Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hip Labrum Tear - now what?

Yes, those are three words no runner wants to hear.  So on the 20th of November, I felt some pain on my left hip.  Not your normal pain but sharp aches right under the hip bone.  I thought nothing of it and took off the next couple of days and hit the bike instead.  Well, after several weeks of running and not running, it just didn't go away.  On December 19th, I got a an MRI w/contrast - this is a procedure when they inject die into your hip and conduct a MRI to see if there were any tears in you hip labrum, stress fracture, or something else.  Well, it came back to with two tears, one at 7mm and one at 13 mm.  Additionally, it looked like I had some FAI going on too but the radiologists said it "may" be present (who fucking knows).  Furthermore, I have some hamstring and hip bursitis happening which may be the overall cause of my pain but don't know.  The symptoms I was getting was pain on the left hip (lateral side) and was also getting pain in the inner groin of the left hip.  All this was happening after runs longer than 4 miles and while sitting all day - yes, it sucks.

So I set some appointments up with orthopedists in Northern VA and DC, one on January 6th and the other on January 16th.  In the meantime, I have been getting physical therapy and doing hip strengthening exercises which have really been helping alot.  One of the things I have learned is that alot of people can have hip labrum tears but are not symptomatic.  Through two strong weeks of the myrtl routine, the symptoms have dissipated and the pain has pretty much gone away...not totally but I can tell that it is working.  For instance, yesterday I ran a impromptu 5k (22:29 - 7:15 pace) run down at Emerald Isle, NC while on first mile was 7:32, second was 7:12, and the last was 7:03 for a nice tempo run.  As far as the pain is concerned, I really didn't feel any at all which is quite amazing.  Today, I ran a 4 mile run and the only thing that was tight was my knees.  I might do something light tomorrow, then rest on Tuesday and try the Resolution 5k on January 1st, 2014...I would like to feel optimistic but I haven't run more than 10-15 miles per week for the past 4 weeks which sucked.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Seashore 50K-Lessons Learned

It's been a few days since I ran my 5th marathon plus distance in as many months, and I'm not sure that I have much to say about the race other than I did it.  After Richmond Marathon, I decided to sign up for Seashore 50K because I knew it was a fast course with non-technical trails.  Although I had in the back of my mind that I would like to do a sub-7 hour 50K, my heart really wasn't in it.  In my heart, I knew I was a little burned out going into this race, and I could feel the tiredness in my legs as well. I was trying to keep a mantra of "Just Fly" in my head, but I pretty much knew after the first 10K that it was going to be a just keep moving day.
Ultra Mamas

On race day, it was unseasonably warm with a low of 55 and a high of 73.  I hadn't trained in weather that warm for a while so I had a feeling that race day was going to be kind of a slog.

I met up with my friends from Moms Run This Town at race start.  One of them had gotten all of us bracelets that said Believe on them so it was nice to have them to reflect on during the race.
Modeling our bracelets

  This was also my first race as a Marathon Maniac so I got to meet up with a bunch of the maniacs for a pre-race photo.   I think being a maniac was pretty much my fave part of this race.  It was so great to meet other maniacs and to always have someone to encourage you on the trail.

We started at the Narrows, did a short road out and back and then hit the trail.  I was running with our group of 4 coming into 64th Street aid station.  I just grabbed a drink at this aid station and quickly headed out.  We picked up the pace on the next longer section of trails as Cape Henry was a wider section of trail and runners got more spread out.  I grabbed a handful of chips and some M&Ms and reloaded my handheld water bottle before heading out on Osthmanus Loop.  This section of trail was just annoying.  It was really rooty, but not technical, just enough to be irritating and slow you down.  As I finished this section of trail, I pretty much knew that I was going to be in trouble for the rest of the day.  I was cramping in my stomach and back and feeling so bloated like I had to go to the bathroom but I couldn't.  I was drinking plenty of water, but I was having an awful time taking in any calories.  I had a few Honey Stingers and headed back on towards 64th Street.

