Weekend {Running} Happenings Around the District (7/25-7/27)

Author’s Note: This is the first post of a new series that will launch on Fridays called, “Weekend {Running} Happenings Around the District.” I’ll include one or two upcoming weekend races, several group runs and special running-related events around the Washington, D.C. area.

=PR= D.C. Store Grand Opening (7/25-7/27)
919 F Street, Northwest

20004 Washington, DC
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Potomac River Running is a family-owned, locally based running specialty store with nine locations in the D.C. metropolitan area. Their first store opened in the spring of 2003 in Loudoun County with the goal of sharing their passion for an active lifestyle with the community. In addition to selling footwear with a free video gate analysis, apparel and acessories, the store hosts numerous races, training programs and group runs throughout the area.

Earlier this summer, they closed their Cleveland Park location then immediately opened a new store just a few steps away from Gallery Place or Metro Center (where what used to be a cowgirl creamery). Starting Friday, they’ll have gift card giveaways, shoe and apparel raffles, demos and free happy hour! =PR= gift cards (between $5 and $25) will be given out each day to the first 20 people when the store opens each day; the first 20 people at 2pm each day; and the first 10 people at the beginning of happy hour.

Kelli from Potomac River Running’s marketing team actually gave me a tour of the new store a few weeks ago. The new location still has the same family-owned feel to it but with a new and improved look. 2052 steps exactly from the Washington Monument (several posters line the walls of the store informing the costumers how many steps it takes to various landmarks around  the District), I couldn’t think of a better spot for group runs to take off. To top it all off,  the store even sells these exclusive #rundc t-shirts!

Pacers Crystal City 5K (7/26)
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There’s still time to register for Pacers Crystal City 5k that takes place this Saturday evening!

From the Pacers website: “Join Pacers and the Crystal City BID for the area’s favorite summer twilight race! The Twilighter’s flat and fast course, competitive team prize structure and incredible post race party make it the hottest 5K in town!”

Location

Crystal City, Arlington

Time

8:30 P.M.

Distance

5K

Entry Fee

$40 5K | $20 5K High School Student

Group Runs (7/26-7/27)

Name/Location: DC Road Runners, Iwo Jima Memorial (membership encouraged)
Date/Time: 7/26 at  7 a.m.
Distance: 16 miles

Name/Location: DC Capital Striders, Lincoln Park
te/Time: 7/26 at 8 a.m.
Distance: 12 Miles

Name/Location: DC Capital Striders, Lincoln Park
Date/Time: 7/26 at 9 a.m.
Distance: 6-7 Miles (varies)

Name/Location: DC Front Runners, 23rd and P Street NW (membership encouraged)
Date/Time: 7/26 at 9 a.m.
Distance: 3, 4, or 6 Mile Fun Run

Name/Location: Washington Running Club, 3300 Block of M Street NW
Date/Time: 7/27 at 7 a.m.
Distance: (varies)

Name/Location: City Sports, Georgetown (registration encouraged)
Date/Time: 7/27 at 9 a.m.
Distance: 6 Miles

Name/Location: DC Front Runners, 23rd and P Street NW (membership encouraged)
Date/Time: 7/27 at 9 a.m. (Start time may vary due to weather or race conflicts. To confirm, e-mail info@dcfrontrunners.org)
Distance: 10+ Miles

Name/Location: Virginia Happy Trails, Roosevelt Island (membership encouraged)
Date/Time: 7/27 at 8 a.m.Distance: 8.25 miles


Note: Some of these groups may encourage/require club membership prior to group runs. I strongly recommend checking out the club’s website prior to showing up.

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Vacation Running

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Vacations are different for runners—especially in the middle marathon training. Trying to fit in a long run or speed workout may be next to impossible but skipping out on these necessary building blocks of your training plan could cost you down the road.

In March, I visited Portland, Oregon and wanted to knock out some decent mileage while I was out there. I looked at a few maps before I left and had the expectation of running through the park for at least a few hours.

On my second day out there, I woke up at the crack of dawn and plugged in “Forest Park” on my GPS. Once I saw that I was only a few blocks away, I found a parking spot and began running toward where Google Maps had said where the park was.

