#RaceRecap Annapolis Running Classic


It was great to be out running a race again this weekend. I can’t believe I only have one race left on my schedule before the year is out. Then it’s time to bring on 2016. Still trying to make a list of races to do.

Anyway, back to the Annapolis Running Classic. I ran this race two years ago and loved it. It was pretty special to run around a place I spent a lot of time visiting growing up and to bring a friend to her first race. She got hooked! This year I once again convinced a friend who hadn’t run a race before to sign up for the 10k. He did great and I think is now inspired to keep running and do another race.

You never know what weather is going to be like late in November, but it was perfect. I woke to temps in the 30s and by race time it was around 45. The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Parking was a breeze, but I have noticed some posts on social media from other runners who got stuck in traffic. Not sure there is any remedy to this than to just tell people they have to arrive much earlier. The race is at 7 a.m. and despite being less than 2 miles down the road, I left at 6 a.m. and was parked by probably 6:10.

After parking I met up with my friend and his wife in the heated tent before heading over to the Blue Angels plane for a photo with two other childhood friends. It was fun to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen since graduating high school 11 years ago. Can’t believe that much time has passed!

Two of the friends I met up with. We both have buddies through the I Run 4 organization and their names both happen to start with "L."

Two of the friends I met up with. We both have buddies through the I Run 4 organization and their names both happen to start with “L.”

By the time we all headed to the starting chute, it was pretty backed up. I thought about moving up but by then they were literally counting down to the start so I stayed in the back near the 2:20 pacer. Gotta love chip timing!

The half marathon and 10k follow the same course for the first 5 miles before the 10k turns to head back to the stadium, while the half marathon turns and heads over the Severn River.

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There have been some complaints that the course is long for both races. The race directors disagree and said the courses were both recertified on Friday, the day before the race. I know it’s really hard to run the exact distance between weaving, not being able to cut the corners exactly right, etc. I don’t wear a watch while running but I know when I have, my GPS watches have been off .2-.5 of a mile. Who knows?

Regardless, the course is beautiful. You start at Memorial Stadium and head straight into downtown historic Annapolis where you round Church Circle, head down Main St. and around the dock area. Then you run past part of the Naval Academy, St. John’s College and back out of downtown briefly for the first out-and-back section. After heading back you head across College Creek and that’s where the two courses split.

The half marathon takes you across one of the bridges over the Severn River. This bridge arcs like a rainbow so it provides a challenging climb in both directions. Despite the climb, the views of the bay and the academy are incredible and I think take your mind off what you’re doing a bit.

On the other side of the river are some challenging out-and-back sections on tough hills. For the most part I like hills and they’re similar to what I run here in PA so I was prepared. I spent a nice chunk of this section of the course hoping to chase down the 1:50 pacer. I had caught the 2:10 and 2:00 pacer within the first few miles. I wanted to PR and thought my best bet was to catch that pacer, forgetting I didn’t cross the start line until almost 3 minutes after the race started.

As I began the trip back up and over the bridge I realized that with a little more than a mile remaining I was not going to catch the 1:50 pacer. I was bummed but decided to just finish strong. There is one final climb through the parking lot to the finish line and the clock said 1:52 when I crossed. I was hoping my chip time would be better, but wasn’t sure how much.

I look rather angry in this photo, but I swear I was having a great time. Contemplating buying this since I don't have a lot of photos of me running.

I look rather angry in this photo, but I swear I was having a great time. Contemplating buying this since I don’t have a lot of photos of me running.

One of the things I loved was that within minutes of crossing the finish line I got an email with my actual time. There was no waiting or searching for results. I was thrilled that I PR’d with a 1:49:26. It might have only been 14 seconds faster than my previous best, but it meant I attained my goal. I also finished 20th out of 273 in my age group and was the 101st female finisher. I’ll take it!

The medals were once again really nice, as were the ribbons. My friend Justin and his wife and I headed straight to the party tent and had no trouble picking up our swag, getting some food and beer and listening to a bit of music. However, when I left the line to get in the tent stretched almost the entire way across the parking lot to where I was parked. I think they’ll have to reevaluate the setup for next year.


The sun was a bit of a problem, but I tried.

