Race Report: Richmond Marathon 2017

Well, that was fun.

Week of the marathon, everyone was losing their ever-loving minds over the weather (cold) and I was feeling a bit cruddy (stomach) and stressed (headache on Friday that was close to migraine territory).

I caught a ride down with a woman from my running group and her husband.  We went directly to the expo, shortly after it opened, and were in and out relatively quickly.  It’s fairly small but they had some gear vendors, a few other races (including Blue Ridge Marathon!  Sign up already and use RACEBLUERIDGE for 15% off!)  They also had the most brilliant vendor there – Thomas’ English Muffins!  With freshly toasted muffins for everyone!  Soo goood….

After that, we headed to our hotel.  We were both staying at the Holiday Inn Express that is downtown.  I would not stay here again.  My room was okay (other than having the filthiest carpet I have EVER seen in the room) but my friend got stuck with a room that had been recently smoked in and I had problems with a late check-out (more on that later).  They went to get lunch but I was feeling gross so I went to my room, unpacked, and literally sat on the couch while watching 3 hours of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and ate peanut butter filled prezels.  Don’t judge me.

A large group of us then went to dinner at Graffiato’s. It was very good!  It is supposed to be a tapas type place but we all ate our own plates.  I had the gnocchi and roasted beets.  Mmmm (Fun fact, the “beet effect” is more pronounced when you are dehydrated.  I literally thought I had a kidney rupture later on Saturday).

Saturday morning dawned quite cold but clear.  It was about 25-27.  I had an awesome race outfit, though, so I decided to stick with it.

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Skirt from InknBurn. Shirt from my friend who did a custom decal

I did have a throwaway top and a mylar blanket to wrap around my bottom while I waited.  It really wasn’t that bad.  By the time I walked to the group photo and then moved to the start, I was comfortable.  I did run with the blanket for the first mile but I think that was more because I was feeling a little nervous about my short shorts 😉

Mile 1 through 10 was awesome!  My goal pace was 9:45-10:15 and I was around 9:30 the entire time.  I saw my family at mile 9 and was really feeling great!

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See you in 10 miles!

My knee was holding up and the weather was absolutely perfect for me!  My only area of concern was that I knew I was behind on my nutrition.  My stomach problems of the past week made me nervous.  I really didn’t want to have to make a mid-race pit stop.

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So good!

Mile 11 had us coming out from the very flat river portion of the course and climbing a couple of hills, the first one short but quite steep.  And I felt something “go” in my back.  And my back began to progressively tighten.  I started rubbing it and running with my hand on my back to give some support.  No dice.  I then moved to a run walk plan.  I was muttering out loud “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter” as I watched my pace click higher and higher.  By the time I reached the long bridge at mile 15, I could hardly walk in a straight line and I couldn’t stand fully erect.  I was slowly stumbling along and crying like mad. I texted my husband and told him I didn’t think I could finish.  I texted my friend who was at mile 22 and told her I was screwed.

One of the big running groups in Richmond had a ton of coaches on the course and a lady with a giant apple hat (I think it was an apple) came running over and did everything she could to help me.  She tried rubbing my back and basically shoved Advil down my throat.  She told me to just get to medical at the other end of the bridge and they could help stretch me out so I could at least finish the race.  I thanked her and kept stumbling on.

I never did see the medical tent in that section but the Advil eased the pain a bit so I could get my head on right.  I had three big problems.  1. I could not run.  I was having spasms so bad that the pain was radiating down both legs just walking.  2. I had to check out the hotel by 1:00 because they refused a late check-out and told me I would be charged for an extra day if I was late.  3. I had to finish the race. I already bought a quarter zip and a Christmas ornament!  Oh, and 4. I was PISSED.

So, I texted my husband and told him to have my sweatshirt ready for me by the time I got to 19.  I was going to walk the entire effing back half, if I had to.  I gave him my room key and asked him to check out for me and then meet me at the finish (I was going so slow, he’d have plenty of time). I then let my BRF know what was going on and she said she’d meet me at mile 20.

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One sad panda, let me tell you

So, my friend is totally nuts but has a heart that’s bigger than anything.  She was also wearing a a pink Llama costume and had been spectating all morning.  After I left my husband, I was slowly slogging to mile 20, feeling pretty miserable.  I looked up and suddenly see this pink llama sprinting down the road towards me, hair akimbo and looking a bit crazy.  It was the funniest, and best, thing I have ever seen!  She then proceeded to walk with me for the next two miles.  We chatted, made snarky comments, admired the houses.  MarathonFoto got a picture of us but I won’t post it since she hates it but let me tell you, it is the BEST.  We’re both smiling and trying to act like the camera isn’t there (I was feeling pretty sheepish for walking).

