Race Review: Cowtown Ultramarathon

I’ve been away a few months. Training takes time and energy, and writing takes time and brainpower, and working on caucuses and primary nights and through Super Tuesday as a project manager in a real live newsroom takes a lot of time. But here I am on the other side of a bunch of hard work with a shiny new 50K road PR, legitimately pleased with my training and racing so far this year.

I sat down to write a post about how oddly well my training was going in early February, but I scrapped it. First, I’m superstitious, and I didn’t want to jinx a good training season by acknowledging that I was making progress. I’d written virtually the same post about a year earlier. The paces that were amazing to me then seem like my normal fast runs now. The post I wrote about being ecstatic to work in one 90-mile week seems like it was ages ago, but it’s really only been 18 months since I hit that first peak. I’m now stacking up multiple 90+ weeks to train for ultramarathons. I’ve changed my training to take easy days absurdly easy, pace-wise. Instead, I started using a heart rate monitor to keep my training in the 130 to 140 bpm zone on easy days. And I continued my strengthening and stretching routine from my hamstring injury in the fall, so I’ve maintained glute, hamstring and core strength that I think has kept any new injuries away.

I consider most of 2016 so far to count as a gradual buildup toward the Boston Marathon where I’m hoping to break 3 hours. On the right day, I’ve got that. For now, I’m pushing Comrades to the back burner but maintaining a legitimate mileage base while I work on speed. I would like to run well at Comrades too, but that’s not this year’s “A” race. I know I’m physically capable of covering the distance but that it might mentally wreck me without some longer runs. But if I have to choose one thing to focus on, it has to be sub-3 in April.

To continue to build mileage and work on time on my feet, I ran the Goofy Challenge in Walt Disney World in January. The goal there was to have fun, relax and put in a bunch of miles. I ran my slowest marathon and half marathon times in years, in costume(!), in the heat at 5 a.m. Neither race was meant to be fast. I did nothing resembling a taper, and I walked around the Magic Kingdom until 10:30 the night before. But over the weekend I certainly got in a lot of time on my feet. After putting in 89 weeks the week of the Goofy Challenge, I dialed back the mileage the following week for a mini recovery. To build toward Cowtown and to build a base for Boston, I put in four more 90+-mile weeks. And in December I met a new running buddy who has helped push me to run faster earlier in the morning than I’m used to. She has helped me build that tired-leg speed as well, I’m sure!

Two weeks out I tried a legitimate taper leading up to Cowtown. The race was important to me, and I wanted it to go well. I didn’t want to run it on tired legs like I’d run Austin on much the same training schedule in 2015. So I ran a trail half marathon at a moderate pace, though not all out, eight days before Cowtown and put in one nice hilly workout the Tuesday before the race. Then I did several easy runs and one steady run over the last few days. I didn’t doubt my training or the taper, and I felt entirely ready leading up to the race.

The Race

Cowtown Ultramarathon tomorrow! My first road 50K, so it has to be a PR 💪

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My huge stretch goal going in to this race was to break the course record. With two elite athletes running ahead of me, I knew I wouldn’t win the thing. The course record was 3:54:20. On the right day in great conditions, I could break that. If I didn’t go out too fast, I at least had a shot. Plus there was a cash prize for breaking the record. I came up with a plan — decided to stick to 7:20 pace to leave room for tangent-running errors or late-race bonking. I would need 7:32 pace to break the record. Even if I didn’t break the record, I was sure to PR at the 50K because it was on a road. It would have to be faster than the 5:09 I ran in North Carolina last year.

On Sunday morning, I drove to the start from Mom’s house, did a quick jog to the line-free(!) portapotties, and then found a spot inside on the floor of the expo building to relax and stay out of the wind until the start. Conditions were not ideal. It was already in the low 60s with winds gusting to 20 mph.

Just chilling

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I relaxed inside and then jogged out to the first corral with about five minutes until the gun went off. I’d run the marathon here twice before, so I knew where I was going. The first corral was a bit crowded, but I edged my way toward the middle of the starting pack. The gun went off at 7 a.m. My first mile was a little fast on the downhill, and yes, it was hard to hold back all that taper energy. But damn it if I didn’t knock off consistent 7:20 miles. The miles seemed to come to me. There wasn’t a struggle to get there. The wind was pushing me along, and the pace felt remarkably easy. People were kind of passing me at the start. Everyone seemed to go out too fast. I stuck with my pace, even on the uphills, drawing from the fact that I could go much faster than 7:20.

About a mile before the half marathon turnoff, I started talking to a guy from Ireland who was going for a 1:35 half marathon time. He was right on pace. He was great company, but when I start talking, I run faster than I should. We pushed the pace to 6:40, which, yes, felt good, but, no, was not in my plan. He turned off to run the half course, and I kept going. I was alone here, but I knew if I kept the pace consistent, I could probably hold it for a while. The 3:10 pace pack was just ahead of me. At this point, what was a pleasant tailwind turned into an awful headwind. Still, I maintained my pace into the wind and up the hills. The temperature was climbing, and I started to take a Powerade (to drink) and a water (to dump on my head). Then some amazing angel from heaven handed me a damp blue towel around mile 14. This thing was like my security blanket. I dipped it in water. I sweated all over it. I might have waved it around a little bit. I’m carrying it in all my pictures.

Most of the middle miles of this race are blurry. I ran through neighborhoods where the roads were severely slanted. Maybe they weren’t that slanted in reality, but I had a hard time discerning where to put my feet. I didn’t specifically hallucinate anything, but I think the roads couldn’t have been that slanted there. Things were a little blurry as I continued to pass people and meander along between water stops. Still I held my pace. A woman on a bike kept hanging out near me. Then I realized HOLY SHIT she’s WITH ME. She had a sign on her back that said something about third place ultra woman. People started telling me I was in third in the ultra. Ran some more. Held my pace. Ate salt tabs and GU right on schedule. I ate a banana, so I know I’m at least still fine at taking in solid foods. I made a 20-second pitstop (I timed it) and tried to sing to myself to keep myself from freaking out too much or cramping. I finished the marathon portion in 3:11. That would be good enough for 11th female in the marathon if I’d stopped. It would have been faster than my stupid Hartford Marathon time from the fall. But I didn’t stop.

