Do I need a goal race?

Since I started running regularly, I’ve always had a goal race – something to focus my training and keep me motivated when life got busy, the weather got crappy, or I just started feeling a little burnout.  For lifting, I can keep on track if I choose strength goals or simply latch onto a progressive program.  Right now, though, I’m wondering if I need more – at least for running.

And, don’t get my wrong – my workouts are going well.  I’m stronger than ever (including before my injury) and enjoying my runs.  But, I’m getting an itch.  I feel like I need a running program.  It keeps things fresh, and helps me push myself.  Without a program, I usually run 2-3 miles on specific routes in my neighborhood.  WITH a program, I am forced to progress (and also to find new and interesting places to run!).

But then the questions start – should I sign up for a race?  If so, what?  I would love to run the Nike Half in October, but I’m not sure if finances will allow for travel to San Francisco.  I could also run the Rock and Roll half in Providence with my sister.  Or, I could try a 5k or 10k – there are appealing options (read: fun) for each distance on October 4.  So, what to do?

This is something I will be turning around in my head for the next few weeks.  On one hand, I love having a race to keep me honest.  On the other, it is nice to not be stressing about a race!  In the meantime, I’ll keep training.

Oh, and good news – Jeb has decided to start running.  We run together, which is great for me.  Even though my endurance is much better than his, he is naturally faster than me so my runs with him end up being great workouts (almost like a speed session)!


So, what do you think?  Race, or no race?


Keeping Calm… or at least I’m trying!

I missed my run today.  It was extremely cold (below zero with the wind chill), and when my face started to hurt after a 5 minute walk across campus, I decided the risk of frostbite was too great.  Plus, it turns out that dogs can get frostbite – especially dogs with long, floppy ears.  I couldn’t take that risk with Wendy.

It is frustrating, though.  This was the first run I have missed since NOVEMBER.  I had quite a streak going!  Plus, Wendy is very used to her every-other-day runs, and she gets a bit of cabin fever if she misses one.  (Yes, I consider how these things affect my dog – but it also helps me get out the door when I’m not motivated.  It’s hard to let her down!)  Also, I’m really starting to feel the pressure of my goal race in April.  I know I have plenty of time, and I’m not even a little bit worried about having to cover the distance.  I’m worried about my speed.  I need to get my pace faster… and not get injured.  I’m trying not to stress about it, especially since everything I read says that winter running is about building a base (endurance), not speed.  Still, I thought my pace would be faster by now.  I improved pretty quickly after the NWM in October (by roughly 2 min/mile), but I walked most of that race.  Now that I’m running more, it is concerning to me that my pace isn’t continuing to increase at that rate.

So, this is my plan (because I always have a plan):

  1. Relax!  Stressing about it isn’t going to help.
  2. Finish my half-marathon training plan, as written.  That means no speedwork.  I’m on week 8, and should finish in early March (weather permitting).
  3. Remind myself that I have to be a bit more flexible with my running because it is winter, and I live in New England!
  4. Continue adding in cross-training whenever possible.
  5. Research ways to gradually improve speed.  Implement them as appropriate, but plan to do a speed-focused plan for March and early-April.
  6. Tighten up my nutrition.  Weight loss can only help with speed.
  7. Oh – and relax.  I have to remember to relax.  I have 95 days to figure this out.

Nike Women’s Half-Marathon 2012


Well, I made it to the 2012 Nike Women’s Half-Marathon!!  I was pretty excited to be here – my 2nd Nike half-marathon, and this time I didn’t run alone!  I had two friends in the race, plus Jeb was there to cheer me on.  When I signed up, I fully expected to build on my experience from last year and get a PR, but injuries got in the way.  My training was significantly limited, so I decided to relax and enjoy the experience!

Jeb and I spent a couple days in Napa before heading to San Francisco for the race, so we only popped into the Expotique for a few minutes – long enough for me to grab my packet and catch a quick glimpse of Alyson Felix during her presentation!  The Expotique looked to be about as fun and impressive as last year, but it was VERY crowded.  It just didn’t seem worth it to wait in all those lines for some samples.  Also, I wasn’t crazy about the set-up this year.  There was less open space, so it was harder to move through the crowds.  Niketown had some great gear this year – seemed like more options than last year, and the crowd was well-managed.


