FAAP Fall Classic 10k

I haven’t posted in awhile. My apologies but I needed a break. From running, from training, from thinking so hard about it all. So what did I do with my two weeks? Nothing. I didn’t run. I didn’t work out. I ate anything I wanted. I drank some beer and wine. After about 12 days of living a normal American lifestyle I’d had enough.

I started with the P90X plyo DVD followed by a 3 mile run the next day. Apparently that was too much. My legs were super sore yesterday and still complaining this morning. But Shane was excited for this event so we were on our way at 6:45am. I chose my INKnBURN denim shorts and leaf ’em sports bra under our Team Brunazzi shirts. Shoes were Altra Superiors with the rock guard removed. We dropped off the kids with Shane’s sister to play with their cousin and then headed to North Park.

We picked up our shirts and bibs and then talked to the other runners and our friends from the timing service. Shane decided we should do a warm up so we headed up the road a ways and immediately my legs complained. After a short distance I gave up and headed back to await the coming torture. I also discovered my Garmin decided to discharge its battery and shut down so I would be running ‘blind’.

Shane pre-race
This race is held by the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh so there was a hand-carved gong to get us going. The race director recognized Shane and I and offered a greeting before launching into the course description and markings. After that the medical director gave a short word on not pushing too hard and respecting your limitations. I admit I snickered that a 5k/10k had a medical director so maybe I only got what I deserved.
The 10k started 10 minutes before the 5k and at the sound of the gong I went hard. I knew we would move from road to trail quickly and I wanted to be in position before we bottle necked. Suddenly I realized I was ahead of Shane and all the other women. I pulled back and about 5-7 more people blew by me. Shane shouted, “You’re running 6:15 pace. Slow down!” I should have listened.
I pulled back a little bit as we hit the trail and settled into the chase pack. My legs hurt but I knew I was refreshed from the recent rest and wanted to see if they would shake out. I started to worry when I was looking for the 1 mile water stop long before we actually hit it. Feeling like you’ve run way over a mile at only 0.75 is not a good sign. Without a Garmin I figure I went out too hard. I probably ran a 7:45 first mile. Oops.
The next two miles were a blur of pain as my lungs and legs began to burn. I kept pushing knowing that I should be able to place well since it was decently technical trail and a short distance. I couldn’t get any decent pace on the uphills (I’ve had this happen a LOT recently) and I was overheating. I whipped off my shirt, not caring that my bib was on it.
As we approached some volunteers pointing to a turn I thought, “We must be over halfway now.” Nope, they shouted, “2.8 miles. Almost halfway!” I wanted to die. I decided to pull back for a mile and see if I could recover enough to push hard to the end. A few men passed me and a woman I know, Natalie, caught me and ran with me for awhile. We chatted and I relaxed into it for a bit until we hit a long uphill. I let my friend go and silently berated myself as I walked up.
The last couple miles another runner I know, Mike, caught me and basically stayed on my tail with another man. We were all suffering and didn’t chat much except for when we came to two forks in a row that were unmarked. We made our best guesses based on the general direction we needed to head and hoped for the best. Thankfully we came upon another volunteer about a quarter mile later. I quickly told him about the unmarked forks but I guess he didn’t say anything because I found out a lot of people got lost there, including the leaders.
As I pounded down a hill a volunteer shouted that there was a downed tree at the bottom to watch out for. A man bolted past me, ignoring the warning, and caught his feet on the tree taking a pretty awful digger. But he got up and kept running so he must have been okay. I took the time to walk to the tree and step over and lost the man in the process. As I ran up an access road I heard another set of feet approaching. I figured it was Mike but a quick glance over my shoulder told me differently. A woman passed me and quickly gapped me. I didn’t care in the least by that point.
As we headed back towards the start I knew there was a field and then one last road section to the finish line. Two more women approached from the rear and I gathered enough dignity to push hard enough to ensure my lead. I tried to catch the woman who had passed me on the way to the finish but I didn’t have enough of a kick. I dragged myself across the line in 1:05:15 for 27th overall and 9th woman.
I crossed the line, handed over my bib tag after some fumbling with my shirt, and then stumbled to the grass where I promptly collapsed. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I was hot and then cold and not sweating. I chugged the remainder of my water between gasps and stared at the swirling tree branches over my head. I was slightly amused by how I must appear to the other runners. Out of shape? Not a trail runner? Inexperienced? I mused that the medical director would be showing up to give me a speech any second. Only it was just a fellow runner and a volunteer who came to my aid. After a few minutes of listening to them debate whether I should stay laying down or get up and walk I dragged myself to my feet and into the port-o-john to hide. After about 10 minutes I felt almost normal although a little wobbly. I swallowed my pride and rejoined the festivities outside.
While waiting for results the FAAP put out Filipino food but I couldn’t even look at it. I grabbed a banana and hunkered in the corner to watch the dancers do their performance.


Filipino dancers
As I watched my strength returned. I just wanted to go home but Shane had finished in 7th place in about 55 minutes and earned 1st in his age group so we waited. I was shocked when I was called for 3rd in my age group. I absolutely felt my performance was undeserving of anything. I also learned the first woman had finished in 55-something. On a good day I probably could have smashed this course and gotten an overall award. That’s going to drive me in regaining my fitness in the coming weeks for sure. In the end I’m just glad I got a run in and got out on the trails even if it was an embarrassing performance.


Close up of the bamboo award



Rock’n The Knob

Shane surprised me with an entry to the Rock’n The Knob 30k a couple weeks ago. After last weekend’s disastrous trail 10k I was about terrified of running up and down a mountain for three times as long. But the race director of the RTK, Ben, had given Shane a free entry for me as a fellow race director so I couldn’t be a no-show.

