Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fall racing recap

And I yet again fell off the blogging bandwagon. Sigh.

To say my Fall was crazy is a mild understatement.

The end of September I flew down to Orlando to visit good friends and run the Tower of Tower 10 miler at Disney. In 2010, I did the inaugural Wine & Dine 1/2, so I had done a night race before. Plan for Saturday was to do nothing. I laid around Katie & Steve's house, we went out for a big lunch, and I took a nap. I was feeling confident. And then the humidity hit me. I was not prepared and about 6.5 in I felt myself running out of steam quick. It hit Katie & Steve about the same time and we took to walking. I caught up with my buddy Sandy on the course, too. This was a miserable race and a PW by a long shot. While I was fortunate enough to feel ok after, many others did not. We did not stick around for the after party, and I'm glad as it was nearly 3am by the time we made it back to the house anyway.

Overall, I was not impressed with this race. I had heard great things about it's predecessor, the Tower of Terror 13K, and this did not live up to that. The course was boring. Granted, I've run boring courses before. But, I think boring in the dark vs. boring in the sunlight are two different things. There's not alot to look at in the dark to distract yourself. Disney did not live up to the on course entertainment I'd had at other races, either. And, the course got very narrow and crowded as we headed into and ran on the grounds of the sports complex.

I actually will be at Disney next year when the race is happening, but at the moment, am not planning on running it. I think night races in Florida and I just aren't meant to be.

Two weeks later was the Baltimore 1/2. This has traditionally been a strong race for me, and I was looking forward to running on a gorgeous Fall morning. Katie came up for Florida, and I started the race with her, Megan, and Kim. Sadly, due to crowding, I completely lost them a couple of miles in. I was keeping a pretty good pace and hit the hills pretty strong so just kept plugging along. After a couple of more miles I popped my iPod on (in one ear only and on low) to help distract me a bit. I did really get into the atmosphere though and quite frankly, had an absolute blast. My hometown made me proud. The crowd support and enthusiasm of people throughout the city was just awesome. And, I managed my best half time of the year!

The following weekend was the Army Ten Miler. This was my first time running it. I met up with Megan early early in the morning and we headed into the city together. She's an ATM vet, so it was great to have her show me the ropes. We hung out with ROTE friends beforehand, including our friend Rebecca who was in town from Germany. Yay! It was so good to see her. We were last together in May 2011.

My plan was to hang with Megan as long as I could. She has had amazing marathon training this fall, and was definitely more prepared than I. But, I was also still on a post-Baltimore high, so my confidence was up for a change. Our friend David started with us as well, but with MCM the following weekend, he fell back after awhile to conserve some energy for the following weekend. Megan and I got into a great groove and just kept pushing ourselves along. The 14th Street Bridge sucked as always. This was the third race I'd run it in, and it never seems to get any easier.

The atmosphere of this race was phenomenal. So many military runners and people honoring heroes. I teared up a bit when I saw a woman wearing a shirt honoring her son who had died in combat. The patriotism had some light moments, too, like the guy who played a fife and wore a tricorner hat WHILE running and got everyone pumped up. My first ATM, but definitely not my last.

That afternoon I hopped on a plane and flew to Florida to spend the week helping celebrate Katie & Steve's wedding. It was a wonderful week with special people I'm so lucky to have in my life. And, we were all brought together by running.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What I'm eating this week

I'm always leery when I find a recipe on Pinterest and others have labeled "best ever," however, I found a pad thai recipe recently that others raved about and decided to give it a try. I had seen others before, but this one was appealing due to the simplicity of the ingredients and the likelihood I'd have most on hand already. I was hoping it'd be at least comparable to what I get at my favorite local Thai place.

I did play with the recipe a bit of course. I mixed up a batch of sauce and put in a bit of chili garlic sauce for some heat. I used this as a marinade for a chicken breast that I sliced into thin strips. I let it hang out in the fridge for an hour or two while I worked on other things. Another addition I made was some sesame peanut tofu I came across while exploring my new, local Wegman's. (The stuff I order locally generally comes with both meat and tofu in it.)

The downside to this recipe was the amount of dishes involved. Cooking went fast, so everything had to be prepped and waiting it's turn. Thank goodness for dishwashers!

Cooking notes:
- I didn't measure the lime juice. I just squeezed a whole lime using my citrus press.
- Since I added extra ingredients, I did have to switch things up a bit in the cooking sequence. I dumped the chicken and it's marinade into the pan after removing the mostly scrambled eggs. After about 3 minutes of cooking/simmering I added in the noodles and an additional batch of sauce. I also tossed in the chopped up tofu here so it could warm through.
- My noodles took far longer than a minute to get soft. Maybe I didn't soak them long enough?
- I should have waited to add the green parts of the scallions. Since the noodles took longer to cook, they became very dark and wilted.
- I really really liked it with the double sauce.

