Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Want To Be a Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Social Runner!

I have been obsessively watching for the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Social Runner applications to open. I wrote my application essay based on last year's form, which allowed 500 words. I was quite proud of it. Applications opened today, and to my dismay the 500-word essay became a 160-character snippet. I creatively condensed my essay and submitted my 160 characters (using every last one, of course) and I'm keeping my fingers crossed! My full essay is below, for anyone who is interested. Good luck to everyone entering an application to be the Social Runner for CUCB!

Roaring across the finish line at the
2014 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run

Why should you be our Social Media Runner?

I have been training to be the Cherry Blossom Social Media Runner for the past year and I am ready! I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run last year and it was my FIRST BIG RACE! I had a blast, I met my goals, and I made running friends - both in-person and online.

Two things that helped teach me about CUCB & being a good social media runner were my training with Potomac River Running (PR) and interactions with last year’s social runners. I trained with PR’s Cherry Blossom-specific training program and blogged about my training at I followed last year’s social runners, Fran and Doug, and interacted with them (especially on twitter) and learned how to raise excitement and awareness for the race. I also followed the CUCB Blog and included my recap of the 2014 race on the “Race Recap Party” link-up and thoroughly enjoyed reliving the fun of the race through everyone’s recaps.

This year I will again train with PR’s Cherry Blossom program. I will not only blog about *my* training & goals for CUCB, but I will also share the stories of other PR CUCB training participants – what is their “why” for running this race? What are their goals? Readers of my blog can follow a whole contingent of CUCB runners and their preparation – some running their first 10-miler, some looking to get faster, some just looking to have fun in a quintessential DC race. Here is my working draft question template for my interviewees:
  • When did you begin running and why?
  • What is your proudest running moment? (alternatively: What is your weirdest/funniest running moment?)
  • Why did you sign up for CUCB training with PR?
  • Have you run CUCB before?
  • What is your “why” for running the 2015 CUCB?
  • What is your goal for 2015 CUCB?
  • Do you have a running mantra?
  • If you could use only one word to express what running means to you, what would it be?

Over the past year I've seen both good (Nike Women’s Half Marathon & CUCB) and less good (Army Ten-Miler) examples of social media race engagement. I will strive to emulate the good – interacting with fellow runners, retweeting/favoriting/replying to their tweets, sharing information about the race, training, the charity (Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals), the course, and the expo. I loved Doug Cassaro’s photo blog of the course from last year – that is a great way to inform people and raise their enthusiasm about the race!

I genuinely love running and would be honored to share my affection for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run as one of the Social Runners for the 2015 race. I have already bought my ticket for the kickoff reception ( I’ll bet I was one of the first to do so!) and I will be there with my contagious enthusiasm!         

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cheering for Marine Corps Marathoners

You know that awesome endorphin rush that you can get from a really good run? The kind that stays with you through the whole day? It turns out you can get that same rush from cheering for other runners - kind of a vicarious runner's high, if you will. Laura, Karen, Freddy, and I formed a "cheer brigade" to support our fellow PR runners for the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon and it was such a rush!

The Metro Ride in to DC
Laura, Freddy, and I met at the metro to head into the city. We were hoping Coach Shannon could come with us but she had to work. This was a major bummer because she played such an integral role in the training of so many PR Training Program runners who were taking on the MCM challenge. And also because she's fun to hang out with! I made a crack about putting Shannon's head on a sign and bringing it with us...which Laura ran with and used to create this inspired piece:

Laura brings Coach Shannon along to cheer

We waited for the train for a few minutes with Elmo the balloon. Elmo's purpose was to help our runners spot us. And to bring smiles to the faces of any runners who needed a chuckle. And sometimes Elmo got caught by the wind and bonked people on the head. (Not runners. Elmo only bonks thoughtless spectators who cross the road in front of runners)

On the train Freddy chose to sit with Laura (or "Miss Yeahhhh" as he started calling her). I tried to console myself with Elmo, who wasn't much of a conversationalist. Laura did have pens and paper and stickers and a fabulous blue wig (also designed to help our runners spot us, and bring chuckles to others...)

Metro selfie (groupie?). I think Elmo is on the ceiling.

