New Jersey Marathon race report!

I PR’d at the New Jersey Marathon today! 3:49:08! It was a tough day — rainy, windy, surprisingly chilly — and it didn’t go my way, but I still nabbed a pretty big PR, so I’m calling it a win! Read on!

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Start and conditions:
7:30 am start, with waves going every 1-2 minutes
Around 50 degrees, warming to maybe 54. Winds 8-15 mph. Began with a drizzle that turned into a light rain… but after 26.2 miles, I was definitely drenched!

Results:
3:49:08 – 8:45 chip pace; 8:40 Garmin pace (clocked it at 26.5, ugh!)
This is a 13.5 minute PR for me, so I will gladly take it!

Event Logistics:
Arrived at the race start around 6:15; parking was easy, but I know people who planned to arrive between 6:30 and 7:00 barely made it with time to use bathrooms and dart to gear check. For anyone looking at doing NJM, plan to get there plenty early to get parked, settled, and bathroom-ed with time to spare! Gun went off pretty much right on time; corrals were well-labeled and just the right size (not too full), with each corral going off every 1-2 minutes. I did the half last year, so I knew where to go and what to do, which was pretty fun.

Goal(s)
I really wanted to BQ at this race — and looking at the results, you can see that I didn’t. I aimed to run 3:27-3:32, which would be a 7:55-8:05 pace. Looking at all the hard work I put in this training cycle, that was totally in the realm of possibility… but it was just NOT my day. Details below!

Gear and fuel
With rain forecasted, I went with basics: Oiselle Distance shorts, Oiselle Pacers singlet, a running cap to keep the rain out of my eyes, and my trusty Saucony Ride 8 shoes with my favorite Feetures socks. I treated my feet, sports bra line, under arms, lower back, and thigh chub rub area with a ton of Aquaphor (on and between toes) and Vaseline (everywhere else). I still ended up with thigh chafe, but that can’t be helped with how soaked I was by the end of the race. As for fuel, I had a cup of coffee and oatmeal for breakfast before we left at 5 am. During the race I had nuun in my handheld water bottle, plus I was drinking some water and Gatorade on the course. I planned to take 4 gels, but I ended up running 20 mins longer than I anticipated so I took my 5th & extra gel (gels at 1 hour, 1:40, 2:20, 2:45, 3:15). I also took 3 salt stick caps, one at mile 8, 16 and 21.

The Race!
I was super jazzed about this race. It’s all I’ve been thinking about for weeks, and it was the main focus of this training cycle. I had a firm plan in place for the race: 8 miles at 8:00 minute/mile (ish) pace, then from 8-20 run 7:40s-7:50s, and then go as hard I could the for last 10k with whatever I had left in me.

Miles 1-8: 7:41, 7:55, 7:59, 8:01, 8:05, 8:10, 8:06, 8:12
Well… the 3:30 (8:00 min/mile) pace group started a tid bit fast. So I backed off and got behind the pace group after miles 3-4 were also too close to 8:00 for comfort…. And then I never caught back up. Oops.

Miles 9-12: 7:54, 8:07, 8:05, 8:24
After mile 8, I did what I always do during speedwork. I thought, “Ok, now race pace!” And… not much happened. That 7:54 mile felt like a 7:40 mile. And that was my last sub-8 of the race. My legs just had no “oomph.” I had been worried about this. Because of where I am in my cycle (ladies…), I knew that sometime soon my legs would get “flat.” I was just really, really hoping it wasn’t going to be today. My shakeout yesterday felt so good and easy. I ran an 8:22 pace and it felt effortless. That 8:24 mile in this stretch felt as hard as a 7:24 mile.

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I felt blah, but I managed to smile for my teammate’s camera!

