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.