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  1. SIbbetson

    2018 Running Highlights

    I recently read my Top 5 Running Highlights of 2017 when searching for my yearly mileage history list. I was correct when I noted in that post that 2017 would be hard to top! My 2018 running wasn't quite what I wanted, but I have a lot to be thankful for. My Instagram Top 9 wasn't far off! My Highlights Were: With 3,047 miles, I ran my highest yearly mileage ever, surpassing my 2017 mileage by 4 miles (the 2017 mileage was a huge yearly mileage PR). I had 8 weeks of mileage in the 80s, which before this year I had only done for 1 week, in 2017. All other "normal" training weeks were in the 60s-70s; the weeks that were not that high were when I was tapering, recovering, injured, or returning from injury - the majority of those when I was healthy were in the 50s, but several were big fat zeros when I was injured. I am pretty pumped that I managed a yearly mileage PR with 8 weeks of downtime, and I know I can improve it next year if I don't get injured. I counted my AlterG treadmill miles in this total, which feels a little like cheating, but I did run the distance so I'm keeping them (my outside miles are around 160 less). I ran a huge 10K PR. Everything really came together for the Plaza 10K even though I did not rest for it or do any 10K-specific training. Although I was extremely disappointed that my fall season was cut short, I am so thankful that I got this race in before I got injured. I was thrilled to better my track best on a rolling road course, but more importantly it really showed me how well my body responded to consistent higher mileage training (higher mileage is all relative, I know 70-80 is nothing for some but it is the most I've ever done). I'd been targeting running a 36:59 10K for over a year, but I really never thought I'd be able to run a 36:34 on the road. I ran two solid marathons. Although I did not accomplish my time goal in Houston, it was a great experience and I'm glad I went for it. I am proud to say that my complete bonk/bad day marathon there was a 2:54. Grandma's wasn't what I dreamed of when I selected the race, but based on how terrible I felt for most of the build up, I am proud that I pulled off a 2:49:08, my second fastest marathon. I sure hope I have more in me as far as marathon PRs go, but regardless I sure enjoy the training process and the races! I set two Missouri single age state records, in the half marathon at Rock the Parkway and the 12K at the Big 12 12K. Neither are great times, but they are currently the best a 37-year-old female in Missouri has managed. I bombed nearly every run in the months leading up to those races, so even though I don't think I ran good times, I do think I ran really well compared to how I was performing in training. I persisted. In February, March, and April I had an illness and a slump (which was extra hard since I was coming off of several break-through performances in fall 2017), but I raced beyond what my training said I should have in everything I raced for the first 6 months of the year. I was injured in September, but I did everything I could to strengthen my weaknesses and to return to training. I learned. I learned how much consistent mileage helps my race times. I learned to be more cautious about running when sick, and about running and racing on potential injuries. I re-learned just how much I love the sport and how empty I feel without it. I learned that my running friends mean the world to me. I re-prioritized. My biggest goal is to run for the rest of my life. This is more important than any PR. That doesn't mean my Big Goal (2:45:00 marathon) has changed, just that it's decidedly second on the list, at best. I was more thankful. I still have a ways to go in this arena, but I did better. I've always been pretty bad about wanting more and more, in running and in other aspects of my life. Looking back, I haven't appreciated many milestones and PRs because I was already onto my next goal. The first time I broke 3:00 in the marathon, I left the finish chute ecstatic but also thinking, "I can run faster." I distinctly remember waiting for my flight at the Phoenix airport following my break-through 2:49 marathon emailing my coach saying I wanted to train for a 2:45, instead of relishing in the post-race high. I wasn't nearly as happy about my 2:47 at CIM as I should have been, because it wasn't "enough" compared to a very specific cut-off time. I regret that I didn't savor those moments, but this year I found more joy in my performance at Grandma's Marathon than in any of those marathons, even though it wasn't a PR. I really let myself ride a high after my PR at the Plaza 10K. I do want more, but if I never get more I will still find great joy in the process. I am more thankful than ever now. I helped others. Whenever someone tells me that I helped them, I am reminded why I was given my passion for running. I typically don't realize I'm doing it, but whether it's by answering running questions, giving training advice, encouraging others, inviting someone to join our group runs, listening to my friends when we run together, helping my local running club, or making individualized training schedules for friends free of charge, I have opportunities to give back often. That has to be why God made me a runner. I know I'll remember all of the people that running has brought into my life more than I'll remember any PR; however... Bring on 2019 training blocks and goal races! I have a long way to go to get back to my best fitness, but I'm ready to try!
