Saturday, November 29, 2014

Philadelphia Marathon 2014

My friend Kelli decided she was going to run her first marathon at the Philadelphia Marathon and invited me to stay with her if I wanted to run it too.  I wasn't really sure about it at first, but ultimately decided it would be a ton of fun to go run Philly with her and see her cross the finish line of her first marathon.

I followed an 18 week training program from Train Like a Mother.  I felt that it was a solid program and that my training, while not absolutely perfect, had gone really well.  I felt physically prepared to meet my goal of setting a new PR, which would be to beat my Harrisburg Marathon time of 3:55:29.

So on Saturday morning, Kelli, her friend Andi, and I drove together to the expo.  Parking was a nightmare!  We drove around Chinatown for 20 minutes before giving up on street parking and going into a parking garage.  Once inside we met up with Mike and Jamie and their friend Isaac.  We picked up our packets and meandered around to check out the exhibits.  I bought a Flip Belt, and I swear it wasn't an impulse buy!  I've been thinking about one for about a month and thought I'd just go for it.  Can't wait to try it out!  I also stopped to talk to the folks at the OAR (Organization for Autism Research) stand.  I took some of their info and gave them my contact info.  Feels good to make connections!
Jamie & Me
After paying our $25 parking garage fee (!!!!!) we went to Kel's mom's house.  Fran showed us such hospitality.  We ate well, hydrated, laid out our race stuff, and turned in by 9:30.  I actually passed out quickly and slept like a rock.
Race Prep
Kelli and I got up around 4am on race day.  Her cousin April was there by 5am to give us a ride to the start.  Apparently it was of utmost importance to be there no later than 5:30am in order to get through security.  So Kelli and I followed a crowd of other runners, stepped by a few fences, and suddenly we realized we were in.  I still don't even know where the security check points were.  That's really reassuring, right?!  We didn't have any items we wanted to check, so we found our starting corrals, then stood in line for the bathroom.  We had lots of waiting around to do.
Pre-marathon Hanging Out
Eventually, Kelli and I hugged and wished each other well and got into our own corrals.  I remember Mayor Nutter speaking as well as our new governor, Tom Wolf, although I don't remember what either said.  I was too distracted.  After the elites and maroon corral had left, our corral was walked to the start and before I knew it, I was running in my fourth marathon.  I have never run in a race this large before, not even close.  I still can't believe how crowded it was for much of the race.  While I was looking forward to the energy of the crowd, I wonder if this is where I screwed up.  I know I started too fast despite my best efforts to slow down, I always do.  

Somewhere between miles 9-10 I was already hurting.  My back hurt, my feet hurt, I had had side stitches for a couple miles already, and this new ankle/heel/calf pain that I had never experienced before.  I remember thinking, "If I feel this bad this early, maybe I should just run the half."  I was giving serious consideration to DNFing (Did Not Finish) when I looked into the crowd and locked eyes with Isaac.  I had only met Isaac the day before at the expo.  But I took it as a sign that in that dark moment I could look into a sea of people and find one of the most encouraging runners I have ever met.  So I kept running.  And I kept struggling.  I did get to see Jamie three times out on the course and she cheered me on.  I also got to see Kelli running with her cousin, April.  Normally that kind of thing would really boost my spirits, but not this day.  There was a lot of struggling, a lot of wishing it was over, a lot of walking.  

With about five miles to go, I spotted Isaac again.  I got the feeling he was looking for me, and to this moment I don't know if that truly is what he was doing.  But I asked him to run with me anyway, and he did.  He really helped me this race, probably a lot more than he'll ever realize.

LocationNet Time

Pace Between
10K Split54:06

8:42 /mi
9:08 /mi
Halfway Split1:57:09

8:56 /mi
11:06 /mi
30K Split2:58:37

9:34 /mi
11:33 /mi
Finish Sunday4:26:15

10:09 /mi

In retrospect, I realize I had no game plan.  I didn't have a plan for fueling or hydration, for approaching aid stations, for when things got tough.  I just had no plan.  I guess I thought that my previous experience would be all I needed.  But I never put any thought into my race and I'm certain that hurt me.

So I guess its time to get into the nitty-gritty.  And I guess I'll just come right out and say it.  I am disappointed in my race.  It took a few days to be able to say that, because at first I was disappointed in myself.  Of course I was.  I had trained well for eighteen weeks, all along knowing what I was capable of, knowing that the goal I had in mind was within reach.  Then race day arrives and its like I didn't even show up.  But now, after a few days, I am not disappointed in myself anymore.  That voice that told me to quit, that said I couldn't do it, that voice was wrong.  And I'm glad I didn't listen to that voice.  Living with a disappointing race is a lot easier than the regret I would have inevitably felt for dropping out.  I'm still searching for the lessons to learn from this race, and still wondering why it went so wrong.  But in the meantime, I'm starting to feel a little pride in having completed my fourth marathon.
When Mags says you've won- believe it!!!
And I'm sure you're wondering about my friends.  Mike and Jamie both had amazing races and set incredible new PRs.  Read about Jamie's race here.  And seeing Kelli cross the finish line brought tears of joy to my eyes.  I am so proud of her for all her hard work and feel so blessed to be counted among her friends.
Fran & Kelli
Also, in case you're wondering, I haven't let this bad race scare me off.  My wheels are already trying to decide which races to run in 2015 and a marathon (or two!) will definitely be among them.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dandelion Run 10k and Etc.