Freddy's picture of Laura (blue hair) and balloons

Before we knew it we were at the Smithsonian and we headed out to walk to our cheering location which was a bit past Mile 15.

Setting Up
Karen met us at the cheering location where we had a beautiful view of the Jefferson Memorial and the tidal basin. We got our cheering gear out and tried to figure out how to corral Elmo.

Did I mention Laura is a professional photographer?
©2014 |

No, Elmo was not as well-behaved as this picture suggests
©2014 |

Karen & I display Laura's awesome signs
Freddy with loud clapping hands
©2014 |

Laura is ready with her camera & blue hair!
(that guy behind her has his bib on his back &
will be bummed when there are no identified
photos of him. BIB GOES IN THE FRONT!)

More cowbell!

After we were all set up we consulted our phones which were sending us text messages about our runners with important splits and pace information. When someone reached the halfway point (13.1 miles), we knew they were about 2 miles away and used their reported pace to calculate when they were likely to reach us. We also had a spreadsheet with information about predicted pace, shirt type & color, shoe color, etc. The spreadsheet was sorted in the order that we expected to see the PR runners run by us.

Let the Cheering Begin!

After we finished setting up we knew we had just a few minutes until Coach Adam showed up. We were poised with cameras, cowbells, and signs at the ready. And then we saw him speeding by and looking strong!

my iPhone photo vs...

...Laura's professional eye & camera
©2014 |

Next up on our list was Rob. We were standing with Rob's mom and brother and they had a big pink sign to cheer him on. Rob stopped and stepped up on the curb when he reached them. We thought he was just saying hi and then found out that he had rolled his ankle at a water stop when someone dove in front of him. He fortified with water and went on to finish the race despite the pain. 

Rob checking in with his mom & brother
©2014 |

Rob telling me about his rolled ankle
©2014 |

Next on our list was Coach Jodi. We didn't know what color her shirt would be, just that she had neon yellow shoes. She showed up right on schedule, wearing the beautiful new red Nike top that I have been coveting every time I've stepped foot into the PR store over the last couple of weeks. I hope they still have one left in my size...

those shoes really are neon yellow!

Our next runner was Brena. Brena is one of the most optimistic people I've ever met. She is getting married in a couple of weeks so she treated MCM as a bachelorette party, wearing a tutu, tiara, pink sash and a sign that said "race to the altar" on her back. We knew that she would be pretty easy to spot, and she was. But my phone had died at that point (mental note - it is not sufficient to bring battery backup for your need to know how to operate said battery backup) and I got no picture of her! Fortunately Karen and Laura got some pictures of her later in the race.

Brena at Mile 17
photo courtesy of Karen

the proud bachelorette
©2014 |

Kathleen & Erika
Our final PR runners were Kathleen and Erika. Our text alerts for their splits made it clear that they were running together. We knew Kathleen had a pink shirt. We almost missed them as they seemed to appear out of nowhere and sped by quickly. Again, Karen and Laura were able to capture photos from later in the race.

Erika (orange) & Kathleen (pink) in perfect sync
photo courtesy of Karen

showing off their hard-earned medals
©2014 |

To Infinity and Beyond!
As you may be able to tell from the foreshadowing above, Karen & Laura continued on to cheer from other locations while I did not. Freddy was a trooper, but he was ready to go home after spotting Erika & Kathleen. So we headed back to the metro, dropping Karen & Laura off at Mile 17. We had an uneventful ride home and Freddy took an unplanned two-hour nap. (which meant we missed his track meet with a surprise appearance by Alan Webb!! But I digress...)

I have been on a runner's high all day, looking at photos, checking results, reading bits and pieces about race experiences on social media. Laura made an incredible vimeo to capture the day; tears run down my face every time I watch it. It was truly exciting to cheer for our friends. I am inspired by and in awe of every one of them. I can't wait to hear the full stories over the coming days about what they each experienced on this incredible day. I was so glad to be able to spend part of it with them.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spectator Guide for the Marine Corps Marathon

Last year Rick ran the Marine Corps Marathon and I'd like to share my spectating plan with you because it worked out very well for us. We saw him three times during the race, and then met up at the Finish Line Festival in the family link-up area. Freddy was four at the time - too big for a stroller, too small for a lot of walking.

