Nike Women’s 10k London Race Recap

Yesterday I had the opportunity to run my first Nike Women’s race event, and I finally understand the hype behind the very popular, global race series.  There were 10,000 women in attendance, of all shape, size, and ability, excited to run, jog or walk the 10k!Hosted in Victoria Park, the race day setup reminded me more of a concert or festival than a race. There were multiple stages, DJ booths, tents and activities for pre and post race including a nut butter bar, braid bar, champagne tent, and of course, a Nike shop.

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Before the race, Charlie, Margaret and I met Zoe and others for pictures and some pre-race relaxation in the media tent. Having the opportunity to check our bags and relax a bit before the race made a huge difference.

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As our group walked over to the starting area, we discussed our strategy for the day. Charlie, who starts Chicago marathon training today, didn’t feel she was in the best shape while Margaret just ran the Nike Women’s 10k in Paris two weeks prior. I suggested to the girls that we make sticking together our primary goal. As we entered the crowded starting area, we agreed to make it our goal to run the entire race together and finish in under 60 minutes.

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Due to our predicted race times, we were towards the front. This meant that we had prime view of Ellie Goulding, a popular British singer and runner who was on hand to get the crowd pumped before the race. As she pumped the crowd and assisted in warm-ups lead by an Equinox instructor, you could feel the electric energy radiating from the sea of peach-colored Nike race tanks and shirts. Women of all sizes and abilities were chatting, supporting each other and nervously waving to their supporters and friends.

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While waiting for the race to start, a wave of emotion hit me as I realized this would be my last European race for a while. Charlie and Margaret agreed that running my first Nike race in a new-to-me area of London was the perfect way to bid farewell to European running.

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After a 15 minute delay, the three of us crossed the starting line with the biggest smiles on our faces. The weather was sunny with a gentle breeze and the day felt more like Spring than Summer.

Nike Women's London 10K

We ran without music, taking in the sights and enjoying the motivating spectators, many of whom were holding signs for moms and girlfriends.

The first mile (8:35) felt surprisingly easy considering that my 10k PR pace is an 8:59. After last week’s Oakley 10K, I knew that my body was stronger than an 8:59 pace and that my goal would be to keep as fast a pace as our group was willing to run. Suddenly, I found myself in a very new role. I was our leader, keeping a faster clip and pushing us forward versus holding us back. The second mile, which included a few small hills, wound us past Zoe’s mom and boyfriend as well as a gorgeous lake. The second mile (8:29) still felt comfortable, perfect motivation to keep pushing versus pulling back the speed.  We all agreed that walking through the water station was a smart idea to ensure we didn’t find ourselves parched towards the end. After a quick walk, we returned to our previous pace, cruising through the third mile (8:13) and towards the second lap.

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As we veered to the right, towards the second lap, I asked the girls if we could try and steady our pace a bit. While I felt strong and didn’t doubt my body’s ability, I knew that maintaining the 7:58 pace I suddenly saw on my Nike Plus app wasn’t realistic. We pulled back a bit as we started to recount our path on the second loop, this time taking more time to move to the right so we wouldn’t collide with the walkers and joggers.  IMG_1137

During this second loop, we took the time to enjoy the many signs Nike placed along the course, motivating and supporting the multiple running groups. We saw many familiar teams such as Zoe’s team and the London Barry’s Bootcamp team. One sign, in particular, resonated with me, motivating me to push through the pain I was starting to feel.

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At Mile 4 I saw that our pace was 8:17, still far faster than I expected to see during a 10k race. So much for slowing down, right? Mentally, I took a second to reign in my emotions and realize that I wasn’t only in PR range, but I was in range of setting a new PR by more than a minute or two.