The Dandelion Run is a 5k or 10k trail race put on by the Mid Penn Trailblazers held on Saturday, August 30 at Camp Mount Luther, Mifflinburg, PA.  You decide that day if you want to run the 5k or do a double loop and make it a 10k.  Its described as entry level, which is accurate, but be warned, you will have to cross water!  The run is named in memory of the Rev. Glenn Heasley whose favorite flower was the dandelion because of its tenacity.  Now I know I say this every time, but the Mid Penn Trailblazers sure do know how to host a top notch event!!!  Everything is well organized- parking, registration, pre-race announcements, course markings, the finish line, and post-run feed.  Love these guys!!!

I had the pleasure of seeing many familiar faces and catching up with friends.  It just so happened that I was in the midst of marathon training so I had already run seven miles pre-race and planned to run three more after.  The race was great!  I really enjoyed the course, except for the loop around the open field.  I guess I don't like seeing how many people are ahead of me.  Ha!  But I finished the race in 55:05, placing 17/34 overall.  Nothing too exciting, but I had a lot of fun and still got third in my age group.  At the finish line I got to "talk shop" with John Johnson about event planning.  He is the race director for the awesome trail race, Chief Wetonah Challenge.  And of course I am the race director for CJ's Resolution Challenge.  My new friend Betsy ran the three miles with me afterwards (for a total of 16.2 miles for the day) and it was nice to connect with another area runner.  This was my first time running the Dandelion Run, and it won't be my last!  I should mention that the Mid Penn Trailblazers hold another race at Camp Mount Luther on the same course, just in reverse, called the Night Flight.  Held in April, its starts at 8:30pm and its BYOI (bring your own illumination!!!)
So fast, I'm like a blur!  Ha!

After my busy run day morning, I had to rush home and get cleaned up for the This One's for You Jimmy Buffett concert at Hershey.  My mom, sister, and I had a great night.  
Betcha didn't know I was a Parrothead!  
Fins up!
This One's For You!

Its Been a Lovely Cruise!
The next morning I had to get up early because my dear hubs was running his first marathon, the Mt Nittany Marathon in State College.  It was only the second running of this race.  Held on August 31st, I thought he was totally nuts!  And I think I was right!  It is one tough marathon with a total elevation climb of 1259.37 feet.  Plus it rained nearly the entire time, but at least it never got hot!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lewisburg Triathlon 2014

