Category Archives: Race Reports

Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Report – Tiff’s Story

You know Tiff as one of the Cape Island Runners who trained for her first half. She’s has shown up in the blog over the past few months here, here and here.  Like the others, I asked her to send me some race highlights and lessons learned for a quickie update about her day. She sent me the following, which I LOVED and thought to myself “this deserves it’s own entry!”. It is always great fun for me to read about the race from someone else’s perspective, especially someone new to the sport, and I bet you’ll enjoy it too!
In Tiff’s Words:
It all started when I was half drunk, at Sushi Ukai (ed note: sooo good! a favorite for our local bird crew).
Me: “I think I want to run a half marathon.”
Kashi: “Run Philly with us! We’re all doing Philly- it’s in 11 weeks, it’s a 10 week training plan.” And on and on and on she went about it. If you know Kashi, you know what I mean.
What did I say to her? “Yes!” And that was that.
The  next day I was perfectly aware of what I had said, though I somewhat questioned my level of sanity at the time of my agreement. I had been running about 3 miles, several times a week, for the last two months or so. I used to run cross country and track in middle school, and my freshman year in high school, but hadn’t run since.
The first several weeks of training were great- and I always had Scott or Kashi to accompany me on my long runs. I ran my first race in 10 years- the 5 mile Cape May Beach Front Run- with my friend Diane (ed note: we miss you Diane! Hope to see you back in action this spring!) , and with Scott as our coach, running backwards and barefoot and trying to entertain us through our suffering.
Two weeks before the race, while 6 miles in to a 12 mile run, my knees started giving me trouble. I pushed through it until mile 10 and decided my body would truly appreciate it if I would stop. I limped around for the next day or two. The third day, I ran about 3 miles, no problem. All better, I thought! I was wrong…
Scott and I set out on an 8 mile run around Cape May City. About 4 miles in, we kicked up our pace from 10:30 miles to 10:00 miles. Mile five came along, and my knee started feeling a little tight again. I paused for a minute, bringing each of my knees, one after another, towards my chest for a gentle stretch. As soon as I put my foot down, I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t run, let alone walk. Scott left me and ran home and sent Sam to go pick me up.
I went to see a sports therapist and it turned out I was having problems with my ITB, and was instructed not to run until the race, a week away. He promised me- *promised* that I would be okay for the race as long as I was foam rolling (the most painful thing I have ever intentionally done to myself in all of my life thus far), and stretching has he had shown me.

Race day. First half marathon. First time ever running more than 11 miles. Deep breath. Okay. 4:45 am.  I get dressed in about three layers (Note to self: Do not forget BodyGlide!!! Check.), stick my GU Chomps in my bra, attempt to eat a hearty breakfast (the only thing I could manage to force down was a banana and half a Clif bar), go pee, walk 10 minutes to my friend’s car on South Street, get dropped off at the Sofitel Hotel to meet Kashi, Glen, Scott and Sherry, go pee, retie my shoes, walk as a group to the race area, eat a bit of dry cereal that Kashi had brought along, check my bag, convince myself there is no possible way I really have to pee, stretch, stare in awe at the most people I’ve ever seen in one place in my life, retie my shoes again, thank myself for putting my hair up with two hair ties instead of one in case heaven forbid one would break, convince myself once again that I don’t have to pee, try to find my corral, attempt to find a pace group (I’m glad I failed at finding it, because in hindsight, running with a pace group sounds like a pretty miserable existence for someone new to running), chat it up with some folks from Tom’s River whose homes did not get destroyed. The gun goes off (well, apparently, though I never heard it). 22:30 later, we are crossing the start line.
Half a mile in, my knee is already giving me grief, albeit very subtle. I immediately gave up my time goal, and just aimed to finish. A mile and a half in, I opened my Chomps- or should I say attempted to open them, because instead, they went flying across the pavement, my nerves still on edge. I turned around and bent down, barely avoiding a near-miss collision with a man behind me. I explained it was my first real race; he sympathized.  My first few miles were 11 minutes+.  I was able to convince myself that my knee pain was only in my head.
Mile 3, I met up with a group of guys laughing and talking and having a good old time, and conveniently keeping the same pace as I. Turns out they were Stone Harbor police. I was making small talk with them, and the very next thing I knew, I was all paws on the floor. Yep, no clue what I tripped on, and pretty sure it was nothing, but I did think one of the guys was pretty cute, so I’ll blame it on that. Dan, if you ever stumble across this, THANKS. I hardly missed a beat and was up and running in one or two graceful steps, quick enough to continue my conversation with Dan. We even had an insightful conversation about divorce. I ran with the cops until mile 8, when I left them in the dust.
Mile 9 was a tough one with the (relatively) hilly terrain- but mile 10- when I hit mile 10- I was shocked at what I discovered! I did the math and as it turned out, although I had abandoned it long ago, it wasn’t out of the question for me to finish within my original time goal of 2:20! Let’s do this! I was rejuvenated. Well, for the next two miles at least.
Mile 12 on was rough. My ITB was giving me lots of grief, and I was terrified it was going to freeze up as it had in my training run, leaving me incapacitated. I pushed through, and tried to think positive. Another half mile, and I knew I had it. Maybe it was a slight case of delirium, but I seemed to feel another adrenaline rush coming on. I was completely in disbelief and all I could think was the fact that I had never run this far before! This was the farthest I’d run in my entire LIFE! The crowds grew and I knew the finish was near. I rounded a bend and saw the finish clock. 2:41:00 minus 22:30….minus….minus….I could barely do the math, I was so in the zone, but sometime between seeing the finish line and approaching the finish line I realized that I was about to meet my time goal.
I finished my first half marathon, though afterwards nearly unable to walk, with a time of 2:19:41, and I cannot wait to complete another!
Congrats, Tiff, and here’s to many more!!

What was your first half-marathon like?
Will you do another?

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Philadelphia Marathon – Race Recaps from CIR!

Read my Philadelphia Marathon Race Report here! Now, picking up at the finish line…

Post-race: I crossed the line and the tidal wave of emotion I have come to expect but am never fully prepared for washed over me. I shuffled in a daze to get my medal and as he placed it over my head, the ugly, heaving tears started. I had done it! I did not get my 3:49, but I had gotten a PR, I had run an evenly split race and I had done it despite this daggone pain in my groin!   Granted, I could barely walk since my quads and groin were so tight, but no matter, I had done it! Just as I was focusing in on the pain and wishing I was with someone I knew, Sherry and Scott found me! We hugged and compared race notes. They’d had a tougher go of it,  and we soothed some of our raw feelings with chicken soup, which can pretty much solve any problem.

Me soaking up the LaBree love! Thanks for the post-race chatting guys!

I was anxious to see GD  but that anxiety did not translate into speed as my legs were flat out refusing to move at anything faster than a shuffle. We started to walk towards where I knew my family was, but only made it halfway before I tried to call Lil Sis to tell her to come to us – we could go no further. As the phone was ringing, I suddenly saw she and Kat walking towards us!! Yay!! Her laughter filled the air and started to revive me! Sherry and Scott headed off to retrieve warm clothes from the bag check and our merry band headed off towards the rest of the family. Laur told me that GD had a GREAT race and my heart soared!! That was all I wanted to for him and it looks like that wish came true too! I came upon him as he was looking for the other Scott, hoping to cheer him in on his final leg, and when he turned around to meet my eyes, his trademark smile was bigger than ever!!

Oh yes, there was no mistaking it,  GD had had a very good day! He regaled me with tales of his race – how he felt better than he expected, how it went by so fast,  how he inexplicably bumped into a childhood friend at Mile 8 that we did not even know was running (what are the chances among 20,000 people of seeing her??) and ran for a few miles with her!

