Category Archives: group runs

Race Report: RDC Marathon

First and foremost, I just have to give credit to the organizers of the RDC Marathon for a fantastic first year event. It’s not easy to pull off a race and they did an amazing job from start to finish with planning. If you are looking for a PR race or a race with super easy logistics, check out RDC for next fall.

My buildup to RDC was…unconventional. I got my long runs in but my workouts were severely lacking. I did a couple of tempo efforts here and there and a couple of small scale marathon pace workouts, but all I carried in with me was general fitness and experience. Dave’s plan was for me to capitalize on this and go out slowly and stay very, very comfortable until 20 miles.

Two days before the race (Friday), I stood in the OR for 16 hours. Friday is usually a pretty mellow OR day for us with a couple of elective cases but last Friday was NUTS and I was in the OR until 10 pm. Not optimal pre-race preparation. I got my rounds done on Saturday morning then headed to Chapel Hill to post up in my hotel room for the evening. Chatted with Dave for final race stuff, walked to the grocery store to find some palatable snacks and fell asleep around 9.

On Sunday morning, I woke up at about 4:45 and fumbled around trying to get ready. It was below freezing in Chapel Hill and the valet didn’t plan on having to defrost my car so I left a little later than my plan of 5:30. It was no matter as the race was only an exit down 40 and right off the highway. I pulled into the mall and found the start line and grabbed a spot approximately 20 feet from the Start/Finish. I donned my winter layers and went for my first 5 minute shakeout run, followed by a good stretch. There was nowhere indoors to be so after this, I got back in my car, turned it off and flipped through Instagram mindlessly until about 6:25 when I headed out for my second 5 minute shuffle and stretch. By now, the sun was up and people were beginning to mill about. I swapped my warmup clothes for throwaway clothes and headed for the start area. After some announcements and the Anthem, we were off!

The first two miles of the course loop around the mall and are relatively flat with a couple of rollers. My plan was to run the first two miles in about 7:30 pace so my mantra for these was “easy girl, easy.” I tried to find a comfortable pace and not push at all, which was not entirely easy given that I was freezing in my shorts.

At mile 2, we turned north onto the Tobacco Trail for the first half out and back, which went out 6.5 miles before turning. This was my old stomping ground from when I lived in Chapel Hill so I knew many of our landmarks on this half. My plan for the remainder of the first half was no faster than 7:15 so I just tried to settle in and relax. Although the course is relatively flat, the “out” section is actually gradually downhill so I had to be careful not to go too fast. Toward the turnaround, I started passing runners and felt smooth, strong and happy. At the turnaround, I was able to see all the other people ahead of me and figured that I was in first place for women in the full with a woman about 4 minutes back from me. More on this assumption later…

We made the turn and begin to climb back up the incline we’d just come down for a couple of miles. I forced myself to relax and not fight the hill and just focused on reeling people in as a means to staying entertained. Somewhere around 8, I passed two women who I assumed were in the half. I initially tucked in behind them just to have company but they were slowing down a bit too much so I went on alone. I should note that by this time, the weather was PERFECT in the high 30s and still. We rolled towards the Start/Finish area again where the half would turn off which took me up a bit of a hill and then down the other side.

Once we headed south onto the second out and back, there was a fairly significant downhill and I saw 5:40 pace on my watch and had to put the brakes on. I was feeling great but also knew that mile 13 is a long way from mile 26. Right around here, a biker pulled up and said “I think you’re my first woman, I’m your lead biker.” Jess ended up being an awesome companion for the next 13 miles. He’s a multisport athlete but has done a couple of marathons and nailed the balance of conversation and quiet. We headed out towards the turnaround at ~20 and I felt amazing through mile 19. This is where I made a tactical error (obviously realized after) in reading the course. I started to feel more clunky during 18 and kept pressing without realizing that I was on a pretty significant uphill false flat. As soon as we turned, I realized it was downhill and my pace dropped again. I had wasted energy, however, and paid for it on the run home. At the turnaround, I was also able to see my competition. Much to my surprise, the woman I had passed around mile 8 was only about 4 minutes behind me and looked strong. She had a shirt on still but I had assumed she was a half marathoner, not a full runner. This spooked me as I wasn’t feeling awesome and didn’t want to give my win up over the last 6 miles.

