Run Doodle Run

The long road to 26.2


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Race Report!! Army Ten Miler

Back story: This is the third time I’ve registered for the Army Ten Miler. I’ve had this race in my sights for five years. In 2010 I got in but had to DNS because three weeks of ridiculously intense MBA orientation totally derailed my training. Last year I was registered and on target with my training until I got put into the walking boot – there was no way I could have walked hobbled the race in my boot and still hit the time cutoffs. This year… this year nothing was getting in my way. 

Last weekend was amazing. The end.

Okay, really, it was great. I stayed in Bethesda, outside of the District, because hotels are way cheaper, but also because it’s an area that I know well and am happy in. It’s urban but suburban, all American but very global (big French influence there). And I had a one-bedroom suite with a kitchen all to myself. Heaven! I am very happy that my parents graciously let me move back home last year when life got a bit rough, but there’s just something about having your own space – even if just for four days.

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the lunch of champions – aka my travel-day guilty pleasure

Maybe it was because I was bummed out from not running and just happy to be at the expo, but last year’s expo seemed to be a lot better than this year’s. It was super empty (not necessarily a problem, that’s why I went so early) and I didn’t really have any intentions of buying anything, but there just wasn’t as much to look at nor a lot of free stuff. I did “splurge” and get myself a logo-ed glass from the event, but it promptly got dropped and smashed to bits by the valet guy at the hotel. Sad face. To make myself feel better I drove out to my favorite Japanese place in Rockville and got myself takeaway dinner. A big pile of rice counts are carbo-loading, right??

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I stayed up far later than I ought to’ve Friday night watching the O’s game then went to a job fair on Saturday morning down in Crystal City. The job fair wasn’t exactly a rousing success, but it did give me an opportunity to see the race area before hand, which always helps to calm my nerves before a big, new race. Afterwards I came home and made myself some fettuccine alfredo, watched the second O’s game, and foam rolled until I could foam roll no more. Saturday evening I enjoyed some apricot chicken with rice that I made earlier in the week and brought with me. Super yum. Yes, it really is all about the food.

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Saturday night I got everything ready – and quadruple checked everything – and set my alarm for 4:45am. The metro train left at 6:06am and I was paranoid about missing it, even though the station was only two blocks away. I know.

So naturally, I was wide awake at 3:30am. After checking the news, facebook, and twitter on my phone I admitted defeat and rolled out of bed at 4:10am. At least I could enjoy a leisurely morning? I was admittedly a bit apprehensive about going to a big race by myself – this would be the first time I’ve ever done that – but it turns out that’s something I’ll have to worry about some other time. My ex and I are on good terms and are trying very hard to be friends, and he came down and surprised me so I wouldn’t have to be alone on race day. It was nice to have someone to talk to who knows my race day routine and moods.

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It was a quick and easy ride to the Pentagon for the race. If you’re not familiar with DC, the Pentagon is on the other side of the river from DC and when you ride the yellow line to the Pentagon, the track goes over the water. It was so dark still when we popped out of the tunnel that I actually had to stop and focus to see that we were, in fact, above ground. Off to the east you could see the slightest hint that sunrise was approaching, but it was still pitch dark. Just a few minutes later, after arriving at the Pentagon, the sun decided to join the party.

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This was the first time I had ever been to the Pentagon so it was super awe-inspiring for the foreign policy/strategy nerd that I am. After taking in the location for a few, we walked over to the race staging area. I have never seen so many ports-pots in my life. Truly. It was like a runner’s dream come true. Every where you looked – porta-poties. Every corral had them. The non-secure area for the public had them. They had them lined up by the starting line. It was truly amazing. Kudos to whomever placed that order! Job well done.

As part of the morning ceremonies several men parachuted in.

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Those little dots are the parachuters

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Photo Oct 12, 7 13 38 AM

Then I made my way over to my corral to begin the long wait. There were a few announcements, a prayer for the Army and the runners both here and abroad, and the National Anthem (I have never heard such silence during the Anthem – even the porta-pot line stopped) and before we knew it the wounded warriors and the first wave were off! There were 8 waves in total, 8 minutes in between each wave – and I was in wave 6. The soldiers escorting us did a great job of keeping everyone in order and keeping us moving. I didn’t get a really good warm up in, but at least I got something in. Before too much longer we were lining up at the start. I was three rows back – the farthest up I’ve ever been! And with the heart-stopping boom of the Howitzer, our race was under way!

The race starts on a highway and runs along the highway for the first mile, just near the corner of Arlington Cemetery. I was trying my best to run by feel rather than by Garmin, but I must admit I was surprised to see how quickly I was moving without even realizing it. My side stitches came back just around this point, but they weren’t nearly as painful as they were at the track on Tuesday.

