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Long Branch Half-Marathon Race Recap

Finally! Remember when I used to have recaps up the day after my race, or sometimes even the day of? Those were the good ole’ days. Sorry to leave you guys hanging, but life’s been busy! I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten a new promotion at work, which has been a big reason for me falling off the radar. I’m still adjusting and transitioning into my new role at FITNESS, but I couldn’t be more excited. But while posts still may be slightly sporadic around here for a bit, I’m going to do my best to get back to regularly scheduled programming.

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Now, on to the race report! I tackled my seventh half-marathon in the beginning of May over in New Jersey. That’s seven half-marathons in seven states in the last two years. Crazy! I still can’t believe that only two years ago I had no idea what I was doing (I still don’t, really – I just pretend now) and the thought of running 13.1 consecutive miles terrified the bejeesus out of me. 21-year-old Sam, you had no idea what you were getting yourself into.
After racing in Maine, I spent April maintaining my fitness level and figured if I sprinkled in a few speed sessions, I might be able to get a PR in Jersey. After all, the course was MUCH flatter and I wouldn’t be fighting wind for 80 percent of the course.
My ultimate goal was to go sub-2, but a part of me knew that was an unrealistic goal. I’ve been struggling with hip tightness and a nagging pain since February, so I didn’t take training as seriously as originally planned for either race. But still, I managed to PR in Maine, so I knew anything was possible.
About a week before race day, Dustin and I convinced our friends Tristan and Katie to make the trip with us and be official cheerleaders. They had never watched a race before, and Tristan is becoming curious about running, so I thought this was the perfect trip since the race was only a few hours outside of the city. With them on board, and a big crew of running friends coming out to cheer, I knew I wouldn’t be lacking in inspiration.
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I got to the corrals without any problems, and although I had a few bathroom issues that made me nervous about what to expect for the rest of the race, I went in ready to run. The organizers blasted “Sweet Caroline” before beginning the wave start, and this New England girl-at-heart couldn’t help but beam with pride and wipe away a few tears.
The whole race went seamlessly for me. I saw all of my cheerleaders at each point that I expected to, and had surprise pop-ups from the NYC girls once! Let me tell you, seeing them all go crazy once they spotted me made me feel so special. I don’t get to make it to nearly as many running meet-ups as I’d like, so hearing them cheer their hearts out made me so unbelievably happy and gave the surge of motivation I needed to keep pushing.
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I ate a Clif shot blok every three miles, starting at mile 4. I had the opportunity to meet with some of the experts behind the Clif company a few months ago for work, and we thought that I might be hitting a wall more often than I think because I wasn’t taking in enough fuel, and I wasn’t starting early enough. With this new strategy (which I also used in Maine), I definitely felt more energized throughout the race.
Around mile 10 was when my legs started to realize what was going on. When people say this course is flat, they’re not kidding. It’s like a pancake. Perfect for running fast, but it only engages the muscles in one way. Two days post-race, I experienced soreneess like I hadn’t felt since my first half. Ouch.
Mile 13 was really rough. By that point we had hit the ocean views, which were a great mental distraction, but they also brought wind. A lot of it. The whole mile was a straight headwind. Luckily, it wasn’t nearly as strong as the winds I faced in Maine, so I just kept repeating, “You made it through Maine” to keep my head in the game.
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By the time I had hit mile 10, I knew I wasn’t going to go sub-2, and I was honestly OK with that. Missing a PR, however, wasn’t kosher with me. I turned the last 5K into a big race, and even though we had the wind in the last mile, it was the first time I had the pleasure of picking off large groups of runners. For once, I felt fast! I sprinted the last half-mile, spotted Dustin, Tristan and Katie right before the finish line, gave one last kick and finished with a smile and a new PR of 2:0
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Overall, I would highly recommend this race to a beginner racer, or anyone looking to PR. Sure, the wind at the end wasn’t fun, but the race was really well organized and the views are nice. It’s extremely spectator-friendly, so bring lots of friends! There were extra security measures, but that was to be expected – and they made everyone aware of it ahead of time – so it was totally cool.
So what’s next? Originally, nothing. But it looks like I’m now doing the run portion of the NYC Triathlon with a few friends (say what?!), and I may be doing a June half-marathon with Lauren. No concrete plans on that yet, but we’ll see! And if not, I’ve got my eye on Philly in September. So for now, I’m just going to enjoy the start of summer in the city.
Catch ya later!
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Race the Runways Half-Marathon Race Recap

Nothing like coming back to blogging with a race recap, right? Right. Welp, let’s get to it then!

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Last time I popped in (February – eek!), the first race on my 2013 calendar was the New Jersey half-marathon. While that’s still alive and well on my calendar, I was itching to get another 13.1 under my belt before then. While I scoured the Internet for something to fit the bill, everything before May seemed to fall on St. Patrick’s Day. Ick! While I loved racing on St. Paddy’s Day last year in D.C.,  I knew there was no way I could make that work this time around. I spent February 22-March 24 traveling each weekend or hosting friends and fam.

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Visiting Karla in Iowa!

Anyway, after exhausting all my options for well-known races that weren’t too far away – let’s not forget that all the aforementioned travel plans left my bank account seriously drained – I started digging for smaller ones. Finally, halfmarathons.net found me a winner in the quaint little town of Brunswick, Maine!

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“Maine? I’ve never been to Maine. Dustiiiiiiiiiin – want to go to Maine so I can run another half in April? I get to run on an airport runway and the medal looks like an airplane!!!”

