Richmond Half Race Recap

On Sunday I ran my fourth and final half marathon of the year. And let me tell you, I had a goal. Oh boy, did I have a goal. I was REALLY hoping to break 1:50 this time around – I missed that back in April when I ran the Nike Women’s Half here in DC and it has haunted me like a running ghost. For the Nike Women’s Marathon I finished in 1:52:42 (I think) so  I was off by almost 3 minutes. I could make excuses  (nerves, a crowded start and poor fueling strategy) but I’ll just say I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t my day. This is a lesson that’s hard to learn in running, and it’s hard to learn in life. You have to forgive yourself. You have to let go of the bad and brush your shoulders off … otherwise you will probably repeat your sad prophecy over and over.

Okay so let’s talk about Richmond shall we? Step 1: plan ahead.

some of my racing essentials
Garmin charged, gu and snacks packed, outfit laid out, cowbell for my pit crew ready, bib ready

In my training leading up to Richmond I changed things up a bit. I ran 5 days a week and most weekends my long run was 13 miles. About half of the time I was running 30+ miles a week. Adding mileage is key both in the mental aspect of running (you just FEEL more prepared) and in terms of the running on tired muscles.

I was worried at the start because right before the half started it was literally pouring rain. Let’s ignore the fact that of all of the half marathons I have run it hasn’t rained in only one of them. I still do not like the rain. It doesn’t make me feel invincible. It makes me feel wet and like a human blister. The rain let up for our start though – which was good. It rained a little bit in the middle of the race for me. That was it. The temp was in the low 50s at the start so I wore shorts, my DCRR singlet, arm warmers and some gloves (which I eventually tossed).

Like so many races Richmond has a wave start. I was in  second wave and my pace group (the 1:50ers) was off to a great start for the first mile. I was chatting with our pace group leaders and other runners for the first mile so I missed clicking my garmin at mile 1! Oops! Our pace leaders were going to keep a consistent pace, and I think they did but they were a little faster than me so I dropped back by about halfway. That’s when I hit the only mini-hills Richmond had to offer in Bryan Park. Tiny rolling hills, but when you’re in the middle of the run and you’ve got 5 or 6 miles to go you’re thinking about how tough those hills are. So yeah, I kind of started to panic a bit, worried that I would lose my A goal (finish under 1:50). I tried to focus on B goal – finishing strong and PRing.

I won’t lie – miles 8, 10, and 11 showed some of the mental battles I was going through. They were my only miles that were above an 8:30 pace. I had to try not to listen to Bad Emily who wanted to quit, eat donuts and nap (in that order) Instead, I focused on running one more mile and trying to get it under that 8:23 pace. I got myself together though in time to see J who was waiting for me near the end.

At this point I can see the finish line!
At this point I can see the finish line!

By mile 12 I had a good feeling that I was going to be able to squeak by and get my A goal – if I hustled. And guess what? My 13th mile was actually one of my fastest. Way to go Good Emily!  I convinced myself that I wanted that sub 1:50 so badly that I would ignore the blisters on my feet, ignore my aching back and push through it.

I’m so glad I did because this is what I got:

BAM! A new 13.1 PR
BAM! A new 13.1 PR

I was beyond elated and so emotional and so tired that I started to cry and almost fell over. Luckily I saw a fellow from our pace group who helped me over to the side and out of the chute.

I earned this medal
I earned this medal

My splits:

MILE 1 & 2 (didn’t see the marker for mile 1) 16:44 – 8:21 per mile

MILE 3 8:09

MILE 4 8:14

MILE 5 8:27

MILE 6 8:10

MILE 7 8:10


MILE 9 8:26

MILE 10 8:32 (Started to worry a little bit about time here I think)

MILE 11 8:31

MILE 12 8:21

MILE 13 7:59 (downhill mostly)

LAST .1: 6:17 (very downhill)

Final time 1:49:26

Overall I was very impressed with Richmond’s half. It is a great course for a PR with minimal hills. The support on the course is amazing – some really dedicated volunteers (who again, were out there in the rain to make us all feel supported.) Race volunteers are the best. If you’re a runner, or an admirer of runners I would encourage you to volunteer for a race. You will see the awesomeness of humanity run before you.

