Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Signing Up for Races (And Why That’s Not Good…)

So when I jotted down my running goals for 2018, I must have omitted “running all the races” though that’s one I’m definitely well on my way to achieve!

The first two races I signed up for were the National Women’s Half Marathon (I actually registered very early when facebook kept feeding me ads for their $1 registration — I paid $10) and of course the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler (race recap here). These two alone would have been a nice progression. A 16 kilometers race in early April and a 21 kilometer race at the end of the month. Smart way to do it. Even as I added Pacers’ St Pats Day race on March 17, a 10K, 16K and 21K within 6 weeks was already a good little race schedule. And then I went registration crazy. I decided I would try to do the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall, so I signed up for the Access Granted 17.75K (read my recap here. I *loved* that race!) . And the Rock’n’Roll half marathon. And the Brooklyn half. And the Virginia Wine Country Half. And this just in because can’t stop won’t stop, a 10K in Boston while I’m there having a fun girls’ weekend with my roommates from college. Before I knew it, this is why my race schedule looked like for the spring:

At first it was fun. Yeah, medals! Race pictures! And then a little before the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler I started to burn out I guess. Racing wasn’t fun anymore. I needed some recovery time before each race, and a bit of a taper before so I wasn’t really running at all except for races and I also wasn’t going to Cyclebar anymore. I missed my training routine. I got tired of not being able to make plans with friends because “I had another race that day”. Now I know that’s probably not going to get better as I start training for a marathon and doing crazy long runs but each race just started feeling less and less special. And I’m sure my instagram feed could use something beside bib pics and medal Mondays. Also, my blog could use a few non-running related posts. I know 😉 

I’ve always been bad at sticking to a training, especially getting those long runs done.  Actually I have a hard time getting runs done by myself period. If walking is an option, I’m always going to chose it because I love walking so much. I’m really good at walking too! So I joined some running groups to make running more fun but also make sure I resisted that walking temptation. And I did the training program with Potomac River Running ahead of the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. It was just what I needed to make that extra effort to run all the miles I was supposed to. I know for a fact that had it not been for that added accountability, there are many a morning when it was cold and raining/snowing when I would just have stayed home instead. But I had a group to meet so I sucked it up and got it done. And that’s what I needed. Then I started missing group runs because I had races. But in my head, when I signed up for all these races I thought they’d actually be good for my training. They would force me to get in a long 21.1 km run. Except then I wasn’t racing, I was just running. I wasn’t getting faster or seeing my pace improve which it should have. My last half marathon, I finished in the exact same time as the one before. So running all the races isn’t making me progress as a runner, I’m just accumulating medals for my brand new rack at this point. And that would be ok I guess if that’s what I wanted. Just to say I’ve done so many races etc. But I actually want to get better as a runner and running more races doesn’t automatically make you a better runner. I definitely think I would have been better off picking a few races (maybe my initial 10K, 16K, 21K) and focusing on my performance for each race, not as a training for something else but as a proper race in its own right. Then I wouldn’t feel the need to “take it easy” because I have another race next week… or not give it 100% because I’m still recovering from the previous one. I actually want to race a race not just run it and I haven’t really been able to do that this spring.

So right now I’m signed up for three races in the second half of the year:

I’ll most likely do Pacer’s Twilighter 5K because that’s a fun race (it’s penciled into my schedule) and racing 5K won’t negatively affect my training. I still have hope to run a sub-30 minute 5K, that’s on my running goals for 2018! But I know that my dance card is full no matter how many ads for the Army 10 miler I see on my facebook feed or how many people tell me that Richmond is the best marathon. I cannot sign up for another marathon! When I signed up for the GW Parkway Classic 10 miler two weeks after the Cherry Blossom one, my logic was that I probably wouldn’t be happy with my result so I could use a redemption race. Well, guess what I didn’t do much better so if that didn’t work for 10 miles it sure ain’t gonna work for 26! And next spring, I will strategically pick one or two big races and maybe a couple of fun 10Ks and just focus on properly training for those. Right now I’m thinking Philadelphia’s Broad Street 10 miler because I like that distance and maybe the Rock’n’Roll half marathon here in D.C. again because I really liked that course. Or maybe a Rock’n’Roll half in another city… I’d ask for suggestions of fun half marathons right now but I’m a bit worried I’ll get tempted and sign up for all of them again lol 

 

Race Recap: National Women’s Half Marathon

As a new runner, my main race goal so far has usually been to just cross that finish line. But now that I have a couple of races behind me, I thought it was time I get a little ambitious and set the bar a little higher for the National Women’s Half Marathon on April 29. 

After all, this race was my fourth half marathon, second this year, and third race in April alone. We’ll circle back on the valuable lesson I learned from signing up for too many races this spring in a separate post 😉 

So here are my previous half marathon times:

For every single one, I have an excuse: 2013 I didn’t train! Disney I wasted time trying to get a picture with Mickey. And the most recent half, back in March, I didn’t want to push myself too hard since I had a huge conference starting the next day. I still PRed though technically… Well, I didn’t have an excuse this time around. I’ve actually been running. Based on my performances in April alone (I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in 1:55:31 and the GW Parkway Classic in 1:53:32) and thanks to my awesome new Garmin I actually have a better understanding of my pace. Realistically, I knew that my pace of 7:00-7:15 per kilometer / 11:15-11:30 per mile means I should be able to finish a half marathon in two hours and a half. With that in mind, here were my goals for the National Women’s Half Marathon:

  • Stretch goal: finish closer to 2:20 than 2:30
  • Realistic goal: finish under 2:35
  • Worst-case scenario goal: finish under my previous half marathon personal best of 2:41:31

So how did I do? If you follow me on instagram, you probably already know the answer. If you don’t, you should (here!)! But let me tell you a little bit about the race first. This is the first time this race was held in D.C. I snagged my spot pretty early on, meaning I paid almost nothing to register (the initial registration price was $1 and increased as the race got closer.) I’d never done nor sought out a women-only race and that wasn’t a factor in me deciding to do this race. From the start, the event seemed pretty disorganized so I didn’t have very high expectations of how things would run the day of. To be fair, packet pick-up at Pacers was a breeze (love my Pacers!) This wasn’t my first race so I didn’t care really that there was no expo, but I know for a lot of women, this WAS their first race ever and I’m sure they would have liked a bit more of fuss with maybe a backdrop for bib pictures and the opportunity to buy race souvenirs. 