Whip out my credit card and immediately register. 

That’s how that conversation went. He thought the “running on an airport runway” thing was pretty cool, too.

Now that I’ve run the race, let me tell you something: running on an airport runway in the beginning of April, after a brutally long winter, is not quite as cool as it sounds.

joclyn cheerleader

Scratch that. It’s cooler than it sounds. And when I say cooler, I’m talking in terms of temperatures. Translation: it was freaking freezing!

And holy wind, batman. Holy wind.

But let’s backup a smidge. Dustin and I took Friday off and made the 5.5-hour drive to Brunswick so we had plenty of time to pick up my bib, relax and explore. Turns out we needed all of five minutes for bib pickup. There wasn’t an expo, and we picked up at Maine Running Company – a great running store located right in the heart of town. After, we checked out the shops nearby and picked up dinner at Flipside, a local pizza joint with great reviews on Yelp.

The rest of the evening was uneventful, and pre-race rituals went smoother than ever. The start gun didn’t fire until 9:30am, so I even slept in until 7am! Around 8am, the rest of my cheering squad showed up!

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My Aunt Sue, Uncle Dave, cousin Joclyn and her friend Quinn drove 2 hours Saturday morning to come watch me run and I could not be more grateful. I never asked them to do so, or even really brought up the race – my aunt saw I would be nearby on Facebook and shot me a few texts to confirm the whereabouts. They had never seen me run before, and I was so stoked every single time I spied them on the course.

Speaking of race support – I don’t know if it was because it was a small race, because it was cold or something else, but the spectators were basically nowhere to be seen. As an out and back course, there were multiple opportunities for crowds to be out, but they just weren’t there. Certain areas were blocked off strictly for runners, so obviously that lacked any cheerleaders, but when I saw my family, they were the only ones out there. While it made me feel extremely loved and even more energized to run a strong race, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the other runners on the course. I can’t say it enough – CROWD SUPPORT IS SUCH A BIG DEAL FOR RUNNERS. Even though we only see you two, three or four times on the course – and for about five seconds each time – knowing we’re going to see you soon is such a mental boost to keep moving. And once we actually see you, it’s like a smile is plastered all over your face for at least another mile and you sort of forget that you’re running. Sort of.

OK, that was really my only complaint of the race.

Going into this race, I had no goals. I just wanted to run strong, be happy and enjoy Maine. And I did something I’ve never done before: I ran without a watch.

But that’s for another post.

Basically, I refused to stress and ran at a comfortably hard pace. I had the Runkeeper app on my phone (amazing, btw), which sent me distance updates every 5 minutes. Otherwise, I just jammed out to my playlist – Luke Bryan’s new album FTW – and tried to ignore the constant headwind. The good thing about the “breeze?” It made my thighs numb, so my quads didn’t feel anything until about mile 9. Oh, I didn’t mention that? Yeah, the course was relatively hilly, too. Nothing like Nashville, but still.

Despite the chilly weather, quiet crowd support and hills to conquer, I was having the time of my life. My body felt great, I knew I was running at a good clip and I was just happy to be there. I popped Clif shot blocks at miles 6, 8 and 10 and attempted to drink water while running at every other stop. At mile 10, I flipped the pace option on to see where I stood, and realized I could PR. Game on.

dustin post-race

Around mile 11, my legs started to protest. Throughout the race, different songs kept me feeling strong because they brought up awesome memories with friends – “Never See Your Face Again” by Maroon 5, for example, reminded me of my recent visit in Iowa with Karla, when we drooled over Adam Levine – so I cranked up those tunes again. About a half-mile later, my app chirped in saying I was picking up the pace. While my legs didn’t want to go faster, I was hungry for more. So I channeled Abby’s voice in my head and kept chanting, “It’s supposed to hurt. You’re supposed to be uncomfortable. Keep pushing. This is worth it.”

Let me tell you, it worked.

Despite the terrible headwind and last final hill from 12.75-13.0 (thanks, race directors), I sprinted my little legs out and really raced the last 5K. Finally, I rounded the last corner and spotted the finish line. With one final kick, I gave it all I had and heard my name announced as I crossed with a 2-minute PR attached to my name.

Oh, that person about two steps behind me? I had no idea they were there until medal was in hand and a space blanket was being wrapped around me. Oops.

Race the Runways was a fun, small race that I would recommend to anyone looking for a no-frills race. It was cool running on the airport runway, but let me tell you – do not underestimate the wind. I counted my lucky stars that most of my training runs happened by the water, so I was already used to facing a headwind. Mix in a little hill training, and you’re set to go.

2:04.01 is my new half-marathon PR and I couldn’t be happier in this moment. While I’m going to continue to ride the runner’s high, I have one thing mingling in the back of my mind:  sub-2, I’m gunning for you next month.

Racing Through The Year

One of the items on my bucket list is to run a half-marathon in every state before I’m 30. I’ve run five already, and to stay on track, I hope to run six in 2013. I told you I would share the races I had my eye on soon, and there’s no time like the present! Before we get to it, though, let’s recap what states I’ve already covered 13.1 miles in (you can find all of my recaps here):

  1. New York, New York – FITNESS/MORE half-marathon
  2. San Francisco, California – Nike Women’s half-marathon
  3. Washington, D.C. – Run Rock ‘n’ Roll USA half-marathon
  4. Nashville, Tennessee – Run Rock ‘n’ Roll Country Music half-marathon
  5. Orlando, Florida – Disney World Wine and Dine half-marathon

So I’m not headed to any races in those states this year. Instead, here’s where I’ve already registered to run:

  • Long Branch, New Jersey – Long Branch half-marathon on May 5. I’m currently building my base with the Lululemon run club and am hoping to break sub-2. Can you say speed work? 

