2016 Vermont Half Unplugged – A Race Full of Lessons

It’s been over a week since running my second Vermont Half Marathon Unplugged and it’s taken me about that long to process what went wrong with this race. In processing it, I realized this race taught me more than what could go wrong with a race.

The night before I stayed with my cousin Danielle, her husband, and their sweet baby. I had only met Dani once a long time ago, but thanks to facebook and our blogs we have gotten to know each other. Saying this was the best night in months is an understatement. We shared a wonderful meal, I smiled and laughed like I haven’t in a while and I felt a new connection to my family.


The morning of I woke up with a gut feeling that I shouldn’t run. My left hip/quad had been bothering me the past week or so. I even told my mom on the phone on my way to the race – “I shouldn’t run today.” But I’m stubborn, and I ran. Bib pickup and transportation to the start was easy. The procedure had changed from last year and I was pretty antsy about it, so I’m thankful it all worked out.

After talking with Dani that morning I was pumped to try for a PR after a good run on the course last year. I set my watch’s virtual pacer to 10:15/mi, planning to run below it for the first 3-4 miles then speed up to pace. As the gun for the second wave (11:00; Wave 1 was at 9:00) went off and right away I knew it wasn’t my day. My legs were heavy, I was anxious and couldn’t calm down, and my breathing never evened out.

Still figuring out the “buff” technique. It was only about 32 out, but I really didn’t need it.

Miles 1-4 I was content. Things weren’t feeling great, but my leg didn’t hurt (of course it wouldn’t after 6 ibuprofen in 13 hours…woof). At mile 4.25 I quickly stopped to turn on my music. I tried to run without it but it simply wasn’t happening. It was around mile 6 when I started to struggle. My leg tightened up, and I had trouble staying on “goal pace” for more than a minute or two at a time. My legs just didn’t want to go.

At least the view was pretty.

Miles 6-8.5 were a horrible, horrible struggle. I wanted to drop out. I wanted to crawl into the bushes and disappear. I thought about dropping out of my next half (which I am SO excited for) and quitting running. I kept walking because mentally I simply wasn’t there. I felt defeated because I couldn’t stay with the pace I had set for myself, and I didn’t want to stop my garmin to turn the beeps off #TypeAProbs

At Mile 9, things turned around slightly. I was moving slowly and knew even a sub-2:20 wasn’t happening. I had accepted it was a “slow day” and told myself just to get to the next mile. The next landmark. To the next anything. I spread out my walking to every 1.5 miles, rather than every .5 mile or so. I climbed both the hills in the last 1.5 miles without walking. What changed was my mindset. I kept reminding myself that marathon training is going to be hard like this race, and that this was great practice for it. I told myself that If I couldn’t get through this race I don’t stand a chance at 26.2, and that changed things. I finished the last .25 mi with a 9:44/mi average, which while not as good as last year, I was happy with.


Crossing the line I was heartbroken. I grabbed water, found some bushes, sat and cried. I felt so ashamed of my performance and was 100% crushed. After composing myself enough to find and chug my free beer, I was on the bus back to my car calling my Mom and crying again. I told her, Dani, and my closest friends “nothing hurt” more than normal discomfort, but boy was I wrong. My heart hurt, and if I hadn’t taken so much ibuprofen I would have realized how much pain I was in physically. I realized it once it wore off, 2 hours into my drive home when I got out of my car to hit a bathroom.

Now that I’ve had over a week to process this race, so many things are more clear to me.

I should have listened to my gut. My head and body were clearly telling me something that morning and the week before the race. My legs felt “heavy” the whole time because I didn’t have a full range of motion in my left hip. I felt better when I slowed way down because I could get away with lifting my leg less. I ran a race I shouldn’t have, and now, 9 days later, I just finally had a day where I was 95% pain free when walking only approximately 1,500 steps #lazyjob. I hurt myself, and I hurt myself good.

I’m not good with running for time. I failed miserably the last three times now that I’ve run for a time. My only successful tempos happen on a treadmill. My last two “good” races were run for fun, with no time “pressures”. Anxiety to be perfect is a personal struggle, and maybe this is a clue that time goals aren’t for me at this point in time.

Running isn’t fun when you’re stressing about it. I should have turned off my watch completely and forgotten about it when I started worrying about my time. It ruined my mindset and in turn ruined the race for me.

Just because you’ve run a race once, doesn’t mean it’s easier the second time. This race for me last year was at the time a PR and I felt so strong going into it. I assumed that since I knew the course it wouldn’t seem as hard. But I was so wrong. Each race is a new race, no matter the course. The first loop of the course was also different this year, which threw me for a loop.

It wasn’t THAT bad of a race. Yes, I finished with my slowest/second slowest time (what would be “chip” time vs. gun time here). Realistically, I only walked 4 times – and I’ve definitely walked more during a race before. My nutrition was fine, I dressed for the weather, and I survived crazy logistics. It could have been worse.

How do you get through disappointing races? Is leaving your Garmin at home as easy as it seems?

I’m linking up with  PattyErika, and Marcia today for Tuesdays on the Run! Check out the other posts to see how other runners are describing their running lately.


