As 2016 comes to a close I thought I’d recap my top 10 favorite runs of 2016. All for different reasons why they made the list and not in any order (although maybe they’re in date order now that I look at it).

1. There was my first time running a 10 miler…

The Cherry Blossom 10 miler in Washington D.C. Jane, Amy and I got into this race via lottery and while it was cold and windy we all did really well and had a fun girl’s weekend. The Cherry Blossoms were post-peak but I was fortunate last year to experience them during their peak so I wasn’t too bummed about that. I left that weekend with this desire to want to run more 10 milers. Of course there just aren’t a ton of 10 mile races so I haven’t run one since.IMG_2267

Found one!

Found one!

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Jane, me and Amy FREEZING our butts off before the race

2. And a half marathon in Philly for the 3rd year straight…

The Love RunI set a PR (in the pouring rain) at the 2014 Love Run, the first year I ran it. This year I had a solid run. My fastest of my 4 half marathons of 2016.finish2016

The medals at this race never disappoint. Last year was a spinner medal. This year was just super glittery.

The medals at this race never disappoint. Last year was a spinner medal. This year was just super glittery.

Good times

Good times

3. A Meaningful run to honor someone’s memory:

More »

The Trenton Half Marathon is in it’s 3rd year. It consists of a half marathon, 10k and 5k as well as a kids run. I did the half last year as well as this year. And boy oh boy, what a difference a year can make. Last year I was only 6 days out from the NYC Marathon and had no expectations or goals other than to finish. Next thing you know I set a huge PR with a 2:07 finish. This year was very different =)

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Pre-race selfie

I didn’t even come close to setting a PR, but I’m ok with that since my goal was just to have a good run and finish in one piece. What I’m not ok with? I literally felt like throwing in the towel at mile 4! I was just struggling A LOT! And that was before the brutal hills (more on that later). But in my usual fashion I dug deep and pushed hard (when I wasn’t walking up hills) and when I crossed the finish line I was so happy and felt so proud of myself for making it to the finish without a stretcher.

Here’s a little play by play of the day:

4:40am Woke up, got dressed and ate a soft pretzel. No coffee :( I was running late.
6am. Dropped Duncan off at the BF’s house. (Thank you dear BF for making sure to be awake at 6am on a Saturday for Doodle Drop-Off).
6:15am. Drove down to Trenton. It was about an hour’s drive from my BF’s house.
7:15am. Met up with Jane, her hubby and the rest of their running posse.
7:45am. Took some pre-race photos and then loaded ourselves into the corrals.

Trenton Half 2014

The half marathoners! (photo: Jane!)

2014 Trenton half

I’m bending my knee to avoid the knee brace “muffin top” in the photo. #keepinitreal (photo: Jane)

Trenton Half 2014

The couple that runs together….Alex & Jane (Photo: Jane)

8:00am. The race was supposed to start but they seemed to be running behind. It turned out to be 22 minutes behind. Needless to say almost 40 minutes in the corral left me cranky and shivering along with a few thousand other runners. Last year they were running behind schedule at the start too! Bummer #1.

In the corrals. (Photo: Jane)

In the corrals. (Photo: Jane)

8:22am. The race finally begins. It only took a minute or two to cross the start but with a 5k, 10k and half starting at the same time it was really congested. Especially since many were walking the 5k and 10k. I literally walked across the start line and probably didn’t start running until we made our first turn out of the gates. Bummer #2. But very quickly the course opened up and I even found myself a little lonely in the later miles.

Mile 1: 10:13 split. This first mile flew. I felt good and just enjoyed what I love about the early miles of a race. I turned on my music and zoned out while enjoying some sun on my face. The bulk of the spectators for the race were in that first mile (which is also the last mile). So I looked around and read some of the signs people had. A little boy had a sign that said “Hurry up mom! I’m cold!”

Mile 2-3: 9:13 and 9:47 splits. I enjoyed these miles through the historic Capital District. The miles were flat and I knew there was a cool band that played last year in this area. I was happy to see them again this year.

