Less than one year ago, I ran my first marathon. At this time, I said I’d only run one. It was painful. Difficult. Rough. Long.
Yet, I wanted more. Boston. Why not?
Over 700 miles run…over 80 days of 4 a.m. wake up calls.
Dark, cloudy mornings…
Rain, wind, and thunder…
Oppressive heat and humidity…
Hills (oh the hills!), speed work, tempo runs…
Finding the time…
Blood, sweat and tears…
Hitting the pavement as the world sleeps
Sound of footsteps beside me
SVR track workouts
Stupid, “punny” jokes
RIT group runs
Feelings of success after nailing a workout Confidence Focused.
You all have given me a plethora of positive memories to carry with me over 26.2 miles. When I begin to hurt, when the defeating voice pops into my head, I will think of the fun I’ve had over this training cycle.
remember running around Handley as you ran your first track workout.
remember running and listening about the infamous fowl attack.
think of running from Winchester to Woodstock with you.
think of sharing a glass of wine and pizza with you after a tough run.
remember running 14 miles through the streets while kicking a ball with you.
think “the floor is lava!” and want to jump onto the nearest ledge.
remember sharing in your successes and in your failures.
I do believe things happen and people are brought into your life for a reason. Being surrounded by those who challenge and push me to my limits (and beyond) has changed what I once thought possible.
Do I have what it takes?
One shot, one opportunity to seize everything I’ve ever wanted in one moment. Will I capture it, or just let it slip?
I’m not foolish; this will not be easy. No matter how well the training goes, the race itself is a blank slate. Anything can happen.
The mental battle will rage, my muscles will fatigue, I will have to push through.
Even if I do not BQ, how could I fail? Overall, I’ve won.
To all who comment on my workouts, my social media posts, and cheer me on from the sidelines, thank you.
To those who have taken one step with me along the way, thank you. Getting to run with you at group runs – whether you are in the front or the back of the pack – you’ve inspired me to keep going.
To my teammates, who have seen me at the crack of dawn, no makeup on, sweating, dirty and on the verge of puking (or passing out), thank you for never leaving my side.
To my coach, thank you for the guidance, having the ability to know when to pull me back, push me ahead, speak the truth (“it’ll hurt in the marathon too”) or say nothing at all. It’s been a training cycle full of highs and lows, but we made it to the end.
To my family and husband who have supported my crazy goals, thank you. Thank you for the breakfasts, dinners, and whatever else has been needed so I can train.
Although I will be 300 miles away, you all will be with me every step of the way.
Am I ready? Yes, more than ever. My time is now.
This week has been tough. Allergies, poison ivy, heavy workload; obstacles. The marathon is a monster. Anything can happen Sunday. Besides qualifying, having fun is one of my big goals – I want this to be a memorable experience.
I’ll see you on the other side of the finish line!
Better. Faster. Stronger. No, not lyrics by Kanye, but the benefits you can gain through plyometrics.
Bouncing off Jeremy’s post last week about a jump rope workout (see what I did there?), I thought I would delve more into the world of why distance runners should add jump training into their routine.
When we put one foot in front of the other, our leg muscles engage in what is referred to as a Stretch-Shortening Cycle – an eccentric contraction (lengthening of the muscle) immediately followed by a concentric contraction (shortening of the same muscle). A muscle which is stretched right before an explosive movement will contract more forcefully and more rapidly.
Think about a rubber band. If I wanted to shoot the rubber band at someone, what do I do first?
For maximum performance, I’d pull back (stretch) on the band to build up energy. When I release, the stored energy will take action and (hopefully) hit the target. Our muscles are the same. During the stretch phase, our muscles store energy and then release – hopefully quickly and forcefully – to propel us forward.
Simply put, running is a form of jumping – a series of single leg hops, over and over again. In a marathon, men average about 57,640 strides whereas women average about 63,000 strides – those hops sure add up! Isolating the jumping element through plyometrics is a great way to boost running performance without needing to increase your mileage as well as make each of those strides count.
