A freak neck injury and the Media 5 Miler

On weekdays I set two alarms. The first acts as a warning that morning is approaching and gives me a chance to savor my final moments in bed. Then, five minutes later, the “real” alarm goes off and Matt, Piper and I begin our day.

Last Thursday morning started out like any other day. At 6:11 I silenced the first alarm and blissfully snoozed for a few more minutes. Then at 6:16 I jerked awake in surprise and whipped my head to the right to reach the off button. As soon as I rotated my head back to center I felt a shooting pain and knew something was wrong with my neck. The very act of lifting my head off the pillow was excruciating and I was unable to turn my head to the right. Uh oh!

I gingerly lifted my head out of bed and somehow got ready for work. It’s a good thing Matt and I work together because there’s no way I could have safely driven a car in this condition. Every bump and dip in the road was a nerve-wracking jolt and I spent our short commute focusing on keeping my gaze facing forward and slightly to the left to avoid the acute pain on my right side.

With slow stretching, ibuprofen, and ice my range of motion incrementally increased throughout the day. I was worried about my neck but knew that this pretty much had to a muscular injury since I could pinpoint the exact minute that it occurred. The real question was, would I be able to race 5 miles on Friday night???

Post-Race in front of the Delco Courthouse

Spoiler: I raced and my head is still attached!

I woke up Friday feeling a little better. I still had to twist my entire torso to look right, but the slight improvement gave me hope.  I hydrated and ate during the day as if I was going to race and then did a test run on the treadmill after work to see if my neck could handle a jog.  I ran a half mile without too much pain and decided that I was going to give the race a try!

36 hours and 44 minutes after my bizzare injury (because really, who hurts themselves turning off an alarm??!) I lined up with 1600 runners for the 37th Annual Media 5 Mile race. In 2014 I finished this race in 42:57 and last year I had a big improvement with a 41:03. In 2016 my goal – at least before my neck issue! – was to better my time for the third year in a row.

The Media 5 Mile course consists of two hilly loops through the borough of Media.  Residents were out in force, lining the streets to cheer on the runners and setting up water stations and garden sprinklers to keep us cool.  Staying cool was much easier this year since the weather was unseasonably pleasant, with temps in the upper 70s and low humidity. That’s about as good as it gets for a mid-June race around here!

Mid Race

Mile 1 chirped by in 7:37 and before I knew it I was at the bottom of the big 8th Street hill.  The hill didn’t seem so bad and I was able to accelerate when I reached Jackson Street the top. Then I turned left onto 6th Street and realized that another block-long uphill climb awaited. (Why hadn’t I noticed this hill the previous two years?)  I felt tired so I gave little kids high-fives rather than kill myself up the hill. Mile 2 was over in 8:03.

I left the hilly section of lap 1 behind and tried to pick up my pace as I ran along State Street past the huge crowds of encouraging spectators. Mile 3 chirped by in 8:04… a little disappointing considering that there had only been a few small hills during this split, but I didn’t dwell on my time.  I grabbed a water at the nearest water station, sloshed a little around in my mouth and dumped the rest over my head. It was time to focus on round 2 of the hills!

Both the 8th Street and 6th Street hills seemed longer and steeper the second time around as I trudged up them. Still, I knew that through mile 3 I had been well ahead of the average pace (8:13) that I needed to maintain to beat last year’s time. When my Garmin reported that the 4th mile had taken me 8:43 to complete I got a little worried, but then I saw the big clock that the race organizers placed at mile marker 4 ticking through the 32:20s. I realized then that I would definitely beat last year’s time and even had a chance to break 40 minutes if I rallied hard enough in the final mile!

Media 5 Mile Stats_

I turned onto Edgmont Street with a new feeling of determination and passed several people as I took advantage of the slight decline. My momentum carried me all the way to Barrell Park where I knew I only had a half mile to go. The uphill block back to State Street seemed like it would never end, but finally I was back on the main drag, pushing towards the finish with every ounce of energy I had left.  I zoomed through the finish with a chip time of 40:13… 50 seconds faster than last year!

