#RaceRecap: 2015 Raven Trail Half Marathon


Two days, two half marathons, one weekend. Pretty fun, huh?

Actually, most people thought I was nuts. But, I looked at it as an opportunity to challenge myself. Plus, it’s very difficult to compare road and trail running. It just treats your body so differently. I looked at this trail race, which was hiker friendly, as an active recovery day. I went in with the mindset that I’d run when I could and walk when I needed, and most importantly, I’d do my best to stay safe. I do have other races to run this fall after all :)

I originally found out about the Raven Trail Half through a coworker who is an avid trail runner. We have a ton of great trail races all over the state and he’s probably done a nice chunk of them. Three other coworkers also signed up. I was glad to at least know a few other people at the race, even though I wouldn’t be running with them.

Part of the OPP crew before the race.

Part of the OPP crew before the race.

The race took place in nearby Poe Valley State Park. I had only ever driven past it, so this was a great way to explore the many trails in Bald Eagle State Forest. It was both runner and hiker friendly with no time limit, and billed as a challenging race on mostly single track trails.

The race started along the lake, did a short and flat loop to warm you up before taking you to the first major climb.

The inclines and declines were challenging and impressive. Due to steepness and often technical nature of the inclines and declines, I found myself focusing on where to put my feet next rather than where the top or bottom was.

The inclines and declines were challenging and impressive. Due to steepness and often technical nature of the inclines and declines, I found myself focusing on where to put my feet next rather than where the tops or bottoms were.

Early on I found myself with four other women, two in front of me and two behind. We enjoyed casual conversation as we bounded around the ridge line. It was around mile 3 that things took a turn for the worse, albeit briefly. The trail was narrow and lined with mountain laurel, but at one point I felt something that I knew instantly was not a leaf or twig. I looked down in time to see one very angry yellow jacket sting the front of my right shin. I smacked him away and kept running hoping that would be the end of it.

That was wishful thinking. Not even seconds later I heard shrieks from the two girls behind me as they each got nailed as well. As we kept running I got stung again, this time behind my left knee. Then the girl two people ahead of me also shrieked as she was hit in the leg and head. She managed to kill one of the wasps.

We all continued down the trail just wanting to put some space between us and the wasp nest. We checked on one another for the next two miles, and thankfully no one had anything more than mild, local swelling and the obvious pain that comes with a wasp sting. At the aid station around mile 4.5, me and another girl grabbed some motrin.

Later after finishing I found out a number of people had gotten stung through that section. There must have been a ground nest along the trail and the runners unintentionally disturbed them. Wasps are also very sensitive to carbon dioxide so having 60+ trail runners passing the nest and panting heavily only added to the issue.

I almost took my phone with me with the hope that maybe I’d take some photos, but decided to leave it behind in case it started to rain. I did manage to check out the scenery occasionally when I wasn’t staring down at where I was stepping next. It was beautiful. One of my favorite spots was near maybe the 7-mile mark. We were on top of a ridge and the trail brought us past this incredible overlook. It was a beautiful view. Coincidently there was also an aid station there so I was able to take in the view a bit longer than I might have otherwise as I enjoyed some gatorade, water and orange slices.

One of the most memorable climbs was near the end. It felt longer than any of the others, and while it started out mostly dirt it turned technical quickly. You had to pick your steps wisely to keep from sending rocks down toward anyone who was behind you. I’m also glad it was still chilly on Sunday because I’m sure on a warm day there may have actually been snakes to worry about too. Frankly, angry wasps was more than enough for one race. What was hilarious was when I reached the top, I realized I was going to be going right back down the other side. Thankfully, this downhill wasn’t nearly as long.

From there it was only a short bit to the finish. I didn’t realize I was so close to the finish for most of the last mile or so. I could hear cars driving by and couldn’t figure out how that could be. You see, this park really is out in the middle of nowhere accessed via gravel forest roads. It was when I heard the cheers of people as they crossed the finish line that I realized the noise was just cars heading out from the parking lot.

I finished the race in 3:19, but honestly it didn’t feel like I was out there for almost three and a half hours, although I don’t really worry about my time with trails runs. Each one is so different in regards to terrain, weather, how much road running there may be, how many other people are out on the trail, etc. My goal is to do my best and enjoy myself. I managed to do just that.