The Rock’n the Knob is not actually 30k. It’s advertised as 19.23 miles (31k) but everyone got closer to 20+ miles by GPS which means it was probably actually longer since tree cover causes signal loss and vertical gain/loss are not calculated in by GPS. I’m glad I didn’t know this in advance.

The race itself is billed as ‘PA’s Highest Trail Race’. The course description states:
“Runners will start from the Clubhouse at the Blue Knob All Seasons Resort. Racers will then conquer the ski slopes, enjoying beautiful vistas along the route. The 30K racers will then split from the 5 mile route, linking with the Lost Turkey Trail to begin their assault on the State Park side of the mountain. The 30K runners zigzag up and down the mountain accumulating over 9,700 ft. of elevation change! This race will be the most challenging in the area, putting even the most hardened trail runner to the test.”

The view

I made the decision to drive out to Bedford, PA and stay the night before the race. I found a hotel and then headed out for some food at a little Mexican place called Salsa’s. If you’re ever in Bedford I highly recommend it. While Denny’s, Hosses, and all the other chain places were packed, Salsa’s had maybe 10 patrons inside, live music, and the food was excellent. I made it back to the hotel and laid out all my gear (minus a forgotten Garmin) and got ready for bed.

After a restless night I got up at 6:30 and dressed in my INKnBURN denim shorts and sugar skull tee with Altra Superiors. I added a long sleeve pink shirt on top as a warm up. I grabbed coffee from the hotel lobby and began the half hour journey to Claysburg where the race would begin at the Blue Knob Four Seasons Resort. Once there I picked up my packet and bib. I’d been assigned number 13. On top of the forgotten Garmin, the poor night’s rest, and the bib number I was pretty convinced it would be a bad day. I mostly hid in the lodge until start time because otherwise I was freezing in the 48* morning air. BRRRR!

We lined up right on time and were given some brief instructions on the course and markings before a shotgun start. Wow was that loud up there in the mountains!



Looks like I was lucky to avoid this guy’s farmer blow
The start at the Clubhouse (elevation 2,376 feet) meant running uphill for about 2.25 miles until we reached the radio towers on the top of Herman Point (elevation 3,014 feet). I took this slowly and watched people disappear over the hills and around bends wondering if or when I would catch them again. My stomach felt rocky and I hoped I just needed to warm up. We then turned onto Lost Turkey Trail and headed down the mountain. I almost got smeared by a speeding car at the road crossing but was able to hustle across just in the knick of time. After that I reached the steepest descent of the race, an old logging trail that drops 831 feet in 0.87 miles. Thankfully it was followed by a flat 0.73 mile trail to the campgrounds. I was already struggling by this point and my stomach was roiling but just focused on relaxing and staying rubber-side down. There were two women in front of me running together and I dubbed them The Ponytails because that’s all I would see as they disappeared around each bend in front of me. I vowed to catch and beat them before the end of the race.


The Lodge
The runners next circumvented Blue Knob State Park campgrounds via a wide single track trail before taking an access road over to the Crist Trail. It was at this point that I realized I wasn’t absorbing my water. My stomach sloshed with each step and the weird gurgling sounds it was making worried me even more than the stabbing pain it was causing. As we headed towards Pavia Road we headed down the sharpest descent of the race with 859 feet of fall in 2.6 miles. Unfortunately my stomach couldn’t take the pounding and I walked a lot of the descents. I crossed Pavia Road and stopped at the mile 7 aid station to eat a couple gummy bears and refill my handheld. From here I had to conquer a 4 mile loop consisting of rolling single track, an ascent of Rock’n Ridge Trail, and a loose rock gully climb. The climb is roughly 2 miles and becomes progressively steeper the farther it goes. The total climb is 887 feet. Thankfully it’s followed by almost a half mile of flat double-track before dropping back to the aid station. Here I joined up with a group of runners named Luke, Rachel, and Sarah for the remainder of the run. Luke had fallen at mile 2 and broken his hand but refused medical attention and finished the race. What a rock star!


Careful descent of the stone stairs
From the aid station we followed the road and headed straight back up, 0.87 miles and 395 feet of climb from the park office to the Homestead Loop Trailhead. The loop is 1.75 miles long and follows an old road. First it descends 363 feet in 0.63 miles and then ascends 624 feet and 1.11 miles back out of the hollow. I dubbed this section the Hill of Despair for the numerous false summits and relentless climbs. We did pass a woman on this ascent which made me feel a little better about my performance. Finally, we reached Raven’s Rest Pavillion and the final aid station at 2,037 feet elevation. I sat on the folding picnic table and tried to eat some gummy bears while the volunteers checked out Luke’s hand. My stomach had relaxed some but pounding down descents was still out of the question.


From the pavillion we began to climb the southeastern flank of the mountain. We traversed a contour to 2,570 feet elevation and then dropped 500 feet in a half mile to Beaver Dam Run. According to the course description “this entire section requires runners to be able to stop on a dime to avoid seriously technical and jagged rocks along the narrow single track.” Once you reach the bottom, you are greeted by a stunning view of a waterfall cascading down a gully filled with boulders covered in moss. Well, stunning until you realize you are about to climb the waterfall, 971 feet of ascent in 0.79 miles on slippery rocks and crossing the falls twice.
Finally we reached a dirt road where we continued our final ascent of the mountain for another 0.2 miles until reaching the ‘Stone Pads’. This is a single-track section of extremely rocky trail. After awhile things leveled off and we followed rolling trail past the Pavia Overlook and out to Pavia Road, which we ran up to the ski lodge at the summit (3,142 feet). We turned onto an access road to the ski lifts and proceeded to run straight down the Route 66 ski slope to the East Wall Traverse ski slope and down to the bowl at Stembogen. Finally the last of the stomach-pounding descents were over and I turned into the forest until I reached the final surprise, the ‘rock garden’. This is where I finally overtook The Ponytails as they walked through and decided it was a good race afterall. The maintenance building appeared and then the finish line and I was able to put out a final kick to finish in 5:42:21.


