Messiah Track Meet

When I ran track in high school my events were the 100m hurdles, 300m hurdles and 4x400m relay.  Although I ran cross country when it came to track season I had no interest in running anything over 400m.  17 years later that would finally change.

The Tuesday after Jason and I returned home from Vermont we drove to Messiah College after work for an all comers’ track meet.  I had been incredibly excited to see them post about hosting three of these. When I was in high school Millersville University used to have them.  We talked two of our local running buddies, Kelly and Andrew, into coming there to run as well.  We all agreed to running the mile and after emailing the meet director to confirm we could do a co-ed relay, agreed to run the 4x400m as well.

We arrived early as I hadn’t been on Messiah’s campus since I was a senior in high school (I had applied and was accepted but ultimately chose to go to Lebanon Valley before transferring my sophomore years and graduating from York).  We spotted Kelly and Andrew and not long after a few of my track kids began to arrive as well.  A $5 entry fee allowed us to run as many events as we wanted.  Jason and I had ran a mile workout in May and used those times to estimate what times we would run so that when we signed up they knew how to line everyone up.  We ran almost a mile warmup and waited for our event to be called.

Despite the meet not starting until 6:30pm it was warmer than we expected with the sun still shining.  No one had signed up for the first event, the 4x100m relay, so the mile was up first.  We lined up along the curved starting line which felt very strange compared to lining up in lanes like I did in high school.  There were only 12 total participants so it was ran as a co-ed race. 

The gun went off, I took off and immediately began to work myself towards the inner lane; a bit of an unnerving experience but the limited runners and varying speeds helped to ensure I didn’t get tripped up.  I realized immediately something didn’t work correctly with starting my watch, so proving my mile on Strava went out the window.  Around 130m it dawned on me that I was ahead of Kelly and big red flag went off in my head as she is much faster than me.  I tried to scale back and she did pass me.  I finished the first lap and heard “1:30” called out and again a warning went off in my head that I was going too fast. 

I had originally wanted to run each lap in 1:45 in hopes of breaking 7 mins given my solo mile in May was a 7:17.  My brain battled itself between knowing I couldn’t hold that pace and realizing it was only a 4 lap race that I might as well hold on as best as I could.  I didn’t hear splits for the 2nd and 3rd laps, and the two lead guys passed me.  I was fighting to hold on as my legs were working as hard as they could, but my lungs were struggling to keep up.  I was relieved to cross the finish line and surprised to find I had ran a 6:37!  Jason had gone out harder than he should’ve as well and Kelly almost caught him in the final stretch, but he managed to hold her off and run a 6:19 while she clocked 6:20.  Andrew, the only one of us who actually ran the mile in high school track, ran a 5:07.  The winner, a guy who looked to be in his 40s, had smoked us all in a blazing 4:18!

We had plenty of time to recover as the 4x400m relay was listed as the last event.  I was able to watch 4 of my kids hurdle.  My best hurdler had the challenge of running against the PIAA state 110h champion.  Needless to say he didn’t beat him, but I’m glad he had the experience of racing that kind of talent. 

Our team was the only one signed up for the relay, so I talked to one of the college kids there volunteering and convinced him to get some friends to race us.  By the time we lined up he had actually recruited multiple athletes and we had 3 teams to race against!  Jason and Kelly never ran track in high school so when the four of us warmed up I had shown them how to pass the baton.  The organizers, in keeping with the low-key feel of the meet, didn’t require a 3 turn stagger even though I had prepared for it by putting myself as the second runner.  The college kids were gracious and gave us lane 1 even though we told them they’d be a lot faster than us!  

Jason led off our relay team and held his own against much more experienced kids.  I took the baton from him and sprinted as best as I could, trying to close the gap on the guy ahead of me.  My track kids were positioned on the final turn to cheer for me.  It was a good spot for them to be as I was trying to hang tough at that point and I knew I couldn’t let them down!  I passed the baton off to Kelly and Andrew anchored our team through the finish line in a 5:12.1.  The two all male teams beat us, but we did beat the all female team.  It didn’t dawn on me until after that I should’ve had one of my track kids run a stopwatch to get splits on us. 

Slightly bummed he didn’t know his time, Jason was still ecstatic about how he ran and said how fun that relay was.  Kelly and Andrew said they had a lot of fun as well, and we all agreed it was a good night of speed work for all of us.  I encourage any runner who has never tried a track event to see if there are any local all comers’ meets in your area and give it a try!   

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A Week in Vermont – Part 2

If you didn’t read the first part of my trip click here.

Wednesday was another day spent exploring a new area.  After having oatmeal for breakfast in the hotel room we drove south to Shelburne to check out Shelburne Farms.  We arrived before they officially opened which was fine since our main purpose in going was to explore the trails.  The property had about 10 miles worth of trails covering a variety of landscapes, and I believe we covered most, if not all, of them.  We saw different parts of Lake Champlain and relaxed by it.  We also hiked through some woods and across lots of farmland.  The trails were relatively easy with some having mild climbs like the one that took us to the top of a hill to see far across the lake.  On our way out we put money in their donation box as there is no entrance fee to explore the farm.  We also popped in their shop for a small purchase.

