The Seven and a Half Mile Warm Up {Recap of Paoli Race for Refugees}

11 miles were on my to-do list this weekend. For me, that wouldn’t usually go hand-in-hand with a 5K, but it was forecasted to be 66°F on Saturday morning. After a hot and humid summer I couldn’t let that lovely weather go to waste, so on Thursday I started toying with the idea of running 7.5 miles to get to a local 5K. That way I could get in my long run and my race. I talked it over with Matt and the idea grew on me as I described what route I would take and which race I would run. Maybe I could do this!

When I went to bed last night I still hadn’t registered for the race, but my mind was made up. Then, this morning I woke up at 6AM to the sound of rain hitting the windows. I checked the radar and there was a huge blob of green and yellow rain over the entire Philadelphia area. Hmm.

As if running for an hour to get to a 5K wasn’t going to be challenge enough, I decided that I was going to do it in the pouring rain. I signed up for the race at 7:22 and headed out the door a few minutes later with a running backpack stuffed with 1.5 liters of water, two energy gels, and a dry set of clothes wrapped in a grocery bag. Paoli or bust!!

Paoli Race for Refugees 5K

September 8, 2018 | Paoli, PA | 8th overall, 1st F (results)

My rain-soaked seven and a half mile warm up took my through the rolling hills of Willistown Township. Along the way I saw a caravan of police cars headed towards the race for traffic control. As I got closer I passed the race’s 2 mile sign (at the top of a wicked little uphill section of Grubb Road that always kicks my butt) and passed a group of raincoat-clad volunteers setting up a water station. At 8:45 I trotted into the Paoli Presbyterian Church parking lot. As water dripped off my hat, shirt, and elbows, I happily picked up my bib, changed my socks, stashed my bag, and lined up at the start.

This was a no pressure race for me and it was fantastic. I started farther back in the crowd than usual and I think I smiled ear to ear throughout most of the first mile as an upbeat song pumped through my headphones and positive thoughts rolled through my brain. “I ran TO a 5K! I am so much lighter without my hydration pack on! It is cool out!” Mile 1 beeped by in 8:16.

Mile 2 felt even better. I enjoyed the beautiful scenery as the course followed Valley Road past a historic schoolhouse, along an old stone wall, and around a huge grassy field. Then I tackled the Grubb Road hill and felt much faster going up it during the race than I had during my warm up. Mile 2 was over in a surprising 7:57.

The water station came into view next. I thanked the kids who were holding out cups but didn’t need anything to drink. I was almost done! Right around this time I realized that I had reached 10 miles. That’s the longest I’ve ever run and I still had nearly a mile to go. I was now in uncharted territory!!!

I turned my attention to a woman in a white shirt ahead of me. I had slowly gained on her since summiting the hill and I wondered if I could catch her. I kept getting closer and eventually pulled even to her as we pounded down Valley Road with less than a half mile to go. We exchanged a “good job!” and I made my move past her, hoping I had enough energy left in my legs to hold on.

And I did!! I zoomed past the police car at Waynesborough Road, turned into the church parking lot, and crossed the finish line as the clock hit 24:10. Woohoo!

Matt arrived just in time to take a photo of my finish and he hung out with me as we waited for awards. This was the only part of the day that did not go quite as planned. I loaded what I thought were preliminary results on my phone before the ceremony began and was concerned to see that my name was not shown. Furthermore, the runner listed as the first place female had a time of 25:17. I soon found out she was the woman in the white shirt. Although I wasn’t listed in the results, I figured that since I beat the woman in the white shirt I might have actually finished first place female overall, which was (thrilling!) news to me. Yay!

I ate popcorn and waited for the official awards, figuring that the timing company would have the rest of the runners added by then. But nope, the incomplete online results were the exact results that were read aloud. White shirt had already left for the day, so the female overall prize envelope went unclaimed as the announcer worked his way through the age group awards. It quickly became clear that my result was not the only one missing, and by the end of the ceremony a small crowd of soggy runners had formed around the awards table.