Elevation profile


Course Map
I was surprised to learn I took second in my age group but it turned out two of the top women were in my age group. The Ponytails and the other woman I had passed were also in my age group so there is some satisfaction in that. Afterwards, there was food and beer to be had before I made the long trek home.




Finisher’s Medal/Bottle Opener


Age Group Award
Overall, this is a great race for an experienced trail runner. The views and trails are amazing and well worth the trip. However, it’s definitely not something to be taken lightly as evidenced by Luke’s broken hand. The medals, the shirts, and the post-race food and refreshments all make it top notch. And it’s not every day that you can summit the second tallest mountain in PA twice while traversing both sides. The course was well marked and obviously well planned to challenge everyone who attempted it. But it definitely was not beginner or even intermediate runner friendly.
And I’m still not sure I can ever wear the race shirt because having ‘Rock’n The Knob’ emblazoned across my chest just seems like it will invite sexual innuendos, especially from those who know it was Blue Knob! Oh boy! *face palm*

Kalajainen Klassic 5k

I’ve been feeling pretty good since my Burning River finish and I’ve started running again. It began with 2 miles and then 3. And then my friends enablers struck again.

I saw that my pacer, Allison, from BR100 was running a weeknight 5k about an hour and a half away. I really wanted to see her again and thank her in a more coherent state of mind for all she did for me. So I loaded up my youngest daughter and the jogging stroller and went to the race. Because that’s what a sane person would do right? Also check reviews of jogging strollers travel system at this blog – babystrollercarseatcombo.com

Goofing off with the baby before the race
Allison is coaching a couple to run the Erie half marathon and they were at the race as well. Being so far away I only saw a few familiar faces but Allison seemed to know everyone. She kept telling everyone how I just finished Burning River which was a little embarrassing. I’m sure no one really cared about the insane girl with the wild-child toddler and a pink stroller!
At 7pm we all walked to the top of a big hill to the starting line. The race director gave a few little directions and shout outs but I missed most of it because I was feeding the baby cookies to keep her quiet. After a few minutes we were off!
The first quarter mile or so was across a parking lot and then left across the top edge of it. Then we turned onto a trail. A real, honest to goodness dirt and grass and rocks trail! The stroller was hammering up and down like a jackhammer and I couldn’t see where my foot would land next so I was forced to back down the pace quite a bit and a few people passed me. I told myself I didn’t care but when we reentered the road after a half mile I started trying to gain back my spot. Mile 1: 9:24
After that there was a fairly long uphill to a turn around point. I saw all my friends and shouted encouragement but I was slowing down. I could feel that uphill was not in the cards today. More people passed me. After the turn around I fairly flew back down the hill but we turned back onto the same trail and I was forced to slow down even more this time. I even walked a few portions for fear of overturning the stroller. Mile 2: 11:14
After we exited the trail into the parking lot where we had started we ran across a bridge and down a paved road on a steep descent. I hate braking on descents but I had to keep control of the stroller on the winding road. I passed many people on the way down and probably got a little ahead of myself. At the bottom of the hill we could see the finish line but we ran right past it. A little while later we turned around at a cone and headed back. I passed one more woman on this section and then there was no one left to catch. So I just tried to maintain the best possible pace. Mile 3: 9:28
The last .1 or so was an 8:37 pace. Time: 30:40
We crossed the line with Allison cheering wildly and amused onlookers cracking jokes about the baby beating me and how I would have crushed the whole field if I had ditched the stroller. It was hilarious to me that they were so impressed with my 30 minute stroller run. Allison actually did perform impressively and took 3rd woman overall.


Allison and I post-race
Since Allison had won an award I wanted to stick around and see her get it. I got the baby some pizza and ice cream and she made a mess and ran around like, well, a two year old. While we were waiting the official results went up and my eyes almost bugged out of my head when I saw I’d gotten 3rd in my age group. I finished 52/81 overall and 3/4 in my age group. It’s kind of hard to believe I beat anybody in my current condition but I apparently did.


I guess now I should probably actually rest and recover but I’m not good at taking my own advice. I’ll probably just try not to be too stupid and maybe hide all my running friends on Facebook for awhile.

Surprise Improvements

This is the second year I’ve run the Jerry Maher Sr. Memorial 5k for Parkinson’s Awareness. Last year I finished in 27:46. It’s weird to think of that as a good time now.

This year I went into the race not remembering what I ran last year. I remembered the race and the course but I couldn’t remember what I ran and I didn’t really care. I have run about 40 miles so far this week and my legs are trashed. I’m four weeks out from Burning River 100 and all I can think about is tapering. So I hoped I’d pull a 25+ minute run out of my behind today. I would have been thrilled with 26-27 minutes too.

When we arrived I noticed every fast local runner was there. Heath, Emery, Dom, Rich, and Dana were all warming up and chatting around the starting area. I saw plenty of women that had that lean, hungry look that usually signifies speed that I didn’t know by name as well. I figured I was well out of the awards at this point and just hoped I’d survive without walking.

Shane and I collected our bags and hung out in the car until 15 minutes before the 9am start. Then I did a quick warm up run up the road and back to see what my legs were going to give me today. I had an easy 9 minute mile pace on the uphill and no problem flashing 7’s on the way back down so I decided to go out like I was actually racing and let my legs dictate the pace from there.

