Category Archives: Race Reviews

Big Wish 5k Win + Marathon Week

It’s Marathon Week!  I’m ready to run and have had some solid workouts through my two week taper, including a great Big Wish 5k.  Currently the One City weather is looking less than ideal with temperatures in the high 30s, 20 mph winds and an 80% chance of 1-3 inches of snow.  Ugh.  I’m really hoping that changes as the forecast so often does around Hampton Roads and I’ll stay dry.  If not, oh well, there’s nothing I can do anyway.

My training is behind me.  It went extremely well and I feel 100% ready for race day after two weeks of taper.  I wrapped Taper Week 2 with a easy eight mile long run Friday then stepped the intensity up with the Big Wish 5k Saturday morning.  It was a brisk and breezy but sunnyBig Wish 5k morning.  My plan was to to keep my legs firing without taking too much off the table for this weekend’s marathon.  During my two mile warm-up I felt really good.  We went off right on time as I focused on not getting swept up with the fast starters.

I expected to run comfortably around half marathon pace (7:15/mile) but settled in faster.  The first mile ran by in 6:58.  Slow down, I told myself.  My legs and lungs both felt great as I made the u-turn at halfway.  Mile 2 registered as a 6:56.  Since I was feeling so good and picked it up a hair for Mile 3 in 6:45.  I crossed the finish line in 21:19 as first female.

I was bummed I hadn’t looked at the time on my watch after my warm up.  If I had, I would have known coming through those last few hundred meters I was only 5 seconds away from a new 5k PR.  A faster 5k is definitely in my near future and I look forward to seeing what I can do.

The rest of Marathon Week includes yesterday’s 12 x 400M, another short workout Wednesday and a 20 minute shake out Saturday.

Meredith

What does your Marathon Week look like?

2016 Norfolk Harbor 5k

Even though this was technically the third time I’ve run this event, it was the first time it was monikered Norfolk Harbor 5k instead of Harbor Lights 5k.  I paced the half marathon in its inaugural year then finished third female overall at the 5k in 2015.

My last race of 2016 and the end of my between training cycle down time, I knew my performance wouldn’t be as fast as last year.  I was OK with that and just wanted to get out there and have some serious fun before the long miles of marathon training took over my schedule for sixteen weeks.  That’s exactly what I did.norfolk harbor 5k

The morning was cool with a little wind that was barely noticeable once you were between the city’s buildings.  I felt OK warming up and shed a layer before the start.  I lined up right in front to avoid traffic at the beginning.  We went off right on time and I focused on running my own race instead of getting caught up with the faster runners around me.  Mile 1 featured a few turns and a tiny climb (6:54).  During Mile 2 I passed a lot of runners but knew I was still sitting 7th or 8th female.  One woman was within striking distance and I planned on going after her with 1k left.  I wanted to run an even effort but weaving through the city made it hard.  Especially the two sections we traversed some cobblestones.  Mile 2 clocked in at 7:00.

Another very sharp turn slowed me down with 800M to go but I was able to move up the spot I planned on.  More twists and turns (see braking/norfolk harbor 5kheel strike) kept my pace a bit slower than it could have been but I finished decently with Mile 3 at 6:56.  The final 200M were straight and fast.  I crossed the line at 21:50/3.16, winning my age group as 6th overall female.

Through the chute I picked up a bottled opener medal, banana, bottled water, chips and Norfolk Harbor 5k mason jar.  My legs felt good as I cheered Team ECRP runners on and enjoyed my complimentary stew and beer.  As always, J&A Racing put on a stellar event with great swag and a kicking after party. 

Meredith

What makes a good race in your book?  Swag?  Course?  Free photos?

Monumental Half Marathon

This weekend I checked off State #24 by finishing the Monumental Half Marathon.  With no idea how my run would go, I went out to have fun and check in on my fitness.  I arrived Thursday to hit the expo, explored the city Friday and was ready to go by Saturday morning.

