April Fools Half Marathon (1:26.17)

I’ve mentioned countless times I’ve been stuck in a plateau since October.  The April Fools half marathon was supposed to be “the redemption race”.  As you can see, that didn’t happen.

That being said, I have no regrets about the race, and I raced as hard as I could for the day.  It just wasn’t my day.  Which is also unfortunate because the weather was also ideal.  I have a lengthy post about training hard and not meeting your goals, but today is just a post about a girl running her heart out in Atlantic City.

I was back and forth with getting a hotel room down the shore but ultimately chose to sleep in my own bed.  I left my house at 6 am and arrived at the race around 7:15.  Somehow I managed to get the very last parking spot in the Resorts Casino Hotel which is a parking lot that fits at least 1000 cars. I’m always pushing the limits when I go to races, and of course, this was no exception.

I got to the race start and was able to use one of the dozens of nice casino bathrooms.  I always think Atlantic City races are underrated.  There is plenty of parking, nice bathrooms and they are well put together.

Not much of note happened before the race.  I chatted to a few local friends beforehand but nothing crazy.  The race started at 8 and off we went.

Immediately I noticed a woman take off ahead.  I knew she would win.

Win the race I won last year.  After about a minute of letting that sink in, I focused on my own race. You can’t control who shows up.

With that, I focused on the first mile.  I’ve run the race twice before (in 2014 and 2016), and I know the course well.  The first mile went down the wooden boardwalk.  I was running in a pack, and we hit the first mile in 6:20. I was surprised, and honestly, I didn’t feel that bad.april fools half marathon atlantic city me running

The next two miles were uneventful.  I ran with the pack, and we logged an exact 20 minute 5k.  I felt extremely stiff when running.  Throughout the entire race, I never felt like I loosened up.

Around mile 3.5 we got off the boardwalk and headed onto the paved street.  As we crossed down, someone was on their cell phone texting, and I had to shout please look up.  Otherwise, I would have run smack into him! At that point, I began feeling stale, and I suppose that would have given me an excuse to drop out. Other than that the fourth mile was uneventful.

During the next two miles, I focused on getting to the halfway point.  I knew we would be turning around and I wanted to get my bearings.  I knew my friend Erin was gaining behind me and I knew the elite woman was several minutes in front.  Other than that, I was running alone and knew nothing.  Around 5.5, I saw the leaders turning around, and the elite lady was second overall for both and female.  That was amazing to see (because she had also run the 11k the day before).

april fools half marathon atlantic city me running

I crossed the turnaround in 42:30 and found myself side by side with Erin.  She looked strong and was on target for a PR.  It was super motivating because despite feeling like garbage, seeing friends succeed still motivates me.  As we started running the opposite direction, I saw several local runners cheering.

I felt terrible was just trying to put it behind me.  I hit the 7th and 8th mile in 6:48.  There was a surprisingly strong headwind during the two miles, and it crushed me both mentally and physically.

april fools half marathon atlantic city me running

There have been a handful of races I was one thought away from dropping out. Atlantic City was one of them.  I didn’t have anyone expecting me at the finish line.  There were no friends or family to look in the eyes for me to say why I quit.  I never need anyone at the finish line, but it made it easy to justify just stopping. I wasn’t injured, but mentally I was destroyed.

april fools half marathon atlantic city me running

For some reason, I kept going.  I remembered both marathons with 3 miles to go that I felt the same way: like I would never get there.  I just remembered the race was probably 30 minutes more of my life and I was done.

We ran back onto the wooden Boardwalk could see the Resorts hotel and the finish several miles in the distance.  My friend Erin, myself and another male were running down the boardwalk side by side.

By mile 10, I just gave it everything I had and surged.  I didn’t have much left in the tank but ran 11 and 12 in 6:30.

As I remembered, the last mile of Atlantic City races feels never ending.  You see the casino where the race ends but don’t see the actual finish line until a quarter mile to go.  I had broken up the pack and was running alone.

I finally saw the finish line and gave it everything I had, but it was not enough.  Erin passed me in the final stride and won out second place.  Our chip times were identical but overall goes by gun and she finished one second faster.  I finished bittersweet.  I fell short of my training cycle goals, and I placed third in a race I had won last year.

april fools half marathon atlantic city me running

Thoughts: 

Even though I finished with my slowest time on the best weather day, I’ve had for that race I was happy to finish healthy.

april fools half marathon atlantic city me running
Post Race with Erin picking up awards

It’s been nearly a week since I finished and had time to reflect.  My goal for the last 6 months was to PR at the April Fools half marathon, and I missed that goal by about 4 minutes.  As I mentioned in my last training post. 1:26 is a respectable half marathon time, but it’s not the time I trained for.  When you don’t meet goals, it stinks.  I’ve accepted it and moved on.  While running is what I choose to post about on social media, it does not define my life.  I finished the training cycle healthy, and while I didn’t meet any goals or expectations, there are many more years and training cycles left in my life.

