Run Doodle Run

The long road to 26.2


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Twas the Week Before Christmas…

And my house turned into an infirmary.

Sunday night/Monday morning my mom started getting sick. Uh oh. I haven’t really gotten sick since I had my nose surgery a couple years ago and was hoping to keep it that way. But no luck. Luckily I didn’t get as sick as her (she was literally in bed for 4 days straight), but it still kinda sucked.

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the pups took good care of my mom while she was sick

Monday night I forced myself to do a light workout which actually helped me to feel better. My coaches kept me in line.

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That look from her means I’ve stopped for too long. No more dillydallying, woman! (He’s just hoping I get down on the ground so he can clean all the salty goodness off of my face)

Tuesday I was feeling worse but it was my first track session with my new group! And it rained. Ugh. It was in the upper 30s/low 40s, but a surprisingly large group of people showed up. This run was fueled by Claritin D and Advil, which apparently made me darn fast. We ran 6x400s and I was running each 400 25-40 seconds faster than I did this summer. Holy moly! Maybe my last quarter mile at Celtic last weekend wasn’t a total fluke… Afterwards our group and the full marathon training group met up for drinks, food, and camaraderie at a bar around the corner.

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I was going to workout Wednesday and Thursday, but felt super crummy, so I just took the rest of the week off to get healthy again. This winter is all about building a solid base, not driving myself into the ground before the season even comes around.

Saturday my group met downtown for our long run. I love and hate running downtown. It’s flat, tends to be pretty windy (which super sucks in the winter) and the brick is hard on my legs. But the view is pretty nice and it’s always nice to get a change of scenery. It was an ugly sweater run, but I don’t own an ugly sweater – so I painted my nails festively and had a Santa hat instead. I was going to try to do something with tinsel and bells, but Target failed me.

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5:00am wakeup calls for Saturday long runs are rough no matter what time of the year, but they’re extra awful in the winter. During the summer the sun typically rises shortly after I get up, my parents and dogs are up and about in the house, people are on the roads, the birds are chirping – you know, signs of life. During the winter? It was literally me and the creepy blow up Santa on the neighbor’s portico. No bueno.

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On the bright side, though, the moon was absolutely gorgeous on the drive downtown. Just before the sun came up you could see the entire moon, even though only a sliver of it was lit up.

I ended up running 5 nice, easy miles with two women in my group, averaging about 11 minute miles.

After the long run I did a little bit of damage at Charm City Run (hey, it’s Christmas), grabbed a donut from Dunkin Donuts, and got a Christmas gift for the Beast at the doggie boutique next door, before heading home to shower, change, and head back down to the city to meet a friend for high tea at Gertrudes at the Baltimore Museum of Art. It was surprisingly fun and un-stuffy! We were there chatting for several hours (the wait-staff seemed like they were trying to nudge us out so they could turn the table over for dinner), then I headed off to a party for a bit. I was so exhausted from the long day that I didn’t stay too terribly long.

I had planned on going to bed embarrassingly early when I got home but someone on the street was having a party and the windows in my room are so thin that I knew they’d wake me up when they all left, so I plopped down in the living room with my parents to watch the never-ending Thursday Night Football game on Saturday Night (as if I wasn’t having a hard enough time remember what day it was this week…). I had no stake in the game but it was surprisingly good.

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This morning I slept in a bit and then met Aaron and Beast at the trail for a quick 3.5-4 mile walk. The trail was surprisingly crowded for a chilly Sunday, but we got to see some people running in festive garb – one guy passed us wearing a Santa hat and a lei of big Christmas lights 🙂

icicles!

icicles!

Then I came home to see the awful Ravens “game” (I’ve never been more embarrassed to be a Ravens fan). There were surly a few bad calls, but it was 95% on the team. Now I’m watching the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Finals (watching skating on TV always reminds me of just how much I miss skating…) and drooling over the smell of roasting veggies that’s filling the house.

that's not hot chocolate. that game called for something a *bit* stronger...

that’s not hot chocolate. that game called for something a *bit* stronger…

How was your week(end)? Any great holiday plans coming up?? 

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Race Report – Celtic Solstice

This is easily my favorite race of the year! It’s usually a week or two before Christmas and because most people are outside of their major training seasons they are just there to have fun with it.

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Coming into the race, my primary goals were simple: 1) not re-injure myself, and 2) set a new PR. The last time I ran this race, two years ago, my dad bet me $1,000 to finish in under an hour, and I couldn’t do it – I finished in 1:01:58 (which was still a PR). All season long I have been smashing this in my training runs, but I know my fastest times for the season are behind me right now. I was realistically expecting to come in somewhere between 52:00 and 55:00.

