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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: http://rw.runnersworld.com/rwhalf/next-year.html. 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: http://anothermotherrunner.com/2014/07/21/piriformis-syndrome/

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.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

National #RunningDay June 4

I hope you will all get out for a run on National Running Day, June 4.  This is a relatively new "holiday", only 5 years old.  The day is set aside for runners to declare their passion for running.  Sounds like a great day for me!

 
I will run tomorrow with a few of my running friends, just to reaffirm my commitment to running and a healthy lifestyle. I will push my 5 yr old daughter in the stroller, and have her run at least part of it, to set an example of a healthy lifestyle.  My kids have learned that running, and daily physical activity is "normal" and what is expected.  I think that is the best lesson that I can ever teach them. 
  I will also be running my miles for charity tomorrow.  I discovered Charity Miles more than a year ago.  It is a free app that you can download onto your smartphone and dedicate your miles to several different charities.  Every mile walked or ran equals 25 cents to the charity of your choice. You can also bike to earn money for your charity of choice, with 10 cents earned for every mile biked.  Charity Miles has partnered with several corporate sponsors, including Timex and Humana in order to collect the donations to charity.  I run with my phone anyway, for safety, and to be reachable while my children are at school. It is so easy to turn on the app when you head out.
  My favorite charities include The Wounded Warrior Project, Team RWB and Every Mother Counts.  Just by turning on the app when I start my run, I have been able to donate at least $25 per month, just by doing what I would have done anyway: running!
  I hope you can get out there and run or walk tomorrow. Also, think about turning on Charity Miles when you do.  #EveryMileCounts
 Happy #RunningDay everyone!
 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

