same as my ranking last year, even though I was six minutes faster this year.

One of my favorite things about this race is the fact that I always have a lot of friends who run it as well. This year was no exception. As always, 5 Peaks Martial Arts Academy was well represented. My friend Cindy ran her first A10 and even though she said it was awful after she finished, she admitted it was also fun and that she’d run it again.

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My other favorite thing about this race is the swag. The premium is usually pretty fantastic. This is what we got this year:

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And we also got medals! This is the first time they’ve ever had finisher’s medals! They’re pretty nice, too.

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Afterwards, Kree wanted to run another six miles because she had an Ironman triathlon coming up in about a month, so she asked me to join her. We grabbed brunch/second breakfast at Grump’s, then headed across the street to Quiet Waters Park. We ran a very easy six miles, and I felt pretty good considering I hadn’t run anything longer than about 10 or 12 miles since Boston. And considering the fact that I drank a mimosa with brunch. (Hydration, am I right?!)

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I’m already looking forward to the 2020 A10, as well as Bottle and Cork in two weeks. That course is much flatter, but it can also be brutally hot, so you never know how it’ll go. My goal would again be to go sub-1:20, and even better, to beat my time from this weekend.

A 10K, a 5K and an update on Boston Marathon training!

The first time I trained for a full marathon (the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon), I swore I would never train for a spring marathon again. That winter was awful, with numerous snow storms and ice storms and brutally cold temperatures. My now-husband and I were forced to run three long runs on the treadmill — a 10-miler, a 14-miler and a 16-miler (my God, it was brutal.) Nope, nope, nope, I said to myself. If I ever do a marathon again, it will be a fall marathon. Screw this.

Then I ran the marathon that May and loved it. And the next month, I signed up for the 2016 Rock ‘N Roll D.C. Marathon, held the following March. And now I’m spending my fifth consecutive winter training for a marathon and I truly can’t imagine a winter without having a marathon to look forward to! Honestly, I wouldn’t say I’ve become a fan of winter, but having a goal to train and work toward during the darkest, coldest months of the year helps me get through a time of year that I’d always dreaded. Plus, I warm up a lot when I run (and I maintain that I’d rather train in 25 or 30 degree weather than 80 or 85 degree weather, especially with how humid and gross Maryland summers can be!)

And last weekend, I got a true taste of winter running when I ran in Rip It Events’ 3rd annual Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon and 10K. This race, held every year on Super Bowl Sunday, takes place on the Patuxent Branch Trail in Howard County. I had run the half marathon the past two years, but opted for the 10K this year. Why? Honestly, I was paranoid about falling and injuring myself with less than three months to go until Boston. I’ve fallen off the treadmill and also while running in downtown Annapolis on the cobblestone streets, so yeah, it’s safe to say that I am not always the most graceful. Wasn’t worth the risk this year. (You can read my recaps of the 2017 and 2018 Little Patuxent halfs here and here!)

That turned out to be the right decision, because this is what the trail looked like at the start of the race:

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Pretty, but slick!

Yikes. Because it was only in the 20s that morning, there was no chance any of that was melting any time soon. My only goal was not to fall and hurt myself — I knew I wouldn’t be setting any PRs (which would have been extremely unlikely at a trail race in the very best of conditions anyway!)

Because I had run this race twice in the past, I was familiar with the trail, and I remembered how beautiful the surrounding woods and river were — especially with the snow. So I tried to enjoy the scenery while also paying close attention to my footing. For the first mile or so, there were a lot of icy patches that we had to dodge around, and because the race is an out-and-back, I knew I’d have to watch out for the ice at mile 5, too!

The course is a challenge even when there isn’t snow and ice on the ground. There are two rather steep climbs, at miles 2.5ish and mile 4, that force even the speediest runners to slow wayyyyy down or even walk. There are some long declines, too, which can be equally scary if you trip over a rock or a root or something. And when packed snow covers the trail and you can’t even see any tripping hazards, well, it’s really tough!

But I never once fell, so mission accomplished! My finish time was 56:32, by far my slowest ever 10K time. Somehow, that was fast enough to get me 3rd in my age group, which surprised me!

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As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! A full list of 2019 Rip It events can be found here. If you’re interested in running any of them, let me know and I’ll share my 15 percent discount code with you! 

Annapolis Striders’ Valentine’s 5K

Wow, that was a cold one. My husband and I ran the Valentine’s 5K at Kinder Farm Park in Millersville yesterday with a bunch of friends, but it was so frigid I couldn’t bear to take my gloves off to take out my phone and get some pictures at the race start/finish. 16 degree windchill, ughhhhh! This is the two of us thawing off in the car afterwards:

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I had hoped for an age group award, and even looked at last year’s winners to see how fast I needed to run to be a contender. It appeared that I needed to run sub-23, which I thought was doable. And I did, finishing in 22:43, but it wasn’t fast enough. There were some SPEEDY runners out there, and I finished 6th in the 30-39 age group. (Although, Tammi, who finished a few seconds ahead of me, pointed out that if there had been a 35-39 age group, she would have finished first and I would have been second. And then her husband said, “Well, if my aunt had nuts she’d be my uncle.” So. Yeah.)

The run was OK. As I’ve said before, 5Ks are my nemesis and I often execute them poorly. This race reminded me of the Turkey Trot 5K that I ran on Thanksgiving Day. You know, that time I ran the first mile in a blazing 6:34 and then blew up during the rest of the race?? That basically happened again, except this time I ran the first mile in 6:46 (such restraint), then the second mile in 7:32 and the third in 7:35. At least those miles were consistent? But just think if I hadn’t busted out a sub-7 mile right out of the gate! Stupid! At least this 5K was faster than the Turkey Trot.

I would like to get better at 5Ks, but it’ll take some specific 5K training (i.e., not running them as part of marathon training.) I think I’m going to run another 5K on March 16, just about a month before Boston, so we’ll see what I can do then and if the speed work I am doing as part of my plan might actually help me run a good 5K.

Boston 2019 training

Nine weeks until Boston 2019! Having BQ’d in December 2017, I’ve been waiting SO long to run this race and I can’t even believe it’s almost here! I’m following Hal Higdon’s Boston Bound 12-week plan, and so far, it’s going well. He has me alternating hill repeats with speed work (Yasso 800s) every week, similar to what I did when I followed his Advanced plan to get my qualifying time. The long runs also alternate by mileage and time. For example, last weekend I had to run an easy 14 miles. This weekend, my long run was an hour and a half, with the first three-quarters run at an easy pace and the last quarter run at marathon pace. I’ve never done a long run by time before now, and I have to say I am liking it a lot. The time passes quickly, and it’s fun to finish a long run strong!

So what marathon pace am I shooting for in Boston? Good question. In a perfect world, I’d BQ again, but with the tighter standards for 2020, I’ll have to run 3:35 or better. And Boston is known to be a tough course, and my last two marathons were 3:53 (Baltimore) and 3:47 (B&A). I think continuing to work on my speed will get me back closer to where I was when I ran Rehoboth and qualified with a 3:35:00, but I’ve got a long way to go. That said, I believe a finishing time somewhere in the 3:40s is feasible.

And if I don’t meet that goal — it’s Boston! It’ll be awesome no matter what.

Have you run Boston? What advice do you have for me?

 

Blown away at The B&A Trail Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow in the forecast?

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

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

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

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

The dreaded wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me with Mom and Dad after the race.

Differences in training

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

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

What’s your next big race?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My friend Kree and I. We both PR’d!

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

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