The weekend I’ve been working towards has finally come and gone. My goal postpartum race was last weekend in Frederick, MD. It’s the first part of a 3-part race challenge I had originally signed up for last year pre-pregnancy. For obvious reasons, I had to defer to this year. It’s safe to say I was beyond excited to get this done.
Corrigan Sports, the company that owns both the Baltimore Running Festival and Frederick Running Festival, had a few options for packet pick-up which were really convenient. They had 3 off-site locations at Dick’s Sporting Goods where runners could pick up their bibs. There was one fairly close to me in Columbia. However, I decided to wait until the expo day, Saturday, to pick it up because that was the only day they were distributing the race shirts. If I were to pick up at one of the Dick’s locations I would have to wait until after the half to get the shirts. Usually the last thing I want to do after a race is wander around picking up stuff, lol.
We left Saturday morning around 10 to get to the expo. It was only about an hour away so it wasn’t a terrible trip. The expo and race was held at the Frederick Fairgrounds so it was easy to get to and find. Parking was plentiful and you were literally a few feet from the expo and start. The week prior to the race they sent out the electronic registration card that I needed to present for my bib. The volunteers were very thorough in ensuring that I had the e-card before I could pick up my and my daughter’s bib. After getting both, we headed over to building 9 to get our shirts and see what they had at the expo.
The expo was tinier than I expected. I’ve been to the Baltimore Running Festival expo and that was overwhelmingly large. This one had more of a small town feel which I love. Small expo = small to no crowds. My anxiety much appreciated that =). We got our shirts and my husband bought our daughter her first running headband, a Minions themed one. We looked around a bit then decided to head to the hotel to check in and get lunch. We decided to stay at a hotel overnight since the half started at 7 AM, runners were to be parked by 6 AM (before road closures), and traveling with 2 young ones early is always a monumental task.
Kids’ Fun Run & Twilight 5K
That evening was the Kids’ Fun Run and the Twilight 5K. Isabella was in the Toddler Trot (Red Bib) which was a nice, short 100 meter run. We headed to their staging area at 1645 and ran at 1710. Isabella did awesome! She ran the entire way, which is impressive when you realize that she’s only really run a straight shot race like that once. She was so excited and happy when she ran. I couldn’t stop smiling at how happy she was to wear running clothes, a bib, and run like mommy. When she reached the finish we walked over to the kids zone, first having to pass through bib verification. This I really liked. They made sure that the tab you had matched the child’s bib number. It’s awesome to know that they made sure the right children went with the right parents. We collected her medal and then she had a few turns on some of the inflatables they had set up. After about half an hour, we all headed over to the grand stands where my family went to get some seats and I went to the 5K staging area.
The 5K was pretty large. I think they said there were about 1500 runners registered. It was a self-corraled race which wasn’t too bad since it wasn’t a crazy crowded 5K. I headed towards the front to wait out the start. I wasn’t planning on going hard since I had the half the next morning. I wanted to save my legs for that race. 5 minutes before gun time they played the National Anthem and a memorial runner took off with his support crew. Finally, we were off.
The course was a simple out and back. I had read prior to the race that the area surrounding the fairgrounds had some good inclines but I didn’t think too much about them. The 5K route was actually fairly decent in terms of hills. I felt as though it was fairly flat with the exception of the area near mile marker 1. That was a definite large incline that was challenging but not impossible. I managed to maintain a fairly even pace throughout, trying hard not to let the competitive side of me get to me. The only awards were for top 3 overall and 1st in age group so I wasn’t aiming for those, especially after seeing the field of young college and high school cross-country runners. However, I did make it a point to catch up to and pass any females I did see ahead of me if I felt I could do it without pushing too hard. I felt great the entire way. Once I reached the fairgrounds gate, I kick it up a notch and sprinted the last 0.10. I ended up clocking in at 22:39, about 28 seconds slower than my PR. My splits came out to 7:22 min/mile for the first 1.7 miles and 7:18 min/mi at the finish. Not too shabby for feeling like I was running at my comfortable pace. I ended up coming in 4th in my age group (25-29).
The next morning was the big race of the weekend. With it being advised that we be parked by 6 AM, we all ended up getting up at 4:30. I wanted to be able to get my pre-race latte and oatmeal (thank God for the 24-hour Starbucks next to the hotel), and with having to get 2 young ones in the car we needed the early wake-up. I ended up choosing to wear shorts and a dry-wick tee for the race after looking up the weather. It was supposed to be in the mid-60s for the 2 hours I expected to run so it felt like a safe choice. I will admit I was rather cold, though, as it was in the 50s right before the start. I also decided to wear my Zeroes rather than my wear test shoes, a hat, and my sunglasses. I debated the small fuel belt for the sheer fact that I didn’t want to hold my phone and sport beans for 13 miles. I brought it just in case.
Because of the direction we came from, we ended up parking in a lot across the street from the fairgrounds rather than right at the fairgrounds. It was no big deal as the road we parked in front of was where the corrals were. We ate breakfast and I ended up taking my daughter to the bathroom for a bathroom break. They had plenty of very clean porta-potties and even had one of the building bathrooms open. We went to the building as I prefer for Isabella to be able to wash her hands rather than use hand sanitizer…and a toddler in a porta-potty can get interesting. We got back to the car then I waited around until about 6:45 and headed over to the start area. This was also a self-corraled race which wasn’t too bad because the race field wasn’t huge (about 3500 runners). I decided to start between the 7:00 and 8:00 pace markers and slightly ahead of the 1:40 pacer. I hadn’t broadcasted what my goal was to anyone but my husband since I was a bit scared of attempting it. I wanted to break my previous PR of 1:44:51, and if I was feeling particularly amazing I wanted to break 1:40. Big goals for me as this would require a sub-7:30 pace for the latter goal. The start was very similar to the 5K with the same sequence of National Anthem and early runner start. Then, before I knew it, we were off!