Shelburne Tap House looked small from the outside of its strip mall location, but was bigger than expected inside and provided us a great lunch.  After lunch we walked across the street to a lighting store, most of which were out of our price range but still really unique.  We were disappointed to find the Country Christmas Loft closed, but found the Shelburne Country Store a good shop to visit.  Jason picked out birthday cake fudge while I chose chocolate and maple fudge and both were heavenly.  The remainder of the afternoon we spent relaxing at the hotel until we walked back to Burlington for a light dinner.  Wanting something unique we tried out Istanbul Kebab House.  We each ordered an appetizer platter to share and Turkish apple tea.  Later we shared a creamie by Lake Champlain to finish off a day loaded with walking.

The only rainy day of the week turned out to be on Thursday.  This was a bit of a blessing as we had been walking so many miles it forced us to have a more relaxing day.  Our morning started out with a drive to Colchester for breakfast at Athens Diner.  Jason couldn’t wait to eat there again after discovering it last year.  We lounged around the hotel room until our breakfast digested and we could use the gym to work out.  Two lifting sessions and one run made this the most I had ever worked out on a vacation!

For lunch I was craving ramen, but we didn’t want to walk to Burlington in the rain or pay for parking.  Luckily Jason found a place in Williston called Sakuri Sushi & Kitchen.  While it wasn’t exactly ramen, I still really enjoyed my tempura udon.  I’m not sure if it was a shrimp or prawn that was part of the tempura (normally I’m not a shrimp person) but it was something I would eat again!  We used the rain as an opportunity to go to the movie theater in Essex and see Top Gun Maverick.  It definitely was one of the best movies we’ve seen in a long time and Jason felt it might’ve even outdid the first one!  Wanting something on the lighter side for dinner we checked out EcoBean for some smoothies before heading back to hotel room for the night.

Friday was our last full day in Vermont.  We set out to walk through Centennial Woods in the morning on our way to Winooski, but a few feet into the woods we were plagued with mosquitoes.  Not having put on buy spray, we quickly exited the woods and walked through the University of Vermont’s campus to get to the town.  Jason found a new favorite restaurant for breakfast at Sneakers Bistro.  Having explored most of the town last year we just relaxed a bit by the Winooski River before returning to the hotel to drive the Rav to Five Corners Antiques in Essex Junction.  It was neat to see antiques unique to that area having explored so many antique stores in Pennsylvania.

Not finished with walking trails, our next stop was to Red Rocks Park in south Burlington.  I expected it to be a tiny park given the small parking lot, but it had plenty to explore!  One trail led down to a public beach, but we were content to just take in the views of Lake Champlain from higher above.  Once hunger began to kick in we made our way back to the parking lot, drove to the hotel and walked down to Burlington one final time.

I should’ve had my fill of hard cider for the week, but the menu of drinks at Citizen Cider was too tempting to pass up.  Their variety was unlike anything we had ever seen!  We each ordered a flight with mine consisting mostly of sweet ciders and Jason’s consisting of mostly dry ones.  I think after those he’s officially a cider lover!  Unfortunately they can’t ship to Pennsylvania which might be a good thing for our wallets!  We went back to Church Street marketplace to take in the sights and later a final trip to Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream before calling it a day.  Taking in a final view of Lake Champlain definitely made me feel like I was leaving a part of my heart in Vermont!

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Church Street Markeplace

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Boardwalk at Lake Champlain

Saturday morning Jason woke up around 4:30am and asked if I wanted to head home.  Preferring to stay in bed I said no, but realizing we could beat some traffic getting an earlier start I relented and said yes.  Our only hiccup came when I realized both the Garmin GPS and my phone’s GPS had put us on a road leading to the ferry to NY.  While I agree it would’ve been the shortest route, the fact that the ferry wasn’t open at that hour wasn’t beneficial!  Once we got back on the main route again it was smooth sailing with just slightly more traffic than we encountered on Sunday.  We made a stop in Scranton to get pizza from Honky Tonk because despite living out of the area for 7+ years we still miss Scranton pizza.  After that it was straight home to unpack and reflect on how busy but fun and filling our week in Vermont had been!

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A Week in Vermont – Part 1

After a very busy spring Jason and I were ready for our week long vacation in June.  We contemplated different places, but seeing the cost of airfare and the number of flights being cancelled/delayed constantly we decided to go back to Vermont.  We had really enjoyed our trip to Burlington last year and wanted a chance to explore more of the state.  I booked the same DoubleTree hotel just outside of the city (though it cost a lot more than last year!) as its proximity to Burlington was so convenient, and we had a good experience there previously.  After running the Red Rose 5 Miler on Saturday we packed up to head out Sunday morning!

Sunday was rather uneventful as we spent the majority of the day driving.  We had gone out to breakfast are our local spot before leaving and packed sandwiches for lunch to try to limit the number of times we had to stop.  We left before 7:30 and arrived before 4:30.  After checking into the hotel we drove to nearby The Fish & Chip for dinner as Jason was in the mood for seafood.  It was a small place kind of hidden from the street and seemed like a locals place vs a tourist one which meant the ambiance was simple but the food was good!  We went back to the hotel for the evening and once dinner settled put its gym to use getting in an upper body workout.  Normally I wouldn’t feel like doing a workout after that long of a car ride, but it definitely helped shake out my stiff muscles and clear up any brain fog!  

