Germantown 5 miler

Up until about 9 months or so ago, Germantown, Md held about as much appeal to me as my semi-annual visits to the dentist.  Both were places I wouldn’t generally find myself stepping foot into unless I had to go.  However this sleepy and somewhat rustic town was completely transformed in my opinion last September when the doors to one of the happiest and most beautiful sights on Earth opened.

Wegman’s.

Wegman's

 

 

For those of you not familiar, Wegman’s is a family owned U.S. supermarket chain hailing from upstate N.Y., right near Rochester.  If you’ve never experienced the amazing experience that comes along with shopping at Wegman’s, you’re likely reading this and thinking, “Seriously?  What could possibly be the big deal about a grocery store?”  I would respond only with, “One does not simply consider Wegman’s a grocery store.  One must become Wegman’s”

 

 

I first was intro ducted to Wegman’s in Ithaca, NY during my first week of vet school.  And I “got it” right away.  It represented a place to study, to grab coffee and a meal before or after classes, it was a great place to shop, and even socialize.  It’s simply something I can’t put in to words.  Trust me, you just have to see it for yourself.

 

When I moved from Ithaca to Rochester, I really became spoiled in that the stores were located all over the town and surrounding suburbs.  We even joked about going to the “good Wegman’s” versus the “bad one.”

 

Alas, moving to Maryland meant giving up many things, one of which was my favorite grocery store.  What this lovely state provides in terms of good weather, excellent seafood, and proximity to D.C. it lacks in provisional goods.  People here are loyal to their Harris Teeter’s and Safeway’s and Giant’s and Food Lion’s, but they just didn’t know what they were missing until the oasis we know as Wegman’s opened.

 

The new Wegman’s in Germantown is a remarkable sight.  It’s a good 15 minute drive from where we live, so we certainly don’t venture up for our day to day needs, but we make every effort to stop in as often as possible.  Especially when we’re craving some tasty bakery items.

 

Typical Wegman's cupcakes.

Typical Wegman’s cupcakes.

 

Therefore, I will admit a good part of my motivation for signing up for the Germantown 5 miler was that the race started and finished at the Wegman’s.  Of course there’s the whole “stay healthy, keep training, work hard, blah blah”, but let’s keep it real and know that ultimately, this girl likes her food.

 

Panoramic picture of the Germantown Wegman's, from the second story entrance circa opening weekend 2013

Panoramic picture of the Germantown Wegman’s, from the second story entrance circa opening weekend 2013

 

The race had an 8:30am start, with a kids fun run 1K starting at 8:00am.  We arrived exceptionally early (I think my recent experiences at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler and Ocean City 1/2 marathon really made me motivated to try and arrive early enough to not be starting from the back of the pack.)

 

The race was well-organized, and went off without a hitch.  It was a very small crowd (less than 300 starters) and we ran through the winding and seemingly constantly inclining industrial park surrounding the stores.  I still can’t figure out how a pretty much “out and back” felt like it was entirely uphill.

 

Hello Wegman's!

Hello Wegman’s!

 

I finished in 37.58, translating into 66th place overall and 3/18 for my age group with just over a 7:30/mile pace.  Of course, of the people I was running with, I finished the slowest (sheesh!) but I’m happy!   My IT band seems to be holding up pretty good and I’m thinking of trying for the Baltimore 10 miler in June.

 

Running a PR is always fun!

Running a PR is always fun!

Where is everyone?  Oh yea, the all finished ahead of me!

Where is everyone? Oh yea, the all finished ahead of me!

 

As always, I enjoy celebrating my races with a little celebratory cocktail – this time a glass of Spy Valley sauvignon blanc on the patio!

 

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Ocean City Half Marathon

Ok, ok – I know this post is quite late in it’s inception.  Life’s been quite busy lately, with some very exciting upcoming changes and events and some issues related to sick pets.   This, unfortunately, makes it hard to keep a tight handle on every aspect of my day to day activities, especially when I’m forced to prioritize the ones that aren’t nearly as much fun as writing.

