Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fairfax Mighty Mile Race Recap

Back in March, Freddy ran the first race in Potomac River Running's Mighty Mile Kids Race Series. The first race was in Reston, the second race was today in Fairfax Corner. We picked up his shirt and bib yesterday, which helped get him excited for the race. His race packet also included some really nice coupons for some of the stores in Fairfax Corner - bonus!

It was nice that the shirt was such a different color from the first race's shirt:

The setup for the Mighty Mile races is really nice. The heats start at 8:00 am for the 12-14 year-olds, and move through the age groups backwards. Freddy's group, the 4-5 year-olds, was at 9:00. Kids aged 6 and above run a full mile, 4-5 year-olds run a half mile, and the tot trot is about 100 yards.

While Freddy was uncertain about running back in March for the first race, he was excited to run today and planned to run with his classmate Symphony. His friend Joseph was also running today, and it was Joseph's first race ever! Joseph's younger sister Rae was also running her first race ever, the tot trot.

The race course was very similar to the one in Reston, which is a rectangle with opportunities for parents to cut through and easily see their kids on both "long" sides of the rectangle. The mile is two loops of the rectangle (green + red) and Freddy's race was one loop (just green). 

Before Freddy's race we met up with my running buddy Karen, who was out cheering for her niece Sam. It was exciting to watch Sam cross the finish line - we all cheered loudly! And she is mastering the art of finish-line posing at a young age. Way to go Sam!!

Sam rocked it!

Look at these signs that Karen and her sister Kimberly made!
Clearly I need to step up my cheering...

Freddy's race was about 10 minutes after Sam's race. Below is a picture from the start of the 4-5 year-old race. Freddy & Symphony are in the back, but you can see Joseph in the front - he has blue and green shorts and is the tallest one:

The front of the pack

Freddy & Symphony in the back of the pack

Symphony's mom and I headed through the shortcut to see them on the other side. They rounded the corner together, but Freddy ran a bit away from Symphony to high-five Rick and wave to me. That turned out to be the location of the race photographer, so we have this beauty of a picture with Freddy looking for Symphony, and me in the background (pink shirt) with Symphony's mom already turning to head back to the other side where the finish line is. It's a cute picture, even if the logistics seem all wrong with Freddy looking behind him and me with my back completely to him!

Here's a picture of Freddy nearing the finish line. Symphony is in the middle of the group behind him, and Joseph had already crossed the finish line a bit of ahead of them. They all had a great race!

Me and my shadow!

Joseph coming in strong for his first race!

After the 4-5 year-old race we watched the tot trot. There were so many tots that they actually ran two separate heats! Here is picture of Joseph's sister Rae running with their mom (my friend Sam!):

Sam and Rae, having a blast!

All the kids get a medal and the top finishers got trophies. When we got home we pulled out our medal from the first race, knowing they were designed in such a way that all three race medals fit together. And guess what, they do!

The medals fit together!

The final race in the series is September 7th in Leesburg. I encourage you to register your kid(s) if you are local - it is such a great series!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Women's Distance Festival 5k Recap

This morning was the Women's Distance Festival 5k, the race that we were encouraged to run as the celebratory finale for the Women's Training Program (WTP). I've been very excited to run this race and registered the day registration opened!

Last night I picked up my packet and the swag bag did not disappoint:

The theme was "Ladies Go Green" and the swag was designed to match. Tech t-shirt, socks, and reusable shopping bag all sported the logo and theme and were quite attractive. There was also a quick draw hand-held water bottle which I am so excited about. It has a key/id pouch and is in the color "Fern" so it matches the theme. There is also a keychain with a globe on it that might disappear into the shopping bag in the above photo. Freddy claimed the keychain as his own, of course. We also received a finisher visor with the logo when we crossed the finish line!

I started thinking about my pace and goal last night. I haven't run a 5k for myself since Run Your Heart Out in February, when my brother Josh paced me to a PR of 32:56 (10:37 pace). I felt like a PR would be out of reach, that even sticking with the 11-minute pacer would be a challenge for me. I went to bed uncommitted to a goal, wanting to strive for the 11-minute pace group but still uncertain. I decided I would see which coach was pacing that group and maybe that would help me decide.