Monday we set out for downtown Burlington and the sight of Lake Champlain made my heart happy.  We had breakfast at the Skinny Pancake, a place I was excited to try as I hadn’t had a good crepe since I was in Halifax, Nova Scotia on our cruise in 2017.  It did not disappoint!  After that we ventured north on the Island Line trail and sat on the beach by Lake Champlain for a bit.  Going in June vs July we discovered it was more spring-like there and pollen was building up at the edge of the lake.  We went off trail through the North Beach campground then onto Arthur Park.  It was a small nature preserve with a fair amount of insects to buzz at us, so we didn’t stay too long.  We passed through Lakeview Cemetery as a way to get back on the trail and took note of the names, a hobby we’ve started doing on vacations to see how much they vary from the last names in our area. 

When we arrived back into town we went to Splash at the Boathouse for lunch.  Even though this was a repeated restaurant from last year, its lakeside dining couldn’t be passed up.  After lingering over our drinks watching some boats, we took our sight seeing to Church Street Marketplace.  Jazzfest was going on the entire week so we took in some music and later, some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!  Having walked plenty for one day we were back in the hotel by evening, enjoyed some peanut butter sandwiches in the room for dinner and watched American Ninja Warrior before calling it a night.  

Tuesday morning we got up early and went for a run.  Our route was similar to the previous day’s walk; downhill into Burlington, along the Island Line trail, through Lakeview Cemetery and back for 8 miles total.  The mile long uphill through the University of Vermont’s campus back to the hotel was definitely taxing!  After showering we drove to Waterbury and enjoyed breakfast at Maxi’s Restaurant.  Since it was on our way to Stowe, we stopped at the Ben and Jerry’s flavor graveyard.  The factory itself was closed to tours, and the graveyard was small, but it was a fun “tourist trap” to read the amusing epitaphs of discontinued flavors. 

Our next stop was Moss Glen Falls.  The parking lot was small so I’m glad we arrived early.  It was a relatively short hike to reach the falls which turned out to be much bigger than I expected.  Although I’ve seen Multnomah Falls in Oregon, Moss Glen still impressed me!  If I lived in the area I would definitely go there to relax and cool off in the summer!  On our way back to the parking lot we found a small pond that had tons of tadpoles, frogs and salamanders that were fun to watch swim. 

We headed back to Stowe and found free parking near the Stowe recreation path.  We bought some waters at the convenience store then did some shopping.  A home goods store almost enticed us into buying a clock and end table as their designs were unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  Shaw’s General Store did garner our business as Jason found a really nice hat there.  Once we finished browsing we set out on the recreation path to explore.  It was a very nice and quiet path though I’m sure walking it in the middle of the week helped with that.  We didn’t walk the entire path as we were starting to get hungry and it appeared on Google maps that most restaurants didn’t open until 4pm or were farther up the path than we wanted to walk.  Once back in town we decided to head back to Waterbury for dinner. 

On our way we made a stop at the Vermont Cider Mill.  We viewed the machinery used to sort apples and make cider and had a refreshing free sample.  The on site restaurant stopped serving lunch at 3pm so we bought some apple cider donuts to hold us over until dinner.  Arriving in Waterbury we chose to dine at The Reservoir where Jason could enjoy a beer and I could have a hard cider.  I took a chance on their egg rolls and the sweet and spicy sauce was definitely more spicy than sweet!  My sweet tooth was satiated on the way back to the hotel when we went to Williston to get some frozen yogurt at Yogurt City.  Much like Sweet Frog at home it allowed us to fill a cup with chosen flavors of frozen yogurt then top with whatever we wanted and pay by the weight.  Unlike Sweet Frog it had a maple flavor which I had to try!  It began raining when we left so we called it a day and spent the evening at the hotel.

Part 2 of the trip is here.  

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Red Rose 5 Miler

After running York County’s White Rose 5 Miler a few times I finally crossed the Susquehanna River to Lancaster County to run the Red Rose 5 Miler on Sat. June 4th.  Truth be told I hadn’t even remembered that there was one until Jason came across it and suggested we sign up.  This was back when we were still training for April Foolish Endurance Run and were on the fence about running God’s Country marathon.  I was rather worn out from training and the thought of continuing to run long miles into June wasn’t too appealing, so signing up for the 5 miler ensured we wouldn’t be able to sign up for the marathon the same day.

Dad decided the week of to join us, so we picked him up and headed into downtown Lancaster.  The parking garage was right around the corner from the park where the event start and finished at.  This made it very convenient to pick up our packets and walk back to drop things off at the car.  Our registration included a cotton tshirt which I preferred to a tech shirt as I already have so many and most of my cotton race shirts are very old.  We only saw three familiar faces from races ran in York, but there were a lot more participants compared to White Rose.

The start took us a bit by surprise as we were lined up and expecting someone to make announcements before we were cut loose at 8am.  Instead the horn just went off and so did we!  The course began with a a slight incline for about two blocks before making its first turn.  I can’t recall all the details of the course as I’m not very familiar with Lancaster city, but it was a very nice rolling route that included going through Central Park.  The shade of the park was nice as the humidity was rather bad, and having 4 water stations was very welcome too.  While none of the hills were too challenging to me as I run hills regularly, anyone who isn’t in good hill shape would likely find the course to be hard.  The route is mostly a circle but the finish does come back past the first water station and turns onto the original street which makes for a downhill finish.  I overheard someone say that in all the years that the race has been held the course has never changed.  It was very well manned with volunteers including firefighters and plenty of barricades (filled with water as we saw the firefighters doing this when we arrived) that ensured no vehicles could come onto the route.

