Friday, May 27, 2016

Well, someone had to be last!

I used to only run half marathons and marathons because I had one speed, slow and steady.  I just didn't want to "waste" money on shorter distances, especially if there wasn't a medal at the end.  But much like my pace, I slowly came around and changed my mind.  Living in an urban area means that there are 5k's and 10k's nearly every weekend, many of them with a unique concept or a great course that made appealing.  So I started incorporating races short than 13.1 miles into my schedule, but I never trained any differently (when I was actually training rather than winging it) and I had no goal time.  I just wasn't fast and I told myself that I just wanted to finish.  The funny thing is, I kind of used to be fast (or at least faster) and I didn't even realize it.

According to my Athlinks results, my 2nd race ever back in 2009 was a 5K.  I had just run the George Washington Parkway 10 Miler the two weeks prior and then I decided to run the Pacers Running Festival 5K.  My time was 28:51 but that was back when I lived on Capitol Hill and my running route was so amazing that I ran 3 - 5 times per week.  I can't even imaging that pace now.

Fast Forward (or in my case, slowly progress in a forward motion) 7 years and my last 5k was over 42 minutes.  I had one of the moments when you realize that you just have to do something other than reminisce about what used to be.  I did this to myself.  I let myself get stuck in this rut that I have been in ever since I moved from DC back to the Midwest.  I love St. Louis and I love being closer to my family again, but the scenery just isn't as awe-inspiring here.  That doesn't mean that I should completely lack motivation to run until race day though.  I love traveling for races and I love completing races, so the missing piece (or basically the entire puzzle) is just getting that love of the typical daily run back.  Terms like "speedwork" and "tempo runs" had become a foreign language to me and it was time to relearn everything I had forgotten as I sunk deeper into my rut.

My solution arrived one day in my inbox and I convinced a co-worker to also join in my quest.  We both signed up for Big River Running Company's Summer Speedwork program and May 25th was our 1st night.  When you registered, you selected your group according to you pace goal.  Even with my 2009 PR of 28:51, I still would have been on the border between Group 4 (8:22 - 9:00 pace) and Group 5 (9:20 and above pace).  But my more recent 5k times definitely landed me in Group 5, but luckily my co-worker was in Group 5 with me.

This was our workout for the 1st week:
May 24-25 (Week 1) 
Group 1-3: 3-5 x 1200m @ A/T*(60 sec jog recovery) 
Group 4-5: 3-5 x 800m @ A/T*(60 sec walk recovery) 

We are going to start with a stamina-building workout intended to increase lactate threshold. Raising lactate threshold enables one to race faster/further before fatigue sets in. This is a workout you can “add” to your training program (in addition to the Tuesday/Wednesday night track workouts). They are called cruise-intervals (popularized by running coach Jack Daniels). Benefits are similar to tempo runs. Don't turn your threshold-pace workouts into competitive efforts; *threshold-pace should feel "comfortably hard" (10K pace + 15-20 seconds).

Again, I don't yet have a fast pace so I just ran each lap at a pace that I would normally run at which meant that each 800 meter round took over 6 minutes to complete.  We were the last finishers of the slowest group with each 800 meter repeat.  It was an eye-opener/ego crusher/turning point.  What is nice about track workouts is that even when you are the slowest, you don't feel like you are last because there are always other runners around you.  There were always other runners and the group coaches encouraging us, so finishing each round felt like this:

We had the option to run up to five rounds of the 800 meters, but we decided to stop at three and stretch.  That experience made us both realize that we need to get serious about our training and not just completely quit running after our goal race, only to have to start at the very beginning again when the next training session comes around.  I take total responsibility for my slowness and I needed to be last to realize how far I had let myself slide.  I have a lot of work to do, but this was hopefully the first step towards a faster finishing time.

I will keep you posted as training continues.  Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Race 13.1 St. Louis Volunteer Experience

The day started very early, but it was totally worth the pre-dawn alarm.  Today I volunteered as a course monitor for the Inaugural Race 13.1 5k and half marathon.