The last part of the race is quite clear. Once we made it to the Trinity Trail around 22 miles in, I knew where I was, basically, because Michael and I ran that part of the course in December. In December I didn’t know we were running the course, but when the race turned on to the path, it was instantly clear that some part of the course would be windy. In December, we had tailwinds and headwinds coming off the flat land and the water on a day that wasn’t specifically windy. On race day, there were gusts from all directions and some fun bugs and mosquitoes blowing in the gusty wind. The day was still heating up, and my pace started to fall off. In my head, I was trying to figure out how much longer until the turnaround and how much longer I needed to hold my pace. I went through two water stops where I had to come to a complete stop to pick up water because the volunteers weren’t paying attention. When I came back through after the turnaround, I yelled out, maybe in a slurred way, “Powwahryayyde!” and someone handed me Powerade. Honestly, that’s my only complaint about this race. The volunteers were great for the most part. The crowds were supportive in the right parts. I would have loved a day that was about 20 degrees cooler, but hey, what can you do?

finish line

Once the course joined back up with the full marathon course, I breathed a sign of relief. With a few miles to go, I always start counting down the portions left in Yasso 800s. You know how fast I can normally run an 800? Knowing that I can string just a few more of those together gives me some kind of mental trick to piece out the last part of the race. I rounded the last two corners to finally see the finish line. My pace had dropped with the wind and fatigue in the last few miles, but around mile 29, I knew if I could just keep a decent pace, I would beat the record. The finish line stretch was a little rough. My legs started talking to me, telling me they were starting to get tired and that maybe another GU or salt tab would have been a good idea. I powered through the last few hundred feet, which were cruelly a little bit uphill. I crossed the finish line in 3:53:40, beating the course record by 40 seconds. But hey, a course record is a course record, right?

A volunteer flagged me down and told me they were holding an awards ceremony. I’ve won recreational, small-scale races, but I’ve never been flagged down at a major event. The elites were hanging out and talking about the course. I felt out of place, but then when I started talking to such friendly people, I thought you know what? Maybe the fact that I’ve had a podium finish three weeks in a row says my training is going well. I should enjoy this. Here’s a writeup of the event. The woman who won is a complete bad ass who actually would have won the marathon if she’d stopped. This was her first 50K. She won the Cowtown 5K the day before.

Recovery this week so far has been a dream. I took Monday easy, but I was happy enough with a decent pace on Tuesday. I don’t want to jump back in to speedy stuff yet, and my legs are still not quite back, especially after not getting enough sleep this week with work duties. But I’m easing back in to the big miles and hard efforts that will position me for a strong marathon performance this spring. I have to think this race was one more building block to get me ready for longer road races. I stuck to a pace, I handled pain, and I hit the time I needed. Can’t ask for more than that.

On to Boston

What’s next?

I will most likely drop from the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA full marathon to the half. When I registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll race, I don’t think I looked at a calendar. It’s just 10 days from now and way too close to Cowtown for me to run it well. Still I’ll get in lots of big miles next week to keep building up.

Because the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler is 15 days ahead of Boston, I’m planning to race it like I’ve always wanted to.

Finally, I have a trip to Tahoe planned for the week before Boston, so I’m hoping to relax and get in a few beautiful, easy runs before Marathon Monday.

More miles await!

So you had a bad race

I prepared for the Hartford Marathon as if it was the race of my life. On Friday while I was lying on the floor with my legs stretched up the wall, Michael said, “I’ve never seen you rest this much the day before a race.” I replied, “I don’t want to have to break 3:00 again.” Breaking 3:00 had become a kind of quest over the past five months. In April I surprised myself by pulling out a 3:01 in Boston in suboptimal conditions, and I crossed the finish line convinced I had a sub-3 somewhere in me. Then I ran a 3:15 six days later in Big Sur with lots of miles between the two races. Between Big Sur and the start of the Hartford Marathon, I’d put in more than 2,026 miles. I was faster, stronger, smarter, completely rested, even more rested than I was coming in to Boston. And I believed on a good day I could put down a fast time. So why didn’t it happen? I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and running stronger and more consistently than ever. By all measures, it should have happened.

Work weigh in numbers
Work weigh in numbers

I don’t know. I can point to several reasons why I finished my goal race in 3:14, which is 15 minutes off where I wanted to be. The answer is probably some combination of the reasons below. And I know a 3:14 is not a bad time. Plenty of people would be thrilled with that time. Hell, it gets you in to Boston Marathon registration on the first day. It just wasn’t the time I was supposed to run.

  1. I went out too fast. I started the race about 10 rows behind the 3:00 pacer because I screwed up my seeded corral bib and then couldn’t inch my way up far enough. After weaving through people for the first mile, I found the group. The group’s pacer was going way too fast. I should have backed off right there, when the group members started mentioning that the pace seemed a little too fast. There’s no reason I should be putting down a 6:33 on an uphill mile seven miles in to the race. That’s running like an idiot. My legs knew this. They gave out around mile 16. I couldn’t convince them to move. The second part of the race felt like a training run — like I’d run 100 miles the week before. Like my Jello legs were running through more Jello.
  2. I was too nervous. In most races, I show up and just start running when the gun goes off. I haven’t mentally played out how the run will go mile by mile. I go with the flow and follow the crowd. I mostly follow my body, and I’m sometimes pleasantly surprised by my mile splits. Maybe I have a pace in mind, but maybe I’m there to have fun. Most of the time, I have no race jitters. This week, I must have repeated “6:47, 6:47, 6:47,” to myself 50 times. My heart was beating out of my chest at the start line, and I wandered up to the start line after my warmup like a zombie. I was mentally exhausted before I’d started.
  3. I ran too many training miles. While I doubt my high mileage was the only source of a bad race, I ran about 10 percent more miles this training cycle over last. When I ran the 3:01 in April I wasn’t also training to run an ultramarathon , and I certainly didn’t put in as many trail miles. The trail miles and mileage increase both seem to have helped me race stronger at other distances, so I tend to think more mileage isn’t to blame.
  4. The wind. When I started slowing down the most, I was running alone and against what felt like a pretty legit headwind. Maybe it wasn’t that bad. By the time I turned around with the wind at my back, I was mentally wrecked and had seen the 3:00 goal slip away a few miles before.
  5. I ate beets. When I ran a sub-par marathon in Austin in February, I had terrible stomach cramps around mile 25. I’d had beets the night before and the morning of the race. I ate a huge bowl of beets for dinner Friday night and had stomach issues around mile 24.5. No beets next time. They’re good for training, but I can’t have too many of them before a race.

But I really don’t know the answer for my poor performance. I beat myself up most of the day yesterday. I ate some cheesecake, had a beer, pouted. Why couldn’t it happen? What did I do wrong? I’ll probably never know the real answer. But I woke up this morning, and ran a 30-minute easy run at a startlingly fast pace. It was faster than I’ve ever been able to go the day after any race — even a 5K. I went to the gym and then later today went out for a second, even faster run. I think the race is out of my system.

Marine Corps is still on my race calendar for two weeks from today. I don’t know if I’ll try to break 3:00 again. It depends on the day, and I don’t want to stress about it (see 2 above). But Marine Corps has tons going for it.

