Summer Goals

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I’ve spent the last 6 months or so cruising my short to mid-distance runs in the 9s.  I will get close to 8 and then have to back it off.  I really want to hit a 25 minute 5K this summer but that means a pace of 8:02 (28:12 is my current PR) so I have decided that I want to work on my speed this summer.

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Ol’ Will is full of it

This morning, my first mile was 8:49 (Great!) but then I started burning out and ended up walking a big hill in mile 4 so my average pace was 9:41 (not as great).

They say that in order to run faster, you just have to run faster (helpful!…) but I’m having a hard time coming to terms with being that uncomfortable.  So, what to do?  Maybe get on a 5K plan (gah), definitely add in more speed work, and see if I can squeeze out two 8 minute miles in a row and then try to snag a third.  Supposedly, I did that when I ran a 10K last year (Across the Bay 10K) but I believe their course was short.

Here’s an interesting list of tips on how to run faster.  I already know that my core needs work so I’m hitting that hard in my cross training.  I’m also trying to focus on “quick feet” moves.  I am curious to see how effective they are.  Even if they help me get into the high 8s, I’ll be pretty happy.

Here’s to summer goals!  What will you be focusing on this summer?

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What’s next??

I’ll admit, I’m having problems coming to terms with the race being over.  It was such a looming event for so long, I’m a little lost without it.  Truth be told, I feel like I have PMS x a billion.  I’ve been grumpy and snapping at everyone, my skin is all broken out, and I want to eat all the food.  I’m a real treat, I tell you!  Thank goodness I was able to run 3 miles on Thursday, to take the edge off!

My next race isn’t until the Marine Corps Marathon (3rd time!)  at the end of October so I’m treading water until mid-July.  I need a plan, though.  I think I’ll lose my ever loving mind if I don’t have some sort of plan for the next three months.

I really want to focus on strength training and building more lean mass (by dropping fat 😉 ).  Right now, my “plan” is to run three days a week – 1 shorter, 1 speed or hills, 1 longer (up to 10-12) and do some sort of weight-based exercises 3 days a week.

Little Runner and I went to the playground on Wednesday and had a (mostly) body weight workout.  You can do a lot with swings!  He challenged me to a leg lift competition and my lower abs are still sore 😮  He’s loving my increased availability so I am going to keep our “Wednesdays at the park” in play for as long as I can.  I also did a four station circuit workout this morning (with some kettlebell swings and a couple of sled pushes thrown in for good measure).  While I’m definitely sore from that, I really need to figure out a progressive, consistent plan.  I feel like I’m in danger of half-assing my down time and not being as strong in July as I’d like.

As usual, I’m a work in progress!

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So dangerous!

Race Report: Blue Ridge Marathon 2016

Get comfy, folks, this one is a long one!

Way, way back in June, I registered for the Blue Ridge Marathon.  I’m not quite sure why.  Rock n Roll DC had been a disaster.  MCM 2015 hadn’t been a success yet. I have no idea what possessed me to sign up for “America’s Toughest Road Marathon”.  I guess I wanted a challenge?  Fast forward a few months and, crap!  Time to start training!  Luckily, one of my friends from my running group was also considering running the race so she joined me on some early training runs.

M is the co-leader of my running chapter, super kind, a bit crazy, and a crack of dawn runner.  She’s also faster than me.  When she decided to register for the race, too, and train with me, I thought she was nuts. While I knew her from groups runs and we were friendly,  we weren’t exactly BRFs (Best Running Friends).  I was sure she would get tired of poking along at my pace and dump me.  I think I said as much to her on every long run for the first six weeks.  So silly.  We turned out to be pretty solid training partners and I think we did at least 75% of our training runs together.  Even the ones we did with others or solo, we checked in with each other to see how things were going.  It was really nice to be in sync like that.

For a variety of reasons, we decided early on to make this a celebration run.  It was not to be about time but about training smart, celebrating the miles, and finishing strong.  We rehearsed this a lot on our runs – we are both a bit *cough cough* Type A and can be a bit overly hard on ourselves.  I am happy to say we achieved our goals, in spades!

Pre-Race

We arrive in Roanoke on Friday afternoon and went straight to the expo. Everything was clearly organized.  We were surprised to see that all three races, the 10k, half marathon, and full, all had custom shirts!  And they are so soft ❤  We then picked up our free socks and checked out the couple of other booths.  It was small but as expected.

We checked in to the Cambria Hotel and were pleasantly surprised by the room.   My family was originally going to join me so we had a full, two-room suite with microwave and mini fridge.  The hotel was just over a mile to the start so it was perfect for us.

After we got settled, we decided to check out the Mill Mountain Star (elevation 1703 feet).  Both of our fathers are facing similar health issues so we dedicated our race to them.

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After that, we met up with some other ladies from our chapter who were doing the half for dinner.  We decided to forgo a shake-out run and finished prepping for the day and were in bed by 9:30.  Unfortunately, M had to deal with a work crisis until late and I was up from 1:30-3, having a mild anxiety attack.  Before we knew it, the alarm was going off and it was time to get a move on!

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Wonder Twin powers, activate!