So let’s hear from the other Cape Island Runners (LaBrees I am counting you among our numbers – don’t worry, CIR is only a litttle cultish. Here, rehydrate with this Kool-Aid) about their races! I asked Sherry, Scott, GD, Tiff and Scott for their highlights, lowlights/lessons learned and future race plans. Here is what they had to say:

That’s me and Sherry under that heap of mylar!

Sherry

Race Highlight:  I have to be completely honest.  The highlight of my race wasn’t the race itself (this wasn’t a great race for me), but rather every single event surrounding the race.  From the pre-race dinner at Kashi’s house, meeting new friends, snuggling up in a Cape May bed & breakfast, living it up in a lux hotel for two nights… and then downing way too many Insomnia cookies post-race.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a better marathon weekend!  Delightful from start to finish!
Lessons Learned:  More is not always better.  I pushed hard during my training cycle and I paid the price on race day.  When I completed my first marathon in 2011 (also Philly), I made note of that fact that I ran a very good first marathon (3:53) on rather low mileage and only one 20-mile run.  I ran 5 days per week during that cycle and included a weekly medium-long run and just a touch of pace work.  I felt fresh and ready to go at the start of that race and ran very strong all the way through to the finish line.  For my second marathon (Wisconsin 2012), I stuck with the lower training volume, but upped the intensity just a bit by incorporating more pace work and ran my way to my current marathon PR.  This training cycle, I upped the ante… all around.  Six days per week, more mileage, more long runs, more threshold work, more pace work… more everything.  When I toed the line, I was tired.  I felt like I needed another week of taper.  There is this notion in “pure” running circles, that you can’t run a good marathon unless you are putting in a lot of volume.  For me, this doesn’t hold true. I’ve learned that with both the marathon and with long-course triathlon, I actually seem to perform better when I utilize a more low to moderate volume approach and add in intensity.
FutureRace Plans:  I’m taking on Disney’s Goofy Challenge in January 2012 as a fun, no-pressure event (ed note: this is a half-marathon on a Saturday, marathon on a Sunday – and not a Sunday far in the future, but literally 24 hours later!).  After that, it’s all about Ironman Florida 2013.  I’ve taken almost a 2 year break from long course triathlon and I’m excited to get back to it.  I’ll probably do a half marathon sometime in February and then a few low-priority triathlons during my Ironman build.  I plan to revisit the marathon distance in 2014 with a trip to the “Florida friendly” Chicago Marathon.
Obvi not from the race. I stole this from FB because it shows what great shape he is in, but also because you can tell how nice he is from that smile!

Obvi not from the race. I stole this from FB because it shows what great shape he is in, but also because you can tell how nice he is from that smile!

Scott
Race Highlight: Course PR!  I also really enjoyed hanging out with everyone before and after the race.

Lessons Learned: Don’t stop and pee!  That course PR could have been a half-marathon PR.
Future Race Plans: I’ll be doing the Goofy Challenge in January and then I’ll move into training for Ironman Florida.  The wife is thinking about doing the Chicago Marathon in 2014 and I think I might jump onboard for that one.

GD

Race Highlight – My answer to that would be the whole thing in that I felt great the entire time and obviously I just loved the cheering, the music, the 20 people in costumes and cross-dressed. And of course seeing Emily and her friend Kari at Mile 8!

Lesson Learned: Don’t drink too much Gatorade! (ed note: GD *might* have puked a bit at the finish and the official race pics *might* have captured some of this – and I would add that Nip Guards really work, nary a bloody nipple in sight!)

Future Race Plans:  Yeah, run a marathon next year (ed note: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I have no questions for you today, I am too busy being insanely excited that GD wants to tackle to the marathon!!!!! Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PS Stay tuned for Tiff’s report on Monday – I asked her the same questions and she sent me back a fully formed race report that I think deserves it’s own post – you’ll love the blow-by-blow from a newbie!

PPS I have not heard from the other Scott yet but will add his if I do! And can we take a minute to enjoy the Mars vs Venus thing we are rocking here – all the girls gave super long, detailed answers and the boys were short and sweet!

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Race Report – Philadelphia Marathon 2012

Disclaimer: I know this shiz is long, but I write these more for myself than anyone else so I can refer to them in the future to help me remember what worked and what didn’t. Apologies for the length, feel free to just check out this post  if you prefer short and sweet. Then again, if you are a marathoner, you probably don’t – so here’s the long and dirty version!

Pre-Race: I woke up Saturday morning with an ominous pain in my upper right groin.  Chalking it up to phantom race pains I went about my day, but this little poltergeist made itself at home, unpacked its bags and set up shop. It was clear by day’s end it was here to stay. I had a mini-meltdown in our hotel room that night, but pulled myself out of it through a combination of pep talks from Lil Sis and GD and by remembering that one of my race goals was a well-executed race, to “assess the situation and move on despite whatever obstacle is thrown in my way”. So I treated it like an obstacle and made a plan to get up and over it. This included a good meal (pasta with chicken and red sauce at Maggiano’s, a hot bath and good night’s sleep at Sofitel, highly recommend this hotel) and an attitude adjustment from “oh, no!” to “oh, yes!”.

Toasty warm at the start with Sherry and Tiff!

Pre-Gun: Woke up bright and early and started getting ready – this included a trip to Sherry’s hotel room for some Tylenol and Voltaren gel , eating a bagel, taking a shower and running around like a chicken about to run a marathon with GD – this was the first time we were both getting ready for a race and it added a new level of chaos that I was not expecting. We finally got our bibs and GUs and throwaway clothes and Garmins and extra toilet paper and last minute snacks and tumbled out into the pre-dawn air. Due to said chicken running and extra layers, I was downright hot on the way to the start line, no need for chemical hand and foot warmers today. It wasn’t too cold, it wasn’t windy, it was clear and it was perfect! We chatted nervously and followed the sea of humanity to the mouth of the river – the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Upon arriving, we all needed to tend to our own pre-race tasks and split up. Saying good-bye to your compatriots right before a race is akin to going off to war (well, more like video game war since no one is in any actual danger)– you send them off with high hopes and steal yourself for your own battle. It’s suddenly just you and the clock and when you walk alone to your corral, the whole thing starts to feel very, very real.

Miles 1-5: I was in the green corral, which went off 12-ish minutes after gun time. We shuffled to the start line (as is always the case in large races – no room to run yet!) and crossed the mat among a cacophony of Garmin beeps. I was scanning the sidelines for my parents – my dad saw me but I was not so lucky to see him. Once we got up near Willy Penn, I knew that I would not be seeing them ‘til Chestnut and turned my attention to the task at hand – running this mother! I am a slow starter and that is pretty much what everyone is in Mile 1 of a marathon is, but my goal this time was to run a more evenly paced race. When I saw 9:17 for the first mile, I was pleasantly surprised since Mile 1 is usually closer to 10:00 for me. Although I had aways to go to get to race pace (I was hoping for 8:45s), I also had aways to make it happen! I used these early miles to dial into my pace and get into the right head space. I also paid my respects, as I am apt to do during a race, to all these other people who were all out here for their own reasons but sharing my same goal of completing a marathon on this bright, beautiful morning. Go, strangers!

Thank you Canada, I mean Kat, for your support! Kat, I hoped you also high-fived the girl in blue behind me, she looks like she wishes she had some friendly blue gloves to slap.