Well, since it was almost two months ago, I guess it's time I blog about the Lewisburg Triathlon.  Held on Saturday, August 16th at 8am, it starts at the Lewisburg Area Community Pool.  This sprint distance tri includes a 300 yard pool swim, a 15 mile bike ride, and a 3.25 mile run.  This was my first ever triathlon, and I LOVE the sport!!!  Mostly, I love training for it.  It was a much-needed break from all my running.  I started training two days after completing marathon #3, River Towns Marathon on May 3rd.  That first workout consisted of a short swim and a spin on the indoor bike.  At that time, I wasn't registered for the tri, I was just thinking about it.  Ultimately, I fell in love with the variety of the workouts and decided to go for it.  My swims became longer, and I didn't feel like I was drowning anymore.  I rode only the spin bike until about August 3rd, because I didn't have an actual bike until then!!!  I bought this bike off of a fellow triathlete training for her first Ironman (Go Laurel!!!)  Then I had to quickly get over my fears of riding on the road.
Heading out for my first ride since childhood!
I only got to ride on the road four or five times until race day, but it would have to be enough!  I did have a chance to do the whole race (kinda, sorta) with a friend.  We swam the distance in his pool, transitioned to bike and did the course from his house, then ran the run course, again just from his house.  Transitioning, by the way, is a whole new "sport" for which to train!  I had been tracking my training times, and I reviewed other racers' results from the previous year, then set a goal for myself.  I wanted to complete this tri in under 100 minutes.  The morning of the race I was pretty nervous.  My husband wasn't able to come, so I would be alone, or so I thought.  Right after I got out of my car my friend Kathy and her husband got out of theirs.   It was a relief to see a friendly face!  Then I bumped into my training buddy, Steve, who was also having the first-timer jitters.  While racking my bike I ran into Lorin, a really strong athlete that I've run with a time or two in the past.  And I was so nervous that I had forgotten my new tri team, Team Taper, would be there!  So I got to see their friendly faces as well!  With Kathy's help, I got my transition area all set up, and Lorin helped me set up my bike.  
I was pretty excited/nervous as the race director was going over everything.  Imagine my surprise when she called my name!  At packet pick-up the night before there had been an issue with my number being assigned to someone else, so they gave me a new number.  They had straightened everything out and wanted to offer me the chance to start in my original spot.  I accepted, because being a pool swim, all racers entered the water one at a time, twenty seconds apart.  And I wanted to get started sooner rather than later.  So they crossed out the wrong number on my arm and wrote the new one!
Just a little excited
So the race gets underway and I still have time to perfect my transition area, eat a snack, and use the bathroom.  It was actually kind of nice to have a chance to watch how people were getting into and out of the water then making their way to their transition area and bikes.  
Pool & lounge chair chute!
I felt great during the swim.  I am not a strong swimmer, and I was tired when I was done, tired but energized.  I know that doesn't make sense, but that's how it was.  Officially it looks like I spent 10:24 in the water and only 00:29 in transition.  I know I spent every bit of three minutes drying off, putting on socks and sneakers, helmet, glasses, watch, etc.  So those times are skewed and I estimate I spent more like 8:10 in the water.  Then it was over to the bike.  I felt a bit wonky at first and noticed I was only going 10mph.  I thought, "Snap out of it!!!!  Get moving!!!!"  I started moving and managed to pass several racers one by one.  My time for the fifteen miles was 57:06, average pace 3:48/M (15.8 mph).  Transition from bike to run was as easy as dismounting the bike at the entrance, run/walking it to my rack, racking it up, losing the helmet, and running out the exit.  I felt extremely awkward at the start of the run.  But actually I did pretty well finishing the 3.25 mile run in a flat 27 minutes, or a 8:18/M pace.  My overall time to finish was 1:35:38 (or 95 minutes, my 100 minute goal surpassed!)  That time was good enough for 98th of 163 overall and THIRD in my AG!!!  (And no, there weren't only three in my AG, hahaha!  I was third of nine.)
Just a few notes about this race.  This was the ninth year for the event.  The course has changed over the years, and it will be required to change again next year.  At least the bike course will have to change, per the township folks.  It is well organized by Tara from A Fit Event.  Post-race food is great!  The shirts are a dri-tech style but a little on the cheap feel, as were the medals.  The absolute best volunteers EVER were at this race.  They had command of the traffic in their posts.  Not once did I have to slow down because they had traffic stopped and the road cleared for the racers.  They were verbal as you approached turns and all were majorly supportive and enthusiastic.  Kudos for a job well done!  And I think it's safe to say that I have a new love in my life.  I'm contemplating an olympic distance tri in the Spring and a half ironman distance in the Fall.  There is a lot to learn about this sport, but fortunately, triathletes are willing to help out us newbies.  Nobody expects you to be an expert when you're first starting out.  But I think there is the expectation that you will seek out the experts to help get you going.  I'm lucky to have Team Taper in my hometown.  But if no such group exists in your area, there are a plethora of blogs and online resources on the subject.  Happy training!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dam Half Marathon 2014

The Dam Half Marathon is one of my most favorite races!  I feel like I say that about all the trail races, but maybe that's because they all have so much in common in my area.  The 2014 Dam Half Marathon and Dam Full Marathon were held Sunday, September 14 at R. B. Winter State Park.  The full started at 7am and the half started at 8am.  The race is put on by a phenomenal group called the Mid Penn Trailblazers.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, this group knows how to host an amazing event!
Pre-race photos
Registration is easy through Integrity Sports (formerly PA Runners) on-line registration.  I received two pre-race email communications to keep me up to date.  Signs will point you in the right direction when you arrive at the park and volunteers will help you find a parking spot.  Packet pick-up is well organized and flows easily (the option to pick up on Saturday evening is available as well.)  Porta-potties are abundant.  A fire roars in the pavilion.  Friendly, familiar faces are all around.  I love this race!

A little about the course itself from the race website-
"We hope that both runners and hikers will continue to enjoy the 13-mile course that takes contestants over single & double track trails with some portions of fire roads.  The contestants will be subjected to rocks, mud, downed trees, stumps, roots, woodland creatures and small stream crossings.  Competitors will scale challenging ascents with scenic vistas before the final downhill to the finish line!  The elevation gains will surely leave legs screaming for mercy. Afterwards, contestants will bask in the camaraderie around the pavilion, complete with a warm fire and delicious food. This race is open to all levels of athletes who share a common love for the adventurous outdoors.  The Dam Half and Dam Full courses are all situated within Bald Eagle State Forest, and you really get the feeling of being far removed from civilization when doing this course! Mostly narrow single track trails with some jeep trails and a little bit of dirt road mixed in to relax your legs (but not too much). The Dam Half has a total elevation gain of 2,500 feet, while the Dam Full has a total elevation gain of 4,600 feet. The courses have several climbs with a few boulder fields mixed in to test your legs (and wits)! In between the climbs though, there are some nice flat and rolling sections winding through beautiful hemlock and pine forests with some stream crossings here and there. Both courses have the toughest climb of the event near the end, the dreaded Stairway to Heaven. Stairway to Heaven is a brutal single track climb with 700 feet of elevation gain within a half mile straight up the side of Naked Mountain. But once you summit, it’s 1.5 miles all downhill to the finish!!!"
Note the "dreaded Stairway to Heaven" near the end!
Starting line announcements are given by Mid Penn Trailblazers leader, Joel Heasley.  Follow the orange flags!!!  Runners on your mark, ready, set, go!  This was the second time I've run this race, so I knew to position myself closer to the front of the pack.  Once you're in the trails, its difficult to impossible to pass other runners because so much of it is single track.  So getting a position out ahead is vital if speed is important to you.  
Starting line action- check out that awesome kiddo next to me!
Last year I finished around 2:34, so this year I wanted to break that 2:30 mark.  I kept that goal in mind when the going got tough.  Because this race does get tough.  As I get tired, I get clumsy.  I rolled my ankles way too many times and did fall on my butt once, but managed to keep free of injury.  There were four aid stations spread out over the half marathon course, stocked full of enthusiastic volunteers and goodies for the runners.  I think my favorite moment (besides finishing, of course) may have been the volunteer stationed at the bottom of the Stairway.  He was there stirring up trouble and totally cracked me up!  

