Race recap: hotter than hades at the Bird-in-Hand half marathon


With one word to describe the Bird-in-Hand half marathon, this lone thought keeps topping my list.

It was a warm and muggy morning, with pre-dawn temps well into the 70s. Humidity was 96%. Oof.

IMG_0719An Amish family of runners at the race site

After an insane work week earlier this month, I headed to my hometown to run the rural road race for the second straight year. Lancaster, Pennsylvania is Amish country. Home to many in the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish and Mennonite community. Many in the county’s Amish community love to run and have a growing reputation as strong competitors in running circles. And this annual race is organized by that growing running community.

I drove to PA with my running pal Ray and connected with the lovely Kyle and Christina for our big Saturday morning run – the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon.

We headed to the race site in rural Lancaster County early Saturday morning amidst the fog and were treated to a stellar sunrise.

IMG_0704Ah, Lancaster

We arrived early so we could all mentally prepare. When Kyle suggested we run intervals together – I immediately agreed. Repeated cycles of five minutes of running and one minute of walking sounded like a brilliant way to tackle this muggy 13.1.

IMG_0722From left: me, Kyle, Christina and Ray

As we prepped to run and lined up at the start, we spotted a few ladies pinning each other’s race bibs on their dresses. That’s right – many of the Amish run in their everyday clothes, including hair coverings. And sneakers.

IMG_0743Let’s race, ladies

Soon enough, it was go time. Kyle and I ran together, and we were thankful to stick to our interval plan. Dozens of people passed us each time we walked those first few miles.

Among them, we repeatedly encountered an Amish man running with his young daughter. We cheered each time we saw them, noting how fantastic their joint venture was.

IMG_0748Seriously, I love this duo.

By mile three, I was drenched. I’m talking soaked to the bone. Kyle and I stopped to walk at least twice each mile.

Around the turnaround at mile five, Kyle waved me on. Her legs were heavy, as she’d run a 20-miler just 6 days prior.

I pushed ahead, passing folks as I ran, then watching them pass me by when it was my time to walk.

The next hour was such a challenge. I was overheated. I wanted to stop, but I didn’t. I stuck to Kyle’s plan, even though I was now running solo. I listened to her voice on my head. I didn’t want to let her down by walking too long, or running too slowly .

IMG_0750Running through the corn(fields)

The race itself was a stunning, but hilly course through the cornfields and farmland in Lancaster. Every mile or so, Amish kids manned water and Gatorade stations, and alerted runners to the beverages in four-part harmony.

Amish and Mennonite families cheered us along, many while also doused us with water from garden hoses and sprinklers.

With the heat and humidity, race organizers added about a dozen huge coolers filled with ice along the route. Each time I spotted one, I grabbed a handful, ate a few cubes and shoved ice down my bra.

I sounded like a maraca as I ran on.

As I ran on I saw lots of horses, cows and goats. There were loads of farms, fields and even a half-dozen one-room schoolhouses and horse-drawn buggies galore.

Around mile 8, I hoofed it up a hill and spotted something out of the ordinary.

IMG_0752um, what?

Am I hallucinating, or is that a pair of camels?

Turns out, I said that out loud as another runner answered, informing me that yes indeedy, camels were hanging out along the side of the road.

I spent the next few miles wondering why. I learned more the following week when I found an article about a camel dairy farm  in the Lancaster paper’s news archives. Did you know you can milk them? Yup. But apparently they are not incredibly willing participants.

By this point of the race, I was passing people left and right. Please don’t get me wrong. I certainly wasn’t speeding. My running time was just a 9-minute-mile pace. I’d just started walking far earlier than most, so I had more in my reserves as we all pressed on. (Thank you Kyle!!)

We cut through a farm on a gravel toad, where I tripped over a cornstalk and nearly landed flat on my face. Somehow I caught myself and moved on. It was along this stretch that cups of Rita’s Water Ice were distributed. So happy! The sugar rush added some pep to my step.