Monumental Half Marathon race morning was crisp and clear if a little chilly at the start.  Since my hotel was only about a half mile from the Start/Finish area, I skipped gear check and lined up next to my corral after a one mile warm up.  I say ‘next to my corral’ because I was.  They were extremely crowded and I couldn’t get inside the fence until the runners in front of me started moving forward.

That traffic continued for a little more than the first mile.  I was seeded in Corral B, 1:45 and under expected finish times but found that at 1:38 pace I was passing an awful lot of people very quickly.  Including walkers and joggers.  Hopefully there will be bigger divisions or more corrals to eliminate this in following years.  Several other runners and I spent time running on monumental half marathonsidewalks until the roads opened up after the Mile 2 marker.

There was no timing mat at 5k (22:40) but I felt OK.  My pace had been all over the place due to the traffic and I still had no rhythm.  My legs and lungs felt good with a finally steady pace after a quick walk for water at Mile 7.  Shortly after that my calves starting getting grumpy.  I’ve been spending a lot of time working on stretching both them and my Achilles and I think the longer fibers aren’t strong enough to handle that much work for over 90 minutes yet.

With chatty calves I came through another water stop just past Mile 10 in about 1:15 and I set my goal to come in under 1:40.  I needed those two minutes of breathing room with less than 5k to go when I took a break to shake my calves out.  The last three miles I tried to slow my pace down.  Unfortunately, I was stuck in a move fast groove.  I took a final calf shake out walk at the Mile 11 mark.  An easy jog through that mile lead to a strong Mile 12.  I crossed the finish in 1:39.49/13.2 with very touchy calves.

I was happy with my race and to learn my fitness is still solid.  My walk was a bit ginger while picking up my medal, bottled water, chocolate milk, a new cap and lots of snacks.  The morning had turned out perfectly for my short cruise back to the hotel.  The Monumental Half Marathon was a great experience.  It’s a flat and fast course with good organization, course support and swag.

Meredith

How many states have you run in?  What’s the next one?

2016 Joggin For Frogmen 5k

This past Saturday I ran the Virginia Beach edition of Joggin For Frogmen.  I participated last year when the 5k race was held on conjunction with Crossfit’s 31 Heroes workout and had a blast.  Exclusively benefiting the Navy SEAL Foundation, it’s a great cause I was happy to support again.  The 2016 event was slightly different, held later in the year and on its own but still fabulous.joggin for frogmen

The location and running surface were also different than in 2015.  The race took place at the Military Aviation Museum, a really amazing museum, and over a cross country course covered in grass.  I race on dirt/grass once a year and rarely train on it so I knew I’d be facing a challenge.  To make things even more fun, there was a little bit of rain Friday night to wet the grass and 20+ mile an hour winds to battle.

The turnout was great with roughly 500 runners supporting the Joggin for Frogmen cause on a chilly and windy morning.  After the opening ceremonies, including a rendition of the nation anthem during no one knelt, the race was off at 9am.  I planned to run hard without pushing too much since this was my first serious workout in three weeks.  Especially over the uncertain surface, injury was not tops on my list.  I settled into the headwind for the first half mile taking it easy at about a 7:30 pace.  The second half mile had a tailwind and I picked up to right around 7:10img_20161024_122623527 pace.  I was feeling good starting Mile 2 when I saw the very long stretch I’d be running into that 20mph wind.  I hunkered down, repeatedly pulling my visor back onto my head against gusts and just kept my feet moving.

My pace dropped to way over 8 minutes as I tried to take it easy fighting the wind.  I’d have that friendly tailwind back for the last 1200M and hoped to be able to take advantage of it.  As expected the tailwind wasn’t quite as helpful as the headwind was harmful but I did have a strong finish with the last 800M at 7:02 pace.  Crossing the line in 24:15 after loosing that minute fighting the wind was fine with me.  I got in a really good workout on strange turf in rough weather.  I also managed to finish 3rd in my age group.

It might not have been one of my fastest 5k times ever but it was one of the most fun.  I performed decently and did actually manage to enjoy the entire run.

