Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Diva's Wine Country Half Marathon - Pacing Allison for her Birthday!

Posing with the MRTT Reston/Herndon Chapter - yes, the let non-moms join!

After swearing that I would never do another race out in wine country, I signed up for the Diva's DC Wine Counrty Half Marathon since Allison (of Life's a Bowl) wanted to do it for her birthday! All in all, I have to say it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. But then again, I knew what to expect from 1)a race in VA wine country (I ran the Destination Races Virginia Wine Country Half in 2012 and it was a horrible experience), and 2)reports from last year's Diva's race. I was however, pleasantly surprised by some of the things about this race company, and while I won't do this particular Diva's race again, but I wouldn't rule out the organization all together.

The Good: The support. Diva's had at TON of water and a TON of medic support on the course. It was awesome how well stocked each water stop was. I also really liked the idea of a mostly female race and can see why a lot of people might choose a Diva's race for their first (either 5k or half). The course was well marked and fairly well staffed.

The Bad: The price. Not only was this race expensive, but I felt like they nickel and dime you along the way as well. You pay a pretty steep price for the entry fee (over $120) and then they want you to pay extra for VIP parking (which we did). So it was essentially more than $10 a mile for this race. And while the expo had plenty of clothing and cutesy stuff to offer, there wasn't anyone there selling gu or sport beans. I usually like to be able to pick up last minute race day nutrition at expos... so there's that. This is basically a race/expo/experience for women looking for a one and done race. Not an experienced runner.

The Ugly: The course. UGH! This was one of the most challenging half marathon courses I have ever run (and it was my 18th half). I feel really bad for the women that pick this Diva's race as their first half marathon. While I said I wouldn't rule out Diva's as and organization, I DO NOT recommend this race to anyone. In addition to the challenging hills, non-scenic scenery, and uneven terrain, it was an impossible course for spectators! Sure, there were some people out in the neighborhoods, but there were long stretches with nothing. I don't run for cheers, but they sure are nice towards the end of a half.

Bottom Line: Pick another race. Unless you're looking for a very expensive, well stocked, hill training run, then by all means - pick this race.

me and Allison before the start

Poor Allison! The entire week leading up to her birthday race I bugged her with texts like "what pace do you want to run?" and "what were you thinking you wanted to finish in?" While she maintained the entire time that she just wanted to "stay injury free and have fun." Which is actually the perfect way to go into ANY race!! From texting back and forth we decided we'd go for around a 9:30 average pace to hit right around 2:05, unless it felt really good or really bad, then we'd re-evaluate. I had originally said that I'd pace her to a PR (sub 1:55) for her birthday, but after hearing about the course, Allison's bad experience with the Leesburg 20k, and my own injury, I didn't want to risk anything bad happening just 4 weeks out from the Marine Corps Marathon.

Basically, if a race happens out side of Reston, I'm a stressball about it. I'm worried about being late, about making sure I have enough time to hit up the portapotty several times, and about the course. So, when they said that we had to be parked by 6:15 (for a 7:30am start time), I took that to mean that we needed to leave Reston at 4 am. Crazy, right? I forced myself to calm down and say 4:30, but then Allison needed a ride, so Jackie met me at my house at 4:30 and then we went to get Allison. It put us right behind the MRTT girls that left Herndon at 5:30, so for all my worrying, things were fine!

We spent about 45 minutes in the car, taking walk breaks to go back and forth to the potties twice, then headed to the start area around 7am. Of course, once we got to the starting area, I had to jump in the potty line again. I don't know what it is about a race, but it makes me have to pee every 10 minutes before it starts!

Then it was time to join the girls of MRTT (Mom's Run This Town - a FREE running club of all women that are AMAZING and welcoming, even though I'm not a mom! It's awesome!!) for some group photos! (like the one at the top of the post). When we lined up in the starting waves, I think a lot of us were anxious to get started. They did a count down to the start several times, and then had us all do the cupid shuffle (which you know I LOVE!!), then counted us down again and we were off!

me and Allison in front of the start
Allison snapped these within the first mile or so of the race

The second the race started our "take it out easy and run a 2:05" flew out the window. Allison and I ran a lot of the first mile, hitting it just under 9 minutes. Since it felt relatively good, we changed to our intervals of 90:30 seconds and kept our run pace quick. Even with the challenging hills of the course, we stayed under an 8:45 pace for the next 5 miles.

