RnR New Orleans Runcation!

About a month ago, I journeyed to the Big Easy to run a half-marathon with a group of friends from my local running store run club and, spoiler alert, it was awesome!! This was my first time in New Orleans, and my first time traveling with this group of people (they’ve done some other destination races together in years past, but I’m kind of new to the group), so I was a little nervous. I was also a little anxious about the race, because switching from the full down to the half meant that this was now a Goal Race, and would be the first big test of how my training was going with the new coach and leading up to December’s Big Goal.

We left DC on Friday 3/2, which was that absurdly windy day on the East Coast, with gusts in the 40-50mph range and sustained winds well over 20mph. Just the kind of day you want to be flying! We were incredibly lucky though – the majority of flights out of National were cancelled, but somehow Southwest was still getting its planes off the ground.

On the plane, enjoying Southwest’s open seating policy:

5ac51e02649e2_1Airplaneselfie.JPG.5b154dca93719dd4e00e9482373d6909.JPG

After the most nerve-wracking, stomach-rolling takeoff of my life, we had a short, uneventful flight to NOLA.

5ac51e07e6061_2landinginNOLA.thumb.jpg.d77c9e4fab8da52b8feffc4f8be43772.jpg

We landed around 7pm, checked into the hotel, and immediately headed out to the French Quarter for dinner. We ended up at an Irish bar called Erin Rose, which has a tiny po’ boy shop in the back called Killer Po’ Boys. The seared shrimp was delicious!

5ac51e0c000a8_3shrimppoboy.thumb.jpg.c39389232833c52d8b4d650557945648.jpg

We didn’t go too wild and crazy the first night, and my roommates and I were up early on Saturday morning so we headed to the Warehouse District to find some coffee. We ended up at a cute little coffee shop and got fancy cups of pour-over, which were made with LOTS of flair by the barista. He even had different temperature water for different types of beans. That is a level of coffee snobbery that I will never reach. It might have been the tastiest cup of coffee I’ve ever had though!

5ac51e12488fe_3bpourovercoffee.thumb.JPG.b8062e3bb683bb7117bcb2c6ac21c93f.JPG

After our coffee outing, we met up with a few other people from the group for a 3ish mile shakeout run, which I ended up leading because I was the only person who had looked at a map to figure out a route. My route ended at Cafe du Monde, because I’m not stupid.

5ac51e167b4b6_4CafeduMondeshakeoutrun.thumb.jpg.61ba1480266254399a38937e4b7a8f9e.jpg

(Also, after the cold, windy, gross weather we’d been having in DC for months, it was SO NICE to run in short sleeves and soak up the sunshine!)

5ac51e231cd16_6BeignetinJacksonSquare.thumb.JPG.a1db0ff8d34593e3217387d365c3a6e1.JPG

5ac51e20530a5_5Beignetgrouppic.thumb.JPG.305534e0854ee5ef974b6ecee5fd943e.JPG

Some people spent the morning at a cooking class, others went to a yoga class to stretch out before the race the next day. I spent a couple hours wandering around the French Quarter, which is a very different place in the daylight!

5ac51e5ef0671_14streetmusician.thumb.jpg.4589e7370109785e6e4f9cac3c64a8b6.jpg

5ac51e644ea7c_15Frenchquarter.thumb.JPG.5233c0b2173bacea6f434540a56f1b36.JPG

5ac51e6d872e3_16HotelMonteleone.thumb.JPG.09af14b8aba69c79639baae9f8079d1f.JPG

Later that afternoon, we walked to the convention center for packet pickup. I saw these beads adorning a mailbox on someone’s house.

5ac51e2ce8efb_6bMardiGrasbeadsonmailbox.thumb.JPG.ca12c933c0e6a9157aef264e93dcbc11.JPG

This was a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which was really poignant and interesting to see.

5ac51e335f9fc_6cHurricaneKatrinamemorial.thumb.JPG.3df8bf3d6ffefebfe8c25ddd9e81a247.JPG

We all reconvened at the expo, and managed to get one picture with the entire group!

5ac52b8ddf53a_grouppic.JPG.4595b6d6e761c6eef52ae1d7b85bc618.JPG

After the expo, I had an early dinner at a delicious Italian place with about half the group (the other half had made reservations elsewhere), and then called it an early night. But not before getting Flat Caitlin ready of course!

5ac51e3ab2fb5_7FlatCaitlin.thumb.JPG.eac59aa1913d47d9ef3dbedff0b24896.JPG

I was up at o’dark thirty to eat my bagel and peanut butter in dark so as not to disturb my roommates, both of whom were cheering instead of racing and so didn’t need to be up anytime soon. Thank goodness for back-lit Kindles!

I left with most of the other half/full runners (the 10K started earlier than the half/full, so those runners had already left) to walk to the starting area, which was only a few blocks from our hotel. I dropped off my checked bag, did 5-10 minutes of light jogging and some strides to loosen up, and mostly just paced around nervously. It was already warm enough that I wasn’t very chilly in my tank and shorts, and the sun was strong. My goal pace, according to Coach, as 7:41. Which just seemed absolutely crazypants! My prior half-marathon PR was 1:52:26, an 8:35ish pace. To be going out with a goal of a PR in the 10-minute neighborhood felt way too bold. But I figured what the heck? It’s “only” a half! If I blew up, I blew up, and it would only be bad for a handful of miles. But I wouldn’t know unless I tried. The course was totally flat; the biggest challenge would be the weather, since at 70+ degrees and sunny, it was solidly 30-40 degrees warmer than what I’d been training in.

