Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Because Where Else Would I Want to Turn 30?!

In case you didn't already know, I am incredibly blessed. And spoiled. But mostly blessed with really cool people in my life who know how to make me feel special. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you've read many of mine and Matthew's running adventures together. What you might not know is that for as supportive as he is in my running, he's even more amazing as a partner.

Besides doing all the romantic, practical, and wonderful things that significant others often do, he also plans a mystery birthday trip for me every year- usually revealing it a few weeks or days before we leave.

When I turned 27, we had a four day Philadelphia adventure- complete with visits to the Liberty Bell, Citizens Bank Park, and a cheesesteak or two. But only from Jim's on South :-)

Side note, I'm an Orioles fan. 

When I turned 28, we spent a few days in Las Vegas- hiking, gambling, and enjoying lots of unique shows. And of course, doing lots of touristy stuff.

You knew this picture was coming, right??

Last year, my 29th birthday, we found ourselves in Riviera Maya, Mexico where we lounged by the pool, climbed ancient Mayan ruins, and ate our weight in plantains- all with an incredible view of the Caribbean Sea.

Truly, this place was paradise.

You might be thinking, "How in the hell could Matthew top the last three years?!?!"

Well folks, Disney. Disney is always the answer- even when you're not sure of the question.

Unwrapping my gifts and figuring out where we're going!

For my 30th birthday, we will be going on a three day Disney cruise to the Bahamas- including a visit to Disney's own island, Castaway Cay- and then we'll be spending two and a half days in the World at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I am smiling from ear-to-ear as I type this :-)

Not only did he book us a stateroom with a veranda on the cruise, he also got us a room overlooking the savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Gorgeous ocean or African animals- either way, spectacular views over a cup of coffee in the morning.

But wait! There's more!

While spending a day at Magic Kingdom, Matthew assigned all our fast passes for Princess Character Greetings. So we'll get to chat with Rapunzel, Cinderella, Ariel, and Anna & Elsa all in one afternoon. And then that evening, we'll dine in the Beast's castle at the new Be Our Guest Restaurant. I literally may burst from happiness.

But most importantly, I'll get to spend a few days in my most favorite place with my most favorite guy- I can't think of a better way to celebrate the start of a new decade. Matthew spoils me rotten with my birthday trip every year. But I know the real reason I'm the luckiest girl in the world- because I get to go through life with him :-)

QOTD: What's the best birthday surprise you've ever received? 

Friday, April 25, 2014

RUNtelligence Giveaway Winner

A big thank you to all of you who entered the RUNtelligence giveaway! I loved hearing all about your recent accomplishments- congratulations all around!

So... the big winner is....

Heather Purkiss!

Again, thank you all for entering. Don't forget, enter the code "sparklyrunner" at www.runtelligence.com to receive 15% off your entire order until April 30th.

Have a great weekend! :-)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pittsburgh Plans

Next weekend, Matthew and I will head out to Pittsburgh, PA for a weekend filled with running and friends. We will be running the UPMC Health Plan/UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5k Run (I think the name is longer than the race!) on Saturday followed by the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon on Sunday. The weekend also features a full marathon, marathon relay, kid's races, and a pet walk.

I've heard that this race is a fantastic event and that the course is beautiful. I've also heard that it's super hilly. Either way, I'm looking forward to a new course in a relatively new city. I've only been to Pittsburgh twice, both times for work, and didn't have a lot of time to enjoy the city. What better way to get to know the lay of the land than by running 13.1 miles through it?

Besides all the running, which I know will be awesome, I am really excited about getting to meet up with some friends from twitter. Lauren, Steff, Jeff, and I all met up the mornings of the half and full marathon in Disney this year and we'll all be in Pittsburgh next weekend. Steff is running the half and Lauren and Jeff are running the full- by the way, rock star Lauren is running Big Sur Marathon this weekend and then running the Pittsburgh Marathon the next. She's crazy amazing. We'll also get to meet up with Chelsea, whom I haven't met yet, but is 1/5 of our team for the Akron Marathon Relay. Oh yeah, did I mention that we're running Akron this year? :-)

So, Lauren, Steff, Jeff, Chelsea and me are running the Akron Marathon on September 27th and then driving to Pittsburgh to run The Great Race 10k the next day, September 28th. Matthew will run the Akron Half Marathon and I think we'll be able to start together because I'm running the first leg of the marathon. Pretty neat. Oh yeah, and Nathan- another friend from Disney- will be coming up from his home in Florida to run the Akron Half. It's going to be an awesome fall weekend!

Running reunions with these beautiful people in May and September! Excited!

