Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Runner's World Half Festival 2015: A PR in Fun!

After I completed the Hat Trick at the Runner's World Half Festival last year, I knew I would love to come back to this race weekend again. Not only was it a great opportunity to participate in a race weekend close to home, but I also met up with some friends and last year even achieved a PR (personal record time) in the Half Marathon.

     As this year's race weekend was approaching (Oct.16-18), I knew that my training would not produce any PR's.  After the New Jersey Marathon in April of this year when I was able to achieve a big PR and Boston Qualifying time, I took a step back in my training, running for fitness and stress relief, but with no big goals in mind.  The hot, humid summer made it difficult to run with any quantity or quality.  Still, I did a few double digit long runs and knew that I would at least be able to finish the distance of a half marathon on October.  The one PR I think I set this year was a PR in Fun!
      So, this will be a quick summary of the race weekend, with some photos to tell the story.  The photos were offered for FREE after the race, which was an added bonus.
     I registered for the Hat Trick again ( 5k and 10k on Saturday, 1/2 marathon on Sunday).  There was also a trail run added on Friday afternoon, at a distance of 3.8 miles, which would bring the total mileage for the weekend at 26.2.  This was just irresistible to me, so I added that to my itinerary.
     The trail run was at South Mountain Park. It was a ton of fun, and a very challenging course. Rocky and hilly terrain with a single track for most of it caused me to slow it down. I finished in 45 minutes. There was pizza at the end, and a swag bag with an REI Kleen Kanteen. It was definitely worth the effort to get there on Friday for the trail race. I even ran into two Oiselle teammates- Lisa and Shannon.
    Friday night I had planned an Oiselle Team meetup with a few of the ladies from the local area.  We met at Bethlehem Brew Works for a nice dinner and yummy beer, of course.
After dinner at Bethlehem Brew Works: Katie, Shannon, me and Tiff 
    I checked in to the Sands Casino Hotel for the weekend, and was happy to reunite with my Another Mother Runner Ragnar Relay friend Nikki. Nikki is from Pittsburgh, and had been on Dimity's team. It was great sharing a room with her and getting to know her better. We also met up with Joan who had also been on Dimity's team. She had traveled from Virginia with her family.  I love AMR reunions!!
Fun times with NIkki and Joan
    Saturday morning was the 5k and 10k races.  Staying at the Sands was so great, because we were within walking distance of the race start.  We also were able to stay warm in the Arts Quest building before the race started.  Both these races went well for me. Again, no PR's, but I was able to put in some solid effort given the hilly courses and pushing the pace at the end, finishing strong.
Finishing strong 
     After getting a quick shower in, and grabbing lunch, we headed over to the Arts Quest building for some great free seminars.  This is one of my favorite parts of this race weekend.  I love attending the seminars, gaining new information and interacting with other runners.  I attended Jordan Metzl's "Getting the Most from you Machine: Secrets to Strong, Injury-Free Running", "The Female Running Body Through the Years", Liz Applegate's "Performance Nutrition", and the best of all, "A Conversation with Deena Kastor", hosted by David Willey.  I absolutely loved hearing Deena's perspective on her running career, balancing racing and family life, and some of her mental strategies in life and in her running career. Her positive attitude is so infectious.  It is no surprise to me that she has had such a successful career.  What a pleasure it was for me to have a chance to meet her in person.  We had a nice chat about Oiselle and masters running, and she was nice enough to pose for a photo with me.
This was a highlight of the weekend. Deena is fantastic!!

