Laurel & Rebeccah Wassner

Professional Triathletes


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      MEET LAUREL                MEET BEC 

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Swimmer 2.0

All of the Wassner sisters grew up swimming on the UMCY Stingrays team. Laurel and I "aged-out," swimming with the team until we were 18, but both Sarah and Aliza stopped in 9th grade. Now, after years away from the pool, our younger and older sisters have started swimming again to prepare for upcoming triathlons. Today Sarah checks in with thoughts on her decision to stop swimming as a kid and starting back up again as an adult. --Bec

As I build my swimming strength for my upcoming triathlon season, I’ve been spending as many as 10 hours a week in the pool this winter. All of that solitary quiet has given my mind plenty of time to wander—and it often creeps back into those dark, dusty crevices of my mind that have sat dormant for far too long. It’s like hitting rewind on the DVR in my brain and transporting myself back to days long forgotten—turning up the volume on memories that have been muted for years, as they emerge and reveal themselves in a new light. 

The other day, during a particularly long set, I started thinking about my abrupt departure from swimming as a teenager. For as long as I can remember, swimming was my world: Not so much an extra-curricular activity as an all-encompassing lifestyle. My sisters swam, my friends swam, weekends were dedicated to day-long meets and practices ate up almost every hour we didn’t spend in school or asleep. I was always decent but never bound for stardom; no thanks to the fact that I was perennially the puniest girl in my age-group and weighed about 80 pounds soaking wet as a 15-year-old. I had glimmers of promise at some points, but I was never going to make it to the Olympics, or any national-level meet. I knew it, my coach knew it. And perhaps that unspoken understanding made me start losing ambition—the kiss of death in a sport so rooted in razor-sharp focus and drive. 

Not to mention that by ninth grade I’d started running cross-country—a sport designed for 5-foot-nothing pipsqueaks. As my accomplishments in swimming waned, running brought me instant success. It was shiny and new and fun. I tried to keep up both sports; swimming at 5 a.m. and working out with the cross-country team after school.  That lasted for about a month. One early morning, as I dragged myself onto the pool deck before sunrise, my swim coach asked me why I was moving so slow. When I told him I was sore and tired from a cross-country meet the evening before (which I’d won), he looked me square in the eyes and told me that it was time to choose: I was going to have to pick either swimming or running. It was a punch to the gut. I took it as him telling me in a not-so-subtle way that he didn’t want me on the team. Pondering his ultimatum, running—and all of the shiny newness—won out. After 10 years of competitive swimming, that would be my last-ever 5 a.m. practice. 

Thinking back to that moment now two decades later, I wish I had been more thoughtful with my choice. To let my coach’s words motivate me to swim faster and prove him wrong. To show him that I could work just as hard in the pool as I did on the cross-country course. That I could handle it. Perhaps that’s all he meant to do. Maybe he just got sick of me making excuses and wanted to fire me up.  But as a 16-year-old—and a stubborn one at that—I took it as the ultimate low-blow. So I walked…no, ran…away from the sport I’d grown up with, cramming my goggles and caps and piles of suits to a bag in the corner in my closet, eventually losing my identity as a swimmer as those memories (both the great ones and the bad ones) sunk to the murky depths of my brain. 

And now, here I am, 20 years later. I’ve come full-circle: I’m back in the pool, logging more than seven miles a week. I’m not nearly as fast or smooth in the water. I will likely never hit the times I did as a kid. But I get a re-do to prove to myself that I can, in fact, handle the pressure of being a swimmer and a runner—and now a mom of three, too! The challenge is as daunting today as it was then. But, I’m ready for it all. 

And this time, I don’t have to choose. 

Have you ever gone back to something you gave up long ago? What was our experience the second time around?




Oceanside 70.3 Race Report

thanks Freeplay for the photo!I have always wanted to do the Oceanside Tri since it is such an iconic season opener for triathlon.  However, I have been a bit intimidated by the fact that it can be very cold and how early it is in the season.  This year it was neither of those things.  We had a great weather day and the course was spectacular.  Unfortunately, I got a 5 minute penalty on the bike (I had to stop for 5 minutes after 25 miles of riding).  It was hard to recover from that, but I managed to pass a few people and finish 13th.  Despite finishing far from the podium, I thoroughly enjoyed the event.  The crowds were full of familiar, supportive faces and we got to spend time with good friends Maren, Tony and Ben.  Before I report on the details of the race, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who cheered for me, yelled my name and encouraged me to keep running.  I needed it and I appreciate that so much.  Also, I want to thank Salming, Osmo, Thunderbird Bars, and Sarah from Race to Rebuild for the support leading into this race.  I'm grateful for the support of these new partners.  

