Monday, July 28, 2014

Crystal City Twilight 5k Recap

I first heard about the Crystal City Twilighter last summer and was excited to sign up for it this year. Pacer's, a local running store chain, has been big into the high school cross country scene, and invited coaches to this event both years (although I didn't get an invite this year...) and held a team competition between high school teams. Our team wasn't partaking in the event, but I still wanted to check it out.

About a month ago, when Tom and I signed up, I had huge plans to train for this, and hoped to be able to break 19:00. That was before we went up to VT and got married. Read: Wedding planning consumed my life and mind for a solid two weeks, and it was hard to refocus after the wedding. I'm not complaining, I'm just stating that there has been a significant lack of quality and focused training recently.

Here's another thing: I don't know how to prepare for an evening race, specifically one that starts at 8:30pm. I love morning races: Go to sleep, wake up, eat, and run. Easy!

Not this one. I thought about the race the whole day - a race I wasn't all that excited to race. We also had a hard time planning what to eat, but eventually made a larger lunch and ate a smaller dinner at 4 pm.

It's hard to get excited for a race when you know you aren't going to run your best. Fortunately, my worries and lack of excitement began to fade once we arrived at the starting location and met up with one of Tom's coworkers. Once I started to warm up my body and mind naturally began to go into race mode. It's amazing how easy that is if you follow the same pre-race routine year after year. Your body knows what to do.

The race went off right at 8:30, just as the sun was going down. I'm pretty sure they announced that there were about 50 invited elite runners - another reason why my heart wasn't into this - I was going to get crushed and there wasn't a darn thing to do but go out and run my own race.

We blasted off and I was immediately unsure of what my pace was. It felt a lot harder than the 5K I did last month, even though this was a flat course with far fewer turns. I was a little sad to cross the first mile and see 5:56. Dang! I did it again. I went out way too fast.

During the second mile I worked really hard to focus on it being just a mile, and nothing more. I didn't want to think about the rest of the race. The sun was definitely down, and at the turn around point, I got to see Tom up ahead and cheer him on. I tried to run faster, but in reality, I was just trying to put in more effort so my second split wouldn't be too much slower.

Second mile: 6:21

No surprise there. It was playing out to be very similar to my last race. However, I really wanted to pick up the last mile in this one.

I don't know if it was the fact that it was now dark out or if it was because I kept repeating to myself, over and over, "I love this! I love this!" but I could feel that my body was calmer and less tense during the 3rd mile, and I didn't have the urge to vomit like I have in recent races.

As we closed in on the last 0.1 miles, I found myself catching up to two ladies, both of which who had just passed me. I passed them, but they weren't having it. I somehow found more energy to pick it up, but so did the other woman. We were tied as we crossed the line, but due to her later start than mine, she ended up taking the faster time.

Third mile: 6:24

Overall time: 19:29
Place 143/1954
Age Group: 10/186

Tom had a decent race, finishing faster than the last 5k. It's funny to hear the both of us talk after a race, because we break down every single part, talking about our weaknesses and strengths. It's awesome that we both have a passion for running and have done it together for so many years, but to someone else who runs it for fun, I could see how weird it might be.
We were quite impressed with how put together the race night was. Tom founded a race in Milton back in 2003, so we tend to analyze the logistics of races every now and then. I can't speak for Tom, but I would have no problem with doing this race again. The free beer ticket is also a nice addition for a post race celebration!

Even though I may not look forward to a race prior to running it, after the race is said and done I'm even more motivated to work toward the next race.

Friday, July 25, 2014


We had an absolutely gorgeous wedding day in Vermont on July 12th. What made it even better was that we were able to have so many of our friends and family spend the day (and for some, weekend) with us. When people ask what the best part was, I say it was seeing everyone we love with us on that day, some of whom we haven't seen in years.

Doesn't Tom  look like a fancy stud muffin? 

 It was so hard to leave these awesome people. We were so happy to have them with us the entire weekend. 


Our photographer, Margaret, was PHENOMENAL! As soon as we were engaged I knew that we had to get her. She paid attention to every single detail, gave us advice throughout the whole day, and managed to capture every moment in her beautiful shots! We could not and still cannot thank her and her sister enough!

And just like that the day was done. All of the planning and celebrating was over. We returned to DC and don't have any honeymoon plans yet, but after being together for 10 years, it's nice to step into this next phase of our lives. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Our Engagement

School's out and the big question I am constantly asked is, "what are you doing this summer?"

My response: Relaxing, running, and GETTING MARRIED!

Tom and I were engaged last summer but I never took the time to publish the story of that evening. It's been written since September, but was never published, until now. I've gone back and forth in my mind: publish it to the world to see or keep it just for us. Well, if I blog about my running, then I should blog about one of the biggest days of my life. So here goes, the story of our engagement!


