Philly Half Marathon Recap

Last Sunday I ran the Philly Half Marathon, just like I do every year.  I love Philly Marathon weekend.  Yes, I’m biased but Philly does a damn good job of putting on a spectacular race.  And the spectators aren’t half bad either!  If you’re looking for a Fall half or full, seriously consider Philly (I ran the full in 2008 so I can attest to its greatness too).  Flat, fun, and you can high-five Mayor Nutter at the finish line.

IMG_4487my collection of Philly race Ts, 2007 to 2014 (missing 2011 – donated because of size) 

I spectated the 8K on Saturday and watched my 2 friends run their first 8K.  They worked their asses off for months and were smiling the whole time.

IMG_44678K finish line

IMG_4479so proud

Sunday was perfect race day weather and my goal was to run a solid effort (my standard goal for 2014).  I need to add that if a solid effort didn’t include a 1:4x finish time, I’d be pissed.  I saw Megan in my corral and chatted with her until the race started.

My loose race plan was to keep the first mile at 8:40, drop to 8:20, and then drop to (hopefully) 8:00.  I’ve done speed work since the Philly RnR so I had some idea of what I was capable of.

Splits –
M1 – 8:13
M2 – 8:05
M3 – 8:04
M4 – 8:18
M5 – 8:15
M6 – 8:24
M7 – 7:41 (not sure about the accuracy of this one)
M8 – 8:23 (hill)
M9 – 8:21
M10 – 8:49 (hill)
M11 – 8:04
M12 – 8:08
M13 – 8:25

Finish – 1:49:01 (8:18 average pace)

The positives?  I’m happy with my pacing.  I had a loose plan to follow but, for the most part, I didn’t really pay attention to my watch.  I wanted to hone in on HM effort and I think I did that pretty well.  And miles 11 and 12 were strong (it helped that I went downhill after mile 10 – full disclosure there!).

The negatives?  I can’t stop thinking that my now HM pace (8:18) was once my goal MP.  Sigh.

I’m almost 11 months postpartum and I *should* be faster by now.  It’s definitely not from lack of trying.  I trained smart this year.  It’s frustrating to not see more progress.

I’m sick of whining about 2014 and postpartum blah, blah, blah.  Fiona will be 1 on January 9th (yikes!) and the “I just had a baby” excuse is no longer in play.

So I started something new (for me) yesterday.  But that’s for another post… :)

2nd trimester running recap

Farewell, 2nd trimester!  On Wednesday I’ll be 27 weeks and beginning my 3rd trimester, according to my Sprout app.  Whether this happens at week 27 or 28 – I don’t know – but I like the sound of it so I’m sticking to it.

I know I sound like a broken record but I still feel pretty damn good.  Aside from having a gut that won’t go away and grows after each meal, I still feel like “me”.  Although I must admit, over the past 2 weeks, I get pretty cranky from 3-5PM.  I’m exhausted from carrying around the excess weight and just want to lay down.  After dinner I generally feel better so maybe I just need a snack?  Why do I feel like a toddler?!

Running during the 2nd trimester was pretty consistent, with the exception of a few days of extreme humidity, where I just bagged the run all together.  I decreased my overall mileage to 30-35 miles per week, compared to 35-40 miles per week in the 1st trimester.  My long runs stayed in the 10-13 mile range.  And I completed (pregnant) half marathon #2!

The 2nd trimester also brought some so-called “shin tension” while running.  I really can’t describe it any other way.  My compression sleeves helped a bit but my legs have to continually adapt to the increased weight.  Even more so now that my weight gain will be more rapid (awesome!).  I’m super vigilant about recognizing any shin tension, taking extra rest days, using the Tiger Tail, and icing.

Now that it’s cooler out my running wardrobe is limited.  All my tanks and shorts fit fine but my race Ts are a bit snug.  My weeks of wearing them (decently) are numbered.


Instead of buying new ones, I decided to take advantage of Matt’s Ts (some of which were originally mine but too big).  Since Matt is “retired” from running, he shouldn’t miss them.


