#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: Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival

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

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

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

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

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

5K

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

Runner's World 5k

Runner’s World 5k

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

10K

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The start of lap one.

The start of lap one.

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

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

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

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

So cool!

So cool!

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

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

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

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

The course really showed us the best of Bethlehem.

The course really showed us the best of Bethlehem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it to others? 100% yes!

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

Overall, I had a wonderful weekend!

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

#RaceRecap: Garden Spot Village Half Marathon

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All done!

All done!

Another great race weekend in the books! On Saturday I ran the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon with my friend Ivy. It was in New Holland, Pa.

We headed down Friday after work and pulled into the parking lot right at 8 p.m. Packet pickup was set to close at 8 p.m. but we decided to try anyway. They must not get a lot of late arrivers because they had already packed up. One of the women was very kind and gathered our numbers, shirts and bags for us anyway.

Afterwards we headed to the hotel to check in before going to find food. When Ivy asked the front desk attendant if she could recommend a place to eat her response was, “Well it’s after the 8 o’clock hour.” Ivy was like, “Yeah, so?” I guess that’s late in some of these small family farming communities. Thankfully there were a couple places and off we went to dinner. After we headed to bed since it would be an early morning. Thankfully, the hotel was just 5 minutes from Garden Spot Village, a retirement community that plays host to the race, so it wasn’t as early as some other race mornings tend to be.

The race benefits Garden Spot Village’s benevolent fund, which helps individuals who, for some reason or another, are no longer able to pay for their care and allows them to continue to be able to call Garden Spot Village their home. A lot of the residents of the community serve as race volunteers as parking attendants, food servers, cheerleaders and finish area attendants who hand you your medal, hat, water and foil blanket.

On Saturday morning after arriving, we sat in the car for awhile. It wasn’t that cold out but the wind was rather strong making it feel quite chilly. This race is the sister race to the Bird-in-Hand Half in the fall. Many Amish, Mennonites and Brethren run in it as well. I think it’s so cool that there’s a thriving Amish running community. While waiting we saw one of the marathon pacers arrive who was Amish. He had a 3:25 marathon pace sign. So impressive to be that fast while holding a pace sign too!

After heading over to the start line, Ivy and I decided to stick near the 2 hour pacer for the half to start. Since it’s a smaller race, they don’t start in waves but it was chip timing so your time was as accurate as possible. I didn’t stick with the pacer long and just ran on how I felt.

The course, which is USATF certified and can be used as a Boston Qualifier, ran along country roads outside Lancaster. It was hilly, but nothing impossibly hard. The scenery was stunning and it was such a clear day you could see for miles. The roads were closed initially, but even the sections that were reopened really didn’t have any traffic except course officials.

Here's a look at the elevation for the course.

Here’s a look at the elevation for the course.

What I thought was the toughest hill of the course began shortly after the turnaround at mile 7. At that point the marathoners continue on, while we headed back the way we came until about mile 10.5 where we turned off. As you can see on the elevation profile, there’s a nice quick and steep incline beginning at mile 8. It was nice that there were tons of people at the top of the steepest portion cheering you on. I might not have been moving too fast up the steep section, but I definitely didn’t want to walk with everyone cheering.

After that it continued to climb but at what felt like a more gradual rate. It was then followed by a nice long downhill almost the entire way to the finish line. The last couple miles were flat and wide open between farm fields. The wind was very tough along that stretch, but when you’re that close to the finish line you just keep going.

After turning into the Garden Spot Village community, I caught up to a running couple that was arguing. The guy was mad that his wife or girlfriend was ahead of him and so she stopped and then he yelled at her for stopping. She was yelling at him to get moving since they were so close to the finish line and to stop arguing with her. It was really immature and they were dropping the F-word repeatedly. I was definitely glad to pass them.

I finished with a personal best time of 1:52:34, a little more than a minute faster than my previous best. The volunteers at the finish line were very sweet. After Ivy finished we got some pictures and headed into the food tent. They had chocolate milk, trail mix, bananas and oranges, cheese omelets, pretzels, soup and sandwiches. It was quite the spread. It was also nice because the tent was heated!

Gotta love the foil blankets. They were definitely necessary with the wind.

