Archive for the ‘Races’ Category

Run Key West

As I alluded weeks ago, I went back down to Key West with the rest of Team Amazing Day to defend our title as lady olympic relay champs. Since I’m almost a month late to the party, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you that we did exactly that!

And the ever-impressive Amy even managed to take second in her age group, an arguably bigger feat, given how many people she had to beat.

For our part, we relayers only had to best 4 other teams–2 of which were the dreaded Team Drink and Tri…who actually turned out to be really nice once we talked to them.

But you want to hear about the run? Well, there’s a lot less to talk about there. While Beth went upstairs to shower, I waited in transition for Katie to come in from the bike. The wind was whipping (as I tried to warn her!), and everyone’s cyclist was posting slow-for-them times. But I’m pretty sure Katie was still the first female relay cyclist back into transition, so I grabbed her chip and headed out into that same headwind she’d just been battling.

I tried to run comfortably hard, my standard race starting pace, and I tried to keep an eye out for Wes on the bike. Amy passed and called out to me, and Wes came by not long behind her, looking pretty good for someone who’d only ridden 25 miles once before in his life. (I tried to warn him about the wind too, for the record.)

As I passed the first mile marker I was devastated to see an 8:36 on my watch. My effort level felt like a 7:36! But I still had 5 more of those awful miles to get through, so I tried not to worry about it. Or to spend too much time worrying that there would be an even-worse headwind on the way back. (That’s how Key West rolls.)

Luckily, I reached the turnaround to find that the wind disappeared. I didn’t feel a tail wind though, and now I could feel just how hot the sun was. At one point I told myself to pay attention to where I was running. The water and foliage were gorgeous, and I wanted to enjoy myself. But I had no idea where the competition was!

So I just kept going and going until I finally reached the beach. Yes, the last .2 were on the sand, which was a little cruel. Katie and Beth jumped in with me and immediately started to sprint ahead. “Come on!” they yelled as the caught up with the dude in front of me. “Urrrrggllleee,” I responded without speeding up. But finally we stepped onto some carpet, and I was able to chick the hell out of that guy. (Related: all day I wanted to apologize to everyone I passed, because I had it so much easier. At one point some lady did call after me to make sure I was a relay runner.)

That's how you win a relay, bitches!

Afterward we stuck around for the awards, got a little drunkenly salty when they held the relay results until after ALL the other results and then forgot to drink beers out of our victory glasses.

This year everyone got the memo about wearing their team shirt to the awards.

Then we all went out and had a drink with Chris McCormack.

Macca really sums up the organization and execution of this race here. At least it's in paradise and we win, amiright, Chris?

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Blog Chocolate. Hot Blogcolate. Blog Chocoblog. I give up.‏

This blog post was written by my sister and Hot Chocolate 15k survivor, Katie. She promised other Katie that she wouldn’t complain too much, and I don’t think she did. Please enjoy this post while I work on my Key West race report, which won’t be anywhere near as entertaining as last year’s.

I firmly believe in not traveling for races; if I can’t bike, bus, or metro to your starting line, I’m happy to let someone with a car and a taste for race-parking blood take that spot. I live in one of the most active cities in the country, so I don’t have to go far to run almost any distance on any terrain. Plus I really, really like to sleep. I’m also a quite literal fairweather runner; if it’s too cold, too hot, too rainy, or too dark outside, I’ll pass, thanks. But when you put the words “hot chocolate” onto your December event’s name, you bet your ass I’m willing to be mildly inconvenienced. Hot chocolate is delicious. Throw in a ladies-cut jacket and my better judgment cedes all responsibility to my covetous id. Shit, for running, hot chocolate, and a jacket, I’ll wake up at 4:45 in the morning after working until 10:00 the night before, ride my bike across the city because the metro isn’t running yet, and mooch a ride off a friend’s friend to get to you. And that’s precisely what I did!