(if you are looking for a runner's guide instead of a spectator's guide, click here)

General Tips:
  • Get your metro cards in advance of the race and make sure they are pre-loaded with enough money. Plan your stops and know your stations ahead of time.
  • Know what your runner is wearing - color of shirt, color of shoes, etc. You can prime your mind to scan the approaching crowd of runners for the right outfit.
  • Know your runner's predicted pace and calculate location times and finish times:
    • If a runner has a 10:30 pace and you will be at mile 15, it should take 2 hours and 37 minutes for them to reach you (if they run exactly that pace)
    • A 10:30 pace would have a finish time of 4:35, so you can start paying extra attention after you see the 4:30 pace group pass you (pace groups usually have a prominent sign)
    • Most runners will not run exactly this pace, so keep generous time margins around your estimates!
    • Sign up for runner tracking so you know where your runner is on the course and how close they are to their predicted pace.
  • Dress in layers - you will be cheering for a long time and the weather can change
  • Bring snacks & water
  • Make a creative sign
  • Fully charge your phone & bring a back-up power source if you have one. You'll be taking pictures, checking race progress, sending texts - you will be amazed how fast your battery power dwindles.
  • Bring a giant, distinctive balloon with a long string so your runner can spot you from a distance!
Simba came with us to MCM 2013

Cookie Monster came to Nike Women's Half

Viewing locations for MCM:
  • Maximum viewing locations, "small child/limited walking" plan:
    • Take the metro to the Smithsonian station (Orange, Blue, Silver lines)
    • Exit on the "Mall" side (Jefferson & 12th)
    • Walk West along Jefferson to Jefferson & 15th
    • Walk South along 15th to 15th & Maine Ave. Do not cross Maine.
    • Fly your balloon high for spectator spot #1, which is just past Mile 15. You will be on the runner's right.

Spectator spot #1, photo credit Dickson Mercer

    • After spotting your runner, walk north along 15th to 15th & Independence. Do not cross Independence.
    • Fly your balloon high for spectator spot #2, which is at Mile 17. You will be on the runner's right.

    • After spotting your runner, walk east along Independence to 14th & Independence. Do not cross 14th.
    • Fly your balloon high for spectator spot #3, which is about 1/4 of a mile before Mile 20. You will be on the runner's right.

Spectator spot #3, photo credit: Dickson Mercer

    • Walk back to Smithsonian Metro and head to Rosslyn Metro for the Finish Line Festival and Family Link-up. Rosslyn is accessible by Orange, Blue, and Silver line.
Meeting in the Family Link-up Area
photo credit: Dickson Mercer

  • Maximum viewing locations, "no small child/lots of walking ok" plan. If you do not have a small child with you like I did, you could supplement the above with:
    • The Start Line: although the start line is by the Arlington Cemetery Metro, that station won't open until 8:30 (after the race start). So this option includes a brisk walk from the Pentagon Metro to the Start, followed by: 
      • either a brisk walk back to the Pentagon Metro or a wait until the Arlington Cemetery Metro opens at 8:30; or
      • a walk across the Memorial Bridge to view your runner at 10.5 (followed by a bit of a walk to the viewing locations described above)
    • The Finish Line: instead of going to Rosslyn for the Finish Line Festival, one could head to the actual Finish Line. This option includes a brisk walk from the Rosslyn Metro to the Finish Line. (Note: the finish line is very crowded)

Spectator viewing locations noted above are marked by stars

Good luck spectating and have fun! If you want to read about our spectating adventures from last year, check out this story by Dickson Mercer of RunWashington Magazine. We had a blast!

Rick running MCM 2013

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Superheroes Run Reston!

Today's Potomac River Running Distance Training Program run had a superhero theme! I can't believe we only have one week left in this DTP session. Theme runs like today have made it extra fun for us. I will miss everyone so much over the next month or so while we are on hiatus before winter DTP begins. Below are photos from this morning, most from Laura (thank you)!

Tutu Batman & Tutu Supergirl
aka Coach Meghan & Coach Shannon

Meghan & Laura -
evil vs. good batman?

me, Laura, & Sallie
photobomb courtesy of Meghan

Jamie & me - two Wonder Women

close-up of Jamie's Wonder Woman socks

warming up with leg swings

Brenna - a bride-to-be, perhaps the most
super of all super-heroes!

