Presque Isle Half Marathon Recap

I decided to do this race oh... one week ago. A friend of mine was planning on going down and I decided to join her last minute. It's been really hot so I've been missing track and haven't been running as much. I knew I could still run a half, but I didn't want to go too crazy. I say that a lot, but this time I actually stuck to it. I started off a little faster and then actually pulled myself back, slowed down, and kept it at a nice 10:30-11min/mile pace. I did 90/30 intervals and felt pretty good throughout the whole race. It was between 73-78˚F during the race and pretty muggy. My hip flexor did get pretty tight early on (around mile 4), so I was also just happy when the road straightened out so it didn't get any worse.

Overall, it was a pretty fun race and I think I would definitely do it again next year. Here are my stats:

  • Time: 2:19:08
  • Pace: 10:37
  • Overall: 601/1076 (top 56%)
  • Division: 58/102 (top 57%)
  • Gender: 280/601 (top 47%)

Pittsburgh (Half) Marathon Weekend Recap

Well, that was surprising. Let's start with the 5K.

5K

I... did not do well in the 5K. Or at least I didn't quite get the time I expected. Which, granted, might have been a bit ambitious. But I'd been feeling pretty good and felt like I should be able to do three 8 minute miles in a row. I was wrong. My splits were more like:

Mile 1: 7:57
Mile 2: 8:23
Mile 3: 8:54

Totally the opposite of negative splits. Luckily for me, no one else was trying on the 5K, so I actually did pretty well comparatively!

Overall: 443/3789 (top 12%)
Women: 122/2219 (top 5%)
Division: 19/347 (top 5%)

Beggars can't be choosers, so I'll take it.

Half Marathon

I did not think I would do well in the half. My training has been mediocre ever since I switched from the full to the half. I haven't done well in recent, shorter races (looking at you Pirates 10K and the 5K I did the day before!). So I lined up a little bit closer to the back, put some music on, and just did my best. And about midway through, I realized that my best this race might actually be my best ever. The one thing about Pittsburgh is that it has SO MANY HILLS. Every time I crested a hill, I thought "surely that will be the worst one". And yet, every time, I was wrong. According to my Garmin, the worst hill was actually at mile 12, which is also where I had the slowest pace. I still had energy, but my quads were feeling dead from hills. I've got a table of my pace/mile, but I also included what Strava calls "Grade-Adjusted Pace", which I think just exists to make me feel better about myself? Ok, maybe it actually helps determine if I put in even effort over even pace. Which, I think I did? According to the GAP, my pace only varied by a minute over the whole 13.1 miles.

Mile Pace GAP HR
  1 9:20 /mi 9:18 /mi 146 bpm
  2 9:04 /mi 9:04 /mi 147 bpm
  3 8:54 /mi 8:53 /mi 158 bpm
  4 9:07 /mi 8:59 /mi 167 bpm
  5 8:57 /mi 8:56 /mi 173 bpm
  6 8:41 /mi 8:39 /mi 172 bpm
  7 9:34 /mi 9:20 /mi 173 bpm
  8 9:05 /mi 8:57 /mi 169 bpm
  9 9:17 /mi 9:13 /mi 168 bpm
 10 9:30 /mi 9:24 /mi 173 bpm
 11 9:18 /mi 9:16 /mi 173 bpm
 12 9:55 /mi 9:14 /mi 172 bpm
 13 8:16 /mi 8:30 /mi 174 bpm
 14 7:13 /mi 7:31 /mi 176 bpm

I ended up coming in at 2:00:44, which is just SEVEN SECONDS slower than my personal record. Considering my PR was set at Run to Remember which had a total elevation of 138ft (this one was 454ft), I'm counting this as a personal record. I beat my previous time by over four minutes! I think I also did better comparatively than I ever have before in a half:

Overall: 3433/12795 (top 27%)
Women: 1342/7495 (top 18%)
Division: 238/1265 (top 19%)
 Apparently I both run AND do double-unders with the same slack jaw and blank stare 😛

Apparently I both run AND do double-unders with the same slack jaw and blank stare 😛

Pirates Home Run 10K Recap

This race felt like the best example I've had recently of how tough I am on myself. I really thought I could PR this race, or at least do "well". Looking back, I did do pretty well! But during the entirety of the race, I just couldn't stop thinking about how much I was sucking. That I should be going faster. That I shouldn't be so tired.

I started off feeling good, but pretty quickly, I faded a bit. Part of it was on purpose (went out a bit too fast). But then I couldn't quite maintain the pace I wanted. It's a bit weird because my pace chart looks sorta like a V - not quite negative splits, but not entirely positive splits either. I did: 8:16, 8:39, 9:00, 9:49 (what happened mile 4???), 9:13, 8:56, with an overall pace of 9:06min/mile. Given that I was shooting for 8:20... I was just a bit off. I was really beating myself up until I looked at all my past times (not just my best). I actually landed right in the middle. And compared to the other people running, I crushed it. I was in the top 20% of both my division (25/122) and gender (73/365), and ending in the top 34% overall (235/692).

Here's what I learned:

  1. I should not be so hard on myself. Sometimes races don't go the way I expect them to and that's ok. That's what I love about shorter races: if I don't do as well as I want one week, I can do another race a few weeks later.
  2. I need to lower my expectations for the Pittsburgh Half in a few weeks. Since I had to switch from the full to the half, I've been a bit bummed and my training has suffered.
  3. I need to start doing track again. I've gone twice in the past month and I think I need to keep it up. My speed has definitely suffered since I stopped doing track.