Miles 6-10: This is one of my favorite stretches of any race, ever. The beginning is along Chestnut Street, which is jam packed with spectators. It was here I saw my favorite race sign: “Nate Silver predicts you have a 100% chance of kicking this race’s ass”. I gave lots of high fives and just like clockwork saw my family + Kat at Mile 6.5, where they always are. It is great to have this kind of history with the race – I always know where to find them even without coordinating beforehand. Seeing them gave me a boost (ran that mile 7 seconds faster than the two that bookended it) but there was one noticeable difference– no GD! Today he was out there running his own race and I got a little choked up thinking about him, fighting his own battle. I made do with the “ghost of races past GD” and pictured him running down the sidewalk yelling “Go, Kashi!!” as he is wont to do, which made me smile as much as always.  I also noticed that since I was working harder than usual, the crowds in the narrow streets and tight turns bothered me more than when I am just cruising. I thought “Move it, people! Kashi train coming through!” wayyy more than normal (where normal =  never)! The rest of this section included an awesome drum circle near the zoo bridge, the big hill at mile 9 and the big downhill after 🙂 I enjoyed this section immensely, I thought about GD a lot, everything in Kashiland was solid and I was pretty happy with my splits. I felt like I was on track for at least doing a stronger first half than usual.

The amazing cheer zone at Mile 11! (source)

Miles 11-15: Mile 11 brought my favorite cheer zone, which is the group dressed in crazy, tight, colorful costumes dancing to songs like “2 Legit 2 Quit” . I love these guys and look forward to them every year. This year there seemed to be more kids in their contingent than usual, so am wondering if they are indoctrinating as the next generation of Philly spectators – yeah, Philly 2022!!

One thing marathons have taught me is that the good times don’t last forever and by Mile 12, I started having some serious groin pain. I think the hills and the cambered roads took their toll – it was funny because it seemed that one minute I was barely aware of it and the next it was all I could feel.  I used Scott Jurek’s 4-step checklist (more on this in a later post) and allowed myself a mini-pity party before moving on and assessing what the situation was and what could be done about it. I thought to myself “ the situation is that my groin FUCKING HURTS AND THIS SUCKS!” This made me laugh and then I thought “Ok, but what can I do about it?”. I decided that I would keep going, consider stopping if it got (much) worse and would reward myself with some Tylenol at Mile 16, assuming I made it that far (ok, let’s be honest – I was finishing this sucker come hell or high water so it was more a matter of how I would finish – running or dragging my sorry self across the line ). I got through the halfway point at 1:57:25. At Chicago in 2009, I ran through the half in 2:02:54 so I consoled myself that even if the wheels came off now, I managed to accomplish my goal of running a faster first half. This thought propelled me through the next few miles, which are hard mentally because you have so much to go and if you run at my pace, you are already seeing the elites come back with mere minutes until their pain ends. I cheered as they passed and plowed on.

Miles 16-20: I dreaded these miles when envisioning the race beforehand, thinking they would be the hardest of the lot. You still have many miles ahead of you, yet plenty already completed so that if you are giving an honest effort, the fatigue is beginning to set in. Plus, you know it is only going to hurt more from here on out. But a funny thing happened on the way to my S&M party – it never got that bad! This is where I think the ultra training really came in handy. I knew when I got to mile 19, we would be in Manayunk and there would be eye candy galore. So I really only had to get through 5 hard miles (14-19) and honestly, that did not seem too bad! My groin continued to make a fool of itself by hooting and hollering and causing all manner of ruckus in my body, but importantly, it was not getting worse. I popped Tylenol in Mile 18 (just before a nasty climb in this weird extension of the course), paused my music to listen to the Rocky theme they were blaring and pressed on.  Manayunk provided just the atmosphere I needed and I enjoyed it as always – the beer guys, the drummer guy and the party it always is buoyed my already high spirits. At the turnaround, I thought back to when Lis Sis and I ran this race in 2005 and at this same spot she looked at me and said “Let’s go home!”. She said it to me again in my mind’s eye and I thought “Yes, let’s!”.

Almosssst there!!

Miles 21-26.2:  Still waiting for that Tylenol to kick in! Nope, no such luck, did not notice any improvement. I tried to tell myself, “well, imagine how much worse it would feel if you did not take it!” but that thought brought no relief, so I abandoned it 🙂 I was distracted briefly by seeing Lisa as I was leaving Manayunk , which was super exciting! My body was feeling tired, but oddly all my pain was in my groin and quads. Usually by this point my hammies, ankles and feet are crying uncle, but they stayed Jersey Strong the whole race. I decided this was a plus to running with an injury – you are so focused on it that you don’t feel anything else. During this stretch  you start seeing carnage on the side of the road – people crying, people stretching, people cajoling their various body parts, making all sorts of promises they won’t keep to convince their bodies to solider on.  I silently sent good vibes to them and moved on, clicking off the miles on my fingers. Throughout the race, I had been looking for the runners I knew, scanning the faces of the people running in the opposite direction of me. It was in this section that I ran out of energy to even do that. Instead I channeled Lisa and thought of how she tells us to “look straight ahead and run your line”. I did just that, locked inside my own world while surrounded by thousands of others.

I watched as my pace slowed and it is this point in the race that I am really proud of. I am used to negative splitting, so the late miles are often my fastest. Watching my splits go in the wrong direction was tough, but instead of beating myself up about it, I just told myself not to give up. I was running as hard as I was capable of and decided that as long as I was doing that, I’d call it a success. I told myself that I was running slower than usual because I ran a faster than normal first half and that it was a good thing. I hit Mile 25, always my nemesis mile, and felt good. Buuut about halfway through it I started feeling terrible, which my split shows! Damn you, Mile 25! Moving past that, I could see the art museum and again marveled at how one little mile can feel so incredibly long. The crowds began to thicken and usually I’d hit pause on the music to listen to their cheering,  but I kept my laser focus straight ahead and let Mumford and Sons lead me home. Every muscle in my quads was begging for me to stop and the rest of my body was starting to agree that this would be a very, very good idea. I turned up my music even louder and drowned out these thoughts, concentrating only on putting one foot in front of the other. Coming down the last stretch, I heard my family yelling for me, which was the sweetest sound in the world! I had the mental acuity to notice that Mayor Nutter was handing out high-fives and made my way over to him to claim my prize! Yes, Mayor Nutter, I did just PR by 4 minutes, I did just run an evenly split race and I did not give up!!! I will take that high-five, thank you very much!!!

Post-race: This monster of a post is already too long, so I am saving this section for another day 🙂

Nutrition: Nailed it! Pre-race I ate a cinnamon raisin bagel and sipped about 11 ounces of water. During the race I had 3 GUs (PB, Lemon Sublime and Mint Chocolate), taken on the :45 and :05 of each hour (1/2 packet each time), just as I’d practiced. I drank a full cup of water at every other water stop and had 3 cups of Gatorade in there as well (1 in first half, 2 in second). My stomach mostly accepted the Gatorade with little grumbling, which was a plus.  In the finisher’s chute, I had a cup of Gatorade which made my stomach grouchy and a cup of chicken broth (which continues its reign of best post-race food EVER!) which calmed it back down. About 3 hours later I had a turkey sandwich. It takes my tummy some time to get back to normal after a long run and I wasn’t really hungry the rest of the day, but I made myself eat just the same. Thanks Whole Foods!