For the next 20 minutes, I ran around looking like a chicken with its head cut off. I couldn’t find the trailhead for the life of me. I finally found a local there who pointed me in the right direction but when I finally arrived, I didn’t have any particular trail planned and ended up popping back out into neighborhood streets 30 minutes later. At the point, I was frustrated and called it a day.

With this trip in mind, I decided to plan out my running schedule ahead of time a few days before I left for California.

Fortunately around the same time I was planning my running schedule for my trip, Amanda Hicks of AmandaRuns.com found out I was headed out to California and recommended the Dipsea trail. And to my benefit, she blogged about her Double Dipsea experience when she took a trip out there last year. After getting a few pro-tips from her and reading the step-by-step guide she posted, I couldn’t wait to check it out.

I arrived at the start of the trail around 8 a.m. and was pleasantly surprised with the cool temperatures that filled the morning air. The first few miles were packed with three flights of stairs as tall as a fifty-story building and up some windy hills. Thanks to the DCA November Project, I have some stair experience and was able to run up most of them but by the last flight, I was drenched in sweat and chugged down half of my water bottle already.

After the stairs, I weaved in and out of quiet trails until I hit Muir Woods. I topped off my water and continued on my way. After another mile of a pretty tough climb, I opened my water bottle pouch to eat a gel and noticed my credit card was missing. I realized my credit card must have fallen out of the pouch while I kept taking my phone out for pictures. I retraced my steps and after a few minutes, I saw my credit car lying on the side of the trail staring at me. Luckily, I can say that was the only hiccup during the entire run.

A few minutes later, I reached the highest point and made my way across the trail in and out of clouds. For at least 20 minutes I could only hear the sound of my feet hitting the dirt. The air up there was nothing like I had ever experienced: clean, quiet and cloudy.  My entire body relaxed on the unknown trail and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

After gliding through the clouds for about 20 minutes, I reached a forest-like part of the trail and made a steep climb down hills and stairs for another few miles. Finally, after I’d been running for 90 minutes, the trail opened up and I could see Stinson Beach. Once I made it to the town, I grabbed some Gatorade and slurped down water from a fountain then ran back the way I came.

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If I hadn’t planned ahead or taken a step-by-step guide with me on this trial, I probably would have turned around after the third flight of stairs. Actually, I’m not even sure if I would have found the stairs. But by planning ahead, I don’t think I could have gotten lost out there even if I tried. This “double Dipsea” run more than made up for all the other times I unsuccessfully ran in a different part of the country.

So for future trips, I decided to make a checklist of items I’ll need to cross off before running in a new place:

–Research ALL Your Options: Though I planned ahead on my Dipsea trail adventures, I realized day three of my vacation that I hadn’t done much research on other trails in the area. So I stuck with mostly neighborhoods the rest of the days only to find out on my last day that there was this beautiful trail nearby that I could have run on several times. Oh well. Next time.

 –Load Map/Step-by-Step List on Phone Ahead of Time: Having this information will avoid future situations like the one I had in Portland.

 –Bring Money (cash AND credit card): If I didn’t have money with me, I’m not sure I would’ve made it the entire way back on Dipsea. I bought several gels and Gatorade at the beach and that really came in handy the last few miles on the way back.

 –Lower Your Expectations: If it’s not reasonable to get a 20-mile long run or a speed workout in on a trip, then it’s not reasonable to set that expectation. Be realistic about your time and options on the trip. This may also allow you to sneak in that long run or speed workout right before you leave.

–Have a Back-Up Plan: If something falls through on the trip or if the internet gives you false information, have a back-up plan. The worst (or best) thing that can happen is you won’t end up using it!

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Next Mesocycle: Strength Phase (+BONUS: Chicago Marathon T-Shirts!)

We’re less than 14 weeks away from the Chicago Marathon and with plenty of mileage under my belt, it’s time to get into the next mesocycle: strength!

The entire strength cycle will encompass nine weeks worth of various strength workouts thrown into the mix. Prior to this, I’ve gotten plenty of mileage in at conversation pace, ran a few races to gauge my speed, stayed healthy and am officially addicted to strides.

