2015 Geneva Half Marathon Race Recap

As you know, yesterday Bo and I ran the Geneva Half Marathon. While the weather was completely miserable, the race itself was pretty wonderful. I learned a great deal and I was able to run the race faster than last year.

IMG_9177

Going into yesterday’s half marathon, neither Bo nor I had a time goal. Instead, the race was all about being smart and following the plan Jess prescribed. Having a coach is cost I choose to incur each month because I know that she is an expert who can help me become a smarter, stronger runner. However, the partnership isn’t worth it if I choose not to listen to the coach.

Old habits do not die easily.

If you’ve been a reader for more than a hot second, you know that my race day mantra has been “run hard and hold on for dear life” for years. Even when coaches and friends would suggest starting slow, I’d laugh and secure a new PR by running as fast as possible before completely tanking. Sometimes that resulted in dehydration, completely bonking or just being sore and miserable for the last few miles.

Yesterday’s race was the first race where I finished the race smiling because I followed the plan written on my wrist perfect for as long as possible. Sticking to the plan, though it wasn’t easy to start out conservative, allowed me to run my second fastest half marathon.

On paper, yesterday’s race plan was pretty simple:

  • Miles 1-5: 8:50 – 9:10
  • Miles 6-10: 8:40 – 9:00 (not too fast on the downhill portion)
  • Miles 11-13: 8:45 – 8:55

While the route seemed a bit different than last year, it was overall a very similar course. The first six miles are rolling hills, then around mile 6.75 a steep decline begins as we head down towards the lake. Jess warned me not to burn out my legs by running too fast on the downhill. Once we reach the lake, it’s a final five miles of relatively flat running along the lake and through Geneva’s city center.

We left our house around 7:15 in order to meet Mary, one of our friends who was also running the half. As it was already pouring, we took shelter in the corporate sponsor area where we were able to stay dry while stretching and waiting for the start. Each of us was nervous about the conditions, but instead of stressing out we reminded each other that there was nothing we could do to control the weather. The only thing we could do was trust the training, watch out for big puddles and smile!

IMG_9154

Due to the rain, I went with trusted gear that I knew would be comfortable even in the rain. My outfit was perfect as I didn’t chafe or over heat. I sported New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay shoes, Balega socks, Lululemon Run Inspire Mesh crops, New Balance Shapely Shaper Bra,  and Athleta Running Hat (similar). I tied my hair back in a braid to reduce knots, and skipped makeup and lotion.  The last thing I wanted was to be annoyed with running makeup or lotion during the race due to the rain.

At 8:20 we braved the weather and exited the warmth in order to take our place in the corrals before the 8:30 start. It was clear that we would be running 13.1 miles in torrential rains instead of the predicted drizzle. Even the local jazz band, which frequents the start of many Geneva races, was hiding from the elements at a nearby gas station.

IMG_9162

Even though it was pouring, the starting line energy was wonderful. They released us in waves, starting exactly at 8:30. Within five minutes, our wave was crossing the starting line.

IMG_9163

Since Bo knew that I have failed at all prior attempts to stick with a race plan, he used the Garmin and kept track of our pace. My only job was to run next to him and take in the scenery. I don’t have many pictures due to the pouring rain, so instead I’ll give you a rundown of each chunk of the race, comparing my paces with the prescribed pace.

PLAN: Miles 1-5: 8:50 – 9:10

Actual

  • Mile 1 9:09
  • Mile 2 9:09
  • Mile 3 9:03
  • Mile 4 9:04
  • Mile 5 9:06

     

    Due to the puddle jumping, crowded course and narrow first two miles the first few miles felt far tougher than the pace reflects. We know that weaving wastes energy but there were people in front and around us who were walking and jogging at slow paces. We took the risk and weaved for the first mile before settling in, on the left side of the course. Every few minutes I’d ask Bo about our pace, to which he’d respond that we were on pace. As the pace felt tough, I kept secretly hoping he’d tell me that we were going faster than plan.  I focused on finding a groove, and once I did, the miles clicked by pretty quickly as we ran through the area where we completed each of our three long runs. The route was a bit different than our weekend route, but overall the scenery was similar. We each took three Margarita Shot Blocks at mile 5, in addition to the swig of water we took each mile.