Splits:

First Half –       9:17, 8:40, 8:43, 8:51, 8:48, 8:41, 8:48, 8:51, 8:36, 8:44, 8:52, 8:44, 8:51

Second Half – 8:50, 8:36, 8:47, 8:50, 9:15, 8:47, 8:58, 8:45, 8:49, 8:50, 8:46, 9:03, 8:56

.51 – 8:21 (pace, time was 4:13)

Chip Time: 3:54:05 for 26.2, 8:55 pace

Garmy Time: 3:51:xx for 26.2, 3:54:03 for 26.51,8:49 pace

Final thoughts:  Although I did not get my 3:49 (that was my super duper time goal), I did manage to get everything else right, which means this day was a winner! Nutrition and hydration were perfect, I got close to my goal pace and I ran a smart, even race. I pushed through the groin injury, mentally and physically. Is it the smartest thing to run on a pulled/strained muscle? No. Am I saying you should do the same? Nope. Am I saying it was the right decision for me that day, given how much races mean to me and how depressed I would be with a DNS versus the downtime I would need to recover from it? Absolutely.

When thinking ahead to future marathons (which started for me the minute I high-fived the Mayor), I think I might try a tougher plan. While I enjoyed the Runner’s World Intermediate Plan and feel it had me well prepared for what I did, I know I can do more. I am ready to do more. So bring it on!

How cute are these guys? Go Cape Island Runners!

Stay tuned for a post-race entry to find our how Sherry, Scott, GD, Scott and Tiff made out!

How was your fall race?

What are some lessons you have learned during races?

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Spectating Report – Atlantic City Marathon

Yesterday morning dawned bright and clear, just like the OCNJ half-marathon a few weeks ago. If there is a better time in the northeast to run at the shore than fall, I certainly have not met it! I made my way up the Parkway  for the Atlantic City Marathon to watch my friend Kat run her first marathon. And by watch, I mean horn in on the action and run some with her! I had 8 miles on my schedule and since I find it near impossible to watch a race without wanting to run it, I was super excited when Kat accepted my offer to run with her for a portion of the course. Our plan was for me to meet her at Mile 14… but before we hooked up, there was plenty of action:

The sky was a brilliant blue, birds were migrating and some late monarchs were too! Temps in the upper 50s and breeze that was not too stiff all added up to a perfect day for runners and spectators.

Speaking of spectators, here are two of Kat’s! They made shirts that said “Kat’s Krew. If you don’t get a runner’s high, there is always Plan B!” with a picture of a cat slurping down a cold brew 🙂

Lil sis and Mary Beth in a rare moment of non-cheering. The start and the ~9 mile marker were in the same place so there was some downtime waiting for runner’s to come back. After that, they were all business! In the meantime, they regaled me with tales of their dating adventures. Pineapple!

The shirts were super cute, but my favorite crew accessory were the signs Mary Beth made. Not only were they hilarious and heartfelt, but also numerous! We could swap out new ones every so often and I know the runners and fellow spectators loved them, since some asked to take pics of them and they also ended up on Twitter.

Click to enlarge. Other favorites were “You have stamina, call me!”, “I am a stranger but I am SO proud of you!” and “It wasn’t easy getting up and making this sign, either!”

A major player of Kat’s Krew, maybe even the krewiest of the bunch, was Jeff. He was uber mobile on his bike and because of it was able to provide Kat with GU, fresh gum, music and water when she needed it most and us with laughs (foreshadowing!).

Jef brought me to tears on multiple occasions because of his dedication to helping Kat. Yes, I am always a weepy mess at marathons, that shit gets me every time!

Kat! Kat!Kat! Kat!Kat! Kat!Kat! Kat!Kat! Kat! (We re-purposed Meg’s fancy “Scott, Scott…Scott!” cheer for Kat and it was a raging success yet again. You can’t beat that one, lol!)

We got our first look at Kat around Mile 9! She looked strong and happy and I high-fived her and then high-tailed it to our meeting spot at the 14th mile water station. I made it there  about 15 minutes before she arrived. I knew I would warm up once we got going, but the windy locale was making me cold, so I put on gloves and a sweatshirt that I figured I would shed once we got rolling. I spotted Kat and started running with her. I am sure she knew right away she was in good hands when I struggled for a good block trying to get the sweatshirt off my head while still moving ,lol.

I seriously could not get that damn sweatshirt off! I blame the visor.

Kat and I logged a few blocks with another Krew member, Noel, which was cool because I had heard so much about her (and vice versa) it was like we had already knew each other well! Shortly after, we bumped into more Krew and mini-Krew members! This group was awesome because they made it their mission to see Kat as much as possible on the course and kept driving to new locations. Every so often we’d turn a corner and there they’d be! Major props for their roving spectating skills!

As we chugged along into the late teen miles, the course was starting to take its toll on Kat, as marathons are apt to do. She faced a few issues, so let’s talk about them for a minute because one of the best things about race reports is learning from other’s experiences! The first issue was that the course was getting boring. Like, really boring. This happens on almost every marathon course (though Melissa, who was running through the redwoods out west on the very same day, may beg to differ!) and it is helpful to review a course beforehand so that you know what to expect and when you might falter. For example, I knew on the ultra that the miles on Rt. 347/47 were going to be monotonous and blah. They definitely were, but I was prepared for them to be so, and I think that makes it a little easier to handle. You just tell yourself that you knew this was going to happen and to go on autopilot and plow through them.

Secondly, Kat was not feeling as good as she hoped at this point and not as good as she had felt during training runs at the same distance. This can happen for many reasons – some days we are just “off”, sometimes our training took too much out of us (Bart Yasso talks about people peaking on their longest training run and still recovering from that during a race) and sometimes it is easier to feel good at mile 17 of a 20 miler (3 miles to go) than a 26.2 miler (9.2 to go – a big difference!). It is why I employ my mental fake-outs of pretending my training runs are longer than they are. At these low points, you must have tricks up your sleeve to handle whatever is coming your way. Practice, practice, practice during training the speeches you are going to give yourself when things go a little haywire out on the course.

The other option to help deal with tough miles is to have your Krew tangle with course paraphernalia.  Jeff was apparently concerned that his assurances to Kat that she would make it were enough, so he decided to switch it up with some physical comedy. As we made our turn to get back on the boardwalk, Jeff’s chain became BFF’s with the yellow tape marking the course. The giant orange barrel didn’t want to be left out, so it too joined the party and before long, Jeff was all wrapped up in both. After ensuring no one was hurt, I took a break from my laughing fit to capture this moment:

22 miles came and went and I told Kat I could stop or stay with her. When she said “stay”, I nearly jumped for joy! After some hard miles, I knew more were in front of her. But I also knew she was going to beat this monster and I wanted to be there when she did! The boardwalk miles were tough and our girl was getting really thirsty. Jeff decided to bike ahead to the next water station and returned with the nectar of the marathon gods – a huge amount of cool water!!

Success!!

I think Kat enjoyed that jug of water more than any other jug of water in her life. And there have been many, lol.

We saw her parents and when her dad ran with us for a few steps with his homemade sign about cold beer and warm pizza, I teared up (shocker! But seriously, how cute are parents?!?).  She ticked off the miles and after countless people saying “you are almost there!” to which she would say “No, i’m not!”, the end was finally REALLY in sight. Note to spectators – unless the finish line literally within steps, don’t tell runners that they are almost there! I know in your mind that 24 of 26.2 miles completed seems like it is “almost there”, but take my word for it – to a runner in pain, those last two miles might as well be as far away as the moon.

She made her final push to the finish line and Kat’s Krew welcomed her back in style – screaming at the top of their lungs, holding up their signs, dancing around in all their green Krew-y glory, they gave her that last burst she needed to make it home!

I usually don’t go through a finish chute for a race I bandit, but I just wanted to be there ’til the end with her! I was hooping and hollering and crying (uh-huh, again) – just SO SO PROUD of this woman and the race she had run!

Jeff and I crashed the runner’s-only section to be the first to congratulate our girl. Sure, in the picture below it looks like Jeff is proposing, but in reality he is doing something even better for a lady after her race – a calf massage!