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  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Run Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia half-marathon on September 15. I’m hoping I can convince my brother to run this one with me, since he’s currently living in Philly. But he’s a med student, so I’m not sure how feasible it is for him to squeeze in training the same year as his rotations. Fingers crossed, though! 

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Other races that I have in my schedule, though I’m not registered for yet:

  • Des Moines, Iowa – Des Moines half-marathon on October 20. Running again with Karla! This year is the year of running for us – yay for running buddies, despite being in different states! 
  • Manchester, New Hampshire – Manchester half-marathon on November 3 (tentative). The official race date hasn’t been announced, but this would be an easy race for me to get to and the course goes right by my aunt’s house!

So I’m in need of one, possibly two more races this year (in case I don’t do Manchester). Any suggestions? Because of my budget, I’m looking to tackle some of the states closer to home, with a few that require more travel (Des Moines, Vegas). I was hoping to do one in March, but the only one in a new state that I’ve found so far sold out too fast! Any ideas for the early side of 2013 would be much appreciated 🙂

And there ya have it! My running race calendar for 2013. I’m also hoping to run Reach the Beach and complete the RAGBRAI bike race, so it’s definitely going to be a full year.

But you tell me: what races are you gearing up for?

13 for 2013

Now that January is basically over, I guess it’s about time I share my goals for the year. I always wait until the ninth to finalize them in my head – it’s my lucky number and I believe it allows time for the “OMG, it’s the new year, let’s make all these crazy resolutions right now” hype to die down a smidge. Now that it’s the end of the month, and according to multiple statistics, most people have already given up on their resolutions, I’ll share mine. Spread some more optimism.

1. Do more yoga. I believe that I went to yoga all of 10 times in 2012. I’m not kidding. Instead of me setting some crazy goal of going from zero to twice a week like I did last year, let’s just try to do more than I did in 2012. If I manage to stretch myself out 11 times this year, I’ll deem this one a success.

2. Be able to do 20 push-ups in a row. Bringing it back because I really want to do this one. I’m ready for buff biceps. And I just want my entire upper body to look nice.

3. Run a sub-2 half-marathon. Another goal from last year, but I’m so much closer to crossing this off the list than I was then. My current PR is 2:06.41, and I’m ready to train hard and slash 6+ minutes off my time. Goal race to make it happen: New Jersey half-mary with team Lululemon in May. Here we go!

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4. Participate in the first Manhattan Relay for Life. It’ll be my seventh Relay, but the first in the city I now call home. And the first in Manhattan, ever. I’m on the planning committee to help make this big dream a reality and I could not be more excited. My mom will be celebrating her 50th birthday this year, which makes this Relay even more special to me and my family. Get ready, folks, there are some great fundraisers in the works and I would love to see you.

5. Run in a relay race. I’m already starting to make this one happen with Abby and a bunch of other fabulous ladies who plan on running Reach the Beach in Massachusetts this May. It’s 12 days after that goal half-mary, so I’m hoping to be in prime running shape to do my fair share of running legs. But more importantly, I’m excited to have fun with 11 other run-crazy women, crammed in a van for 24 hours. Doesn’t that sound like a great time?

6. Run six half-marathons this year. One of my big life goals is to run a half-marathon in every state before I’m 30. I did the math at the end of last year, and in order to do that, I need to run six every year. Phewwwwwwie. It’s not impossible, but it’s a jump for me. I’ve done five half-marathons total, so jumping to six more in one year is a big leap. But I’m ready to take the plunge and will reveal which races I have my eye on soon.

race rack

7. Go on vacation at an all-inclusive resort. Dustin and I had the cruise experience and loved it, but now we want to check out another way to relax. We’ve been intrigued by the concept of all-inclusives for a while now, so let’s make it happen this year. We’re thinking about the Dominican Republic, but are open to other suggestions. Please share!

8. Pay off one student loan in full. I’ve paid off one loan completely and am on track to do it again soon. Ideally, I’d like to check this one off before the end of summer, but sometimes life gets in the way. I’ll be happy if it’s completed by December 31st.

9. Read two books per month. Last year I read one each month and you all know how much I loved it. I’m picking up the pace this year and will continue to get my knowledge on. For a quick recap of the books I devoured in 2012, click here.

10. Read my personal training certification books. This is separate from goal numero nine because I don’t consider text  books to be a part of my leisure reading. Nonetheless, I’m excited to bust these babies open and get back to studying.

11. Buy curtains. It might sound dumb, but I’ve been living in New York City for almost two years and I still don’t have them in my living room. 2013 is the year to purchase appropriate window fabric. 

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12. Finish a scrapbook. I used to make time for this little hobby o’ mine back in college, but it’s fallen to the wayside since graduation. I really enjoy making them, for myself and others, and think it’s a great way to package photos and memorabilia. I have one that’s been in the works since 2010 (eek!), so let’s aim to at least finish that one up.

13. Ride in RAGBRAI. What’s RAGBRAI, you ask? Oh, it’s just a bike ride that starts at one end of Iowa and ends on the other side. Karla, our co-worker, John, and I are gearing up for the race in July and I am pumped! Have I done a bike race before? Nope. Do I know anything about bikes? Not so much. But has that ever stopped me before? Not a chance. Remember, my first running race was a half-marathon. Go big or go home, right? (If anyone in NYC wants to teach me how to ride well, that would be great)

There ya have it, folks. 13 goals for 2013. Now it’s your turn: what goals have you set out to accomplish this year?

