Category Archives: Race Report

Race Report: Unplugged Half Marathon 2017

First race of 2017 done!

When I came into 2017, I had planned on making Unplugged a focus event for the spring but then life got in the way and it ended up being a workout/rust buster/engine check. My A goal was to break 1:30, my B goal was to be under 1:32. My (unstated) C goal was to finish and not get injured, which was not a forgone conclusion. I came in at 1:31:54 and felt pretty good, so mission mostly accomplished!

Despite living and training in Burlington for many years, this was my first year really running Unplugged. Until recently, it fell on Boston Marathon weekend and I was either running or going down to spectate or in the midst of VCM training. The race is truly unplugged; no awards, just water on the course, few spectators. All of this sets up for an awesome opportunity to get a good workout in without too much stress.

I was excited to have a chance to get a marker for moving forward for the Asheville Half and a fall full, but I was even more excited to see my dear friend Abbey who is my running buddy/confidante extraordinaire who was coming back to Burlington to race. Warming up with her and standing on the start line was enough to make the whole day worth it. She went on to kick ass and I can’t wait to work towards our next running (and life) goals together.

On race morning, the only piece I was worried about was the weather. The forecast called for snow, rain, windy and high 30s which is a tough temperature to dress for. While the mountains got anywhere from 4 to 9 inches of snow, Burlington was relatively dry but the start was COLD. I warmed up in two pairs of pants and two coats and for the first time ever, planned to race in full tights. Will tried to convince me to do a singlet and arm warmers but since he wasn’t at the start and I was being wimpy, I put a long sleeve on under my singlet which would ultimately turn out to be a big mistake.

The gun went off and we had a mile of out and back. I eased into the race and tried to resist the urge to chase after people. The first mile was distinctly uphill and conversely, when we turned, the second mile was downhill. I tried to stay in control but ended up running 7:03 and 6:49. I’m not sure if this second mile would ultimately bite me in the butt but I did have to remind myself that I didn’t have the fitness to run that whole race in the 6:40s. The first few miles of the race have multiple turns and full circles and it was hard to get into a rhythm. Miles 3, 4 and 5 were 6:50, 6:54 and 6:57. The 6:57 was the mile where I had to strip off my undershirt, a feat I accomplished without losing a step or falling down.

After mile 5, we turned onto the bike path and I was able to cruise a bit. Since the race started at 11, I was pretty hungry by the time we started and took my gel shortly after 6 in hopes that it would stave off a bonk. This seemed to work and Miles 6 and 7 were 7:02 and 7:03. I threw my gloves at another friend at mile 7 and was collected but definitely starting to feel some quad fatigue and quickly shed the idea of pushing the last 3 miles in favor of just staying consistent.

Mile 8 passed quickly in 7:03 and mile 9 was the downhill mile in 6:54. I was starting to get some confidence back after this but when we crossed into Waterfront Park, I came to what felt like a complete stop with stomach cramping and the worst GI distress of my life. I can generally tolerate gels without too much water but since I went into the day a tad dehydrated, I expect it sat like a brick in my stomach. I limped through mile 10 in 7:04 (no WAY was this race worth a GI disaster) and just hoped I could hang on for 3 more miles. Mile 11 passed in 7:07 with waves over the Causeway ala VCM 2013.  At least this time, the wind was at our back! Mile 12 was a mess and I alternated between smooth running and stomach saving pace, ending up with my slowest mile of 7:16. I was able to collect myself and ran mile 13 in 7:06 pace. I failed to stop my watch after crossing so have no idea what the last .1 was but I just tried to stay smooth and didn’t do much of a kick.

Is it easy to be excited about my second slowest half ever? Not really. Am I thrilled for the effort it took to accomplish my B goal? Yes! I have had a tough season of training and to be able to run a 1:32 comfortably off essentially no training is something even I have to begrudgingly be proud of. The best part, however, is that it left me hungry for more. I want to get back to being 10 minutes faster, to chasing that sub 1:20 and my Olympic Trials qualifier. I want to push my fitness forward. Onward and upward!

Race Report: Fallen Leaves 5K #3 2016

While this race wasn’t my best time (or even best effort), I will remember it as one of my favorites because I got to race with my girls instead of just cheering them on from the sidelines. I didn’t go into the race well-rested; travel back from Rochester was rough and I ended up being awake for almost 36 hours by the time I went to bed on Friday morning. I barely ran during the week so I decided it would just be an adaptation week and I would go into the race with a positive mindset. Regardless, it wasn’t pouring rain (although it was cold), so it was an upgrade from my past two races.