On to the race:

The swim was kind of strange.  I wore my new ROKA goggles, which were great and my wetsuit is always easy to get on and easy to swim in.  But, I think my little group was unable to find the straightest line in the fog.  We ended up about 40 seconds back of where I thought we'd be.  Not terrible, but not good either.  I got on my bike and just tried to make up as much ground as possible.  I put my glasses on and they immiately fogged up. With the technical turns and not wanting to lose the group, I rode in a fog until we got to a straight section and I was able to stuff my glasses in my jersey.  So, here's a tip for this race:  don't put your glasses on at the beginning!!  When I finally got that squared away, I got in a groove and passed a couple girls ahead of me and even a guy.  I ended up riding my way up to 4th place before Angela and Heather Jackson passed me.  I tried to hang with them but they were flying!  A few miles later, Heather Wurtele passed me on a narrow road.  I was admiring how strong she looked as she went in front of me and instead of sitting up and getting out of my aerobars I just stayed my same speed and let her pull away to the allowable distance ahead of me.  I was just telling myself, try to be strong like her and maintain the pace.  She was clearly riding faster than me, but it gave me something to think about.  Apparently, because I didn't slow down enough when she passed me I got a penalty for drafting.  Next time, I will make an exaggerated NBA style move to sit up and show the officials that I am slowing down!  Another lesson learned!  

After I got the penalty, I went as hard as possible to the penalty tent for my 5 minutes of waiting and watching all the hard work I put in be erased.  I just tried to stay positive and got back on the bike and actually caught back up to a few people on the hills.  Despite the penalty, I had a huge improvement in average watts for a half ironman race.  

Starting the run so far behind was tough mentally, but I still wanted to enjoy the day and get in a good workout. I passed 5 girls and finished strong and I pushed myself.  I pretended that the people in front of me were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd and that I had to catch them.  Good practice for the next race!  

So, lots of lessons learned and a not so great finish.  But, an awesome day and so many great performances in the pro and amatuer fields.  Congrats to all!  


