Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where I've Been, Where I'm Going

Don't worry, I haven't vanished into the blog-o-sphere. I'm still around, but just haven't had too much to say for the last couple of months. 

Today was the Celtic Solstice 5 miler and was to have been my come back race from my foot problems. I decided not to participate, thus officially ending my 2011 running season in a dull thud. While I have started running a couple of miles here and there, I was not confident that I could get through all 5 miles without problems. The truth of that matter is that after 3 months of physical therapy, I still have some degree of discomfort/pain in my foot on practically a daily basis. 

I have started planning ahead to next year and being healthy to train for Spring races. I am not going to do a full marathon in 2012, mainly because I don't want to spend a third consecutive summer in training mode. If I can get through 2012 without any problems, then I will consider a full for 2013.

Right now I'm registered for and hoping to do:
3/18/2012 - Shamrock 1/2
4/29/2012 - Iron Girl 1/2
5/6/2012 - Frederick 1/2
5/20/2012 - Run for the Dream 1/2
10/13/2012 - Baltimore 1/2

The optimist in me registered for these as a way to have something to look forward to, especially the time that would be spent with friends. The pessimist thinks it was dumb and a waste of money when I don't know what the future holds. More than once I've thought of just quitting. The problem is, I've never quit anything. However, rather than fuel the desire to heal and improve, all I can think of is the hard work ahead of me. The last 3+ months have brought back alot of old habits - mainly making me lazy and complacent. There is a very long road ahead of me to get back the conditioning and endurance I had. It took so long to get and so quickly to lose.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

No Regrets

Today, rather than running the Marine Corps Marathon, I stood at the end of the infamous bridge and cheered, both 10K and marathon runners. I had no regrets.

I watched people hobble and grimace, and I knew I would have been one of them, if I had even made it to mile 22. I had no regrets.

I was there to help old friends and new, and thousands of strangers, when they needed it. I had no regrets.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Journey Ends

I have decided that I won't be running the Marine Corps Marathon in three weeks, and I'm ok with it.

I think my last entry was a good therapy for me. Now, I can actually talk about the race without tears welling up. I can look forward to going out and cheering on my friends, rather than fear how I will feel seeing everything going on without being a part of it. 

The reality is no matter how hard a decision this was to make, deep down, it was truly the right one. There are many other races in my future, and this insures that. 

When my foot issues got bad in early September, I toyed with the idea of doing a November race instead, either Richmond or Philadelphia, but have since decided that would still be rushing myself. This can be such a long term, chronic condition, that I want to do everything I can to take care of it now rather than risk how bad it could get in the future. 

So, for now, it's rest and planning out the journeys and adventures that await.

Friday, September 30, 2011

30 Days

Well, the Marine Corps Marathon is 30 days away, and, the uncertainty of whether or not I will be able to participate is growing with each day that passes. I've got 2 weeks of physical therapy under my belt, and while I have been seeing some improvements, progress is still slow and frustrating, especially for a Type A personality.

My therapist told me I could run 5-6 miles last weekend, certainly nowhere near the 18-20 I originally had down on my training plan. I planned on 6, and if I felt good after that, I'd do 2 more for a total of 8. I am registered for a half marathon tomorrow, and needed to test out my body to see if 13.1 would even be possible. I had 5 pain free miles. As a result, I am spending this weekend at home rather than running through the hills of West Virginia. This was a race I have been trying to plan for for 2 years now, so to say I'm disappointed about having to cancel is an understatement.

To say that barely making it through 6 miles was a reality check is an even bigger understatement. While neither the podiatrist nor therapist has outright told me that MCM is out of the question, I am beginning to accept that it probably is. I'm beginning almost a mourning process so to speak. My emotions are still too raw - I can barely talk about it without tearing up because of the disappointment I feel so deep down. To know how close I was to being done with my training, I did get all the way up to 18 miles, and see it all go to waste is frustrating.  The early early hours, the pushing myself to my limit in 90+ degree temps and horrific humidity, all seem for naught now.

I am beginning to come around to the fact that even if my foot is feeling better by late October, is it really going to be worth it go through with my race plans? A friend asked me the other day why I feel the need to keep doing marathons. My response "because I want to do them better." Going into a marathon 7 weeks after my longest run and dealing with an injury is certainly not doing it better. Perhaps this is where the experience of having 2 fulls already under my belt is a good thing - I know how hard and painful it would be to begin with, dealing with these factors would certainly be worse.

So, I have not canceled any plans as of yet. I've missed the window to transfer my registration to another runner, but I can still transfer from the full marathon to the 10K, which I would certainly be capable of completing by that point. But, would I feel like I'm settling? Is it an all of nothing for me now? Am I admitting defeat? If I can't do the full, I'm not even sure I want to step foot into the expo. It would just be too painful.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Confessions - Follow up

Thank you all for the great input in my iPod debate. The jury is still out on this. Having run MCM last year, there are certain parts of the course that I think I would like a bit of distraction, So, I am still leaning towards having some tunes to turn to if needed. If I decide to go this route, I will get the specially designed One Good Earbud in an effort to address some of my safety concerns.

As for my foot issues, I actually was pretty reasonable with myself for a change. When faced with running a local half marathon this past Sunday, I came to the conclusion the night before that deep down this really was a bad idea. My foot was still achy, and there are other things coming up that I am looking much more forward to. The doubt and fear I had that I would do something to further hurt myself and cause me to have to back out of October plans was far too great. I didn't run, and Monday morning I called a podiatrist.