Mile 22 had us back to the MRTT aid station.  My BRF stayed there but I think only because I hooked up with someone else from our group who was also injured and we were going to do a slow wog (walk/jog) together.  I got a bit more Advil and a few more hugs and then my new partner and I slowly moved on.  Somewhere in our wog, the meds kicked in and I was able to pick up the pace just a smidgen.

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So, so bad

I lost my partner somewhere in mile 24 but found another friend in mile 25.  By this time, my back was screaming again.  My new friend was also hurt but we decided that we needed to just “finish this shit” and started our final push (big thanks to our other friend who saw us to the last corner!) Our decent down the finishing hill was 100% profanity.  We were so done but we weren’t going to let the bastard get us down!

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Pretty much

Official time: 5:39.  Not my slowest marathon, so there’s that, but almost an hour slower than what my “C” goal was. Bah.

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Overall: The race itself was great.  Tons of support.  Tons of spectators.  Good course. I love the blanket at the finish.  I have no complaints about anything to do with the race.  Also, the support of my friends and family was, literally, everything.  I would still be sitting on a curb somewhere without them

With me, though?  That’s another story.  I am supremely frustrated by my body.  My training was on point.  The first half of the race was perfect.  I KNOW I can hit 4:30 but for some reason my body fails, yet again, to agree with me.  Maybe I should stop trying to run for time and just stick to “fun” races.  Maybe I should get serious and lose 30 more pounds so I’m not lugging so much around all the time.  Maybe I should try something else.  Maybe I should stop kidding myself.

Oh, hey, that took a dark turn.

To be continued…

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Race Review: Navy Air Force Half 2017

Long time, no “see”!  I have a little race report for you today….

I ran the NAF last year and almost died.  Okay, that’s melodramatic and not funny, considering that I did see people go down on the course (this year, too, but we’ll get to that).  Still, it was SUPER tough!  It was so bad, I never even wrote about it!  My hip was a mess and I was in a lot of pain around mile 6. Also, the weather was super hot and sunny.  Even with that and a chest cold, I still got a distance PR of 2:15:53, which was 8 minutes faster than my previous one.

This year, I needed a half around the same time and thought, surely the weather gods won’t screw us two years in a row.  WRONG!

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When you can hardly see the top of the Monument due to humidity, it isn’t a good sign

Packet Pick Up

The packet pick up was at the DC Armory this year.  I was surprised because last year it was at the ball field and there were only a handful of vendors.  I didn’t think they would fill the Armory.  They didn’t.  It was outside, under tents.  They had more vendors but I was in and out in ten minutes. It was a nice, low-key pick up and went fine.  The race shirt is a nice, dark blue long sleeve tech.  I’ll post a picture of it later.

Race Logistics

At the last minute, I abandoned my plan to park at my work and walk the two miles to the start and bought a spot in the Reagan Building for $15, as advised by the race.  As did everyone else in the free world.  Even though I left my house at 5:40, I didn’t park until almost an hour later (only a 20 minute drive) because we couldn’t get into the garage due to congestion and security has to inspect all of the cars (life in DC!).  Pro tip: next time, I will go past the main entrance (by staying in the middle lane) and turn right to enter the back entrance.  No line!

After that, I had to find the portajohns.  Which were at the finish festival area, as far from the start as they could get.  There were only three lines and they were long!

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3 lines!!

Per usual, I was in line when the National Anthem was sung.  Luckily, I was able to run to the starting area right before they closed the first yellow wave.  I had to almost trample a ton of red bib runners who were already crowding the start even though the announcer was yelling to let the yellows through.  Bah.

The Race

After that stressful beginning, my heart rate was jack rabbiting all over the place.  I couldn’t get it to come down and I was running in the 8s.  I read that in order to run a 4:15 marathon (my plan for November), you should be able to do a 2 hour half so that was my plan.  That meant keeping a pace around 9:09.  The first 4 miles had me in the very low 9s, high 8s.  I knew I needed to control that!  The good thing about starting way at the end of the wave was it was pretty empty ahead of me.  I had to pass a lot of people but I didn’t feel boxed in for the first couple of miles during the first out and back and then around Hains Point, like I usually do.