I’ve run this marathon more times than any other one except Boston (2008, 2009, 2010, 2014). I know the course because I train and race on these streets. My friends and family line the racecourse; people I don’t expect to see will magically appear on the Mall or in Georgetown. I love it. So the goals for Marine Corps are to relax, have fun and be smart. There’s no crazy pacers to mess with my head. There’s just me. Dressed as Wonder Woman. Getting cheers from strangers and running because I love it.

Marine Corps Marathon outfit testing. Needs wrist bands? Also needs shoes.

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Race Review: The March 50K

I went in to this race with no small amount of anxiety. My only goal was to finish upright. I came off a strong training 50K two weeks ago that helped me build some confidence that I could at least complete 31.1 miles. But racing a trail 50K is different from running a training run on mostly roads on a home course that I know like the back of my hand. I’ve been training through heat and humidity for a few months, so I was confident my body could handle the temperature. But as I laid out my clothes on Friday afternoon, I understood that this would take more than the normal marathon race prep that has become almost second nature. I also didn’t end up wearing my headphones. I haven’t worn them much lately, and this didn’t seem like the kind of race where I’d want to zone out. Good call.

Only a little freaked out.

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Of course, preparing for this race started before Friday afternoon. My mileage has slowly crept up since Big Sur. I worked in a few marathon-distance training runs and a 50K in the past few months. In the past week, I got between seven and eight hours of sleep every night, and I monitored everything I ate and drank. I tried to taper even though my legs were begging to run more on Thursday night. And Friday morning. And Friday afternoon. But mostly, I convinced myself I could finish this distance.

We chose this particular race for several reasons — and we signed up about three months ago when 90-degree temperatures seemed unthinkable. Late July was a time of year we didn’t have any other marathons. My goal marathon is in October, so if I injured myself training for a long race, I would have enough time to recover. Plus it made sense to begin to build up toward Comrades with a longer race. This one was on a wide trail with rolling hills. It was written up as not technical, though it has “some lose sand at points.” I’m mostly a road racer, so anything that isn’t paved scares me a little.

The race started in the most anti-climactic way you can imagine. A guy — I believe a war vet — said, “Two minutes ’til race start.” Then, “One minute.” Then, “Y’all gah on now.” Michael and I exchanged a look of, “Hmm. OK?” and we were off. The first 11 miles are not too hilly, and with temperatures in the mid-60s, I was moving right along. At the first turnaround, I could tell I was about four minutes ahead of the second woman. I wasn’t too far behind the leading male group, either, but I knew I had a long way to go.

Sometime around Thursday morning, I started to worry about horseflies because someone mentioned them on the group’s Facebook page. It was all I could think about. Or maybe they were deer flies. Whatever the big, stupid, biting bugs are that follow me for miles at a time when I run in the boonies. I asked around about remedies and heard eucalyptus might work, so I went in to the race doused in eucalyptus essence and eucalyptus lotion. I also layered a bug spray/sunscreen combo on top of that. Still, around the ninth mile, a giant fly started circling my head and then moved to my legs. About a mile and a half of circling and swatting later, I’d had enough. I stopped to try to catch the bug. From behind me I heard, “Was it a spiderweb or what?” from one guy and then saw Michael next to him. Oh good, more people for the bug to attack. The bug moved on to swarm the three of us, and I got to run with Michael for the next eight or so miles. Win-win.

Michael and I stopped at the second aid station, around mile 11, briefly, to refill our handheld bottles and grab some fruit. Then we were off to the hills of the rest of the course. Around mile 15, where knew there was supposed to be some kind of course change because a portion of the course was closed, we started to see the three leading men come in to view. We were happy we were on track — that we hadn’t missed a turn. We followed them for a while. They came to a road that I was pretty sure wasn’t on the course map. I sped up to catch them to ask what was going on. We’d taken a wrong turn, somehow. We were running parallel-ish with the course. A guy in a truck drove alongside us to let us know someone had marked off a section that should not have been closed. We would be adding about two miles to the course.

Sometime around the 19th mile, I followed the group down a hill to the aid station. The three guys ahead of me took about two minutes each to grab supplies, and they filed out. I stayed a little longer and ate fruit, a Bearded Brothers bar, drank a bottle of water, put ice in my bra, asked for more bug spray … This part is a little blurry. But by the end of it, I felt like a new person. The volunteers were amazingly helpful. They refilled my water bottle, handed me cups of ice for my bra, lied and told me I looked great. I walked for about 100 yards, stopped to pee beside the trail where I was out of view and then kept running.

Here, I got the giggles because I started running through this underbrush area that was unlike anything else on the course. I kept thinking, “It is A SHRUBBERY” and then laughing and laughing and then hating my life because I had no idea when this slow stretch of overgrowth would be over. I couldn’t see my feet, and I there was sand under the shrubs. After about a half mile, Michael caught up with me, and we made our way out of the shrubs to giant hills that were straight-up sand. My legs were kind of shot, and running on sand wasn’t going great. But I kept it up. My mile splits aren’t terrible through here, but I definitely wasn’t putting down the 7s and 8s like I could in the first half.

We ran together for a while to the 24-mile aid station. The world’s nicest woman insisted on refilling my bottle for me twice. She was amazing. I ate the best Nutella sandwich I’ve ever had. Again I put more ice in my bra. And we were off. The three leaders passed us on the way to the aid station, which was the farthest point on the course.

Around the 27th mile, a guy shuffled past us the other direction and said, “Watch out. Slippery back there.” This launched me in to singing all kinds of Talking Heads. “Slippery People” seemed doubly appropriate.

Cool down
Stop acting crazy
They’re gonna leave
And we’ll be on our own

I might have been damn loopy by the time we got back to the shrubbery (!) and back to the heavenly aid station. Ah well. The volunteers cheered and whooped as I came down the stretch. I think I dropped several curse words in front of children while I was there. I was glad to be upright and happy to know I only had around five miles left. I left the aid station happier and much cooler than I’d entered. But because we came to the aid station from a different direction (read: we were lost the first time), I was confused about how to get home. Here’s my being confused.

Asking the volunteers which way to go.
Asking the volunteers which way to go.

Michael and I were together for a few more miles. I think he saw some kinds of animals at one point — guessing coyotes or wolves, maybe. And at some point I started chanting, “Same as it ever was. Same as it EVER WAS.” I crested one final hill and saw a flag in the distance. The final stretch of trail was probably half a mile, and I could hear the volunteers yelling for me the entire way. Running it felt kind of surreal. I’d never been that far before, and I certainly didn’t expect to feel so good. My finishing time for 33.2 miles was 5:09:28, which was better than last year’s woman’s winning time by about 30 minutes. And that includes two extra miles. I won a pair of Altras and a knife I’m not sure what to do with. Aside from the trail being poorly marked and the bugs swarming me off and on, I don’t think I could have hoped for a better first ultramarathon experience. Veronica, the woman who headed up the race, was so warm and gracious. Each of the volunteers made me feel like I was the most important person out there. They were phenomenal.