San Juan 70.3 Race Report

I kicked of the 2015 season with the San Juan 70.3 last weekend.  It was a tough race and I finished a bit disappointed with my performance. But with my 6th place finsih, I earned back some money and finished with a smile. I can't complain too much about that!
Pre-Race: Do I Race or Not??
The trip to Puerto Rico was a wonderful experience and one that I would have majorly regretted if I opted not to go.  And opting not to go did figure heavily into my pre-race prep!  With only 5 weeks of training under my belt (including a high volume training camp with QT2 Systems ending just 16 days before the race), I questioned if I'd be ready, but then decided, why not, who knows maybe I'll surprise myself?  That sort of strategy only works when everything aligns perfectly.  Before I even left Brooklyn, things began to unravel. An accident on the Belt Parkway left me with a missed flight and a Delta agent telling me, "well, we can get you on a flight next Tuesday." With the help of my sisters, I found one other option for getting to PR before the rae. Even though it meant I had to taxi myself from JFK to Newark Airport (can anyone argue against this being one of the worst drives in existence?  Didn't think so.) I went for it.  I contemplated just getting out of the cab and staying in Tribeca and calling it a day, but Leezie (my older, wiser sister) counseled me out of that one with a show tune - Let it Go, of course.  I did just that and arrived in San Juan at 1am, 15 hours after I set out from NYC.  Oh yeah, it was Friday the 13th.
I'm Glad I Went
When I stepped out of the airport, now the 14th, things completely turned around and I was greeted by Glorimar Vega my host for the weekend. Triathlon is a very welcoming community and I was fortunate to be set up with Glori through our mutual friend Ramon. I'm so grateful for the Vega family for opening their home to me and taking care of me for the weekend.  
Glori even made my big carbo loading breakfast - yes 6 pancakes!  I put together my bike in their secluded backyard with their dogs curiously sniffing my bags.  Marcos, Glori's husband took me to a park to test out my bike and then drove the bike course with me pointing out every point of wind change.  He also raced, so when the 3:30am alarm came the next morning I had someone to drink coffee with!  
The Race
On to the race, it started out perfectly to plan: stay with Sarah Haskins as long as possible on the swim.  I settled behind Sarah and stayed there for the majority of the swim.  She pulled away from me about 1500 meters in and I couldn't hang - she is just SUCH a good swimmer.  I was still very happy about being 2nd out of the water. It was my first time wearing the ROKA Viper speed suit and I felt great in the water.  
I got on to my bike and started to push myself right away.  There were a few bumps in the road and after about 10 minutes my Garmin computer flew off after I hit one of them.  I flagged down an official and told him I didn't mean to litter and he said it was ok. Then a photographer passed by and I begged him to go back and try to find it for me.  Thank you Jay!!  He got it and gave it to me at the end of the race.  Really grateful for that.  I was so happy that I didn't lose my Garmin that I didn't even dwell on the fact that I had no power or time or heart rate.  I just went as hard as I could.  Unfortunately, at mile 40 I ran out of gas.  I went from a podium spot to 7th...yuck.  
The run in San Juan is notoriously difficult.  It is hot, humid, has no shade and includes some steep hills and cobblestones.  I love this kind of run.  I didn't feel so well for the first few miles but started to get into a groove when I ran smack into a spectator who walked not the course in front of me.  OUCH!  We were both ok, I think.  I felt like I could have started crying and pouting and just call it a day at that point, OR use the energy from the collision to pick up my pace and try to do some damage and earn a paycheck on the second lap.  That's what I did.  I ended up with a negative split run and in 6th place, just a minute or so from the spots in front of me.  
After all of that, I couldn't help but smile and feel grateful for the opportunity to race and travel to Puerto Rico.  I met some wonderful people, I got to see old friends and I also got to witness first hand Sarah Haskins winning her first 70.3 - that was awesome!!
The day after the race Glori took me to her favorite coffee shops and to a Puerto Rican lunch.  All excellent and the perfect way to recover from a half ironman.
I'll be racing next in Oceanside, CA on March 28.




So What If I'm A Mom Now

My results the last few years have been far below what I am capable of. In 2013 I raced half of a season just months after having a c-section, with very little training and almost no running. The fact that I finished those races was a victory. In 2014 I was able to run again, but struggled to find my form all year. I had some decent results, but my training was geared toward building a base and getting strong again, and not necessarily racing fast.  

The reaction from most people was: you're a mom now. Things are different. In other words:  just accept that you are slower now. You don't have the time to train as much as your competition. 

They're right. Things are different for me. I very efficiently squeeze all of my training in between 9-5 each weekday and train 1 hour a day on the weekends. Instead of sitting around in NormaTec boots to recover, I sit on the floor and play dolls. Sometimes my post-workout meals consist of a few pouches of baby food chicken and rice. On my mornings off, I go with Amy to Budding Ballerina class or to Aqua Tots swim lessons.  

At night, I go to bed wondering if Amy is eating enough or debating whether I should have read to her instead of letting her watch my phone while I made dinner. 

But is all of this a detriment to my racing career? I think not. Here's why.

I stopped by the library today on my way to the pool to check in on Amy's storytime class. I was checking out all the strollers to see if she and Mamzie had arrived when I met the librarian. She said, "oh you're Amy's mom? We aren't supposed to say this, but Amy is my absolute favorite. She's just so bright…so so bright. We love having her." And then she flagged over the other librarian and the maintenance man and they continued to go on about my little Amy.

According to SJ, they say that to all the parents. Maybe they do, but it's the first time anyone has said something like that to me. It made me feel, for a second, that maybe I am doing something right as a mom.

I then headed over to the pool with a fierce I-can-do-anything attitude. I jumped in the water and swam as fast as I ever have. Halfway through practice my lanemates stopped and asked, "What got into you? How are you able to unleash a workout like that?" I just shrugged my shoulders and said, sometimes being a mom has it's advantages. 