This morning I ran an impromptu 5K!  Might as well leave the 2nd trimester on a high note.  My goal was to give it a solid effort and beat my PW of 28:22 way (way) back when I was 25.  That was my first 5K ever – on University of Maryland’s hilly campus.  That race is probably why I still hate 5Ks to this day.

Anyway, I didn’t think it would be that hard to beat – it would be close – but feasible.  What I didn’t expect was for my legs to feel like bricks after mile 1.  I felt like I was at mile 24 of a marathon…where your brain and lungs are saying “go, go, go” and your legs are uncooperative.  My breathing was fine, my stomach wasn’t “in the way” or bothering me but I just couldn’t move my legs any faster.  I did run 6 miles on Friday and 8 on Saturday but I really think it was just all the added weight and increased “speed”.

I finished in 28:44 – 9:16 average pace.  And now my legs are sore.  Who knew 17 lbs (and counting) could cause such havoc?


Looking ahead to the 3rd trimester, I think my motto is going to be “grateful for each day that I can run”.  I will cut myself some slack on my miles per week mandate and just be happy running 25(ish) miles per week.

I decided (after MUCH debating back and forth) to drop out of the Philly Half Marathon and instead do the Rothman 8K in November.  I’ll be 8 1/2 months by then and I need to be realistic.  Even with using a run/walk approach, 13 miles is too far with all this added weight.  Today’s race confirmed that!






Be Your Own Coach

Most of my running clients are half marathoners and marathoners.  Some are first timers and some have a few races under their belts and are looking to improve their time.

When they first contact me, they complete a questionnaire where I ask them all sorts of questions.  I call this “getting to know them more as a runner”.  It’s so important that I gather as much information as possible so that I can properly develop a plan for their goal race.

When I begin to lay out a training plan and begin to work with my clients I always keep the following in mind…

Plan, plan, plan
I always tentatively plan the long runs first.  I say tentatively since my training plans are highly adaptive and, in general, I only plan 3 weeks of training at a time.  I would be weary of a coach that hands you a 16-week training plan at once (unless you asked for it).

Long runs are the bread and butter of any endurance training plan.  I take into account tune-up races, drop back weeks, vacations, and any other things I may need to work around.  It’s easier to manipulate the long runs later on if you pencil them in for the entire training plan.

Keep your eye on the prize
Speaking of tune-up races, I ask my marathon clients to keep racing to a minimum during marathon training.  I generally allow 1 HM and they either race it or use it as a marathon-paced training run.  Either way, it’s a great confidence booster for race day.

For chronic racers, marathon training can get a bit boring.  Long runs are the priority and racing has to take a backseat temporarily.

The more you run, the better you get at it
I have my clients run as much as they can.  What constitutes high mileage is unique to each runner.  Thirty miles can be enough for some while 70 is enough for others.  I like to have enough time during marathon training to do adequate base building…slow and gradual increases in overall mileage and long run distance.  This increase in aerobic capacity will not only make you faster but will lay a solid foundation for marathon or HM-specific speed work.

There’s a time and place for speed work
Many clients want to jump right into speed work thinking it is the only thing that will make them faster.  Speed work will make you faster…to an extent.  Over time, without proper increases in aerobic capacity, your speed will plateau.  As I said above, the right time for speed work is after we have a solid foundation of base mileage.  Your body is stronger and can handle the increased stress of speed work.

When clients begin training for a HM or marathon after a period of low mileage, I begin with so-called “pre-training” to base build.  After an adequate base is established, then we can layer on the speed work.  I sometimes use strides and hill repeats during the base building phase just to break up the monotony of all those slow miles and to help with leg turnover.

That’s just a few of my basic principles I follow when coaching.  To find out more, hire me as your coach! Winking smile

a good year

Happy New Year, folks!

I am thoroughly enjoying my time off and perfecting my “lady who lunches” routine.  Next Wednesday is going to be cruel and painful.

First things first – RTLR turned 2 this week!  For those of you who have been reading from the beginning – (1) kudos, (2) thank you, and (3) you deserve a tall cup of coffee or a stiff drink (your choice).

