Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fall 2013 Race Recap

After the disaster of the Diva's race, I headed out of town on a long overdue vacation that wasn't (solely) planned around a running event. A group of great running friends and I did a week long cruise on the Disney Fantasy and hit up St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and their private island of Castaway Cay. Disney does host an untimed 5K on the island. It was warm, so a few of us walked most of it, but hey, now I can say I've run on a Caribbean Island, right?

Once I got back into town it was crunch time to prep for the Baltimore 1/2 after over a week of gluttony and laziness aka relaxing. A ten mile training run in unseasonably warm weather the weekend prior to the race gave me some great confidence. The Slurpee reward helped, too.

After a little bit of arm twisting friends flew in from all over - Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, and Texas - to take part in the Baltimore 1/2. After several days of continuous rain, we all held our breath to see what would happen race morning. We got extremely lucky, and the rain held off! Everyone quickly learned why it is one of my favorite races. Bolstered by my run the weekend before, and my experience in having run this course a couple of times before, I planned to run this race solo and see how I could push it. I took it conservatively on some of the hills, but felt great throughout. My friend Jen and her family stationed themselves at mile 7 and gave me much needed hugs and a bottle of water. I made a quick stop at medical too, to get some chafing relief with Vaseline. First time I've ever had to do that in a race, and was immensely grateful it was there when I needed it.

Before I knew it it was time to make the turn onto Eutaw Street. I knew this was the homestretch, and I kicked it into overdrive. My final mile was a sub 12 minute pace, and my average for the final .2 was a 9:39. Final time was 2:54:25. I had a huge high and felt fantastic! This was probably the strongest race I'd done since 2011, before I was sidelined with planter fasciitis. After everyone was done, we headed out for celebratory crab cakes. We recovered the next day by doing tastings of local hard cider and mead.

(Photo by Jenny P. at

Two weeks later was the Marine Corps Marathon. I participated in the 10K this year, the first time since 2009. This was another race weekend filed with friends from out of town. I was still on a high from Baltimore, and again, planned to run this one solo. For some reason I brought my iPod along on this one. I popped in my earbud after the Howlitzer, took off. I pushed myself, feeling good, but it wasn't until I saw my split for the first mile, 12:40, that I realized I was doing a pretty decent pace. I kept pushing, giving it all I had. I would have been happy for a 1:20 finish that day. As I hit mile 4, I started doing math and it occurred to me that I could possibly finish in 1:15. I was floored at this realization, and used it to keep going. I hit mile 6 and made the turn to the infamous hill. Despite the cheers and high fives from Marines, the pace caught up to me and I had to walk. My final time = 1:17:16. I managed a sub 12 minute pace for both miles 5 & 6. I was floored and ecstatic. 

We all met up after the 10K, grabbed some breakfast, and then it was off to the Pentagon Metro Station to meet up with Megan and cheer for the marathoners. Always a great and inspiring time.

(Photo by Marathon Maniac Louie Soriano)

I headed into November, and my final 3 races of the year, with awesome confidence. The Down's Park 5 miler is one of my favorite club races, and one I've done almost every year that I've been a runner. Once again I pushed hard and it paid off, 1:02:22, my second best time on that course. The following weekend was the Junior League of Annapolis' Volunteers on the Run 5K. This was only my second 5K of the year, and I was motivated to do it to honor the memory of Jennifer Summers Barrett, one of the first people I met as a beginning runner, who always had a smile on her face and cheered everyone on. I decided to play with my intervals on this one, doing a 2:1 ratio when I could. It paid off with a time of 38:36, my first sub 40 minute 5K in recent memory.

My final race of the year was the Cold Turkey 10K. Again, this was a course I knew well and could have some fun with. I had been pretty lazy leading up to this, so didn't go in with any expectations. The plan was to take it easy on the hills of the first half, and just run what felt good. I was able to keep up with my 1:1 intervals the whole time, not having to walk any of the uphills. The result? Another 1:17 finish for a 10K. 

Needless to say the Fall was a HUGE confidence booster for me after spending the previous year getting healthy, but slower. While still a ways off from my best times, I'm getting closer.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding inspiration in the kitchen

Over the last couple of months I've really focused on getting back into the kitchen. This probably doesn't surprise those who know me, but I once considered culinary school rather than a traditional university. Coming home after a long day and cooking myself a nice meal while enjoying a glass of wine can almost be meditative.

My goal has been to really focus on my eating - increasing fruits and vegetables, decreasing processed ingredients, and saving money by having quality meals on hand rather than grabbing something quick and easy. Yes, cooking for one can be a drag, but hey, you're worth it, aren't you?

I had previously looked at Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, but for a variety of reasons never signed up for one. A friend at work told me about one nearby that didn't have a long term commitment or upfront cost. The week to week option fits my lifestyle completely, if there's a weekend I know I will be busy and unable to prepare meals, then I simply don't sign up for a share.

The CSA and Pinterest have also made meal planning fun and interesting. It's forced me slightly out of my comfort zone by making me try things I have cooked with little to no times before, like cauliflower, eggplant, brussel sprouts, Romensco, etc. I do my best to pick recipes that are interesting and don't require a large investment in additional ingredients.