After an extended warm-up without the girls (diesel engine over here) and then our regular warm-up routine, we revealed our awesome new singlets and started behind a few other high school boys and other area men. One of my favorite things about this race is that you do the first two laps on a kitty litter track so you can calibrate your pace. Our first lap was an 82 and I said out loud to the girls with me “WHOA we need to slow down.” My/our goal was to be around 19 so that was a little hot. We went through the 800 at 3:04, which was a much more appropriate pace.

Squad Up!

Squad Up!**

As we hit the grass, I felt good and stretched out a little to find a rhythm. We made the first sharp turn onto the bike path and I went through the mile at 6:10 on the nose. Another woman caught up to me at this point and although I tried to stay with her, my legs felt more like lead than I’d anticipated. We rolled along the bike path and picked people off, made it around the 180 degree turn and headed back towards the school. These 180 turnarounds KILL me. I came to almost a complete stop and it took me a few seconds to get back into my groove. The woman I was running with got away from me here and I couldn’t make contact with her again.

A little past 2 miles, the wheels a-coming off the bus.

A little past 2 miles, the wheels a-coming off the bus.

I ran my second mile in 6:02 and mentally tried to gear up for the last mile. I felt like I was moving well on the bike path but when we got to the last sharp turn back onto the grass, my form went from collected to…terrible. It had warmed up enough that the grass was soft but wet and slippery and I got the oddest cramp in my forearms and felt like they weren’t moving at all. I just kept my eyes on the people ahead of me and trudged forward. We hit the track for the final 100 meters and I saw the clock ticking towards 19 but couldn’t find any turnover to get there. My third mile was a 6:18 and I crossed at 19:09 as second woman.

A rare decent finishing shot!

A rare decent finishing shot!

The upside? I can still beat my girls and I’m still improving every week! The downside? I’m a little frustrated with my third mile. I think it’s mostly a lack of specific fitness but my turnover is just nonexistent at this point. I’ll get a chance to race again this Thursday and will hope to continue to improve. I’m still waiting to hear what the new course will be for the First Run 5K but am planning on that as my next “goal” 5K.

**We are super lucky to have a parent who is also a professional photographer. He takes HUNDREDS of pictures at every race, shares them for free with our team and this time, I’m one of the lucky beneficiaries. If you are local and need sports, family or senior pictures, I can’t recommend Phil enough.

Race Report: Halloween Hustle 5K 2016

For better or worse, I’m getting good at racing in the pouring rain and high 30s! Saturday morning was gray with moderate drizzle…until I started my warm-up when I got totally soaked. Since this was a Halloween race, I tried to get in the spirit without ruining my stride and had the unfortunate idea to rock a cotton Superman shirt. Red bunhuggers topped off my look and yes onlookers, I was cold.

Me and Pre, prerace. Yes, he always makes that face.

Me and Pre, prerace. Yes, he always makes that face.

I didn’t get back from Asheville until 11 pm and when my alarm went off at 7:30, I almost scrapped the idea but since I was registered and awake, I dragged my butt out of bed and got dressed. I was at the race site by 8:30 and the race went off at 9 am, leaving my with just enough time to jog a couple of miles and do a strider up the sidewalk. Right before the race, I asked Joe was his plans were and he said he was hoping for a 5:40 first mile. This comes into play shortly…

The start was a bit hilarious as the airhorn misfired and we took a step out, then came back to start again. We rolled out in the pouring rain and I was a few steps behind Joe and Adam and with Tim, Francis and Todd. We quickly separated from the rest of the group and headed out into the neighborhood loop. Since I thought Joe was running a 5:40 mile, I settled in behind him and felt super comfortable which probably should have been a sign that something was amiss. There were no mile markers, so I just went on time and assumed that I’d crossed mile 1 around 6 minute pace given where I was off Joe and Adam.

The first mile rolls uphill but each hill is followed by either a downhill or a flat for recovery, making it a great course to move on. Tim and I separated from Francis and Todd but worked together for the rest of the race, a needed boost in the pouring rain. Once we got to the top of the hills, we picked up the pace and started to hammer down the hills and float on the flats. I focused on keeping Adam in sight until we took a series of tight course turns and there weren’t any straight stretches to get back in contact. Around this time, I also stepped in a river running down the street and soaked myself up to my shins.

For the second two miles (again, no markers, so I was just guessing on time), I just focused on pressing the pace. When I got to 12 minutes, I picked it up again and worked on convincing myself that I had the fitness to do so. Unlike last week, I found it a lot easier to find that next gear and hold it. My only big mistake was that I didn’t know the course so I wasn’t sure when we were getting near the final turn. Tim did, however, and shot by me with 200 meters to go. I crossed the line at 19:22, very happy to no longer need to drag my cotton shirt along with me!

