Run for Rowan 5k

When I first started running in 2011 I looked for races that would entice me to run because, to be honest, running was not enticement enough. Shirts, medals, runner camaraderie? That’s what I was looking for. That’s what I needed.

Meeting up with friends, traveling, eating, and a side of running. It was more about the first three and the running just gave me the excuse. Mud runs, Disney races in both California and Florida, Color Runs, I was drawn to them all. The further from New Jersey, the better!

I came to enjoy running somewhere along the way and within the past year and a half, I’ve settled into doing races that are more “local” to me. If I can drive or take a train to the start the morning of the race, I don’t deviate too much from my daily routine with my family. Certainly, I still love to travel and race but there’s a comfort that comes along with running on familiar turf.

Pretty sure that 20 years ago Jay piggybacked me across this very spot when my heels got to be too much after a date party.

Which is why when I heard about Rowan University’s 5k (and the early bird rate of $20 per person) I registered myself and my husband, Jay!

When we graduated from school we planted roots not too far from the campus so it was not only convenient but also familiar. We’ve done training runs though the campus and it’s less than 10 minutes from home.

It was gray and rainy on Saturday morning for this 5k and I knew that I would be running the AC April Fools half the following day so I figured Jay and I could run together at his pace. He hasn’t been feeling well nearly the entire month of April so he hasn’t been training much (read: at all) but he was ready to do his best.

We caught up with old friends and then lined up to run. I’d wager a guess there were around 200 participants. It had a later start than most races I do; it began at 10am.

The route for the 5k was through the campus, to the perimeter of the campus, and then back through the campus. Since it’s hosted by the Rowan Alumni Association, they did a good job of highlighting all the newer buildings on the campus. There’s been a lot of changes since I graduated nearly 20 years ago!

It was all sidewalk running so it was a little tight for the first mile as people tried to figure out their pacing and where they landed within the pack of runners.

Although the day was gray and dreary, overall the campus was a lot prettier than I remembered. It seems like there’s been a lot of attention paid to beautification projects and updating sitting areas and gardens. Every time I visit, there is something new!

The engineering building was brand new 20 years ago. Now it’s expanded to a second building with a walkway connecting the two.

This walkway as not quite as extensive when we were students.

We even got to run past the building we met at as Resident Assistants (so romantic!).

At that point we were about a 10th of a mile from the finish so we didn’t get too wrapped up in nostalgia, we just pushed to the finish line. We finished in 37:36, which was what we expected.

Look, it’s the Rowan Prof!

Thanks to Rowan University for hosting its running alumnus. No matter how many changes have been made, returning to campus is like going home.

I’ve decided that I should focus more on the 5k distance. My body and mind are so conditioned to running longer races that when I run shorter distances; I don’t know exactly how to tap into the speed. I think it comes down to training and speed work.

Of course, that’s not exactly what I was trying to do for this race but looking ahead, I would like to sign up for more 5ks and finally break my 2012 PR. It’s time.

Speaking of PRs, I achieved a significant PR the follow day at the AC April Fools half marathon! Recap of that race is coming up on Friday. Woohoo!

Any advice on how I can work on my 5k speed?

Cam Runs With Child

Two weeks ago, I ran SoCal Ragnar like I’ve never ran before…12 weeks pregnant. This pregnancy was the biggest surprise. It’s been almost a decade since my last pregnancy. After ten years of birth control, I found myself with a positive pregnancy test and half a dozen race bibs I’d already paid for, including two Ragnars and all three of the Disney Tinkerbell races.  I had not planned on being pregnant for any of them.

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Now, we all know how diligent I am about training (please note sarcasm).  However, I really needed to be prepared for this race.  I’m over 36 which makes me a “high risk” pregnancy.  Also, I’m overweight and was actually in the middle of a transform session when I found out I was pregnant. I also knew I wasn’t going to be able to run much.  I hadn’t really been running prior to the pregnancy but I had been strength training so I was pretty confident I could walk my little heart out.  So yeah, I walked an entire Ragnar.  It was surprisingly difficult to walk while everyone around me was running.  I did end up running a tiny bit when I just couldn’t take it anymore, but overall, I felt pretty proud of my 16 minute pace!

 

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Van 1 at the Start right after I headed out!