I saw JD and the kids at this aid station and let him know that I was feeling bad.  He tried to get me to eat, but I couldn't force much more than a few chips.  I started the slog back out to the Narrows and met up with the other women out there at the drop bag area.  I forced down a quarter of banana and tried to run back out with them, but I couldn't hold onto their pace so I just slowed down and resigned myself to getting it done on my own.  I saw JD and the kids again at 64th Street and tried to go to the bathroom again with no luck.  At this point I was still on pace for a sub-7 hour (even 6:30 finish).

The slog back to Bald Cypress was pretty miserable with my pace really deteriorating at that point.  I really wanted to be at sub 15 minute pace the entire time, but I couldn't do it on that section.  I rolled into Bald Cypress and knew that the Osthmanus Loop was going to be a walk fest.  I was trying to run, but the roots were making that almost impossible given the fact that I was completely bonking.  I just wanted off of that loop.  The remarkable thing was that even though I felt physically awful, I was able to stay positive mentally and was really just focused on a finish regardless of what the time was.  I grabbed a few orange slices and a chip and headed back on Cape Henry.  At some point I saw the sign saying that we passed the marathon distance and did a little mental cheer and kept slogging on.

Coming into 64th Street, I was greeted by the best surprise ever.  I didn't expect to see JD and the kids until the end, but he somehow knew that I was going to need them at mile 29 so he was there.  Nicolas came running down the trail with a cup of ice that I promptly dumped right into my sports bra.  I got out of the aid station (briefly considering asking Zach to run the last 1.5 miles in with me-in retrospect I wish I would have) and headed towards the finish.
Don't I look awesome...almost done!

As I hit the final road to the finish, Nicolas jumped up and ran in with me while JD and Zach were cheering me on. 

Final finish was 7:21:20...nowhere close to goal, but a 50 minute PR over YUTC in September.  Overall I'm proud of the finish and the fact that I stayed mentally strong.  In hindsight, I should not have raced this one with expectations of a really good time given the number of big races I had consecutively.  I think it was a good lesson though to show me what I can do when I am in total and utter physical misery.  I was pretty much at the bottom of the barrel energy wise and felt sick like I had the flu for 2 days afterwards due to the dehydration and lack of calories during the race.  So despite knowing what I needed to do with hydration and fueling sometimes your body just doesn't want to cooperate, and you do the best you can to get to the finish.

Seashore is a great race and particularly great for a first time ultra.  It's not a particularly interesting course, but it's pleasant enough and spreads out pretty quickly.  The aid stations are well stocked and the volunteers are terrific. 
Nice wood carved medal this year

Quick review on one new piece of equipment:  I tried out Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential waist pack, and I loved it.  It was super light and comfortable yet it held a phone and a lot of fuel and did not bounce around at all.  I also should note that the RunPrettyFar tank was so comfortable and very cool.

Section 1:  11:02 min/mile (2.9 miles-31:57)
AS1 (64th Street):  40 seconds
 Section 2:  10:30 min/mile (4.3 miles-45:47)
AS2 (Bald Cypress): 2:06
Section 3:  13:02 min/mile (3 miles-39:06)
AS3 (Bald Cypress):  53 seconds
Section 4:  12:42 min/mile (4.3 miles-54:55)
AS4 (64th St):  2:30
Section 5:  13:50 min/mile (1.6 miles-22:09)
AS5 (Narrows):  1:45
Section 6:  13:13 min/mile (1.6 miles-21:20)
AS6 (64th Street):  3:21
Section 7:  15:46 min/mile (4.3 miles-1:07:48)
AS7 (Bald Cypress):  2:01
Section 8: 18:36 min/mile (3 miles-55:22)
AS8 (Bald Cypress):  1:09
Section 9:  16:10 min/mile (4.3 miles-1:09:22)
AS9 (64th Street):  1:00
Section 10:  16:16 min/mile (1.7 miles-27:40)
Total:  14:14 min/mile (7:21:20-31 miles)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jingling on Icy Trails

This morning I ran the Broad Run Trail Jingle Bell 5 Miler.  I ran this race last year, and it was really fun so I decided to do it again.  This year the trails had a little adventure in store for us.  It had iced on Monday, snowed on Tuesday, been really cold all week, and then snowed lightly for about an hour before the race so the trails were really icy in most parts.  I was just trying not to get hurt since I'm going into the 50K next weekend. 