Fat People Running

Apparently, I hate myself because I started off this morning looking at reddit. What was near the top of my feed? This post about Mirna Valerio. For those who don't know, Mirna is the author of Fat Girl Running and has completed dozens of marathons, from half to ultras. And instead of celebrating someone who is doing great outreach for the sport of running, r/running decided to fat-shame her. The very top comment complains about her slow pace in one race and then says:

Good on her for doing what she likes, exploring the outdoors, and hopefully inspiring plenty of people to take up running/fitness, but I hesitate to consider her (as she is now) an "athlete" or even call her close to being fit.

Pardon me, but what the fuck is wrong with people. Even if she is slower, are hikers not athletes? I also looked at her times and one of her faster half marathons on ultrasignup was 2:45, which equates to 12:37/mile. For a trail half, that's a damn good pace! My trail race paces are between 10-13min/mile, so I'm pretty confident that Mirna could crush me... and I would definitely consider myself an amateur athlete, or at minimum "fit". But that is all beside the point.

Mirna is doing a great thing because she's showing that you can be fat and active and that's ok! I'm guessing most people on r/running that were making these comments have never been fat because, if they had, they would know how hard it is to start working out. I went running with one of my larger friends a few times and she ended up stopping, partly because a random guy yelled "you're fat!" at us while we were running. How do you motivate yourself to keep going when that happens?

I also think that Mirna is an inspiration to everyone. Even if she is walking a lot of those races, those distances are no joke! Most people train for months just to do a single 60-mile 3-day walk for breast cancer. Mirna is doing that repeatedly... and not walking the whole time. It enrages me that people are trying to tear her down because she's getting attention.

TL;DR Don't judge people based on their body type and absolutely, under no circumstances, should you fat-shame people at all, especially while they are working out.

Participating in the CrossFit Games Open

Since this is my 10 year anniversary of starting CrossFit, I decided to actually put down $20 and participate in the CrossFit Games. I know that I am definitely not going to make it regionals or anything like that, but I did want to see how I would stack up against other athletes. So far, I'm not doing so bad! I am trying to keep in mind that I'm recovering from bursitis. This means I'm trying to push myself, but not push myself so hard that I reinjure myself. It's been an interesting experience so far, 

18.1

I ended up doing 18.1 twice. I initially did the scaled version (with a 20lb dumbbell and knee raises), but I forgot to record it. Since I don't go to an actual affiliate, I have to take video of all my workouts, with a timer visible on the screen. Scaled wasn't too bad, so I picked up one of the 35lb dumbbells, decided I could make it work and attempted it again two days later. I was able to complete 191 reps. Unfortunately, I messed up the video link, but luckily I'm so far down in the rankings no one has even looked at it!

Workout 18.1

Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
8 toes-to-bars
10 dumbbell hang clean and jerks
12-cal. row

Women use 35-lb. dumbbell

Score: 191 reps, Rank: 65125, Percentile: 62

18.2

Since I did 18.1 Rx'd, I decided to go Rx'd for 18.2 too. I haven't done squats for three months, so I was thinking this might be rough. AND BOY WAS IT. I did it Friday morning, it is now Monday, and my legs are still burning. I hate burpees and the burpees were the best part. I am definitely bummed that I didn't finish and couldn't quite get to the cleans, but I haven't done cleans in about 6 months, so, really, it probably wouldn't have gone very well. I did manage to do an 85lb clean prior to starting, so that was an accomplishment in itself for me right now.

Workout 18.2

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 reps for time of:
Dumbbell squats
Bar-facing burpees

Women use 35-lb. dumbbells

Score: 87 reps, Rank: 97998, Percentile: 43

Workout 18.2a

1-rep-max clean

Time cap: 12 minutes to complete 18.2 AND 18.2a

Score: 0 lb, Rank: 86022, Percentile: 49

18.3

This was just a total beast of a WOD. I still haven't seen a video of anyone who actually finished it. I originally did it scaled just to see how far I could get. It went ok, but it wasn't my best day for pullups. Then I ran 20 miles on Saturday, felt ok afterwards, so I decided to try it again as prescribed on Monday morning. The weird thing with the Opens is that you score better even for just attempting Rx. My max overhead squat previously had been 75lbs, so I wasn't sure about the 80lbs. At best, I would get through to the second set of double unders and, at worst, I'd get a score of a 100. I managed to PR my overhead squat and get three of them. It was worth it to attempt because this was my second best place and helped pull me back up from a poor showing last week. I hate burpees.

Workout 18.3

2 rounds for time of:
100 double-unders
20 overhead squats
100 double-unders
12 ring muscle-ups
100 double-unders
20 dumbbell snatches
100 double-unders
12 bar muscle-ups

Women perform 80-lb. OHS, 35-lb. DB snatches

Time cap: 14 minutes

Score: 103 reps, Rank: 69761, Percentile: 59

18.4

I ended up doing this one Rx first and then scaled to get my actual workout because I absolutely cannot do handstand pushups. The 155lb deadlifts weren't that bad, but I don't know if I could've done all the deadlifts at 205lbs coming off my hip injury. However, I am definitely not alone, since I still places in the top 42% by just getting the initial 21 deadlifts. Watch near the end of the video for my hilarious attempts at handstand pushups.

