Shamrock Half Marathon (1:26.49)

Last year, at Shamrock Half Marathon I ran a 1:26.50.  This year, my chip time was a 1:26.49.  While not a course PR, I did beat last years time.  Despite the race conditions being very similar (I.E. awful), for me, the races themselves were drastically different.  My last mile last year was probably 7:30+ and this year my last mile was a 6:11.

So let’s start from the beginning.  Shamrock was never a goal race for me.  It’s a race I like to do and I was hoping to run better than last year.

How did I quantify running better? By not only having a faster race but also not drastically blowing up like last year.

So technically, even though I’m much faster than 1:26 fitness, I did achieve my goals. But to be honest, I’m effing tired of running in terrible conditions.  Over the past year, I haven’t many longer races that are in decent conditions.  Most races have been in either pouring rain, sleet, snow, high humidity or windy. The only good weathered race that comes to mind is the Runners World Half, but I ran a 5k the day before.

Enough complaining! Last Friday, I prepared for the worst weather and brought my thick mittens, waterproof Gortex jacket, and appropriate attire.  By now, I know I need to be overdressed in cold, pouring rain or I’ll be miserable.

My coach James Mckirdy, Heather, Dad and I got to the race around 6 am, and we were lucky enough to stay with a personal friend right near the start.  I warmed up with Mollie and Heather.  I rarely do half marathon warmups, but while warming up, I didn’t feel terrible or even that cold.  It was pouring rain, but I wasn’t “as” miserable as last year.

We got to the race start at 7 am, and we were quickly off.  The first two miles were into a headwind.  With the headwind, I began settling into a negative mindset.  I hit the first mile in 6:59.  I was devastated.  Another race I had tapered for only to be foiled by rain.  I tried to clear my mind but just progressed on.

In hindsight, it’s easier to look back and see…yes it was windy.  Yes, the weather was awful.  In the moment, when you look down and quickly see you aren’t hitting your goal, it stinks.  I ran the second mile in 6:58.  It was mindless, and I was just staying with a pack of people.

shamrock half marathon me running 2017
So happy

As we rounded mile 3, I felt a wind break.  While it was still raining, it wasn’t as windy.  I ran a 6:54. Around mile 3, I wasn’t sure I would break 1:30 but I hoped I would be able to pick it up.  It’s a long gradual uphill from about miles 3-5.

During the fourth mile, one of the UGH moments of running happened.  My shoe came untied.  I was running in a new pair of Saucony flats, and while I did double knot them, they came untied.  Was it a combination of pouring rain and the material the shoe laces are made out of?  Probably because it happened 3 times and it stunk.  Looking closely at the shoe laces, the plastic coating seems to be the cause.

I stopped to tie my shoe and progressed on.  I didn’t catch the people I was with until around mile 5-6.  With the stop I ran the 4th mile in 6:49 but I was motivated because I knew I stopped for at least 15 seconds.  The race clock doesn’t stop when you tie your shoe, so neither does my garmin. shamrock half marathon me running 2017

I ran the next two miles by myself.  I was alone and lost in my own thoughts.  The race conditions were awful, but I was slowly changing my mindset. I ran the next two miles in 6:30 and 6:36.

As we entered Fort Story, I thought about last year.  Last year, the wind from Fort Story broke me.  I went from running around 6:30 miles to running 7+ and crawling to the finish line.  I was determined not to let that happen.  The wind was blowing more through Fort Story this year, and it had blown sand across a section of course.  We ran through 2 inches of sand!

This year, I felt good during the middle miles, and I credit most of that to overdressing.  My other shoe lace came untied, and I briefly stopped to tie it.  I ran a 6:37 mile.  As I began thinking about the finish, I knew my body felt able and willing to run faster than a 1:30 than I had previously anticipated during the first few miles.shamrock half marathon me running 2017

I crossed mile 9 in 6:24 and mile 10 in 6:25.  I began catching a few people, and one male was running with me.  I saw Chris who ended up finishing a few feet in front of me and 7th lady overall.  The man told me to “go with her”…

The last three miles were a blur.  I just found myself counting down the miles.  2 miles to go and then 1 and then the final mile.  I saw James and Heather with about .5 to go and shouted: “I’m not dying”.  I guess that is always a good thing for an athlete to say. I also saw my friend Sika, who had raced the One City Marathon the weekend before.

As we approached the boardwalk, I saw the finish line, and I knew it would be close to my previous time.  Until that moment, I hadn’t even dreamed it was a possibility to actually run faster than 2016.