Media 5 Mile Finish

Lucky for me my neck ended up being a non-issue.  If anything, the more I ran the looser and better it felt! I only noticed the disconcerting, shooting pain during the two times I pounded down the steep hill at the west end of State Street because this made my stride a little more jolting than usual.

Maybe I could have broken 40 minutes without the distraction of my neck, but overall I am very happy with my new course PR and extremely thankful that I was able to run at all!  Now I just have to be more careful with that stupid alarm clock…

Thank you to Matt for cheering me on and taking photos!

Thank you to Matt for cheering me on and taking photos!

Miles since last post: 2
Days since last post: 8
2016 MILES: 841.9

Past Races:
• May ’16:
Media Mile (5/7) [1M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/13), Turtle Trot Trail 5K (5/15), Elwyn Max 5K (5/21)
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Pretend it’s May 27th… Recap of the Elwyn 5K!

Elwyn Weather 20 min before the race

Just before the race. Looks like perfect running weather to me!

This race recap is a bit late. I wrote most of it during Memorial Day weekend but then got distracted with a trip to California (more on that in a future post!) and somehow it took me 3 weeks to actually publish this. Please just pretend it’s May 27th as you’re reading this… thanks! 😉

I woke up at 5:40AM last Saturday and immediately checked the weather: 100% chance of rain at 9 o’clock with a massive storm on the way. I had two choices: 1. put my iPhone down and fall back asleep or 2. roll out of bed and get ready for a 5K that I wasn’t even registered for. Can you guess what I did? One $30 on-site registration fee later I was standing under some ominous-looking clouds ready to begin the Elwyn 5K.

I ran this race in 2014 and remember the course well. We’d start with just over a mile of pavement with some nice downhills before turning into the woods for a short section of steep uphill trail. Then the course would hit a series of rolling hills on grass before paralleling Rt. 352 for a slight but seemingly never-ending incline. Finally, after a few more twists and turns, we’d reach pavement again for a fast quarter mile to the finish.

Elwyn Start

The Start. Photo Credit: Elwyn 5K

I flew through the pavement section feeling fast and surprisingly light-footed in my Cascadia trail shoes. Thanks to the plentiful downhill my average heart rate was only 174 bpm (very low for me mid-race!) and mile 1 was over in a speedy 7:14.

Mile 2 is the hardest segment of this course. The wooded section was almost completely uphill but I was thankful for the wide and well packed trail (a big difference from the previous weekend’s uneven single-track at Rocky Run!). After powering through the woods I emerged in a field, ready to take on the grassy section of the course.

As I remembered from 2014, the uphill stretch along Rt. 352 lasted forever. I focused on keeping pace with a woman ahead of me, but mostly I just felt like I was in a holding pattern for the remainder of this mile. I had run the final 0.75 miles of the course on my warm up so I knew that once I made it past the 2nd mile split I would almost be to the easier terrain. Mile 2 finally beeped by in 8:46. (It’s worth noting that this was a full 30 seconds faster than my middle mile 2 years ago!)

Elwyn 5K Stats_

I felt a surge of energy as soon as the course veered away from 352. The grass was freshly mowed (easier to run on!) and I knew that I had only a another minute or so on grass before the return to pavement. Once I hit the pavement I picked up my pace big time. I had originally thought I might be able to catch the woman I had been following on the grass, but she also sped up significantly so I settled for just making sure that I was running as fast as I possibly could. Looking at my Garmin stats, I think I averaged about a 7:20-7:25 pace during this final 0.3 mile paved stretch.

Elwyn 5K Finish

Booking it to the finish line. Photo credit: Elwyn 5K

My final mile split was 8:17 but I was too busy focusing on the finish line to check my watch.  I zoomed across the line in 24:21, nearly TWO MINUTES faster than my 2014 time!!

