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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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?

Training: Solid Workouts and Long 5ks

My training last week started off well and ended on a somewhat bittersweet note.  I started the week riding my high from the Phillies 5k, then as the week progressed, DOMS, lack of sleep and current events caught up with me.

Where to start?

Monday: 70 minutes easy
Tuesday: 65 minutes easy
Wednesday: Workout
Thursday: 70 minutes easy
Friday: 60 minutes easy
Saturday: 6X400s (7 miles total)
Sunday: Clean Air 5k (19:50)
Total: 61 miles

Easy runs were just that, easy.  Due to forecasted thunderstorms, I thought I would have to resort to running on the treadmill for a few days. I was lucky that I started running enough that I missed them.

Wednesday Workout:
1×15 minutes (6:31 pace)
1 mile (6:07)
2X8 minutes (6:30 pace)

As I mentioned on Instagram, this was definitely the best workout I’ve had in a very long time. I felt like I was on top of the world.

Saturday:
6X400 (1:35 average)

The goal of Saturday was to get some faster repeats.  Just to get some rust off.  I was tired, but they went according to plan.

Sunday:
Clean Air 5k (3.25 miles 19:50…average pace 6:05)

I was originally supposed to run a different race up North, but life came up, and I didn’t have enough time to get to the race.  There wasn’t a point to speed up there and so the morning of, I found something local.  I was disappointed, to say the least, but I made the best of the situation and found a local 5k that I was able to run.

However, the mess of the morning spilled into the race.  The race itself was an out and back on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia (where I actually set my PR last year), but the course was long.  Not only that, but they had 10k walkers start 15 minutes before 5k runners.  It meant for about a mile, I was weaving around walkers.  It wasn’t optimal, I didn’t feel great, and it was a mess of a morning.  Some races aren’t glamorous, and you just feel like garbage…that was the story there, but I’ll have a full recap later.

Running Posts of the week:
How to Transition to Minimalist Running Shoes
March Training
Phillies 5k (18:32)

Questions for you:
Have you ever DNSed?
I think whenever I sign up online before a race, something happens.
What was your best workout last week?

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?

 

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?

 

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?