I met up with some friends from Moms Run This Town, and we were ready to run.  I didn't really have a race goal other than not to get hurt and to run by feel.  I hid my Garmin under my shirt sleeve and just planned to check it around mile 3 to see how things were going.  I was feeling pretty good in the first mile.  Mile 2 was really icy so I slowed a bit just to be cautious.  By the time I hit mile 3 we had a road section so I picked up the pace again.  Then I checked my watch and was pleasantly surprised to see that I was on pace to PR.  So I locked in and pushed a little when I got back on the trail.  I crossed the finish line in 47:43 which was slightly over a 2 minute PR for my trail 5 mile time.  My overall pace was 9:32 which is really fast for me on trails especially given the icy conditions today.  I felt really good about this run.  Looking at the splits, I almost got a good negative split race with the exception of mile 2 which was really icy and caused me to slow down. 

Splits:  Mile 1:  9:55; Mile 2:  10:06; Mile 3:  9:54; Mile 4:  9:10; Mile 5:  9:08

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Running with Santa in the Snow

I did the Run with Santa 5K with the boys this morning.  The weather had promised to be interesting with a threat of an ice storm or snow and temperatures below 30.  Those temperatures don't bother me, but the kids have never really raced when it was that cold before.

We got there early and hung in our car until about 30 minutes before race time.  The boys had on tights, shorts, an Underarmor base layer, a cotton long sleeve, gloves, hat, and an Old Navy fleece.  The original plan had been for them to take the fleece off to race, but once we were outside the snow started.  I realized that they would probably be too cold without the fleece so we repinned bibs.

Then we headed over to the start line.  We were all pretty excited about racing in the snow.  This would be the first experience for the boys racing in the snow so it was going to be a learning experience for them. 

Zach was going to run on his own and then wait for Nic and I at the finish line.  When the race started, Nic and I took off at a pretty good pace. 

It didn't feel that fast for me, and Nic wasn't saying anything.  I was trying to warm up so I wasn't checking in with him as much as I normally do.  We finished the first mile at 10:07, and I realized that it had been fast for him.  He wasn't used to how the really cold air felt in his lungs so we slowed down.  We took a walk break at about 1.5 miles and ended up with mile 2 around 12:30.  He was just not feeling this race at all.  His poor hands were freezing, and he was near tears.  He kept telling me that he didn't think he could finish the race.  I just kept telling him that he was doing a great job and that we could take walk breaks when he needed them.  I told him how I have bad race days too, and that it was really hard to run in the cold. Then he slipped and hit his ankle on the curb so that was hurting too. Since this was his third time running this particular course, he knew when we were about 0.5 miles out and started to feel a little better since he knew the end was near.  He finished pretty well at 37:38.  His time was actually a full minute better than his time at the race last year, but he had run in the 33's on the same course in July so he knew it wasn't his best race. 
Zach finishing up.

Zach was waiting for us and had done a great job running a 30:28 which was faster than his time at the race a year ago, but slightly slower than his July time on the course.  He said that he had just taken the course easy because it was slippery in some parts.

Loved my new Reebok Cold Weather Compression tights

Gotta stop the Garmin!

Overall, we had a fun time running in the snow and in the festive weather.  We stopped for hot chocolate on the way home.  I'm very proud of the kids this year as this race was the 6th race in the PR Trophy Series for them including their first 4 mile race and first 8K.

