Thursday, June 26, 2014

Race Recap & Review: Baltimore Women's Classic

On Sunday, June 22, I had the privilege to run in the 38th annual Baltimore Women's Classic. This is the country's second oldest women's race- meaning only women are allowed to participate. After the 5k race, there is a co-ed fun run for children under the age of eight. Men are encouraged to cheer- loudly :-) With a little something for everyone, this race was a really great experience.

I signed up for this race online a few months ago. I believe it was around $40. Having heard rave reviews about the event, I was thrilled it fit into my race schedule this year. Because we had just come back from vacation, we utilized race-day packet pick-up. The race started at 8 am and we got there around 6:45. We had to pay for parking but the race partnered with Parking Panda so we were able to pre-purchase parking a little over a half mile from the start.

Once at the start, Matthew and I were both impressed by the amount of vendors set up. There were probably 20- 25 different companies there, all with women's focused merchandise for sale. After getting my bib and race shirt (super easy, by the way), we wandered over to the port-a-pots to use the restroom. There were tons of port-a-potties (always a plus) and there were tables with free "essentials" for participants: tampons, hair ties, hair spray, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer. Super cool.

We also ran into a former student of mine- Gigi- as she was there to cheer on the runners. That's another thing I loved about this race- lots of opportunities to catch up with running friends!

Thanks for thinking of everything, race directors!

The idea of wearing blue was to stand out so Matthew could easily find me... but the race shirts were blue so tons of ladies were wearing them. BWC- 1, Sarah- 0.

We walked around for a bit and collected lots of free stuff from the vendors. I bought a pair of Maryland Flag Arm Warmers- they are pretty bad-ass. Charm City Run (my favorite running store) was there as well as RUNtelligence. There really was a great selection of vendors to choose from.

Matthew and I eventually made our way towards the finish line to find a place to sit. Since we'd gotten there so early, we had time to kill. Which ended up being awesome because we got to meet up with a twitter friend- Meg! She ran the Mission 10 Miler earlier this year and she was volunteering for BWC. We chatted for a few minutes until we needed to head to the starting line.

It was really bizarre lining up without Matthew. We start almost every race together so it was a little weird having him be the spectator for the day. I gave him my camera, we said our goodbyes, and then I lined up near the 11-12 min/mile sign. There weren't corrals for this race; we all just lined up according to our pace. Strangely enough, I spotted Morgan in the crowd! I'd known she was racing and was so glad to see her!

My handsome spectator, goofing around.

Morgan and I ran the Princess Half Marathon together in 2012- she is one of the people who inspired me to train for a half marathon :-)

After a few announcements, we started the race. I really didn't have a goal for this 5k- just to enjoy the experience of my first all-women's race and to finish. The course itself was pretty flat. There were a few rolling hills but nothing major. There were TONS of photographers; more than I've ever seen for a 5k. With over 2,800 women participating, this was a pretty large race for the distance. And for a lot of women, this was their very first race. One of the things I love about this event is that Charm City Run offers a free 8 week training course for anyone signed up for the race- how cool is that? It's such a great way to encourage more women to start running or walking and it creates a great support system.

The legend.

The last little turn provided a great view of the city!

Matthew and I had been in communication during the race via text message so he knew where to look for me. I was able to see him at mile 2 and the finish. After crossing the finish line, the runners were truly pampered- we got a medal, a wet towel, and a rose! Awesomely enough, Meg got to hand me my finisher rose- super cool! I met up with Matthew and I scarfed down some watermelon. After cheering on some more participants, we took some pictures and started to head back to the parking garage. On our way there, we ran into with a friend from college- Lisa- who also ran the race pushing her eight month old daughter in a stroller. Lisa is another person who inspires me to run- I loved watching her journey to her first marathon (Baltimore 2012) on social media and it's really cool to see her getting her daughter involved with fitness from an early age.

Matthew's awesome pictures:

Matthew's a great photographer!

Waving at mile 2.

Finished! And checking my splits on my app!



Matthew and Gigi.

Yellow and blue were the colors of the day.

Love this city- and my Black-Eyed Susan medal! It's the state flower of Maryland.

I finished the race in 33:41 which put me as 873rd out of 2,890 overall and 152nd out of 458 in my age group (30-34). Not too bad. The weather was perfect- around 65 degrees and overcast. This race really was a great experience focused on women and running- what could be better than that? ;-) I have to again thank Matthew for being my cheerleader, photographer, and spectator. It was definitely a cool experience knowing I had someone waiting for me at the finish line. Thank you, BWC, for a fantastic race! I will be back next year for sure.