DC’s inaugural Hot Chocolate 5k/15k was held at the National Harbor, an oasis of hotels and conference sites in a suburban Maryland wasteland.* Despite being well off the metro, $45-65 to enter, and held in friggin’ December, some 18,000 runners schlepped to the starting lines from parking lots at Crystal City to Rosecroft Raceway. (I told you hot chocolate was delicious.) My friends and I parked at Rosecroft, grateful for the modest traffic we sat in when compared to the lines of unmoving drivers exiting at the Harbor. Conveniently, a half dozen shuttles arrived as we did, so despite being behind schedule, we made it to the start quickly. On the shuttle, I noticed someone checking the weather on their iPhone. It was 29 degrees outside, and I wished I’d worn more layers.

Walking from the shuttle stop, I overhead a volunteer announce that the start was delayed 20 minutes for each race and relayed the information to my friends. It seemed somewhat reasonable, given the traffic we’d observed.

Then we waited.

And waited.

The 5k started about 30 minutes late and the announcements stopped. Nobody told us that they’d mistakenly sent the runners in the wrong direction, and the 15k would run right into them if it was released. We just stood in the cold for another half hour as people got cranky. They chanted pro-start slogans. I suggested storming the hot chocolate tents at the finish festival. (Instead I ate some of the shot blocks I had packed, an uncharacteristic act of foresight on my part.) My friends devised a “Cinco de Mile” race that involves tequila shots, and you are rightly jealous. Finally, at 9am, they released the 15k, funneling the unseeded, slower runners into the seeded start. This was probably extremely frustrating for some faster competitors, but it pushed me to a comfortable 9:30 first mile.

As you’ve likely read on other race reports, the course was too narrow, and the first five miles abutted freeway traffic on one side. There were also cones and barrels all over the course. It was pretty unsafe, and I wasn’t able to crack another sub-10-minute mile until runners finally gave up and spilled across the entire roadway. We came off the freeway, crested a hill, and just beyond the five-mile marker enjoyed a long downhill past the announcer and cheering spectators. My spirits lifted as I picked off dozens of runners apparently unfamiliar with the strategy of friggin’ flying when the course is easy. Right around here, the course became scenic as well; instead of a four-lane highway, we ran on slightly rolling hills past hotels and green space. Had I been running alone, not with 12,000 others, it would have been a really pleasant and moderately challenging route. We snuck into the harbor’s downtown and, in the span of a mile, passed about four MarathonFoto photographers. We also seem to have passed the Awakening, if the photos are to be believed, but I don’t recall seeing it. The course veered onto a bike path and gravel stretch beside the harbor that, again, would have been pleasant were I a visiting businessman out for a jog and not one of 12,000 racers.

Somehow, I heaved my heft across the finish line in 1:28.18, pretty much exactly as fast as I’d hoped to finish. This seems miraculous given the crowds, but I am not going to question my awesomeness. My legs burned, and the spectators were crowding the finish line, but I managed to snag a bottle of water and stagger up to the finish festival. I drank a hot chocolate before they ran out of marshmallows. I wished they had spared us a few more pretzel rods or maybe a whole banana for our fondue dishes. I wondered if it was me that smelled so bad or the combined stinks of everyone present.

If my assessment of this race seems fairly neutral, it’s because I had a perfectly good race time, enjoyed but did not gorge myself on chocolate, and at least fit into my jacket even if the sleeves are a little short. I’m used to that. It comes with being long-limbed. So, no, I’m not calling for anyone’s heads or trying to run RAM racing out of DC for good. If you want to enjoy those comments, check out their facebook page. But next time my better judgment is questioning 1) driving to a race 2) in the winter and 3) when I’m working all weekend, I will probably take her advice: I’ll sleep in and make my own Swiss Miss when I wake up around 10:00 in my nice, warm bed.

Here's a pic of me and Katie at an infinitely better organized run--the one where we ran around town with a xeroxed piece of paper collecting shamrocks.

