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!

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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.

artmuseum

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!

2016 Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge 10k Recap

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A lot can change in four years. 2012 seems like a lifetime ago at this point but it was actually the first time I participated in the Run the Bridge 10k. Dinosaurs weren’t exactly roaming the earth but it was pre-Scoot a Doot days, when I used to blog about my races on Tumblr, so I think that’s saying something.

Packet pickup was quick and easy – I live right near one location of the South Jersey Running Company. When you register you are able to choose your packet pickup location of choice.

I was in and out of the store in less than 3 minutes, although they did offer bridge runners 20% off that day. I refrained but it was a challenge! There was also a 15% coupon in the race packet so my plan is to get back there soon for new Mizunos for the Philly half.

The packet had the race bib, long sleeved cotton t-shirt, and a couple of papers regarding the course and other little odds and ends.

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The race benefits the LARC school, which is a local school that assists students with disabilities at no cost to the families. It’s a great cause and one that I feel really good about supporting while participating in the race.

The emails from the race management were informative and they kept good communication lines, which is always appreciated! They suggested getting to the parking lots early and I did just that. Roads apparently started closing around 7am so I arrived at 6:30. Plenty of time to tailgate in my car with water and a banana and play on social media – #runnertailgating.

Most races I’ve done I wind up carpool with friends or meeting up with them for pre-race pictures/post-race drinks. I was solo for this race – I saw a lot of people I recognized from other races and our local Run 856 group, but I wasn’t there with anyone. I missed my buddies!

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Campbell’s Field used to host the Camden Riversharks, a minor league baseball team, but within the past year the organization disbanded. I’m not sure what they’re doing with the stadium now that the Riversharks are no longer playing there but it was well kept and ready to host 4,000 runners and walkers.

A plus of being at the stadium was that there are real bathrooms to use prior to the race. I will always opt for that over port-a-potties. They were also offering coffee and other assorted things, as well as checking IDs for the post-race beer garden. Very cushy in comparison to other races!

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The walk from the stadium to the bridge provided a warm up and there were two lines of port-a-potties along the way, as well.

As the name suggests, the Ben Franklin Bridge is a huge portion of this race. Once on the bridge, there were no official corrals but they did have pace markers for people to self-seed. I placed myself in between the 11-12 minute mile, which I knew was what I would be doing for this run.

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We started exactly at 8:30. I don’t have any pictures from the course because I was just trying to focus on breathing and getting up the hills of the bridge. I haven’t done much hill training so the incline, while slow and steady, was still felt. I definitely took advantage of the downhills. There was brief stint in Philadelphia around the loop and then it’s back for round two of the bridge.

The second part of the race is through the streets of Camden, along the waterfront, near the Battleship New Jersey, and then back to the stadium. There were 3 water stations and plenty of police and volunteers throughout the route. Not many spectators but the enthusiasm of the volunteers was fantastic!

My legs weren’t too pleased during the second portion of the race. Additionally I think I made a mistake with pre-race fuel by taking it too early. I wound up finishing in 1:13. Not my best, but given the course it was pretty much what I anticipated. I’m definitely proud of getting out there and getting it done!

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Finishing on the field is always exciting and immediately after volunteers had medals waiting for us.

There was plenty of water, chocolate milk, snack bags, bagels, waiting for the dinners. There were lines for each and I wasn’t exactly sure what was what so I just found the end of one and stood in it. You can probably imagine my happiness when I found out it was the beer line! YES PLEASE! I think this was the first year that they offered a beer at the end of this race. (Yards, for those interested.)

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Easy getting to my car and I was back home before noon. Mother Nature had my back this time because the weather was perfect! A lot can change in four years but this race stays consistently challenging and great.

Next race for me is the Philly half. I’d like to get a couple of training runs in before then – possibly do a bit more hill work in the interim. But first, this week is the start of No-school-vember – my kids are off Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Give me strength! 😉

Ninjas Spotted in the Aloha State

I suppose I should preface this post by acknowledging the obvious fact that there are easier ways to experience paradise than spending 38 hours with 12 teammates, running a 200 mile relay race through heat, humidity, wind, rain, lava rock, and hills.  I’m sure most people would rather spend that time lounging on the sand and sipping sweet drinks from a coconut.  Well, that’s not how ninjas take on the big island.  Not initially, anyway.

This is how we Ragnar!

Two weeks ago, my fella and I traveled to the big island with eleven other ninjas to run the inaugural Hawaii Ragnar.  Hawaii!!!  I had never been to Hawaii so as soon as this race was announced, I knew this was the way I wanted to see paradise: from the pavement!  This race had everything: sandy beaches, palm trees, and let us not forget the humidity!  Oh the humidity.  I should have trained in a sauna.  Let me rephrase that, I should have trained…period.  Ragnar Hawaii was one of the most difficult courses I’ve ever encountered.  So much so I feel my feelings can best be presented in a list entitled “Reasons Why Ragnar Hawaii Kicked My Ass.”