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I was nervous about this race for multiple reasons. First, I’ve only run outdoors in the cold a handful of times because of my injury rehab; second, it was my first run in my old shoes since injuring myself at Baltimore (more on that another time); and third, because the temperatures were forecasted to be 32-37, right at that annoying point where it’s cold, but not COLD. The night before I spent almost two hours going back and forth between what I wanted to wear – but I finally settled on ColdGear tights, smartwool socks, HeatGear long-sleeved shirt, and gloves, with a ColdGear long-sleeved shirt in reserve in my bag.

I misjudged my travel time and ended up getting there about 20-30 minutes earlier than anticipated (I always forget there’s no traffic at 6:00am on a Saturday!) but I got prime parking for easy exit after the race. After reluctantly parting with the heat in my car I walked over to the start area and man was it cold! (duh, it’s December) It wasn’t windy, but just that kind of cold that bites right through whatever you’re wearing. I always remember the tent being warm, but I think that’s mainly from the collective body heat – there weren’t enough people in it that early to heat it up yet!

The first thing I did was get my timing chip, pin my bib on, and use the porta-potty (ah, fresh, unused porta-potty – a runner’s race-day dream come true!). For the coffee drinkers, Zeekes had coffee available all day, and there was a DJ and a band playing. Outside the tent were two massive and lovable Irish Wolfhounds – the “official” mascots of the race. Lots of people were dressed for the season, ranging from ugly sweaters to sparkly red and green skirts to full-on Santa and elf costumes; a number of the guys had on kilts, as is tradition.

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…umm? sure hope no one was inside…

All morning I continued my internal debate about what to wear. I had decided to stick with the HeatGear shirt – until 10 minutes before the start and I walked outside. Holy cow was it cold! I quickly went back in to the tent and changed my shirt, before heading off to the start area to warm up (although I’m pretty sure I felt colder after my warm-up than I did before). Waiting, I noticed that my fingertips were tingling and my toes and forefeet had gone numb. Not cool.

The race is officially “opened” by the race director, the Irish Wolfhounds, the bagpipers, and those who have run the race every year walking through the crowd to the start.

Just a few minutes later we were off! The first half mile or so is uphill, then we turned off to a small road, which was far too narrow for the size of the crowd at this point. I’m all for people running for fun, but I was far from the only person who was irritated about having to dart around “fun runners” three- and four-abreast and people walking uphill this early in the race; I easily lost about 30-40 seconds. I could feel my Achilles grumbling with every cold step, especially when I had to run in the uneven grass alongside the path. I strongly believe that everyone who wants to run should run, but all runners, regardless of ability or speed, need to be honest with themselves about where they start in the pack. It’s not about being snobby, it’s about being safe and fair for all involved.

Somewhere around a mile the course opened up and the crowd thinned just enough. I hit my cruising pace about this time, choosing to run by feel and avoid looking at my Garmin. Around mile two feeling finally returned to my fingertips and toes – woohoo!

Every time I’ve run this race before I’ve had to walk at least once on the half-mile climb to the turn-around point – not this year! This year I barely even noticed that it was a hill. Regardless of how the race turned out, I knew that, despite late-season injury, all the training this year had paid off.

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Just before the turn-around I saw Melissa heading back, which signaled that I was keeping a healthy pace. A bit further on the bagpipers had relocated to the course and were playing for us, which was a nice pick-me-up.

After the turn-around, it’s an easy return, with half a mile downhill a short-ish up-hill section, a meandering mile and a half that’s mostly flat around the lake, and then just under a quarter mile downhill to the finish. I looked at my watch a few times, noting that I was holding pretty steady at around a ten-minute mile. Not bad considering the last two months!

As we made the final turn off of the lake loop, I looked at my watch – I had just over 2 minutes to cover the last ¼ mile. I knew it would be pushing it, but I picked up the pace and as soon as the path straightened out to the downhill I pushed all the way to the end (thank goodness Melissa and I would occasionally do sprints at the end of our long runs this summer!). I knew it would be close so I made sure to run the tangents as much as possible (other runners be damned!), turned the last corner (when did the bridge between that corner and the finish line get so wide??) and crossed the finish line sprinting – and finished in 50:00 even! Yes, I’m kinda peeved that I couldn’t’ve cut one more second off somewhere to get a 49:xx time, but I gave it everything I had and blasted my old PR out of the water. I have officially PRed in every race but one this year. I think it’s safe to call 2014 a success!

