Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Recap

*Warning* No coach would ever recommend a runner to PR in a race two weeks before running a marathon.
Don't be an idiot. Save your legs.

When I signed up for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in February I did it because I enjoyed the race last year and because I figured that I would use it as a TEMPO. Not a race. I wanted to get a PR or run a 1:09 like last year, but I told myself that I would not take it seriously. 

However, when my winter training (or mind?) went to crap, I changed my spring priority race from Boston to the 10 miler. I know Boston will be off from the lack of training, and I wanted to have success somewhere.

It was a risk. I could get hurt. I could waste all my training by peaking at that race and suffer through Boston. And it turns out, that as I write this on the Wednesday before Boston, a full 10 days after the 10 miler, I still feel the effects of the race but am finally optimistic that my body will be ready for Monday.

While it took a week to get the feeling of tennis balls out of my super tight calves (thanks in part to the stupid decision to wear racing flats for the first time), I am super happy with my performance. And just like the Parks Half that I did last year, I was reminded that only my mind is holding me back. I have more to give, and I kicked up my running to a new level last weekend. 

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
Final time: 1:05:47
6:34 minute/mile pace

Tom and I were both signed up for this race. He was on a team for his work and I was racing for the PR Running Race team.  I had also just spent 5 days in Boston at a conference, eating out and walking a lot. Neither of us knew what to expect for performances.

Our phone told us it was 33 degrees when we left the house last Sunday, but 39 by the time we made it to the Washington Monument. Fortunately, it was a gorgeous sunny day.

I was feeling hopeful for a good race, considering the "cold" temps actually felt pretty warm. My body was cooperating and my legs felt good.

When the gun went off I knew I was going out too fast. My first mile read a 6:18. Way. Too. Fast. I had thoughts of my 5K from last summer, which started off almost at the same pace. Oops. 

I slowed a little for the next mile, but was faster than I planned to run. 6:38. Then a 6:29 for mile 3. After three in a row I knew that was my new pace. I decided to try to hold around 6:30 for the rest of the race. This was a pace that was totally quicker than I expected to be running right now, but it felt right.

I saw Tom once during the race as we headed out toward the Kennedy Center. He was pretty far in front of me and so focused that when I cheered him on I didn't hear his holler back to me for 5 seconds after mine.

Miles 4-7
6:28, 6:32, 6:35, 6:29

This section seemed like a blur to me. It went quick, but I knew it lead to the dreaded Hains Point at mile 6ish. Last year this area was brutally cold, but this year felt better with less wind. 

At this point in the race, you tend to stay near the same people. I had apparently been following a guy in a bright yellow shirt the whole time and didn't realize it until I started to catch him. At mile 7 I remembered that I needed to trick my brain into thinking I just started a 3.1 mile race. This made me relax immediately instead of freaking out (which I had been doing) and I began to pass the man. My inner coach instincts kicked in and as I passed him I shared my advice. "We only have a 5k left!"

Why am I being friendly in a race? I think it's because I remembered how much I suffered at that same spot last year. It was horrible and I felt like dying. He didn't look like he was dying, but he was slowing and he admitted to me that he went out too fast. After a few minutes, he caught back up to me and passed me. I wasn't able to catch up to him for the rest of the race, but I was happy to know that he was able to pull himself out of the slump and keep going.

Miles 8-10
6:38, 6:37, 6:42

The wind picked up as we turned back on Hains Point and I could see the top of the Monument. The end was so close! Yet, it was still TWO miles away!!! Those two miles feel like they take the longest, no matter how much I pick up the pace. And while I thought I was picking up the pace, I was only picking up the effort level, which wasn't enough to overcome my slower miles at the end. 

My weakness in races has always been my mind as I near the finish. The closer I get, the slower I want to go. Even though I may be able to see the finish, I want to stop. My mind freaks out, causing my body to tense, and I start to feel bad even though I may have been feeling great prior to it. The course signs that counted down the meters left only made it worse. I wanted to stop. I wanted to puke. But I forced myself to keep running though it to get to the finish. Why I can't run faster knowing the end is only 400 meters away, I have no freakin' clue!

For the first time in years, I almost threw up at the finish. I feel bad for the person who tried to tell me good job and patted me on my back as I was trying to keep my breakfast in. That was a poor move on their part but the pat may have actually saved me from tossing my cookies. Thankfully, I felt fine right after. 

My time was 4 minutes faster than last year. Tom was also at the finish, finishing 8 minutes faster than me, with a 58:11 and a two minute PR. His team ended up winning for their division, and my PR team came in 3rd for ours. 

Post race photo! And evidence that I need a phone upgrade due to the poor quality.

Once again, this was a great race and race atmosphere. The day was gorgeous, the people working the event were well organized, and we had a fun time with friends. It was a great tuneup race to get me in race mode for Monday, even though I totally should NOT have raced it so close to Boston.

Lesson learned. 
And PR Earned.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Summer Berry Post-Workout Smoothie

How many times have I talked about smoothies on this blog? Too many! And yet, I haven't actually posted a recipe of one. 

Although the world already has enough smoothie recipes, I'll put up my favorite. In fact, a few weeks ago I was contacted by the editor at Run Washington to be part of an Eat to Run....Run to Eat piece in this month's magazine. 

I've had to alter my eating a lot over the last few years. Sometimes it was by choice, sometimes by necessity (no dairy for me!). If I want to run fast, I have to eat well, and I have to be conscious about what I put into my body (but there's still plenty of room for improvement!).

