Wait For It, Wait For It…

In the land of running, I’m pretty sure I can speak for the majority of us on the fact that, eventually, we all want to get faster. Am I right, or am I right?

*sees hands going up*

That’s what I thought.

In the years I’ve been running, I learned to become complacent with what is considered stereotypical “slower” times. I would average anywhere between 13:00-15:00 mpm, with only recently finding out during 2016 GSC that I could go faster (around 11:30 mpm). Being trapped in the middle of the epic conglomeration of people during runDisney events didn’t exactly help my quest to become faster, nor did receiving unsolicited advice from non-runners (of all people) about what pace I should be running at. (Suggesting that I should be running a sub-10 mpm right off the bat just doesn’t work.)

I decided to begin getting serious about my speed this past Glass Slipper race. I studied my splits from the last few years and crafted my A, B, and C goals based off of them. Nothing too elaborate, and relatively conservative at first glance. The 10K C goal was achieved, and the PHM goal, yeah, not so much. The 11:30 splits I cranked out for the first few miles for both races is a step in the right direction for building my confidence when it comes to speed training for future races.

There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait. Just you wait….


Chris had made a deal with me prior to GSC that if I were to PR both races like I had wanted to, I was going to get a surprise. Well, I am not one to turn down surprises of any kind, so it gave me extra incentive to race well. After not achieving my PHM PR, we had good discussions post-race about it. While he was incredibly proud of me for PRing one of the two races, I had the option of accepting the surprise then, or at a later date.

I opted for the latter. I hadn’t rightfully earned it at that point. And I am a huge fan of, “Always earned, never given.”

The following dialogue ensued:

 

I’m going to help you break a ten-minute mile.”

Uhhh, I’m sorry. What?”

Yeah! I want to pace you.”

Ummm…okaaaaay…”

You’ll get your surprise if you break ten.”

That’s fair. Let’s do it!”


–pause–or if you’re a Hamilton fan...”REWINDwindwind….REWINDwindwind….”


So you’ve talked about this Chris kid a couple of times. Who is he?!

So glad you asked…

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First of all, this is Chris! He’s my Kappa Kappa Psi Big Brother (and Life Member!) from the Eta Sigma chapter at UCF. (He adopted me as his Little after WDW weekend and we’ve been inseperable ever since.) And he often has a camera to his face, as you can see here.

Chris is a phenomenal pianist and musician. He’s also an Eagle Scout, is finishing up his Master’s Degree, and I got him into running; we act as long-distance training partners. Star Wars Dark Side 10K will be his first race! (Seriously, welcome to the Dark Side. We have cookies.)

It was by sheer coincidence that we would be in Washington D.C. during the exact same weekend in March. After some coordinating, we agreed to do our mile run during the time we were down there. So that was set.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious about completing a sub-10:00 mile. I had never gone that fast, and I didn’t know how my body was going to hold up after multiple days of walking and sightseeing in the city. My left knee was giving me some serious issues, and I went to bed every night hoping it would hold up the next day. Additionally, would I even want to go that fast? I was pretty comfortable hanging around the 11:00-12:00 mark.

However, there was a tiny piece of me that was whispering intensely, “What if?”


Tuesday came, and we headed out the door and down to the front of my cousin’s apartment complex. Initially, we were just going to run up and down the sidewalk (which was about .25 total). We got our electronics to start (using two Garmins and Map My Run on his phone), and we started.

The first thought that screamed in my head was, “You are NOT showing weakness in front of your Big Brother. I don’t care how much it hurts. You’re going to finish this, and you’re not walking, either.”

Okay, so a non-stop, sub-10:00 mile. I can do this. I got this.

His Garmin loudly beeped every so often (“Dude, your Garmin is loud!” -me), and I assumed we were still on pace and doing good things. We reached the end of the sidewalk and turned right back around (roughly .15 of a mile).

His Garmin chirped once again.. “High sounds mean good things, and we’re staying on pace!” he called to me as we completed the first quarter-mile. “Low sounds mean bad things and that we’re slowing down!”

Well, that was good to know.