QOTD: Have you ever participated in a women's only or women's focused event? What did you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Race Recap & Review: Run Swim Run OBX/ Splash & Dash Aquathlon Series

As you might remember, last week Matthew and I were on vacation with Matthew's family in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. Naturally, we had to find some races to run. We ran Storm the Beach last Sunday and there we met a really nice guy wearing a J & A Racing shirt- they put on the Shamrock Half Marathon that we did earlier this year. As it turns out, our new friend Mike is the race director/owner of racing company Outer Banks RunCations. He let us know that there would be an inaugural race and swim in Corolla on Friday, June 20th. Of course, we just had to participate!

When we originally looked at the website, the event was listed as a run, swim, and run. However, if you were intimidated by the swim portion, you could just do the 5k. So we signed up a few members of the family for just the 5k portion. Matthew's mom and two family friends were going to run with us on Friday- we were so excited to be doing this event together.

Right away, there were two major benefits to this race- it was only $20 and it was less than a mile from where we were staying. On Friday morning, Matthew and I got up and ran to the race. Yes, we've officially become "those people" that run to a race to get a few extra miles :-)

When we got there, we were each given a timing chip to be worn around our ankle and then we were marked with our number on our arm and calf. Even though we were just doing the run portion of the event, we were all marked like we would be for the swim portion.

Janet, Angie, Sally (Matthew's mom), Matthew and Me AKA The Dream Team.

As we were standing around waiting for the start, I looked at the 400 meters marked off in the ocean. Honestly, it didn't look that far. Even though it was the equivalent of one lap around the track, I started to think, "Hmmm, maybe I could do the swim AND the run." I decided to go for it. I told Matthew and he excitedly encouraged me to do it. I walked over to some race volunteers to ask a few questions- mainly, would there be people in the water available to help me if I needed to pull myself from the swim- and once I had my answers (yes), I walked back to the registration table to change my registration.

When I got there, the volunteers were already ready for me- Matthew had called from the start line to let them know I'd be coming back. He's the greatest! After paying the extra $20 for the swim, I was good to go. I got a towel out of the car and walked over to the swim exit to put down my stuff- towel, visor, and shoes. Then I put on my swim cap and started to freak out- what the heck did I just sign up for?!?! I mean, I CAN swim but I don't do it regularly!!!

It doesn't look so bad, right? Source

Getting some last minute advice from the triathlete :-)

And getting supportive hugs to calm my nerves.

After a few minutes of instruction from the race director, the countdown to the start was on. There were about 30 people doing the run/swim/run and another 20 or so just doing the run. The run/swimmers were going to start first with a quick kilometer run before getting into the ocean. Ten minutes after the run/swimmers started, the 5k runners would then start.

To pass the time, I chatted with some run/swimmers at the starting line. These folks looked legit- they had goggles, swim suits, fancy tri suits- again, what the heck was I doing?!? I came to this race prepared to run, not swim! Sooner than I realized, the race was starting! I began running out to the first turn-around and the entire time I was just trying to calm down. Matthew had told me not to panic when I got in the water and here I was panicking on the easier 1k run. I quickly became the last runner and subsequently the last person in the ocean. It was now or never.

Giving an enthusiastic thumbs up with a very hesitant expression. I'm scared to death.

Across the starting line- no turning back now!

Running to the first turn-around.

Heading into the water- notice my personal cheering section on my right :-)

Into the water I go.

Getting into the water wasn't a problem; getting past the waves to the first buoy was. I swear, it felt like the buoy kept moving farther and farther away from me. I started to panic- "I'm in trouble" kept running through my head. I was swimming as hard as I could and still felt like I couldn't get over the waves. I was scared. I couldn't touch the bottom and I couldn't turn around. This wasn't like running where you could just slow down or walk; I had to keep moving. Even though it felt like forever, I eventually made it to the first buoy. I was exhausted! I turned over onto my back and did the backstroke to rest a little as I made my way with the tide toward the next buoy. Somehow, I slowly made my way around the second buoy and headed toward the beach.

I could see Matthew on the shore waiting for me. I'd heard the 5k start- he'd started with the group and then stopped to wait to see me get out of the water. I mean really, could he be any more awesome?! I waved to him and used the waves to push me towards shore. I was really tired- I can't remember the last time I swam for that long.

I made it!

Um, yeah. That's the face of a non-swimmer.

All I wanted to do was lay down on the beach! But I had another race to run. After grabbing my visor and drying off my face, I started to run. Matthew stayed with me for a few minutes to make sure I was ok. He told me that he had been worried about me in the water and was relieved to see me back on dry land. Me. Too. :-)

Thanks for the great action shot, Matthew!

He ran up ahead to catch up to the others running the race. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Without headphones or shoes, I was worried that I would be bored or uncomfortable. Not at all- it was a beautiful morning. There's something very peaceful about running on the beach in the early morning.

