#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 – Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon

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Wow, I’m still on a high after my races and extended stay in Portland, Maine. This is why it’s been over a week and I’m just now doing my recaps. Since I did two races as part of the 39.3 challenge, I’ll have a second recap for the marathon soon. For now, here’s all about the Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon!

Prior to this trip I had never been to Maine. I have an ongoing quest to visit all 50 states and I had yet to complete New England. I was able to knock out my final two New England states with this trip to Maine with not only a drive through part of Maine on the way to and from, but also a hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Two longtime friends of mine are currently calling Portland, Maine home. I’d been wanting to get up to visit them before they moved again so when I started researching I thought it might be fun to have the trip coincide with a race. In my search I found the Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon, Half Marathon, 39.3 Challenge and Busom Buddy Relay. I decided to go all-in and sign up for the 39.3 challenge, running the half on Saturday, May 14 and the full on Sunday, May 15.

This race has a pretty interesting history. It was ran from 1980-1987, but took a hiatus until 2012. It’s grown steadily each year since. Both courses are USATF certified and the full can be used as a Boston qualifier.

Several aspects drew me to this event. First, it’s on the smaller side of races. The half had 1,500 runners, while the full was just under 900 runners. Both races did sell out several weeks ahead of time. I also appreciated the fact that through the years they’ve surveyed their participants and made adjustments based on what runners want/like most. For example, a shirt is not included in registration, but race photos, a mobile tracking app, personalized video from the half, two complimentary beers (after each race), medals for both races, and more are included. 39.3 finishers even get  three medals and a jacket once they complete the challenge. I opted later to buy a shirt because I loved the race logo, it was a nice tech-t, a unique color, and only $12. Other merchandise was also available including finisher’s jackets for both the half and full, beer mugs, and more.

The race offered a small expo starting Friday and going all through to Sunday. I grabbed a new pair of socks and arm warmers at a nice discounted price while picking up my bibs and shirt. They also had an awesome woodcarving at the race location where multitudes of runners stopped to grab their picture.

Leading up to the event and during, race officials were very knowledgable and communicative about the events and all details relating to it. Parking for the half marathon was at the start/finish and was very easy to find. The race officials were also very upfront about the weather. You just don’t know what’s going to happen on race day until you’re there, especially during springtime in Maine.

On Saturday morning, the race started at 8 am on the campus of UNE Biddeford. The sun was shining and you could tell it would be a warm day. Since Portland is about 30 minutes north, I arrived at 7 am to allow time to park, stretch, and warm-up. I had no trouble parking and relaxed while setting up their free runner tracking app. More on the RaceJoy app later.

Runners were seeded into waves based on expected finish times. Since I was running another 26.2 miles the next day I didn’t want to push it too hard in the half. I was seeded in Wave 1, but opted for Wave 2 so I’d be less likely to go out too fast. The “gun” was actually a conch shell, so that added something unique to the start of the race.

Wave 2 started 3 minutes after the first wave. The course headed out onto Rt. 9 before we eventually turned to head toward the coast.

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The course was mostly flat, with just a few minor hills here to there. The course was not closed to traffic, but for the most part it was relatively quiet on that morning. The scenery was simply stunning. I stopped early to take a photo, but soon realized I’d just have to drive back afterwards to take photos because there was just so much to see. Maine’s coast is truly a sight to behold. My pictures just don’t do it justice.

The volunteers and aid station workers were all great, as well as the local police who helped with traffic. The relay exchange seemed to be pretty smooth when I passed through that area, which was also the start of a looped section and had an aid station. It was a lot going on in a small area, but no one seemed confused.

Mile 11 has a long, gradual hill but nothing overly taxing. There’s another hill near the end of mile 12 when you’re back on campus. The last .1 has you running through a tunnel under Rt. 9 onto a blue painted track to the finish. I was really impressed with the number of spectators throughout the course, but especially at the finish line. Everyone cheered for you even if they didn’t know you. Thanks to names on the bibs, they could even cheer for you by name. It was a nice plus!

I finished in 1:54, which I was certainly pleased with on such a warm day. At the finish the volunteers hand you your medal and offer you a reusable branded water bottle already filled for you. I thought that was a uniquely sustainable idea. From there it’s a short walk to the food tent where there was VitaCoco, pizza, KIND bars, fruit, bagels, pretzels, cookies, and more. I personally loved the fresh cut watermelon!

I hung out to stretch in the sun on the grass watching people finish for a bit. I didn’t want to drive out on the course when it would still be crowded with runners.

Eventually I made my way to my car (a short walk) and headed out on the course to grab some photos.

This was on a looped section around mile 9. The rocky coast and blue, blue water was beautiful.

This was on a looped section around mile 9. The rocky coast and blue, blue water was beautiful.

There were plenty of places to take pics with my medal too. At high tide these rocks are covered in water.

