Race Recap: Richmond Half Marathon

Another half marathon is in the books!

My weekend at the Richmond Marathon wasn’t exactly what I had planned it to be when I signed up for the race back in June. My intentions were to run the full marathon, and PR the heck out of it, but unfortunately I wound up with some annoying ankle and foot pain that caused my training to be really inconsistent all summer. So rather than wallow in my inability to run the full marathon, I switched to the half and decided I’d use it as a long tempo run, and a point to assess my fitness level.

The race was on Saturday, so we drove to Virginia early on Friday  morning and stopped at the expo first. We had dinner plans with Dori and Andy, and actually wound up getting to the expo at the same time as them, so we wandered around a bit before heading to the hotel. I don’t usually buy things from expos, but I saw these cute little Richmond running socks and had to have them. Most of my socks fall just below the ankle, and with the temperatures slowly but surely dropping, I figured my ankles would appreciate some coverage for those bone chilling winter runs that will be here before I know it.

Cute socks!
Cute socks!

We had dinner at Edo’s Squid which served it’s purpose for carb loading, and made it an early night. The forecast for the weekend had looked great in the days prior, but on Friday we noticed that there was supposed to be some overnight rain, that would likely stop in the early morning hours. I didn’t even think to pack a hat, extra socks, or anything to help shield me from the rain. So you can imagine my disappointment when I woke up to rain at 5am on Saturday morning. I figured it would taper off as I made my way to the starting area, but unfortunately just the opposite happened. The hotel was only a 5 minute walk from the start, but by the time I got there I was soaking wet. I knew my race day outfit would hold up wet in the rain, but I was a little nervous about my socks and the ankle brace I was wearing – the last thing you want is rain induced blisters! I saw Oiselle teammate Ellen right before the start, who rocked a serious PR! The rain stopped long enough for me to shed my throwaway sweatshirt in the starting corral, and after a less than enthusiastic start (the announcer was so not excited), we were off promptly at 7:30am.

The first few miles were rather uneventful. I did see Oiselle teammate and super speedy #fasterasamaster Allie cheering within the first mile which was a nice way to start the race! I had some pain in what I can only describe as my big toe joint, but prior to the race when I was poking and prodding around, I realized it was actually the tendon in my foot that was tight (the one that controls the up/down motion of your toes). It was rather uncomfortable in those first few miles, and at a few points I thought to myself “do I really have to run 13.1 miles feeling like this? Is this a bad idea?” Thankfully as the miles went on, the pain lessened. My goal wasn’t to all out race, but rather to push it to about a 90% effort level to get a good workout, and enjoy the morning. The first few miles were impressively conservative, which is rare for me. I usually feel awesome and ignore logic, which I pay for later. Dare I say I’m finally learning?!

The only remotely attractive photo taken. Jazz hands!
The only remotely attractive photo taken. Jazz hands!

There were a few points in the second half where I wasn’t sure if my initial pacing had been too fast. I originally assumed I’d run about a 1:50, but within the last few weeks of training realized I could probably run a little faster without needing to push too much. So even though I was sopping wet and starting to get tired, I decided to keep the pace going, knowing there were only a few miles left. As a distraction I spent the majority of the race thinking about everyone running the full marathon, excited to see their splits on my phone when I finished. I assumed my pace had been about the same the entire race, but I was consistently picking people off as I was making my way through the final miles, which was a confidence booster. I also think it’s what led me to speeding up that last 5k.

I remember hearing the finish line is no joke – that it’s a serious downhill. I was so excited for this downhill finish since it seems like most races I run end uphill (why?!). With just under a mile left, I could see the top of a giant hill which I assumed was what we’d be running down in a matter of minutes. And after two quick turns, it was time to make our way down; it was so steep, when I was at the top I couldn’t even see the bottom! Because of the rain, I made sure not to just let the hill carry me down, so I had to do a little work to hold myself back to make sure I didn’t wind up face-planting. Naturally the thirteenth mile was my fastest (7:29!), I didn’t fall, and I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:45:31! I grabbed a water, my sweet finisher fleece blanket (perfect for the rainy day), and made my way over to get my checked bag so I could change. 