Workout 18.4

For time:
21 deadlifts, 155 lb.
21 handstand push-ups
15 deadlifts, 155 lb.
15 handstand push-ups
9 deadlifts, 155 lb.
9 handstand push-ups
21 deadlifts, 205 lb.
50-ft. handstand walk
15 deadlifts, 205 lb.
50-ft. handstand walk
9 deadlifts, 205 lb.
50-ft. handstand walk

Time cap: 9 min.

Score: 21 reps, Rank: 71273, Percentile: 58

18.5

Relative to everyone else, this was my best workout. I also did it twice. For my first attempt, I had gone climbing the nigth before so the chest-to-bars were a little rought and my grip was not my friend. I ended up with 42. I rested up during the weekend and tried again on Monday and improved by 6 thrusters and 3 chest-to-bars. Caveat: I can't do overhand grip CTB pullups. When I looked at the movement requirements, I noticed that it said underhand and mixed grip are also acceptable. I found that, with underhand grip, I could get my chin over the bar with a kip and then squeeze a bit extra to hit the bar beneath my collar bone. It got dicey for a few, but I made it and did 21 total! Plus all the thrusters. This is definitely something I want to work on for next year. I've definitely increased my upper body strength over the past year, so I think getting actual CTBs is a good goal.

Workout 18.5 = 12.5 = 11.6

Complete as many reps as possible in 7 minutes of:
3 thrusters
3 chest-to-bar pull-ups
6 thrusters
6 chest-to-bar pull-ups
9 thrusters
9 chest-to-bar pull-ups
12 thrusters
12 chest-to-bar pull-ups
15 thrusters
15 chest-to-bar pull-ups
18 thrusters
18 chest-to-bar pull-ups

This is a timed workout. If you complete the round of 18, go on to 21. If you complete 21, go on to 24, etc.

Women use 65 lb.

Score: 51 reps, Rank: 55710, Percentile: 67

End Result

Worldwide: 70,490 (out of 172,008), 59th percentile
Mid-Atlantic: 4,910 (out of 11,836), 58th percentile

Basically... much better than I could've hoped. I'm sure there are some people who just did scaled who are maybe better than me, but hey that's the way they score it! I ended up in the top 41% of female CrossFit athletes in the world. Feeling pretty good about myself!

Running in 4°F (Or How To Not Let Winter Get You Down)

Preface: I get no money from this, I just really like these products.

I hate the summer. It's too hot and there's no way for me to get away from it other than running at 4am. Winter, on the other hand, can be relatively delightful if you have the right gear. As someone who has run all through three winters in the Northeast, here is the gear that gets me through:

FEET

Socks

You absolutely must get some solid winter socks. If you normally run in crew socks, you can probably stick with the same ones year round, but, as someone who wears ankle socks if not every inch of skin needs to be covered, I buy socks just for colder months. This year I've been really enjoying the Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Crew Socks. I've also got a few pairs of the Darn Tough Vertex socks. It's hard to go wrong with either brand.

Shoes

Generally, I just wear normal running shoes. Sometimes winter does not let you. Over the past few years, I tried using Stabiliciers, but, in addition to sometimes falling off, they did not dig into and grip patches of ice, so I would still slip. This year, I decided to buy a pair of the Salomon Speedspike CS. Like I mentioned in my post on summer running gear, I love my Speedcross 3 W. These had almost the same fit but with spikes. And the spikes are small enough to really dig into ice. A few days after I got them, I had a 14 mile run in 4°F with snow and ice on most of the ground. They were fantastic in the snow and ice and perfectly acceptable on the street. I also didn't get any blisters, despite them being brand new shoes.

CLOTHING

Jackets

Alas, my favorite jacket is now two years old and I can't find a place where they sell it. For reference, I love my Nike Shield Full Zip (near the bottom of the post). The key is to find a good water-resistant and wind-resistant jacket. The Nike Shield has served me well for the past two years, keeping me warm without even a base layer down to 10°F. If I was getting a new jacket right now, I'd probably try the Oiselle Flyout Jacket. But the good thing about jackets is that, even though they cost a good deal, they last at least a few years.

Head/Neck

I love Oiselle's Plya Reversible Beanie. It's warm, lightweight, and reflective. For super cold days where I need some face cover, my favorite is the Oiselle Wazzie Wool Neck Gaiter. Like most neck gaiters/balaclavas, you probably don't want to run with it over your mouth the whole time. However, this one is so warm that I could put it up over my nose for a minute or two to warm it up and then put it back down around my neck for the next 20 minutes.

Bottoms

They stopped selling my favorite winter bottoms, but my second favorites are the Oiselle Tech Suede Tights. I actually wear these out and about more than I do for just running (again, second favorite), but they are pretty warm and do well down to about 20°F. Below that, I layer them with Arc'teryx Trino Tights. Secret: they aren't actually tights... more like pants. Usually, for 5-20°F, I wear them with shorts or normal tights. Below 5°F, I layer them with winter tights.

Tops

I've become such a dork for Oiselle. My absolute favorite base layer is the Oiselle Wazzie Wool Baselayer. I wear it while I'm running, while I'm working, all the time. It's so delightfully warm and comfortable without being too warm. If it's too warm for my jacket and too cold for a tank (between 25-40°F), this is what I'm wearing. 