NYCRuns Hot Chocolate 10K Race Recap

At long last, the recap for my first 10K race is here!

nycruns-hot-chocolateBack in November, I heard about the Hot Chocolate 10K on Roosevelt Island and was instantly intrigued. I didn’t know anything about the location of the race, which is a shame since I’ve been living in NYC for a year and a half now (what?!). But hot chocolate was in the name, which I was sure meant they’d serve me some after I covered 6.2 miles. Special food and/or drinks at the end of a race pretty much guarantees my presence, so I glanced at the mid-December date, prayed it wouldn’t snow and signed myself up. The low price point, no travel costs and promise of a souvenir mug didn’t hurt, either.

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Right after I gave up my money, I went to Twitter to see who else was running it. Obviously. Turns out, a ton of awesome runners would be there; ones I hadn’t seen in forever. It sealed the deal that no matter what, this would be an awesome day. Oh yeah, and as I said before, it was my first 10K. An automatic PR is never a bad thing!

Dustin and I took the tram for the first time (awesome) and hopped off around 9 a.m. thinking both the 5K and 10K started at 9:30 a.m. WRONG. The 10K didn’t actually start until 10 a.m., leaving us with tons of time to catch up with friends and putz around. Could I have been productive and done a warm-up jog? Sure. Did I? Nope. I was so distracted by the laid-back atmosphere of this small race – I have only run big-name races thus far – that I barely took time to squeeze in some dynamic stretching. But I was smart enough to squeeze in about 5 minutes worth of moves before Dustin headed out to find his first spectator spot.

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(Photo stolen from Erica)

The race itself was interesting and a lot of fun. Again, this was a really small race, so we didn’t even have the roads fully closed the entire time. Case in point: check out the video Dustin got of me chasing after a truck around mile five!

We ran on different surfaces, from grooved pavement and dirt roads to regular ole’ streets and sidewalk. Most of the course was along the water, which I greatly appreciated despite the slight wind that came with it. If I get to run by the water, I’m a happy girl.

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I didn’t really have a goal for this race, other than to finish in under one hour. I wasn’t there to go balls to the wall or to really test my speed. I wanted to work on my pacing and just have fun while I was out there. I did my best not to look at my watch and go by feel. Unfortunately, I had more knee pain than I expected. Once I hit mile two, my body really started to scream at me because I was  in desperate need of new sneakers. I haven’t switched to a new pair in quite a few months, even after training and racing for multiple events in them, so I knew I had it coming. My poor wallet kept telling me to hold out to see if I got a new pair for Christmas, so I sucked it up to finish my 2012 race year in my good ole’ Brooks Adrenaline 12’s.

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They’re officially in retirement now.

Despite the pain that traveled through my knees all the way up to my butt (seriously, I felt like I pulled a glute afterward), I really enjoyed this race. I had enough in the tank for a great kick at the finish, and I loved the easy travel and opportunity to hang out with so many runner friends. The course was extremely spectator-friendly, too. We looped the same course twice, so I saw Dustin five times – a record for us! And that one goal of mine? I met it 🙂

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Hot chocolate post-race = happy runner.

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If you’re in the NYC area and looking for a fun race to end the year, I’d definitely check this one out. You can tell the people at NYCRuns worked hard to make this a very low-key, relaxing and fun event. I plan on being back next year – we’ll see if I can go sub-:50 by then!

Do you like the 10K distance? Any fun ones you’re signed up for in 2013? 

Running Through 2012

So many bloggers that I follow regularly have posted this fun Q&A, originally started by Miss Zippy, and I loved reading every single one! I’ve heard you’re supposed to write about things you’d like to read, so I took it as a sign to write one of my own. So let’s take a look back at this whirlwind of a year, shall we?

Best race experience: Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville

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It’s shocking that this is my answer, I know. Even though this was my worst race of the year time-wise (and my second slowest half to date), I learned so much from this experience. I finally realized what it felt like to give everything my body possibly could and leave it all out on the course. I went through a whirlwind of emotions while training for this race, which Abby graciously put up with, and learned just how much I love this sport.

Best run: Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Half-Marathon in Washington, D.C.

This was the first time Dustin ever saw me race, so it holds a special place in my heart. I also really enjoyed the course, my body felt great and it was the first time I ever felt confident enough to think that going after a sub-2:00 half-marathon time could be possible for me.

Best new piece of gear: My Lululemon Run: Speed shorts! I’m obsessed. The fit is perfect, they don’t ride up, the wide waistband makes them flattering, there are a ton of pockets and the patterns are to die for. They’re my official good luck race shorts.

Best piece of running advice you received: “Stop comparing yourself to others and just run the best you can.” Paraphrasing from my fabulous running coach, Abby. I really started beating myself up during spring training this year, when I was originally training to complete the full marathon distance in Nashville. She talked me off a ledge many times, but really helped get it through my head that I’m only hurting myself if I keep measuring myself against other runners. Everyone has a different background and I should never be ashamed of my own capabilities.

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Most inspirational runners: I’d have to say Abby, Jocelyn, Laura and Theodora. They’ve all dealt with a lot this last year and are overall rock stars. I love going to their blogs on a regular basis whenever I’m in need of a good kick in the pants.

