Race Recap: Vermont City Marathon 2018

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Vermont City Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Just over a week ago I took on my fourth marathon, the People’s United Bank Vermont City Marathon. It took me a little while to get my thoughts together enough to put together a decent recap!

I’d been dreaming of doing this race for years – I almost signed up in high school but I got hurt running my first half marathon. Thank goodness I waited! I was going into this race with a big goal: a time beginning with a 4. This would be my 4th marathon, my 4th race in Burlington (I previously set an old half PR on a section of this course), 4 years after I started running again after 4 years off. It wasn’t just all the number 4’s lining up – I had trained hard and well. My training showed that I was very capable of a 4:59:59, if not closer to a 4:50. So what happened?

Friday – Travel Day 1: Being from Maryland, my trip to Vermont took a little while. I multitasked and also went home to visit family. I flew to Manchester, NH on Friday morning and went to my hometown in northern NH for the night.

Saturday – Travel + Expo Day: After a short (and soaking wet) shakeout run, I headed to Burlington with my mom and nephew, CJ, whom my mom was babysitting for the weekend. It’s just under a 3 hour ride, and was mostly relaxing. We got to the Expo at the Doubletree Hilton just before 2. The expo was small, but mighty. I can’t say I checked out everything, but I was still pleased. Bib and shirt pick-up was quick and easy, then came the fun – meeting Meb!! I waited in line for almost an hour (CJ slept the whole time!) but it was so worth it. I got my bib signed for good luck and he gave me some confidence in my experience. I finished off the expo by checking out the Untapped energy booth and visiting my old bosses at the Fleet Feet Sports Burlington/Plattsburgh booth.

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After the expo we checked into our hotel – we stayed at Trader Duke’s in South Burlington. It was nothing fancy, but it was clean and had race day shuttles. We went to Olive Garden for a post-race dinner, as I knew that their pasta and meat sauce would agree with my stomach. CJ’s cuteness helped distract me from what I had to do the next day! After my pre-marathon routine, I was asleep just after 10!

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Yes – I had newspapers in my shoes because I got caught in a downpour during my shakeout!

Sunday – pre-run: I woke up just before 5 and successfully got ready without waking anyone up. I forced down a leftover breadstick (I never got a bagel the day before) to make sure I wouldn’t be too hungry, forced down some water and was out the door to make the 5:30 shuttle. The shuttle was quick and easy – I was to the start in Battery Park just before 6. It was a breezy and cool morning, but it was definitely humid. The humidity made me nervous so I drank another 8ish ounces of water along with my Generation UCan and a banana. In-between porta-john stops (there were so many – thank you RunVermont!) I met up with the other BibRave Pro’s Jessica and Vanessa and also met some wonderful other runners. The vibe was so electric and it definitely helped keep my confidence high! Before I knew it, it was time to go!

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Miles 1-5 brought us up through some neighborhoods, down Church Street (a Burlington staple) and out on the Beltline. Our first pass down Church Street was one of my favorite moments of the day. There were so many people who were out having brunch and cheering everyone on. Going out onto the Beltline, I was aware that I was already running at/above my “perfect day” goal pace. I tried to slow down, but I had a hard time doing so. The Beltline was very slanted which made me nervous. However, you can only adjust for that so much during a race so I just kept moving. Around mile 3.5ish I got a high five from the one and only MEB while he passed me the other way. DAY. MADE. I also got so see my cousin Dani killing it while running the first half of the 2-person relay! Splits: 11:24, 10:52, 10:45, 10:52, 10:47

Miles 6-10 had us coming back on the Beltline, down Church Street for the second time, and down towards South Burlington. I made a quick porta-john stop (lost about 1 minute?) and kept on trucking. Mile 8-9 was a moderate uphill, but it didn’t bother me too much. Church Street was great the second time but not quite as energetic. I was familiar with miles 9-15 of the race, so I was feeling cool, calm, and collected. Around mile 10 Dani’s husband passed me going the other way, but he was going way too fast for me to get a word out! I refilled my water bottle for the first time somewhere in here – but I can’t remember when (this will be important later). Splits: 11:25, 10:50, 11:43, 11:22, 10:32

Miles 11-15 finally brought us to the halfway point! We climbed the hill I dreaded during my two Burlington half marathons just before the halfway point and it didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore! I crossed halfway at 2:25:26 – right on pace for a 4:50! I was feeling really good at this point and was running really steady (the splits don’t totally show it due to my intervals). Splits: 10:56, 11:10, 10:55, 11:09, 11:30

Miles 16-20 – I knew right after mile 15 was the “Assault on Battery.” I always avoided this hill when I used to run in town, and when we drove it the night before I almost freaked. Man – this hill is HUGE. I was thrilled to see my mom and nephew at the bottom, screamed a few expletives, and climbed. When I made it to the top I filled my bottle again, and kept going on just like before! But, I didn’t feel so good for very long…Around mile 18 I started to get a headache and my right hip started to tighten up. I had slightly altered from my typical fueling strategy so I played around with things – took a freezer pop or two, drank some extra water, ate some chews. But nothing helped. By mile 20, I started to feel super nauseaus. In all honesty I think I would have felt better if I puked, but I was too afraid to be seen and get pulled from the course. I felt so bad that I didn’t think I’d finish going at the same speed, so I shortened my intervals and kept moving, albeit, very slowly. Splits: 12:14 (hill + water stop), 11:22, 11:21, 12:21, 12:16

Part of the “Assault on Battery,” but it doesn’t do it justice!

Miles 21-26.2 were terrible, just so terrible. Once I slowed down, my feet cramped up, as well as my left hip. I was barely keeping at a shuffle. There’s not really much else to say. I stopped drinking so much water which helped my stomach, but I couldn’t get myself moving any faster. Every time I started running again after a walk segment, I would grown in pain from my right hip. It literally felt like I had an impinged nerve and if I could have moved it, it would have been better. I also had terrible arch pain, which I’ve never felt in a marathon! It was really hard watching everyone I’d passed pass me. It was even harder when I saw 4:48 pass. Then 4:50. Then 4:55 and lastly 4:59:59 pass on my watch and I was just past mile 25. That sucked. But it wasn’t stopping me. I originally wanted to finish the race with the word “victor” flashing above my head, but instead if was “fighter.” I spent much of the last mile running/walking backwards and slogging with my head down.

Coming into the finisher’s chute – looking pretty rough.

But goodness gracious. Coming through that finish line – seeing my mom and (sleeping) nephew and THEN the crowd. The crowd was 5-6 deep on both sides and was just screaming. With my name being on my bib, I heard so many random people screaming my name. I very well could have been choking up from disappointment. However, I got choked up because of how loud these people were screaming for me (and other finishers), no matter how slow I was or how beat up I looked. I’ve experienced some really amazing moments, but that race finish is among the top 3. (Splits: 12:40, 14:22, 14:07, 13:46, 14:01, 13:34, 5:01 for .41 nubbin).

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When you try to smile for the free race photos…

Final time: 5:13:15. Not my sub-5. Not even a PR. 10 minutes above my PR.

I went to Burlington to get that sub-5. Naturally, I thought I would be crushed with how I did. While I’m not pleased with my performance, I’m not totally crushed. I ran an awesome first half, first 18-20 miles really. I made the mistake of drinking too much water, which was, I think, the main reason why I felt the way I did the last 10K. I also don’t think the slant of the road on the Beltway did any favor for my hips. But, it is what it is.

 

Each marathon is a unique experience. While May 27, 2018 was not my day, it will come. It could have come on this course – aside from the major hill at mile 15, the course was nice and flat-rolling in terrain. The crowd support was incredible, the volunteers were amazing, and the race organization and communication was impeccable. There were many unique, Vermont-like touches to the race like the Untapped maple syrup as fuel and Ben & Jerry’s at the finish line.

