#RaceRecap: Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon

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A few weeks ago my friend Roz messaged to ask if I would like to join her Tussey Mountainback Relay team, “The Late Finishers.” Having had a blast the last two times I’d participated as part of a relay team, of course I said yes.

The team was made up of Roz and her husband Scott, our friend Bill (who will be running the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend, as well), Scott’s sister Deana and her husband Erik, Scott’s dad Dean, Tony, and his wife Chrissy, who served as our sherpa.

Waiting to start in the cold, damp morning weather.

Waiting to start in the cold, damp morning weather.

You might be wondering about the tutus. Seeing as how it’s October and just about everyone has been touched in some way by breast cancer, it was for breast cancer awareness. Roz purchased two tutus for us to switch off with. The guys were great sports about it and they definitely made us recognizable out on the course.

The course starts and ends at Tussey Mountain. The ultras began at 7 am, along with the team the “Old Men of the Mountain.” The “Old Men of the Mountain” are a group of older gentlemen who all are still running and they’re led by 94 year old George Etzweiler. You have to be 65 to part of their group. The rest of the relay teams go out in waves every half hour until 9:30 am. We were in the last wave.

Scott had the first leg, a little more than 3 miles up the mountain. It gets pretty steep in spots, but I guess the switchbacks help out a bit The transport vehicles head out about 5 minutes before. We park at the transition zone and wait to cheer the runners in and the new runner on to leg #2.

Scott hands off the baton, aka slap bracelet, to Bill.

Scott hands off the baton, aka slap bracelet, to Bill.

Bill took on leg #2 (4.0 miles), a mostly downhill stretch ending deep in the woods. As you can see, the race is run mainly on gravel fire/logging roads, but some areas are paved. The scenery is beautiful all day.

Scenery at transition zone #2.

Scenery at transition zone #2.

Deana had leg #3 (3.8 miles), a mostly flat section with a few small rollers that follows the course into Whipple Dam State Park. I had leg #4 (5.6 miles), a new leg for me. It was labeled as difficult, but at first I found it to be quite reasonable. That was until I hit the mile long hill, which immediately rid me of any arrogance I had. I am proud to say I didn’t walk at all, a challenge for such a long and steep hill.

Dean, Scott’s dad had leg #5 (3.4 miles), and Tony took on what is arguably the hardest leg of all, leg #6 (4.1 miles), aka Stairway to the Stars, which begins at the Alan Seeger Natural Area. It has more than 1,300 feet of elevation gain over 4 miles. I did it last year and my left foot fell asleep less than a mile into it and I didn’t get feeling back until I was 1/4 mile from the transition zone. It’s a doozy! Leg #6 was also where we saw our first ultra runner of the day. He’d completed almost a marathon at that point.

Erik is off on leg #7.

Erik is off on leg #7.

Leg #7 is an easy 3.7 miles and Roz took on leg #8, a 4.3 miler. While leg #9 is short, it’s another tough one with plenty of rolling hills. Bill took on leg #10, his second of the day. It’s 5.5 miles with some moderate hills and ends at Colyer Lake.

Colyer Lake is currently almost completely empty due to repairs that need to be completed on the dam. It's still a very pretty area.

Colyer Lake is currently almost completely empty due to repairs that need to be completed on the dam. It’s still a very pretty area.

Deana had leg #11 (5.3 miles), another one of the more challenging legs of the whole course. It’s aptly named “Are we there yet?” and I’m sure most runners, ultras and relayers alike, were asking themselves that very same question. I had the final leg of the course, leg #12, that leaves from the Bear Meadows Natural Area. I had it last year too and it’s a fun one. It’s 4.2 miles almost exclusively downhill. It’s great to come into the finish line cheered on by your team and everyone else waiting there.

We finished 4th in our category out of 11 teams with a time of 7:36:57.83 with an average pace of 9:08/mile. According to Tony, it was a big improvement from their team’s time last year.

Overall it was a really fun day! It’s beautiful scenery, time with friends, and essentially some fun tailgating with pb sandwiches, granola bars, candy, cookies, etc. You never know what all you’re going to have packed in the car. It’s also really inspiring to cheer on the ultras. I’m not sure I’d have 50 miles in me, especially on that particular course. As the race director likes to say, “It’s not for the faint of heart.”