Another for the collection
Another for the collection

As soon as I finished I realized just how tough that last downhill was – my quads were suddenly SO tired. I quickly changed, grabbed a slice of pizza and a PowerBar, hung out in the finishers area for a bit, and then made my way up to get some Starbucks before snagging a spot right at mile 26 to cheer on the marathoners!

It was such a shame the weather was crappy – I could tell despite the gray and rainy day that the course was beautiful. We went through a few neighborhoods that had some beautiful homes, and a big park that probably would be great to run in on a sunny day. Despite the less than stellar weather, there were SO many spectators, and I was shocked! I assumed the course would have a few people here and there, but the likelihood of someone standing outside at 8am on a rainy Saturday morning was slim. Much to my surprise there were spectators everywhere, and in those moments where the rain picked up, so did the cheers from the crowds. It was really awesome!

All in all it was a great race, and I would absolutely do it again. I’d also love to be able to do the full marathon! The next “big” race I have on my calendar right now is the Shamrock Half Marathon, coincidentally back down in Virginia in March. I’m hoping to PR the 13.1 distance at the race, which I think is possible since Saturday’s run was only 2 minutes off my PR from this past spring, and it didn’t require a lot of effort. Can’t what to see what winter training has in store for me.

Anyone have any big races coming up?
What’s next on your schedule?

Marathon Madness

It’s no secret to anyone that pays attention to distance running that the fall is prime marathon running season. There’s a marathon every weekend, and you probably know of at least one person participating. I was supposed to be one of those runners, gunning for a big PR. But I suppose it’s time for me to admit to myself (and the Internet, obviously), that I won’t be running a fall marathon.

When I first started having ankle issues, I thought I could still toe the line at Richmond in November. But as the discomfort and inconsistent training continued, I realized I would only be setting myself up for frustration, and possible injury. I switched from the full to the half, and after three weeks of pain-free running at the beginning of September, thought I could squeeze in an early December marathon instead. I eagerly signed up for Rehoboth Beach and got to work on a new training plan.

A week into my new training plan brought me an inflamed tendon in my foot, and another week not running. After some cursing, crying, and a little back-and-forth, I realized it was time to graciously bow out of the marathon training game. It was hard for me to admit at first; I had a fast and effortless spring racing season, and had every intention of crushing all my shorter distance PR’s this summer. When that didn’t happen, I figured I would still have time to come back for late fall and early winter. But after DNS-ing four different races since the middle of July due to all these issues with my right foot & ankle, I knew it wasn’t realistic.

Am I disappointed? Absolutely. All of my friends are out there crushing long runs and PR’s, while I sit idly hoping to get through each short run without a new ache or pain. But I know that I need to be “slow and steady” with my training right now, and if I can get a few months of quality runs under my belt without issue, I’ll have a much better chance at a successful marathon training cycle, and ultimately, marathon race.

I have every intention of continuing to run, and racing when I feel up to it. I think part of my problem has always been I have a quick and heavy trigger finger when it comes to signing up for races. It seems as though the further away the race, the more likely I’ll be unable to run it. So for now, I’m going to sign up for races only a few days before they happen (or gasp, maybe even that morning). I think my brain, and more importantly my wallet, will thank me in the long run. And I’m going to keep up with my cross-training! I’ve been trying to do as many foot strengthening exercises as I can, along with calf stretching and strengthening. Here’s to hoping I’m well on the recovery train and can get back to loving running, and not dreading each run in fear of finding something that hurts!

Any advice for me?
Know of any late-spring marathons I can eye up?

Running Update: Marathoning

For those of you that have been following along, you know I was struggling with some weird undiagnosed pain in my right ankle & foot for most of July and August. Early signs of marathon training in June pointed to a successful training cycle, and the chances of me crushing my current PR were high. But, after two months of inconsistent training, I knew it wasn’t logical to think I would be able to successfully (and easily) complete marathon training by the November 16th race date for the Richmond Marathon. So in what seems to be like an unfortunately common theme among a lot of my runner friends right now, I had to pass on the 2013 Richmond Marathon.