The course headed west and then south towards the I-70. I started off at what felt “easy” for me, roughly a 7:30 pace. This portion up until 2.63 miles was a gradual increase in elevation. It didn’t feel too serious as it was gradual but I could definitely feel the rolls between each incline and decline. At mile marker 2 the course turned north and through a downtown-like portion of the city. I’m sure it probably was downtown but I wasn’t sure as this was my first time in Frederick. From there we gradually made our way west with a small loop from miles 3.5 to 7.5. This portion felt pretty steady for me in terms of hills. Looking at the elevation profile, however, you can see how there was major changes on that portion. I honestly didn’t feel much during this half of the race until mile 7. From then on out the hills started taking a toll on me. At the relay trade off I clocked in at a 7:16 min/mi pace, definitely well within a 1:40 half marathon.
I started feeling a bit of the slip at mile 8. My legs were just not having it after all those climbs. I felt good but was definitely feeling the fatigue in my glutes. The second portion of the race made its way east and back towards the fairgrounds. A lot of the route was through residential areas, which was pleasant as there was plenty of shade thanks to the tree-lined roads. Once we reached 16th St a little after mile 9, we were out in the open roads with farmlands all around. I hit mile 10 with a 7:37 pace and this was where I was passed and slowly losing the 1:40 pace group. I wasn’t disheartened, though, because when I got to the turn around point before mile 11 I saw that the 1:45 pace group was well behind me. I knew the pace I was holding, between 7:35 and 7:45, was one I could hold until the end. I was determined to get as close to 1:40 as I could.
As soon as I turned onto the Monacacy Blvd to complete mile 12 I groaned. The bigger hill of the course was on this mile. What made it worse was it wasn’t just one short hill. This was one of those major hills that last at least a third of a mile. I pushed my way up, determined to not stop on it or slow too much. My pace increased to 7:50 but it remained steady. As I crested the hill and was relieved to see mile marker 12. 1 more mile! I pushed myself to quicken my downhill pace. I always take advantage on those big downhills to make up some lost time. I passed the mile marker and turned west towards the fairgrounds.
The last portion was essentially the same stretch as the last half of 5K course. Recognizing the road layout helped in that I knew were I could start pushing. I continue to just run, and run with more effort than I had on the earlier miles. It was now or never and I was so close. As we turned back into Gate 3 and onto the race track, I picked it up. I was the most painful half mile I’ve run on a track ever. I wanted that 1:40 on my time…even if it wasn’t under. I glanced at my watch and knew it was close. I saw the finish and sprinted hard. I crossed at 1:40:48, a 7:42 min/mi pace. I did it. I broke the PR. I was happy but ready for some freaking gatorade, lol.
I made my way through the runner’s chute, collecting my half and challenge medals, taking my finisher photo, and grabbing all the food! Totally kidding but I definitely grabbed one of everything offered. I then headed towards the exit to meet my family. I also chugged a cup of Gatorade on my way. That has never tasted so good! We didn’t stick around for anything afterwards as I desperately wanted my pants and jacket…as well as a shower. We made our way back to our hotel, where I also stopped at the continental breakfast to grab a muffin (food always tastes so good after a long run, lol).
Fueling was almost non-existant during this race. I planned to take some sport beans at the halfway mark but decided on taking a Gu at the aid station near mile 8. I ended up swallowing half and regretting it because it dried up my mouth. I didn’t stop for any water throughout the race. I don’t know if this was a bad idea since I didn’t feel affected by it. I had run my 12 training miles (and most of my previous long runs for that matter) without water so it wasn’t something I felt I needed unless it was hot out. I didn’t cramp up so I don’t think it played a factor. I should also note that I did hydrate like crazy the days leading up. I had at least 2 liters of water a day the week leading up to the race so it’s not surprise hydration wasn’t an issue.
This race went so well for me. Despite the fatigue at the end, I think I did great given the elevation changes of the race route. My 1:44 PR was set in DC on a fairly flat course so to set a new PR with a 3 minute change on this route was pretty awesome. The results helped me in the decision of pursuing a BQ this fall and in signing up for Neptune’s Challenge at the Shamrock Marathon in March. I’m happy to report that I didn’t feel any serious muscle soreness afterwards. My calves did feel a bit sore the following 2 days but it wasn’t anything I felt unless I walked up a set of stairs.
What’s next on the agenda for me is the Baltimore 10-Miler in June. I don’t really have a set goal for this as this is another hilly course. I’m going to try to break 1:15 but I won’t be too bummed if I don’t. My ultimate goal is to BQ at the Baltimore Marathon and break 1:40 at the Avengers Half Marathon in November. I’m currently at the tail-end of my week-long break from working out and will pick up marathon training Monday. The week was much needed as I know burn out would have been imminent had I just jumped into training a few days after this half. I am getting a bit stir-crazy, though, because I want to run like crazy now. However, I have really enjoyed recharging my batteries and getting some real sleep-in time. Now I’m sure I’m ready to dive back in with 100% commitment =).