The winner of the ultra on the men’s side was Michael Wardian (40) and he averaged a 6:56/mile pace. He’s planning to run the MCM this weekend and hopes to run sub-2:18. Incredible! The women’s winner was Connie Gardner (50) with a time of 7:27:49. I do have to say, everyone out there was impressive and it was great to get to see some of the ultras cross the finish line with huge smiles.

Hopefully I’ll get to run this again next year. It really is a fun day. It’s not a huge race, but it’s well-organized and has a strong history. It also raises money for local organizations that benefit the community. Each year it’s a different organization. the race attracts runners from all over the country. Run it yourself or find a team of 2, 3, 4, up to 8. I guarantee it’ll be an awesome day!

Race #Bucketlist

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I’ve been trying to do this post for awhile. This is due in part because while researching all the different races out there, I found it hard to pick. There are just so many great races! This isn’t an all-encompassing list and I’ll certainly be adding to it through time. Some of the motivation behind my choices stem from hearing great things about a particular race, while reasons behind other choices stem from a desire to visit a certain place or to take on a new challenge.

Here they are in no particular order.

1. Dick’s Sports Goods Pittsburgh Marathon/Half Marathon

Gabe ran this race a few years ago, but I bowed out due to injury. I love Pittsburgh and all its bridges!

Gabe ran this race a few years ago, but I bowed out due to injury. I love Pittsburgh and all its bridges! PC: Dick’s Sports Goods Pittsburgh Marathon

I’ve wanted to run this race (the half marathon) for quite some time. I know I’ll do it at some point. Pittsburgh is a favorite city of mine and was a place I spent a great deal of time growing up as I had family there. It’s a relatively new race, but I’ve only ever heard good things.

2. Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon/Half Marathon

What an incredible view! PC: Mayor's Marathon & Half Marathon

What an incredible view! PC: Mayor’s Marathon & Half Marathon

I visited Anchorage in 2008 with the Syracuse women’s basketball team when they competed in the Great Alaskan Shootout. No, I was not on the team but serving as their media relations rep. It was my first time to Alaska and only made me want to go again. What a beautiful and unusual place!

3. Horsetooth Half Marathon

Apparently this race was voted the No. 1 half by Colorado Running Magazine readers. I feel like that’s a pretty good endorsement! I definitely want to do some Colorado races as it’s one of my favorite states. A few I found caught my eye, but the elevation change between where I am on the east coast compared to Colorado makes me nervous. I have never had any problem skiing out there, but have never tried running. This one has some major climbs, but they at least sound doable compared to other races I’ve looked at. I wouldn’t mind adding Denver’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half to my list too!

4. Bozeman Marathon/Half Marathon

Love the mountains in the background! PC: Bozeman Marathon

Love the mountains in the background! PC: Bozeman Marathon

I’ve been to 34 states, but Montana isn’t one of them hence why I wanted to find an excuse to go. A race seems like a perfectly good excuse, as well as my desire to visit Glacier National Park and absorb the beauty of Montana.

5. Acadia Half Marathon

Surprisingly I couldn't find a Facebook page for this race, so I decided to nab a photo from the park website. This probably isn't the view you have during the race, but it sure is beautiful. PC: Acadia National Park

Surprisingly I couldn’t find a Facebook page for this race, so I decided to nab a photo from the park website. This probably isn’t the view you have during the race, but it sure is beautiful. PC: Acadia National Park

Another state I’d like to cross off sooner rather than later is Maine. I feel like I’d absolutely love it there because it’s supposed to be beautiful. It would also give me a chance to visit another national park, Acadia National Park.

6. Bournemouth Marathon Festival

My cousin moved to England last year and lives in Bournemouth. There are actually tons of races all over the UK. It was hard to pick just one. Ultimately I just would like to run a race there, be it this one or another. This does sound like it’s a great event with a lot going on. Plus, it would be just one part of a hopefully great trip!

7. Country Music Marathon/Half Marathon

PC: Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon

PC: Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon

This is my excuse to visit Nashville! I love country music. My college friends introduced me as soon as I arrived on campus as a freshman when we attended the Tim McGraw concert. I’ve loved it since then! I’m more into the pop country than anything else, but it’s usually what’s on in the car and several songs always make it on my running playlists.

