Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nike Women's Half Marathon Race Report

You can read all about the rest of my AMAZING weekend here!

Race morning started with a 5:00 am wake up call. I quickly got dressed, grabbed all my gear and then was on my way to the metro by 5:20. I ate a bagel on the short metro ride over to the race start. I was so worried about getting stuck in the long lines getting off the metro that I ended up getting to the start area by 5:50. Once at the race start I headed over to the incredible VIP tent. I spent some time getting ready before I headed out for a rather unsuccessful warm up.

I didn't want to run too far so that I didn't get lost but staying close to the start just ended up with me trying to unsuccessfully navigate some really crowded sidewalks. I ran for about 10 minutes before heading back to the VIP tent to get in some stretching and go to the bathroom one last time before heading over to the corrals around 6:45. The corrals were insanely crowded and I had to hop a fence just to get in because the line was so long.

The race started right on time and around 7:04 I was crossing the start line. I quickly realized just how crowded this race was. I felt like I was walking and couldn't get around anyone. For the first mile I ran whatever pace everyone around me was going and tried to avoid weaving. I thought after the first mile the crowds would start thinning out but part way through mile 2 when things were just as bad I knew I needed to get moving if I was going to meet my goal.

Because the first few miles were slower than I wanted and I was so nervous about being behind my goal I picked up the pace a little too much through miles 3-5. I felt so good though so I just went for it. I was still weaving quite a bit but I couldn't stand the thought of being stuck behind more runners. A few times during this point in the race I tried to just hold my pace instead of running faster. I didn't want to die later on even though I felt so good early on.

Around miles 7-8 I started to get a tiny bit tired but nothing too bad. I really tried to hold my pace and focus on running consistent miles. I knew there was a hill coming up around miles 9-10 so I wanted to save some energy for that and my last 5K. I remember doing so much math in my head at this point trying to figure out if I was going to be able to break 1:50. Not being very good at math I thought I had no chance.

I don't remember what happened or what I thought in each mile at this point because the scenery was all the same but I remember growing more tired and my hip that's been bothering me started to get really cranky. The hill at mile 10 was really not much of a hill at all but it was a welcome change from the flat or slight downhill of the rest of the course. I tried to pick it up as much as possible but I was really hurting.

I realized around mile 11? that I hadn't taken the last 2 of my shot bloks. When I went to get them out of my pocket I ended up dropping them. I debated whether or not to go back and grab them but ultimately decided against it. The last two miles were a fight both mentally and physically. I wanted so badly to be finished. When I could finally see the finish line I started to sprint but then realized that the finish line wasn't as close as I thought.

The last maybe half mile or so was slightly downhill and I knew it was time to go. I remember screaming at one point because my hip hurt so badly. I don't know distance wise how close I was to the finish line, but I looked down at my watch and saw 1:47:XX. I knew I was going to be very close to 1:50. If I had any chance of going under 1:50 I needed to move.

From that point on I ran with all I had left while keeping a close eye on my watch. With maybe 10 yards to go I knew I was either going to be just under 1:50 or a few seconds over. I also knew I would by bummed if I missed going under 1:50 by so little. I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch. I think my heart might have stopped also. I looked down at my watch not knowing if I had done it or not.

I almost started crying I was so happy. For more than 12 out of those 13 miles I didn't think I had it in me to go under 1:50. I had dreamed about seeing 1:49 when I crossed the finish line during training but I really didn't know if it was too ambitious of a goal. All those times that I fought during training and told myself it was for the 1:49 were worth it.

Official time 1:49:59
Avg pace 8:23
Splits: 9:21, 8:29, 8:22, 8:14, 8:13, 8:04, 8:07, 8:04, 8:10, 8:19, 9:12, 7:32, 8:00, 1:50 (.25-7:18 pace)
(miles 11-12 got messed up because of the tunnel)

As soon as I stopped running my hips started cramping up. I hobbled to get some water and almost forgot about the little blue box waiting for me. I wandered around the finish line still in a daze for a few minutes before getting my finishers shirt and then heading over to the VIP tent and meeting up with my parents.

One of the first people I saw when I went into the VIP tent was Shalane Flanagan. I got some more water, stretched out and finally got to talk with my parents. They were amazing and walked all over DC to see me along the course. We sat down for a bit and then went to see Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson speak before heading back to our hotel.

Two days later and I am still just as happy as I was after crossing the finish line on Sunday. It hasn't quite sunk in yet that I ran a 1:49 half marathon though. I could never have had such an amazing weekend and race without my wonderful coach Mike, my parents, and Nike. Now I am enjoying having a few days off before jumping into triathlon training.