At the start in Hilo. It was still dark when our team headed out!

At the start in Hilo. It was still dark when our team headed out!

Please note: this list does not include any obvious reasons like lack of training or preparation or bug repellent.  I really should have done more research.

Reasons Why Ragnar Hawaii Kicked My Ass

#1 – Time Zones

Did you know that Hawaii is 3 hours behind California?  I didn’t until I got there.  At first I thought, awesome, it’s like I’ve gone back in time, I get three extra hours today.  Sure, it helped when I had to get up at 2:30 am to be at a start line by 5:30 am.  It felt just like any other day, but by 6:00 pm, I wanted to sleep.  This doesn’t fare well when you have thirty more hours of running ahead of you.  In past Ragnars, Van 2 (my van) usually starts by mid afternoon.  I didn’t start running until almost 5:00 pm!  This meant night gear for my very first leg of the race as it starts getting dark around 6:00 pm.  That’s technically 9:00 pm California time aka Cam’s bedtime.  So yeah, this threw me off my game a bit.  I was fighting sleepiness the whole race.  Luckily, my van threw a dance party every time we stopped to support our runners, who frequently sported unicorn heads and rainbow legwarmers.  This rave-like atmosphere put a little pep in my step, but time zones, you really know how to mess with a girl’s head.

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#2 – Weather

So I mentioned humidity earlier, but that’s pretty expected.  I also expected the 80-90 degree temperatures during the day.  I planned for this, brought my sunscreen and my tank tops.  I did not expected the temperatures to drop and the winds to howl.  Apparently the big island has two sides, the wet side of the island and the hot side of the island.  Well, this course took us from Hilo to Kona so we got to experience ALL of it.  Biting winds, warm rain, muggy heat…I almost didn’t even bring a jacket.  I had no idea this one island could be so diverse.  Hilo was a lush jungle with tall shady trees and green vines everywhere.  Kona was a lava field, black rock all the way to the ocean.  I really should have done more research.

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My SECOND sunrise in Hawaii!

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Fields of Lava Rock

#3 – Hills

Yeah, so about that research I should have done, specifically volcanoes and how to run near them.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise really, they put the course maps out months in advance, but still seeing those inclines on paper and then experiencing them in real life when you’re jet lagged and melting is a whole other beast.  I was lucky, my legs were relatively flat.  However it seems like every other runner had the worse hills ever!  Especially runner 5, who had to run uphill for 11.8 miles.  This run was so difficult, it warranted an extra medal, the Big Kahuna, just for this one leg of the race!

The best thing you'll ever see at Ragnar.

The best thing you’ll ever see at Ragnar.

#4 – It’s Effing Hawaii

We ran through so much beautiful scenery, it was hard to stay focused on the end game.  Hawaii is such a laid-back, relaxing atmosphere and I wanted to savor every minute of my surroundings, both during and after my runs.  I was awestruck by the geology of the place, how tufts of grass grew out of the hardened lava rock and how cliffs seem to just thrust up out of the sea.  I had to stop and take pictures of the sun rising over the fields of lava rock, while in the distance the ocean gleamed to life.  Even in the darkness of night, the island held a peaceful murmur that was hard not to be captivated by.  This is the reason I run Ragnar, so I get to experience this part, the part that’s far from the vacation.  The part I’d never see if I had just come to Hawaii with a bunch of friends.14708123_10207531452340122_548923884065681528_n
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#5 – I had to leave

The biggest regret of this whole experience is that I left right after the race.  I wish I would have set aside more time to explore this island.  The rest of the ninjas stayed and took in all the splendors Hawaii had to offer and I watched from Facebook in envy, wishing that I too had a sweet drink in a coconut.  My advice, take the time to make this one a real runcation.  Bring a jacket and bug spray.  Get there a day early and leave many days later.  And do some research.  Who knew they had snow in Hawaii?

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2016 AC Marathon Race Series 10k Recap

Other working title: Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours!

If you’ve hung around these parts for awhile, you have probably noticed that there are a few races series that I return to, time and time again. The Atlantic City Marathon Races Series is one of THOSE races. I usually sign up as soon as registration is open and wait with bated breath for race day to arrive.

So why? Why do I love the AC Marathon Race Series like I do?

Mermaids ready to run!

Mermaids ready to run!

My running partner, Chrissy and I have been training there weekly. We know the ins and outs of the boardwalk. We say hello to the same AC ambassadors each week. We know where the boardwalk has the very slightest bit of incline (going into Ventor City, if you’re wondering) and we know landmarks.

