The Joy of Running in Community: #RaceRecap

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Months ago Runner’s World magazine shared a feature story written by Bart Yasso about a group of Amish runners in Lancaster County. It was a great read, and if you have time I encourage you to read it as well. It was the first time I had heard about the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon. At just four years old, it’s a relatively new race but one that is quickly taking hold as both a destination race, as well as a popular community event. It’s run by the Bird-In-Hand Volunteer Fire Department, of which more than 60% of the volunteers are Amish.

Soon after the article first appeared, Runner’s World shared a list of some of the coolest race medals. After seeing the used horseshoe turned medal made by the Amish, I know it was a must-do race. I admit, I’m slightly motivated by bling. However, I’d like to think it was more than that. The Amish, Mennonites, and other Anabaptists have fascinated me for a long time. I even took a class in college that explored the different groups in-depth. I still feel as though I know so little about them, but maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Nevertheless, I added the Bird-In-Hand Half to my list of races that I knew I wanted to do. The 2014 race had sold out so I decided I would do it in 2015. Apparently luck was on my side as I soon found out a friend who had registered could no longer attend the race and was willing to transfer her bib. The transfer through the race went seamlessly and I was added to the list of runners. Soon after I booked a hotel and anxiously awaited race weekend.

Last week leading up to the race I found myself nervous after seeing early weather reports. A high of 89 was predicted for race day with humidity almost as high. After such a mild summer and very few runs in that type of weather, I was worried about how I would manage. I knew there’d be little to no shade on the farm country roads, but hoped the early start time would help. The expected high did not change as the week came to a close and so I decided to throw any time goal I had to the wind and focus on just having fun and taking the entire race experience in stride (no pun intended).

On Friday, Gabe and I hit the road around 3 p.m. and, despite a nasty rainstorm just outside Lancaster, arrived at the expo with plenty of time to spare. The expo, parking, and finish line were all on empty farm fields and parking was handled by Amish volunteers.

Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon Expo tent

Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon Expo tent

It was a smaller expo with not as many things related to running as you might see at other race expos. However, there were tons of Amish vendors selling some of the most delicious smelling treats. There was also space for their Friday night Pre-Race Amish Pasta Party. Packet pick-up was very organized and done by bib number, which I received via e-mail a few days prior. The tech shirt was great (I’ll have to post a picture later) and the whoopie pie made by Amish women was delicious.

The finish line was really neat. I snapped a photo of it Friday evening with the 5k banner up. The white fence ran from the road all the way through the finish line. It was truly awesome to run down it Saturday with it lined several rows deep with spectators.

Sorry it's a bit dark. The sun had set.

Sorry it’s a bit dark. The sun had set.

Gabe and I decided to head to Iron Hill Brewery for dinner. It was across the street from Franklin and Marshall University and not too far away. Gabe decided to do a sampler and none of the beers disappointed.

I don't think we could find a negative about any of these. All so different, all so unique, and all very yummy.

I don’t think we could find a negative about any of these. All so different, all so unique, and all very yummy.

The service and the food were also quite good. I think we might be back!

After locating our hotel, a mere 5 minute drive from the start line, we stopped in Target for some breakfast items. I settled on mini bagels and some peanut butter. I had to laugh though while coming and going from Target. It was built right next to the home office for the Amish Farm and House Countryside Tours, which looks just like an old farm house. The juxtaposition was comical to say the least.

We left for the start line at 6:15 am. Despite being only a short distance away, Bird-in-Hand is a very small town and I wanted to be prepared for parking traffic. Traffic wasn’t bad and we were parked quickly and heading over to watch the hot air balloon launch before the race. I had never been to one so I found it to be quite neat.

A beautiful sunrise we captured while in line to park.

A beautiful sunrise we captured while in line to park.

It was so neat to see these things come to life.

It was so neat to see these things come to life.

I turned around and lucked into this shot. It fits the day and the event so very well.

I turned around and lucked into this shot. It fits the day and the event so very well.

After parting ways with Gabe, I headed to the start line. After throwing my time goals out the window due to the weather (it was about 70 degrees at the start) I decided to start near the Amish pacer with the 2:10 sign. I figured the 9:55/mile pace would be safe to start and I could always work my way ahead or slow down if need be. This was the first year they had pacers, but from what I gathered it went very well.

I have to admit I was surprised by the number of Amish I saw at the start. Men, women, and even young teens in their plain clothes ready to run. Even after reading the Bart Yasso story, it was still somewhat surprising. Like the rest of us, they were excited and probably already a bit warm.

