In Which Jenn Is In Love With Boardwalk Runs

If your regularly running trail is riddled with changes in altitude and terrain, perhaps your mind, too, wanders back to happy memories of runDisney races. Specifically: the flatness of Florida.

How easy it is to run in Florida! So level! So devoid of hills! How glorious it would be to clock all your training there, perhaps lacking in challenges but blissfully free, with a far-reaching horizon.

That’s where my head’s at right now – I’m logging all my training outside where the hills are, since I’m between gyms and without a treadmill. It’s good for me, I know. It makes me stronger. But man, sometimes I wish I could just put my head down and run straight and fast.

There is a place outside I can do this. It is not Walt Disney World, but it’s the best Maryland can offer me. It’s the boardwalk.

Ocean City’s boardwalk is just shy of 2.5 miles from end to end. Over last week’s vacation, I ran it three times, just over 5 miles per run – and each run came in at 50 minutes. And I wasn’t even pushing myself!

There’s an ocean breeze from one side and all your standard boardwalk staples on the other: silly shops, restaurants, arcades and carnival rides. The wooden path is soft on the joints. There are water fountains by ever bathroom. Families in surreys pass by. If that’s not enough visual interest, there’s always the giant shark through the Ripley’s museum. Duh.

Would I lie to you?

Those three runs were the happiest, loveliest runs I’ve had… in forever? They felt easy and unhurried and interesting. Of course, being on vacation and logging light mileage for the week helped.

If you have access to a boardwalk at any point during your running life, I highly recommend you take a lap or two. After which, if you like, you can take a cue from Moon and run straight into the ocean.

Do you run on vacation? Where was your favorite training run ever?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Considers Fall Marathons That Aren’t MCM

I swear I don’t actively try to turn conversations with strangers toward running. But it seems to be happening anyway.

During a happy hour with some of Elizabeth’s co-workers before the ZOOMA Half, I got to talking about my race schedule. (Did anyone ask beyond “What brings you to Annapolis?” No. And yet here we are.) I talked a little about my winging-it plan, and how that meant that I may or may not run the Marine Corps Marathon this year depending on availability.

“Why don’t you just run the Baltimore Marathon?” one of my companions replied.

I was doubtful. “I hear it’s hilly…”

“Oh, it’s really not that bad,” he said, before clarifying that he’s never run the full marathon, only the half.

So I’m still not sure about that. But his response did convince me to open up my eyes to, y’know, other fall marathons.

Baltimore is indeed a possibility, and one that I have considered. My parents live 15 minutes outside the city so it would be a convenient location. And it’s the same day as MCM, allowing me to follow a similar training plan regardless of which race I run.

Really, it’s only the possibility of hills that give me pause. Although I tackled them gamely during the ZOOMA Half, I’m not sure I want to multiply that experience x2. Of course, if it’s more a matter of hills here and there, that’s something else entirely. After all, the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon rudely hit me with a large hill at miles 22 AND 23 and I survived. I didn’t like it, but I survived. I’ll need to do more investigation into the course before I make a call.

OR WILL I?

I was paging through a copy of Runner’s World a couple weeks ago when I saw an ad for the Outer Banks Marathon and was immediately intrigued. North Carolina in early November should have solid marathon weather, and the course promises to be mostly flat with beautiful nature views. Pat loves to surf the Outer Banks and the best waves show up in the fall; I could more than likely persuade him to come with me on the strength of that alone. Bonus: a bib is less than a hundred bucks. Good looks, good looks.

The impediment comes with the distance – it’d be a 6 or 7 hour drive there and back, and we’d need to get a hotel. If I register, I am committed to what amounts to a four day weekend road trip.

So I’m not ready to pull the trigger on either race just yet. Luckily, I don’t think either tends to sell out waaaay in advance. I’d like to hold a decision until August if I can. MCM bib transfer opens in mid-July. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

Have you run the Baltimore Marathon or Outer Banks Marathon? Which would you recommend? Got any other race suggestions?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Crushes The ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon

Oh, is it race day already?

This race went so well I’m worried I may have used up all my good race luck for the year. If you’re running a race and see someone face down in the mud, covered in scrapes and both legs broken, it’s probably me.