  2. HotPinkSneakers

    My Favorite Race of the Year!*

    (*except for Rehoboth, which is really in its own category of everything) There are some sure signs of spring’s arrival that I look forward to each year. Birds singing in the mornings again. The sun coming up before I’m done with my pre-work run. Daffodils and tulips poking their colorful heads out, even through the snow sometimes. Cherry blossoms of course. And the George Washington Parkway Classic 10-Miler! This was my very first double-digit run back in 2012 (only a couple of weeks before I broke my ankle), and I’ve run it every year since. It’s become my favorite DC-area race due to its beautiful course, reliably crisp spring weather, and well-organized logistics. It is also typically held the Sunday after the Boston Marathon, so I’m usually still a little high on all the excitement of tracking superstar Loopsters on Marathon Monday as I head to my own race. The fact that I’ve PRed there all but one year doesn’t hurt either… This year, the Parkway Classic was designated as my big spring goal race by Coach, so most of my workouts over the last few months have been aimed at this, with a target 10M pace of 7:40-7:30. This would be a good 30+ seconds per mile faster than I ran this race last year, so this felt like an audacious goal. But I’ve learned to do as Coach says, and even if things went poorly, it was “only” a 10-miler, and life wouldn’t be terrible for too long before the finish line. April 22nd looked to be another perfect spring race day: sunny with an overnight low in the mid-40s and a high in the mid-50s, with a light breeze. I got Flat Caitlin ready and made it an early night given the ridiculous time that I needed to leave the next morning to get the shuttle to the start. I left my apartment at o’ dark thirty to board the shuttle bus that would take me from downtown DC to the start line out at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, VA. It was a long ride, but I chatted with a few of the runners sitting near me, mostly about how crazypants Boston was, and about upcoming race plans. We got to the start just as the sun was coming up and illuminating the little athletes’ village on the lawn of George Washington’s estate. I like to get to the start excessively early (one year of having to sprint off the bus, drop my bag, and race to the start corral just in time for the gun to go off was enough, so now I over-correct), so I found a nice place to camp out and killed some time on social media, since runner friends are reliably up early. This was my second time running, and first time racing, in my new Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes, which look pretty darn cool with neon socks. Eventually it came to be time to ditch my warm layers, check my bag, and go do my prescribed 2-mile warmup. I headed off down the bike path alongside the parkway we’d be running on, and immediately didn’t feel awesome. There was no reason not to feel awesome: the weather was perfect, all my workouts leading up to today had been stellar, it had been 7 full weeks since the New Orleans half-marathon, and I was wearing my magic shoes. But I just didn’t have any pep in my step, and it was a struggle to get those warmup miles under a 9:00 pace. I tried hard not to dwell on that, and told myself that race-day adrenaline would kick in once I was in the company of the other runners. I made my way back to the start line, and got into my corral. A few minutes later, the gun sounded and we were heading off down the parkway! There’s a big downhill right at the start, so I made sure to keep my pace in check and tried to just stay relaxed. My plan (i.e. Coach’s plan) was to try to hit the upper end of my pace target (7:40/mile) right away, and camp out there for the first 3-4 miles. Then I would try to drop the pace by 5 seconds or so for the next 5K, and then try to drop the hammer as much as I could for the final 5K and bring it in at whatever pace I could manage (preferably under 7:30). I clicked off the first mile right on target, but the downhill start provided a big assist. Once the road leveled out and we entered into several miles of small-but-noticeable rolling hills, it was a much harder effort to hold that 7:40 pace than I wanted it to be. I tried to focus on the mile I was in, rather than worrying about how I was possibly going to drop the pace come Mile 4 when Mile 2 felt so hard. I also had the added mental boost/torture of knowing that Coach had signed up for live tracking, so she would know if I’d been able to follow our plan before I’d even finished the race. I finished Mile 4 and knew that it was time to pick it up. I told myself that it was just one mile at a time. I could run this one mile at 7:35 pace and then see where I was. I focused on the upbeat tempo of my music and dug in. 7:34. Boom. Ok self, you’re halfway done now, and the back half of the course has more downhills. You got this. And COACH IS WATCHING. Hitting my Phase 2 target right when I was supposed to provide a major confidence boost (as did finally getting to the nice long downhill in Mile 6!). Miles 6 and 7 clicked off relatively quickly, and then it was just the final three miles to go. Phase 3. Drop the hammer and race. I pretended to be the kind of runner that actually “races” during a race and started picking out people ahead that I could try to catch up to and pass. I tried not to look at my watch as much as possible during this last phase and just ran as hard as I could manage. There was one final short-but-steep hill right at the Mile 9 marker, a left-hand turn onto Union Street, and then about 0.75 miles straight to the finish line. I caught up to one of the women I’d chatted with on the bus who had been just ahead of me for the last few miles, and as I passed her she picked up her pace and we raced each other down the last quarter-mile or so (I won by a few meters). Finished!! I waited a minute for my new friend to finish (we follow each other on Strava now). We high-fived and congratulated each other as we made our way over to where they were handing out breakfast tacos (totally a step up from the usual boring snack boxes from past years!). I was eager to get my checked bag so that I could upload my Garmin data and look at all my splits together. I knew that I’d hit my target paces and had negative split as we’d planned, but I wanted to see the pretty pretty graph that proved it. So pretty! Official results: PR by 7 minutes! I went over to the beer garden and found some run club friends who had finished earlier, and enjoyed some liquid recovery. More people joined the party as they finished, and it was fun as always to rehash the race, talk about upcoming race plans, etc. with runner friends. I love this race so much. I headed out with one of the run club friends to go meet some other run club friends (who didn’t race this morning) for brunch. Obviously, such a great race called for an appropriately celebratory brunch drink. Another year, another fantastic Parkway Classic. (They didn’t start giving out medals until my third year, which was the race’s 30th anniversary, so I don’t have a medal for all my times doing it. But it is pretty cool that I have all the medals that this race has ever given out!) Next up (thanks to the time machine that enables me to post bloops about races that happened a month ago): the National Women's Half-Marathon with some Loopsters!
  3. HotPinkSneakers

    RnR New Orleans Runcation!