After a pep talk from Kathrine Switzer, the gun sounded and we were off! I definitely went out too fast, and that may have come back to bite me later. But I felt good for the moment! I got my pace back under control for the next 5 or so miles, but then the heat really started to get to me. I’ve learned that I am just not a warm-weather runner, despite 10 years of living in DC. I started to really feel off around the 10K mark, and struggled to keep my pace under 8:00/mile. I knew that I would be seeing our cheer crew at Mile 9, and told myself that I could stay strong and focused until then. I made it that far, and then no matter how many times I told myself that it’s only 4 more miles, then only 3 more miles, I just lost it. My legs felt like stone and I was so very hot. The last 5K felt interminable.

But I finally made it to the last stretch leading into the park where we finished, and I was able to push my pace back down for the final 0.1 to finish strong in 1:45:27! A PR by almost exactly 7 minutes!

5ac51e44e92b3_9araceresults.thumb.PNG.5a42ef413b0ce5578b57bd21869e1a19.PNG

I was so very happy to be done!

5ac51e3f85f3c_8Medalselfie.thumb.JPG.702857fba2d35b5dd715d47555859fac.JPG

It is a pretty cool medal.

5ac51e438439b_9Racemedal.thumb.jpg.3e041ec47d38a8d04167dfcd3e3b7a70.jpg

I found a few of the faster half runners, and the 10K runners and we wandered back down the course to cheer on the rest of the people running the half. I stayed and cheered for a bit, but then needed to get back to the hotel to change for lunch. It turned out that an old friend and her husband happened to be in NOLA that weekend too, so I was able to meet up with them after the race! She’s a runner too, and is currently training for her first marathon back after a 4-year hiatus to have her kids, so we had lots to talk about! She’s crazy fast even after such a long break, and is going to be running Providence with a goal of BQing (again) so that she can run Boston 2019 for her 40th birthday.

Later that evening, I met up with my run club crew again and we headed out to the French Quarter for some shenanigans now that the work was done!

5ac51e48c38b5_10BourbonStreet.thumb.JPG.dd82f5dd2b91cedd4124d094218587c7.JPG

We were told by locals that Frenchman Street is way better than Bourbon Street, so we headed that way for some live music.

5ac51e4c9fd9e_11Livemusic.thumb.jpg.59df4681ea0769deb175e583faaa10cf.jpg

Monday morning, I got up and went to Cafe Beignet to do a scientific comparison with Cafe du Monde. My verdict: Cafe du Monde’s beignets are denser and chewier, and therefore better. But these were still delicious!

5ac51e51350e6_11bMorebeignets.thumb.JPG.0aa8b44a862711fc3fe3fba23f3b8463.JPG

Later in the morning, several of us did a cemetery tour in one of New Orleans’ historic cemeteries. It was super interesting!

5ac51e71be77e_17Cemeterytour1.thumb.jpg.e2950f6bb1f9c8d82e0dae987e682e51.jpg

5ac51e77d2b0b_18Cemeterytour2.thumb.jpg.f9d97c026138f04063f414d920766e8b.jpg

5ac51e7f136f3_19Cemeterytour3.thumb.jpg.f4f88c056b45ac75ff54dac53619c622.jpg

On Monday afternoon, I went for a nice easy run with one other girl from the group. I hadn’t met her before this trip (she used to live in DC and run with Pacers, but had moved to Tuscon for a job, so our paths hadn’t crossed), so it was really nice to chat with her on the run. We ran through the Garden District, which was much more enjoyable this time around than it had been the day before while I was suffering in the race. The houses were beautiful, and the flowers definitely lived up to the neighborhood’s name! One of my favorite things was that almost all the trees had Mardi Gras beads strewn all over them.

5ac51e5b41eb1_13Mardigrasbeadtree.thumb.JPG.a8911376ed4a227aeb3e5d56278a9544.JPG

We went four miles out, and then hopped on a streetcar and took it back a ways to meet up with some other folks for lunch at a Caribbean/Tiki place (what do those themes have in common? Rum!) While we were there, a sax player came by, and totally enthralled a baby a few tables over.

5ac51e5419324_12Lunchtimeserenade.thumb.JPG.8f2b4b1ea925b10c23c8e2091ad3cec2.JPG

Monday evening we explored some more bars in the French Quarter. At one point we successfully took over a cocktail bar and became the only people in it, which was a pretty solid accomplishment.

Our flight out wasn’t until 1pm on Tuesday, so I had time for one last beignet outing! I think these were beignets #10-12 of my weekend…

5ac51e8a308b0_21finalbeignets.thumb.jpg.4f4f5d992b87d14b00f454f5e1136967.jpg

Tuesday dawned pretty gross and rainy, so it was just as well that we were leaving.

5ac51e856b40d_20Rainylastmorning.thumb.JPG.5745fb3812b37746e80b6f3413f2f4d5.JPG

At the airport, my roommates and I enjoyed one last Abita Purple Haze before boarding.

5ac51e8c6719c_22Roomiepicture.thumb.jpg.da8315464f4c42aa3c1059c440d51a81.jpg

It was a blissfully short, uneventful flight back to DC! And this guy was definitely happy to have me back home.

5ac51e908ec25_23homewithShiloh.thumb.jpg.f146dbe24bdb1d5394bc0f2fa363afe4.jpg

I’m so glad that I went on this trip! New Orleans was such a fun city to visit, and even though the race didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, I’m really happy with it. I think if it had been 20 degrees cooler, it would have been a whole different ballgame. And who can be sad about a 7-min PR??

Next up: the George Washington Parkway Classic 10-Miler, one of my favorite local races! It’ll be my 7th year running it, and apparently my goal pace is 7:30-7:40! My speed workouts have been going super well in the last month, and it’s a fast course (net downhill, only 2 turns) where I’ve PRed all but one year (I was injured). So we’ll see!

But first, I’m heading down to North Carolina this weekend to hang out with some of my most favorite people in the world! Carissa, Jen, Angie, and I will be volunteering at the Umstead 100 in Raleigh on Saturday for the second year in a row. And this time we aren’t running a marathon the next day, so it should be even more fun!

