Sunday, May 5, 2013

Frederick Half Marathon 2013

This morning I woke at 4 for what has become an annual tradition - a pre-dawn drive to Frederick, watching the sun rise at the fairgrounds, and running the Frederick Half Marathon.

I try to learn from my mistakes, so unlike last year I put plenty of bottles of Gatorade and water in my car last night.  I arrived at the Frederick Fairgrounds at 5:30am, quickly parked, and breezed through picking up my bib.  This year the first 200 runners to pre-register were given the option to pick up their bibs on-site on race day. Given my crazy hours at work this week, I was super-thankful for that option. I caught the end of the pre-race law enforcement orientation meeting while putting on my bib and was blown away by how many officers were working the race.  They, along with volunteers, are who make races like this possible and I am extremely grateful for their hard work and enthusiasm.

I had plenty of time to kill and it was chilly out, so I retreated to my car and played with my phone until it was time to go.  I got to the start line just in time for the national anthem and "Sweet Caroline" (their tribute to Boston) before we took off.  One thing I love about Frederick is how small the field is - the entire staging area was less than a block long!  The photo below was taken standing around people planning on finishing in 2:15 - I've yet to run another race where this pace group is so close to the start line.

At 7am sharp we were off.  Within a mile and a half the road opened up and I had plenty of space to run in.

It stayed like that the rest of the race.  Unfortunately, I don't have any more photos.

I decided to run this race listening to my legs and they were speaking pretty quickly.  At multiple points in the race my brain tried to take over, telling my legs to slow down, but they never listened for long.  As I blew by mile markers (all of which had clocks - a huge plus), I had to double-check the times on my Garmin.  My split at mile 8 was 1:12:37 - 9:05 minute miles.  I had my doubts about whether or not I could maintain that pace for the entire race, but I was feeling great and figured I'd try my best.

I forgot how hilly the last 5 miles of this course are, but tried to push through without slowing down too much.  I started getting tired around mile 11 and talked myself in to running one more mile before re-evaluating my strategy.  With 12 miles down I realized that, if I kept running, a PR was almost definite and a sub-2:00:00 race (a long-term goal of mine) was a very strong possibility.  With that knowledge I pushed my tired legs up the last hill and around the race track.  I usually sprint the final stretch of every race, but I just didn't have it in me this morning.  I finished in 2:00:26 - tauntingly close to my 2:00:00 goal.

Running Frederick means a very early wake-up call; I wouldn't get up this early for just any race.  The Frederick Half walks the thin line between being run like large race, but having a smaller, manageable field.  Per the official results, there were shy of 3,600 finishers - thousands less than the other 10+ mile races I've completed.  It really is the best of both worlds - I had as much (or more) space as I would running a local 5k, but the amenities and spectators of a race 3x this size.  Despite this course being hilly, it's fast, and the Frederick Fairgrounds are a great place to start and finish a race.  If anyone is debating this race next year, I highly recommend it.  I'll definitely be there.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Getting My Confidence Back

A week ago I had a terrible run.  I set out to run 12 miles and was only able to cover 6 before I ran out of both water and energy.

Statistically, it was bound to happen, but a week before a half marathon I bonked at last year, it couldn't have come at a worse time.  I didn't want to write about it because I was so disappointed in myself.  I'd had a beer the night before, I dressed too warmly, I ate something I wasn't used to before I set out, and I brought water with me instead of Gatorade.  In short, I set myself up for failure.

I didn't have a chance to run again until Wednesday, spending three days dwelling on my failure and worrying about the Frederick Half this weekend.  That evening I hesitantly laced up my running shoes and hoped for the best.  Despite stopping at multiple traffic lights and being held up by a motorcade (only in DC...), I average sub-9:00 miles for a 5.2 mile run.  When I finished, I felt great.

Despite the 4am wake-up call and hilly finish, I'm ready for Frederick tomorrow.  My plan is to start slow and try for a negative split.  Maybe this time I can PR and finish strong.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Monumental Run

Saturday I went for my first non-race long run of 2013.  I ran through Rock Creek Park to the waterfront, crossed the Potomac to pass Arlington National Cemetery, then back in to DC around the monuments.  It was a beautiful day, sunny and cool, but not cold, with a light breeze.  My feet and heart, felt light; instead of pushing myself, I glided along.  It was the kind of run I can always appreciate, but never get used to.

Sometimes I feel spoiled.  My runs take me by and through places many people only hope to see.  On Saturday I savored every moment of it, stopping to take photos like a tourist.  Below are a sampling, because a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Good Morning

This morning I...

  • Said "good morning" to a tiger
  • Waved at an orangutan
  • Blew a kiss to a panda
...all while breaking in a new pair of running shoes.

I can run through the zoo any time of year, but it's a real treat to run through on a nice spring morning when the animals are out.

Happy Thursday!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

"The Terror is Over. And Justice Has Won."

Tonight I'm:

  • Proud to be an American
  • In awe of the tireless efforts of law enforcement that led to the identification and apprehension of the bombing suspects
  • Thankful my friends in Boston can safely leave their homes and begin to move on with their lives
I think the best way to celebrate is a long run by the monuments tomorrow morning and donating to an organization that will benefit the victims of Monday's attack.  If you're wondering where to donate, One Fund Boston is the most popular, but many funds have been set up to benefit individual victims and families, and the Red Cross and Salvation Army continue to provide their support.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Most days I run for me.  Today I ran for Boston.

For the first mile, I ran in sadness.  I ran for the three people that lost their lives.  I ran for the hundreds of others who were injured.  I ran for those who escaped uninjured, but with haunting memories they will never escape.

I ran to the top of Deal Hill, took in the view, and had a private moment of silence.

Then I continued on.

As my legs loosened up and my thoughts began to flow more freely, I changed my focus.  I ran for the first responders, the brave individuals who disregarded their personal safety and ran toward the blasts to help others.  I ran for the blood donors, whose generosity more than met the demand for blood in the hours after the bombs went off.  I ran for the ordinary people who did extraordinary things to help others.  I ran for these individuals who, after an act intended to cause fear, created hope, and whose actions warmed my heart.

I finished my run feeling lighter than I have in days.

Monday, April 15, 2013

On the Boston Bombings

This afternoon 27,000 registered Boston Marathon runners, thousands of spectators, and the international running community lost their innocence.  Two people lost their lives.  Many others were injured.  While we do not yet know who was responsible for the blasts or why this was done, we do know that these horrific acts will not soon escape our collective conscience.

To many people, running a marathon is a significant life event.  What should have been a celebration became a nightmare come to life.

My thoughts and prayers are with the runners, spectators, and their families.  I know I'm lucky - everyone I know who was at or near the race is safe.  I can't imagine the unease and uncertainty those who have not yet heard from their loved ones are experiencing and, worse, the loss and devastation that those whose loved ones were lost or seriously injured today must feel.  My heart goes out to each and every one of them.

In the days, weeks, and months to come we will see how today's events shape the future of road racing.  What precautions will the USATF and IAAF decide are necessary to keep runners safe?  How will we honor the bombing victims?

There are so many questions outstanding and so few answers to them.  Running used to be my escape, my chance to leave behind the worries of everyday life.  Today, my catharsis is a reminder of the nation's trauma.  Tomorrow, I will go for a run.  I know I can't leave today's events behind, but I also know that the only way to move forward is to put one foot in front of the other.