Dover 10 Miler

I had heard stories about how tough the Dover 10 miler’s course is, the first race in the York Winter Series.  I was told it was all downhill out and all uphill back.  Knowing that I still wasn’t overly concerned this past Sun. as I got ready for the race.  I planned to just run it how I felt with no specific time goal planned.

As I pulled into the elementary school parking lot where the race was to begin and end I was excited to see a large US Road Running archway setup; it made the race feel like more of a big deal to me.  I parked and spotted my dad across the parking lot as his signature “doo rag” makes him easy to identify.  I picked up my race bib and we did a warm up jog.

I think I spent at least 10 minutes debating on whether or not to wear my winter headband.  This winter racing thing is new to me and given I tend to always be cold I’m apt to overdress.  I finally settled on keeping it on figuring I could always pull it down around my neck if I became too warm.  I was excited to wear my new UnderArmour leggings, a birthday present from my mom, though that too is new for me.  I have always worn shorts over my running tights ever since high school and despite changing fashions I have continued to do so.  To not wear them I feel is an invitation for people to stare at my butt.  This is despite the fact that nearly every female runner as well as some men runners seem to wear theirs without shorts.  Sunday’s race was the first I have worn just the leggings, no shorts, and that was mostly because they’re printed and I felt I would look sillier wearing the shorts.

I was happy to see my running friend Todd arrive as he had ran a marathon the Sunday before and wasn’t sure if he would be running the 10 miler or not.  I did another warmup lap around the school with him and we waited as the 1 mile runners raced.  Once they were all back it was our turn to line up.  The York Winter Series chose to use chip timing this year which while expensive is something I love because I don’t feel pressured to be near the front of the pack to ensure the most accurate time.

The first 1.5 miles of the course was already familiar to me as I had ran it several times in the past as part of the Double Creek 5k.  It definitely is a fast start with a lot of downhills and my first mile beeped on the Garmin at an 8:48.  Reaching the 2nd and 3rd mile marks actually felt longer than I expected.

On the way to the 4th mile mark I spotted two kittens in the middle of the road.  We were running on country back roads so the traffic was minimal, but I heard and turned around and saw a car approaching behind us.  I veered towards the middle of the road and scooped up the kitten and dropped it off in the yard of a farmhouse, telling it to stay in the yard.  Another runner who was farther ahead did the same for the second kitten.  Fellow runners told us how nice it was that we did that, but all I could think was that I hoped I wouldn’t find any dead kitties on my way back.

Not far from the turn around point was a water stop which despite the cool temperature was still needed and appreciated.  A group of young kids was outside of a house not far from the turn around point cheering us all on which always boosts one’s spirits.  By that point I was needing the distraction.  My new cold weather running socks, while doing a wonderful job at keeping my feet warm, were also rubbing a blister on my right pinky toe.  Of all the races I’ve ever ran I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen, or if I did it certainly wasn’t with the same intensity and annoyance.  I kept wiggling my toes hoping to shift the fabric enough to provide relief.  Sometimes I was enjoying the scenery enough to forget about it for a few minutes, but it kept returning.  I was running a good pace, but didn’t want to push much harder and risk rubbing the spot raw and making it bleed.

One reason I love out and back courses is because I can watch all those ahead of me; I find it energizing.  The first male had a huge lead over everyone else.  I spotted Todd and my dad running together and cheered for them as well as two other guys I had ran with in the past.  Besides the blister I felt rather good after the turn around.

I had told my husband I would probably run a 1:30 though I realized during my run that was a faster pace than I meant to tell him.  At the mile 7 mark I realized that time was possible but not probable given the number of hills remaining to climb.  I did pick up my pace despite there being a gradual climb and clocked a 9:09.  Mile 8 felt long for some reason; it wasn’t the hills that phased me as the course was very similar to my training runs, but I think I was just ready to be done.  Mile 9 seemed long as well despite my knowing it was almost finished.  I spotted the half mile mark from the mile fun run and opened my stride as much as possible, if anything to just get done so that the blister would stop rubbing.  I had a very strong finish, more kick to it than my half marathon and my time was a 1:31:31.