Miles 13-20: 9:06, 8:34, 8:54, 9:10, 8:34, 8:55, 9:20, 9:12
By mile 12, my shoes were getting HEAVY with rain. And so after I hit 12, I had a choice: a) Let my wet, heavy shoes stay tied as they were (a bit loose) and keep gripping them with my toes to keep them on OR b) Stop at a park bench and retie them so they wouldn’t fall off. I chose b. That’s why I had my (first) 9 minute mile at mile 13. But then my miles still didn’t improve. In fact… I just kept getting slower. By mile 16, I decided I was going to run by effort and run whatever time I could. While I was shoe-tying, I was passed by the 3:35 group, and while I tried to keep up… nope. I couldn’t catch them and they faded away into the distance. It was getting really rough. It felt awful to be trudging along at paces that any other day would be a cakewalk.

Miles 21-26.2: 9:31, 9:42, 9:26, 9:19, 9:32, 8:58; last half mile at 8:18 pace
The last 5ish miles were a suffer fest. I had determined by this point that the course was going to run long by about .3 of a mile, which means 2-3 minutes tacked on at the end of the race. I just kept trudging and trying not to walk, even though around 20-21 I got hit with the unavoidable quad cramps. I’ve gotten them at every marathon no matter the hydration, sodium intake, etc. And once they hit, there’s no real chance for stepping it up. You just gotta slog it out. A buddy of mine who was having an excellent day caught up to me at 23 or so and we ran together for a bit until I told him to go on without me since he was feeling good. (I out-kicked him down the 1.5 miles on the boardwalk, but barely.) This was just a really bleak set of miles. I couldn’t enjoy it because of the cramping, and the wind we’d run into for most of the race was at a weird angle so we were still running against it going the opposite direction. And knowing I had to run MORE than 26.2 was really disheartening. But I tried really hard to smile for the cameras, and I pushed it despite my aching, cramping quads in the last 2 miles because I knew if I put a little bit of effort in and kept below a 9:30 pace, a sub-3:50 was doable.

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Finish and feelings
Was I disappointed in my time? Yes. I trained for a 3:30 race. I worked so, so hard. I ran 800+ miles training for this thing. I dedicated hours and hours to running and reading about running and thinking about running. But today just was not my day. I gave it what I had, but I just didn’t have much in me to begin with unfortunately.

All things considered, 3:49 is a great time. It’s a huge PR for me, even if there was no BQ victory at the finish line. It just feels a little anti-climatic to have my race totally fizzle out the way it did. There was no crash and burn… I just didn’t have it in me today. And I’m trying to convince myself that that’s ok. There will be more races and Boston will always be there. I have already scouted out late May races I could use to try to BQ, but they’re all pretty darn far away (6-7+ hours) and I can’t afford a hotel stay somewhere (yay grad student life!). I’m hoping I can find a favorable early September race before the BAA application deadline (which frustratingly isn’t posted on their site yet)… maybe VIA marathon? I really want to do Boston in 2017 because I have so many friends (online and IRL!) who will be running it, but if Boston has to wait until 2018, then I will have to come to terms with that. But I’d love to at least have the chance to give it another shot before I throw in the towel for 2017.

And, well, in summary…
I am happy with this huge PR. And I know I have a 3:30 in me if the conditions are right. But it’s also tough that this is my second lackluster marathon in a row… though at least this one I didn’t spend 10 miles in leg-cramping misery! I just know now not to schedule my marathons the Sunday before my period starts! I am even more determined now to a) figure out how to avoid my quad cramps and b) figure out how to RACE a marathon and not just SURVIVE it and c) get that darn BQ! But for now… ice cream, Netflix, and putting my feet up for a few days! And, you know, finishing my Masters… aaah!

 

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

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!
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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

 

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!

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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.

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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!

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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! 😉

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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

 

Run O’ the Mill 5K (Clinton, NJ)

Start and conditions:
8 am start, high-30s at start, low-50s by awards at 9 am

Results:
21:55, 7:01 pace
Splits: 6:46, 7:20, 7:00, allegedly paced 6:20 for the last tenth of a mile

Course description and event logistics
Started off with a gentle downhill, a small rectangle in town, then right back up past the start (pass the starting line about 1.2-1.3 miles in). From about .9 until mile 2 is a slight but definite uphill until the turn around, then you get to run that hill back down to the finish line. While there were many local runners at the race, it was not a spectator-laden event. There were maybe a dozen people spectating in the first mile, and then no one besides course marshals the rest of the way. It was a pretty quiet race which gave me a lot of time to do mental math and question if I was really going to hit my goal time or not!

