What Should My 5K Goal Be?

Photo from Shalane Flanagan's Back the Track 5K where I ran another 23:02.

Photo from Shalane Flanagan’s Back the Track 5K where I ran another 23:02.

The other day I went on a lunch run. I didn’t have an agenda. I thought I’d go out for a 5-ish-mile easy run.

During the first mile I settled in to an 8:30/mile pace. Lately, this has been my natural “easy” pace. (In truth, it’s probably a little faster than I should be running on easy days but it feels comfortable.) The route I decided to run was an out-and-back and was rather uneventful until mile four clicked off and I looked down at my watch and saw 7:57/mile.

I don’t typically run 7:xx/mile during an easy run and I most definitely don’t run it comfortably. At least that’s been the case until this lunch run. I felt totally comfortable and didn’t notice a change in effort or breathing. Then my fifth mile clicked off and my watch read 7:47.

So what’s the deal?

About a month ago I posted about how I wanted to focus on speed for the winter. I decided to hone in on training for 5Ks because I think it’s a manageable goal, especially once the weather gets really bad. To work on this I’ve been incorporating more speed work into my training week. I’ve been running at least one tempo and one interval run each week and now I’m starting to see the impact.

My only problem is I have no idea how to actually “train” for a fast 5K. Sure, when I started running I did a couch-to-5K program. I ran my first 5K in 28:07 in September of 2012 but then I immediately began climbing the race distance ladder instead of working on speed.

I had never really raced a 5K until a month ago when I decided to test my fitness to see where I should start. I ran a 23:02, a nearly 2-minute PR since my previous 5K. After that I decided my first goal should be to break 23:00 but then my next goal should be… I don’t know?

If I’m running high 7:xx/mile pace at the end of an easy run, I don’t know what a more realistic 5K goal should be. Maybe a 21:xx? All I know is I like this newfound speed and I like the challenge running fast presents to me. Sure running long is fun too but right now, at the risk of sounding super corny, I’ve got the need for speed.

I’m welcome to any suggestions about what you might think would be a good 5K time goal. Share your thoughts in the comments! :)

Back to the Basics

My speedy shoes!

My speedy shoes!

On Sunday I ran a 5K PR of 23:02, good enough for fourth female overall (I thought I was third since spectators near the finish said I was but oh well!), first in my age group, and I won a turkey! Best.Prize.Ever.

Anyway, this was a really small 5K and it was run in conjunction with a larger 10-miler that my boyfriend ran (he also set a PR). The 10-miler goes up and over a mountain in our town and I wanted no part in that. Instead, I registered for the 5K as a way to test my fitness and see what kind of shape my legs were in a month after Chicago.

I was pleasantly surprised to have set a 1:50 PR off of my last 5K which was in April. Like I said, I went into this race just looking to test my fitness, but really, I wanted to set a PR and I wanted to win a turkey.

But, I had some other motives as well. The night before the race I told my boyfriend “it would be really cool to go under 24 minutes.” I think he didn’t want me to get my hopes up too much because honestly, I haven’t been running too much since Chicago. I’ve done a couple speed workouts, two “long” runs, and a bunch of easy runs, but that’s about it.

I had a feeling I might have some speed left and welp, during the race it came out. It felt so good to be running a race, actually racing a race, and moving fast. I don’t think I’ve truly felt that in my running life in the two years I’ve been at it.

So I’ve decided to spend the winter chasing after that feeling. Getting turnover in my legs. Doing speed workouts. Pushing my limits.

I don’t have a time goal or target paces. I just want to get that feeling I had on Sunday.

My next race is on November 29 at Shalane Flanagan’s Back the Track 5K in Marblehead. We’ll see what happens next!

Race Recap: Chicago Marathon

What happened?

That’s the text I got from my family and friends who were tracking me at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon. It was my third marathon and I had trained to run a sub-4:00. Through the half, I was on pace to run a sub-3:55 which would have been a 12-minute PR. I was feeling great, strong, confident, until everything fell apart at mile 15.

So, what happened? Let’s start from the beginning with what went right pre-race.

Our flight was super easy and we lucked out by getting extra leg space!

Jackpot! So. Much. Room.

Jackpot! So. Much. Room.

I had a nice shakeout run with my boyfriend and his friend who was in town for the race too. We ran fast but it felt easy.

Striking a pose at the end of the Navy Pier.

Striking a pose at the end of the Navy Pier.

We took a free shuttle to the expo and spent about an hour there in an attempt to not walk around too much.