I was running with my Hydra Quiver from Orange Mud so I didn’t need to stop at the water stops.  I had one bottle full of Amped Hydrate and the second with “smart” water, both half frozen.  It was so hot, though, that they completely thawed quite quickly.  At mile 6, I used half of a e+ energy shot from Isagenix.

By mile 7, I was HOT.  This was around the Kennedy Center and Watergate.  It was really the only spot with a lot of spectators but most of the families just stood there silently, some holding signs.  I asked a guy next to me if they were watching a funeral.  Pro tip:  It’s okay to cheer for runners other than your own!  They actually like it!

We were now going up Rock Creek Parkway.  It is not really flat. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a dirty liar.  The road is severely canted in some areas so you are fighting gravity in two directions.  We also had to go up a legit hill to the turn around.  Let me tell you, my legs were begging for mercy at that spot.  Luckily, I knew some of my MRTT friends were just ahead so I kept moving.  At this point, was a bit ahead of my needed average pace (but I knew what was coming).

At mile 10, I dropped my half full Amped Fuel packet.  I had just taken some and it flew out of my pouch.  I wasn’t sure if I would need the rest so I trotted back and tried, and tried, and tried to pick it up.  Finally got it up and secured on the 4th try.  Did I mention I was hot?

Mile 11 and 12 were rough.  The sun came out and we had to go on a fully exposed area by Lincoln Memorial and on the Memorial Bridge. I took the rest of my e+shot but my pace still dropped to 9:35 and 9:42.  I could tell from my average that I would not make my 2 hour goal but I didn’t give up and walk, like I usually do!  Instead, when I beeped at 12 I decided to go as hard as I could.  Normally, I have a strong finish kick.  There was no kick this year.  My tank was E-M-P-T-Y. My last mile was 9:00 even and I crossed the finish line at 2:02:58.

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Um, A 13 minute PR?? Oh, and I got a 10K PR, too!
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I’ll take it!
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I am beet red!

At the finish, I got my snazzy medal and a bottle of water but I was shaking so bad, I could hardly hold the bottle.  I immediately took two Endurolyte caps from Hammer and they kicked in while I was talking to some MRTT friends and I felt better. I then went to the food area and got some pretzels (which I immediately ate), chocolate chip cookies (ditto), a muffin, and two granola bars (neither of which I ate). I almost attacked a sketchy looking guy to find out where he got his banana but, alas, he brought his own (insert raunchy joke here).

After that, I decided to head back to the parking garage because I knew we had to go through security to get into the building and last year it was a nightmare.  Luckily, I ran into two more MRTT friends who told me about the “secret” entrance.  Pro Tip: skip the line at the main doors and go a bit further down the building and take the first right.  No one used that entrance so we were through in a heart beat and the bathroom is right there.  But, if you all crowd it next year so I have to wait in line, I demand the ability to cut the line 😀

Overall

This is not a Marine Corps race (or even Army).  They needed more bathrooms at the start and closer to the start.  They need a better wave system.  They need better communication, overall.  The weather still sucked (but the race couldn’t control that one).  There were hardly any spectators so if you need a crowd to keep you going, this isn’t a good choice.  It would have been nice if there was a HS pep group on Hains Point or something.  That was so boring.  The race shirt is nice.  The medal is fine.

I’d give it a solid B.  I say I won’t do it again but… well, I’ll likely see you next year.

 

Race Report: Blue Ridge Marathon, 2017

I always have a hard time writing this report because there is SO MUCH to tell! Bear with me, this will be long (and has a ton of pictures). TL;DR It was awesome. You should do it 🙂

My race prep started Thursday night when my Sole Sister give me a fantastic send off.  She was unable to race this year due to family commitments so she did the next best thing by plastering my house with a fantastic sign, a light-up star, a bottle of champagne, and other goodies (including a shower cap because the weather guys said there would be rain)

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Friday morning I picked up the other two runners from my MRTT chapter and we made the trek to Roanoke with no problem.  We stayed at the Cambria hotel again and, once again, I say it’s the best choice.  We had a two bedroom suite that was as big as some apartments!  I highly recommend them!

We hit the expo as soon as it opened.  Everything was well managed and it seems like it was a bit bigger this year.  All race distances received a custom shirt. This was the first year with the double marathoners being an official distance so they even had their own race shirt! Not a lot of smaller races do that!  They are also SUPER soft!   We also received a free pair of socks from Farm to Feet.