Closing out 2017

I know it’s already February, and some people might think that the ship has sailed on end-of-year bloops. But hopefully none of those people are here, and if they are, they’re free to move along. Maybe my blog posts just like to be fashionably late?

So. 2017. In retrospect, this year was really focused on race experiences more than goal times. I started out the year in questionable fashion, battling a nasty bout of piriformis syndrome in January and February after not quitting a long run when I should have because finishing that run would mean breaking 60 miles/week for the first time. In retrospect, that was real dumb, as running those last 11 miles on a bum piriformis (lol, pun intended) took me out of commission for 6-7 weeks, during which there were a LOT fewer than 60 miles/week. You’d think I’d know better than to let the numbers be the boss of me by this point. By early March, my butt was feeling much better but my training had taken enough of a hit that I dropped from the Whale Challenge (8K + marathon) at Shamrock to the Dolphin Challenge (8K + half-marathon). But that turned out kind of awesome because 1) the weather was f-ing AWFUL, even by Shamrock standards, and 2) I was able to PR in both the 8K and half-marathon! Yay!

My first marathon of 2017 came in April, when I went down to Raleigh to hang out with three of the most BA runners you’ll ever meet and we ran the Rock n Roll Raleigh marathon the day after spending lots of hours on our feet volunteering at a 100-mile ultra. I didn’t get a finish time PR, but I’m pretty sure I set a personal best for 1) elevation gained in a race (Raleigh is hilly yo!), 2) fun had working at an aid station. Despite the hills, I was able to finish in a very comfortable 3:56:xx, setting me up for a streak of sub-4:00 marathons last year.

In May I went home to Massachusetts for my birthday and a race weekend! My mom and I went to Martha’s Vineyard for the inaugural Martha’s Vineyard Marathon weekend, which was a lot of fun except for the race, which honestly kinda sucked. But nevertheless, Mom finished her very first half-marathon!! And I squeaked out a 1-min PR to finish in 3:51:xx, which was also good enough for 1st in my AG (serving to remind me to run tiny races more often, because that is kind of ridiculous). July contained my first 5K in 2.5 years, which turned out to be a PR even though it was an evening race and evening-time in DC in July is basically the worst running conditions ever. In August I returned to the wilds of Vermont to join my second Vermont 100 on 100 relay team, which was once again super fun and awesome except that it screwed up my back pretty badly.

I had big marathon plans for the fall, so coming out of August with a bad back was definitely not what I had in mind. Plus, just typing “bad back” makes me feel way too old. I’m only 31; I should not be worrying about throwing my back out. My mildly-herniated disc disagreed, apparently. And obviously I trained through that longer than I should have, because I had goals dammit! So I was finally forced to take some time off in early-mid September, right when I was supposed to be hitting my peak mileage for the Wineglass Marathon. On the plus side, I got to try muscle relaxants for the first time. I went into Wineglass weekend with some trepidation, but in keeping with the theme of the year I was really more focused on the whole weekend rather than just the race. Both of my parents were with me, because Mom was running half-marathon #2 and we’d planned a side-trip after the race to Ithaca, NY, to visit my college stomping grounds for the first time since I graduated in 2008. Plus there were going to be a whole bunch of Loopsters at Wineglass, so it was going to be fun no matter what! It ended up being an amazing weekend all around: I finished in a strong-feeling 3:45:21, a PR by nearly 6 minutes and had a ton of fun with my family and the other Loopsters.

A few weeks later I traveled north again, this time to the Big Apple for the most amazing race experience EVER: the NYC Marathon! My mom met me in the city and we had an awesome mother-daughter weekend staying in Hells Kitchen, going to a Broadway show, and soaking up the whole marathon weekend experience. The race itself was beyond incredible, and wrote an entire bloop on that if you need any convincing to throw your name into the lottery for a future race. Talk about an amazing race experience. My nearly easy-feeling 3:52:xx finish was just the icing on the NY-style cheesecake.

Finally, December brought my all-around favorite race weekend of each of the past 5 years: Rehoboth!! We had another houseful of Loopsters traveling to Delaware (plus one who lives there) for the race and accompanying shenanigans. I had a much better marathon than last year’s 12-mile puke-fest, thankfully! I felt really strong through the first half, and set a nice little 90ish-second PR at the halfway point (1:50:xx), and then crashed and burned pretty thoroughly, which was not exactly surprising as this was my 3rd marathon in 9 weeks. But I finished out my streak of sub-4:00 marathons with a 3:50:xx finish time and a smile on my face!

I ran 1,870 miles in 2017, a new personal best by 315 miles. There were some ups and downs in there, but overall it was an awesome running year, and I’m so glad that I got to hang out with Loopsters for five of my races this year and have some incredible new race experiences! I have some big goals for 2018 (really, just one BIG goal), but that’s for another blog post. Maybe I’ll even get that written before another month has passed? Anyway, happy 2018!

The City So Nice They Named it Twice

Oh goodness, where to start? The New York City Marathon was so much more awesome than I ever imagined, and I’m sure I won’t do justice to the experience here. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try!

I left DC on Thursday via Amtrak (my favorite way to travel anywhere on the I-95 corridor), with coffee in my hands and manic excitement in my eyes…

1 -Union station coffee

I arrived at NY Penn Station around noon, and walked the handful of blocks north to the Port Authority bus terminal, where my mom was due in at 12:30 from MA. We walked another handful of blocks together up to Hell’s Kitchen, where our (definitely illegal but super convenient) AirBnB was located. Checking in was fast and easy, and within a little while we were on the move again, this time south towards the Javits Center where the expo was held (with a quick stop for lunch first; a girl’s gotta eat).