Miles 20 through 23 were just less fun and I was over running although I took advantage of the downhill slope of 22 to drop one of my fastest miles of the day. Around 24, Jess said “Put your head down and win this race,” which was just the kick in the rear I needed to hear. I got up the last set of hills (seriously?!?!? Flat course and the only hill is at 25?!?!?!?!) and turned into the finish area and gave the last 400 meters whatever I had left. I crossed just over 3:10 as the overall women’s winner, 6 minutes ahead of second.

All in all, it was the perfect day for running a marathon with incredible weather and a fast course. My nutrition was excellent and I was able to take gels and hydration throughout the race without trouble. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to get there in better shape because this is definitely a PR course. Obviously 3:10 is far, far off my PR but I’m extremely proud of this race for a few reasons. First, I respected my body and executed my race plan. Second, my splits were very even and I squeezed every second out of the course. Third, I did this on crummy training as a General Surgery Intern. Finally, this is my first overall marathon win which accomplishes one of my bucket list goals!!

Not only did Jess bike with me for 13 miles and help me open my post race beer, he also snapped this photo. Full service, I tell ya.

Mile 1: 7:25

Mile 2: 7:24

Mile 3: 7:13

Mile 4: 7:10

Mile 5: 7:12

Mile 6: 7:10

Mile 7: 7:10

Mile 8: 7:10

Mile 9: 7:18

Mile 10: 7:09

Mile 11: 7:06

Mile 12: 7:13

Mile 13: 7:09

Mile 14: 7:01

Mile 15: 7:09

Mile 16: 7:10

Mile 17: 7:08

Mile 18: 7:16

Mile 19: 7:12

Mile 20: 7:21

Mile 21: 7:24

Mile 22: 7:04

Mile 23: 7:42 (Hissy fit, not hill…)

Mile 24: 7:19

Mile 25: 7:19

Mile 26: 7:40 (Hill back to the start area)

Mile 26.2: 6:46

3:10:18 Gun, 3:10:16 Chip.

Just Be Nice

I hesitated to write this post for over a week. I talked it over with friends, both running and non, and mulled over it on multiple runs. I ultimately decided to post this fully knowing that some of the people involved may eventually read it (or may already have found my blog). If they do, perhaps this will serve as a wakeup call as to how they might be perceived.

Last week, I forced myself to go to a group run in Asheville. I am not opposed to running with other people but going as a stranger to a group run in a new town was terrifying. I was nervous all day and checked their website 10 times. Open to all. Social run. All welcome. Get out of your comfort zone Sarah. I showed up a little early for the 6:15 run in hopes that I could find some other attendees to connect with so I had a “friend’ for the run. As it turned out, there were two groups meeting to run that night, one for a birthday party (not the open one) and the open one I was supposed to meet up with. I walked over to a group of women and asked if they were there for the Thursday run and they confirmed that they were. Then, crickets. After some awkward silence, one asked if I was sponsored by Skechers (the gear and shoes give it away) and I answered yes. Again, crickets. One of the other women had to pee so I asked if I could go with her, since I had to pee too but wasn’t sure if we could use the bathrooms at the start.

When we got back from the bathroom, the group had circled up and the leader was describing the route. I, however, was on the complete outside of the circle with one other girl and we were neither included, nor able to hear. Thankfully, I knew the route from being in Asheville this summer. Then the run started, no, took off. The group literally took off from zero to 7 minute pace and left this other girl and I behind. As readers of this blog know, 7 minute pace isn’t a big deal for me. In a workout. When I want to do a workout. When I’m going to a social Thursday night run, however, I’m not running that pace. Thankfully this other girl who was also relatively new to Asheville was happy to run a more pedestrian pace of 8 minute miles and we did 5 miles together, chatting about endurance related things.

