Sunday, August 17, 2014

Leesburg 20K Race Report

My face is not included in this selfie because it was (a) salty, (b) red from the heat of the day, and (c) covered with Gu from an exploding Gu-packet incident I'd rather not talk about.
On kind of a whim, I decided to do the Potomac River Running Leesburg 20K race today. I'd never done it before because for the past couple of years I'd been either caught up in fall marathon training (or injured while trying to do fall marathon training), and was too uptight to work a race into the mix. Since I'm not training for a fall marathon this year, I can now be all loose and pop into a race. Besides, I know that PRR puts on great events and that there would be a lot of fun people out there.

"Pop" is not necessarily an accurate word, because Leesburg is almost an hour away. I ended up getting to the porta-potty lines later than I would have liked and thus, this was the first race I've done where I dashed up to the start well after the pack had left. I was not alone in my tardiness, and the announcers were like, "20K runners, just go ahead, get on in there over that starting line," not making a big deal of it at all. And it's kind of fun chasing the pack ("Wait for me, guys!").

The race starts in the old town part of Leesburg (and it's old, y'all -- established in 1722!). It's been awhile since I had been out there, and I was really impressed with how pretty it is and how very easy it was to get around and find parking. I parked a short walk from the start line, made my way to the porta- potties, had a nice chat with the woman in line in front of me, hustled to the start (as you know), and we were off.

After a quick loop around a local school, the course quickly turned on to the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail, a former train right-of-way that was taken over and made into a really great resource for walkers, runners, and bikers (usually all at the same time). I have spent much time on the trail, but not out Leesburg way, so this was yet another reason to give this race a go.

And it was beautiful! The course was fairly flat, the scenery was bucolic and most of the race was shady. This was a good thing, because the unseasonably cool temperatures we'd been enjoying around here were a thing of the past and it was about 80 degrees at the end of the race.

There were bikers who rode along the road you see here and cheer for the runners. I have never seen bikers and runners be as friendly toward each other as they were at this race today.

The water stops were well-manned by local high school cross-country runners who were delightful and energetic. It was so warm, though, I was glad I brought my water belt and only supplemented at the water stops.

Much of the course was out and back, which I liked because you could look at the oncoming runners to try to spot your friends and also cheer at the fast folks who were in the lead. The only negative was that the trail got a little narrow at a few points, with runners going each way and with a few bikes thrown into the mix. But there were few enough runners that navigating was, by and large, very manageable.

Pretty sweet scenery, no?
The last little bit of the race was out in the sun, and I greatly appreciated the guy who sat up on the porch of his townhouse blaring Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and cheering and waving. Hats off to you, sir.

After the race, I ran into Debbie, Bill, Murali, and Ravi, who make up 1/3 of the Ragnar team I will be running with next month! I had not known they would be there, so it was a great treat to see them. I am very pumped to run 200 miles with these folks:

There was plenty of food (fruit, bagels, Gatorade, water, juices, and sodas) after the run, compliments of Harris Teeter. And it was an easy drive home. I was able to put the top down on my car to cool off and had so many endorphins going that I rolled into my neighborhood singing along to A Taste of Honey's classic, "Boogie Oogie Oogie," at the top of my lungs, likely leading passers by to wonder why that poor lady was wailing. 

Come on, you know you want to sing along: 

Friday, August 1, 2014


Every Thursday, my highly motivated friend Melanie P. sends out an email to get a group of us fired up for Saturday's long run. This lady is training for the Chicago Marathon in early October, so her mileage is starting to creep up there. That pack is looking at 16 miles this week.

And I'm going to be running with them, but regarding that 16-er, nope. I decided last week that I was done with that distance and done with marathons.

It was a question that had been lurking for awhile. Part of it was when my podiatrist asked what I was trying to accomplish by running long distances (after yet another flare up of plantar faciitis) and not-so-gently prodded me to consider more spin classes instead. Or maybe it was yet another article about how repeated long distance training can lead to arterial nonsense (here's an example). Or that getting up at dark o'clock so I can do my run before the kids and Jim are rolling has been making me super tired at work.