Fortunately the race timers had a handwritten record of the top finishers and they confirmed that I was indeed 1st place female and 8th overall! I thankfully accepted the prize envelope (which contained $75!!!!!), then gratefully crawled into the towel-lined passenger seat of our car for the ride home. After 11.2 miles I was tired, wet, and so, SO happy that I went outside of my comfort zone and added a 5K to my run this morning.

Local runners! If you’re looking for an early September 5K next year, I definitely recommend the Paoli Race for Refugees. The course was beautiful, the volunteers were friendly, the DJ was energizing, and the after-race party had food, music and tons of activities for kids. I will plan to return in 2019, but maybe with a slightly shorter warm up. 😊

Miles since last post: 31.4
Days since last post: 7
2018 MILES: 957.4

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Sugar-Coated Pony Kisses: Recap of the 5K Trail Run for Thorncroft

I am going to jump right into this post and pretend that I haven’t been MIA for 4 months…

There’s a white board hanging next to my treadmill filled with random notes and doodles about past races, workouts and goals. At the beginning of the summer I added “Hot 5K” to my Summer 2018 to-do list. (I prefer to avoid running in the heat at all costs so yes, this is an actual goal for me!) Last week I realized that this task remained un-checked so I found a local race to run at the end of August. And just my luck: the race fell on day 4 of (what has got to be) our last heatwave of the summer. A “feels like” temp of 87° at 6:30PM certainly met the white board’s threshold for a hot 5K!

5K Trail Run for Thorncroft

August 30, 2018 | Malvern, PA | 11th overall, 2nd F (results)

Thorncroft is a local nonprofit that specializes in therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults with mental, emotional and physical disabilities. The farm is 4.3 miles from my house (I run by it occasionally) and the inaugural 5K Trail Run raised funds for the care of the 30+ horses and ponies who call Thorncroft home.  The race was sponsored by local businesses including Chester County Running Store and Stable 12 Brewery, AND runners would be treated to a free beer at the finish. (So, in other words, I didn’t need much convincing to run this race!)

It was hot at the start. So hot that I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself to run particularly fast. I just wanted to complete a hot 5K and have fun doing so. I wore my trusty Arches Ultra hat and was thrilled to meet a woman who will be running an actual ultra in Moab next February at the start line. Small world! Before we could compare notes the race began and I was off, eager to run around Thorncroft’s 70 acre farm.

The first mile was mixed gravel and grass with a tiny, leap-able stream crossing. I didn’t feel as hot as I thought I would and was shocked to see a first split of 7:42. (Now that I see the elevation chart, I am less shocked.) The second mile felt harder, with lots of trudging around the perimeters of horse pastures in semi-rough grass.

Mile 3 had more of the same field terrain and I was just starting to get sick of it when the course turned back towards the finish.  As I paralleled Line Road I took a peek behind me and realized that there were no other runners in sight. Normally I wouldn’t let this affect my race, but by that point I was pretty hot and it was nice to be able to ease up slightly and not feel like I needed to race someone to the finish. I cruised back into Thorncroft’s driveway and passed under the finish banner in 24:41. Hot 5K complete!

My garmin had the course a bit short at 2.91 miles, but I don’t care. I had fun and got a scenic tour of Thorncroft’s horse pastures in the process.

The post-race set up was fantastic.  Finishing runners were funneled through the Thorncroft barn, where bottles of water waited in a wheelbarrow-turned-ice chest next to a pile of bananas and a box of pretzels.  The horses and ponies happily watched the hot and sweaty runners walk down the barn aisle and some even stuck their whiskery noses through the stall bars to say hello.  At the far end of the barn there was live music and, of course, the beer tent!

I checked the results online and saw that I had apparently placed 3rd female overall. Cool! I stuck around, watching the ponies and chatting with other runners (including the runner headed to Moab next February) as the sun set and the weather cooled off a bit. Finally it was time for awards and it turns out I placed SECOND overall, not third. Woohoo!