At the last minute, literally on the starting line, they announced that a tree had fallen on the course and a bridge was out so the course had been diverted and would be almost entirely new. I was a little ticked that this couldn’t have been posted earlier, whether online or by sign at the race. I had definitely arrived early enough that I could have run the whole course as a warm up but I assumed I knew it already. Now I was flying blind.

After a couple false starts (no kidding, they actually pulled us back for that) we were finally off. The lead pack was gone in minutes and I was pretty much by myself. There was a group of young kids all around me and I kept waiting for them to die off but they never really did. Every time one fell off the back another one caught a second wind and took their place. I tried to ignore their uneven pacing and labored breathing and focus on running as evenly as I could. I figured even 7:50’s would get me a PR but it was still a long shot.

Mile 1: 7:53

The second mile turned out to be a long, gradual uphill. I kept chugging along and hoping for it to end. And it finally did right as I hit mile 3.

Mile 2: 8:51

The third mile was pretty gentle and I picked up the pace. There were a few small out and backs with sharp turns to eat into my steady pace. By 2.5 I wanted nothing more than to stop and walk but there were some older guys urging on the young kids that were still hanging with me and I did not want to get beat by any of them. I started focusing on picking them off one at a time until the finish line was in sight.

Mile 3: 7:56

I didn’t have much of a kick and just tried to hold on through the chute. I ended up with an official time of 24:40 for 43 overall and 2nd in my age group. Considering this was on dead legs and in 80 degree heat plus on a hilly course, I’ll take it. If it weren’t for that darned second mile of uphill I very well might have PR’ed. I can pretty much guarantee that, if I survive Burning River, my first 5k post-recovery is going to blow my previous times out of the water.


Back To Back Halves

Part 1: Fox Township
This weekend I was feeling frisky. Well, actually I was feeling fed up, anxious, and antsy thanks to a bout of shin pain that cut my weekly mileage short. Shane and I were already signed up for the Fox Township Bicentennial Half Marathon on Saturday so I just hoped I would survive without too much pain.

We woke up at 2:30 am on Saturday morning (no, that’s not a typo) and left at 3:30 am to make the 3 hour drive to Elk County, passing such wonderful towns as Weedville and Lickingville. We made it just after 6:30 and picked up our packets and shirts. Our goody bags contained 3 Gatorades and 3 Gu flavors. Can’t beat that for a $20 race!

Around 7:30 we were all herded onto school buses and taken to the start line (point to point course). Rumor has it that some people misunderstood and showed up at 8 for buses that were already gone!

During the 20-ish minute drive to the starting line Shane and I noticed that we were doing an awful lot of up and down. There is no elevation chart on the site and I don’t feel like trying to find USGS data so you’ll have to take my Garmin’s word for it. However, the hills at the end felt much bigger than they look here!
We were dropped off in Big Springs on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere and shortly after we lined up at a spray painted line and a guy yelled ‘Go’! My shins were already giving me grief from step one and I was starting to worry that I’d made the wrong decision in running the half. I tried to hold my pace down as people took off ahead of me. There were overweight men, old ladies, and young kids just leaving me in their dust and I wanted to cry.
The first couple miles I wanted to just quit but I was in the middle of the mountains and forest and I hated to miss another day of training with Burning River approaching so rapidly. My shin pain started to fade, however, which brightened my outlook considerably as I approached the turn around (we started on a side road, turned left onto the main road for a couple miles, and then turned around and ran up the main road for the rest of the race).
Miles 1-4: 9:49, 10:27, 11:17, 10:19
Around mile 5 I started to feel good and began to pick up the pace. I caught a couple stragglers and set my sights on the next few women in front of me. I would reel them in and then run next to them for awhile until I felt ready to go after the next one.
Miles 5-7: 9:41, 8:55, 8:29
Around mile 8 the woman I was running near suddenly stopped and told the man she was running with that she felt like she couldn’t breathe. The heat was pretty oppressive by that point and she was wearing all black. I instantly lost all competitive spirit and stopped to walk with her and offered her my handheld. Thankfully it seemed to revive her and as we approached the mile 8 water stop she started to run again. We ended up running most of the next 4 miles together and she even took a picture of me while we were walking up a hill.
Miles 8-12: 10:59, 8:59, 12:41, 10:35
As we neared the finish line we left the countryside and began to run along residential lots. The houses all had a lot of acreage but the trees had been cleared meaning there was very little shade. The last 5k was tough with lots of rolling hills and temperatures nearing 90*F or more. Some nice folks set up beer stops in the last couple miles. I gladly drained my cup at both stops.
As I reached mile 12 I realized I wasn’t doing too badly despite the heat and decided to see if I could get 2:10. I was trying to pace it just right and as I approached the last turn a woman told me I was less than half a mile from the finish. I must have lost GPS signal in the trees because I had figured I had about half or three quarters left. I kicked into gear and cruised into the finish, catching one more woman before I crossed the line. Official time: 2:11:32
Mile 13: 8:47
I ended up 54th overall and 2nd in my age group. We also won two door prizes, a bunch of Gatorade and a hat. Overall, I’m thrilled with my performance. The last time I ran a half this hilly I was almost 20 minutes slower and it about killed me. This time I could have kept going and kind of wanted to. Which lead me to Sunday…..
Part 2: Peace, Love, Run
I knew I wanted to do a long run Sunday and I preferred to do it with people rather than by myself. I’ve really had enough of running by myself at this point. So I set my alarm for 5:30am knowing there were two group runs or a half marathon within an hour drive. I surprised myself when my alarm went off and I rolled right out of bed.
I chickened out of the group runs knowing that I might not be able to keep up on dead legs and I didn’t want to be lost in Pittsburgh. I decided to go for the Peace Love Run Half Marathon (advertised as 13.22 miles?) thinking I could run some trails or another loop of the lake after I finished. My aunt and uncle were both volunteering at the race so that added incentive too. I hustled out the door with only coffee in my hand and inwardly groaned when I noticed it was already 70*F at 6am.
I made it to North Park with little time to spare and ended up parking a little over a quarter mile from the vanity makeup table. I jogged in and registered quickly and then checked my race bag and shirt since I was out of time. Thankfully my aunt was working the bag check so that saved me time! I then lined up for the port-a-johns and made it out just as the mass migration to the starting line began.
I lined up farther back than I normally would and missed the fact that there were no starting mats, despite chip timing and a large number of entrants, so my Garmin splits are probably way off. As I started I wanted to see how close I could get to yesterday’s time. I could feel the heat picking up by the minute and I worried how bad it would get on a course with much less shade than yesterday’s half.
Miles 1-4: 9:38, 10:13, 9:44, 10:03
It didn’t take me long to decide to back off the pace and just enjoy the run. I was running beside another woman and we were chatting about the heat and our recent races when I heard footsteps behind us. A cheery woman asked if we minded if she joined us and we assured her we didn’t. She told me this was her first race (not first half, first RACE) and she’d started running in January. She had also lost an awesome amount of weight in that time. I instantly liked her so we stuck together.
Miles 5-8: 10:28, 10:11, 11:44, 11:40
Around mile 7 it was pretty obvious my new friend was hurting. She began to take more walk breaks and linger longer at water stops. She kept encouraging me to leave her but I really didn’t care about time. I was more excited to see her first finish. It brought back so many memories of my first half marathon and I remembered clearly all the pain and doubt of those final miles. I encouraged her and tried to be patient without letting her go slower than necessary (I hope I wasn’t too pushy).
Miles 9-12: 12:54, 12:02, 14:19, 13:15
Once we were less than a mile from the end I started to push her a little harder. I told her everyone on the course was hurting (I was hurting) and the best way to end the torture was to get to the finish line. I pushed the pace on our running sections and tried to walk a little faster when she needed a break. Even though it was obvious she was really suffering she took it like a champ and ran the last quarter mile non-stop.
Mile 13: 11:53
Last .22 (0.34 by Garmin): 9:45 pace
I crossed the line in 2:31:38 and she finished 2 seconds behind me. We collected medals and ice cold water bottles and then I gave her a high five. She really earned her medal and I had a blast helping (I hope) her do it!
My official finish results are 157/181 overall and 26/35 age group. It may be my slowest half time yet but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! It was way more fun than any other half I’ve run so far.