The miles were fairly uneventful for me, which is good!  The weather was perfect and the trails were beautiful.  When I got to the top of the Stairway I glanced at my watch and saw I had about sixteen minutes to get across the boulder field, down the mountain, and to the finish line (1.5 miles away) to make my goal.  That should be no problem when considering the distance, but me and hazardous mountainsides don't get along too well.  However, I made it down and turned on the speed on that final stretch.  My official finish time was 2:28:16, average pace of 11:19/mile.  I placed 6 of 66 in my age group (F30-39) and 72nd overall of 329 partipants.  An improvement compared to last year's stats- AG 6/45, overall 100/343, finishing time 2:34:08, pace 11:46/mile.
Finish Line Action!
Once you've recovered a little bit, you get to help yourself to pizza from Larry's Pizza and/or chicken and fixin's from Ard's.  Plus there is coffee, water, and kegs of soda.  Pull on your hoodie (not t-shirt!) that you get for registering, wear your hand-crafted wooden medal made by Elkwood Arts,, and feel proud of what you've accomplished!  I highly recommend this race to everyone!!!  Yes, it is tough, but it is so worth it!  I know some nature lovers who hike instead of run it.  You will feel amazing when you cross that finish line!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

OBX Vacation 2014

I wouldn't normally blog about my family vacation, but I'm pretty pleased with myself for continuing to work out so hard while away from home.  We went to Corolla, NC in the Outer Banks for one week at the end of July.  I had just started training for Marathon #4 and was already in the thick of training for my first ever triathlon.  We drove down on a Saturday, so I took that as my rest day. Workouts were as follows:

Sunday- Tempo run, 6.43 miles
Monday- OWS (open water swim) in the Atlantic
Ocean swims are tough!
Tuesday- Negative split run (3,3) 6.43 miles

Wednesday- Easy beach run, 4 miles
Who wouldn't love this?!
Thursday- Long run, 14 miles
Long runs require a post-run dip in the pool
Friday- Easy beach run, 5.5miles
Good-bye beach!
Saturday- Rest day, drive home

And what would a family vacation blog be without some family photos?!?!  Enjoy!

Sick Trail Race 2014

Sick Trail Race is one of my most favorite races!  I stumbled upon it three years ago only because my friend Kelli asked me to join her.  She found a flyer and was worried about going alone because she had heard it was held at someone's private home.  Well, that is true.  The race is hosted by Scott & Ann Sick at their home in Millville, PA.  The course runs through their woods and fields.  When you're finished running there is a feast and hand-made prizes!  The first year I ran (7/14/12), it about killed me!  The 4.1 miles took me 52:33.  The second year (7/27/13) the race tried to kill me again, thanks to terrifying thunderstorms and torrential downpours! But I did much better time-wise, probably thanks to dodging the lightening bolts!  Finishing time was 42:47.  This year (7/19/14) I struggled and actually walked some, but still finished in 43:13.

Pre-race Photos!

Homemade Time Board/ And check out that view!!!

Misha, Me, Aaron (the hubs), Erica, Maddie
If you like running trails, you really must run this race.  Did I mention it's free?  That's right, totally free!!!  The feast at the end is brought by all us runners, pot-luck style.  You will feel like you're at a family reunion.  This race truly encompasses what trail running is all about.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Camp Emerge

I wish I could remember how I first heard of Camp Emerge.  Camp Emerge is a camp for families touched by autism held at Camp Victory in Millville, PA.  It was a wonderful opportunity for our family to connect with other families touched by autism.  Below is an excerpt from their website.

"Camp Emerge is a camp set up directly for the families of those touched by Autism. The camp is designed to help bring families together for a weekend, to work on their feelings, fears, dreams, and relationships with each other. It is designed to allow the family to sit back, relax and just be together without the worry of judgment or pressure to explain differences."

We arrived on Saturday, June 28th around 10am, checked in at the office, and unloaded the truck into our cabin.  The cabins are shared between families, normally three to four families in one cabin.  Our cabin happened to have only one other family.  The kids were super excited about the bunk beds, I think it may have been their favorite part!