For no reason, I mentally separate a 1:26.XX half in a different category as a 1:27+-half.  I wanted to break 1:27 and sprinted to the finish. shamrock half marathon me running 2017

I crossed in 1:26.50…the same time as last year.  With chip timing, my official time was 1:26.49.

shamrock half marathon me running 2017
My husband didn’t run but still came out to support us!

Thoughts:

To be honest, I’m tired of racing in bad conditions.  While I’m proud of myself for handling the race well this year, I am also tired of not racing in good (not even ideal but good) conditions.  I feel as though I’ve been in PRing shape for the last 6 months but the weather has had other plans.  I’m hoping the April Fools Half Marathon will have better weather.

Questions for you:
What is the worst race conditions you’ve run in?
Which race have you done the most times?

 

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Training: Blizzards, 800s and a Half Marathon

Last week I tapered and got ready for the Shamrock half marathon.  While it wasn’t my primary goal race (The April Fools half in Atlantic City is), I still wanted to do well.  The weather forecast changed multiple times from might rain, to definitely raining, to wintery mix.  Basically the same as last year.

Training:

Monday:  6 miles
Tuesday: 5X800s (6:11, 6:07, 6:05, 6:03, 6:00)
Wednesday:  7 miles
Thursday:  7 miles
Friday: OFF
Saturday: 60 minutes easy
Sunday: Shamrock Half Marathon (1:26.50)
 Total:  40 miles

Thoughts:

Workouts: 5X800s (6:11, 6:07, 6:05, 6:03, 6:00)

I’m always the least motivated to do short workouts.  Tuesday was no exception.  As most people know the Northeast had a significant snow storm that closed most things down that day.  I had no interest slipping around on ice with a regular run, let alone workout.

While the goal was to run 6:00 for the 800s, I was happy for getting the workout in and on a treadmill.

The rest of the runs were easy and in the cold.  I am ready for Spring!

Shamrock Half Marathon:

I’ll have more about this later in the week.  I ran a 1:26.50, which is exactly the same time as last year.  The conditions were not ideal, and throughout the race it rained, sleeted and hailed as well as a severe headwind.  It would be a lie to say I’m “happy” with the time because I know I’m in better fitness shape.  I am also tired of running in inclement weather.

While the race time is the same, it was an entirely different race from last year.  Last year, I took it out fast and crashed.  This year I ran smart for the first few miles, and my last mile was a 6:11.

While I know Shamrock was not a goal race, I was hoping to be faster than a 1:26.

Posts from the Week:
How I got to into Running
Should You be Getting More Protein?
Brooks Launch 4 Shoe Review

Questions for you:
Have you raced in inclement weather?
What was your best workout of the week?

Should You Race in Racing Flats?

As requested, I’m continuing the series of questions and thoughts from working in the running store.  If you have any questions or topics you would like answered, feel free to ask below.

Week 1: Common Questions Asked
Week 2: Today: Should You Run in Racing Flats?

As most readers know, I train in heavier and more cushioned shoes. Right now my favorite trainers are the Brooks Ghost and Saucony Freedom ISO.

Thinking out loud, when I race and do speed work, I use a lighter shoe.  Since I run high mileage, during daily runs I like the extra cushion and weight to keep me healthy.  Personally, it makes me feel more comfortable while training.

This post, however, is about racing flats!

How did I get started in racing flats? In college, we raced in spikes.  A spike is just a very light weight shoe with spikes at the bottom. Since college was on cross country courses, the spikes served to grip dirt and grass better.  Athletes running on the track also use spikes.

Spikes are similar to a soccer cleat.  You can’t run on pavement in spikes, or it wears down the actual “pointed spike, ” and they’ll break.

During the offseason and after college, I also wanted to race in a light weight shoe. I feel faster when I run in flats, and typically I do run faster.

There is no point in training in a flat because the goal of an easy run is not to run fast.

For comparison purposes, the average weight of trainers are about 10 ounces versus the average weight of flats are 5.

The first flat I ever purchased was the Nike Waffle. It was the exact version of the spike I used to race in (but without the spike plate in).

I’ve run every distance from a 1-mile race to my first marathon (which was dumb). To be honest, I raced my marathon in that shoe because I didn’t know any better. While I didn’t get injured from it, I will never do that again.  Most people (myself included) need more cushion during a marathon.