Wednesday morning I got my official plantar fasciitis diagnosis. The good news is that there were no surprises - this is what I expected. So, I'm now on oral steroids to combat the inflammation, which I think right now is the biggest issue of them all and what drove me to finally see a Dr since none of the at home treatments were working. She even told me that even at it's strongest dose, Ibuprofen wasn't going to touch it, validating in my mind my decision to go. I did vetoed the injection idea though, preferring to try the oral meds route first. The fact she let me choose rather than coming right at me with a syringe definitely impressed me. I have to wear running shoes pretty much all of my waking hours, and, I can still run a couple of miles 3-4 times a week.

Monday afternoon I have a physical therapy evaluation. I'm hoping once the inflammation goes down that the therapist will have me moving again, quickly. Needless to say, my participation in the upcoming Freedom's Run 1/2 Marathon and, of course, MCM, are both hanging in the air. The Dr did write "training for a marathon - wishes to resume training schedule asap" on my therapy slip, so at least we are on the same page. ;)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I have a confession to make, lately I have been struggling. Two weeks ago I had a fantastic 16 miler that really helped boost my confidence and chase away a lot of doubts I had been having about doing another marathon, but many of these feelings have returned after a disappointing 18 miler. I guess the poor attitude I had even going into it really sunk it for me before the run even started. I hadn't slept well the night before, it was extremely humid, and once the sun came up it got hot, quick. For some reason, 18 miles is my nemesis. Last year, I had the same problems. All runners go through things like this, and after a miserably hot summer, and a few things Mother Nature has thrown this way lately, like an earthquake and hurricane, finding excuses not to run and to be discouraged has certainly be easy.

I've also been dealing with a slight injury over the last few weeks. I thought I had finally tamed my plantar fasciitis problems, only to have them come back. I blamed some movements we did in my summer boot camp class as the primary culprit, but the reality is that it coincided with my mileage increase, so likely the combination of increasing both my mileage and going to twice a week intense cross training had something to do with it. I stubbornly did 18 miles knowing this, and yes, I knew it probably wasn't a good idea. Didn't this stubbornness lead to a stress fracture 3 years ago? Old habits are hard to break. I am being reasonable though. If it doesn't get better, I know 26.2 miles is impossible.

Anyway, the struggles with my 18 miler reignited a debate with myself - to iPod or not to iPod.

This brings my third confession - I've never run a race or done a long run while listening to music. I've probably only worn my iPod while running outside a handful of times, and all probably in my first year or two of running. Honestly, I'm not even sure I know where my iPod is right now.

Running with a music player is a pretty controversial topic in many circles. Some people swear by it, others are dead set against it, mainly as a safety issue. I agree it is a safety issue, and also feel it takes away from the race experience - listening to spectators and taking in the atmosphere as a whole. However, I have wondered lately if having music would help distract me when things got rough, especially since I am facing running the entire marathon alone. One of the reasons why I've never done it is because I never wanted to feel like it would be a crutch for me, one of those people would couldn't possibly think of running without. If I starting listening to music to on my long runs, would I ever be able to go back? Or, would I spend the money on a new, smaller player, wear it around with me, but never use it?

Yesterday I had a routine medical appointment, and was chatting with my doctor during the visit. She's currently training for her second half marathon, and is running it with another doctor and a couple of family members. She said that she could never run that distance alone, and what could people like me doing marathons possibly think about while out on the road for such a long time. That is the mystery of being a distance runner I think, and where some of us blossom, and some of us struggle. There's a fine line between squashing the doubts and letting the doubts take over.

So, I ask you - to iPod or not to iPod?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Running Through History, Part 2

I arrived home from our Williamsburg adventure on Monday, and Friday morning boarded a plane to my next adventure, Boston. Lauren invited me up for Memorial Day weekend and proposed running the Run to Remember, a race put on by the Boston Police Runner’s Club to honor those who have died in the line of duty. This is one of only a couple of half marathons that run through downtown Boston, and knowing the cause, there was no way I could turn down the opportunity. And, given my back of the pack pace, this was a race I didn’t need to qualify to run.

I was very anxious though, as Katie (who sadly was still feeling under the weather) discovered in the weeks before that there was a time limit on this race and she couldn’t get a straight answer from the race officials as to exactly what it was, and if there were going to be any sweeping points on the course after those doing the 5 miler split off at mile 2. It seemed the time limit was about 2:45. I did two races under this is March, so it was possible. Lauren told me it was a great PR course, so I felt bolstered that this was a challenge I could do and tried to put my nerves aside.

I arrived Friday morning and spent time with Lauren at her home and wandering the town of Plymouth. It had been about 20 years since I had been to the waterfront there before, and it was just as I remembered. Saturday we headed into Boston to pick up our packets and she took me on good portion of the Freedom Walk. How cool! I definitely need to plan a trip up there just to take all of it in. We also passed through Boston Common and Boston Garden and she helped me on my quest to find the Life is Good flagship store on Newbury Street. We spent a lot more time on our feet than I would have liked, but sightseeing in a new city was just too much fun!

We headed home to relax for awhile, enjoyed some pasta, and settled in for the early morning. Morning came and Lauren and I, along with her sister, Jill, headed into the city. We were able to park near Lauren’s hubby’s building and use the flush toilets there. Score! Before we knew it, it was time to line up at the start. We said our good byes, agreed on a meeting point after, and I made my way to the back of the pack. It was a HUMID morning and my nerves were very high.