This is Mill Hill

This is Mill Hill…

Mile 4: 10:28 split. Well, let’s start with the positive. This part of the course runs through Mill Hill. It’s a really quaint neighborhood that reminds me a lot of the West Village in Manhattan. Cool row houses with brick facades, lovely flower boxes and some great residents out on their stoop cheering us on. My favorite sign “13.1 miles of running seems like an awful lot of work just for a banana”. (Sorry I didn’t take any pictures of the signs!)

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I just can’t seem to stop the heel striking @#$!

OK and now the negative: I just wasn’t trained for this race and I knew that going in but man, falling apart at mile 4?!!!! First it was my knee starting to bother me. Then I got a side stitch (which lasted for most of the remaining miles). I was tense from shivering in the corrals and that left me with neck pain and shoulder pain. And in my blasé approach to race day I didn’t bring fuel with me. So I was relying on Gatorade more than normal. (all the extra liquid probably caused the side stitch). And toward the end of mile 4 I crossed the first of the 2 bridges on the course, the Trenton Makes Bridge. I made another dumb move here. Instead of running on the pedestrian walkways I just followed the bulk of the runners in front of me down the middle (where the cars usually go). The problem is that the pavement turns to open metal grates. So in addition to needing to slow down and gingerly travel over it so as not to twist an ankle I had a bit of a panic attack when I looked down and saw the water beneath me. I’m a wuss!

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Mile 5-6: 10:31 and 10:25 splits. Once over the bridge we ran through Morrisville, PA. I love races that span two states.

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Calamity Sally and metal grates don’t mix

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two states to run in are better than one

Mile 7: 10:33 split At this point I returned back into New Jersey. And enjoyed a straight flat stretch.

straight away!

straight away!

Miles 8-9: 10:41 and 11:47 THE HILLS!!!! Cadwalader Park! This park was really beautiful but SOOOOO hilly!!!!! I walked most of the hills. But that afforded me the time to take these pretty pictures =) Oh and because of my stupid knee I couldn’t even enjoy the downhills. I was actually slower and more tentative with each downhill step.

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uphill to mile 8 and downhill to mile 10

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Miles 10-12: 10:52, 10:17, 9:47 The next 3 miles were fairly flat and straight. You basically run on Route 29. This is where I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I knew the hills were a thing of the past at this point and my knee was less of an issue running the flat straightaway since I didn’t have to worry about any sudden jerking movements. Also, I decided it really didn’t matter now about fuel or hydration because I was diligent about keeping up with it for 10 miles and I knew I could have water and a soft pretzel at the finish which was just 5k away. (oh yes! my favorite part of this race is the soft pretzels they give out at the finish!) So I made the decision to push myself. I wanted to prove that I wasn’t going to let my final miles be dictated by my struggles up to that point. And boom: my last 3 miles of the race were my fastest splits of the second half of the race :)

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pushing it and even smiling a bit. Don’t you love how I can’t ever let go of my throwaway gloves. I’ve had them since 2012. I take them off and then don’t toss them.

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I hate my knee brace muffin top! :(

Mile 13: 10:10 split
The last mile brings you back toward the stadium of the minor league baseball team the Trenton Thunder and ultimately you run along the warning track around the ball field and as you round the 3rd baseline you make a straight dash to the finish line at home plate. It’s one of my favorite parts of this race. Now let me mention that the finish line is narrow and would never be able to accommodate runners if the race were too big so let’s hope it stays the size it is 😉 Jane finished with a PR of 1:54 so she had plenty of time to wait for me to enter the stadium. She ran the field with me and when I rounded third base she snapped a few shots of me. 

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Home stretch! (photo: Jane)

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I love this picture. Thanks Jane! Better than the professional shots.

and DONE! Let's eat!

and DONE! Let’s eat!

So I finished in 2:16:34. And frankly I’ll take it!

All in all I really do like this race. Two states, two bridges, pretty neighborhoods and parks and some decent length flat straightaways plus a cool medal! Aside from the late/crowded start everything else is really enjoyable. As for the hills in Cadwalader park….I’m coming back for you next year!!!!

Meanwhile my knee is still puzzling me. It doesn’t even bother me the next day. I literally forget about it until I run more than 3 miles. I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks focusing more on stretches and strength like I did after my ankle injury. Even though it’s not aching all day or causing me to limp I need to treat it and respect that it truly is an injury. I MUST be 100 percent healthy come January because I am starting my training for the 2015 New Jersey Marathon and that is my goal race.

