Race Recap: Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

The doctor gave me an okay to run/walk the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Granted, I was under strict instruction to stop if my knee started hurting aching even a teeny bit. IT Band Syndrome is not something to be messed around with. My knee hurt all week, but nowhere near as bad as last Saturday.

Friday following my appointment, I immediately packed my bags and waited for Chris to get home so we could head down to Virginia Beach.


The weather on Saturday and Sunday was painfully humid. You walked outside and immediately started sweating. I spent Saturday hanging out with one of my best friends, Lee Anne. We went and explored the race expo and then headed over to the beach to catch some sun.

Sunday morning I woke up at 3:15am. A little earlier than I wanted to be awake, but I was up and shockingly could not fall back asleep. Chris woke up a short time later and began to get ready to leave for the race.

On our way over to the start line, we stopped to grab some breakfast. I enjoyed a delicious bowl of frosted flakes and a donut. The fact I didn’t experience a sugar crash mid race baffles me but I needed something, anything to get me going.

I don’t remember the last time I had a donut. I enjoyed every bite of it.

We arrived at the start-line village a few minutes before 6am.

I immediately went to the portapotty line and once in the potty, I regretted my decision. After almost tossing my cookies donut, I chugged water and began to wait. There was water, fruit, and bagel stations all around but with the smell of the portapotty still fresh in my mind I was unable to really enjoy all that was surrounding me.

The crowd seemed really pumped up given how early it was. There were swarms of people everywhere. Chris told me following the race that there was over sixteen thousand registered participants.

Around 6:45am I said my goodbyes to Chris and went to my assigned corral.

The start line was slightly anti-climatic. The few races I’ve participated in haven’t had corrals, so waiting a few minutes in between each release was kind of boring. The adrenaline started to drain a little. Though, I will give credit to the announcer, he was doing his best to pump each crowd up as if they were a group of elite runners.

After the bullhorn sounded for corral eleven, I was off. It was about 7:15am at this point. I started the first few steps slowly telling myself that I wasn’t going to run, that running would be a bad decision. However, with the crowd of people around me all taking off and trying to find their groove, I kind of felt like a jerk strolling along.

So, I started running.

I began to tell myself that when my knee starts to hurt I would stop. I decided to move slowly. No pushing myself to the limit because I hadn’t exercised in a week and who knew how my knee would react to my normal pace.

I managed to run about two miles before I felt the familiar pain in my knee and decided to walk. I was only two miles in. I wanted to finish the race or at least get far enough to feel proud about my outcome given the circumstances.

I walked eleven miles. I did try to run here and there, but only a few steps at a time. Whenever I saw the mile markers I ran the short distance to them and walked until I saw the next one.

It was a long race, but it didn’t feel long.

Around mile six, I knew I had blisters forming on the bottoms of my feet and on the sides. I stopped for a few moments to put band-aids on, my horrible attempt to dull the pain. The pain became worse with each passing mile. During mile eleven, I felt the blister on the side of my right foot pop. By mile twelve, I was taking baby steps. Each step was accompanied by a whimper. I just kept repeating to myself that it would all be over soon and it probably wasn’t as bad as I was imagining.

Shortly before mile thirteen, Chris greeted me on the course. He knew I was in tough shape given the mass amount of texts that I sent him during the race. However, after he saw the expression on my face he knew it was bad news bears. At this point I was hobbling along the Virginia Beach boardwalk with the finish line in sight. I immediately started crying when I saw him because of the pain. I leaned on him, gripping him arm first and then just squeezing his hand. I needed his support to cross the finish line. The pain in my feet was so severe that I didn’t even notice that my knee was flaring up.

We crossed the finish line together at 3:53:03.

The emcee/announcer came up to us while I was hobbling along and made a comment about how Chris didn’t want to run it with me but that he still got to cross the finish line.

I finished the half marathon. I am officially a half-marathon runner (err… walker!)


After crossing the finish line, all I wanted was my medal and my chocolate milk. Unfortunately I only received one of those things. They ran out of chocolate milk before I finished.

C’est la vie. I came to Virginia Beach to get my medal and that is exactly what I left with.

My feet on the other hand will need some major recovery time. The blisters I mentioned are about the size of an infants hand. I have two on each feet, one on the balls of my foot near my big toe and one on the inner sides near the heel. I can’t walk without holding onto something and without walking on the outside of my feet. Ouch.


I’ll save you the gory photos of what they actually look like, just know that I need those big band-aids for a very good reason. I couldn’t even take ONE step after removing my shoes yesterday because they were so tender and my feet were so swollen. It was disgusting.