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(just because I gained a new addiction, I certainly didn’t lose others)

Moving forward, the main focus for the next nine weeks will primarily be on strength all while continuing building up to longer long runs. Here’s a glance at the various workouts I’ll be conquering throughout the next several months:

-Tempo: For those unfamiliar with the term, tempo pace is a bit quicker than half-marathon pace but slower than a 10k pace. In other words, I’ll need to push it but it’s not a full out sprint. I will throw these in some of my distance runs (generally on a Tuesday and Thursday). Tempo runs will help my body get used to some discomfort while teaching me patience.

-Hills: Lucky me, I’m surrounded by hills near my neck of the woods, so this is by far going to be the easiest component to throw into the mix. Even though the Chicago Marathon is flat, hill workouts build strength. In addition to hill repeats, picking a hilly route one day of the week is another way to add in hills. Mentally, this has always been easier than the dreaded, hill repeats.

-Fartlek: Are you over the funny name? Okay good, let’s move on. This Swedish word means “speed play.” In short, this workout is a fast bout of running followed by a bout of rest. That’s around 70 to 90 percent effort (the fast bout) in a random length of the time and distance followed by conversation running (the rest). Fartlek runs will again, help my body get used to some discomfort while teaching me patience.

-New Long Run Goal: In nearly every marathon, I hit mile 20 or 22 and my body breaks down. I can hold sub-eight minute pace in long runs and in races for 20 or 22 miles. But after 22, I’m toast. That’s why, I’m going to stray away from the conventional and attempt to put in a few 24-mile long runs before race day. That with the combination of strength and speed will hopefully get me that PR I’ve been after for more than a year.

 

Deferring My Entry?

Every time July comes around, I doubt myself. I wonder if I should defer my entry till next year. You know, when the weather is magically going to get better.

Two weeks ago, I ran a four-mile race and had to walk at times. I could hardly push out 7:30 pace per mile. To be fair, it was a tough course and miserably hot out, but still. I can run 10 miles quicker than that. And all of my training runs have been grueling with multiple stops. I felt like the more I ran, the more out of shape I was becoming.

Fortunately, just a few days after my mind kept circling the idea of deferring, Mother Nature threw me a bone. I woke up Saturday morning and the temperatures were in the 70’s with low humidity. I set out for my 16-mile run and felt like an entirely different runner. Once I reached the half-way mark and still felt okay, I decided to push myself a little further. Mile after mile, I was getting faster. This was the first time I was running negative mile splits on a long run–and it was during the summer!

Last weekend reminded me that I am actually in shape and that my body just doesn’t tolerate the heat very well. Training for a marathon really messes with your head, but it’s important to stay positive and remind yourself that come race day, the temperatures will (hopefully) be in the 50’s.

Speaking of Chicago…

In celebration of NOT deferring my entry, I just launched a new t-shirt series for the Chicago Marathon! Tell all your friends to order one (before it’s too late!).

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Product Review: Nathan QuickDraw Plus Handheld Water Bottle

One of my favorite parts about living in a tourist-centric city is the abundance of water fountains that line the sidewalks. In training for the eight marathons I’ve completed, I haven’t had the need to bring along water with me for this very reason. Why deal with another piece of equipment when I can just catch a slurp from one of the fountains?

Well, lately, these slurps from a few water fountains haven’t been enough.

Just a few weeks ago I was out running and felt so sick I almost had to call for help. I knew I needed to make a change. So I started to bring water with me. But I only had heavy water bottles at home that weren’t made to run with. These bottles were ruining my form and extremely uncomfortable to run with.

The choice between comfort and my safety is a no-brainer. But I knew there had to be something better.

I scoured the internet for a decent water bottle I could take on a run and came across numerous brands. I decided to take the question to my Instagram followers and Nathan Sports handheld water bottles was the clear winner. After reading several reviews from my followers and on amazon, I went with the Nathan Quick Draw Plus Handheld Hydration Pack.

The bottle looked large enough for a long run out in the woods and there was a small pouch to put gels and other long run fuel in it.

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Product Details

Price: $17.36 (Amazon Prime)

Weight: 4.3 oz

Capacity: 22 oz

Pockets and Features: Adjustable hand strap and thumb holder; Zippered pocket sized to fit an iPhone, keys, cash, running fuel & more; Push-pull cap on squeeze bottle.

