2014 Crystal City Twilighter 5K

A few Saturdays ago, Michael and I ran the Crystal City Twilighter 5K. We don’t usually sign up for evening runs, but I wanted to check a nighttime run off my bucket list, and I know Pacers puts on solid events. I love racing shorter races with Michael because he’s better at pacing them than I am, and he really pushes me. At the start of the race, I went out too fast and was ahead of him for about a quarter mile. He pulled ahead and stayed ahead by about 10 seconds for the rest of the race. I finished the race in 20:05. While I went in really wanting to break 20 minutes, I will take a five-second difference on a warm night in a high-mileage week.

The field was deep with speedy high school athletes and club runners. According to RunWashington, 28 men broke 16 minutes. That’s a bunch of fast people. The evening was pretty warm, so my general race strategy was to get the thing over with as quickly as possible.

I’m not used to running in the evening, and I’m not used to running 5K speed at any time of day, so I didn’t really know what to do with myself early in the day. I’m a morning runner, so I went out for an easy nine-miler that morning. The race time (8:30 p.m. on a Saturday) really put a damper on my weekend plans. I’m used to not getting drunk on Friday nights, but my typical Saturday might include day drinking and a splurge meal. I ate a small salad and drank some beet juice around 4:30 to fuel for the race, but even that small amount of food just didn’t sit right with me.

This race was a twilighter, so it started around dusk, obviously. The course was not particularly well lit, so I had a little trouble with my footing for a few yards here and there. Next time I try one of these races, I’ll train a little more in the evening. My next evening run is the Roosevelt Run 5K in a few weeks. With a 7 p.m. start, that one won’t be dark at the start, but I’ll still have to figure out what and when to eat.

Cons

Self-seeding start. For the most part, people tended to line up according to their expected race completion time. This race did not have signs telling people which pace group they were in, and at the start, I had to dodge an overzealous 8-year-old boy and his mother who darted out of the chute and then slowed to a walk after a few hundred yards. Pacers usually has pace group markers, so I was surprised to not see them here.

Lack of crowd support. The majority of the course kind of wound through a corporate wasteland for spectators. Downtown Crystal City has plenty of shops and restaurants, so the crowd support picked up toward the end of the race.

Pros

Water table. I didn’t take any water from the single table, but it was located at the 1- and 2-mile mark, which seems like good placement.

Race results posted fast online. The race times were up in a matter of hours. At the end of the race, laptops were set up to check race times right there.

Swim Bike Run race photos. I love the awesome Swim Bike Run photos that are posted for Pacers events. The one at the top of this post is one of theirs.

T-shirt. If Pacers could have come up with a perfect shirt, this one is it. The cotton blend is soft and stretchy, the V-neck fits well, and the design is sweet. I’ve been wearing this one around the house almost nightly.

Course Map

Crystal City Twilighter 5K route

Splits

Split Distance Average Pace
1 1 6:10
2 1 6:35
3 1 6:43
4 0.11 5:37

Details

I’ve neglected the blog again for a few months, but I don’t have much running news to report. I did top off three 90+-mile weeks without any injuries and without suffering many of the symptoms of overtraining. My training plans have come to regularly slot 13-mile Tuesdays where 10-mile Tuesdays once were, and my body seems to have adapted to the higher mileage. When I’ve pushed past 90 in the past, I’ve experienced any of the following: a mild case of plantar fasciitis, tight hips resulting in a hip injury, mood swings, restless leg syndrome, inability to fall sleep when all I want to do is sleep, dehydration. Anyway, each of the last three times I pushed past 90 miles (92, 90, 93.5), I only was a little irritable. That’s great news because the ultramarathon plans I’m looking at are calling for similarly high mileage.

With the hardest part of training behind me, I can start to focus on building more speed. I have three 5Ks on the calendar and one half marathon between now and my goal marathon. If I string together quality miles and can improve my times for shorter races, I think I have a strong chance to break 3:05 in Utah.

I do have some good health news to share. About five weeks after my post about my probable celiac disease diagnosis, my doctor sent my printed results. No mention of celiac. Getting him on the phone took about another week. When we finally talked, he said he wasn’t sure what it was, but the next time we meet he wants to put me on antibiotics. That’s what my primary care doctor did the first time, and I was violently sick for several days. My follow-up appointment is later this week, and this time before I go in, I feel I should volunteer to be on one of those TLC mystery diagnosis shows. The overwhelming sense that I’ve had as this ordeal wears on is frustration, mostly because I think I’m throwing thousands of dollars at the problem and I’ll never find the right answer.

So for a good six weeks I ate a gluten-free diet. My GI issues seemed to be letting up, my skin looked better, I was sleeping better, everything seemed great. But I gained about four pounds, which slowed down my running (just slightly, but still). I was replacing wheat products with fatty fillers. Now, I’m sure there are many great ways to adhere to a gluten-free diet that are low in fatty calories and high in taste. I just wasn’t good at replacing my favorite foods. Since my un-diagnosis, I have eaten far less gluten than before, and I’ve managed to lose those four pounds. I feel slightly better most mornings, but my stomach issues are still pretty noticeable at night.

I know there are people with real, life-shattering problems out there, and that a persistent stomach ache is small potatoes. Everybody has something, though. I guess this is my thing.

Ups and Downs and a New, Big Goal

April 30, 2014 at 6:36 p.m.