My body definitely took a beating. Would I do it again knowing the results of participating? Definitely.

Other things to note about the race:

  • It was eighty-eight percent humidity on Sunday morning at 7am. We stepped outside and immediately started sweating. Because of this humidity, people were passing out left and right. I’ve never seen so many medics in my life.
  • The course was flat minus a bridge that was maybe .15 of a mile. The bridge was a baby hill in comparison to what I am used to, but no one stopped to walk it (except me). The course is also an up and back kinda course. It makes it hard for your supporters to see you at random spots but its really not so bad.
  • The bands along the course are not the greatest. There was an 80’s vibe going on with each of the songs being performed but it was more like bad karaoke instead of rock concert.
  • Water stations/gatorade/Gu/medicial stations were evenly spaced throughout the course. I never felt like their presence was lacking. One station did run out of cups for water while I was there but I was carrying a water bottle so I wasn’t affected.
  • Portapotty’s were ALL over this course. It was nice considering the lines in the beginning were slightly outrageous. I saw at least one at each water stop as well as a few others along the way.

This was a fun race. I enjoyed the course and the atmosphere. It was definitely a much different feel than the Leesburg 20K.

I only wish they had more chocolate milk. And that I had worn different shoes.

My stats:

5K: 48:31
10K: 1:40:13
10 Mi: 2:49:10
Pace: 17:47
Chip time: 3:53:03
Clock time: 4:09:46

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Stop Beating Yourself Up. You’re Amazing!

After talking with quite a few people following my race recap post, the main comment I received was ‘stop beating yourself up, you are amazing!’

And you know what? I am.

There are millions of people who live in and around Washington, D.C. Many who probably claim to be runners. But, how many people signed up for the Leesburg 20K? A little over six hundred.

And I was one of them. And I finished.

I finished a race most people wouldn’t have even put on their radar. I finished a race that most people ask me ‘why do you even want to run that far?’

Because its special. It makes me feel special.

Not a lot of people tackle races longer than a 10K. Those who do usually reach for a ten miler, maybe a half marathon when they think they are ready.

And even then the amount of people who attempt and finish those races is a significantly smaller pool than the masses who do 5K and 10K.

If running long distances was easy, everyone would do it. It is hard. It takes a lot of time to train and prepare for this. It’s taxing on your body and your emotions and even your relationships. This takes time and effort (unless you have Forrest Gump abilities).

So instead of beating myself up over being on the slower side of the curve, I want to celebrate the fact that I am doing this. I am running distances I never imagined were possible for me and I am finishing races.

Slow and steady isn’t something for me to be ashamed of, it is something for me to celebrate.

I feel like in my race recap I came off a little snarky with my finishers medal graphic.

So, instead of hating on myself for not being a faster, more seasoned runner. I think its necessary for me to celebrate the fact that I finished that race in a respectable pace. I was slow and steady, like the tortoise, but I finished and am proud of that.

When you start to feel down about how you performed in a race or a training run, remember that you stuck with it. You are special because you’re doing something that not a lot of others consider doing. You may be slow and steady but you’re winning the race.

And you deserve an award.

So, stop beating yourself up. You’re amazing!

Guest Post: From a Half to an Ultramarathon

Seriously. I really did just go there.

Today’s post comes from one of my best friends, Kristen. She is a simple, 25 year old who isn’t passionate about much besides cats, Christmas, craft beer, Disney, food, and running! (And some might say making alphabetical lists!) When she’s not pounding the pavement with me, you can find her at Dogfish Head or at home with her cat attempting to cook. I wish I was joking. 

She has been my biggest influence in running and I could not thank her more. She is patient when I am moving ridiculously slow and when I want to walk. She encourages me to keep pushing, to keep moving, and to sign up for more races than I can count. I remember when I saw on Facebook that she had completed her first half marathon and thinking there was zero chance I would ever be able to do that. Little did I know that her finishing a half marathon would inspire me to compete in my own.

A big hello to Sarah’s readers! I was seriously stoked when she asked me to write a guest post! My first thought was, yes, someone is *finally* asking me to talk about my love of running instead of just putting up with it (hi mom…and my coworkers…)

If you told each one of my gym teachers spanning from kindergarten to high school that I’ve just finished an ultramarathon, they’d collectively blink their eyes, look at you in disbelief, and insist you have the wrong person. “Kristen isn’t a runner,” they’d say. “The furthest we’ve seen her run is from the gymnasium to the school buses to go home.” The girl who feigned mysterious stomach aches, her period, chicken pox (without the rash, of course), ebola, mad cow disease, and any other off-the-wall illness to get her out of running the dreaded mile around that quarter-mile track, is now the girl who runs marathons. What?!

