Run Doodle Run

The long road to 26.2


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Race Report: Dreaded Druid Hills

The Dreaded Druid Hills 10k is tagged as a “torturous race by runners for runners” that’s run on/around the summer solstice every year. I volunteered as a course marshal last year and loved the atmosphere of it.

I’ve had my eye on this race for years but have never felt prepared for it. And because it’s a small race, and I’ve never been the fastest runner, I’ve always been afraid of finishing last. As runners we frequently deal with the self doubt of wondering whether or not we’re prepared for the challenges we face, so I just decided there was really no point in waiting and wondering any longer. I sucked it up and signed up for the race a few weeks ago. Either I’d be ready or I wouldn’t – three’s only one way to find out.

if you never try youll never know

It was weird. I’ve been nervous before races before, but for some reason I had no nerves going into this one. Two other friends of mine, Steph and Lauren, signed up for this race as well and they both said the same thing.

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Usually race day is ungodly hot and humid but the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for us this year – low to mid 70s with low humidity. The course runs through Druid Hill Park, just outside of downtown Baltimore, which has tons of trees, so there’s lots of shade on the course, especially on the hills.

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The course it notoriously brutal. It starts out with about 2 miles of rolling hills before you settle into a flat section before the monster hills in the back of the park. On the easy part we actually passed the house where my grandmother, who passed away from Alzheimer’s this past December, used to live, which I wasn’t prepared for. It was weird, but I imagined her sitting on her porch (in an oh-so-Baltimore way) cheering me on, which helped immensely.

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, so I just pushed whenever I could. It was great hearing encouragement from Lauren and Steph as I was entering the hills and they were working their way out. I’m not used to hearing people cheering for me on the course, so it was a huge pick-me-up. I actually did really well until about mile 4.5 – then the hills got really tough. I pushed as hard as I could, but even walking up the hills was brutal. With it being in the back of the park, where basically no one goes, there wasn’t much course support, but the volunteers and course marshals were awesome in their support of us. Mile 4 – 5.5 was the hardest for me, both physically and mentally, but I met another woman, Lisa, out on the course at mile 4.5 and we paced each other through much of the remainder of the race. The awesomeness of the running community never ceases to amaze me.

When I saw the sign for mile 5, I knew I was in the clear. We had fared the worst of the hills. I remembered that when I ran the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler a few years ago, my dad bet me $1000 if I ran it in under an hour – I came up just short that year. Even with the brutal hills of the Dreaded Druid Hills, I hit 5 miles in under an hour – that made me feel amazing. I lost a bit of steam just after that point, so I downed half a Gu, and pushed all the way to the end. As I got closer, I realized that my 10k PR was actually in danger – on the Dreaded Druid Hills!! I kept pushing through the discomfort of the heat, knowing that it was a downhill finish. Although I didn’t set a new PR, I missed it by only 51 seconds.

DDH 2014 Splits

51 seconds. Think about that. They advertise this race as “NOT a PR course!” and I missed a PR by less than a minute. It’s amazing to think of how far I’ve come in just two short years of running. For the kid who always finished last in the mile in gym class to come this far is just mind boggling. I honestly could not have been more proud of my performance yesterday.

After the race I stretched out my hip a bit (those hills did it no favors) and then attacked the fruit trays they had waiting for us. The watermelon and strawberries were so deep red and amazingly sweet… I swear I could have devoured an entire tray of strawberries if given half a chance.

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Steph had to run off as soon as she finished to take her daughter to swim lessons, but Lauren and I hung around a bit longer to enjoy the post-race festivities. This race really is unlike any other race I’ve ever done, and although I was intimidated by that before I found it to be absolutely amazing. I truly can’t wait to sign up again next year.

On our way back to our cars, Lauren helped me take a picture for the #RunChatHunt. One of the photos is supposed to be of roadkill. Ew. Totally not going on my phone or my twitter feed. So I got creative instead 😉

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I ended up napping for almost an hour an a half yesterday afternoon, but then finished out a great day with a glass of wine in front of the fire pit.

