Do I Half To?

I knew I was going to race this past weekend. It was the kickoff weekend for the USATF Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix series, and I wanted the opportunity to score some points for the Keystone Track Club.There was a 5k race on Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday. Being the queen of indecision that I am lately, I teetered back and forth between the 2 races. I would stand a better chance of being competitive at the 1/2 marathon because I feel my endurance is more of a strength than my speed. But at the same time I hadn’t run a 1/2 marathon in well over a year. In fact I haven’t run longer than 10 miles since I don’t even know when. I decided to wait it out until after the Cary Duathlon, to see how I felt at that race.

I was feeling pretty flat for most of the week following the Cary race (I’m blaming it on the time change), so I decided to suffer through a nice short 5k. But alas, online registration had closed, and there was no race day registration. The decision was made for me – the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in Wilmington, DE. I can’t say I was looking forward to the race, but I was okay with it. Then my inov-8 team kit arrived on Friday, and I was definitely excited to race!

It was a brisk and windy day in DE, but considering the weather the day before, we were lucky. I felt calm and relaxed prior to the start of the race. I had no goals for placing and didn’t have a time goal in mind either. I simply wanted a respectable time, and to work on pacing properly so I didn’t fade in the last few miles. I found teammate Katie O’Regan at the start line, and she filled me in on the details of the course which was helpful. We were both positioned further back from the start line than we were used to, but when the canon went off it wasn’t too tough to work our way through the crowd. With a downhill start, it was very easy to go out too fast, and I was happy when I hit the first mile marker at 6:00.

For the first few miles I was feeling amazing. I felt strong but relaxed and in control. The miles were ticking off quickly, and I was feeling really happy about racing that distance. Katie was ahead of me the whole race, and it was fun to watch her form as she picked off the male competitors. At mile 6 the hills began. It felt like miles 6 through 9 were all uphill. Then throw some wind into the mix and the course changed from flat and smooth to rather challenging. But I was confident that the change in terrain was not wearing me out, and I loved how strong I was still feeling. I mean, wind and hills are my life training in Solanco – so it was easy to draw upon my training, and how I’ve learned to maintain my pace through the strong winds. I was really enjoying myself when I thought I would be in agony.

I held 5th place the entire race. I knew the 4  ahead of me were not going to be caught, but I didn’t know who was behind me. As long as I could finish strong, and not be passed, I would be satisfied. Coming into the last 1/2 mile we made a turn and there was one last hill to conquer before seeing that finish line. And that was where I felt it. I passed a guy going up the hill, and pushed him to stay with me and finish strong. The course leveled back out into the finish and I didn’t have much kick left. I was looking at the clock, and remembering that Marty Stiegman had predicted a time of 1:23:45 for me the day prior to the race. I just fell short of that goal, but it was nice to have something to push for.

I didn’t realize until I checked my PR spreadsheet on Monday (of course I have a spreadsheet for this!) that this was a PR for me 🙂 So now I really couldn’t be happier. Hitting a PR in March for a distance I have not trained for is a good sign of things to come this season. Since I will be focusing on long course events, the 1/2 marathon gave me the confidence boost I needed. Training is on track!

Katie was 3rd overall for the day, and I discovered the Keystone Elite team members who raced the Adrenaline 5k also had an awesome showing. We are off to a great start. Congrats all!

Finishing time: 1:23:48

Camaraderie and Comebacks at the Cary Du Classic

A long course duathlon in NC in March? That’s a long way to travel for some early season pain. However it was well worth it when it meant reuniting with some awesome friends, and better yet, supporting one of them in his comeback debut. I had the pleasure of spending time in France with two awesome fellas – Marty Stiegmann and Dave Tierney. We shared laughter, celebration, and quite a few stories about the “good ol’days”. Both of them offered tremendous support to me before and after the race, and Dave was awesome to capture the experience with many pictures and videos (which someday I will get around to posting).
marty and dave

Along with the new friendships that were forged was a spark in Dave – to come back to the states, dust off his Softride and speedo, and get himself back into racing shape after 9 years out of the game. He kept Marty and I updated throughout the process, and then set a goal to compete as a part of a relay team in his hometown race, the Cary Long Course Duathlon. What better way to celebrate this event then to have all 3 of us together again, racing on the same course! And with that, the plans were set in motion…

Marty and I arrived in Cary Friday afternoon and spent a little time previewing some of the course. After grabbing our packets we arrived at the Tierney residence where we were greeted by Dave’s lovely family, and enjoyed a nice relaxing dinner – what a great way to spend the evening before a race. Both Marty’s and Dave’s families were extremely generous hosts, making my race travel both comfortable and stress-free.

The Lovely Mrs. & Mr. Tierney

The Lovely Mrs. & Mr. Tierney

Race morning arrived in a flash and both Marty and I were questioning our decision to race a long course duathlon so early in the season, while Dave remembered what it feels like to experience pre-race jitters! We were greeted with sunny skies and 41 degree temps – it was going to be a great day. The race site was full of energy – a feeling I’ve missed over these winter months. I immediately saw fellow Team USA athlete and gold medalist Kristin Villopoto looking fit and ready to race (and race she did, snagging the Overall Female award in the short course event).

For once I didn’t have any goals for this race – other than winning of course 😉 But time-wise I really just wanted to see what I could do and where my fitness was. That is the beauty of early season races – the areas that need work are exposed. The runs consisted of two 2.5 mile loops with 2 out-and-back sections. I knew the first loop would be a challenge because the short course and long course races started together, and it would be tempting to get caught up in the pace of the 2.5 mile racers. There were 2 hills on the 2nd half of each loop that I knew would feel more challenging each time around. I tried to stay somewhat conservative as I led the first loop. I heard another female closing in on me as we came to the split where you either turn into transition or head out for loop 2. As I stayed straight to continue onto the next loop I no longer heard her – phew!

