Race Recap: Rutgers Big Chill 5k

Sometimes when you set out to have a “fun easy run,” you wind up setting  PR… right?

Oh, you mean that doesn’t happen to you? Yeah, it doesn’t really ever happen to me either. Yet I was that jerk on Sunday morning when my friends asked me what my race plan was, and I replied nonchalantly with “Eh, no plans. It’s cold, I ran 9 miles yesterday. I’m just going to go out there and do whatever, not trying to PR or really race.”

I truly didn’t believe I had any fast-ish legs in me on Sunday morning. I’ve been slowly increasing my mileage since the Richmond Half, and this week was to top out at 33 miles (which isn’t a lot, but relative to what I was running a month ago, is). I ran a hard 7 miler on Wednesday with 3 of those miles at tempo/progression, and on Saturday I ran 9 miles as my “long run.” So based on that (and the fact that it was going to be pretty cold) I hoped to just finish within 23 minutes or so on race day. I had no intentions of really “racing” and the two beers I had on Saturday night I think helped solidify those intentions.

I woke up Sunday morning, threw on two lux layers and my long tights, and headed over to Rutgers University’s College Avenue campus where the race was being held. I got there with enough time to park, meet up with some friends in the gym, and then head over to the race start where I proceeded to shiver for about 5 minutes. This particular race is a fundraiser, and the fee for the 5k is an unused, unwrapped children’s toy worth at least $10 (some lucky kiddo is going to love my Merida doll). You have the option of having your bib chipped or not, and I figured if I was going to run, I might as well make it official (and I’m glad I did)!

Trying to keep my face warm before the race
Trying to keep my face warm before the race

After about 5 minutes of shivering it was go time. I should mention here that I forgot my Garmin watch at home, so I had absolutely no idea what pace I was running during the race. Last time I forgot my watch I was running my very first 10k on an extremely hilly course, which was definitely a negative (I ran the first half way too fast and crawled through the second 5k), so I always get nervous when I forget it now. I’d like to think I’m a smarter runner than I was a year ago, and since it was “only” a 5k I knew that if I did go out too fast, I wouldn’t have to try to hold on for too long. Plus, I always hear about people leaving their watches at home, running on feel, and doing really well. So I decided to go with that approach! As I came up to the first mile I saw 7:06 on the clock, and thought to myself, “Well, I guess this isn’t going to be an easy run.” I decided to try and keep the current pace so long as it wasn’t too much of a struggle, which it wasn’t. The second and third miles were about the same (I’m impressed by such even pacing), and I managed to squeeze in just under 22, in 21:57 (5th in my age group, and 14th woman overall out of 512)!

Thumbs up for this girl
Thumbs up for this girl

This winds up being a 45 second PR, which isn’t huge, but is something! I’ve really wanted to get under 22 minutes for a 5k – for some reason I had in my head that was a “competitive” and “relatively fast” time – so it’s been my goal. Obviously now that I’m (barely) in the 21 club, I’d love to get to the 20 club, but that’s going to take a lot of work! Since I ran 9 miles the day before, wasn’t planning on racing, and pushed it only to about 90% effort, I’m excited to see what I can do when I truly race a 5k and push it to puke pace (how I judge my race efforts). This is the second weekend in a row I’ve finished a race and been pleasantly surprised with myself. I finish and think, “wow, did I really just run a race at that pace?” I really didn’t think low 7’s would be coming to me so easily. I hope I can keep it up!

I don’t have any other races on my calendar in the immediate future, though I will likely run the Westfield Hangover 5k on January 1st to kick off the year on the right foot, and hopefully I can find a few other local races to run  between now and the Shamrock Half in March (goal race). I couldn’t be happier with my 2013 racing performance despite my injury setbacks and lack of a big marathon PR, which was my main running goal for the year. I’m excited for (faster) racing in 2014.

Tell me…
Are you done racing for 2013? 
What’s on your racing schedule for 2014?

Race Recap: Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot

On Saturday, I ran the Westfield Turkey Trot 5-miler for the third time, managed to not freeze, and scored a PR!

Since I wasn’t a runner growing up, even though my hometown puts on quite a few road races, I didn’t start participating in them until I was 23. I remember being envious of the people that did run, but I was busy doing lap after lap in a pool with a coach who could somehow build you up, knock you down, make you laugh, and make you cry all in one fell swoop. But I digress…

Even though this is a “turkey trot” it doesn’t take place until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Thankfully the weather was slightly warmer than it was on Thursday, and with a start time of 11:15am I was in much better shape than anyone who ran a turkey trot on Thanksgiving. But don’t be fooled – I was still freezing before the race. I left my parent’s house about an hour before the start, and stayed in the car until 15 minutes before gun time. My mom was kind enough to walk with me to the starting line, so I was able to shed my extra layers (a pair of pants, a track jacket, and my dad’s fleece) right before starting.