I crossed the starting line and off I went. When I start a race I generally try and run a bit of the start until it seems safe for me to start doing intervals without getting run over. (This is NOT the way interval running is supposed to be done.) It quickly became apparent that this was a FAST race. Unlike any other races I’ve done, no one around me was doing intervals or speed walking. Around mile 1 I finally had an opening to jump up onto a curb and take a walk break. This was not good, but I still felt pretty good and knew I had to keep pushing since I had to be where the course split off by a certain point. My walk break was over and I jumped back into the throng of runners. About a half mile in I was able to take another walk break. Finally at mile 2 we reached the course split and I was doing more than fine on time and it had finally cleared out enough that I could do my 2:1’s.

The damage was done though. Running my ass off the first couple of miles and in that humidity did me in. I saw Lauren and Jill on the out and back about mile 6. I was still chugging along a bit at that point, but by mile 8 or so I’d given up to just walking the whole thing. I was miserable and mad at myself. This was not how this was supposed to go down. Then, about mile 11.5, once the course had made it’s way back into downtown from the river, it happened. A police car came behind me and the rest of the back of the pack and announced that we had to move to the sidewalks because they were going to open the street. I started having a near panic attack. I vaguely recognized where I was, but had no idea where I was supposed to go, and didn’t have my cell phone on me in case I ran into trouble and needed to get a hold of Lauren. The other back runners and I got to an intersection and I yelled at a cop across the street to find out where we were supposed to go. I was near tears. But, it also got me moving. I was determined to stay ahead of the street openings for the last couple of miles. I kept going and going, trying to run smartly and keep myself calm, a slightly tall order. I was so over this though and ready to be done. Finally I got to the bridge back to the race area and knew the end was close. Thank God.

As I came down the final stretch I looked for Lauren and Jill and gave them two big thumbs down. My final time was 2:52:45, generally one of my decent times, but I was so disappointed in and even angry myself though for not coming close to my 2:45 goal and for having my worst ever race that I couldn’t appreciate that I had made it through. Mentally, I don’t think I was ever in it. As days and weeks passed though, I have started to feel better about it, but still not great. Boston is a wonderful town, but clearly one you need to be fast to run.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Running Through History, Part 1

So, what does a runner who spends her days around dusty old books do? Finds races in historic places of course!

Last fall I saw an ad in a magazine for an inaugural race in Williamsburg. I immediately knew I had to do it. I have loved the town all of my life. My parents took me there on vacations while I was growing up, and I was even lucky to spend a summer living there in college and working on the archaeological site at Jamestown. While at the Marine Corps Marathon expo at the end of October, the Run for the Dream folks were there and I jumped at the chance to sign up. Poor Megan, we'd only just met me in person an hour earlier, and she found herself signing up as well. I had at least one partner in crime lined up! Score!

May came, and along with Kim and Laura, we headed down for a long weekend in Colonial Williamsburg. Katie unfortunately had to cancel her plans at the last minute due to injury. Laura was sadly also ill, but didn't want to turn down an opportunity to go to CW, and came along as cheer squad, complete with her own colonial garb. The organizers of this race really set up a first rate race weekend. Half marathon registrants received weekend passes to Colonial Williamsburg and a one day pass to Busch Gardens along with a meal voucher. And, since we were staying at a host hotel, we had shuttle transportation race morning.

We arrived on Friday and hit up the small, but decent, expo and then headed to our hotel before checking out the restored area. We met up with Laura C., our ROTE buddy from NC, and went to Chownings Tavern for an evening of good food, drinks, and laughs at the gambols. If you ever go, pay close attention to the magician and try and figure out how he palms not one, but THREE potatoes. We're still talking about it two months later! Ha!

We also had the opportunity to meet a new ROTE member, Rebecca, and her husband, Brian. They were in town to run Saturday's 8K. We got up early for breakfast on Saturday and headed out to the race course to cheer them on. After we caught them near Merchant's Square, we went to the stadium on the William & Mary campus where the finish line was. It was fast becoming clear, Sunday was going to be a hot day to run a half marathon.

Race morning was indeed sticky. We boarded our assigned shuttle (we had to sign up for timed ones at the expo and got color coded wrist bands; I don't think they were ever checked) and headed to the start area. A fife and drum group played while everyone milled about. Since I had another half marathon the following weekend, I planned to take it easy and just have fun with Kim and Megan. The course started winding through the restored area, and was indeed beautiful. No matter where we looked, there was Laura, our little colonial, along with Rebecca and Brian, cheering for us. We never knew where'd they'd pop up in those early miles!

We knew this course was going to be hilly, but the elevation chart on the website was definitely no match for what we really encountered! As we chugged along, around mile 6 we made a new friend, Heather, who asked if she could join us in our 2:1 intervals. Before we knew it, Heather and I were talking and running along and steadily getting ahead of Megan and Kim. I looked back as we crested a hill, and both were waving at me to keep going. (They told me later they were glad I found someone to run with as I had been pushing the pace a bit.) The remainder of the race was enjoyable as I got to know a new friend. While we were going up and down the rolling hills of Colonial Parkway, we started doing 1:2's instead to help with the heat and humidity that there beginning to kick our butt. Fortunately, the parkway had a good amount of shade, except at the turnaround. Kudos to the race organizers for keeping what was a beautiful bit still kind of boring out and back interesting. Imagine our surprise when we saw a man playing a piano just around mile 8.

As we reached mile 11, we couldn't wait to get off of the parkway. Plus, I knew Laura was going to be just ahead with cold water and Gatorade. It quickly was apparent though that in order to get off the parkway we had to climb a ramp with a nasty incline and even nastier camber while in the full sun. We got to Laura, who still had Rebecca and Brian in tow (thanks guys for sticking around) and poured water over ourselves to cool off. Laura C. had seen me on the out and back along Colonial Parkway and told Laura that I had gone ahead of Kim and Megan. I was immediately chastised by both her and Katie (who'd she'd been txting with updates) to slow down and remember that I had a half next weekend. I assured them that Heather and I were keeping a good, but slower pace, and doing a longer walk then run.

