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Pacers St Pattys Day 10k Recap

9 Mar

I haven’t written much about running recently- largely because I haven’t had any races since my big “A” race back in November 2015. Nuts.

With all the extra time not spent on training for a specific goal, I focused the last several months of my prolonged off-season on beating the hell out of my legs in order to gain some strength. This is a bit of a revolution for me, as I will pretty much always choose running for 90 minutes over squats, push-ups, and burpees for 30 minutes. Of course, it turns out that 100% of expert exercise science consensus is not wrong–after about 2 months of regular strength training (ESPECIALLY consistent core work…. blech), I noticed a big difference in how my muscles felt during/after runs, and an even bigger difference in the numbers ticked off by my Garmin.

I signed up for the the St Pattys Day 10k mostly because I love 10ks and just don’t think there are enough of them. I’ve been running a lot with a Oiselle Teammate who is quite a bit faster than me, and I’ve been more or less keeping up — so I had a sneaky suspicion this race could be a PR. Previously, my best was 51:30 from the 2015 Capitol Hill ClassicCapitol Hill Classic, so of course I hope I could eek it in under 50:00, but I wasn’t too sure.

Here’s how it went:

Mile 1: 7:27
Mile 2: 7:32
Mile 3: 7:50
Mile 4: 7:45
Mile 5: 7:44
Mile 6: 7:45
Last 0.29: 2:04

I spent the first two miles pretty much freaking out– maintaining any mile split that began with a 7 was absolutely new territory for me. Somewhere into mile 3, I switched from the doubting voice to the DO IT voice, and decided to commit to making this sub-50 10k happen. Per my race MO, I tuned out whatever nonsense people were engaging around me and just focused on the phrase I had chosen for the day; for this race, I went “fly fast to the finish then rest,” another Oiselle maxim.

And that’s pretty much what I did! I finished in 48:09, which came as a huge surprise and a big relief, and then went straight from the finish line to the movie theater for that rest (if you haven’t seen Get Out yet, stop everything you’re doing and go see it right now).

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Like all Pacers Races, the St Pattys Day 5k/10k is amazingly well organized. Packet pickup is easy, the race is metro accessible, and day-of logistics are a dream (plenty of portapotties, lots of volunteers, well marked gear check/info/medical/etc booths). Almost everyone else I talked to commented on how beautiful the course is- Ohio Drive is the main drag, so you pass the Washington Monument, WWII memorial, Tidal Basin, and Kennedy Center but, per usual, I was too dialed-in to say whether the course is pretty or not. It is, however, pretty flat, and I most certainly took note of that.

My next race is the the GW Parkway Classic, and I’m not sure whether I’ll shoot for another PR or just enjoy the course and the run. Both are equally appealing right about now–so only time will tell. Until then, it’s back to the burpees.

 

OBX Half Marathon: Sharks, Sheetz, and Sisters

9 Nov

Well my dearies, the 2015 race season is a WRAP. It has been a wild ride, and I’ll probably wax poetic about the whole thing at some point… but today, we’re talking about the Outer Banks Half Marathon.

I picked this race as my “A” race months ago because it was pretty much the only late-season half within driving’s distance of DC that didn’t interfere with the 10,000 other things I had to do in October (including watching JetSet get married… more on that in 6 months if I keep up with my current rate of wedding recaps). IMG_7089

BabyKef was nice enough to miss the Baltimore Greek Festival in order to accompany me on the trip. All week, the weather threatened to be miserable, so we were prepared to spend the day in our hotel room watching Netflix. We left DC around 6 am, were absolutely bamboozled by McDonalds (why oh whyyyyyyy does their oatmeal come PRE sweetened? Can’t a girl get a plain friggin oatmeal in the morning?), picked up my packet, and made it to our perfectly-lovely-but-not-at-all-fancy hotel before noon. Despite the nasty forecast, a Sisters Weekend miracle occurred and it was 80 degrees and sunny all day Saturday. What a treat! We enjoyed a beautiful water-side lunch at Stripers and then headed out to explore the town of Manteo.

Neither of us had done much research, so we googled “things to do in Manteo” and took it from there. The first thing to come up were the Elizabethan Gardens. Google has never been a better guide book– these gardens are modeled after.. you guessed it… gardens of the Queen Elizabeth era, and they are spectacular. I find private gardens are usually a little to prissy to be pretty– these were an absolutely stunning example of foliage and fancy gardendry and were the kind of place I’d love to just hang out in for the afternoon and have a picnic in.