Alpha Fitness 5k

After the Laurel Highlands Ultra relay yesterday (where I ran 24.5 miles of brutal, technical trail) my plan was to rest, nap, hydrate, eat, and pretty much do nothing today. I had gotten home somewhere around 1am and by the time I showered and crawled into bed it was nearly 2. I woke up to Shane getting ready for a local 5k at around 6:30 and rolled right back over. About an hour later my phone wouldn’t stop ringing and I finally gave in and answered.

Shane begged me to come down to the Alpha Fitness Highway to Healthy 5k. There were only 20-some people there and he thought I could win. I told him he was nuts since I already had major mileage on my legs from the All Stars Week mileage game. I was just ready to go back to bed when the little voice in the back of my mind said, “Three more miles could only help your miles game team. You don’t have to race.”

So I threw on some clothes and my trusty Altra Torins. I didn’t have time to do anything with my hair so I added a hat as well. No phone, keys, water, or anything besides my cup of coffee. I walked out the door and jogged down to the path. I found Shane and we got me registered. I drank my coffee and fretted about the burning scrapes on my leg from yesterday’s relay tumble and the aches I’ve already accumulated this week.

The race started a few minutes late and I lined up right up front. So much for not racing huh? I know from past experience that sometimes just showing up is enough to win in a small race. So I went for it. The horn sounded and I took off with the front pack. There were two men and a woman just in front of me. The men were pulling away but the woman was running my pace. I pulled up shoulder to shoulder with her and just hoped to hang on.

Mile 1: 7:50

As we approached the turn around I could feel the fatigue of all the heavy mileage settling in. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I pushed or how fast I turned over my legs. There was just no power left in my toe off and my pace began to slip. I high-fived my husband, who was leading, and then turned back toward the start. I saw the third woman was about a minute behind me and that gave me enough of a rush to keep moving despite slowly losing the lead woman.

Mile 2: 8:30

In the third mile I would have walked if our friend, Jennifer, hadn’t been in third place and gaining on me. I kept glancing over my shoulder and she would be a little closer every time. The jolt of adrenaline would improve my pace for a moment and then my body would begin to shut down again. I told myself I just had to hang on for second place. I would never forgive myself if I let Jennifer catch me now.

Mile 3: 8:50

I saw the finish line ahead and I took one more glance over my shoulder. Jennifer was only 20 or so seconds back now so I pushed as best as I could. That ended up being 8:30 pace for the last .13 miles but it was just enough. Jennifer finished 8 seconds behind me.

Final time: 26:21

5th overall, 2nd woman, 1st in the 20-29 age group. I also won a gift card for a manicure and pedicure in the chinese auction. They only give awards for the 1st overalls and the first in each age group so I got a smaller trophy for my age group win. Shane won overall and got a huge trophy!

Just goes to show it’s all about who shows up!

Our friends
(Shane and Emory in the back. Me, Jennifer, Lukas, Melanie, and Carina in the front.)
Got trophy?

Run Like Bigfoot is Chasing You!

This weekend Shane and I ran the Bigfoot Half Marathon in Kittaning, PA. It’s a small race and very low key. The price is good thanks to cotton race shirts and no finisher medals. I had a small hope that I might be able to take an age group award at such a small event.

