Training Log – 03.25.18

Well hello, hello and happy Monday!

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This little guy makes me smile. Everyone needs to smile on a Monday morning.

Here is what my training looked like the week of 03.19.18 – 03.25.18:

Monday – Easy: 5 miles (8:44 pace)

Tuesday – Quality (Threshold): 9 miles (7:23 pace)

Tuesday’s workout was a 2 mile warm up, 4 X 1 mile @ threshold pace w/ 1:00 recovery and a 2 mile cool down. I woke up feeling rested and ready to tackle this one. This is not a typical tax season training state of existence for me, so that was a real nice surprise (Clark). Goal threshold pace was 6:26 pace. Actual splits were 6:26, 6:23, 6:24 and 6:18.

Wednesday – Easy: 7 miles (8:34 pace) 

Thursday – Quality (Threshold): 7 miles (7:51 pace)

Thursday’s workout was a 2 mile warm up, 3 miles @ threshold pace and a 2 mile cool down. In another somewhat unusual turn of events, I did this workout Thursday evening after work. Goal threshold pace was 6:26 pace. Actual threshold miles during this run were 6:54, 6:59, 6:47. Those 6:50 miles felt like 6:20 miles. Goodness. I really dislike evening workouts. Even so, it was really nice out and I didn’t regret getting out there and doing the workout. The sunset made it worthwhile.

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Friday – OFF

Saturday – RACE: 10.25 miles (7:25 pace)

Sunday – Easy: 12 miles (8:21 pace)

Total – 53.2 miles

That’s it for now. Have a wonderful week!

Race Recap: Azalea Trail Run 10K

Howdy! So … four 10K races in four weeks … done and done! I ended my 10K “streak” yesterday at the Azalea Trail Run in Mobile.

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The Azalea Trail Run (ATR) has a long, renowned history. At one point, it was even considered to be one of the premier road racing events in the country. The name perhaps implies that there are trails involved, but this 10K is a fast, flat course along some of the historic streets of downtown Mobile that are known as the Azalea Trail.

The 10K has seen blistering records set by runners since its inception. Bill Rodgers won the first ever ATR back in 1978 with a time of 30:26. The current course record was set in 2001 by Abraham Chebii and is 27:26 (4:25 pace)! On the female side, past winners have included Joan Benoit (31:57 in 1984), Edna Kiplagat (32:12 in 2003) and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (33:22, 32:41, 32:03 in 2011, 2012 and 2014 respectively). The current course record was set in 1997 by Colleen De Reuck and is 31:29 (5:04 pace)!

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Post card from the 1960s of the Azalea Trail!

I just did a quick comparison of the results from 1987 vs. 2017. I say “quick comparison,” but in actuality I put all of this data into a spreadsheet by age and gender to calculate the percentages and totals (because this stuff is more interesting to me than taxes). In 1987, there were 4,161 participants (3,120 male (75%) and 1,041 female (25%)). In 2017, there were 1,692 participants (818 male (48%) and 874 female (52%)) in the 10K and 1,274 participants in the 5K. 2018 was the 41st running of the ATR.

I haven’t done this race since ( … checking … ) 2013. This is definitely one of the most well-known races in our area, but I’ve actually only run it 3 times before this year. For whatever reason, I never seem to have good luck with this one. It’s always back to back weekends with (if not the same day as) Spring Fever and I love Spring Fever so much, I don’t usually feel the need to do ATR. This year was a little different, however, as I decided to do four 10Ks over the four weekends in March! I was hopeful that this race would be my fastest of the four March races. Given that the course is flat as a pancake, it made sense (at least in theory), but I wasn’t sure exactly how the execution was going to play out after running so many races back to back (to back to back).

The race starts at 8 a.m. We got to Mobile just before 7 a.m., ran a couple of miles and did the typical pre-race stuff before making our way over to the start line. They still bring in some elite, professional runners and it’s always fun to see them lining up at the start line (this is as close to a Kenyan as I’ll ever get and it’s pretty cool :)). I averaged 6:24 pace last weekend at Spring Fever and I wanted to try to get that down to just under 6:20 at ATR.