After realizing I liked a little bit more cushion in my racing flat than the waffle, I graduated to the Nike Streak Streak (I’ve gone through several models of both 1 and 2). The shoe is much softer and only weighs an ounce more than the waffle flat.

Keep in mind, what works for me might not work for you and it’s important to find a shoe you are comfortable in.  Out of any racing flat, I’ve had the Nike Streak LT racer has been my favorite (and no, Nike is not paying me to say that).

Recently, I’ve been running more in the Saucony Type A.

So now that I’ve given my personal background why choose to race in flats?

With less weight on your feet, it’s easier to run and increase your turnover. Think about it, less weight (to an extent…) produces faster times.  Carrying an extra few ounces on your feet for thousands of strides really adds up.

Disadvantages of Flats:

  • You are more prone to injury: since there is little to no cushion in a flat, you are more susceptible to injury.  Think about those who train solely in Nike frees or minimalist shoes…that is why it’s not a good idea to train in flats. If you train all of your runs in flats, you will probably hurt yourself.
  • It also takes longer to recover because your feet are taking more of a pounding from the pavement. I’ve always found myself sorer after racing in flats.

How to Get Started in Flats:

As most people know, I work in a running store and tell people the same thing whether it’s kids going to their first XC race, customers at work, blog readers or whomever…you have to slowly work into them.  

Don’t go run a 5k, half or marathon in new shoes. 

I recommend first trying a few SHORT training runs and seeing how you like them.

First try a (fast) mile, then 2 miles…then race a 5k.

Once you have raced a few 5ks, try longer distances.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is not to just jump into a race wearing flats. Not only are they a brand new shoe from your trainer, but flats are drastically different shoe than what most people train in!

If you go from never using a flat to racing a distance event, you run the risk of injury.

Personally, I love the feeling of racing in a different and lighter shoe.  I have no plans to change that!

If you have anymore questions feel free to ask away.  I really enjoy the benefits of racing in flats.  I do alway feel faster and stronger.

Questions for you:

Do you race in flats?

What advice would you give someone beginning to race in flats? 

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup 4 Miler (24:13)

This was the second year I’ve run the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup 4 miler.

In case you wondered, you do get both grilled cheese and tomato soup at the end of the race.  Not only are there a lot of extra race perks, but the race is a flat and fast course.  In ideal conditions, it’s a great PRing course…This year, however, it was 15 degrees.  In fact, this is 1 out 3 races that I’ve run in pants!

Since I spent the last 8 weeks in 70+ degree weather with high humidity, I wasn’t acclimated.  After returning to New Jersey, there have been a few cold days but not many. When I saw the weather report, I was loathing running outside.

We got to the race start around 9 am and did a quick warmup. Even after my deep tissue massage, I didn’t feel as bad as I anticipated.  My body was still stiff, but I felt comfortable.

The race went off promptly at 10 am.  The first mile was chaotic with people.  We went around a big loop with uneven pavement.  About 1k into the race, we went on Washington Crossing Towpath.  I ran with a big group of men for the first mile.

My husband was further up ahead.  I crossed the first mile in 6:10 which I was disappointed in.  Effort-wise, it felt like I was running faster.  My strategy for 4-5 milers is to race them exactly as I would race a 5k…just go.

Washington Crossing is a narrow path, so it made it difficult to pass anyone.   During the second the mile, there was more headwind. It was a boring middle mile, and I just focused on chipping away.  I crossed the second mile in 6:07.

During the third mile, we made a u-turn and went back where we came. Personally, I like out and back courses because I find it motivating to see and cheer for other runners.  I got to see one of my good friends and coworkers, Anita, as she ran to a PR.  I caught two more people and ran a 6:03 third mile.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup 4 miler

The last mile of a 4 miler is always tough because if you treat it like a 5k, the final .9 is just a bonus round…I just focused on finishing.  I was surprised that my legs weren’t as tired as I thought they would.  During the last .1, I felt someone on my heels.  After being passed in the final strides of the Pensacola Bridge Run, I didn’t want that again, and I surged. It turns out, it was a male behind me.

I crossed the finish in 24:13 and as first female and fifth overall.  I was able to break the tape again which is always a fun experience.  My husband was third overall which is impressive because he only started running again last week after his marathon.

Afterwards, I had a workout.  Since running with Mckirdy, I’ve slowly gotten used to doing workouts after racing.   I changed into the Saucony Freedom ISO trainers and ran 2×2 miles (6:43, 6:53, 6:49, 6:53) which I’m happy with.

