Thursday, December 27

Karissa's 2012 Race Recap

This was my first year as a runner. I started running in earnest in November 2011, hitting a trail near my home every day that I could. I loved it. When it got cold, though, my lungs didn’t love it and I was stuck indoors with no real way to keep going. After Christmas I decided to join the Anytime Fitness in my neighborhood. I know, I know: this is the New Year’s resolution of New Year’s resolutions… a gym membership. But my real resolution was to run a 5k. A few days into January I signed up for a race in April with a friend. The date was on the calendar and I now had a goal to work towards. 

I signed up to work with a personal trainer for a few sessions at a special introductory price and learned how to use the machines and free weights, and she also taught me some things about nutrition and what muscle groups to work in what order. I couldn’t afford to continue with personal training, but I took what I learned from those sessions and did my best to apply it as the months wore on.

I ran as much as possible. 

In March I took a new job, which greatly increased my commute time, and that really took a toll on the time I spent running. My initial transition into the new job left me exhausted and I couldn’t seem to find time to run. Eventually I got back to running two days during the work week and one weekend day, and that pleased me. 

April 21 – Trooper Iwaniec Take Off 5k, Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, PA – 32:04
This was my first 5k and, arguably, my favorite race experience. I remember so many details about this race. My boyfriend drove me to the race because I was too nervous to do very much, including eat. My friend Jenny met us there. My dad surprised me by showing up to root for me. It was great. We pinned on our numbers and I felt like I could do anything. The race was good, and the course had a few challenging hills but we managed just fine. I remember slowing to a quick walk just a few times to catch my breath. Before I knew it, the finish line was in sight. My dad and my boyfriend were there clapping and taking photos of us. It was a friendly downhill finish, so I let my legs fly and I blazed across the finish line with a huge grin on my face. I felt like I had just won Olympic gold.

Before the April race, though, I had already signed up for another one in May—the Pittsburgh Marathon 5k, which is held the day before the big event. I had registered with a local animal shelter, the Animal Rescue League, and raised over $500 for the cause. They had a team for each of the races and it felt really good to be part of something so much bigger than myself. This was the first time I was racing for a charity. I adopted my dog five years ago and she changed my life, so I will always support animal shelters because I believe in the work that they do. This was my way of showing support.

May 5 – Pittsburgh Marathon 5k, Pittsburgh, PA – 31:03 *PR
Again, my friend Jenny and I ran this one together. It was a warm, humid day, unfortunately. The race was a bottleneck at the start line. As I ran, I enjoyed the feeling of running red lights in downtown Pittsburgh… literally running them, haha. It was fun to see the city separated from the traffic that sometimes frustrates me enough to relegate me to the bordering neighborhoods. I slowed down a few times, feeling the effects of the humidity on my lungs as I struggled to catch my breath, but when we neared the finish I was ready. I had somehow lost Jenny in the crowd, but I sprinted for a strong finish with a smile. We met up afterwards and met my boyfriend once we grabbed bananas and water. The 5k as part of the marathon was well done.

By the time May rolled around, though, I had already decided that this running thing was for me. My sister had told me about the Epilepsy Foundation 5k in July, so I decided that I needed a race in June. I was going to run a race every month. Yes, that was a great goal! Let’s run a race every month! When I registered for June and July, I also found races for August and September. The calendar was filling up and I was more excited about running than ever. Clocking miles in the late spring and summer was easier as I grew accustomed to my work schedule and daylight hours grew longer. I was so happy to have found running…

June 23 – Fearless Semper Fi 5k, Allison Park, PA – 35:17
So humidity is my nemesis for the summertime portion of the racing season. I struggled to keep my asthma in check during this race. I ran solo (no buddy could join me), so I had to keep myself sane within the confines of my own head. That, in itself, is a challenge. And I learned that I need to do some work to make sure that I don’t psych myself out too much about how I’m feeling because I can talk myself into babying myself when I might not need to. I finished and I was glad for that. This race had a really fantastic post-race party! All the Pittsburgh sports teams’ mascots were there, the amount and variety of food available was amazing, and the people were all really kind. 

July 21 – Epilepsy Foundation Fun Run/Walk 5k, Pittsburgh, PA – 31:50
My sister has had epilepsy since I was an infant, and it’s affected our family in many ways over the years. Summer of 2012 was difficult because my sister was having seizures that were seemingly uncontrollable with all the regular medications. She was hospitalized several times and, after serious consideration, she began pursuing evaluation and consultation for brain surgery to alleviate the symptoms of her epilepsy.

All of that made this run even more important to me. This was the other fundraiser that I did. I raised over $300 for the Epilepsy Foundation of Western Pennsylvania. What really made me happy was when my youngest brother (I have two) decided to run with me. He’s a junior in college and plays baseball, so he’s in good physical shape and was ready to run. 

On race day, my whole family was there. I wore purple shorts (which, by coincidence, matched my purple Brooks Adrenaline 11) because purple is the color to promote epilepsy awareness. The race started downtown and moved through Point State Park. The humidity was stifling, but my brother humored me (literally) and we kept a decent pace. My family sat along the course in the park and cheered for us when we passed. It was really thrilling to have people cheer for us.

August 25 – Run Around the Square 5k, Pittsburgh, PA – 34:50
August was a really busy month. My birthday (the 13th!) came so quickly and shortly thereafter was the vacation I’d be planning for most of the year with my boyfriend. But before we left for Las Vegas and Utah, I had one more race. 