Post race was a nightmare (and not due to RunVermont). My mom freaking forgot where she parked her car and I ended up walking 2 miles with her to find it because I was familiar with the area and she was clueless. We ended up cancelling dinner with my cousins because I felt so crappy and we didn’t get to somewhere for lunch until 2:00. Ugh. (BTW, the car was parked only 5 BLOCKS away. Near a major landmark. Oh Momma – you’re lucky I love you). I was really hurting that night (obviously), the next day wasn’t horrible, and my Tuesday I was feeling about 85%.

The verdict: The Vermont City Marathon was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone! I think I even enjoyed it more than Marine Corps Marathon, and that is an amazing race too! Check out more of my thoughts on the race itself on my Bibrave review.

Rock N Roll DC 2018: Race Recap

On March 10th I ran my 19th half marathon, which was the Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon! I ran this race last year as a training run and had a fun time. This year, I went into this race hoping to see where my fitness was two months post-marathon. I also tend to have mixed results running “repeat” races, and was curious as to how I would do!

Expo day: The Rock N Roll races require you to go to the expo, so I headed in mid-day on Friday. Packet pick-up was a breeze. When I entered the expo floor, I was very underwhelmed. Last year, I had an amazing time and spent 2 hours there. I even fell in love with one of my favorite snacks, Krave Jerkey, there. This year I was very disappointed. I was in and out in about 20 minutes, pretty perturbed at the half-empty floor, no music, and overall lack of energy. The only money I spent was signing up for  next year because you can’t beat a $59 half marathon. After the expo, I went into race day very under-enthused.

Friday night: For dinner I went to one of my favorite restaurants – Nando’s! I had grilled chicken wings and mashed potatoes with tons of yummy sauce and a glass of red wine. I was thankful to spend the night at a friends’ house to cut down on some driving on Saturday morning. After a glass of wine and some game-playing, I was upstairs at about 10:00 to “lay out my flat Sam” and was asleep around 11. I ended up choosing to go with three layers on top (thermal Nike layer, Oiselle flyte long sleeve, and Oiselle Volee singlet) due to the projected start temperature of about 30 degrees with some wind.

Pre-race: I was “up an at’em” around 5:30, out the door at 6, and in the parking lot at the New Carrolton metro station for 6:30. Once on the train, I met two other runners who kept me occupied until just around race start! I almost ran with one of them, Marie, as it was her first half marathon and she asked if she could pace with me. Unfortunately, right before our corral was about to go, I really got the urge to use the restroom so I left the corral and sprinted the two blocks to the porta-john’s. I’m so glad I made the choice to do so, although it meant leaving Marie. The sprint to/from the porta-johns worked as a good warm-up, as it was cold and I didn’t stretch well!

Game plan: As I mentioned, my goal for this race to see where my fitness was at. Following the strategy of Elizabeth at Running for Robert I put tape on my watch so while I could hear each mile ding, I would be just running off of feel. I set my interval timer to 2:00 run/:30 walk intervals and hoped to keep that up for the entire race.

Miles 1-5: The first few miles brought runners past some of DC’s famed monuments over and under a bridge, and into Rock Creek Park. There were some slight ups and downs, but nothing too hard. The worst part was the crowding, especially between miles 2-5. From watching the clocks, I knew I was running around a 10:00 mile pace, and didn’t feel like I was taxing myself too hard. I wanted to make sure not to expend too much energy because I knew the dreaded hill was coming up at mile 6. Splits: 9:55, 10:00, 9:52, 10:01, 9:49.

Miles 6-10: These were some more interesting miles. First, mile six brings a giant hill with about 150 feet of gain in a quarter mile or so. YUCK. I did a little better on this hill than I did last year and wasn’t as dead at the top. While climbing up the hill I caught up with Marie! I was happy to see that she was doing well. I told her she could follow me but I lost her quickly as I was boogying. Once at the top I started to feel super over heated from my physical exertion as well as the sun. I ended up stopping on the side of the road to de-layer. After losing about two minutes, I got about a mile before there was a fire truck ripping down the street – as it was coming behind me I lost about 30 seconds stopping to the side to be cautious. After those two events, mixed with some rolling hills, it took me a while to get back into a groove. By the time I hit mile 10, I was feeling good again but also felt like I had to push harder to keep my speed where it was. Splits: 9:52, 12:23 (de-layer and fire truck), 10:03, 9:50, 9:43.

Miles 11-finish: This is where I made myself proud. My legs felt so tired, I had no clue what time I was running, but mentally I fought through the pain and the doubt to keep going. I had never truly tapped in to my mental power like this in a race before. I kept telling myself that I was strong and I could do it. Passing the Volee’s cowbell corner around mile 11.5/12 or so, someone yelled “You look so strong!” I’m glad they said that because I was afraid I looked like I was riding the pain train – which I totally “thought” I was.

Mile 11.5ish of RNR DC! Thanks Holly (The Thrifty Runner) for the picture!

Around mile 12.5 I found someone from NP DC that I talked to before the race. That was a nice distraction for a bit as I was curious how she’d picked up a whole box of girl scout cookies! (LOL). I tried to kick it in to keep up with another Bib Rave Pro who I started with, but in the last .25 mile she had a better kick and came in before me (nice job, Vanessa!). While I was bummed I didn’t have the kick I wanted, I was happy with a 2:14:45 finish, my 3rd fastest half marathon ever! (Splits: 9:55, 10:07, 9:49, 3:29 for .36 nubbin).

My finish experience was so much better than last year because I wasn’t stressing about finding someone else who had my warm clothes. I sat for a few minutes with some water and chips before grabbing my bag. I was so impressed with the presence of changing tents – being able to completely change from my wet shirt was a game-changer! While it was a bit chilly, I stayed long enough to enjoy (most of my) post-race beer. I was pretty sore after, but a mile walk to the post-race brunch with the Oiselle Volee helped me loosen up a bit! I loved meeting other Birds (some I’d talked to/followed online for years), the food was delicious, and the mimosa(s?) were wonderful. Another mile walk back to the subway was needed for the legs, and I spent the night relaxing! (Actually, I went on a date? But alas, he “disappeared” shortly after that night).

2018 Goofy Challenge Part 2 – Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap

On Saturday January 6th, I ran my first marathon of 2018 and my 3rd marathon overall! This was the second part of the Goofy Challenge (13.1 + 26.2) and I was so excited to see what I could do over 26.2 miles after having a pretty strong training cycle. I was slightly nervous because my legs definitely weren’t feeling “fresh,” and I had been sick just the week before.

Saturday, Post 13.1: After the half marathon on Saturday, I took a short nap before my mom and I headed over to Disney Springs. We had a delicious lunch at the Rainforest Cafe, which is a regular spot for us during our visits. I had great parmesean chicken + pasta to keep my levels up for the next day. After a couple of hours of shopping around, I was starting to feel tired and very nervous for the day ahead. At this point I had put over 20 miles on my legs that day. We headed back to the hotel for a similar routine as the night before. Dinner in the food court (chicken, rice, and brussels sprouts), a warm bath, feet on the wall, and putting out my gear had me ready for bed!

Sunday, pre-race: Because I spent so much time just standing around on Saturday, I didn’t get up quite as early. Thankfully I slept much better and I slept until around 2:45. Unlike my first two marathons, I felt very calm as I got myself ready and out the door. After grabbing some cereal at the food court (it was perfect the morning before) I was onto the bus and on my way to Epcot once more. This morning was warmer than the previous but because I was dressed in less clothing for the race it felt much colder. I sat in the starter’s village for probably a good 45 minutes before making “the trek.” I stayed pretty warm in my sweatpants, fleece blanket and mylar blanket but I was wishing I had my bathrobe from Saturday!