The last miles were tough. I’d been seeing occupied ambulances whiz by and volunteers and medics helping collapsed runners along the course. I was concerned about hydrating properly and making it to the end.

As it turned out, more than 50 of the 1,700 registered runners suffered heat exhaustion. Some even went to the hospital. The high for the day was 91.

I didn’t walk that last mile. I just wanted to finish. When I rounded the final turn onto a grass field and sprinted (eh, as much as I could muster) to the finish, I heard an announcer share finishers ‘ names and hometowns.

I never heard my name, but I couldn’t have cared less. I was done.

I guzzled water and chocolate milk and ate a banana before I tripped over Ray in the field and encountered my mom. A few minutes later, we heard Kyle ‘s name announced as she finished the run.

IMG_0721The hot air balloon launch at the start. This never gets old.

My time was 5 minutes slower than last year, when conditions were far more ideal. But I placed in the top third, compared to last year when I was solidly in the middle.

It wasn’t my best race by far. But I’m so proud of how all three of us fared – each about 15 minutes off our PR paces. But given the conditions, we ran smart and made it through without injuring ourselves. So to us, the race was a success!

IMG_0775We’re done! As Christina said, the race was so brutal we lost a whole human. Not to worry, she finished uninjured!

Despite the sizzling conditions, I love this small-town race and would do it again in a heartbeat. Plus, you get a handcrafted medal made from a horseshoe. I nearly tipped over – again – when an Amish girl placed it around my neck.

These miles marked my first double digit run this month for me toward Scootadoot’s Million Mile Run. And NEWS!  This month, starting today (9/15) at midnight, Volvo is matching funds of donations to Alex’s Lemonade Stand for up to $30,000!

The number 30 is significant because every hour, 30 news cases of cancer affect children under the age of 20 worldwide.

That means any donation given during this period will go TWICE AS FAR!

If you wish to donate, check out our team page – We’ve raised $800 for pediatric cancer halfway through September!

Have you run a race in less-than-ideal conditions? How did you cope? Did you ever not finish due to overheating? Have you heard of this race?

Those Summer Nights

Anyone who’s familiar with Southern California knows that we don’t believe in seasons.  I live in a little part of CA known as the I.E. or Inland Empire.  Which means there’s no off shore breeze where I live.  We have two temperatures, hot and slightly less hot.  Both of which may or may not be accompanied by the Santa Ana winds.  Summer starts in May and ends in October, which makes running during half the year really, really, really, really sucky.

I know, I know.  I sound like a whiny bitch.  It's because I am.

I know, I know. I sound like a whiny bitch. It’s because I am.

I don’t know about you peeps, but I’m what’s considered a “heavy sweater” and no I don’t mean like a cable knit.  I mean shirt completely drenched after a 60 minute yoga class heavy.  I mean wiping up my sweat after push-ups so I don’t slip and break my neck kind of heavy. I know sweating has its benefits, like, you know, that whole eliminating toxins thing.  But the last thing I want to do when it’s 100 degrees outside is run.  I’ve been going to RIPPED and Body Back at 5 am for this very reason.  So far I’ve been able to keep up with my cross training, but with the Dumbo Double Dare rapidly approaching in August, I’m starting to feel a little nervous.  Because, yeah, August in SoCal sucks the life right out of you.   I know I need to train and I need to train in the heat.  I’m just finding it very very hard to actually get out there and do it.

How do you stay motivated when it’s hotter than Hades?  Any tips for running in the heat?  Has anyone ran the Disneyland Half in August?  Am I going to melt out there?!?

When a Race Goes Horribly Wrong

The Pittsburgh Marathon was meant to be MY race.

But little went as planned on May 6.

I trained long and hard last spring for my third marathon. I dodged snow plows, braved whipping winds on frigid, single-digit days and completed two 20-milers, one at a 9:40 minute/mile pace, my best yet. I actually paid attention to my diet and adjusted accordingly. I was ready to race.

But on race day, instead of celebrating a 26.2-mile journey, I was weeping in the shower.