After the race, I was a tiny bit disappointed that my time wasn’t faster but then found out our splits from Tim. Mile 1 was 6:39, Mile 2 was 6:06 and Mile 3 was 5:49. Turns out, Joe had decided to run the first mile on heartrate and ran a 6:16 instead of a 5:40. We all gave him considerable grief about this! The upside is that I felt so good in the second two miles and was able to push hard. I do think I could have had a similar progression with a slightly faster first mile so that’s a lesson for me to be attuned to BOTH my perceived effort and what others are doing.

Not a lot of female company out there.

Not a lot of female company out there.

Overall, I was happy with a race well executed in crummy conditions and feel like I’m starting to remember how to race again. I also cannot recommend the course enough. It is a certified 5K course and has an awesome combination of hills, downhills and straightaways. I would LOVE to race it again when a) I’m in better shape and b) the weather is a little more favorable because I think it is definitely a PR course.

Race Report: Victory 5K

Also known as, find a starting point. 

To be blunt, running has just not been that fun lately. My schedule is totally unpredictable and I kept trying to find ways to fit a marathon training schedule around TAing, coaching and traveling for a bazillion interviews literally across the country. It just wasn’t working. I didn’t want to run, let alone do a workout and most days, I just wanted to pitch my running shoes across the room. I let go of the idea of a winter marathon a few weeks ago but then found myself in a new predicament: aimless running. With no goal race, what was the point of going out the door to run? After a couple of weeks with no goal, it became evident that I needed something to focus on and I decided to jump back in with a surprise 5K last weekend.

I went in with no goal; I just wanted to go through the motions and get a starting point. I also wanted to support Karen Newman, the beneficiary of the Victory 5K. Karen was one of my first athletic heroes when I started racing again. She would dominate local races with her Olympic singlet on and I remember just being in awe that I got to share the road with someone of her talent. She has recently been battling a return of her breast cancer and the race was a fundraiser to help defray some of her healthcare costs.

Saturday morning was a great day for ducks in Antarctica. It was a chilly 40 degrees and during our warm-up, it started POURING and gusting. We got warm enough while we were jogging around but when I stepped outside for the start, my singlet was instantly glued to me. In fact, I had a few moments during the race where my shorts were so soaked, I wasn’t sure I was wearing any.

The start went off and I just tried to remember how to race. The first mile is essentially downhill and I aimed for a pace that was a click above tempo. During this mile, the rain was dumping down and I mentally kicked myself for not wearing a hat as water was streaming down my face. I went through the first mile in 6:06 (18:57 pace) and although I knew it was above my fitness, hoped that I could still hang on for a respectable finish. The second mile is half slight uphill and half slight downhill on gravel; the turnaround is in the middle of this mile. Although the footing wasn’t too bad, the turnaround was ridiculously tight and I came to a complete stop as I tried to figure out how to turn without falling. On the first part of the return trip, the puddles had started to accumulate and it was getting slippery. I went through Mile 2 at approximately 12:30 (19:31 pace) and realized I needed to stay focused to not totally fall off. The last mile wasn’t as bad as the last mile usually is in a 5K, probably because I was just running on aerobic fitness and not actually redlining. I worked on reeling in the guy ahead of me and just tried to stay upright in the puddles. I rounded the corner for home and pushed it in in 19:28 (6:15 pace).

My initial reaction was to be frustrated (19:28 is slower than my half marathon pace when I’m in decent shape) but I followed that up by being happy that I got through my first race back and cared enough to be frustrated! The nice thing about the 5K is that I can try it again this coming weekend. The Halloween Hustle is all on pavement (I think), so I’m hoping to improve on my time and keep turning my wheels over. My ultimate goal from this training cycle is to break 18 minutes at the First Run 5K (provided we don’t have a massive snowstorm or Arctic blast).

Race Report: Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Only a month late…it’s been a really busy month!!

Midtown

Short Version:

Not the day I wanted but not the worst day either. Very clear areas for improvement but also evidence of a solid fitness base. 1:26:48, 20th for women, 99th overall.

Long Version:

I went into this race with a simple goal of a) running faster than I had at Plattsburgh (1:26:44) and b) getting a good sense of my fitness for the fall. In my head, I anticipated being around 1:24 if the weather cooperated. I was 4 seconds slower than Plattsburgh, so not an enormous failure on point A but certainly way off 1:24.