Getting to the corrals felt much longer this day. I happily chatted up some other  marathon runners to help feel less alone in the sea of people! I started to share my 5:00 goal out loud, and that started to scare me. I ended up sitting in front of the porta-johns for a while so I didn’t have to get in and out of my corral. TMI but I couldn’t just do the deed, ugh! Thankfully I packed an immodium (#runnersprobs). I entered my corral (D) just before 5:00 and was still towards the front. Unlike Saturday, I didn’t stand to see the pre-race show. I sat to save my legs and try to stretch a bit. At 5:30 the race started, I began to de-layer and of course, had to go to the bathroom. Yesterday there were no lines at the porta johns at .8 miles. I was sure I could make it that far!

They released more “mini-waves” in the corrals during the marathon, 25 starts for 25 years. I actually loved that they played music from each year. For the 3rd corral they played Mmmbop! Around 5:20, my corral was off!

Miles 1-5: Let’s just say it now – every single porta john area had lines bigger than the corrals. WTF People?! But honestly, that sucked. I was still working for that 5:00 time, so I told myself to hold it until I could get to one without lines). Nevertheless, these miles were the exact same as they were the day before. I was calmed when my mom said that she made it to the Magic Kingdom and set into a good rhythm. I was running 60:30 intervals at a very even, easy pace. My watch was almost right on with the mile markers. (12:01, 11:43, :47, :48, :42)

Miles 6-10: Once again, the Mile 5 marker was right at the Magic Kingdom entrance! I slowed to call my mom to make sure that I saw her, and I was so happy when I did! I also turned off my interval timer to enjoy the Magic Kingdom. After stopping to see my mom, my #1 goal was to find a bathroom! The first two in the park had bad lines, but thank heavens, I finally found some with no line. Sweet relief! I felt so much better after. I made my way through the castle again and found my mom once more! I was on cloud 9. After mile 6 we were out of the park and back onto the roads to head toward Animal Kingdom. It seemed much more crowded than the day before and I had a hard time finding a spot to run/walk. Eventually, the 5:00 pace group (which started about 3-4 minutes behind me) caught me and I made it my goal to stay with/ahead of them as we headed to Animal Kingdom. (12:29 (stop for my mom and bathroom!), 12:28, 11:30, 10:55, 11:08)

Mom was much more successful than during the half!
Attempted the jump shot…

Miles 10-15: The first half of this segment had us heading past the water treatment plant (so smelly!), through boring “cone alley” and towards Animal Kingdom. These few miles were pretty boring – there were a few things on the side of the road, but not really any characters. Around mile 12 I was starting to get some chaffing under my arm, so I stopped to get some vaseline from an aid stop – what a godsend! I was stoked to see the animals when going into the park. I really wanted there to be a warthog! I was disappointed when I only saw two mules. Maybe the good stuff was on the other side of the road?

Anyways, around mile 13 we finally entered the Animal Kingdom park – my favorite! I regret not stopping for a picture with Timon and Rafikki, but was making good time and wanted to keep trucking. At this point I had my watch taped, so I didn’t know how far ahead of the mile markers I was. When I arrived at the 13.1 marker I took off the tape to see I was already .5 miles ahead of the mile marker, crap. I can make up some time, but that’s a lot of time to make up! At that point I decided to keep running 60:30 intervals at the same comfortably-hard pace, but understood that even with that, a sub-5:00 wasn’t happening. Since I was running so fast (for me) I decided not to up my intervals to 90:30. Anyways, after about a mile that brought us through backstage AK and the parking lot, we were back on the highway for the trek to ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWOS). I was thankful to stop at another aid station for them to have sunscreen. Not only sunscreen, but the kind I normally use! (I’m allergic to many. As a redhead, this sucks). (11:08, 10:50, :41, 11:03, :11)

Miles 16-20: I was dreading this part of the race, due to race recaps I’d read. It was 2.5 boring miles on the highway, then another 2.5ish weaving through the (WWOS). I was doing really well until about mile 18. I had just stopped for a quick picture with Pluto (my first of the day), but when we hit mile 18, I started to feel a little off and depleted. Since my 5:00 goal was out the window, I decided to just have fun. Between miles 18-20 I stopped for pictures with Minnie, Goofy and Mickey/Donald. I also had a banana – I’ve never done this in a race but it was seriously a lifesaver and I felt so great after! I will definitely take advantage of them in future races. I was thrilled running through the baseball stadium and through the mile 20 marker. “Just” a 10K (or 7 miles) to go! Physically and mentally I was feeling great! (10:59, 11:00, :19, 13:52 (Minnie), 15:14 (Goofy))

Miles 21-26.2 (or 27): Coming out of ESPN WWOS felt so good! The course widened and we could see runners behind us and cheer them on. I was completely giddy when I saw Jeff Galloway ahead of me just before the 21 mile marker. I knew he started with the A corral and must of fallen back (his wife and I went back and forth during my WWOS stops). **Back story: I obviously run using Galloway intervals. I passed him at mile 8 of MCM 2016, and then he passed me at 24 when I was struggling hard. It felt like redemption to pass him.**  I shared my gratitude for his training methods, and sped by. Anyways, then I just felt super strong heading up “the hill” and towards Hollywood Studios. I started chitchatting with some other runners which was great and helped pass the time.

Around mile 23 (I think?) we headed passed a candy stop (skittles, YESSS), I stopped for a picture with Oswald as we were heading in for our short jaunt in Hollywood Studios. Honestly it was so short that I hardly remember it aside from the fact that I took more candy (nerds) from strangers and it was incredible.  After Hollywood Studios, we headed towards the Boardwalk. The course got so narrow here and it was really hard to keep going at a decent clip. When we got onto the Boardwalk proper, it did open up and on my god it was beautiful!! I was completely taken away by the beauty, as well as the crowd support. When my watch dinged for 25 miles (well, like 24.4) I knew we were almost to EPCOT! It took so much not to cry. I was almost there and feeling FANTASTIC!

EPCOTTTT!!!!

And then we crossed “international gateway” and were in Epcot, running around the world!! We made it! There were so many people everywhere and seriously I’m surprised I didn’t ugly cry. I totally cried a little but thankfully I was wearing my sunglasses :P. I turned off my interval timer to just enjoy the experience. The mile 25 marker was special for the anniversary, and it really hit me then that I had met this goal that I set when I was in high school. One bummer was that I really wanted to get a wine slushie (France), beer (Germany), and/or a margarita (Mexico), and I had reached the World Showcase before it officially opened at 11:00, so most of the stations were closed! I also was bummed that many of the princesses weren’t out yet. I did get pictures with Snow White and Mulan just as they were coming out though! Then it was the rest of the jaunt through future world, under the ball, past the gospel choir, and to the finish!!! (15:15 (Mickey/Donald), 11:26, :40, 12:58 (Oswald), :17, :14, 10:53)

I DID IT! My official time was 5:21:36. Even with all of my stops and running .8 miles over, it was still 12 minutes faster than my first marathon! I was so proud. I ran this the day after a half marathon, with tired legs and having been sick the week before. I felt freaking fantastic. Sure, I was a little stiff, but nothing on me hurt or felt injured. Unlike my first two marathons, I didn’t feel like I was going to puke after. It was a success.

Just for kicks and grins, I looked at Strava to see what my time was without stops. With stop time taken out, I ran 5:04 for 27 miles. This equates to a 11:18 pace, which if I ran only 26.2 would have been around a 4:58. While my 5:21 was my time, I was really happy to see that my average running pace was a sub-5:00 pace while running 60:30 intervals the entire time. I can run a marathon. I can do it. And now I have the confidence to know that I have a sub-5:00 in me.