I made a slight mistake the night before the race and watched the two new episodes of the Handmaid Tale. I don’t know if that’s why I didn’t sleep well but I felt tired Sunday morning. I still stuck with my usual pre-race routine: got up two hours before the race, had an RX bar and a kiwi as I listened to the latest episode of Pod Save America. I’ve been trying out Nuun and had a vitamin & caffeine enhanced drink instead of a small cup of coffee. I don’t like waiting around too long, and I knew I wouldn’t need either bag check or the restrooms so I left my place pretty late at 6:20AM. Turns out I should have paid closer attention to the site of the start/finish line and ubered there. Typically, I’ll see a lot of runners on my way to the start and this time around I saw NO ONE! Downtown D.C. was completely deserted. I started to panic. As I realized the start line  was on the other side of the Tidal Basin and much further than I thought, I ended up run/walking 2 miles before even starting the race. Not reading the Athlete’s Guide properly is on me but that’s the worst place to start a race! I got there just in time to hop into the third wave but I started the race tired and stressed. For a while, I entertained the opportunity to run the 8K if I didn’t get to the start line on time for the half marathon and that was kind of a thought that didn’t leave me throughout the race.

Given that I had injured myself in late March and cut down on my running I knew that running two 10-milers and a half marathon in a month was a lot for me. I considered dropping out of the GW Parkway Classic but ended up running it and actually felt good afterwards. I feel like I tend to psych myself out before races so I decided I wouldn’t do that for the half-marathon. I wouldn’t downgrade. I would run the whole thing and I would do well! Except from the start, it was obvious that it wouldn’t be the case. I knew pretty early on I wouldn’t meet my stretch nor my realistic goal.  And I psyched myself out. I wasted time going to the bathroom but otherwise I was running under 11:30 for the first 4 miles. I wasn’t doing great, but I was doing ok. And then two things happened around mile 5. One, there was this sign about choosing between the half marathon (go right!) and the 8K (go left). I kinda didn’t want to run anymore and seriously entertained gearing to the left! 

And then we saw her. The leading runner. She was getting to mile 11 and I was barely at mile 5. She seemed so strong and she was going so fast. And then we saw another runner. And one more. And one more. And then lots more. For the next 4 miles all I could focus on were the runners on the other side, the ones who would finish in an hour and half. I knew I wasn’t half way threw and already just wanted to be done. Not the best mindset during a race…. I went through the motions for the rest of the race but honestly I wasn’t feeling it. 

Technically met my worst case scenario goal. I did finish “faster” the National Women’s Half Marathon faster than I did the Rock’n’Roll Half. By 10 seconds. I know it’s technically a PR. Woo hoo (<– being sarcastic here) but the truth is I didn’t enjoy this race. I had so much more fun at the Rock’n’Roll Half. I had no expectations. I didn’t push myself. I stopped and hugged friends along the course. I *finally* took some of the beer people hand out along the course. I walked some. And yet I finished in THE EXACT SAME TIME when I feel like I worked harder and struggled more at the National Women’s Half Marathon. And it’s probably due to fatigue. As I said, three races was a lot for me and my leg has been bothering me… I think beyond some minor organizational issues (the water stations weren’t efficiently managed, the start line was too far, communication was poor) I just didn’t like the run because I didn’t have fun running it. And my performance showed that. 

I do want to end this post on a positive note. Here is one thing I *loved* about this race: the girl power aspect! I never sought out a women-only race. Just their names (Divas, Princess, Queen B) are usually a turn off (unless princess is followed by Disney and then it’s awesome!) are a turn off, so are the tutus, the tiaras, the pink, the stiletto logos (really!).  But the National Women’s  like a celebration of women’s running and of women being strong and kicking some ass(phalt!) There were groups of girlfriends who were doing this together, many of them as their first big race and everyone was so supportive and encouraging of each other in a way only women are really. I wouldn’t mind doing another 😉 But not anytime soon! I had been warned I would most likely burn out signing up for all those races. I’m sure a most-experienced runner would handle the pressure better but I’m still new to this. Instead of just going through the motions at all the races, I need to focus on doing well in a few races. With that in mind, my next D.C. race will actually be the marine Corps Marathon in late October. I will be running La Grande Classique Paris-Versailles but that is it! I am not allowed to sign up for anymore fall races! One of the things I missed in yesterday’s race was the lack of spectators. Don’t get me wrong, there actually were quite a few, especially men cheering on their girlfriends/wives/friends. I loved that. But Hains Point and Rock Creek Park are hard to get to so there weren’t as many as during the Cherry Blossom 10 Miller or the Rock’n’Roll Half. I missed spectating (WAY less work than running too!) so I’m going to focus on cheering for a bit. That’s really fun too! 

So You Wanna Visit the White House…? Part Deux ~ the Arrival Ceremony Edition

Two years ago, I wrote this blog post with some tips for people wanting to visit the White House. Even with Trump in office, the post is mostly still relevant. If you reside in the United States, you can still request a tour from your congressional office (congressman or senator.) Melania Trump has also continued the tradition of opening the grounds of the White House for Garden Tours twice a year (the last one was a few weeks ago on April 14-15, 2018) so that option is still available to at least visit the South lawn. Since writing that post, I have had the opportunity to visit the White House on two new occasions. Last December, I toured the East Wing during one of the holiday tours. That was neat, if only to see the portrait of Hilary in there that you know Trump must just hate. And this just in, on Tuesday April 24th,  I *finally* got the chance to attend an arrival ceremony. Oh, and it was a good one! 

