Race Recap: Yough River Trail Council 10-Miler (3/31/2018)

Last Saturday, I ran one of my favorite local races in the small town of Connellsville, Pennsylvania.  The annual race, hosted by the Yough River Trail Council, takes place on part of the Great Allegheny Passage, which is a rail-trail stretching 150 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD.

One of the reasons this race is so popular is that it offers a variety of distances for runners of all abilities– 5K, 10K, 10-Mile, and half marathon.  Typically held the day before Easter, it’s also a great “training run” for anyone running in the Pittsburgh half or full marathons.  I run the 10-miler each year that I run the Pittsburgh half, and I ran the half marathon the year that I ran the Pittsburgh full.  It gives me a good gauge of whether I’m where I want to be in my training for May.  Another great thing about this race is the cost– for a pre-registered price of just $15, you can run any distance of the race.  This price includes a free T-shirt, finishers’ prize (this year it was a medal for the half marathoners and a ribbon for all other distances), and refreshments along the course as well as at the finish line.  How many other 5K’s have you run at that price point, much less half marathons?!

Because this race is an out-and-back course on the trail, you don’t have the frills and fanfare of the larger races, but the scenery is beyond beautiful and offers a great distraction as you count down the miles to the finish line.  I don’t miss the fanfare, and I never get bored.  The trail can be somewhat desolate after you pass the 10K turnaround point, but this is actually my favorite part of the race.  Not only do I not feel pressured and distracted by other runners, but the views after this point are amazing.  You are running with the Youghiogheny River flowing in sight to your right, and historical coke ovens visible just off the trail to the left.  If you have done the 5K or 10K but have never done the 10-miler or half marathon, I highly recommend it just for the scenery!  This is all-around a great, well-organized local race with great volunteers.

Okay, that’s my spiel about the race itself.  I swear I have no connection and am in no way affiliated with the Yough River Trail Council, haha– I just really enjoy this race each year and want so share how wonderful it is so that everyone knows they need to run it.  😉  Now for my actual recap.

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A picture of the morning fog lifting off the Youghiogheny River before the race start (edited just a touch with a little help from Instagram)

I arrived about an hour before the 9:00 a.m. start to give myself plenty of time to pick up my packet, use the restroom, and relax before the race started.  I absolutely hate rushing around before any race– it gives me more anxiety about the race than I already have.  And I already had a lot of anxiety about this race.  I signed up for the 10-miler knowing I needed to cover that distance before the Pittsburgh half in May, but my training has been really lacking lately and I haven’t run that distance in about two years.  So I had no clue what to expect.

The temperature at the start of the race was unseasonably cold (in my opinion)– about 30 degrees, but it felt cooler running along the river.  I wore running tights, a long-sleeve tech shirt, a light jacket, and gloves.  By mile 2, though, the jacket came off.  The sun was shining and made for a very comfortable running temperature.

I started this race hoping to finish with an average pace of 10:00 (optimistic) – 10:30 (realistic).  When I ran my first mile in 9:55, I knew I needed to pace myself a little better if I wanted to run a consistent race.  I slowed down to a 10:22 pace for the second mile and tried to hold that steady as I moved forward.

The first few miles of any run are always a physical and mental struggle for me.  I’m not sure why.  I have trouble finding my stride and have doubts about whether or not I”ll be able to finish every time.  Somewhere between the 3-mile marker and 5-mile marker is always where the endorphins kick in and my race begins.  I like to call it “Magic Mile 4.”  This race was no different.  It wasn’t until after the 10K turnaround point (about 3.1 miles in) that I started to really feel confident about my race.  The beautiful scenery I mentioned earlier helped, too, I’m sure.

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A view from the trail of historical coke ovens nestled into the hillside. 

At the turnaround point (5 miles), I was feeling great, but I stopped at the water station to eat some Shot Bloks and take a sip of water before starting the second half of the race.  From past experience, I know not to wait until I feel my body slowing down to do this.