Yes, all of this is very time consuming. Fortunately I know before pick up what will likely be in my bag. Meal planning probably takes a couple of hours, and I carve out Sunday to cook for the week. I've learned that if I don't use the fruits and veggies when I get them, then it is likely alot will go to waste. The plus side is that grocery shopping takes probably about half the time since I only have to go in for a few ingredients, and don't wander the aisles and risk impulse buying.

This week's bag had: tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, Romanesco, red potatoes, garlic, shallots, eggplant, and cranberries. (Note: The cranberries were a substitute, another reason why I love this particular program. I was supposed to get mushrooms but asked if I could get something else instead.)

How everything got used:

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce where cut up for salads.

Shallots (and local honey from a prior week's bag) - Chicken with Honey-Beer Sauce

Brussel sprouts - Maple, Balsamic and Bacon Brussel Sprouts

Cranberries (and the rest of an open bottle of red wine) - Spiced Cranberry Sauce (placed in freezer until Thanksgiving.

Broccoli and red potato - Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Cauliflower and garlic (and a butternut squash for a prior week's bag) - Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Casserole

Eggplant - Eggplant stuffed with eggplant, onion, and ground sausage with Bechmel sauce. (The recipe I found was not very good, so I kind of winged this one. It came out pretty good.)

Romensco and garlic - Romanesco and Rigatoni (I also added in some diced pancetta that I had in the freezer)

Lots of great things to eat this week (and leftovers to freeze for busy weeks)!

What's your favorite seasonal thing to make?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Diva's DC wrap up

So, we left the winery about 1-1:30, and sure enough, ended up back on a long, winding road of standstill traffic. Waze traffic app kept increasing our estimated arrival time back at the hotel. We continued calling the hotel to alert them of the situation. We had no idea if they might charge us for being so far past check out time or not.

Finally, after another hour in the car, we told them just to pull everything out of our 3 rooms and we would sort it all out when we got there. They had 3 weddings arriving and needed to turn over those rooms quick.

We finally arrived back to the hotel after 3pm. The housekeeping staff had packed up our items, and arranged them by room number on the floor of their office. They apologized for having to take everything out, and we apologized repeatedly for them having to be in the situation to begin with. And, they never charged us for the extra time. If you're ever in the Leesburg area, please check out the Holiday Inn at Carradoc Hall. The staff there were so great to work with. In the days following the race, we found out that people staying at the official race host resort were charged an additional night (I think close to $300).

After gathering our belongings and saying our goodbyes, we finally grabbed something to eat before heading home. I finally walked in my front door around 6:30, still in my running clothes.

The next day I had a massage. I told the therapist, who has treated me after many races before, about the horrors of the day before. As she worked on me, she continued to comment that she was seeing problems I'd never come in with before, specifically in my feet and ankles. All we could presume is that it was from the surfaces the day before. Needless to say, I'm grateful I saw her that day.

Long and short, this is obviously a race I don't plan or doing again. And, I honestly would be surprised if local authorities even grant the permits for 2014.

The good news is that while my Fall started off poorly, I had lots of great surprises ahead of me.

Miss Part 1 or Part 2.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Diva's DC Wine Country Half Marathon Race Report, Part 2

After two hours in traffic, we were finally parked around 8:15. We found the start line and immediately hopped in the potty line. They had roughly 20-25 porta johns's for races (there was a half marathon and a 5k) with a combined total of nearly 4,000 female runners. Fortunately there were woods nearby, and ladies made very liberal use of them. Of course, while we stood in line a guy in blue jean came out of one of the porta john's in front of us. Seriously!? It was all I could do from saying something. Everyone's nerves were frayed enough as it is.

As we stood in the bathroom line, we continued to listen to the announcer estimate when the half might actually start. First he said 8:30, then about 8:50. Finally, at 9am, we were off. Yes, a 90 minute delay, and nearly 3 hours since I had eaten breakfast. Not a great combination.

Now, I admittedly knew nothing about this course. The description online simply said “The route starts and finishes downhill and is softly rolling in between with only 2 areas of uphill running where you will gain less than 90 feet over 2 miles in each of these two sections.” I looked at the elevation chart online and it seemed pretty manageable. Admittedly, hills generally don't scare me off. A friend warned she had heard that there were large sections of gravel roads. Surely the race organizer would have mentioned this, right?

The first clue something was amiss - the start was actually uphill, now downhill. It was rolling hills on a narrow dirt and gravel road. Even being the back of the pack didn't spare us from the crowd. It didn't even begin to thin out until we were past mile 1. About mile 2.5, I looked ahead and saw one of the largest and longest hills I've ever run before. It was full of a sea of pink going up it. I muttered "Oh, shit." under my breath. Betsy heard and wanted to know what was the matter. Not wanting to freak her out, I just said "Oh, nothing. Nevermind."