There were plenty of places to take pics with my medal too. At high tide these rocks are covered in water.

As mentioned earlier, the race provides free race photos. It’s always an added bonus when you actually like some of them.

You can sorta glimpse the beautiful coastal setting we were running past.

You can sorta glimpse the beautiful coastal setting we were running past.

After day 1 I was thrilled with how things had gone. They really just did an outstanding job with the organization and flow. I would definitely recommend this event to someone looking for a vacation race. I was a bit more sore than I was expecting, but it was nothing a foam roller and some more stretching didn’t help with. Despite a relatively active afternoon after the race, I was able to rehydrate and refuel well.

One big positive about being in the Maine Coast area in mid-May is that most tourists don’t start arriving until Memorial Day so it’s like the calm before the storm! After the race, I joined my friends for lunch at the Portland Lobster Company in Old Port and grabbed ice cream at Beal’s, a local favorite.

One other thing I wanted to touch on that I mentioned earlier was the RaceJoy app. The app allowed your supporters, whether on site or not, to track your progress on the course thanks to their timing mats. However, if you chose to carry your phone and activate the gps tracking, they would get progress updates almost every mile. I decided to test out that feature on Saturday in the half and it worked well so I used it again during the full. Your family and friends can also send you “cheers.” While I had my volume off, I was able to listen to the cheers after the fact. It was pretty fun. My friends all really enjoyed the updates too!

I’ll be back soon with my recap of the marathon. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

I Re-Upped to #RunwiththeMarines

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Around the time of the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon, the 40th running of it, I connected with a high school friend and we ended up talking running. We both discovered we love running half marathons, but enjoy the challenge of training for and running a full.

My friend wanted to do one more marathon before turning her focus exclusively to half marathons and shorter distances. We decided to enter the lottery for the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon and cross our fingers that we’d both get selected.

A few months went by and I got notice that the lottery would open in late March. I messaged my friend again to see if she was still interested. She was so off we went to enter the lottery.

The lottery registration for the MCM is open for an entire week. It doesn’t matter when you enter as selection is entirely random. The lottery closed March 30 and notifications started going out at 6 am EST on March 31.

Two years ago when I got into the MCM for the first time, I didn’t find out until after lunch. This year thanks to settings on my credit card, I received notice of a charge at 9 am. Despite not having the email yet in my inbox saying I’d gotten in to the MCM, I knew I’d been selected thanks to the registration fee being withdrawn. It was another hour or two until I got my official email.

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I was thrilled and now was just waiting to hear if my friend also had good news. Later yesterday morning I got a message from her saying she got in and was praying I did too. Success! We both got selected.

I’ve been lucky with the lottery both times I’ve entered. Not just because I was selected, but also because both times I was entering with the hopes other friends would also get in. In 2015, it was two local running friends that also entered. We all got in!

A lot of people don’t like to run races more than once, especially marathons. There’s a big mental factor that plays into races and sometimes knowing the course and what’s coming next can be a negative. While there are a few races I probably won’t do again, I knew after running MCM the first time that I would be back, but I wanted to wait at least a year before trying again so that things weren’t so fresh in my mind.

The MCM is an outstanding race and is run very well. The spectator support throughout is fantastic. The course itself has its challenges, but also offers the beauty of our nation’s capital. There is plenty to see to keep your mind busy throughout the race. Overall it’s just an amazing race.

I’m excited for some changes this year with MCM, including moving the expo to the Gaylord National Harbor and Convention Center. While I loved the history behind the previous location, the race had simply outgrown it. I have only driven by the convention center so I’m excited to explore it when visiting the expo.

My friend and I briefly discussed time goals. We’re hoping to aim for between 4 and 4:10 in order to secure PRs for both of us. We’ll see! Training during the hot summer months will be challenging, but hopefully will pay dividends come race day. Regardless of what our times are that day, the ultimate goal will always be to:

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While I’m really excited and looking forward to October, I must keep in mind that I have 7 months and several races in between. Training continues to go well for the Shipyard Maine Coast 39.3 challenge I’m doing in May. I’ll be tackling my two 20-milers in the coming weeks and am hoping they go well. I’m pleased with my pace on most runs and doing interval training once a week on the treadmill. I’ve also been offered the opportunity to borrow my friend’s dog, Remy, some morning to do some interval training with her. Remy loves to run!

Right now the goal is to stay healthy, continue to improve my fitness and stick to training. The weather has been all over the place and the wind has been quite heavy many days, but you never know what you’re going to get on race day so you might as well prepare yourself for all possible options.

So now with all the excitement behind me, it’s back to the grind for now.

What are you training for? Have you ever run MCM?

 

 

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?

 

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? 

 

#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!

#FridayFive: 5 Fall Races

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I’m back to join in with the Friday Five link up with Cynthia at You Signed Up for What?, Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, and Mar from Mar on the Run. This week’s topic is 5 Fall Races. When I saw the topic for this week’s Friday Five, I knew I had to join in!

