Totally tried to get this up yesterday but it just didn’t happen for me. Too much fun this weekend made for a SLEEPY Monday. Also, it’s raining and cold here which doesn’t facilitate getting pumped up for a Monday. This weekend Mike and I participated in the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. I jump at the chance to run races in Philly because that is where my best-friend and lady-life partner Sarah lives. Over the past three years of her living in Philly and me in DC, we’ve gotten really good at making the trip and I feel like her friends in Philly are my friends now too! Friday night, we made the trip up I-95N. Saturday included breakfast at Schlesinger’s, a good stretch out at Philly Power Yoga (post coming later this week), a trip down to Lincoln Financial Field to get our race packets, watching the Derby on South Street, and dinner on Rittenhouse Square. Also, Juno was on TV. Whoot whoot! Sunday was, of course, RACE DAY. Here’s how it went.
The race didn’t start until 8:30 pm but you had to take the Broad Street Line subway to get to the start. Races that involve taking public transportation make me nervous (I had an almost calamity at the Baltimore Half Marathon) so we were up and on a train at 6:15 am. We arrived at about 6:40 and then just waited around for almost two hours, which was not my favorite part. Add to that… it was FREEZING and WINDY. Also, they claimed that bag check closed at 8:00 am so I had to part with my warm layers (I should have just done throwaway clothes) for a whole 30 minutes before race start.
The starting area was CROWDED. Huge lines everywhere, massive crowds trying to move around, and people were getting restless / feisty. It wasn’t my most pleasant pre-race experience. At one point, I was trying to get to my corral and I just stood, stuck in a massive, unmoving crowd for legitimately 15 minutes. I never actually made it to my corral. I saw a break in the fence and just hopped in. The corrals were not being strictly enforced at all anyways, and I was getting cranky so I needed to RUN.
Mercifully, I finally crossed the starting line and got going. However, at that exact moment the clouds broke and the sun starting beating down hard. By mile one, I was baking in my long sleeved jacket. I knew I was going to be miserable if I kept it on so I pulled over for a quick minute to remove my layer (I was wearing a tank top underneath), quickly re situate, and get back on the road. I ended up losing about a minute and a half of time, which is fine but kind of annoying. The race course and the crowd support was EXCELLENT. You start all the way up Broad street in North Philly and run a straight shot down Broad, around City Hall, through Center City, and down to the Navy Yard in South Philly.
You know how some days are just great running days? This was not one of those days. My legs just felt tired pretty much the whole race. I was holding a great pace but it felt tough. By mile 5, I was getting tired and I thought to myself “Uh oh, I still have 5 miles to go and I’m already tired.” When I start getting tired during a race, I try and use my ego to my own advantage. I stuck to the outside of the course, so I wouldn’t be tempted to walk in front of all the spectators. Hey, whatever you gotta do right? Coming around City Hall was awesome and I knew that my friends would be on Broad between City Hall and South Street. I saw Sarah (and gave her a high five) but missed Kristy (womp womp). Then it was another ~ 4 miles to go. I was on pace to meet my 10 mile PR from December and, even though I was tired and my knee was starting to hurt a little, I was not going to let up. I kicked it into high gear for the last half a mile and flew to the finish line.
Unfortunately, there was a HUGE backup of people at the finish line, so I was forced to stop completely 1 step across the finish line. Not ideal. I clicked off my watch and didn’t even look at it while I tried to navigate this massive clog of people. When I finally got funneled into the finish area and looked at my watch, I realized that I set a new PR by 4 seconds! 1:31:47 by my clock. However, this is an unofficial PR since my chip time was a 90 seconds longer thanks to my stop to change my shirt. Irritating, but that’s ok. I’ll keep my PR from December for now but I am gunning for a sub 1:30 10 miler this Fall.
I picked up my medal and my finisher food (which was BALLER by the way. Major points for this Broad Street Run. Soft pretzels and a bag of delicious goodies) and made my way into the finish area. If the start area was crowded, the finish area was worse. Mike and I had decided to meet up at the Dunkin Donuts tent. I realized immediately this was a huge mistake, because they were giving out free drink and donut samples. It was mobbed. It took us over 30 minutes to find each other because apparently our bag check bus was late and Mike had to wait for a while to get his cell phone back. After we met up, we took a couple pictures and high tailed it to the subway. Thankfully, that was not as bad as I thought it would be. We got on a train easily and were back in Center City by noon. [As a note, many runners at Broad Street wore Red Socks as a tribute to Boston. It was a really nice touch! And for interested parties, Mike ran approx 1:10. He’s really coming back from his injury and doing great!]
In summation: Broad Street was super fun and energetic! You really get a taste of Philly and that rocks. Logistically, this race is challenging because of the huge crowds and small start / finish areas. I’m so glad we did it and maybe we will in a few years, but not next year.
After bagels and showers back at Sarah’s, we cabbed up to the Northern Liberties for a post race celebration of beer, jenga, and ping pong at Frankford Hall. I wasn’t feeling 100% (I got an exercise induced headache after the race) so I stuck to soda and agreed to be our designated driver. I didn’t mind at all, we had so much fun! By 7 pm, Mike and I were on the road back to DC. We hated to leave Philly (and Sarah) but we’ll be back again VERY soon!
Questions for you guys:
- Have you ever run Broad Street? What did you think?
- Did you race this weekend?
- Favorite beer?
This weekend I finally bit the bullet and did my first mud / obstacle race. And let me just… believe they hype because they are SO MUCH FUN. This Saturday, my friend Haley (from Bring it Om) and I participated in the Mud Dog Run at Ceresville Mansion in Frederick, Maryland. This was a 5K race with 21 obstacles throughout. Despite being pretty bruised and scraped up today, I would do it again in a heart beat.
