Where's Coach Jen?

Clearly I’m overdue for an update.  2017 brought a ton of changes for my family, and just as many changes in my running.  My 13-year old stepdaughter came to live with us full-time, so we had the addition of a teenager into the house – which was a big adjustment for us all.   We started the process of building a new home in the Fall, and had to list, stage, and sell our old one.  Our family of 5 moved into an apartment for just over a month, and then last month we finally moved into our new home. 


It’s no secret that I like feeling in control of my life – through schedules, discipline, hard work, and the comforting routine of running day in, day out.  I tend to cling to what I can control – trusting that if I put in the work, I’ll reap the rewards.  But sometimes life requires you to let go of that death grip on the reins.  When things got busy and my family life was changing, I tried desperately to hold on to my competitive running.  I got up earlier, worked harder, dug deeper – but the universe seems to know when we are trying to avoid the path we are meant to be on, and so she put a hand on my shoulder and said, “Stop. I have something else planned for you.”   So I let go. 


The next year was filled with lots of soul searching, which sounds super cheesy, but that's probably the best way to describe it.  If I wasn’t Jen, the competitive runner, who was I?  I still ran, but my life wouldn’t allow me to run in the same way I had – so I did something different.  I started coaching more runners, and I started CrossFit. 


In pursuing both, I gained a happiness that I thought I’d lost – the ability to just RUN, and truly enjoy it.  No matter the pace, no matter the distance.  Without beating myself up about what I “should” be running, or being frustrated that I couldn’t hit the paces I used to run with ease.   I was just grateful to be out there running. 

Stepping back has been a huge shift, but it’s been what I’ve needed at this time and place in my life.  I’ve had the privilege of working with more athletes and being able to give them more of my time and energy to help them achieve their goals.  And their successes have made me happier than I’d ever expected. 

Though my own fitness journey has shifted more to the strength training side, I’m still running.  I jumped into a local 7.4K on the 4th of July and was pleasantly surprised to take 3rd female.  And though the time was far from my personal best, I ran to remind myself what it felt like to push hard in a race – to suffer, but to ultimately defeat those voices in your head that tell you to stop, that this is too hard, or that you are too slow, too old, not good enough.   I ran to help me be a better coach to my athletes, to re-learn some of those racing lessons (run the tangents, pass with authority, take things a mile at a time).  And I ran just because I could.  I’ve been injured enough to know that running is a gift, and I’m more grateful for that now than ever. 

With my parents and aunt at the Brandermill 7.4K - 4th of July    

With my parents and aunt at the Brandermill 7.4K - 4th of July 


I plan to continue to run as I feel, coach others, and enjoy developing my strength.  I’m currently studying to receive my nutrition certification and if all goes well, I’ll soon be joining the team at Fit Factory Nutrition to help support my athletes and others in aligning their nutrition with their fitness and body composition goals.  


I hope this post finds all of you happy and healthy, and enjoying your own running.  We’re all at different places in our life with careers, families, and our own running journey.  I’d love to help you reach your goals with a consult, custom schedule, or 1:1 personal coaching.  If I can help, don’t hesitate to reach out – shoot me an email at coachjen@runlikeafox.net and we’ll chat. 


Enjoy the summer weather and know that the work you are doing now in the sweltering heat and humidity is laying the groundwork for a fantastic fall racing season!


Run happy –

Coach Jen 


Race for the Chocolate 10K - Race Report

Race for the Chocolate 10K - medal and wine glass A few weeks ago, as I was looking at Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning schedule, I saw that he called for an 8K-15K "tune up" race on the weekend of Valentine's Day.  I opted not to run the local option (the Sweetheart 8K on Sunday morning) so that I could attend church with the family.  So instead I looked to see if there was anything remotely close by being held on Saturday - Valentine's Day.  I was in luck - there was a 10K being held at a winery in New Kent - which is about an hour from my house.  The race featured a post-race wine and chocolate tasting (which sounded delicious to me) so I signed up, went right back to my training and didn't think much more about it until suddenly....it was a few days until race day!

I had a bigger mileage week this week with 92 miles and knew that I wouldn't taper for the race.  I planned to turn the race into my "long run" for the week by squeezing in 6 miles beforehand and then a few more afterwards to end up with 15 or so.  I tried to front-load the week (mileage-wise) so that I'd have a lighter day on Friday (8 miles) that would allow my legs to recover a tiny bit before the race.  I was hoping to give the 10K a good effort - not an all-out race effort, but 90% or so.   My run on Friday felt sluggish.  The 8:50 recovery pace did not feel as springy and happy and everything-is-rainbows-and-butterflies as I expected and I started to get a bit anxious about how the race would go in the morning.   But I chalked it up to being at the end of a high mileage week and tried not to stress.  I ate my normal pre-race spaghetti the night before, foam rolled and tried to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Woke up at 5am and got ready to go.  It was cold (in the 20s) and windy, and I opted for capris, a warm long sleeve shirt and a vest - plus my trusty ear warmer headband and mittens.  (plus my favorite invention for winter running:  HotHands hand warmers!)  Ate a bagel and had some UCAN on my drive out to New Kent.   Got there with plenty of time to pick up my packet, use the restroom and then get started on my extended warm up.  Hit the roads and ran 6 miles around the race venue (the New Kent Winery).   I was happy to note that the "easy" pace that I was running was well under 8min/mile and that lifted my spirits - maybe today would be a good day after all!  I tried hard not to think about the fact that I'd have to run almost a minute per mile FASTER than that easy pace on the run.   I was a little stressed about the very strong winds that I encountered and wondered how many miles we'd have into the headwind before we turned, but there was no use in worrying about it now.  It was almost time to race.