This is the part of the race where every single step became a mental game. A year ago, I would have started slowing down, not realizing that pain is only temporary and that sudden surge of lactic acid and sweat is totally normal.  Instead of slowing down to a “normal” pace, I tried to figure out what pace I could maintain for two miles. I knew it wasn’t 8:17 or 8:15. I bartered with myself and decided on somewhere in the 8:30 range, telling myself that if I was in too much pain as I entered the final mile I could slow a bit more and still PR.

We hit mile 5 at 8:37, perfectly on point. For the next 10 minutes, I focused on two things:

  • The final miles and minutes are supposed to hurt.”  – Charlie and Theodora have both told me that the final miles and minutes of a race or supposed to hurt. A new PR doesn’t come easy, and this is where runners prove themselves. I kept telling myself that it is normal for every step to feel like running through quicksand and every breath to be a bit heavier.
  • Listening to Taylor Swift. Charlie started her iPod around mile 4, blasting our favorite songs including one especially for me, Welcome to New York. Since we didn’t have speakers or individual headphones, it was hard to hear the lyrics. I focused my energy on trying to hear the lyrics, which made sure I stayed within a step or two of Charlie.

As we passed the incredible RunDemCrew cheer station and turned the corner, I knew the end was near. I could do anything for just a few more minutes.

As we started to see the countdown signs, I started to smile more and more. For years, I’d dreamt of breaking the 9:30 and then the 9:15 pace. Just six months ago I broke the 9:00 pace during a 10k. Now, I was about to break at least the 8:45 pace!

image As soon as we passed the 200-meter marker Charlie urged me to sprint my heart out. Never one to disappoint, I gave these meters every ounce of effort, sprinting towards the finish line as fast as possible, keeping a 7:30 pace according to my Nike Plus!

We finished in 53:05 – a brand new PR and 8:33 pace per mile, or 5:19 km per mile – faster than even my 5k PR pace!

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I was in shock for a few seconds, refusing to believe it until we received the official results. Margaret and Charlie both gave me huge hugs and told me how proud they were that I’d broken through running’s mental barrier.

As soon as the PR sunk in, I immediately requested a jumping picture in front of the iconic #WERUNLONDON sign. This picture is a framer friends as it shows my emotions perfectly – JUMPING FOR JOY WITH FRIENDS I LOVE!

We Run London 10K race

Yesterday reminded me why I love running. Charlie and Margaret supported me for each of the miles, reminding me just how strong we each were as well as motivating me to achieve what they knew possible. Each of the fellow women running motivated me as their passion for the sport brought them all the way out to Victoria Park on a Sunday morning.

Your turn – Why do you love running?

Thanks to Margaret and Charlie for some of these pictures!

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Oakley New York Mini 10k Race Recap

Yesterday I ran the Oakley New York Mini 10k for the fourth time (2013, 2012, 2011 recaps) in five years. I love this race female only race! In fact, second the New York City Marathon, it is my favorite NYRR race. While it is always a challenging race due to the hills, heat and humidity, it is such an inspiration to run alongside so many women.

This race now holds a special place in my heart as two years ago it was my farewell race in the city. Yesterday it served as a homecoming race as each mile brought back fond memories of running in Central Park and reminded me why I love the NYRR community. I had happy tears as I realized that I’ll be home, in two weeks, able to run through my favorite city in the world.

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Similar to years past, the corral area for the race was in Columbus Circle. Katie and I found a spot in the corrals around 7:45, fifteen minutes before the race start. We spent next few minutes time catching up, people watching and deciding on a race strategy.  Our plan was to run the race together, agreeing that our sole goal was to run strong and not stop running. The race seemed better organized than I remember with lots of volunteers helping people find the bag check, corrals, and bathrooms.

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We crossed the starting line at 8 am, surrounded by more than 7,500 other women. I love the race course as it starts outside of Central Park with a mile up Central Park West before heading into the park. The gradual incline gets the legs ready to tackle Harlem Hill. It seemed like there were more male supporters than ever before along the sidelines cheering for friends, girlfriends, teammates, moms, and wives.

