Tag Archives: race review

Shamrock 8k PR + Down Time

Saturday I ran my first 8k in three years.  Five days post marathon the Shamrock 8k might not have been the best idea I ever had but I hit a new PR and had some fun.  For the second week in shamrock 8ka row the ugly weather forecast held off.  Predicted rain didn’t hit until after the race and I was lucky enough to stay dry the entire day.

Weather aside, the Shamrock 8k is a simple, flat and fast course that presents a great opportunity push yourself.  This year it was home to the USATF Master’s 8k Championship.  I started in Corral 1 surrounded by masters athletes and speedy high school runners.  The first half mile was a little traffic filled and I definitely got swept up in the pace.

My legs felt OK heading into the race but after about 2k they let me know it was too soon.  My pace decreased in spite of the tailwind and I was OK with that.  I was well on my way to crushing my old 8k best even if slowed down a bit.  I crossed the finish line in 35:48, beating my old PR by over 90 seconds.  Five days post marathon I was more than happy with it.  I collected my medal, a new kooize, a banana and a few snacks before heading into the always wonderful Shamrock Party Tent.shamrock 8k

Now it’s time for a little R&R.  I say a little because I have Run the Bluegrass coming up in a few short days.  The race will check Kentucky off my 50 states list and be loads of fun but beyond that I have no expectations.  There are roughly 1,000 feet of elevation gain over the 13.1 mile course and it will be my first run over 6 miles since the marathon.

Meredith

Did you run the Shamrock 8k?  Do you like the 8k distance?

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?

2015 Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon

The 2015 Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon was my final race of 2015 and even though I didn’t hit my goal, I had a great time at a fun event.  I flew in Friday morning for the Saturday race, getting right down to business after arriving at the airport.

A quick cab ride to the hotel, which was home to both the expo and race shuttle service, I checked in and made straight for the fitness center.  I did an easy fifteen minute post flight jog on the treadmill and for the first few minutes my hip/groin/quad felt terrible.  Maybe it was the treadmill or a bit of lingering dehydration from the flight, who knows.  By the time I finished it was feeling better, not 100%, but better and I had some mild concern about the next baton rouge beach half marathonmorning.

After a shower and a nap, I went down to the small expo to get my number.  It was assigned to me right there along with a tech shirt in unisex sizing (way too big), a race logo coozy, a pair of throw away gloves (awesome) and an race info packet.  With a bit of time to go before dinner, I hit the hotel bar for my traditional pre-race beer.  I tried the Tin Roof Brewing Gameday IPA and sipped away while watching runners pack the hotel, many in Marathon Maniacs or 50 States shirts.

In addition to a race shirt, a race course, throwaway gloves, a coozy, a finisher medal and post race treats, the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon entry fee includes dinner.  Just outside the expo, a table covered with gumbo, jambalaya and pizza greeted runners and supporters entering the dining area.  There was plenty of open seating as well as coolers filled with soda, bottled water and beer tucked in the corner.  The food was delicious.  It was great to chat with runners from all over the country, central New York and Tampa were both represented at my table and after cleaning my plate, I hit the hay tired, full and ready to run.

Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon race day kicked off at 5:15am with a blueberry bagel and lots of layers for the 39 degree morning.  I packed fruit snacks and GU in my pockets then walked downstairs to catch the 5:45 race day shuttle.  Extremely limited parking at the race site meant just about everyone was parking and taking the bus at 5:45, 6 or 6:15.  The short ride from the hotel to the race site was quiet as everyone chowed down on their pre-race food and drink.  I got off the bus around 6:05 and huddle together with others waiting to start their warm-ups for the 7am race and keeping those nice warm hoodies and warm-up pants on as long as possible.

Around 6:30 I started my warm-up.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be taking off my outer layers thanks to those brand new gloves.  My nerves subsided when hip/quad/groin felt OK during warm up.  I felt solid but didn’t feel fresh or race ready.  My taper had been non-existent and I knew I’d pay for it.  A mile later, I towed the line as the nation anthem was played, announcements were made and we went off right on time.

The course is a big loop around the lake that takes you through some of LSU’s sprawling campus and through parts of a pretty neighborhood.  The full marathon is a second loop around.  I had expected flat, Shamrock flat, but there were a few small hills that totaled 120 feet of elevation gain from beginning to end.  With the race’s small size, there was plenty of running room for the entire distance and only a pair of tight turns.  Unfortunately, I knew early on this wasn’t my day.

Warm up had felt decent.  It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad.  It was just middle of the road.  Not the ‘you’re going to nail this’ warm up I had hoped for.  After the ‘meh’ warm-up, things didn’t improve.  I took a misstep somewhere around Mile 4 and that made my injury angry for a while.  Minutes later my left shoe came untied.  When I hit the 10k mark, I thought I could still place in my age group but wouldn’t PR.  At Mile 7, I choked down fruit snacks before grabbing water at the 7.25 mile mark.  I probably should have gone with the GU I had instead, the caffeine would have been nice.  I chugged on at a steady pace for the rest of the race and crossed the Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon finish line in 1:38.13.  In the end, it was a least a minute slower than I’d hoped for but after stopping to fix my shoe twice and standing still to drink water twice with no taper, it was a very solid run.baton rouge beach half marathon

The medal is adorable.  I love the running chicken logo and also loved the post-race food.  There were lots of choices, from fried goodies to more gumbo and canned beer.  Computers had live results and I ended up second in my age group.  I recapped the race with some of the runners I had met at dinner the night before while waiting for the awards ceremony and chowing down on more tasty Louisiana treats.  After awards I hopped right back on the shuttle for some down time before heading back to the airport.