You may recall (though probably not) back in 2014, the White House social media team had invited me to attend Francois Hollande’s arrival ceremony BUT I had a previously scheduled work trip to New York that I simply couldn’t get out of. I’m no Hollande fan but I was super bummed nonetheless. My friend Kaylé, who was in attendance, wrote a lovely guest post recap for me but I had basically been hoping for another opportunity since then. And yesterday, I got it and it was truly an honour and once-in-a-lifetime experience for me to stand among some of my fellow countrymen/women and expats as we timidly sang La Marseillaise steps away from the American president, the first lady and, of course, my own president and his wife Brigitte. A president I had actually voted for this time around too! The cherry on top of the gâteau was also going to French Embassy that afternoon for a more intimate event celebrating our president being here in D.C. Here’s a not-so-quick recap of my amazing super-French day:

In a nutshell, I spent all day standing in line to go through security, then standing around waiting for Macron, then standing around while Macron spoke. It was a lot of standing around and waiting, but it was absolutely worth it! The arrival ceremony was scheduled to start at 9AM, and since the gates opened as early as 6:30AM I decided to get there at 7AM in case the line at security was long. It wasn’t. Actually, it was kind of a breeze. I was assigned to the Blue Gate, which was a smaller entrance and even though I had to give my name to 5 different interns before getting to the metal detectors, it all went very quickly and very smoothly.

After being given both a French and an American flag, as well as a program, I entered from the same spot as I had back in December except this time I was shown the door to the South Lawn.  I had been given a red pin when I checked it and that was meant to notify the staff of which section I was supposed to stand in. With my back to the White House, that section was basically immediately to the right of the podium, which I could see perfectly, if slightly from the back. I also could perfectly see the door from which Donald and Melania would be walking out, and then walking back in with Brigitte and Emmanuel and I was surrounded by Frenchies so I was pretty happy with my situation as I waited an hour for things to start happening.

I should have known this view was too good to be true 😉

Officials like Betsy DeVos or Jared Kushner began to trickle in. Their section was on the other side of the podium from me. And then two black mini-buses dropped off the French delegation. Luck would have it, said French delegation’s “assigned viewing spot” happened to be on the other side of the rope from my section. And while it was kinda cool to have Christine Lagarde basically right in front of me, I no longer could see anything.

First world problems: Christine Lagarde blocks your view of the presidential podium.

As we got closer to 9AM, secret service agents also started popping up all over the place and they all tend to be pretty tall . More officials arrived (hello Mike Pence!) and my previously beautiful view of the door and the podium was also a thing of the past.

Turns out Christine was the least of my problems 😉  Can you spy Stephen Miller and John Bolton’s mustache on this picture? The white hair next to Stephen Miller is the Veep too!

Slightly behind schedule, the programming finally begun with music and lots of flags — it was beautiful seeing French flags everywhere!

Donald and Melania Trump stepped out of the White House, a black car dropped off Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron, everyone was trying to take pictures and videos with their phones and since I’m barely 1m55 I didn’t catch any of that. Well, occasionally I could spot Melania’s hat. I guess it was pretty useful that way.

Big secret service head, small Donald and Melania Trump

Can you spy Emmanuel Macron in there? Also, Stephen Miller’s balding head.                     I told you I couldn’t escape it 😉

They reviewed the troops together, which I also couldn’t see, and before I knew it, they were playing the French national anthem and firing the traditional 21 gun salute. The French are never shy about singing La Marseillaise. Unlike the Star Spangled Banner, it is very easy to belt out even if you are the worse singer in the world but my entire section of Frenchies was pretty timid this time around, whispering the lyrics as if unsure whether it was an appropriate thing to do at the White House. And maybe it isn’t… because I didn’t hear the Americans sign along their anthems either. After the anthems, there were speeches from each of the leaders, starting with Trump in English then Macron in French. Before heading inside the house for their tête-à-tête, the two leaders and their wives spent some time on the balcony waving at us. At least I definitely got to see that!!

Getting out of the White House was a breeze as well. It was pretty early and we wanted to sit down for a bit, grab a bite to eat (and some warm coffee! It was a bit damp and cold, though luckily it didn’t rain!) and charge our phones before heading to the Embassy. I had spotted Eric Kayser, who was part of the official delegation, fan-girling over the event a few people away from me in the Frenchie section and figured his Metro Center restaurant would be our best bet since it was only 10:00AM. Turns out everyone had the same idea and everyone was there, including Eric himself. We still had a lovely lunch and then it was time to get into another line, this time for the embassy event. I don’t know how well you know the French but we are *incapable* of queue-ing up like polite, respectful people. The line was a hot mess and it didn’t help that we had to wait longer because Macron was running behind schedule (the French are also bad about being on time!) Even after we gotten in we still had to wait and wait and wait.

Just a bunch of Frenchies waiting for Emmanuel Macron at the French Embassy

Around 5PM, Brigitte came by to say hi to us, which I thought was pretty amazing since she had a big dinner to get ready for. I got to shake her hand and thank her for coming before she hopped on stage and joked about having to leave to attend to her chignon but ensuring us that her husband was worth the wait.

Brigitte Macron: “Il faut que j’aille m’occuper de mon chignon.”

And he was. There wasn’t much of an announcement that he was coming but all of the sudden we heard his voice on the speakers, awarding the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest order of merit for military and civil merits, to three World War Two veterans: Robert Ewald who participated in D-Day at Omaha Beach, Stanley Rzucidlo who landed on Gold Beach on June 7, 2044 and William Barr who was in Air Force and dropped some bombs on German forces in Normandy and North of France. Once Macron jumped on stage, they wheeled Mr. Barr over to a corner of the stage so that he could watch the intervention as well. I’m not sure whether he understood everything but I could see him from where I was standing and I had the honor of being able to talk to him afterwards.  That was probably one of the most special moment of the whole for me. But back to Macron.

William Barr soaks in Macron’s speech, proudly wearing his brand new Legion d’Honneur (and yes, that IS Eric Kayser right behind him…)

Since he was so behind schedule, he spoke only for only maybe 15 minutes, praising the many French teachers in the room and the representatives of the many Alliances Francaises in the United States who do so much to promote our language here. Of course, we’ve all heard it before from other presidents but the truth is it’s really hard to afford a French education for your children. Bottom line: Rochambeau is not cheap!