We waited for the rest of the group when we got back (the plan was to grab a beer as a group) but it turns out, no one would have cared if we did or not. No one could be bothered to acknowledge us and when we went to buy beer, they sat at a different table. It was the closest thing to my high school experience that I’ve had in 15 years and I coach high school!! We ultimately got up and went and stood awkwardly near the group for the remainder of our beers.  As soon as mine was done, I drove home and was mortified/sad/angry.

One of the things that I LOVE about the running community is that it is open and welcoming to all, regardless of pace. Yes, people may not run together during a run or workout, but before and after, we’re all runners. This experience rattled me enormously and it made me never want to attempt a running group again. As my sister said when I told her about it, “Jeez, I would quit running altogether!”

Now that a week has gone by, I find myself wondering if I should go back. In general, I have a pretty low threshold for people who treat me poorly but this is the post-collegiate USATF group in town and if I want to do USATF events, I’m almost obliged to join. Maybe they’ve been burned by newcomers before? Maybe everyone had a bad day before the run?

Have you ever had a negative group run experience? Am I overreacting?

Hello Asheville

I’m about a week away from moving to Asheville and I should be packing. Instead, I’m researching places to run, races to jump into and ways to find new running friends in Asheville. Sigh. Can’t teach an old (running) dog new tricks. My schedule for the next few years will be much less predictable than it is now, so my basic approach is to try to identify every possible race in the area, write them in my calendar then register as I know my schedule! Will this lead to top performances in every race?  Of course not. What it will accomplish, however, is a general fitness base that can hopefully parlay into a few outstanding performances a year.

Luckily for me, Asheville is a well developed running town and there are lots of group runs and races to get involved in. I joined the Asheville Track Club last night so that I can be a part of the 2017 Grand Prix (although I won’t be able to get 10 races in to be eligible for overall awards this year) and I’m considering connecting with the Asheville Running Collective which seems like an Asheville version of Olde Bones. I was also excited to find the Carolina Runner blog, which is an amazing resource of events all over the area.

When I get to Asheville next week, my first order of business after unpacking is to get an Annual Pass to the Biltmore, where there are 22+ miles of relatively flat trails to train on. Also on my list is a membership to the North Carolina Arboretum (10 miles of trails) and exploring the Bent Creek Trails.  I’m also looking forward to exploring more of the Mountains to Sea trail and to finding my daily routes from the new house!

Here’s to new adventures!

Week in Review 4.4.16 to 4.10.16

Monday: 3.25 mile recovery run with big arms and core.

Tuesday: 5.5 miles with 10 minutes at tempo pace plus 4 by 30 seconds hard uphill. Still feeling the residual of a lot of hours on the trails. Legs after.

Wednesday: 4.27 miles with striders.

Thursday: 4.4 miles.

Friday: 2 mile progressive shakeout.

Saturday: Merrimack River Trail Race, aka the “Rivah.” Finished 12th for women in 1:16:20, which was momentarily disappointing, but overcome by the realization that I a) had a ton of fun b) executed my race plan and c) smiled for almost the entire (really flipping hard) race.

Sunday: Off Day. My legs are tired from yesterday but nothing appears broken. Given that I have to turn around and race a 10K on Saturday, however, I opted for more rest so I can get a little training in this week around that.

Total Miles: 32.4

This week (well really weekend) was one of the most refreshing ones I’ve had in a while. On Friday night, I drove up to Boston and caught up with my Uncle on the drive. He’s a retired physician and has been an enormous support to me throughout this process so it was great to catch up with him. I stayed with my best friend from college and we got to giggle and catch up all weekend. Then today, I got to catch up with another dear friend on the way back to Norwalk. Medical School is BRUTAL on personal relationships and I am so grateful to have friends who stick by me and to have a few hours to just be a regular person.

The race was also an amazing experience. I’ll recap it more in my race report, but I am just overwhelmingly proud of my execution. It wasn’t my best race and I’d hoped to be faster but I did a great job of just running my race plan, putting in a solid performance without risking my race next weekend or the half in May and had a total fricken blast.