    About a month ago, I journeyed to the Big Easy to run a half-marathon with a group of friends from my LRS run club and, spoiler alert, it was awesome!! This was my first time in New Orleans, and my first time traveling with this group of people (they've done some other destination races together in years past, but I'm kind of new to the group), so I was a little nervous. I was also a little anxious about the race, because switching from the full down to the half meant that this was now a Goal Race, and would be the first big test of how my training was going with the new coach and leading up to December's Big Goal. We left DC on Friday 3/2, which was that absurdly windy day on the East Coast, with gusts in the 40-50mph range and sustained winds well over 20mph. Just the kind of day you want to be flying! We were incredibly lucky though - the majority of flights out of National were cancelled, but somehow Southwest was still getting its planes off the ground. On the plane, enjoying Southwest's open seating policy: After the most nerve-wracking, stomach-rolling takeoff of my life, we had a short, uneventful flight to NOLA. We landed around 7pm, checked into the hotel, and immediately headed out to the French Quarter for dinner. We ended up at an Irish bar called Erin Rose, which has a tiny po' boy shop in the back called Killer Po' Boys. The seared shrimp was delicious! We didn't go too wild and crazy the first night, and my roommates and I were up early on Saturday morning so we headed to the Warehouse District to find some coffee. We ended up at a cute little coffee shop and got fancy cups of pour-over, which were made with LOTS of flair by the barista. He even had different temperature water for different types of beans. That is a level of coffee snobbery that I will never reach. It might have been the tastiest cup of coffee I've ever had though! After our coffee outing, we met up with a few other people from the group for a 3ish mile shakeout run, which I ended up leading because I was the only person who had looked at a map to figure out a route. My route ended at Cafe du Monde, because I'm not stupid. (Also, after the cold, windy, gross weather we'd been having in DC for months, it was SO NICE to run in short sleeves and soak up the sunshine!) Some people spent the morning at a cooking class, others went to a yoga class to stretch out before the race the next day. I spent a couple hours wandering around the French Quarter, which is a very different place in the daylight! Later that afternoon, we walked to the convention center for packet pickup. I saw these beads adorning a mailbox on someone's house. This was a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which was really poignant and interesting to see. We all reconvened at the expo, and managed to get one picture with the entire group! After the expo, I had an early dinner at a delicious Italian place with about half the group (the other half had made reservations elsewhere), and then called it an early night. But not before getting Flat Caitlin ready of course! I was up at o'dark thirty to eat my bagel and peanut butter in dark so as not to disturb my roommates, both of whom were cheering instead of racing and so didn't need to be up anytime soon. Thank goodness for back-lit Kindles! I left with most of the other half/full runners (the 10K started earlier than the half/full, so those runners had already left) to walk to the starting area, which was only a few blocks from our hotel. I dropped off my checked bag, did 5-10 minutes of light jogging and some strides to loosen up, and mostly just paced around nervously. It was already warm enough that I wasn't very chilly in my tank and shorts, and the sun was strong. My goal pace, according to Coach, as 7:41. Which just seemed absolutely crazypants! My prior half-marathon PR was 1:52:26, an 8:35ish pace. To be going out with a goal of a PR in the 10-minute neighborhood felt way too bold. But I figured what the heck? It's "only" a half! If I blew up, I blew up, and it would only be bad for a handful of miles. But I wouldn't know unless I tried. The course was totally flat; the biggest challenge would be the weather, since at 70+ degrees and sunny, it was solidly 30-40 degrees warmer than what I'd been training in. After a pep talk from Kathrine Switzer, the gun sounded and we were off! I definitely went out too fast, and that may have come back to bite me later. But I felt good for the moment! I got my pace back under control for the next 5 or so miles, but then the heat really started to get to me. I've learned that I am just not a warm-weather runner, despite 10 years of living in DC. I started to really feel off around the 10K mark, and struggled to keep my pace under 8:00/mile. I knew that I would be seeing our cheer crew at Mile 9, and told myself that I could stay strong and focused until then. I made it that far, and then no matter how many times I told myself that it's only 4 more miles, then only 3 more miles, I just lost it. My legs felt like stone and I was so very hot. The last 5K felt interminable. But I finally made it to the last stretch leading into the park where we finished, and I was able to push my pace back down for the final 0.1 to finish strong in 1:45:27! A PR by almost exactly 7 minutes! I was so very happy to be done! It is a pretty cool medal. I found a few of the faster half runners, and the 10K runners and we wandered back down the course to cheer on the rest of the people running the half. I stayed and cheered for a bit, but then needed to get back to the hotel to change for lunch. It turned out that an old friend and her husband happened to be in NOLA that weekend too, so I was able to meet up with them after the race! She's a runner too, and is currently training for her first marathon back after a 4-year hiatus to have her kids, so we had lots to talk about! She's crazy fast even after such a long break, and is going to be running Providence with a goal of BQing (again) so that she can run Boston 2019 for her 40th birthday. Later that evening, I met up with my run club crew again and we headed out to the French Quarter for some shenanigans now that the work was done! We were told by locals that Frenchman Street is way better than Bourbon Street, so we headed that way for some live music. Monday morning, I got up and went to Cafe Beignet to do a scientific comparison with Cafe du Monde. My verdict: Cafe du Monde's beignets are denser and chewier, and therefore better. But these were still delicious! Later in the morning, several of us did a cemetery tour in one of New Orleans' historic cemeteries. It was super interesting! On Monday afternoon, I went for a nice easy run with one other girl from the group. I hadn't met her before this trip (she used to live in DC and run with Pacers, but had moved to Tuscon for a job, so our paths hadn't crossed), so it was really nice to chat with her on the run. We ran through the Garden District, which was much more enjoyable this time around than it had been the day before while I was suffering in the race. The houses were beautiful, and the flowers definitely lived up to the neighborhood's name! One of my favorite things was that almost all the trees had Mardi Gras beads strewn all over them. We went four miles out, and then hopped on a streetcar and took it back a ways to meet up with some other folks for lunch at a Caribbean/Tiki place (what do those themes have in common? Rum!) While we were there, a sax player came by, and totally enthralled a baby a few tables over. Monday evening we explored some more bars in the French Quarter. At one point we successfully took over a cocktail bar and became the only people in it, which was a pretty solid accomplishment. Our flight out wasn't until 1pm on Tuesday, so I had time for one last beignet outing! I think these were beignets #10-12 of my weekend... Tuesday dawned pretty gross and rainy, so it was just as well that we were leaving. At the airport, my roommates and I enjoyed one last Abita Purple Haze before boarding. It was a blissfully short, uneventful flight back to DC! And this guy was definitely happy to have me back home. I'm so glad that I went on this trip! New Orleans was such a fun city to visit, and even though the race didn't go as well as I'd hoped, I'm really happy with it. I think if it had been 20 degrees cooler, it would have been a whole different ballgame. And who can be sad about a 7-min PR?? Next up: the George Washington Parkway Classic 10-Miler, one of my favorite local races! It'll be my 7th year running it, and apparently my goal pace is 7:30-7:40! My speed workouts have been going super well in the last month, and it's a fast course (net downhill, only 2 turns) where I've PRed all but one year (I was injured). So we'll see! But first, I'm heading down to North Carolina this weekend to hang out with some of my most favorite people in the world! Quadracool, Jenster, Zamgirl, and I will be volunteering at the Umstead 100 in Raleigh on Saturday for the second year in a row. And this time we aren't running a marathon the next day, so it should be even more fun!