We grabbed a cup of coffee from the hotel and made the walk to the start.

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It’s a long way up!
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First time I’ve been butt-bombed

The little bakery near the start was totally overwhelmed by runners but we were able to grab some toast and I had a fruit bowl and packet of almond butter while milling around.  Bag check was a breeze but there was more of a line for the port-a-johns that I wanted to wait through.

The Race

Before we knew it, the cannon was fired (it was a legit CANNON!) and we were off.  We started on rolling hills right away and made our way up towards Mill Mountain.

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No turning back now!

The half marathon runners split off from the full around mile 2.5.  They went up to the peak of Mill while we made our way to Roanoke Mountain (elevation 2,193).

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There were a lot of switchbacks going up (and coming down!)
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A bugler encouraged us to “Charge!”
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No kidding!

 

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Gah!

The view at the top was absolutely amazing!  Pictures don’t do it justice.  We knew, as soon as we saw it, that we made the right decision to run this race.

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Going down!

After Roanoke Mountain, we made our way back to Mill Mountain and actually went up to the star this time.

After a quick stop there, we ran through a nice greenway by the zoo (but not THROUGH the zoo 😦 ) and made our way down to the famous Moo-Mosa lady.  Every year, a couple who lives in a very nice house in the middle of the mountain makes mimosas for the runners.  Complete with a silver champagne bucket!

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First time I have ever drank on a course!
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Everything was ridiculously pretty

That’s two peaks down, just one left!  Peakwood (elevation 2,113) is, by far, the toughest one.  Not only is it later in the race (mile 18) but it’s steeper and there is a false top.  We thought we had hit the top when we reached an aid station and then started going back down but, no.  We were very much mistaken. I will freely admit, I really struggle with the second climb.  I was feeling very sick and the sun was full on us so I was super hot.  There was a party at the top (champagne, fruit, chocolate) but I couldn’t look at any of it. I took a mint (heaven) and searched in vain for the unused cold towels and then we started off again.

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Such a bastard
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Trying to find my joy again!

The course then took us back into town where it was HOT!  I was swearing freely by this point and was looking forward to meeting one of our other friends who was coming to support her husband (who ran the half and placed first in his age group!).  We didn’t see her at the first meet up spot and I was a bit worried.  I was happy to hear that she was delayed because of her husband’s award ceremony 🙂

When we found her, she quickly jumped in and ran about three miles with us – cowbell and all!

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Just what I needed at mile 25!

Before we knew it, we were (FINALLY) done with the hills and coming in for our downhill finish!

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Whee!

Some more of our awesome friends met us with signs, cold cokes, frozen wash clothes, and a cookie cake!

 

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Because it wouldn’t be a race without some ugly crying!
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But I rallied 🙂
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You bet we’re tough!

After we rested for a bit, we made our way back to the hotel and started recovering.

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I added a star for Roanoke!

Our goal was to run with joy and we certainly did that.  I didn’t even wear my watch until the last half mile, just so I could stop it easily (I turned it on and stuck it in my pack so I could record the data).  We stopped for a lot of pictures, we thanked all of the volunteers, and we chatted with many people on the course.  We were grateful for the day.  Mission accomplished!

The Numbers

One of our biggest challenges, and stressors,  going in to the race was that we have never done anything like this before so we didn’t what to expect.  Just so you have some way to compare, my best marathon time is 4:58 (300 feet of elevation change) and my best 10K is 55:41.  We ran Blue Ridge in 5:49 (7,430 ft of elevation change) with about 15 minutes spent on goofing around.  We were definitely not the last but only about 85 others finished after us.

The Good

Just about everything was good!  The volunteers were over-the-top spectacular.  There were plenty of water stations and more food stations that I was expecting – oranges, bananas, pretzels, gummy bears (and worms!) and GU.  At least two had ice towels but I couldn’t figure out where they were at one. Many neighbors, especially at the end, came out to cheer, offer unofficial aid (beer!), and had set up sprinklers.  The custom shirts were sweet and the belt buckle/medal is awesome!  I don’t know how the finish area was since our friends brought us stuff.  I found out later that there were wading pools of ice water and I really wish I had known that at the time!

The Not So Good

The course is very hot and pretty flat-ish (except when it’s not!) at the end.  It would have been great to have a misting station set up on the course.

(seriously, that’s my only complaint!)

Overall

This was a super tough course that lived up to its name but it was totally worth it!  I would love to run it again!  If you’re on the fence, I highly recommend you sign up, stash your watch, and plan to run happy!

 

 

 

 

Race Week!

Race week is finally here!  This training cycle feels like it has zoomed by, and while it has definitely had its challenges and set backs,  I think we are ready to tackle the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Yesterday’s last long run was just eight miles but it had some nice, long hills built in to it. Mile 4ish took us down a road called Hillside.  Any guesses as to the terrain??  I remember the first time I attempted Hillside.  I ran down it okay but practically crawled my way back up.  Yesterday, I felt great!  We kept super even splits and I never felt like I was dragging myself or that I was lagging (too terribly far) behind my running partners.