AMR Strava Prove it Challenge

I'm finally getting around to posting about this challenge.  Dimity and Sarah over at Another Mother Runner introduced this challenge way back in January.  The challenge offered a 17 week training plan for either a 10K or Half Marathon distance.  Training started January 13, and was to conclude Mother's Day, May 11. The "Prove it" part meant that you would accept the challenge to "prove" something to yourself. Maybe it was to run the distance the first time, run it faster than ever before, or maybe even just to commit to getting the miles in no matter how life got in the way.
  I accepted the challenge, and chose the Half Marathon distance. I have run at least a dozen half marathons over the last 8 years, so this seemed like an appropriate choice for me.  What appealed to me about this challenge was that there was going to be a virtual community of support at Strava.  In case you have never heard of Strava, it is a  free mobile app and website that allows you to track your runs ( or bike routes, if you are a cyclist).  You can follow other users, and they can follow you, with the option of giving and receiving "kudos" and comments.  There are also discussion boards within challenges to share comments and questions.  I had never tried Strava before, and at first it seemed like just another thing to add to my social media "time suck".  Once I got started with the challenge, however, I found it to be quite enjoyable.  I liked seeing what other people were doing for their workouts, and I must admit, those "kudos" and  kind comments boosted my ego a bit.  Not only did I have this group of "mother runners" on Strava, but I soon found Strava teams to join with Oiselle and Nuun.  How fun!
  I tried the mobile app on my iphone, but I found that using my Garmin Forerunner 10 watch and uploading the run from that device to Strava was easier for me.  The mobile app was good for checking others' runs during the day, and receiving push notifications when I others had given me kudos and comments.  I am going to continue to use Strava. It is a great way to track my runs, set goals, join challenges and feel like part of this running community. 
  Another aspect of the challenge that enjoyed were the weekly emails with the training plan, and training tips.  The plans were designed by Christine Hinton and I found them to be comprehensive and challenging for me.  They included easy, tempo, interval, hill and long runs. I looked forward to receiving the email on Sundays for the following week, although I had printed out the plan at the beginning of the challenge.  During the month of April, we moved into a new home, and somehow those papers got lost in the shuffle! Knowing that I could just check my email was helpful.  What also was provided in the plan was two 20 min strength training workouts.  The recommendation was to do these workouts twice a week.  I have to admit, I was sporadic at best with getting these in.  Even getting a good stretch or foam roll during the last 2 months has been difficult, giving the stress of moving.  That is probably why I am still having issues with my piriformis syndrome. 
  There were also monthly Webinair hangouts, with different experts answering questions, including Sage Rountree and Greg McMillan.  And to top it all off, there was swag: a "Prove it" t-shirt, a medal, Nuun tablets, Hyland's Calm Forte tablets and Roctane gels!
  Now, as far as me "proving it", I have struggled with this since I completed the challenge on May 9.  I chose to race "virtually", rather than joining an organized race on Mother's Day.  There were no logistically easy races for me around here on that day, and I decided that I would rather relax at home on Mother's Day rather than race.  I decided to "race" on Friday, May 9 after I dropped my daughter off at preschool. No fanfare, no on course support, no cheering fans. This was fine with me.
  If I were to choose a word to describe my training for this challenge, I would have to choose lackluster.  Very few shining moments, mostly "blah" workouts. After struggling with piriformis syndrome in the fall, only coming back to running in early January after Physical therapy treatments and rest, I was ready to take this challenge. 
  But, for good or for bad, I had also registered for two half marathon races, which were to take place in February and March. February was the Love Rox 1/2 Marathon in Richmond, VA with my best friend, Michele. I went into it without expectations, only hoping to finish the distance. I was able to run that race in 2:10 and it was a hilly course.  I was happy with the result, just coming back from injury and it ended up being a great weekend.  The next race was the Shamrock 1/2 Marathon in Virginia Beach, which was also a fantastic Oiselle Team meetup. I had some solid training effort going into this race, and it showed. I was able to run 1:58, which I was very happy about.  I felt like I was finally getting back in shape, and running this Half Marathon Challenge could possible bring me to a PR. 
  I don't want to dwell on excuses, or come up with reasons why I wasn't able to run faster on May 9. But I have to say that April was an extremely busy and stressful month for our family.  We closed on a new house on April 7, and moved for a whole week from the 15th to the 25th.  Most of the move was done by myself and my husband with some assistance from friends.  I also had to go back to the old house to clean, which was exhausting.  On top of this, my son was performing in a ballet with CPYB in Harrisburg. Not only was I driving him back and forth to rehearsals and performances, I had committed to volunteering with back stage costume changes.  Oh yeah, and I haven't mentioned that I started leading a new running group on Saturdays for my local gym and studying for my Group Fitness certification.  To think that I would be able to run a PR was unrealistic at best.  I really should have sat down to think about my goals, and set some realistic goals.
  The day of my virtual race, I set out with the thought that I would just run by effort, not worry about the time. I covered my Garmin watch with a piece of tape over the time. I could still see the distance, so I would know when to stop. I didn't want to be focused on pace, just effort.  I ran through my normal running routes, which tend to be pretty hilly.  The weather was warm and humid, so that may have affected my pace as well. The run was tough. I actually had a really difficult time just convincing myself to finish in the last 2 miles. It did not feel good. It was upsetting.  But I did finish. In 2:08. Disappointing for sure.
  What did I "prove"?   That is such a tough question to answer. I feel like I really haven't proved it yet.  I still think I have better times in me. I would love to get faster than 1:50 in the half marathon. My fastest time is 1:53, which I ran in early 2012.  Is it possible? Maybe. Do I need to really dedicate myself to training? Yes. 
 Which brings me to the next AMR Challenge: 13.Fun.  Starting in July, I will join this challenge, with my focus on a PR on October 19. 
 What will bring me there? First, I need to get my body strong, and injury free in the next 2 months.  I am going to work on my core, with special attention to my hips and glutes.  I am going to go into this challenge much stronger and smarter.  Strength training will be non-negotiable. I will finally Prove It in October.  Who's with me?
  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Birds of a Feather Flock Together at Shamrock