I’ve ran SoCal Ragnar many times, but not since they changed the course.  The course used to come inland through Temecula Wine Country, which made for a very warm race at the end of April.  The race now stays close to the coast, starting in Huntington Beach and ending on the Silver Strand in Coronado, starting on sand and ending in sand.  The course has a virtual exchange at Exchange 12 because of Camp Pendleton.  Van 2 ran into Dana Point and Van 1 ran out of Oceanside during this exchange.  Usually the hand-off between vans is a big exchange with a lot of celebration.  The virtual exchange kind of squashes that but luckily we had five more hand-offs to celebrate.

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Van 2 at the first major exchange.

For the first time ever, I got to start the race early Friday morning!  I was really nervous to race while pregnant, mostly because I hadn’t been training as well as I should. I ran for a little while along the boardwalk of Huntington Beach, then slowed to a fast walk and finished my 2.3 miles.  After this first leg, I felt confident I could finish the race.

My second leg ran along the San Luis Rey River Trail around sunset.  The trail was easy and flat but the bugs were out in full force.  I don’t know if they were attracted to my headlamp light or what, but by the end of my four miles, I was wiping them off my glasses.  During this leg, I got to run with the famous Ernie, the 93 year old Ragnarian who just ran Del Sol in March and finished his 6th Ragnar at SoCal.  Talk about inspiration! You can read more about Ernie on the Ragnar Blog.

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I finished up with 3 miles through a beach town in Encinitas that I didn’t even know existed, and I’ve lived in Southern California all my life.  Once again, Ragnar, you remind me while I love you so much.  It’s always to best way to see this country: from the pavement.  My legs were super sore, and not in ways that I was familiar with.  Walking this much and at this quick pace pulled at muscles and tendons I don’t normally strain.  This part of the course was on a main street that was covered in restaurants, shops, and bars that I wanted to explore, especially the donut shop!  I finished up my leg with a little jog and sighed with relief.  I had finished and thanked my body for putting up with my decision to spend 36 hours in a van, walk swiftly for 9 miles after sleeping less than 2 hours on zero caffeine, all while making a human.

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Baby’s First Ragnar

Sorry body, but we’re going to do it again, in Pennsylvania this time and at 20 weeks pregnant.  I’ll be walking my little heart out.

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Birthday Race Recap: Philly Hot Chocolate 15k

Hello from your favorite 40 year old April Fool! I decided to kick off my 40th year at the Hot Chocolate 15k in Philadelphia this year with my beautiful friend, Christina. I’m so glad I did because we had a blast!

Age is just a number!

If you’ve been following Scoot a Doot for awhile, you might remember a few years ago when Brandi ran this race. She recapped what sounded an amazing race experience for us as a guest post. I’ve had my eye on the race since then and timing worked out for the 2017 race.

First things first, the communication from RAM Racing Series’ Hot Chocolate race was above and beyond expectations. They provided a race plan at the beginning of the year with weekly emails updates. They’re quick to respond and engaging on Twitter. Post race they followed up immediately with free pictures (my favorite!) and results. All around great communication!

Sweet swag from a sweet race! You kick off the weekend with a zipper hoodie (with thumbholes). Along with my hoodie and bib, I also got a visor for using the BibRave code!

There’s an option to have your race bib and swag mailed to you for a fee ($15) but since my days are fairly flexible, I decided that I would travel into Center City, Philadelphia and visit the expo at the Convention Center. Unfortunately for me, the day I chose to travel, we got 3 inches of rain. Fortunately for me, I have a good pair of rain boots, an umbrella, and a positive attitude!

That said, next time I might just opt for the packet to be mailed. The expo was nothing fancy. I do like that they are very easy-going about changing out the size of the hoodie. RAM Race Series want their runners to be happy and providing options like that proves it!

It was overcast and gray skies for most of the race, lingering from the previous day’s rain. The sun was trying really hard to come through but it was mostly gloomy and on the cold side. I knew once we started moving we’d be comfortable.

The 5k began at 7:15 and the 15k at 8am. Christina had the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run scheduled for Sunday so our plan was to take it very easy, have fun, and not worry about time. We relaxed before lining up in the corrals, chatted with some friends along the way, and then went to find the 13 minute mile pacer, Larry, who I know through the Sub 30 Club.

I told everyone who would listen it was my birthday (because that’s what you’re supposed to do on your birthday) and I prepared myself for 9.3 miles of awesomeness.