Well, that's me in the winter.

Manchester Road Race 2017 Recap

This is still one of my favorite races but DAMN was it not a great one for me this year. I thought I could get under 40 but I totally ate it on the hill. Y'know how some days you just aren't feeling it? That ended up being me. My legs felt dead after just one mile. I was pretty sure I wasn't even going to hit 42 and I was going to have to run a fast 5K to get seeded again. I sprinted down the hill and it was a bit better, but then my fourth mile wasn't as fast as it should've been. I thought I couldn't make it, but I pulled it together and ran the last .748 miles at a 8min/mile pace. Somehow (somehow) I managed to get a personal record for the course by about 20 seconds, finishing in 41:18. Comparatively, I did better. This year, I got in the top 15% in my division (152/1007), top 13% in my gender (688/5349), top 25% overall. Maybe next year I can actually reach my goal.

Chicago Marathon Recap - NEVER AGAIN

The marathon has finally defeated me. I trained as hard as I could (with a full-time job), the course was flat, and the weather was decent. However, I still ended up with knee pain during the race. I ended up planning well for it: since I expected it to happen, I went out a bit harder at the beginning. That ended up allowing me to get a PR even though I walked a lot of the last 6 miles. But, let me start from the beginning:

I got up at 5am so I could eat a Honey Stinger snack bar that I grabbed at the expo. I took my time, got ready, and jogged over until I hit the crowd. My wave started at 8:35am and I got there around 7am. I hung out near the 4:45 pacer with a friend of mine, getting pumped up. I ended up starting near the 4:20 pace group. I wanted to hit a reasonable pace, but also wanted to push hard enough to guarantee myself a PR even if my knees started hurting late in the race. I posted decent times for my 5K, 10K, and half. Just a little over two years ago, that 5K pace would've been a PR for me and the half time is better than 3 of my other halves. My overall pace through mile 15 was a 10 min/mile pace. I started slowing down a bit (got a little tired, go figure). Somewhere around mile 17, I knew I was definitely going to finish and definitely finish under my previous time of 5:55. I kept up decently until my knee started hurting around mile 19-20. At that point, I had to start walking a lot. Usually, when I started running, my knee would hurt even more and I had to stop again. It was a little demoralizing because I'd have people try to encourage me, but the problem was that I couldn't run more without seriously injuring myself. I managed to save up enough energy and push through the pain to run the last 200m across the finish line. It felt great to finish, but I immediately knew that I was never going to do that again.

I finished in 4:59, 11105/21476 (top 52%) women, 1974/3587 (top 56%)  in my division, and 26,777/44,257 (top 61%) overall. My knees hurt and I may or may not have a stress fracture in my ankle.

Split Feeling Time Diff min/mile
5K 😄 00:29:19 29:19 09:26
10K 😀 00:59:28 30:10 09:43
15K 😀 01:30:19 30:52 09:56
20K 🙂 02:02:25 32:06 10:20
HALF 🙌 02:09:41 07:16 10:39
25K 😎 02:36:19 26:39 11:00
30K 🙏 03:12:12 35:53 11:33
35K 🤕 03:53:04 40:53 13:10
40K 💩 04:40:49 47:46 15:22
Finish 💀 04:59:22 18:33 13:36

Since it's been a few days since the race, I've been thinking a lot about what I could've done to make it better. I think I would have to be unemployed or working part-time and training almost full-time. My best halves have happened when I've been running longer in training. Running longer than a marathon in training is pretty impossible given my current schedule. Plus, I love racing! I'm going to go back to doing shorter races, probably a bunch of halves, maybe a few longer trail runs. It was a good experience, but I think it is not for me... at least not right now.

The Great Race Recap - Possibly My Hottest 10K?

When I signed up for the Great Race, I did not imagine that it would be this hot in late September. Well... today has a high of 89 and yesterday, it was between 75 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The course was only about half shaded, so I ended up getting beat up by the heat pretty quickly. Admittedly, I started out a little bit too fast. But when I realized that I was on track for a 5K PR, I just decided to keep pushing it. It paid off and I finished the 5K in 25:13. If I had been running the 5K, it would've put me in the top 11% overall. I had to slow down a bit after that, but really not by too much! What really got me was mile 5. There was no shade, it had a bit of an uphill, and I was just spent. If it had been a bit cooler, I think I could've kept up my pace and finished two minutes faster overall. Next year! End result of the 10K was a finish time of 53:48 (pace of 8:39/mile). I finished top 18% in my division, top 14% of women, and top 25% overall. I was a bit bummed that I didn't hit my goal of 50 minutes, but I think I can do it next year!

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Run Around the Square Recap

I did Run Around The Square this past Saturday. It's an annual 5K in Regent Square (my neighborhood). It's pretty brutal and includes a tougher climb than I have ever done in a 5K, with 285 ft of elevation gain. I crushed the first mile and then the second mile started straight uphill and totally crushed me. I was able to really pick up the pace again at mile 2.3. I ended up finishing in 26:27 (8:31I didn't PR in this one, but I'm pretty happy since I only did one minute slower than my PR and that was at only 10 ft of elevation gain. I was 23/104 in my class (30-35 women, top 25%) and I was in the top 33% overall. It definitely really smoked my legs. I did a 17 mile run the day after and I was smoked after 12 miles and had to push through.