I wouldn’t be a proper blogger if I didn’t reflect back on 2012 (in terms of running, of course).  If I could sum it up in one word?  WOW.

What could be better than kicking off the year with the Boston Marathon?!   90 degrees or not, it was an amazing ‘experience’ (due to the heat, the B.A.A. refused to call it a race but instead an ‘experience’).

finish_race photo
this picture says it all…

My Christmas ornament from Matt this year…


After Boston, I ran my first “ultra” (50K) and discovered that running on grass isn’t as fun as it was when you were a kid.  But…ultras ARE fun!


After that came a 5K, 2 HMs, and the Rehoboth Beach Marathon – all PRs (thank you, ultra training).  Some were surprise PRs and others (err, RBM) were I-could-have-done-better-PRs.

I also learned some things along the way:  (1) when in a rut, run an ultra and (2) drop waaay back on mileage during drop back weeks.  In the past I don’t think I was cutting my mileage back enough to really absorb the benefits of my training.

Your turn to brag!  Tell me about your best (or favorite) 2012 race or maybe something you learned about running in 2012?

Rehoboth Beach Marathon Recap

Marathon #11 can best be described by one of my Dad’s many sayings:  sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.  I won’t leave you in any suspense – I didn’t get the bear.

the good
I didn’t have a terrible race.  I didn’t go out too fast, didn’t hit the wall, didn’t dehydrate, didn’t develop aches or pains, or didn’t fuel properly.  My first 13.1 was run in 1:48 and the second 13.1 in 1:52.  A 4-minute positive split.  Not terrible – I’ll never be a negative split marathoner – even splits are the way to go for me.

All I can say is that I got tired (no shit, right?).  My mind was saying “go, go, go” but my legs could not maintain MP.  My pace would slip, I would rally back for a little, and then my pace would slip again.

the bad and the ugly
On paper, a sub-3:40 (8:20 average pace if you’re using 3:39) should have been easy.  I just ran a 1:41 half 3 weeks ago (7:45 average pace).  My MP would have been 35 seconds slower than my HMP.  That’s huge.  This was not a stretch goal.

But the marathon is a fickle bitch of a race.  Anything can happen.  You’re on top of the world for one mile and praying that it will all end the next mile.

miles 1-10

I wanted to use the first 2 miles as a warm-up and then settle into 8:20 pace.  I was holding back here.  I obsessively checked my Garmin to make sure I wasn’t going out too fast.  The first few miles were within RB and then we entered a rails-to-trails section.  This was definitely my favorite part of the race.  It was gorgeous and the trail running put me at ease.


And then we headed out for a long stretch to Lewes and Cape Henlopen State Park, passing some of the biggest and most beautiful houses I have ever seen.

on my way to DQ…

miles 11-19

I needed to pee.  Like real bad.  I first noticed it around mile 7 and I thought the feeling would go away.  It only got worse.  With the exception of my first marathon, I never have to stop and pee during a race.  Ever.  I gave some serious thought to just peeing myself but my stage fright is way too bad for that.  Plus it’s really difficult to “let go” while running!

I HAD to stop at the next porta potty.  I was going to lose time either way.  If I didn’t pee, the feeling would only get worse and slow me down.  I ducked into the next porta potty I saw, peed as fast as I could, and then tried my best to make up for lost time (that’s why mile 18 is 8:53).

Miles 14-16 went through Cape Henlopen State Park.  This is where the so-called “hills” were.  It was more like gentle rolling hills – nothing that will really break you.  The payoff was gorgeous views of the sand dunes and ocean.

miles 20-26.2

This is where the tiredness set in.  I didn’t hit the wall; it was just harder to maintain MP.  I felt OK and tried to rally back with mile 21 but my paced slipped again in mile 22.

still giving a half-hearted thumbs up…

We made our way back to RB via the rails-to-trails section.  I saw Jess around mile 22.  I have never met Jess before but we both knew we were running the race.  I introduced myself and we ran together for the next 4 miles.  We were both having a tough time and although we didn’t talk it was nice to have someone there with you…providing silent encouragement and motivation.  Thank you, Jess!

