Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Blues Cruise 50k: My First UltraMarathon!

     I did it! I completed my first Ultra Marathon on Sunday in Reading, PA. It was an incredible day, full of ups and downs (literally) and one I will never forget.
     The day began with some low lying fog, and some nice, cool temps. I arrived at the race site one hour before the start time, picked up my race number, and cool race swag including a hat, long-sleeved running shirt and Gu water bottle. I texted another mother runner in the Ultra group, Nanci, and we were able to meet up before the race. It was so nice finally getting to meet her in person!

Before the start. Ready to Go!!

Before we knew it, it was Go Time! We lined up near the back of the crowd of runners, wished each other good luck, and after a minute of instructions from the race director, we were off! The first few miles were "easy" with a few small hills, but generally pretty smooth single track. The biggest challenge was to get in the groove of having people right in front and back of me, and trying to keep a consistent pace. After a few miles, the crowd of runners thinned a bit, and it was easier to get into a nice pace. Before the first aid station (3.5 miles) was a bit of a climb. I hiked up the hill, took off my arm sleeves, grabbed a couple of twizzlers from the aid station and was on my way. Miles 5-10 were pretty smooth. I was able to run these miles between 10:00-10:40/mile pace, feeling really great. Before the race started, Nanci told me that there was a sign in the port-a-potty that said "If you start to feel good in an Ultra, don't worry, the feeling will pass". Yep! At mile 10, there was a HUGE hill. Looking at the elevation chart now, it looks like I climbed 223 ft over a quarter of a mile. When I looked up as I was climbing, I couldn't actually see the the top! It was tough, but I just took it one step at a time, telling myself "keep moving forward". It was so great to finally crest that hill. The "rolling" hills started at this point, and this is when the challenge of an Ultra really started. I would hike up one hill, then cruise on the downhills, which felt great at this point. I was able to pass people on the downhills, which was a big confidence booster. I had practiced running downhill during my training, and I'm glad I did. The hills just kept coming, but I was still running strong. At the half marathon point (13.1 miles) I looked at my watch and noted that I was still making great time. I was at about 2 1/2 hours at this point, which surprised me. I was hopeful that I would break 6 hours if I could keep up a steady pace. 
     I stopped at each aid station, which were every 4 miles. I filled up my water bottle, added Nuun Performance, snacked on some cookies, candy, pretzels, PB and J sandwiches, and just kept going. I took a Gu energy gel every 40-45 minutes. The aid stations were absolutely amazing, with friendly, cheerful volunteers, and different themes at each one, including "Blues Brothers", "Margaritaville"and "Oktoberfest". I loved hearing the cheering up the trail and we approached each station. 
The elevation chart. HILLS! 

     Miles 15-20 were challenging, with the hills continuing. At this point the downhills weren't as fun as previously. My legs, specifically my quadricep muscles, were really feeling the pounding at this point. I still resolved to run on the flats and the downhills, and hike up all the hills.  I noted the time at mile 15.5 (1/2 way finished), and it was just a little over 3 hours. I was still hopeful for a  6-6:15 finish time.  Little did I know that the course would not let up, with relentless hills. 
The only photo I have of me on the course. I think it was taken sometime in the second half, climbing. Head down.