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DMV Bird Camp 2017 - A Recap

I may have been silent on this blog, but I have been far from inactive! Just racing less... a lot less. The upside of not having races every weekend is that I could attend Volée's Bird Camp! What is Volée? Oiselle created a nationwide women's running team that I joined last year and it has been awesome. I had a teammate come and cheer me on at the Roxbury Marathon, even though we had never met before. I've met new friends in Pittsburgh through the team and I always see people in the singlets at races and can cheer them on.

What is Bird Camp? Volée set up a number of weekend retreats just for female runners throughout the US. Since Pittsburgh is close to DC, I went to the DMV camp (DC, Maryland, Virginia). It was absolutely life-giving. I loved spending a weekend surrounded by other women with similar goals. I got advice from former Olympian and current Crossfit coach Anna Willard Grenier.  She helped me realize that I *might* be doing too much right now by going to Crossfit five days a week and running six (who knew?). Getting to run every day with all these great women was my favorite thing I've done so far this year. I think I'm going to try to go twice next year.

If you are interested in joining Volée, registration is going to open up soon. Come join us!

Pittsburgh Half Marathon - The Comeback!

I know I haven't written in awhile, but I haven't been completely dormant. I went back to Crossfit in March and didn't run during that month. We moved to Pittsburgh at the beginning of April and I also started at Pittsburgh Fit. It's been great there so far, a little more balanced than a normal Crossfit gym. I've been going there five times a week and running four times a week, taking either Saturday or Sunday as my rest day. I also signed up for RunCoach and it's been pretty helpful as well! It basically gives me the same schedule that my former running coach gave me. Since I hadn't run much from December through March, I was pretty worried that I wouldn't be able to finish this half. I was worried that my knees would start to hurt again.

But then Sunday came and I just ran my own race. I put my podcasts on and ran a 7min run, 1 min walk iteration the whole way. The hills definitely got to me a bit and I slowed down a bit near the end, but I never had to switch to a 3:1. Overall time was 2:05:13, which was my second fastest race since Run To Remember (this race had 300 ft more elevation gain). My fastest mile was actually my last one at 8:39/mile, which I was pretty stoked about. I ended up in the top 35% overall and top 25% in both all females and in my division. I didn't start this race intending to go hard, but I was feeling good and I just ran my race and it turned out pretty darn well. I got a small amount of knee pain at the end of mile 13, but luckily that went away as I sprinted to the finish. I also got a few "nice tights!" shoutouts from the spectators. Which, fair... my tights are awesome.

2016 in Review & Looking Forward to 2017

I ran a total of 17 races in 2016: 1 marathon (DNF, 19.25 miles), 6 half marathons, 3 10Ks, 5 5Ks, and two random distances for a total of 159.2 miles. I ran 1,297 miles including training runs over the past year, which helped bring my 5K pace down by 2 minutes. I dealt with a couple of mostly minor injuries (including the never going away plantar fasciitis). Overall, I'm proud of what I pushed myself to achieve this past year.

For 2017, I only have two races planned: the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May and the Chicago Marathon in October. The Pittsburgh Half Marathon will mostly be an excuse to explore my new home city, so the Chicago Marathon is what I am going to put most of my focus toward. I know I can do better than I did in December if I stay healthy and train properly. Right now, I'm still focused on recovery. I'm doing pretty well, but I only ran 68 miles in January (plus the 3-6 I'll run today). I'll keep posting about progress and how training is going. I'm probably overdue a post on my experiences taking two months of spin classes...

Roxbury Marathon Recap - DNF

First up: even though I did not finish this race, I still am very proud of my performance. And I'm also proud that I was finally smart enough to know when to quit before I really injured myself.

I have a long history of knee injuries. I first got diagnosed with patella tendonitis while playing ultimate frisbee my freshman year of college. I have not been able to play competitive ultimate since. I did 8 months of physical therapy and was finally able to get back to working out. I was told that I shouldn't run, so I started crossfit and mostly did a bunch of rowing as a running substitution. A few years later, my stubbornness got the best of me and I decided (without talking to a doctor or PT) that I was now healthy enough to run again... so I signed up to run a marathon. I trained for 4-5 months, did a mediocre job, missed some training ones, and totally ate it on race day. I finished in 5:55:50, limping across the finish line. Got myself another 6 months of PT and took another year off running. When I started running again in earnest in May 2015, I decided to take it slow. I did mostly just 5Ks in 2015 and did my first half in May 2016 after running all winter. I've had a few setbacks, but overall my knees have been doing pretty well. Which bring us to...

This past Saturday at the Roxbury Marathon. The route is pretty brutal and it was 18-20F that morning. The water in my hydration pack actually froze! I started off strong. My coach had recommended that I lean forward (really, resist leaning back) while going down hills. That really helped me gain some speed without killing my muscles. I was able to keep up a 9:30 pace for the first 16 miles. Sometime near the end of mile 17, my right knee started to hurt. It was a familiar feeling and I immediately started walking. I tried running a bit more, but then the pain got worse. I walked the last 1.75 miles and called it quits at 19.25 miles (my third out of five loops), a total of 3:26:46. Had it not been so cold, I still could have finished in under 5:30... even walking the last 8 miles.

