How to make (real life) friends and alienate blog readers

In case you hadn’t realized it already – and I won’t be offended if you didn’t realize it at all – let me draw attention to the fact that my blog activity has been almost non-existent for the better part of the past 6 months or more. On the bright side, I did at least manage to write a post whenever I ran a race to keep with running blogger tradition and I didn’t let my domain name expire. I take my victories where I can get them.

The greatest reason for my absence merits its own post. Surprise! It’s not a post completely blowing how busy I’ve been out of proportion. Let’s be real, I haven’t been that busy.

Busy Meme

I’ll start from the beginning.

For a long time – round about 4 years – I ran a lot of miles mostly alone. And it was nice. I am a pretty introverted person so I don’t dread the notion of exercising for two hours alone with my own thoughts and some (subjectively) good music. I grew to love running on my own, did 20 mile training runs alone, and made some really obvious improvements in speed and ability by forging my own path and having only me to hold myself accountable for my training.

But when I came home from my solo runs, at some point I found I needed an outlet to spout off at the mouth about the highs and lows of running and training. And that is how this blog became a regular part of my life. I loved coming here and to my social media accounts to say what was on my mind (which, let’s be honest, more often than not has to do with running) and have people chime in with comments. I also loved reading and seeing other peoples’ experiences online and how much I could relate to them. All of that, without ever having to step out of my comfort zone and have awkward interactions with people face to face.

Sometime last summer, around when I was finding myself in a bit of a running rut, the online interactions weren’t feeling like the same outlet that they used to be. And on top of that, I was desperately needing some real live motivation to get myself back into a good place with running after returning from a minor injury and feeling like I had lost so much of my fitness.

So I ultimately stepped out of my asocial comfort zone and found that motivation. I started tagging along with the Bull City Track Club – a team of runners put together by my favorite local running store, Bull City Running Company.

BCRF 3

After the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon.

As I met more new people during group runs and races, I found out that I was not nearly as shy and uncomfortable conversing with new people while running as I was standing still. Who knows why. But it helped me find a really amazing group of (real life) running friends.

Since I started running with friends multiple times a week and have generally spent more time around people who share my running obsession, I have more than enough in-person outlets to spout off to about the highs and lows of running and training. So I think, as a result, my motivation to write blog posts has taken a real hit.

I’m glad that the blog has taken the backseat. Because the new real life friends that I have found in the meantime are pretty fantastic. They’ve renewed my love of running and pushed me to run better than I thought I could.

BCRC

Having all the fun at the Greater Triangle Beer Mile.

While I am not sure if/when I will ever get back to the habit of writing posts multiple times a week, I am going to try to save a little more of my thoughts and time to put toward keeping the blog more active in the coming months.

Thanks to all who are still reading for sticking around!

Do you prefer to run with friends or run solo? 

The 2014 Richmond Half Marathon

After a (mostly) great experience at the Richmond Marathon in 2013, I knew I wanted to come back and run this race again. I love that it is such a big running event but still seems to flow as smoothly as any small town race that I have run. And spending a weekend in Richmond always gives me a chance to spend time with my family.

This time around, I chose the half marathon since I had sworn off marathons for the remainder of 2014. And I was truly excited to sign up for the half. Since I hit the wall around mile 19 of the full marathon last year, I wanted to get a chance to really enjoy every mile of the race this time around and the half marathon is easily the most fun distance for me. To add to the excitement, a best friend of mine from high school decided to run Richmond as her first half marathon. I was really happy to be able to spend time with her and be a part of her first half marathon experience.

Of course, there’s no way everything can go according to plan. And in the week leading up to race day it became obvious it was going to be a VERY cold morning in Richmond (in the upper 20’s around the starting time). I obsessed over what I should or shouldn’t wear for multiple days.

After much debate, on race morning I stuck with my stubborn side’s inclination to wear shorts, my Bull City Track Club jersey, arm sleeves, gloves, and ear warmers. It was cold but really not bad at all after a few miles in. Amelia and I got there somewhat early and jogged around the start in throwaway sweats for a while which got us pretty warm.

