Tufts Health Plan 10k for Women Race Recap (new PR!)

Hello from the land where it’s finally feeling like fall! I went for a run this morning and it was in the 40s, which I LOVED. For this post, however, I’m going to rewind a bit back to Monday when the weather was decidedly less nice for running. I had been carefully watching the weather all weekend since I knew we were going to be getting some aftereffects of Hurricane Nate. Luckily, race day came and it wasn’t pouring rain, but it was nearly 100% humidity and in the 70s–unfortunately similar to the weather for my last 10k.

I was pretty nervous heading into race day, both because I was shooting for a PR and because I was spearheading my first meeting for the Oiselle Volee. I got to the race nice and early and despite not having received my bib in the mail, I got a new one assigned super easily. Even with the cloudy skies, there was lots of energy around the expo and among the runners! I met up with a nice crew of the Oiselle ladies and got to see some old friends and meet new ones as we chatted and took a warmup jog around Boston Common. We breezed through the portopotty lines and my teammate Sarah and I lined up at the 7 minute mile corral.

This race usually draws a pretty impressive crowd of elites, but even so we were right up at the front of the pack to start the race off. I wasn’t really feeling the heat for the first couple of miles and ticked off some hard but sustainable paces at 6:52, 6:52, and 6:58 for the first three miles. While the front of the field got spread out pretty quickly, the course loops back on itself so I got to exchange lots of cheers with friends as we ran along Memorial Drive in Cambridge. I love this race because women are so supportive of one another! Everyone was encouraging and positive even as we were passing each other. Once we crossed back over the Mass Ave Bridge, the heat and humidity had caught up with me and I was starting to drag. I got a big boost from my teammates cowbelling and then another push as I ran past J, who had come down to cheer me on.

I decided that I was going to push as much as I could, ignoring my watch, and aim for a strong finish. I let the pace slip a bit but was able to pick it back up to a 6:43 pace down the very long finishing chute. My final time was 43:39, which is an 18 second PR over the Beach to Beacon 10k! This brought me in 42nd overall (out of 2,699 finishers) and 9th in my age group. It definitely was a little bit behind the time I trained for–my recent 5k results predict closer to a 42:XX 10k–but with the tough conditions, I’m super proud of my time.

After grabbing a bag of snacks and some water, I hung out with the girls and cheered on the rest of the finishers–including my mom! She ran this race in its inaugural year 41 years ago, and this year I got to jump in and cross the finish line with her. It was such a special moment for us to have together. I wrapped up the day with some much-needed lunch nearby with the crew.

Overall, I had an amazing time and am super proud of my mom and my teammates and friends for their strong finishes! Despite the race shirts being a bit underwhelming this year (cotton instead of dry-fit) I would absolutely run this race again and am super grateful to have had my entry comped by the race organizers. I’m looking forward to my next race, which will be my attempt to surpass my half marathon PR from this time last year. Happy fall running!

Race Recap: Oktoberfest 5k (new PR!)

Oh man. Remember that time I had a blog? I’ve been in total lala land the past few weeks as I moved, got married, turned 30, and oh yeah… officially got accepted into the 2018 Boston Marathon!! I also ran my first mile race and set a crazy (to me) flashy new PR of 6:06. Recap of that to come soon. But first, let’s go back to yesterday’s 5K!

Back in July I ran my first trail race and and inadvertently won an Instagram contest the organizers were running, which got me a free entry to one of their other races this fall. I followed my running bestie Alexa’s advice and signed up for their Oktoberfest 5k race. The timing wasn’t ideal, as this Saturday was Yom Kippur (a Jewish holiday that involves a 25 hour fast), but I figured I would run it for fun. Like the Cambridge Half Marathon, the bib pickup and post-race party for this race are in the parking garage of the Cambridgeside Galleria, which is a local shopping mall. The logistics were super smooth, and within 15 minutes or so I was running a couple of gentle miles to warm up. I felt fairly good and the weather was perfect–in the mid 50s and sunny. Alexa and I decided we would start together and see how we felt, and after surveying the crowd we had a good feeling we could stick near the front.