As usual, the first couple of miles flew by. Races in Philadelphia usually include a small stint through the city and then out along the river and back again.

You could tell that this was a first time race for many of the participants and I think that’s because the lure of chocolate is very strong, as are the distances. There are very few 15k races and it seems like a logical step if you’ve done a couple of 5k/10k distances but don’t want to do a half marathon.

Also unique to the Hot Chocolate race are the fun things you find along side of the water/Nuun… like chocolate and marshmallows!

Strawberry marshmallows caught me off guard!

I found the placement of the water stations a little confusing and not where I would expect them. There was one that was a little past mile 2.5 which is a perfect placement but when coming back the other direction, it was right near the end of the race. Personally, I would have benefited from one more along the course, whether it be at the turn around (so that they didn’t have to double up on both sides) or somewhere more centrally located between 7-9.

We had a nice run/walk going for the first 7 miles. Not really timed, more like, “Should we run? Yeah, okay, let’s run.” Around mile 3 we lost our pacer. Whoopsies! We had a four cone rule where we would run four cones before switching into “walking with purpose” mode. We talked the entire time. We selfied.

It was more training run, less race-run but that was a-okay with us!

See, we have cherry blossoms too!

We both had the want to run more but we had to reign ourselves in because we knew that wouldn’t bode well for Christina’s race (which she PRed, btw!). So we remained consistent and finished with smiles on our faces!

*Philadelphia

The finish line was actually a little anti-climatic. There were timing mats on the ground and photographers snapping pictures (again, I say YAY for free race pictures). However, there wasn’t a banner or arch that I guess we are both used to at this point. We did get a shout out from the announcer which was a good cue to be our cutest selves.

We took our medal selfie with the Art Museum behind us and then went in search of our chocolate treats!

Cutest medals AND the black disc is a magnet! Fancy!

The rain made all of the grass areas big messes of mud and that’s where the entertainment stage and tents that held our finisher’s mugs were located. We weren’t going to let mud keep us away from our chocolate so we went traipsing through to get our chocolate and treats.

We might have run the entire time with the little Baileys bottle in our fuel belt just for this very moment.

Finding a good spot to sit and enjoy our treats was difficult because the ground was mushy and it was a little difficult to balance everything. Finally we planted ourselves on a patch of pavement and we dug in to our finisher’s mug. The hot chocolate was delicious and perfect on the cooler day. The dipping chocolate was great but we had to eat it quick because it cooled and hardened. The race planned ahead and provided rolls of plastic bags so we were able to bring everything home with us.

I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with the finisher’s mug but from start to finish, the swag for this race was pretty impressive! Hoodie, visor, chocolate on the course, medal, finisher’s mug and treats, and free race photos? Just marry me right now!

Hooray for a fun birthday race! Here’s hoping that I will be celebrating with running for years to come!

Have you ever run for chocolate? Or ice cream? Or wine? (Can you tell what my motivation is?) Next race for me is a 5k at my alma mater and then the AC April Fools Half the following day.

Fort Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon 2017

Going into the Fort Lauderdale A1A half marathon, I had two goals. Have fun and get it done!

I can say, without a doubt, mission accomplished.

But of course, there’s a story that goes along with every race and this one is no exception.

This race was a last minute add in my established race schedule. A couple of weeks ago, we decided to take a last minute trip to Florida in celebration of my 12 year old’s birthday. He had big fishing plans. I had big relaxing on the beach and by the pool plans.

However… my parents live in Pompano Beach and they have been pushing this race since they watched the marathoners run past their house in years past.

Mer's mom was out cheering for the runners doing the #a1amarathon this morning! Way to go runners!

A post shared by scootadoot (@scootadoot) on

And just like that, I was signed up for the A1A half! Now, I haven’t been actively training for the half marathon distance but I knew that I could go into it with the expectation of just enjoying the run and soaking it all in.

My mom was my personal chauffeur for the weekend and she made sure I got to and from both the expo and race without having to think about logistics. Isn’t that half the battle when it comes to planning for race day? I’m so grateful for her!

We visited the expo on Friday afternoon, right as it opened. My expo experience was quick and easy. It had great embellishments like a wrapped Lexus with all of the runner’s names, as well as a wall from Dick’s Sporting Goods that had the names of the runners.

We were asked to write on the wall why we run.