Cool ornament that everyone got!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Repeat at the Gobble Wobble 5K

Thanksgiving was our third year running the Shenango Conservancy Wobble Gobble 5K.  This is a great race through Buhl Park and always kicks off our Thanksgiving festivities.  The course is challenging, but we have done well there the past two years.  The weather was extremely cold and very snowy on race morning.  JD and I had done a short shakeout run on Wednesday after our drive up to PA to get used to the colder temperatures, but it was even colder on race morning with a high of 9 (felt like 3). 

The park was gorgeous, but the path was completely snow covered with ice underneath.

After picking up our bibs, chips, and shirts, I headed out to do a mile warm up and check out the roads.  I was trying to decide if I wanted to run hard enough to try to age group place again.  After the warm up, I decided that it wasn't worth risking an injury on the slippery terrain for an age group award.  JD and I settled in near the middle of the pack and got ready to race.  I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to do a bit of a tempo run with this and try to negative split the race with a vague time goal of sub-30 so nothing overly ambitious for me.  Mistake #1 was settling into the middle of the pack.  The middle of the pack should be running at the start of the race, but there were tons of walkers as well as a bunch of people who ran a 1/4 mile and then started walking so we spent a lot of time weaving and dodging people.  We still finished the first mile in 9:02.  I still felt pretty good, but my legs were a little stiff from the cold.  The second mile of this race is the hardest because there is a false flat and a decent hill in this section.  JD was pushing the pace a little here while I was complaining about not wanting to run this fast.  He slowed a little for me, but he continued to talk and crack jokes including at one point singing "What does the fox say?"  In my head I was thinking the fox says shut the fxxk up because I'm busting my butt trying to get up this hill while my feet are sliding backwards on the ice and get under a 9 minute mile.  I successfully made it through mile 2 without killing him at an 8:55 pace.  At this point, I knew there was one more short hill and then the big downhill finish.  I started to set my sights on some female runners that were dying after mile 2 and just started picking them off.  When we finally hit the downhill section, I really wanted to take off, but my shoes were sliding everywhere.  I was terrified of falling or sliding down the hill so I kept the pace in check until we hit the final flat straightaway.  I must have passed at least 20 people on the final stretch and ended with an  8:44 pace for the last 1.1 miles.  Just as I was coming into the chute (which is way too narrow for a race with 1500 people) this other woman comes charging in and elbows me causing me to slide on the ice and almost fall down as we cross over the timing mat.  I guess she thought we were in contention for the last spot in the Olympics or something.  Seriously, I have a bruise on my arm from where she elbowed me, and I can't even figure out why since she was a lot younger than me so not an age group contender.  Final time was 27:58 so an OK finish time, but I was happy with the negative split pace and the fact that I ran so strong at the end.  Without the icy conditions, I could have easily pushed harder. 

It was freezing so JD and I hopped back in the car and headed to Starbucks to warm up.

 Once I got home, I looked up the results just to see how I had done in my age group.  Surprisingly, I found that I had placed third again even though my time was about 2:30 slower than last year's time.  I guess the ice slowed everyone down.

Special thanks to JD for hanging with me and pushing me a little near the end.  I would not have pushed as hard had I not been running with him.  After the fact, the fox says, "Thanks for the age group award."
In case anyone is wondering about what to wear in those conditions, I went with Underarmor base layer, UnderArmor coldgear mockneck, and then a long sleeve tech tee on top.  I had Smartwool socks, regular Target C9 thick weight running tights, Underarmor gloves, and Underarmor fleece beanie.  I also put on mittens over the gloves.  I was actually too hot by the end with the mittens and the hat because I almost never run with a hat.  We were mostly moving while we were outside and weren't outside for more than 45 minutes.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving runs and coming back from injuries