Definitely a race worth checking out, the fast course, great people and wonderful food make it a fun event that’s easy to navigate and enjoy.  My Baton Rouge Beach Half Marathon was a great training run even if it was definitely not the race I had hoped for.  With a total lack of taper and a grumpy right leg, I’m happy to move on to marathon training and get back on track to PR the half marathon next year.

Meredith

How was your last race of 2015?  What’s next for you?

2015 St Michael’s Half Marathon

My 2015 St Michael’s Half Marathon recap and review is going to be a two part event, the review (here) and my recap (later).  I’m doing it this way because my experience was mind bogglingly dichotomous.  The race itself was very well done and I’m looking forward to participating again in the future.  My personal run was a complete mess that I would love to have back, pretend it never happened and/or erase from my memory.

Location – St Michael’s, Maryland, is a historic town on the Chesapeake Bay.  Home to local seafood restaurants, good shopping and lots to see, I 100% recommend staying at one of the bed and breakfasts within walking distance of the expo, start and finish.  The tree lined streets and bright green golf courses surrounding the water are beautiful in mid-May but beware the potential for warm to hot humid weather.  This year race temps were in the 70s with upwards of 75% humidity and occasional breezes reaching 10mph.

Expo – Small and easy to breeze through.  The weekend’s races have about 1,500 participants in the half, 650 in the 10k and 550 in the 5k along with race morning packet pick up that means the small community center is plenty large enough to handle everything even if there is a big rush on Friday.  It was nice that I could pick up my number and gender specific tech shirt without having to troll through a crowded vendor area like you are forced to do at some larger races but the option to shop for some running gear is still available.2015 st michael's half marathon

Dining – St. Michael’s is home to a bunch of local restaurants that feature seafood, burgers and lots in between.  The running festival brings with it a large influx of people on a normally busy enough weekend in the small town and an early dinner is recommended if you’re not looking to wait around.

Parking – Because I stayed within walking distance of both the start and finish, they’re only about 3/4 of a mile apart, I had no issues with parking.  Everyone who drove in was directed to free parking on neighborhood roads though unfortunately those same people seemed to have some trouble leaving.  The single road in and out of town got rather backed up post race so it probably pays off to hang out for a while after running.  I would definitely recommend car pooling if you’re not planning on staying extremely locally.

Start – 10k goes first, half 10 minutes later and 5k after that.  The entire start was delayed roughly 15 minutes due to I don’t know what and made the 2015 St Michael’s Half Marathon a little bit hotter than it could have been.  Port-a-Potty lines were fairly long and moved slowly, there should be a system where those who start later are behind those who are racing earlier.  The general area was spacious enough for all runners to have lots of room to warm up and everyone lined up in the starting chute where they belonged, which is always nice.  There was gear check but I didn’t use it.

Course – The course is very flat though run mostly on the right side of the road which can get a little bit irritating to hips and knees.  With warm temperatures, tree lined portions are great but not quite often enough.  It’s a scenic, quiet course that’s traffic controlled for the most part.  You will find cars on the other side of cones or, during one stretch, trying to weave down a long straightaway through the race course.  I also wondered if the golfers we ran past a few times were bothered by the hustle and bustle of 1,500 runners.  There are several out and back stretches that can get slightly tedious but also provide a good chance to see friends who are running.

Course Support – Water, Gatorade and at one, GU.  They come about every 1.5 miles but some between the stops stretches in direct sunlight felt a whole lot longer.  Each stop had plenty of volunteers and I did notice emergency vehicles parked at intervals along the course.  I did not notice Port-a-Potties at the water stops but wasn’t really paying attention as I watched a few people hop off into the course-side woods.  At each turn there were volunteers guiding runners in the correct direction along with good signage pointing the way.  The crowd is slim and mostly people at the ends of their driveways cheering or waving until the last 800M and the Finish area is jam packed.

Post Race – After being announced crossing the finish line, runners received their 2015 St Michael’s Half Marathon medals, bananas, PB&J sandwiches, water and Gatorade.  Each participant gets one free beer at the after party where is more available for purchase.

I had a good time at the 2015 St Michael’s Half Marathon even if my run wasn’t so great.  I’d love to go back for another shot at the flat course, the small town feel and nice swag this well organized race provided.

Meredith

Do you like small or big races more?  Why?

