Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Exactly one week ago I was sitting on my couch feeling exhausted, sore, and accomplished.  Just one week ago I finished the Philadelphia Marathon for the 2nd consecutive year with a one minute and 17 second improvement.  Three months of long runs, speed workouts, group runs, solo runs, happy feet, sore muscles, and mindful eating/drinking resulted in a 26.2 mile race that took me 3 hours, 45 minutes and 7 seconds.  But let’s not start at the finish line where this story would end, just like the race did.  Let’s start the two days leading up to the race.

Friday I worked at the marathon expo with Angela and Sparkly Soul.  Our adventures to Philly and during the expo are always exciting but what I liked most about working at the expo is that I was able to focus on the race without getting stressed about it.  I was surrounded by a bunch of other people who were running either the half or the full marathon.  I enjoyed myself at the expo because I enjoy selling Sparkly Souls!

Then, I went to work on Saturday.  The day wasn’t overly horrible, but I had a lot more time on my hands to worry about the race and the race day weather.  I wasn’t surrounded by other runners about to embark on a 26.2 mile race like I was at the expo.  I was left with my own thoughts, doubts, and fears.

When I got home I went for a quick 3 mile shake-out run.  The wind was already picking up speed.  I ate pasta for dinner and went to church to pray for serenity and acceptance of whatever weather I was going to face the next day.  It was hard for me to keep my doubts at bay.  I went to bed more anxious and nervous than I had been for the past 3 months.  I could hear the wind outside my window and I was worried my chances of PR’ing at the race the next day would be literally blown away (no pun intended).  My alarm was set for 3:45 AM so I went to bed early.

I woke up and the wind was still whipping.  My weather app showed temperatures would reach 48 degrees but the wind chill would be in the mid-30s.  For my race outfit, I opted for long leggings, a long sleeve light Under Armour, my Sneakers and Spokes jersey, my gloves that convert to mittens, and my standard Nike ear warmer.  I bundled up in extra layers as I walked out the door with my parents and Josh at 4:45 AM because I knew waiting around the corrals would be brisk.

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Race outfit with my Altra Torins!

I planned to get to the city by 5:30 AM which would leave plenty of time to find parking, get through security, and use the port-a-potties (ew!).  We arrived early so we sat in my dad’s truck for 15-20 minutes to stay warm.  When we arrived at the security gates, they told my dad and Josh bikes were prohibited so they locked them up outside of the secure zone and we continued on our way to the starting area.

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my favorite candid

I was completely disoriented due to the crowds and because the sun still wasn’t up past the horizon yet.  I had no idea where the starting line was or in which direction I would be running.  I eventually found the green corral and waited with my parents and Josh until closer to the start time.  My mom took a few candid pictures and I tried figuring out where the front of the green corral was.

I hesitantly started taking off layers and the chill in the air became evident.  I left my sweatpants, 3/4 zip, and sweatshirt with my parents/Josh which left me with a tshirt and a long sleeve over top of my race outfit.  I just wanted to be warm.

I’m not sure if I started in the correct corral.  All I do know is that I started in the middle of a corral on the right side of the street.  After the national anthem, the wheel chair and elite athletes started the race.  I began taking off my last two layers on top of my race outfit and tried finding a nice spot to start the race so I wasn’t tripping over clothes that had been haphazardly tossed on the sides of the corral.

Before I knew it, the corral I was in was at the starting line. I double and triple checked to make sure my Garmin had signal as we inched closer toward the starting line.   I was happily adorning my Altra Torins and unlike last year, I wasn’t worried about my toes bleeding half way through the race.  The wide toe box of Altras is my favorite!  We inched closer to the 26.2 miles ahead of us and everyone’s watches around me simultaneously beeped as we crossed the starting strip.  The race had begun.

I told myself to start comfortably – don’t go out too hard, pace yourself, don’t do what you did last year.  Easier said than done.  I ran my first mile in 7:24….not exactly what I set out to do but I consciously told myself to settle in to a more reasonable pace for 26.2 miles.  Just like last year I planned to look at my watch every 3 miles so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy looking at my watch 26 times.

For the first 5 miles of the race I was searching through the crowds to find my dad and Josh on their bikes.  They had planned to ride parts of the course to cheer me on.  I kept searching and searching but I just couldn’t seem to find them.  Worst case scenarios started running through my head…maybe someone stole their bikes after they locked them outside the secure zone or maybe they couldn’t get out of the secure zone for some reason.  But my thoughts were soon replaced by the overall sensory overload of the race – the noises, the weather, all the people – I was plenty distracted, but still curious as to where my biggest supporters were.

The run down South Street reminded me somewhat of trail running.  The road was completely uneven with ruts and holes down the entire length we ran.  Not nearly as tough as trail running, but I needed to find humor in something to get me through the next 20 miles.

At mile 6, I distracted myself by searching for a friend who told me she would be at mile 6.5.  I kept searching and when I finally found her I threw my hands up in some silly way and gave her a wave and a “hello”.  I was still very much happy at this point so doing that required little to no energy.

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still happy at mile 6.5!

The race continued toward the zoo and I remember my dad saying he didn’t have any plans on heading toward the zoo so I knew I’d be running the next 5 or so miles without seeing them.  Where could they be?!?!  There were musicians playing huge drums near the zoo which set a nice beat leading up to the biggest hill of the course.  I remember feeling like I was slowing down but I told myself to keep powering through the hill.  There were more musicians after the top of the hill who were playing drums.  The course took some weird turns that I didn’t remember running last year but all I could do was keeping running forward.