Let's start with Monday, August 12th. We were up in Vermont for the week and Tom was going to work that day in the Vermont Office (as opposed to his DC office). Before he left for work that morning, he reminded me that we may go to a friend's camp for dinner and to stay the night. He said he would keep me updated.

Keeping this in the back of my mind, I continued on with my day. I ran in the morning, then headed to my friend Kat's house for lunch and to hang out. I thought I would be home around 4:00, but when you haven't seen someone in 8 months its hard to say goodbye. While there, my phone died. I didn't realize this until I was about to leave, just after 4:30.

Tom, on the other hand, had realized that my phone died. He had tried to get in touch with me all afternoon to confirm plans. As I was about to get into my car he and his dad drove up to Kat's house. Tom hurried me into our car and announced that we had dinner reservations in Grand Island with our friend,instead of going to her camp. He grabbed the keys and off we went. 

I believed this until he turned off the road and into our hometown's recreation park. Confused, I asked why. His response? "Uh... they're building a block house or something that I want to go check out."

I didn't believe him for one second, especially when I saw the van with the balloon crew from U Ken Do Ballooning. I knew what was going to happen. We have already been up in a balloon together so I knew that the only reason to go back up would be if there was a ring involved (not that I would complain about going in a surprise balloon ride anyway!).

My house and our field!

We had a beautiful ride with another, super fun couple that was celebrating their 7th wedding anniversary. Our pilot, Ken, was awesome as well, teaching us how to fly and showing us the reason why you weren't supposed to use a phone on an airplane. It was neat to see our hometown from the sky, and we had 80 mile views into Canada and New York. We kept picking out landmarks that we knew, and saw our houses from up above. At one point we went "leaf picking", dipping just above the tree tops to allow us to reach down and pick some leaves.

On a side note - I am totally afraid of heights, but being in a balloon is totally different. It's so peaceful that you actually feel safe up there. 

The wind practically died by the time we were looking for a place to land and we had few choices available. We landed in a marshy area and got help from a bunch of folks at a nearby horse farm. They towed us out with a four wheeler and moved us to a mowed field to take down the balloon. There were tons of kids to help and soon we had a line of people packing the balloon into the bag.

That was always the fun part that I remembered from my childhood: everyone helps take the air out and pack it into the balloon bag, while little kids are thrown on top to "get out the air."

Tom's parents had chased the balloon the whole way and documented a lot of the trip with their camera. They were there the first time we flew, back in 2009, and were now pros at chasing and tearing down the balloon. 

Everyone (family, crew, horse-owners, house owners, and kids) was part of the champagne toast, a tradition for balloon landings, but this one was unique: Our pilot taught us about the history of hot air balloons, then made us chug our glass of champagne with our hands behind our backs!! I lost immediately after I cracked my cup and Tom finished in 2nd place.

This whole time I was waiting. I couldn't figure out why Tom hadn't proposed. It made sense not to do it in the air - it was too crowded in the balloon to get down on one knee (not to mention that if you drop the ring up there you aren't going to get it back). But why hadn't he done it while everyone was together? Isn't that how it would have been in the movies or something? We even turned to look at the sunset at one point. But nope - no ring.

It was on our walk back to the car when Tom got down on his knee and proposed. Since I knew it was coming the whole night I didn't have that emotional breakdown that women are known have. In fact, it took us a minute to realize that I hadn't officially said yes! But Duh! After 9 years with this guy, there was no doubt as to what my answer would be!

The surprises didn't end there. That night we went out for a late dinner at Koto's, a Japanese restaurant in South Burlington. Because it was so late in the evening, the restaurant was practically ours. We then made our way to the Inn at Shelburne Farms, which I had never been to. Tom had reserved the Webb room for us (after securing a special rate). We explored the Inn that night, which felt more like a museum, while other guests retired to their rooms.

The next morning was cool, windy, and a little rainy. We ate breakfast outside in the restaurant at the Inn, and it was by far one of the tastiest meals I ate during our trip. Tom's entire meal was grown/raised right there on Shelburne Farms - an idea I am totally in love with.

After breakfast we walked around the grounds and by the lake. The whole place was gorgeous and it was hard to imagine just one family owning the it. Talk about a dream home! Before leaving for the day we stopped at the Farms - I just had to see the piglets which were so so cute. 

I love the architecture of both the Farms and the Inn. Gor-ge-ous!

Tom totally surprised me with the engagement and evening and I honestly had no idea that any of this was coming. He always told me that he wanted the engagement to be a surprise, but I was convinced that I would have an inkling that it was coming beforehand. I can tell you now, I had absolutely no clue when we got on the plane to VT that we would be coming back home to plan a wedding! He can keep a good secret (which I am horrible at) and knew the perfect way to propose.