 

 

 

Hi!

Last night I met up with a whole bunch of friends from High School at this old German bar near where I live. We had fun catching up on what’s been going on lately and talking about the past too. Then we went to the diner and ate french fries and such. I didn’t get home until after 1am. It was so much fun! Sometimes I wish I could re-do High School. I was so insecure then.

This morning I got up and took it easy on the couch just burying my head and recovering from my late night.

not ready yet!

not ready yet!

Of course my laptop and my credit card were in arms reach, so I signed up for some more races for 2014. I’ll be doing the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half on January 26th, the Love Run in Philadelphia on March 30th and the Trenton Half (again) on November 8th.

I <3 Half Marathons!

I <3 Half Marathons

By 11:30 I was ready to go for a run. Again, no particular distance to cover. It was warm again. In the mid 50s. I ended up with just under 7 1/2 miles total. (watch got screwy and I had to restart around .37 miles in.

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I did the usual neighborhood jaunt and entered into the park for about 1/4 mile for a nice change of scenery (and for a photo op).

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Oh, and I’m starting to change my mind about the new HB Tuneband phone holder strap. I wore it today and found it much easier to remove the phone to take pictures and then put it back in. =)

Since the dog didn’t get much of my attention yesterday I made up for it with a nice long walk.

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We really exhausted ourselves up and down hills through trails, open fields and on the beach.

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I tried really hard to get a good photo of us using the timer camera app on my phone.  I’d say after 3 tries it was a great big #fail…

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We got home a little while ago and now it’s already dark:( But the days are officially getting longer…The doodle is worn out after that long walk.

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And after 10+ miles on my feet I’m worn out too. Time to kick back and relax for a bit. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Question: Have you made any plans for 2014 yet? Vacation booked? Signed up for a race? Getting together with an old friend (or group of friends)?

Hope you have all had as amazing a weekend as I have! I this post is going to be 3 words short of an Epic Novel. Hope I don’t put you to sleep.

It started Friday afternoon at work with a craving for a warm chocolate chip cookie. After A hysterical request on FaceBook for some ideas of where to get one, I remembered that we have this great Farmer’s Market right outside of my office building (for a few more weeks at least) with a booth from Meredith’s Bread in Kingston, NY. Bingo! I bought a package of 4, put them in the microwave for 10 seconds and I was in heaven. I ate all 4 like a mad woman. My boss later told me he was waiting for me to offer him one. Oops! My bad!

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Friday continued to get even better. I packed up the car with the doodle, an overnight bag and the running gear I would need for the following day and headed to my brother and sister-in-law’s house. We went (along with my niece) to Smash Burger for dinner. It was my first time! 3 words: I’ll Be Back!! Fried pickles???!!!! Hello!! YUM-to the-MEEEE!!! And then we had some gelato.

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Maybe not the best pre-race dinner decisions, but hey, I was just going to be running for fun on Saturday….or so I thought (more on that shortly).

Saturday morning I headed out about 6am to Trenton, NJ. Parked the car at one of the designated lots (so easy) and walked a few short blocks to the starting area by 7:30am. It was cold but sunny and there really wasn’t much wind making it more comfortable than I had anticipated. I didn’t even take my throwaway sweatshirt or gloves and at the last minute swapped out my winter hat for just a baseball cap. Within a few minutes I met up with Jane and her group.

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Jane and Sally. Just like the book.

Jane's great group of friends

Jane’s great group of friends

Her hubby and some other guys from her running group were running the 10K and the girls were all running the half.

Jane’s goal was to break 2 hours. Mine was to just finish. After finishing the NYC Marathon just 6 days prior, having that groin tweak and a new hamstring tightness that showed up Friday evening (which i noticed somewhere between the cookie and the fried pickles therefore not really caring) I knew I wasn’t prepared to push it. But this is where I prove time and time again that running is so much more about the heart and the mind than it is about the legs. I freaking PR’d!!!!! I mean I KILLED IT!!! 

I started out the first few miles just smiling and enjoying the lovely course. I even broke out the iPhone and started snapping pics around mile 4 and continued to snap until about mile 7.