I won’t lie and say I’m happy with the race because I’m not.  I will not, however, let it define me and I’ll continue to move forward.

Post Race with good friend Meredith who PRed!

What’s next? 

I do have Broad Street 10 miler next weekend, which will be more of a fun race for me than anything.  Last year, I surprised myself and ran a 1:01.57.  This year I’m excited to spend time with my family.  Of course, I would love to run well, but I’ve removed expectations from the race, and my only goal is to have fun.

I’m still formulating plans and goals for the summer, but the summer is the time for enjoying local races in the community.

Questions for you:

Have you ever not met expectations for a training cycle?

Have you been to Atlantic City? 

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How to Prepare for Running in the Heat

Incase you weren’t aware, it’s finally getting warmer.  Although, if you are anything like the Northeast, our weather went from 30 degrees to 80.  It feels as though there wasn’t much middle ground!  Hopefully, your body adjusts faster than mine.

Thinking out loud, running in the heat can be a challenge.  Even though it’s usually more enjoyable than running in the cold, there are a lot of difficulties and obstacles you face by running in the warm weather too.

So How can you Prepare for Spring and Summer Running this Year?

Stay Hydrated

This is probably the most important advice!

It doesn’t mean drink a liter of water directly before your run.  It means staying hydrating throughout the day.

Drink more water before, after and during your run.  Also don’t forget that you also lose electryltes while running in warmer conditions.  During the warmer months, it’s important to add salt tabs or Gatorade to the mix too.  Every runner has their own personal preferance of what works for the stomach and system.  I am fortanate that most any electrolyte drink works well for me, I just need to remember to drink it.

Adjust your Run for the Temperature and Humidity

Don’t be ashamed to back off pacing or dial it back because it’s hot.  Run by effort and feel, not based on what the workout pace should be at ideal conditions.

For example, on Sunday, I had a tempo run scheduled.  It was 85 degrees and while my pace was “supposed” to be 6:45, I ran 7:18 and was struggling.  Was I upset?  No!  Was I injured?  No.  I adjusted my pace accordingly and ran by effort.   It’s important to take note that running in the heat effects your body and you won’t hit the same paces as running in ideal conditions.

Wear Appropriate Clothing:

You could run naked but that would end up being sunburnt and uncomfortable.  Don’t forget to wear sunscreen as well as moisture wicking clothing.  I’ll have to do a current post of running clothing I’m loving this season but in the mean time here are some things not to forget:

  • Hat (to keep sun off your face)
  • Moisture wicking and noncotton clothing: including a top, sports bra, shorts, underwear and socks.  Cotton anything will absorb sweat and become heaving causing blisters, chafing and who knows what else.
  • Sunglasses: To keep your eyes protected
  • Body glide and sunscreen (because chafing stinks)
Be Flexible with Your Schedule:

Whether you need to run inside or run early, don’t be afraid to change your plan.  Run at the best time of the day.

You aren’t a hero if you run in 100-degree heat at high noon!   In the winter, typically running at lunch time is ideal but that isn’t usually the case over the summer.  That’s normally when it’s the hottest.  Don’t be afraid to change the time of day you run or where you run.

There is no shame in running on the treadmill, especially when it’s the safest option.  You can usually find me there at least once per week.
In case you missed any of the previous weeks Running Store and Training:
Thoughts While Working in the Running Store
Should Race in Racing Flats?
Are you Getting Enough Protein for Running?
Why 5ks are the Best
How Alternating Shoes Can Benefit Your Running:
How to Transition in Minimalist Running Shoes
Should You Wear Running Shoes Outside of Running?
Questions for you:
What are some tips you have for running in the heat?
Do you like summer or winter running better? 

Should You Wear Running Shoes Outside of Running?

Another common question we get at my local running store is:

Should you wear running shoes outside of running?

The short answer is: Yes, but they will break down much faster.  There are many articles and blog posts telling you: only wear your shoes for running.  It is definitely true and if you want to save money and the lifespan of the shoe, then you should only wear them for running.

But is there anything wrong with wearing them to do daily activities? No.

Thinking out loud, I use running shoes that already have reached their running life span to walk around in them.  Once I’ve run 300-400 miles in them, they are retired to walking around (or working) shoes.