First lap in the park!
First lap in the park!

While there aren’t any corrals or pace groups, they did have signs for approximate paces by the start line, so people could (in theory) line up accordingly. I happened to be standing right where they marked 7 minute miles, and decided not to move. An older gentleman jokingly said, “I don’t think all of these people in front of us are going to run 6 minute miles…” to which I replied, “they won’t.” I used to get annoyed at the people who just wanted to be up front, but I’ve learned to just not care. Most people that don’t belong up front are out of the way quickly enough, and 5 miles is plenty of time to not have to worry about weaving much. The race starts with a loop in the park to get you just over a mile before heading out onto residential roads (that I know like the back of my hand) for 3-ish miles before coming back into the park for the last half mile. It’s a pretty flat course (except for a slight incline in the park), and the roads are wide enough that it never really feels crowded. Basically, it’s a very PR friendly course.

I'm always the one calling out to people cheering for me. Am I that hard to spot?
I’m always the one calling out to people cheering for me. Am I that hard to spot?

I didn’t really have a plan going into the race, and my only goal was to beat last years’ time (37:34). I figured if I was able to throw down a 7:20 for my first mile and hang on, that would be good enough. My first mile was a 7:20 (by miracle more than by perfect execution), but it felt too easy. I didn’t want to push the pace too much, but knew I was capable of a lot more. So the next mile, I clocked a 7:16. During the third mile I saw my good friend’s boyfriend who was running, and we chatted and ran together for about a quarter mile before I decided it was time to try and pick up the pace a little more. I ran the third mile in 7:13, and in the process, beat my current 5k PR. I couldn’t help but laugh, since the exact same thing happened to me when I ran the race last year. I know I’m capable of a lot more as a runner, but seem to never be able to get my shit together long enough to actually make it happen. By this point I knew unless I had an accident, a PR was likely; I just had to fight through the last 2 miles. Mile 4 came quickly in 7:07, and I passed a few high school girls who looked like they were moments from tripping one another in an effort to make it to the finish first. The last quarter mile of the race is downhill, so I knew to push it enough the first three quarters and the hill would carry me home. I don’t know how, but I managed to clock a 6:56 for the last mile, and get passed by those two high school girls throwing elbows in the process. My official finish time was 35:58, a 7:11 average. Miraculously my watch had me only one second slower and one tenth of a mile further – talk about exceptional tangent work!

With all this Vitamin C I better not get sick.
With all this Vitamin C I better not get sick.

As it turns out, my time was good enough for second place in my age group (22nd female overall). This was by far the highest I’ve ever finished at this particular race (Westfield seems to have a lot of graduates that come back to race that are speedy), and I got a cute little scarecrow and a box of Emergen-C (?!) for my efforts. My cat has already tried to eat the scarecrow multiple times.

Buds since '98 (at least)
Buds since ’97 (with my dad creeping in the background)

After I finished I met up with my good friend Kir, who is so speedy she could run laps around me. She doesn’t like to brag, but let’s just say that her marathon pace is significantly faster than the pace I ran the 5 miler. We’ve known each other since middle school when we were both avid swimmers. It never ceases to amaze me that I somehow went from being a swimmer (a sprinter, no less) to a distance runner. The thought of racing for more than a minute in the pool used to elicit whines and eye rolls from me; yet here I am running for hours at a time. Go figure.

This was an awesome way to finish up 2013 in terms of running – I managed to somehow PR every distance I raced except for the 4 mile and marathon distances… But I’ll be coming for them (big time) in 2014!

Did you Turkey Trot this past week/weekend? 
Do you like Holiday-themed races?

Disneyland: Dumbo Double Dare

Another Disney race is in the books! A week and a half ago now (whoops) I headed to the west coast to run the Disneyland half marathon and complete the Dumbo Double Dare with a 10k as well. This was my first time in Disneyland, and it was tons of fun.


I know a lot of people have a hard time understanding why someone would pay so much money to run a race that is generally not competitive, where a lot of people dress up and there are storybook characters on the course. And I get it – it definitely isn’t for everyone. But as someone that spent pretty much every family vacation in Disney World and loving it, when I became a runner it seemed only logical to do a Disney race. It combines two of my favorite things, and it’s a great way (for me) to really enjoy both of them at the same time. But after four Run Disney weekends, I’m ready to take a little break to enjoy other races across the country. But back to the races!

We arrived in Los Angeles on Friday and took a shuttle bus to our hotel in Anaheim. This was the first time I wasn’t staying on Disney property, but the hotel was literally across the street from the parks, and significantly cheaper. When I’m in Disney World I always stay on property (I think it adds to the experience), but it isn’t necessary in Disneyland. We headed to the expo to pick up our bibs, and then went to Krissy’s geniusly organized Cupcake Meet-up! I enjoyed some mini cupcakes and got to hang with one of my favorite running pals (Krissy, duh). It was an early night of course, and the 4am wake up call came quickly.

