Race Recap: Baltimore 10-Miler

Monday morning following the Virginia Wine Country Half-Marathon weekend, I checked my email to see a message from the folks at Corrigan Sports announcing packet pickup locations for the Baltimore 10-Miler. If you read my last race recap, you know that I’m about two threads from total rope frayage when it comes to racing. I was looking forward to a week in between this, my final race of the 2015 spring racing season. How nice of them to give us runners two whole weeks to pick up our race packets, I thought nonchalantly. It turns out that wasn’t the case: somehow I was mistaken that the race was on June 14th when it turns out it was on June 6th instead. This coming weekend. Whoops.

Luckily, I had nothing much to do this weekend except run 6-8 miles and lay out by the pool (provided if the weather improved), and Baltimore is a close enough drive from DC that I didn’t have to worry too much about rearranging my schedule or booking last minute travel. The problem was that my 10-mile record was now over 3 years old and I really wanted to beat it with this race. It’s not outside the scope of possibility, and I think it’s definitely feasible, but would I be able to do that after having just run a half-marathon the week before? I was ready to find out. Continue reading “Race Recap: Baltimore 10-Miler”

Race Recap: Virginia Wine Country Half-Marathon

After having run so many races in such a short amount of time, this was one of those races that I didn’t care about racing, but I also couldn’t let go of wanting to do well either. I think it’s safe to say that I have race fatigue. It’s hard for me to be behind a starting line and not take a race seriously, so running four half-marathons, five 5Ks, and a 10-miler in two months is tiring, especially when I’ve got a knot in my calf that is plaguing me again. I’m partially trying not to make it worse right before marathon training begins and partially trying to maintain a minimum weekly base mileage because, in about two weeks, I’ll start running 25 miles a week at least. So, for this race, I didn’t want to put myself through a hard race that I ultimately didn’t “care” about. But I am willing to admit that it’s time to put racing on hold for awhile. Continue reading “Race Recap: Virginia Wine Country Half-Marathon”

Race Recap: Frederick Running Festival

Official race shirts and swag
Official race shirts and swag

I’ll start this by being frank: If you plan to run the Frederick Running Festival in 2016, you’d better be ready to run some hills.

However, I would absolutely run this event again because everything else was that great. A serious tip of my hat to Corrigan Sports: this running festival has all the elements of a homegrown, hometown atmosphere with the logistical savoire-fare of a world class event. Never once did I feel like I was out of the loop– the communication with runners and spectators was outstanding with colorful, printed runners handbooks that included course maps, parking guidelines, helpful tips, and spectator information. I never once was made to feel like a member of a “herd” of runners, and I felt very well-taken care of and welcomed. The swag, in my opinion, was outstanding. The race t-shirts were made from a material that felt like one of those soft vintage t-shirts that are currently all the rage but you can wear them to run in, too. The merchandise was plentiful, reasonably priced, and had great variety. The volunteers were welcoming and gracious. I felt like I was truly among neighbors with them. The course, aesthetically speaking, was gorgeous. The course support was staffed with volunteers whom you could tell truly had their hearts in their jobs. Someone always had a cup of water for me and there was plenty to go around. Kids, adults, I even high-fived a priest and some nuns as I ran past a church– at 7AM on a Sunday morning, no less! The police men and women took their duties seriously in making sure we were safe from cranky, detoured motorists. This town truly came alive for all of us runners. I’m not sure what I really expected with this race, but I was totally impressed and left feeling happy and take care of. This race, in a word, is heartfelt. This is a truly heartfelt race.

Now back to those hills… Continue reading “Race Recap: Frederick Running Festival”

Race Recap: Pacers Crystal City 5K Fridays

Like most races I sign up for, I didn’t actually intend to register for the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia’s most exciting month of the year event in running: the Pacers Crystal City 5K Fridays that happen every Friday in April. I’ve run this race course before, once in 2011 on the third Friday of that April, and I usually don’t run races that I have already run before simply because there are so many out there to experience. The only exception is if I really love the race, then yes, I would run it again.

