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?

 

My running goals for 2019

Happy New Year! This year is already off to a good start, running-wise. Today I ran Charm City Run’s Resolution Run 5K in Baltimore and finished second in my age group with a time of 23:54. To be honest, that was my slowest 5K in years! There are a few reasons why I believe that was the case:

  1. It was at 2 pm, which makes fueling a challenge! Usually I like to eat my bagel, peanut butter and half a banana in the morning for breakfast before a race– today, we slept in (duh, last night was New Year’s Eve), then got up and made omelettes before heading out about two hours later. By the time my husband and I got to Baltimore and lined up at the start, I was hungry again! I might not have made it had it been a longer race.
  2. There was a loooonngg hill at mile 2 that really took the gas out of me.
  3. It was so windy. It actually felt like an early spring day — I believe it was about 60 degrees — but running into the wind is never any fun.
  4. I didn’t feel 100 percent. No, not because I was hungover (seriously!) We went to Florida for Christmas and both brought home coughs. I feel mostly OK, but I’m sure it had an impact — once I crossed the finish line, I started coughing hard immediately.

I really enjoyed this race, though. It was held in Patterson Park in Baltimore, which is a lovely park, and proceeds benefited Earl’s Place, which helps men in the city who are homeless. Afterward, runners got chili (and there was a vegetarian option!) and cornbread, plus there was an epic cookie spread. Yum!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for 2019, which is a big year for me because I get to run the Boston Marathon on April 15! That is obviously going to be my main focus for the next few months, but I have a lot of other plans, too.

  1. I am going to race a triathlon. I can’t believe I am going to do this. I can barely swim! So it looks like I’ll need to take some refresher lessons. Rip It Events’ Columbia Association Triathlon in June has two options: A sprint and a super sprint. The super sprint, which is what I am going to do, is a 200 yard swim, a 5 mile bike ride and a 1.75 mile run, and fortunately, the swim is in a pool (open water freaks me the hell out.) This is so far out of my comfort zone — in addition to not being a good swimmer, I do not excel at sprinting anything — but hey, why not? As a Rip It ambassador, I am racing this tri for free. I do have a 15 percent discount code to share with anyone who is interested, so if you would like to sign up, let me know! 
  2. I would like to run a sub-1:40 half marathon. I have run 17 half marathons, with a two-year-old PR of 1:41:01. I have yet to actually follow a training plan for a half — I just kinda wing it. Maybe if I followed an actual half marathon plan, I could see some real improvements in my time. We’ll see. I’m already signed up for two halfs late in 2019 — the half at the Baltimore Running Festival in October and the Rehoboth Seashore Half in December — so I guess my training for those will depend a lot upon my training for a bigger race in the fall. Which brings me to my next goal….
  3. I need to settle on a fall marathon — or maybe something more? I have long said that I have no interest in going beyond 26.2 miles, but one of my friends was raving about an ultramarathon he did in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area a few years ago and encouraged me to consider it. It’s a 50K, so not THAT much more than a marathon … right? I’m torn. I really love the 26.2 distance and am already thinking about trying to shoot for a 2021 BQ, since I will be in a new age group. (Yet my standard will still be 3:40, thanks to the recent changes the Boston Athletic Association made to the qualifying times.) If I do run a fall marathon in 2019, it will either be Steamtown in Scranton, Pa., Marine Corps, Philly or Richmond. Gah! So many marathons I would love to run. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

What are your goals for 2019?

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?

Two races, one day: The perfect challenge

“Hey, did you know the Charles Street 12 Miler is happening the morning of Sept. 1? The same day as the Glow Run?” Kree asked me earlier this summer. “Do you want to run both with me?”

Um, obviously!

The Glow Run is an annual nighttime 5K fun run that Rip It Events hosts every year on Labor Day Weekend, and it’s become a tradition for our 5 Peaks Martial Arts Academy family. This year, both Kree and I are in the middle of training for the Baltimore Marathon, and I had 14 miles on my schedule for this weekend’s long run. So the idea of running a 12-mile race, plus the 5K later that day, sounded like a great idea to me!

