Friday, May 26, 2017

Wilmington Half Marathon

When I moved back to Virginia in the fall, I wanted to try to do as many half marathons as possible in nearby states. I needed a Delaware race that sounded fun and was within driving distance. I discovered that Delaware is a very small state, with many fewer races than Virginia, so there's not a whole lot of choices. But when I read about the Wilmington Half Marathon, it was everything I wanted!

It's only a 6 hour drive from Virginia, and about a 7 hour drive from Massachusetts, so I thought it would be a great place for me and my parents, sister, and nieces to meet up for a running weekend! I also liked the fact that it started on a riverfront and that part of the race was run through parks and along the river.

My family and I rented a townhouse right on the riverfront across from the Tubman-Garrett park where the races started. My nieces ran the kids run on Saturday afternoon, and then my mom, Leslie, Allison, and Kyle ran the 5k that evening. The only downside was that it was raining on Saturday afternoon, so the kids complained about being cold and didn't want to hang out or do any of the activities at the park. 
Lilli was the only one who really ran. Izzy cried, but was dragged along by Kyle and Allison, and Karsyn cried and had to be carried.

The next morning, Tristan and I ran the half marathon. I walked across the bridge to the start and met Tristan there. I literally left the house at 6:50 and the race started at 7am. It was nice not to have to worry about driving and parking! Tristan, on the other hand, couldn't make it to my house because of the road closures, and couldn't find parking, so she drove back to her hotel and walked half a mile to the start.

We actually started behind everybody else, because we were in line for the port-a-potty when the race started. We were in the back of the pack with a guy that was jumping rope and a guy that was juggling while running the half.

After trying so hard to break 2 hours in the Flying Pirate half and not succeeding, we just wanted to have fun and enjoy this race. And, surprisingly, I LOVED this race! Wilmington is not the best city. There seemed to be a lot of homeless people and run-down areas. But the race course went through 2 parks, along a river (my favorite part), over a suspension bridge, and through some nice neighborhoods. The weather was perfect- cool and breezy after all the rain the day before, and the sun came out at the end. It wasn't flat, but the hills weren't crazy either - and I've found that I actually prefer some rolling hills over a completely flat course.

So I was pleasantly surprised by how pretty and pleasant the race course was, and I think it's been one of my favorite half marathons so far! (Along with See Jane Run and Richmond). Besides having to run for a port-a-potty at mile 7 (only the second time I've had a bathroom "emergency" in 25+ races), the race was pretty uneventful and we kept a pretty steady pace.

Sunday was also Mother's Day, so when we got back to the townhouse, Kyle and Allison and I cooked lunch for my mom and then we rode bikes and went for a walk along the riverfront. All in all, a great weekend!

Official Time: 2:05:11

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Flying Pirate Half Marathon

Tristan and I decided to run the Flying Pirate half after hearing from our friends that they enjoyed it last year. We thought the Outer Banks would be a fun weekend trip too!

We got there Saturday and had time to relax by the beach and the pool. Our hotel was right on the beach! It was warm, but still the off-season, so we had the beach and the pool mostly to ourselves. It was so peaceful.

For dinner, we went to Goombays, which I highly recommend if you're in the Outer Banks! I got the jazzy chicken, which came with a pineapple coconut sauce, fresh salsa, roasted vegetables, and rice, and everything was amazing!

One thing that was nice about the Outer Banks was that it seemed like everyone catered to the runners. At both lunch and dinner, the servers asked us if we were running the next day. And our hotel opened their breakfast bar up early (at like 4am) for the runners, which is the first time I can ever remember that happening at a hotel!

It had rained overnight, and was still damp and drizzling the morning of the race. Luckily Allison was with us and dropped us off at the start with 10 minutes to spare, so we didn't have to wait around in the rain. It completely stopped raining after the first mile, but remained overcast for the rest of the race, which was nice because it was already getting humid.

The race was a smaller one. We ran along the Sound and behind quite neighborhoods. There weren't a lot of crowds, but Allison was waiting for us at several points along the course to cheer us on! Tristan and I probably started out a little too fast and we were already getting tired by mile 4 or 5.

