An unexpected PR on a perfect fall morning! {NCR Half Marathon Race Recap}

You know what’s cool about today for me? It’s the 2 year anniversary of when I ran 13.1 miles for the very first time. And now today I get to recap my new half marathon PR! 

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My very first half marathon in 2013!

Earlier this year I started setting some goals for myself for the fall. These goals did NOT include running a marathon, but rather focusing on shorter distances. Ultimately I wanted to do more halfs and possibly run myself a new PR. My best time of 1:45:27 happened last September at the NCR Half Marathon, a small race that is part of my run club’s Grand Prix Series. I also did not intend to compete in the Grand Prix Series this year, but now that I have 3 of the 4 necessary races under my belt…hey why not.

This year the NCR Half just so happened to fall on the day when my training schedule told me that my long run should be a very convenient 13.1 miles. And even better? The race is on the very same trail as the upcoming marathon so I would be able to practice on familiar terrain.

100 people showed up to run on Saturday morning and as usual I loved seeing some familiar faces, especially my friend Michelle who I’ve been doing my long runs with lately. The Baltimore Road Runners are a fun and welcoming group and the weather was absolute fall perfection. In my tank top and shorts I was more than a little bit chilly as we walked to the start, but after jogging around for a half mile I felt warmer and knew I’d be comfortable for the race. It was set to start at 8am and right around that time we all lined up on the trail facing north. The course is a double out and back, which I remember really disliking the idea of last year, but it ended up not being so bad.

PR thoughts had been in the back of my mind, but during the first several miles they all went out the window. I wasn’t feeling particularly well and even though I was coming off a couple days of rest my legs felt like lead. I even debated calling it quits when I got back to the start. In hindsight, I should have considered that it just takes me a lot longer to warm up now that my long runs are getting into the mid-teens. By the time I was three miles in and nearing the first turn around, my energy level had started to improve.

Then I realized as the leaders were passing me going in the opposite direction that I was the second female. I got way excited and as a result mile 4 was my fastest at 7:25. After that I had to remind myself to rein it in because I still had a long way to go.

From mile 4 until mile 11 I was feeling pretty great. When I race I like to pick out another runner up ahead, pace with them awhile, and then try to pass them because it gives me something to focus on when I’m getting tired. No one had passed me so I knew I was still the second place woman, but this was reinforced by several people who screamed it at me as they passed me going the other way. Even though I already knew, it still gave me a boost to hear it.

There were plenty of water stops with friendly volunteers, but I hadn’t stopped at any of them until mile 12 when I was suddenly very exhausted. I drank about 3/4 of the cup and dumped the rest of it over my head; it was freezing cold and helped a TON. The trail was crowded with people out enjoying their mornings, but there wasn’t anyone from the race that I could follow for the last couple miles; the guy who finished in front of me was like 2 minutes ahead. Because I run that part of the course all the time and know it like the back of my hand, I entertained myself by running from one landmark to the next. When a familiar bend in the trail appeared up ahead, I knew I was almost done and when the red, digital readout of the clock appeared I literally said “OH THANK GOD” and sprinted as fast as I could to the finish on tired legs.

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So I PRed by nearly 2 minutes, held on to second place and first in my AG which is great for the Grand Prix Series, but then this is also the first time I’ve run a half marathon with my average pace under 8 minutes. I don’t know which of these things is most exciting for me. All of them, I guess.

After sharing high fives and congrats with some of the guys who had finished at around the same time as I did, I visited the table that was set up with snacks and drinks. I helped myself to Gatorade and water and then there was also bagels, cookies and bananas which I appreciate for other people, but can’t eat without dire consequences. I had a lunch date and couldn’t hang out long, but it was nice to catch up with friends and cheer for other runners crossing the finish line.

Such a great day. 🙂

How do you pass the time on long runs? Did you run or race last weekend? How is your fall season going?

xo,

Salt

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The icing on the cake! {Grand Prix Series Finale!}

As far as running is concerned, 2014 was a painfully awesome year for me. With a little more emphasis on the “painfully” than I would have liked.

