John Rudy 5 Miler – Year 2

Yesterday was the John Rudy 5 miler, a winter series race that was cancelled in 2017 due to the weather.  Given it is still my second year running the series though I’m going to continue titling the races as such.

I did not know if I would be healthy enough to run the race.  A stomach virus attacked Jason the afternoon of Christmas Eve.  I made a quick trip to the store for Pepto, Gatorade, saltless pretzels and chicken noodle soup.  He recovered well enough to attend Christmas Day dinner at my parents’ house.  A little after 10pm on Christmas I found myself in the bathroom.  And after 11pm.  And after midnight.  This continued until roughly 4am despite the fact that I had only been producing stomach bile for the last few hours.  It never ceases to amaze me how our bodies seem to hate us when we’re forced to vomit.

I had emailed my manager after midnight to advise that I would not be able to cover the reception desk in the office as previously scheduled, but that I would still work from home as I did not wish to lose my holiday pay.  I pushed myself through 7 hours of work on 2.5 hours of sleep before falling onto the couch for a nap.  Thursday my stomach was still sensitive but I managed to eat more and overall was feeling better.  On Friday I felt that a head cold was starting as I could only breathe out of one side of my nose.  I had some back and forth texting with Todd over whether or not I would run and of course he understood my predicament but as my friend and the race director, he was strongly enjoying me to try.

I woke around 6:30am on Saturday feeling well rested and breathing decently though there was still some nasal congestion.  I was grateful that the cold hadn’t fully settled in my head or sinuses.  The sun was shining and it felt quite warm except for when the wind blew.  I was committed to racing, but set no goal time as I planned to run based on how I felt.

I arrived fairly early to the park and helped my dad with directing the cars where to park.  I contemplated removing my leggings as it was feeling even warmer, but some chilly winds began blowing and I decided to remain dressed as I was and added my gloves.  Dad and I ran a short warmup and joined a growing group by the northern extension of the York Heritage Rail Trail.  I told dad to not stay back with me as he had the past two races, but to go ahead as I was going to start out easy and see how I felt.  I had blown my nose several times that morning and was hoping I would be able to breathe without much difficulty.

At 9am the race started and we headed south on the trail.  Despite the trail not being very wide there was no jostling as we all settled in fairly quickly.  I pushed a bit on the first grade and opened up on the opposing downhill.  I settled in near a woman who been talking to dad before the race and who I knew was not in my age group.  The first mile was finished in 8 minutes which I found decent since I was still finding my comfort level.

Todd had forewarned of some potential mud on the course due to heavy rains the previous day, but the wind and sun had dried up most of it.  There was one spot that we went off the trail to avoid a mess and had to run through a bit of mud, but it was nothing compared to what I had dealt with over the summer in my half marathon training.  I finished my second mile in 8:10 which was fine as well.

A little past the two mile marker I began watching the lead runners return.  This part of the trail was also one of my favorite parts as it ran alongside a creek and had some woods and was very scenic.  I cheered on dad as he passed, encouraged him to close in on the group ahead of him and called out the time on my Garmin.  I reached the turn around cone and our running friend Scott who I gave a thumbs up.  I cheered on a few other runners before hitting the third mile in 8:07.

I was feeling fairly good despite not running for five days or exercising for four.  My legs felt strong though my nasal congestion was making breathing a tad challenging.  I pushed up the bridge as it was one of the few “hills” in the course and saw Les, an older local runner, not far in front of me.  I spent many races over the summer trying to catch him and managed to beat him at the Spring Valley and Wildcat races.  I was going to wait until the last mile to try pass him, but found myself running a bit faster and closing the gap.  He was encouraging as I came upon him and told me to go after the few girls ahead of us.  We crossed the fourth mile together as I clocked a 7:58.

I caught the woman who I had paced off of earlier in the race and told her great job.  I worked the final long grade and passed two or three runners.  With about a half mile to go I started to feel a tad ill and overheated and partially regretted not taking water at the aid station.  I pushed on knowing there wasn’t much left to run and crossed back into John Rudy park.  The final stretch mirrored that of my high school country cross country course; it’s deceiving in making runners think the finish line is closer than it is.  I was cautious to not being pushing too soon, but when I heard dad cheering my name I did begin to stride harder.  I felt rather winded crossing the finish line, but was very impressed to have broken 40 and ran a 39:47.

