Category Archives: racing

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 ultimately bit 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 had multiple turns and full circles through neighborhoods 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!

Week in Review 3.27.17 to 4.2.17

What?! A real week of training?

Monday: 5 hilly miles in Asheville. Made a dog friend on my run who followed me for 2 miles. His name was Finn and he was a sweet old guy who loved to run. Happy to reunite him with his dad, however!

Tuesday: 6.4 miles with striders. Super slushy out.

Wednesday: Humbling 7 mile progression run. Legs after.

Thursday: 6.2 mile recovery run. As I thought for 90% of this run, getting back in shape is the pits!

Friday: 4.5 mile run.

Saturday: Another snowstorm! 12 miles on the treadmill. Mind numbing but happy to get a longer run in.

Sunday: 3.4 miles plus this arm workout which was a killer. I can barely type.

Total Miles: 44.5

This week was humbling with a capital H. Almost every run (except my long run thank goodness) felt like a total slog and I spent most of the week being grumpy about being out of shape. That said, I am beyond grateful to be able to run and lift almost at a normal level (and for friends who reassure me that my out of shape isn’t that bad). I was also extremely diligent about my pre-run mobility drills and glute activation exercises, so it’s not surprising that I was sore and tired all week.

The week ahead has the Unplugged Half Marathon and I am looking forward to it! As I’ve said, I’m going to treat it like a workout. My plan is to warm up, ease into the first 2 miles then run at steady state pace until Mile 10. At Mile 10, I’ll try to pick it up if I can. I will be wearing my Garmin to make sure I don’t get over excited and to get a sense of where my fitness is. In my dream world, I would come in under 1:30. In a more realistic world, I’d like to be under 1:32 and feel like I executed a great workout and felt comfortable cruising along.

For the rest of the week, things will be as normal. I start in the SICU tomorrow morning (my last requirement EVER in medical school) and will be back to running at an inhumane hour until I figure out what my schedule looks like.

Spring 2017 Racing Schedule

For many reasons, the last year has not been an optimal one for targeting races. From away rotations to interview travel to surgery, it’s been a whole lot of two steps forward, one step back. On top of that, I didn’t know where we were moving in May, so it was difficult to aim forward at any race. Now that I know we’re heading to Asheville however, I’m ready to plan!

I’m still not able to run a ton without discomfort so I had to adjust Unplugged from a goal race to a workout. I hate running races as workouts. First, I think it’s a cop out that people use. Second, I think that even if you’re not using it as a pre-made excuse, it’s difficult to execute your workout plan and not get caught up in the race. That being said, I’m going to try to make Unplugged a valuable workout although I haven’t decided if I’ll do a progression run or a steady state run.

After that, however, I’ll be gearing up for the Asheville Half in June. What better way to kick off life in my new city!! This is a hilly half and I expect it to be warm, so I’ll be adjusting my training to prepare for the hills and hope that I’ll have enough time to adjust to the heat.

April 8th: Unplugged Half Marathon

April 22nd: Rollin Irish Half Marathon (super hill, muddy race)

April 20th: Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race (Trail 10K)

June 3rd: Asheville Half Marathon

After Asheville, my first task is to adjust to a new town and build a good base and coming up with a training plan that allows me to get good workouts in AND be an intern.

2016 In Review

As cheesy as it is, I enjoy the exercise of looking back over the calendar year. It is a natural time to reflect and reboot which is a valuable process for everyone in every aspect of their life. To start, I reviewed what my goals were for 2016. (Here’s 2015 in review, just for fun…)

  • Gain More Race Experience: Relatively successful numbers-wise and from a diversity perspective. I raced on the track, the trails and the roads and learned some important lessons along the way. My favorite races were the Rivah and the 10,000. My most disappointing race was the Rock’N’Roll Chicago Half Marathon.
  • Continue to Build Strength: Mixed success. I absolutely didn’t do four sessions a week although I did get back into the practice of doing some strength before bed every night (usually squats, core and pushups). I also went on a streak of doing Body Pump this fall which was an excellent improvement until my schedule got busy.
  • Address hip/lower back pain: Nope. I did yoga approximately 8 times this year and whined about my back for the remaining days.
  • Maintain my fitness base: Yes and no. I technically maintained a decent fitness base with a lot of obstacles but I didn’t get near 55 miles per week most weeks this year.

My mileage total for 2016 was 2,216 (42 miles a week). For comparison, 2015 was 2,654 (51 miles a week), 2014 was 2,282 (43 miles a week) and 2013 was 2,303 (44 miles a week).