I joked to others after the race that I probably would’ve ran a 1:30 had I not needed to rescue a kitten (who by the way was on the porch of the farmhouse on my return and not out on the road again).  I also learned from Todd that running socks, like shoes, should be broken in prior to wearing them for a race.  It seems no matter how many years you are a runner you can always learn something new.  I was rewarded for my efforts with a pumpkin whoopie pie which was well worth running 10 miles for.

Overall the Dover 10 miler was not as hard as I had feared.  Granted it would be very challenging for anyone not in decent shape or who hasn’t done training on hills.  For me though it continued reinforcing how much stronger I have become.  I’m starting to think that other than when I was in high school and college I’m in the best running shape of my life.  My first (and longest) winter series race is in the books.  The Spring Valley 4 miler will be next, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

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The York Winter Series

I have not been a cold weather runner since high school.  Even back then I don’t think I truly enjoyed it but seemed to at least tolerate it.  Maybe it was because I was young.  Maybe it was having friends on  my team to distract me.  Maybe it was because I didn’t get a say if the team was going outside or not; if we were then I just went.

The older I get the more I hate winter.  So much in fact I was inspired to write a poem last year about it – The Cold.  I would gladly sweat my butt off in 90 degree temps than freeze it off running in sub 40 degree temps.

To date my hatred of winter weather has always ruled out the possibility of running the York Winter Series.  Whenever I was asked if I was going to run it, my response was “What part of getting up early on a cold winter morning to go run long, hard races sounds appealing?”

I had attended quite a few of the races years ago to watch my dad compete.  I would bundle up and see him off at the start and promptly return back to the vehicle to keep warm until the runners began returning.  The cold wasn’t the only deterrent in joining my dad; when I saw portions of the courses as well as heard their descriptions my immediate thought was “No way.”

These races are loaded with hills.  One in particular, Spring Valley, begins with runners exiting a parking lot and immediately turning left to run up an incredibly steep hill.  That race finishes with runners climbing the other side of the hill.

So what exactly possessed me to be crazy enough to sign up for the series this year?  A few things actually.  The first would be that I’m still riding the high of breaking 2 hours in the Blue-Gray Half Marathon.  I had felt so strong during my training for it and even stronger during the actual race that I want to keep that momentum going.  The next would be the belief that I can actually do it.  Years ago my mileage and consistency of running would tend to drop off by October so I never felt in shape enough by the first race in November to even attempt it.  I’ve overcome the knee issues I’ve had in the past, so they are no longer a barrier to cold weather running.  I am slightly fearful of making my chilblains flare up worse, but after last year’s awful bout even during a warmer than usual February I don’t consider the condition a good enough excuse to not try.  Finally there’s good old peer pressure.  My dad has been after me for years to do the series.  Knowing that he as well as several of my other running buddies are doing it makes me not want to miss out.  When I asked my husband his opinion on if I should sign up he said yes – that extra boost of confidence sealed the deal.  Besides it’s 8 races for only $40 – where else can you race so cheaply?

First up is the Dover 10 miler this Sunday.  I have only ever ran the Rail Trail 10 miler as far as 10 milers go.  Dover promises to be colder and hillier than the Rail Trail.  I’m fortunate in that it’s an afternoon race so I won’t have to be up early in the cold at least.  I haven’t set any goals for the race as I plan to play a “wait and see” game on how I feel then decide during the race if I’m going to treat it as a workout and just get the miles in or actually race it.  History leans toward me racing it by the end.

I have conquered distance goals and surpassed time goals.  Now it’s time to conquer the cold!

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My Garmin

I have always been old school when it comes to technology.  In middle school I was likely the last kid to convert from VHS tapes to DVDs as well as from cassettes to CDs.  In fact when it comes to music I still play CDs in my car and I still use a second generation, 2 GB Ipod.  I grieved the downfall of MySpace, AIM and Xanga and cursed Facebook each time it changed its layout.  I shun Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.  I only gave into buying a smart phone when the keys of my beloved qwerty keyboard began to stick after 3 years.

For nearly my entire running career I stuck to an anti technology mindset.  If I was forced to use a treadmill I would relent and play music to cure boredom, but if I was running outside I heard only the noises around me or the voice inside my head.  I wore only a regular sports watch when running road races as I couldn’t always be certain there would be someone at the mile splits calling out times.  I relied on my car’s odometer or the amount of time a run took to determine the distance I ran.

