16 miles!


Marathon training has been going well, despite the crushing humidity. There’s a lot of negative self talk that goes on at 5:30am in the dark, with humidity pressing down, as unidentifiable animals make spooky noises. Thankfully I have connected with some great running buddies who actually go run at 0530 of their own volition. I’ve looked back at my old running logs, and my running is so much more consistent than it was 9 years ago, training for my first marathon. Even though I had only one child and a much more running-friendly schedule back then, I didn’t have weekday running people, and many of the roads I run on now didn’t exist, or weren’t runnable back then.

This morning I had 15-16 at AHR on the schedule, and got unexpectedly nervous about it last night. I knew the group would be very small, with the holiday weekend, the Four Miler yesterday, and the switch to Sunday. I wasn’t sure I’d have company for the run, and ultimately decided to show up early and do 2-3 miles before the group met up. This would both mentally break up the run, and would have me finish 30 minutes earlier – not an insignificant difference as the heat and humidity build in the late morning.

As luck would have it, I pulled in at the same time as another runner friend, and we ran to The Park and back, for just over two miles. A jog to the porta potties and back meant I had almost 2.5 done as the group coalesced. The plan was to run to The Park again, then to Bellair for a loop or two, then back to the track and to The Park. Several little chunks, repeated as necessary to get the mileage.

My running buddy dropped me about mile 5 as she started pace work at the first Bellair loop, and I actually enjoyed that first loop. It was shady and peaceful. I stopped at the end of the loop to add Skratch to my water, intending to do one more loop. The second loop was less fun, but I discovered that I could turn a podcast on my phone speaker, put the phone in my vest pocket, and have something to listen to without earbuds. I was pretty consistent about taking 3-4 Honey Stingers gummies every 30 minutes, and my body approved of the Skratch. I finished my second 2.5 mile loop with just 10 miles on my watch, and realized that it was either another loop, or I’d be running laps in the baking sun on the track.

That third loop was tough, and I clocked my slowest mile of the morning on the uphills on the second half. There was more walking than running. But I got it done.

I cruised past the water stop, froggered back across 250 and headed up Old Ivy back toward the track, and took a left down to The Park. I did a big loop around the perimeter – now there were softball practices and trainings going on, and a friendly dog ran with me for a few steps. A welcome distraction. I was pretty well out of steam, with only 14.5 on my watch.

By the time I got back to the track, I was over 15 miles, and decided that I might as well do the full 16. One lap on the track, and just over a lap on the magic carpet. Beeeeeep! I’d officially completed my longest run in almost nine years. Bad hip? What bad hip?

Some stretching, a roll with The Stick, and I was off to Bodo’s.

This being a work-heavy weekend for The Supportive Husband, there was plenty of child wrangling for me at home. I managed a catnap face down on the sofa. After that, it was off to the pool, for pizza supper and enjoying the dregs of summer. I’ve discovered that I can effortlessly float on a pool noodle while the kids wear themselves out. It was delightful, and just what my tired legs needed. My legs probably needed the post-swim bike ride less, but now that the big one is permanently connected to his bike, and the little one has finally made peace with hers, I can’t say no when they ask me to cruise around the neighborhood.

We ended the night with crafts on the porch, admiring the sunset. This is the good life.

…but the running is kicking my ass.

The meteorologists have all been crowing about how it’s actually been slightly cooler than average this summer, but they doth protest too much, methinks. As we say here in VA, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

I’ve been a little in denial that I’m marathon training. But at last I found myself on a list of names, handwritten by Coach Mark, with some instructions for this morning’s long run, and a promise that my program is soon to follow. Welp. I guess I’m doing this thing.

I’ve actually been running consistently for the last several weeks. I’ve gotten connected with a great group of runners out in my little ‘burb, included people who are willing to run as slow as me, walk up the big hills, and listen to my bellyaching about howwww hotttttttt it is. In my defense, it was 75+ degrees with humidity around 90% at 5:30am on Wednesday. WTF. My happy place is with hats and fleece and tights and one of my many pairs of gloves, and heated seats on the ride home.

Nevertheless, my weekday pace was getting me down. We got a little breather this week, and this morning’s long run was so much more tolerable. I won’t say pleasant, because I still ended up a hot mess, but I didn’t feel too awful at the end. I followed Mark’s instructions to a T, and actually had a great run, exactly on my pace targets. What a relief! Mark gave a particularly “tough love” speech this morning, so I was extra pleased to be a good student.

A few equipment notes:

-I’m still using my old Garmin Forerunner 305, and lusting after the new 225. Realistically, it doesn’t make sense to drop a wad on the shiny new one. Thankfully, it only comes in drab black because if it had a remotely cute or snazzy color scheme, I’d be unable to resist.