I passed mile 25 in 3:30.  I didn’t know how close to 3:31 I was but I remember thinking I can do this.  I can run a 3:39.  It’s funny how you forget that you have to run 1.2 miles to finish.  I would have had to pull the fastest 1.2 miles of my life to get a 3:39.

I saw my Garmin switch over to 3:40 and my heart sank.  I was so close…I could see the tent where the finish line was.  I crossed the finish line in such a fog I never stopped my Garmin until 30 seconds later.

Official results
Overall – 197/823
Female – 47/323
AG – 10/45

I so badly wanted to run a 3:3x marathon and was totally capable of doing so but it wasn’t my day.  I left nothing on that course and did the best I could do on that day…which is all you can really ask for in a marathon. 


the race itself
I would definitely, absolutely, positively recommend this race.  The course was beautiful (and flat) and RB Running Company organized a small and fantastic race.  I lucked out with the weather – it was 100% overcast with no wind.  I could see how even the slightest bit of wind could cause havoc on some of the out-and-back portions.

I also got to see Matt about 4-5 times on the course.  He kept popping up every couple of miles.

The best thing about the race was the after party.  A huge, heated tent with catered food, live music, and beer!

I mentioned this in another post but it’s worth mentioning again.  I stayed at Avenue Inn, right around the corner from the start line.  The race started at 7AM and I didn’t leave my hotel room until 6:45AM.  I was warm, dry, and used the bathroom to my heart’s content.

we ran right by the hotel at the start

Writing this recap has been cathartic.  I was hoping it would be.  Up until yesterday, all I could think of is how I didn’t run a 3:3x marathon.  I hate how that overshadows that fact that I PR’d by 2 minutes.  If I were a client I would have looked at those splits and told them they ran a terrific race and they should be proud.  I need to listen to my own advice.

On the plus side, I get a break.  A real break.  Not a let’s-run-a-50K-and-then-another-marathon break (remember how I said I was going to take a break after Boston)?  I’m going to focus on barre and running what I want, when I want.

I literally could not keep up with all the comments on FB, Instagram, and Twitter.  Thank you, thank you!  It really did mean a lot.

Philly Half Recap

There’s no half (in my biased opinion) that can top Philly. I love this race. Philly does a fine job of putting on a fun and organized race, all the while maintaining a mom-and-pop-like feel (similar to the old Philly Distance Run days – oh, how I miss you). And the 4-deep spectators along Chestnut Street don’t hurt either.

Based on my 12K finish last week I figured I could maintain a 7:40-7:45 pace. But I also wanted to feel things out a bit too. Settle into whatever pace felt comfortable on that day and go from there.

It was freezing at the start. As soon as I checked my jacket and pants my whole body was trembling. I totally forgot to bring a trash bag (it really does keep you warm!).

my sister showing mile 26 some love pre-race

The first mile was a little rough since my feet were numb and my muscles were tight from being so cold. Soon enough I settled into a pace that felt like HM pace. When I glanced at my Garmin I was around 7:45 pace. Perfect.

The middle miles were pretty uneventful. I enjoyed the crowds and kept my mind occupied by reading the signs. There’s an incline (can’t really call it a hill) around mile 7-8 and a legitimate hill right past the mile 9 marker. That’s it though. Contrary to what people say the Philly Half (and full – I ran it in 2008) is a flat course!

Around mile 10 I started doing the math. 3 more miles at x pace and maybe you can snag a 1:41. Holy shit! Could I really? I started repeating my favorite mantra. You can do anything for 3 miles. Repeat again at mile 11. You can do anything for 2 miles.

The finish line at the Philly Half is deceptive.  You must go all the way around Eakins Oval and then down the Parkway a bit to even see the finish line. I forget this each year.

I headed down the Parkway – I still couldn’t see the finish line yet – and my Garmin said 1:41. I had no idea how close to 1:42 I was (after the 1-hour mark I don’t see seconds on my Garmin). I started sprinting – there was no way I was going to let 1:41 turn into 1:42.


A 4-minute PR from September.