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And there were more clothing options this year so I grabbed the best hoodie ever and a new buff that I will cut down and use as three head bands.

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I also picked up one of the limited prints and a couple of other things.

We had a lovely meal at Fortunato’s.  I had bolognaise with homemade spaghetti and my friend had a fennel and speck pizza.  We both had sides of roasted beets 🙂

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Highly recommend this restaurant!

 

We left the hotel at 6:30 and walked over to the start.  It was just over a mile and it was a nice little warm up.  It was sprinkling but not bad.  We dropped our bags with no problem, met up with some other friends, and then went to check out the VIP area that I had access to as part of being a blogger and having a team.  The indoor bathrooms were nice and we could have had some coffee or a muffin or fruit but we were good.

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Overlooking the finish area

The race started at 7:35 with a legit cannon and we were off!

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 I was running with my Peep as part of our running club’s challenge for the month.  Sunshine amused a lot of runners!

First stop was Roanoke Mountain.  The course was crowded for the first almost 3 miles but thinned out considerably when the half marathon and 10K people split off to go up Mill Mountain to the star.  It was a bit drizzly and we were running through the clouds as we went up the mountain.  As usual, the first overlook did not disappoint!

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First Overlook, on our way up Roanoke Mountain

At the top of the mountain, there was a big aid station with gummy bears, pretzels, bananas, and oranges.  It was nice to have some real food!

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Feeling goofy on the first peak 🙂

We then went back down into the mist and it soon turned into rain

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Then we went back up Mill Mountain to the star.

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They had awesome volunteers on “photo duty” – taking everyone’s pictures for them!

Then down for the alcohol!!

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First, the Moo-Mosa lady ❤ She was liberal with the champagne, too!
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Then the Mai-Tai ladies!
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Maybe not the smartest choice, so soon after the mimosa…

Then down we went to the town, along the river and greenway and through the soccer field (including what we referred to as the “rape and murder tunnel” – though I am sure it is perfectly safe!)  The weather was still holding so it was quite comfortable and it was very different from the sunny death march of last year!

And then… duh, duh, du  PEAKWOOD!

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Yeah, Peakwood is still a bitch.  You go up, and then down and think “oh, that wasn’t bad” and then you go UP!!  Luckily, I was prepared this year and didn’t want to die at the top!  Though my calves were screaming for mercy!

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Champagne and strawberries!

And then down we went, back to town.  Around mile 22, our friend who was supporting her husband (who placed second in his AG in the half, NBD… ) found us and was going to run with us but I told her that the police were reporting lightning and asked that she go back and find out what was going on.  Not long afterwards we were informed that the course would be closing.  There was a bus coming and our friend confirmed that we could finish on our own and get a medal or get on the bus and not.  By that time we were almost at mile 24 so we chose to not get on the bus.  They took down our bib number and confirmed that we understood that the course was now open to traffic.  We said yes and off we went!

This is the first time I have had a race called due to weather and I think they handled it very well.  The aid stations were packing up but they left cups out for anyone they could catch before they left and a lot of the course marshals stayed at their posts.  We only had to cross two bigger roads without a marshal and the traffic stopped for us with no problem.  Even the volunteers who were walking back to their cars would stop and cheer for us.  Seriously, Richmond Marathon may say they are the friendliest marathon but I think BRM is an EXTREMELY close second.  Every single volunteer went above and beyond to give us an excellent race!

So, the clock was ticking and the clouds were looming and we were hot-footing it for the finish.  We were all hurting but we knew we were almost done.  I was really happy I knew the course so I could give my team a heads-up before the last big hill and talk them through the finish.

They were tearing down the finish area but we still had a clock time and received our medals.  Also, our awesome friends at the finish secured food (and beer!) for us and helped us get to shelter before all hell broke lose.  Seriously, it would have been a different finish without their support!

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Got my belt buckle!
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We did this!

Good:

Views

Crowd support/aid stations/all the volunteers

How they handled the shut down

Race shirt

Medal

Not good:

The rain at the end but what can you do??

Overall:

Solid A! This remains my favorite race!  It still kicked my butt but I still don’t care.  I ran without a watch (until the very end, just so I knew where we were for our support crew) and we lingered over the views and at the aid stations and that made it awesome!  Yes, we could have been faster but we would not have had as much fun!  We chatted with all sorts of interesting people along the way and just had an amazing adventure.  I will definitely be back next year!