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Clearly, I don’t understand how panoramic pictures work… had no idea I was in the frame!

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BabyKef was loving the shaped shrubs

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I do a mean Queen E. impression.

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BabyKef knows how to make a tired woman look good, doesn’t she?

After we were through acting a fool in the gardens, we ran some pre-race errands. We picked up some GF/SF waffles at Harris Teeter and secured my race-morning coffee from Dunkin’ (nb: DDs are in ample availability throughout the Outer Banks– praise Him!). While driving up and down Croatan Highway 10,823 times, there were more shenanigans (naturally):

DID EVERYONE ELSE KNOW THAT THE PIGGLY WIGGLY IS A REAL THING??? WE HAD ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA.

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Commerical evidence that Chrissy the Christmas Mouse is, in fact, the best part of Christmas:IMG_7134

The promised rain set in just as we got back to the hotel, so we did what any woman in the Kef Family would do… got into yoga pants and settled in for a Friends marathon and a nap. It was glorious.

To round out our Saturday, we took a trip to what appeared to be the only place in the Outer Banks to serve GF pizza (my traditional night-before-race meal), Mako Mike’s. This place was really something– extremely…. festive… decor and a waitress with uncanny personality resemblance to 90% of the servers at our Pappou’s amazing Fireside Diner. We both had a sweet potato and squash soup that was very yummy, followed by pizzas that were totally adequate (but couldn’t hold a candle to the glorious Spanakopizza I ate prior to the RnR Brooklyn Half).

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Fast forward a few hours and it’s 5:30 AM and I am ready.to.go. Everything in the Outer Banks this weekend was about racing and runners- many churches had changed their outdoor signs to read race-related Bible verses (my favorite: “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”), the radio announcers talked about the race pretty much constantly, restaurants had runner specials, and everyone seemed really amped for race weekend. I took these all as great signs. The race provides two awesome parking options: park at the start or park at the finish. Because God loves me, our hotel was less than half a mile from the Finish shuttle stop, so I just strolled right over for the 5:45 shuttle. It was super-well organized and everyone from race staff to the bus driver were so, so friendly– I can’t say what a great way to start the race this was.

A short drive across the bridge and we were at the starting line. There were TONS of porta potties and when I first got there, there weren’t even any lines. Later, there were some lines but  they moved quickly and everyone commented on how this was the best thing a race director can do to make the start an anxiety-free zone. Kudos to them! On the other hand, the starting line music was all late 90s/early-millennium pop-rock (Third Eye Blind, Creed, etc), and I found songs about heartbreak a bit out of sync with the goals of the day… but we can’t have it all, now can we?

Race started right on time, and it was WINDY. Luckily, it was mostly at our backs and I did my best to angle my shoulders so it was actually kind of pushing me along. Great. Between the wind and a slight dowhill, I went out in the first 5k faster than I had planned:Miles 1-3: 8:30, 8:34, 8:44.

