The Taper is Over! Race Day Looms!

The taper is over! New Jersey Marathon is tomorrow and I am simultaneous psyched, excited, nervous, and anxious. I was totally chill until yesterday (which is not like me!), but then going to sleep last night I started to feel the nerves and they haven’t gone away. I think it’s taken a while for the reality to sink in. Luckily, this is the first marathon I’m not injured for so I’m not feeling the usual poo-inducing terror that I normally would.

Brief rundown of miles from this week:
Monday: 4 miles easy with my Monday coffee group
Tuesday: rest and core work
Wednesday: core work and 6 mile workout: 1.5 up, 3 miles at marathon pace (7:47, 7:45, 7:46), and 1.5 easy to cool down.
Thursday: 6.4 drizzly miles with my Thursday crew; conditions very similar to race day forecast
Friday: carb loading and core work
Saturday: 3 mile shakeout run pre-expo

So I ran a grand total of 19.4 miles this week to prep for the marathon. The workout Wednesday was a really good choice, I think. I started off really slow and feeling blah, but I still managed to think, “Ok, cruising marathon pace!” 1.5 miles in, and down my paces went like switching gears in a car. If I have learned anything this training cycle, it is how to run a 7:45-7:50 mile like nobody’s business 😉

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 8.44.23 PM

Now the marathon is, quite literally, right around the corner… less than 12 hours to go! And Flat Kristine is ready! We’ve got a zillion gels to choose from, throw away arm sleeves made from socks, and extra Aquaphor in a tiny tube in case the (forecasted) rain brings about any unexpected chafing. I’m all kinds of nervous and excited and anxious for tomorrow, and I just hope that I can race my plan for this BQ. This training cycle was a great one, and I can’t believe the victory lap is almost here!

A Sampling of Songs from my Marathon Playlist

El Condor Pasa (If I Could) – Simon and Garfunkel
I decided a couple weeks ago that I wanted to add this song into my section of “chill but runnable” songs at the end of my marathon playlist. I love the way this song builds, I like the lyrics, and I’ve been listening to it over and over while getting ready in the morning since I re-watched Wild a few weeks ago.

Sweet Thing – Hozier (cover)
This song came on one day during a tempo/hill run when I had my iPod shuffle on “all songs,” and I had an amazing time coasting up and down some rolling hills listening to this song. I added it to the chill section of my marathon playlist because I’m hoping it’ll help me channel that run and bring a smile to my face when I start to get tired.

Lean On – Major Lazer
This is a go-to speedwork song for me since last summer/fall when I first heard it. When my running group was still considering doing a Ragnar, I listened to this a lot and visualized that race. We ended up not doing it, but this song guided me to enough fast finishes through the end of summer and early fall that it’s on frequent rotation during speed sessions. It’s like a Pavlovian response: I hear this song and I start to push the pace!

Get Your Freak On – Missy Elliott
This one is got on my playlist last summer thanks to this commercial, and it’s been a pump up jam ever since:


My Shot
– Hamilton OST

This song gets me so pumped. I often sing/rap along while I’m running or at least mouth the words if I’m running hard. I listened to this song over and over in the final miles of my PR half marathon this spring, and I have a feeling I’ll be skipping a lot of songs to get back to this one in the last mile or two of my marathon Sunday. I’ve got a bunch of my favorite songs from Hamilton on my playlist for approximately mile 16-19; hopefully I can channel some badass Founding Fathers and avoid the dreaded Wall!

Work B*tch – Britney Spears
I’ve run some really speedy miles listening to this song during this training cycle. I reserve it for circumstances when I need a serious push. I’ve put this one strategically in the last half hour or so of my playlist when I’ll really need the boost and the reminder to “Work, bitch.”

Just A Girl – No Doubt
This has been my jam since I was about 4 years old and it never fails to get me pumped up on the run. I have this song placed in the mix right around when I should be hitting mile 8 when I plan to drop the pace to really-really race pace. Gwen Stefani will get me down to those 7:40s and keep me there!

All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers
Ever since this song was featured in a Nike commercial, it’s been a really good song for “inspirational running hard.” Every time I run to this song, I feel like I’m an elite athlete in a cool commercial. This one is also toward the end of the playlist when I’ll need the boost both emotionally and physically.

 

Now I will admit that my marathon playlist is currently 4 hours and 1 minute long… and I only intend to be running for 3 hours and 32 minutes (or less!)… but that just gives me the freedom to skip a few here and there!

Do you listen to music when you run/race? What are your pump up jams?

5 (Atypical) Pieces of Marathon Advice

Going into my fourth 26.2 this Sunday at the New Jersey Marathon, I’ve decided to write up some of my advice that I haven’t heard/read over and over elsewhere. I’m no expert, but I know a lot of other people racing on 4/30 and 5/1 too, so maybe this can be helpful to other people who are also suffering taper crazies and marathon anxieties 🙂

Advice the First: Always bring an extra gel.
No matter what your favorite marathon fuel happens to be, no matter what, on race day, BRING AN EXTRA. You may think from your training runs that you know exactly how many gels you’ll need to go 26.2. But let me tell you a story.