Fortunately the rain held off for the entire race and it wasn’t until the awards ceremony that the skies opened up. I had left my rain coat in the car a quarter mile away so I ducked out early, very happy with my time and pleased that I decided to sign up for this race rather than sleep in for a few extra hours. 😄

Miles since last post: 138
Days since last post: 27
2016 MILES: 833.9

Past Races:
• May ’16:
Media Mile (5/7) [1M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/13), Turtle Trot Trail 5K (5/15)
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Turtle Trot 5K at Okehocking

Okehocking Preserve, Ridley Creek State Park, and the Darlington Trail are by far my favorite places to run and hike. All three spots are close to my house (I can run to them!) and their trails offer sweeping views, peaceful woods, and wickedly steep hills. I’ve raced at Ridley Creek and Darlington multiple times but until recently a race had never been held at Okehocking. Thankfully that changed on Sunday, May 15th when Okehocking played host to the inaugural Autism Village Turtle Trot.

407 Start of the Turtle Trot

I arrived at Okehocking early on Sunday with Matt and the camera in tow. The weather was sunny and in the upper 40s… a bit chilly for spectators but absolutely perfect for running. After countless solo loops on Okehocking’s trails – most recently in the snow on April 9th! – I was eager to learn where the official race course would go. Bill Frawley, the course designer and co-owner of my favorite shoe store, The Running Place, was kind enough to point out the major turns and confirmed that the worst of the course’s extreme uphill climbs would be conquered during the first mile.  Sounds good to me!!

Okehocking Turtle Trot 5K Stats_

The race started up a steep hill, wrapped around the preserve’s off-leash dog park, then descended to a bridge spanning a small creek. After the creek it was time to climb again, this time to the long ridge line that runs along the whole north edge of the park. I know from past experience that I can just barely see my house from this ridge, but on Sunday I was too focused on the run to be house-hunting. After 130 feet of elevation gain, mile 1 beeped by in a surprisingly speedy 8:33.

During mile 2 the course plunged down a hillside, passing the preserve’s beautifully restored barn before entering the marshy area at the western edge of the park. Bill had warned me that it would be muddy here, but for the most part the ground was firm and fairly easy to navigate. Or at least it was until the very end of the marshy section when the course turned away from Ridley Creek and the entire trail turned into several feet of thick, deep mud. I splashed and squelched my way through and broke free from the woods just as my watch beeped an 8:30 second mile split.

I often end my own Okehocking runs with a mile-ish clockwise loop in the middle of the preserve through the woods and back towards the area where the race’s finish was located. I understood beforehand that the race’s final mile would be similar to a backwards version of my loop, but I wasn’t thinking about how the change in direction would impact the hills. Perhaps at this point in the race I was just more tired than I usually would be in a casual run, but mile 3 felt like it was ALL uphill. During this mile I realized that I was going to pass Matt so I tried really hard to look like I was running with good form, but then resumed my tired shuffle as soon as I had passed the camera. 😁

503 Mid-Turtle Trot

Finally the hills were done and the finish line was in sight. I ignored my watch’s 8:56 split (I would have been shocked that I ran the final mile in under 9 minutes!!) and sprinted into the finish. I crossed the line in 26:49, just 6 seconds slower than the Rocky Run 5K that I had run two days earlier. I ended up second place overall female and as a prize received an adorable little handmade turtle ornament that will definitely get a place of honor on our next Christmas tree.

Mile 3’s unexpected uphills aside, I loved everything about this course. I was grateful that most of the hills were over with in mile 1, I appreciated the hard, packed trails (a big change from Rocky Run’s rutted, lumpy grass), and the views made every climb totally worth it. Now if there was just some way to make the weather at ALL RACES be 48° and sunny… that would truly be perfect!