When I arrived in the morning, I felt really energized by the decorations and the atmosphere. The organizers and volunteers had gone all out to create a festive environment. I only captured a fracture of the cool things with my camera. Here is some of what we saw:

Motivational Signs were EVERYWHERE. They were awesome!

Both sides of this footbridge were lined with
cans, ribbons, and signs

People starting to arrive,
Finisher area being set up in the pavilion

Used shoes were collected for donation 

The finisher area had bananas, oranges, bagels,
water, coffee(!) and probably other things I missed.
The potted plants were planned as awards - cool!

I met up with my friends Lynn and Tara from Potomac River Running 101 Training, and Katherine, who was really brave in committing to the Women's Training Program and the race. I am so, so proud of Katherine for completing this and can't wait for her next 5k!

Katherine, Lynn, Tara & me in our WTP shirts
(and "happy birthday" headbands...)

Then we met up with the rest of the WTP participants and took a group photo:

WTP participants & coaches at Women's Distance Festival
(photo courtesy Brian Kent)

We also met up with my friend Gina who was celebrating the big 5-0 with a birthday race. Gina had a big group turn out to support her and run with her and we all got to sport fancy "happy birthday" headbands:

Happy Birthday Gina
(Gina is the center bunny!)
The birthday girl surveying the scene

I asked Louisa who was pacing the 11-minute/mile and she said it actually wasn't one of the coaches, and she turned to introduce me to Marcy Foster. I know Marcy! She used to be my Weight Watchers leader! She is one of my fitness and wellness role models! I've seen her cross countless race finish lines with her signature flying airplane arms. I gave her a hug and felt my mind click into the commitment to run the 11-minute pace and sticking with Marcy no matter what. 

With Marcy before the race

The race course was familiar, since we've run it before in WTP. It's challenging, with some hills. There are some nice shaded spots and some "full-out in the sun" parts. I stuck with Marcy and trusted her to tell me when we were going too fast (in the beginning), and when our pace was good. I was incredibly lucky because no one else was running with our pace group, so it was like having my own personal pacer.

Marcy leads the way; Coach Louisa is in the yellow shirt

I didn't look at my Garmin  once, just relied on Marcy to tell me how we were doing. I knew we were going a bit faster than 11-minute/mile, but I figured it wasn't much faster. The race was challenging, we were pushing my comfort zone which was great. The last mile I was struggling a bit mentally and Marcy kept me going. We planned for me to kick at 3 miles and bring it in strong, and I actually felt like I had no kick! Like I barely made it across the finish line! I usually run so conservatively and have so much energy to kick at the end, and this is the first time I feel like I truly left it all on the course. And we finished in 32:24! a 10:26 pace! A new PR for me!! Marcy said to me later, "You are much faster than you think!" I think I have a new race mantra...

Afterwards I sought out my coaches so I could tell them about my accomplishment and thank them for everything they had done for us in the program. Sylvia was my main coach who I ran with on Mondays. She knew how much I had struggled just this past Monday to keep up with a faster pace of 11-11:30 when we usually run in the 12-12:30 vicinity. I was so proud to tell Sylvia how fast I had just run!

Coach Sylvia - look at that fabulous sparkle skirt!

As I headed for home I ran into Louisa, one of my other main coaches. I told her how much I had enjoyed the program and how much I had gotten out of it. And then Louisa made my wonderful morning even better when she asked if I would be interested in being a coach for the program next year. I told her without hesitation that I would love to be a coach. It would mean so much to me to give back to the program and help inspire other women runners! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

June RunnerBox

Every two months I get an exciting package in the mail - my latest RunnerBox!  What is RunnerBox? In their own words:

RunnerBox is a subscription based box full of products and discounts which have been hand-picked to enhance your active lifestyle. Runnerbox has everything from gels, chews, protein shakes/supplements, nutrition bars, energy boosters, healthy snacks, personal care, and other running accessories! Many products will be brand new to the market while others will be tried and true favorites. With so many new products claiming to be the next best thing – leave the trials and testing to us – we’ll search out the finest and send them right to your doorstep!