I started off at what felt like a comfortable pace and was planning to run as evenly as possible. The first mile has two turns and after that mile there are only two more turns the entire race. It’s really such a fast course! The first mile typically clicks by pretty quickly as there are usually plenty of runners around and the pack hasn’t really separated too much. My split for the first mile was 6:17.

There were clocks at each of the mile markers, so I had some pace feedback out there (as opposed to last week when I purposefully chose not to look at the data mid-race). I felt really comfortable at 6:17, but I was also really close to a few other runners and I (somewhat unknowingly) picked it up a touch to catch them and stay with the pack. My split for the second mile was 6:14.

The third mile was fairly uneventful. I don’t think I really passed anyone or got passed by anyone. I focused on keeping a steady rhythm and not slowing down. We made a left turn right before the third mile marker and had a slight downhill segment for a tenth of a mile or so. That was quite nice! My split for the third mile was 6:18. The total time on the clock at mile three was 18:49, which was about 25 seconds faster than my time at mile three last week. I was definitely encouraged by this, but at the same time, I had to remind myself not to get complacent.

I caught up to a couple of guys during the fourth mile and ran with them for a little bit. We briefly chatted about how bright the sun was and that we wished we had worn our sunglasses. I don’t know why this random detail sticks out to me, but for some reason it does and thus, it goes into the post. Ha. I saw Daniel and Kenny out on the course cheering somewhere during this mile as well. That definitely gave me a boost! My split for the fourth mile was 6:23.

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We made our last turn just passed mile four and were headed towards home. I was really happy to be running on the road that would take me to the finish line. I started counting the traffic lights and making bargains that I would “just keep running hard until you get to the second light and then we’ll reassess.” The “we” in that case was me and myself. I’m not sure who really won. My split for the fifth mile was 6:22.

I still felt pretty decent at this point during the race and knew that I could at least maintain my pace for another mile, if not speed up ever so slightly. I counted more traffic lights. Each one got me a little bit close to the finish line. The 5K runners merged with the 10K runners during the last mile, which has been disastrous in the past, but I must say, they did a great job of keeping the racers separated this year. The right side of the street was sectioned off and the 5K runners stayed to the right, while the 10K runners stayed to the left. It worked.

As a side note, I really don’t think that every race needs to offer a 5K option. I would much prefer that ATR just be a 10K. There are plenty of other 5Ks every other weekend for those that want a 5K option. In my opinion, the quality of the entire event is watered down when multiple race distances are offered and run at the same time. Let’s expound a bit on my findings above regarding the participation from 1987 to 2017. According to Running USA, the total number of road race finishers from approximately the same time frame has increased from just under 5 million finishers to 17 million finishers! Over the time frame that the total road race participants increased by over 250%, the number of participants at ATR has decreased by 59%. Sad! We need to start a campaign to make Azalea great again!

Okay, okay, back to 2018. I got off on a tangent! Before I even knew it, I made it to mile six. My split for the sixth mile was 6:17. At this point, I tried to pick it up for the last two tenths to squeak under 39:00, but I waited a bit too late to make that happen. I crossed the finish line in 39:07 and I am super happy with that!

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We did a two-mile cool down after the race and stayed around (FOREVER) waiting on the awards. In the past, they have done overall results and “local” results (for the non-elite runners), but they didn’t do that this year. I was bummed about that, especially because they have always done it in the past and the race site specifically says that they do local awards. All in all, it’s definitely not a big deal. If we hadn’t waited around for over two and half hours, I wouldn’t have even cared, but at that point I was starving and was in a state of hanger. There was also a team competition and they didn’t do results for that either, which was also disappointing.

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But … we found out today that our team, the Grinder Gals, was first place in the open female division! Woo hoo!

All in all, this is a wonderful event. I wish the results and awards were more efficient, but to be fair, this is a big race and it makes sense that it would take longer (especially given that there are multiple races as well). If you are ever in the area and are looking for a historic, crazy fast 10K course, ATR is the race for you!

I don’t have any races planned until August! I mean, obviously that will change, but for the moment, the plan is to survive tax season and my first semester of teaching (whoever thought that trying to do those two things simultaneously was a good idea is crazy :)). I’m thinking I either want to train for a one mile race or for an ultra … or maybe something in between! Ha. I’ll keep you posted.

Training Log – 03.18.18

Well hello, hello and happy Monday!