The beauty of racing in Disneyland is that you can walk to the start – unlike in Disney World where you have to take a bus, and then walk 20 minutes to the corrals. Before I knew it we were off, running our first Disneyland race!

The 10k was tons of fun – it went through both Disneyland and California Adventure Parks and ended in Downtown Disney. Since we were in corral A, as we were heading to the finish we stopped to take a picture with Tweedles Dee & Dum since they were all alone. It was my first mid-race character picture! The race ended (55 and change, nice and easy) and my ankle felt FINE!


We spent Saturday walking around the parks an enjoying all of Disneyland. After a morning in California Adventure, we stopped by the Grand Californian Hotel for a Twitter meet-up put on by @pavementrunner, @katsnf, and @seesharprun. It was great to catch up with old running friends and finally meet new ones in person! We finished the day in Disneyland with an epic Monte Cristo for dinner (more on the food later), and I was in bed and asleep by 8:30pm (old lady status) ready for my 3am wake up!

Sunday morning was easy during the Dumbo Double Dare compared to Goofy Challenge’s Sunday. I had no problem getting up, had plenty of energy, and was ready to run more! While we were waiting in our corral for the start, we ran into Krissy again! Fate, I tell you. After watching a couple get engaged, seeing Sean Astin and Joey Fatone be interviewed, and general pre-race Run Disney fun, it was time for 13.1. My plan was to try and run a 2 hour half marathon. I really haven’t run consistently in the last two months, and I had no idea what to expect from my ankle. So we started off easy, and each wound up taking a bathroom break in the first 2 miles (too much Nuun, apparently). We kept a pretty steady sub-9 pace for the first 10 miles (minus the bathroom break), and enjoyed the parks again. Even though the second half of the race was just through streets of Anaheim, it was much more entertaining than Disney service roads.

This is a picture of me running on Saturday. Pretend it’s Sunday – it looked the same.

Once we made it to the Angel’s stadium (which was so loud with spectators), I decided to see if I could do what has now become “running the Disney way”… A serious negative split and push in the last few miles. We’ve managed to do this on the second day of each challenge weekend since we started, and in a sick way I look forward to it. We slowly picked up each of the final miles, with the last one clocking in a 7:40 average. We crossed in 1:57, which I was more than happy with considering the easy pace, bathroom breaks, and lack of consistent training I’ve had recently. And as I crossed the finish line and got my medals, I ran into Krissy (who ran the 10k the day before and another half the day after!) and Emily (who just BQ’d!), some of my Oiselle teammates!

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 10.29.55 PM

After breakfast in Disneyland and a picture with Dumbo himself, I was ready to fully enjoy the parks for the last day and a half. Unfortunately, my left foot started to hurt around the arch and inner ankle bone by late Sunday, and by Monday I was struggling to walk (yes, that’s the opposite foot that has been giving me trouble). It was very similar to the pain I had last January during marathon weekend. I have a feeling I was overcompensating for potential ankle pain, and my feet were just exhausted from 19.3 miles of running and walking through all the parks (I wore my sneakers with orthotics every single day) in such a short period of time. It certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to end the trip, but I was happy my ankle pain was pretty much non-existent!

Before I knew it we were heading back to the airport, but instead of heading home, we were on our way to San Francisco (recap of that awesome city to come)!

Summer Series XC 5k: Take Two

Even though it feels like I just completed my first cross country 5k yesterday, I actually ran my second this past Tuesday. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a little hesitation going into this one, simply because the first one was difficult (albiet fun), and while I do lots of things that are hard and hurt, I don’t usually look forward to that pain. Plus, with the temperature a solid 10 degrees higher than it was last time, I knew it was going to be a sweat-fest.

Around 4:30pm it started to thunder and by 5p there was a torrential downpour. I started to get nervous that the race would be cancelled, or run in the rain. I knew that the park would yet again be muddy and gross, but since I experienced that last time, it was the least of my worries. As in typical summer storm fashion, though, the sun was back out by 5:15p. So I got everything together, and headed to the park for the 7p start.

Because it was so hot, I didn’t want to push it too much, but still wanted to run a competitive and decent race based on the conditions. I started in a much better position this time (the race starts diagonal across a field as you hop over a mini ditch), found the girl that had come in first last time, and set myself behind her. The grass wasn’t nearly as wet as it had been last race, but I still found myself slip-sliding all over the place. After one the diagonal hills, I lost my footing and nearly ate it.

Survived... ish.
Survived… ish.

