Race Spotlight: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon

This weekend I had the pleasure of helping promote one of my FAVORITE half marathon’s in the DC area. Drumroll please…

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You may recall my race recap from this race in 2013. Max and I stumbled upon it after the Marine Corps 10k as Max was bitten by the half-marathon bug. This was his first half and he absolutely kicked butt! For me, it was my worst half-marathon time to date and I got double calf cramps at mile 9…but it is still one of my favorite races! That says a lot about the race and I’ll explain why:

  1. Microbrews. Runners know that most races hand runners Michelob Ultra at the end of a race, but the WWBHM let’s you pick a a delicious microbrew.
  2. The course. This race starts at Mount Vernon Estates, runs down GW Parkway, into Old Town Alexandria, and over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into National Harbor. The views are breathtaking!
  3. The size. The half is capped at 5,000 runners so it’s not too big and not too small.
  4. Support. I’m a middle of the pack runner. On this run I was a back of the pack runner. Calf cramps and poor hydration on my end pushed me to the back and I was happy to see that I had course support (water, cheering groups, etc) the entire 13.1. Thankfully that was very different than Heather Gannoe’s experience in the back to the pack.
  5. New 6k. New to running? Not up to the half marathon distance? No problem! Try the 6k option and join the party at the finish line!

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We will be back this year!

So this weekend I joined the official mascot of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon at the Purple Strides 5k in DC. Now Woody is pretty heavy…but don’t let that fool you…because he is fast! The crowd loved taking pictures with him, racing him on the course (he runs a 28 minute 5k!), and competing. Woody’s a pretty big mascot so he needs a little big of help to get around — so was more than happy to play Secret Service for the morning. Here are a few of the highlights:

DSCN0233 Even U.S. presidents have to pay for parking.  Tickets are no joke!

DSCN0260 Playing around on the Foosball, ping pong, and basketball games set up.

DSCN0273 Helping some new friends stretch so they’re ready to run the 5k.

DSCN0255 Snapping a TON of photos with the 4,000 people running/walking the 5k.

IMG_3168 Hitting the 5k course strong on a beautiful sunny day.

IMG_3299 Recovering with a banana and water post-race.

IMG_3345 Challenging a new friend to a push-up contest.

Want to learn more about the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon and 6k? Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter for more information and dive in! 

WWBHM FAQ

The Joy in Training

There’s one thing I love more than setting and completing race goals that I set for myself…and that’s helping people I love set and achieve theirs!