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Race Review: Marine Corps Marathon 2016

AKA, “The Accidental Marathon”

So, this all started in March.  We were training for the Blue Ridge Marathon and needed to run 12 miles the same day that the Marine Corps 17.75K race was to take place.  My training buddy and I decided to try to register for it but didn’t have high hopes since this is a “golden ticket” race and all finishers have guaranteed access to the Marine Corps Marathon.  Well, wouldn’t you know it… we got in!

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Our third buddy, who we hijacked, was like “wait, what??”

But, I didn’t really think I would run this since I assumed I could easily give away my access code.  And I tried.  I really did.  Three times!  No one wanted it.  So… I hired a coach and got to training!

Fast forward 18 weeks, and one injury, and M and I found ourselves running to National Harbor to pick up our race packets.

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The run over was a lot of fun!

Honestly, I’m not a fan of the new expo location.  The Gaylord is a lovely hotel but traffic was nutty, Uber couldn’t pick us up when we were done because they couldn’t get to the designated Uber-lot due to police routing them elsewhere, and the layout of the expo was not good.  The lines to get your bibs ran perpendicular to the main entrance so you had to wade through the lines to get from one end of the hall to the other.  No one knew where the Kids’ Run bib pick up was (because neither they, nor I, read the email saying it would be at the race start) so I had to wade through several times.  Not awesome.

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The Dick’s booth told us to act like we just won the marathon!

The Brooks area was supper chaotic (as usual) so I didn’t buy anything there and it didn’t feel like there were as many vendors there this year.  I did like the shirt, though.

On Saturday, Little Runner ran the kids’ mile and we had a good time, as usual.  If you decide to do this with your kids, I highly recommend the early waves.  It’s gets pretty busy and they completely sold out the race this year!

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Race morning found us all a little tense.  M’s mom graciously drove us and a few others to Rosslyn so we didn’t have to worry about shuttle buses, etc. due to Metro’s unwillingness to open early. We hung out for a bit in the Fisher House team tent (my second year with them and I still can’t recommend them enough!) before making our way to the start.

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Food, private bag drop, chairs, coffee.  What more could a runner want?
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A beautiful view

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The race itself was extremely difficult for me. It was “comfortable” at the start, and that is never a good sign for me.  I knew I was in for a long day when, around mile two when we were slogging up the Lee Highway hill, I yelled at a spectator who was shouting that we were “almost there”.  Sorry, dude.  (but I still think you were being an asshole).

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Family stop #1.  LR is excellent at spotting me!  Still feeling good here.

I was staying close to my B goal pace until I hit mile 12.  This was along the “Blue Mile” where Wear Blue lines up with flags and pictures of fallen service men and women.  It’s an emotional mile. And the sun came out.  And my pace went right in the toilet.  I hit an  MRTT stop on the back side of Haines Point and literally just broke into tears when I saw my friends.  I was so thankful for their ice bottle and cold cloth!

At that point, I was seriously considering just dropping out.  My back had started to cramp and I was beginning to have stomach problems.  I knew my family was waiting for me before the bridge, though, and I didn’t know how I would tell my son that I was quitting.  So I kept going.  I rallied a bit along the Mall — until I had to make another unexpected bathroom stop.  I knew my family was coming up soon so I just kept moving until I found them.  I spent a few minutes with them and then tried to push on to the 14th St Bridge.

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My husband was amusing himself while waiting for me.  Anyone recognize this scene?
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The wheels were totally off the bus and had rolled away by this point.

I saw two of my MRTT friends right before the bridge and  I couldn’t even talk, I just cried and kept running somewhat jogging.  Halfway across the bridge,  I just gave up on life for a while and walked.  I walked around the Pentagon parking lot(s) — I was so out of it that I thought that I had somehow gotten off course and was stuck in an infinite loop!  It was horrible! — and in to Crystal City.

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I survived the parking lots of doom!

I knew I’d see more of our MRTT mommas soon so I tried to keep moving.  Thankfully, I found them and their icy goodness!  I took handfuls of ice and shoved it in my shirt and I wrapped some up in one of my towels and ate it a bit at a time as I kept walking.  I also took some Ibuprofen. That loosened me up enough so I could pick up into a jog again. I was now working on my second slowest marathon time but I tried to keep as even a pace as I could.   We were all in a death march down 110, past the Pentagon.  We were running as close to the wall as we could get, trying to find shade, and people were collapsing under the overpasses.  Seriously, I saw a ton of runners go down after mile 18.  It was scary!