  4. HotPinkSneakers

    2018: Let's Do This

    My 2018 running year is off to a great start, and I think it’s time to share my Big Goal with you. Putting it in writing for consumption by an audience other than my mom and a few select friends who have gotten previews is absolutely terrifying for me, but I think it’s the good kind of terrifying. Which is largely how I feel about my goal for 2018 in the first place. In 2018, I want to BQ minus 5 minutes. That will be a 3:30:00 marathon. A PR by 15 minutes and 21 seconds from last October. And I want to do it at Rehoboth in December. Excuse me while I go breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes… Ok, I’m back. Like I said, 2018 is off to a great start. I’ve run two 5Ks and a 10K in the first two months of the year, and I have a half-marathon coming up this Sunday. In New Orleans! Yay! When I decided that pursuing a BQ was going to be a real thing this year, and not just something I passively wanted but didn’t do anything in particular to accomplish, I knew I needed to step up my training game. I’ve been following the Hansons Marathon Method training plan for the last couple of years, and have had success with it, but I knew I wasn’t really making the most of it. I talked myself out of about ⅓ of the interval and tempo workouts in any marathon cycle because I didn’t like doing them, and it was easy to come up with reasons why I should just do an easy run instead. I still made improvements in the marathon, and ran them pretty well, but I wasn’t seeing anything like the improvements people were posting about in the Facebook group and I felt like my fitness was plateauing. Just being accountable to myself wasn’t cutting it, so I decided last fall that after Rehoboth 2017 I would sign up for Hansons Coaching Services and bring in reinforcements. Knowing that I was paying someone every month to get the Garmin data from each and every workout seemed like an effective way to make sure that I did each and every workout. Signing up for coaching also meant that my training plan would be customized not just to my running abilities and goals but also to my race plans and travel schedule. Since I’m me, by December 2017 I’d already registered for three marathons, a half-marathon, and a 10-miler for 2018! That is definitely more racing than Hansons recommends with their off-the-shelf training plans, so I was excited about working with a coach who could shape a training plan around the things I already wanted to do, and still aim for the Big Goal in December 2018. And so far, it’s been everything I was hoping for and then some! My coach, Melissa, is awesome and was completely unfazed by both my ambitious (some might say audacious or even flat-out ridiculous) goal and the excessive amount of racing that I like to do each year. I only get 2-3 weeks of workouts at a time, which is VERY helpful for me as I am definitely prone to looking ahead in a training plan and getting all psyched out over the paces and distances in the later weeks. It also allows us to adjust the plan easily if anything comes up, like illness, injury, ridiculous winter weather, or work travel to places where running outside is a no-go. And every time I finish a run, my Garmin data is automatically uploaded to the Final Surge app, where she can see every last detail of my run. Because of that, I haven’t skipped a single run since we started working together in mid-December. That’s HUGE for me. In addition to the added accountability making a difference in my consistency, having a coach tell me how fast I’m supposed to be doing speed and tempo workouts and the races I’ve done so far has been AMAZING for my confidence. For the first few speed workouts she had me do in January, the paces made me look like that bug-eyed emoji face and I was like, “Omg no way can that be my target pace! I can’t run that fast! What is Coach thinking?!?” But you know what happened? I DID run that fast. As part of my ongoing realization that running is so very much a mental game, having Coach prescribe target paces that I thought were beyond my current abilities has made me faster. I might start out a workout with some doubts, but I also tell myself that I have to at least try because Coach told me to. And then I run the first interval or first tempo mile and absolutely nail the target pace and say to myself, “Oh! I CAN do it!” 2018 so far has already been vastly different than it would have been if I hadn’t gotten a coach. One thing that I’ve avoided like the plague has been racing short distances. I’m a marathoner! Why would I race a 5K? Those things hurt! Well, because Coach said I have to. And it turns out that they’re actually kind of fun in a weird, masochistic way. Kind of like speed work, as I’m also discovering. So over MLK Day weekend, I ran my first race of the year: a small 5K along the C&O Canal Towpath out in Maryland that was organized by the DC Road Runners. This was intended to be sort of a benchmark race to see where my fitness was. I’d only been back to normal running for a few weeks after recovering from Rehoboth and had done just one very short speed workout beforehand. My 5K PR from last July was 23:54 (7:43 pace), but since that was set in an evening race in the heat and humidity of the DC summer, I was pretty sure I could beat that time in a small, flat race in January. The only daunting thing (you know, other than the entire idea of racing) was the wicked 20+ mph wind that day! But the race was an out-and-back, so I’d really only have the wind in my face for the second half. I positive split the race like whoa, but that was pretty much inevitable with that wind. I went out a little bit faster than I probably should have, but the first half of the race felt surprisingly good (albeit tailwind-assisted). I finished in 22:56, a PR by 58 seconds! That race was a major confidence booster for me, and I spent the next few weeks ramping up my workouts a bit in preparation for back-to-back race weekends in February. First up: the Love the Run You’re With 5K on February 11th, organized by my favorite LRS Pacers Running. I had hopes of another PR here, but I really should have looked at the course first. I made the mistake of assuming it was flat. It