Post-race celebration: My mom and I got on the bus quickly, showered, and were off to the Magic Kingdom ASAP! I had been dreaming of post-race nachos from Pecos Bill’s Tell Tale Inn Cafe since I registered, and boy, was I ready! I seriously went savage on them. My mom and I really enjoyed our half-day at Magic Kingdom. By 8:00 I had walked/ran a total of 38 miles for the day and I was DEAD. When we got back to the hotel I finally had one last Mickey ice cream sandwich, my post-race beer (there’s no alcohol at MK), packed, and collapsed in bed.

My last celebration was breakfast at Chef Mickey’s the morning after the Marathon. This was a complete surprise for my mom to end our trip and it was definitely one of the highlights!

This was a long post, so if you made it this far – thank you! I plan to share one more post on my big takeaways from the trip, highlights, and what’s next. I can’t believe the experience is over but I’m so thankful that I took the risk and signed up for the Goofy Challenge!

2018 Goofy Challenge Part 1 – Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap

On Saturday January 6th, I ran my first half marathon of 2018 and my 18th half marathon overall! This was the first part of the Goofy Challenge (13.1 + 26.2) and I was so excited to finally run at Walt Disney World.

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Just a little shakeout at my hotel. Yes – I wore my new hoodie because it was only 30 degrees!

Friday, pre-race: I woke up early and got in a shake-out run around Hourglass Lake (Art of Animation/Pop Century property) before heading to Animal Kingdom for the day. Unlike at Epcot on Thursday, I ate enough (not necessarily healthily, though) and didn’t have too much to drink (although I did have quite the cocktail in Pandora). My mom and I headed back to the hotel to have a pasta dinner around 5:00 and settled in for the night. I had done almost 11.5 miles of walking and running during the day and the back of my right knee was realllly stiff. I took a warm bath,  put my legs up on the wall, and foam rolled as I got ready for bed. I was finally in bed to sleep around 9:00.

I ended up leaving the water bottle and trading out the pants for capris.

Saturday, pre-race: Disney World races are known for their early mornings, and mine arrived earlier than planned. Jeez, I forgot how badly my mom SNORES! I was woken up around 1:15 and wasn’t able to fall back asleep. Also, I was starving! I gave up falling back to sleep around 2:15 and got dressed in my running clothes and throwaways. I hit up the resort cafe for some cereal and was on the bus just after 3:00.

I arrived at the pre-race village around 3:30, which was obviously plenty early for the 5:30 am start time (we were told to be in our corrals by 5, I think). I was super happy to get my picture with Goofy before heading to the corrals. I checked my bag then started “the walk.” Seriously, it was a walk. Before I started the race I had already logged 2 miles of walking! It was really cold waiting in the corrals (low 30’s), but I was warm enough with a pair of sweatpants, a bathrobe and blanket. Around 5:00 the pre-race entertainment started and before I knew it Donald was starting the race! I was in Corral D and started about 15 minutes after the first gun went off.

Miles 1-5 started on a highway and brought runners to the Magic Kingdom, first passing through the Ticketing and Transportation center and past the Contemporary Resort. After stopping for a porta-john during the first mile, I settled into a very easy pace while running :45/:30 intervals. There were times where the course was wide and spread out and others where it was pretty cramped and hard to keep up with intervals. I ended up being on the grass alongside the road a lot in order to stay out of others’ ways. I ran pretty steady 12:30ish miles from miles 2-5.

Mile 5 happened right at the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom and brought us down main street past the castle!  At this point I dropped the intervals for a while to just enjoy running through the Magic Kingdom. I also stopped 3 times to try to find my mom (finds out she was back at the Ticketing and Transportation Center – ugh). After Main Street USA, I started stopping for characters: first the White Rabbit and Queen of Hearts, then Sebastian the crab. Then it was time to run through the castle!! You couldn’t have paid me $1,000,000 to stop smiling. We hit Mile 6 running towards Splash Mountain and left the park shortly after.

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Miles 6-10 had us exiting the Magic Kingdom, past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts and around the back side of the Ticket and Transportation Center. I stopped for a pit stop and a couple of character stops, penguins from Mary Poppins and the Genie from Aladin, but otherwise these miles weren’t all that special. They were pretty cramped as we were down to 1-2 lanes on the highway. There was also entertainment about every .5 miles, whether it be a DJ, marching band, or a mile marker with music. These really helped the miles fly by. Despite the landscape not being all that exciting, I was still having lots of fun. Around 15K we passed this awesome Mickey hot air balloon (we also saw him at 5K) and we headed back towards the Epcot area. My pace during these miles varied due to stopping for pictures but I started to run a little faster when I was running (mile 6: 23:30 LOL (2 character stops and the castle), mile 9: 12:01).

Miles 10-13 brought us back towards Epcot, into and out of Epcot’s Future World and of course, to the finish line! Around mile 11 (I think) there was a short hill with entertainment by a green army man from Toy Story, which was super fun. At this point I realized that I wasn’t sweating, but instead of that being due to dehydration/hyperhydration it was because I really wasn’t working that hard! My paces dipped into the low 11’s (like 11:40ish), which would have been nervous about if my heart rate wasn’t so low (yay!). I found myself feeling a little “let this be over!” around mile 12 as we were coming into Epcot and sped up a bit. I was happy to run mile 12 in 11:00 and run the final .48 mile nubbin at a 9:40 pace. Not only did I finally break a little sweat but I also FINALLY saw my mom and crossed a RunDisney finish line!!

I was so happy at the end of this race. I met my goal of running a 3:00 half marathon (official time was 3:03 and my actual moving time was about 2:40), I ran super easy (147 average heart rate), and had so much fun! I ended up relying on water stops (which I never do in a race) and was plenty hydrated. The back of my right knee was still pretty tight, but it did not bother me while running as I kept good form. Before getting back on the bus I ate my potato chips and beef jerky that I’d put in my gEAR check bag. When I got back to the hotel I get a Mickey ice cream sandwich for breakfast 😛

My mom also got me a rose – how sweet!

After a shower and a short nap, I was up and ready for an afternoon at Disney Springs! I had an amazing time with my mom but the more we walked, the more it hit me that I had a marathon to run the next day.  Was I really in good enough shape to do this? Would I succeed? More to come with my marathon post…

Lunch at Rainforest Cafe – we seem to always go there when we visit Disney! (“No I’m not tired at all, but I AM f***ing starving)

 

Ragnar Relay DC Recap Part 2: My first-time experience

As I shared what seems like forever ago (sorry….I have a life!) I ran a very random, unexpected Ragnar back in September! I loved so much of the experience, but there were also parts of my experience that I didn’t love. While my race recap shares how the running went, this post will share more of the emotional and all-around team experience.

What I LOVED:

– I loved being part of a team. It doesn’t matter that I had just met these people the night before. I loved how we cheered for each other, supported each other, and talked about running a lot.

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– I loved the organization of the Ragnar race itself. The logistics that go into a 200 mile relay that runs into Washington, DC cannot be easy. The race “bible” directions got us to where we needed to be (except for when I was giving directions at night, whoops). Race command also was very helpful with finding ways for my team to make it to the finish in time. I also appreciated that some of the exchanges were near stores so we could get food! Also, having porta johns at almost every exchange was a LIFESAVER!

I loved the atmosphere of fun that really took a forefront over the weekend. I had no idea that “tagging” vans was a thing, but I thing it is a genius idea!

 

What I didn’t love:

– Not competitive enough (at least my van): By the time I was done my second run, I was a bit over the “fun” aspect. Not because Ragnar wasn’t about fun, but it is also a race. While we may not have ever had a chance of winning, it didn’t mean that we didn’t need to stop for 10 minutes to chat in the middle of a leg to chat and sit. We were behind pace the entire time (although there is a published average you need to keep) and it caused me a lot of stress. While it’s nbd that we weren’t going to win, I wish that people still gave their all, because I sure did my best to hit my expected paces. I felt weird when my team thought it was surprising that I was running my estimated pace, because I put in a good, honest estimate.