Pretty Birds


 
     I had been looking forward to this Oiselle Team meetup in Virginia Beach since last November.  Since being selected for this team in the fall of 2012, I have jumped at any chance to meetup with my teammates. 
    I drove down to Virginia Beach on Friday morning. The drive was long, it took 6 hours, but so worth it. I checked in to the Holiday Inn in Norfolk, then decided to head to the Expo at the Convention Center to pick up my number and hopefully meet up with some of my teammates.
  I was able to meet up with Ellen, Allie, Carolyn and Allison at the Expo, who had travelled from North Carolina. We picked up our numbers and beer bracelets (we showed our ID's so that we could enjoy some Yuengling beer after the race the next day), and perused some of the free samples.  Our favorite was the Post cereal. Hungry runners always need a nutritious snack! We posed for some silly leprechaun photos, and then decided to head out to dinner. We searched yelp for a local restaurant, and found Baladi's for some yummy Mediterranean food. It was one of the best wraps I have had: Tofu and Portobello wrap with tabbouleh salad. It was fun chatting with these ladies who I have only known from Twitter.  Allie was racing the 8K in the morning, so we planned on getting together the next day to cheer for her, and some other team mates and join some other ladies for a "shake out" run.
   When I got back to the hotel, I ran into Kristin Metcalf, who also happens to be our team manager. It was so nice finally meeting her. She came all the way to Virginia Beach from Seattle to support all of us runners and cheer us on. She is full of positive energy and her love for the team is immeasurable. We are all so blessed to have her leading the team.
  I had planned on sharing my room with Ashley, who I had never met before, but we had corresponded via email.  Her flight was delayed, so I was able to leave her a key to the room at the front desk so she could let herself in when she arrived at midnight. I left a welcome note for Ashley, and settled in for the night. With my earplugs in, I didn't even hear her arrive. The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off, and I was up and getting ready to head to the beach to cheer on my fellow teammates who were racing the 8K on Saturday. Ashley and I found our way to the meetup place, and were able to do a short shake out run while finding a good place to cheer.
It was a beautiful day at the beach, and we were treated to this sunrise.
Once all the ladies running in the 8K finished strong, a few of us headed for much needed coffee and breakfast.  Ashley headed to the Expo to pick up her number for the next day.  Once returning to the hotel, I took some time to rest, shower, catch up on computer stuff and prepare for the team dinner that night.  I also was invited to watch the movie Blue Jasmine with another team mate, Rebecca in her room, and I took her up on it. I have to say, it was a great movie, with incredible acting performances by Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins.
  The team dinner took place at an Italian restaurant named Bravo.  A local team member, Mollie organized the whole dinner, and it was a great time for everyone. We had not only the Oiselle ladies, but also some spouses, children, parents and friends. I love this shot of our "paparrazi" taking our team photo after the dinner:
The local paparrazi. Photo credit: Allie Bigelow

An early bedtime was definitely needed for the early morning awaiting us.  Ashley and I settled to sleep by 9pm despite our loud hotel neighbors, who were in town for a Mason's reunion.  These people liked to party!
  Wake up time on Sunday morning was 5:15 am.  Ashley and I donned matching outfits of Lesko Shimmel tanks and Distance shorts, with several warmer layers on top. We grabbed a quick breakfast and were on the road with Rebecca and Kristin, who graciously had offered to drive us to the start.  Traffic was crazy once we got close to the race. Kristin dropped us off several blocks before the start, so we started walking. We took a quick pit stop at a hotel, and then continued walking. Within a few minutes we noticed that the runners we saw were not carrying their dry bags. But where was the bag check??? Apparently, in our relaxed "have fun" weekend, we had forgotten to check where the start was, where the bag check was, and the deadline for getting your bags on the truck. Oops. 
  We saw a few trucks sitting there, so we asked what we were to do. They were set up for the marathoners, but thankfully, one lady on the truck said she would take our bags.  Thank goodness for nice people who take care of us spaced out runners.  By the time we checked our bags, we realized the race was to start within 10 minutes.  And we still had a long way to walk. So we walked fast. It ended up being a good warm-up for the race.( I like to think "glass half full"). We rationalized that it was chip timed, and our race didn't start until we crossed the line. True, but it would have been nice to be in our assigned corral, and to hear the national anthem. Live and learn.
  Rebecca took off, trying to catch up with corral #1 which had already started (we heard the countdown to the race). Ashley and I tried to catch up with corral #3. Navigating from corral #7 to #3 was not very easy. Ashley rushed ahead, but I decided to save my energy for the race. I managed to get into #4 before crossing the line. My Garmin watch gps kicked in just in time and I crossed the line. It was crowded for the first mile, but I didn't let it bother me. I did not have a specific goal in mine, other than "under 2 hours".  After running The Love Rox 1/2 Marathon in Richmond 3 weeks ago in my slowest ever time of 2:10, I figured anything better than that would be fine with me. I also knew that this course would be flat. The wind would be the only issue. 
  After the first mile (9:30), I settled into a nice pace (around 9 min/mile). I was feeling very comfortable, and knew that I could maintain this pace for quite a while.  The weather was good, partly cloudy, maybe 40 something degrees, and a bit windy.  I stopped to drink water at about every other water stop, and took Gu gels at 4.5 miles and 9.5 miles.  I was able to pass the 2 hour pacer group somewhere along Shore Drive, maybe at 4 miles in. I knew that if I stayed ahead of them, I would make my goal of under 2 hours.  Once we entered Fort Story at mile 5, the wind picked up quite a bit.  There was also a slight hill.  I managed to keep a steady pace, right around the 9 min range. I even saw some 8:5x splits in there, and I was still feeling pretty good.  I felt quite good until about mile 11.5 when I started feeling tired. I knew that I would make it, but my mind was starting to get the best of me. I pushed those feelings away and carried on, not allowing myself to slow down too much.  By the time I made the final turn at 12.5 miles and saw my team mate Paulette, I got a second wind and was able to push hard to the finish.  I saw Kristin and some other team members cheering just a few yards from the finish, and I smiled as I crossed the finish.  1:58:25 official time.
photo credit: Katie Anderson's fiancé, Drew
  Through the finishing chute, I collected my medal, beach towel (sweet!), running cap, granola bar, water and shamrock cookie.  I looked for the bag check trucks, but didn't see them, so I figured I would meet up with the ladies from Oiselle.  It was so cold by this time. Once you finished running, the wind was fierce, and freezing.
  I met up with them, and Kristin was nice enough to get this shot of me and tweet it:

A few minutes later, I was shivering. I wrapped my new towel around me, and Asher, an elite member from our team, was nice enough to wrap her French Feather fleece scarf around my neck as an attempt to warm me up. Thanks, Asher! We all soon decided to find my bag, and skip the after party, opting for coffee and breakfast instead.  I was able to locate my bag, after seeking out any UPS trucks I could find, and soon we were headed to the Java Beach Café, where we enjoyed coffee, breakfast sandwiches and wraps, served by friendly staff, and helpful neighbors that seemed to just drop in to help serve breakfast. Elderly neighbors, in tight sweatpants. I guess you had to be there....
Here's a photo of my room mate, Ashley, who definitely wins the prize for the glamor shot of the day. And this was POST half marathon.
How does she look that good after PR'ing by 2 minutes???
  Anyway, we had a great breakfast and then we were heading back to the hotel driven by Kristin, with some mad driving skills.  Rebecca had to get back to the hotel so that she could get showered and to the airport to catch a 2pm flight.  I volunteered to drive her, and was also promised a sweet set of Lux arm warmers if I could get her there on time.  I would have done it anyway, but I wasn't about to say no to some extra Oiselle gear.  Could this weekend get any better?
  We made it to the airport on time, without any crazy "Daisy Duke" maneuvers, and I hit the road for a long 6 hour drive.  I made it home safely, and was happy to be home with my family after a very memorable weekend.
  Once again, I am feeling very blessed to be part of the Oiselle Family.  It is a community of women runners who embrace each other, literally and figuratively.  No matter your age, size, or ability, we are all runners, with a passion for the sport.  We all put ourselves out there, toeing the line, to do our best. In some of the best gear a lady can find. 
  Special thanks to Kristin Metcalf who brought us all together for this Spring Team Meet-up.  Thanks K-Met for taking care of all us and making us all feel so special.  It wouldn't have been the same without you.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Love Rox 1/2 Marathon

