Race Recap: 2017 Rock ‘n Roll Philly Half Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia 2017 race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! All opinions are my own.

Way back, when I first started running and doing fitness related activities and prior to Scoot a Doot, I had a blog on tumblr. It was there that I blogged about my third half marathon, the Rock ‘n Roll Philly race back in 2012.

2012 RnR Philly

I haven’t been able to work it into my schedule since and to be honest, I had a tough race so I think I was a bit gun-shy. However, the stars aligned and I was excited to return this year, especially as it was my first race representing BibRave!

Rock ‘n Roll weekends always start with the expo experience, followed by the race. The Philly Rock ‘n Roll Health and Fitness Expo was held at the PA Convention Center in Center City on both Friday and Saturday. Runners are able to pick up their bibs, t-shirts, and other assorted race goodies. If you want to read more about the expo, swing by my last post.

This is the 40th year that this race has been run, having been known prior as the Philadelphia Distance Run.

Saturday morning were the 5k and 10k races. The 10k distance was newly introduced this year; I had friends who ran and had a positive experience.

Sunday morning it was half marathon time. Philadelphia is about a half hour drive from my house/nearby train ride. I chose to take the train and walk a mile to the start line, which is my standard mode of transportation for Philly races.

I always aim to get into the city about an hour before the start of the race and this one started at 7:30, so I made sure to get the train that arrived at 6:30. I knew I would have plenty of time, given that I was in corral 21 (I think there were 24 total).

Once I arrived I tracked down where I needed to go to get my race shirt after the snafu on Friday. Since I had a hydration pack, I decided to stuff it in there, rather than check a bag.

Rock ‘n Roll’s race village is huge and there’s plenty of things to do and see both pre and post race.

I wandered around a bit, chatting with plenty of random people aka new friends and seeing fellow BibRave Pros. Philadelphia’s Rocky Steps, aka the Art Museum, is always the backdrop of big races in Philly and this was no exception.

The race began on time and I casually wandered into my corral, knowing that I wouldn’t be starting for awhile. The announcers were enthusiastic (honestly, if I yelled as much as they do, I would have absolutely no voice!) and they were playing great music to get everyone pumped up.

The first 5 miles of the half course have to be my absolute favorite. I love running in Center City and the energy is always terrific.

From about mile 3.5 to 5 is an out and back stretch along Fairmount Avenue, which I love because you can see the other runners and the cheering from people along this stretch is fantastic. Very motivating and so much fun.

The second part of the course leads you along the Schuykill River on Kelly Drive, across Falls Bridge, and back the other side of the river on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The miles seem to stretch here and while the scenery is picturesque, this is where I wish they would stack the bands and entertainment.

I appreciate everyone who was out there so much, especially the band who changed the lyrics to The Indigo Girls “Closer to Fine” to “Closer to the Finish Line.”

I knew I wasn’t going to break any personal records during this race so I enjoyed, took my time, and had my phone out nearly the entire time to take pictures and videos along the route.

I made a friend during the last mile that I had been leapfrogging with since mile 10 and we finished the race together, which was really nice!

The medals for this year were money, baby! The half marathon medal was Ben Franklin with a sweatband on his head 13.1 bill. Too funny!

Immediately after the finish line, they were handing out water and a sports drink. Directly after that there was ice cold chocolate milk, which hit the spot! They were also giving out ice cold RnR towels, which was perfect on my neck. There were snacks directly after but unfortunately, juggling everything became a bit of a challenge!

Post-race celebration included the band Big Head Todd and the Monsters (never heard of them before but they were entertaining). There was also a beer garden but I completely forgot about it until I was walking back to the train station. Whomp, whomp.

At least I got a banana phone!

Fun way to kick off fall racing in Philly! From here I have the Run the Vineyards, Destination Enoteca 5k and the Run Inspired 10k in October. Can’t stop, won’t stop!

Race Recap: Vacation Races Inaugural Shenandoah Half 2017

A race recap of the Inaugural Shenandoah half marathon, hosted by Vacation Races.

I’ve had my radar focused on Vacation Races for quite some time. Jenn is our resident Vacation Races ambassador and she swoons about their races.

Seriously.