Anyway, back to Pittsburgh. In addition to our tweeps, we'll also get to hang out with some of Matthew's friends from college/grad school and some of his former colleagues. And for even more friendship-time-extravaganza, a group of students and faculty from Shippensburg University (where we both went to school and now work) will also be running in the various races in Pittsburgh next weekend. So basically, the extrovert in me cannot wait to get to Pittsburgh, even though the Ravens fan in me is a little mad for being so excited :-)

My new shirts from RUNtelligence just came in the mail yesterday- I'll probably end up wearing each one for the Pittsburgh races. I'm hoping for nice, spring-like weather (50 degrees would be perfect) so I can just wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. I don't plan on trying to PR either of these races. I've heard the course can be challenging and honestly, I just want to enjoy both of the races and earn the title, "Runner of Steel."

Yay for clever sayings and comfortable tech shirts!

Also, my RUNtelligence giveaway is still going on- and if you use the code "sparklyrunner" at checkout, you'll save 15% on your RUNtelligence order until April 30th- just in time for your spring races!

Overall, I think we'll come home from Pittsburgh with tons of new memories and hopefully, lots of new running friends.

QOTD: What do you look forward to most about a new race?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Celebrating with a RUNtelligence Giveaway!

Happy Friday!

Let's start the weekend off right- with a giveaway :-)

Last week, this blog reached a pretty neat milestone- 10,000 views! Wow! Never in my wildest dreams did I think my little corner of the internet would be viewed 10,000 times. Thank you for reading this blog and sharing this journey with me.

It's my personal belief that all milestones should be celebrated. For every "first" race/longest distance I've completed, there's always been a celebration to mark the occasion. No matter where your fitness or running level is, setting goals and accomplishing them should be marked with fanfare.

So, let's celebrate our accomplishments together!

Larry Herman, fellow runner and owner of RUNtelligence, has graciously donated a shirt to give away to my readers in honor of this blog's milestone! You might remember that I first found out about RUNtelligence at the Chambersburg Half Marathon where I picked up an awesome shirt for the Shamrock Half Marathon.

This shirt brought me lots of compliments and luck! I PR'd the half wearing it :-)

From the RUNtelligence facebook page:
"Don't just run...wear what you're thinking! You aren't boring and blank. Why is your shirt? These are high quality, moisture-wicking' technical fiber, cotton-feel, snarky-saying shirts that you will love wearing and running in. You're better...dress like it. RUNtelligence."

Not only are RUNtelligence shirts clever, they are also a dream to run in. They function like a traditional tech shirt but feel softer- like a cotton shirt. It wicked the sweat away and felt super comfortable at the same time. I've already ordered two more for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon weekend where I'll be running the 5k and the half.

My favorite is "This seems like a lot of work for a free banana."

Larry (because he's awesome!) has also given all of my readers a code for 15% off your order until midnight on April 30th. Just enter "sparklyrunner" at checkout to get the discount.

To be entered in the raffle to win a free RUNtelligence shirt, just fill out the giveaway information below. This raffle will close at midnight on Friday April 25th and you can tweet once a day (until 4/25/14) to earn more entries.

So, please tweet/comment with your recent milestone and let's celebrate together! :-)

*Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. I only endorse products that I have used and actually purchased :-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

To Dopey, or Not To Dopey?

Even though it feels like the Dopey Challenge was just yesterday, it's already time to register for 2015. Early registration starts today; the general public can sign up starting on April 22.

Matthew and I have had many long conversations about whether or not we want to go Dopey in 2015. Just a few months ago, the answer was easy- absolutely! However, after we really starting looking at our calendar, finances, and sanity, we are considering not going Dopey in 2015.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my dad is coming down to Walt Disney World with us to run his first marathon. Matthew and I are so excited to run this with him. And we're pretty pumped that we'll have family with us in Orlando to celebrate, just like we did last year with Matthew's parents. Because of this, we'd really like to spend more time actually vacationing in Disney next year for Marathon Weekend. Last year we spent seven days at the World and only one day in the parks. Bummer.

Last year's trip also required a full week off from work: Wednesday- Tuesday. With a limited amount of vacation days, we have to be more judicious in how we spend them- especially when trying to balance other out-of-town races and actual non-racing vacations. And of course, Dopey is not an affordable race challenge. Last year we paid $495 each for registration- this year the cost is up to $530.

In a perfect world, we'd have unlimited funds and unlimited vacation days so we could spend two weeks in Disney for Marathon Weekend. But here in the real world, we have to find a way to make it work that makes sense for us.

I think 2015 will be the year we conquer the Goofy Challenge. By choosing to go Goofy, we can accomplish all that we want to with next year's Marathon Weekend trip. We'll have more time to enjoy the parks without having to be in bed each night by 7:00 pm. We'll be able to save some money on race registrations and hotel/food costs by flying in a day or two later.