Harbor Lights Half 2014

The inaugural Harbor Lights Half Marathon in Norfolk, VA is in the can.  I teamed with two other runners to pace the 2 hour group and had a wonderful race day.harbor lights halfRace Weekend kicked off with a trip to the Half Moone Cruise Center to pick up my race gear and work the pacer booth Friday afternoon.  It was so much fun getting to meet people I would be helping on Sunday while harbor lights halfcarolers got everyone in the holiday spirit and Bon Secours In Motion held free mobility and muscle imbalance testing.  My short shift flew by, though little did I know I probably should have hung out a bit longer.  Leaving the expo was an absolute disaster.  I got into my car at 4:38pm and didn’t get out of the City of Norfolk parking garage until after 6.  Not only was this a massive pain in the rear, it cost me an additional $2.50 and wasted plenty of gas.  I’m not sure who is at fault for the fiasco but hope the horrendous situation is resolved before the 2015 edition of the Harbor Lights Half Marathon.Harbor Lights Half

I had a nice relaxing Saturday and got ready for Race Day.  After the previous week’s debacle, I was excited to get a solid training run in while cheering on some fellow runners to new PRs.  I popped out of bed Sunday morning, dressed for the cooler temperatures, fueled up with breakfast and an E2 then headed to the course.  Doug dropped me off before going to do his own harbor lights halflong run and I met up with all of the other pacers, including my two hour buddies, Mike in a turkey suit and Tony with an apron and plastic knife, before using one of the numerous Port-a-Potties.  No lines!  I then dropped off my gear and slid into Corral 3 just as the National Anthem began.

Before we knew it, Corral 3 was off.  The course started with a slight incline to really get my body moving and we had some serious GPS issues.  Quickly we decided to work off of total time rather than the watch splits.  The course travels through several scenic areas of Norfolk and it was nice to be out on the quiet morning streets with a few hundred friends.  Much like when I paced the Rock n Roll Virginia Beach, I paid little attention to the course’s details as I was more worried about clocking steady miles and helping those around me.  I did, however, make some general observations.

Course support was great.  There were sprinklings of fans who were quite enthusiastic on an early, chilly morning and fully loaded, well staffed water stops helped everyone stay hydrated.  Later there were gels around Mile 7 and around Mile 9 (I think) a Baker’s Crust pie stop.  Port-a-Potties dotted the sidelines and the timing mats at 5k, 10k and 10 miles were very visible.

The course itself was narrow at points, especially when you hit the cobblestone stretches and everyone opted for the sidewalk.  Most of the race was run on one side of the road or the other with light morning traffic passing by.  I struggled to find a flat surface because of this which started to bother my knee and I found myself on the sidewalk for a few minutes to even things out.

Turns and hills.  There were lots of turns on the overall flat course but there were three large reverse hills, meaning we started going down under a road and came up on the other side to break up the flatness.  Mile 11 felt very long and Mile 12 has you run past the post-race party before making a sharp right turn and weaving back to the Finish Line along the river’s edge.

Mike, Tony and I crossed the Finish Line at 1:59.59 and the race couldn’t have gone any better.  It was a blast to run with the two hour group, especially when we were call and responses of harbor lights half‘gobble, gobble…beer, beer’ under every bridge.  Congratulations abounded as we walked through the shoot collecting water, bananas, pretzels, race logo glassware, inaugural Harbor Lights Half Marathon bottle opener medals and heat sheets.  It was very rewarding to have so many runners thank us for pacing them to new PRs and we all went on to celebrate at the Post Race Party.harbor Lights half

Unfortunately the heat sheets weren’t as helpful as I hoped because the sun wasn’t out to warm them but  J&A Racing did another great job putting on a fantastic post-race party.  While we partied, Jerry of J&A Racing continues to work hard to make sure every single runner has a good experience.  Such a nice thing to see.  The party featured Right On Band, who always put on a great show, Blue Moon beer there was never a line for and quickly served delicious Baker’s Crust Stew.  A bonus?  No post-race Port-a-Potty lines either!  The event swag included a women’s cut tech t-shirt that I actually really like, a nice big bottle opener medal and a logo glass I was quick to pour my post race libation in.

The Inaugural Harbor Lights Half Marathon was a great late fall race and I hope J&A puts it on again next year.  As long as the early expo parking problems are ironed out, I’ll be there.

Meredith

Have you run an inaugural race?  Does this one sound good to you?

RnR Las Vegas: Part II

RnR Las Vegas was hands down the hardest training run I’ve ever completed.  I’ve run longer, I’ve run harder in more heat, more wind, ice and snow but this was a disaster.  To catch up on what happened before the race began, and quite possibly played a role in my mess of a race, check out RnR Las Vegas Part I here.

I got a solid nine hours of sleep Saturday night but when Race Morning drnr las vegasawned, I knew it hadn’t been enough to make up for Friday night’s lack.  With two nights before a race being the most important, I scrapped my start slow plan before I even climbed out of bed.  I just wanted to run with Meb.  After I got out of bed, I even questioned that.  My legs felt terrible and I could tell I just didn’t have it. The day was sunny and cool, meaning the weather for the race would be great.  I was definitely looking forward to that.  What I wasn’t looking forward to were the nine hours before race time.  My Race Day routine wasn’t possible with the Rock n Roll Las Vegas beginning at 4:30pm and that didn’t help my legs feel any better.

As those nine hours crept by, Mom and I did some shopping at the Grand Canal Shops, ate lunch and suffered through the first half of an atrocious Eagles game.  My hydration and fueling strategies were non-existent but I wasn’t concerned because I didn’t plan on ‘racing’.  Around 3:15, I put an E2 in 16 ounces of Las Vegas tap water and drank it dry just before heading to the Start.  Immediately I knew it was a mistake.  When I travel I typically stick to bottled water. Changing can upset my digestive system and it takes me a day or two to adjust.  I had been doing a good job for this trip until that moment.  The water tasted funny and I knew I’d need to use the restroom before running 13+ miles.  No worries, there would be plenty to use at the starting area.