She’s done multiple challenges, including their Rocky Mountain race and Yellowstone race. My plan is to eventually get out to Colorado to run with her. But in the meanwhile…

My local pal, Rachel, received a race entry for herself and a friend after a registration mix-up at the 2016 Yellowstone race. She reached out to me in February with a “What do you typically do over Labor Day weekend” message.

I responded with “Not a whole heck of a lot!”

So then she said, “Let’s take a road trip to Virginia, do this half marathon together, and have a blast!” Well, how could I say no to that? I was in!

Except the code they provided didn’t work! Agh, maybe I wasn’t in?

There was about a week of back and forth emails with a few people being looped in along the way. I’ll be honest, it was frustrating and we even questioned if it would be worth the time and effort (this was after a registration snafu for Rachel the first time around, so you can see why we were disappointed). I was given a few different codes to try before finally being manually entered into the system.

THEN I was officially in. Rachel and I were able to breathe easy once more and looked forward to our September trip.

As our trip grew closer, we ironed out travel details and of course, kept our eyes on the weather. Which wasn’t looking great. Rainy. However, the temperature was cooling considerably and I’d much rather run in 55 degrees than 80. We had high hopes that the rain wouldn’t be too bad.

Rachel drove to NJ from PA and our road trip, which we affectionately called “Meatball Road Trip 2k17 (if you watch Big Brother this season, you’ll understand where this originated) officially commenced.

We talked, sang and car danced all the way down through Delaware, Maryland, and into Virginia. The ride was about 4 hours and we went straight to the expo to grab our shirts and bibs.

Of course, it started to rain, which we were less than impressed with… but it was expected.

Shenandoah Half Marathon expo

Rachel’s face accurately captures our unimpressedness. Why do I look so happy?

The shirt reminds me of St. Patrick’s Day, which is probably when I’ll wear it. Sadly, green is not my color.

Shenandoah Half Shirt 2017

The expo was small but fun. I think we would have spent more time there had it not been raining but we decided to save up our rain time for the half.

Shenandoah Half Expo - Vacation Races

After learning how to turn a t-shirt into a bag (totally going to do this activity with our Cub Scout den), making s’mores, and finding our names on the inaugural Shenandoah design, we took some time to ask a few questions to announcer/race coordinator, Kaelee. She’d run the course in the morning so she was able to give us some pointers and let us know what to look forward to the next day.

We took the time to be tourists and visited Luray Caverns, which was pretty amazing (and of course we commented how cool it would be if we could run through it).

From the get-go we knew we wouldn’t be racing this half. Our mantra was “have fun and get it done.” This was going to be a “mullet crew” experience – as in, a party in the back! No shame! After a delicious dinner we decided to hit the sack, knowing we’d be waking up at 5am.

The race began at 7am and was a point to point race and almost entirely on road, save the first and last 10th of a mile. You could park at either the start or finish and they had school buses to shuttle runners from one point to the other. We decided we’d rather shuttle before the race than after; we parked at the finish and shuttled to the start.

As we made our way from the parking lot to where the shuttles were, it was before sunrise and I found myself wish that I had brought my Knuckle Lights, just to see where we were going. We shuffled to the shuttles and were able to grab the last two seats on the bus heading toward the starting area.

At the start, there was coffee and hot chocolate. They also offered bananas and things like Vaseline and thoughtful touches that runners might find useful.

Just as we got our beverages, huge raindrops started plopping on us. At first, neither of us could comprehend what was happening, our brains weren’t full awake yet! We quickly found shelter nearby and chatted with other runners as we did our best to stay dry. We both had plastic rain ponchos yet neither of us had them on when the rain had started. It caught us all by surprise!

Rain at the Shenandoah Half Marathon.

It’s raining, it’s pouring.

The rain tapered off just in time for the National Anthem and I really loved that this guy got to stand on top of the box truck and hold the flag.

Mother Nature couldn’t decide what she wanted to do – one minute it was drizzling, the next it wasn’t. Rachel and I kept muttering to each other “this is stupid” as we lined up near our pace sign. Seriously, sometimes I question my sanity. My socks were already wet and it was cold! I knew once I started moving I’d be fine, it’s just getting to that point.

There was a guy near the start that was telling us, “It’s just a really long 5k” which made us chuckle.

Sure enough, once we started moving, we were good to go. Actually, really good. Actually, really, really good. As in, we hit the mile marker and were shocked that we were already at a mile.