I know it sounds bonkers, crying over exercise. But that’s how it panned out.

I headed to Pittsburgh the day before the race with two good friends, including my trusty running partner Gary. Early May in Pittsburgh was unseasonably hot, we realized as we walked to the expo from our downtown hotel. We took this as a sign to hydrate even more.

The highs reached into the 80s both days we were in the Steel City. It was sunny and humid, without a cloud in the sky.

I woke up race morning feeling fresh and ready to run. I ate, dressed and headed to the lobby with my running partners Gary and Audra.


We bid our loved ones farewell and walked to the starting line.


It was go time. I was antsy before we started running, but attributed to nerves.

There were other signs, however, that it was not my day.

Clue number 1: It was warm at 6 a.m.

Yep, it was hot and humid before we even started. Weather Service stats place the temp around 75 before we even hit the pavement. I struggle with speed in warmer weather. We should have adjusted our planned race pace to reflect the day’s forecast. But we were excited and knew we were well-prepared.


Clue number 2: I felt like crap at mile 5.

I figured my energy would kick in several miles down the road. Some days I’m just not feeling it until I’ve logged a few miles. I just hoped the boost wasn’t too far off. Unfortunately, it never came.

Clue number 3: I stopped talking.

I’m typically a Chatty Cathy when running with my pals. I stopped contributing to the conversation shortly after mile 6.

“I knew something was off when you went quiet,” Gary said later.  “It’s not like you to be quiet for so long.” No offense, he added.

Gary and Audra kept asking if I was ok, I grunted affirmative answers. Audra checked if I wanted to walk and I declined. But I should’ve listened to her suggestion. There’s absolutely no shame in walking and it really may have made a difference.

Clue number 4: I couldn’t get enough water.

I grabbed multiple glasses of water at several hydration stations, dumping most in my mouth but some on my head. Gary handed me a drenched bandana to cool me down somewhere around mile 8.

Clue number 5: Things started turning purple.

That’s when I really started to take notice that something was wrong.

I’ve been overcome by the heat on training runs before and know that when start to see colors it’s time to listen to my body. That’s when I called it. This marathon wasn’t happening for me.

“Guys,” I grunted shortly before mile 10 and the turnoff for the half-marathon course. “I need to cut it at the half. I might make it 5 more miles but another 16 just isn’t happening.”

It killed me to say it. But I knew it was the right call. I knew if I dropped, they’d stop too. The last thing I wanted was to take my running partners down with me.

“You do what you have to do,” Audra assured me. “It’s ok.”

Moments later, we reached the split, I turned left with the half-marathoners and walked across a bridge that spanned the Monongahela River. Marathoners were running across the westbound lanes, and I veered toward the concrete barrier, prepared to climb over the wall, find my friends and to return to my rightful place in the race.

I stopped and shook my head. I couldn’t even run across the bridge, let alone another 16 miles.

I burst into tears.

I walked a half-mile or so before I started running again. I wanted to throttle anyone kind enough to cheer me on, assuring me I was running well and almost done. I wish.

Those last few miles were rough, I walked then ran and walked again. I finally saw the finish line and headed there as fast as possible. I grabbed a bottle of water and drained it.

A volunteer handed me a medal. I tried to dodge it, but it was plunked around my neck despite my protests. It was the least of my problems.

I made my way over to the family reunion area, where I fortunately located Gary’s wonderful family, who were surprised to see me, but took care of me nonetheless.

Two hours later, I was thrilled to see Gary and Audra finish the race, but teared up since I wasn’t with them.

Some runners tell me I need several factors to align on marathon day. I had trained properly – check. But the weather was not favorable. It was a good 25 degrees warmer than what I’d hoped for.

I should have heeded the warnings. There were so many things I could’ve done differently that may have allowed me to at least complete the race

But I didn’t. Life’s full of lessons, isn’t it?

Since May, I’ve completed two more marathons and am planning to run another in the fall. Can’t keep this runner down.

Have you ever had a race not go as planned?