I woke up early on race morning and headed into the city. Because the course looped through downtown, I parked far away from the start in a garage that I knew I could leave from right after the race. I had to drive to Lexington that day and didn’t want to delay that misery! It was warm at 4 am already, around 70, but not as hot as it had been. Since it’s Chicago, there was also a “breeze.” Although wind is becoming my nemesis in racing, I will admit that it helped to keep air moving on a sticky morning.

Prerace was a BREEZE. I’ve done a number of Rock ‘n’ Roll events and sometimes, the logistics don’t work out well (see, Vegas) and I start the race stressed and grumpy. This one was the opposite. I dropped my bag easily, realized I left my Gu in my bag and was able to get it again with no issue. I walked right up to the start line and found a spot with no issue and the race went off without a hitch. Right before the start, I met a brand new post-collegiate runner who was running her first half and had a goal of about 1:25 so we agreed to run together for the first few miles.

O to 5K

As we got rolling, I didn’t feel terrible but I didn’t feel great either. Way too much celebrating with my Chicago classmates and way too little slept left me more tired and dry than I normally would like to be. Lesson 1: No amount of water or Nuun can compensate for a rowdy night at Journal Club.  We rolled through the first mile in about 6:22 and I was cautiously optimistic that things would continue that way. After the snafu at Plattsburgh with mismarked miles, I was wearing my Garmin for this race but all the tunnels and turns quickly made it irrelevant. Lesson 2: Garmin-free racing works better for me in short races. The first 6 miles of the course wind through downtown and although the scenery was great, it was hard to get into any kind of a groove. To add to this, we kept crossing these weird canals that were extremely painful underfoot in flats. Both McKenna and I remarked “I DON’T LIKE THESE!!” as we went over the first one. We went through the 5K in 20:07 (6:28) and I started to feel a bit better while McKenna started to feel worse. We got separated and I rolled on alone.

5K to 10K

Right around here, I had a momentary panic that this would be my first DNF as my right foot went completely numb. After years of running with a numb left foot and a few episodes of numbness in my right foot lately, there are few things that make me worry more and although I can usually tough out a workout, 10 miles seemed like a long way to push. Once we got onto the straighter section of the course, however, my foot started to feel better and I went through the 10K in 40:42 (6:33). The wind was pretty tough heading south and although I tried to connect with other runners, I had a similar situation developing as I did at Plattsburgh where I just felt…gearless. I was happy cruising along but couldn’t seem to find another comfortable pace. Women were flying by me and I couldn’t do much more than just watch them go.

10K to 15K

As it sometimes goes in a race, my best miles were right before my worst. Towards the south-most part of the course, we turned onto a newly paved out and back and it just felt like heaven. I was floating along, could see the remainder of the women’s field and had a fleeting (silly rabbit…) thought that I might be able to close the last 3 miles quickly. I went through 8.9 miles in 58:13 (6:32). As we turned back onto the main road and made the turn towards home, however, that fleeting thought quickly faded.

South Part of the Race Course

15K to Finish

We connected with the Lakefront Path and started dodging 10K runners and in a final insult to my focus/stride, went through the MOST bizarre race feature I’ve ever experienced: a long tunnel that was blacked out with flashing strobe lights. I’m sure some people thought it was fun, but for me, I couldn’t see my footing and slowed to a jog as I tried not to trip over a) my feet and b) 10K runners. By the time we came out of the tunnel, I was all but done. I tried to gear up and felt like I was crawling. The finish had a great, long straightaway that would have been great for a strong finish but I didn’t have much strong left. I crossed in 1:26:48, which means my last few miles were barely under 7 minute pace. Yikes.

After the finish, I waited for McKenna to finish and we went for a brief cooldown. By the time I got back to my car, the skies opened up with an epic Midwestern thunderstorm and I headed south to Lexington through scary driving conditions.

Thoughts:

The good news is that I am apparently quite comfortable at 6:38 pace as I’ve landed there in almost all my races and workouts lately. This suggests good general fitness and a solid base from which to begin fall training. The bad news is that I am lacking any top gears, which makes sense since most of my training has been unstructured at best. As I said in my training week review yesterday, these last two rotations have been my priority (as they should be), but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to tighten down on my training and incorporate more interval work as I go into the fall. Lesson 3: Speedwork really does make you faster…or at least keeps you from slowing down in the end of a race. 

As always, I am enormously thankful for the support, both official and unofficial, that allows me to continue to run through the various adventures of my life. In this case, the Competitor Group comped my entry for this race (I’m starting to think it’s a curse; anytime they are gracious enough to do this, I race poorly…), Skechers supports me with shoes and gear and Nuun covers my hydration.

Race Report: Plattsburgh Half Marathon 2016

Short Version: 2nd Woman, 1:26:44. Got to hang out with the Skechers crew and had a BLAST at the Expo and post-race party.

