Race Report: Crystal City Twilight 5K 2013

I decided a few months ago to sign up for the Crystal City Twilight 5K.  I have never done an evening race before and thought it would be fun.  I also had my eye on a 30 minute 5K PR this month!

After I ran a very nice 6 miles after my 10K last week, I decided to tack this 5K onto the end of the day after running 12 miles in the morning.  The weather was decent and I was averaging 11-12 min/mile on the (well groomed) trail so I thought I was on track for my PR.  It started raining around 5 PM but the skies cleared by 6:30 so we we decided to stick to the plan.

Right exactly when the race began, the skies opened up and we were subjected to torrential rain for the first 10 minutes.  Seriously, they couldn’t have coordinated it better if they tried!  Luckily, my family made the best of it by ducking into a nearby yogurt shop for a little treat.  The runners weren’t as fortunate.  My first mile, I was running partially blind because it was raining so hard but I was able to make out the people ahead and stayed on course.  My first mile was 9:20.  Then the rain stopped.  And I was hot and wet. And my glasses steamed up like crazy.  I literally couldn’t see a thing.  I had to stop repeatedly to wipe them off because I was terrified of dropping them if I did it on the run.  The dark plus fogged over glasses and the train tracks we obviously ran by as a freight train rolled through created a sensory nightmare for me.  I was very agitated and even felt mildly claustrophobic.  My second mile was 10:20 and my third was 11:30. Overall pace of 10:35.  No PR for me.

I don’t know what it is but this is the second bad race I’ve had with Pacers.  I can’t put my finger why, though.  The Pacers races do draw a very different crowd than what I’m used to (super high tech race gear, all sorts of crazy warm up drills, etc.) and I just don’t feel like I’m with “my people” there.  Luckily, there are enough other local races that I won’t miss too much by not running theirs.

I did learn a few things at the race, though:

Always wear wool socks and use Body Glide, even if it’s a short race, if there is even the HINT of rain or puddles.

Always bring a water bottle for afterwards, even if it is a short race.

Know your comfort zone.  If it was dry and I had brought my Knuckle Lights, I would have had a much better race because I’m used to early morning runs like that.  Total dark and wet, not so much.

I still think I could have nailed my PR.  Luckily, I have more opportunities ahead!

I wore an Athleta tank, Champion compression-ish shorts (I don’t know if they are true compression shorts but those babies don’t move! I love them!), thin (non-wool) sock, and my “current’ pair of Saucony Ride 5.


Inexpensive registration

Nice race shirt design

Super easy packet pick-up at the Pacers running store

Start/Finish near a variety of stores and restaurants so the family has a place to wait

Food tent with pretzels, bananas, and Lara bars.  There were also vendors with free Coco Vita and other items.


The course map wasn’t even close to accurate.  I still have no idea where we were running!

I couldn’t find the water at the finish

Pretty crowded field (1900 finishers) and we were all in one massive corral


B – but I won’t be repeated this one.



Race Report: Merrill Down and Dirty

Or, Check Your Ego at the Door Mud Run.

After much anticipation, I was finally able to participate in an obstacle course/mud run.  I was supposed to do one a few weeks ago but SOMEONE *cough cough* (Rogue Runner) can’t get their act together and keeps rescheduling.  I thought DnD would be my second so I chose the 10K length when I created our team.  There was a point in the corn fields when I was regretting that choice but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Registration, Packet Pickup, SWAG

Everything was super easy.  We picked up our packets on the morning of the race and I was a little worried about massive lines but it took all of 10 minutes to do mine and Little Runner’s – he was doing the 100 yd dash.  We received nice shirts (mine technical, his cotton), some Paul Mitchell stuff, Lara bars, and Merrill convertible bandana thingies (long tubes that you can wear in different ways).  Little Runner also received a Matchbox car since Matchbox sponsored the kids’ races.

Look how nice and clean we are!
Look how nice and clean we are!

Start, Course, Obstacles

At 7:45, we self-seeded ourselves in corrals for the start.  It was a worthless exercise, I think, as many don’t know their race pace much less their obstacle pace!  We were in corral 4 but finished in the bottom 1/4 so…. The corrals began every minute or so.  It was a well organized start.  We had a little jaunt through the woods, with the typical pack problems of any race, before we hit the first obstacle.  I am not sure how many obstacles there were per mile (map) but they seemed a bit spread out.