But let’s not worry overmuch about the future. Let’s dwell for now in the comfort of the past, where I ran the ZOOMA Annapolis Half and came as near to crushing it as I could reasonably hope. Settle in!

I run ZOOMA for the practical reason that it starts and finishes under 10 minutes from Elizabeth‘s house and she allows me to crash with her. Therefore race morning started with an easy-breezy drive to the Navy Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, where I parked just before 6am with a 7am race start. So far so good.

Another reason I run ZOOMA is because the race starts a 90 second walk from where you park your car, so I was able to bounce back and forth a bit as I prepared, store my stuff, charge my phone, etc.

A third reason is because, if you know where to look (or even if you don’t; they’re not hidden, just a smidge further out), there are REAL BATHROOMS. And yet somehow there was still a line in front of the porta potties at 6:45am even as I waltzed into the legit version with no wait. People are weird, man.

Anyway, after my phone charging and my snack eating and my bathroom breaks, I hopped into the 10-minute pace area, the 2:10 pace team in sight. Five minutes later we were off, around the stadium and let loose on the streets of Annapolis.

I ran this race last year and the course was exactly the same; I went in prepared. The race includes a half, 10K, and 5K, but everyone starts at once and the courses veer and diverge at random a bit. Our first couple miles took in historic Annapolis, including the Naval Academy, St. John’s College, and my personal favorite, Main Street.

Indeed, I guess I was so excited for this section that I went out too fast – I clocked what were, for me, blistering speeds, leaving the 2:10 pacers in my wake. They caught up with me as we headed out of the historic area and on to the roads, though, as (I learned) they never walked for water stops and I always do. Having lost them just after the Severn River Bridge last year, I was determined not to do so again; I settled in behind them as we headed onto the highway.

And then we began the Hard Part. There’s the aforementioned Severn River Bridge, of course. It is rough. See?

Unfortunately, your reward for your efforts is a second half of the course located in the rolling hills of Annapolis’s back parks and crud. Last year… well, here, let me quote myself!

That second half, guys. It was the worst. It was in out-and-back that in turn involved several internal out-and-backs, Inception-style. And the worst of it was that every time you ran downhill, you could see the people ahead of you running uphill on their way back. I saw so, so many people stop and walk, and not without full justification. At times my running steps were barely more than a glorified walk

So you can see the hill situation was not exactly morale-boosting.

How did I handle it? BY BEING AWESOME AND STAYING STEP FOR STEP WITH THE 2:10 PACERS, THAT’S HOW. Because I specifically trained more on hills this year! Oh my God, guys, my training ACTUALLY PAID OFF! That never happens!

Once I took my position in the pace group, I never ever let go. I took to sprinting ahead when I saw water stops, walking as I drank, and then picking them back up as they passed by at a steady rate. I got to talking to the one girl who was a pacer last year too, and she said I looked strong. Didn’t seem entirely sold on Sour Patch Kids as fuel, though…

By the time we dragged ourselves back up the Severn River Bridge (oh, yes, they make you do it twice), I was feeling good. Despite the remaining inclines, I was pretty pleased with myself… until mile 12, for some reason, when my lungs decided they were no longer interested in inhaling at full capacity…? Not sure what happened there. Pollen? Anyway, I dug in, battled back, and kept the pace.

I was starting to see the wall – not hit it, mind you, but see it – as the mile 13 marker came gloriously into view. I took off with my new pacer friend toward the finish. A few yards out she pointed to a girl ahead of us. “See her in the pink shirt?” she said. “You have to beat her! GO! GO!” And that’s how I wound up sprinting across the finish, against all odds, with a time of 2:10:36.

This is 15 seconds slower than my current PR, and a part of me is a leeeeetle sad I didn’t beat it. (I know. I can never be satisfied.) But given that that record was set on a mostly flat course whereas this time was achieved on a hilly course that I completed SIX MINUTES SLOWER last year, I am pretty damned pleased with myself. And since I’m running my PR race again this year, I’m jazzed to see what else I can do.

Oh, for those who are curious: the post-race area is solid. There were plenty of snacks and water (but no bottled sports drinks), plus some vendors and a wine tasting area I didn’t check out but seemed popular. All in all it was a good experience.