Plus, I’ve never raced a 12 miler before, so I knew it would be an automatic PR. 😉

The Charles Street 12 Miler begins in Towson, just north of Baltimore, and ends at Under Armour headquarters in the Locust Point area of the city. I enjoy point-to-point races, even though they can be a bit of a logistical pain in the butt. We boarded buses at the finish line and rode 12 miles north to the start line, just outside of the Shops at Kenilworth. (Fun fact: Sept. 1 was the 11th anniversary of my move to Maryland. I actually lived in Towson until early 2011, just a few streets away from where the race began. Everything felt like it was coming full circle!)

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At the start

Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect for my time for this race. Twelve miles is kind of a weird distance for a race– it’s almost a half marathon, but not quite — and I thought the course was pretty hilly. Still, the weather was pretty good — not nearly as hot and humid as the previous few days — and I felt like a time in the 1:30s was probably doable. So I lined up with the pacers leading the 1:35 group.

The race started out almost immediately on an uphill climb, then leveled off, then went downhill….. and kept going downhill. We cruised down the hill past Towson University and I finished the first mile in 7:50-something. That was pretty much how the first four or five miles of the race went — there would be an uphill push, then you would get rewarded with a sweet downhill. It was fun to run through the Rodgers Forge neighborhood in Baltimore — when I worked at what is now WMAR2 News, I would often run through that area after work, and miles two and three went right through some of my old running routes. Memories!

The pace group got ahead of me when I stopped briefly at a water station, but I wasn’t too far behind, and was holding onto a sub-8 pace pretty easily. (The downhills helped with that for sure.) The long downhill stretches continued once we turned onto Charles Street and into some of the historic neighborhoods in north Baltimore. I can’t be totally sure, but I think I finished the first 10K in under 50 minutes. (I’ve raced three 10Ks this summer, and not one of them has been sub-50!)

Everything continued to feel really good until I hit the uphill climb toward the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon — running downhill can feel awesome and effortless, but it’s still tough on the quads and they started to feel the effort at that point. But after I got over that hump, it was all downhill from there. OK, not really — but the last three miles of the race were nice and flat.

One of my old coworkers from WMAR2 News in Baltimore snapped this photo of me! (Brian Tankersley photo)

As an aside, I’ve run many races in Baltimore and this was the first time I’ve noticed drivers getting angry that intersections were blocked off and roads were closed. Once we got downtown, there were so many drivers honking and yelling at the police officers who had the misfortune of doing traffic control for the race. Rude. Hoping people are nicer during the Baltimore Marathon.

Once I hit mile 11, I couldn’t see the pace group anymore, but I knew I was going to be in the 1:30s, and probably under 1:38. I crossed the finish line with a final time of 1:36:51/8:04 average pace. That would have been around a 1:45 half if I had continued on that pace for another 1.1 miles, so I’m happy with that! And yes, the downhills made a difference, but there were some significant uphills in the first half of the race, too. In any event, I’ll take it! It was the best race I’ve had all summer!

Kree was hoping for 1:50 and she ended up finishing in 1:49:57! And our friend Chuck finished in under two hours, per his goal. We also ran with a bunch of other Rip It ambassadors …. though we were the only ones crazy enough to run the Glow Run, too!

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The 2018 Glow Run 5K

I’m not the biggest fan of splitting up long runs during marathon training, but I think every now and then it’s fine. The good thing is, you’re still practicing running on tired legs during your second run of the day, which is excellent training for a marathon. And I think this double header race day was a perfect example.

I knew going into the Glow Run that I was going to take it easy. This is the third year I’ve run the race, and I was the first female finisher the last two years. Which is cool and all, but it is an untimed fun run …. meaning there’s no prize or anything, and I may have come in first because I was the only one actually racing! 😉 The whole run is really more of a dance party than anything, and this year I decided to really glow it up with a light up unicorn headband, light-up leg warmers and a bunch of glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces.