Home for the Weekend!
Once we were settled into the cabin it was time to explore a little.  We made a short stop by the swings until Cullen spotted the bounce house.  The bounce house was another favorite!  After a little bouncing, our family gathered with all the other families in the cafeteria for the welcome and announcements.  Camp had officially started!!!

Too cute not to use this picture!
Events and activities were planned, but everything was loose.  We weren't required to attend anything. Available to us was biking, fishing, a nature center, wagon rides, swimming, arts and crafts, and a nighttime campfire with s'mores and camp songs.  The kids had a great time.  And it turns out Maggie is an excellent fisher!


What didn't I love about Camp Emerge?  Well, it was a big dose of reality.  Cullen was one of the youngest of the affected.  The oldest was probably in his mid-20s.  So a range in age of pre-school to graduate school.  It was as if the entire spectrum was exhibited.  There were kids on one end of the spectrum who were completely nonverbal, rocking, shouting out, kids who at the age of 11 who were still not toilet trained.  Then on the other end of the spectrum there were kids who were mainstreamed in school, and one beginning classes this fall to earn his master's degree, almost indistinguishable from his peers.  Spectrum.  And it left me wondering, which of these futures is in store for Cullen?   Is there any chance of regression?  While rare, I have heard stories of that happening.  Or is there a chance he could be the college graduate getting ready to start work on his master's degree?  Our future is so uncertain, which is true whether or not your family is an autism family.  I think autism just serves an extra dose of anxiety over that uncertainty.

What did I love about Camp Emerge?  I loved that we could follow Cullen's agenda.  The time in the pool was limited due to life guard availability, but other than that, we were left to do as we pleased.  If he wanted to throw rocks in the creek for an hour and a half (which he did), nobody questioned that or hurried us along to a different activity.  I loved that when I couldn't get him out of the bounce house that a volunteer stepped up to help me get to the parents' circle.  I loved the frankness and honesty from the other parents, because we all knew we were at least in the same pond if not in the same boat.  But most of all, I loved that not a soul there would judge my son for any behavior he may exhibit.  He could be himself, and I didn't once feel like I needed to explain.
"Nothing Great Was Ever Achieved Without Enthusiasm"

I would also like to mention that Camp Victory is a special place for all sorts of special kids.  They hold camp for kids affected by everything from autism, organ donation, chronic ventilators, heart disease, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, spina bifida, deafness, skin disorders, and dwarfism.  It truly has been a blessing in our lives.  If you feel moved to make a contribution, you can do so on their website.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Midd-West Relay for Life Inaugural 5k/10k and 1/2 Mile Fun Run

My cousin Ange has long been involved in the Midd-West Relay for Life.  This year they decided to add a road race to the festivities and asked me to help.  So I met with Ange and the Fetterolf ladies (Joan, Michele, and Dani) to start planning.  I didn't have much advice to offer, but I shared my experience from planning CJ's Resolution Challenge.  So on June 21, Aaron, Maggie, Cullen and I went to the Beaver Springs Fair Grounds for the Inaugural Midd-West Relay for Life De-Feet Cancer 5k/10k.  There was only eleven of us running the 10k, but about 50-55 running the 5k.

Pre-race Photos! Me, Cullen, and Mags
Both races followed the same out and back route, with the 10k running to a more distant turn around point.  At the beginning Aaron and my sister-in-law Erica took off ahead of me, and I had to cool my jets and not try to catch them.  I felt good and strong and slowly picked up my pace.  I passed a few people, got by the 5k turn point, and realized I was the first female in the 10k race.  And I knew that I had distanced myself already from the second lady, so now just to not mess up.  Mission accomplished!  I was fourth overall of eleven 10k runners and first of seven females.  I PR'd my 10k time with a 50:43 (so close to sub-50!)  As you can see, Aaron was third overall and third male.

It looks like it says 40:43, but I am NOT that speedy!
This race was well supported with water stations and volunteers, my only critique was to encourage their volunteers stationed at turns to be more vocal about which way to run.

Next up was the kids 1/2 Mile Fun Run!  I was was super excited about this because the four of us would be running together.  Cullen and I ran a race at the end of last summer, but now the four of us would get to run together.  Dear old Dad was the photographer, so he is missing from the photos, but I think the smiles speak for themselves.
We love running!
When I think of this day it is not the 10k race I think of, even though I did run a pretty good race that day.  What I remember most is running with my family and the fun we had together.  I always leave them at home when I run.  I always have a prescribed distance, speed, or other workout I "have" to do that day.  So this was a great opportunity to share what I love.  I want to keep them little, and I avoid saying "I can't wait 'til....." when it comes to my kids, but I do look forward to the day when we can easily spend more time biking and running together.  This race helped remind me of why I love running, its fun!!!  Not convinced?  Again, I say those smiles speak for themselves.   ;)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Smith's Knob Scramble 2014

I had the pleasure of being able to run Smith's Knob Scramble last month.  This is a race put on by a local Boy Scout Troop and supported by the Mid Penn Trailblazers.  It was my second running of this race and I enjoyed it just as much this year as I did last year, probably more since I now know a lot of the local trail runners!  It was held Saturday, June 14th at Camp Conley, Mountoursville, PA.  Its an eight mile trail race that follows the Loyalsock trail up and over the steep Smith's Knob.  This year it had 64 runners and raised over $800 for the scouts.  Interestingly, the race started as one of the scouts Eagle Scout Project.  The boys erected this really cool finish line for us this year!