There were two other women that started out in front of me, but by about mile 2 it was just me, the girl from last time, and a whole bunch of men. I was struggling to breathe and knew my overall pace was slower than the last 5k, but by mile 2 I wasn’t too concerned knowing that I was comfortably in 2nd. I had high hopes of being able to catch the first place woman on the second half of the last lap, but I just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to do it, and she beat me by 4 seconds… again. I ran a 23:01, which was 19 seconds slower than two weeks ago.

Getting my medal!
Getting my medal!

Just like after the first 5k, we got to hang out and enjoy some food and drinks (all I could stomach was a Philly pretzel, as seen above), and then it was awards time! Last time I scored myself a plant (that is still alive, wahoo!), and this time I got a neat little medal since I came in 1st in my age group. See that adorable shirtless man sitting on the picnic bench in the foreground of the picture? He’s 79, and ran last time too… in an impressive 41 minutes! Talk about inspirational.

I’d be lying if I said that this was so much fun the whole time and I wasn’t dreading it a little. I mean, the first 5k was successful and I was really proud of myself, but it was hard! I don’t think it’s abnormal for me to be a little hesitant for repeat pain. I found myself at the end when it really started to hurt, telling myself that it was worth it and that not everyone races a 5k on a hot and humid Tuesday night (yes, mid-race pats on the back are necessary sometimes). But since I came in first in my age group again, my time from the first race still stands as the course record which was reason enough for me to have run again!


Next up on my racing calendar is a 4 miler on the 4th of July with Ashley … we’re both going to PR, I just know it! Then it’s the third installment of the summer series on the 9th. And then the fourth summer series on the 23rd, and a road 5k on the 24th. So yes, I’m racing 4 times (all during the week) in July!

Do you have any races coming up?
If you race during the week, do you do anything differently during your work day?

Running with Friends: Nike Women’s Half Marathon

A week after I completed my 6th half marathon, I completed my 7th! When I signed up for the inaugural Nike Women’s Half in D.C., I knew I would use the race as a training run (albiet an expensive one), since my goal race had been only a week earlier. It was the perfect opportunity to visit a new city, run, meet up with friends, and score myself a Tiffany’s necklace.

We arrived in D.C. on Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the expo. The line was super long, but I got lucky and found one of my college friends in line, and just hopped in with them. I picked up my bib and pace bracelet, and took a quick walk through the “expotique.” I’m not usually a fan of expos because they’re crowded and cramped, and this was no exception. There wasn’t much to it; there was a hair styling station, a Nuun station (which I would have loved to check out, but the line was just too long), a Luna bar station, and a Team in Training station all under a pop-up tent by the water. And I think that was it? It seemed like they really wanted people to head to Nike Georgetown, but I wasn’t in the market for anything so we headed out.

All bib'd up!
All bib’d up!

The race started early on Sunday morning (7am!), so I was up around 4:30a and going through my pre-race routine. Despite writing a post last week about what I always make sure to pack for races, I managed to forget a PB&J sandwich and a gel for during the race. I think I forgot because I wasn’t really treating it as a race, but it wound up being okay. The hotel was only about a mile away, so I decided to walk to the start rather than dealing with the metro. I had talked with Krissy and Ashley beforehand, and we decided to run together planning to keep it around 8:45 average, and picking it up if we felt good along the way. After snapping a quick picture we headed into our corral, got to hear Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson be introduced (we couldn’t see them though), and then we were off!

Me, Krissy, Ashley, and Ritsa!
Me, Krissy, Ashley, and Ritsa!

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this race had 15,000 runners!! Let me tell you, we could feel it pretty much the entire time. I’ve always said that I have never experienced a run that “just flew by.” But I can honestly say that this run felt that way. No, it wasn’t the best run ever, and I didn’t even feel that great. But running with Krissy and Ashley, sharing laughs and stories, and just doing something we love on a beautiful course was SO much fun. It made me realize that I need to run with friends more!


The race itself wasn’t anything special – it was hot (it looked like I peed my pants by the end of the race I sweat so much!), crowded, and in all honesty, I probably would have hated every minute of it if I had been alone. But I just kept reminding myself that a pretty little blue box and cute finisher’s t-shirt was waiting for me at the finish. We finished in 1:58:34, with our actual running pace just around 8:50, but we took a pit stop around mile 6 which put us at the 9 minute average. After the race Ashley and I headed to brunch at The Mad Hatter (I’ll have a separate post on food later!) for delicious breakfast burritos and BOOZE to round out a pretty awesome morning.

Wahoo, finish line in sight!
Wahoo, finish line in sight!

I’m planning on running a bunch of 5k’s between now and the fall, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be running the Richmond Marathon in November. So I just need to stay healthy… which didn’t work out so well since I came home from the trip with the stomach virus. But I’m back at it today, thankfully!