A 6-minute PR from last year’s Philly Half.

almost all 7s…that’s a first

After the race I did a quick wardrobe change and coffee run and headed back down to spectate. I got to see strong finishes by Megan and Kelly (nice job ladies!) and watch my sister kill her marathon time from March by 20 minutes. Congrats Karyn!!

Completely unrelated but check out this great interview with Kara Goucher.  Ultramarathoner?!



Fartlek Fun

My Saturday began with 15 miles in cool, crisp Fall weather.  I came home, ate, showered, and headed out to Malvern to cash in a Groupon for a 75-minute therapeutic massage.

The massage was heavenly.  I don’t like half-assed massages.  If I’m getting one, I want my muscles to be kneaded and worked on.  A hurts-so-good massage.

What I didn’t expect was a lecture after the massage.  I was told my neck and shoulders were a “hot mess”.  This isn’t news – every time I get a massage I hear about my tight and knotted neck and shoulders.

I was then told that I shouldn’t run as much as I do, although I never told her how much I run.  She told me it was unhealthy to carry around so much stress.  I told her I wasn’t stressed by anything in particular.  She kept doing this…

Do I walk around like this?  Run like this?  (via)

Maybe she has a point (but not about running too much!).  I politely listened, smiled, and thanked her.  Now I’m hyper-aware of my apparent shoulder shrug syndrome.

On Sunday I did a fun little fartlek run I saw here.  I’m tired of my same old tempo and progression runs.  This was a perfect way to prep for my 5K next weekend.

Although I misread the workout – it was supposed to be 2 minutes “on”, not 1 minute – it was challenging without being too taxing.

2 mile warm up
5 continuous miles of 1 minute “on” followed by 1 minute “off”.  My “on” was a well controlled sprint, focusing on my form (shoulders down!).
2 mile cool down

Your heart rate during the “off” portion never returns to “easy run” heart rate which makes this workout so great.  Very similar to decreasing your rest intervals on the track.  Try it!  Side note:  for marathon training I would increase the “on” portion to a few minutes at HM or 10K pace. 

Ever do fartleks?

Like getting massages (is there anyone that doesn’t?!)?  Do you have shoulder shrug syndrome like me?

The truth and some redemption…

13 miles / 1:48:55 / 8:23 avg pace

I ran last Friday and didn’t even blog about it.  Who cares, right?  Yes, but I want this blog to be an honest look at my running.  I was too frustrated and pissed off to even mention Friday’s run.  I set out to run 13 miles and ended up with 9 at a slow 9:24 average pace.  I never cut a long run short.  I can run through blood, freezing temps, boiling hot temps but I never cut a run short.  So I was clearly PO’d enough to call it quits.

Friday’s run basically went like this:  9:00 pace (normally my LSD pace) felt labored.  Maybe I needed to warm-up?  Nope.  After 5 miles, I passed my car and was ready to throw in the towel.  But I didn’t.  Two miles later I was officially DONE and turned around and headed back to my car.  I was more frustrated than anything.  What the hell was going on?

As I posted earlier this week, I’ve been having trouble breathing when running.  It just feels way more labored then it should.  I’ve already mulled over the possibility that I’m completely out of shape but I realize that is irrational and just plain crazy.  The more I thought about it the more I kept thinking it was my asthma.  My asthma is never an issue anymore, due to some incredible medications that keep it under control.  But I got a cold a few weeks ago and it started drifting into my chest which is never good for my asthma.

I took Saturday as a mental health day from running.  And vowed to come back strong on Sunday.

I used my inhaler pre-run on Sunday (I did the same on Friday).  I generally use it pre-run when I’m sick or when it’s very cold out.  I was determined to make this a good run.  I started out at MP (8:30), dropped the pace slightly, and then stayed consistent.  I felt great and my breathing was right where it should be.  Ah, redemption tastes so sweet :)

It’s funny that I finished right around my half marathon PR.  I’m now ready for the Philly Half.  Bring it.

Got any redemption runs this weekend to brag about?  I have to give a shout out to Kara and Alyssa for going sub-4:00 at the Baltimore Marathon yesterday.  Way to go ladies!