I reached the water stop/turn-around point and then headed back to the finish line. In the meantime, Matthew had passed me on his way back. I also passed all the other run/swimmers who had got out of the water before me- some of them even high-fived me! Again, like Storm the Beach, the runners were really supportive and it was incredible to be part of the event.

As I approached the finish line, I could hear a lot of cheering- for me! There were volunteers, participants, race personnel- all cheering at the finish. It was awesome!! I finished the race, got my medal, and got to high-five and hug my supporters.

All smiles at the finish.

This woman was one hell of a cheerleader!

Awkward high-fives are our specialty!

After grabbing some water and orange slices, we joined the crowd to cheer on the rest of the finishers- including our family! We were so impressed- and proud!- that our family and friends had wanted to run the race while on vacation. It was a great day full of memories.

Sally crossing the finish line of her second 5k ever!

Angie and I sharing a "thank God it's over" moment.

Janet, basking in the glow of the finish line.

A great shot of all the finishers.

This race was fantastic from start to finish. Laid-back, great volunteers, super supportive- what more could you want from a vacation race? It was a truly enjoyable experience and if you're down in OBX this summer, you should really check out this race (they're doing two more times) or other races put on by Outer Banks RunCations. This company runs a great race, pun intended :-)

Personally, this race taught me two things: 1. I can swim. 2. I can swim much, much better. I will definitely be adding swimming to my cross-training schedule. It was really fun but also challenging in a way I haven't experienced with running. I might even add a few triathlons into my race schedule ;-)

I ran. I swan. I ran some more.

I never would have been able to complete this event without Matthew. He took TONS of pictures, gave me last minute tips, and just supported me as I made the extremely last minute decision to add the swim. Having him by my side makes nothing seem impossible.

Having our family and friends there was also really special. In addition to watching Sally, Janet, and Angie cross the finish line; we got to celebrate with Matthew's dad and Janet's husband and daughter (who also took TONS of pictures). All in all, it was a fantastic day and a wonderful event.

Great day.

QOTD: Would you ever run a race on vacation? Why or why not?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Race Recap & Review: Storm the Beach

On Sunday June 15th, Matthew and I competed in the Storm the Beach obstacle race in Nags Head, North Carolina. Since we are down here vacationing for a week, we decided to sign up for the five mile option. This race offered a .75, 3, or 5 mile option. Naturally, we had to pick the longest distance :-)

Sunday was a beautiful day for a race: mid-60's, partly sunny, with a slight breeze coming in off the ocean. The race started at 7:50 am and we arrived around 6:30 am to Jeanette's Pier. We had come in early because we still needed to pick up our packets- there had been a packet pick-up the night before but since we were staying about an hour away from the race, we didn't want to waste precious vacation time running all the way down the night before. Matthew emailed the race directors last week to ask about race-day packet pick-up because it wasn't clear on their website or emails if that would be an option. Then I called them, facebooked them, and tweeted at them- no answer. This race gets an "F" in pre-race communication. Why have social media accounts if you don't respond at least daily to them? On the facebook event page, some other participants had shared that there would be race-day packet pick-up. So Sunday morning, we drove down with hopes that we'd be able to race.

Everything turned out to be fine. They were even taking race-day registrations. We got our bibs, t-shirts, and swag bags- which were awesome, by the way. When we got our bibs, I saw that Matthew had put a special nickname on my bib- "Stinky." He's just hilarious :-)

Bring it.

Gorgeous day for a run.

Start line selfie!

After getting our bibs on and making sure our shoelaces were double-knotted, we lined up at the start. There weren't many people doing the five mile option- maybe 100 total. I'd soon find out why. After only a few minute delay, we were off! And I felt like I was running through peanut butter- for real, dry sand is just awful to run in. We trotted along, quickly becoming one of the last few people in our group. We quickly went through the first obstacles with no issues- just some things to crawl under/over- though I must say that army crawling through sand is pretty painful on knees and elbows.

Since we were doing an obstacle course, we didn't have a camera with us so I don't have any pictures of us on the course. We did get an email with the official pictures but there were only 17 of us- and all but two were of our backsides as we were crawling through a water/sand pit. There were over 20 obstacles but we only had pictures at one of them. Kind of a bummer especially since we were considering buying some of the pictures. Again, I'm giving the race an "F" in photography.

The rest of the course was challenging, mainly because of the sand. We did have to wade into the ocean chest-deep, drag a tire about 100 feet, flip a tire end-over-end, raise sand bags, crawl under surfboards, crawl through tubes- which was SUPER painful because of the sand grinding into your knees- in addition to running in soft sand. We tried to stay on the packed sand as much as possible but that created another problem- lots and lots of sand in our shoes making them super uncomfortable and heavy.