When you run a race course over and over again during training runs, it’s comfortable during race day. (Even if it’s raining and windy!)

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For a $15 fee, the race series has morning of packet pick-up, which we both opted for. The drive to Atlantic City is less than an hour for both of us and staying at home is a comfort we both appreciate. I am so grateful that the race director added this option – it cuts down on travel time and expenses.

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The packet pickup was open from 7am-8am and the race called for a 9am start time. As we are overachievers, we arrived at 6:53am, had our packets in hand by 7am and had about 2 hours to mill around. We used the time to make ourselves comfy and snapped usies, while chatting with staff and fellow runners.

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Another thing that’s great about running in AC is that while the conditions might not have been what most would consider ideal, you can wait in the hotel lobbies/casinos until right before the event. After spending over an hour in my Broad Street corral in the pouring rain, this was a significant upgrade. (Have I done something to piss off Mother Nature? Our track record lately isn’t too fantastic!)

Chrissy and I decided we would run our own races for this event. My goal was to hit 1 hour and 10 minutes; I was fairly confident at this point in my training that I could do it.

My previous PR was 1 hour and 11 minutes, which was back in 2013 during the Run the Bridge 10k. It’s been haunting me ever since because I haven’t been able to break it for a few years.

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About 10 minutes before the start of the race, we reluctantly went outside. We wanted to get our bodies used to the colder temperature before we started running. We bounced on our toes while singing along with The Go-Gos song that the DJ was playing and tried to think happy warm thoughts.

The rain pelted us in the face as we sang the Star Spangled Banner and we all exchanged bemused looks with each other as the song came to an end. Were we all really this crazy to go running in the cold rain? Apparently yes, yes we were.

I don’t have any pictures from the course because my phone was safely tucked away in my belt. I held a Gu in my hand to keep it warm and also so I didn’t have to fiddle with my belt mid-race.

I ran the first mile straight and then fell into my 2:1 intervals. My watch was about .08th of a mile off so when I hit their mile marker, I was only at .92 on my watch. Not quite sure how that happened but it worked for my mental game.

I was alone with my thoughts for a majority of the race so I thought about past races and experiences in Atlantic City, which made me smile. Occasionally I chatted with people I was running near and for awhile I hung out with a group of ladies that were listening to Justin Timberlake. Score!

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Our pants were a big hit! $10 on Amazon, holla! When I got to mile 5 I saw that I was under an hour by a couple of minutes and I was feeling great so I decided it was time to push the pace.

And just like that, I had an angel on a bicycle appear to help me with the push. My own personal escort – who knew middle/back of the pack runners got those? He asked me my name, told me he liked my pants (that’s what they all say!), and rode next to me telling me that I was awesome and that I was nearly at the finish. Thanks for the confidence boost, Terrance!

Terrance then pedaled ahead so that he could cheer for me right near the finish line, too. What a guy! This is yet another reason why I love Atlantic City! Everyone, from volunteers, to other race participants, to dudes on bikes, is so encouraging. It’s a small race and everyone feels like a friend.

During mile 6 I jumped back into running straight, sans intervals. My legs felt strong and my mind knew I was capable. That was my fastest mile at 11:15!

Crossing the finish line felt like coming home. I saw the clock and I knew that I was going to hit my 1:10!

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Party like a rock star!

Chrissy rolled in minutes later and I was able to catch her crossing the finish line of her first 10k race! Score!

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We grabbed our bags from gear check and went to check out the beer garden. You read that right: the BEER GARDEN. In the past there’s always been a cup of beer at the finish of the Atlantic City races. This time? We each got a flight!

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We were able to enjoy the band and hear the race winners announced before we decided that it was just too cold to hang outside any longer. We grabbed lunch at Harry’s Oyster Bar and had the best burgers ever! Chrissy and I spend a lot of our training runs talking about food (and burgers in particular) and we both agreed these hit the spot!

The 5k/10k shirt was white but they were out of my size so I got the blue one instead (which is cool by me, I love it!)

The 5k/10k shirt was white but they were out of my size so I got the blue one instead (which is cool by me, I love it!)

So let’s recap, shall we? PR CITY, BABY! Flat course, great fellow runners, fantastic volunteers, random bike escort (can’t promise that to everyone but hey, you never know) and a beer flight. Here I am, baby, signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours!

Next up for me is another 10k – Run the Bridge. Think I can hit another PR? It’s a more difficult course, elevation wise, but I’ll be able to take advantage of the downhills on the bridge. And then the Philly half – another tried and true for me but with a different course this year! Will it live up to my expectations?