After a long down hill which I took advantage of, we began running next to the path for Fairmount Park.  We were approaching the half way point and that’s when I finally got to see my dad and Josh.  It was about time they showed up to cheer me on!   My dad yelled out that I was right on pace and I couldn’t help but think “right on pace for what?”.  I knew I was running fast.  I knew I was running too fast but I needed to just keep going.

13.1 miles in 1:44:55.  Simple calculations made me realize I was running for a sub-3:30 finish…what kind of torture had I set up for myself in the last 13.1? There was no turning back – what was done was done. I had 13.1 miles to go and I needed to hold on.  I was running to PR.  That was my only goal – I needed to PR.

The race rounded the front of the art museum.  The wind picked up significantly once we were headed in the direction of Manayunk.  I tried using the crowd’s energy to augment my adrenaline.  I needed to channel their energy into my legs, my body, my mind, my anything.

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The 30 MPH wind gusts made me feel like I wasn’t moving forward any more.  My feet weren’t landing underneath my body anymore; rather, they were landing slightly to the right of my body. I started cursing in my head.  Then out of frustration, I started cursing out loud.  I tried latching on to so many people in attempt to draft off of them.  I wanted them to block the wind for me.  Yet, every person I tried to draft off of was either running too fast or too slow.  Nobody around me was running my pace and I became frustrated by that.

I didn’t remember how far away Manayunk was until I was running against 30+ MPH winds.  It was so far away.  The wind made my hands cold.  I was using a lot more energy during my run out to Manayunk than I did in the cumulative 14 miles that came before this point.  A guy cheering on the side of the road said “only 10 more miles to go!”…“only”.  I wanted to be done.

I knew that I would also be without cheering from my dad and Josh from mile 15 on out because last year my dad didn’t go out towards Manayunk so he could make it back through security and to the finish area in time to see me finish.  My new goal was to find Angela.  My legs were cramping up, my handheld was empty of water, and I desperately needed a Shot Blok.  Without water, I couldn’t eat a Shot Blok so I reached a very low point in the race.  I was running with my hands on my quads because they weren’t functioning right.  I was getting more and more frustrated at my body for shutting down and I was getting even MORE frustrated at the wind.  I needed to find Angela.

I told myself to stop throwing myself a pity party and get myself together.  I found Angela and told her she looked great and to keep going (something along those lines).  I wished in that moment as she was running back towards the finish line that we were running together so that I could be around someone I knew.  I needed someone to distract me from my soreness.  But, she was ahead of me and she was running her own race so I had to find a way to get through it myself.

Because my handheld was empty, I switched to chugging Gatorade at every water stop.  Gatorade never tasted so good.  I was spilling it all over myself because I can’t run and drink from a paper cup simultaneously and I worried that it would make me colder.  To my knowledge, it didn’t really make me colder.

Finally I reached the turn around point in Manayunk.  My legs were still cramped.  My body was exhausted.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to scream at the wind for making these miles miserable.  I started calculating how much time I have versus the miles I had left to run to see if I was still within PR zone.  Luckily, I was.  As long as I didn’t slow down to 12-13 minute mile pace, I would make it.  I told myself that’s completely possible.

There were hills in Manayunk.  There were people handing out beer outside of Manayunk.  There were runners cramping up on the side of the course in Manayunk.  There was wind in Manayunk.  I don’t understand how one little town throughout this course could suck so much energy out of me….but it did.

With 4 miles to go, I heard my dad and Josh cheering me on.  I was mentally distraught at this point.  I threw my hands up in the air after hearing them and covered my eyes trying to fight back tears.  I was getting myself all worked up and I wasn’t breathing properly.  I needed to compose myself.  I had about 45 minutes to run these last 4 miles and still PR.  I was racing the clock.  I couldn’t break down and cry right here 4 miles away from being done, from being wrapped in a warm heat blanket, or from finding my family and wonderful boyfriend and going home.  It’s only 4 more miles.

I switched to playing a little game in my head that Josh used to motivate me with during speed workouts at the local park.  He would pick someone anywhere from 200 meters to 1/4 mile away from me and tell me to go catch them.  I started doing that to keep my mind distracted from the pain in my legs but only a few people were getting closer to me – everyone else seemed to be getting farther away.

The finish line seemed close but not close enough with only 1.2 miles to go.  I told myself that’s only like 10-11 minutes more of running (because my pace was pretty slow at this point).  Finally, I could see the starting line.  My ears were attentive in attempt to hear one of my three supporters cheering for me.  I didn’t hear any of them but figured I’d just somehow missed hearing them with the thousands of other people in the crowd cheering too.

 

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I crossed the finish line and every muscle in my body hurt.  My watch read 3:45.  I knew I had PR’d and I was extremely happy on the inside despite probably looking unhappy to all the race volunteers.  My hands were numb.  A running acquaintance of mine wrapped the heat blanket around me.  When she asked me how I was, I said “I think I’m dead”.  Those are the only 4 words I could fathom saying at that point.

After receiving my finisher’s medal, I walked to the end of the finishing chute.  I grabbed a few snacks and a water bottle.  I was done.  I was done running.  My legs didn’t have to run anymore.  I could rest.  But first, I needed to find my family.