Meredith

How do you get back into harder workouts after a break?

Wineglass Half Marathon Meltdown

Last weekend I ran my goal race.  My 2016 Wineglass Half Marathon race was a disaster.  I loved the event itself but my running featured a total meltdown that I’m actually glad I had.  For race day specifics, check out my review on BibRave!

The race day schedule did not really suit me but I succeeded at not letting it get to me.  I took a mandatory shuttle 15 minutes to the start then hung out for an hour in a gym before warming up.  I’m a get up and go type so this definitely put a cramp in my eating, sleeping, relaxing, game ready routine.  After gear check and potty, I warmed up and toed the line ready to rock 13.1 miles.meltdown

I had worked hard all summer and was looking forward to nailing this race.  I felt good.  My legs were fresh while my head was in the right place coming off my congestion.  I had an excellent first seven miles on pace to hit my PR goal but my body felt all wrong.  I was working much harder than I should have been and it felt way more difficult to maintain my desired pace than I had expected.  When I hit Mile 8 slightly behind my goal pace with already fried legs my head started to get the better of me.  The source of my pain turned out to be my shoes.  They were old and I hadn’t run in them in quite some time, saving them for this race.  Big mistake.  But I’m not going to blame a bad race on shoes.

What really pushed me over the edge was a gentleman I had been running with for a few miles saying “aren’t these views amazing?” just as I noticed I was behind goal pace.  My response: “What views?”  That’s when the meltdown began.  My entire body hurt with 8k to go.  There was some hip pain I had never had before bothering my left side.  So I quit.  I wasn’t having fun.  I was totally miserable.  Yes, I was disappointed to have a bad race, sad I was going to miss my goal but I was also in pain and pushing for no reason.  I took a deep breath, stopped and looked over to the mountains.  Actually stood still for 30 seconds.  Starting again, I jogged the rest of the race.  I spent time looking around, cheering for other runners and chatting with water stop volunteers.

No one is paying me to run these races (except when I’m a pacer).  It’s supposed to be fun.  Somewhere along the way this fall I lost that.  Turned out this race wasn’t about hitting or not hitting a PR for me.  It was a total reality check that I desperately needed.  Running is fun and I have to get back there.  I’m taking a week away from running, rewriting my upcoming months of marathon training, buying all new shoes (more on that later), backing off my aggressive run 50 states schedule and focusing on having fun.

Meredith

Have you ever had a meltdown during a race?  What did you learn from it?

Morgantown Marathon/Thirteener (State 21)

This weekend I made my way up to Morgantown, West Virginia to take part in their second annual Morgantown Marathon and half marathon, the Morgantown Thirteener.

It was a pretty drive through the mountains to get there and I went directly to the expo.  It was small but nice with friendly and helpful volunteers.  I picked up my number, a race themed long sleeve tech shirt along with a few other race themed goodies including West Virginia Lottery scratchers off of which I won $1!  Free money!  Thanks, Morgantown.  After the expo, I was off to my hotel for a nap before dinner.

After dinner I got ready for race day, checked the forecast one more time and settled in with a little college football.  The weather guessers had been calling for 100% rain all day Saturday and Sunday but no rain happened until about 2am Sunday morning.  It was quite the downpour as I steeled myself for a wet race and fell back asleep.morgantown marathon

I woke up race morning to find the day had broken dry.  Yay!  There was no parking at the Start so I took breakfast with me to the shuttle.  A short ride later we arrived at the race.  I picked up my pace sign, easily checked my gear and warmed up.  There was plenty of room to run in the Coliseum parking lot which was great for those of us who didn’t know the area.  A quick moving line had me through the Port-a-Potties and lined up in no time.

We went off right as scheduled at 7am on the cloudy, slightly humid morning.  After a little bit of traffic I settled right in with a small group.  We hit the first three miles right on track, walked through a well stocked water stop and rolled on.  A few runners dropped back as the hills started to take a toll around the halfway point.  A big out-and-back loop, the course is great for spectators.  I had some new runners with me as we covered the hills in reverse toward the finish.  At Mile 9 a few with me were aiming for PRs and two were first time half marathoners.  I walked through the next water stop where the group broke up.

