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.

Photo Jun 28, 8 58 05 PM Photo Jun 28, 9 03 40 PM

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Disappointment and Surprise

My left shin splint/tendonitis has been acting up since my 7 mile run. After the 8 mile run the other week it throbbed and spazed all week, even while I was sitting on the sofa watching tv. Looking at how things have been progressing and the amount of time left on the calendar between now and the Maryland Half, I have decided to defer my half to next year. Although I was really looking forward to the race, I don’t want to risk doing more damage or injuring myself even further. I’m still running the 10k in a few weeks and the 5k in June, but I’m going to be capping my runs at about 5 or 6 miles for a while. This will also hopefully give me time to focus more on strengthening my legs and hips, which I think are actually the root of the problem.

That being said, I went out for a hill run today. You know, the best and worst hill in town. The one I’ve never run all the way up. Last time I ran 3 repeats, this time I planned on 4.

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Well, today I conquered it. Twice. Well, technically the second time included a 10-15 foot walk near the top before restarting the run, but I made it. The mental aspect of running has always been much more burdensome for me than the physical, and today I conquered both. Restarting once I stopped to walk has always been a challenge. Today it wasn’t.

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Life is short but sweet for certain

Today I found out that a former teacher of mine has cancer and only weeks to live. We all have lots of teachers throughout our lives (and someone who has as many degrees as I do has even more), but I consider myself lucky to have had someone like him who made such an impression on my life.

James “Pax” Paxton was my high school band teacher for four years. But he was so much more than that to me and so many of my classmates. He knew how to work with high schoolers better than anyone I know, he knew how to earn our respect, how to joke with us, and how to push us to work our hardest, for whatever we wanted.

He took hundreds, if not thousands, of us to Europe for three weeks during the summer with American Music Abroad – I was lucky enough to go twice. Those of us who were fortunate enough to go on AMA really got to know him and his wife on a completely different level. They were teachers and leaders but they were also friends. His students would do anything for him. For whom else would high schoolers get up even earlier than normal before early morning summer band camp to decorate the road leading to school for his 50th birthday?

He taught us leadership, he taught us life skills, and occasionally he taught us music, too. He taught me how to come out of my shell. A girl who was so shy that her 6th grade science teacher once asked her mother if she knew how to speak, I am so much more confident as an adult because of Pax. My leadership style has largely been influenced by his leadership style.

At 65, his card has been drawn far too early, but his influence has been huge. A facebook group of his former students was started this afternoon and already has over 500 members. I hope the doctors are wrong. I hope his weeks turn into months and years, but whether he goes tomorrow or in ten years, his legacy will live on. He’s one of the great people of the world.

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Blue Moon Run

Q: How do you know when you’ve made progress?
A: When what once seemed impossible suddenly becomes easy.

A couple of a weeks ago, Aaron and I signed up for the Blue Moon Run, put on by the Falls Road Running Store. They have it every summer, and it’s usually called the full moon run – it’s run on a local rail trail at 9:00pm on a summer weekend. The trail is crushed white stone, which, when a full moon is overhead, is surprisingly bright at night. No headlamps or flashlights are allowed – everyone is issued a glow stick, although most people usually come decked out in glow sticks and glow paint. Like I said, we signed up for it a few weeks ago, when everything was going well. After last week’s disaster, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to make this race (but it was cheap, so I wasn’t too concerned). Even mid-week I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run. I figured I’d show up, get my premium, and enjoy the atmosphere at the very least. I’d try walking/running, or, if everything went well, run maybe 2-3 miles. Being off the road for almost two weeks I didn’t want to push it.

We had done this race 3 years ago, but apparently it’s gotten rather popular – and large – over the last few years. We had to check in down the street, where they had a limited number of parking sports at the race site available. With my leg misbehaving the last few weeks, I wanted to make sure we got one of those spaces, just in case. When we got there we got one of the last few permits and picked up our glasses, then headed up to the lot. Being there 90 minutes early, we took a walk to warm up, which, because it felt so good, turned into a warm up run. We got back, thinking it was almost race time, but it was only 8:15… so we just took our time stretching and wandering around.

P1000999The moon rose over the trees just about this time, and it was gorgeous. Bright gold against a perfect navy sky with just a few stars peaking through the moonlight. I really wish I had had the foresight to bring my DSLR – the photos would have turned out way better than with my point-and-shoot.

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I assure you it was much prettier in person than the photo suggests… At 9:00pm we lined up and headed on up the trail. The race is a fun run, so it’s about 6 miles or less, whatever you feel like doing. Like I said, I planned on doing 2, maybe 3 miles. I was feeling really strong, so we pushed and kept up with the crowd. Between the thick humidity and someone smoking at the start line (really??) my asthma acted up a bit, so we took a few walk breaks to let my lungs recover. Through most of the run we were with the bulk of the crowd. Although I had hit start on my Nike+ app, it never started, so I had no idea how far we had come or how long it had taken us (I made sure it started at this point). Once my lungs felt a bit better I decided to keep going a bit further. A few minutes later, I decided we had probably gone far enough and we turned back. After a few minutes of running against the pack, we hit darkness. The moon rose pretty late, so much of the trail was quite dark and our eyes were playing tricks on us – it was really hard to see, and I was afraid I was going to run into a deer or step of a frog or something. Around the time that we were about 1/2 mile from the finish the first leader finally passed us, and then a few more passed us as we got closer to the finish line, but it was nice to just have the two of us running together in the quiet darkness.

Without even realizing it, it turns out we ran 3.5 miles in 45 minutes. Two and a half months ago I could barely even run .15 miles without even stopping, and now I ran almost twice as far as I had intended to run without notice. My legs were sore from my strength session on Thursday, but they weren’t sore or tired from the running. It never ceases to amaze me how much the human body, and, more importantly, the mind, can do in such a short period of time. You don’t always notice progress on a day to day basis, but when you have one of those ah-ha moments, it’s really great.

Because the race was so late and we didn’t get home until after 10:30pm, we took today off and are planning an 8 miler tomorrow. Rather than pushing through 8 miles straight, we’re planning breaks every 2 miles or so so we don’t push my leg unnecessarily. It’s feeling really good and I don’t want to take that for granted, even with PT coming up this week. I’d rather run a little less but have good legs for the race than push too hard and end up injured and suffering or worse on race day. The goal at this point is just to get to the start line in one piece. If I get there, then I’ll set my race goals.

4 mile short run