The race soon started and we began our trek on the beautiful country roads of Lancaster County. I had my earbuds on, but had the volume low enough to hear anything important, including buggy and car traffic, although there wasn’t much of either. Right from the start the Amish families whose farms we ran past were out in full force watching and sometimes waving, but always smiling. At one turn, there were at least 20-25 Amish sitting out on folding chairs waving as we all passed by.

Early on the corn, which was unbelievably tall, provided a bit of shade. But as the sun began to rise that wasn’t an option for long. Aid stations on a day like Saturday were crucial. I made it a point to stop at each, which were all manned by Amish families, and take water to drink and later, water to pour on my head and neck. The Amish families did an outstanding job of supplying water and gatorade and keeping all of us runners going. It doesn’t get much cuter than a bunch of Amish children standing there with arms out saying “Water, water, water!” in unison.

Another pleasant surprise were the large coolers of ice sitting along the course. We grabbed handfuls as we ran by, some to put on our necks and our heads, to rub down our arms, and even some to eat (and no I did not care how many other hands had been in the cooler before me. When you’re hot, you’re hot!). There were also port-a-potties along the course and outhouses at the one-room school houses for runners to use. Many Amish farmers set up sprinklers alongside the road, which many a runner took advantage of, myself included. Another pleasant surprise came somewhere near mile 10. We had turned onto a dirt and gravel farm road and were climbing probably the toughest hill of the day when I saw a sign for “Rita’s.” Despite how nice that sounded I didn’t think it could be part of the race. But low and behold, an Amish family had bought tubs of Rita’s ice, dumped them into large coolers and were handing runners small cups with just enough in them to satisfy you and make you smile.

Overall the course was great. It was challenging like most race courses, but wasn’t nearly as hilly as I was expecting. Most of the hills were long and gradual and at times unnoticeable, that is until you’d reach the crest and be staring down one incredibly long downhill. There were at least two such downhills. At the start of the first downhill I remember just taking in the view. You could see for miles in the sunny weather and it was just Amish farms, one after another. It was spectacular and I’m not overstating. The farm animals were also quite entertaining. A great many of the Amish families had dogs, including the biggest pug I’ve ever seen and two very obedient Boston Terriers. The cows were also quite comical, often gathering near the fences and mooing at us runners. They either thought we were crazy or were cheering us on. I’d like to think it was the latter.

The last mile was tough. It was around that time I started to see more than a couple runners walking, being helped by other runners, or attended to by EMTs. I also felt the need to walk for a short bit because it was just downright hot by then. The temperature had crept into the 80s. At some point I had caught up to the pacer for 2 hours and realized that despite the weather I might be able to break 2 hours for the first time. While walking I glanced behind me and saw him approaching and so I started running again heading straight for the final sprinkler of the course. After making the final turn it was so wonderful to see so many spectators lining North Ronks Road where we had started. They were loudly cheering us on to the finish. We turned onto the grass field between the white fences and headed to the finish.

Upon crossing the finish line, a group of Amish girls were there to hand you your medal. I took mine from a very short and cute little girl. In the tent were the local Dairy Princesses handing out chocolate milk, which was so incredibly cold and delicious (I may have gone back for seconds), tons of bananas, apples, bagels, cookies, and so much more. I honestly wasn’t that hungry, but grabbed an apple and a cookie for Gabe. I came out of the tent and found Gabe. He took one look at me and was like “Oh my…” I was soaked clean through, but I fit in well among the runners.

I don't look so hot, but I felt great and was a very happy finisher. Sadly I was oblivious to the fact my medal was backwards.

I don’t look so hot, but I felt great and was a very happy finisher. Sadly I was oblivious to the fact my medal was backwards.

Honestly, I have nothing but good things to say about this race. I can’t wait to do it again. It is by far my favorite race to date.

After a quick shower and a little time to relax, we headed into downtown Lancaster for lunch at Aussie and the Fox. The food was once again delicious. It was at lunch that I started thinking about the Amish runners.

Why do they run? They work very hard throughout their lives, and minus their predisposition to some genetic disorders, they don’t have as many of the same health issues as the general population. This is possibly due in part to the fact that they do physical work, don’t smoke or drink, and eat food from the land instead of processed junk more often than not. So clearly, the motivation isn’t simply to be in peak physical condition, to lose weight, set records, win races, etc. If those were the motivating factors, it would probably go against some of their beliefs.

So what is it?

As I thought about it more I first thought about what motivates me and other friends who like to be active and fit. I also thought about how many people, both those active and fit and those who are not, look at fitness and running as too hard, not enjoyable, and just all around have a negative attitude. For me, it’s because I enjoy it and all the positives it provides for me both personally and socially.