Last fall several of my friends signed up to run the Marine Corps 10k in support of our girl Amanda. We all live in different parts of the country, so physically training together was not a possibility for most of us. But Beth lived just down the road from me…and this was her first 10k! We had run the Color Run together the previous fall and she set her sights on the Marine Corps 10k as her longest race to date and I could not have been more proud. I loved creating a running plan for her for the next 2 months, and loved joining her on weekly runs, and wish I could have done even more.
 I created a plan for her that was based off of the Couch to 5K program…but accelerated! Each week we upped her millage until we were at the 6.2 miles she would need for race day and used Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run method to make she she would feel confident and rested. The plan worked well and I was proud to cross the finish line alongside Beth and know that running is in her future! Sharing in friends running goals and watching them become stronger (stronger than me, certainly!) brings me as much joy as crossing the finish line. I think it goes back to my love for making new friends on the race course…I’m just a people person!
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 I’ve talked about my dad on this blog before as a source of my inspiration. He’s over 50 (I won’t reveal his age so he won’t kill me!) and is a sponsored cyclist and triathlete. He’s crazy! He can still solidly kick my butt at any sprint tri or race…even on my best day! As far back as I could remember, my dad used to put me on my bike with training wheels and have me ride along while he would do his evening runs after work. Sometimes this would mean him sprinting after me down a hill since I couldn’t find my brakes (good thing I am a military brat and we lived on safe bases!). For part of high school we lived in Hong Kong which is incredibly hilly. My dad started competing in triathlons in Hong Kong because of the great weather and proximity to beaches. I would wake up with him on Saturday mornings to help him work on his running as he competed in 10 and 15k races and wanted to better his running for triathlons. I ran track in high school, but I would get on my bike and bike along side him for 10+ miles and loved it.
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This is dad competing in a Olympic distance triathlon several months ago in the Philippines. He’s sponsored by a local bike store called Bike King and Pocari Sweat (a really yummy sports drink in Asia). I’m a proud daughter!
Today, I had the opportunity to help my husband train. Although I have competed in more races than he has, he is still a MUCH faster runner than I am. He has his eyes set on a marathon this year (we still have to pick one!) and is working on building up his endurance. He’s competed in half-marathons and runs 4+ miles daily, so he is in good change to up his mileage. Today’s goal was 10+ miles and I wanted to help…but would not be able to keep up with his pace. Instead, I mapped out a course for us that would take us ALL over DC.
  He rarely runs with a water bottle and relies on race course support for long distances races (yeah, he is crazy). So today I biked with his keys and ID’s, water bottles filled with Nuun Hydration he needed, and energy snacks. We ended up running 11! It reminded me of biking with my dad and helping him train as a kid! Max is really good at pacing himself, but said that he liked having me there to clear out a path (urghhhhh tourists) and to have someone to chase the entire way.
 I used MapMyRun to plan out our course (we strayed a little from this, my extra turns and non-bike friendly paths bad it a little longer). Here’s a rough estimate:
10 miler
Here are some photos from today:
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We aren’t the biggest fans of “group running” but here are a few of my tips on encouraging your friends and family/helping someone train:
1) Start slow – I am a big fan of Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run method and swear by it. It’s an easy way to get people into running when they know they don’t have to run a 6 minute mile and that breaks are allowed. There’s no shame in walking when you need it!
2) Plan it out – make a plan and help them stick to it. Print it out, tape it up, check off the runs your complete and make-up the ones you miss. Accountability is key.
3) Run with them – don’t just cheer on the sideline…lace up those shoes and hit the trail with them. Or if they are faster than you but need the encouragement…bike along!
4) Celebrate the mile stones – take a picture, post it online, grab a smoothie, make a toast with Nuun! Enjoy the moment and celebrate each milestone. Max and I celebrate big runs/races with Chipotle. We rarely eat at Chipotle but running double digit miles certainly allows you to do that guilt free! In fact, I just finished a burrito bowl and he just finished a burrito!
5) Offer guidance – I get a lot of e-mails from friends, family, and readers about what shoes to buy or races to sign up for. I love it! I’m a running geek that spends my free time reading shoe reviews and the “next big things” in running. I love getting to share that with people (especially new runners). If you’re knowledgeable share it…and if you are not…offer up the opportunity to do a little research.
6) Humble yourself – I am a slow runner and I am far from perfect…chances are you are too! She your struggles and running short falls with those you train with. They can make you stronger, might have solutions for you, and can help new runners feel less overwhelmed or “slow”.
7) Avoid competition – It’s easy to turn a partner run into a race…but try and avoid it. Max and I love the Seahawks mantra of “always compete” but we also need to remember that we are not always racing each other even though we are signed up for the same race or running the same daily route. Gosh that would be an unhealthy marriage! There are some races I would be better at (probably sprint tri’s) and plenty of races he would be better at (all of our running races this far, haha). Instead of competing, encourage each other…that’s the beauty of running…you only have to compete against yourself.
So share with me now! how do you help your friends and family train for races? Do you have a running partner?

Run-Walk-Run

I love reading comments and e-mails from fellow runners. Really – you guys make my day! The question I am most frequently asked my family, friends, and new runners is:

How do you run 13.1 miles?

Plain and simple: I do not.

WHAT?! I repeat…I do NOT run 13.1 miles consistently. I am a big fan of Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method and have stuck by it for years. I feel better, my splits are better, and I run injury free when I use this method and most of all – I can finish a half marathon!

rwr

Many of the “Couch to 5K” programs are based off of this method and many marathon training program follow the method as well. It’s not “new” to the world of running by any stretch of the imagination, but it is gaining popularity with new runners.

Straight from the mouth of the man (Jeff Galloway) himself:

“The continuous use of the running muscles will produce fatigue, aches and pains much more quickly. If you insert a walk break before running muscles start to fatigue, the muscle can recover quickly — increasing your capacity for exercise while reducing the chance of next-day soreness.

The run-walk-run “method” involves having a strategy. By using the right segments of running and walking, for the individual, it’s possible to manage fatigue. At the end of a marathon the muscles will be tired, but correct use of walk breaks from the beginning will mean little or no slowdown during the last six miles. This is the portion of the race where most runners slow down dramatically and walk a lot.

Beginners will alternate very short run segments with short walks. Even elite runners find that walk breaks on long runs allow them to recover faster. There is no need to reach the end of a run, feeling exhausted — if you insert enough walk breaks, for you, on that day.”

