Monthly Archives: May 2016

Historic Half Wing Women

When you become a runner, first it’s all about you, your progress, your goals. But then you realize there’s a whole big community out there consisting of other runners. People who share the same passion as you that other people just don’t understand. You find yourself growing closer to them because of this connection that you have as runners, and suddenly running is about more than just you. You begin to have a desire to support others, and become invested in their journeys and the progress they make. It’s a beautiful thing!

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One day I had a random idea to recruit some friends of mine to be ‘wing women’ for a big local half marathon that takes place in my area called the Historic Half. I had a vision of us wearing costume wings, positioning ourselves on the toughest parts of the course, and helping our girls get up the hills and to the finish line. I posted about this idea of mine on two local Moms Run This Town groups and got a great response from both the people who were running the race and the people who weren’t, but wanted to volunteer. And so my “Wing Woman” idea came to life!

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I even made us special bibs!

I have run the Historic Half a few times before and continue to run parts of the course all the time since it’s not far from where I live. Because I was so familiar with it, I knew exactly where the hardest parts were and where the runners would need the most support. This race is a little evil in that the first 10 miles are mostly flat with some hills, followed by 2 miles of huge/steep hills, and ending with a flat final mile to the finish line.  It is a beast of a race and course and requires a slightly different strategy than other half marathons, because you really need to make sure you conserve energy for those last and hardest 3 miles of the race. Knowing this, we planned to have a group of ladies waiting at the first hill, infamously known as “Hospital Hill” – which is a long, slow climb. Another group (including myself) would be at the hill that followed, which was shorter, steeper and in my opinion even harder since you’re pretty done at that point in the race!

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Our crew gathered bright and early in Fredericksburg sporting our sparkly wings. We arrived as the race started so we got to see all the runners off as they passed by. As we waited for more people to show up, some of our ladies headed down to the hills so that they would be able to catch runners who were doing the 5 mile race. We didn’t want to leave anyone hanging.

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Once everyone had arrived, we hurried over to the base of the second and final hill of the course. We watched and cheered for the 5 mile runners, and saw the first half marathon finishers come through making it look effortless. Not too long after that, we started seeing our ladies come through!

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We had posted about what we were doing ahead of time, so our friends in the group knew where to find us and to call out to us if they wanted a ‘wing woman’ to run with them up the hill. It started off a little slow, but soon enough there were so many that it was hard to keep up with the demand! We easily ran with at least 30-40 people that day.

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Every woman that we jumped in and ran with was so happy and appreciative. Their faces went from looking pained and tired to lighting up when they saw their Moms Run This Town tribe there for them. I was also excited to be able to support two runners that I’ve been coaching since December. I almost missed my first one, Pandita, because I was running another person up, but caught her right as she neared the top and told her to turn the corner, get to the finish line and get her sub 1:50 half marathon goal. She finished in 1:49:55.

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Shortly after I saw Dina, who was looking strong and confident. When I jumped in with her she asked me to run her all the way to the finish line (another mile away) and I couldn’t say no. She has been working on her fast finishes and this race was no exception. She went from not thinking she was going to make her sub-2 hour half marathon goal, to finishing in 1:58:23. To say I am proud of these two incredible, hard-working women is an understatement!

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At the end of the day, I had run 7 happy, amazing miles of hills with friends that are very special to me. It was such a great morning. Afterwards, we heard from many people who said that seeing us wing women was one of the biggest highlights of their races. I was so glad that we could help and that I could give back a little to this wonderful community who has been supporting me a ton over the past few months.

I think we are going to need to make this wing woman concept a tradition at all the local races!

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Mother’s Day 5K

Mother’s Day this year was… different. That’s for sure. It was definitely not relaxing. There was no pampering, breakfast in bed or sleeping in. I did get a card, a bottle of wine and some chocolate, which I was not expecting. But other than that, it was really just like any other day lately. Busy, crazy, fun, amazing, exhausting… all rolled into one!

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It’s no secret that I’ve been forced into this role as a single mom when I did not want to be.  But rather than feel sorry for myself and compare my Mother’s Day to others that I saw all over social media, I decided to take initiative and plan a memorable, awesome day with my boys. After all, isn’t that what this holiday is truly all about? Spending time with and enjoying the little ones that made you a mommy?

The night before, I signed up for a small local Mother’s Day 5K that I knew some of my friends in my local Moms Run This Town group were running. I have never raced with my double BOB stroller before, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Running + my boys = happiness to me.

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Since I was running with the stroller, I didn’t have very high expectations for the race. I knew whatever time I finished in would be a new kind of PR for me, a double stroller PR 🙂 Plus, I had a feeling Kevin would want to get out of the stroller and run with me at some point.  I figured I’d push myself hard until he asked to get out and then take it from there.