Bring on the next race! Another PR, pleeeeeeeease. 😀

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Recaps The ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon

To quote myself that one time: HILLLLLS. (But not THAT bad. Nothing ever will be.)

I was very graciously hosted for this race by Elizabeth, an Annapolis resident, who picked up my packet for me so I didn’t have to brave the Friday Beltway during rush hour, fed me, put me to bed, and let me set an extra alarm for race morning because I am still paranoid post-MCM.

The close proximity also allowed me to sleep an extra 45 minutes, and even then I arrived at the race start at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium an hour early. Now that’s how I like it! Temperatures were decent, too, in the low 70s with cloud cover, but the humidity was a little too high for comfort. That’s what you get for daring to schedule a race in June, I guess.

Parking was free and on-site, so I chilled in my car for about fifteen minutes before hitting up the portapotties and then wandering around the finisher area, which was already populated with vendors. I also discovered that there are real bathrooms available in the stadium, so I went again on the principal that it’s never a bad idea.

Race start approached, and as there were no formal corrals I selected my own starting area. There was signage indicating approximate minutes per mile, and I plunked myself down by the 10 min/mile area. Someone sang the national anthem, and then a startling turn of events, the race started precisely on time.

This race was weird in one particular aspect: there was a 5K, a 10K, and a half as part of race day, and they all started together. The whole group set off around the stadium and behind it, at which point the 5K peeled off back toward the stadium while the 10K and half groups soldiered on.

Another weird bit: at one point us half people peeled off from the 10K people, performed an out-and-back, and then… met up with them again. Disconcerting.

From there we entered my favorite part of the whole race: downtown Annapolis! We ran down the main street and toward a marina; I loved seeing the sails at the bottom of the hill. This is the last positive thing I will say about hills.

Look, it’s hard to take a steady picture while running.

After that (I’m pretty sure it was after but it might have been before? They were definitely adjacent course portions) we ran around the St. John’s College campus and some random neighborhoods before The Part Elizabeth Had Warned Me About: the Severn River Bridge.

But I was a bit confused. There were people in front of me headed up the bridge, but then there were people headed back down it toward me. I knew there wasn’t an out-and-back over the bridge proper; I also knew that the race hadn’t been on long enough – and the crowd was too thick – for the people on the opposite side to be the leaders of the half. We had also already crossed a couple bridges, so I concluded that I had actually already run over the Severn River Bridge without realizing, the people on the opposite side were probably behind me, and in conclusion it couldn’t be so bad.

It was in that optimistic spirit that I ran up the bridge, increasingly miserable but quite determined not to give up on something I had probably already done. And at the top of the bridge, in my moment of happiness and relief, I saw it: the 10K turnaround. No, the half didn’t have an out-and-back, but they did. The people I had seen were the 10K runners, something I would’ve realized if I’d looked closely at their bibs but with a mixed race it’s hard to keep track, you know? Anyway, my point is that you can do anything you set your mind to if you’re deluded enough.

I lost them about a third of the way into the hilly second half
and I’m still kinda bummed about it.

After putting the bridge behind me, I was met with the WWII memorial and… ANOTHER HILL. Still a bit tired from my last incline, this was arguably even rougher. But I made it!

And there I thought to myself: I can tell Pat I didn’t quit on the hills! He sometimes gently teases me about that, how I often let myself walk on hills during training. So he would be proud of me for running all my hills. This thought then backfired on me, however, when the rest of the race proceeded to consist of A BUNCH OF HILLS.

Up until about mile 6 I was doing great. Hell, my GPS later told me I had set 5K and 10K records for myself. If this course had been Florida-flat, I feel pretty confident I would’ve had a PR on my hands. But that second half, guys. It was the worst. It was in out-and-back that in turn involved several internal out-and-backs, Inception-style. And the worst of it was that every time you ran downhill, you could see the people ahead of you running uphill on their way back. I saw so, so many people stop and walk, and not without full justification. At times my running steps were barely more than a glorified walk, but I ran up every hill because of that stupid thought: I can’t walk because then I won’t be able to tell Pat I didn’t quit on the hills.