My station was right at an intersection where both races take their 1st turn and then just before runners cross mile 3 or 13.  My favorite point of the morning was when the half marathoners were approaching me to make their first turn,  It was the coolest thing watching all the runners approaching in one long wave.  I wish I would have taken a picture, but I was frozen in amazement.  They just kept coming and coming until I saw the sweeper, literally carrying a broom.  Not long after that, the 5k runners were approaching.  Again, very cool to watch them running past with all that energy and excitement.

Once all the 5k runners were on their way, I had a few quiet moments until the fastest 5k runners were running back past me as they headed towards the second part of their course.  Then there was the rush of 5k runners and then the first few 5k finishers ran past me for a third time on their way to the finish line.

The volunteer packet I received for this race not only included my neon t-shirt, but also had detailed instructions about my station including approximate times I should expect the initial wave of runners, the 1st runners from each race, and then the final runners from each race.  It was pretty much spot on.  The 5k runners were finishing up when the 1st half marathoners were passing me to finish around 8:15 a.m., which is insanely fast.  Then came the pretty constant wave of half marathoners.  Luckily, I had a great police officer with me since the course was still open to traffic and not everyone was paying attention to the runners around them.  If they completely missed my glowing neon volunteer shirt, they didn't miss the officer and his patrol car on my left.

My volunteer shift was scheduled for 6:30 - 10:30 a.m. but as 10:30 a.m. came and went, I noticed that the sweeper had not come yet.  By this point, the police officer had left so I just watched and blocked the road for the remaining runners to finish.  Just before 11:00 a.m. I saw the sweeper and a few other runners.  At that point, I thought it was safe to leave.  I could have left at 10:30 as scheduled, but I know first hand how it feels to finish when it seems like everything is being packed up and the crowd support is already gone.  I didn't mind, I just kept shaking my cowbell!  What was ironic about waiting for the sweeper, was that she actually works for the same agency that I do.

I followed the last group of runners down to the finish line to grab some snacks, and they still had plenty of water, bananas, pizza, and beer left.  I was thanked multiple times by race staff, spectators, and runners which made the experience totally worthwhile.  On top of all that, I earned enough "race bucks" today to run a Race 13.1 race at any of their locations!!!!!  That is an amazing deal considering that it has taken me 2 and 1/2 years of volunteering to earn a free half marathon through the GO! St. Louis volunteer program.

Check out Race 13.1's remaining 2016 races here, and please consider giving back to the community you love so much!

Runners, also be sure to post race reviews for all of your races on Bib Rave.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bondi Band Discount Code

I received an email this week letting me know that I was selected to become a Bondi Band Ambassador!!!!  Bondi Band not only makes headbands, but they also make compression socks, hats, neck gaiters, arm sleeves, etc.  I had just picked up a few more of their headbands at the Illinois Marathon expo, but my 1st ever Bondi Band was purchased at Walt Disney World for my first marathon in 2010.


You can order their designs or customize your own.  Just go to and use code Run4Medals at checkout to save 10% on every order!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Speaking of volunteering.....earn a free 5k or half marathon for just a few hours work

I just had to share an amazing opportunity with you!

I stumbled across this race when I was looking at the spring/summer St. Louis area race calendars.  This race is new to St. Louis, but not to the East Coast.  Race 13.1 now offers races of various distances throughout the Southeast and Midwest spanning the entire year.  With so many races on their calendar, they can offer a season pass to make running their races in multiple locations very affordable.

I was already sold by their swag and runner benefits, but what made me fall in love was their volunteer program.  Race 13.1 provides volunteers with "race bucks" for their service.  Race bucks can be used for Race 13.1 products or events....any distance and at any of their locations.  WOW!

I signed up to be a course monitor, which is a four hour shift.  For those four hours, I earn 80 race bucks.  One race buck = $1 which means I have $80 to spend on race registrations!  I will be volunteering at the St. Louis race but I have one year to use my credit so I can wait and run next year's race for FREE or decide to run the Detroit race, or the Little Rock race, or Orlando, etc.

You can get more details on the program here, and I will be sure to post about my volunteer experience after the race and after my race bucks have posted.

If you would rather run, use code STL131 to save 10%.  Although you could still fit in a volunteer shift at packet pick-up since you have to go there anyway....