Who else ran the Nike Women's Half Marathon this weekend?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Nike Women's Half Marathon Weekend

I'll have a race report up later this week. I'll give you a hint how I did though. I PR'd in a big way!

This entire weekend was absolutely amazing. On Friday my mom and I headed down to DC to go to the expo and pick up my packet. We met at my apartment and then drove down to the New Carrolltown metro station. Once we made it to DC we walked over to Georgetown to go to the expo. It was an absolutely beautiful day, which made walking around so much nicer.

The expo consisted of three tents. One where you picked up my packet, one which was where the "expotique" was, and one selling race day gear such as Nuun, foam rollers, and gels. I had heard really good things about the expo for the San Francisco race but was pretty disappointed with the expo this weekend. The Nuun bar was awesome but besides that there wasn't much to do or buy. I did finally get my hands on the new Nuun flavors and bought the last watermelon they had!

After doing a pretty quick walk-through of the expo, we headed up the street to Nike Georgetown where they were selling the official race gear. We looked around for a bit but everything just seemed way overpriced and I didn't love any of it anyway. Why spend so much money on something you aren't crazy about? Somewhat frustrated, we left Niketown.

My mom wanted to go to the DC Cupcakes store so we walked over there and stopped in a few shops on the way. For the first time ever I went into a Lululemon store but I wasn't very impressed either. I'm really picky with my running clothes and a lot of their fabrics seemed stiff and scratchy. It did seem like they had more yoga stuff than running clothes though. Sadly, we struck out again.

On Saturday I returned to DC with both of my parents this time since we were staying over night before the race. Once we got to out hotel we got a quick lunch and then hung out outside before I headed over to an Ellie Goulding concert that Nike invited me to. Although the club was in a somewhat sketchy area, the concert was great. There were only a few hundred people there and it was only for Nike runners.

I cannot say enough good things about Ellie Goulding's performance. She was incredible. After the concert was over, along with 9 other extremely lucky girls, got to go backstage and meet Ellie Goulding. Since she was also running the race the meet & greet was pretty quick but it was still so awesome. She is the sweetest girl and my obsession with her is only continuing to grow.

After the concert it was back to the hotel for a quick dinner and then to bed. I can honestly not remember the last time I was in bed before 10 pm! Before I knew it it was race morning. I took the metro and got to the start of the race around 6 am. I was lucky enough to receive a VIP bracelet that granted me access to the VIP tent both before and after the race.

I've never had access to the VIP tent before so I had no idea how AWESOME it is! Both before and after the race the tent was stocked with water bottles, food, coffee and there were even private bathrooms with at most a 2 person wait. This was the same VIP tent that Ellie Goulding, Shalane Flanagan, and Joan Benoit Samuelson went to after they were finished the race. I was only able to get a picture with Joan but I did get a few minutes to chat with both Shalane and Ellie.

Race aside (the race went better than I could have imagined!), the entire weekend was incredible. I felt like I was treated like royalty by Nike.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Nike Women's Half Marathon Goals

When I signed up for this race my only goal was to break two hours. Over the next month or two my goal became to train hard and see what I could do. Now, 15 weeks since starting training, I can say that my goal remains the same. On one side this excites me. On the other side it scares me. After only a few weeks of training I was certain I would break two hours. My PR is 2:03 so that shouldn't be a problem. I haven't had another time goal in mind throughout my training though. I've just trained hard with the intent of getting as fast as possible.

I could be way out of line here but I based my goal times based on my paces for my long runs and the 10 miler I did a few weeks ago.

A Goal: Sub 1:52
B Goal: Sub 1:55
C Goal: Sub 2:00

I am expecting my time to be somewhere between 1:50-1:55 depending on how I feel on Sunday. Two weekends ago I ran a little over 13 miles with my half marathon split coming in somewhere around 1:52-1:53. While this run was not terribly hard I did push the pace and did this as an interval sort of run. I also stopped 3 (?) times to go to the bathroom and stretch when my hip started tightening up. I also know the race course is always longer.

DC in November for an event with the Russian embassy

And then there is the issue of water stops. During every race I have done so far I have stopped at the aid stations. I think stopping for a few seconds helps me feel better throughout the race. During my 10 miler I noticed that I added 15-25 seconds at each water stop. I think there are 5+ water stops during the race this weekend, which could add up to more than a minute wasted. I didn't want to carry water with me in case I want to toss my bottle (I am really picky about my water being cold when I run so I will only run with an insulated bottle). As you can probably tell, I'm still trying to figure out what to do about this.