See how it says "FINISH"?
So there was lots of chatting and merriment at the beginning.  We got to see and talk to lots of good running pals, and meet a couple new folks too!  At the start was the most ridiculous mud puddle you've ever seen.  Aaron decided to traipse right through it, I waited to go around it.

The puddle took up the entire road!
So we were off!  I passed this lady carrying hiking poles and remember thinking, what a pain that would be to have to hold those for the next eight miles.  Well, at the first climb of the race, you should have seen her put those babies to work.  She zipped right up the side of that ridge like it was nothing, passing everybody in front of her.  I'm rethinking my position on hiking poles.  

The rest of the race passed by nicely.  It was wonderfully cool and the sky was overcast.  I made it to the top of Smith's Knob and was greeted by John Johnson, race director of Chief Wetonah Challenge, taking photos of all the runners.  He made some encouraging remarks and it was time to carry on.  As I was going down the steep, rocky, and very tricky descent I started to hear people talking behind me.  It drives me nuts.  I work so stinking hard passing people on hills and straightaways only to lose that ground on the downhill.  So I picked it up, but only a little.  I managed to distance myself from the talkers and made it to the aid station on the fire road.  I took some water and left.  Then I heard footsteps gaining on me.  Dang it!!!  They got closer and closer.  As I got to the end of the fire road where I needed to duck back into the woods I realized that it was Aaron behind me!  So we chatted a bit about the race so far and started to gain on a couple guys in front of us.  We passed one fellow together, then started to climb yet another hill.  

Its hard to appreciate the elevation, but here's a course map anyway

I fixed my eyes on the gray shirt of a runner in front of me and distanced myself from Aaron.  It took some time, but I caught up to gray shirt, chatted with him briefly, and then passed him.  It wasn't too long after then that I made it to the finish.  Gray shirt came in next followed not too far behind by Aaron.

A race photo where it actually looks like I am running!
I was 23rd of 64 runners, third overall female with a time of 1:22:15 (10:16 pace), and first in my AG (F 30-39).  Aaron finished only 26 seconds after me.  Then we ate some delicious post-race food, listened to awards, and I even got a plaque!  I was careful not to get it wet after ruining my first one last year.  No worries though, Denny the RD replaced it for me.

Can't wait 'til next year!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Autism Awareness 5k for ADMI & Inaugural Chief Wetonah Challenge

I'm behind on my race recaps again, so I'm combining the oldest two!
First, from April 12th the Autism Awareness 5k for ADMI!  A little back-story first for anyone who may be new here.  My son is autistic.  Right before his fourth birthday he received this diagnosis from a really terrific doctor at Geisinger Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute (ADMI.)  And since then has continued to get first-rate care from these folks.  I've done my best to help them continue to help others by fundraising for them.  Back-story over.  I believe this was the second year for this event.  Its my understanding that in its inaugural year the race was run on the roads around ADMI, which are heavily traveled due to local area businesses.  So in its second year they moved it onto the Bucknell University campus.  The entire course was on grass with a little bit of gravel, which was a first for me.  I've done lots of trail races, but those aren't mostly on grass.  It was a point of interest for me.  It was nice to see the good Dr. Challman there as well as Megan Epler, ADMI's community liaison.  I also had the pleasure of meeting a few folks tied to autism and ADMI from the Bucknell side.  Running with me also was autism momma Kristen, whom I had the pleasure of first meeting at CJ's Resolution Challenge.

So at the beginning of the race they were explaining the course and I remember thinking, "I'm already lost.  I'll just follow the folks in front of me."  Long story short, the leader took a wrong turn and our 5k (3.1 mile) race turned into a 2.48 mile race!!!  I ran hard and ended up being the third overall female, and Kristen was the first overall female!  My official time was 16:48, which works out to an average pace of 6:46!!!!  That's booking it!  I think I was just trying to catch Kristen, hahaha!  So it is a shame that this wasn't a full 5k, because I could have smashed my previous 5k PR.  I'll just have to ask Kristen to "pace" me at some future race.

Autism Mommas- Kristen & Janell
The race did provide an excellent breakfast post-run with a promise to better mark/man the course next year.  It was really no big deal to me, I was there to support ADMI for all they do for us.  I plan to run again next year!

Second recap, the Inaugural Chief Wetonah Challenge.  I was super excited when I heard about this race because of who the race director was, John Johnson.  If you do any trail races in Central or Northern PA you probably have seen him.  His name is always at the top of results.  But he is the most humble, encouraging guy, and his wife Amey is just the same.  You couldn't meet a nicer couple!  They came out to support my race in January, and when walk-up registrations became overwhelming Amey just jumped right in and saved the day!  Naturally, I wanted to support their race as well.  