With run #1 out of the way it was time to head out on the bike and test my fancy new HED race wheels. Coming out of transition I experienced another benefit of early season racing – clearing the cobwebs! With my shoes mounted on the bike, I tried once, twice, and yes…three times before I successfully got on the bike and onto the course. Nothing more embarrassing than fumbling multiple times in front of all the spectators… Time to make up what felt like an eternity of time lost. Within the first 1/2 mile I got stuck behind a line of traffic that was unable to pass some slower short course cyclists. There was no shoulder, and it was not safe to pass on the left. All I could do was sit up and coast on the brakes, taking the time to settle myself after the mounting fiasco. With a 31 mile ride, I had plenty of time to make it up. The bike course was great, but the conditions were windier than I was hoping for. I’ve been spending most of my days inside on the trainer, so being out on the windy roads it felt like I was working extra hard to maintain a respectable speed while some of my male competitors passed.

On the run course I knew where my competitors were, but on the bike there was no out-and-back sections, so I did not know where the next females were in the race. I came into T2 and it was time to finish strong. I found Marty on the first loop and he looked like I was feeling – like this last run was gonna hurt! After hitting the first out-and-back I saw the next female with a long course bib – she was looking strong and not too far back from me. Where did she come from?!? Luckily I would have more opportunities to see her on the course to gauge what I needed to do to keep my lead. The next time around I noticed she was wearing running shorts – a sign that she was probably part of a relay. I didn’t take my chances though, and her presence on the course and powerful stride pushed me to the end. Okay, so I also wanted to pass those Duke Triathlon Team boys 😉

1st Overall Female       9th Overall

1st Overall Female
9th Overall

Turns out the girl behind me was Dave’s 2nd runner, and phenomenal triathlete Jacqueline Miller. Makes sense, as I was expecting to see Dave fly by me on the red Softride while I was out on the bike. He came close to catching me, posting a bike split 3 minutes faster than mine. Awesome job to him and his team for taking the overall in the relay division. Quite the comeback – and he was all smiles! Marty took 8th overall for the day, and won his age group. This called for a re-creation of our original photo in France – look at the difference a few months, a positive attitude, and determination can make. So proud of you Dave, and I can’t wait to do some more racing with you in the years to come!
podium 1

So the race was a success for all of us! It hurt, and I definitely need some work, but it also felt awesome to be out there. As usual, any race is made 10x sweeter when you get to spend time with amazing friends and make some new ones. The weekend flew by, and I can’t wait to do it again soon!
female podium

FS Series put on a great race – it was well-organized, the course was well-marked, and the volunteers topped it off with their energy and cheering the whole day. Definitely a great event to check out – I know we plan on returning in 2014…

5 mile run – 31:16
31 mile bike – 1:31:15
5 mile run – 34:13
Finishing time – 2:36:46

#committed in 2013

inov-8 1

Another exciting announcement for 2013 – I will be racing for Team Inov-8! The terms “minimalist” and “barefoot” running are common to see and hear these days. Inov-8 refers to it as natural running. Why? Because they are the leaders in natural running – they’ve been doing it since 2003, and this is all they do. Basically every other brand has a “minimalist” shoe added to their line to feed the demand, but Inov-8’s research, passion, and committment are focused solely on natural running.

“Natural running is a style that involves landing on your forefoot rather than your heel, while also shifting your center of gravity by leaning forward. The benefits of natural running include a reduction in the likelihood of injuries, as well as a more efficient (think FASTER) running style.”

When I started my running journey at the age of 23 I had no background in the sport. I was not a runner in college, nor in high school. I didn’t know a whole lot about the sport, the training, and definitely not the options in footwear. I also had “fresh” feet & legs, which were ready and willing to take on the mileage I was slowly adding. For years I ran in anything and everything. I had no real brand loyalty – if it was a good deal or seemed like a good running shoe I’d run in it. I was a product tester for many years and on top of running in the shoes I was testing, I would also get a free pair of shoes at the end of every test and didn’t have a choice in what I received. Hey – they were free – and I could run in anything. As the years and miles piled on, so did the abuse on my body from running in shoes that really weren’t meant for my body type and running style. It seemed like I was always having some kind of niggle. I thought this was just a part of the game – if you’re gonna run a lot, it’s gonna hurt. I had a lot to learn…

Flash forward to my “hiatus” – yes, the one we’re all sick of hearing about by now 😉 With plenty of time on my hands to research just about everything related to running and injuries, I was really interested in natural running (yep, that’s the term I like best). After reading about many runners’ experiences, this was the typical theme I was seeing:

constant niggles —> transition to natural running —> no more niggles!

I made my decision – once I had the green light to run again I would carefully transition to natural running. Best decision ever. Niggles – gone. Stride – smooth and efficient. Prognosis – best running is yet to come!
happy feet

I had seen Inov-8 shoes on the trails, but it wasn’t until this past year that I was introduced to their road line. Prior to racing the Duathlon World Championships I got these flashy Bare-X Lite 150’s – just screaming to be paired up with my Team USA uniform.

The Bare-X Lite’s did not disappoint! Lightweight, flexible, comfortable, and made for fast splits!

If you are curious about transitioning to natural running, or have already joined the natural running movement, be sure to check out Inov-8’s full line of road, trail, fitness and everyday shoes. Feel free to ask me any questions about their shoes – or natural running in general. You’ll see me sporting all varieties in my training and racing adventures this year. For the triathletes – you can’t much better than the Bare-X Lite’s for fast transitions. And that’s what it’s all about 😉

Happy Training!