When I registered for this race, way back in the Fall of 2013, I was running well, uninjured and excited to plan a fun girl's getaway weekend with my best friend, Michele.  She was able to find a race exactly mid distance from where we both live: Richmond, VA.  We each would have a 4 hour drive, the race looked "flattish" and the best part was that your race entry included tastings at the Virginia Wine Expo after the race. Perfect!!
  At the end of October I developed an injury which lingered well into the end of the year. I was finally able to start running again in early January.  That left me only 7 weeks to train for the 1/2 marathon.  I tried to stay positive, just reassuring myself that I would just run as well as I could, not to be concerned about any time goal.  Luckily, Michele has had on and off training as well, so she was willing to go in with a "do what we can" attitude.
  The longest run I was able to complete in training was a 9.5 mile run 9 days before the race. I felt pretty good, I ran slowly, but I was able to run the whole distance. That was somewhat reassuring. But I still had another 3.6 miles to run.
  I drove to Richmond Saturday morning after dropping my son off at ballet and leaving the other two at home with a sitter. My husband was not so conveniently coaching his swim team in their final swim meets this weekend.  The drive to Richmond was without incident, and Michele and I met at the packet pick up.  The pick up was low-key, with just a couple of vendors, no lines to pick up our race bibs.  We were in and out in just a few minutes and off to check in to our hotel in downtown Richmond.
  We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn which was the host hotel for the race.  It was conveniently located across the street from the Convention Center where the Wine Expo was taking place, and only a block away from the start/finish area of the race.  And did I mention that the race didn't start until 10:00 am the next morning? How easy was this going to me?
  I had been to Richmond several years ago while dating my husband.  I don't remember much about that trip, so the city seemed new to me. Michele and I walked around a bit after checking into our hotel.  We walked along next to the James River on the Canal Walk. Part of the race route would be here the next day.  The weather was great, much warmer than it had been for me in PA.  It was nice walking around in short sleeves and enjoying the sunshine. 
 We stopped at an English Pub on the way to dinner to have a drink. The Penny Lane Pub is a cozy bar, which was quite crowded when we arrived.  The older man at the front told us to head to the bar, and to make sure to show our ID's.  I took this as a joke, but Michele thought he was serious and quickly got out her driver's license to show the bartender. I hated to break it to her that he was joking, and trying to flatter us. We each had a "pint" , and then headed to dinner.
 Dinner was at a restaurant within walking distance, Cafe Rustica. It is a small restaurant, with good food and friendly service.  Dinner was good, relaxed and not rushed at all.  It reminded of us of being in Europe again.  After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and watched Olympic highlights.  It was nice knowing that the race didn't start until 10 am and that we were within a 5 min walk to the start.
We did, however, have to walk down to the parking lot where our cars were to pay for daily parking in the morning.  It seemed impossible to pay for the whole weekend, and our parking space was expiring at 5:59am. We had spoken to "Angela" the voice who answered the telephone when we called the info line and she assured us that we could park there, we wouldn't get towed, as long as we mailed her a check on Monday for the Sunday parking. ????? We decided it was probably best to pay for the parking on Sunday and head out early Monday morning to avoid having our cars towed.
  Sunday morning we paid for parking, then stopped at Starbucks on the way back to our hotel.  I was feeling apprehensive about the race.  My body felt tired, my legs tight.  Would I be able to run the whole distance? What about the temperature? It was already approaching 50 degrees. I hadn't run in anything warmer than 30 degrees during my training. I shared my concerns with Michele, and we just hoped for the best. We were able to catch the end of the Olympic Hockey game, with Canada beating Sweden for the gold medal. I proudly sang my national anthem before heading to the race.
    We walked down to the start and realized this was a much smaller race than we thought.  (We found out later that there were only about 400 runners for the 1/2 marathon).  There was a moment of silence for Meg, a local woman who had been killed by a drunk driver while running recently.  Then the national anthem was sung beautifully.  I began to calm down, and get ready to run. 
  We started right at 10am. The course was 2 loops, with the 10K runners running one, the 1/2 marathoners running 2.  Within the first mile this "mostly flat" course was anything but. We started to head up a long, gradual hill.  Thankfully, for every uphill, there was also downhills. We tried to make up some time on the descents.  I actually enjoyed running through downtown Richmond for the most part.  I like passing the sign that said "U R Downtown" twice.  Crossing a small bridge into Brown's Island was nice. Running along the Canal Walk and seeing some of the cool graffiti/art was interesting. I debated stopping to take photos, but as Michele stated on the second loop "I want to save my energy for running". Good point. We were definitely feeling it on the second loop.
  Crossing the 14th street bridge seemed to me to be the most boring part. It was mostly an industrial looking area. All the runners seemed to have become quiet on the second time around.  We were about 8 miles into it by then.  The hardest part, physically, was the second time up and over the Lee Bridge.  There had been a water stop at about mile 8.5, and not another one until almost 11 miles.  We were wanted to take our last Gu and had to wait until that water stop.  We were both struggling, and I think we both considered walking, but we somehow kept going.  Speaking of water stops, we did walk through all the water stops, drinking each time and taking Gu's at approx. miles 5 and 11.  Michele also ate some Sportsbeans while going up the Lee Bridge. She said it helped her get through it. I have never really liked them, and the energy it would take to chew and run was just too much for me at that point.
  Passing the mile 12 sign as a good feeling.  We were able to finish strong, with a slight uphill finish.  We ran mostly even splits, with the last mile being one of our fastest (9:20).  My watch time was 2:09:30. The official time was 2:10. I think that is my slowest 1/2 marathon ever, but I was just proud to be able to run the whole distance, feeling good without evidence of my injury.  Running the race with Michele was really fun. I like that we can support each other without even saying a word.  She kept me running when I really wanted to walk.  And I know I did the same for her.
  We took a couple of photos at the end of the race, even though we were tired and sweaty.


