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Chasing a 5k PR

I have chased the same goal for 14 years. If this goal was a person, she would be a high school freshman. I was high school freshman when I set this goal.

This goal isn’t lofty, I’m not trying to defeat a dark wizard or destroy a planet killer. The goal I have been literally chasing has been a sub 20 minute 5k. I would be overjoyed with a 19:59.

In high school, sub 20 was what the fast girls ran. In my head, that is the time you had to have to run in college. It was a goal that seemed a bit unattainable, at first I was just trying to finish a 5k. Shorter distance races came easier to me. I fell in love with the 800 meters in track and as much as I enjoyed cross country, I looked forward to track. There I could be speedy and show-off my finishing kick. I focused on it and I don’t regret it. I finished my high school career with a 5k pr somewhere in the low 22s to high 21s (is it bad that my memory can’t recall that PR?) running 25-35 miles a week. My 800 meter PR was lowered in my final race in high school but it was still a long shot to run in college.

I was a walk-on to my college cross country and track team. I remember sitting in my college coach’s office with my mother making a hard sell about myself and leaving with the relief that I had made the team. My mileage was upped, long runs were taken seriously, we raced nearly every weekend and my 5k times dropped. I bounced around distances racing everything from the 4x400m to the 3k steeplechase.  I left college with a PR in a cross country 5k of a low 21 to high 20 (I just googled and the best I can tell is some between 20:45 to a 21:09). I never raced a 5k on the track.

I had a bit of an unusual senior year of college, I landed an internship with Runner’s World my last semester and did not race my senior track season. Runner’s World was a running geeks paradise. I worked on running articles, ran with my bosses every day during lunch (they were quick, I believe they were all training for Boston) and eating healthy organic meals from the Rodale cafeteria. I upped my long run mileage and raced quite a bit. I was alone in a small Stars Hollow type of town, so Saturday mornings I would go race locally. It was during this time, I ran a 20:20 5k during a four-mile race.  It was during this race, I achieved my PR. That was six years ago.

I didn’t stop racing (you can read about some of that here) but I’ve not trained specifically for a 5k. After turning 29 this summer, I decided I needed to truly attempt breaking that old PR. I signed up with an online coach (ekiden) and most recently raced a 30:36 for 4 miles at a local turkey trot. My next race will be at the end of January and the goal is 7 minute pace.

Until next time,


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The Summer of Fun Run Comes to a Close

“The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank.”

George A. Sheehan

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It is hard to believe that it has been six years since I have graduated college and even harder to believe that it has taken me just as long to figure out what it means to be a post-collegiate runner. Running is my exercise of choice and so much more. As I struggled to keep a consistent training schedule and set realistic goals, I was liking it less and less. I didn’t look forward to racing because I was just going to be let down.

This summer, I decided I was just going to race, not worry about times and just enjoy being out there with a group of people striving. It helped to have great running friends who recruited to these numerous races. Quite frankly, I ran so many fun ones that if I was thinking with a time goal, I might not have ever run. The list includes: a glow in the dark 10k, the PAW-louse 5k ( I borrowed a dog), a duathlon (pro tip: don’t use a bike you have never ridden) and a few low-key races that made me just feel better about myself including a mile time trial and a 10k.

But by far the craziest race I did this summer was this past weekend’s Ragnar Trail Tetons race. 15 miles, 3 legs and lots of elevation gain was in store for each participant. My team was awesome, mostly strangers that all knew the team captain but not really anyone else. Our team captain kicked major booty organizing and being the supreme queen of all e-mails. I barely had to lift a finger to be involved. Travel started Wednesday night when four of us left Moscow to get to Tetons and likely the most dramatic event was a bear ran away from us while we were driving. We camped and finished up the rest of the travel on Thursday. I could spend many sentences on the beauty and the varied terrain the trip took us through but I’m not a poet. We arrived Thursday night, signed in and got prepared for our 8:40 a.m. start.

Our team due to injury and other circumstances was widdled down to five runners, we knew we would not get an official time but we believe it worked out better in the end for us. We were able to finish a bit earlier and there wasn’t so much waiting. My first leg took me 5 miles across a ridge with two climbs and since I did it in daylight, the views really struck me. I kept it below 12-minute pace and was able not to get too light headed with the elevation. I spent the rest of the morning watching our legs come and go and getting all the recon I could. I was able to roll really well on my 3-mile leg, keeping it around 10-minute pace,  with the slowest mile being the first (the climb was killer). I was off to sleep and wait for the crazy 7-mile leg. The 7-mile leg was to the top of the ski lift with around 2,000 ft of elevation gain and the downhill on the “sticks and stones” trail was very technical plus well, there could be bears.