We rested during most of the afternoon before going over to a friend’s apartment to cook our own, homemade pre-race pasta dinner.

Our beautiful view while cooking dinner at a friend's apartment.

Our beautiful view while cooking dinner at a friend’s apartment.

I got about 8+ hours of restful sleep and awoke on race morning feeling refreshed and ready to go.

We got to the race with plenty of time to spare, however, we didn’t realize how long it would take for 45,000 runners to get through security. By the time I checked my bag at gear check and got in the porta potty line (to pee!) I had about 10 minutes until the corrals closed. The lines weren’t moving at all so I decided it was probably just nervous pee and I could hold it, so I left the line and headed for my corral to find the 4:00 pacer.

Our throwaway game was on point.

Our throwaway game was on point.

I found the pacer but I didn’t get to line up as close to them as I would have liked. Then, they dropped their pacing signs and were nowhere to be seen for the rest of the race. That was frustrating because I’m used to pacers holding the sign for the whole race so they can be seen. That wasn’t the case in Chicago.

Chicago is a crowded race so I spent the first few miles trying to get around people to find some open space, but there really wasn’t any. Going into Sunday my plan was to run with the 4:00 pacer through the half and then, depending on how I felt, step it up a bit. Since I couldn’t find the pacer after the gun went off, that plan went out the window. Instead I tried to just run based on feel.

This worked but I was nervous when I kept seeing my miles click off at 8:35-8:54/mile. I thought this was too fast but I was really feeling good so I just decided to go with it.

Then I started to get excited. I knew a 3:55 marathon was a 8:58/mile pace so I knew I was well under that. I told myself to just keep running at a comfortable place, no speeding up, but no slowing down.

Still feeling good, and smiling, at this point.

Still feeling good, and smiling, at this point.

After hitting mile 10, the pee that didn’t happen at the start, began to make it’s presence known. I tried to ward it off but by the half I knew I was going to have to stop at the nearest porta potty to avoid cramping later on.

I didn’t see a porta potty until mile 15 and by that time I had to pee so bad I thought I was going to explode. I lost a whole two minutes just peeing (sorry for the TMI) and because porta potties are disgusting, I had to squat. The second I started running again I knew my race was gone, my legs immediately cramped up and remained cramped for the final 11.2 miles.

Pain. Face.

Pain. Face.

My left calf and hamstring felt like they had rolled up into a ball. It totally threw off my form and I felt so horrible the rest of the race. I don’t remember a lot from the last 11 miles. There was a lot of walking. Plenty of self-pity. I even thought about dropping out.

Somehow I managed to stick it out and by the time I crossed the finish I just wanted to sit down on the ground and cry. I felt so defeated.

When I talked to my dad after the race he was very congratulatory and told me, sometimes the marathons to be most proud of are not the PRs but the ones you finished, despite the conditions. He’s right. There’s only so much you can train for and prepare for when it comes to running marathons. Leading up to Chicago, I was in the best shape I’ve been in for a race. I trained in all conditions, mastered my nutrition, tested my gear, found the perfect shoes – I was as prepared as I could have been.

We all made it.

We all made it.

So what happened? I think I learned majorly big city races are not for me. Or, at least they’re not conducive to a PR for me. Had it not been so crowded at the start, I might have been able to use the bathroom before and instead of writing about what went wrong right now, I’d be writing about how I set a 12-minute PR.

But there are so many things that can happen in a marathon. Things that we can do wrong as runners and things that are completely out of our control. Each mile teaches us something and we can use those lessons for future marathons. Had you asked me at the finish if I’d ever run another marathon, I would have scoffed in your face. But today, four days after the race, I found myself Googling fall 2015 marathons.

Motivation for Chicago Marathoners

Here we are, week 16 of training for the Chicago Marathon. In less than a week 45,000 runners will toe that starting line of a 26.2 mile journey through the Windy City. We’ve all been checking the weather reports religiously (obsessively) for the past week and it seems as though the weather keeps changing as much as our emotions. We’re nervous, excited, anxious, determined, but most of all we’re ready. Ready to tackle those dream-big goals. Ready to see what these 16 weeks have made us become. Ready to see how strong we are. Ready to see how brave we are.

I know I won’t be the only one standing on that starting line with sweaty palms, forcing the self-doubt out of my mind – I know I’ll be joined by 44,999 other runners battling the same doubts. But we’ve done the training. The 5 a.m. wake-ups. The 90 degree training runs. The endless 800m repeats, long runs, and easy recovery runs. The work is done, now it’s time to see what we’re made of.


