Monday, May 20, 2013

Frederick Running Festival

Once again I'm late with my race recap. I guess I should stop promising more regular updates. Oh well!

The Frederick Running Festival took place May 4-5. They have a kids run Saturday followed by a 5K, then a half marathon Sunday morning. Anyone doing both the 5K and half can sign up for the "Nut Job Challenge" and get a unique medal for being such a rockstar.

The challenge interested me but I didn't want to pay $100+ when I was already running a half the week before. I guess it was meant to be because I ended up winning a contest that gave me free entry into any race that weekend! Without hesitation I signed up for the Nut Job Challenge.

Everything took place at the Frederick Fairgrounds which is only about a half hour away. We went to the expo on Saturday (where I signed Jack up for his kids run) and then we just stayed for the races. It was very convenient!

Jack did great and got a very nice medal!

After Jack's run (which you can read about in more detail on my other blog) I had to line up for the 5K. Knowing I was coming back to run a half the very next morning, I didn't want to push myself too much. That's hard for me because I get into race mode and I really want to get a good time. I told myself I'd be happy if I finished under 32 minutes.

The course was an out and back with great scenery of some farms in Frederick. It was really nice to run in a new place, hills and all! I felt good but I didn't feel like I was pushing myself, which is how I wanted it. I finished strong and surprised myself with a time of 30:08! I couldn't believe I was that close to finishing in under 30 without even trying!

We went out to dinner and I tried to rest for the half marathon. We left early the next morning and it was great being able to drive straight to the race rather than taking the metro. When we got there I had time to use a port-a-potty and then it was already time to line up at the start. It was chilly so I had on a sweater which I practically threw at Sidney before getting lost in the crowd.

The start was brutal. I ended up staying with the 2:40 (or maybe it was 2:45?) pace group for almost 3 miles. My muscles felt heavy and I started out very conservatively. I didn't have any real time goals for this race except to come in around 2:45. I had just gotten a PR 1 week before and I just wanted to have fun and make it to the finish in one piece.

The sun came out but we were running in shady areas. Then when we were out in the open the clouds came in and it was overcast. I didn't really warm-up until I hit the last 2 miles. I was surprised how cold it was!

We ran through a lot of really nice neighborhoods and around mile 5 there was a house under construction with a port-a-potty in the lawn. I knew someone was in there but there wasn't a line. Just as I was making my way up to it the guy came out and I took advantage of this rare opportunity. No line or wait! I felt much better and as I got into the second half of the race my legs were feeling good. The 2:45 pacers were well behind me and I knew I'd finish with a decent time.

As the miles ticked off I felt better and better. I kicked it up a notch when I felt able to, making sure I was at a pace I could keep for the rest of the race. Somewhere in the last 2 or 3 miles I came upon the 2:30 pacers. And passed them. I was inspired but didn't want to be too hopeful. I had no idea how much time was between their start and mine, but I knew it couldn't have been too much.

I really kicked it up for the last mile and finished with a time of 2:25:48!! That's 5 minutes faster than Nike just 1 week before and I made my ultimate goal of finishing under 2:30!! Such an incredible feeling!!

Showing off my 2 medals:

I couldn't do any of this without the support of my family:

I had so much fun doing this challenge and I'm already looking forward to doing it next year! I proved I can successfully do back-to-back half marathons and do 2 races in 1 weekend. I'm definitely going to make this my main spring half marathon. It's local, family-friendly, has awesome race swag, and it's fun!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nike Women's Half Marathon

I've got some catching up to do and I need to start with Nike while it's still semi-fresh in my mind. The race was on Sunday April 28th with packet pick-up at their expo in DC on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I took Thursday off work so I could get it then.

The expo was at a beautiful place right on the water. I had never been there before and it was nice to see a new part of the city. It wasn't a typical expo like I'm used to with a bunch of different vendor booths, samples, and opportunities to purchase things. Luna bar, which was a huge sponsor, had an area set up with samples of their bars and Nuun was there offering samples of many of their flavors. For the record- I don't care for Nuun! The majority of the expo was all about shoes which, surprisingly, didn't interest me. They did have a bra fitting area which I did and I left with the name and size sports bra I liked the best. Paul Mitchell and Bare Minerals had set-ups and were giving hair and make-up tutorials. They really did a good job gearing it towards women and tried to make it a fun girls weekend!