Well, after the OC 100k, I had been dealing with peroneal tendonitis in my left foot and after that ended, some left hip pain.  I ran the Freeze your Gizzard 5k in Leesburg, VA on the 23rd of November with Zach.  He did really well running a 29:12 - I paced him the whole way with an aching left hip.  After coming back from foot tendonitis, I ramped up a tad to quickly in the wall squat/lunge department inflaming something b/c it hurt like a, I took a few days off and tried to rub it out...nope, no I didn't run which sucked and figured I would take this week off.  However, yesterday, ran 2.5 with Heather here in New Castle, PA and it felt pretty good so I figured I would pace her at the Wobble Gobble 5k in Hermitage, PA.  Last year, I won my age group and figured I could do the same if I was healthy but I decided to run very easy.  We wake up this morning and its a steamy 9F degrees..Get to Buhl Park, get our bibs and shirts, back to the car and warm up.  Finally, get out and run about .5 miles to see if the hip is working.  Feels ok so far....gun goes off and we are running an easy 9 min pace however, the path is all snowed over and everyone is slipping and sliding...Even if I was healthly, I don't know how fast I would be running this bitch...So I keep about a 9 min pace during the whole race and make sure I don't overdue it on my hip....Talk the whole way during the race and you could tell people were just hating me...the wind was cold and the course slippery...Finished the race with a 28:07...and heather ended up getting a THIRD PLACE AG award...way to go heather...Overall, I am planning to start training for a 50k in February next week which will be perfect.  All in all, its been an up and down month and 1/2 but I am glad that things are moving forward....hopefully, I can run the resolution 5k in NC hard and possibly do well.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ten Reasons I'm Thankful for Running

Inspired by Another Mother Runner's post, I decided to do my own list of ten reasons that I'm thankful for running.

1.  Bonding with my husband-One of the best days of this past year was the time that I spent with him out on the trails at Oil Creek pacing him to his 100K finish.  I love our running dates especially our time on the trails together.

2.  Moms Run This Town and all of my women runner friends-I have met so many wonderful and supportive women through running.  Women who inspire me and encourage me every single day.

3.  Time spent running with my kids (and other people's kids)-I love the time that I spend racing with my kids and watching them achieve new goals.  I also helped coach cross country with The Running Store youth team for the first time this year, and I loved the Tuesday and Thursday afternoons watching the kids and their sense of accomplishment throughout the season.

4.  Sanity-On days when everything just feels overwhelming, a good run will clear my mind and help me focus and prioritize the day ahead.  My alone run times are also my time to talk with God...sounds strange, I know, but I do a lot of praying while running.

5.  Determination-Running has taught me so much over the past few years.  I have learned never, ever to give up on myself, and that there is nothing I can't accomplish if I am determined to go after that goal.

6.  Laughter and joy-When I am out running with my friends, my husband, my kids, or just running by myself, I am happy and full of joy.  It doesn't matter how bad the day is...a good run always picks me up.

7.  Pride and humility-Running has taught me to be proud of my accomplishments even the ones that don't seem that big to anyone else.  Running has also taught me humility because there is always that next bad run to bring you right back to earth and get you back to work.

8.  Health-Not only has running changed my body from the pure physical activity, but it has also transformed the way I eat and the way I feed my family.

9.  Inspiration-I have been inspired by a lot of runners over the year, but I have also been the inspiration for some runners too.  I recently got a note from a runner friend that said that I was one of the inspirations for the running goals that she had achieved during the past year.  Being someone's inspiration makes my heart sing.

10.  Nature and quiet time-One of the reasons that I love trail running so much is that it gives me the opportunity to get out in nature and experience some much needed quiet time.  As an introvert, I need time to recharge and trail running gives me just that time to do it.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Freezing our Gizzards for Some Cross Country PRs for the Boys

Today we ran the Freeze Your Gizzard 5K in Ida Lee Park in Leesburg.  This is the third year that we have been to this race, and we really enjoy it.  It benefits a community food bank so you can bring donations of canned food with you as well.  Two years ago, this was one of the first races that the boys ran, and we ran the 1 mile fun run with them.
Here's Nic two years ago!

Here's Zach!