Life and Training Update!

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

It has been far too long since I last blogged here (even though, I think my mom is the only one to notice my absence) but I’ve just been so incredibly busy.

Between training for Chicago, work, moving into a new apartment (!), and life, I haven’t had time to blog much. But my time away from my blog made me realize how much I actually miss it. I like having this space to jot down my thoughts, however random and kind of useless they might be.

Recently, I looked back at a post I wrote right before Chicago training started. I made a list of goals I hoped to accomplish during training for my third marathon. So, as my first post in over a month (and with less than two weeks to go until Chicago, yikes!) I thought I’d see how I’ve done on those goals. Turns out, not too shabby!

  1. Sub-4:00 – … Stay tuned!
  2. Become a morning workout person – Check! It wasn’t easy at first but I now do the majority of my runs before work. I actually really love getting up at 5 a.m. and getting my run done. Who have I turned into? I thought this was going to be one of my hardest goals to accomplish but I have a feeling this one will stick long after Chicago is done.
  3. Stop doing so many doubles – This goal went hand-in-hand with the morning workout goal. My training plan for Chicago called for several mid-week 8, 9, and 10-milers, most of which included speedwork, and I knew splitting up these runs wouldn’t be as beneficial. In my last training cycle, I can recall doing at least one double a week. This time around I think I only did two during the entire training cycle!
  4. Incorporate strength training – I’ve been slacking on this one a bit lately but over the summer I lifted and did strength two-three times a week. Now, I’ve been doing more core and yoga but still trying to do these exercises twice or three times during the week.
  5. Nail down my nutrition – Check! My nutrition wasn’t bad to begin with but I don’t think I was eating enough. Now, I’ve added in a multi-vitamin and have focused on getting more protein into my diet and I’ve noticed an improvement in my recovery.
  6. Operation bootay-shorts – Check! This seemed really silly in the beginning but I honestly was extremely self-conscious to wear spandex shorts in public, like really self-conscious. But after weaning myself onto them, they are practically all I wear! In fact, I plan on running Chicago in these beauties because they have tons of pockets and don’t chafe, or ride up.

I can’t believe almost four months have flown by and it’s almost time to toe that starting line again. I’m excited, nervous, stressed, anxious, and elated to run 26.2 miles through the beautiful Windy City. My boyfriend and I will be spending a few days there (my first time in Chicago) so if anyone has any recommendations, let me know!

If you’re training for a marathon, how have you done on your training goals?

We All Want to be the Next Joanie

From the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon with Desi Davila, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and my friend Beachy.

From the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon with Desi Davila, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and my friend Beachy.

“We all want to be the next Joanie,” Shalane Flanagan admitted before a packed press conference room following the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Shalane sat next to her training partner, Kara Goucher, both trying, but failing, to hold back tears. Shalane had just thrown down a ruthless race (2:27:08) in an attempt to be the first American woman in years to win the Boston Marathon, only to be outkicked in the very end.

I sat in the second row at the presser and while trying to remain an impartial journalist, as a runner, a female runner, and a Bostonian at that, it was hard not to get emotional.

In 2014 Shalane wanted revenge and ran an even more relentlessly fierce race. Although she didn’t win, she set a PR and broke the American course record of by running a 2:22:02- nearly five minutes faster than 2013.

“I have a good friend, Joan Benoit Samuelson, who for years has told me to run my own race,” Flanagan said after the race.

I used to hear stories about Joanie when I was growing up. My dad was a marathoner and before I was born, my parents lived down the road from her in Watertown. I wasn’t a runner when my dad used to tell me these stories. I had never been really good at sports and I actually hated running, so at the time I didn’t care. But now, my perspective has completely shifted.

I had the pleasure of running with Joanie in 2013 at the Walt Disney World Marathon while I was there for work. She joined us on a quick shakeout run the day before the half marathon. I ran by her side for about a mile and although we didn’t talk much, it was completely surreal. Here I was running next to a legend and it was like we were out on a typical, every day run.

I thought about all of this on my run this morning. When my alarm went off at 5 a.m. I really didn’t want to get up. I had 6 miles, easy on the schedule as part of my Chicago Marathon training. My first mile was slow, a 9:38. Before I started to beat myself up about it, I found myself thinking about Joanie’s impact. Today marks 30 years since her Olympic Marathon win in 1984, the first women’s Olympic Marathon, and as Roger Robinson described the victory in a piece for Runner’s World today, it “was the perfect symbol for the final full acceptance of women’s running.”