The course took us onto the William and Mary campus. We were both overheated and exhausted by that point and walking moreso than anything else. After one more final hill, we turned toward the stadium, ran through a tent playing the Olympic theme, and were on the track. We had to run about 3/4's of the track before crossing the finish line. Our time was 3:02:36. Not bad considering the heat and hills. After getting our medals, Heather and I said our good byes and traded phone numbers in hopes of perhaps crossing paths at another race in the future. I found Laura C. and our awesome cheer squad. We cheered in Kim and Megan (who were delayed after heroically helping catch a runner as she went down due to leg cramps), and then headed to the post race picnic.

The post race picnic took place in the sunken garden at the college. In addition to the standard post race food, runners were entitled to 2 beers and a bbq sandwich. Yum! The only drawback was the lack of shade, which apparently they are addressing for next year.

Despite the heat and vast quantity of unexpected hills, this was a top notch event. I really felt like I got alot of "bang for my buck" and definitely loved the long weekend away with good friends in a place I love. I debated whether or not to do it again next year, but everyone's enthusiasm to do it again (and bring some other friends along) is definitely drawing me in.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Last Minute Decision

So, home from Country Music Marathon and I was feeling pretty good and with nothing planned for the weekend, my mind started wandering. Good things rarely come from this. Thanks to the wonders of facebook updates, I was reminded that the Frederick 1/2 Marathon was that weekend, and was still open for sign ups. I loved this race last year, setting a personal best in pretty miserable weather even. And, the weather forecast looked amazing for race morning. Oh, what to do, what to do.

I was trying to be smart about my race plans this year and knew deep down that I shouldn't sign up for it. I mentioned it to Katie, in hopes she would help talk me out of it. She did, in a way.... She reminded me about the relay and the fact she had been interested in doing it but it just never came to fruition. Doing the relay never even occurred to me, mostly due to the fact that the relay has traditionally been a 4 person team covering the distance of a full marathon. This year organizers did away with the full marathon, and therefore the relay was now a 2 person team covering the half marathon distance - the first runner doing 8 miles and the second the remaining 5.1.

It was Wednesday afternoon and online race registration was already closed, but teams could sign up at local packet pick up locations, and the one that night happened to be at Katie's local running shop. It was a sign! She headed over there after work and Team Last Minute Decision was ready to roll! We were laughing at ourselves for jumping into something so spontaneously (we both normally plan things like this soooo far in advance) and also for not having thought of this sooner.

I spent the night before the race at my parents' house to help cut down on some of the driving race morning. Katie met me there very very early on Saturday morning, and we headed west to Frederick. We both like getting to places early rather than get there stressed, and we certainly over estimated how long it would take us to get there and park. The plus side though was an amazing parking spot and ample time to make more than one visit to the bathroom.

As race time approached, Katie and I bid our farewells. She had to take a bus to the transition area while I headed to the starting line. She had been feeling a bit under the weather, so I agreed to run the longer of the 2 legs. I was looking forward to running through the historic downtown and by the beautiful city parks again. The race started at 7:30, and I told her that I had hoped to keep a good 12 minute average pace, so she should see me about 1:36 into the race.

Standing around in the corrals I ran into a childhood friend who was doing the half, her second ever. I also ran into a couple of fellow Half Fanatics. The announcer said that there were some elites running the race who were Olympic qualifiers as well. There was a great energy in the air and the weather was pretty good as well, definitely nowhere near the high temps and humidity of the year before.

The race start itself was pretty uneventful. It quickly became apparent though that there were hills in those early miles that I had no recollection of. I pushed ahead without trying to overdue it, reminding myself I had just done a half the weekend before, regardless of how much I may have walked of it. The course went through the historic downtown and I had memories of places we had visited while in town for race weekend the year before. We went along the big city park and into the neighborhoods. Some of the houses got into it, sitting outside and cheering, sprinklers set up, and offering snacks.

A couple of miles before the transition at mile 8, my stomach started to let me know it was unhappy. Despite the stomach cramps, I kept pushing along, determined to get to the transition area. I knew from the course map that there was a water stop at the transition, which meant a bathroom, too. I took a couple of extra walk breaks here and there in an effort to get a couple of deep breaths in hopes of calming my tummy down, counting down the miles and portions thereof until I'd get to mile 8. I did get a good laugh at mile 7.5 when I passed a group of guys handing out bacon. That was definitely something new to see on a course! And, with only a half mile to go, I probably would have taken a piece had my stomach been much more agreeable.

I reached the transition area and expected to have someone yelling out bib #'s or something, but no luck. The advantage of being the back of the pack though is that there really wasn't much of a crowd left waiting for their runners, so Katie and I easily spotted one another. She put her foot up on the curb and I reached down and took the timing tag off my ankle and put it on hers. We exchanged hugs, too, and she was on her way. My time, despite the hills and stomach cramps, 1:35 and change. Right on time.

After taking advantage of bathrooms right next to the transition (and fortunately the first I had seen on the whole course without a line), I was on a bus on my way back to the start/finish area. The bus dropped us off at the bottom of the parking lot at the "relay tent". Volunteers there gave us our medal (runner #2 would get theirs upon crossing the finish line) and we walked up to the finish festival area. I went in search of food and water. It quickly became apparent that this would be a problem - the water was directly after the finish line and was fenced off. Um, yeah. I did manage to hop a fence to get into the food line. Luckily, my car was only a few feet away, and had a small cooler in it. Rather than try and figure out how to break into the finish line, I decided to pick my battles and get a cold bottle out of my car.