Athlete Moms: Worth the Risk

Although this blog is primarily focused on me as an “Athletemom” and my journey as a runner and triathlete, I’d thought I’d shift subjects a bit to my background as a freelance writer. Because balancing my career, parenting, and training is a constant juggle for me. Here’s how I (sort of) make it work. 

This guy (and his sisters who followed) lived in the Bjorn!More than six years ago, I walked away from a job at a top magazine to pursue a freelance writing career. I was in my late 20s, and disheartened that my passion—the passion that brought me to New York City with dreams of becoming a magazine writer–was being snuffed out with each passing day. The particular job, though not without its perks, was stifling me.  I needed an out. 

The seed of freelancing was planted in my head when I was just an intern. An editor whom I greatly admired would regale me with tales of her adventurous freelancing career—interviewing celebrities, traveling around the world, going on epic adventures and then getting to write about it all with a huge byline in a major magazine. It seemed so glamorous to me. So out of reach. Something I’d do much later in my career, once I’d taken the appropriate, expected path in the magazine industry. 

But as the frustration with my job built, that seed began to take root. Suddenly, it seemed like a feasible career option. I’m sure I wouldn’t be so emboldened today to take a less conventional, more circuitous route to my goal. Now married and with kids, I am much more cautious about my decisions, for obvious reasons. But back then…back in the carefree, newly-married, kid-free days…I shrugged off the What Ifs. If things fell through, I told myself, I’d just get another staff job.  But I never did. Instead, I soon picked up a different title all together: Mom.

Little E in his arm-stabilizing wrap. As if being a first-time mom isn't scary enough, throw a baby born with a broken arm in the mix and it's down right horrifying.Eamon was born about a year into my then-fledgling freelance career. The first thought I had when I found out I was pregnant was, No one will ever hire me to write knowing that I have a baby. I was nervous—absurdly so--to tell editors that I was expecting. I was still proving myself, taking on grunt work for little pay, afraid to say no. Although I was ecstatic to become a mom, I felt that being pregnant would put me at a disadvantage, somehow. That I would be shucked off of my editors’ list of go-to writers, that I wouldn’t get those amazing assignments because, all of a sudden, I had responsibilities that extended beyond myself. 

Of course, I was wrong. My editors were thrilled for me. My work picked up, even after that hot, humid August afternoon when I gave birth to a 9 pound, eternally hungry baby born with a broken arm who screamed in pain for his first three weeks on earth. After he healed, after we figured each other out, after I’d emerged from that hazy new mom fog, we got into a groove: I’d pop him into his Baby Bjorn and rock and sway as I tapped on my computer on a countertop. Or, I’d pack up my laptop in the bottom of the stroller, take a long walk until he fell asleep, then roll into a coffee shop to snag a few minutes of writing time. I worked while he slept (though, admittedly, solid shuteye was a rarity for E), I worked while he swatted toys in his little play mat gym, while he sat, memorized, in front of the TV watching Sesame Street. I worked on the weekends, when Mark took him out, sitting by a window and wishing I could be out with them, my little family. But at the same time grateful to have some time to myself. 

Now, two children later, I’m still squeezing it all in. With each additional child, the challenges have increased, but so have the rewards. Freelancing has served me well: I’ve traveled, met some great people, and have been able to do what I love every single day. It’s also allows me to stay home with my children and to have flexibility to swim, bike, and run. But it’s not glamorous. There are late nights, early mornings. There are editors who stop responding; those who take jobs at new publications—and don’t take you with them. There are budget cuts (which cut freelancers out of the equation), there are monstrous assignments that are not worth their fee. I learn huge lessons every year about how much I can take on, how to work within my own limits so I can take steps toward striking that balance between being a working mom and being a stay-at-home mom.

I always tell people that the best thing about being a freelancer is not knowing what’s ahead of me. This time last year I didn’t know I’d be traveling to Alaska to cover a race or writing a children’s nonfiction book series. And I have no idea what’s around the next corner. That variable of the unknown excites me, while I’m sure it sends others into an anxiety-fueled panic. This life, this career, is not for everyone. But right now, it’s for me.

Have you ever taken a big risk with your career? Did it pay off?