Doing our best Kara at the post-race party.

Doing our best Kara at the post-race party.

Long Version: 

I went into this race with relatively low expectations. I’ve been lucky to run consistently this Spring but as I remarked in my recent post on this cycle’s inventory, I have been low mileage (for me) and only doing maintenance workouts. On top of this, I did a lot of driving (and not a lot of sleeping) going into this race.

The morning started in an entertaining fashion. As I pulled up to the Ferry Dock to cross the lake, the 6:30 ferry was pulling away. Plattsburgh is actually only about 6 miles from my house but there’s a big lake in the middle with no local bridge so you have to take a ferry to get there. I texted Dave to tell him I might be cutting it close and he responded “Ha! I’m on the ferry that just left you!!” Needless to say, I had to wait for the 6:45 ferry and decided to change into my racing flats (GoMeb Speed 3) and take my inhaler on the boat. As it turned out, I arrived by 7:15, found a porto-potty on my way to the Rec Center and found Erin Lopez for our warmup all by 7:30. We did 20 minutes of easy jogging then stripped down and headed for the start. It was PERFECT racing weather at 40 degrees and overcast. I wish I’d been in amazing shape because it was a PR day for sure.

At the start line, Erin and I had to get a little aggressive to get a spot as a few misplaced souls found themselves on the line. We did a strider, got our spot and we were off. Although we’d both planned to run around 1:25, Erin took off from the start and I opted to hang back and stay comfortable for me. Erin went on to win overall AND post a new PR!! We made our way around the Oval and I was happy to find that I felt smooth and effortless. I only had a stopwatch on but when we went through what I presume to be mile 1 based on the Garmins beeping around me, my watch said 6:15 pace. I put the brakes on a bit here because optimism is great, but I doubted that I was in 1:22 shape. At around 10 minutes in, we went by the mile 1 marker. Two and a half minutes later, we went by the 2 mile marker. So much for using my watch to track splits. As such, I have almost no data points from the race other than that my first mile was a 6:15 and I finished in 1:26. Since it was obvious that I couldn’t rely on mile markers, I just ran on effort through the first half of the race and was happy to feel like my effort was about 7/10. I crossed the halfway point around 41 minutes. We would later learn that it was not exactly halfway but the 10K instead…

During the second half, the turns began. Although it made it hard to hold momentum, I was in a bit of a funk at this point and appreciated the opportunity to refocus every few hundred meters as we turned. I was running alone and had quite the pity party between 7 and 9, cranky that I felt like I could hold my pace all day but couldn’t click up as I’d planned. I was also cranky that the mile markers were 100% unreliable. I had no idea if I was running 6:15 pace or 7:15 pace or if I was at mile 7 or mile 8.5.

At mile 10, we went over a little bridge and into a 2 mile flat neighborhood loop. I was able to click up in effort for a few minutes but by mile 11, felt like I was running out of fitness and found myself back at tempo effort. Mile 12 was an insidious uphill and I was just ready to return to the Oval and finish. Mile 13 is around the Oval and taunts you, as you can see the finish but you’re minutes away. I just tried to finish strong but really didn’t have much in the way of gears.

As it turns out, the race course had to undergo some changes and 13.1 miles came…a bit before the finish line did. According to one of the local ladies who runs for Skechers as well, it is actually in the middle of the final turn before the straightaway where we finished, so probably over a quarter mile long. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have adjusted the start or the finish since it was on an oval, but regardless, it’s questionable how far we actually ran. The first and second half splits are hysterical too; all of us had 4 minute “positive” splits since the second half was more like 7 miles.

The 1-2 punch!

The 1-2 punch!

Despite some course snafus, it’s actually an awesome course that I would readily race again. It has a nice combination of flats, small hills, and some cruising downhills, it winds through a lot of Plattsburgh and had great course support for a small race on Sunday morning. The weather was also PERFECTION. The vibe before and after the race was fun too; people who just enjoy running and community events. If it gets re-certified, I would definitely consider going back to aim for a PR since it’s my kind of course.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect a bit, I find myself slightly frustrated with my race. It was one of my slowest half marathons ever (1:33, 1:29, 1:28 all come to mind as slower…). The logical part of my brain knows that it’s great that I got a 13+ mile effort in and that it wasn’t a race I could expect to knock out of the park. The emotional part of my brain is frustrated that I feel so…flat right now. I feel like I have one gear and although I know that I haven’t done workouts to develop my other gears lately, I have an illogical fear that this is just the beginning of slowing down as I hid my mid 30s.

