#RaceRecap: Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon

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Hope you enjoyed my recap of the Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon. If you missed it, check out my recap.

Just to refresh, I ran both the Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon and Half Marathon as part of their 39.3 challenge. I originally would’ve just run the marathon, but when I learned about the added challenge I set a goal and am thrilled to say I completed both races.

Now, on to my recap of the marathon!

The marathon is a point-to-point course starting in Kennebunk, Maine, traveling through Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Biddeford and ends at the same finish line as the half marathon on the campus of UNE Biddeford. The bulk of the marathon course was completely new to participants as only the latter few miles of it overlapped with the half marathon course. This meant plenty of new scenery to enjoy!

Like the half marathon, the marathon was mostly flat with some minor hills. The only one that proved to be really tough was at mile 24ish. It just felt really, really long.

Prior to the race I checked out the course preview video, course map and the elevation chart.

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As you can see, the marathon course offered a lot of chances for beautiful ocean views. Thankfully the weather had changed just a bit since the day before. It was in the 50s for most of the race and the sun was mostly behind the clouds making for pretty perfect running conditions, at least in my opinion.

I had originally thought I would ride the shuttle bus from the finish to the start, but my friend offered to drop me off, drive back to the finish and ride his bike along the course. It worked out really nicely and meant I could leave the apartment a little later.

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The start line was in front of Kennebunk High School. We were able to hang out outside the school to stretch and warmup before the closed the street. The race offered lockers for people who wanted to check their bags, which was a nice plus if you needed it. Those lockers then met you at the finish.

After moving into the starting corrals, I positioned myself back near the 4:45 pacers with the hope of eventually catching up to the 4:15 pacer. My goal was to finish between 4 and 4:30. I’d be happy with any time in that range. I realize that’s a large gap, but my PR is a 4:10 and that was without running a half the day before.

I met a few other women in the start area who were running their first marathons. They were nervous, but excited and their main goal was to finish. I told them to just soak in the experience as there’s nothing quite like your first marathon.

The roads were closed for the first bit of the course before they reopened to car traffic. I thought there was plenty of room for runners between the side of the road and the sidewalk especially in the first few miles. We did snarl traffic, but I noticed the race had signs up that were clearly up for a few days warning locals of the impact the race would have on traffic patterns.

One of the things I enjoyed along both courses and just being up in Maine was the architecture. The cedar shingles on many homes, both new and weathered, really are beautiful. The style of the homes and many buildings is just quintessentially New England. One really neat example of exquisite architecture was the Wedding Cake House. We passed it maybe around mile 3. It caused quite a bit of rubbernecking by runners.

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We passed through the cute town center of Kennebunkport twice. There were tons of spectators too and they were so loud and supportive. After our first pass through we got out first ocean views along mile 7 before heading back into town. We crossed a waterway in town and it, too, offered a beautiful and serene scene to take in as we ran.

13232994_10110790979357754_6211840498494562754_nMiles 10 and 11 saw us  back along the shoreline before turning to head inland.

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I finally crossed paths with my friend Scott at the halfway mark. He had ridden his bike back, which seemed to be a popular thing to do for many spectators. Having those people on bikes and moving along in cars, while I’m sure did add a bit more traffic to the roads, it ensured that there were spectators just about everywhere. I appreciated it!

Scott brought his fancy camera along and ended up taking a lot of fun photos along the latter half of the course and at the finish. It was also nice to have a friendly face along the way.

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We didn’t start overlapping with the half marathon course until somewhere around the 22 mile mark. With different weather than the day before, it changed the views a bit and it honestly felt like you were seeing the area for the first time.

I finally decided to take a break to walk around 24.5 where we hit the long hill. I felt pretty good, but my feet and knees were getting to be a bit sore. I walked for a bit and then at the water station at the top of the hill I picked it up and ran the final 1.2.

One of the cutest of the themed water stations was in the final mile. It was a very patriotic group and the little girls were so sweet and excited to see us runners. One even appeared to be dressed as Hilary Clinton.

As with the half there is one final climb to get to the last .2 and then it’s easy. I was even thrilled to find I still was able to speed up to the finish. The final stretch was packed with spectators cheering for everyone.