Athlete Moms: I'm not Superman. And Here's Why.

Today Sarah checks in with just where she fits in on the Supermom scale. Her outlook is real and honest and I think a lot of the Athlete Moms out there can relate. Or are Sarah and I the only ones who go to bed each night asking ourselves, did I do enough today?  --Bec 

Sarah and her crew.

The other day, I wrote an email to a friend. We’ve been out of touch for a while, and I was updating her on my life. I found tapping the words on my iPhone: “being in mommy mode, working semi-fulltime (depending on the number of projects I take on), and training and racing (my sanity saver), it’s a good, fulfilling mix.”

Later, it struck me: Am I really fulfilled? That word has so much heft. Am I being dishonest telling a friend that I am truly satiated by every element in my life? In a way, yes. There are days when I feel like I am not doing enough: I’m not writing enough. I’m not training enough. And I’m certainly not enlightening and engaging my kids enough. I scroll through my Instagram feed every morning and see people out there doing so much more than me: Running more miles, baking more cookies with their little ones, achieving more with their career. And, often, I get that stomach-churning sense that I’m either settling or lacking ambition because I’m just not there.  

This, I suppose, is the crux of the problem plaguing so many of Athletemoms. We want to do it all—and do it well.  Better than well. Amazing. And make it all look effortless and seamless and oh so fun. We train before the sun rises, we shuttle kids back and forth, we volunteer at school, get on the floor and build Lego castles, cook healthy dinners, get everyone to bed by 7:30—and have an organized and clean house, too. Then we go and race a 70.3 or run a 10K PR on the weekend. There are women out there who fit all of these descriptions, and I tip my hat to you—the true Supermoms. But I am not one of them. My kids watch TV and movies and play endless games of Ninjago on my phone when I have to work. They eat fine, but mealtime is a struggle and chicken nuggets are a staple. They have meltdowns. They stay up too late some nights, but then so do I. Meaning, I rarely wake up before they do, so pre-dawn workouts just don’t happen, leaving me scrambling to fit training in during the afternoons and evenings. My days are a whir of car trips, of big messes, of tears (usually not mine!), of laughter. Of squeezing it all in. I do what I can, and on most days, it’s enough. Just enough. 

I’ve never been an overachiever, despite my best efforts. I consciously (and, sometimes, subconsciously) cap my exertion at a level I can sustain--I am quick to see when I’m struggling and rein it in before I implode. Perhaps this approach has kept me from racing faster or rising quicker in my career, but because I don’t overdo things, burnout has never been an issue. Has this left me with that mindset that I’m somehow insufficient because I’m not constantly stretching myself thin? Of course. 

But then, I take a beat to look at my world: At what I do with my time, at the parameters  I must operate within while keeping my three small children as the ultimate priority. At my level of happiness. And I realize that the fulfillment is there. Yes, I will always aspire to do more—even after I reach that yet-to-be-determined pinnacle of accomplishment. But I need to remind myself that just because I haven’t scaled that illusive tier of success doesn’t mean I’m settling. I may be hanging on the middle rung of a towering ladder, but I’m still climbing. --Sarah Wassner Flynn






Athlete Moms: Sarah Looks Back at 2014

2014: A look back - Sarah Wassner Flynn

525,600 minutes:  To quote one of the greatest songs from one of the greatest musicals, one year can be measured in so many ways: In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. So, how do you measure a year in the life of an #athletemom? Let me count the ways.

In longer distances. A huge triumph for me this year was breaking out of the 5K box. I’m comfortable running (and training for) that distance, and never loved racing much more than 3.1 In 2014, I learned to embrace longer races, like 8Ks, 10-milers, and the half-marathon. Finally, I’m able to run strong from start to finish without burning out or falling apart halfway through. I have a long way to go before I actually see the results I really want in these races, but I’m heading in the right direction. 

In adventures. In 2014, I laced up my running shoes in Panama City, Panama, Charleston, SC, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Vancouver, BC, Corolla, NC, Skagway, Alaska, and the Yukon Territory. I did my first live TV interview in Roanoke, VA (before running up the town’s highest mountain); appeared on the cover of the sports section of the Wheeling, WV Intelligencer (small town, big press), and spent two days with eight strangers in an RV taking turns running the 110-mile journey tracing the route taken by the prospectors during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. Running has taken me to so many beautiful corners of the globe—and on so many fun adventures—and I am so grateful for that. 