We were running in wave 2, which started at 10:45 am. This made for a VERY leisurely race morning. We left around 9 am and arrived right around 10 am. After signing a pretty extensive waiver, we got our numbers and took the obligatory “pre-race” photo. Mike was, once again, amazing and served as our photographer / bag holder during the race. I wore a super old pair of sneakers that I retired from my running rotation about a year ago. I didn’t mind if they got totally ruined. I decided that the less clothing the better, since I didn’t want to get weighed down in heavy wet clothes. Since Saturday was the one year anniversary of my marathon, I decided to wear my geeky 26.2 tech shirt and spandex shorts. People were wearing all KINDS of awesome costumes. Haley and I always forget to coordinate our outfits or plan costumes … rats.
Registration was a breeze and well set up. Since the race went off in waves, there were never big lines for anything (bathrooms, food, beer, NOTHING). I loved this.
We watched the winner from wave 1 come across in like 25 minutes, which was pretty impressive. Haley ad I decided that our goal should be to not double his time. Then it was time for us to line up for our wave. This guy led everyone in a little warm up but it was kind of too crowded for everything he wanted us to do. I completely skipped the burpees because I saw like 5 people get kicked in the face. I love burpees but I’ll do them on my own time. The horn sounded and off we went!
Very naively, I thought this wouldn’t be that hard. It was only a 5k and you never ran very far without stopping at an obstacle. Built in running break, right? WRONG. It was so much harder than I thought it would be! The obstacles were awesome and SUPER fun, but they were challenging. We ran between every obstacle but at times we were feeling pretty tired! I obviously didn’t bring a camera out on the course with me so I borrowed the following photos from the race’s Facebook page. Photo credits.
All the obstacles were stupid fun. Some were definitely harder and scarier than others, but we went through every single one! The balance beam was great because almost everyone around us fell in except us! Hooray for yogis who have sweet balance. Before the second mile marker, we ended up kind of adopting this little girl who was out on the course by herself. She ran ahead of her sisters so we kept her with us and helped her through the obstacles. She was so cute. At one point I found myself thinking, “Hmmm I dunno I mean I’m more wet than muddy…” but then in the final 4 obstacles there were two giant MUD PITS. It was like wading through sludge but the hardest part is getting OUT of them. The hills getting out were super steed and completely slick with mud. It was really hard for me to do it and the little girl was totally stuck. We ended up pulling her out of the pit with Haley at the top of the hill holding my ankles, me on my stomach reaching in, and a third person giving the little girl a boost. It was a serious team effort, I loved it!
We got out of the last mud pit, jumped over the fire logs, and headed to the finish line!
Mike had a great spot for pictures and got this gem of us crossing the finish line together! 44:29 not too shabby for us! And we met our goal to not double that guy’s time 🙂
Post race we were looking pretty fantastic with our Mud Dog Run pint glasses (awesome finisher item in my opinion).
You can’t really see from the picture but my right knee is actually bleeding. BAD ASS.
First order of business was to CHANGE. We went over to the car to peel off our muddy clothes, towel off, and change. Mike was pretty impressed by our ability to change modestly in public with just one towel each. Girls are so multi-talented.
After we changed the first order of business was BEER. The race was sponsored by Flying Dog which is one of my FAVORITE beers ever. I had the Woody Creek Belgian Whit and it was… amazeballs. My favorite is the In Heat Wheat Hefeweizen but they didn’t have that at the race.
We found a couple chairs to plop down and drink our beers. I wasn’t super hungry but Haley and Mike both got the pulled pork sandwich, which was apparently delicious.
All around… an amazing way to spend a Saturday. We had SO much fun at this race and I can’t wait to do another one. Cleaning up was of course a very different story. I washed my clothes and towel separately TWICE with sport detergent. After a took a shower, I had to then clean the tub with bleach to get all the dirt and mud out. My shoes are outside on the balcony right now and I still haven’t decided what I am going to do with them. I’m thinking let them dry, bang them off, then wash them in the washing machine?
Questions for you guys:
- Have you ever done a mud / obstacle race before? Which one?
- What is your favorite beer?
- How do you get sneakers clean after a mud run?
I had this post scheduled for yesterday but elected to cancel it in light of the tragic events that occurred in Boston. I am a person first, runner second and I am, as we all are, heart broken over these events. Julie at PB Fingers wrote a post this morning about ways to help for those who are interested. Amid the confusion and sadness yesterday, I was so relieved to hear my friends at Lavender Parking and South Harlem Runner were uninjured (though certainly frightened and upset). My support and love are with the people of Boston, runners, spectators, first responders, and volunteers. The strength and resiliency of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me, and I have already seen some truly amazing examples in the wake of this senseless tragedy. That is where I find solace today.
I declared this spring was… THE SPRING OF SPEED! I set a goal to get a new PR in the 5K and 10K distances and after this weekend… I’ve done it! I set my new 5K pr in Crystal City and now my new 10K Pr of 55:00 belongs to the Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond. I would link you to my official results but sadly I did not get chipped in at the starting line so my race time is 14-15 minutes off. I’m working with racing officials to get this corrected.
Friday afternoon, Mike and I took off for Richmond. Under normal circumstances, it should take 2 hours tops. But this is DC and the traffic is like the worst in the country so we sat in this for hours and it took us like 4 hours to get there.
After finally arriving and picking up our packets, we headed to Carytown where were staying (courtesy of AirBnB… if you haven’t tried it but consider yourself a more “adventurous traveler” I’d seriously recommend it. Especially for runners traveling to major races. A hotel would’ve EASILY cost us $200 and be miles from the start line. This was $50 for a night and we were less than two miles from the start). And it came with some quality time spent with the family dog… Squeaker!
The remainder of the evening consisted of pizza at Mary Angela’s, frozen yogurt from Sweet Frog, and being asleep by 11:15.
Since the race didn’t start until 8:30 it made for a rather leisurely race morning. We left the house at 7 am and leisurely walked down to the start line. We arrived around 7:40, checked our bag, used the bathroom, posed for a quick pic by the fountain, and made our way to the corrals.