Last year I couldn’t find them so this year we had planned to meet up in the family meet-up area at letter “F” for my last name.  There was no family meet-up area this year.  I was delusional and completely out of it so my best reasoning was to stand in one spot until one of them saw me.  So I waited 5 minutes and I couldn’t see them anywhere in the crowd.  I was shivering uncontrollably.  I took it upon myself to ask to borrow a stranger’s cell phone to call my mom.  I told my mom where I was and she eventually found me but the police officer wouldn’t let her through to help me.  I hobbled over to my mom, past the stubborn police officer, and immediately questioned where dad and Josh were.  My mom said they didn’t get through security in time to see the finish so we still needed to find them.

We even20161120_111145tually all found each other and my dad and Josh congratulated me on a great race.  I was tired but still happy I ran faster than last year.  After Josh and my family helped me put on warm layers, my mom took a picture of my with my medal. I tried to look happier than last year because last year’s picture I looked grumpy.

We started the long, slow, cold walk back to my dad’s truck.  I couldn’t stop shivering and stepping off of curbs hurt every muscle in my body.  It seemed like the walk took 30 minutes.  But I got to tell Josh a little bit about my race which I was happy about.

After returning home and refueling with pizza, I was able to reflect some more about my 2nd official marathon.  Despite wanting to improve my time by more than just 1 minute and 17 seconds, considering the windy conditions I am very content with my improvement.  Three stressful months of training for 1 minute and 17 seconds of improvement.  It’s an unbalanced outcome but it’s an outcome I can be happy with nonetheless.

I don’t plan on running the Philadelphia Marathon again anytime soon because next year and beyond I plan on primarily trail racing.  My time with the Philadelphia Marathon has ended and a new chapter of racing for me will begin in April 2017.   I obviously didn’t learn last year not to go out too fast because once again I paid for my own stupidity in the second half of the race.  My 3:45:07 will stand as my Philadelphia Marathon personal record for many years to come.

The wind didn’t blow my attempt at a personal record away from me; instead, it blew me right in the direction to the type of racing I want to do from here on out.

Tough runs…

Tough runs…

They say that tough runs make runners stronger.

They say that in order to have good runs, you must have some bad runs.

They say that you just have to push through the tough runs to get better, stronger, faster.

But tough runs suck.

They can leave you mentally defeated.

They often leave you physically strained.

Your mind tells you that you need to push through the tough runs because it will only make you better.

Your body tells you to stop, walk, quit, give-up, whatever it needs to do to be at rest.

Yes, tough runs will make you stronger.

Yes, not every run will be a good run.

No, it is not okay to give up and throw in the towel.

Even in life (the non-running related life some of us choose to live occasionally), things get tough.

We face decisions everyday that either make us or break us.

We face bumps in the road and turns in our path.

Our plans may go awry so we make compromises and learn to go with the flow.

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

We can try to plan our lives to fit our ideal vision.

We can try to plan our running schedule to reach a certain finishing time.

But some days, you just have to go with the flow.

Listen to your body, listen to your mind.

Cutting a planned 8 mile run short to 6.5 miles instead when your race is 2 months away is not going to keep you from your goal.

Don’t get down on yourself when you hit a bump in the road.

Trust that things work out.

Learn from the tough times.

Learn how to become a better person.

Learn from your mistakes,

and don’t look back.

I leave today with two thoughts:

  1. When the going gets tough, get tougher.
  2. Tough times don’t last but tough people do.

 

Dirty German 50k Race Recap

Dirty German 50k Race Recap

This past Sunday, May 15th, I finished my first ever ultramarathon.  I had signed up for the Dirty German 50k way back in the beginning of January because I knew I wanted to make the transition to ultrarunning.  I was itching for a longer race since I was officially fully recovered from my marathon debut back in November and I needed something to train for.  I had completed another Uberendurance race a few years back (the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 Marathon) so I knew how well organized their races were.  I chose the Dirty German 50k because it was a trail ultra and I knew I wouldn’t want to do an ultra on the road.  It was also described to be “easy by trail running standards”.  In the description it said it would be a great race for 1st time ultrarunners.  This race was basically screaming at me to sign up.  So there I was on my computer on January 2nd signing up for this 50k.

received_10207427398541051Fast forward a few months and there I was on a cool May morning in Pennypack Park standing on the starting line surrounded by other racers.  I was wearing my Altra Lonepeaks, a neon SparklySoul, and my UltimateDirection Ultra Vesta pack.  I was accompanied by my boyfriend and training partner, Josh, who also had committed to running his first ultra on that cool May morning with me.  We had done 85% of all our long runs for the past few months together and we both had the same race goals so we decided to race it together.  Our goal was to run under 6 hours and as close to 5 hours as possible.  His speed and confidence running hills and trails mixed with my everlasting endurance and experience with longer distances made us a perfect team to race this ultra together.  So there we were together standing amongst nearly 200 other racers with an accordion playing German music before we were set off to run 31 miles.

I remember the first half mile to be rather crowded due to some congestion on the trail but I never felt like I was boxed in or stuck behind anyone.  There was always a way around runners if I needed to get around.  My anxiety about the start of the race was soon diminished as I settled in behind Josh and powered through some of the hills at the beginning of the race to get around people.

For the first 4-5 miles we were running with a few other racers as we settled into a pace that we knew we could sustain for the entire race.  We had set out to average about 10 minute pace but my watch kept recording splits in the 9 minute range.  I felt comfortable though and Josh didn’t feel like he was overexerting either so we kept the pace.