Getting to those Port-a-Potties was an entirely different issue. The walk should only have taken 25 minutes but with huge crowds and a much further than expected distance to go, it took close to 45. My mom and I had begun the walk together but after realizing how much further I had to go, I took off at a jog, leaving my phone and any chance at Start Line photos behind me while she went to find a place to cheer from.  I continued moving towards the Start for what seemed like forever.  Eventually I did find and use one of the many Port-A-Potties near the back of Corral 48 and just as I entered, Corral 1 was released.  At that moment I stopped to retie my shoes and knew I wasn’t going to make it to my desired Meb Corral between 6 and 7.  I simply put the pedal to the metal and power walked, dodged and excused my way as far forward as I could. During this process my entire plan for the race changed.  There was no way I would be able to catch the 1:45 group starting so far behind them and with my legs feeling pretty crappy already, I just wanted to get in a solid training run.

By the time I made it to the front, I was crossing the RnR Las Vegas Starting Line with Corral 11.  I asked around the crowd and found out it was a 2 hour finish time Corral, less than ideal but it certainly could have been worse.  Mile 1 was full of traffic and about 30 seconds slower than I wanted.  After that things opened up at bit to give me some running room as I passed my cheering Mom at Mile 2.  The next six miles were pretty steady with traffic, making it hard to clock consistent half mile splits but I had some fun chatting with other runners, thanking volunteers and the LVPD and smiling for the race photographers.  I hit 5k in a leisurely 26:03, 10k at a better pace in 51:21 and was feeling pretty good after grabbing some water just before Mile 6.  While that second dose of Las Vegas water didn’t tip my system over the edge, the water stop at Mile 9 spelled the end for me.

As soon as I drank that water, I knew things were going to take a turn for the worse.  It tasted funny, immediately turning my stomach.  I couldn’t find a Port-a-Potty fast enough and when I finally did, it wasn’t pretty.  Officially dehydrated, I took off again to feet that were starting to cramp and a course filled with water that wasn’t going to help much.  Next to go were my glutes and hamstrings.  Never, ever during a run has my posterior chain gotten such a good workout.  Every muscle down the back of my body below my hips was screaming.  My knees and IT bands hurt with every step and I took some walking breaks.  Every mile seemed like to took forever.  I was in more pain than I have ever been in during any run in my life.  I had ceased caring about my long run, training and finish time while I was inside that portable restroom and just wanted to make across the line without any serious injuries.

I struggled through the final 5k to finish 13.27 miles in 1:59.36.  I’ve had bad races before, and I’m sure I’ll have one again, but this was awful. Everything below and including my abs hurt as I picked up my playing card inspired medal, immediately downed an entire bottle of water and grabbed pretzels, chocolate milk, Powerbars and a heat sheet.  My knees hadn’t felt like that in a long, long time.  My posterior chain was sore, aching and altogether upset.  I needed a foot massage and couldn’t get to my compression soon enough.  Unfortunately in the mass of people at the Finish, I missed my mom and we didn’t meet up again until we were both back at our room, which is why I don’t have any finish line photos either.rnr las vegas

In the end, the first eight miles of my RnR Las Vegas long run were very good and the last five were terrible.  It was a big learning experience and looking back, I’m actually glad I had to fight through it.  The ample support on the course, from water stops to Port-a-Potties, was great and the run through the lights was special in spite of being too busy looking at the people around me, trying not to run into them, over them and get in their way to really take in the scenery.  What I did see was pretty cool and the flat course definitely has the potential to be fast. Had I felt better, not been in a panic at the beginning and had fresher legs, I’m sure it would have been a much more enjoyable experience.

Would I run RnR Las Vegas again?  Absolutely.  I have a lot of ground to cover first (42 more states) but I’m not counting it out.  If you have the chance, I recommend giving this race a shot.  Just be sure to worry more about taking in the scenes than the people around you.

Meredith

Have you run RnR Las Vegas?  Would you?  Why or why not?

2014 Heart of Ghent 10k Recap and Review

I ran the 2014 Heart of Ghent 10k on September 20 and had a great time.  It was the third year Mettle Events has put on the race and they did a wonderful job.  I don’t run 10k’s frequently, so I looked forward to this change in distance as well as the chance to hit a new PR.

Race Morning dawned cool and early as Doug, who was also running as a tune up for Myrtle Beach, and I chowed down some breakfast and fueled up with waters and E2s.  We had opted for Race Day packet pick-up and got to the race location about an hour before the 2014 heart of ghent 10kStart.  Parking was a breeze.  Plenty of it, all free!  We acquired our gear, pinned on numbers, took a short walk to the ample number of line-less Port-a-Potties, came back and snapped a pre-race selfie then he did an 800M warm up and made for the line while I wrapped up my mile with three strides.

We exchanged good lucks and I went to the front.  The field looked fast and even if I was going to get passed, I didn’t want to get clogged up in a group of walkers with a turn coming quickly after the Start.  I chatted with several friendly men and women as we waited for the National Anthem to play then waited again for the roads to finish clearing.  After a very short delay, we were off!

