Category: Race Recap

2018 Marine Corps Marathon – Race Recap



I came.

Race Morning- Let’s Go!

I saw.

At the Expo – Such an Inspiring Wall!

I ate.

Post Marathon Nachos and Beer!

I ran.

I got a medal!

BUT most importantly – I crossed the finish line proud of how far I have come and happy that I remained pretty much injury-free this entire training cycle!


I know this recap of the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon is overdue – but I have been having a hard time putting into words what went down. If you could open up my head – a lot (I mean a lot) of thoughts would come out but to put those into coherent, readable sentences has been tough. So if there is some rambling in these paragraphs I apologize in advance.

Yes – for those of you who don’t know – I did finish the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon with a time of 3:53 – a respectable time but by no means what I was “supposed” to run – that goal of 3:45 passed me by (literally) around the National Mall.

That is not to say the weekend was no amazing – it was.

At the Expo – Picking Up  My Bib

From the time I got to the expo on Friday afternoon until the time we departed on Monday morning, I have to say I had a great race weekend. It’s just that the race did not go as expected – for as much as I planned to control all the variables that might have happened – I could not overcome the 2 things that got me in the end – dehydration and leg cramping.

Up until that point my main goal was to get to the race healthy. After being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in the late Summer I vowed to do whatever was necessary to stop the flare (and pooping on literally every run) while still putting in the miles.  It was also one of the hottest Summers on record and my paces suffered from that as well. 

And yes – I did put in the miles this cycle BUT for a stretch of time I took most of my quality workouts to the track. (Side note – I don’t recommend running 17 miles on the track. The. Worst.).  And much as I love the track – it does not mimic road running in the least.

When I finally was able to get back on the road in mid-September, I had some good and not so good runs. Running the Hartford Half Marathon in October was a great mental boost (especially given the rainy and cool weather conditions) – but at the end, I remember telling myself that I had to run another 13.1 miles and thinking it was a daunting task.

However – heading down to DC I was excited and oddly calm. In talking with my coach the afternoon before the race – I even told him that I was confident in his plan and excited to see what happened the next day.  And I really was – until I wasn’t

I had already been to the expo and purchased enough Brooks gear to try and forget the fact that the race shirts were utterly horrible (if this was a ploy by Brooks to get runners to buy more of their gear – it worked!), had a nice Friday night meal of gluten-free seafood pasta and bread, and figured out logistics for race morning. We stayed in Arlington and after looking at my options decided to take the shuttle bus to the start – it was perfect. I was able to get up at 5am, get on the shuttle by 5:45 and be at the start ( and through security) by 6:15am.  I copped a squat and used the bathroom as much as time would allow.  

I have heard that many runners got stuck and ended up at the start after the race started and I could see why – many of the busses were filled with runners AND spectators BUT it also seemed like many of the runners just did not take into account that there were 30,000 runners all trying to get to the same place for the same start time. 

Walking to the start.

There is a lot of pomp and circumstance before the race – it’s quite a site – but before I knew it we were off. I had the race plan written on my arm, Honey Stinger gummies in my skirt and a water bottle that I was to keep with me for the first 45 minutes. The Marine Corps Marathon is called “The People’s Marathon” and that is a true statement. People lined every single inch of the course (although sometimes getting too close to the runners) a feeling I equate to running the NYC marathon. And if you don’t get a lump in your throat watching runner’s running for others, runner’s carrying flags or The Blue Mile – then there is something wrong with you.

I followed my nutrition plan (Honey Stinger Gummies every 30 minutes) and after 45 minutes decided it would be a good idea to hold on to that water bottle – yup I ran 26.2 miles with a water bottle. It actually was a good idea especially on ‘THE BRIDGE” the only unsupported portion on the course.  My stomach was doing well and the miles ticked away.

Mark provided great course support and I actually saw him after I headed into the National Mall – he had joked that I would never see him as I have my music blaring but as you can tell – I saw him!

I promise I did wave at Mark!

It was after I saw him the second time that I started feeling it – cramping in my quads and hamstrings and a dizzy feeling. I held on until about mile 20 but then it was a struggle to finish the final 6 miles. I cursed and hated everyone that passed me looking strong and confident. Although I did not get to the pit of despair that many runners speak about when they are struggling, I got close.

I just had to remind myself that the end was near and tried to remember all the miles and effort it took to get to the start line. The finish line is what you expect after you run 26.2 miles – an incline – YUCK. BUT I crossed and although I  did not want to take another step – I did it!

Mission Accomplished

Mark collected me in the Family Area and we joined the masses back to the Metro for the rest, recovery and BEER!

When I crossed the finish and saw my time – I will admit I was disappointed in myself but I don’t know anything else I could have done differently given my fitness.  As Coach told me months ago – you can’t outrun your fitness. I also thought I disappointed my coach and my husband (who got up uber early and with herniations in his back to support me on the course), but as runners I know we sometimes put so much pressure on ourselves (thanks to Social Media for that) that we forget about the bigger picture.  Thankfully – they both were proud of me 🙂

This made me smile!

BUT you know what – I exited this training cycle healthy and happy and really that is what it’s all about.

Yes – I would have loved to reach my goals but I will keep chasing them.  The marathon is a tricky beast – I have run 6 marathons and each time I have a new respect for the distance and those that toe the line.

I know what I need to work on in the coming weeks and months but for now it is time to “let my body absorb the training”, get back into the gym, take some Yoga classes and start thinking about what I want to accomplish next year.

Onward we go!

Retro Run 5k – NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY

I’m sure the title of my post got some people’s attention – so Hi!

I thought I would do a quick check in on how things are going and also a race recap of the Retro Run 5k that I ran yesterday.  I know that there has been some chatter among the blog-o-sphere recently about whether blogging is dying as more and more are using Instagram to share stories and mini-blog posts.

I admit although I love writing and reading other bloggers, sometimes it’s just easier to post a picture my phone and share my thoughts instantly.  Blogging takes more time – remembering your password, writing, editing, and uploading photos – it can be a lot.

I know as I start ramping up my mileage in the coming weeks to prepare for the Marine Corps Marathon (5.5 months away – but who’s counting) I will be making an effort to be sharing more.  Not only is it a good outlet but I love going back and seeing how I have improved from one training cycle to the next (and which workout’s I absolutely hated).