I passed a few women while hopping from stone to stone across the stream which allowed me to run right beside Josh now.  At some point in the race we also came across a dog owner trying to re-capture her golden retriever puppy who was just too excited to see all the runners.  Josh and a few other runners stopped to helped her but I (selfishly?) kept running.

There were also some sections of the course that were on pavement due to construction on one of the bridges we were supposed to originally cross.  Josh and I were pretty much alone at this point and we were both in very high spirits.  I was happy we were doing this race together and at this point it just felt like any normal Sunday long run we go on together.

Eventually a woman from NYC named Mary (shoutout to Mary!) who had raced this course before caught up to us.  She gave us a few pointers and tips about ultrarunning and Josh told her all about his race up at Hyner a few weeks ago.  I just listened in on the conversation and laughed at her clever race tips.  It distracted me for at least one mile and we got to meet a very nice person (hope you did well in your race, Mary!  It was nice meeting you!)

The miles were passing by quickly and I was barely paying attention to the mile splits we were running.  We stopped at an aide station I recognized that was near where we had started the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 marathon.  I picked up an orange Gatorade and Josh asked for some ibuprofen which they graciously gave to him.  We continued on our way.  I ate some of my tortilla with peanut butter and raisins in it and Josh ate his Stingers.  Every so often we would pop a Shotblok in our mouth to replenish some electrolytes.  We were feeling good.

At every aide station after that we both would stop and grab a cup of Gatorade to maintain our electrolyte levels and to change it up from the water we were drinking from our packs (Josh has a Gregory which he loves and I have an UltimateDirection with I love).  Soon were heading back towards the finish line which would mark 25k complete.

As we were running up a hill, we heard a cowbell.  Josh made some snide comment about the cowbell and I predicted that it was probably my parents.  Surprise!  There were my parents standing at the top of the hill.  Josh surged up the hill and left me to climb up it myself (disclaimer: he’s a very strong hill climber so I’m used to it).  The next 2 or so miles we didn’t run together but I could still see him ahead of me.  I knew I would eventually catch him once the rolling hills stopped.  Some 25k racers who had started 30 minutes behind us began to pass me  – they were going sooo fast!  Regardless, before the completion of our 1st loop, I had caught back up to Josh and we were running side by side again.

Before race day, Josh had predicted that we would run a 5:15.  Through simple math, this would require our 25k split to be about 2:37.  We came through the 25k split in 2:23.  After some quick math we decided a sub-5 finish was completely attainable even if we ended up slowing down (which we knew was going to be inevitable).  Josh made us a new goal which would be to finish in under 5 hours.

received_10207427468102790So here were are back out on the course for the 2nd loop.  At this point we were pretty much alone except for a racer about 100m in front of us and whomever was sneaking up behind us.  We started passing 25k runners and 50k runners in the opposite direction as they were still working on their 1st loop.  A few 50 milers also passed us in the opposite direction, some of which were going much faster than we were.  I was amazed by how fast they were going for a 50 mile race!

We just kept running, kept drinking, kept eating, kept moving forward side by side.  At aide stations we took no more than 15 seconds to grab what we needed and continue to move closer to the finish line.  We had a deadline now.  One of the other racers called us a “pacing powerhouse” because we were running such a consistent pace.  This gave us the confidence we needed to continue moving forward at the pace we were holding.  We don’t know your name but we appreciate your compliment A LOT.

Along one of the paved sections I was feeling sluggish but just happened to look down at one of my mile splits and see 8:17.  At this point we were already 25 miles in to the race  – why did I just run an 8:17 mile in a 50k?  That was never a split I intended on running and I definitely didn’t feel like I was running that fast.  I decided to just go with the flow and keep running.

We also started running with a woman who was in the 50 mile race who was keeping an impressive pace (I think she was actually running faster than we were at some points).  She was extremely friendly and it once again distracted me from any soreness or fatigue I was feeling.  I don’t know your name but I hope you also did well in your race!

received_10207427470022838Once we were back on trails our legs didn’t hurt as bad from the pounding on the road.  By this point 95% of the paved part of the course was done.  We just had to finish the last 4-5 miles of trail and we would be home free.  We took one last cup of Gatorade at the aid station, saw one of our Instagram followers, saw my parents, and started running up another hill.  I knew at this point that we would be under 5 hours if we just kept pushing.  We did end up powerhiking some of the last few hills and we bombed the downhills as much as we could (well, at least it felt like we were bombing the downhills).  I just kept repeating over and over again that we were so close to being done.  Josh probably thought I’d never shut up about being close to the end.  So. Close.

received_10207427468822808The last few miles are a series of rolling hills but we just kept pushing.  We exited the woods with a little less than 4 minutes to get to the finish line before the clock struck 5 hours.  I knew we had it.  I knew we would run under 5 hours.  We ran towards the finishing stretch, made the last turn into the grassy field and made our way towards the finish line.  We crossed the finish line in 4:58:04.  My Garmin Forerunner 230 recorded we averaged about 9:40 pace – not too shabby!!  My legs hurt but I was happy.  We had totally crushed our original goal of being under 6 hours and Josh’s prediction of us running 5:15.  We had ran our sub-5 like the new goal we had agreed upon mid-race and we had finished our first ever ultra.

At the finish line two patient gentlemen ripped off our bib tags.  The one gentlemen also asked me my age and I was perplexed by this question.  I answered with a fatigued “22” and before I could process what was going on he handed me a box and congratulated me on being the 3rd female in the 20-29 age group.  Well, this was a shock!  Josh and I were handed a hat and a medal that also functioned as a bottle opener (pretty awesome medal if you ask me!).