We were about to hit the corner of the street, stop, and turn around again, but I felt the momentum picking up in my legs, and it felt good. I didn’t want to stop, so I pointed to the left (so we could loop around the building) and exclaimed, “This way!” We darted up the sidewalk and I noticed the slightest elevation change. I may have looked like nothing to the untrained eye, but to me, it felt like scaling a mountain.

How are you doing?”

*laughs* I hate my life!”

As you can tell, I am not a fan of hills, even the little tiny ones.

I fell into a steady rhythm, remembering to keep the upper body loose yet stoic. (It does no good swinging your arms around and erratically twisting your torso six ways from Sunday. You’ll burn up more energy doing this.) We looped around and headed back up the main sidewalk in front of the complex to complete our first lap. I could feel my knee giving me spits of pain every now and again, so I dropped back about half a second to conserve, but I didn’t stop. In doing so, I was able to note Chris’s form (as he claimed his form was “crap” and mine was “really good”). I took mental notes on his stride and upper body posture as we ran the second lap. The cold air struck my lungs and I felt my nose beginning to run…blaaaaaargh. I kept a steady eye on my Garmin and, after the second lap, noted we had roughly .30 to go.

That was it? It’s almost over? Okay!

Our feet pounded down the straightaway and around the corner for the last time. Chris sped ahead of me just slightly, looked back with a smile and said, “Don’t let me beat you!” I wasn’t about to destroy my knee giving chase for the last tenth of a mile, so I’ll save that for another day. (Trust me, I reeeeeeally wanted to.)

However, with our runner tracking devices giving three different distances and times, I had no idea when that last mile would actually end. I decided to focus solely on my Garmin and go off of its data. Chris’s electronics reached the mile mark about ,03 before mine. He stated, “Hey, you hit your mile! We’re done!” I looked at my Garmin and saw it was at .97 of a mile. “I’m not done yet!” I shot back, and kept the pace up for that last .03, stopping it promptly once it hit 1.00.

I stopped abruptly and caught my breath (which is a HUGE faux pas on my part, since you’re supposed to continue slowly walking after you’re done. Epic brain fart and a half right there). Chris beamed at me and gave me a hug. “Well, you destroyed your 10:00,” he said. “I’ve got 8:55 for us on the Map My Run. Congrats, Little Brother!”

8:55? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

(If you just read that in Thomas Jefferson’s voice a la Hamilton, give yourself a gold star.)

I seriously couldn’t believe it. An 8:55? That just smashed my expectation of barely getting to 10:00. I thought for sure that I was going to be cutting it close, maybe around a 9:50. But hell, I WENT SUB-NINE. (Even as I sit here typing this, I’m still in shock that my little legs went that fast, even with an injured knee.)

I hugged him back ferociously, so grateful to have had the opportunity. Chris had been saying for weeks prior that he was going to get me to go faster than a 10:00 mile, and there we were, accomplishing just that. He was so excited and so determined to help me reach my goal, especially after I failed to PR during PHM. The elated look in his eyes told me everything that words couldn’t describe. 

And I returned those subconscious thoughts with my own look of exhiliration and newfound confidence.


Post-run…

I wasn’t going to let you get near10:00. I set the pace for between 9:30-9:55.”

…you did what?!”

Yeah! I wasn’t about to tell you that.”

He secretly set me up to succeed without my knowledge. Welp, I’ll be damned. 🙂


 

Not only did he set me up for success, and we succeeded, but there was something even more important; an aspect that is at the core of our friendship and Big/Little relationship:

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He believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. 5K Recap

I went to bed on Friday evening feeling fulfilled and accomplished after a successful day  of volunteering at the expo. I was pumped to be racing my first 5K the next morning with Lauren, but was also a little anxious.

Anxious for a 5K? What the hell, Christina. You’ve run marathons. 5K is nothing in comparison!

(Yeah, that’s lovely, but my left knee had been giving me issues ever since Glass Slipper. After a lot of self-researching, I hypothesized that it was a case of Runner’s Knee, or patellar tendinitis. As much as I would have loved to really race this 5K, I had two objectives:

  1. To pace Lauren comfortably, and
  2. Finish in one piece.

My knee had been seizing up during the night the days before the race. On a scale of 1-10, this pain was around a 9.8. Trust me, it was not pleasant to deal with. Any runner who has dealt with injury before can commisserate.)