Not as pretty a picture, but wow was this good!!!

Another great recipe I made recently was Skinnytaste's Baked Chicken Parmesan. This is a pretty straightforward recipe, so I didn't really make any changes to do. I haven't been able to find any whole wheat breadcrumbs so I used some Italian style Panko bread crumbs. This really gave the chicken a great crunch!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Postseason fever

Well, you all caught me in a lie. I promised a race report last week and then it never came to be. That's because this happened:

My beloved Orioles are making their first postseason appearance in 15 years. The number of hours spent watching late night baseball over the past 5 days likely exceeds my total hours of sleep, highlighted by actually getting to attend the game at Camden Yards on Sunday night thanks to dumb luck and a pre-sale lottery. Memories for a lifetime have been made though, and can't wait for this to continue.

GO O'S!!!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I'm eating this week

This post should be a race report from this past weekend's Tower of Terror 10 miler, but, frankly, I'm completely exhausted and admittedly taking the easy way out. There will be a report later this week though, I promise.

I got back into town late Sunday and had fortunately decided in advance to take Monday off to recover from the lack of sleep and catch up on life a bit. With Fall temps sneaking in here and there, I wanted to make soup. I decided on a basic vegetable soup recipe I made last Fall and loved, but of course decided to put my own twist on it a bit.

The main change I made was to add chicken for some good basic protein. Once I added the liquid (which, for me, was a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, a 48 oz. container of low sodium chicken broth, and a 1/2 c. of water for good measure), and brought it up to a boil, I added in 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts and simmered for 20 minutes. When time was up I took them out and added the pasta (orecchiette was my shape of choice). I shredded the chicken while the pasta cooked and dumped it all back into to the bubbling pot.

Yum. As I said, this is a good basic soup, and, as such, is not overwhelming with alot of complex flavors. The only added seasonings are some salt & pepper, and fresh thyme. Don't skimp on the herbs. Go with the fresh rather than dried. I really think that's the key to this one. I love fresh thyme, so I didn't even bother to measure out a tablespoon. I just stripped leaves off the stems til I had a good pile. I like the addition of the chicken. It really helped make this a healthy and very filling soup.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall Racing Season

Fall is officially here. I've discussed some recent races, but haven't really gotten into my race plans for the remainder of the year.

Coming off the heels of a bruising half marathon in Salisbury, I've been training for this weekend's Tower of Terror 10 miler at Disney World. I use the term training loosely, as I'm focused on the distance moreso than any kind of time. This race is all about fun. Plus, it doesn't even start til 10pm, so who knows what kind of shape we'll all be in while out on the course after midnight.

The rest of the year looks like this thus far -

Oct 13 - Baltimore 1/2
Oct 21 - Army 10 miler
Nov 3 - Down's Park 5 miler
Nov 18 - Philly 1/2
Dec 15 - Celtic Solstice 5 miler

The Baltimore 1/2 is the second part of the Maryland Double. I will get a bonus medal for successfully completing that and the Frederick 1/2 back in May. Baltimore will also be my 25th half. I'm so excited to hit that milestone in my hometown.

This is my first year running the Army Ten Miler. I'm a bit nervous since I know it has a tight time cut off prior to mile 5, but I hear it's a great race.

Philly should be a really fun weekend. I've gone up there twice before for the Rock N Roll Philly race that's held in September, and have heard that this course is better as you see much more of the city. When I did those races, it was a quick overnight trip. November's will be a full weekend exploring the city and hanging out with some fabulous running knitters I've had the pleasure of meeting, mostly online. The promise of post race margaritas was too much of a draw to say no, lol.

Lots of fun to look forward to!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What I'm eating this week

I had a rare weekend with very little planned, which meant I could spend some time in the kitchen.

For some reason I really wanted a baked potato the night before my planned 8 mile training run on Saturday morning. Of course, I needed some protein to go along with that. I immediately went to one of my favorite sites, Skinnytaste, to browse around. I decided on Baked Chicken with Dijon and Lime. It was delicious. I loved the flavor the lime gave the chicken. I think next time I make it I might use some chicken breasts instead of thighs and marinate them in the sauce overnight.

I tried something new with the potatoes. I picked up some basic baking potatoes, rubbed the skins with olive oil and some roasted garlic sea salt from a nearby gourmet shop. I baked them at 400 (since same temp needed for the chicken) for 45 minutes/til tender. OMG, this is how I'm making them from now on! The salt caramelized a bit and had a hint of sweetness to it.