Confession time… I snuck into a different corral than the one I was assigned! They were like actually checking too so this was more difficult than I was expecting. I do not advocate changing corrals BUT I was going for a PR and I knew I could hold the pace, so I jumped in a couple corrals ahead of my own. And before I knew it… we were off! Mike ran with me again and we were aiming for 8:45 – 8:50 min / mile.
It was challenging but I held the pace. My legs felt kind of heavy at the beginning of the race but thankfully they loosened up after a couple of miles. The course was awesome… a straight out and back on Monument Avenue complete with beautiful houses, basically pancake flat road, tons of crowd support, and live music EVERY block. Right at mile 6, I realized that I might be able to break 55 minutes if I really hauled it in to the finish line. I managed a really decent kick (in fact, my pace for that .2 miles was 7:40 min/miles) but ended up finishing at exactly 55 minutes. KIND OF wish I had gotten 54:59 instead but that’s ok. I’m taking this 4 minutes PR and cherishing it!
Mike is, as always, the best racing buddy. I’m really not looking forward to him recovering from this injury… who is going to pace me in for new PRs now???
The post race festivities were really great! Very family friendly for my racing buddies with kiddos. There were inflatables and characters roaming around!
We went picked up our bags and let me just say… this is by far the best bag check solution I’ve EVER seen. It was so quick and easy for pick up and drop off. You dropped off in one big group, then the bags were placed around the perimeter of a large fenced area. You just went to the fence that corresponded with your number. No lines AT ALL.
Quick race review – for such a HUGE race, this was so amazingly well organized it’s ridiculous. The corrals were excellent, the course didn’t feel THAT crowded, aid stations were perfectly stocked, and it was AWESOME. I would HIGHLY recommend this race. It is very first-timer and walker friendly as well. You won’t feel alone no matter where you are in the race.
Questions for you guys:
- Did you race this weekend? Where?
- What is your favorite race you’ve ever run?
In honor of the Spring of Speed… I ACTUALLY raced my very first 5K this weekend. I’ve done it a number of times in training (a 5K “time trial” of sorts), but I’ve never raced an actual 5K race. To be honest, last week kinda stunk just for a number of silly little reasons. It wasn’t “my” week and I was VERY grateful when it was after 5 on Friday. I didn’t have high hopes for this 5K even though I really wanted to do well. I was having a crappy week, I accidentally brought long pants thinking they were capris (it was kind of warm) and my hair tie broke as I was putting my hair in a race ponytail. I also neglected to charge or pack my Garmin. I didn’t really feel ready.
But luckily, Mike agreed to run with me since he isn’t really in racing shape right now (Mike’s 5K PR is like 19 minutes and change, so we’re not really in the same league usually). I showed up, picked up my number, ditched my bag, and I even went for a warm up jog (which I don’t normally do… but now I’m thinking perhaps I should?). We saw / chatted with a couple people, including my brother’s roommate (who is like super hardcore / in the military so we definitely weren’t running with him).
I decided to shoot for a pace of 8:45 min / mile, but had to rely on Mike b/c he was wearing the Garmin. I took off at what I thought / hoped was a hard but maintainable pace. I had to work hard to think about this race differently than I normally do my longer distance races. Even if I went out “too fast”, I wasn’t going to totally bonk / not finish a 5K. I ended up clocking 8:25 for the first mile and I felt good. My legs felt great and could definitely hold that pace. I figured I’d try and hold it for as long as I could and just see how things went!
Around mile 1.8 I started getting this weird burning sensation in my stomach. Normally, I would back off if I felt something like that, but I tried to remember that this was a 5K. According to Mike… the “hurt” of a 5K is different than the “hurt” of a half marathon. I pushed on despite the feeling in my stomach. We clocked mile 2 at 8:25 as well. The final mile was definitely the most challenging, but I did everything I could to dig deep and pull this out. I almost bulldozed a little kid on the course by accident… sorry kid!
Mile 3 clocked in slightly slower at about 8:30, but overall I was really pleased with my ability to hold a steady pace over the course of the race. Mike was, as always, an amazing racing partner because he pushed me when I needed it but also backed off and let me run my race (I can be kind of mean when I’m really focused but he knows it comes from a place of love haha). My legs felt perfect but I was definitely feeling that burning sensation in my stomach / chest. My breathing was hard but not strained or shallow, which was good! (Apparently, these are all feelings you should have while racing a 5K? I dunno I just repeat what people say to me). I was able to muster up a little surge to the finish line, which is always nice.
As you can see, I raced with my hair down (thank god I had a headband at least!) and I rolled my ankle length tights up to my knees to create makeshift capris. These things were like a vice on my legs though. I’m shocked I didn’t have to amputate both of my legs below the knees to get them off.
My official finish time was 26:45! Considering before this race the other 5Ks I’ve run were all over 30 minutes, I feel pretty good about that 🙂 New PR to start the weekend!! As always, thank you Pacers for putting on an AWESOME event.
After the race, I enjoyed some Corner Bakery cookies, Vita Coco water, and caught up with a few friends before heading home. It was a lovely night of homemade pizza, beer, and falling asleep by 10:15 pm 🙂
Questions for you guys:
– Do you prefer shorter or longer races? I think I still prefer longer races, but I’m enjoying the new challenge of short.
– Have you ever done a night / evening race before? Thoughts?
– What is your favorite cookie?? I have a weakness for black and white cookies, but other than that I think my favorite is the snicker doodle!