So in terms of where I am fitness wise as I write this post – pretty good.  I was dealing with some wonky right knee issues since March.  I went back to physical therapy, got some sports massages (Thanks Richard), and started going back to the chiropractor regularly.  Oh – and I taped my knee (Rock Tape and McConnell) within an inch of its life.

Long story short – I have a loose kneecap that does not track properly (I know awesome!). 

That combined with my quads not “firing” caused my kneecap to move in a “J” pattern as I ran instead of straight up and down.  So – I was running well but just not very comfortable for several weeks.  I felt very clunky when I ran – always waiting for the next step to cause me pain.

BUT with patience, a couple of days off (thanks Mark for putting up with “Sad Runner”), and the above recovery – I am happy to report that my stride does not feel clunky AND I ran my first “Easy” miles this morning with just McConnell taping.

Mileage is in the mid-30s per week and I am “working on” getting in at least 2 strength training sessions a week.

Whew!

So even after a pretty challenge 2 quality workouts this week – I had a 5k on Sunday the Retro Run 5k in Morris,  Connecticut.

When I signed up for this race over the winter (probably during a storm because isn’t that when all the best racing decisions are made??) – I “forgot” to take into account that the race was in Litchfield – notorious for hills. A fact I only realized when I was trying to complete my warm up.

I also did something that even the most novice runner know NOT to do – nothing new on race day.

My failure in that department does not happen often (I am such a Type A) BUT yesterday I met my dad for breakfast at his local diner.  The best option on the menu – Veggie Egg White Omelette, Dry Rye Toast, and Coffee.  They had outmeal but it was made with milk – we have a love hate relationship so I did not want to take the chance. 

AND the worst part – I only had 1 piece of toast. Major fail!  I was content when I ate it at 9 am but by the time I reached the race AND did my warm up, I should have brought a banana to top me off.

Especially since the sun (which has been a rare sight over the past couple of months) decided to show her face and race the temperature (and the humidity) to soupy levels.

Once the air horn went off – I headed up the 1st hill – notice I said first.  I honestly lost count on how many hills there were – personally I think there should be a limit.  And as I continued my breathing got labored and I had problems breathing – Yuck!

It was a slog I will tell you that and I even had to walk/jog a bit to catch my breath.  I do use an inhaler but it did not do the trick yesterday.

The downhill to the end and the finish were a welcome relief but I felt so disappointed in myself.  I knew going in that it was not a race (as I mentioned I 2 tough workouts earlier in the week) but I wanted to do “well”.

It’s funny – what is “well”.  For some the race it was winning, for some it was running the entire 3.1 miles and for others, it was just finishing. For me (as Mark told me while I was complaining about it the way home) doing well as being there, uninjured and finishing because at the end of the day that is what we do.

Yes, we run (and race) to compete and get better BUT we also run to be with other runners and share in the joy (and misery) that each race brings.

So to turn this “Debbie Downer” post into a positive – here are 3 Retro 5k take-aways:

  • Run with intention and if you did that you can’t ask anything else from yourself.
  • It’s the time of year when Body Glide is my best friend.  Seriously I think I would have come away with some serious chafe. 
  • And last but certainly not least – small races are the best.  I might not have had a good race BUT I still came away with an AG win! 

2018 Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon Recap – Even Running “For Fun” Can Be Work

Greater Quarter MarathonSpring is “supposedly” here – although I think you will be hard-pressed to find runners in Connecticut (or New England for that matter) that truly believes that to be fact. At a time when I should be breaking out capris, a lightweight jacket and gloves, I am still “suiting up” in thermal tops, fleece tights, and a hat.

BUT I am making the best of this ever-changing weather.

After a week of solid running – almost 40 miles – I could not ignore the “niggle” that had started to develop in my right knee. It had been “bothering” me for a couple of weeks and although I had gone to my orthopedic to confirm my self-diagnosis (Runner’s Knee) AND had been doing at home PT – it just would not subside. It’s like my right side started to compensation due to some imbalance with my left side.

I finally told Mark and James who (both) promptly told me to “shut it down” for 48 hours.  Runner’s knee is no joke – I have had it before and it SUCKS!  

I was told that if I did what I was told (rest, heat, PT exercises, and ice) for 48 hours I could participate in the Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon BUT in my trainers and without a watch. 

So I did what I was told and by Saturday morning I felt better.

Even though there was no workout planned for the Greater HartfordQuarter Marathon- I still did “quick” warm up to check and see how I was feeling. Not sure if it was sitting in the car for a bit or if I was just being hyper-sensitive but I did not feel 100%.

However – after a quick return to my car (to add another layer),I headed to the porta potties (always a line) and then to the start.

I have run this 2 loop race several times.  It is a pretty course, with some nice Connecticut “rolling hills” thrown in, and a nice downhill to the finish where oranges and tons of delicious home-baked goods await.

The gun went off, I started my watch (I know but I am one of those runners who likes to keep track of my mileage), quickly covered it and headed out.

With some good tunes, I tried to find my groove, not push it, and enjoy my surroundings.

Without keeping track of my pace I had to rely on myself – which I admit I am horrible at doing. So much so that when I came through the “finish” after the first loop and figured out my split (8:09) I realized that I was definitely not running easy. I also understood at that point why I was sweating and breathing a bit heavy.

The second loop felt a bit harder and I even (admittedly) walked up part of the hill around mile 4ish, which was the same point my hands stopped being numb.

Finishing with a smile on my face (I have the worst race photos), I grabbed my medal, an orange and checked my race time where……

I was pleasantly surprised to have placed in my age group – an added bonus.

And the best part – during the Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon – my knee felt great, no pain, soreness or discomfort. It’s so strange.

Not wanting to jinx anything and thinking I was “better” I took Sunday off and will start this week “easy”.

During a portion of the race – I had fleeting thoughts of last years race – especially where I was fitness wise. It was a couple of days after the start of my hip problems. Earlier that week, I had strained my left hip flexor WHICH during the NJ marathon would turn into a tear.  According to my journal I stated ” Last rep – not so hot, my hip flexors were feeling it (and you can tell that by my cadence that also dropped). Have a massage tonight, thank god!”.  If I only knew of the things to come!

So although I might be a bit slower (endurance wise) than last year I am in far better shape (hip wise heading toward the rest of the Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Thanks to the Hartford Track Club for another great race!  It was a pleasure to run it and I can’t wait for Edition XIII of the Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon in 2019!