Logistics for this race were so simple. I pulled into a grassy lot around 6:50 where there were volunteers from NJ-NY track club directing cars into widely-spaced rows (this was very easy to get out of post-awards as well since half the participants were gone by the end of the ceremony). The next block down was where the community center and packet pick-up was. Super easy. Checking in took me about 1 minute, and everyone was really nice and helpful. I was parked and pinning on my bib by 7:05. There was no bag check, but people kept their bags in the gym or outside with no issues since the only people there were race volunteers/coordinators and participants/participants’ families.

Training
I didn’t train specifically for this race. I threw this into my race schedule two weeks ago as a fun event. I really just wanted to PR at a 5k with all this great new training cycle fitness. This 5k was at the end of a 60-ish mile training week, so it was probably not the best conditions to get a huge PR, but I really wanted to nab a sub-22 minute 5k and knew I could do it.

Gear and fuel
I had a bowl of oatmeal before I left my apartment to drive the 45 minutes to the race, and drank a cup of coffee in the car on the way. I wore my Oiselle Pacers singlet, Saucony Ignite tight shorts, some Feetures socks, and my teal Saucony Breakthrus.

Now, with the shoes, I wore them because I’ve had amazing speed workouts with the Breakthrus on the treadmill. However it’s 50/50 when I run outside in them. When I run in them at group runs at night: no problem. When I’ve run in them on a Saturday morning: problems galore! I had considered bringing two pairs of shoes and deciding between them at the race, but then last-minute chose to just take the one pair because the Breakthrus are so fun and cute! (Note: stop making running gear choices based on cuteness!) So around 2 miles into the race, my right shin got really tight and felt like it was about to cramp.  In hindsight, I wish I’d brought my tried and true Saucony Ride 8s along. They may be a bit heavier, but they never give me any issues! Had I worn different shoes, I think I could have done sub-7 for pace and cut maybe 15-20 seconds off my time overall.

Goal(s)
My goal originally was sub-22 minutes and #1 AG placement. But as the day got closer, I started to tell myself I could do 21:30… maybe even 21:15 and take a clean minute off last fall’s PR!

I tend to self-sabotage in this way. My original goal was spot-on and achievable. But I often let myself dream big and set harder goals as the race nears, and then I am disappointed not to reach them even though I knew it was a long shot anyway. This is a big mental hurdle I want to overcome this racing season (and I’ll probably write a blog post all about it).

Your finish and feelings
Overall, I finished in 21:55, which was a 7:01 pace on my Garmin (clocked it at 3.13, so a very fair course!) and 7:04 by the race results. I came in 1st in my age group (women 20-29), I placed 6th out of all women and 36th out of all finishers. I nailed my original goals for this race: I came in under 22 minutes and first in my age group. I am going to call this a success, even though I was a bit disappointed (only because in my head I wanted 21:30, a 6:55 pace, even though my training only sort of supports that kind of time). My second mile really dragged my pace down (7:20!), and I just keep thinking that if I’d been able to push it a little more on that mile, I’d have run an even faster 21:XX and broken the 7 min pace barrier. Oh well. There’s always next time! I refuse to let this bring me down or let myself think of this as a “bad” race when I achieved the (realistic!) goals I set for myself when I signed up for the race 2 weeks ago. I need to stop setting self-sabotaging goals, or I’ll never be happy with my race performances!

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Post-race happy face. Even though my shins were quite upset with me.

And, well, in summary…
Overall, it was a good race, and I’m glad I made the (beautiful and scenic!) drive up from Princeton. The race had a fun, local feel: AG awards for 20 and up went by whole decades, but they had AG awards for 0-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, and 15-19 to reward as many kids as possible for being active, which was awesome. Special shout-outs went out to AG and overall winners who were local runners, be they adults or local high school athletes and local running clubs.

Though I didn’t go above and beyond my goal for the race, I got done what I went there to do, and it was an excellent way to kick off my spring racing season for 2016! Looking forward to more PRs! Next race: April 3 at the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon!

 

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