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I didn’t do much on the workout front last week. This is partly because I am racing every weekend and recovering during the week, but also partly because I just really haven’t felt like following a training plan. My training plan has workouts every Tuesday and Thursday, but I just can’t get motivated to actually do what the plan says. This is fine. I basically work hard and follow a plan 10 or 11 months out of the year, but during the time frame between March 1st and the end of tax season, I am really just running for stress relief. It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed this time of year and I don’t want running to be an additional source of stress (I want it to be an outlet for stress). If the training plan feels overwhelming, I just don’t follow it. Easy enough.

Here is what my training looked like the week of 03.12.18 – 03.18.18:

Monday – Easy: 8 miles (8:11 pace)

Tuesday – Quality (Threshold): 8 miles (7:47 pace)

Tuesday’s workout was supposed to be 4 X 1200 w/ 400 recovery, but after last weekend’s back to back races, I wasn’t ready to do any fast repeats. I still went to the track with the Daniels, but I just did my own thing while they did some faster stuff. I did a 2 mile warm up, 3 miles at some form of tempo pace (6:36, 6:35, 6:29) and a 3 mile cool down.

Wednesday AM – Easy: 10 miles (8:33 pace) + PM – Easy: 5 miles (9:12 pace)

Thursday AM – Easy: 3 miles (8:54 pace) + PM – Easy: 5 miles (8:34 pace)

Thursday’s workout was supposed to be 2 X 2 miles at threshold pace. The idea of this one wasn’t super stressful in and of itself, but I think I was just tired. I hit snooze several times and once push came to shove, I only had time for 3 miles before work. I told myself that I could still try the workout after work if I felt like it … (insert rolling on the floor laughing emoji here). The idea of doing a workout after work is basically laughable at this point, although I must say, the time change does make evening runs quite more enjoyable!

Friday – Easy: 5 miles (8:39 pace)

Saturday – RACE: 10.5 miles (7:23 pace)

Sunday – Easy: 12.25 miles (8:37 pace)

Total – 66.7 miles

That’s it for now. Have a wonderful week!

Race Recap: Spring Fever Chase 10K

Howdy friends and random internet strangers! I’ve got race recap three out of four for the month to share with you today. Next up is Azalea Trail!

Today I ran my 11th Spring Fever Chase 10K! It’s one of my favorite races of the year, if not my most favorite. Here is a conglomeration of race photos over the years …

We got to Fairhope around 7 a.m. for an 8 a.m. race start. Daniel picked our bibs up yesterday, so that we didn’t have to worry about that today. We met Jessica downtown and ran just over two miles before making our way to the start line. I was ready to do this thing!

Last year I ran the race without a watch and while that turned out to be a great decision, I decided to wear my watch this year … but, I didn’t look at it one. single. time. during the race. I don’t know how I had the self-restraint to do this, but somehow I did. The only time during the entire race that I saw a time was on the clock at mile 3 (the other mile markers don’t have clocks).

Like most races, the start of this race is typically a little chaotic because so many people run too fast for the first half-mile or so. They really made a point that if you weren’t running under 7:00 pace, then you didn’t need to be on the front row. I feel like they have said this before, but it seemed like more people actually listened this year. Several young kids still managed to pass everyone in the first tenth of a mile. Several of them were excitedly talking about how they were running “sub-7” (which I thought was adorable) and for that first quarter-mile, they certainly were.

We had a good bit of rain yesterday and the first turn (about a half-mile into the race) was underwater. Thankfully, we had run that little stretch during our warm up and knew which side of the street (err well, the grass) would be the best path. I dodged the puddle and avoided getting my shoes muddy, which was nice. I caught up to Daniel around mile one. His training has been going really well, but he hasn’t been feeling good the last few days. I knew that he was likely struggling if I was catching him and I was bummed for him. He loves this race as well and wouldn’t have run if it had been any other race.

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Ponytail game #onpoint

My mom and dad came to the race to cheer for us and they were just past the one mile mark. Per usual, my dad yelled, “GO KID!” as I ran by. He has always called me Kid and I hope that never changes. They’ve definitely been my biggest fans over the years and I always get a boost from seeing and hearing them on the course. We also had several friends that didn’t race today that came out to cheer as well, which was much appreciated. Having people out along the course cheering for you is the best!