Proper form is key – not only for injury prevention but for maximum benefit. You should have a solid base foundation of cardio and strength before adding plyos to your routine. If you are working through one of the Runner In Training Enhanced Run+Strength plans, explosive training is added to your program after we’ve built up your overall endurance and strength and can be strategically prescribed leading up to prepare you for your big race.
Plyometric Exercises for Runners:
Bounding: this exercise is also great for stretching the hamstrings. Bounding is performed by exaggerating your running form and jumping with each step for about 25 meters. Repeat 2-3 times.
Squat Jumps: Powerhouse. Explosive and effective exercise to power up those glutes!
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Toes should be pointed straight ahead. Bend down into squat position and explode upward with your arms stretched above your head. When you land, land softly with your knees bent as you lower back into the squat position. Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
Switch Lunge Jump: You can’t get much more running-specific than a jump lunge. Switch jumps target all those running muscles in an explosive fashion.
Begin in a lunge position, weight equally distributed on both legs. Jump and reverse the position of your legs, lowering back down into a lunge position. Drive your arms just as you would while running. Do 2 sets of 12-15 reps (each leg).
Single Leg Lateral Jumps: C’mon coach – running is forward! Why do I need to jump side to side? Moving laterally, we are engaging different muscles which can help us not only with our athleticism but with injury prevention. Strength, stability, balance, control – simple and effective.
Find a line or use tape to create a line on the floor. Jump over the line back and forth. Minimize ground contact time – land softly and take off quickly. Do 2 sets of 12-15 hops (each side).
Burpees: Brilliant move – full body exercise and also boosts your cardio.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, jump feet back into a plank position. Do a push-up. Jump feet back to hands, stand up and jump as high as you can. Repeat. 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
Bench Taps: Quick turnover!
Stand in front of a step with both feet on the ground. Rapidly alternate tapping the top of the step with each foot, springing off the ground each time. Drive your arms in your running motion. Do 2 sets of 20 taps (each foot).
Plyometric training can be a powerful tool for improving your running economy. So, if you are ready, go on now – jump up, jump up and get down!
Spring racing has been quite fun and May was no different. This past month featured two local races – the Apple Blossom 10K and the Loudoun Street Mile.
Race #1 – 10K: Sometimes it’s just not your day…
The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is HUGE in Winchester – there are many events that span over the course of two weeks and the Apple Blossom 10K falls on the last Saturday of the festival. Since money is awarded the top finishers, the race usually brings in a few elite competitors from the region.
After solid races at Shamrock Half and Cherry Blossom 10, I set a new 10K goal of 38:00 which would be pushing the pace. Last year was my first time racing AB10 and I ran 47:40, so dropping a sub 40 would be great.
Race morning was cool and rainy. Team Running Dad planned to meet up for a warm up – and for once, all of us were racing! We gathered together and ran a warm up mile through the brisk, misty morning. Soon, it was race time and we tossed our warm up clothes to reveal our shockingly bright neon pink and green racing gear. It was time to go!
Last year, the first mile was tough – lots of weaving in and out through the crowd. This year, I started near the front and the start was much easier. First split was a 6:23 – and about this time, I realized today was just not my day. My legs felt fatigued and tight; but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. My finish was 40:19 (drats!) which was off my goal, but hey, still a PR!
Highlights of the race:
Racing local is great – I loved the crowd support and hearing so many people cheering!
Family race – 4 out of 5 family members (husband, daughter and son) ran the 10k, including my 10 year old son (his first 10K) who surprised me. I was at one of the turnaround points and hear “Let’s go MOM!” and could not believe how close he was to me! He ended up running a 42:18. Husband and daughter also did well in their first 10ks!
Racing with Team Running Dad – the energy in this group is electric. We are competitive, supportive and, at times, immature, but we have a lot of fun. Very lucky to run with this crew.