When I worked at Bank of America years ago we could earn rewards which could then be redeemed for prizes.  One of the prizes I picked was a Garmin watch to give to Jason.  I thought I would possibly use it to determine how long a new running route was but never anything beyond that.

Fast forward a few years.  My Garmin watch has helped me to map my mileage through my town, determine the accurate mileage of all the old routes I ran in high school and college and mostly importantly, help me train for my 2nd half marathon.  I always thought I was rather good at internally knowing my pace while running, but in June my Garmin proved that I wasn’t quite as fast as I thought I was and that I had some work to do.

My Garmin humbled me while also assisting me throughout the summer to ensure that I wasn’t starting out too fast or slow.  My Garmin kept me honest on the number of miles I completed.  My Garmin encouraged me when I saw my mile times get faster as I grew stronger.  My Garmin frustrated me when it showed that I had only .1 mile remaining and forced me to run around a parking lot to finish the full run.  My Garmin showed proof of my running accomplishments and my Garmin made me panic when it would beep that its battery was low.

When my Garmin showed 1:31 at mile 10 of my half marathon it set into motion the physical and mental push that resulted in my breaking 2 hours for my 2nd half marathon – the Blue-Gray Half Marathon.

I have gone for two runs since completing the Blue-Gray half marathon.  Both were routes I had ran previously so I knew the mileage.  I knew my body needed recovery time, so I chose to not wear my Garmin as to truly run a pace that felt comfortable without any pressure.  It felt very strange both physically to not have something on my left wrist as well as mentally to not have something holding me accountable to a distance or a time.

I completed my first half marathon in September 2013 without the use of a Garmin.  I am still proud of that accomplishment.  After using my Garmin to train and complete my 2nd half marathon though, I can say that I never want to train for another without it.  My Garmin has earned its place along with my Brooks and sunglasses as an essential piece of running gear.



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Blue-Gray Half Marathon

Note – If you are interested in reading a description of the course please click The Time Trial.

Yesterday was my 2nd half marathon.  My husband, parents and I spent the night in Gettysburg which made for a lot less rushed morning as I only had to walk a few hundred feet out of the hotel room to the start line.  The weather was as close to perfect as anyone could ask for to complete a race.  It was close to 50* at the start but knowing it would warm up to near 70* as the morning went on I went with my usual tshirt and shorts.

I was a little unsure of where to lineup as I expected them to have signs indicating pace times.  I didn’t want to be too close to the front and get caught up in a fast pace nor did I want near the back where I’d exert a lot of effort to get around people.  I wished my dad and running buddies good luck and settled in a few rows behind them.  The race was chip timed so after the gun went off I did my best to start my Garmin watch as soon as I hit the actual start line.

My original goal was to run the race faster than 2:08 since that’s what I ran during the time trial.  I knew if I kept all my miles under 10 minutes that would be reasonable.  The first mile was typical of a large race with runners weaving in and out to pass people and settle into spots.  I did my best to go out at a solid pace but despite an uphill grade I still ran the first mile faster than I had originally planned, a low 9.  The second mile was even faster, a sub 9.  I felt really strong and relaxed but did not want to risk burn out that early in the race, so I worked to back off the pace slightly.  There were several runners around me whose breathing was literally grating on me.  One person’s sounded like they were saying “Help me” in a low breath while another’s sounded like a horse whinnying.  I was grateful when I finally got far enough ahead of them to no longer hear the sounds.

As we entered the East Calvary Fields (part of the Gettysburg battlefield) I was entertained by the various signs that were posted along the course.  Sayings such as “Remember you paid for this” and “Run person I don’t know run” made me smile.  Every aid station was well organized with volunteers handing out water and sometimes Gatorade as well as port-a-potties.  Despite feeling as if I could pee (I blame race jitters/being chilly at the start) I was fortunate in not needing to use those at any point during the race.  There was only one true viewing spot for spectators located at a church along the course, but it seemed that there were a least a few people at each intersection to cheer the runners on.