When I ran the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon, I figured I’d need four gels. But I’d packed five in my overnight bag so I figured, “What the heck? I’ll bring the last one. Don’t want it to get lonely!” And this turned out to be a very fortunate decision when at mile 21 I ripped the top off my fourth gel and… nothing. It wasn’t open. The tear-off was just a little bit misaligned. So I angrily threw the traitorous gel aside and pulled out my fifth and EXTRA gel… and miracle of miracles!! Gel emerged! Sweet, delicious, life-giving gel!

Lesson: Always bring an extra gel. It may give you an extra boost or it may save you from a major crash when your final gel of the day betrays you!

Advice the Second: Lube. Everywhere.
Body Glide. Vaseline. Deodorant. I don’t care what you use. Spread it everywhere. I’ve finished three marathons chafe-free and let me tell you how. Vaseline in my arm pits. On my thighs. Slathered on my feet. Under my sports bra. EVERYWHERE. I’ve learned in the past that even if I don’t chafe during training, that extra 4-6 miles on race day can often produce unique and painful hot-spots later. Play it safe: lube everything.

On a related note to spreading stuff all over your body: sunscreen is good too. Highly recommend.

Advice the Third: Make a mantra and stick with it.
I have some mantras that I will think on repeat when the going gets tough. Some remind me to stay tall and (relatively) light on my feet. One of these is “Butterflies,” which I stole from Bill Rogers after reading his memoir. Also just repeating the word “strong” in my head helps.

Some are inspirational or encouraging. “You can do it.” “Why not me?” “Feeling good.”

And lately, a line from Hamilton pops into my head during the hard parts of a workout: “Hercules Mulligan, I need no introduction; you knock me down, I get the fuck back up again!” Since this marathon is largely redemption for me after struggling to run-walk and finish Philly last fall (after my legs started cramping intermittently starting at mile 15/16), this line gets me super pumped.

But honestly, in the final miles of a marathon, nothing beats (for me), simply muttering, “Fuck fuck fuck” to myself. Swearing is a special kind of catharsis that relieves the pain of 26.2 — even if only momentarily.

Advice the Fourth: Visualization is key.
Something that helps me a lot in the last miles of a long run or at the end of a hard race is visualization. I visualize coming across the finish line strong. I visualize the food I’m going to eat and the sweet, sweet blue G2 Gatorade I’m going to drink. I will also (and this may sound a bit crazy) visualize friends or family running with me, cheering for me just ahead, or waiting for me at the finish line. Thinking about people who are near and dear to me gives me a little extra push when I’d rather just give up, lay on the ground, and take a nap.

Advice the Fifth: Gear check/bag check is your friend.
I was texting with a running buddy the other day, and he told me that he has never once checked a bag for a race. I was shocked. And so here I am to tell you that gear check is your friend! Especially for a long race like a marathon, and double-especially if you’re going to be hanging around for a while (without access to your car/home) waiting for others to finish, before going to lunch, etc.

For a marathon, here’s what typically goes in my gear check bag:

  • A change of shoes (or at least fresh socks): By the end of a marathon your feet are GROSS and in desperate need of a change of scenery. I can’t wear flip-flops post-race without major foot cramps, so I usually go for my well-worn pair of Toms.
  • A jacket and possibly sweatpants: Depends on the weather, but I guarantee that once your sweat starts to dry and if you’re going to lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant, you’ll want something to keep you warm.
  • A change of clothes: Always a good idea to bring a change of clothes if you won’t be getting home or to your hotel for a while. Fresh clothes means less time sitting around in stinky, sweaty clothes feeling disgusting.
  • Baby wipes: Wanna go above and beyond in feeling fresh? BABY WIPES. Wipe that grime off your face, out of your pits, off your feet, etc. It feels so, so good.
  • Gatorade and a protein bar: Races give you bottled water and maybe a cup of Gatorade, but that is never enough for me. I almost always bring a giant bottle of G2 (or two smaller 20 oz bottles) to guzzle post-race as well as my own snack because I never ever feel like eating a banana, a giant pretzel, or a bag of chips after a race, but I can certainly stomach a chocolatey protein bar.
  • Money, ID, keys, phone: If you can’t fit these things in your shorts, you gotta have ‘em in your gear check bag for reunions, beer tents, and post-race food. I keep my keys on a lanyard, so I toss that in my gear check bag rather than have a key jingling in my pocket for several hours. Usually if my phone is going in gear check, I put it in a case and then wrap it up in my jacket just in case the bag gets stepped on. I’m never really worried about theft, just breakage, though I do try to keep the valuables out of sight.

Hopefully these are some tips that you haven’t read on every single running website and advice column. Do you have any good “lesson learned” stories? What other tips and tricks do you have for race day?

Training recap: April 18-24

2 of 3 weeks of marathon taper are done!! Hooray!

