PFBF Half Marathon (Sunday, July 14)

pfbfKurt and I like to incorporate races into our Vacations. We were planning to go to Maine this summer, and Kurt was excited to find a half marathon near the small, rural Maine town where he grew up. So we signed up.

I’m supposed to be increasing my base mileage in preparation for fall marathon training, but because I’ve been running so many races (and for other reasons, too) my weekly mileage has not been building the way it should be. So, I decided to make the week leading up to the half marathon a higher-mileage week and just treat the race as a training run.

We stayed with Kurt’s parents at their camp in Canaan the night before the race. The Dunkin’ Donuts in Canaan opens at 5am on Sunday morning (4am every other day!) so I was able to get some iced coffee on the way to the race. Their slogan is “America Runs on Dunkin,'” which I think is hilarious, but in this case perfectly true.

IMG_20130714_070705_595There were only about 80 people running the half marathon, and a little more than twice that many running the 5k.

It was hot out. High 7o’s and humid at the start.

I quickly decided that even though I was supposed to be running this as a training run, I still wanted to run it pretty hard, because looking at last year’s times, I had a pretty good chance of placing. (Not Smart! Do as I say, people, not as I do!)

So when the gun went off, I settled in at a fast-ish pace.

It was hot.

The first several water stations had only water. The first Gatorade I saw was at mile 8, and by then I was already starting to fade.

By mile 10, I was walking. In a half marathon. WALKING!! Yikes.

People were passing me. One guy caught up to me and said that I’d been pacing him the whole way, and that I needed to keep running. I tried, but soon had to tell him to go on.

Just before mile 12, he started walking and I caught up to him. I told him he had to keep running, and he took off! I couldn’t keep up with him.

I finished in 2:04:10.

I was so over-heated that I had goosebumps. I grabbed a bottle of water and found Kurt lying in the shade. The heat had really gotten to him, too.

IMG_20130714_102854_963Showing off my medal.

In hindsight, I really wish I would have stuck to my original plan and just run easy. I think if I’d started at a 9 minute/mile pace I probably would have done better. Instead, I started too fast and completely crashed. I hope you learn from my mistakes!

pfbf elevationFinal Stats:
out of 11 in my age group
13th out of 42 women
41st out of 84 finishers

Kurt finished first in his age-group, so we stuck around for him to pick up his $25 cash prize.

IMG_20130714_105616_335Then we went and found a local lake to cool off in.

IMG_20130714_113841_655The heat really wiped me out. I couldn’t keep my eyes open waiting for lunch.

IMG_20130714_122904_659But rallied enough to tackle the 6-flavor adventure series ice cream sampler at Gifford’s.

IMG_20130714_130430_115Mount Katahdin Crunch and Campfire Smore’s were the best. In case you were wondering.

Three things (July 8th-14th)

1. My husband loves peanut M&M’s, so we always have a giant bag in the house. Every once in a while, I sneak a handful. I have nothing against having a fun treat every once in a while (and my definition of “once in a while” may be on the liberal side). That’s something  I’m working on. I do, however, prefer my treats to still be actual FOOD. I don’t like the idea of the artificial flavors and colors in M&M’s.

I saw these in Target earlier this week and was intrigued.

IMG_20130707_121059_892The back of the label says “No chemicals, no hydrogenateds, no preservatives, no corn syrup, no artificials, no GMO’s”.

They’re colored with turmeric extract and cabbage and beet juice.

IMG_20130707_121007_696I figured the only difference between these and M&M’s would be that they are made with all natural ingredients. I was surprised to learn that their nutrition profile is actually better, too.

Peanut M&Ms                                         Unreal
Calories per 1.5 oz: 220                        Calories per 1.5 oz: 200
Protein: 4g                                              Protein: 6g
Sugar: 22g                                               Sugar: 16g
Fiber: 1g                                                   Fiber: 3g
Calcium: 4%                                             Calcium: 45%

So, how did they taste? A little strange at first, probably just because I was expecting them to taste like Peanut M&M’s and they don’t. I also thought that I could taste the powdered milk. I tried them again the next day, though, and loved them.

Verdict: A good swap!

2. I started using the Lose It! Ap on my phone again.

lose itMy afternoon snacking was starting to get a little out of control. Knowing that I will have to look at my total calories for the day makes me think twice about eating that extra granola bar or piece of chocolate or 6 handfuls of Unreal chocolate covered peanuts.