I saw my family again at mile 26.  Have I mentioned before how much I love them??

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Still moving forward. Barely.
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These guys were also there again but I didn’t see them until we were walking back to the Arlington Metro.  You’re welcome.

And then, the finish!  One of the Fisher House girls came out to run me up the last hill and I told her how much of a shit show that day had been.  She said yes, but you finished it!  And, by god, I did.  So, I ran up that hill as fast as my tired and broken body would let me and I finished knowing that I did the best that I could that day.

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DONE!
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I couldn’t do it without these guys!

If you’re still with me, you might be wondering what the heck happened.  I really don’t know.  A big, huge, massive part was weather. I do not do well in heat or direct sun.  I’ve been training in it all summer but, mentally, I was not prepared for this.  I also did not adjust my pace/goals for the weather.  I should have switched to intervals when I started to struggle. That would have eliminated the miles of walking.  Also, next time, Imodium — enough said.

So, that’s Marathon #5. Overall, I’d give the race a low B.  I did not like the changes that they made this year and I’m in no hurry to do it (MCM) again any time soon.  I’m not done with the distance, though. I still have Richmond in two weeks (oy!)

Not a typical race report: Ragnar WV 2016

If you want to read about Ragnar Trail WV, check out my 2014  report.  It was pretty much the same but less rain (only once and only one delay!), better food with coffee through the night, and better service on the port-a-johns (since the mud didn’t keep the trucks out).  If you want to read my ramblings about my relationship with my dad and a bit of a trip down memory lane, keep reading…

Here’s the thing: when you are running a relay race that spans 36 hours, you’re going to have a lot of down time to think.  When the race is in the woods, you’re going to have a lot of alone time to think.  Basically, it’s a great time to work some shit out.

I’ve mentioned here before that my dad was diagnosed with cancer right before Christmas.  This has been a blow that I haven’t really known how to process.  Over the years, we haven’t been terribly close, for a number of reasons.  I spent a lot of time last weekend thinking about that and remembering.

On the yellow loop, my first leg, I was thinking about my parents and old hurts.  I was thinking about how hard it must have been for them to have kids so young – both my parents were fresh out of high school when they had my oldest brother and they soon had 3 kids in eight years.  I was thinking about how hard it is for me to raise my son at the ripe old age of 41.  I can’t imagine the challenges they must have faced raising triple the amount (and triple the attitude – because we’re all about the same, in that regard).  Somewhere in the first few miles of my run, I acknowledged that they were doing the best that they knew how to do, just like I am doing, just like almost ever other parent does, and sometimes that falls short.

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Yellow and Red start

I’m not a religious person, somewhat related to my clash with my parents.  I haven’t been to a church, other than for a wedding or funeral, since I left home.  Running in the pine grove on the yellow loop, though, was as close to a religious experience as a person could get.  I think my dad would greatly enjoy a Sunday spent out here.  I think in this place, we could find some common ground.

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Pine grove in the dappled afternoon sun

Growing up in the middle-of-nowhere Michigan, we spent a lot of time outside and found our own amusement.  Seeing the various mushrooms and lichen on the trail reminded me of the time we had a giant puffball mushroom growing in our back lot behind our house.  My dad picked it and fried it up in butter even though it was as big as my head!  I did see one little puffball on the trail – I left it alone but it made me smile.

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There were so many neat mushrooms and vegetation!

My overnight run was on the green loop.  It was supposedly the “easy” leg but, in Ragnar, there’s no such thing as easy!  It’s quite the ankle turner and a lot of people fell in the first 1/2 mile (which happened to be right behind our tents so we could here the “ooofs” and expletives as people went down).  One of the creepy interesting things about night running is when you shine your light to the side or behind you and see glowing eyes looking back. My dad used to be quite an avid hunter (deer and pheasants, mostly) so I’m sure he would have not been spooked by the eyes.  I, on the other hand, just ran faster!  It was hard leaving the fire pit – where they had s’mores and were showing Top Gun – but it was worth it!

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Playing with fire. It was perfection.

I am the oldest of 3 girls but for eight years, I was the youngest child and the only girl.  I was often lumped in with the boys (until I was old enough that this would no longer fly) and was expected to work, too.  My brothers will maintain that I was spoiled but I remember many a summer day  spent clearing brush, hauling wood, etc.  This meant I was pretty strong for my age and I think that strength stayed with me, even during my sloth years.  I was very grateful for my peasant lineage and the strong work ethic that was drilled into me as I scrambled over boulders and rocks.