Monday, April 18: 6 miles
Nice and easy run with my Monday morning coffee crew. Legs were feeling good and the weather was nice. Great start to the week!
Core work: single leg balances, single leg calf raises, single leg squats, reg squats, lunges and bridges (regular, single leg and extended)

Tuesday, April 19: 0 miles
Just core work today! Sit-ups, leg raises, scissors, bicycles, clamshell extensions, planks and push-ups, plus some foam rolling.

Wednesday, April 20: 8 miles
Woke up to a HUGE calf cramp in my right calf. It released fairly quickly once I hopped out of bed, but the tenderness persisted until Saturday. This happens every taper. It’s no fun.
Cramp or not, I still did my run as planned: 2 miles warm-up then four mile at marathon pace (7:50, 7:45, 7:40 and 7:50), then two easy miles to cool down. Had lots of roving aches — typical taper — but overall felt good. The coolest thing was that I realized that I’ve totally nailed sliding into marathon pace. I just think “Cruise speed!” and I’m down in the 7:40s-7:50s. I’ve done a good job training these paces, and I hope it serves me well on race day!

Thursday, April 21: 6.4 miles
Fun group run with my Pacers store group! Pretty warm and didn’t hydrate well plus spent the afternoon sipping coffee instead of water… so though I was running fast, it did not feel great in my heart-chest-space. Made a note in my training log to “HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE” since I’m awful at it anyway. Gotta get my hydrate on pre-‘thon!

Friday, April 22: 0 miles
More core work! Sit-ups, bicycles, Russian twists, modified Supermans (just glute activation), lunges, squats, pushups, bridges (regular, single leg, and extended), plus some foam rolling.

Saturday, April 23: 6 miles
Started my run at 8 am and it was 63* and 80% humidity. Gross! Plus my legs were stiff from taper + rest day, so I spent the first five miles battling stiffness and trying to get my body how to remember how to deal with humidity. Not a great run, but at least my calf wasn’t sore from Wednesday’s cramp anymore!

Sunday, April 24: 10 miles
If Saturday’s run was awful, Sunday’s was great! Some folks from my Princeton running group met up with some NY Harriers members and we did a nice 10 miler on the towpath in Stockton, NJ (followed by some amazing doughnuts and BBQ and fried chicken!). I was in a good pack with 5 guys, chatting and yammering on and on at an 8:07 pace til we turned around. Ended up pacing 8:02 overall. Decided to label this my “tempo run” for the week so I can skip my Wednesday speedwork. It was confidence boosting to know that I was able to run and chat at race pace (almost all our splits the second half were sub-8). That means that when I’m focused and NOT talking next Sunday, I should be in good shape to hit 7:40s-7:50s when I decide to push the pace!

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 8.55.48 PM
Beautiful day for a run!

Total: 36.4 miles

Overall, this was a great week of tapering. I felt pretty good the whole time — other than the calf cramp achiness. And here’s something new: NOTHING HURTS! My last three marathons, I’ve nursed injures in the week(s) leading up to the marathon: IT band pain before Baltimore, a stiff heel/calf before Minneapolis, and a strained hamstring before Philly. This time: Nothing! I feel great! So now I’ve just got to stay healthy and keep my legs happy. I am anxious and excited for race day to get here. For once, I don’t fear my body failing on me. Just gotta keep my brain in the game!

Don’t Get Me Started On Women’s Running Shorts…

This has been a blog post many years in the making. This post is about women’s running shorts, pockets, and my decade-long struggle with both. I have been running half-marathons since high school, and so I have spent the last 10 years watching the sports apparel industry slowly catch up with the needs of long-distance runners — heck, women runners of all distances!

To preface: I have huge legs. Like, seriously huge. And they’re basically all muscle. One of my friends recently told me I have “cartoonishly muscular legs.” My thighs are probably bigger than most of the thighs of the men I run with, and my calves are, simply put, gigantic. But make no mistake: I am super proud of my giant legs — seeing them at work in race photos is one of the greatest pleasures in my life — yet that doesn’t mean I don’t hate searching for shorts to accommodate them! On with the saga:

When I first started running, pretty much the only shorts I had and could find that were socially acceptable were Nike tempo shorts. It was virtually the only short anyone on my high school cross-country team wore. Sometimes longer, loose-leg shorts could be found, but it was mostly those round-edged tempo shorts. And I loathed them. Firstly, they always ended up bunched up above my inner-thigh chafe-zone and I had to keep pulling them out of a vagina wedgie every 30 seconds. Second, they also only had one tiny pocket in the liner that was house key-sized. I’m not sure who decided that was all the storage space women needed, but that was the standard for most of my high school running experience.

DSC03574
I spent a lot of this race pulling shorts out from between my thighs.

Then when I started running half-marathons, I switched to some Adidas shorts that were a bit longer — less ride-up, and if they did my thighs didn’t start a friction fire — and had a rear zip pocket. Yes, one single pocket. My dad had race shorts with 3 pockets, but the best women’s apparel makers had was a singular pocket. For a brief time, I wore men’s shorts solely for more room to carry gels and my phone, but they just weren’t as comfortable because they are cut differently than women’s shorts.

[I can’t find a good picture of these, which is sad, because I wore the crap out of them.]