– (Our) organization (with my legs): Seriously, having hand-off after both legs 1 and 2 made me dread leg 3, especially because it was so short. While I was fine with not getting/needing support on my legs (2 were non-support, one was full support but I can run 6 miles), it sucked for my team not to be there/ready after giving my runs my all. Everyone else seemed to have seamless hand-offs except for me. And I know it’s selfish, but it was really annoying.

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“fake” handoff. Womp.

– Rule following seemed to be an issue for my van. If you know me, I’m a strict rule-follower, so this was really hard to deal with. Peeing in the woods is one thing, but pooping in someone’s yard (when it was shared MULTIPLE times that it was OBVIOUSLY against the rules, and just RUDE/GROSS) is just wrong. Also my van was very adamant to always support the runners. Great, awesome, support our teammate – on legs when it’s allowed. There were reasons why certain legs were “non-support.” I, once again, wish rules were followed for the safety of all participants.

– The finish line: We finally finished around 7:30pm on Saturday, and the cutoff was 8:00. When we got to the finish line, there was no pizza left, the vendor tried to make us pay for our “free beer” (I did NOT, tyvm), and there was seriously no energy left in the experience. We finished within the timeline, and felt that we deserved the same experience as the “fast” teams that finished earlier in the day. I was really looking forward to the finish line experience, but by time I got there, I straight-up wanted to leave.

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Us: “We can’t wait for pizza and beer!” Ragnar: “JK LOL JOKES ON U!”

Things I would change: 

– Actually build a team, or find one in advance! It was quite the experience running with a random group. I met a lot of great people, and had an overall fun time. However, stresses such as how I was getting home (that was a fiasco) and running differences definitely caused more anxiety than I was hoping for. I’d love to be on a team with runners who are there for fun, but also to run their best efforts and to try new things! (I think only 2 or 3 of us on the whole team ran our night legs alone).

Will I run again? OH HECK YES. I loved the experience as a whole. Most of my team was all, “I’m never doing this again!” I was the complete opposite. I was having the time of my life when I was running and at the exchanges, cheering everyone on. The night run was seriously one of the best running experiences ever. I’m definitely hoping to run Ragnar Pennsylvania in June 2018, and I’m trying to form a team with Bib Rave Pro’s for that. I would also love to run a trail Ragnar and/or Reach the Beach in 2018!

Charles St 12 Miler 2017: Race Recap

Okay I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about the Charles Street 12 miler by now. But all the oversharing is worth it because the race itself was (almost) just as good as the first time I ran, and I did better as well! Here’s my last talk of it for a while.

Friday: On Friday afternoon I went to the local Charm City Run store to get my packet. It was quick and easy. My favorite shorts (the only shorts I wear) were on sale, and I needed new inserts and more GU. I left much poorer but with some “running necessities”. This includes the Marshmellow and Smore’s flavored GU that I’d been searching for, for forever!

I got to Jake’s before he got home, so I hit up happy hour for a couple of brews to relax a bit. We had a nice dinner in of pasta with homemade sauce and meatballs, and watched some movies. By 11:30 I was ready for the morning and out like a light!

Pardon Jake’s horribly messy room…I’m working on it/him.

Pre-race: It was raining as I woke up, which was expected. I got ready, and while I waited for Beth to pick me up I cracked open a red bull. They’re so bad for you but SO GOOD. The busses/finish line was just a mile from Jake’s, but it was nice not to walk in the rain. I also had a Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookie, and on the bus I had my UCan. Before we knew it, our bus had arrived in Towson!

Porta-john lines were short, thankfully! The rain was still coming down and we waited the rest of the pre-race time inside. When we came out to line up the rain had stopped!!! Beth and I lined up around the 2:10 pacers. I didn’t stretch well, and I’m not sure why. Realistically, the hardest decision was what to do with our rain coats! I put mine around my waist, because I expected it to rain again.

Miles 1-6: Beth and I ran together with 90:30 intervals, keeping it easier through the hills. Making sure she stayed with me was great to keep me from going out too fast. Unlike in 2014, the big hills in the first 4 miles passed with little issues. As it always is with run/walk intervals, it was so hard getting passed by seemingly everyone during these miles. But, I knew if I stuck to my plan, I’d pass them later. While our effort was even, our splits weren’t, due to the elevation changes and intervals (when you hit a mile on a walk break = THE WORST). Splits: 11:02, 1o:26, 11:12, 10:33, 10:22, 11:05.

Miles 7-9: After mile 6 I upped the intervals to 120:30, as planned. I was feeling great. I wasn’t struggling with the extra running time on the rolling hills and my run pace started to speed up. I also have to mention the amazing Toasted Marshmellow GU I had – it seriously was the best. I did eventually lose Beth around mile 8.5, as I apologized for getting in the zone and not really being able to slow back down! Splits: 9:51, :38, :52

Miles 10-12: At mile 10 I finally caught the 2:10 pacer, and yelled “gotta catch the 2:05!” It kept me going. It felt so good to be running strong, and passing the people who passed me during my walk intervals earlier. For the last mile and a half, the course flattens. After a lot of downhills in miles 7-10, it honestly felt like I was climbing a mountain to keep my speed up. While I never started to hurt, I was definitely starting to have to push a little extra. At mile 11.5 I passed the 2:05 group, and while I knew I wouldn’t catch the 2:00 group (I was at like, 1:54) I set my sights on it to keep going strong. I tried to nix the walk breaks in the last mile, but kept them to keep my run speed up. Before I knew it, I was chasing the finish with a great kick (.06 with 7:59 pace) and I was done! Splits: 9:28, :51, :39, 0:29 (.06 nubbin)

I might have to buy this, it’s fantastic! Photo cred: Chessie Photo. I’ll likely buy (They always take good ones of me!)

Final time: 2:03:32 (10:14 avg)

Post race: This is where I had the only issues with this race, and also where there were the most changes since I ran in 2014. The race ended at the Under Armour World Headquarters, which was awesome. I loved that we got a meal from the food truck as a refreshment, however, that’s all there was for food. And the lines were ridiculous. Ridiculous as in I waited in line half an hour for a small funnel cake and a piece of bacon, because that was the shortest line. There were no bananas/oranges/pretzels/simple foods for finishers right after the race. I’m thankful it was a cool day, because if it was hot and I had to wait that long for food, I would have been at risk of passing out without any nutrition. The beer line was long, but it went quickly, and the selection was local and fantastic. So really the worst part was the food, but that needs to be fixed!

Rain-wise, it thankfully held off for ALL of the race! It downpoured as I got my food and we sprinted back to the car. It poured for a while then cleared up in time for me to go to the Towson football tailgate (and game).

Photo cred: Kanji Takeno

Takeaways: I’m so proud of myself for getting the revenge on this race that I wanted needed. I had a great summer of training and put a lot of work into my speed, and it paid off. (I also think the unintentional taper helped) My one regret was starting out so slowly. My interval plan was great, but I could have started picking up my run pace sooner. I still had a lot left in the tank at the end, and felt like I could have kept going at the pace I was running for at least two more miles.

 

Will I run this race again? Definitely. I don’t love that it’s on Labor Day weekend, but it makes for potentially more mild weather than when it was in Early August. The course is moderately challenging and runs through beautiful areas of Baltimore (and my alma matter!). This year I ran the race as part of the B3 challenge. I won’t be doing the challenge again next year, as the 5K is on a Sunday (work) and the premium isn’t very unique, compared to this year’s amazing sweater. I am planning on this race for next year though!

Charles St. 12 and Baltimore B3 medals

 

Maryland Sprint Duathlon: Race Recap

About a month ago, I completed my first true multi-sport event! I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get to recapping it, because I had a great experience and it definitely made me hungry to do more multi-sport events.