My goal for the race was 40 minutes.  I felt in decent shape, but not my absolute fastest shape, so I felt that was reasonable.  My Garmin watch didn’t connect until sometime during the race so my splits weren’t reliable, but they did have clocks along the route which helped.  I went out comfortably hard and kept Jason in my view for the first half mile and my dad even closer.  I actually caught my dad about halfway through and ran with him.  He kept telling me to go ahead of him, but our pace was a good one and not knowing the course I felt it best to keep a little more comfortable.  The final mile I wanted to pick up, but my stomach decided it had enough of the humidity and made me rather uncomfortable.  I was scared to push any harder in the off chance that I might not make it to the bathroom upon my return.  When we reached the final turn to the finish the discomfort subsided just enough for me to open up on the downhill and cruise into the finish with a chip time of 39:46, my dad behind me by a second.  It was only the second time I had beaten him in a race; the first time being the first 5k we ever ran back in May 2003.

I saw Jason once I crossed through the chute, but had to keep moving to the porta potty.  I have never been so relieved (pun intended) to use a bathroom.  While I’ve had humidity upset my stomach on training runs, and a few hours after a race, I’ve never had it happen during a race.  It makes me very hesitant to do any more summer races as I feel climate change is just making our Pennsylvania summers so much more hot and humid.  The post race snacks included bananas, chips and a beer garden.  I was really craving chocolate milk, but had to settle for a water and some sour cream and onion chips.  The awards were given out promptly at 9:15 and the elite runners of the F&M track club dominated.  Even with 5 year age categories none of us placed which is unusual and just showed how strong the competition was in all age groups.

I would definitely run the race again as it was very well organized and my kind of course.  I just hope next time it’s not as humid so I can push harder and not risk an upset stomach!

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Speedy Spring

I feel like once April begins my spring just takes off and in a blink of an eye it’s almost over! That’s primarily due in part to track season being fully underway with a meet at least once a week, sometimes two. Here is a highlight of events that have happened this spring:

April Foolish Endurance Run – I already wrote two posts about this event, but it’s still surreal that I was able to run a full 50k in my least favorite condition, mud. The event was a little over a month ago but feels like much longer already. It was nice wrapping up all the intense training before track season really took off, as it enabled me to relax more and really focus on coaching. I’ve still been running, but it’s definitely more when I want and how many miles I feel.

Speed Work – Staying with the running topic, Jason and I have actually switched to doing some speed workouts instead of long miles. I have made it a goal that by next track season I will able to run through the hurdle drills with the kids. Part of accomplishing that means getting my speed back so that I can actually sprint over the hurdles. Not to mention we’re just needing a change up in training, and Jason is beyond over spending 2-3 hours doing long runs on Sundays. We did a workout of 4x400s the one Sunday morning where I managed splits of 1:32, 1:34, 1:34 and 1:33. Not bad for someone who didn’t do that workout since March 2020. We also ran a mile time trial on the track where I put up a 7:17.

Weston’s Journey – Weston had endured 5.5 weeks of radiation that started the end of January. I didn’t see him for the duration of it as we didn’t want him unnecessarily exposed to any germs and risk delaying the treatments. Unfortunately during this time he also had a feeding tube put in as he was classified as “malnourished” due to his weight dropping. He only gets tube feedings at night, so he’s still able to eat normally during the day. His interest in eating waxes and wanes, but we’re hoping he soon gains enough that he won’t need the tube anymore. Once he finished his radiation treatments we celebrated with a Mickey Mouse ice cream cake. The biggest news came when his PET scan in April revealed that his tumor was completely GONE! I cried happy tears reading the message from my sister. He still has a few more chemo treatments to go, but as long as he stays on track he’ll be finished near the end of July. Jason and I babysat him the other Sunday morning so that Kasey and Erik could go shopping for flooring and paint for the new house they settle on later this month. He was a total joy to watch and enjoyed playing his monkey game and in the sandbox with “TT” and “Jay”. He’s learning new things all the time and expanding his vocabulary – everything from colors and animals to calling my mom’s cat “Mo” (Nemo).

Jay and Weston playing in the sand box

Jason’s Job – After facing a ton of burnout and nearly leaving his job, Jason actually was promoted to an Application Analyst. He’s still waiting for a replacement to be hired so he can be fully off of the help desk, but he’s already accomplishing a lot in his new role. He is very modest and claims what he’s doing is “no big deal”, but he’s someone who really exhausts all options and tries to figure everything out before ever asking for help. He’s been able to figure out things some others haven’t who have done the job longer than he has. I hope it continues to go well for him.

Track Season – I really should write a separate post about how much I’ve enjoyed this season, but I’ll try to summarize. We had a huge number of kids come out for the team this year compared to last year (likely affected by Covid burnout last year), and as challenging as that can be to manage with so many personalities and skills and abilities, it’s been a fun year. Our team has a lot of talent, and I’ve personally coached the best hurdler I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching. His hurdle form is perfect, and I’ve actually taken to studying his videos (courtesy of his mom’s filming his races) to find ways to make him better. Coaching him is making me a better coach, and since he is only a junior I get to continue coaching him next year. He earned 4 medals last night at our county meet – 2nd in the javelin, 5th in the 110 hurdles, 7th in the 300 hurdles and 6th as part of the 4x400m relay team. He has qualified for the District 3 championship meet next weekend in the 110 hurdles and is officially my first athlete to do so. I’m excited to see him race, but will also be sad when the season ends.

