Running into February

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Does anyone else feel like 2016 is flying by? I can’t believe it’s February. In fact, yesterday Groundhog Day and it sounds like we’re in for an early spring…that is if you actually believe a groundhog’s predictions.

I love winter, especially the snow, so I wouldn’t mind if we had a few more snow storms. However, based on how this winter has gone and the fact that there were earthworms on the sidewalk as I walked into work in the rain this morning, I’m going to guess that Punxsutawney Phil might have lucked out in his prediction this year. I just hope it doesn’t get too hot too early this year. I have lots of training and some races on my calendar and I prefer cooler running weather. We’ll see!

After setting a goal to get back on track and consistent with my workouts last week, I’m pleased to say I did just that. In an attempt to continue the positive trend, I’ve once again mapped out this week’s workouts.


Monday – Strength Training

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Strength training, lap swimming

Thursday – Circuit training, 4 mile run

Friday – Circuit Training

Saturday – 6 mile run, core

Sunday – 13 mile run


I originally had a run planned for last night, but went to see Hubbard Street Dance Chicago instead. It was a great performance and also gave me a much needed rest day. I need to remember to also make sure I build those into my schedule. It’s always a good idea to give your body a chance to rest and recover.

I’m only getting 3 runs in this week, but I’m ok with that as it’s early in my training program. I don’t want to overdo it, especially since 4 runs a week is new for me. I’m looking forward to making progress and getting stronger as time goes by.

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The next challenge is really reigning in my eating habits. I haven’t been doing so hot lately and I know this impacts the quality of my workouts. I need to get back to keeping my food journal. I had started out in January doing really well with it, but have since stopped. I’ll make that my goal for the remainder of this week.

What tips do you have for staying on track with nutrition to provide you with what you need to perform at your best?

 

Marathon Training

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After a rough start thanks to some snowy weather and just being plain busy, I’m charging full steam ahead into marathon training. I’ve signed up for the Shipyard Maine Coast 39.3 Challenge in May and will run the half marathon on the first day and the full marathon on the second day. Apparently after doing the Hat Trick at Runner’s World this past October, I thought I should take on a slightly bigger challenge!

I spent awhile before Christmas trying to find a training plan for such a challenge, but wasn’t having much luck. Then it dawned on me that the Goofy Challenge at Disney World is the same thing. I found several training plans for Goofy, but none really seemed like they would work for me. Then I found an article about training for Goofy that involved Hal Higdon. I’ve used Hal Higdon’s plans many times. He recommended his intermediate marathon training plan.

The plan is ambitious and includes back-to-back Saturday/Sunday runs, as well as three 20-milers. What I like is that like with all of his other plans, you can modify for your body’s needs. The intermediate plan has five runs a week, but he said you can drop one of the short runs early in the week if that’s too much for you. I know it’s too much for me, so I’m focusing on four runs per week plus various cross training options. I know I’ll have to adjust as I go, but I’m feeling good about it.

I’m also signed up for a few races that will add some fun to all the training. I have a few half marathons on the docket, as well as a 5k next week and maybe a local 10-mile race later on. I’m excited for what the next few weeks and months have in store.

Another thing I’m excited about are the Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon medals. You get three for doing the 39.3 challenge. The full and the half medals are pretty similar and the 39.3 medal is its own unique design. I love them!

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After a challenging start to my training, I’m hoping this week is the start of many good weeks. I mapped out my workout schedule in advance, which includes my runs, and it’s really helped me stay on track. Here’s how my week mapped out. So far so good!


Monday – Circuit training (45 min)

Tuesday – 4 mile run, strength training

Wednesday – Circuit training (30 minutes), 30 min. lap swim

Thursday – 3 mile run, core

Friday – Yoga, strength training

Saturday – 6 mile run, core

Sunday – 8 mile run


 

Hopefully continuing to map things out in advance will help me stick to the schedule. Obviously things come up and I’ll adjust as needed, but it helps to have things on the to-do list. I love checking things off when I’m done!

How do you make sure you get your workouts in when life can often get in the way?