Here are some things to think about if you wear your shoes outside of running:

Do You Want to Spend a Lot of Money on Shoes?

You can get a cheaper pair of shoes to “kick around and do errands in”.  Heck, most running shoes aren’t the lookers of the shoe world.  It’s easy to find a cuter and more fashionable shoe to walk around in.  Yes, I work at a running store but I’m not going to lie and say running shoes are trendy and cute.  That isn’t their function.

Are You Injured?

Certain injuries need to have a supportive shoe or you cannot get heal.  If you’re suffering from an injury such as plantar fasciitis, you need to be in a well cushioned shoe all of the time to allow healing.  It’s important to have a supportive shoe if you are coming off any injury.

So How do You Know When To Replace When You Use Them all of the Time:

If you do use your running shoes, know that you have to take into account the mileage you wear them outside of running.  You might have only run 20 miles in the shoe, but if you have worn them for 8 hours a day for at work for a week, that is a lot more stress on shoes too.

The lifespan of a shoe depends on several factors:

  • Type of shoe: Minimalist shoes last less time.  It’s less of a shoe.
  • Running Style: If you strike somewhere strongly (whether it’s the heel or the forefront), your shoe is going to last less. This includes myself as I tend to burn through the front of shoes quickly.
  • How Much You Use Them: Think about your running…realistically that is only an hour or two a day. If you are spending 10 hours a day in the same shoe, they are going to last far less time. Gage when to replace your shoes, especially if you regularly run and then head out on errands wearing the same shoes.  If you wear your shoe every day for errands too, it’s going to last about 3 months.

For the most part, shoes last between 300-400 miles.  I always tell people if your legs feel less tired or you are getting aches and pains and haven’t done anything differently, it’s probably the shoes.

The bottom line is: Yes, you can wear your running shoes for everything and it will be more comfortable, however, your shoes will not last as long.
In case you missed any of the previous weeks Running Store and Training:
Thoughts While Working in the Running Store
Should Race in Racing Flats?
Are you Getting Enough Protein for Running?
Why 5ks are the Best
How Alternating Shoes Can Benefit Your Running:
How to Transition in Minimalist Running Shoes
Question for you: Do you wear your running shoes for everything?

Clean Air 5k (19:50)

I wasn’t supposed to run this race.  In fact, until about 2 hours before, I had planned to drive up 90 minutes North to a different race.  Sometimes life happens, and I wasn’t able too.  Which is unfortunate because I had actually signed up for the original race too!

I knew about the Clean Air 5k/10k plus a good friend of mine, Noelle, was running.  When I realized I wasn’t able to drive north, I decided to leech on with her and go into Philadelphia.  She was running the 10k, but I figured the 5k was enough for me.

The course itself was a simple out and back on the Schuylkill River.  In fact, it was the exact place I set my 5k PR last year.

Noelle and I warmed up, and I knew I didn’t feel great. Of course, the weather was pretty much ideal, and I felt like garbage.

The 5k started 15 minutes after the 10k, so I waited around and then lined up.  All of a sudden we were off.

As I settled into racing, I saw a huge pack of men and women taking off out in front.  To be honest, I was surprised the 5k was so competitive, but you never know who will show up.

I found my groove and hit the first mile in 5:57.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace.  My calves were stiff, and I just didn’t feel good.  Not every race can be your best, and I figured quickly this was not going to be great.

Thanks to my friend Paul for these photos

The next mile began weaving through the 10k walkers.  I felt as though I couldn’t get any momentum because I was going around and weaving.  We hit the 180-degree turn around mile 1.6, and at that point, I knew the course would probably be long.

As I headed back towards back to Philadelphia, I caught one woman.  From someone watching the races, it was probably easy to see who was running which race. However, when you are racing it’s hard to pay attention to multiple people going different paces.  I hit mile 2 around 6:07 and just focused on the finish.

The third mile was rough, and I just wanted the race to be over.  I didn’t regret running, but I was riding the pain train home.  During the third mile, a woman passed me and tried to motivate me to hang with her.  As much as I wanted to keep up, it wasn’t in the cards, and she took over fourth place.

The last half mile was spent trying to get home.  When I crossed the third mile in 6:09, I knew there was no way it would be an accurate course.  I finished up with 3.25 miles in 19:50 and overall pace of 6:05.  That would equate out to an 18:45 5k which is about what I’ve been running.  A little bit slower on an easier course, but I felt more fatigued.clean air 5k

Thoughts:

I can’t say I’m happy about the time, course or how the events that morning played out but some days are like that.  I’m proud I still competed, and I had an enjoyable time with friends.  Plus it’s nice not to race in pouring rain.