These were the obstacles (description from the Merrell website):

Low Crawl  – The Low Crawl obstacle requires athletes to get low and crawl on the stomachs under a cargo net 18″ off the ground. Athletes will also have to crawl through a pool of water the length of the obstacle.
Ladder Wall – The Ladder Wall is 10′ tall and requires racers to go up and over the top before continuing on the course.
Water Crossing – Plunge into waist deep water and wade through the water crossing. Although participants do not have to swim you will have to get wet!!
Hill Climb – Racers will have to pull themselves up the steep hill holding onto rope while still be soaking we from the water crossing.
Mud Pit – The Mud Pit obstacle requires athletes to get on their stomachs and crawl through mud the length of the obstacle. Now athletes are wet and MUDDY!
Log Leap – The Log Leap is a 5′ tall inflatable log athletes will have to run and jump over.
Inflatables – Look out for these 20′ tall inflatables. Athletes will have to climb up cargo net and then slide down the back side.
Push Ups – Drop and give us 10!
Marine Hurdles – The Marine Hurdles are three logs 5′ off the ground athletes will have to run a jump over.
5′ Walls – Athletes will have to run and jump over the series of 5′ walls.
Monkey Cross – Athletes will have to balance themselves on 2″ straps while holding onto 1″ thick rope overhead.
High Walls – Athletes will have to climb to the top of the 10′ High Wall hanging onto the rock wall holds.
Tunnels & Low Walls – Before heading to the main site athletes will have to crawl on their hands and knees through 27′ of tunnels and then up and over the 4′ tall Low Walls.
Sand Bag Carry – Athletes will have to carry a 40lb sand bag around the barn and back before continuing on the course.
Balance Beams – Athletes will have to walk across the 4″ wide beams while standing 2′, 3′, and 2′ off the ground.
Tires – Racers will have to navigate their way through 100 tires in a 10×10 box. Get your knees up before getting stuck on the double high stacked tires.
Cargo Climb – The Cargo Climb is an 8′ tall structure where athletes will have to climb to the top and back down the other side.
Trailer Cargo Climb – Get ready climb! Athletes will have to climb a 8′ tall cargo net, walk across another 8′, climb up another 7′, walk 10′ on cargo net and repeat on the other side.
Slippery Mountain – Racers have to pull themselves up using only their hands on this angled mountain. No cheating and using your feet!
Mud Pit – One last chance to get down and dirty. Racers will have to crawl through the 60′ mud pit before hitting the finish line.

Swamp People!
Swamp People!

I think I did fairly well on the obstacles.  I loved the water crossing (though there was a HUGE hidden rock at the exit and I almost went down).   I about broke my butt on the inflatable.  It was an inflatable slide with a cargo net climb up one side and a steep slide down the other.  I was still wet from the first mud pit so I went zipping down the slide and right off the end!  I’m very thankful I didn’t break something.  I also did not nail the Marine hurdles, even though I had been practicing them at our training.  I couldn’t do the high one, got the second but slammed my ribs doing it, failed the third.  I was a bit grumpy after that.  I also didn’t realize (until just now) that you weren’t supposed to use your feet on the Slippery Mountain.  I couldn’t hear the instructions so I just got myself up as quickly as possible.

I had two other “obstacles” working against me on the course.  The sun was the worst.  I would say about half of the course was in the shade but a lot was in the sun (including some jaunts through cornfields). I was feeling pretty sick on the last trip though the corn – that’s where I was cursing myself for choosing the 10K – and was very glad for the last mile in the woods, even it was a hillier trail.  My second “obstacle” was my sports glasses.  I hadn’t used them before and didn’t realize how much they would distort my vision when I looked directly down.  I had to fight quite a bit of nausea due to them and I had to really concentrate on where I was going since I had to look further ahead for tripping hazards.  I felt bad that I couldn’t interact with my team more but I really did have to focus and I couldn’t move my head too quickly.  The glasses also made the balance beams and tiered cargo climb extra interesting.

On Course Support

There were four water stops but I think there should have been more, with the heat.  Also, the water was very warm.  At least there was plenty of it!  There were crew members at all of the obstacles to tell you what to do and help if you needed it.  They guys at the Monkey Cross were a bit too helpful, though.  They kept trying to pull the rope down for me and I had to yell at them 🙂


After a final slosh through the mud pit, we were awarded our finisher medal and a bottle of water.  Of course, we were so muddy, opening the water was a challenge!  There was food at the athletes table, oranges and cookies, and Lara Bar and Naked fruit juice were handing out samples.