Most exciting (running) moment of 2012: Traveling to more states! I’m slowly working toward my goal of running a half-marathon in every state before I’m 30, and this year I was lucky enough to have Dustin cheering me on in Washington, D.C., Nashville and Disney World. I’m stepping up my game for 2013 and aiming for six states in the new year. Fingers crossed I can make it all happen!

Your turn! Answer any, or all, of the questions and fill me in on your exciting running discoveries of the last year. 

Race for Recovery 5K Recap

Last Saturday, I laced up my sneaks and headed out for a 5K race. Where? WHEREVER I WANTED.

Sorry for the all caps, but that gave me a sense of power.

I’m done now.

Anyway, I was running the virtual Race for Recovery 5K put on by NYC Running Mama to help raise support for victims of Hurricane Sandy. For just $20, your name was entered into a drawing to win a boat load of super awesome prizes perfect for the running-obsessed. If you donated more than $20, your name went in more times. Obviously, more chances to win. Which means more chances at the grand prize: a fantasy day at the Runner’s World headquarters (promise it’s not as risqué as it sounds).

race bib

Unfortunately, my bank account hates me and I was unable to spare more than $20. But I happily handed it over, not really caring whether or not I won a prize. After all, I don’t really ever win raffles, so I just wanted to help out while getting my run on and feeling part of the awesome community that we crazy people create.

As we all know by now, I am by no means a morning person, so waking up at normal race-time was not in the cards for me. After a crazy work week, I relished in the ability to sleep in and didn’t crawl out of bed until 9am. ‘Twas glorious.

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This is not me. But doesn’t Dustin look comfy?

After dilly dallying for a few hours, I left my apartment around 1pm, unsure of where I wanted to run. I just knew I wanted to get down near Astoria Park so I could run by the water and take in the city skyline. The weather was perfect, my legs felt loose and my tunes were grooving. I maintained a strong pace, negative splitting the whole time. It helped that once I actually hit the park area and saw that skyline, my iPod seemed to know what was going on. Without any playlist prep, “Empire State of Mind” blasted through my headphones. Talk about a major kick of inspiration. My pace easily picked up a notch as I hit the halfway point and started making my way home.

All I could think about on this run was the mass of people taking part to help those who lost so much because of Sandy. And now that we have all heard the news of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, I’m even more grateful for that moment. So many people joined together and restored my faith in humanity. Strangers lent a helping hand and did whatever they could to help those in need, whether it was delivering supplies, running a race to raise money, or hanging power strips out the window so random people could charge their cell phones.

Despite all of the cruelty that hangs heavy in the air these days, there are still some seriously awesome people in the world. And I could not be more grateful. If you’re in need of inspiration, I suggest checking out this article. It’s good for the soul.

Anyway, the run went fairly quickly, and even though it was my first 5K race (which means an automatic PR), I still got an actual PR from all of the times I’ve run an unofficial 5K.

5k watch

That makes me happy. What makes me happier? Michele raised over $10,000 with the Race for Recovery. BOOM. Major kudos for her brilliant idea and mad organizational skills. I haven’t even met her in person yet (um, can we change that?) and I already know she’s a rock star.

So I didn’t win any of the goodies (big surprise), but Michele was kind enough to post our finish times in order. Turns out I came in 33rd out of 112. Not too shabby, if you ask me.

It’s safe to say that was a happy Saturday. I got a lot of Christmas shopping done that weekend too, which also gives me a lot of joy. And I threw some Spinning in the mix. Now that I think about it, that really was a fantastic weekend.

Now it’s your turn to tell me about the things that give you warm fuzzies. Did you run the Race for Recovery? Did you write about it? Tell me your story and send me your links. I like to read. Sometimes. 

In A Running Rut

Ever since my half-marathon in Nashville, I’ve been in a bit of a running rut. I was totally burnt out on the sport, and even though I pushed through plenty of other workouts (spinning and weights for the win!), I lost that urge to pound the pavement. I was perfectly content laying in bed for an extra half hour or so, nabbing some desperately needed shuteye and then heading to the gym or SoulCycle after work.

Some people might knock it, but I love evening workouts. I’m not a morning person, so I get the sleep I need and am productive at work, and if I force myself to change and head out once I’m home, I feel relaxed yet productive in my out-of-the-office time. If I don’t have a workout at night or plans to meet up with friends, then you’re likely to find me immediately plopped on the couch or bed, unwilling to move the rest of the night.

When I was at the expo in Nashville, I knew I would take a break from running, but I didn’t want to prolong it longer than usual. So I did the most logical thing I could think of: I signed up for another half-marathon. Samantha, you’re headed to Disney for the Wine and Dine in November!

In the meantime, I focused on work and logged a few other short running races, like the Chase Corporate Challenge and Fifth Avenue Mile. I did both of those races with co-workers and had so much fun! I love the level of accomplishment that I feel after completing a half-marathon, but short races are thrilling and perfect to do with friends. I like to think for a small amount of time that I’m a speed demon, so laying it all out there for one mile gives me that rush.

Hanging out with real speed demon Kara Goucher for a bit doesn’t hurt, either.

Oh, you’re wondering how I did in those races? Well, the Chase Corporate Challenge was back in June and I ran that 3.5-mile race in 32:24. That was actually the first time I went running after Nashville, so I was pretty pleased with those results. I ran the first mile with my co-worker John, and he did a great job of pacing me for a faster finish without burning me out. By the time we parted ways, I wanted to keep working hard. And since there were only 2.5 miles left, I knew I could push it!