5th Place – 110m hurdles

How has your spring been? Have you changed up anything with your running?

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April Foolish Reflections – The Good, The Bad & The Muddy

It is a little wild to think roughly two weeks ago Jason and I completed our first 50k as part of the April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run.  Writing the recap took up enough space, so I figured it was best to post my reflections from it as its own post.

My original A goal was 30 miles, B goal was 40 miles and C goal was anything beyond 40 miles.  Going into the event I strongly felt the B goal was going to happen possibly even the C goal.  I just felt that confident and determined.  The insane amount of mud made me quickly realize that I should focus on the A goal as timing alone would probably inhibit my ability to hit the B goal.  Jason and I have no doubts that we would’ve hit 40 miles had it not been for the mud.  While Armand managed to get 40 miles in his goal was actually 50 and agreed that the mud was the reason he didn’t reach that.

Besides the mud I would say the biggest challenge during the event was fueling.  It’s hard to replicate this during training runs as I’m so used to using Honey Stinger gels to refuel every 6 miles, but an all day event requires more than that.  I definitely didn’t fuel as well as I should’ve during the event, but I managed well enough for my first one.  It wasn’t overly warm, so it made hydrating a little more challenging as I just didn’t have the urge to drink.  While I’m fortunate to not ever get a truly sick stomach and can eat almost anything before a run, the overall feeling of just not wanting to eat was pretty strong that day especially in the morning.  I probably shouldn’t have waited until I had 20 miles completed before eating something more substantial.  I anticipated getting a headache later in the day from my lack of fueling but lucked out and didn’t develop one.

While tougher in some ways than my first marathon I definitely feel like it didn’t beat me up in the same way.  My legs were in complete agony after the marathon and in comparison I was able to drive home without any issues after April Foolish.  I needed more sleep after this event, but overall felt recovered sooner.  I’ve only ran once since the event, 3.5 miles last Friday, and that went ok.  I felt some “off” things like the tendon under my right foot, but it wasn’t anything like my first post marathon run.  I’m going to run again today and see how it feels.  I’ve been enjoying doing other workouts such as resistance bands and DailyBurn and not having any pressure of having to run let alone a certain number of miles.

If I were to run the event again (hopefully on less muddy conditions) I would keep the same goals.  I think I would change my strategy to not worry about knocking out 12 miles nonstop.  I don’t know if I’d take a long break after 20 miles either.  It seems more time efficient (at least from what I saw some others doing) to just take quick breaks after each loop from the very beginning.  I think this allows for better fueling and pacing.  I definitely became too focused on banking time early in the day.  It worked out well enough, but I don’t think that it was the most effective strategy.      

I am incredibly proud of myself for not letting the less than ideal trail conditions break me mentally.  Normally I am extremely anti mud and wet feet in general.  I went into that event really determined to run as far as I could no matter what.  Even when my knee started to flare with pain and I had to alternate more walking than running, my mental game was still on point.  I don’t doubt that mentally I could’ve ran 40 miles that day. I encourage anyone looking for a different type of distance challenge to consider an hourly event.  I’ve seen some ranging from as low as 3 hours to as many as 24 hours.  I am glad I got to do one and could definitely see myself doing one again in the future!

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April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run

After running our first marathon last spring, this past Saturday Jason and I took up a new challenge in running the April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run.  Our buddy Armand had spoken highly of the event, completing 40 miles last year, and we were drawn in by the idea of being able to run as far as we could without feeling compelled to run nonstop.  I had also heard great things about Pretzel City events, but had never run one.

Our training began in January and was pretty similar to our marathon training.  We upped our weekly mileage to have a few weeks at 40-50 miles which was more than last year, and we did some double runs too going out in the morning and again in the evening.  Our longest run was only 18 miles, but as I was battling some leg fatigue and Jason was battling training fatigue, this proved to be for the best.

Saturday morning we drove to French Creek State Park which was about an hour and 10 minute drive from our house.  It was lightly raining which normally would throw me off mentally, but I was determined I was going to be running positive no matter what.  We located Armand’s car and pulled in beside him; an ideal spot as it was right across from the 2 jiffy john’s and along the course.  We picked up our tshirts and bibs and tried on samples of the long-sleeved premium that would be mailed out 6-8 weeks after the event and customized with the mileage ran for anyone who completed at least 20 miles.

Despite packing more than we had for our Harper’s Ferry trip, we neglected to bring along hats.  Fortunately Armand had extra so we each slapped one on to keep the rain out of our eyes and headed to the start line.  After some brief instructions and a psych up by the director, Ron Horn, we were off on our first loop!

