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!


  1. Thanks again for making the trek down to PA! It meant so much to have you here!

  2. That looks like a fabulous race!!!! Such a great cause and a pretty good turnout!

  3. Great job!! Sounds like an interesting race.

  4. Oh my goodness, I love the idea of the loop race! That's an awesome idea! Congrats on getting in your long run in all that snow. You Northern people are super impressive. lol! And having put on two 5K's myself I know what a huge task it is to undertake so congrats to the RD's too!

  5. congrats on a great not-race race! and i love the idea of last man standing loops. very cool.

  6. Wow, what a fun twist on a race!! I don't think I've ever raced in the snow before... but that's hard to avoid in upstate NY, huh?!

    1. Haha yea, unless you take the winter off! :)

  7. I love the the race had different options. That makes it really fun.
    I would have chosen the same option you did and just seen how many loops I could do in the 3 hours.

  8. Wow, neat concept and great cause! And kudos for running in the snow/cold. Gotta love those Upstate NY roots. ;)

  9. Sounds like a great race for a great cause; you guys had awesome mileage; and, no jumping photos-- oh well, you definitely had a good excuse for that one!!

  10. Sounds like a neat race! I am super impressed by your cold weather running! :)

  11. I like the idea of a race in the snow, how fun!

  12. What an awesome event for a great cause! Looks like you had a wonderful time!