Woohoo racing season is upon us!!! The St. Patrick’s Day 8K has now kicked off my spring racing season for the past three years. It’s a fun race (great excuse to wear green) and 8K is such a manageable distance to wade into the season. However, I’ve never actually “raced” this race before. For whatever reason, there’s always something that makes me do this race “just for fun” and take it really really easy. In some ways I like that about it. Keep this fun race… well… fun! But this is really the only 8K I ever run, so my 8K “PR” is really out of whack for my other race times. But that’s ok 🙂 This year was no exception…
Mike and I met up with my friend Sarah at about 8:30 am (the race started at 9 – major plus of this fun race… doesn’t start too early!). For the second time with this race, I’ve almost overslept / missed it because of daylight savings time. Will I ever learn? Everyone was decked out in their green and fun gear. I always end up wishing I actually took the time to go buy something fun to wear but alas my go to green / white striped arm sleeves will have to do.
We lined up at the balloon arch and before we knew it we were off! Mike went ahead of us and Sarah and I stuck together. Mike has been having major IT band issues, Sarah hasn’t been training much, and I was having some weird ankle pain so needless to say all of us were a little down for the count on this race.
I love the scenery in this race though. It was super sunny or else I would’ve had a PERFECT picture running down Pennsylvania towards the Capitol building. Alas, the sun was too bright so I settled for a distant pic of the Washington Monument. Nothing like a clear DC morning 🙂
Sarah and I stuck together through the majority of the race (4 miles out of 4.98) I haven’t really mastered the art of the self portrait while running. Or really pictures while running I just kind of snap at random and hope for the best.
As we rounded the corner to head back towards the finish line, I was able to snap a decent picture of the Capitol building. My composition could use work but that’s ok 🙂 We caught a glimpse of Mike during on the of the out / back sections and he seemed to be doing pretty well. I was super nervous about his knee injury (his complete refusal to wear green to this race ended up making him SUPER easy to find). I left Sarah at mile 4 and took off for the finish line. I had been keeping a very easy pace so I wanted to really push the last mile just for good measure 😉
As I turned into the final out / back section of the race right before the final stretch of Pennsylvania Ave to the finish line, I saw Mike again. This time he was walking so I knew he wasn’t doing well. Mike is a huge competitor. There is no way he would walk at all (let alone this close to the finish line) unless he was really hurting. I ran harder to catch up with him. I caught him literally a minute before finishing, and made him try to run it in with me. He ended up finishing a few steps behind me and was definitely in a lot of pain… poor guy!
My “official” time was 53:09 which is totally fine by me 🙂 I just love to race, so I definitely don’t make each one a “have to push it to the max” mentality. Eventually the stars will align though and I will actually race an 8K just to see what I am capable of! The spring racing season is officially open and I can’t wait for what this year is going to bring 😀
I was super proud of Sarah for pushing it out on this race and reignited her running flame a bit. I’m so glad I was able to be with her during the race!! I don’t have many friends who run / race so it’s so much when I have a buddy.
My armpit sweat is clearly why I never race in cotton shirts, but it was the only clean green shirt I could find!! I turned my arm warming into leg sleeves for a little variety which was definitely fun. There’s Mike in his non-St.Patty’s day gear.
Quick Race Review! The wonderful folks at Pacers put on this event, and I have expressed my love my pacers in the past. I think they are a great local group that puts on very well organized races. They even upped their game this year with the race shirt (used to be a cotton t-shirt, now its a technical blend t-shirt. Definite improvement). Packet pick up is always exceptionally easy at their stores and this year it happened to coincide with a huge sale (which I totally scored BIG on). Water stops were well stocked, course well marked, and there were plenty of bathrooms. These are very important for a good race 🙂
After we finished they were handing out bottles of water, which was awesome. My one complaint was the lines were RIDICULOUS for the food tent. I didn’t even bother because I wasn’t hungry but I was slightly bummed to not even have a chance to grab a banana or granola bar for later. What was up with these lines??? (in the pic below… we were at the end of the line and the food was in the white tent WAY down the street… definitely did not wait in that line)
My favorite part was the Irish dancers by the bag check (which was very smooth as always). I studied abroad in Ireland so I have a soft spot for Irish folk music and dancing 🙂
Questions for You Guys:
– Have you ever run at St. Patty’s Day race before?? What did you wear??
– Do you always “race” or do you ever go out just for fun to take it easy? Have you ever raced injured?
So you guys have already heard how my race went on Saturday… PR CITY BABY! But I wanted to give you guys a quick review of the race too. As you know, I love to race but racing gets expensive. My expectations are high and I like to feel like I’m getting enough for my money. I also believe that, when offered correctly, constructive feedback can be really helpful. Races are hard events to put on and everyone can benefit from a little help! You can read examples of my other races reviews here, here, or here (just a sampling). Surf-n-Santa 10 Miler is put on by the racing company J&A Races. They put on a bunch of races in the VA Beach area including the Shamrock Marathon / Half, the Crawling Crab Half Marathon, the Wicked 10K, and the Virginia is for Lovers 14K. This was my second J&A race (I did the Shamrock Half Marathon in March 2012) so I will refer to that often too in my review. Let’s jump right in shall we?
PRICE: $50 (but we registered early last Spring)
Packet Pick Up / Parking / Pre-Race Set Up (A) : So unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it down on Friday night in time for the expo (it closed at 8 pm which is really standard). We had to go over in the AM to pick up our packets. I normally avoid race-day packet pick up like the plague, so we got there right when it opened at 6:30 am. This was the line.
SWEET. We were in and out (numbers, Tshirts, ID check for beer bracelets) within 5 minutes. Everyone was super friendly and helpful… way to go volunteers! The VA Beach Convention Center had plenty of parking, and there was other parking available near by too. No big traffic jams getting into the parking lot or anything. Bag check looked really seamless (we didn’t check a bag) and there were PLENTY of bathrooms. The bathrooms in the convention center got really crowded because people seemed to want to hang out indoors. I ventured out to the start line and didn’t have to wait in line at all for the port-o-potties. Score!