was very not flat: So I gave up on the idea of a PR early in the first mile when I was panting my way up that first hill. But even though my pace was not what I was hoping for, I did manage a lovely negative split for this one: I finished in 23:48, which I’m actually pretty happy with. I didn’t realize until now that it was a faster time than last summer’s PR on a flat course, despite the hills. My coach also helped me realize that with there being so little room for error in a 5K, it’s not necessarily helpful to compare results from different races/different courses at that distance. So for this course, she was really happy with my pacing. The weather was something of an improvement over the January race: low 50s and pouring rain instead of 20s and howling wind. There was a photo booth at the start line, so I hopped over to get my souvenir picture before we started: The following weekend I ran the By George 10K, which was another very small race put on by the Potomac Valley Track Club. It was held down at Hains Point, which anyone who’s run the Marine Corps Marathon or Cherry Blossom 10-Miler will be familiar with. On the plus side, it’s very flat. But it’s sort of the Mt. Washington of DC - whatever weather the city is having, it’s amplified at Hains Point. Luckily on race down, it wasn’t tooooooo windy, so the wind down on the Point was only around 10mph. The 10K course was a double version of the 5K course, which meant a double out-and-back. Not the most interesting course, but that was ok. It was actually kind of fun to get to see the other runners so many times during the race. This was the first 10K I’ve actually raced. My only other time at this distance was the TinkerBell 10K that I ran/walked with my mom in Disneyland in 2014. I was pretty sure I could PR this one! My strategy was to go out at a controlled pace and hold that for the first half, and then see if I could bring it down for the last three miles. My target for the first three miles was 7:40ish, and then I was hoping that I could get down to 7:30 in mile 4 and then closer to 7:20 for the final two miles. I didn’t quite manage that, but I’m still happy with how this race went: The first three miles felt great, though mile 3 was back into the headwind, which I blame for the slight uptick in pace. While miles 4 and 5 weren’t quite as fast as I’d hoped, I was happy to see my pace dropping. But then mile 6 was back into the headwind, and I was spent. I was hoping for a final mile under 7:30, but I’m comfortable with the knowledge that I gave it all I had. And my 47:40 time was good enough for 2nd in my Age Group of 30-39, which earned me an apple pie! Next up: the Rock n Roll New Orleans half-marathon! I was originally planning on running the full, because it was there. But I’m trying to be more strategic this year and think in terms of the long term and the Big Goal. While I have no doubt that I could finish the marathon, I haven’t been running anywhere close to normal marathon training mileage since Rehoboth so it would basically just be a 26.2 mile easy run that would still require a solid couple of weeks to recover from before I could pick up with the intense training again. I decided that there wasn’t really a benefit to running a “fun run” marathon right now, whereas if I dropped to the half, I could race it, because my mileage and workouts have been much more in line with that distance. And I’m discovering that I really like pushing the pace! So that’s what I’m going to do. Based on how the 10K went, I’m planning to target a pace of 7:50-8:00 for the half and hopefully come in right around 1:45:00. This would be a 7ish-minute PR, so it’s definitely a lofty goal! But more importantly, I’m going to really focus on race strategy and pacing rather than a specific pace target. I want to negative split the race and practice being patient in the first half and then picking it up on tired legs. Basically the opposite of how I’ve run almost every race ever. Not-so-coincidentally, 8:00 is the pace that I will need for that 3:30 marathon, so if I can hit it in a half right now, I will feel really good about building up to that for a full by Rehoboth. After this, I have a goal 10-miler in April (the GW Parkway Classic, which I loooooove) where I’ll definitely have a goal time that will probably be informed by how New Orleans goes. Then at the end of April is the inaugural National Women’s Half-Marathon, which will just be for fun and where I’ll be joined by Keep Running Girl AND SLCAthena! And maybe NCAthlete and ASchmid who are coming to the area for a 50K the day before! Then in May I have the craziest part of the year: the 39.3 Challenge at the Maine Coast Marathon. Coach definitely thinks this is nuts. I think it’ll be fun! Plus, I’ll get THREE different mermaid medals! But needless to say, both the half and full that weekend will be run at easy paces! This is the 2nd annual HPS Mother-Daughter birthday weekend race experience; Mom will be running her 3rd half-marathon that Saturday! On September 1st I’m running my first international marathon: the Dingle Marathon in Ireland! I’ve been planning on this race since my first trip to Ireland in fall 2016, but it turned into a family vacation when my mom discovered that there was a half-marathon too and my parents invited themselves along! I’m not complaining though; it’s going to be amazing! But as the coast of the Dingle Peninsula is crazy hilly and this course is not USATF-certified, this will be another “just for fun” marathon rather than a goal race, followed by a week of recovery in Ireland. I know it’s tough, but someone has to do it. I’ll probably (be forced to) do some more short races in the summer and early fall as tune-ups for the REAL marathon training leading up to Rehoboth. After the Dingle Marathon, it’ll be time to get down to serious business! I’m not thinking too much about what that’ll look like yet, but based on the last 10 weeks or so, I have all the faith in the world in my coach’s ability to guide me to my Big Goal. I’m so excited for what this year has in store! #Rehoboth2018 #BQorBust #Chasingtheunicorn (Please tell me when my obsessing over BQing at Rehoboth becomes insufferable and I’ll try to tone it down. Maybe.)