Kat’s Krew tracked her down and spent a little time doing the post-race breakdown that is one of my favorite parts of a run! We got some Gatorade in her, had her lick salt off pretzels and all basked in the warm glow of her moment.

A huge benefit to running this race is the ocean that is steps from the finish line. Kat dove right in, surely soothing her screaming muscles, and enjoyed her victory over the 26.2 mile beast.

I loved every step of that run with her. She ran with me during my ultra and it felt so, so good to get the chance to be her support crew this time around.  I won’t ever forget the look of concentration and determination in her eyes as she battled her internal struggle and kept moving forward when every muscle in her body was begging her to stop. She and I were texting this morning and she wrote, “I’m already thinking about my next run. Am I addicted?!”. Yes, yes you are. Welcome to the marathon family!

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Race Report – 2009 Chicago Marathon

I watched the Chicago marathon live online this morning (new course record! Dathan runs strong!Ladies photo finish!) and it brought me back to when I ran three years ago (how did time go so fast??!!). Since I had no blog to post it to then, I figure I would put it out there now, so that I will have it to refer to in future and don’t lose it somewhere in the wilds of my hard drive 🙂

Thanks for my bib, super nice mid-western lady!

Ahhh, foreshadowing

Race Morning: I woke up at 5:40 feeling really good and ate some oatmeal and dry cereal. I looked at the weather and saw it was not going to get out of the 40s for the whole race (and in reality, it never got out of the mid-30s, plus a stiff breeze) so wore capris, a tank and long sleeved technical shirt, plus sweatpants, hoodie sweatshirt, hat and gloves to shed at start line. I met Laur and Mike at 6:45 and kissed GD good bye (he was forgoing the race start to get to our first meeting place in time). We headed out to a rising sun on a gorgeous but COLD Chicago morning. The air was filled with anticipation as hundreds of people from our and surrounding hotels worked their way like little ants to the starting line (I would love to see an aerial picture of this one day). We were cozy warm in our extra clothes and both ate a little something (eng muff for me) and used the no-line, sparkly clean port a potties (nice!). We headed to the open corral but by the time we got there at 7:15 and they were closed. We jumped the fence with the other latecomers,  and tried to line up with the 4:15 pace group that Laur signed up with the day before. I figured I would run with her for the first few miles ( I am a slow starter, that is what works best for me!) and then strike out on my own when I was ready. We ate some sports beans and started stripping around 7:20. It was kinda warm standing in the sea of humanity so not too bad! All we could see was people throwing their clothes in the air to get them to the sides, so we followed suit. I threw my hat away and put on my visor, which is something I would soon regret.

Race: The starting horn blared promptly at 7:30 and we were off!! … ok, not off. We did a slow shuffle  to the start line – took us about 15 mins to get there! It was good I was planning on going out slow, cause there were too many people to do anything but.  The sights were awesome- the beginning was downtown and the buildings against the blue sky was great and the smells of baked goods was in the air. Yum! Laur and I hung together for about 2.5 miles and then with a hand squeeze and good “lucks”, we parted ways. It was bittersweet and I thought about her a lot the rest of the race.

Next we headed into a really nice neighborhood and to where GD and I were supposed to meet the first time, but he was not there. I was disappointed, but I had prepared myself that seeing him would be icing and not to worry if we did not. At this point it was starting to be obvious that water stations were going to be a major bottleneck. They had one almost every mile and they really slowed you down if you were just trying to pass through. The amount of people walking, crossing to get to water (I got one major elbow to the gut that tweaked me out for a sec) and cups/slippery surface on ground all slowed me down 😦

Next was a neighborhood where there were talented cross-dressers entertaining us! They were fantastic and so were the crowds through this whole area (miles 8-10). I got stuck behind a pace group for a little while – they were like a wall that you could not get through- but finally got around them. GD and I were supposed to meet up around Mile 10, but again, I did not see him.

At this point, I was a little nervous because it was becoming clear I did not eat enough that morning. It is never a good sign when you feel actual hunger while racing! I had extra GUs with me and they gave some out on the course, so I upped my intake of them. I also took some Gatorade, which is something I did not train with on this cycle. I did not want to introduce something new to my system, but also knew that I was going to need the calories and sugars. So I had the Garotade and the expected stomach cramps that followed.  I knew that my belly was just cranky and I did not need to stop – I just had to wait it out for 10 or so minutes and then was ok again. Whew! I think that the major issue was the cold. I literally never warmed up the entire race. I have Raynaud’s, so my hands are susceptible to cold to begin with, and even with gloves they were slow moving and it was hard to open the GU’s. I really wish I still had that hat on and I never took off the gloves or long sleeved (bummer since my bib and name were only on my tank – so unlikely to find any race photos) or felt in the least bit sweaty. An unexpected fortunate thing that happened was that my butt muscles never got too painful. They have not been happy since the Great Urban Race, but on race day they threw me a bone and stayed at a very low pain level.

At this point we were quickly approaching the halfway mark and I was getting concerned about my time, although I was happy with my race so far. My first goal was to beat my old time (4:19), and second was to hit the low 3:50s and not over 3:55. As I crossed the half and saw that I was at 2:02 I knew I had my work cut out for me! I am a negative split kind of girl naturally but I had hoped to be no later than 1:58/59 at the half. But with the water slow downs, the cold and the people to dodge I was also happy with it  given the conditions. I was feeling very good, relaxed and was ready to pick it up and get serious. My race plan was to steadily drop from 9 min miles in the first half (this did not happen, ran slower) to 8:45s through Mile 20 and then just let it go for the last 6 the best I could. I turned on my music and promptly ran an 8:29 mile! Doh!!  I calmed down and started focusing in and getting into that race mindset. I was working 8:38-8:40s for much of the time, but my splits were higher because of those damn aid stations! I just accepted that this was the price to pay for the big race and great spectators and kept going. I was supposed to see GD around Mile 15, but no dice again. I was giving up hope of seeing him, but around Mile 19 I suddenly heard “KAAAAASHI!!!” and he ran up to me! I was soo happy to see him!! Getting around the town was harder than we thought it would be, and we did not really know the course well enough to have planned it out just right. Some of the train stations were further from the course then we thought, and he got stuck on the wrong side of the course once and the timing just did not work out. But thanks to the text runner updates he knew I was coming to the spot he was at and just waited for me. I really needed the pick me up of seeing him so it was a wonderful, albeit quick, reunion. I gave him a kiss and he gave me water and off I went!

I hit the Mile 20 mark feeling tired, but the right kind of tired. I knew I was giving the effort I was able to give and felt good about the last 6 miles. My time was getting into the right neighborhood to break 4 and that gave me a little kick. Unfortunately, I also could still tell that the tank was not as full as it needed to be.  Took some more GU and Gatorade (helllooo stomach cramps) and tried to enjoy the breast cancer awareness section and Chinatown, both were awesome! By mile 23 I was still really cold and was happy  the race was almost over  because it was going to come down to the wire whether I would hit the wall or the finish line first! I always, always have my strongest, fastest miles at the end of a training run or race but by the time I got to this point I was running around 8:45’s in the open so I knew my body was wearing down fast. Garmy was registering that I had run about .2 miles more than the race course, so I was hitting the mile laps on my watch before I was hitting the markers, which was tough mentally because I knew I would have to go 26.4 on the watch before it was over.

I was nervous for mile 24 because this was the one that hurt the most in Philly 2005 and damn if it was not the same thing here! I just wanted to be done so badly! But I plowed through, using my mantra “I believe”. I saw the mile marker for 25 and it was like a switch flipped on and I felt so much better. Only one to go!! The crowds were crazy at this point and I turned off my music and soaked in the experience. There were two tight turns right at the end of the race so I couldn’t see the finish line until about .2 to go. At  26.2 Garmy time I was at 3:55 and was so happy (I always use Garmy over a race clock, so this is my “real” time in my head!).