 

Turning 30

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Today marks the start of my last two days as a 20-something. It’s kind of crazy. I’m excited! Actually, my emotions are all over the place.

Why?

To be clear, it’s not because I’m scared of getting old. It’s a fact of life and so many great and wonderful things come with growing old. The memories, the experiences all add up as time passes. I think most people assume that when people aren’t excited about a birthday, specifically a milestone birthday like 30, it’s because they don’t want to get old. I promise that’s not the case here.

This past week I’ve been looking for some inspiration. Inspiration on how to face this milestone with a brave face, for things to blog about, for ideas of goals I want to achieve and things I want to do. Let me just recommend that you not search Pinterest for things related to turning 30. You end up with post after post of the following:

  • 30 Things to Know Before 30
  • 10 Places Every 20-Something Should Visit Before 30
  • Books to Read Before Turning 30
  • 25 Items to Toss Before Turning 30
  • The 11 Staples Every 30-Something Should Have in Her Closet
  • 11 Things You’ll Regret in Your 30s
  • 5 Fitness Habits to Master Before 30

It goes on and on like this as you scroll. I kid you not. Don’t bother clicking on the links. I learned I haven’t read most of the books I apparently should have, I still have some of those items I should toss, and I’ve only been to two of the places I should have visited before Saturday. Think I can knock out London, Paris, Greece, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney and Machu Pichu by Saturday? Seriously, what 20-something had enough money to go to all of those places?

It’s a good thing I didn’t take any of those lists seriously.

There were two lists that I did find I rather appreciated. One was career-focused and I liked its three pieces of advice, including recognizing that my time and energy are finite resources, finding meaning in my career, and knowing that I don’t have to please everyone. The other list focused on life skills we should all have by 30 and I’m proud to say I could check off quite a few of them. This list included things like wrapping a present, knowing how to give cpr, taking a mental health day, going to a party or event alone, and mastering a handshake. I admit, I still can’t fold a fitted sheet though.

What’s behind my mixed emotions? I think it all comes down to not knowing what’s coming next. What makes this year any different? I’m not sure to be honest. Maybe it’s just the way society tells women they should feel about turning 30 and all the things we should have accomplished by now. This begs the question of how anyone can tell you what you should have done, seen or know by the time you’re 30? Everyone is different and we’re all having different life experiences. How boring would it be if we all were having the exact same experiences and reaching the same goals and milestones?

With all that said, the one thing I do know is that we get to choose how we feel about something. We can make the choice to be angry, to hold grudges, to dwell on things. Or we can make the choice to be brave, to be happy and to smile and face the future head on. That doesn’t mean there won’t be times when we’re nervous or scared or unsure, but we don’t have to let that prevent us from looking forward to the future with anticipation.

So this weekend I’m turning 30. I may not know what this year  holds in store, but even if there are times I’m nervous or unsure I’m going to smile and look forward to it all. Bring it on!

PC: My Thirty Spot

 

 

My Running Year in Review: 2015

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After running 20 races this year, I thought it might be fun to look back at 2015 in its entirety and pick out some of the highlights (and even lowlights). It also seemed like a great way to start looking at what I hope to accomplish in 2016.

Favorite Race Experience

I have to give this one to the Runner’s World Half & Festival in Bethlehem, Pa. Hands down it was probably one of the most fun weekends I’ve had when it comes to running. It was so well organized, the crowd support was great, the courses for the 5k, 10k and half were all unique and fun and showcased the best Bethlehem. I can’t wait to do it again!

After the Runner's World Half...22.4 miles across 3 races and 2 days.

After the Runner’s World Half…22.4 miles across 3 races and 2 days.

Best Performance

This is a tie between two races, the October Half Marathon and the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon. Both races saw me PR. In the half marathon, I finally beat 1:50. I wasn’t sure I’d get there, but it makes me feel confident that I can continue to improve my time in that distance.

For Rehoboth, I saw an 18-minute improvement. Granted the course was flat, but my goal with marathons has and will always be to finish. Improving my time is secondary. I wanted to improve my time but was thinking running a 4:15 was more realistic. Running a 4:10 felt so good and made me reconsider what I thought would be my best. I walked away inspired to push myself  to reach higher as I move forward.

