Tag Archives: racing

Westy Half Marathon Recap

Back in June, when my physical therapist told me not to run the Skirt Sports 13er, I was disappointed, to say the least. But when 3W Races let me transfer my entry to another race, I felt a little better — at least I hadn’t lost my registration fee. I chose to transfer to the Westy Half Marathon at the end of October, thinking that I’d have plenty of time to heal up and get back in shape.

I was half right. I’m 90% healed and healthy, but in shape I am not. In the weeks leading up to the race, my PT had approved long runs of 12, 13, and 14 miles, plus the barest semblance of speed work (I’m talking a few fartleks and hill repeats). I knew I was far from fast shape, but I was happy to be racing at all.

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Lining up. That sun was getting concerningly warm for the outfit I was wearing.

The race started at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Not knowing how long parking and packet pick-up would take, J and I left home around 6:15 and arrived around 7 — much earlier than we needed to. Parking was a breeze, and packet pick-up took about 30 seconds. Luckily, the Westin across from the start line had warm bathrooms and comfy chairs. We hung out in there for a while, and then I headed out for a one-mile warm-up jog… on which I realized that my weather app had lied to me and my full tights and long sleeves were going to be a bit much for the warm Colorado sunshine. But there was nothing I could do about it now, so I shrugged, peed one more time, and lined up at the start.

Since I knew I wasn’t in speedy shape, I had a pretty simple race plan: run at or slightly faster than normal long run pace for the first half, then pick it up a bit from miles 7-10, and then, if I felt good, lay the hammer down for the last 5k. To help myself keep it easy, I lined up farther back than I normally would … which ended up being too far back, and I had to weave a little before I settled in. No matter: I just relaxed and enjoyed the lovely views as the trail wound through a nice little open space.

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Trying to settle in to a comfortable pace. Photo courtesy of 3W.

The course went up a small hill around mile 2, looped around the open space, and dropped back down, then left the open space for maybe half a mile of road running before rejoining the bike path. Miles 4-6.5ish were uphill, and those same miles repeated as 6.5ish-8, so running down was WAY more fun. I felt good at the half, so as planned, I kicked it up just a little, passing a few people as I went. I didn’t see many women ahead of me after the turnaround, but I didn’t want to think about racing just yet. I focused on relaxing, grabbing a drink at the aid station, and enjoying the downhill flow.

At this point, I started reeling people in. I passed a few men and kept a brown ponytail in my sights for a few miles. Finally, when we hit the same slight uphill at mile 11 that we’d hit at mile 2, I passed her. Mile 11 ended up being my fastest of the race, thanks to that little surge.

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Another photo courtesy of 3W Races

As I entered the final mile, the half course rejoined the 5k course, and I got stuck a few times behind some walkers. At that point, I was starting to tire, but still feeling pretty good, for being out of shape. The finish line loomed ahead, so I gave one last push and crossed in 1:41:35 — 10 minutes slower than my PR, but good enough for fourth place and first in my age group. Gotta love small races!

Even though this wasn’t a fast-for-me race, I’m happy with how it went. This was the smartest I’d ever paced myself — I usually go out too fast and pay for it later — and I’m hoping I can apply that lesson to future, more race-y races.

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I was too warm for the weather, but I LOVE these Three-Pocket Tights from Skirt Sports. If you like them too, use code FALL20WIN for 20% off.

The Westy Half is a delightful little race: about 150 runners, a beautiful course, a pint glass for AG placing, free photos, and the nicest volunteers and race staff you’ll ever meet. I’d run it again, for sure, and I highly recommend it as a great fall half!

What’s your best recent race story?

Are you a smart pacer, or do you start too fast like I usually do?

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Race Recap: Loveland Sweetheart Classic 2017

Before last weekend, the last time I had raced was in June, at the Skirt Sports 13er — and even then, I didn’t really race until the last couple of miles, when I realized I could place. Then I got injured in July, and moved and started a new job in August, and continued fighting that injury, so I hadn’t raced or trained hard for months.

Nevertheless, I decided to race the Loveland Sweetheart Classic 4-Miler last Saturday. My hamstring was feeling about 85% of healthy. I love this little race (this was my fourth time running it), and I figured that even though I’d have a slow-for-me time, it would give me a good baseline for getting back in shape for this year’s 13er. So I registered, and last Saturday morning found me lining up in the Loveland High School parking lot, enjoying the unseasonable warmth and getting re-familiarized with pre-race butterflies.
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One of my injury-healing (and -preventing) strategies is doing a thorough warm-up, so I did some dynamic stretching and ran an easy mile, returning to the start just in time to hear the National Anthem. Soon, the gun went off, and so did the runners. I wasn’t really sure how to pace myself, since the only fast running I’ve done recently is a few strides and a couple of fartlek workouts. I figured I’d just go by feel, playing it by ear and not paying too much attention to keeping even or negative splits, since the first mile-ish is downhill and the last mile-ish uphill.
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I ticked off the first mile in 6:50, feeling pretty decent. I picked it up a little for the flat second mile (6:42), passing a few people and high-fiving a few spectators (high-fiving little kids mid-race is the best. If you don’t usually make time for it, you need to start). Mile 3 is when I started to feel my lack  of fitness, and it was also my slowest mile (6:53), I guess thanks to a slight headwind? That’s when I started mentally repeating the mantra that got me through the end: “Just gut it out.” I knew that a race this short, even with minimal fitness, was mostly a mental game, and I just had to, well, gut it out.