 

Kree and I decided to stick together, and we both felt the impact of racing earlier that day pretty quickly. The Glow Run is hilly, as are all races in the Columbia, Maryland area — and our quads were screaming at us.

“Ugh, this would have been a lot easier if we had just kept on running after the race this morning,” she said.

That’s definitely true, but that feeling of fatigue is why this was solid marathon training — we’ll be feeling tired and achy in the later miles of the Baltimore Marathon, after all.

One irritating thing that happened to me during the race — one of the glow necklaces I was wearing flew into my face and knocked out one of my contact lenses, so I ran most of the final mile half-blind. (I’m the most near-sighted person I know.)  The necklaces looked cute and fun, but they are not practical for running — they started to slide around my neck and annoy me almost immediately. So I have to remember not to wear them next year.

We ended up crossing the finish line in 28 minutes and some change. Kree’s husband Matt, who was badly injured in a triathlon earlier this summer, was the first place finisher with a time somewhere in the 22-minute range!

Finish strong!

Afterwards, a group of us went to IHOP for a late dinner, which has become a post-Glow Run tradition. I don’t actually think I’ve been to IHOP since after the 2017 Glow Run! I only wish IHOP served drinks, because you all know how much I love to have a drink after racing, and I didn’t get a chance to grab my freebie beer after the 12-Miler because Kree had to leave shortly after finishing the race (she and Matt were my ride home).

Honestly, when is the last time I went a whole Saturday without having an adult beverage? Marathon training makes me so healthy, you guys.

And — I’m totally burying the lede here — but Kree and Matt found out two days later that she’s pregnant! So she had a surprise running buddy with her during both races — she just didn’t know it at the time. Congratulations to both of them! He/she will be an awesome companion during the Baltimore Marathon.

 

Summer 2018 racing: An update!

Wow, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve blogged! While I’ve been quiet on here, my summer has actually been quite busy in terms of racing. That’s pretty rare for me. I run all year long, but I usually don’t do too many races in June and July. That’s probably because I do so many in the spring and fall! But this summer, I’ve been all about tackling shorter races — with some mixed results.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t been thrilled with any of my race times this year — which probably sounds ridiculous because I’ve won some kind of award, either an age group award or an overall award, at almost every race I’ve run. But last fall, going into my BQ race in Rehoboth, I was on fire, setting huge PRs in the 10-miler, the 10K and finally, the marathon. I was also killing it with the speed work and hill repeats. Of course, no runner can expect to PR EVERY time he or she races, but I’ll admit that I was getting pretty used to it. I’ve been taking a really challenging treadmill class at my gym on Wednesday nights, where we focus a lot on sprints, hill repeats and sometimes, a killer combination of the two …. so I’m hoping I can see some new PRs soon!

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to since that brutal 10K in Annapolis two months ago!

Herald Harbor 5K

On June 9, I ran the Herald Harbor 5K with some of my kickboxing friends. It was a small community race in the Herald Harbor neighborhood in Crownsville. My friend Cindy, who lives in the community, warned me ahead of time that it was hilly. Yep! It was also hot and sticky that day (duh, June in Maryland.) I ran it in 22:46 and was the first female finisher, sixth overall. No medal for me — only the top three finishers got them. Man, 5Ks hurt! My PR is 20:49 and I really don’t know if I will ever see a sub-21 finish again. Maybe on a flat point-to-point course in perfectly crisp conditions? Who knows.

 

Ellicott City 10K

On June 17, I ran the Ellicott City 10K with Rip It Events. This race helped raise money for flood relief efforts in downtown Ellicott City, which suffered catastrophic flooding for the second time in less than two years over Memorial Day weekend. I was the third overall female in this race with a time of 50:59. In most 10Ks, that time wouldn’t even get me an age group award, but that course is no joke. The race was actually a 5K and a 10K — 5K runners did one lap of the course, while 10K runners did two. Miles 1-2.5ish featured some major downhills, which we then had to run right back up — twice if you ran the 10K! At least the humidity wasn’t too bad, and I still ran faster than I did at the Wayfarer’s 10K.