Thoughts:

This is one of my better races and workouts I’ve had lately.  I haven’t run a shorter race in a month, so it was nice to get faster turnover in my legs.  Despite the weather and how I personally felt, I was happy with my effort.

Questions for you:

What is the best grilled cheese you’ve had?

Do you run the same races yearly or do you like to change it up?

 

Polar Bear 5k (18:42)

My husband and I wanted to get out of town for the weekend. We have been to Atlanta before, and since it was only a 2.5-hour drive from Montgomery, we opted to drive out there. Along the way, we discovered a few 5ks and decided to run the Polar Bear 5k. When we arrived at the race on Saturday morning, we quickly realized how big the race was. Over 1000+ people were running. To be honest, I thought it was going to be a 200-300 person race but the more, the better.

After warming up on the course, I noticed it was a flatter Atlanta course. I’ve run a few races in Atlanta (One before blogging and the Haunted Hustle 5k), and this was definitely the flattest. Was it flat? No, but it was flat for Atlanta. I wasn’t concerned as I had a workout anyways.

I had a workout for the day, and the goal was to run 2X5k at 6:45 pace. That did not happen. I ran the race as the first 5k, and it was faster than my coach wanted.

The race started at 8:30 am, and it was congested. I nearly fell over a young child. It was impossible to start any closer to the front, but I wasn’t really concerned. During the first half mile, I ran in a huge pack. In fact, the entire race was a giant pack of people, and you ran almost elbow to elbow with others. Somewhere around .66, a woman shouted, “you’re almost halfway there, ” and I responded with, we aren’t even a third there. I crossed the first mile in 6:00 exactly.

During the second mile, I was able to get my bearings of how many men and women were ahead. I noticed there were a few women in front of me, but I was towards the front. I saw my husband in the chase pack, and I was happy he seemed to be doing ok. I passed a couple of women and by the time I knew it, I crossed mile 2 in 5:55.

The third mile was just focused on finishing. By the mile 3, I found myself as first woman overall and we were running near the walkers who were all cheering. We climbed a small hill followed by a downhill. I crossed the third mile in 5:58.

The last portion of the race made a huge U and finished in the parking lot. I lost a lot of momentum with the U finish, but I crossed in 18:42. My garmin said the course was a bit long but who knows.

Thoughts:

I’ve run several 18:30-18:45 5ks (including the 5k in Birmingham 2 weeks ago) in the last few months. In November, I raced the Medford Lakes turkey trot in 18:30. It was a flat, fast course on a beautiful day and I felt awesome. On Sunday, I raced the Polar Bear 5k in 18:42 on a more challenging course and I didn’t feel great. I know I’m making improvements but haven’t had a race where I’m tapered and it all clicked. That will have to wait as I’ll be tapering for a few half marathons in the Spring.

Questions for you:

What is the biggest race you’ve run?

How do you stay motivated during a plateau?

How to Run with a Significant Other

As most people know, my husband and I met through running.  It’s a hobby we both share.  You read the full story here.  We both ran long before we knew each other.

He is a faster runner and there are very few periods that we run the same exact same pace, but it is enjoyable to share that time with him.  Running allows us to share uninterrupted time together.  During the day, it’s hard to find this uninterrupted moments.

Since coming to Alabama, we’ve been running a lot more together.  While it usually involves being out the door at 5:30am, it’s an hour we can spend together.

Many readers have asked: How do you run with your significant other?  Or Could you share some tips to make running with a partner more enjoyable?

So thinking out loud, I’m doing just that!

Keep in mind, running together is not always sunshine and butterflies.  I can remember a significant moment in our running relationship.  It was our first long run together.  I’m a very chatty runner and if you’ve run with me (or even raced), you know I’m yapping all the way.  My husband, however, is much quieter when he runs.  This took us a few runs to figure out.

We started off doing a 15 mile run in San Antonio, Texas.  All of a sudden he was running a few steps in front of me and silent.  I began getting irrationally upset.  Why were even running together?  It was just silence.  I continued to get more and more upset until finally I snapped and said:

“I’m tired of this dude running.  Men just run single file in a straight line and not talking.  Women don’t do that”.

I didn’t know his running habits, and he didn’t fully know mine.  Since then, we’ve had no more escalated running arguments, but my point is: it’s important to know any trainer partners habits.

So How do We Run Together?

The short answer: We both put on running shoes and move one foot in front of the other.

The long answer:

We run easier mileage together.  I’ll speed up my pace 10-15 seconds per mile, and he slows down a bit.  We agree to try and meet halfway.