It’s been more than two months since I checked in here. In the time I’ve been neglecting the blog, I ran a 10-miler and two marathons and set a new PR. I also had five doctor appointments and got myself pretty sick before the 10-miler. Still, I came to the start line of the Boston Marathon healthy and tapered and managed a time (3:11:27) about 20 seconds slower than last year. My Cherry Blossom 10-Miler time was five seconds slower than last year (1:07:35), but I was throwing up the night before the race.

Good News

In March, the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon went unbelievably well. I practiced running on the course’s big hill throughout the winter, and I finally understood how to run the back half of the course. I placed sixth female (!) in the race. In hindsight, if I’d run the Austin Marathon as planned, my legs probably would have been too tired to manage a PR.

I didn’t have high hopes for the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler because I’d been sick the week before the race, but I still did well there. This is one of my favorite races of the year, and my fitness and adrenaline kept me going.

Michael and I also ran the Boston Marathon this year. I knew this year could be emotional, but a session with Runner’s World and Running Times editors on Sunday reminded me to keep my emotions in check. I only got choked up once — at Wellesley on the downhill where I always let myself experience unbridled enthusiasm. Every year I tell myself, “This is the happiest you’ll be all year while you’re running. Let it soak in.” The crowds through the weekend in Boston and along the course were unreal. Next year’s Boston won’t be as big or as boisterous, and I’m fine with that. This year, Boylston felt like home, and the city felt like a hug. I already booked our hotel for next year when we’ll get back to running the marathon for other reasons, all of which are OK.

 

Bad News

For the past few years — maybe three years — my stomach has been upset more and more often. The audible grumbling happens at night almost every night, and I wake most mornings with a crazy urge to run to the bathroom. I kept thinking the feeling would go away or that maybe it was related to stress. When I’m on vacation or when my job is in low-stress mode, I still have the same issues. It’s probably not stress. It’s not like a running injury. I take care of those as soon as they happen or as soon as they might happen because an injury will sideline me. But an upset stomach is something I could put up with. I run marathons. I’m tough.

So when I was sick before the 10-Miler, I’d had blood drawn three times in the span of a week, and I was on antibiotics to try to reset the bacteria in my stomach. That didn’t work. I visited a gastroenterologist. He wanted to schedule a few tests. His first available appointment date was Wednesday, April 23. That would be the Wednesday after the Boston Marathon. Meaning I would be on a liquid diet the day after the Boston Marathon. Ha. I scheduled it for a week later.

My probable results from today, according to my doctor, are that I have celiac disease. That means I’ll need to adjust my diet. I love pasta, and I LOVE baked goods. I’m not sure how this is going to work, but I certainly will try to follow his advice to feel better. I just don’t want to be one of those people who’s a pain in the ass asking, “Is it gluten-free?” And I don’t want to make people in my book club accommodate another dietary need. And I don’t want to have people make a special dish just for me. I would hate all that. Basically, I’m in wait-and-see mode until I hear a true diagnosis. I’m not happy about the likely outcome, though.

New, Big Goal

Given that I just got some shitty health news and given that I’ve been running the same types of races for the past three years, I really need something big to aim for. So here’s my big goal.

In 2016, I will run the Comrades Marathon.

Why? We all need big, silly goals, and the Comrades Marathon, which is actually not 26 but 56 miles, is a huge goal that is probably attainable. It’s in South Africa, and I’ve never been there, nor have I run a marathon in a foreign country. See bucket list. The idea of this race is just to finish. Really. And with the amount of base training I have right now (peaking at 95 miles per week and averaging 70), I could probably already finish a 56-mile run. But I want to be smart about it, so I should probably train well, right? As an added bonus, I think Michael will run Comrades, too.

And here’s another big goal for 2015 that will help get me there:

In 2015, I will run Boston 2 Big Sur.

Why? The Big Sur Marathon is beautiful, and Boston is my favorite marathon. I want to run both of them, and I think I can build enough fitness to run a decent marathon (maybe 3:30) six days after Boston if conditions are not bad.

I’m putting the goals out there, and I’m keeping the fire burning for a 3:05 marathon. I’m only two minutes away, and I might have a speedy marathon coming up in October. We’ll see what happens.

I channeled a good deal of the taper energy I had left from not running the Austin Marathon toward a 10K this morning. The starting temperature was in the mid-20s, making this one of the coldest races I’ve ever run. The day was clear, but the roads were icy in a few spots. Still, I can tell the training I put in over the winter months is working because I took almost a minute off my last 10K PR from the Capitol Hill Classic to finish in 40:48. Part of me wishes I could have been running a full marathon in Austin instead. Part of me is happy I didn’t try to overdo it in Austin where the temperatures were much too warm for a fast race.

Five minutes before the start, most of the race participants were still anxiously shuffling around indoors. People filed outside in an orderly way, there was a lot of jumping up and down to try to stay warm, and in short order, we were off.

I got off to a little too fast of a start, but I was so happy to be running at full power that I just went with it. Even with a bridge in the middle of the first mile, I still managed a 6:20. A few women passed me in the second mile, but I kept most of them in sight for the majority of the race. The turnaround point was on a bit of an uphill. That didn’t bother me too much because I’d felt the slight uphill all the way out and was looking forward to a nice rolling downhill finish.

I pushed pretty hard through the end of the race to crest the hill and enjoy the final slog to the finish line. Right after I crossed it, another woman I hadn’t seen in the race told me I’d kept a really even pace. My splits weren’t bad at all.