Noelle and I post race

Questions for you:

What was the last morning things didn’t go as planned?

Have you ever raced a long course?

How to Transition to Minimalist Running Shoes

When the book, Born to Run, came out, many athletes opted for a more minimal shoe.  For a while, it was the trendiest thing a runner could do.  If you haven’t read Born to Run, I highly suggest it.  While it is extremely convincing to run barefoot, the reality is many athletes will not benefit from using a minimalist shoe.

Thinking out loud, some people (myself included), are injury prone and need a higher cushion shoe.  Our ancestors did not run barefoot down busy streets and paved roads.  They also never wore shoes, so it wasn’t as if they took them off to go for a run.

While yes, I’ve run in minimalist shoes, I cannot train in minimalist shoes.  Personally, it’s a risk factor that causes bone fractures which I’ve learned the hard way.

I will generally race in flats or a minimal shoe.  Will I train and do distance running in a minimalist shoe?  No.  Each to their own and minimalist shoes do work for many athletes.

Always keep in mind, not everything works for everyone.

What are some Key Things to Keep in Mind When Making the Transition?

You Must Strengthen Your Feet

Ultimately running shoes are designed to protect your feet.  Running shoes aren’t designed to injure you.  Wearing the wrong type of shoe for your gait will cause injuries, but shoe companies did not design shoes with the intention to injure runners.

If you have been running in a traditional style shoe, then your feet are going to reflect that.  That isn’t a bad thing, but they are used to more cushion.  Before choosing a minimalist shoe, strengthen your feet.

How do you do that?

The easiest way to strengthen your feet is to walk around barefoot.  I’m not saying walk down New York City barefoot but take the time to walk around your house or on grass barefoot (just don’t step on a bee like I once did).  Start by walking around barefoot an hour a day and gradually increase from there.   With summer coming up, it’s easiest to begin now.  The weather is nicer, and you might want to be outdoors barefoot.

Progress Slowly

Like with anything, it’s necessary to transition and progress slowly. You shouldn’t change any shoe quickly, but you should especially take minimalist shoes slowly.  Doing too much, too soon will lead to an injury.  Don’t be surprised if the transition takes 6+ months and you find yourself more sore at first.

Instead of going from a 12mm drop straight to a 0 mm style shoe progress transition slowly by shoe model.  If your old shoe is 11-12, find an 8, then 4 and then maybe 0.

Run through each shoe model and see how you like the change.   If you end up liking the balance of 8 or even 4 mm drops, there is nothing wrong with that!  Saucony is a great brand because they offer many shoes in 8 mm as well as 4 mm. Slow might be boring, but it keeps you healthy.

Don’t forget, minimalist running shoes can be beneficial. Since they provide less cushion, they can help improve your running form and strengthen your feet. They are a great option for many runners, but they are not the best choice for every runner!  There is no perfect shoe for everyone, and barefoot running is not ideal for everyone either.

In case you missed any of the previous weeks Running Store and Training:
Thoughts While Working in the Running Store
Should Race in Racing Flats?
Are you Getting Enough Protein for Running?
Why 5ks are the Best
How Alternating Shoes Can Benefit Your Running:

Questions for you:
What shoes are you currently running in?
Do you ever run in a minimalist shoe? 

March Training

It’s hard to believe March is already over.  Usually during the month of March running becomes more enjoyable.  The weather is typically decent, I and get to celebrate my running birthday.  Plus for the last few years, I go run Shamrock in hometown area.

shamrock half marathon me running 2017

This year, however, was atypical.  This was one of the coldest (and rainiest) months in New Jersey history.  The winter I escaped while in Alabama, came back and bit me in the bum up here.

Miles Run: 270 
Workouts: 8
Range of Pace: 5:55-9:50-untimed
Rest Days: 3 
Best Workout:
1X3 mile 6:18 average
3X5 minute
5X400
It definitely gave me confidence in my speed. I haven’t hit a lot of my workout paces lately, but that one I did.  It was a workout where “everything clicked.”

Races: 2
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup 4 Miler (24:13)
Shamrock Half Marathon (1:26.49)

Grilled cheese and tomato soup 4 miler

Favorite Race:
I don’t have a favorite this month, and both races were equally “good.”  Were either PRs?  No.  Were they both fun?  Yes.