In May 2011, one of my best friends and I were so stressed out at work, so we said screw it, let’s run a half marathon. I had never run more than a mile before this point (and begrudgingly at that). For the record, I do not recommend this approach! Despite the lack of training (and my giant Chipotle feast a mere three hours before the start gun), we finished the race in 3:10:09, which is nearly a 15-minute per mile pace. Even after three-hours-ten-minutes-and-nine-seconds of straight huffing, puffing, and death crawling to the finish line, I was willing to do another race just to prove I could do it and wasn’t a fluke.

I immediately signed up for the Disney World Half Marathon to be held in January 2012 and the DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon to be held on St. Patty’s Day (And yes, green beer was served at the finish line!) I trained intermittently, but not seriously for these events and was able to finish the DC Half in 02:32:43, a 37ish-minute improvement over my first time. Not bad. *Now* I was hooked. Despite salty sweat stinging your eyes, shivers, hunger pains, and cramps and aches all throughout your body, nothing can touch the feeling of accomplishment you get after crossing that finish line.

My race day gear!

Running through Cinderella’s Castle at Mile 6 and a Post-race Mickey bar

I ran a few half marathons after that (including re-running my first ever race exactly a year later in May 2012 and coming in 42ish-minutes faster at 2:28:35!) I also completed my first marathon. Barely. However, thanks to that addicting feeling of accomplishment, adrenaline, and major life stressors such as a new job, new apartment, and nasty breakup, I truly committed myself to running. What better way to demonstrate this commitment than by signing up for an ultramarathon. In the desert. At midnight. Under a full moon. At an elevation of 6,000 feet. Right outside the ominous and mysterious Area 51. Done!

Cheesin’ in the elevator at my hotel. Ready to do this thang!

At the “Black Mailbox” before the start!

Fast forward to August 5th after a spring and summer of training, and I’m toeing the sandy, desert-y start line of the Extraterrestrial Area 51 Midnight Marathon and 51k. Oh crap. We had just made the 2.5 hour trek from Las Vegas to Rachel, Nevada and everyone was pumped! It’s midnight under a full moon with clear skies and stars for miles when the race director yells “Go!” Quite a humble start with zero pomp and circumstance. Just a sea of runners with their headlamps, glow bracelets, reflective tape, and Camelbaks.

Days earlier, I had met up with an incredibly nice group of fellow runners online where we decided to follow the Jeff Galloway method of running and do 2:1 splits. (This means two minutes of running for every 1 minute of walking. This would give us an 11-minute per mile pace. Totally respectable for a midnight marathon held at high elevations!)

Our fearless leader, Dave, hit the lap button on his watch and off we went, exchanging nervous glances and hooting into the night! We were ready to conquer this:

Source

After only a mile had passed, I naively yelled out, “This is so much fun!” Laura, another member of our 2:1 clan replied, “Let’s see what you say at Mile 26.” But see, it *was* so much fun. Despite the almost literally neverending hill, cramps, elevation, and night sky, I was happy. The girl sitting in the nurse’s office with a fake stomachache during gym class was running an ultramarathon­ and actually holding her own!

As we slowly took down the miles, we began to gain and gradually lose members. People would stick with us for awhile, but would eventually fall back and walk. Dave and I stuck together the whole time, running most of the 13.1 miles up to the halfway point. Along the way we spotted cows, heard coyotes, gazed at countless shooting stars and rocky canyons, and talked about our families, cats, and post-marathon dining (and drinking!) traditions. Why run if you can’t eat?

At Mile 20, we started to approach the finish line at the Little A’Le’ Inn. (Literally the only business in a town of 54 as of 2010). But before we could cross that line, the marathoners had to run 3 miles past and 3 miles back, and ultramarthons would run 6 past and 6 back. Ouch. I held it together until about Mile 26 and then started walking. My aching legs just couldn’t keep up with the 2:1 splits anymore.

But then around 5:30am, the sun started to rise over the canyons and rocks and for the first time, I could see the road ahead of me. Incredible! I got a jolt of energy and was able to run a little more, enough to get me over the finish line.

Scenery from the race!

Mile 30. 1.67 to go!

I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face at 7:39am. 31.67 miles in seven hours and thirty-nine minutes for a 14-something minute per mile. Ouch.

Crossing the finish line!!

Iconic!

As I was beating myself up, I realized several things:

1- I had run 13.1 miles straight uphill. I could now tell people I ran an entire uphill half marathon!