Sunset on my way home. Picture doesn't do it justice

While I love having a time goal to shoot for, I don't think it's healthy to only focus on your time. I like to have some non-time goals so that if I don't reach that goal I can still call my race a success.

Stay calm when something goes wrong, because it inevitably will. Minutes before the start of the Capital 10 Miler I found out that one of the earbuds on my headphones had fallen off. I freaked out since I had been doing all of my long or hard workouts with music. I started to panic and ended up spending the time I should have spent stretching rigging my headphones so they would stay in my ears. I showed up to the race start with about a minute to spare.

I am trying to be as prepared as possible going into this weekend but inevitably something will go wrong. My guess is it will have something to do with navigating DC. At that point I won't be able to make any changes so I need to roll with the punches and move on. Quickly.

Ignore negative thoughts. Another thing that I have learned is inevitable is negative self-talk. Even during my best races a few negative thoughts have creeped in here or there. I want to recognize that it's going to happen and just ignore them.When you start to listen to your negative thoughts is when you will blow your race.

Leave everything out on the course. Although I do have some time goals, my biggest goal is to go as hard as I can. If I finish in a time slower than I thought but I pushed myself to the end I will be happy. I don't want to finish the race and be able to run around later that day with my dog. I want to be tired. I want to give everything I have and see where that puts me.

I have one run left tomorrow and am off to the expo now. Good luck everyone racing this weekend!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Last night I went to my very first group run. Charm City Run was hosting a run in remembrance of the Boston Marathon bombings last Monday. I debated whether or not to go for a few days but had no excuse not to go. I knew it would be worth it, I was just nervous about running with other people.

I got to the store about 30 minutes early in case there was traffic or I got lost. Since neither happened I just talked with some either people while we waited for the run to start. I would love to know how many people ended up coming up tonight. It was so crowded!

We started the run right after 6:30, leaving from the McHenry Row store. We headed over to the Harbor, turned around and came back to the store. The run was a little over thirty minutes long. Most people there were with friends so I ran by myself the whole time, just enjoying being surrounded by so many runners.

I am so glad that I went! I am actually hoping to go to some of the other group runs at Charm City Run before the semester is over.

Monday, April 22, 2013


I can honestly say that I do not remember the last time I was this excited for a race. My last big race was the Harrisburg Marathon back in November, which I dreaded more than I care to admit. The other races I did last year were either more casual races that I did not train specifically for or it was my first time at that distance so I was more nervous than excited.

The week leading up to a race is so important for how I do in that race. After the New York City Marathon got cancelled I didn't know whether I wanted to run a different marathon or not but I felt like I had to because so many people told me I should. From the minute I woke up on race day through mile 22ish I was miserable.

So today marks the first day of race week for the Nike Women's Half Marathon. I signed up for this race back in November a few days after finishing my first marathon. My goal for this race at the time was to break 2 hours. I had set my half marathon PR at the Baltimore Half Marathon in October, which was right in the middle of marathon training. I ran a 2:03:00 unexpectedly, giving me a taste of how close I was to running a sub-2 half.

When I signed up for the race I had no plan for how I was going to break two hours, I just knew I wanted to do it. I wanted to take a break from running while gearing up for finals and then focus on training once 2013 rolled around. I didn't plan to start working with a coach to train for this race, although I had been thinking about getting a coach for a little while.

Spotted in DC!

When the opportunity arose to work with Mike from Endurance Multisport in Lancaster, Pennsylvania I was elated. Being a swimmer for ten years conditioned me to listen very well to coaches. At the end of my swimming career I coached myself due to issues with my coach at the time and I loved having that freedom. I'm proud of what I accomplished without the help of a coach but I know in my heart I would have done even a little bit better if I had stayed with my coach.

Even after a few days of working with Mike I knew I was going to like having a coach again. Besides knowing so much more about how to train than I do, having a coach holds me accountable. I am conditioned to do what my coach tells me. So now after 15 weeks of training under Mike I am getting ready to see how we did.

I saw more progress than I ever imagined in both my speed and mentality towards running. Despite having my ups and downs during training, I learned so many invaluable things about myself as a runner and a person. Now it's time to take all this and channel it towards my race this weekend. I am excited to finally put all this hard work to the test.

Friday, April 19, 2013

My Thoughts on Boston

I have kept silent about the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday because I did not know what to say and so many others had already expressed how I was feeling. I found out about the bombing minutes after it happened and was numb the entire rest of the day. I had class at 4:00 that I would have skipped if I didn't have a quiz. When I came home I was unable to do anything. I just sat there unable to process what had happened.