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I had never done a race organized by this group before, but I have run in the area many, many times. I knew the course would be on a paved path next to the road, which was wide but still pretty tight while running with a stroller around others. I really didn’t want to start all the way in the back of the pack. There is kind of an unwritten rule (and actually written in some races) that stroller runners are supposed to start behind everyone else, and I totally understand why that is. But I really didn’t want to have to weave around people with a giant stroller when I could start closer to the front and not be in anyone’s way. So I positioned myself up front and pushed hard as soon as the starting gun went off.

The race began with a nice uphill out of the park, where a photographer was perfectly positioned to capture how hard it felt!

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After that we did a short out-and-back segment, that had another nice hill. Since I knew the course, I knew that would be the hardest part of the race. The rest of it would be relatively flat with a few small hills. My first mile came in at 8:11 pace, which I was very happy with since I was hoping to stay around 8:20 average. As I predicted, starting up front was a lot better because I wasn’t in anyone’s way and didn’t have to weave. It was perfect!

I started to feel the weight of the stroller during the second mile, even though it was mostly flat. It was also warming up quickly which made it feel that much harder. My second mile came in at 8:20, and right as it beeped Kevin asked to get out and run with me. YES PLEASE! I was more than ready for a little break.

The thing about running with a 3 1/2 year old is that they get distracted. A lot. They don’t run in straight lines. At all. So our mile together was a lot of stopping and starting, looking at the river next to us, looking at the squirrels and birds, almost running into other people (sorry!). But ultimately I LOVED running with my boy. He even totally wiped out at one point and just got back up and kept going. He’s the best.

He hopped back in the stroller to ride for about a minute or two, then decided he wanted to run through the finish line all by himself. He jumped back out and booked it to the end. We crossed just under 30 minutes, an average pace of 9:31!

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Running through the finish line with both of my boys was an amazing feeling. It made me so thankful and proud to be their mommy and get to spend the day with them in this way.

 

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After we crossed a volunteer looked at our bib and told us we’d have to wait to get a medal later. Apparently since I had signed up within 24 hours of the race I wasn’t guaranteed one, and they wanted to wait to see how many were left at the end. Kevin was really disappointed and got very sad that he didn’t get a medal. A man nearby noticed and came over to us to give Kevin his medal. I almost burst into tears. It was so sweet and thoughtful, and Kevin just lit up with pride when he gave it to him.

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Words cannot describe how much I love these two!

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After the race, we cooled down with some playground time and lunch. It truly was the perfect solo Mother’s Day. Kyler had fun crawling around and Kevin showed his muscles off to everyone at the park 🙂

Life is far from easy right now. In fact, it’s the hardest it’s ever been. But these two help me keep everything in perspective. They are the reason for everything I do and I love them so much!

The Great Train Race 2016

It’s about time I caught up on some blog posts! The school year is winding down, I am falling more into a routine as a single mom, and while it’s still very hard it’s becoming more manageable. Through it all, I’m still finding time to do some really fun things with my boys, including the children’s Great Train Race in downtown Fredericksburg on May 1st.

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Last year, Kevin and I participated in the quarter mile Caboose Run just a couple weeks before Kyler was born, and we had a blast. It was a super hot day, but Kevin did great. A quarter mile was perfect for his age at the time (2.5) and his attention span (0). Since then, he’s really taken an interest in running and has increased his distance and speed some. He can run up to a mile, but I decided he should step up the George Washington half mile race this year.

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Look how much he’s grown!

The race started mid-morning like last year, but unlike last year which was very warm and sunny, it was cold and POURING rain! That’s May in Virginia for you, totally unpredictable. We got there a little early and waited in the car to avoid getting too soaked and cold before the race began. Even despite the weather, there were tons of enthusiastic kids out and ready to run the quarter mile, half mile, and mile races.

The race started right on time at 11 AM, and Kevin was MORE than ready to go. He ran holding my hand at first which was so sweet, but once the crowd thinned out he got a little more comfortable and let go.

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Right after the race started the rain picked up even more. I wasn’t sure what he would do but he just smiled and laughed the whole time, and kept looking up at me in disbelief that we were running in the rain. It made me so happy.

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We made a u-turn around the halfway point to run to the finish line, and he started to slow down a bit. The rain was getting in his eyes, but he was still either smiling or sticking out his tongue to catch the rain 🙂

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Right before the end of the race, I unknowingly took almost the same picture as last year, with just a few differences. Kev has grown, my belly has shrunk, and totally opposite weather! One thing remains the same though – the happiness and pride that I had watching my little boy run his heart out!

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We ran past the finish line, Kevin collected his medal, and then he immediately asked to do it again!