I caught several runners during the second mile. Miles two through four have some rolling hills and since I don’t typically run well on hills, I always plan to conserve on the uphill portions and not expend any unnecessary energy. The hills are also part of the reason that I chose not to look at my watch during the race. I have a bad habit of looking down at my watch if I feel like my pace is fading. For some reason I need an external source to either confirm or deny my feelings (but that’s likely a discussion for another time and place :)).

The third mile is the hilliest of the race and you crest the biggest hill right as you pass the mile three marker. My time was 19:15, which would translate to right at or just under twenty minutes for the 5K. I knew that if I wanted my total time to be under forty minutes for the 10K, I had to keep working and couldn’t afford to let up at all. I focused on staying in my rhythm and not slowing down.

For the majority of the fourth mile, I was running with a pack or three or four guys, which was really nice. I typically find myself in no man’s land during races and it is always much better to have someone to work with. My mom and dad (and our other friends) were on the course again somewhere between mile 4 and 4.5 cheering and that gave me another little boost. I almost took my poor mother out on this turn (she was standing right in the tangent and I really wanted to yell at her to move, but I didn’t (ha)). After the race we had a good laugh about how I came over and gave her a hug during the last mile of the marathon and this time I just wanted to yell at her because she was in my way.

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#savage

Once I passed them, I knew that I had a mile of flat-to-downhill running before the final climb. Bring on the downhill! At this point, I was only running with one other guy, but I was definitely thankful to still have someone with me. We flip-flopped back and forth a few times, but basically we just worked together for the entire rest of the race. He passed me (briefly) right around mile six. Until that point, I had basically conceded mentally and just assumed he was going to out kick me at the end of the race. Once it actually started to happen though, something switched in my brain and I decided to give it my best shot. It was a sprint to the finish and I barely edged him out!

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I’m glad that I didn’t just throw in the towel and I’m glad that I had a little extra incentive to really make those last two tenths count. It was fun to check my splits afterwards since I hadn’t looked at my watch during the race. They were pretty consistent and make sense given the course. I need to trust myself more and rely on the Garmin less. My splits were 6:21, 6:21, 6:32, 6:25, 6:26, 6:20 and 5:47 for the last two tenths. As far as placement goes, I was first female and fourth overall.

Jessica and I ran two miles after the race to cool down, grabbed some coffee and came back in time for the awards. The race takes place during Arts & Crafts Festival, and each year the award is a print done by a local artist. We have them sprinkled throughout our house!

After the awards, I walked around the Arts & Crafts Festival for a little while with my mom and dad. We saw some really interesting pieces, like the saxophone pelican and the “crazy hair” guitar man.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. Spring Fever did not disappoint! I am thankful to have a wonderful group of friends and family who always support me, no matter if I am first place or last place. The time on the clock and placement in the results truly don’t matter, but sharing life with people who love you unconditionally … that’s what it’s all about.

Run happy friends!

How to Race Your Best 5K

I originally posted this article over at Salty Running, but I figured I would share it here as well. The Spring racing season is heating up and you should have plenty of opportunities to test out this strategy!

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5Ks often get a bad rap, and rightfully so. Racing a 5K can be painful, but when approached correctly, it can also be incredibly rewarding! Of course that is assuming that you enjoy challenging yourself and testing your limits, but isn’t that is why a lot of us are hooked on the sport of running to begin with?

5Ks are higher in intensity than longer races. They hurt more, but they are over more quickly. It’s best not to spend too much time thinking about how you feel (save that for next week’s therapy session) and instead, focus on executing one section of the race at a time. In this post, we will look at five key sections of your 5K race day.

Warmup: I highly recommend running 2 to 3 very easy miles pre-race. Of course, use your own judgement as far as what you think your body can handle, based on your experience level and overall mileage. Often I find that it takes me at least a mile or two to feel good. If it takes you a few miles to feel good, you might as well knock out those miles before the race. After your easy warmup miles, pick up the pace and do a few strides to stir up the aerobic enzymes and prime the engine before heading to the start line.