Course map with all the obstacles listed.

With about a quarter of a mile left, we took our shoes off and ran the rest of the way barefoot. The sand had become too much for us. One of the last obstacles, "The Fence Climb," scared the crap out of me. It was a series of three "fences" to climb of various heights. The tallest was about 15 feet. After the race, I was able to take a picture of it- it may not look like much but when you're at the top of it, it's a little nerve-racking.

Luckily there wasn't a line of people waiting when we went through.

We finished the race, got our super cool medals, and then headed to the car to clean up a bit. Then we went back to enjoy the post-race food and beer. I have to say, there was an incredible amount of food available to us- hot dogs, chips, cookies, granola bars, bananas, PB & J's, fruit, etc. There was also a local brewery giving out four (4!!) beers a piece to runners. And what was super cool was that our ages were already printed on our bibs- no need to show ID. "A+" for the race in the post-race department. Another cool thing- they listed our emergency contact person and phone number on the front of our bibs. Helpful and functional :-)

Matthew loves a good beer.

Lots and lots of food. 

So happy to be finished! And loving this cute beer opener medal. 

I also have to mention that the support during this race was incredible. I've never seen other runners so vocally supportive- every time we were passed (which was a lot- ha!), the runner would say "good job," or "looking good," or "great job." I can't say how much I appreciated it. It was a tough course and the extra encouragement went a long way in getting us to the finish line.

The volunteers were really awesome as well. There was a very cool woman dressed as a pirate walking around post-race handing out food- she was an absolute riot. All the race personnel we interacted with were phenomenal. Another "A" for volunteers and race personnel.

So. Much. Awesome.

After the race, we were able to explore our swag bag and were pleasantly surprised. We got a cool race t-shirt, a mini beer pint, sunglasses, a key chain, and of course- a really nice medal. Another "A" for race swag.

All in all, it was a fun and unique race. How often can you run five miles on the beach, including tons of fun obstacles including getting in the ocean? It was a first time for us and I'm sure we'll be back next year if it fits in our schedule.

QOTD: What's the most unique race you've ever done? What made it unique?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Best (And Worst!) Time of the Year

Hello from Corolla, North Carolina! I am currently vacationing for a week in the northern part of the Outer Banks, affectionately known as OBX. Matthew's family has been vacationing here for 20 years and I've been lucky enough to accompany them for the last few years.

It is breathtakingly beautiful here. Matthew and I look forward to this vacation each year. As some of you may know, we travel and race A LOT so it's nice to have a week where we get to relax.

Sunrise over the ocean? Yes, please!

But here's where the issue arises: vacation week  in OBX means lots of hot weather and loads and loads of food. I'm not a hot weather runner- I hate being sticky and sweaty only a few minutes into my run. And the food thing- don't even get me started. I love food and being on vacation makes it easier to rationalize all the goodies that are available.

This is the SNACK table. Just the snacks.
So, how can I stay on track with my nutrition and my training? One part is a little easier for me- training! Matthew and I have been getting up at 5 or 6 am just to get a few miles in before the heat of the day starts. Unfortunately, this means no sleeping in which is tough; especially when it's the one time of year that I can afford to sleep in every day.

We also signed up for two races: we completed a five mile obstacle race- on the beach, in the freaking sand!- on Sunday and on Friday we'll participate in a 5k. Races are much more motivating to me than just training runs- there is more to look at and I generally have more fun at a race. While the running part is a little easier to manage, the food part has me stumped.

After Storm the Beach!

On an early morning run. Thanks to Matthew for the action shots!

I am really struggling with this amount of food being available all the time. I manage my spaces (home, work, car) very, very closely so that I don't have junk or high-fat foods around. I am a creature of habit- I have the same thing for breakfast and lunch almost every day and I love my routine. On vacation, there is no routine. There are awesome snacks, amazing home-cooked meals, and lots of wine- all which are troubling for me. The past few months of weight loss have been very successful for me: since the Dopey Challenge I've lost 13 pounds (via Weight Watchers). I don't want all of my hard work to be jeopardized by vacation but for some reason it's incredibly challenging for me to stay on track with healthy eating.

As one potential solution, I did find a Weight Watchers meeting today at 10 am and I will be attending. While it's a bit of a drive from where we are staying, anything that can help support my weight loss efforts is a win in my book.

So I need to hear from you! Comment, tweet, email, whatever- what helps you get through tough times with food or training?

QOTD: How do you handle vacations or disruptions to your normal schedule? Do you find it hard to keep training/eating healthy when you're away from home? How do you stay motivated and on track?