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A view from the trail after the turnaround point.  Hardly anyone in sight.  Beautiful view of the river off to the left.

 When I start a race, I always think about how many miles I’ve run so far. After the turnaround point, I always start counting down the miles to the finish line.  I’ve found this little mental trick to be extra helpful with longer races like this one.  The total distance doesn’t seem as dauting once you start telling yourself “only 4 miles to go… only 3 miles to go… rather than “I’ve run 6 miles… I’ve run 7 miles…” etc.  It seems to help me, at least.

I’m happy to say that my fastest mile during this race was mile 8 at a pace of 9:45.  At that point, I was on an endorphin/shot blok high and feeling great.  Although my last two miles were a little slower because of it, I was glad to know that I could still pick up the pace in the second half of a race, even though I’ve taken a 2-year hiatus from distance running.

The last two miles of the race were tough, but I pushed through and finished within my goal time.  Final race results aren’t posted yet, but my running watch is showing a finish time of 1:43:06, which is an average pace of 10:20 per mile.

The slowest I ever ran this race was in 2015 when I was pregnant with my first daughter, and I finished with a pace of 11:03.  The fastest I ever ran this race was in 2014 when I ran the half marathon with a pace of 9:18 (oh, to be that speedy again).  So a pace of 10:20 after very little training is a pace that I can deal with, knowing it’s a base upon which to improve.

Bring on the half in May.  =)

This weekend I’m taking a break from distance running to run a local 5K in the snow and cold.  Fantastic (note my sarcasm).  Is this winter ever going to end?

What are your running plans for the weekend?    

 

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The Procrastinators’ Guide to Half Marathon Training: Day 4

First of all, I would like to apologize to anyone who found this page in search of a short-term, quick-fix half marathon training plan, as the title might suggest.  That’s not what this post is. At all.  My current training is not a “guide” or “training plan” (or really anything that I would ever recommend any runner ever do)– if anything, it’s more of a guide to what NOT to do when you are training for 13.1.

That being said, I know it’s been a while since I posted, so I’ll give a quick recap of what I’ve been up to (if you want the long version, check out my older post here).  After having my 2nd baby in two years last May, I took a few months off from running until my new-found hectic life mellowed out.  Late last fall, I started running with my local running group again here-and-there just to ease back into things.  I got sick a total of three times this winter (I swear my immune system is so much weaker since I haven’t been running regularly), which put me out of commission for most of the cold winter months.  Now that the worst of cold & flu season is *hopefully* (knock on wood) behind us, I’ve been hitting the pavement more often with a goal of increasing my pace and building up my mileage.

If you follow my blog at all, you know that I love, love, love the Pittsburgh marathon/half marathon events.  I ran my first half marathon there in 2011, so it’s a race very near to my running heart.  I haven’t missed a year since then except in 2017– my daughter was actually born on race day that year (I swear that wasn’t planned), so I’d like to think that I participated in the day’s events in my own way.  It’s just that instead of a bib and medal, I got a living, breathing human to add to my collection (ha).

Each year, I enthusiastically sign up for the Pittsburgh half marathon on the day that registration opens, and this year was no different.  I signed up as soon as I could last August with the goal of killing my training and making my return to distance running as epic as possible.  I cut back my hours at work and was now only working three days a week– I shouldn’t have any trouble finding time to log even more miles than before.  Or so I thought.  When you have kids, especially young kids, often things that seem simple and logical (you know, like well-thought-out, reasonable plans) become complicated and impossible.  And that, in a nutshell and for too many reasons to list here, is what happened to my seemingly logical training goals.

So, just about two months out from the half marathon, I realized that the half was drawing very near, and I was very far from being prepared for it.  Missing my favorite event in my favorite sport, though, is not an option for me.  So here I am, cramming my training in, two months before the half.