We don’t do hard efforts together because our workout paces are not the same.  He is a faster runner and also has different goals.  (I like 5k-13.1 while he likes 5k-10k).

Occasionally he will do a tempo run with me, but that is the extent of workouts together.

Racing:

We both like going to races.  In my 2017 goals, I wrote how I planned to use a lot of races as workouts.  For us, going to races is quality time we spend together as well.  We like to sign up for races together.

The important part is we don’t race together.  We will warm up and cool down together, but when the clock goes off, we race to our own standards.  The majority of the time, we do not stay together.

Racing for you is important because if one person is faster, it will create problems to stay on the course together.  Part of being with a fellow runner is that you can’t expect to stay together or feel the same every race.  Does it stink to be dropped by your husband or a training partner during a race?  Of course, but that is the nature of the sport.  We support each other, good or bad race.

There are some important things to remember:

Ultimately someone might feel better on a particular day.  That’s okay, and there is no reason to feel upset by it.  With any running partner, it’s important to remember that running is for you.

Running and working out can be a great addition to any relationship, but your ability to run the same paces (or not) does define a relationship.

Meet in the middle.  Chances are you aren’t running the same pace or training for the same thing.  Don’t be selfish and meet halfway with paces and mileage.

Don’t Be a Sore Winner or Loser.  There is no point to “racing” your significant other because heck because neither of you is bumping each other out of overall awards.

Running with a signicant other can be a fun and pleasent experience.  I know my husband and I are extremely lucky we get to share that with each other.

Know each other’s habits.  It will make the run easier.

Finally, don’t force or guilt them into running with you. Don’t take anything personally, sometimes they don’t want to run.

Questions for you:

Do you workout with your significant other?

Have you ever run a race with someone?

Birmingham MLK Drum Run 5k (18:40)

Last weekend I had the itch to race.  My husband and I discovered a 5k in Birmingham.  Since I just moved to Montgomery, I had no idea about the race community, area, terrain or anything else.  But a race is a race, right?

As long as there is a time, the course is fairly accurate, and there is just more than my husband and I running, I can’t complain.

We arrived in downtown Birmingham around 7 am and did a quick warm up.  I was coming off a tough training week and knew it wouldn’t be a PR.  My legs were stiff, but the plan was to give it what I had for the day.  My coach and I wanted a solid effort for where I was in training.

My husband and I made it to the start line where several high school marching bands were playing.  (It would sense with the race title “Drum Run”.)  The bands all sounded great and it was such a unique start.  I lined up and by the time I knew it we were off.

Birmingham mlk 5k
Photo from Just4Running.com

During the 200 meters, a lead pack quickly formed ahead which included two clearly fast elites,  my husband, another female, and a few others.  I found myself in the no mans chase pack of one.  It was evident the two elites were going to jog there way to a 16 something 5k which is what ultimately happened.  They looked effortless as they pulled away.

The first mile went over a few small rolling hills in the downtown and I crossed the first mile in 6:07.  Since my legs were heavy, plus the course wasn’t entirely flat, I was happy.

I could see the lead female in front.  I felt as though I was catching her. By the second mile, the lead pack was also strung out.  There were the two elites who were now out of sight, my husband and then a larger pack of 3 people including the woman.  I passed the larger pack around the halfway point.  The second mile had less hill but more turns. I ran the tangents well.  I crossed the second mile in 5:54 and felt better.  My legs were stiff, but I felt like they were loosening up.I was pleasantly surprised with a sub 6-minute mile.

I ran the final mile alone.  I could see my husband about a minute ahead and LOLed at the idea of catching him.  There were a few small rolling hills throughout the downtown.  Even when he isn’t training for 5ks (like now), he can still gut out a faster 5k.   I counted down the last mile… by every quarter of a mile.  I wasn’t fading, but I was ready to be done.  I crossed the third mile in 5:58 and gutted down to the finish line.

Birmingham mlk 5k

The final portion of the race was downhill, and I just powered to the end.  With the downhill, my final kick was 5:16.  If only all races had a nice downhill finish. Even though I cut the tangents well, the course was a little long, and I finished in 18:40.  I was fourth overall and the first woman.

Birmingham mlk 5k

Thoughts:

I am pleased with how the race went.  When you race often, you can’t expect a PR and each race has a goal.  My goal for the MLK 5k was to get a quick workout on my legs and to explore a new city.  Both of which I did.

Questions for you:

What how was your weekend?

Have you ever raced on tired legs?