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! A full list of 2018 Rip It events can be found here.

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Charm City Run Memorial 5K

On July 4, I ran the Charm City Run Memorial 5K to help raise money for the families of the victims of the mass shooting that happened at Capital-Gazette newspapers on June 28. This was a really tough one for me — not physically, but emotionally. Many of you know that I worked as a Cap-Gaz reporter from 2007 through 2014, when I left the print world to work in digital journalism for a Baltimore TV station. (I’m now out of the business completely, and explaining why I left would take a whole separate post …. and this is a running blog anyway. But I digress.) I worked with four of the five victims who were killed, plus many more journalists who still work there and are now dealing with the aftermath of this unbelievable tragedy. I’m still at a loss over what happened — we all are — but I was so happy to see so many generous people come forward to help the paper and everyone associated with it.  Runners donated more than $20,000! Our community really is amazing. And it’s beside the point, but I didn’t time myself and ran super easy, so I think I finished that one in 27-28 minutes or so.

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Maryland Duathlon

On July 14, I raced the sprint version of the Maryland Duathlon for the second time. (This is another Rip It event; the sprint consists of a two mile run, followed by a 13 mile bike ride, followed by a two mile run.)  Some background — last year, the sprint was scheduled for the same day my family was planning to leave for a week’s vacation in Rehoboth. I figured I could totally race the duathlon in Woodbine, then head to the beach to meet up with the rest of the fam. What I didn’t count on was getting two hours of sleep the night before the race (my first ever multi-sport race, btw) because my sister and brother-in-law wanted to go to an Orioles game. I ended up finishing the race last year in an hour and a half and was so proud of that.

So this year, it was take two. Once again, the race coincided with my family vacation, and once again, my sister was in town. But this year we actually tried to go to bed at a decent time so I could be well-rested. You’d think that would make a difference, right? Yeah, not so much. I finished in an hour and 42 minutes this year, and 11 of those extra minutes were due to my time on the bike. Afterwards, one of my fellow Rip It ambassadors asked me if I got injured. When I said no, he was like, “So you were just that slow?” Ouch! Truthfully, I felt undertrained on the bike anyway …. I think I rode it maybe four times in the month before the race. Not enough for a runner who just dabbles in cycling from time to time. It was still fun — I would like to do more duathlons if I can fit the training around my marathon training schedule. (Ha, good luck with that.) And yes, my bike has a basket, and yes, I brought a mascot with me this year! That alone made the whole experience worth it.

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! A full list of 2018 Rip It events can be found here.

 

 

Seashore Striders 5-Miler

For most people, maybe it would be enough to do a race the day you leave for vacation. Then there are weirdos like me, who decide to run even more races on vacation. I signed up for the Seashore Striders 5-Miler back in January and had been looking forward to it for months, even though it was the day after the duathlon! I had only done one five-mile race prior to this one, and finished in 36:58. But that was on a VERY cold day in December in Rosslyn, Virginia, so I had no idea how I’d do in a summer 5-miler. I was hoping to finish under 40 minutes, and I finished in …. 40:08. Wah. However, I won my age group and got a nice trophy and a $75 gift certificate to the Rehoboth New Balance store! The race took place mostly in Cape Henlopen State Park, one of my favorite places at the beach. Highly recommend Seashore Striders’ races if you are in the area, or just like to vacation there!

 

 

Dewey Beach Patrol 10K 

So I didn’t plan on running this one. But I was flipping through an area guidebook and saw a listing for this 5K/10K taking place the day we left the beach. Why not? I thought. I hate it when vacation ends, so this will give me something to look forward to. It was organized by the same race company that puts on the Bottle and Cork 10-Miler every September, which is one of my favorite 10-milers. And this race followed some of the same route, even finishing at The Ivy in Dewey just like the 10-Miler. My goal was to be sub-50, and once again I just *barely* missed my goal, finishing in 50:19. (Will I ever finish sub-50 again? I’m starting to think 10Ks are just not my distance!)