Those hills though! My ankle was really tight and quite painful through mile 2 or 3. I remember really feeling it, wondering if I could even finish the race, and then all of a sudden it was gone and I was feeling pretty good. I also made the mistake of not taking a gu before the race started, so about 2 1/2-3 miles in I had my first one of the day and it was magical! It's amazing how nutrition can make or break a run! I am not a morning eater at all, but I know I should start trying to eat something before I run.

At mile 7, Allison and I switched our intervals to 60:30 and it was at this point that we started passing women who had passed us in the early miles. We had slowed down a bit too, alternating hilly miles around 9:00, and running down hill miles around 8:45. I don't know if Allison was nervous at all, but around mile 8 I started to check in with her about her knee every few minutes. I was so worried because in previous races she'd run around this pace, she's run into her knee locking up right around this point. BUT this was her first interval race, and she kept assuring me she was absolutely fine! It was exciting to hear!


I was feeling a lot of exhaustion within the last mile, sure that we were going to be sub 2, I stuck with my intervals and let Allison run ahead once we neared the finish line. We finished in 1:57:08 (Allison) and 1:57:11 (me)! It was a great effort on a really great day to run! I'm so happy that I got to run with Allison for her birthday race and pace her to a second best half marathon time and a postpartum PR! She was great company and I enjoyed running with her so much that I've decided I'm going to run the Marine Corps Marathon with her as well.

After the race, I chilled out the rest of the day and then headed to Il Fornaio in Reston Town Center to celebrate Allison's birthday a little more. It was such a fun day/night! :)


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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Navy/Airforce Half Marathon - pacing to a PR

Joanna, Kristin, me, Jackie, and Lauren

This year marked the 4th year that DC has hosted the Navy/Airforce Half Marathon (and Navy 5 miler). Someone posted that they are the little brothers of the Marine Corps Marathon and Army Ten Miler, and I would have to agree! It's still a relatively small race compared to the other two services races held in October, but it was remarkably well run/staffed for the size of the event. I would compare it to earlier Cherry Blossom Ten Miler races, though the CB10Miler has gotten bigger in recent years.

All in all, the organization of this race was great, but here's a recap of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good: This was, hands down, the best half marathon course I have ever run in DC. I didn't look at the elevation chart, but I am fairly certain it's a net flat course. None of the hills are that steep and it feels like you have more downs than ups. It was also staffed very well. Usually I run in the sub 2 range, so I personally have never encountered this, but my back of the pack friends (2:20 and slower) have told me that a lot of races run out of water towards the end of the race. This was not the case this weekend. The Navy/Airforce Half was fully stocked even on the last water stop.

The Bad: They did a mass start at 7:10 and had everyone line up based on their own predicted time. With this course starting on Haines Point, it meant that the course was REALLY crowded in the beginning. It was hard to keep our pace for the first few miles, even though we lined up with the 11 minute milers. (most of them were running 12+ miles) This race would be FANTASTIC if they went to 4-5 starting corrals with a 5 minute stagger start. (Seriously, no one does a race start better than Competitor! That's why I keep coming back to Rock'n'Roll races!)

The Ugly: Medics, medics, medics! I only saw one medic station at mile 9 and ZERO running medics on the course. Maybe I am hyper sensitive to the issue because I have witnessed several deaths at races (not just been at the same race, but witnessed the person being given care or put into an ambulance myself), but I just think that all races should have a marked medic at every water stop and several running in each pace range. We did witness someone go by on a golf cart with a bag of ice on her ankle, so there was some support, but who knows how long it took to get her. Long story long, I'd like to see more visible medical support during the race, as well marked aid stations on the course map.

Bottom Line: This is a great race to prep for other fall races in DC or to race, since the course is amazing! The good definitely out weighs the bad here, and I think with the feedback from the survey they sent out, it can only get better!


As per usual, I wanted to arrive in DC "butt ass early" to make sure that we got a good parking space and could make a quick escape from the city after the race. Kristin came over at 4:30, just in time for me to walk the dogs, Lauren to get ready, and for us to hit the road at 4:45am to head into DC. We arrived just as Joanna was parking, so it was perfect timing!

We had time to walk to the porta potties, back to the cars, move the cars even closer, and then meet up with LB and her friend for a 2 mile warm up run (since we technically had 18 on our training plan this weekend). As we were running down Constitution Ave, Amanda was able to join us, being dropped off by her husband just after 6am. Apparently we were easy to spot in our sparkle skirts!