     The fun on Saturday continued with Happy Hour with the Editors of Runner's World, followed by dinner.  I also met Gene Gurkoff from CharityMiles.  I have been logging miles for Charity Miles for the last 2 years, and I really love this organization.
Meeting David Willey at the Happy Hour
     The last event of the weekend was the 1/2 Marathon on Sunday.  It was a chilly morning, 32 degrees- brrrrrrr.   Again, staying at the Sands was fantastic. Nikki and I were able to walk out to the race start 10 minutes before and jump into the starting corral.  My plan was to start out nice and slow and pick up the pace as much as I could in the second half.  The first 8 miles of this race are challenging, with some decent hills.  I was able to average a 9 min pace during the race, which I am happy about. This included a "skirt" stop between mile 4 and 5.  Aardvark Sports Shop had a water stop, and were handing out Running Skirts. They had done the same thing last year, but since I was gunning for a PR in that race, I didn't stop.  This year I knew that I wanted to stop.  I was able to snag a really cute skirt, although in the photos it was riding up a bit and didn't look quite as flattering over my Roga shorts.  I will definitely wear my Stride shorts under the skirt the next time!
Photo credit goes to Joan - thanks!
     I finished the 1/2 marathon in just under 2 hours, 1:59.  I met up with Nikki who finished a few minutes before me, and we enjoyed a beer before heading back to the hotel for a nice warm shower.
     It was a fun-filled weekend, with some happy miles thrown in. I've already registered for next year- The Hat Trick plus the Trail Run, which is now dubbed the "Grand Slam".  If you want to join me, register here.

Thank you Runner's World for a Great Weekend!!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When Enough is Just Not Enough... Or is it?

When I achieved my Boston Marathon qualifying time at the New Jersey Marathon , I immediately started planning on getting to run the historic race that is the Boston Marathon in April of 2016. 
  This was my 7th marathon in 8 years.  My first marathon was the Zurich Marathon on April 1, 2007. I completed that race in the time of 4:45 at the age of 37. I never dreamed that I would be able to achieve a BQ time.
  I continued to run, through raising children, military moves, injuries and all the challenges that those things bring.  The crazy thing was, that it was getting easier. And I was getting FASTER. And, as luck would have it, I was getting OLDER.
 Which, in the running world can be a detriment as well as an advantage.  For those unfamiliar with Boston Marathon qualifying standards, as you age, you gain minutes on your qualifying time. For example, for a women who is age 35-39 the qualifying time last year was 3:40, age 40-44 it was 3:45, and for me last year age 45-49 the time was 3:55.  A whole ten minute "cushion" to achieve in the older age group. 
 For the first time in this whole running journey I had been taking, I actually thought I could have a chance to achieve the previously unattainable goal of a Boston Qualifying time.  I set my sights on achieving this crazy goal.
  I trained harder than ever, first attempting the time at the Philadelphia Marathon in November of last year.  The day didn't turn out as I expected, and I finished in a disappointing 4:06. I knew that if I was really serious about this BQ attempt, I would have to get serious. I decided to hire a coach, who not only helped me immensely in pushing to my physical limits, but also gave me such confidence that I actually believed that it was possible. With Brianna's help, I went to the starting line of the New Jersey Marathon fully ready to achieve my personal best.
  I ran hard that day, and was able to complete the race in the time of 3:53:15. That is 1 minute and 45 seconds faster than the qualifying time.  I was thrilled. It was an almost 13 minute improvement on my previous best marathon time.  That is a huge PR (personal record)!  I believed it would be enough to get me into the Boston Marathon in 2016.
  But, alas, it was not.
Dear Nicole Hart:

Thank you for submitting your application for entry into the 2016 Boston Marathon. Regrettably, we are unable to accept your application due to field size limitations and the large number of applications we received from those runners who met the qualifying standards. The B.A.A. recognizes the achievement of everyone who has met the qualifying standards that we have established for the race. Those who meet -- and aspire to meet -- these standards have helped distinguish the Boston Marathon from any other marathon in the world, and we realize the effort, training and commitment involved with achieving the qualifying times for the various age groups in both genders.

Name of ApplicantGenderAge on
Qualifying Time
Nicole HartF463:53:15

Entries from applicants in your age group were accepted through and including the time 3:52:32.
So,  not quite enough.  Or is it?  The more I think about it, I knew that I did the most I could for that day.  The work I put in was not wasted. I qualified for Boston.  No one can take that away from me. I could walk away knowing that the work was enough. I am enough.
  But I do know that the journey isn't over for me. I will go back and do it again.   Maybe just a few minutes faster.......
  The journey continues.