As I went up to accept my red second place horse ribbon the organizer said “The first place runner didn’t want her beer. Are you over 21? Do you want it?” Why yes, and YES! Before I knew it, a frosty 4-pack of Sugar-Coated Pony Kisses IPA was being thrust into my arms along with a $50 (!) gift card to Chester County Running Store, a horseshoe and a red ribbon. Sweet!!

The Thorncroft 5K was wonderfully organized for an inaugural event. A well-marked course, live music, food trucks, beer, horses, trails, chip timing… someone certainly knew how to make sure runners had a good time! I will definitely plan to return next year.


I can’t end this post without giving a quick shout out to my assistant, Piper, who is lounging on the couch next to me as I type this. She fell asleep a few paragraphs ago and is moving her paws while she dreams about something exciting. Ah, the life of a little GSP!

Miles since last post: 454.4
Days since last post: 119 (!)
2018 MILES: 926

2018 Broad Street Run Recap

I did it!! This morning I ran 10 miles down Broad Street, set a new personal best and hit my “A” goal of sub-80 minutes. Hurray!

2018 Blue Cross Broad Street Run

May 6, 2018 | Philadelphia, PA | 4220th overall, 1069th F (results)

My day began at 4AM. I had been in a deep sleep and was startled when my alarm went off, but as soon as I remembered why, I popped out of bed and started my pre-race routine. Today that consisted of coffee, oatmeal, a banana, Piper time (she waited for the birds to wake up around 5AM before she wanted to go out), and dynamic stretches to this YouTube video.

I woke Matt at 5:50 and by 6:20 we were on the road, headed to north Philly and the starting line. Any Broad Street veteran will tell you that runners typically park near the finish and cram, sardine-style, onto the subway for a 10 mile ride north, but I have been lucky that Matt drives in to spectate and doesn’t mind dropping me off at the start. Saves me tons of time in the morning!!

40,000 people run this race and the organizers do a great job of getting everyone separated by pace in multiple starting corrals. I made it to the orange corral by 7:35 and waited patiently in the crowd for the start. First the wheelchair racers were off, then the elites, red, and purple corrals followed. At last it was my turn! I crossed under the starting banner at 8:16 and the race was on.

Going into this race, my primary goal was to beat my personal best of 1:21:28 (8:08 pace) from last year’s Broad Street Run.  I was pretty confident that I could do that, so my real, “A” goal was to finish in under 1:20 (sub-8 pace). With that sub-8:00/mile goal in mind, I had decided that I would run the first 5 miles at 7:55 pace and then see what I had left for the second half of the race.

Mile 1 went perfectly. I relaxed, tried not to weave around other people too much, and broke into a huge smile when my watched beeped 7:55. Exactly on pace!! Miles 2, 3 and 4 went by uneventfully at or just under my time goal.

In mile 5 the course weaves around the right side of City Hall and the crowd support is overwhelmingly awesome. Signs, cowbells, news cameras, dogs, kids, open fire hydrants spraying water… so much going on! I finished this mile in 7:50 and felt good, but at the same time it was daunting to know that I was only halfway done.

At mile 6 I saw Matt and his family (thanks for coming out!!!) and got a little boost, finishing this mile in 7:52. Still right where I wanted to be.

6.5 miles in. Just pretend my eyes are open.

Last year the wheels came off in mile 7. I slowed to 8:23, then finished the last miles in 8:14, 8:25, and 8:41. Ouch. That was not the plan this year and I powered through the seventh mile in 7:55. Yes! It felt much harder to maintain my pace in mile 8, but the moment I saw my watch beep 7:59 I knew that a PR was pretty much a given. Sub-80 was also looking good… I had 17 minutes left to run two more miles. Could I do it??

And the answer is YES!!! I slipped to 8:06 pace for mile 9, but at that point I had just one mile left to go. I was exhausted, but one mile seemed so short compared to what I had just run. I pushed on, searching over the shoulders of runners in front of me for a glimpse of the Navy Yard gates and the “quarter mile to go!” sign.

I entered the Navy Yard with renewed energy, ready to sprint into the finish… but then suddenly a quarter mile seemed SO LONG. My kick forgotten, I focused all of my efforts on simply moving forward and started thinking about how fabulous it would feel to be able to stop when I was done. I’m pretty sure that my finish ended up looking fairly unimpressive, but it doesn’t matter because I finished in 1:19:18!!!!

I am so proud of those last 4 miles. (Yes, even you, mile 9.) In 2017 I completely died during that portion of the race but this morning I was able to execute my 7:55 game plan and it carried me through all the way to the Navy Yard. I am tired, my legs are sore, and I have a blister on my big toe, but this afternoon I am one happy runner. Hurray!!

Miles since last post: 10.4
Days since last post: 1
2018 MILES: 482

Sub-22!! 5K PR at the Cape May Zoo

In 11 hours I’ll be racing down Broad Street in Philadelphia! But first, here’s a recap of my personal record-breaking 5K from 2 weeks ago. (What better way to get psyched up for tomorrow’s race than to write about a PR, right?!)

Cape May Earth Day 5K

April 21, 2018 | Cape May Court House, NJ | 11th overall, 2nd F (results)

Cape May, New Jersey is quickly becoming one of my favorite getaway spots. Matt and I spent a week in Cape May last summer with his family and we headed there again last month for my cousin’s wedding. We arrived on an unseasonably cold and windy Friday evening and discovered that the quaint Victorian town is MUCH quieter in the off season than it was in July!

I woke up at 6AM on Saturday, ready to race. My sole early-morning breakfast option was the coffee shop in the iconic Congress Hall hotel. I was the first customer of the day and I enjoyed my coffee in solitude. I left through the doors facing the beach and was treated to a private view of Congress Hall’s sweeping lawn and the ocean beyond. What a perfect way to start the day!

The 5K was at the Cape May Zoo, a 20 minute drive north of town. As I lined up at the start I heard the woman in front of me chatting about how she typically runs sub-21.  I made a mental note NOT to try to keep up with her in the first mile and moments later we were off, zooming around the wonderfully flat grounds of the park surrounding the zoo.

I really wanted to PR this race and when I saw my first mile split of 7:11 I knew I was right on track. Then mile 2 began and it felt a LOT harder to keep up that pace. There were only one or two runners around me (sub-21 woman had disappeared ahead early on) so I tried to focus on my cadence and my arms. I was a little worried when I saw my second mile split of 7:21.

Luckily I had more energy left than I realized. I pushed hard in the third mile but wasn’t sure exactly how my time would stack up with my old PR of 22:03 until the finish line clock came into view. 21:38, 39, 40, 41… I ran as hard as I could and pounded through the finish with a new personal best of 21:52!!!!

After the race Matt and I explored the zoo, which was pretty nice considering that there’s no admission fee. The black bear reminded me of Piper’s chocolate lab buddy, Hershey, and we saw a red panda, wallabies snacking on kale, a very handsome lion, and a sociable cow. (Visitors were allowed to reach over the fence and pet her, much to her delight.)

After the zoo we returned to Cape May to stroll around town (and hit up the peanut butter shop, naturally) before getting cleaned up for the wedding.  The ceremony was on the beach (my first-ever beach wedding!!) and Matt and I had a great time at the reception back at our hotel. Congrats Kevin and Connor!

Ready for a wedding!

I had to squeeze in one more flat run before we left for home. While walking on the beach on Friday evening I realized that I really wanted to try running ON the beach, so I did just that on Sunday morning.  I had the entire beach to myself as I ran along the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean to Cape May Point. Matt met me there for breakfast and then we headed home, back to reality, hilly running routes, and Piper.