At some point in college, I switched over to tight shorts because I was so tired of dealing with shorts riding up between my thighs til they looked like underpants. I wore tight shorts with 5-6” inseams because those were the only ones that didn’t roll up on my big ol’ thighs. However one problem with tight shorts is that if you were shopping at your local Dick’s Sporting Goods and not scouring the depths of Amazon.com: GOOD LUCK FINDING ANY WITH SOME GOD DAMN POCKETS. Because God forbid women have to carry things out on a run like keys or an ID! This was especially annoying as a college student because I had to carry a key and an ID card everywhere with me or else I couldn’t get back into my building post-run.

Then I found the perfect short: Saucony Ignite Tight Shorts. I’ve used and abused two (well-loved and miraculously long-lasting) pairs of these babies in the 2 years that I’ve been running marathons, and they are amazing. Long inseam, no roll, no chafe, big enough to hold my iPhone 4 as well as some gels, and by then I was using a hand-held bottle for on-the-go hydration so the rest of my gels could fit in the zip pocket on the water bottle. But sadly, I realized this spring that my beautiful relationship with the Ignite shorts had to end… why? Because I upgraded my stupid phone!

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 9.37.02 PM
But look how great my legs look in the Ignite shorts! I still love them and wear them on everyday runs.

One big drawback to the increasing size of cell phones is that they don’t fit in running short pockets, almost across the board. I hate running with a waist pack (tight straps around my waist make me feel, uh… intestinally nauseous) and I hate running with an arm band even more. But I like to have my phone on my person at races for immediate post-race texting and instagramming.

And so began my Spring 2016 Shorts Crisis Race Shorts Search.

Because I needed to put gels and my giant phone somewhere during my upcoming marathon, I tried so many shorts. I needed something to miraculously fit all my needs. And thank goodness for Running Warehouse’s fast shipping and generous return policy as well as Amazon’s super quick return-refund policy.

First I tried Saucony Bullet tight shorts. I tried these last fall actually before Philly (I ended up running in Bullet capris, with the amazing cargo pockets on the legs, but this was pre-phone upgrade when my iPhone 4 fit in the back zip pocket), and they were comically un-wearable. I put them on, looked hella cute and took a selfie, then went outside and ran .05 of a mile in them before I came right back inside to change because they had turned into underwear. Nothing makes you feel more like a cow/whale/other giant animal than having your thighs immediately gush out of a pair of shorts when you begin to move. Back to Amazon they went!

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 3.40.27 PM
Looking so thrilled, obvi. Like I knew I’d be disappointed only minutes later.

Then this spring I tried Saucony Scoot tight shorts. I was optimistic when viewing them online, but when I got them I was disappointed. The back pocket was ridiculously small — smaller than the Ignite short’s pocket. I could barely fit one gel in Scoot pocket, and definitely not an iPhone 6. I was bummed because they were super cute, but they were not going to work for a marathon. Back they went.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 3.42.02 PM
Isn’t that print just to die for though?!

Then I tried Oiselle Toolbelt Rogas. I wanted so so SO badly for these to work. I love Oiselle. I run for a store-affiliated Oiselle team in a Oiselle singlet. The pockets were perfect: gels + phone fit in the back, and my ID and key could fit in the butt-cheek pocket. But then I tested them on a short loop around my complex and it was a no-go. I tried size 6 and size 4; the size 6 barely stayed up once I started moving, no matter how tight I cinched the drawstring. Then I tried the size 4 and I was almost too embarrassed by the fit to go outside. They were incredibly tight through the front, and the seam down the front made it look, uh, obscene. Major camel-toe happening. I tried them out on another complex loop anyway but again: flashing my butt at my neighbors, no doubt. Both had to be returned.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 3.42.50 PM
I wanted these to work so badly. LOOK AT THAT. 4 POCKETS!

And then I remembered that one of my favorite instagram runners, bridetoboston, loves Oiselle distance shorts, and I happened to have a pair of distance shorts that I’d gotten last fall to bum around in my apartment… so why not try those? I took them for a spin around the block, and they were surprisingly good for running. Sure, they ride a bit, but that can be cured by some Vaseline, and unlike other loose-leg shorts they never quite make it to underwear-shorts status. But the biggest perk is the pockets; I’d deal with any amount of thigh chub chafe for these pockets. My phone fits easily in the back zip pocket, and the side zippered pocket will easily hold a few gels among other things. I tried them on an 8 mile run the following day and they worked great. It took me a while to get used to air hitting my butt under the loose legs of the shorts after so many years of tight shorts, but the shorts made me feel fast, and once I was sure I wasn’t flashing anyone, I was in love.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 3.46.08 PM.png
Distance shorts in action at River Horse 6k! Loved them for the 10 mile run down and they were so light and airy during the race, I swear they made me faster.

So after many online orders, trial runs, and returns… my marathon shorts had been under my nose the whole time. I am excited to be wearing Oiselle distance shorts for my marathon on May 1. I’ll stuff my phone into the back pocket in a plastic bag along with my ID and some cash, put gels and chapstick in the side pocket, and lube up my thighs with Vaseline like crazy. But at least I can rest easy knowing I have shorts that will carry all my shit for 26.2 miles!