After the race, J and I headed over to Buz and Ned’s for some BBQ. It’s probably one of my most favorite meals ever. I got the large meal – 2 sandwiches and 2 sides. I wasn’t able to demolish it all, but I came pretty darn close.

Later in the evening we headed to Carytown for tacos & obligatory celebratory margaritas at Don’t Look Back.  (Seriously one of the most delicious margaritas I’ve ever had.)

I doubt this will be my last race in Richmond. J and I are already eyeing the Ukrops 10K in March. For now though, I’m going to bask in the glory of another PR!


Race Recap: Have a Heart for Hoffman Boston Elementary

There are some major accomplishments going on over here. First, it is the end of February and I haven’t been sidelined by an injury. This time last year I was hurting, I think because I didn’t adequately build up my base. This year? Whole different ballgame. 2013, year of the snake, you’re being good to me. I love you and I’m going to respect you running-wise.

Beyond being injury free, I also completed my first real race of the year!* I chose the Have a Heart for Hoffman-Boston Elementary School 5K. I was hoping that a small race on a familiar trail would make me feel like racing was no big deal. This brings me to something that is a little embarrassing to admit: in the two years since I have been running regularly I had never really raced a 5K before this past weekend.

Let’s start with the not so good – it was rainy, chilly, and foggy. The weather seemed to get in my joints and though I was thankful for J suggesting I do a dynamic warmup before I left the house, I forgot my gloves. Amateur move, Emily, amateur. Not so good out of the way.

Good news? Small race registration is a breeze AND reps from 5 hour energy were there handing out samples. Full disclosure: I don’t know anything about whether 5hr energy will make my heart explode someday, or whether it will turn me into a centaur but I will say that before every race in which I have PRed I’ve had a 5hr energy. Draw from that what you will.

No chip timing. The race started with a whistle. I loved that. It was an out and back course on a paved trail I’ve run many times before. I had a spot near the front of the pack, which was a little selfish of me considering my goal was to keep my pace between 8:10-8:15 per mile. So when I saw my pace was closer to 7:45 so I tried to back it down. I wish I hadn’t done that, because I had more in me at the end. I finished in 24:47 – which is ever so slightly, barely, minutely below a pace of 8:00 per mile. (Not really, when you round it off … but please, I’d like the confidence boost!)

Further confidence boost? I ended up placing third in women 30-39 (What?! P.S. Don’t tell my mom that there were only 15 or so women in my age group.)

Here I am on the way out in the BRIGHT RED SHIRT. I swear I have hair. I just pulled it back into a bun.

Image(Photo by:  Cheryl Young)

And here I am, Big Red, with the finish line in sight:

Image(Photo by  Cheryl Young)

The race was sponsored by a local elementary school – and the race premium was a bandana designed by one of the students. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty hard to beat that. They had an impressive post race set up with Einstein bagels, coffee and water.  Race premium, set up and ease of registration make me think that I’ll definitely run this race again.

My takeaway from this first real race of the year is that I think a PR in my half marathon seems very likely. The trick now will be not resetting that goal to run faster than what is actually possible for me. I struggle sometimes with comparing myself to other runners. I should be focusing on improving on my own time, but that’s hard not to get greedy. If someone finds the magical potion that prevents this competitiveness please let me know. I don’t think it’s 5 hour energy, but check back in a few weeks.

My next race is this weekend! What? J and I are heading out to Burke for the Burke Lake 12K which is part of DC Road Runners Snowball Series. The last snowball series race we ran was the Langley 8K and it was so cold I swore my face was going to fall off. This race I won’t really be racing, it’s my long run for the week so I’m just going to try to keep it at a reasonable pace.