At the finish after getting both of my medals, I then picked up my finisher’s jacket. It’s quite nice and actually worked a lot better at keeping me warm than one of the foil blankets would have. The weather was starting to change over my last few miles. It never rained, but it certainly started to get windy.

The food tent once again did not disappoint. I grabbed a piece of pizza, cookies, watermelon, a banana, and some pretzels to go with water. Scott and I sat on the grass for a bit watching people finish before finally heading home.

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Since the weather was kinda crappy, I opted to return to the course Wednesday morning to get some photos on my own. It was a beautiful sunny morning so that’s why the sun is out in all my pictures. It was not on race day.

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I ended up stopping in Kennebunkport while driving around and doing a little shopping. I love shopping small and supporting local businesses. It was nice to get a few things to take home, a delicious iced chai from a local coffee shop and some taffy for my coworkers.

I think it’s obvious that I loved this race, both days! It was so well done and so organized. It was a smaller race, but offered amenities that even some of the biggest races can’t even offer. I felt they really put the runners first. I hope to come back and run one or both of the races again sooner rather than later. The race really was quite the advertisement for the Maine Coast and let’s just say I’m sold!

Have you ever run a race in Maine? If not, where was one of your favorite races that you hope to return to again? 

#RaceRecap: Rumspringa Half Marathon

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This is a few days later than I planned, but work has been very busy. Better late than never though!

I’m back with my second race recap of 2016 for the Rumspringa Half Marathon in Adamstown, Pa. This race came just a week after the Garden Spot Village Half, which worked perfectly with my training schedule for Shipyard in May.
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Heading into this race my plan was to push myself to hopefully PR. With Garden Spot my plan had been to take it easy since I had another long run the following day. While I didn’t quite take it easy at that race I still wasn’t aiming to PR. This weekend that was my goal.

I signed up for this race after two friends ran it last year and had only good things to say. I also managed to convince two friends to join me. It was a fun little overnight trip. Friday night we stopped for dinner at a Panera. This seems to be becoming a tradition, especially with races with my friend Ivy. I figure it’s a great option since there are lots of healthy items to choose from.

One of the local hotels partnered with the race and offered a block of rooms at a really affordable rate. The hotel was just 2 miles from the start and finish line at Stoudtburg Village and its checkout was noon. This was great as it gave us plenty of time after the race to come back and shower before hitting the road. That’s not always a possibility with hotels with earlier checkout times.

In the morning we headed to the race, which started at 8, around 7:15 since we were so close. We even managed to stop on the way at Dunkin Donuts for coffee for Maureen and bananas for all three of us. Note to self, buy a bunch of bananas at the grocery store because bananas at a Dunkin Donuts are $1/piece.

Parking for the race was super easy and convenient right at the village. We went and checked in, dropped our stuff back at the car and then headed over to warm up. The race is on the smaller side with just a few hundred people, but it made for a bustling start in the central courtyard and along the pathway in the village since it was a bit narrow.

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This gives you an idea of what the village is like. People actually live in these neat homes and there are also some quaint shops on the lower levels.

Once we exited the village onto the road we were able to spread out widthwise and speed up.

The weather was perfect. It was in the 40s to start and in the 50s by the time we finished. The sun was out and shining and there was a light breeze at times, but mostly the air was still.

The course was basically lollipop shaped and boasted gently rolling hills. The first 3 miles, which are also the last 3 miles, were mostly downhill. The rolling hills started once you began the loop.

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The biggest challenge was the long hill between mile 7 and 9. It wasn’t steep, just long and gradual. This was where things really started to spread out.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 10.52.10 AMThe scenery, especially once we got out of the housing development in the beginning and into the rural area was stunning. It was beautiful farmland, many of which belonged to Amish and Mennonite families. They were out in their buggies, doing field and house work, and often waved to us runners along the way.

Maureen captured this awesome photo as this little girl peeked from her buggy.

Maureen captured this awesome photo of this little girl as she peeked from her buggy.

Somewhere around mile 8 as I was climbing that long hill, a couple came up next to me and said, “You must train on hills.” I laughed and said that’s all I have where I live. They turned out to be from Pittsburgh and were lucky enough to also train hills. We chatted about how the runners had really spread out at this point thanks to the challenging section of the course we were currently running.