You guys, this continued for miles 2-8. We would come to a mile marker and be amazed that we got there as quickly as we did. Which, for the record, wasn’t quick; we were having conversational miles. But we were feeling good and powering up the uphills/taking advantage of the downhills.

Virginia was lovely, with lots of local flair that we northerns aren’t accustom to seeing on a daily basis.

Shenandoah Half Course

We saw llamas (or were they alpaca?), plenty of cows, and were graced with the presence of a kitten in the middle of the road near mile 7. This kitten sat smack in the middle of the road and got attention for each and every single runner that came through. He had life all figured out for such a little guy.

If the kitten didn’t have a collar on, I’m pretty sure that Rachel would have a third cat right now.

The aid stations were perfectly placed. Vacation Races is a cup free race, so they offer hydropouches or you can bring your own hydration system. I opted to get a pack (I’ve been considering it for awhile and this was the perfect reason) and ended up not needing to fill the bladder of it at all – it was the perfect amount for the half distance. They had Honey Stingers available at every aid station, as well as cut up bananas and orange slices at the later stations.

At the mile 3 aid station they even had a bin where runners could drop clothes that they’d then drive to the finish line of the race! I didn’t need to take advantage of that but they really seemed to think of everything.

The course was quiet, although it was on an open road so cars were allowed to drive along the course. In the early morning, there was not much traffic. We all looked out for each other, calling “CAR!” when there was a car either behind or coming toward us. Some runners had their earbuds in and couldn’t hear the warning until the cars were right behind them and honking. Yikes!

Locals sat on their porches, watching the spectacle. It was an endless parade of over 1,100 people streaming by. We waved to people as we passed.

The hills were alive with the sounds of music.

I think this was around the time we started singing “HandClap” by Fitz and The Tantrums. The first time. There were multiple times.

Mile 10 onward felt like a continuous uphill. I know that there was some downhill too but I don’t really remember much of that. It just felt like we were constantly climbing. Having looked at the elevation map ahead of time, we knew that it was coming but, whew, my hamstrings and glutes acted like they weren’t made aware of the situation!

You better believe we flew down that last hill!

We turned into Lake Arrowhead Park for the last stretch of the race. The support here was incredible with lots of finishers cheering us. Volunteers pointed us in the right direction since it was along grass and gravel. We turned for the last 10th of a mile and crossed the finish line with huge smiles on our faces!

Shenandoah Half Marathon finishers medals

We did it! Check out those AH-MAZING medals!

Immediately after crossing the finish line we were able to get our medals and our snack boxes that were filled with lots of delicious treats.

From start to finish, this getaway was an awesome! Despite some reservations at the beginning with registration, everything else was absolutely flawless. Vacation Races knows about hosting a quality event and they’ve zeroed in on the things that stand out to runners. I’m grateful to Rachel for inviting me to join her and I’m definitely impressed by Vacation Races!

Inaugural Shenandoah Half medal - Vacation Races #Shenandoahhalf

Next race for me is the Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia half marathon on September 17th. Then in October I’ll be at Run the Vineyards, Enoteca 5k and Run Inspired 10k in DE (code BibRave saves 10%). Fall racing, you have arrived! What do you have on tap this fall?

2017 Woodstown, NJ Firecracker 5k

On Father’s Day I was blessed with a gift from my older son, Lucas. Not sure why… but he agreed to do a 4th of July race with me. For anyone who knows me (and my son), you know what a big deal this is because he doesn’t always love the idea of running.

Which, you know, I get, because I didn’t always love the idea of running either.

Way back when: cheering with his little brother at the 4 miler.

At first I tried to sell him on the local 4 miler, the Pitman 4 Miler. When asked if there were hills though, I could not tell a lie. There are hills and lots of them. I’ve run it twice and it’s a thoroughly challenging course!

He quickly put the kibosh on that.

After looking around a bit, I found the Woodstown Firecracker 5k. Small, 20 minutes from home, less than $30 for both of us to run, and from what I could tell, fairly flat. SOLD! We registered immediately.

He planned to train but didn’t train (at all), and when we woke up on race morning, he confessed that his sneakers were shot and he needed new ones (not exactly the ideal time to tell me).

On a wing and a prayer.