At mile 21 or 22, another HUGE hill. Another climb of about 200 ft. This was tough mentally and physically, but I got through it. I was looking forward to getting past the marathon distance (26.2 miles) and knowing that I had gone further than ever before. Once I passed 27 miles, and the last aid station, I knew I would make it. I grabbed a handful of potato chips, and resolved to stay strong and get to the finish under 6 1/2 hours. 
 From miles 28-30 was a seemingly continuous climb, and I had to walk more than I wanted to. Finally I could hear the finish line, and I was able to run it in. I saw the clock, and it was reading 6:29:xx, so I was happy that I would make it just under 6:30! 6:29:56 (official).  The elevation gain was over 3,000 ft, and the elevation loss was about the same over the 31 miles. 
  I was handed my finish award, a fleece hoodie and was told to "ring the bell". I rang the bell, and celebrated my finish. I hobbled over to my car, and took a few minutes to clean the salt off my face, change my shirt and hat, take off my trail shoes and then walked back to the finish to wait for Nanci to finish and grab some post-race food. I helped myself to some pasta, potato salad and a grilled cheese sandwich, which I really enjoyed, washed down with some Nuun Active to replace the salt that I had lost. The sun was shining and warm now, probably close to 70 degrees. 
    The finishers were still coming in at a steady pace, and I was happy to see Nanci come in and celebrate with her kids and husband. 
She made it!
My next challenge was to get in the car and drive home 70'ish miles. I was tired, but so, so happy with my run. I never gave up, I move steadily through the course and felt pretty good! My fueling was consistent and adequate, and I never had any truly low moments. I also managed to stay on my feet the whole time! I had to catch myself a couple of times from falling, but I managed.
  Would I consider running Blues Cruise again? Yes, I think I would. Most likely not next year, but maybe when I move in to the next age group (after 2019). There were a total of 370 finishers, 134 of them who were female. Of those 134 female finishers, 59 of them were in the 40-49 age group. That is is 44% of the finishers!! There were only 13 female finishers in the 50-59 age group, with the best time being 6:19. I think if I hold out, and stay in the shape I am now, I have a shot of placing in my age group in 3 years. 
    I loved this race because of the friendly organizers, easy logistics to get to the race, fantastic aid stations, and the beautiful course.  
 Of all of the finishers, I placed 205/370. 56/134  female, and 27/59  of  female 40-49 yr olds. I'm happy with this for my first Ultra.
 Next up? I'm not sure yet. Time to recover, continue to enjoy the trails when my legs are ready. I am considering a 1/2 marathon next Spring, and maybe a late 2018 Fall marathon, in order to possibly qualify for Boston again and run Boston Marathon in 2020 when I enter the next age group. I would also consider another 50k in the next year, and I am setting my sights on a 50 miler during the Fall of 2020, possibly JFK 50 miler.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Ready to be an UltraMarathoner

     This is week 24 of my training plan, so that means it's RACE week! I've made it through 6 months of training injury-free, and I feel fit and ready to run 50k (31 miles) this Sunday. The weather has been hot and humid with highs in the 80's here in PA for the last 2 weeks, but if the weather forecast holds up, it should be cooler on Sunday. Still not as cool as I'd like, but tolerable. My focus this week is to stay hydrated, get decent rest and go in to the weekend calm and ready to go.

I would prefer 50's to be honest, but I'll take it. 
     I've been preparing myself this week by previewing the course, and making a plan for hydration and fueling. This race changes the direction of the loop that the runners take each year. Because it is an odd numbered year, the course will be run counter-clockwise. According the the race director, this means "First 10 easy. Big climb after aid station 3 (between 10-13.5 miles). Flattish until mile 29, then long climb at the end".
Here it is, seems really far to run ;)
     There are aid stations at about every 4 miles, and I plan to stop at every one, filling up my water bottle and snacking on whatever looks good to me. All that I've read about this race is that the food is diverse and plentiful, including such foods at perogies, burgers, potatoes, candy, energy gels, etc. I will rely on my tried and true Gu gels and some bars, but keep an open mind to trying some "real" food on the course. I will use Nuun Hydration Active and Performance as well, since that worked well in my training. We are offered the opportunity to leave a drop bag at the 5th aid station (around mile 17/18), so I need to consider what I would like to have in that bag. I'm thinking that a change of shirt, socks, and even an extra pair of shoes may be a good idea. Also: extra nutrition, baby wipes, body glide and chap stick.
     Although I know I can finish the distance, I do feel a bit undertrained. The upside of this is that I am injury free. The downside is that I am concerned about feeling over fatigued in the final miles, especially with the hills. I am going to make a conscious effort to run very easy in the first 10 miles, and conserve my energy for the more challenging parts of the course. I am giving myself permission to walk up the hills, and take advantage of these walk breaks to make sure to take fueling in. I am going to aim for approx 300 calories an hour, as prescribed by coach Stephanie Violett. Hydration will be especially important due to the predicted sunshine and temperature, with careful attention to taking enough water, but also electrolytes. I will carry extra tabs of Nuun and make sure to sip constantly. 
     As far as my running "outfit", I'm going to plan on a running tank, shorts, compression socks, hat or visor, my Ultra Direction hydration vest (with bottles, no reservoir), and my Pearl Izumi M2V2 trail shoes. This worked well in my hot summer training runs, so it should work on race day. 
     One of the biggest challenges I have on the weekend is staying off my feet. On Saturday morning, I am working as Assistant Coach for a Cross Country meet. While I normally like to run around the course to see our runners at different spots, I'm going to try to stay closer to the start/finish line and not run around. We'll see how that goes. My plan is to leave directly from the meet to drive to my hotel close to the race site in Reading, PA. It will be a quiet evening, with Netflix, takeout food and my feet up. 
     Like I said previously, I know I can cover the distance. The challenge is staying positive, moving steadily forward, and not giving up. I would like to finish the race knowing that I pushed myself to my best ability and that all the training over the last 6 months was not wasted. 