We started out mile 1 pretty fast, clocking a 6:32, but both were feeling comfortable and were able to chat and laugh a little bit. Mile 2 the sun was feeling much warmer than it had at the start and we let the pace slip, clocking a 6:51. The crowd was fairly thin and I hadn’t seen many women ahead of us, so I picked it back up and aimed to pick off a few people leading into the finish. I could definitely tell that I had slightly under-hydrated and probably overeaten a little bit, so I was pretty much pushing at my max without much left for a final kick. We turned the corner towards the finishing chute, which was fairly long, and I watched a couple of ladies fly by as I gutted it out over the finish line. My final time by the numbers looked like:

  • Official finishing time of 20:34
  • 116th overall (out of 2,346)
  • 12th female finisher (out of 1,200)
  • What would have been 3rd in my AG (no AG awards for this race, of course)

Since this is my first race of my 30s, I was a little bummed the results aren’t officially broken out by age, but I’m super proud of my finish. This was a strong PR over my last 5k, when I ran 20:59. After the race Alexa and I grabbed a couple of drinks and toasted to her wedding (1 week to go!!) with her hubby-to-be. We scooted out to get on with our days before the party really got rolling, but I bet things got pretty wild since every runner gets up to 5 free drinks! Overall, this was a really fun morning and it definitely leaves me with a little bit of curiosity about how close I would be to breaking that 20 minute barrier if I really put my mind to it. Next week, it’s onwards and upwards to the Tufts Health Plan 10k for Women, and hopefully a strong 10k PR. Bostonians, registration is still open and you don’t want to miss this race–it’s truly one of my all-time favorites!

Race recap: Beach 2 Beach 10k

Hey there blog friends! I’m emerging from the depths of wedding planning mania to recap the second race of my “one race a month” summer/fall series (first installment here)–the Beach 2 Beacon 10k! I managed to get a bib to this iconic and uber popular Maine race from a Oiselle friend–normally you have to register RIGHT when the window opens, or you can get a bib through the lottery. Either way, this race has been on my bucket list and I knew we were going to be in town anyway for wedding stuff, so it worked out perfectly.

I drove up to Portland on Friday morning, arriving just in time to meet up with my mom for my wedding hair and makeup trial (with the fantastic Stacia, if anyone is looking). It was really fun to see everything come together and to get totally glam for a day, especially because I don’t wear much makeup IRL. We then did some other wedding errands and picked up J before driving down to Cape Elizabeth (just south of Portland) to get my race bib. Beach 2 Beacon is pretty massive, with over 8,000 people registered, so the expo was a little hectic but a lot of fun. There were plenty of freebies and cool local Maine companies represented. My favorite find was fARTlek jewelry, which makes designs based on race courses. I’m definitely considering treating myself to a Boston necklace this spring!!

From there, we took a couple of quick photos at the Portland Headlight, where the race finish line is. Jeremy and I then dropped my mom off at the bus station and went out for our 5 year anniversary dinner at Street and Co. We had an amazing meal to celebrate a big week: I finished my last MBA course and J passed his last architecture licencing exam! Definitely worth a decadent seafood meal. I’d highly recommend checking out Street and Co. if you’re in the area. Bonus that they were super accommodating on the gluten free front ūüôā

We got up bright and early on Saturday morning after a just ok night’s sleep at an Airbnb in South Portland. The race logistics are kind of insane (it’s a point-to-point course with no parking allowed at the finish) so we decided to drive to one of the satellite parking lots. From there, I hit the porto potties and took an easy shuttle to the start, while J took off for a 5 mile jog to meet me at the finish. The shuttles dropped us off on a rural road surrounded by farmland, and I was able to get in a bit of a warmup jog up and down the fields. The start was self-seeded so I slotted myself into the 7 minute mile corral. My A-goal was to run sub 7s, netting out to about a 42-43 minute 10k. I wanted to be fairly cautious because it was an unfamiliar course and especially because it was close to 100% humidity–not anyone’s favorite race conditions. My B-goal was any time under 44 minutes. I was glad I had that all in mind because the course was much hillier than I expected–rolling hills the whole time with a major climb near the finish.

I ticked off the first mile a bit fast (oops) on a slight downhill. The next couple of miles felt fairly steady at 6:54 and 7:08. I grabbed a couple of quick sips of water and pushed through a 7:00 and a 7:04. Then, the hill hit. Mile 5 was a steep climb into Fort Williams Park, and a much slower 7:24. I gritted my teeth and picked up the pace to a 6:20 for the final .2 sprint to the finish. My final time was 43:57, just about a 7 minute average pace and 23rd in my division.

Overall, this was a fun and challenging race that definitely got me out of my comfort zone! I hadn’t run a 10k since 2014, when I ran the Tufts 10k¬†in 49:46. This was also the last race I’ll run before my 30th birthday, and I’d say it was a perfect wrap to a crazy running decade. I would love to try this course again on a sunny day to catch all the ocean views ūüôā I also think this would be an incredible race to spectate–so many elites run! I’m a little bummed I missed watching Shalene, but oh well.