I tried to rein in back in once the wind wasn’t behind us and kept an even(ish) pace through the middle:
Miles 4-6: 8:50, 8:36, 8:41. This is when I realized that either the radio announcers had way overhyped residents’ interest in the race or that the gusty wind and sub-60 degree temperatures had deterred pretty much all spectators. There was very, very little crowd support throughout the course and no bands or music until the very end of the course. This is fine with me, but if you are someone who needs a lot of fun signs and cowbells, this is not the race for you.
The course has some really beautiful parts along the water and winds between the main highway, a coastal road, and some very residential streets. It was mostly flat, had ample hydration stations, and I just focused on keeping it under control and even. Miles 7-9: 8:48, 8:47, 8:10 (I really don’t know where that last one came from– I thought my watch had turned off when it beeped off with that time).
In really strange news, I ended up running a good portion of miles 8-10 with a woman who was the doppelganger of Haley, the woman who was my unknowing running buddy in my last half. I would have race-pic-stalked this woman, too, but her bib said “G-Money” instead of her name and I didn’t think to look at her number. Alas.
Anyway, the big anxiety point of this race is the bridge. You can see why:
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It comes at mile 10 (22 for the marathoners, which just seems so, so cruel) and, luckily, I was prepared for it. If I do say so myself, I am kind of a badass when it comes to hills, so I just pushed right up it. You do not have a gluteus as maximus as mine is without some extra hill power.
I knew once the hill crested that it was go time. I took advantage of the long, steep downhill and got down to work. That went well until we turned right into the wind for the final two miles. I realized that focusing on pace would be pointless, so I just tried to run by perceived exertion, and my perception was that I was exerting everything I had. Luckily, some fun things happened in the last two miles:
Dunkin’ Donuts came out–clearly, ChefKef runs on Dunkin’.
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And a mobile medical unit team had a great cheer station and we had a quick exchange about how awesome it is to be a mobile health care team:
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Finally, the sign for Mile 13 was within my sight. It was located on a right turn, so I figured as soon as I made the turn I would see the finish. Wrong, wrong, wrong. We had to make another turn, and even then the finish chute felt so long. My watch said the race was long by about 0.25 and this time I would really believe it. But, finally, I was there and finished!
FINISH TIME: 1:54:17 (or 1:53:09 if you go by 13.1 on my watch)
Miles 10-13 8:44 (nasty ol hill), 8:20, 8:33, 8:33, 2:13 (0.34)
I couldn’t believe I had hit the mid-1:50s, and will say a lot more about this some other time.
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As if a perfectly lovely race and a new big ol’ PR weren’t enough, there were SWEET POTATO FRIES at the finish line! Amazing. Also, it was the first Finish Festival that looked so fun that I almost stayed… but BabyKef and a 4.5 hour ride was waiting for me, so I took another right-on-time shuttle whose driver was so kind as to drop me off right at my hotel. BabyKef and I jetted out of town, blasting the “Rocky” themesong as we went over the bridge (our first thought was to be real jerks and play the new Adele song as we went past runners going up the hill “Hello from the other siiiiiiiideee.” We refrained.).
About half way through the ride, BabyKef and I decided that we really wanted french fries from Sheetz. We remembered about a million signs for Sheetz on the way down so we kept waiting… and waiting… and waiting for one on the way back up. Finally, we got impatient (read: BabyKef was wayyyy hangry) and drove about 10 miles off the high way to the promised land. We were greated by a ground-to-roof window display of–what else?–Sheetz Fries:
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Me: This is how big I want my serving of fries to be. BabyKef: SheetzFries make me lick my chops!

While waiting for our fries, we came across what I think is the most emblematic display of everything wrong with American food I have ever seen:
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In the event you can’t quite make our the irony, what we have here is signage promising “authentic foods” which are actually potato chips flavored either pumpkin pie or turkey and gravy.

It’s hard to ridicule the American diet when your second serving of fries for the day comes in a vessel that can only be described as a bucket… but running 13.1 miles has to count for something, right?

Naturally, as soon as we got back on the highway, we were greeted with an actual Sheetz sign. The irony.

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Well, we’ve gone a bit off topic now, haven’t we? Here are some take homes from the weekend:

Race logistics: Bar none. A++++. Easy packet pickup (with parking). Plenty of places to stay for under/around $100 since it’s so far off season. Shuttles to and from (and associated parking) were easy, on time, and staffed by the nicest people. Portapotties galore.

Race itself: Mostly lovely course, though a bit boring at times through residential developments. Atmosphere is super-local, super nice–lots of neighbors bumping into each other and families running together. Mostly flat with a few small inclines and one major hill. No bands/music on course until about mile 11 (mile 24 for marathon), and sparse crowd support until about the same point. Plenty of water/gatorade stations. As someone who isn’t in it for the bands and spectators, I really loved this ~4,000 person race. Not sure I could get through the full marathon on such a quiet course, however.

Race Swag: So much swag! I got a long-sleeved techtee, a medal, a pint glass, and a cap–all included in race fee. Finish food was great- BBQ and sweet potato fries, and the Festival seemed like something to stick around for and is set in beautiful downtown Manteo.

Racecation-ability: BabyKef and I had the best time- an easy 4.5 hour drive down from DC with just enough to keep us busy the day before the race but no pressure to run around like a crazy person trying to see/do things.

Prognosis: I would definitely run this race again and look forward to more Sheetz Fries next year!

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