 I was proud to represent not only Oiselle, but also, Team Nuun, which I was selected to be  an ambassador recently.
 I really like the medal that we received. It is in the shape of a wineglass, which I thought was cute and original. I thought it was a bit silly to have the little check boxes on the race bib: "Available, Taken or It's Complicated". Were we really supposed to check one? ;)
After indulging in a couple of Oreo cookies and some hydration, we headed back to the hotel for a very welcome shower.  My face was covered in salt. The temperature was in the 60's. Luckily, it had been cloudy for most of the race.  Under normal circumstances, this would have been an ideal temperature to race in, but my body was not quite acclimated to the higher temperatures. I made sure to fill our water bottles, and we added some Nuun to replace the electrolytes that we had surely lost during the race.
 Next was the Wine Expo.  We made it just in time to have some veggie chili that was being offered from the race. They were packing up as we arrived, but we were able to get a bowl, thank goodness. Then we headed into the expo, which was much larger than we expected. There were countless vendors, with I believe 450 different wines to taste!! All the tastings were included in our race entry.  We alternated between wine tastings and the free samples of food (crackers, cheese, cheese sticks, salad dressings with bread, chocolate).  There were several good offerings of wine, but our favorite was the last one we went to: Chatham Vineyards.  I enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Vitner's Blend.  We began speaking with John Wehner and his wife, who have been operating the winery since 1999.  They asked where we had travelled from, and when I said I was from Pennsylvania, John stated that his wife's family lives in Boiling Springs, where I live!  What a funny coincidence! It is tiny,  actually a village, with a population of only 3,000 people. I asked John's wife for her parent's contact information, and I hope to run into them in the "Springs". What a nice way to end the tastings. We grabbed a delicious crabcake before heading back to the hotel before dinner.
   We had decided to return to The Penny Lane Pub for dinner, but found it to be closed on Sundays.  We quickly checked our phones, and found another "yelp" recommended restaurant just a couple of blocks away, Tarrant's.  It ended up to be a lovely choice.  We both had the fish tacos, which were more than enough, and delicious.

  By the time we returned from dinner, we were both exhausted. We headed to bed early, knowing that we would have to move our cars from the parking lot by 6am, and head home. 
  The next morning, we were both tired and a quite sore from running up and down those hills. We both had to return home to our families, back to "reality", so we checked out early and headed our separate ways.
 All in all, it was a great weekend.  I would definitely recommend this race, especially since it includes the wine expo. Well worth the price of the race entry.  I had a great girl's weekend, and got my first race of the year in.
 Next up on the calendar: Shamrock 1/2 Marathon in Virginia Beach.  I'm looking forward to this race. I ran it a few years ago, going under 2 hours for the first time with Michele.  It is also going to be a Oiselle Team meetup.  I will finally meet some of my team-mates that I have been corresponding with via twitter.  I am also hoping to run well, getting closer to the 2 hour mark.