It's really all of that, I believe. But it boils down to time. Someone posted one of those arterial news pieces up on Facebook, and one commenter pointed out that if she was going to die running, at least she'd die doing something that she loved to do. And I realized, hey, I don't love marathons. At least not after about mile 15. If I was going to see those pearly gates open up, I don't want it to happen when I'm in pain and feel like I need to poop.

All these things had been rattling around in my mind, and I was getting ready for my long run last Saturday, planning to think them all out while I was out there. But then I realized that I didn't need a long run to sort myself out and I got online and switched my November marathon to the half and then I went back to bed. Four marathons is enough.

I'm a little bummed about it. At one time, I thought it sure would be neat to get into Boston (I'd need a 3:55 for that one!) or even beat Oprah's marathon time. (I'm only 2 minutes away from Oprah -- who knows, maybe I'll yet do another long race so I can get it.) But on the other hand, I've got one teenager who is going to college next year, and one who's starting high school. I'm biased, but they are GREAT kids. I don't want to miss out on any of their stuff while I'm recovering from a 3 hour training run, even though I recognize the irony that at this age, they don't want to hang out with me that much.

So I'm jumping off the hamster wheel, sticking to halfs, and leaving the big races to the big dogs. I'd rather do it when I want to than when I have to.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Saturday's Run Recap: Shout Out to Swim Moms (and Dads)!

I braved the humidity and hills for Saturday's long run. It was another 11 miler on the schedule, and this time I took a route through Fairfax that includes a lot of elevation change. Then the route takes me back through my neighborhood, where there were unexpected treats.

It was the last day of swim meets for the local pools. My run took me past the Commonwealth Swim Club, which was hosting a meet and therefore had all the grills warming up by the time I rolled by at about 8:00. As I was drifting by on that delicious smell, I happened to see a caravan of cars headed my way. It was the A-team for another neighborhood pool, Lakeview, heading out to an away meet. Some of the members of this intimidating crew are super awesome runners from my neighborhood, so I got a couple of encouraging honks as they rolled by. This helped me get up and around the last four miles of the run with a smile on my face.

Our kids are not big swimmers, so after a few years on swim team, they moved on to other things. Saturday reminded me of the mountains of respect I have for all the swim team parents, getting up early every Saturday and sweating it out at the long and often thunder-plagued Monday night meets. And that's just for starters! I know plenty of moms and dads who get their li'l fish to extra practices at crazy hours, just so junior can reach a goal. They volunteer, they hang out for hours of practices, they spend big $$ on suits and gear, and they're giving their kids a gift of a lifetime of great exercise habits. My hat's off to those swim folks.

Especially when they honk at me on their way to dominate another team.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

In Praise of an Early Morning Run

Yesterday was a little bit of a milestone: I broke down and pulled out my headlamp for my morning run.

Believe it or not, it's getting to be pretty dark at 5:00 am, particularly if it's cloudy. After a few runs last week where it just felt Super Dark, I thought I'd be safe and bring out the lamp.

Usually it's a winter thing, so it made my forehead sweat a whole lot. And I had enough light to take it off after two miles. But I was still glad I had it.

With it being so Virginia-hot here the last week, I have appreciated early morning running more than ever. I like to get feet on the ground at five (and usually end up getting out the door shortly after five), and once you're out there, it's all good.

You know that if there is going to be any cool breeze to be had that day, you're going to get it.

You can smell the soap, showers, and odd cigarette that go along with people starting their day.

You can wave at the Washington Post delivery guy and the folks who drive the Metrobus route to the Pentagon (they often wave back and sometimes honk!). You can also call out a hearty "Good morning!" to the sleepy commuters, which surprises them quite a bit.

You can mix up your training surfaces by running across the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb.

If you're lucky, you can hear the sweet, sweet song of a sprinkler a few front yards ahead. There is something about the smell of that cool hose water as it sprays down a neighbor's lawn (and your legs).

You feel a little kinship with the other crazies out there with you early in the morning.

You come home to the promise of hot coffee, a hot shower, and if God is smiling on you, a husband who has unloaded the dishwasher.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Oh, Hey, It's Summer!