Channeling his inner John F. Kennedy, he prompted us to ask ourselves what we can do for our country, because our country needs us before leading us in a much more enthusiastic Marseillaise than the one we had sang that morning. He shook a few hands on his way out and then everyone basically threw themselves on the wine and cheese waiting for us in the next room. And I mean “threw” rather literally 😉

The wine was from Jean-Luc Colombo, who  was part of the French delegation that came with Macron on the trip, and most of the catering was done by Kayser with some assistance from the Embassy kitchen. There were trays of mimolette and pâté en croûte and cheese and financiers and macarons and French people who seemed to starving the way they behave at the buffet tables (just like we can’t behave in a queue, we’re also not disciplined enough for buffets….) I always love going to these special events at the embassy because you get to catch up with people you don’t see very often since *everyone* is there. And make new French acquaintances of course. I love our little community here. But just like that, the day was over. I’ve been on such a Macron high since Monday, following all his appearances and speeches either on the news, via his facebook lives or, on Tuesday in particular, in real life… France was first and foremost in the news, and not in a bad or sad way like after a terror attack. There were French flags all over downtown D.C. And now it’s all over like it was just a dream… 

 

Training Pays Off: 2018 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run Recap

My third race of the year is in the books! The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is the first race I ever ran. I was under prepared and it wasn’t pretty. Last year, I struggled to cross the finish line in 2:14 minutes, 6 minutes short of not being considered an official finisher. I left the race feeling defeated and knew I had two options moving forward. I could feel sorry for myself and give up. That was the easiest thing to do. Or I could accept the fact that I hadn’t trained enough and decide to work harder so I could do better next time. If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you know I chose the latter option and I’m glad I did. This year, I walked out of the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler with a sparkly medal AND a feeling I had rarely experienced post race. I was kinda proud of myself… 

My main problem with running was always more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. Ideally, I’d love to  turn off netflix, jump off the couch and run a marathon. Wouldn’t we all? But that’s not how it works. You’ve gotta couch to 5K to a turkey trot, train up to a 10K, actually run (that’s a big one), consistently (also big) and then run some more. You have to decide that running is important to you and prioritize it in your life accordingly. And that’s what I did. I started tagging along with some running groups, which was very difficult at first since I’m both a slow runner AND an introvert. I struggled to keep up for a while, to make small talk but then both got easier. I ran/walked the Disneyland Paris half marathon (recap here) and mostly ran the Marine Corps Marathon 10K in the fall (recap here). I applied to be a social media ambassador for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. And I was selected! 

Being a social media ambassador came with some cool perks like skipping the lottery process altogether, new tennis shoes and most importantly for me the opportunity to participate in one of the Potomac River Running’s training programs and blog about the process (added accountability is not negligible!) I’ll dedicate a whole post soon to discuss the advantages of joining training groups or social running clubs, but for now I’ll just mention a few points quickly. First of all, it was great to be surrounded with people who were struggling a bit like me. Sure running with more experienced, faster runner forces you to push yourself a little bit more, but it can also be very discouraging to always feel like the slowest one. Sometime it’s just nice to be with people more at your level (or pace I guess). Second, this winter SUCKED. Let’s be honest, there were plenty of cold rainy Sunday morning when I would have stayed in bed instead of going out for a run if it hadn’t been for my training group. I know I wouldn’t have stuck with the long runs the way I did if it hadn’t been for the extra incentive and motivation the group provided. 

Rain or shine, though mostly rain, my Potomac River Running distance spring training group met every Sunday at 8AM in Georgetown

I stuck with the sunday long-runs, progressively increasing the mileage, Monday fun-runs with Pacers and cross training at Cyclebar NoMa. I ran the 17.75K “access granted” race (recap here) a few weeks before the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile run and felt pretty good coming out of it. That race is a tiny bit longer than the 10 Miler and way more hill-y so it definitely gave me a nice confidence boost, especially since I still had three weeks to train. But then I strained a muscle in my upper thigh and had to stop training and exercising altogether. Whatever confidence I had was completely shattered. I even debated downgrading to the 5K. Ultimately, I decided to stick with the run after participating in a shake-out run organized by Garmin and The DC Run Crew at the Potomac River Running store in Chinatown. It didn’t feel great but I thought I could at least limp my way across the finish line a little under the 2:20 cut-off time. 

With that in mind, I decided I needed a plan to make it through the race, and that plan involved sticking with one of Gold Gym’s pace group for as long as I could, at an “easy” 11:30 that would still get me to finish the race in around 2 hours but wouldn’t be too strenuous. I still have a hard time pacing myself so I figured I’d let someone else do the work for me this time. On race day, my friend Caitlin and I walked over the starting area (the race starts and ends around the Washington Monument). We had brought old Icelandair airplane blankets to keep us warm while we waited in our respective corrals. Caitlin was red, of course, she’s a fast one. And I went over to the green corral to find the 11:30 pace group. 

I don’t know who the runner on the picture above is, but I stuck with him for 7.5 solid miles and that was a smart move for me. At mile one I wanted to die (I’ve always been a little over dramatic). At mile two my knee started to hurt and I considered stopping at the first medical tent and quitting the race. But then I realized I actually didn’t feel *that* bad and that I just needed to shut down my brain for a bit, which is actually quite hard when you’re not running with music, and focus on that neon yellow shirt in front of me, making sure I always kept it in my sights. I got into a pretty good grove. I was able to see my own pace and time thanks to my brand new Garmin (another perks of being a social media ambassador for the race) and started to realize that I could potentially finish the race in less than 1:54 (my fastest time on a ten mile course ever) and maybe even close to 1:50 if I picked up my pace a little bit, which I actually felt good enough to do. There were just two things standing in my way: 2.5 miles and the fact that I had to pee 😉

I had stopped at most water stop along the route. While it was freezing that morning, once we got moving it was actually a beautiful, sunny day and we got warmed up pretty fast. I knew I wanted to make a quick bathroom break but all the porter potties had super long lines. And then I spotted it behind the Batalá drummers: an actual real restroom operated by Parks Services. I figured there’d be at least 5-6 stalls and the line wasn’t coming out the door so I made a break for it. I lost a few minutes, of course, but I also lost the pace group at that point so I was on my own for the rest of the run. Looking at my splits (which is super easy with my Garmin!) I can see that I ran the last two miles at my fastest pace (10:35/mi and 10:12/mi) chasing for that elusive PR I keep hearing other runners talk about. Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it. I crossed the finish line at 1:55:35, a minute shy of a PR and 5 minutes past my initial race goal of 1:50. But it still felt great. I shaved off 19 minutes from my time last year despite dealing with quite a few setbacks. Of course I couldn’t help myself: what if I hadn’t stopped to go to the restroom? To say hi to Rachel when she was handing out water? To snap a photo of this awesome oh-so-DC sign?