Going into the race I expected the most challenging part to be miles 6-7.  It wasn’t that bad though as watching the runners coming back from the turn around spot made it fun.  I cheered on my dad and running buddies as they passed.  Seeing them though made me think the actual turn around spot was closer than it was; it seemed as if the road was never ending until I reached that point.  Knowing I was halfway I focused on reaching miles 8 and 9 as they are always my mentally challenging miles.  Twice the course passed farms with cows and their moo-ing made me feel as if they were cheering the runners on too.

My mile times fluctuated but all stayed at a 9:30 or faster.  I only ever glanced at my watch when it beeped with each mile.  By mile 8 I had decided when I reached mile 10 I would look at the overall time and do the math to figure out what time I could expect to be finished.  Mile 9 felt rather long and I was anxious for the upcoming aid station.  Up until that point I had only drank water at each station but I knew Gatorade would be best to keep powering me through the rest of the race.

Mile 10 became the turning point in the race for me.  My watch beeped and I looked at my current overall time – 1:31.  I had only a 5k left to run and as long as I ran it in less than 29 minutes I could break 2 hours.  I knew I could do it but that I would have to race the last 3.1 miles very smart.

By that point the bottom of my right foot was slightly burning and I anticipated that a blister might be forming.  I didn’t want to pick up the pace too much too soon but I knew I couldn’t afford to back off either.  This part became the true mental challenge.  I knew physically I would be able to finish the race but to get the time I wanted I had to coach myself through to the end.  I told myself to open up my stride on the downhill portions, maintain the pace through the flat part and keep driving strong on the uphill grades.  The long grade to the final aid station was a true challenge.  I was nervous about losing time and kept fighting to keep the same pace.  I kept saying in my head “This isn’t Blymire, this isn’t Blymire” (Blymire being a very long hill in my town that is part of my regular 6 mile loop).

I had toyed with the idea of skipping the last aid station as I would have only about 1.5 miles left to run.  My body needed the hydration though and mentally I felt it would give me a boost.  I almost choked on the Gatorade but kept pace through the aid station and was grateful I had utilized it.  The final uphill grade I began singing a Breaking Benjamin song in my head to distract myself.  The last half mile was a downhill grade and I opened my stride a lot though I didn’t fly down it nearly as fast as I had during the time trial which made me a little nervous knowing I was so close in terms of time.  In high school cross country I was always known for my sprint to the finish; it was rare anyone would ever beat me in a final all out sprint.  I did not have that kind of energy approaching the finish line but I did drive harder.  As I saw the time clock showing 1:59 I began smiling bigger than probably any other runner in that race.  I think I even teared up but with the sweat on my face it was hard to tell.

I crossed the line with a grin from ear to ear and proudly accepted my finisher medal from the volunteer.  My mom and husband had rushed to pull out their phones to snap pictures as my dad told them to not expect me until around 2:05.  My dad brought me a cup of water and I attempted to walk around to not cramp up, but ultimately had to sit for a little as I was starting to see spots and feared passing out.  I’m sure it was low sugar and my dad brought me a cup of Gatorade and a banana.  After doing some light sit-down stretches I was able to get back up and moving.  My final chip time was 1:59:09 and the gun time was 1:59:27.

We listened as they announced the overall winners (the first female ran a 1:28!) and then age group winners.  Our friend Todd placed 2nd in his age group and another friend, Armand, placed 2nd in his as well.  Awards were only give to the top 3 in each group but my dad finished 5th in his and I finished 10th in mine.  The hotel did not require us to check out until noon so we had time to go back to the room and shower before making the drive home.

I was tired and hungry most of the day after the race but the strongest emotion I felt was pride.  I had trained hard and gained speed that I don’t think I even knew I had until I was racing.  I give credit to my running buddies – my dad, Todd, Armand and Scott – who helped me along the way with advice and faster runs to push me.  I thank my husband who spent most Sunday mornings the past 3 months alone while I completed my long runs, but who always had a green smoothie ready for me after and who texted encouragement every time I texted him with my miles ran and times.  I also thank him as well as my mom for tagging along to Gettysburg for the race.