Pockets now seem to be way more common with women’s running shorts in the last few years — especially if you aren’t looking for tight shorts — and apparel makers have finally moved past just the house key-only liner pocket.  But as phones get larger and we start carrying more crap out on the run with us, apparel makers are going to struggle to keep up to make their pockets larger and larger. I am sure this will not be my last shorts/pockets crisis in my running career!

And remember, apparel folk: WOMEN NEED POCKETS TOO. I mean, really. We are shamelessly mocked for our huge, over-stuffed purses, and then we get the short end of the stick with running short pockets? Seriously?

Training Recap: April 11-17

Last week was a pretty great week of training. Recap, please!

Monday, April 11: 6 miles
6 easy miles in the morning with my Joe to Go morning-coffee-run crew. Still a bit stiff from running 22 two days before, but felt ok after a few miles to loosen up. I did blow off my core work though. Oops.

Tuesday, April 12: 0 miles
Tuesday corework! Sit-ups, leg raises, scissors, bicycles, clamshell extensions and pushups.

Wednesday, April 13: 10 miles
No more Wednesday doubles! I wanted to do an easy 10 in the middle of the day (about 2:30 pm) but my legs had other ideas. Ended up running a hilly route at marathon pace (7:53 pace overall), and my last 6 miles — which were pretty flat — were all 7:41-7:48, and it felt… well, not EASY, but not HARD either. A comfortable push. It got me excited for May 1, for sure.

Thursday, April 14: 8 miles am, 6.4 miles pm
My last day of doubles! The morning run was super slow. The problem with running hard at 2:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday means that my legs are still poo by the time I run again at 6 am the next day. It was a slog, but my evening run more than made up for it. My legs felt recovered and it showed in my pace. In the morning, I paced 9:10 and in the evening with my running group I paced 8:03, and that felt loads easier than the morning run.

Friday, April 15: 0 miles
Just core work! Sit-ups, bicycles, Russian twists, lunges, squats, push-ups, planks and a variety of bridges. Good to get back into doing core work more regularly; I could tell that it was lacking because my hips were feeling pretty loosey-goosey.

Saturday, April 16: 10.75 miles + 6k race (3.75 miles) = 14.5 miles
As I wrote about in my River Horse 6k write-up, I ran with a teammate from Princeton to the River Horse Brewery in Ewing, NJ for the innaugural River Horse 6k race. It was a good workout. We kept to an easy, conversational pace on the long miles down there, and then I hit my goal pace of between 10k and HM pace at the race as a “fast finish.”

Sunday, April 17: 7.1 miles
Took it nice and easy. I was a little bit sore in the hips from the day before, but by the end of the run I felt like I’d shaken it off. I’ve been noticing at the end of long runs or hard runs that the muscles on the outside of my hips seem to be the most sore… any tips on how to strengthen there, O Wise Blog Readers?

Total Miles: 52 miles

This is the last week with doubles, and the last week above 50 (or even 40!) miles. Even though this was still above 50, it felt like a breeze just taking out one midweek run and having a few less miles to run for my long run. I’m both excited and nervous about the true taper (39 miles this upcoming week and 19 miles leading up to the marathon); I’m excited for all the extra time for sleeping I’m gonna have, but nervous about having too much time on my hands to fret about my marathon. But I’ve been loving this “fresh legs” feeling. It’s not until you start to cutback that you realize just how normal fatigued legs had felt!

Pre-taper madness training reflections

I want to do a brief glance back at my last 12 weeks of training, and I want to do it before the taper madness hits and I start doubting all the hard work I put into this cycle. Right now, I’m feeling confident but I know in two weeks I’ll be rapidly vacillating between “YES I CAN!” and “No, you can’t!” So let’s look at some numbers, shall we?

In the last 12 weeks of my 14 week training plan, I have run:
675.5 miles
56.3 miles per week on average
9 blocks of back to back doubles on Wednesdays and Thursdays
22 miles as my longest run
1:40:13 as my new fastest half-marathon time
21:55 as my new fastest 5k time

And for funsies: For 11 of those 12 weeks, I ran between 52 and 64 miles. For 9 of those, my mileage was concentrated between 58 and 62 — talk about consistency, huh? Now I’m looking at the last two weeks of my training schedule and realizing that the taper is real, and it is here, and I must do it. Oh boy. Dropping from 52 miles this week to 39 next week and just 19 in the days leading up to the marathon. Running is a big mood stabilizer for me, so who knows what kind of crazy person I’ll turn into before race day!

This is the most time and the highest mileage I have put into a training cycle ever, by far, hands down. I’ve seen huge improvements in my speed and strength in races and also my overall confidence as a runner. I could not have imagined this kind of progress when I decided 2 years ago to sign up for my first marathon. Sometimes I look at my race and training times and can’t believe that I’m the one running them. Something definitely clicked last year after I ran Minneapolis, and it’s been a really fun but surreal experience to see so much progress since last May.