One of my favorite things about this Ap (other than being able to scan barcodes, So cool!) is that it gives a realistic “calories burned” estimate for activities. Most people tend to grossly overestimate how many calories they burn while exercising.

I have to admit, though, that the calorie budget is low, at least for me. If I try to stay within the calorie budget it sets for me, I am too hungry.

3. I went to Rachel’s Boot Camp class at Snap Hollymead.

It was not like this.

UntitledMore like this.

group exBut I liked it.

Kiwanis 4th of July 5k 2013

IMG_20130704_083029_216My only goal for this race was to beat last year’s time. I was in a rough patch as far as running goes at this time last year, so my time had been quite slow. I had intentionally set the bar low. I’ve been working on setting goals I can actually reach. Eventually, I will need to start setting more lofty goals, but for now I am mentally in need of some accomplishments.

So, anything faster than 26:24.

We had registered online ahead of time this year. Picking up our race numbers was quick and easy again. With the exception of the clueless guy who cut in line right in front of us. I’m pretty sure he didn’t see us, but I had no idea how that was possible. Kurt pointed out that he was wearing the new Google Glass,which probably explains why he seemed to have no idea what was going on. I don’t even want to think about how disconnected everyone will be to the world around them, if these take the place of iPhones.

IMG_20130704_064952_997The man in this picture is not the one who cut in front of us.

One of my favorite things about this race is that so many families run it together. I love to see families making running a part of their holiday traditions.

It was 73 degrees and muggy at the start. About what you’d expect for a July 4th race in Charlottesville.

Kurt and I did a mile warm-up. Our 10:12 pace was a little discouraging.

I made it a point to not go out too fast. The first mile didn’t feel terrible. Mile 2 started to get a little harder, but when I got to the hill that I had to walk up last year, it seemed so insignificant. Mile 3 was the hardest. I was hot and tired, but I still felt so much better than I’d felt last year.

I crossed the finish line in 24:37.

IMG_20130704_081425_966Goal accomplished.

Happy 4th of July!

Varmint Half Marathon (June 8, 2013)

IMG_20130608_172458_967The Varmint Half Marathon is an interesting event that takes place in a very rural area of Virginia. The story behind the race involves an unusually large coyote that had been eating all the local sheep.

The nearest chain hotel is about an hour away. Yet the race, now in its 20th year, always seems to draw a decent crowd. This year, there were 283 Half Marathon finishers and 110 5k runners.

Last year, we had come for the unique experience and challenging course. This year, I was there for a sheep. The prizes for this race are hand-made sheep. I was about a minute and a half away from winning one last year, and this year, I desperately wanted one!


My time last year had been pretty slow. I figured that, even on a bad day, I should be able to take at least five minutes off last year’s time, which would put me in a good position to place in my age-group.

In fact, I thought it was going to be so easy, that I didn’t even bother to taper properly. In the two weeks leading up to the race, I did cut my weekly mileage, but I also started teaching an early morning Boot Camp class twice a week. So, even though I was running less, I added some pretty intense workouts each week, plus a much earlier wake-up time.

I also somehow managed to forget to pack my normal pre-race meal (SO unlike me! I’m particular about what I eat and I never forget my food). But I did, and I was at the mercy of the hotel breakfast. Luckily they had plain oatmeal, peanut butter and bananas, which was about as good as I could’ve hoped for.

Race morning, my calves were still sore from Boot Camp and I was feeling pretty run-down. Yet for some reason, I still thought it would be a piece of cake to beat last year’s time. Why do I continue to over-estimate my abilities?

There were long lines for the Porta-johns. Kurt took this cool shot of people’s shadows as they were waiting in line.

IMG_20130608_074337_357It was humid, and a little chilly until the sun came out. Then it warmed up alarmingly fast. We could definitely feel the sun as we lined up at the starting line.


The first few miles felt hard, but it sometimes takes 5 or 6 before I really start to feel good, so I wasn’t too worried.

Unfortunately, this time it just kept getting harder.

I had one Gu, which I planned to take at around mile 6 or 7. When I got to the water stop at mile 6, the volunteers (mostly kids) were having a water gun fight. There were cups of Gatorade, but no water. A handful of runners had arrived just before me and everybody seemed to want water, so a line had formed. I didn’t feel like waiting, so I just grabbed a Gatorade instead and figured I’d wait to take my Gu with some water at the next water stop.

