I’m an Iron Girl & a Trail Runner! (#IronGirlHalf #TrailRun)

by Liz daRosa (@RoadRacing_Liz)

September has been quite a month for me as a runner. I’ve accomplished 2 big races which stretched and stressed me, mind and body.

On Labor Day weekend, I ran a trail race (Thorpe Wood 10K) in the Cactoctin Mountains of Western Maryland. I had completed a trail race a few weeks prior but that was a relatively flat course (I blogged about my 1st trail run at CleanEatingMommy so feel free to head over there to check it out.).

The Thorpe Wood race was challenging on multiple levels:

  1. Mountains – Yes, I said mountains, what was I thinking signing up for it?
  2. I wasn’t prepared for such a difficult trail. A few of the trail runners told me they’d done the race for the past 8 years and it “got harder every year!”
  3. I don’t own trail shoes, that will change! And I wore my shoes from last season but they are extremely comfortable so that was a huge plus as I pushed and gripped the ground going up and heading down the various mountainous points on the trail.
  4. I nearly tripped on my shoe, a rock, a root and my shoe again throughout the race. On the road you don’t need to worry about physical barriers to your racing and your legs don’t get as tired (at least mine don’t).
  5. That morning when I woke up I had a terrible sore throat and felt worn down. Needless to say, it wasn’t one of my ‘peak race days’ but I did it anyway.
ThorpeWood Trail Run 10K on 9.6.15  (Time 1:29:59)
ThorpeWood Trail Run 10K on 9.6.15
(Time 1:29:59)

Then the following Saturday, I did the Iron Girl Half Marathon in Columbia, Maryland. Holy cow that was a L….O…..N….G race. I haven’t done a half in 5 years and my body didn’t seem to remember those 13.1 miles as I started.

About a month ago I joined the local chapter of Mom’s Run This Town and met up with 2 other mom’s at the start of the race. Having female camaraderie with running & racing is a new experience for me, typically my husband and kids are my cheering section and hi-fives beforehand, but I love the different way women connect with running. I love my local chapter in Columbia, MD and I wish I would have found the group ages ago.

Before the Iron Girl Half, 9.12.15
Before the Iron Girl Half – 9.12.15

Of course, the weather made for an interesting race when from mile 2 until I neared the Finish it rained – it was only a light rain but it still added a ‘challenge’ to the course that wouldn’t have been there had it been sunny. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a race (no matter what the length) and it’s been sunny & so hot you wished for rain.

I didn’t do anything on race day that I hadn’t done while training (and yes, I actually trained by going 10 miles a few times before the race). I felt strong through the 6 mile marker and the half-way point where we ran over the timing carpet to see where we landed at the mid-way point. I told myself, you just did this distance last week but that’s when it hit me – I had that same distance to still travel.

So, I focused on the scenery which wasn’t easy to do, since this was the first time I’d neglected to wear my hat and the rain was covering my sunnies so much it became a huge distraction. I ended up clipping my sunnies to my t-shirt and letting the rain cover my face so I could look around – that helped. Then I became obsessed with the mile markers – I kept telling myself just get to mile 10 and then you just need to do a 5K and you do those all the time!

I nearly danced the gig when I passed mile marker 10 – I believe I even said aloud, “I got this!” People around me probably thought I was crazy but I smiled. I knew from experience that I could do a 5K no matter what the weather, no matter how tired I felt, I had it. And I was right. It did help that the race was in the town I live in so I’m very familiar with the landmarks and I instinctively knew where the 11th, 12th and 13th mile markers would be.

I'm an Iron Girl!!
I’m 42, I’m a Mom & I’m an Iron Girl! 9.12.15

As I neared the finish I saw the pink lined fences that drew the racers into the finishers gate. This racing season I have followed the advice of an ultra runner (I didn’t write down her name) of saving some energy for the last 1/2 mile of a race to end strong. This strategy has worked for me and made me feel powerful as I cross the finish line. I went to increase my speed and I saw my husband and kids, I could see the pride on my husband’s face when he saw me, he was taking pictures and cheering for me.

As I moved past him he ran with the double stroller to the finish so he could get me crossing the finish line. Past his line of sight, I increased my strides and a race volunteer who was 25 feet ahead of the finish line yelled “come on #380 DIG IN!” and my legs automatically went faster, it was awesome!

I heard the announcer say, “#380 Liz daRosa making a strong finish!” This was the first race where I wasn’t worried about my time, I just wanted to finish. I did have a time goal (under 3 hours) and it turns out I made it (2:58:54) which was icing on the cake! The half’s I’d done before had all been over 3 hours so to get a time under was such a validation to my training and push this year.