The race started at 8am at Marlton Recreation Park, with packet pickup beginning at 6:30am. We arrived at a little after 7 and were immediately able to get our bibs and shirts. After asking where the starting line was (we saw the finish, but not a start), we headed in the direction we were pointed. We saw an arrow sign and figured we’d just line up when we saw other people doing the same. There were a few portapotties but we didn’t need to use them.

Since we arrived early, we wandered around the park and found a few animals. Lucas likes chickens and roosters so he was content just watching them. In fact, I think if I told him we were going to skip the race and just hang out there, he would have been absolutely fine with that.

No such luck, kiddo!

There were 186 participants and the start was actually on the grass (which is why we didn’t see a start line). From the grass line, we were to run toward a path that we’d all eventually go on.

It was a little awkward because we were lined up length wise rather than what I’ve come to expect but it worked out well because people naturally fell into place rather than trying to self-seed. After hearing a few words from the race director, we were off!

The course was about a mile loop around the park, then a mile through a neighborhood, with the third mile being the same as the first but in reverse.

Lucas was unsure with how well he’d be able to do, so I suggested that we run intervals. We ran the first half mile before switching into 30 second intervals of running and walking.

Hanging in the ‘hood, just after the water station.

The first mile and a half were great for Lucas, he was feeling good and was fairly content. Just after the water stop, which was around 1.5 miles, he started getting down on himself.

You guys, I hate to admit this but in the past I’ve not been very supportive when he’s gotten emotional during a race. Which is not okay!

I know that self doubt can be a hell of a thing to deal with and while yes, he should and could have trained more, he didn’t need to hear that from me once we were in the thick of the race.

Before going to the race, I decided that there were only going to be positive affirmations and motivation coming from me toward him while we were running. If he was feeling discouraged, I’d remind him how great he was and what an awesome kid I think he is. Because that’s what he needed in that moment from me and I want him to feel good about himself when he’s running and accomplished when he’s done!

Last mile, running by our chicken friends, who were obviously cheering him on too!

He was not as happy as he appears in this picture, but then again, we runners have that “fake it ’til you make it” smile down pat, amirite?

I tried the best that I could to read him and what he needed to hear from me while we were in the home stretch. I didn’t want to be too strong or inauthentic with my motivating. I asked him his motto for the rest of the race and he started chanting “almost done” about a quarter mile from the finish line. So I joined him and we both chanted “almost done” until we crossed the finish at 41 minutes.

There were no timing mats, instead they kept track by collecting the bottom tab on our bibs. After handing over our information, we were given a bottle of water and continued to walk in order to cool down and get in the shade.

Stayed cool on a hot and humid morning wearing my super cute Minnie Bow tank! You can save 10% at Donna’s etsy shop with the code MRCScootaDoot.

The Woodstown parade was starting after the race was over but we decided to hit the road so I could make us a yummy breakfast. It was the perfect way to start our celebration of America’s birthday. He even told me that he was glad that he did it and he was looking forward to running another race with me.

“Next time, I’ll train…”

Mmmhmm.

What did you do on the 4th of July? How do you motivation someone during a race?

Race Recap: Vacation Races Yellowstone Half

Last weekend, amazing races took place all over the country. Maybe you even participated in one. (If so tell me allllll about it in the comments!) I was lucky enough to be one of those people, and I can’t wait to show you all the pictures from  the Vacation Race Yellowstone 5k and Half Marathon. I had dreamed of doing the Caldera Triple this year, but other obligations (tickets to see Roger Waters) kept me from the mother of all medals. Next year, it’s on!

Disclaimer: while I am a Vacation Races Ambassador, I did pay for my registration for this race and I didn’t receive any compensation for this race review.

I live about ten hours from Yellowstone. Honestly, when the scenery is as beautiful as it was and you’re driving your Mustang, ten hours feels like five.We drove up last Thursday and got into Yellowstone at around seven o’clock in the evening. Along the way, we stopped at an overlook to take in the most beautiful mountain range I’ve ever seen, and keep in mind, Rocky Mountain National Park is my backyard. If you’ve never been to the Grand Tetons, you need to add it to your bucket list.

Jackson Lake and Grand Teton

We came from the south which meant we had to drive through Grand Teton National Park to get to Yellowstone. We decided to buy an annual park pass since we’ll soon be living so close to a national park ourselves. Eighty bucks to support our national treasures was money well spent in our book.