Snacks in hand, I headed to the race track infield where I could watch for Katie to come in, and enjoy a beer in the process. ;) It was weird to watch people finish who I recognized from being near on the course and knowing I had been done for about an hour already. I cheered Katie as she crossed the line, finished my beer, and headed off in search of her. We hopped in line to pick up our race shirts (a disaster from an otherwise well organized day), and then headed on our way back down the road, stopping at Cracker Barrel for celebratory pancakes on the way.

The relay was definitely a neat experience - all of the race amenities (and even a medal!) without having to do the full distance. The Loopers now have 4 teams (16 runners!!!) for the Baltimore Marathon relay in October. I'll be doing the first leg, as I really want to see what the first part of the course is like. The second half of the course is essentially the 1/2 marathon course I ran last year. This way I will be familiar with a majority of the marathon course, an advantage since Baltimore might be my fall 2012 marathon. ;)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Running Music City

Alright, so my updating here sucks big time. I was off for over a week and half and had big plans to catch up, and, well, guess what happens when you only have a couple of days at home inbetween long weekend trips planned around races - laundry and sleep. LOL.

So, April was a crazy race month (wait til you hear about May!), and it ended with a big trip to Nashville for the Country Music 1/2 on the 30th. This trip had been in the works for maybe a year with folks coming into town from near and far for it. I was looking forward to good times with good friends and definitely wasn't disappointed.

Katie, Steve, Laura, and I flew into town on Friday morning and headed right to the expo after checking in at our hotel. We had all heard stories of the hills in this race and decided to watch the course preview video that was playing. Maybe not the best idea, as Katie and I sat there watching the uphills and repeatedly going "owie". I had decided early on that this race was just going to be about fun with friends rather than time, and the video cemented that decision.

After the expo and some time getting settled into our hotel rooms, it was time to meet up with some ROTE friends for some quality carb loading. After good dinner and many laughs, we parted ways til morning.

A few weeks before the race, the 4 of us had decided to take advantage of a special "platinum" package being sold in conjunction with the race. For $60 (which worked out to $15 per person) you got VIP parking and 4 wrist bands that gave you admission into a VIP runners area with a huge spread of food and most importantly, your own area of Porta Johns. Having done Competitor races before, and encountered ENORMOUS bathroom lines, it was a no brainer to do this. While none of us really took advantage of the food, having a much shorter bathroom line was great. The only drawback was that we were in corral 26, which meant it took us nearly a half hour to even cross the start line, and then suddenly we all had to stop again only a mile into the race. Oy.

The start of the race was pretty unremarkable. It was probably one of the biggest races I've ever done, even perhaps exceeding MCM. While I hate the wave start and how long it involves standing around and waiting, it does help with course congestion.

The race itself was also pretty unremarkable. Katie, Steve, and I chugged along and around mile 3 we encountered the first of our major hills. Everyone around us was walking as one solid pack. There was nowhere to move or even really attempt to run, so we joined in. It was also HOT. The sun was merciless, and it wasn't helped by the fact that we didn't even cross the start line til about 8:30.

We continued on, walking more than running. The hills and heat were just sucking the life out of us. Then, about mile 7, we found nirvana. Over dinner the night before, our Canadian friends, Steven and Cara, told us about a gourmet popsicle place that visited earlier that day. Cathy, one of our Nashville hosts, mentioned that she thought it was near the race course. Suddenly, I saw the sign for the shop and a woman standing out front behind a freezer. I stopped in my tracks. Steve thankfully had some cash on him and was willing to stop and treat us. I chose a honeydew one. OMG, it was amazing. Plus, I felt my internal temp drop by easily 5 degrees.

We were the envy of many around us, and garnered a few laughs from as well from those who were entertained that we had actually stopped and done this. I think they were just jealous. ;) The shops on this stretch of the course definitely did well that morning - while enjoying our icy treats, we passed a group of women who had stopped and bought iced coffee.

Around this time our Crazy British friend, Alison, caught up to us on the course. We were about to hit a good downhill portion of the course and my legs were beginning to stop walking and get some good speed in. I bid a farewell to Steve and Katie, and joined up with her for the remainder of the race. It's always fun to spend time getting to know someone while out on the course and help the miles go by faster as well. I learned that she really is Crazy as she tried her darnedest to push me towards a sub 3 hour finish.

We were racing towards beer though. Cathy's dear husband had agreed to man our official ROTE stop on the course just before mile 12. This spot had been chosen so our friends Greg and Steph, who were doing the full marathon, would be able take advantage of his services as well. It was around this same point that we had to climb more hills, too. I stood there drinking a cup of beer and seriously contemplated just hanging out there rather trying to finish, lol. But, we did bid our farewells and continue the final mile home. I am thankful to Alison for dragging me along in those last couple of miles. We didn't finish under 3 hours, but we certainly had fun along the way!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spring has sprung!

Spring has officially sprung! This means running season is in full swing and I am woefully behind in race recaps - too many to count and three more races on the near horizon.

The weekend after Cherry Pit (4/10) was the Women's 5K by the Bay, the first in this year's Women's Distance Festival races. Having done well in the race in previous years, I was shooting for under 34 minutes, a new PR. I had essentially done this back in February at the Super Bowl 5K in Dundalk, but since it was not chip timed, my official time did not reflect my actual result. A cool, overcast morning was on my side, and my new, official 5K PR is 33:20.