After what felt like miles, I finally saw the next water stop. It was already much later in the race than I’d wanted to take the Gu, so I went ahead and swallowed it, figuring I’d wash it down with water as soon as I made it to the stop. Again, there was Gatorade, but no water. I asked for water and the girl told me they were out. At first, I thought she meant they just didn’t have any poured (like at the last stop)but she looked around helplessly and it slowly occurred to me that there wasn’t any water left. My jaw dropped, and I snapped “COMPLETELY?”. “Yes” came her sheepish reply.

I felt really bad for snapping at her, but I couldn’t believe that on such a hot day I couldn’t get water at two stops in a row. I had no choice but to wash my Gu down with some thick, sweet gatorade. Yuck. My stomach felt sick and I was just so THIRSTY. I fumed for a while. I was hot and spent and annoyed. I was mostly angry at myself for snapping at the poor girl. She was out there trying to help and it wasn’t her fault. She definitely didn’t deserve that.

By the time I finally took my gu, I knew I didn’t have much of a shot of placing in my age group. I pushed as hard as I could, but there were so many women ahead of me.

I knew I wasn’t doing well, but I have to admit I was more than a little surprised when I got within sight of the finish and realized I was only barely going to beat my time from last year. I knew I was in much better shape this year, and yet the run had felt infinitely harder. I guess I have now learned the importance of a proper taper.

I drank a ton of water and then wandered over to check the results. I’d finished in 1:56:45 and placed 5th in my age group. I’d run a little faster this year, but was even further away from placing than I’d been the year before.

IMG_20130608_103531_133The setting for this race is absolutely beautiful. There’s a reason why they call it God’s Thumbprint.


IMG_20130608_072750_815 No sheep for me again this year! It’s kind of strange how badly I want one. I don’t want to wait another whole year for another chance to win one, but I guess that’s what I’ll have to do.

IMG_20130608_103047_650I had to get a picture of this guy’s shirt. I’m not sure what I would have thought about it if I’d just seen him out around town, but since he was at a race cheering for all the runners, I thought it was pretty funny.

varmint elevationPlacement:5th out of 24 in my age group
32nd out of 147 women
97th out of 283 finishers

Ivy Creek Natural Area

Distance: ~7 miles of trails
Walking: yes
Running: no
Biking: no
Dogs: no
Kid-Friendly: yes
Wheelchair/stroller accessible: education/barn, yes; trails, no
Fee: free

Activities and more information can be found on Ivy Creek Foundation website.

Check out Ivy Creek at Terrain 360.

IMG_20130406_163003_221Ivy Creek is a natural area, so no dogs are allowed. Running is also not permitted. For this reason, it is a great place to see some wildlife. I’ve spotted foxes, turtles, and many deer.

IMG_20130320_093129_948From the parking lot, find the trail that leads toward the education building and barn. Pass the trail/information kiosk on your left, and head toward the barn.

IMG_20130406_163411_762Just past the barn, you can pick up the trail system. Follow the red trail down to the creek. This is a great place to stop and let the kids do some exploring. Continue further down the path, and you will likely find some solitude and you might even spot some wildlife.

A trail map is available here.

Directions from Charlottesville: head north on 29. Turn left on Rio Road, then right onto Earlysville Road. Very soon, you will see Ivy Creek Natural Area on your left.

Montalto Challenge 5k (May 4th, 2013)

IMG_20130504_143601_662The Montalto Challenge 5K fell on my Birthday this year. I had mixed feelings about the way this worked out. On the one hand, it’s one of my favorite local races. On the other hand, my husband and I had done the Via Ferrata course on my birthday the year before, and I really liked the idea of continuing the tradition of trying something completely new and different on my birthday each year.

However, life has a way of interfering with even the best of intentions. Between changes in my work situation and still not feeling fully recovered from the Blue Ridge Marathon two weeks before, I was dragging. The idea of merely trying to think of something new and exciting to do seemed overwhelming. Never mind having to actually plan for and then do it. So we registered for the Montalto Challenge. It would be my third time, and Kurt’s first.

