Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon

I have never run the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon before in Hampton, VA, and when I found out many of my running friends were also running, I had to do it. Mira hosted a pre-race pasta dinner, so everyone could get together and look normal before donning running attire early the next morning. We all look different when we’re running after all. Unfortunately, our fearless leader, Cathy, couldn’t make it because she’s in Texas now.

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There are so many stories to tell and so many things that happened in this race, but some of them aren’t mine to share, so I’ll talk about my race experience and keep the rest between us runners. Race morning was warm and humid with the dew point around 70, so I knew a PR was out of the question for me; I’m a cold weather runner like most runners and prefer the mid 50s for a PR day. My plan was to keep up with Mira for as long as I could and help her get as close to her PR as possible. That soon went out the window too.

By mile 3, my jaw started going numb, which signaled that I needed to eat much sooner than I anticipated. I walked through the next water stop, grabbing more water and Gatorade, and in the process, lost Mira, Megan, and Hua. I figured I would run on my own for the rest of the race. Mira was in my sight about 50 feet ahead of me, and if she held her pace, I would never catch her. I was totally surprised when I did catch up with her because she’s fast, but cramps in her calves and dizziness plagued her from mile 5 in the race and stayed with her for the rest of the course.

With Mira’s crampy calves, the hot and humid weather, and my IT bands screaming along with the arch in my foot, we decided to run the race as a nice training run in which we earn a medal at the end. This was the best thing to do. We enjoyed the course and the after party, sampling the different craft beers and enjoying crab chowder soup. I think this race needs to become a yearly tradition.

Setbacks in Training

It’s almost time for the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon in Hampton where I have a chance to run with my running twin and lots of my friends in Virginia.  That being said, I have faced some setbacks in training.  I’m talking to you, hills.

Since the move to Philadelphia, I haven’t been stretching as I should, nor have I seen my sports doctor to keep me flexible and injury-free.  Add the lack of stretching to running on hills all the time, plus a tendency to run on the outside of the foot, and you have your IT bands begging for mercy, one of the most common injuries in runners and an injury I’m susceptible to acquire.  The IT (iliotibial band) runs from your hip all the way down to your knee, and when mine is injured it feels like my whole leg is on the verge of collapsing any second.

Due to IT band issues, I decided to cut back on my mileage, no more 50-60 mile weeks but 35 mile weeks instead, added more swimming and yoga to my workouts, and switched from the full to the half marathon in Richmond, which is the biggest bummer because it would have been my third year in a row running that race. I was really looking forward to getting my finisher’s fleece blanket.  Oh well, I’ll just have to steal Phil’s.  I’m also seeing a new sports doctor and getting physical therapy.

So, as much as I would like to train for the Richmond full marathon, I have to admit to myself that I can’t right now.  And that’s the hardest part. Even though I tell others to rest, cut back on miles, blah, blah, blah…  I tend to run through injury resulting in more rest time.  I’m silly like that sometimes. I should take my own advice and the advice of my former running coach, The Running Blonde. I can see her telling me to take it easy now much to my chagrin.

I am thankful that I can still run while recovering, and I now know that I should never, ever neglect stretching, rolling, or underestimate the power of yoga. Now, it’s time to focus on half marathon training and getting faster.  That’s a whole different challenge I CAN handle.

 

9/11 5K

The King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company 9/11 Memorial 5K was the first 5K I’ve run on 9/11.  Fire trucks with their ladders up held one of the largest American flags I’ve have ever seen–it filled with wind like a sail, tugging on the twin ladders piercing the sky.

Tables laden with pretzels, bagels, bananas, and grapes lined the inside of the fire station; volunteers were everywhere checking in runners and handing out race packets and swag bags.  I was there alone with the hopes of getting a PR in the 5K; it seemed like a good idea at the beginning of summer, but with my recent hip pain and the addition of hills to everywhere I run, I’ve slowed down a little bit.