  5. I wrote an excessive amount of detail about this race (links at the end of this post), but here is a short-ish overview! When I chose CIM, I selected it with the express purpose of trying for a 2:45:00 or faster marathon. God placed the dream of achieving an Olympic Trials Qualifying time on my heart, and after an almost painful amount of marathon research I decided that CIM would be my best chance after the qualifying window for the 2020 Trials opened this fall. As race day grew closer, I felt like I was ready for a PR, but not for a 2:45. 2:46-2:47 felt more realistic, and I lamented on this quite a bit during my taper. I ended up deciding to target 2:46:55, 6:22 pace. As marathons always do, once the race began, it took on a personality of it's own. Miles 1-10 were at an average of 6:22 pace - right where I wanted to be. Then something clicked in my head, and for the first time I felt confident that I could run a 2:45:00 after all. I typically hit a stride like this in the marathon, where I feel like I can conquer the world. I start thinking with endorphins, and thoughts like "6:15 is way too fast for that many miles" are replaced with "6:15 seems doable for the rest of the race". Around mile 10, I could hear my husband's advice in my head: "You should try for the 2:45; if you lose it at the end, you lose it at the end...but you'll never get it without trying." I could hear my coach saying, "6:22 is a good starting pace, but don't be afraid to drop the pace as the race progresses." I prayed, "God, please make us strong and brave" ("us" being my friends Jamie, Kris, and I -- full story about the miles I spent with each of them during this race to come). I suddenly believed that I could run the remaining 16 miles of the race at 6:15 pace, which I knew would get me in at just under 2:45. From miles 10-22.5ish I did just that. Each mile that passed I was hitting right around 6:15 pace, with some variation for elevation, and each time I passed a mile marker I just knew I could run the remaining distance at 6:15 pace. A similar thing happened to me at BMO Mesa-Phoenix, when I just knew I had the rest of the race in me at 6:30 pace or better (on the other hand, at Dallas I knew I was going to come up a few miles short). Mile 18 - yep, I've got 8 more miles of 6:15s in me. Mile 19 - yes, I can do 7 more miles of this. Doubt crept in here and there, and I would question if I had enough left, but I just kept running the mile I was in and praying to be brave. When I hit mile 20 in 2:06:10, I believed I could run the final 10K in 38:50, or 6:15 pace. For the first time in this entire training cycle, I fully believed I was ready for a 2:45. I thought of all of the fast finish runs I'd done; I was ready to close with a solid 10K. Then around mile 22.5, my neck started spasming. My legs were still intact, so initially I didn't worry, but tried to tilt it forward and to the sides for some relief. It quickly worsened, and I also became dizzy. I knew it was the benign paroxsymal positional vertigo (BPPV) I'd experienced during my taper, and I knew it was trying to steal my 2:45! I wasn't going to let it take my dream without a fight, but I quickly felt like I was losing the battle. I felt like a puppet, my head pulled back on a string. I couldn't keep my head forward and I couldn't see the road. My peripheral vision was off and I almost felt like I was running into the unknown. I tried to focus on a girl's head in front of me, and kept telling myself "just follow her in, just get in". I didn't see my final 3 mile splits because I couldn't look at my watch, but they weren't nearly good enough for the 2:45 (6:40, 6:46, 7:01 -- I did see mile 23 which was 6:26 for the start of my slow-down). I wasn't sure I was going to make it in at all, so my disappointment with slowing down was replaced with thankfulness to finish. Something is going to give at the end of a marathon, and this was just it for me in this one. I crossed the finish line in 2:47:14, a PR by over 2 minutes on a course that was more difficult than where I ran my 2:49 (you can't earn an OTQ at Phoenix due to the amount of net downhill). I was overcome by so many sensations at once: excruciating pain as I fell to the ground in the finish chute, joy for the PR and to have made it to the finish, and disappointment that after finally feeling like I could run a 2:45 for about 12.5 miles, I was unable to even come close. I finished 65th female in the USATF National Marathon Championships, after not being seeded in the top 100 going in. Could I have run faster had I stayed at 6:20-6:22 pace instead of dropping to 6:15? Most likely; pretty much anytime you slow down at the end of a marathon you're well-trained for it's because you didn't pace within your capacity earlier on, and it's always better to negative split. I may have gotten in at 2:46:30ish, but I still wouldn't have gotten the standard. As much as I hate not having a strong finish, I am glad I took the risk. A marathon PR is always a risk, and this Big Time Goal was a Big Gamble for me. One thing that's changed in addition to my bright shiny new PR is that, for the first time, I feel confident I can run a 2:45. It's going to take everything going right (no BPPV!), but now I know I have it in me. Phoenix was a turning point because I knew I had to try (who is going to run a 2:49 and not try?); CIM was the point that I knew I could do it (who is going to be content with a 2:47 when that 2:45 is right there?!). Just like after my 2:49 at Phoenix, even if I never run a faster marathon, I am really proud that I ran a 2:47. I am thankful God gave me the strength to run it and put people in my life to help me get there. It wasn't that long ago that 6:22.7 pace was my 10K pace, and as Jon told me, I ran 19:49 5Ks for 26.2 miles straight! I have over 2 years to find 134 more seconds. Trying is always going to be intimidating, because it's freakin' 6:17 pace for 26.2 miles! But as at CIM, God will make me brave enough to try. Official results aren't yet posted, presumably since it was the national marathon championships, but my unofficial results are here. This link also has a few race videos and links to several super ridiculous-looking race photos (we will just say that the crazy posture I ran the final few miles in is illustrated well, and I now can't look at them without laughing!). More from CIM: USATF National Championships Panel & Expo Pre-Race Calm & Camaraderie Miles 1-10: Anyone can run a good first 10K Miles 10-22.5: Finding confidence for the first time Miles 22.5-26.2: The beginning of the end Post-Race Tears & Post-Race Planning Marathon Day Fueling