The bib pickup was at the back of the hall and was arranged by last name. A photo ID was required for pick up and there was a bit of a line but it moved along. The t-shirts were at the next table over – separated by men and women cuts.

I’ll be honest, the shirt sizing feels off, which is a nothing new to me. I was going to inquire about switching up a size but there was a sign that said that shirts could only be switched on race day. I didn’t plan on carrying a shirt with me to the race so, oh well. Sticking with it! Along with the shirts we also got a goody bag filled with lots of things from the race sponsors and coupons.

There was a heat advisory for the day of the race. Race organizers did a great job of keeping everyone informed through email and posts to Facebook. I was surprised that they don’t have more of a presence on Twitter, since that’s something I’m used to with big races. Given that it was going to be so warm, I made sure to hydrate the day before the race and planned to stop at every water station.

The race was schedule to begin at 6am, which meant that I set my alarm for 4am. Super mom was able to drop me about a block from the start line (because she’s awesome). I assumed that she would drive home and then come get me later, after the race. Instead she parked her car nearby and stayed for the entire race. (Again, because she’s awesome!)

At local races I’m usually able to walk around and stumble upon people I know but in Florida I was in a sea of unfamiliar faces. I knew a few of the BibRave Pros were going to be at the race so I shone the bat signal into the sky (aka – I sent a message out on social media) and soon Samantha found me! I can’t even tell you how great it was to see a smiling face in the crowd of people.

@nacole99 and @scootadoot selfie time!

After the Star Spangled Banner was performed on saxophone (that was something different from the norm!), it was time to join the self-seeded corral.

I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to be setting any records, so originally I placed myself near the 2:45 half pacer and figured I would see if I could hang with him for awhile (thanks for being so welcoming, Gary!). We started to run, people waiting to start the Susan G. Komen run were cheering along the chute, and I had a smile on my face.

And then, 2/10 of a mile in, this happened…

What the what?! Dumbfounded. I think that’s the right word to describe exactly how I felt as I just watched more and more and more of the train slowly make its way down the tracks. Should I pause my watch? Keep it going? Is this train ever going to end? 

You could feel the tension in the crowd as we watched the train crawl by.

Unimpressed faces, all around.

Thankfully the race organizers decided to bring everyone that was stopped by the train back to the start and we were able to begin the race again. There was an audible collective sigh of relief when they walked through the crowd to reel us back in.

Walking the wrong way across the start line…

As we started again, they played Quad City Dj’s “C’Mon ‘N Ride It (The Train)” and I couldn’t help but laugh. I already had it in my mind that I was just going to have to roll with whatever this race threw at me and this just confirmed it. 13.1 (13.3?) we’re coming for you!

The first couple of miles were along Las Olas Blvd., a cute little shopping district. Since we wound up starting a half hour later than planned the sun was coming up and it was warming considerably.

The first water stop was short on volunteers I wonder if they thought that the runners had all passed through with the first wave of people that made it before the train. The volunteers that were there hustled to make sure that everyone got cups of water. I was very grateful for them!

Just before mile 3, my mom was waiting by a drawbridge and I was so happy to see her along the course! I got a little teary-eyed as I continued along on my way but then reminded myself that I needed to stop so I didn’t dehydrate myself, especially as we turned onto A1A, right along the beach.

The sun was strong and I was looking for some sort of respite. Thankfully, right past mile 4, we turned into Hugh Taylor Birch Street Park and its beautiful canopy of trees. Whew!

2 miles in the shade – YES PLEASE!

We looped through the park and eventually came out around the area we entered.

I was very impressed with throughout the entire race was the flow of things. Even though the runners were on the road, they had some lanes open to cars. There were police and other volunteers stationed at each intersection and I felt safe the entire race.

Around mile 7 I was getting a bit more sluggish and decided to switch from 2:1 intervals to 1:1 intervals. That was a good decision on my part and pushed me through the second half of the race. On the way to the turnaround I saw both Christine and Samantha in their BibRave shirts. Always great to see familiar faces!

I bopped to my music, thanked every volunteer I saw, pressed on multiple signs for a power boost, pet dogs, and oh, stopped at the unofficial beer station!

Sure, I’ll drink your beer random strangers! Please and thank you!

I believe that the beer station was around mile 11 and by this time, I was ready to be done. It was humid and hot and my glasses were fogging.