At Mile 11 I was running alone as I had been most of the race.  Some of my buddies had fallen back while two others had taken off.  I hit the Mile 12 mark with 12.05 and 1:49.30 on my watch and was shocked when I saw the Mile 13 marker.  There was still a ways to go.  I thought I had morgantown marathonplenty of time to hit my goal of 1:59.50 but I was wrong.  Since I thought I had time to spare, I slowed to encourage a struggling runner in those last 800M and felt bad that by no fault of our own she wouldn’t break that 2 hour mark.  I crossed the line at 2:00.22 with 13.31 on my watch.  It was disheartening.

I still managed to help several people hit PRs and was very proud of the first timers who came through shortly after I did.  The Morgantown Marathon and Thirteener were well organized with solid swag.  Rolling hills accounted for roughly 511 feet of elevation gain over the 13.1+ mile course.  They weren’t too much of a factor for the half though they’re supposed to be bigger and meaner over the 26.2 mile course.  It was a solid last long run before my goal race and I definitely had a good time.

Meredith

Would you run the Morgantown Marathon?  Where are you racing this fall?

RnRVB Win + Missed Goal

Rock n Roll Virginia Beach is in the can.  It wasn’t the race I was hoping for but I did finish as first female and get a solid workout in.  Even though I missed my goal of hitting a new PR, I did accomplish one thing I had set out to do: get an RnRVB win!rnrvb win

Race morning was cool, humid and windy.  Still feeling not so great about the chance to PR, I ran a solid warm up and felt decent heading into my corral.  It seemed like I stood there for a long time feeling my body slow back down when we ended up going off four minutes late.  Starting with a crosswind I felt good.  I was on pace through the first 1200M and into the first corner.  Turning into the headwind I kept pushing to maintain my goal pace.

I rolled my ankle on some broken pavement shortly after a mile and it definitely took my mind off track.  While I knew I wasn’t injured it distracted me enough to lose my rhythm.  The course turned back south at 1.5 miles but the next 1.4 miles of tailwind weren’t enough.  I couldn’t find my pace again and slowed.  I kept fighting until I saw the final turn ahead and tried to rnrvb winaccelerate.  There was nothing.  I definitely gave the course all I had and hoped for the best as I headed for the Finish.

After rounding the final turn I wasn’t sure if there was another woman in front of me.  Since the 5k breaks off from the half at a u-turn around a building in the opposite direction with roughly 500M to go there definitely could have been someone up there.  Coming out of that turn onto the boardwalk I got a nasty face full of wind and a calf cramp.  I also didn’t see any women running in front me of.  I tried to kick again but it didn’t happen.   When race staff stretched a Rock n Roll Finish line tape rnrvb winout I cruised through the final meters to break it for the first time.  Having never run through a finish line tape, it was a fun way to wrap up a difficult run.

While I didn’t get the PR I wanted or a big fat trophy and giant check, my RnRVB win did get me in the paper with this photo.  Goober alert!

Meredith

Do you have multiple goals for races?  How do you choose them?

*If you want to know more about the actual race, check out my review on BibRave*

Tropical Storm Hermine vs RnRVB

Tropical Storm Hermine tried her hardest to beat Team Rock n Roll Virginia Beach.  After threatening torrential rains and brutal winds Friday afternoon, she forced cancellation of the night’s American Music Festival concerts many were looking forward to.  Saturday and Sunday’s shows were moved inside with limited space.  While unfortunate for runners who traveled from long distances to attend this Labor Day weekend tradition, everyone’s safety was both the city and Competitor Group‘s (the parent of Rock n Roll) top priority.