Somehow, though, I won my age group again. I was shocked by that. But …. it’s Dewey Beach, where plenty of runners could have still been drunk from the night before! Ha. I wasn’t even hungover, which probably gave me a hell of an advantage. Dewey Beach, I love you.

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Annapolis Sailors Triathlon 

I’m a God-awful swimmer, and am marginally OK at cycling (see again: my duathlon recap), but I am not half-bad at running. So I am down with triathlons if I can just do the run part. So, yay for relays! I teamed up with two of my husband’s sailing buddies — Rook, who swam, and Wells, who biked — for this sprint tri on my birthday on July 28. I also came up with our name, Two Sailors and a Wench, which still makes me laugh. My part of the race was supposed to be 3.8 miles, though my Garmin clocked four miles. I finished in 31 minutes and some change, and our total time was an hour and 23 minutes. We won the coed relay division, beating out the second place team by a minute. Rook said it was his goal to be the most unathletic-looking triathletes on the podium — since none of us bothered to put down our post-race beers when we went up to collect our prizes, I’m pretty sure we accomplished that.

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What’s next?

Lots of things!

But the big thing I’m training for is the Baltimore Marathon on Oct. 20. This will be my sixth full marathon. I am following a 12-week plan this time around, so this week was my first official week of training. My next race is my absolute favorite of all time, the Annapolis Ten Mile Run on Aug. 19.

Then I’m running a double header on Sept. 1 — the Charles Street 12-Miler in Baltimore in the morning and then Rip It’s Glow Run 5K that evening. I’m also planning to run the Bottle and Cork 10 Miler in Dewey on Sept. 8, and I am signed up to do the Charm City 20 Miler on Sept. 23 — which fits in perfectly with my marathon training.

And, oh yeah, Boston Marathon registration! I get to register on Sept. 14 … that’s 39 days away. But who’s counting? 😉

When S*&% almost happens: How I didn’t let the runner’s trots beat me this weekend

Today, rather than writing a typical race recap, I am going to address something uncomfortable that many runners experience, but few talk about.

We all know running is hard, and it’s really not very glamorous at all. Your feet get blisters. Sometimes your toenails turn black, or they even fall off. Your quads hurt. Your hamstrings get sore.

And other times? Running can cause gastrointestinal distress … aka the runner’s trots. Yep, sometimes running can make you have to go number two.

I first began to notice this when I was training for my first full marathon in 2015. Suddenly, dairy and I, usually BFFs, were not getting along so well. If I ate Greek yogurt the day before a run that topped 13 or 14 miles, I knew I’d be sprinting at some point — toward the nearest potty, not because my training plan called for it. So now I try to cut back on my dairy intake while marathon training (try being the operative word — I really freaking love dairy.)

However, I’ve never had an issue during a race, until Sunday, when I ran the St. Mary’s 10 Miler.

Let’s start with Saturday night, when I went rogue and decided to order a falafel wrap rather than my tried-and-true veggie burger. (I also had a few beers, but I always drink beer the night before a race, so I know that wasn’t it. Haha!) It was delicious, but it’s never a good idea to mess with pre-race nutrition, especially if that’s what your stomach is used to. I felt fine when I went to bed, and fine when I got up the next morning. I had packed my usual breakfast of a bagel, peanut butter and half a banana to eat, which I chased with black coffee. Typical.

My husband, Micah, drove me to the start line, about 20 minutes away from where we were staying on Solomons Island, and I still felt totally fine. I got my bib, met up with some of my friends and peed in one of the porta potties, but that’s, uh, as far as it went. I was ready for the race to begin and eager to beat my time in the Columbia 10 Miler last week.

The 10-miler kicked off promptly at 8 am and the first thing I noticed was that it was damn windy. Have I mentioned that I am so sick of this Maryland spring, especially all the wind? Most of this race felt like it was directly into a strong headwind and it blew — pun TOTALLY intended! I also stupidly neglected to bring my running sunglasses and had to deal with debris flying into my eyes. Super fun. However, I ran the first five miles at a sub-8 pace (it fluctuated between 7:30-7:50). I was really happy about that, especially because I have a history of struggling in the wind!