Hartford Half Marathon Recap – The Run That Became a Race

hartford-half-marathon-1Every Columbus Day weekend for the past 6 years, I have run the Hartford Half Marathon.  It’s a great race and one that I look forward to every year.  I mean, I live about 10 minutes from the start line, so I love the fact that I can sleep in and still make it to the start line with time to kill.

Just coming off racing the Lehigh Marathon several weeks prior (read my race recap here), I am still in the “recovery” mode.  I am still running, but my mileage has been reduced and all my runs have been easy.

However, I had discussed running the Hartford Half Marathon with Coach James, and because he knew how special this race was to me, he gave his blessing.  When people would ask, I would say I was running 13.1 miles for “fun” – something only a runner would say with a straight face.

I was not overly concerned about completing the distance, as I had a good base to work off of, but I was not sure how “fast” I would be able to run.  Coach James did not want me to “race” it (that he made perfectly clear) but enjoy it for what it is – a chance to run in Hartford, surrounded by my fellow running friends.  Whether running the 5k, half marathon or full marathon, this event is one of the few times during the year when a majority of my running friends come together for one race.

The week leading up to the race – I continued to run easy.  Overall I felt good, but had been dealing with some piriformis soreness that I just could not quiet down.hartford-half-marathon-2

The morning of the race, I, along with Mark – were up early, found parking easily and headed to the start line.  We stopped along the way to catch up with friends whom I had not seen “in person” for a while.  Because I was lucky enough to have “qualified” for seeding with my Amica Half Marathon time this past June, I made sure I took advantage of this and got myself into the corral well before the “masses” lined up at the start.

Standing in the corral and getting ready to run 13.1 miles for fun, I was joined by two fellow female runners whom I have know (and run with) for several years.  Talking with them and being surrounded by all the other runners, energized me.hartford-half-marathon-3

After a gorgeous opening ceremony and a quick good luck to those around me – we were off.

I want to say that I listened to what Coach James and I discussed, with regards to my “run” plan BUT  to be honest I got caught up in the excitement.  As I made my way to the corral before the race, I decided to run by feel.

It was not until Mile 3 when I decided to look at my watch to check my pace.  I did not see any of the pacing groups around, so I really did not have any idea of how, I was doing until that point. I looked down at my Garmin and realized that I was running about an 8:05 pace AND I felt good.

SO, I decided (probably not one of my best ideas) to hold on to the pace for as long as felt comfortable and back off as soon as I felt fatigued.

I have run this course for the past 6 years, so I know it pretty well.  It’s a relatively challenging course with some hills, but nothing so steep one way or the other.  I continued to run consistent splits, as I made my way through West Hartford and back to the Bushnell Park.

I held up pretty well, until about mile 10.5, when the fatigue started to set in.  At that point I was really, really glad I decided to not switch and run the Full Marathon, something I really had my heart set on after my less than stellar Lehigh Marathon.

On the final straight away – which brings you up Farmington Avenue and finally through the arch at Bushnell Park – I struggled.  I really wanted to stop and walk but I kept telling myself that I just needed to keep moving regardless of how fast or slow I was going.

Past Union Station and through the arch, I was glad to cross the finish line and finally stop running.  I walked through the finish, grabbed some water, saw my Coach (whom was proud of me but also chastised me for my pace – two things I knew would happen), and headed to grab my medal.hartford-half-marathon

Mark and my mom were waiting for me as I headed out of the finishers chute.  I was happy to see them and regale them with how my race went.hartford-half-marathon-5

Mark was proud of my consistent paces, but he knew Coach James would have more to say (which he did).hartford-half-marathon-4

I grabbed some food (the pumpkin brownies were delicious!) and hung around to see some friends whom were running the marathon.  Watching the runners cross the finish line – I was a bit jealous but I know that I was in no condition to run another marathon so close to Lehigh.

So – What Did I Learn From The Race

  • I don’t give my legs enough credit,  they are stronger then I make them out to be.
  • If there is a race/run plan, I need to follow it, regardless of how “fast or slow” I will be.
  • In the same regard – I can get caught up in the race excitement but can’t let it go to my head.
  • This was the first race I have run in a long, long time when I did not tape anything!  Score!
  • The Hartford Marathon Foundation puts on a great Half Marathon, the course support – from the water stations to the volunteers to the crowd support is pretty epic.
  • I love this course and know there is no place I would rather be on Columbus Day weekend.
  • I really love the finish of the Hartford Half Marathon because I never felt “pushed” to exit the finisher’s chute.  It gave me a chance to see some other friends finish and all walk out together.
  • Crowd support sometimes makes the difference between walking and running.  On Farmington Avenue I really wanted to stop and walk BUT seeing the spectators cheering gave me the push I needed to finish.

So with that – my 7th Hartford Half Marathon is in the books.  With this race out of the way, I will be focusing on preparing for the Manchester Road Race next month.

Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon Recap – Oh The Humidity!

It’s been about a week and a half since I ran the Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon (or “Lehigh Marathon” as I liked to call it) on September 11, 2016 .  Honestly – I have written this post several times and deleted it just as many time.

I’ve gone through a lot of emotions over these past 10 days since running the , but I finally think I can honestly recap the race and my emotions.

If you follow me on social media (here, here, and here),  you have followed my journey and knew by the afternoon of September 11th that the race did not go as expected.  My 4th marathon was in the books with a final time was 3:51.

What many don’t know was that – Yes I was training for the Lehigh Marathon but what I was ultimately trying to accomplish was running a marathon that would qualify me to register for the Boston Marathon – Yup the big one!

I “attempted” to quality for Boston while running the New York City Marathon last year, but I never truly focused on that goal throughout my training.  After finishing the New York City Marathon with a time of 3:49, I realized that I was close to qualifying in the 40-45 age range, where I would need a 3:45 to qualify.

When I first met with Coach James in February, and he about my 2016 goals, my first response was “Boston”.  We hatched a plan to get me healthy and strong to run the Lehigh Marathon, as the registration for the 2017 Boston Marathon would open the next day.

During this training cycle, I felt that my training was solid.  I hardly missed a workout and, with the exception of a couple of sessions, I was consistently hitting my paces during my quality runs.  Even when I took basically a week off in July, I was able to jump back into training and remain consistent.