Ready to Run Reston!

joyful running at its essence

Viji & Catherine running happy

the whole DTP Reston crew!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Army Ten-Miler Recap

Yesterday's Army Ten-Miler race went by in a blur. Even though I got up at 4:30, and didn't return home until 2 pm, it almost seemed like it passed in the blink of an eye.

What to Wear?
The weather forecast was temperamental throughout the week. Originally, we were looking at a 60% chance of rain with temperatures in the low 50s. As the week wore on the chance of rain dropped and the predicted temperature climbed a bit. I was still waffling on my race outfit Saturday night - capris or running skirt?

race gear ready to go

I used Facebook crowd-sourcing to eliminate the capris. All three of my coaches who commented on the photo said "skirt." Sunday morning I made a last-minute decision to bench the skirt and pull out my compression shorts that I wore for most of my long runs. The skirt had never gone more than 3.1 miles and Coach Shannon wisely tells us to not try something on race day that we haven't tested in a long run. I didn't want to find out that the skirt started to chafe after 5 miles mid-race!

Pre-Race Fueling
One thing I didn't test out on a long run was my adjusted fueling plan. I typically get up 75 minutes before my long run and have a Clif bar along with half a cup of coffee mixed with half a cup of dark chocolate almond milk. Traveling into Arlington for the race meant that I was getting up at 4:30 and leaving my house at 5:30. My wave wasn't scheduled to start running until 8:48, so the timing was very different from my usual long run.

I planned to have a Clif bar around 7. I also planned to have my coffee & almond milk when I got up at 4:30 to help move my digestive tract along before my 5:30 departure. I decided to have a Clif Mojo bar with my coffee to put some easily digestible (for me, probably not for everyone) food into my stomach along with the coffee. The combo worked well. I actually ended up eating my other Clif bar while we were on the Silver Line metro around 6:40. It was a little earlier than I had planned, but I realized it was probably the calmest time to eat it and I didn't want to miss that opportunity. I felt like a real rebel, too, because I have never in my life eaten on the metro (which is against the rules). I was careful not to leave any crumbs or trash! I am usually not a rule breaker...

Getting to the Race
This was the first DC race that I traveled to by Metro. I was meeting Catherine, Christina, Sallie, and Mike at the Wiehle Silver Line Station with a plan to be on the platform by 6. There were delays in the system and the 6 am train came around 6:10 instead, but we had plenty of time so we didn't panic. Too much.

Sallie, Catherine, me, & Christina
waiting at the Metro in our warm throw-away clothes
(photo courtesy of Mike)

We got off at Rosslyn to transfer to the Blue Line. It was crowded, but not overwhelming. We waited a short time for a train and then headed to the Pentagon station. Again, it was crowded but not overwhelming. We followed the crowd and headed to the portapotties. The line wasn't too bad but we thought we could do better and headed to the back of the row, where we discovered more portapotties and almost no one in line. So my first race portapotty experience was a success!

We said goodbye to Mike as we got ready to go through security to the runners-only section with the race corrals. Mike took Sallie's glasses and offered us all water and gatorade before we split up. Thanks, Mike!

Mike's parting shot of us
before heading to the corrals

Hanging Out in the Purple Corral
We were starting in the purple corral, the 8th of 9 waves of race participants. The wheelchair athletes and Wounded Warriors started at 7:50. The next wave started at 8:00 with subsequent waves every 8 minutes. In the pre-race opening ceremony we watched the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team descend from the sky:

The entire group of Golden Knights

A closer picture of a single Golden Knight
(photo courtesy of Tracy)

During the pre-race ceremony I looked for the "Moms Run This Town" multi-chapter photo meet-up. I linked up with some other MRTTs looking for the meet-up. We realized we weren't going to find the official photo, so we took our own group photo:

Impromptu MRTT photo in front of the purple corral
Springfield, Alexandria, Herndon chapters
(and probably some others I forgot - sorry!)

The official MRTT picture we were trying to find

We settled into the purple corral and linked up with some of our fellow Potomac River Running Distance Training Program buddies:

PR Reston DTP! Don't judge us based
on our fashionable throw-away clothes.
We looked much better during the race!