In my own words, it is a fun present to myself (and yes, I share some of it with Rick). Here is a recap of the June RunnerBox.

June RunnerBox - all items!

The June box was a nice mix of products with which I'm familiar and new items I'd like to try. Here's the detailed breakdown:

Lock Laces (orange)
Lock Laces: I love Lock Laces. They are on all of my running shoes (see above). They are elastic and stretch with your foot as it swells. And mine swells significantly! I also love not having to tie my shoes ever. You can just slip your foot in and out of your shoe. Unfortunately, my randomly selected Lock Laces color was orange, a color I would never use. Fortunately, Rick likes orange and he also likes Lock Laces.

Generation UCAN (tropical orange)
Generation UCAN Tropical Orange: Meb has really helped raise the profile of UCAN. This product is designed to provide energy to your body without spikes or GI trouble. It also has electrolytes and is gluten-free. Rick likes UCAN, although he notes this isn't his favorite flavor. He likes Cranberry Raspberry, and really wants to try Pomegranate Blueberry.

Mud Energy Gel (chocolate truffle)
Mud Energy Gel: This is a new brand of gel for me. It is made with coconut water, contains electrolytes, and has 12 grams of protein. I'm a big fan of gels for my long runs and a big fan of chocolate. My long runs gels don't generally have protein in them, so I'm might save this for recovery after a long run (when I usually have chocolate milk).

PureFit Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
Protein Bar
PureFit Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Bar: This was a new brand for me as well. It has 18 grams of protein and is gluten-free, non-dairy and vegan. Also has no artificial sweeteners. I have to admit I ate this as an afternoon snack instead of using it to fuel a run. It was delicious.

Pure Clean Beet Juice Powder
Pure Clean Beet Juice Powder: Beet juice seems to be a trendy ingredient these days. I'm not sure if it really boosts strength, endurance, power, etc. but I'm game to try it. I like beets. I'll probably put it in a smoothie. Maybe with UCAN.

Fuel 100 Salty Vanilla Electro-Bites
Fuel 100 Salty Vanilla Electro-Bites: These are designed to improve training and race performance. Each pack has 100 calories and contains electrolytes in a bite-sized easily-dissolving snack. They contain coconut oil and agave syrup. I'm curious to try these.

EBOOST (pink lemonade)

EBOOST: This is an energy powder with green tea, green coffee, vitamins, electrolytes and antioxidants. Just add water and drink. I've had other flavors of EBOOST before that I didn't care for and made me feel a little jittery (maybe too much caffeine for me), so I'll probably pass this on to someone else.

Lenny & Larry's Peanut Butter Crunch
FIT Protein Brownie
Lenny & Larry's Peanut Butter Crunch FIT Protein Brownie: This is a new brand for me and I can't wait to try it. It is gluten-free, low sugar (but no artificial sugar), has 13 grams of protein, and it is a brownie!

Veggie-Go Chewy Fruit and Veggie Snacks
Veggie-Go's Chewy Fruit and Veggies Snacks: This looks like a fruit leather and has carrots, apples, and ginger. I'm going to let Freddy have it, although he isn't a fan of too much ginger. (Update: this has quite a strong ginger taste. Freddy wasn't a fan. I thought it was quite flavorful).

Honey Stinger Waffle (Lemon)
Honey Stinger Waffles: I like Honey Stinger Waffles as something to munch on right before a mid-distance race while you are hanging out in the corral. They are easy to digest. I prefer chocolate, haven't tried the lemon. I predict I will continue to prefer chocolate, but you never know! 

RunnerBox Towel
RunnerBox Towel: a handy microfiber towel to wipe away sweat during a workout. In the winter we got RunnerBox buffs which I absolutely loved. I like functional, simple items like this.