2 - expo welcome sign

Entering the expo was SO EXCITING and a lot less hectic than I’d imagined. We got through security quickly and were free to wander the many, many aisles of NYC-branded running-related goodies. But first, I just had to pose in front of this huge blow-up of one of my favorite race pictures ever:

3 - Expo big picture

In the small section of the expo not dedicated to blatant consumerism (no judgement; I succumbed) there was a HUGE tabletop map of the marathon course. This this was practically life-size!

4 - expo big course map

On Thursday evening, Mom and I went to the New York Road Runners (NYRR) Marathon Pavilion located next to the finish line in Central Park, because I’d reserved us tickets for a screening of the Boston Marathon documentary that was released in April. The Pavilion had the ginormous wall of names of *almost* all the race entrants (sorry Jay-Zee).

5 - big wall of names

Thanks to Mom for spotting me!

6 - wall of names Caitlin

Seeing the movie again was so great, and definitely stoked some fires in my goal-oriented little mind. I think Mom enjoyed seeing it too, as well as getting a preview of what a ridiculous blubbering mess I’m going to be should I ever be lucky enough to qualify for and run Boston. As a special treat, Bill Rodgers was in the house and did a Q&A after the film!

7 - Bill Rodgers

He was a bit spacier than I’d expected, and didn’t so much answer questions as reminisce about races of yore… But who can blame him? He’s Bill-freaking-Rodgers and can talk about whatever he wants.

On Friday morning, I woke up early-early to go get a fresh bagel at 6:30am. Because, New York City. Then at a more civilized hour, I made my way to the NYRR Run Center to join a marathon-focused running tour of some of the historical sites of Central Park! There were about 20 people in the tour group, and the leader kept the pace to a nice and leisurely 10:15-10:30/mile. While we were hanging out in the Run Center waiting for the tour to depart, guess who walks in. Emma Coburn!! You know, the World Champion and American record-holder steeplechaser. #steeplepeople

I didn’t talk to her or anything, but let me tell you, she is just as gorgeous in person as she looks on tv.

Anyway, the tour got underway and we made it to the Park! One of the places we stopped for a story was on Cat Hill, so named for this cool bronze statue of a mountain lion-type kitty perched on the side of the road ready to pounce on unsuspecting runners and cyclists.

8 -cat hill

Another place we paused for some stories was at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which was just beautiful:

10 - reservoir skyline

Thankfully it was a nice warm day, because we stopped for stories and pictures about every quarter mile, which would have been torturous had it been cold!

One of the last places we stopped was at the marathon finish line, where this guy was hanging out for the weekend:

11 - Fred Lebow statue

This is Fred Lebow, founder of the NYC Marathon, standing watch over the finish line ready to click off your time on his watch. Normally he lives over at the 90th Street entrance to Central Park, but the NYRR move him over to the finish line for race weekend. I imagine he appreciates the gesture.

On Friday afternoon, Mom and I did some wandering around Manhattan. We visited Washington Square Park, walked around Soho, window shopped along 5th Avenue, did some top-notch carb loading…

12 - cupcake box

We paid a visit to the finish line in Central Park so Mom could see it (she would be avoiding that insanity on race day):

Then on Friday night we had dinner with my cousin and his wife, who live in NYC, and then saw Kinky Boots on Broadway! What an incredibly fun, uplifting show that is!! If you have the chance, I highly recommend seeing it!

On Saturday, we did some more wandering around the city, because it is just too wonderful not to enjoy!

rockefeller center

NYC architecture blows me away, whether it’s huge skyscrapers or gorgeous little details that are too easy to miss.

pretty lamp

On Saturday evening, Mom and I met up with the other Loopsters running the marathon (plus a local one – hi christine.eliz!) for a delicious pasta dinner. After dinner, we managed a group photo in the craziness of Times Square.

times square loopsters

I needed to be at my bus to the start line by 5:45am the next morning, so we called it a night very early on Saturday. But not before getting Flat Caitlin ready!

14a - flat caitlin

(wow, three pages in and the race hasn’t even started yet! #sorrynotsorry #doallthethings #yolo)

My alarm went of so very early on Sunday, but I bounded out of bed with all the energy I seriously wish I had on speedwork mornings.

I left the apartment to walk over to the library where the bus would take me to the start line on Staten Island. It was about a 20-minute walk from the apartment, which I normally wouldn’t recommend at 5:15am, but it was one of those special race experiences because I was accompanied by so many other throwaway clothes-clad runners!

As I walked towards the long line of buses, I looked up and saw the Chrysler Building in all its Art Deco glory:

15 - Chrysler building

Quickly enough, I was settled in on the bus and ready for the hour-ish long drive to Staten Island.

16 - bus selfie

I noshed on my bagel and peanut butter, drank some Gatorade, and dozed a bit during the ride.

Eventually the sun came up, and shortly thereafter we arrived at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, and I tried to figure out where I was supposed to be in this massive runner village.

17 - start village sign

It was pretty exciting to see the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge off in the distance, and know that I’d be running over it so soon!

18 - bridge from start village

I passed the Dunkin Donuts truck and got my awesome orange and pink fleece hat! It was chilly enough that the warm hat was a nice bonus while sitting around. I found my way to the Orange Village, and settled into a comfy patch of grass near the corral entrances to hang out for the 3ish hours before my wave was called. I ate a bit more of my bagel, as well as a fun-sized Snickers left over from my parents’ Halloween stash (which Mom very nicely brought with her to NYC), and passed some time by reading the race program. There are always so many compelling human stories in a marathon.

I laid down on my foil blanket, wrapped snuggly in my throw-away sweats and blanket, and actually managed to fall asleep for about 45 minutes. I awoke abruptly, and lost at least 5 years off my life, when I heard the sound of an explosion seemingly right next to my head! Having just watched the Boston documentary, which prominently featured the 2013 bombing, and given the truck attack that had just occurred in NYC earlier in the week, I was apparently VERY on-edge, and awoke in an absolute panic thinking that something unconscionable had happened.