 

Mr. Heart Disease himself!

Mr. Heart Disease himself!

The Ocean City Island to Island Half-Marathon took place on Saturday April 26, 2014.  We left for the race after work on Friday night, excited for a weekend away at the beach for the first time since November.

I  knew they were calling for some rain during our drive that evening.  Having lived here long enough, I should have known better than to trust the weather forecast.  I’ve never lived in an area where they 1) so consistently get things wrong and 2) make such a HUGE deal over major weather systems that would, in other geographical regions, be much less of a big deal.  Four snowflakes fall from the sky and the schools close down.  Even the threat of bad weather can cause people to cancel their appointments at work.  The weather can be the top story on the news, surpassing all other major media events including actual natural disasters and much more interesting and important issues.

In any event, we didn’t just get “some rain” that Friday night – we wound up with a deluge on par with the flooding Noah must have deal with during his adventures on the ark.

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Where’s the beach?

 

We made it safe and sound despite the setback, and settled ourselves in with a relatively early bedtime in preparation for our 5:30am wake up call the following morning.

 

The race is named the “Island to Island” 1/2 marathon because the course runs pretty much a straight path from Ocean City to Assateague Island.  In years past the route was alway from the boardwalk to the Island.  This was the first year they decided to run it in reverse.

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The half marathon was scheduled to begin at 7:30 AM, and the race coordinators were providing buses to Assateague from the boardwalk down along 1st street in Ocean City.  I still needed to pick up my race packet over on the Island, so I planned to take a bus over at around 6am, giving myself plenty of time to get situated.

The morning broke cloudy and pretty much in the mid to high 40’s – which bode for nice race weather, but meant I was literally freezing while waiting for transportation. Apparently I was not the only one who figured on getting to the buses at 6am because once I arrived, there were easily 300-400 people waiting for a ride, with the lines being extended exponentially with every passing 5 minute increment.

 

We stood out in the cold, shivering and huddling for warmth as school buses arrived and were able to transport groups of about 60 over the to the island one at a time.  I’m not sure how many buses they had running, but there were definitely NOT ENOUGH! I think I boarded the bus over at around 7 am, and it was a good 15 minute + drive over to Assateague, leaving me with a theoretical 10 minutes or so to register, drop my race bag off on the buses that would transport it back over to Ocean City, and find a bathroom (I’m a chronic race morning overactive bladder kind of girl…)

 

I’ve never been to Assateague before, so I was kind of excited at seeing the area.  It’s best known for it’s resident population of feral horses, thought to be descendants from surviving horses from the shipwrecked Spanish galleons off the coast of Virginia.  I anxiously awaited arriving on the island, while making small talk with the girl seated next to me, who was a 2 time veteran of the race. My anticipation grew as we made the left hand turn on to the road that would take us to the state park, and my eyes anxiously darted from side to side, searching for the horses.

 

It was then in a foggy, distant voice, I heard the chatty girl next to me then say, “There it is! There’s the bridge we have to run over!” and I looked straight ahead and saw this:

WTF?

WTF?

 

 

No – your eyes are not deceiving you and no, this is not a photoshopped picture.  This is the Verrazano Bridge that leads one on and off the island.  And our bus was about to cross over it, meaning my only way of getting back to Ocean City was to over and out.  I took the intimidating site in, and then gave a silent prayer to the race gods, thanking them intensely for reversing the route of the race this year, because in all other years, this would be the site you had on your radar as you were coming towards the finish, after running 12+ miles…

 

I also saw two of the wild horses, hanging out on the beach.  I didn’t have enough time to capture my own picture of them, but here’s a representative sample of what they looked like:

 

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Here’s what I was hoping to have seen:

 

Wild Horses

Seriously, every time I pick a spot on the beach, someone comes and lays down right next to me…

 

 

Ultimately, those in charge of the race figured out it was taking too long to ship everyone over, and must have organized additional buses and post-poned the start time for a good 15 minutes.  Once again, I wound up very much towards the back of the starting group again, and really, really did not want to recapitulate my experience dodging people as I did in the Cherry Blossom 10 miler (see: https://drjintile.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/cherry-blossom-10-miler/)