Post-race food and T-shirt

Post-race food and T-shirt

Cons

Weather. With a February race, you can’t expect perfect conditions. I counted three times when I had to dodge ice on the road or significantly alter my stride. And I would assume any spilled water at the water stops would have turned to ice as well.

Lack of scenery. I was quite happy with the simplicity of the course, but there was pretty much nothing to look at. I think I saw some houses and trees. And we might have gone under a bridge once. It looked six miles of suburbs.

Cotton shirt. OK. It’s not like I necessarily need another technical long-sleeve shirt. But I really love Pacers race shirt designs. I wish they would include technical shirts in their swag.

Pros

Race wasn’t canceled. As I said, my Austin Marathon was a no-go because our flight couldn’t leave on Friday. My backup race was going to be (oddly enough) another George Washington race: the George Washington’s Birthday Marathon in Greenbelt, Md. That one was called off because the course wasn’t clear. So the fact that the race even happened is a good thing.

Indoor waiting area. The race started and finished at the Patent and Trademark Offices. The space was warm, dry and had plenty of room for all the race staging. Pacers knows the right way to organize these events.

Fast bathroom lines. Again, great job having enough bathrooms available. I waited maybe seven minutes.

Near the finish line

Near the finish line

Easy packet pickup and bag check. I had to pick up my bag at the race venue. Doing this can be a little dicey. When I walked up at 7:40, there was no line. I took my checked bag straight to the gear line and and was finished with that by 7:42.

Started at 8 a.m. sharp. The race organizers aren’t kidding when they say they’ll start on time on the website. There are few things worse on race day than having your race chi screwed with because of traffic problems or other logistical hassles.

Splits

Split Distance Average Pace
1 1 6:20
2 1 6:35
3 1 6:46
4 1 6:33
5 1 6:33
6 1 6:36
7 .24 6:08

Course Map

GWB Classic Map

GWB Classic Map

Details

My first planned race of the year was supposed to happen the first weekend of January. The Al Lewis 10-Miler is a race I’ve run twice before. Sure, it’s been cold both times. One time it snowed in the second half, but that just made for more awesome race photos. This year our first snow storm of the year left the trail covered in snow and bumpy ice. I decided to not even show up since an injury just isn’t worth it.

There was a trail half marathon the next weekend I might race. That one sold out before I could register.

Trying to see the bright side, I kept thinking how much stronger my legs would be since I hadn’t wasted my energy on racing early in my training cycle. The two injuries I had last year haven’t bothered me a bit since the Philadelphia Marathon, and my normal running pace continues to drop every week. I’ve put in 90-mile weeks and felt not-awful and not-beat-up. That’s why the Austin Marathon was so perfectly timed. I had similar training ahead of New Orleans last year, and I PR’ed there. I can feel I’m ready to do something great.

Austin wasn’t to be, though. Yesterday when we were both working from home, I think Michael got tired of me opening the door just to yell “Stupid!” at the snow and then slam it. The winter storm dumped a good foot of snow on D.C. And about 18 hours before takeoff, our flight to Austin was canceled. On the bright side, I got all our money back for the flights and hotel, and Michael and I are able to defer our entries to 2015. I thought the George Washington’s Birthday Marathon could be a great backup. Nope. Canceled.

Maybe this means my March marathon and Boston will be much stronger. Maybe the slippery potholes up and down this city’s sidewalks are just Mother Nature telling me to take it easy. Maybe I’ll kick ass in a 10K this weekend because I have more that enough energy to go around from this taper.

I will say I’m a lot less perturbed about this cancellation than I was when I’d made my way to New York in 2012 after Sandy, only to have the race called off Friday night. At least I’m not losing money.

Race Review: 2013 Philadelphia Marathon

Nov. 17, 2013 at 8:19 p.m.

after the race

Given all the factors stacked up against me going in to this race, I honestly could not have imagined I would finish with a 3:09:40, which is just about two minutes slower than my marathon PR. That kind of result makes me think I can definitely break 3:05 next year.

I wrote a few weeks ago about my spazzy ankle injury. Last Tuesday as a last ditch effort to get me to the start line in the best shape possible, my PT and I tried dry needling, which is basically acupuncture with more vibration and lots of weird feelings in the affected tissue. I took my two taper weeks easier than normal and only did an easy 14-miler at around 8-minute pace for my final long run. I’d only been able to run about a 7:30 pace for a few miles at a time before my ankle and shin would seize up. Then I would take the pace back down to a more manageable 8:30.

Then sometime around this time last week I came down with a crazy hacking cough, an accompanying stuffy nose and body aches the day before I was supposed to start my new job. My new coworkers probably think I’m a gimpy smoker. The cough didn’t help me with my running either.Marathon sign downtown

At my doctor’s advice, I wore KT tape on my bum ankle for most of the weekend and during the race. I also popped two Advils this morning. Let’s say even though I was cleared to run the whole race, I didn’t exactly feel prepared going in to this thing.

We stayed downtown, so I didn’t have any trouble getting to the start line in plenty of time. On a normal day when I wasn’t afraid my leg would fall off at the ankle, I would have used a 1.5-mile jog as a warmup. Today I opted for a cab. The cabbie got me darn close to the park. I got there at 6:25 for a 7 a.m. race, so I had tons of time to meander and be nervous. I didn’t have any trouble getting in to the park, and there wasn’t any crazy security that I noticed. Of course, my focus was probably elsewhere.