The next weekend (4/16) was my last long run before the Country Music 1/2 in Nashville. For it, Katie and I decided to try out a 10 miler down in Waldorf, MD. The 10 miler was part of the St. Charles Running Festival. While technically an inaugural race, it was actually rebranded, having been a half marathon the year before. Katie and I were drawn to it, as the race management was being handled by Corrigan Sports, the same folks behind the Baltimore Ten Miler, and Frederick and Baltimore Running Festivals. With the proven track record, we decided to give it a try.

The day or so before the race I started looking at the weather forecast and really really worrying. The potential was there for heavy heavy rain and very strong wind gusts. This could get really nasty really quick. Katie remained positive, reminding me of the first 10 miler we did together, the Baltimore 10 in 2009, and how horrendous that weather was and the fact we pulled through smiling and laughing at the end. The problem with this forecast was this would April rather than June, and temps would be in the 40s.

We headed to Waldorf early in the morning, under gray skies and heavy winds. Parking was plentiful at Regency Furniture Stadium, the home of the Souther Maryland Blue Crabs minor league baseball team. This was a great venue for the race, which plenty of covered areas and indoor bathrooms for everyone to use, as well. The only drawback was the 1/2 mile or so walk from the stadium to the start, but hey, I've done worse before and it was a good warm up.

I had toyed back and forth about how hard I wanted to run this race, and decided with the forecast that I wanted to pace Katie and spend some quality time having fun with her. No sense taking the risk in slipping on a soggy course while chasing a PR. The course was described as flat, but as we all know, race organizers lie, and this was no exception. There were at least two pretty significant uphills.

The weather was on our side for the first 4 miles or so. The chilly wind we encountered when we got to Waldorf had died down and the temps were actually comfortable. And then the rains came. We were soaked by mile 8. We realized around mid point that Katie was on track for a PR for herself and we kept trucking. She was a trooper and did awesome, especially on a particularly nasty hilly in the late miles in which everyone else around us was walking.

The course went through some residential areas and then wound through some country roads. The highlight though, especially for this baseball loving girl, was that the finish line was on the baseball field, next to homeplate. Katie kept pushing as we got closer and closer to the stadium, and earned herself a new PR. We celebrated, and quickly got out of the rain and into dry clothes before finding some brunch. I got home and immediately threw all of my soggy clothes into the washing machine. They were so heavy from all of the water, that they threw the washing machine off balance and actually moved it when the spin cycle hit. Ha ha ha!

Overall, a fun race, despite the downpours, and one I would do again.

Coming up next - fun in Music City!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some places have the blossoms, we have the pits

Sunday was my favorite 10 miler, the Cherry Pit. This a small (although growing, this year there were nearly 500 runners) local race put on by my running club, the Annapolis Striders. The course takes you through horse and farm country in southern Anne Arundel County. While it doesn't have the scenic cherry blossoms and monuments of the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in DC (which is held on the same day), it also doesn't have 15,000 runners. And, the Pit, if you registered in advance, cost you $5 max. I've managed to sway several of my Looper partners in crime to the joys of this fun and well organized race.

This was my first ever 10 miler back in 2009, and I did it in what I thought was a pretty respectable 2:21:22. In 2010, I decided to give it what I had and as I charged across the finish line, missed a sub 2 hour time by mear seconds. My final time was 2:00:01. I managed a 21 minute PR - taking 2+ minutes PER MILE off my pace. That's generally unheard of. A year later I still look upon that race with nothing but pride and I realize how much confidence it gave me. It was probably one of the first times I felt like a real runner.

This year, I was determined to get my sub 2 hour. While I had been managing good long runs leading up to it, my weeknight runs were pretty much none existent, so I began to worry whether my body was going to cooperate with this endeavour. Jen and I started out the race together. It was a bit chilly at the start, but the sun was coming up and warming things on the early Spring morning. The company made those early miles enjoyable and fly by. Every now and then I would glance at my watch - some of our run intervals were around 9:30, fast, especially considering the general incline of much of the course. I already had it in my mind though that if I was going to break 2 hours, and do it well, I had to test my limits and push as hard as I could.

We made it through the first 3.5 or so miles and turned onto a country road, one of my favorites of the course. We kept our intervals until we got to this great downhill stretch and I decided to just keep going. I really wanted to enjoy this downhill and bank up some time for the later miles when I would probably need it. I flew down the half mile or so. Jen took a breather and sent me ahead. I was excited when she caught up to me a bit later though. How much fun is this portion of this course? According to my watch, the point we started at is roughly 164ft in elevation, and you finish below sea level. Fun! Of course, you can't have a downhill that fun without paying for it on the other end.

We finished up our adventure on the country road and made our turn off of it around mile 5. The lovely Laura was waiting and cheering for us as we stared at the next hill on our way out of the gully. I kept pushing and pushing, and Jen decided to fall back a bit around 5.5. She kept me in her sight as long as she could though, following my intervals. I kept pushing, even though I saw THE HILL coming up at mile 6. I remember this hill well from last year - I felt like I was flying up it effortlessly, picking off runners all along the way. This year, I got about half way up, was exhausted and overheated and decided to power walk.

The course then made a turn onto South River Clubhouse Road. Mentally this was the hardest for me. I knew at the end of this road was mile 8 and my turn towards the finish, which would then be mostly downhill. It was a fight between mind and body, full of more hills to keep it "interesting" as well. Then, just before mile 8, I heard a voice enthusiastically cheering. Wait, I know that voice - it was Margaret! Or was? Maybe I was halucinatting thanks to the exhaustion that was setting it. I turned the corner and realized it was her. I was hurting at this point and nearly cried as I gave her a huge hug. And, just over her shoulder, I saw the last water stop and turn onto Rt. 2 to head back to the high school. Plus, I was still on target (as best as I could tell given my horrible math skills) for my sub 2. I made the turn and chugging along, getting closer and closer to the finish.