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After the first quarter mile, Katie tried to convince me to run ahead. She said she wasn’t feeling great, and this wasn’t going to be her day. I told her just to listen to the music and push forward. I stayed just a step or two ahead of her, giving her the occasional friendly wave and thumbs up. My goal was to motivate her in hopes that she’d loosen up and find her mind and body in a better place. Our first mile was a 9:29 which felt very comfortable. By the time we passed the next mile marker Katie was lagging further and further behind. She kept telling me to go ahead. I continued to tell her that my primary goal of the race was to run with her. I didn’t care what the Garmin said (9:49) as we crossed the two-mile marker. Unfortunately, by the water station at mile 2.5 she insisted I run ahead. As I’ve been in her position, I know that sometimes running with someone who is having a strong day is even more discouraging.  As I waited for her past the water station, I realize that she had purposely lost me. I couldn’t see her anywhere.

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I decided to give the next four miles every ounce of energy I had. While I haven’t been sticking to a rigorous training plan over the past month, I have been running with faster friends and adding strength training to my schedule. This combination along with how fresh my legs felt gave me the motivation to run fast.

The next four miles flew by far faster than expect. The middle miles which include Harlem Hill felt far easier than expected, clocking an 8:34 and 8:40 pace through each of these miles. I started passing people as they slowed due to the heat, hills and humidity. I did my best to gain some extra speed going down Cat Hill as I knew mentally and physically the slight rolling hills of mile 5 would be harder for me than the other portions. I focused on hitting mile 5.5, where I knew Jess and The Girls on the Run crew were cheering.

It was awesome to fly by them feeling strong and happy. I was feeling the pain of the heat and the speed by told myself that I could do anything for one more song. This is proof of how far I’ve come over the past few years as a runner. The recaps of years past talk about going out too fast and bonking the final two miles. This year, I negative split the final miles and was running with a huge, goofy smile. 

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I crossed the finish line in 56:31, a new course PR! Luckily I was able to meet up with Katie a few minutes later as she crossed the finish. While it wasn’t her day, I know her running mojo will soon return!

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As a runner, there is no better feeling than finishing a race strong! It’s been a few months since I finished a race feeling like I succeeded. Yesterday, however, I had post-race happy endorphins ALL day!  Congratulations to everyone who ran this race and others this weekend!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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! 

     

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    Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon Race Recap

    I can’t believe that the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon was almost three weeks ago!

    Publix Savannah Half Marathon

    Both my mom and I enjoyed the inaugural race so much that we’ve decided to do it again next year and sign up for a few more half marathons between now and then. The entire race weekend was one of the best I’ve experienced. The expo was fun, the course was gorgeous, the race provided plenty of bathrooms and fuel for participants, and the finishing area included mimosas, music, and relaxation. Not to mention the gorgeous medals and the New Balance swag. I can’t recommend this race enough for women of all abilities.

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    The purpose of today’s post isn’t to continue gushing about this race, as you all know by now that I loved it. Instead, I’m going to share race day my experience as well as a few valuable lessons learned along the way.

    Going into the race, my coach, Jess, warned me that she wasn’t sure I was in PR shape. She recommended that we use the Publix Savannah Half Marathon as a diagnostic race to see where I stood. She recommended I follow a conservative, progressive pace plan, starting slow and improving my pace as my legs and body allow.

    Deep down, I felt like I should be able to achieve more than that. Over the past five years, my half marathon time has gone from a 2:29 to a 2:00. Why shouldn’t I expect to achieve another PR after eight weeks of training?

    I decided that against my coaches best wishes, I would seek out the 2:00 pace group and use the group’s energy to lead me across the finish line in under two hours. In my head, the plan was brilliant. I would surprise my coach by exceeding her expectations.

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    Or, I’d prove that there is a very good reason I pay Jess to be my coach. Coaches often know best. They know when corners are being cut in order to make room for weekend ski trips. They know when the paces are slower than prescribed because legs are tired from three days of skiing. They know when a 10 mile long run suddenly becomes 9, because squeezing long runs in before work often means they are compromised.