As the lead group took off, it felt like I got passed by 15 women.  I knew the field had looked fast!  Not wanting to sacrifice my entire race, I quickly settled into running my own pace and decided to pick off the ladies in front of me when I had the chance.  Coming into the Mile One mark, two ladies passed me but I did a great job of sticking with my own pace and running my race rather than chasing too soon.  At the Mile One mark, my watch unsurprisingly read 2.08 miles.  I had done an exactly 1.00 mile warm up so I knew my watch would be at least one mile ahead of any course markers and I had taken the middle of the road around the first few turns which left me expecting to have covered extra ground.

At some point between the Mile One and Mile Two markers there was confusion as to where the runners should be directed and I’m not entirely sure a bunch of us didn’t run around an extra block.  This didn’t change the fact that was I was feeling very positive about the performance I had started to put together but really threw me for a curve when I arrived 2014 Heart of Ghent 10kat the Mile 2 mark with my watch unexpectedly reading 2.88.  I had tried to hug the curves in the previous section to make up for the possible extra distance but this was much more than I expected.

Around Mile Three the cool morning started to warm up.  We hit some wide, tree-less stretches and the sun was full of shine.  In spite of the warmth, I felt nothing like I did at the Bay Days 8k and maintained a steady pace for the entire race.  A long, softly bending curve past the Mile Four mark gave me the chance to gain a bit on the two women I had been keeping an eye on for the beginning of the race.  I took a straight line from one edge of the curve to the other while they both stayed in their lanes and bent with it.  Straight line, short distance let me be able to pass the first of these two ladies before Mile Five with the second in easy striking distance.

I passed the second woman I’d been tailing at the top of the Mile Five bridge climb and took note of how far in front of me the next woman I had a shot at was.  Far.  I counted the seconds between her turn and mine before determining that I wouldn’t be able to catch her in 1.5 miles.  I was OK with my positioning coming into the last bit of the race knowing I was going to PR and put together a run I was going to be very happy with.  Coming down the bridge I was fortunate to come upon a pair of gentlemen to chat with for about 400M before finally passing at the Mile Six mark and could again see the un-catchable woman in front of me.

I knew I was in a good spot for the last 400M and like the Bay Days 8k earlier this month, the Finish line was hiding 50 or so meters from a 90 degree turn which prevented me from being able to leave it all out there and come in a few seconds faster.  When I crossed the Finish, my watch read 7.10 miles and 51:32.  Subtract my 8:04 warm up and I was right there with a new PR of 43:28.  Sort of.  The course wasn’t certified and I clearly didn’t cover the required 6.2 miles.  Even if you add the 41 seconds it would have taken me to run that additional 0.10 mile, I still would have beaten my last 10k time by over two minutes.  I collected my medal, two bottles of water and knew I had about 15 minutes before I needed to be looking for Doug.  I loosened my shoe laces and a nice post-race running recap with Claire, the woman who had been just out of my reach for the last two miles.

Doug crossed the line happy with his time and we hit the after party.  Tasty pizza was flowing compliments of Y-Not when we hopped into a long line for beer.  The line moved quickly and Doug and I each received two complimentary beverages with the option to purchase additional tickets.  At that point we tuned into what the announcer was saying.  2014 heart of ghent 10kWe could scan the QR code hung up at various points around the party zone to check our results.  Well, I didn’t have a QR reader app on my phone and apparently picked the wrong one to download on the spot because I was unable to access my results even after scanning the code.  We would just have to wait and see if my performance had been good enough to earn an award.  No big deal, we had cocktails.

We settled down on a grassy spot, stretched some, chatted with our fellow runners and enjoyed our adult sodas when I noticed things in the party zone had quieted down a bit.  Awards Ceremony!  Because I hadn’t been able to get results on my phone, I didn’t know if I needed to be there.  Luckily for me, I did.  Even though I had felt like 15 ladies had passed me at the Start, I discovered I was 6th female overall and won my age group!  The award is a 2014 heart of ghent 10kprint from Brandon Foster-Gray, a beautiful photo of the Brambleton Bridge in historic Ghent and a gift certificate to Running, Etc.

2014 Heart of Ghent 10k recap loose ends:  The flat course is fast in spite of all the turns, the after party was a blast, the bands at each mile were great, the awards ceremony was nicely done and the awards are super cool.  It’s a small local event with a friendly family feel, solid organization and wonderful sponsors.  The Norfolk Police Department did a good job of managing the traffic trying to cross the runners paths and I did notice several Port-a-Potties lining the course.  There were two well staffed water stops though some people mentioned the second one could have come sooner.

I had a fantastic 2014 Heart of Ghent 10k Race Day and will definitely consider running it again.

Meredith

Did you run the 2014 Heart of Ghent 10k?  Do you like the 10k distance?

2014 Bay Days 8K Review and Recap

The 2014 Bay Days 8k kicked off my Fall 2014 racing season and was a bag of mixed emotions.  I was first place overall female but also 40 seconds slower than last year on an extremely hot and humid day.  With an 8:30 Start, I got to sleep late for a Race Morning and casually dressed, ate breakfast, had a big glass of water and got myself together before heading to Hampton.

After the fiasco at last year’s packet pick-up, I packed both my registration receipt and free registration letter from the race director in my race bag.  We arrived in Hampton on Race Morning around 7am, beating a massive line to packet pick-up and easily parking in the free for runners garage.  As expected, I was not in the system and had to re-register on the spot.  Thank goodness I was prepared.  Back at the car, I finished my E2, stretched out a bit, pinned my number on and slid into my socks and shoes.  I had some time to burn before getting race ready so I found a shady spot and watched the packet pick-up line continue to get longer and longer as 8am approached.  Apparently parking got quite slim at this point as well.  When my watch showed 8am, I began my warm-up.