I kept thinking. What is it?

Then it dawned on me. I remembered a saying on the back of our race shirts, “The joy of running in community.”  That was it! It’s about community, which is what their lives revolve around. Yes they’re fast, and yes they’re dedicated, and yes I’m sure they have goals. But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that they enjoy being out there together, and sharing this activity with their families, friends, neighbors, and you guessed it, their community. Amish and English alike.

“I love the serenity…every step, every breath, every PR is a gift from God.” ~Amish runner as quoted in Runner’s World.

 

Pinspire Me Friday – Volume 17

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I love short weeks. Although I tend to forget what day it is, I do find that they really do go by faster most of the time. I can’t believe it’s already Friday! Whoo hoo!

That means it’s time for another Pinspire Me Friday post :)

How many of you sit at a desk for all or most of your day? I do and even though I try to get up and move about or monitor my posture, I usually catch myself failing miserably at both. This week I have two pins for us desk dwellers.

This is a really important stretch for me.

Levatore Scapulae Stretch. This is a really important stretch for me. Source: http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/levator-scapulae-stretch

Thanks to poor posture despite sitting in a very fancy, expensive chair meant to ensure good posture, I get some nice shoulder/neck tightness and soreness. This stretch is a go-to for me to relieve that pain and muscle tension.

I couldn't stop with just one stretch. Here's a whole list! Source: http://blog.walkingspree.com/walkingspree/office-stretches-to-do-at-your-desk/

I couldn’t stop with just one stretch. Here’s a whole list! Source: http://blog.walkingspree.com/walkingspree/office-stretches-to-do-at-your-desk/

I’m pretty good about stretching after a work out, but I definitely could see how getting up and moving, doing some stretches like these, and monitoring my posture could have really positive effects. In fact, it’s helped in the past but I guess I either get a bit lazy or just start focusing on all the other things I need to do.

Hopefully you find these a bit helpful, even if you don’t sit at a desk all day.

I’m off to a half marathon tomorrow. Can’t wait to share a recap!

Sip n Paint #Recap

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Have you ever attended a ‘Sip n Paint?’ It’s where you paint a beautiful painting all the while sipping wine with friends. Ok, so that was an oversimplification, but who doesn’t love time with friends, wine, and some art?

After seeing several friends in other cities doing one of these events, which are perfect for a girls night out, a bachelorette, etc., I really wanted to do one. However, see as how I live in a smaller city in the middle of PA I figured I’d have to travel. There was no way this trend was going to make it here.

WRONG!

Amanda Kunkel, a local artist, has started to host Sip n Paint events in nearby Boalsburg. I attended my first this past Friday and had a great time. I can’t wait to go to another!

Interestingly enough, I definitely had a hard time getting someone to go with me. Everyone used the excuse that they aren’t artistic and their painting would come out terrible. I have seen tons of pictures from these events and have never seen one bad painting. That should tell you something! Regardless of how artistic you think you are or aren’t, you will leave with a painting you can be proud of :)

We had an intimate group of 5 women for the evening. As a group we decided what picture we wanted to paint and settled on a really pretty sunset over water. It was full of a lot of bright reds, oranges, blues, and greens. We also toyed with a really pretty flower painting, but since it was the first time for most of the us at the event the sunset proved to be a good choice.

Amanda started out by picking all the colors we would need and we got our palettes ready.

Our color palette!

Our color palette!

She then talked about how to break up the painting and knowing where to start. She painted with us, but would also walk around offering advice on color, blending techniques, and other tidbits, as well as offering positive praise for our efforts. We started with the beach portion of the painting.

A bit rough, but it was just the beginning.

A bit rough, but it was just the beginning.

About halfway through we took a break to grab some snacks and more wine before tackling the sky and water. She always demonstrated each part before helping us individually. We often checked out everyone else’s paintings, always seeming to like someone else’s more than our own. However, as we found ourselves putting the final touches on our paintings as the evening was coming to a close, I think we all started to appreciate our own work.

My final product. It looks better from further away, but I could only hold the camera so high.

My final product. It looks better from further away, but I could only hold the camera so high.

We took a group photo after and it was so cool to see how similar yet different each painting was. We all had our own interpretation, which made each painting unique but no less beautiful than the next.

I love how each painting is unique!

I love how each painting is unique!

I actually really want to frame my painting. I didn’t think it would be half as nice as it turned out to be. It might not be professional quality, but I’m definitely happy with it!