Overall, I once again loved the race. They really do a nice job and it’s such a great place to run. There are some things they should evaluate for next year, such as the post race tent situation. In addition, it might be necessary to recertify the courses again to truly confirm the distances for those who are convinced they’re off. I definitely recommend the Annapolis Running Classic for anyone looking for a late fall 10k or half.

Did you run this weekend? Where? How’d it go?

#LinkLove: My Favorite Links This Week


I wasn’t feeling pinspired today so I thought I’d change it up and share some of my favorite links from this past week.

  1. Have you ever stopped to think about what you actually think about when you’re running? People have asked me so I’ve pondered it a few times. I usually can’t seem to remember anything specific. The New Yorker published an article earlier this week delving into that very question.

2. We’re in prime pumpkin season. Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe? I tested out these soft glazed pumpkin sugar cookies recently and fell in love. They’re sure to hit the spot!

3. Had a blast watching the midshipmen from the Naval Academy break it down in their spin on “Uptown Funk.” Not too shabby for having a $0 budget.

4. This Runner’s World article, “Two Editors, Two Very Different Marathons” was a fun read. Which do you prefer? The small event or a big urban race?

5. Do you find yourself snacking uncontrollably at work? Or always stopping by the kitchen to see what goodies someone brought in from home? That’s me! This article from Women’s Running gave some good tips on how to handle those challenges and more.

Read or watch anything good this week while browsing online? Share something with me!

#RaceRecap: Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon


It was another busy running weekend, this time with the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon. I was part of a six-person team with the name Bringin’ Sixy Back, a play on the fact there were 6 of us and the song Bringin’ Sexy Back. It just worked haha…or maybe it was just the best we could come up with? Either way it made for a good laugh.

As usual we brought way too much food, but you just never know what you’re going to want to eat during the day. Despite packing some healthy foods, everyone usually gravitates toward baked good and such things. Thankfully we had good weather all day, just the usual October chill. The sun eventually came out in the afternoon.

This year the race boasted 96 ultra runners and 85+ relay teams. The ultras and the “Old Men of the Mountain” (more on them later) began at 7 a.m. and had until 7 p.m. to finish. All other relay teams were assigned a wave. We were placed in Wave 3. Fifteen minutes before the runners for a wave start, they send the transport vehicles to the first transition zone. We left Catrina, our leg 1 runner, at 8:45. She and the other Wave 3 runners began their run at 9 a.m.

This race takes place entirely on fire roads in and around Rothrock State Forest. The roads are a mix of gravel/dirt and pavement. For the relay teams, the race is broken up into 12 legs and relay teams can range from 2 to 8 people. The transition zones for the relay teams are also “Ultra Feed Zones” for the ultra runners.

The legs of the race are all very different and range from easy to very challenging and vary in distance. Since we were a team of 6, everyone got to run two legs. The only stipulation is the order. If you run leg 1, you also run leg 7. If you run leg 2 you also get leg 8 and so on. I had legs 4 and 10 for a total of 11.1 miles. Leg 4 was difficult, but after an initial hill on leg 10, it was almost exclusively downhill.

Anyway, Catrina started us off with leg 1 and did an awesome job on what was a 3.2 mile climb up the mountain. We killed some time by taking photos at the top.

Team Bringin' Sixy Back at TZ 1 (not pictured: Catrina).

Team Bringin’ Sixy Back at TZ 1 (not pictured: Catrina).

Amber (on the left in the group photo) had leg 2 and Maureen was the runner to bring us in to Whipple Dam State Park where I took off on leg 4. I did leg 4 last year, but apparently forgot what it was like. The first bit wasn’t bad at all and I remember thinking, “Why is this labeled difficult?” The only difficult thing was dealing with the pain in my IT Band. Then I made a turn and remembered the 1 mile climb up the mountain. It’s unrelenting with no points where it levels off. While I made it up that hill last year without walking, this year I eventually resorted to a run/walk.

After finally cresting the hill the rest was rolling to the TZ. I actually got a sudden burst of speed in the last half mile. It felt good to really let it go. Ivy took off on leg 5 and Bill tackled leg 6, another monster of a climb.

The scenery throughout the day was beautiful. The leaves are at peak change in the area so there was a great deal of color on the trees.

This gives you an idea of what the roads and scenery were like.

This gives you an idea of what the roads and scenery were like.