 

Fortunately, the crowd was much smaller this time around, and well, I guess there’s just something about beach people that makes them much more laid back and less nutty, so I didn’t have much of a problem making my way through the crowd at a proper pace. Since I started so far back, I wasn’t able to run with my targeted pace group (1 hour 50 minutes), but I decided to try my best and just enjoy things.  I still harbored concern the ol’ IT band was going to rear it’s ugly and inflamed head, so I took it easy and settled in.

 

The route was exceptionally boring – which was surprising as I thought running 13.1 along the beach would be a great sightseeing tour.  Unfortunately, once we crossed over the monstrosity that was the Verrazano bridge, the race route pretty much consisted of a highway tour of the suburban beach towns connecting the start from the finish.  We detoured twice into residential communities, and it was nice to dream of owning a home that close to the water one day, but over it seriously was one of the most boring runs I’ve ever had. Water stops were plenty, and there was a small, but enthusiastic crowd turn out for the majority of that portion of the race.

 

After about 11 miles or so, we turned right and headed back towards South Ocean City, and eventually, a little under 12 miles in, crossed over the  Route 50 bridge and made our way to the boardwalk.  The last mile or so of the race was actually an “out and back” stretch along the boardwalk, with much more crowd support. This of course was a catch-22: more people equals more cheering which is great,  but more people equals a lot of clueless people who kind of just walk along the race path with absolute disregard for their surroundings.

 

Almost done!

Almost done!

 

During the last 1/4 mile or so, I had what I call my “race mirage”, where I envision what I see as the finish line from a distance, only to realize once I come within about 20 feet that the thing I am staring so intently at is actually NOT the finish line, but something that vaguely resembles a finish line. This time it was a large tire placed outside the Ripley’s Museum on the boardwalk that in my fatigued and dehydrated mind was translated into a 1/2 arch of black balloons indicating the race’s end.

 

From a distance, I swear this looked like a finish line...

From a distance, I swear this looked like a finish line…

 

 

It was then I dug deep and once again prayed to the race gods to give me the strength to finish and kept one thing on my mind to help me make it through:

 

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Sweet, sweet nectar of the beach gods

 

I knew I could have an orange crush if I made it to the end!

 

Ahh, there's the finish - please note the runner behind me who tried desperately to pass me, UNSUCCESSFULLY!

Ahh, there’s the finish – please note the runner behind me who tried desperately to pass me, UNSUCCESSFULLY!

Ultimately, I finished in a decent time of 1:46.46, which I’m happy with considering my training was definitely subpar and I’m still injured.

 

Following the finish, we headed over to the post-race party down at the inlet, where we were able to enjoy the sun and sand as well as pizza and beer, all before 9:30 am…

 

Pizza - good.  Beer - good.  Finisher medal - good.

Pizza – good. Beer – good. Finisher medal – good.

Any day at the beach is a good day...

Any day at the beach is a good day…

 

Which more than made up for the disorganized start, the freezing cold pre-dawn weather, and the boring race route!

 

The remainder of the weekend was spent relaxing and doing what we do best: eating and drinking far too much (which is part of the reason why  I run so much) and welcoming our newest addition to the Beach Family, our new shark kite named Gawz (pronounced “Jaws”)

 

Seriously, just go fly a kite

Seriously, just go fly a kite

 

Looking forward to returning to Ocean City for Memorial Day weekend, to kick of the summer in the right fashion!

See you for the start of Summer 2014!

 

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler!

I woke up at 5:00 am on Sunday in preparation for running the 42nd annual Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in D.C.

The race, dubbed the “runners rite of spring”, typically occurs during what should be the peak bloom period of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin near the National Mall.

Sunrise over the Capital Building

Sunrise over the Capital Building

Mother Nature held onto winter with such relentless claws this year, so I was convinced spring never arrive, and planning for this even seemed quite futile.  The cherry blossoms seemed destined to never show their beautiful blooms.