Just before mile 9 is when the glorious downhill I had been anticipating came. I ran most of the next half mile plus. Get me there quicker, I kept think, I'm sooo ready to be done. And couple of more turns, by now my legs felt like lead, and I was near the finish. I took a couple of seconds to catch my breath and made my turn to the finish. As I got closer, I gave it all I had left in the tank. My final time (per my watch) 1:57:17. I had done it, and with time to spare. I was happy.

So, with this now behind me, my crazy Spring race schedule is now in full swing. I've got the first of the Women's Distance Festival 5K's this weekend, followed by another 10 miler, and then at the end of the month my first race trip of the year - the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville. This half is very well known for it's hills, particularly in the first half. Cherry Pit was probably a good representation of this. If there's one thing I learned this past weekend, it'll be that if I want to enjoy myself in Nashville, I will have to take it easy on the hills or I will pay for it later.

I could not believe how sore I felt after Cherry Pit. I don't remember feeling that bad after my remarkable race last year. Maybe I did and just race amnesia had set it, who knows. I can't help but think that my slacking on my weeknight runs had something to do with it. Getting into a better routine is definitely imperative if I'm going to make it through the Spring. Now is just this cold, wet weather we've had as of late will cooperate...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

#15 - Nikia's Nippy Nor'easter Half

Surprise! I didn't really make mention of it here, but I actually had two half marathons planned for this month. Yesterday was Nikia' Nippy Nor'easter Half (and relay) up on the NCR Trail.

Sponsored by Back on My Feet, this was a nice and low key race that I essentially used as a training run. I first heard about it last month when BOMF brought a team to the Striders' Valentine's Day 5K. Early registration was only $15.

The race started at the ranger station in Monkton and ran south on the trailing, turning around just before Paper Mill Road to make the return north. I got there early in order to find a decent parking spot and later met up with some friends from the Striders, hanging around until everything started at 9am.

My plan was basically to run whatever pace felt comfortable. My legs have still been a bit sore since B&A, so I had no plans to push hard and try and beat my new PR time. I knew that the packed stone surface of the trail would help lessen the impact of the miles on me.

The run itself was uneventful. It was chilly at the beginning but warmed up very quickly and was a gorgeous morning while running along the Gunpowder River. This is not a race for those who like crowds - I went for noticeable periods of time without seeing another runner, biker, or hiker.

The peace and quiet was nice, but also kind of a danger for me. The last 4 miles were rough just from exhaustion and there was nothing to really distract me. I'm proud of myself for sticking with my intervals though, mentally keeping myself going rather than just giving up and taking extra walks and trudging along.

According to my watch, my time was just under 2:42, just a few minutes over my B&A time. This is shaping up to be a very interesting year.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

B&A Trail Half - Starting the Season Strong

Last Sunday was the B&A Trail Half Marathon, my first big race of the year. Now, don't be confused by the trail aspect of this. This is not what many think of when they hear trail, rather it is a paved Rails to Trails path. I train on this trail during much of the year, but this was the first time I had really been on it since the late fall.

In 2009, this same race was my first ever half marathon. I was spent by mile 12, wondering why anyone would ever want to run a full marathon, and finished in 3:02, happy to be near my 3 hour goal. This year this race marked my 14th half marathon, and I was putting everything into it.

My previous best for a half was 2:46, which I did in May at Frederick and repeated in October at Baltimore. Both of those races were very hilly. While I lost some momentum climbing the steep hills, I made up lots of time letting gravity pull me on the downhills. Just how well would I be able to do on a mostly flat path without those downhills to help increase my momentum?

I was thinking a 2:40 might be possible, but taking nearly 30 seconds off my pace per mile is pretty huge to begin with. Plus, I felt like I had really slacked off in my training in January and February. While I had some excellent long runs on weekends, my midweek runs were sometimes non-existent. My normal 3:1 run/walk intervals didn't seem to be serving me well either, and were helping put doubts in my head about reaching my goal. I kept wondering how I possibly completed a marathon with them back in the end of October, and now most runs seemed strained with them.

Katie suggested I drop back to a 2:1, the intervals I had been using on long runs with her. She said that I seemed to really know how I could push with them so it might be worth trying. A lackluster run doing 3:1's the Thursday before the race seemed to seal the choice for me. Physically I could probably do the longer run, mentally I just couldn't. While I had made that decision, even the day before the race I wasn't sure just how hard I wanted to do this. 2:40 seemed daunting, and I decided that if I finished around my current PR time I would be happy.

I struggled over what to wear. The forecast called for heavy rain and high winds, but temps around 50 degrees. While a jacket would keep me dry, I was sure I would get hot and be miserable in it. I finally accepted the fact I would get wet, potentially drenched, and sucked it up, choosing to wear capris and a short sleeve shirt with a long sleeve shirt over top which I could tie around my waist once I was warm. A hat to keep rain out of my face completed my look.

The race started, as did a rain shower and some wind. Luckily this didn't last long and while most of the race was overcast, there was only a sprinkle here and there for the remainder. It was turning out to be great race weather - mild temps and no sun to bake you. Hmmmm, I need to take advantage of this.

I chugged along on my 2:1 interval's, hitting an average 12 minute/mile pace at every single mile marker, and was still at it at mile 6. Now, I have been able to maintain this pace for a ten miler before, but hadn't for a half. I kept pushing, despite fears I was starting out too fast. During some of my run intervals, my pace even hit 9:00 minute/mile. It felt good but freaked me out. Too fast, too fast, don't bite yourself in the ass, just kept playing through my head. But, it felt good.