There are a number of areas with expansive views of the surrounding mountains. A lot of times you might be running alone, being passed only by the occasional transport vehicle. It’s very peaceful except when they occupants of said vehicle cheer you on, which is very welcome.

Previously I mentioned the “Old Men of the Mountain.” They’re a team of men who are all 69 or older and led by the incredible George Etzweiler who is 95. He is a former Penn State engineering professor who became a runner later in life. He’s been profiled by Runner’s World in case you want to google him. We caught up to their team after leg 8 so I got to see George come in to the transition zone to a round of applause.


We continued through the day and Bill headed out on the final 4 miles some time after 4 p.m. The rest of us moved on to the finish line to cheer for Bill as he came in.

After we finished we grabbed some food at the after party before heading home. It’s a long day, but it’s really fun. If you’re looking for a challenging ultra or want something to do with a group of friends, this race is a great option. You can find more information at Tusseymountainback.com. The site isn’t always the most up-to-date, but it does the job.

Now, I don’t have another race until Nov. 21 with the Annapolis Running Classic. I’m looking forward to it, but in the meantime I’m hoping to get the pain in my IT Band figured out so I can continue training.

How was your weekend? Did you run or race?




#FridayFive: Five Things I Love


To get me in the right zone to write this post, I started reading the many Friday Five posts already shared via the link up. It’s so great to see all the different things people love and enjoy. Such a positive way to start a Friday!


So here we go with this week’s Friday Five: Five Things I Love.

1. Running – Well that was a given! Someone recently asked me how I got into running. I was a dancer for 19 years, but I think my first foray into running was playing lacrosse my senior year of high school. Dance, which I miss very much, had made me into a very fit person and the footwork and fitness carried well into running. I was fast. I might not have been all that great at lacrosse, but I could at least run the ball down the field.

I ran my first 5k that year and then followed with one or two each year during college. My senior year I took “jogging” as a class for a kinesiology credit. It’s still called “jogging” by the way. I wish they’d change the name. Anyway, it really improved my 5k time since I was running twice a week in class, and we were supposed to run at least once more per week on our own.

After my year living and working in Syracuse, N.Y. and running periodically there, my love of running really took hold when I found others to run with where I live now. While I do more running on my own now than I used to, running with those friends really helped me improve and tackle new distances. Now I just love the challenges running presents me and how awesome it is to overcome them.

2. Reading – I’ve loved reading since I was little. I remember in first grade we would get certificates signed by the principal each time we’d reach a new milestone. Even though my principal was scary, it was kind of a big deal.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 8.44.35 AMOne of my favorite books is called “Granny Dan” by Danielle Steel. I know, it’s not a classic, but it’s about a ballerina and I really enjoy it. It’s probably the only book I’ve ever read multiple times.

I don’t really have a particular genre that I gravitate to normally. I enjoy everything from history to romance to the classics and more. I’m currently reading a nonfiction book called “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor. I’m reading it on my kindle. It’s not very long and it’s interesting. Despite it being written by a neuroanatomist, she wrote it in a way that it’s understandable for those of us without science or biology backgrounds. I definitely recommend it.

3. Traveling – While I haven’t had the opportunity so far to travel much internationally, I have traveled a bit in the U.S. with stops in 34 states. I hope to reach all 50 one day. My two international trips have been to Canada, way before you needed a passport, and most recently to Costa Rica, which was an amazing trip. I’m hoping to add another possibly international trip to my list in the next year or so.

I love traveling to both new places and places I have been too many times to count. There are so many things to see and I hope I never lose the desire to explore. Below are some photos from my travels.

Anchorage, Alaska - Nov. 2008

Anchorage, Alaska – Nov. 2008

Hawaii - January 2010

Hawaii – January 2010

San Francisco, California - May 2010

San Francisco, California – May 2010

Newport, R.I. - March 2012

Newport, R.I. – March 2012

Arenal Region of Costa Rica - February 2015

Arenal Region of Costa Rica – February 2015

Colorado - July 2015

Colorado – July 2015

Litchfield, S.C. - Sept. 2015 (but every year since I was born actually)

Litchfield, S.C. – Sept. 2015 (but every year since I was born actually)

4. Fall – I was thinking about this the other day since the leaves are at peak color change right now where I live. It’s just so beautiful. The colors seem extra bright this year for some reason.