I finished third in my age group, four seconds behind the second place girl who I have beaten every race thus far, but given my health I wasn’t too disappointed since I originally thought I’d run well over 40 minutes.  I’m grateful to have felt well enough to run and to run as great as I did.  The race was reinforcement that while missing workouts tends to make us feel out of shape, we retain our overall fitness a lot more than we think we do.  That being said I am looking forward to getting back to running regularly and completing some longer runs again.  Here’s to finishing our the series strong in 2019!

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Holiday Food Part 3 – M Family Christmas

This is the final post in a holiday food series.  Click here to read the first part or here to read the second part.

This past Saturday my aunt hosted Christmas for my dad’s side of the family.  As a child this was done on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house, but as the family grew larger both in physical size and numbers it migrated to my aunt’s house.  With everyone expanding their own families through marriage and children we also found it easier to have it either the weekend before or after Christmas rather than on the Eve.  This worked out particularly well when Jason and I lived in Scranton.

The past two years I made a spinach dip that was rather good.  This year I was looking to change it up and bring something new while also challenging myself a bit more.  Enter the pine cone cheese ball.  While the actual making of the cheese ball itself did not appear to be hard, the challenge would be in making it look as aesthetically close to the picture as possible.  I am not known for my creativity in the kitchen, but I wanted to try anyway figuring if I failed I could always stop by the grocery store for a cheese platter to take.  I discovered I did not have a serving platter, but fortunately my mom had one to borrow.  I persuaded Jason to chop all the required herbs as I am still working on refining my chopping skills.  He masterfully chopped them up fine and actually mixed the cheese ball for me.  From that point I was on my own to tackle making it look like a pine cone.  I had the forethought to put it in the fridge for about ten minutes though that was not listed in the instructions.  The cheese ball had seemed quite soft and I was worried I would make a mess of it.  When I began inserting the almonds it worked quite well having been chilled.  I started around the middle of the cheese ball as I was uncertain how many almonds it would require to cover it and knowing the crackers would hide anything below it.  As I filled it in and the pine cone began to appear I became really excited.  After some final tweaking I presented it to Jason who was rather impressed at how much it looked like a pine cone.  My family found it rather unique (though my one uncle initially thought it was a hedgehog) and the wonderful taste of it ensured that I would be making it again in the future.

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Pine cone cheese ball

I wanted to bring dessert as well so I made a batch of brownies because they were so quick and easy.  Also because I’m a chocoholic.  My mom is not a big dessert fan but does enjoy white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, so I decided to make some of those as well.  The recipe was in my AllRecipes magazine and listed that 1.5 cups of white chocolate chips could be substituted for the chopped white chocolate so that was the choice I made.  I also had a slightly smaller amount of macadamia nuts than called for, but given how expensive they were I figured no one would notice a few less nuts.  I managed to make 35 cookies from the recipe and timed them perfectly with 5 minutes on the lower rack and 5 minutes on the upper rack.  Jason isn’t a fan of white chocolate and I’m not a fan of nuts in cookies, so neither of us sampled them prior to the Christmas party.  That was not an issue though as everyone in my family who did have one really raved about them.  My one uncle mentioned he tried making that type of cookies a few years ago, but it didn’t taste that good.  When I was looking to get rid of them at the end of the night I had several eager takers; I had some brownies to bring home but no cookies!

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Fresh from the oven white chocolate macadamia nut cookies

Jason and I went to my parents’ house for Christmas Day dinner.  They made the bulk of the food, but I did again make corn casserole and mashed sweet potatoes to share.  It was certainly a busy holiday season of cooking/baking this year, more than I have ever completed in past years.  I’m proud of my efforts in trying new recipes and look forward to trying out more in 2019!

Please note I am not affiliated with AllRecipes or 100DaysofRealFood.  The fact that the recipes listed come from their websites is personal preference.

Did you make any new recipes during the holiday season?  Do you have any recipes you make every season?

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Holiday Food Part 2 – K Family Christmas

This is the second post in a holiday food series.  Click here to read the first part or here to read the final part.