I made that last turn, saw the finish line and just let it go!! I enjoyed that stretch more than any other finish line of my life! I beat the wall! Yay! I crossed at 3:57.21 Garmy time, 3:57.59 chip time and just burst out in joyful tears! But almost immediately I knew something was very wrong. My body really stepped it up and hung in there with me until the finish but just fell apart seconds after it was over. I was instantly incredibly tired and foggy headed and nauseous. I started shivering. They gave me a mylar blanket and I downed two cups of Gatorade because I knew I needed nutrition FAST! My stomach was not impressed by that. I got my medal and some water and just kept crying, this time because I was so tired and wanted to sit down. This was my only complaint for the race – the finish “corral” must be close to a mile long! I was cold and could not sit ( I tried a curb once but my thighs were so tight it was not going to happen!) and I just shuffled along, feeling lost and hopeless. It sounds silly but I just felt out of my mind, like I was a refugee and I would never find GD and my sis again. This is only the second time that I think I have truly hit the wall and it is such an odd feeling – like I don’t fit in my own body. GD finally found me and he took over. He sat me down, got some food into me and helped me warm up. About 10 minutes later I started feeling human again. We met up with Laur a short time later- she also had a good race and a similar “walk from hell”. We sat for a long time, dissecting the race and comparing notes (the best part!) and then shuffled to the massage tent – it was heated heaven!! They really took care of us – a solid 15 minutes of stretching and massage. We felt able to walk back to the hotel after that and rested the rest of the day. GD and I went out for an amazing Greek dinner that night to celebrate!

Sisters for the win! Well, not win in the traditional “we ran a 2:25:56” sense, but more like “hey, we are all winners for finishing!” lol

My hero with a well-deserved beer

In summary: It was a cold, tough day but that was through no fault of the race! Chicago was ever bit as impressive and well organized as you have heard and I highly recommend putting it on your list!

Have you ever run Chicago?

What was your experience like?

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Race Report – 2010 Philly Half-Marathon

In honor of the friends I have doing the Philly RnR half-marathon this weekend, I thought I’d post my half mary race report from 2 years ago. This was the half that is run with the marathon in November, so it is not the RnR September one. But the distance, pain and jubilation is the same! One of my go-to ways of dealing with taper madness is to read others race reports in the days leading up to my own, so thought this might be helpful for all you out there that are gearing up for your own big day. So read on, rest up and hydrate – then go kick some ass! Good luck, everyone!!

Time – 1:45.43 (Garmy registered 13.3mi and I hit 13.1 at 1:44.xx)

Weather – Sunny, clear, low wind (<8 mph), temps in upper 30s

Nutrition – cinnamon raisin bagel 1.5 hrs before, GU chomp at 1 hr before, half GU at 2 mins before start, half GU at 45 mins, half GU at 1 hr 5 mins, half GU at 1 hr 20 mins

What a day!! I love this race and at my 4th appearance it is starting to feel like an old friend. Hit the expo on Sat with mom, Laur and GD. It was great, though I preferred the expo for the Distance Run in Sept.  Mom was totally energized by the atmosphere, the running bug has bitten her big time! She wants to do the half now, and I think that would be amazing (Note from the future: She did do the half, in 2011, and has plans for the full in 2013! GD was so impressed with her half last year that he is doing his first this year! Love the running domino effect!) .

Due to a mistake on my part, our hotel wound up being about 11 miles away from the start. Whoops! But it worked out just fine. We headed back to the hotel by 3-ish (Four Points Sheraton in NE Philly) and went to dinner at the Italian Bistro where we met up with our friends Rochelle and Shannon. Great meal – filled up on bread and pasta with basil sauce but did not go overboard. Back at the hotel I had some dry cereal and a Clif Z-bar and off to bed. Except sleep did not come.  I usually have no problem the night before a race but I tossed and turned until 5am when the alarm went off. Felt sleepy when I got up, so I decided to take a long, hot shower to wake up. It worked! Got everything on, including my good luck charms of a rabbit silly band from my cousin and a temporary tattoo of a plover on my calf. Ate a Yanni’s cinnamon raisin bagel (more superstition – ate one of these before my great training run in AC last month and had to do it again) about 5:30.

Laying out gear the night before a race is a tradition I never skip.

Headed out about 5:45am, drove to start line with no problems. The exit lane off 95 to 676 was busy though, so Laur and I just hopped out of the car and walked to the start. Put toe warmers in my shoes and gloves, this was clutch!!! Weather was clear, cold (upper 30s) and no/little wind. I was really nervous about the temps, but it turned out to be very do able, esp with the toe/hand warmers. I wore capris, a tank, a long sleeved shirt, hat and gloves and felt great. First race in my new Brooks and it’s official, I love them!! We hit the porta pots and made our way to the corrals – at 6:57am! Race started at 7am, so cutting it close (but that’s just the way I like it, I hate waiting around to start). The one complaint I had about the race was that the color corrals were not well marked. Laur and I split up and each tried to find our corrals – not even sure we were successful, but got to the start line pretty quickly and we were off! Love the beginning of a race, everyone is so psyched. Mayor Nutter and Bart Yasso were giving out high fives – I missed them, but Laur said she grabbed Bart’s hand and yelled “You are awesome!!”. She said he looked slightly scared, lol. I started my race, telling myself it would be a great day and that I had already put in the hard work. Now I just had to put into play what I had practiced.

Look close, it’s Mayor Nutter and Bart Yasso!!!

The course was crowded, but thanks to the corral system, everyone was running the same pace so I did not feel hemmed in, which was a relief. The next big boost was at the first water stop. Unlike Chicago, the water stations were only on one side so you could scoot through with very little time lost. Yes! Two of my biggest concerns (crowds and bottle necking at the water stops) were being swept away and that was great for confidence. I know some people prefer water stops on both sides since it helps cut down on people swerving madly for Gatorade, but not me. I’m down with the one-sided version.  I was chugging along quite happily, soaking in the atmosphere. The spectators were especially awesome this year. Lots of great cheer zones, tons of bands – loved the Mummer’s as always, but also lots of other great music. My favorite sign – “It does not have to be fun to be fun”- was during these early miles.  Chestnut Street was on fire with spectators! There were also hilarious drunk frat dudes and a group of people dressed in 80s garb doing aerobics to “Let’s Get Physical”. My plan was to hang around 8:20’s til mile 6.5, then slowly increase in speed until mile 10 and then just haul some ass for the last 5k. I tried to keep the pace easy, but my legs were excited and kept trying to go faster. I told them we did not have enough experience with this distance to get nuts and promised them if today went well that we could go harder next time. They sorta obliged and the plan worked, though I never ran 8:20 after the first 2 miles. But I went by perceived effort and kept it comfortable.

I don’t have any pics of me while running this race but lil Sis and I look so much alike that you can just pretend it is me 🙂

I took half a GU and some water around Mile 5, 2nd half at 8-ish and some water and another half GU 11-ish (closer together than normal, but just felt I needed it). Nutrition was great, I was nervous just before I started that I had not eaten enough (ghosts of Chicago haunting me) with the bagel and one GU chomp I had, so I took a half of a GU just before the start and that made my stomach cranky for first few miles. Mistake! But it settled down and went away – I did not feel hungry the whole time, not dehydrated and did not collapse at the finish. Hurray! Elsewhere in my body, I had a side stitch around miles 3-5 and my arch yowled a bit in the middle miles. I ignored them both and they went away.