This beautiful tree is just at the corner of my street. It’s changed even more since I took this photo.

These are just around the corner. LOVE!

These are just around the corner. LOVE!

I love that I live in a place that gets four solidly different seasons. I love that we have a beautiful fall, that we get snow in the winter (some years more than others), beautiful flowers on the trees in the spring and a nice summer that lasts a few months. Now if you asked me to rank my favorite, I’d have to say fall and winter are tied for first, then comes summer and finally spring.

5. Baking – I have to admit, I’m no prodigy. I’m someone who has to follow a recipe exactly. Regardless, that doesn’t take away from the joy I get in baking and how much I love the smile on someone’s face when they’re loving something I made.

I’m sure I could go on and add more to this list, but that’s the list for today at this moment. Happy Friday!

What are some thing you’re loving today?

#RaceRecap: Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival


Wow, what a weekend! I don’t think I could have asked for a better event, weather or experience. I highly recommend adding the Runner’s World Half Marathon and Festival to your race bucket list. Why? Keep reading :) Sorry, it’s a long one!

I’ve wanted to run Runner’s World since they first started the event a few years ago. After originally deciding to not do a fall marathon (I’ve since changed my mind), I thought doing the Runner’s World Hat Trick would be a great challenge to undertake. The hat trick is the 5k and 10k on Saturday and the half on Sunday. I managed to convince another friend to join me, as well.

Once signed up I started getting the race newsletter. It had a lot of great information and got more and more detailed as it got closer to race day. When it came to the week of the race, I had no questions about where to park, what time to arrive, the schedule or anything else. In addition to the newsletter, they also had a free app that I downloaded. It was very helpful throughout the weekend with the schedule, parking maps, spectator maps, live results, and info about the city of Bethlehem.

My friend and I arrived on Friday evening, too late to hit the expo. We stayed about 5 miles away from the race at one of their partner hotels. Runner’s World had blocks of rooms at several area hotels that guaranteed you a specific nightly rate. All were reasonably priced and within a reasonable distance of the race. I loved the location of our hotel. It was across the street from a big plaza with several restaurants, a Target, Old Navy and numerous other shops. If we’d forgotten anything we’d certainly have been able to pick it up at the plaza.

Saturday morning, we left the hotel around 6 a.m. The 5k didn’t start until 8, but I wasn’t sure how crowded parking would be and we still needed to hit packet pickup. Runner’s World had a number of free lots set up, as well as a few paid options. A few of the free lots were along the course so there would be a certain time period where you wouldn’t be able to leave. We ended up in a free lot within walking distance of the Steel Stacks Campus and the ArtsQuest Center, home base of the race. It was perfect. We didn’t have to use gear check at all since we were so close.


The 5k was a great course. Due to the short distance, I didn’t find that the field spread out until mile 2. My strategy with the 5k was to run it, but not push too hard since I still had the 10k afterwards. The course was nice and only had two hills that were pretty minor. Here’s a look at the course map and elevation profile.

Runner's World 5k

Runner’s World 5k

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I finished in 25:07, which was right around what I was hoping  to run. It left me with about an hour between races. Ivy and I took some time to stretch, hydrate and hit up the very nice, clean and warm bathrooms in the visitor’s center. Runner’s World had port-a-potties, but the fact that the visitor’s center was so accommodating was a huge plus. There wasn’t even a line since the bathroom was so large.


The 10k course had a bit more variety in terms of elevation and only minority overlapped the 5k course. This meant you had plenty of new things to look at. It took us through the beautiful historic section of Bethlehem with its many beautiful homes. There were a few more hills, but again a very manageable course.

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My goal for this race was a PR and I managed it with a 50:53, almost two full minutes off my previous personal best.

After the 10k, I was able to meet up with a distant cousin of mine, Dan, who lives in Bethlehem. Coincidently, he lived only a block off the 10k course. While we had never met prior to this, he grew up with my mom and I had spent time with his mother growing up when visiting my grandparents.

One of the other great things about this weekend are the many seminars Runner’s World has for participants. They ranged in topics from nutrition to running form to a conversation with 3-time Olympian Deena Kastor to a half marathon strategy session. Ivy and I signed up for the nutrition seminar and the half marathon strategy session. After the 10k we had about two hours until the nutrition seminar so we walked around the Steel Stacks Campus with Dan. Below are some photos.