The rest of the weekend we spent running around at camp and doing wedding stuff like maniacs! The big day is 33 days away and we’re feeling good–there’s definitely still a lot to do, but it’s all good and exciting stuff. Stay tuned for a couple of really, REALLY exciting running-related announcements in the next few days–I have big news to share!

Leah

Sasquatch Sprint Trail Race Recap (and weekly recap)

Hello and happy Monday! I’m coming in with the first recap in my “one race a month” summer/fall series. This past Saturday, J and I ran our first official trail race. This race was a fun hodgepodge of other firsts: my shortest race ever (at 2.35 miles), my first time running twice in one day, my first evening race, and my first (very minor) race injury. More on that in a moment!

Rewinding back to Saturday morning, I started the day with 8 easy miles with some of the Oiselle girls. Knowing the race was so short, I wanted to get a long-ish run done in the morning. It was fantastic to do it with friends, especially since the day was incredibly humid and the run was a bit of a slog to get through. After a shower and a power wedding planning session, J and I headed over to JP to stroll around Porchfest. From there we zipped down to the train and rolled out to the end of the orange line, where we boarded a quick shuttle bus to the Stone Zoo/race start. Bib pickup and bag check were quick and easy and porto potty lines were short, so we were off for a warm-up jog within 15 minutes. The humidity was pretty hot and heavy at the point (literally) so we weren’t particularly surprised to line up at the start line just as the skies opened up and the rain began to pour down. The first tiny bit of doubt crossed my mind at this point, as I glanced down at my relatively well-worn sneakers…

With no time goal in mind, we started off at a pretty solid clip along the road before we turned into the woods. J was in his element and was speeding along the wet, rocky terrain up a couple of steeper scrambles, and I was able to hold on behind him until about a mile and half in when my foot slid off of a wet rock and wrenched to the side with a thunk. I let loose a couple of expletives but it didn’t hurt too much, so I picked it back up at a slightly more conservative pace, keeping a close eye on my footing for the rest of the race. We finished down a smaller hill onto a grass field, and I kicked it in at a 6:35 pace for the last .2 miles. My final time was 18:14, which brought me in 140th out of 899 finishers. My splits ended up surprisingly even at 8:26 and 8:25 for the two full miles.

After the race I snagged an ice pack from the med tent and we made a beeline with friends over to the beer tent. There was unlimited Bantam cider on offer, which I was super pleased about. Despite the rain, the after party was a ton of fun! After a couple of drinks we called it quits and headed home for some much-needed late-night enchiladas and warm showers.

Overall, this was a fun first trail race experience and a great party! My ankle was pretty swollen for about 24 hours but is already on its way back to normal. My main takeaway is definitely that if I’m going to do more trail running, it’s worth investing in some shoes with proper tread. I’ve been lusting after these but would love any suggestions if you have lightweight trail shoes you recommend!! I think I’m ready for more trail stuff, especially longer/drier races where I have a better chance to keep my feet properly under my body ūüôā

Weekly recap: (26.8 miles total)

  • Monday: 5 hilly Maine miles
  • Tuesday: 90 minute vinyasa yoga
  • Wednesday: Speedwork! 8×2 minutes at 5k pace with 2 minute recoveries for 6.3 total miles
  • Thursday: 4 easy miles
  • Friday: 75 minute heated power yoga
  • Saturday: 8 morning miles + warmup + race for 11.4 total miles
  • Sunday: Off

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap (hosted by Hoho Runs and Miss Sippipiddlin), with Eat Pray Run DC for her training linkup, and with the Jess’s (Jess Runs ATL and The Right Fits).

Sugarloaf Marathon Race Recap (BQ!!!)

Hello hello and greetings from could 9, where I’m riding the incredible high of yesterday’s race! There’s a monster post ahead but TL;DR–I ran by far my strongest and smartest marathon and finished in 3:28:30, smashing my A goal, PR-ing by 7.5 minutes, and qualifying me for the 2018 Boston Marathon with a 6.5 minute cushion.