My estimated finish time put me in the front corral so with 15 minutes left until the start I gave Amelia a hug and found a place in my corral to keep warming up. My watch decided to test my nerves and absolutely refused to catch a signal before the start. When the start came and it still hadn’t gotten with the program, I thought I was going to have to run watch-less. But, finally, a tenth of a mile in I heard it beep and come to life. A huge relief.

My goal for the race was to run a PR – under 1:43:30 – or even, if things went magically, get my first finish under 1:40.

I started at a pace that was fast enough to PR (around 7:42 per mile) but not sub-1:40 speed. I didn’t want to crash and burn at the end and lose the chance to PR, which is what I did in the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon just a month ago. The first 4 or 5 miles I wondered if even a PR was going to happen, though. My legs felt fatigued even though it was early in the race. The first three miles were also a bit dull running straight down one road through the city. Mentally, I wasn’t feeling very positive at all.

Richmond 2

The next chunk of miles (5-8) I got a little more comfortable and confident that the PR was going to happen. We ran through a park and some residential areas and the changing leaves were so bright in some areas it was breathtaking. Mile 8 was hard (and my slowest mile) but I was still hovering at the same 7:42 per mile average pace. I felt like I could hold onto it but not like I could pick it up any faster. So I had kind of let go of the sub 1:40 idea.

Around mile 9 was a huge turning point. I don’t know what sort of good running karma I earned to deserve it, but so many things happened seemingly all at once that totally changed my mentality, and the outcome of my race…

  • Bull City Running Company, the local store that sponsors Bull City Track Club, had set up a huge display of Durham running signs on the side of the street. It was so good to see some familiar signage at this point.
  • A friendly stranger named Amanda came up from right behind me, told me my pace was awesome and how much I was helping her keep her goal pace. We ran together for a little bit until…
  • I saw another bright orange Bull City Track Club jersey ahead but couldn’t figure out who it was. So I picked it way up to catch them and say hello. Turns out it was a teammate I had yet to meet named Jen.
  • Another teammate, Jennifer (who I also hadn’t met), was right near by and introduced herself to me. She had been near me a lot of the race and even waved a few miles earlier but she was wearing a different top so I didn’t make the connection.
  • I saw some other familiar faces from the Durham running crowd out spectating. They were speeding by on the sidewalk riding on ElliptiGOs cheering like crazy. You can’t ask for better motivation than that.

By the time all this happened it was mile 10ish. All the motivators had me picking up speed without even noticing it. I looked down at my watch and suddenly my average pace was 7:38 per mile or so.

Jennifer picked up the pace and started to move ahead and I chased after her. I did my best to keep her in my sights for the entire last three miles and was completely amazed by what was happening. It was the last three miles of a half marathon, my pace was ticking faster and faster (as opposed to the usual slower and slower), and I was having fun and feeling surprisingly good.

Richmond finishes on a notoriously steep downhill. I knew that was coming so I pushed myself hard up to it. I was so thankful for that downhill too, because my calves were on the verge of cramping completely by the time I got there. But all my legs had to do was not give out and take advantage of the gravity for a speedy finish.

My chip time was 1:39:39. Almost a 4 minute PR and breaking below the 1:40 mark for the first time. I couldn’t be happier with it!

The thing I am probably most proud of is my split times. Every mile from mile 8 on was progressively faster and miles 9 through 13 were my fastest miles of the whole race:

Mile 1: 7:44
Mile 2: 7:40
Mile 3: 7:41
Mile 4: 7:39
Mile 5: 7:39
Mile 6: 7:42
Mile 7: 7:39
Mile 8: 7:48
Mile 9: 7:32
Mile 10: 7:29
Mile 11: 7:26
Mile 12: 7:18
Mile 13: 7:04

Richmond 1

Amelia also had an amazing first half marathon result and finished in 1:46! A cold but successful day in Richmond and I couldn’t have asked for a more fun weekend!