The new walkway that gets you up close and personal with the historic steel stacks. It's similar to the Highline in NYC.

The new walkway that gets you up close and personal with the historic steel stacks. It’s similar to the Highline in NYC.

It was so neat and a beautiful day to be walking around exploring history.

It was so neat and a beautiful day to be walking around exploring history.

View of the a small portion of the campus, the ArtsQuest Center, the finish line, the flaming arch, and more.

View of a small portion of the steel stacks campus, the ArtsQuest Center, the finish line, the flaming arch, and more.

After heading back down to the ground level, we came upon the 1-mile dog run. It was adorable with dogs of all shapes and sizes, from Yorkies to Alaskan Malamutes.

The start of lap one.

The start of lap one.

The dogs seemed to have a great time. Some of them seemed like they really wanted their owners to run faster too. Some of the smaller pups eventually decided they weren’t so into the race and put on the brakes to make their owners carry them. It was all quite fun and adorable.

We parted ways with my cousin to head to the nutrition seminar with plans to meet for lunch. After the seminar, we headed to change and off to lunch. Dan then gave us a fun tour of Bethlehem and the Lehigh University campus. We had a great time!

Since we still had time before our half marathon strategy session, Ivy and I headed to a local ice cream shop that’s been serving homemade ice cream for 85 years. It was on the list of places to visit for a sweet treat from Runner’s World. It was so good! I highly recommend visiting the Bethlehem Dairy Store if you ever find yourself in the area.

With a bit more time to kill, we walked around the expo. The expo was a bit on the small side, but it was solid. There were a nice selection of vendors and I ended up getting a new pair of my preferred Thorlo Experia socks and a shirt from Aardvark Sports, a running store in the city. We also visited the Runner’s World Bookstore. There they would take your picture and make it look like you were on the cover of their magazine. It was free too!

So cool!

So cool!

Bart Yasso and two others led the half marathon strategy session. They offered insight into everything from when to arrive, where to park, when to push and when to coast. I tend to like to be blissfully naive when it comes to courses, but it did help to know where the challenging hills were and that it was a negative split course. Definitely a worthwhile seminar. Bart Yasso is also incredibly nice and quite entertaining.

10906445_10109595705536074_4605026817188965563_nWe pretty much fell into bed Saturday night super early. I’m not sure what time I fell asleep, but it was definitely early. I slept straight through until 4:30 a.m., which was amazing since I rarely sleep through the night. The nights before races can be even worse than normal since I’m always worried I’ll miss the alarm.

We were out the door of the hotel by 6:30 and parked by 6:45. Couldn’t have been easier. If you ever run the half, park in the Sands Casino parking garage. It’s huge, free and you can hang out in the lobby and keep warm, which is exactly what we did. It was just steps from the starting line.

Half Marathon

I was anticipating a challenging course, but I was confident it would be similar to running the hills at home. I’ve also become someone who prefers running uphill vs. down.

The course really showed us the best of Bethlehem.

The course really showed us the best of Bethlehem.

As you can see, the terrain was much more varied, but that the bulk of the challenge was before miles 8-9.

As you can see, the terrain was much more varied, but that the bulk of the challenge was before miles 8-9.

Only a half mile or so into the race I experienced a pain I’d never had before. Immediately I knew it was my IT Band. I’ve always wondered why people complain about that pain, but now that I’ve experienced it I understand why. It’s pretty damn awful.

I want to blame myself for the pain. I didn’t warm up as well as I could have. For the 5k and 10k, Ivy and I ran around the parking lot a few times and that really helped warm us up. I should have done that again. Not sure if it would’ve made a difference, but I’m probably going to try to make that more of a habit.

The first several miles were spent with me attempting to keep a conversation going with Ivy to distract myself from the pain. If we weren’t talking I was taking in the scenery, which helped. At times I debated whether it was pain I could and should run through, or if it was pain I should stop for. Since it was a new one for me, I just didn’t know. I kept hoping it would go away…probably not the best strategy in hindsight. I did notice the pain was less on uphills than downhills. There were a lot of hills in the first 8 miles so the pain was fluctuating with them. I didn’t have a time goal for this race other than under 2 hours, so even with the pain I made it my goal to stay in front of the 2 hour pacer.