I knew my mom was ahead and that thought kept me running with my 1:1 intervals. Also, this view!

Annoyingly, even though I used Glide, I knew I was chafing in multiple locations. You know, naturally in all the places that I forgot to apply the Glide.

Around mile 12, I spotted my mom once again and I was so very happy to see her! I handed off my iPod and focused on finishing the last mile.

There were a multitude of photographers on the course and they snagged nearly 20 pictures of me through the race! Even though it wasn’t a fast race for me, I actually purchased the pictures because I look like I’m having a blast in nearly every single one of them. And I was! The double thumbs up was strong this race.

The finish line was a little confusing because there was a Publix inflatable we ran under and then a bit further up the actual finish line. I just kept running until I saw the timing mats and medal racks!

I see the finish line! I think! Maybe?

The medals for this race are completely different each year and I love the beautiful stingray design of this one!

Plus, it opens like a locket to reveal more beauty.

The finish line party was impressive! Tons of vendors giving away lots of drinks and food. I was all about the hydration so after grabbing water, I also chugged a chocolate milk, and then beer with my momma (although even I couldn’t drink it all)!

I’m so grateful I had the chance to run this race! Even though it was hot and I thought I was melting, it reminded me how much fun I can have while running. It was a bucket filler race and I’m so glad that I did it!

Next on my race agenda is the Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k back here in good ol’ New Jersey. What is on tap for you?

Race Recap: 2017 Chili Run

What do you get when you add runners with chili and beer?

You get a good time, that’s what!

What exactly is The Chili Run? It’s an out and back, 2 mile race in Pitman, New Jersey hosted by Good Day for a Run. It starts and finishes at a favorite restaurant of my family’s, Carolina Blue. After the run, that’s where the chili and beer comes in!

As soon as I heard about this race, it piqued my interest. Why?

Because I (mostly) love to run.

And I love to eat chili.

And I love to drink beer.

My friends have raved about it in the past, solidifying its place on my race bucket list. There are not many races in New Jersey in the winter months so I was looking to keep my training alive and also to socialize. Yes, I said it. I wanted to see my friends!

Jog ‘n Hog buddy, Rachel, heard the siren song of chili and running as well, so we signed up together. Run 856 and Run 215 unite!

Registration was $35 after a group discount, plus a processing fee.

Packet pick-up was a breeze. They had race day pick-up as well set times at the local running store. I chose to grab mine the day before at Mullica Hill Running Company, Rachel got her packet the morning of the race. No muss, no fuss.

Prior to the start, we hung out in the heated tent area of Carolina Blue. It was a runner’s reunion, seeing both new and old running pals.

The race started at 10am. Hello, awesome! Usually races start right around sunrise so this was appreciated. We headed to the start around 10 minutes prior; after announcements, safety information, and the National Anthem, we were off.

The weather was perfect and hills were, well, hills. It was only 2 miles so we prepared for the challenge. Rachel and I hadn’t seen each other since the summer so it was a great time to catch up and chat as we ran together.

The feeling of this race was one of camaraderie, which is always the best feeling, in my opinion! There was a lot of hooting and hollering and high fiving as we passed on the out and back. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time.

As we approached the finish line, I saw familiar faces in the crowd of people hanging out and cheering. My husband and kiddos were there! It was a terrific surprise!

They stopped while on their way to Lowe’s! Yay for hometown races!

So, you all know that I’m a Type A planner but there’s one thing for which I did not plan well.

I started the Advocare 24 Day Challenge last Monday, which meant no chili or beer for me! I didn’t want to self-sabotage during this 24 day period. No biggie though, I joined Rachel as she grabbed hers and we chatted some more (no surprise there!).

That cheese looks really good though, not gonna lie.

There were other fun things like an ugly sweater contest, prizes for the fastest team, biggest team (yay Run 856/609!), and free photos.

 

Communication from Ken at Good Day for a Run was fantastic both leading up to the event and after, from the packet pick-up and race information to links with results and pictures.

The super cute swag! I know my younger son has his eyes on it already because he loves penguins. 😉

Also, I got EXTRA swag, not from the race coordinators but from Rachel! Her cousin makes these gorgeous cookies and while I can’t eat it right now, it’s waiting for me in the freezer.