While we will miss the glory of running all the races and having all the bling, I think we can still enjoy and challenge ourselves with Goofy. This year is all about balance and finding joy in the miles- I think this plan will help us accomplish both.

It's also important to mention that my dad wants to do the 10k. So it looks like we'll be doing 3/4 races and end up just 3.1 miles away from Dopey finishers. I think we're ok with that. We'll still be able to fly in a day later than last year and we'll be able to save some money. And I think being Inaugural Dopey finishers will help us rationalize not doing it in 2015.

Also, I should add that the Goofy medal is so freaking awesome this year because it's the tenth anniversary of the challenge. It spins:

Half on one side, full on the other.
Photo courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog

Do I think we'll be a little sad that we aren't doing Dopey? Yes. I think it would be weird if we weren't sad. But, I think we'll use 2015 to create some really cool memories that will be just as cool as our 2014 Dopey Challenge experiences.

QOTD: Are you planning to run any of the races at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in 2015?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Race Recap & Review: Sole of the City 10k

On Saturday, me, Matthew, and my dad ran the third annual Sole of the City 10k. This is one of my most favorite races and I was so pumped to run it again. I also had my eye on a new 10k PR because I've been getting faster during my mid-week runs: three training runs last week with paces of 9:47, 9:38, 9:36. Crazy, right?!

Anyway, Matthew and I drove down to Maryland on Friday night. With the race starting at 9 am on Saturday we wanted to make sure we got enough sleep. Dad had picked up our packets on Thursday from the running store that sponsors this race, Charm City Run. With this race, we had the option to just buy the 10k for $40 or purchase the race and the Under Armour premium for $75. Dad got the premium and Matthew and I decided to pass on the jacket when we registered. However, once they posted pictures of the premium, I wanted one :-) Shout out to Deirdre at the Baltimore store for hooking me up! I called her on Friday and she put one on hold for me to pick up after the race.

Gray is the men's pullover, black is the women's.

How could I pass up this awesome premium?

Saturday morning, we got up, got dressed, and were in the car by 7:30 am. We had about a 40 minute drive to the race so we figured we'd get there around 8:15. That didn't quite go as planned. Once we got close to the race site (at about 8:20), there was a lot of traffic. The volunteers directed us towards large parking lots behind Under Armour's headquarters. Last year, we had absolutely no issues with parking. But this year was awful. There wasn't anyone directing traffic in the parking lots so you had no idea if the lot was full or not- you just had to keep slowly snaking through each lot to look for open spaces.

By 8:45, I was incredibly panicked. We still weren't parked and were at least an eight minute walk from the race start. And I had to go to the bathroom- we'd been in the car for over an hour and 15 minutes. Finally, we saw a spot and grabbed it. It was 8:51. We walked/ran towards the start line. Dad and I considered going to the bathroom in a city alley but we quickly reconsidered once we saw all the police walking around :-)

The national anthem was starting by the time we got up to the start. We made last minute plans on where to meet up at the finish (because we had all planned to run separately) and then Matthew went up closer to the start and Dad and I hung back. My plan had been to run the first three miles with Dad and then try to pick up the pace for the last three. However, with the anxiety-ridden start and my full bladder, I knew I would be reassessing this plan.

At the house, before the panicked race to the start.

Dad and his gf, Margie- our awesome spectator!

Starting under the flag- pretty damn cool.

The gun went off and it was time to go! Dad and I were running 2:30/1 intervals and I was letting him set the pace. Immediately, I knew I wasn't going to PR this race. I made the decision that I was going to finish with dad- today wasn't going to be a 10 min/mile day. Feeling a little defeated, I tried to focus on the new course and enjoying my time with dad.

Charm City Run captured this beauty- I'm adjusting my timer. Dad looks cool :-)

This course was the reverse of what we'd done last year. I actually really, really liked the new version. The first three miles were run parallel to the Inner Harbor and went through some very cute neighborhoods. Then the last three miles followed the inside of the Inner Harbor back to Federal Hill, where we started.

Courtesy of Sole of the City 10k

About a mile into the course, we saw a bathroom! Well, we found a port-a-potty near some construction. Once unburdened, I thought I'd feel better. I didn't. This just wasn't my race.

Our #runningselfie just after the start.

Making our way towards Little Italy. Love the mural on the side of the building.

Dad and I plowed on. We didn't talk during the run intervals- I was just focusing on my music and putting one foot in front of the other. But we chatted when we walked. It was a great distraction from the crappy run I was having. I don't know why, but I just felt horrible. Earlier this week, I had run sub-10 minute miles! And here I was, struggling to keep the pace under 12 min/mile.