I publish this with only 22 days left until our July 12th wedding. We're excited to be getting married in Stowe and are looking forward to spending the weekend with family and friends, some of which we haven't seen in many years!

And of you're wondering if I'm going to make my own cake, the answer is no. Tom won't let me. He seems to believe that I, the bride, will be busy or something in the days before the wedding .....

Monday, June 16, 2014

Run with Dad (minus the dad) 5K Recap

I've known for a few weeks that I had a 5K PR waiting inside of my, but needed to get a race to find it. This weekend Tom and I each ran in the =PR= Run with Dad 5K at South Lakes high school. I woke up that day not as excited to run it as I was to run the 10K a few weeks ago. The 5K isn't my most favorite race. But fortunately, I didn't let that hinder me and was able to finish with a new PR for the day.

We arrived around 7 to get our bib and then went on our own ways to warm up. It's funny - people often ask if we run together. The answer is rarely. Tom's so much faster than I am, and I am so stuck in my ways. I warm up the same way each time and begin to freak out when it starts to go differently. I am so independent and need freedom to go on my own.

I felt great on the warm up: I got in 14 minutes of running before drills, and knew my body felt awake and ready. We met up again on the starting line, 5 minutes before the race, and found ourselves starting a little bit back. Everyone was ready to go and lined up before we had gotten there and it seemed impossible to get up front.

The start was a little chaotic. We ran 300m on the track at the high school before veering off and into the woods. It was slow, and there were a ton of people in front of us that didn't need to be right on the starting line. I jumped up with other PR running ladies, recognizing a few and knowing I wanted to be with them for the start.

I ran my first 10K last year at this school and was expecting to run a course very similar and was surprised to find us going onto the bike path in the woods. Rather than the open roads with little turning, we found hairpin turn after hairpin turn, as well as a constant variation in elevation. Instead of focusing on my body and on my pace I was constantly worrying about the people around me, making sure I didn't take a face plant as I turned a corner, and mentally battling how the course reminded me of some high school and college courses I had run.

There was a lot of passing during the first mile. Being a Father's day run, there were a lot of younger kids and teenagers that were running. These runners also went out with a very nice mile split, only to drop off in the second mile. I kept my sites on another PR team member right in front of me, not knowing who she was, but recognizing that she was a strong runner. My goal was to stay with her as long as possible. Little did I realize that she was definitely the first place woman of the race.

Mile 1: 5:56

Good. I met my goal mark for the first mile. Last year this split would have freaked me out completely. However, after hitting sub 5:50's on runs in the spring, I knew this was OK. My only problem came with keeping this momentum in mile 2, my weakest mile. This was the mile I struggled the most in trying to stay in the present, rather than having flash backs to races in college when we ran a similar course at St. Mike's. 

Mile 2: 6:22

As I passed the marker and saw 12:18, I knew I had slowed, but couldn't do the math in my head. At this point, I was strictly running on feeling. I had only looked down at my watch twice. I knew if I wanted to break 19:00 that it would be close. So I tried to push harder. 

5Ks, while much shorter than a marathon, take much more focus and a higher pain tolerance. They also require that the runner do some actual SPEED workouts before racing. I haven't done speed in weeks. 

Everything was going great until I came out of the woods for the last time. I had just over a quarter of a mile left to run and made the mistake of looking down at my watch as I went up a hill. In that instance I began to dry heave. Ugh, not this again. I held it in, and kept up the pace. But it happened again. I had no choice but to slow down for a few seconds to stop it. Slowing worked, but my momentum was gone. While I love that there was a camera crew at this race to take free race photos, I hated that they would have been able to catch my lowest moment on film. I was also not ready to loose my breakfast while on the track, now knowing that I was the second place female after a man yelled it in the woods.

As I turned the corner I heard my name being called by the MC, then heard Tom's voice as he cheered me on. He knew my goal was low 19's, and based on his voice, I knew that I had to work hard to get there. 

Final Time: 19:18
New PR
Second place female

I'll take that PR, but I'm not done. As soon as I finished I was ready to sign up for another, faster race! I need to break 19. I never thought I would have that as my goal, but I know it's in me. I just need to get on a track for a few weeks.

I have been enjoying the opportunities that the PR Race team has given me this spring. I love being more involved in races and feeling like there is a purpose to my training. It's also been great to meet other runners on the team. A few of us went for a cool down run afterward and we discovered that two of us had lived in Vermont and had competed against the same runners in high school!