I did more casual running over the summer, but never felt obligated to head out in the crazy heat and humidity. I felt slight twinges of longing when my Twitter feed started blowing up with all of the excitement of people logging their miles for the Marine Corps Marathon and New York City Marathon, but not enough to lace up my sneaks for more than 5 miles. I call it “running in moderation.”

The Fifth Avenue Mile was just as fun as last year – a big group of FITNESS staffers got together to race down the famous street, and although I didn’t run it as quickly as I did last year (7:39), I still had a blast. Bonus: I finished at the exact same time as my boss – we didn’t realize we were next to each other until they were announcing us together. Accidental collaboration for the win!

Official training for the Wine and Dine half was supposed to begin the first weekend of September, but that happened to be the exact week that I left for my cruise. So running wasn’t a major priority. But I still give myself props – while on the cruise, I squeezed out a 4-mile run, an 8-mile run, a lot of walking and tons of fitness-y activities. Oh, and since Dustin and I are both super impatient, we took the stairs every time we needed to move from deck to deck on the ship. We took the elevator a total of 3 times. Our room was on the second deck, the pool and food were on the 10th and 11th deck. You do the math.

Ever since, I’ve been logging two to three  runs a week – one short run during the week, a long run and recovery run on the weekend – and a spin class on Thursdays. Weight lifting is mixed in during the week, too. But my heart really hasn’t been in it. I’ve had sparks of intense motivation the last two weeks (running on the beach doesn’t hurt), but I’ll be headed into my fifth half-marathon with the least amount of training under my belt. I’m excited to race again and hope that will spark my running fire again, but am not going into this race with any expectations.

With 11 days left until race day, do you have any suggestions for how I should tackle this thing? I’m going to have a newly amped up playlist shortly (and will share), and plan to stop and see all of the fun Disney characters, but that’s all I’ve got. Should I be nervous about not being able to finish? Share your wisdom!

Country Music Half-Marathon Race Recap

Holy heat and hills, batman. The fact that I earned this just makes me extremely proud:

Before I delve into how the race actually played out, let me just say that completing this race without ending up in a medical tent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never pushed myself so hard, mentally and physically, and I can say with 100 percent certainty that I left every single thing I had left in me on that race course. Did I accomplish my sub-2:00 goal? (SPOILER!) No. Did I PR? Again, the answer is no. But I’ve never felt so good about myself because I didn’t give up and I simply kept moving when I thought I couldn’t anymore.

So let’s go back in time, to 4:30am, when my alarm sounded.

I pounced out of bed, raring to go. I woke up a few times throughout the night, but felt completely rested and ready to race. I ate my Clif bar and banana for breakfast, drank some water and finished up my goals blog post so y’all had something to read while I was pounding the pavement (Or in Jocelyn’s case, something to read before she kicked some serious asphalt 😉 ).

Dad, Dustin and I drove out to Centennial Park at 5:30am, easily found a parking spot and relaxed for a bit. I used the porta potties, which didn’t have very long lines, stretched a little and chatted to keep my nerves at bay.

I sent the boys packing a half hour before the start so they could get to their watch posts and I could do my warm-up in peace. I jogged around the park to loosen up, then did dynamic stretches for about 10 minutes. Walking lunges, hip openers and knee raises became my best friend. I felt loose, light and more than ready to go after my goal.

Rock ‘n’ Roll started right on time and the wave starts went off without a hitch. I was in corral 8, so I didn’t wait very long before it was our turn. Just like in D.C., I got to toe the start line for a few seconds before the gun went off for my corral. That feeling is so awesome, and one of the many reasons I love Rock ‘n’ Roll’s start protocol.

The first mile was great, but I constantly checked my watch to reign myself in and make sure I didn’t go out too fast. I kept things in check and clocked a 9:03 pace. My goal was to maintain between a 9:00 and 9:15-pace for the first 5K, which I ended up nailing.

The big thing that needs to be mentioned about this race is the HILLS. There are a ton of them. Remember when I said in my goals post  that I wasn’t underestimating them? Yeah, I thought I wasn’t. I knew there would be a decent amount, but I did not fully understand just how many. They never stopped. And they didn’t all lead to a glorious downhill. Sometimes it was an uphill, flat ground, then another uphill. I know this is good in the long run (pun!) because it forces my body to use different muscles, giving others a break, but man, the constant change was tough on me mentally. When they started rolling out in the first mile, I thought it was different but that the hills were probably front-loaded early on in the course and the end would be more flat. WRONG.

The second 5K went fairly smoothly, but I could tell I was already feeling hot. I took in much more fuel than I normally do and started keeping an eye out for volunteers with salt packets. I kept double checking my forehead to make sure I was sweating, but I had a gut feeling I was going to need it later.

By the time I hit mile six, I was extremely hot and felt thirsty the entire time. I was supposed to see Dustin and Dad at mile 3, but missed them because they couldn’t cross the street. Which means I didn’t get some extra water and I wouldn’t see them until mile nine. I grabbed an orange from a volunteer, then decided to grab a Gatorade at the next station.

I should have known better.

My stomach doesn’t react well to Gatorade during races. It never has. I tried it once during my first half-marathon and swore it off after that because it made me feel funky. But I was so concerned about the heat that I wanted to get something more substantial than water in me. I hadn’t found a salt packet yet and didn’t want to take any chances. So I drank half of a cup of Gatorade and my stomach felt off the rest of the time.

