Monday, October 17, 2016

Hershey Half Marathon take 2

WARNING:  This isn’t going to be your typical race recap- it may also be a little lengthy. Bare with me. 

A little over a week before Hershey Half Marathon was set to take place, my phone vibrated and when I checked the message it was one from a friend asking if I’d like dibs on a free bib to run. HECK YEA!!! I hadn’t planned on running any more long distance races this year since I had just completed my first 50k merely a week before. The being said, as a stubborn runner who doesn’t like to miss out on an awesome opportunity, I could not turn this down.  I responded very quickly that I would love to.

I was not sure how my performance would be at all but I knew I could not miss out.  I have mentioned to a couple runner friends how much I wanted to go back and do this race, but figured I would have to wait to see if it would be in the cards for 2017. Last year I decided against running it because I had a marathon the following week.  This year, the 50k two weeks prior and I had no idea how my body would feel recovery wise.

Why did I want to do this race again so badly? Hershey holds a special place in my heart and always will. This is where I ran my first ever half marathon (you can read about it here). It is also, coincidentally, my PR half marathon.

Yesterday all I could think of was how different so many things were for me since I ran this same race just 3 years ago.

First and foremost, I arrived by myself at 6:15 am this year instead of probably a little later with my husband and training friend in 2013. I did not stay alone for long though!! I knew a few groups were meeting up at different times prior and quickly checked dear old Facebook to see if anyone else was there yet. Low and behold, Brad was parked close by so I hopped out of my car and walked to meet him. We chatted for a while and caught up since it has been a good few months since doing so. We talked about race calendars and our plans for the race. 

At 6:40 am, we traveled up to another meeting spot for our local running crew, RIVER RUNNERS for our group picture.  We chatted for a bit, used the bathrooms, then headed back to the cars to finish getting ready.

(from the RR facebook page)

Part of getting ready was heading back to my friend's car to partake in some adult beverages. This group was fun because I didn’t really know most of the people very well and two of the ladies were running their first half. It was funny to hear how nervous  and squirmy they were, mostly because I remembered the feelings all too well!! 3 years ago I would have never dreamed of drinking anything other than water before a race but there’s apparently a first for everything!!

(thanks for the photo, Brad!)

After partaking, we all broke up and headed our separate ways to the start line. This was another awesome difference from 3 years ago. I have a running family now that I could have never dreamt of 3 years ago. While I trained with and ran about half of the race with a friend 3 years ago, it is so different when you know a ton of the people running.  I started out with 2 other friends who were  in the same boat as I was- recovering from races and unsure what the race might hold for our bodies.

(Names have been changed to protect the identity of the runners. Just kdding- we were all running on swapped bibs)

I also ran into an friend from an old job and got to catch up with her before the race started- SO SO GOOD to see her. 

(Ignore the weirdos in the background..ahemm)

We got started and just chatted away. The miles flew by. SERIOUSLY FLEW. About 3-4 miles in, we heard a familiar voice (and laugh) of another good friend coming behind us. We continued to chit chat all the way through Hershey. We checked on each other to see how we were feeling, made sure we all kind of stuck together, and had a good old time.  We all conquered each and every hill together and stuck together mostly until somewhere close to mile 12.  I am still pretty impressed that we took very few very quick walk breaks and kept on pressing on. 

(thanks for the photo, Holly!! A fellow solemate- we laughed because later in the race someone cheered for us by saying "GO PURPLE PEOPLE EATERS!! Much needed humor. )

One thing that was just as amazing the first time around was the support from the awesome kids at Milton Hershey School. For anyone reading that doesn't know, this school is generally for underprivileged and impoverished kids from all over the country. It is an amazing opportunity for these kids and they live and go to school on the campus in Hershey, PA. the race takes you through quite a few areas of the campus and kids of all ages are out there cheering you on with signs and high fives galore. I dare you to run through and not tear up a little. I can't. They tell the runners how inspiring we are and we tell them thanks for being there and how much the mean to us. FEEL THE LOVE?!

(from MHS facebook page- I wasn't trying to take a picture at this point!)