2- I had PR’d at the marathon distance. My previous time was 6 hours; I was at the marathon point for this one in 5:50.

3- I ran all night. Literally. And had been up for nearly 27 hours by the time the buses brought us back to Vegas.

4- I didn’t get attacked by a rattlesnake or abducted by an alien. I win!

After arriving back in Vegas, I took a cold shower (it’s good for your muscles!), assessed my wounds, ate a miraculous Kind bar (oh, that is a post for another day!), finished the last few chapters of Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run,” and slowly drifted off to sleep. For the first time in a long time, I finally felt like myself again. I might have started the summer running away from something (everything!), but had now run my way to irrevocable happiness. From now on, as long as I have my sneakers, I know I’ll be able to confidentially outrun whatever life throws my way.

My two new favorite things…

The Kristen I knew ate McDonald’s or Taco Bell everyday for lunch. Funny enough, she still does this quite often. And she is an ultramarathoner. Wow! 

I am so lucky that she chooses to run alongside me. 

Who inspired you begin running? How so? Do you know anyone that has completed an ultramarthon? Which one? What were their thoughts? Let’s discuss!

Two Week Countdown

In two weeks I will be competing in my first half marathon. Wow did these last two months fly by. I feel like just yesterday I was writing this entry, all nervous to put myself out there and afraid of what everyone else would think. It’s really crazy to think of how far I’ve come in running from reading over my entries. There have been loads of mistakes, missteps, and quite a few personal victories.

And dare I say that I actually sometimes enjoy running now. Goodness.

And I now sort of kind of consider myself a runner. Eep.

So weird.

Kristen peer-pressured me to sign up for a local race I had been eyeing for a little while now. So, last night, I took the plunge and just signed up for it. This Sunday I will be competing in the Leesburg 20K. Or how I marketed it to myself, a little over a half mile shorter than a half marathon! From what I’ve read, the course is hilly and while that intimidates me a little it ultimately wasn’t enough to deter me. Also, I figure I am going to be out running twelve miles this weekend, so I might as well get a shirt from it. Clearly, my reasons for doing this have not changed.

Honestly, even the half marathon is a training run for me as well. The goal at the end of this is to run the Richmond Marathon, which I officially signed up for recently as well. The goal is to be a marathoner. To reserve the right to say, “Yeah, I did it. Jealous?” And to get a medal and put stickers on my car.

I can’t wait!

High Fives All Around

Friday night after writing about my fears, I went to sleep. Shockingly, I managed to do this with little issue. The nerves were ridiculous, y’all.

Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:45am. Seriously. I ate some cheerios and hung out for a little bit. Decided that watching a little bit of TV was a good idea so naturally I turned on my favorite channel, Investigation Discovery. The show on at 6am was Cold Blood. The plot… was about a woman that gets raped and murdered on a run. No joke. I can’t make this stuff up. So there I am chomping on my cheerios in my gear scared out of my wits that this could be me. Like the universe telling me to not go outside. I waited around for a little bit for the sun to really come out and then I was off.

And off I went. Just running. And running. And running.

For TEN MILES. Actually, 10.18 miles. I successfully ran 10.18 miles. And I am just as shocked as you are.

I achieved so many personal records during this run. I PR’d in distance (obviously), pace, and just overall time. When I ran eight miles, I had to stop and walk after six miles because of a leg pain and I ended up finishing in an hour and forty minutes. Last week when I did nine miles, it was a painful overall time of two hours and twenty-three minutes. For 10.18 miles, I completed it in an hour and fifty-eight minutes. REALLY!! Before Saturday, I had a tough time finishing five miles in under an hour and here I am doing ten miles in under two hours. And I ran my fastest [recorded] mile EVER.

Honestly, when I stopped, I cried. I was so overcome with emotion and accomplishment that I couldn’t control the few tears that sneaked out. If you had told me in April that by the first week in August I would be able to run 10 consecutive miles without stopping, I would’ve laughed in your face. In April, running this distance was not even on my radar, I just wanted to get back up to being able to run two miles without stopping to walk.

If you’re wondering why mile six was a little faster than the rest? I ran to the closest place I knew that was open and had a bathroom for a much needed bathroom break. Definitely running for a greater purpose at that moment.

Right now, I am continuing to enjoy the mass of endorphins from the ten miler. I am also a little [only a teensy bit] concerned about how the runs this week will go considering I seem to suffer from performance inconsistency.

The biggest question I need to ask myself right now is does this double digit training run make me a runner? Woahhhhh.