I had signed up for the Bison Double, which meant I was running the 5k Friday night and the half marathon on Saturday morning. My husband and I decided to get up before dawn on Friday to see some of Yellowstone while the light was still good for photography. It was the right choice!

He was the only other guy on the road at 5:30 am. Also, he wasn’t moving for us.

Sadly, the Grand Prismatic Spring was too steamy to see.

Kepler Cascade

Yellowstone Lake and Thermal Vents

A real life postcard.

After a morning of exploring the park, we headed back to the hotel to take a nap and prep for the 5k. The weather forecast at race time was less than dry. I was volunteering at the race expo before the start, so I headed over a little early and met up with the rest of my team at the start. My husband, sisters-in-law, and their husbands all ran the 5k, and exactly none of us were looking forward to running in rainy drizzle and 42 degrees.

There’s some first timers in this pic!

The course was beautiful despite it being wet. I don’t have many pics of this race because the conditions made it hard to snap shots. We started on paved town roads for the first mile then transitioned to gravel trail riddled with puddles and mud for the rest of the race. We had to watch where we stepped so we didn’t slip in the mud. I’m glad I’d packed so much gear, options are so important when the weather is unpredictable. Plus I’d bought an emergency poncho for which I was so grateful! I was slow because of the conditions and I wanted to be sure I was okay to do the half the next morning. My husband and I crossed the finish, then waited for the rest of our team. We were disappointed to learn that the 5k medals had been lost in shipping, but we were assured that they’d be mailed to us once they were located.

The next morning, I woke up to a weather forecast calling for hail and more rain before the half marathon. Yes, hail. Well, tiny little pellets, but still, when they hit your cold cheeks, it hurts! I shook out my disposable poncho and layered up. With some fleece lined leggings, a Lioness skirt from Skirt Sports, and three layers on top, I was as ready as I could be for my first wet, cold trail half.

I knew this race was going to be my hardest one yet going into it. I knew the elevation gain was no joke, and that it was mostly on a trail. I also knew I wasn’t able to train for this race like I wanted to. Since February, I’ve had to focus on selling my house, moving, and finding a new place to live.  Doing all those home improvement projects did get me into better shape than I was in after the holidays, but I was no where near where I wanted to be for this race. Getting a PR wasn’t my goal, not getting hurt was. My strategy was to do walk a brisk pace with some splashes of running until the big hill. Then, I’d walk as briskly as I could up that bish.

Around mile five, it started to get steep. The course was still thick with mud, and I tried to stay on the edge of the trail to keep from getting bogged down. Mile six is where it started to get nasty. Hence my face in the photo below. It was yucky, but at least the sun had come out and the rain/hail stopped! Once I got over that hill, I found one of my Skirt Sports sisters on the course, and I couldn’t have been happier! Kim is the best. We’d run the Skirt Sports 13er together last year and running with her is always so much fun.

After I’d made it over the hill and found a friend, the race took on a new feel. The course turned technical with large rocks as we began to descend in elevation. I took my time through the rocks but still stumbled a few times. The views were completely worth it, though, as the course took us beside the river and through pristine forest.

As I was out there feeling better than I expected to be at mile nine, I took a moment to appreciate my body. I have ridiculous expectations of it. I ask it to do amazing feats of endurance without ever putting in the 100% training I should. As I climbed that hill and listened to those around me struggling to breathe due to the altitude, I sent my body some messages of gratitude and I promised to not ask it to do this again without the proper preparation.

We counted down the miles together, stopped for orange slices at the mile 11 aid station, and were fueled by the thought of our medals waiting for us. Unfortunately, the Bison Double medals and the Caldera Triple medals were lost in shipping along with the 5k medals. But we did get our half marathon medals, so it was great to have that waiting for us at the end along with the always yummy post race fuel box and bananas.

It hurt so much but we did it!

Kim and I hugged goodbye before I took a few family photos with our race team. I think some of them may have caught the race bug! I’m already planning to come back for the Caldera Triple next year, maybe we’ll make it a tradition!

It was a fabulous race in one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. Aside from the medals being lost, everything went smoothly and we all had a blast. This race may not be an annual one for me due to traveling, but it’s certainly one I’d like to do every few years. Vacation Races didn’t disappoint, they really now how to pick their locations! It was so gorgeous everywhere you looked that I wanted to share a few last photos with you of your Yellowstone National Park.  Enjoy!