Favorite Piece of Running Gear

This is a tough one! I think I’m going to go with my SPIbelt. It’s small, stays in place and can hold quite a bit. I use it for gels, my key, my cell phone. Maybe all of those things at once. It seriously is one of my favorite pieces of gear. It accompanies me on most runs now.

Biggest Challenge

Taking some time off. While this hasn’t always been a problem in the past, it seems to be now. After all three of my previous marathons, I would take a few weeks off. I’d work out, but running was out of the picture. After Gettysburg in April, I basically took about 6-8 weeks off. I ran two short races and one half, but otherwise I was really never running. Honestly, I was a little burnt out.

Sometime in June I got the itch and got myself back into a routine. After deciding not to run a fall marathon, I realized I missed training and found Rehoboth. When I started having IT band issues, I was worried I’d have to back out. Thanks to the help of a sports med doctor, Rock Tape, and exercises, everything turned out great in the end.

I felt so good after Rehoboth that taking time off didn’t seem necessary. On Sunday I went for a run and felt like I could run for hours, although I stopped after 6.5 miles. That evening my knee was sore, but this time it wasn’t IT band pain. It was sore in a new way. After getting it looked at, it was once again recommended that I take some time off.

This time I’ve heeded the advice. In the meantime I’ll be cycling, swimming and rowing to keep my cardio up so come the New Year, I’ll be ready to run.

Favorite Course

This is so tough, but I think I’m going to have to go with Rehoboth. It was beautiful! A nice chunk of the course was  rail trail surface in a state park along the ocean. There was so much to see. The crowd support was also great and so were all the other runners on the course.

It's hard to see here, but Cape Henlopen State Park where part of the marathon course went had beautiful views in every direction.

It’s hard to see here, but Cape Henlopen State Park where part of the marathon course went had beautiful views in every direction.

Best Piece of Running Advice

Getting help. I could’ve tried to solve my knee pain by myself, but I’ve learned in the past that ultimately getting to the root of the problem is the best option both short term and long term. This has proved true previously with shin splits, issues with my toes and other things. It never hurts to ask for help.

Goals for 2016

Ooo there are so many to choose from. I think something simple to go with is to continue to improve and to continue to have fun. Running has become such a part of my life and I want it to continue to be for many years to come. I do hope to take on some bigger challenges, while continuing to take part in many races in my favorite distance, 13.1. I’ll share my 2016 race plans as they evolve.

What has your running year been like? What are your goals for 2016? 

 

What to Do and Not to Do Before You Workout

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Ever wonder what you should eat or drink before a workout? You might be curious to know if it’s ok to have that cup of coffee, for example. You might also want to know if or how much you should stretch? What other questions come to mind?

Health Perch recently shared the infographic below that answers all those questions and more. Check it out!

There are a few areas I thought it might good to dive into a bit more. While I’m not a coffee drinker myself, I know a lot of people who enjoy a cup before they head out on a run. You might be wondering about the caffeine. While again I’m not getting caffeine from coffee (or really anywhere else), when I’m out on a long run I have noticed some of my gels have caffeine in them. I personally haven’t had any issues. I think it all depends on what feels good for you and that might take some trial and error. Ultimately the most important thing, regardless of the type of workout you’re doing, is to be hydrated.

When it comes to stretching and warming up, I’m a big fan of a dynamic warmup rather than static stretching. In fact, some of the exercises shown in the infographic are used at the gym I go to in our dynamic warmups. I’ve also incorporated some of them into my pre-run routine. I find it helps to make sure my hips and legs and even my upper body are warmed up before I take off. I usually save static stretching for post workout.

Finally, some other things the infographic suggests we think about is the weather, our sleep and our clothing choices. I love cool and cold weather running. It can be hard to know how to dress for that. You don’t want to overdress, but you also don’t want to have missed the boat entirely and not be able to stay warm either. Sometimes it’s simply too cold outside and it’s better to move the workout indoors. Other important things to remember are sunscreen and sunglasses regardless of the season. Even in winter the sun can be pretty intense for our skin and eyes.