I was not in Boston on Monday and while I did not know anybody personally running the marathon, I knew both friends met on the internet running and friends that are in Boston for school. Despite not knowing anyone directly affected by this tragedy these were my people. I struggle to call myself a runner but let me tell you, if you attack runners or swimmers they are my people. I may not know all of them but they are my friends because they are a part of two very important communities to me.

Over the next few days I was starting to be able to move on. My mind was starting to calm and I was starting to feel like things were getting back to normal. And then today happened. I was woken up at 3:15 in the morning by a text from my boyfriend about a manhunt. When I heard my phone vibrate I originally ignored it and rolled back over to sleep. About 30 minutes later I decided to check my phone. At first I didn't believe what I was reading.

I quickly checked every news source, only to become more confused. I was reading so many variations of what was happening, each from fairly different from the next. Maybe it was because it was the middle of the night and my brain was not yet working but I finally had a breakdown. The more I read the more terrified I became. I knew I was not in harm's way since I'm in Baltimore and all this is happening in Boston, almost 9 hours away, but I couldn't help but be fearful.

As the night progressed I lost it more. By 4:45 I was shaking, crying and nauseous. I did, and still do, have a bad feeling about this whole situation. Obviously this week's events have been absolutely tragic. I can't pinpoint why but I have a feeling that this is only the beginning. Maybe it's because it was my friends who were attacked. Maybe it's because I could have been there on Monday along with my family. Maybe it's because we still don't know enough about who these people are and what their motive is.

I want to know if these are the only two associated with this event. More so, I want to feel safe. I want all of this to be over and the sick people who did this to get what they deserve. I don't know what to say or feel anymore. Right now I'm just angry. My heart goes out to those who lost their lives on Monday and last night.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Peak Week = Complete

Last week marked peak week before the Nike Women's Half Marathon. The week started off slow as my legs were quite fatigued from the Capital 10 Miler the previous Sunday. Last week was also the warmest week we've had all year, with temps in the upper 80's and even one day in the 90's. I wasn't expecting how much I loved the warmer temps. Now I'm counting down the days until the semester is over and summer can really start. I've also been craving going to a baseball game.

To be honest, it seems way too soon for peak week to have already come and gone. In a way I feel like I just started training. At the same time I feel like I've been training forever. I'm nervous, excited and anxious for race day to be just around the corner. Even though this wasn't my highest week in terms of time training it was equally as tough on my legs after coming off of a tough race.

Monday: 3 recovery miles with no watch as the sun was setting. Best. run. ever.

15 minutes of abs and some foam rolling

Tuesday: 2500 yard swim

5.8 miles in the evening consisting of a mixture of road & trail. Somehow I got lost, which coupled with a cranky stomach made this a less than pleasant run.

Wednesday: 7 miles of intervals in the morning. One of the toughest runs I've had in awhile on a day that hit 93 degrees. I surprised myself and LOVED running in the morning.

Thursday: rest

Friday: 3100 yard swim

3.3 easy miles cut short from 6.5 due to a cranky stomach.

Saturday: 3.9 sunset miles. I was supposed to do my long run on Saturday but ran into some scheduling conflicts that caused me to push it back to Sunday. I was going to finish Friday's run on Sunday after my long run but when that got moved I decided to get the miles in on Saturday. I kept the pace really relaxed and chased the ice cream truck all over Arbutus.

15 minutes abs

Sunday: 13.35 mile long run. This was my longest run and my last long run of this training cycle. Instead of being nervous about tackling the distance I was actually pretty excited. The run started about kind of average with my pace hovering around 9:00. I decided I wanted to throw in some faster miles to mix things up, so I ran until the turn around point at a hard but conservative pace. I remember thinking "I could probably hold this for an entire half marathon if I really tried." I wasn't expecting to see I was holding around 8:23. Same pace as last weekend's race but considerably easier. Once I reached half way I decided I would finish out the run by doing 1 mile easy, 2 @ 8:20, 1 mile easy, 1.5 @ 8:20, 1.5 miles warm down.

The next two miles I was supposed to hold 8:20 for felt really good. Like really good. I didn't look at my watch but instead ran at a comfortably hard pace. At the end of the second mile I picked it up a bit by letting some faster people in front of me pace me. They were running faster than me but didn't require a sprint to keep up with. Miles 9 and 10 clocked in at 8:09 and 7:53. During the easy mile I noticed that my hip was starting to get tight and achy. Nothing too concerning but when I started to run harder my hip started to protest. The harder I ran the more it hurt so I ran at more of a comfortably hard pace. I tried stretching it before starting my warm down but it still hurt when I started running again. With a little less than a mile to go I was practically limping. I wanted nothing more than to finish all 14 of those miles but I knew it would be dumb of me to push through the pain.