And as another perk, I now weigh less than I did during my last two years of college and I am almost exactly 20 lbs lighter than I was when I graduated in 2013. I initially started marathon training as a way to get slimmer before moving to Princeton, and my body has changed a lot in the last two years. I’m definitely happier with my reflection, but also am often in awe of the things I’ve pushed this little ol’ body of mine to do.

In 2 weeks, I am going to run the New Jersey Marathon and try to qualify for Boston — and hopefully blow that BQ 3:35 out of the water by going sub-3:30. This will be only the second time I’ve gone into a marathon planning to race rather than just survive. Last fall in Philly, that didn’t work out for me due to injury, and that crash-and-burn replays in my mind whenever I think about how I want to approach race day at NJM. I have a feeling that this taper is going to be a lot of me reminding those nagging voices in my head that Philly was a BAD day, and NJM is going to be a GOOD one, because I’ve worked hard and stayed healthy and I’m even stronger now than I was six months ago.

In the meantime, I am going to continue to procrastinate on my real-life work and stalk the Boston Marathon tag on Instagram. I’m so excited for the race tomorrow and all my friends who are running! And I think I’m extra excited knowing that next year that finish line might be mine too, if all goes well in two weeks… 🙂 Happy Marathon Monday eve, Boston runners!

River Horse 6k (Ewing, NJ)

Start and conditions:
10 am start, with pre-race packet pick-up starting at 8 am
Beautiful day to run! Bright sunshine, about 50-55 degrees, wind topped out at 8-10 mph gusts. Perfect day for a race!

Results:
27:19 (7:18 pace) for 6k (on the dot!)
6/103 Women 20-29; 15/416 women overall; 54/799 overall finishers

Event Logistics
I actually ran from Princeton to the race with a teammate buddy of mine. We both had to get long runs in, so we thought that would be easiest. Then we could use the race as a delayed “fast finish.” So we ran to the race, half on the towpath and half on the street. A few segments were a bit iffy because there was very little shoulder, but it was early enough in the morning that it was fine. Then we had a ride home after the race courtesy of my teammate’s husband, who also graciously looked after our stuff while we ran.

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 2.22.27 PM
It was a beautiful morning to run-commute though, let me tell you!

Packet pick-up was quick and easy, and they let us come back to pick up growlers (for teams) and coasters (for all) after finishing the race. The finishers’ pint glasses were given out as you got your free beer after the race. No tote bags of flyers, which meant less trash, but also meant more finagling stuff in my hands. I made it work though!

Gear and fuel
I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and drank a cup of coffee before I left my apartment, and I took a 10 oz water bottle with me on the run since it was going to heat up about 15 degrees before the race. Around 9:25 I took the Power Bar gel that I’d brought because I thought a caffeine boost might be nice pre-race; not sure I really needed it though.

Goal(s)
I signed up for this race as a social event with my weekend running group. A weird distance at a brewery with a post-race festival? Yeah, the focus was NOT on the race, at least not for me! I wanted to run fast, have a good time, and get lots of cool swag, with time and pace being secondary. But of course, I like a plan, so I decided to try to go out between 10k and HM pace, so 7:15-7:20 min/mile. I figured if I could pull that off after running 10-11 miles, I could rest easy that I’m in good shape for my marathon. But if I didn’t feel good, I could slow down, enjoy the race as a fun run, and feel just fine about it.

The Race!
The race was really fun! I’ve never run a 6k before, but I basically thought of it as 4 miles in my head, so being done at 3.75 felt like a treat. The course was easy to follow with gradual, rolling hills, so it was a pretty ideal course, in my opinion (I don’t mind hills). The course wasn’t totally closed; some places we had just one closed lane so that cars could still come to and from their homes.

I started pretty close to the front, mostly because no one was bold enough to toe the line. I knew I wasn’t the fastest there but it was weird to start with so much empty space… and I wasn’t about to fill it and look stupid getting passed by a few dozen people from the word “go”! And because I wasn’t truly racing, I made sure to stay behind the people who had serious game faces on.

The first mile starts uphill, but then levels out. I got caught up in the excitement and ran a bit too fast… a 7:00 mile on the nose. I then purposefully slowed down because I wasn’t aiming for a PR. Plus, I’d just run almost 11 miles! My other miles were much closer to my target pace — I wanted 7:15-7:20 pace, and my next miles were: 7:28 (gradual uphill), 7:20 (mostly flat) and a 7:24 pace for the last .75.

I had a hard time getting my legs moving the last 1.5 miles because I was trying out my calf sleeves + a fast pace for the first time, and sadly it was not a good match. I’ve been loving my calf sleeves for recovery and slow, easy runs, but my calves felt like they were choking wearing them while trying to run fast! So unfortunately, calf sleeves will not be part of my marathon race-day outfit. Best to find out during a low-pressure 6k though rather than a couple miles into my goal marathon!