We hung together for a bit before they moved on ahead. I ended up catching up to them when I reached mile 10 where you head back to the village the way you started. The last 3 miles were challenging since it was almost entirely uphill back through the development. After leaving the development, you continued uphill to the village. As I rounded the corner onto the path around the village to the finish line, I could hear the husband pushing his wife to catch me. It made me push myself to run faster and I stayed ahead. I turned around after crossing the finish line and went and high-fived both of them and thanked them for pushing me.

Since I had a few minutes, I headed over to the laptops to check my chip time. I knew I had PR’d, but I wanted my exact time. I finished in 1:46:28, an almost 3-minute PR, which exceeded my goal of 1:47. I was thrilled. I also then noticed something else…I had placed 2nd in my age group, 30-39! I was super surprised and happy.

I went over along the village path to stretch in the grass and cheer Maureen and Ivy in to the finish. They both did great and enjoyed the course as much as I did.

After finishing, the race offers you one free beer from the nearby Stoudt’s Brewery, as well as German fare like sauerkraut, potato salad, sausage, and desserts. I had a little of everything just to try it, but am never that hungry after a race initially. I took the beer to take home and just enjoyed some water. While waiting for the awards ceremony, we were treated to music by a man in lederhosen playing the accordion. He was quite good!

It turned out that the girl from Pittsburgh was a year younger than me and placed 3rd in the 20-29 age group. I was glad we both did so well. It’s always nice when you meet great people out on a course in a race. Each person who placed in their age group received a German Weather House in addition to the finisher medal everyone received. It’s quite adorable and it looks great in my office at work with all my race medals.

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The grumpy lady unintentionally photobombing cracks me up!

The three of us after the race with our medals.

The three of us after the race with our medals.

After hanging out a bit longer we headed back to the hotel with an hour to spare. We hit the road and stopped a short time later at the Saturday Market, which is this crazy flea market in the area. It was slightly overwhelming, but very interesting. Ivy and I came away with some delicious Amish baked goods. We stopped in Hershey at Red Robin for lunch and then finally tackled the last bit home.

Overall I would definitely recommend the race if you’re looking for a smaller race with beautiful scenery in the Lancaster area. The course has its challenges, but is friendly to all levels of runners. The volunteers were great and the post-race food was a fun change of pace. I would definitely do this race again.

Do you have any upcoming races you’re looking forward to?

#RaceRecap: Garden Spot Village Half Marathon

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I think Punxsutawney Phil lied. Well to be fair, he’s only right about 39% of the time so can I really accuse him of lying about an early spring? I guess not. Not to mention, I’m one of those people who actually enjoys winter so don’t think I’m complaining about an April snow storm. But that’s just what we got on Saturday, April 9 at the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon.

This was my second time running this race. A friend and I attended last year, and I loved the course and the volunteers so much that I wanted to come back. Last year the weather was in the 40s, sunny and crazy windy. This year was drastically different. What we lacked in wind, we more than made up for with snow. I’d never run a race in the snow but there’s always a first time for everything.

My friend Alyssa joined me this year. She had run the race four years ago and was hoping to improve upon her course time. My plan was to take it easy and just enjoy the race as I had to follow it up on Sunday with a 20-miler. Yep, a 20-miler…33 miles in two days.

Anyway, back to Garden Spot. We got there just in time on Friday night to pick up our race packets. This year you got a clear stadium-approved bag and two shirts, a t-shirt and a tech shirt. Both allowed you to choose from men’s and women’s sizing.

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We grabbed a quick dinner over in nearby Lancaster at Panera before heading to check in to our hotel and go to bed. As usual I didn’t sleep well the night before the race. I think I’m always afraid I’ll have set my alarm wrong or it won’t go off and I’ll miss it.

We woke up race morning and the snow wasn’t projected to start until 8, aka race time. Our hotel was just a short 5 minute drive so we got there around 7 a.m. and hung out in the car for a bit. The race is based and sponsored by Garden Spot Village, a retirement community. Many of the volunteers, from the people who park your car to those working in the food and registration tents, are all residents. Some of the residents even participate in the race.