Despite my success, I honestly almost didn’t even go to this race.  I hadn’t gotten on my bike as much as I hoped/planned. I was planning to do this with a friend, and when I found out that week that she wasn’t going to go, I was crushed. I was bummed and very anxious about something going wrong and me being all alone. Topping this off with Jake not wanting to go (he doesn’t love spectating and hates early mornings…), I was going into the morning with a negative attitude.

Pre-Race: I left around 5:00 to get to the start with plenty of time to rack my bike and prepare. My biggest worry about the morning was forgetting my bike. I remembered it, so the day was obviously a success. I arrived at 5:45, and was pretty much set up by 6:15 for the 7:00 start. Two girls parked next to my car were having bike troubles, so I helped and we got to talking. Finds out they were first-timers as well, and one of the girls is also training for Goofy! It lifted my spirits to make some new friends. An instagram follower also said hello in the “corral”, which gave me some mojo back as well.

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Sriracha jersey!

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Run 1 – 2 miles, 19:36: The age group women took off and I got in a little pack with the three ladies I had met lining up. I felt great for the first mile, while already facing rolling hills. Any 2 mile run to me feels pretty uneventful. I ran straight for about 1.25 miles before taking a short walk break. A lady told me I was a good pacer, but there was a lot of race left on a warm, humid morning. (Garmin stats: 2.09 mi, 19:43, 9:39 avg)

Transition 1, 2:05: I came into transition and walked to my bike to lower my heart rate a little. The other girls I ran around were out well before me, but I didn’t want to do something stupid like forget my helmet or glasses.

Bike – 13 miles, 56:49: The bike is where I felt awesome in this race. Within a mile of leaving the transition area, I passed the group of ladies I was running with, that left on their bikes before me. This portion of the race was hills hills hillsbut I feel I held my own. I was passed by quite a few people with tri bikes on the downhills and flats, but kept my own on the hills, and even passed others. Realistically, I was just proud to make it up the hills without walking my bike. I had a couple of Chomps around mile 10 just to keep my sugar/salt levels up, because I was soaked with sweat. I came up the last mile passing people finishing their run feeling great. Despite being passing quite a few people at the beginning, more ladies with more lighter/aerodynamic bikes passed me. (Garmin stats: 13.43 mi, 56:32, 14.3 mph)

Transition 2 – 1:43: I dismounted my bike and ran it to the rack. I was feeling pumped and was afraid my legs would cramp up if I moved too slowly. My main goal was to actually remember to take my helmet off – success. Helmet off, hat on – the sun came out and it was HOT.

Run 2 – 2 miles, 22:53: There was a water stop right outside of transition, so I grabbed one and dumped it over my head to cool down because I was definitely starting to feel overheated. It was a stupid idea because then I had sweat in my eyes! Uck. I spent the run doing unstructured run/walk intervals, based on what I could see ahead of me. I was not fast, but did the best I could with my legs definitely not feeling loose. I passed a few people, and was passed by just 1. While I walked a bit more than I would have hoped, I finished with a big smile on my face! (Garmin stats: 2.09 mi, 22:54, 10:59 avg)

Finish: My overall finish time was 1:43:04 for 44th out of 80 women. I went in with a goal of 2 hours (I was nervous for the hills!) and a reach goal of 1:50, so I was stoked! Not only did I make my goals, but I came in 3rd in my age group.

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Kickstand club!

I quickly replenished myself with gatorade, water, and some oranges. RipIt (who put on the race)  has had chips at other races of theirs that I’d run, and I was sad there weren’t any after this race. I’ve gotten to love Fritos after a race! I met up with the two girls I had met to congratulate them hear about their experiences. After the awards ceremony, I headed home to nap and enjoy my personal victory of getting out there when I really didn’t want to (and we went to a pool party – cheers!)

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Omg I won something – AND it holds a beer!

In the end, I was obviously really happy that I sucked it up and went to this race. I had a great experience and felt good with my performance, despite training not going as well as I hoped. I’ve ruled out another one for this year, but next summer I’d definitely come back to this race, or even try a Tri!

NOW it’s time for me to go run. Confession…I’ve sucked at getting up for runs all summer. Like, really bad. While I’m working now, my hours are later in the day, which has not helped me get up any earlier…So it’s a lunchtime run for me today.

Race Recap: 2017 Old Port Half Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Old Port Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

This past weekend, I completed my 16th half marathon! I have been looking forward to this race since December, and planned my summer trip home to New Hampshire around the race. I had high hopes for my performance, and while I fell short, I still really enjoyed the race.

Friday: Jake and I flew down Thursday and spent most of Friday in New Hampshire. I did a short 2 mile shakeout on Friday and felt pretty good. After dinner with my family, we headed up to Portland to meet my mom and brother. We had a room at a Days Inn in South Portland, about 10 minutes away from the start. My brother, Jake, and I had a late-night snack/drink at Sea Dog Brewing, which was wonderful.

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Packet pick up: My mom got to Portland early enough to pick up packets and swag for the three of us. She had an easy time, aside from the volunteers saying I hadn’t ordered a shirt (which was not included in race registration). Thankfully after sending over a copy of my receipt, she was able to get my shirt. I also got a hat and a beer glass with my registration.

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Pre-race: We left our hotel just after 6 to head to the start. We faced some slight traffic getting off the highway and were finally parked about 6:30, just a couple of blocks from the half marathon start. While my brother suited up in his fire gear, Jake and I ran down to the bathrooms. There were so many and hardly any lines. I realized I forgot to put on sunscreen so I sent Jake to the 5K shuttle while I ran back to the car to sunscreen up. I made it back to the start for 6:50 to stretch after my running warm up. There were two waves of runners, and I was obviously in the second (slower) wave.

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Game plan: While looking forward to this race, I thought I had a solid chance to PR on this course, if the conditions were right. It was 62 with 93% humidity at the start, which definitely isn’t ideal. The course involves two major hills, but is flat otherwise. Unfortunately I woke up with cramps (woman problems). I decided to start conservatively and not die on the hills, before hopefully speeding up. Even if I couldn’t PR, I was confident I could run a sub-2:15 while doing 120:30 run/walk intervals.

Miles 1-5: I started out conservatively for a “race”, but not ready to keep steady splits. After a mile I got sucked in around the 2:20 pace group, which was very large and spread out. I battled them for about a mile and a half before finally passing them. We’d go back and forth for a while, but the group broke apart after the first hill. Speaking of the first hill, it was a good half a mile, and pretty steep. I made it up without altering my intervals and/or slowing, which I was proud of. The course flattened out before heading on a short, steep downhill back towards the start. Splits: 10:54, :31, :51, :08, 9:57.

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From the top of the second hill

 

Miles 6-10: I was stoked to see a sub-10 mile, but I knew I had to reign it in for the hill that was coming at mile 6. I managed to make it almost all the way up the hill without extra walking, but eventually gave in. I was moving so slowly, and figured if I had any hope of speeding up, I should conserve the energy. The climb was relentless, but the views at the top were so worth it. The terrain rolled a bit for about a mile, before coming back down to the “Back Cove” path. This is where I planned to speed back up, but I was failing at doing so. By this time it had heated up and there was no shade on the Back Cove path. The water stations started to hand out icy towels, which were AMAZING, but they could only help so much.

I felt strong until mile 8, then I started to fade, and fast. The 2:20 group passed me once more, and I knew I wasn’t going to be catching up. My cramps were getting worse and my legs just didn’t have speed in them. Splits: 10:56, ;55, :23, 11:26, 11:47.