I normally do short, easy 400-800M jogging warm ups at races less than 10 miles and don’t do any at half marathons but because I really wanted to run this race hard, I decided to do my first serious pre-race warm up.  When I was roughly halfway through my mobility drills and one mile with three strides, an announcement came over the loud speaker.  The Start was delayed ten minutes.  With a late, 8:30am Start time to begin with, this delay just 2014 bay days 8kwelcomed higher temperatures for the run.  Great.  As if I wasn’t already regretting my decision to wear a black top.  While I would like to say this the delayed Start made my too early warm-up pointless, it did open my eyes to the extreme race conditions I was about to subject myself to.  I completed my warm-up and stood around near the front of the corral with a few hundred other runners, waiting.

When it was finally time to enter the corral, I had a short chat with Eric of Hampton Runner and could feel beads of sweat rolling down my back as the National Anthem was sung.  I started right at the front of the pack and headed into my first trip over the bridge at the pace I needed to hit my goal.  If it was 70 degrees and the air was a little less soupy, that is.  I immediately gave up on my 35:30 goal and slowed down a little bit.  Two ladies powered by me on this uphill but quickly faded before hitting the one mile mark.  I knew I was the lead female and even though I had let my goal of averaging a 7:00/mile pace go, I still wanted to at least win my age group.

Temperatures during the race hovered around 80 with humidity never dipping below 85% making the 95% shade free course a warm one.  Mile One was pretty uneventful after crossing the bridge.  I encountered no traffic and was passed by a few men as we rounded a long, soft right hand bend into two quick turns that lead to another straightaway.  I jogged through a water stop just before Fort Monroe at Mile Two, grabbing a cup of water and tossing as much as I could on my steaming head.  Miles Two and Three were likewise uneventful, mostly trying not to overheat and stay lead female.  Smatterings of people on the streets made me smile a few times and I was sure to say ‘thank you’ to as many Hampton PD officers as I could when I ran by.

A breeze off the water at the halfway mark was nice but just past Mile 3, I slowed to take a look around.  The heat was really getting to me and I was starting to get a nasty stitch in my side.  All I could see was a gentleman about 200M behind me and another 10-15 seconds behind him.  As much as I wanted to keep moving at my goal pace, I knew I had enough of a lead to slow down and maintain it.  For the final two miles I brought my pace down from a heat induced 7:17 average per mile to 7:50 per mile.  This not only brought my heart rate down, eased my side stitch and let me start to feel less like I might hurt myself, it helped save my legs for Sunday’s 12 miler.

By the time I reached the Mile 4 water stop, I still couldn’t see much going on behind me and opted to walk through, grabbing one cup to drink and a second to pour over my head.  I 2014 bay days 8kmaintained my slower pace, fought off another nasty stitch in my side and hunkered down for the final 1200 meters.  Powering back over the bridge, a much needed breeze helped me pass one more male runner as I eased into the newly located Finish.

The 2014 Bay Days 8k finished in Mill Point Park, rather than straight ahead as it did in 2013, after crossing the bridge a second time.  Two quick turns coming into the Finish Line made a speedy finish difficult.  One, because of two tight turns and two, because you couldn’t see it until you had a measly 50 meters to go.  Not much motivation there.  I crossed the line at 37:50, hot, sweaty and thirsty.  I was congratulated, given a medal, a bottle of water and a banana.  I walked a five minute cool down then settled in some shade to shed my shoes and relax while waiting for the awards.  The Bay Days website had claimed that the Top Three Finishers would be recognized, leaving me unsure whether that meant top three of each gender or if only three men would be awarded at the event.  Luckily, it was the former.

En route to the awards area, I stopped back at the Finish chute to acquire a second bottle of water.  A volunteer told me it was only one bottle of water per finisher.  This totally boggled my mind.  It was 82 degrees, I had just finished exercising, the sun was shining and there was no other source of water to be found.  I understand that he was probably just doing as he was told, but whoever told him that was both ridiculous and putting people in danger.  Equally as shocked as I, a runner crossing the line had heard the statement, grabbed a second bottle and handed it to me.  Many thanks to her!

The awards ceremony was pushed back to after 10am and took place on the seating around the park’s stage, rather than on the stage that was still riddled with rigging for the evening’s concerts.  I was sad to see there wasn’t a photographer to capture the moment because 2014 Bay Days 8kthere had been plenty on the course, and who knows if I’ll ever finish first again.  After accepting my award, Doug and I thought about having that complimentary beer.  When we saw the massive, barely moving line for the event’s singular beer truck, however, we made for the exit.  The small park was overrun by the event’s 1000+ participants, their families, coaches and friends.

The medals are nice and even though, as usual, the t-shirt doesn’t fit, it’s nice as well.  For my first place finish, I received a print of this year’s Bay Days poster, a 30th Anniversary Hampton Bay Days slap on coozie and $75 in gift certificates to Point 2 Running in Newport News, VA.  I was disappointed there’s nothing that recognized my achievement, I’d rather have something special I can have for the rest of my life than more running shoes.  I hope the issues of massive packet pick-up lines, bottled water shortages, overcrowding in the park and too few beer vendors can be solved.  I would also suggest an earlier Start time and better event day scheduling.