As usual the race organizers did a great job in preparing for the weather. The tents were heated and dry, although a bit crowded since everyone was hoping to stay as warm as possible before the race.

With 10 minutes to go, Alyssa and I headed out to the starting corral. By then it was starting to snow, but that was only just the beginning.

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After a blessing and the singing of God Bless America, off we went, some of us to run 13.1 miles and others to run 26.2.

By now the snow was coming down pretty hard and the roads were wet with water runoff. Thankfully the snow was only sticking to the grassy areas so at least our footing wasn’t impacted. By the 2 mile mark I noticed my shoes were already squishy with water. I wasn’t too worried though as I was focused on just enjoying it. I do love snow after all.

I was hanging out with the 2:00 pacer, but found myself getting antsy. I tried to convince myself to just hang out there for the race, but I just couldn’t do it so I slowly moved on at a comfortable pace. I caught the 1:55 pacer around the 5-6 mile mark and again had the same conversation with myself. I lasted a little while with him before again I found myself wanting to keep pushing. There was a small voice in my head reminding me of my 20-miler on Sunday. I didn’t completely ignore it, but I didn’t exactly listen either.

The Garden Spot Village course is quite hilly, but one of the reasons I didn’t slow down was because it wasn’t as hilly as I had remembered. The most challenging part is between mile 7-9. After the half marathon turnaround, you have to head back up hill for probably a mile starting with a short but very steep section soon after the turnaround. What’s great is that there are always people there the full length of that hill cheering you on. It definitely makes you want to keep pushing. Once you get past that it’s just a steady incline for quite some time. You can see that section below in the elevation chart.

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You’re eventually rewarded with a nice long downhill before it’s almost completely flat to the finish. This is a great time to use whatever reserves you have left in the tank to finish strong. I wasn’t trying to PR, but since I had not taken it easy as planned I decided to just keep moving at a solid pace to see how well I’d do.

I finished in 1:51:54, which was an improvement on last year’s time at this race but not a PR. I was more than happy with that time, especially with the weather. After crossing the finish line the volunteers were there ready and waiting to hand you your medal, a foil blanket and a bottle of water. All three were very much appreciated at that point.

Since I had a little time, I decided to go see if there was a line at the tent where they offer free sports massage. Amazingly there wasn’t so I went in and had my glutes worked on since they were  already a bit sore. It was such a nice perk to have that after the race. She spent at least 20 minutes on me, which was way more than I expected.

After I found Alyssa and we headed into the Runner Recovery Tent for food. They offer a great spread for runners, including oatmeal, soup, sandwiches, wraps, eggs, chocolate milk, bagels, bananas, pretzels and more. The tent is also heated, which was a huge plus.

At this point we were both getting really cold after having been in wet clothes for so long. We went outside and grabbed some photos in front of the backdrop then headed off to the car to grab our clothes bags so we could change for the drive home. We used the changing tent, which while dry, was certainly not warm. One of the other perks I haven’t taken advantage of is they open their fitness center to runners. You can use their showers, their pool and hot tub. How many races offer that?!? Maybe next time I’ll take advantage of it.

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I highly recommend this race. It’s on the smaller side with just 1,500 participants (1,000 for the half and 500 for the marathon). You can even decide last minute since they do accept walkup registrations. In addition, they do not have a time limit for either race. There are people who walk both the half and full marathon. While they do eventually switch to manual timing, the race staff and volunteers stay out there until all participants get to cross the finish line. That’s something special most big city races can’t offer. The race is also a Boston qualifier if you’re looking for one.

Another added bonus is it’s the sister race to the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon nearby that takes place every September. If you complete both in the same calendar year you’re eligible for the “Road Apple Award.” Let’s just say it’s an award very fitting for the area 😉

If you want to check out more photos from this year’s snowy race, visit the Garden Spot Village Marathon’s Facebook page.

Now it’s time to get ready for the Rumspringa Half Marathon this weekend. It’s another small-town race in the Lancaster area. I’m heading down with a few friends for the night. Looking forward to another hilly course but hopefully some sunny weather instead.

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

#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?

#RaceRecap: 2015 Raven Trail Half Marathon

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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

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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?