I spent the last four minutes of the Shamrock Half Marathon telling myself not to cry. I’d done the math. I knew I’d made it, knew I was about to set a new personal record and so, when we turned right at the Atlantic Ocean, hit the boardwalk and pushed toward the finish line, my chest tightened, my eyes watered and I felt a lot of things.
I live in a den of fur. There’s my hair, the cat hair and then the piles of fluff expressed by the two husky mutts and so really, there’s never not fur on my floors, on my shirt or in my food. And now that it’s spring, it’s gotten worse.
It is a constant and real struggle. The vacuum does good work on the rugs, but this house is mostly hardwoods, so I bought this FURemover Broom and it is so good. It doesn’t get all full of static and fling dog fur around like a regular broom, but it does actually collect the fur piles and all the little stray pieces of fur that these beasts leave around the house.
I’ve already talked about my favorite podcasts, but I’m pretty much always on the search for new podcast goodness, despite the stack of podcasts that live in my iPhone, just waiting for me to listen to them. Finding Cleo was my latest binge and once I started listening I listened to nothing else until I’d listened to all 10 episodes.
Cleo was a young Cree girl who was adopted out of her native Canada into an American family more than 40 years ago. Her family tried to find her and could only uncover a story about a rape and murder that ended with Cleo’s body abandoned on a roadside somewhere in the United States. Connie Walker, a reporter from CBC, tells the story of Cleo and her family and then joins the search to find the answers of what really happened to Cleo and where she actually ended up.
3. THE SOLO FRONTIER.
I’ve done a lot of things alone. I’ve traveled and lived alone, I’ve gone to the movies, to dinner, to the bar, to the park, to food festivals, to most places. But up until recently, I’d never attended a concert alone. When I saw The National, one of my favorite bands, was playing in the nearby city of Charlottesville, I quickly scooped up tickets and then I went to the show, all by myself. I felt conspicuous at first, but then I stopped caring and ended the night tired and pleased with myself for conquering one more frontier of solo-adventuring.
I hurt myself way back in January, just after I ran the Frostbite 15k. I’ve been mostly off running since, trying to log a few miles intermittently between long periods of hopeful and ultimately useless rest. Three weeks ago, I finally went to my chiropractor who fixed me the last time I hurt myself running, and while I’m still not logging a lot of miles, I am running regularly and have been given the go-ahead to continue increasing my mileage.
5. THEN SHE WAS GONE by Lisa Jewell
I really love a good triller and I’ve read a few that were recommended and well-loved but that just didn’t do it for me. It was always something, like terrible characters, or a cast too big and complicated to connect with, or a storyline too twisty to follow or too lame to care about. And then I read
Then She Was Gone
I love this race for a lot of reasons, mostly because it’s in January, which means I have a near-term run goal to keep me running through the holidays and the cold weather. I love it because it’s a 15K, which is 9.3 miles. It’s a long run, but not too long of a run.
Part of the adventure of running this race is the weather. Virginia’s January weather is batshit and in running the Frostbite 15K, I’ve encountered freezing temperatures, pouring rain, enormous snowflakes and exceptionally mild and perfect temperatures. This year, I wore shorts and t-shirt and was happily sweating by the time I crossed the finish line, a fine departure from that terrible year where the rain made me so cold I was legitimately concerned for my health.
The course itself is hilly, mostly. Unlike Fredericksburg’s Blue & Gray Half Marathon with its enormous and terrible hill, the Frostbite 15K is mostly just rolling hills scattered throughout the course. I remember hating them the first year I ran the race, but after my fifth running, I think I’ve come to a sort of beaten-down acceptance of them and the challenge they provide.
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with my performance this year. Officially, I ran a 1:17:07. That’s slower than last year when I set a personal record for the race at 1:14:51, which, for me, was blindingly fast. My fitness level has definitely changed in the past year and my goal was to a run a sub-1:20 15K, which proved more than manageable.
I tend to run on the outside of turns, a habit I think I picked up in Kuwait, and this race has a lot of turns, which I think makes up for the extra distance captured by my Garmin in the above results. The race isn’t crowded, so I know I didn’t spend any time weaving around people. In total, 865 people ran this year’s Frostbite 15K.