Health Perch shared their own thoughts along with their infographic. If you have a few minutes, check out their tips and tricks too.

What is your pre-workout routine like?

#RaceRecap: Rehoboth Seashore Marathon

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What a great weekend! I honestly don’t have anything negative to say about the entire event. It was great from expo to after party. I can’t wait to share my experience with you. I apologize if this is longer than other recaps.

I originally hadn’t planned to a do a fall marathon after deciding I couldn’t make the trip to the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which took place back in October. But as I got through the summer months, I realized I missed training for a big event. I thought running the “Hat Trick” at Runner’s World would be enough, but I found myself wanting to do more. After talking to my friend Lauren, who ran my first marathon with me in Cincinnati, she suggested doing the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon that she had signed up to do.

After giving it some thought, I signed up and started training. I decided to use the same training plan as I had before, Hal Higdon’s Novice 2. I also found a couple races that lined up nicely with long runs where I got to push myself pace-wise to see how things were going.

Training this fall was great. The weather was really perfect most of the time, although I did head out in the rain or in between showers more than a few times. I really do love fall, it’s definitely tied with winter as my favorite season. It was also great having some friends doing big races too as we were able to meet up for training runs almost every week.

I live in a valley surrounded by mountains, but the valley itself is very hilly. It’s a perfect place to run because you just can’t avoid hills. I’m a firm believer that running hills makes you a stronger runner, both physically and mentally. Even if I tried to plan a flatter training run, it just never really worked out that way.

I have to say, the month of November flew by and before I knew it the week of the marathon arrived. I did one final workout at the gym that Monday and one final short run of 4 miles on Tuesday morning. After that I took the rest of the week off. It was really tough and I felt like I was bursting at the seams with excess energy.

I took Friday off to make the drive. We left around lunch and it took about 5 hours. My GPS had us a bit off the beaten path for awhile in Amish country, but it was beautiful so I didn’t mind. Apparently it was the “fastest route” even though we came back a completely different way. But, I digress.

We went straight to the expo upon arriving in Rehoboth where I got my number, shirt and wristband for the after party. I also met a fellow Penn Stater. Apparently there were quite a few Penn Staters running the race. We’re everywhere!

We stayed with close family friends who have known me since basically before I was born. They had two boys of their own, so I was basically their little girl. They retired to nearby Lewes years ago and whenever I’m in the area I try to connect with them. It was great to be able to stay with them and have a home cooked meal.

Saturday morning was an early one. I woke at 5 and got ready and then spent about 20 minutes rolling out whatever I did to my shoulder/upper back Thursday evening. That didn’t quite fix the problem, but I didn’t feel it during the race so that’s all I was hoping for. I enjoyed a bagel and peanut butter for breakfast and a banana before heading to the start line.

Parking was supposed to be super easy since it was free everywhere. However, with 3,000 runners and then spectators converging on a relatively small area, parking wasn’t the easiest. I ended up pulling off at 6:40 and hopping out of the car to head to the start. I still needed to warm up.

The start was right where Rehoboth Avenue meets the boardwalk so I did a short jog on the boardwalk before doing some stretching and watched a beautiful sunrise over the ocean. I don’t have any photos though as I opted to just enjoy things like we did before cell phones became a mainstay in our lives. Yes, I do remember those times!

The half and full courses started together until about the 5k mark when the half marathoners headed back toward Rehoboth while the marathoners turned to head into Cape Henlopen State Park. I really enjoyed the scenery. There were beautiful homes along that section and you could see the ocean quite a bit, as well. As we headed into the park we left pavement behind for a rail trail surface. We have a lot of rail trails around central PA and they’re great for running, hiking, riding your bike, and more. They’re really kind to your body. The trail we were on was relatively new so it was in great shape.