Would have done better if I had been able to complete my training the way I wanted to in the final weeks? The answer is probably yes, but the truth is I’ll never know so I’m really trying to push those thoughts out of my head once and for all. I did well! I put in the work and it showed. For once, I feel good after a race! Well, mentally at least. My body is a whole different story 😉

Race Recap: the 17.75K “Access Granted” Race

When I set out to run my first marathon in 2018, I apparently decided that I would make it as hard as possible on myself. And this weekend that involved joining 3,000+ runners for a grueling 11 miles cold trek through Prince William Forest Park to be guaranteed entry to the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Yes, I could have entered the lottery like everyone else but I really wanted those #accessgranted bragging rights as well I guess 😉 Oh, did I mention I actually ended up signing up for the marathon on Wednesday morning during the rush registration? Yeah, I basically ran a hard race to guarantee myself access to a race I already had access to. But hey, I’m running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in 2 weeks and needed to run about 11-12 miles anyway that weekend… might as well get a medal out of it too right!? Right…

For those of you who are not as fluent in kilometers as I am, 17.75K is a nudge over 11 miles and that unusual race distance commemorates the founding of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1775. It takes place in Dumfries, VA, near the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, about an hour drive south of Washington. It’s known as a challenging course with both gravel and asphalt through the winding turns of a dense, hill-y forest. I basically only run in the city, so I was quite nervous about getting outside of my running comfort zone (so outside the mall basically!) But the logistics of getting to the race proved almost as challenging.

Initially, I had planned to just get up super early and drive to the race in the rental but that didn’t factor in having to pick up my race package. Unless you basically live in the area, the expo’s hours make it impossible to pick up your bib without having to miss work and they do not allow proxy pick up which is absurd. The idea of sitting in traffic on a Friday evening to get to Potomac Mills before 6PM then drive back to D.C. then back to Dumfries to get to the designated parking lots and race shuttles before 6AM the next morning combined with me having lots of Marriott points that I earned from the Satellite conference meant that I actually opted to make a mini-getaway out of it. I booked the closest Marriott property to one of designated pre-race parking lots for my friend Nicki and I to spend Friday night and I definitely think that was a good call. Traffic was atrocious Friday night, and we arrived at the race expo at VA Runner a few minutes after 6PM. Luckily, we were still able to pick up our bib and relax a little that evening. I had wanted to meet up with my friend Courtney, who was coming up from Norfolk to run the race but she was detained at work so Nicki and I just carbed up at Zibibbo 73 Trattoria & Wine Bar in Stafford before calling in an early night in. We had a 5AM wake -up call after all….

Since there’s no parking by the start line, runners all have to park at one of 3 designated parking lots the morning of and board shuttles to get there. We got to the start / finish area around 6:30Am, which gave Nicki just enough time to check her bag, and both of us just enough time to use the porter potties. We had bought $4 fleece blankets at CVS the night before to keep us warm before the race kicked off and that turned out to be a great investment!

We barely made it of the restrooms line on time to rush to the start line. Luckily, I guess, the start is really congested. There’s no waves since there are so few runners and we could definitely feel that in the first kilometer when you’re literally stepping on other runners. I was bummed I didn’t get to meet up with Courtney before the race, and Nicki speeded off pretty quickly (she’s a much faster runner that I am) so I started off on my own and that was fine.   

I didn’t necessarily have a goal for the race. I figured I would need around as much time to complete these 11 miles as it took me to complete the Rock’n’Roll D.C. half since the course was a bit more challenging. I also knew that I only had 3 hours to complete the race if I wanted to get my “access granted” code so I did have to push myself a little bit more than I did during the half marathon. The first kilometer of the course, the most crowded one, is on the main road but then you enter Prince Williams Forrest pretty quickly. It’s a steep dirt road and I knew from looking at the course map that in the beginning, any parts that were downhill would be uphills on the way back. Since the course is literally in the forest, there are no spectators whatsoever but to make up for this, it is lines with at times funny, at times inspirational signs that I really enjoyed looking out. One stated “What Hill?” was a warning for the tough hill ahead though!

But before I had to run up that hill, a small race miracle happened. Since I was running without headphones, as I have for all of my races so far this year, I heard a voice talking about Yuengling and when I turned around it turned out to be Courtney chatting away with her boyfriend Rick. Yeah!! I had finally found my friend!! We chatted up the hill and ran together on and off for the majority of the race and that made the race really enjoyable. They’re a fun couple. Courtney’s bright orange shorts made her easy to spot if I ever fall behind a bit…

There are only 5 water stations along the course so I ran with my hand-held water bottle which was a good call. After running a fair portion of the course on a paved road, which I would have enjoyed a lot more if it hadn’t been for some of the inclines, we headed back into the forest and the gravel road, which was quite muddy from the weather we’ve had here recently. I definitely found the signs on the side of the road to be both motivational and distracting, especially at the end. They definitely kept me from slowing down…. also I knew I would be getting a medal from a cute marine shortly!!

Unfortunately, my Strava went dark for a few kilometers so I can’t tell accurately how long it took me to run 10 miles. Based on the time on the clock I estimate that I got to that point in around 2 hours and 6 minutes, which is definitely slower than my goal for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler but again, the course is also more challenging. In the end, I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 14 minutes, which isn’t bad for me, especially given how tough the course was.