Swag (A-): Some people don’t like race swag… but I DO. I want to feel like I’m getting something I’m going to actually use (Cotton T-shirt? Probably going straight to Goodwill). J&A always comes up BIG with the swag. This race included an awesome long sleeved half zip that rocks. You also got a Santa hat and jingle bells for your shoes 🙂 Mike was kind enough to model the hat for me. They also give an awesome race medal (this one has a beer bottle opener on the back!) and a finisher’s item (at Shamrock it was a hat and a hoodie, at Surf-n-Santa it was a pint glass that I used just this morning for my iced coffee)
So why the A-? Well… there’s usually some kind of problem with the sizing of things. The shirts are never gender sized and I always forget that. I wear a medium in women’s apparel, but a small in unisex apparel. I always order a medium and it’s always huge on me. My half-zip isn’t as much of a problem because I wear something under it. It’s still loose but I can handle it (I actually wore it out running on Monday morning). Also… my Santa hat didn’t really fit on my massive dome.
Post Race Festivities (A++): J&A consistently brings the party. All of their races are sponsored by good beer companies (Shamrock is sponsored by Yuengling, Surf-n-Santa – Sam Adams, Wicked 10K – Blue Moon, etc.) and they give each finisher a BUNCH of beers. At Shamrock, I was entitled to FOUR beers with my race bib (they just have someone marking off your bib with a marker at the beer tables). Surf-n-Santa… THREE! I can never drink more than two beers after a race though, or I turn into a human raisin. But I appreciate the multi-beer option. We had the option of either Sam Adams Lager, Winter Lager, or Angry Orchard hard cider. I went with the Winter Lager because it is delicious and hard cider is like a one way ticket to hangover-town for me. They also have good music and GOOD food. For some reason, they always serve soup and it ROCKS. Shamrock had this delicious Irish beef stew and Surf-n-Santa had chicken tortilla.
While I loved the race, I did have one thought on how it could be improved next year!
The Indoor Finish: The finish line for the course was actually inside, which was a really nice touch. You ran into the convention center and were then able to walk through the post-race stuff without freezing your behind off. Here’s my one concern. The floor of the convention center was a slick concrete and it was wet outside. The previous finishers had tracked a bunch of wet footprints in and I was really afraid I was going to slip / fall (I had like ZERO traction on the floor). I think it would’ve been fine if it was dry outside, but perhaps they could’ve put some non-slip mats / carpets down? Just a suggestion!
I honestly can’t say enough about J&A races. I have thoroughly enjoyed both I’ve done and want to try and do more in the future! It is well worth the price (especially if you register early). If you are in the Virginia area I seriously recommend checking out theses races!!
Hello everyone! This is Christina’s friend, running buddy, and general partner in crime, Sarah. You may remember me from Christina’s excellent review of the Baltimore Half Marathon last month. I’m also an avid POTR reader (who isn’t?).
Recently, I ran in the inaugural half marathon of the Virginia Running Festival in my hometown of Newport News, Virginia. While jogging along and generally zoning out, it occurred to me that I could follow in Mike’s footsteps and guest post on POTR. This was before Christina graciously allowed me to do so, but the thought of this post kept me very occupied for a good portion of the race. I’ll give some background, then pros and cons, and finally a wrap up!
Background: The race started and ended at Christopher Newport University (CNU) and took place during its homecoming weekend. From what I understand, there has been a 5k during homecoming for a while, and this year they added the half marathon and the Virginia Running Festival was born.
I grew up in Newport News, and my parents live about three miles from CNU. For me, a large part of the appeal of doing this race was proximity to my family, and the chance to run a race along the same routes where I like to jog when I’m at home visiting.
The other thing to mention in advance is that this race was TINY. So tiny that there were only 400 people registered for the half marathon. I’m not the swiftest person in any race, so the size had me fearing I would be dead last. Thankfully, that did not come to pass. Because of the race’s size, I evaluate some things on a curve. For example, the expo was of course small and didn’t compare in size or offerings to Baltimore, Shamrock, or any of the really large races. But, I thought it was great for its size, so I’d give it positive marks. Here we go!
-Expo: As I just said, this was modest in size and scope but very well done. I got there toward the end and enjoyed some yummy food samples (thanks to Christina for alerting me in advance to the deliciousness of Sweetfrog frozen yogurt). There’s only one running store in town and it was there, along with a few other local sponsors. Parking was super easy, and the expo was very easy to get in and out of.
-Swag: This gets positive marks for me because of lack of swag. They did the “virtual” goodie bag, which I like, because I feel that regular ones are really wasteful. We got a nice technical short-sleeved tee, as did the 5k runners. Nice color, attractive design. Half marathoners received a finisher’s medal, which also had a nice design.
-Course: I have a lot of admitted bias here, but I loved this course. It starts and ends at CNU, with only the first mile or so and another short stint around mile 5 being on a busy street. The rest of the time you are running through nice neighborhoods with lovely tree cover and portions of the Mariner’s Museum park. The race went very near my parents’ house, and here’s a pic that my brother snapped of me running a few blocks away:
I should also mention that the course was very flat, as is the geography in Newport News, with a few small rolling hills. After Baltimore, it was a piece of cake!
-Course support: Really nice job on this for an inaugural event from all the employees and volunteers. Aid stations were well-stocked and manned, and there were plenty of people to direct runners.
-Crowd support: Here’s another area where I’m grading on a curve, because the race was so tiny. Most of the race is run through residential areas, and I was really pleasantly surprised by the number of people who were outside checking it out and cheering runners on. I think as the event becomes more established there is a lot of potential for great crowd support from people in the surrounding neighborhoods. Also, this isn’t technically crowd support, but I wanted to note how friendly my fellow runners were. I chatted with several people along the way and enjoyed it.
-Pre-race: Parking was very easy, but there wasn’t a lot of direction after that. The website advised runners to be to the race really early, but when I got there the start line wasn’t even set up yet, so people were sort of milling about cluelessly. Also, there weren’t enough port-a-potties, even for a race so tiny.