(arm candy including a bracelet handed out by the MHS kids)

Crossing the finish line felt just as victorious this time around. Although it wasn't my first half marathon any longer, this finish line represented how far I have come in the last 3 years. Countless 5ks, 10ks, 10-milers, half marathons, two full marathons and one 50k later I know I can do so much more than the runner I as 3 years ago. 3 years ago I though maybe, some day I would do a full marathon. I wasn't entirely sure when or how I would make it happen. 

(official, not so official race photo with Kelly!)

I have changed as a person and as a runner since 2013 in SO MANY WAYS. So many good ways. Ways I am proud of. Running has truly evolved my life and given me this incredibly wonderful running group that I consider family. It has really helped me push my limits, give me confidence and connected me to so many amazing people in the process. 

(from Chocolate Town Challenges facebook page)

We celebrated afterwards at Troeg's brewery since it was a quick drive from where we were.. of course we needed another group photo. Sadly, there were a few other's there beforehand that we missed.

I was so nervous back in 2013 as I lined up at the start line but little did i know that it was just the beginning of an amazing adventure and how much running would continue to change my life race after race and year after year.  It was so fun to reminisce at yesterday's race as I took in all the miles for the second time. I hope I will be back many more times in the future!

Have you ever run a race more than once and stopped to think.. really think about how you are different than the first time you ran it?? I am not just talking about paces, but rather how YOU are different as a person?

How has running shaped or changed your life? 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Blue Cruise 50k 2016- My first ulra

Let me just start this post by saying... HOLY CRAP I AM AN ULTRA RUNNER!!!!!

Now let's get down to business.

The Blues Cruise 50k started at 8:30am with packet pick up starting at 7:30am. Needless to say, we were up extra early and arrived plenty early. We grabbed our awesome swag and headed back to the car to get everything ready. And of course snapped some ridiculous pictures to capture the moments prior to my first 50k ever. So thankful that I had my awesome tasc Performance gear on. It held up well and was so comfortable the entire race. 

This photo was taken by one of the photographers really early on in the race- probably around mile 2-3. We were trying to really pace ourselves coming down the gravel hill- it was way too easy to want to FLY!

Blues Cruise is known for its pretty epic aid stations. Even the first one was entertaining as we were greeted by this lovely smoking nun. I didn't really take anything from the first station other than some water. 

Beautiful views were abounding in this race. It is one big loop around Blue Marsh Lake and there are plenty of chances to view the water. 

This is the name and entrance of the second aid station.. Say it slowly and you'll see why it's so funny. The aid station was around mile 8 and is where I took my first drink of soda and I think pickle juice. I never tasted anything so good!

The pictures won't do most of the scenery justice, but I will share them anyway. You will thank me. I felt an amazing sense of peace and relaxation while running this race just because I was so disconnected from the "real" world. I left my phone in the car and was SO thankful I did. I wanted to allow people to live track me, but I did not want to see messages or notifications. I took a chance and just went free. It was so amazing. It also helped that I had an awesome friend, Bekah, who ran most of the race with me and showed me the ropes

Super blurry, but that's what happens when you try to take pictures when you take pictures while running.. slowly.. but running. 

...same goes for selfies. 

This path was more of a road, but it was so covered by leaves and everything else, it was still just as peaceful and wonderful as everything else. 

At our 1/3 of the way point!! I thought it would be overwhelming to think that we still had 21 miles to go, but I really did not feel that way. We were just on an adventure!

Some more aid station pictures here. Everyone at this one was dressed up and they had some good stuff going on. They had french toast which people raved about. I think I just ate oranges and really salty chips and drank some soda and pickle juice again. 

Halfway point- Still a lot of miles to go but smiling and ready to tackle ALL OF THE MILES. 

Another awesome aid station.. and they even knew it!! Pink flamingos and an amazing array of food.  

I had this delicious burger as a last minute decision because I didn't even know they were an option until I had already downed some soda and who knows what else. 

We found a pretty impressive FUNGI in the forest. Loved the color. 