Race Report: 10,000 Meter FSU Eric Loeschner Invitational

This entire race report could be summed up as round and round it goes. Alternatively, not as bad as expected.

I headed up to the Fitchburg area on Friday night. One of my close friends from medical school lives in Harvard, Mass which is only 20 minutes from FSU so I took the opportunity to visit her (we get pretty far flung during 3rd and 4th year) and have a much calmer race morning. I left for FSU around 8:30 and was onsite by 9 am. They toyed with starting the 10,000 at 10 am instead of 10:15 but one athlete said they wouldn’t be ready so we waited for the 10:15 start. I ran around the campus of Fitchburg State to warm-up, then swapped into my racing flats (wore the GoMeb Speed3) and stripped down to my uniform. It was really chilly and windy when we arrived but by the time we were lining up, it was comfortable when you had a tail wind and just a tiny bit cool with the headwind.

Having never raced a 10,000 meter and since my last track race was 16 years ago, I had almost no idea what to expect from this race other than that the number of laps could lead to some significant monotony. To break this up, I mentally split the race into 4 pieces: 8 laps at marathon effort, 8 laps at tempo effort, 4 laps at high tempo effort then 5 laps at interval effort. The intent was not to pick up my pace throughout the race so much as it was to increase my effort to HOLD my pace. Like last weekend, since I am racing again on May 1st at the Plattsburgh Half, I also didn’t want to go so hard that I’d need a week to recover.

There were about 20 guys on the track and only about 7 women. We lined up behind the guys and we were off. I was hoping we could form a pack to work together through the wind but I led from about 10 meters in. I went through the 400 in 90 seconds, which felt easy but was way too fast for my current fitness so I backed off a bit, going through 800 in 3:08. I felt comfortable and cruised through the first two miles in 6:17 pace. The wind was intermittent. Sometimes it was okay and sometimes we were getting blown around on the back stretch.

As I hit the third and fourth mile, I started to pick up my effort a little bit, running 6:13 and 6:15 for those miles. I had started to lap people which made it easier to stay focused mentally but I was definitely starting to zone out as I ran round and round the track. In the fifth mile, I continued to cruise but found myself unfocused a number of times, lost in thought rather than focusing on my pace. I wanted to know my pace for the last mile so clicked my watch for the 2000 meters of 5 and a hair of 6, clocking in at 6:19. Ooops, definitely paid for my loss of focus. For the last mile, I focused on picking it up and running strong and ran a 6:13 for a total time of 39:10. I’m bummed that I didn’t break 39 but definitely zoned out for a few laps where I could have gotten that time back. I was psyched to have my effort feel spot on for the race and to hold almost exactly the same pace for 6.2 miles. It’s also nice to have an update on what is likely close to my current tempo pace!

After the race, I chatted for a bit with the other All Terrain Runners there for the race. We all stuck out like sore thumbs at a race where the mean age was approximately 20 so it was fun to hang out with my own peers for a bit. I cooled down with Susan who had also been at the Merrimack River Trail Race and we commiserated on how long our legs took to recover after that effort.

All in all, I had a blast trying out the 10,000 and regret that I didn’t run the event earlier! I think it’s a nice combination of endurance and speed and plays right into my wheelhouse. I came into the race thinking I’d never run another one but now I think I’ll look for one later in the summer to see if I can post a better time with some more competition. The All Terrain Series is definitely injecting fun back into my racing and I’m so glad I pushed myself to get into it. I’m also loving the bonus of automatically getting a really good workout in weekly and looking forward to seeing where my fitness is at the Plattsburgh Half in two weeks.

Race Report: First Run 2016

Whelp, I can already check the box under “gain more race experience in 2016”!!

Short Version: 15th overall, 1st woman, 18:47.

Slightly Longer Version:

My absolute favorite part of this race is getting to see almost all of the Burlington running community out and about on New Years Day when everyone is full of hope for the coming year of running. I got to visit with a bunch of people who were instrumental in me getting serious about running when I first moved back and connect with other area runners that I don’t see enough of with my crazy schedule.

As mentioned above, I also got a chance to work on building race experience ten hours into the New Year. Due to the overwhelming popularity of First Run this year, 700 runners showed up and bib pickup was a little crowded so there was a start delay of 15 minutes (I’m sensing a theme). However, I had anticipated this AND they announced it early and often and instead of letting it rattle me, I just did a second warm-up and set of striders (Lesson 1). It was only about 36 degrees at the start so I was a little chilly in shorts but took it out patiently (Lesson 2) until my legs felt nice and smooth.