Before having kids (and barring any injuries), the only things stopping me from reaching my training goals were laziness and lack of motivation.  I love running, so neither were much of a problem and training usually came fairly easily.  Now that I have kids, the only things stopping me are laziness, lack of motivation, and two little ladies that are 100% dependent on me and their dad.  That last one is a biggie.  My days with my babies are wonderful, but they are long and they are tiring.  Training no longer comes easily.  Many days, finding the energy and motivation to run are hard.  Especially in the cold winter months in Pennsylvania.  And especially when neither of the kids are sleeping through the night (my toddler sometimes sleeps worse than my infant!).  For many months, I’ve given in to the tiredness, allowing myself to sleep in and miss my scheduled runs.  Now that the weather is taking a turn for the better, and my baby is starting to sleep (a little) better, I’m finding my motivation to run again.  Thankfully.  Having two half marathons on my schedule is also a little bit of a motivator as well, haha.

So, without further ado, here is my completely unofficial guide to training for a half in 8 weeks**:

**DISCLAIMER: DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS

3/17/18: 
SCRR Training Run
8 miles
1:23:16, 10:24 pace
TRAINING NOTES: I got stuck in the port-a-john at this run and had to be rescued by
four grown men.  So much for my epic return to running.  Did you know that the Steel City Road Runners host free training runs every weekend in the months before the marathon and you don’t have to be a member to participate?  This is a great opportunity for those who want to try some new/different routes in their training.

3/25/18: 
Treadmill Workout
8 miles
1:21:00, 10:08 pace
TRAINING NOTES:  I despise the treadmill, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil when you’re trying to train in the wintertime around here.  A great playlist is absolutely necessary for me to be able to run more than three minutes on a dreadmill.

3/27/18:
Tempo Run
3.25 miles
31:18, 9:37 pace
TRAINING NOTES:  I was originally planning to run 5 miles with my running group this day, but the timing and weather didn’t cooperate, so my husband and I actually went out for a quick run while we still had a sitter for the kids.  I had a long race the following weekend, so a faster/shorter workout was probably for the best anyways.

3/31/18:
Yough River Trail Council Races – Connellsville, PA
10 miles
1:43:06
10:20 pace
TRAINING NOTES: I sign up for this race each year I’m training because it’s the perfect distance at the perfect time before race day.  It really allows you to gauge your fitness level and help to give you an idea of how you will do at the half.  I’m not going to say much more here because I plan on writing a recap later in the week, but I was happy with my results given the amount of training (or lack thereof) I’ve had.

So, training has been off to a slow/late start, but I have a concrete plan in place for how I want the next few weeks to go, and I’ll be sure to come back and keep you updated each week.  Have a great week all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Pittsburgh Half Training: In a Nutshell

We are officially 9 days out from the half marathon in Pittsburgh, and I admit– my training hasn’t been exactly where it needs to be (which is why I haven’t been posting too often lately).  Before I had Sweet Little Miss H in October, I had a perhaps unrealistic view of my “epic” postpartum return to running.  I took 9 weeks off for maternity leave, and I had intended to make getting back in shape my #2 priority during that time (second only to my #1 priority– taking care of Miss H, of course).  I quit running last May but continued to stay in shape throughout my pregnancy by attending spin classes regularly, so I figured it wouldn’t be difficult at all to return to running at my previous or an even better level of fitness.  I signed up for the Pittsburgh half on the first day that registration opened– I’ve raced in Pittsburgh every year since 2011 (including last year, when I was pregnant), so that was a no-brainer.  I then proceeded to sign up for two more half marathons. One at the end of May, and one at the beginning of June.  That makes three half marathons within one month, 6-7 months postpartum.

Then, first-time-motherhood happened and completely changed those plans.  Due to reasons beyond my control, I had to have an emergency c-section, and recovery from that was brutal.  Then, the first few months of Miss H’s life were a blur of sleepless nights and exhausting nap-less days.  She had her days and nights mixed up to the extreme– she would wake up at 11 pm and stay awake (no naps) until sometimes 8 or 9 in the morning for the first seven weeks of her life.  It was very a very atypical sleep pattern for a baby her age.  She ate every hour during the day.  I was lucky to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep total each day, and getting a workout in had to take a back seat to my first priority: sleeping whenever I could.  Fast forward to January: she was finally sleeping a little better at night, but I was back to work, so I would fit in workouts whenever I could (usually only on the weekends).  Then came February.  I got sick twice that month, both times over a weekend. I ran a few times, but I knew that my “big” training plans had gone out the window at that point.  When March came, I knew I had to get back in shape, and I knew I only had two months to do it.