Cape May did not disappoint. My sub-22 5K PR was just one of many high points of the weekend, and even now I sometimes forget it happened. But it’s real… I actually ran 3.1 miles in 21:52!! I’m glad I don’t have to attempt to better that anytime soon.  I’ll settle for trying to chase down my 10 mile PR on Broad Street tomorrow morning instead. 😄

Miles since last post: 64.1
Days since last post: 20
2018 MILES: 471.6

Two Pickles and a 10K

OK, I’m actually covering a fourth race in this recap as well, but Two Pickles, a 10K and Another 5K just wasn’t as catchy.

Credit: RunningMadPhoto

Yes, I am triumphantly waving a cucumber at the photographer. (Photo Cred: RunningMadPhoto)

The Pickle Run [5K Prediction]

February 17, 2018 | Media, PA | 2nd overall, 1st F (results)

Piper and I participated in the second of three “Pickle Runs” in mid-February on a chilly Saturday afternoon. Like all Pickle Runs, this was a prediction run. You state your time in advance, run without a watch, and the finishers closest to their predicted times win ridiculous gag prizes. I predicted 22:39 before the race and, amazingly, Piper and I finished just 2 seconds slower than that! We probably spent those 2 seconds veering off the road to collect a “pickle” (a cucumber with pipe cleaner arms and googly eyes) that was nestled at the edge of the woods.

Piper has run the Pickle course at Ridley Creek State Park multiple times now and she gets better every time. Since I have to run without a watch, I like to use Piper’s gait as a pace indicator. She spends most of the 5K in a rapid trot with her mouth barely open, but towards the end of the race I know that we’re really running fast if she breaks into a canter. I love running with my Piper. 💛

(Photo: RunningMadPhoto)

Chester County Winter Series 10K

March 4, 2018 | West Chester, PA | 10th overall, 4th F, 63.4% age percentage (results)

Still on a high after the Arches 9K in Utah, I set my sights on a 10K in early March. I ran a 10K on this course in March 2016 and was eager to better my previous time of 46:58. The conditions were not perfectly ideal at 37° with gusty winds, but I was still confident about my PR chances, right up until the moment we lined up for the start.

In 2016 the start and finish lines were the same, but this year the starter explained that the course had been remeasured and certified, so we’d need to start farther back to reach the official distance. Fair enough. The combined field of 5K and 10K runners moved back to a marked start line. But then, the starter announced that the 10K runners would need to start even farther back. He pointed out a shed at the end of a parking lot in the distance where we needed to go for the start. Boo. Check out the map below… see how far back we were from the finish line?

Once the race started it took me 1 minute and 39 seconds to reach the “old” start line from my previous PR. The chance for a new PR pretty much gone, I pushed ahead, just trying to better my paces from 2016’s race. In that race my splits had been 7:45, 7:37, 7:39, 7:41, 7:48, 7:47, and 6:16 for the final .2. This time around I tried to be careful not to start too fast, but still put down a comfortable 7:30. Then I proceeded to completely shock myself by keeping my pace under 7:36 FOR THE NEXT FIVE MILES!!

My Garmin was consistently off the entire race, telling me that I went through the 10K in 46:22 (which would have been a 36 second PR!) and reporting that the full course was 6.44 miles long. I know, I know… it’s a certified course so my watch was just plain wrong, but it still felt really good to see that average pace of 7:27 for a 6.44 mile race. 😀

My official 10K time of 47:59 was 1:01 slower than my 2016 time, but, considering that I had a 1:39 head start in 2016, I’m still counting this race as a new PR.