Elk buck

At the Grand Prismatic Spring

Bison herd

You could literally reach out your car window and touch them. But DON’T.

Half medal with Old Faithful erupting in the background

 

As a safety reminder, I ask that when you read my recaps of high altitude races to not underestimate the affects of altitude. I’ve lived at over 5000 feet elevation all my life, and soon I’m moving to 8500 feet. My lungs and muscles are acclimated to the elevation despite having asthma. If you do a race at altitude and you aren’t already acclimated, be sure to train appropriately, take precautions against altitude sickness, and be kind to yourself on the course if you don’t hit your pace goals.Save

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She can fly!

When I signed up for the Disney Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend months and months ago, I had big plans.  The Tinkerbell Half was my first Disney race with Meri and Vic so it holds a special place in my heart.  I had been promising my daughter a Disney race for awhile so back when I was feeling super motivated, I signed myself up for all three of the Tink races and signed up my girl for the 5k.  I had high hopes of training and PR’s and what not, but you know how it goes.  Sometimes you accidentally get pregnant.

Luckily, I was able to get a refund for the half and 10k, which, by the way, I thought was super understanding of the peeps at RunDisney.  We decided to go ahead and run the 5k together.  I thought a Disney race would be perfect for Sophie.  Disney races are super family friendly.  There’s always runners of all athletic abilities and all ages.  Sophie’s a very active 11 year old, she plays soccer and runs a lot at practice so I had no doubt she could do this race.  I was more worried about being able to keep up with her!

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She was so excited to have a bib with her name on it. 

We stayed the night close to the park before the race so we could make the 5 am start time and so we could pick up our bibs and hit the expo the night before.  We didn’t plan costumes, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything pregnant friendly that wouldn’t be suffocating. Also, the more pregnant I get the less motivation I have to do stuff.  So when we got to the expo, Sophie found a Tink tee from Raw Threads that she just loved.  Obviously, a girl can’t run her first Disney race without some kind of sparkle, so Sophie got a sparkle skirt and some fairy wings to go with her shirt.  Because that’s how we roll!

The race started right on Main Street, which I haven’t ever experienced in a Disney race before.  There aren’t Corral placements for the 5k, it’s first come, first Corral, and we ended up in Corral C.  Sophie couldn’t contain her excitement.  She whooped and hollered when the MC’s roused the crowd.  She danced and cheered for her favorite songs.  And she was mesmerized when Tinkerbell flew around Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

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Not bad for a last minute costume!

As our Corral moved toward the start line, Sophie was ready to run.  We planned to meet at the finish if we got separated.  I told her about pictures with characters and so she decided she would stop and get pictures and maybe I’d be able to catch up to her.  However, when we finally started, she took off!  I didn’t even get one picture of her running.  There weren’t many characters out for the 5k, so that plan blew.  The whole race I expected to see her walking or at a bathroom or something, but nope, that girl left me in her pixie dust and never looked back.

 

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Our only picture together!

 

I walked my way to the finish and looked for Sophie.  She was no where to be found.  I began to slightly freak out, trying to ignore every worse case scenario that popped into my head.  I decided to check the post-race area before I panicked, and that’s exactly where I found her.  Shoe-less and fresh out of snacks, she flagged me down with a wild wave.  She finished in 38 minutes. It took me at least an hour, so she just hung out for twenty some minutes.  I had no idea she was so responsible and independent!  We headed back to the hotel with our medals proudly displayed.  She wore that medal later that day when we visited the park until she left it in the seat pocket on Big Thunder Railroad.  Luckily, a cast member found it for her and she promptly stowed it in my bag for the rest of the day.

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Best medal ever! 

 

To be honest, I would have skipped the race if it weren’t for Sophie, but I’m so glad we did this.  She made it magical and I love that I get to share this part of my life with her now.  So many changes are happening in her life this year.  She’s getting a new sibling, she’s going to middle school, we’re moving (again!!!), but I hope these races are something we can share for as long as we’re able.  She even wants to do a Ragnar!  Like she said, this can be the start of a family tradition.  She already has costume plans for next year.  That’s my girl!

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Mary Poppin Bottles – Run the Vineyards Heritage 5 Miler

You might have noticed that I’m a girl who likes to run for food and drink.