50K race winnings. Plus a pair of Altras! Not a bad first effort.

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The best news about the race is that I didn’t get hurt training for it or running it. None of the stomach or lethargy issues I had on my training run reappeared, probably because I kept my nutrition top of mind the entire race. I ate when I didn’t much feel like it, and I had two bottles for fluids for two-thirds of the race. And today I met up with Laura, one of my Strava buddies, and somehow managed to put down four miles at 7:21 pace. Maybe the endorphins are still going, and maybe the muscle soreness won’t set in until tomorrow. But right now, I’m cautiously optimistic I can do more of these crazy events.

Finishers: 4th and 5th place! And female win for me!

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So what’s next? Other than continuing to build toward running Comrades in 2016, I’m taking on a big, scary goal to run a 50-miler in November. Everyone needs big, fun, scary goals to keep going, right?

race view

Boston 2 Big Sur: Big Sur Marathon Recap

The Big Sur Marathon is undoubtedly the most beautiful race I’ve ever run. The scenery is everything they talk about but more vibrant and the smells — the redwoods and the sea air — are perfect — and sounds — waves and drums and footfalls — are what running should sound like. Sure, the roads slant away from you, and you kind of lose your place when you’re trying to run. The wind this year was particularly awful, not just at Hurricane Point. It blew straight on and from the side for miles 6 through 21. But this was my second marathon in a week, and maybe making a time goal was not the most important thing for this race. Even so, I ran a 3:15:36, which was right on track for my optimistic A Goal.

I spent this week as I would any vacation week, stupidly running more miles than I really should have because California running is glorious and always beautiful. Every day except one, I deviated from my plan. I was dumb. But I was happy. And looking back on it, I wouldn’t have changed any runs this week.

A recap:

  • Tuesday: We landed in San Francisco, and I got in a few miles in Golden Gate Park for 12 for the day. It should have been 10, but I felt good.
  • Wednesday: I thought I’d have an easy run across the Golden Gate bridge for maybe six miles, but I felt great, so I ran some hills. And I ran 10 miles. Oops. Then we walked about five miles around the streets of San Francisco. My feet weren’t happy.
  • Thursday: Actually, I think I did well to only run five easy miles on trails on Thursday. Michael and I went to Marin to hang out for the morning, and we walked about a mile and a half around Muir Woods.
  • Friday: I finally had my legs back, so I celebrated by running seven miles at 7:37 pace. Way too fast for a recovery/taper week. But I got to see the ocean on my run!
  • Saturday: Stuck to the plan for once and ran a short shakeout run with Bart Yasso.

On to the race! Big Sur starts at 6:45 a.m., and the buses need to be off the road for the runners to funnel on to the road, so that means everyone needs to be in the tiny runners village no later than 5:30. My 4:15 bus was one of the last to leave Pacific Grove, and we arrived at the start line around 5:30. If you back out that timeline, that means I had to wake up around 3:30 to hurriedly gather myself and my stuff to get to the bus on time. And because we’d been in California since Tuesday, I couldn’t use my East Coast/West Coast powers to wake up early.

The runners village is a setup of rows and rows of portapotties (I only had to wait in line for about two minutes both times I went) and tightly packed, nervous runners huddled together in the darkness. There is coffee, water, Gatorade and maybe snacks. I didn’t look for snacks. I tried to find a place to put my towel so I could stretch. That was kind of a success. After about 45 minutes, the race announcer started to call the later wave starters to line up. Because the road is so narrow, there isn’t really room for runners to make their way to the corrals, so they have to line up back to front. The wave 1 runners shuffled around and did weird warmup drills until about 6:40 when the announcer finally called for the final group to line up.

After a few introductions for the elite athletes, everyone edged forward a bit, and we were off. The first six miles are rolling downhill. They aren’t all downhill. But they’re blocked from the wind. In hindsight, I probably should have gone faster here because this was the only point in the race that running felt normal.

A strong headwind — stronger and more unrelenting than anything at Boston — knocked us in the face right at the seven-mile mark. You could hear the group let out an audible groan, and everyone shifted to try to get behind someone else. We were out of the cover of trees, and the people I’d been running with and the ocean came in to a kind of technicolor. But the wind. Ugh.

For the next four miles, I stuck with a group of guys and one woman who were trying their best to fairly take the running burden and shield each other from the wind. I would tuck in behind a guy and run beside another for a while, and they’d reposition themselves after about a mile. I wish I could have stuck with them longer, but the group seemed to disband at a water stop.

Mile 10 has a nice downhill that I tried to not take too fast. I had to tie my shoe during that mile because the WIND UNTIED MY SHOE, which took about 20 seconds.

Wind on Bixby Bridge
Wind on Bixby Bridge. Also: heel striking and awful form!

On Friday, Michael and I drove the course, so I kind of understood how awful Hurricane Point might be. It is deceptively long. I’m used to running hills with steeper grades in D.C., but I don’t train on any hill that is two miles long. So miles 11 and 12 were 9:05 and 8:18, respectively, but Strava tells me the grade-adjusted pace for those miles is 7:08 and 7:09. That’s what it felt like. And wind. So much wind.

The Bixby Bridge piano player was adorable, but I wasn’t going to stop to listen. I plowed through and tried to get my mind right for the rest of the race. Looking at my watch, I could tell I’d need to run a negative split to get to my goal. The rest of my miles were all under 8:00 pace, and I ended up averaging 7:26 for the race. I even stopped for strawberries at mile 23 and ran a 7:33 mile. So hooray for negative split!

Done! Cumulative time: 6:17:02

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My overall placing for the B2B for women was fifth out of 219. I came in ninth of 2,133 women overall, which is pretty good, considering I didn’t have fresh legs. The B2B tent was stocked with all kinds of food — sandwiches, fruit, cookies — and beer that I promptly chugged. I got a sweet medal and jacket, and I got lots of cheers for running Boston along the route. The race was incredibly well executed for a medium-sized event. The race communications, water stops, bag check, swag, pasta dinner, expo. Everything. Everything was organized like the best marathons you’ve run. Hell, the guy who gave me my race shirt bag even put my number tag on my bag for me.

I know I can run Big Sur faster than 3:15 now that I understand the course. I would adjust my training to work in more long hills and more back-to-back weekend runs. I had plenty of those on my schedule, but I could have flipped the order to run Sunday longer instead of Saturday.