The other big change for me in 2016 was the incredible opportunity to represent Skechers Performance. The beautiful thing about this partnership is that I get to run in awesome shoes (seriously, you should try them, landing at Skirack in 2017) but that I also get to connect with other Skechers athletes around the country who push (and pull) me. I can’t wait to see how this brand grows in 2017!

I would be remiss to not mention an incredible running moment that had nothing to do with my own running but was an absolutely epic moment. As I talk about all the time, coaching cross country is one of my proudest achievements and although results aren’t ever the only goal, watching my team race their legs off to come in second in Vermont was an unbelievable finish for my coaching career (for now).

Finally, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of you for reading and engaging on this blog. I am always blown away that people care about this blog enough to read and comment and truly hope you know how much I appreciate your support and interest.

What was your 2016 in Review? Have you set goals for 2017 yet?

It Ain’t About How Hard You Hit (Olympic Trials 2020)

It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. 

I’ve talked about it here before although not in great detail, but Philly 2015 and my failure to make the Olympic Trials or even break 1:20 did significant damage to my running soul. I’m still not sure I’ve recovered as evidenced by my lack of…caring during races but I’m starting to feel a bit more life since the 2020 Standards were released this past weekend. The full standard will be 2:45 and opens September 1, 2017, which is what it was relaxed to at the end of the window this past year. The half standard was lowered to 1:13 and doesn’t open til 2018. Aka, I’ll be going for the full standard.

When I asked Will on Sunday if I had a chance, he didn’t miss a beat and said, “without a doubt.” He’s generally pretty honest, so I allowed myself a little hope and even decided that I’ll run the New Bedford Half Marathon this spring as part of an extended build-up. My goal isn’t to PR but to start getting some long distance specificity back. I can’t pick a goal race or even a window yet until I know 1) where I’m doing residency and 2) what my schedule looks like for PGY 1 and 2 but I’m officially putting it out there as a big, scary goal.

Sometimes I forget how far I’ve come in the marathon amidst some disappointments, but here’s my trajectory AND what I’ll need to qualify.

  • City of Oaks 2008 3:17:35 (7:32)
  • Rock’nRoll 2009 Las Vegas 3:15:51 (7:28)
  • Boston Marathon 2011 3:11:18 (7:18)
  • Vermont City Marathon 2012 3:05:33 (7:04)
  • Vermont City Marathon 2013 2:58:28 (6:48)
  • Mohawk Hudson River Marathon 2014 2:54:38 (6:39)
  • Olympic Trials 2020 Standard 2:45 (6:17)

6 marathons, 23 minutes off and a drop in pace of 57 seconds. For a 2:44:30, I’ll need to drop 10 more minutes and 23 seconds per mile. It seems wholly insurmountable now, but we all have to start somewhere, right? I don’t anticipate doing it all in one bite; it seems more realistic to aim to get under 2:50 first and then take the final stab after that.

The Comparison Trap

The other day, one of my girls said, “I’m in a pain hole and I can’t get out!” We spend a lot of time on our team working to push ourselves when you reach that fork in a race where you can either choose to blast through the pain tunnel or stay where it’s safe and (more) comfortable. She excels at getting into the pain tunnel but post-race can be just plain miserable for her; when she crosses the line, that’s all she has and we end up carrying her back to the tent. As much as we giggled about her pain hole comment (and her question about whether she still had arms), I found myself thinking about it this week as I checked my email for the fifteenth time looking for interview invites (for residency), checked an online message board for the interviews others were getting and scrolled through Instagram looking at everyone’s seemingly amazing training and racing posts. I realized that I’m caught in a comparison trap and I can’t get out. 

There’s a saying about never knowing about the rocks that other people carry and I think social media exacerbates this in a way. Despite knowing that social media is highly curated, it’s hard to avoid the creeping sensation that everyone else is running faster, doing more and generally better than you. For me, daily posts by other runners that include phrases like #neverstop #workharder #rundaily don’t inspire me, they discourage me. I’m nowhere near lazy; I’m busy coaching a team, applying to residency, and keeping life going but if I’m not killing my workouts (or even really interested in doing them), I feel like a failure by the time I’ve done my first internet scroll in the morning. I’m not sure what the solution is but I definitely need to start the process of building a ladder or find some teammates to carry me back to the tent to regroup.