The Blue-Gray half marathon is a wonderful course with great organizers and volunteers.  It is a race for any runner who loves history, rural scenic routes or who is looking for a manageable first half marathon.  It was certainly my kind of race and it’s very possible that I may be running it again in the future.  For now though I will enjoy eating anything I want, foam rolling the sore spots and completing some runs Garmin free.

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Glow in the Grove 5k

For me there are 2 types of 5k races.  Those that are more serious races and those that are more fun events.  The former tends to draw in local regular runners and some of the more “elite” athletes.  The latter usually has more families with children as well as people new to the road race scene.

I am a self proclaimed road race snob in that I typically do not participate in 5ks just “for fun”.  If I am going to train for an event as well as pay money to participate in it, you better believe I am out there to compete.  For this reason I have never participated in a turkey trot, color run, etc.

That being said I knew when I signed up for the Glow in the Grow 5k this past Fri. night it was going to be an event geared towards more of the fun crowd than the regular runner crowd.  I was ok with this for several reasons.  1 – I did not need to be overexerting myself in a highly competitive race less than a week and a half before my half marathon.  2 – I knew I could push myself and make the race a good speed workout without feeling pressure to run a certain time.  3 – A race at night on a glow-stick lighted trail genuinely sounded fun!

I made sure to dress for the occasion wearing white shorts over my running leggings and a neon yellow shirt.  I added two glow necklaces and a glow bracelet on each wrist as well as a running headlight worn around my midsection.  Warming up it was fun to see all the other participants decked out equally in glowing lights.  There were about 150 total participants but it was easy to pick out who was there to run a serious race and who was there just to enjoy the event.  For example there were 3 or 4 members of the Spring Grove cross country team who lined up right at the start line.  Normally I line up near the middle of the pack but given the nature of the race I lined up rather close to the front.  This turned out to be a smart move as I didn’t have to dart around anyone at the start.

The air horn signaled the start of the race at 6:45pm.  The course traveled along the road for less than a block before turning into the Hanover Trolley Trail.  The gravel of the trail made it a very comfortable course albeit slightly tedious when I began noticing tiny gravel fragments in my shoes.  The highlight of course was the large glow sticks placed every few feet.  Within the first half mile there was also a black light spot where volunteers tossed neon pieces of confetti at each runner.  The trail gradually inclined most of the way out to the turn around but having ran so many tough hills over the course of my training I felt like I was cruising along.  While I didn’t want to set any firm goals for the race since my main goal was just to use it as a fun speed workout, I did want to run it in less than 27 minutes.  My first mile was an 8:40 which was much faster than I expected and the second mile was a few seconds faster than that.  The temperature was great though it was misting just enough to feel as if my hands were being stung at times.  I was just grateful it didn’t begin to seriously rain as I hate running in heavy shoes.

Some people do not care for out and back courses as they find them boring, but one of the aspects I enjoy about them is the ability to see the other runners.  I yelled “Good job” to the first place male, one of the Spring Grove cross country runners, who had quite a lead over the next male runner, his teammate.  I saw a few females ahead of me and decided to see how many I could catch until the end – proof that I cannot NOT race, the competitor in me always says to go get them.  The last mile being all a gradual downhill I was literally flying.  My left calf was telling me to err on the side of caution though, pulling just enough to tell me not to try all out sprinting.  I was grateful to have borrowed my head’s head lamp to wear as the trail was so much darker on the way back even with the glow lights.  I was only able to see one young boy a few feet ahead of me.  When we got back onto the road I was able to see that I was approaching the 26 minute mark and determined to stay under that I picked up my pace just enough to finish in a 25:54.6.  My last mile had been an 8:08 which was the fastest mile I’ve ran since I began training for the half.  It made me wonder just how fast I could run a single mile in right now.

Having passed all but one female I was fairly certain I would be getting an award.  After waiting nearly an hour (the only downfall to so many people choosing to walk the 5k vs running it) for everyone to finish and the awards to start I came to find out that they were only giving out awards to the top male and female in each age group.  The overall female who won just happened to be in my 30-39 category.  Every race I have ever competed in always pulls the top male and female out to give separate awards which had they done this I would’ve won my age category.  I was a bit disappointed by that, but I still got a rather nice long-sleeved tshirt, 2 pens, a magnet and hand sanitizer all for the $15 race fee.