Around mile 2.5, we (literally!) ran into a couple of friends. Morgan, who ran the Princess Half Marathon with Matthew and me, was running with her roommate Olivia. They looked awesome! We stayed near them until around mile five. Then I got the worst stomach cramps I've ever had. This was the first time I'd been moved to tears during a race. I still don't know what caused them and I pray I never experience them again. Needless to say, we had to slow down. I felt terrible for making my dad slow down; he was feeling so strong. I felt like I was holding him back. This was eerily similar to the race we ran together a few weeks ago. I have got to figure out why my training runs are awesome and my races are not.

Morgan and Olivia getting it done!

Finally headed back towards the Inner Harbor.

Awesome view of Federal Hill.

All through mile five I was struggling. These stomach cramps were kicking my ass. It also didn't help that there had only been two water stops on the course and it was a semi-hot day- temps reached the mid-70's. I knew I was dehydrated and could have used one more water stop on the course. This was a complaint I heard from several other runners at the after party. Yes, I know it's only six miles, but with the sun beating down on you and 70 degree temperatures, you still need to hydrate well.

Finally around mile 5.5, we started up the large hill towards the finish. In last year's course there was a ridiculously steep hill just at the end of the course. To improve it for this year, they changed the route so the incline was spread out over a longer distance. Either way, hills suck.

We kept inching along until we finally saw the finish. Gritting my teeth, with tears in my eyes, I ran across the finish with my dad. Official time- 1:14:55. Matthew and Margie were there cheering us on and taking pictures. Matthew had grabbed us each a water. We walked through the end of the chute and went right to the beer line at the after party :-)

Kudos to Matthew for getting this amazing shot of me and dad finishing!

10k finishers!

While Margie, Dad, and Matthew waited in line for beer, I ran over to the Charm City Run store (the after party was at McHenry Row- a strip-mall type shopping plaza) to pick up my premium. Chaos doesn't even adequately express what the store was like. There were tons of people in a seemingly endless line waiting to check out. After about 20 minutes (there were only four people in front of me- I have no idea what the hold up was), I finally got up to the register to pick up my jacket. It took less than 30 seconds once I was finally able to get to the counter. In the future, they need to figure something else out for that store- more cashiers/cash-only lines-  anything to prevent all those lines and all that waiting.

By the time I made it back to my family, they were on beer #2. While I started on my first beer, we chatted with a bunch of different friends that had ran the race. We saw Morgan again who immediately asked, "Do I make the blog?!" :-) And I got to reconnect with a friend from high school who I'm pretty sure I haven't seen in 10+ years. We also saw our friend Justin for the third time in three weeks- he also ran the Mission 10 Miler and the Brigance Brigade 5.7k.

Me and Chris; Me and Morgan; Me, Justin, and Matthew. Love our running friends.

Since we had other plans that day to visit a winery, we weren't going to stay too long at the after-party. We decided to go pick up our free food, courtesy of The Green Turtle. By the time we walked down to the food, there were just some wraps and green bananas left. We grabbed a few things and started to walk back to the parking lot. Then I had a small, slightly inappropriate fangirl moment for......a local weatherman! Justin Berk (my all-time favorite meteorologist) was literally just a few feet from me! I giggled like a little girl and asked him for a picture. I think Matthew was embarrassed for me :-)  Luckily, Mr. Berk agreed and I got my picture.

Can you tell how excited I am??

We made our way back to the Under Armour parking lot to get the car. When we got there, we realized what a mistake we'd made. Literally ten feet from where we'd parked were two port-a-potties! We could have gone to the bathroom before the race, eliminated 90% of our stress, and not wasted at least three minutes on the course had we just seen these port-a-potties and used them when we got out of the car. Lesson of the day- never be so anxious that you miss what is literally right in front of you.

What was awesome about this race: The premium, the unlimited free beer (no one was taking tickets or checking bibs), free food, after-party entertainment (two bands), improved course.

What was less than awesome about this race: Parking, lack of water stations, crazy crowds at the Charm City Run store.

Will I do this race again? Absolutely! This is a course that I love, in the city I love, with people I love- I'll be back for sure. Next year I'll leave more time for parking and carry my water with me :-)

What I wore:
Sparkle Athletic visor in Gunmetal
Under Armour Women's Tech Short Sleeve V-Neck in Black
Fila Skimmer Pants in Maui
Hoka One One- Kailua Trail in Lime

QOTD: Have you ever arrived to a race later than anticipated? Did it impact your performance?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sparkly Runner's Ultimate Playlist Part I

Ok, ok, so this might not be the ultimate playlist, but it's gotten me through lots and lots of miles. I wish I could say that I was one of those hardcore runners that doesn't need music to work out. But sadly, I am not.