Gotta love the foil blankets. They were definitely necessary with the wind.

An added bonus we didn’t take advantage of was use of the community’s wellness center. They had changing rooms, showers, and more. We just ended up changing in the car and hitting the road, but next time I’d probably take advantage of the changing area as opposed to using my backseat.

Overall it was a great race! I’d definitely do it again. It was so well organized and everyone was so nice. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a spring half or full.

I now have less than two weeks until Gettysburg. I’m nervous but excited. I just have short runs to get in between now and then. Looking forward to the recap!

Did you run over the weekend?

#RaceRecap: Mile Run Trail Challenge

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Is it spring yet? I thought it was supposed to be anyway. No such luck!

On Saturday I tackled my first trail race in almost two years. I’d been toying with signing up for the Mile Run Trail Challenge earlier this year and decided to go for it while I was still down in Costa Rica. Maybe I was inspired by my surroundings. Who knows?

I signed up on my own and figured I’d go out and just try to enjoy it. It ended up that several people from Ki’netik also signed up so I was happy there’d be some familiar faces there for this adventure.

And an adventure it was. From the time I left my house to the end of the race.

When I initially Google-mapped Mile Run, it told me it’d be a 45 minute drive. Easy enough! I got up pretty early Saturday thanks to Frasier and decided to check the timing again. Thankfully I did because Google said it would now take two hours. The route was red in spots meaning slow or stopped traffic. Despite the race not starting until 10, I was out the door minutes later at 7:30.

After hopping on the highway suddenly snow appeared on the side of the road. Odd since the chance of snow had been very small. However, the weather is always weird up along this highway so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Eventually I saw one of those digital signs with a message about the highway being closed in what amounted to be about a 30-mile stretch. There’d been a multi vehicle accident due to the snow squall.

I took the detour as suggested, but I knew it would take forever so I started trying to find an alternative. The app on my phone was sort of helpful, but it just wanted me to get back on the highway. Obviously that wasn’t an option so I took to reading the map like we did in the “old days.” I soon found another option. It meant traveling on snow covered roads, but at least I wasn’t going insanely far out of the way. I ended up coming in on a road suggested via Facebook by other runners. It made for quite the bumpy entrance as it was a rutted old forestry road that also wasn’t plowed. Really love having my Jeep at times like these!

After parking and picking up my number and hoodie, I sat in the car debating what to wear. It was only 20 degrees and still snowing. I was thankful I’d at least had the sense to wear my tights, but I only had two layers meant for slightly warmer weather. I knew once I was moving I wouldn’t be cold, but I wasn’t sure how often I’d be hiking vs. running and was worried about getting cold during those times. Once a few gym friends arrived, one of them offered me an Under Armour long sleeve so I ended up with that, a long sleeve dry fit and a jacket, a combo which proved to be perfect.

The race organizers ended up postponing the race about 30 minutes to let more people arrive. It was a sold out race of 450, and 400 made it to the start. The highway also reopened right before we started so at least we’d have an easier trek back home.

Here's a look at the course. You can see some of the topography.

Here’s a look at the course. You can see some of the topography.

Here's the elevation chart. I found the toughest incline to be between miles 8 and 10, although it doesn't look so bad according to this.

Here’s the elevation chart. I found the toughest incline to be between miles 8 and 10, although it doesn’t look so bad according to this.

In order to spread the field out, they added on a bit to the beginning of the race having us run downhill and then back up on paved road before we headed across a stream onto single track trail. There was a little bottlenecking at the stream crossing, but things opened up quickly and we were on our way.

I found the first section to be a bit technical with lots of rocks. The fresh snow added a whole other dimension to it. I found myself looking down and slightly ahead to see where I’d be stepping next, while keeping a little distance between me and the person in front of me so I could see better. This might sound terrible, but it also helped me know where not to step if they tripped or slipped.

The first aid station was around mile 3.25. I have to say they had some great snacks at the aid stations. Road races tend to be a bit boring with gels, water and gatorade. But the aid stations for this race had chex mix, pretzels, peanut M&Ms, plain M&Ms, swedish fish, etc. It was nice and honestly, a couple pretzels and a few M&Ms tasted great and kept me going. Maybe not the healthiest things, but neither are half the gels out on the market.