I'd love to say that this meal fueled me for my whole 8 miles, but I did struggle toward the end, in part because I'd forgotten to pack an energy gel. I did the best I could with some Gatorade and a couple of Jolly Ranchers in it's place.

For dinner on Sunday I decided to dig out my Crock Pot. I bought it about a year ago and love it. I had always associated slow cookers with cans of greasy cream of something soups. It wasn't until I started researching recipes, thanks in large part to Pinterest (you can check out my slower cook board here), that I realized it's possible to do actual cooking in it, limiting how many processed ingredients you used. One of my favorite things to make in it is a basic roast chicken. The trick I've learned is to set it on some foil balls to keep it out of it's juice while cooking. At the end of the day it falls apart and is still super moist. But that's not what I made this time, lol.

With pork shoulder roasts on sale at the grocery store, I decided on Balsamic Honey Pulled Pork from Better Homes and Garden. Of course, I decided to get adventurous and make one that required making my own bbq sauce rather than just dumping bottles of some. I increased the chicken broth from 1/2 cup to a full cup since my roast was nearly 5lbs, unlike the 2-3lb one called for in the recipe. I also put some coarse salt and fresh pepper on the roast, in addition to the herbs it called for. I made no alterations to the sauce recipe. It was all excellent. I loved the tang the sauce has from the balsamic vinegar. It reminded me alot of some Carolina style sauces, and I think would be excellent to make for some grilled bbq chicken as well.

A good meal was a great way to wrap up a nice weekend at home. Always fun to find a couple of new recipes to add to the arsenal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Weekendlong Duathlon, err....Tri (part 2)

After finishing the 25 mile bike ride and enjoying our post ride bbq lunch, Jon (my partner in crime for the crazy weekend) and I headed down to Salisbury to pick up our packets for Sunday's Hidden Treasures Half Marathon. This was a route I knew well, having spent a semester driving between the two cities while working at an internship. It was fun to see both the familiar sites and changing landscapes along the way.

We must have been quite the sight at pick up, still wearing all of our bike gear.  Ok, maybe we left the helmets in the car. We met an older couple while waiting for the elevator at the hotel. The gentleman asked what we had been up to that day and could only shake his head when I filled him in on our weekend exploits. After catching up with my wonderful friends Anne & Matt over dinner, it was an early bedtime. We were both completely exhausted.

Unlike most, if not all, of my other halfs, this did not require a crack of dawn wake up. Race start was 9am and our hotel was only about 10 minutes away. Plus, with a small field, about 200 runners, parking was not an issue either. While I greatly treasured the extra sleep, I felt almost like I needed to find ways to fill the extra time. Another plus was being able to eat the complementary hotel breakfast. I got to have some hot oatmeal for a change.

We packed up the car and checked out before heading to the race. Late race start, meant no time to get back to the hotel for a shower before hitting the road for home. After getting to the Civic Center, where coincidentally my college graduation had been held, it was more of a hurry up and wait. I did get to say a quick hello to another college buddy, Jim, who was running the 5K for the third year. Finally it was time to head toward the start. There were no signs, people just pointed toward a row of trees and said it was past them.

I took up a spot near the back, and then we were off. I felt good and was in a decent groove early on, feeling like I was moving slowly but actually doing a decent pace. Around mile 4 we turned onto the Salisbury University campus. It really was like being home again, not that I ever ever would have dreamed of running through there before, lol.

The course then turned into neighborhoods along the water. It was beautiful! I was by myself, expect for one other woman who I kept ping ponging back and forth with for awhile. Eventually we turned onto Camden Avenue and headed back to the college. This was fun since I knew where I was and would be at mile 8 soon. My outer toe was bugging me a bit for no apparent reason, so I stopped and took my shoe off and adjusted my sock a bit. I should have realized at the time that this was essentially the beginning of a massive wall I couldn't overcome. It continued to annoy me, but again, I couldn't figure out the root of the problem.

Back through campus, and mile 8 was done. While the first part of the course was through shaded neighborhoods, the last miles were in business and industrial areas, minus some parts near corn and melon fields. Most importantly, they were all in full sun and it was pushing 11am. Physical and mental exhaustion kicked in at full steam at mile 9. I allowed myself a pity party of sorts and told myself I'd walk to the mile 10 marker but then I had to run the last 5K. It would only be 3.1 miles. The worst would be behind me.

Except, it wasn't. Mile 10 came and I went to run and everything hurt. My body was in full revolt and I ended up trudging along. The sag wagon drove by a couple of times while monitoring the course, and I summoned the energy I could to give a friendly wave when deep down I wanted to jump in and just be done with it all. I just kept repeating to myself that it was ludicrous to quit when I'd gotten that far.