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The Importance of Being Balanced

Sorry, stupid high school drama humor… #fail

Anywayyyyy…. As runners, we often think all we have to do is run – makes sense, right? If you want to get better at what you do, you do it more often. Well, it’s not always so simple.

We all know the importance of a strong core and glutes (you do know that, right?). Something that’s so easily overlooked, but just as important, is a good sense of balance. That doesn’t mean being blessed with a cat-like ability to stay upright. That means really honing in on those teeny, tiny support muscles that no one ever thinks about until you’re sitting in your PT’s office wondering why you’re injured (again).

Balance is what keeps us upright, but it’s what keeps runners moving forward. The less you struggle to keep your legs and feet where they belong, the less energy you waste, which means the more energy you have to run harder and/or longer. Additionally, these support muscles (you guessed it) support your major muscles, allowing them to work more efficiently and better resist injury – double bonus.

My PT and I worked on very similar exercises to these over the winter and I highly recommend them. Start off with a light-weight resistance band and work your way up when it gets easier. After a while I graduated to using the bosu ball as well (both by itself and in conjunction with these exercises). They take just a few minutes and can even be done watching tv or while waiting for dinner to cook.

You’ve probably got about 3-4 months before your target fall half/full, so get to it! Really – there’s no excuse for not adding these super simple but super beneficial exercises into your routine. I promise, you’ll feel a major difference if you stick with it.


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Race Report: Baltimore Women’s Classic 5k 2014

After last year’s debacle with the course being .2 short, I honestly hadn’t planned on running BWC this year. I enjoy the race, but the organization last year left a bit to be desired. But, when my mom expressed interest in doing the BWC training group this year, I decided to give them another go.

The race has been taken over by Charm City Run this year and they usually put on awesome races. After 8 weeks of training, yesterday was race day. We really could not have asked for a more perfect day. It was  in the low 70s, overcast during the race, and the humidity was low. The only snag in the day was that the highway into the city was closed for construction, so we took the “scenic” tour into the city. To allow for potential delays, we left super early, which meant we ended up with lots of time to kill in the race village.

The village seemed a bit smaller this year than normal, but then we walked across the grass and think we figured out why – it was a giant mud pit (impromptu mud run!). As always, the portapots were plentiful and smelled like roses. Okay, not really. But for portapots they were damn nice and there was basically no wait.

Before the race began they had the usual ceremonial stuff, including the National Anthem (great singer this year) and the group jazzercise warm-up (thanks but no thanks – the music was great though). I got in a quick warm-up, running up and down Key Highway, then made sure my mom was situated for her first 5k, took my place, and we were off. It really did all happen that quickly. Odd, but nice to not have to stand around forevvvvvvvvver waiting to start.

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Like last week, I decided to run with the metronome set to 170 bpm. It was a bit hard to hear, especially with all the noise and commotion of the beginning, so I ended up running with the phone in the water bottle up to my ear a bit. I’m sure I looked bizarre, but I’m okay with that.

The first half to three quarters of a mile runs along a road with raised medians and curbs made out of cobblestone (hello, twisted ankle) – because it was so crowded I ended up running on the sidewalk a bit until I could safely get back into the pack. About 3/4 of a mile in, though, there’s a hill that lasts about 2 blocks – guaranteed to thin the pack out every time. I take no guilt in enjoying that because when I ran BWC two years ago, I was one of the flies dropping early on that hill; last year and this year, however, I powered on up it past everyone else. At this point it became a lot easier to hear the metronome and I settled into a pretty good rhythm for the rest of the race.