And then the turnaround came. The way this course works is that you start at Severna Park High School, and run about a mile and half through various neighborhoods so the pack can thin out before reaching the trail. We got on the trail and then headed south. About mile 7, you have to go down a hill, about .7 miles long and then turnaround and immediately climb right back up it. It is a long steady climb, which does flatten out slightly midway before finishing the climb and reaching the head of the trail and heading back north to the high school.

I hate this hill. We train on it during the 10K class, and I hate it. It sucks the life out of you. When I did this race in '09, I don't even think I attempted to run up it. Since hills have really become my strength over the last year, I was determined to beat it in this race. I was so excited to see my friends Joe and Erin, and their adorable human and canine sons, Declan and Brody, cheering just before the turnaround. It was a great boost for me. As I made my climb back up, I passed Kelly on her way down. When I got to the top of the hill and back onto the trail, I found Katie, Kim, and Megan together, and Laura not far behind them. It was good to see them doing well, and I kept pushing along.

Around mile 8 I figured out that I was still on my 12 minute/mile pace, even with the climb up Boutler's Way. Wow! A PR might happen after all. And then it happened, I hit mile 10 at exactly two hours. I had a PR, it was just a matter of by how much. I knew the final 5K would not take me 40 minutes. If I could stay on the 12 minute pace, I'd finish in just over 36 minutes. O.M.G. I then became determined to. Pushing, pushing, and pushing. Despite the number of miles already under my belt, that 9 minute pace popped up here and there, but overall I tried to be consist at about a 10:30 pace on my runs and power walking my walk breaks.

I reached Severna Park and knew I would be turning off the trail and in the final stretch. I was excited and pushing through the exhaustion and pain I was feeling. I knew my roommate, Steph, was volunteering at the finish line and she and my friend, Mimi, were waiting with my medal and hugs. I picked it up as best I could in the final stretch. My final time, 2:37:03. I had beaten my PR by just under 10 minutes. This was huge. I had taken an average of 45 seconds off of my pace. It was also my most consistent race - being at that 12 minute pace at EVERY mile.

I discovered a couple of minutes later, that perhaps for the first time ever, I finished the half before the winner of the full came in. Another minor victory in my mind, lol. I waited for my friends to finish, while enjoying hot pizza that was being continuously delivered to the school. After awhile we headed to a fabulous brunch. A couple of days later, I was still on cloud 9.

A special thanks to all of my friends who were on the course that day, either working water stops or shouting a quick "hi" as we passed one another. Getting to see so many of you really makes this race so fun!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Here Comes #3

Assuming all goes according to plan this year, marathon #3 will happen. Last week I officially registered for the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon.

In other news, the last couple of months have been fairly uneventful, contributing to the silence on my end. I did do a couple of 5K's in early February and managed good times. One is unofficially a PR. Had it been a chip timed race rather than manually clock timed, it would be official.

First major race of the year is this coming Sunday, the B&A Trail Half Marathon. This was my first ever half marathon back in March 2009. This weekend it will be my 14th. How crazy is that. I have been planning on shooting for a PR with this race, but am not sure it'll happen, so I'll just have to see how I feel on race morning. Right now there's also a 90% chance of soaking rain all day, so that might definitely be a factor as well.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 plans

A new year and time for new goals! I've been starting to plan out things. 2010 saw 2 full marathons and 9 half marathons. The 2011 goal is to focus on quality over quantity. So far, here's what I'm thinking...

March 6th - B&A Trail 1/2 Marathon (Severna Park, MD)
This was my first ever half marathon back in 2009, and I can't wait to see what kind of time I can do with it two years later.

April 3rd - Cherry Pit 10 miler (Edgewater, MD)
One of my club races which has quickly become a favorite for me. In 2010, I took over 20 minutes off of my 2009 time.

April 30th - Country Music 1/2 Marathon (Nashville, TN)

May 22nd - Run for the Dream 1/2 Marathon (Williamsburg, VA)
This is an inaugural race in a town I love. Can't wait for it! Haven't spent much time there since I lived there during the summer of 1998 while in archaeological field school at Jamestown.

May 29th - Run to Remember 1/2 Marathon (Boston, MA)
Heading to Boston to spend time with my friend, Lauren. She recommended this race, and knew daughters of retired police officers would love to come up for it.

June 5th - Zooma Annapolis 10K
This will be the 4th running of this (mostly) women's race, and I've done the previous 3.

June 18th - Baltimore 10 miler
I hated having to sit this one out in 2010 due to IT Band issues.

August 7th - Rock n' Roll Providence 1/2 Marathon (Providence, RI)
Another excuse to go visit Lauren. Yay!

August 28th - Annapolis Ten Miler
The race you love to hate/hate to love.

The spring and summer will also see some of the Women's Distance Festival 5K's. I have an idea of which ones I'd like to do, but am waiting for the final schedule to come out. I am also considering a half marathon nearby in Cambridge, MD on April 9th.

Yes, there will be races September-December, but only a couple of things are certain for that time frame right now, one of them - the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon. I considered others as my 2011 full, but in my heart of hearts knew it best to do MCM again. I feel so fortunate to have such a world class race practically in my backyard.

So, the fall race schedule is still coming together, dependent on what will fit into a good MCM training plan. I do not want to do three half marathons immediately leading up to it like I did in 2010, but would still like to do one or two. Contenders right now are the Hidden Treasures 1/2 Marathon in Salisbury, MD, in September and the Freedom's Run 1/2 Marathon in West Virginia in October.

2011 will wrap up with the Celtic Solstic 5 mile.