Mostly I’m just thankful I was able to run this race again. In the days that followed, I managed to tweak my ankle and have been resting my leg for the past week and not running is driving me crazy.
I’m signed up to run the Shamrock Half in Virginia Beach in March, but I’m not sure I can heal the ankle and get back to running in time to run the race safely and smartly, which really fucking sucks because I had to defer my race entry in 2015 due to a hip injury and then couldn’t run the following year because of my deployment. Shamrock is fast and flat and I was really hoping to set a new PR there this year, but it might just be a goal that has to wait until next year.
Six years of running and I still look like a lunatic after crossing a finish line.
Fredericksburg is only about an hour north of Richmond, so I woke up early on race day – Dec. 3 – and made it to the start line with more than hour to spare. It was cold, right around freezing, so I spent the time in my car, blasting the heat and debating what to wear. I took off my base layer just before race time, left my hat in the car and opted for a thin pair of gloves and then, about ten minutes before the start, I sauntered to the start line, stretched and at 7:30 a.m., we were off.
The course for the Blue & Gray Half Marathon follows the Heritage Trail, the Canal Path, and the Fall Hill Trail. It’s all paved, but mostly off-road, minus a few parts that were off the trails or where there wasn’t a sidewalk. With only 400 runners, sidewalk and narrow trail running was doable, and the course never felt crowded. Water stops were every two or so miles, with the first at 2.5 and the last at 11.8, with Gatorade available after the second water stop.
I started the race fast, for me, anyway, with my first two miles coming in under 8:20. I felt good, but I was suspicious something terrible was going to happen. Things felt almost too perfect – I’d slept well, I didn’t have any stomach troubles, my pre-race breakfast settled nicely, the temperature was good, my wardrobe decisions were working and both my legs and my lungs felt strong.
Suddenly, the first five miles were done and I still felt great. I was still going fast, still felt strong and I started fueling with some Gu after those first five miles and kept that up the rest of the race, taking little sips every mile or so and washing them down with water.
I’d worried about the hills, but they weren’t slowing me down. Until that sixth mile, when I encountered THE HILL.
There it is, at mile 6, that big fucking hill, taking a whole minute off my pace. I covered up my watch to avoid stressing about the drastic drop in speed, put my head down and focused on putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again until I made it to the top, or at least to the part I decided was the top, even though the road continued to tilt upwards, albeit at a more manageable grade.
Sometimes I hit a tiny wall at mile eight or nine, not in a serious way, but in a, why the fuck did I want to do this?! sort of way, but that didn’t happen at this race. I knew, having climbed that big fucking hill, I’d get to go back down it and so when it came, at mile ten, I let gravity drag me back down that big son of a bitch and clocked my fastest mile of the race, at 7:53.
After that, I was a little tired. I walked through the water points, sucked down more Gu and tried to dig a little deeper in the final miles. John, my not-entirely-ex-boyfriend, came down to watch me finish and I saw him in the final quarter-mile and that gave me a little extra push to the finish.
When I crossed the finishing mat, when I stopped my watch, when I saw the time, I cried. My fastest half marathon was in 2013, at the Shamrock Half Marathon, held in Virginia Beach. I ran a 1:50:30 that day, on a fast and flat course. At Fredericksburg’s Blue & Gray Half Marathon, on the most challenging half marathon course I’ve ever ran, I managed a 1:50:52, just 22 seconds from my PR.
I hugged John, said over and over that I couldn’t believe I’d managed a time like that, especially on a course that was so hard, and then they started posting the official finishing times and I confirmed that yes, really, I did run a 1:50:52, and also I was the fastest female in my age group, coming in first out of 16 others in the 30-34 division. This is another great reason to run a small race – fewer competitors in your age group means it’s much easier to earn a top spot. Overall, I was the 29th female to finish out of 196 and the 94th runner to cross the finish line out of 382.
I’d recommend this race to any runner who doesn’t mind hills or cold-weather running, who doesn’t require spectators along the course to stay motivated or need a bag of swag, and any runner who is fast or fast-ish and wants to try for a top spot in their division. It’s definitely not an easy race, but it’s one that makes finishing feel extra special.