Last year Zach ran this on his own as one of his first solo 5Ks. So this year all of us were going to run the 5K.  This is not an easy course as it is cross country with lots of ups and downs.  Zach had run over 33 minutes last year so he wanted to try to PR the course this year.  Before the race, he told JD that he wanted a sub-30, but we reminded him that this was a cross country and not a road course.  He still thought he could do it.  Nic and I were just going to try to do our best to run all of the hills and have a good time.
Heather and boys pre-race

It was brisk and very windy this morning at race start.  JD and the boys jogged a little to get warmed up and then it was time to start.  JD and Zach took off and did the first mile at around 9:18.  Nic and I were more conservative plus we got caught on a jammed section of the course behind some people who kept stopping ot walk.  We ran a 10:52 on this section.  Nic was doing great and not having trouble with any of the hills.  The second mile is a bit tougher than the first with some harder hills, but it also has a short road section after the water stop to make up some time.  Zach skipped the water station and did a 9:44 in mile 2.  Nic walked through the water station, but then he pushed really hard on the paved section to get 10:42 for that mile.  I told him that we were on pace to negative split the race and also to beat Zach's time from last year.  He got a big smile on his face and started to push a little harder. I had told him to run behind me whenever the wind got bad so he was drafting whenever he needed to.  Zach had a great last mile at 9:02 and finished in 29:09 for an average pace of 9:24!!!  He was in the <14 age group which was huge so he finished 35/92, but only one other 9 year old was ahead of him and the rest were older boys.  Nic finished strong with a 10:04 last mile and a final time of 32:51 for a pace of 10:22 overall and of course, first 6 year old. 
JD and boys pre-race

We are super proud of Zach for getting his first sub-30 on a cross country course, a 4 minute course PR, and for meeting his goal.  We are also super proud of Nic for conquering all of those hills, beating Zach's time from last year, and running negative splits for a 5K.  That might have even have been a first for me with the negative splits in a 5K because I usually lose it in mile 2 when I'm running them all out.   
We finally wore them out!

No Fear, No Doubt, No Judgement-Running Richmond Naked

Awesome sign from Fellow Flowers!

Leading up to Richmond Marathon I had really wanted to go after a sub-4:30 marathon.  I wasn't sure how doable it was given that a lot of my work in September and October was trail work, and I hadn't done many pace or tempo workouts especially at longer distances.  I also had a ton of long distance mileage on my legs (for me anyway...serious ultrarunners can feel free to laugh now).  I had done Drake Well Marathon on August 18, Youngstown Ultra Trail 50K in September, and paced 50K of Oil Creek in October so this was going to be my 4th marathon plus distance in a 90 day period.  Richmond also made me eligible for Marathon Maniac because Richmond would be my 3rd marathon+ distance in 90 days. (Maniac #8062 reporting for duty as a double agent-half fanatic and marathon maniac both this year!)

In search of the 4:30 goal, I signed up for the pace group.  I got an e-mail from the pace leader about a week before the race.  He sounded like he had a great plan so I was excited.  I also had a few women from Moms Run This Town that were going for a similar goal that were going to meet me at the pace group as well.  So on Thursday before Richmond, I get this insane idea to race with no Garmin.  My reasoning was that no Garmin would remove the stress of the pace from myself, would force me to trust and hopefully stay with the pace group, and would keep me from really doubting myself near the end.  So I arrived in Richmond on Friday with no Garmin. 

We checked into the Richmond Marriott Downtown.  I highly recommend this as a hotel location for the marathon.  The start was right outside of the hotel, and they had a Starbucks right inside the hotel.  They also had a restaurant that opened early and graciously left a nice finisher's packet with post race snacks and Gatorade on every runner's door after the race.  The hotel also had a table set up in the lobby when we checked in with cute door hangers, bottled water, granola bars, and race maps and spectator information.  Two thumbs up for the Marriott service!
Awesome door hangers!