After dinner and a nap, I dressed in my multiple layers (temperatures had dropped into the upper 30s) and put on my pack with my bear bell to wait to start my leg. With sequins, glowsticks and sparkly tights, I started my last leg at 9:30. It was dark and if our first runner hadn’t given me a small flashlight to use on top of having my headlamp, I would not have been in a good spot. I started the power hike to the top, I maintained sub 20-minute miles as I followed the headlamps to the top of the 3.5-mile climb and was thankful to reach the top. As I made my way down, I could hear a flurry of f-bombs from numerous places and just tried to watch my feet. I was able to run with a few other runners but by the time I reached my last mile, I was alone and the thoughts of bears filled my head. I started to sing songs from Alexander Hamilton to just fill the air. Luckily, my bear spray was never used. I finished the run in about 16:11 pace. My team finished at about 4 a.m. The exhaustion, happiness and pride that overcame us was hard to express being wrapped in blankets but we had a great time. Will we do it again? Likely, but we might have to forget a bit first.

During this summer, I hit a milestone in age- I turned 29. I have decided to make one last go at my 5k PR. This week, I’m sitting down to write out a plan but be sure to follow me here and on Twitter (@carabyrd) to see how it goes.


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A New Training Contract

In light of my most recent running exploits (or lack thereof), I just wanted to write down some terms for my next training cycle. The more I write down/the more everyone sees this, the more accountable I will have to be!! Right?? Right!

  1. Do something every single day. Whether that’s running 10 miles, or running 2, or doing a strength workout, I need to regain my old consistency from college.
  2. That being said, remain flexible. In college, I was very anal about my mileage and hitting my splits and doing all of the post-workout exercises in the training room. It was hard to maintain that intensity with a full working schedule. I suspect this will only get harder because I got a new job that requires longer hours. So, if I know I can’t run that day due to a work event or if something comes up after work inexplicably, I need to plan ahead.
  3. Don’t be a wimp. When training for New York, I was a huge wimp and didn’t run the long runs I needed to. I also didn’t want to run with people because I was worried about how out of shape I was.
  4. Run with people! It’s fun! And there’s usually beer involved afterwards!
  5. Chill out for the first few weeks, get in some mileage and some “light” workouts before doing the more intense ones. For the New Jersey Marathon, I started doing intense track workouts right away and that wasn’t good. For a little while, I should just do some fartleks and mileage, for the most part.
  6. Try to watch what I eat. Please. Just minimally try.
  7.  Write down workouts/runs every single day. This shouldn’t be an issue because I love writing but sometimes it gets so boring just writing like “ran 6 miles in 45 minutes.” Just write it down. Because when I look back at my training logs from years ago there are some gaps AND I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT FILLED THEM.
  8. Do not let my coworkers peer pressure me. I work in an industry where people like to go out after events and have fun, but I am a lightweight and can barely get home afterwards, let alone be recovered by the next day.
  9. Blog. I want to shift the focus of my personal blog toward running-related posts (which shouldn’t be too hard considering I’m thinking about running around 90% of the time).

So there you have it; the 9 tenets of my new and improved training contract. I’ll definitely amend this as I go but will also try my best to stay true to these!

Wish me luck, loveys! Next race– Chicago Marathon 2016!

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What is in your post run survival kit?

After 15 years of running, I have learned quite few facts about my running habits. The first, I’m not a morning runner unless I’m doing two a days or the heat is unbearable.  Secondly, I will succumb to work fatigue. The solution was right in front of me, run at lunch.

But I had one big concern: without a shower at work, I don’t want to smell.

After searching Amazon and the web, I came up with my post run survival kit that will keep me fresh and clean.

So what is in this magical kit? Let me tell you:

  • Action Wipes:  These are almost as good as a shower. One wipe can clean all 5’1 of me. They are so good, I sometimes forget I haven’t taken a shower.
  • Not your Mother’s dry shampoo:  A good dry shampoo can go a long way in restyling your hair and drying up any sweat.
  • Deodorant: I have so many tiny deodorants from multiple race packets.
  • Back-up make-up: You know you have, the eyeliner that isn’t your favorite color or the blush that just has bit more left. Throw it in a bag in case you need touch-up. Or go bare face, you are who you are with or without mascara.
  • Hair supplies: I bring bobbie pins, hair ties and sometimes a headband. A messy bun can look chic and a power pony can always work.

This kit has saved me in other situations too including sudden downpours. I have also found that after a lunch time run, I’m more productive and a bit more focused.

So tell me, what else would you put in your post run survival kit?