Miles 1-12:  Jason, Armand and I intended to keep together for the first loop and wanted to run about a 10 min/mile pace.  The first 3/4 of a mile or so was pavement and had a slight downhill.  Once we hit the trail portion I knew I wouldn’t be keeping up with the two of them.  Heavy rains two days before and some rain the night before and that morning created a nice mess of mud.  I did my best to run through it as much as possible, but my pace quickly dropped to about 15 min/mile.  The trail conditions varied, and I knew would only get worse throughout the day as runners completed more loops.  I quickly shifted my focus from my main goal of 40 miles completed to my original goal of 30 miles.  I was excited when the trail exited onto a gravel path past a dam and included a slight uphill grade.  I increased my pace, trying to make up for lost time in the mud.  Back in the woods I was slowed yet again by an even muddier trail that I was forced to walk on as I didn’t want to risk falling.  I reached another section of pavement by a boat house which was a nice change, and the next trail section was more of a gravel path that just had standing water as opposed to lots of mud.  The final 3/4 of a mile was primarily road as we wrapped our way back around to the starting point.  Crossing the “finish” line into the chute I called out my number to ensure my 4 mile loop was logged.

I debated using the porta potty, but seeing both were occupied I continued on past to start my second loop.  I saw Armand not too far ahead of me, but by the time we reached the trail section again he was out of my sight.  It became very apparent that I was a road runner among trail runners as I was passed through the muddy trail sections only to then pass those same people when the course became gravel or pavement.  When I began my third loop I was by myself for nearly half of it.  Only then did I actually start to pay attention to the course markers to ensure I was on the right route.  The course was so well marked though I can’t imagine that anyone could get lost on it.  Part of me considered trying for a fourth loop before stopping, but I knew I needed to get some fuel in me beyond a Honey Stinger gel and also use the porta potty.  I stopped my watch and saved the data for the first 12 miles at 2:15:25 a 11:17/mile pace.

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Muddy shoes and tights

Miles 12-20:  My stomach wasn’t feeling putting much into it, so I just ate a piece of bread before setting out again.  I was partially anxious to just have 20 miles completed because I knew once I did then I would have my premium customized.  I also wanted to run the majority of the 20 miles before shifting to walking more.  I chatted with some runners off and on as it all became a blur of who was ahead of who at that point.  I also began running through more puddles instead of avoiding them as I realized the heavy mud weighed my shoes down more than getting water in them.  It was quite the transition from someone who always complained about having wet feet on runs!  I had packed extra socks and a second pair of shoes, but had hoped to stay in the ones I was wearing for as long as possible.  By the time I reached the chute having completed 20 miles I had some grit building up inside and knew it’d be time to swap out socks.  I was also ready for some rest and food.  Miles 12-16 were 48:56 a 12:24/mile pace and miles 16-20 were 54:35 a 13:39/mile pace.

Break Time:  It was close to 1:30pm when I finished my 20 miles, and I found Jason at the car.  We both wanted to get some quality food in us.  Besides the piece of bread after 12 miles I had only managed a half a banana and an oatmeal cream pie after 16 miles.  I ate half a grilled cheese and some other snacks, forced more fluids as I had only had the need to pee after 12 miles, and changed my socks.  There had been some light rain that started again during my final mile which cleared, but then wanted to return before Jason and I set out again.  We relaxed in the Rav4 waiting for it to clear which it fortunately did.

Miles 20-31:  Jason and I agreed to run/walk the remaining miles together.  My left knee had started hurting on the side as I approached 20 miles, and if I didn’t already know 40 miles was out of the question, that confirmed it.  It didn’t feel like an actual injury, and I assumed all the stabilizing in the mud had tweaked it.  We both said how much the mud disrupted our goal, but that we would still see what we could get completed.  We walked more, usually forced by my knee screaming at me, and refueled after each loop.  Miles 20-24 were 1:01:15 a 15:30/mile pace and miles 24-28 were 1:05:12 a 16:40/mile pace.

After we completed the loop marking 28 miles we began discussing whether we wanted to do another full loop to reach 32 miles, or go to the 50k turn around spot and come back to complete that.  Jason was burning out mentally and ready to be finished, and made the argument that 50k would look cooler on a shirt than 32 miles would.  I was originally in favor of completing the full 32, but as I was walking more and running less due to my knee, I agreed it would be best to just complete the 50k.  The fact that I nearly wiped out on the muddiest of the trail (I caught myself on a rock and only ended up with a muddy hand) helped my decision as doing just the 50k would mean we’d turn around before reaching that point again.  We saw some others running back towards us on our way out; indicating they either turned around at the marathon turn around point or the 50k one.  There was a lot of congrats and good jobs shared among runners as the later it got in the day the more the support was needed.  Miles 28-31 were a 51:48 a 17:36/mile pace.

Jason and I entered the chute one final time, side by side, and announced we were completed with the 50k.  Our official time for the day would be 8:04.  It was after 5pm and while we could’ve kept going until 7pm, we were glad to be finished and happy with what we achieved.  We ate some more food and changed into fresh clothes for the drive home.

Armand ended up finishing 40 miles that day, his goal of 50 hampered by the mud as well, and another friend from our local running club pulled off 52 miles.  I will have another entry with my reflections on the event, but suffice to say I am happy having ran the farthest I’ve ever run in my life and having the bragging rights to say I’ve run a 50k!

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Harper’s Ferry Trip

In the past few years Jason and I have done several day or weekend trips to small towns including Lititz PA, Berlin MD and Jim Thorpe PA.  These trips provide a nice getaway and chance to explore without requiring a lot of planning, time or packing.  I wanted to fit in a small trip before April, the busiest month of the year for me due to track season, and Harper’s Ferry WV looked to be a good fit.