To an outsider, sports like swimming and running seem very much individual sports. However, for those of us “in the know,” we realize that at times it can be a very individualized sport, but at the same time, highly team oriented. As someone who puts a lot of pressure on themselves and is intrinsically competitive, swimming was the perfect sport for me growing up. I was able to race against myself and the clock, but at the same time contribute to a team and a common goal. So after I graduated, it was really no surprise to myself or anyone I know that running was the sport I decided to take up next.

Relays were always one of my favorite parts about swimming. I always swam the shorter relays (200 or 400), meaning it was anywhere from 25 to 60 seconds of pure “give it your all.” Or, as I fondly referred to it, going balls to the wall (almost literally). Swimming isn’t much of a spectator sport, but walk into any meet, and you are guaranteed to see people up on their feet, eyes glued to the pool when it comes time for the relays. Sometimes the hardest part about being on a relay was not your actual leg – but standing nearby, either completely out of breath or having near heart palpitations before your turn, knowing there is only so much you can do, and the rest falls into the hands of three teammates.

So obviously when I saw that there was a 10k relay at a park basically 5 minutes from my house on Sunday, I knew I had to sign up. The concept was simple: find a partner, and you each run a 5k, broken in half… meaning 1.55 miles twice. The event was put on by a local running team, so the field was fast. I decided that my best plan of attack was to treat it like a speed workout. Even though running 1.55 miles followed by a 10-ish minute break isn’t ideal, I figured it would be a good general test of my endurance. Plus, I was pumped to see that the race swag was a pair of gloves, instead of yet another boxy race shirt.

They even have little grippies!
They even have little grippies!

The best part of the race was the start – I generally start too fast and have to try and pull back in the first half mile or so, but since I was only running 1.55 and then getting a break, I didn’t pull back as much as normal… but I also didn’t feel like I was trying nearly as hard as a 7 minute mile usually feels. Since the field was full of legitimate high school and college runners, I kept on my merry way as people flew by me. After the first leg, I was definitely tired, but felt like I could have kept going, finishing with a just around 7 minute pace average. I tried my best to keep moving on the muddy grass, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my turn, so I didn’t move nearly as much as I would have liked.

By the time I started my second leg, my legs were definitely feeling it but overall I was comfortable. And then I got annoyed. Some dude decided that he was going to use me as a wind shield and draft off of me for the next mile. I considered slowing down, and even at one point as he was breathing heavily down my neck ask him if he was going to continue to draft off of me for the remainder of the race, or if he wanted to grow a pair and run his own race. Of course being much meaner in my head, I refrained and carried on. I came around the bend to hand off my baton, and was slammed by someone coming in behind me not paying attention. Not really the way I wanted to end my part of the race, but I was pleased with my overall 22:12! Unfortunately there wasn’t any water near the hand-off area, so I jogged in circles until the hubs finished, with our respectable time of  43:50.

I did about a mile cool down, and waited to see the results just for fun. We came in 55th and 11th in our division (co-ed open). Then we booked it to Old Man Rafferty’s in downtown New Brunswick for brunch with some other friends that ran the race as well. It was a perfect ending to a fun morning. The weather was perfect, the running was speedy but not too difficult, and anything that ends in cupcakes is good if you ask me.

This was obviously round 2.
This was obviously round 2.

Overall I’m really happy with the race, and the way I’ve been running in general. My last few runs while nothing spectacular, have felt good, and have been in the low 8’s. I’d really love to PR at my next half marathon in April, so if I can keep up the mileage and incorporate some more speed work like Sunday’s race, I think I’ll be in good shape. Now if only I could find more relays to do!

Have you ever run (or swam!) a relay? Love or hate them?
Do you have a favorite post-race food?

Super Sunday

Friday marked the first day of using my brand spakin’ new Believe I Am training journal. I ordered the journal at the beginning of January and have been anxiously awaiting the beginning of February to start officially using it. Even though Fridays are rest days, I couldn’t wait to start using it and scribble in my first race results in the book – the Super Sunday 5k.

Welp, guess my main goal is out there now...
Welp, guess my main goal is out there now…

I really had no plan going into this 5k, with it being only 2 weeks after the Disney marathon. I knew that getting my legs to move fast would be tricky, especially after waking up to see snow on the ground. So I picked a pace that I thought would be doable but not easy (7:30 average), and figured if I felt better then I’d go for it, but if not, I would at least be happy with my finish time. Of course I have big plans for all my racing distances in 2013, but knew Sunday wasn’t going to be the day to PR.