    IMG_8731

    PLAN: Miles 6-10: 8:40 – 9:00

    Actual

    • Mile 6: 9:07
    • Mile 7: 9:11
    • Mile 8: 8:43
    • Mile 9: 9:16
    • Mile 10: 9:43

    Mile six,was our most difficult mile as it was on a dirt path that, due to the weather and number of runners, was now nothing but mud and deep puddles. The mud was so deep that people were slipping and falling as well as running into each other to avoid the deep spots. It felt like running through a mix of rocks and quicksand. Even though we ran a 9:07 this mile felt more like an 8:06 from an exertion standpoint.  Miles seven and eight were a welcome relief, back on asphalt. I was hoping that we could make up time on the downhill portion to offset our two miles which were above 9:00. However, as we started striding, Bo and I both decided to be smart and not burn our quads out on the downhill, following Jess’ instructions. As we hit the lakefront at mile nine, I started to lose energy, just like last year. My legs were tired, and my breathing was completely erratic. Bo kept telling me to just focus on long, deep breaths. I refilled my water bottle and ate three more Shot Blocks at the mile nine water station, hoping the extra hydration and fuel would help.  Unlike many races, I didn’t let myself walk. Instead, I told Bo that while my pace may slow, I would keep moving forward. I wanted to do my best to hit Jess’ prescribed paces, but it was frustrating to know I was slower than the recommended pace. He kept reminding me to breathe through any negative thoughts and push forward. Right about this same time we saw our friend Amy cheering loudly for us from under her umbrella! This gave me a short burst of energy. A few minutes later, right around mile 9.75 Bo’s left quad completely seized up. He told me to continue along, and he’d try to catch up after stretching.

    Plan: Mile 11-13 8:45 – 8:55

    • Mile 11: 9:48
    • Mile 12: 9:28
    • Mile 13: 9:35

    These final miles were a mix of success and defeat. In prior races, I would have used Bo’s quad as an excuse to walk and take a break. Instead, I pushed on, slowly but surely. I couldn’t see or hear my Nike + as it tracked the miles.  I just focused on moving forward as fast as possible. Filled with water and covered in mud, my shoes felt like lead weights at the end of my legs.  To make matters worse, these miles weave through the Geneva city center, around multiple turns and corners, across cobblestones, and right past the finish line. The course cruelly looped us down the lake for another mile, before we headed back towards the finish. It’s pure evil to see the finish line so close yet so far away. I wanted to headphones, but I was worried that my wet hands and the heavy rain would mess up my iPhone if I tried to open the Ziplock bag. Instead, I did my best to remember lyrics and sing random songs to myself such as Sweet Home Alabama, Ironic, My Girl, and Call Me Maybe. (In case you didn’t know, I barely know the lyrics to songs.) This tactic didn’t exactly work in boosting my paces, as you can see from the above.  As we turned towards the finish line, my legs were so tired that I didn’t even have energy for a final sprint. As I heard our friend Lauren screaming, I mustered a wave and ran by, ready to be finished.

    IMG_9191

    image

    We did it! Finishing just a minute apart, we finished the Geneva Half Marathon! It was Bo’s first half marathon in 2.5 years, after multiple knee injuries! While the final three miles didn’t go as I hoped, it was a great experience! I followed the plan for as long as possible, and ran my 2nd fastest half. I have a lot of room for improvement, but yesterday helped me understand the value of sticking with a plan.

    IMG_9173

    The key things I want to build into future training are longer training runs. Our longest training run was ten miles, and this coincides with where the pace started to fall apart yesterday. I think as my legs get accustomed to longer distances, it will help on race day. Otherwise, the only other things that would have helped yesterday are better weather and a waterproof iPhone case. But, since we can’t manage the weather, I’ll start doing research on the former! 

     

  • Follow:

    A Soaking Wet Half Marathon

    IMG_9173While I’d love to give you guys a full rundown of today’s half marathon, we’re heading out to celebrate with friends! The evening plan includes pints of beer and burgers!

    But, before we head out, here are a few things I learned along the way. 