Let’s take it back to the beginning… when we hit the road Saturday morning for the drive up to Maine. Armed with lots of bottles of water, we scooted up to Portland and got yummy sandwiches at Sister’s Gourmet Deli¬†(amazing homemade bread, both gluten free and gluten-full!) J and I drove my running buddy Denise and her friend Alisa, and my parents and brother caravaned along with us. We then drove another hour to pay a quick visit to our cabin, where J and I are getting married in September! It’s getting a long-overdue renovation and it was so fun to see it coming together. The last leg of the trip took us on backroads up to Sugarloaf, where we picked up our bibs at the “expo”–marathon for the girls, 15k for J. The bib pickup was smooth and easy, which makes sense given that the race is TEENY–just 1600 runners total. The rest of the night we took super easy. We had a little condo for me, J, my big bro Ari, and my parents–complete with a decent kitchenette that we used to cook up some chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, and a simple salad. Extra salt on everything for me, and some pasta for the gluten eaters. I kept this¬†pre-race meal carb-y and simple, which I think was a big part of why my stomach behaved so well during the race.

After a just ok night of sleep, we were up and at ’em at 5 am for a quick gf bagel (with pb, banana, and salt) and coffee before grabbing the shuttle bus to the race start. We were running a couple of minutes late but we made it onto the last shuttle, which was great until the shuttle BROKE DOWN and had to turn back to the hotel. We still had an hour to spare before the race, but there wasn’t another shuttle in sight (cue freak out)–and then in a glorious moment I ran¬†into a friend from track who offered us a ride to the start! Everyone else did make it on another shuttle, but big ups to Steve for the extra few minutes of cushion. The second amazing coincidence was that I walked directly into Denise and her friends Amy and Sarah who were already halfway up the porto potty line!! We did our business and then shed our layers (it was in the high 30s–BRRRR) before dropping our check bags and lining up at the start. One jarring shotgun shot later, and we were off!¬†

The first few miles were gorgeous and slightly downhill, but we stuck diligently to the plan and¬†kept them at an easy 8:00-8:10 pace. It was absolutely beautiful along this stretch–still lakes, mountains, and sweeping forests. Once the feeling crept back into our fingers and toes, we hit the first series of rollers, keeping the pace around 7:55-8:00 through mile 8. We knew the hills would be over by the end of mile 10, so we ran based on effort and actively kept the pace under control, even on the rolling downhills. ¬†Mile 9 was a doozy with 178 feet of elevation gain, but all of that training on the Newton hills paid off and we hit the top feeling steady and strong at an 8:26 pace for that mile (by far our slowest of the day, as it should have been!)

Alisa¬†had been driving along the course and we had seen her a few times, but I knew my folks were going to be at mile 11 and it was so amazing to see them after the first steep stretch of downhill. We held it back but let the pace dip to a 7:42 during mile 12 (158 feet of elevation loss), and then settled in around 7:50 until mile 20. Thanks to Coach Laura, I had split the race (in my head) into a 20 mile long run and then a 10k progression run, so we kept joking about the fact that we were just warming up and that the race start was still ahead ūüôā The focus during this section was definitely on fueling every 45 minutes and drinking at every water stop (I ran with my handheld until mile 20, where I ditched it, but I drank whenever we passed a stop and refilled 3 times).

At mile 20 the pain had started to creep in, but my legs had some juice left in them so we amped the pace up to the 7:40s and started to pick people off. It had gotten hot at this point, and I was pouring water over my head at every water stop. I kept repeating my mantras in my head (STRONG. FAST. CONFIDENT.) and Denise and I checked in with each other every few minutes. My knees felt a little bit creaky and I was nauseous, but I managed to hold it together and maintain a sub 7:50 pace through a gradual but deadly uphill climb from miles 23-24. At this point I knew we were safely in BQ territory, but I didn’t let myself get too excited about a sub 3:30 until we rounded the corner into chute. A big perk of such a tiny race was that we finished by ourselves–talk about feeling like a rock star! We decided to grab hands and hold our arms up, and it felt like we flew across the finish at a 7:25 pace.

It was over, finally, and I gave everyone the sweatiest hugs and shed a few incredulous tears when I saw that we had not only BQ-ed (sub 3:35), but that we had broken 3:30 (my A goal) and that I had PR-ed by 7.5 minutes off of my Chicago Marathon time. And oh yeah, we ran a super solid negative split, crossing the first half at 1:45 on the nose and nailing the second half in 1:43:30. Ari finally hit his goal of breaking 3 hours (yup, he’s a beast) and J ran his longest race ever and finished the 15k at a killer 8 minute pace! After the race we showered, snacked, and hit the road towards some decadent burgers and well-deserved beers/ciders in Portland.

I have so much more to say about this race experience, but I have to give the biggest thanks to Jeremy for being incredibly supportive and tolerant, to Coach Laura for her belief in me and her deep well of wisdom and support, and to Denise for being a wonderful friend and for carrying me through the last few miles with grace and strength. I am finally a BOSTON QUALIFIER!!!!!