The hills were still rolling and there wasn’t much shade, but there was a ton of crowd support. I give Nashville a lot of props for this – the volunteers were fantastic and the crowd was amazing. So many people thanked the volunteers for simply coming out to be there, and there wasn’t a single area of the course where I felt like there could’ve been more people cheering. In the more quiet, homely areas, people were out in their front yards, sitting in lawn chairs and blowing bubbles to cheer us on! One man even set up his garden hose as a spray so we could run through it. What a blessing.

Around mile eight, I finally found a woman with salt packets. I desperately grabbed two and tucked one in my pocket. The second was immediately ripped open and dumped in my mouth. That was my first time taking just pure salt and I could tell I needed it. I don’t ever put salt on my food because it’s just too strong for my liking, but this tasted like pure gold to me. I could’ve easily taken the second packet in but wanted to save it for later.

At mile nine, I did some quick math and registered that I could still grab sub-2:00, but that I would have to push for sub-9:00 miles. I simply wasn’t sure if I had it in me because I was pushing as hard as I could to maintain a 9:30 pace. I started looking for Dustin and Dad, knowing they would have water and a pick-me-up, but they were nowhere in sight.

And then I saw Dustin at mile ten and it was the most glorious moment ever.

He must have seen me coming because he already had the water undone and was ready to hand off. I asked him to run with me for a bit, so he ditched Dad (don’t worry, he picked him up after) and went a few blocks. I carried the water, which funnily had a koozie attached to it, and tried to get my breathing back in check. Dustin told me I was still running a good pace and the 2-hour pacer was right with me, so I just needed to push. I sent him back to my dad, digging deep , praying the hills would stop so I could get that time goal.

I set my sights on the 2-hour pacer and vowed to hang on for as long as possible. Up and down a few more hills we went, in the complete sunshine, and then the heat finally started to slam down on me. My pace slowed more at mile 11. I tried every mental game in the book: only 2 miles left, you’ve gone this far, cranking my favorite playlists, my favorite song, encouraging myself, scolding myself, dedicating the miles to my coach, etc. I pushed and willed my legs to move faster, but the damn time on the clock kept getting higher, instead of the other way around. I dumped the other salt packet down my throat and prayed I could just finish the race. Another hill came and I could no longer see the 2-hour pacer.

We hit the last mile and it turned into a game of Just. Keep. Running. I only talked to myself about the next .05 of a mile, telling myself to forget about the rest. Run the next .05. That’s manageable. You can do that. One foot in front of the other. If you get to a downhill, then you know you can do .1 of a mile. Forget about the rest. Eventually the finish line will show up; just focus on the next .05.

It got really scary in the last mile. A lot of runners simply dropped like flies, passed out in the middle of the course.  I was sprinting my heart out (or at least, I thought I was). I couldn’t force myself to move faster. My legs felt heavy, my head was spinning, my stomach was in knots and I felt like I was going to throw up. I told myself to just keep going. You can’t stop when you’re this close to the end. The faster you run, the faster you’re done. It’s OK if you feel like you’re going to vomit. It means you’re working hard. You’re almost there, Sam. Ignore your stomach. RUN.

And then I threw up.

I’ll spare you the details, but it happened at 12.63 miles, with less than half of a mile to go. Luckily, I was on the side of the road already (I tend to stick to the right side of the course) and there was a gap in the crowd. I kept telling myself I wasn’t actually going to puke; I just felt like I was. With less than half of a mile to go, I just needed to push a little harder and I’d be done. And then I lost it. I blame the damn Gatorade. I shook my head, held back my tears and started to jog again. Fortunately, someone in the crowd had a bottle of water they let me have (thank you again!), so I rinsed my mouth and kept moving. Focusing on .05 at a time, at this point, I just didn’t want to pass out. My A and B goals were gone; I just needed to finish.

I saw the finish line and pumped my arms and legs as hard as I could to get there. I’m sure I looked like I was dying and in no way do I think I’m going to have any sort of attractive photos from this race. But I made it. I didn’t see Dustin and Dad as I crossed, but they were there once I was in the corral. I immediately started sobbing and forced my arms above my head to keep from crumbling to the ground.

So yeah, I didn’t get my sub-2:00. In fact, I ran my second slowest half-marathon. But I’m completely OK with that. I gave this race every single thing I had. I didn’t even let myself think about DNFing, and even when sub-2 was long gone, I kept repeating it to myself so that I would move as fast as my legs would take me. I finally know what it feels like to push my limits and leave every single thing I have out on the course.

And the other great part? I now know for a fact that I have a sub-2 in me. Someone get me to a flat course with slightly cooler weather and I know I can crush that time. I wasn’t so sure of that going into Nashville, but I’ve left more confident in my body’s abilities than ever before.

What about you? Did you race this weekend? A ton of my friend’s KILLED it this weekend on the pavement. Send me links to your recaps, or just tell me all about your adventures!

Country Music Half-Marathon Goals

It’s almost time to race! But before we get to goals, here’s how the rest of yesterday went down:

After two flights and a one-hour layover in Charlotte, I arrived in Nashville with Dustin. My dad and step-mom were waiting for us at security.

He’s so cute, isn’t he? Like father like daughter 😉

Oh, and that picture isn’t staged. Dustin whipped his phone out to take a picture because he knew I’d like it for the blog. Also, I’m as white as a ghost.

We immediately went over to the expo so I could pick up my bib and check out the other goodies floating around. I nabbed some nuun samples (hydrate!) and munched on the other goodies floating around.