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After a quick pit-stop to let my stomach calm down I made my way back to the tent for the most important treat of the day – Boordy Wassail! Yes, I can (and do) buy this stuff at any store, but race-day wassail is sooo much sweeter. They had an impressive spread of cookies, bananas, and apples (I’m also vaguely remembering oranges). The tent was buzzing with adrenaline and holiday spirit and the band was great. I ran into an old friend and some people I know from training, cuddled with the Wolfhounds, and then called it a day.

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can i please take them home with me??

If you’re ever in the Baltimore area and looking for a great December race, I highly recommend this one. Roughly 5,000 people run it each year and the race swag is always fantastic. This year was the 15th anniversary, so they went all out on the swag – a men’s Brooks running jacket. It can be a bit pricey for the distance, but is totally worth it, hands down.

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Next year I would like to see them address the early log-jam a bit better. I’m not sure if a wave start is strictly necessary, but there does need to be a better system for segregating the start-line by pace (and encouraging people to be realistic about their pace) or letting fewer people through at a time. That said, I can’t wait to run this race again next year!


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Race Recap: YMCA Turkey Trot (and Thanksgiving)

Although I decided to sit out the Philly Half this past Sunday, this week wasn’t a total loss running-wise. Last week I was given the opportunity to run in the YMCA’s annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot on a complementary entry from a local chapter of Rotary International, one of the race’s sponsors, and I jumped as soon as I heard about it.

I haven’t run a Turkey Trot since 2008, when I ran at one of the YMCA’s other locations. Unlike that one, which began in a parking lot, this one began and ended at the Y, which has a really nice facility – meaning we got to wait around inside rather than outside. My dad is a Rotary member and was manning their table, so we got there super early, making the warm, indoor facilities all that much more appreciated!

I wasn’t terribly impressed with the last Turkey Trot I did (which is why I hadn’t come back since), but this one was so much better – nice, warm facilities, food and drink before and after the race, a great course, and just a really good atmosphere. There were about 2,500 participants, roughly 1,300 of which were in the timed race. Having been out of commission for the last 5 weeks I had no goals going into this – I just wanted to have a good time and not re-injure myself. I started uncharacteristically close to the beginning, mainly out of an attempt to avoid strollers and little kids.

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The first mile was flat-to-downhill and a number of people whizzed past me while I just ran my own race. Of course, I was passing many of them, walking or whining that they were tired (mostly kids, but surprisingly not exclusively…), by the time we hit 1/4 mile. The downhill portion was one of the steeper downhills I’ve run and was covered in wet leaves, so I focused on keeping my footing, which helped the mile fly by. I didn’t know it at the time, but I maintained a 9:43 pace for the first mile.

The second mile was a long, slow uphill. I knew I wasn’t going to be as strong on it as I would’ve been a month or two ago, but I pushed through it, knocking off more and more participants. I did have to stop and walk for less than a .1 mile at one point because my lungs were beginning to hurt (they haven’t had time to acclimate to the cold, dry air), but other than that I ran the whole race. I lost approximately 25-30 seconds by walking, finishing mile 2 in 10:35. Mile three was rolling hills to a slight downhill finish.

Just about a 1/4 mile before the end I got a sharp side stitch, but there was no way I was going to walk then. I rounded the corner and was shocked to see the finish clock: NEW PR!! Not too shabby for having been injured and not running for over a month. My official time was 31:27.6. 🙂

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After the race I got myself half a bagel with cream cheese and some water and hung around for the awards ceremony before making our way home.

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Because they had been calling for up to 4-8″ of wet, heavy snow on Wednesday afternoon/evening, my mom and I cooked the turkey (based on this recipe) and roasted potatoes on Wednesday. We didn’t want a repeat of the turkey power-outtage incident from a few years ago! (We had the bird in the oven when the power went out. When it didn’t come back on we loaded the turkey, in it’s roasting pan, into the back of my car and drove it 40 minutes to my friend’s apartment downtown, only to find out after almost 2 hours of cooking that her oven wasn’t getting hot enough to actually cook it. We then reloaded the bird back into my car and went home after getting word that our power had returned). Luckily, the forecast was off and we only got about 2″ of snow, most of which melted as it laid on the ground. We had some crab dip and brie for appetizers, then reheated the turkey and potatoes and cooked everything else.

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It was just me and my parents, so it was a very low-key, but very good, dinner.

It seems like nearly everyone ran a turkey trot yesterday – so how did yours go? How was your Thanksgiving?
I hope everyone had an enjoyable, happy Thanksgiving!!