In the end, I’m proud to have been the first female to finish the 2014 Bay Days 8k but a little disappointed I didn’t have the chance to really go after my goal time.  It wasn’t worth risking dehydration, injury or overheating to chase it and I hope the weather at the Heart of Ghent 10k in two weeks is more conducive to getting a gauge on where I am for Myrtle Beach.

Meredith

What’s your first Fall race?  How did it go?

Rock n Roll Virginia Beach 2014

Rock n Roll Virginia Beach 2014 kicked off my Fall 2014 season and was as one of my most enjoyable races to date.  I had the pleasure of pacing the 2:15 group, an incredible new Pacer Boothexperience.  I barely noticed the miles sliding by as I chatted, cheered and guided a group of awesome runners through the course.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get many pictures due to not having my phone all day, but there are a few.

My pacer experience began with a two hour shift at the expo Saturday morning.  The time flew by as my pace buddy, Erin, who also happens to be an Olympic distance triathlete, and I answered questions and eased concerns for runners who were nervous about hitting their finish time goals.  After wrapping up my shift, I picked up my packet and, of course, went expo shopping.  I ended up with another new pair of rock n roll virginia beach 2014trainers (up to 7 now…) and promptly forbid myself from going anywhere beyond packet pick up at the rest of this year’s races.  Or so I say.  Then it was home for a little R&R before a spaghetti dinner and bed time.

Rock n Roll Virginia Beach 2014 Race morning dawned warm and humid, as expected.  I dressed, ate breakfast, had Doug snap this photo (nice shorts tan) and I was on my way around 5:45.  Knowing I wouldn’t be crossing the Start Line until almost 7:15, I plopped down and relaxed on the grass near my Corral while I waited for go time to get a little closer.  At 6:45 I met up with Erin and a few runners who rock n roll virginia beach 2014would be going after RnRVB with us in Corral 9.  We inched ever closer to the Start as each corral before us went and were off at 7:12.

I won’t do a Mile by Mile recap because, honestly, I wasn’t paying much attention to the things I normally do.  I was too busy chatting with amazing runners, probably driving Erin crazy asking about triathlons and making sure our group stayed hydrated, together and happy.  For the first time in a race I walked through every water stop, which was nice because of the heat, drank half a cup of water and dumped the rest on my head.  Each of the 13.1 miles flew by as I cheered, high-fived and encouraged those around to keep going after their goals.  One member of our group had run the Flying Pig this year, which I’m thinking about for my Ohio race, and gave me great insider info.  Another was prepping for the Marine Corps Marathon as part of her training for the 2015 JFK 50 miler!  She ran the first 11 miles with us, then pulled away when we hit the home stretch.

By the time Erin and I hit the Boardwalk, most of our group had taken off ahead or fallen behind so we teamed up to push a few struggling runners to a strong finish.  We crossed the Finish Line right on time and congratulated those around us.  As I moseyed through the Finish Line chute, snagged my weighty nautical medal, water, snacks and an ice pop while trying not to stab anyone with my big 2:15 stick.  Several runners walked up beside me to say thank you as I piled my hands full of Powerbars and Chocolate Milk.  One girl told me she fought to keep our signs in her sights the entire race and ended up PRing by 15 minutes!  Another said she had made sure we didn’t pass her the entire race, picking up the pace when she saw us approaching a water stop behind her and hit her goal of breaking 2:10.  The woman who had run with us the first 11 miles before kicking it up to finish hit her goal in 2:12+, having an awesome training run before her Marine Corps event.rock n roll virginia beach 2014With this amazing new experience, however, did come a few notes on the race.  First, there was more traffic than I’m used to being in further back in the pack.  At one point I was looking for one of the group’s runners who had fallen back a bit and ran right into a gentleman who had started walking in front of me.  I’m still sorry!  There were also a few long miles where there was no music or band in sight which is where I saw the most runners start to fizzle out, especially past mile 8.  Notorious for being a hot, humid event I was also surprised there weren’t more misters out on the first half of the course.  Friendly neighborhoods had hoses out for the last few miles and mile 10 featured wet sponges, but I think a lot of people would have benefited from more cooling on the course.  The course itself is flat and fast with lots of shaded areas.  Port-a-potties abounded on the roadsides, water stops were well staffed, cheer squads kept things pumped up and the bands were excellent.

After the notes, thanks and congratulations, I scooted out of the Finish Line Festival fairly quickly due to the heat, humidity, massive crowds and aching legs.  I have the Bay Days 8k coming up Saturday and wanted to give my legs their best chance to recover so I can have an honest shot of hitting my 35:30 goal.  All in all, Rock n Roll Virginia Beach 2014 made for a fantastic day.  Pacing the 2:15 group was an inspiring and rewarding experience I can’t wait to have again.

Meredith

Did you run this weekend?  Have you ever been a pacer?

2014 EquiKids 5K and Run with the Hounds

2014 marked the third straight year Doug, Jordy and I participated in the EquiKids 5K and One Mile Run with the Hounds.  I love this event not only because it’s family friendly, but also because it supports one of my favorite charities.

