Monday, December 31, 2012

December - A Race to Remember

The December Jingle Bell Run was just pure fun! This is an 8k race in Washington DC, the same route as the miserable St. Patrick's Day run from March.

There were several girls from the Bootcamp I joined in October running the race together. Afterwards we had this fantastic lunch and gift exchange.

We all met at the hostesses house, waking up her kids and husband as we brought in our potluck dishes, found space in the frig and found our bibs and other necessaries for the race. We all drove down together and I was so happy the rain held off.

I had 2 buddies in the back of the pack for this race. Even though I had run races with friends, everyone was always faster then me. One of my buddies was a jack rabbit. Or so she said. She would race out of the start gate until she was out of energy and then do whatever she could to finish the race. She decided to stick with me, slow and steady.

The first mile we were right on our 13 minute pace. The race was full of folks in awesome costumes and they definitely were keeping me distracted. There was also a guy juggling the whole race who managed to stay just ahead of me. We kept our pace up and did some running and some walking. Debbie would pull ahead and then I would manage to get close again. It was a great motivation for me to keep up the pace and keep pushing to the end. I finished with a PR  of over a minute and a time of 1:04:57.

And with this race my journey of 12 in 12 ended. It was such a great feeling to set a goal and be able to follow through with it. More in the coming days and about what I learned and what's next.

November - Time to Give Thanks

So I had the best race for the Woodrow Wilson Half, could I still finish the year with good weather and great races? I lobbied the girls in the neighborhood to join me in a local 5k/10k. It was the Sunday before T-day, rather then the day of, so that appealed to me. So myself and 2 others registered for the Vienna 10k.

They had super cute shirts and it was close by - what more could you ask for? Um.... a flat course. This race was adding the 10k for the first time on the 10th anniversary. As a result it was actually the 5k course twice. What I didn't know was that it was the hilliest course twice!

We were on neighborhood streets and it was a pretty small race by the time the 5k folks finished. I am pretty sure there was a running group of some kind running the race together and that those with 10k bibs ended up finishing after the first lap. Boo! It got pretty lonely after that. To the point that the radios were squawking about the last racers. I felt the need to make sure they knew there were actually TWO people behind me. I also was super glad there was a house along the way that was under construction and had a porta potty handy!

Overall the race was well run and it was fun to have the band kids on the course. I live in a pretty hilly neighborhood, but the hills definitely made me walk more then I planned. In the end, I finished in 1:20:49, a 2.5 minute PR.

October - the BIG one!

I am running a half marathon. What was I thinking??? 13.1 miles?? The best thing about this race was my support. My long distance running buddy was in town from Ohio. She was training for a marathon, so this little run was just a training run with a medal at the end. (she was very gracious about this!)

I also had a TON of family support. My parents planned their trip East for Columbus day weekend, so they could have another day that the kids weren't in school. My Dad is a marathoner, having run both the LA and Long Beach Marathons. This was slightly nerve racking for me, as he RUNS marathons and I cover distances. :) Anyways, their trip happened to fall on the same weekend as the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half.

I had also given my Husband fair warning that this race was the one race he had to show up for. I wasn't sure how that was all going to go as now he had not just the kids, but my parents as well. Needless to say, he hit it out of the park, but more on that later. 

So the race is a point to point race from Mt. Vernon to National Harbor. You spend most of the time on the GW Parkway and then cross over the bridge, make a loop around the harbor and finally past the Awakening to the finish.

This was my first "big" race, in that it of course was the longest distance I had ever completed, but I also knew there was a cap at 3,000 runners. I hadn't really paid attention to the number of runners in the races I had done up to this, but I fully expected a big expo and all the trimmings. I had been getting emails indicating I hadn't completed my registration and had been communicating with the Race Director. He assured me everything was fine, but in the end I didn't have a preprinted bib - Boo.  As for the expo, there were only about 5-6 vendors there. I bought a cute water bottle with a handstrap that has come in handy.

The weather report wasn't doing my nerves any favors. Could be a downpour, could be just wet.  Got to love DC, never know what you are going to get. Of course, with all my good weather at the races up to this point, I would have traded for this day in a hot second! We lucked out in that it drizzled, but never all out rained - or maybe it did and I just never noticed! It did cause me to grab a hat last minute.

Laura's husband, who is also a runner, took pity on us and drove us to the starting point. Because it is a point to point race, and there isn't any parking at the start, you could park in Alexandria or at the National Harbor and take a bus. We were dropped off right at the start! I had purchased a throw away sweatshirt at the good will, but ended up having more then enough time to check it (and my throw away ponchos again!). It was dark!