The Glow in the Grove 5k turned out to be a fun confidence builder heading into my taper week for the half marathon.  It proved that I have more speed than I tend to realize.  It also helped get some of the pre-race jitters out of my system.  Less than a week to go!

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14 Miles

Sat. I completed the longest run of my life – 14 miles.  Prior to that the longest distance I had ever ran was 13.1 miles.  I wasn’t entirely certain if I would go for a full 14 or if I would be content at 12.  Having ran the time trial of the half marathon last Sun. I knew I could complete the race distance.  One of my running friends encouraged me to go for a 14 mile run though for the psychological element.  Ultimately I decided I would let the weather and my body determine at mile 6 if I wanted to go to mile 7 before turning around.

I chose the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail to log my miles.  Its entire distance is around 14 miles one way so it was perfect for a solid out and back run.  I had ran and biked portions of the trail previously but never ran more than 5 miles total on it.  The starting point in Columbia is nice because there is a visitor’s center with bathrooms as well as ample parking.  Even with the annual bridge bust going on that day not all the spaces were taken.  The trail goes through Chickes Rock County Park which is especially scenic this time of year.  I even saw some rock climbers scaling the side of the cliff.  I thought they were crazy (I hate heights), but I’m sure had I told them I was going for a 12-14 mile run they would’ve thought the same of me.

Upon exiting the park the trail took me along Front Street in Marietta which I absolutely adored.  I felt like I had taken a step back in time with the brick sidewalks and corner taverns.  Many of the houses had candles in the window which gave an 1800s feel to the whole area.  The miles through Marietta were very enjoyable as I spent so much time looking at the houses that I wasn’t thinking about the increasing humidity.

By the time the trail turned back into an actual trail I was starting to play the mind game of whether I would go 12 or 14 miles.  Upon hitting mile 6 and feeling rather good, I decided to continue on with the desire to say that I had ran my longest run ever.  It was good I had mentally psyched myself up as that mile went through corn fields that were very open with no breeze.  I knew I should have started the entire run earlier than 10:30am that day, but the desire to sleep in as well as the time it took to get to the trail pushed back my start time.  I kept my pace rather reasonable and ran every mile slower than even my usual long run pace.  After turning around at mile 7 I was feeling a little tired from the heat but knew I would soon be back in a wooded area again.

Mile 8 was a blur of being lost in my own thoughts but mile 9 hit hard psychologically.  I’ve always struggled with the 9th mile anytime I’ve ran over 10 miles.  Reaching 8 miles always felt like an accomplishment but running the 9th has always bothered me.  Part of it was for some reason I thought I only had 4 miles to go.  When I realized it was actually 5 miles I felt discouraged.  I also realized I would need to start rationing my water a bit more.  I love the river trail for its ample directional signs, several trail-heads and even porta-potties, but I really wish there would be a water fountain or 2 along it for fill ups.

Mile 9 became even worse when after turning a corner, I heard a man call out to a dog to come back and I heard deep booming barks.  I slowed my pace, unsure of where the dog even was, and made an impulse decision to jump over the low wooden fence bordering the yard I was passing.  Hoping that there would not be a dog in that yard I just trespassed into I quickly located the boxer 2 houses away looking at me.  I waited a moment longer, afraid that if I were to resume running that he would give chase.  Fortunately a group of bikers came from the other direction and I used that as a chance to hop back over the fence and continue my run.  I spent the remainder of mile 9 silently cursing every dog owner who lets his or her animal run loose in the yard particularly those who live in developments.

Trying to be a little more positive I began looking at the houses in Marietta again.  By that point I was feeling actual thirst so the wonderment I experienced on the way out was short lived during my return through the town.  Each mile became slower, my feet grew hot, my skin itched and I was kicking myself for not being content to run 12 miles.  I became desperate to hear my watch beep at mile 12.  I knew when I only had 2 miles to go that no matter what I would be fine.  I limited my sips of water to one small one each half mile until I reached my last mile.  I have never been pregnant (nor do I ever desire to be), but I always feel like a pregnant lady at the end of my long runs in that I begin to crave anything and everything.  The smells from the food vendors along the bridge did not help.  I wanted a funnel cake, french fries, a snow cone… anything and everything greasy or refreshing.