As I looked for the line of port-o-potties that were no where to be found, I spotted a real bathroom inside the fire station.  I slowly opened the door, not wanting to relive the time I opened a port-o-potty door on a guy who didn’t lock the door… eeeek, and there was Deborah, and thankfully, not some half-naked man.  I started chatting with her immediately about how lucky we were not to have to wait in a long line and be able to use real flushing toilets before a race. Our conversation ended with the closing of the stall doors because I never know who thinks it’s OK to talk while you’re using the bathroom.

A few minutes later, I saw her stretching out by herself and realized that unlike most of the runners here, she was here by herself too.  So I went up to her and talked to her.  I’m so glad I did–she was friendly, runs all the time, and has a positive attitude.  The time before the race began went by in a flash.  Soon, the National Anthem played, and everyone was asked to grab a lemonade shot.  One table nearby had Dixie cups filled to the brim with pink lemonade.  I’ve never done this before a race, so I didn’t take one, not knowing what it was for.  The announcer started talking about the reasons for the race–for 9/11 and also for a 6 year old named Brielle.  She died of cancer in July 2016 and each month after her death, her family drinks a lemonade shot in honor of her.  I almost started crying.  Here I was worrying about how I would do in a race, and there’s this little girl who fought cancer and died.

I lined up at the start and looked at the twin ladders with a different perspective.  The announcer said, “Ready, set, go!” And the fire engine sirens blared while the field of 300 runners ran under the flag.  At that moment I almost ugly cried with my running bitch face on.  But, I had to keep running.  And breathing.  Breathing is very important when running, so holding in a cry while you run is not advised.  I sucked in my tears and sprinted up the first hill with my lungs burning.

I’m running for Brielle whose favorite number is 11, and I’m running for those who no longer can be with their families since one 9/11 fifteen years ago.

 

Cynwyd Heritage Trail

While running down Conshohoken State Road towards Philadelphia, a little cafe was nestled into the arch of the bridge near the Cynwyd Station.  We were only about eight miles into the long run, but it’s always good to know where cafes are located for future reference and for my coffee addiction.

To our surprise, the cafe was located at the trailhead for the Cynwyd Heritage Trail.  Bonus! So, Phil and I did what any runner would do and took the trail.  The CHT gently sloped down to the Schuylkill River and over the Manayunk Bridge.  From there, you can pick up the towpath and eventually run to downtown Philadelphia on the SRT, which is perfect for a long run of any length.

Now that we know where this trail is located, I can skip the steep hills of Wynnewood near the cemetery and the sidewalk-less back roads of Bala Cynwyd.  There were times on this run that I thought I was going to die with the cars whizzing past, blasting my face with hot air. Phil ran ahead around some of the blind curves to make sure that no cars were coming, which freaked me out since there was no where to go on the side of the road except into the brush.  At times, I ran so close to the trees and brush that I thought for sure I would get poison ivy. I didn’t.  And I didn’t get any ticks either.

Thankfully, the only casualty on this long run was my runner’s pride. After I reached the summit of what turned out to be a tiny bump in elevation on my Garmin, I glanced to the left to see a grave digger preparing a site for someone’s dearly departed. I wanted a rest after walking uphill, but not one that lasted forever. By the time we turned around and headed home, the two of us realized that we only needed to run four more miles to reach our house, making our long run two miles short of our goal of 16 miles. I was finished for the day anyway and will try for 16 next week.

Tempo on the Track

Hills. I can’t seem to do a tempo run on them because I trudge uphill like I’m Sisyphus, shoulders slumped over with an imaginary weight instead of a giant rock.  I remind myself to put my shoulders back while running up so I can actually breathe; I’m only carrying a water bottle after all. When I reach the top, I want to celebrate with my hands in the air like I just don’t care and pause my Garmin in order to catch my breath before a quick descent, but that would be cheating–there are no free pauses in a race.  And, that’s not what a tempo run is about anyway.