-Race information/website: I didn’t think that the website had a great set up. I feel that all race websites are structured in a similar way for good reason, and this one just seemed to be lacking a lot of information that’s usually standard. For example, most races include information for spectators, but this one did not. Also, they did not have an easily printable PDF map of the course, which I feel is handy.
It’s probably clear by now, but I loved this race. The cons were minimal for an inaugural event. Staff have shown themselves to be very receptive to feedback on the race’s Facebook page, so I feel confident that any kinks will be worked out next year.
If you’re a DC person, this is about a three-hour drive away, and is a nice alternative to some of the larger races in Virginia Beach. If by chance you went to CNU, definitely check it out—they really encourage alumni to run and even have a VIP tent for them.
Finally, I ran this race with my father-in-law, Tsvi. When I say “ran together,” I mean that we started together and then he left me in the dust, and rightfully so! He came to long distance running via triathlons, and his dedication is really inspirational. He also completed his first full marathon this year and it seemed like he was competing in a triathlon every weekend this fall. Look for us at future events, where I will be pursuing my goal of one day beating him:
Keep on truckin’, POTR readers!
Christina here!! Just wanted to give Sarah a little plug because she’s so modest… she totally killed this race!! She even got a new PR 🙂 Her bro took this picture of her crossing the finish line and I loved it too much not to include it. Way to go Sarah!!!
Hey guys it’s Christina! I’m super excited this is the very first POTR Guest Post!! Coming to you from none other than Mike. He’s a waayyy better runner than me, so I thought you guys might like to hear from a seriously competitive runner instead of just my ramblings.
Hi POTR readers, this is Mike, the sometimes mentioned boyfriend. I ran the Army Ten Miler last Sunday, so Christina suggested that I should write a guest post for the blog. This was my first time running the Army Ten Miler, after registering for it in 2011 and transferring away my bib upon finding out that it was the same weekend as Ragnar Pennsylvania. I had wanted to run this race for a couple years before 2011 too, but never managed to register in time, so I was really looking forward to it this year. They announced before the start of the race that it sold out in record time this year, at about 9 hours. Needless to say, if you’re interested in running this race you either need to pay attention to the registration date (and hour!) or go through the bib transfer system that the organizers turn on over the summer. I think there’s a special pre-registration period for active duty military people, and maybe other civil servants as well, but since none of those apply to me I don’t remember exactly.
I’ll do the “review” part first, and get back to my personal race recap. Registration this year was way back in May, with a total cost of $58.50 including fees. Normal for a race this size.
Expo, A: I went to the expo at the DC Armory on Friday night right before they closed while it was pouring rain outside, so I was in and out fast. To their credit, it was easy to be in and out fast, which earns the A here, but I didn’t stick around to see anything besides packet pickup and the booth selling cotton throw-away gloves. It looked like a standard big-race expo though with vendors selling shoes, gear, and gadgets.
Swag, A-: The race shirt was a long sleeve cotton tee, with this year’s design on the front, and the usual sponsor logos on the back. Since I’m a regular racer, I have more short-sleeve tech-tees than I know what to do with, so anything other than this gets extra points from me. I know many people like to get a tech tee though, especially along with entry fees that exceed $50.00, hence the minus part of A-. They also gave out hats to the first 15,000 people to use post-race trolleys, but obviously not everyone can get there in time to pick up one of these. The finisher coins didn’t have the ribbon that would turn them into a finisher medal, which was also unusual.
Course, A: The race starts and finishes at the Pentagon in VA, and spends about 60% of the distance in DC. It’s almost entirely flat, with the only “hills” being small and short. It’s definitely flatter than my Garmin elevation track (link below) makes it look, and is good for a fast race. You run past a number of other DC landmarks after the Pentagon, including Arlington Cemetery, Arlington Memorial Bridge, Lincoln Memorial, Watergate Hotel, Kennedy Center, Tidal Basin, Washington Monument, Smithsonian, and Jefferson Memorial. Other than the last 2 miles, there’s almost always something interesting to see.
Crowd Support, Mixed: The majority of the route had few spectators, with one big exception being the section of Independence Ave between 7th St. and 14th St. This makes sense, since it’s right next to both the Smithsonian and L’Enfant Plaza Metro stops. There were a ton of people in this stretch making lots of noise, as well as a high school band, and a water stop. It was a really nice boost around mile 7 or so when the tiredness is starting to set in, but this abruptly changes, since about miles 8 through 9.5 along Rt. 395 are the least spectator-friendly and least scenic of the entire course. I personally don’t mind having no crowds at all on a race course, so the Independence Ave stretch alone gives this category an A for me, but some people might like a more even distribution of crowds.
Course Support, A+: There were plenty of water stops (at least 5 I think?), with Gatorade also available at each, all staffed by Army personnel in camo pants and the race shirt. For me this was more than enough to cover a ten mile race, especially with the perfect weather, and I didn’t use every available station while also not carrying any extra fluids or fuel. At one of the last stations, I heard some commotion behind me just after I had passed it, and turned around to see some guy screaming his battle-cry while sprinting the (quite long) gauntlet of water-bearers with each one hurling their cup’s worth of water at his chest. Army race for sure.
Pre-Race, A+: The pre-race corrals were inside a fenced off area which required a race bib for entry. I think I’ve seen this before, but it’s pretty unusual. This was a very large race though, with 30,000 registered runners so I think it was a good idea to cut down on congestion. Since I had my own POTR spectator (hehe that was me!), I didn’t need to use the bag check. There were plenty of porta-potties, and with about 45 minutes to go before the start, I only waited in line for maybe 5 minutes at the most. Do this INSIDE the runners-only area, since there were only a few outside with very long lines. The first three waves were staged in the starting corral, and the following waves set up in a holding area inside the Pentagon parking lot. At about 7:15am the Army Golden Knights parachute team put on a show from above as everyone warmed up, stretched out, and lined up.