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One of the countless frigid, snowy pre-dawn winter workouts I endured on my way to my spring races!

Each year I’ve lived here, I’ve vowed to run the Cherry Blossom race, and each year I’ve subsequently somehow forgotten to enter the lottery.  This year was no exception, and by the time I checked to see my eligibility to enter, I’d one again missed the date to sign up.

Fortunately, a co-worker who wasn’t so lapse received an entry, but ultimately decided she didn’t want to run the race.  She offered up her place to the quickest person to answer her request, and I snatched it up with vehemence!

 

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Starting line announcers!

 

The race starts via a corral system.  For those not familiar, in this format, you will sign up based on an anticipated finishing time.  Faster runners will start ahead of the slower runners, and everyone’s exact start time will be staggered based on their expected pace per mile.  The lag between corrals can vary, but will typically be between 30 seconds to a few minutes in length.

My co-worker signed up for the slowest corral of the entire race, anticipating running about an 11+ minute/mile pace.  With nearly 30,000 participants, and 6 corral starts with almost 5 minutes between waves, this meant I was slated to start the race a good 30 minutes after the fastest runners had already taken off.  Fortunately, this delay doesn’t factor into a final race time, since the chip you wear will only start recording your time once you actually cross the starting line.

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Waiting and waiting and waiting for the start in my corral.

For a runner who typically runs an 8:00 to 8:30/mile pace, starting with a group of runners who run much slower meant the first 4+ miles of the race would have better been dubbed the “Dodge the Cherry Blossom Trees Trail Run” for me.

Once I crossed the start line, I found myself running in between, up and down, and all around people just to try to maintain my pace.

Anytime I found a solid path, it would soon be closed off by a slower person.  I tried running along the pathways off to the side of the main roads, but would find myself dodging the low hanging branches of the soon-to-bloom cherry blossom trees.  I ran along narrow curbs and even found myself a good several feet from the actual route at times, just to obtain some berth on the main crowds.

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Hi there! Now get out of my way!

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone in my adventure, as many other runners were right beside me, slinking in and out of rows of other people, trying to advance to a faster place in the race.  I endured countless elbow jabs from competitors to my arms, upper body, and face (depending on the height of the assailant).  One girl even went as far as to literally push me out of her way as I passed her.

I’m sure my bursting, bounding, and complicated running style thoroughly annoyed plenty of runners along the way.  I don’t feel too badly for my actions though – I would venture for every person such as myself, scrambling to make if from the back of the pack towards the front, there were equal numbers of people who inaccurately predicted a running pace that was much faster than their actual capabilities, who were simply just in the way.

Ultimately, despite the road blocks and restrictions, I finished in a decent time (1:22 chip time with an average of 8:13/mile).  Though not my fastest race, I did manage to slightly surpass my time for the Baltimore 10 miler last June, back when I felt I was at the peak of my running performance.  And had I been in a more accurately timed corral, I’m certain I would have finished at least 10-20 seconds faster, if not more.

Since I’m running while injured right now, the most enjoyable part of the race for me was that my IT band actually felt BETTER as the race went on.  In fact, between mile 7 – 8 I distinctly remember thinking, “Hey, my left leg DOESN’T hurt right now!”

Of course relief only lasted about a 1/2 mile before the familiar nagging pressure/pain feeling returned.  But feeling as though I had some decent running capacity for the majority of the run and knowing I ran my last 2 miles at sub 8:00/mile hopefully indicates I’m on the mend!

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Just a few more yards to the finish line!

I’ve always had a distinct love/hate relationship with running.   I love the feeling of accomplishment, especially after a particularly grueling run.  I hate waking up early to exercise or feeling as though I “have” to run a certain number of miles per day or week to maintain fitness.  I love achieving a personal record for a specific distance or course, but I hate when I don’t run faster than I did for the previous race.