During Ragnar, this past May, I told my friend Sean Duffy (Cheetah 4 from Team Sexy Sexy Cheetah) I had signed up for the Lehigh Marathon and asked his advice as he had run it the year before.  He advised that the course was flat BUT that a majority of the course was on a cinder trail.  I took it in stride, but in hindsight it might have been a good idea to take some of my runs to Connecticut’s Rails to Trails to mimic race day conditions.

As many of you know – this summer has been atrocious for running.  Hot and humid, day in and day out, but I was out there slogging the miles. I embraced those few days when the heat would break and running would be an enjoyable experience.

About 2 weeks from the race, I had an Achilles flare-up.  Tape, compression and physical therapy were the name of the game and using these three tools consistently helped to pretty much resolve the issue before race week.Lehigh Marathon - August 20 3

Unfortunately, as my flare up was winding down, my anxiety about the race day conditions was winding up.  No matter how many times I refreshed my Weather App or looked at a different Weather App – the conditions remained the same for race day- hot and humid.

I was fortunate that Coach James and I had talked (thank god for technology) and came up with a plan, which included:

  • Bringing a long sleeve shirt to the start soaked in ice water.  That would keep me cool until the start while I warmed up (HA) and then I could change into my race shirt just before the gun went off.
  • Instead of starting at 8:21 (my prescribed marathon pace) – I would start at 8:35.  Ease into the first couple of miles (which are a net down hill) and then increase the speed.
  • Preview the course the day before with Mark to find spots he could be at with cold water, a water soaked shirt and hat.

I felt a little bit better, actually much better then I did before last years race because I had a plan.

So we headed down to Allentown on Friday (with my mom who was gracious enough to be co-cheerer and volunteer) and Saturday morning Mark and I headed out for a shakeout run.lehigh-marathon-recap-1

My running time was only 25 minutes but let me tell you it was HOT, and it was probably 80 degrees at 8:00 AM.  I was nervous already and it only got worse after my run, but luckily Mark did a great job keeping me distracted for the rest of the day.lehigh-marathon-recap-2

Packet pickup and the “expo” was small, which surprised me.  I understood that the race was small but for being touted at a “BQ” race – I thought there would be more vendors.  And the shirt/swag that they handed out – Not impressed.lehigh-marathon-recap-3

Before leaving I stopped at the “Concierge” booth to try and get a feel for the course maybe get some tips.  Again I was not impressed with those manning the booth.  They were not helpful or enthusiastic and it appeared that a couple of them had not run the Lehigh Marathon in the past.

What was cool was the location where the packet pick up was held.  Located in the Steel Stacks – Mark and I marveled at the huge, monstrous steel stacks that towered above us.  We took a quick walking tour which gave a great, brief history of what an industrial powerhouse this area used to be.lehigh-marathon-recap-6 lehigh-marathon-recap-5 lehigh-marathon-recap-4

A relaxing lunch was followed by the best idea that Coach James had – an afternoon at the movies WITH RECLINING SEATS.  GAME. CHANGER.leghi-marathon-recap-7

Before heading back to our room for the night, we checked out the course and I am so glad we did.  It helped a lot on Sunday – knowing how far I was away from the next time I would see Mark and ultimately how far away I was from the finish line.

THE LEHIGH MARATHON START

The next morning – I got up, got dressed, prepared my oatmeal and a half of cup of coffee and headed to the shuttle bus that would take me from the Finish to the Start.  I told Mark that morning that I was done looking at my phone – it was giving me too much anxiety and at this point there was nothing that was going to change what was going on outside.lehigh-marathon-recap-8

In hindsight – I should have looked at my phone as Coach James had texted me and told me to go out even slower then we discussed – Whoops!

I headed outside and a wall of humidity hit me – Yuck.  I would later find out that the temperature was between 70-75 at the start but the kicker was that the dew point was 72 degrees

We got to the start (about a 30 minute bus ride away), I donned my wet shirt, warmed up and waited for the start.  The shirt was a great idea because I went from being hot and uncomfortable on the bus to cool at the start.

With minutes to go I changed to my race shirt and headed to the start.  Again, this is a very small race so it was not that hard to find a place to line up.  There was a bit of heightened security but nothing out of the ordinary.  With some quick introductions, we were off.

THE RACE

So if you hear anyone talk about this race – they will tell you that it is a net down hill and for the most part it is true but what I realized was that the majority of that “net downhill” is during the first couple of miles, when you are pumped and ready to go.capture

Unfortunately I went out way too fast (8:13; 8:13; 8:07), and it was not until mile 4 (8:22) that I reigned it in. I felt pretty confident and comfortable on the course, even when it changed from pavement to cinder.   In hindsight – because of the dew point my running output was an 8:00 minute mile or faster, definitely not the paces I had been training at.

I first saw Mark at mile 7 (thank you for wearing an orange shirt) who handed me the best tasting and coldest water ever as I ran past.

What I was not expecting, after passing Mark, was when the course changed from cinder to basically a single track trail.  For a portion of the course, you were running on 1 of 2 rutted running tracks.  So, if you wanted to pass the runner in front of you, you would have to go around them on uneven grass.  Having dealt with ankle/Achilles issues in the past, I did not realize that the constant pounding and maneuvering on uneven surface would be detrimental in the later miles.

I was also fortunate to have met another Connecticut runner at the start, who was running the Marathon Relay “for fun”.  Shout out to David Fusfeld for running with me for 6 miles (I think) – he was a great “pacer” and I wish he would have stayed with me for the rest of the race.

Luckily as David peeled off – I happened upon Mark.  An unexpected surprise at Mile 13!  At that point I was still on pace running an 8:19 and 8:34 for mile 12 and 13.

However, it was during these next miles when the humidity, uneven trail and heading out too quick took it’s toll.  The dew point was dropping but I had no idea.   I also started to feel a dull ache in my ankle that was slowly traveling up my calf – probably due to the uneven running surface.  These miles were also the most lonely – no spectators (besides people out for Sunday exercise) and no water stations that I can recall.

Mark saw me again at Mile 17 and one look at the clock and I knew that my goal time was not going to happen.  I was crushed and as I passed Mark, I knew he knew but with a cold bottle of water, he told me I was doing great.  He later told me that he was concerned because I had stopped sweating and chugged water like it was going out of style.  Usually in races I don’t take too much water because I am afraid of cramping but I had no qualms about water that day.