This race was also put on by PR Running. For the runners, there is a ton to offer: awesome tech t-shirts with registration, a lunchbox (for Father's day), a master of ceremony that was made for the job and makes it fun, food at the finish line, and terrific prizes that include gift certificates to be used at their store. I got $75 for second place, which means I can pick up some nice sneaks in a few weeks!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Capitol Hill Classic 10K

Back in the middle of May, a bunch of teachers from my school, parents, and students partook in the Capitol Hill Classic which consisted of a 10k and a 3k race. I had a major goal for this race and was confident that I could do it: Break 40:00 in the 10k. Better yet - break 39:00. I knew I could do this, but had not had good training after Boston (hello 14 hour work days!). I was also very stupid in the middle of the race and never actually looked at my overall time on my watch to see how I was doing. Lesson learned.

Final Time: 40:05
3rd Female

The race morning was PERFECT.  It was in the 50's, sunny, and had no humidity. There was a breeze that felt great on the course, but was enough to force me to draft behind guys a few times. The 8:30 start let us sleep in and enjoy the morning a little before racing, and nutritionally I was set for the race because of the later start.

Tom and I were both running and we knew we had a good chance of placing based off of last year's results. The gun went off and 3 women immediately flew past me. One, a red-head, was a girl I remember seeing at the Cherry Blossom in April. I had some sort of feeling/memory of passing her during that race, so I was not worried about her speeding off at the start. My thinking: let her get tired, then I can reel her in.

The start took us by the Capitol and Supreme Court. I just love the races in DC because of the monuments we run by!

The first three miles flew by but my Garmin beeped about 0.1 to 0.2 miles before I actually got to the mile markers. I don't know why it wasn't lined up with the markers, but I should have really taken that into account for the rest of the race and checked my watch a few more times.

Miles 1-3
6:06, 6:09, 6:12

I felt confident and satisfied with those mileage times. I was also surprised to see 19:07 when I went through the 5K. My current, official PR in the 5K was a 19:41, which means I knocked off a significant chunk and need to get into an actual 5K in the coming weeks. 

By mile 3 we were in the middle of nowhere, or so it felt. The beautiful homes, green streets, and shade that we had in the first half of the race was replaced with concrete, sun, and the parking lot surrounding the old stadium in DC. It felt like a desert, because we were the only ones out there.

As I was thinking how horrible of a place it was, a girl in purple FLEW by me. Where did she come from?! Her speed told me that she knew what she was doing and I was not going to catch her. I fell from 4th to 5th.

The fourth mile marker came: 6:29. Uh oh!  

I knew I had slowed. But by that much?! Fortunately, I spotted the red-head in red. My mission became to catch her, and I was getting close. I got her before the 5th mile, and felt confident that my race to get her meant I picked up the pace.

Mile 5: 6:36

Oh no! This was not going the way I wanted it to, but I didn't dwell too hard on it. I actually felt fine and I was working at a hard effort. I had to keep reminding myself that it was only my 2nd 10k and I hadn't run one this fast before.

Now that I was in 4th I began getting closer to the 3rd place woman. At the same time, I kept playing cat and mouse with a man near me. It was good, as we kept pushing each other to get closer to this girl. 

At around 5.5 I had a decision to make. I had never taken on someone like this in a race. I could keep going this speed and pass this 3rd place woman, and then hold on for the rest of the race. Or, I could play it safe, draft off of her, and then hopefully take her at the end. She knew I was coming, and I couldn't tell if she'd let me pass, only to pass me again and squash my mental game. Also, passing her would mean that I'd have to be on my game for the rest of the race, pushing myself to ensure she couldn't come back. Did I really want to do that?

Yes. I did. I wanted a PR. I knew that to get the PR I needed to get around her. If it had been a man I would have had no problem in my mind making this decision. He wouldn't have stood out. But to take the 3rd place female spot, scared me. I knew it. So I took her. And I kept running. I didn't want to look back. I also felt like I was going to vomit - a reaction that I need to control if I want to get faster.

My spring motto that I have to remind myself in each race: Running fast isn't easy. You have to work for fast times.  

Mile 6: 6:22

Tom was around mile 6 cheering on runners, having already finished 10th overall. I knew I was close to the end, but hadn't look at my watch time and didn't realize HOW CLOSE I WAS to breaking 40. When I turned the very last corner and saw 39:57 on the official clock I screamed in my mind. OMG.... how could I be that oblivious to the time? How could I have been that close to a 39:xx and not realize it?!

I passed the line at 40:05. It was a minute and a half PR, but didn't feel great because I knew I can do better. 

 We stayed to watch the 3K, which had a ton of our students running in it. I didn't realize how big of an event this was. It raised over $80,000 for a school in DC! Talk about a successful fundraiser!

It was a good race (minus the desert) and was a fun morning to spend with co-workers and students. This race also showed me that I need to get signed up for a 5K soon so I can really see what I have in me for that distance!