In Which Jenn Gets Trapped In Her Own Half Marathon

One of the downsides of getting faster while racing local is the potential traffic snarl. If you finish in 2:15 but everyone has 3:30 to complete the race and said race is on the same roads you need to drive on to get home… you see where I’m going with this.

I ran into this exact trouble the first time I ran the ZOOMA Half Marathon. It takes place in the streets of Annapolis and the surrounding area, and it more or less locks up the larger majority of the finish area. It took me forever to carve myself a path that had taken me a mere ten minutes and 2.4 miles that morning.

When I signed up to run ZOOMA again, I vowed not to get tangled in this same snarl. I had a cunning plan: rather than rely on Google Maps, I would download Waze. This GPS app uses data from users to determine the fastest and most efficient route, so of course it would know the best way to navigate the race-stoppered roads, right? Think of all the users reporting the blockages!

Therefore I hopped in my car post-race with a hopeful heart. I fired up Waze and drove off.

AND GOT STUCK IN TRAFFIC FOR A MILLION YEARS.

NOT BLOODY LIKELY

Why, you ask? Why wouldn’t Waze reroute you around all the closed roads, you ask? I’ll tell you why: the users reporting said closed roads consisted of… me. Not a single road had been reported as blocked.

So I started blocking them myself. I’d drive up to an intersection, reported it as closed, and Waze would reroute. Repeat. Repeat FOREVER.

Well, not forever. Eventually I had driven around for such a long time that I finally happened upon one that the police were in the process of clearing. I followed a motorcycle cop over the Severn River Bridge to freedom and brunch.

Nothing that ends in waffles can be all that bad. But if I wind up at ZOOMA next year I might just walk home.

Have your efforts to drive home ever been thwarted by your own race?

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: 6/02

It’s ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon week! Yup, it all goes down this Saturday. As I’ve mentioned, I’ll be crashing with Elizabeth, a native Annap…olean? Annapolite? A person who lives in Annapolis. She also gave me some insight on the course:

Looks like you’ll be running past the Naval Academy and St. John’s College, which both have nice campuses (St. John’s is weirdly reminiscent of Washington College with the brick walkways, etc.), and you’ll go past some government buildings like the Court of Appeals building and DNR. The Severn River Bridge is the bane of my existence when I try to bike over it (it’s rather steep), but the view is really nice. It also looks like you’ll be running past the start of the B&A trail, which is actually a really nice trail for walking/biking.

Not sure how I feel about that steep bridge, but it should be fun! I’ve bought sports drinks and race day snacks, I’ve planned my race outfit, and there’s an emergency KT Tape run in my future. Weather looks like it’ll be decent-to-good. I’m ready and raring! Dear Navy plebes: HIGH FIVE ME.

Fact: Anchors Aweigh is 175% better than On the Town.

So that recap will be coming at you next week. The roundup is coming at you now!

Back At Square Zero speeds it up at the finish!
Why I runDisney has the scoop on a Hong Kong Disneyland race.
The Disney Tourist Blog thinks WDW smells mighty fine.
Mouse on the Mind highlights some of the nifty books that decorate the Magic Kingdom’s new Skipper Canteen.
Living A Disney Life suggestions Disney attractions for the old and wise among us.
Plus the Magic highlights awesome vintage Disney park photos
– … and so does ImagiNERDing!
Disney In Your Day eats around Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival.

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!

In Which Jenn Corrals More Discounts

Discounts! I have more running-related discounts! I’m thinking of making this a monthly thing. Thoughts?

SLS3 is offering their compression foot sleeve for $19.90 – a $20 discount – in exchange for an Amazon review (on the honor system as far as I can tell.). The sleeve is designed to provide arch support and relieve plantar fasciitis if that’s your deal. It comes in different sizes so you can customize your fit.

If you’re in my neck of the woods, Groupon has a pretty good deal for The Great Inflatable Race on June 18 in DC – $29.99 for registration (normally $75). I for one have never been much for this sort of obstacle course thing, but if it’s your bag then it’s a worthwhile expenditure.

Also for my locals: run the Navy-Air Force Half with me! Prices went up on April 1, but you can bring them back down by $10 with code ACTNOW201. Code will also work on the 10k but the discount is only $5 in that case.

Another race you can run with me is the Zooma Half Annapolis – use code CYNTHIA16 to get 10% off. This code also works on any other race in the series, so if there’s one in a city close to you, have at it!

Also – and there’s no guarantee on this one, but I wanted to share – if you’re a Target denizen, I scored a pair of clearance running capris for $8 there yesterday, the fancier kind that used to be $25. They also had a bunch of reasonably cute workout tops in clearance if you’re in the market for long sleeves; that is, if you haven’t run a million runDisney races and wish desperately they’d look into a different sleeve length.

That’s all for this installment! Got a discount I didn’t mention here? Sound off in the comments!

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!

In Which Jenn Finally Has A Race Schedule In Place

I’ve been putting this post off for quite a while due to chronic boredom. Not that I’m bored with running and racing, but rather my race schedule was boring. For some time my first planned race wasn’t until September. September. Ugh. What kind of runner can wait that long???

Well, the kind who didn’t enjoy last year’s Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and doesn’t want to brave the potentially perilous weather of March for Rock ‘n Roll anything. And more importantly, the kind of runner who is trying trying TRYING SO HARD to guard her wallet for once. (You’re still hurting me, Dopey.)

What changed, then, you ask? Well, yesterday this happened:

Race 1: ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon, June 4

From Dancing to Running posted something the other day about training for ZOOMA Annapolis and I was like “Annapolis say what now?” Do you know who lives in Annapolis? Elizabeth! Do you know who already have a pre-race sleepover and post-race breakfast plan in place? Me and Elizabeth! Not even the threat of an out-and-back could keep me from registering for this economically reasonable, friendshippity awesomeness of a race.

Pro tip: if you want to run this race, check for discount codes. I found lots of 10% off codes for various locations.

And now for the rest of my plans!

Race 1.5: Tessitura Network 5K, sometime in August

This year the conference is in DC, so I may or may not be staying in the conference hotel. If I’m not, there’s no way on earth I’m braving early morning Beltway traffic for a basic 5K. Nuh uh. Not on your life.

Race 2: Parks Half Marathon, September 11

I mean, it’s practically in my backyard. I can walk home from the finish, for crying out loud. I made my half marathon PR last year. How can I not?

Race 3: National Capital 20 Miler, September 25

Because I need a redemption run. Also, this acts as my 20-mile practice run for…

Race 4: Marine Corps Marathon, October 30

Assuming I make the lottery. But even if I don’t, I’m reasonably confident I can get a bib through the sanctioned bib transfer program. Anyone ever done this? I have discovered I find charity bibs too stressful.

Race 5: Wine & Dine Half Marathon, November 5

My wish list: for it not suffer cuts due to inclement weather. Really, for there not to be inclement weather. Other than that: I AM ALREADY EXCITED FOR FOOD. I MEAN THIS RACE. I MEAN FOOD. I MEAN WHAT???

Bonus Race 6: WDW Marathon, January 10

Peeking ahead a bit to 2017, I’m already planning on hitting up the WDW Marathon again, even if it means another weekend trip. I maaaaay do Goofy, but I’m still pondering. Once I have finished my ponder, I will share my thought process here, because I have a blog so I can tell you about the things happening in my brain whether you like it or not. HA!

There it is, friends: my 2016 race schedule. Not as robust as some schedules I’ve had in the past, but it’ll keep me going through the long runs of training. And that’s what racing is all about, no?

What’s your race schedule look like? Will I see you at any of the above?

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!