The start was more organized this year.  The corrals were blocked off, and runners had to show their corral bracelet to enter.  This eliminated some of the bobbing and weaving for many of the runners trying to get around groups of walkers.  Set up this way, it did take much longer for me to reach the starting line (even though I ended up in a faster corral than last year).  It took about 30 minutes, but the time flew by!  People were so happy and excited- the atmosphere was outstanding (and what keeps me coming back to Nike events).  I particularly liked the guys dressed in Tiffany box costumes!  They totally embraced the idea of a women’s event, though, and were super-fun to see on course.  There were others in costumes too (lots of tutus!), but these guys were my favorite.  Also, there were water and Nuun stations throughout the starting area, and plenty of clean outhouses.


See the start? It is WAY down there!


The course is gorgeous, and there is so much to see!  I enjoyed the political sign (since the race was only a couple weeks before the election), and saw a hawk sitting on a concrete fence by the water!  It was really foggy that day, so we could barely see the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz.


“Yes, you can run faster than Paul Ryan”



There’s the Golden Gate Bridge – I promise!

There was tons of on-course entertainment – marching bands, a gospel choir, and cheerleaders.  There was also some of the same types of motivational signs as last year. Nike also surprised runners with a “Bra Exchange” at the top of the biggest hill on the course (in mile 6).  When I got there, they didn’t have any left in my size.  People complained about the (lack of) stock, but I still think it was kind of a cool perk, even if I couldn’t take advantage personally.

This is a good course for a first half-marathon, in my opinion, because it is fun and exciting, and it is easy to break up the race into chunks.  The first 5 miles are fairly easy and straightforward.  There are some hills, but it’s not too bad.  Miles 6-9 are physically rough – very hilly (with STEEP hills), and very little relief.  Mile 8 is the worst, I think, because it is through a neighborhood with houses, stores, etc. so there isn’t much to look at.  I did notice some women coming out of Walgreens with a snack, though, so I guess that stretch has its perks.  One of the sponsors does hand out oranges during this section, though, which is a huge pick-me-up!  After getting through mile 9, the rest of the course isn’t so bad (physically – mostly flat, with rolling hills), but it is mentally GRUELING!  Both times that I ran this race, I though I would never get through mile 11!  It felt like forever.

We did it!

The finisher’s village was awesome!  I particularly enjoyed the stretching tent on the beach – it was heated, and had plenty of yoga mats and foam rollers for people to cool down (plus, plenty of staff to keep everything clean).  I had a big old bottle of chocolate milk, and brought my niece into the Pacific for the first time (this kid loves the beach -just like her auntie!).

We had such great weather for the race -can’t you tell? 🙂

Once again, Nike put on a great event.  It isn’t perfect, but the people who have the most complaints tend to be runners who are looking for a small-town feel.  This race has a lot of excitement, though, and is a great experience.  Having my name on the wall at Niketown, and going home with a Tiffany finisher’s necklace are pretty sweet too!


My Goal Race

NWM Half Washington DC 2013

I’m in!  I am running the Inaugural Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in April.  This will be my third Nike race, and I’m so excited!  This is a very popular race series, but I have been lucky enough to not have to enter the lottery for any of them (so far).  I will be running this one as part of the college program (benefits of a career change!).  

This will be my third half-marathon.  I am apprehensive about this one.  I trained hard and was so excited for my first one… then I got food poisoning.  It derailed my entire race, and I had to walk a significant portion of it to avoid major cramping.  I shook off what I felt was a bit of a failure/setback, and began training for the next year…. then I got injured.  I spent all of last summer stuck in bed, and couldn’t even begin training to WALK it until September (6 weeks before the race).  Considering how far I had come since my injury, I saw that race as a victory, despite having to walk the majority of the course.

Being injured (and recovering from injury), I started to learn how to train smarter, rather than harder.  This will be my mantra as I prepare for this goal race.  I am progressing very slowly – frustratingly slowly – as I am so afraid that I will have setbacks and not be able to race.  Following my PT’s advice, I am not running on consecutive days, and I am following a run/walk plan for now (currently at 4 minutes running/2 minutes walking).  This makes it difficult to get my pace to where it needs to be to finish the race – sub 15:00 miles – since I am not exactly a speed demon on my best day.  It is frustrating and even a little embarrassing to have such a modest time goal, but I would rather get to the starting line than try to push my speed too hard and too fast, only to end up sidelined again.

Sometimes, holding back like this is so frustrating.  But it has its benefits – I am enjoying my runs quite a bit since I’m not killing myself on every workout.  Plus, I have done enough running now to know that I just have to stick with the plan, and trust my training – I will get there.  Finishing any race, especially a longer distance race, is so satisfying.  I know that this one, after the setbacks I have already faced at this distance, will be especially sweet.

Now I just have to hope the weather holds up enough that I can stay consistent with my training!