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 http://run-halfway.blogspot.com/)
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.