  6. running_eng

    Marine Corps Marathon 2017 - Going Big

    Marine Corps Marathon 2017 But there are times in our lives when we need to tilt at windmills, times when the scale of the quest frightens us, focuses us, and motivates us to stretch higher than before. The fact that we’ll more than likely fail is largely the point. (Jonathan Beverly, Runners World) This was my 3rd time running the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) and my 8th marathon. Getting a BQ back in January put me in an interesting place for this marathon. I wasn’t worried about my finishing time and that meant I could just race without worrying what would happen if everything went wrong. 17 weeks of training, more miles than I had ever run before, intervals on Tuesdays, long tempos on Thursdays, no injuries. I was ready ….. but how ready? My PR from January was 3:31:25 and I was pretty sure I could go under that. Was a sub 3:20 possible? (Hint – nope) I had a plan, well maybe not so much a plan but maybe a dare – run by feel, run hard and see what happens. Glory or spectacular failure. The local running club offered a bus ride and a hotel conference room near the finish line which worked pretty well – I was able to avoid dealing with the metro system or parking and got to meet a number of other local runners. After being able to relax, use a real bathroom (several times), it was time to walk the 1.5 miles to the start line. The only worry now was about the weather – how warm would it get and how quickly. The start temp was low fifties, not bad but it wouldn’t stay there. The MCM has start corrals but they operate on the honor system – and, unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of honor going on. I lined up between the 3:15 and 3:25 pacers; and after the National Anthem, a V22 Osprey flyover and the other usual start line ceremonies, the cannon fired and we were off. Kind of. It seems like a lot of slower runners decided that they needed a head start and had seeded themselves with the 3 hour marathoners. So the first mile had a lot stutter stepping and weaving; at one point I was on the shoulder of the 3:15 pacer who expressed some frustration over the situation. (I’ve had a lot of races where there is some weaving, but this was at a whole other level.). So after a slow first mile I did the natural thing when I hit the long downhill and made up all of the lost time (not smart but it was fun to turn the legs loose). Finally settling down after the madness of the start, I started to get the reins gathered back in and settled into the race. Knowing the heat to come, I made sure to get a cup of water to drink and another to dump on my head. After romping through the early miles in Virginia it was time to spend a bunch of time in DC. First was Georgetown where I knew Caitlin would be cheering. Resulted in a nice boost in early race morale and my favorite photo from the race (and the one I didn’t have to pay for). 8:00 7:26 7:23 7:06 7:24 After Georgetown, the race took on an out and back up Rock Creek Park. Downside: out and backs mean ugly u-turns. Upside: got to see the race leaders Upside: I really enjoy running in Rock Creek Park. Factoid: Rock Creek Park was the third National Park created by Congress Bonus Factoid: it’s larger than Central Park. 7:22 7:41 7:28 7:27 7:27 After the Park we hit what is, for me, the mentally tough part of the course – East Potomac Park and Haines Point. This part has been a real hard for me in the past. There aren’t any hills; it’s actually dead flat. It’s not that far into the race; Haines Point is the race’s midpoint. I’m not sure what the problem is other than it is a bit lonely and maybe bit boring? Got through it this without having a brain meltdown and felt pretty decent this time. 7:18 7:35 7:28 7:30 7:28 Now the race started get fun as it made lap of the National Mall which is the highlight of the race. Monuments, the Capital, Smithsonian buildings. It was somewhere in this section that I started to the burn in my quads. Since it wasn’t hamstrings or hips (old injury sites) I wasn’t too worried except for just how much the race was going to hurt in the end. By now I was also starting to notice that it was getting warm. 7:28 7:25 7:30 7:23 7:33 And then the race got really hard. This where the course crosses the Potomac on the I 395 bridge. There are some really iconic bridges in DC and isn’t one of them – uphill, highway, no spectators, mile 20. And you’re on it forever. I was hoping to be able to pick the pace after the bridge in Crystal City but it wasn’t happening – for me or anyone else either. I slowed down but there weren’t many people passing me either. The heat caught up to us and the slog was on. 7:38 7:46 7:57 7:41 8:17 The final mile of the race is a slight uphill from the Pentagon toward Arlington finishing with a short and very nasty final hill to finish before the Marine Memorial. The hill hurts but you can see the finish and there are Marines urging you on – finish as strong as you can. 8:17 8:34 – 3:20:55 After shaking hands or fist bumping about 20 young Marine 2LTs after the finish I received my medal, a salute and the race was officially over. I missed my “everything goes great goal” of 3:20 but I made all the important goals and was on pace for most of the race to have crushed the 3:20. · PR (previous was 3:31:25) · BQ (needed 3:40) · Make the top 20 in the Age Group; I finished 9th! · Run aggressively. OK, I may have overdone this one a little bit. A walk through the finish area and I was soon back to the running club’s hotel convention room where I was able to clean up a little, change clothes, get something to eat and catch up with other runners as they finished their races. I finally took the Metro home and spent several days hobbling around – my legs were completely trashed but trashed in a good way. I didn’t break 3:20 and I maybe could have if I had run a little more conservatively but I’m actually happy with how I ran and how the race ended. Age-Graded Score: 71.39% Age-Graded Time: 2:52:13
  7. HotPinkSneakers

    Wineglass Marathon RR - Everything is Awesome!