-I was briefly running in a pair of New Balance, but they felt heavy and noisy. I went back to Pearl Izumis, and they are making me happy. I’m in the EM Road M3, which is one step up in stability from my previous pair, but honestly doesn’t feel a ton different. My feet feel quiet again. I kinda sorta wish they had a little more cushioning in the forefoot, but then I’d miss the responsiveness, soooooo….

-My hydration vest and reservoir are life changing. Geez, I wish I’d had this when I was marathon training and nursing lo these many years ago. It’s like wearing nothing, except this nothing carries two liters of water and has pockets for all my crap. I drank 25 ounces in 7 miles this morning. I’m a thirsty lady!

I registered for the Richmond Marathon today. I can’t believe it. I have a lot of work ahead of me. I’m feeling strong, and ready for the challenge.

I ran Richmond in 2006, my only marathon so far. It was a great experience in that I finished, but kind of sucked in that it was my first marathon and was unseasonably warm that day. I’d done my last few long runs in tights and gloves, and mid-November rolled around and it was 80 and humid. I finished in 5:34. My goal had been 5 hours, and I know I can do it this time, even if it’s roasting hot, freezing cold, or pouring rain.

I will definitely be training with the CTC Marathon training program, as I did last time. But just for fun, I was googling “marathon training programs” to get an idea of what my Saturdays will look like July-November. Let’s just say I will encourage my kids not to sign up for fall sports, and will be a very “free range” parent while I nap post-run. This is going to be a very different experience than when I had one kid who slept all the time.

The programs follow pretty predictable patterns. Two or three weekday runs, and long weekend runs that ratchet up the distance. Some of them go into a little detail about what the weekday runs should look like. The one that made me giggle had “hills” on a midweek run about every fourth week. As if there will be *any* running days around here that don’t include runs. Oh, internet running plan, bless your heart.

Summary: I missed my goal by about 17 seconds. It was a real let down. I knew by mile 5 I wouldn’t make it, despite being ahead of my pace. But, it was still my second fastest 10 miler ever, and the fastest post-scope, so I’m pretty pleased with that. Here we go, mile by mile:

Before the start:
I ate the most incredible chicken and waffles for dinner the night before. Probably not the best pre-race meal, but when life offers you an unexpected dinner out with no kids, you have to say yes.

The weather was forecast to be 40 and cool, partly cloudy. Too cold to wear short sleeves and too warm to wear long sleeves. I usually put together my outfit the night before, but this time, I packed an assortment of layers and didn’t decide and pin on my number until I arrived at JPJ. Final verdict: Long-sleeved tech shirt, half-Buff as headband/ear warmer, gloves.

Met the ladies and we all made frantic trips to the bathroom, got separated just before the start, but found each other again thank goodness.

Mile 1, 11:19: Allison got sucked up in the crowd and I didn’t see her again for miles. It was mile 1, what can I say. My hands were sweaty almost immediately.

Mile 2, 9:55: Thinner crowds. Leveraged the downhills.

Mile 3, 9:57: This was way too fast for me. I was doing my best to keep up with Judy and Melissa. I should have bid them a fond farewell, and stuck to a conversational pace on these uphills.

Mile 4, 9:23: I was beyond fatigued at the crest of Grady. I leveraged the downhill, but was still working way too hard.

Mile 5, 9:57: By the time I hit the uphill going to the Mall, I still hadn’t recovered from being so winded at the top of Grady. I recall being extremely pissed off about having to dodge patio seating going down the mall. I knew that the second half was not going to be kind to me.

Mile 6, 10:24: This has never been my favorite part, but the North Downtown residents are so awesome. Copious amounts of water. Cute kids.

Mile 7, 10:32: The hill by the cemetery was awful. Did it get bigger this year?

Mile 8, 10:23: Despite some major uphill, I was getting my shit back together. So I thought.

Mile 9, 11:00: Side stitch and general malaise. The negative self talk set in. I felt lightheaded and nauseous. I walked up some of the corner. I walked through a water stop. Eventually I started to snap out of it.

Mile 10, 9:53: Thank you, giant mile marker signs! I saw Mile 9 coming and decided I could endure anything for ten more minutes. I hit the last downhill on Alderman, and just kept booking it. By the time I saw the clock, it was already past my goal time, and I knew that even with the delay between gun and chip, I probably had missed it. But the ladies were at the finish with their giant medals! They didn’t even look sweaty. I figured they had been done for about an hour and were just being nice waiting around for this slowpoke, which was not the case, of course.