Kids’ Dash

Little Runner did his dash at 10:45 – about an hour after we finished.  It was hot and there was little shade except in the deep grass so he as a bit cranky.  They started the kids in waves with the older ones going earlier and that worked okay.  They had the parents run with the kids so the course was a bit crowded.  I think they needed to leave more time between waves.  His obstacles were to go under a lower wall, across a balance beam laying on the ground, over a wall, and through the big mud pit.

Up and Over!
Up and Over!

I had to hustle keep up with him, especially in the crowd.  I was glad that my friend was also doing it with us so she helped keep him in sight.  He was not a fan of the mud experience!  He made it through but the first thing he wanted to do when he finished was get his shirt OFF!

We are SO DONE!
We are SO DONE!

Even with the mud, he wants to do the 1 mile next year – you have to be 7 or older, much to his chagrin.

We went through the inflatable wash tent that looked liked a car wash/mister and then hit the hoses to try to get as much mud off as possible.  It was very crowded and I was less than successful with my own rinse since I was also trying to wrangle LR, as the bra full of mud I discovered later confirmed.  There were single sex changing tents for us to use so we grabbed a corner and tried to get us changed as discretely as possible.  A kids changing tent would have been awesome! I will say, the big blue IKEA bags are great for holding wet, muddy gear!  No fuss, no muss.



Very organized

The crowds weren’t too difficult to navigate and no wait at the portapotties

Some interesting obstacles

Nice shirt and goodies

Hose stations and changing tents


No shade for the waiting families

Some not-so-interesting obstacles

The medal is a bit boring (I think the road racing metals have spoiled me!)

Women who were washing their freaking hair at the hose stations! With shampoo! Rinse and move on, sister!

Overall: A-  I think this was a fun first foray into the world of mud.  I would not be against doing it again next year and I have learned some things for my next mud run.

I wore a long sleeve tech shirt that I didn’t like, sleeves removed, and painted with our team name, Champion spandex shorts, Champion socks that I didn’t mind losing, and my second to oldest pair of Sauconys.  I also made sure to use a ton of Body Glide on my feet since I wasn’t wearing wool.  A rinse with the hose and three trips through the washer was able to salvage most of it.

Oh, and since Sunday is my long run, I went home and pounded out six more miles on the treadmill 🙂

99 Days

99 days until the Marine Corp Marathon, Baby!  To say I’m already very excited would be an understatement.  I think my husband will need to start slipping me Valium when we’re down to the last 30 days.  I know that I have a lot of work still ahead of me – last weekend’s 13 miler was my last “known” distance until October 6 – but I also know I can do it!

I am very goal driven but I also need some instant gratification to keep the ol’ mule running.  I know the last half of training will likely be grim so I am making plans now to keep myself on track.  I recently learned about a training run that one of the local running groups hosts for individuals who are training for fall races.  They offer a 10 and 20 mile course, with full support, for relatively little cost.  That 20 miler looms large in my head so I was very thankful that I was able to register for it.  The course is open for 6 hours and the organizers are very supportive of newer runners so it sounds like just the ticket.  Plus, the name of the run is Revenge of the Penguins!

I also just registered for a half marathon, the Crawlin’ Crab, in Hampton, VA.  I ran with J&A Racing in February at their Virginia is for Lovers 14K and really enjoyed the experience.  This half, other than being my race predictor for MCM and a nice change of pace with a flat course, will be my chance to practice running with a pace group.  I tried at the Dismal Swamp Stomp but was overly optimistic of my abilities and decided to run solo.  I plan to use a pace group at MCM so I need to practice running with the pack.

My final race before MCM is the Army Ten Miler. I have no real reason for this race other than I want to support their cause and I want to have a refresher of part of the MCM course.  Also, ATM is the week before MCM so maybe it will help keep my taper jitters at bay.

Oh, and if I can figure out how to squeeze in one more half marathon before the second week of October, I can move up a level in my Half Marathon Fanatic status.  Yes, I have a problem but at least I’m having fun!