In podiums. My grand tally for 2014: 21 races, 21 age-group top 3 finishes, and six top 3 overall finishes. Granted, some of those races were on the small side, but consistency has never been my thing. Hoping to even out that age-group/overall count more in 2015…

In track workouts. After years away from the oval, I returned in earnest this past June with Team LUNAChixDC. What used to completely intimidate me (mile repeats, 1600-400 ladders) suddenly excited me. I learned to embrace the pain, show up ready to work hard, and walk away feeling completely obliterated…in a good way. Nothing—I mean nothing—gets you faster than tough track workouts. Totally worth the pain. 

In running (and non-running) friends. I can’t say enough about how motivated and inspired I am on a constant basis by the women in my life. Whether it was randomly meeting Julie at her neighborhood pool and quickly realizing we shared so many similar goals, to racing back-to-back triathlons with Kristen, to being buoyed by the support of my sisters, parents, and close friends, I would have spent many mornings in bed if I wasn’t constantly surrounded by ambitious, inspiring people. So, thank you. 

In heart-melting moments. When times get tough in a workout or on the race course, I think about my little family. About how they may be waiting for me at the finish line, or how their bright eyes light up when I come home from a race, always ready with hugs and kisses no matter how I do. How Nellie, now nearly 2, asks me, “You go running, mommy?” when she sees me in my workout gear. How Eamon is always there to high-five me at the finish line, and how Nora is always so excited to wear my shiny new “necklaces” (medals). And, of course, I owe so much to Mark, who is so, so supportive and hardly even gripes when I take off for hours at a time on a weekend morning to go race or train.  As my little ones grow older, I have even more reason to work hard and race well. Having these amazingly enthusiastic cheerleaders in my corners the best support system I could ever ask for. 

And that’s a wrap for the year! Here’s a recap of my races: 

FEB Empire State Building Run Up (2nd, media division)

MARCH Lucky Leprechaun 5K (13th OA; 1st AG; 21:21)

APRIL Holy Child Tiger Trot (4th OA/1st AG; 19:44)

APRIL Blue Ridge Marathon 10K (2nd overall, 1st AG; 46:39 (3,000 ft elevation gain)

MAY Run For The Animals 5K (4th OA/1st AG; 21:07)

MAY Ogden Downhill Mile (1st OA; 5:10)

MAY Ogden 5K (4th OA/1st AG; 20:21)

JULY Montgomery Village July 4 5K (1st OA (20:44))

JULY Midsummer’s Night Mile (4th OA/2nd AG; 5:47)

AUGUST Going Green 2 Mile (4th OA/2nd AG; 12:17)

AUGUST Outer Banks Run Swim Run (1st OA/ 34:50)

AUGUST Irongirl Columbia Sprint Triathlon (2nd OA/2nd AG; 1:37:12)

SEPTEMBER Eastern County 8K (4th OA/1st AG; 33:28)

SEPTEMBER Giant Acorn Sprint Triathlon (7th overall, 2nd non-collegiate, 1st AG; 1:24:05)

SEPTEMBER Frederick YMCA Women’s Sprint Triathlon (2nd overall, 2nd AG; 1:00:55)

OCTOBER Matthew Henson 5K (4th OA/3rd AG; 20:59)

NOVEMBER Candy Cane City 5K (2nd OA/2nd AG; 20:24)

NOVEMBER TCS Annapolis Half Marathon (10th OA/1st AG; 1:36:40)

NOVEMBER Fairfax Turkey Trot (4th OA/1st AG; 20:34)

DECEMBER Turkey Burnoff 10-Miler (7th OA/4th AG; 1:11:37)

DECEMBER Jingle Bell Jog 8K (3rd OA/2nd AG; 32:00)







Sarah's Recap of racing 26.2 Miles in Seven Days

Our younger sister Sarah (and mom of three) has been racing up a storm. Over the Thanksgiving week she braved three races in a seven day period. If that wasn't impressive enough, she ran fast and added a PR to her record books. Sarah is finishing out this year as a runner, but is going to transfer her leg speed and years as a competitive swimmer to triathlons in 2015. In the meantime, read Sarah's race recaps to see just how fast she ran and how she managed to do so. 