Because of the lack of flat land in my immediate vicinity, I opted to run the three tempo miles on the local track.  Yeah, I know it’s boring with going around and around twelve times; well, fewer times if you run in lane 8, but it’s pancake flat. After a mile warm-up, which was basically running from my house to the track, I picked up the pace, and BOOM! I maintained a consistent pace for the three miles of tempo work.  I actually can run fast when it’s FLAT. Back to the hills tomorrow though.

Florida Running

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Running and a dip in the pool on Day 2 in FL. 

Florida in the summer is not the most ideal time to run: as my good friend, Becky, says, “If you’re smart, you don’t run outside May through September.  You stay inside and get fat. It’s the opposite of everyone else.” Yes, Florida’s summer is like every other state’s winter, but instead you hunker down under mounds of fleece blankets, sipping your cold brew while watching a movie because the air conditioning is blasting away at 76 degrees.

Becky knows I’m crazy, and she is as well because I know she runs outside in the Florida heat. The humidity and high temperatures in Florida on a daily basis are enough to spark excessive heat warnings in any other state, but not Florida!  It’s the crazy state.  A 101 or more heat index is nothing.  So, what’s a runner to do?  Run at first light.

That’s what a smart runner would do, but I’m lazy most of the time and love to sleep in.  I woke up at 6am with every intention of running by 6:30 except for the fact that I kept hitting snooze until it was actually 6:30. I got a bowl of cereal, some banana bread (you can’t have too many carbs before a run, right?), and a cup of coffee. I chatted with Becky in an attempt to procrastinate until she said, “Aren’t you going to run?” Ughh. Becky always sees through my plans. I sipped my coffee with the forbidden Coffeemate creamer.  She knows I’ll feel guilty all day if I don’t run.

“Yeah, I’m going for a run when I’m finished drinking my coffee,” I eyed her over the mug. There. I said it.  Now I have to go. I got dressed and laced up my brand new Mizunos before heading out.

A few other crazies were hitting the pavement too even though they were walking: it’s hot at 8am in Florida.  In fact, I only saw one other runner. At least I’m not the only nutcase. The lizards parted for me on the sidewalk to take cover in the long grass, and the stray squirrel climbed the tree.  A lone fireant ambled on the sidewalk’s edge. I’m too fast for that ant to get into my socks and bite me (as long as I don’t step on an ant hill). There was a slight breeze moving the Spanish moss on the live oaks that provided shade from the relentless sun on the horizon. A few drivers waved me on as I ran in front of their cars. The plan was to run around 4 miles, so that’s what I did. I felt fast, although my pace was so slow.  Thanks, humidity.

By the time I finished, I looked like I already jumped in the pool.  And that’s just what I did after my run.  Perfect.

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Swimming and pool running on Day 1 in FL.

 

 

 

Wissahickon Trail

This is my first official long run in preparation for the Richmond Marathon, and we decided to check out the Wissahickon Trail and some of the trails in Fairmount Park.  I packed my Honey Stingers and brought a bottle of water for the run, thinking I would be able to fill it up somewhere along the way.

I was wrong. Oh, so wrong.  And, I don’t like being wrong even though it teaches me so much.

It was in the 70s with low humidity, but on a long run I consume about 60 oz. of water and about 8 Honey Stingers. With all of the runners and cyclists in Fairmount Park, I was shocked that there were no water fountains along the trail following the river.  On the other hand, the Schuylkill River Trail on the opposite bank has plenty of water fountains, albeit more pedestrian and bike traffic.  Next time, I’ll run on that side, side-stepping people and dodging bikes, instead of crossing over on the Falls Bridge to the trail of no water.  If it wasn’t for Phil sharing his water, I would have only had 20 oz. There’s always next time.  Next time will be better, right?

Along the Schuylkill, the trail gradually climbed for miles at a time, allowing no break for tired legs.  My dry lips smacked together, and I couldn’t even spit due to obvious dehydration. The thought of Honey Stingers without water to wash them down made my stomach turn.  Consequently, my blood sugar dropped like the downhills.  By the end of the run, my legs felt stiff with cement blocks for feet, my head spun with dizziness, and my stomach growled.