Once I got home I stretched, foam rolled and iced my hip. It doesn't seem to be injured by any means, just cranky. I probably could have pushed through and finished the run but I was so close to being done anyway and had put in a really solid effort that I didn't want to chance anything. Hip troubles aside, this run was incredible. I felt a million times better than I did last weekend and was able to hold some fast paces with a lot less effort than I expected. This run was challenging but I felt strong the whole time. I remember finishing runs of 8.8 miles at the same pace and being dead by the end. If it wasn't for my hip I could have kept running.

This was the first time that I have really loved doing a long run. Normally I dread long runs because they completely wipe me out. On Sunday I actually felt ready and capable to handle the distance. Before I started running I thought back to a 14 mile long run I did while training for the NYCM/Harrisburg Marathon. That run took me the entire day. Every single mile was a challenge. Yesterday's run was a complete 180 from that run. I finished the run beaming with confidence. I rarely have gone into races (both running and swimming) with confidence. I am no longer doubting my abilities to run the race I want to run.

Week total: 36.35 miles

Even though my legs felt heavy more days than not I couldn't help but love all of my runs this week. They were the kind of runs that remind me how much I love running. It's a good thing I was loving running so much this week because I ran my highest mileage week ever at 36.35 miles. I really never thought I would run so many miles while training for a half marathon. I didn't think I would love running higher (for me) mileage so much. In the matter of a few weeks I have gone from dreading training for a fall marathon to excited to do it right this time and run even more miles.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

Tomorrow is my longest run before race day and I can't figure out why I'm not freaking out about how soon the big day is. A couple weeks ago I was having a meltdown that I didn't have enough time to get race ready and now I have this really chill mentality towards the next two weeks.

After my race on Sunday my legs were pretty trashed. On Monday I had a 30 minute recovery run on the schedule which turned out to be just what I needed. Maybe it had something to do with the summer-like temps we've been having this week but this run was the kind that reminds you why you love running and makes you fall even harder. I ran without my watch and enjoyed just getting outside. I can't even put into words how happy this run made me.

Tuesday's run was not quite as euphoric as Monday's though. I blame it on the 90 degree weather. It wasn't a bad run but I was expecting to feel better than I did. I ran to a nearby trail so I could just let go of the fact that I was still moving pretty slowly. I love trail running and am looking forward to spending more time exploring some of the local trails now that the ground has thawed/dried out. The only problem on Tuesday was that I got lost. I couldn't find my way back to campus and had to reverse my path, adding an extra 15 minutes to my run. Not a big deal but not ideal when you just want to be done.

Wednesday the plan was 8 x 800 on the track. After my issues with using the track on campus during the evening I set my alarm for 6:15 so I could run before practices started. Except when I got to the track there was lacrosse practice. I officially give up. Knowing I didn't have time later in the day I opted to do the repeats on the loop around campus.

This was SUCH a hard run. My legs were clearly not recovered from Sunday's race as they wanted nothing to do with this run. Even my warm up felt hard. I fought with myself to finish each repeat. Not to mention half of the repeats were slightly uphill making them even harder. Despite how hard this run was and how many times I told myself I would stop after just one more repeat I kept going. Something about pushing myself to my limits before 8:00 am was enticing me. Somehow I remained calm regardless of how terrible I was doing. I accepted it wasn't my day and did my best anyway. Who am I?

6 x 800 (odds slightly uphill)- 4:00, 3:36, 3:52, 3:38, 3:53, 3:42

2 x 400- 1:47, 1:44

7 miles avg pace 8:32

I normally get anxious in the days leading up to long runs but right now I am actually excited. I feel like a mental switch has been flipped this past week. Instead of feeling all this pressure to hit certain paces I know that the most important thing is to get the miles in at a decent effort. I will try to hold my goal pace but if it doesn't happen that is no reason to give up on the run in general.

Because who doesn't love kittens?

I can't pinpoint my change in attitude this week but I'm going to credit the warmer weather and abundant sunshine. I am already getting pre-race jitters and we are still a little more than two weeks out. Pre-race jitters are a favorite of mine so to be getting them this early is a welcomed surprise. I'm hoping I can ride this high all the way til April 28!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Capital 10 Miler Race Report

First race of the year-done! It wasn't the race I was expecting but every race is a learning experience in my book. Race morning started with a 6:30 wake up call. I got dressed, ate my pre-run breakfast, and was on my way to Harrisburg. We got there a little more than an hour before the 9:00 race start, which left me enough time to pickup my bib and go to the bathroom before doing a quick warm up.