After clearing the primary out-and-back of highways and wooded back neighborhood, and then the Seven River Bridge AGAIN (luckily it was a tad less steep from the other direction), I found myself back in the area behind the stadium – only, you guessed it, this time I was met with a bunch of upward inclines I didn’t even remember running down. And then the run to the finish WAS UPHILL. WHAT THE HELL.

But the final few yards were flat, and I was so happy to see the finish I cranked up the speed to meet it. And the announcer was all, “A big sprint to the finish from Jenn German!” possibly the first time an announcer has ever singled me out, and I was all, YOU KNOW THAT’S RIGHT.

I was quickly medaled and water-bottled, at which point I was free to roam the post-race area. There were snacks for the taking for runners, plus vendors, massage, and yoga. But I had a breakfast date with Elizabeth to make, so after cleaning the sweat out of my eyes (I managed to save my contacts!), I hopped back in my car and… proceeded to get stuck in the road closures of my own damn race. What’re you gonna do. I found a back way eventually and Elizabeth and I walked downtown for brunch and ate monkey bread and eggs, so I think I win.

The lighting wasn’t great.

My final time was 2:16:06, a good five and half minutes slower than my PR. Yet I’m still kinda proud of it, because seriously, guys. THOSE HILLS. And I didn’t quit! I got to tell Pat I didn’t quit!

I’m not sure if I would run this race again. It was reasonably well organized, but early June is an uncertain time to plan a race, weather-wise. Plus, again, HILLS. On the other hand: hills. They suck, but conquering them was good practice for me. My muscles are now just a little bit stronger. I think as a training race, it might be worthwhile to do again. But I’d go into it knowing that I won’t probably enjoy myself. We’ll see how I feel when registration comes around again.

That does it on races for the first half of my year. More to come in September!

P.S. Happy D-Day!

Have you ever run a ZOOMA race? How about in Annapolis? How about a race with the sort of hills that make you want to die?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Week In Review: 3/09

JENN: I GOT MY MOON BACK FOR THIS WEEK!

Yay! I’m so glad you’re here! 😁

MOON: Me too! How are you?

JENN: Not too shabby! How’s your running thing been going in these many months?

MOON: Average. Nothing too great, certainly nothing special. But, I’m sure yours is going quite well.

JENN: Pretty decent! I’ve been slowly upping my mileage.

The weather’s been so nice this week that yesterday I did a long run outside. First one of the year – I forgot how freaking HARD it is compared to treadmill! Races are never as rough for some reason.

Not that my running route is THAT hilly, but it has definite inclines and terrain changes and my muscles are all like WTF??? Even downhill requires a shift in muscle use. I suppose it would help if I sometimes changed the treadmill incline, but… NO.

Here I sum up my feelings on the matter.

MOON: I actually can’t get my treadmill to incline, I don’t know what that’s all about. And yes, downhill seems to always take me by surprise. But this is the girl who literally climbed a mountain for about 7 hours and then fell on the way down.

JENN: Wait, do you have your own treadmill like IN YOUR APARTMENT?!

MOON: No, in the building.

JENN: Ah, I see. I was gonna be like HOW COULD YOU NOT TELL ME???

MOON: Well, you’ve never been here, but my apartment is tiny. It was a big deal moving a kitten in here.

JENN: Yeah, I haven’t seen this one. We’ll have to do a sleepover!

MOON: We DO have an air mattress.

JENN: Got any races on the horizon?

MOON: Nope. Match day approaches.

JENN: Ohhh, right. Well, once you know where you’re moving to, you should pick a good local race. Maybe I can visit and we can do it together!

More togetherness ahead in the form of the roundup:

Elbowglitter is a pragmatic goal setter.
Run Eat Repeat discusses body image and binge eating.
A Salute to All Things Disney eats through Princess Half weekend.
The Runner’s Guide to WDW hits up the Splitsville bowling alley in Disney Springs.
The Disney Hipsters had the champagne brunch at DCL’s Remy and I am jealous. CHAAAAAMPAAAAAAGNE
Living A Disney Life finds moderation in a WDW vacation.
Disney Tourist Blog ranks the bathrooms of WDW. No, seriously; it’s pretty awesome.
easyWDW is at it again with complete rundowns of the Flower & Garden Festival food kiosk offerings over at Epcot.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!