My mom, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew were at the race! Since they live in PA, they aren’t able to see many races. Loved hearing them in the crowd.
Running near Josh and Duane in the beginning of the race and witnessing Josh grab a donut from someone cheering and proceed to eat while running.
Race #2: The BEAST – mile race…
Historically a half-miler and miler, this should be my race – but it was WAY easier 20 years ago. Last year, I ran a 6:03 and was hoping to at least hit a 5:45 this year. My son has been hitting 5:45-5:50s in the past few months and he set a new goal of 5:30. We may or may not have made a little side bet on who was going to win this year…
Last week, I checked out what quarter mile splits I’d need to hit for a 5:20. I thought it was a bit of a reach, but I’m always up for a challenge. 1:22s… ok, why not try?
Race morning was perfect. I put on my new bumblebee shorts, Topo ST2s, Injinji socks, Goodr shades and grabbed my RaceDots. Picked up my race packet and ran to the start to meet my 32 running club kiddos who were also racing.
Wheeew, the butterflies were really in my stomach before the race. When you are used to running 5ks and halfs…the mile is a whole new ballgame. After I warmed up the kids, stretched a bit – it was time for my race..or so I thought. 15 minute delay. Bummer. I continued to keep on moving, chat with local running friends and my running club kids. Then, it was time to get on the line.
Best part of the race start was having a little cheering section – my running club kids were right there cheering for me and throwing me the thumbs up sign. All the feels – I was smiling inside and out; seeing their little faces calmed my nerves. Unfortunately, the starting gun malfunctioned (I think we had 3 tries) which made my nerves return a little each time. However, on the 4th attempt, the ladies were off.
First split: 1:19. Ok, a slight rise and then you’ll hit the downhill. 1:23.2 was next – a little off but we’ll take it. Starting the descent – didn’t check out my 3rd quarter but was 1:21. Time to fly. I was feeling strong and could see the finish line ahead. I picked up the pace and was able to catch another runner. Again, another great local crowd to cheer on the runners and they pulled me through the homestretch. Overall time, 5:21.8. I’ll take it!
Next up were the kids, girls first. I waited in anticipation for our orange shirts to come down the hill. So excited to see two of our girls in the top – and equally as excited to see two of our girls in the back of the pack…holding hands while running, helping each other finish. Love. My older niece who lives in PA entered the race and also ran a personal best!
Boys race next, including my son and my running partner/coach’s son. These two…wow – they’ve been running pretty equal times for years. As I saw the leaders come down the hill, I saw Connor in 2nd and Dylan in 3rd. Dylan started to sprint and the race literally came down to the wire. Dylan by a nose. Wow – watching them battle through the finish was amazing. I think this rivalry will continue for awhile and I’m very excited to watch them continue to improve. Also in the top 10 for the boys race were 2 other boys from our running club. Solid finishes.
Overall, about 17 out of my kids had personal records at the race. If they didn’t PR, they still ran a great race.
Last race of the day included Team Running Dad teammates Jeremy and Mario. Neither of them were very excited to race a mile, but I knew they’d still rock. The men’s race was pretty stacked – the lead group was pretty stacked but the TRD guys weren’t far behind. Both looked strong. Jeremy clocked a 4:58 and Mario – 5:18 (DARN! I was soooo close!).
So many other local runners kicked butt at this mile race – you all know who you are. Shoutout to the Thursday morning striders group!
May was a great month and now on to June. Next up, Virginia Wine Country Half. I ran this last year and said I’d never do it again. Never say never….
Make sure you take a photo of yourself doing one of the Workout Wednesday exercises then post on the Facebook or Twitter pages of RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom to be entered to win a prize!
Challenge yourself! Need some incentive? RUNaissance Mom and I are challenging you during the month of May.
Take a #WW selfie of you doing one of our workouts and post on either of our Facebook or Twitter pages to try to win!
(1) Prize: (1) Nuun tube, (1) pair of Lock Laces, (2) Honey Stinger waffles and a $20 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods!