We chilled out in the hotel for a little and then walked down the street to find a restaurant called Gibson's Grill.  It was right near the National Theater and had some bad reviews for being slow, but I think that must be on theater nights.  When we went in, there was really no one there and we were served in a reasonable amount of time.  I got some penne pasta with veggies and marinara sauce and then headed back to the hotel to get the race gear together and get ready for the morning.
Flat mama-was deciding between t or tank...went with tank

I did not sleep all that well and we ended up getting up at 5:30 am.  It was raining pretty hard when we woke up, but the local weatherman kept assuring us that the rain would stop before the marathon start.  JD went down to the Starbucks to get me some coffee, and I made a sandwich with peanut butter, raisin bread, and banana (usual marathon breakfast).  I got dressed and bibbed up and then just hung out in the room watching race coverage on the local news.  The 8K started at 7 am, and it was pouring at that point.  We could actually watch the runners go right by our hotel from our room so that was fun. 
View of marathon start and the downpour from my hotel window
Last minute hug

Around 7:30 we went out to the street to watch the half marathon start. It was drizzling a little, but it wasn't too bad.  I got corralled around 7:45 and found my friends and pace group really easily.  I have to say that I loved race morning logistics since I could hang out in my hotel room until 30 minutes before race start and not have to worry about portapotties. It was also easy to find friends in the corral.  I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and some water right around that time.

I am very nervous!

 Before we knew it we were off and ready to go.  I started talking to the pace leader and found out that he had paced Oil Creek 100 that year, and that he was an avid ultrarunner so we spent quite a bit of time chatting about trail races.

 It was pouring about a mile into the race, but I was really enjoying myself.  The rain quit fairly quickly, and we were just left with mist and drizzle throughout most of the day.  Honestly, race weather was pretty much perfect the rest of the day with moderate temperatures and no sun.  I was comfortable in my tank, capris, and arm warmers for at least half of the race.  Somewhere around mile 4-5 there was a big crowd cheering, and I looked over in the group and Bart Yasso!!!! was standing right there cheering the runners on so I stuck out my hand and got a high 5 from the Chief Running Officer.  This was one of the big highlights of the race.  I joked that I might have been more excited to see Bart than I was to see my kids.  The miles were clicking along, and then we hit a decent short climb right before 10K. 
Rocking it through the Starbucks party zone

We hit 10K at 1:04:56 for a pace of 10:28 in that section.  We were walking through the water stations and then picking up the pace a little after each section.  The next section of the course was my favorite because we hit a party stop at the Starbucks and  ran right beside the James River for a few miles. 
Gorgeous river views

After that we ran through a bunch of neighborhoods and up and down some little hills.  This is all honestly a blur because I was so keyed in on keeping with the pace leader that I wasn't looking at much else.  I ran with some of the MRTT ladies for a little while at this point and got slightly ahead of the pace group, but we hit a short climb so I slowed down and let myself drop back to them.  We hit a party station and the half marathon exactly at 2:15:09 so our pace overall was 10:18/mile, but we had done a significant negative split in that section dropping our average pace to 10:16.  Somewhere in here I pushed my arm warmers down because I was starting to heat up a little.  I felt like I was doing a great job with hydration and fueling by taking small amounts of fuel starting at mile 6 and doing every 2 miles after that with either Honey Stingers or Sport Beans plus water.  Somehow I completely forgot about my Endurolytes even though I had them with me.

Locked in and focused
So at mile 14 the pace leader tells us that the next bridge is pretty bad and this is where he usually loses a lot of the group. Determined not to lose the group, I glued myself to the pace leader.  I also made conversation with a few runners from National Black Marathoners Association who were in the group and looked to be running strong (BTW, loved their race bibs that said Running Free 1865).  I was trying to form bonds to keep me motivated to stay with the group.  At mile 15 we hit the Lee Bridge.  That thing looks like it's 10 miles long and reminds me of 14th Street Bridge in Marine Corps Marathon.  I stuck in one of my earbuds, locked in some Emninem on the ipod and focused.  Before I knew it the bridge was over, and we got hit with what would be our last serious climb. The pace leader was also starting to move a little faster in an attempt to bank some time between miles 16-20.  I was feeling pretty good and cheered by the fact that I might get to see JD and the boys around mile 17.