The start line festivities seemed minimal — just the singing of the anthem and a few shoutouts to people running the race overseas. Right at 7 a.m., we were off. I got on pace pretty quick and noticed the 3:05 pace balloon drifting away quickly. In the first 800 feet I decided I should at least try to stick with that group for a while.

This is one of those half/full combo races where everyone starts together, and the half peels off around the (duh) halfway point. In the race guide’s fine print, you see that as a marathon runner, you can opt out of the full at the halfway point and be scored with the half finishers. This fact was dangling above my head in one of those cartoon thought bubbles from about mile six right up until the split. If I’d felt any discomfort in my ankle, I would have given myself an out. Funny thing was I never felt pain. Even now on the train ride home, I feel only a little normal soreness.

Marathon start. A little confusing.

Marathon starting area. A little confusing.

I hung on with the 3:05 pacer until mile 8 or so when we came to the big hill by the university. I started to doubt my pacing at that point, so I didn’t bother catching up. But I kept the group in sight through the second half of the course. After the full marathon runners split off, a woman who I’d been near for the past four or so miles caught up to me. I asked here what her goal time was. “3:10. You?” I told her I didn’t really have a goal right now. And that was true. But with that, I thought, hell, I can still break 3:10, too, probably. I don’t feel any crazy ankle pain right now, and this pace feels comfortable. The temperature is a little warm, but what the hell? So at mile 14, I started to get in the zone.

Getting in a nice, steady groove is easy in the second half of this race. The road is even. The scenery is darn pretty. You can concentrate on your running. Basically, I ran nearly even miles in the second half of the race with a few minor deviations for hills. I didn’t slow at the end because I still felt good. At one point a man yelled to me, “Go AMANDA! Looking really strong!” and his wife said, “Wait. You’re right. She actually did look strong.”

At mile 23, I thought back to that 3:10 goal and did a quick calculation that if I kept a pretty aggressive pace, I could still make it. To my right, Michael, who I’d seen at mile 22, was just behind me on the trail. He yelled something encouraging to me and then ran along the trail at my pace for a few miles until he came to the security zone. I kept thinking he certainly was going fast, or maybe I needed to speed up. He’d done an 11-mile training run this morning. Later I found out that yes, I was running pretty fast at that point. I pushed pretty hard for the last mile to make my self-imposed time goal. My Garmin was off by about a tenth of a mile, and the last few feet just seemed to go by in slow motion.

Brooks Pure Connect v. 1: most awesome.

Brooks Pure Connect v. 1: most awesome.

As a bonus, I happened to find a pair of my very favorite racing shoes on sale for $50 at City Sports on Saturday. I threw caution to the wind and raced in them. These things are incredibly hard to find in D.C. and especially hard to find online. If they’d had more than one pair in my size, I would’ve stocked up.

Cons

Bad roads for a few miles. In the Penn’s Landing section during the early miles, the roads were oddly gooved and uneven. During miles 4 through 6, people are trying to fall into position, but the bad roads clearly were distracting a bunch of us. Thank goodness this was in the early miles because if it was later, I probably would have fallen.

Confusing race start area. My cabbie dropped me off near one of the park’s entrances, and I headed toward where I thought the bag check would be. I ended up wandering around for about 10 minutes before I found the UPS trucks. Some clear signage would have gone a long way. I will take responsibility for not looking at the start area map the race organizers provided with the race packet, though.

Weird jaunt across Falls Bridge. Around mile 17, the course is happily chugging down Kelly Drive when you see up ahead a random left turn. This is Falls Bridge, and it is stupid. Why not keep going down Kelly Drive a little longer? The jaunt slowed me down and got me out of the zone. If you look at my splits, mile 18 is my worst mile because of this lame bridge.

Pros

Corrals. The corral system seemed to work well for me. I started with people who were going about my speed, and I noticed people with bibs from my corral around me most of the time.

Race results posted fast online. My results were online when I checked about two hours after I finished. That’s faster than most 5Ks. Great job here.

Start time. I love starting races early. Today’s 7 a.m. start time was especially nice because the weather was set to warm up past 60 by the time I crossed the finish line.
swag
SWAG. With added security, the race required that we check our gear in clear bags. Not to worry, though, since the fancy drawstring SWAG bag was clear and did double duty. The race also had a nice long-sleeve tech shirt that doesn’t have much branding (yay) and a 26.2 sticker. And my name was on my bib, so I got a ton of shout-outs from fans on the course. I love it when a race does that.

Fan support, at times. The greatest concentration of fans is downtown along Chestnut Street. For about 10 or 12 blocks, people form a wall of sound on either side of the street. The fans at this section and in a few other areas (turnarounds were good) made the race exciting. As I said, I enjoyed getting into the groove along Kelly Drive, so I didn’t miss the barren fan areas too much there.

Hotel discounts. We found a pretty good discounted marathon deal on a Kimpton hotel in a touristy area. If you book early enough, you can probably find some cheaper deals through the marathon website.

Clear course markers, mostly. Most mile markers had a visible flag. I didn’t notice all of them at the beginning, though, since I was trying to not trip over people around me and the uneven streets.