No worries! It was just the first start canon, signaling the beginning of the professional wheelchair division at 8:30. I did not get back to sleep after that… And I jumped every time the cannon subsequently, which it did numerous times before my own start (Achilles handcycle and disabled athletes start, Footlocker Five-Borough Challenge start, professional women’s start, and Wave 1 start).

Finally it was time to start my own migration towards my corral (which luckily had portapotties in it since we have to be inside 45 minutes before our start time!). I made it through the three bib checks and into the corral, where I hung out some more and chatted with a woman from Ireland and a man from England. And took a selfie, because why not?

21 - start line selfie

FINALLY it got to be almost 10:15, time for Wave 2 to start! The ropes were dropped, and the corrals started moving slowly towards the starting line on the bridge. We got to the staging area just before the bridge, and could hear the announcer introducing the wave. They played “God Bless America” over the loudspeakers, and then Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” which some German guys behind me tried to sing along to, with hilarious results. Being in the middle of this crush of enthusiastic humanity was absolutely electric.

20 - start line with bridge

And then the cannon sounded again and we were off! It only took me a couple of minutes to cross the start line, and then I was running on top of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge! I think I spent the first two miles just whispering “this is really happening; I’m running the New York City Marathon” to myself. I barely noticed the incline of the first mile on the bridge because I was too busy enjoying the moment and soaking up the view from the bridge, foggy as it was. I tried not to look at my watch too often because pace wasn’t important to me today. I had no time goals for the race, and with so many people around me at all times it wasn’t going to be easy to maintain an even pace anyway.

We got off the bridge at Mile 2ish, made a couple of turns, and started up 4th Avenue, which would take through Brooklyn all the way to Mile 8. And this is where the real fun started, and didn’t let up for the next 24 miles. The crowd was absolutely deafening. I thought I was prepared for raucous crowd support, but I had no idea. I’m SO GLAD that I put my name on my shirt for this race, because I felt like a freaking superstar the entire time. There wasn’t a single mile where I didn’t hear multiple people yelling “Go Caitlin! I see you Caitlin!! You got this Caitlin!” at me, and it was AWESOME.

A friend of mine happened to be visiting Brooklyn over race weekend and she took this picture of me somewhere along the course. I didn’t see her and certainly didn’t know she was taking a picture, but I had this goofy smile on my face the entire way because it was so much fun!

22 - running in brooklyn

I stayed along the left side of the route so that I could more easily high-five everyone within reach. Tangents be damned. My watch registered a 26.8-mile marathon but it was totally worth it.  

I kept waiting for the fatigue to set in, or to get annoyed by the constant press of runners around me, or to get to the mental state of just wanting the race to be done with. It never happened. I felt so strong and fresh the whole time, and every new cheer from the crowd and high-five from a group of kids or police or firefighters gave me a new burst of energy.

23 - mid race running

Literally the only stretch of the race where I felt just a little bit tired and cranky was on the Queensboro Bridge from Miles 14.5-16. We were on one half of the lower level of the bridge, so it was narrower than the course had been previously, and created a pretty bad bottleneck that slowed everyone down, and being on the lower level was kind of dark and gloomy. I also had a near-collision with the people next to me when someone who had stepped off the course to the left decided to step back onto the course directly in front of me *at a walk.* #rude But no one fell over and everyone seemed pretty chill given the crowded conditions we were all trying to navigate.

I knew that my mom would be near mile 18 at 93rd Street, so that was a good motivator to get through the bridge section and the first couple of miles up First Avenue in Manhattan. I ran over to see her and give her a hug, and hand off the Dunkin Donuts hat that I’d been hanging onto for 18 miles! The crowds in Manhattan were awesome as well, although I think Queens and the Bronx are tied for loudest, rowdiest spectators. The stretch through the Bronx was short but memorable thanks to the enthusiastic support of the crowds. At Mile 21, we reached the Madison Avenue Bridge leading back into Manhattan, and proceeded south on Fifth Avenue.

24 - mid race on bridge

I saw my cousin and his wife at 110th Street, and they’d even made a sign for me, which was such a fun surprise to see at Mile 22.5. I knew that we entered Central Park at 90th Street, so I was counting down the blocks until we go there. There was some uphill along Fifth Avenue, and it gave me a nice mental boost to pass people this late in the race AND going uphill #sorrynotsorry #yougotchicked

We entered Central Park at 90th Street, just before Mile 24, and proceeded down the hill we’d run up during my NYRR tour of the park. We exited the park a bit past Mile 25, and ran along Central Park South nearly the whole width of the park. The crowds here were still awesome and loud, despite the fact that it had now been raining for about 3.5 hours and wasn’t the loveliest day to stand outside. I kept passing people here, and made a special effort to pass a dude in a full-length Superman cape. I was determined not to have some big red cape ruin MY finish line photo!

We jumped back into the park off Columbus Circle and passed the Mile 26 marker shortly thereafter. I started getting really emotional as I simultaneously pushed towards the finish line and tried to soak up every last second of these final moments of the race. This was my 15th marathon, and the first time that I’ve ever been sad to cross the finish line. Of course I was also super happy with my experience, and completely thrilled to have finished well under the 4-hour mark!

25 - Finish line BP

Official time: 3:52:16

I got my medal, and immediately stopped to capture the moment.

26 - medal selfie

A few minutes later I got to the foil blanket distribution, which was much appreciated because the chilly rain felt a lot less good while hobbling along than it did while running.

27 - foil blanket walk

I had opted for the post-race poncho option rather than bag check. I’d heard such wonderful things about these ponchos that I was pretty excited to get mine! The walk to where the volunteers were handing them out was considerably longer than I’d expected, and it was uphill. #notcool But about 20 minutes after crossing the finish line, a lovely volunteer finally wrapped me in the warm, waterproof, insulated poncho and life was grand. 