The race organizers did a great job with the entire race. The course was very well marked, and included signs that said “Wrong Way” to make sure you didn’t end up off course. The aid stations were great with water, gatorade, bars, pb&j, gels, and orange slices, as well as cheery and supportive volunteers. The post race picnic was also well done and boasted meatballs, soup, amish pasta and potato salad and other yummy items. While I haven’t found this to be true of a lot of trail runs, the organizers opted to give out finisher medals this year instead of doing age group awards.

I love adding unique medals to my collection.

I love adding unique medals to my collection.

If you haven’t made a foray into trail running, consider checking it out. There are numerous shorter distance races and they’re a great way to get a feel for it. Another thing to note is they are often cheaper than road races. While you may not always get a medal, the camaraderie and race support is always top notch. Everyone I met on the trail was supportive, friendly and often up for a casual conversation as you moved along the course.

Have you tried trail running? What did you think?

#RaceRecap: Hollidaysburg YMCA October Half Marathon


After a busy running weekend, I’m excited to recap the first of two races I completed. I ran in two very different half marathons with the first being the Hollidaysburg YMCA October Half Marathon.

I found the Hollidaysburg race on our local running club’s website. They keep an updated list of area races. Sometimes it seems like I find a new race added each time I visit the site. What caught my attention was that this one was relatively close by and was inexpensive as far as half marathons go.

I mentioned it to two running friends of mine, but figured maybe I’d do it regardless of whether or not I had company. As race day approached and the forecast turned ugly, I wasn’t surprised my one friend backed out. He has a full marathon in only 2 weeks so I can’t blame him for wanting to play it safe. My other friend decided to go with me the night before. I was glad to have company even though we woke up to steady rain and a high temperature for the day of 45.

In addition to the half, the YMCA also offered a 10k run and a 5k walk. While they were all on the smaller size, they had great turnouts even with the weather.

The races started and ended at the YMCA with the 10k starting out with the half marathoners until a turnaround at the 5k mark. The half marathon course continued out of Hollidaysburg into a rural area where it ran a big loop before retracing the course back into town. The organizers said the course was a nice mix of rolling hills. You never know what that means around here until you’re out on the course.

Here's a look at the elevation chart for the half marathon.

Here’s a look at the elevation chart for the half marathon.

Ultimately I didn’t find the hills too bad at all. The only hill that wasn’t all that fun was within the last mile when we were back in downtown historic Hollidaysburg. I turned a corner and the road just went straight up. It wasn’t too long, but it was steep. Once you crested the hill you faced a steep and long downhill. It was a bit tough on the legs, especially since I was trying to find a happy medium between making up some time and protecting myself from trashing my legs or face planting (haha!).

The course was open to traffic, but there was very little of it. Even in the rainy weather, the volunteers at the aid stations and intersections were friendly and cheerful. I appreciated them being out there.

After the race, there was a tent with food from Sheetz, including a variety of sandwich wraps, parfaits and fruit. You were also welcome to use the locker rooms and showers in the YMCA. It was great to be able to change out of soaking wet clothes before the 45 minute drive back home.

I have to admit I was really surprised by my time. I PR’d with a 1:49:40. I remember coming around the corner into the parking lot at the YMCA and squinting to see the clock. I saw a “4” and was shocked that I had a chance to break 1:50. Honestly, with the weather and how my training runs have been, I was just hoping to finish under 1:55. An almost three-minute PR is awesome! Maybe it was the rain? Who knows!

My friend Ivy followed shortly after with a 1:51, a time I don’t think she was expecting to see either. She was thrilled!

We had to get a rain selfie before changing to warm clothes and heading home.

We had to get a rain selfie before changing to warm clothes and heading home.

Overall, the race was great. You can’t do anything about the weather. It could’ve been worse, but thankfully Hurricane Joaquin changed course. The low price still provided a tech shirt (or a t-shirt depending on when you registered) and a medal. The course was pretty, even in the rain, especially the historic section of Hollidaysburg. If you’re ever looking for a smaller, inexpensive half marathon with hometown charm…check this one out!

I followed this race up with a trail half marathon on Sunday. Look for that recap later this week.

Did you race this weekend? How did it go?