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap (hosted by Hoho Runs and Miss Sippipiddlin), with Eat Pray Run DC for her training linkup, and with the Jess’s (Jess Runs ATL and The Right Fits).

New Bedford Half Race Recap + Week 7

Hello hello! I’m lounging at home celebrating a very successful tune-up half marathon today–and my second to last race before Sugarloaf. I signed up for this half back in December after hearing great things about it. It checks all my boxes: semi-local, sizable¬†but not too big, and some hills but nothing crazy. All week the weather reports said it was going to be snowing, so I was excited to see the report change to no snow… but 38 degrees with wind gusts up to 40 MPH… ugh.

Despite the conditions, I really loved this race and would totally do it again! J and I drove down at a very reasonable hour since this race starts at 11 am (amazing). Packet pickup was quick and easy, parking was free and also super smooth, and I was running a warmup by 10:40. Coach Laura and I had discussed a conservative race strategy for me to hit a solid sub-1:40 time–not necessarily a PR, but a fitness check just about 8 weeks out from my goal race. I easily slotted myself in just in front of the 8 min/mile corral and took off into a doozie of a headwind, holding the pace back to tick off some comfortable miles in the 7:35-7:45 range for miles 1-4. This worked out perfectly since the the first few miles of this course are quite hilly.

By mile 5 I was feeling really strong, and I kicked it up to a 7:20 pace–definitely bolstered after seeing J cheering like a maniac at the mile marker. The crowd had thinned out a bit and the wind had mercifully died down, so miles 5-9 felt pretty breezy at a 7:20 pace. Just as I was letting the glimmer of PR hope sneak into my mind, BAM! We hit the portion of the race along the water¬†and the wind picked up like crazy–almost to this level, no joke.¬†I threw my gloves back on, gritted my teeth (literally, the wind was blowing a bunch of sand and dirt into our eyes and mouths), and pushed my way through miles 10 and 11, hitting my slowest mile of the race (8:04). While the headwinds gusted for the remainder of the race, we turned off the water and they were a little bit less intense. I picked it back up and almost managed to negative split the last three miles, other than a little slowdown due to the sizable hill at mile 12 (YUP). I hit the last .1 at 5:50 pace and finished in 1:39:11, well below my goal of 1:40 and my second-fastest half to date! I finished feeling really strong–my legs actually had some juice left in them, but I was done having my breath knocked out of me by the wind. J and I grabbed some much-needed coffee and lunch at one of my old haunts–I used to work in the area and it was super fun to be back. Overall, this was a fun, competitive, and well-executed race. Highly recommend!

Backing up a bit, this week was a bit of a cutback week so I could do a mini-taper for the race. We had a fairly dramatic snow/ice storm on Tuesday, so it was perfect timing to be holding back a bit. I did a treadmill class Tuesday morning instead of running outside, and luckily by Thursday and Friday it was doable to get back out on the roads. Spring, I will say–I am so, SO ready for you. Feel free to come any time you want!!

Week 7: 35.3 total miles

  • Monday: 6.6 easy + strides
  • Tuesday: 5 miles with hills and intervals at HHRC
  • Wednesday: 60 minute yoga class + strength circuit
  • Thursday: 5 easy
  • Friday: 5.4 easy
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Race! 13.1!

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap (hosted by Hoho Runs and Miss Sippipiddlin) and with Eat Pray Run DC for her training recap linkup. Also, joining the Jess’s (Jess Runs ATL and The Right Fits) for their weekly recap linkup!

Race Recap: Super Sunday 5 Miler

img_1499Hello from Boston, where everyone is freaking out about the Patriots. I’m not much of a football fan but it’s fun to be a part of the triumphant atmosphere around the city. Plus, this year I got to spend the morning racing–way more up my alley! I found out about the Super Sunday 5 Miler from friends and thought it would be a good opportunity to lay it all out there and get a read on where my fitness is at after base building for most of December and January. I had an easy 10 miler on Saturday, which I worked super hard to keep slow (not easy) in order to save my legs for Sunday morning.