While neither races was in great weather conditions, I made the best of both situations. The Grilled Cheese Run was in frigid conditions while Shamrock was in pouring rain, wind, and sleet.  Since January of 2016, I can’t catch a break weather wise.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup 4 miler

Thoughts:

I’ve been dancing around the subject of training lately.  The truth is, I’m not happy with how I have progressed in the last 6 months (which is none).  I would have liked to have broken 18 minutes in a 5k by now.  I’ve been consistently training, logging speed as well as base mileage.  I’ve stayed healthy, but yet I’m still in the plateau of running between 18:30-18:40 5ks.  It doesn’t matter the conditions or the terrain, I still seem to hit that narrow window.

I’ve asked myself: is it bad weather? It is me?  Is it my legs just don’t physically go any faster?  Is it when I do race “a little better” the course is just “a little longer”?  And yes, .1 in a 5k is 30 seconds longer so a long course matters.

There are a lot of questions and I don’t have conclusions.  I’ve gone through plateaus before with both running and swimming.  It’s one of the hardest aspects of running.  You feel as though you’re working hard but having no success.

I’m hoping my legs, and the weather cooperates for one race together.

In April:

I’ve already run in the Phillies 5k but I do have a couple more 5ks as well as my goal half marathon, the April Fools in Atlantic City.  It’s scary to write, but I am hoping April brings a new PR. shamrock half marathon me running 2017

Blog Posts from the Month:
How Alternating Shoes Can Benefit Running
Why 5ks are the Best
Do You Need More Protein While Running? 
Hoka Bondi 5 Shoe Review
Brooks Launch 4 Shoe Review
Should You Race in Racing Flats?
Thoughts While Working in a Running Store

Questions for you:
How was your month of training?
Have you been stuck in a plateau? 

Phillies 5k (18:32)

The Phillies 5k is one of my favorite races.  I won last year, and I wanted to do the same this year (spoiler: I did).  Something about the excitement of Philadelphia, the atmosphere and 6,000 runners is motivating to me. Plus for a 6,000 person 5k, there is plenty of parking and restrooms with the massive Philadelphia Sports Complex.

Last year when I ran the Phillies 5k, I was coming off both a half marathon and 5k PR.  This year, I went in not racing a 5k in two months and not feeling confident in my running at all.  In fact, I have a post about that soon.  Never the less, I was excited to get back into it and work towards Spring PRs.  Luckily, it was just 14 MPH winds, with no rain.  Lately, that’s been my best racing weather in a few months.

I warmed up with my coworker Anita, and we headed to the race start.  Due to traffic on the course, the start was delayed a few minutes.  I just created witty banter with random people around, and by the time I knew it, we were off.phillies 5k start

The first mile wrapped around the stadium and headed into the wind.  I immediately felt the headwind, and questioned if I would be able to run well.  There were a couple of women in front of me as well as a large pack of men. I hoped I would just “do me” and be able to reel some of them in.  I hit the first mile in 6:00 minutes exactly and caught the first woman.  I thought, “well if I can keep that pace and the course is exact then it will at least be in the 18:30-18:40 range”.  But let’s be honest, keeping your first-mile pace in a 5k is a rather lofty goal in a 5k…

The next mile went into the Navy Yard.  I have raced a couple of races including the finish of Broad Street in the Navy Yard.  I know it’s flat but also windy along the water.  It definitely was windy but it wasn’t a headwind but more of a sidewind. I took the lack of headwind as an opportunity to surge and break up the pack of dudes. After surging, I hit the second mile in 5:49 and looked dead ahead to see a small, steep incline.  Due to the course direction, I realized very quickly it would be a headwind and climb.

The next mile was pain train all the way home.  I was running side by side with another male who pulled me along.  We headed up the short, steep incline.  Combined with riding the pain train, I can’t say it was my favorite part of the race.  There was a small out and back, and I was able to see several racers I knew going the opposite directions.  I love out and back races because it’s always motivational to see other runners out on course.

Then all of a sudden we turned into the (quarter of a mile long) parking lot to the finishers shoot.  The Philly Fanatic was there to bring me in and surged to an 18:32 5k.  I was pleased the lady win.phillies 5k win

Thoughts:

While this is a great 5k time and it’s hard to be disappointed with a win, this isn’t where I was hoping to be right now.  I do have a post later regarding where I’m at with running and where I would like to be. Over the past 6 months, with consistent training as well as speed work, I was hoping to be closer to 18 or honestly faster.phillies 5k me

A couple of years ago after starting to work towards a 5k, it took me several months to break through a plateau which is what I’m hoping is the case here.  In all, I had a great time with friends at the Phillies 5k.

Questions for you:

Have you ever been stuck in a plateau?

Are you a baseball fan?