As far as Rock n Roll Virginia Beach events, Saturday’s Mile in the Sand was also canceled by early Friday afternoon compliments of Hermine’s impending arrival.  After getting that news and hoping to bear the rain I made my way over to the expo as early as possible.  I picked up my swag, chatted with my RWB friends and stocked up on energy gels.  While herminethere I learned Mile in the Sand entry fees were automatically being refunded to all registered runners and they would still be able to collect their medals, towels and t-shirts.

Kudos to Competitor Group for this.  Those things were paid for and, honestly, what else would they do with thousands of items?  I guess they could have been donated but this decision was much better.  All in all, Competitor Group did an excellent job of handling the weather induced situation.  By Friday evening refunds were available not only to Mile in the Sand registrants but to runners of every race should they not wish to travel into Hermine’s path.  Emails were sent out a regular intervals to keep participants apprised of any and all changes to race conditions or expectations (like fewer bands for the half on Sunday).  They were as accommodating as anyone could possibly have expected them to be.

Luckily, even though Saturday’s race was cancelled, the beach was still open.  I took a walk down there at high tide, and almost blew away in the 40+mph gusts, but the surf was amazing.  It gave me a good idea of what to expect for wind conditions at Sunday morning’s 5k.  With possible rain, 25 mph NNE winds and gusts over 45 I’m not feeling too confident about hitting that PR.hermine

Every other runner will also be dealing with Hermine’s wrath but it just doesn’t seem like a best performance type of environment.  However…you never know, right?!  I’m estimating the first 1200M will have a crosswind, then a headwind for about 800M and a friendly tailwind for everything but the final 400M where it’s back in your face for the Finish.  I’m OK with that.  I’ll still give it all I have and get a good workout.

Meredith

How do you deal with weather changing your race plans?  Did you get out and play in Tropical Storm Hermine?

Memorial Scholarship 5k

Race recap on a Wednesday?  Yup!  The Tidewater Strider’s Memorial Scholarship 5k is held on the fourth Tuesday of July at 6:30pm.  It was in 2016 and has been each year in 1982.  Since this would be my second workout of the day there wasn’t any sort of goal.  I planned on having some fun and supporting a great organization while getting my legs moving again after a tough morning on the track.

The Memorial Scholarship 5k course runs through the gorgeous Norfolk Botanical Garden to complete the group’s Summer Series.  The series is a group run at the garden each Tuesday evening in Julymemorial scholarship 5k featuring a poker run, a relay and a guess your finish outing.  On this year’s very hot and very humid evening over 200 people came out to run the annual event, including a bunch of my Team RWB buddies.  It was great to catch up with them as the sky clouded up (yay!) and it started to feel like rain.  Everyone was rooting for some to cool things off.  Unfortunately, we never got it.

On the bright side, I did get to warm up on some nicely shaded paths.  With five miles to rack up between a warm up, the race and a cool down I was happy to jog a bit extra before racing to enjoy the scenery.  The start lined up around 6:25 and we took off right on time.  Things were a bit crowded for the first half mile then loosened up nicely.  My legs were grumpy grumpy from a hard morning workout and the humidity didn’t help but I felt surprisingly good past Mile 1.  Not concerned about my time, I was running all of the curves wide to pick up as much mileage as possible to credit towards my five mile goal.

There were a few non-racers strolling through the beautiful gardens along with Pokemon Go hunters sharing the paths with us as the course wove through the park’s paved trails.  Two bridge crossing and one teeny tiny hill greeted us on the otherwise flat course and before I knew it I had passed the Mile 2 marker.  My legs were moving decently but lacked the power and turnover I had left on the track.  I took the final 1000M on cruise with plenty of running room, crossing the finish line in 22:32.  Not a great time for me but decent considering it was a second workout of the day on a hot and muggy one with my heavy shoes on.  I did win my Memorial Scholarship 5k age group!  Post race there were tons of raffles, pizzas, watermelons and beers.  I won zero raffles.  I did enjoy the food and drink while hanging out with a ton of run buddies to make up for it.