Here we all are (minus one person I don't recognize) coming into the first aid station.

Here we all are (minus one person I don’t recognize) coming into the first aid station.

And here's me attempting to have a nice race photo for once...I laughed when I saw this online. Too funny!

And here’s me attempting to have a nice race photo for once…I laughed when I saw this online. Too funny!

The next section of the course was pretty nice. Mostly rolling hills and not a lot of rocky areas. Apparently there were good views along this section, but you either couldn’t see them due to the weather or I just wasn’t paying attention.

The next few miles were fun with both trail and forestry road mixed in. Despite predictions all the snow and ice would be gone, at times we saw snow almost a foot deep and the fresh snow covered a lot of frozen snow pack and ice on the roads. I ended up falling twice, once on the road after slipping on ice (I popped right back up like it didn’t even happen) and once I slipped on some snow/mud and almost ate a plant 🙂

Somewhere between miles 8-10 there was a nice steep climb. We all wondered aloud if the lead runners actually run something like this or if they hike too. Regardless, thanks to all those who came before us we had some nice steps smashed into the snow to use to climb.

After the last aid station it was all downhill from there. This included another stretch of really technical trail that I found frustrating to walk. When it’s flat and/or downhill I don’t want to walk (I don’t really like walking uphill either to be honest), but I also wanted to keep my ankles in tact. Eventually you head into two water tunnels that run under the highway. The water was ice cold and ankle deep, but the ground is cement so you can run without worrying. I was warned to stay to the left after the second tunnel so I wouldn’t plunge into a pool. Definitely glad I heeded that advice!

Staying to the left as advised post-tunnel.

Staying to the left as advised post-tunnel.

Then it was all uphill to the finish.

Here's our crew coming up to the finish.

Here’s our crew coming up to the finish.

Almost there!

Almost there!

After the race, I changed to dry clothes and shoes in the car before grabbing a group photo with everyone.

Warm (well not really) and dry!

Warm (well not really) and dry!

I was pretty hungry on the way home and decided that after that I deserved a McFlurry and stopped for one on the way home. I never have those so no judging!

Overall it was a fun race. It had its difficult technical parts, as well as a nice mix of forestry road and snowy trail. They posted some pictures the next day from going to pick up the trail markers.

Not sure where this was, but it gives you an idea of some of the surroundings.

Not sure where this was, but it gives you an idea of some of the surroundings.

Can you tell we were there?

Can you tell we were there?

They also had a nice set up at the end with burgers, drinks, soup and beer, although I didn’t partake. I definitely love my hoodie too!

I think I’ll probably try to add a few other trail runs to the race schedule this year. They present different challenges and experiences than road running and road races, and the down-to-earth atmosphere and people definitely make it a fun time.

My next race is the Garden Spot Village Half on April 11. In the meantime I have a 20-miler to get through this coming weekend and then it’s taper time!

 

 

 

#RaceRecap: Give ‘Em Five Run for Veterans

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It was back to racing this past weekend with a local 5-miler, the Give ‘Em Five Run for Veterans 5-Miler and 5K. Just 15 minutes from home, it was the second time I’d run the race. It’s small and benefits a good cause, raising money for local veterans.

It was a sunny, cold and blustery day. I decided to wear my new Marine Corps mock neck shirt from the marathon. It’s really nice and definitely helped keep the wind at bay. The color isn’t my favorite, but I guess with it being the military there are probably only a few colors they can go with.

Anyway, the race started at a local middle school. Turnout was a bit lower, but I would say having the THON 5K on Penn State’s campus that morning probably hurt turnout. More than 3,000 people run that 5k each year and while it also benefits a good cause I don’t really enjoy tripping and being tripped for 3 miles so I just donate outright instead. With the 5-miler being a smaller race, I was alone out on the course for almost all of it (something I don’t mind much in a short race). Thankfully they had marked the route well with signs and had people managing intersections for traffic.

The race followed the same course as last year and had two loops in residential areas so it was quiet, safe and pretty. I definitely had forgotten how hilly Bellefonte is. However, only two of the hills are really bothersome. With those two specific hills you run part way up them and think you’re done, except you make a turn and the hill continues and at a much steeper grade. Thankfully I don’t mind hills too much. Probably because you can’t run here without running hills. They only make you stronger!