My Honest Review

At first, I wasn’t happy with this $17 purchase. This is a fairly big bottle to carry if you’re near water fountains and it’s pretty heavy–especially for someone who isn’t used to carrying anything while running. The noise of water sloshing up and down seriously made my stomach turn. I kept switching the bottle between hands because the hand strap felt so uncomfortable.

But with all that said, after a few more tries with this bottle, I feel like I can’t live without it.

While the temperatures have become more and more unbearable, the size of the bottle has become more and more important. At first I thought a smaller bottle would be more appropriate for me, but I was wrong. With only a few opportunities to refill along the trails, this 22 oz size has actually been perfect.

My favorite part of this bottle is the push-pull cap. It’s easy for grabbing a drink without stopping. And it’s way more fun than it should be to try and aim for your mouth.

The small pouch in front is a huge bonus. I’m able to carry more gels/other running fuel with me and can fit a few credit cards in there, too.

Another plus that I didn’t expect when I purchased this bottle was how much of a difference hydrating properly would make. Coming back from runs feeling nauseous and sick was becoming the norm for me since June hit. But after buying this bottle, I haven’t come back from a run ONCE feeling weak or sick. I’ve known it’s important to hydrate on a run, but I had no idea I was doing it wrong all these years.

The hand strap was the hardest thing to get used to. But I think that has everything to do with the fact that I can’t stand anything on my hands. Even if there’s below freezing temperatures, I can’t handle wearing gloves. So I wouldn’t take my criticism on the adjustable hand strap too seriously. And a hand strap is way better than no hand strap.

Though I wouldn’t have told you this after my first run, this purchase is definitely worth every penny!

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My Struggle as a Meat-Free Runner

10866943666_471d9f2845_z(Photo by Flickr user Rick Ligthelm. License.)

DISCLAIMER: This is a glimpse into MY OWN struggle with a meat-free diet as a runner. There’s no need to take this blog post as a criticism to anyone’s diet/food choices.

Last month, I surpassed five years of a meat-free diet. I gave up meat in college after learning about the environmental impact that processed meat had on our planet.

As much as I’d love to tell the world that giving up meat was the best decision I ever made and benefited my health, that would be a complete lie.

Within the first six months of giving up meat, I gained 15 pounds–which was quite a bit of weight for a person my size. And I was constantly hungry. My need for food had stayed the same because I was running just as much as I had before. So I ate bread, cheese and pasta to fill me up.

I was in college at the time, in Iowa, where not even the salads come meatless. And I could hardly afford or have time for healthy meals. Ordering food off of the kids menu became a normal thing I did. “Grilled cheese sandwich for me, please”–my token line at a restaurant.

But when I came to the District more than three years ago, unhealthy choices were finally out the window. I was surrounded by other non-meat eaters. At dinner parties, it was the norm to not eat meat. The restaurants were loaded with healthy and delicious meatless choices that encouraged my decision to not eat meat. I actually felt like my dietary choices fit in with society.

I got addicted to Indian food. I figured out ways to make tofu taste good. I’d snack on nut mixes throughout the day.  I discovered kale  (Thanks, Lays). Everything was going great. I found choices that tasted good and kept me full.

Then I got into marathons. My job became more time demanding. Before I knew it, I was back to grilled cheese sandwiches and making other unhealthy food choices. As my mileage kept increasing, my appetite kept increasing (more than it was the first few years as a vegetarian) and I didn’t have time anymore to get creative with recipes that were both healthy and filled me up.

And this is where I’m at today. At nearly every meal, I wonder if going back to meat will help with my struggle I have nearly every day: to eat a healthy meal that fills me up. Perhaps if I had more free-time and was better in the kitchen, I wouldn’t have this issue, but that’s not the reality I live in.

I don’t want to go back to eating chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s again but recognize that I also don’t have the time/budget to find free-range, non-processed meat for every single meal.

For now, I will continue on my meat-free diet, but at the same time strive to find the balance between my busy schedule, budget and creativity in the kitchen. And that’s definitely harder than any of the eight marathons I’ve completed.

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To The Jackass Who Stole My Bike

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Dear Jackass who stole my bike,

I worked hard to purchase this bike. This item wasn’t just handed to me. I worked seven days a week for months on end, just so I could afford this bike. When most people my age didn’t even know what a savings account was, I saved every hard-earned dollar I could.