I have never run that fast that far, so I'm still really proud. My second fastest half was at a 9:33min/mile pace, and I managed to keep that up for an extra 3 miles. The cold plus the hills plus my knee just did not end up being the best day for me. I'm feeling pretty good today, so after another couple of days of rest, I'm going to keep running and try another marathon in the fall.

Manchester Road Race Recap

It was the 80th year of the Manchester Road Race in Manchester, CT and they definitely have this nailed. This was one of my favorite races that I've ever run. It was packed (11,225 people finished the race, but about 15,000 were registered), but the atmosphere was great, it was well organized, and I didn't feel too crammed at any given point (despite being constantly surrounded by people). The spectators were the best part. I've never been to a race that was that well attended! You couldn't run more than 10 feet without encountering another group. I also appreciated that they actually seeded people (instead of letting people self-select), so you were either in a corral (and had a ticket) or you were just in the mass of people in the back. I was able to get in the U42 corral and I think that definitely contributed to my enjoyment of this race.

As far as the actual race, it was mostly smooth sailing for all 4.748 miles, other than the massive hill that took up the entirety of mile 2. I ended up walking a bit of that due to my total lack of hill training, but I was able to make it up by keeping up an 8:20 pace as soon as I crested the hill through the end of the race. I finished the race in 41:33 (an 8:45/mile pace) and finished 3,032 (top 30%) and was 302 out of 1513 in my division (top 20%). I'm pretty proud of my run and could not be happier with the finish. I know I could definitely do better with some more hill training, but for a first go around, I'm pretty stoked!

Now to prepare for the marathon in under two weeks...

Cambridge Half Marathon

This past Sunday (November 13, 2016), I ran the Cambridge Half Marathon through Cambridge and Belmont.

Splits

  1. 9:03
  2. 9:19
  3. 9:10
  4. 10:13
  5. 9:04
  6. 9:07
  7. 9:28
  8. 9:21
  9. 9:56
  10. 10:47
  11. 10:17
  12. 9:49
  13. 8:43

Pre-race

However... I barely ran this week because I got unroofed blisters on both my arches from running the previous weekend. I didn't figure out the best way to deal with them until Friday and ended up taking 4 days off running this past week. I only did 6 miles on Monday and 3 on Saturday. I felt pretty good on the morning of the race, got enough sleep, had a solid dinner the night before. I didn't get up as early as I had planned, so I wasn't able to eat breakfast, but I did have a GU Stroopwafel prior to starting the race.

Race

I told myself I would keep the pace around 9:15 for the first 7 miles, then speed up just a bit for the last 6. I was mostly able to do that (other than a side stitch in mile 4 that caused me to stop for a minute). However, during mile 7 I started fading and I really hit a wall in mile 9. I had to start walking a bit because I felt I had no energy left. I had a bit more GU and was able to rally in the last two miles, but I really fell short of my goals and was not feeling really positive. The race itself was great... they did a great job of closing off the roads, plenty of spectators, not too crowded once we started running. But apparently, it was not the day for me.

Final Time

2:06:05

BAA Half + Oktoberfest 5k Recaps

I just got this tool and it has made a huge difference in how my feet feel. Because I was feeling slightly better, I was able to argue myself into doing both the Oktoberfest 5K and the BAA Half. I was pretty much always going to do the 5K... it's short and I didn't see any reason to skip it. However, I had convinced myself that I shouldn't do the half. Then I convinced myself that I should a few days before. Why? Because it was the last race in the distance medley and I didn't feel like I should skip it unless I was feeling really shitty (which I wasn't). So here are the race recaps!

Oktoberfest 5K was a solid race. The Cambridge 5K folks always know how to put on a great event. They are never too crowded and always a good time. Since it's Cambridge, the courses are almost always completely flat. While I didn't improve as much as I wanted to, I did decrease my overall time by about 30 seconds and finished in 25:26 (an 8:11 min/mile pace). Near the end I started slowing down, so I made the choice to take some strategic walk breaks. I had been on track to finish my last mile in 9 minutes. By taking the walk breaks and catching my breath, I was able to keep that last mile down to 8:20. Lesson: there is no shame in walking. Granted, half the time I walk during a race, I get some comment like "you got this! almost done!" from some stranger. Not sure about everyone else, but comments like that make me feel like I'm failing by walking... instead of making a strategic decision that will allow me to get a better time than I would if I had kept running.

The BAA Half was not what I expected. Mostly my own fault because I didn't bother to look at the course map ahead of time. It's in Jamaica Plain, so it starts off in the opposite side of the city from me, so it was a bit hard to get to and from there. The course was also quite hilly, which was a surprise since the other BAA races (the 5K and the 10K) were downtown and incredibly flat. It was also incredibly rainy this past Sunday. And cold. Considering 10000 people were registered and only 6200 people finished, I think a significant amount skipped this race. And since the cutoff time was 3 hours, I'd wager a large amount of people didn't finish. I finished in 2:08:52, which was 3640 overall and 416/832 in my division. The extra cool part for me was that I was one of the last people to start (they closed the start 2 minutes after I crossed), so getting to run past at least 3600 people was pretty cool! The course was also really pretty. If it was a nicer day, I probably would've really enjoyed this race (despite the crowd). As it was, I was not too cold while running, but as soon as I stopped, I was freezing. My clothes were soaking wet. I had a jacket that I had kept in my hydration pack that I put on, but it quickly soaked through as well. I had to wait about 20 minutes for an uber, so, by the time I got home, I had been cold and soaking wet for about an hour. My lips were blue and I couldn't stop shaking. But at least I got a medal with three unicorns on it! As for the Distance Medley as a whole, I finished in 3:31:33, 71/196 in my division and 322/932 out of all women. While it does feel like an accomplishment, I probably wouldn't do it again.