As we are part way up the climb in mile 16-17, the crowd starts to grow, and I start looking for the kids.  I spotted them, and made my way over for quick hugs as I was running through.  I was so excited to see friends and family that it helped me up that climb.  Around mile 18-19, I started to experience some stomach cramps.  I knew I was going to need a bathroom.  The portapotties had massive lines, and there was no way I was waiting in line during a race but running was starting to get uncomfortable.  I was also drifting to the back of the pace group as they were moving faster.  Finally I spotted a gas station as we were running through a neighborhood and darted in and found an empty bathroom.  I was much better after that and rejoined the race and picked my running back up.  Unfortunately I lost about 5-7 minutes during that stop and also lost my pace group.  I knew I wasn't going to be able to catch them so I settled in to get my self to run the last miles on my own.

Waving to my fake cheering section

During this section, I saw a huge cheering section with signs for Heather.  Obviously, it was for another Heather, but when I pointed to the name on my bib, they all went crazy for me so that was fun.  There was also a young woman who was holding a sign that said "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts..."  I saw her at 3 different party stations, and every time I saw her I would point to her and she would shout out "Can't Lose" with me.  So that was fun because I love that saying from Friday Night Lights. 
Let's finish this thing!

I was using the ipod in between aid stations, but the aid stations and community cheer stations were so awesome that I found myself only needing music for short periods of time before the crowds would pick up again.  At mile 20, we run under a stone archway and someone had put up a sign on it that said "The Wall".  I put my hand on that wall as I passed under the arch as a metaphor of the fact that I was breaking through the wall.  I hit mile 20 at 3:33:08 average 10:39 pace for the race, but my pace for that section had dropped to 11:10 due to the bathroom stop.

The last 6.2 miles were slower going, but I was still running.  I had promised myself that I was going to run this whole race so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and repeating "no doubt, no fear, no judgement".  My quads were cramping badly (consequence of forgetting about the Endurolytes), but I just told myself that they were going to hurt even if I was walking so I should just keep moving.  I was grabbing a few sips of Gatorade at the aid stations which were every mile at this point to try to help a little.
Having a little fun at the 5K to go mark!
Not happy about the hill ahead

The marker for the last 5K was really fun as the neighborhood had hung up a banner for an actual 5K right at the 5K mark and had a DJ calling out runner names or numbers as we came through.  At this point, the 4:45 pace group caught me, but it was really only the pace leaders as their group had fallen apart.  Another lady and I joined the two female pace leaders who were super encouraging, and we got that last 5K done.  The downhill finish was really pretty awful.  The hill was terrifying steep, and due to cramping I was so scared that I would cramp up and just fall down the hill.  I didn't really let loose like I thought I would down that hill, but I was so happy.  I saw friends and family along the side and had a big smile on my face.  I was super excited to finish having run the whole way.  Final time was 4:46:33 for a pace of 10:56 overall and only 11:55 in that last 10K section (so slow, but still running). 

I can definitely say that this was my best marathon ever although I did not PR. I ran the whole thing, I had fun running it, I finished with a smile, and I didn't cry or get discouraged once during the whole race.  I learned a lot about myself and about how to run a marathon correctly that I can definitely carry on to my next race.  I also had a terrific experience running with no Garmin and running with a pace group.  I will definitely do this again for another marathon that offers pace group options.
Just spotted the kids on the way to the finish!

Overall Richmond is a great marathon.  It was hillier than I expected, but it was not awful and would have been fine if I would not have expected it to be flatter in the later stages.  There were some gorgeous sections along the James River, but I didn’t think it was overly scenic as a whole.  Running through the neighborhoods was fun, and the community cheer stations and party zones were terrific.  Logistics were really easy for us since we stayed near the start which was only a 0.5 mile walk from the finish as well.  I loved the smaller field, and aid stations were never overcrowded and were well stocked.  The medal was simply stunning, the long sleeve tech t-shirt was really nice, and  we also got an awesome fleece blanket at the finish line.  Great value for the money!  It definitely is America’s Friendliest Marathon and a good bet for a first time marathon as well.