One of my goals was to complete the Grand Prix Series put on by my run club, Baltimore Road Runners. This series consisted of 8 races and participants were required to run 4 plus fulfill a volunteer requirement. Obviously you could run more if you wanted, but only your 4 best scores would be considered with anything over that used in the event of a tie. At the end of the series, awards would be handed out based on age group. Sounds pretty cool right? Right.

Well unfortunately, my body didn’t want to cooperate. I spent much of this year laid up with one obnoxious ailment or another; February and March were nearly a wash due to a nasty brawl with peroneal tendinitis and then starting in July, I was challenged by what felt like never-ending nerve entrapment in my foot. Lots of doctors appointments…sports med, various podiatrists, chiro, acupuncture. Lots of pity partying.

BUT. I got it done.

I was able to complete 5 races of the Grand Prix Series; only one of which (the first one) was completely injury-free. Here’s the recaps from those races this year:

Race #1: The GPS 8-MilerAka: The one where I didn’t hurt. At 10 degrees without the wind chill, this was my coldest race of the year. Thanks, Polar Vortex.

Race #2: The White Hall 15KI almost didn’t get to do this one. It was originally scheduled for early March and TENDINITIS, but then snow happened and it got postponed. It wasn’t pretty, but I made it through.

Race #3: The GPS 5K. My leg was pretty much held together by KT Tape, but I still came in second and with a new PR!

Race #4: Too Hot To Trot 10KIt was not too hot to trot. In fact the temperature was about 30 degrees below normal for August. Not that I’m complaining because the weather was perfect and I had a great race despite the nerve damage.

Race #5: NCR Half MarathonAt this point I had already done the required amount of races and came in first in my age group in all of them, but I really wanted an excuse to do another half marathon.

And the time I volunteered: GPS Cross Country 3 Mile. Windy. Freezing. I drank a coffee the size of my head.

Last night was the BRRC Year End Meeting and it was my first time attending because, well, I just joined in January. A sizable crowd gathered at a local school to go over various orders of business and announce the Grand Prix series award winners and it was so funny walking in there…I barely recognized anyone. Every other time I see these people they are all raced-out and normal jeans or business casual work attire was confusing and funny. It was almost like walking into a room full of incognito super heroes.

I knew I was getting some kind of recognition, but I had no idea it was a great big plaque!

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There were a couple other races that I would have liked to have done, but my leg and foot just wouldn’t let me. And that’s okay. I sat down when I had to and got out there when I could and in the end it paid off. I’m very proud of this.

New Jersey is going to be my main focus for the next couple of months so I don’t know yet if I will participate in the series for 2015 (maybe in the later races?), but I’m looking forward to more fun events with the club! Yet another thing that I can owe to Helly…I probably would have never gotten the nerve to go out to that first race if it wasn’t for her.

I hope everyone is having as great a week as I am! Work has been completely insane (in a good way) and you better believe I’m looking forward to all the fun holiday festivities coming up!

Are you in a running club? Which one? Have you ever participated in a race series?

xo,

Salt

Race Recap: {Not} Too Hot to Trot 10K

And just like that…I DID IT!!

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I can’t believe I’ve run 14 races so far this year and with several more to go. I might have a problem.

Lucky #14 was a very small 10K race hosted by my run club and regardless of any foot issues I was not missing it because it is part of their Grand Prix series which is starting to wind down now with the year more than half over. There are two races left after this one and I’m planning on possibly doing one of those although as I will explain in a moment, it’s really not necessary.

The race is called Too Hot to Trot because it’s August and generally sweltering around here. It was set to kick off at 7:30am before the heat of the day could really set in. Now due to global warming or whatever, the temperature at 7:30am yesterday was in the high 50’s. Not that I’m complaining because it was perfect conditions for running, but man I do love irony.