Recently, turkey trots became America’s most popular race, with almost one million runners participating in more than 1,000 turkey trots nationwide. It’s a tradition that apparently dates back to 1896. Maybe that’s the thing that makes it so popular, the whole tradition thing. That, and it’s always nice to knock out some fitness before spending an entire day eating and drinking.
I love that Richmond’s Turkey Trot is a 10K because that’s a solid 600 calorie burn that translates into extra mashed potatoes and also PIE. I fucking love pie, you guys.
The Richmond Turkey Trot runs through the campus of the University of Richmond and the surrounding neighborhood. It’s beautiful and hilly and neighborhood residents spectate from their front lawns, drinking coffee and cheering on racers. It’s a smaller race, with only about 1,600 runners, and this year the Richmond Turkey Trot celebrated its 40th running and was sponsored by Wegmans.
For me, this year’s race felt hard. I ran a real fast 10K in Texas last year – 47:52 – and I knew I wouldn’t get near that pace this year. I’m training for a half marathon the first week of December, so I’ve been running a lot. Still, I felt off for the trot. My music wasn’t right, I was thirsty and hungry and sleepy. My legs felt heavy and what I mistook for pre-race jitters turned into a very serious need to pee around mile 2.
When I don’t feel great on a run, I don’t look at my pace. I run by feel instead. For me and my sanity, it’s better to just run rather than stressing out over not hitting my goal pace. So that’s what I did on the Turkey Trot. I didn’t look at my watch, opting instead to keep it covered for the duration of the run. I slowed down when I felt like I needed to and I sped up when I felt like I could.
Somewhat surprisingly I ran a 52:45, which is an average pace of 8:30. That’s the fastest I’ve ever run the Richmond Turkey Trot. So maybe that’s why it felt hard.
It was a nice surprise, for sure.
Post-race, I grabbed a salted pretzel bagel thing and trotted my ass back to the car because I was cold, y’all. I have not accepted it’s the cold weather running season yet. I’ve got three big races between now and March which means I’ll be training through the winter. Hopefully my the spring I’ll figure out how to dress myself appropriately for winter runs.
The Richmond Turkey Trot is hosted by the Richmond Road Runners Club and happens every Thanksgiving at 9 a.m.
This year’s race was extra special. It was hot. And humid. When I woke up it was 75°F and the humidity was hanging at about 94%.
About 25,000 runners showed up to run this year and the first wave started at 8 a.m. At 10:08 a.m., a little more than an hour after the last corral starting running, the course was altered. The race was also officially downgraded to a “recreational run.” Finishers were sorted into three categories: the first who finished before 10:08 ran an official Army Ten-Miler; the second ran 10 miles, but finished after 10:08 and received an “unofficial time” for their “recreational run”; and the third got credit for running, but didn’t complete the course so did not receive a time.
This decision was met with a lot of rage on the internets, mostly because runners didn’t know their race had been downgraded until after they crossed the finish line, which I totally get. But I also totally support and understand the decision of race organizers to downgrade the race and shorten the course. It was for safety’s sake and after being out there and seeing so many people go down or seeking medical treatment along the course, I get it. I’ve never seen so many medical emergencies on a race course, never had to move so many times to make way for ambulances. Yes, it sucks for those who didn’t get to run an official Army Ten-Miler, but given how bad things were out there, it was the right decision.
I started in the third wave and managed to finish before the 10:08 deadline. I ran an official time of 1:34:40, with an average pace of 9:28. That pace is almost a minute slower than what I managed at the Patrick Henry Half Marathon in August, but starting conditions for that race were far better, with a starting temperature about 15°F cooler.
Despite the heat and this year’s mayhem, the Army Ten-Miler is still one of my favorite races. But it’s also one of the most frustrating events I’ve participated in. I love it. And I hate it. I look forward to it all year and then I spend the weekend cursing about it.
Why I Love the Army Ten-Miler
Then I spent a year injured, nursing a frustrated TFL that kept me from setting or meeting any of my running goals. And then I got deployed, where I spent almost a year running around the desert, learning about how I run in the heat. Then I came home and signed up for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon, thinking, fuck it, let’s just see what happens.