I ended up making an unexpected trip up to NY for my uncle's memorial service which was held on Saturday morning. After getting home on Thursday I headed out for a 6 mile run then home to eat dinner, pack, and go to bed. We were on the road by 9am Friday morning. Saturday morning we went to the service and after enjoying some time with my extended family, we got back on the road. It was around 2:30 and we got home after 9. I wasn't nervous to run the race itself, but I was nervous about waking up early and getting there in time and then being too tired to run well. I'm really glad we were able to go and be with family though, even for such a short amount of time. And if I had had to, I would've missed the race. I'm grateful it worked out that I could attend both.

The race started at 7am and I was out the door super early. This was the first race I've run in DC where I didn't have anyone waiting for me afterwards. After spending 2 days in the car and because the race started so early, I left my family at home. I didn't want to check a bag so I could only bring what I was willing to carry. I didn't want to freeze while waiting for the race to start, so I went with a short sleeve Under Armour shirt with a fitted long sleeve on top and of course, my Nike capris. I also wore my water belt without the bottles. This was so I had some place to put my key, cash, cards, fuel (including post-race protein bar), etc. I still carried my hand-held bottle with Gatorade and my phone.

After getting there and using the port-a-potty, I entered my corral and was happy I didn't have to wait too long. It was chilly and I was glad I had worn the long sleeves. Despite starting in waves, it was very congested and we couldn't do much more than a walk-jog starting out. I was able to weave through some of the crowd to get into a comfortable jog. It stayed pretty congested throughout the entire race though.

Despite the crowds it was a very enjoyable race! It was pretty flat and there were a good amount of spectators cheering us on. They had Clif Shot Bloks and mini Luna bars at a couple of the water stops which I loved. It was absolutely beautiful and the only part I could've done without was when we went through a long, creepy, smelly tunnel. In the last 2 miles we came up on the Capitol Building and we ended up running right up to it. I hadn't expected to get that close. Despite being a local and having been to DC many times, I was amazed at the course. It seriously couldn't have been better. And for anyone traveling from out-of-town, they really got a good view of the city. If you want to come to DC for a race, this is the one to go for!

As I got into the home stretch, I did what I do best- sprinted! I heard my name and saw one of my running friends cheering me on. So nice to hear "Go Rene!" during those final steps. I crossed the finish line at 2:30:56, taking almost 7 minutes off of my Rock n' Roll time! I was surprised but very happy with the new PR!

Then it was time for the real fun to begin (aka the main reason to run Nike):
It was so cool to see all the men dressed in tuxedos holding trays of Tiffany boxes.

After receiving your goodies, there was a finish line boutique where you could purchase limited edition Nike items. There was a long line but I waited in it and ended up buying a cotton shirt and a very nice hooded sweatshirt. There were quite a few complaints on their Facebook page about various things, the wait for the boutique being one of them. I chose to wait and it didn't bother me. It helped that I was there by myself and didn't have anyone waiting for me. If Sidney and Jack had been there I wouldn't have waited for it.

Posing on the red carpet in my "Finisher" shirt (this was after waiting in line for the boutique so the runners were done and the crowds had cleared):

This was by far the best race I've run in DC. The course was beautiful, the spectators and on-course entertainment was great, and there was a nice variety of post-race goodies (bananas, Thomas bagels, Dole fruit cups, Luna Protein Bars, and even a Tiffany bag to put it all in). And then, of course, there's the Tiffany necklace and Nike finisher shirt. The only thing that would've made this race better is if I had had a girlfriend to share the experience with. Anyone want to sign up for the lottery next year? ;)

I'm not sure I will sign up again because the entry fee is a bit high. But if that weren't an issue I'd do it a dozen more times.

Wearing the shirt I bought along with my new necklace (and a "Mind over Muscle" tattoo on my arm courtesy of Luna Bar)

And before anyone asks, I am planning to take close-up pictures of the necklace. Just haven't gotten around to doing it yet!

Stay tuned for a recap of this past weekend's Nut Job Challenge (5K Saturday night and a half on Sunday). :-)