I woke up a little before 5:00 AM and sent a good morning text to Chris, who was at the airport and heading his way towards D.C.! The thought that I knew my KKPsi Big Brother would be waiting in the finisher’s area for Lauren and I gave me an early morning boost that didn’t require coffee. 🙂

I got dressed and started making my way to the Metro. Based off of the timing I noted the day before, it would take me about 25 minutes to make it to the Stadium Armory from Mount Vernon Square, including the transfer from L’Enfant Plaza. At the MVS stop, I ran into another group of runners that were running the half and found out the majority of them went to PSAC schools just like I had, and we struck up conversation. It really is a small world!

I got to the staging area around 6:25 AM, and caught this fabulous sunrise…img_3376img_3375

Since I had well over an hour until the race started, I explored the finisher’s area and snapped a few pictures while updating the socials with said pictures…

I found Lauren while on my adventures, and we went around trying to find the gear check trucks. It took a couple of minutes and a visit to the info booth to figure out where we were going, but we got everything checked and ready to go! The rock music (lots of Metallica and AC/DC) was pumping and runners were getting excited. Once we got to corral 3, it was horribly weird acknowledging the fact that I was in a race area that had 2,200 runners. I was used to far more chaotic crowds, and a larger corral space. (These corrals were only a fraction of the runDisney corrals’ size.) 1004487_967011606687593_329825332240942459_n

(^^Lauren and I pre-race! Look how close we are to the start line and we’re only in Corral 3.)

In the minutes just before the race began, the corrals flooded with people and it got very crowded. It didn’t seem like anyone was really policing the area for proper corral placement. (I’m assuming this was more critical for the half and full, which were starting simultaneously across town.)img_3390

Weather-wise, it was a decent day. It was a little gloomy after the sunrise ended, and it sprinkled a little, but it was in the upper 40’s so that was ideal. The race started promptly at 7:30 with the corral 1 runners. All 2,200 of us counted down each other’s corrals. That was a fantastic feeling! The corrals were released in 1-1:30 minute increments, and this felt like no time at all. In less than five minutes, Lauren and I were taking off past RFK Stadium to accomplish our first 5K! We took a very conservative pace (which turned out to be around a 13:00 mpm), and spent the time taking in the course and experience. Bands were playing at every mile marker, and we were engaged in conversation the entire time. (This is a great method to determine whether you’re going too hard; if you can’t form coherent sentences, you’re going too fast.) img_3392

I helped pace our run/walk segments; I would call out a certain spot on the course (usually a mile marker), and encourage Lauren that, “Once we get to that spot, we can walk! Yay!” After each marker we hit, we walked for a about a minute to assess our bodies and make sure we weren’t falling apart. We kept calling out distances via our Garmin (which we magically started at the exact same time), and would count down how much longer we would have to run to finish the course. The elites were coming back up on our left side during Mile 1, and we cheered for each one of them, which prompted more cheering from the runners around us. (Runner comraderie is the best!)img_3393

We rounded mile three, and started up the last hill towards the finish. The gentleman who was announcing the finishers was actually DOWN ON THE COURSE personally giving high fives and interacting with the runners. There’s no better feeling than giving a high five and having him say, “Team Sparkle is in the house!” with cheers erupting from the grandstands.

Across the finish line we went, and 5K was officially completed in 42:07! Woohoo!img_3401

(Trust me, my first thought after, “Woohoo!” was, “…that was it!?!” Running long distances will have that effect.)12832408_970135086375245_2202102343895699416_n

The RnR finisher’s chute is set up far differently than runDisney, and I may actually prefer this method: first, medals (handed to you, not draped around your neck), pictures (not formal; the backdrops were their for runners’ leisure in case they wanted pictures), space blankets (my collection keeps growing!), and different food tents where you could pick and choose your recovery items that you wanted (chips/pretzels/salty snacks, bananas, True Moo chocolate milk, Powerbar…the list goes on!)