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 2.22.36 PM
Oh Beautiful Pink Calf Sleeves, how badly I wanted you to accompany me on marathon day…

Finish and feelings
I felt good at the finish, and I was really satisfied with my time (27:19). At halfway, I figured I’d be somewhere around 27 minutes, and I was. I wanted to pace 7:15-7:20, and I did (7:18). At the finish there were bottles of water and bananas, and then you could go to the post-race party and get your (empty) growler (if you had a team of 10+ people) and your metal coaster, then get in the beer line for your finisher’s pint glass + a free glass of beer.

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 12.51.55 PM
Great swag! No t-shirt (available for extra $$) but I am more than happy with a coaster and glass!

They also had some food trucks assembled in the post-race festival area. I quickly gave into temptation because the smells were amazing. I bought some fantastic BBQ pulled pork sliders for lunch and got to sample some fried cheese curds a teammate bought (as Midwesterners, our appetite for cheese curds was not quenched, but as far as fried cheese goes, it was gooey and delicious). The post-race party — the beer, the food, the awards — seemed like the focal point of the race, and it was very well put-on. I had a great time hanging with my team as well as meeting a friend from MyFitnessPal who was in town for the race from Philly.

And, well, in summary…
Great race! I will definitely look into other races in the Great American Brewery Run series in the NJ/Philly area. The course was nice and the field was fairly competitive, but the atmosphere was all about the post-race party, so it was a really fun way to spend half a day! I planned this into my race schedule as a bit of a marathon taper crazies diversion, and it worked!
Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 8.33.55 AM.png
Sun-in-the-eyes team photo!

General format is borrowed from this article in Women’s Running:

http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2016/03/fat-girl-running/why-you-should-write-a-race-report_55754

 

Training recap: April 4-10

Last week was a great training week! Let’s recaaaaaap!

Monday, April 4: 3 miles easy
After my hard race the day before (see the Caesar Rodney race recap!), my running buddy and I decided to join our Monday morning group at 6:30 instead of 6, which meant 3 miles instead of 6 big ones. Which we were totally fine with after nabbing huge and leg-tiring PRs one day earlier!

Tuesday, April 5: Rest day
And skipped my core work…… oops.

Wednesday: April 6: 10 miles am / 6 miles pm
10 miles in the morning were frigid! It’s so disheartening to wear your winter fleece-lined leggings in early April. But then my afternoon run was nice and warm and my legs got to breathe in some shorts, so it was all good. Both runs rated 🙂 in my log.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.29.44 PM
The afternoon run was beyond gorgeous. Light breeze, barely a cloud in the sky.

Thursday, April 7: 7 miles am / 6 miles pm
Speedwork outside in the morning, but a misaligned hip made it a bit difficult. Ended up pacing decently and getting in a really fast final mile (thank you, down-hill mile!). Evening running with my Pacers group was great, and the hip was feeling much better!

Friday, April 8: Rest day
… and skipped my core work again. I think I know why my hips were all wonky!

Saturday, April 9: 22 miles long run
I decided to do my long run on Saturday instead of my usual Sunday so I could tag along with two running buddies on a point-to-point from just outside Princeton to New Brunswick on the tow path (see map).

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.29.05 PM

It was a long haul, but it was good company, we managed to out-run the rain, and then we got burritos! It took ages to catch a train back down to Princeton, and I have taken few hot showers in my life that were more appreciated than this one!

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.29.58 PM
And we stumbled across a Revolutionary War reenactment! It was worth a quick stop.

I got to try some new things on this run: Nuun Energy (lemon-lime flavor) and salt stick caps. I actual like the Nuun Active LL flavor better, but I’ll probably use an Energy one for my race because, you know… every bit of caffeine helps! But I’ve got to say, despite their huge size, the salt stick caps really helped. I usually get awful foot cramps after long runs and sometimes headaches. I took two caps (one at 7-8 miles, one at ~16 miles) and I had ZERO foot cramps post-run and no headache. I’ll definitely be taking 2-3 with me for race day.

Sunday, April 10: 10 miles recovery run
Not gonna lie… it was cold on Sunday morning, so I went to the treadmill and got this one done while watching a childhood favorite on HBO Go: Casper. It was a pretty good running movie — not too much to think about, but entertaining enough to keep my mind occupied. Running on the treadmill kept me going nice and slow, which is just what my legs needed after the long one from the day before. I also got to try out some compression calf sleeves and I liked them! I need to try a longer run in them before I decide if they are marathon-worthy, but I’m leaning toward yes.

Plus, this delicious pancake brunch rounded out my Sunday and training week… ushering in the 3-week tapering period. Totally worth the food coma I was in for most of the afternoon!

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.30.35 PM

Total miles: 64! A new weekly mileage PR and my peak week for this training cycle!

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon (Wilmington, DE)

Longer race, longer race report… buckle your seat belts! Lots of details!

Start and conditions:
9 am start, 11:30 awards (which I missed, oops).
High-30s to start, with a “feels like” temp in the mid-high 20s due to 25-35 mile per hour winds, with gusts up to 50 mph! Windiest race I’ve ever run!

