#RaceRecap: Baltimore 10-Miler

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I’ve had more than enough time to let my race experience at the Baltimore 10-Miler sink in. All-in-all it was a great morning and I’d  highly recommend the race to anyone looking for a challenging urban course look no further than this event.

Let me break down all the positives of the event and look at its challenges. I think “Challenges” is a great way to look at things because there really aren’t any negatives with this race in my opinion. There are some things that you might want to consider if you’re looking for a 10-miler to do. You’ll also notice some of positives are also challenges. It really all depends on how you look at them.

Positives

  • Great swag! The medal was awesome and adorable with the cute little penguin runners on it. The finisher’s premium was this great half zip. It’s a really nice material and the embroidery on the sleeve and front is really nice. I love the color too!

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  • The hilly course was great! I train where you can’t avoid hills so I usually just power through them on race day as best I can. There were several in this race, including a long challenging one at mile 9.
  • The weather! It’s June in the mid-Atlantic and that can mean just about anything when it comes to the weather forecast. You could get sunny and 50 or 85 and thunderstorms. This year, it was somewhere in the middle. It’s a gamble, but nothing that should make you shy away from the race.
  • The post-race party is always a big hit. There is a live band, a wide variety of food and even a place to buy more Baltimore running gear.
  • The volunteers were outstanding! Everyone from the police along the course and at the finish to the water/aid station volunteers had smiles on their faces. They were loud and proud and happy to be out there with all the runners.
  • Post-race food for runners immediately following the race was exactly what I would love to see offered at all races. There were numerous tables of watermelon, plus bananas and orange slices. There were also chips, granola bars and much more. I personally enjoyed two large slices of watermelon before I left the coral.
  • The urban setting. I haven’t run a ton of urban races so this was a nice change of scenery for me. The loop around Lake Montebello was great and it was neat seeing Baltimore residents out and about using the bike/walking path and the wide variety of exercise equipment along the way.
  • The race benefits a lot of great causes and organizations, including the Maryland Zoo, Athletes Serving Athletes, Back on my Feet, Team Diabetes and Signal 13. If you want to run for a cause you definitely can.

Challenges 

  • The course is challenging! While that’s really a positive for me, it can be tough for runners not used to hills. Some of the hills are steep, some are long, and some are both. Mile 9 is one a lot of people talked about. I know it was making me want to walk, but I pushed through it simply because I knew I’d get to the finish faster if I kept running 🙂Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 1.26.17 PM
  • Another challenge the course has is it’s not always the prettiest along the way. It’s a very urban course and while some areas are pretty nice, others were not. There were also some angry drivers  stuck in traffic along the way, but us runners just smiled, kept running and let the police handle them.
  • The weather was a challenge for me personally. Despite the sun not being out, which turned out to be a big plus, the temperature was high and the humidity was higher. I might have grown up in that weather, but I’m no longer used to it. We have our humid days in central PA, but it’s not something we really get used to even through a long summer. The weather pushed my plans to PR aside.
  • There wasn’t a lot of crowd support. The volunteers and police more than made up for this, but it would’ve been nice. While I saw some people out along the course in front of their homes, most weren’t cheering and the sidewalks and porches otherwise were empty.

Overall, I really enjoyed the morning. I even traveled to this race alone, but it wasn’t a big deal. I had people tracking me along the way and runners are a pretty fun and inclusive group. I finished with a 1:24:56, which wasn’t too far off my PR. I’d definitely like to see my time improve in future 10-milers.

Keep this one in mind in the future if you’re looking for a race that’s a bit more challenging than a 10k but not quite a half marathon. This was a great summer race distance, especially after coming off my Maine Coast Challenge and training season. I’ll be keeping this one on my list for a repeat down the road.

Have you ever run a fun 10-miler? Which one?

 

 

#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!

 

 

 

#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 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: 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.

Half Marathon

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

The course really showed us the best of Bethlehem.

The course really showed us the best of Bethlehem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it to others? 100% yes!

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

Overall, I had a wonderful weekend!

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