Race morning I woke up about 10 minutes before we needed to leave. I decided to roll over and go back to sleep but Shane dragged me out of bed. I threw on some clothes, took breakfast into the car with me, and somehow managed to get us to the YMCA in one piece and with a little time to spare. We checked in and I hit the rest rooms and then we lined up to start. The 5k and the half marathon started together but there was roughly 125 runners total so it really didn’t matter.

Here’s a pic from last weekend’s Just A Short Run 30k

I lined up about 1/3 of the way back from the starting line to allow the faster 5k runners some space. I probably should have moved up a little because I was dodging people from the gun until the first mile marker. I had planned to hold back and make this just another long run but I started to feel competitive as I looked up the trail and saw very few ponytails. I also could see another runner that I beat by just a bit last week and I couldn’t help wanting to beat him again.

I ran with another woman for the first 4-5 miles. We were putting out a good pace, right around 9:10-9:20 per mile. I couldn’t help worrying that she would surge and I would lose her though. So I made the first move, left her, and caught my rabbit. I passed him just before the turn around and then gapped him by maybe 1-2 minutes. Counting women on the way to the turn around I was in 11th place but I could tell the 10th place woman was fading quickly. Top 10 sounded like a good way to start my day.

This is Shane’s bib, shirt, and medal but I’m too lazy to take my own pic.
As I approached mile 8 I started to feel the effects of all the miles and racing I’ve been doing. My will and my legs were fading but I was slowly closing the gap on the 10th woman. Just as I caught her the woman I’d been running with at the beginning blew by us. She had to be doing sub-9 minute miles. I passed the now-11th woman and increased my pace again but I couldn’t catch the new number 10.
I started to drag again as I approached the 10 mile mark and the woman increased her lead. At this point my rabbit popped up right behind my shoulder and scared the heck out of me! I hadn’t expected him to catch me but I was ready for some company. We stuck together through the last 4-ish miles and put the hammer down, laying down a 9:05 pace for the rest of the way.
I kept trying to catch the woman ahead of me but she kept her pace steady and maintained her lead through the finish. I managed to surge at the end and beat my rabbit by 7 seconds which was somewhat satisfying although I wouldn’t have held that pace without him so it kind of evens out.
Shane got a pic of me crossing the line
My official time was 2:02:14. So freaking close to sub-2! If only I hadn’t slowed down from 8-10! I was 31/44 overall and 3/8 in my age group so I achieved my dream of getting a medal. Shane was 13th overall and 2nd in his age group so it was a good day for both of us. I celebrated by doing 7.5 more miles after lunch to make it 20.6 for the day and then doing 15 more today. I’d say a 62 mile week is a good way to celebrate my first AG award in a half marathon! 😉

We Survived the Apocalypse!

No, I don’t mean the ‘frankenstorm’ that is supposed to strike the east coast in the next couple days. I mean the Alpha Fitness Apocalypse 5k this morning. After 6 races in 4 weeks, most of them hilly, my legs are in full on rebellion.

The Apocalypse started right on time at 9am and went up the Yough River Trail, through a hilly section and then turned around and came back. Mile 1 was mostly flat and I clocked an 8:10 per my Garmin. Mile 2 I hit the hills, the turnaround, and more hills. Garmin clocked 8:43. Mile 3 was better as it covered the same ground as mile 1. I think it showed as a 8:2x on the Garmin. Final showing was 3.14 miles and 26:26. That was good enough for 4th woman and 1st in my age group.

I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t drag a better response out of my legs. If I had run within 30 seconds of my 5k PR I could have taken a podium place and gotten a really cool trophy with flames on it. Oh well. Better luck next year! Shane and his mother both got first in their age groups as well. Ash and Gemma probably could have gotten age group awards if they’d gone more than one deep.

On the fun side I got a lot of compliments on my INKnBURN skeleton shirt. And Shane said my new purple highlights look very Halloween-ish (that is NOT the look I was actually going for). Now it’s time to relax with the kids for a bit until we all head over to the neighborhood church for a Halloween party tonight. Then tomorrow I guess I’m running a half marathon with Shane. He just informed me of this today! LOL. Such is life in a running family I guess.

Purple highlights
Off to catch up on homework, FaceBook stalking and housework. I’ll be back tomorrow to update on race number 7 for the month (I think)!

Footsteps For Recovery

Today Shane, his mom, Ash, and I ran the F4R 5k in North Park. I woke up with a stuffy nose and Shane said he didn’t feel that great either. I went got ready and convinced myself to have no real expectations for the race. We picked up Shane’s mother and drove to the park to register. I was excited to learn the race offered a 4 runners for $65 deal! Saved us a boatload of cash!

Getting registered

We lined up on the four lane loop around the pool building and baseball fields. Having four lanes to run in meant I wasn’t concerned about finding the right spot to line up. Shane, my mother-in-law (with Ash in the stroller), and I lined up right up front to the far left. The announcer explained the course was two loops, one counter clockwise and one clockwise, and then we were off.

The race begins!

I went out as hard as I felt I was capable of today. I kept Shane in my sights and tried not to let him get too far ahead of me. For most of the first loop I could either see him or catch glances of him as I rounded each bend. I was shocked to realize the course was nothing but hills, big ones, steep ones, rolling ones…. just hills! I forced myself to maintain pace as best I could on the ups and really hammer the downs.

As I approached the turnaround I saw Shane just coming back. He was in roughly 4th or 5th place. We high-fived as we passed eachother. I wanted nothing more than to just quit right then but something told me I was doing well regardless. I didn’t wear my Garmin so I had no clue what pace I was running but it felt fast.