I arrived at a few minutes to 7, paid my $2 registration, and started my warm up. I was hoping if I got a mile in, my foot would settle down before the race. It was an out and back course on the NCR trail, starting at Sparks Road and heading south to Paper Mill – where I normally start my runs – and back again. Promptly at 7:30 we all lined up at the trail head for announcements and then without much warning we were being told to go and I was totally unprepared standing there in the back of the pack trying to get my Garmin started and my music queued up. Maybe I should take this as a sign that I should ditch the music.

Anyway my start was slow as I was fumbling with all the things and crammed in with a big group on the narrow trail, but there were only about 100 of us so things thinned out quickly and thank goodness for that warm up because I didn’t have to work through any of the first mile problems that I usually encounter. I was trying not to go out too fast because I needed to save my energy for later, but also trying to gain some ground on the leaders because we weren’t being chip timed.

This was my first race wearing my New Balance 1400s, AKA my Lisa Frank shoes. They are the shoes I got as part of my ambassadorship for Fit Foodie.

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So much resemblance.

I used to love doing shorter races in my Pure Connects, but I am 100% sure that those shoes are what led to the complete destruction of my foot, so they have sadly been retired. After running with the New Balances I am definitely missing the Pure Connects less. I was feeling really good and my feet were feeling really fast. There were two instances while I was out there when I could feel the terrible toe pain coming on – it feels like someone is crushing my second toe joint with a pair of pliers – but I was able to adjust my gait and run through it without slowing down much at all.

I concentrated on reining people in; hanging back for a bit so I could pace them and then kicking it up a notch to pass them one by one. While I was working on my third mile, the fast men who had already gotten to the turn around started to pass me going in the other direction. I waited to see how many women there were and as I reached the cone I was shocked to see that I had somehow made my way into 4th place. And somehow I still had so much energy. WTF had gotten into me?!

I only glanced at my watch a couple times and not because I cared about my pace. I was more interested in finding a pace that was challenging, but also sustainable for 6+ miles. My watch beeped for mile 6 and I started running as fast as I could, around the last bend and then I was flailing my way across the finish line in third place with my second best 10K race time! Official:

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What a rush! I looked at my watch to see how I had done running by feel. Holy moly I am SO PROUD of these negative splits!!

1    8:09.6    1.00    8:10
2    7:41.6    1.00    7:42
3    7:32.5    1.00    7:32
4    7:25.2    1.00    7:25
5    7:27.5    1.00    7:28
6    7:23.8    1.00    7:24
7    1:43.2    0.25    6:54

The awesome RD had a great spread of food and drinks set out for us including bananas, donuts, and ice pops. I hung around chatting with a friend of mine as we watched other people finish the race. I just love these events; everyone is always so welcoming and friendly and it’s so nice to talk to someone about running and not have their eyes glaze over. Then it was time for awards! I had no idea there would be awards!

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So cute and so so so so unexpected.

Then I got even more good news…I came in first in my age group and I’ll tell you what that means because there’s no way you will be able to guess. The Grand Prix series results are taken from a runner’s 4 best performances during the season. So you have to run 4 races and volunteer for one to qualify, but you can run more if you want and they will just take your four best scores and use the others for tie breakers. WELL. This was my 4th race AND I came in first in my AG in all of them!! After having a lot of injury challenges this year, I am just on top of the world right now. I may run the GPS half marathon next month as a training race for Baltimore and then volunteer for the last one because 5 miles cross country…no thank you. I am so not a cross country runner.

Oh and then in true Piratebobcat style, I celebrated with tacos. Shrimp diablo. Mmmmmmm.

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How was your weekend? Any good runs? Did you have any tacos?

My Muuyu giveaway ends tonight at midnight! So if you haven’t yet entered and want to, go HERE! I’m signing up for another class ASAP. Sore today. 🙂

Happy Monday, everyone!

xo,

Salt