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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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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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A Quick Race Report: The Snake River Half

V__3584(1)I do not like to make excuses for a race but going into this half marathon, I did not feel prepared. Let me tell you, I had quite a few reasons not to:

  1. When I signed up for this race, I thought it was in April not March. I realized in January that it was in March.
  2. I did two runs over six miles total for the training segment.
  3. I started teaching an online course this semester (so day job plus extra job) and well my free time got even smaller.

So going into this race, I had lowered my exceptions.  My A goal was sub 2 with my B goal being sub 10 min miles (so sub 2:10). As we pulled up to the starting line, I thought about also doing a C goal but was confident enough that I would hit my B. I knew too, not to put too much pressure on myself.  The first five miles felt great and I stayed relaxed just picking off other runners. The weather was interesting switching between rain and chilly to humid.  I was able to maintain pace through mile eight and then I went off the rails.   I tried to remain calm and starting making up mantras the rest of the way.


So I repeated the following:

Mile 9: “This pace is great, this pace is great”

Mile 10: “Mile 11 will be heaven, Mile 11 will be heaven”

Mile 11: “Mile 12 won’t be hell, Mile 12 won’t be hell”

Mile 12: “Almost done, Almost done”

I’m not sure why I was trying to rhythm but it kept my mind focused.

When I passed through the finish, I looked down and my watch read 2:06.

My splits were as follows:

Mile 1: 8:58

Mile 2: 8:49

Mile 3: 8:49

Mile 4: 9:17

Mile 5: 8:35

Mile 6: 8:48

Mile 7: 9:11

Mile 8: 9:43

Mile 9: 9:59

Mile 10: 10:17

Mile 11: 10:15

Mile 12: 12: 19

Mile 13: 10:00

Finish: 2:06

I was glad to make my B goal but I’m super pumped to get to shorter distances the rest of the summer.



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Winter Wonderland???

Ahh, the joys of being back on the East Coast. Just when I thought I had escaped a midwest winter, Jonas hits. Could be worse, I guess– I could be in Washington DC.

And in typical fashion, I spent the better half of the morning dreading getting everything on and heading out for the meager 3 miles I had planned for today. The snow was slowly building up, coating the windows and blocking the doors, and still I waited.

I finally decided to get going around 11am, by which the snow had been falling for most of the night and all morning.

It wasn’t a good run, but I trudged through. Luckily, there were no cars on the kind-of snowplowed roads (the trucks were coming around about once an hour, plenty of time for snow buildup), and I also ran with my headphones on, blasting the Ke$ha pandora station (hey, she pumps me up, deal with it).

Before I started, I sent a couple “ugh can’t believe I’m doing this” snapchats to other runners, who had already gotten their butts out the door. So all through my little 25 minute slip-n-slide around the neighbourhood, I was getting motivational “proud of you gurlllll” texts and snapchats. I cannot recommend it enough; knowing that there were now 5-6-7 people counting on me, thinking I was out putting in the work, I couldn’t not actually put in the work. 

At the end of the day, you can use as many tricks as you want to get out the door. Promise yourself a treat, meet up with a friend who’s expecting you, post on social media so that everyone you know will know! Do whatever it takes to get yourself going and do what you need to do.

So I finished my yog in one piece, just a little bit stronger, and 3 miles closer to hitting my weekly mileage target. I’m not ready to start thinking about my long run tomorrow morning– do you think there will be any treadmills open at the YMCA?


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Have you given up?

Cultural norms define that the start of year is the perfect time to start on new goals. It is the reason that gyms advertise and cut prices at the start of the year. It is why suddenly, you can’t seem to find a treadmill or a bench to work-out on. Now, that we are in the middle of January, the gyms have emptied and the trails are clear. Many have given up on their resolutions.

But why?

Maybe I can answer this question. I never made a formal list of resolutions but in my mind, I had a few that I wanted to accomplish and I already have broken in the first few weeks of the new year:

Less Sugar– I am a sugar addict, I can’t just eat one cookie or one piece of candy. Within a week of coming back from vacation to work, I had already broken down and had basically eaten all the sugar within sight.

Less Caffeine- I have reached the point where I need 2 cups of coffee in the morning to get going-one at home and one at work-typically before 9 a.m.  My plan was to cut down to one a day but again halfway through the work week-I needed the caffeine crutch.

Less Beer- My plan was to only drink at beer chasers (a drinking group with a running problem) but I drink socially ( a six pack of beer will sit in my fridge for a good 3 months without being touched) and thus when I have 3-4 social events in a week I got way off track.

Weight work 3x a week- Mostly, this one I just never started.

give up

Now, I could just give up completely on these goals or I can rally. The issue I have with New year’s resolutions is that they set the arbitrary date to start a new goal and if you haven’t made progress towards within the first month-well it feels like you failed. Earlier this week, I was listening to a podcast and they made a good point-you don’t have to wait until the new year to start a new goal. I’m taking it one step further, you can restart on your goals everyday. Just because you fail one day, doesn’t mean you need to give up.

So why do people give up so quickly? I would suggest it is cultural norms equating one misstep as failure.

I’m going to restart my goals and rally.






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A short ode to hill repeats


Hill repeats are speedwork in disguise
Driving knees and long strides
Make for quick feet and strong thighs
Over pavement the runner glides
Taking on harder climbs

I have always felt like summer and hill repeats pair perfectly together. I am sure this stems from training for cross country for eight summers and hill repeats are the perfect way to slowly edge into speedwork. Running hills will develop the leg muscles – particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles – which ultimately get your body ready for the intensity of speedwork. My fondest memory of this work-out was my high school coach having to load us up on a bus and drive 15-2o minutes out to find a hill. One of our favorites was Cowman’s which is a hill in a middle of cow pasture on the outskirts of my hometown. It was a sharp climb that made your calf muscles burn but we knew that we would never see a climb like that in a race.

Even in the flattest areas, you can find a hill. Another favorite hill repeat place of my high school coach was an underside of an overpass. Into college, I would do hill repeats in the summer on that overpass blaring Red Hot Chili Peppers the whole way.

Most recently, I had an urge to find a hill and climb. I relied on an old favorite 10x 30 seconds hill repeats with a jog down. I was able to go a bit further each time and afterwards, I knew I deserved my beer.

Where is your favorite hill? Do you incorporate hill work into your training plan?


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I Run…

This past Wednesday was National Running Day. A lot of people were posting on social media the reasons why they run. I myself run for the enjoyment, the accomplishment, and because it makes me who I am. I was very excited to celebrate with a 5k race and with my fellow runners. It was a beautiful day and I was ready to enjoy just a simple run. My plan going into this race was to just take it easy and enjoy the course. But alas my competitive nature kicked in and I focused on my time and my pace. I realized that I don’t know if I could ever just go for a run without timing myself and knowing how far I went. As soon as I get those headphones on I get in a zone. I listen to music and wait for my running app to give me voice feedback. It’s nice to have my goals and to see my progress.

Every race I have an idea of what I am working towards. Whether it be to place, to run a certain pace or, of course, reach a personal record. Saturday’s race was no different. Not only did I PR for this year but I got 1st place in my age group! I was so proud of myself! Then I started to think ‘I still have more in me, I could have gone faster.’ I quickly realized that I will always be my biggest competition. Even though I have things I’m working towards I still need to enjoy the simple run.