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In the Mother of Crack section of the Red Loop

In the middle of the red loop, the longest and most difficult leg, I was faced with a mile long hill that was very steep in some spots.  I was tired from being up all night. I was hungry.  I was so incredibly hot.  I really wanted to sit down and not even finish.  And then I thought of my dad.  I knew that at that moment, he would give anything to go tromping in the woods or  go fishing on his new boat but side effects from the chemical cocktail he has had to endure for the past several months have (temporarily) stolen that from him.  I may be hot and tired but I was still strong.  The least I could do was finish this run for those who don’t have that privilege.

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Strong finish

Where does that leave us?  I don’t know.  I do know that everyone is bruised and a bit broken, but closer – both my Ragnar family and my biological family.  I do know that stubbornness is a very strong family trait and we Silvermans relish a challenge.  I do know that whatever the next few months bring, we can endure.  I do know that we are stronger than we know and we can do hard shit.

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My dad and son earlier this year

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 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!

Race Report: St. Pat’s Double

This weekend, I needed about 12 miles for my long run and it just happened to coincide with two great races.  I ran the Reston Ten Miler last year so I decided to go with the St. Pat’s Double (plus a few extra) this year.

As a bonus, a friend who is coming back from some health issues asked if I would pace her for a 10/10:30 pace for the 5K.  Normally, I can’t pace for crap but I thought I could keep her pretty close and readily agreed.

I decided to go in to DC early so I could get a good parking spot and pick up my bib plus run my extra miles.  I was able to park right on Constitution Ave., so that was perfect.

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I then ran 3 easy miles, to get my yayas out before meeting up with my friend.  It was a gorgeous morning and I was feeling great as I ran down the Mall to the start!

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I ran up the Lincoln steps. And barely managed to stop myself from accidentally blowing a snot rocket at the memorial.  So classy!

12717965_10153250548022470_4962062803657633518_n.jpg12798868_10153250548147470_788616181143065176_n.jpg There was an Italian gentleman there, recording himself in front of Lincoln. He kept looking at me like I was nuts as I tried to get this shot!

I rolled back in about 15 minutes before the start.  Quickly found my friend, plus a couple more who wanted to come along for the ride, and we confirmed our place in the corral.

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Ready to go!
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He was the cutest dog on the course!

As we were running, I kept an eagle eye on my watch and pulled the group back a bit when ever we started speeding up.  I also tried to encourage them on the hills at the end of the course.  One of the group was clearly struggling but she did not give up!  All three pushed hard to the finish and we had an average pace of 10:01!

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BOOM!
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2 PRs and 3 crushed goals!

I tell you, I was riding high after this!  I grabbed some water and ate a food packet before lining up for the 10K.  I went out a bit faster than I probably should have with the 10K (9:30s) and, at mile 3, I decided to drop out of the group I was in and go my own pace.  I saw some of my super speedy friends out on the course and that was a lot of fun!  At mile 5 (11.5 for the day), my hamstring really started to hurt and I was starting to feel discouraged.  Right then, I looked left and saw “my girls” on the other side of the course and gave a shout out.  They hollered back and that was the encouragement I needed to keep pushing on.  They didn’t quit so I didn’t either!   I finished with a 10:11 average, which was really where I needed to be.

After crossing the finish, I went to get my medals only to find there was a very long line.  I’m not sure why, there were plenty of volunteers, but we were back up into the finishers chute.

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I then went to get some food.  They had (tiny) cups of hot coffee – fantastic! – as well as bananas, granola bars, and Costco blueberry muffins (less than fantastic. I didn’t look up how many calories are in one of those until I shoved it in my mouth.  Over 600!!!)

By that time, I was freezing and ready to go home so I left without tracking down my other friends.  Sorry, ladies, but I was shivering!

Overall, this was a great race!  I loved the fact that they had corrals (Pacers races often don’t).  The medals were cute.  The race shirt was okay (sorry, no picture).  There were plenty of portajohns.  I give this race a solid A- (the lines for the medals and food could have been handled better).

BUT!  The best part of this was my pacing duties.  I absolutely LOVED doing it!  I definitely want to pace more 5K and 10K groups, maybe even longer with some practice.  This, combined with thoughts of my upcoming RRCA certification, is making me think about a lot of things.  I definitely feel a calling for a service role but never found my place.  Maybe I have now?

