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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    London Winter Run Race Recap

    Today I ran my first race of 2015! The London Winter Run 10k was a perfect way to kick off February, support a great cause, catch up with friends, and enjoy a run through some of London’s top sights.

    London Winter Run After a quick breakfast of oatmeal, banana and DailyBurn Pre, Charlie and I headed into Central London. The convenient starting location in Central London meant it only took us one tube and 30 minutes to reach the race area. On the tube it became clear that the race attracted lots of people in its inaugural year as the tube was filled with runners! Upon exiting at Embankment we headed up to the VIP area to pick up our bibs and check in with the other ladies. The organizers were kind enough to provide some of us with bibs in exchange for helping them get the word out about the race and the great cause it supported, Cancer Research UK.

    The VIP area was unlike anything I’ve experienced, complete with bag storage, sparkly nail manicures, snowflake face art, sparkle lips, refreshments, and guided warm-ups. Due to the race’s wave start, we opted to stay in the warmth and start in a later corral so we could run together.  IMG_5980IMG_5982IMG_6031

    An hour later we emerged, complete with sparkling snowflakes adorning our cheeks and glitter lips!

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    After giving a few polar bears high fives, we reached the starting area, packed with runners waiting for their wave to begin. There were seven waves in total, each one allowing around 2,500 runners to start before cutting it off. The starting line staff did a great job keeping the crowd’s mood up with warm-ups and loud music. It was blustery and frigid at the start but group dancing helped keep us warm. Big Ben smiled down on us as we huddled together, waiting for our corral to cross the starting line. During the 30 minutes we waited it continued to get sunnier. burning off the morning clouds.

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    My goal for the race was to have fun and enjoy the course, only focusing on maintaining a consistent pace. Luckily Charlie, Zoe, Leah and Laureen had the same idea! Since my goal for the day was bidding Leah farewell, I stuck by her side, letting her set the pace. The race course was well organized with volunteers supporting and guiding runners in the right direction, large signs marking each kilometer, a water station and multiple “Winter snow zones” along the course. As the Swiss Tourism Agency was one of the sponsors, there were even fun Swiss flags illuminating the tunnels!  Switzerland Flags in the tunnel IMG_6010 London Winter Run St. Paul's CathedralDue to the corral system the race never felt too crowded, even in the narrower areas where the course looped through London and sent runners turning back towards the finish area. The flat, fast course could be a great PB attempt though I highly recommend running it for fun too! In fact, I would recommend this 10k to any London runner who is looking for a fun way to get out and enjoy London during the bleak winter months.

    Everyone in our group enjoyed it and the snowflake medals we received upon crossing the finish line! London definitely gives out more race medals than Switzerland!

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    After the finish we met the rest of the group at Bill’s Restaurant for brunch. Leah did a great job organizing and due to placing our food orders in advance, we each had delicious food within minutes of sitting down!

    IMG_6024 IMG_6037 IMG_6038I’m so thankful that Leah’s organization and support of the London fitness community helped me meet so many inspiring ladies! The Team Naturally Run community is so supportive and perfect for anyone in London looking for group fitness and running support!

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    Atlanta Christmas 5k

    I apologize for the silence but Bo and I have been having a blast back in Georgia!

    We landed in Atlanta on Friday evening and since then have been going non-stop, squeezing in as much time with friends and family as possible!

    One of our weekend highlights was running the Atlanta Christmas 5k! The race, which ran through Virginia Highland was the perfect way to kick off our Christmas vacation back in the United States. We were able to enjoy a fast 5k through one of our favorite Atlanta neighborhoods and catch up with college friends who were also running the race. IMG_4451

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    The race atmosphere was so much fun! There were lots of hilarious holiday running outfits ranging from holiday themed tights to people decked out in tacky Christmas sweaters including one woman who had blinking Christmas tree lights on front and back! The humans weren’t the only ones who got into the spirit though. There were TONS of dogs running the race decked out in bells and sweaters.

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    A small, fun holiday race, capped at 1500 people,  each participant received a Santa hat when they picked up their bib! Unfortunately my ponytail didn’t allow me to wear the hat but it was such a fun detail!

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    The course, though flatter than last years, was filled with lots of turns and hills through the Virginia Highland neighborhood.

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    Bo and I ran together the entire race, doing our best to balance pushing the speed with climbing up each of the hills. It was a very different experience versus our European races as we were in the middle of the pack the entire time, rarely passed by other people. We had a great time chatting and looking at the gorgeous homes and hilarious outfits in between feeling the burn in our legs as we climbed the hills.

    At one point, as we passed the two mile marker, I began to question our pace as my body was hitting that point of pain that I rarely feel. I knew the pain was only temporary an as it showed up at the two mile point, I only had another 10 or so minutes to push through before the finish line. As we were running Garmin free we agreed to run as quickly as possible though we’d pull back if Bo’s knee or leg started to give him pain.

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    As it turns out, our effort was worth it! This was a new 5k PR for me of a 27:04 or 8:44 pace. As I know I have faster in me, especially on a flatter course, I’m already excited for 2015!

    Did you run a Jingle Jog or holiday race? What was the best outfit you saw on the course?

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