There are so many great races during the fall running season, not just in the northeast but all over the country. By the fall, the weather has cooled in many areas making it a great time to run, especially some PRs. Regardless of the weekend you can probably find multiple races to choose from to keep you motivated September through December.

I thought I’d share 5 fall races I have run and that I would highly recommend if you’re looking for a race in the mid-Atlantic area. It was really hard to choose just 5!

1. Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon in Bird-in-Hand, Pa.

It was really hot that day so pardon my appearance, but this photo gives you a good idea of how awesome the medal is that you receive as a finisher.

This is by far one of my favorite races of all time. It might just be my favorite. First, the medal is awesome. It’s made by the Amish from used horseshoes. It’s by far the largest medal in my collection. Second, the course is beautiful. You’re out in Amish country near Lancaster with beautiful scenery. The course is hilly, but the incredible views it provides distract you from that. Third, the Amish are a huge part of the race, including as participants, volunteers, and friendly support along the entire course.

This race sells out well in advance each year, so be sure to watch for signups in early October to make sure you get the best rate and so you don’t miss out on the opportunity. Read my recap from the 2014 race.

2. Philadelphia Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Philadelphia, Pa.

I ran this half marathon in 2013 with a couple friends. It was a really fun morning minus the traffic in and out of the city, but that’s pretty normal. I loved that the course took you past Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The early parts of the course downtown had great crowd support and I was able to find Gabe and my friend Stefanie very easily.

The course eventually runs out of downtown and along the river. Eventually your cross over it and head back toward the city. While this portion of the course lacks significant crowd support, they do have bands along the way and there was a great crowd on either side of the bridge.

The race was in September when I ran it so it was warmer than a later fall race would be. This year, due to the Pope’s visit, it’s not until October.

3. Tussey Mountainback 50-mile Ultra and Relay in Boalsburg, Pa.

Looking for a challenge or just a chance to have fun with a group of friends for the day? This may be the race for you. I’ve run the Tussey Mountainback as part of a relay team three times. I’m hoping to add a fourth this year as part of a team of 6 if we can get a group together. Check out my recap from last year here.

The course runs along fire roads in the mountains outside of State College, Pa. The roads are mainly dirt but some sections are paved. It has some really tough climbs, but also some great flats and downhill segments.

If you’re part of a relay team, your team splits up the legs. You can do anything from a 2-person to an 8-person relay team. I find it the most fun to get to run two legs during the event. You usually start encountering the ultras later in the race and it’s always great to cheer them on. For the relayers though, it’s a fun day of cheering on your teammates, basically tailgating at each transition stop, and enjoying the beautiful Pennsylvania wilderness.

Some of the beautiful scenery you pass during the Mountainback.

Some of the beautiful scenery you pass during the Mountainback.

4. Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

Getting to run through D.C. past all the monuments and government buildings was pretty great!

Getting to run through D.C. past all the monuments and government buildings was pretty great!

This was my second marathon and I couldn’t have asked for a better race. It was a beautiful day on a beautiful course. I’m hoping to run it again in 2016. Cross your fingers!

This race has a lottery entry and you find out in April whether you’ll be spending your summer in training for it. I felt lucky to get picked on my first attempt at the lottery. The course starts near the Pentagon and takes your into D.C. past the monuments, along the mall, and many other beautiful areas. The crowd support is great throughout.

There is also a 10k that has a separate start line if you want to do a shorter distance. It is not a lottery for registration so you can register basically right up until race weekend I believe.

Check out my recap!

5. Annapolis Running Classic in Annapolis, Md.

Anna and I at her first race, the 2013 Annapolis Running Classic.

Anna and I at the finish!

Finally I have to recommend the Annapolis Running Classic, which offers both a half marathon and a 10k. I first ran this in 2013 with my dear friend Anna. She ran the 10k and it was her first ever race! She rocked it and has been hooked on running races ever since. Visit her blog if you have a chance!

Anyway, I’m running this again in November and can’t wait. I’m from the area so it’s a bit more dear to my heart because of that. The course starts at the Navy Marine Corps Stadium outside of downtown Annapolis. It takes you through the historic downtown, including a jaunt down Main Street and around the dock area. The most challenging parts of the course include the bridge over the Severn River and the various hills on the other side of the river. To head to the finish you have to cross back over the bridge before finishing outside the stadium. The 10k is not nearly as hilly.

I actually enjoy hills and the challenge they provide so this course is great. The scenery and views are incredible and the weather in November in Maryland is perfect for running. I’m looking forward to running it again as one of my taper runs prior to the Rehobeth Marathon in December.

So there you have it! Five fall races I think you should add to your list.

What are your favorite fall races? Have any you could recommend to me? They could be anywhere!