The good news, though, is that my ankle and foot are 90-95% better, depending on the day, and the run. I was able to run in Disneyland with no problems! Since I already paid for a hotel room, I decided to drop down to the half since they provide the option for only $10. So at least I’ll still get to run part of America’s friendliest marathon!

This leaves me with a new problem, though… finding an early winter marathon! My initial thoughts are to run the Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 7th, since it isn’t too far away from me and doesn’t have to be a big weekend away. But that only gives me an extra three weeks of training, putting me at about a 12 week cycle. Any other races would obviously be in different locations (South, West, etc.) because the weather in January and February around here is not exactly marathon friendly. Thankfully I’ve been able to bounce these ideas off of my coach, Steph, so I’m confident we’ll be able to come up with the best solution soon.

In the meantime I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed that all of these annoying pains are gone for good. I’ve been trying to be as diligent as possible with cross-training and ankle, foot, and leg strengthening exercises, while also working on my core and upper body. I’ve always known how important it is to condition your whole body and how great cross-training is, but I’m realizing it more now than ever. I just have to remind myself when I’m feeling lazy or unmotivated that these few minutes here and there can mean the difference between running pain free, or being sidelined.

So tell me…
Do you have any good cross-training or exercises you do for your feet, ankles, and/or legs I should be trying? 
Know of any great December, January, or February marathons I should consider? 

Oh Hello!

Hey friends, remember me?!

I know I haven’t posted in awhile, but that’s because I’ve been busy trying to enjoy the last days of summer (while refusing to believe it’s almost over), and more importantly, because I really haven’t had much to say.

I’ve been in the kitchen cooking up some really great dishes. There have been a few that I’ve come up with on my own and hope to re-create for blog post purposes, but the majority of them have been based on recipes I found online. I’m not one for “photo dump” posts, but I want to share these recipes with you guys, since they were big hits in my house.

With a lot of baking involved, I have to rely on my home oven and a lot of gas so I have to contact my propane dealers often.

Dessert theme, clearly.
Dessert theme, clearly.

Clockwise from the top left:
1. Vegan Oreo Pancakes: Reminded me more of an Almond Joy (it uses shredded coconut) and is awesome. Definitely a “dessert for breakfast” type pancake.
2. Flourless Chickpea Chocolate Chip Blondies: I know, chickpeas in your dessert? It sounds weird, but is absolutely delicious. It’s vegan so you can eat the entire thing raw if you want (and it’s gluten free)! I need to make these again ASAP.
3. Peach & Blueberry Spiced Muffins: I’ve had a surplus of blueberries and peaches from my CSA box, and this was the perfect way to use some. The spices added a nice hint of almost-Fall, with fresh summer fruits.
4. Agave Lime Tofu with Asian Slaw and Chipotle Sweet Potato Mash: First time using The Conscious Cook cookbook I’ve had forever – SO awesome and easy to make.

Aside from cooking and eating, I wish I could say that I’ve been running and crushing marathon training with my ankle issue far behind me. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. I took a full week off per my doctor’s suggestion, and seemed okay when I started back up for that first week. I was a little achy and sore in places, but it wasn’t unbearable. I assumed that I would just have to run through the discomfort, and eventually things would start to feel better. I started the second week after seeing the doctor with a decent 6 mile run, and followed it up the next day with a 4 miler that just didn’t feel good. I woke up the following morning barely able to walk, and extremely frustrated. I saw my podiatrist that afternoon, and he really didn’t have any suggestions for me. He told me to come back in a month, and if the pain was still there, I’d be sent for an MRI. Nothing like a non-answer to make you feel better! I haven’t run since then (it’s been a week), and to be honest, I’m kind of lost. Do I wait until the pain is completely gone from walking (it is now), and try to run again? Do I wait longer before trying to run? I need to find someone with answers, or at least suggestions! I’ve had a few suggestions to go to a chiropractor and get some ART done, so I think that is next on my to-do list. I’m still planning to run (or walk, if I have to) the 10k and half marathon for the Disneyland Dumbo Dare at the end of the month, but I’m undecided if I’ll still run the Richmond Marathon. I may drop down to the half, or defer to next year. I’m so thankful that this particular race at least provides those options!