8. Kosice Peace Marathon/Half Marathon

PC: Kosice Peace Marathon

PC: Kosice Peace Marathon

When googling races, I wondered if there were any races in Slovakia. My maternal grandparents were first-generation Slovak Americans and their heritage has always interested me. Their parents all came to the U.S. in the early 1900s. Anyway, I’ve wanted to visit the country and get this, they have the oldest marathon in Europe!

9. Ragnar Trail Relay

How beautiful does this look? PC: Ragnar Trail Relay

How beautiful does this look? PC: Ragnar Trail Relay

My friend Lauren, an accomplished runner and Ironwoman, asked if any of the girls were interested in running the Ragnar Trail Relay in West Virginia. I jumped immediately and said yes. I really enjoyed the little bit of trail running I’ve done and would like to do more. Wouldn’t this be a perfect excuse? We need 5 more team members so cross your fingers I get to check this off my list as early as June 2015!

10. Runner’s World Half and Festival

I love Runner’s World magazine. I can only imagine that their race festival would be very well done so it makes my list. Plus, it’s not that far from where I live. They also get some big running names coming in to compete, which is pretty cool!

One other race I can’t forget about is the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon. I absolutely loved this race and hope to make it one I get to do several times.

So there’s a glimpse at my list that will only grow and change as I do the same. I hope I get to cross each one of these off my list all in due time.

Question: What’s your favorite race? Do you have a race bucket list?

 

Getting Back on Track!

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I’ve been a bit MIA recently, but things have been a bit crazy! Let’s see, how can I make a long story short?

1. We got a kitten about a week ago. His name is Frasier and he came from a local no-kill shelter. He was part of a litter known as the “Cheers” kittens. They were all named after characters on the show.

He loves our big front window!

He loves our big front window!

He's a great cuddled when he's sleepy.

He’s a great cuddler when he’s sleepy.

He loves our goldfish, Nick Cannon.

He loves our goldfish, Nick Cannon.

And he's quite curious and silly!

And he’s quite curious and silly!

2. I got a new job and started this past Thursday. The first four days have gone well! I’m a marketing communications specialist in the Office of Physical Plant here at the University. Even having a desk job, I still need to be prepared as you can see below.

Gotta love my new hard hat and three pairs of work goggles!

Gotta love my new hard hat and three pairs of work goggles!

3. My dear friend Alissa got married over the weekend in Philadelphia! She was a beautiful bride and the wedding was an incredibly great time.

The stunning bride!

The stunning bride!

And it meant time with my favorite girls!

And it meant time with my favorite girls!

4. I’m also battling the viral crud that everyone seems to be dealing with. I got a special cough suppressant from the doctor so hopefully it gets that under control so I can get through it and back to my normal self. I do have two races coming up!

I’ll be back on schedule this week with a post about my bucket list races and my weekly Pinspire Me Friday post. Look for a race recap early next week!

Pinspire Me Friday – Vol. 19

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Happy Friday! I decided I needed to get back on the wagon with my Pinspire Me Friday posts. I found a great one to share with you courtesy of Anytime Fitness. Interestingly enough, the graphic didn’t link back to its source so I had to save it. Thankfully all the info you need is right here in this graphic.

yoga

This one struck a chord with me because I recently tried two different yoga classes at a local yoga studio. One was called Yoga for Sports, which I recapped, and the other was called Restorative Yoga. Both classes utilized at least some of these poses. I have to admit until I took these two classes, I was not a yoga person. I still wouldn’t say I am, but it was the first time I wasn’t bored and actually enjoyed the experience. Maybe I just needed to find the right format, instructor, etc. Who knows?

Anyway, these poses feel great regardless of whether you’ve just gone on a run or not. Even if you’re not a runner, you might find that these provide relief or just the right stretch.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Question: What are your favorite yoga poses?

#Marathon Training Update

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What a beautiful weekend it was here in PA! Hope the weather was nice wherever you are. How’d you spend your weekend? Do anything fun?

Gabe and I spent Saturday in Pittsburgh. We visited the zoo around midday to take advantage of the wonderful weather before heading to a late lunch. We stopped at a french bakery after called Gaby et Jules in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. We got a beautiful lemon pastry and a box of six macarons.

Incredible!

Incredible!

I’d never had a macaron before and was pleasantly surprised by the incredible textures and flavors the chef was able to create. The flavors we chose included pistachio, La Pittsburgh, white chocolate basil, poppy, chocolate, and rose.