Last summer I always had a smoothie after my workout so I could guarantee that I could run later that afternoon (if I had cross country) or feel good to tackle the next day's workout. I would crave smoothies during my track workouts, and they were the only motivation I had to get me though mile repeats in the 80 degree, humid heat. 

The color gets me before the taste does. I fall in love with the deep purple every time. The blueberries are what do it. Go blueberry happy and be sure to add as many as you like! 

Summer Berry Smoothie
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk (light)
  • 1/3 cup blueberries
  • 1/3 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 scoop Vega Vanilla protein powder
  • 4 small frozen strawberries
Optional: Spinach or half an avocado (however they'll turn the smoothie into a brownish-purple rather than the one seen above).

  1. Place banana and almond milk in blender. If using spinach or avocado, place those in as well. Pulse for a few seconds. 
  2. Add protein powder, then blueberries and pineapple. Pulse for 10-15 seconds or until liquefied. 
  3. Finally, add the strawberries and pulse on ice mode for a few seconds before switching to regular mode (these are harder on the blender at this point). 
  4. Pour and enjoy with a straw!*
*Trust me. You want a straw. Otherwise you'll spend the rest of the morning picking blueberry pieces out of your front teeth. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Boston 2014 Training: Weeks 8-11. February Recap.


That's how I feel lately. It's spring (awesome). But spring means outdoor track. Coaching season has begun once again! And since I take my job a little too seriously at times, I've pushed this blog aside to take care of professional duties first.

But alas, I feel the need to update on February. In a nutshell, this was the month in fragment sentences:

Winter. Cold. The Bottom. Frustration. Warm Weekends. Circuits. Yoga. Ex-nay on futture Spring Marathon-nay. Snow Days. 70 degrees. Happy. Cold.

Week 8 Total Mileage: 32 miles

Week 9 Total Mileage: 31 miles
Two days of cross training (weights and yoga)

Week 10 Total Mileage: 49 
(Ironically this was the week that 10 inches of snow dumped down on DC and I had snow days).

Week 11 Total Mileage: 38
1 day of Yoga
30 Minutes of a cardio/strength circuit

New Focus
All of this lack of running (I should be running 50-60 mile weeks) left me FRUSTRATED about Boston. I'm at the point that when people ask about Boston I either 1)shake my head and walk off or 2)laugh. I'm definitely going for the experience, but a PR won't be part of it. 

However, my attitude is turning around. I'm running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler two weeks before Boston. At first I said I would take it as a training/tempo run, but secretly knew that I'd end up racing it once the race started. Then I realized, hellooooooo - why have a slow, mopey spring when I could actually race this race to see what I'm capable of?! 

That revelation was all I needed to turn my mind around and become excited about racing and running again. I am totally in shape for a 10 miler. I'll do a few longer runs for the marathon but this spring's "race" will be the 10 miler with a marathon on the side. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Winter of Snow Days

We had snow day #7 today.

That means another day of no running because I'm a wimp.

I have an update for the month of February but need to add a few things and finally press submit.

There's been bad. There's been good. There's been track practices. And there's been snow.

The post will come. Patience.

So will spring.

Monday, February 17, 2014

DC Eats: La Tasca

Holy Smokes - I just discovered a large number of unpublished posts that I wrote LAST SUMMER! Ugh! Why didn't I ever publish? Who knows? Why am I going to publish them now? Who knows?

Let's travel back a few months ago to a hot night in July. It was a friend's birthday. A friend that I've known since elementary school. In fact, we used to be neighbors and did a skit on Dolly and James Madison when I was in 6th grade. She lives just outside of DC so we get to see each other a few times a year. Anyway, her (now) fiance threw together a birthday evening for her at a tapas restaurant in Chinatown, called La Tasca.

I think I had heard mixed things about the place but was so excited to try it out. On that evening, we were able to get unlimited tapas for $35/person. Yes, pricey, but it gave us the ability to fill out bellies with delicious food.

If there's two things you need to know about this place it is that 1) they like their garlic and 2) they like their salt. BIG time.

The first thing I always order at a Spanish restaurant is their croquetas. That allows me to accurately judge each restaurant. La Tasca's were awesome - and a bit different: Chicken and pork croquetas served with a garlic aioli. Not traditional to Spain - but so good nonetheless.

Next: the albondigas. Say it with me - Al- BON-di-gas! These were the beef and pork meatballs. Another winner in my book. I followed these with their pan a la Catalana: an airy bread with a tomato, olive oil, and garlic bread. The menu forgets to mention that SALT is another ingredient in it, as that was the most powerful part of the bread. This was a dish I ordered for breakfast while in Spain, but enjoy it for dinner here. Someone ordered bacon wrapped dates which were good until you were just about finished with it, and then the date TOOK over your mouth and all you could taste was the sweetness of it.

Tom arrived late and was a little daring with his ordering. He got 'pulp a la gallega' which is actually octopus with paprika and potatoes. I ate more of it than he did. The 15 year old version of myself would have been appalled at what I did, but I liked it. My taste buds have become much more adventurous over the years.

Then came the tortilla. I've stopped ordering these at restaurants in the US because they normally aren't that good. However, since we had unlimited tapas, why not try it....

It was seriously the best tortilla I have ever had. I wanted to take a photo, but I wanted to eat it more, and ultimately my tongue won out.

We haven't been been back to La Tasca, but I there is nothing that would stop me from going back. I love living in a diverse city full of different cuisines and originally planned to do more DC Eats posts like these when I moved down, but honestly have enjoyed the food too much to document it.