    The purpose of this half marathon, as it turned out, was to teach me two valuable lessons.

    • The longer I run, the harder it becomes to make significant progress. In order to reach those “big, hairy audacious goals” I will have to prioritize running.
    • Each race, regardless the distance, can still be enjoyable even if it doesn’t include a PR.

    I was smiling, ear to ear, during each of the 18 miles I completed on March 28th. The miles with my mom were the most memorable, as this is a moment that I never imagined we’d share together.

    The other 13.1 miles when a little something like this:

    Mile 1-3: I am ecstatic to be running through downtown Savannah. The roads are peaceful, and the only sound is that of a few sole spectators and our pace groups footsteps, pounding the pavement. I wave to Bo and my dad as we pass the first mile marker, then wave to Caitlin as I see she and other 5k runners sprint past.

    Mile 3-5: Our two pacers do a great job keeping the group’s energy up by asking each woman what our goal for the day is and what brought us to Savannah. Running with them is like running with a celebrity as so many spectators recognize them, waving and screaming.  It turns out both of these women lead many local running and training events through Fleet Feet Savannah.

    Mile 6 – 7 – We cross the 10k mark at a sub nine minute pace and almost immediately my body begins yelling. My quads and legs become heavy, and I find myself dropping back from the group. I grab my Salted Caramel Gu, hoping that it will give my legs the energy they are craving.

    Mile 8 – I spend this entire mile a few feet behind the pace group, doing my best to stay within earshot. I figure that I can give my legs and body this mile to recover before picking the pace up again. I curse myself, realizing that Jess’ initial assessment was correct. I was in half marathon shape, but not PR shape. My legs weren’t able to sustain the sub 9 pace. The miles through Daffin Park, one of our large Savannah parks, go on forever as we loop in and out of the park’s shaded path. I quickly change my mindset and focus on all the positive things. I’m in my hometown, running a half marathon, am blessed to have family members cheering and am going to walk with my mom as soon as I finish. This race and day are about so much more than my pace.

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    Mile 9 – As I cross the mile marker and lose the pace group, I start to focus on choosing a new goal for the remaining miles. I decide that my sole goal is to continue moving. Historically, I stop to walk when the going gets tough. While a walk-run method works for many, it hasn’t worked for me historically. I turn my focus to the gorgeous Live Oak tree lined streets, bright row homes, and wonderful spectators. I give high fives to local school children as I run past.

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    Mile 10 – It’s 70 degrees and I’m overdressed. I wish my bib wasn’t pinned to my long sleeve top. Just as I start to fumble with the pins, I hear cheering and someone screaming my name. I quickly give Bo and my dad sweaty hugs and throw them my long sleeve top. I ask them how mom is doing, and they tell me to hurry and finish. It turns out she is walking alone and needs company.

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    Mile 11-13 – These are my favorite miles of the race, even though the course makes multiple turns as we run through Savannah’s squares and historic cobblestone streets. Focused on finishing strong, I put on my headphones and listen to music as I take in the sights.

    Mile 13 – I hear the cheers of the finish line and enter the finisher’s shoot towards the picturesque Forsyth Fountain.  I cross the finish line in 2:04, very proud of myself for running a mentally strong race. 

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    Do I wish that I could have run a PR race in my hometown? Sure. But, would I give up the amazing ski weekends to do that? Nope, not a chance. I’ll take the lessons learned instead.

    The longer I run, the harder it becomes to make significant progress. In order to reach those “big, hairy audacious goals” I will have to prioritize running.

    Each race, regardless the distance, can still be enjoyable even if it doesn’t include a PR.

    Thank you to the Savannah Sports Council, Publix, New Balance and Fleet Feet Savannah for hosting an incredible race and allowing me to serve as an ambassador! While I was compensated for my travel to Savannah and race bib, the opinions are all my own.

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