Course Map

Phialdelphia race map 2013

Splits

Split Distance Average Pace
1 1 7:14
2 1 6:51
3 1 6:39
4 1 6:59
5 1 6:58
6 1 6:52
7 1 6:55
8 1 7:17
9 1 7:12
10 1 7:39
11 1 7:13
12 1 7:09
13 1 7:24
14 1 7:04
15 1 7:04
16 1 7:13
17 1 7:26
18 1 7:47
19 1 7:24
20 1 7:23
21 1 7:19
22 1 7:12
23 1 7:15
24 1 7:23
25 1 7:22
26 1 7:17
27 0.32 7:17

Details

  • Course: loop with an out and back in the second half
  • Terrain: roads and minimal turns, a few hills in the beginning
  • Website: Philadelphia Marathon

Minor Injury: Anterior Tibialis Strain

Nov. 1, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.

I might have been a little overzealous in my mileage over the past few weeks. I was starting to taper ahead of the Philadelphia Marathon after running some pretty intense mileage and races recently. Let’s break it down:

But on Tuesday I was in Central Park, and it was a beautiful day, and it was my 30th birthday, so I thought running 14 miles couldn’t hurt anything. Around mile 12 of my birthday run, I started to feel a dull and then a bit of a sharper pain in my left shin. It didn’t feel like shin splints exactly, and it wasn’t exactly like a stress fracture. I stopped for water at mile 12 and took the last two miles back to my hotel at an easy pace.

The day before this (Monday), I bought some new boots. I also spent the day walking around New York. I found the perfect pair at Macy’s after trying on several pairs. Sometime in the middle of my boot-buying, I tried on a pair that was particularly tight around the forefoot, and I remember yanking off a boot pretty hard. I thought it kind of hurt.

Tuesday’s run was going well, but I knew the feeling wasn’t just fatigue. As the day wore on and as I tried to walk the High Line, the slight pain I felt during my run turned in to an ache. When I got back to the hotel in the afternoon, I took off my boot and noticed some swelling in my left shin about an inch and a half above my ankle. My ankle started to stiffen as the day wore on. By dinnertime, I was hobbling down the street, even with Advil.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, my shin and the front of my foot had swollen so much that I couldn’t see the main tendon in the front of my foot. The area also was bright red. I couldn’t flex or point my toes past a certain point. I tried to hop on the treadmill for a few easy miles to see if I could make it through the pain. No luck. I stuck with the elliptical and bike.

Back in D.C., I was able to see the physical therapist Wednesday afternoon. She diagnosed it as an anterior tibialis strain, which means I did some damage to the tendon in the front of my left shin. The good news is it will heal a lot faster than a stress fracture. The bad news is I’m supposed to stay off it for five days and take it easy on cross training. The best news is I might be able to run the Philadelphia Marathon. But I probably shouldn’t run that 10K I was planning to do this weekend.

I’m incredibly grumpy if I don’t exercise, so I ran a few very slow (10- to 11-minute) miles for the past few days. The pain is pretty minimal right now, and the swelling is nearly gone.

I have two tiny exercises I am doing as well.
flex-1

Stretch ankle PF sitting

  • Sit in chair.
  • Place top of involved foot down as shown.
  • Slowly sit forward in chair, pushing down on foot until stretch is felt.
  • Relax and repeat.
  • Perform one set of two repetitions, twice a day.
  • Hold exercise for 10 seconds.

pull-2

Stretch Gastroc sit w/towel

  • Sit as shown, looping towel around ball of foot.
  • Gently and steadily pull on towel, keeping knee straight.
  • Perform one set of two repetitions, twice a day.
  • Hold exercise for 10 seconds.

Also on top of all this craziness with a running injury and turning 30 and a fun trip, I start a new job on Nov. 11 at The Washington Post. I’m adding getting past the ankle strain to my list of things to be excited about.

Race Review: 2013 Army Ten-Miler

Oct. 20, 2013 at 3:44 p.m.

This year was my sixth running of the Army Ten-Miler. I didn’t realize running it would become a tradition or that I would be putting up numbers toward a pretty nice streak when I started in 2008. My time back then was 1:22:38. I can remember being utterly exhausted the first time I finished this race. My weekly 10-mile runs are faster than that now. I also remember being in awe of how well-organized the event was and how beautiful the course was. Neither of those aspects has changed. Maybe my standards are higher now since I’ve run a few other big-city races since this one. All in all, the Army Ten-Miler does a lot of things right. The things it does wrong just stick with me because I want this race to be as amazing as it seemed when I started it.

finishers certificate

Nice touch: online finishers certificate

On to the race. I finished in a respectable 1:08:31. That’s not the best time I’ve ever run in this distance, but it’s more than four minutes faster than last year. I also raced a 10K last weekend and a marathon the weekend before that, so my legs might not have been the freshest. The speed felt easy once I cleared a little congestion at the start. We also lucked out because the course was the same as in years past. There was a chance earlier in the week it was going to change because of the government shutdown. Because I know the streets and know the course, I am able to cut the tangents pretty well, and I know when the hills are coming.

I spent most of the race dodging or passing people because I think I seeded myself too far back. Maybe the expected finish time I submitted was off. I would fall in with a group that seemed to be going a nice pace only to discover 15 seconds later that they were slowing down, or maybe I was speeding up. I finally got in to my groove on the straightaway portion around mile 6 along the Mall.

As always, the hilly part of the highway during miles 8 and 9 was a slog. It seems like there’s always one more hill than there was last year. In looking at my mile splits, I powered up the hills pretty well and finished strong.

shirt and bibCons

Expo location and vendors. For me, the D.C. Armory is an awful place for an expo. I understand the race organizers need a big location with a lot of parking that also is Metro accessible. The expo itself is organized — you can get your bib, shirt and bag in under five minutes– but when we arrived on Saturday morning around 10:30, the line to get past the security check wrapped around the block. I much prefer the Marine Corps Marathon expo at the convention center since there isn’t any security check, parking is likely pretty easy, and it isn’t in the boonies. Inside the expo, I saw about three shoe vendors. The rest of the booths were full of race promoters. Fail.