I had read a race report and knew that after mile 20 there was a hill.  I was expecting it, but what I was not expecting was it to be completely rutted and unpaved.  Basically it looked (and felt to my feet) maintained.  I made a bargain with myself that if I could make it up the hill I would stop at the next water station, take a GU and some water and gather myself.

After cresting the hill, I was shocked and happy to see (and recognize) Mary Johnson (an athlete and Coach of McKirdy Trained).  She also had a runner on the course.  I slowed down but as soon as I did developed the worst Charlie Horse I have ever experienced.  The kind that sent me crumbling to the ground in excruciating.  Thank god for Mary who massaged my calf, gave me some electrolytes, and gave me the best words of wisdom – “You just have to rip off the band-aid and start running again”.

I did but those last miles were a bit of a blur.  I am ashamed to say that I might have walked up some of the final hills, frustrated at myself and frustrated at the weather.

Rounding the corner for the final mile was slow  and crossing the finish line was sweet relief.lehigh-marathon-recap-8-2

What was even better was that my mom, who came down with Mark and I for the weekend, was volunteering at the finish line and was able to hand me my medal.  I was grateful she was there to see me complete what I set out to do so many months ago.

THE AFTERMATH

After getting my medal and some water, I headed to the shade to cool down.

After searching a bit for the food line – which was located behind the start line, I grabbed some stuff and headed back to the hotel, bypassing the exceedingly long beer tent.lehigh-marathon

I went back to the room to lick my wounds and see what damage running 26.2 miles had done.

In the end – I ended up with some pretty nasty blisters, a bit of sun burn and a calf cramp that took several days to resolve.

But mentally – I am still licking my wounds.  Yes – the weather played a big role in my outcome but when you put that much effort into something, you want it to work out.  You want people to see that all the early morning and bed times meant something.

In talking with Coach James last week he helped put things into perspective.  Yes – I have come a long way since February and the conditions of the day was the main culprit.

Running on uneven terrain, sweating profusely and using a ton of energy over that terrain was the perfect cocktail for what happened on the course.

I am happy to report that even though my time (3:51) was not what I was expecting – I don’t hate the marathon.  In fact, I left Pennsylvania having more respect for the distance. Last year, while running the New York City Marathon I pretty much hated running from mile 15 to the finish.  This year – it started at mile 22 and to me that’s a win.

And an even bigger victory, is that I ran the Lehigh Marathon uninjured and have recovered pretty quick.  Despite the first couple of days when the stairs and I were NOT friends, I have “bounced” back pretty quick.  My first run this past Saturday, although not pretty, did not “suck” as much as I thought it would.  I have my training plan to thank for that.

So – What Did I Learn From This Race

No matter how hard you train, the weather ultimately plays a role in how well you do.  I know that my training got me to where I am, in the best possible shape I could be, but mother nature decided to be a BITCH that day.

For a marathon that touts itself as a “BQ” qualifier, does not mean that it is going to be completely paved.  Take that into consideration while training. Always check the course maps.

Know that if you are going to run a small marathon, you will have to pump yourself up during those later miles.

Having a plan (like Mark meeting me at various points in the race) when conditions are not ideal, helped me run the best possible race I could that day.


I went home from this race really wanting to sign up for another marathon right away, or even running the Hartford Marathon.  But I have been talked off that ledge – time to recover and start training for my next challenge….RACING the Manchester Road Race on Turkey Day.

So, even though the race did not turn out the way I wanted it to, I feel that I have learned a lot about myself – what I do well and what I need to improve on.

In hindsight, I am not sure I would have signed up for the Lehigh Marathon had I known what the weather conditions would be, but that is the chance you take for signing up for an early September marathon.

I came away with more respect for the marathon and also learned what “To Do” and what “Not To Do” for my next marathon, sometime early next year.lehigh-marathon-recap-10

On Ward and Upward!!!

Roller Coaster Race – The 10k Race Recap

It’s been a while since I have laced up my sneakers to”race”.  Looking back, my last race was the Solstice Sprint 5k in June.  So when approached to run the 10k portion of the Roller Coaster Race over Labor Day weekend, I jumped at the chance.

I “jumped”  not so much because I was planning on racing the 10k, especially with the Lehigh Valley Marathon on September 11, 2016, BUT because it’s been a long and somewhat lonely training cycle.  Most of my summer has been focused on developing speed, endurance AND remaining injury free (not an easy task), so I have forgoed some of my favorite races.

So, with the blessing of Coach James to use this race as a workout, I signed up for the Roller Coaster Race 10k.Roller Coaster Race I

Up bright and early Sunday morning, Mark (whom I had coerced into running the 5k) and I headed to Lake Compounce.  Packet pickup was a breeze.  All I had to do was show my e-mail confirmation and ID (which I forgot in the car) and I was handed my bib along with a cute women’s tech shirt.Roller Coaster Race

Labor Day weekend has a lot of races in Connecticut, so I was not sure how well attended the Roller Coaster Race would be, but I was surprised at the number of 5k and 10k participants at the start line.

The 5k and 10k courses were the same, with the 10k course looping around the park twice.  I was expecting the race to be on a completely paved course, so when the course moved toward a gravel road, I was not happy.  Dealing with some achilles and ankle issues the past couple of weeks AND running a marathon in less than a week, I treaded lightly.

The first part of the course took runners through the Camp Bear Creek, located next to Lake Compounce.  Smells of bacon and campfires permeated the air but I plugged forward.  Runners then looped back toward the park, through the start line, along an access road and finally into the Lake Compounce.

Running through an empty amusement park, which in the matter of hours would be filled with people, was a great experience.

After exiting the park – the 10k runners did a second loop of the course.

This part of the race was enjoyable, not because it was 3 more miles BUT because I was pretty much running solo at that point.  I have a tendency to not believe I can run at marathon pace without the “push” of other runners around me.  Nerves have been surfacing over the past week, mainly of how I would perform this coming weekend in Lehigh.  There are approximately 2,500 marathon participants, and really how many of those runners would be running my exact pace.

So running solo, feeling comfortable, AND glancing at my watch to see that I was on pace was a confidence booster.

Post race refreshments were plentiful – but I held off from the chips, cookies and bagels and opted for some cold water and later a Yasso salted caramel yogurt bar.

I thought that Lake Compounce opened at 10:00AM but then it was announced that did not open until 11:00AM, so Mark and I hung out to see the awards ceremony.

It was a complete surprise when Mark checked the results on-line and figured out that we both placed in our age groups – Yeah for small races!Roller Coaster Race - winnerRoller Coaster Age Winner

After picking up our awards, we quickly changed out of our running clothes (as best we could) and headed into Lake Compounce for a couple of hours of amusement park fun.

So what did I think of this race?

Thoughts of the Roller Coaster Race at Lake Compounce

  • For a small race, the Roller Coaster Race was a well organized.  Races that have all their ducks in a row get a huge thumbs up from me.
  • I loved that the race shirt I received was female cut.  I can’t tell you how many of my unisex race shirts have become night shirts.
  • Good post-race refreshments.  Yes, there were a lot of cookies and chips but also fruit and water.  The Yasso Greek yogurt bars were a sweet (but not too sweet) treat.
  • If you include the price of parking and the admission to Lake Compounce, the cost for the race was reasonable.  Mark and I had a blast in the park once it opened, especially the bumper cars!
  • I loved that there was an option for non-runners. There were many groups in the park wearing “runner” shirts and “rider” shirts.  It’s a great way to bring the whole family, even if not everyone runs.
  • Quick race results.  I would say after about 30 minutes I received a “Congratulations” e-mail on finishing the race, and within the hour, my results were posted on line.Roller Coaster Race

Mark and I had a lot of fun running and riding at the Roller Coaster race on Labor Day at Lake Compounce.

If you are interested in “Running and Riding” and are living in the Texas, Washington DC or California area, check out their website as there are still some Roller Coaster Races planned for 2016.


Disclaimer – I (but not my husband) was provided a race entry fee for my use and review.  All opinions (and race times) are my own.

Roller Coaster Race – Ride and Race This Labor Day

It’s hard to believe that on September 5th, Summer will be “officially” over.  I know I am trying to eek out those last few items on my Summer “To Do” list before the leaves start changing color.
 
Mark and I have been busy, busy this summer and with the Lehigh Marathon one week after Labor Day, this will be the first year that I will not be running the New Haven Road Race.  The distance is a bit too much considering I will be running a marathon the next week.
 
BUT racing on Labor Day is a tradition for me SO when I was contacted by the marketing department at Lake Compounce about their upcoming Roller Coaster Race on September 4, 2016 I was intrigued.  A 10k is just what I (and Coach James) think will be a good way to get some quality miles and dust off my “racing legs”.Lake Compounce
 
Specifically, participants of the Roller Coaster Race (which begins promptly at 8:30AM) have the option of running either a USATF sanctioned 5k or a 10k  course and receive:
  • A tech t-shirt
  • A ticket to Lake Compounce good on event day
  • Free parking on event day
  • A free race photo download
  • A finisher medal for each event in which the registrants participate
  • Post race refreshments, DJ, and award ceremony
Those who participate in the 5k Run/Walk will weave their way through the park, around and under some of Lake Compouce’s world-famous coasters.  Participants in the 10k race also run through Lake Compounce and also the surrounding areas.
 

Want to participate but don’t consider yourself a runner.  

Lake Compounce

Never fear – the Roller Coaster Race has a option for you.  Beginning at 11:00AM, thrill seeking participants can complete the “Roller Coaster Ride” by riding any combination of Lake Compounce’s world-class roller coasters to complete a total of 5K, which depending on the roller coasters you choose would be about seven rides Have your wristband stamped as you exit each ride, and we will tally your total distance when you check in at the scoring table.  

As with the 5k/10k participants, Ride participants will receive:

  • A cotton t-shirt
  • A ticket to the park good on event day
  • Free parking at the park on event day
  • A finisher medal 
  • Post race refreshments, DJ and award ceremony
Registration for these  family-friendly events 5K and 10K is open through August 30.  Click here to register.
What a great idea – come for a race and stay for the rides.  I love Lake Compounce and have spent many a childhood summer riding all the rides – from Pirate Ship to Bolder Dash, the park’s wooden roller coaster.   AND I can’t wait to try out Phobia – their newest roller coaster for 2016.
Phobia Roller Coaster
(Source) 
AND as a member of the Run 169 Towns Society (orDo Every Blessed Town in Connecticut) – I surprisingly don’t have Southington checked off my list of towns.  Yet another reason to sign up for this race (as I have been told the Roller Coaster Race counts for Southington AND Bristol)
So who’s with me.  I know there are a lot of races in Connecticut that weekend, some more popular than others, but I think that this might be a new running tradition for me.

If you are planning on going – let me know on social media, would love to see and meet some other runners on September 4th!


 Disclaimer:  I was contacted by the marketing department of World Strides to promote this race in exchange for an entry into the Roller Coaster Race at Lake Compounce on September 4, 2016.  All opinions (and racing times) are my own.

Solstice Sprint 5k

I know – in my last post I said that I was not going to run any races on the plan unless it was sanctioned.  BUT a couple of weeks ago I had been cleaning out my In Box and realized that I had signed up for Solstice Sprint 5k over the winter  – Whoops!  So this past Wednesday, I laced up my sneakers for an evening 5k put on by the Hartford Track Club.

Let me tell you – the weather was so much different than the last time I traveled to the West Hartford Reservoir for a race.  If you recall – back in April I ran the Quarter Marathon (also sponsored by the Hartford Track Club) in conditions that were cold, wet and pretty rainy.

This time I had the opposite conditions to deal with – hot, humid AND after work.  I am a morning runner by nature  – I like to get it on and done as early as possible.  It’s usually a lot cooler, I don’t have to think about it all day AND I don’t have that heavy feeling I have when I try and run after work.

But I signed up for it and did not hear anything to the contrary from my coach, so Wednesday after work I headed over to pick up my bib and Summer Solstice Sprint 5k swag (cute t-shirt!).Solstic Sprint 5k - bib

I had some time to kill (the race was at 6:30pm and I got there at 5:00pm) so I had a peach and tried to stay cool.Splstic Spring 5k - peach

With some time left (and still not hearing if I had a plan or not) I did what has become ingrained in me – drills, warm up, and a bit of stretching, all while trying to stay cool.  That turned out to be a lost cause – it was just hot!