Final chip time: 1:42:48, 18 seconds off my goal time. Sad trombone. The chicken and waffles were worth it.

I realized this is actually my second-fastest 10 miler ever, and almost three minutes faster than last year’s Cherry Blossom 10 miler. I wish I felt happier about that. I usually set my goals conservatively, so that I’ll beat them. This was one of the only times where I publicly set a goal that would be hard to reach. I fell short.

Next steps: Park to Park on April 25, which is going to have to be a 13.1 mile fun run, as I’m traveling for two weeks between now and then and will likely hardly run.

And then? I’m seriously thinking about Richmond, the full, in November. It’s been 9 years. I *know* I can beat the tortured 5:34 of that unseasonably scorching hot day. Other possibilities: Rivanna Greenbelt, Sept or Oct. Not sure I am up for that mental challenge, though. Shamrock next March. So far away. I want to ride this fitness level through the summer and coast into fall. And then maybe sit around all winter.

Training Season


The hip is better than ever. I have great range of motion, no pain, and so I forget to blog about fixing it.

I’ve been training for the 10 Miler, and it’s gone really well this season. Until just a couple of weeks ago, I had gotten in nearly all of my scheduled weekday mileage. The past few weeks have brought snow and cold, which have made running tough, especially since the treadmill is the tool of the devil and I avoid it at all costs.

Today, the 8K I was supposed to run was cancelled due to the snowy and icy conditions on the course. Coach Mark very kindly offered the group a pace workout instead.

We warmed up with a jog to The Park in frigid temps – my car said it was 12 degrees. The track wasn’t plowed, so Mark had somebody measure out 800, avoiding the snowiest patches on the path around the softball fields. We did some dynamic stretching, and then did 8 800’s, starting at just above race pace, and getting progressively faster. Without having the usual landmarks and gentle turns of the track, it took a little while to get into the rhythm of it. My goal race pace is 10:15, so we were shooting for about 5:10 for the 800.

The first 800, the little group of us who run together spent trying to figure out whose watch was showing the correct pace (answer: not mine, it died in the car on the way over), and figuring out how to traverse the wickedly slippery icy patches. I think the first 800 was about 5:40?

Somewhere in the middle, we started speeding up. By the end, my last 800 was 4:24. That’s pretty epic for me! I’m really happy with it, and glad I did the workout, and even gladder I had company to make sure I went out slow. There were other much faster runners there, and I am happy to say that many of them hung around, and shouted encouragement on our last couple of 800’s.

Two weeks till the 10 Miler – I’m ready!

Well hello there, blog. It’s been so long.

To sum up what you missed since I last blogged, it’s been business as usual. I trained through a very cold and snowy winter, with lots of treadmill time. I had a spectacular fall on my last long run, and sprained my thumb, scraped up both palms, bruised one knee so badly it still hurts two weeks later, and scraped the other knee, ripping a hole in my favorite capris in the process. The loss of the capris hurts more than the injuries.

Then I went to Vegas instead of running the C’ville 10 miler, but I had the Cherry Blossom on tap this weekend.

As with the Race Who Shall Not Be Named from last year, I took the train up and stayed with IronMo. She escorted me to an easy packet pickup with a fabulous expo, quite unlike the RWSNBN. We met up with my sister and her family for a quick, kid-friendly dinner, and then snagged some cookies at Whole Foods on the way back for a super early bedtime.

We were on the metro with another Friend of Mo by 6:30am, and had plenty of time for bag check before heading to the corrals. We had the unfortunate luck of being in the porta potties when the National Anthem started, which was an inauspicious start to the morning. 

Continuing this (neverending) winter’s trend, it was in the mid-30’s at the start. I was freezing. By the time I was in the corral, my feet were numb.

The race has a wave start, so I started 10 min or so after Mo and FoM. My numb feet made the first mile a bit dodgy, so I kept it slow. I really had no expectations going in, other than finishing. It’s rare that I don’t have solid plan going in. My only plan was to enjoy the sights, and to cross the finish under my own steam. It’s my first long run in years that I haven’t done with a group, so I was a little apprehensive about psyching myself out. I kept my head up, and the self-talk light.

By mile 2, I was much warmer, and slightly regretting keeping my fleece on. Near Arlington National Cemetery, I took off my gloves, and not long afterward, stepped off to the side to wriggle out of my fleece.

Around the 10K mark was when we hit Hains point. I was actually looking forward to this, remembering it as a cool and breezy oasis during the RWSNBN. Most people seem to dislike the monotony, but I was amped up for it! River views! Cherry trees! Breezes! Boats! Airplanes!