Post 10K reward at La Cabra Brewery

Another Pickle Run [5K Prediction]

March 17, 2018 | Media, PA | 2nd overall, 1st F (results)

Another winter month, another Pickle Run with Piper! This was almost a carbon copy of February’s race. Early on in the race Piper and I moved into 3rd place and soon found a pickle on the side of the road. We then hunted down the 2nd place guy ahead of us and passed him with a mile to go. Piper broke into a canter soon thereafter and we zoomed to the finish with our game faces on. (Check out Piper’s face in the first photo above… SO serious!!) 😄

The finish time was a little weird with this race. When Piper and I crossed the finish the clock said 22:41 (and it was a chipped race, so our official time should have been a few seconds faster than that), but when the results were posted online my time was recorded as 23:01. (???) Since I didn’t have a watch on I’ll never know how we really did, but I’m using the finish line clock time of 22:41 as our official time for my records. Piper didn’t care about the time; she just wanted to post-race popcorn!

Book It 5K

April 7, 2018 | Wallingford to Swarthmore, PA | 13th overall, 3rd F (results)

I ran this race last year on the same weekend, same course, and in similar conditions, so this was a fun chance to gauge my 2018 5K fitness. This is a point-to-point race and, like last year, I parked at the finish line in Swarthmore and ran a 2 mile warm up to the start line in Wallingford. Last year I finished in 23:19 with mile splits of 7:26, 7:57, 7:34. This year my slowest mile was 7:25 and I improved my finish time by 52 seconds!!

So what’s next on my race calendar? Well, Matt and I will be in Cape May, NJ for a wedding next weekend and I think we’re going to sign up for the Cape May Earth Day 5K on Saturday morning. That’s pretty much guaranteed to be FLAT so it could be a good chance for a potential PR! Training has been going great this year so anything is possible…

Miles since last post: 231.2
Days since last post: 56
2018 MILES: 407.5

I ran an Ultra! OK, not really, but it WAS a Trail Race in Utah.

Every January Matt and I have a work trip in Las Vegas. After work ends on Friday, we take a long weekend adventure to somewhere within driving distance, like Zion, Sedona, or Temecula. This year’s destination? Moab, Utah. I’ll describe Moab in more detail in my next post, but suffice to say that there are some pretty awesome things to do in Moab for anyone who enjoys being outside, being active, and being rewarded with breathtaking landscapes.

I had already decided we were going to Moab and was doing some online research when I came across mention of the “Arches Ultra” trail race that would be taking place the Saturday we’d arrive in town. That’s cool, I thought, there will be lots of runners around. Then I clicked through to the race site and discovered that in addition to the “ultra” race distances of 50 mile, 50K and 13.1 miles, this event would also feature a shorter 9K trail race. That’s only 5.6 miles… I can do that!!

I immediately scrutinized our itinerary to figure out if it was even possible to get to Moab in time for the race’s 10AM start. If we retrieved our rental car in advance, left Las Vegas immediately when work ended at 5PM (pacific time), got dinner on the road, and drove until 11PM (mountain time) Friday night, we could spend the night in Richfield, UT. Then we’d just need to drive 2 1/2 hours on Saturday morning to get to Moab. Totally doable!

Thankfully our long journey northeast went according to plan and Matt and I arrived at the race at 9:20AM. The ultra runners had started their longer races hours earlier (those 50 milers had to finish before dark!) so the start area was quiet and I had time to take in the sights. A huge cliff rose up out of the desert just to the north. The sky was deep blue and the ground was a beautiful red that reminded me of Sedona. The weather was perfect – low-30s and sunny. What a great day to run a trail race in Utah!

I lined up with 96 other runners at 10AM. I felt a little out of my league as I listened to people around me chatting about how they had come from Colorado and Arizona for this race. I was positive that their western heritage automatically made them much better equipped to run an off-road race at 4600′ elevation, but that was OK. I positioned myself towards the back of the pack and prepared to have a blast running in Utah.

It quickly become clear that I had started way too far back. As soon as I carefully crossed over the cattle guard near the start (that could be a major ankle buster!) I began working my way around the crowd. Finally the field thinned out and I found myself cruising along with another woman. We chatted as we ran and I learned that her name was Kristen and that she was from Arizona. (This is one of the great things about trail races; everyone talks to one another and is so friendly!!)