What’s the coldest temperature you’ve ever raced in?

Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon

About a week ago I ran the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon in Durham. Going into the race, I didn’t have a specific plan I was going to stick to. Since I’m running two half marathons this fall, I have generally decided I would be happy with anything under 1:45 in both of them and would love to set some sort of solid PR in one of them. Bull City Race Fest was easily going to be the more difficult of the two since it is a hilly course and Richmond is practically flat. But before race morning I decided I would start out somewhere just under 8:00 per mile and see how it went and adjust accordingly.

I met up with friends from Bull City Track Club before the start. Ever since that time I was late to a race start I have a lurking paranoia of race tardiness so we got there over an hour ahead of time. It was chilly out but as the sun came up it turned into perfect race weather. There was plenty of time to use the bathroom, check our bags, and then take yet another, more hurried trip to the bathroom and run back to our starting spot.

The race started nearly five minutes early. Yes, five minutes EARLY. I’m pretty sure this is something that has never happened in the history of all races. Everyone was amazed (and/or kind of mad). The world may have even stopped spinning.

The race started in downtown Durham and there were immediately a number of little, rolling hills. When I first checked my watch I was at around a 7:45 pace. A little fast, but not necessarily too fast. As we left downtown and headed into the more residential areas I settled in and was steadily keeping it between 7:48 and 7:50.

BCRF 1

The easy highlight of the race was somewhere in the 6 mile-ish area when I saw my all time favorite Durham fixture. There’s an old, bearded man with a potbelly who I see absolutely every day walking by my office wearing no shoes, no shirt, with his dog ‘Happy’ in tow. Sure enough, he and Happy were standing on the side of the race course watching the runners pass by. Pretty much made my day. It’s the little things.

As we left the residential area and headed toward Duke University East Campus I was feeling less than perfect. I dealt with a side stitch and felt a bit worn down but was somehow staying within that same 2 second pace window the whole time.

Leaving East Campus during mile eight there was a fantastically fast and long down hill and it lent itself to my second wind. My average pace was still hovering around 7:50 into mile 9 and beyond and, for the first time, I felt some confidence that I could keep it going to the finish. After all, what’s three more miles?

But that’s when the soul-sucking hills made their appearance. The small and manageable rolling hills from the first three miles were nothing compared to the seemingly endless and steep hills during the last three miles. It was rough, and from mile 10 to the end I was just desperate to finish and my steady 7:50 average pace started to crash and burn.

I was able to pick up a little speed during one last, good downhill before a long straight and, of course, up hill finish. Usually I am able to manage a pretty strong finishing kick but, this time, not so much.

I finished in 1:43:58 and was 16th out of 280 in my age group. I was happy to keep it under 1:45 like I wanted and was actually pretty close to my PR time of 1:43:30. I think the whole thing is a pretty positive sign for what I can do at the Richmond Half Marathon in a few weeks.

The race was well-run, minus that whole starting early thing, and it was fun to run through a lot of parts of Durham that were new to me. But easily the best part of the race weekend for me was being able to enjoy it with new friends that I have met through Bull City Track Club. I’ve been running alone for a long time (like, the entire time) and having new friends to train and race with has been such a great contribution to the sport for me.

BCRF 3

Oh, and the other best part of the race was this picture of me at the finish where I look utterly horrified by whatever is on my watch.

BCRF 2

You’re welcome for that.

Run any races recently? How did it go?

Fall race season fun

I’ve been pretty negligent blog-wise over the past few months. It’s a good thing I’ve been doing the occasional race update here and there or else I may have dropped off the map completely.

I’ve been doing some real important things like working, wedding planning, and training. And even more unimportant things like watching too many episodes of Revenge and Breaking Bad and getting completely sucked into Gone Girl. I’m very close to finishing the book so if you’ve read it or seen the movie and are dying to comment about the ending just keep it to yourself until tomorrow, I beg of you.