1. Post your selfie on the Workout Wednesday post and use the #WorkoutWednesday tag. Photo can be submitted on either RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom Facebook or Twitter accounts.
2. Each photo equals one entry. Only one entry per Workout Wednesday will be counted. 5 Wednesdays in May = 5 chances to win.
3. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Nuun, Honey Stinger, Lock Laces or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
4. Contest will close at midnight EST on June 1, 2017. One winner will be selected and contacted on June 2, 2017.
One more race recap and then we will get back to our regular programming!
Two weeks post Shamrock Half and I was ready to rock again. On my radar this time was the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington, DC.
The entire weekend was quite an adventure! Before we get to starting line, let’s start on the day prior when I headed to the nation’s capital with several members of Team Running Dad.
We traveled down Rt 66 to catch the metro to pick up our packets at the race expo at the National Building Museum. The trip wasn’t too bad – as a bunch of folks from the mountains, we didn’t have too much trouble trying to navigate our way through public transportation. Upon our arrival, we decided to get our packets first then find lunch (although we had a few hangry guys!).
Packet pickup was very easy and we browsed the expo booths. Vendors were most we
see often at other races, but we saw our fearless SVR leader Vernon at the Ragnar tent. After a quick spin through the booths, we headed towards Gallery Place in search of nourishment.
Eventually, we found our way to food but unfortunately, we waited FOREVER for our orders. As we sat at the bar, we pilfered celery meant for Bloody Marys to satisfy our appetites. After what seemed like a very long time, we finally received (almost) all of our food (poor Josh). On the ride home, we acted a little less mature than our age – but some funny memories were definitely made.
We finalized our plans for race day, which included a VERY early a.m. departure (next year, not so early). As is common for me these days, I woke before my alarm and started to get ready. Today, I was racing for the first time in a Team Running Dad race kit. Prior
to the race, the team as a whole decided to wear pink shorts (yes, even the guys) in honor of NICU babies and for Alohi, the recent preemie granddaughter of teammate Mario. To complete the outfit, I also slapped on a RunningDad.com temporary tattoo once again.
Having to travel so far race morning, I did have a little anxiety about traffic and other logistics, but once again, the ride was smooth sailing. We arrived early (way too early), but found our parking spot and broke bread together in the car (thanks for the bread Josh!). After eating our breakfast, we went off on foot in search for the starting line as well as port ‘o pots.
The starting line of CUCB10 is right at the Washington Monument. We waited a little while in the chilly darkness in the bag check tent (until we got kicked out). As we went on our warm-up run around the reflecting pool, the sun was rising behind the Washington Monument. Wow, what a beautiful sight.
Not too long after, we headed to our respective corrals – the guys and I hugged Sara while she went into the red corral and we entered yellow. Once we were in, it suddenly seemed like a family reunion as other runners from back home found us. After hellos, high fives and final pre-race instructions from the starter, we were off!
My goal for the race was 1:05, which would be pushing my pace a little more than I was comfortable, but I set off for a 6:30 pace with teammate Alex and another running friend Duane. First mile wasn’t as crowded as I anticipated and went by rather quick – nearly on the dot at 6:31. The race course included three out-and-back sections where we could see and cheer each other on before heading to the lonely back half of the course. I picked up the pace as we headed towards the first out-and-back where I was hoping to see Mario and Jeremy. Each time, we either sent a thumbs up, an air fist bump or shouted some encouragement – thanks guys!
In the first half, I felt like I was having a tough time settling in at my goal pace. Miles kept ticking by a little faster than I was aiming for, but I was feeling strong. Around mile 6, I heard someone say my name and pass by – fellow Terrapin XC/Track alumni Jay (who is also seeking a BQ in 2017!). I kept him in my sights and kept chugging ahead. When I felt as though I was struggling or tense, I did sneak a peek over to the water and try to take in the sights of DC.