As I thought about all of this I noticed my pace start to quicken – 8:46, 8:40, 8:34, 8:10.

I was about a mile out from my apartment when I decided to just give it my all at the end. I finished in front of my door step and clocked in a 7:31 mile – fast for me but two minutes off of Joanie’s Olympic Marathon pace. But I felt strong.

Joanie’s performance at the 1984 Olympic Marathon changed women’s running forever. It brought it into the mainstream and made it possible for people like Shalane and Kara to want to become the next American female marathoning star.

I know I’ll never be the next Joanie, but we all could be.

Chicago Marathon Training: Week Four

(Kinda) True in Training & Life

(Kinda) True in Training & Life

I forgot to post about week three of training – oh well, it was uneventful! This past week however was really solid. I managed two mid-week pre-work runs, a very early long run, and a couple of strength sessions. I also got to go to spin on Monday which was fun! The only part of marathon training that I don’t like (OK, there are more than a few parts I don’t like) is having to miss out on other activities I like, like spin. I’m usually too tired, or don’t want to risk hurting myself, to get to spin but this week was the perfect time to fit it in.

Monday, July 14 – 45:00 Spin Class + Abs

Since I skipped my long run on Sunday I was able to go to spin. It was a really tough class because we rode stage 10 of the Tour de France which is a crazy-hilly section with nearly no flats. It was fun! We rode the section while watching the Tour on TV too which is probably the closest I’ll ever get to riding the Tour, ha!

Plan: Spin
Actual: 40 min of spin, 11(ish) miles on the bike

Shoes: Adidas Energy Boost
Conditions: Indoors

Tuesday, July 15- 4 miles, easy

It was extremely humid out this morning. I nearly opted for the treadmill but was happy I got up and out early to get my run in.

Plan: 4 miles, easy (10:00/mile)
Actual: 4.01 miles in 35:47 at 8:55/mile
Splits: 9:39, 8:36, 8:47, 8:38

Shoes: Nike LunarGlide 6
Conditions: 78 degrees, 98% humidity

Wednesday, July 16- 5 miles, hill repeats

I was finally able to run at lunch again today because the weather was so nice so I took the opportunity to run up 10th Street by work – a 500 ft elevation gain over about a mile. I hadn’t done this in weeks so it was really tough, there were a few walk breaks, but I did it!

Plan: 5 miles, hills
Actual: 5 miles in 45:15 at 9:03/mile pace and 500 ft. elevation gain
Splits: 8:26 (warm up), 10:45 (hill), 9:05 (still hill kind of), 8:12 (downhill), 8:46 (cool down)

Shoes: Nike LunarGlide 6
Conditions: 75 degrees

Thursday, July 174 miles, easy + Strength Training

I got to run at lunch again today because it was absolutely GORGEOUS outside! I felt pretty good but my GPS signal on my watch was wayy off. I went on a very typical 4-mile loop I do at work and my watch said it was only 3.59 miles. So, I’m still logging it as 4 here but my paces are all messed up.

Plan: 4 miles, easy
Actual: 4 miles in 34:xx at 8:40/mile-ish

Shoes: Nike LunarGlide 6
Conditions: 78 degrees, sunny

Oiselle “Dozen” Ab Workout + Ankle strengthening exercises

Friday, July 18- Strength

Oiselle “Dozen” Ab Workout + Ankle strengthening exercises + Arms

Saturday, July 19- 4.57 miles, easy

My watch was seriously struggling on this run and logged it as 3.84 miles. I knew it was longer than that and when I mapped it out it was 4.57 miles. Woof. No idea what the pace ended up being.

Plan: 4 miles easy

Shoes: Nike LunarGlide 6

Sunday, July 20- 14 miles, easy

Like I said in my post yesterday, this was a really solid long run. I managed to keep it very controlled the whole time. I woke up early and ran on a local rail trail and the weather was perfect. I ran sans-music and just enjoyed the run.

Plan: 14 miles, easy

Actual: 14 miles in 2:08 at 9:09/mile (my goal pace!)

Shoes: Nike LunarGlide 6

Weekly Mileage Total: 43 miles (32 running + 11 cycling)

{Monday Motivation} You Get Stronger

Yesterday I had an incredible long run. I am nervous to even write about it in fear I’ll jinx future long runs but I can’t not write about it. I had 14 miles on my schedule and I was a little nervous since I had to skip my long run last weekend. This would be my longest run since training for the Marine Corps Marathon last summer and fall.