If you want to run and support a local charity at the same time, use code YIN to have $10 of your registration fee go to Youth In Need.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A single volunteer (YOU) can make all the difference

I set a more positive record this weekend: I volunteered at a race for 15 hours, my longest volunteer shift EVER!  I spent the entire morning-day-evening at "info island" answering questions and directing volunteers at the Cowbell Uncorked: Off Road 100K relay.

What I love about this relay is that it is a base camp style relay, so we see the runners throughout the day as they complete each loop, one runner after another.  Around 80 teams competed in this event.  A few were two-person teams, meaning each runner ran 50k.  Most teams had 5 runners who each ran just under a half marathon over the course of the day.

The weather was great this year (last year it rained) and the predicted thunderstorm managed to stay north of us.  I was exhausted when I finally got home, but this experience taught me so much.  Seeing this side of a race made me re-think my comment about the lack of volunteers at the East St. Louis water stop during the GO! 7K.  You can have plenty of volunteers sign up, but they also have to show up on time on race day.  Volunteers are VITAL to race day success.  A single missing volunteer can mean the difference between a runner staying on the course or going off the course.  This happened at the race, and it was frustrating because my instinct was to run to that spot and start directing runners but I also had a job to do in the "info island" tent.  I just couldn't be everywhere at once.

I love volunteering at races throughout the year because it reminds me about all the work behind the scenes that runners never see.  Thank those volunteers along the course.  Give them a high five or send a friendly smile their way.  They could have chosen sleep over volunteering.  I seriously thought about it when my alarm went off at 3:00 a.m., but I grabbed my coffee and went.  The long hours were totally worth it and I encourage you to volunteer at races in your area.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I Challenge Race Recap

I think I will just start this recap with a Pros and Cons list before I get into my personal experience.

  • PDF of the race booklet was sent out a week or so prior to the race and you could grab a printed booklet at the expo.
  • PDF and booklet contained detailed parking maps and course information.
  • Ample free parking at the expo/race start/race finish.

  • This year's race course included severe weather shelters since the 2015 race was cut short due to thunderstorms.  This was the first time I have seen this much pre-planning at a race.  Great job!
  • Because severe weather threatened the 2016 race too, we received updated forecast information via email and their Facebook page.
  • Runners received a drawstring bag at the expo.
  • Option to purchase a day pass to the student recreation center for post-race showers.
  • Option to purchase tickets to the pasta party so you wouldn't have to find carbs on your own.
  • TONS of volunteers who worked all morning in the rain and still had smiles on their faces.
  • Wave starts.
  • PLENTY of porta potties around the start line/parking lots and along the course.  At one spot on the course there were six porta potties clustered together.  Amazing!
  • Great scenery along the course and it was very flat!
  • Plenty of support from the community along the course for all the events.
  • Race day live broadcast on several local radio stations.
  • Post-race food trucks and entertainment just outside the stadium both Friday night and Saturday.
  • Great t-shirts and medals

  • Finishing on the 50 yard line and being on the big screen!

  • None!  I really can't think of any.

My Experience:
The 5K Friday night was dry, so the pictures above are from Friday.  It pretty much rained all day Saturday and rained the entire time I was out on the course but luckily, we didn't have any thunderstorms.  Before I went to my corral, I did seriously consider going back to my step-brother's house and skipping the half marathon entirely.  Then I remembered that I paid $100 for the I Challenge, which re-motivated me.

I had somewhat planned ahead and wore a poncho but my clothing, shoes, and socks were still completely soaked almost immediately.  By mid-race, I developed blisters on the bottoms of both feet which resulted in me walking the entire second half.  I also did not expect the cold that accompanied the rain, so my hands and arms were bright red and felt frozen the second half of the course as well.  I eventually reached the point where I could not wait for the race to be over.  I was miserable!  I did find some comic relief in the observation of laundry detergent suds oozing from of my clothing when I stopped to stretch.  Apparently I use too much or use the "small load" setting too liberally.

After crossing the finish line and grabbing the delicious post-race food I headed to my car, turned the heat on high, and shivered under my heat sheet.  Looking back on my finish time, I set a record.....this was my slowest half marathon to date.  Yeah!  At least I set the bar low for the next half.

This race was still top-notch despite the rain and the blisters.  I intend to run this race again in a few years to redeem myself and hopefully the forecast will be better next time.