 Quick rainy selfie right after finishing the race. Not freezing yet!

Quick rainy selfie right after finishing the race. Not freezing yet!

On Injury And Illness

This past month has been a rough one. My plantar fasciitis flared up, I had a stressful week out of town where a friendship was ended, and I also got strep throat (complete with multi-day fever and severe headache). Needless to say, this has had a dramatic impact on my running. Last month (August), I ran a total of 175 miles. This month? 112 miles. And since I have to take two weeks off running to help my plantar fasciitis calm down and become less inflamed, that number is not going to be increasing. I almost feel a bit hopeless where that is concerned because what really irritates it is walking... and I have to walk commute. I can't stop walking every day unless I work from home every day, which is not possible right now. Anyway... here's how I'm getting through this:

  1. Lots of indoor cycling: I need to exercise and stay off my feet, so hopping on a bike is the best way. I haven't managed to get my heart rate up super high yet, but still working on it!
  2. Ice: I have used a frozen water bottle (roll out my feet and ice them at the same time!) and just plain old ice packs that I wrap on my feet. Helps tremendously.
  3. Rolling out my calves with my addaday roller: I got this gem at Ragnar New England and definitely one of my favorite purchases. It really helps me dig into my muscles like none of my other tools.
  4. Golf/lacrosse ball: I use a golf ball at home and a lacrosse ball at work... all rolling out, all the time!
  5. Ball Leg Curls: My hamstrings aren't quite as strong as they need to be, so I'm trying to take this time to do some strengthening exercises so I can come back even better. This particular one was recommended by my physical therapist.
  6. Planks: My core is strong... ish. Not strong enough and that actually does matter as a runner. It's not just your leg muscles that make a difference! Trying to do planks for about 3 min every day (1:30 per session).
  7. Food: Crappy two weeks mean I also was putting crap in my body. That ranged from too much bad food to not enough food to have any strength (thanks strep!). Going back to my two favorite Runner's World cookbooks, plus some other healthy basics. Gotta have good nutrients to recover and stay strong!

I hope no one else is in my shit-tastic situation, but if you are, you don't have to despair. Just switch it up a bit and take care of yourself.

Ragnar Trail Relay New England Recap: Always Good To Be Prepared

This past weekend I ran my first Ragnar Trail Relay (which was also my first trail race). This particular race was in the mountains of Northfield, MA, just about two hours outside of Boston. I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy the trails, but significantly less sure that I was going to enjoy the "camping overnight" aspect. That ended up being totally accurate. I really don't like camping! The only relief is that I couldn't actually sleep that much anyway, so my back could only hurt so much. My team also forgot the cover to our canopy. And the fuel for our camp stove... luckily b.good was there with food that we could buy and I was definitely grateful for the breakfast sandwich Saturday morning. Speaking of teams and being prepared...

If you do one of these, definitely make sure you are with a team that you feel like you can count on. The team that I was on was definitely not prepared and I'm not just talking about forgetting to bring things. One of my teammates was wearing shoes that had no support and a hole in the sole... he rolled his ankle in the first loop and couldn't do the rest of the trail. Another teammate hadn't run more than 3 miles in years and only ran on a track. Another one only runs occasionally and was not prepared for the 7 miles. The lack of preparedness led to us not actually finishing. We were going to try to make up the injured guy's legs, but then I also said that I would take the long leg for the woman who didn't run distances. We fell behind and the most I can say is that everyone who could run, finished their 3 legs. Whatever, let's talk about the actual running!

  The scene while waiting for a teammate to finish on Friday afternoon.

The scene while waiting for a teammate to finish on Friday afternoon.

The trails were awesome. They were super clearly marked, so it was pretty hard to get lost, even at night. Like most New England trails, there were tons of roots and rocks, so I did have to be careful. And even being careful, I still rolled my ankle a bit (not to the point of injury, just mild frustration) and I fell on my face once while I was running down a hill. Even with all that, the runs were awesome because everyone was so positive and supportive. Anyone who runs by would say "awesome job!" or "keep it up!". The struggle on these hills was definitely real, so it was nice to hear that as I'm going up a hill that would never end. Also, almost everyone I talked to walked up every single hill. It wasn't really worth the effort expended to be 1 minute faster up each of them.

My first run was at 8pm on Friday and was the 7.3 mile loop. That was my most potentially fatal run and I'm still surprised I didn't hurt myself given the amount I tripped. Even with that, it was still one of my best runs. After that, I stretched and attempted to get some sleep. I got up around 4am to prep for my next run (which ended up starting at 5:20am). That was the yellow loop: 4.9 miles. The time and temp made it feel the best out of all the runs, but my time was the worst. I think the lack of sleep made the hill at the beginning feel just a bit worse. At this point, we had talked subs and I was going to sub my green for another red. However, I really wanted to experience the green. When one of my teammates asked for a running buddy on her green leg, I happily volunteered. The green leg was pretty fun! It was nice and short and had a solid downhill for the second mile, which made it just fly by. By the time I got to my second red loop an hour after finishing the green loop, it was almost 10F warmer and even the shade of the woods couldn't stop me from sweating. Running the red loop in the daylight gave me a more accurate comparison to the other loops... the second time running it, I barely tripped at all. I think if I had run red as the sun was rising, I could have had a pretty excellent time.