I must have looked kind of rough. At one of the last water stops one of the volunteers pretty much made me stop so he could fill my water bottles for me. His help and kindness was much appreciated. Then, I got to mile 12, and basically the last intersection I'd have to cross. Not only were there no cops or volunteers to help me, it was also confusing as to exactly where I had to go. That part of road also made up the 5K course, so traffic cones were going in a couple of different directions and the one sign only said 5K, not half. I also couldn't find any spray paint markings on the road.

Up to this point the course had been very well marked so I couldn't believe what was happening. Fortunately, I had grabbed a course map "just in case" and had put it in the pouch on my water belt. Once I got my bearings I continued on my way, again, slowly walking along, counting practically every 10th of a mile  and praying to be done.

In addition to the late start, another quirk of this race was the indoor finish line. I could barely muster the energy to run over the finish line, but somehow I finally finished. And there were about 3 people inside at the time. No people cheering, no music, just the photographer, time keeper, and a volunteer handing out medals.  Organizers had moved all of the post race festivities outside, and across the street. And the medal I received was a generic running medal without any kind of info even identifying the race. They had some pulled pork sandwiches and other hot food for race participants, but the smell just nauseated me at that point.

Despite the problems, I did actually like this race and would do it again, but likely only if it started at least an hour earlier. I also learned that I'm just not cut out for back to back events. I had the same miserable final miles back in May when I did the Run for the Dream 1/2 the day after doing their 8K as part of the Patriots Challenge.

Two pretty rough races has been a bit demoralizing. It's been a further reminder of how much losing time to injury last fall affected me and how slow coming back from it has been. It also reignited a debate I had with myself last fall about whether or not I should consider listening to music when running solo. There is no longer a debate, I bought myself an iPod Shuffle earlier this week.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Weekendlong Duathlon, err....Tri (part 1)

Last month I mentioned my crazy weekend plans where I would essentially be doing a duathlon over two days this month. Well, things got even more interesting when a kayak outing got rescheduled twice due to bad weather. The final make-up date became the Friday of said crazy biking-running weekend, and thus how a du became a tri.

After work on Friday I headed over to Truxton Park and met up with Captain Kate and Pirate Pete of Kayak Annapolis. I’d bought a LivingSocial deal several months earlier for a sunset tour, complete with wine and cheese. Unfortunately, our first two attempts at scheduling this fell through due to storms, so it kind of became a do or die to do it on Friday evening due to the quickly approaching shorter fall days.

We went through a quick paddle lesson, and then launched our boats. We were in Spa Creek, and headed toward the Annapolis Harbor. Our route was about 3 miles total. About halfway, we pulled up in small park area with benches that overlooked the harbor and enjoyed our refreshments. After we set off again, we crossed through the harbor area and went up into Ego Alley. Was my first time seeing it from the water. Very cool. During our tour Pete provided some historical insights into the city. We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather. Overall, I had a great time and it was a wonderful way to kick off the weekend. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check them out!

Once we were back on dry land, I picked up some pizza to get some carbs in me, and came home and packed my bike gear in the car and got an overnight bag together. Saturday morning, I caravanned to Dover with Kim and Jon for the Amish Country Bike Tour. We arrived after the main wave start, so got caught in some traffic, but once we got moving again easily found some parking in the state employee lots near the Legislative Green. After unloading our bikes and putting air in the tires, we met up with some friends from the gym and were on our way.

There was a fair amount of automobile traffic until we really got out of the heart of the area. Fortunately the routes (from 15 miles all the way up to 100) are very well marked, so we didn’t need to rely on our queue sheets as we navigated around. We eventually found ourselves on quiet farm roads and practically in another world. As we were on one road, an older Amish gentleman was working his field with a horsedrawn wooden plow. It was a beautiful scene. The neighborhood children were out to greet everyone as they road by, too, making an interesting dichotomy of bikers in colorful clothing and high tech gear, and them in the handmade, sober outfits.

Around mile 20 we reached the rest stop, a one room schoolhouse. It was a flurry of activity, as all of the routes eventually funnel through there. Volunteers were in the yard serving snacks and refreshments, as some musicians provided entertainment. The highlight of all of this – pie! The winds had been steadily picking up during our ride. Forecasts called for them to gust up to 20mph by later in the afternoon when strong storms were supposed to move in. This made our last 5 miles much harder than the earlier ones had been, but we all got back safe and sound. We set up a picnic and enjoyed the bbq lunch provided to all participants.