Around mile 9, I could feel fatigue entering my leg muscles, but kept charging on. Unexpectedly, another Maryland XC/Track alumni was around this section and gave me a little boost of much-needed energy. At this point, I could see the Washington Monument and knew the finish was near. I loved the signs counting down the distance to the finish (1 mile, 1200, 800, 400…). At the end, there is a slight incline and I reminded myself to give the same effort and tackle the last challenge. Heading up the hill, I noticed an older woman running right in front of me and I thought, wow, look at her! I was so focused on getting to the line and passed her without much of a glance. I didn’t realize until after the race, it was Joan Benoit Samuelson! Wow, so cool.
Heading towards the finish, I gave whatever I had left and crossed the line in 1:03:50. Goal achieved! Now to find my teammates which didn’t take long since they were still in the chute. And once again, I was ecstatic to hear Jeremy and Mario had PRs as well. We waited near the finish for Alex and Sara who also had great races – way to kick butt
2017 marked the 45th year of CUCB10. To celebrate, anyone beating the winning male and female times from 1973 received a mug stating, “I would have won this race in 1973!”.
After everyone was reunited, we linked up with a few other running friends, went back to the car to freshen up and find food (we eat a lot!). After a scenic route to the restaurant (sorry!!), we enjoyed a great Irish brunch and drinks!
Overall, another solid weekend. What a great crew – everyone is supportive and our collective positive energy makes each of us strive to be better. We are all looking forward to the next time we race together, but for now, we are anxiously awaiting to see what Mario, Jeremy and Alex do in Boston.
Thanks to Josh and John for driving and supporting the team over the weekend. We all appreciated you being there.
Several days leading up to the Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon, the weather forecast looked less than ideal. Temperatures would be around 40 with winds and a high chance of rain. As race day neared, the hope of better weather diminished and I just embraced the suck.
My husband and I arrived on Saturday (day before the race) and headed straight to the race expo to pick up our race packets. The expo was small, but all the usual vendor categories were featured. I was able to meet the authors of Run Fast. Eat Slow.: Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. My senior year of college, I ran against Shalane in the ACC Cross Country Championships, so chatting with her while she signed my cookbook was definitely a highlight.
As I was leaving the expo, I also ran into someone from my high school unexpectedly. Very cool.
My shakeout run was a little creaky. After a near 4 hour car ride, my legs felt stiff and I didn’t feel loose until after a mile. I felt nervous and anxious after the short run, but mentally, was ready to go. After a quick shower and a little basketball watching, we headed down to dinner. Our hotel served a simple pasta buffet meal for any Shamrock runners, so I filled up on penne and continued to hydrate.
Race morning, I awoke on my own at 4 a.m. As I pulled back the curtain to glance at the weather outside, I almost laughed out loud. Dark, steady rain, windy, cold. Somewhat fitting for March Madness weekend. I noshed on my pre-race breakfast (peanut butter toast, unsweetened applesauce and Nuun) and dressed in my Shamrock race kit. To stay somewhat warm and dry, I layered on some old clothes and a high-tech windbreaker: a hotel trash bag.
The awful weather quelled my nerves as I jogged up to the starting area. As I warmed up and dodged puddles, the situation made me smile. I joked with volunteers as I ran by – “it’ll be fun they said”. Near the start, I ran into my running partner/coach and another running friend from back home. We all stood around the starting line; trying to stay warm and prepare ourselves for 13.1 soggy and blustery miles.
About 5 minutes until gun time, we moved into our corral and begrudgingly took off our sopping wet outer layers. These last minutes honestly were the worst part of the entire race – standing in the cold, wet darkness as the breeze continued to pick up. Soon, the starters called us to the line. Coach Jeremy asked, “Are you ready?” Ready as I’ll ever be.
Approximately a week before the race, Jeremy and I discussed a race goal. Last year, I ran my first two half marathons and both were right around the low 1:50s. This time, my training base was much stronger and had also built speedwork into my regimen. We set a goal of 1:35 or faster and I set out to maintain a 7:15 pace.