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One disappointing thing about the race compared to last year (which was totally out of anyone’s control) was the weather kept us from enjoying the post-race party this time. We took a few quick photos and listened to a song or two, but then we headed out to get dry and warm. Hopefully next year’s weather will be better!

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I wore my Garmin just for fun to see how long it took us to run the half mile, and I was actually very impressed with his pace! Not bad for a 3 1/2 year old!

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I really love being able to make such special memories with my kids, and it’s just a bonus that it happened to involve something I also love very much – running! I hope to make The Great Train Race a yearly tradition for a long time.

Manassas Runway 5K

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a friend/coaching client to run the Manassas Runway 5K with her and hopefully pace her to a new PR. I have been really loving my “downtime” from marathon training, because it gives me more opportunities to run with others and help them with their goals. Kevin had the kids that morning so I decided to take advantage and have some fun with my friends in my local Moms Run This Town group.

This race is unique because it takes place entirely on the runway of a small local airport. This means it’s super fast, flat and a great PR-maker! It was perfect conditions that morning as well – nice and cool and not humid at all. I was cold in my tank top and shorts at first, but luckily we were able to wait inside the warm airport. I knew it would feel amazing once we started running.

Shortly before the start the girls and I went out to do a little warm-up run. We ran a little less than a mile before we headed over to the start. I gave Dina (my friend who I was running with) a little pep talk about how hard she’s worked and how strong she is, and then we were off!

Dina’s goal was to come in under 25 minutes, or an 8 minute pace, to get her a new PR. She’s been working hard on her speed and has gotten huge PRs in the half marathon distance lately, but as we all know, the 5K distance is a whole other kind of beast. It’s short, fast, and it hurts! Unfortunately, our bodies had cooled down a bit after our warm-up because we had to wait longer than expected to start. I wanted to make sure we didn’t go out too fast because of that, and also because Dina has been working on her fast finishes. Starting slower and finishing faster is the key to success. Why did it take me so long to learn that? LOL.

We settled into around an 8:00 pace, which felt like a slightly uncomfortable tempo run for her at first. It was amazing to be running on flat ground since we’re so used to running hills around where we live. I noticed her tensing up in her upper body and looking at her watch a lot, so I tried to tell her to relax and not stress about pace. When I ran the Myrtle Beach Marathon, one of the best parts for me was running with a pace group. It took all the work out of thinking about maintaining a certain pace, and helped me save so much energy. Pacing someone to help them meet a big goal is a stressful job and I take it very seriously. I told her to trust me and she did 🙂

  • Mile 1 – 7:59

We came in right on target for mile 1, which I was super happy about and so was she. We ran along, passing people who started too fast which was a confidence booster. We even passed her teenage son, which was awesome. I don’t like to talk much during the shorter, faster races but I noticed her breathing was sounding a little shallow. She has asthma and tends to be a chest breather. We’ve been working on getting her air from deeper in her belly and taking fuller breaths. I reminded her of this and it seemed to help her get her breathing under better control.

  • Mile 2 – 7:58

We hit mile 2 right on target as well, coming in just under an 8 minute mile. Yeah! Dina was doing an awesome job and looking strong. At this point, I was really happy with my choice of clothing because it was getting warm and the sun was out. However, during the third mile, Dina slowed down some and told me she was getting a side stitch. I felt terrible for her because I know how hard it is to push through those, especially at the end of a race that already hurts like a 5K. Even despite the side stitch, she maintained a good pace and didn’t lose much off her overall time.

  • Mile 3 – 8:05

After we passed mile 3 we rounded a corner and it was a straight shot to the finish line. I told Dina that this is what she’s been practicing in her long runs and some easy runs… her strong and fast finishes! She amazed me by picking up the pace and sprinting ahead of me all the way to the finish line. I was so proud of her!

  • Final .1 – 6:51 pace!
  • Finish Time – 24:48 / 8:00 average pace

She came in exactly where she wanted, just under 25 minutes with an average pace of 8:00 per mile. After we crossed we got some water and reunited with our friends, and waited for some others to cross afterwards. Once they posted results we realized that many of our group members won age group awards (and one even won first overall for Women’s Masters!). I was happy and surprised to see that I also won first in my age group. This was one of my goals before turning 30- place in my age group before I enter a new one in a few months- so I was excited.

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We waited around a while for the awards ceremony. There were some timing issues so it was delayed a bit. Luckily by now the weather was beautiful. Nice and sunny and warm. I loved being out in the sunshine.

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After a tough couple of months, it felt really good to be out with some of the women who have been supporting me, and helping a great friend of mine reach her goal. It also made me want to run my own 5K soon! Off to do some research 🙂