Then it was time for the next adventure of the weekend to begin.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What I'm eating this week

Those of you who know me in real life know that one of my other passions is cooking. So, I figured why not start sharing some of my favorite recipes/experiments to help break up all of the incessant running talk? ;) Plus, it's a way I can procrastinate from writing about my CRAZY weekend...

Temps have started to drop here in lovely Maryland, and fall is definitely starting to make it's appearance. This made me want some comfort food, and chili was calling my name. I browsed through some of my Pinterest boards for inspiration (yes, I'm totally addicted to it) and happened upon the Skinnytaste recipe for Turkey Chili Taco Soup. Done! I planned on going to Trader Joe's after work and knew it might be hard to find a couple of ingredients there, so I grabbed them while getting lunch at the market near my office and made a list for later.

I made a couple of alterations. First, I put some canola oil in the bottom of the pot before browning the meat. I prefer to use ground turkey breast from TJ's, but it does stick very easily since it is so lean. Rather than one medium onion, I used a 1/2 of a yellow onion and 1/2 of a red onion since I had those leftover from other things and just sitting around in the fridge. Plus, it was trash night, so might as well use them rather than toss them. I also used 15 oz of tomato sauce rather than only the 8 oz called for the in the recipe. Why? Because TJ's only sells it in 15 oz cans and I figured why waste it? This is the glory of soups - just dump things in and see what happens. Since you add a can of refried beans, that acts as a good thickener, so I didn't think this would really dilute it too much, and I guess right. Finally, I added a heaping teaspoon of ground ancho chili peppers. I'm not a fan of very spicy food, but this really gives it great flavor, and beautiful deep, color.

I topped it off with some shredded Mexican cheese blend, and a bit of light sour cream.

Bottom line = yum!

What's your favorite fall comfort food?

Monday, August 27, 2012

2012 Annapolis Ten Miler

I had been really nervous about this race about a week earlier, then the weather hit these beautiful, low 80s temps accompanied by low humidity, and my thoughts that this could actually be a great race increased. As the week progressed a couple of friends mentioned some storms were supposed to hit on Sunday morning. This surprisingly didn't phase me at all. I've run enough races in rain at this point, that I knew I'd get through just fine regardless. And then, when my alarm went off at 5:30 on race morning, I heard it, the low rumble of thunder. Well, this is certainly going to be interesting. 

And, indeed it was. Kim, Jon, Jen, and I carpooled over to the stadium together, getting there about 6:30 to avoid the bulk of traffic and get Jon checked in for his volunteer duties. We kept shelter in the car while it stormed around us, complete with thunder and bright lightening. Hmmm, are they still going to be able start this race? 

About 7am there was a break in the storms so we decided to take advantage of it and got our pre-race bathroom trips in. We still had 45 minutes to the race. Announcements indicated the race was still on, but we  again sought refuge in the car as another wave passed through. Finally it was a few minutes from the start and it was time to get lined up. As we stood there waiting for the start, there were a couple of loud claps of thunder. Well, at least the street lights on the bridge can act as lightening rods???

Fortunately, there wasn't too much more time for the nerves to kick in, cause next thing I knew we were off. And then it downpoured on us. All you could do was cheer and laugh. Fortunately it didn't last too long, but the damage was done - we, and everything around us was soaked. I normally loved to sprint down Main Street, but this year, was sure to have solid footing on the wet bricks. Thanks to Jen's company, the first 3 miles went by very fast. Thanks to the staff at the Naval Academy's baseball stadium, we were sure to serenade those around us with a few bars of "Sweet Caroline". 

Due to some issues with local authorities, the course had to be altered this year. So, this ended up not being the course I've trained on off and on for the last 3 years. This made me nervous as I felt that it was hillier.

I hit a wall about 4.5 in, and then again about 7.5 in. The hills definitely got the better of me, and once the storms passed through, the sun came out and things got fairly hot and humid.

In the days leading up to the race, a couple of people found my blog by searching for information about people not finishing the race due to the 12 minute per mile pace requirement. (I hope you've found your way back here, and if so, had a great race!) The Striders did reassure people that if you were still on the course at 9:30, you would be allowed to finish, but would have to move to the sidewalk or shoulder. I am happy to report that I was coming into the finish around 10am, and the streets were still closed, I received a finish time, and a finisher's shirt. My chip time was 2:12:20 (clock time 2:23:12), just over a 13 minute per mile pace. 

