Lessons From My Toughest Races + Class Pass in Baltimore!

I wanted to start off today’s post by sharing a couple of exciting announcements! You may have seen on Instagram yesterday that I was selected to be a PRO Compression ambassador! I almost dropped my lunch out of my mouth when I read the E-mail because I applied last year and was not selected, but figured it was worth a shot to try again this year. As you know I LOVE PRO Compression and basically wear their socks 24/7 so I am excited to “officially” support them in 2015!

Also, Class Pass has finally come to the Baltimore/Annapolis area! My friend in Boston was telling me about this a month ago and I was really jealous that we didn’t have it here. Well, a few weeks later I was contacted about Class Pass coming to Baltimore! I’ll be trying it out for the next month and am also an affiliate so if you are interested you can sign up here or click the image in my sidebar! I’ll be posting more about the classes I try out over the next few weeks as well. 

Baltimore class pass

Ok, so on to today’s topic: tough race experiences!

When I think back on the races that were the most challenging for me, one word comes to mind: HILLS. I guess I have never been good at running hills (probably because you need glutes to do so and I don’t have any- or maybe it’s the other way around?) I’m going to talk briefly about the top 3 races that were my most challenging and what I learned from each.

lessons from races

Marine Corps Historic Half 2010

historic halfPretty sure I was injured when I ran this. My friends who live in DC were running it and I decided to join them. This was back when I wasn’t racing regularly and had started having hip pain. Thinking back to racing this long ago makes me cringe a bit- I didn’t know anything about gels, foam rolling, or core strength back then. This was my slowest half-marathon and pretty much the only thing I remember about the course is a monster hill at mile 11. The kind that you are better off walking up because it forces you to run so slowly. 


 Lessons learned: Look at the elevation map before a race, don’t run when injured

Maryland Half Marathon 2013

maryland halfThis picture was taken after I crossed the finish line, but it’s pretty much how I looked for the whole race after mile 5. The course is really hilly, which I knew going into the race. I had completed this race the year before and knew what to expect. The weather was hot and humid and I went out too fast. Rob had the same issues and he had to walk quite a bit too. I still managed to get a decent time, probably because of my fast miles early on. It was a rough one and I really considered not running any more half-marathons during this race. 

Lessons learned: Don’t go out too fast, adjust your race day goals to the weather, train for your course (HILLS!)

Baltimore Marathon 2013

baltimore running festivalI guess this is the post where I show all my bad running photos. I had a great training cycle for this race only to crash and burn on race day. Those Baltimore hills got me again- even though I knew exactly what I was in for. I was on track for a huge PR and then walked up every hill after mile 15. This slowed my time significantly and I ran a minute slower than my PR. My mindset was decent throughout this race, but I gave up mentally and definitely could have pushed harder at the end. 

Lessons learned: Do more hill work, don’t go all out on the downhills, your mind tires before your body- you need to keep pushing through!

As you can see, a common theme here is that I get defeated by hills– it may be physical or mental or both, but it’s something I need to work on. Over the past 6 months I have started doing hill work and noticed a lot of benefits. It would help if we had some bigger hills where I run but I will have to work with what I have for now. 

I also started working on my mental strength after the Baltimore marathon. Now I really try not to allow myself to walk during training runs so that I don’t expect to do the same during a race. I also remind myself to keep going when my mind wants to allow my body to give up. During the Raleigh Marathon it was really hot and hilly but I was able to keep running the whole time because my mind wouldn’t let my body stop. I had also run high mileage during training so my body was used to running on tired legs.


 I think it’s the tough runs and races that make us into stronger runners. 

Thanks to April, Patty, and Erika for suggesting we take a look back on some of these races that may have been a struggle, but allowed us to learn and grow as runners. 

Tuesdays on the Run
 What lessons have you learned from your toughest races?
Do you notice any common themes around runs/races that were a struggle for you?
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84 thoughts on “Lessons From My Toughest Races + Class Pass in Baltimore!

  1. Exciting about PRO Compression! My most common race fail is starting out of the gate too fast (especially Boston). I have never, ever had a negative split. I’m not the greatest at hills either, but (unfortunately) we have so many around here that they’re unavoidable.
    Suzy recently posted…Mileage Monday: Route 66My Profile

    • I think if I had more hills around I would be forced to run them and hopefully get better at them! I get really nervous to go out too fast in races now after having a bad experience with it.