Here’s how the race should go down:

First 10%: Avoid the early sprint out and instead ease into the pace. While it seems to be fairly common, sprinting off the start line is not a good idea as it will only serve to spike your lactic acid levels, causing you to hurt sooner rather than later. Instead, start off smooth and use the first quarter-mile to gradually settle into your race rhythm and goal pace. This takes some pressure off the start and increases the chances of feeling good throughout the race.

Middle 70%: Once you settle into your goal pace range, you need to plan to stay here for the majority of the race (in this case from a quarter-mile to 2 miles). While I definitely advocate negative splitting in longer races, I don’t think it is a great strategy for a 5K, especially if we are talking about racing to your true potential. The goal here is to run within your goal pace range and to use as little energy as possible while doing so. Stay relaxed and focus on the rhythm of your footfall, keeping a strong cadence.

Last 20%: You made it to the home stretch! During the last mile, it’s time to really challenge yourself, compete and give it your best effort. Race it home with whatever is left in the tank. Depending on how the day is going, you should still be within your goal pace range or perhaps a tad faster. Your training has prepared you to run fast when you are tired. Break the last mile up into chunks and focus on executing one segment at a time.

Cooldown: I also recommend getting in 2 to 3 easy miles after the race (again, use your own judgement here). This will help you flush the lactic acid out of your muscles and will promote recovery. It can be difficult to make yourself do anything else after the race, but trust me, it is well worth it!

The great thing about the 5K distance is that you can get out there and test the strategy over and over again until you master it. I’ve run over 50 5Ks in the last five years and this is the strategy that has worked best for me. There have been races where I have run incredibly negative splits (with the last mile over 30 seconds quicker than the first) and races where I have run incredibly positive splits (with the first mile over 30 seconds quicker than the last), but my best performances have been incredibly even splits (all miles within 5 seconds of each other).

Try this strategy at your next 5K and let me know how it goes!

Training Log – 03.04.18 & 03.11.18

Well hello, hello and happy Monday! I hope the time change is treating you well!

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I’m kind of torn about this whole time change thing. On one hand, it is definitely nice to have an extra hour in the evening, but on the other hand, I really miss the daylight in the morning and losing an hour of sleep?! Really. That’s just cruel.

I got a little behind in my weekly training log updates, so this post is a two-for-one. I know you are all thrilled about that (sarcasm). I’ve done several races in the last two weeks with not many workouts in between. It’s mostly been easy running over here, which is a nice change of pace (literally)!

Here is what my training looked like the week of 02.26.18 – 03.04.18:

Monday – Easy: 8 miles (8:23 pace)

Tuesday – Quality (Intervals): 8 miles (7:55 pace)

Tuesday morning’s workout was a 2 mile warm up, 1 mile at threshold, 2 X 1000 at interval, 2 X 200 at repetition (see this post for an explanation of the paces) and a 2 mile cool down. My times were as follows:

1 mile (6:22)
2 X 1000 (3:44, 3:50)
2 X 200 (0:39, 0:39)

This workout was short and sweet and definitely flew by! I am really enjoying the workouts that alternate the paces and distances of the repeats. We also had a nice, cool morning for this workout, which makes a difference in the enjoyment factor as well.

Wednesday – Easy: 8 miles (8:29 pace)

Thursday – Quality (Intervals): 5 miles (7:39 pace)

Thursday’s workout was a 1 mile warm up, 6 X 400 with 400 recovery and a 1 mile cool down. Another short and sweet workout solely for the purpose of keeping the legs sharp during race week. I did this one on the treadmill. I don’t remember exactly why this was the case, but I’m assuming it had something to do with me procrastinating the workout after teaching late Wednesday evening and then having nobody to run with. Yep. I think that’s exactly how it went. I did the 400s at 6:00 pace and took the rest of the run very easy.

Friday – Easy: 5 miles (8:31 pace)

Saturday – RACE: 9.5 miles (7:15 pace)

Sunday –  Easy: 8 miles (7:58 pace)

Total – 51.6 miles

Here is what my training looked like the week of 03.05.18 – 03.11.18:

Monday – Easy: 7 miles (8:08 pace)

Tuesday – Quality (Threshold): 7 miles (7:35 pace)

I don’t recall exactly what my workout was supposed to be on Tuesday, but I kind of did my own thing here. I did a 2 mile warm up, 3 miles at “marathon” pace (6:59, 6:57, 6:58) and a 2 mile cool down. I wasn’t ready to do any fast repeats yet, but I wanted to push myself a little bit. This seemed like a good decision.