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Crowds on crowds on crowds

J and I drove over to the race and Alexa had grabbed us our bibs, so she and I went out for a 2 mile warm-up jog while J stashed our bags. It was COLD–in the mid 20s and feeling even colder with the gusty winds, so the warm-up was key just in terms of keeping the feeling in our fingers and toes. Afterwards we gingerly ditched our outer layers and did some dynamic drills before heading to the start. We all crammed into the starting area and true to form for these shorter races, the start was a mess–we loaded in the corrals and then had to turn around completely, so the speedsters were in the back and the more causal runners were in the front. Ooops! I ended up jammed in with some November Project folks who kept the mood light and positive with a little customary bounce.

Given the line-up snafu, the first mile of the race was a little bit disheartening with runners passing me left and right. I meant to hold back during this mile, but I ended up at 6:46–a little fast. img_1500The cold, wind, and slight hills definitely slowed me down, but I was able to keep pace with one of the guys I had started with (nice job Malcolm!!) and stay in the 6:40s-6:50s for the next few miles. By mile 5 I was feeling pretty cooked–my goal was to leave it all out on the course and I knew I had. I pushed the pace a bit and tried to pick off runners as I could, but the 5k course had rejoined at that point and it was tough to choose who pace with. My customary final kick didn’t materialize, but I did pick up a 6:29 final mile for a 34:24 finish–average pace of 6:45/mile. While that wasn’t a PR, I think for the conditions it was a strong performance. (The last 5 miler I did was actually on a notoriously short course, so according to Strava my average pace for that one was 6:57/mile–so sort of a PR??)img_1501

As some of you saw on Instagram, I’m officially back in marathon training mode! At 31 miles, this was my longest training week since November and it felt AWESOME. With the help of a coach, I’m headed for the Sugarloaf Marathon on May 21st. Can’t wait to tell you more on all of this in an upcoming post!!

Happy day to all of the Pats fans (and to the Falcons fans and basically everyone else–sorry?) I’ll be back soon to dive into my marathon plans and goals for #bqorbust round two!

Linking up with¬†Tuesdays on the run¬†ūüôā

Winter Classic 5k Race Recap (new PR!)

img_1070-1Hey hey! After being sidelined from the blog by travel, holidays, schoolwork, and a nasty head cold, I’m thrilled to be back with my final race recap of 2016. This race is part of a series of seasonal 5ks in Cambridge that are all on the same flat, fast course. I set my previous PR here back in April when I ran the Spring Classic–I was pleased with the time I set then but it was one of my most poorly executed races to date (see old post subtitled ‘How not to run a 5k’–facepalm!) A crew of the track folks were signed up for this race, so I swallowed my annoyance about paying $35 to run 3 miles and signed up.race_3273_photo_49634230

After taking it easy Saturday night and an early wakeup/oatmeal breakfast, I layered up to head over for the 9:30am race start. The morning was very brisk–in the mid 30s with a strong headwind–so I ran a couple of warm-up miles to the start. I think my one mistake was actually getting there a little bit too early–the packet pickup was a breeze and I had almost a full half hour to kill in the cold waiting for the race to start. One of the runners I follow on Instagram had referenced a 5k race mantra of “if a 5k doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right” and I kept this firmly in my mind as we ducked into the starting corral. I still had some lingering congestion from being sick all week, but I really wanted to break 21 minutes and had a feeling it was doable if I pushed myself.

You can totally tell we're spelling out PR--right??
You can totally tell we’re spelling out PR–right??

The start was a little bit hectic (probably should have pushed ahead a little bit in the start corral) so I scooted around a bunch of folks before settling into a comfortable place in the pack. The first mile was really, really cold–standing around in the cold before the race plus the wind meant my feet and fingers were basically numb. My breathing definitely wasn’t top-notch–again, lingering cold symptoms plus the temps lead to some icky congestion. I focused on breathing in and out through my mouth and was happy to see a 6:46 first mile. As my body warmed up I pushed the pace a little bit more and hit the 2 mile split at 6:39 and the third mile at 6:26. Rounding the corner into the finish I gave it my all and ran the last .1 at a 6:14. Overall, I just broke 21 minutes and managed a new PR of 20:59–which is a 6:45 average place and put me in as the 22nd female finisher out of 1225 racers! I am really proud, although I do think I could have pushed a little bit more if I was at 100% health-wise.

While I only cut 46 seconds off of my total time, this was a very “smart” race and I think the side-by-side pace comparisons really show that. On the right is the Spring Classic and the Winter¬†Classic is on the left. I clearly went from positive splitting the race to strong negative splits, which allowed me to cut 16¬†seconds per mile off of my average pace.

winter-classic spring-classic

All, in all, it was an awesome experience and I definitely think working down to a sub-20 is the books for me! J and I spent the rest of the day with family and finally getting the decorations up on our Christmukkah tree ūüėČ I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

Linking up with Tuesdays on the run!