I couldn’t get over the scenic views on what was a perfectly sunny, cool day. You had marsh on both sides for a few miles as well as views of the Atlantic. In addition, the state park was a military base during WWII so there are lookout towers and underground bunkers that you ran by. It really kept your mind occupied. Eventually you exit the park and head to Lewes past the Lewes-Cape May Ferry. There was great crowd support along this section. It was also when I got to see Lauren and cheer her on as she headed back toward the park.

You then retraced your steps back through the park and to Rehoboth. Mile 18 is right near downtown, which is great since there are lots of spectators.

This was taken on the trail near miles 15 or 16. You can see the surface and get a little bit of an idea of the view.

This was taken on the trail near miles 15 or 16. You can see the surface and get a little bit of an idea of the view.

After running through town you head off on another section of trail. This part was a bit rockier, but still a great surface for running, biking, etc.

Gabe stationed himself at what was about mile 21 and mile 23 since this was another out-and-back. I gave him my jacket and grabbed some orange slices going both ways. They taste so good when I’m running, but normally I’m not a huge fan of them.

21 miles and counting!

21 miles and counting!

My goal was to PR in this race. Part of that came from that fact that it was flat and I thought I had a good shot at it since I train in such a hilly area. I also hoped that my fitness had improved enough to allow me. You really never know when it comes to a distance like that though. My first goal is to always finish, then my secondary goal is to have felt I improved in some way and usually that deals with my time.

My 20-miler a few weeks before the race had an average pace of 9:40. Early on in the race I was near a woman who’s app went off telling her the distance and her pace. At the time she was running with a 9:37 pace. Since we were only 5 miles in when I heard that I worried I was going to fast. I still had 21 miles to go after all. I tried to stay with her, but I couldn’t keep myself from pushing beyond her so I just kept going at well felt good to me. I’m assuming based on when I crossed timing mats (10 mile, 13.1 and the finish) that I hung around a 9:30 pace for most of the race.

I was also trying to keep an eye out for a group of people pacing their friend to a 4:20 marathon. He was an older gentleman trying to BQ. I ended up seeing them shortly after the halfway point, which proved to be a confidence booster since it meant I was on pace to get a PR and still felt pretty good.

Based on my 3 previous experiences, I start to really feel pain after a certain point. At my first marathon it was mile 20, at my second it was mile 21 and at my third it was mile 23. I told myself I had to run until mile 23. When I got to mile 23 I told myself to keep going til mile 24 and then I could walk for 30 seconds. The problem with walking at that point is that it’s even more painful to get back going again so I was trying to avoid that. When I reached mile 24 I stopped to walk. I made it no more than 10 steps before a man came up next to me and said “No, you can’t walk. You’re my pacer. Stay in front of me.”

I immediately jumped back into running and we chatted for a bit. Eventually around mile 25 he passed me, but it still felt really good to know someone used me to push themselves. We reconnected at the finish line and congratulated one another and thankfully he pointed out the water table to me because I’d completely missed it.

The last mile was great. There were plenty of spectators and people were cheering every runner on. I was thrilled to even be able to find one last burst of energy to speed up to the finish. The clock said 4:15 but I was able to check my time on a computer shortly after to see I’d beat my expectations with a 4:10:25!

I love the medals! They're really big and fit the race perfectly.

I love the medals! They’re really big and fit the race perfectly.

After we headed into the Cultured Pearl to hopefully grab food and meet up with Lauren. She had another BQ performance and has officially qualified for Boston a second time. That’s so exciting!

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After hanging out for a bit, we headed back to our family friend’s to shower and hang out before making the trip home. I kind of wish we could’ve stayed a bit longer and went to check out the park and the beach. But I at least got to live vicariously through the photos others posted in the Facebook group.

I would definitely recommend either the half or full to anyone looking for a late fall race. The course is beautiful and flat, the weather was great, and the race is really well organized. Another bonus is the race offers high quality race photos for free download. Who doesn’t love free race photos? I also thought the volunteers, spectators and my fellow runners were some of the best I’ve come across in terms of support and camaraderie. Signups for 2016 start on New Year’s. I know I’ll be back in the future. Add it to your list!

#RaceRecap Annapolis Running Classic

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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.

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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?