    • Yes both of those races are so hilly! I guess I learned that I can’t change the hills so I need to change my training instead!

  2. Big congrats on ProCompression! I also applied but didn’t get it but hey, they gave me a 50% coupon code so I can’t complain about that.
    I can totally see how hills in races are a killer! I feel like no matter how often you run hills, they can still defeat you come race day especially if it’s hot/humid. I’d say my worst vice is going out too fast. My best races have been the ones when I am able to rein myself in for the first couple of miles.
    Sam @ The Running Graduate recently posted…Half Marathon Training 1/19 – 1/25/15My Profile

    • I think I got 50% coupon last year and was really excited about that:) I have definitely learned to take it easy in the beginning of a race…its better to be able to finish strong!

  3. Great idea for a post! I think one of my biggest issues during longer runs is that I’m not always good at pacing myself. I try to start out easy, but usually I end up going out too hard in the beginning. I’m starting to think my music has something to do with that lol because I get “too pumped up” if you know what I mean. That’s something I’m really trying to work on.
    Chrissy @Pink Polish and Running Shoes recently posted…How to Make Healthy Food Taste GoodMy Profile

    • Pacing can be really tricky and I think everyone struggles with it at dome point. Maybe you can set up your playlist to put the songs that get you really pumped up at the end?

    • You totally should have applied! Maybe next year.
      Just E-mailed you! I am ready (sort of) to take on some hills!

  4. I agree heat + hills would unravel me as well. I’m such a flatlander it’s hard to even find hills to train other than on a mill. Live and learn about going out too fast, right?
    Marcia recently posted…My Worst RaceMy Profile

    • Exactly! I think after that experience I have been much more cautious about going out too fast. I should probably try playing around with the elevation on the treadmill a bit more!

    • I think the more you run hills the better you are at handling them- although I don’t think they ever get “easy”!
      Make sure you follow pro compression on Facebook because that’s where i saw the info about the ambassadorship application!

    • Thanks! I think everyone has races that don’t go as planned, and its all a learning experience!

  5. Congrats on getting both ProCompression and Nuun this year!

    I have the issue with mental strength. At almost all of my races I have run positive splits because I end up telling myself I *need* extra walking breaks. During the Miami Half I felt that way a tiny bit in mile 12 but I just ignored it and it turns out I didn’t die! Whoo! haha
    Kristina recently posted…Figuring Out What Type of Training Works for MeMy Profile

    • SEE!?! You learned from previous races and were able to adjust your racing style and made improvements!! Sometimes our own minds are our worst enemies in a race.

    • Congrats to you as well! I have seriously been living in my compression socks lately. Even though Im not training hard they are just so warm and comfortable!

  6. Big congrats on Pro Compression! So cool, and obviously it’s the perfect fit :) My toughest races don’t have a theme, but 2 pop into mind. The worst was when I ran a marathon injured and with horrible stomach issues. That was the race that was my “rock bottom” moment and propelled me into paleo and smarter training. The other tough races are related to heat. I just don’t run well in the heat and feel dehydrated easily. Any race run in the colder months, even not trained well always feels a million times better than in the heat!
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…NYRR Fred Lebow Manhattan Half RecapMy Profile

    • Its almost like the worst the race is, the more we learn from it (unfortunately) As much as its tough to go through a really bad race like you did- it really forced you to stop and take a look at what you were doing and make some positive changes!

  7. Congrats on your ambassadorship! And I’m so jealous about Class Pass – I would love to do it!

    I have very little experience with hills and am just starting to do hill work with my training for Cherry Blossom. I can only imagine how tough it will be! I can agree with not starting out too fast…sometimes it’s hard to resist all the excitement at the starting line!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…Philly Half Marathon: My Worst RaceMy Profile

    • Thanks!
      Its great that you are incorporating hills into your training for the race- I think it will help you be both physically and mentally prepared for the hills in the race!

    • Thanks! And I hope you get to try out Class Pass- I’m excited to try out some classes that I probably wouldn’t try otherwise!