The Johnsons/ Runners Start/ Banner

Chief Wetonah Challenge is a seven mile trail race at Mt. Pisgah State Park in Troy, PA held on May 18th.  Proceeds benefited the (very nice) park.  This race was so well organized.  There was some great communication before the event, no confusion at registration or at the start, the course was well marked, the RD could be spotted running along the course checking out his racers, they had a photo booth at the finish, and post-race food and prizes were awesome!  Plus, I've been running enough trail races that these people are becoming more and more familiar to me.  Folks from the Mid Penn Trailblazers and the Valley Running Club (check both out on facebook!) have welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like a part of the family.  I love running and racing, and I love it even more when I get to do it with these folks.  

Anyway, back to the race.  I got to run this race with my hubs, Aaron, as well as my sister-in-law, Alania.  Aaron has been a runner and is finding his way back.  Alania has been athletic her whole life and used to swear off running, but something has switched because I'm pretty sure she likes it now.

Me and The Hubs (sorry no pics of Alania!)
For some reason, I'm always faster than Aaron on trail races.  Well, I shouldn't say always, just in the last two years.  I like to believe its because I'm tougher than him (tee hee!)  The course was really beautiful at points.  Thank God for that, because there was a lot of MUD with which to contend!  Now, I don't have anything against mud, but man there was a lot of it on this course!  I ended up placing 49th of 137 runners, 4 out of 23 in my age group (F 30-39) in a time of 1:10:22.  So if you go off of seven miles even that gives you a 10:03/pace.  But Alania's app said it was 7.25 miles, which would give me a 9:42/pace.  Either way, pretty good.  And I even got a prize!  They said I was third in my AG, but I guess that was just because the first woman in my age group was one of the top women overall, and they weren't double-prizing.  So I was actually fourth in my AG but got a prize anyway, which were delicious chocolate chip cookies!!!  

One of my New Favorite Races!!!
 Next year they will be offering a longer course in addition to the seven mile race.  I can't wait to see what they come up with, but I did hear that there will be some serious climbs.  It will surely be on my list!  I hope it makes it on to your list as well!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Our YMCA was offering an eight week gymnastics program for little kiddos so my husband and I started to think it over.  Running around, jumping, and tumbling would all be things CJ would totally dig.  I started talking to the staff there about it.  How many instructors would there be?  What are their qualifications?  Are they patient?  How many students would there be?  Would there be any other special needs kiddos in the class?  After a lot of reassuring from the Y staff, we decided to give it a go.  After all, he needs to be exposed to new challenges to grow, just like the rest of us.
Here We Go
So on March 8th I took him to his first class.  There were seven or eight students total and CJ was the only child with autism.  At the start we had to take off shoes and socks.  CJ didn't want to = Fight #1.  Then they were required to each stand in their own black box in a line.  CJ didn't want to = Fight #2.  Then they were supposed to take some laps around the gym, CJ didn't want to at first, but as the kids got away from him, he decided that it looked like fun and he chased after them = yay!  After the warm up laps it was back to the start, stand in a line and listen to instructions = hard for CJ.  The instructor was describing the circuit and what the kids were supposed to do.  CJ did stand in line and wait for his turn, but they did the same circuit three times, and he quickly decided which were his favorite parts and which were not.  During his non-preferred parts he delighted in running away from the instructor who (probably shouldn't have) gave chase.  I asked the head instructor how involved she wanted me to be, and she replied, "Not.  The less, the better."  I had no idea if she knew what was going on, if she had any heads-up about CJ's diagnosis, or any experience with kiddos like CJ.  But I slinked back to my seat, and felt all eyes on me as CJ took off grinning, yet again, while the instructor gave chase.  And I started to cry.  Are situations like this always going to highlight the differences between my son and "typical" kids?  I didn't like feeling that way, and I was embarrassed for tearing up like I did.  I decided to shake it off, hold up my head, and focus on my son, who was bravely crossing the balance beam.

Brave Boy
My son has autism.  It may be that social situations will always remind me of that because he is not wired to think like you or I.  When in a room with typical children, his behavior makes him stand out, his differences are highlighted.  But who says differences have to be a negative thing?  I think differences can be quite beautiful.  If CJ ever lets you get close to him, you'll notice a lot of other things that deserve to be highlighted.  He loves to sing.  Letters, numbers, colors, and shapes are cool to him.  He memorizes book and movie lines, and was able to speak those before he had any meaningful speech.  He is very upset if his little sister is sad.  And he is incredibly sweet and affectionate.  Its these kind of wonderful things about him that I should allow to get the highlights.