I discovered that once around Hains point is quite enough. My second time ever this year was overkill. I was feeling really draggy and even stopped to stretch during mile 8. I also stopped to gratefully take an Oreo from a spectator. I walked through a water stop. That was by far my slowest mile of the race. I really wish I’d brought headphones, just so I could listen to a podcast or an audiobook to keep myself occupied. Oh, and the cherry trees lining Hains? Yeah, not blossoming. Thank you very much, Polar Vortex!! (In all fairness, there was one lovely weeping cherry in full bloom. ONE. In three miles.)

But at mile 9, Hains point was fast becoming a distant, boring memory. There’s some considerable uphill getting off Hains point and up to the Washington Monument, but I welcomed it. I’m a hill runner, and I have come to depend on hills to help me adjust my form. Mile 10 was actually one of my faster miles. I amped myself up chastising spectators for not cheering. Do I need to remind you that I am a Scream Tunnel alum, and I take spectating VERY seriously? These jaded DC politico hipsters were obviously too cool for school. Whatever, nerds, you’re up early on a Sunday, you might as well make yourselves useful. But no, even direct, good-natured confrontation led mostly to blank stares. The spectators were looking past me SO HARD that I probably could have lifted their wallets without their noticing.

I wasn’t sure exactly where the finish was, so it seemed like I was running uphill forever, but finally, after cresting the hill, it came in to view. I didn’t sprint, I just kept on at a steady pace, and crossed without much to do at all. I continued down the hill, cooling off rapidly, and desperate for some water and a heat sheet. I finally found those, and headed to the meet up point, where Mo and her posse had been waiting forever, since one of them had run the 5K and the other two were a couple of waves ahead of me (and much faster). 

After we met up, I headed back to bag check and to the snack table where I was confronted with more bananas than you could shake a stick at. AND NOTHING ELSE. Please know that this was a beautifully organized event. Two races, tens of thousands of runners, and it was all so smooth. But damn you, I need something carbier and/or saltier at the end of a race. Apparently, there had been some samples of really healthy chips at one point, but they were gone by the time I finished. Mo generously offered me her baked Sweet Potato chips which I inhaled ferociously. We finally headed for Starbucks, and then hit the metro for brunch.

I was surprised at how good my stomach felt – the best I’ve been after a long run in YEARS. I credit my aggressive hydration strategy. Chugging water the day before, an Endurolyte and glass of water pre-race, 20 ounces of nuun during the race, plus water at two of the water stops. It’s a lot, I know, but I need it! I am super sweaty.

Post race I feel pretty good. My knees are a little creaky, and my left foot hurts. Mostly I’m just tired from the run and the travel involved. It turns out this was my second fastest 10 miler ever, so I’m a)pleasantly surprised at that and b)unpleasantly surprised by the reality of how slow I actually am.

I’m not sure when I’ll be racing next – two kids in baseball on Saturdays has my schedule jam-packed until the middle of June.

Summer’s End


The blog has been quiet because I haven’t really run all summer. Today is Labor Day – the unofficial end of summer. Time to end my running hiatus. 

I’ve struggled with foot problems since a couple of weeks after the Nike Half. I suspect plantar fasciitis, but as a person who has spent way too much time being capital-I-Injured these past couple of years, I detest the thought of getting a real diagnosis, so I’ve avoided that. Perhaps not wise, but after a summer of light running (really, just some brief jogging interludes while walking the dog), and religious wearing of Birks and Orthaheels* in gross violation of the “no flip flops” policy at work, I’m mostly ok. I’ve been stretching the old achilles, too. Basically, I’m to the point where my self-loathing for lack of fitness far outweighs any physical damage I might do by running.

Saturday marked the Women’s 4 Miler – an event that I no longer run because it is just too much of a circus for four lousy miles. But that I support wholeheartedly. I volunteered setting up packet pickup this year, and would have also volunteered on race day had I not had a scheduling conflict. It was great to see everyone’s facebook and twitter feeds all lit up with W4M posts. I am so proud to be part of a community that has as its biggest anti-cancer fundraiser a RUN, not just a walk. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good charity walk. I think it’s great that families and strollers can participate in those events.

But you know what thrills me about the W4M? It’s that the running community here believes that any woman has the potential to run four miles, and to call herself a runner. Women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities run this race. And yes, walkers are welcomed with open arms (in fact, the last-place finisher gets a special celebration), but the essence of this event is that YOU.CAN.DO.IT.

And so I leave this sedentary summer behind, and look forward. In less than 12 weeks there is a half marathon that I’m just crazy enough to train for, starting nearly from zero. And then my beloved 10 miler in the spring. I.CAN.DO.IT.


*I’m not compensated by either, but will still sing their praises.


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