It was COLD on Sunday morning. The race started at 11am and we arrived around 10am, so we spent a solid 30 minutes in the car with the heat on trying to stay warm after picking up our bibs and t-shirts. The shirts were interesting… I was offered either the women’s medium which was described as “kind of small, with kind of short long sleeves” or the men’s medium that was “kind of big, like a nightgown.” Why they didn’t have a men’s small or a larger women’s shirt I have no idea, but I decided on the nightgown look. I actually wound up putting the shirt on underneath my singlet; I seriously underestimated the cold and would not have been comfortable with what I had on. By the time the race started my toes were a little numb, and my exposed ankles and neck were stinging. But once we started I was immediately distracted by the faucet also known as my nose (you’re welcome).

The race was small (only 259 finishers), and wound through Somerville streets. It only snowed about an inch or so over night so the roads were mostly okay, but there was some slush that made me nervous. I was able to navigate around it because the roads were wide and empty, but there were definitely a few steps where I had zero traction. There were lots of turns, and I’m happy to report I ran the tangets well. I also managed not to floor it my first mile (like I’ve been known to do) and kept my pace very consistent. Since it was a smaller race, I knew there was a chance I’d be able to place at least in my age group, and maybe even overall. I’ve placed at a few races before, but they’ve always been on the smaller side… which I’ll take! The only women I had seen on the course I passed, but I knew there were a few that must have taken off and were just out of my view. I eyed up a small and speedy looking girl at the start, and my prediction was right – she went on to win the entire race! But other than that, I really wasn’t sure where I’d come in.

As it turns out, I finished in 23:16, right at that 7:30 average I wanted to maintain, and 20 seconds off of my current 5k PR. Being the race was so small, that ranked me as the 4th female overall, and 1st in my age group! The prize was a sweet pint glass, that I conveniently got to use while watching the Superbowl!

Look at all those layers!
Look at all those layers!

Next up on my racing schedule is a 5k Road Relay at the end of the month. In teams of 2 you each run a 5k (broken in two) to total a 10k, passing a baton and everything. I’m really looking forward to it! I’m ready to ramp up my mileage and add in some speed work to get ready for the Spring’s half marathons I have on deck. And of course, to use my shiny new Believe I Am journal!

Hometown Trotting

When I was sitting down to write up my race recap of Saturday’s Turkey Trot, looking back on the last few races I’ve run, I realized something interesting. In the last 49-ish days I’ve run four races (Chicago marathon, Beerfest 5k, Giralda Farms 10k, and this 5 miler), and somehow I’ve managed to PR each of them. I think I’m finally at a point in my running career where I’m comfortable racing more frequently, and my training is consistent. I’m really excited for what this could potentially mean for my marathon time… assuming I keep myself healthy!

But back to the race! On Saturday I ran my second 5 miler, the Westfield Turkey Trot. I ran this race back in 2010 in 39:40, right before I was sidelined with shin splits when I was just starting to get serious about running; and then I didn’t run last year since the race fell only a week after the Philly marathon and I was still hobbling. My goals for the race were simple – beat my 2010 time. To be more specific, I was hoping to keep a 7:40 average since I ran a 10k two weeks ago  on a challenging course with a  7:47 pace.

The weather all week was great – sunny and low 50’s is my kind of running weather. Of course when I woke up on Saturday, it was overcast and windy. While the forecast had predicted cooler temperatures and some wind, it left out one very important detail… snow flurries! As we lined up to start the race so did the flurries, but thankfully it never started to snow. After some detailed instructions from the race coordinators, we were off! Since I didn’t forget my watch this time, I was able to keep my pace much slower than what my body wanted to run. My favorite part about this race is that not only is it a pretty flat course, but I know every single street we run down, and we actually pass some of my friend’s parent’s houses on the way.

The entire first mile is run within the park, and once you’re in the neighborhood there are a lot of turns which help keep you distracted. By the time we hit the 3 mile mark, I was still pretty comfortable (unlike my last 10k), and decided it was time to steadily pick up the pace. Since I was keeping track of my pace pretty consistently, I knew that a PR was definite, and if I pushed it, I’d be able to come in with a low 38. As we turned into the park for our final lap (which I welcomed as a downhill, since most races seem to finish uphill), I gave it all I could and finished in 37:34! That works out to a 7:30 average, which I couldn’t be happier with. It was good enough for 7th in my age group (25-29), and as I looked at the results, I realized it would have been good enough for 7th in the 20-24, 30-34, and 35-39 age groups too. Talk about consistency!

After the race I enjoyed some Starbucks, a trip to Trader Joe’s, and a giant Chipotle burrito bowl for dinner. You didn’t think I would skip out on any of those being within blocks of each other in my hometown, did you?! The day ended with Christmas decorating, as it’s now socially acceptable to talk about the Holidays. As we were decorating, I pulled out an ornament I was given at my company’s Holiday party back in 2009 that boasted “most likely to run an Olympic marathon.”