Unlike after the Rock’n’Roll Half, I’m definitely a bit sore today but I’m pretty happy with how the race went and I actually had a lot of fun. Running with friends and having people to meet up with at the end and take pictures with is a plus for sure! And knowing they’ll be running the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall is cool too! As for my “access granted” code, I passed it along to a fellow Girls Love Travel D.C. runner so she does’t have to deal with the stress of the lottery. If she gets in, I know she’ll pay it forward and make sure someone deserving can use her registration. Now comes the hard part I guess… I’m running my first marathon in a few months, and I’m gonna have to start training soon. It’s going to be hard, but that’s kinda the whole point. Wish me luck!! (and please share any and all advice for a first timer in the comments!!)

CUCB Training Recap ~ About the past two weeks

So the last two weeks were very much a whirlwind and I skipped last week’s Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run recap… but I didn’t necessarily skip running. Actually, on Saturday March 10 I ran a pretty big 13.1 miles “training run” through the city 😉 I hadn’t planned on running the Washington, D.C. Rock’n’Roll half, but my friend Caitlin convinced me to enter the lottery for the New York half. When I didn’t get in, I kinda registered for the Rock’n’Roll half on a whim. It was actually not the best idea I ever had since my biggest professional event of the year, Access Intelligence’s Satellite conference, kicked off the next day but hey… I figured I would take it easy and just run it as opposed to race it, which is exactly what I did. So I finished in 2:41 minutes, 16 minutes faster than the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon I ran in September (the one where I wasted a ton of time waiting to get my picture taken with Mickey!) and 2 minutes faster than when I first ran the Rock’n’Roll half back in 2013. I hadn’t really trained at all back then, so it’s a little discouraging to be getting basically the exact same time now that I am running on a regular basis. At least I felt really good at the end of this race, unlike in 2013 when I remember not being able to walk properly for days 😉

As a result of running a half marathon, I drastically altered my training schedule that week: I ran 5K with pacers on Monday and I went to Cyclebar NoMa on Wednesday. That’s about all I did since you’re not supposed to exhaust yourself too much before a race. I could probably have squeezed in a little yoga here and there, but it was also a really busy week at work… 

The race itself went really well. It was a cold but sunny day in the District and once we got out of running on highways it was really fun to run through various neighbourhood including Columbia Heights and H Street. While I wasn’t “racing” I did want to keep my eye on a few benchmark times:

    • 10.3 km – 1h12 (as close to 10km as I could get)
    • 16.5 km – 1h58 (a ten miler is 16.09 km race)
    • 21.6 km – 2h41 (a half is 21.09 km)

At the 10 km mark, it’s good to note that I was a bit slower than during the St. Patrick’s Day 10K a few weeks ago, and even a bit slower than during the Marine Corps Marathon 10K back in November.

The next benchmark is a good indicator of how I might do at the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile run I have been training for. It’s faster than the 2h13 it took me to complete the 10 miles last year but a bit slower than my time of 1h54 back in 2011. But given that I didn’t really push myself, it makes me feel ok about my goal to complete the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in 1h50 and the GW Parkway 10 Miler a few weeks later in 1h45. If I keep at a 7/km pace (I typically average between 6:30/km and 7:30/km based on the distance, my shape that day etc.) I could finish the race at 1h52 which wouldn’t be great but would be close enough to where I would like to be. 

My time at 21.6 km wasn’t what I wanted (I was shooting for 2h30) but it’s still the fastest I’ve ever ran a half marathon and it gives me a time to built upon for my next half marathon, the National Women’s Half Marathon on April 29th.  And the next one on  May 19th. And the next one on June 2nd 😉 

Last week was Satellite, a giant conference at the DC Convention center focusing on satellite-enabled communications and all the people that make that happen (like the company I work for, which launches satellites into orbit.) Between prepping for 7AM breakfasts, treating journalists to steak at Ruth’s Chris,  hosting a dinner for our customers and partners at the Phillips Gallery or just plain being on my feet all day I just did not have any workouts in me. My colleagues who are training for the Paris marathon in a few weeks managed to squeeze in some early morning jogs despite their jet lag and I wish I had joined them at least once but I was really just trying to make it through the week. Once the conference was done, I went back to Cyclebar on Saturday and made it on the first half of the board for the first time ever. I ranked 18/43 which, despite going to Cyclebar all the time, is actually really good for me. I guess I needed a good workout after the stress of the conference. The next day, I went back to my Potomac River Running Training Group and ran 13 km. It was a beautiful (but cold) sunny Sunday though I lost the group pretty early on somewhere in Virginia and, as usual, struggled to maintain my pace without the motivation of having to keep up with everyone else. But at least the view was quite gorgeous along the way!

I wish I could say that I’m looking forward to getting back into my workout routine this week, but I am running the Marine Corps Marathon’s 17.75K race on Saturday so I do have to take it easy a bit (and skip my training group run on Sunday!) That race is definitely more trail-y and hill-y than I am used to so I know it is going to be a challenge. But as they say, you’ve gotta earn that entrance granted access to the Marine Corps Marathon, it is not given. Wish me luck, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it next week!

Learning to Celebrate the Small Running Victories

Last week felt meh but this week was a good one so let’s dive right into it!