Cramping My Style

My word, do I get cramps!  I’m talking full contraction, writhing in pain cramps.  They happen during exercise and, even worse, while I’m sleeping.  The ones that hit my calves when I am asleep can be felt for 2-3 days after the incident.

I have tried just about everything under the sun.  I sweat a lot so I hydrate constantly, I use EFS for at least half of my water during exercise, I eat more bananas than a monkey, I eat a lot of dark greens (including at least 3 protein shakes a week made with Trader Joe’s Power to the Greens mix of kale, spinach, and one other green and coconut water).  I’ve even tried drinking pickle juice!  Some times I think that is enough and then I go through a mysterious “bad spell” where I cramp again at the drop of a hat.  It was so bad a few weeks ago that my HANDS cramped up during TRX and I could barely move my fingers for a few minutes (I swear it wasn’t me giving my trainer the finger during a hard move, it was the cramps!! 🙂 )

Obviously, I can’t go on like this.  I’ve talked to various doctors and sports nutrition people and they all go “huh, it’s a puzzle all right”.  Thanks, guys!

In my quest to figure this nonsense* out, I’ve added a magnesium supplement to my nighttime routine – in addition to everything I’m already doing.  Word of caution, magnesium can have unexpected digestive consequences so start out with a super low dose and gradually increase it.  I’m up to taking a teaspoon a night and, knock wood, I haven’t had any cramps in a week.  I’m also stretching A LOT – in between classes, after my runs, and before bed – and that might be helping as well.  I seriously hope I have finally found my answer to this mess*!

Are you a cramper?  How do you manage it? Have you found anything that works?

*I’m trying to swear less…


(Just as some people shouldn’t be on Facebook when they drink, I probably shouldn’t blog when I’m hormonal.  I will try to not get too weepy.)

I just finished a rather intense three days of training and it left me feeling sore – and extremely grateful.  On Friday I ran 10 miles and then enjoyed a movie with my husband (at an awesome theater with recliner seats!  I slipped on my compression socks, popped my feet up, and enjoyed 2 1/2 hours of bliss!).  On Saturday, I ran 6 miles with a Moms Run This Town group and then hit my last bootcamp class.  On Sunday, I met my obstacle course friends for two hours of practice.  All of this in the hot swamp that is currently Virginia.  I was definitely feeling it on Sunday morning when I was trying to go over the sawhorses in the sun (the ends in the shade were higher!) but I kept pushing as hard as I could – and tried not to throw up.

So, why am I grateful?  I’m grateful for my awesome husband who doesn’t mind getting up at o’dark thirty to walk the dog so I can get ready for my run before the heat sets in.  I’m grateful for my amazing son who is a willing participant in (almost) all of my fitness adventures – he tore up the obstacle course on Sunday and was even practicing his Taekwondo form while balancing on the low logs! I’m grateful that I have found a large and active group of local  runners who are always game for a group run – when I first ran with them, I was worried about being too slow or not good enough. On Saturday, I spent some time with the fast ladies, some time with the slower ones, and some time in the middle by myself and it was all good!  I’m grateful for my obstacle course/kickboxing/crazy-ass-who-knows-what’s-next friends who literally give me a leg up and cheer when I finally make it over the wall.

I love this wall!

Mostly, though, I’m grateful that I got off my butt last March and started my journey toward fitness and better health.  I am grateful that I’m no longer constantly sick.  I’m grateful for the muscles that I am building, even if they are currently very sore.

My husband took a lot of pictures at the obstacle course yesterday and I was a little discouraged.  I felt that all you could see was my big ol’ behind:

I could have been a linebacker
I could have been a linebacker

But then I did a comparison from my first 5K (after I already lost about 60lbs) and yesterday:

SidebysideI am so grateful that the person on the left is not who I am now.

Mid-Year Update

We are now over halfway through 2013 so I thought I should check in and see how I’ve progressed with my New Year’s Goals.

1.       Improve my mental image/self-talk. I’ve lost over 100 lbs. and am infinitely healthier than I’ve ever been but the way I think of myself and talk to myself do not reflect realityThis continues to be a struggle for me, as does item number 2.  I still see the “fat girl” when I look in the mirror and I’m convinced that pictures that suggest otherwise are just plain wrong.  I try to catch myself when I slip (see my shorts freak-out on Friday on my Facebook page) but every day is a struggle and it is very easy to slip back into 30+ years of bad habits.