The race was smaller then I thought in that I could see the start line. They started the blind runners and their partners off (so cool!) and then we were off. Laura had moved ahead before the startThe Parkway isn't very easy to spectate from, so I didn't plan to see my family until Mile 7. We had tons of space to run our own race without having to jostle each other.

I kept thinking I had to use the porta potty, but each time I was at a stop, the line made me want to keep pushing on. I was too worried about my time. The race had a cutoff at 3:16, and I had a stretch goal of finishing in under 3 hours. My A goal was to finish and be with the race cutoff. I was running/walking at a good pace and was feeling great when I saw the first glimpse of my family. (Hey I was over halfway done at that point!) Rob said later, I was right on my predicted time that I had laid out on the map I gave him.

I had fallen in with a group of folks that were going the same pace and soon we were headed into Alexandria and over the bridge. There were 2 ladies that were particularly chatty and keep me heading forward. When we were on the bridge at mile 9, we all realized we had a chance to make the 3 hour mark. Boy was I excited and motivated then! The rain was coming down harder and we were on the pedestrian part of the bridge. (I realized my dreams of running over the actual road part of the bridge were just silly with the traffic in DC, but it would have been nice) and I was ticking off the states. First leaving VA, just a few minutes in DC and then into Maryland.

Past mile 10 and then I knew I was going to see my family again soon.

Then came the Hill. My friend from work, who ran the GW Birthday Run had warned me about this hill. I thought of him and kept moving. I knew I was going to walk this hill and just powered up it with my arms swinging. I had lost my ladies, but knew I had to keep going.

Then you enter basically the back of National Harbor, employee entrances and the like. A nice downhill and then this gravel area. I knew it had been a hated part of past races, but early on they had said they were going to change the route to eliminate it. Unfortunately, they did not.

After that we hit the "boardwalk" part that led up past the restaurants and then around what seemed like a thousand bends to the finish line. As I was coming up to the finish they were making announcements, so there wasn't even music to keep me going!

I finished! And it was under 3 hours!!! Elation!! Official time was 2:54:24.

We had some Mexican food at a local spot after changing into dry clothes and saying good bye to Laura. I even got to wear my medal most of the meal!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

September - more fun with friends

My running friend had come back to town to run the Navy 5 miler. I rallied some folks from the hood and we made a small group of it. This was my last race before the big half marathon. I was feeling good about my preparations and we headed downtown as a group.

At this race I met some folks from a bootcamp that meets just around the corner from my house. My friend Irma has been with them for a long time and I loved getting to know some of the girls.

This race started at the Washington Monument and was a beautiful loop with lovely views of Alexandria. I ran quite of the race and felt strong in this race. I still finished last (in my group), of course, but that isn't why I am running.

Lovely weather and fun day! I love that running has begun to put a smile on my face!

I finished the 5 miler in 1:03:37.

August - Where have all the races gone?

Since this is my first year racing, I didn't really understand the cycle of racing in DC. Just like Congress and the rest of the population, apparently there isn't much around in August. My family and I took a trip of a lifetime to Alaska the beginning of the month. I seriously considered finding a race there to run, as I was sure the lower temperatures would be easier to run. My weather streak had held all year do far, but at some point the fates had to step in right? In the end I am glad I didn't try to squeeze a race in during our trip. So that left 2 weekends in which to find a local race.

OMG could my thighs jiggle anymore??

I ended up running the Leesburg 5k. I was signed up for the 20k looking towards my half marathon in October. The finishing time requirement concerned me and I was exchanging emails with the race staff up to the evening before the race. In the end, I decided not to push it and dropped back to the 5k. After the race results came out and I realized they had kept the course open quite a bit longer then advertised, I was a little mad. Another interesting tidbit about this race was that I had a HUGE PR. I sliced 3 minutes off my time to 37:00. I have to be honest, I am a little concerned about the race course and if it was truly 3.1. The race was hosted by a local racing store and seemed to be well established, although it has been a 10k/20k combo in the past.

Although I race this race by myself - since I was driven by the calendar and everyone else is smarter then to sign up for an August race - I ran into a good friend at the end of the course. She has also been working on becoming a runner and it was so much fun to catch up.

July - Time to Celebrate

July was the month I finally accomplished what I had been working for. I ran the 4th of July 5k without walking. I was so completely on cloud 9 by the end. I texted my running buddy, who had moved to Deleware at this point, before I even posted on FB!

I should note that I have been updating everyone on my friend list with my race postings and pictures. I have to thank my friends for continuing to read and take the 1 second to click the like button. It really helped me to have the support from across the country.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

June - all for Dad

My June race was back to a local race run by one of the racing stores. My friend Lorna was running it, so we had a good time. We ran with each other, sometimes one ahead, sometimes the other and that made it fun. The race was to support prostate cancer research and promote education, so there were some fun signs.