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Almost Half Way There:Week 11 of 24 to 50k

Here I am in week 11 of a 24 week plan already. I would say that my training is going well, but to be honest, the heat of the summer has been a struggle in the last couple of weeks. I am still clicking off the workouts, but the effort has been higher than I would want or expect for some of the workouts. Heat has never been my friend, and I consider humidity to be my mortal enemy.
My plan, carefully mapped out by the Ultrarunner extraordinaire, and total stud herself, Stephanie Violett has a very gradual build up of miles and intensity over 24 weeks. It includes distance (easy) paced runs, run workouts (hill repeats, tempo), recovery runs,long runs cross-training days, strength circuit workouts (not optional) and 2 rest days per week.  So far my long runs have not exceeded 2 hours, and to tell you the truth, I am itching to run farther! I have been a bit impatient with this slow, gradual ramp up in mileage, but I know that there is more work in the future, and keeping my eye on the big goal is the most important thing. Crazy as it seems, I am really looking forward to my 3 hour long run in a couple weeks. 
 For any of you who just can't understand why anyone would want to run an Ultramarathon, I think this sums up some of the reasons why I'm doing it: 50 +2 reasons to run an Ultramarathon I especially can relate to #8: I run ultras because I enjoy the satisfaction that comes from devoting a small part of each day towards making myself better at something.”—Dylan Bowman

Running Happy on the Appalachian Trail
  To give you an idea of what this week looks like in training, here is what is on tap.
Monday: 45 minute run with tempo intervals: 10 min easy paced warm up, then 10 min at tempo (marathon pace), followed by 5 minute recovery pace, then 5 minutes at tempo pace, followed by 5 minutes recovery, then 10 minutes cool down run, with 3 x 30 second short burst of speed
- Strength training circuit for 30 minutes following the run. A sample of exercises included high knee jumps, mountain climbers, kettle bell swings, dumbbell bench presses and glute bridges. All things that will make me stronger to conquer the demands of running long distances on trails. 
Tuesday: Recovery Run 40 minutes- very easy paced, with heart rate staying in the 120-130's range.
Wednesday: Long Hill Repeats: 20 minute warm up run, followed by 4x 5 min hill climbs, 3 min recovery with each to run down hill, then 20 minute cool down 
 - Strength Training (same as Monday)
Thursday: day off
Friday: Long Run 2 hours (on the trail, keeping heart rate and effort easy)
Saturday: Cross Training approx 1 hour ** Full disclosure- while I may do some cross training (easy bike ride, or yoga), I also plan on going for a easy trail run (45-60 minutes). I find that this is good for me mentally and physically the day after my long run, to keep my legs feeling good and loose.
Sunday: day off 
  I find all this to be very doable, with some planning in scheduling. We are in full-summer schedule mode in our household, which means I am at the mercy of the kids varying schedules. I also take into account the weather forecast everyday, avoiding the highest heat of the day, and thunderstorms that tend to blow through at different times of the day.


 - Question for anyone who has read this far---- Have you/ would you ever consider running an Ultra Marathon distance race (more than 26.2 miles)? 