Last Saturday morning Jason and I ran 10.5 miles on the Northwest Lancaster County River trail.  We hurried home to shower, pack and get on the road.  I was surprised to find that the route was nearly a straight shot down route 15 most of the way and happy that it only took about 1 hour 45 mins to get there.  We passed through Harper’s Ferry into Charles Town as our first destination was getting lunch at Abolitionist Ale Works.  Jason enjoyed a beer while I had a hard cider.  The food menu was small, but the food was fantastic!  We ordered a funky fig pizza and chicken Florentine sandwich and split them between us.  The service was a tad slow, but we’ve come to expect that as most restaurants still struggle to find employees.  The restaurant was unique in that it featured little historical notes about different abolitionists as well as local artwork that can be bought.

Stomachs comfortably full, we headed back to Harper’s Ferry to check into our room at the Quality Inn.  My parents had stayed there years ago with no issues, and its proximity to town made it an ideal choice for us as we prefer to walk everywhere on vacation if possible.  The hotel was basic, but met all of our needs – comfortable king sized bed, room that included a mini fridge and microwave, great water pressure in the shower and a good continental breakfast.  The staff we interacted with were all very friendly as well.

In setting off towards town we quickly discovered we could walk a portion of the Appalachian Trail to get there.  The trail had some rocks to climb over at spots, but was overall very walkable.  We ventured off the trail to explore Harper Cemetery and Jefferson Rock.  Near the end of the trail we encountered the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church and ended at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. It was a little over a mile walk from our hotel to town.  Once in town we browsed True Treats Historic Candy, but didn’t make any purchases.

The weather was becoming a bit iffy, so we headed to The Rabbit Hole for dinner.  Jason had another beer while I changed things up and ordered a mead; I was glad it wasn’t a huge glass as it was plenty strong!  Jason enjoyed the canal chicken sandwich while I tried the wanderdown cheesesteak.  The ambiance of the restaurant was quite good with classic rock music playing.  The weather improved during dinner, but quickly changed when we finished.  Snow flurries and the threat of rain drove us back to the trail.  At one point it cleared again, but we didn’t want to risk being caught in the rain so we decided to call it a day and go back to the hotel.  I’ve always heard that mountain weather can quickly change and that was a firsthand experience of it!

Sunday morning we were up early and drove down to Charles Town again to get breakfast at Waffle House.  I had never eaten at one, and Jason hadn’t in years.  A waffle topped with chocolate chips was a sweet way to begin my day!  After dropping the Rav4 off at the hotel we ventured back towards town.  We started on the Appalachian Trail, but took a side trail off of it down to the road.  At that point we were able to follow a path along the Shenandoah River.  It featured historical ruins and information about them.

Once in town we located the restrooms then decided to get drinks to help warm us up.  Tessoterica provided us with a chai latte and hot chocolate as well as some soap and beard oil for Jason.  After finishing our drinks we proceeded to the footbridge to cross the Potomac River into Maryland.  Most people were turning left onto the C&O Towpath, so we opted to go right.  It was a very peaceful walk albeit a bit chilly once we reversed direction and had a headwind to walk into back to town.

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We were getting hungry, so we opted to keep walking through Harper’s Ferry uphill into Bolivar.  We wanted to try a vegan restaurant that got amazing reviews, but discovered they were only doing carry out and had a very limited menu.  Wanting to warm up inside a restaurant, we continued down the road farther until we reached Country Cafe.  Their take on a Monte Cristo was different than I was used to (no powdered sugar or raspberry preserves), but Jason and I both enjoyed it and found their prices very reasonable.  We stopped in Bolivar Bread Bakery for dessert where we shared one of the best cookies we had ever eaten!

Once back into Harper’s Ferry we explored more of the historical sites.  We learned more about John Brown and the raid on Harper’s Ferry during the Civil War.  We also learned how historians determine the age of buildings and the options with preserving or restoring them.  Our minds filled with new knowledge, we took the path along the river back to the road and our hotel.

After browsing restaurant menus we settled on Alfredo’s Mediterranean Grille for our final meal.  Although it said reservations recommended we had no issue being seated right away.  The menu was very diverse featuring food from various countries.  Jason settled on ghormeh sabzi while I had coquilles St Jacques (aka scallops in a herb sauce over pasta).  Feeling incredibly full when we arrived back at the hotel we decided to aid our digestion by exploring the small nature park and cemetery behind the Quality Inn.  Finding little treasures like this to explore is one of things Jason and I love about new places and we wondered how many people stay at the hotel and never bother venturing back there.  We settled into our room for the rest of the night after having walked roughly 13 miles that day!

We enjoyed oatmeal and muffins for breakfast at the hotel before checking out.  The drive home was uneventful and we were able to fill up the gas tank much cheaper in Maryland than Pennsylvania.  We agreed we would probably only need one night in Harper’s Ferry for a future visit, but do look forward to returning!

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Updates Galore

I knew it was awhile since I last blogged, but I didn’t realize I had skipped a whole month!  Here’s the lowdown on a variety of topics…

Weston – Radiation is complete!  He received the final treatment last Thursday.  His last few treatments were done using a new machine that very few hospitals in the country have.  He was the first patient to ever receive that particular type of radiation while under anesthesia.  He will resume his weekly chemo until mid summer.  He currently has a feeding tube due to losing weight/not eating well, but only has to receive feeding at night and is able to eat normally during the day.  Overall he’s doing well with that and leaves the tube alone – pretty impressive for a 2 year old!  I was finally able to see/hug/play with him on Sunday after not seeing him since Christmas!  We wanted to limit his exposure to germs as to not delay any radiation treatments.  Our family celebrated with an ice cream cake and were able to enjoy the more spring-like weather and play outside.  Weston is saying more words and has officially dubbed me “T-T”.