-Laurel and Bec

Race Recap: TCS Annapolis Running Classic Half-Marathon by Sarah Wassner Flynn

“Head strong, heart strong, legs strong.” It’s funny the things you come up with while running. When my quads starting tightening up around mile 8 of the TCS Annapolis Running Classic Half-Marathon, I began repeating this mantra over and over in my mind.  It worked: I willed those legs to power me over the next 5.1 miles to my second-fastest half ever—1:36:40.

I didn’t set out to run a PR. Given the both the cold outside (19 degrees at the 7:05 a.m. start. BRRR!) and the cold I caught earlier in the week, I gave myself a break and made a plan just to run smart. Start at an easy pace, build as I go, finish strong. I’ve had enough disastrous long runs to know exactly what plagues me: Going out too fast and falling apart around mile 10. 


So I started about a minute back in the pack with my training partner, Julie, taking the first mile super comfortably. I even worried a little when I saw my split (7:31), as I thought perhaps that was too quick. I didn’t really have a goal time, just a goal: To run evenly and maybe even negative split, a feat I’ve never mastered. Soon, I spotted Colleen of Live Free and Run in the crowd, and we chatted for a bit. I’m usually not one to strike up a conversation in a race, but I felt really relaxed. It was a nice—and brief—distraction to touch base.


For the first four miles, the course winds around downtown Annapolis, which I loved despite the many turns. I thought about the weekend Mark and I spent there last summer, when we took a sunset cruise and sipped cocktails by the water. The only sipping I was doing was on the ice cold water, but again, I had a nice little distraction to get me through that initial part of the course.


Should I have been more focused on the race? To the people I should be passing? To the women passing me? Maybe. But for a while, I mentally checked out, lost in my thoughts as though I was on a solo run.  I just let my legs do their thing and didn’t even look at my watch. Before I knew it, I was cresting up the Severn River Bridge (about an 80-foot stretch), one of the few major climbs on the course. I passed a few people, then tried to use the downhill to loosen up and shake out my tightening quads.


Which is when that mantra popped into my head.  I did a quick head-to-toe inventory. I was feeling good everywhere else except for those darn quads. I was finally warming up after being bitter cold at the start. I had feeling in my fingers. So I knew I could take control of the situation if I just stayed in a positive mind space and didn’t let my legs bring me down. Head strong, heart strong, legs strong. After a series of rolling hills, we hit a turnaround near mile 8. I began counting the  top women and cheering for them (another distraction…). As I got to number 9, I realized I was next! I had no clue I had made my way into the top ten…especially since we started pretty far back in the crowd.


This fueled me further. I didn’t want to finish in 11th. I kept up the momentum as we summited the bridge yet again. It hurt. But I had just about three miles to go. So I worked. I passed a woman whose ponytail I’d been chasing since mile 5. I dug deep, running to the beat of DMB’s Ants Marching (it always puts me in a good mood, so it’s a great pick-me-up song).  Without looking at my watch, I knew my pace had dropped. But…there was a short but significant hill leading into mile 12. I could no longer talk my legs out of being tired. They tightened up, and I could feel my body slumping. A woman passed me, and I tried to keep up, but I felt like I was standing still. I still had a little fight in me, though, and gave myself a quick peptalk. You are less than a mile away from the finish of a half-marathon.  You. Can. Do. This.  When I saw the stadium, I opened up my stride and sped into the finish line with a smile.