I’m not making excuses for my lack of training; I’m just saying that getting back to running after having a baby was much harder for me than I expected it to be!  I know it’s not that way for everyone– so new moms please don’t be discouraged by my post– I just had the perfect storm of circumstances that caused me to get a late start on my return to fitness.  Nothing beats the joy and happiness that a new baby brings, so I’m not complaining– I wouldn’t trade those first few trying months with my sweet baby girl for a long run any day.  I’m just giving a bit of a background as to why I’m going into this half more unprepared than I’ve ever been.  And I’m totally okay with it.

So far, I’ve run 12 times this year in preparation for the half for a total of about 45 miles.  No bueno.  Those miles included one 5K race and one 10K race, so I’ve already had a bit of experience with the “race atmosphere.” I’ll probably run two more times before next weekend– one long hilly run this weekend, then a short run of intervals/speedwork next week– making 14 runs and approximately 56 miles total.

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My view from last night’s speedwork/hill training run.  PA mountains make for some of the best training routes. =)

I honestly don’t know how many times I usually run in preparation for a half, but I do know that I’ve trained significantly less for this one. Given the circumstances, though, I’m content with my training and feel like I’m in the best shape I could possibly be in at this point.  I’m confident that I’ll at least finish the half, and right now that’s really my only goal– to finish and to have fun doing it.  I’ll take it easy, and when my legs get tired, I’ll run with my heart– same as I do every race.  And I’m sure blasting my workout playlist will help the miles go by a little more quickly, too.

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Source: Google Images

I certainly don’t condone this type of lackadaisical training and am not encouraging it at all– so please don’t mistake my post for that.  It’s more of a caution/warning than a recommendation– if you’re training for a half, do NOT train how I did, haha.

Will I run the other two half marathons that I’m currently signed up for?  Maybe; maybe not.  We’ll see how Pittsburgh goes and whether or not I’m able to get a long run in on the weekends that follow.  I’m throwing around the idea of giving up distance running for the rest of the year and just focusing on speedwork to improve my 5K times.  That would give me more time to spend with Miss H; something I’ve been craving a lot lately especially since I’m back to work full-time.  I haven’t decided yet, though.

On a side-note– I just started an Instagram page!  So now you can check me out there and on Facebook, too, if you’re interested in following my postpartum-return-to-running journey on a more regular basis.  I’ll be trying to update those pages more often than the blog.

What races are you training for?  How is your training going??  

Any tips for a new mom on how to fit running and training into her already-busy schedule?  I need all the pointers I can get.  

Fitness Friday and My Weekly Recap!

Hey all!  It’s been a while since I’ve done a Fitness Friday post.  Since it’s the start of a new season and the start of a new month, I thought it might be a good idea to seek out a little bit of fitness motivation and share it with you.  So here goes… You really can’t go wrong with inspiration from Nike!

Just-Do

Seriously, when it comes to fitness {and all other things in life}, there’s no time like the present to get started on something you’ve been thinking about doing or been putting off doing.  Especially in the fall– with the inevitably colder temps and the busy holiday season approaching, it’s so easy to say “there’s no sense in starting now, I might as well wait for spring to get here.”  Um, no.  Get off your butt and get started NOW!  When the spring comes and you’re fitter, healthier, and happier than before, you’ll be glad that you did.  On a related note…

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Don’t prolong your goals.  Get started now, because in a month, a year, a decade– you will be glad that you did.  The passing of time won’t make you any more motivated than you are today.  The time will pass, and you’ll still be saying “I’ll start some day.”  So make that “some day” today!