As I’ve alluded a couple of times, the 10000 meter component of the All-Terrain Runner series is coming up next Saturday. I didn’t intend to race back to back weekends but finding a 10K on the track is a bit of a feat and I can’t make the only other guaranteed date this Spring so next weekend, I’m heading up to Fitchburg State University to run in a college meet for 27 some odd laps!

All of this means that my week gets shuffled a bit. I need to recover from yesterday, sharpen for Saturday and still keep my eye on May 1st. I’ll do a glorified strider workout tomorrow even though I won’t be fully recovered, another workout on Wednesday (trying out the Greenwich Running Company workout this week) then two easy days, use Saturday as a workout/heavy tempo and long run Sunday.


What Runners Do In Strange Towns

As told by my actual Google searches over the past week…

-Runs in Norwalk, Connecticut

-Trails in Norwalk, Connecticut

-Bike Paths in Norwalk, Connecticut

-Google Maps Pedometer

-Running stores near Norwalk

-Bike paths ANYWHERE in Connecticut

-Running groups Connecticut

-How far is Central Park from Norwalk

-Where do I get wine in Connecticut?


I’m setting in down here and found a lovely 8 mile route with lots of options to add on that takes me by the ocean. The sidewalks are in disrepair so I’m being particularly careful about footing as my hand STILL has gravel in it and traffic doesn’t so much yield to pedestrians but I’m making it work. Next step is to get back into a rhythm that allows me to get to bed early enough to do my first run in the morning (I’ve been up late trying to get organized for a new place, grocery shopping etc) and get a second easy run and lift in after work. The big goal this weekend? Find a place to get 14 miles in…

Sisterhood of the Traveling Running Shorts

There’s no doubt in my mind that I would not be successful at and love running like I do without the women I’ve trained with over the years. From my teammates in high school to my training partners now, I am surrounded and supported by amazing female runners who push me along.

Watching the Women’s marathon yesterday was a blast. The definition of “ain’t over Til it’s over,” the best women in the world came to play and put on a gutsy show on a rainy, technical course.

I had to laugh as Shalane and Kara finished, however, because it was reminiscent of Christine and I after VCM. Both in a bit of a fog, I crossed the line where Christine was waiting with an impatient official who wanted her to keep moving. Through my pain I heard her say, “no! I’m waiting for my friend.” Our hug was pitiful and hunched over, but the only reaction after countless training runs and a 26.2 mile test. When I saw Kara pick up Shalane today and wrap her arms around her, I knew just what they were feeling.

Shalane and Kara, we are all so proud.


Ponytail Mafia

I’m extremely lucky to be part of a pack of fast girls here in Burlington, to whom I owe most of this training cycle’s success. While we had all run together individually over the last year, we finally got organized in February and started doing our long runs together on Saturday mornings and some key workouts during week. On Saturday, we gather somewhere early and head off for a couple of hours of running during which time the rules are simple: no talk about running and as much story telling as humanly possible.

You’ll hear us coming from a mile away, laughing and talking rapidly about whatever has transpired in the past week. We talk about husbands and boyfriends, about work and family and sometimes, we just fantasize about whatever food (or wine) we’re consuming later in the day. We run faster in the group than we ever train alone, pulled along by one another. Sometimes we look like we came out of the same store in matching crops, ponytails and cheap gloves for warm hands.

Running with the “girls” has changed this training cycle for me. We’ve done tons of quality miles together and on race morning, we’ll set out for the marathon like we’ve set out for so many long runs. We’ll talk less (if at all), but we’ll still be in it together. They know what to say to me when I get flustered or upset and I know where to help push them when they get tired or discouraged.

Runner’s World had an interesting article on running with a group recently, with which I didn’t entirely agree. Although we try to stay together during regular runs, when we’re doing uptempo segments, there’s no rule about staying together. On Saturday, for example, Abbey felt better at a faster pace and Christine wanted to do an extra mile of uptempo. I pulled back at 15 to cool down and had zero expectation that they would do the same. We all reconnected to stretch. Similarly, on the Sunday run, we all start and end together, but there’s no expectation that everyone has to stay together. In my opinion, you can be part of a group without being glued to one another.

Do you run with a group? What do you love or loathe about running with a group?

