Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day 10-K Race Recap

Post race celebrations with Paige and Lindsey!

Post race celebrations with Paige and Lindsey!

Last weekend I ventured back to Massachusetts to run the infamous Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Road Race, a 10-K in the small western Massachusetts city known to have the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country (this is no joke).

I registered for the race with a group of my best friends from home, which included my cousin (and faithful running buddy) Paige, my other running buddy Lindsey, another friend Lindsay, and Paige and Lindsay’s’ boyfriends, Johnny and John. No, we never get confused with all the common names.

Anyway, we all had very different goals going into this 10-K. Paige, Lindsey and myself are all training for marathons and had a long 17-miler on the schedule for the day after the race. Lindsay is training for her first half and was using this as a training run. John was trying to PR and go for a sub-50 10-K which he blew out of the water with a 46-minute finish. And Johnny just joined in for fun and beat all the girls.

Because I had a long run to do the next day I made myself promise not to race this road race. That last all of a mile and a half before I got way too excited and wanted to run faster.

The race began at 1:00 p.m., which was the latest start time I’ve ever experienced and made fueling beforehand difficult. We got to the start early because there were 7,000 people registered to run (just under 6,000 actually crossed the finish) so we wanted to ensure we’d have time to park and get to our corral.

We didn’t even know there would be corrals until we got there and made the joint decision to jump in the 8:00/mile section. The corral was packed and there was hardly enough room for me to sync my Garmin, let alone tie a shoe or stretch. But this helped because it was a cold, windy day so body heat was welcomed.

The race itself went really well. The course was pretty hilly, with the first major hill coming at mile 2, followed by a stretch of rolling hills until about mile 4. A huge downhill came just around 4.5 miles and it was a great opportunity for runners to kick up the pace and eat some time. I came running down the hill at 7:40/mile pace.

Overall the race was well organized and I thought the course was great. The people of Holyoke came out in droves and provided excellent spectator support along the entire route, which really helped to power runners up the hills. I think it would have been great if the race organizers provided an elevation chart prior to the race so runners could know where the hills were to better strategize how they were going to handle the course but I couldn’t find any so I just had to wing it.

My official time came in at 53:55, an 8:34/mile average. Splits:

Mile 1 – 9:14/mile
Mile 2 – 9:22/mile
Mile 3 – 8:55/mile
Mile 4 – 8:42/mile
Mile 5 – 7:41/mile
Mile 6 – 7:56/mile
Mile 7 – 2:03/mile (for 0.28)

I think, had I intended to actually race the course and planned out a strategy, I could have done better but this is a hard race to race if you’re not at the front of the pack. The first two miles were slow because the field was so congested. I think the hills split up the field a bit which helped but the beginning definitely hurts times for runners not at the front.

Despite some minor changes, I would absolutely run this race again, especially given the same company I had during and after the race. There’s a huge block party following the race and being able to spend the time with my friends was the icing on the cake!

A prerace photo with my friends before the Holyoke St. Patrick's Day 10-K!

A prerace photo with my friends before the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day 10-K!

A new take on race bling: Erica Sara Designs race jewlery

A lot of runners set major goals to keep themselves motivated like deciding to run their first marathon or half marathon or maybe tackling your first 5K. No matter how big or how small a runner’s goal is, success is so much sweeter when there’s a reward on the other side! Most races give runners a free t-shirt for registering and more and more races are giving finisher medals to everyone who finishes the race.

These are all great and everything but honestly, how many race t-shirts can you have? I have at least a drawer-full and I’ve only been running for 8 months! Finisher medals are really cool too because they definitely feel great around your neck at the end of a race. But after race day, what do you do with the medal? You can’t wear it out and about or show it off really, so they usually end up around a mirror, maybe on display but not many people will see it.

Enter Erica Sara Designs, a New York City jewelry designer and runner herself. Erica Sara has a whole line of race jewelry designed to mark the accomplishments of runners of all abilities. Her designs are chic and sophisticated and are the best kind of reward a runner girl could ask for after crossing the finish line. According to her website, her mission is:

On our paths to becoming accomplished & empowered women, we’re constantly taking on new challenges, from the office to the gym, from our family to our friends, from our bodies to our minds. Something we can all agree on? It’s tough work! At the end of the day, we can also agree that our hopes and dreams, our beliefs and convictions, and our values and achievements, are well-worth the effort—and well-worth celebrating.

Wear your sense of encouragement, that burst of wisdom, that source of inner power, with Erica Sara Designs, an ever-growing collection of feminine jewelry for fiercely strong women everywhere.

So of course I had to order a 13.1 “Run Like a Girl Distance” necklace after completing my first half marathon. Erica Sara lets the runner personalize her necklace too by giving you the option of picking the metal, the font and even engraving something on the back. I got the sterling silver necklace with 9.30.2012 (the date of my first half marathon) engraved on the back.

My necklace was shipped to me super fast and came with a lovely little note from Erica herself! I couldn’t be more pleased with my necklace and I wear it now every day to remind myself that I did run 13.1 miles and I can do it again!