At mile 8 or 9, we ran past the Wright Brother Memorial, which was probably the most memorable sight of the course. At mile 10, the course turned into a packed dirt and/or gravel trail through the woods, with quite a few ups and downs. They were small hills, but at that point in the course they seemed hard!

Tristan and I were still pushing the pace, because we were so close to 2 hours! But with the hills and dirt trails on the final miles of the course, we just weren't able to make it under two. At least we finished strong, feeling like we gave it everything we had! I felt like I was pushing myself hard the entire race, and I honestly don't know where I would have been able to run 37 seconds faster!

So even though we missed a sub-2 again (by what feels like the hundredth time!) we're proud of our effort on what turned out to be a tougher course than we thought!

Official Time: 2:00:37

Monday, February 13, 2017

Love Chocolate Half Marathon

This weekend I ran the Love Chocolate half marathon in Savannah, Georgia! It was a smaller, cheaper race, but I wanted to run a race in Georgia early in the year before it got too hot. I had my favorite running buddy, Tristan, with me, so the miles went by pretty fast. I hadn't run very much in the past two weeks, so I was worried that I would have to stop and walk. But with Tristan by my side, we were able to run the whole way! I always enjoy races much more when I can run with a friend!

We ended up keeping a pretty consistent pace, with an overall average of 9:33 per mile, and finished in 2:06:30. I'll take it!

The day before the race, we explored downtown Savannah. We got coffee and croissants at Cafe M, a cute little french restaurant by the river. We walked along River Street, and stopped in at the outdoor market there, where I bought a canvas for my house. Then we headed over to Forsyth Park, where we walked around and enjoyed the sunshine.

We went on a tour of the Mercer House in the afternoon, which is right by Forsyth Park. It has a pretty interesting history, being that the story Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was set there. However, the tour itself wasn't that great, because we only saw four rooms and didn't even get to go upstairs.

After lunch, we headed to a wine bar where you can swipe a card and choose your own tastings by the ounce. It was really cool! I've been to a restaurant in California where they did beer tastings by the ounce (Blast 825 Taproom), but this is the first time I'd seen it for wine! We got dinner at Kayak Cafe and headed back to the room for an early night before the race.

After the race, we spent the day at the Tanger Outlets. The Nike Outlet had some great deals and I got a few new running shirts and a pair of pants. There were a lot of other good stores, too.

On Sunday we drove back! I loved Savannah. The weather was gorgeous (albeit a little hot for a February race), and we had fun exploring Savannah and shopping at the outlets.

Official Race Time: 2:06:30

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Books of 2016

Lockdown – Tarah Benner

The fourth book in the Fringe series. These are fast, enjoyable reads about a dystopian future where the earth has been damaged by radiation. I hope the author wraps up the series in another book or two and doesn't drag it out too long, but I'll continue to read as long as I care about Harper and Eli. I also love the supporting characters like Celdon, Sawyer, and especially the other kids from Harper's training class.

Series: 4/5

Moonlight Mile – Dennis Lehane

I picked this book up at a grocery store of all places! I didn't know anything about it, other than what it said on the cover - that Dennis Lehane was the author of Mystic River and Shutter Island (I haven't read either, but I did like the movie Shutter Island). I later learned that this is somewhat of a sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone (I saw that movie a long time ago - all I remember is that it's about a kidnapped kid). This book takes place after the kidnapped girl has grown up, and has suddenly disappeared again. The same detective investigates, and has to deal with how he handled the case the first time. It's an entertaining story, with a few twists and turns along the way. Rating: 3/5

The Husband’s Secret – Lianne Moriarty
Big Little Lies – Lianne Moriarty

I'd heard a lot about Lianne Moriarty's books and I finally read two this year! They were both fun beach books. Both books are written from multiple characters' perspectives, and the lives of the women intersect in various ways. There are a few twists and surprises that make it a fast, fun read. Rating: 3/5
The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

This was an interesting memoir about a girl who had a rather unconventional childhood. Her father was a dreamer and an alcoholic who couldn't hold down a job, and her mother was an artistic free spirit who hated to work. The four children grew up in an unstable environment in various dilapidated houses, often without enough to eat. This book reminded me that people can be terrible parents even if they love their kids. And some people don't want to be helped. This excerpt kind of sums up the book:

I think that maybe sometimes people get the lives they want.”
“Are you saying homeless people want to live on the street?” Professor Fuchs asked. “Are you saying they don’t want warm beds and roofs over their heads?”
“Not exactly, I said. I was fumbling for words. “They do. But if some of them were willing to work hard and make compromises, they might not have ideal lives, but they could make ends meet.”
Professor Fuchs walked around from behind her lectern. “What do you know about the lives of the underprivileged?” she asked. She was practically trembling with agitation. “What do you know about the hardships and obstacles that the underclass faces?Rating: 3/5

A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

This was a funny tale about a writer's foray into the world of backpacking when he attempts to hike the Appalachian Trail. I've read another book by a guy who actually finished the hike. While his book was informative, he was prepared and pretty much did everything the right way. Bill made a lot more mistakes and struggled a lot more, which makes his book more humorous. He also did some research on the history of the trail and includes some interesting tidbits. However, the fact remains that he gave up his goal of hiking the entire trail rather easily (but, as he points out, many people start the hike and don't finish). Rating: 3/5

East – Edith Pattou

This book was recommended to me by a staff member at the little bookstore in Maine. It's based on an obscure old fairy tale. It started out pretty good, with a daughter born to a superstitious mother who gets a prediction that her child will perish under ice and snow. However, there is no character development!! The relationship between the girl and the polar bear is never explained or explored or really written about at all! It kind of reads like a news article, just stating the facts. The advice "show, don't tell" should've been applied here. Rating: 2/5

How Not to Travel the World – Lauren Juliff (3/5)
A Thousand New Beginnings – Kristin Addis (2/5)

I read these two books about traveling while I was traveling in Italy (lots of downtime on trains and planes). I liked Lauren's book better because she struggled to overcome her anxiety, did a lot of dumb things, and eventually learned to become a stronger, more competent person due to her adventures around the world. Kristin came across as super confident and popular, always met new people right away, and was adept at fitting into new cultures, even able to bargain for the best prices like a local. I couldn't relate to her, and her book just seemed like a list of all the places she visited. Her pictures were amazing, though!

Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist

I normally don't read many Christian self-help type books, but I'd seen this one pop up on the internet a few times and thought I'd give it a shot. After all, who doesn't want to learn about how to live in the present over seeking perfection? Shauna talks a lot about saying no to good opportunities and finding peace in the quiet, but never really addresses how to be present in the moment, other than to say we should sit down in the middle of the mess and realize this is actual life, rather than waiting around for fantastic. She talked about learning to appreciate stillness even though she's an extrovert. (As an introvert, I've always appreciated quiet time away from people). I thought the most poignant part was in the beginning, when Shauna realized she was living a life she hated. That was a good reminder to me to make choices with a big-picture perspective. In the end, Shauna mainly talked about slowing down and that could've been a blog post rather than a book. Rating: 2/5

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

This was a pretty good thriller/mystery. Not great, but good. I was intrigued by the idea of a woman witnessing something unusual from the train. It sounded like an Agatha Christie mystery at first. It was more of a thriller and a page-turner. I figured out who the culprit was, but I'd rather have an answer that makes sense than some random twist that doesn't make sense at all. This kept my attention and was a good distraction for my plane ride. Rating: 3/5

Audiobooks - do these count?

Winning Balance – Shawn Johnson 3/5
Wild – Cheryl Strayed 1/5

I listened to these two autobiographies on long car rides. They could not have been more different. I love gymnastics and I follow a bunch of the gymnasts from the past two Olympic teams. I really enjoyed learning about Shawn's story, especially because she didn't take the typical route of an elite gymnast. Her parents wanted her to have a normal life, so she still went to school and trained about half as much as other elite girls her age. When Shawn came on the scene at competitions, no one knew who she was at first! I also liked hearing about her experience on Dancing With the Stars - I didn't realize she competed on the show so soon after the Olympics were over!

Wild was kind of boring, and I probably would've stopped listening - except I had a 12 hour drive and it was something to do. Cheryl was pretty selfish and stupid, both in life and on her hike. The fact that her backpack was so heavy she couldn't lift it to swing it onto her back should've been the first clue to get rid of some junk. Also, shooting up heroin right before the hike probably wasn't the best idea. As for her personal life, she inexplicably left her husband even though he was seemingly the one person who was reliable and genuinely cared for her. 