I have plenty of races on the books, to reach more goals and to dig deeper and accomplish new race firsts. I took off 2 days from running after the Iron Girl Half but have planned a training run with a member of the MRTT in the morning & I’m looking forward to seeing her and catching up on her racing accomplishments since our last training run a few weeks ago.

The last month has taught me a lot about myself as a runner and I know that I can continue to push myself and set new goals and that it’s a blast to share these experiences (trials and triumphs) with other mom’s who run too!

WoooHooo, I did it!

I hope to see you on the trails, the road or on the side-lines! Liz

2015 meGoal Update: Completed Two More 5Ks!

by Liz daRosa @RoadRacing_Liz

A quick meGoal update:

I slowed down this weekend and only completed 2 road races (ha!); one at Ft. Meade Racing Series celebrating the Army’s Birthday and the other was an inspirational community race (Miles 4 Molly 5K) in Timonium-Lutherville, a town in Baltimore County.

Miles 4 Molly 5K, June 14, 2015
Miles 4 Molly 5K, June 14, 2015

I love the tanks given out at the Miles 4 Molly race, they are so much nicer to run in especially in the summer heat.

It appears, as with last weekend, that my race time for the last race of the weekend is better than the others…slightly annoying!

Tony & I planned training runs Monday, Thursday & Friday to help increase speed and endurance in anticipation of the coming weekends races.

Comment below and share your road racing experiences!

Run Your Own Race & Set Your Own Pace, Liz

Catching my 2015 Fitness meGoal!

By Liz daRosa @RoadRacing_Liz

If you’ve read my posts this year, you’ll remember I developed a fitness meGoal of 4 states and 300 miles and 11:30 pace. Prior to this weekend, I had a few races, a dozen training runs and a handful of times I’d made my pace time for one mile. Also, I’ve raced in Maryland & Pennsylvania – much progress was needed, it’s June for goodness sake!

However, this weekend I made quite a bit of progress. Saturday we did a twilight race (6:30pm) about 30 miles from where we live. It was a nice race for us and one that benefited an elementary school so it was families from that area, a very local crowd; a great atmosphere when you are running with kids. This season, Tony has a double-stroller and is pushing both kids so I can work on improving my pace. This neighborhood race had never-ending hills, I felt bad for Tony pushing that 90 lbs…but my first mile was 10:30 – I was thrilled!

Sunday morning we ran a race we did last year and 2 miles away – bonus! We were able to sleep-in but the race started at 9am (many start at 7am or 8am) which made weather an issue. The course is one we do a few times a week to train so we are familiar with the course. The atmosphere brought us back to this race, they create a fun racing experience with a great D.J. and high-energy volunteers that make you feel welcome and motivated.

Here’s an example: about 50 feet before I crossed the finish line, the D.J. called out my name & prompted me to push to the end which got the 4 volunteers near the finish line to cheer for me too. If you are a racer you know that doesn’t happen at every race.

2015 fitness meGoal
2015 fitness meGoal

After this race, we spent a few hours at a health fair in the same park. The kids loved the free sunglasses (connection is eye health for kids) and helium balloons. It was a very warm day so on top of the race, we were zapped. We went home, napped (at least the kids did), changed & went to Virginia for another twilight race.

The race in Virginia was part of the Women’s Distance Festival Series (I’m doing that series) and one I hadn’t done before.  Can you believe, this was my best race of the weekend – I was surprised but Tony called it before I started. While my body was aching from the previous races, thankfully the course was a flat out & back race which propelled me to go faster.

At each race, Tony and the kids are near the finish line cheering me in and these races were no different. I feel blessed to be able to experience these races with them.

I’m glad I did these 3 races but I won’t be signing up to do 3 in one weekend anytime soon. When we got home tonight I checked the calendar and noticed we have 2 races each weekend thru June, that’s ok, it means more miles and more chances to reach my pace goal consistently.

Even though we are all tired, it was an awesome weekend for our fitness and time together as a family.

I’d love to hear about your fitness/running journey!

Road Racing Liz

Patriot Pride 5K – May 2015

by Liz daRosa @RoadRacing_Liz

This Saturday we ran the Patriot Pride 5K which is part of the Ft. Meade Racing Series. My time was less than I’d hoped but I was consistent in my pace the entire time. Normally, I push too hard on the first mile, have chin pain and don’t feel like I have enough for the end of the race. So consistency was a win – time wasn’t. No biggie, there’s always another race!

Run Your Own Race, Liz

Patriot Pride 5K, Ft. Meade Racing Series 2015
Patriot Pride 5K, Ft. Meade Racing Series 2015

I’m Ready, Are You? #WomensDistanceFestival #iRun

by @RoadRacing_Liz

This Sunday, April 26th starts the 26th Annual Women’s Distance Festival, Grand Prix Series in Maryland. It’s made up of nine 5K races in Maryland and one in Virginia. The first race is this weekend in Havre de Grace.

Last year I accidentally stumbled on the Series after it started so I only had the opportunity to participate in half the races. Before these races I’d never done an all-women’s race and didn’t understand how motivating it would be to run side-by-side these great women & girls.

I ended up with a PR at the Baltimore Women’s Classic and I recall how it felt to be navigating the hilly streets of Baltimore combined with hot and muggy weather. It was brutal!

Balt. Women's Classic & Run for Roses 5K, 2014
Balt. Women’s Classic & Run for Roses 5K, 2014

I’m excited to do the entire series this year and will have my husband and little ones there to cheer me on.

So far this racing season I’ve completed two 5K races, one by myself (Hot Chocolate 5K in Philly) and one pushing the stroller (Ft. Meade Racing Series Run) and received close to the same time at both. The WDF races don’t allow strollers or men so I’ll be going these races alone or rather with great women and girls from around the state and probably the country.

I’m on my quest to accomplish the #meGoal I set for racing this year: 4 states and 300 miles. I’ve already crossed off 2 states (Maryland & Pennsylvania) and 52 miles [includes training miles]. I hope to see you at some of the races!

Keep Racing but Make Sure You Run Your Own Race, Liz

Surprise Yourself: Train!

Liz: On the 1st, Tony & I took the kids to Centennial Park for our first training 5k of the year. I wore my new shoes New Balance 470v4 and compression pants I got for Christmas. You never know how wearing new gear is going to impact your time but I had no expectations we were just out for a walk.

As I expected, the park was full of like-minded people fulfilling their fitness Resolutions so we had to weave in and around folks with the strollers. There were times Tony had to jog to keep up with me (I LOVE it when that happens!).

About halfway thru the back of my left foot started rubbing against my shoe – darn new shoes! I told myself it’s just a 5k even if I get a blister I have to keep moving. Tony & I talked the entire way & we hadn’t been out in a few weeks because of the holidays, so I didn’t anticipate a great training time.

I time myself on my iPhone but I don’t check until I push ‘stop’ & this time was no different. We finished, I was sweating and slightly out of breath, I stopped the clock and it said 35:36 (which translates to an 11:41 pace) I couldn’t believe it! I nearly reached my goal for the year on the first day of the year in new shoes & not even focused on training. I thought I’d need to run to get to my goal pace but I didn’t, I just need to get out there & train.

We made plans to get the kids to daycare early & do another 5k training (me walking & Tony running) but that night I got the flu and ended up spending the next day & night locked in our room sleeping through bouts of chills & sweats.

Today, I’m about 80% so instead of pushing myself doing a training ‘run’ we packed up the kids & headed to the mall. It was nice to be vertical and it felt good to stretch my legs.

It’s funny how being sick, even just for a day, makes you  appreciate an outstanding training day even more. I loved how I felt mentally & physically when I finished and saw that time in the mid-30’s and I want feel that way again & again. This racing year I won’t be only collecting racing shirts but I’ll be working towards replicating that ‘runners high’ at the end of each race.

There are 26 days until my first race with just as many times to hit that goal. I’ll check back in tomorrow.

Push yourself, Liz

Reflecting on 2014: Liz & Tony

Tony: 2014 was a good year for me. I was recovering from an ankle injury but I finished every race. Several races I had better times then I’d had for years. I did my first Dualthon even though I came in last – I made it across the finish line on my own and without any injuries (except to my pride). The races I enjoyed the most were the ones where I pushed our son in the stroller. If he’s not sleeping during the races he’s cheering (heckling me) “Faster Daddy, Faster!”

Liz: 2014 was a great year for me! I was able to participate in all the races that I couldn’t do the year prior when I was pregnant with Izzy. However, I’m having to learn how to race while pushing the stroller since I haven’t yet convinced Tony that a double-stroller is a must for him! My best race of the year was the Across the Bay 10K and has catapulted me into race & training mode to achieve more personal successes next year.

We’ll be checking in several times a week with our training suggestions, new gear ‘must haves’ or ‘ok to pass’, best local races (for swag & food) and pictures from our road races. We joined the MoCo Road Runners Club and our first race will be on February 1, 2015. We hope to see some of you who are local at races in the coming year. Please feel free to share your suggestions and join me on my journey 12 months, 5 states, and 300 miles.

Run Your Own Race, Liz