Shane approaching the turn around.

I took off from the turn around and tried to catch some of the guys in front of me. It was all I could do to keep pace with them for the most part but it gave me something to focus on besides the pain. Then it started to rain and I sank into that dark place reserved for runners’ minds. Within a few strides of basically deciding it would be okay to give up and jog it in, a woman passed me. I instantly thought, “Aw, hell no!” and sped up to catch her. It took me a tenth of a mile or so but I caught her again, passed her, and then just focused on keeping her behind me.

As the finish chute came into sight I dug deep and found my after burners. I put a good 10-20 second lead on the woman and just tried to hang on without puking or passing out. As I approached the clock I could see 24:3x. I almost stopped to rub my eyes and check again but I realized I wasn’t hallucinating and a PR was in my grasp. I turned it up just a notch more and got some pretty rousing cheers from the spectators. I crossed the line in 24:52 for my first official sub-25 minute 5k and a new PR!

Shane finishing

Shane finished in 22:11 and Ash and my mother-in-law both finished around 40 minutes flat. Shane and Ash each won second in their age group and Shane’s mom won first in hers. I got the short end of the stick with 4th place in my age group. Of 69 finishers, 18 were in my age group. 26% of the field were women between 20 and 29! Holy crow!

I tried to get a picture of Shane, Ash, and his mom with their medals but Ash wanted no part of sitting still so this race report will just have to be boring. 😉

Have you ever been in a race where it seemed like the whole field was in your division? When you set your last PR did you expect it or not?

Reece’s Round Up

Shane, Gabby, and I ran the Reece’s East Coast Round Up 5k today. This race is for Reece who lives in Colorado and suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Reece wasn’t supposed to live to see a year old but thanks to his family and friends and the money they’ve raised he’ll be turning 7 this October.

Seeing Reece made me even more excited about the race Shane and I are directing in September to raise money for Rex Timko. Rex is only 4 years old and suffers from Batten’s Disease but I know with the help of our community I know we can celebrate many more birthdays in the years ahead! You can find more details on the Boston Harvest 5k for Rex at Miles of Smiles.

Hanging out with Reece after the race.

Today was the hottest day of the year yet. When we got to the race site it was already in the 80’s. By the end of the race it was in the 90’s and definitely felt even hotter. The firetruck blew it’s horn to signal the start and off we went. I was feeling really good in the first mile. I was running with an older man who seemed to have a very consistent pace. I decided to go with that for awhile. As my Garmin clicked one mile I remarked to him that I hoped I’d still be running 8 minute miles when I’m in the masters group. He said he hadn’t realized he was going that fast and backed off. I was sad to see him go. Mile 1 was run in 8:04.

But onward I went and soon I picked a new rabbit. A woman in a pink sports bra was running just faster than my pace. I pushed to catch her and we were side by side for most of mile 2 without exchanging a single word. I think we were pushing eachother. She’d get a little ahead and then I’d catch her and pull ahead by a few feet. We hit a few hills in this section and having her to pull me forward really helped. I believe my mile 2 split was 9:18.

In the third mile we turned into a headwind and lost all of the shade. I began to feel like I was baking. I was panting and my throat was dry. My stomach started to ache and I wondered if I should walk. I forced myself to plod forward but looking at my Garmin showed my pace was even slower than mile 2 on the hills. The woman in the pink sports bra started to pull away and I tried to catch her but my legs felt heavy and unresponsive. Three 5k’s in 8 days may have been a little much. I missed my mile 3 split but it had to be mid or high 9’s.

I turned the last bend and saw the finish line. It was still two tenths of a mile or so away and I tried to pick up my pace but settled for just maintaining. I heard footsteps behind me and two teenage boys flew past. They had been walking on and off the whole time and I realized that they had no clue about pacing. Next came three older gentlemen who obviously had a finishing kick left when I did not. Being passed 5 times in the last tenth of a mile was not fun at all but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I came through the chute and stopped my Garmin. I started to dry heave as I walked to the chip removal area. The volunteer handed me a bottle of water and I made it to the grass without losing my breakfast. The EMT’s were treating a woman who’d blacked out on the sidewalk. It was obvious it had been a rough race for everyone.

In the end my official time was 26:57 and I placed second in my age group. I was thrilled to do better than my last two 5k’s on a rolling course in killer heat. Shane finished in 23-something and Gabby finished in 33-something. They both missed age group awards by one place. I really wish we could have sent Gabby back to North Carolina with an award but it didn’t happen this time. Hopefully she’ll kick some tail in her next 5k when she gets back home!

Showing off my hardware.

Afterwards we celebrated with Cracker Barrel for lunch and then I finished my scheduled miles for the day. My plan called for 7 miles at marathon pace so I did 4.3 more when I got home at 10:16 average. I’m pretty happy with that, especially with the heat and feeling so horrible after the race. All in all it’s been a pretty awesome week and I still have one more day of my husband being on vacation to look forward to!

Independence Day

Happy Independence Day everyone! Hope you’re happy, healthy and sharing it with your loved ones!

We’re enjoying it thoroughly on our side. Shane is on vacation this week so he’s been keeping us busy non-stop. We went to a local amusement park and got night passes after I got off work on Monday. It was fun to go for only a couple hours and not worry about riding everything. We’ll save the whole day passes for when Gemma returns from visiting my grandmother.

Yesterday I took a half day vacation from work and Shane, his niece, and I drove to Punxsutawney, PA for their Groundhog Festival. It was a really long drive but we kept ourselves thoroughly amused by spotting all the rural oddities. Horse and buggy, check. Hotel that looked like a shack, check. Farms and livestock, double check. Of course, we knew we were close when we started spotting groundhog statues along the highway.

