Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What If?

Have you ever thought about what your life would be like if you weren't a runner (or triathlete)?

Since I am injured and unable to run (luckily I can still swim and bike without any pain), I started to think about what my life would be like if I had never decided to try Couch-to-5K back in April 2011. (It still amazes me that all of this started with Week 1, Day 1 of C25K, which is alternating 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Crazy).

So, what would my life be like?

Well, I wouldn't have any of the friends that I have now. My core group of friends was starting to change right before we started running so I doubt I would still be friends with any of those people, but maybe. Running (and blogging as a result) has brought so many people into my life including Amber, Greg, Crystal and our #trailsroc friends to name a few.

These are the people I lean on the most when times are tough, and if we never took that first step toward becoming runners I probably wouldn't know any of them. (And if I didn't live dangerously and meet strangers I met on DailyMile and Twitter, I wouldn't have any of my best friends in my life).

 My precious hood

I would probably have a second Masters degree. Before running, school was my "addiction" (luckily as someone who works at a university I can still continue my lifelong learning, but in a different capacity). I am still currently enrolled in the Criminal Justice Masters program, but I think this is the last year I have before I would have to reapply to the program if I don't take any classes.

While I was "healthy" when we started C25K and losing weight was not even a factor in that decision, I'm not sure if I would have remained that way if we didn't start running. I had been in a continuous cycle of gaining weight and losing weight for a few years and who knows what I would be doing right now if I wasn't a triathlete. I didn't enjoy swimming, just to swim, as much as I did growing up and going to the gym didn't appeal to me so I probably would still be in that horribly unhealthy "yo-yo" cycle.

And I can tell you this right now, I wouldn't be as happy. While I am not always a "peppy" person, running has brought so much joy into my life. I have been able to travel to places that I might not have otherwise, including to meet those friends mentioned previously.

How many people can say that they have experienced different cities on their feet? Or run a 200 mile overnight relay with mostly strangers who become wonderful friends after? Or run two races in one day? Or raced a Half Ironman in 90 degree weather? Or run up mountains with friends and then gone kayaking after, even though you can barely walk? Or had to use a rope during a trail race to get up a hill?

Well, only a runner (or triathlete) can say that.

I'm glad that I decided to start running, because I probably wouldn't like the life that I would be living if I wasn't a runner.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I Had a Good Run

Well, not literally.

 This sort of helped yesterday

I am injured, it's not severe but it is still an injury. The last time I was injured was immediately after our first half marathon in October 2011.

And then I ran too fast, too much and too soon and I earned myself my first (and so far only) DNF. What resulted from that experience was peroneal tendonitis on my right foot, technically my second injury I guess.

So, here we are in January 2014 and I have peroneal tendonitis again. Like I said, I had a good run but no one wants to be injured. I think I can pinpoint when the tendonitis started up again, and then I just kept running trails, running fast road runs and really messed it up Thursday night (when I should have listened to everyone, even myself, and not run).

I'm going to take a week, maybe two, off from running. I can still bike and swim, so at least I have those things to help keep me somewhat sane. Plus, I'm still rocking the 30 Day Ab Challenge (my plank today was 2 minutes and 1 second).

So, why am I so sad?

I guess it all goes back to why I run. When I started running, it was just something that we could do together.

Then, I fell in love with it.

If you are a personal friend of mine, you know that I talk about running almost non-stop. It is who I am. I know that might seem silly or irrational to some people, and yes I know I am other things, but running is what defines me.

It allows me to have time to myself with just my thoughts or I can run with my crazy running friends out on the trails and roads. I can run away my frustrations or celebrate the joys in my life. I can set goals, accomplish them and set even higher ones for the next time.

For me, it almost isn't even about the physical act of running, though I love that part too (most of the time). It is everything else that comes with it, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Yes, running is beautiful (even when we smell, really, really bad).

I know that a week or two isn't a long time to not run, but for me it is going to feel like a lifetime.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Apera Bags Performance Duffel Review

When you are a triathlete, you have a lot of stuff that you need to bring with you during training workouts and races. I actually don't have a really great transition bag, or workout bag for that matter, so when Apera Bags contacted me, I was intrigued.

