Tag Archives: Races

Hartwood 10 Miler [2016]

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Over a month ago on August 18th I ran one of my favorite local races, the Hartwood 10 Miler. This was my 4th year running this race and I’ve had a lot of success with it in the past. Even despite it being a hilly race in mid-August, the weather has usually cooperated enough for me to pull out a time I was proud of, and even a new PR a couple of times. I had high hopes for the race this year. In 2015 I ran it for fun since I was 3 months post partum. I don’t even think I wore a watch. I was building my mileage base back up and wasn’t overly concerned with getting faster again quite yet. Over the course of the following year I had worked a lot on my speed, so I wanted to use this race to test myself and see how I had progressed.

As the date of the race got closer, I started stalking the weather forecast and getting nervous. This summer was absolutely BRUTAL in Virginia, as I wrote about often in my marathon training recaps. I was holding out hope that the 95+ degree, 100% humidity days would go away just in time for me to have a great race, but it didn’t happen. It was another sweltering, sticky, uncomfortably hot day, with the real feel already at 89 degrees and 95% humidity before 6 AM the morning of the race. I knew it would only get worse closer to the 7 AM race start and as the sun came out.

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Weather at 5:51 AM!

I knew I had two choices: 1) Run the race like I wanted to, HARD, and feel miserable and defeated and/or die in the process, or 2) Throw out my goals for the race, run with friends and have fun. I chose the latter ūüôā We also chose to be brave, take off our shirts, and run in our sports bras. That was a racing first for me!

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Once I adjusted my expectations for the race I felt so much better. We arrived early, found parking easily, chatted and hung out in the park until the start. I love this race because it’s small and local and has easy logistics, plus the course is on beautiful back roads that are normally unsafe to run on when a race is not happening. I felt pretty naked at first in my sports bra but it helped a ton knowing my friends were right there with me, and I forgot about it after a few minutes.

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The sports bra squad!


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Moms Run This Town!

We met up with more friends from our Moms Run This Town group and lined up at the start. I thought the weather might deter a lot of people from running, but there was still a good amount of people out there. I was sweating just standing there waiting, so I knew we were all in for an interesting race!

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Soon we were off, and I immediately was thankful that I didn’t have any extra clothing to deal with. The air was thick and heavy and felt like a wet blanket. Our friends Stephanie and Kimmie went ahead while I stayed with Dina and Laura. Our first mile was a little fast out of excitement, but we slowed it down after that.

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The only way to get through a race under these kinds of conditions (in my opinion) is to have fun with it. So we did! We laughed, talked, ran, walked when we wanted to, ran again, cheered on runners around us, and had a great time.

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This course is beautiful but the hills are no joke! There are some decent ones in the first half, but the bigger rolling hills happen between miles 6-9. We stuck to our word to stay together and walked whenever one of us needed to.

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Finally, we re-entered the park and ran the final half mile to the finish line. The picture below doesn’t even convey how soaking wet we were. My shorts felt so heavy because they were DRIPPING and my socks and shoes were filled with sweat. Gross!

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We were so happy to cross that finish line, get a cold towel and some water, and of course some beer! One thing I love about this race is that in addition to a nice race shirt, you get an awesome engraved glass as well.

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I took a few minutes to change into dry clothes before heading over to the post-race area where we got food, drinks, and recapped our races for each other. When the awards ceremony began we were so excited to hear that a few of our ladies got age group/masters awards! So impressive especially on such a tough day!

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We definitely earned that beer!

Even though this year’s Hartwood 10 Miler wasn’t the race that I originally wanted, I still had a great time and made the best of it. I plan to continue to participate in this race in the years to come, I’ll just be crossing my fingers for slightly better weather ūüôā

Finish Time – 1:42:18 / 10:13 average pace

Previous Hartwood 10 Miler recaps:

My Best (and Worst) Race Experiences

I ran my very first 5K in 2006. Since then, I have run a total of 80 (!) races, from the 1 mile “fun run”¬†distance to the marathon.¬†I’ve participated in some really great races that have been amazing experiences, and some that had…¬†quite a bit of room for improvement, to put it nicely ūüôā Some of these races have been small, local races and some have been huge, big-name events – but regardless of size, in my opinion, a quality race experience comes down to¬†good planning and organization as well as a feeling of community and support.¬†When I think about my best and most memorable race experiences, many come to mind, but I wanted to focus on two for this post.

I ran the¬†Purple Stride 5K¬†in May 2014. It is difficult for me to write or talk about this race without getting emotional because it was extremely special to me.¬†My friends and family participated in this race in memory of my mom, on the 10 year anniversary¬†of her death. The entire event in Wilmington, Delaware including our team, Strides for Staci, raised over $100,000 for pancreatic cancer research. It was an amazing day and a perfect way to celebrate my mom’s life.