I also became a sucker for marketing and signed up for the Disney Wine & Dine Half-Marathon. I’ve been contemplating it for a few weeks, but once I saw that processing fees were eliminated, I hopped on board. Dustin nodded approval, the race is eight days before my birthday, the price goes up in a few weeks and today was payday, so there really was no chance in hell I was going to say no. I guess I’ll be experiencing my first night race (start time is 10p.m.) this fall!

And then the next most important thing happened: food. I’m taking my pre-race carb loading serious this time around. First, I wolfed down a monstrous Brooklyn bagel with triple berry cream cheese (hey, there’s fresh fruit in there!) at the airport. I wish I could say I only ate half, but then I’d be lying. In fact, I ate all of mine and a little bit of Dustin’s, too. I blame it on the fact that I usually eat breakfast once I wake up and today I had to wait a good hour and 45 minutes before inhaling any carbs. No bueno.

Dad took us to Applebee’s for lunch, which I have quite the soft spot for. I shared boneless buffalo wings with Dustin (my fave) and the fiesta lime chicken dish with a blue moon on the side. Luckily, I have a pretty strong stomach so I don’t have to be too careful about what I eat the day before the race.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hotel. I made sure not to walk around too much so that I have rested legs and my foot is ready to go. I iced my foot before bed and slipped on the oh-so-sexy hot pink compression socks so they could work their magic while I got my beauty sleep.

Dinner was originally scheduled to take place at Maggiano’s because I requested an Italian feast, but there was an hour and a half wait. It was getting close to my bed time, so we quickly left. All of the local spots we wanted to try had the same problem, so we ended up at the Olive Garden. I had one breadstick, a small portion of salad and three-quarters of my monstrous plate of ravioli with marinara sauce. ‘Twas delicious.

My race outfit is chosen (I brought three options) and was laid out last night as if already on my body. My Garmin and iPod are charged and my full-blown country playlist is ready to rock.

So how do I plan on tackling this race? Here are my goals:

A.) Run a sub-2. If that clock reads 1:59.59, I’ll be a happy girl.

B.) Run at least a 2:07. It’s my current PR and I’d like to not run slower than that, if at all possible.

C.) Finish. I’m not underestimating the heat and hills, and I know I’m not running this in my peak physical condition. A lot could go wrong, but good God I need to at least cross the finish line, regardless of time.

This is how I plan on accomplishing at least one of these (or all three!) goals:

  • Hydrating and taking in salt. Usually my salt levels aren’t a concern, but I’ve also never raced long distance in the heat. Dustin will have salt packets and a water bottle with him in case I need some in between water stations. I was going to carry a fuel belt with me, but mine has mysteriously disappeared. I tore apart my bedroom last night but still can’t find it. I’m comfortable going water station to water station because that’s what I’ve always done, but Dustin will have extra stuff on hand, just in case. Anyone running in the heat tomorrow, remember, if you’re running but not sweating, that means your body is overheating. Get some salt and water in you, stat.
  • Not psyching myself out on the hills.  Every single time I told someone which race I was trying to sub-2 on, their eyes opened wide and they said some variation of, “Oh, wow. Um, I’ve heard it has a lot of hills.” Yes, I’m aware of that. And it will probably suck. But when I brought it up to Abby, she said, “Screw the hills. You’ve been training in Central Park. And you know what? If it goes uphill, it has a downhill. Focus your energy on powering up the hill, then cruise the downhill.” I agree with all of those things. You so smart, coach!
  • Pacing myself. This means not going out too fast, which I am notorious for. I get so excited and caught up in the crowds. I see a great split for the first mile and I think, “Woohoo, I’m a rock star!” Yeah, OK, Sam. Things are fantastic and then….I poop out. Womp womp.  But not this time! My plan is to find the 2:10 pace group and stick with them for the first mile or so, then push ahead when I’m comfortable and not so high on life.
  • Running hard. I’m breaking the race into 5Ks: first 5K, stick to a comfortable pace around 9:05-9:10. Second 5K: Hover around 9:00-minute miles. Third 5K: Pick it up so I’m feeling uncomfortable the entire time, aiming for 8:45-8:50 paces. Fourth 5K: Maintain that uncomfortable pace, but push harder. I probably won’t see a time increase, but I need to push harder to stay at the same pace. Last mile: BALLS TO THE WALL. Sprint as hard as I can, leaving it all out on the pavement, feeling like I want to give up, vomit or die. Doesn’t that sound pleasant?
  • Remembering why I’m running. This race is going to be tough for me. I know it is. I’ve never pushed myself to truly race before and I need to mentally stay in the game and be OK with being uncomfortable. Too often I don’t give myself enough credit and think I can’t maintain a faster pace because it feels uncomfortable. Remember, Samantha, it’s not supposed to feel comfortable. Running is easier than racing. I can do this. And when I really think I can’t, I’m going to remember exactly why I’m running this. It’s personal and all sorts of secret for now, but I’m sure I’ll go over it in the recap.

And there ya have it, friends. Yes, I have an injury and am not in the best shape to tackle this race. But I’m ready to push harder than I ever have before. If I come out with a sub-2 PR attached to my name, I’ll be stoked. But honestly, the best part of this race is that my family is there. My dad has never seen me run and I know I’m going to tear up seeing him cheering for me on the sidelines. No matter what the outcome, I’m going to enjoy this weekend.

Who else is racing in Nashville? Rodney Atkins and Gloriana are rockin’ the stage post-race and you know I’ll be there. Good luck and get your country on!