Monday, April 17, 2017


     Today is the Boston Marathon, and it is also the first day of training for my first Ultra Marathon which will be the Blues Cruise 50K on October 1.  Therefore, I am resurrecting this neglected blog page to start documenting my journey to Ultra.
     I have been thinking for years of attempting a race distance exceeding the marathon distance (26.2 miles).  Once I had learned of Train Like a Mother Club offering Ultra training plans this year, I decided the time was right.  And they sweetened the deal by having the very accomplished Ultra runner herself, Stephanie Howe Violett as the coach of the program. Stephanie brings her personal expertise as well as an extensive educational background in Exercise Physiology and a PhD in Nutrition to the Train Like a Mother Club. She has designed a 24 week training plan for the 50K (31mile) distance which includes running workouts, strength training, tons of training advice and nutritional guidance.  The majority of my runs will be run on the Appalachian Trail which I am lucky enough to have so close to my home here in Boiling Springs, PA.
     I hope you can follow along with my miles and smiles in the next 6 months on the move to Ultra.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My Boston Marathon Experience

     When people have been asking me how Boston Marathon was for me, the best answer I have is that it was a great experience.  Because this marathon is more than just a race. It is a full experience and so different from any other race that I have ever been a part of.
     From the moment I arrived in Boston on Friday, I knew this was going to be special.  The entire city embraces and supports this event.  Everywhere you look there are signs of the marathon.
     So, buckle in:  I am going to just give the highlights,  and a bunch of photos. I'll start with the expo on Saturday.  First thing I did was pick up my race number, and it was honestly a emotional experience for me. I didn't think I would ever achieve this goal of running Boston, and holding my race number was the thing that made it real to me.  This was really happening.
     It was really fun sharing the expo with the other Hyland's Find Your Finish Line  Mother Runners Donna, Meghan and Another Mother Runner's Sarah.
I also had the privilege of meeting Boston Marathon's race director Dave McGillivray. He was very gracious, taking the time to speak with all of the Hyland's runners. I also met Katherine Switzer, who was so engaged with all the runners who stood in line to meet her, and she signed my race bib!

     After the expo, I met up with some of Team Nuun on Newbury St.  A shake out run was planned, but  I elected to stay just  for the meet and greet, and we were treated to a special edition water bottle and Active Nuun tablets.  It was nice to see my fellow Team Nuun members, some of whom are also Oiselle Volee runners. As usual, it was a fun, lively group, led by the CEO of Nuun, Kevin Rutherford, who I met for the first time. 
     Next was the Red Sox vs the Toronto Blue Jays game at Fenway Park.  Hylands was so generous to provide tickets for us to attend the game.  This was so much fun, and I got to know my Hylands Team mates even better while enjoying the game. 

     After the game, I met up with some of my Mother Runner Ragnar 2013 buddies for dinner. I am sad to say that we did not get a photo, but I did enjoy the evening with Karyn, Aimee,  Aimee's husband Matt and her son Flint. It was so nice catching up with them, and introducing my new Mother Runner friends Donna and Meghan to them.  We, of course, starting talking about the race, our qualifying races, and what are plans for the race on Monday were. Cue the nerves.
     Meghan, Donna and I were able to get a photo at the finish line area on our walk back after dinner.