The call for the starting CANNON (not a wimpy gun) came from Gen. Ray Odierno, the current Chief of Staff of the Army, and the previous commander of all Coalition Forces in Iraq. After a big “HOOAH” from the crowd, the first wave of about 50 runners starting at 7:55am was the Wounded Warrior division, whose bios you can find on the race website. Almost all of them had lost limbs in Iraq or Afghanistan, and they used a variety of prosthetics, wheelchairs, and hand-cycles to complete the course. It was impossible not to be inspired by everything going on at the starting line.
Transportation, B: The Metro Blue Line did not appear to have extra trains running as of 6:45am, so if we had missed the train we took it would’ve been another 20 minutes before the next one. The Pentagon station was a mob scene getting out through the exit fare, and it took at least 15 minutes to inch up the stairs from the platform and get through the gate. After the race, they provided trolleys running back to the metro from the finish line area. It was less than a mile away, but much appreciated after finishing the race.
Now I’ll get into my personal recap of the race. In the week leading up to the race, I started to have some trouble with my left Achilles and ankle on Tuesday, with the worst of it coming on Wednesday when I couldn’t run even one mile without pain. My goal had been to run a PR of 1:06 at this race, and the Achilles had given me some serious doubt in the last few days about whether this would be either possible or advisable. My real goal for the fall season is the Philadelphia Marathon, so I didn’t want to take a chance at causing a more serious injury in this tune-up race. To this end, I decided beforehand that if at any point in the race I started to feel even a little bit of acute Achilles pain I would stop, stretch out, and walk-run to the finish. Luckily with a little bit of extra rest, it was feeling at least pretty good on Saturday, and mostly-solid on Sunday morning before the race. I decided to go for it, and it felt normal for the first five miles or so. After that it started to gradually tighten up and feel a little weak, but that was all, just a tight feeling, and no pain while running.
The morning started out without a cloud in the sky, and temperatures in the upper 40s before sunrise – perfect racing weather. My first mile was the slowest, as it usually is in large races with a crowd, but it wasn’t a bad thing for me since it opened up pretty quickly and forced me to ease into race pace. By mile 3 or so I had a good rhythm going, and ditched my gloves near a roadside trash can. In miles 5 and 6 I was starting to wonder if my Achilles would hold out, but otherwise feeling easy and smooth. The crowds around mile 7 were encouraging, and by mile 8 it was pretty clear that my ankle would last at least to the finish line, with a PR almost locked in at that point. My previous ten mile best was at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler last spring, in 1:07:32, and I was running faster than my 1:06 goal pace. Before the race I didn’t really think 1:05 was likely, but when mile 8 came out of nowhere at 6:17 on my GPS with a barely noticeable increase in effort, it started to seem possible. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself though, so I waited until after mile 9 to start the real final push.
I wound up finishing in 1:04:49, good for (unofficially) 556th place out of 21,912 finishers, and a huge PR.
|Split||Time||Distance||Avg Pace||Best Pace||Calories|
Excellent race all around!!! Here is the link to the Garmin Connect entry
Me again… just can’t stop gushing about how proud of him I am 🙂
If you haven’t guessed already… I like saving money. I also like spending money on fun things like shoes and clothes, but I will go out of my way to spend as little as possible on everything (I sincerely hope that no one in my life would think of me as “cheap”, I just believe in getting the best deal possible and being responsible about money). This was kind of hard for me when I started racing because racing is EXPENSIVE. I love racing, so I’ve figured out a way to make it work in my budget… but I’ve got my eye out at races to make sure I’m getting my moneys worth. FOR example, you pay $40 for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington DC in the spring and you get no race medal and a crappy cotton t-shirt. I paid $25 to run the Charlottesville 10 Miler and I got a finishers medal and a Nike Dri-Fit technical tee. These are the kinds of things that jump out at me.
So here are my thoughts on the Baltimore Half Marathon including value for the money and logistics. (DISCLAIMER: I recognize how difficult putting races on is, so these comments are more meant to be constructive feedback as opposed to whiny criticism)
PRICE: $90 (plus $7 transaction fee to register online… get you every time!) I registered in August. If I had registered before April 1st it would have been $80
– Crowd Support: People of Baltimore… you rock. Much of the race was through neighborhoods around the city, which is my favorite (nothing worse than running on a freaking highway). There were SO many people out with signs, kids giving out candy, people playing music from the porches. Some favorites included the group of people in a neighborhood playing “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray, the two guys dancing on their car in tiger suits playing “Eye of the Tiger”, and the kids giving out candy corn on the longest hill of the race. Some of my favorites signed included: “If the marathon was easy, it would be called your mom” “Run a Marathon Today, Law & Order Marathon Tomorrow” and “JANICE – You forgot to sort the laundry” (<– that guy gets 10 points in my book for being hilarious). The crowds and the people are WHY I run races in different cities. Go Baltimore… you guys get an A+ on this one.
– Course Support: This was a big race but the volunteers / coordinators were on point the whole race. Plenty, plenty, plenty of water and Gatorade at every stop. I know most serious runners don’t drink as much as I do while racing, but dehydration is my #1 migraine trigger. After my first 10K, I got such a headache I took medicine and slept for 18 hours straight. I want to run a good race, but I always want to enjoy my life after. So I get water and gatorade at every station. The best part though was the HUGE fuel station they had set up at Lake Montebello. In addition to liquids they had mini Lara Bars, Power Bar Energy Bites, bananas, everything! I had my margarita shot blocks, so I just grabbed a mini Lara Bar for later. It was awesome. A+ for fuel.
– Swag: The shirt is a semi-fitted Under Armour short sleeve and it rocks. I got a women’s medium and it fits perfectly. That style shirt retails for about $47.99. The shirts are also different for marathon, half marathon, and team relay, which I like (different colors and the race distance was printed on the back). When I ran my marathon in the spring, it was the same shirt for the full and half and I felt kind of jipped. I wanted a MARATHON shirt so everyone would know how awesome I am when I wore it. The medals were also really sweet. There was a very cool crab cartoon printed on them. A+ for swag.