Harpoon Octoberfest Race Recap

On Sunday I made the drive down to Windsor, Vermont for the Harpoon Octoberfest Race (3.6 miles) at the Harpoon Brewery. I’d been wanting to go there for a long time, and I figured this was my perfect opportunity since I had a long weekend from school. I signed up just a week beforehand and was really excited to test out my race strategy/outfit before the Baltimore Half Marathon.


My friend Sam and I pulled off the interstate at 10ish and immediately ran into some traffic getting into the brewery. Thankfully we were parked by 10:20 and by 10:35 I had my bib, beer wristband, and beer tickets. There were so many people in festive outfits which totally made me in the mood for this Octoberfest run. I loved being in my element and getting to share it with a friend from school. After a quick stretch I placed myself about 3/4 of the way back in the start corral and waited for the gun my garmin to fail to connect to the satellites.

SO HAPPY to be at brewery #20 (#13 in Vermont).

I was so socked in for the first mile to mile and a half. There were over 1,100 racers and I was right in the middle of all of them. The worst was about .25 miles in, as we went through a steep, narrow uphill out of the brewery. Thankfully I was able to run to the side so I wasn’t stuck walking behind everyone before my walk interval began! I hated only having my watch read the time. I reached the 1 mile marker in 10:33. Much slower than I wanted, but it could have been worse for all the weaving and slowing down I had to do. There were also three good hills in the first mile.


Mile 2 was really good, as there were two good downhills in the section. I finally started feeling good and had more room. My running pace was faster and I hit the 2 mile marker (next to a german band) with a 9:22 mile 2. Then came an awful uphill that I was so happy to make it up running but died at the top. Then another hill. It was brutal. My third mile was 10:40 and I was mad! 


Finally I could hear the music from the brewery and I stepped it up. I knew I wanted to finish the 3.6 mile race in under 36:00. I gave it all I had and before I knew it, I was at a steep downhill going back down into the brewery. I started passing everyone in front of me and finished with my watch reading 35:40. Yeah, I was a little happy to run the last .6 miles at an 8:30 pace for an average pace of 9:45 and 637th place.


My favorite part of this race? The beer mug! We were given it filled with water (perfect), and got to fill it with beer during the Octoberfest festival that followed. It’s my new favorite cup. But honestly, I finished this race loving everything. I was on a runner’s high through Monday night. Plus, after I was done running Sam and I had a great time having a few beers, listening to the “oompah music” and people/dog watching.


Race Strategy: 

While my garmin never connected to the satellites I still ran with it to keep to my 4:1 run:walk intervals. Sure, I probably could have done this race straight out, but my main goal for this race was to get a feel for what this weekend’s half marathon will be like. I plan on doing intervals, as that’s how I’ve been training to come back from my leg injury. I wanted to know what it felt like to do the intervals during a race. To be honest it completely sucked at first. It sucks to be passed, especially while walking just 4 minutes into the race. But it was also very nice to pass people, as the walking made me able to push the pace in my running segments. I was also happy to run all the hills, as I’ll be facing quite a few in Baltimore.

Race Details:  11 am start (LOVE). $40 reg, which came with two beer tickets, a food ticket, and the souvenir glass. T-shirts were available for $25. Instant results were available for the field of 1,136 (big for Vermont!). Octoberfest followed where you could drink and eat all day! There were fun bands and activities like “keg bowling”. We didn’t stay too long but I loved what we saw. Top runners won nice steins/glasses and cases of Harpoon beer. Free race pictures are available as well. I can’t wait to see mine when they are finally available!

While I plan to be in Maryland this time next year, I would totally travel back to Vermont for this race. The course was challenging but manageable, everyone was having a great time, and the Octoberfest festival was a blast. I wish we could have stayed longer but there’s no way I could have stayed then driven home :P. This race definitely made me feel confident about where I’m at. I can’t believe I’ll be running half marathon #6 is just 3 days away!

Sunday (Photo) Sharing

I love how some of my favorite bloggers such as Hungry Runner Girl and The Girl Who Ran Everywhere share some of their recent pictures! I always look forward to their posts because who doesn’t like seeing some happy tidbits of someone’s day? So, here is my first Sunday (Photo) Sharing – a look back at my week from D.C. to N.H.!

Tuesday – Adventuring in D.C.!

National Gallery of Art - an amazing (recently acquired) Van Gogh!
National Gallery of Art – an amazing (recently acquired) Van Gogh!

Wednesday – almost home!

Welcome to Vermont
Welcome to Vermont

Thursday – trail running series! (This picture doesn’t compare to the real thing)

How can you not love this view?
How can you not love this view?

Saturday Shopping – what would you do for all these KIND bars?

My answer? About anything.
My answer? About anything.

Yes, my cat is evil. Yes, I still love her 19 years later.

My beloved Whiskers!
My beloved Whiskers!

Sunday – Bridal shower for my SIL-to-be (My mom did an amazing job planning it!)

Cupcake bouquets - yum!
Cupcake bouquets – yum!

I think I can easily say that I have figured out how to use wordpress SO much better these last few days – I didn’t have to email myself these pictures, and I have finally figured out links! I’m making strides towards being “good enough” to self-host!

What were some highlights of your week?

What’s your favorite kind of cupcake? Simple chocolate with vanilla frosting – sprinkles optional!