     Sunday I woke up fairly early and got a short 2 mile shakeout run in. It was incredible to see so many runners doing the exact same thing! Hylands provided our accommodations, and we were ideally situated in the Copley Square area, very close to the finish line area.  I started my run in the Public Garden, and then completed the run on Boylston, right across the finish line.  I started to visual what it would feel like to make that turn onto Boylston, and to hear the cheering crowds. Already a goosebumps moment. 
     Next we were treated to a lovely brunch at the home of Margot Murphy Moore. Margot is the President and Chief Strategy Officer of Hylands, and represents the third generation of her family in Hylands. She is also a force to be reckoned with.  Her energy and enthusiasm is incredible.  She was so welcoming and gracious to all of us throughout the entire weekend. I cannot thank her enough.  She leads by example, and all of her team made us feel like rockstars. 
     After brunch, I returned to the expo to attend a Runners World Seminar highlighting Amby Burfoot's new book First Ladies of Running, with some of the women runners profiled in the book present and speaking for a few minutes each. It was very interesting and engaging. 
     Dinner Sunday night was along the marathon course, right around the half way point in Wellesley with more members of the Another Mother "tribe".  We had a lovely dinner at Alta Strada. We partook in an abundance of carbs, and nerves started kicking in as we discussed the race.  Sarah from AMR and I were the only ones present at the dinner that were actually running the race the next day, and we shared with each other that we were starting to feel that pre race "dread" that happens in the hours before a key race.  Months and months of preparation and anticipation, and then you start feeling panicked, wondering why you chose to do this in the first place.  Not unusual, but a bit disheartening. Special thanks to Adrienne for driving us to Wellesley and getting that great parking spot! 
     The next thing I knew, it was Marathon Monday. I had an  early wakeup to catch a special bus provided by Hylands at 6am that would take us to the starting line in Hopkinton.   I tried to relax as much as possible, and get myself ready for the race, which for me did not start until 11:15. The weather was warmer than I was hoping for (70 degrees), with not a cloud in the sky.  Not ideal racing conditions, but I vowed to stick to my hydration plan of stopping at every water stop and keep my pace even and controlled.  
     As Sarah and I were starting in the same wave and corral of the race, we walked over to the start after dutifully performing our Dynamic Flexibility stretches as prescribed by our coach Briana. Walking to the start was a good warm up walk, and my emotions really started kicking in.  As they started to countdown to the start, the tears finally came.  It was such an incredible feeling, standing there, knowing that I was going to run this historic course.  It was such a different feeling than I had ever experienced before.  I took a deep breath, wiped the tears, and reminded myself to enjoy the experience and take it all in.  
    As far as my goals for the race in regards to finish time and pacing, due to the weather, I was hoping that I would finish right around 4 hours.  By mile 4 or 5, I knew that I was going to have to keep my pace in check. My face was already caked with a layer of salt from sweating, and the effort of my running was already feeling too hard.  I was trying to keep the pace right around 9 minutes per mile, even with all the downhill sections. I felt like I could manage this pace, as long as I stopped and hydrated at every mile, and took my Gu energy gels according to my preplanned schedule. I was not planning on taking the provided Gatorade at the water stops, but because of the conditions, I decided to try that, taking it in at every other mile starting at mile 4.  
     I had heard that the crowds along the course were going to be like no other, and that certainly was true, beyond my expectations.  I can't remember any part of the course that there weren't people along each side of the course, with encouraging and humorous signs, and so much cheering. So loud at times, especially, of course at the Wellesley Scream Tunnel.  The weather was ideal for spectators, and at times it was almost overwhelming.  I tried to look around as much as possible, and I heard many chants of "Go Oiselle!" which was great. 
  It was also at the halfway point that I was able to see the Oiselle Cowbell corner, and two of my friends Ashley and Courtney.  Ashley caught some photos of me, and I gave them both sweaty hugs.  I was so happy to see them; it gave me such a boost. I was feeling tired already, and for a moment I wished I could just stay there and cheer on the other runners! 

     Once I passed the half way point, I was having cramps in my stomach, and some nausea.  This is the first time I have experienced this in a race.   Because I had not used Gatorade in my training runs, I became concerned that maybe the sugar in it was upsetting my stomach. I decided then to stop drinking it, and just going with water and my Gu gels.  I began taking the time to walk through the water stops and swishing and spitting out the Gatorade and then drinking two cups of water each time. This seemed to help, and the cramping lessened as I went forward.  
     As I entered Newton, and the famous Newton hills, the race became pretty tough.  I knew my pace was dropping off and I did something I had never done in a race before. I pulled out my phone and texted my husband to let him know that I was okay, that the heat was getting to me, but I was fine.  I knew he was tracking me at home and I didn't want him to become concerned.  Plus, my phone battery was getting low ( I had resorted to turning on some music a few miles in) and I wanted to make sure he heard from me at some point before the battery died.  As I ran through the rolling hills miles 16-19.5, I had difficulty maintaining even a 10 minute pace.  I just kept telling myself to keep moving forward. Quitting was never an option. I was hot and tired and my energy was pretty low, but there was no reason to stop.  I tried to stay positive, thinking about getting to the water stop, the next timing mat and running as well as I could on the downhills.
     Heartbreak hill was not quite as I expected. .  I was expecting a steeper hill, and wasn't entirely sure when I had gone over it.  It was a long hill, but it would not have been particularly difficult in normal circumstances.  I only knew that I had gone over it when I saw a sign from a spectator that said something like "The Heartbreak is Over". I was relieved that I didn't have to worry about it anymore, and that the significant hills were behind me.  
     Miles 21-25 were uneventful, I just kept moving forward, looking forward to reaching the finish. It became my new goal to finish in 4:15. I don't know why I picked that number, it just seemed like something I could aim for and it kept me going at a pretty steady pace.  My music turned off at mile 22 as the battery had finally died.  