We also ran with ties and at one turnoff you had to tie a tie on and run the rest of the race with it. We received a mug for our trouble, but it was just a fun diversion. This was a new course for me, and I felt good.

However, the pictures just show why running in tights are my friends. Yikes, I clearly have a long way to go on the thighs.

Nothing super special about this race, just get it done. I finished the 4 miles in 49:52.

May - be this wasn't such a good idea

Pure calendaring challenges made this month's race the one for me. It was a small race around Burke Lake Park, which is local to me and one I have been around quite a few times. The race was hosted by a running group and not by one of the local stores/race management companies. It showed.

We started off by a plastic water bottle and ran until the guy with the ipad said stop. Ha. They did have a timer set up along the road and it was clear this is a group that runs together all the time. I was hoping to make some running friends, but this group was so close, it wasn't easy to strike up a conversation.

So there were about 30 folks racing. One girl I chatted with that had potential, but she was way faster then me. Isn't it funny how we check out potential running buddies? Why was I was looking, well my running buddy from the hood was moving to Delaware. Boo!

Anyways, we started off from our makeshift start line and I was immediately behind. There was one pair that I seemed to be staying current with, seemed like a brother and sister. We made our way around the parking lot and we actually went through another race's balloon arch. I felt strong going all the way around the lake, a strong run/walk pattern and making the most of the downhills.

I finished the 8k at 1:06:08. I was happy with that. Everyone else was hanging around some picnic tables that had coffee and donuts. I checked in and then decided to pack it up and head home. As I was getting settled in my car, I noticed an overweight man making his way up the road. In an impulse I jumped up and started jogging next to him. I was with him all the way in, making some noise to try and get the group to recognize this perseverance in their midst. They didn't leave the tables, but we did get a few cheers.

April - where I learn about running friends

April, it is a beautiful month here as everything starts to bloom and I learned how much more fun races are with friends! I actually had 2 races this month. April 1 brought the Cherry Blossom 5k. I signed up for the lottery with my friend from Ohio who was running the 10 miles. This was all before the goal was a glimmer. The lottery was held in December and little did I know how lucky we were to get spots. I don't think the 5k is all that competitive, but the rest of my group was 10 milers. Anyways, we metro'd to the Washington Monument start together and met afterwards. This was my first big race, as the racing season really kicks off in April here. I was alone at the 5k start, but that was ok. The course was pretty and crowded. There were all sorts of funny people there racing in outfits I would wear to the mall. Well maybe not, but jeans, sweaters....all sorts of things.

I felt good about my race finishing in 40:47. Not quite as fast as January, but so much better then March, who could argue?

I felt weird wearing my Cherry Blossom t-shirt afterwards because it clearly announces the 10 miler part, but in no form does it recognize the 5k piece. I didn't want anyone to think I was claiming to have raced 10 miles! Seems a little silly since I was already registered for a Half Marathon! Part of the comparison game perhaps, which can be a downside of running with friends.

My 2nd race of the month came in the form of peer pressure. A good neighborhood friend had lost a lot of weight and was really getting into running and wanted to run the GW parkway Classic. Again, we ran the 5k option associated with the 10 miler.

Lorna, her husband and I all met to drive down to the buses together. It was nice to not have to be the only once paying attention to logistics. It was a cool morning and damp. There aren't a ton of bathrooms as we were starting much further up the parkway from the main race. I ended up having trouble in the bathroom before and I am quite certain Lorna thought I had fallen in. It chewed up quite a bit of time though, and I apologize for monopolizing a stall when the line was so long. We started off and I ditched the dollar store poncho I had brought along. There were quite a few kids in this race, clearly a youth fitness group with the YMCA or something and some of the kids were in the skate shoes. I was not amused as I puffed my way towards Alexandria.

I didn't see Lorna or Will during the race after they pulled away early, but was happy it wasn't raining and did steal a few glances at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Would I really be running over that bridge come October?? I finished in 39:05 and they were waiting at the finish line for me. I was so happy to be under 40 minutes! We didn't stick around for the post race festivities, but there were beer trucks and other tents being set up for the rest of the morning. Logistics were so smooth, we got home no problem. And I was happy.

I figured I had a extra race stashed away in case I needed it later on in the year to meet my goal. :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

March - and the cocky come crashing down

March, its a fun month, the promise of Spring around the corner and in DC, the warmer weather continued. I signed up for a St Patrick's day 8k. What other type of race would you do in March? It was a doozy. It was my first race downtown and my husband had me all psyched out about parking and getting the metro to Freedom Plaza.