Pro’s:

  • You can easily increase your millage from 1 to 3 miles to 6 to 10 miles by giving yourself those short walk breaks. Those walk breaks help you slow your breathing and rest your muscles.
  • Because of the rest you will be less sore the following day (always a plus!).
  • The walk breaks make the running less difficult on your body (knees, hips, ankles, etc.)
  • The calorie count for 90 minutes of running and 90 minutes of the run-walk-run strategy are the (basically) same.
  • You can constantly transition between different run:walk paces and can eventually phase it out if you become comfortable running longer distances without the break.

Con:

  • The stigma. Sometimes I don’t feel like “a real runner” when I need to take a 30 second walk break 2 minutes into a run. That’s mental! One day I hope to easily run 13.1 without stopping, but that’s not for me.

photo (13)Above is photo of one of the first times I really “tested” the Run-Walk-Run method. I used the 2:1 for a 12 minutes mile goal to make sure I would be able to sustain it for me half marathon. I was happy to come in under 12 min/miles for my first two mile splints (pictured above). The biggest “pro” for me is the decreased strain on my very-tight IT band. I would need to stop and stretch with runs anyway – but the RWR method allows me to run and instead of needed to stretch every big…simply walk it out for a minute! My IT band relaxes and it allows me to run pain free for the next 2 minutes…then repeat.

So you use the run-walk-run method? What are your thoughts? What pace to you use? Share them!

My Obsession: Road Runner Sports VIP Membership

Occasionally I channel my inner BrokeMillenial and get SUPER excited about saving on running gear. Let’s face it, running (as an action) is pretty much free…running gear is a whole different story! How many times have you walked into a running store or Sports Authority on a mission for running shoes and walked out with $300 in new gear? Guilty! That’s where my Road Runner Sports VIP membership comes in.

I love the store in general 🙂 but their VIP family membership is something that we have been a part of for over 5 years now. At $24.99 a year it pays for itself (see my math below). For years my dad (a cyclist and triathlete) had a VIP family membership with Road Runner and I would simply check out with his code. But two years ago his expired and he did not renew it and I knew, standing at the checkout line with my new shoes in hand, that I would SAVE money by purchasing my own. So I did — and I have never looked back even though they rang a really loud bell and cheered when I bought it.

So why am I so exited about a VIP membership? Let me explain…

1) 10% off on ALL of your orders. Who does not love a deal? Do the math…a pair of Brooks costs about $130. So 10% off means $13 off your shoes. Considering Max and I go through about 2 pair a year each that’s a savings of approximately $52 a year in shoes alone! That MORE than pays off the cost of the membership. But the savings isn’t just for shoes. We got $2 off an achilles tendon strap, $0.13 off each Gu Gel pack, and they always have great deals on Nuun so we tend to try out new flavors often. Want more than 10% off, just keep an eye out for their special VIP events where VIP members get 20% off or have VIP-only sales. A few weeks ago I got my Brooks Ravenna 4’s for $80. Yup….$80! Those are $100+ shoes!

brooks

2) Free shipping on all of your orders. There are Road Runner Sports stores all over the country but they are not a HUGE chain (yet). I recommend the membership to everyone regardless of their location because they can order their shoes for free and return them if they are not right. Best choice: get fitted at a store near you and order them from Road Runner. Trust me….it’ll be cheaper!

3) 90 day “wear ’em & love ’em” guarantee. So you buy your shoes, they fit great in the store, and you head out on your first run and they just don’t feel right (too tight, shin splints, pain, causing you to pronate, etc.). At most stores that’s the end of the line for you…you are stuck with them because you have already worn them. Not Road Runner. You can put your miles on them and within 90 days return them for a FULL refund, no questions asked. Last month Mr. Husband read about a new pair of minimalist-like shoes called Under Armor Speed Forms. They were flashy and great (and we ordered them online via Road Runner) but he has achilles tendinitis and minimalist-like shoes were his worst enemy.  We took them in today, got him back in a pair of Brooks, and returned the UA’s with the 90 day guarantee because of our VIP membership. We have one more week until our half marathon so we didn’t have a lot of time to mess around! We also love Under Armor (…one look at Max’s ALL Under Armor running outfits will tell you that) but these shoes were just not for him.