Today, the things I loved were running around the beautiful sights of D.C. while keeping the Washington Monument in sight pretty much at all times as my marker of progress,

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Keep this in sight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pretty cherry blossoms, that are so close to blooming,

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T

 

 

 

 

 

And my wonderful husband who endured the cold and wind to come out and cheer me on, and then promptly fell asleep on the Metro ride home.

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Watching someone run 10 miles is VERY tiring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hate portions were waking up at 5:00 am,

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Good morning monument!

The pain from my IT band,

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A little bit of ice for the ol’ IT band…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bitter cold at the start,

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And the nagging voice in my head that tells me I should run faster (even though I know I’m injured and need to take it easy.)

In all, the race proved to be every bit what I was hoping it would be.

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Everyone loves a good finisher medal!

And nothing beats resting up afterwards with this little girl…

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Sepsie loves her momma!

Now, time to decide on the next race…

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Tick tock…

I passed this small piece of artwork painted along a concrete  trail while out on a run in San Diego earlier this year.  As I ran past the picture, I processed it in my head and instantly thought it was such a powerful sentiment, but kept on running because I had a distinct amount of miles I wanted to complete in a specified time frame.

I continued to ponder the piece for about a quarter of a mile, thinking it would make a great photograph for my collection and a nice souvenir from my trip out west.  I wanted to stop and capture the image, but I wanted to finish my run and move on with my day.  I struggled with my thoughts, while my body continued moving in near automated form, before I suddenly realized , I was so clearly missing the point.

We’re all running somewhere – the next appointment, the next errand, the next family function – we never stop moving.  We work, we process, we tend to our own needs, we care for others.  We move on towards the next big thing without seeing the small stuff.  Life is constantly in motion and expectations are high that we will continue to achieve,  strive, and deliver.  But to what end is our hard work leading us?  We move too fast to adequately maintain perspective on the bigger picture.

Ultimately, I turned around and ran back to the picture.  I stopped and allowed myself to truly be aware of my surroundings and process the moment.  I took the picture above, smiled, wiped the sweat from my forehead, and continued on my run.

I can’t tell you what I ate for breakfast that day, or the clothes I wore during my run, or even what day of the week it was, but I could vividly describe that small square patch of pavement as accurately today as I could the day I was standing on it.

It is etched indelibly into a very happy place in my mind, serving as a reminder of my need to constantly breath and reboot.

Flakes to Flowers!

“Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.” – Steve Prefontaine

This winter I signed up for the Montgomery County Road Runners “Flakes To Flowers” marathon-training program.  I’ve run two marathons previously, but never undertook a program with a group before.  I thought it would be a great way to force me to exercise even in the bitter cold and meet people who would not question my sanity because I wanted to do so.

"Flakes to flakes" with a lot of ice in between!

“Flakes to flakes” with a lot of ice in between!

Every Sunday morning from early December through mid-March, we met at 7:30am for our long runs, which varied in length from 10 miles to 22 miles.  The group also met on Wednesday evenings for speed workouts, but my busy work schedule never afforded me the chance to make it to one of those.

Our first long run back in December - "Only" 10 miles!

Our first long run back in December – “Only” 10 miles!

When I signed up for the program, unlike the majority of participants, I didn’t have a specific goal race in mind.  In fact, when I sat down with my calendar a few weeks into the program, I realized I was scheduled to be in Asheville, North Carolina for the annual mid-year conference for the Veterinary Cancer Society during the weekend we were supposed to be targeting our race for.

As fate turned out, Asheville just happened to be hosting a marathon the weekend I would be in town, so I signed myself up for the race on March 16th.

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Unfortunately, during the last month of the group-training program, I sustained an injury to the iliotibial band along my left knee and needed to back off my training substantially.  Ultimately, I wound up running the half-marathon, rather than the marathon, on the same day instead.

I wasn’t at all disappointed at the change of plans – the experience of a group training program was really inspiring for me and I’m hoping to work through my injury and sign up for the club’s summer training program in a few weeks!

A few yards from the finish line!

A few yards from the finish line!

Always a sucker for a cute dog!

Always a sucker for a cute dog!