Honestly, this was the best and happiest run I’ve been on in a while.  The sun rose while we were running and, while it was crisp, the sky was clear and there was no wind.  I tried to just soak up the sights and enjoy the morning – and store up some “good” feelings for Saturday.

I know Saturday will be far from easy but this is a “joy” run for us.  Our plan is to run with light feet and a grateful heart and I, for one, will be thankful every step for how far I have come!  I won’t be the fastest but the fact that I’m even there is pretty spectacular!

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Race Report: MC 17.75K 2016

All winter I have said that I would not run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2016.  They are moving packet pick-up to National Harbor (a big hassle for me) and I want to focus on Richmond.  When registration opened for the 17.75K, which gives you a guaranteed entry into the marathon at the finish, I decided to just do it for a training run (I needed 12 miles for that day and the race is just a hair over 11 with some nice hills) but give the code to someone else. Yeah, we’ll just leave that there for a few minutes while I do my race report…

This is the third time I have run this race and I volunteered at it last year.  It was definitely more organized at the start and finish than in years past.  The course was the same from the past two years – about 4 miles on a dirt and gravel road, five miles of pavement, and about 2 more on the dirt again.  I love running trails but this dirt road always pisses me off.  I’m not sure why.  I was very happy to see the bit of pavement!  Also, while the transportation logistics in 2013 were a nightmare, I did like that course more.  It ran by the water/streams in several spots and there were a few bridges.  This revised course has no water and one bridge over a dry gully.  For scenery, it’s a “meh” in my book.

They were offering packet pickup by the race site on Thursday and Friday but no proxy pick up and none in my group could make the hours.  We decided to go the morning of.  Our group met at 5 am for some Starbucks and made the quick trip to the commuter lot near the start.  We got right on a bus and were at the starting area by 5:25.  We quickly received our bibs and shirts (short sleeve unisex tech) and made our way to the nearby church, where we were able to keep out of the increasing rain and use a real bathroom.

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I think I do this pose a bit too often…

At 6:25, we went to bag check and then took a group MRTT picture and waited for the start.  They had a moment of silence for the Prince William County police officers that were killed in the line of duty a few months ago.  They then had the presentation of the colors and a woman sang the National Anthem.  I’m glad it was raining because I was freely crying at this point.

Before we knew it, we were off and running.  There were no start corrals so we just took off, en mass. It was a bit of a cluster but they had the entire  section of road closed that we used to get to the park entrance (one year they had just the shoulder closed and I thought I was going to die!)

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Enterprising MRTTers, trying to stay warm and dryish under a heat blanket

The miles went by pretty quickly!  My training partner and I were testing our tutus for Blue Ridge and they worked very well and received a lot of comments (aside from the woman who made a snide remark as we were leaving the church. Followed by me promptly telling here where to go!).

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My partner in crime!

The aid stations were organized and were about every 2 miles or so.  They just had water but that was okay.  Two had monster tower speakers so the music was nice, even if one was playing a slow Taylor Swift song and the other had on Journey 🙂

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Right before the worst hill of the course, at mile 4
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“Look excited!’ “Wait, what does it say??”  LOL

My favorite part was a little out-and-back before the last mile.  We saw several friends there and that was a nice pick-me-up.  Before we knew it, we were making the turn out of the park and into the finish chute!  I saw no one wipe out at this race but one lady almost did as she took that corner way too fast!  More people seemed to be super focused at this race than in years past.  They used to just cruise along for the guaranteed entry but we saw quite a few hot dogs this time around.

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This was a nice surprise!

Right when we crossed the last mat, volunteers were there with medals (a nice addition last year!) and then, a few yards away, a line was set up to give us our Golden Ticket!

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Done, and done!

Then, on to food!  I swear, I have never seen so much food at a race before!  Even more than the marathon!  They had beet juice (I tried it, pretty rough), yogurt, bananas, cup of peaches, chips, trail mix, and fresh popped popcorn (OMG! Get in my mouth!).  I was happily snacking away while we waited in the bag check line but it wasn’t very long before I was tired of being cold and wet and just wanted to GO.  They only had 3-4 people work the bag check so it was super slow and our hands were blue/white by the time we go to the front of the line.

We quickly grabbed our bags and walked right to the bus for the commuter lot and were off within minutes!  After that, it was back to our meet-up point for more Starbucks and some time to chat and relax.  Overall, it was a good day!

Oh, and I now had the access code for the marathon in my hot little hands.  The first person I offered it to ended up not needing it as she got in via the lottery.  The second person decided she didn’t have time for a fall marathon this year so… guess who’s running MCM for a 3rd time! 😀  Crazy, I tell you!

Good

I like the medal and the shirt was okay (I’m glad it was a short sleeve)

The parking logistics were perfect

Using the church before the start was super nice

The overall organization of the finish, including the food, was great!

Not So Good

No heat blanket at the end. We were all cold and soaked so that would have been nice.

Organization of bag pick up wasn’t very good – they needed more people to help.

I’m just not a huge fan of the course.

Overall

I feel like they improve every year.  I would definitely do this again.

Oh, and fun fact!  60% of the field was female!  That’s so awesome!