  • Monday: I went back to Pacers’ 5 miles group and while I was still the slowest runner, the run felt easier. Maybe it was the shoes! I ran on a loaned pair of On Running Cloud X and they felt great! I’m still in the market for a “good” pair of running shoes and love it when reps come and let us test out different pairs for runs. The Cloud X is definitely a contender, though I still want to try out a few more.
  • Tuesday: I went to Cyclebar in the morning.
  • Wednesday: Since I was invited to preview Drink Companys latest spring pop-up bar, honoring the city’s iconic cherry blossoms, I had kind of written off Wednesday as a potentially rest day. But in a move that rather surprised me, I couldn’t wait to get out of there and go for run! So I only had a few sips of some of the cocktails, took tons of pictures, and headed out for a solo run on the mall. I have really struggled with running outside of a group setting but this run felt good. I think that in addition to some me-time to clear my head of negative thoughts, a part of me was motivated to get in one last February run so I could add a few kilometers to my monthly “mileage” as well 😉 I wrapped up the month with 92 kilometers, which may not seem like a lot, and is short of the 100 km I was aiming for, but is still 3x more than what I ran back in January. I’m really trying to focus on that small victory and not the falling short part!
  • Thursday: I went to Cyclebar in the morning. Shane was back, though he was not wearing his fab Golden Girls cropped top this time…
  • Friday: Rest day! 
  • Saturday: I joined Elyse from the Pacers 14th street group for a special Biker Barre class benefiting Girls on the Run — DC, a fantastic running non-profit that helps young girls build confidence through accomplishment and encourages them to develop lifelong health and fitness habits. I thought the class was great and definitely want to incorporate more of that type of workout into my weekly routine (after Satellite though!). Afterwards, we headed to Summit to Soul and I dropped some major $ on this fabulous pair of eco-friendly disco camo leggings. They’re so comfortable and already my new favourite!
  • Sunday: Race day!! I skipped my usual training group long run to participate in my first race of 2018: Pacers’ St. Patrick’s Day 10K.  I was expecting the run to feel a lot easier than it did since I’ve been running at least 8 kilometers per run for a few weeks now and long runs of 10 to 11 kilometers. I finished in one hour and 7 minutes, just 2 minutes short of my time at the Marine Corps Marathon 10K back in October (race recap here). I’ll be honest, I felt a little defeated, like all I had to show for four months of running was two minutes. But as my friend Madalene  (check out her awesome blog Musings of Ms. X!) pointed out, that’s still a PR and I should still feel proud of myself.Easier said than done of course but I still have a few weeks before the Cherry Blossom 10 miler to train so I that can put myself in a position to feel good at the end of *that* race.

The next two weeks, though, are going to be tough. I think I already mentioned that I am running the Rock’n’Roll half marathon here in D.C. next weekend. This will mean missing my Sunday long run with my Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Potomac River Running Training program group. Instead, I will treat that run, for which I am grossly under prepared, as a training run. I should be running 8-9 miles as part of my training and that is what I will strive to do, walking the rest of needed (especially that incline in Rock Creek Park!) After that race, I am very unlikely to have any time as all to run or even go to Cyclebar. Satellite 2018 will pretty much suck up all of my time. But I’ll deal with that next week. For now, I’m mostly sticking with my usual routine with a few edits. I’ll be running with Pacers tonight and doing a fun run with Medstar Sports Medicine on Tuesday (you can still sign up here) followed by sessions on hydration during running, nutrition and other fun topics. Wednesday and Thursday will be cyclebar and then rest day before race day.

Do you have any tips for carving out time to work out when your work schedule is just absolutely nuts (during a big conference in my case…)? Send them my way please 😉 

 

#CUCB2018 Training Update: 40(ish) Days & Counting


So this week was kinda meh. We’re about 40 days away from the Cherry Blossom 10 miler so there’s still plenty of time to prepare but I really wish I felt like I were progressing more at this time. I still struggle through runs, especially on my own. That being said, I mostly stuck to my training plan this week, though I should definitely have tried to squeeze in that fourth run. Here is what my week looked like:

  • Monday: After Sunday’s long run, I simply did not have an 8-9K run in me so I went back to the 3 miles group at Pacers’ and ran 5.1 km. The group went to Churchkey afterwards for beers.
  • Tuesday: Cyclebar
  • Wednesday: the weather was gorgeous! Also I successfully registered for the 17.75K race on March 24th so I celebrated by going for a run outside. In a tank top. In February! I ran 5.2 km then went to Cyclebar NoMa that evening. Valerie’s Wednesday class is called Wine Down Wednesday and we usually have wine afterwards. I biked all the miles then drank all the wine, then went to Wunder Garten and had a beer, then went home and had a can of Supreme Core Ginger Beard Man cider. It was really good… but the point I’m trying to make here is that I had quite a few drinks… more on that later.
  • Thursday: rest day.
  • Friday: working out is definitely more fun with friends so I was stoked that Christina of Just the Bottle, who is also training for the Cherry Blossom 10 mile run, joined me at Cyclebar NoMa for Haley’s Happiest of Hours class. This is my favourite class. I love letting go of all the stress from the week on the bike, then having a glass of wine and relaxing at home. Did I say glass of wine? I meant glasses 😉 Again, more on that later…
  • Saturday: Have you heard of Daybreaker? It’s an early morning dance movement that takes place in 22 cities around the world and features a  yoga class or other fitness experience, followed by a two hour dance party… all before work!  I’d been wanting to try it for a while but struggled to make it work during the week. So when they finally offered a weekend edition of the event I jumped at the opportunity! Also, it had an “under the sea” theme and I really wanted an excuse to wear my mermaid leggings again! I have the coordination of a camel so the Soka Tribe Dance fitness experience wasn’t my favourite but hey, I tried something new and got out of my comfort zone a bit. It was kinda afterwards to just party while drinking kombucha instead of booze but I feel like I was one avocado toast short of peak millennial and I was definitely ready to go after about half an hour of the dance party.
  • Sunday: this week is technically a recovery week so I wasn’t supposed to run more than 6-8 kilometers, however I felt I hadn’t really run enough so I opted to aim for a little more and ran 9 kilometers, just like last week. It rained again which was annoying. It seems to *only* rain on Sunday mornings and I’m over it. On the plus side, if it rains on race day, I will definitely be prepared for it! 

All in all it wasn’t a bad week but I also wouldn’t call it a good week either. I barely ran 20 km and only made it out three times. Overall, I feel like I ate and drank too much and it negatively affected my training and energy level. With that in mind, I’m going to try and be a lot more mindful about what goes into my body this week, sleep more and also increase the number of kilometers I run. Next weekend will be interesting since I have my first race of the year and will be skipping my usual long run training group as a result. Anyone else running the St. Pat’s Day Run on March 4th?

Are you training for the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler? Share your journey and see others on the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler’s Link Up page.