Music has always been a big part of my life. Both of my parents are musically inclined- I have fond memories of my dad playing the guitar while us three kids sang along. All of us ended up in chorus/band/theatre. My brother is actually a music performance minor/performing arts major- I think he's pretty talented :-) You can see some of his work here.

I've always believed in the power of music- it's what I turn to on my best- and worst- days. It's almost like therapy. So naturally, music has a significant role in my running. Since I started running/racing, I've found what songs work for me. Some distract me, some make me move faster, some just motivate me.

My taste in music is....eclectic. There are nine hours of music on my ipod, mainly because I always like to have a different playlist when I run. Hence the name of this post; it's labeled "Part 1" because there will be more in the future. The following list is just a small sample of my ridiculous playlist. Maybe something here will interest you, maybe you'll just judge me :-) Either way, enjoy!

Sparkly Runner's Ultimate Playlist Part I (aka, Some of My Favorite Songs to Run To)

Britt Nicole, Gold

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Runnin' Down a Dream
The Ting-Tings, Shut Up and Let Me Go

Janelle Monae, Dance Apocalyptic

Fleetwood Mac, Tusk

will.i.am and Nicki Minaj, Check It Out

Michael Jackson, Leave Me Alone

Olly Murs, Dance With Me Tonight

will.i.am featuring Justin Bieber, #thatPOWER

Bastille, Pompeii

QOTD: What's your go-to running song?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring & Summer Training Plans

Here we are. Four months post-Dopey Challenge/my first marathon. And I still haven't pulled together a spring or summer training plan. Whoops!

In looking at my and Matthew's race schedule, our last spring half marathon is Pittsburgh in just 25 days! Then we won't have any races longer than a 10k until at least August. I probably should have started thinking about a more definite training plan to carry me through post-Dopey and into the spring racing season. Again, whoops!

However, we do have some interesting races coming up this summer and fall that I'd like to run just a bit faster and finish just a bit stronger. Up until now, every training plan I've put in place has had the same goal: to finish upright and smiling. The focus has been on the accumulation of miles, no matter the pace. I think I'm ready to turn my running up a notch and focus on getting faster and stronger so  I'm in the market for a new training plan to keep me motivated through the hot months of summer.

I've been exploring both Hal Higdon's intermediate and Jeff Galloway's time goal plans for the half marathon. Both include at least three days of running each week with a few sessions of cross training thrown in. Both also include some speed work and increasing long runs on the weekends. I may end up using some of the methods outlined in these plans to help customize my overall spring/summer training plan.

Since one of my goals is to get faster, I've been exploring a training program designed to do just that. I first read about the FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) training program on a post by the fabulous Christine of We Run Disney- you can read the post here. She used the book, "Run Less, Run Faster" based on the FIRST method to achieve a sub-2 hour half marathon. I've explored some of the training plan online and it basically looks like this- three days of running including speed sessions on the track, tempo runs, and a long run- and then two or three cross training sessions a week.

I like this program for several reasons- it has specific paces for each run of the week so I have a goal for each session. I feel like this will encourage me to challenge myself in a way I normally do not. This program also relies on speed work- something I have yet to really explore in any formal way. And I really like how the cross training days are built in- this means no excuses for me to not be working out a few more times a week. I think this training plan will take my running- and my general fitness- to the next level.

My copy of "Run Less, Run Faster" should be here by the end of the week (Thank you, Amazon) and I'm eager to start reading and customizing a plan to get faster and fitter this summer.

QOTD: Do you use a training plan? If so, which one and why?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Race Recap & Review: Brigance Brigade 5.7k

Yesterday I had the privilege to run the inaugural Brigance Brigade 5.7k in Baltimore, MD. So, you might be thinking- why 5.7k? Here's the history- this race was hosted by the Brigance Brigade, a non-profit organization that supports people living with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). The founders of this non-profit are former NFL player OJ Brigance and his wife Chandra. In 2007, OJ  was diagnosed with ALS and has been working to help others with this disease through his foundation. When he played football, his number was 57, hence the 5.7k distance.

If you want to know OJ Brigance the football player, you can find his record-breaking statistics here. If you want to know OJ Brigance the humble and wonderful human being, start here.

So, to recap- an amazing cause/organization, a unique distance, and an inaugural race- an easy choice for me to run this race.