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Photo credit: Maine Magazine

Miles 11-13: Once I started running miles in the 11’s, I knew even a sub 2:20 was not happening. I knew I had a long day ahead of me after the race, so instead of kill myself, I switched down to 60:30 intervals. Despite this, I struggled to keep a decent pace. I was feeling hot, but really felt defeated more than anything. Nonetheless, I was enjoying the views, aside from mile 11.5 where we passed a sewage plant that was disgusting. Just plain disgusting. But if that was the worst part of the course, so be it.

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I walked much more than I would have liked the last mile and a half. I was just bummed. I wanted to put up a time so badly – for my family that I came to see, my mom who was going to be at the finish, and for my boyfriend and brother who ran. Nonetheless, I finished, uninjured. Slow, but uninjured. I had a tough time for a few minutes, but felt better after sitting in the shade with an icy towel. Splits: 12:37, :54, :53, 2:38 (.22).

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Not the prettiest picture, but it’s representative of my race.

Official finish time: 2:29:08. My second slowest (road) half, I believe. (Falling a month after my slowest. Great.)

Post-race: My brother had to bring part of his fire suit back to his station, so Jake and I headed to the finish area for a quick beer. The runner’s food tent was a bit disappointing, where I was only allowed one orange piece. I only eat oranges after a race, so I would have been happy with a couple more. There were three beer options, and I stuck with one I was familiar with, the Shipyard Summer Ale. It was so refreshing! We drank our beers quickly, on the ground, because all of the seats in the shaded tent were taken or being used as foot-rests. We enjoyed the band for a bit, and then headed for pizza because we wanted to get back to the hotel to shower before check-out. They were OUT of pizza. Yes, I’m slow, but the pizza was a big draw for the race and for them to be out was a big bummer. The volunteers said there would be more, but had no time estimate, so we left. Thankfully, there was a family party later that day and we had LOBSTER.

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Also, I can’t forget to share that Jake finished in 31:43 (I don’t think he’s run since APRIL) and my brother walked the 5K in his fire gear in 51 minutes.

Take-aways: 

All around, this was a good race. The volunteers were fantastic, the course was flat with two challenging hills, and the icy cold towels in the later miles are a game changer!

For me, this race kind of put me in my place and made me remember things I learned last year. It hit home how much fitness I’ve lost since the marathon. My training has been so inconsistent, and 9 weeks out from the marathon was too long to use that fitness and rest period to my advantage. A good thing was seeing how long I could keep up sub 11 minute miles while running 120:30 intervals. This was new territory for me, and a goal for Goofy 2018 is to run both races at that interval. I stayed in sub-11 territory for 8 miles, and made it to mile 10 before changing my intervals.

In terms of mentality, it was a struggle at the end, for the first time in a while. I think those last miles would have been different if I hadn’t gone out with time goals. If I had gone out with the sole goal of fun, I wonder how my race really would have gone. When I go in with looser, effort based goals, I end up more pleased with myself and with significantly better times. I know I have more to give, and Saturday just wasn’t my day.

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For a more “technical” review, check out my review on Bib Rave!

 

Race Recap: Zooma Annapolis 2017

It’s been a few weeks, but I can’t not share the experience that was the Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon. Last year I ran the 10K, and decided to challenge myself and move up to the half this year. Aside from the trail half marathon earlier this year, it was my hardest half yet.


As with many local races, I spent the night with my friend, Beth, and her aunt and uncle. Beth was able to get our packets in Annapolis on Friday, which was a huge help and stress reliever. Our pre-race nights consist of a good meal and some wine, always. I feel so relaxed after a night of socializing. Typically I go to the race with them, but as I was running the longer distance, I decided to drive myself in case they didn’t want to wait for me after the race. Later than planned, I set out my “Flat Sam” and headed to bed.

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Basically the same outfit as last year.

I was up around 5:15 and out the door by 5:45 to drive to Annapolis. I met up my friend Erin, who was running the 10K, and her boyfriend (one of my best friends from college) before meeting up for the ambassador picture. I conversed with a couple of ambassadors, which I didn’t really do last year. It was such a great group of strong runner women!

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credit: Cynthia 

After the picture we all headed towards the porta johns. Last year, the lines moved quickly. This time, not so much. I waited for 20 minutes and had to sprint to make the start of the race. Not. Fun. Whether there were more people or less porta johns, something was wrong. It led to a very anxious start our races.

 

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I knew this race was going to be hard, as Beth and I had run the hills on the back half of the course a few weeks prior. Pair hills with a warm, sunny day, and it’s not a recipe for a “fast” day. I was ready for a challenge. I set out saying I’d be happy with a sub 2:20, but I ended up being happy to finish.

Miles 1-5: The first few miles were very similar to last year’s 10K, as well as the Annapolis Running Classic 10K. There are some small hills, but they are managable. While I knew I could run fast for these miles, I stayed at an easier pace to save myself, with 90:30 intervals. I found a great spot around my friend Erin, and I paced myself just behind her until the half split off from the 10Kers. At about mile 5 we started crossing the Naval Academy Bridge for the first time. I stayed with my intervals most of the way up, then walked a little extra to save myself.  (Erin looked strong coming down the bridge towards her finish!) Splits: 10:57, :49, 11:03, :03, :04.

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Going away from the finish – the “easier” side.

Miles 6-10: The bridge is where the hills start, and they don’t stop for the rest of the race. While in most races I’d want to speed up at this point, I was hoping to stay steady through the hills. I felt strong until the out-and-backs started, around mile 8. By then, the heat started to get to me. I had trouble taking in fuel and also felt a bit over-hydrated. I also was dumb and put sunscreen on my forehead, which meant I had sunscreen and sweat running into my eyes (should have worn a hat!). I struggled through 90:30 intervals from mile 8 until about mile 10, where I felt like I was just slogging. I was managing to make it through my intervals, but was very out of breath, so I knocked them back to 75:30. At mile 10, I reached the top of a hill where I could see the Naval Academy Bridge once more, one of the last big hills. Splits: 11:19, 10:53, 11:29, :50, :42.

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LOLOL

Miles 11-13.1 (.32) – If the slowing paces and shorter intervals didn’t clue you in, I was struggling for the last 5K. I couldn’t take fuel without feeling like I was going to puke, so I started to “bottom out”. And frankly, my legs were just dead from the hills. I try to run some hills each week, but only on shorter runs (which I should improve on). People passed me left and right, and I walked more than I would like to admit. When I realized that this was going to be my slowest half ever, I just focused on finishing in one piece, uninjured. Splits: 12:09, :29, :49, 3:54 (last .32).

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Final time: 2:33:27

Despite running my slowest half ever, I still felt very accomplished. I knew this was a hard course – the old me would have run the 10K, but I wanted the challenge. This is NOT an easy course, and no half is going to be easy during June in Maryland. I found pride in running very steady for the first half of the race, and making it through 4 miles of hills before I started to really struggle. While it wouldn’t have made any speed records, I think the last few miles would have gone better if my fueling had been better.

Post race: I know my fueling and hydration was off, because I felt horrible after I finished. Almost “med-tent” horrible. I sat with water, gatorade, and some chips. I was so relieved when Beth said that her and her aunt were still around. While they got massages and shopped, I had 4 more cups of gatorade and another bag of chips while sitting in the shade. I haven’t felt so poorly after a race since my first few long races (cough cough Chuck 12 2014).  I didn’t even partake in the wine – shocker. After a few pictures, I headed home and had a feast of Taco Bell (my first in YEARS!). After a nap and another plate of nachos, I was feeling much better and was ready for a night at the ballpark.

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Beth had a solid race and her Aunt Kate finally hit a big goal of a sub-60 10K! I was very happy for them both! Despite my slow time, this race lit a fire under me to do more hard races in order to truly challenge myself a bit more.