So my next for real for real race is the Four Courts Four Miler – which is two weeks from this coming Saturday. It just so happened to line up perfectly with a day when my training schedule has me running a pace run of the same distance.

Are you training for any fun races or events coming up? 


*I did run the Langley 8K earlier this year, but I didn’t really race that. It was more of kick off to my pre-training ramp up runs…so I don’t count it.

Happy 2013!

I have been an unbelievably bad blogger in 2012. Let’s change that …

I am just finishing up my first official vacation of 2013 … I took 2 days off! The plan was for Josh and I to spend some time in Richmond and then head down to North Carolina for a little sand, seafood, and chilly salt air.

We actually ended up leaving early for Richmond because of threats of a wintry mix descending upon the DC area. That just gave us more time to spend in Richmond.

Virginia's Capitol
It was a rainy day in Richmond …

First we walked past Virginia’s capitol in Richmond on our way over to one of Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy, and the “White House” of the Confederacy. I put that in quotation marks because that is what they called it, but I feel weird putting White House and Confederacy in the same sentence. The tour we got was really great, and I highly recommend stopping in at this museum if you’re ever in Richmond.

The White House of the Confederacy – which later became the Union Headquarters in Richmond

An impressive number of people have been in this house – including Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Thatcher, Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis (the latter two when they were filming Lincoln in Richmond).

After the history lesson and tour we were hungry. Josh knows me well – and he knows that my belly loves some BBQ. So we headed to Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue. (Apologies for the subpar photo … I liked their handpainted sign and I am not a great photographer)

Buz & Ned's
Buz & Ned’s was seriously some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. Program your GPS now.

I feel it’s only fair to disclose my BBQ allegiance. I grew up an Eastern North Carolina style girl. Then in college (with many friends hailing from Texas) I learned to respect and admire the artistry of Texas BBQ. It was during my years in Tennessee that I also fell in love with Memphis style BBQ. What I love about Buz and Ned’s was that it was what happened if all of the BBQ styles got together and made a super BBQ baby with their best traits. That’s a weird analogy, but stick with me here. This BBQ had it all – we’re talking smokiness, subtle sweet notes and that vinegar bite that I still love. Honestly Josh and I were both sad that we didn’t get two sandwiches. It was that good. I have a feeling we might be stopping here again in the future.

We made a few other stops including Hollywood Cemetery, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (amazing collection of art), Carytown (for a little shopping) Legend Brewing (across the river from downtown, but a great spot to catch the sunset and grab a beer) and a quick evening bite at Captial Ale House which we washed down with some local Virginia beers.

It was going to be hard to top all of our Richmond adventures…but we headed down to North Carolina on Sunday … and were greeted by our favorite familiar sights:

Duck, NC
who says east coast beaches aren’t beautiful?
Duck, NC

I love this beach. It’s my happy place. And I am so lucky that Josh loves it as much as I do.

Being back in North Carolina always gives me a new sense of purpose. I love being able to step away from email, twitter, texting and Facebook.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for 2013, as I’m sure many of you have. I’d like to be a better runner this year. I’ve set the preliminary (and ambitious goal) of trying to PR in a few distances: half marathon, 10 miler, 10K, and 5K. I’d also like t be a happier runner this year. Last year my heart just wasn’t in it, and it showed in most of my race times. I look back and the races that were the most fun, were the ones where I felt like I had the least on the line. I want to get back to being able to just be present when I am running, to relish every single stride.

My first race of 2013 will probably be the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC. It’s the first year the race is being run in DC (it’s had a tremendous following in San Francisco). I’ll be keeping track of some of my progress here.  But mostly, I am looking forward to running a big race with a bunch of women. I think it will be inspiring and exciting. I can’t wait to cross the finish line a little stronger than I am now!

What are you goals for 2013? 

The Starting Line

It’s been about a month.

I type that, and I have trouble believing it. It’s been about a month since I last ran.