My Top Tips


8 miles easy / 1:12 / 9:00 avg pace

Last night I was scrolling through my list of blog topics (I keep a list on my BlackBerry), trying to decide what to write about.  “My Top Tips” seemed intriguing (to me, at least).  These are marathon/half marathon training tips that I swear by.  My intention is to list the less obvious stuff; maybe things you don’t hear all the time.

Know The Course
The race course, that is.  Check out the elevation profile and do some research.   Ask around, check out, and find out as much as you can.  But remember, hills are subjective!  Some people think rolling hills are mountains while others think a 1-mile climb is flat.  After you gather your information, train for the worst case scenario.  I’ve gotten burned in the past (“it’s a flat course, no major hills”).  Riiiiight.  I learned my lesson last May.  Now, if I know there’s one small hill, I’ll incorporate hill work just to be on the safe side.

Delete Your Garmin History Pre-Race
Of course, you’ll charge your Garmin obsessively before the race but it’s also important to delete the history so you avoid getting that nasty warning message during a race.  Upload all of your data to your computer and then delete the history on the watch itself.  I’ve never gotten the “memory full” warning during a race but it did happen on a 20-miler once.

How Am I Going To Carry All Of That?
GUs, ShotBloks, oh my.  Add an iPod or water bottle to the mix and suddenly you’ve got a lot to carry.  There are a lot of options out there – fuel belt, SPIbelt, race ready shorts (you know you want them!) – but, as with everything, you need to find what works best for you.  Experiment on long runs and take note of any bouncing, moving around, chafing/irritation, and bruising (yup, some are brutal).  Make sure you test it on a 20 mile run too.  Some things don’t rear their ugly head until the later miles.

Foam Roller + Ice = Your New Best Friends
This is more of an obvious one.  If anything hurts, foam roll it and ice it.  And be consistent – repeat a few times a day.  This could prevent that “twinge” or “tweak” from becoming an injury.  A little time spent with your new BFs can save you lots of time later on in training.  Runner’s World has some great videos on how to use a foam roller.

Refuel After Hard Efforts
Your body will thank you the next day.  Trust me.  A hard effort is a long run, a tempo run, a speed workout, etc.  It’s important to refuel within 30 minutes post-run with a 3:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio food/drink.  Chocolate milk fits the bill and who doesn’t love an excuse to drink more chocolate milk?

What training/race day tips do you swear by?

Tapering For A Tune-Up Race


6 miles easy


9:35 avg pace

Brr, still chilly Philly here…with no end in sight.  Waaah!

As I mentioned yesterday, my training this week will be switched up a bit to allow for a mini-taper for Sunday’s Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.  I really want to PR in this race (previous 10-mile PR is 1:23) but I still need to maintain my weekly mileage and key workouts.  Also, since I’m knee deep into the Monster Month, my legs aren’t as fresh for racing.   So this mini-taper is really necessary.  So how do you finagle a mini-taper into marathon training for a tune-up race?

With the race on Sunday, I know I want 2 days of complete rest (meaning no running; an easy yoga class is OK).  This has worked well for me in the past.  So Friday and Saturday are mandatory rest days.  I got my easy run out of the way today and I will do my long run tomorrow morning (thankfully, it’s only 15 miles this week).  This will allow enough time for recovery before Sunday.  That leaves a tempo run and speed work.  I’m counting my race on Sunday as my speed work for this week (I will be running like someone is chasing me) and my tempo run will be on Thursday.  The tempo will also be at an easier pace (goal marathon pace) so I can recover faster.  For you visual people:

MON:  easy run
TUE:  long run
WED:  rest/yoga
THU:  tempo
FRI:  rest/yoga
SAT:  rest
SUN:  race

I’m still getting in my 39 miles for the week and still hitting my key workouts.

I’m a big advocate for doing tune-up races during marathon or half marathon training.  Your tune-up race can be great practice for the “big event”.  But sometimes fitting them in your training schedule can be difficult.  It’ll require some planning and a little knowledge about your own recovery but it’s totally worth it :)

Do you have any mini-taper tips?  How do you handle racing and training at the same time?