Metro cluster. Good news: I had no trouble getting to the Pentagon Metro stop this morning. Bad news: everyone got off the train, and the dopey Metro operator waved everyone through the gates without having them swipe their SmarTrip cards or pay an exit fare. That was really kind of him. Except when we returned to ride the Metro home, our SmarTrip cards were all screwed up since we hadn’t swiped out.

Bag check to starting line distance. There probably isn’t much to be done about this one, but I’ll mention it as a tip in case you’re running this race. The distance from the gear check area, which is next to the Metro exit, to the start line, is more than a half mile. If you don’t have throwaway clothes and the weather is chilly as it was today, you’re in for a cool jog or slog from gear check to the start.

Difficult to leave the finish line. For the second year in a row, Michael met me at the finish line. For the second year in a row, we were cursing the Army Ten-Miler for their screwy finish line setup. After you exit the runners’ area, you can either hop on a shuttle to ride back to the start, or you can try to wind your way through the crowds and cut across the course, meaning you’re in the race as you try to leave the race. If the race organizers just opened up a few streets and gates to pedestrians, I think they could solve this problem.

Technical registration glitches. This race is notoriously tough to get in to since the registration window closes quick. Unlike the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, they haven’t switched to a lottery system yet, so you might have a pretty good shot at getting in if you’re ready at your computer to register at some ungodly late hour. This year, the race website was slow or not responsive when people logged on at midnight, so the ATM dealt with some briefly unhappy, sleepy runners. This wasn’t as big a snafu as the Active.com Marine Corps or Chicago Marathon mess-ups, but it still was a drag.

Poor corral organization and wave start. I was in the green corral again this year. For the second year in a row, my first mile was my slowest because I had to dodge the green wave runners who wrote down a fast (wrong?) time and then started way too slow. These poor people keep looking behind them with big, wide eyes with the clear fear of being trampled welling up inside them. I don’t know how they always seem to end up in the early wave of this race.

Cotton race shirt. You guys know I don’t like a cotton race shirt. The only thing they’re good for is throwing away. I would rather not have a shirt at all than have my race fee go toward this. I’ve opted for the technical shirt in the past, but I remember the small size being too big and the graphic being similarly garish.

Pros

Army Ten-Miler finisher coinPost-race SWAG area. At the finish line, after a brief stagger through the chute, you exit to the post-race runner area. This area is big enough for family and friends, and the food tables are fully stocked with fruit, bagels, muffins and granola bars. I wish some marathons provided this much food and space.

Course route (most of it). This course starts and finishes at the Pentagon, and you still don’t spend a ton of time on bridges, and you get to see the Mall. The roads were in great shape. While I do enjoy Hains Point, I love not having to deal with the windiness that tends to happen out there.

Weather. We had an absolutely perfect running day today. The race started at 50 degrees with a little bit of wind to make it feel like 46. I wore gloves, shorts and a short-sleeve top and felt great. And honestly, you can’t go too wrong with D.C. weather in late October.

Finisher coin. A small finisher coin takes up less space in my box o’ medals than a big, bulky medallion with a ribbon. This one is tasteful.

Splits

Split Distance Average Pace
1 1 7:08
2 1 6:46
3 1 6:45
4 1 6:49
5 1 6:42
6 1 6:52
7 1 6:53
8 1 6:41
9 1 6:45
10 1 6:35
11 .10 6:07

Course Map

Army Ten-Miler Course

Army Ten-Miler Course

Details

  • Course: loop-ish
  • Terrain: mostly flat in the first half, hills on 395 in the second half
  • Website: Army Ten-Miler

Race Review: 2013 Wineglass Marathon

Oct. 13, 2013 at 6:58 p.m.
Wineglass starting line

Runners waiting at the marathon starting line

I’ve been putting off writing this race review simply because I was a little disappointed with the result. I know, I know. A 3:18 is still a great time. Just a few years ago, I would have been doing back flips with a result like this. The Wineglass Marathon is a fantastic race with a scenic, point-to-point, mostly downhill course. It is in upstate New York in early October — at a time when high temperatures should be in the 60s and lows in the 40s. On top of picking what I thought would be a perfect fall race, I arrived at the starting line with plenty of great training runs ticked off in my log. My leg problems have almost vanished. But all my preparation couldn’t make up for a warm, humid day.

Me at the finish line

Me at the finish line

The race offers shuttles from downtown Corning, which is where the race ends, to the starting lines of both the full and half marathons. Both races start at 8 a.m. This setup is a little akin to a Boston start, but there are fewer people, so jumping on a bus is pretty easy. Our ride on the dark drive out to the little town of Bath was filled with runners nervously chatting about their race preparation, the weather and their next marathons. The atmosphere felt familiar. The bus dropped us off a little after 7 a.m., so we killed about an hour using the restroom, looking for a place to sit and being nervous the sky would open up. It looked inevitable.

Michael and I decided to start this one together. We lined up with the 3:05 pacer, agreeing we would run together but we both had the right to peel off at any point. After a quick singing of the national anthem by a fellow runner who was being encouraged by Bart Yasso, the runners, who had seeded themselves appropriately, took off down a pretty steep first downhill.