The last time I ran, I ran 26.2 miles. I wasn’t in the best spirit. I wasn’t in as good shape and I would have hoped. It was cold. It was threatening to rain or maybe even snow. There were moments in my second marathon when I felt like quitting. There were miles where I swore I would never run a marathon again, and maybe even never run again. In the end I set a PR by just under 3 minutes. It was a PR but it didn’t change my mood.

So I took time off.

I decided a month would be a great time to continue with my other fitness passion – barre (more on that later). I decided I was going to reassess what disappointed me about my second marathon. I took notes. I wrote down impressions and observations on everything from my training regimen, to what I ate, to what I wore to how I felt. I realized I love running, and I just need to find a way to make it fun again. I need a new challenge that will provide me with the results I know I can acheive. So, I came up with a plan.

My major race in 2013 will be a half marathon and perhaps a few 10 milers. I’d like to work on speed, and really push myself mentally and physically. This is the year to get fast. This is the year to eat well. This is the year to become a lean, mean running machine.

It all begins today…about a month after I last ran. It’s Election Day when people flock to the polls to have their voices heard. I voted early this morning. I waited in a line for well over an hour. This evening I will ease up to another line – the starting line. Tonight I begin training to become the runner I know I can be. I know it won’t be easy, but I know it will be worth it.

Running Inspiration

I’m a huge believer in the saying that distance running is 90% mental. It’s what gets me through the training. It wasn’t always easy though.

Getting to the point where I felt comfortable pushing myself was difficult. I had no idea what was too much, and when I got tired or hot and sweaty (which happens a lot when you live in swampy Washington D.C.) I would always think about quitting. So I learned early on that the mental toughness is huge. Combat the negativity in your head and you can train for anything.

So I’m going to share with you some of my big inspirations. I love books. I love movies. I like hearing from people who have done amazing things.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running 

Haruki Murakami’s book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”

I mentioned to a friend that I had never read any Murakami and a very observant friend passed on this book to me. I devoured it last year when preparing for my first half marathon. The rhythm of Murakami’s writing is at times as rhythmic as a runner’s stride. It’s also an extremely relatable book. He talks about how he stubbornly resisted walking during his long runs and races – I was literally screaming at the book “Me too!” because for a long time I didn’t feel like I really “finished” a run if I took a walk break. The book is as much about running as it is a window into Murakami’s creative process as a writer. So even if you don’t care for running, that aspect alone is worth the read.

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole.”

The Spirit of the Marathon  

I think I watched this after I ran my first marathon last year. Josh suggested we watch it, and I am glad he did. It follows a number of folks who run the 2005 Chicago Marathon. They vary in levels from folks who have run several marathons, to a crop of newbies. Some are hoping to qualify for Boston, some are just hoping to enjoy the run along the way. Olympic Marathoner and American record holder Deena Kastor is followed too (she won the bronze in the Women’s Marathon in 2004). What I love about this documentary is you get the whole range of running experience. There are injuries. There are triumphs. There are tears. Some folks run in groups. Some folks run alone. It reminded me that runners come in all shapes and sizes, all speeds but they’re still all runners

Scott Jurek 

Just me hanging out with ultramarathoner Scott Jurek

I met Scott Jurek earlier this year at an event sponsored by my local running store. He was in town in part to promote his work with the Nature Conservancy (link) and also to promote his book Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness (link). A pretty sizeable group joined him for a short fun run on a local trail and then we assembled at the store for a short Q&A.

For those who don’t know Scott Jurek has many claims to fame in the ultramarathon world (ultramarathons are races that are over the traditional 26.2 marathon distance) and it turns out he was a very engaging speaker. He’s a vegan – so it was interesting to hear about what he eats to fuel up pre-race, during races, and after races. I was also glad to hear that after a busy racing season he enjoys taking time off from running to repair and re-evaluate. This was huge for me to hear from an accomplished athlete. It made me feel great about taking time off from running!

Who and what inspires you?