We then took a running tour of the monuments. There is nothing better than seeing the monuments in the wee hours of the morning. It's dark, so they're all lit up, and there really isn't anyone around! It's incredible!! It seems like everyone was feeling pretty good about how they were feeling that day, and if I have my way, I'd love to make a 2 mile warm up a tradition for all my races (except maybe marathons) in the future!

Me, Joanna, Julie, Amanda, Kristin, Lauren, Jackie, and LB

So here we all are, grouped in the starting corral for the race. We lined up right in front of the 10:00-11:59 pace group sign, so we should have been starting with people running right below a 10 minute mile, but that wasn't really the case...

Since my injury, I have felt really out of it mentally. I go back and forth over what I think I'll be capable of, and if I want to risk setting myself back. Right now my leg is holding at about 85%. It's sore, but it's not getting any worse. Conversely, it's also not getting any better. Kristin had also been talking about how THIS race was going to be the one where she was going to get into the 2:30s. Kristin had talked to Amanda about pacing her, but with my injury, I decided I would do it. I have been ROCKING pacing recently - I set out to run a sub 2 half in training, got ahead of my pace and was able to ease off when I caught up with Allison and Stacy - then knew when to speed up and how fast to go to hit a 1:59:11. I just seem to REALLY been in tune with paces and efforts recently, and so I thought it would be a fun challenge to pace Kristin!

So last weekend we had an 8 mile training run with team. We were supposed to do 2 miles easy, 4 miles at pace, and 2 more easy. I decided I would just see where Kristin was, so we played around with some strategies - longer run intervals mixed with shorter ones and then alternating "push" intervals with "comfortable hard" intervals. She averaged 11:09 for those miles and said she felt better doing the same time intervals, but alternating effort. Based on those 11:09 miles, I made a decision that I wasn't going to pace Kristin into the 2:30s, but to a 2:29.

The entire week I studied pace charts. I wanted to know what our expected finish time would be based on every pace we were hitting, so that even if we missed my goal, I could keep Kristin on track to get into the 2:30s. I thought to myself "11:25, we can do this, 11:25" over and over and over. I knew that we were good up to a 12 minute mile, but I really wanted to keep Kristin under a 12 minute mile average. I didn't want to have a pace chart with me, so I tried to make sure I knew where we should be at the 10 mile, since sometimes a half feels like a 10 miler with a 5k on the end! I knew were were golden if we hit the 10 mile mark between 1:55 and 2 hours.

The beginning of the race was pretty packed. Lauren, Amanda, Kristin, Joanna, and I all tried to stay together. It was pretty tough, since we needed to run faster than the crowed during our run intervals. We started with a 45:30 second ratio, and attempted to push every other interval, but it was just too hard. Lauren also started running up with me, and I was having trouble gauging where Kristin was, so I had to ask her to run either in front of me or behind me, so that I didn't get us off pace. I tried to say it nicely, but I'm worried I snapped it a little at the moment. It was just so crowded, we were still so early in the race, and I was really nervous about my job as pacer!

Lauren fell back and ran a bit with Amanda and Joanna, but about 2 miles in we lost Joanna. Her stomach wasn't feeling our pace, and she had told us at the beginning that she might have to drop back from us. We hit every mile right around pace, though I think the mile marker for 2 was early and 3 was late, our average was right on. It seemed to me that the first 6 miles flew by! I actually almost missed the 6 mile marker because it was facing the wrong direction on the course. That was about the time when we saw Ryan as well. I encourage Kristin to go give him a kiss. Because, lets face it, nothing helps you get through a run like a kiss from your sweetheart!

About mile 5, Kristin asked to switch to 30:30 intervals when we got to mile 7. I knew we were below 2:30 pace and said okay, but also reminded her that we would have to do pushes. She agreed, so that's what we did when we hit mile 7. It was also about that time when both Kristin and Lauren were starting to chafe. Luckily, just after we made the turn on Rock Creek Parkway, I saw a medical tent. I ran over and got Kristin and Lauren some Vaseline and they immediately felt better! Mile 9 was also our slowest on the course, but with it being uphill and the chafing, we were still holding a great average pace! But it was at this point that I think Kristin was feeling some mental exhaustion and asked, very nervously "are we still on pace?" I told her that we were fine. In fact, we easily made up the time we added during mile 10, with it being mostly down hill, we clocked in around 11:09. We even picked up another runner, Katie, to do 30:30 intervals with us!