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Don’t be jealous of my beautiful race face. (Photo courtesy of the Loveland Road Runners). 

Mile 4 ends with a mild uphill push, then a rewarding downhill sprint to the finish line. I managed to pass one more woman just after my watched beeped for mile 3, and then I was alone until the finish. I pushed it hard, hitting mile 4 in 6:47 and finishing in 27:36, good enough for fourth place.

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Gasping for air after the finish

After catching my breath for a few minutes, I jogged back along the course to meet my friend Christine and run her in, so I finished the day with just over 6 miles. We wandered around the post-race expo, I got a free post-race massage in the hopes that it would keep my hammy healthy, and then we stuck around for the awards ceremony. Since the overall top three women were excluded from age group awards, I took first in the 30-39 category (and my time was faster than all the 30-39 men. I like to brag). My prize was a handmade medal and a $15 gift certificate to Runners Roost. I was stoked, since I need new running shoes!
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After the awards, I took a baby-wipe bath in the bathroom (races with access to indoor bathrooms are the best), put on clean clothes, and headed to the Loveland Fire and Ice art festival with J.

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Snowman ice sculpture, part of the “ice” bit of the festival. 

Overall, I’m satisfied with how this race went. I ran hard but didn’t get reinjured, and I feel like I have a good baseline now as I build fitness for this year’s 13er, which I do plan to race (if you want to race with me, use code SKIRTAMB15 for 15% off!). Time to start training harder (but smarter)!

Have you raced lately? How did it go?

What’s your favorite local festival/event? We’re pretty darn excited to live closer to artsy things..

Throwback Thursday: My First Marathon

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a Throwback Thursday post. I made that realization as I was finally categorizing past posts today. Note to bloggers: Categorize as you go. That was a huge pain. 

Anyway, I also realized that I’ve never written about my first marathon, Rock ‘n Roll Seattle in 2010 — the one that infected me with this desire to keep running them. So here’s the story. Enjoy!

I shuffle around the start line in the predawn light, shaking out my legs, straightening my bib, and exchanging nervous smiles and small talk with the other runners. Eighteen weeks of training have gotten me here– eighteen weeks of hard runs and ice baths, of early bedtimes and even earlier alarm clocks, of avoiding refined sugars and alcohol. Eighteen weeks, and it all comes down to this moment. In just a few minutes, the anthem will play and the gun will go off, and I’ll have 26.2 miles to test my training, to see if I have the endurance – mental and physical –for this task.

I don’t have much time to stress, thankfully. Before I know it, the gun has fired and I’m shuffling forward, anxious for the pack to thin so I can find my stride.  The first few miles pass quickly, and soon the sun is high and the spectators are out, ringing cowbells, playing music, and cheering enthusiastically as we run by. I bypass several aid stations, thinking I’ll avoid the crowds and catch a drink at the next one – a mistake, I realize just before mile 10. I’m lightheaded and dizzy, and I have to slow to a walk. At the aid station, I grab and gulp several cups of water; by the time I’m done, I feel like a new woman. I run the next few miles with a silly grin on my face, exchanging high-fives with spectators and jokes with fellow racers.

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After mile 20, though, I hit the metaphorical wall I’d read about on all the training websites– the wall I’d hoped to avoid. My legs throb, my lungs burn, and I look down to make sure my feet are still attached. I keep pushing, praying that I’ll break through that wall and feel fresh again. Along with not hydrating, I haven’t taken in any nutrition. I promise myself that I’ll avoid that rookie mistake IF I ever run another marathon… which is not looking likely at this point.

If I had known a polar bear was beating me, I would have been even more demoralized.
If I had known a polar bear was beating me, I would have been even more demoralized.

Eventually, I feel a little better, but some sadist of a course-planner threw in a hill at mile 25. My legs refuse to carry me up. Defeated, I slow to a walk. Another runner pulls up alongside me just as I slow. “Don’t walk now!” he urges. “Just top this hill, and you’ll hear the crowd. They’ll carry you to the finish line.” Encouraged, I start running again. Every step hurts and I want to quit, but I can’t stop now. My new friend runs with me for perhaps a quarter mile, adding valuable seconds to his own time to ensure that I’ll make it. I thank him between gasps and urge him to go on. He smiles, wishes me good luck, and disappears over the top of the hill.

Eventually I top the hill, too, and see that he was right. The road to the finish is lined with screaming spectators three-deep, and I can hear the finish-line band blaring. I pass the mile-26 sign, and then the finish line is in sight. The clock says 3:29:13– I’m seconds away from my goal time. My legs scream, but from somewhere deep inside me comes one final kick. I push hard, hearing Jordan’s shouted, “THAT’S MY WIFE!” as I glimpse his grinning face from the corner of my eye.

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I cross the finish line as the clock flashes 3:30:07. I made it! I slow to a walk—a shuffle, really– and gratefully accept water from a smiling volunteer. Another volunteer slides a medal over my head, and a third directs me to the end of the chute, where my grinning husband envelopes my aching, sweat-soaked body in his arms and tells me how proud he is.

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I missed the volunteer with space blankets, but I have to sit down. I sink onto the fender of a semi, gulping Cytomax and loosening my shoes, while Jordan stands beside me, swinging my medal and beaming. I’m exhausted, I stink, and every inch of me hurts, but I’m also proud of myself like I have never been before.

I look up at Jordan and grin. “When can I run another?”

 

Tell me about your first race!