Yes, medals are awesome however throw in a beer, chocolate, chili, ice cream, WINE, and I’m yours. I suppose many runners are like that and the folks at Good Day for a Run know it!

Heritage Vineyards is located 2.4 miles from my house and hosts festivals and other events throughout the year, including the Run the Vineyards 5 Miler. Run the Vineyards is a series put on by Good Day for a Run and has events at over 20 vineyards in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Last year I registered for the race at the coaxing of friends and quickly fell in love with everything about the race. It’s a challenging course but also familiar as it’s right near my home. The packet pickup is at the local Running Co. AND if you pick up your packet there (rather than race morning) you can save 20% on anything in the store. Guess who has a new pair of Mizunos! Moi!

My time from last year was 1:01:48 and I was pretty pleased with that once I saw the course and the terrian. It’s got grass, it’s got sand, it’s got a bit of road, and it’s got tons of rolling hills. The goal for this year was to beat last year’s time and if I managed to get under an hour, even better!

Kate, Brandi, and myself! We’ve been friends since our kids were in strollers.

This event sells out every year so I made sure to register early, back in the fall of 2016. My bro in law and sis in law made the trek down from Central Jersey to watch my younger son while I ran; we planned to picnic and hang out at the race after party, filled with music and fun running themed booths.

The race began at 9am and due to a rough start, my fam rolled into my driveway at 8:48. Normally I would have been freaking out but I knew that we would still get there with time to spare. I jumped out of the car as we arrived (8:52), found my friends (8:55), and was ready to run at 9am. How’s that for timing?!

There was no official corrals, so the 655 runners had to place themselves in the spot where they thought they’d fair best.

It’s difficult because the first stretch of the race is narrow and if you don’t put yourself in the right area, you risk either going out too fast or holding up people around you. I think I did pretty well placing myself this year and tried to be mindful of the people around me.

The first mile. Thanks to Chad at Photo Runner!

Ya’ll know that free race photos rank high up there on my list of things I love to see at races and the Run the Vineyards races not only has them but they’re ready for download the day of the race.

I had my phone tucked into my BibRave Buff on my wrist so I didn’t take many pictures at this race. When there’s a professional out there capturing the day, there’s no need!

My Garmin was a little off from the mile markers, reading about .06 behind. Interestingly, my first two miles were the exact same pace (11:45) but my legs were feeling tired, which didn’t bode well for the next 3 miles. The hills seemed to be non-stop and while the day was perfect in terms of weather (gray skies and 66 degrees), the pollen count must have been high and I was feeling it.

There were three water stops so I grabbed a cup of water at the second and third ones in an attempt to ease my throat (no dice).

Miles 3 and 4, I clocked in at exactly 12:27. Way to be consistent, huh?

The last mile consisted of one last hill, a nice downhill, and then a few more turns around the trail. I heard the announcer say “these runners are going to come in at just under an hour” and that was all it took for me to hit the gas!

Thanks to Chad for making me laugh – “Just a spoon full of sugar helps the wine go down!”

I crossed the line at 59:36, which means that I got a PR of over a minute! Woohoo!

My sister is law is the best, isn’t she?

Immediately after I finished my son gave me a hug, let me know that I was sweaty, and then requested that I buy him pizza.

At 10:00 in the morning.

So I did.

Because if I could drink my free wine from my finishers wine tumbler, he could surely eat pizza. After all, fair is fair.

This coming weekend I’ll be giving back and volunteering at the Run the Vineyards Wagonhouse 10 Miler and I can’t wait!

My next running adventure comes a month from now when I’ll be at my first ever RAGNAR. Holy moly. However I have some fun travel plans lined up for mid-May, too!

PR Race: 2017 AC April Fools Half Marathon

I’m doing my PR dance all over the place! (Yes, it’s just as awkward as you’re imagining.)

The Atlantic City April Fools Half Marathon holds a very special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons.

  1. I was born on April Fools Day! It was actually one of the reason I signed up for the inaugural race way, way back in 2012.
  2. I’ve run this race with many friends over the past 6 years! A birthday race calls for a birthday party, am I right? I’ve had friends from all over the country travel in to do this race with me and I’m forever grateful to every single one of them.
  3. For over the past year I trained the course with my lifelong pal, Chrissy!