Kristin didn't want to know anything about our pace, other than her question about where we were, but I let it slip at mile 10 that she had just PRed the 10 miler! It was at this point in the race that I knew for a fact that Kristin would make her goal, even if we fell off of my pace. But Kristin's runs seemed strong and evenly paced, even though she started complaining a little more about being uncomfortable. She started expressing how much she hated me around mile 11, and both Lauren and Amanda chimed in about all the times they felt exactly the same way, but that it was always worth it at the end! We saw Ryan just after 11, but this time Kristin said she had to keep going and couldn't stop for a kiss. I don't blame her, it was a pretty hard effort for her at this point.

Around mile 12, Kristin hit a huge mental wall. I say that it was mental because her pace didn't slow at all. She said her stomach was bothering her, but the upside was that it was distracting her from her foot pain! We plugged along, at a very even pace until the turn right before the finish. We ran around the turn, hit mile 13 and Kristin could see the clock - 2:30 - in front of us. I offered her another walk break, but she kept barreling towards the finish. It was incredible! We crossed the line and she put her hands over her face and bent over. I had stopped my watch at 2:28:23. A PR by 13 minutes!


Unfortunately, Amanda had to jet before we could get a picture, but here is our finisher photo. Kristin said she had to keep her sunglasses on because she had tear face! But she earned every single one of those tears!! She pushed so hard; it was incredible! To put this in perspective, this race wasn't just Kristin's half marathon PR, but it also beats out all of her other race distance PRs. (looked them up on athlinks)

distance race previous PR Navy/Airforce split time drop
5k 2014 Firecracker 5k 37:18 34:14 -3:04
4 miler 2015 Mother's Day 4 Mi 48:27 44:04 -4:23
10k 2015 For the Love of it 10k 1:11:34 1:08:52 -2:42
10 miler 2015 Reston 10 Miler 2:06:10 1:53:14 -12:56
half marathon 2015 Rock'n'Roll DC Half 2:41.16 2:28:20 -12:56

Talk about a truly amazing performance! I am so proud of Kristin for her amazing PR, but I am also pretty proud of Amanda and Lauren too. They both really hung in there, helping Kristin along the way! Amanda was even checking in with everyone to see how they were feeling. It was cool to see Amanda feel comfortable in a pace she thought was her max effort, just a few months back! (See the R'n'R DC post from this year for that story!)

All in all the whole Out for Blood team really rocked the Navy/Airforce Half Marathon! The race was all in all a pretty positive experience and I'm excited to make it a regular part of my fall racing line up.


Support my blog: I buy a lot of, well, everything from Amazon with my prime membership (both personally and at work). They are offering a free 30 day membership to new subscribers and a referral bonus for me! So check out Amazon Prime and support my blog at the same time! I donate 10% of all ad revenue to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through their Team in Training program.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

South Lakes 10k (and post injury running)


I ran the Potomac River Running - South Lakes 10k this past weekend (here's my post from last year about it). Last year I talked about getting out of my training comfort zone, and since then I have LOVED adding races at a tempo pace after long runs. I think it's what really helped me push at the end of my marathon and go sub 4! But a little of something is a good thing, but as I learned early this summer, too much can be bad. Very bad.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Twilight Four Miler

Amanda and I ran the Twilight Four Miler together this year. It happens to take place about 5-6 weeks after the Mother's Day Four Miler, so it can be fun to try to work to drop time between those two events! It's also an evening race, so while it can be hot, it's fun to race at a different time of day.

I ran a long run of 8.6 miles the day before, so I wasn't sure how I would feel for the race. Amanda and I ran together for the first two miles, averaging right around a 8:50 pace, then she needed to slow down so I went ahead, descending to 8:30 and 7:54, according to my nike+ app. It was cool to build speed and negative split a race, since I usually positive split my races in a HUGE way! I finished in 33:52 and Amanda behind me at 37:27, not far off from our 36:50 on Mother's Day.