I finished the race in 41:06 and then waited for the rest of the runners to finish and for the results to be tabulated. I was pretty pleased with my time and found I was about a minute faster than last year. I ended up winning my age group (20-29). We were awarded camo baseball hats with the race logo on it. I now have two!

Rounding the corner to the finish line.

Rounding the corner to the finish line.

I enjoy doing local races because more often than not they benefit something in my local community. It’s nice to contribute to those special causes and the community in this way. I hope no matter where I live that these opportunities will always be there. I hope to do this one again in the future.

The only thing I’m currently signed up for is the Nittany Valley Half in December. We don’t have a lot of local races between Thanksgiving and February due to the cold and what I hope is a lot of snow. I’m looking at some early spring races, including a marathon. Haven’t made any decisions yet, but hope to soon!

Question: Do you have a favorite local race?

 

#RaceRecap: Lewisburg Half Marathon

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When you have to run 13 miles for training, why not enter a race? That’s my thought process anyway. It can be an expensive thought process, but it gets me out there and I do it with a smile!

My marathon training schedule called for a 12-miler this past weekend. I decided to sign up for the first annual Lewisburg Half Marathon with two guys who will be joining me at the Marine Corps Marathon in October. I normally shy away from first-year races, but seeing as this was local I wanted to do my little part in helping get the race started. There were a little more than 200 participants. Hopefully that number will grow in coming years, but I imagine the race will always be on the smaller side.

Lewisburg is only about an hour from where I live so we just drove up Sunday morning, subsequently missing the expo. Based on photos, I think it was very organized and decently attended. Packet pickup on race morning was quick and the tech shirts were a great color: bright green (not construction green). They also had men’s and women’s cuts, which was really nice. They also offered chip timing.

The weather on race day was sunny with a high of 68. It wasn’t even 50 when we started and was only about 59 by the time we left after having lunch. Perfect running weather for me!

While the race was in Lewisburg, it avoided town completely and toured the hills and valleys of the surrounding farmland. I knew it would be hilly, but it was a bit hillier than I predicted. The water stops were well spaced, well stocked, and the volunteers did a great job. The roads were not closed to traffic, but local police and volunteers kept us all safe. There really wasn’t that much traffic, unless you consider the tractors we saw. One of the rural churches was having a “Drive Your Tractor to Church” day.

Photo credit: A Fit Event

Photo credit: A Fit Event

Like I mentioned it was a very hilly course. It was definitely hillier than Bird-In-Hand, but there were a lot more trees offering more shade. Since it was cool that wasn’t a big deal, but it would be nice if it’s warm in future years. The course also didn’t overlap much so you weren’t bored by seeing the same scenery. The first 2 miles and the last two miles were the only parts that overlapped. Below are a few photos of the scenery we enjoyed while running.

Another tractor! Photo credit: A Fit Event

Another tractor! Photo credit: A Fit Event

Photo credit: A Fit Event

Photo credit: A Fit Event

I definitely enjoyed the downhill to the finish line. If the announcer could see your bib number, they announced your name as you came in. Mine was blocked by my jacket sleeves since it was tied around my waist. However, I was just glad to see I had managed to PR by about 5 minutes from my time at Bird-in-Hand! I finished just under 1:54 at 1:53:56. It’s amazing what a 30-degree temperature difference can make!

Heading to the finish! Photo credit: Gabe

Heading to the finish! Photo credit: Gabe

The post-race snacks were great. They had water and chocolate milk, cookies, bagels, fruit, and grill sticky buns! After the race, we learned Bill and Norm had finished in the top three in both of their respective age groups. Norm was actually 9th overall. Bill, Gabe and I hit up The Country Cupboard for brunch before heading home. Ultimately, it was a nice local race that I would definitely participate in again. If you happen to find yourself in the area next year, consider it!

I currently don’t have any races lined up until the Marine Corps. If anything, I’ll do the Give ‘Em Five Run for Veterans that I did last year. It’s a nice, local 5-miler in a nearby town. Another hilly race, but you can’t run here and not have hills.

Question: What kind of races do you prefer? Small and local or big destination? Or both?