How do you react to the comparison trap? Have you tried a social media hiatus? What is it about social media that makes us automatically filter our lives?

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.

Week in Review 7.11.16 to 7.17.16

This week has been an utter whirlwind. Finished in Chicago, ran a half, drove to Charlotte, got stuck in an airport for 14 hours and finally got back to Vermont. 

Monday: 2 by mile at T pace (6:25, 6:24) then 4 x 200 hard. Sweltering heat, the kind that makes the lines on the track blur. 6.1 miles.

Tuesday: 4 mile recovery run. Arms and core after.

Wednesday: Off Day.

Thursday: Quick interval workout of 2 by 400, 2 by 200. Super humid and hot but good prep for Sunday. 5 miles.

Friday: 4 miles easy.

Saturday: 2.5 miles easy.

Sunday: RockNRoll Chicago Half Marathon. 1:26:48 and 16 miles total on the day.

Total Miles: 37.6

I’ll write a full race report soon (probably next week after I get to Asheville and get through this next set of boards) but RockNRoll was not quite what I wanted it to be. It did serve as a good fitness test and will certainly propel me forward but it was frustrating to yet again find myself totally comfortable in the 6:30s with no real ability to pick it up from there.

The next two weeks will be pretty low-key from a training perspective for a few reasons. First, I need a small break from running and to evaluate what pieces of my training need to change. My reaction to a crappy race is always the same: one half of me wants to quit and never run again and the other half is angry and just wants to hammer harder. It’s fine to hammer but I need to take some time to figure out how to hammer smarter. Second, I have another set of medical boards next weekend that crept up on me. This test isn’t quite as big as Step 1 but it’s not one that I can blow off either so I’m spending most of my time studying for that and just keeping active for maintenance. Finally, I’m starting up in Asheville on Sunday and as it always is in a new place, it’s hard to know how the schedule will work.

Rock’N’Roll Chicago!

When I found out I was going to Chicago, the first thing I did was check out the running scene, identify my possible running routes and try to find a race that fit into my schedule. Since I’ll be on Emergency Medicine, my schedule is a little erratic so I didn’t want to sign up for a race that might conflict with a shift. When I found out that the Rock’N’Roll Chicago half was on the weekend after I finish, I sent in an application for an elite entry and crossed my fingers. It might be hot and miserable but I though the opportunity to have something to focus on and to check my fitness was a great one. In awesome news, I got word last night that my application was accepted for July 17th!

Excited for a new skyline next week!

Excited for a new skyline next week!

It’s hard not to go into a race with hopes of a PR but in this case, I’m just hoping for improvement from Plattsburgh and another great race experience where I can work for a top finish next to other fast ladies. It also offers an opportunity to see how my fall might shape up and whether I’m ready to tackle another 26.2.

Week in Review 4.25.16 to 5.1.16

Monday: 3 mile run WAY too fast for taper week.

Tuesday: Combo workout at Waveny. 2 by 5 minutes at tempo, 3 by 1 min hard for 5 miles total

Wednesday: 3.4 mile recovery run, again way too fast.

Thursday: 3 mile run on the treadmill.

Friday: 2 mile shakeout progression. Mini arms workout.

Saturday: 2.5 miles with 2 laps of ins and outs on the track.

Sunday: Plattsburgh Half Marathon, 2nd woman in 1:26:44 on goodness knows what length course. 16 miles total for the day.

Total Miles: 35

Total Miles for April: 170

Definitely suffering from cumulative exhaustion from stress, poor sleep and a lot of travel! I drove 5 hours home on Friday night, to Plattsburgh and back on Saturday for the Expo then drove back to Norwalk after the race this morning. I’m also not being careful about my recovery paces (7:15 for my run on Monday, 7:37 on Wednesday?!) and it’s starting to show up in my race results. I’m not unhappy with my run this morning but I’m definitely lacking gears and some of that is coming from an imbalance in stimulus and recovery.

Just a few more days left in Norwalk and I head home to Burlington and hopefully lock into a more steady routine. I’m also hoping some of my 4th year electives lock in soon so that I can really start to look at the next few months and not have absolutely everything up in the air career wise!

Depending on my call schedule for June, I’m hoping to add in the Freihofer’s Run for Women in Albany on June 4th. This is a race that draws some unbelievable talent and we have the opportunity to race through Skechers. It will take a bit of an effort to get some turnover back in my legs but I’m hoping that with my fitness base, I can turn in a PR effort in 4 weeks.