One of my goals for next year is to break three hours at Boston. I would love to run Big Sur again some day when the lottery gods are smiling, but I can wait another five years before I return to such a punishing course.

This week I will run easy, fun runs. I started this morning with an easy recovery run in Palo Alto. And later this week, I’ll put together my race and non-race goals for the next few months. I know I’ve got a three-hour marathon in me, and I have more PRs to set.

B2B Training Ramp Up: Three 90+-mile Weeks

The last three weeks of training have really kicked my ass. I can’t remember a time when I was ever so excited about running and exhausted at the same time. These three weeks aren’t the highest-mileage weeks I’ve ever put in (they’re close), but each one has included at least one hard workout. Those hard workouts make a huge difference. They’re the reason I can’t wait to head out the door most mornings, and they’re the reason I’ve started sleeping eight hours a night.

Now that most of the hard training is done, for the first time in my running life, I’m looking forward to a taper. Maybe I wasn’t running to my full potential before, so I wasn’t ever really tired enough to want a long taper. But after yesterday’s final long run and after a nice brunch, I came home, sat down on the couch, and felt that warm, completely drained, buzzy feeling. That’s what the training is supposed to do. My legs need some time to recover before three hard races. And I’m excited to let that happen.

Here are my top five runs from the last three weeks. This stretch has coincided with an intense time at work (multiple product releases, boss was gone for a week), and I’m even more psyched I’ve been able to train at this level with so much else going on.

5. 17 miles with Michael through Richmond

Michael and I were both tempted to stay home and work all weekend, but we decided to get away for a nice overnight trip to Richmond. I got great advice for a potential long run route, and Michael drew a makeshift map. Off we went down Monument Ave. and along some trails. This was my second long run for the weekend, and I was happy with the time on my feet.

Silly running map. We didn’t get lost!

A photo posted by amandahi (@amandahi) on

4. 16 miles with five miles at half marathon pace

The day before the Richmond run, I went out for 16 miles with five at half marathon pace. That ended up being 6:53, 6:56, 6:51, 6:37, 6:37. This run was a huge confidence builder because I’d just run a half marathon the week before and wasn’t sure if my legs were back yet.

3. Cardozo speedwork: three different sessions

  • Session 1: 6:37 and 6:28 miles as a second run
  • Session 2: 6:35 and 6:28 miles as a second run, though I felt like I was dragging
  • Session 3: 5K time trial with 6:29, 6:24, 6:26 miles. And on this particular Tuesday, I ended up running 22.5 miles total. That day was ridiculous.

2. 24 miles with last four pushing the pace

I ran my favorite loop around D.C., Virginia and Maryland, through some nasty wind. The last four miles were around 7:00 pace, despite some nasty gusts. This run lets me know I can push the pace after mile 20 in a few weeks.

1. 20 miles on the W&OD

This run legitimizes the idea that the I’ve improved my fitness in the past three months. With a head wind through the first half and a great tail wind pushing me in the last miles, I ended up running 20 miles at 7:21 pace. The week before Boston last year, I ran 14 miles at 7:35 pace and felt like I was really peaking out.

Last long run before Boston /Big Sur taper
Last long run before Boston /Big Sur taper: Strava

Bumping the mileage, getting faster

Sometimes you start to feel like you’re closing in on those big, crazy goals you set for yourself. Like maybe that ultramarathon is doable. Maybe running (racing?) two marathons in a week is possible. You might break three hours this year after all. It hits you in the middle of your long run, when you’re knocking out marathon-pace miles on tired legs. It hits you when you look at your training log and see week after week of totals you never thought you’d get to.

The last time I felt myself getting faster was about two years ago when I inched toward 70 miles per week. I can certainly look back through my training logs and see good weeks scattered over the last two years, but I can’t remember this exact feeling. In April 2013 when I wrote about getting faster, I said what worked for me was basically running more and incorporating speed work in to my already high-mileage weeks. But back then I didn’t realize how much room I had for improvement. I took another five minutes off my marathon PR and took seven minutes (!) off my half marathon time. Hell, maybe I don’t realize how much farther I can go even now.

Mileage since coaching started
Mileage since coaching started

The last week of January was probably the hardest training week I’ve ever run. It included ice and freezing temperatures most days, too. I know there are more of these in my future. After seeing the results, I’m sickly excited about them. On Sunday afternoon, I felt legitimately exhausted. I didn’t run 100 miles (only 93), but I ran faster, harder miles than I ever would have scheduled on my own. It looked like this:

  • Monday: Easy 8-miler and a gym workout for about an hour and a half. It was just starting to snow, but the pavement was clear. Easy meant 8:30 pace.
  • Tuesday: 10.7 miles in the snow with YakTrax in the morning. Another 6.3 miles on the treadmill in the evening.
  • Wednesday: 12 miles with speed work at Hains Point. Temperature was in the low 20s. Miles at 6:54, 6:36, 6:38, 6:34, 6:41, 6:41.
  • Thursday: 10 miles at 7:45 pace.
  • Friday: Easy 10K at 8:30 pace.
  • Saturday: Half marathon race on an awful, icy trail. Finishing time (1:29:09) is less than a minute off my half marathon PR. Warm up and cool down for 18 total miles.
  • Sunday: 22-mile long run. I could only manage an 8:28 pace after the race.

I never would have planned a long run the day after a race in my old training plan, but I now have confidence that I can at least finish a long run the day after a shorter race. It just might not be pretty. I think slower runs like these, combined with speed work (see Wednesday) are why I’m seeing real gains. I’ve also started taking easy runs seriously. By not running at a sustained 7:40 pace, which I used to feel like I needed to hold just to feel kind of fast — by just taking that pace up another 30 or 45 seconds, I’m able to save my energy for the harder speed workouts.

My next race won’t be a PR. It’s the Austin Marathon a week from today. I have no hopes of running a PR on a hilly course in the heat after four consecutive 90+-mile weeks. But I will probably set more aggressive goals for Boston and Big Sur.

2014 Running Year in Review

This year was my highest-mileage year so far. I set 10K, half marathon and marathon personal records, I made it through a celiac disease scare, and I started treating food as fuel. I even was stung by a bee and kept up a quick pace to finish my 20-miler in all kinds of pain. I’ll count 2014 as my best running year yet, but I know I have a ton of work and bigger plans in store for 2015.