The truth is, I really needed a challenge. I needed a race to train toward. I needed to see if the mental toughness I had built through previous running endeavors was still there and I knew running another summer half would show me.
The Patrick Henry Half is by far the smallest half I’ve ever ran. This year, there were just under 900 runners. It’s held in Ashland, Virginia, about 30 minutes north of Richmond, and winds down some beautiful country roads. There are some rolling hills too, including one that seemed to go on forever after mile 11.
I really didn’t know what to expect from this race. My last long run, an 11-miler, was terrible. It was hot and humid and my weather app rated the running conditions as 3 out 10. It took me longer to run those 11 miles than I wanted it to take me run 13.1 on race day.
But we got lucky. The heat and humidity finally broke and it was 61°F when the race started on Saturday. That’s just about as perfect as it gets for an August run in Virginia.
When I started running, all those familiar race nerves came back to me. Most of them are pretty great, except for that one that makes me feel like I have to pee real bad. But then there’s the absolute joy that makes me feel like a frolicking farm animal released from the barn on the first day of spring. That’s the one I really, really like.
I looked at my watch a half mile in and realized I was going too fast. It’s a bad habit of mine, to start fast and fall apart in the later miles. I wanted to run an 8:45 or 9:00 minute mile, but I was closer to the 8:20-8:30 range. So I tried to slow down. But slowing down didn’t feel good. It made my legs feel restricted and tired. So I kept going. I berated myself, for sure, told myself I was going to pay for that speed later on, but I kept the pace, regardless of the sirens of my internal warning system.
At six miles, I was still keeping the pace. I felt good. Strong. I opened up a GU packet and sucked down a third of it and walked the water point between 6 and 7 miles, grabbing a water to dump over my head and down my back in an attempt to cool myself down.
Typically, during longer races, I briskly walk some of the later water points. I’ve found taking a 10-20 second walk break to grab a cup of water or gatorade, even though I always run with my own water, doesn’t hurt my time, and if anything it gives me a little boost when I start running again.
There were water points at 2, 4 and 6 miles, and then every mile after that. I skipped stopping at 7, but got gatorade at 8 and was sucking down a third or a quarter of a GU packet every mid-mile point after the 6th mile.
I got water again at mile 9 and dumped most of it down my back, skipped stopping at 10 because I was too busy doing runner math trying to figure out what my finishing time could be, and then I walked through the points at miles 11 and 12, dumping water down my back both times.
When I race, I set three goals. My A Goal, the one I don’t tell anyone about; my B Goal, which I tell everyone about; and my C Goal, which is usually just to finish the fucking race. For the Patrick Henry, my B Goal was to finish in under two hours. My runner math told me, around mile 7 that I was on track to definitely, absolutely, positively meet that goal. So then I rolled back to my A Goal, which was to get under 1:55.
I’m bad at math, you guys. I fucking hate math. It’s bad and I don’t get it and runner math is hard. So I spent about two miles trying to figure out how fast I needed to run the next however-many-miles in order to meet the 1:55 goal, all the while getting distracted by other runners, birds, cones, water points, cornfields, totally unrelated thoughts, that god damn hill after the 11th mile and my headphones falling out of my ears. Ultimately, I gave up and just hoped I’d make my A Goal.
Then, suddenly, after the 12th mile water point, I was headed to the finish. I don’t know why it always seems sudden to me, as if I haven’t been running for the past two fucking hours, but somehow it always sneaks up on me. My feet hurt and my back hurt and I was tired, but it didn’t matter. I rounded the last turn, turning down the final straightaway to the finish and smiled.
I crossed the finish with an official time of 1:52:21
It’s not my fastest half – that was a 1:50:30 fueled by divorce-inspired rage on a totally flat course – but you guys, it felt so, so good to run. I’m so glad I signed up for this race. August be damned, it was a fantastic run. Plus, I’ve been wanting to do a smaller half marathon for years and this local race was the perfect opportunity.
I’ll probably run it again. It’ll probably be miserably hot and I’ll spend 13.1 miles cursing myself, but, hey, that’s what runners do.
The last time I went to New York with some lady friends, my dog gave me a black eye right before I left home. Incidentally, that was not the first black eye I got from one my dogs.