Then when I saw the colors of their bags, I was in love. The bright pink, even for this non-girly girl, was calling my name (pink and green have become my triathlon race colors)! But don't worry, there are other colors as well. The Performance Duffel looked like it could stand up to the challenge of carrying all of my stuff to and from workouts and races (Apera Bags does have numerous other kinds of bags for everyone's needs, as well).

 First swim of the year!

When I received my bag I was excited to switch my swimming stuff from my old, probably moldy, Adidas swim bag. That's another great thing about Apera Bags, all of their bags are antimicrobial, for the entire useful life of the bag, have vented compartments (because we all really smell bad after a hard workout), have wipeable linings and have a separate washable insert for your really wet clothes (or swim suits in my case).

Pretty bag

 The inside

The washable insert, and my cool suit!

The Performance Duffel has so many pockets, I don't even know what to do with them all! I kind of wish I had a tablet so that I could use the pocket that is designed specifically for that purpose.

 One of the side pockets for shoes!

The best part about this bag, for this triathlete who has a million shoes, is that it has two side pockets that will fit a pair of shoes in each (up to a men's size 11.5). These pockets are completely separate from the inside of the bag, right now my flip flops that I wear on the pool deck are in one of them. Additionally, that means I can pack my running shoes AND my cycling shoes when I go to a race!

This bag is definitely going to become a necessity once Ironman training starts in March!

Would you like one for yourself?

Every month Apera Bags is giving away a bag to one winner, so it could be your lucky month! For the month of January the bag that they are giving away is the Active Pack (an amazing looking backpack with all of the same qualities as the Performance Duffel).

If you would like to be entered to win the giveaway, go here and follow the instructions! And if the Active Pack isn't your style, you can always enter the giveaway next month!

Disclaimer: I was provided the Apera Bags Performance Duffel at no cost in exchange for a review. I was not compensated in any other way and the opinions expressed in this review are, as always, my own.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

30 Day Ab Challenge

Right now I am participating in a 140.6 Iron Distance Challenge, actually I am the co-host! Right before we started the challenge for the month, I suggested adding a two day a week strength/core component to the challenge.

Until today, I had done ZERO strength/core days.

I'm not really sure what happened this winter, because normally we are pretty good about mixing things up and doing strength workouts during the off-season. I guess part of the problem is that even though it is still technically our off-season, we are training almost like it isn't which puts strength training on the back burner.

My wonderful friend, Andy, came to the rescue though! He mocked my apparent lack of strength/core workouts enough that I searched for a quick core/ab workout and I found this Active 30 Day Challenge. I liked the idea of a 30 Day Challenge because it really does take more than a few days to develop a habit (though 30 days isn't always enough), plus the workouts in this challenge are quick enough that it doesn't require a lot of time. And now that I am back to work, that is a bonus!

 Don't mind the huge shoe pile...

I did take "before" photos, only to see if this does actually make a difference. That said, I don't think that there is anything wrong with how I look now, and that isn't even why I do triathlon. I didn't take any measurements because we don't have a tape measure and I'm not really one to care about numbers. As long as I feel good, that's all that matters!

I have no idea how to take a screenshot with a droid, I'm sure you need an app!

The challenge wanted you to time the first day to see how long it took you to do the 100 reps (5 different moves/20 reps each) but I didn't really time it. It probably took me less than 10 minutes total, though. I did time the plank at the end and I got 1 minute and 15 seconds. Not bad for slacking on core work lately!

Now, I just have to stick with this for 30 days!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Vacation Highlights

Well, in a few hours my vacation is over (I know, I know most of you are saying "finally"!) I had a wonderful almost full month off from work and, while I am not fully looking forward to it yet, I am ready to go back to work.

Here are some of the highlights from my vacation!

Trail running

This is an obvious one! During my time off from work I was able to run 65.45 miles on various trails. Most of our other runs that were on roads during this time were run with our trail running friends, as well.

Walks with Bernie

One of the best parts about not working is that I get to spend time with Bernie.

Spending time with friends and family

We were able to see both of our families for Christmas, which is nice since we don't get to see them very often. We ran with friends a lot, and saw them outside of running, and we were able to see Crystal, Joe (the month of January is taken care of!), Janell and Aaron!

Ran my first race of the year, and placed

While in Pennsylvania spending time with Crystal, Joe, Janell and Aaron we ran our first race of the year. Janell was the race director for CJ's Resolution Challenge and it was a gorgeous, cold, day on the trails!

Quality Swim/Bike/Run time

Just in the month of January I have swam 1.55 miles, biked 112.11 miles and ran 78.23 miles. Thanks to our friend Jenny, Mike and I are now able to ride on trainers at the same time!

I'm sad to see this vacation go, but luckily I only have 9 weeks to go until my next vacation!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Confession Time

I haven't done a confession (or a "real" blog post) in awhile, and after I read Ari's post last week, I thought I should do another one.

So... here we go. More than you probably really want to know about me lately.

As you know, I'm on vacation. Still. So what do I do all day? Unless I've had an appointment, rode on the trainer, or taken Bernie on a walk, I've done pretty much nothing. All. Day. Long.

So what does "nothing" include, you ask? (Or maybe you didn't, but let's just pretend you did shall we?) Watching shows that Mike would never watch including Pretty Little Liars (that I just started watching in the current season, so yea I'm confused), Ravenswood, Switched at Birth and The Fosters. I'm a 13 year old girl in an almost 29 year old's body, I'm fine with it.

I have this bad habit, that I've had forever, that when I like a song I listen to it. On repeat. Non-stop. After re-living my high school days and looking up hip hop dance videos (more on that soon), I have been listening to this gem like it's my job. Remember, 13 year old in an almost 29 year old's body. (And yes, the answer to your question is that I am listening to it while writing this post).

So, you would think that since I've been on vacation that our house is in pristine condition, right? (Well read that other confessions post and you'll know that's not even close to the truth). In fact, our Christmas tree and minimal decorations are still up. Yea, need to take those down.

 My longest run on trails to date (how was this almost 2 weeks ago??)

I have an 18 mile run on the trails this weekend. That will be my longest run on trails, ever. I haven't started to freak out yet, but I kind of expect to. Next weekend, I will attempt 20 miles on trails, for no reason. I'm not even training for anything right now.

Speaking of running, my running clothes are not nicely put away right now. Actually, they haven't been in awhile. They are just strewn about the floor, in a not so orderly pile.

I haven't gotten a hair cut since Crystal's marathon. LAST February. I do have a plan for it though, I will grow it out a few more inches and then donate it to Locks of Love (or some other similar organization after research).

And finally, remember the hip hop dance videos? I really wish I could do this, but I think that all the swimming, biking and running I do has rendered me too inflexible enough to do so. I can dream!

And there you have it, like I said more than you really probably wanted to know about me right now!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I Feel A Change Coming

With the most recent story of a runner being killed, unnecessarily, by a drunk driver this past weekend, it made me think about how Mike and I are already on our way to changing how we do things as triathletes/runners. (If you haven't already, please consider joining runners around the country and dedicating your miles to Meg on Saturday, January, 18th. We will be running for her, on the trails).

I have mentioned, numerous times, how I have fallen in love with trail running. Yet, there are times that we still have to run on roads and I am looking forward to running some road races in the coming months (but probably that has more to do with who we are running with). With that said, I am starting to become apprehensive of running on roads. I have always been hyper-aware of my surroundings while running roads, but spending over two months on the trails has forced me to really up my awareness during the very few road runs we have done since the MDI Marathon. And to be honest, those are few and far between.

Last night, we were supposed to run trails but with the cold/warm/cold temperatures and all the rain, the icy and muddy trails were not safe. Our group decided to run roads instead.

 Where else can you see elephants while running?

My brain, as well as my body, has definitely had a shift in how I think about running. I enjoy my time out on the trails, whether it is just me and Mike or with our #trailsroc friends, and while you are aware out on the trails it is different than on the roads. You don't have to worry about cars while out there, for example.

Don't get me wrong, as soon as Ironman training starts in March we are going to have to run more roads, but after 2014 I'm not sure what is going to happen.

I'm already planning 2015, yes I am Type-A to the extreme, and the only things I have in my head that I would like to do are an ultra and a bike/run/swim/run/swim/run/swim/run triathlon (this is the primary reason I want a sub-15 hour Ironman finish, so I can qualify to register for this race). The run portions of this triathlon are, you guessed it, on trails.

It's funny how life changes, I will still run races on roads (I need my sub-4 hour marathon after all), but I am embracing trail running more and more.

 Even when I am suffering, I am happy here.

And that's fine with me.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Would You Do Things Over?

I am still on vacation (yes I haven't worked since December 23rd, I'm pretty sure when I go back I won't remember what sign language is), so I have had a lot of time on my hands lately. Unfortunately, now that the holidays are way, way over everyone I know is back to work.

I was pretty bored today and other than taking the Bern for a walk through a new to us park on some trails, I was watching hip hop dance videos and listening to old high school/early college days' songs.  All. Day. Long.

That got me thinking about my high school days and how, for the most part, they were pretty fun.

 Why yes, I was blonde back then!

But would I do them over if I was given the chance?

I'm not sure about that. I think that I accomplished and experienced everything that I needed to in order to get to where I am, and to be who I am, today.

I was a pitcher

In high school I was not popular but I wasn't unpopular either. I guess I was a middle of the pack kind of person, kind of how I am with triathlon. I played sports, less as the years went on, (I ran cross country one year and then the 3 miles wasn't fun for me, that's funny now, and I played softball for two years but a line drive to the face stopped that) and I loved swimming. 

Warming up at a swim meet

Swimming was my life. Kind of like how triathlon is my life now.

I can think back to certain moments in my life and swimming was usually there with me. I never really dated anyone seriously, because I would get bored and always tell them that I had to focus on swimming, I had to miss out on some of the fun things that my friends were doing because I practiced 8 times a week, which included a Saturday morning practice. But I still managed to have all the fun times at dances, friends' houses, riding loops around town and, yes, listening to my rap music.

But, those days are over and so are my college days.

In the end, that's alright because I think that what lies ahead of me is going to be pretty amazing too! (But I can still get nostalgic for my younger days at times!)

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Running Community - It's More than Just Running

I've gone back and forth on whether or not I should write about this, but since this is my "journal" I am going to. I also am not going to post names, but if you are friends with me and this person you know who I am talking about.

Sometime in 2012, a Facebook friend messaged me and this other woman and said that we should become friends since we both loved to run. I didn't think much of it, noticed that we had run in some of the same races and we ended up becoming friends on Facebook.

As Mike and I started to meet more people in all areas of the Rochester running/triathlon scene, I noticed that this friend and I had a lot of the same friends. Which naturally makes sense.

The first time I "met" this person, it was when Mike and I were volunteering at the Rochester Marathon just the week before Wineglass. I cheered her on, she acknowledged me and said something like, "I need to get to the shitter!"

Yep, that is the kind of person she is. Not rude, just tough and does whatever she wants. I admire her for that, because I am rather shy and definitely don't say things like that (until you get to know me).

Our friend is a part of the triathlon group that we are a part of, as well as, #trailsroc. Another funny story about her is that when she did her first triathlon, she wore headphones not only during the run but on the bike too! She is deathly afraid of the bike, though with encouragement she is getting better at it. I had to laugh when she realized she got time added as a penalty (luckily she didn't get disqualified). She thought that people who were looking at her out on the course were just checking her out, rather than looking for people breaking the USAT rules!

We have gotten to know this person really well over the last few years, we hang out at training workouts, friends' houses and her house. Her and her husband do have a rather sweet pool after all.

Recently, we found out that she needs to undergo chemotherapy for her cancer after her most recent surgery didn't work the way it was supposed to.

In order to help her get through this, the running/triathlon community has come together to do what we can for her and her family. We have a "kick this thing's ass crew" group set up on Facebook, a Take Them a Meal calendar set up and a RunRaiser event scheduled to raise money.

I know that what we are doing isn't making her cancer-free, but I hope that it eases some of the worry so she can beat this thing! Which if I know this trail runner/triathlete/adventure racer/marathoner/ultramarathoner like I think I do, she is going to beat this just like she does everything else!

And I've realized that the running community is about more than just running.

It's about being there when one of our own needs us and to stop at nothing until they are whole again.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My First Marathon - Isaac

This is part of a series on my blog called, "My First Marathon". The concept is simple, write a post about your first marathon, a race recap, why you picked it, how training went, if you liked the race, etc. and I will post it on my blog. If you are interested in participating in the series you can email me at fromcouchtoironwoman@gmail.com.

We haven't had a "My First Marathon" post in awhile, but this sixth guest post is very exciting for me! I personally know Isaac, we went to high school together and we actually ran cross country together my freshman year (the only year I ran in high school, ha!) Mike and I have had the pleasure of having Isaac on our Reach the Beach Relay team, running with him in Maine and I had the honor of having him run the entire MDI Marathon with me by my side. Isaac is one of the most supportive people that I know and I hope you enjoy his "My First Marathon" post! 

 You know I had to put this photo in here, Isaac!

I was lucky to finish my first marathon. I was probably stupid for signing up for it in the first place and definitely completely naive about the scale of what running a marathon entailed. I was a senior in college and was running on the cross country team for my second year after not running during my first two years of college. The cross country team had a tradition of going to South Carolina in December, renting a house, and then running a race. There was a half marathon and a marathon option. My longest race until that point had been a 10k. So of course I decided that the full marathon would be fun to run.

I signed up for the Kiawah Island Marathon, which would take place on December 11th. I had less than two months to get ready. My training consisted of running my college cross country season and then continuing running until the marathon. I didn’t have a training plan and I don’t remember what my longest run was, but I don’t think it was over 15 miles.

I had no plan going into the race and the only thing I knew about the course was that it was very flat. I started running with some friends before they turned around on the half marathon course. I remember drinking and eating whatever I felt like at the aid stations without a real thought of how it would affect my body. The leg pains started around mile 18. The stomach cramps started soon after. The last 8 miles consisted of going between running, walking, and stretching. I just kept moving forward. I remember feeling angry at myself that I had to walk. I never really made the connection during the marathon that my poor training was the reason I was walking and in so much pain, I just knew I had to keep moving forward. Ignorance can be bliss at times.

I crossed the finish line with a net time of 3:35:06. Looking back, I have no idea how I finished in such a fast time. I did not deserve it. My fast finishing time does speak volumes of how much running I did during the cross country season and how the season of training had me in really good shape. I guess all those short to mid length runs add up. After I crossed the finish line, I was too exhausted to be happy. My friends made me go to the food tent and get some soup and kept me walking even though I just wanted to lie down.

In the days after, I remember being happy with my time and thinking that there was no way I could ever run that much faster. I had given it my all. The concept of training and preparing myself for the distance still eluded me. But I loved the challenge of the marathon. I loved the distance. I enjoyed overcoming the pain and finishing. I wanted to run another one.

MDI 2005 (2nd Marathon) on Sargent Drive

I ran my second marathon ten months later on October 16th, 2005. The Mount Desert Island Marathon was my local marathon. Sadly, I did not do any research about marathon training or running over those ten months. I trained less than I had for my first marathon. This marathon has plenty of hills and I went out way too fast. My legs started hurting around mile 10 and I had no nutrition with me for energy. I actually had my parents go buy me a banana so I could eat it when I saw them again. Looking back at a picture from the marathon, I am sure I was overheated wearing Gore-tex rain pants the whole way! I walked a lot in those final miles, I wanted to end the pain and misery, but I knew that I was going to make it to the finish line. I finished in 4:08:08. Again, I really didn’t deserve this fast of a finishing time. I guess sometimes youth and being in shape can make up for training. Luckily I did not get seriously injured.

I then stopped running for 6 years.

Sugarloaf Marathon 2012 (3rd Marathon) in the middle miles

In the Fall of 2011, a Facebook friend who I went to High School with had started posting about running. She even started a blog about it. She kept posting regularly about the different aspects of running and I started to remember the parts of running that I had loved. She posted really often! So I went for a run and found my passion rekindled. Some co-workers and I decided to sign up for a marathon that was 7 months away. Again, against logic, I decided to skip the shorter races. This time we all kept each other honest. We followed a training plan, we kept each other motivated, and we had fun. This was my first marathon that I felt proud about my training and execution during the race.

Top Left: Maine Marathon 2012 (4th Marathon) - BQ of 3:00:55
Top Right: Boston Marathon 2013 (5th Marathon)
Bottom Left: Maine Coast Marathon 2013 (6th Marathon)
Bottom Right: Sugarloaf Marathon 2013 (7th Marathon)

Since then, I haven’t looked back. I have now run 11 marathons and a 60 mile ultra. I have been honored to run most of my marathons with friends and enjoy the 26.2 mile party with them. I have run marathons between 3:00:55 and 5:14:32 and have enjoyed each one. I have been able to be part of friends’ first marathons and run with others as they PR. It is an amazing feeling to be able to experience a marathon with friends. Running to me is now about having fun and enjoying the steps along the way. The process has become just as awesome as the race itself. I am grateful to have supportive friends, family, and the running community.

Left: Maine Marathon 2013 (9th marathon)
Top Right: 60 mile ultra
Bottom Right: Rowe Marathon 2013 (11th marathon)

Currently, I am now training for an attempt at running 100 miles in a day on June 28, 2014. I will definitely be walking at times and I now realize how beneficial walking breaks can be compared to what I thought about walking during my first marathon!

MDI Marathon 2013 (10th marathon)

And that friend who kept posting about running all the time, her name happens to be Jamie, and she still has her blog. You are actually reading her blog at this moment. Jamie, thank you for getting me back into running!

Monday, January 6, 2014

CJ's Resolution Challenge Race Recap

This weekend was such an amazing time! Mike and I raced our first race of the year and we got to see Crystal, Joe, Janell and Aaron. Team Power Strangers was reunited!

Several months ago, Janell posted a question on Facebook about how to put on a race. She had an idea brewing and she was asking for help. I said that even though we were in different states we would do anything we could to help, or run!

 Inaugural CJ's Resolution Challenge

Janell's idea turned into CJ's Resolution Challenge. CJ is Janell's son who was diagnosed with Autism (Mike and I even got to meet him and his sister, and I would say for being unsure about strangers he did a great job with us! He was even climbing on us and sitting next to us, only hours after we met) and with the help of Sam from Operation Jack and others Janell was able to raise thousands of dollars for The Geisinger Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute and the Operation Jack Autism Foundation.

The race had two options: the RC Revolutions and the Last Man Standing. At first Mike and I had wanted to volunteer for the race, and not run, but Janell wanted us to do what we wanted so we decided to run. I picked the RC Revolutions option, which was a 3-hour loop race trying to complete as many of the 1.6 mile loops as you could within the 3 hours. Mike picked the Last Man Standing option, which was also 3 hours but the loops were done a little bit differently. Each loop had a specific amount of time in which the runners could complete it, and if they didn't they were out. If they got in before the time was up, they had to wait until they could start the next loop. The first loop was 21 minutes, the second was 20 minutes, the third was 19 minutes and so on until the end of three hours or no one was left standing!

 Mike snuggling with his girlfriend, Atlanta, photo courtesy of Crystal

We left on Friday to get to Janell and Aaron's house, where Crystal and Joe already were. They had escaped the winter blizzard that hit the Northeast and we were all reunited. We ate some dinner, met the kids and dogs (one of their dogs, Lynn, looked similar to our Bern!), helped with some last minute race stuff and got ready for bed. 

We woke up at 6am and Janell and Aaron were leaving right as we were all starting to get ready. Aaron's mom and dad were watching the kids, good thing since it was so cold out, and we chatted with them while we got ready.

The race was about 20 minutes away from Janell and Aaron's house, so we got in the car at about 7am and made our way to the race start at R.B. Winter State Park in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. Once we got the the park, we lost cell service which wasn't a big deal but luckily no one got hurt during the race!

We were early, but we had wanted to get there to help with any last minute details/packet pickup. We got our race stuff and waited as more runners started to arrive. For an inaugural race in January, in below freezing temperatures, there was a great turn out! 77 runners ended up running, 25 in Last Man Standing, 49 in RC Revolutions (and 3 in the kids race).

The only thing I was worried about at the start of the race was that my toes were frozen! They had a pavilion rented with heaters and a fire going, but I couldn't seem to warm up my toes. I hoped that once I started running that I would be able to feel my feet!

 The start of the race, photo courtesy of See PA Run

At a little past 9am, we headed outside for some final announcements and the race start! Mike and I had decided to run his first loop together, since he had 21 minutes, and before we knew it we were off!

 Pretty course! Photos courtesy of Crystal

The loop was really pretty. It started at the pavilion and went through a relatively easy trail for the first half of the loop. The trail went over a few bridges and then we hit a road in the park. The final part of the loop traveled along the road, that was snow covered because of the storm, and then ducked back into the woods on the trail to the pavilion.

 Finishing up the first loop, photos courtesy of See PA Run

The first loop was slow going since everyone was together, but Mike and I just took it in stride. He didn't want to go too fast anyway and we actually had to slow ourselves down on the road. We were chatting with a few ladies that were running the Last Man Standing about the clock (the clock was only for the Last Man Standing participants so they could see the time left during the respective loop) and our YakTrax.

When we made it back to the pavilion, Mike stopped and I kept going. Now, to be honest, I wasn't racing this race. I was using it as a training run to help me build up my mileage in preparation for a trail 20 mile run that I am doing (for fun). My goal was to get 14-16 miles and stop after that no matter what.

 During the first hour of the race, photos courtesy of See PA Run

The first couple of loops were relatively uneventful. I passed some people and I was running alone for a good chunk of the race. My fueling strategy ended up being to take in water (that they had at the start/finish of each loop) and my energy chews after two loops (about 3.2 miles). The only issue I had at the beginning of the race was that I thought the loops were 1.4 miles (we were told that by Janell since that's what the park ranger got when he walked the course) so my math was not coming out right. I couldn't figure out how I was over 5 miles during my fourth loop and I even thought that maybe I hadn't taken enough silly bands (they were handing those out as you completed a loop). After my fourth loop I decided to pay attention to mileage and that's when I realized the loop was closer to 1.6 miles.

Janell's mom, who did amazing helping over the weekend, cheered me on as I came in for my 6th loop. She mentioned that she hadn't seen me at all yet, and I said that I was approaching 10 miles at that point.

Love ya, Joe! Photo courtesy of Crystal

Second hour of the race, photos courtesy of See PA Run

Joe had parked his car where the trail met the road, the worst part of the race for me, and he would cheer us all on as we made our way up the snow covered side of the road. During my 7th loop around I was starting to get sick of the really tough parts of the race, including where I would see Joe. I thought in my head, "I love you Joe, but I'm getting sick of seeing your face". It was at this point that he told me that Crystal was only a half a mile away from me. She wasn't racing the race either, and actually took some photos and would stop and help Janell from time to time. She even ran Mike's third loop with him!

 More of the course, the bridge was my nemesis! Photos courtesy of Crystal

Mike turning to go back into the trail, photo courtesy of Crystal

I ran along and eventually I saw her walking with some of the walkers participating in the race. I caught up to her, said hi and that I was getting sick of seeing Joe, only because I hated that part of the race! She told me I looked strong and I continued on. The one nice part about the road portion of the race is that as you made the turn to go back toward the trail, it was a nice downhill.

At that point, I had figured out I only needed 3 more loops to get my 16 miles for the day. I hadn't seen Mike since the first loop, which I knew was going to happen because of the nature of his race, but as I got to the road during my 8th loop I was passed by the leaders of Last Man Standing. They were just chatting away, as I was trudging along.

 Third hour of the race, photos courtesy of See PA Run

During my 9th loop, second to last, I was passed by more Last Man Standing participants. As we made our way back into the trail to get to the pavilion, I would move over for them since I knew they were literally racing the clock. I could hear the timing guy yelling, "30 seconds!", "15 seconds!", and I cheered on some runners pushing to make it to the next loop.

 Mike bringing it in during his final loop, photo courtesy of Crystal

When I got to the start/finish, it was about 10 seconds before the Last Man Standing runners started their next loop. Mike was on the sidelines, he had made it through the 14 minute loop with 10 seconds to spare so he stopped to wait for me. I grabbed some water, waited for the runners to go and Mike, Crystal and I set out for my final loop of the day. We chatted about the race and I was so happy to have them with me during my final loop!

 The three of us! Photo courtesy of Janell's sister

When we got back to the start/finish, I had time to go out for another loop (as long as you started a loop under the 3 hours you could continue running) but I decided to stop. I got 16.13 miles in about 2 hours and 54 minutes (10:51 pace) and 10 loops total! Crystal kept running and Mike and I went inside to get some delicious soup, bread and desserts.

Mike did amazing and got 12.79 miles during the Last Man Standing challenge and over 14 miles total adding the one loop he ran with me. You can read more about his race, here.

Later, we found out that I had come in third overall for female RC Revolution runners! I was really happy with this considering I wasn't even really racing.

After the race we helped clean up part of the race course and then went back to Janell and Aaron's house to get changed and warm up.

 Mike and I after the race

I can't even express how proud I am of Janell and all of the hard work and dedication that she put into making this an amazing event for everyone involved. Mike and I have run other inaugural races and this was one of the best. There are always things that can be improved on, and as this race grows there will of course be some changes that will need to be made, but overall everyone was smiling, laughing and having a great time! The love and care put into this race really came through and I am glad that the six of us were able to spend the weekend together! (I wish we got a photo of all of us!)

Friends! Photo courtesy of Crystal

Oh, and we've learned what our weakness is when it comes to jumping photos: cold, snowy weather!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Running into the New Year

Happy New Year!

Mike and I ended 2013 doing what we love - running! We ran 7 miles on the trails with our friend, Jess, to get used to a section of trail we'll be running on later in January. It was a great way to get our second to last run in for 2013!

Seneca Trail adventures

Last night Mike and I broke our four or five year long tradition of staying home and watching movies on New Year's Eve to go over to two of our friends' house and literally run into the new year.

 The group ready to brave the cold and run!

Our friends Eric and Sheila have a tradition of starting a run around 11:45pm, pausing right before midnight to ring in the new year and continuing running to start the new year the right way. This year a pretty large group joined in their celebration and Mike and I are so glad we didn't miss it!

 The start of the run, photo courtesy of Steven

I didn't hit my running mileage goals (original 1,500, modified 1,250) for 2013, but I got pretty close! The run right before midnight was about 1.49 miles and it got me to a final run mileage total of 1,230.74.

First run of 2014! Photo courtesy of Steven

Our group of 15 or so people counted down the final 10 seconds to the new year and after some quick celebratory cheers and kisses, we continued on our way. Eric lead us through a park on a paved trail and back to their house. My first run of 2014 ended up being 2.07 miles, not a lot of miles but a fun way to start making progress on my goals!

I truly can't imagine what my life would be like without these crazy people in it! Who else would go for a run at 11:45pm, celebrate for a few seconds and continue on running into the new year? We are so lucky to have found them and have them to go on training runs, rides and swims with us.

Which is a good thing, since in the final days of 2013, this happened. We'll need our crazy, wonderful friends more than ever now!