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This race wasn’t about finishing times (although my sister did get¬†a new PR!). It was about community, support, remembrance, and hope¬†for the future.¬†Highlights included running the entire race¬†with my sister, getting to¬†see people I didn’t get to see very often since moving away to Virginia, laughing and sharing stories with the friends and family I grew up with, seeing purple everywhere (my mom’s favorite color), a beautiful course that was mostly by the water, and a fun celebration/after party. Looking back at the photos of this race and seeing everyone’s big smiles makes me feel so happy. This was an event that I will never forget.

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My other most memorable race was the¬†Myrtle Beach Marathon¬†this past March. I have participated in both the half marathon (in¬†2013 and 2015) and full marathon (1 DNF in¬†2014¬†and one completed full in 2016- linked above), and I really appreciated the race organizer’s attention to details when it comes to this race. The course is well-planned and the amount of runners is perfect, not too many that it is overcrowded but not too little so you don’t feel alone. There are spectators and entertainment throughout. It starts right on time. It offers pace groups to keep you on track. It has an awesome after-party and great swag (shirts, blankets, medals, and more!). It’s just an overall awesome race that I have loved being a part of over the years.

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This past year’s race was extra special to me for many reasons.¬†Every single detail came together and I ran the strongest race of my life, both physically and mentally. Even at only 9 months postpartum after baby #2, I beat¬†all of my goals¬†by a landslide and scored myself a 13 MINUTE PR! But beyond my finish time,¬†this was more than “just” a race to me. I didn’t say it outright at the time, but I ran this marathon a little over a week after I found out some extremely shocking news that tore my family¬†and marriage apart. I almost didn’t run the race at all, but decided to go for it at the last minute. I was angry, heartbroken, overwhelmed and confused, and¬†this race reminded me¬†that I am strong and can do hard things. I needed that in order to move forward into my new life as a single mom of two young boys. I think about this race all the time when I need a boost of confidence in myself.¬†All of these things made it one of my most memorable races by far.

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Other memorable race experiences:  The New York City Marathon (2010) РI ran with the charity Team for Kids, which was amazing!, The Air Force Marathon (2011), Hartwood 10 Miler (2013-2016), Lower Potomac River Marathon (2014)

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The New York City Marathon Finish Line

I try to find the good in things most of the time, but with that being said, there is one race experience that still stands out in my mind as the “worst,” even 5 years later! I ran the¬†Hot Chocolate 15K¬†in National Harbor, Maryland back in December 2011. My full recap is linked above, but thinking back to that race still gives me anxiety and makes me feel cold! LOL.¬†Aspects of this race that I didn’t enjoy were that it was way too crowded for the roads the race took place on, it was not well organized and logistics were poor (it started an hour and twenty minutes late in freezing temperatures because of this), and more that you can read about in my full recap.¬†However, I have heard from others that over the years this race series has worked to improve some of these things, so that’s always a positive thing!

Hot Chocolate 15K – I was not happy!

I’ve been an RRCA certified running coach since 2014, and one of the additional certifications the RRCA offers is a race director certification program. One of my long-term goals is to obtain this certification and put on a local race of my own! How awesome would that be?¬†I‚Äôve used¬†Eventbrite¬†to register for many races, including January’s¬†Charleston Half Marathon¬†which benefitted the Youth Endowment for the Arts.¬†Their service to promote and sell tickets¬†helps support local event creation and would be an awesome tool to use if I ever wanted to create my own running event.

Here is what would be important to me in my planning in order to provide people with a great race experience and have it stand out!

  • Easy logistics (parking, packet pick-up, registration, etc.).
  • Starts on time.
  • More than enough bathrooms!!! <- important!
  • Well planned course manned with enough volunteers, water, fuel if necessary, etc.
  • An appropriate amount of participants, not too little and not too many.
  • Entertainment, including good spectator support and music¬†along the course and before and after the race as well.
  • Fun and family friendly post-race experience.
  • Stroller-friendly if possible. As a mom who runs with a double stroller regularly it’s hard to find stroller-friendly races these days. I think it’s due to liability issues and the types of courses the races take place on, but I know this would be a HUGE plus for many people!
  • A pacing/running buddy option, where people can connect with others who may want to run the same pace or have similar goals. I’d also like for people to be able to register as a team to show support for each other or for a specific group/cause.
  • Tied to a good cause. I like to know I’m running for something bigger than myself to support something in my local community that is important to me. It feels good to know that your¬†registration fee is going towards something good.