    TL;DR: Wineglass Marathon was amazing! I ran my most consistent race and got a PR by nearly 6 minutes. Parents and Loopsters made it extra-special. 10/10, would run again. The parents and I arrived in Corning, NY, late Friday afternoon. We checked into our hotel and met up with Liz and Peg for a drink and bite to eat nearby. It’s always great to catch up with Loopsters, and it was fun for my parents to meet some of the people that I talk about so much. It had been a long day of driving from Massachusetts, so we called it a night pretty early. Saturday morning started out with a short and fun shakeout run with the Loop ladies: Later in the day, we went to the Corning Museum of Glass, where the race expo was held. Very cool venue for sure! The expo was surprisingly large for such a small race, and the swag we got was top-notch. High quality half-zip pullover specific to the race distance (which I LOVED! I’m always kind of disappointed when there’s a single shirt for all distances), a wine glass, a split of sparkling wine, and a nice drawstring backpack to put it all in. After the expo, the parents and I visited the museum itself, which was very cool! We saw some contemporary art installations made of glass, as well as some breathtaking glass mosaics made and/or designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. On Saturday evening, the parents and I went to the official pre-race pasta dinner, because securing a dinner reservation in Corning turned out to be way more stressful than I would have expected. So the official dinner seemed like the safest bet, and the menu we saw online was much actually really great-looking! Turns out that this was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend! I shouldn’t have been surprised, because runners are the best people ever. But our tablemates were completely delightful, and we quickly got into sharing race stories and training experiences and our goals for the next morning. The food was plentiful and delicious, and I tried a couple of new things that worked out amazingly well and might become part of my goal race routine: gluten-free pasta (this one was corn-based) and a baked potato. I picked the corn pasta because it was spaghetti-shaped, while the regular wheat pasta was short (farfalle or something) and I just like long pasta better. But my stomach was noticeably calmer than usual the next morning, so maybe it’s something to consider for future races. Anyway, the main attraction of the pre-race dinner was the featured speaker: Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray! He was funny, self-deprecating, charming, and inspiring as hell. It was such a great way to get pumped up for the next day’s race, and definitely further stoked my desire to qualify for and run Boston in the near-ish future (more on that eventually. I’m not ready to put my plans down in black and white yet.). After dinner, we went back to the hotel and got ready for race day! Mom and I got our flat girls ready (she was running her second half-marathon!) and we put ourselves to bed. #racenailsonpoint The next morning dawned cold and crisp, which was exactly perfectly right for an October race in central NY! But for this pseudo-Southerner used to the never-ending DC summer, it was soooooooo cold!! I just kept telling myself how good it would feel once we got running. Mom and I caught our respective buses to the half- and full-marathon start lines (the half-marathon started at the half-way point of the full course), and I quickly found the other Loopsters once I got to the marathon start line staging area. Another awesome thing about Wineglass: they had a lovely big tent for us to wait in, which got nice and toasty once several hundred runners were packed inside! It was so great to be able to stay warm-ish and sit down on actual chairs while waiting to toe the line. Eventually it was time to walk over to the start line and get this show on the road! I chucked off my layers of Dad’s old sweatshirts and lined up next to the 3:45 pacer. Most of my training this summer had been done with a 3:40 in mind, but then I hurt my back in August and missed about three of the highest-intensity weeks of the training plan. I’d felt good in the few weeks leading up to the race, but I knew those weeks off had cost me something. I thought that an 8:35 pace seemed reasonable, all things considered, and figured I’d start there and if I had to back off, then so be it. The gun went off and we ran into the misty morning. The fog was pretty thick for almost the first half of the race, and it kept the air quite chilly! I didn’t ditch my gloves or makeshift tube sock arm warmers until at least 10 miles in, which is highly unusual for me. I stuck to the pacer like glue, and to my pleasant surprise, the 8:35ish pace felt practically effortless. After battling the heat and humidity of DC for so many months, feeling cold while running was kind of amazing and definitely made a huge difference in my race. The course (or at least what we could see of it through the fog) was pretty and quiet and rural. There were small pockets of spectators as we went through small towns, but it was pretty zen overall. I just listened to my music and tried to trust the pacer rather than check my own watch every few minutes. The pace group was pretty big, and several people were chatting steadily as we ran. I tried to tune them out and just keep my breathing steady and not worry about anything more than taking my gels on time. The pace was still feeling really good at the halfway point, and when the pacer peeled off to use the bathroom I took the opportunity to surge ahead a little bit. I was tired enough that his banter and people’s talking was getting annoying, and I wanted to just run my own race from this point on. I tried to keep my pace as steady as I could just ahead of them. I felt pretty good about the fact that they never passed me after that. Around Mile 18 or so I really started to drag, and I focused on just getting through the intervals in between gels. I felt so good about how the race had gone thus far, and worked hard to maintain that psychological momentum if not the physical. I didn’t let my pace stray too far above the 8:35 target, and I tried to take it one mile at a time. Eventually I reached the little bridge that leads into downtown Corning, and there was only one left turn remaining between me and that finish line. I took out my earbuds when I made the turn onto Market Street with about half a mile to go. This would be the greatest number of spectators I’d seen all day and I wanted to soak up the cheering, because I knew that I’d run my butt off for a nice PR! This was my face when I knew that I was about to finish in 3:45:xx: Official time: 3:45:21. A PR by 5 minutes and 39 seconds, and my most steady marathon splits ever: I definitely credit the pace group with keeping me in line during the first half of the race, and enabling me to save up the energy for the second half. Such an awesome race calls for another Bangle Pump: I spotted Peg shortly after I finished and got the quick version of her race. After getting some snacks, I found my parents back along Market Street. My mom had finished her race with a 7-minute PR! Then I got to see Liz finish looking crazy fast and strong! Eventually we got all the Loopsters back together for a group picture. PRs all around!! Wineglass is just that awesome! I printed out my official results, which I have almost certainly since lost but it was nice to have the record in-hand even briefly. In another super cool feature, they had these race clocks where you could punch in your bib number and bring up your time for a photo op: Everything about this race weekend fell into place perfectly. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I was really worried about how my unplanned time off would affect my fitness. This may not have been exactly the time I’d planned for at the beginning of my training cycle, I really couldn’t be happier with how I felt or how I did once it all came together. Now that the goal race for the fall is behind me, I’m focusing on having fun! To that end, I leave on Thursday for what will surely be a VERY different New York marathon experience: the New York City Marathon on November 5th!! I can’t wait to get to the city and see all of the craziness of the expo and race pavilion and everything. It’s sure to be an unforgettable race experience.
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