 

Drum roll: the (marathon) winner is…

I always knew I wanted to run a marathon (emphasis on **a**… I just wanted to run one!) at some point in my life. And I had the perfect plan: I would run the Paris marathon the year I turned 40. It would be pretty special. My parents and family would be there to cheer me on (and celebrate with a fab meal afterwards!). My husband too. Our kids would be holding little signs in French and English. I had it all worked out. Well, life rarely works out perfectly and fast forward a few years, I’m getting closer to that big birthday but I don’t have a husband anymore, I may never have children and I have a huge work conference mid-march that makes it very difficult for me to even entertain the idea of training for and running an April marathon. How does that expression about the best laid plans go again? Insert it here 😉 

So obviously, it was time for a new plan! After running the Marine Corps Marathon 10K last year (you can read my race recap here), that plan became a little clearer. Why wait until a milestone birthday… I would run a marathon in 2018! I made it official and put it in my running goals for the year. The big question remained where would I run that marathon. If I’m only going to run one, it should be special right? So I jotted down a list of contenders, cities that are meaningful to me like Montreal or just wild cards like Hawaii (trying to get to those 50 states!) and Berlin (can you believe I have never been to Germany!?). I even included Paris on the list because, well, that would still be the most special and meaningful place for me to run my first marathon and I wasn’t entirely ready to give up on that idea…

But eventually, reality set in… the most practical option was always Washington, D.C. This is my city now, it *is* special to me. There’d be no travel required (ok, maybe a short uber ride to the start line). I have a support system here and will know plenty of other runners (and hopefully some cheerers too!) A third of all runners in the Marine Corps Marathon are first timers like me and there’s something very reassuring about that too. Now I just had to get into the race… 

I decided I didn’t want to deal with the stress of the lottery and instead focused my energy on getting into the 17.75K, a rather hill-y race in Prince William Forest Park named after the year the year the Marine Corps was established. Not only do i love running races that are in kilometers, but completing the race guarantees you a bib to the Marine Corps Marathon later in the year.  Registration opened at 11AM Wednesday and despite a very poorly timed meeting at 10:30AM, I managed to get in! The race sold out in less than 8 minutes, so it was no small feat and now there’s no turning back: I’m doing this marathon thing in 2018 and I’m doing it in D.C.! If all goes according to my newly laid plan, I’ll be running with the Marines comes October!

Wish me luck!! 

I Made a Plan & (Actually) Stuck with It!

You know what feels good? Being back on track with my Cherry Blossom Ten Mile run training and actually feeling like I *am* making some progress. I tried a couple of new things this week, including actually sticking to the training schedule I had set up for myself 😉 I also survived my first Cyclebar/run in one day combo. It wasn’t so bad… until the next day. I ran by myself (the 20 degree spring-like temperatures on Thursday were definitely a motivating factor to get out there!) and I paced myself differently during my long run. All in all, it worked out really well for me so I’m hoping to do more of the same this week. Here’s a little more detail about week 4 of training for the Cherry Blossom race:

  • Monday: I *finally* moved up to the Pacers’ 14th street run club 5 miles group… and it was painful. I know they always say that all paces are welcome in a running group, but if you can’t keep up you’re basically left behind to run by yourself, which is exactly what happened to me. Feels pretty weak. Luckily, my friend Robert stayed behind with me and helped keep me motivated enough to at least complete the run. Let’s hope it goes better this week! 
  • Tuesday: for Mardi Gras, I did both a morning Cyclebar class (merci for the King’s Cake Neesh!) AND a run with Pacers. I downgraded to the 3 miles though, my legs were definitely tired!
  • Wednesday: I love Valerie’s class at Cyclebar NoMa and it was the perfect workout before stuffing myself silly with raclette for Vaslentine’s Day afterwards!
  • Thursday: What a difference a few months make! Given 20 degree temperatures, 3 months ago me would have been all “oooh, perfect weather for rosé on the roof!” but today me couldn’t wait to get out for a run. In a tank top. In February! Even if it was a short one to the mall and back I’m glad I did it. I still struggle to run on my own, outside of the motivating group structure.  But it’ll never get easier if I don’t push myself to do them once in a while.
  • Friday: Rest Day! My legs really needed a break 😉
  • Saturday: I couldn’t resist the Pitbul vs Kanye class at Cyclebar NoMa!
  • Sunday: I know an important component of running is your mental strength and I still have a lot of work to do there… so while I had planned to do my long run with Summit to Soul, I decided, especially after Monday’s run, that I wanted to be surrounded with people at my level. I already don’t feel great physically running 10 to 12 kilometers, I don’t need to feel emotionally defeated on top of it because I’m not as fast or strong as everyone else. I had had a good week so far and I wanted to keep feeling good… So I joined my Potomac River Running Training group. There, I don’t feel like the weakest link. There’s a comfort to training with people at my level. Some are true beginners. Others, like Sarah Beth (read her recap here… she ran the full 10 miles last Sunday!), are more experienced. I’m somewhere in the middle… definitely not a beginner anymore (yeah!) but not quite at the intermediate level yet.  But I don’t feel alone in my struggles with this group. For the second week in a row, I found this smaller group of 5-6 runners that were right around my pace. Some were ahead of me. Some were behind me. And for 11 kilometers, there was something really comforting about that. I tried something a little different as well. Typically, I’m really bad at pacing myself. I’ll try to go too fast for a bit, get tired and have to walk a little then repeat that cycle. This week, I found this girl (I don’t know her name because I’m a terrible person!) who seemed to be really good about pacing herself at 7/km pace (I typically had been running around 6:15-6:50) and decided to follow her. Kinda in a creepy way, like when a car is sticking a little too close to you… but it worked really well for me. I ran the whole 11 kilometers with only maybe one or two stops (including one to take this selfie with the Washington Monument!). I definitely will have to try this again (the pacing, not the creepy following!) 

So it was a really good week for me. I ran close to 30 kilometers… which is almost what I ran in the whole month of January… this is my plan for this week, on pretty new stationary from Target’s dollar bin!

I’ll be focusing on improving/increasing my solo runs and trying Daybreaker for the first time (dancing counts as cross training right?) I’ll let you know how it goes! And since I mentioned Summit to Soul in my post…did you catch its fabulous owner Kim talk sustainable athleisure wear on WUSA 9’s Great Day Washington? Here’s a link if you missed it. And of course, here’s the link to all the other Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run training posts!