– Post Race Support: After runners finished they were funneled into a line to get space blankets, medals, water and Gatorade. I would’ve liked to have the water / Gatorade first because it took several minutes to get through the line (space blankets can be really difficult to pull off the roll quickly so that really clogged up the line). While they had bottled water available, the only Gatorade I saw was in cups. I took one cup but would’ve loved to have bottle Gatorade available to take with me. The food was pretty standard. No major complaints there. B for post race support.
– Expo Setup: The expo was at the M&T Bank Center and I literally felt like I walked around the entire concourse to get all my stuff. You got your bag when you walked in the stadium, then you went upstairs and all the way to the left to get your number, then you walked all the way back to the right to get your shirt. Just felt like the critical stuff could have been closer together. The vendors were ok but not the best selection I’ve ever seen (granted I did get there later on Friday evening so maybe there was more earlier). I didn’t see my favorite… Hippie Runner 😦 B- for expo setup.
– Transportation: Parking at the expo was no problem, but the way the races were set up (Marathon started at 8 am, Half at 9:45 am) meant if you were running the half, you needed to either drive in before the start of the marathon, or use public transportation. Not a HUGE deal, but Light Rail stations outside Baltimore are really not equipped to handle this number of people. The parking lots were full by 8 am and the only parking available was metered spots (there really isn’t a way to use a metered spot when you’re going into Baltimore to run a race). We ended up parking on the street several blocks from the Light Rail. We then waited in a long line to get tickets from the ticket machine (of COURSE a train came while we were in line… and then no one checked our tickets once on board BAH!). The trains were packed to say the least. At the end of the day, we got there and it was fine, but it wasn’t the best situation ever. B- for transportation.
So in case you didn’t know (or didn’t read my post on Friday) I spent most of my weekend volunteering with the Ragnar Relay here in DC. The name is somewhat deceptive because very little (if any) of the race actually occurred in DC. The race began in Cumberland, MD and ended at National Harbor, which is technically considered Oxon Hill, MD. Regardless, it was a weekend to remember. Let me start by saying that Mike and his team (Get to the Choppa) totally KILLED IT. Mike has been anxiously checking the Ragnar website for the official results, but his team thinks their unofficial time is approximately 25 hours and 45 minutes. They were beasts out there and I’m super, super proud of him 🙂 See the below video for an explanation of their team name.
But let me back track and tell you a little bit about my experience (because as we know… it’s all about me). Friday afternoon I left my office at 4:30 pm and sat in traffic for 2 hours on Route 270 trying to get out to Middletown, MD. I finally arrived for the start of my shift at 6:30 pm at Exchange 18 at South Mountain Creamery. I saw that name on my volunteer sheet but for some reason I was still shocked when I pulled up to a working creamery with like cows and chickens roaming around. I’ve lived in the city too long. It rocked.
Unfortunately, when you’re the first shift at an exchange point, you spend about 45 minutes getting set up and trained, and then you wait around for hours for your first runner to come through. I didn’t mind though. I brought a book to read, but ended up sitting around for hours chatting with the other volunteers who were SUPER cool. One guy has run this relay several times but broke his knee cap in a car accident this year. This dude is so legit. He is fighting back from this injury and plans to run the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Another guy’s wife was running with a team from the Naval Academy, and he does Ironmans! I had a great time getting to know everyone. Finally, it was 10 pm and it was time to start preparing for the runners. I was manning the chute, which is basically where the active runner enters and hands off their slap bracelet to their next runner. One of the other volunteers was about 200 yards down the road and would radio in the number of incoming runners. I took that number and shouted it over a bullhorn (I meannnnn it was really awesome) to notify their team to set up in the chute. Since this was a night shift we also had to check and make sure each runner was wearing a reflective rest, a headlamp (or forward facing light) and a blinking tail light. It was DARK out so no one was forgetting to put on their lights. I also didn’t get any pictures because it was super dark and my phone was completely dead… sorry!
Right as I finished my shift, Mike’s van arrived to sleep a couple hours before starting their next legs. We got to hang out for a little bit, which was really fun. I convinced him to go buy South Mountain Creamery chocolate milk because it is heaven on earth. He agreed. I left and drove an hour back to my apartment where Fig and I promptly passed out in bed.
I had to be back on the next day at 1 pm, but luckily I didn’t have to drive very far to the finish line at National Harbor. Here I was working the finish line. Basically, I was stationed slightly in front of the finish line and I was taking the number of incoming runners / teams and radioing them to the official timer and the DJ so they could be announced when crossing the finish line.
The finish line was SO much different than Exchange 18. For starters there was NO down time. I was on from 1 pm straight through to 6 pm when I had to ask for a relief so I could leave! It was definitely much more tiring but the atmosphere was so electric. Teams were SO excited, and they were all gathering to run across the finish line together.
I also loved some of the creative costumes you saw. This was one of my favorites: Hunger Games!!
Of course I literally started bawling when I saw this (yeah like crying into my radio… embarrassing). This guy did the relay on crutches with only one leg. His whole team (Operation Give Back) walked across the finish line with him. Everyone stopped and clapped for them, it was such a wonderful moment. I just teared up a little remembering it.
The day was beautiful… I even got some color on my arms and legs! At one point there were some threatening clouds but they never ended up producing any rain. Anyways, I left on Saturday exhausted (I say this like I ran a 200 mile relay race) but I had SUCH a good time! I am also totally itching to do a team relay race now. Just need to find a team…
One a separate, personal, and sad note: a very dear friend of mine is currently in the hospital with a very serious head injury. He is so strong and fighting so hard, but this has been truly devastating news. Please keep him in your thoughts, prayers, good vibes… whatever you do, do it for him today! I am going to visit him as soon as I allowed.