574 Turtle Trot Finish

Miles since last post: 0
Days since last post:0
2016 MILES: 695.9

Past Races:
• May ’16:
Media Mile (5/7) [1M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/13)
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Rocky Run Trail 5K

We’ve had an unusually cold, wet spring this year. Not so great for my basil plants (which turned black and died after a week of rain) but very nice for runners like me who prefer cool weather races. I’ve been trying take advantage of this “nice” weather by running as many races as possible, including two trail races last weekend and one this weekend.  That’s a lot of trails! And also a lot of race recaps that I need to catch up on. Here’s the first of three…

On Friday the 13th of May I ran the Rocky Run YMCA’s Trail 5K for the third year in a row. Last year I led the women for the entire race, but then got passed decisively in the final quarter mile. I never knew placing second could feel like such a huge defeat until that moment! This year I vowed to do things differently. I wanted to start out slower to ensure that I’d have energy left at the end. That way I could be the person doing the passing, or at least putting up more of a fight if a woman tried to pass me.

I crossed the start line with a small field of 5K runners at 6:30PM. I had initially thought I’d just tuck in behind whatever woman looked like she was going the fastest, but then I realized that I was that woman so I set off behind the men at a comfortable pace. After 0.4 miles of pavement the course plunged down a hill and entered the woods.

It had rained all week so the steep descent on single-track trails was a slippery, muddy mess. I was very thankful for the big treads on my trail shoes and only found myself reaching out to catch my balance on a tree a few times as I picked my way down the hill. The trail eventually flattened out and the terrain changed to thick, wet, lumpy grass with a few ruts and rocks thrown in for good measure. Definitely better than the mud slide, but still not the easiest footing.

I trudged along, very aware of the fact that I was once again sitting in the first place female spot. That’s a stressful position to be in when you know that you have a huge, muddy uphill waiting for you towards the end of the race! As I neared the turnaround point I could hear a woman close behind me saying “good job!” to the men who were passing us on their way back to the finish. I remember thinking “Uh oh… she must be feeling REALLY good if she’s still talking at this point of the race!!” I hit the turnaround with her about 15 feet behind me and started the long climb back towards the YMCA.

Rocky Run Trail 5K Stats_

The lumpy grass seemed twice as hard to navigate the second time around but I was utterly determined not to give up my lead. With less than a mile to go I passed a little boy and again heard the woman behind me, enthusiastically urging him on as she also passed him. How was she still this cheerful??? (Note to self: talking a lot during a race is a great way to psych out the runner ahead of you!!)

I reached the steep uphill feeling tired and somewhat detached, like my brain was floating through a foggy haze. Even through the haze I could feel how badly I wanted to stay ahead. I pushed up the slope and suddenly emerged out of the woods sooner than I expected. There was still a steep section of parking lot ahead of me, but I was back on firm ground!! At this point last year I had nothing left but this year I actually felt a little surge as my muddy shoes hit the pavement. I powered my way up to the top of the parking lot and looked behind me with 0.3 miles to go… the cheerful woman was nowhere in sight!!!!

Even though I had not seen a woman behind me I wasn’t going to leave my victory to chance. I gave the final loop around the Y’s playing fields everything I had and somehow was able to find enough speed to pass a guy in the last turn of the race. I sprinted across the finish and smiled when I heard the race timer say “first place female!”

Rocky Run post-race

I finished in 26:43. Only 7 seconds faster than last year, but with more challenging conditions and significantly better execution and outcome. I didn’t give up my lead and I fought hard right up to the end. Woohoo!!

My first place prize was a 75 minute massage at the Y. I think I’m going to need it after all of these spring races! Next up: a recap of the Turtle Trot trail 5K that I ran 38 hours after Rocky Run…

Miles since last post: 46.4
Days since last post:10
2016 MILES: 695.9

Past Races:
• May ’16:
Media Mile (5/7) [1M PR]
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Pizza with Andouille, Kale and Cannellini Beans

Sometimes Matt and I spend hours making a fancy new recipe that seems like it will surely be “blog-worthy.” As we cook I painstakingly photograph each step and Matt waits patiently while I snap shot after shot of the finished dish before we eat. But guess what? Those elaborate, complicated meals don’t always live up to the hype. Sure, the food tastes good, but it’s just not special enough to warrant the time and energy to sort and edit all of those photos, especially if we know that we’d want to significantly tweak the recipe before ever attempting it again.