Shortly after mile 2 the course veered off onto an actual trail (we had been on a paved bike path up until this point) and I let Kristen (the Experienced Westerner!) take the lead. I tucked in behind her as we weaved our way up, down and around hills and rocks. At one point I felt like a slalom skier as the trail switchbacked around the desert. Fun!

After a few twisty miles we were back on the paved trail, making a beeline to the finish. With less than a mile to go, I realized that I had the energy to pick up the pace and I focused on Kristen, who was still within reach ahead of me. Kristen must have had the same thought, because together we BOTH picked up our paces and zoomed towards the finish. It quickly became clear that I wouldn’t be able to catch her, but I kept up my speed, pausing only slightly to one-step over the cattle guard (Matt said I ‘took it well’ compared to some!) before sprinting through the finish chute. Utah trail race complete!

I collected my medal (I had forgotten there were medals!) and awaited the results. Because I had started so far back I had no idea how many runners were ahead of me. Imagine my surprise when the results were posted and I was 10th OVERALL!!! By my count, I was also the 4th woman to cross the line, but later I discovered that the official results show that I was actually 3rd female overall. Cool!!!

Kicking the weekend off with a trail race was a great introduction to Moab. The race was well organized, the other runners (especially Kristen from Arizona!) were super friendly, and there was great race swag. I LOVE my new Arches Ultra trucker hat and I wore it constantly for the remainder of our time in Moab. Apparently many of the other runners felt the same way… I kept bumping into other ‘tourists’ wearing The Hat for the rest of the weekend and it was fun to compare race stories. Granted, everyone I met had raced at least twice as far as I did, but, no worries, I ran an “ultra,” too!

More on our weekend in Moab coming up next!

2018 miles: 176.3

Not quite as I planned: Recap of the Delaware “Flat” 5K

Here’s what was supposed to happen this weekend:

On Friday evening I had plans to meet Elle from A Fast Paced Life for dinner in Glen Mills, PA. After years of following each other’s blogs, I was really looking forward to meeting Elle in person. We would have had a delicious dinner, taken lots of photos to document the occasion like good little bloggers, and then ended our evening early in preparation for the next morning’s race.

Saturday morning was the big event and the real reason Elle was making the long drive down from Brooklyn.  At 9:45 Elle and I would meet again, this time on the streets of Wilmington for the second annual Delaware Downhill 5K. The point-to-point course had an elevation drop of over 200 feet, guaranteeing a fun, fast 3.1 miles. Elle and I have both been running personal bests lately and we both hoped to walk away with new PRs.

I was PSYCHED for my downhill duel with Elle and I had the whole race planned out in my mind. I would run the first mile in 7:03, the same pace that I ran the first mile of the 2 mile Jingle Elf Run two weeks ago. Then I’d give into the downhill in mile 2 and aim for a sub-7 (!!) split. Finally, with a relatively flat final mile ahead of me, I would hold on for dear life, trying to keep up with Elle who is in BQ-marathon-shape and who certainly would have more strength in the final mile than I. Elle and I would cross the finish line together (ok, maybe I’d edge her out by a second, this is MY version of the story after all!) and we’d both drive home happy with our huge 5K PRs.

But none of that actually happened. Nope, Mother Nature had other plans so we had to adapt.

Here’s what actually transpired:

Friday morning I woke up and the first thing I saw was a “Winter Weather Advisory” on my phone. Winter weather? When I went to bed there wasn’t any snow in the forecast. Apparently the models changed overnight and, just like that, we were now supposed to get 2-4 inches of snow right in the middle of the evening commute. I immediately thought of Elle and sent her a quick message. Elle replied that she used to live in Canada and wasn’t scared of a little snow. Our weekend was still on track.

