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!