Afterwards we headed downtown to visit Point State Park. The fountain was recently turned back on after a few years and it was stunning. The park was gorgeous and the views were wonderful. There were boats all over the river since it was not only a beautiful day, but Pittsburgh also played Akron and the Pirates also had a game.

Haven't been to the park since I was a kid!

Haven’t been to the park since I was a kid!

Pretty sweet view. Akron beat Pittsburgh.

Pretty sweet view. Akron beat Pittsburgh.

The City of Bridges

The City of Bridges

We got home around 10:30 and I had to throw in some laundry for my run the next morning. My original long run plans went by the wayside due to some unforeseen circumstances so I ended up deciding to tackle the 14 miles on my own. My last long run did not go well for a number of reasons, so I was hoping for a better outcome. I was also hoping that my foot pain would not kick in during or post-run. I’ve been rolling my feet on my new yoga balls and they feel so much better than a golf ball. I think they’re helping, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Prior to heading out on my run! Was well stocked with my FuelBelt, sport beans, sunglasses and iPod.

Prior to heading out on my run! Was well stocked with my FuelBelt, sport beans, sunglasses and iPod.

Anyway, I set off around 9:30 a.m. when it was quite cool, but perfect running weather. I completed 13.63 miles in 2:07 averaging 9:20/mile. I mapped a course prior to running and tried to go into some neighborhoods and places I don’t typically run for a change of scenery. It worked out. I had debated not taking my Fuelbelt, but was so glad I did as I went through three of the four bottles as the temperature climbed. The best part of all was I had no pain on the outside of my foot during or after (knock on wood)! I think I am also dealing with a bit of plantar fasciitis, but I’m trying to keep on top of it with stretching and the yoga balls.

I’m looking forward to my shorter runs this week and my long run of 20 miles this weekend! Crossing my fingers things continue going well. Taper time is swiftly approaching, which means the race is almost here!

I’ll be back to check in later this week. Until then, have a great one!

Question: Have you ever had to overcome an injury in the midst of training for a specific event?

#Review: Yoga for Sports

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I’ve tried yoga numerous times and have never fallen in love. I’ve left classes feeling worse than when I went in at times. Other times, well a lot of times, I’m just not into the meditation, breathing, introspective aspect of it. That’s just not me.

It’s not because I haven’t wanted to like it. I believe in the benefits. For some reason though I just was having trouble finding the right class or experience for me.

I’ve been having some issues with my foot recently, which is really poor timing because I’m in prime training mode for my October marathon. I should be running 18-20-milers in the next two weeks before tapering. The problem is that while I can run with only minor soreness in my foot, I then can’t walk the rest of the day. That’s not good. I have an appointment with a sports therapist, but the earliest I could see him is two weeks from now. Not exactly what I had in mind. So in the meantime I realized I needed to keep my fitness level up. I’m continuing going to the gym, just not running or jumping. I’m also adding in Cycle to keep my cardio fitness and leg strength up.

Anyway, I noticed the local yoga studio, where I also do Cycle, added a new class called Yoga for Sports to their schedule. I read the description and thought this might be exactly what I need to enjoy yoga finally. It’s intended for any level yogi and athletes of all kinds. I attended class last night and thought I’d review it here for you. Maybe there’s a class similar at a gym in your area!

It was a smaller class of about 15 people so we set up in two rows. We needed two blocks, a strap, and two sets of yoga balls, one large and one small. While we waited for everyone to get situated, Lori (our instructor) suggested rolling around on the balls, especially if we hadn’t used them before.

We started out simply relaxing lying on our backs before doing some simple lengthening and stretching moves while seated. Nothing too complicated. After moving to our feet we did some yoga flow, but again nothing to complicated or taxing. While she said she wants us to build strength, she also wants the class to help us release tension we have developed from our other activities. We did some downward dog, three-legged dog, planks, warrior pose and warrior 2. For someone who doesn’t do yoga, it was a bit challenging, but also felt quite good. We moved back to the floor and spent some time in the frog pose to stretch out our hip area. That was definitely a good stretch. We also used the strap for some hamstring stretching.

We moved back to standing to start work with the yoga balls, first working our feet, then our hips, lower back, shoulders, and neck. Those things work like a charm! I’m betting a tennis ball would work well if you don’t have a set of yoga balls on hand. To close out the class, we just relaxed like a typical yoga class.

