Going LoCo in Loudoun … Who’s Coming with Me?

Around this time last year I had this loco idea to run two races in one weekend!

Fast forward a few months to April 2017 … as office talk about weekend plans began on Thursday, I told my co-workers about my upcoming LoCo Challenge and almost every one of them slowly repeated back to me (as if I were unaware of what I said) “So, you’re running an 8K on Saturday … and a Half Marathon on Sunday … the same weekend?” “Yessss!” I said, slowly shaking my head, “It will be FUN!” Now, this was the first time I would attempt such an event so I was really aiming to convince myself with my conviction, but it was in celebration of my first “runniversary.”

Hotel Review

So there I was, driving to my Candlewood Suites on Friday. After reviewing the course maps I decided to stay somewhere that was nearly equal distance from the 8K (~4 miles) and the Half Marathon (~5 miles). I know this may sound weird, but I really appreciate a hotel where parking is free (charging me to park where I plan to sleep has never made sense to me); where there is a fridge and a microwave in the room (makes prepping for a race easier); and where the living quarter is spacious (a girl needs room to foam roll). The hotel was also close to several shopping centers, stores, and quite a few restaurants. Going in one direction led to Dulles 28 Centre and going in the other direction led to the Dulles Town Center. Additionally, there was a Wal-Mart and a Target close by. The location was definitely convenient.

Packet Pick-Up

The Ashburn Area Running Club did a great job producing this race. I elected to pick-up my packet Saturday morning before the race. It was very easy – there were plenty of volunteers to direct traffic and answer questions (although there were also plenty of signs … sometimes reading is fundamental … just sayin’). Parking was plentiful and once reaching the pick-up tent, I was in and out in a cinch (one bib for the LoCo Challenge and three good quality t-shirts).

The Races

8K on Saturday: It was cloudy and 59 degrees – which was perfect! I linked up with Monique, one of my sole sisters, at One Loudoun. She’s a fast runner, so a few minutes before the race began I wished her good luck as she moved towards the front of the crowd (that’s what the fast runners do … I tend to find a decent spot in the middle). Some of the runners around me complained about the overcast and the light misty rain that began moments before we started, but I couldn’t have been happier with the weather. I would characterize the course as “rolling hills” but I felt good throughout the race (and to be clear … I loathe hills). There wasn’t a lot of crowd support throughout the course (likely due to the course layout) but there were enough volunteers full of smiles and words of encouragement waving us in the right direction. I felt great the entire race and was happy to see my sole sister at the end waiting on me.

8K Course Map

8K Course Map from 2017 (courtesy of Loudon Half Races)

 

Half Marathon on Sunday: Getting to Broad Run High School was pretty easy, and by the time we arrived the roads were already marked off. The weather was beautiful; sunny with a little clouds and it was a crisp 45 degrees when the race started. There was more crowd support on Sunday and I must say the volunteers for this race series are among the best I’ve experienced. During all races I make it a habit to thank the police officers, transit cops, and volunteers for their service. It seemingly takes them by surprise, but without them running safely wouldn’t be possible.

This course also included a few rolling hills. But after Saturday I accepted my fate and just rolled with it! Miles three through seven were on the W&OD Trail and it was a welcomed change, there was a moment of serenity along that trail that I really appreciated. Oh, and a HUGE shout out to the awesome volunteers at the elementary school near mile 12! They had oranges! I’ve never appreciated an orange that much in my life, it definitely gave me the boost of energy I needed to finish strong. My beau was kind enough to drive up on Saturday night to support me and I was happy to see his smiling face at the finish line.

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Half Marathon Course Map from 2017 (courtesy of Loudoun Races)

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Finishing the Half Marathon / LoCo Challenge

BLING and Goodies: These medals are definitely on my list of favorites. The quality, the design, and the size are awesome!  The middle of the challenge medal spins, as does the the “13.1” on the medal for the Half. Bling bling baby!!

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Among my Favorite Finisher Medals

In addition to some great snacks, finishers also received a durable and spacious lunch bag courtesy of INOVA (I use this bag every day). There were also a plethora of photos of both races posted on the website to access.

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INOVA Lunch Bags (courtesy of Loudoun Races)

So Who’s Coming with Me?

I am excited to say, I will be “going loco” again this year on April 21st and 22nd! So…maybe I’ll see you there? Come on and register, it’ll be FUN!

 

 

In the Name of Walls and Devious Thoughts

My beau (bless his heart) has always been the voice of reason, the beacon of positivity and perspective, and the “hype man” before the race. During my first year of racing this drove me crazy because I was the over-thinker, the planner, and I was “in the zone” like 30 minutes before the start — basically I was really nervous. So questions like “Are you ready?” and “Are you excited?” were usually met with stank eyes.

So, there we were (hey, this is how all the good stories start) in summer 2016 at the Quantico 12K. This was my first time running more than 5 miles. Uh…YES, I knew 12K was 7.46 miles … and NO, I didn’t really train for the run. In retrospect, there were soooo many things I didn’t know about running. But, that’s not the point.

So, there we were, running our first race together. He easily has a pace a few minutes faster than mine, so I just assumed that he (like my Sole Sisters I race with) would simply run ahead and I’d see him at the finish line. But after I turned the first bend, there he was (his pace slowed, trying to find me through the crowd). Damnit! I thought … I had no illusions of grandeur in my pace … so I immediately feared I’d slow him down. “What are you doing babe? Go ahead, run your race,” I said. “No babe, we are going to run this together!” he replied. I really didn’t want to slow him down, but I appreciated the gesture … at first.

A couple miles into the run, he looked at me and asked “How you feelin’ babe?” In my mind I was thinking “Uh, like my heart is beating fast and I don’t wanna run this race!” but of course I just said “I’m good.” Well, perhaps he didn’t hear me … because like TWO MINUTES LATER he asked the same question. Okay! In all fairness, it was probably longer than two minutes, but after being asked the same questions a few times I was coming pretty close to losing it!

—- The Wall —-

Just when I was approaching my mental wall … which was probably 1/2 mile after the 5 mile marker … there my loving beau was running along side me … still talking … still asking me questions … still periodically looking over at me. And it happened … he had his phone in his hand and he said, “Hey babe…” when I abruptly yelled “I swear if you say one more thing about this race!!!”  He looked at me in shock and answered, “I was just going to share this song with you” (showing me his playlist).

Oh Great!” I thought…”NOW I’m the jerk!”

I think he knew I hit my wall (hmm, wonder what gave him that idea), so for the rest of the race he tried encouraging me, “You’re doing great babe.” “Pick up your feet a little bit, there you go, good stride, you’re looking good.” I still had a horn and fangs … but said nothing in response. This was the part of the course where clearing the last 1.4 miles includes a continuous (seemingly never ending) incline. Mind you, this was two months after running the Semper 5ive and I was beginning to see a trend with the Marines (hills, they love those dang hills).

My beloved beau kept encouraging me, and as we climbed the last hill and passed the 7 mile marker he reached for my hand so we could run in together. Well, (horn and fangs in full effect) I pulled my hand back and just tried to focus on not dying … but he stuck right next to me and we crossed the finish line together.

—- Devious Thoughts —-

Never one to miss an opportunity for self-reflection, after I ate my banana, drank half my beer, and we took our “finisher photo”… I looked into his eyes, grabbed his hand, and apologetically said “Babe… I’m SO sorry for being mean to you during the race!”

He looked at me, with his beautiful blue eyes and bright smile, and retorted …

“Aww…babe, it’s okay … but you do that crap again and I’ll PUSH your ass off the trail and into some bushes.” 

quantico 12k (2016)

We Started Together, We Finished Together

Charging, Trailing, and Trotting with the MARINES!! (Semper 5ive Review)

As noted, I have a love-hate relationship with running, but it’s just about time to start registering for some of my favorite races. Oddly enough, I love the Marine Corps race series because all of the courses include inclines/hills – which I still hate, but I sure do love the feeling of finishing … like a boss! 

Over the last two years I’ve charged Hospital Hill during the Semper 5ive, I’ve run over the hills and through the woods during the Quantico 12K, and I’ve trotted along the streets of Quantico during the Turkey Trot 10K.

Semper 5ive: Charging the Hill(s)

Registration for this beloved event opens on January 17th and it’s part of the Historic Half race weekend on May 20th, which includes two additional race opportunities (the Historic Half or the Devil Dog Double). I’ve run Semper 5ive twice, and I tell you, there must be some truth to the “suppression or substitution” notion of trying to erase unpleasant memories. Everyone talks about Hospital Hill and yeah it’s a beast, but there is another hill somewhere within the last mile, that everyone conveniently forgets to mention! What? You’re scoffing because you don’t like hills? Me either! But the crowd support throughout the race – especially going up those hills and along the home stretch is totally worth it (whispers “come on, you should totally run this with me“)!

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Semper 5ive Course Map

The last leg of the run is relatively flat and I seem to have trouble judging the remaining distance (let’s call it … oh shall we say … “Oh my gosh! When is this over?!?!” syndrome). So those last few hundred meters feels like an eternity, but I try not to die while kicking it in gear.

—- Woot! Woot! You Finished … Now What? —-

The Marines do a phenomenal job of herding the finishers through the corral at the end. Walk (or stumble) a few steps, one of them will give you the medal … (and they’ll make sure you keep walking) … then you’ll approach the refreshments … just hold open the bag someone has magically put in your hand and walk the line of tables (it’s really that easy). Then, you’ll see the area on the side for photo ops. Don’t neglect this opportunity to relish the moment and make memories … eh, um … but please be considerate, there’s a line forming behind you!

Semper 5ive

My Bling from 2016 (L) and 2017 (R)

After that, there’s only one direction for you to walk … you will walk towards the beer tent (straight ahead); the family rendezvous area (to the right), and the exit (towards your left). Once you get out of the fenced area you’ll be walking in the same direction as the free shuttles in the Central Park Wal-Mart parking lot (it’s really not too long of a walk … but the Marines want to make sure you get a good cool down … wink, wink).

Sounds awesome huh! That’s because it is. Let’s recap … five miles to run; four months until the race; three potential races to run that weekend; two hills to conquer; and one week until registration opens!!!

Okay, now, before you forget, save the dates: register on January 17th, run on May 20th!

So, maybe I’ll see ya there?

In the Name of Love: a Gala, a Mocha, and a Mile

While this story does not involve a race it does envelope the essence of what has inspired me to start this blog. As I mentioned, my affection for running developed in conjunction with my long-distant relationship with my beau. In an attempt to make the most out of our quality time, despite group outings we try to steal moments just for us. New Year’s Eve weekend was a perfect combination of lovers, lobbies, and lounges.

—- A Gala —-

It started with the 2018 Black Tie New Year’s Eve Gala hosted by the International Club D.C.! I’ve attended this phenomenal event the last two years … and let me tell you … for a little over $100 my ticket got me a 10:30pm entry, multiple ballrooms with different genres of music, open bars in each room, and yummy (like my inner fat girl almost lost her damn mind, yummy) international desserts. Mannn listen, if it weren’t for making sure my belly didn’t bulge in my dress this girl would’ve hung out with the desserts all night. Eh, um, I digress … oh yes … there’s also champagne and a balloon drop at midnight in a couple of the rooms. It’s really a no fuss occasion and a perfect event to get all decked out in a beautiful cocktail dress and suit (despite the name, the dress code is “black tie optional, cocktail attire requested”).

 

We celebrated with a group of friends … occasionally our posse would ride out from one room to the other to check out the live bands, the DJs, or spend some time in the Karaoke room. Umm, yeah so… friends shouldn’t let friends sing drunk … EVER … just sayin’. Anyway … all in all, this event holds a special place in my heart because it’s like time stands still as I share a special moment with my beau … the count down from 10 -> 9 -> 8 -> 7 … the anticipation … 3 -> 2 -> 1… the “Happy New Year!” that rings throughout the room with such excitement … and then we share a kiss (or two) … ahhh … it’s so romantic. We had sooo much fun and made wonderful memories with our group of friends – some of which were recorded … and for a small fee will disappear forever … I’m totally kidding!.

—- A Mocha —-

After departing the hotel (more on that in another blog) we relied on our trusty google maps for nearby options for breakfast. I woke up in the mood for some damn bacon (I love bacon, not that damn turkey stuff, REAL bacon). So we found two options, the first (the DINER) was a few miles from the hotel. Unfortunately, there was a 35 minute wait (did I mention that I was hungry which is nearly synonymous with hangry). So we turned on our heels enroute to the second option. However, walking along the sidewalk back to the car, we noticed the Tryst Coffee House that conveniently had a menu displayed on a stand outside. My beau asked “do you wanna try this place?” as we both hastily inventoried the menu — personally, I was looking for two things (1) was it still serving breakfast and (2) was there an option for bacon? We both decided it was a good choice.

The moment we walked in, I was intrigued by the set up … instead of boring tables set in a uniformed manner, my eyes danced around the room noticing families and friends sitting on sofas, love seats, at kitchen nooks, country tables, or bar stools. There was no question it was a “seat yourself” kind of place. We quickly spotted two stools at the bar. It wasn’t long before a very casually dressed waiter greeted us with menus and a smile. He quickly took our drink order (a mocha for me and a latte for him). After that, my beau and I played the “what are you thinking about ordering game”… he has a gut of steal and can easily opt for something like the Breakfast Burrito (with bacon … yup, that’s my man). Despite my burning desire for bacon, The Nina looked really delicious. Once we placed our orders, I went back to surveying the room … my beau and I both noticed how eclectic the patrons were. I sat there for a while, then I exclaimed, “hey, this set up kinda reminds me of the cafe in Friends” (neither of us could remember the name) … then I added very matter of factly, “only, there’s more black people here … and other folks for that matter,” he smiled and agreed.

Out came our coffees accompanied by two animal crackers on the saucers! I don’t care how old you are … animal crackers tug at everyone’s inner two year old! That was hands down the best mocha I’ve tasted … now, I say that as an average bear … not some highfalutin coffee connoisseur (so please, lower your brow and put your pinky down … you know who you are), but Tryst (unbeknownst at the time, is known for their coffee).

 

About Tryst

Wanna Know More about Tryst?

Then came our food … have you ever recalled something that tasted so good that you’ve contemplated making the trek for another serving? Yeah, my Nina cuddled up with kettle chips was “I’m not gonna talk to you right now, much less offer you a taste,” kinda good. We both bit into our meals with an approving “Mmmmm!” It was delightful … I eventually offered him some … but … by then he was full (timing is everything, isn’t it).

—- A Mile —-

Speaking of timing, our intent that morning was to grab breakfast and then take a trip to the Washington Monument to ceremoniously culminate our Amerithon Challenge by walking the last mile to the Washington Monument. We had our medals in tow and I was so happy that my beau (the sentimental one in this duo) came up with the idea. Okay listen, it was COLD as —– that morning. Yet, we found parking, gathered our medals, and the Garmin watch. Quickly snatching off one glove, he set it to “walk,” pushed “start,” and then we scurried through the parking lot, braving the wind and the bitter cold, as we walked the distance to the Monument. If it weren’t so friggin cold, I probably would have shed a tear. It was so monumental (pun totally intended) to finish this race and complete this challenge with him!

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Team Love is Bliss

 

The Beauty of Bishops Events

In hindsight, when I started running in spring 2016 I should’ve chosen a Bishops Events as my first race vice the one I chose (more on that in another blog). Anyway…as I was saying … there is a uniqueness to the Bishops Events that a novice runner (like myself) or a seasoned runner can appreciate! I ran two of these races in 2016, two in 2017, and I’m running a few this year, starting with the Kiss My Asphalt in February at Old Mill Park, Fredericksburg (you should totally sign up — it’ll be FUN).

Cost and Ease of Registration: One click on the selected race and you’ll see the current price (relatively inexpensive for a race with chipped timing, a t-shirt, and a medal), when the price increases, and everything else you need to know about the race – it’s that simple.

Morning of the Race: You pick up your race bib and t-shirt the morning of the race (usually an hour before it starts). Travis (the owner/organizer) is usually at the table, he’s the dude that will casually grab his bike and a bull horn and motion everyone to congregate near the start. I’m telling you, it’s so incredibly low key – kinda like when you’re about to go running with an excellent group of folks. Only in this case, you get a medal (yes, I’m a medal snob … not a fan of only getting a t-shirt at the end (a Turkey Trot is the only exception) … don’t judge me).  

Locations: The races are held in a variety of locations in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland – I’ve only attended the ones in VA thus far. Old Mill Park is my favorite, it’s serene, there’s shade along the way, and it’s a paved trail. Prince William Forest Park (Trail) is my second favorite … there’s a hill at the end (nuff said).

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Rappahannock River from Old Mill trail

You can PR: As I have eluded to, I am not a fast runner (and by the way, only fast runners respond with encouraging words like “speed will come,” or “hey, at least you’re out here running” — so bless your heart) … BUT … my point is … I actually came in first place in my age group on the Wounded Warrior 5K last year. Now, before you start your “oh good for you,” this is likely because I was the only person in my year group (okay, I’m kidding… there was like three of us). But seriously, the crowd is not in the hundreds like other races, which can get overwhelming (and this event series is a much appreciated break from all the pre-race shenanigans).

Or, You can be Inspired to Improve: This year, there is a Back of the Pack Series (for women and men) that is solely meant to encourage and inspire those (like myself) that are not fast runners, but are runners all the same.

So, maybe I’ll see you out there?

Run/Walk/Swim/Crawl the Distance

Tis the season to self-reflect. If you’re like the general public, you may have thought about signing up for a virtual challenge as a source of motivation. In 2017, I participated in two challenges: I Love to Run’s 1,000 miles in 2017 challenge, and Run the Edge’s Amerithon Challenge. Now, both of these challenges encourage you (or a team) to run, bike, swim, or walk your way to accomplishing your goals (heck, there was no way I was running 1,000 miles in 2017). The Amerithon Challenge doesn’t have a set time for completion – it’s totally up to you. My beau and I, aka “Team Love is Bliss,” started on 4 July 2016 (took us about 17 months).

Comparatively Speaking …

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The I Love to Run 2017 and the Amerithon Challenge Medals

Bling: The Amerithon Challenge medal is AWESOME … you actually add pieces as you progress. I ordered the “get it all” package which comes with a map, badges to add to your “passport,” as well as the medal. There’s also a “finisher shoe” that comes with this baby. In all fairness, the 2017 I Love to Run medal was smaller than the 2016 medal, and judging from the website, I believe the 2018 version is going back to the previous size (2017 left much to be desired).

Navigating the Website: The Amerithon Challenge’s website was easier to navigate (via cellphone and computer). There were less clicks to log my miles on a regular basis. However, I Love to Run’s website synched with the MapMyRun app, so as long as the “synch my accounts” function worked … presto!

Milestones for Motivation: Hands down, the Amerithon Challenge provided daily motivation by counting down the miles to the next milestone, providing stickers to put in your passport, and sending emails commemorating your milestone. However, I Love to Run does offer inspirational articles and posters on its website. You can also purchase a pretty cool visual calendar.

Price: Both of these virtual challenges give you options so you can get the most out of your goal. For example, on I Love to Run, you can opt to run 1,000 miles; 1,500 miles; or 2,000 miles in the year OR run/walk/exercise 100 days in the year. With the Amerithon Challenge you can opt to purchase the basic, deluxe, or “get it all” package.

New Year, New Challenge!

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Team “Love is Bliss” has begun our challenge!

This year, “Team Love is Bliss” has signed up for the Run the Year 2018 Challenge we are beyond excited to log 2,018 miles by the end of the year. So, here’s to finding challenges and committing to a better version of yourself! Go hard in the paint! 

 

 

Why a Blog?

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My first race (Crystal City 5K Series)!

In April 2016, I decided I would take my newfound interest in running to the next level and I would register for races within the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area and abroad. From that point forward, my long-time beau had the unique pleasure of receiving mid-day text messages including phrases like “this looks like an interesting race” and early morning email forwards with CONGRATULATIONS, you’re now registered for _______!”

If asked to recall his unique feelings of excitement, he might roll his eyes and shake his head, as he protests the volume of races for which one [awesome] person manages to register over a few weeks. However, I am convinced, that underneath it all, he marveled in my excitement, considering I developed my love of running from him (it’s actually a love-hate relationship of running, since we’re being honest).

Through running I have met and befriended an amazing group of people – all with the goal of becoming a better version of themselves, accomplishing a goal that at one point may have seemed unachievable.

So this brings us to the point of this blog. Since April 2016, I (along with my beau and/or a host of badass runners) have run 35 races (including virtual races and challenges, Ragnars and two-day racing series). There have been over 10 check-ins of hotels, over 20 times of being seated at a table, and many invaluable experiences unique to the respective location.

This blog is from the perspective of a woman “charging the hill” to age 40, looking for great deals on 3-5 Star hotels, eating good food, and appreciating all the experiences have to offer. Most of these experiences involve a race; others involve the efforts of two long-distance lovers to make the most of our time together. *Please note, I am not getting paid to discuss the events, hotels, restaurants, or anything in between. It’s just me, giving you my two cents …straight up, no chaser.