The second mile was spent crossing the Potomac, running right towards the Lincoln Memorial, then we veered off towards Constitution for a bit before running up 21st St. past the State Department. Having worked in this area of DC it was bittersweet being back “home.” It made me smile to see my old haunts, but I wish I didn’t have to refer to them in the past tense. After running around State we made our way over to the Watergate Complex and down the Potomac towards the Kennedy Center. If you’ve never had the opportunity to run along the riverfront, I highly recommend it. It is surprisingly serene and the view is amazing no matter which direction you turn.

Up until this point the crowd support had been fairly modest, much less than I would have expected for a race of 30,000 and I felt like I was doing a lot of dodging and weaving of walkers and super-slow-motion runners. I thought the wave start wouldn’t helped thin that out a bit, but it just never ended.

Just as we came to the Washington Monument we hit the halfway point – and I did it in under 50 minutes!! Woohoo!! Once I hit five miles I stopped to take a Gu and get a good drink of water (and catch my breath). I truly had no idea just how fast I had been running. Luckily we had had some shade, but that was about to change. Running along Independence Ave we gained a lot more crowd support, but the majority of the road was in the sun at this point. Just after mile 7 we began the surprisingly long journey back to Virginia – I never knew the river was so damn wide!! It isn’t really, but the bridge was easily a mile and a half long. In the direct sun. With no breeze. And no crowd.

Somewhere around 7.5-7.75 mi my mind started telling me “it’s okay to walk.” I had to beat it into submission sooner rather than later before it got the best of me. I did take one short walk break, about a minute, half way across, but stubbornly pushed onward as hard as I could. As I was ascending the third hump of the bridge, I could finally see the exit point – which meant the race was almost over! I didn’t know exactly what the distance was, but I knew 9 miles wasn’t too far beyond that. We finally worked our way down the off ramp, enjoying what little shade there was and turned left back towards the Pentagon. I didn’t know these roads and was having a hard time playing the mental games you sometimes have to play in a hard race, but I kept telling my mind to shut up and commanded my legs to keep moving. There was one bridge (!!) to get over and then we were all but home free. Just after crossing that bridge I could begin to see familiar sights. Then a little bit further, I saw the black Army flags lining the home stretch. Yes! We’re really almost there!!

For the last half mile I battled my mind and my legs. My hip was getting tight and it took all my willpower to keep my feet moving. But I couldn’t stop. Not here. No matter how dizzy I was, no matter how tired I was, I wasn’t voluntarily stopping at 9.5 miles. If my body wasn’t to stop that badly, it’d have to take some drastic measures.

I remember passing the photographers and forcing a smile for one, but then saying to myself “fuck it – it takes energy to smile, energy which my legs need. I feel like crap, let me look like crap in the pictures.” Plus, the pictures are so horribly over-priced it’s not like I was going to be buying one anyway. Just a few more steps. As soon as the finish line was in sight I turned on the afterburners. Finally! I did it! I ran and finished the Army Ten Miler!!

Photo Oct 12, 1 42 39 PMThis was one of the first times I truly raced. I raced myself, I raced the voices in my head telling me to walk, I raced the person I used to be. And I beat all of them. Last year, before breaking my leg, my goal was going to be 2:00:00. My goal going into the race this year was 1:45:00. I smashed both of them and finished in 1:41:35!! It was my second fastest race ever.

There was a seemingly-endless death-march from the finish line to the finisher’s coins and food. Fortunately they had several water stops along the way (seriously) and an area for us to greet friends and family from across the barriers. I stopped to stretch out my super tight hip and get my feet up for a few before gathering a plethora of food. It was truly one of the best food tents I’ve seen – muffins and cookies and bananas and hummus kits and I’m sure a bunch of other stuff I’ve forgotten. People were given boxes to carry their food in there was so much of it.

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Aaron and I hung around for a while, taking in all the sights, and then began the long, slow walk back to the Pentagon metro station. Along the way we could see something glistening off in the distance. Everyone walking back seemed to notice it about the same time – the slow walk slowed even more and everyone was pointing up. As they got closer, I realized what it was – there was a flyover of WWII planes scheduled for Saturday which had been postponed due to poor weather. They flew in bomber formation over the Pentagon, which was a bit eery, but I’m so glad I got to see it.

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It took a while to get into the metro station, but once we got through a ghost train came and entered service just as it pulled onto the platform – perfect timing.

While I was showering Aaron ordered pizza for us – a wonderful treat after a hard-fought race. We watched the Ravens wallop the Buccs (even as a Raven’s fan that game was hard to watch), then he went home and I napped until my parents came down for dinner. We went to a wonderful tapas place, Jaleo. I highly recommend it in you’re in the DC area (they have several locations) – it’s one of my favorites. We had so many dishes and so much food, but didn’t leave feeling stuffed. And their hazelnut ice cream is to die for. I spent one more night at the hotel and then went home the next morning happy as a clam.