Overall I really enjoyed it and I felt good after it was over unlike other times when I’ve taken yoga classes. It was only an hour, which proved to be not too long or too short. We went a bit over time, but I appreciated that there wasn’t a rush to get us out on time. We were the last class of the day anyway. Since it wasn’t a hot yoga class, the temperature was lower, but still warm to keep our bodies warm. The lights were also dimmed, which she adjusted lower as it got darker outside. Another nice touch.

I wish I had pictures, but who takes a phone into a yoga class?!?

I think it can be challenging to find a gym or a specific type of class that you enjoy. I’ve found a great gym that I’ve been going to for 4 years, but it’s been nice to be able to supplement that with Cycle at PYP. It’ll be nice to add this yoga class to the mix. Now that my foot is giving me some issues, I’m probably going to add a bit more from PYP. I’ve signed up for Cycle and Restorative Yoga later this week. I haven’t done Restorative yet, but hopefully it’s another positive experience!

Question: Do you like yoga? How often do you practice?

#VSSportbra #Review

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Disclaimer: I was sent a complimentary Victoria’s Secret Incredible Sports Bra and a pair of capris to test and review courtesy of Influenster. The following opinions are honest and 100% my own.

A few weeks ago I received notice from Influenster that I would be receiving their Victoria’s Secret VoxBox with an Incredible Sports Bra and a bottom of some kind. I was excited to say the least. About a week or so later, the box arrived.

My Victoria's Secret VoxBox!

My Victoria’s Secret VoxBox!

I received a patterned Incredible sports bra and a pair of Knockout capris in gray, as well as some bonus materials such as these 25% off coupons to share with friends.

There are so many? Can't wait to share!

There are so many! Can’t wait to share!

I couldn’t wait to try on the sports bra and capris. I was a bit nervous about the sports bra because I am rather well-endowed up top and require a lot of support to keep exercise comfortable. I prefer as little movement as possible when running and at the gym, especially on cardio days when we’re doing box jumps, ladders, and whatever else they think up.

Overall, I think the Incredible is a well made sports bra. I love that it comes in a ton of great patterns and colors and a variety of sizes. I wasn’t remotely worried about the underwire because it appeared well protected. My initial concerns were how low cut it appeared to be, it’s lack of adjustability in the straps, and that it only had two hook-and-eye closures (but three rows of them like most bras).

I put on the capris and was impressed. They’re stretchy, but offer great compression. They have a higher rise so no muffin top if that’s a concern for you. Even being the light gray, I don’t think they’ll show sweat when working out or running due to the material. The material is thicker so it’ll be great for in the gym and on runs as the cool fall weather rolls in, and it does not appear to be a type of material that will pill. I’m looking forward to getting great use out of them.

Next on was the sports bra. Overall it fits well, but can be a bit tricky to get on. It’s no worse than any other sports bra though. It is a bit too low cut in the front for me. I do wear tops over my sports bras, but when in a push-up position or plank, I could see my cleavage definitely putting on a show. I did check out some of the other sports bras from Victoria’s Secret and the Knockout has a bit more coverage and might be worth checking out. With the Incredible I did like the separate cups, the underwire was not the least bit uncomfortable, and my boobs did look quite nice.

The most important aspect of any sports bra for me is how much it will restrict breast movement, and this is where I ended up a bit disappointed. I did my bounce test, which consisted of me jumping up and down and jogging around my apartment. Sadly, the Incredible allows for too much movement for me to comfortably wear to run or to jump around during cardio-based workouts at my gym. I did decide to test it out at a cycle class at a local studio and it worked well, even when we were off the seat in a run. There was a bit of a bounce, but not enough to cause discomfort. I will most likely continue to use it for cycle.

Wearing my Incredible sports bra and heading off to Cycle.

Wearing my Incredible sports bra and heading off to Cycle.

One other issue I had was that the blue on the bra bled into the white in a few spots. The other colors were fine, but for some reason the blue was not. It’s not a big deal since I always wear a shirt over top, but just something that I thought should be shared.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the Incredible sports bra. While it doesn’t offer the maximum support at least for someone with a larger cup size like myself, I think someone with A, B, or even C cups would enjoy wearing this sports bra.

A big thank you to Influenster and Victoria’s Secret for letting me participate in this VoxBox!

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

Question: Have you tried out a Victoria’s Secret sports bra or any of their other athletic gear? What did you think?