Like any race, the first few miles felt pretty great. I had to hold back to keep from sprinting out of the gate. The pace group was sticking together nicely, but the streets were awfully slippery. Each time we would come to a crossing or to a poorly placed cone, I caught myself dodging people. To make matters worse, there was a guy right in front of me wearing neon orange socks. The socks blended in with the cones. I decided around mile 3 I’d had enough of the pace group and that I could probably surge forward a little bit, just for safety reasons.

The next seven or so miles felt amazing. I felt like I could have maintained this pace for a while longer without much trouble. Then around mile 10, the realization that I had 16 more miles to go in crazy heat hit me. I made a decision at mile 10 to not try for a PR. That day was not the day, though, honestly, the course is probably a good place to break the three-hour mark. I forced myself to slow down to a steady training pace. I said aloud, “Wait for Philadelphia.” Sigh.

Michael and a few faster runners passed me. At mile 11, I noticed I was going a little slower than training pace, so I decided to pick it up again. I considered taking a DNF because I didn’t want to put that kind of mileage in if I was going to try to go all out in my next race. Then, rationally or not, I thought I could probably run to Corning faster than a medical vehicle could take me there. Plus what would I tell them? “Today wasn’t my day, so I gave up.” That’s dumb.

The next seven miles are a little blurry. I remember they didn’t feel difficult. I felt like I was out for a beautiful long run. The foliage in upstate New York and the quaint little farms were great. I don’t think I could have taken them in if I would have been pushing myself.

At a water station at mile 17, I slowed down to walk through a water station. I don’t think I’ve walked through a water station since Boston in 2012 when my shoes were really hot, and I remember thinking, stupidly, the water on the ground might cool off my feet. Anyway, as I was walking, I saw Michael up ahead. I picked up my pace to catch up to him. The heat and humidity hit him, too.

Wineglass medalThe rest of the course gets a little more diverse, and the crowds seem to pick up. The only complaint about the course I can think of is there is a random jaunt through a neighborhood that can feel pretty desolate. In this section, there were a few folks out in lawn chairs. But then for a good mile, I didn’t see a soul and wondered if I was lost until I saw a mile marker. The section through the park (Kinsella Park maybe) was particularly quaint, and it had a lot of crowd support. I picked up the pace to end the race once I recognized I was closing in on the the western edge of downtown.

Wineglass’s medal — made from glass in Corning — is one of my new favorites.

Cons

Corning weatherWeather. I took a screen shot of the forecast when I was getting ready to head to the start line. The rest of the week is what Corning’s weather is supposed to be like. Weather is a crap shoot, I know. Crap.

Confusing packet pickup. This is a smaller race, so the packet pickup and expo need not be elaborate. But the amount of instruction I received about how to pick up my packet and the fact that there were two locations to pick up SWAG seemed like a case of poor planning. The packet pickup was on one side of town, while the wineglass pickup was downtown. I assume many runners didn’t understand this and didn’t pick up their wineglasses and Champagne.

No wave start. I don’t think we necessarily needed a wave start because the runners lined up in the right place. I will note, however, that a wave start was mentioned on the website and was canceled for the race. Wonder why.

Pasta dinner price. I wouldn’t want to miss out on hearing Bart Yasso speak. With that said, $25 a head for a pasta dinner that does not include alcohol is a little spendy. Even if it is all-you-can-eat, I’m betting the organizers are banking on the fact that runners don’t eat a ton the night before a race. I don’t think I would attend again. Sorry, Bart.

Pros

Wineglass SWAGWineglass swag
SWAG. I love the weight of the long-sleeve, technical Asics race shirt. It will make a great base layer this winter. The bag, wineglass and Champagne also are really nice.

Quaintness factor. By far, this is the most picturesque, quaint race I have ever run. The whole town seemed excited for the race, and the fall colors were perfect. This is a great town for a marathon.

Low entry fee. If you register by Dec. 31, this race is $70. That’s cheaper than most half marathons.

Clear course markers. Each mile marker had a visible flag. Since some of the flags were wet, I couldn’t read all the mile numbers. Since I had a Garmin, I got the visual indication, though.

Great water and Gatorade handoffs. I usually list this as a Pro for well-done races. If you get this one wrong, you’re on my bad side. The Wineglass volunteers were fantastically prepared with the exception of one table around mile 20. At that table only one person was handing out Gatorade.

Chronotrack automated splits. I signed up to have my splits posted to both Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think all my times came through, but the finishing time certainly showed up. The Chronotrack signup was free, too.

Course Map

Wineglass Marathon Course Map

Splits

Split Distance Average Pace
1 1 7:04
2 1 7:00
3 1 7:02
4 1 6:58
5 1 7:00
6 1 7:00
7 1 6:56
8 1 7:02
9 1 7:05
10 1 7:38
11 1 7:57
12 1 7:19
13 1 7:25
14 1 7:37
15 1 7:52
16 1 7:46
17 1 7:39
18 1 8:31
19 1 7:48
20 1 7:44
21 1 7:47
22 1 7:47
23 1 7:56
24 1 8:15
25 1 7:35
26 1 7:33
27 0.38 7:20

Details

  • Course: point-to-point with a few minor hills
  • Terrain: roads, a few odd turns, but nothing crazy
  • Website: Wineglass Marathon

25 Reflections on Marathoning

Oct. 7, 2013 at 10:17 a.m.