Lauren and I grabbed our items and headed over to the potties, gear retrieval, and changing tent. At this time, Chris had arrived and I was anxious to greet my Big Brother. I had sent him a picture of the A-D family meetup sign earlier, and told him to meet us there. We entered the finisher’s festival area and I saw him from afar. I looked at Lauren and excitedly mentioned, “There’s my Big!” and took off toward him at full speed, my Mylar blanket flying behind me like a cape. (I didn’t care how much my knee hurt at this point. I was just excited to see my Big!) Luckily for me, Chris was facing the other way, and my hug from behind took him by total surprise (to the point where he almost flipped me over; martial arts training will have that effect). Once the realization was made that I was a friend and not an enemy, hugs and smiles and happiness were exchanged.

Can you see why I was so excited for the end of this race? Yeah. That’s why.


 

So that is the story of Christina’s first 5K! I’m very content that I could finally cross that off my list of race distances that I have run, and that my knee held up the whole time! At the time of this writing, it has been healing quite nicely. I traversed close to 50 miles during my time in D.C. (compared to 47.2 during Christmas vacation), so I think that played a role in loosening whatever tightness had accumulated during the three weeks between GSC and RnR. Those adventures will be covered in a forthcoming post.

In the two and a half months so far in 2016, I have raced four races of four different distances: full, 10K, half, 5K. Currently, I have no races scheduled on the calendar in the near future, but that may change at any time…you never know where I may show up next!

Until next time,img_3400

See you at the finish line!

*~*Christina*~*

Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Expo Volunteer Experience

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To kick off this D.C. racecation, I was presented with the opportunity to volunteer for the RnR DC weekend by my fellow Team Shenanigans member, Jenn (@Jenneral1 on Twitter!). I arrived at the D.C. Armory around 8:45 on Friday morning ready to work and give my fellow runners a fantastic experience.

The majority of the volunteers would be downstairs in the basement doing corral check-ins and changes. After receiving instructions from the Race Crew supervisors, Jenn and I called dibs on the Corral Change booth.

Yep, Team Shenanigans was in charge of making decisions.

For those that have never run a Rock ‘n’ Roll race, the corral changes for this series is a LOT easier than, say, runDisney. RnR corral changes are based purely off of an honour system. If you know that you’ve been training at a faster pace than the corral you are placed in, you can request to be bumped up. We make a little tally mark on the spreadsheet for statistical purposes and to make sure the corrals are filled evenly. That’s all! (There were many comments of, “That was so easy!” It is. You don’t have to sacrifice your firstborn or sell your soul to transfer corrals.)

One of the most humbling things I experienced during my time at the corral change booth was being asked questions and confidently giving advice to other runners about pacing and to provide corral options. Jenn said that it is better that experienced runners are at this booth to act as a mentor and source of information. It was awesome seeing many runners walk over with a harried, worried facial expression about their corral placement and leave with a smile and newfound energy to rock their race day.

Plus, it was great seeing runner friends, Ken (#kenthumbsup) and Malinda of @TwinsRun!!

Around 3:00, I jumped over to Corral Check-Ins. Around this time, until 7:15 or so, the traffic picked up a bunch, and volunteers were leaving their morning shifts. At one point, I was manning two corral sections due to the area being temporarily understaffed. I was put in this chaotic situation many times last summer—I worked for a whitewater rafting company, and the pre-rafting paperwork/logistics craziness that would occur in the hour before everything was to start (which I called “Power Hour”) truly prepped me for these Corral Check-In tables. (Thank you, Three Rivers crew!)

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(…after the storm at 7:15 PM. It was quiet. Too quiet….)

Our Race Crew leaders were incredibly hospitable. They made their rounds roughly every hour or so, making sure we were fed and watered appropriately. (I ate so many fruit snacks and Cheetos it was unreal.) We also got lunch and time to explore the expo. They made it known that our service and time were greatly appreciated. (If it isn’t for the volunteers dedicating themselves for however long they will be there, these races will not have the same fluidity. So make sure you thank your volunteers when you see them!)