Off the line, I could see the 1:35 pace group ahead of me and I increased my pace to bring up the rear of the group. Listening to our feet pound the wet pavement, we sounded like a pack of horses on a renegade mission. Our group moved as one tight pack through the first miles, knocking out a 7:05 pace. The winds blew, but I stayed tucked in behind the group and before I realized it, we were at mile 5.
At this point, the course started to turn back and the winds shifted direction. I was feeling pretty good and decided to pull away from the group. Mile after mile, I felt stronger and stronger. Glancing down, I could see I was dipping into the 6s, and truly was surprising myself.
Around mile 7, the wind was pretty wild. At one point, there was an opening between the dunes and sand was whipping through. Nothing like a little skin exfoliation while you are running. From this point on, I thought of my usual Tuesday/Thursday a.m. 6 mile runs – telling myself – “Alright, you got this – just on one of your usual morning runs to the park.” One foot in front of the other and the miles just kept flying by. I fell in step with another runner around mile 10 and we were stride from stride until we made the final turn which would take us to the boardwalk and ultimately, to the finish line. As I glanced ahead, I could see the clock was still in the 1:20s and I was full steam ahead. I crossed the finish line is 1:29:10; over 5 minutes faster than my goal and 20 minutes faster than my times from 2016.
Finish Line Fun – Coach Jeremy and I showing off our medals!
The Anthem Shamrock Half has been my most insane, but most favorite race. Looking
back at my stats and remembering what I powered through puts me back on my runner’s high. Sharing the experience with others was also amazing: my husband completed his first half marathon (HUGE!!), my coach/running partner shaved ~4 minutes off and set a new PR, and several other running friends conquered all Mother Nature threw at us. The memories will sure live on for quite awhile. And the icing on the cake – unexpectedly, it looks like I secured 1st place in my age group (as did Coach Jeremy) – awards will be mailed in a couple weeks.
There will always be conditions which are out of your control. I’ve learned to not stress about what I cannot change; but to accept and embrace the situation as is. Make the most out of what you are given. Just because the environment is less than perfect does not mean you cannot have the race of your life.
Before Shamrock, I had not run a long race since my 1st marathon in November and being able to maintain the pace I did has certainly boosted my confidence in achieving a BQ this year. Training is just around the corner and I continue to become more eager to start as the days near.
Big thanks to my husband who puts up with my running insanity, my coach who runs with me a few times a week at o’dark thirty through a myriad of crazy weather conditions and to all of my running partners. I continue to succeed due to all of you!
Staying motivated to run in the winter can be challenging. During the warmer months, there is a plethora of races to train for, but once the frigid air descends, chances to race may be far and few between.
Luckily, Shenandoah Valley Runners offers an 8 race winter series from December to March to help runners stay on top of their game and also have fun. Each race, runners earn points relevant to their place. The two lowest scoring races are tossed and scores are added up. Awards are given at the end of the series instead of individual races.
Out of the eight races, all but one were 5Ks. Some races had themes – one was a 2-person team event, one was a poker run and in another runners were encouraged to support their favorite basketball team for March Madness. In addition to runners just racing, tangible and monetary donations were accepted each race for a variety of local non-profit groups. Love the giving back aspect.
For being a winter event, we were lucky enough to have fair weather for most races and only one needed to be canceled due to ice. Otherwise, nearly 300 runners toed the line almost every 2 weeks to attempt to maintain or increase their running fitness.
I greatly enjoyed my first Winter Series – hit a few PRs, met new friends and loved the camaraderie between my fellow harriers. We united in laughter and in fatigue; supporting one another through each race.
Overall Female: 2nd Place
Female 35-39: 1st Place
Best 5K: 19:11
Thank you to all of the organizers who worked hard to execute each race and to the volunteers and spectators who braved the elements to help us crazy runners.
Although I am thankful for spring to be upon us, I definitely have one reason to look forward to this December and the bleak winter months!