Overall, I'm slightly disappointed in the books I read this year. Most were average: entertaining or interesting, but nothing captivating or ground-breaking. A few were real duds. I hope to find more 4 and 5 star books in 2017.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Richmond Half PR

I ran Richmond for the 6th time this year! It's the race I keep coming back to year after year. Even after living in California for most of the year and taking a trip to Italy for the month of September, I managed to end up back in Virginia in November for my go-to race.

I had really wanted to break 2 hours this year, but after a terrible race in Lake Tahoe, I didn't think it was going to happen. Tristan (who has run this race every year with me) and I made a pact to stay together and enjoy the race!

We started off easy and then hit a moderate pace. I was feeling pretty good and relieved that my body felt so much better than it had at Tahoe. There was no pressure to get a time goal, but about halfway through I noticed that our pace was right on track for around 2 hours. Still, I didn't want to get my hopes up, or start pushing the pace only to bonk later in the race.

We kept a steady pace and talked. Richmond is just so much fun, especially Pope Ave and Fauquier, running past the Fall colors. During the last 3 miles, I still felt good, and saw that a sub-2 was still possible, but didn't stress about it. If we got a few minutes over or under 2, it didn't matter either way. I still tried to push a little harder in the last few miles, because I like to have a strong finish and get the best time I can on that day. Tristan and I stayed together and finished strong.

And we did it! We finally got a sub 2 on the Richmond course! The best part is it was such a fun and enjoyable sub 2 race! I wasn't feeling miserable at the end like I was after Tahoe. We barely got a sub 2, but it still counts! I got another Richmond blanket to add to my collection and we rewarded ourselves with some peppermint mochas at Starbucks. Richmond never fails to disappoint, and I love coming back to the city that originally made me fall in love with running.

I was so bummed and sore after Lake Tahoe. It was nice to have a good race so soon after that. It made me realize I haven't lost all my speed and fitness; I just need to train better and stop thinking I can run a half marathon as a "fun run". I don't always want to push for a PR, but that doesn't mean I can slack off and not train, because the pain during and after the race is not worth it! If I stick to a training schedule, I can run a very enjoyable and "easy" half marathon, but if I don't, I can spend the next 3 days barely able to walk and struggling to go down stairs or sit on the toilet. The training is more important than any of the conditions on race day!

Running Richmond got me excited for all the races I want to run in 2017! My training typically slacks off a bit in the winter months, but I hope I can do a little better this year and not get derailed by the holidays. I want to focus on getting faster in 2017!

Mile        Pace
1              9:22
2              9:10
3              9:15
4              9:05
5              9:09
6              9:09
7              8:57
8              9:22
9              9:02
10           9:15
11           9:13
12           9:04
13           8:30

14           6:59

Official Time: 1:59:54     Overall Pace: 9:08

Friday, October 21, 2016

Emerald Bay Half Marathon

Or the race I thought would be easy and wasn’t.

I always say this: A half marathon is never easy.

But the Emerald Bay half marathon at Lake Tahoe was advertised as a net downhill run so I didn’t think it would be too hard. Even though I had barely trained and had just come back from a month long trip to Italy, I still thought I could run this race in close to 2 hours.

Boy, was I wrong.

My mom and I took the shuttle to the start at Inspiration Point and waited around for an hour in the cold that was quickly becoming not-so-cold. I ended up shedding all my layers and running in a t-shirt. It was unseasonably warm for October.

The race started out downhill. My plan was to take advantage of the downhill and bank some time, ignoring the other piece of advice I normally adhere to, which is “don’t start out too fast.” I ran the first two miles in close to 8 minutes each, and by mile 4, I knew I was in trouble. I felt terrible. It felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen, my heart was beating out of my chest, and I felt nauseated. I had to stop and walk by mile 4. I don’t think I’ve ever had to walk that early in a race before!