Yesterday I visited my PT to get my legs and hips worked on – because I have another race on Saturday!! Between his massage and the epsom salt bath yesterday, my legs feel about 97% today. Despite a bit of discomfort in my achilles, that makes me feel good about Saturday’s half. Today I went to get my bib, shirt, and packet and tomorrow I rest! *phew*

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Last Track Session Before Army!!

Mental Note: Eat more food.

I haven’t been eating much lately, but not necessarily due to a conscious choice – I just haven’t been hungry (unexpected late-in-the-game bonus – I’ve lost another 4 lbs.).

Tonight’s track workout was supposed to be relatively easy – :20 90% perceived effort, :40 comfortable but hard pace, repeat 20 times. Despite this, I felt like I was dragging the whole time. Legs just felt heavy, joints didn’t feel fluid, the whole shebang. And I got a really weird side-stitch under my right ribs. I never get side stitches, so that was totally out of left field.

I’m not sure what I’m missing nutritionally, but I clearly need to focus more on how I’m fueling myself this week. I’ve only got two more easy workouts before race day and really need to make them count.

What are your favorite race week meals/snacks??


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It’s Taper Time!

Bib numbers and waves assignments have been sent out for Army Ten Miler! I was released from PT today! It’s October and I am HEALTHY and WHOLE and STRONG and am actually going to race this month!! It’s really real! *happy dance*

So that can only mean one thing – taper time! My taper is going to be a bit, um, unique (?) this year because of having the 10 miler six days before the half marathon, but I’m going to do my best to take care of my legs and my body over the next 2-3 weeks to make sure I am able to really benefit from all of my training come race day. I know I’m asking it to do a lot, running a 10 miler and a half marathon in the same week, but I know I can do it – it’s kind of like having two long long runs on back-to-back weekends, right? We do that all the time. Plus I think the huge mental boost I got from Sunday’s half marathon is going to help keep some of the taper madness at bay. I know I can do this.

taper madness


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Weekend Wrap-up!

After racing last weekend, I laid pretty low this week, even skipping this week’s track workout. I pushed hard on Sunday and my legs let me know that. Icing and massage only go so far, though, so I’m getting a quick eval with my PT tomorrow – my piriformis is still grumpy about something and I’m getting a tweak in my shin again. I don’t think either of them are serious, but I’d rather nip them in the bud before they become problematic. Come hell or high water I’m doing my first full marathon in 2015!

Saturday I met up with my training group and the full marathon training group and planned for 10 miles or so on the local roads. It was a perfect morning – overcast, low 70s, mildly humid. They had 10.15 and 10.5 route sheets, so naturally N and I went for the 10.5. M was doing a cut-back week, so she ran with some other people. Both 10+ routes had us crossing a major road and we were kinda bummed about that, but it turned out to be a non-issue that early in the morning. I did have to stop and fill up my handheld twice though – definitely another argument in favor of getting the hydration pack (so glad our group stocks us with strategically placed self-serve water stations!).

We missed one of our turns early on in the race but no biggie. The route was pretty hilly and we conquered all of the hills magnificently, including one which was challenging just 6 weeks ago. There were so many runners out! Our two groups certainly account for a lot of people, but we ran into some high school teams running as well as individuals and smaller groups. We ran to places I had never envisioned running and it was fantastic.

We determined that we had missed about .75 mile with our early missed turn and decided to make up some distance so we at least hit 10 miles for the day. Well…. even though I grew up in this neighborhood, my mental map failed me (admittedly, I rarely ever went over to this part). I got us a little turned around and we called it a day at 10.66 miles with a .75 mile cool down walk back to the store.

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After the run I decided to try out a Cliff Builder’s Max protein bar – I just don’t get enough protein in my diet and don’t see how to squeeze enough in without gaining like 200 lbs. The bar was surprisingly good – sweet but not sweet. And it actually almost tasted like cookie dough. The only down side is that they’re huge! I could only finish about 60% of it. I think I’ll take the remainder for after my track workout on Tuesday.

cliff bar

Today I went to the Maryland State Fair with my mom. I’m not a huge fan of the fair and haven’t been for many, many years. It’s just kinda trashy and overpriced. But I love the farm and agricultural aspects of it. The primary reason we went was to get some of the locally harvested honey – my dad has a few hives, but the yield has been a bit disappointing this year and we’d much rather support local beekeepers than buy honey that comes from god knows where.

There were tons of adorable baby animals, many of which were brand new to the world, as well as hundreds of cows, sheet, goats, pigs, and every other farm animal you can think of.

fair animals

rocking' the spandex and leg warmers like it's 1988

rocking’ the spandex and leg warmers like it’s 1988

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We also spent an inordinate amount of time gawking over the gorgeous produce that had been judged in competition.

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And I make no apologies for devouring the funnel cake. I ran nearly 11 miles yesterday. 🙂

Photo Aug 24, 11 32 46 AMHow was your weekend?? 

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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.

lars_steph

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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