The Run Around the Square 5k is legendary in Pittsburgh. The race has grown quite large in recent years, mostly because of the beer-fueled after-party, I’m told. This year was also the 30th annual race, so it was a pretty big deal. I am very glad that I registered in advance (way back in May when I decided that I would run a race every month). The course runs through the neighborhood and Frick Park. It’s really a fun race. Read my recap here. (It was in August that I returned to blogging!)

Our vacation was wonderful and I came back ready to run. September proved to be a challenging month for me in a number of ways, mostly health wise, but I kept running. By the end of the month, though, I was ready to run my longest distance yet: my first 10k.

September 30 – The Great Race 10k, Pittsburgh, PA – 1:08:57
This was probably my favorite race of the year, with the exception of being wet and mostly frozen at the end. The distance was challenging for me, but I felt ready for it. The course was really lovely, winding through Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods and down into Point State Park, but it was also a bit of a challenge with its rolling hills. I slowed down at some points, but when I finished I felt strong. I wrote a longer race recap here

And although it was in October when I announced my addiction to running, I struggled to find races for October, November, and December because 1) these are much colder months in Pennsylvania, and 2) I didn’t really want to do any “holiday” races. I don’t know why. It felt silly. Maybe next year I’ll feel like doing silly. Anyway, searching for races that weren’t holiday related and met my month-to-month requirements led me to’s trail race series. And what a gem it is.

October 20 – Trail Series Race #1, Munroe Falls, OH – 1:03:27
The course is in Munroe Falls Metro Park and is estimated at five miles, but I’ve been told it’s actually closer to 4.4 miles (because it’s one trail loop x2). So I’m not sure how to categorize the race except on its own, with its own PRs, haha. This was my first race out of state and my first trail race.

My brother met me at 5:00 a.m. to drive with me to Ohio. (This is my other brother—not the one who ran with me in July. This one is right behind me in birth order. The other one is the youngest in the family.) He started things off right with some hilarity and we drove (and drove and drove). We arrived just in time (after a wrong turn or two; thanks, Apple Maps!), and I set out on my first trail race. 

I had trained on trails near my home, so I felt okay with them, but I’d never been on a trail with so many people. I think that was the toughest part. Read my first trail race recap here.

I stacked my fall races very tightly, though, and had another race the following weekend.

October 27 – Terrifying 10k, Allison Park, PA – 1:15:32
Oh, my. This was definitely not my best race. I wrote a recap here, but the whole thing felt like a stress explosion as I examine it in 20-20 hindsight. I don’t think I’ll run this race again, but for those that like a hilly start this might be one for you. I felt demoralized. 

November 3 – NYRR Dash to the Finish 5k, New York City, NY – Cancelled
Hurricane Sandy swept in and took the northeast by storm. For me, personally, it was probably better that this was cancelled because I had three race weekends in a row… and travel… and, well, I was exhausted. 

I joined up with @nycrunningmama’s Race for Recovery fundraiser to help the victims of the hurricane because I felt helpless to do anything for these suffering people.

November 11 – Marshall Mangler 8k Trail Race, Allison Park, PA – 1:21:09
And just when I thought I had a bad race with the Terrifying 10k, this 8k trail race comes to kick my butt. This trail was completely unlike the trail I run at home or the trail I raced for This trail was full of rocks and roots, was one-person wide at most parts, and had very few trail markers. Oh, and it started with another ridiculous hill. It was cold at the start, so I had an asthma attack within minutes of starting to climb the hill. I didn't write a race recap. I think time just got away from me.

November 17 – Trail Series Race #2, Munroe Falls, OH – 57:29 *PR
This was just what I needed so I could bounce back from a string of bad, physically trying and mentally scarring races. I crushed my previous time on this course. I was so proud. My friend Eleanor was there with me. It was our first time running together and it’s definitely not our last. We had a blast. Race recap here

It’s a good thing I had a two week break scheduled between this race and the next one because I injured myself getting that PR on that course. Runner’s knee, the doctor said. And rest with physical therapystretches were the prescribed treatment. 

December 1 – Trail Series Race #3, Munroe Falls, OH – *walked (injured)
And I wasn’t completely ready to run by the time this race came. Eleanor walked with me, even though I told her she could run without me (she wouldn’t). I was sad that I couldn’t run, but I was glad that I still got credit for finishing the series. (There is some sweet swag that comes with being a series finisher.) No race recap since I just walked...

December 8 – Race for Recovery 5k, virtual race with @nycrunningmama – *walked (injured)
My knee was feeling better, but I wasn’t ready to run this race either. I signed up to run for the charity. I know it’s a virtual race and I could’ve skipped it, but I put on my pedometer and tracked my steps throughout the day. I landed just shy of the 5k from my day’s activities. 

December 15 – Doomsday Dash 5k, Columbus, OH – 37:27
You would think that my last race of the year would be my best. It was a relatively flat course on a crisp, cool day. But I had the stomach flu earlier in the week… and I was recovering from my knee injury. So I learned that coming back from both an illness and an injury in the same race was a bad idea. This is my slowest 5k race time to date. I feel okay about it because I really, really didn’t feel well. And I finished the race in one piece, so that counts for something, especially when I was nauseous and in pain. Race recap here.

So that’s my 2012 race recap. That’s nine straight months of racing. NINE! I’ve got my January 2013 race ready (since I have to take a break then), and I’m starting out the New Year right as a NEW Oiselle Team Ambassador (YAY!) and working with a coach forhalf marathon training. I need to finish planning my other races, but I’m really looking forward to 2013.

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