Drive-by groundhog sighting
We saw so many groundhog statues that we decided to make a game out of it. Of course, we had to actually race first. The 5k started at 7PM and ran through the major roads of Punxsy. The only complaint I have is that the town doesn’t close the roads to traffic and the drivers were not very polite about sharing. The course was advertised as ‘fairly flat’. This was nowhere near true.
Shane had told me he thought I should go out at PR pace and see what happened. What happened is that we hit two average-type rollers in the first mile which took my PR pace to 13 seconds slower than PR pace. Then in mile 2 we hit a freaking mountain! I’m not kidding, this hill took forever to climb and the grade was enough to make my legs scream mommy! Then we went down the other side to the turnaround and got to do it again! Yippee!
I lost almost a minute on those two climbs and by the time I was on the downhill headed back to the finish my legs felt like lead. I kept telling myself, “Embrace the suck.” I have no idea where I got this from but it fit and it helped me keep pushing. I ended up finishing in 27:04 which was good enough for second in my age group. Shane finished in 23:xx and also got second in his age group. Gabby’s age group was stacked with local cross country runners but she still put up a good fight. I think she got 4th in her age group!
Posing with Liberty Phil
Race Shirt and medal. Even the swag is groundhog brown.
Afterwards we went on with our plan for groundhog hunting. Our version was bloodshed-free though. We wandered around the town locating groundhog statues and taking pictures with them. We also spent some time at the festival itself. My marathon munchies have struck with avengence and a gyro, half a large order of fries, and an ice cream cone with sprinkles all fell victim. We all had a really good time and it made the 4 hour round trip worth it!
High five Phil!
Bellhop Phil
Nature Phil
LSD Phil? Shane looks high anyway.
After a good night’s sleep we were ready to party! We had a cookout for family and had a grand old time pigging out. Unfortunately, marathon training won’t wait for the holiday so I’ve got 7 miles to run before we reconvene for fireworks. Hopefully I’ll burn off at least a quarter of what I ate!
Ash learned how to eat from her mother

It’s Supposed to Hurt

I ran the Jerry Maher Memorial 5k today. Shane and our niece, Gabby, ran as well and we had a blast in the process. This race is held to raise money for Parkinson’s Disease research. This year I believe there were 108 runners and I don’t know how many walkers.

Team Brunazzi after the race.
I knew going into this that I’m not in PR shape so I dropped that hope before I left home. I thought 27 minutes would be a good goal given that the temperature was a little lower this morning. I know Shane always wants a PR and this was Gabby’s first race so her only goal was to finish. I pointed out a group of teens that didn’t look like local track stars and told her to beat them, which I believe she did!
By the time we registered the race was already out of shirts except for XL. We opted to take some of last year’s leftovers off their hands instead. I ran a quick half mile warm up and the hung out with our group until it was time to line up.
Never look a tech tee in the mouth… even if it is the wrong year!
The race start was crowded and it didn’t seem like most people were lining up according to their abilities. There were little kids in front of me and a woman who definitely looked faster than me right behind me. I tried to plant myself at the middle of the front of the pack but I couldn’t tell who was walking and who was running so I gave up.
When the race started there was about 2 minutes of mass chaos while everyone figured out their pace. I went out way too fast and was actually ahead of Shane for a little bit. Once we made a couple turns the runners spread out and it was easier to try to pull back. The first little bit was a slight uphill and then a slight downhill. I checked my Garmin and I was running sub-8 minute miles. Time to pull back more!
The middle section of the loop was a long uphill which really got me. I think this is where I lost most of my time. Once we finished the hill runners turned right and ran downhill for a short distance. Then it was a gradual grade up over some train tracks and around a bend to end up back where we’d begun. We ran this loop twice and by the second time around I was really have trouble keeping my pace sub-10 on the uphill. I repeated, “It’s supposed to hurt” to myself over and over again.
What really helped was that there was a man right behind me on the second half of the second loop and I got it in my head that I didn’t want him to pass me. When we got to the railroad crossing he tried but I gave a little extra and put him behind me again. As we approached the finish he kicked again and once again I caught him. Maybe 10 feet before the finish he was breathing down my neck and gave one last push. I tried but he threw himself across the line before I got there. I wanted to be mad at him for beating me in the last 2 feet but really I’m mad at myself for not having one more kick to out-race him.
My official time was 27:46. After I finished I found Shane and he said he’d done 22:16. I tossed him my water and went back out to find Gabby. I was surprised to find she wasn’t far out from the finish line. I turned back and ran with her to the chute. She finished strong in 33:18!
It ended up that I was 4th in my age group. I was a little disappointed but I would have had to run a PR race to get an award so I didn’t feel THAT bad. Shane took third in the 30-39 age group! Unfortunately for Gabby teens seem to be finding the joy of racing this year. The 15-19 age group had NO runners last year. This year there were at least more than 3. Gabby didn’t get the medal we’d promised her but we did take a pic of her wearing Shane’s and post it on her FaceBook page saying she’d won the race! Hey we gotta have fun somehow right?!
Shane with his medal
After the race we stopped at IHOP for some lunch and I mowed down the International Crepe Passport! I could have eaten another full meal too! I’d post pictures of the food but if I’d pulled out my camera to snap a pic it probably would have gotten eaten too!
After we dropped Gabby off at home I realized I had 4 miles for the day counting my warm up and cool down but I was scheduled for 6. I asked Shane to drop me off roughly 2 miles from home and I ran the rest of the way. It was definitely a little hot for my taste but it felt good to have all my miles out of the way early on.
Now I just have to convince Gabby she can race with us tomorrow! And maybe a Firecracker 5k on the 4th…. and maybe next weekend too…..   I hope I’ve created a monster! 😉