Unlike last year where I was in about 10th for women at the half mile mark, I had passed the only woman ahead of me by then and just worked on putting as much space as I could ahead of Christine because I knew she could absolutely kick my a** if it came down to a kick. I went through the mile in a comfortable 6:01 and starting working the challenge that is Mile 2 of this course. Although I felt a little clunky for the first couple of minutes, I felt downright smooth and strong going into Mile 2. I tried not to fight the hill and just worked on picking men off as I went. When I passed Erin just before the 2 Mile mark, she told me there was no woman in site so I was able to mentally relax a bit, which was great timing because the 5K I’m going to vomit feeling was settling in. I went through Mile 2 in 6:12. (For comparison, last year I went through 1 in 6:10 and 2 in 6:30, so I slowed down a lot less this year.)

Once we crested the hill, I tried to get control of my breathing and take advantage of the downhill. I still felt smooth but was definitely aware that I haven’t done any frank speed work in a while and struggling to keep my turnover nice and snappy. Once I turned onto South Union for the last 3/4 of a mile straightaway, I tried to convince myself to pick it up but wasn’t overwhelmingly successful at this. I went through mile 3 in 5:53 and knew I would break 19 so just tried to convince myself to keep kicking through the finish. I broke the tape at 18:47 and called it good.

I’m always blown away by how gutting the second half of a 5K is and although I’m totally thrilled with my race today, I am frustrated that I wasn’t particularly motivated to kick the last kilometer of the race. I’m sure some of this was that I wasn’t under direct threat from another woman and some was that I haven’t done much real speed work, but I still want to work on the mental approach to kicking regardless of the surrounding situation. That being said, I’m really psyched that I handled the start delay and the colder temperatures well.

What was your first run of the year? Do you like to race or run or just recover from New Years Eve on the couch?

2015 In Review

It’s a bit mind boggling to be at the end of 2015 because it means I’m just a tiny bit over a year from being an MD and our next move as a family. I had huge goals for 2015 and took big chances and although I don’t regret the process, it didn’t turn out quite the way I’d imagined. Falling short of success, however, offers lots of opportunity for insight and plenty of competitive drive to get back out there in 2016.

Mileage:

2,627 miles (219 miles a month, 51 miles a week on average). In contrast, 2014 was 2,282 which included time off for surgery but came out to 190 miles a month and 44 miles a week on average. The distribution of my mileage isn’t even of course, as I have periodized training and end up with some chunks of time more in the 30s and then big training that is up in the 60s.

Races:

The year started off well with a great run on a windy, cold day at the First Run 5K. I’ll be racing this again tomorrow and hoping for a fast time to help ease the pain of Philly a bit.

Once Clerkship year started, I had to set my sites on shorter races and took advantage of being in Maine for Family Medicine to race the Falmouth 4 Miler.  This was the first race this year where I learned that I don’t tolerate racing on cold legs anymore. Foreshadowing for Philly, I suppose.

In early May, I regained some confidence on one of my favorite courses, the Champlain Classic 5K. I have no idea what my race schedule looks like for 2016, but I’ll definitely be back for the Classic.

In June, I raced a 5K for beer in 80 degree sun and ran a 3K on the track in the wind, also foreshadowing for Philly. It was a blast to do something totally different.

On the 4th of July, I raced the Montpelier Mile and re-learned a valuable lesson about running through the finish line. I felt so stupid for this tactical error until I saw Molly Huddle do it later in the summer and gave myself a bit of a break.

In late September, I felt like I turned a corner in training. After many weeks of feeling punky secondary to anemia, I toed the line at the Downtown 10K with no expectations and was surprised to execute a great tactical race. I’ll definitely be back at this one!

Finally, I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November. This was supposed to be my big event of 2016 and I’d be lying if I said that the sting of that outcome has faded.

Until I looked back today, I hadn’t realized how diverse my races were this year and there is some fun in race distances that you rarely run. The race I’m most proud of is the Downtown 10K; I stayed calm and executed my race plan. I continue to realize that I need more racing experience to help me deal with situations like delayed starts, wind and racing alone.

How do you review a year of training? What were your highs and lows of 2015?

Race Report: Philadelphia Half Marathon 2015

Short Story: 1:22:25 for 24th place.

First, apologies for a bit of a bummer post. To me, it’s more valuable to be honest about disappointments than gloss over them. As another runner said to me in the Elite Tent yesterday, we often learn more from our failures than our great moments.

Second, it’s always a little touchy to complain about a time that many people would love to run, so please know that it’s not my intent to be ungrateful for the time, it’s just that it is far below what I expected for myself given my training and fitness.