  8. SO EXCITED YOU ARE AN AMBASSADOR TOO! Also really excited about class pass coming to Baltimore. I’m interested to hear what you think of it! I’ve learned a lot from my tougher races- but most importantly, that I need to go easy on myself. Not every race will be a PR and usually when I’m more relaxed, I surprise myself. I love the “run strong” motto. It’s perfect :)
    Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…In this moment…My Profile

    • I really want to make the most of Class Pass but I can see myself sticking to what I already go to regularly (like Charm City Yoga). Im hoping to try Sid Yoga, Rev Cycle, and Barre (although there really isn’t a convenient studio to downtown it seems!)
      Agreed that sometimes relaxed races go the best! I hate getting all nervous before a race because really feel like it affects my performance.

    • Both are challenging but things that can be worked on! I keep telling myself that the only way to get better at hills is to run them more!

  9. I don’t like big crowds but I know they hold me back at the beginning and I don’t go out too fast. I’ve learned to pace myself but race day excitement might win out.

    One of my favorite cities is San Francisco but talk about hills. I have no idea if I could do a race there.
    Lesley recently posted…My Worst RaceMy Profile

    • I don’t think I could ever do a race in San Francisco either! Just seeing pictures of people running there is intimidating! I bet people who train there regularly are so good at hills!

    • It really does seem like hills are a struggle for so many of us! But yes, making it through the tough runs helps prepare us for next time!

  10. First of all CONGRATULATIONS!!! I love, love, love PRO and my ever growing collection is proof of that! I recently tried a different pair of compression and it wasn’t the same! Still good, but “different”.

    I think this is a good lesson-Hills are incorporated into all of my outdoor runs and I rarely have one without them. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a flat area! Putting hills in at the end of my runs have helped me get better at them…When I can hold a solid pace on the last mile while being able to book it uphill-I know its making me a stronger runner!! :)
    Nicole@thegirlwhoraneverywhere recently posted…Running Funks, and Mileage for the week!My Profile

    • Thanks!
      I’m sure that running all of those hills has so many benefits! As much as I complain about any hills I know they are the best thing for me!

    • Thanks!
      It’s good that you learned that and have something to focus on…and strides are awesome for practicing finishing strong!

  11. This is an awesome post, thanks for taking the time to write it! Congrats on the ambassadorship – I love PRO Compression too, I applied but wasn’t accepted, though I didn’t expect to be as my blog is still so new and my readership is still growing. Maybe next year!

    I’ve never heard of Class Pass, I’m so glad you posted about it – checking it out in Boston now!
    Brenda @ Don’t Lose the Trail recently posted…Yoga For RunnersMy Profile

  12. So happy you get to try out Class Pass! You will love trying out a bunch of new workouts that you otherwise would not have tried :)

    Both of my marathons have been hill central. Which is funny because I train where there are absolutely no hills. Like you said it is mind over matter. Last year training during the polar vortex gave me a great midnight – no run will be as hard as those training runs. You can only go up!!

    • That is so true! I definitely thick when you have tough training runs they make you prepared for anything on race day!

  13. Congrats on your PRO Compression ambassadorship! I just got my first pair of their long compression socks for Christmas and they are AMAZING. I don’t know why I waited so long to try them out! (Plus they are perfect in the winter when I’m recovering post-run.)

    My next half marathon is super hilly, so I’m trying to prepare myself for that. I think it’s cool to see how you’ve learned and improved your training since these races – some of the best tips and recommendations have emerged out of reading these posts today!
    Jess recently posted…Run the Bluegrass Training Week 7My Profile

    • Aren’t PRO compression socks the best?! So glad you are trying them out!
      Its good that you know ahead a time that your race has hills so you can prepare for them!

    • Thank you! Not sure if it helps or hurts to see the hills on the course map before hand…sometimes expecting them makes me dread them the whole race!

  14. Congrats on being a Pro Compression Ambassador! That’s super awesome! The hills in the Baltimore course are hard. I even had someone in Cleveland tell me that Baltimore was hard – so the word is out. Do you ever make it out to the county to run? You should go up to Loch Raven Resevoir…they have some killer hills. I have hills all around me, but it doesn’t make it any easier on race day. I’m still learning to not go out too fast. Kinda hard when you are surrounded by people at the start who are buzzing past you. Work in progress. :)
    Sara recently posted…Workout Review 1/19 – 1/26My Profile

    • Thanks!
      I always think its so ridiculous how I run around all the flat areas in Baltimore but then all the races are on hills! I’m actually moving to an area in Baltimore county that has some hills- and I will be closer to areas like the reservoir that I could go run at on the weekends! Im excited for that although I will miss running around the harbor!