Racing in the evening was tough for me, especially after working out hard in the morning, but definitely effective.  It left me feeling positive about my training and made me realize I can push harder than I think I can.  I might even be figuring out how to race the 5k distance!

Meredith

Have you ever raced in the evening?  Did you like it?

Red White and Boom Half Marathon

I checked off State #20, Minnesota, with July 4th’s Red White and Boom Half Marathon in Minneapolis.  It was my first visit to the city and I really had a good time.  This was a check-in race with no goal other than to push it a little bit here and there while having a good time.  After receiving an email with a heat warning Doug, who was running the 5k, and I were greatly relieved to see it was issued for a morning expected to be 64 degrees and 75% humid.  Temperatures 10-25 degrees below our current normal running weather were a welcome sight.  The humidity would be easy to handle and I knew I could stick with my plan.red white and boom half marathon

We arrived mid-morning on Sunday and went straight to the hotel gym for a shakeout session before checking out the Twins at Target Field.  The city was quiet, clean, friendly and had a park full of fun red white and boom half marathoncharacters to hang with.  After the game we had dinner at the hotel and hit the hay early.  Race start was 6:30 local time so it was nice to get up at what felt like a regular weekend time (7:30) to go for a run.  I downed a plain bagel and water breakfast then walked the short distance to race day packet pick-up.

The cool-ish morning was indeed humid but nothing unmanageable.  I quickly and easily nabbed my packet, checked my gear and set off for a warm up.  After my mile, I knew Red White and Boom would be the big improvement over last year’s summer half in Chicago I expected.  The weather was better, my training was more on track and I felt positive about it.

The start corrals were fairly crowded on a narrow road but after a solid national anthem for America’s birthday we were off right on time.  Things stayed traffic filled for a few minutes and around the 2k mark I started wondering when it would loosen up.  The course started to loosen in to the Mile 3 mark and by 8k there was plenty of running room for the rest of the race.  At that point I was glad to be able to take tangents and play with my pacing more after walking through a water stop around Mile 5.

I expected a climb before Mile 6 that had been on the course map but I didn’t notice anything too serious before 10k.  There were a few short, steep climbs and some longer slow ones but as a whole the race didn’t feel very hilly when I was on it.  Apparently it was because my Garmin told me I picked up 300 feet of elevation gain over the Red White and Boom Half Marathon.  In spite of the hills a large portion of the course was covered with shade and very peaceful.  I spent most of the race’s first half telling myself to slow down without actually doing it.  I tired to use uphills to really back off and was somewhat successful at doing that.  I wanted to come in somewhere between 1:40 and 1:45, more towards the latter, without leaving too much out red white and boom half marathonthere.  I hit the Mile 10 timer at 1:18+ knowing I was about a minute behind the official clock.  Perfect!

My legs were feeling good and my time was right around where I wanted to be, if not a bit fast.  My skin, however, was not so hot.  Around Mile 9 I had started to notice a less than lovely feeling around the chest band of my sports bra.  By the time I found medical at Mile 10, I was having some serious chaffing action and since I wasn’t in any kind of hurry stopped to get some tape.  After struggling to find the end of the roll, I stuck on a big strip and took off for the final Red, White and Boom 5k about 90 seconds later.  A few more slightly rolling hills sent me through the final water stop past Mile 11 then into an easy long down hill finish across Stone Arch Bridge.

I finished in 1:43.37 feeling good.  I ran for the most part right on plan and hit my goal range in spite of walking through three water stops and taking a 90 second break to tape myself up.  The race had great red white and boom half marathonswag including logoed pint glasses and Brooks brand tech t-shirts at packet pick-up for all runners then nice Red, White and Boom finisher medals along with red, white and blue ice pops, bottled water, chocolate milk, snacks and Cliff Bars in the finisher chute.

The race left me feeling really good about where my training is heading into the end of my base phase.  It was a solid run at a great event on a humid morning with more hills than I’ll face for a while.  If you have the chance to tackle the Red White and Boom Half Marathon, I’d take it!

Meredith