With two 5K races and two half mary’s coming up in the next month, I’ve been running a good bit lately (much to my liking!).  Last Sunday, a group of us did a very scenic 8.5-mile loop full of uphills, downhills, and flats.  I normally do my long runs on my favorite running trail, which is a flat, soft-surface, rails-to-trails.  I knew I wanted to get in a tougher training run before my October 6th half marathon, and last Sunday’s run definitely fit the bill.  It felt great to check out a new route, get my heart rate up, and test my legs’ limits up over the hills.  I really wish I’d have had my phone on me to take pictures, but I didn’t– some of the sights we saw were absolutely beautiful.  We are planning on repeating the loop this coming Sunday, so hopefully I can snag some pics to share then.

On Wednesday, my bestest running friend Emily and I ran a nice-and-easy 10 miles on our favorite running trail.  Once upon a time, if you’d have told me I was ever going to say that a 10-mile run was nice and easy, I’d have laughed at you.  But seriously, we took it nice and slow and I felt great afterwards.  I love distance running, and I especially love feeling like I’m improving at it.

Last night, my brother and I went on an easy 3.1 mile run with a family friend who is training for his first 5K.  I treated it as a recovery run in preparation for tomorrow’s 5K race, but in reality our route had some nasty hills on it!  I was feeling the burn in my legs and the burn in my lungs from the chilly fall temperatures.

I did a little bit of strength training this week, but nothing to write home about.  I’m using strength training more for injury prevention now, but I’m hoping to kick my strength training up a notch once all this half marathon training slows down in November!

I hope everyone has a fun, fit FALL weekend!!!

=)

8 Miles and Some New Running Gear

Last night, I met my bestest running friend Emily for an easy 8 on our favorite local running trail.  I love, love, love running in the fall, and yesterday’s run was no exception.  The air was crisp, the sun was shining, and the trail was dusted with the first round of fallen leaves for the year.  Absolutely perfect.

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My favorite running trail.

The late-day sunshine was streaming perfectly down through the trees, and we stopped running on more than one occasion to snag a few pictures.  The area where I live is beautiful, especially this time of year.

After running four fast-paced miles with my boyfriend the night before, yesterday’s eight miles felt nice and easy.  My legs felt strong and the cool air meant I didn’t feel overheated or dehydrated (thank goodness, since I totally forgot my water bottle at home for the gazillionth time in a row!).  We took a walking break here-and-there, and I felt super refreshed afterwards.

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Although our splits ranged from 8:05/mile to 11:29/mile, we averaged out at 9:52/mile over the course of 8.27 miles.  Not bad.

Only a few more training runs before our half marathon on October 6th!  Wahoo!!

When I got home, I found not one but TWO much-anticipated packages waiting for me!!!

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The first was a fresh supply of Honey Stinger Chews– Pink Lemonade flavor!!  I am usually a Clif Shot Bloks kind of girl, but I gave the Honey Stingers a try a few weeks ago and really liked them.  I decided to buy a box of those to throw into my running fuel rotation.

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The second was my most recent purchase from Kindrunner.com— The Stick!!!  After a knee injury sidelined me last fall and prevented me from running in my first full (MCM) marathon, I’m determined to run and train as injury-free as possible from here on out!  In anticipation of my upcoming first full marathon in May of 2014 (too early to start making running gear purchases? I think not.), I bought The Stick to massage my sure-to-be tender leg muscles after I start ramping up my mileage.  If you aren’t familiar with the benefits of self-myofascial release for runners, Active.com has a great informational article here.

Bella was totally intrigued by my self-myofascial techniques, haha

Bella was totally intrigued by my self-myofascial techniques, haha

After my 8-mile run last night, I threw on my compression socks for a few hours and used The Stick on my quads.  I’m happy to report zero soreness in my legs today!!  I really think the combination of compression and self-myofascial release is going to help me get through marathon training injury free (fingers crossed, at least)!!

Do you foam roll or use another form of self-myofascial release?

What are your favorite energy gels, chews, etc. to use on your long runs??