I headed to the start with the other runners for the start.  The Solstice Sprint 5k is a bit smaller than the Quarter Marathon but it was still a very competitive field.  I was lucky to meet another one of my coach’s “client’s” who knew me from Instagram (Hi Tessa!).  Talking with her helped the time go by and before we knew it we had a very informal “GO”.  I had asked Tessa if she had a plan and she told me that she was supposed to run as fast as she could for the first mile but still be able to say her address and then pick it up for the second mile.  I thought that was a great idea and decided to “borrow” it for my race plan.

However – after we started and I tried to say my address I was having a hard time doing that – meaning 1) I was going to fast or 2) it was just really hot and humid.  I decided at that point that it was probably a bit of both – and since I consider a 5k a 3.1 miles of death running I decided to just hang on for dear life and see what I could do.

The Solstice Sprint 5k is one time around the Red Loop which is great (the Quarter Marathon is 2 loops) but the timing of the race proved to be a sun glaring challenge.  Just after I climbed the hill to reach the lake I was confronted by the full, glaring hot and angry sun.  YUCK!  It was also at this point that I really wanted to stop, catch my breath and maybe grab some water from the nice volunteers.  This usually happens at some point during all the races I run BUT I told myself I could hold out for water a bit longer and I even talked myself out of stopping – because God Damn It I paid money to be this miserable 🙂

Luckily I got out of the sun and the last part of the race if flat and downhill – it is supposed to be glorious but I was just looking for the finish and the sweet taste of watermelon I knew would be available to me. Another runner (Hi Craig) came up beside me and I was hoping he would not say anything of encouragement because honestly I just wanted to reach the finish and did not want to expend any more energy than needed.

As always crossing the finish is a great accomplishment.

As much as I dislike evening races Hartford Track Club puts on a great race and an even greater post-race.  They are very organized with everything, including the awards ceremony and even more importantly the post race food – which in my opinion is the best.  How can you say no to fresh strawberries and watermelon!

I waited for the awards to be announced because guess who placed second in her age group – THIS GIRL!  Solstice Spring 5k

Not a PR but getting there – last summer I was about a minute slower and my PR is about a minute faster so I am happy where I have come. AND two of my McKirdy Trained teammates also placed – nice job ladies!Solstic Spring 5k - Finish

I headed back to my car and guess what – a text from my coach.  I was warming up when he sent it and told me to start out 20 seconds slower due to the heat – WHOOPS!Solstic Sprint 5k - Selfie


So what do I take away from this race:

  • I still do not like 5ks after work BUT this was a good quality workout AND a good test of my 3.1miles of death fitness.
  • Wearing a white tank top is hard with mascara – I so wanted to wipe my face after my race but did not want to leave any marks. #runnersproblems
  • Can all races have watermelon – Seriously I think I love that as a post race snack more than oranges.
  • File this under the “don’t try something new on race day”.  I tried some Skratch after the race “by accident”,  it was great…until I got home.  Let’s just say my stomach was not happy with me.

Amica Iron Horse 1/2 Marathon Recap

I think that Mother Nature might have it in for me.  Looking back over the past several months – I have raced in some pretty soggy conditions (see recaps here and here).  This past Sunday was no different as I ran the Amica Iron Horse 1/2 Marathon in Simsbury, CT.

As most runners are prone to be, I had been stalking the weather for the better part of the week.  No matter how many prayers I said to the running gods – it was a foregone conclusion that it was going to rain on Sunday.

I have no problem with rain BUT combine that with the soupy humidity that the weathermen had also forecast and I was not sure what to expect.

The timing of the rain, however, was TBD – some reports said that it was going to rain all morning and others indicated it was not going to start until I was on my way home.

Much to my chagrin – I awoke to the pitter patter Sunday morning, so there was nothing left to do but grab a light rain jacket, a change of clothes, and make the best of the situation.Amica Iron Horse- Before Race

I am notorious for arriving close to the start of this race.  I then start to panic while finding a place to park, run around like a chicken with my head cut off looking for a short port a potty line and make it to the start with moments to spare before the start gun goes off.

BUT earlier in the week I got an e-mail from Coach James welcoming me to participate in a group warm up, drills, and pep talk. So – I got myself (and Mark whom was running the 5k) to the start at at 6ish to prepare.  I have never warmed up for so long before a race and wondered to myself how I would run an additional 13.1 miles after all the “work” I did.

BUT there was a method to his “madness” – I got to talk to him, talk to some of my “teammates”, and lay out a race plan based on the weather conditions.   It was oddly calming to be surrounded by the comradery.Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon

After the warm up and obligatory rush to the port a potty one last time, I lined up and realized that I was putting to the test (even though not in the most ideal conditions) all the work I had done since starting with McKirdy Trained.  I wanted to execute and run a smart race, so that meant listening (which is a learning process) to the plan and not exploding from the start like a jack rabbit as I have been known to do.

As soon as the race started, so did the rain, which up until this point had been a sprinkle.  There was nothing I could do – I was just going to get wet,  For the Amica Iron Horse, the 5k and half marathon races start at the same time, so for about the first mile and a half or so the two races are running together.  It can get a little crowded but I tried to not bob and weave as much to conserve energy and not run more than 13.1.

Once we split from the 5k racers, I settled into a good pace – running about 8:15’s or so.  After the 4th mile, I felt pretty good and decided to speed it up a bit.  I love the course – it’s a mostly flat, almost double loop course, with a couple of hills.  When the weather is nicer, there are families cheering the runners on and during those years when the race has been held on sweltering days, runners can find spectators with hoses ready to provide a bit of cooling relief.

I chugged along toward mile 8, which is the part of the race I dread because the half marathoners basically “go through the finish” before heading onto a wooded trail.  For years I have hated this part of the course because 1) I realize I have another 5 miles left and 2) I get so inside myself I don’t take my Huma gel until mile 9 or later.  This year, however, I was conscious of this and made sure to take my Huma gel (mocha flavor with caffeine) at mile 7.5.  This gave me a bit of extra energy to power through.

At this point, however, I was feeling a bit of fatigue – both from the weather and my own endurance.  However another surge of energy was brought on by Mark whom ran beside me for a bit with a bottle of water to see if I needed any – that’s love.

The later miles are a bit of a blur and I think I slowed down a bit on that last hill around mile 10ish BUT I was just focusing on staying at a consistent pace and not stopping (as one wants to do when they are tired).