 I'd been debating whether to wear shorts or capris but ultimately decided to go with shorts after how warm it felt during my warm up. With about 10 minutes til race time I got all my stuff ready and noticed that one of the earbuds on my headphones had fallen off. Cue minor freak out. Panicked I put one headphone in and stuffed the other in my sports bra so it wasn't flying all over the place. With about two minutes to spare I made it to the start line.

Despite the race only having around 500 runners the first mile was pretty congested. Instead of getting frustrated and weaving I treated this as a way to not go out too fast. I wasn't sure how I wanted to run this race (negative splits, steady pace, etc) so I decided to mimic how I normally run my half marathons (first five, middle five, last 5K). I was hoping to keep miles 1-4 around 8:30, 4-8 around 8:10-8:20 and the last two sub 8:00. When the first mile clocked in the 8:40's I started to get nervous. Time to pick it up!

Mile 1: 8:46
Mile 2: 8:15
Mile 3: 8:29 <- water stop
Mile 4: 8:13

 It was during the second and third miles that I realized this was not going to be the race I was hoping for. Despite my best efforts to do all the little things right, my legs just felt heavy and tight. I really didn't like the first ~5 miles of the course either so at this point I had to make a decision. Years ago as a swimmer if a race wasn't going the way I wanted it to I would just give up. Why bother, right? On Sunday when I knew this wasn't going to be one of those OMG I love running and racing so much days I didn't quit. I thought for maybe 30 seconds about how much I just wanted to walk but those thoughts were chased away. Instead my mind was filled with thoughts like "looks like I'm going to suffer for the next 6-7 miles." 

Mile 5: 8:28 <- water stop
Mile 6: 8:02

When mile 4 came I tried to drop my pace but I just didn't have the energy to go harder. Instead I just ran hard. I remember thinking around mile 6 "how can I be this tired and it's only mile 6? I don't think I can hold this pace for the rest of the race, I'm really hurting. I guess I'll just keep running until I can't run anymore. If I crash and burn I'll deal with that later. Just go hard right now."

Miles 8-9 consisted of an out an back and an annoyingly long bridge which was both in direct sunlight and open to the wind we were getting. I was already SO hot during this race despite being one of the only people wearing shorts so running with no shade was destroying what little motivation I had. Something happened on that bridge though. I have never wanted to be done running more than when I was on that bridge (okay maybe during miles 18-20 during the Harrisburg Marathon) but instead of easing up I pushed harder. I picked off each person in front of me one by one, grimacing in pain with each step I took.

Mile 7: 8:33
Mile 8: 8:36

It was on the way back on the bridge that I realized how close I was to finishing. Less than twenty minutes til I'm done? I can do this! Run for your life! And so I did. The winds were so strong that I was being blown diagonally as I ran but I kept going. I have given up so many times before that I surprised myself by how strong I was mentally. I was not happy by any means but by continuing to push myself so hard the entire time I proved to myself that I can run strong even when I feel like shit.

Mile 9: 7:58
Mile 10: 8:16

The last mile of this race was a sufferfest. I'm pretty sure I ran the majority of this mile with my eyes closed, just visualizing myself crossing the finish line. With maybe a half mile to go you run across another bridge that is a bit shorter than the bridge previously crossed. At the Harrisburg Marathon the finish line is right after you cross the finish line so when I was nearing the end of the bridge and there was no finish line in sight I started to get angry. Then we ran past the finish line around City Island for the final quarter mile.

You're lucky I didn't zoom in. This is a rough picture

I tried to run until I had no more in me and when I finally crossed the finish line I stumbled around, practically falling over. For a few minutes I didn't have the energy to walk over to the table with water and Gatorade. I tried to stretch my legs out since I could feel my calves tightening up even more.

Time: 1:23:46
Avg pace: 8:22

Two days post race day I'm torn about how I feel about this race. I really didn't like the majority of the course and was deterred by how rough I felt physically. At the same time I proved to myself how strong I can be both mentally and physically. It was not the confidence boosting race I was hoping for in these last few weeks before my half marathon but it could have gone much worse. I taught myself how to push through pain that I normally would not have, and not to mention ran this race more than one minute per mile faster than the half marathon I ran last March.