Matthew and I signed up a few months ago- I believe this race was $30 or $40 each. They kept us updated via email and social media about race details. Earlier this week, we got an email with our bib number and race day details- including where to park for free! In downtown Baltimore! :-)

On Saturday morning, we drove down to Canton Waterfront Park, easily parked the car, and walked over to the Runner's Village.

Lots of signage to get us to the right place.

Love running near the water.

We picked up our bibs- we wouldn't get shirts until the end of the race. We had about 20 minutes to kill so we walked around, went to the bathroom (plenty of port-o-potties), and took some pictures. A few minutes before the start, we walked over to the start/finish line.

Runner's know how beautiful this really is.
The beautiful medals we would receive.

Start line selfie.

Notice the Ravens logo on the bib :-)

Notice the Disney 1/2 Marathon shirt?

After a motivating speech by Chandra Brigance (this event raised over $100,000 for the Brigance Brigade!) and the Star Spangled Banner, we were off- starting up a huge hill is my favorite. Just kidding. But it was a killer hill.

This course basically ran about a half mile to Patterson Park, looped around and through the park, and then back down the hill to the finish line. I knew that Patterson Park was going to be hilly- we'd just done the New Year's Day Resolution Run there a few months ago.

The course itself was pretty fast despite being hilly. The weather was perfect- right around 48 degrees and sunny. I wore arm warmers, capris, compression socks, and a short sleeved shirt. I took the arm warmers off about a 1/2 mile in. I started to get hot around mile one. I probably overdressed a little. I'm still in winter mode for running wear I guess.

I ran this course without a watch. I read an article last week in Runner's World about running by effort and not time/pace so I wanted to try it out for this race. It went surprisingly well! I focused on my effort level, ran 2:30/1 intervals, and ended up pacing 10:53 minute miles. I would have a new 5k PR had this been a 5k! I think I'll be doing this more in the future.

5.7k in pictures:

A nice little incline to get your heart rate up.

Entering Patterson Park.

Patterson Park. 

I really liked these mile markers.

Patterson Park is crazy hilly.

The descent to the finish line!

I crossed the finish, got my beautiful spinner medal, and met up with Matthew and another friend Justin- I also saw him last week at the Mission 10 Miler and we'll see him again at Sole of the City 10k next week! Running friends are awesome.

Me, Matthew, and Justin.

Pretty sweet bling.

Yay for sunshine!

Map My Run stats.

After chatting with Justin, we made our way back to Canton Waterfront Park to pick up our shirts. I was amazed at the quality of the shirt. The premium shirt and the spinning medal really made this race feel special. We would be able to exchange shirts if needed but we'd have to wait about an hour until all the runners and walkers had finished the course. We didn't need to exchange so we took some pictures and headed back to the car.

Happy (and handsome!) finisher.

Just over an hour after the race had finished we received an email with our official results. This was just another example of how much attention to detail there was from the race organizers. Quality premiums, great organization, smooth logistics, no lines at all for shirts or bibs- it was everything you'd want in a race experience. There was also a kid zone with inflatables, different food trucks with food to purchase, and a band playing until early afternoon. It was a fantastic experience and I hope this race comes back as an annual event.

Women's cut shirt and spinner medal. 

QOTD: Do you have a favorite cause to run for? If so, why is it important to you?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reflections: A Year Later

April 20, 2013. The day of the "Sole of the City 10k" in Baltimore. I had been looking forward to this race because I was going to run through the streets of my beloved city with Matthew and roommate at the time, Kelly. I was looking forward to this race because it was sponsored by my favorite running store, Charm City Run, and I knew it would be well-organized with runner's interests at heart. I was looking forward to this race because it would finally be springtime in Baltimore.

Then, just a few days before the event, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed. Hundreds were injured. The suspects had not been apprehended. It was surreal. 

The running community was in a state of shock. How could this have happened? Who could have done such a thing? Why? Will they ever find who did this? I posted this response on facebook:

I still can't seem to wrap my head around the Boston Marathon tragedy. I've stood where those spectators stood. I've followed my runner, cheering him along the way for miles and miles. I've pushed my way through the crowd at the finish line, camera in hand, desperately trying to catch a glimpse of my runner completing the race. I've stood where they've stood.

The marathon is an amazing feat. I've watched several of them. And each time, I'm moved to tears by the runners and their spectators. This sport is about so much more than running. It's about strength, discipline, confidence, determination, hope. Nothing, NOTHING can take that away.

Today the finish line was blackened. But you can't keep the running community down. The athletes, the spectators, the volunteers- you can't take away that spirit.

I'm angry, sad, confused, devastated. I'm praying for those injured, those who lost their lives, and their families. I'm praying for Boston.