When I finally returned to my car I was content to drink my lukewarm bottle of water and stretch.  A quick text to my husband to please make me a green smoothie and I was heading home.  Dehydration became apparent as my calves began to slightly cramp despite stretching them out.  Each stop sign or light I used as a chance to rub the muscles more.  I returned home somewhat tired, a little dehydrated but content that I completed the full 14 miles.  I know when I run my half marathon on Oct. 22nd no matter what I feel I can draw strength from that run, physically and mentally.


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The Time Trial

When I ran cross country in high school we always ran a time trial on our home course prior to ever actually racing on it.  The purpose was to ensure all the athletes were familiar with the route as to not get lost as well as set a base time in which we would try to improve upon throughout the season.

I had not ran a time trial since 2004, my senior year of high school.  This past Sunday my dad, two running buddies and myself ventured to Gettysburg to run the half marathon course that my dad, one of the running buddies and I will tackle on Oct. 22nd.  Again with the exception of high school cross country meets, it was the first time I have ever scoped out a course prior to running a race.  Normally I just sign up for a race and go run it.  There are a few 5ks that I have raced multiple years and I will admit that there is an advantage in knowing what lies ahead.  Instead of being surprised by long hills or seemingly endless roads to the finish line, I can mentally map out where best to pick up my pace and adjust if necessary.

I looked forward to running the half marathon course mostly for a change in my weekly long runs.  To date I have only ran one of them with my dad and it can be a bit lonely logging the miles alone.  I’m also a bit worn out from running the same portion of the rail trail.

Deciding what to wear to run was one of the biggest challenges Sun. morning.  The temperatures dropped substantially overnight into the 40s and it was only around 50 degrees when we arrived after 8a.  I knew it would warm up as we ran though, so the question became to wear the gloves or not wear the gloves?  My fingers are extremely sensitive to the cold and I have a cold condition known as chilblains that I did not wish to trigger any earlier in the season than when it usually flares up.  I chose not to wear the gloves and ultimately that was a smart move.  During the run I actually ended up doing a clothing swap – removing my tshirt and long sleeved tech shirt to put the tshirt back on and tie the long sleeved shirt around my waist.  My running tights layered with shorts were a good choice though given just how long it did take to warm up and because there was a strong breeze during some portions of the run.  I now have a better idea of how to dress for the race based on the temperatures that day.

The course itself was much to my liking.  It began with a slight uphill grade in the first mile which normally I’m not a fan of, but I know the excitement of the start will mask it.  Not long after it turned onto a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield which is extremely neat.  On Sun. the history loving nerd in me kept trying to read portions of the plaques as we ran past various monuments but I know I need to focus straight ahead come race day.  The course then went out onto a lot of rural roads which are my absolute favorite given that’s what I trained on so many years when I lived with my parents.  There were few cars which allowed me to run closer to the middle of the road and avoid the camber which always feels better on my legs.  The turn around point I anticipate will be the most challenging as it has a few “rollers” (my dad’s running term for low grade long hills) but there are no substantial hills.  This gives me more confidence for the race as at least half of my runs have involved solid hills.  The second portion of the course seems to be faster than the first.  The last half mile involved going down the initial uphill grade from the start so that will make for a fast finish, a feature I love.

I actually beat my half marathon time goal of 2 hours and 10 minutes just in running my time trial.  I ran 2 hours, 8 minutes and 2 seconds.  2:08 is actually the time I ran my first half marathon in.  I wasn’t intentionally pushing the pace on Sun. morning but having others to run with helped me run faster than I normally do on my solo long runs.  Overall I just felt really comfortable and the downhill last mile I ran in 9:02 after having had my fastest mile during the run be a 9:48.  Since I’ve already beaten my time goal I have a new goal of getting as close to 2 hours as I can.  I’m not ambitious enough to set a goal of breaking 2 hours as I think that’s too much of a stretch at this point and I know conditions could be vastly different come race day.

One more long run.  One 5k race for fun.  One full week of tapering.  Then it’s go time!

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