Question, do you race with music?
I've been doing most of my long runs and hard runs with music and was planning on listening to music during this race before my headphones broke. In the past I haven't raced with music but am now considering it since I like it so much during hard runs.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Strong Is What You Have Left When You've Used Up All Your Weak

I stumbled across this quote last week and it has stuck with me ever since. The previous week was really tough for me, with lots of ups and downs. Mostly downs though. I felt more mentally defeated than I had in a long time. Going into this past week I tried to stay more relaxed and not stress out so much when things don't go according to plan.

And they didn't. My track-turned-just-generally-hard run on Wednesday is the epitome of this quote from Saucony. I struggled mentally to keep running hard. But I did. I thought about quitting after being kicked off the track. But I didn't. I needed this run for it's cathartic properties more than anything else. The harder I ran on Wednesday the farther I felt away from the previous week's less than stellar runs. 

During this run on Wednesday I felt like I ran all of the weak out of me. Like everything that was stressing me out and holding me back was just suddenly gone. I know not all of my runs from here on out are going to be great. That's just not how running works. But sometimes you have to run the bad runs right out of you.

I am nearing the end of my training cycle for the Nike Women's Half Marathon. It excites me and terrifies me at the same time how close race day is. I only have a few more really hard workouts before the big day is here and I want to make the most of them. I don't want my fears and insecurities to hold me back. I'm hoping Wednesday's run got rid of all my weak and all I have left until race day is strong.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sometimes Things Don't Go According to Plan

For the past two weeks my track workouts have been halted due to scheduling conflicts with the sports teams at my school. Last week I checked the schedule for the track and field teams and when I saw there wasn't a meet I assumed I was good to go. So I laced up my sneakers and ran the mile and a half from my apartment to campus. When I arrived at the track I found out there was a lacrosse game, meaning I couldn't run. Not sure what to do, I tried to get an answer about when the track is open for use by students. No such luck. I felt so great during my warm up that I decided to run around campus (UMBC's campus is a loop) and then go back to my apartment. I wanted to run fast and so that's what I did.

The loop around campus is half uphill and half downhill with the track at the bottom of the hill. So up I went. It's not the longest climb but it's long enough to make it challenge you mentally and physically. At the top of campus I ran over to a little gated community that also has some hills and then finished running the loop before heading home. The way back from campus to my apartment is also a little hilly. There aren't really hills but it is a very gradual uphill with a nice little climb at the end.

Mile 1: 8:42
Mile 2: 9:04
Mile 3: 9:20 <- hill!
Mile 4: 8:12
Mile 5: 8:21
Mile 5.9: 8:23

I didn't have any time goal for this run since it was supposed to be my track workout. Instead I just ran on feel, not even thinking about running fast or hard. I ran because I wanted to and I enjoyed every minute of it. When I got back to my apartment I was pleasantly surprised to see my pace over such a hilly run, especially since I wasn't intentionally pushing it.

This Wednesday for my track run I knew better. I checked all of the schedules and saw there was a lacrosse game at 4:00 pm. I'll move my workout to Thursday. Problem solved. Except I got out of work much earlier than expected and suddenly had enough time to do my workout before the game. Around 1:30 I headed over to the track, same routine as last week. When I got to the track I was happy to see there was nobody there except for two T&F runners doing some drills.

I did some stretching and started my first repeat, only to be stopped part way through by an athletic director telling me I needed to leave so they could set up for the game. I questioned him and he told me it was too dangerous for me to be there before the game, even though they were only carrying coolers. I started getting upset and asked when I could use the track since every time I tried to I was not allowed. He so kindly informed me that before, during, and after both games and practices the track was closed. Just to clarify, I asked 

"so the track is pretty much closed the entire day every day?"
"yes, you can run around the loop if you want to run"
"that's really not an acceptable answer"

The conversation went on for a bit longer, him telling me that the athletic facilities at Division I schools are only for student-athletes and me protesting and calling bullshit. After realizing I was getting nowhere and not wanting to waste my time arguing with him I left. I debated whether to run back to my apartment and call it quits or get in a hard run anyway.

In the end I decided I wasn't going to let him stop me from getting in some good training. So up the hill on the loop I went. And then came the wind. 20-25 mph winds while running uphill can make a person cranky. I pushed harder and harder but felt like I was going backwards. I tried to convince myself that not giving up on the uphills would make the downhills that much sweeter.

7.75 miles
8:36 average
7:25 last mile (before cool down)

And it did. I finished strong and happy, despite how challenging that was. It was the kind of run that makes you proud of yourself for pushing through even when you don't feel great and the conditions suck. I was hurting during that last mile, but I needed that. I needed to push myself to that place where I'm begging to stop running because it hurts so badly. Runs like these are what makes us stronger, mentally and physically.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


This past weekend was a big wake up call for me. Not the kind that makes you want to train until your legs fall off because you realize your goal race is 4 weeks away but the kind that makes you realize that you need to make some changes in your life. Big ones.