4) Their customer service is great and they are always attentive. Whether it is helping you get your shoes fitted via their Shoe Dog program (really cool!), or helping you find new gear or food, they are they to help you. During last weeks races I developed 2 blisters on the back of my heels. One is smaller so I can ignore it 🙂 but the other…the other was nasty! I’ve got moleskin’s and gauze and band-aids on it but need something more for next weekends half. Our Finish Line Expert, Richard, told me about a pair of socks they used to sell that were created by WrightSock that were thin/multi-layer socks so that the friction stays between the sock and off of your feet. He dug around in the back, found the last pair in my size, and gave me a huge discount on the 3-pack (originally $32.99 but sold to me for $13.72 with my VIP discount combined with a clearance discount). I’ll be thanking Richard at the finish line of next weekends race!

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5) They’ve got all the brands. Those fancy Under Armor shoes I spoke about above? We went to the Under Armor store and they didn’t even have a pair! Road Runner Sports did. Newton running shoes are another good example of running shoes that are specialized and hard to find. But yes, Road Runner Sports has them and even has “Newton Nights” where representatives come in to teach you about fore-foot running (sounds painful to me – but if you know more about it hit me up!).

7) It’s only $24.99 a year and if you order it online they have specific deals where you can get a one year membership for $1.99. That’s right, you can get the VIP membership online right NOW for $1.99. I might as well renew it right now…

No, Road Runner did not pay me to write this post. I am just an excited customer who was really happy with my experience there today (and every time I walk into the store). My family loves this store and my dad was there earlier in the morning to stock up on Nuun and check out socks. If you are serious about running you really should do yourself a favor and become a VIP member. It is worth every penny!

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“Plan Your Runs And Track, Track, Track” – Dear Diary #8

I’m a planner…I plan absolutely everything out in my life to a T. Is there something wrong with lacing up your shoes and running wherever the wind takes you? Absolutely not! Just be cautious because you might not be accurately calculating your weekly mileage. Planning your runs out ahead of time gives you an extra bit of accountability which can help that “planned” 3 mile run from turning into a 1 mile run. For the safety conscious runners out there – this can always be given to your loved ones at home so they know exactly where you’ll be running and when to expect you back.

Mapping out your runs is pretty easy and I wanted to share a few programs that can help you do it. You can download most of these programs onto your iPhone or Android phones and run with the map in hand if needed. Personally, I usually map my run our ahead of time on my laptop and run hands-free with just my Polar Heart Rate monitor and a bottle of water.

1) MapMyRun

Perhaps you’ve seen this pop up on Facebook as a friends status changes to “Suzzie Q has run 3 miles today with MapMyRun”…and then you feel really guilty and go run a swell? That’s MapMyRun! A free membership will let you map out runs, track your progress, and journal your nutrition and goals. After each run you get a summary of your average pace, total distance, the elevation climbed, and speed using Google Maps. After each run, your data is stored and uploaded onto http://www.MapMyRun.com and saved so that you can track your progress. Since it runs off of GPS technology, it can also pin point other routes MapMyRun users around you have been using. I’ve even turned the GPS signal on my iPhone and let this baby go…just following me as I run and developing new routes as I go (see, sometimes I do run without tracking!). One con: the interface can be hard to use…particularly the map…and all of the clicking that is involved. If you have the extra cash to spend, you might want to check our MapMyRun MVP. This is either $5.99/month OR $49.99 for a year with a free Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate Strap included. The MVP version gives you heart rate analysis, power analysis, cadence analysis, custom splits, mobile coaching, and interval training along with everything MapMyRun provides for free. Now for a beginner runner with a Polar monitor…I don’t really need it. But if you are training for something larger like a marathon, you might want to invest.

MapMyRun

2) Google Maps 

 

This option is really taking you back to the basics and by basics I mean JUST a map. While not made for running, Google Maps serves the same purpose! Simply enter your starting and ending points and drag the map tool around to create a route you like. The upper left hand bar will let you know your distance and you can specify “walking” so that the map keeps you on sidewalks. It’s a little more basic than the other programs…but it works!

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3) Running Map 

 

Much like Google Maps, this is bare bones basics. Add your start pin and click along your desired route. The bar on the left hand side will calculate your distance, but that’s about it. Honestly, running maps is a lot easier to plan out with than Google Maps is.

RunningMap

4) Run My Route

One of the coolest features on Run My Route is the ability to find other users routes and follow them. I also like the fact that you do not need to “sign up” in order to use their mapping tool. Run My Route works must like Google Maps where you simply click along to create your route.

RunMRoute

Now I am not saying one site is better than another…but I will tell you that I consistently use MapMyRun (and my husband uses GoogleMaps). General consensus: no site is perfect, all maps need a bit of patience, but mapping a run out ahead of time always helps. Like anything with running, you just need to figure out what works best for you.