*It’s probably lovely; I don’t know. I only saw the freeway. (Ed. note–It is indeed a wasteland. I’ve been.)

My 200th Post Is About Me

So, remember when I said that I wanted to write my 200th post about how awesome my T2 runners were? Well, I’ve got a lot going on right now, including my A race last weekend, and I figured I can’t just keep my blog in limbo forever while I wait to find the time to write those folks the post they deserve. Are they inspiring? Hell yes. Let’s just leave it at that for now.

And talk about me.

Saturday I headed down South to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, where hoop skirts still abound (just kidding. I WISH hoop skirts still abounded). Amy and I skipped work on Friday (which is why I’m still here at 7:30 p.m.) and made the drive through typical I-95S hell with prodigal CAR Kay. We got there just in time to hit the expo, where I needed to buy a new pair of sneakers for the race. Yes, you heard me right. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. New shoes are my JAM, and I will wear them in a race up to and including 13.1 miles until I die! If Brooks doesn’t want me to do it, then they should start making sneakers that last longer than 200 miles.

Anyway, my local running store had already upgraded to the 2012 models, which are fug. And I’m not crazy enough to run a race in new updated shoes. So even though Amy offered to pick some up for me at her LRS, I said no thanks, I’ll just get some fo’ cheap at the expo. (This is foreshadowing, people.)

On the way to expo, we started talking about how we were feeling. Amy was nervous, but I said I felt really zen. I didn’t feel anything–I was just going to go out and run. Well, when we get to the expo to find ONLY Sauconys and discounted Adrenalines in every size except women’s 10, I could feel that zen slipping away into sheer terror. Yes, I had brought old sneakers, but I didn’t even bring my most recent pair. I just grabbed some old ones, because I figured there was no way in hell they wouldn’t have my sneakers at the expo.

Luckily, Amy, as a member of the 21st century, was able to look up the nearest running specialty store on her smartphone, while I just held my phone in my hand and pretended to study its ultra-cool keyboard, which is useless for doing anything besides communicating directly with a human being. We made a quick run to the store, which closed in–oh look at that–1o minutes. But they had the 2011 version of my shoes, and I grabbed them and headed back out to the CAR team dinner.

That was really the scariest part of the weekend for me, so forgive me for spending so much time on it. I did run a race the next day though, and my feelings about it can best be summed up as ambivalent though mostly positive. And I figured out why I was feeling so zen before the race–I had nothing to lose. Unlike my last big 13.1, I wasn’t planning to lay it out on the line. I’ve been uber-stressed lately, and while I very much viewed this as a return to my racing form, as the race I needed to prove to me that I made the right decision about my hip and my training over the last year, I still spent most of my time training for this race by standing still while other people ran around me. And the times I did run, well, I averaged about 15-minutes per mile with my runners. It was far from ideal, but it’s the training that I was able to do and still live the life that I wanted to live. A year ago I gave myself over to the marathon, and it burned me badly. If I’m going to come back, it’s going to be on my terms.

And so I went into the race with a max long run of 10 miles. I figured I could hold an 8-minute pace thanks to targeted strength training and interval work. And that’s exactly what I did. I’ll cut to the good part–I finished in 1:44:29, a time that is only 10 seconds slower than my PR and a world away from that race. Going into the Philly RnR last year, I was a basket case. I felt like I had sacrificed my life, and I didn’t feel like I was any faster for it. I felt all kinds of pressure to perform, and while I gutted it out at the half distance, I crumpled a month later in the full. My goal was to make that pace feel easy, because I knew I was a baby when it came to the marathon distance. If I don’t have the raw speed, well, I’m not going to find it out on that course.