So, if you are anxious about meeting the pace requirement, don't be! While challenging, this is a great race, mostly because of the runners who run it. As we were around mile 3.5, the lead pack was already past mile 9, and many were shouting words of encouragement to those of us in the back. This continued for most of the rest of the out and back. It was great to see so many friendly faces, both old and new. The Annapolis running community really is one of the best ones out there.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Managing Expectations

Yesterday it was announced that there will be no baggagecheck at this year’s New York Marathon. Now, this isn’t a little race, according to, in 2011 this was the largest marathon in the country with over 46,000 finishers. Needless to say, the internet exploded when this came out. I’ve never done the race, and am not familiar with the logistics involved, so I’m not going to debate it, but it does raise questions in my mind of what we as runners can reasonably expect and demand at race, especially when registration fees can vary from a few dollars to a couple hundred.

A safe course – This is perhaps something some people don’t think about. Your race registration fee covers permits, police and medical support, and everything that goes into planning a race itself and ensuring that you not only have fun but, most importantly, are safe at the same time. When the Annapolis Ten Miler was canceled in 2011 due to Hurricane Irene, some people immediately said, “Oh, no race means I should get my $ back, right?” Um, no. If you actually read that waiver you sign when you register for a race, it pretty much says that there’s no refunds if the race is canceled due to “Act of God.” That $ was spent long before race day, Hell, it may have been spent before you even signed up and paid.

Water – Yup, I like water, and I like to drink it during and after a race. And, I think race directors like to have it, too, to keep from causing greater issues. Now, sometimes I am more the exception than the rule. A lot of people don’t think they need to drink a lot of water on the course and rely on whatever is out vs. carrying their own. I personally carry water with me at pretty much every race. I guess it’s kind of a security blanket and knowing that if/when I want it I have it with me. This is also important as a back of the pack runner, when sometimes water is gone by the time I get to a designated water stop.

Believe it or not, having water on the course is controversial, too. Last year it came out that the organizers of the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon relied on water from fire hydrants and those who later got sick blamed this. I have volunteered at and run races that I know rely on water from garden hoses and have never had a problem or heard of one. So, do we have a right to expect water from freshly opened bottles?

Bathrooms – I think most people would agree that this is a basic requirement every race must have. I admittedly criticized the organizers of the Iron Girl ½ marathon in Columbia this past May for what seemed to be an insufficient number, especially given that it was a women’s race. Due to the long lines just prior to the start of the race, I saw women heading to the bushes/trees in a mostly residential area. And, the only bathrooms on the course were around mile 6.5. For me that would have been nearly an hour and a half into the race, and pretty painful if I hadn’t been able to go prior to the start.

Food – Do we have a right to expect food post race and, if so, what kinds? Most races provide a bagel and/or banana. Others have practically a buffet of choices, which many runners (and their family and friends) treat as such as well, but that’s a whole other issue for another day. One of my favorite races has a plethora of pizza after, and another bbq pork sandwiches. Yum! But, honestly, there are some races where I want to eat everything in sight and then there are others when I just want to grab a bottle of water and head home. It’s all a matter of how I feel on that day.

Shirts/bling/goodie bags – Cotton tshirts vs. tech shirts, bling vs. no bling, samples in goodie bags vs. virtual goodie bags, all of these items are things you may hear runners debate upon considering a race. Yes, I do take some of this into consideration. The Celtic Solstice 5 miler in Baltimore always has a top notch item, usually a long sleeved tech shirt that has the same $ value as the race registration. (It also has great food after including vegetable soup and warm wassail – the race is in December after all.) On the other end though are 5K’s I’ve done for just a few dollars, and with no goodies outside of a banana and bagel at the end. I think I’ve gotten kind of eh on the goodie bag issue. I’m sure I have thrown for more away than I’ve ever use from these over the years. And, for the most part I rarely wear a tech race shirt – unisex ones fit odd, and women’s cut always seem to show lumps in an unflattering way, unless I see shirt measurements ahead of time and can order appropriately.

The bottom line is that given the number of races I’ve done of the years, I think I have gotten to the point where I try and weigh the whole experience rather than just one signature thing to get me to sign up.
Bag check – The NYC issue has made me think back to some of my races. I would say I only use bag check about 25% of the time, generally when I know I will be hanging around for some time after rather than heading right back to my car or hotel. I usually check a dry shirt and a pair of shoes (usually Crocs or supportive sandals) to change into. At my first full marathon, Disney in 2010, there was an unusual cold spell. Having a bag with warm clothes after was necessary. At my second full, Marine Corps, also in 2010, I was staying at a hotel about a half mile from the finish line. Once I finished, was reunited with my family, grabbed my snacks and headed the comfort of my hotel room.

I’ve seen bag check go very well at some races – the Marine Corps uses UPS trucks for both the Marathon and 10K to transport everything from point to point and your truck is numbered according to your race bib #. I’ve also seen it go horribly wrong. The inaugural Disney Wine & Dine in 2010 was a disaster. I don’t know all of the specifics of why it failed, but many of us were stuck in a very hot room waiting for bags to be distributed and people were fainting and ill.