Other times a delicious recipe catches us totally by surprise. That was the case tonight when I spontaneously decided to combine Cannellini beans, kale and andouille sausage on a pizza. Matt isn’t a huge fan of white beans (or my tendency to try to work them into every meal possible), so he was rather suspicious about the whole idea from the start. I was more optimistic but still didn’t even bother to get my real camera out as I cooked… you’ll have to forgive the iPhone photos but after tasting it we both realized that this pizza was too good not to share!

Andouille Kale Cannellini Pizza

Hidden underneath those layers of spicy andouille sausage, melted mozzarella and wilted kale lies the secret ingredient of this pizza: a garlicky white bean puree.  I whipped up the puree using canned beans, minced garlic and a bit of thyme from my garden, then spread it like pizza sauce all over the uncooked dough. The beans imparted a thicker texture and heartiness to each bite of the finished pizza and complemented the bolder flavors of the kale and andouille perfectly.

Without further ado, here’s how I made tonight’s surprisingly blog-worthy pizza…

Pizza on the peel

Pizza with Andouille, Kale and Cannellini Bean Puree

You will need…
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 – 15 oz. can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves Garlic, minced
6 sprigs Thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped
Salt, to taste
4-5 tablespoons Cornmeal or Semonlina Flour
1 package uncooked Pizza Dough
Small bunch Kale, stems removed and leaves torn into 3-5 inch pieces
8 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
2 Andouille Sausages, fully cooked and sliced 1/8″ thick (we used Trader Joe’s Chicken Andouille tonight)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 490°F. Position the rack 6-8 inches from the top of the oven and place the pizza stone on the rack to warm up. Warm olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then add in the rinsed Cannellini beans. Saute beans for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gently stir in garlic and thyme and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes until garlic is very fragrant. Lightly salt, then transfer the bean mixture to a food processor. Blend until smooth, adding a little more olive oil if the mixture is too thick. Set aside.

Heap the kale leaves in the nonstick skillet you used for the beans. Saute the kale over medium-high heat until the kale is wilted.

Sprinkle cornmeal on the pizza peel then drop the pizza dough ball onto the cornmeal. Knead and spread the dough ball into a 15-17 inch pizza. Carefully remove the hot pizza stone from the oven and place it on a heat resistant surface. Transfer the dough to the stone and shape it into a nice circle the size of the stone.

Working quickly, spoon and spread the white bean puree onto the dough. Next, sprinkle a few handfuls of the shredded cheese over the pizza. Distribute the wilted kale evenly over the pie, leaving a 3/4 inch “margin” for the crust. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the kale and layer the andouille sausage slices over the cheese. Carefully slide the pizza stone back into the hot oven.

Bake the pizza for 8-9 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the edges of the crust are starting to turn golden brown. Keep an eye on the pizza as it cooks… if your oven heats unevenly (like ours does!) rotate the pie with a few minutes left on the cook time.

Remove the pizza from the oven, slice and enjoy!

Cutting the Pizza

My 5,280 Foot PR

The last time I raced a mile was on August 13, 2015 when I ran just over 4 laps (1,609 meters) around the Henderson High School track. I trained hard for the inaugural Boxcar Mile and finished with an official time of 6:56. I came away from that race happy with my performance but feeling that I definitely had the potential to run faster.

My second chance to race a mile came last Saturday when I participated in the 2nd annual Media Mile hosted by 5280 Race Series. Unlike the Boxcar event, this was a road race with a gentle decline in the first half followed by a slight uphill towards the finish. The gradual climb would make this race more challenging than running on a track, but I figured that the road course would be mentally easier since I wouldn’t be running the same loop four times.