The course support was fantastic, and before I knew it, I had passed mile 1 and then mile 2. The last mile-ish repeats the starting line area and then veers off onto the Promenade, a (mostly) brick-paved walking path that encircles the entire Inner Harbor. I love running along the Promenade, but my legs hate how hard brick is. Just as I was about to turn off of Key Highway to enter the Promenade, I saw a woman who had tripped on the curb – a few other women and I stopped to help her up, and when she got back to her feet she looked really wobbly and seemed to have trouble getting her balance and moving again, so a few of us tried to get up upright and stable before moving on with our race. I didn’t see her in the race village afterwards, so hopefully she’s okay.

Before I knew it, I had reached the Rusty Scupper and was at the finish line! My primary goal for every race this year is to not get injured. Check! My secondary goal for this race was to PR. Check! My tertiary goal was the come in under 34:00. Check! My the-stars-are-all-aligned goal was under 32:00. Well, technically I didn’t hit this one, but that was only because I stopped to help a woman in need. If I possessed the ability to be a heartless bitch, I would have. I finished in 32:02, which is damn close enough for me! No matter how  you look at it, I PRed by 2 minutes and 31 seconds – just three months after my last PR – and am very proud of myself for this. Now I just have to find a good, flat fall 5k to sign up for to officially beat the 32:00 barrier. 😉

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In the finisher’s chute, all runners get water, a cold, wet towel, a medal, and a rose. Waiting for us just beyond that is the food trough – whole bagels from Panera (yum!), Nurti-grain bars, bags of pretzels, bananas, and cold watermelon. I got my share of these items (plus a bagel for my mom, in case the food was picked clean by the time she finished – I’ve been a back-of-the-packer, I know how it can be…) and then visited my training group’s tent, where they had MORE food for us! I got a smidgeon of a cinnamon crunch bagel from Panera and some OJ – an odd combo, but really satisfying. Most of our coaches were there as well and all were eager to hear about how the race went for us.

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I scarfed down my bagel smidgeon, my OJ, and some water, and then my dad and I walked over to wait for my mom to cross the finish line. Her primary goal was to finish in under an hour, which she easily did! She finished in 52:28! The first time I “ran” a 5k  (at age 23, mind you) it took me over 45 minutes, so I think she had a great first showing.

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After the awards ceremony they had all of the mother-daughter teams come up on stage for a group shot, something I’ve always secretly wanted to be able to do. Somehow we ended up smack-dab in the middle of the group 🙂

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(my dad’s attempt at a selfie)

After the race I got on social media to brag about my accomplishment to the world (cuz you know if you don’t, it never happened. duh.) and I noticed I suddenly had a lot of notifications on twitter – so I investigated and OMG BART YASSO MENTIONED ME IN A TWEET!!

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Sorry, amazing PR, you’re now the second most awesome thing to happen to me yesterday.

This week is going to be another easy week – I’m going to let my legs recover and get my achy hip under control so I can be good and ready for the Dreaded Druid Hills on Saturday!! I fully admit I am undertrained for this one, but I’m going to go have an awesome time any way. I just found out my good friend Lauren is going to be running it with me, as well as other woman I know, so it’s going to be a blast regardless. I’m fully anticipating an ice bath in my future, but that’s okay. All the in the name of fun 🙂


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Hot weather running

Have you ever wonder what happens to your body when you run on those blast-furnace-hot summer days? And how does your body adapt to those so the rest of the summer doesn’t feel as awful as those first hot runs? Well, the Washington Post did, too.

Here’s a really interesting article on “How your body beats the heat.”


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Weekly Wrapup

This week was another light week. Our Tuesday track session was cancelled due to thunderstorms. I feel kinda bad – earlier that day, because it was so ungodly hot and humid, I joked that it would be perfect if we got a cloudburst while we were in the middle of the workout to help cool us down. Well, we did. It came in just as we were gathering for our pre-workout powwow. It was cloudy, and then all of a sudden our coach was like “it’s down pouring right over there” – and then not ten seconds later it was down pouring right over us. Like a biblical-style downpour. So we all huddled under the bleachers until we heard thunder, and then ran back to our cars as quickly as possible (although a nice woman from our group gave my mom and I a ride back to our car so we didn’t have to sprint 3/4 of a mile huddled under our teeny, broken umbrella).

