Category Archives: racing

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.

Week In Review 4.11.16 to 4.17.16

Monday am: 20 minutes on the elliptical to start moving things a bit

Monday pm: 3.37 very pathetic miles. Flats and uphills were fine, downhills were a disaster!

Tuesday: 6.87 miles with 4 by 50 meter striders. Feeling mostly better although left quad still a little sore.

Wednesday: 8.6 miles with 5 by 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, 4 by 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy. Endurance legs and core after. Felt really good once I got going but definitely found some residual soreness after!

Thursday: 5.65 easy.

Friday: 2 mile morning shakeout.

Saturday: 10,000 meters on the track! 39:10, race report to come but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d anticipated. 11 miles for the day.

Sunday: 7 miles really easy at Waveny Park in New Canaan. Beautiful place for a recovery run!

Total Miles: 45

Tricky week to balance recovery and fitness but I think it went okay. I didn’t feel the fatigue from the trail run until about 4 miles into the 10,000 so that was a welcome surprise. Even more exciting is that I’m absolutely loving racing again because everything is so far from my comfort zone, there’s no way to be disappointed!

Back to the grind this week miles-wise, as soon as I’m recovered from Saturday. I’ll be keeping to my tempo/R pace schedule with some fast, quick intervals to work on my efficiency between now and the Plattsburgh half.

Congratulations to all the Boston Marathon runners yesterday! That women’s finish was something else. Ain’t over til it’s over…

Race Report: Merrimack River Trail Race 2016

There aren’t many races that I feel compelled to do every year, but this race was such an exceptional experience, I’m adding it to the list to try to do whenever possible. It was challenging enough to feel like a real accomplishment, fun without gimmick and an experience I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

Short Version: 1:16:20, 12th woman overall.

All smiles post-race. Should have taken a shot of my shoes...yikes.

All smiles post-race. Should have taken a shot of my shoes…yikes.

Long Version:

I got to the race at about 8:00 am and after a quick porto-potty stop, headed out to warm up on the trail and was happy to find that at least the first mile (and thus mile 10) were totally runnable. The first few feet of the course were seriously muddy but then it opened up to dry pine needle or sand trail. I did 2 miles, took my Gu and a couple more sips of coffee then got in line to pee again. This is when I knew the race was going to be a blast. The Race Director, who is clearly a native given that I didn’t hear an “r” uttered all day, started heckling in the porto-potty line that everyone was on a time limit. It cut through the anxiety (although it was a pretty low key crowd) and made me relaxed going into the race. With just a couple minutes to go to the start, I decided to lose my long-sleeve because I was worried about overheating. EXCELLENT call on my part.

I knew the race funneled down to single track quickly, but when I saw the distance between the start line and the trail, I realized it was really quickly. Like 15 feet. I didn’t even bother to position myself near the front and decided I’d just try to get through the start cleanly (fall-wise, mud-wise was a foregone conclusion) and deal with the rest in the first mile. Although we did slow down significantly, I was running free within 30 seconds and didn’t have any trouble with traffic til much later in the race.

Given that I have a 10,000 meter on the track this coming weekend, I tweaked my race plan a bit to make sure that I didn’t totally crush my legs. From my course research, my plan was to tempo effort the first 3 (which were allegedly flat), survive the middle section then tempo effort the last 3. My knowledge of the course profiled was a bit off but I was proud to go through the first two miles in 6:27 and 6:28 and feel in total control. The course got harder in the 3rd mile with some mud and a few bigger hills and my pace dropped to 7:19 while my effort stayed constant. Mile 4 was even harder with hard but manageable climbs and some descents that scared the LIFE out of me. Area of Improvement #1: Learn how to tackle terrifying downhills. Enormous apologies to the guy behind me when I hit the brakes before sliding down the steepest hill I’ve ever attempted to run down. (This would become like the 4th steepest hill I’ve ever run down shortly…) I finished mile 4 in 7:41 and was proud that I was holding my pace. Trail running is fun!

Too soon, Sarah. Mile 5 starts with a bang. And by a bang, I mean a sandy climb called Powerline Hill that necessitates walking and occasionally the use of hands and knees. This is the first time I’ve walked in a race since Junior High and by later in the race, I was kicking myself for ever resisting it. By the time I got to the top of Powerline Hill (incidentally where spectators and cameras were…can’t wait for those photos), I was literally seeing stars and had some moments where I wasn’t sure my legs could go on. Incidentally, I wish I’d had a heart rate monitor on because I’m pretty sure it would have identified my actual max heart rate. I was stumbling over the trail, just trying not to fall down. Of course, what goes up must come down and I started down the other side, just praying I wouldn’t fall down because I was pretty confident I’d never get back up. Just about this time, the lead runners started coming back towards us so we started the game of “get out of the way.” In trying to get out of the way for a group of guys, I rolled my ankle hard enough to make it numb for a couple of miles, which impeded any hope of feeling confident over the terrain. As I made my way towards the turnaround, I realized that it had flattened out again and urged myself to pick it up. Area of Improvement #2: Don’t give up time on easy parts!

I went through the turnaround, was almost caught up to the woman ahead of me when I stepped in serious mud and SQUELSH. Off came my shoe. I had this ridiculous moment where I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do and literally stood there for about 10 seconds considering my options. Once I got it back on, I took off again but had lost sight of her and let my gap ahead of the next woman essentially close. I also realized that I’d forgotten to hit the split on my watch at the turnaround, so decided to just let it run til the mile 6 marker. At the next river crossing, I jumped into mud and SQUELCH again, as my left shoe ripped off. Area of Improvement #3a and 3b: Tie your shoes tighter than you could ever imagine and learn how to deal with river crossings cause clearly, mud isn’t the answer. My split for those two miles? 18:53. Seriously. It was hard…

The return trip over Powerline Hill and the rest of the big hills in mile 7 was much better as I stopped trying to run them and powerhiked them like everyone else around. SO much more comfortable. It was tricky to navigate around runners still heading out but people were incredibly polite and stayed to the side, although I’m sure my flailing arms and sliding feet encouraged some of that. Again, apologies. Rookie. Area of Improvement #4: Know when to hold em, know when to fold em walking wise. Mile 7 passed in 8:07 and I started to think I might just survive this race. Mile 8 was much more runnable although jumping onto bridges on tired legs was a little more sketchy than on the way out. I went through Mile 8 in 7:51 pace and as we hit the flat sections, picked it up to tempo pace, cruising through Mile 9 in 6:59. My last mile is what really made me so fricken proud of myself. As we hit the last mile (which is definitely the easiest in the course), I shifted gears again and worked on quick turnover (a feat in soaked shoes) and pressing onward while keeping things at high tempo effort and came home in a 6:32 last mile, just a couple seconds slower than I went out. I crossed the finish line in 1:16:20 with just the biggest smile. (This may have actually been in my head, I’m not sure what my face looked like…)

Coming into this race, I had hoped to run around 1:10 but after seeing the course, I realize that I was unprepared from a technical (and likely physical) perspective to do so. My downhill running skills are poor and I didn’t do a good job on the way out of managing my energy. All of that is not to indicate any unhappiness with how yesterday went. I’m brand new to trail racing and I’m thrilled to both have such a good experience and to feel pretty normal today, minus very tired quads. I didn’t think I was particular fit going into this race and although I’m clearly not sharp (see, giving up time on flats), my fitness is actually in a good place and I’m excited for the races ahead.

Splits:

Mile 1 6:27

Mile 2 6:28

Mile 3 7:19

Mile 4 7:41

Mile 5/6 18:53

Mile 7 8:07

Mile 8 7:51

Mile 9 6:59

Mile 10 6:32