It was about midway through the race when I started to realize that I might be having another, bigger, messier problem.

“Oh, crap,” I thought to myself. Literally.

And there weren’t any porta potties along the race course — it was a really small race. Of course, I knew if I could make it to the finish line, I’d be OK, but that was miles away. I pretty much had no choice but to keep on running.

At mile 7, the course (which is very pretty, by the way — I was trying to enjoy it despite my stomach issues) veered off into a wooded area. I contemplated squatting behind a tree, but knew that would be gross. At around mile 8, we passed some houses. “How weird would it be if I knocked on someone’s door and just begged them to let me use their bathroom?” I thought to myself. “Would they call the police?”

Probably — but more importantly, I was also keeping a close eye on my watch and knew that if I kept on trucking, I would cross the finish line in under 1:20 and meet my goal. So I clenched my cheeks together and ran as fast as I could (my pace crept up into the 8s, but that’ll happen when you’re mainly focused on not pooping your pants…..)

About a half mile from the finish, I could hear Rip It owner Danny announcing the names of finishers and I knew I was really close. I gave it all I had and ran as hard as I could and finished in 1:19:45. My 5 Peaks friend Tammy medaled me and I hugged her, then high-fived the always super fast Matt (who finished in a speedy 1:10!!) Then I bolted toward the porta potties.

After all that, I actually managed to finish as the third overall female! Pretty happy about that. Last year, this race was a half marathon, and I finished third then, too!

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Kree also ran the race and I knew she would get a kick out of my issues. When she finished, I told her I had a bad case of the runner’s trots and spent the last few miles trying not to have an accident.

She completely got it.

“And it’s not like you can fart in those situations, either! I mean, you’re already all sweaty, so you won’t even be able to tell if you shart,” she said.

As they say … S*&% happens. Or in my case, it almost happened!

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own! A full list of 2018 Rip It events can be found here.

 

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!

Over the river and through the woods: The Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon and 10K

I was in the middle of running the seventh mile of Rip It Events‘ Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon when I saw a runner just ahead of me lose his footing and slide down the hill.

“Are you OK?” I called out to him, just as I started to slip and fall, too.

That’s racing on a trail for you. Luckily, neither of us were hurt.

Rip It’s second annual Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon and 10K was held on Super Bowl Sunday– and it was just as cold as it was last year, except this year, we had snow and sleet in the mix! It definitely made the race even more challenging — and trail running is already a challenge! Before last year’s race, I had never raced on a trail before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I learned then that when you run on a trail, you can expect the unexpected, as cliche as that sounds. You never know what roots or leaves or branches can trip you up — literally.

I went into this year’s race hoping I could break the 1:50:00 I got last year, which earned me second place in my age group. Instead, I ran it in 1:53:09, which might have still gotten me second place! To be honest, I’m not sure — I was SO cold during the awards ceremony that I sat in my friend and fellow Rip It ambassador Kree’s car, and she got my medal for me. The medal says third place in my age group, but she insists I got second. Either way, I was happy to place, considering I was a few minutes slower than last year!

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The race was held on the Patuxent Branch Trail near Columbia, Maryland, and the first mile and a half or so are mostly on a flat, dirt path. Once you near mile two, the trail gets technical and you have to start watching where you are running a little more closely. It’s actually really beautiful and scenic with the Patuxent River running alongside the trail, and the woods all around you. There are two significant hills, one at around mile three and another around mile 4.5 or so. Most people speed walked up them, myself included– no shame in that game. Of course, as mentioned before, there were some significant downhills, too– which can be just as, if not more, treacherous!

Once I hit the second mile of the race, it started to snow. I am generally not a snow lover, but this was just light enough to be peaceful and pretty. Unfortunately, that didn’t last and it started to sleet, which was much less fun.