I left earlier then I was planning to and got to the race location way too early. It was a colder morning and I am a new runner, so not lots of beautiful race clothes like I lust after now. Anyways, cold, lots of time and Freedom Plaza. Yup, I pretty much just walked around in circles. We had remnants of the Occupy DC (well on of) encampments there. Apparently they had gotten to the point where they could only occupy during the day and not sleep over anymore. There were maybe 8 tents with various signs in and around them. Weird to see them empty after all the news reports. Anyways, WAY TOO MUCH time passes and the race finally starts. Folks had cute outfits on and I started in the back as usual. I always make some friends there. :)

This race was horrible! I loved racing down the road and seeing the Capital apparently a little too much, as the photographer caught me fiddling with my blackberry to take a picture. (not cute) The route was a good one and one I would run again later in the year (can we say redemption?). I hadn't learned about eating for a race and so the chicken breast and broccoli that was dinner the night before did me no favors on race day. I had my first experience with being dizzy and just not feeling well. I was so desperate for a bathroom, I considered running into one of the Smithsonians or using the porta potty left out by some construction folks. In the end I did neither, but it was a humbling experience after feeling so elated in Feb. I finished the race in 1:20:43 almost 3 minutes slower per mile then before. Lesson learned.

Don't mistake my focus on stats for being ultra competitive. Let's face it at these paces, the only ones I am competing with are the people behind me and myself. I am motivated by stats (somewhat), but what became clearer as I moved through the year, was that finishing a race feeling strong was better then a PR.

3 months in the books and I was registered for several more races to come. My goal was coming into focus as the blossoms were blooming.

February 10k - Walk Like the Wind

Ah February, what should be the hibernating months here in the DC area, was just pleasant. Even Mother Nature was cooperating with my goal. If I could get races in the cold winter months, then the summer should be easy peasy. So this was the month of the rooky move. I sign up for and paid for a race I wasn't even going to be in town for. Oops.

Finding a race in February that wasn't on Valentine's day weekend was not easy. I hemmed and haaed about doing a 10k. really twice the distance as last month? I would be run/walking marathons by July at this rate! Plus all I had was myself and my treadmill, no real idea what I was doing, other then knowing I was SLOW. Any rate, I was spending the weekend most races were held in the Dominican Republic with my sorority sisters celebrating turning 40. I have never taken a girls weekend like this one before (all inclusive yea!) and wasn't going to miss it. The good news about the trip was it motivated me to move my behind. I have some healthy, athletic friends and I was going to be lying on the beach next to them. Yes, that motivated me!

Back to the race, it was a cold day, but not as cold as the original race I signed up for (see lying on beach). The George Washington Birthday 10k was it. The only other race I could see doing logically. It was a nice race, located in Alexandria and you waited for the start inside. I was beginning to suspect I would see people I knew at these smaller winter races and I was right. All of the sudden I run into someone I work with. Really? Nice guy, I didn't really know him that well at the time of the race, but he has become a good friend.

The race itself is basically out and back this industrial road, starting and ending over an overpass. It is nicer then it sounds. I started at the back of the pack, as I always do and started to jog. Well, that worked for about .25 of a mile. Seriously. I just couldn't get going. But if I know anything it is that I can walk fast. So that is what I did. I walked the whole thing in 1:23:23. That is a pace of 13:25 and not all that shabby. I was flying on cloud nine and felt like if I could walk 6 miles, then I could conquer anything this goal had to throw at me. And there is where the trouble began.....

January - New Years Day 5k

I did what any self respecting goal maker would do, I started the year with a 5k. This 5k started at 10 AM - brilliant! I was well hydrated and psyched to run this race. Well..... Run/Walk. The race was full of other resolutioners and I wondered how many of them would be with this by year's end. Would I be sticking with it? I was there by myself, not yet willing to share my goal and how far I had to go with anyone. In the end I ran 40:44, which was a good showing for me, but oh so close to 39:59! Something to shoot for.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 in Review

My goal for 2012 was to run 12 races in 12 months with a race a month. I am happy to say I accomplished that goal and am going to tell the story of my year. Meanwhile, I am working on what 2013 may hold. So many thoughts going through my head. As I look through old blog posts I read one from 2009 where I said I just wanted to enjoy exercise. I felt like if I could do that, then the rest would come. In a way, I think I was able to accomplish that goal too.

What I love about the 2012 race goal was that it wasn't so much about the races, but about what went into preparing. That is where the hard work is and frankly where we all have a chance to cheat ourselves if we want to. This year, I did some cheating, but for the most part, was true to myself and learned a lot of fun stuff along the way.

What goals can you set that require more from you?

Without further ado - 2012......