Another picture that really doesn't do the scenery any justice at all. You could see the fog over the mountains and it was just breathtaking. Which was ironic because we had just come up a decent incline and were out of breath

THE ABSOLUTE BEST AID STATION EVER was at mile 21 (ish). It was the best for quite a few reasons. They are as follows:
2. We had to climb a ginormous mountain/hill/death incline to get there..NO SERIOUSLY. We did.
3. They took my pack off and filled it while I stuffed my face full of delicious calories. 
4. BEER. We were so sweaty and at 2/3 of the way through, we definitely deserved to celebrate.
5. We got to run on flat ground for a while after this aid station which was also reason to celebrate.

But seriously, the volunteers at all the aid stations were great, but these people were just fantastic. I got a hug that lifted me off the ground and cheers for my first 50k and all of this gave me renewed energy to get it done. 

More water.. my happy place. 

Our last selfie together until the end of the race!! And coincidentally my last picture during the race too. I am not sure why. Maybe I was just absorbed in everything that was this race and looking forward to the finish. 

Thankfully, there were photographers in there somewhere as we came down a pretty steep hill. It was really awesome that they had people out there to catch some shots of us on the course. 

I can't really recall all the thoughts I had while running in this race.. except those silent (and those not so silent) curses as we approached climb after climb when I wasn't so sure I could power my legs through another one. There were many moments were my legs felt so burned out, but I never once thought "I can't do this" or "What am I doing here?" Maybe I am an extra kind of sick or crazy. However you want to spin it, that's totally fine with me because I had an absolute blast. 

Right before the end of the race, you climb this gravel hill that you think you will never make it to the top of and then when you do, a nice man tells you that you are almost done. They tell you that you have about a quarter mile to go and you get really excited. You get even more excited when you realize you have someone to make that last little journey with. This guy I crossed the finish line with was that someone. I have no idea his name is (although I keep meaning to look him up in the results.. maybe I will) and only know that his IT band was burning (he told me). This is why the running community is so cool. We support each other no matter what and stupid little things mean a lot. All this is to say that we shared some conversation that last leg of the race and we crossed the finish line together. We crossed the finish line and he turned and gave me a high five. The coolest. I proceeded to tear up (okay, maybe some sobbing occurred.. and maybe Bekah laughed at me too) of course and get my finishers jacket. 

All changed (not clean, just clean clothes) and some food in our bellies, we thought it would be fun to get one last picture with our new jackets before we hit the road. 

All the swag- long sleeved shirt and visor for participating, jacket for finishing!!! Not too shabby. 

Maybe you are all wondering whether I will be running any more 50ks? 
The answer is..ABSOLUTELY!!  I enjoyed this so much and will definitely be looking forward to my next one. No, I did not come home and sign up for another one, but it will be happening. 

Would  you ever consider a 50k? Are trails your friends or enemies?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

All the feelings..

After Sunday's last long run for this portion of my training season, I was feeling all kinds of things.
Excitement, terror, happiness, more excitement, thankfulness, overwhelming sadness, more thankfulness, and anxiety.  

In case you don't know (because I have been so bloggin' MIA lately), I am gearing up for my first 50k trail race this weekend.

There have been ups and downs along the way including the crazy hot summer and the return of my leg/hip pain from last summer about 2 months ago. I did take time off, but I am still not 100%. The stubborn part of me doesn't really care and I will KT tape and be on my merry way.

So why all of these feelings?? I have this thing.. called pride. I think it's my dad's fault that I cry when I am proud because quite honestly, he has held back tears (not so successfully) at almost every activity in my life. When he saw me play in marching band, he would cry. When I sang at church, he would tear up. And now, as an adult into running, he tears up when I cross the finish line. My dad, although never one to express pride or much emotion verbally, sure does show it on the outside and I know he is proud of me. I am telling you this not to throw him under the bus, but to explain that I am the same way.

When I think about crossing that finish line Sunday I get teary-eyed. A lot of hard work goes into preparing for long distance races, and even more hard work is required to actually GET you to the finish line. It's not for everyone and a lot of us get called crazy for our love for long (or ultra long) distance, but runners get it. We work hard, play harder!