The race course is a loop, so everyone who ran the 10K did the loop once, and the half marathoners ran it twice. (Technically, those who ran the 10K actually ran 6.55 miles, not 6.2.) I have to admit, when I started on my second loop around the course, part of me wished I decided to run the 10K and call it a day. It was cold, I was getting wet and to be honest, I screwed up my pacing from the beginning, running my first mile in 7:40 something. That might have been OK in a road half, but not on a trail, with those big climbs ahead of me. My watch died in the middle of the race, but I know my splits were very positive. Oh well.

In addition to my Rip It team, I ran with a bunch of friends from 5 Peaks Martial Arts Academy, all of whom did the 10K. For some of them, it was their first 10K race ever — and it was on a trail! Pretty awesome!

Next up on the Rip It calendar is the Columbia 10-Miler on April 22. (This race used to be a half marathon.) Interested in running? 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!

My running goals for 2018

There’s nothing like running a marathon to make me want to sign up for another marathon!

I don’t have kids, but I’ve joked that running 26.2 miles is probably like birthing a child, in that your body totally forgets the pain and you decide you want to do it again someday. (Mother runners, can you relate to this?)

Assuming the Boston Marathon accepts me for 2019 (with my 5-minute cushion, I’m pretty sure I’m good!), I need to find a marathon to run in 2018– or maybe two!

I have a few friends who have expressed interest in running a fall marathon. I’ve heard really good things about the Richmond Marathon in Richmond, Va., which happens every November. It’s just a few hours away from Annapolis, and it’s a marathon that a lot of runners use to BQ. Never too early to start thinking about 2020, right? 😉 I’d also be interested in the Philly Marathon, because I love Philadelphia and have several friends who live there, but I believe it conflicts with the Annapolis Running Classic.

Many people have also raved about the Marine Corps Marathon, which I would like to run some day. However, the fact that it’s in October puts me off a little bit. It would require me to spend the entire summer training, which means dealing with long runs in the swampy humidity of a central Maryland summer, plus trying to plan around vacations, day trips, etc. A November marathon buys me a little more time!

All that said, I’ve spent the last several winters training for marathons. And as much as I stress about forecasts of snow and ice, and complain about the cold, I can’t imagine not doing a spring marathon in 2018. Mainly because I hate winter THAT much and having a goal to work toward makes me hate it ever so slightly less.

I think I’m going to sign up for the B&A Trail Marathon, run by the Annapolis Striders (who organize my favorite race of all time, the Annapolis Ten Mile Run). As the name indicates, the race takes place primarily on the B&A Trail, where I do most of my long runs during marathon training. It’s a very small race, just a few hundred runners, and it’s practically in my backyard. So why not? The race, which is both a half and a full marathon, takes place on April 8.

Has anyone ever run a marathon that small? What did you like/dislike about it?

Other 2018 goals

My friend and kickboxing coach Matt always does a running challenge to kick off the new year, so in January, I am going to commit to running 100 miles during that month. Since I’ll be in marathon training mode once again, it should not be too hard to hit that mark.

I’m once again an ambassador for Rip It Events, so I plan to run and/or volunteer at as many of the 2018 events as I can. This year, I only missed one race, and it was because it was during my sister’s wedding weekend! Coming up first is the Little Patuxent River Half Marathon & 10K on Feb. 4. It’s the second year for this trail run, and it sold out in one day! I’ll be running the half, which will also fit in nicely with my marathon training.

Then in April, we have the Columbia 10 Miler and the St. Mary’s 10 Miler. Both of these races used to be half marathons, so if you weren’t quite ready for 13.1 miles, here’s your chance to try a shorter distance.

You can find the whole schedule for 2018 here.

What are your running goals for 2018?

Why turkey trots are a great Thanksgiving tradition

Life has been pretty busy lately. In the last week, I bought a house, traveled to Pennsylvania and Virginia to see family for Thanksgiving and … ran two Thanksgiving-themed races, Rip It Events’ Turkey Chase 10K and Relay in Columbia, Maryland, and the Greensburg Turkey Trot in my PA hometown on Thanksgiving Day. So please forgive the relative lateness of this post!