Heading back to the finish – I finally looked at the clock and realized I was on pace for a 1:45- WOOTAmica Iron Horse - Finish

Wet, tired and happy I grabbed a water, my medal and looked for Mark whom successfully completed his 5k.

We headed over to check our ‘official times” and see what post race food was available.  Hartford Marathon Foundation does a great job for post race food at their events, but I have never been impressed with the grilled cheese option – it just does not sit well with me after a race.

We chatted with a couple of people but we just wanted to get back to the car and start to dry out.  (which we found to be easier said than done)Amica Iron Horse - Finishers

So – what did I learn from the Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon:

  • Races could not happen without the countless volunteers that show up to do the grunt work, and I always try and take the time to thank a couple of them, BUT volunteers that show up when it is raining and humid are my heros.  At least I was moving during my race, many of the volunteers (especially the course monitors) stood for hours making sure we were safe and sound.  A huge thanks to them!
  • I think that my warm up before the Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon was the longest I have ever done before a race, regardless of the distance.  Myself and Haley Maldonado commented during our 20 minute run before the race that were sweating and could not imagine running any faster – but guess what – we did.  Guess Coach James knows a thing or two 🙂
  • I had even splits!!! That is a rarity for me as I usually go out too fast and pay for it at the end but I started off slow and increased the pace at mile 3ish.  I can only think as to how I would have done if the weather had been “perfect” but as runner we don’t get to choose race day weather.
  • Looking back I know I could not have pushed it any more in the later miles, my endurance is just not there….yet.
  • I think I have finally gotten over my hatred of going through the finish at mile 8.5.  I think this had to do with seeing Mark (whom ran beside me for a bit asking if I needed water) and taking a Huma Gel – who knew fuel helped 🙂
  • The rain, which was a downpour at times, actually helped cool me a bit (as strange as it seems) but combined with the humidity – Yuck!  I was so soaked when I got home – it took the rest of the afternoon to dry out.
  • Try as I might I still picked the longest port a potty line and “rushed” to the start line – I have to get better at this, my nerves cannot take it.
  • Having been a McKirdy trained client since February I am happy with my progress thus far, especially after Sunday’s Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon.  I did not PR BUT I had a 2 minute improvement from last year and I ran this race uninjured. PROGRESS!

HMF Shamrock Duathlon & 3.3 Mile Run

Good afternoon…

After running Ragnar Cape Cod last weekend, this has been a week of catching up on sleep and getting my legs back on track as I am currently training for BOTH the Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon AND the Via Marathon.

My quality workout this week went well (a series of repeats 6×2 minute repeats with 1 minute recovery between) as did my easy runs but since I had signed up to run the Hartford Marathon Foundation (HMF) Shamrock Duathlon & 3.3 mile run, I was unsure as to how my coach would want me to approach this race.

After coming off last weekend when I ran 36 miles – it was decided that I would sandwich the race between a 3 mile warm up and 3 mile cool down.

Not a problem until I received my final race instructions and realized that the race began at 7:30am – UGH.  No sleeping in on Sunday for this gal.

So, after not going to bed as early as I should have – I was up at 5:00AM, headed to Old Wethersfield to knock out 3 miles and then to Glastonbury High School.

The plan was to run my Vdot pace (about an 8:21) and then if my legs felt good, increase the pace with each mile.

No problem BUT when I got to the start (after my warm up and pre-requisite bathroom stop) my legs felt really good SO I did what any good runner does when they have a plan that they are supposed to follow – I broke it.

I actually felt “slow” compared to some of the other runners/bikers – some of super speedy.  However, I got into a comfortable grove and when I reached mile 1, I checked my watch and realized I clocked a 7:40 – WOOT!

I love this race because not only is it close to home but it also runs through some nice (and not super hilly) residential areas in Glastonbury.  Also – compared to last year when the temperature was sunny and 66 degrees, it was cloudy and about 52 degrees.

Picking up the pace I charged on – forgoing the water stations – making a beeline for the finish.  I pinpointed and attempted to catch a young runner – but that was a lost cause.  (Edited to add – he did not even look winded at the finish)

Powering through I crossed the finish with a time of 24:01 – an almost 25 second improvement!

HMF Shamrock Duathlon - Age Group Winners

AND the best part – 10th overall and 3rd overall female!

I headed out to run an additional 3 miles but headed back to pick up my medal.

Shamrock Duathlon - Medal Madness

After the obligatory photo (because if you did not take a picture of it, it did not happen)

I grabbed some Trimino Water.  Seriously – this stuff is awesome, it’s the second time I have had it at a HMF race this spring and again it hit the spot.  It appears that they are a locally based company that is now being sold in Stop & Shop as wekk as Big Y – I am going to have to stock up on these bad boys as my training intensifies.  It provided me with some additional hydration and protein to help with my recovery.

Shamrock Duathlon and 3.3 mile run - Trimino Water

All in all I was done by 9:00AM – a time when probably most were not even up on a Sunday Morning 🙂

So – what do I take away from this race

  • I continue to have respect for those multisport athletes.  I watched some of them before heading home and they speed at which some of them run, bike AND transition is amazing.  I continue to be good in ONE sport but these athletes take it to a new level.

Shamrock Duathlon and 3.3 mile run - Bike Transition

  • A 3.3 mile race is a rare distance and I liked it.  I ran the Shamrock Duathlon & 3.3 mile run last year, and it’s great to run on a course where you pretty much know where the next hill would be.
  • The post-race party was great – I was able to pick up some great swag (Trimino Water!!!) while I waited for the awards ceremony.
  • I loved that I was able to run this race as part of a larger run – I felt accomplished by 9:00AM.  That does not happen often.
  • I think I fueled properly the night before and the morning of the race – again I had salmon, brussel sprouts and couscous last night and some simple carbs this morning.  I did not feel overly full or weak.
  • As much as I complained (in my head) about the early start – I prefer it.  Again being able to knock out 9.3 miles before 10:00AM is great
  • The Shamrock Duathlon & 3.3 mile run (although a short one) has improved my confidence for Amica, which is in two weeks.  I have not admitted to anyone (not even the running Czar) but I am nervous about this race as it is the “real” one I am currently training for.  My time was better than last year and I felt stronger  – for that I thank my training.
  • Top 10 finish and 2nd Female overall – although there were only 100 runners I will take it!