All that week, I stayed glued to the news, listening/hoping/praying that the suspects would be captured. On Friday, it seemed like the authorities were close. One suspect was dead; another was believed to be hiding in a Boston neighborhood.

That Friday after work, Kelly and I sat on the couch, not speaking, transfixed by the scene playing out on the news in front of us. Later that night, Matthew had driven down from Philadelphia (where he lived at the time), and then the three of us huddled on the small couch, praying that the authorities would find the suspect and that no one would be harmed in the process. 

Our cable suddenly went out- so we used a radio app on one of our phones to listen in as they finally captured the suspect. I could feel every tensed muscle I didn't realize I was contracting release. They got him. I slept soundly for the first time in five days.

The next morning, April 20, 2013, was beautiful. Sunny, warm, without a cloud in the sky. Matthew, Kelly, and I lined up at the starting line of the Sole of the City 10k. We'd worn Boston Marathon colors (yellow and blue) along with thousands of other runners at the request of the race organizers. A runner was making her way through the crowd passing out yellow and blue support ribbons she'd made. We each took one and pinned it to our bibs.

The National Anthem was sung. There was a moment of silence. Then we started the race by running under an enormous American Flag. 
Photo courtesy of Sole of the City 10k

All along the route, there were police officers directing traffic, keeping us runners safe. I thanked every single one. High-fived as many as I could. I spent that race thinking about Boston, the people and families affected, the running community. There was an energy during that race that I'd never felt before, and have not felt since. 

I try to live my life with a grateful heart- to be thankful for all that I've been blessed with. That day, that race, I was thankful for so many things: the ability to run, the freedom I have because of the country I live in, the police officers that keep me and my family safe. 

It's been almost a year since the Boston Marathon bombings. I will line up at the start of the 2014 Sole of the City 10k next weekend, just as I did in 2013. And I'll run this race thinking about all I have to be grateful for, and praying for those lost or injured, just as I did in 2013. This race has become representative of what I love about the running community- support, solidarity, strength. And I'm looking forward to running it again this year and every year. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Race Recap & Review: The Mission 10 Miler

On Sunday, I completed my first 10 mile race. Let me say this- it was an experience.

As you might recall, my Dad is running the 5th anniversary of Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon with Matthew and me in November. He's also considering the Walt Disney World Marathon for 2015. Now, as some of you know, runDisney recently changed the way it places runners into corrals. Basically, unless you have an official proof of time from a race (10k or longer for a half, 10 mile or longer for a full), you will be placed in the last corral. To avoid this, I decided to find some races to help Dad get a proof of time.

Enter the Mission 10 Miler. This was a semi-local race (about an hour from me in Frederick, MD), affordable ($50), and the proceeds went to a great cause- the Frederick Rescue Mission. With a 10 mile race for proof of time, I knew that Dad would be well on his way to a higher corral for any Disney race- no matter the distance. And this would be a good test for him for the half marathon. And it was another race I could put on my calendar- I'm addicted, what can I say?

Anyway, so this Sunday we woke to temperatures hovering in the high 30's/low 40's and lots of rain. Dad and I had been chatting on the phone throughout the week discussing what we would wear. We both decided on a short sleeved shirt, a long sleeved shirt, shorts, and a hat. However, with the rain starting to freeze, I had some doubts that we would be warm enough in that.

My original plan.

I decided to stop by Walmart on race-day morning and pick up a few more things- I grabbed two Russell Athletic light jackets and two $5 ponchos. By far, best decision I made this week. I left the store and headed down to the race.

I arrived at Harry Grove Stadium at a little after 12 pm to pick up my packet- which was really easy. I got our bibs, shirts, and timing chips and then walked around looking at some of the vendors. It was super cold and was snowing/sleeting- luckily all of this was inside a tent. I asked a volunteer if any of the stadium bathrooms were open- turns out they weren't but she did offer me a cup of the "volunteer only" coffee so that was pretty awesome. A+ for helpful and kind volunteers!

Just look at that beautiful weather :-/ 

In the parking lot near the giant tent.

I headed back to the car to wait for my dad and finish getting dressed. I decided to wear capris instead of shorts and decided to wear my knee high compression socks. I put the jacket on over my long sleeved t-shirt and then put the poncho on over that. I also wore a Nike headband to keep my ears warm and put an Under Armour running hat over that. At the last minute, I had grabbed cheap gloves- I decided I'd take them with me to the start and see how far I got with them.

Dad arrived to the race site (the starting and finish line were right next to the parking lot so that was pretty cool) and we headed to the tent to wait with 550 other runners, desperately trying to stay dry for as long as we could. Neither of us were taking phones or ipods. With it being so rainy/snowy, we didn't want to ruin our electronic devices.