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Nonexistent Race Recap

I know the title of this post is misleading. There was no race called the Nonexistent Race. This isn’t an actual race recap– rather this is a recap of why I didn’t run the New Jersey Marathon.

If you had asked me in January about the NJ Marathon, I would’ve been so excited. I was doing track workouts twice a week and strength three times a week and a “medium” long run once a week and a long long run once a week. I was in great shape. Even though I was working out by myself, in the dark, usually on ice-covered tracks and snowy roads– I was getting back into shape. I was determined and ready to crush my second marathon.

And then March happened.

Nothing in particular happened that made me stop training so suddenly. I didn’t get injured or lose a close friend. I just got so tired. I was working full time, studying for the LSAT, interviewing for new jobs, and taking care of my dog (she’s pretty high maintenance for such a tiny thing). And training for a marathon. I had a lot going on.

I struggled through some training runs and stopped doing hard workouts in favour of easy runs in order to refresh my legs. But then even the “easy” runs got too exhausting. Two weeks before the marathon, I really struggled through a half marathon. I ran the Women’s Shape 1/2 in Central Park in order to give myself a confidence booster– maybe despite everything my fitness from January was still lurking somewhere inside?

But it wasn’t. Even though the course was just two loops around Central Park, it was hilly as helllllll. By mile 9 I felt like I was trudging through a swamp. This isn’t how you’re supposed to feel two weeks before a marathon; you’re not supposed to be unable to get your legs moving more than 13.1 miles. This was wrong.

And the entire week following the half, I was just so tired. It took me three days to recover from the half marathon. I tried running 5 miles the Saturday after and had to stop and walk home.

I knew then that I couldn’t run New Jersey.

It might have been fear (of not finishing). It might have been pride (I’d rather not run than have a bad time or DNF next to my name). All I knew was that mentally, I couldn’t do it.


I don’t know what’s going on with me. Whether I’m anemic or a wimp or what. All I know is I’m slowly getting back into running– only 3x a week now– and hoping that I build up enough physical and mental strength to pull together a good marathon in the fall.

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Entry No. 2

On life’s journey we all need time to sit down, quiet our minds and see where we’ve been and where we’d like to go. Accidental Athlete’s Amy Moritz and UR sportswear’ Jacalyn Gross have teamed up to help us discover the athlete within while having some fun with our goals. We encourage you to follow along with your own notebooks, sketchbooks or the back of your grocery receipt (hey whatever works!) or purchase your journals here for a dedicated spot to your work There will be weekly questions designed to help you chisel away at what you ultimately want as an athlete.

Writing down our  ideas, dreams and even our fears is a tangible way to deal with them. We can address our hangups, celebrate our victories and discover what it is we really want to achieve. Each week, we will provide a new topic with prompts for you to explore in your journal. It’s a way for all of us to connect with our athlete, whether she’s elite or starting a Couch-to-5K program, and learn the wisdom she has to share with us.
Entry No. 2
Entry No. 1
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Race Report: Palouse 100k Relay + Glow Run


I always was the first kid to jump a fence, do a rope course or generally enter the unknown. This character trait led me to volunteering to do perhaps the hardest run of my life. I volunteered to run leg six of the Palouse 100k relay.  Let me just give you a visual.

That is an elevation gain of around 1700 ft.

But before I get much further, let me give you a quick synopsis of the Palouse 100k Relay. The Relay is 10 legs starting and ending in Pullman, WA. For the past two years, I have been part of the Beer Chasers 1 team and our primary goals are to have fun, drink and beat team two. Last year, we ended up being second overall in the mixed category (at least four women). We start at 7:30 a.m. and typically get done around eight hours and some change later. This year, we had a few new legs but we were just as ready to have fun and run. My running partner, Alexiss, and I had scouted our legs (six and seven) the week before. I averaged around 11 minute miles.  I knew it was going to be rough but not quite as rough as it turned out to be.

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We had distanced ourselves from the rest of the teams that had started at 7: 30 a.m. (there was a second heat that was for the faster teams, we had been originally placed in this heat but had begged to be move to be in the same heat as beer chasers 2). My teammates were killing it, looking strong and surviving the warm day. By the time my leg started, it was us and one other team. For the first two miles,  I felt great maintaining a sub ten pace but quickly I began to unravel and became a game of run until you see the next truck.  By the time I hit the fourth mile of my six miles I would run that day, the other team was long gone. My mind was just focused on finishing and not frying. My average mile pace had dropped between 12 and 13 minute miles.