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we crossed 2 bridges and covered 2 states—New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

During this time I’d notice my watch splits were all sub 10. But I wasn’t really thinking PR. Just that maybe my watch lost satellite or something and it wasn’t accurate. At mile 7 I looked at the elapsed time, did the math and realized it WAS accurate. Something in my head clicked over to PR land. It was going to be my final race of the year, my 17th race overall, 11th half marathon and how cool that I could possibly PR. And so I started to push. My timing of that decision was pretty crappy because we hit the one large hill of the course right at 7.5! But I pushed and pushed and before you knew it we were back to a nice flat stretch before bringing it home (literally) as we ran the warning track of the Trenton Thunder’s ballpark before finishing at home base.

I saw Jane (who rocked a 1:57 PR and made her goal of breaking 2 hours) in the stadium. She ran along side me, took these cute shots and we exchanged happy words of PRs!

a few yards from the finish line. Loved my new running tights but man my legs are quite "stocky"!

a few yards from the finish line. Loved my new running tights but man my legs are quite “stocky”!!!

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My official time was 2:07:54 (a 1:24 PR from the Little Rock Half back in March). And I think the main reason for this amazing time was that I FINALLY got to listen to my perfectly crafted marathon playlist that I didn’t get to listen to last weekend. I’m going to rename it PR-Playlist now!

speed sisters

speed sisters

We waited for the rest of the group to finish, grabbed some water and pretzels (I think soft pretzels should be standard at every race finish!) took a group finish pic and then headed to the after party at a bar near the stadium. We had our first celebratory “warm up” beer and chips here which were included with the race registration before driving a short ways away to a local tavern called the Firkin Tavern for the “main event” beer and meal.

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the finishers!

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I heart soft pretzels. That is all.

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Steak Quesadillas and a Sam Adams! Celebrate good times c’mon!

Jane surprised me with a belated birthday gift! Some bubbly and homemade applesauce! So cool! I LOVE homemade stuff.

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One of my favorite things since becoming a runner is meeting so many new friends who have fit right in that I can’t imagine my life not knowing them. Jane is one of those friends. I’m really looking forward to our long run training through the winter and early spring months of 2014 in preparation for the NJ Marathon on April 27th.

Two funny coincidences happened too. The first was that Jane, who was running the half and her husband who was running the 10k (which started about 15 min. later) ended up running together at one point on the course when the routes converged. Soulmates!

The other coincidence is that I took a photo on one of the bridges along the course not realizing the girl in pink was Jane’s friend Isabella who I met after the race was over. When I was showing Jane my photos she realized it was Isabella. How funny!

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Hi Isabella! Nice to meet you 2 hours before I met you. LOL!

Runner’s world mentioned in this article that there would be a 5 year old boy running the Trenton Half. I was alarmed at first to be honest. 5 seems a bit young to run that far of a distance. But I was fortunate to watch little Anthony and his mom finish (holding hands until the very last second where she let him finish first) and I have to say I could see for myself that he was a natural. I still don’t think it should become commonplace for 5 year olds to do this but I won’t be so quick to judge next time. Congratulations Anthony for finishing in 2:22 and being the youngest to complete a half. (Not sure that’s official but the announcer said it.)

After an amazing day with my freak PR I headed back to my brother and sister-in-law’s Saturday late afternoon and we all went out for dinner again. This time it was sushi and boy did we have a good laugh-fest. Let’s just say my niece and I were rapping about Japanese food. Come on and rock me with your beef negemaki….then my sister in law joined the fun singing (to the beat of Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby) Rice Rice Baby!! I’m blessed to have the support of my family! If it weren’t for them, Duncan wouldn’t have had anyone to watch him and I would have had to dart home after the race and miss out on the fun at the Firkin Tavern.

And now that my great weekend has come to a close, so has my running season. A season that basically started in the beginning of January and never let up. I’m going to take 6 weeks “off” (with no structured routine at least) and ramp back up after New Years. I will surely find other ways to Sweat Out the Small Stuff so that I stay sane and I’ll surely be blogging as well.

In the meantime I’ll be letting my strained groin and hamstring muscles heal by doing a lot of this for a few days…

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Double the doodle. Duncan in front and my furry niece Casey at my feet.

Question: Do you have an “off-season”? What is your favorite meal post-race or hard workout?