I worked all day Friday, happily watching the beautiful snow fall quietly on the cars in the parking lot outside my window. It wasn’t until 4:30PM when Matt and I left work that I realized how MUCH snow there really was. The roads were not treated at all and traffic was terrible. Our 5 minute commute took 20 minutes and, after watching a truck go off the road ahead of us, I decided that there was no way I was voluntarily going back out on the roads after dark. I sadly texted Elle to cancel our dinner. At least we’d get to see each other the next morning!

Saturday morning started like any race morning. I woke up really early, ate breakfast and hung out with Piper while we waited for the sun to come up. But then at 6:57AM I received an email: due to icy conditions the Downhill 5K was POSTPONED until Sunday! I could run Sunday but I felt terrible for poor Elle, who had driven all the way to Delaware in a snowstorm only to have dinner AND her race cancelled!

But we salvaged the day. Instead of racing downhill in Delaware, Elle met me at Okehocking Preserve for a snowy, hilly trail run. And it was perfect!! (Much less pressure than a downhill duel, I must say.) We crisscrossed our way around the preserve, chatting non-stop about our dogs (Piper and Bandit need to have a showdown one day, we decided), our running habits, and our lives outside of the blogosphere.

After our run we enjoyed a long brunch together before Elle set off on her journey home. It was such fun to meet Elle and I loved getting the chance to show her my local running trails, even if we didn’t get to race one another. Now we have an excuse to meet again at a future date for a second attempt at our duel!

Delaware “Flat” 5K

December 17, 2017 | Wilmington, DE | 26th overall, 5th F, 3rd AG (results)

I thought that the surprises were over but the weekend had one more for me. Saturday afternoon I got another email from the race organizers, this time to say that Sunday’s course was going to be modified to just be a flat out and back. So no downhill, no 200 ft. of elevation drop, and no inevitable PR. Boo. But I was still going to give it my best shot.

I woke up before the sun for the second weekend day in a row. This is proof – a predawn Piper pic in front of our Christmas tree.

I scoped out the first half mile of the course during my warm up and immediately noticed that there were several slight hills along the route, mostly thanks to the bridges that we’d cross back and forth over the Brandywine River four times. Fortunately the final half mile looked like it would have some gentle downhill, which always makes for a more exciting finish.

My race plan wasn’t especially well thought out – I had focused on preparing for the downhill course and didn’t really adjust my plan for the new flat-ish course. As a result I went out way too fast in the first mile, clocking a 7:05 split. Oops! I still felt good in mile 2, but realized my mistake when my Garmin beeped a 7:29 split.

I hung on for mile 3, waiting to reach that final bit of downhill. A woman had been ahead of me for the whole race and I had been gaining on her ever so slowly as the seconds ticked by. Finally the slight downhill began. (It sure felt like more of a hill when I was going up it at the start of the race!) I had to make a decision: should I really push myself and try to chase her down, or was she too far ahead to reach? I went for the push and surged forward, moving up close enough to her that a spectator in the homestretch started yelling, “SHE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU! GOOOO!!!” The woman sped up but by then I had already made up my mind. I sprinted by her and kept sprinting as hard as I could through the finish line. Got her!

Seconds after we crossed the finish line. Did I mention that the woman I passed and I were wearing matching shirts from last year’s race? (Photo: Triassic Sports)

I finished in 22:37, one second faster than my time on the actual downhill course last year.  I later realized my final push to the finish was definitely worth it. Unbeknownst to me, another woman in the 30-39 age group was right behind me, finishing with a chip time of 22:41. If I hadn’t sprinted I wouldn’t have placed in my age group. (That’s why you always sprint at the end of a chipped race… you never know how close the finish might actually be!) My prize was an ugly Christmas sweater for a wine bottle. I’m sure it will get some good use over the holidays!

That’s it for tonight… I’ve been working on this post for too long and need to go to bed!! (I blame it on waking up for a race two days in a row!)

Miles since last post: 47.8
Days since last post: 14
2017 MILES: 1286.4
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