Lesson learned again. Sometimes I make the same mistakes, figures.  I think I’m superwoman or something and forget to eat on the run and then quickly realize that I am really not.  Next time, I’ll take plenty of water by dusting off that Camelback so I can actually eat my Honey Stingers as planned.

As we approached Boat House Row and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I was reminded why we run with tired legs and growling stomach and all–the opportunity to be outside, to clear the mind, and to do what some cannot.  Who am I kidding? Actually, by the time I saw those sights, I felt like crap and didn’t want to run anymore.  I only had 4.5 miles left. I became grouchy and looked at Phil with scorn for his easy stride and breathing.  Other runners started to pass me.  Uggh.  Then, Phil ran ahead without breaking a sweat in an attempt to search for water.  Gotta love that guy. That’s why I married him after all. Did I mention this was the day after our 17th anniversary?  Yeah, he cares.  I’ll keep him even though I want to kick his ass for his easy stride and effortless pace.

I hated running at that point and just wanted to be at home on my couch with a cold brew in one hand and a pastry in the other. But, I ran on and imagined what that cold brew would taste like after I got home and showered all of the salty sweat off my face after a run well done. I ran on through hip pain that felt like the flu from the waist down.  I ran on until I couldn’t run anymore because I am a beast. Thankfully, I was near the end of the 12 mile run–that helps too. Rawr.

Bring on the cold brew! And, Happy Anniversary, Phil!

The Hills I Know

tempo.jpgToday’s tempo run included a one mile warm up followed by three miles at tempo pace and finishing with a one mile cool down.  Sounds simple, right? Well, with all of the hills in my new neighborhood, I thought I would warm up for a mile and then run my three tempo miles on the track.  I know it’s boring, but at least on the track there are no hills in sight.

I have been scoping out the track for the past few days in the morning, searching for bathrooms, water fountains, and access points, keeping all of this in mind for future speed work. The red track glistened in the early morning air, heavy with humidity.  Half of the track remained in shadow. My eyes followed the gentle curves of the loop, and my feet ached for the springy and spongey feel on my soles.  The track sat empty–odd for such a nice morning.  A landscaper pulled next to the track in a golf cart for a brief moment.

I approached the track and saw the lock on the gate.  Maybe they only open one gate?  I walked to the next gate in the chain link fence, and a lock greeted me there too.  The pattern continued as I ran on the trail next to the track, and then I felt silly as if I should be on the track and not outside of it. Fortunately, no one was around to see me.

I surmised that the entire track was on lockdown–no running for anyone.  Now, I was faced with a choice: tackle the hills that I know on the trail or figure out a new route that would include hills because there is no flat land. I went with the hills that I know.  I learned awhile ago that mapping out a new route while running a tempo is not a good idea.

I’m glad I went with the hills that I know. My legs took long strides over roots, and I flew down the hills at breakneck speed balanced with the short toe steps up the steep inclines.  It was a tempo run of sorts, maybe more of a fartlek. Just say “fartlek”; it’s fun and not obscene.  This was one of the hardest tempo runs I’ve done on those hills.  And now I know that I can really run those hills I know.

16 Weeks ’til Richmond

I can’t believe that the Richmond Marathon is only 16 weeks away!  Tomorrow, marks the first day of serious training for the upcoming marathon, which will be my third time running it and my fifth marathon overall.  I’m thrilled that my coach will be there, The Running Blonde, as well as many of my Virginia friends.  The only problem for training right now is the excessive heat… so many of my runs will be super early before the sun is up or really late after the sun goes down.

Besides Richmond, I have a 5K Race and the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon in Hampton that I get to run with my 6@6 peeps, especially my running twin! I’d like to run a PR in the marathon and in the half, so I have a lot of work ahead of me. Run on, people!