Results:
1:40:13 (7:39 pace; 7:35 on Garmin which clocked course as 13.2)

Event Logistics
Started off with packet pick-up once my teammate/running buddy extraordinaire Caroline and I parked in Wilmington. The race-day pick up was one of the reasons we picked this race (plus the low registration fee; I think we paid just $65!) so we wouldn’t have to deal with a there-and-back drive to a race expo the day before. We grabbed our packets and went back to the car to stay warm and pin our bibs, etc. Then we headed to bag check around 9:00, used the potties twice before 9:15 and hopped into the starting huddle around 9:20. Everything was easy to find and accessible as it was all central to Caesar Rodney Square in downtown Wilmington. The race started a minute early, and off we went!

Gear and fuel
With the wind, Caroline and I both fretted for days over how to dress. I tend to run warm in the arms/hands but cold in the legs/knees, so I decided to go with Oiselle knicker capris, my team singlet with another tank underneath for double core warmth, arm warmers and a headband to keep my ears from freezing off. I brought a Honey Stinger gel with me, but I didn’t use it, and I only took water once on the course. I typically don’t eat or drink anything during a half marathon race. I just had my usual pre-long run oatmeal before we drove down and drank coffee during the drive. Worked like a charm!

img_2483
Flat Kristine was super stylish!

The Race!
The race itself went much better than I had braced myself for. I’d expected to have to really grind against the wind, but I dropped my mileage last week from ~60 miles to 42 (including the race miles!), so my legs were feeling oh so fresh! The course is a tactical challenge: the first mile is downhill, then it’s pretty pancake-flat miles 2-5, then an gentle up and down for mile 5, but then a big climb that’s almost non-stop from 6.5 until about mile 9. After that it’s mostly downhill with one more sneak attack hill from about 10.6 to 11. Oh, and then a .2 mile super steep hill RIGHT before the finish. That one is cruel, to say the least.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 9.23.52 AM
Map and elevation chart from halfmarathons.net

Mile 1: 6:56 I decided in the days before the race to let myself run the first mile as fast my legs wanted to go. I was shocked that I went sub-7 to start, but it felt easy and controlled, so I went with it.

Mile 2-6: 7:21, 7:15, 7:26, 7:24, 7:38  I was mostly alone between two packs during this stretch of the race, so I just jammed to my race tunes and kept on pace. I wanted to do the first half of the race sub-7:30, and I think I averaged somewhere between 7:15 and 7:20. Some of the gusts of wind here though were quite strong cross-winds that made me kick myself a lot which was annoying, but other than that though, I hit the hills feeling strong!

Miles 7-9: 7:54, 8:25, 8:02 THE HILLS!!! They were rough. And mostly against a gusty headwind. But I did my best to keep the effort steady rather than focus on pace. A lot of people sunk or soared on this part of the course. I passed a lot of people and was, myself, passed by several. It was definitely a tough part of the race for all!

Miles 10-13.1: 7:26, 7:47, 7:31, 7:38, 7:55 pace up the hill to the finish The last miles were a mixed bag. I felt really great for miles 10 and 11, but then around mile 12 I started to feel my left calf give its tell-tale signs of being ready to cramp… just give it a reason! Playing it safe, I wasn’t able to push to the finish quite as hard as I had planned, and then coming up the hill to the finish line we had a huge gust of wind that had me more or less running in place. But my calf didn’t cramp (yay!) and I finished feeling strong!

img_2500
Obligatory celebratory Garmin snapshot!

Goal(s)
My goal for this race was to go sub-1:40, anywhere from 1:38-1:39:59. I knew it would be a push and a challenge, but I was ready to meet it! I had braced myself for being happy with any PR however after taking a good hard look at the weather forecast. I finished with a chip time of 1:40:13, and I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed. Could I have run 1 second per mile faster? Maybe, sure. But did I give it my all on a challenging course under tough conditions? Heck yes, I did!

Finish and feelings
The finish line party area at Caesar Rodney is AMAZING. The array of food was worth price of admission by itself: hot soup, pizza, pie and danishes, coffee, school lunch cartons of lemonade, orange juice and iced tea, bananas, apples, grapes, oranges, animal crackers, bags of chips… and I’m sure I missed a few things!

Caroline (who also snagged a huge 6.5 minute PR and exceeded her expectations by over 2 minutes!) and I got cold and left the finish area around 11:20, right before awards started (unbeknownst to us!). We shouldn’t have left though, because while we were sitting in the car warming up and I was posting to instagram, she was checking our race results… and I had won an age group award! We hiked back the two blocks back to Rodney Square to pick it up before we hit the road.

I had assumed, looking at past years’ results, I wouldn’t have a shot at getting an age group award, but I had come in 2nd! I was totally shocked, and it erased any feelings of “should’a, could’a”  in not coming in sub-1:40. Who cares about 1:40… I got an award! 😉

img_2505
Awesome medal + awesome award = one happy Kristine!

And, well, in summary…
Overall, I really enjoyed this race. The organization was A+, the course was a challenge but really pretty and fun to run, and the post-race refreshments were top notch. I would love to run it again… hopefully in more pleasant weather!

 

General format is borrowed from this article in Women’s Running:
http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2016/03/fat-girl-running/why-you-should-write-a-race-report_55754