So Saturday I started out at 7:54 and decided to pull it back a bit. My next miles were 7:57 and 8:01, just where I wanted to be. I continued on in that fashion, with outliers at 5 and 8, like everyone else it appears, and talked myself into running 13.1 miles that day. I began to slip at mile 10, mostly because I thought I was still in mile 9. I spent a lot of the time willing away small aches and convincing myself that if I stayed comfortable, I could finish the race, that my time didn’t matter. It wasn’t until I got to mile 11 that I really believed it, and then I began to speed back up. I hit mile 12 and then began gunning for the fast last mile that Kay had promised. I saw Coach George right before I turned to the downhill finish, and he yelled at me to pick it up. So I did. In that last 3/4 of a mile, I used up everything that I had been holding onto and busted out a 7:08 final mile to finish my second-fastest half marathon ever with a huge smile on my face.

I would describe my feelings after the race as “pleasantly surprised.” Am I sorry I didn’t try harder? A little. But mostly I’m just happy to be in a place that allows me to run well without pain and too much suffering. Plus I have another half marathon in a few weeks, and I plan to really prove myself there anyway.

I Am Steelman

Well folks, you were right. Thanks in no small part to your encouragement and the awesome support of most of my favorite training partners,  I did it! And I managed to exceed every goal I set for myself while having fun in the process. In short, Sunday was an amazing day.

I awoke Sunday morning to echos of two years ago. At 4:30, the rain was coming down hard as I worked to attach the bikes to the car rack without getting too cold or wet in the pitch-black process. But as we were driving to the race, a miracle happened: It stopped raining. As I was lifting the bikes back off the car, I made a comment to Katie (my sister) about how at least it had stopped raining, unlike two years ago.

“Oh, that was the worst race ever,” the woman in the car next to us chimed in. Lady, you don’t know the half of it.

We met up with Amy and the Tall Girl and made our way down to the transition area, where we set up and waited for the confirmation of wetsuit legality. I had my wetsuit dance all ready to go, and I was thrilled to break it and the suit out once they made the announcement. Seriously, I was probably the first person to don my suit. There’s nothing like a good wetsuit strut to get you in the mood to race.

Anyway, I digress.

The race started with a swim warm up, which I decided to take advantage of for the first time ever. After the DC Tri, where I jumped in and immediately started swimming then spent the first 200 meters hyperventilating, I realized that letting my body acclimate to the water was a good idea. Usually I just stand there and let myself get more and more worked up and scared before starting the race, a practice that has probably caused some adverse physiological reactions that only added to the miserableness of swimming. So I got in, I put my face in, I swam around, and all was good.

I climbed back out, talked to Lauren and Amy for a while, then Katie and I made our way down to our wave. We were in the second wave, along with every other man and woman under 30 and the Athenas and Clydesdales. Holy superwave, Batman! We moved into the water and out to the first buoy, and then we were off. I settled right in, breathing on both sides almost right away. It was a bit crowded, but I passed the few people who were slower than me and settled right in next to the buoys. I think I’ve mentioned before that the benefit of swimming the way I do is that it’s empty enough that I can take a pretty direct line to the buoys, and I did that on Sunday. At one point I was so close to a turn buoy that I punched it twice. I’m not sure that’s textbook, but it made me laugh.

As I swam along, it felt like I was taking forever. I told myself I’d finish in about 40 minutes and that was ok. I fought the urge to look at my watch, and instead I thought mostly of Dash and how she’d be so proud of me for finishing. Which is true, but kind of a weird thing to think of. I also thought about my dad, and how glad he would be to see me come out of the water instead of dropped off a boat. But this is the first time that I didn’t swear off triathlon completely while swimming, and I attribute that to the fact that I felt confident in my (slow) swimming ability for the first time ever, after two long years of work.

I finally did come out of the water, and was pleasantly surprised to look down at my watch and see 34:11! And did I mention that I’ve figured out that my swim headaches come from shoulder and neck tension? So I didn’t even have to deal with crushing dizzy spells or anything. I came out of the water and started running!