2.       Stop qualifying myself – “I run but I’m slow” is not allowed!  I still need to work on this but I think it is improving.  I have successfully managed to bite my tongue before adding “but it was super slow” to the statement “I ran a half marathon this weekend” (but I still think it).

3.       Do 5 new exercise “things”

  • TRX (for core work) I have weekly personal training in TRX. It continues to kick my butt every time and I continue to love it!
  • Trail run(s), maybe a mud run?  I have done several trail races, including a trail half marathon, and really enjoyed it.  I am also signed up for two obstacle course runs this month and, as you know, have been training on the obstacle course at Quantico.  Again, butt being kicked but loving every minute of it!
  • Improve my swimming skills so I can try a triathlon next year.  I’m on target for an August sprint tri.
  • Try Pilates or a regular yoga class (for flexibility) I keep buying the Groupons, does that count?? A formal class may not happen this year due to my insane schedule.  I honestly don’t know where I would fit it in.  I have a couple of yoga for runners books but it’s not the same.
  • ? Oh, what will this one be??  Depending on how my marathon goes, I’m SERIOUSLY considering an ultra (50K) in Virginia Beach over Christmas.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll find something else fun to do.

4.       A sub-30 5K (July?) Not yet, the fastest I’ve managed is 32.  

5.       Finish a half and full marathon without sweating the time.  Three halves done, working toward my first full!

There you have it!  I still have a lot of work to do but I’m pretty happy with my progress so far!

Did you set some goals this year?  How are they going?

Weekend Update

The Bangles may know a catchy tune but they don’t know jack about marathon training. Sunday is definitely not my “I don’t have to run day”! But, let me back up…

I was really nervous about my training this weekend.  I had several hard, and multiple!, sessions planned and I didn’t know how I would manage it all.  Friday I had five miles, Saturday was 5 plus bootcamp, and Sunday was scheduled for 12 plus obstacle course training!  Who made this insane schedule?? Oh…

Friday was rainy and steamy but I hit the road after dinner and completed all five.  Nothing like running in the rain to make you feel hardcore!  Honestly, the way I sweat, I hardly noticed it was raining!

Saturday I ran 5 miles and then hustled to bootcamp.  It was a good session!  The trainer had me doing sprints with someone holding a resistance band. It was fun, even when he decided I wasn’t working hard enough and held the band himself!  Oof!  Yes, I did let loose some audible swear words at that one! I even squeezed in a couple of laps in the pool.

Sunday was the big kahuna!  I had planned to get up early, run part of the miles, go to the obstacle course, and run the rest in the afternoon.  Well, it didn’t quite go as planned.  I woke up late so I couldn’t run at home but I decided to head to the course early and run 3 miles there before OCR work.  That worked quite well!  If I do it again, I will try for 5 miles before the course.  My legs always feel dead for the first 3 miles and they continued to feel pretty sluggish on the course.  Last time I was able to jump the lower saw horses but this time I had to sit and swing over.

The obstacles there are: ropes, low horses to jump, mid-height horses to stand and pull yourself over, a high horse that needs a running start, a 7 (?) foot wall, various pull up stations and bars to shimmy along, small tires to leap frog, and two bolted tractor tires to flip.  On my first visit to the course, I couldn’t do the mid- or high- horses, the wall, very little on the bars, and about an inch up the rope.  Yesterday I nailed the mid-horses, shimmied along 3/4 of one bar, and made it a foot or so up the rope.  Next week, I plan on conquering the high-horse, the full length of one bar, and another section up the rope.

Here are a few pictures from the course:

After the course and after some family obligations (and a short nap), I attempted to complete my miles.  It didn’t happen.  I made it five and had to call it quits.  My hip was having none of it!  I know I worked hard on the OC but I really wish I had been able to stick with my prescribed run.  Next week I will move it to Friday so I just have five to do around the OC.  I look at it as building endurance.

I’m not quite as sore as last time (we supposedly didn’t do as many passes but I don’t believe it!) but I do have fresh bruises in exactly the same places!  It is definitely challenging and there is no room for hurt pride but it is extremely rewarding when you make some progress.  I can’t wait for my next crazy week!

Would you train on an obstacle course? There are videos of how to train for obstacle runs using playgrounds.  Would you do that or would you feel weird being out there with the kids?