  15. Woo hoo! Congrats on the PRO Compression selection! It sounds like you’ve come a long way and have learned a lot when it comes to dealing with those tough hills. I’m the opposite. I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind the uphills, but I can get a little bit intimidated by the downhills. I’m not as bad as I used to be, but in high school my coach did get on my a few times because it was pretty obvious that I slowed down when it came to a big downhill haha. A few of my toughest races have been in altitude, including my first cross country race in which I really wanted to quit after that experience!
    Hailey recently posted…This…or that: Endure then recoverMy Profile

    • I love a nice downhill, especially in a race! But if it were steep Im sure I would be intimated. I have never run in altitude- I’m sure that would be at the top of my list of hard races too!

  16. Congrats on the ambassadorship! I am wearing my sleeves all the time (stupid calves). I haven’t run that many races yet so I’m trying to learn as much as I can from other people. Although the race that I suffered most – went out too fast in a race with hills right at mile 8 – was my PR. But it was so awful. Ugh! You should come run out in SLC! There are no flat areas anywhere so you are forced into hill training for every single run. On my long runs I regularly wish I was in the midwest.
    Sarah recently posted…That time when I had a running blog………..My Profile

    • Im sure it would be so beneficial if I ran in an area where there were alot oh hills! Its’ like I live in the only area thats relatively flat and then all the races I do end up having hills, and I’m so unprepared!

  17. Hi Lisa! First of all, congrats on the ambassadorship. Second of all, I loved trying out ClassPass here in San Francisco, it’s really a great service, which allowed me the chance to check out so many cool studios like Cardio Barre, Pop Physique and more. I hope you like it too! And finally, hills are tough. Even as just a walker here in San Francisco, I live on a hill, and man, it never gets easier to climb! :)
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…Les Mills BODYPUMP 92 class reviewMy Profile

    • Thanks Ashley! I am so excited to try out some different studios with Class Pass. I have never been to a barre studio so that will be a nice treat! I couldn’t imagine trying to running (or walk!) in San Francisco- I bet you would laugh at the “hills” we have here in Baltimore!

  18. Great post! I train in Florida where there aren’t a lot of hills and I’ve been defeated by “surprise” hills at the end of shorter races. I am running the Asheville Half in March and I know it’s hilly so I’ve added some hills to my training schedule. Your post is a great reminder why I need to stick to that plan (even though I hate running hills!). Thanks for linking up with us today!

    • I hope that you can get some hill work into your training to get you ready for your race! I think it helps mentally going into a race to knowing you are ready for the hills!

    • It can be so disappointing to put so much into one race and then not have it go as planned. But thats what its great to have the chance to race again, and learn from our mistakes!

    • I know, all the classes are a bit overwhelming! Let me know if you try anything good. I will probably need to venture out of the city to make full use of the deal!

    • So glad that you are an ambassador too! And I hope that you get to try out ClassPass at some point…the studios aren’t super convenient to me but it will be good to try out some new places for a month.

    • Good plan to get lots of hills in before your races! And thanks- PRO compression really are great socks!

  19. I also ran the Marine Corps Historic Half in 2010. Also my slowest half marathon ever! Besides that HUGE hill, I also remember that it was fairly warm and humid that day. Basically pretty miserable.

    • Now that you said that I do remember it being warm- I think I was pretty dehydrated because I felt kind of sick on the ride back.

  20. Congrats on your Pro Compression ambassadorship! That’s wonderful news :) I think it’s great to find your weak area and work on it. For me, it’s the heat and humidity. I did run outside sometimes this summer, but I often went in the evenings when the sun was setting and it got a little bit cooler out. Then I had some really hot and tough September races that got me down. Needless to say I’ll be working on that summer running this year because I really want to get better in the heat!
    Charissa recently posted…Training update (1/19 – 1/25)My Profile

    • Thanks!
      That sounds like a really good plan! The heat and humidity is a struggle for me too but I usually do my weekend long runs at the same times that a race would be held, so I guess I sort of adjust to it gradually that way.

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