Before I forget – the SWAG. I was disappointed with it last year, but this year the swag was improved. The t-shirt was a grey, tech-cotton short with a simple design. It is very comfy. The half-marathoners got a running hat, which I love and was great during my recent Las Vegas trip. It came in a “lululemon” style bag, which I always like to have around! The medal featured a sail boat, was pretty, and was of a nice quality!

All in all, the Zooma Annapolis 13.1 is not for the faint of heart, or for someone who expects a fast time at every race. It is a challenging course and is typically hot and humid. The race atmosphere is positive and the post race party is fun. If you like to run with a pack, run the 10K – which is the biggest race out of all three distances offered.

I was a bit bummed about the food spread. Even though I was a “late” finisher and some food may have run out (not an excuse), I only saw potato chips, bananas, and some trail mix. I love a good post-race spread, and it didn’t live up to last year’s Pirate Booty. Seriously, I’m now addicted to that stuff. However, as much as I enjoyed this year and last year’s races, I won’t be back next year. The Baltimore 10 Miler is always the same day, and I’m ready to take on that course again as part of the King Crab Challenge. But I will be back in time!

DisclaimerI received a complimentary entry for Zooma Annapolis as an ambassador. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

New Jersey Marathon 2017: Race Recap

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the New Jersey marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Just a few days ago I finished my second marathon! It was an amazing day and I’m still on an emotional high from it. The weather worked out perfectly and it was an all around wonderful day. Spoiler alert: Goals were crushed.

Race day eve: The night before, my boyfriend and I enjoyed a dinner at Olive Garden, played some mini golf and billiards, then settled into our hotel. Harry Potter was on tv all night, which was great – however, the partiers throughout our hotel were not. I didn’t fall asleep until 1 and I woke up around 5.

Pre-race: By reading other runners’ recaps,  I knew that traffic has been an issue at this race in the past. I arrived at the Monmouth Park race track just after 6 (for a 7:30 start) with plenty of time to use the porta johns (there were plenty), and wait. I started the morning a tad grumpy due to my lack of sleep. Checking my bag and getting settled into my corral (7, the last one) was painless. The race started right on time, and I crossed the start about 10 minutes later.

Miles 1-5 brought us on a long loop through neighborhoods around Monmouth Park. My plan was to run in the 12:00/mi range for the first 5, but I ended up being a little faster. I spent a lot of time on my phone trying to figure out tracking. The AthLinks app wasn’t working for my mom, so I turned on MapMyRun (I’m glad I paid for the MVP plan!). My heart rate stayed reasonably low, and after a couple of miles I was able to run with plenty of room around me. Splits: 11:21, :38, :51, :48, :47

Miles 6-10 – “mighty, strong, powerful”. I upped my intervals from 60:30 to 90:30 as I hit mile 5. I contemplated waiting, but my goals weren’t going to be met by me sitting back. These miles brought us closer to the water and through some nice neighborhoods with people cheering on couches that they brought outside to sit on. I felt great during these miles, despite a dull ache in my left ITB that almost sent me into a panic. This was eventually settled by finding the right place on the road to run. I lost about 90 seconds during a potty stop at mile 8, but aside from that, these 5 miles were pretty uneventful and (mostly) below goal pace. The best part? There was a girl singing potty songs outside the porta johns! Splits:  11:17, :18, :22, 12:23 (potty break), 11:08.

Miles 11-15 – “this is NOT Marine Corps (Marathon)”: I mentally faded a bit during these miles, especially 11-13. The half marathoners turned off, leaving the course much emptier. I struggled with remembering that this is where I started to lose it during Marine Corps, especially with my knee still bothering me a bit. I wasn’t really paying attention to my watch, but if I had been, I would have seen that it felt hard to run because I was running faster than goal pace. I kept repeating out loud “This is NOT Marine Corps!” and it really helped me keep going. I came out of it when I hit 15, and knew it was time for the last of “four 5-milers”. Splits: 11:10, :19, 10:58, 11:01, 10:43.

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Miles 16-20 – “You’re doing this!” – As soon as I hit 15 miles, I started processing that a sub 5:00 was very possible if I kept running as well as I was. I was entertained by beautiful seaside houses and before I knew it I passed the 5:05 pace group, which started about 1:30 before I did. Next was Asbury Park, which was not nearly as nice as I had imagined. However, I was on cloud nine. I started passing people left and right. I also started feeling pretty hot, and dumped water over my head every 1-1.5 miles. I struggled a bit around mile 19, wondering when the turnaround would hit. Once I turned around, my quads started burning and I started to truly feel fatigued. Splits: 11:02, 10:57, 11:20, 10:52, 11:24.

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Miles 21-26.2 (or 26.49): The miles north were riddled with challenges. I definitely hit a sort of wall. Around mile 22.5, 2.5 miles of side stitches began. I struggled so much during miles 22-25. People around me were having a rough time, and I started to feel like them (although I was still passing them all). At mile 24.5 (I think), the 5:05 pacers passed me. Oh no, I’ve lost my sub-5:00. At one point they got to be almost out of my view. I decreased my intervals to 75:30 and pushed forward. Around the 25 mile marker, my cramps subsided, but my legs were still dead. I turned off my interval timer and decided to do what I could. I caught up to, and passed, the 5:05 pacers! While I realized the sub 5 wasn’t happening, I was going to fight for a 5:05. The last mile or so is a blur of me looking for Jake and wondering where the finish was (my watch had been about .2 miles ahead all race long). As soon as I saw the chute, and Jake, I gave as much as I could. I just remember the announcer saying “Look at her smile! She is so exhilarated!” Yes, yes I was. Splits: 11:15, :44, 12:19, :19, :43, 11:26, 5:17 (.49)

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Final time: 5:03:43. I met my C, B, and A goals and set a PR by 28:32. I can’t say that I “couldn’t believe it”, because I could. I trained hard, was in great shape, believed in myself, and executed my race plan pretty well. I had the race that was truly for me, and despite having a 5 at the beginning of my time, I couldn’t be happier.

Post race: I made my way through the chute pretty quickly, getting boxed water (why boxed?), gatorade, and a snack box. I skipped the photo station, which I regret, as I decided to buy my pictures. Reuniting with my boyfriend and getting my bag was painless, however the fact that you couldn’t bring bags into the finish festival just created a hassle that I wasn’t up to. I changed out of my shoes, ate some potato chips that I had packed in my checked bag, and left pretty quickly. I felt great, but I was ready to go get some FOOD. Jake kept asking me if I felt good and said I “looked like I was in a lot of pain”, but I really was just so happy that I couldn’t do anything but smile and laugh. It wasn’t until after food and a nap when my body caught up with my emotions!

Swag: The medal is absolutely beautiful! It is a spinner with beautiful colors. I love that all of the towns the course runs through is on the back as well. The marathoners received a long-sleeved shirt that matched the medal (the half-ers got a tee that matched their medal).

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Overall, this race was wonderful. The course support and volunteers were amazing. The course was mostly beautiful, aside from Asbury Park (which also smelled) and a stretch in Long Branch. The course was virtually flat, with only 2-3 gentle inclines over bridges. You also can’t beat boardwalk miles and a beach finish.

While the field was mostly half-marathoners, I actually liked that the course emptied out. It allowed me to focus on my run more. I also loved the out and back. Seeing the marathoners coming back was really motivating and kept me moving. I could also see how much time I had gained on those who I had passed!

Just a few days out, most soreness has subsided, aside from some quad stiffness. I’m already yearning to run another 26.2. I love the training and the pain that comes after mile 20, along with the pride that comes with meeting your goals. I’m not running until Sunday at the earliest, but I’m ready to get back to the grind. While the Goofy Challenge is the next marathon I have on my schedule at this time, I’m contemplating an October/November marathon as part of my prep.

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Read my review of the race on Bibrave and review your races to help other runners choose which ones to run!