     Once I reached mile 25, I was so relieved.  I knew I could make it to the end, and I mustered every bit of energy I had to enjoy the last mile.I saw the Citgo sign and then  I saw the sign that said "One Mile to Go" and I heard the crowds shouting "You've got this" "You're almost there"and they kept me going.  I saw ahead that the runners were turning to the right, and I knew this was Hereford Street. I had remembered "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston, and I kept reciting that in my head. 
     It was incredible turning that corner on Boylston, hearing the crowds and seeing the finish line in the distance.  The day before, a triple blue line had been painted on Boylston, leading to the finish line.  I just kept following the blue lines, trying to finish strong. 
     Once I reached the bleachers on each side, I raised my hands and just gave it my all to the finish. I said aloud "I just ran the Boston Marathon!" with a big smile on my face.
     A friend had described her race later as "amazing and awful all at the same time" and I would wholeheartedly agree.  There were some dark moments, but overall it was the experience of a lifetime.  The Boston Marathon is like no other, and it completely lives up to the hype.  
Finish Time: 4:15

     Time for thank you's: First of all, to my husband Chris who is my biggest support in all things. Thank you for always believing that I would get to Boston and handling things at home so that I could be worry free while I was away.  You were in my thoughts through every mile and I knew that no matter what, I would make you proud.
  Thank you to my kids for putting up with their tired, marathon training mother for months (years?) to get to this starting line.  And thanks for understanding when I had to be away during so many big things happening at home this weekend, including my oldest son's first time shaving,(How long was I gone??!!) my middle's son's ballet performance, and my daughter's Healthy Kids race on Sunday.  I know you guys understand how importance this race was to me, and knowing that you were cheering me on from PA kept me going all the way to the finish.
     Thank you to Briana, ,my coach for my qualifying race last year, and for the Boston Marathon. You made me a stronger, more confident runner and I will always carry that with me.  Thank you for always believing in me, and helping me to believe in myself.  I share this Boston finish with you.

     Big thanks to Sarah at Another Mother Runner for reaching out to me when this opportunity to run Boston Marathon came about unexpectedly.  Your support and encouragement carried me through the last few months.  Sharing that starting line with you was very special for me.

  Thank you to all the people of Hyland's that supported me along the way to Find my Finish Line  This was an incredible opportunity and I am truly  honored to be a part of it.  Thank you for bringing our team together, and treating us all like royalty.  

   Thank you to Oiselle for their continued support, and for keeping me in #Flystyle.  The community of women Volee continues to grow and I felt the love on the race course and beyond.
    Thanks to Team Nuun for continuing to keep me hydrated on and off the course. What a nice surprise to have Nuun offered to me at mile 17! I think my exact words at the moment I saw you was "Thank you Lord!" Let's hope that more race courses will feature natural hydration in the future. 
     Finally, thank you to all the family and friends that cheered me on before, during and after the race.  I loved reading every text, FB message, tweet and email.  This truly did help me carry on when the going got tough.  
     I hope that you will continue to follow me along as I find many more finish lines! 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Boston Baby!!

 I have some wonderful news to share.  I thought that my Boston Marathon dream was not meant to be for 2016, despite a Boston Qualifying Time at the New Jersey Marathon.  I had started to train for another Spring marathon, with the hope of running Boston Marathon 2017.
  A very unexpected opportunity then presented itself, and I jumped at it.  Ready for it???

  Hyland's Leg Cramps is sponsoring me to run Boston Marathon this year!!! I will be participating in Hyland's "Find Your Finish Line" Challenge.  Check out this website for more information, and to follow all the runners along their journey to the Boston Marathon.
     So, you may be wondering, how did this happen?  Another Mother Runner reached out to mother runners, like myself, as candidates to benefit from this wonderful opportunity. AMR has a partnership with Hyland's, who are the Official Cramp Relief sponsor of the Boston Marathon.  I am happy to report that I, along with 2 other mother runners, and 7 other runners will be participating in this unique challenge.
  This is a dream come true for me, and I hope you will follow along.  Less than  a month to go!!

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!!