Somewhere in there, the fall race season crept up on me. I’m running the Bull City Race Fest half marathon on Sunday which should be a good time. I got a free entry for volunteering last year so it was an easy choice to give this race a try. There’s also a food truck rodeo at the post-race party so I would probably have shown up even if I wasn’t running just to eat all the food.

Bull City Race Fest

I’ve heard it’s a pretty hilly course which I’m not REALLY worried about but I’m not NOT worried about. I’ve been doing some hill workouts this training cycle which is beyond shocking for me. You see, usually my game plan is to deliberately hunt down and sign up for races that have no hills instead of attempting to train myself to run up them with any sort of skill.

I also signed up for the Richmond half marathon recently, which is November 15th. I loved the Richmond marathon, so I thought it would be nice to run the half and be able to enjoy the race from start to finish instead of spending a couple of miles in between cursing the sport of running and my poor, aching legs.

AnthemRichmondMarathonLogo

I have no idea how these races are going to turn out. I have progressively felt mentally stronger after spending the last months of summer feeling less than stellar about my training. But I am not so sure where I am physically or how it will translate on race day.

I would love to get close to 1:40 in either one of my fall half marathons, but I won’t be crushed if it doesn’t happen.

How about you fine people: What races are you running this fall? Or, if you think running is just for crazy people (and you’re right), what is something else big you have planned this fall?

The Magnificent Mile 2014

I feel like when my my running distance races comes up in casual conversation the most common question I get (besides “How far is a marathon?”) is “So how fast can you run a mile?” And my answer has always been, “I have no idea. I’ve never tried it.”

My best guess up until a few weeks ago would only have been that I knew I could come in somewhere under 7 minutes and 10 seconds because I tend to run at that pace when I am doing a couple of mile intervals. But I haven’t done a one-and-done, timed mile since something like sophomore year of high school.

I recently started running with the Bull City Track Club and when I heard about the Magnificent Mile, a popular, flat, mile road race in Downtown Raleigh,  through the club’s listserv I thought it would be fun to give it a shot.

I got downtown a while before the 2 PM start with some BCTC members and did about 2 miles worth of warm up. Getting there really early was probably the best thing for me. My body usually needs a mile or two to get with the program so a good warm up was helpful in a situation where I was going to have to set an abnormally fast pace for me right out of the gate.

After watching some of the top runners of the men’s competitive mile start and finish impressively fast (the winner came in at 4:11), I lined up close-ish to the front of the non-elite pack for the women’s competitive mile.

Having no clue what my pace would be, I wasn’t at all sure where to position myself except that I knew I wanted to stay in front of all of the over-eager elementary aged kids that I could potentially trip over. The race started and a couple of them somehow still managed to weave in front of me and trip me up a little in the first couple of feet, but once I managed to not fall on my face and maneuver around them I had a nice open path.

I knew the race would be over before I knew it. I didn’t want to go out too fast but figured that was unlikely since my body and brain are hardwired to cross race starts at paces I can maintain for 13-26 miles. So I took it at what felt like a sprint and focused on keeping my breathing under control.

Magnificent Mile Photo

Not-so-cute race photo for the win.

At the halfway point the clock was reading somewhere just over 3 minutes. I was feeling the first half but still had some left in the tank so I started trying to pass a few people. Once we rounded the last turn and were on the straightaway to the finish my lungs were burning but I was able to just ride the energy of the spectators to the end.

Magnificent Mile Photo 2

I finished in 6:16.6. I placed 6th out of 19 in my age group and 28th out of 196 women

Magnificent Mile was a great experience. It was interesting to try a race distance that was foreign to me and it was really inspiring to see some amazing elite runners perform. Seriously, Cristy Cazzola won the women’s race with a time of 4:41.1, which is utterly mind-blowing to me!

Have you ever done a mile race? Or just timed yourself on a mile just because? How did it go?