Friday, May 1, 2015

No Regrets: A Marathon Journey in Numbers

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments, oh dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

Okay, how about how do you measure a Boston Qualifying Marathon time?

In 7 marathon finishes in 8 years

In 16 weeks of training with a fabulous Coach

In  543 training miles

In   21  pre dawn runs with headlamp and reflective vest

In  112 Treadmill miles

In  48  Spin classes taught

In  28   TRX classes

In    -20 degree and 80 degree (while on vacation in Mexico)  temperatures

In   8  Snow days and countless school delays

In  3 -5k races, each one faster than the first

In one tumble down a hill repeat, resulting in a busted up knee and twisted ankle

In 10 ice baths

In many tubes of Nuun Active and Nuun Energy

In countless loads of laundry to wash all my Oiselle #flystyle

In a solid race plan

In 7 Gu Energy gels

In 13 water stops

In 26.5 Garmin miles

In a 3:53:15 finishing time

See you at BOSTON 2016!!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wrapping up 2014

I had never gotten around on posting about the Philadelphia Marathon, so now I will take this time to sum up 2014 and include that.
 As I reflect back on 2014, it was a great year.  We purchased our first home, and moved into it in April.  I started working at the Army base fitness center in August as a trainer, teaching TRX, Spin and leading 2 running programs.  In August I travelled to Bend, OR for Birdcamp. 
  November 15 I joined my Couch to 5k group that I had been coaching for 10 weeks to run The Drumstick Dash.  I had several ladies complete the race, and I even PR'd!!
 This whole experience of meeting with the group twice a week and coaching them in their 5k training was very rewarding. I am hoping to do another program in the Spring.

Couch to 5K

Next was the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov.23. This was my "A" race of the year.  I had trained quite well for it.  I made sure I got all my long training runs in, as well as running many of those long run miles at "race pace".  I was aiming for a sub 4 hr, time, as well as a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time of 3:55 or better.  The day before the marathon, I stopped by the Expo to pick up my number, and to meet up with some ladies from Another Mother Runner.

At the Philly Expo with Sarah Bowen Shea and Karyn Ryan

Race Day started out very well. The weather was great, cold at the start (mid 30 degrees), and warmed up to high 40's by the end.  I felt really great for the first 17-18 miles, right on pace for a sub 4 hr marathon.  At mile 19, I started feeling tired physically. My legs started to slow, and no matter how my mind tried to will them to go faster, they wouldn't.  The last 6 miles were really rough, but I kept moving forward, only walking through the water stops, taking electrolytes and energy gel regularly.  I was not able to pick up my pace, and I finished in a disappointing 4:06:00 (yes, right down to the second).  Although it was a 3 min and 58 second PR from the Napa Marathon I ran in 2012, I had not reached my goal of sub 4hr, or BQ time. 
  Looking back now, I most likely went out a bit too fast in the first half. The pace felt so easy, and I may have pushed it too much while I was feeling great.  I believed I fueled well, taking a Gu gel every 4 miles, just like I had in training.
 I am now looking into hiring a coach to help me in training for my next marathon.  I would really love to achieve a BQ time before September of 2015 so that I can run Boston Marathon 2016. 
 I am proud of my running achievements this year though.  I did achieve PR times in the 5k, 10k, 10 mile, 1/2 Marathon and Marathon.  I was injury free the whole year, and I was very consistent with my running and cross training. 
  I would like to thank Oiselle and Nuun Hydration for continuing to support my training and running.  I also loved having the support of the Another Mother Runner community.  I absolutely love getting "Kudos" from all the ladies on Strava
  Here's to a great year in 2015!



Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Loved the Runner's World Half and Festival

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in the Runner's World Half and Festival.  Here are my top ten reasons of why I loved it:

10. The timing of it worked out perfectly in my training for the Philadelphia Marathon (Nov.23) and for the Another Mother Runner 13.Fun Challenge.

9.  The different race distances made it accessible to family members as well. My son, age 13, decided since he was coming with me that he would run the 5k on Saturday.
Mother-son bonding weekend.

8. The option of race day pickup for racing bibs.  I wanted to get there Friday night, but wasn't entirely sure I would make it to the expo in time.  Knowing that I could pick up my number on Saturday was great. This is rare in running events, but much appreciated.

7.  Runner's World Half and Festival app for my smartphone.  This was a free app that allowed me to check the schedule quickly, keep updated on weather, and look up results after the race.

6. Bethlehem, PA: What a beautiful city.  I had never been here before, and the setting was perfect, especially at this time of year for a road race.  I loved running over the Fahy Bridge and enjoying the beautiful Lehigh river, as well as some of the quaint neighborhoods that we had the pleasure of running through.  I also enjoyed the restaurants, especially Bethlehem Brew Works, where I enjoyed spicy fish tacos and a delicious oatmeal stout.

5.  Free seminars offered Saturday afternoon.  I attended Women's Running with a panel of women, including Tish Hamilton and My Life on the Run with Bart Yasso.  I also attended Course Strategy: How to Run the RW Half, which was especially helpful.  Having the route explained ahead of time really helped me to prepare my strategy the day before. It was a hilly course, and it was nice to be prepared mentally.
Tish Hamilton

Race director of the weekend events, Bart Yasso.

Editor-in-Chief David Willey

4.  Getting to meet some of the people from Runner's World in person. I have been reading Runner's World for at least 14 years, just a short time after I first started running.  Through social media, especially twitter, I have enjoyed getting to "know" them.  They were all so friendly at the seminars, and even on the race course. 

3. This was one of the most organized, runner-friendly races I have experienced.  From the emails I received before the race, all the way to the finish area, everything went exceptionally smoothly.  There were plenty of helpful volunteers, no lines at gear check, clean bathrooms and porta potty's, and a nice warm venue for my son to wait while I ran.  I stayed at the Hyatt hotel, which was only a 5 minute drive away, and offered special rates for the race.  There was always plenty of parking, as I went back and forth all 3 days.  An added bonus was having Bart Yasso greeting the runners at the finish line and calling out our names. How cool is that?

2.  Reuniting with some of my Another Mother Runner Ragnar teammates.  Karyn and Joan were able to come for the weekend as well, and we all stayed at the Hyatt.  We had fun catching up and supporting each other at the races.
Mother Runners Karyn, myself, and Joan

And the number one reason I love the Runner's World Half and Festival...........

 The Hat Trick.  What a fun challenge this was! I would encourage people to sign up for this, rather than just one of the races.  It allows you to really enjoy the entire weekend race experience.  It includes a 5k on Saturday at 8am, followed by the 10k at 9:30.  On Sunday morning, you line up to run the Half Marathon.  I decided to use the 5k as a warm up, with some strides at the end.  I pushed a bit on the 10k, and came close to setting a PR.  The biggest surprise was achieving a PR in the Half Marathon, on a quite hilly course! I came away from this weekend feeling very well trained and strong for the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov.23.

Elevation chart from Strava from the 1/2 marathon course. I loved the downhills!
Some nice hardware earned in this challenge! Plus, a hat, t-shirt and pair of socks! And of course, a shiny new PR! Sweet.