Jason’s family’s Christmas was held the same day as the Wildcat 10k.  Fortunately it wasn’t until 2pm which afforded me the ability to race, come home and shower and leave with enough time to explore Olio in Lititz.  We hadn’t ventured south on Broad St during our tiny house trip in September and a coworker told Jason that we needed to check out Olio.  I would’ve never imagined there were so many varieties of olive oils and balsamic vinegar.  The fact that we could sample any of them was such a neat feature of the store.  Jason picked out a spicy olive oil and a pear flavored vinegar that was said to pair well together.

The previous weekend Jason and I had made rum balls.  This was our second year making them.  The recipe doesn’t state how long to refrigerate them before rolling and last year we made the mistake of leaving them in the fridge too long.  They were incredibly difficult to roll.  This year we only left them in for 10 minutes and they were much easier to roll.  We then rolled them in confectioner’s sugar.  Last year we rolled some in sugar crystals but found the confectioner’s sugar to coat better and taste better.  Although they are to remain in the fridge for a week upon finishing, I took some to a Citizen’s Climate Lobby meeting on Wed. where they were much appreciated.  I took the remaining ones to Jason’s dad and stepmom’s house to share and nearly all of them were devoured.

Due to the race Saturday morning I made two other desserts Friday night.  The first was brownies.  For years brownies have been my go to dessert but it was only a few years ago that I started making them from scratch vs a box mix.  I had always assumed it was harder to make them from scratch.  However, the recipe I use is so simple that it takes roughly the same amount of time as making them from a box and results in much tastier brownies.  Jason’s family always enjoys them so I like to make them each year to take for Christmas.

Besides making brownies I wanted the challenge of making a new dessert to take for Christmas.  Jason likes lemon flavored treats, so when I found cheesecake lemon bars I thought they would be a good dessert to tackle.  I experienced quite an arm workout cutting pieces of butter with two knives into the dough for the crust.  I now know why people have pastry blenders.  Mixing sugar and cream cheese with an electric mixer was also an effort, and I thought to myself “So this is why Kasey (my sister) has a Kitchen Aid mixer”.  I finally finished all three layers and popped the baking dish in the oven for the listed 30 minutes.  I had underestimated how long it would take me to make the dessert and it was after 8pm until it was finished.  I should’ve checked the oven sooner than 30 minutes as a few spots along the edges browned a good bit.  Also despite following the instruction to remove any bubbles prior to baking, there were spots that cracked.  I’m sure this is common when making cheesecake but annoyed me nonetheless.  I decided to rectify this by placing half a strawberry on each bar after I cut them.  I only took half of the bars to the Christmas event as it made so many.  If I were to ever make the bars again I would certainly halve the recipe.  I’m not a huge fan of lemon flavored desserts but found the taste to be very good.  Both of Jason’s sister in laws liked them as well.  Unfortunately Jason found them to be too sweet for his liking, so I probably won’t make them again unless requested.

I was glad making rum balls was easier this year, that my brownies were their usual success, and the cheesecake lemon bars weren’t a total fail.  I tackled two new recipes yesterday for my extended family’s Christmas party so look for a post about those coming later this week.

Please note I am not affiliated with AllRecipes or 100DaysofRealFood.  The fact that the recipes listed come from their websites is personal preference.

Have you ever had “fancy” olive oils or vinegar?  Do you prefer to make desserts from scratch or a box mix?  Have you made any cheesecake desserts and if so, did yours crack?

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Wildcat 10k – Year 2

Yesterday combined one of my favorite race courses with one of my least preferred running conditions.  I’m biased to like the Wildcat 10k course because it’s one of my regular running routes.  I’m anti rain and normally will change my running days specifically to avoid running in it.  Of course I wasn’t going to miss a race because of the rain and was just fortunate that it was very light and the temperatures were a lot warmer than they have been lately.

I met dad at the high school and we both played the “what to wear” game while we warmed up.  The slightly warmer temps meant we didn’t need as many layers but not knowing if the rain would get heavier concerned us.  We took a chance believing the rain would stay light and I removed my windbreaker pants and he removed his hoodie.  It would turn out to be a smart decision.

We lined up closer to the front of the group than we did last year.  I was determined to race the downhill first mile better than I raced it last year.  I have been practicing running downhills faster and with better form.  It helped that there was no slush/possible ice to worry about on the course this year like there was last year.  It also helped that my dad said he would likely stay with me for the first mile or two.

The race started and we went out at a good pace.  I was a bit nervous at first as I felt a little winded despite having ran a long warm up, but my breath quickly settled as we began the descent.  We had to weave in and out of some people, but I stayed with dad.  We hit the first mile in a 7:07 which worried me that it was too fast for me, but I felt ok.  I let dad pull ahead a bit during the second mile as he paced and chatted with a small group.  The second mile was a 7:35 which again seemed a little too fast for my liking as I didn’t want to burn out during the hardest last mile.

I settled into a more comfortable pace during the third mile and began to mentally enjoy the race.  It’s an odd feeling to run such a familiar routine, but to be running it with so many more people.  I realized there was a lot of the course I didn’t actually pay attention to because I was more focused on watching the other runners.  I stayed this way through the fourth mile which was my slowest at an 8:45.  At first that seemed a little too slow, but I knew it meant I should be able to push more on the hills.  I grabbed some water at the water stop as it was more of a mental need to hydrate than it was a physical one.

I approached the S Park St hill with determination to really work the hill.  I didn’t even glance at the top but kept my eyes low and my stride shortened.  I was glad to see more people running the hill this year than last year, but still managed to pass eight people.  When I finally reached the top and made the left turn I felt really winded.  Even though the route became a downhill grade I needed a good portion of it to regain my even breathing.  Two of the people I had passed on the hill came back to pass me.  When I hit the five mile mark I was both surprised and proud to see an 8:26 – further proof that I am a real hill runner as that mile was tougher yet faster than the fourth mile.

I used the last flat portion to conserve my energy for the final climb up Blymire.  I debated pushing the pace more, but figured I could push harder at the end if I had anything left in the tank.  I passed an older guy within the first 100 feet of beginning the ascent.  I began playing Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” in my head to keep myself distracted.  The hill felt a lot longer racing it than it normally felt running it which I can only assume is because I was more tired and because there were no people to catch.  I finally reached the intersection that ends the steepest portion of the hill and the more shallow incline began.  I found I actually had some energy to open my stride and push my pace a bit more.  I saw a pack ahead of me and I tried to close the gap on them as much as possible.

I reached the school campus and Todd was on the corner as a volunteer directing everyone into the parking lot for the final .1 or so of the race.  One final turn and I was striding strongly into the finish line with a final time of 50:56 – a nearly 5 minute improvement over last year’s time.

After getting some water and rehashing the race with dad who finished about a minute ahead of me I checked the results board and found I finished second in my age group which really made me proud given the course is “my course”.  Coming into the race I was 3rd overall in the winter series so I’ll be curious to see if that great finish pushes me into 2nd.  Unfortunately the woman leading my age group runs about 3 minutes faster than me, so I don’t anticipate being able to win it, but just placing in the top 3 would be an accomplishment since I didn’t place overall last year.  I’m looking forward to the next race, the John Rudy 5 miler, since last year weather cancelled it and it’s ran on one of my favorite portions of the rail trail.

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Holiday Food Part 1 – Thanksgiving

This is the first part of a holiday food series.  Click here to read the second part or here to read the final part.

Through most of my life I have been a big fan of the holidays in every aspect from food to family to gifts.  Over the years I have found my enjoyment of giving and receiving gifts has diminished.  I used to spend $100 on each person (mom, dad, sister and Jason) even if it meant just buying things to reach that amount.  The past few years Jason and I have scaled back and only spend about $30 on each other.  My sister and I aren’t exchanging gifts this year, and I’ll likely only spend around $50 on each of my parents.  While the amount of shopping has decreased, my desire to cook and bake for the holidays has increased.

My birthday fell on Thanksgiving, and Jason and I chose to stay home and cook for ourselves.  We did this last year as well and made some tasty Cornish hens, but I wanted to step up the cooking and go more traditional this year.  I found a recipe for stuffed turkey breast since making a whole turkey for two people seemed a bit unnecessary.  I thought I would need to order a turkey breast but actually found my grocery store stocked with frozen ones.  The recipe included a part about making homemade stuffing, but I chose to buy an organic ready made bag to use instead.  I also found recipes for mashed sweet potatoes and corn casserole.  I searched recipes for homemade dinner rolls, but those seemed like a lot of work so I opted to buy frozen ones.  I also considered making a pumpkin pie since I’ve never made a pie, but I figured I was taking on enough and there would be plenty of baking for Christmas.  The grocery store supplied the sangria, pumpkin pie, Cool Whip and a small $5 yellow cake with white buttercream icing as a birthday cake for myself.  Normally I am a choco-holic but that cake just called to me.

Thanksgiving morning I continued my tradition of watching the Macys Thanksgiving Day parade.  Since the turkey breast only required an hour to an hour and a half to cook I knew I could wait until at least 10:30 to begin cooking.  Jason assisted me by slicing the turkey (I feared slicing the whole way through it) while I cooked the stuffing on the stove.  He then stuffed the breast and into the oven it went.  He also chopped the sweet potatoes for me as he’s much faster with a knife than I am.  He returned to the living room to continue watching the parade while I started on the corn casserole.

I discovered why some people opt to have double ovens – the turkey and casserole were to cook on two different temperatures.  The turkey had cooked at its own temperature for a half hour, so I chose to set the oven a bit lower to accommodate the corn casserole figuring the turkey could always cook longer if needed.  I hadn’t made homemade mashed potatoes in quite some time and actually forgot how long the water would take to boil.  I utilized my toaster oven for the dinner rolls to avoid resetting the oven temperature yet again.  I did not expect to be able to use the turkey breast to make a homemade gravy nor did I actually want to attempt it.  I have always been partial to packet or jarred gravy unless it’s gravy made in a restaurant.  For those reasons I emptied a jar of turkey gravy into a serving dish to microwave before the meal was served.

I pulled the turkey breast out of the oven sooner than expected given it had cooked on a lower temperature for most of the time.  The corn casserole took a few extra minutes despite cooking on a higher temperature.  The sweet potatoes I had worried wouldn’t be finished in time, but once the water was rolling they cooked quickly.  The dinner rolls took a bit longer, and I should’ve thawed them out prior to putting them in the toaster oven.  They were the last item to go on the table.

All the food was finished cooking within 15 minutes of each other, something that I was incredibly proud of as I normally struggle to time multiple items.  I had thought ahead and wrote a list with each item and its cook time and temperature and referenced that which I think helped.  The turkey was a tad dry possibly due to having sat for longer than the listed 10 minutes.  The gravy alleviated that though.  I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but I ate more than usual because the flavor was very balanced with the seasonings.  Jason, who is a big sweet potato fan, enjoyed them even more.  To me the star of the meal was the corn casserole.  Jason’s stepmom makes one that we always look forward to at Christmas, and I was happy that mine turned out equally as good.

Thanksgiving was the first I really pushed myself to try some “harder” recipes.  I was a bit nervous about the turkey breast and putting stuffing it.  I was also nervous about trying so many new recipes at one meal.  I’m very proud of how well timed and delicious our meal was.  I didn’t experience the stress that I expected to and may even consider making a large meal for my family in the future.

Please note I am not affiliated with AllRecipes.  The fact that all the recipes listed come from their website is personal preference.

Did you cook for Thanksgiving?  Do you get nervous cooking big meals?  What tips do you use to ensure multiple items are finished in time to serve them together?

 

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Writing Compared to Running

Every year I have a New Year’s resolution, sometimes official and sometimes not, to write more.  I know the best goals are the ones that are written with specifics and are measurable.  I think the reason I fail to make my goal more specific is because I fear the pressure that comes from doing so.  I don’t want to be forced to write, but rather want to do it when I feel inspired.

In taking this approach I know I am limiting myself.  I end up not writing as often, and I likely don’t grow more as a writer.  I have often argued that if I force myself to write it will feel more like a chore rather than a hobby.

In thinking about my approach to writing I began to compare it to my running.  I commit to 3 runs per week.  Sometimes this falters during track season when I’m coaching or in the winter when weather restricts it, but for the majority of the year I can adhere to that goal.  This sometimes feels like a chore when I’m trying to fit the runs in during a busier than usual week, but overall it is a reasonable goal and one that has seen me progress tremendously in the past two years as a faster, stronger runner.

I can’t fully compare writing and running.  While running does require mental willpower to ensure I get out the door, writing requires much more brain power.  Forcing myself to lace up my sneakers when tired seems much easier than forcing myself to string together words when I’m brain drained.  Running is sometimes a social activity where as writing is a solo one.  This can make me feel selfish for taking time from others to write.  I view running as an essential element of my life, something that keeps me both physically fit and mentally sane.  Writing enhances my creativity and allows for emotional releases, yet I fail to treat it with the same respect as I do my running.

Most of my runs I feel motivated to complete.  There are certainly days when I feel less than inspired and each step is spent wanting the run to be finished.  Sometimes I may not be in the mood to run, but find that once I get going that I end up enjoying it.  I am hoping that if I begin to write more, even if I don’t feel inspired, that I may end up writing better than I expect.  I rarely let excuses stop me from running.  Whether it’s a schedule conflict or not feeling up to it, I almost always find a way to get in my 3 runs a week.  It seems any excuse is a valid one though when it comes to not writing.  I think it’s time I break that habit.

Beginning in 2019 I am going to make it a goal to write at least one blog per week.  It may not always be the most creative or interesting, but it will force me to have some consistency.  I am also going to make it a goal to work on my story or some other form of writing for at least an hour per week.  This can be made up of any combination of time be it 15 minutes for 4 days or a full hour in one sitting.  I am sure this will be painful at times, finding time to accomplish both goals particularly during track season, but if I have found time to run regularly then I can certainly find time to write regularly as well.

How often do you blog/complete other forms of writing?  Do you find that the motivation to write comes easily or do you adhere to a schedule/make goals to keep writing regularly?  Do you feel guilty for taking time away from family/friends to write?

 

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Spring Valley 4 Miler – Year 2

While I greatly enjoyed running the Dover 10 miler this year I can’t say I was looking forward to the Spring Valley 4 miler.  Hills tend to be my forte but only when they are rolling, not super steep and certainly not within the first quarter mile of a race.  The only part of the race that I was looking forward to was the weather.  After running a frigid 4 miles on the rail trail last Friday, 50* for Sunday looked mighty spectacular.

I did not expect to be able to run any of the winter series races in a tshirt and shorts, but that was my outfit on Sunday and proved to be the best choice.  My dad had picked up Armand and myself and we arrived early enough to try to scope out where the course might be altered after hearing that a bridge was washed out.  We knew the final long hill of the course would be made even slightly longer because of that.  Once again I simply had a goal of running faster than I ran in the previous year’s race.

I had made sure to get in an extra thorough warmup so I would be ready to tackle the first short steep hill.  There were many more runners this year than last year likely due to the great weather, so dad and I lined up fairly close to the front.  The race started and through the parking lot we went to turn up the hill.  I really just wanted to get it out of the way so I went “beast mode” and pushed up it fairly hard.  I was only a few steps behind my dad and worked to catch him as we began the long downhill.  I did my best to improve my downhill running form and it worked until the last portion of the hill when it became steeper.  At that point fear kicked in a bit and I put my arms out for balance and my dad started to pull ahead of me again.

We turned onto a gravel road road and I clocked a 7:30 first mile.  At that point I knew it was best to not try to keep up with my dad for the whole race so I settled into a comfortable pace.  This was easy to do given the road was relatively flat.  I began seeing the leading runners and had to move over to the side of the road which was rather muddy at spots.  I had chosen to wear my old running shoes rather than my new ones for exactly that reason.  The turn around seemed to come rather quickly and soon I was the one heading back while others were still running out the road.

The last mile began fairly flat, but I quickly approached the final climb.  I glanced at the top and quickly averted my eyes to just a few feet ahead of me and said to myself “Don’t look up”.  The steep portion I struggled with on the downhill didn’t feel as bad on the uphill despite looking scary initially.  The majority of runners around me were running the hill, only a few were walking, which helped to keep my momentum going.  I kept a steady pace through the top of the hill and last little steep climb before I was able to open up and coast downhill to turn into the parking lot to the finish line.

My Garmin clocked 4 miles about 8-10 seconds before I actually crossed the finish line so I’m not sure if the course was slightly long.  My official time was 33:06 and I finished 3rd in my age group.  That was over 2 minutes faster than last year though I did find the course easier this year and the great weather helped as well.  I had been 6th in my age group last year so I’m improving in that regard.  I’m hoping to continue placing well so that I might finish in the top 3 for the series this year.

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