Back in transition I struggled with my wetsuit a bit, but I pulled it off and headed out just as Katie came in to grab her bike. My goal for the bike was to lay it all out there. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t do many brick workouts. My theory is that if I’m strong enough, in each individual discipline, I’ll be just fine. And it seems to be working for my current fitness/ability level. Maybe someday I’ll get serious and train properly. But anyway, my goal was to just leave it out on the bike course in the spirit of that tired old triathlon mantra, “It IS all about the bike.”

And lay it out there I did. The DC Tri has a much bigger field, so I’m used to coming out of the swim and picking off people like crazy. I was a little thrown to not see anyone from my age group on the bike. Then I thought I might be kind of close to the front anyway, so I just went after it. On a fairly hilly course, I managed to average 18.9 mph for 26.9 miles. I was stoked. I came back into transition after tracking down one of my competitors, waved to my dad, and racked my bike. My goal was to keep T2 down to a minute: I ran out and tapped my watch at 1:05. Success!

I started running and immediately began passing folks. My goal was 50 minutes, which was kind of a reach. I haven’t run 6 miles all in a row in two months. Hee. So I got out there and desperately wanted to walk, but I started bargaining with myself. Self, I said, you have a shot at a podium spot if you run fast enough, but ONLY if you run under 50 minutes. And let’s be honest, you probably feel so miserable because you’re running so fast!

I hit the first mile in 7:50 and suddenly believed the angel on my shoulder. On the way out, I had passed Beth and the Tall Girl, and I was looking forward to seeing Amy and my sister on our two-loop course. The run kept getting harder, but I just kept passing people left and right. I caught up with and passed two girls in my AG, at which point I realized I probably wouldn’t podium (curse you, swimming!) but I planned to get as close as humanly possible.

It had warmed up, and I started dumping water on my head. I also realized that I should have eaten some more food on the run, because I felt like I was bonking. I started sipping Gatorade to get me through it. At long last, I saw mile 6 and then the turn to the gravel path to the finish. Two men ahead of me were racing each other pretty hard, and I just watched them go and wondered how in the world they had so much left. I was absolutely spent.

I crossed the finish line with a 49:40(!!!) for the run, 2:53:21 total and finally got the coveted Steelman finisher towel that had been denied to me two years ago. I hobbled over to Katie, Beth, and the Tall Girl to wait for Amy and my Katie to finish. There I slowly regained my strength and posed for the greatest picture of me ever taken.

In the car on the way back to DC, I told Wes that this was one of my most proud races ever. While my mangled syntax illustrates just how tired I was, the sentiment is valid. I was out and out terrified of swimming when I started. I worried that I would never be able to do an Olympic distance triathlon. I questioned why I continued to swim when it only resulted in frustration and anxiety. A lot of people gave me permission to quit–permission that was sought and much appreciated–but I insisted that swimming was character building. And after Sunday I’m convinced I was right. I spent a lot of my life doing only what came easily to me, but the reward is so much sweeter when you put in some effort, when you finally do what you thought you never could.

Thanks, guys.

On Seeking Revenge

In my racing life, I’ve had few truly terrible experiences. I would say one is the time I played a rugby game in PA, ate nothing all day except for 5 Balance Bars, then came home and tried to run the first-ever 9/11 Memorial 5k. The result? A super-hot race in which I spent much of the time trying not to puke while my rugby captain ran alongside me and never let on how much she was probably judging me and my terrible fitness (32 minutes for a 5k is fine if you’re not trying to play D-1 women’s rugby). Upon arriving home, it was all I could do to get to the bathroom before the bars finally forced themselves out the other end. Bad day.

Look at those cheeks.

The other one is, of course, my one and only DNF, which happened not long after I started my blog. You guys may know the story, and if you don’t, you can read it alllllll back at that link.

But this weekend, I’m going for revenge on the Steelman course. Double the revenge, in fact, because this time I’m making my debut in the Oly distance. A lot has changed in two years. Last time I showed up on my beloved commuter hybrid, walking with the aid of a cane, and planning to wear a bathing suit throughout the whole thing (hard core).