House – Our kitchen and spare room renovation is nearing its end.  For as much as I hate any type of project (this was the biggest one we’ve ever done) it has gone better than expected.  It hasn’t taken the 8-12 weeks originally written on the paperwork fortunately, and the main guy doing the work has been fabulous and really treats our house like it was his own.  There was one hiccup so far.  When the countertop and sink were installed by an outside company we realized the sink that was ordered was no where near the size of our old one.  We don’t know if the disconnect was with the designer not clarifying the size, if our original sink was measured wrong or we just assumed the sink would be the same size.  Unfortunately that means the company has to come back to our house to cut the counter to fit a bigger sink and we had to order a new sink so that was an added expense.  We use the sink daily though and rarely run our dishwasher so it was something that had to be what we wanted!  If it wasn’t for that though the project would be wrapped up this week; we have yet to find out the date that they’ll come back out to cut the counter.

Track – The spring track season kicked off this week and the team is HUGE compared to last year.  Another coach and I oversee jumpers/hurdlers/sprinters/pole vaulters and we have about 50 kids total.  It definitely makes things a little trickier to manage, but we’re hoping that they’re all dedicated kids who have some talent and want to work hard so that we can have a successful season.  I had coached primarily mid distance runners the past few years, but this year I’m assigned all hurdlers including the jr high ones.  It will be a change up for me but I’m hoping to enjoy it!

York Winter Series – The series wrapped up last Saturday with the Northeastern 5k.  We raced the Springettsbury 10k the previous Saturday and had ran 3 miles from Armand’s house to the race start then 3 miles back to get in more mileage.  I ultimately wanted to PR at the 5k but I think racing the week before and adding miles to it was too short of a timeframe to rebound.  Jason ran a PR though and my dad beat a guy who had been beating him at other races!  I finished 3rd in my age group for the series primarily because someone stopped showing up for the races who had been beating me, but hey, I still ran the races and earned it!

April Foolish Endurance Run – Jason and I are currently training for this event on April 9th.  It’s a 10 hour day with a 4 mile loop.  Armand ran it two years in a row and finished 40 miles last year.  I’ve been told it’s a “Woodstock of running” with tents/food setup all over French Creek State Park.  I’m excited to see how far I can run when it doesn’t have to be nonstop.  I think the biggest challenge will be running a slow pace early on to ensure I can run more miles later in the day.  My first goal is 30 miles but am hoping to run 40.  Anything beyond that will just be a bonus!

If anyone has ever ran an endurance event of this sort and has some strategies let me know!

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Career Struggles

Writer.  Editor.  Nutritionist.  Historian.  High school athletic director.

All things I wanted to be when I “grew up”.

Waitress.  Retail sales associate.  Grocery store cashier.  HR/Payroll coordinator.  Call center specialist.  Workforce specialist.

All jobs I have had since “growing up”.

Cultural historian.

Job I heard mentioned on a TV show recently that I thought “That’s seriously a job?!?  I’ve always wanted to research the history of things like toys, food and movies!”

A Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation and Leisure Administration.  A NASM certified personal trainer certification.

Two pieces of paper I spent time and money to acquire that haven’t yielded their intended results.

Feeling stale/not learning anything new.  Boredom.  Tired of answering the same repetitive questions because people fail to read emails.  Not benefitting any greater good.

Reasons for wanting to change jobs.

Work from home.  Relatively flexible hours.  Good management.  Good benefits.  Work tasks aren’t awful.

Reasons for continuing to stay in my current job.

The beginning of November I thought I found what could be a really good job for me.  A fitness instructor/wellness specialist within my current company.  I didn’t even get an interview.  That was after having applied a few months prior to the local JCC to be a water fitness instructor for only a class or two per week as a side gig.  I didn’t get an interview there.  Heck, I didn’t even get a follow up email when I inquired about the status of my application.

The end of December I applied for an entry level human resources position at another company.  I received a text and an email confirming my application was submitted and was advised that I’d receive status updates on it.  I haven’t received anything since.

My husband has applied to several jobs with no responses.  My friend in Chicago has applied to multiple places and has only had 3 interviews.  To hear the media tell it, it’s a job seekers’ market.  People quitting their jobs in droves for better pay, more happiness, a better work/life balance.  That doesn’t seem to be the reality for anyone I know.

The cynicism is setting in for me and I’m certainly jaded.  Combined with Covid fatigue even looking for a different job I question “What’s the point?”  Too many positions wanting specific skills or a degree I don’t have or years of experience I wouldn’t begin to know how to acquire.  If I even landed one would I not just end up bored within a few years again anyway once all the tasks are mastered?  If I have to work in an office again won’t I just kick myself for giving up the luxury of working from home in comfy clothes everyday?

At the end of the day I have to wonder… who truly is happy spending 40 hours a week doing what they do?  Who honestly feels fulfilled by their work and that it’s making a difference?  I’ve had jobs, including my current one, that aren’t bad, but that I could certainly find something more enjoyable to do for 40 hours a week and that could benefit society a great deal more.

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