We staggered further through the finishing chute, exchanged a sweaty hug, and reflected briefly on actually completing an ultra.  Shortly after, my parents found us and congratulated us on a job well done.  At this point all I wanted to do was sit down.  We staggered over to a bench and I slowly lowered myself onto the bench.  We took a post-race picture to further document our accomplishment.

received_10207427421301620I soon started shivering because the air was still a bit cool.  I changed into a long sleeve shirt and we all agreed to start walking back to the cars.  This is where the fatigue and soreness finally hit me.  I could barely pick me feet more than 1 inch off the ground and I had a half mile walk back to the car…uphill.  It probably took me close to 20 minutes to walk that half mile.  Runners who were starting their 3rd lap of the 50 miler probably thought I was being overdramatic or something.  I’m sure I looked ridiculous and because I was staggering I probably even looked like I was somewhat drunk.

Later that night Josh and I indulged in some wine (me) and beer (Josh) and pizza – the perfect way to recover from an ultra!  We reflected on the race and all the wonderful people we met along the way.  Surprisingly neither of us ever felt like we “hit the wall” during the race.  I think this is because we ran together the whole time which allowed ourselves to be distracted by any fatigue or pain we may have had been feeling.  Unlike my marathon last November when I still wore Asics, my feet never truly hurt and my toes never started to bleed all thanks to my Altra LonePeaks and their wide toe-box feature. (I am completely obsessed with Altras!)  Throughout the race, Josh and I also paid close attention to how much and how frequently we were eating and drinking.  I believe that our training was perfect for this race which gave us a great advantage with confidence out of the hilly and trail sections.

Just as this race was described, it’s a great 50k to start with for the 1st time ultrarunner.  The course was extremely well marked and not very technical.  Because of these qualities, I would recommend this race to anybody who is just entering the ultra world.  Uberendurnace races are always very well-organized and they always have great prizes, food, and music (i.e. the accordion player!)

We are both extremely happy and pleased with our ultra debut.  I am beyond excited that I got to accomplish one of my goals for this year.  I’m lucky enough to have done it with such an amazing guy – without him I definitely wouldn’t have done as well as I did.  Cheers to many more ultras in my future!  I can’t wait to do another one!

The Taper

The Taper

The wait is on.

Counting down the days.

Anxiously thinking, planning, and thinking again.

Barely running – a 3 mile run here, a 4 mile run there.

Nothing too challenging.

No watch to calculate pace.

Checking the weather forecast hourly.

Reviewing race information.

Stalking previous race results.

Talking strategy.

Making a plan.

Carbo-loading.

Checking and re-checking gear.

Waking up thinking about the race.

Falling asleep thinking about the race.

It takes over you like the humidity on a hot summer run.

Anxiety, excitement, nerves, and anticipation.

It’s the taper.

It’s the days leading up to race day that get your heart beating fast,

your mind swerving in every direction,

and your body tense with the thought of finally starting the race you’ve trained for for the past 5 months.

It’s almost race day.

Note-Worthy Runs of April 2016

Note-Worthy Runs of April 2016

April has been one of the most hectic, stressful, most beautiful, wonderful, and amazing months of the year.  April for me has brought high mileage leading up to my 1st ultra in the beginning of May, new adventures with friends, and new beginnings as my internship concluded.  In one word, April has been crazy.

Through all the chaos though, April has made me a stronger runner and a more mindful individual.  I’ve come to appreciate the people who make me who I am today and who I want to continue to spend time with in the future.  These are the people that understand my stressors, who can relate to my own little mind games, and who can push me to become the best possible person I can be.  And I am forever grateful for these people.

These note-worthy runs are runs that has left an imprint on my mind and will come creeping into my mind during the rough parts of my upcoming ultras.  I will have to remind myself of these runs to fight through the pain in order to get one step closer to that finish line:

April 1st – This was a night run that I did with Angela.  We had gotten back from a long second day representing SparklySoul at the Hot Chocolate Philly 15k expo.  Meteorologists had warned people of potential thunderstorms but we needed to get a run in. So we started on our run at around 8:30 PM with thunder booming in the distance.  We wanted to run at least 5 miles but ended up only doing 3 at tempo pace because the storm was moving faster than we were.  Although we ran negative splits during this run, we were literally sprinting around Angela’s block at sub-7:30 pace trying to avoid bolts of lightening.  In a nutshell, this was a fun and comical start to April.

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White Clay

April 3rd – This was my first run ever at a place in Delaware called White Clay.  I was accompanied by my best trail running buddy, Josh, who runs this trail system at least twice a week.  He knew the trails inside and out, and could probably run the trails with his eyes closed.  Sundays are typically our long run days so we aimed to do at least 16 miles.  This day was also extremely windy with wind gusts approaching 50 MPH (another comical start to April, right?).  We ended up doing 18 miles, averaging 10:15 pace.  Considering the rolling hills, the weather conditions, and my 1st time ever running on these trails, I was quite pleased.  It was a great run with great company!

 

April 10th – Josh and I went back to White Clay and the weather was much better than the week before!  I started liking White Clay more and more this second time because the trails are slow, rolling hills instead of the steep inclines like Brandywine.  We ran 16 miles, averaging 10:09 pace.  This day we also planned to meet up with my parents and mountain bike at Brandywine.  I’m not nearly as strong on two wheels as I am on two feet, but I was rather impressed by how I managed to pedal up the steep sections and maneuver the downhills.  Our group mountain bike ride ended up being 12 miles.  Josh and I had ran 16 miles, then biked 12, so we rewarded ourselves with a pizza.  This was an awesome day!