Steady now!
So I will chose to highlight those differences.  Whenever, wherever I can, I'm going to help him show the world what makes him so beautiful and special.  Different is almost always beautiful, if you know where to apply the highlights.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Team CJ at River Towns Marathon & Half Marathon

A post like this can be a challenge to write.  There is so much I want to say and so many who deserve thanks and acknowledgement.  Its hard to know where to start and I'm afraid I'll forget something.  Team CJ was an idea I started thinking about as CJ's Resolution Challenge was wrapping up.  I already planned to run River Towns Marathon as my third marathon and thought that it might be the perfect race to recruit a team to help me raise awareness and money for autism.  An email to race director, Bob Stoudt, got the whole thing started.  I was hoping to gather 10-15 runners to run the race with me.  It quickly grew to a team of thirty!  It was thrilling to me to have that level of support.  What you have to realize is, I didn't personally know all the people on this team prior to the race.  People I recruited talked to their friends, and it just rippled out.  In the beginning, I figured that this event was going to be more about raising awareness than money.  I thought the team would probably cover operating costs with a little bit left over to donate.  And I was okay with that.  But boy, was I wrong!  I watched our team hit $2000, then $3000, then $5000, and more!!!  I could hardly believe it!  This group of strangers, coming together, raising that kind of money.... it was just amazing.  The money we raised was shared between two awesome organizations- Operation Jack Autism Foundation and Geisinger's Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute.
Full Marathoners- Crystal, Janell, & Sam

Half Marathoners- Mirhia, Don, Jen, Julie, Brian, Kevin, Kelli, Steph, Aaron, Joe, Erin, Penny, Misha, Kelly, Brandi, Andi, Sara (not pictured-Kristen, Justin, Quaid, Des, Krista, Ashley, Megan, Lindsey, Glen, Kaija)

There is just no way we were not noticed at the race.  Orange Team CJ shirts were everywhere!  After the race I heard multiple reports of random acts of encouragement from teammates that prior to that morning had never laid eyes on one another.  That's one of my favorite things about the whole day.  

So just a small recap of my race experience- 
I was just a little excited.
The marathon started at 7am, two hours before the half marathon.  My mom and grandma were there to cheer us on.  Crystal, Sam, and I gathered together for some pre-race photos, toed the line, and off we went.  I was hoping for a PR, so I'd have to better a time of 3:55.  My training was really tough this time around.  The weather required a lot of shuffling of workouts, and many runs ended up being moved indoors.  I hope to never again run sixteen miles on a treadmill, 'nuff said.  So, all in all, I'd say my training wasn't quite where I had hoped it would be, but I had my best friend Crystal on one side and Sam, marathoner extraordinaire, on my other side, I thought I could do it.  The first half went well, I felt really, really good.  But something just went amiss at the turn around point.  I started having pain in my toe.  I remembered thinking to myself probably only 14-15 miles in, "Well hello there, Wall.  I can't say that I'm happy to meet you."  Around mile 18 I started falling behind.  Mike noticed and slowed down so I could run next to him.  I said, "Thanks, Mike."  To which he replied, "I gotcha."  We ran together a while, Mike being a quiet, supportive presence.  Then Mike and Jamie swapped.  She asked how I was doing, and I confessed, I was really struggling.  The pain in my foot was getting worse, and it was really getting to me.  She said they were with me and wouldn't leave me.  At this point Crystal and Sam were really starting to pull away.  I started seeing the half marathoners and I thought it would be just the boost I needed to get through it.  Seeing those orange Team CJ shirts gave me just enough encouragement to keep on going.  Aaron caught up with me and must have sensed how discouraged I was because he stayed with me when he could have passed me.  Eventually Sam noticed my absence and waited for me.  Sam, me, Mike, and Aaron were running together so Mike decided to run ahead to catch Crystal and Jamie.  I had started walking at aid stations, and then in between aid stations, and I thought about quitting.  This was not how this race was supposed to go.  But quitting would be ridiculous, and besides, I don't quit.  So broken down, busted, and disappointed, I crossed the finish line at 4:02:30.  It took several days, but I eventually realized that I don't have to be disappointed.  I ran a marathon.  Marathons are hard.  They don't always go as planned.  And I can't let myself forget about the amazing team running with my son's name on their chests.

Team CJ Finishing Strong!!!
So now for the thank you's.  I am so grateful to the people who teamed up with me to form Team CJ.  Thank you to Sam of Operation Jack for inspiring me to try.  Thank you to Crystal who always has too much faith in me.  Thank you to Aaron for being patient and supportive even when the taper crazies are full-blown.  Thank you to my mom and grandma for their unwavering support and hard work.  Thank you to Brandi and Kevin for taking on their first half marathon, and to all you other teammates who did the same (I'm looking at you, Joe!)  Thank you to my sorority sisters Krista, Megan, and Mirhia for the fun reunion on the race course.  Thank you to Misha for being my early morning training buddy.  Thank you to Mike and Jamie for bolstering spirits during the second half of the marathon.  Thank you to Bob Stoudt and the River Towns Race Series for being so generous.  Thank you to all of Team CJ for raising such funds, especially Brian, Aaron, Crystal, and Kristen.  And thank you God for bringing us all together and blessing our efforts.  To you all, I am forever grateful for your acts of kindness, selflessness, and bravery.  Thank you.
~"As Heaven touches earth.....  We bring the Kingdom come with every act of love."