This isn’t some great story about how I dropped some fast miles and came back to catch the other team. Instead, I toughed it out, put one foot in front of the other and finished. It wasn’t easy and I’m not exactly happy with but I did it. I quickly negotiated to run another leg next year. I handed off the rubber chicken and Alexiss kicked some major butt and made up ground. We slowly ate into the time of the first place team but sadly finished seven minutes behind. Two teams from the second heat also finished in front (one less than a minute) but it was all good in the end. We won most spirited and had plenty of laughs along the way. It was a great way to kick off the summer racing season.

WP_20160430_20_37_00_ProIn fact, this past weekend I ran a 52:24 for a 10k and felt great.  It was fundraiser and not officially timed but we got free beer and a glow in the dark shirt. I ran pretty consistently and felt like I could have pushed a little harder at the end. My fastest mile was 8:03 and slowest was 8:53 but that mile had a pretty good hill in the middle.  Next up in a duathlon in June (two mile run- 10 mile ride- two mile run) which will be a first for me.

-Cara Hawkins -Jedlicka


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My Cure

There’s something in the rhythm of running that just seems to soothe me. Ask any runner; the only thing that really calms me down after a hard or stressful day is a nice, long, solo run.

I’ve started running without my watch lately– something that would shock many of my training partners (I always liked knowing our exact distance and splits so I could compare them to past runs — I am a true competitor, especially against myself). Being able to run until I feel like stopping, instead of when I “need to,” is so so liberating. Years and years of having exact training plans and pain-stakingly thought out workouts has mentally exhausted me.

Now, I can go out and run nineteen miles, do a made-up fartlek consisting of “sprint until I hit that tree, walk until I reach that corner,” or just run around the block and walk as far as I like. The point is, it’s up to me.

I’m not running for distance or time right now. I’m not running for PR’s right now (although those are always nice). And even though I’m slated to run the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st, I don’t technically need to run that, either. I’m just running for myself.

There was a long time when nothing brought me joy. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat; couldn’t even get out of bed. The very thought of tying my shoes exhausted me, let alone getting up and running five or six miles. It was a very dark and very sad couple of months for me.

But one day, after some time and coaxing from my friends and family; I put on my old blue adizero shoes. It had been five months since my last run, and I started so so slowly. Every step took herculean effort, and I walked as much as possible. But I got back into it. One day I ran 6 miles straight, and then 7, and then 8. A year later, I was training for my first marathon.

Though I was running slower than I had ever been before, I was starting to feel like my old self again. The Nikki who liked to run around in the middle of the street at 2 in the morning (completely sober) was making a comeback. The terrified blob of depression that consumed me and used to chant in my head over and over–“What are you even doing here?”–was diminishing into a low hum.

I still have my bad days. Days when the hum is amplified and is almost paralyzing; days when the absolute last thing I want to do is move. The difference now is that I still get out of bed, lace up my new Altras, and head out the door.

My slow footfalls and gentle breathing drown out the noise, leaving nothing behind me.

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Long Sleeves!!! Which active styleline design activates you?

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Putting the ‘pee’ in PR

So now that I’ve had time for my body to recover post marathon and have fully soaked in the joy of that moment, it’s time to get real. Let’s just say joy wasn’t the only thing I was soaked in that day…

Yep, I peed my pants during my first marathon.

Why would I share this on a public forum you may ask!? Well, I think it’s important to talk about the seemingly awkward and embarrassing parts of running too. Some people may have experienced this in a race and felt ashamed or nervous that people would realize what was happening within their personal bubble. My intent for this post is to shine some light (and humor!) on the fact that we are all human, and although some (typically private) bodily functions may occur during a race, there is absolutely no reason to feel self conscious about it.

I’ve had teammates and friends share stories of peeing their pants (or sometimes even worse!) during a race or run, but throughout my running career I had shockingly never experienced this before. Going into the marathon, I hadn’t even thought about that being something that might happen or a factor I’d have to consider how to deal with. The weirdest part was that when it started to happen, I had no feelings of needing to go. It wasn’t like I had the urge and just chose not to stop at a porta-potty. I literally had no control or understanding of why it was happening, it just was.

Some runners experience this often, some never have. Speaking from experience, it will likely happen when you least expect it. Somewhere between the last 4 to 5 miles of the race, I lost all control of my body. I felt goosebumps everywhere and started uncontrollably peeing. I was running with a couple friends and immediately, in my state of delirium and dehydration, started shamelessly announcing that I was peeing my pants and couldn’t stop. At this point, my body was so exhausted and I felt so defeated, that I had not an ounce of shame. Admittedly I was pretty loopy and in the most bizarre head space I’ve ever occupied, but felt the need to share regardless. Whether you would share this with others or not, I personally want to remind you that it’s totally normal… and who knows, maybe if you let it flow it’ll lead you to a new ‘pee’ R! 😉