28 - blue poncho walk

I walked for a few more minutes to wear Mom and I had planned to meet. I saw her waiting for me, and the first thing she said when I reached her was, “SHALANE WON!!!!” My approximate reaction?

shalane

(thanks to Corc-o-rama for the image)

It was such a perfect cherry on top of an already perfect marathon sundae to learn that Shalane finally got her so-well-deserved moment of glory! And knowing that I crossed that very same finish line 90ish minutes later was so cool!

On Monday Mom and I had a lovely breakfast at a cute little diner near our AirBnB, and then headed back towards Port Authority and Penn Station to catch our respective transportation home. But first I needed to get my hands on the Marathon Monday edition of the New York Times!

29 - New York Times

I really can’t say enough good things about my New York City Marathon experience. It was impeccably well organized for such a huge event (over 51,000 finishers!), and the people of New York completely floored me with their energy and support through every mile of the race. I’m so thankful that I got to have this experience this year. Marathon #15 is definitely one that I’ll never forget!

 

Wineglass Marathon Race Report – Everything is Awesome!!

TL;DR: Wineglass Marathon was amazing! I ran my most consistent race and got a PR by nearly 6 minutes. Parents and Loopsters made it extra-special. 10/10, would run again.

The parents and I arrived in Corning, NY, late Friday afternoon. We checked into our hotel and met up with Liz and Peg for a drink and bite to eat nearby. It’s always great to catch up with Loopsters, and it was fun for my parents to meet some of the people that I talk about so much. It had been a long day of driving from Massachusetts, so we called it a night pretty early.

Saturday morning started out with a short and fun shakeout run with the Loop ladies:

shakeout run

Later in the day, we went to the Corning Museum of Glass, where the race expo was held. Very cool venue for sure! The expo was surprisingly large for such a small race, and the swag we got was top-notch. High quality half-zip pullover specific to the race distance (which I LOVED! I’m always kind of disappointed when there’s a single shirt for all distances), a wine glass, a split of sparkling wine, and a nice drawstring backpack to put it all in. After the expo, the parents and I visited the museum itself, which was very cool! We saw some contemporary art installations made of glass, as well as some breathtaking glass mosaics made and/or designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

On Saturday evening, the parents and I went to the official pre-race pasta dinner, because securing a dinner reservation in Corning turned out to be way more stressful than I would have expected. So the official dinner seemed like the safest bet, and the menu we saw online was much actually really great-looking! Turns out that this was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend! I shouldn’t have been surprised, because runners are the best people ever. But our tablemates were completely delightful, and we quickly got into sharing race stories and training experiences and our goals for the next morning. The food was plentiful and delicious, and I tried a couple of new things that worked out amazingly well and might become part of my goal race routine: gluten-free pasta (this one was corn-based) and a baked potato. I picked the corn pasta because it was spaghetti-shaped, while the regular wheat pasta was short (farfalle or something) and I just like long pasta better. But my stomach was noticeably calmer than usual the next morning, so maybe it’s something to consider for future races.

Anyway, the main attraction of the pre-race dinner was the featured speaker: Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray! He was funny, self-deprecating, charming, and inspiring as hell. It was such a great way to get pumped up for the next day’s race, and definitely further stoked my desire to qualify for and run Boston in the near-ish future (more on that eventually. I’m not ready to put my plans down in black and white yet.).

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and got ready for race day! Mom and I got our flat girls ready (she was running her second half-marathon!) and we put ourselves to bed. #racenailsonpoint

The next morning dawned cold and crisp, which was exactly perfectly right for an October race in central NY! But for this pseudo-Southerner used to the never-ending DC summer, it was soooooooo cold!! I just kept telling myself how good it would feel once we got running. Mom and I caught our respective buses to the half- and full-marathon start lines (the half-marathon started at the half-way point of the full course), and I quickly found the other Loopsters once I got to the marathon start line staging area. Another awesome thing about Wineglass: they had a lovely big tent for us to wait in, which got nice and toasty once several hundred runners were packed inside! It was so great to be able to stay warm-ish and sit down on actual chairs while waiting to toe the line.

loopsters prerace

Eventually it was time to walk over to the start line and get this show on the road! I chucked off my layers of Dad’s old sweatshirts and lined up next to the 3:45 pacer. Most of my training this summer had been done with a 3:40 in mind, but then I hurt my back in August and missed about three of the highest-intensity weeks of the training plan. I’d felt good in the few weeks leading up to the race, but I knew those weeks off had cost me something. I thought that an 8:35 pace seemed reasonable, all things considered, and figured I’d start there and if I had to back off, then so be it. The gun went off and we ran into the misty morning. The fog was pretty thick for almost the first half of the race, and it kept the air quite chilly! I didn’t ditch my gloves or makeshift tube sock arm warmers until at least 10 miles in, which is highly unusual for me.  I stuck to the pacer like glue, and to my pleasant surprise, the 8:35ish pace felt practically effortless. After battling the heat and humidity of DC for so many months, feeling cold while running was kind of amazing and definitely made a huge difference in my race.

The course (or at least what we could see of it through the fog) was pretty and quiet and rural. There were small pockets of spectators as we went through small towns, but it was pretty zen overall. I just listened to my music and tried to trust the pacer rather than check my own watch every few minutes. The pace group was pretty big, and several people were chatting steadily as we ran. I tried to tune them out and just keep my breathing steady and not worry about anything more than taking my gels on time.

The pace was still feeling really good at the halfway point, and when the pacer peeled off to use the bathroom I took the opportunity to surge ahead a little bit. I was tired enough that his banter and people’s talking was getting annoying, and I wanted to just run my own race from this point on. I tried to keep my pace as steady as I could just ahead of them. I felt pretty good about the fact that they never passed me after that.

Around Mile 18 or so I really started to drag, and I focused on just getting through the intervals in between gels. I felt so good about how the race had gone thus far, and worked hard to maintain that psychological momentum if not the physical. I didn’t let my pace stray too far above the 8:35 target, and I tried to take it one mile at a time.