Cambridge Half Marathon Race Recap and BIG NEWS!

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NRC Gals: before!

Hey all! I’ve been off the grid a little bit recently trying to clear my head after last week’s election debacle. After a few good cries watching this¬†and some time to grieve, I think it’s really healthy for all of us to move up and out of the negativity and treat ourselves to some TLC, which for me meant pushing forward full steam ahead into this weekend’s half marathon.¬†I had been going back and forth about my plans and goals for this race–part of me wanted to just run to enjoy it and not worry about pace at all, and part of me knew that I had a PR in me and that I owed it to myself to give it my all. Spoiler alert–my competitive side definitely won out and I ended up PRing by more than 3 minutes!

While this was the first-ever running of the Cambridge Half Marathon, the race organizers are true pros and have organized a series of popular 5ks in the area. I picked up my bib and shirt on Saturday at the Cambridgeside Galleria, and the despite a decent line the process was really smooth. Sunday morning I woke up at 6, ate my new favorite race day oatmeal from Run Fast Eat Slow, and then Jeremy gave me a lift over to the mall for the race start. 14991305_10155391215334256_1337456909081040667_oProbably the weirdest part of this race was the fact that all of the race-related events (including the after party) took place in the parking garage of the mall–but it actually was totally fine. I dropped my bag at the bag check, waited in the porto lines (long but nothing unexpected), and then happily happened to run into the track gals as I tucked into the 8 minute mile corral.

The start was a little bit chaotic since all¬†6,000 runners went off at once, but it pretty quickly evened itself out and I didn’t have to do too much bobbing and weaving to get into a comfortable part of the pack. Local Boston-area races like this one tend to attract a fast crowd, and this was no exception. The course was really lovely–some small rolling hills but mostly flat, and on a mix of roads and scenic paved paths.img_0903 There were a few crowded moments along the way, but again, nothing that really slowed me down. I used to live in Cambridge and it was a blast to run through some of my old haunts! The weather was absolutely perfect too–in the upper 40s at the start to lower 50s by the end. I spent the first few miles feeling things out and found myself feeling decently comfortable running¬†7:25-7:30s. I didn’t let myself get too excited, but I picked it up a bit and squeaked out two 7:14s during miles 6 and 7. The next few miles were a bit slower, but I started doing the math in my head and decided to negative split the last three miles to solidify my PR. I really kept my mental game on point for this race, using the mantra “fast and relaxed” and envisioning myself digging deep into the well to finish strong. At mile 11 I ran by Bry, who was volunteering, and yelled out “I’m going to PR!” Power of positivity, right??img_0899

The last three miles the crowd had thinned considerably–most of the runners I had been pacing with had dropped back, and I was mostly in a group of buff-looking dudes. So of course I channeled my inner nasty woman and gunned it, running my last mile at a 6:55 and sprinting it into the finish at a 6:11 pace. My official finish time was 1:36:55, which was certainly a new PR over the Hyannis Half which I ran in 1:40:27 back in February! I am beyond elated–this is something I’ve worked so hard for and it definitely felt like a little bit of redemption after Chicago. We celebrated with some cider and photos at the after party, and then J and I headed to a well-deserved brunch ūüôā

A quick word about the gals in that picture above–I am beyond grateful to have found some awesome, welcoming running friends. Finding a crew that’s right for you isn’t easy, and the NRC track ladies have been amazing. More to come on this topic, which deserves its own post, but if you haven’t found the right running crew yet don’t give up! They are out there for you!

Last but not least–my BIG NEWS: as you might have noticed, the ole blog has a new name and a fresh new look! Shorter and Faster actually came up when we were running 200s at the end of a hard track workout–I immediately decided I wanted that on a t-shirt. Even better? On a blog! So welcome to the brand new Shorter and Faster… stay tuned for all of the adventures still to come!

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap and Tuesdays on the run!

Chicago marathon recap part 1: the race

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The many feelings of marathon running.

I think it’s going to take more than one post to fully cover all of my thoughts on my Chicago Marathon experience, but I’m going to dive in and get right to the heart of it¬†with a¬†recap of the race itself.¬†Warning: long post ahead!