Stats

  • Total distance: 3,968 miles
  • Marathons: four
    • Rock ‘n’ Roll USA (3:07:09)
    • Boston (3:11:28)
    • St. George (3:02:21)
    • Marine Corps (3:16:26)
  • Age group awards: 2nd Female 30-34 in Rock ‘n’ Roll USA, 2nd Female in Roosevelt Run 5K, 1st Female 30-34 in Erie Half Marathon, 1st Female 30-34 in Battlefield Half Marathon

awards

Top five runs

  1. Paris in the Bois de Vincennes: Imagine losing yourself in a prototypical Parisian park on a beautiful late summer day. Michael and I ran along the Seine to get to the park and realized my planned 14-miler would have to end unless we could navigate our way back using the Metro. We took a (good) gamble and put in another eight miles in the Bois de Vincennes park. The park had enough trails, roads and even wood-chip paths for many more miles.
  2. Boston Marathon: This year’s Boston was particularly emotional after the 2013 bombings. The spectators came out in full force, and running it helped put an emotional bookend on the events of that day.

    Wild Rivers Recreation Area
    Wild Rivers Recreation Area
  3. St. George Marathon: Any time you can shave five minutes off a marathon PR is a good running day. St. George is a beautiful race that I highly recommend to anyone looking to set a PR and enjoy beautiful scenery.
  4. Catoctin Mountain Park: A simple 10-mile loop we read about in Run Washington turned out to be one of the most challenging, punishing runs of the year. I loved it, even though giant bugs kept swarming Michael and me as we ran.
  5. Wild Rivers Recreation Area: In May I found myself running on the roads right before a massive wind and rainstorm in a random recreation area in the middle of New Mexico. I was able to stop to look down in to the Red River gorge. I saw no other runners — no other people except one elderly couple in their RV.

Best running discoveries

  1. Caramel macchiato GU: This flavor of GU makes me look forward to fueling mid-run. It tastes like coffee and caramel and sex, unless it’s frozen. Then it tastes like caramel.Caramel macchiato GU
  2. Beet juice: I read a book by Matt Fitzgerald that recommended beet juice before races to help improve performance. It seems to work pretty well, though the placebo effect might be in effect a little bit. Either way, I’ve incorporated beet juice and smoothies into my diet this year, and I’ve noticed myself feeling fuller longer.
  3. Oiselle Scantron bra: I’ve slowly swapped out my old sports bras for this model. It provides just the right amount of support for a smaller-chested lady like me, and it doesn’t chafe on my chest. That’s what I want from a bra.
  4. Strava: If you’re not on Strava — either the free or paid version — you should be. Strava’s most impressive feature is its segment tracking. I can tell how I’m trending on segments and courses I run often. It also lets you compete against other runners for course records.


Full video: on Strava

2015 health resolutions

  1. Hire a coach: Having a coach in the new year will be huge for me. I’ll say more on this in the next few weeks. I have big goals with Boston 2 Big Sur, breaking 3 in the marathon and running my first ultra, and I think a coach can help me get there.
  2. Listen to my body more and play the long game: In my 90- and 100-mile weeks, I typically push pain aside. I need to remember that I’m going to be a runner for the rest of my life. My body needs to last a while. I should remember to work in recovery weeks with high-mileage weeks. For every three up weeks, I need a legitimate down week.
  3. Eat fewer sweets: Ugh. Sweets and liquor are the reason I’m not five pounds lighter. I’m resolving to cut out sweets and stick to wine during the week for the month of January. That should be easy, right?
  4. Arrive at the Boston starting line healthy: This will be tough with high-mileage weeks in February and March, but if I listen to my body, I can get to Boston and Big Sur in good shape. That means I’ll have rested legs, a good base of mileage, speed work, and I’ll be ~126 pounds. That’s when I feel my best.
  5. Choose races strategically: For the past few years, I’ve fallen in to a pattern of  throwing in races because someone has a spare bib or because they sound interesting. I love to race, but if I’m going to throw in fun races, I don’t have to race them. I should use them as building blocks, which is what I intend to do with my first race of 2015 in 10 days.

Race Review: 2014 Battlefield Half Marathon

When you register for late autumn races dazed by the heat of summer, you don’t really remember that early November in Virginia might be a little chilly. But Friday night and Saturday morning had temperatures below freezing in northern Virginia. I’ve only run in tights once this season, and I wasn’t excited about wearing them for this race, so I braved the elements and went with shorts and a short-sleeved shirt and arm sleeves. That meant I had to jump up and down at the start line to keep warm, which is exactly what you want in a race.

We stayed in Winchester in a hotel not far from the race. Winchester is about 90 miles from D.C., and I didn’t want to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to cut it close getting to a half marathon. Parking lot attendants quickly guided us to a parking spot in an open field (uh, part of the battlefield), and by 7:15, I’d picked up my bib, cutesy zipper gear bag and technical shirt. This was the inaugural year for this race, a fact I learned about an hour before running the race. Typically, I don’t sign up for first-year races because they might end up like a big hot chocolate mess. Except for a few minor kinks, overall this was organized well.

On to the race. A cannon blast from the battlefield kicked off the race right on time at 8 a.m. I passed a few slower runners right at the start, but the timing signs helped people seed themselves correctly. The course is a little strange — it goes out for half a mile through a neighborhood and then returns through the starting area to the back side of the battlefield, behind a barn and down a gravel trail. You end up returning through the same area 11 miles later.

I passed a few female runners after a rough patch on the course around mile 2. Then, for the next seven miles I was pretty much alone on the road, back in my head with the occasional spectator yelling something nonsensical. My past few races have been either heavily attended (St. George) or had a lot of spectators (Marine Corps and Army Ten-Miler), so I’ve had something to distract me from the pain of running. The scenery in the fall in Winchester and the horses and hills in the distance are pretty, but it’s not enough to take your mind off the fading dots of people in front of you or the hill ahead or the maybe pain maybe in your right foot maybe ouch. Relay handoff areas were scattered every three or four miles, so those runners provided a nice cheering section.

This course is hillier than it looks in the race elevation profile. The race emails say the course is moderately flat. That’s a lie. Miles 4 through 6 are almost all uphill. There’s a rewarding downhill stretch near the end, but you have to run over a cross-country-type road in the last mile.

I finished as the seventh woman and 27th overall out of about 600 people in 1:30:36. This is about two minutes slower than my PR from Erie a few months ago at the beginning of the race season. I caught a woman in front of me when I accelerated at mile 10. Around mile 9, I thought if I could keep a 6:40 pace or so, I could gain on her, which I did. Then the course turned back to the battlefield, and I missed the unmarked turn. That threw me off, and I ended up behind her. Boo. I’ll still count a 1:30 on a tough course two weeks after my second marathon of the season as a great time.

Cons

Nobody told me to turn at mile 12. I’ll forgive a lack of clear course markers most of the time. I wouldn’t expect a race with fewer than 1,000 entrants to even mark every mile, really. But please just tell me where to turn on the course. I ran about 15 seconds out of my way and had to double back to get back on the course.

Funky out and back course to start. Maybe I was just mentally thrown off by this weird way to start. It seemed like the race didn’t get really started until we crossed back through the start area. To be fair, people would have probably tripped all over each other in the off-road part of the course if we hadn’t spread out early.

Almost no crowd support. About 11 miles of the race had no spectators. I did have one woman in a lawn chair in her yard yell to me that I was “halfway there” around mile 4.5. “That is a lie!” I yelled back.

Odd sign-up process. Frederick County put on this race. I remember about five screens in the signup process on the government website. And I had to enter my educational information.

Pros

Nice scenery. The leaves were turning, and the hillside views were quaint. This race actually reminded me of one of the first half marathons I ran back in 2006 in Sedalia, Mo. It winds through large stretches of farm land and finishes in a small city.

Great weather. Yes, it was cold. But when I started to feel my feet after the first mile, the weather seemed almost perfect. It wasn’t windy, and it wasn’t yet cold enough for frost to form on the roads.

Technical race shirt and bag. The small race shirt was a little large, but a technical shirt is always nice.

Post-race food. Standard bananas, Gatorade and bagels were, of course, at the finish line. This race stepped it up with chicken sandwiches and pumpkin crumb muffins too.

Race Map

Battlefield Half Marathon course
Battlefield Half Marathon course

Splits

Split Distance Average Pace
1 1 6:47
2 1 6:38
3 1 7:07
4 1 6:47
5 1 6:59
6 1 7:19
7 1 6:50
8 1 6:49
9 1 6:46
10 1 6:57
11 1 6:34
12 1 6:54
13 1 6:53
14 0.2 6:22

Details

  • Course: lollipop thing
  • Terrain: roads and some stupid terrain
  • Website: It’s down right now, but Google Frederick Battlefield Half Marathon

Race Review: 2014 St. George Marathon

It seems like we signed up for the St. George Marathon a year ago — like this race has been on the calendar for an abnormally long time. In reality, I think we put in for the lottery in April or May, maybe. It was shortly after Boston, and Michael and I both had that kind of euphoric marathon high that gets us in trouble because we sign up for another race before the pain of the last race has fully set in. I’d heard from friends and in running blogs that the course could be fast if you knew how to run it. But I’ve never had a crazy PR at a fall marathon, and I thought I wasn’t great at downhill running. My stretch goal for the race was to try to break three hours. We drove the course Friday. Even in the car, the hills felt intense. Honestly, I didn’t think my quads could handle that much pounding.Michael by the campfire

We woke up at 4 a.m. to be to the bus loading area in downtown St. George by 4:45. I remember thinking that people didn’t seem to be getting on the buses quick enough, but it didn’t matter to me too much because I wouldn’t have a problem getting to the start with plenty of time. We got on the bus around 5:20 and made it to the start line right around 6 a.m. The last buses were supposed to leave at 5:30, and I guess I should have realized they weren’t going to make their loading cutoff at that point.

As we got off the bus and turned toward the porta potties, a crazy headwind hit us. The campfires at the start line were blowing smoke downwind, and people were legitimately shivering. Just hours before, I was worried about overheating. I considered running in a sports bra. Instead, I grabbed a space blanket from a volunteer and headed to the fire. The wind would be at our backs for the race.

My secret race goal was still to try to break three hours, but the course was intimidating. The wind might help, but some serious uphills in the middle miles (I say 7 through 12, but Michael swears they stopped at 11) could slow me down. And I wasn’t used to running at more than 5,000 feet of elevation, so for the first half of the race I might be short of breath.

We were ready to start the run at 6:45, but around 6:40, an announcer told us the race would start late because the buses were not all at the start line. Michael and I shared my space blanket for another 15 minutes and shuffled around nervously while we waited for the buses.

A little after 7, another runner sang the national anthem, the wheelchair runners started, and we were ready to go. I fell in with the 3:15 pacer quickly. The pace felt slow, and my feet were numb from standing in the cold. My legs were a little stiff. My first mile at 7:18 ticked off a little slow, but I tried to not let it get to me.

The next stretch of miles until the Veyo hills were faster than they should have been. I could feel my quads starting to warm up around mile six — way too early for a marathon. Michael and I were running close to each other through somewhere in the middle of the Veyo hills. I guess living in Mt. Pleasant for this training season and forcing myself to finish hard up the hill on Harvard or Irving paid off because I was able to easily cruise past a lot of people on the biggest uphill. After the Veyo hills, I felt relieved that the hardest part of the course was behind me. Most of the middle miles are a little fuzzy, but I do remember the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen during a race somewhere around mile 16 or 17. I tried to take it in as I was shuffle-stepping my way through a cavernous downhill section.

Around mile 18, a few guys next to me said they were trying to qualify for Boston with a 3:05. At that point, I said I was just trying to not run the same damn 3:07 I’ve run for three marathons. One of the guys asked me what was stopping me from running faster than a 3:07, to which I replied that I didn’t really know, and I thought about that question for a few miles. I tried to turn to tell him that I thought it was probably because I’m terrible at tapering, but he was gone. Then the road started rising to meet my feet (not normal) instead of my feet hitting the road (normal). I kind of freaked out mentally because my hallucinations usually start around mile 23, and they don’t usually last that long. This seemed early. I turned off my music to try to concentrate on my breathing and to give myself a pep talk, which, you know, was probably just gibberish at that point. A motorcycle drove by, and I swear it revved its engine and instead of hearing a purr, I heard Michael’s voice saying, “Aaaaah-man-dahhh.” I saw a bird flying really near an overpass and then I tried to remember the name of the thing that flew too close to the sun. Then I worried the bird would eat me. I think the mental fog passed around mile 20.5 when I had an orange from a child. I think it was a child. I don’t even know. Some benevolent thing gave me an orange. I kept going. My pace was, remarkably, still fine, but the road looked a little squirmy.

Thank god I kind of knew where I was on the course and could focus on the approximate distance to the start line around mile 21. I started to calculate that I could break 3:05 if I ran even an eight-minute mile. An older man ran up beside me and said, “You know [pant pant] we can run a [pant] eight-minute pace …” and I said, “And still run a 3:05?” “Yeah! Let’s do it.” At some point I said we would need to slow down to hit 3:05, and we laughed. Then I sped up, and he told me to go get ’em.

Marathon medal and watch
Marathon medal and watch

The last few miles take you through St. George where the crowd support increases. With the exception of a cheering section around mile 17 or so, most of the course has no spectators. That’s fine because the views are top-notch.