#FridayFive: My Five Favorite Fitness Bloggers


I have to admit, this week’s #FridayFive is a toughie. There are so many great fitness bloggers out there that it’s hard to choose just five. However, I somehow managed to narrow it down so here is this week’s #FridayFive: My Five Favorite Fitness Bloggers.dc_linkup1. A Daily Dose of Fit with Tara

Tara’s blog was one of the first fitness blogs I started to follow. She’s a certified personal trainer and also teaches a variety of other fitness classes. She’s a Fitfluential and Sweat Pink ambassador and has worked with some great products like Momentum Jewelry. She posts on a great variety of topics so it’s easy to look forward to her next post.

2. The Lean Green Bean with Lindsay

This is another blog I’ve been reading for quite some time. Lindsay is a Registered Dietician, crossfitter and a mom. She shares a ton of great recipes and several have been hits with my boyfriend, friends, family and coworkers. I also love the little peeks into her life working full-time, opening a new crossfit facility, and chasing around her adorable little boy.

3. Mom’s Little Running Buddies with Katie

Mom’s Little Running Buddies is a more recent addition to my blog reading list. I’m not sure how I found it, but really enjoy reading all of Katie’s posts. I may not be a mom, but I can relate to how Katie strives for balance with family, fitness and a career.

4. Charmed Wellness with Anna

I’ve been reading Charmed Wellness since Anna first started it. We met in grad school and bonded over our careers in marketing and communications, our love of yummy but healthy food and our passion for fitness. She is a Les Mills RPM instructor and loves to share recipes, particularly healthy yet delicious spins on old favorites.

5. The Sweet Life with Ericka

This is another newer addition to my list. I think I found Ericka’s blog through another blogger along the way and realized quickly that I’d enjoy reading her posts. She’s a communicator like me and loves running and fitness.

I feel like I could keep going with this list, but then it wouldn’t be a #FridayFive. It’d be more like the Friday 25!

Who are some of your favorite fitness bloggers? I can’t wait to check them out.

#Friday Five: Favorite Fall Activities


I’m excited to being jumping in on another #FridayFive with Cynthia at You Signed Up for What?, Mar at Mar on the Run, and Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC. This week’s theme: Favorite Fall Activities.


  1. Fall training runs and races.

I love running in the fall. The cooler temperatures, the beautiful scenery, etc, etc, etc. It’s just a great time to be out on the road or trails.

There are also soooo many races to pick from. It can be so hard to decide with many races taking place each weekend. I’m curious how things will go for me in my fall races. Running in the summer gets tough for me with the heat, but I’m feeling pretty good at this point. I do need to step up the speed training if I’m looking to get any PRs.

This was my first Tussey Mountainback team. We won the Mega Women's group that year and received medals and a plaque.

This was my first Tussey Mountainback team. We won the Mega Women’s category that year and received medals and a plaque.

I have my first fall half on Oct. 3. After that is the Runner’s World Hat Trick with the 5k, 10k, and half marathon over two days. Closing out October is the Tussey Mountain Relay and Ultramarathon. I’m part of a team of 6. In November I’m running the Annapolis Running Classic Half and closing out the fall with the Rehobeth Seashore Marathon in December.

2. Baking fall foods.

This probably sounds a bit silly, but when I say “fall foods” I mean things like apple pie, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and more. Yes, you can make those items at any time of year but they seem to just taste so much better when the leaves are orange, yellow and red and the temperatures outside are cooler. Hmmm wonder which one I’ll tackle first?

3. Picking out a pumpkin.

All through my childhood we went to a family farm near our home to pick out pumpkins. There are pictures of my brother and I from infancy onward with their fun themed pumpkin displays and ultimately our very own pumpkins. Buying a pumpkin at the grocery store just never feels the same, even if those pumpkins did come from the the farm you might have otherwise visited. There’s something about actually going to the farm, even if you don’t go out in the field and pick your own, that makes it extra special.

Hoping to pick out our own pumpkins again this year.

               Hoping to pick out our own pumpkins again this year.

4. Wearing fall clothes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love wearing dresses and shorts all summer long. But after the many months of warm weather, I get excited to break out my sweaters, jeans and boots again. I finally have black riding boots (to go with my brown ones and tan ones) and got new rain boots too.

5. Thanksgiving.

Sorry Halloween fans, I’m skipping right over that holiday. I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween anymore. Well I haven’t been since college, if I’m being honest. I am dressing up this year with my college girl friends. We call ourselves Heifers, so we’re dressing up as…you guessed it…heifers.