As is, I feel pretty good with my performance. I also feel like I would probably do an ultra team if I were to do this again. While having time in between the runs was nice (stretching helped recovery SO MUCH), the 6-8 hours between legs (had I just done the ones I was supposed to do) was way too much. I would also buy some more camping equipment so I didn't end up sleeping on the ground. Definitely a fun environment and well organized, so I would recommend Ragnar events to others without hesitation.

Summer Gear: A Quick(ish?) Review of All My Running Gear

Preface: I get no money from any of this, I just really like these products.

Running this winter was actually pretty easy. Running this summer has been anything but. Luckily, I've found some great items that have made my runs go a little smoother and have kept me from passing out.

Most importantly:

WATER

To stay hydrated, I use the Nathan Intensity Hydration Pack. It holds 2L of water and has extra space for toilet paper, snacks, some GUs, my phone, and my wallet. It also has space in the back where you could strap in a towel, rain jacket, or first aid kit. I have done every one of these! Also, it is super stable. I don't have any issues with it bouncing up and down. I love this pack and so far, it has not let me down. If you cannot do the hydration pack (or just don't have any runs longer than 4 miles), the Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Handheld Water Bottle is my favorite. It has a little pocket that can fit GUs and keys, fits great on your hand, and holds just enough for cooler, shorter runs. Heck, I made it through the Run To Remember Half with this! It just... wasn't as hot.

SUSTENANCE

While I may just fill my pack with water, I'm a bit of a fan of GUs to keep me going. I've definitely noticed a difference between when I use them and when I don't (holy leg cramps Batman!). Some people think GU is gross (which, fair) BUT they just came out with something amazing. GU now makes STROOPWAFELS. Regular stroopwafels are a delicious dessert, but GU Stroopwafels are delicious fuel for my runs and I definitely prefer eating one for a pre-run snack to just actual GU. My favorite right now is the GU Mixed Berry Stroopwafel. These you will not regret. For regular GU (cause I can't keep eating stroopwafels my whole run... OR CAN I???), I like Tri-Berry and Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate. I'm a little more iffy on the taste of the Roctane, but if I have an intense run planned, it definitely works a bit better.

FEET

Socks

Good socks really do make a difference when it comes to whether or not your feet are covered in blisters. I have two favorite pairs: Feetures! Elite Ultra-Light Cushion No-Show Tab Running Socks (Anatomical) and Darn Tough Vertex Tab No Show Ultra Light Cushion Socks. The Darn Tough socks provide a bit more cushion, but I like that the anatomical Feetures! socks really fit my feet well. Both are great, you will not regret the purchase.

Shoes

I run in Newton AHA IIs, but really, everyone has such different requirements for running shoes, you definitely need to go to your local running store and find a pair that works for you. I will strongly recommend my trail running shoes: Salomon Speedcross 3 W. When I first tried them on, it seriously almost felt like I was walking on air. My first run out, I did a 9 mile trail run with no issues. They have fantastic traction and make me feel super secure on the trails. I couldn't ask for anything more in a pair of trail shoes.

Insoles

I used to not wear insoles, but after a run in with a pair of shoes that didn't really work for me, I've been dealing with plantar fasciitis and good insoles have been a godsend. My trail shoes have a pair of Insite Insoles Fusion Elite and the Orthaheel Active Orthotic in my normal running shoes.

CLOTHING

Rain Gear

I ordered a bunch of rain jackets just in case of a downpour and I ended up with the Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket. This was the only one that was remotely cool and seemed to breath a bit while still being waterproof. You'll still be a bit warm, so it's not really worth it if it's just a light drizzle. But if you are like me and hate being soaking wet, this will definitely prevent that and still let you feel some breeze. This jacket also stuffs into it's own pouch and I can shove it on the back of my hydration pack. Perfect for when I'm not sure what the weather is going to be like. Plus, it's easy to stuff in my backpack for a potentially rainy walk home from work!

Hat

Truth: I'm not a fan of their new design, but I do love Oiselle's Mesh Cap. It's light, keeps my hair in line, and folds up when I don't need it.

Bottoms

Only pair of spandex running shorts I can deal with are the UnderArmour React 3s. I've tried others, think I can make them work, then never actually leave the house wearing them. And since Boston is so damn windy, I also end up using them for double duty under most of my dresses. I also recently got a pair of CW-X Stabilyx Tights and they are pretty rad. Definitely comfy enough to wear after a hard run to get a bit of extra compression time in, but also cool enough to wear during summer runs (at least in the morning... probably not in the direct sunlight!). I also love my Physiclo Resistance Capris, which are perfect for when I want to make a run extra hard.

Tops

Surprisingly? No strong feelings with tops. Mostly wear a bunch of UnderArmour and City Sports (RIP) stuff. 

And I think that's it! Hope you have some great runs!