At least I have this sweet all-sport Picky Bars water bottle to keep me company!
At least I have this sweet all-sport Picky Bars water bottle to keep me company!

Even though I haven’t been running, I’ve been trying to stay in shape. I also figured if I couldn’t run, it would be the perfect opportunity to try and get myself a 6-pack, and increase my overall strength (LOL on the 6-pack). I’ve been participating in Kat’s August Core Focus, and adding in my own variations (hello Pinterest). I’ve also come up with some decent arm workouts that use only your body weight and 5-10lb. dumbbells. Maybe I’ll share it in a fun little graphic one of these days. I’ve done a few biking sessions at the gym, have done yoga almost every single day, and have a swim planned for tomorrow — first time back in the pool in at least a year… wonder how many yards I can do!

The biggest thing I’ve been doing during this whole “situation” is trying to stay positive, which I think I’ve actually been pretty successful at. In the past, as soon as I felt a twinge of discomfort or had a bad run I would immediately freak out and become a ball of misery. Recently I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may not run a fall marathon, but there are marathons all over the country every single weekend, and my health is more important.

Have you ever dealt with a non-injury, injury (or as I’m calling it, a “situation”)?
Any great non-running cross training things I should try?

Running is my BFF

I’m still here! Just haven’t been posting as frequently because, well, I haven’t had much to say… and I’ve never been one for filler posts (which is why I don’t have a “blogging schedule”). So what have I been doing lately? Running. Duh.

About two months ago I took to the blog and twitter to try and figure out my fall goal race. Obviously it was going to be a marathon (I haven’t given up on them yet), but I didn’t know where and when I wanted to race. I was ideally looking for a late-fall race in order to give myself maximum training time (and also because one of my best friends is getting married in October), so I zeroed in on November races that were within driving distance. I think in the back of my head I had an idea of which race I was going to pick all along, but I still wanted to get opinions from other runners. So after looking at my calendar, my finances, and Google maps, I decided on the Anthem Richmond Marathon on November 16th!

Prior to registering, I started thinking about training (of course). I had a ton of thoughts in my head – what training plan should I use? How many miles a week should I run? When should I start? How much build up should there be? Am I going to actually get through a successful marathon training cycle for the first time ever? What should my goal be? …and those were just a few of the questions I had. I like to think of myself as a mildly experienced runner (it’s been almost 4 full years), but I’ve only ever run by myself, for myself. I’ve done an okay job thus far, but thought it might make some sense to get a little help… especially since my marathon training has been awful up to this point.

So what do I mean by help? Well, I jumped on the coaching bandwagon! I know that I’m never going to be an elite runner, and heck, I may never even qualify for Boston. But I like the idea of having a professional that really knows the sport to guide me through training. I mean, when I was swimming I didn’t do that blindly, so why should running be any different? I know that there are a lot of mixed feelings on coaching for “average” athletes, but I say to each his/her own. The great thing about it is that I can stop at any point. So if it turns out having a coach really isn’t for me (which I doubt), I can go back to doing things on my own. I don’t really have any long-term goals with what I want to get out of coaching other than the obvious – get faster and better my marathon time!

A big reason why I decided to get a coach is that I’ve found that with every marathon training cycle, by the end I hate running. This is something I absolutely want to avoid, because as the title of the post says, running is currently my BFF and I’d like to add an AE to the end (you know, best friends forever AND EVER – welcome back to middle school). I think having the pressure of someone else waiting for my workout results that I’m PAYING will keep me in check. At least I hope so.

Between now and the marathon I have a bunch of fun summer road races planned, starting with a 5k this Sunday! I’m really looking forward to starting to work with a coach, and to have a successful marathon training cycle.

What do you think about running coaches? Yay or Nay?