I woke up was startled awake Saturday morning by my mom, after getting maybe 4 hours of sleep (I’m looking at you, insomnia). We had agreed to walk the dogs early so she could get in her workout, which would double as my extended warm-up, and then I’d head out for my run. I eventually dragged my exhausted self out the door and we got in a nice 2.53 mile walk , which pretty well exhausted the westies but just energized the Beast, who spent the rest of the day zooming around the house. After the horribly humid and rainy week we had, a storm rolled in Friday night and cleared the air – we really couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather for a walk/run. I seriously hope the next two weekends are this nice for my upcoming races.

Once my mom headed back home with all of the doggies, I went off for my run – in my new shoes (and new KT Tape)!! Woohooo! They’re just as marshmallowy as I remember my first pair of PureCadences feeling.

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Because of the new shoes, the addition of the KT tape, and the extended time off, I decided to keep my run shorter than I had planned, but to also try out something new-ish. When I was in PT, my therapist had me run on the Alter G with a metronome to keep my cadence quick and steady throughout the run – so I whipped out the metronome app on my phone, dialed it up to 170, and set off on my way. I tried to focus only on my pace, breathing, and mechanics, avoiding my Garmin whenever possible; however, I couldn’t help but notice that my pace was a fair bit quicker than normal. I was astonished when I hit the end of my 3.1 mile run – 31:51! I have NEVER run that fast!!

I am definitely going to be using this method again next week in my 5k race. I’m a bit concerned about the nuisance the metronome might be for other runners, but the way I figure, it just might help them reach a new PR too 😉 (“ahh! run away from that annoying woman!”) Eh, whatev. Plenty of people do far more irritating things during races. And it’s only a 5k – it’s not like someone else will have to listen to that for hours on end.

Later Saturday evening I went out to visit an old friend of mine who was in town for the weekend. Lauren and I have known each other since we were in 2nd grade and it was great to catch up. She lives in NYC, which while it’s close, is just far enough away that we really don’t see much of each other. It was a nice chill evening – she popped a bottle of wine, I brought over cannolis to celebrate my awesome run and her kicking ass in the Baltimore 10 Miler that morning – and we just drank and chatted all night. It’s funny how much things change over the years, but how much they really do stay the same.

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And of course, lest I forget – Happy Father’s Day to my daddy!! He detests cards, so this counts as the official non-card acknowledgement of fathers day 😉

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Yep, it’s summer!

In my mind, once the calendar ticks over to June, it’s summer. And what is the best part about summer?

Fresh strawberries!!

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My favorite local farm opened their pick-your-own strawberry patches last weekend. My mom and I decided to take advantage of the mid-week lull and played hookie from work to go pick strawberries yesterday.

Picking strawberries, while it yields a delicious heap of berries, is just a cathartic activity for me. Very peaceful but very fulfilling. There’s just something about picking the food you’re about to eat, ya know? The only better thing would be growing and then picking your food.

It was nice and empty – just a few other people in the fields – and just as we got there the clouds came out to cool the temps just a bit and get the scorching sun off of our backs.

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The fields were just bursting with perfect red fruit. I never eat the fruits in the field, but this time they were just too tempting. And boy were they good! I may or may not have had a dozen or so berries… they were just so perfect!

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We may have gotten a bit carried away.

These berries are so amazingly sweet – they really don’t need anything to go with them (unlike those anemic grocery store strawberries). But one of my favorite treats is whipping up some cream cheese frosting (8 oz cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 1-2 tsp vanilla extract) and dipping the berries in it – absolute summer dessert perfection. Also wonderful is using that cream as a base in a strawberry tart (basic tart crust, the cream, strawberries nicely stacked inside the crust, and a strawberry glaze on top).

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Really – where else can you find strawberries that deep red throughout?? Certainly not your grocery store. Mmm…