I’ll start with last weekend’s Turkey Chase — my final race of the year for Rip It Events!

Because I love a holiday-themed, well, anything, I decided it would be a fantastic idea to order a ridiculously huge pumpkin pie-shaped hat to wear in these races. (Thanks, Amazon Prime!) When it arrived in the mail, I realized it didn’t quite stay on my head, but I figured that pinning it to my hair with a half-dozen barrettes would do the trick. Except you know those winds I battled during the Annapolis Running Classic the day before? Yeah, those gusts stuck around for another day. So the hat flew off probably within 10 feet of the start line and I just carried it with me for 6.2 miles. Super cool.

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My buddy Kree, a fellow Rip It ambassador, dressed as a turkey and had a very sweaty race as a result! 

Although I had run a half the previous day, I wasn’t too worried about racing a 10K that morning — I’ve had higher mileage weekends recently as part of my marathon training. That said, my legs weren’t feeling particularly fresh, especially since the Annapolis Running Classic really kicked my butt this year. And Columbia, where most of the Rip It races are, is about as hilly as Annapolis.

The course is an out-and-back, and one of the nice things is that the first half of the race contains more uphill, so you get the hardest parts out of the way early on. I ran the first mile in 8:16, which felt more difficult than I expected it to (as a comparison, I ran the first mile of the Across the Bay 10K in 6:43!) Aside from the rolling hills, that first mile was really crowded, which always makes it harder to run your race pace. I tried to just focus on enjoying the scenery — aside from the wind and the brisk temperatures, it was a beautiful fall day. Most of the leaves were still on the trees, so running through the tree-lined streets of Columbia felt like running through a tunnel of reds, oranges and yellows.

I also wore my Annapolis Running Classic premium during the race, and one volunteer yelled out as I ran past, “Wow, you ran Annapolis yesterday? You’re a bad ass!” That felt pretty good. We had wonderful support from volunteers all along the race — I really appreciate everyone who gives up their Sunday morning to help us out! We couldn’t have these races without you.

I ran my second mile in 8:02, my third mile in 8:15, fourth in 7:48, fifth in 7:37, sixth in 7:52 and the final 0.2 in 1:44. I’m happy with those negative splits, although it was my second-worst 10K time ever: 49:28. I don’t mean to sound unhappy with that. Is that still a solid 10K time? Absolutely. But compared to my recent PR in the Bay Bridge run? Not so much. I’m trying to tell myself that my body just knew it was in taper mode for the Rehoboth Marathon and it was trying to conserve energy. And the wind, well, blew. No pun intended. It is what it is!

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

Greensburg Turkey Trot

I run the Turkey Trot in my hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania every Thanksgiving, and it’s something I always look forward to. It’s a 5K run/walk through downtown Greensburg, the seat of Westmoreland County, nestled in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. And those hills are no joke. The race organizers did change the course last year and removed one long, super steep hill, but they added in a bunch of smaller hills instead.

Last year, I came in second in my age group with a time of 22:59, and so I was hoping for first this year. I did beat my time from last year, but still came in second with a time of 22:37. I have no idea what my splits were, because my Garmin took its sweet time finding a signal in the few minutes before the gun went off, so I just used the timer function. I can’t complain about a sub-23 minute 5K or second place in my age group, especially over those hills. It was a darn cold morning, too — 27 degrees at the start. Yikes!

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This was the 26th year for the Turkey Trot. The race has raised more than $500,000 for local nonprofits, including the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Laurel Region. Runners are also asked to bring a canned good or two to the race. It’s a well-run local event and something I’ve been able to introduce my husband to in our years together. My dad usually walks in the Trot, too!

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Per Running USA stats, Thanksgiving is the most popular racing day of the year, second only to the Fourth of July. Is it because runners are looking for an excuse to chow down on that third helping of stuffing, or that second piece of pumpkin pie? Maybe. Is it a fun holiday tradition? Absolutely!