If you have an opportunity to participate in one of these workshops where you live, I highly recommend it. Grab your mom, some girlfriends, whoever and sign up. It’s a lot of fun, the time flies by, and you come away with something special to remember the evening by.

Question: Have you ever participated in a Sip n Paint event? What did you paint?

Magnum Ice Cream #Review

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Disclaimer: I was sent a coupon for a free box of Magnum Ice Cream bars courtesy of Influenster. The following opinions are honest and 100% my own.

A few months ago I came across Influenster through a fellow blogger’s post reviewing an item she had received through the organization. I decided to check it out and see if it might be something I’d be interested in participating in. I joined Influenster and a few months later received my first VoxBox opportunities to review some items. One of them was an Ice Cream Stock Up. After agreeing to participate, I anxiously awaited my red envelope containing my coupon.

Can't miss this in the mail!

Can’t miss this in the mail!

I wasn’t sure which brand of ice cream I’d get until I opened the envelope and found a coupon for a box of Magnum Ice Cream bars. My local target had three flavor options and I went with the Double Caramel. This was the first time I’ve tried Magnum ice cream, even though I’d been intrigued since I first saw their commercials. After opening the box, I almost felt like I was getting a golden ticket from Willy Wonka thanks to the packaging. Definitely makes you feel like you’re about to enjoy something really good.

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Don’t these look crazy good?

My golden ticket...er ice cream!

My golden ticket…er, umm, I mean ice cream!


The double caramel option did not disappoint. The bars are a reasonable size, not too big or too small. The bars are very rich and one will definitely satisfy even the most intense sweet tooth. The chocolate outside is thick, but easy to bite. It was the perfect amount of caramel for me, and the ice cream inside was soft and yummy. I wouldn’t mind checking out the other flavors such as the double chocolate one as I’m a huge chocolate fan.

I think the only odd thing was that they came in a box of 3. That’s a really random number since most companies offer a box of at least 4. Other than that I really have no other criticism. They’re an excellent treat for special occasions. I couldn’t eat them every day as I’m a pretty healthy eater, but if they opportunity arises I won’t hesitate to purchase these bars in the future.

I was also selected for the Victoria’s Secret Sport VoxBox and will get to test one of their sports bras. We’ll see how it goes! I’ll share my thoughts here once I receive my VoxBox.

Just as a reminder, I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Question: Have you ever had Magnum Ice Cream? What did you think?

#SUPYoga Recap

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I recently did a guest post on my first SUP yoga experience for my friend Anna over at Charmed Wellness. After attending my second class, I decided I had to share it here too!

Whipple Dam State Park

Whipple Dam State Park

It was another great class on a beautiful morning at Whipple Dam State Park. Whipple Dam is a small lake offering swimming, peddle boat rentals, kayak rentals, hiking, and now SUP yoga and paddle board rentals. The SUP Yoga class is 90 minutes for $20, while you can rent the boards for an hour for $15.

Caitlin, the instructor, is great and helps you easily get used to being on the paddle board. Unlike the ocean, Whipple Dam is very flat so I imagine it’s a great place to learn how to SUP, as well as take your yoga practice off dry land. I’m not much of a yoga person, but adding in the SUP makes it so different and very engaging. I also like Caitlin’s approach to teaching. She’s very good at offering instruction and also keeps things light and fun. I’m really glad she plans to move to the area permanently and will be bringing her business back next summer.

My friend Ivy attended for the first time today. She had a great time, despite falling in, and took to the sport well. We got to spend about 30 minutes after the class paddling around the lake before we had Caitlin take some pictures for us. While paddling I saw a lot of fish and two turtles. The water is quite clear and the lake is rather shallow so you can see the bottom almost everywhere.

Ivy and I before we headed back to the dock.

Ivy and I before we headed back to the dock.

Practicing some poses before calling it a day. Not the best form, but that's not the easiest pose on a moving board :)

Practicing some poses before calling it a day. Not the best form, but that’s not the easiest pose on a moving board :)

Caitlin is planning two more weekends, so hopefully I can catch at least one more class. If you ever have the chance to try SUP or SUP Yoga, I highly recommend it, even if you aren’t a yogi. Both options are a great workout and a lot of fun.

Question: Have you ever tried SUP or SUP Yoga?

 

Pinspire Me Friday – Volume 16

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Labor Day weekend is here! The unofficial, yet official, end of summer. Do you have a three-day weekend?