I ended up walking a little bit each mile from 4 on. I just couldn’t run an entire mile for the rest of the race. I continued feeling poorly the whole time. The course was a nice path along a bike trail but I couldn’t really enjoy it. All the great views of the lake were at the beginning of the race. After that, we ran through woods and then along the road until finally turning towards the beach!
I was just so ready for the race to be over! I made my way to the beach and sat down for a long time to recover. I still felt nauseated. I made it back over to the finish area just in time to snap a picture of my mom as she finished! (My mom did great, and did not have the problems I did).

On the way back to the car, I felt so sick, I had to stop several times to breathe and quell the nauseous feeling in my stomach. I threw up on the car ride, then immediately took a two hour nap when I got home. I’ve never felt so bad for so long after a race was over! I blame the exertion at altitude along with my insufficient training. It was my worst race since Michigan.

It was one of those races that shredded my muscles and I could barely walk for the next 3 days. I had muscle pain in my left IT band and hamstring with every step, along with some calf soreness.

So the lesson here is that I need to go back to my original game plan! No race is easy, and I need to be consistent with my running. Some people can run races without any training, but I can’t. My two most miserable races were the ones I trained for the least. I don’t like being sore and unable to walk after a race. When I train adequately for a race, it’s much more enjoyable both running and recovering!

Even though it was a terrible race for me personally, it was a fun laid back race with gorgeous views at the beginning, a later start time, not too crowded, and it is a net downhill (though after the first 3 miles, it's rolling hills with plenty of up AND down). My mom and I enjoyed exploring Lake Tahoe. We got to check out the restaurants in Heavenly Village and do some sight seeing during the off season when crowds were at a minimum. Lake Tahoe is beautiful and peaceful in October!

Official Results: 2:18:16

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Big Sur Marathon

The Big Sur Marathon has been one I’ve wanted to run ever since I first saw a picture of it. It all seemed epic – a race along the beautifully rugged Pacific Coast. I got one glimpse of the gorgeous coastline and read the name “Big Sur” and it seemed like the ultimate marathon.

On Sunday I got to fulfill the dream of running Big Sur! It all started about 8 months ago when I entered the last chance lottery. I didn’t think I’d get in, but I heard that each year you enter gives you a better chance (still not sure if that’s true?) so I thought I’d better start entering to get picked in the next few years. Then I got the e-mail and had to decide whether or not to go through with registering. Was I ready for another marathon? Would I have time to train with my busy and unpredictable schedule? I wasn’t sure but I decided to go for it!

I didn’t know all the details of the race when I signed up, and I’m glad I didn’t. I found out later that there’s a 2 mile long uphill stretch, that there’s really no place to stay near the starting line, and that if you stay in Monterey, you have to take a shuttle at 4 am. Four in the morning!! And that’s one of the later shuttles. I purposely chose a hotel with a pick-up between 4-4:15. Some hotels had pick-ups from 3:15-3:30!

My mom and I checked into our hotel on Saturday and went to the Expo. My mom was really excited to meet Jeff Galloway, and he was super nice and encouraging about her story. We found our names on the banner, took some pictures, and got our t-shirts and race bibs. That evening, we went for a walk along a bike path near the beach. I wanted to get my legs somewhat warmed up before race day and get rid of some nervous energy.

I got in bed by 9pm, but had trouble falling asleep. I woke up throughout the night thinking it was time to go, until 3:30 rolled around. My mom dropped me off at the bus stop at 4am and I got one of the last seats on the 4:00 bus. The bus ride was dark and long. I wasn’t planning on it, but I ended up rolling my coat against the window and trying to rest. This was partly to prevent me from getting car sick because the winding road and the reflections in the dark windows made me feel a little queasy.

When we finally got to the drop-off point at Big Sur Station, it was 5:15. I still had to wait 1.5 hours for the marathon to start. This was the worst part for me. It was really crowded and pretty cold. A lot of people were sitting down, but I thought the cold ground would make me feel worse. So I stood around and waited. And waited. I had forgotten my cell phone and had nothing to do!

Finally at about 6:30 the announcers started calling people to line up for the race.