I think overall, I am mostly excited. I am excited to step up to that starting line and set out to accomplish the BIGGEST goal I have set for myself yet. You guys. I started this year telling myself I was going to run a 50k trail race and in just a few days I get to make that a reality. This is insane.

I am going to soak up every mile. I am going to breathe in all of that fresh air. I am going to hopefully eat some good treats along the way. Maybe make a new friend or two. I know I will see lots of beauty in nature and snap some pictures along the way.

Most of all, I am going to do myself a solid and make it to that finish line while having the most fun I possibly can. It will not be a fast "race." But it is sure to be a lesson in life and all that I am capable of.

Until then, wish my teary-eyed self luck and I will see you all on the other side!!!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Lessons in taking care of myself part 1

If you follow me on instagram, you might have noticed I am all yoga and little running lately. Don't worry!! I did not quit running.

So what's the deal?

I had some pain return in my left leg that I had not had since I trained last fall for Marine Corps Marathon. It only started to bother me when I was hitting higher mileage (18 or so for long runs) and started around a similar time this training cycle as well. Given that I have hopes to run a sub two hour half marathon in a few weeks, I decided that taking time off was probably my best (and only) bet.

Almost two weeks ago, I recommitted myself to Yoga Camp and figured that I would continue to work through that and reintegrate  strength training (that has gone by the wayside in these high mileage weeks) in case it was a muscle weakness issue. I do feel like that has made some improvements but still kind of felt like my left leg had to be dragged along and there was just some kind of "hang up" keeping me from moving it normally.

Last fall training cycle, I had talked about going to see a PT and even a chiropractor in attempt to get some relief. I went for a massage instead. It felt amazing, but really didn't touch my issues much.I was disappointed, but muddled through the rest of training with endless KT tape and occasional ibuprofen as well as decreasing the number of days I ran each week. I did go to a doctor after the marathon, but with no clear or helpful insights other than take it easy. 

Last Wednesday morning I finally decided to take some action. I set up a chiropractic appointment for Thursday morning figuring, "what's the worst that can happen?" 
I will admit I was a little nervous about what I had gotten myself into, but knew it was probably a step in the right direction.

I knew I was 100% correct when I walked in and saw this chalkboard welcoming all the new patients for the day. I was greeted with smiles and helpfulness.

I didn't wait all that long to be taken back for my assessment either which was awesome. The woman who spoke with me was professional but friendly at the same time. The basic consensus was that my left hip is higher than my right, my right shoulder was higher than the left and I carry about 7 lbs more bodyweight on my right side. Basically, a little bit out of whack.

When I met with the doctor, he seemed very confident that he could get me reset and back in action. Because of the position of my left hip/side, it was pinching or pushing on my sciatic nerve, causing many of those not so wonderful feelings in my leg! That explains SO much. I was actually relieved to be told that there was a likely solution. 

Over the weekend, I did manage to get 1 treadmill mile on Saturday and 6 outside miles on Sunday. I am currently sitting with a really tight and uncomfortable feeling in the back of my leg and hoping that my appointment this evening will help that. I really miss my running family and the opportunity of getting out of the house in the evenings. I love yoga and other activities, but because I do them at home, they don't give me the same things that running does! 

Has anyone else ever had a similar problem? What finally fixed it for you?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

That time I ran a mile...

Ok, I know what you’re thinking.. “Who cares? You run long all the time and a mile is no big deal.”

And I guess to an extent, you’d be right. Except when it is. When you run all out and give it your all. When you think yours legs are going to fall off, your lungs are on fire, and you can’t stop coughing when you are done.

Last night was the 35th annual Harrisburg Mile and my first time participating. Last year I watched and was blown away by the incredible speed of elite and every day runners alike. Absolutely incredible.  I decided to do it this year for two reasons. The first was to challenge myself since I have never really “raced” a mile. I mean, I know we all had to do the dreaded mile in school and I always suffered so hard through that since I couldn’t run to save my life. The second reason, of course, involves swag. I think I have mentioned before that our local Fleet Feet Store threw out a challenge to do so many of 7 local races- this was one of them. I figured what the heck, why not?