Kiss me Organics Matcha Green Tea Coupon Card good for 60% off an Amazon order and Plow on Gum Coupon Card good for one free sample of their vitality gum.

I got lots of fun items that I'm looking forward to trying, and a couple to share with Rick & Freddy. In addition to offering bimonthly subscriptions to RunnerBox, they also offer TriBox and CycleBox subscriptions. They also have a one-time gift box available, a one-time gluten free gift box, and a couple of limited edition items - the Spring Race Survival Kit and the Fitbook box. Don't tell my friend Gina, but I'm going to get her a TriBox gift box for her birthday - she's turning the big 5-0 tomorrow! Can't wait to run a birthday race with her.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Twilight 4-Miler Recap

Although I wouldn't generally advocate for two races in one day, scheduling this year resulted in my first race double-header, with the Fit Foodie 5k in the morning and the Twilight 4-miler in the evening. It wasn't as ambitious as it sounds, since I was only running the 1-mile fun run with Freddy in the evening, while hubby Rick and brother Josh tackled the 4-miler. This is one of our favorite races of the year as there is a huge party accompanying it, with beer and pizza, tons of kid-friendly activities (face painting, moon bounces, and a magic show, to name a few), and lots of friends from the running community.

We arrived early enough for me to join the Moms Run This Town (MRTT) multi-chapter picture. There was a huge contingent that turned out for this race, many wearing purple in memory of Jaime Rowley. Jaime was a local mother runner who was tragically killed when she was hit by a car while out for a morning run. The Twilight 4-miler raised funds for the "Run for Jaime Foundation" which made it particularly special this year.

Multi-chapter MRTT picture

The weather is typically a bit oppressive for this race, but this year mother nature served up a perfect evening with cooler temperatures and a slight breeze. The race course was also changed a bit this year. Rick and Josh reported it was a flat, fast course and they both scored PRs. Congrats, guys!

Rick crossing the finish line in the classic
"push the Garmin button" pose
photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

Josh just after crossing, missing the classic
"push the Garmin button" pose
(better luck hitting the pose next year, Josh!)
photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

Freddy and I enjoyed the 1-mile fun run, walking more than we ran. In previous years the fun run finished as the first 4-milers were finishing and we needed to stay to the curb and out of the way. With the changes in the 4-mile course this year the fun run was over before the first racers came in, and they came in from the opposite direction. It was a good change.

Just out for a little stroll
photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

The party afterwards was a blast, as usual. It was a marked contrast from the morning's lines and chaos from the Fit Foodie 5k afterparty. We enjoyed pizza (all of us), beer (Rick and Josh) and ice cream (Freddy). Rick and Josh hung out in the beer tent after Rick made a short detour back to the car to get his id. The beer tent was guarded by two of my favorite Potomac River Running Distance Training Program coaches - Meghan and Shannon. No one was getting in without proper id!

This was at least 12 hours after the start of the
Saturday morning DTP run! Meghan & Shannon rock!!

Freddy and I headed to the magic show with The Great Zucchini. I was less than enthusiastic since I had just suffered sat through a magic show at Freddy's summer camp kickoff the day before. I've seen that summer camp show three times before and while the kids love it, I find it tedious. Well I was pleasantly surprised - The Great Zucchini was quite entertaining and even I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I'm not saying it was as fun as being in the beer garden, but it wasn't a bad runner-up activity. Because moms don't always get to go to the beer garden, boo-hoo.

The crowd was 4 times as big by the end.
The Great Zucchini was truly great!

It was close to 9:30 by the time we left. Each year Freddy is a little older and we stay a little bit later. As we walked back to the car Freddy said that he always has fun at races and special events. That's the point, buddy. I'm glad you feel that way. Me too.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fit Foodie 5k Recap

It was a drizzly morning for the inaugural Fit Foodie 5k in Fairfax, but that didn't dampen too many spirits. Overall it was a fun time, and a neat concept - a race with a gourmet food experience at the finish line. As with any inaugural race, there were some bumps in the road. I'm sure the race organizers will learn some things from today and improve upon the race next year.