At 6:50 I was off with Wave 2! The sun was out by now and already it wasn’t as cold. I took my long sleeve off before mile 2 and never put it on again, even though some places along the coast were very cold and windy! I started off near the 4:15 pace group and thought I could finish around that time. However, I hate running near a pacer! It’s too crowded for me, and I like to run my own race rather than trying to keep up with someone else. I was trying not to go out to fast, so I let the pace group go ahead of me. The first 5 miles were mostly downhill, so I was trying to hold back and run a steady pace. I caught up with the pace group again around mile 4 and ended up passing them.

Miles 6-10 were a gradual uphill climb, but these were some of my favorite miles! We were finally running along the coast. It was beautiful! I didn’t have to worry about holding back anymore, so I settled into a good pace and my legs felt strong going uphill. I actually think I did better on the climbs than the descents. I kept passing one girl going uphill, and then she would catch up to me going downhill!

I knew miles 10-12 were the biggest climb of the race. It was 2 miles of a fairly steep ascent up to Hurricane Point. I had decided to refuel at mile 10, so once I got to the big hill, I walked for a bit and ate my Honey Stinger waffle. I recently discovered these things during training and I love them for refueling during a long run! After I was done eating, I started to run uphill. I also quickly stopped to refill my water bottle with Gatorade on the way up. I think making those two short stops helped to break up the long climb, because before I knew it, I was at Hurricane Point!

I realized at the top why they call it “Hurricane Point”. It was crazy windy. I felt like I was going to get blown over. It was so windy that when I picked up one leg to stride forward, the wind blew my free leg into my other leg, and my ankles bumped together painfully a few times. It wasn’t until after the race that I realized this had caused me to bleed into my running tights! #battlescars

The descent from Hurricane Point to Bixby Bridge was my favorite part of the race! The views are absolutely gorgeous and as you run down, you can hear the piano music drifting towards you on the wind. There’s a piano player who plays classical music at Bixby Bridge every year and it’s a memorable moment hearing it as you cross the iconic bridge.

Bixby Bridge was the halfway point. I honestly don’t remember miles 13-20 that much, except that we went uphill and downhill a lot, and I had bathroom issues around mile 17. TMI warning: I had started feeling like I had to go around mile 15, and by mile 16 knew I had to find a porta-potty. Since I had gotten on the bus so early, I hadn’t had time to use the bathroom. At mile 17, there was a row of 5 porta-potties so I ran into one. I was kind of irritated that I had to stop, but when you gotta go, you gotta go! I probably only took 3-4 minutes, but this must have been when the 4:15 pacer group passed me. After mile 17, I could sometimes see them in the distance, and I spent the rest of the race hoping to catch back up!

I was going to do my second refuel at mile 20, but when I got there, we were going downhill, so I decided to wait a little bit longer and time my break for when I could walk uphill. At mile 21, I took my break and ate my second Honey Stinger waffle. The hills at miles 21 and 23 aren’t that long, but they can be brutal because they’re at the end of the race. I tried to maintain a good pace on all the hills and continued my trend of passing people going uphill, and they’d pass me going down!

We ran through the Carmel highlands next. It wasn’t my favorite part of the race. We were no longer along the coastline, so it wasn’t as pretty and it wasn’t as cold. Even though there was some shade, I missed the breeze from the ocean cooling me off! I did get a strawberry at mile 22 just because it’s special part of the Big Sur race!

During the last few miles, I was trying to calculate if I could finish in 4:15. My watch was off from the course markers by about 0.2 miles, so it was kind of hard to figure out. I would be sure I could make it, then a few minutes later sure that I couldn’t! But I decided to try! The last 2 miles were a hard effort, and the hill at mile 25 was a killer! But after that, the last mile was downhill to the finish! It still seemed to take forever to see that finish line, though!

I got tunnel vision at the end. I didn’t have energy to look for my mom in the crowd or to look around at anyone else. I had my eyes on the finish line and ran hard until I crossed it. My Garmin said 4:15, but my official results were even better: 4:14:56 – a new PR and just under my goal of 4:15!!!

Overall, a great race and I’m glad I did it, but I don’t have a desire to do it again. It was very challenging and the point-to-point course makes it impossible for friends or family to meet you anywhere along the course. However the views were spectacular and the race is very well-run and organized. Definitely a fun destination marathon!

Official Time: 4:14:56