So, there’s a few of my thoughts. What do you do expect for your registration $?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weekendlong Duathlon

So, while the focus of my summer training has been this weekend's Annapolis Ten Miler, I've also been training for something else, what I'm essentially calling my Weekendlong Duathlon - a 25 mile bike ride on Saturday and Half Marathon on Sunday. And by training, I mean thinking about riding my bike, notsomuch on the actually getting out and riding it.

When Kim convinced me to sign up for the Ten Miler training group with the Striders, I thought "Perfect! The long runs are on Sunday so I can get bike rides in on Saturday." And then, my subconscious decided that catching up on sleep on a hot, sunny Saturday was a better idea. Seems while my body has enjoyed a summer without marathon training, it has made me a bit lazy at the same time.

While the 1/2 marathon distance should be more than manageable for me after spending the summer training for a hilly 10 miler (it will be my 24th half), biking is kind of my newest thing. I didn't do alot growing up, and the last time I consistently rode a bike was when I needed one to get to class twice a week during one semester of college, back in the 90s.

Then in 2009, my lovely friend and local running coach, Donna, convinced me to meet her and a group of others for some rides on the trail with the promise of a borrowed bike I could use. Despite the nerves, I learned that riding a bike, well, really is like riding a bike, once you get the balance and anxiety under control it really does all come right back. The next thing I knew she had me going with a group for an organized 15 mile ride later in the summer. I started doing research and thinking about what kind of bike I might want. Then I got overwhelmed and scared off by the prices. I didn't want to sink alot of money into something I wasn't sure I'd keep up.

Fast forward to early Spring of 2010, and the Bike Doctor, a great local chain near my home, was having their annual tent sale. I didn't know about it in advance. I literally was driving down the road, saw the tent in the parking lot, and decided to make a U turn and check it out. All I wanted was a basic hybrid, and one followed me home for a reasonable price.

I got miles in during the course of the Spring and Summer, and Donna had been telling me about another bike tour, this one the Amish Country Bike Tour in Dover, DE. More importantly, there was a pie stop. Um, yes, I will definitely bike for pie. The weather that day was fantastic, and the ride lovely and enjoyable. A month later I joined ladies from the gym for the Wild Goose Chase.

I didn't do much biking in 2011 thanks to all of my plantar fasciitis problems, but decided I definitely wanted to try for the Amish ride again in 2012. Then, I discovered that the Hidden Treasures Half Marathon would be taking place in Salisbury, MD that same weekend. Both towns have special meaning for me - I went to college in Salisbury and the course goes right through the campus, and I spent a semester commuting up to Dover for an internship. I've been wanting to run Hidden Treasures for the last 2 years, but it seemed like other races or marathon training always interfered. I knew this had to be the year, so why not make a weekend out of it and do both? So, stay tuned to see how this adventure goes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Everyone else is doing it...

Some of my friends have been dusting off their blogs lately while others have started new ones, so I figured I should jump on the bandwagon, too. That's kind of how things seem to work among running friends, I think. "Hey let's do this!" "Um, sure, lots of time on my feet and risk of losing a toenail? Why not!"

Ok, maybe that's an extreme example, but you get the point. Misery loves company, and the running community is full of awesome people who love to share battle wounds and encourage each other.

Thanks to many of these people, who have become essentially my running family, I made it through a packed Spring race schedule with very little issues with my foot.

March was my comeback race, the Shamrock 1/2 in Virginia Beach. Katie and I ran it together and pulled off a (barely) sub 3 hours. I also learned that flat courses are great for time, but I really do do better with hills, as my legs were begging to use some different muscles toward the end.

The end of April brought the inaugural Iron Girl 1/2 in Columbia, MD. We made it a large bridal celebration weekend for Katie, having her wedding shower the day before. Knowing she would run in a special tech wedding dress on Sunday, we surprised her by all wearing blue sparkle skirts while running with her. The race itself was unmemorable (and I'm not likely to repeat it), but the time on the course together was fabulous.

Another reason behind doing Iron Girl was that they were offering special bonus bling, Titanium Girl, for also completing the Frederick 1/2 the following weekend. Frederick one of my favorite races, and I was already registered for both races when the bonus medal was announced, but hey, I'm certainly not one to turn it down. ;) Happily, this was another sub 3 hour race for me. Corrigan Sports made some awesome changes to the race based on runner feedback from previous years. Can't wait for next year!