I run 3-5 times a week, all without falling over. And it’s not like I’m new to this running thing. I’ve been running with regularity for about five years, all without falling. As graceless as I am, as much as I trip while walking, as many times as I bruise and smash parts of my body into sharp or hard objects, it’s sort of amazing how little my clumsiness has affected my running.
Sure, I’ve smashed into things on obstacle races. I’ve never once left a Spartan or a Warrior Dash without a few bruises, scratches and scrapes. But that’s different. In five years I hadn’t once fallen while running. Until I did.
It was a perfect morning for a run. The humidity was low, it was colder than it had been in weeks and I could not have asked for a better morning to run 10 miles.
Until I fell over.
I was just over two miles in. I was moving quicker than I had on my previous training runs, largely due to the better weather, and I was deep into my podcast. There was another runner crossing the street I was headed toward and then my foot caught a piece of uneven sidewalk and I flew.
That’s what I remember anyway. It was a brief flight, but I definitely caught a fuckton of air and flew until I slammed into the pavement, landing on my left hand, the water bottle in my right hand and my right leg.
The lid on my water bottle popped off when I slammed into the ground, so I picked that up and hopped up to assess the damage. The runner I’d seen in the distance ran toward me and looked at me with a thumbs up and a skeptical look, asking in runner terms if I was ok. I shrugged and gave a half-hearted thumbs up, so he kept running.
(In retrospect, fuck that dude, because if someone slams into the ground and has blood on them, you stop, because THAT’S CALLED BEING A DECENT PERSON.)
I put the lid back on my water bottle, said a bunch of curse words because most of my water was gone and then I looked at my leg. It was scraped. A lot. Most of the skin on my shin had been eaten by the pavement of the Boulevard and my knee was sporting three super impressive, already-swelling scrapes. And there was blood. Not a ton, but enough to make a nice little trickle right into my neon socks.
And then I looked at my hand. The pad by my thumb was, in one word, pulpy. And I couldn’t entirely spread out the fingers on my hand.
Still, my leg didn’t hurt. It didn’t feel like I was legitimately injured in a way that would keep me from running. It was beautiful out. I really needed to run ten miles. So, I started running again. I thought about turning around and going home, but it was so fucking nice out. I just couldn’t waste the day on a short run when I knew my schedule was about to get crazy busy with work and, with a half marathon at the end of August, I needed to get those ten miles in.
So I ran another half mile or so to the Starbucks and washed my still-bleeding leg and my pulpy hand and refilled my water bottle. And then I ran. And ran. And ran some more.
I made it all the way to ten miles, and it was a good ten miles. I haven’t hit double digits in a long time and this half will my first in about three years. Injury kept me from running in 2015, the deployment kept me away in 2016 and I missed my favorite spring half marathons this year because I was gallivanting around Italy. So this race feels important and logging 10 good miles, fall and all, felt significant.
I’ll be honest. I felt sort of like a badass running with my road-rashed leg still bleeding, blood still dripping into my socks. That’s not why I kept running. I kept running because I wasn’t hurt enough to stop. But I definitely felt like it was a long overdue rite of running passage, this falling thing.
I got home, stretched, posted an insta story about my poor, wounded leg and wrist, and then the adrenaline started to subside and I realized that – FUCK – my hand hurt a lot.
So I showered. Which was terrible. Hot water is a devil monster with stinging powers. And then I put peroxide on my wounds which was worse than the devil monster shower and I wish I had a recording of my curse words because it was brilliant and it would have made sailors and truck drivers blush, because, fuck you, it hurt so bad.
Then I went the doctor. I got an x-ray. They bandaged my leg. Nothing was broken. So I went to Target, bought some stuff and things, and then came home and hit the bourbon because, seriously, I deserved it.
More than two weeks later, my final scabs just fell off my poor little leg and I still can’t put pressure on my left hand which means no push-ups for me, which is dumb, because push-ups are my favorite.
So, if I could recommend anything to anyone it would be to not fall over while running. Sure, the flying part was pretty neat and definitely a unique experience, but the slamming into the ground thing? Not cute. Not cute at all.