Yesterday was my first official long run of the fall training season and I was happy to spend it with these people:

That's Melanie, Robert, and Linda, some of my favorite running people. Actually just some of my favorite people, period.
Melanie is training for the Chicago Marathon in October, and she, Robert, and Linda were going 13 miles. I only had an 8 miler on my schedule but decided to add a couple so as to hang out for an extra couple of minutes. And I like to support Melanie, too, but am not as tough as Linda and Robert.

We started in the Reston, VA, area on the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail. Heading east for 5 miles on that thing gets you almost all of the way to Vienna, and I was lucky enough to see some Vienna-ites (or are they Viennese if we're talking about the Vienna in VA?). Joel H., who runs fast, ran by, and my cousin Megan, who also runs fast, happened to be biking fast yesterday. I see Megan almost every time I go run out there and really need to figure out a way to run with her.

Did I mention that it was hot out there? I mean, HAWT! Steaming, people. Muggy, too. It took it out of me; really, I don't know how those other three kept it up for that last three miles. Here's how we looked at the end.

But on the bright side, I gave blood yesterday afternoon, which prompted me to be very conscientious about re-hydrating. Maybe because of that, I feel just fine today. And on my new plan today is a rest day. Amen to that.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Return to the Pool!

Now that the run streak is over, it is time to get serious and start up some marathon training.

I'm doing the Richmond Marathon in November. I did it last year and it's a really, really nice race. To get ready for it, I am using one of Coach Jenny Hadfield's plans which is 20 weeks long. That's a long time! I missed the first week, doing that streak then resting over the weekend from the oft-mentioned streak, but I got started on Monday and it's on, y'all.

The plan I'm following calls for four days per week of running and two of cross training. Accordingly, I got back to the pool yesterday for the first time in about three weeks. Oh, it was tough. Because (a) I don't love swimming, and (b) I finally have made up my mind to figure out how to breathe on both the right and left sides. It took me forever just to get the hang of breathing on my right side (that is to say, at all) and now when I try on my left, I sink. But I have been glued to a great swim website, Swim Smooth, and their terrific info on switching sides. They tell me that after about 2-3 weeks I should catch on to it, so I'm swimming twice a week throughout July, then I plan to switch my cross training to one day of swim and one of biking each week.

And this is why they say marathons are mostly mental. Because you think way too much about this stuff.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Streakin' and Reston Firecracker 5K and Dog Poop

Well, I finished the Runner's World Summer Run Streak and ran at least a mile every day from Memorial Day through yesterday, the 4th of July. Here's how I did:

Those three days where it said I didn't run? I did. I just hadn't figured out the app. I know in my heart that the streak got done! The woman that "won" the summer streak did almost 900 miles in the space of time that I did 134. I bet she didn't have any one mile days. I sure did.

And I got to finish the streak in a fun way at the Firecracker 5K over in Reston VA. It's put on by Potomac River Running, a community running store that puts on some really nice races. I was able to meet up with the Reed fellas -- two of my neighbors who run on their school cross country teams (one in college and one in high school -- they are so fast that I only saw them at the end, after they had finished running) and Debbie, who writes Deb Runs, along with the group of amazing runners that she trains with. Those are some fast mamas and meeting them was a treat.

The weather was a surprising treat, too. Cool and misty -- very unusual for a Virginia Fourth of July. The course was fairly flat, and not too crowded, and the race was pretty uneventful until the last 25 yards or so. I was trying to scratch up some energy to have a little kick at the end when I was passed by a guy with his dog. They pulled in front of me and all of a sudden the dog came to a screeching halt for a "nature call."

I was able to jump out of the way of the dog poop, and caught a glimpse of the owner's face as he was jerked backwards by the stopped dog. He was horrified, and started pulling the dog along with him. The dog was still pooping while trying to run. People were stepping in dog doo right and left. It illustrated why dogs are kind of discouraged during a race.

But it didn't slow me down too much and I finished in 25:43, which is not a PR but it's definitely my second-fastest 5K. As I enjoy my first rest day since late May, I'll take it.