Turns out, a little rest was just what I needed because this run was fantastic. I managed 14 miles averaging my goal marathon pace (9:09/mile to break 4:00) with a “fast finish” for the last two miles. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh a little when I finished the run. Why was I so nervous? There should be absolutely zero pressure on long run days. You should run at a comfortable, maintainable pace.

For me, my goal marathon pace happen to be my comfortable pace this past Sunday. This doesn’t mean it’s going to be my long run pace for the rest of training but if anything, it shows I am getting stronger. Happy running this week!

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

{Monday Motivation} She’s Running

I don’t know why but I loved this graphic when I saw it on Pinterest – for some reason it really resonated with me.  I can be unapologetically lazy sometimes. I can also be very Type A. A weird combination, I know. I try to train by the book but sometimes, life gets in the way. I try to “X” off all of my training runs but some days the motivation is just not there. This happened to me yesterday when I skipped out on my long run because the weather was just unbearable. Maybe this wasn’t really lazy of me. Maybe it was the smart thing to do. But the Type A Hannah was reeling inside, worrying that missing a long run would mean my training would suffer. Truth is, we’re only three weeks into Chicago training and there’s plenty of time left until race day. My fitness won’t suffer this early on and skipping out on yesterday’s run might mean being about to nail all of my training runs this week. I’m still running, sometimes I just stumble a bit.

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

Race Recap: Palmer Township Firecracker 4-Miler

MedalThis should really be called, “How I Did All of the Running No-No’s and Still Set a PR and Got an Age Group Award.”


Let me start from the beginning. I love running Fourth of July races. It’s been a tradition since I started running. So, imagine my disappointment when after weeks of searching for a July 4th race in the Lehigh Valley, I was coming up with nothing. That is, until three days before the fourth, I finally found one not too far from where I live.

The night before the race Adam and I decided to register. Did I mention we ate super greasy burgers and wings that night too? Mmmm, good pre-race nutrition decisions.

Anyway, I went into the race thinking, “I’ll just run it easy and have fun.” Plus, it gave me a chance to wear my Fourth of July #RUNootd, so I was happy. Only problem was I only had one pair of running shoes with me and I had never worn them before. Ooops, again.

I did a half-mile warmup around the neighborhood before the start of the race and the shoes felt a little stiffer than I would normally wear for a race, but they weren’t terrible. I was planning on running it easy anyway, so it wouldn’t matter so much how my shoes felt.

Well, I went out in 7:48 for the first mile. I haven’t seen 7:xx in quite some time so I thought, “Oh no, this is going to be bad.” The course took a slight incline up to a rail trail where it did an out-and-back. I told myself to rein it in and try to just run comfortably. My second mile clocked in at 7:43. Woah, nelly.

At this point, I was surprisingly feeling pretty good but I had just reached the turn around and were on the way back to the finish. I thought I’d try to push it to the end to see what would happen. I was doing well until I had some trouble trying to pass people on the narrow rail trail. A young kid (probably 10-12 years old) was running near me and clearly didn’t know proper race etiquette, i.e. when I passed him, he stayed on my heals (like actually on my heals, there was almost contact) until he would pass me and tuck in right in front of me. Not cool kid, not cool. I had to get a bit more aggressive with my passing here to get beyond him but unfortunately the mess caused my pace to suffer a bit. Mile 3 came in around 8:26.

For the last mile, I was starting to get tired, mostly due to the humidity, but I tried to reach deep and fell on my old mantra “Last mile, strong mile, kick it in.” Also,  being it was July 4th I told myself to do it for Amurica! Well, whatever it was worked and I ran my last mile in 6:55. Holy speedballs!

I finished in 30:57 officially (30:55 according to my watch) which was a 5-minute PR. I was pretty happy with my time, especially since I was expecting to run a very leisurely 4 miles that morning. I met Adam at the finish, he came in second overall in 22:32 (proud girlfriend!), and then we waited around for the awards.

Post-race medal photo!

Post-race medal photo!

We knew he was getting an award but I was completely shocked when I heard my name for my age group. I won second place for females age 19-24! I’ve never won an age group award so I was really excited!!

Could I have done things differently and possibly run even faster? Probably. But I was more excited to discover that my speed is still there, I just need to work on it and not be afraid to push a little harder.