Over the years this race has gone from great to phenomenal. The race director really pays attention to feedback and it shows.

What do runners want that this race provides? Great communication leading up to the race, multiple locations for packet pickup (this was added after I registered, I opted to do race morning pickup for a small fee), bag check, starting on time, flat/fast course, on course entertainment, free race pictures, wonderful volunteers, unique medals, costume contests, and yummy post-race snacks, and free beer. Yes, yes, and more yes! Much appreciated!

I live an hour from Atlantic City so I always opt to just drive the morning of the race.

Tiptoeing around my house before I left.

After fueling with a homemade nutrition bar and drinking Spark, I also brought water and an apple for just before the race began. I have a bad habit of not planning fuel well before races and I wanted to avoid that if possible.

The drive was uneventful (just how a drive should be) and parking at Resorts was free (just how I like it). I needed to get there early because packet pickup was from 6am – 7am so I arrived at 6:15 and quickly got set up with my race bib and bag. The bag contained the race shirt (blue – I love this year’s color, design, and fabric) and a few freebies – including saltwater taffy!

I planted myself in a lounge area and waited until closer to the start of the race to go outside. This was the most relaxed I’ve felt before I race ever and I was able to zone out for about a half hour. Having the option for bathrooms inside a casino rather than portapotties is always nice, too, and I stopped by before heading to the boardwalk.

Just after I checked my bag, I ran into longtime friend, Rob! I’d seen him at the Rowan 5k the day before and it was great to see a friendly face immediately. We spent the remaining minutes before the race chatting.

This was the first time I ran this race solo and I knew that I could achieve a PR, given my training and my familiarity with the course. I went in feeling very confident. The weather was fantastic (very different from last year!) and I knew that it could be my day.

I decided to run the first mile and then settle into 30:30 intervals. I wanted to play with my speed on the run intervals and I knew that with short bursts I would be able to keep a steady pace but also push when necessary.

The first 7 miles were fairly consistent. I felt good and strong while running, both on the boardwalk and when we turned onto the street.

I knew where the boards were a bit more springy, where the road slopes to the left, and where to put myself so that my feet were even and I felt secure. I know some people don’t like out and back courses; personally, I love that I had the opportunity to see my friends and cheer for them along the way.

Free race photos! Which is good because I hardly took any pictures during this event – I was on a mission.

Looking at my splits I’m sure it’s clear when I hit the turn-around and was slammed with headwind. Ooof!

Yep, that’s right… 7 and a half. This was also around the time that I started talking to myself. Out loud. With feeling.

“Meridith, you can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS. You can and you will! You need to stay strong and keep pushing for that PR. This is all a mental game and you know you can do this.Let’s go. Hustle!”

I made it my goal to stay under 13 minute miles. I was still a little scarred from my Philadelphia half but I knew this course. I trained on this course. And I was positive that I could stay under 13 minute miles and attain a huge PR.

My self pep talks continued throughout the last miles. The volunteers energy at the water stops was contagious and once I hit the main area of the boardwalk, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I know this is totally cheesy but it was as though a montage was playing in my head. There were places along the way that reminded me of Chrissy and our training runs together. There were songs that reminded me of my children. The year we dresses as beauty queens and then the next year when we dressed as the Rockford Peaches flashed through my mind. Even though I was running this race alone, it didn’t feel that way.

I did my best and didn’t give up. When I saw the clock as I approached the finish line, I was elated! An 8 minute PR was mine!

I feel so, so good about this race. I knew that I would be able to do well and I’m really proud! I hit a lot of PRs last year but my half PR was a bittersweet because I didn’t have a good race experience. This is what I wanted my experience to be and what I wanted it to feel like and I could think of no better place to do it!

Immediately after I got my medal, my IG friend Angela found me! I don’t know if I conveyed just how grateful I was that she did that; I was so happy to see a familiar face! We were able to catch up for a few minutes and then parted ways. I also got to catch up with Hollie both before and after the race, which is always great!

I went along to grab a bagel, drink, and Johnson’s popcorn. There were other treats as well but I wanted to get my bag from bag check and my free beer at the bar! Priorities!

Happy, happy, happy! This race was everything that a PR race should be! I’ve already registered for lucky number 7, the Atlantic City April Fools half on April 15, 2018. Who’s with me?