Yesterday’s Wineglass Marathon marked my 25th marathon. I didn’t realize I’d reached a milestone until I was updating my personal records page with the number of marathons I’ve run. When I started running recreationally about 10 years ago and seriously about three years after that, I could not have imagined how much running has come to define who I am and how I live my life. It made me a healthier, happier person. It helped me stop taking antidepressants and led to some of my best relationships. Now, in a post-marathon high, at that great time when my endorphins are still surging, I’ve jotted down 25 things I’ve learned about running marathons.

  1. During taper week, keep your nerves in check. Don’t take out your nervous energy and/or trouble sleeping on your significant other. Be really careful if your significant other is also tapering.
  2. If you’ve never run the course before, look at the course elevation profile before the race. Is there a big hill or two? Go check them out ahead of time. Doing this saved me from making a huge mistake in the Delaware Marathon in 2012. There is a huge hill in the middle of the park that doesn’t look terrible on the map because it is so long. This thing is no joke, and I wouldn’t have known about it until race day if I hadn’t checked it out early.
  3. If you’re staying in a hotel, ask for a wake-up call, and set your alarm. I almost overslept because my phone alarm had a glitch for Daylight-Saving Time for the New York City Marathon in 2011. Belt and suspenders with the alarm.
  4. Making a marathon packing list pays off. Being obsessive about said list will leave you at the head of the Porta Potty line with a handful of the toilet paper you packed when everyone else has turned away. You win.
  5. Speaking of the bathroom, look for the hidden Porta Potty or the ones near the start line. At the Marine Corps Marathon and at Boston, there are lines of potties near the start. The lines tend to be shorter there if you’re in a pinch.
  6. At the starting line, you’ll get butterflies every time. You will worry you haven’t prepared or that the one speed work session or 20-miler you missed is going to be your undoing. It never will be.
  7. For cold races, stay warm as long as you can. Bring warm clothes that you can throw away, or stay in your car. Don’t use your energy being cold if you don’t have to.
  8. You can’t tell how fast someone is just by looking at them (most of the time). Except you kind of can tell that the Kenyans lining up at the start of the big city marathons are probably going to smoke you. For the most part, you can’t tell whether someone is going to be speedy when you line up next to them at the start. You’ll easily pass the chiseled blond wearing a matchey-matchey sports bra and booty shorts, but at mile 21, some dude who looks like Kevin Federline wearing basketball shorts will just trot on by. What.
  9. Not every race will deliver perfect conditions no matter how well you plan. Adjust your expectations accordingly. You might choose a marathon that promises an average high of 60 and low of 40, and race day comes with highs in the 90s or lows in the 20s. Roll with it. You’ll run another race.
  10. You can master the water or Gatorade hand-off by making eye contact with an alert volunteer. You or the volunteer will still drop a cup every now and then.
  11. Drink a beer during a race some time. If you aren’t going for a specific time or if you’ve given up on meeting your time goal for some reason, find one of those crazy people giving out beer on the course. There are usually a few. Drink the beer, and wait for the next few miles to float by. Woo!
  12. Most men don’t like to be passed by a woman. Most men will charge if you try to pass them.
  13. Most women encourage you when they pass you or when you pass them.
  14. Sometimes when you try to encourage someone else on the course, they might not understand you. My favorite story: In the Dallas White Rock Marathon in 2009, with about a half mile to go, I look over at a guy I’d been running next to for about a mile. “Let’s bring it on home!” I yell, enthusiastically. “Huh?” says the guy. “You know, bring it on home! Bring it hoooome!” “What does that mean?” Sigh. I sprinted ahead in shame.
  15. If someone is offering GU, take it. Unless it’s Strawberry Banana GU. Throw those back. They don’t have caffeine.
  16. If someone is offering Vaseline and there’s even a slight chance you might need it, take it.
  17. After the race, you’re either starving, or you won’t want anything but maybe a banana or a bagel. When you do finally want food, the cravings will be intense. I can only imagine this is what pregnancy is like.
  18. There’s always that one person who throws their arms up at the end of the race like Rocky and flat out stops in the chute. That person is usually right in front of me. Don’t be that person. Please keep moving through the finish line area.
  19. Have a plan for the finish line. Make the plan with the person(s) you’re meeting when you’re of a sane mind, not sometime in the middle of the race. Things you say in the middle of a race don’t count.
  20. You may curse at small children in the middle of races because they didn’t hand you Gatorade and they were the only people handing out Gatorade at the 23-mile mark. Sorry, small children. Who put you in charge of something so important?
  21. You also may select only the most adorable children to be deserving of hand slaps. Note: most of them are adorable, so you’ll slap a lot of hands. Kids are really psyched for a sweaty hand slap.
  22. If you see a photographer, attempt to look happy to be running. After 20-some marathons, I finally got a good photo. This was not for lack of trying.
  23. Run the same race a few times. Multiple runnings of the same course will build confidence. In looking over my race logs, I notice a trend that I run most races better the second time around. For me, not knowing what to expect is what makes me most nervous. That’s why Boston is my favorite race — because after running it four times, I know exactly what it should feel like.
  24. Bring comfortable shoes for after the race. If you’re allowed a gear-check bag, consider a change of shoes and/or socks for just after the finish line. Once I realized I should be doing this, my post-race life changed. Same goes for dry clothes.
  25. Active recovery and stretching are your best bet in the days after the marathon. After the race, foam roll the crap out of your legs even if you don’t think you need it.