Eventually I reached the little bridge that leads into downtown Corning, and there was only one left turn remaining between me and that finish line. I took out my earbuds when I made the turn onto Market Street with about half a mile to go. This would be the greatest number of spectators I’d seen all day and I wanted to soak up the cheering, because I knew that I’d run my butt off for a nice PR!

This was my face when I knew that I was about to finish in 3:45:xx:

Finish line excited

Official time: 3:45:21. A PR by 5 minutes and 39 seconds, and my most steady marathon splits ever:

splits

I definitely credit the pace group with keeping me in line during the first half of the race, and enabling me to save up the energy for the second half.

Such an awesome race calls for another Bangle Pump:

Finish line BP

I spotted Peg shortly after I finished and got the quick version of her race. After getting some snacks, I found my parents back along Market Street. My mom had finished her race with a 7-minute PR! Then I got to see Liz finish looking crazy fast and strong!

Eventually we got all the Loopsters back together for a group picture. PRs all around!! Wineglass is just that awesome!

loopsters

I printed out my official results, which I have almost certainly since lost but it was nice to have the record in-hand even briefly.

official results

In another super cool feature, they had these race clocks where you could punch in your bib number and bring up your time for a photo op:

time clock

Everything about this race weekend fell into place perfectly. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I was really worried about how my unplanned time off would affect my fitness. This may not have been exactly the time I’d planned for at the beginning of my training cycle, I really couldn’t be happier with how I felt or how I did once it all came together.

medal selfie 2

Now that the goal race for the fall is behind me, I’m focusing on having fun! To that end, I leave on Thursday for what will surely be a VERY different New York marathon experience: the New York City Marathon on November 5th!! I can’t wait to get to the city and see all of the craziness of the expo and race pavilion and everything. It’s sure to be an unforgettable race experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race Report: International Edition! Killarney 10 Mile Road Race

Let me preface this by saying that I am generally not an impulsive person. I’m a planner through and through. I planned this trip to Ireland over the course of about 6 months. I usually only buy something unexpected if I couldn’t stop thinking about it over the course of a few days. I have always had my race schedule mapped out months in advance. Signing up for a race the night before was a new experience for me, and I’m so glad I went for it!

I drove into Killarney on Friday night, my 5th day in Ireland. It had been a long (but wonderful!) day of wandering all over the southern coast of the country:southern-coast-driving-route

I started in Baltimore, drove to Mizen Head, then all around the Beara Peninsula, and finally up to Killarney. Lots more on the trip later!

So far, I’d run in Dublin and in Kilkenny, but not more than 5 miles. For this weekend, I was supposed to do my last long-ish run of marathon training (12 miles), and I was more than a little apprehensive about finding a safe route for that distance in a place that was so unfamiliar. Outside of the main part of town, it seemed like the sidewalks quickly disappeared, and the very narrow Irish roads didn’t feel very pedestrian-friendly.

As I was driving into the center of town on the way to my B&B, I saw a little sign on the side of the road advertising the Kilkenny Road Race the next day! What were the chances that I could participate in that?? After I got checked into my B&B and onto the wifi, I quickly Googled the race and learned that not only was it a 10-miler (close enough to 12 for me!), but that registration was still open for another hour that night, AND registration and the start/finish were less than half a mile away from the B&B! Talk about luck of the Irish!

So I hurried over to the school where registration was still happening (the purpose of the race was to raise money to build a track at the school), found the room with the volunteers and asked if I could still sign up. A guy who turned out to be big in the Killarney running club pointed to the table and told me that “Team USA signups are right over here!” I filled out the registration form, paid my 20 euro (total bargain!), and got my tshirt and bib. Less than an hour after seeing the sign by the road, I was in the race!

race-shirt-and-bib

I dropped by stuff off at my room, and headed back out to find some dinner. I was in such a state of euphoric excitement! Not only would I get a solid long run in on the trip, but I’d get to be part of the running community here! And have an awesome unexpected souvenir running shirt!

The next morning dawned gray and wet, but that didn’t dampen my excitement in the least! And I felt so well-rested with the luxurious 9am start time and short walk to the race area. It was pretty warm (high 50s/low 60s), so the rain and medium wind made for a nice crisp racing temperature. I spent about half a second telling myself that this was a LONG RUN and not a race, and I should just keep to a nice comfortable pace. And then I said whatever, just run the way you feel.

I got to the start line about 20 minutes before 9:00, and it was quite a different experience than I’m used to! I knew that this was going to be a much smaller race (only a few hundred people, compared to the smallest one I’ve done in DC which is about 2,000), but I was still surprised by the bare-bones start. No port-a-potties, no start line arch, no music playing, no corrals, nothing. Just a bunch of runners huddling under trees trying to stay dry!

group-pic

(I’m in the blue tshirt and white hat on the right side)

There were a couple photographers there taking pictures for the race’s Facebook page, so this is just a random group of us who were near each other, trying to look happy to be there (I didn’t have to try very hard, but some of the other runners were grumpy about the weather).

It was fun to chat with some of the other runners while we waited for the gun, and several of them were pretty amused by my spontaneous race entry. It was also fun to check out the shirts from other races that people were wearing, since most of them weren’t races I’d heard of (though I did see one Boston tshirt and one NYC Marathon jacket). I learned that there’s a Dingle Marathon on the gorgeous Dingle Peninsula, which totally went to the top of my bucket list since I didn’t have time to drive around Dingle like I’d hoped on this trip.