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Single track

April 13th – Every week in April I’ve tried to incorporate at least one longer run.  Today’s run was an easy 10 miles.  I was feeling anxious to run fast and had every intention of making this 10 mile run a progression run.  But due to the warmer temps, my four-legged running buddy, Gwin, couldn’t maintain a fast pace for the first 6.2 miles.  After I dropped her off, I set a new goal to run at least one of the next 4 miles under 8 minutes.  Turns out, all four miles were sub-8 (7:50, 7:33, 7:33, 7:38).  This run left me feeling more confident than ever.  I was so shocked to see consecutive 7:33s on my watch – especially for miles 8 and 9.  I was hitting my stride and my ultra was in a little over a month!

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with Gwin

April 15th – A few weeks before, I had signed up for a 1-mile fun race hosted by a nearby running club I am a part of. The mile race was on the track with a laid-back group of runners.  I was nervous though because I hadn’t ran a race since my marathon in November and I didn’t particularly like running fast (especially an all out sprint for one mile).  I was nervous all day but luckily when I got to the race, Angela calmed my nerves during our warm-up and I was surrounded by people I knew and felt comfortable around.  My parents, granny, and Josh were the only 4 spectators and everyone else there was in the race.  I ended up running a 6:24 which I am extremely happy with.  I was the 2nd overall female (Angela won! – read about it here!) and 6th place overall.  Considering I haven’t ran a race in 6 months, haven’t done any speed workouts in about 7 months, and have been training specifically for this ultra, I was more than thrilled by my time.  It hurt but it was a lot of fun and I’m glad that I did it!

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One mile

April 17th – Another long run Sunday with Josh!  We opted to go to Batsto in the Pine Barrens for a nice soft and flat 20 mile run.  I felt awesome during this run and ended up pushing the pace for the 2nd half of the run.  We averaged 9:40 pace which I am more than pleased with.  This was an absolutely beautiful and warm day!  Another great run with great company!  I was loving everything about ultra training on this day!

April 21st – This was yet another 20 mile run because Hyner weekend was coming up and I had to re-organize my normal weekly training schedule.  I opted to do my long run on a Thursday.  I ran consistent 9 minute miles for the first 11.6 miles and then Angela tagged along for the last 8.4 miles in which we started averaging closer to 8:45 pace.  This was an awesome training run that left me feeling extremely confident in my training thus far.  I was excited to be accompanied by Angela for the last 8 miles – she kept my focus away from any fatigue I may have been feeling which I greatly appreciated.  20 miles, averaging 9:00/mile.

April 23rd – aka #Hyner weekend.  I travelled up to Hyner, PA to cheer on my dad and some fellow trail friends during their respective 25k or 50ks.  I was told to go to the top of Hyner View to cheer everyone on which included traversing up the infamous Humble Hill.  I left the starting area at 7 AM, one hour before starting time, in order to give myself time to get to the top which was 3.5 miles up a mountain.  Turns out, I needed that full hour to get to the top.  It took me 57 minutes to get to the top.  My elevation gain read a little over 1500 feet.  This race was going to be no joke for these guys and I felt lucky that I wasn’t torturing myself on the course that day.  I waited at the top to see all the guys come through with my cowbell in hand!  I traversed down another trail called Huff’s Run Trail to get back to the bottom of the mountain – another 3.5 miles with 1500 feet of descent again.  I liked the descent way better than I liked ascending.  I tacked on another 2.5 miles at the end of my run to reach my goal mileage for the day of 20 miles.  The rest of my day was spent cheering on Josh, Aaron, Chad, and my dad as they finished their races.  Our night was spent celebrating with some drinks, good food, and a bonfire.  And we ended the night stargazing into the crystal clear sky surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges.  This was just an all-around great day – I love spending time with trail runners!

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Hyner View

Although there is still a week left in April, I felt due for a blog post updating on my ultra training.  This blog post has allowed me to reflect on the great runs of April that have left me feeling stronger and more confident on the trails.  I’m happy with how my training has been going and I am looking forward to one last week of quality training before I start tapering for my ultra!

Ultra Training Week 2

Ultra Training Week 2

I’m feeling overdue for a blog post so I figured it would be appropriate to blog about this past week of training.  Life has been hectic.  Life has been great.  Life has been overwhelming and crazy.  But most of all, life has been life.  Ups, downs, highs, lows, good days, bad days, stress, and love.  Some bad days turned into good days. Some days even seemed to merge together with unknown separation.

The only thing that has seemed to stay consistent is the training plan I made myself two weeks ago.  This plan has guided me through the last fourteen days. I haven’t been stressed about deciding how far to run because this plan pinpoints what I should be running.  Despite having a training calendar that will guide me through the next two months, I’ve become aware that I also need to be flexible with my training plan. Even if the plan says 5 miles but I only run 4, I don’t freak out or stress about it.  There are some things in life you can’t control.  The plan is not set in stone – it’s there as a tool for me to stay focused on the goal.

Monday I ran an easy 3 mile recovery run after completing my 10 mile long run the day before.  I also decided to bike 4 miles because it was a warm(er) day out and I wanted to spend as much time as possible outside before going to work.

Tuesday was my rest day.  It was cold and rainy outside so this was perfect timing for a day to recover.