Are you local and sad because you missed out on this? Good news, there’s a second date for The Chili Run – February 11th. I have a feeling it is going to sell out FAST so if you want to register, get stepping!

Guest Post: My First Marathon – Space Coast Marathon

About this time last year I got a text from my friend and running buddy that said “I think I’m going run a marathon”. My response was probably something like “Nah” to which she graciously told me I didn’t have to run it, but it was something that she wanted to do. I was fully prepared to cheer her on and be a supportive friend. I’m good at that.

In all honesty, thinking about running a marathon is pretty exciting and scary. I did think a lot about it before it was time for sign ups. Then, in February of this year, my stepfather unexpectedly passed away. He was the type of man who was always supportive of me, no matter what I did: running, school, career-wise…everything. So, I wanted to do a thing that he would be proud of.

We both signed up, had our initial adrenaline rushes and, well…then we forgot about it, to be honest. Being teachers, we do end up with some free time over the summer to plan and train. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way, does it? We would exchange texts telling each other to get into gear but it didn’t always work out. Once school started in August training became a distant thought.

Then it was October.

At first we debated whether we should even go or not. We thought about taking “The Wormhole” out and completing the half marathon instead. A couple of times we ran together after school and tried to stay accountable with our own long runs over the weekend. Eventually we just kind of decided we were going for it, training or not.

A few days before the race I was talking to my co-worker, Ali, who ran Space Coast and she mentioned that the volunteers dressed up as space-inspired groups, so I hopped on Amazon and bought a Star Trek pin, searched the stores for a yellow shirt, and put together a simple-but-nerdy outfit.

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We left for Cocoa Beach Saturday morning to make it to the expo and packet pickup. Most of our conversations were jokes about dying and hoping we didn’t injure ourselves because, you know, our training was limited.

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The expo was crazy busy, so we only really stayed long enough to pick up our packets and a couple of little things. (Snacks and headbands, of course.) After a dinner of beer and pizza (yes, really) we tucked ourselves in at 7PM.

By 3:30AM I was wide awake and kind of ready to get the show on the road. We got up, got ready, and with the help of Michelle’s husband and son made it to the start point… after a quick stop for coffee. We spent about forty-five minutes before the race started getting things prepped. I finished my bagel and peanut butter, tried to drink some coffee to wake me up, and took a couple of trips to the bathroom.

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By 6:20AM we were lined up at the starting point, listening for announcements and trying not to freak out. Michelle and I have run a lot of races together. All of our “first” races have been together, so this one was pretty big for us. Three years ago this time we were running our first 5K together. We’ve come a long way.

After the pledge and a short countdown video we were off! Since we hadn’t properly trained Michelle and I decided to focus on 2:1 intervals. There were a few Galloway pace groups in the race but we didn’t want to commit to a group that we might not have been able to keep up with. The intervals started out fairly well and we were both feeling pretty good at the start of the race. It helped that the Space Coast Marathon’s course is absolutely beautiful!

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Beautiful scenery!

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At mile six!

As we came into mile thirteen Michelle’s husband and son met us at the halfway point. They complimented us and said we were looking strong, then gave us snacks. They’re okay in my book! Truthfully, by the halfway point I was starving! I had a salted caramel GU at about mile eight, but was super glad I picked up some Stinger waffles at the expo. They really helped!

We passed “The Wormhole” as we came around mile thirteen and joked about taking, but we knew we were in it for the long haul. The course continued to stay beautiful and we got to see some of the half marathoners coming in on their way to the finish. Okay, there were also some marathoners getting ready to finish also. Michelle and I thoroughly believe in “slow and steady”.

At each mile marker after thirteen I said something like “this is the longest we’ve been” because it was true and it felt great! My body was protesting a little, but my mind was fully in the game. I was counting the miles and calculating the time as we ran on, but I didn’t get discouraged about anything. I was feeling good, not too sore, and was staying hydrated with the help of some great volunteers.

By mile twenty I was kind of starting to feel it, however. We had kept up our intervals and were doing great. Neither one of us had a real issue with taking a few extra minutes of walking every mile or so, just to take a breather. I could tell that we were both feeling it as we rounded to come back after mile twenty. Usually we can keep a conversation going, but it was getting tough!