Interested in commemorating your race accomplishment with some race bling? Check out the Erica Sara Designs website! She also has a ton of other amazing pieces of jewelry that are not running related but beautiful! Be sure to follow her on Twitter as well @EricaSara and wish her luck on her upcoming New York City Marathon which I’m sure she’s going to rock!

What’s your reward for accomplishing a major running goal? Share your story with me in the comments section below!

Thank you to Oiselle for amazing service!

I want to send out a huge thank you to the lovely ladies over at Oiselle, a women’s running apparel company based out of Seattle, for sending me a complimentary Start Line t-shirt! I had ordered the On the Fly shirt a few weeks ago but the color I ordered was on backorder. I was completely fine with it when I found out because I knew it would be worth it but I was very pleased to receive a personal e-mail from an Oiselle customer service representative asking me if I’d be alright with the delay. Talk about customer service! The generosity doesn’t end there though folks.

After my Fly t-shirt arrived in the mail I was so excited to wear it! The cotton was super comfy and the fit (I ordered a size small) was perfect. What surprised me even more however was two days ago when I came home to find a package adorning the beautiful light green and bird patterned packing tape, waiting for me. I immediately thought they had made a mistake and accidently sent me two of the same shirt. But I was wrong. I opened the package to find the very cute Start Line t-shirt with a note from the ladies at Oiselle. The note read:

Compliments of Oiselle. So sorry for the delay on the backordered t-shirt- thanks so much for your patience!

Seriously. Talk about customer service! Not to mention the shirt was also very comfy and I absolutely LOVED the starting line graphics. Needless to say I will be ordering much more running gear from Oiselle in the future. Not only do they have a commitment to running but also they have a commitment to serving their customers and I think that’s something any consumer can appreciate. Thank you Oiselle and as your saying goes “Head up, wings out!”

ENERGYbits review for runners

A few weeks ago I started noticing a very active Twitter handle pop up on my Twitter feed. It was from a Boston-based company called ENERGYbits and they were tweeting back and forth with a lot of the runners and bloggers that I followed and before I knew it they were following me as well. They asked me if I would be interested in sampling their product and writing a review, and based on reviews and comments I heard from other runners I thought, “For sure!”

Turns out one of the brand managers is actually a fellow UMass Amherst alum so I knew it was a good idea! According to their website, ENERGYbits are natural algae tabs that are designed to boost endurance, energy and enhance health. As a runner, I thought these bits could be a great way to fuel before a run, especially a long run, to keep me going until the final mile.

ENERGYbits are made of 100 percent organically grown spirulina algae. Now when we think algae we think of that nasty stuff that floats to the top of ponds and lakes during the summer, but it turns out that nasty stuff has some amazing health benefits. At just one calorie per tab, the spirulina in ENERGYbits has the highest concentration of protein in the world- three times the amount in steak. These tiny little bits also contain 40 vitamins and minerals, Omega-3s and 64 percent protein.

Nutritional information via ENERGYbits’ website.

I decided to try ENERGYbits before my long run two weeks ago to see if they really did help me with endurance and energy. I set out for a long and slow 8-mile loop through nearby neighborhoods. Before heading out I took the recommended dosage of 30 ENERGYbit tabs. You’re probably thinking, 30?? That’s an insane amount of tabs! But really it wasn’t that bad. The tabs are so tiny and easy to swallow, you won’t even notice there are so many. However, one word of caution- they do not smell good and they taste even worse. The people at ENERGYbits suggest you swallow the tabs with a liquid as opposed to chew them as they are an acquired taste. But who chews vitamins anyways? I took them with some juice and could barely taste them.

Once I was good to go for my run I set out the door with my Runmeter tracking my run and waited for the results. I didn’t notice a huge difference in my running but I felt very comfortable and energized, but not in that jacked-up caffeine-high kind of way. I just felt very awake, which was great considering it was 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. The real dealbreaker was at the end of my run when I checked my Runmeter to see I ran 8 miles in 1:05. What. That was an 8:08 average pace. Insanity!?

I can’t say for sure ENERGYbits caused me to run like the wind but they must have done something right because I’ve never run a long run that fast in my life. Moral of the story? If you’re looking to boost energy and endurance in a natural way be sure to check out ENERGYbits. They worked for me and have worked for countless other endurance athletes, so they might work for you too!

There are also three other bits in the Boston-based company’s inventory: RECOVERYbits, VITALITYbits and SKINNYbits. They are also all made out of algae but serve different purposes. If you’re interested in trying them out use the code BLOG at the checkout to get 10 percent off your purchase!

You can also find ENERGYbits on Twitter @ENERGYbits and on Facebook. Have you tried ENERGYbits? If so, let me know what you thought about them in the comments section below!

DISCLAIMER: ENERGYbits sent me a complimentary sample to review. I did not receive compensation for the review and they were not guaranteed a positive review. All opinions are my own.