I’m looking forward to a busy, but fun three days. Tonight I’m going to a Sip and Paint event put on by a local boutique. I’m excited and hope whatever I paint is worthy of being hung on the wall. Tomorrow I’m taking my second SUP Yoga class in the morning and I can’t wait to tell you all about it next week. Saturday night Gabe and I are going out to celebrate a friend’s birthday and have a breakfast date planned for Sunday morning. Since the weather is supposed to be nice, I hope to make one last trip to the pool since it closes after this weekend. Monday I’m heading down to the Lower trail for my 15-mile long run. A group of us are going with two of us running, while the rest will be riding their bikes. On top of that I’m dogsitting my friend’s golden retriever.

I also feel the need to get some chores done this weekend. I’d like to wash and wax my car, clean up my bike, clean the bathrooms, and who knows what else. We’ll see what all I can fit in to the mix.

Now back to the original purpose of this post. I found this pin earlier this week and loved it!

run A big thanks to Cherierunsthis.com for sharing this! Make sure to check out her blog. It’s great!

This pin resonated with me because there’s always this need to “keep up with the Joneses,” regardless of the reason. We need a bigger house, the newest iPhone, to lose weight, wear the latest fashions, and to run as fast as someone else. But, who cares about the Joneses? What they have and need is most likely not the same as what we need. That’s ok!

This idea also applies to running and fitness. No two of us are the same. Our bodies and minds have different needs and respond differently to different types of exercise. The important thing is that we’re out there doing it. It’s ok to be inspired by others, but don’t forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. Push yourself to be better than you were yesterday, not better than the “Joneses.” That’s how you’ll get the most satisfaction. Set goals, strive for them, reach them, and be proud of them. You, and you alone, accomplished them.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Question: What are you Labor Day weekend plans? 

Weekends With Friends

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It’s Monday! How was your weekend? Hope you made the most of it!

I spent the better part of my weekend in the Philadelphia area visiting with some friends and attending a bridal shower in nearby Princeton, N.J. It was a great two days from start to finish.

On Friday I put together my bridal shower gift for the next one of my college girlfriends to get married. A few of us have developed a tradition of doing certain gifts for the bridal shower. Mine is a wine basket with wines dedicated to specific events in the lives of newlyweds, such as First Christmas, First Baby, First Fight, First Dinner Party, and First Anniversary. I usually try to match the wedding colors. Here is my creation for Alissa.

 

I pulled this photo from Instagram after deleting the original.

I pulled this photo from Instagram after deleting the original.

On Saturday, my college roommate Emma and I departed for Philly. We had plans to meet our friend Jen at 1 p.m. for lunch in Conshohocken. It’d been too long since we’d both seen her so it was great to reconnect. We ate at the Southern Cross Kitchen. I highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area and want some southern cooking with contemporary style.

Post-lunch selfie!

Post-lunch selfie!

We then headed to Wayne where we would stay the night with Melissa. After quite the adventure at King of Prussia Mall in Macy’s (their bridal registry system and coupon restrictions are ridiculous and apparently not user-friendly for customers or sales associates), we headed to Viggiano’s (also in Conshohocken) to meet our friend Lauren for dinner. Viggiano’s is a delicious, family-owned Italian restaurant that apparently reopened within the last year. It’s BYOB(or W for wine, of course!) and you can make the entrees family style and feed yourself for days to come. We ended up ordering the sampler as an appetizer and getting two family-size entrees for the four of us. We had so much left over, but it was really quite delicious. Another great place to check out if you’re in the area.

After, we hit up The Great American Pub around the corner for drinks with a friend Emma met on her Korea trip who happened to live in the Philly area. It was a great time and we headed home around 12:30 a.m.

Melissa and I stuck to our plan of running Sunday morning, which required a 6:50 a.m. wake up. While my training schedule said 10 miles, we ended up with 6.5, which felt good and allowed us time to get ready before making the drive to Princeton. Wayne is a beautiful area outside of Philly offering lots of convenience for residents. Melissa took me past beautiful estates and we finished our run on a quiet and pretty bike trail.

I paused on our run to catch this pretty shot.

I paused on our run to catch this pretty shot. Nice work, Melzy!

Alissa’s bridal shower was at Mediterra in Princeton. I’d never been to the town before and absolutely loved the little bit that I saw of it. I really would love to go back and shop and check out the campus. The food at the shower was quite delicious, as was the wine. Alissa received a ton of great and thoughtful gifts from everyone in attendance. She and Dave are well-stocked to start married life together! Before we all parted ways, we got a group photo outside the restaurant.

We are quite a colorful bunch!

We are quite a colorful bunch!

My trip home wasn’t too long. I saw lots of deer and even two hot air balloons somewhere over Lancaster. It was so great to see everyone and to celebrate Alissa. We’ll all be back together soon for her wedding and I can’t wait!