Wednesday I went to my internship site an hour early to lift.  I lack upper body strength and since I’m an intern at a fitness facility, I’m trying to use the resources I have to become a better runner.  I also ran 5 miles.  I ran two miles with my dog.  She can run up to 8 miles without any issues, BUT it was raining during this run and she was miserable.  So I opted to turn around after running one mile to return her to our warm and dry house.  I completed the remaining 3 miles solo.  The rain stopped which was exciting!

Thursday is the night I attend group runs at my dad’s local bike/running store. One of my best friends was home from Florida and I was able to convince him to join the group run even though he hasn’t ran in over a month.  This group run was also an Altra demo day with one of the tech reps from Altra.  I LOVE Altras so this was a very exciting group run for me. She brought a variety of Altra shoes for us to take out and test on our run.  I decided to try out the Altra Ones. These are their “racing flats”.  At first I couldn’t decide if I liked them, but after completing the run I knew that they would be a great racing shoe.  I ran three easy miles with my best friend (I missed running and chatting with him!) and then went out for another 1.2 miles by myself.  I picked up the pace and ran a sub-8 for my last mile – this is when I realized I liked the Altra Ones!  They’re for fast feet!

On Friday I ran 5.7 easy miles with my dog.  It wasn’t raining so she had a great time running with me.

On Saturday I ran three easy miles with my dad and my dog.  I was scheduled to run four but I knew that Sunday’s run would be extra long so I took an easy day to prepare my body for Sunday.

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Altra LonePeaks remind me that I have #zerolimits

Which leads us to Sunday, today, and my longest run of 2016.  My dad, mom, and I travelled to a state forest that’s about an hour’s drive away.  My mom accompanied us riding a Rocky Mountain fat bike.  My dad picked the 19 mile loop as he is preparing for his 50k in April.  We averaged 10:26 pace which included walking to eat, refuel, and get some video/photo footage of our run. The soft terrain of the pine barrens was welcoming to my feet and legs.  And of course I wore my Altra LonePeaks (my favorite trail shoe) and I didn’t get a single blister.  Although I only had 10-12 miles on my training plan, I couldn’t resist the trails on such a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Trail running is my favorite because you focus all your energy on the trail ahead of you.  You forget your worries, stressors, and emotions.  You just get out on the trail and run.  That’s my favorite.

Weekly total:  39.9 miles.

Here I sit now typing up this blog post with a glass of water to my right.  My legs are a tad bit stiff and I know that I will be sleeping with my Zensah compression socks on tonight.  Because of today’s long run and another great week of training, I feel happy and stress free.  Most of all, I feel alive.

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Stride for stride with my dad
Running and Resting

Running and Resting

This week I started my new part-time job and my internship.  My week started with some car troubles due to bitter cold temperatures but improved as the week progressed.  I took two consecutive days off from running and only was able to reach a 19.5 mile week (and over half of these miles were ran on Saturday and Sunday).  This low number frightens me but I need to recognize that this was a crazy, hectic, and exhausting week.  I need to accept the fact that this was a rough week of training.  Between my internship and new job I had four consecutive 13 hour days in which I was out of my house from 7:30AM until 8:30PM.  I was eating dinner at 9 o’clock at night and I barely had the energy to even do a 10-minute core workout.  I didn’t run on Monday or Tuesday due to car troubles and my new schedule.  Thursday morning I ran at 6AM.  I was anxious to get to the weekend to log some miles even though a blizzard was about to drop over a foot of snow on my house.

Although I am disappointed I didn’t get to run on Monday or Tuesday I am accepting that these days were rest days.  I know a lot of runners who believe in “run streaks” and training 7 days per week, 365 days per year.  I am not one of these runners.  I know runners who are okay with logging miles on the treadmill. I am not one of these runners either.  I know runners who are ok with trudging through a foot of snow for 12 miles just to get in their modified long run.  I am not one of these runners.

I enjoyed my Saturday and Sunday run even though I was running on a trail with over 12 inches of snow on it.  I got to see beautiful snow-covered trees and picturesque white fields.  I got to spend time outside and got a good workout from adjusting and readjusting my stride with every step.  I love a good challenge and this weekend’s runs definitely worked muscles I never even knew I had.

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Out for a 6.5 mile run in 12+ inches of snow with dad in #blizzard2016

I would like to say I am okay with only logging 19.5 miles this week.  I’m not okay with but I have to accept it.  I can’t reverse time and go back and run 5 miles last Monday.  I must only focus on the present and the future.  It’s okay to take a rest day when your car doesn’t cooperate.  It’s okay to take a rest day if there’s 12 inches of snow on the ground and you can’t get in your scheduled long run. There’s always tomorrow or the next day or the next.  It’s okay to take a rest day and it’s okay to modify whatever training plan you’re following.

After a crazy week of new beginnings, I’ve become more appreciative of every run I am able to go on.  Somedays my schedule literally only allots 30 minutes of running time.  And for those 30 minutes, I appreciate the run.  I’m grateful for those 30 minutes where I can do something I love to do.  It’s okay to take a break from running when life gets too overwhelming.  But next time you get out on the trails or the snow-covered sidewalk, don’t forget to be grateful for the run – every mile is a gift. 

run grateful

15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 3 of 3)

15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 3 of 3)

If you missed part 1 and 2 check them out here and here!