After Ivy and I parted at the 10k mark, the pain eventually went away. I’m not sure why or how, but it did, although I knew I’d feel it later (and I do). The rest of the race went well and I even managed to catch the 1:55 pacer on the bridge back across the river just before mile 12. I was just going to stick with him, but he cheered me on and told me to keep pushing so I did.

The energy from the crowd the last 3/4 of a mile was awesome. They were lining the street and cheering everyone on as they went by. Somehow I was able to find my usual burst of energy at the end and push to the finish line. I finished with a 1:52:48, which was better than I expected or had hoped for.

I got my medal and grabbed a bottle of water and looked for Ivy to finish. She came in only a few minutes later and we hung out in our foil blankets snacking and warming up.

Here's a shot of the finish line for all three races. I took it early morning before the 5k. What a great backdrop!

Here’s a shot of the finish line for all three races. I took it early Saturday morning before the 5k. What a great backdrop!

Runner's World had a postrace concert lined up, although we didn't stay. I bet it was a good one.

Runner’s World had a postrace concert lined up, although we didn’t stay. I’m sure it was a lot of fun.

The postrace buffet for each race was good. For the 5k and 10k, there was water and Ultima, bananas, bagels, raisin and Subway cookies. For the half they added Entemanns mini muffins and brownie bites to the rest of the goodies. It all hit the spot! I also loved the foil blankets we received after the half. It’s the best one I’ve gotten thus far. It doesn’t crinkle much so I decided to save it. It folded up well and I’m planning to use it prior to a future race on a chilly day.

You can see the race shirt in the magazine cover photo we took. I wish I could show you the back. It has a silhouette of the steel stacks on it. It’s a nice dry fit too. I don’t have a lot of long sleeve shirts like that, so it was great to add to my collection. For running the Hat Trick, we also got a commemorative fleece reversible hat that even has a ponytail slot in the back. Finally, all participants got a pair of running socks.

Finishers for each race received a medal, so if you did the hat trick you walked away with three medals.

The Bethlehem star is the backdrop behind the Runner’s World Logo.

The aid stations were well-equipped and the volunteers were cheerful and energetic. I even got to yell “We Are!” at a couple in Penn State gear, which was fun. The crowd support along the courses was also pretty good.

So with all that said, would I do it again? Absolutely!

Would I recommend it to others? 100% yes!

Start watching for signups for next year’s race. It was such a fun weekend. They also offer a 3.8 mile trail run and a kids run on Friday. I wouldn’t mind trying out the trail run next time. I heard it was fun, but challenging.

Overall, I had a wonderful weekend!

Did you race this weekend? How’d it go?

Pinspire Me Friday – Vol. 43


This week’s Pinspire Me Friday post is a bit personal. And, if I’m being honest, I didn’t actually find the graphic and quote on Pinterest. I saw it on Instagram from RunnerBox and took a screenshot.

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So why did this hit home with me?

On several occasions my path and the decisions I have to make along that path have been harshly criticized. I think this stems partly because the journeys of those who criticize have been different than mine and far more closely resemble the “normal” path women of our age and background tend to take, as well as the experiences they have had up to this point. That path often includes marriage in our 20s, buying a home in the suburbs, getting a dog, etc.

And that’s great!

However, my path so far has been different from that one. In fact it’s different than what even I would’ve predicted my path would be had you asked me when I was just a 20 year old in my junior year of college.

And that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok.

It’s my path. No one else’s. And yes, there are others who are part of this journey, some very intimately. But just because my path is different, doesn’t mean it’s not a perfectly good one. More importantly, it doesn’t mean I’m lost.

My path has and continues to teach me valuable lessons; ones involving patience, empathy, dedication and the ability to adapt. I still have goals and dreams I truly hope become a reality one day. I’ve also learned to enjoy not always having a plan and seeing where this adventure called life takes me.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my path regardless of how different it is and the challenges it presents. My path may be different, but it certainly does not mean I’m lost.

P.S. This is not an endorsement for RunnerBox, but I do want to try them sometime. Have any of you tried the subscription or another similar service?

#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?