Now I have a beloved road bike, a super sweet tri kit, some triathlons under my belt,  and the CAR blog mafia on my side. I also have a wetsuit that I’m praying nonstop to be allowed to wear because, well, some things haven’t changed, and I’m going to have to fight the mind fuck that is being pulled out of this lake once before.

You want them on your side.

Can I do it? To quote the bard, I think I can.

No, I’m pretty sure I can. And I’m very much looking forward to making up for that ugly mark on my racing history.

As far as that first race, well, I’ve never been back to do another one, but I did go on to blow the marathon times of my captain out of the water, though she’s a lovely woman, and I would never say I was exacting revenge on her. But there is something deeply gratifying about running way faster than an Eagle.

Today, We Are All Peasants

Someone give Lindsay a prize. She correctly guess that I did a triathlon this weekend! (Judges’ note: We would not have accepted turned 29, as that did not happen until today. Editor’s note: I am not above sneakily telling you all that today is my birthday. And that apparently I met Amy on my birthday last year.)

I did the PeasantMan triathlon, which bills itself as a training event to benefit the High Cloud Foundation, but it’s really just a super cheap triathlon that is run and provided for extremely well by volunteers and donations. This was a small tri, but it was a full sprint distance and everything went perfectly smoothly, except for that part when I went off the bike course.

But otherwise it was a beautiful day. The sky was a bit overcast, but it was that magical temperature that allows you to bike comfortably all wet in a sleeveless tri suit and still be cool on the run. It was also the first time I have ever enjoyed a triathlon. I think the secret was the fact that I was running really fast at the end. I passed several dudes and finished with with a 24:06 for the (estimated) 5k run, and I felt like I had a lot more left. (I also realized as I was running that I was doing yet another 5k.)

On top of that I only took 15 minutes to swim 750 meters, which is an insanely fast time for me and did a lot to quell the anxiety and distress I was feeling about swimming before now. I still get headaches when I swim, but now maybe I’ll work on fixing them instead of swearing off tris forever.

At the end of the race I told Wes that I’d had fun. “Oh God,” he replied. “Now how many triathlons are you going to do? Because you’ve always hated them before now, but you kept on doing them.”

Wes took some sweet video, but I have to figure out how to upload it to here. Stay tuned!

Jingle All the Way

Well my first race since my marathon is under my belt, and I’m feeling pretty good. I think I learned this year that I really need to keep racing. That’s why I train. With triathlons I really prefer the training to the event (only because of the swim though), but with running, it’s all about race day for me. Which is why I have a tendency to jump back into racing as soon as I can after injury. And that little habit–and the recurring minor injuries that went with it–made me swear off racing for much of 2010. Did it work? Yes. But would I do it again? Not to the extent that I did it this year. Racing keeps me sharp, and I think I was missing a lot of that this training season.

So I dragged myself out of bed Sunday morning after about 5 hours of heavily interrupted sleep to head out in the rain to the Jingle All the Way 10k. Two years ago I set a PR of 46:51. Who knows when I’ll see a time like that again? I knew it wouldn’t be Sunday. None of my G2B crew was running the race, so when I met up with Katie at the start, I decided that I’d rather pace her to a PR than run by myself (and just end up frustrated when I still only came in in like 52 minutes).

So that’s what I did. The 45 degree weather meant I ditched my Santa hat pretty early in the run, but the steady drizzle made sure I almost froze to death after the race. In other words, a beautiful day for a run.

Check out Katie’s race report for the deets. I can assure you that I was hurting a little more than I wanted to during that last mile. But I’m so happy to be out racing again. I was almost happy enough to go to the CAR hill workout this morning…but instead I enjoyed one very last week off, especially given the weather forecast. My right quad and calf are feeling twitchy from Sunday I’m just not ready for it to be this cold yet!