By 6.5 I was getting antsy, because it was time to GO! But also because I knew this was where I might see GD & Co. As in Chicago, my first look at him was him running down the road on my right and it felt so good!! I love seeing that man!

Nothing better than seeing our cheerleaders on the course, sporting their “Team Lauren” and “Team Christina” shirts! You may recognize GD’s from our wedding pics – this was where it originated!

Starting working harder after mile 6.5, which was tricky because it is also the hilliest portion of the course. I just pretended I was on the Longport Bridge for any of the inclines, grinded my way up them and enjoyed the downhills. After the big hill at mile 9, I knew most of the rest of the course was downhill and checked off another worry! The long downhill around mile 10 was also a little emotional – I just had one of those “god damn, I love my life!!!” moments. Teared up a bit but told myself I could  have the warm fuzzies later – now was the time to work! I had been monitoring my pace the whole time and it was increasingly clear that I was having a really good day. 1:50 (my goal time)  seemed a foregone conclusion and I started wondering just how much better I could do. Was super happy when I hit Mile 10 at 1:21:xx, which is faster than I ran Broad St a few yrs ago (although I knew I could have done that faster but this confirmed it!). The longer tempo runs really came in handy mentally at this point, because I had a 5k to go and that felt like nothing after 8 mile tempo runs! I told myself to leave it all on the course and kept going. By 11, the miles were catching up to me and I was feeling tired. But I was happy with my pace and just busted out my mantra, “Just keep swimming”  from Nemo, and got through Mile 11.

Plover Power got me through the late miles.

The flag at Mile 12 was a welcome sight indeed and I told myself to just hang on, not be afraid to push and that it would be over soon. I was having nice flashbacks of running with Sherry from the previous year, and I really felt her support at that point – I knew she believed in a sub-1:50, and now I did too! Climbed up that last hill towards the art museum and felt so good, so many people were cheering. Turned the bend and left the marathoners behind (they ran under an arch that said “Welcome to the halfway point, the best is yet to come!”) . Garmy said I was at 13.1 at 1:44:xx so I was psyched. Saw our cheerleaders a little before the end and that gave me the last burst  I needed to push through. The way Garmy was set was such that I could not see the seconds on the overall time. So I saw I was at 1:45 but could not tell how far into that minute I was. I really wanted to make it there before 1:46 so just hauled some ass into the finish. Raised my hands and YES!! It was still 1:45!!! I immediately started bawling. You know how every so often you just surprise yourself? That is what happened to me today. I know this isn’t a particularly speedy time, but it is truly faster than I thought I was capable of at this point in my running. Garmy said avg pace was 7:57 and that just blew me away. I did that?? For 13.1 miles?? Holy! Good job engines (GD’s nickname for my legs, I’ve adopted it too).  I really took a minute to just be grateful for everything running gifts me and was so happy to be alive and in love with GD and have my family there and being in that place at that time. When I came out of my reverie, I noticed that the song on my iPod was crazy appropriate. The lyrics were “time means nothing”  and it just drove home the feeling that as good as it was to push myself and get this new PR, what really mattered was the way it made me feel and sharing it with the people I love. The next verse provided this gem: “we’re all right where we’re supposed to be” and it just felt so perfect – and brought on another round of tears. Popped over to where my family was and watched Laur come in (producing round 3 of tears!) . We reunited, hit the massage tent (hurts so good!) and headed back to the hotel for a shower and more perma-grinning.

Could not have done it without these guys – plus my momma and poppa, not pictured here.

Me and the ever adorable lil Sis. The medal is great and all, but doesn’t hold a candle to the feeling of running races with this one!

I highly highly recommend the massage tent after a race! I laugh like a hysterical mad scientist the whole time. One masseuse (not this one, who clearly was not amused) told me that your body can feel ticklish instead of feeling pain and that apparently is what happens to me at these things. But I say “thanks, body, I’d rather not feel the pain!”

Me and my baby. We were engaged a month and 4 days after this picture was taken ❤

An amazingly incredible day, and a race I won’t soon forget.

Have you run a half-marathon? Tell us about it!

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Race Report – Richmond Olympic Oval 10k

The Olympic Oval stadium, fresh off the Vancouver 2010 games

In a nutshell: Canadians are speedy and oh-so fit!

Out of the nutshell: Luckily, my jet lagged brain recovered and I actually got the start date and time of this race right. Since we are doing this trip spontaneous style, I was not sure that we would still be in the area (just south of Vancouver) on Sunday but once we decided to stick around, I was in! Running near an Olympic stadium? Yes, please!

I got up bright and early to sort myself out and grab some cash for registration – except the hotel ATM was broken. The area we were staying and the immediate location of the Oval were not spilling over with ATM machines, so I figured I would talk to the race staff and see what we could figure out. Upon arriving at the race day registration line, the sweetest Canadian women and a lovely young man (her son?) allowed me to sign up and suggested I try the machine in the Oval. Great! But then not great as that one was also broken! For real?? The woman was again sympathetic and allowed me to take my bib and chip, with the promise that I would pay after the run (which I did – you don’t want to mess with race juju).

I chatted with a few fellow racers and enjoyed the conversation, in no small part because of their accents! What is it about accents that makes listening to them so enjoyable? I looked around at the group, probably about 200-strong, and was impressed by the level of athleticism I was seeing. Perhaps it was the “Olympic effect” (don’t bother Googling that, I just made it up) but these people looked like they were here to run!You know what (besides their crazy defined quads) also gave away they were serious runners? The lack of iPods – unless that is just a Canadian race thing. But I interpreted it to mean that these folks were here to race, not just go for a jog along the river with Rihanna in their ears. I thought to myself “that is pretty great, good for them for being so serious!” and then I put my earbuds in 🙂

Not an out of shape one among them!

We soon lined up and were off! The course was an out and back, which are not typically my favorite, but there was a nice loop at the turn-around point to break up some of the linear feel. The further along the Fraser River we ran, the prettier it got:

The gal in the blue top immediately struck me as something special – not only because I delight in seeing older runners, but esp because I love seeing ones hauling ass! I later learned this was Lenore Montgomery, a multiple Canadian and World record holder in her 80s. She finished this 10k in 1:02! As if the Oval was not inspiration enough, Lenore was the icing on the cake for me!

Seaplanes are definitely not something I get to see on every run!

This was the West Dyke Trail and where the course really started getting pretty. The gravel trail was quite kind to my legs, the color of the flowers popped against the cloudy sky (which never released any rain, hurray!) and the swallows flew all around us.

By Mile 4 or so, the race had thinned out enough (ie, everyone was already done, lol) that runner-free vistas like this were possible. I was happy, however, a little while later when I caught up to some racers and was able to use them as targets to help me through the last miles.

Running on vacation can get tricky. Sundays are normally a short, easy shake-out run from the previous day’s long run. I know from experience, though, that it is hard for me to jog a race. I can control myself enough not to go all out, but not enough to keep it easy-breezy. So I decided to make my “long run” on Saturday 6.5 miles and do a tempo today – combined with what we ran on Friday (normally a rest day) the mileage would add up to what I needed for the weekend but my legs would not be totally shot. My plan was to take the first three miles at a not-hard-but-not-easy pace and second 3.2 at a tempo pace, and maybe slightly higher for my current fitness level. This worked out well and my Miles 1-3 splits were 9:19, 9:06, 8:56, Miles 4-6 were 8:19, 8:22, 7:57 and last .2 7:13 for an overall pace of 8:37. I’ll take it! I am still battling feelings of feeling slower than “normal”, but then I remind myself I have only been doing speed and tempo work for 3 weeks and I should really pipe down and be happy I can handle this speed at all right now!