So all day yesterday I was nervous and antsy.. yep all for a silly mile.

I would say I didn’t have a time goal and that I just wanted to see what I could do, but that would be a lie. I really wanted to shoot for 7:30 or close to it. I knew that I should be able to do it, especially knowing that I had just that one mile to complete. 

One of my dear running buddies came by and we drove downtown together. We got a spot about at the halfway point which was nice so we didn’t have to walk as far to get to/from the race. We walked over to the course and quickly were greeted by the massive amount of people there to race with us. The website said 1800 were registered and there were likely more than that with day of registration!!

Before we lined up there was some selfie action- obviously, because who can race without taking one first?!?!

I knew when I looked at my watch at 1/4mile, and it said 6:50 pace, that I was probably going to be in trouble.

And that ended up being correct...

Whatever though. I still had an official time of 7:38 which I could not complain about at all. I coughed up my lungs, watched the remaining age groups and the elites..  and then we went and got our beer!!

It really wasn't the best beer I have ever had, not even close. But... I shared it with friends and was able to catch up with some people while we were enjoying them. That is what really matters...

Oh and this...

This view is literally what dreams are made of. How can you not be completely in love with this view? I know there are other views out there than have their beauty too.. but this is mine. I love that I can enjoy this and it is mere minutes from my house. 

Have you ever raced a mile? What was your experience like? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A 10k and a 15k crossed the road...

Holy cow, my friends!! Can you believe July is over halfway finished already?

It has been a busy summer already and considering I have another race coming up tonight, I thought maybe I should write about the last two.

The first was all the way back on July 2 and it was a FREE 10k. This is the third or fourth time I have done this race and I always enjoy it. I completely appreciate that it is free and especially enjoy it because it is in my hometown. I spend the night prior at my parents and this year that meant extra time with my sister and her crew.  My mom has also walked the 5k option the past few years as well so she waits for me at the finish line. I love being able to share an event with my mom who also enjoys being active and does all kinds of amazing things to do so!! 

part of the River Runners crew pre- race

large, more complete group post-race

This year was a little different though since I actually placed in my age group for the first time ever at this race!!!!! To be honest, I haven’t won many age group awards in my time so this felt REALLY great. I might have even wore my medal into the grocery store afterwards.

If only they spelled my name right ;)

A little less than 10k, but super stoked about the pace!

My next race was a complete 180. The following weekend, I embarked on a little adventure with one of my running pals. This was a race that my pal had put a bug in my ear about not all that long ago and then reminded me the day that shirt guarantee ended.  It was a trail race and a 15k at that, so you know I was a sucker and signed up!  As soon as we pulled in, I was so glad I did.

What's not to love about this view?? I mean... come on!!

The race was about an hour and a half away so we chit-chatted it up (shocking, I know). We arrived with plenty of time to get our shirts and bibs, use the bathrooms, and hang out for a bit before the race started. 

Oh... and take selfies!!

I am not going to lie, this was a tough course. To be fair to myself, I honestly think that I had not given blood Friday and tried to run this race Sunday, I would have been much more successful. I didn't think it would effect me that much, but apparently it did. This course was much rockier than any I have ever done to date, but I do not regret doing it for a minute. In fact, I think we both decided pretty quickly that we would absolutely do it again and try to convince some others to come along next time. We both enjoyed the challenge and the scenery cannot be beat.

Plus... they fed us delicious food afterwards and gave out pint glasses instead of medals to all finishers. By delicious food I mean hot dogs and bagels which tasted like a 5 star dinner after the race we just ran. 

I absolutely love this race shirt, too. I tested it out the other day and it is so comfortable. I see myself getting a lot of good wearings out of it. 

So even though July is over half way over, you can see I have been enjoying the racing life.. maybe a little too much but what a better way to spend summer, right?!?

What races have you been up to? Do you prefer trail to road in the summer?