I wrapped up my long distance races just before Memorial Day with the Run for the Dream 1/2 in Williamsburg. I did the inaugural the year before, and it took very little arm twisting to make me return to one of my favorite towns. We made it a big girls weekend, with six of us taking over a 3 bedroom timeshare. While I had been registered for the 1/2 since the fall of 2011, in early March they unveiled a special Patriots Challenge medal for completing the 1/2, as well as the 8K the day before. I knew I had to do it. I'd never done any kind of challenge like that and figured why not go for it since I made it through the spring with little issue with my foot.

Katie and I comfortably cruised through the 8K, and she got herself a PR. Yay! I was feeling strong the next day and figured I'd see what I could do. By mile 9 I was exhausted, alone, and miserable. I even considered sitting on the side of the course and waiting for my wonderful gaggle of friends to catch up and finishing with them, but I knew I had to keep the forward momentum or I'd never finish. Once I finished I learned they ran out of the Challenge medals. Disappointing, but I knew the organizers would make it right, and about a month after the race a medal appeared in my mailbox, along with a stainless steel water bottle as a thank you for waiting. Class acts. I'll likely be back next year, just a matter of whether or not I want to give a shot at the challenge again or not.

Summer was spent doing a few of the Women's Distance Festival 5K's, women's only races put on many of the local running clubs. These are fun, and full of great spirit, particularly when getting to watch participants finish their first races. These were a nice way to keep moving while preparing to begin the main focus of my summer, training for the Annapolis Ten Miler.

I also paid a visit to my good friend, Lauren in Massachusetts. She'd been trying to find a race for me to travel up for. See, what happens when runners become friends with runners? ;) For the first time in probably two years I attempted to plan a trip that did not coincide with a race. It turned out that the weekend I picked was when the annual Carver Cranberry 5 miler was. Of course, right? This was a great race though. Lovely course and great food after. We had great weather, and I finished really strong, a great boost.

This past Sunday I did 10 miles for the first time since the Spring. Between the heat and hills, it kicked my butt. When I first did the A10 in 2010 I was in good shape and confident about taking on a legendary and challenging race. I was registered for last year's, but it was canceled due to a forecasted hurricane. It's just as well, as I had no business doing it with my foot problems at the time. To say I'm anxious about successfully completing it this year is an understatement. Keeping my fingers crossed for cloud cover and a nice breeze on the last Sunday of the month!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Commitment Issues

I'm having commitment issues.

The plan for along time, possibly since running it in 2010, has been to do the 2013 Disney Marathon. It's been open for a couple of months, and the price increases soon, and I haven't registered, nor can I convince myself to even go to the registration page.

2013 marks the race's 20th anniversary, and Disney has promised lots of surprises to make it special. Many good friends are already registered, and a couple will be doing it at their first full. I want to be a part of that just as others have done for me over time.

But, the thought of starting marathon training in a couple of months and then doing the race itself has little to no appeal. While I know the race experience itself would be great, I also know it would be a long long day. My best marathon was over 6 hours. This would likely would be, too.

Running right now feels like requires alot of effort as it is. Physically, I feel awful. Dealing with an injury for 4 months helped pack back on about twenty pounds and lose muscle tone. I feel rolly polly, and race pics don't hide that either. My runs and gym workouts only remind me of the conditioning I've lost.

Yes, part of it is fear that my plantar fasciitis will flair up again. I do still feel discomfort in my foot, but fortunately I have not had any of the pain and cramping that I did last year.

Since MCM was a local race, the only financial loss for me was about $100 for the registration and associated fees. If something were to happen while training for Disney, it would be significantly more. Registration is $150 (if I do it sooner rather than later to get the "early" price), and airfare could be $300 or more based on recent costs.

So, while I haven't completely ruled it out, I think it's safe to see where I'm leaning.

While the marathon itself is not appealing, focusing on me and getting back into "fighting shape" is. I feel like I need to take that motivation and run with it instead, pun intended, lol, and focus on good training for the Annapolis Ten Miler and a couple of fall half marathons.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 By the Numbers

Just a short post to summarize and compare my last couple of years. The impact of missing 1/4 of the year due to injury is quite apparent.

2010 mileage = 654
2011 mileage = 481

2010 full marathons = 2
2011 full marathons = 0 (Note: DNS MCM)

2010 ½ marathons = 9
2011 ½ marathons = 6 (Note: DNS 2)

2010 10milers = 2
2011 10milers = 3 (Note: Annapolis 10 miler canceled due to hurricane)

New PR’s for 2011 =
3/6/11: B&A Trail ½ marathon – 2:37:03
4/10/11: Ladies 5K By the Bay – 33:20
4/11/11: Cherry Pit 10 miler – 1:57:45