Trying to stay warm as we wait for the race to start.

Got back to the car, had a gel and some water and used the restroom one more time.  The race was a bit disorganized and the start of the 10K ended up being delayed for 25 minutes or so.  This was a bit frustrating since I'd timed things (nutrition, bathroom breaks, my warm up, etc.) to a 9:15 start and it was nearing 9:45 before we actually were set to begin.  There was also nowhere warm to wait - we were all outside shivering in the cold.  I hopped in place a lot and was very, very thankful for my hand warmers.  Finally it was time to start.  I made my way to the front (which felt weird to me since I hardly ever am in a position to race near the front of a pack!) and soon we were underway.

Mile 1:  (6:45)   Right out of the gate we went down a narrow, rutted (and frozen!) dirt road.  I was trying not to twist an ankle or run into anyone in front of me and was just so happy to make it out of that one mile section in one piece that I didn't care too much about the pace.  We popped out on the road and then I was able to get a better feel for what we were running.  The pace was a bit slow, but most likely due to the dirt road so I just ignored it and pressed on.   I quickly found myself in 3rd place for the women. The first lady was Renee High (Olympic Trials Qualifier from VA Beach) who is super speedy so I knew I wouldn't catch her, and the 2nd gal I didn't know but she opened up a little lead on me in the first mile.   I decided I'd try to reel her in later in the race if I could and practice Sarah's suggestion of "10 hard steps".  I'm trying to get better about competing and not mentally giving up late in the race.

Mile 2:  (6:50)   We were headed straight into the wind on this stretch and I was getting frustrated that I was working hard for a pace that was less than stellar.  I tucked in behind two guys for a quarter mile or so to try and get a bit of relief from the wind but they started to slow so I ended up going around them.  We ran through several traffic circles and I did my best to run the tangents rather than follow the road all the way around the circle like some of the guys were doing!   There was a "water stop" on this mile.  I put that in quotes because it was a card table set up about 25 feet off the road with about 10 cups of water on it.  If you had wanted water, you'd have had to hop the curb, run up to the table, grab a cup, run back and hop back on the road.  Needless to say, I passed.

Mile 3: (6:29)  Somewhere in this mile we got to flip it and head back the way we came - but this time the wind was at our backs!!  The pace picked up and I was stoked to see that a 6:29 split on my watch with no more effort than the first mile.  I still felt pretty good and was slowly closing the gap on the #2 female.

Mile 4: (6:37) And here's where the course got a bit challenging.  We entered the area near the golf course and hit some pretty good rolling hills.  I had planned to take a gel and some water here (more so to practice mid-race fueling than anything else - I wouldn't normally take a gel on a 10K), but there was no second water stop as promised!  There was also quite a few spots marked just with cones and it was rather confusing to try and figure out where the course went.  Thankfully there was a guy and the #2 gal within sight so I just followed them.

Mile 5: (6:28)  We had a section on the twisty-turny cart path of the golf course and then a quarter mile section on deep gravel where I was using every ounce of energy left to pray that I did not turn my ankle!   I tried to pick it up in this mile once we got off the gravel and was happy to see the pace improve.

Mile 6: (6:44)  The 2nd place girl was starting to slow!  Or else I was speeding up.  A quick glance at my watch told me that she must be slowing.  We were back on the pavement, but also back to the rolling hills.  The legs were heavy here and I was feeling ready to be done, but I tried to push a bit to see if I could close the gap.

Mile 6.2: (6:24)  I was closing in by the time we hit the mile 6 marker but knew I was running out of real estate to catch her.  I willed the legs to go faster and powered up the final hills as best I could.  In the end I couldn't catch her, but I was proud of myself for trying!

End result:  41:45, 3rd place Female, 9th overall.  (of 787)  6.29 miles on my Garmin so while I tried to run the tangents, I have some work to do!

The tray of chocolates (and marshmallows) that we got post-race!

After crossing the line I walked for a few paces and congratulated my fellow runners.  I had planned to do a few cool down miles, but ended up helping the 2nd place gal bandage her finger (she'd cut it right before the race started) and by the time we got through with that, I was frigid and the idea of anything but getting in my warm clothes was too hard to fathom.  So I jogged to my car and pulled on my warm stuff, figuring I'd make up the miles later.  Not the ideal scenario, but I was too cold to care!    Grabbed some chocolate and got to taste three of the New Kent wines before I turned into a popsicle and decided to head for the warmth of my car and the promise of a Starbucks coffee on the way home.  I ended up running 5 recovery run/cooldown miles later in the day since I had missed the miles post-race.

This is actually a new 10K PR for me - I haven't raced a 10K in many years and while this wasn't really a true race effort for me, it was nice to set a PR in the process!  It was a good effort, and while not even close to the pace I'm *supposed* to be capable of for a 10K, it wasn't a typical road 10K and I ran it on un-tapered legs at the end of a high mileage week.  So I'm happy with how it went.

Sorry for the lack of pictures on this - my phone died due to the cold so I had no way to take photos!

Total for the week: 92 miles (highest mileage to date)

I've got one more week of heavy training (which unfortunately has coincided with our first big snow here in RVA) and then I start to taper!  I can hardly believe the race is less than 4 weeks away.

Do you usually do any "tune-up" races in your training?  If you do, do you race them at full-on RACE effort?   Do you love or hate the 10K distance?  (I like it more than the 5K distance, but not much more!)