Let’s go back in time to early Sunday morning, when¬†I woke up around 5 and headed down to the kitchen of our (super cool and nice)¬†hostel to make my bagel and banana. The whole place, of course, was full of sleepy¬†runners chowing down on their pre-race meals. I left myself lots of time to eat and sip coffee leisurely… by which I actually mean running to the bathroom 7 times. #runnerprobs. The coolest thing about Chicago other than the fact that it actually starts at a reasonable morning hour (looking at you, NYC and Boston and your post-10am start times) is that most people end up staying close enough to walk to the start. Even in the dark, at 6 am, the city’s main streets were full of runners all heading downtown. Excitement! Nervousness! I have to pee again!img_0656

I rendezvoused with the girls at Alexa’s downtown hotel and we made our way together to the start area. Despite being a huge race (around 40K finishers–for reference NYC has around 50K and Boston has approximately 30K) everything was incredibly well organized, and we found our start gate no sweat. We had a few minutes to spare before our 7:30 start time so we waited for one last stop in the porto potties before entering our corral. We squeezed up to the front and chatted a bit with some of the vets around us–and then we were off!

As pretty much everyone will tell you, you run under a bridge during the first mile or so of the race and everyone’s GPS watches get completely thrown off for the rest of the race. So that happened. For evidence, take a look at my Strava which somehow thinks I ran 27.6 miles… yeah, NO. Also, we tried our best to follow the blue line painted on the street that is supposed to help you run the shortest race distance–not sure it was helpful, but it was definitely distracting!

The first 13 miles were a little bit of a blur, but a really fun/fast one where I got to see J and my Boston running friends Aime and Liz all within the first few miles (hi guys!!) One of my buddies, Danielle, had a 3:30 pace bib on her back so we ended up with a little crew of people all aiming for the same goal time. We ran¬†with them for about 15 miles or so–they were lovely! Given our messed up watches we had to put a fair amount of mental math into keeping ourselves on pace, but we hit the half mark at 1:45:40, putting us almost exactly on track for our goal. (I think this was mistake number one, TBH–more on this to come!)

img_0650The second half was where things started to unravel a little bit. I lost both Danielle and Alexa around mile 16. I ran with one of our other newfound 3:30 buddies until mile 18 or so when I stopped for a quick bathroom break. This was followed by a couple of miles of pretty bad cramps, which I think may have been due to a bit too much water too fast (it was getting hotter and I was definitely drinking to compensate). Either way, I was not feeling fantastic, and my pace definitely reflected that.

It was about at this point that I knew 3:30 wasn’t going to happen.img_0645

I’m actually glad I was alone at the moment of that revelation. It wasn’t easy, and I needed to keep my head in the game to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I plugged in my headphones and set my mind on thinking about mile 21, where I knew Jeremy and my bestie Deby and her bf would be cheering. Headphones on, my new goal was just to keep moving. My cramps had cleared up but I was feeling it in my legs. And hot, still hot–it had been in the mid 50s at the start but it inched up to almost 70 in the sun at the finish. I trooped by my fans, which gave me a big boost, and aimed my mind ahead to the finish. I HAD this. I was going to finish and I was going to hit a big PR! The last few miles were loud and crowded, and I kept my focus forward, trying to ignore the runners around me who had juice left to pick it up for the final push.

At the very end of the race there is a tiny hill/bridge that feels like a mountain–I pushed myself to work up it and ticked off the 800, 400, and 200 meter signs to plod through the finish line. It was a big rush of emotions–mostly grateful to be done, mostly proud, a little bit angry that I still had to walk to get to Jeremy and a place to sit, and a little bit disappointed. I held it together and hobbled out of the chute (which is not as long as NY but not short) and grabbed a water, snack bag, and a bag of ice (because why not…?) I trekked through family meeting area, where I pretty much collapsed onto J and let a couple of tears and a bunch of sweat fly onto his shoulder. I was DONE, and ready to be happy and proud. I did something I never thought I could come close to doing.img_0646-1

So the big overall takeaway?¬†I ran my first marathon 11 months ago in 4:05:54, and I ran my second marathon this past weekend in Chicago in 3:36:03. I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment–I know that it’s no trivial feat to cut 29 minutes off of a marathon time in less than a year. That said, I would have loved to scoot in under 3:32 or so for a Boston Qualifying time, and I think that given the right circumstances it’s something that I still have in me. Much more to come on my weekend adventures in Chicago, HAMILTON, the marathon expo, and my reflections on this training cycle–where I’ll revisit my takeaways from last year and and see how I measure up. Plus I’ll include some thoughts on what’s next for me ūüôā

Thank you for reading, commenting, and supporting me throughout this training cycle! I’ve had so much fun documenting everything and will absolutely be continuing to chronicle my journey moving forward. Happy trails!

Leah

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap!