New Location, New Career, Same Love

It’s been six months since my last blog. To be frank, my life has taken quite a few turns since my Yuengling’s Shamrock Marathon Weekend post.

JB photoLove: I broke up with my long-time beau. We ran many races together since 2016 and he will likely remain the greatest love of my life. But our love simply ran its course (pun totally intended).

Career & Location: In August, I started a new career as a professor in South Carolina. In late-September, I survived the post-Hurricane Florence flood, but my home sustained severe damage. That happened as I officially retired from the Army in October after 20 years of service. My home is currently under construction, but I should be back in my “new” home before Christmas.

The amazing thing about love and loss is that the most painful events underscore the simplicity of life. It took a while, but I’ve embraced these last six months and the many lessons about perseverance, patience, and perspective. Despite it all, my love-hate relationship with running continues to blossom, as does the second part of my life.

Kissed the Asphalt

Not to worry, despite the title I did not do a face plant! I did, however, score a new personal record (PR) during the Bishop’s Events “Kiss My Asphalt” 10K in celebration of Valentine’s Day. The event (which included a 5K race) was in partnership with the American Cancer Society and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

Green, Red, Yellow

The theme for this race was pretty clever. Runners that were single had the option to select a green shirt (“go for it, ask me out”). Those in a relationship could select red (“Ummm…no thank you, I’m with someone”). Finally, those in a bit of a pickle could select yellow (“It’s complicated…apparently”).

Connecting with Mother Nature

It was a cool 40 degrees this morning and there was no indication the sun was going to make an appearance. The weather forecaster predicted rainfall beginning around 10 am and I can attest, the sprinkles seemed to fall right around that time. The rain fell harder after I made it to the turn around point and remained consistent throughout the rest of the event. I must confess that I truly enjoyed the rain. I just feel more connected with mother nature and even the occasional sloshing through a shallow puddle doesn’t bother me.

Run in the Rain

Picture Courtesy of Run with Jess

The Body will Achieve what the Mind Believes

I credit my PR to a wonderful lady named Mary that I’ve had the pleasure of running with a few times over the last month. She is such a beautiful woman and a wonderful spirit! She is a fast, strong, and passionate runner who has even qualified for Boston (at least once). But she’s very humble and takes time to get to know runners (of various paces) within our Mom’s Run this Town chapter. During our first run, I learned about how she developed a love for running and somewhere along the way she said something that has stuck with me “the body will achieve what the mind believes.” She was very attentive throughout our run and could tell when I needed words of encouragement. When we finished, she grabbed my shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and said “MeMe, you’re faster than you think you are, you did great!”

Today, I did not set out to accomplish a PR, I only intended to run my race, without assessing myself in the moment. There were moments where self doubt drifted in my head, but then I thought of Mary. I smiled to myself as her words reassured me, “MeMe, you’re faster than you think you are … the body will achieve what the mind believes!”

The Finish Line

Standing in the rain, at the finish line was my beau … smiling and taking a photo of me as I crossed. He told me “Good job babe!” while simultaneously conducting his typical quick assessment of my physical well-being and asking if I needed anything. Standing a few feet away under their umbrella were my Sole Sisters (Tamara and Monique) who ran the 5K, smiling at me with their finisher medals around their necks.

A special thank you to Armour, Mary, Monique, and Tamara … they were the reason I smiled today.

Kiss my asphalt

I always seem to have that same look on my face at the end of a race …. LOL!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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?

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.