Philly Bib 2015

I’ll get to the positives at the end, but unfortunately, this race was one of those where you just never feel good. I slept relatively well on Saturday night, waking up just twice at midnight and at 4 am. When the alarm went off at 5, I felt rested and ready. In hindsight, perhaps I was TOO calm. I ate my bagel and sunbutter and drank a cup of coffee while I put contacts in and got dressed. I left the hotel by 5:30 and walked to the start. It was oddly warm out but the wind was already blowing pretty well. I tried to stay positive and hoped that it would mellow with the sunrise. Security was relatively seamless and I got to the Elite Tent a little after 6. Headed out to jog at 6:15 and felt okay, but not great. Striders, however, felt totally fine so I figured things would snap together.

At 6:50, they asked us to walk from the elite tent to the start so we did. The wind was blowing and it was much cooler without warmups on. 7 o’clock clicked by with no wheel start. Then 7:05. Then 7:10. Finally at 7:13, they sent the wheels and at 7:15, we were off. Needless to say, any benefit of a warmup was gone and I was happy to just not trip over the starting line. From mile 1, I felt clunky and stiff. I tried to stay calm and hoped I would warm up. I went through the mile at 6:10, a little slower than I hoped, but not an insurmountable deficit.

By the time we reached mile 3, however, it was pretty clear that it wasn’t going to be a banner day. The wind was very strong at times, from seemingly all directions, and it was hard to find or hold a pace. Beyond this, my legs just felt punky. I found myself counting the miles very early which is never a good sign. I didn’t feel like I had gone out too fast, I just couldn’t move my legs. At mile 6, I saw my girls (more on that later!!) and had a few moments of feeling good so tried to capitalize on the moment. In fact, I went through the 10K in 38:24, which is a small 10K PR. By mile 7, however, the wheels were off. The 2:43 pace group for the full went by me, I had a shitty water stop (my fault, I didn’t really need it but thought maybe a gel would help) and I was flailing through the hills. Of note, I don’t think the pace group was running the right pace and I’m pretty certain they lost everyone by the end. When I ran Philly in 2012, I barely remember any hills. Today, it felt like mile 7.5 to mile 9.5 was ALL hills. I saw Erin just before 8 and gave her a thumbs down. At that point, I was just hoping for a PR.

The good news is, I never really crashed, I just couldn’t pick it up at all. I never needed to use one of my faster breathing patterns because I couldn’t turn my legs over fast enough. Even at mile 12 when I KNEW I needed to push, I just kept plodding along. When I rounded the corner and saw 1:22, it was all I could do to not burst into tears. I crossed the finish line and made my way back to the Elite Tent, just stunned at how badly things had gone. I think I would have liked to have cried, just to get some of the hurt out, but I honestly felt too shocked to do so.

The run didn’t feel like much more than a workout, so there may be hope to use the fitness for another race soon. I can’t discount the effect of the wind either; at race time, it was a steady 15 miles per hour with gusts up to 25 miles per hour. Even a modest adjustment for a 5 mph headwind predicts a 1:18 without wind. This is very, very, VERY little solace but at least I feel like it wasn’t all on me. The start delay didn’t help me at all either. Looking back, I wish I’d decided to run the first two miles much slower to warm back up. Ultimately, I don’t think it would have cost me a lot of time and I might have actually been able to make some gear changes.

On the great side, my girls team came down to Philly to surprise me. I was sitting in my hotel on Saturday (in my robe, having just showered) when the front desk called to see if I would take a package. I didn’t know who would send me something but thought maybe Will sent flowers. Imagine my surprise when I opened my door to see my girls!! They had been planning it all season and I had NO idea. They came equipped with giant pictures of me, tinsel and all their screaming voices. I will never, ever be able to articulate how amazing that gesture was but they saved the weekend for me. It would have been very easy to mope for the rest of Sunday but having them there made me realize I have to practice what I always preach to them about moving on from rough races.

I'll never be able to explain to them how much this meant to me.

I’ll never be able to explain to them how much this meant to me.

It’s similarly hard to articulate what I’m feeling right now. Devastated, heartbroken and humiliated all come to mind. I know that one race doesn’t define anyone but I don’t know when I’ll get the opportunity to give it my all again. That’s the risk with taking a big chance! You might not get the result you want and when you put it out there and are vulnerable, failure stings that much more. As my sister said when I was pathetically texting her, it’s just going to be raw for a few days. And as the much more brilliant Lindsey said, some days you just don’t have the magic.

For the next week or so, I’ll just take it easy, run when I want and try to figure out what went wrong, what I can do to salvage the cycle and where I want to go from here. If anyone knows a great December half marathon, I’m all ears!