I remember laughing when they gave it to me – I hadn’t even run my first half marathon yet! Little did I know a mere two years later I’d have three marathons under my belt, and be getting ready for my fourth. While the Olympic part is still pretty funny, it is a confidence boost to think about how far I’ve come in such a short period. Now if only I could get my marathon under 4 hours… hopefully 2013 can bring me that! I have my eye on quite a few races in early 2013, but haven’t committed to anything except for 2 half marathons (a week apart, oops) so far. I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ve ended the 2012 racing season on a high note!

Do you have any races left in 2012?
Any big racing plans for 2013? 

My First 10k: Rolling With It

I’ve been running for three years, and in that time, I’ve managed to never race a 10k. Thankfully I had the opportunity to remedy that situation this past Sunday.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I realized I need to race more – it’s a key component to becoming a better runner. So while perusing any website I could think of to find local races, I found the Giralda Farms 5k/10k. I actually had a hard time deciding which distance to do; part of me wanted to take the ‘easy’ way out and run the 5k, not wanting to run a race that would likely hurt (in the good, racing hurt kind of way), but another part of me realized I probably needed a 10k under my belt. The real selling point was the price – whether I ran the 5k or the 10k I was going to pay $18 (a steal if you ask me, most races are at least $25!), so I figured I’d get my money’s worth with the 10k.

3 marathons but no 10k’s? Go figure.

Sunday was absolutely gorgeous – the sun was shining, and by the time the race started at 12p, the temperature was well into the 60’s. Race morning started as they always do, with a PB&J sandwich, some water, and multiple bathroom stops. As soon as we got to the race, though, I realized I had forgotten my Garmin. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but I’ve recently been taking things out a little to fast (i.e. my last 5k), and since I’ve never run a 10k before, I wanted to know my splits. So much for that.

This particular race is run within and along the outside of a corporate park, just across the street from Fairleigh Dickinson University. You may be thinking that a corporate park would be relatively flat… don’t be fooled. The race starts at the entrance, on the precipice of a nice little hill. If there’s one thing I know about geography, it’s that if there’s a downhill, there is likely an uphill not too far away to match it. For the most part the race was “rolling hills,” but there were two hills that could only be characterized as steep inclines – one at about mile 1.2 and another at 3.5.

The 5k and the 10k started off separately, but merged about a quarter of a mile in. Then, at about 1.5, it split off again and left those of us silly enough to sign up for the 10k to trudge on. There weren’t any clocks – just a few volunteers at every mile marker with a stop watch yelling out times (which I appreciated since I didn’t have a watch!). Because the first mile was downhill, despite a super crowded start, I’m sure it was my fastest. I managed to blow by quite a few people on the first hill, but I was nearly spent after that… leaving me with 4 more miles of “fun.” By the time I hit mile 4, I realized the race was pretty much over, and after spending so much time climbing up, I knew it was time to head back down… this was both a blessing and a curse.

I was happy to finish in a respectable (to me) 48:24. I have no idea what my splits were, but my finish was good enough for 9th in my division, the 34th woman, and 191st overall. It was a competitive field on a tough course, so I couldn’t be happier with my first official 10k!

Next up is a 5 miler the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and then Disney in January! I’m eyeing the beginning of the year for a few more races, but haven’t committed to anything just yet. I think the jury is still out on my favorite race distance. Guess I’ll have to run some more races to decide!

What’s your favorite race distance? 
Any fun races planned for the end of the year (turkey trots, jingle bell runs)?  

Chicago Marathon Recap: The Race

And just like that, I ran another marathon.

Well, if only it had been that easy. Leading up to Sunday’s 26.2, I was nervous. I hadn’t run more than 14.5 miles in any single training run, topping off at 19 on a day I wound up doing a double (which I did a lot of), and with all of my GI issues, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it through the race without needing at least one pit-stop. So, all things were pointing to me struggling through the race and just being happy to finish. But as I said in my post last week, I know that I’m a much stronger runner than I was last year when I ran my first marathon, so I still had high hopes for a PR of some sort.

We arrived in Chicago on Friday night and headed right to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep. On Saturday, we were up early and off to the Expo. We had met a couple on the flight there who ran last year, and said we should get to the expo early if possible. I’m really glad we did, because on the way back the lines for the shuttle were really long! I didn’t buy anything (though I wanted all of the Nike gear), but I did score a sweet picture with Mike Ditka (boo to the blurry picture)!

Da Bears!

There were plans to do touristy things on Saturday, but after roaming around the Expo for awhile, we realized it was probably best to save our legs for what we were about to put them through. So we stopped off at Target to get some throwaway gloves and long sleeve shirts, then headed back to the hotel to watch some TV and relax before dinner. Of course dinner was pasta, and we were back to the hotel and in bed by 8:30p.