It was clear when we got to that hill that our run/walk intervals were out the window. It was time to stick to walking up the uphills and running the downhills. The good news is that we did actually get to run down this hill as well, and make up some time. That was just the start though, because then the gravel came.

The roads were not heavy gravel, more like dirt with some loose rocks. They were uneven though. It was hard to find a flat surface, and the angle was immediately making my plantar fasciitis unhappy. I did my best I could to run down the middle of the road where it was least rutted. Fortunately, the field had spread out significantly by this point, so we had plenty of room to move around. I hated weaving like that though, knowing we were just adding to our overall mileage.

We kept to our intervals as best we could, and when that didn't work went back to the walk the uphills/run the downhills plan. Finally, by around mile 8, everything from the morning hit us. Walking the rest of the way was the name of the game.

The scenery in some places was gorgeous. I definitely would like to spend some more time exploring the area and the wineries. However, we spent about a mile and a half (roughly 10-11.5) in a large subdivision. While many of the neighbors were out cheering, and really encouraging, this made already hard miles extremely BORING. My cousin found a bonus to this situation though, hoping into the model home to use the bathroom. Smart woman. Betsy and I were both mentally and physically done.

Finally we were out of there and back on the road leading to the winery - the one we had sat in the car on for so long. The plus side was that we knew the mile 12 marker was fast approaching. Soon we were turning into the winery, and back onto gravel roads. We soon discovered that the finish (on a different part of the winery grounds than the start) was of course uphill as well. At mile 13 we were given a boa and tiara to wear as we crossed the finish line.

We crossed, and it was over. Waiting for us were sparkling cider, green bananas, stale bagel halves, and chocolate chip cookies (which I couldn't eat). Keep in mind that we hadn't eaten since about 6am and it was now pushing 12:30. There was also no fuel options of any kind on the course.

Betsy and I met up with the rest of our group, chatted for a bit, and then it was time to venture back to the hotel. We were already over an hour past checkout time.

We hoped in the car and began our next adventure.

To be continued....

Miss Part 1? Find it here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Diva's DC Wine Country Half Marathon Race Report, Part I

Well, hello, dear readers. I hope you've all been well during my prolonged absence. Don't worry, nothing has happened to me to cause me to vanish for awhile other than laziness.

I'm still plugging along. I did cut down a bit on races this year, focusing on quality over quantity. I completed 4 halfs, mostly local, during the first half on the year, some were good, others not so good, but all were learning experiences.

To kick off the fall racing season, a few of us decided to run the inaugural Diva's DC Wine Country 1/2. More importantly, Betsy, with our encouragement, selected it to be her first half marathon. Having wanted to do a Diva's event for some time after hearing friends talk about the organization's races in other states, we jumped in with both feet when registration opened in early January.

I trained for this in conjunction with the Annapolis Ten Miler, which was three weeks before.This included lots of hill training during the heat of the summer. I've noticed over the last couple of years that I always feel strong for fall races as a result, a nice confidence booster.

Race day was Saturday, 9/14/13. With no race morning packet pick up, and the race taking place in Northern Virginia, we all decided to take Friday off and head to Leesburg after morning rush hour. The race expo opened at 11, and we were there not long after. It was held in a large ballroom at a local resort conference center. It was small, but decent. I'm glad we were there early, as I could see how it would get difficult to move around in there as the day wore on and crowds grew.

This was a girls getaway afterall, so after a quick lunch it was off to the outlet mall! And yes, we shopped til we dropped. We popped into the hotel to pick up our keys and headed off to dinner. Soon it was time to get back to the hotel and settled in for the night. Alarms went off at 5:15am, and we were on the road by 6:15am. Our hotel was 12 miles for the race start. Plenty of time to get there for a 7:30 start, or so we thought.

Halfway into the drive we started crawling in traffic. We started stressing as we saw the clock, but knew there was nothing we could do about it. A friend already on site txt'd updates as she walked around trying to find out information. Among the things she was telling us - the Sheriff's office couldn't find race staff onsite and threatened to pull permits, staff began to guess at what time the race might be able to start, and finally, that the race announcer thanked those present for following race instructions and thereby implied that those of us stuck in traffic had not. Not cool.

By this point we had been stuck in traffic for an hour. Had I been traveling alone, I admittedly would have turned the car around and headed back to the hotel for a hot shower and some breakfast and then headed home. Finally, race organizers posted on facebook that the race start would be delayed until everyone could get parked. One of the problems was that the two lane, country road everyone was stuck on was the same road we'd be running on in the opening miles.

We continued to inch along and began to think of the implications of a race start. Among them, the fact we last ate around 6am, so fueling for this was already off to a bad start. Also, our hotel check out was noon. We had not packed up before leaving since we figured we'd return no later than 11:30am and could grab quick showers before heading for home. Knowing we'd be finishing around the 3 hour mark, any kind of delay was going to make this extremely tight.

Finally we turned into the winery's main entrance and were directed to parking near bag check. It was about 8:15am. Yes, almost exactly 2 hours from when we left the hotel. Our first mission was to find bathrooms and find out when the race might actually start.

To be continued.