    • I finished in 2:02:37, a 1-minute improvement versus last year’s Geneva Half Marathon, which was run in far better weather!  
    • Running in the rain is not fun. I have so much respect for those athletes who ran Boston or any other marathon in the rain. 13.1 miles in the pouring rain was tough enough.
    • I loved my outfit for today’s race! We both debated wearing jackets but the hats and technical tops worked perfectly!
    • I didn’t remember last year’s half including a mile of trails. Trails that are normally packed dirt were muddy, rocky and packed today due to the weather. My ankles and calves are the sorest parts of my body!
    • This is the first half marathon where I have stuck exactly to my coaches plan for the race. The first 10 miles were exactly on pace and felt amazing.
    • Miles 10-13 were tough. I pushed on and was far stronger than most races, but physically my breathing was very shallow and my legs felt like I had lead weights tied to them.
    • Mentally, this was the strongest race I’ve ever run which I owe to both Jess and Bo.
    • I’m so excited to keep running with Bo and watching both of us improve, physically and mentally!

    IMG_9191

    Follow:

    Less Than 10 Days

    Less than ten days from now I’ll enjoy running my first race in downtown Savannah. The course winds runners through many of the historic sights including Forsyth Park and 12 city squares. Though I am a Savannah native, I haven’t had the opportunity to run through downtown, enjoying the parks, squares, historic sites, and moss-covered trees. Keep in mind that I didn’t start running until the age of 22, just as I was graduating from The University of Georgia and moving to Philadelphia. In fact, I’ve only run one race in Savannah, a Turkey Trot four years ago

    Women's Half jpeg

    It’s a bit of a crazy course with all the twists, turns and out and backs, but this will hopefully work to my benefit. The out and back course means that I’ll get to spend to see my dad, brother and Bo cheering at least two times AND I’ll spend the second half of the race trying to spot my aunt and mom. I am SO proud of their training and can’t wait to celebrate their achievement of walking the half marathon. In fact, I think I’ve convinced my mom to do a guest post reflecting on her training and experience. My mom’s walking and endurance has evolved so much in just ten weeks! She is now averaging 25 miles per week, more than triple what she was walking previously!

    At this point, I couldn’t be more excited for next Saturday. Even though training has not been perfect, I’m looking forward to racing. It’s been a while since I went into a half marathon this excited. I have the opportunity to run as a race ambassador in my hometown. The azaleas will be in full bloom, greeting us as we turn through the parks.

    image

    Our healthier lifestyle and my strong training these past two weeks have changed my mood, moving me from apprehensive to over the moon with excitement! Jess told me to spend these final few days focusing on my current week of training versus rehashing the past ten weeks of training. She couldn’t have been more right! Focusing my nerves and energy on my training has helped give me the extra boost to push the paces. Seeing faster than normal paces has helped boost my confidence going into next week’s half marathon.

    image

    My goal between now and then is to maintain my workout momentum, continue eating clean, limit my alcohol intake in Edinburgh this weekend and get plenty of sleep.  The excitement of running in my hometown and having amazing spectators cheering along the race course is all the momentum I need to give this race every ounce – mentally and physically!

    Your turn: How do you handle race courses with lots of twists and turns? How do you psyche yourself up for a successful race?

    Follow:

    Semi-Marathon de La Cote Race Recap

    This morning I woke up bright and early for the Semi-Marathon de La Cote. I signed up for this half a few months ago when I saw that it was on the same day that my training plan called for 13 miles. Since this was the race’s inaugural year, I didn’t know what to expect.  However, the website promised gorgeous views during the point to point run from from Allaman to Nyon.imageSince my starting block didn’t start until 10:39, I was able to sleep until 7:30. I spent the next 45 minutes foam rolling, stretching, sipping Nuun and coffee, and making sure I had all my gear. Mary volunteered to meet me at the train station and spend the morning cheering along the course. We spent the 30 minute train ride catching up while I enjoyed my banana, oats and the last of my Whole Foods Almond Butter.  IMG_2076IMG_2075

    We arrived at the starting area with 30 minutes to spare (i.e. perfect timing).  The weather was cool, 60 degrees and a bit overcast, which is perfect running weather in my opinion. Mary hugged me goodbye and headed back to the train so she could cheer further along the course. Luckily she made some friends on her way back to the train station.

    After saying goodbye, I ended up making friends with some guys from Geneva Runners before moving into my starting block area. The organizers did a great job with the starting area making sure there were plenty of bathrooms, clear signage for the bibs, bag storage, and the starting area. Like most other Swiss races, they also had a warm-up area where participants could participate in a dynamic warm-up. Each block started three minutes apart to keep the course from becoming too congested. IMG_2077

    IMG_2080 IMG_2086I used this race as another opportunity to test my marathon race day outfit. I’ll be wearing this entire outfit, from head to toe, in two weeks for the Berlin Marathon. It has served me very well! As the group before us crossed the starting line I realized I had three minutes to figure out how I wanted to treat the race. Would it be a long run or would I use it as a confidence booster? I knew that the course included a flat to downhill start followed by gentle rolling hills for the middle miles and a gradual climb between miles 8-10.