Crystal City 5K Fridays course with laps
Crystal City 5K Fridays course with laps

And I don’t particularly looooove this race, except that it’s great for shaking off winter race cobwebs. It’s right after work on a Friday which makes it really hard to get to, plus I am trying to start practicing consistency ahead of training for the 2015 Baltimore Marathon which will include Fridays as my designated rest day, so having to push that back to run 3.1 miles for another month was slightly annoying to me. Why did I register? Because my friend Kristine, one of my longest friends out here with whom I bonded over my failed attempt at the training for the 2010 Philadelphia Triathlon when I was part of Team in Training, was just coming back from an injury and needed to get out there and get back on the running horse. Plus, I wasn’t in DC in 2014 and I can’t lie that a random chat message from her last year telling me she wished I was there to run the course with her sort of stuck with me. But once I hit “register” on the Pacer’s website and forked over my $60 to run four 5Ks, I felt excited that I’d have this to look forward to every week in April. Continue reading “Race Recap: Pacers Crystal City 5K Fridays”

Race Recap: Virginia Beach Shamrock Half-Marathon

Race, Recover, Repeat

Going into a back-to-back race week, my only strategy was focusing on recovery from the New York City Half-Marathon. Two days of walking around Manhattan on top of an ass-kicking half-marathon, my legs were shot. They were sore through Tuesday– which was also the first time I could actually foam roll without cringing. Wednesday, I’d planned to run a slow shake-out run, but the exhaustion of the past weekend, a late night train, and having to run errands typically reserved for weekends after very busy days at the office all caught up to me so I rested and went to bed early.

I also ate a lot of protein— old-fashioned oatmeal with walnuts for breakfast, tuna salad with hemp seeds on wheat for lunch, Greek yogurt and almond butter for snack, chicken for dinner– slept between 8 and 9 hours a night, foam-rolled while watching TV. My first run was Thursday after work, a planned slow 3-miler, but I didn’t dress warm enough and my legs felt ready, so it ended up being a fast 2-mile loop around the Lincoln Reflecting Pool and back up 17th Street to the office. My legs felt loose, my form felt in line, cardiovascularly was a slight struggle at the end of mile 2 but I’d also left very little time to work up to that pace. I was nervous that I’d just wreaked more havoc on my body than it needed only 4 days after a hard race and 3 days before the next one. Continue reading “Race Recap: Virginia Beach Shamrock Half-Marathon”

Race Recap: United New York City Half-Marathon Weekend

Validation is a Four-Letter Word

In the leading days before the half-marathon, I was a nervous wreck. I made the mistake of reading that the 2014 NYC Half average finish time was 2:04:22, which resulted in major race nerves. In my terms, this was 16 seconds faster than my second fastest half-marathon, 7 minutes slower than my PR of 1:57:35, and 20 seconds faster than my finish at Richmond in November. In addition, March 2011 was my first half-marathon which I finished in 2:05:33 and I was about to run my 10th half-marathon. In my mind, after running for as long as I have, finishing faster than my 1st half-marathon time was absolutely essential. But I also didn’t want to finish with a below average time. Maybe my putting so much pressure on this race is coming from the fact that this race is happening in NYC– concrete jungle where dreams are made of, where if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. But what better place for validation than New York City? Continue reading “Race Recap: United New York City Half-Marathon Weekend”

2014, It’s Been Real. 2015, Brace Yourself…

2014 Fairfax Four MilerFollowing a long week at home in Nebraska with the family for Christmas, I got back to Washington, DC to a lifeless studio apartment where everything was exactly how I had left it rushing out the door at 5AM for a 6:25AM flight just a week earlier. The air was cool and stale from lacking any energy and activity for 7 days. It was nice to be back in my own space in DC, but my heart was as heavy as my exactly 50-pound suitcase that hours earlier I’d managed to escape paying Southwest Airline’s $75 overweight fee by tossing my toiletries in an airport bathroom and stuffing my hair dryer in my carry-on (my big, black monstrosity was 4 pounds overweight). Unlike what I had going on in my head and heart, however, I left my baggage at the front door and promptly unloaded it. Dirty laundry here, hanging up my clearance trophies there– a little black dress I know will fit once I lose my food baby belly, blue salt and pepper leggings that make schlepping around the house look like too much effort, some running shirts that I was already mentally planning to wear for upcoming races. I tried to ignore what was bothering me, but it lingered ruthlessly. And there was nothing much I could do about it except deal with it.

When I have a heavy heart or a bad day, the first thing I ask myself is what do I feel like doing? Continue reading “2014, It’s Been Real. 2015, Brace Yourself…”

Race Recap: Richmond Half-Marathon

Going out of town for races has become my version of a mini-vacation. Now that I have my car with me in DC, I have the ability to participate in a bunch of races that I never really had the opportunity to run before. During my carless years, if the race was out of town, my only options were to find friends with cars who were also running the race (cough, mooch, cough) or make a whole huge vacation out of it, like I did with Chicago and the Disney races of 2013. I could have always rented a car to drive to the races, but on top of registration fees, meals, and hotel costs, adding a car rental and insurance expenses on top of it really made for an expensive race that most of the time never even happened. Before I moved away from DC, running the Richmond Marathon was always on my list of races to run, but this was the first time I could actually make it happen. Continue reading “Race Recap: Richmond Half-Marathon”

Race Recap: Chicago Marathon Weekend

"At some point you have to stop making a comeback and start running towards who you are meant to be next."  - Lauren Fleshman
“At some point you have to stop making a comeback and start running towards who you are meant to be next.” – Lauren Fleshman

Recapping a race like the Chicago Marathon is like starting to train for one: I don’t know where to start. The beginning, obviously, but with a race like this, it’s moments of painful bursts of speed and hours on carefully-paced long runs, extra hours of sleep and accumulated minutes spent preparing recovery and fueling meals, it’s fleeting seconds spent thinking about how you can apply a new technique to your training. It’s dollars spent on new shoes, airline tickets, hotel rooms, victory meals, and all the logistics of getting out of your comfort zone and on a plane to the 3rd largest city in the country where the starting line in somewhere in the maze of streets that you’re soon going to run on. It’s all of those things that come down to a span of 2 hours for few, 3-5 hours for some, and 6-7 hours for a few more but the same distance for us all: 26.2 miles. To run a marathon is to witness the human existence, and I think that was what this race was all about for me. I’ve never really felt it before now– that sense that you are really part of something great. But you look up and you see thousands of people in every color of the rainbow, bobbing along in a run and it’s all just like….wow. I am here. Welcome to your life, welcome to existence. This is my world. Continue reading “Race Recap: Chicago Marathon Weekend”

Race Recap: Lincoln National Guard Half-Marathon

Instead of launching head first into a recap of my personal experience of this race, I have to give it up to the people of Lincoln, Nebraska for putting on one of the most supportive races that I have ever run. Seriously. Almost every step of the way during this race, the street curb was filled to the brim with people. Some of them were camped out– fleece blanket-draped cheerleaders in lawn chairs, passing out orange slices, jelly beans, banana slices, Kleenexes, frozen grapes, ice, Ring Pops, and probably a lot more energy boosters and running aids that I didn’t see in the blur. I even passed three college students, each hammocked one on top of the other between two sturdy trees in one of the neighborhoods near Union College. There was a ukelele band. A church choir. A drumline. Local garage bands. Trucks with their sub-woofers pounding. The only place where it wasn’t pretty much packed solid was along Highway 2 where the course bottle-necked along a humble running path, probably because parking was hard to find. Even then, there was a wall of cars and trucks parked end-to-end along the four-lane thoroughfare. And the signage ranged from “seen that before” to personalized to “and just how do you ask someone to print a four-foot picture of your mom’s head to put on a stick, I wonder?” Even though I knew no one along the course, I gave every stranger who had his or her hand outstretched along the course a high-five, especially kids, and I never once felt alone. Probably five total people called out my name, which was printed on my bib, and I didn’t even care if I was the “Sara” they were cheering for– it made me smile and was the difference between running and walking. Major kudos to the community of Lincoln, Nebraska. Continue reading “Race Recap: Lincoln National Guard Half-Marathon”