It was great to be with such a big group, although we got separated into two groups when waves 5-8 moved up into the spots previously occupied by waves 1-4. While we were waiting to start the race we saw the first of the wheelchair athletes finish the race, followed by the first runners from wave 1. It's always a little strange to see people finish the race before you've even started, but it was inspiring and we cheered loudly.

The Race!
Finally, it was our turn to start at 8:48. I turned on Garmin live-tracker so Rick and Freddy could see my race progress from the computer at home. My plan for the race was to do 5:1 run:walk intervals and to run the second 5 miles faster than the first 5. My goal was to beat my Cherry Blossom 10-Miler time of 1:59:45. I was happy that Sallie, Catherine, and Christina all wanted to start the race together and follow the same strategy.

We crossed the 5-mile timing mat at 1:03:22. It doesn't take much math to figure out that I was really going to have to pick it up in the second 5 to make my goal. I struggled mentally for about a mile, not wanting to leave Sallie and Christina behind, but knowing that I needed to run my own race and push out ahead. I had mentally practiced and prepared for many parts of the race, but I hadn't planned on running with anyone so I hadn't mentally practiced what to say when we parted on the course. We hadn't agreed on a signal. I couldn't think of the right words, so I just ran ahead. And I felt like a crappy friend. I wish I had thought of something inspirational to say before I took off at the 10k timing mat.

I linked back up with Catherine again around mile 6.75 where her husband & kids were spectating. I said hi to them and felt like they were my surrogate race family. I felt inspired by Carter's smile. Catherine was treating ATM as a training run and didn't have a specific goal. She asked what mine was and I told her. We couldn't do the math to figure out exactly what pace we would need to run. We knew it would be challenging, but was feasible. We set out to make my goal! Catherine cheered me on, and reminded me periodically to keep my head up, shoulders relaxed, and pump my arms. I was so grateful for her support!

on the 14th St Bridge!
Catherine in yellow,
me in blue

After averaging 12:45 miles for the first 6 miles, we proceeded to run 11:05, 11:09, 10:43, 9:17 for the next four. I really didn't know I had it in me...I guess those track workouts are paying off! I crossed the finish line in 1:58:37, beating my Cherry Blossom time by 1 minute, 8 seconds. My Garmin also reported a new 5k record (32:05) and 10k record (1:09:43). I was thrilled!

After the race we picked up our finisher coins and headed to the long line for food. When we finally reached the front of the line, we were smacked in the face with "back of the pack" syndrome - most of the food was gone. While in line we saw people with plastic bags filled with chocolate muffins, granola, kashi bars, bananas, fruit cups, and other unidentified goodies. All that was left for us were bananas and fruit cups. Which is better than nothing, but doesn't quite hit the spot like the chocolate muffin you were anticipating. The same thing happened to me at Cherry Blossom.

We wandered around and found some of our PR DTP buddies as we worked our way to the "P" meetup area where we had planned to meet (P for PR).

Me, Catherine, Amy, Erika, Kathleen & Laura

Showing off our finisher coins!
(photo courtesy of Mike)

WWII Flyover after the race - WOW!!

Home Again, Home Again
Mike, Sallie, Catherine, and I stayed the longest. We were looking for Christina for a while, not realizing her phone had died and she had headed home. That gave the crowds some time to start dissipating, and Catherine & I found cookies and Rocklands bratwurst (thank you KBR for the bratwurst - it REALLY hit the spot!). We also found a nice (fast) runner who gave us his chocolate muffin and kashi bar after hearing our back-of-the-packers' tale of food woes. 

We saw the kids take off for the fun run, which was cute until one came back and nearly barreled into Catherine, causing her to tweak her knee. Oh, the irony of a post-race injury. Then we saw the Geico Gecko:

At the Pentagon, the Metro still looked a little crowded, so we kept walking to the Pentagon City station. We probably didn't save any time, but I like to think we saved some hassle & crowds, and we got in some good post-race movement. 

I finally made it back home at 2, hungry and ready for a shower. Rick & Freddy congratulated me on my race, gave me quesadillas to eat, and showed me the sign Freddy made for me:

Go Momster!

I was happy. Mission accomplished.