Post-race, my 53:48 (53:38 said Garmy) time was good enough for 4/6 in my age group, lol. The third lady was only 25 seconds ahead of me. I wish I had known! Chasing someone in your age group is such a good way to speed up! But no matter, I had a great run and felt quite pleased with the effort. I also truly enjoyed watching the speedsters fly by me (a benefit to an out and back, I think I saw the winner pass me when I was about 15 minutes into my race!) and this adorable pair, holding hands as they finished:

Cuteness overload!!

Post-race, this well-oiled machine had some great features:

Post-race food – oranges, watermelon (yum!!), cantaloupe, scones, cinnamon buns plus Starbucks coffee (perfect to warm me after the chill from damp clothes set in) and H2O in water coolers to encourage bringing reusable containers. Well done!

Very good call on the raffle winners – instead of reading names to a half empty crowd at the end and continually having to draw new names until they find someone that is still around, this race simply put them on an easel for runners to scan when they returned and claim their prize. Smart!

Overall, I give high marks for this race. The runners were very friendly, the level of competition was great to watch (the winners were at least in the low 30s – I did not see race results yet – and this was part of the Lower Mainland race series, so lots of motivation for folks to floor it) and the organization was top-notch. The course turned out to be very pretty, I loved seeing the Olympic Oval and the race staff was fantastic. My only small complaint was that the race fee ($38CAD) seemed a bit high to me when there was no t-shirt or other swag, which I especially love when I am at an out-of-town race. But that is minor in a sea of compliments. Thanks Kajaks Track & Field Club!

I am an Olympian!!! Well, almost.

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Race Report: Coombs/Douglass Bayfront Run

RR in a nutshell: Pleased as punch!

RR out of the nutshell:

I heard about this race through my friend Melissa, who ran it last year. It was appealing to me for a few reasons: it’s a 5-miler (a distance you don’t find too often),  it was very reasonably priced ($20 race day reg! I felt like I was time traveling back 10 yrs, it was wonderful!) and, most important of all, last year’s race shirt featured a Piping Plover on it!  I did not know if the shirt would remain the same this year, but it was definitely work a looksie to find out!

Race morning I walked around the house complaining about how hot it was going to be (August apparently needed a text book August day for its Wiki entry or something, because hellloooo hot and humid!) and contemplated just running on my own, since I prefer to run about 2 hrs earlier than the advertised 830 am start. But then I realized that there would be no possibility of a plover shirt if I ran alone and since misery loves company, I figured I’d better join the festivities so we could all suffer together, as God intended.

I made the short drive over to the Town Bank Fire Hall in Lower Township and could tell by the organization of the registration tables that these people knew their stuff. I am a stickler for organized races – I will literally swear off races that I think were executed poorly (with a very dramatic “Good day, sir. I said, good day!”  in an English accent. I just think that makes it the most believable, you know?)  but will be a friend for life to races that do! It’s a tough skill to master and I am very much impressed by RD’s who do it, not matter the size of the field. This race felt like a well oiled machine, and that gave me my first glimmer of hope that this could be a fun morning, and not just a suffer fest. The second glimmer was more of a “halleluiah, shoot sunbeams from the sky!” when, despite it being only 10 minutes to the state, the volunteers still had small PLOVER shirts!!!!!! Yahoo!!!! Now I knew for sure that come what may, this race was instantly put on the Kashi race rotation. A plover shirt every year? Yes, please!

The first of many of these shirts for me. In 7 years I will have one for every day of the week.

Buoyed by plover love, I stepped to the starting line of the race. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to stand among a sea of hot bodies before a run, see the picture below. Cozy!

Hello runners, let’s do this! Well, once we get going that is. Not much to do yet, we are just standing around sweating so far. But soon! Soon we will do this!

Within minutes, the gun went off and so did we! They had a great turnout, despite the conditions, which again speaks for the reputation of this race (loyal racers are always a good sign). We made our way through about a half mile of shaded, neighborhood streets. So far, so good!

We popped out of the neighborhood and started on the out and back portion that would make up the majority of the course along Beach Drive.  We were greeted with awesome views of the bay and a stiff breeze! I had decided prior to the race that I would treat this as my tempo run for the week. I had not time goals in mind, just wanted to give a good effort and gauge my fitness at this point in my marathon training. As we hit the wind, I alternated thoughts of “thank you, wind gods/pressure gradient force” (hey, whatever your beliefs are is a-ok by me!) and “the way back is gonna be brutal so better make hay now!”.

Yet another example of how pretty our corner of the world is.

There were some awesome spectators out on the course. Granted, this was not the Chicago marathon, but when you have locals with hoses and adorable toddlers handing out water,  it literally feels like the same thing. Thank you, water-bearing family! You guys were the best!

Next came the dreaded turn around point at the ferry terminal.

Halfway home!

As expected, it was not pretty! As I was running back towards the runners who had not yet made the turn, I felt like a frail old lady seeing vivacious teenagers and wanting to yell, “Enjoy it! Enjoy it while it lasts!”. This, however, would have taken more energy than I had to spare, so I turned up the GaGa and got to work. I was more than halfway, but feeling the effects of the humidity and a faster pace than I was used to. But this is where I highly suggest ultra training to everyone – it just provides such a good yardstick by which to compare everything else! So instead of thinking “ugh, 2.3 miles to go!”, I thought “whew, thank god it’s only 2.3! Remember that 26 miler training run where you started feeling terrible at mile 8 and had to say to yourself ‘ only 18 miles to go!’?. So the moral of the story is to take 6 months out of your life to train for an ultra and then these lil races will feel like nothing! You are welcome in advance for such solid training advice 🙂

I got too tired and sweaty to take any pics on the way back, so just imagine this next part – I ran under 2 hoses, doused 3 cups of  cold water (well done race organizers!) on my head, drank a few tiny sips since my tummy was not impressed, and hauled some ass (relative ass, that is, not Olympic-style ass) to the finish line, where I happily chugged the cold water that was presented to me immediately leaving the chute (again, love these volunteers!). 41:40 was the official time and Garmy said I ran my miles progressively faster, starting with an 8:45 and inching my way down to a 7:47. After months of no speedwork, I’ll take that, thank you Garmy!

After I cooled down a bit (meaning my face went from purple to red), I headed inside to check out the spread. Yes, in addition to all the other great aspects of the race, they also had fruit, coffee, pancakes and sausage after! Plus fantastic raffle prizes (like Lucky Bones and spa gift certificates).

Nice, right?!

I can’t eat right after running, but I wanted to stay and be social anyway, so I found a chatty table with an empty chair and proceeded to have a great conversation with a running club from Pomona, called the FAA Tech Center Runners as I unabashedly dripped sweat all over the place. Normally I would be quite abashed in this situation, but considering nearly everyone around me was in the same predicament (body.must.cool.down) I felt just fine about it.

The FAA Tech Center Runners accept a token of appreciation from race organizers.

After having my fill of conversation, I ended my time north of the canal by hitting the farmer’s market at the ferry terminal and scooping up some peaches, apricots, blueberries and the most incredible cherries ever (for real, GD and I took a group vote and it was unanimous). Awesome way to replenish what was lost during the race!

Come to mama!

I definitely recommend this race for anyone who:

a) loves running

b) loves plovers

c) loves pancake flat courses

d) loves pancakes

Thanks to all the volunteers and folks who put on a great event. Job well done, can’t wait til next year!

Have you ever run this race? Wanna run it together next year?
(PS if 5 miles is too long, they also have a 2 mile run/walk option!)

Can you eat right after running?

What is your trick for keeping cool when it steams up?

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