Twilight Festival 4 Miler 6-14-15-4871


Support my blog: I buy a lot of, well, everything from Amazon with my prime membership (both personally and at work). They are offering a free 30 day membership to new subscribers and a referral bonus for me! So check out Amazon Prime and support my blog at the same time! I donate 10% of all ad revenue to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through their Team in Training program.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

how to start running (Month Zero)


"Step one, start running. Step two... there is no step two." - Barney Stinson

Somehow I became a known as a running coach. I'm sure it has to do with the fact that I naturally want to organize people and plan things, and that when I am interested in something, I tend to want to learn a lot about it. But its become more that just planning group runs for my friends. I've now stepped into developing training plans for people outside of my circle and virtually coaching friends long distance friends!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day 4 Miler


Just like last year, I celebrated my birthday by running my first race as a new age (still in the same age group, thank goodness!). Amanda and I ran together because I "wanted to take it easy" but then I ended up pacing her through a descending mile workout!

I had run 12.1 miles with Allison and Lauren the day before using a 1:1 interval, but keeping a 10:17 average pace, so I felt pretty spent starting out. Amanda and I started with a 10:15, dropped to a 9:12, followed that with a 8:53, and ended with an 8:36 doing a 2 min run:30 second interval with some course based running (walking up hills and running more on flats and down hills). I am slowly teaching Amanda that fast running, though hard, is a lot of fun!

And again, Potomac River Running put on a GREAT race! I can't say enough times how wonderful their races are. They are so well organized that they are the perfect race for beginners and race junkies (like myself) a like! Plus, free, awesome photos from their flickr page!

Mother's Day 4 Miler 5-10-15-3840
Mother's Day 4 Miler 5-10-15-3843
Mother's Day 4 Miler 5-10-15-3911
Mother's Day 4 Miler 5-10-15-4165

As you can see, a bunch of the girls from our running group participated on Mother's Day Sunday - me, Amanda, Allison, and Kristin. Emily was also there, but for the life of me, I can't find her photo on the flickr site! This happened during the Run Your Heart Out 5k too!!


Support my blog: I buy a lot of, well, everything from Amazon with my prime membership (both personally and at work). They are offering a free 30 day membership to new subscribers and a referral bonus for me! So check out Amazon Prime and support my blog at the same time! I donate 10% of all ad revenue to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through their Team in Training program.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Gwen Stefani taught me to spell bananas. No joke, I'm not sure I actually knew how to spell the word banana before Holla Back Girl, but now I will never forget. Seriously though, my banana bread is BANANAS!!! It was seriously soooo good! Maybe it's because I haven't really had banana bread since getting diagnosed with celiac back in early 2012... but that can't be totally it, because I know my last banana bread was from Starbucks, they, my friends, have PERFECTED banana bread. Non-celiac friends, please, go eat some Starbucks banana bread for me!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Recovery Weekend

Recovery weekendRecovery weekend

The weekend after the Rock'n'Roll Raleigh 1/2 Marathon was a somewhat forced recovery weekend! I ran on Friday night with Allison (her blog is Life's a Bowl) before heading out with Reid to meet up with Josh and Jenny for dinner. Allison was trying to finish up her miles in her half marathon training plan before heading out of town for the weekend. It was the perfect (although hot) way to start my evening!

On Saturday morning we headed out for a quick little recovery run before I had to head out for Amanda and Hilary's birthday wine tour and then to an intersquad swim meet.

Support my blog: I buy a lot of, well, everything from Amazon with my prime membership (both personally and at work). They are offering a free 30 day membership to new subscribers and a referral bonus for me! So check out Amazon Prime and support my blog at the same time! I donate 10% of all ad revenue to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through their Team in Training program.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rock'n'Roll Raleigh 2015

Rock'n'Roll Raleigh http://restonstyle.com

I was a little nervous about running the Rock'n'Roll Raleigh after what I witnessed there last year. But I was so excited to sign up for a race and run with Leeanne and Danielle, that I figured I would just push any apprehension aside and go for it. Boy am I glad that I did! Not only was the race really great (although it felt hard with all of my slower running in 2015 compared to 2014), I had such a great time hanging out with Leeanne all weekend!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Rock'n'Roll DC 2015

Rock n roll dc 1/2 marathon http://restonstyle.com

What's wrong with this photo? Well, it was taken through a ziplock bag because the Ron'n'Roll DC (formerly USA) half marathon was the RAINIEST race I have ever run!! Talk about #badASS! So it was super rainy and pretty darn cold, BUT it'd didn't stop Amanda from clocking in at 2:08:47 an over 20 minute PR!! (her previous actually being from the 2012 MCM split at 2:23 something, and before that from the worst race on the planet earth - the VA Wine Country Half Marathon of 2:29:22)

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