I woke up early Saturday morning, posted a quick blog recap of my last 5K, and then set off through the pouring rain to Media. I warmed up through the waterlogged town with my raincoat zipped all the way up and my hood on, side-stepping around puddles on the uneven brick sidewalks. I told myself that despite the rain the weather really wasn’t that bad. Compared to the 71° summer heat at the Boxcar Mile I’ll take 52 and rainy any day!

So much rain.

So much rain. I texted this to Matt, who was still asleep at the time. He’s glad he didn’t come to spectate!

I shed my raincoat at 8:57am and lined up on Front Street by the county courthouse. In a moment of panic I realized that I hadn’t updated my Garmin to auto-split at the half mile, so I spent the final seconds fiddling with my watch, finishing just in time to hear Ready, Set, GO!!!

The downhill in the first quarter mile made it hard to hold back, but I knew that the finish would be ugly if I got carried away sprinting too fast. I consciously decided to let some people pass me and fell into a comfortably fast rhythm as the mid-way point approached.  A man was standing at the half calling out splits… I hadn’t needed to set my watch after all! I blew through the half in 3:15. Possibly my fastest 800 meters ever and technically on pace for a 6:30 finish, but the uphill was coming!

Media Mile Stats

The hill that I had spent so much time mentally preparing for seemed like it was over before I had time to think about it. I guess that’s how things go in a 1 mile race? Looking at the elevation chart, there was still a slight incline all the way to the finish, but with 600m to go I knew the worst was over.

I powered up State Street feeling strangely in control. I fell into stride behind a girl in neon green and imagined that we were in a track workout together and my job was to stay right on her heels. With a few blocks to go I realized that I could actually PASS her, so I did! I veered around her and then, sure that she would respond to my challenge, picked up my pace and never looked back.

I made the final turn into Veteran’s Square at what felt like a sprint. I was greeted by another short uphill but by that point I didn’t care: the finish clock was in sight! It was ticking away in the high 6:30s and I KNEW I was going to PR. I ran hard and crossed the line with a chip time of 6:46. A 10 second PR!!!!

Finishing the Media Mile

I just missed an age group award but that’s OK because I ran my fastest mile ever!!! My first half was significantly faster than the second, but I think that was the right strategy given the terrain. I will definitely plan to race the Media Mile again in the future, hopefully minus the rain! 😄

My next race is tonight when I’ll be running the Rocky Run Trail 5K for the third year in a row. Then I’ll finish off the weekend at Okehocking Preserve with another 5K trail race. I’m going to be one tired runner by Sunday afternoon. Wish me luck!

A wet post-race selfie

Miles since last post: 28.9
Days since last post: 6
2016 MILES: 649.5

Past Races:
• April ’16:
Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17), Haverford Twilight Run (4/23) [5K PR Tie]
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

That time I TIED my 5K PR!

Or, how NOT to pace a 5K.

On Saturday, April 23rd I ran the Haverford Twilight 5K for the second year in a row. Last year I PR’d at this race and this year I felt that I was absolutely in position to run another personal best. I was so sure that I could beat my previous time of 23:17 that I cockily told Matt as I left for the race that I’d text him my new PR as soon as the run was over.

To earn a new PR I knew that I’d need to keep my first mile under control and run consistent splits. If my goal was to run, say, 23:10, my ideal splits would be something like 7:28, 7:32, 7:31, with a final 0.1 mile kick at around 6:30 pace.

Fast Times Split Table

As the table above illustrates, I’ve been running relatively fast times this spring and my pacing has been getting more consistent. With this in mind I believed that hovering right around that 7:30 mark during the bulk of the 3.1 mile race seemed like a reasonable and attainable goal.

So how did the race actually go? Not QUITE as planned.

I started the 5K several rows back to ensure that I wouldn’t get caught up in the initial mad rush of kids and sprinters who tend to stop or drastically slow down after the first quarter mile. I would describe my pace as “strong.” Not comfortable, but not pushing too hard either. Then I glanced down at my watch and realized I was averaging 6:50 pace for the first .3 miles. Whoops!