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I will be more than happy to volunteer for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series again. I had a fantastic experience, and I encourage anyone that is even thinking about volunteering to do so. I noted that the majority of the crowds at this expo were very friendly towards us volunteers, even during peak periods. There was no drama, nothing getting broken, no craziness… just smiles and thank yous. It’s very different being on the other side, but volunteering gives you a better perspective on everything a race weekend needs to run right.

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Next up, the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. 5K!

There’s a First Time For Everything

Ladies and gents…I’m heading back to Washington D.C.!

(…not like I wasn’t just there in December or anything…)

It seems like every time I turn around, I’m in the nation’s capital for some reason or another. Yes, I will be running a race. No, I haven’t landed a job there. Not yet, anyway.

So, what’s the race, runDisneyBelle?

I’m so glad you asked…

 

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Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C.! I will be running the 5K on Saturday morning! It is also the fifth-year anniversary of the RnR D.C. race!


 

I’m elated about this coming weekend because it will check off many “Runner Firsts” for me, including…

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–Running a 5K. (Yep. FINALLY running 3.1 miles as a race and not as an addition to other mileage en route to finishing another distance! And since this my first 5K, I get a PR! Woohoo! And the medal is SO stinkin’ adorable.)

–Running my first race in the RnR series. (I haven’t raced much in the years I’ve been running, yet when I do, I’ve done the runDisney/MCM races. Time to branch off into other series, and it looks like a TON of fun from all the pictures. This year’s bling is super cute, too!)

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–Volunteering/being on the Race Crew (I’ll be at the expo on Friday from 9-7:30 in some capacity or other. I’ll update the socials when I know!) 428448_441581312600190_149554978_n

–Pacing a fellow Kappa Kappa Psi brother/running friend to the finish! (You may remember Lauren from my 2015 Almost-MCM recap. She paced me twice along the course and even met me at the finish in Rosslyn when I got off the bus. Hugs all around. She’s amazing.)

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In addition to all the firsts, there are other things about RnR D.C. weekend that I’m looking forward to:

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–We Run Social will be at the expo on Friday for a meetup! Granted, I’ll be Race Crew-ing somewhere, but knowing that they’re there is a fabulous feeling.

–Reconnecting with some of my favorite vendors; Sparkle Athletic and SparklySoul being two of them!

–The potential to run into fellow runner buddies as they traverse the expo. (As you can tell, the potential social aspect of the weekend is raging right now.)

–Washington D.C., in general. Not only does my amazing cousin, Adriane, and her husband, Robert, live here, there is something about this city that just draws me in (besides its ability to draw runners in with its multitude of events). I had contemplated moving here right after graduation in 2015…then life happened. (As always.) But I am highly reconsidering going hardcore on applying to places. Suggestions/leads are always welcome!

I will also be spending four days with my KKPsi Big Brother, Chris, sightseeing and touring and running around the city with. I have yet to formally introduce him on the blog yet, but I will! He’s super cool and adopted me as his Little Brother. (Charter Members don’t get big brothers; we are our own big brother, essentially.) He adopted me right after WDW Marathon weekend and we’ve been super close ever since. Due to said coolness, he deserves a highlighted post or five. I also got him into running, and he’ll be running the Star Wars Dark Side 10K as his first runDisney [and 10K!] race! He’ll be meeting Lauren and I at the finisher’s area (and this will also be the first time I’ll have someone actually waiting for me at the end of a race!).

Speaking of sightseeing…

(photo cred: americaslibrary.gov and washington.org)

CHERRY BLOSSOMS. Holy crap, people. How about this amazing warm weather we’re having right now in the Northeast?! The National Mall Park Service originally announced on March 2nd that the CB peak was to occur March 31-April 3.

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Yeah, no. That isn’t happening now.

It has now been bumped up!img_3295

Peak Week is now projected for March 18-23!  If I’m playing my cards right, I’ll be able to get some halfway decent pictures this coming weekend of everything just about to peak.

The Cherry Blossom Festival will still take place March 20-April 17 in Washington D.C. (Head over to http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/) for information about this annual tradition!


 

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Will I be seeing you in a few days at Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Weekend?!