Races I’m Considering

The past few days have been really busy! On Monday, we were supposed to go to a pub trivia thing, but the person who actually lives in the town where trivia was taking place cancelled, so we decided to go out for Mexican and go play board games with the other people who were supposed to go to trivia with us. The Mexican place was ok – it was at least better than the big regional chain that is around here, which was weird because it is apparently owned by them.

On Tuesday, I had a job interview and had to take Kris to the doctor about his seizure. I was overqualified for the job, so I think they might not hire me, and Kris’s doctor answered about zero questions.

Today, I attempted to make bread and failed (more on that another time) and had to deal with my computer randomly deciding that although my wireless internet was working that none of the browsers would work. The only way to fix it was to uninstall Norton Antivirus, so hopefully “Windows Defender” serves some protective purpose! I also start my part-time waitress job today (I am still interviewing for full-time positions, but took this just in case) so hopefully that goes better than the bread and computer issues did.

In other news, the “polar vortex” has finally moved on. It didn’t get as cold here as it did elsewhere, but it was still pretty darn cold! Belle was displeased with the weather, anyway. It hasn’t really warmed up enough to go running yet, either. Well, perhaps it would have been warm enough if I had waited until this afternoon, but that wasn’t really going to work for me today if I wanted to shower before doing anything else, so I just worked out at home again. I really hope it becomes a) more than 20 degrees and b) not snowy quite soon!

At least my time cooped up in the house has given me some time to think about what races I might want to do this year. I’ve included a list of several – comments are welcome, as I am clearly quite undecided and cannot possibly do ALL of these!


5K

  • Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K. This is one I’m actually “committed” to doing (meaning I signed up virtually). I’m going to try for 25 minutes, but it’s unlikely I’ll achieve that goal due to my lack of running lately. I’ll still have fun doing my first virtual 5K, though!
  • Grape Strides 5K. Apparently this is a 5K “wine run,” whatever that means. I think it would mean that I couldn’t take it too seriously, but I also think it might be a really unique experience!
  • Spirit of Gettysburg 5K. “The Spirit of Gettysburg 5K travels the first day of the historic Battle of Gettysburg.” You need to say no more to entice me.
  • Capital View 5K. A 5K that runs through a park that allows you to view the Harrisburg skyline, which sounds nice. There is also a “Dalmatian Dash” fun run. I wonder if they have breed restrictions on dogs :p
  • Chocolate Miracle 5K Race. I do have a later rant about Hershey coming up that you will see biases me against racing there, but this race actually sounds nice. They are promising free ice cream, cookies, and coffee!!

10 K

  • Hershey 10K. A 10K that goes through Hersheypark. I have a giant rant about Hershey on the half marathon description but I might be ok with this as it is mostly in the park and is short and I can’t find many other 10Ks.
  • ???

Half Marathon

  • Cook Forest Half Marathon. This course is up near where my parents live and I know that it would be very scenic, which is one reason I would like to run this. It is the day before the Capital 10 Miler, however, so I’d have to pick one or the other (mostly due to the races being on opposite sides of the state).
  • Various German/Amish Themed Half-Marathons (Rumpsringa; 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut). Both of these races sound super fun! They are both small and have great prizes (German weather houses!) and at least one has the promise of beer. I’d probably be more likely to do the Rumspringa because it’s closer to my house, but the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut sounds like it’s a bit more silly, which might be fun. Plus that is the one that promises beer!
  • The Harrisburg Half Marathon. I can only seem to find information on the 2013 race, but if this actually exists I might run it. Races in Harrisburg tend to follow the same routes, so I’d be really familiar with the course, and most of it would be within walking distance of my home. I don’t really see many downsides to running this.
  • Hershey Half Marathon. I’m not sure about this one because I am not 100% certain that I’ll be in central PA in the fall, but if I am, I suppose I should run it because it’s sort of “the race everyone does” around here. Still, it is the same weekend as the Runner’s World Festival, so I might do that instead. FYI, the website makes  the town* of Hershey sound way cooler than it really is. I mean, the theme park is cool, but see how they keep emphasizing the kiss-shaped street lights? That’s because other than a few road names that is the only Hershey themed part of town. And don’t get too excited about the “chocolate aid” station. According to my ob-gyn, who told me she ran it last year, chocolate is a lot less appetizing during a half marathon than one might think.
  • The Blue-Gray Half Marathon. This half-marathon is held in Gettysburg and assigns participants to the North and the South, with each team running different courses. As suggested by my willingness to do the Gettysburg 5K, the nerd in me longs to do this race, but there is once again the risk that I won’t be in the area. It is also the weekend after Hershey/Runner’s World so if I do one of those I might have to give up on this or just run it really, really, slow.

Dare I Say…Marathon?!

  • The Harrisburg Marathon. When I was more certain I would be in Harrisburg in the fall, I had cautiously mentioned to Kris that I might aim to do this. It is supposed to be a mostly flat, relatively easy course, which I think would be nice for a first marathon. Like most races in Harrisburg (they are all run on the same damn course), it has the added benefit of being able to walk to the starting area!

Other

  • Capital 10 Miler. I already mentioned I was thinking of this. It doesn’t seem like anything particularly special, but, once again, I could theoretically walk to the starting line, which is nice.
  • Runner’s World Half & Festival. You run a 5K and 10K one day, and a half the next. One of my Facebook friends did this in 2013 and it looked like a lot of fun! There are like 50 other races this particular weekend I would like to do, though.
  • Double Creek Bike Tour. I did the half-marathon last year, but Kris and I might do one of the bike rides (not races, so no pressure) this year.
  • Mad Anthony Half. I thought about doing this, because my family claims we are somehow related to Mad Anthony Wayne, so that might have been fun, but I am now refusing due to the fact that they are not supportive of the race having a colonial era theme. Where is the fun in that?!
  • Buck Ridge Burn. A trail race on part of the Appalachian Trail. Do I want to challenge myself to complete the whole 13.1, or challenge myself to get a good time on the trail 5K?
  • LCCM Duathlon. I’ve thought about branching out into tri’s, but I am a completely unprepared swimmer. Perhaps it would be a good idea to experiment first with a very short duathlon, which involves only running and biking.
  • Lower Allen Park Adventure Run. I’ve always wanted to try an adventure race, but the Warrior Dash is so overhyped and expensive, and Tough Mudder and Spartan race are probably too long for me right now. This is a smaller, local event so it might be nice to attempt this instead.

*Fun fact: Hershey, PA is not a real town. It is just the part of Derry Township, PA where all the chocolate stuff is.

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New Year’s Resolutions

Time for the obligatory New Year’s Resolutions. Last year I made only one: to run a half marathon, which I was able to complete! Though this may have been my only legitimate resolution, I did have several other goals I set over the year and achieved (such as completing said half marathon in under 2 hours). This year I figure that I can start out by trying to plan out several of these smaller goals in addition to bigger resolutions.


Running Resolutions and Goals

  • Complete as many races as I did last year (5). The only race I had been seriously planning to do was the Indy Mini, but I’ve had to change that plan as I won’t be in Indiana in May. I’m glad I procrastinated on registering! The main race on my radar right now is the Capital 10 Miler, now. I would also like to do another 5K so that I can finally get an official time under 25 minutes; another half marathon just so that I can force myself to train up to the 13.1 miles again (and maybe decrease my time); and a 10K because I’ve never actually done one (the trail race was a quarter marathon, and was actually a bit long, so more like 7 miles than 6.2).
  • Run more miles than I did in 2013. According to Runkeeper, I ran about 818 miles last year (I’m sure I forgot some, but we will have to go with that number). Looking back at the data shows that my winter months (Jan.-Mar. and Dec.) were very low so I bet if I could increase those I could get up to 900 miles. I will see how well I do at the beginning of this year and adjust from there.

General Fitness/Health Resolutions and Goals

  • The obvious one: continue to maintain my weight loss for another year. Perhaps I should actually weigh myself for the first time in like a month so that I know where I’m starting. Ugh. Hopefully the Wii is still working, I’d hate to buy a scale.
  • Eat more vegetables. I don’t like this one that much because I like quantifiable goals, but it needs to be done. I basically eat no veggies except spinach and carrots and I eat maybe 2 servings a day. Oops. I think this is especially important as I am trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my diet – I don’t want to become a carbivore!!
  • Take a 50 mile bike ride. Kris and I did 20 last summer with almost no training so I am hoping we can work our way up to this goal if we actually try.
  • Try to strength train at least once a week. I hate strength training and do it very sporadically, but I know it helps to prevent running injuries and is healthy for me in other ways because it increases not only my strength but also my bone density.

Other

  • Read a novel. I’ve read a grand total of 3 books since starting graduate school in 2010: Under the Dome, The Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones. Graduate school messes up your ability to read for fun. I actually cried and yelled at Kris one time when he suggested I try to do so because the memory of enjoying it in the past was so painful. I’ve read about 100 pages of Clash of Kings so I could start by picking that back up again. I also looked up the hours for the library, which I feel is amazing progress.
  • Step outside my comfort zone with friend-making. I’m really outgoing once I’ve been put into a social situation so once I am in one I make friends easily but I am bad at setting them up because I get anxious about new experiences. I feel like while I’m here in Harrisburg I should try to join a club or something. I’ve thought about joining a gym at least, but that isn’t really the best for friend making unless you do classes or something, and it’s kind of pricey. Even my super introvert husband is in a local Warhammer club, I’m sure I could come up with something!!

Heritage Trail Race Photos

Just a mini-update to add a couple of photos from my race.

Starting out! It looks REALLY dark here but it just looks that way because it was dawn and cloudy. It wasn’t exactly bright, but we could see. I’m the one in the apparently super-reflective clothes, namely the orange hat.

 

Finishing up! I’m glad they took this from far away – I was so muddy I was almost embarrassed to see the photo. My official chip time was 1:21:06 – we started 20 minutes after the marathoners. I would like to note that the route is actually closer to 7 than 6.55 miles (though that is a still a REALLY slow time due to the mud).

By the way – one more thing. I redact my misgivings about Planet Adventure that I voiced yesterday. I can no longer find that “horror story” I read, so maybe I dreamed about it. They also had all of the results and these photos (for free!) up on their website before I went to bed last night! Amazing!

Wabash Heritage Trail Quarter Marathon Race Report

Holy cow is that title a mouthful!

Before I begin with the long description, I guess I should tell you that it ended up going ok! I came in 6th out of the ladies (22nd out of 51, so I was at least in the top half) with a time of 1:21:06. Keep in mind that the quarter marathon was more like 7 miles than 6.5, by the way. The rain really slowed me down, but it slowed down EVERYONE.

I did trip SEVERAL times, but it only counts if you fall down into the mud, right?

As I’ve been mentioning for the last few days, I was REALLY nervous about this race. I’ve never done a trail race, and especially not one in the rain. I wasn’t quite sure how things would turn out and was even considering not doing the race. After seeing the bright orange shirts, though, I figured I should probably complete the race so that I could wear it. Also, since I was running it with a friend, I figured I shouldn’t make her go alone.

I tried to calm myself down by making sure I was fully prepped for the race. Last night, I packed a bag with a complete change of clothes, a towel, and my water bottle and laid out everything I was wearing for the race.  I’m glad I did this last night because I realized I had no safety pins and had time to go pick some up (By the way, did you know Target has a sewing section? Because that is where they keep the safety pins, FYI). I decided to wear running tights (so as to not scratch up my legs in the woods again), my favorite running shirt, and my running hat. I typically break out my expensive Balega socks for races, but opted not to this time so that I would not ruin them in the mud. I got a plastic bag to put my car keys in (there is a small zipper pocket in my tights for keys) and charged up my GPS watch. I figured that even if I can’t import from it right now, it would be the better option than my phone in the rain.

When I woke up this morning, it was POURING and still dark outside. A quick look at weather.com showed me that the rain was expected to end around 8:15 AM, though, which was good because my race was starting around 8:20. I figured the worst case scenario was light rain rather than the downpour we were currently having. I opted to wear a raincoat over my attire just in case. I was glad I made this decision – I wound up leaving it in the car, but it was able to keep me dry until the rain finally did stop. My hat also prevented my glasses from getting wet, thank goodness! The dark and rain did cause one problem I didn’t expect – parking was kind of a nightmare! They didn’t have enough space at the park where the race was starting for everyone to park, but they were trying to cram as many people in as possible in. I was afraid my car, which has quite pathetic skills when it comes to dealing with rough terrain, would get stuck in the mud if I parked in the grass where others were parking, though, and went to park on the “city streets,” as the race website had encouraged people to do. Battle Ground, IN is about the size of my hometown (read: there isn’t even a gas station), though, so finding on street parking was mildly difficult – not because there were a lot of cars, but because the streets don’t have space for people to park! Plus, it was dark and rainy and I could hardly see where I was going. It was quite unpleasant.

Now, the race was put on by Planet Adventure, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They promised all kinds of race support on their website, which seemed very thorough, but I have heard horror stories (I think I read a story on Reddit once where PA took everyone’s money but then canceled a race and didn’t tell anyone, but I am sure there has to be more to that story). I had only 2 minor complaints, though. The first is that the stuff they gave out is VERY branded. That is not THAT bad, though, as the stuff is pretty cute and I learned at the race that this is sort of one of their “big” events (it was the first trail event they ever did as a company, I think they said) so I am ok with them wanting to brag themselves up. The second complaint is that when I arrived, I noticed a Miller tent. Now, I always hear about these other people running races with beer, but I’ve never been to one, so I was pretty excited, even if it was gross Miller -I’ll take pretty much any free beer! When I got to the finish line, though, no beer was to be found. The only thing at the tent was bottled water. I’m not sure if they were saving beer for the full/half marathoners or if there was just no beer but they had to break out that tent due to the rain. Either way, I don’t consider it a major problem with the race because they never promised beer in the first place, and they did have all of the other support that they promised, such as water/powerade/trail mix stops pretty much every couple miles and great snacks like chocolate milk and bananas at the end (and also for some reason tiny potatoes?).

Bathroom selfie with my race swag. Sorry it is so blurry!

Close-up of the medal. Again, apologies – I am not a photographer. I tried to get River to model it but it was too big for her really and you can’t see it well in the photo. I really like that medal is a leaf – my friend joked that she is glad she did not finish in the top three, because she liked the medal more than the plaque they gave the winners!

They also did a fantastic job marking the course. I say this because they marked it well enough that I never got lost! This is already impressive (I have no sense of direction) but it is even more impressive if you consider that I was alone on the trail for TWO WHOLE MILES. Seriously, I am not sure what happened. When I was nearing the turnaround point, I was near a ton of people, and I was about 10 minutes behind my friend (I knew this because I saw her running back to the finish). After the turnaround, though, I started to pass TONS of people, and after I hit the marker indicating that I was two miles from the finish, I never saw another person, so I was quite nervous I had done something wrong. I also thought that maybe I had sped up a lot but I still finished about 10 minutes behind my friend so I don’t think I did. The only thing I can think is that the other quarter marathoners slowed WAY down. They must have slowed down quite a lot, because the person who “finished” after me was actually the guy in first place for the full marathon (he wasn’t finishing, they just had to run the course 2x so he was reaching his turnaround point). I think a lot of the quarter marathoners were a little underprepared or something. Near mile 2 of the race, we had to cross a creek. It said directly in the race description that we would need to do this. A lot of people were surprised and complaining when we reached it, though, because they had only brought one pair of shoes (who does that for a trail race in the rain?!). Then, after the creek, the trail was basically pure mud for the next mile and half to the turnaround point, which you had to promptly turn around and run/slide through again. I think at this point a lot of the quarter marathoners, many of which had also probably gone out too fast, were just like “Fuck it, I’m walking” because I was ZOOMING past them at my incredible 12:00/mile pace. By this point, I was tired and just wanted to get back, so I tried to run in the weeds and just keep my footing as much as possible. I think I handled the mud fairly well – as my meme indicates, I fell only once, and it was because the mud obscured a branch. I didn’t even get hurt because I fell on nothing but mud. So I just got muddy!

Overall, this was a fun experience. I am now far less nervous about running in the rain and I am glad I have been able to experiment with trail running. Perhaps there will be more trail races in my future!

Moving Forward Slowly

Since my race is tomorrow, I wanted to work out a bit so that I wasn’t stiff and lethargic, but I didn’t want to wear myself out by running. I decided instead to take a long-ish bike ride. Typically, I ride about 6-8 miles in a day if I am commuting, but it is split in 2 and most of it is done very very slowly, so I wasn’t sure what “long-ish” would really be for me. I decided to do 10 miles because I was able to complete that distance not long after getting the bike, so I knew it wouldn’t be overly difficult, but it would still be longer than I typically ride.

It went really well! I probably could have ridden longer, but I didn’t really feel like riding on the street and I had run out of trail. The first time I did a 10 mile ride it was really difficult. Today, other than my legs feeling a bit weird to be standing on solid ground for a few minutes afterwards, I was fine. I was a little hungry afterwards (biking always makes me hungrier than running for some reason), but I don’t feel overly tired from the adventure. I was also able to maintain a much faster pace than that first time out. When Kris and I rode 10 miles the first time, it took something like 1 hour and 12 minutes; today, it took me about 55 minutes! I knew I was getting slightly faster on the bike but to have such a substantial difference really meant a lot to me, because going slightly faster for the mile-ish of my commute where I’m not dealing with weird campus issues that slow me down doesn’t actually decrease my commute time, so I don’t get to really see tangible improvements much.

I am really glad I got the chance to do this, because I tend to be really hard on myself. One of my friends recently picked up cycling and he is already WAY faster than me. But I have to remember that he bikes every single day like I run every single day. This is why I make so many improvements in running, and not as many improvements in biking. There are also less tangible things I should be measuring to remind myself I am improving at biking. I am WAY more comfortable with riding on the road, using hand signals, and in general moving my hands off the handlebars. Today I even got my water bottle out while moving (though, to be fair, I couldn’t get it back in)! I need to stop being so hard on myself about everything I do and remember that as long as I’m taking tiny steps forward, things will eventually improve.

I need to remind myself about this especially with my race tomorrow. I am nervous about it being my first trail race and my first race in the rain. I need to remember that the worst that will probably happen is that I slip in the mud and get dirty or that I have to walk some of it. I don’t want to chicken out and not do it, because I want to wear the shirt that I went to pick up! I get so nervous about races though, and for no reason. I was even nervous to go pick up my packet today! I was afraid that the people at the store would know I wasn’t a “real trail runner” because I can’t even pronounce “Wabash. “I was afraid I’d need to say something like “Is this where I can get the packet for the Wabash Heritage Trail race?” but I didn’t even have to do that. They were just like “Are you here for the race? Ok, here is your stuff.” It was that easy. I don’t know why I let myself get so stressed over silly things. I just need to keep moving forward, even if it’s slowly, and I’ll get there. I shouldn’t worry so much 🙂

Food Friday

A couple of weeks ago, my roomie/bff and I were at Target when we spotted a great deal.

Not only were the Dunkin’ Donuts coffees the CHEAPEST in the store – if you bought 2 of them, you got a free coffee mug! We couldn’t turn down that deal. We bought 2 types of coffee then went back a different day for more (though sadly, the second time they were out of mugs).

It has taken us a while to get through the various coffees, but last week, we opened the most amazing of them. Apparently, they make chocolate glazed donut coffee. And it seriously tastes like a chocolate donut! I highly recommend this coffee flavor (it is slightly better with milk and sugar).

Additionally, I tried a new recipe today. It is not often that something on Pinterest is truly inspiring. Either it is something that I would refer back to later (i.e. a good recipe in case a certain occasion comes up) or it is so difficult I don’t even want to attempt it (I have a recipe for creme brulee cheesecake pinned. Seriously.) The other day, though, I saw this recipe for a baked cinnamon quinoa dish, and IMMEDIATELY opened it to gauge the difficulty level. It didn’t seem too difficult, so I gave it a try today. It turned out rather well!

I ate it as an afternoon snack, but I think it would be better for breakfast. It also suggests serving it with nut butter but I thought that almond butter would taste better than peanut butter with it and I only had peanut butter so I just ate it plain. I think it would also go well with some nuts or dried fruit baked into it, so next time I’ll try that.

In non-food related news, I’m getting really nervous for my race on Sunday. It is supposed to be cool…but rainy. Every time I check the weather the chances of rain have increased, in fact – from 40% to 70%! I HATE running in the rain because of my glasses and I can only imagine what rain is going to do to the already muddy trail.  If it is too rainy, I might not go for my own safety – if I can’t see, I am sure to fall in the woods. I’m going to try really hard to go, though, because I am afraid I would just be chickening out because races make me nervous in the first place. I don’t know why – it’s not like I’m really “racing” anyone by myself! This being my “first” 10K (I mean, I’ve run 6.2 miles a billion times) and my first trail race isn’t helping, either. Plus I’m not sure where I’m going to park. Obviously I am worrying over a bunch of silly things, but that is how I am. I guess we will see how Sunday goes!

Adjusting a Goal

When I signed up for the Wabash Heritage Trail (Quarter) Marathon, I guessed I would be a bit slower than a typical 10K race pace. I have never officially run a 10K, but I am guessing I could finish a race in about 50 minutes (or at least very close to that – I think I’ve done like 52 minutes in training runs). I had never done any serious trail running before (there is about 1/4 mile of trail near my house that isn’t paved), but I had read a teeny tiny bit about trail running, and it said I would have to go slower, so I guessed I’d have to slow down and settle with a goal of finishing the race in about an hour.

My new goal: finish without getting injured and have a nice time. I mean, I’m guessing I’ll finish in about 1:10-1:15 minutes based on my runs yesterday and today, so I guess I theoretically have a time “goal” (more like a guesstimate of when I will finish), but the last two days of running the actual trail will the race will occur have taught me a lot. And it’s only been 2 days!

I mentioned yesterday that I was slower, and that my friend (who does cross-country skiing and orienteering and is all around more athletic and outdoorsy than me, so this is to be expected) was a bit faster than me. Today, however, I was lagging WAY behind her. Like, I was running so hard I was gasping for breath and she was having to stop to wait for me. She was worried I was embarrassed, and I was a little, but mostly I just felt like an ass in my head for thinking that trail running would only be a “little” harder. Now that I realize how difficult it is, I feel less embarrassed and more ready to face a new challenge! I also felt bad that she probably couldn’t enjoy the run as much because she had to keep waiting up for me! Then again, it is probably because we did over THREE THOUSAND feet of climbing. WTF!?

I had 10 miles on the schedule today, and I had thought about cutting a bit off since she and I ran 7 yesterday and I was only scheduled for 5, so I told her that maybe we should run about the same distance we did yesterday. We took a slightly different route on the trail, though, and wound up getting back to our cars at about mile 5. I was so exhausted from being on the trail that I could not fathom another mile on there and told her we didn’t need to worry about meeting my training goal. Instead, I headed back to my house to run my second 5 miles on a regular running path. It’s very enlightening to see the difference in my pace:

The five miles on trails: mile 3 was a climb up a mountain, and mile “6” (the last few yards) was precariously crossing a stream to get back to our cars, which explains the exceptionally bad paces there.

The five miles on a paved path. You can see that these are more in line with my long run pace (9:00-9:30/mile)…and this was the second half of my run, after I was already exhausted from climbing up giant hills!

I think I could get used to trail running and come to enjoy it quite a bit, after I get better at it. Already today, I found myself a bit more able to find my footing (it seems to help to look a few feet ahead instead of right at my feet, which I would have known had I done ANY research on trail running) and I managed to not get any additional injuries. There are also some nice things that you will see when running on a trail that you rarely (if ever) see on roads/sidewalks/paths. For example, we saw a deer today. I have seen them before on the paved section of this trail near my house, but it’s a pretty rare sight, whereas I see them almost every time I go on a real trail (like for hikes). Also, I got to take this picture:

It may not be the prettiest, but it’s about as pretty as Indiana gets.

To end this post, one funny store about climbing up the mountain to get this photo. While on a different section of the trail, my friend pointed towards the place where I am standing to take this photo and told me we could try a new section of the trail, where we would end up at the top of the clearing we could see. I thought she meant we were going to run up the grassy area that is cleared out between the trees and I was like “ok…but I cannot run up that hill.” I didn’t realize she meant there was a far less steep path through the woods that we could take and I could actually run up!