As we headed toward the homestretch the wind picked up and kept us cool for the last six miles. The volunteers were still out, cheering us on and giving us snacks (M&Ms!) and water. Since the course was through a neighborhood a few of the residents were out in their yards also. Some had posted signs and left them there but a few were actually giving out candy, snacks, and, in one instance, shots and beer. It was tempting, but I don’t think drinking at mile twenty-two would have been in my best interest.

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I did find the greatest sign for my Captain Kirk inspired shirt at about mile twenty-four and we stopped moving long enough to snap a picture of it:

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Run long and prosper.

As we came into our last mile Michelle’s family joined us again and stayed with us until the end. Around us there were other people coming to walk or run in the last little bit with their friends or family. It was all very moving and a great reminder of how awesome the running community is. I know that it would have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t had Mer cheering me on and other friends sending me their well-wishes.

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Rounding the last quarter mile was such a great feeling! Knowing that you’d made it nearly 26.2 miles is kind of mind blowing. When I started running three and a half years ago I never envisioned myself running a marathon. As we ran by people and heard them say “Way to go, marathoners!”, it just kind of hits you in the feels.

Crossing the finish line I felt equal parts of relief and exhilaration. I was hungry and tired, but also kind of hyped up because, you know, I just ran a marathon. After we grabbed out bags, changed our shoes, and loaded up with pancakes and eggs, I sat down and replied to a bunch of texts. To my best friends “Are you alive?” and my mother’s “Are you done yet?”. There were all kinds of notifications from friends online and the outpouring of support from everyone was amazing.

It was just as tough as we knew it was going to be, but still so very rewarding. It’s more than a medal and shirt, though those things are nice. It’s the fact that your body can do amazing things. That you can do amazing things! And that there are always people who you can inspire and who can inspire you.

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Now, I don’t know if another marathon is in my future…but I’m not counting it out just yet.

Happy running!

You can find me on Instagram and Twitter with @thisgirlash_ if you like to talk about books, cats, and running (sometimes). I also blog at Ash Does Stuff.

Philadelphia Half Marathon 2016 Recap

I think I might need to break up with the Philadelphia half marathon race.

My heart hurts to feel it and it feels weird to even say it because I always told anyone who will listen just how much I adore the Philadelphia Marathon weekend. I’m not usually one to complain but I’m bummed. Even with a PR, I’m bummed.

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I have a deep love for the Philadelphia Marathon which roots back to watching Victoria completing her first full in 2010. There’s been 6 straight years of being involved with the race in some shape or form.

This year brought a lot of changes to the Philadelphia Marathon; I know that I can tend to be resistant to change but I tried really hard to go into it with an open mind.

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The train ride into the city at 5:40am. Chrissy participated in the 8k this year, which started at 10:45. She came in early with me so she could cheer for the half marathoners. The race began at 7:30.

The first change that was made was that the half and full marathons, which were usually both held at the same day and time were split. Which makes sense from a business standpoint. They added the Rocky Challenge, which is for those people who wanted to run both the half and the full races. Good on you, running all the miles folks!

The race weekend, once run by the City of Philadelphia, has been taken on by Philadelphia Parks and Rec (they manage the Broad Street Run as well). Communication prior to the race was a bit on the light side. People asked questions via email and Facebook, many went unanswered. I know there is a learning curve that comes along with these things but I was surprised that there wasn’t better communication, as this isn’t their first race rodeo.

The change that impacted me the most though was… they changed the half marathon course. I take issue with this because I know the old course and I really loved the old course.

I did not really love the new course. The old course is still run-able… as the first half of the marathon. It’s comprised of a nice mix of running through the city, through the streets near Drexel University, past the zoo, a small jaunt through Fairmount park, and finishing along the river in front of the art museum.

I knew the new course would be different but I wasn’t mentally prepared for just how different.

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New this year is that they had shuttle buses from hotels to the start area. I didn’t utilize this because I stayed at home and took the train into the city but I’m thinking that was a benefit to those who took advantage of it.

The security check points were set up through which we all slowly filtered. I appreciate the efforts to keep us safe but I don’t understand why the Philadelphia race weekend has it and something like Broad Street, which has 40,000+ runners does not. I suppose Broad Street’s start line doesn’t really lend itself well to having check points?

Chrissy stared at an empty street near Love Park (currently under construction), waiting for all the runners!

Chrissy stared at an empty street near Love Park (currently under construction), waiting for all the runners!