    Instead of stressing out, I decided to take a deep breath and just let my body and legs choose for me. Instead of a time goal I vowed to do two things: not walk and not allow a 7 minute or 10 minute pace to show on my Garmin. Those are two paces that were far too fast or slow for a strong training run, regardless how strong or weak I felt.

    At 10:39, on the dot, our group crossed the starting line.

    IMG_2087 The views were absolutely breath taking. I turned on my playlist and just let my legs and heart do the work. My legs felt incredible and I had to hold myself back when I saw the number 7 show up on my Garmin. I told myself that it was important to hold back if I wanted to last the entire half marathon.

    IMG_2088 IMG_2089 IMG_2090 

    The splits for first 5k, the downhill portion, were fast but manageable. I felt so good that I skipped the water station at the 5k point as I’d barely sipped any of my water. For the rest of the race I took water at each of the water stations, 10k and 15k.

    Mile 1: 8:39

    Mile 2: 8:41

    Mile 3: 8:50

    As I entered the middle miles I knew that I should see Mary once or twice and could use the rolling hills to slow my pace. The miles flew by as I spent time watching the right hand side of the road for Mary and enjoying the lake views as the path took us through small villages. IMG_2093

    I saw Mary for the first time around mile 4, just past this sign. It was so fun hearing her scream my name and wave to her with a huge smile on my face. I felt absolutely fabulous!

    ashley 9kI told her I’d see her farther up the course, continuing on along the gravel path. I recognized parts of the course such as Rolle, from day trips we’ve taken previously. The course didn’t have many spectators but there were always people in the small towns cheering from their door steps and windows.

    Mile 4: 8:52

    Mile 5: 9:11

    Mile 6: 9:20

    Mile 7: 9:23

    Mile 8: 9:12

    I started watching the right side of the course just past the 9 mile marker, knowing that Mary was going to cheer around the 15k point. I actually saw her before she saw me, noticing her Cigar City Brewing Company shirt out of the corner of my eye! Ashley 15k

    I still felt great at this point though I was starting to get quite hot. The course was now in the full sun, save for a few trees here and there. I told myself that this is when I typically become weak during a race, telling myself I need to walk. While I fully respect people who can walk run a race, today was a day when I wanted to prove I could run the entire course, pushing through the tough spots. I noticed the gentle climbs in my thighs and hamstrings but felt strong, considering my pace. Once passing Mary I knew that I only had 4 miles left, less than 40 minutes. In order to make sure I didn’t get into my head, I switched my Garmin to watch mode.

    Mile 10: 9:37

    Mile 11: 9:30

    Mile 12: 9:22

    Mile 13: 9:46

    As I passed the 20k point I told myself not to start sprinting as I didn’t want to risk pulling or straining anything. The energy of the crowd pushed me through as I crossed into a small park and stadium, towards the finish line. I crossed the finish mat, pushing stop on my Garmin and then continuing through the finish line in search of some much needed water, banana, and medal.

    IMG_8066 IMG_8067I looked into the crowd, in exhaustion, to see that Bo and my co-worker Ema were cheering at the finish line. IMG_8068I was hot, sweaty and exhausted but my watch said 1:59:57! After years of months of hard work, I broke 2 hours.

    IMG_2097 According to DataSport, a few minutes later, I saw that my official time is 2:01:23. Note to self, do not stop until you cross all the finish mats. Oh well, 2:01:23 is a 2 minute PR versus the Geneva Half Marathon.

    While some people said that racing a half isn’t smart just 2 weeks before Berlin Marathon, I know myself better than anyone else. This race was exactly the confidence booster I needed before the marathon. I didn’t walk one time, my fueling strategy worked perfectly, my music kept me motivated and anytime my body started to ache I reminded myself that it’s a normal feeling during a race.

    Today I ran the strongest half marathon ever and I owe that to the Run Less, Run Faster training program and the motivation of all of you! You’ve told me that I’m stronger than I thought for years and finally, I believe that too!

    Bring it on Berlin, I’m ready and more pumped than ever before!

    Follow: