Race Recap: Leaf Peepers Half Marathon 2017

What | Where |When: Leaf Peepers Half Marathon | Waterbury, VT | October 1, 2017

Weather: 50’s at the start, mid 60’s at the end. Breezy and sunny.

Pre-Race
I got up around 8, chugged some water, made eggs and toast, and got myself ready. The drive to Waterbury is about 35-40 minutes from my house, so I left around 9:30. I stopped for some iced coffee on the way, and continued to sip water as I drove.

Parking was well-marked and very easy. Also relatively close to the start/finish, which ended up being beneficial, as I went back and forth several times, forgetting stuff, fussing with my gear etc.

Getting my bib was super easy, and all runners also got a jar of Bove’s pasta sauce. I passed, as I didn’t feel like going back to my car again. As I was pinning my bib, I ran into my friend Jennifer, who was running the 5k. It was nice to see her, and she introduced me to a few women who were also running the half, who I ended up running near for quite a while during the middle miles of the race.

I used the potties a couple of times and did some dynamic stretching to warm up. The race started exactly on time at 11 am.

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Miles 1-3 (10:24, 11:15, 13:58)
These were without a doubt the hardest miles of the race. I had seen the elevation profile, and knew that the first three miles had a huge elevation gain, but knowing and seeing are two VERY different things. I ended up walking most of mile three because the hill was just.so.steep and LOOOOOONG. It was super demoralizing. When mile 3 beeped and I saw 13:48 on my Garmin, I pretty much figured my PR attempt was shot, but was determined to keep trying anyway.

Miles 4-8 (9:54, 9:27, 9:41, 10:32, 10:10)
These miles were largely downhill or flat, and I was able to significantly pick up the pace. Any time there was a downhill, I just opened up and let fly. I have long legs and strong quads, so downhills don’t really bother me at all. Around this time I passed Jennifer’s three friends, and we all shared a laugh at how freaking terrible the early hills had been.

I took my first package of sport beans at mile 4, and my second just after the turnaround at mile 8. I sipped water every mile, and felt very well hydrated and fueled the whole time. I wished fervently around mile 6 that I had paid more attention to the course map, because I kept getting faked out thinking “The turnaround MUST be soon,” but it was a lot later than I expected and I got a little frustrated with not knowing where I was.

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Miles 9-13.1 (9:36, 9:25, 9:31, 10:10, 9:12, 7:49)
After the turnaround, I knew that most of the remaining miles were downhill, so I just kept reminding myself that after the first three miles, anything else was easy. I started passing people at this point, which is unusual for me, but I just wanted to be done. I was fairly certain now that a PR was within reach, and I was determined not to somehow mess it up by getting hurt or blowing up.

Just after mile 11 beeped on my Garmin, I realized that I was about to head up another giant hill. Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen this pop up on my stories:

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I think that pretty accurately sums up how I felt in that moment. Mile 12 took us out on to a dirt/grass trail that had a few very narrow sections. I got stuck briefly behind a girl, but managed to pass her when the trail opened up a bit.

Mile 13 connected back with our original “out” section, and was almost all downhill, which is likely why it was my fastest mile of the entire race. One of the things I really loved about this race is that they announce your name as you come into the finish. I sprinted across as they announced my name and knew that I had a PR in the bag.

Post-Race
My official time was 2:14:43, which is over three minutes under my old PR of 2:18:06, and I was ELATED. And also exhausted, sore, and hungry. I grabbed half a banana, some cheese, and a bagel, and hobbled over to some grass to stretch out.

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They started the awards ceremony shortly after I finished. They do a “King and Queen of the Hill” contest for the first man and woman to conquer the beastly hills at the beginning, as well as the usual age group and overall winners. As I was stretching on the grass, the most glorious thing happened. A woman approached me and asked if I wanted a gift certificate for a free pair of Saucony shoes. Apparently she had won it as part of an age group, but she wasn’t from the area and knew she wouldn’t use it. Score! The certificate is to a running/outdoor store that I’ve never been to, so I’m curious to see how their fitting process differs from Fleet Feet, and hopefully get some sweet new shoes.

Overall
This course was TOUGH, but beautiful, with great support.

Pros:
– 11 am start
– Cheap registration ($35 plus fees)
– Ample parking near start/finish
– Great on-course support, well marked route, plenty of food post-race

Cons:
– HILLS
– No bling! I somehow didn’t realize this prior to signing up. Maybe that’s why registration is so cheap?
– Shirts cost extra, are cotton

Would you run a half marathon that didn’t give out medals?

Race Recap: Stowe Craft Brew Race 5k 2017

Where/When: May 20, 2017, 12 pm in Stowe, VT

Weather: Mid-60’s and sunny–perfect running weather!

Pre-Race:
Unlike when I did this race two years ago, I got there plenty early, and traffic was not an issue. I met my friend Megan in the parking area at about 11:20, and we were through the bib pickup line in about 10 minutes. There was a DJ playing music, plenty of porta-potties, and a water station right there at the start. We hung out, enjoying the sun and stretching, until about 10 minutes to noon, when we lined up in the starting chute.

Photo May 20, 11 58 31 AM

On the Course:
The race started right on time at noon, and we set off at an easy pace. Megan hadn’t ever run a 5k before, so we were taking it slow. After the first mile, we took our first walk break. The course was exactly the same as when I last did it; the first mile and a half are on a closed road, and the rest is on the bike path.

There was a water stop at the halfway mark, but Megan was carrying water and I wasn’t thirsty, so we didn’t stop. We took another walk break right before mile 2 to let Megan’s breathing ease up (she has mild asthma). We started running again after only a short break, and ran the remaining mile except for one uphill, and finished just under 42 minutes.

Post-Race:
The finish line was MUCH better organized than last time I did this race. First was a line of volunteers handing out medals, then a line of volunteers with water bottles, and then a final wave of volunteers with Kind bars. It was easy to get one of everything and I didn’t feel rushed or like I had to compete with anybody to get what I needed. Megan and I sat in the grass, stretching and hydrating a bit, before heading to our cars to change for the finish line Brew Fest.

Photo May 20, 1 07 54 PM

I have to say, this year’s Brew Fest was AWESOME. There were definitely more breweries in attendance than last time, and lots more food options too. There was also cornhole, giant sets of Jenga, and a live band. The lines were never out of control, there were plenty of water stations, and it was just a gorgeous day. For the money, I feel like this is a better deal than the Burlington Brew Fest.

Photo May 20, 3 11 48 PM

We did a great job of alternating beer samples with glasses of water, and had DELICIOUS food truck fajitas for a late lunch. Samples were being served until 4pm, but Megan and I both left around 3:30. I had to get down to Stowe village for the Stowe Theatre Guild Season Kick-Off Cabaret (which was SO MUCH FUN), and Megan needed to get home to pack because she’s moving next weekend.

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All in all, this was a great experience. The Craft Brew Race has definitely addressed a lot of the issues that I had the first time I ran this race, and made lots of obvious improvements. All runners received a medal and pint glass, plus admission to the Brew Fest. There were also festival-only tickets, as well as steeply discounted designated driver tickets, so there was something for everyone. Admittedly, if it had been raining, it would have been a different story because there was no where to get out of the rain, but for the day we had, I have zero complaints, and I would do this race again in a heartbeat.

Have you ever done a Craft Brew Race? If you like beer and a well-organized race, I HIGHLY recommend it.

Race Recap: VT Respite House Jiggety Jog 5k 2017

Finally, right? I ran the race on SATURDAY and didn’t give you a recap until THURSDAY. I’m sorry. I just needed to get yesterday’s post off my chest. Now, onto the thing!

Date/Time: May 13, 2017, 9 am

Weather: Cool and Sunny

Pre-Race:
Because the Respite House moved from Williston to Colchester, it was a completely new location and course this year. The race started and ended at Mallet’s Bay School, so they maintained the nice indoor pre/post race location and real bathrooms–score!

As usual, registration and packet pick up were a breeze. Plenty of volunteers, music and announcements by Top Hat entertainment, plus a Jazzercise warm up. Also nice this year is that I got a hat rather than a cotton t-shirt. I love me a good hat, and have WAY too many t-shirts I never even wear. I also saw some of my CrossFit friends right before the start, which was really nice, and Jamie ended up winning the whole race–he’s SUPER fast.

On the Course:
I set out with the intention of just running a strong race. It’s been a while since I pushed myself to run fast, and I wanted to see what I was capable of. The new course was a bit trickier than the old one, but here were volunteers at every intersection, plus chalk arrows drawn on the road, so I was never unsure about where to go.

I used a LOT of positive self-talk during this race, and I think it paid off. I started out at a fast-for-me pace and just kept going. I reminded myself that the discomfort of running hard was only temporary, that I’ve done this many times before, that I was strong and capable.

As I came into the finish area, I saw my friend Jamie, and yelled “Did you win?” and he said “Oh yeah!” and it gave me such a big smile and a boost coming into the finish.

Post-Race:
My splits were great–9:03, 9:07, 8:46, and the final .1 at 8:36. My Garmin time was 27:47, which is only 17 seconds slower than my PR, so I was delighted. I never bothered to look at my official results, but I started near the front of the pack, so I have to assume they’re pretty similar. I walked around a bit to bring my heart rate down, then grabbed a bottle of water and some snacks, and stretched out a bit.

The awards ceremony started right at 10, and it was so much fun to cheer for my speedy CrossFit friends, and have them cheer for me when I got my fundraising recognition. We snapped some pictures, and then I headed home.

You might think that I felt some regret at having finished only 17 seconds away from a PR, but that is not the case at all. I was and am just SO EXCITED to have been able to push myself for the whole race. I struggle a lot with being uncomfortable, and tend to hold myself back in race situations for fear of blowing up. It’s nice to know that I can be uncomfortable but still successful, and finish without injury or puking. I just had complete confidence in my ability to run hard and finish. I hope I can continue with this feeling for future races, because it was pretty damn great.

Photo May 13, 10 30 28 AM

Roller Coaster Race Recap Part 1: The Run

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Roller Coaster Race Lake George as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

I decided to do this recap in two parts, since I technically participated in two races. If you want just a brief recap of the details, feel free to check out my BibRave review here.

What/Where/When: Roller Coaster 10k @ Great Escape, Lake George, NY, 7/16/16

Weather: Mid-60’s at the start, sunny, with 90% humidity!

Pre-Race:
I had to wake up at 3:30 am to drive to Lake George on the morning of the race because I couldn’t afford a hotel stay. It was an uneventful drive and after a stop at Dunkin Donuts for some much-needed caffeine, I arrived at the Great Escape at about 6:15 am. I was really happy that the race offered race day packet pickup, otherwise I may not have been able to do it.

Photo Jul 16, 6 26 34 AM

Packet pick-up was very smooth, and while gear check was available, I just decided to leave my stuff in my car, which was only a short walk away from the start line. There was a DJ booth set up, and announcements were made every so often. I just hung out in the staging area, which was a big parking lot, warming up and waiting to start. I managed to get into a porta potty before the lines got too long. While there were only about 300 runners between the 5k and 10k, the number of porta potties was too low, in my opinion. There were still a lot of runners in line to go when it was time to start.

On the Course:
The course was a loop around and through the park, or a double loop for the 10k runners. I was very concerned about the humidity, but the course was surprisingly well-shaded; I’d say at least half the course has decent tree cover. It’s also a nice mix of packed sand/dirt trails and running on pavement, so it was easy on the joints.

Overall it’s a pretty flat course, with a few small hills, only one of which is truly noteworthy, around the 1.5 mile mark of the loop. I just tried to take it easy and be in the moment. If I felt good, I picked up the pace, if I felt overheated or tired, I slowed down. There were two water stops on the loop, which I think was just enough, but even so, the humidity was awful, and I seriously considered just stopping after 5k.

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Starting loop #2

Somehow I managed to convince myself to finish the full 10k, and repeated the loop around the park. There were some very cool parts, like running behind my favorite roller coaster, the Comet, but on the whole, it’s not a super exciting course. Lots of twists and sharp turns through the park itself. I will say, though, that the volunteers on the course were top notch. The course was very well-marked with chalk arrows, and plenty of volunteers at any of the areas where runners might be confused about which way to go. All of the volunteers were super helpful and encouraging, which made a mentally tough race a lot nicer for me.

During the last half mile or so, I found myself chasing another woman. I didn’t want to kick too early and end up puking at the finish, so I stayed close to her. As we neared the finish line, her daughter was waiting for her and encouraging her to finish strong. She sped up, so I did too, and we ended up racing each other to the finish. She almost passed me right before the finish line, but I kicked it up to a sprint and finished just ahead of her. I’m just a little bit competitive sometimes… My official finish time was 1:03:18, which is a 3 minute PR for me! Woohoo!

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You can see the woman I was racing on the right

Post-Race:

Photo Jul 16, 8 41 16 AMThere were volunteers on hand to immediately dispense medals, and the food tent was a short distance away. My only complaint about the race comes here: all of the beverages were warm. Not one single cold beverage to be found. They had water, three different flavors of Gatorade, and Muscle Milk, but they were all warm-to-hot. All I wanted after such a disgustingly warm and humid race was a cold drink, and there were none. I was so excited to see chocolate Muscle Milk, but when I picked it up and it was warm, I actually said “Ugh!” out loud and put it back. I couldn’t imagine drinking a warm protein shake. Ugh.

I was also a little disappointed with the food. There were bananas, apples, dry grocery store bagels (maybe there were spreads, but I didn’t see them), and cookies. I really could have used something a bit more substantial, especially considering that none of the food vendors in the park opened until 11 am (which I didn’t find out until later), and it was now only 9 am. But that’s a tale for the “Ride” race recap.

I stretched out a bit in the finish area, ate my banana, then went to my car to get my bag with change of clothes etc for my day in the park. And that’s where I’ll leave it until part 2.

Would you drink a room temperature Muscle Milk?

Race Recap: VT Respite House Jiggety Jog 2016

This is a recap of my personal experience at the VT Respite House Jiggety Jog 5k. If you’d like just the nitty-gritty race details, check out my review on BibRave.com here.

Where/When: Williston, VT | May 7, 2016, 9 am
Weather: Sunny, mid-60’s, breezy

Pre-Race:
This is the 3rd year in a row I’ve run this race, and just as in years past, it’s a well-oiled machine. The race starts and ends at the Allen Brook school, so there’s plenty of parking as long as you get there about 8:30. Runners/walkers have access to real bathrooms and running water, which is always a plus. There’s a DJ, music, face painting and kids’ activities, and registration is a breeze, either online or on site.

Just before 9 am, we were told to head out to the start line. Sharon Keegan, the Administrator of Vermont Respite House, said a few words, and we had a moment of silence to remember our loved ones. Runners started first at 9, and walkers/bikers etc started just after.

On the Course:
I woke up feeling really good that morning, and ready to make a PR attempt, with the understanding that if my quad or foot started acting up, I’d back off immediately. I’m very familiar with the course, having run it two times previously, so I felt pretty comfortable setting out at a 9ish minute mile pace. The course has a couple of decently-sized hills, but also several really nice long downhills, which I definitely used to my advantage. I just LOVE to fly down hills.

My first mile beeped in the low 9s and I was still feeling good, so I just focused on keeping a comfortably hard pace and trying not to over-do it. I have a tendency to let my fear of blowing up keep me from pushing in races, so I was trying to find the balance. Every time I looked at my watch, I was surprised by how fast I was going, and still feeling pretty good. Just before mile 3, I got a rush of adrenaline, which made me feel kind of sick, but also helped me push through with a fast finish. As I crested the final small hill toward the downhill finish, I saw 27:xx on the race clock, and knew I was in for a PR, so I kicked it as much as I could, and finished with 27:32 on my Garmin.

Post-Race:
27:32–that’s over a minute off last year’s 5k PR at the same race! And when I checked my splits, the were perfect–9:01, 8:56, 8:43, last .11 at 7:23 pace. I was delighted, but also still feeling kind of sick, so I grabbed a bottle of water and walked around for a bit. I went to my car and changed into sandals, and then went inside for some food. The spread continues to impress–bagels, cider donuts, coffee, water, juice, granola bars, apples, bananas, and cookies.

I sat at a picnic table, watching the finish line, eating my snacks, and basking in the glory of my shiny new birthday PR. When they posted the official race results, it was even more awesome–27:30! Fourth in my age group, just like the last two years. They did the awards ceremony with medals for 1st and 2nd in each 10 year age group, plus medals for overall male and female winners, and then presented certificates to the top fundraisers.

Even without the PR, this is still my favorite race, and I will be back every year. The sense of community is incredible, and the Respite House staff and volunteers are truly so grateful for support and participation. They remember people from year to year. The Respite House Administrator, Sharon Keegan, gave me a huge hug, asked about my family, and took a picture with me to send to my mom. That’s about as good as it gets 🙂

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When racing, how do you know when to rein it in and when to push?

Race Recap: Crystal City 5k Fridays

This is a recap of my personal race experience. If you’re looking just for the nitty gritty details about the race itself, check out my BibRave review.

Where/When: Crystal City, Arlington, VA, April 22, 2016, 6:30 pm
Weather: Warm, humid and overcast

Pre-Race:
I signed up for this race completely last-minute; I literally got in line for on-site registration at 6 pm. The packet pick-up/registration table is in a mall in Crystal City, so tons of people came straight from work and changed in the bathrooms. They also had bag-check. This was great for me, as I met up with Nicole after wandering around DC all day, and I needed to change and a place to stash my backpack. It was a little hectic with people trying to register last minute, but they had two registration computers going, so I made it with plenty of time to hastily change, check my bag, and get to the start line.

This race is actually part of a series put on by Pacers. The races take place every Friday night throughout April, and registration is $25 for one race, or $100 for the series. If you register for the entire series, you either get a tech shirt, or a $10 gift card to a local running store, which is a pretty good deal.

The race starts in a park across the street from the mall, with a DJ, a water station, and an actual start/finish line arch, which I thought was pretty nice. They started right on time at 6:30, which according to Nicole, is not always the case.

On the Course:
The first mile or so is lots of turns onto side streets, and my Garmin hadn’t had a chance to find a satellite before we started, so mileage ended up being a bit off, and my GPS data is hilariously all over the place. Nic and I went out pretty quickly, but I felt good, and it was nice to have company during a race. We chatted a lot, and the first mile went by super fast. My Garmin says I ran that mile in 8:04, but I don’t believe it. It was probably more like 9:04.

There were tons of spectators out, and lots of police presence for security, but the roads we were running on were generally completely closed to traffic, and I felt perfectly safe and happy the whole time. There was one water station at around the halfway point, but we didn’t feel like stopping. There was a guy running carrying a giant American flag, and lots of people obviously knew each other and were yelling out greetings or encouragement. I loved the community feel of this race. It’s very dog- and stroller-friendly, and Nic and I spent a lot of time pointing out cute puppies to each other.

Photo Apr 23, 9 34 43 AM

Can we talk about how cute Nicole looks, and how silly I look?

Post-Race:
The race is chip-timed, which is really nice, and right at the finish line, volunteers were handing out full-sized bottles of water, which is one of my biggest race requests. Water at the finish is KEY. The DJ/announcer was still there, and lots of runners were just hanging out after. As part of your race “swag,” you get a ticket on your bib for a drink at a participating sponsor, but since I hadn’t eaten anything for several hours and had to meet back up with Ben and his sister, I opted not to redeem mine. My official chip time was 30:22, which I was very happy with, considering that this was my first actual race of the year.

Overall:
For $25, you get a chip-timed race with great support and a free drink ticket, which I think is a pretty great value. If I lived in the DC area, I probably would register for the entire 5 race series. It’s very metro accessible even though Crystal City is kind of out of the way, and if had such a small-town feel to it. I loved it!

Do you ever get distracted by dogs during races like me?

 

Race Recap: Ri Ra’s Santa Run 5k 2015

This is a recap of my personal experience running the race. If you’re more interested in just the nitty gritty details, check out my BibRave review here. Don’t forget to help your fellow runners by reviewing all your races on BibRave.com!

Pre-Race:
I was really excited to run this race, because I had to DNS last year due to my foot injury. For this race, you get a Santa suit complete with pants, coat, hat, and beard, and you’re required to wear them to run. It’s really funny every year to walk around downtown Burlington and see gangs of Santas roaming all over the place.

I parked about a half a mile away from the restaurant, because I knew that traffic would be a cluster due to lots of people and road closures, but since it was Sunday, parking was free at all the meters, so that was nice. There was a DJ and music, photo opps and a coffee station, and Ri Ra’s was open so that people could use the bathrooms or get out of the cold.

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Race-Time:
The race course is decent; you run down Main Street, so you get some nice lake views, and then up Battery Street, which is sort of Burlington’s own “Heartbreak Hill” during the Vermont City Marathon. Then up Pearl Street, over South Willard, and looping back to Ri Ra’s down Main and Church Street.

Within the first half mile, I was having issues with my Santa pants, and I wasn’t the only one. SO MANY PEOPLE were struggling with these stupid pants. They’re really basic felt pants with a drawstring, and if you don’t tie them just right, they’ll be falling off your butt in no time. Next year, I will definitely just wear some festive tights instead, because those fricken pants drove me crazy. I had to stop twice to adjust them, and I know I looked ridiculous for most of the race. I also plan to add some velcro to the “coat”, which is basically just a robe with a tie, and it was flopping open most of the race as well.

I knew I wasn’t in “racing” shape, because I haven’t been doing any speed work, and I was tired from streaking, so I just tried to have a good time, and other than the stupid pants, I did ok.

Photo Dec 06, 9 37 28 AM

Post-Race:
My official chip time was 31:24, which, considering I had to stop twice, isn’t too bad. Right after finishing, I got a full-sized bottle of water. As part of the registration fee, each runner got a free Irish breakfast, but I didn’t actually get mine. Due to the number of runners (over 1500), breakfast was held at Memorial Auditorium, which is about half a mile away from Ri Ra’s, and I just couldn’t be bothered. I had my Mary Poppins audition that afternoon, so I needed to go home to shower, change, warm up, and get ready.

Overall:
This is definitely a fun themed race, and I plan to do it again next year, especially because once you have the “official” Santa suit, you can register for $10 less. The biggest drawback in my mind is the cheapo felt Santa suit. I understand that this event is a fundraiser for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta so they don’t want to spend a ton of money, but running in the suit SUCKS. I would even pay a slightly higher registration fee if instead of the coat and pants, runners got a nice long-sleeved tech tee or half zip. As it is, event t-shirts were sold separately for $15, and they were boring black. I’ll never wear the Santa suit outside of the race, and it would be nice to have a nice souvenir shirt like the Santa Hustle races do.

Have you ever done a Santa or Christmas-themed race? Did you costume hinder your running?