Old Route Relay Review

We had a blast on Sunday running across Chittenden County as Team Skirack. No one got lost (on our team), no one cried and we didn’t even have a team fight. And I worked on that whole toughness issue that I’ve struggled with before.

It was a very chilly Sunday morning (and day), but thankfully the rain held off for most of the run. We all piled into my car at CVU just after 8 am on Sunday after cheering Kyle on over the start line. After a coffee run, we drove along the first leg to cheer Kyle on as he climbed 3 miles up and over to Richmond. At the first transition point, Kyle tagged Eric and established our official team tag-off butt slap. Eric barreled towards Cochran’s and Sarah and I both prepped for our upcoming legs. We raced ahead of Sarah (she had a short first leg) to Camel’s Hump Middle School where I attempted to warm up for my leg.

I came into Sunday on dead legs, after running 20 miles on Saturday. I felt good, but knew it would be a grind to get through 13.6 on hilly terrain. Still, I somehow underestimated the hilliness of my route, despite coaching in that district on those roads. The first two miles were hilly, but manageable. It was the screaming uphill in mile 4 that I completely forgot about and where I realized just how tired I was. I was determined to be at or under marathon pace, however, and ground out a first leg at almost 10K PR pace.

The 90 minutes between my legs passed quickly; I rehydrated and fueled as we wound out of Jericho into Essex and like others in the car, felt pretty darn stiff as I warmed up at Catamount for the second leg. The first mile was a breeze; downhill and flat with the wind at my back. I caught a person dressed as a fox. And then things got worse. With the climb over 89 and the long, grinding hill afterward, I was a cranking teammate. I distinctly remember saying to someone “I’m not really having fun anymore.” Somewhere around mile 4 of my second leg, however, I decided that I was going to work on using the mantra I plan to use both for the MCAT on Saturday and during VCM: I am grateful to be here. 

I reminded myself that I was grateful to be running with friends, that I was grateful for healthy legs and lungs and for the opportunity to explore backroads near my home. Whether it was the mantra or the downhill, the last few miles flew by. My only major tactical error was at 7 miles, where I turned into Lake Iroquois, the transition zone. With the downhill and the finish in reach, I dropped the hammer down and started to push. Only to hear my watch beep for 7 miles and realize that I had half a mile left. Instead of backing off, I decided to push through instead and somehow held on for another unexpected half mile. I managed to better my pace on this leg, finishing firmly under marathon pace.

In the end, we finished 2nd overall (and to an all male high school team, SO unfair) and had a blast. It was refreshing to run in a new place so close to home and to compete as a team in an unconventional way. It was also good for me to practice pulling myself together even when my legs felt horrible. I highly recommend this race for first-timers and experienced relay teams alike.

Whirsh is a Jerk

Yesterday, Christine and I hit Spear Street for an easy dozen. It was nice to get out of town and even though the wind threatened to push us off the road at times, the rolling hills and new sights were much needed break. We even found/rediscovered the perfect downhill to practice downhill running on, since both of us resemble a weeble when we try to run downhill.

The views weren’t bad when we started…

I got to try out my new shades! (Tifosi Tyrant)

The only bad part of the run was the jerkface who felt the need to stop and yell at us because “he had almost been hit head-on by another car” who had given us room to run. Sorry the other car gave some runner girls space, brah? So if your husband (or you) drives a purple Nissan 350Z convertible with the Vermont license plate “Whirsh,” you’re married to/are a jerk.

Oh Yeah, I’m Doing This Race Next Weekend

Totally forgot that I agreed to be part of an Old Route Relay team next weekend, running 50 miles on a team of 5 through rural Chittenden County. Since I’m running 20 miles on Saturday, I’ll use Sunday as the perfect time to practice marathon pace on tired legs. The breaks in between each leg will give me time to refuel and the legs are just long enough to be tired!

The best part about relay races, however, are the picture and the inevitable hysteria that results from being in the car with three other teammates for an entire day. I’m looking forward to quality time with friends, music blasting from the speakers and the excuse to eat poptarts for most of a Sunday. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the perfect way to kick off MCAT week.