I was in the blue corral, AKA, the last corral. I had big plans. I’ve been consistently training and I wanted to PR in a major way. I found my pal Christina and we caught up on each other’s lives while we wanted for our corral to start. The wheelchair start was 7:25, the elites started at 7:30, and our corral toed the line at 8:03.

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The first mile was very congested but I was feeling great and happy to be running! I noticed there was a lot of construction within this mile, which didn’t help with the squeezed feeling. I looked for Chrissy at the spot we picked for her to cheer but missed her during the first mile. I knew we’d be coming back the street on the other side so I held out hope I would still be able to see her.

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No big surprised that it felt a little squished with so many people!

I bobbed and weaved in the first two miles but after that I found a good spot and we all spread out. As I circled back around City Hall I knew I’d have the chance to see Chrissy and I wasn’t going to miss it. I hugged the right side of the road and found her! We blew kisses as I ran past and headed back toward the Art Museum.

Miles 1-5 were fantastic! Seeing City Fit Girls around mile 4 gave me a boost like you wouldn’t believe and I’m pretty sure I lost my mind when I saw them.

Running along the river was gorgeous. Boathouse Row is always beautiful and the fall foliage was in its prime. I continued with my 2:1 intervals and was exactly where I wanted to be pace-wise.

I took a GU gel at mile 5 and then heard someone in the crowd yell SCOOT A DOOT! I didn’t know it then but it was Kim, one of our buddies on Facebook and Instagram! It made me smile and I was still smiling, despite turning the corner and facing the first hill. I am no stranger to this hill; I’ve run it quite a few times in the past during races. It’s not my favorite but I was prepared for it and did the best I could.

Plus there was a sweet downhill that I knew was coming ahead so I focused on cruising down.

After that, it was pretty much uncharted territory for me as far as the course was concerned. There was a nice stretch of road and we all continued happily along our way.

Around mile 8 we turned to go up a hill and then it felt like we never stopped going uphill. It was hill.

After hill.

After hill.

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From a race that was touted as a flat course in the past, it really wasn’t what I expected. I hustled up the hills as much as I could but I watched my time creep up on my miles and my expectation of a huge PR went down.

However, I did see Dimity McDowell from Another Mother Runner during one of those horrible hills and I was so happy to see her; I thought she might be a mirage. That interaction put a pep in my step for a short amount of time, because you know, I was on a steep hill.

Pretty sure you can tell EXACTLY where the hills were located, looking at this.

Pretty sure you can tell EXACTLY where the hills were located, looking at this.

I saw Christina a few times throughout the course and it helped to have a familiar face to look for in a sea of people. The last 3 miles were pure survival mode. I knew I wasn’t going to get the time goal I wanted, which was disheartening.

That said, as I was bopping along with my music and I realized that despite not getting the time that I wanted, I was still feeling really good. My legs didn’t hurt, I was still able to do my intervals, and I was grateful for a good day of running!

I finished a minute faster than my old PR (which was back at the 2014 Nike Women’s half) and while I know were it a different course, I might have gone faster, a PR IS A PR!

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The finish line area was sort of a mess. I got my medal and then immediately started looking around for water and food. I finally asked a few fellow runners where to find it and they pointed off to the side where a tent was set up.

They had a great assortment of food for us, including the soft pretzels and chicken broth that I’ve grown accustomed to having after the race but no bags to put everything in.

I found Christina again after the race and we made plans to meet up and run soon, which I’ll be holding her to (it’s in the blog post so it must happen!).

I got to cheer Chrissy as she came across the 8k finish line and she felt really good! It was awesome to be there for her finish and to see many familiar faces from #run856 as they crossed the finish line.

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Overall, this race wasn’t what I expected and that’s odd to say, coming from someone who has done the race multiple times. Even though there was a PR that was involved, the race wasn’t what I envisioned so I guess that’s why I’m a little whomp whomp regarding this race.

Maybe next year I’ll do the 8k again. Maybe I’ll get over my disappointment, train on hills, and try the half marathon again. Maybe I’ll get really crazy and run the full. I guess I’ll see where 2017 brings me!

Did you race this weekend? Have you ever had a good but disappointing race? I’m feeling really conflicted with my emotions.

What’s next? A local little fun run called The Light Run to look at holiday lights. My older child has agreed to do this one with me and I know we’ll be seeing a lot of friends there too. Yay!