The Race
I ran the race with Jill - a Kappa Delta sister of mine from William & Mary - and her neighbor Kelly. Jill just completed a couch to 5k program and her goal was to run without stopping. And this was Kelly's first 5k! She said 8 weeks ago she couldn't even run a minute. I am proud to say they both did a fantastic job and ran the whole race without stopping! Way to go Jill and Kelly!!

Jill & me before the race
(race shirts for purchase in the background; they weren't included)

Kelly crosses her first ever 5k finish line!

Crossing the finish line with Jill

After the race with Jill & Kelly
Kelly's tiara says "first 5k" & "finisher"
The actual race course has some room for improvement:
  • It has a few long out & backs, which probably can't be avoided given the density of Mosaic District. And lots of hills, which definitely can't be avoided!
  • We ran through a parking garage which messed with my Garmin. Technically this isn't a problem with the race course, but I would have preferred clear satellites the whole way.
  • At one point the race course crosses itself, so twice during the race we ran into other runners. Ideally this would be eliminated next year; if that isn't possible there should be volunteers directing traffic, and perhaps a switch of running to the left side of the cones which would have kept us from having to run through each other. 
  • There were also a large number of cars trapped inside the race course which made for some frustrated motorists! 
  • There was a need for more volunteers and water at the water stop. When I ran past it there were ~20 people standing in line waiting for water to be poured into cups.
  • There was a wave start, which is a good idea for keeping the course less congested, but we didn't know this ahead of time. A small group of people would take off and then they would stop the flow of people. There were no corrals or clear indications of what constituted a "wave". So a good idea, but a bit confusing in execution.

Before the start of the race.
This group broke into 5 different waves.

The Party
After the race there was a series of booths with gourmet food and demos. Very cool in theory, a bit crowded and limited in practice. There were long lines and many booths had people working frantically (thank you for all of your efforts!) to try to keep up with demand. And although the party was to go until 12:30, many booths were out of food by 10:30. I had some delicious items - orange/carrot/ginger juice, two kinds of strawberry gazpacho, a granola yogurt parfait, watermelon/feta appetizer. I would love to give the booths credit for their creations but it was so crazy it was hard to keep track. 

Tara displays the parfait and
two types of gazpacho 

I hung out with Lynn and Tara for the after-party and we had a great time despite the crowds. We took Potomac River Running 101 together and are now running together in the Reston Women's Training Program. Lynn and Tara are each coming back from an injury and they are doing a great job in being consistent and not pushing it too far. I know they are both eager to be 100% again and back to where they were pre-injury. Soon, ladies, I promise!

Lynn, me, & Tara with the Big Idaho Potato Truck
This potato would make 1.4 million french fries!

And this is what we look like without a giant potato

Ah, Here's the Party!
Towards the end of the row of booths things thinned out a bit and we discovered more booths, and they were not out of supplies! And a whole other section of the party! We had juice from HonestTea, got a magazine and some samples from PoshSeven (including a free bounce pass to Loudoun Sport Bounce)! The latest issues of Cooking Light and Health magazines were handed out. There were coupons! And gummy vitamin samples! And Cetaphil cleansing cloths. A bag of Plainsmart kettle korn and a protein bar. Seeds - I picked up basil, carrot, and radish seeds. There was a beer garden that we didn't go into (more lines) but I think we could have gotten a Stella Artois beer glass souvenir in there. There was also a bootcamp tent with weights and bands. We enjoyed some more food - the Cooking Light line of meals (pretty tasty) and a blueberry banana smoothie. We entered some raffles. We left on a high note!

The second party of the party

The Cooking Light Tent

Handing out Health and Cooking Light

Cooking Light Seared Beef Sirloin
Cooking Light Chipotle Pork Tacos

Cooking Light Energy Mix

While there is room for improvement with this race, it was fun and has a lot of potential. I predict that next year they will smooth out some of the bumps and this will be a really fun after-party.