Thankfully I had a great night’s sleep, and my 5am alarm wasn’t too jarring. We brought bread and peanut butter with us, so I was able to have my usual pre-race breakfast, and started our trek to the start line. Unfortunately Andy and I were in separate corrals (he was in the 7:30a start wave and I was in the 8a wave), so we said goodbye rather early, and I headed off on my own. I had enough time to stop at a port-a-pottie and stretch before making my way to corral J. I had plans to run with the 4:25 pace group, and I spent a solid 5 minutes trying to find them in a sea of people. Soon after I found the group, we were off!

As soon as the race started, I realized I needed to use the bathroom. The pacers took off (WAY faster than the pre-determined 10:06 pace average), and so I stayed behind. I read way too many blog posts about how energetic the first few miles of the race are, and how so many people get overwhelmed by the spectators and start too fast. Knowing all to well how awful a race can be if you go out too fast, I kept it as slow as possible (but still under goal pace). I knew I wasn’t going to make it much further without a bathroom break, so I veered off at the first stop. From that point on, I was good to go; the first half flew by. I kept my pace nice and comfortable, and was loving all of the crowd support. I stopped at every water station, and had a Clif shot at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20.

By the time I got to mile 16, I knew that friends were likely done. I took out my phone to check the runner tracking, and was thrilled with what I found. Andy was trying to qualify for Boston, and while he just missed it, his 3:08 was a 15 minute PR! And, even more thrilling was to see my friend’s 2:52. That’s right; she finished 10th in our age group and was the 29th woman OVERALL! Talk about inspiration for the last 10 miles! At that point I was feeling good, and decided to pick it up a little. I decided to run just under a 10 minute/mile pace, and was able to keep that for the next 5 or so miles. Unfortunately, my hips were tight almost the entire race, and by the time I hit mile 22, my IT band had enough.

As we turned into Chinatown, my left knee had a searing pain, to the point where I had trouble picking up my leg. It’s a pain I remember all too well from the end of the Philly marathon, and a pain I’d experienced when I first started running. Instead of walking, though, I slowed my pace down and tried to keep my legs as straight as possible. The pain seemed to go in and out (eventually both knees were hurting), and my plans to pick it up at mile 22 were dead in the water. Instead, miles 22-24 were my slowest. My per mile pace never hit 11, but there were definitely points where I felt like I was crawling. I started to slowly pick it up at mile 24, and by the time I hit 25, I knew that it was time to dig deep and just go – I knew the pain wasn’t going to get worse, and as long as I could keep one leg in front of the other, I’d be okay.

While mile 25 to 26 felt like forever (I even heard a woman exclaim, “this is the longest mile of my life!”), the crowd support was unbelievable, and I don’t know how anyone could have slowed down. As we closed in on mile 26, I was slowly lengthening my stride, and using my arms as much as possible. We turned the corner for the final stretch (uphill of course), and I gave it everything I had, passing as many people as I could powering through the slight incline. The entire course was flat, so even though the hill wasn’t much of anything, it felt like a mountain in those final meters. I crossed the finish with an official time of 4:26:10, a solid 11 minutes faster than my Philly marathon time.

My first order of business was to grab a mylar blanket, my medal, some water, and FREE BEER! I’ve always seen races that have beer at the finish, but this was the first race I’ve been to that had the luxury. While it may not have been the best idea, my very first post-marathon sip was some Goose Island 312. As I made my way through the finishing area, I met up with my husband and headed right for the massage tent; another first for me. After the massage, I realized that while the thought of hanging out at a “post race party” sounded fun, the barely 50 degree weather was enough to send me right back to the hotel. After a quick (relative to post-marathon moving abilities) shower, we headed right for deep dish pizza at Giordano’s.

This race was without a doubt the best race I’ve experienced. Not only was the course phenomenal and the spectators great throughout the entire city, but the race was so well organized, and all of the volunteers were amazing. Seeing everyone so excited to pass out water and gatorade was great – a little smile and a “you got this!” goes a long way when someone is out running a marathon. Even the people at the finish were great – the girls giving out water waved me down and shouted “hey! come and get your water – you deserve it! congratulations!!!”

I suppose I did!

I don’t know why, but I found myself tearing up at multiple points throughout the race, for no other reason than the fact that I was running a marathon; my third marathon. I know for a lot of people that isn’t much, while for others it sounds absolutely insane. For me, being able to run a marathon was something I always dreamed about, but never thought I would actually do. Even in those moments where my knees felt like they were going to explode, I realized why I run. Its for all of those seemingly insignificant moments that make up a marathon experience; seeing strangers on the course give you a thumbs up, hearing strangers cheer your name that you meticulously ironed onto your shirt, having that brief conversation with a fellow runner, and to feel that rush as you close in on those final meters of the race. I wouldn’t trade the way I felt on Sunday for anything – even the hobbling I’ve been doing since.

I can’t wait for the next one!