What factors make or break a race experience for you? What is your best/most memorable race? How about the worst? What would you make sure to prioritize if you were putting on your own race?

Firecracker 5K

I’m really excited to write a recap of this race, even though it happened almost 3 weeks ago! On the 4th of July I ran the Firecracker 5K in my hometown in Pennsylvania, while there visiting family and friends for the long holiday weekend.

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I was nervous to run this race because I have been focusing on longer distances for over a year now. After having Kyler, I started training for the Richmond Half in November where I got a 5 minute PR, then the Myrtle Beach Marathon in March where I got a 13 minute PR. Then I took it easier for a while before getting back into marathon training again. It had been two years since I really pushed myself in a short and fast race. In fact, my previous 5K PR was set at another 4th of July race in 2014, shortly before getting pregnant again. I ran a 21:55, super fast for me, and I thought it would be a LONG time since I was able to break that Рif ever!

One issue I have always had with short races (or all races, really) is going out too fast. I’ve been working hard on fixing this with progression runs, and fast finishes on some easy and long runs. This has helped train me both physically and mentally to start slower and finish fast and strong. I have found that it’s easier to do this during training though, and takes a TON of patience and discipline to do this during an actual race with adrenaline pumping!

I knew I needed to maintain a pace faster than 7:04 to get a new PR, but I wasn’t really sure if that was possible. After a pep talk from a running buddy and a trip to the port-a-potty I finally felt ready to run. My plan was to start at a 7:00 pace and try to drop it each mile. However, I knew the route well and I knew there was going to be a couple of good sized¬†hills on the out-and-back course. I was up for the challenge!

As I waiting at the start line I got the best surprise РI saw my dad and his girlfriend on the sidelines! I had mentioned the race to him, and while he always supports my running he has only come out to a few races. I was so excited to see him and it really helped to settle my nerves.

After an amazing singing of the National Anthem we were off! I made sure to smile for my favorite race ¬†photographer, my dad ūüôā

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I settled nicely into a comfortable 7:00 pace. It didn’t feel like I was working hard at all and I was so tempted to push it, but tried my best to be patient. I like to imagine myself banking the energy for later in the race when I know I’ll need it. When you are used to training for longer distances, a 5K can seem deceivingly short and easy. It is NOT easy! The short and fast races hurt, but they hurt more if you go too fast at the beginning. I tried to remind myself of that during the first mile. There was also a hill here, which slowed me down some too. I told myself I had plenty of time left and not to worry about the pace quite yet. I ended up with an exact split of 7:00 for my first mile.

  • Mile 1 – 7:00¬†

During the second mile we ran downhill, then slightly uphill, then turned around to run slightly downhill, then uphill again. Whew! I started to increase my effort here and push more on the uphills, then let gravity help me back down. I passed the retirement home where I worked for 6 years in high school and on college breaks, as well as lots of spectators, including some that I recognized. That helped take my mind off of the hills and my faster pace.

  • Mile 2 – 6:56

After seeing my mile 2 split, I knew I would PR if I could just maintain that pace. I ran up the last part of the big uphill and then made my way back down. The rest of the course was downhill or flat, which helped a ton, but it was getting warm and was very humid and I was feeling it! Once I crested the hill I started to increase my effort level more. I really wanted to finish strong, but that last mile in a 5K is TOUGH! It feels like it lasts forever! I kept pushing and telling myself it would be over soon. My mile 3 split popped up and I was shocked Р6:44 was my fastest mile ever in a race, and I did it at the end of a 5K!

  • Mile 3 – 6:44

As ¬†I neared the finish line I saw my dad again. I also saw the time on the clock which was just over 21 minutes. I was so shocked and couldn’t believe I actually ran that fast!

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  • Final .10 – 6:16 pace
  • Finish Time – 21:14 (6:50/mile)

I was so proud of myself for the smart race I ran. It boosted my confidence a ton and showed me that those fast finish workouts and all my training is paying off, even in shorter distances. I couldn’t believe that I beat my PR from two years before by 40 seconds!

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One of things I love about races in the Philadelphia region is that they usually have amazing post-race refreshments like soft pretzels and water ice. OMG. I was in heaven.

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When I was growing up here I was pretty much the most non-athletic person ever, so it felt really good to come home and run my fastest 5K ever on streets that hold so many memories for me. I ended up being the 6th woman overall but 4th in my age group. There were some super fast ladies running!

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The rest of my holiday was spent relaxing by the pool, eating delicious food and drinking yummy drinks with some of my best friends in the entire world. It was definitely a day that made my mind, body, and soul happy ūüôā

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!

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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!