Volunteering at EquiKids is one the most rewarding experiences I have on a regular basis, and supporting the riders in lessons and in the barn is always fun.  The staff, my fellow volunteers and riders are all amazing people with huge hearts that make the EquiKids family one you’re 2014 equikids 5khappy to be a part of.  Being a part of the EquiKids family makes running, and doggie dashing, on the second Sunday in May a can’t miss, incredibly fun event each year.

During the course of our adventurous Friday, Doug and I were able to squeeze picking our packets up at Running Etc in on our way to the Oceanfront Spring Crawl Volunteer Appreciation Party.  It was really fast and easy, and since we had registered early enough to be two of the first 200 and, as a perk, received awesome tech shirts instead of cotton.  Skipping to Race Day, Doug, Jordy and I got ready with breakfast and running gear, then piled into the car for our drive to the farm.  I fueled up with my usual GPS E2 on the way, feeling good and ready to go.

The farm is usually fairly quiet when I arrive on my normal Tuesday afternoon, then fills up as the day moves on with activity and laughter from volunteers and riders alike.  On Race Day, however, the farm bustles with runners instead of riders.  It’s awesome to see all of the people, most of whom don’t regularly get out to the facility, support the program.  As we pulled into the farm, we were pointed from one helpful volunteer to the next as we reached our parking spot in the grass.  Surrounded by other SUVs, all of the sedans were being parked in the dressage 2014 equikids 5karena.  I thought this was a great idea, a good way to prevent someone from getting stuck or digging up the grounds.

We had arrived early enough to have plenty of time for every member of our party to use the restroom, or grass, walk around a bit and stash the fruit salad I had made for the Volunteer Appreciation Picnic in a fridge.  In addition to the facilities regular restrooms, additional Port-a-Potties were installed for the day’s affairs and provided plenty of line free locations for everyone.  After a quick trip to the Volunteer Lounge’s restroom, I ran a short warm up while the little ones were trucking adorably through their Half Mile Pony Run.  During this short warm up I started to notice the humidity and wished I was wearing shorts.  Oh, well, no time to change.  A big group start, I hovered near the front as the 2014 EquiKids 5K participants lined up, listened to a few announcements and got ready to go.

The race went off as soon as everyone was in order, which was actually a little before the scheduled 8:20 Start Time.  No lines at the toilets and an early start?  It’s almost unheard of.  I faced a bit of traffic at the Start with the start-fast-then-faders around me and some of the quicker runners having started behind me, but it sorted out by the time we hit the woods for our first lap.  Twisting and turning as guided by volunteers through the woods, I was impressed with the levelness of the debris-free trails.  There were small pockets of not-quite-mud that were easily avoidable and I felt good passing the Mile 1 mark.

A water stop somewhere between Mile 1 and Mile 2 was very well manned with volunteers sporting their EquiKids t-shirts and it was great to see familiar faces cheering me on as I ran my first loop through the woods.  Leaving the woods at the halfway point, I noticed the air was moving again.  It had been still and humid in the woods but I didn’t realize it until I was out of them the first time.  Not looking forward to Lap 2.  I picked up my pace after my watch beeped for Mile 1.5 and raced my way back into the woods with my sights on picking off two ladies I could see in front of me.

I caught one of the women at the Mile 2 mark as I kicked up one more gear to finish my last mile.  I didn’t have the kick I wanted and my legs felt a bit heavy, probably because of a combination of cocktails Friday evening and the dirt course.  All of Mile 2 was in the woods and it was hotter, more still and more humid that the last trip.  Popping out of the woods just before the Mile 3 mark felt awesome and I passed the second woman I’d been chasing just before rounding the final turn.  I ran hard, but still managed to smile, for the last 0.2 miles and crossed 2014 Equikids 5kthe 2014 EquiKids 5K Finish Line with a chip time of 24:17.

I met up with Doug and Jordy who were getting ready for their own race, chomped on a banana and drank an ice-cold bottled water.  Watching the final 5K participants cross the line, I stretched out, cooled down and put on dry socks.  Next thing I knew, dogs were pulling their people off the Start line and the One Mile Run with the Hounds was on.  Doug and Jordy did a great job, taking two minutes off of last year’s time with the help of Jordy’s now repaired CCL tendon.2014 equikids 5k

After the boys crossed the Finish Line, we munched pizza, drank a few tasty adult sodas and socializing with fellow dog owners, runners and EquiKids volunteers while waiting for the results and Award Ceremony.  My chip time put me in 30th place overall and second in the 30-39 age group.  While it wasn’t exactly the pace or race I wanted to turn in, I was happy to have a good run, especially on the dirt and mud and hit my goal of placing in my age group.  And yes, I also know the margaritas and adult sodas I had Friday night didn’t help me out any.  The Awards Ceremony went smoothly as both humans and canines hammed it up for 2014 equikids 5kthe camera and I happily headed to the podium to receive my medal.

With the Awards Ceremony wrapped up, the indoor arena began to clear out and we moved tables to prepare for the Volunteer Picnic.  It was nice to sit down and relax with my fellow volunteers, and Jordy definitely enjoyed his share of the widely varied, delicious offerings of the pot luck buffet.  A successful day in the books for all three of us, I picked up my Volunteer Appreciation Gift (this awesome, thick beach towel) then met Doug and Jordy at the car.

Meredith

Do you work with any charities?  How often do you run on cross country courses?