At the starting line, photo courtesy of Frederick Rescue Mission.

Matching Walmart jackets and ponchos!

Finally, at a little after 2 pm, the race started. Dad and I were hoping to keep about a 12 minute/mile pace and finish around two hours. This was Dad's first race in probably 10 years so it was really fun to watch him as he reacted to everything for the first time- all his previous races were 5ks.

Miles 1-3 were actually quite pleasant. The rain had almost stopped and it was actually snowing. It was quite beautiful. We were running on major roads that had a few lanes blocked off for us. There were some rolling hills, but nothing too challenging. The most difficult part of this course was the slush on the road. I felt like we had to slow down a little because the ground was slick with rain water, snow, and ice.

We turned a corner around mile 4 and everything changed. Suddenly, the wind was whipping at us, head-on. It felt like hundreds of small needles piercing my face and my legs! We turned our ponchos around and wore them backward so the hood could cover up the majority of our faces. I remember just looking down at other people's feet during this part- by now the lead runners were headed back to the finish because this was an out-and-back race. Believe it or not, someone was running this race BAREFOOT! Yikes!

Course map, courtesy of Mission 10 Miler

Finally, we reached the turn-around point and would have the wind at our backs. We made two bathroom stops on the way out and our five mile time was 1:03. We both hoped to make up some time now that we weren't fighting that awful 40 mph wind.

On the way back, this race felt super hilly. I was also really tired. I don't know if it was the weather or what, but I just wasn't feeling 100%. Meanwhile, Dad is feeling awesome! I was probably holding him back! We tried to maintain a 12 minute pace so we picked it up a little during our run intervals. Dad wanted to pass some people- which we ended up doing :-)

From miles 5- 8, it rained. Not hard rain, but a pretty steady rain. I couldn't wait to be done. At this point, I could feel my arms starting to get cold and wet. The jacket and poncho were doing all they could- we had been out there for around and hour and a half.

Every water station (there was one about every mile and a half) was iced over- it was insane to see! All the cups of water/mile marker signs/tables were covered in ice. God bless those volunteers- they were clapping and jumping around in freezing rain and snow! Such dedication- again, I don't think I've ever been more thankful for such amazing volunteers in a race.

At last, we saw the mile marker for mile 8. We both agreed to pick up the pace slightly and try to finish as close as we could to two hours. Right about then, the wind changed and was once again, whipping in our faces. The weather was laughable at this point :-)

I mustered all the strength I could and pressed on to the finish. I still can't get over how awesome Dad was doing- he was strong and feeling great. I kept trying to wave him on but he said he wanted to cross the finish line together- I mean really, how blessed am I to have him as a father?

We could see the finish line in the distance. I told him when to sprint and we did- and crossed the finish line together! It was such a proud moment for me- my Dad just ran 10 miles!!!!!! He's such a bad ass!!!!

The volunteers were quick to give us a Mylar blanket-  the first time I've ever got one of those before. Then we got our medals, a bottle of water, and exited the finisher's chute. There was food in the tent but we headed straight to the car to strip down and warm up. Once we stopped running, we were freezing! We finished in 2:06:55. Not my best but certainly not my worst. We finished- and now Dad has a qualifying time for Disney.

Cold but proud finishers! 

Before I changed in the parking lot again (runners have no shame!), I ran into my friend Justin. I first met him through Matthew at Wine & Dine Half weekend 2011- runDisney friends are for life! We had seen each other just before the start too- turns out we both were wearing the same Walmart jacket that we'd both bought that morning- great minds think alike! :-)

Our smiles were just a bit bigger before spending a few hours in the rain!

Dad and I dried off and changed and then headed into downtown Frederick to get something to eat before driving our separate ways home. We ate at a place called Brewer's Alley and it was fabulous! I had awesome french onion soup and goat cheese/caramelized onion/apple pizza. Delicious! Dad and his friend Margie (who was our awesome spectator!) enjoyed some craft beer. I was still shivering so I only ordered coffee. And I was pretty exhausted and would have probably fell asleep at the table if I had a beer- ha!

Enjoying a celebratory beverage.

This was ridiculously amazing.

Will definitely visit this place again soon.

Overall, this race was a wonderful experience- minus the weather. Great course support, awesome volunteers, quality finisher's medal/t-shirt, and very well-organized. I will easily do this race again. The race directors even issued this super-sweet thank you message on their website. I mean, really- how cool is that?! I am already looking forward to next year's event- hopefully late March won't bring snow and freezing rain in 2015!

Thanks for a great race, Mission 10 Miler!

QOTD- What are the worst weather conditions you've ever run in? Would you rather in the cold or the heat?