This bike and I have conquered life together these past four years: From completing my first triathlon to nailing job interviews, this bike has been my transportation (literally) to dreams and accomplishments.

For you, this was probably just another way to make an easy profit without having to do any real work like the rest of us. But to me, this bike was an iconic symbol, one that gave me hope that if you put in everything you got, the opportunities are endless. And YOU took that away, jackass.

Sincerely,

A very angry (former) bike owner

To all the non-jackasses out there: please contact me if you ever see a bike like this hanging out around town

Specs:
•Frame – Alpha White Aluminum
•Fork – Carbon
•Wheels – Alloy hubs; Alex alloy rims w/eyelets
•Crank – Bontrager Sport
•Rear Derailleur – Shimano Sora
•Size – 52 cm
•Color – Pearl White
•Other notes – The frame has several scratches from the bike lock (that didn’t even end up working)

 

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RRCA Coaching Certification (And How I’m Going to Use It!)

I’m ALMOST an RRCA Certified Coach! Ever since I first created this blog, I’ve had numerous runners contact me and ask me for running advice. I could only give feedback based on my own experience but soon I’ll be certified to do more!  Just a few weeks ago, I spent the majority of my memorial day weekend in a classroom full of more than 30 dedicated runners who wanted to help other runners achieve their goals, just like I do.

Although the class registration fee was more than most major marathons (that’s saying a lot), I left the class feeling like I got my money’s worth. The two-day class took place Reston, Va. with Dr. Bobby Gessler as our teacher.

photo 1 (1)(RRCA Certified Coach and Teacher Dr. Gessler and I after a long two days)

From the basics of building a training plan to looking closely at the physiology of running (I nearly failed human bio in college so the science part of this course was very helpful), I’m still not sure how we covered all the topics we did in just two days.

Nutrition, VO2 Max, running form and numerous other topics covered were all very helpful, but learning the building blocks to training plans was by far the most beneficial part of this course.

Once I finish (and hopefully pass) the RRCA written test and obtain my CPR/First Aid certification, I’ll get my certificate to make it official.

Chicago Marathon Training

Of course I want to help others. I can’t wait to as soon as I make it official! But the main reason I took the course was purely out of selfish reasons–so I could come up with my own training plans.

For most people, June represents the beginning of summer barbecues and trips to the beach. But June only means one thing for me: the beginning of marathon training.

The Chicago Marathon is nearly four months away. There’s lots I know I need to work on but it’s just a matter of me being able to do that in the summer heat. Last year, I struggled hitting 9 minute splits on my long runs while easily hitting 8:15-8:30 splits on long runs in the winter.

The first few weeks of the plan will focus on base training, then strength to speed all while building up to more mileage than I’ve done in the past.

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(I’ll be using what I learned in the class to come up with my own training plan)

Throughout the summer on this blog, I’ll take you through my plan by each Mesocycle. From the RRCA class, I learned that a Mesocycle is a specific training phase that has a specific purpose in a Macrocycle, which encompasses the entire marathon training. A mesocycle can range from 2-10 weeks in duration.

My Chicago Marathon plan’s (the macrocycle) first mesocycle (base training phase) of the plan will encompass the following:

-Mileage at conversation pace: It’s far too early to focus on going fast right now. So these first few weeks, I’ll be running far but not fast. Speed comes much later in the program. This part of the training will also be to prepare my body for some hefty long runs in the near future.

-Some strides: Folding in some strides at the end of a run 2-3 times a week won’t do any harm this early on in the training and will help me improve running form. They’ll also wake up those speedy muscle fibers that won’t get much movement during this phase of the training.

-Race to gauge speed: I’ll be competing in the Pride 5k run tonight. And though I’d love to say it’s only because of the great cause, I’m also racing to gauge how fast I am. This will help me determine my pace for other workouts down the road. Next month, I’ll do another race to see my progress for the purposes of (hopefully) boosting my confidence and to gauge how fast I am next month compared to this month.

-Staying healthy: The day after completing an upper body workout last week, I couldn’t move my left arm. The orthopedic said it was a pretty serious strain and if I didn’t take at least a week off, the injury could turn into something serious down the road. After rest, my arm has been doing better but I’ll need to keep a close eye on it  and will focus on strengthening it so this doesn’t happen again.

Stay tuned and let the fun begin!

 

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