I kept a decent pace for the final miles, thanks in no small part to the gentle downhills. My overall pace was a 6:57. That number is the one that sticks with me. That’s faster than I ran 5Ks when I started running.

The field for this race was about 5,800 runners with 2,700 women. I came in 25th woman and 180th overall, which tells me this course lends itself to fast times.

Next up is Marine Corps in three weeks. My quads have three weeks to come to terms with what happened. I still want to run a sub-3:00 marathon, but that will have to wait until next year — maybe Boston?

Cons

Late start. After all the race reviews I’ve read promoted this marathon as being so well organized, I expected that the school bus situation would have been better handled. Nobody likes their race morning spoiled by bad planning, especially someone else’s bad planning.

Cluster of a bag check. I finished the race and gleefully (OK, maybe I was still hallucinating) trotted over to the bag check area. The time was 10:07. My bag didn’t come off the baggage truck until 10:47.

Water and Gatorade order switched at some stations. All the aid stations were stocked, and the volunteers handed out fluids well. But! The race literature made it clear that Gatorade would always be first and water would always be second. At some stations, this was reversed. At the LATER stations, keeping the two straight is especially important. I really can’t think straight at that point, and if the order is reversed, I’ll think I’m crazy.

Pros

Beautiful views. This was certainly the prettiest course I’ve ever run. I can’t do it justice with descriptions or photos. You must run this race if you have the opportunity. I’m looking forward to Big Sur taking over as most beautiful next year. For now, though, I’ll put this race at the top.

Downhill course. The gradual downhills took several seconds off many of my miles, I have no doubt. The downhills also trashed my quads, but I’ll take that.

Finished
Finished

Well-organized expo. While the expo wasn’t huge, it was an easy-in/easy-out experience.

Decent SWAG. The goodie bag had a long-sleeved tech shirt that was a little over sized (oh well), a cute drawstring bag, trail mix, corn cakes and a random book about reaching your full potential. I threw that away.

Campfires and space blankets at start. Nobody wants to stand around in the cold darkness for an hour waiting for the race to start.

Misters at the finish line. Directly after the finish line and before the chute to get race medals, a genius set up a line of spray misters. The temperature at the finish was probably around 66 degrees, but the sun was blazing. A little bit of coolness helped.

Race Map

Elevation Map

Elevation: 5,243 feet to 2,691 feet
Elevation: 5,243 feet to 2,691 feet

Splits

Split Distance Average Pace
1 1 7:18
2 1 6:57
3 1 6:47
4 1 6:44
5 1 6:40
6 1 6:36
7 1 6:37
8 1 7:36
9 1 7:20
10 1 7:10
11 1 7:20
12 1 7:01
13 1 6:43
14 1 6:44
15 1 6:45
16 1 6:38
17 1 6:53
18 1 6:52
19 1 7:10
20 1 6:54
21 1 6:53
22 1 6:58
23 1 7:01
24 1 6:58
25 1 6:58
26 1 7:05
27 0.26 7:03

Details

  • Course: point to point
  • Terrain: well-kept roads with massive downhills and surprising uphills in the middle miles
  • Website: St. George Marathon

Race Review: Roosevelt Run 5K

Thursday night’s Roosevelt Run 5K was my second evening race in the past few months. I’ve picked up my evening training regimen (thanks, DCRunster!) so I’m a little more used to a second run around 6:30 or 7 p.m. I started the morning with a steady, somewhat easy run through Central Park. I never really properly taper for races shorter than a marathon, and I knew running that many miles wouldn’t help me later in the day. Still, I was in New York, and I wasn’t not going to run in one of America’s best places to run.

My buddy Jamey and I ran this race in 2012, so we knew what to expect. This is the most low-key race I’ve come across in the D.C. area. Only 64 runners came to the starting line. I mean given the odd time (Thursday night at 7 p.m.), lack of promotion, funky course and general feeling of the event, that turnout seemed about right.

The organizers — the amazing Jay Jacob Wind and Race Director James Scarborough — set up a small starting line area near Rosslyn where cyclists and other runners regularly sped through the start and finish line. Around 6:55, someone played the national anthem so low I could barely hear it. Everyone looked around to kind of acknowledge that it was over? We lined up according to our expected finish time. Then Scarborough blew a train whistle (!), and we were off.

Race Director James Scarborough explains the course.
Race Director James Scarborough explains the course.

After the first hundred yards, the course turns left to a steep downhill bridge where racers are thrown in with cyclists and other runners. This is the trickiest part of the course because you want to start strong, but you certainly don’t want to wipe out. Past the first tricky section, you’re running on the Mount Vernon Trail where you have enough room to navigate the field.

I was trading positions with a lanky young runner for the first half of the race, but I dropped him right after the turnaround point. I also passed the second place female runner to move in to a solid second place spot for the finish. The end of the race has you going back to that steep uphill to huff your way to the finish. I did a better job pacing the second half of this 5K, so I was happy with my 20:33 (or 20:16 according to Garmin) effort.

Cons

  • No road closures. Closing a commuter bike and running path on a random Thursday certainly would put a wrench in everyone’s plans, and I understand that the cost to close this stretch would be passed along to participants, but I navigating cyclists and other runners isn’t too fun.
  • Bridge at beginning and end. As I said, the steep bridge to start the race is the hardest part to manage. I wish the race started in the parking lot closer to Teddy Roosevelt Island.
Two winners: second female and first masters
Two winners: second female and first masters

Pros

  • Prizes. I raced and won second place female for a $10 gift certificate to a running store. Other participants who won age-group prizes picked up some cool Teddy Roosevelt memorabilia. A quarter of the runners were winners.
  • Race results posted fast online. The results were posted within hours of the race ending.
  • Teddy Roosevelt theme. I’m a sucker for Teddy Roosevelt, so I love that the race is related to his nearby island.
  • T-shirts. The race email said “a variety of T-shirts will be available” for this race. Someone showed up with a box of random T-shirts that had little to do with this race but still were awesome. In 2012, I think the T-shirts had some Teddy tie-in, but this year’s were still fine to put on if you need to change out of sweaty running clothes.
  • Price. This race was only $20 through early August. And if you win a prize, you can count that against race entry fees, right?
  • Bib scoring. I usually hate bib-timed scoring, but the scale of this race made old-fashioned bib tear-offs perfectly acceptable. I do wish someone had been watching the clock a little more closely when I finished because I definitely saw 20:02 on the clock as I crested the hill.

Course Map

2014 Roosevelt Run 5K Route

Splits

Split Distance Average Pace
1 1 6:22
2 1 6:31
3 1 6:38
4 0.11 6:39

Details

  • Course: out and back
  • Terrain: steep downhill to start, steep uphill to finish
  • Website: Roosevelt Run 5K