I ran the Trenton 5k this past weekend and can’t wait to tell you all about it but first I’ll just share a few highlights since my last post.

Well, I returned those Altra Torin 3.0’s that just didn’t seem to feel comfortable on my feet and ended up getting a pair of New Balance Fresh Foam (1080) sneakers.new-balance-frsh-foam

I sort of wanted to just exchange the Torin’s for a new pair of my beloved Escalante’s but they were out of my size so I tried on a ton of different kinds and these felt really comfortably. I’m hoping I don’t regret it but hey, I can return these too! Road Runner gives their VIP customers 90 days to return shoes from the originial shoe purchase. So I can keep going through the drill until January if I have too!

I haven’t actually worn the New Balance yet but I’ll most likely try a mile or 2 in them this week. After I left the store I went straight to the pizzeria where I got a few slices. Figured i’d celebrate my last night as a 43 year old with my favorite meal.

Yum!

Yum!

My birthday itself was rather lovely. I received beautiful flowers from Mr. SOTSS since I wouldn’t be seeing him until the next day. flowers-from-mr-sotssI went for a run and enjoyed the peak fall foliage right in my neighborhood.

Birthday Run

Birthday Run

local fall foliage

local fall foliage

Oh, and my sister in law sent me an Edible Arrangement.

Edible Arrangement with a side of cute dog

Edible Arrangement with a side of cute dog

And of course I walked with Duncan…

duncan-park-fallI also worked a ton. I’m being “blessed” right now with so much work. Freelance life is feast or famine and right now I’m feasting! But boy will I be busy the next few weeks.

Trenton Half Marathon 10k and 5k day

So on Saturday Mr. SOTSS and I drove down to Trenton, NJ so he could run the half marathon and I could run the 5k. My friend Jane was running the 10k (her first race since having her baby) and our friend Amy was also running the half. I’ve run the half in 3 previous years. You can read my recap for 2016 here, my 2014 recap here and my 2013 recap here.

It was so much easier this time around to watch Mr. SOTSS run a half because at least I was back in action and getting to run the 5k. If you don’t remember, he ran the New Jersey half back in May and I was too injured to run so I spectated and cried a whole lot.

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The half and 10k start together at 8am but we all knew from previous experience not to expect it to start on time. The 5k starts out 30 minutes after. So at 8:15 I wished Amy, Jane and Mr. SOTSS good luck and then I found a spot by the start to snap a few pics of the start of the race. trenton-half-startThey were off by 8:20 and then 10 minutes later so was I since the 5k stayed on schedule. I really planned to take it easy. My toe has been doing fine but my right foot has been giving me some frustration lately. Just feeling weak and achy. I guess it’s also getting used to running again. But within the first mile my body warmed up and I felt really good. I knew I wouldn’t get to see too much along the short course compared to the half but I got a nice view of the fall foliage along with its reflection right away. trenton-5k-sceneryMy happiness was palpable. I could feel joy with every step. And before I knew it I was halfway through. I noticed on my watch that I was keeping a pace just under a 10 min mile and was so surprised. I ended up finishing in 30:21 with a 9:47 pace. Woo hoo! That was quite a nice surprise.Trenton-5k-results

IMG_3678All of the races end at the same place in the stadium of the Trenton Thunder (minor league baseball team) and when you enter into the stadium, you run around the warning track along the outfield until you reach home plate. So as Jane entered from her 10k I ran alongside her and cheered her on.

Run Jane Run!

Run Jane Run!

I did the same an hour later for Mr. SOTSS as he finished and also for Amy just a few minutes behind him.

Entering the stadium

Entering the stadium

Amy bringing it home

Amy bringing it home

That was the BEST part of the day. Usually everyone is waiting on me. So I was excited to be there to greet them all.

Even when I’m back to running half marathons, I’d still consider running the Trenton 5 or 10ks. It’s nice to be at an event with options!

Yesterday we had a large get together with Mr. SOTSS’ side of the family and he had a cake for me so that I could officially blow out some birthday candles.

wish made!

wish made!

Duncan hasn’t been feeling well so we’re going to the vet tomorrow. It started a couple of weeks ago with his very predictable firm pooping consistency turning into soft serve. It’s been that way now for 2 weeks and then this weekend he started to do this weird sneezing/snorting thing. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. He’s eating, drinking and playing normally which comforts me :)

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Did anyone run this weekend?

Anyone celebrate anything this weekend?

So happy to report that my back is almost back to 100%! I was seriously freaking out when i last posted.

So now I’m finally planning my comeback.

Clearly Duncan is thrilled about my comeback

Clearly Duncan is thrilled about my comeback

I’m looking forward to joining my hiking group tonight and returning to the yoga mat tomorrow morning. I’ll modify as needed for my back if I feel the need.

And I’ve resumed what I was just getting underway with at physical therapy for my toe 2 weeks ago when the back went out. Yesterday I did 3 sets of toe raises and took a brisk walk. I’ll incorporate some jumps soon. Just want to make sure my back is truly 100 percent first. The next couple of weeks will be all about stress and rest which is what my toe needs to continue repairing in its final phases of healing. I found this great post on the site irunfar.com about recovering from soft tissue injury that explains everything so clearly.

My plan is to actually start running a little in another week or 2. I’m going to follow the rule of 2 starting with a 10 minute easy run and adding 2 minutes to each subsequent run so long as I have no pain. (I’ll be taking at least one rest day in between runs to monitor the situation).

Over the next 3 monnths I’ve got three 5Ks that I’d like to run (slow and steady!) if possible. I have to say that I am being cautiously optimistic but even just the idea that I’ll be running again this year makes me so happy.

trenton-halfSince Mr. SOTSS has already signed up for the Trenton Half at the end of October I’m hoping I can run the 5K. (Here’s my recap from 20162014 and 2013.)

fall-flat-5k

Then there’s the Fall Flat 5K in mid-November (where I truly discovered what “conversational pace” was at last year’s race).

big-chillAnd finally the Big Chill 5K in December (you can read a little about last year’s race here. If all goes well I’ll think about increasing mileage next year.

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!)

thalf4

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.

photo 3

Calamity Sally and metal grates don’t mix

photo 4

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.

photo 4-1

uphill to mile 8 and downhill to mile 10

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photo 5-1

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 :)

thalf2

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.

thalf1

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. 

Photo Nov 08-7

Home stretch! (photo: Jane)

Photo Nov 08-12

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.