#11:  Be yourself.  This seems pretty straight forward but I’ve seen people change they way they talk or act when they’re with others.  It’s extremely frustrating when dealing with someone with a double-sided personality.  The best thing to do for personal growth and life enjoyment is to just be yourself.  If someone doesn’t like who you are then so be it.  And if you don’t like how someone else is behaving or treating you, you have no reason to feel ashamed to cut them out of your life.  Cut out the negative people in your life and I guarantee your state of happiness will increase tenfold.  When you cut out negative attitudes in your life you’ll find yourself drifting more towards people who are like-minded.  These people are similar to yourself in work ethic, motivation levels, and approach to life.  When you embrace your own individual personality you’ll be happier and more truthful to those around you.  Don’t hide who you are because most likely you’re limiting your friendships and relationships with others.  Be yourself – you have nothing to lose!

#12:  Trail running is my favorite:  I think I’ve known this for awhile but this year I’ve become even more appreciative of the trails.  There’s something about being outside, breathing in fresh clean air, and getting lost in the woods that is mentally refreshing.  I’ve found it easy to lose myself while trail running.  I’m not sure what I’m thinking about during a trail run but when I’m done running I feel instantly less stressed and less anxious.  Perhaps I’ve become more appreciative of the trails this year because at college 90% of my runs were on the roads. There’s something special about the dirt shifting beneath your running shoes and leaping over roots and fallen trees.  I may not be a strong climber (and several of my trail running companions will probably agree with that) but I just love being outside surrounded by trees.  Here’s to hoping both me and whomever if reading this blog right now will find new trails in 2016 and that we’ll follow the trail where ever it might lead us.

#13:  I don’t like gambling.  This year I turned 21.  For my 21st birthday, I opted to visit Atlantic City’s casinos.  The appeal of possibly winning money seemed great!  Two of my guy friends and, unstereotypically, my parents came to AC with me to celebrate.  After dinner and some wine, we went to Tropicana to play the slots.  (I know nothing about table etiquette in casinos so we avoided the tables).  I didn’t win any money that night – I walked out with less money than I walked in with.  Granted, I don’t like spending money anyways so I really didn’t even lose that much money, but I was still unhappy that the casino “stole” my money.  That’s when I knew I would never have a gambling problem.  My brother and I also visited family in California this summer and one night we decided to go to a casino.  My brother is only 18 but we went to a casino on an indian reservation where the legal gambling age is indeed 18.  I don’t even think I spent any money that night because I knew that I would probably walk out with less money than I went in with.  On the other hand, I think my brother gambled $5 and walked out with like $30.  Just my luck.  He gambles for the first time in his life, at age 18, and instantly earns money.  This was the second occasion where I realized I would never have a gambling problem.  Casinos and betting of any sort does not appeal to me.  I can at least say I went to a casino to celebrate being 21 but I probably won’t be returning to the slots any time soon.

#14:  Make new friends and keep good friends:  This year, with so many new adventures, I got to meet a lot of new (and awesome) people.  A lot of new friends came from the running community.  As I’ve mentioned before, people from the running community instantly earn my stamp of approval because 99% of runners have the same work ethic and approach to life.  Runners are also extremely easy to get along with.  (That’s why I swear if I ever get married, I’ll probably be marrying a runner.)  There’s some special bond that runners instantly share whether you’ve ran with them once or twice or countless amounts of time.  I probably sound like a broken record, but I am extremely grateful for all my friends who I’ve met through running – you all have a special place in my life and I look forward to the miles that lie ahead of us.  Likewise, I’ve come to learn this year to keep my good friends.  These are the people that look out for each other, give you advice when you need it, and check up on you at random.  These are the people that made this year survivable because without them I would probably be mentally lost.  These are the people that I was excited to share good news with.  There comes a time in your life when friends you thought would be by your side for eternity are no longer there for you.  Or maybe these people were poor influences on your behaviors and actions.  It’s ok to say goodbye to these people.  You deserve the best life possible – after all, you only get one lifetime.  I’ll say it over and over again, I’m the kind of person that would rather have four quarters than 100 pennies.  Choose your friends wisely.

#15:  Be a goal-setter and a goal-achiever:  Thanks to my Believe journal (which I encourage all (female) runners to buy), I set and achieved all the goals I established for 2015.  I had a life-changing year of running that will be hard to beat in 2016.  After running the Broad Street 10 Miler, completing 73 miles on the Appalachian Trail in three days, and completing my first marathon in under 4 hours, I realize the importance of goal-setting.  It’s easy to say “oh I want to run a 10 mile race” or “I want to go on a hike this summer” or “I want to run a marathon one day”.  By writing it down, making a plan, and then actually doing it you’ll feel an irreplaceable sense of accomplishment the day you reach your goal.  There’s a lot of preparation that goes into achieving a goal but it’s the feeling of accomplishment that occurs in the days following a completed goal that make you realize how powerful goal-setting is.  A lot of people will start 2016 with New Year’s resolutions (me included), but by writing it down and putting it somewhere where you see it every day you’ll having a greater chance of sticking to that resolution.  Find someone to hold you accountable for your actions (or lack there of).  Find a new workout buddy or drag your family members into your goal to keep you in check.  And it’s equally important to remember that you can be flexible with your goals.  If an injury comes along, you can alter your goals and then come back to your ultimate goal when you recover.  Set goals.  Work towards your goal.  And achieve your goal.  Let’s make 2016 another great year of goal setting and achieving!

I hope you learned a lot about yourself and your life this year.  Don’t lose sight of your dreams and aspirations.  Love your friends and family and, most importantly, yourself.

Wishing you a very happy new year with many blessings and good health in 2016.