I slowed down and fell in behind a man wearing a bright blue shirt that said something about a running coach. I didn’t know if he was the coach or the coached, but either way I figured he could probably run a more consistent pace that I could so I resisted the urge to zoom past him and instead tucked in right behind him as we came off the first turnaround.

Before I knew it, mile 1 was over in 7:13.

I knew that I was way off pace, but oddly I still felt fantastic. Strong, happy, and matching my blue-shirted running coach stride for stride. We powered into mile 2 and zipped southeast down Darby Road at a nice clip.

I glanced at my watch again… I was still averaging a 7:13 pace halfway through the second mile. Whoa. Thoughts started swirling around in my head as I edged past the coach:

Could I somehow have underestimated my PR potential by this much?
Should I back off of this crazy a$$ pace right now??
Am I going to go sub-23??!!

How painful is mile 3 going to be?

Mile 2 ticked by in another, perfectly even 7:13. Unbelievable!!

But then the headwind kicked in. Oh yeah, did I mention that there was a 14mph wind coming out of the NNW? And guess which way I was headed for the third and final mile? Not good. The tailwind that had pushed me southeast for my fastest 2nd mile ever was now mercilessly slamming me in the face. My wildly off-pace 7:13 miles caught up with me and I struggled along, praying for the moment that I’d get to turn right on Mill Road, out of the wind and towards the finish.

At last the end was in sight. Mile 3 blipped by in a disappointing 8:00 split but I ignored my watch and pushed with everything I had towards the finish.  I crossed the line with a chip time of 23:17… exactly tying my PR.

Haverford Twilight 5K Stats

I know without a doubt that I messed up in those first two miles. But at the time they just felt so easy, so strong… so RIGHT! Some delusional part of my oxygen-deprived brain was telling me “Go for it!!” and I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to PR big because I was too conservative at the start.

That’s my problem right there. I always feel the urge to bank time and therefore go out too fast. How do I fix this? Do I have to run a terribly uneven 5K every once in a while to remind myself of how not to pace a race? At least during the Haverford Twilight Run I was able to TIE my PR (yay!) but I still believe that I should have been able to beat that time and set a new PR with a better executed race.

Going out too fast in my first mile shouldn’t be too much of a problem in my next race because it’s just a single mile! At 9AM today I’ll be dashing through the streets of Media, PA for a 1 mile race hosted by the 5280 race series. The only mile I’ve ever raced was on a track last August so I’m very excited to see how this morning’s road race will unfold!

Miles since last post: 0
Days since last post: 0
2016 MILES: 620.6

Past Races:
• April ’16: Evolve IP 5K (4/2), Empower the Children 5K (4/17)
• March ’16:
 St. Agnes 5K (3/5), 3-2-1 Loop 10K (3/12) [10K PR], Pickle Run (3/19)
• February ’16:
Pickle with Piper (2/20)
• January ’16:
Pickle Trail Run (1/30)
• December ’15: Jingle Elf Run (12/3) [2M PR], Brian’s Run (12/5) [5M PR], Reindeer Romp 5K (12/13)
• November ’15:
Trinity 5K (11/7), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/26) [5K PR]
• October ’15:
BAAR 5K (10/3), Double OyVey 10K (10/25) [10K PR], Boo Run 5K (10/31)
• September ’15: Run-A-Muck Trail 5K (9/19)
• August ’15:
Boxcar Mile (8/13), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/27)
• June ’15: Media 5 Mile (6/19)
• May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3) [10M PR], Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
• April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11) [10K PR], Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26) [5K PR]
• March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
• February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
• January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
• December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5) [2M PR]Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7) [5M PR], Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
• November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [5K PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
• October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
• September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
• August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [5K PR]
• July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18) [5M PR]
• June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
• May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [5K PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
• April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3), Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
• March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
• February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
• January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
• December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [5K PR]
• November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
• October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [5K PR]
• September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
• The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)