Race Report: Share the Love (of Hills) Multidistance

This may be the longest “race report” about a virtual race, ever.  But, I *puffy heart* loved it so much, I have to gush.  Please indulge my love letter to my “sole sisters”.

I’ve said before how much I absolutely ADORE my Moms Run This Town chapter.  These ladies are all so amazingly supportive and all around bad ass, I can hardly stand it some days.  A few weeks ago, I asked if anyone knew of a local-ish half marathon on Valentine’s weekend because I needed a time check for Blue Ridge.  These ladies can ferret out some of the most obscure races so I thought one of them might be in the know.  We can up empty handed but one of my friends piped up with an offer to make a virtual course for us.  And, the First Annual Share the Love (of Hills) Multidistance  race was born!

It was a double looped course, with the second loop in reverse.  The main loop was actually a figure 8, so ladies could drop out when they hit their desired distance. The house that was acting as home base was fully stocked with Lara Bars, Honey Stingers, water, pretzels, candy hearts, and other goodies.  The mom even remembered tissues and handi wipes (which froze, but that’s okay).

Our numbers were diminished a bit, due to the frigid temperatures, but everyone was happy to be running.  It was a real feel of 0 at the start but, luckily, the wind was light and the sun was shining!

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We had better finish line food here than at most races!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And, we’re off!

Only 3 of us were running the full 13.1 but we caught glimpses of the other distance runners and having friends at the aid stations was a big boost!

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This station even had a fire pit!  I didn’t want to get close because I don’t think I would have had the will-power to leave!
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No cold porta-pots here!

The actual race was pretty uneventful.  My two running companions were in great spirits and we had a fantastic time just taking the hills, one at a time.

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Going up one of the big ones – I’m bringing up the rear 🙂
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My husband and LR stopped by to cheer us on at mile 11. Always nice!

Before we knew it, we were done!!

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Strong finish!

With the help of these fantastic ladies, I was able to achieve an 11 minute personal record in my half marathon time.  That’s with a ton of hills and absolutely freezing temperatures.  I am so incredibly lucky to have such a fantastic support network!  I never thought I was much of a “group player” but being a member of MRTT has completely changed my tune.  I have received so much from the other members and I try to give as much as I get – but I know that the equation will never be balanced.  I truly ❤ MRTT

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Because I have to have at least one stupid picture of myself in every post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye, 2015

This is another long and rambling post…

Due to a few different factors, I have been battling a pretty severe case of depression since the end of November.  This is the worst it has been in quite a few years and I have been a bit worried.  Not only can I hardly keep it together to get through the entire day without needing to walk out of the room and count to ten before I start crying, I also am having a hard time completing my workouts without wanting to sit down on the curb and just sob.  I always manage to keep going, but just barely.

Last night, I was scheduled to run the Fairfax Four Miler for the third year in a row.  I was seriously not looking forward to it.  Right up until we started, I was extremely tempted to just walk back to my car and go home.

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Even Batman and a glowing tutu weren’t doing it for me

I was surrounded by a huge group from my running group but I think I said about ten words before the start.  I was so miserable.

After a brief wait, we were off!  Since I knew the course, I knew it had the potential to be fast but that there were some hills.  Mile 1 was 8:43 and mile 2 came in at 8:11!  I couldn’t believe it!  The hills at mile 3 were tough but I still finished with an overall (unofficial) time of 8:56 average!  That was a huge course PR for me!  Even going by the official times, it was still a 1:08 PR.

I am pretty darn proud of this race.  Not only did I do it completely alone – I didn’t even have music – but I feel like I raced my depression and won! At least for now.

I don’t know what 2016 will bring but I am already making a concerted effort to start things on the right foot.  I intend to foster existing friendships and forge new ones, on and off the road.  I want to give as much as I receive and find a real place in my community.

To that end, I started the year off with 3 recovery miles with a friend who is coming back from a very difficult year.  Nothing like some good conversation and Starbucks to set you off to a good start!  I think I’m ready for 2016 now.12366083_10153922355969379_5919816650605742540_o.jpg

By the way, the tutu was a huge hit (which is funny because the last time I wore it, I just got weird looks) – this is the one I have  http://www.amazon.com/Light-Tutus-Electric-Styles-Blue/dp/B00G3UGTT2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1451691906&sr=8-1&keywords=glow+tutu