Wednesday AM – Easy: 5 miles (8:14 pace) + PM – Easy: 5 miles (9:12 pace)

Wednesday evening I got to take Savannah on a stroller run while Rebecca worked a track meet near our house. Holy moly. That was the toughest easy run that I’ve done in a while. Pushing that stroller is no joke. Shout out to all you moms out there making that happen on a regular basis!

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Thursday – Easy: 5 miles (8:35 pace)

Friday – Easy: 8 miles (8:52 pace)

Saturday – RACE: 6.5 miles (7:27 pace)

Sunday – RACE: 12 miles (7:15 pace)

Total – 59.7 miles

That’s it for now. Have a wonderful week!

Race Recap: Leprechaun Chase 10K

Well guys, I told you I was going to make up for my lack of February racing by doing all. the. races. in March. This weekend I did back to back races! The last time I did back to back races, it was a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. This weekend it was a 5K on Saturday and a 10K on Sunday. This was much more manageable, although I am definitely a bit tired at this point.

Sunday morning I ran the St. Patrick’s Leprechaun Chase 10K in Robertsdale. I’ve only done this race one time before and it’s been several years ago now. I typically skip it since it is the weekend before Spring Fever, but when you are running all. the. races., you just do it anyway! The race takes place at St. Patrick’s School in Robertsdale. The entire event has typically been at the church, but they moved most of the pre-race activities and post-race festivities over to the school this year. I liked the way it was done this year. The race still started and finished at the church (as they used the same certified course from prior years), but everything else was just across the street at the school.

The race started at 8 a.m. We met around 6:30 to register and get in a longer warm up. It’s been a while since I’ve done a “long run,” and I wanted to get in between 12 and 14 miles Sunday. I got 6 miles in before the race, which was perfect. Luckily the rain held off for us, but it was a warm and humid morning (especially early on).

I really didn’t have a specific plan going into this race as I wasn’t sure how my legs were really going to feel once I started the race. They felt decent on the warm up, but not great, which made sense. I was asking a lot of them. Ha. I figured that I would settle in and try to run “goal marathon” pace (NOT that I am training for a marathon by any means (no one freak out (Mom)), but this is just a good pace to base my effort on). I figured I could sustain somewhere in the 6:45 to 6:55 range, but again, I wasn’t really sure. I figured that I would just play it by ear and see what happened! It’s really nice to approach races without any defined expectations sometimes.

As it turns out, I ran almost the entire race with my friend, Erin. It was nice to have someone to work with on an otherwise isolated course. The course is an out and back route that is run primarily on two county roads. We settled into a good pace and hung on through the first half of the race. We were in third and fourth positions overall for the first two miles of the race, until the leader took a wrong turn (major bummer for him … he was pretty far out in front). We passed him and the second place guy during the third mile.

From this point on, we were leading the race. It was pretty cool to have two girls leading the race! We got lots of encouragement from the other runners as we ran back (one of the perks of an out and back course (in my opinion)). Actually, six out of the top ten finishers were female. I love it!

The second half of the race was fairly uneventful. I was working a little bit harder than I would’ve liked to have been for the pace that we were running and I was more than ready to see the finish line. I finished in 42:11 as first female (and overall for that matter). My splits were 6:42, 6:51, 7:01, 6:46, 6:50, 6:37 and 5:57 for the last 0.2. Erin finished right behind me and Rebecca finished right behind her. Before we knew it, Jessica, Lizzie and Joy all finished, and that rounded out the top 10 finishers.

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I had good intentions of doing a three mile cool down, but that turned into less than a mile. My left hamstring and glute were a bit cranky after the race. The same thing happened after the last 10K that I did as well, so I decided to call it a day at 13 miles. I was able to go back over to the church and do the fun run with Rebecca and Savannah. It was Savannah’s first race! We did a walk, run, skip, piggyback combo and it was a blast!

We hung around for a while and waited on the awards. They had food trucks, beverages and bands for the adults and snow cones and boucy houses for the kids. I decided that it had been entirely too long since I have had a snow cone. It really hit the spot!