Turns out that the woman who passed me started at the front of the pack, so, based on chip time, I beat her by 4 seconds.  I feel a lot less defeated about letting her go—plus I squeaked into the top 10 with as close to a negative split as I’ve ever ran.  And it’s my first AG podium in a half-marathon! All in all, it was a really good day for both me and Julie, who PR’d with an impressive negative split finish. She’s tough.  FINAL STATS: 10th/ 1614 overall women, 1st/327 for age-group


KINDA/SORTA SPLITS (Garmin was a little off…)

Mile 1: 7:31

Mile 2: 7:24

Mile 3: 7:13

Mile 4: 7:30

Mile 5: 7:14

Mile 6: 7:14

Mile 7: 7:20  

Mile 8: 7:21

Mile 9: 7:24

Mile 10: 7:20 

Mile 11: 7:15 

Mile 12: 6:45

Mile 13: 7:27  







Race Recap: Fairfax Turkey Trot and Turkey Burnoff 10-Miler by Sarah Wassner Flynn

What’s gotten in to me? I raced 26.2 miles this week, definitely an all-time high—minus that one marathon I did in 2000. After the Annapolis Half-Marathon, I tacked on a 5K five days later, and a 10-miler just three days after that. And I’m still standing!

The 5K—a Turkey Trot—was a given. It’s a tradition. We chose the Fairfax Turkey Trot, a new race, based on proximity and the fact that the Trot we’ve done for the past three years wasn’t being held this year. Off to downtown Fairfax we went (Maureen, Paul, Kristen and me), froze our butts off, and I raced a decent but unremarkable 5K. I decided to hold back a bit because I wasn’t warmed up and immediately felt short of breath as soon as the gun went off. My legs felt fine despite the fact I hadn’t run since the half-marathon. (Whoops.) But I didn’t like the way my upper body was reacting, and I even felt a little faint. So I cruised the entire thing, running 6:24, 6:29, 6:49 splits (that last mile was mostly uphill, but I also shut it down knowing I had my position locked in place), turning in a 20:34 finish. Not my best, not my worse. I let a woman I was running with go after mile 2.5 and regret that; but as it turns out I won my age-group (out of 131) and finished 4th/560 overall. I’ll take it.  


On to the 10-miler. This was also a given since it’s part of MCRRC’s Low-Key Race Series. I had to do it collect points, so I didn’t give myself the option to back out. Plus, I knew I’d be ok with a 10-miler since the half felt so good just a week before. It was a two-loop course and the race director promised “plenty of hills to make sure you burn all of that turkey off.” Whatever, I can handle hills, right?! So, Julie and I chatted up until the gun and neither of us seemed very nervous (but we were cold). I took a quick glance around me at the start and spotted some speedy women in the bunch and figured I wasn’t going to be in it to win it. (Not the best attitude, but it helped solidify my laissez faire approach to the race). So, the gun goes off, and I hold back without holding too much back. I caught up to other women, passed them, they passed me back. This kind of back-and-forth used to drive me crazy. I couldn’t stand trading leads with people—once I passed them, I would be determined to drop them. But lately, I’ve been much more successful in attempting to run my own race and let the cards fall where they may. 


So, I let my legs lead the way and kept my head completely out of it. In all honesty, I was trying to hit sub 7:30s. But after the first half holding closer to 7:10’s despite the hills, I decided to just go with it. I ran with another woman for a while, but it was clear she was running much harder than I was (I tried to chat with her at mile 5 and she spat out a one-word reply and then sped up.) I’m still not mentally comfortable running anything above 5 miles, and I find myself seeking out distractions: Looking for Julie at every out and back definitely helped—we passed each other three times, and I got a quick burst of energy each time (she was doing awesome, on her way to another PR and negative split!). Then, bonus: I realized that the woman who had been in front of me until mile 8 or so was actually an old high-school teammate. By that time, my face was frozen and I really couldn’t talk, but we did exchange a few words as I ran by—and it gave me something else to think about for the next couple of miles. 


Despite the cold, the hills, and my wandering mind, I truly enjoyed the entire race. But I wasn’t in race mode—it was more like a tempo run. Still, by the time I reached the crest of the hill before the final turn to the finish line, I was ready for it to end. I never really warmed up, and my legs had had enough of the hills.  I noticed Mark and the kids standing there and gave them a half-hearted wave, then tried to power in to the end. I could barely hit the stop button on my Garmin with my numb fingers, but was pretty excited when I saw the results. Official time: 1:11:37 (5-mile split: 35:22)…A PR! 7th OA/121; 3rd/19 Age-group



6:50, 6:48,7:24, 6:53, 7:19 (loop 1)

6:53, 7:09,7:28,6:59,7:28 (loop 2)


Next up, the Jingle Bell Jog 8K on 12/14. Time to beat: 33:28.