So, if you're looking for a fun weekend, and a great challenge, sign up for the 2015 Runner's World Half and Festival. Registration is already open: Come on, I know you want to try the Hat Trick!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Feeling of Being on a Team

The last few months have been a whirlwind of working, getting the kids started with school, and supporting my husband with a transition into a new job.  I am finally sitting down to blog about the amazing experience I had this summer at Oiselle Birdcamp. 
  As a volée member of Oiselle, I had the opportunity to travel to Bend, Oregon this August to attend a special camp, dubbed "Birdcamp".  Activities that were planned included running (of course), yoga, hiking, group sessions with information about nutrition, training, goal setting and general fun and bonding.
  I am not going to go into many details related to our daily agenda, as I feel some of my team members did such a nice job summarizing the activities that we experienced. If you would like those details, you can see them here (from my fellow Canadian team member, Leana), here (from Regina, an "online" friend before camp and now one IRL) and here (from the Oiselle web site with some beautiful photos from the week). 
  What I took away mostly from the experience was the feeling of being part of a TEAM.  I had never experienced this type of connection before.  As a less than athletic kid, I was never part of a sports team, unless you count my brief stint on a youth bowling team.
I am the one second from the left, not even looking at the camera. Don't you love the overalls? Tres chic.
  Growing up in the early 70's, I never really felt that I was encouraged to participate in sports.  Yes, there were sports activities built into our school experience, but unless you showed an exceptional talent for it, you were not encouraged to keep trying to get better. 
  I played the piano, participated in Girl Guides, 4H (the homemaking kind, not the show your cow kind), and eventually played the flute in the high school band.  I was not a runner, and our small high school didn't even have a cross country team. (Well, truthfully, it may have, I just never paid any attention to the sport activities).  I do know it had a hockey team. Hockey was and is everything there.  I also remember going to football games. Running events, not so much.
  So, fast forward to 2012 when I was accepted to join the Oiselle team.  To say that I was shocked that they had accepted me would be an understatement.  I was thrilled, and I am still giddy with excitement when I think about the fact that I am a part of such an inspiring, powerful group of women. 
  It is very difficult for me to express in words what Birdcamp meant to me.  To have the opportunity to be around like minded women who really "get you" is an almost disarming sensation.  I felt completely included, and appreciated for the contribution that I make to this team. 
  As a 44 year old wife and mom of 3 kids who tends to feel like an awkward teenager in social situations at times, this feeling of inclusion was huge!
 From the leadership team of Sally Bergesen,(CEO) Sarah Lesko(Head of Corporate Development and the super organizer of Birdcamp) and Kristin Metcalf (Team Manager), through the elite runners that attended camp (known as Haute Volée), including the incredible Lauren Fleshman, and with all my fellow volée members, I felt complete acceptance and appreciation.  This is a team made up of women of all different ages, from different backgrounds, with different athletic abilities.  Although we are different, we all share the drive to perform better (not only in running, but in all that we do), to train hard, and to not settle for any less.  Add to this the sisterhood of sport that we encourage and we emulate on our team and in our communities.  I have never experienced this type of atmosphere before with a large group of women. It was refreshing and encouraging, and it clearly comes from the leadership team of Oiselle.
  The leadership team even took the time to meet with some of us to discuss where the team is going as this company continues to grow in leaps and bounds.  I feel that since this is a company founded and led by women, and for women, it moves and develops quite differently than many other companies.  For me, as a team member, I appreciate the differences, and as a result, I feel valued and very optimistic for the future of this company. 
 I may not be the fastest runner, but I am always striving for my best, in training and on race day.  I hope that my passion for running can also inspire others to work to their full potential. Thank you to Oiselle for giving me Wings to Fly!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The AMR Traveling Ultimate 6 Kit from Trigger Point Therapy

I have been dealing with Pirformis Syndrome since last Fall, and when the ladies at Another Mother Runner were offering to send injured Mother Runners the Ultimate 6 Kit** from Trigger Point Therapy to try, I jumped right onto that!
 Here is the post and video that I helped to contribute to after trying out the products for 3 weeks:

I am thrilled with the results, and I ordered my own Ultimate 6 Kit as soon as I had to send it to the next ailing Mother Runner.

**The Ultimate 6 Kit was sent to me to try out,with the option to contribute to a blog post and video. I was offered a discount to purchase any products from Trigger Point Therapy afterwards. All opinions and comments are completely my own.