For pretty much as long as I can remember I have been somewhat of a perfectionist. I set such high standards for myself in everything I do but when I am failing I completely give up. I see things in a very all or nothing lens.

I missed my Monday morning workout so the whole day is a waste. I might as well eat whatever I want. Monday was useless so the whole week is too now. Might as well skip all of my workouts and eat terribly.

Last week started off with a snow day on Monday. I wasn't able to get my swim in because the pool was closed, which wasn't looking to be too much of an issue. I would just move the swim to Tuesday. But then I found out that the pool was going to be closed over the weekend because of Easter. When would I do Friday's swim? Thursday night when I get home. Turned out there was a swim meet over the weekend forcing the swim team to use a different pool. My now Thursday night swim became a casualty of schedule conflicts. On Wednesday I struggled mentally to get out the door for my track run but finally convinced myself to just get it done. Run 15 minutes to track only to find out there is a lacrosse game meaning no track workout for me.

I struggled mentally all week to not throw in the towel and blow an entire week of training. I turned Wednesday's failed track run into a speedy 6 mile loop full of hills that reminded me why I love running. Instead of bagging my swim on Thursday I swam with the team, making me question why I ever quit in the first place. It wasn't the easiest of weeks but I had made some smart decisions that in the past I probably would not have. I had turned things around and was ready to take on my longest and probably hardest workout of the training cycle.

When I woke up on Friday morning I was not motivated to do this run. I had slept in to catch up on sleep and wasn't liking the idea of most of the day being over by the time I'd be done running. I also had this itch to do that track workout from Wednesday. I debated switching my long run and track run but ultimately decided to do them as planned.

Pretty much from the beginning of the run I just felt bad. The first few miles weren't terrible but as soon as I was supposed to drop the pace I suddenly felt dizzy, tired, empty. I tried and tried but only went slower. Then I had a breakdown. I felt like a failure for not being able to push through and get it done. Truth be told I think I was more mentally tired than physically. I was tired from spending all week having internal arguments with myself. Tired from stressing out about the silliest of things. During Friday's run when things didn't go as planned I couldn't get myself to mentally push through.

On Saturday my boyfriend and I went to a local park to get in some mountain biking and trail running. For the first time in weeks I ran without looking at my watch. I wasn't even going to wear it but only did so I could make sure I didn't run too far. I ran on those trails not caring how fast or slow I was going. I walked when I wanted and just enjoyed being outside.

I love training and in general function better when I am training for something but lately I've been putting too focus on the numbers side of it. I love going to the track and doing challenging workouts and seeing how far I can push myself but I need to balance that with runs where pace doesn't matter. If I run fast, great. If not, I'll enjoy just being out there. My constant need for perfection and control has been haunting me too long.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I'm Running A Race This Weekend

First off, how the heck is it April?! This year has been flying by. April welcomed us with warmer temps and plenty of sunshine, which must mean that spring decided to show up. Don't get me wrong, I loved having off last week for snow but I'm ready for shorts weather.

In order to celebrate spring's late arrival I will be running a race this weekend. Last year I did my first race in the middle of March so it feels a little weird to have not donned a bib yet. Part of me wishes I had raced either the B&A Trail Half Marathon or Rock N' Roll USA but another part of me is glad I didn't worry about doing a race too soon. I was insanely jealous of all the people sporting shiny new PR's after St. Patty's Day weekend but I actually enjoyed relaxing and just focusing on training. Can you tell I'm a very indecisive person?

The course goes right along the river

I'm really glad that it is finally my time to show up at a starting line ready to run fast. I've had some ups and downs with my training for the overall consensus is that things are going great. I've never raced a 10 miler before so I have nothing to compare it to but regardless I'm excited to see what I can do with all of that training under my belt.

I'm also using this race as a dress rehearsal for my upcoming half marathon later in April. I know the temperature will be slightly different and the start times are a bit different but I want to practice everything so I know what works and what doesn't. I've been using my long runs each week to also do this but I think actually practicing in a race setting is just different.

Harrisburg Marathon

Even though I'm not the fastest runner, I absolutely love racing. I know that all of the race excitement will carry through to my training in these last few weeks before the Nike Women's Half Marathon. This race is also at the same place that I ran my first marathon at and will run along the same course. Although my first marathon was not the experience I wanted it to be I am actually really excited to be returning to the scene of the crime for a little redemption.

Who else is racing this weekend?