Anyway, I love Thanksgiving. By this point, we’re deep into fall. The leaves are now brown and the weather is starting to get more of a chill. I’m a sucker for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And we can’t forget the food. There’s just something so great about turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables and pumpkin pie. MMMMmmmmm!

I think I need to find a Turkey Trot to run this year too.

What are some of your favorite fall activities?



I thought instead of creating a new workout this week that I’d give you a peek at what my trainer friend Matt has put together for me. We’ve recently made some changes to it and I will say the legs portion is quite challenging. Just as Matt said it would be. Check it out.

WorkoutWed5Back in January, Matt came up with a program for me that would complement my running, as well as what I do at Ki’netik. The goal was to get trimmer, improve my strength and ultimately my speed. I achieved all three, including losing a few inches, PRing in a half in April and taking 20 minutes off my marathon time.

After taking some time off I found myself back at the drawing board. I needed some change to get back on track. I don’t know if I was burnt out or just stressed out or what, but in August I finally got that itch that had been missing for awhile. I was excited to tackle new challenges and goals.

I met with Matt after my vacation and we made some updates to my program. We also redid my measurements so we have a new baseline to work off of. Initially Matt said I might only do these new exercises once per week until my strength improves. On the other days I can do my old program or any mix of other exercises I’ve been incorporating. Let me just say, I was quite sore from the new exercises so last night was only the second time I’ve done them.

Here’s how it goes for the new exercises. You might remember that with my old program I was doing 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. With the new stuff, the goal is 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.

I do the kettle bell snatches with a 30lb kettle bell in triples, aka 3 per side until I get 15 reps per side and 3-4 sets total. I like these and they’re a nice change from the hang cleans. The rotational chest press is also interesting and challenging. I definitely start to feel these in the second set with 25lb dumbbells. The wide leg barbell squat is a favorite. I love squats. Previously I was doing a regular barbell squat, but now it’s more of a sumo squat with my legs wider and feet turned out. With the deficit deadlift I’m standing on a 45lb bumper plate. I have to squat down and lift the bar. The important things for me to remember with this are to keep my back flat (not hunched or arched) and keep the bar close to my body the whole way up and down.

So that’s a look at my program. My goal is to strength train 2-3 days a week, while running 3-4 days and visiting Ki’netik 2 days too. Some days that will mean two workouts a day. It’s nice because I can change things up as needed and as my body allows. The important thing is to listen to my body and what it needs.

What are some of your favorite strength exercises, either with weights or without? 

Pinspire Me Friday – Vol. 42


Ever find yourself wanting to get a quick workout in, but you can’t make it to the gym and/or don’t have your own equipment? Well then isn’t it great that you don’t need either of those things to get in a great workout?

This week’s Pinterest find came in handy last week while I was at the beach. The daily workouts were quick, but fun and challenging. What’s great is that they’re good on their own or perfect before or after a cardio workout like running.

Sadly the original link to this post no longer works.

Due to other things going on, I ended up doing the Friday and Saturday workouts together on Sunday. It was challenging but a good workout.

To keep things interesting throughout the week and within the workouts, I did change things up. I would do forward lunges, reverse lunges and lateral lunges, for example. In addition, I did both regular pushups and tricep pushups, and made a few of the planks a combo between regular and side planks.

The idea is to have fun with it and get in a good workout wherever you are.

What are your favorite bodyweight exercises?



Wow, it’s Wednesday already?

That means only one more day of work for me before a three-day weekend. I’m heading up to the Finger Lakes for a wine-tasting weekend for my friend’s 30th. We’ve rented a house and have a limo to take us around to the wineries. We’re also planning to go hiking on Friday once everyone arrives. I’m also planning this week’s long run on Friday so I can run around the area. It should be a great weekend.

I came up with the workout below last week while I was on vacation, hence the missed #WorkoutWednesday post. I tried to incorporate some different exercises while hitting a wide variety of body parts.


I enjoy superset workouts. When we do them at  Ki’netik, it makes the workout go by really fast for me for some reason. I also like that you always end up working really hard. They’re a nice change of pace too.

Hope you’re having a great week!

What’s your favorite kind of workout or workout class?

Disclaimer: Please always consult a physician or other qualified health professional before beginning a fitness program. If I share any workouts, remember that we have not discussed your personal fitness needs and I can’t be sure if a workout is right for you. Proceed accordingly.