Once it was time to start, everyone moved out of the trees and into the road, the pacers took their places (I was a little surprised that there were pacers at all in this small a race!), and without much pomp or circumstance, we were off! The beginning of the race wound back through town, and right past my B&B. Then we turned out towards the more rural areas, and things just kept getting prettier (not to say that Killarney isn’t a pretty town, because it definitely is). Mile 3 was mostly uphill, but the view from the top was just amazing! Lush green pastures with sheep and cows in the foreground, and the hills and lakes of Killarney National Park in the background. I didn’t even give a thought to muscle fatigue while taking in that landscape.

killarney-national-park-view

(I don’t carry my phone in races, so this is not that exact view, but it was pretty close. Taken while hiking in the park later in the day.)

We ran along that high rural road for a while, and then turned downhill for a long stretch. Wheeeeeee!! And then we ran right into the national park! Sometimes not looking at the course ahead of time can have its advantages, because this was an awesome surprise! Nearly the entire rest of the course was run on bike/walking paths through the park. At one point I saw a sign saying that it was the red deer’s rutting season, so visitors should stay on the path and not disturb them. Then just around the next turn I saw a huge group of those red deer! Probably about 20 of them hanging out along the pathway.

There was another big uphill later in the race, but again, the view from the top was completely spectacular. The path carried us through wide meadows with deer and cattle, and then through thickly wooded areas smelling wonderfully of pine and cedar.

In the last mile of the race, the path ran parallel to a stream, which had flooded badly due to all the rain. So we ended up with two surprise water crossings! The water was about 6-8” deep, and thoroughly soaked me from the knees down when I splashed through, but I thought it was great fun! Especially since we only had about ¾ of a mile left to endure with sodden shoes.

Finally, I came around the final turn and back onto the ground of the school where we’d started. Around the field and under the arch (there was at least an arch for the finish line!). Final time: 1:24:49. A 38-second PR from my George Washington Parkway Classic 10-miler in April! I was very pleasantly surprised by my time, as I hadn’t really been aiming for a particular pace throughout the race in my enjoyment of the experience, and the hills had been no joke. But it was just an added bonus on what was already a fantastic race morning.

I enjoyed a sausage breakfast roll in the cafeteria where there was a post-race gathering (way better than a stale bagel and banana!), and then headed home.

medal-selfie

Here’s the elevation chart from Garmin:

elevation-chart

And my splits:

splits-edited

I was shocked to see that sub-8:00 mile split flash by, but it was definitely a fun downhill!

I’m so, so happy that I stumbled upon this race. It was a fantastic addition to an already-wonderful trip, and so much fun to experience a race in a very new place!

2018 Dingle Marathon anyone??

 

 

 

The hay is in the barn

This morning I ran my third and final 20-miler in preparation for the Hartford Marathon! Three weeks until race day!!

It was long and hot and muggy, much like summer in DC. I opted for an out-and-back along Rock Creek Parkway and the Capital Crescent Trail today, which ended up being quite lovely, aside from the long, slow climb from miles 6-10 on the CCT. I also encountered not one, but two races during my run! The first was the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, which is done in part on Rock Creek Parkway. I got to see the hand-cyclists out front, and lots of runners heading north on the Parkway as I ran south. Then when I got onto the Capital Crescent Trail, I saw that there was a marathon going on on the C&O Canal Towpath today too! Fall race season has definitely started here!

I really hope that I’m ready for a great race in Hartford on the 8th. My mind keeps dwelling on the handful of workouts that I skipped over the last 18 weeks for one reason or another. I think most were easy runs that I skipped because I was still feeling extra sore and/or fatigued from whatever harder workout had happened the day before, and figured that a day of rest might be more productive. But there were also at least a couple of speed workouts and pace runs that didn’t get done. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes other running interferes, like when I skipped a 9-mile pace run the day after the Vermont 100 on 100 Relay, because there was no way I was running at all, let alone at race pace, after battling those hills all through the day before. Sometimes I just didn’t feel like it. That’s usually what happens with track workouts. I really, really hate 800s. They’re the worst. And there was one week when I just didn’t want to do them. So I didn’t, even though I knew the only person on God’s green earth who cared whether or not I got my run done was me. So yeah, a few workouts got skipped here and there over the last several months. But I have a hard time believing that any one of those is going to make or break my race next month. So now that the taper is here, it’s time to put my faith in my training (the majority of which went really well!) and just think positively. Hopefully this all leads to a big PR in Hartford! And if not, there’s always another race. (For real: Marine Corps is only three weeks later!)

But right now, I have other things on my mind: I’M GOING TO IRELAND!! Like, tonight!! What better way to start the taper than to go on my first big solo trip, to a foreign country no less? I’m flying out tonight, and will arrive in Dublin tomorrow morning, maybe not quite as fresh as a daisy (is anyone fresh after a red-eye?), but ready for adventure! I’ll be spending the first couple of days in Dublin, and then heading out for two weeks of driving around the country and seeing all the things! I certainly hope to run some while I’m there, but 1) that’s not the main focus of this trip, and 2) a big reason I chose to travel during my taper is so that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’m running much. The important work is done, and if I can just get in enough miles to balance out all those full Irish breakfasts, I’ll be a happy lass.

Confession time: I’m terrified. This will be only my second time traveling overseas at all, and I’m doing it alone. I’m scared that I’ll get lost and panicky, and that I’ll be incredibly lonely, and that I’ll miss having someone to share these stories with. But I am also so excited to prove to myself that I can do this. I’ve planned out the important stuff, like where I’m sleeping each night and how I’m getting around. Everything else will fall into place. Probably. I may wish that someone was there to talk to when I feel isolated, but I’m also going to relish being able to do my own thing the whole time. No one will get impatient with me if I take forever trying to capture the perfect photo. I can take whatever detours strike my fancy, and eat whatever and whenever I feel like it. And everyone and their brother keeps telling me what a fantastically friendly place Ireland is, so if I can get over my own shyness and be open to chatting with strangers, I know I’ll encounter some friendly faces. So I am scared, for sure. But I’m also confident that this trip is going to be amazing, and something that I’ll be so glad I worked up the courage to do.