Race logistics changed this year. They added a packet pick-up option on Friday night at Monticello. They also had everybody park at Monticello on race morning and offered shuttles to the starting line for walkers and runners and to the finish line for spectators.

We picked up our packets Friday night. As always, I was impressed with the Swag for this race:

IMG_20130504_094611_844water bottle, cool race shirt, flower seeds packet, and coupons for Ragged Mountain and the Monticello Gift Shop.

It was about 45 degrees and overcast when we got to Monticello race morning. I was happy that we could use the heated, indoor bathrooms before heading down to the starting line.

We ran the two miles down as a warm-up. I was grateful for the long, brisk warm-up because it meant I wasn’t too cold waiting for the race to start.

We were faced with this warning sign as we lined up for the race.


I loved the starting line and mile markers:

IMG_20130504_075001_362My goal for this year was to break 30 minutes. I had finished in 29:24 in 2010 and 31:10 last year.

The first mile felt pretty good. Most of the second mile wasn’t too bad, and when it was bad it was mostly in my head. I felt much worse when I let myself think ahead to that last, (killer!) mile. Mile three was, as I knew it would be, miserable. I was sucking wind and feeling queasy as I made my way up the switchbacks.

montalto elevation

The Albemarle Pipes and Drums band was right on the course this year. I think I actually liked it better when they were out of sight. It was kind of  eerie and cool to run up the mountain to the sound of bagpipes in the distance, but not to be able to see where the sound was coming from. I still loved the fact that they were there for us, though. And I’m sure they were freezing in their kilts!

I crossed the finish line in 29:11. Happy Birthday to me! A race PR is probably about the best birthday present there is for a runner 🙂 It certainly wasn’t my fastest 5k, but it was the fastest I’ve ever run this all-uphill course.

It was brutally cold on top of the mountain, though. My hands were too cold to work the camera on my phone. Kurt had to take our picture.

IMG_20130504_083506_217I was thrilled to see that they had hot coffee. I grabbed a cup and a hunk of Great Harvest bread.

It was way too cold to hang out on top of the mountain for long, which was really disappointing. The views from the mountain are amazing, and Montalto is usually closed to the public, so this race is the only chance we get all year to be up there. I definitely would have loved to stay for the awards ceremony, music and spectacular view, but I was sweaty and cold and not dressed for the conditions. We quickly decided to jog back down to the car.

I did realize, once we were at the top that a pick-up truck had transported runner’s sweatshirts and such from the bottom to the top. Had we known ahead of time that that was an option, we would have taken advantage of that, and could have stayed much longer.

Final Time: 29:11
Splits: 8:12, 8:46, 11:33 (that third mile is a doozy!)
2nd out of 7 in my age group
18th out of 100 women
63rd out of 208 finishers

Blue Ridge Marathon (April 20th, 2013)

IMG_20130421_130701_116This is not a race you run if you are looking to set a PR. According to the marathon website, the course includes 3,620 feet of elevation gain and 7,234 feet of total elevation change. That sounded plenty challenging.  Three days before the race, organizers posted a fun little update on the race’s Facebook page stating: “Mother Nature is being a little mischievous…she raised the river levels and we’ve had to alter our course. The good news is that you just gained an additional 206′ of elevation change…yeehawwww.” Make that 7,440 feet of elevation change. Fun.

The elevation profile:Blue Ridge Marathon Elevation

The week leading up to the the marathon was such a strange time. All week I’d wanted to say something about what happened at the Boston Marathon, but I’d been at a complete loss for words. I’d felt the need to do something, but didn’t know what I could possibly do.

The Boston Marathon bombing hit me really close to home. I am a marathon runner from Massachusetts. Like so many runners, I hope to one day qualify for Boston. I have stood on the sidelines at marathons and cheered for other runners, and it has never failed to choke me up. It’s emotional. Every runner has a reason for taking on such a monumental challenge. There are so many stories. And, standing on the sidelines, there are people cheering the runners on. There are people volunteering their time to offer encouragement and aid to each of these runners. They cheer for the winners, of course, but many of these  people are still out there hours after the winners have finished, still cheering for the people in the very back.

The entire city of Boston was in lockdown while we drove through torrential rains to Roanoke for the race. At the expo, I was happy to see “Running for Boston” wrist bands and stickers. IMG_20130419_175356_384

IMG_20130419_190729_402-1Like most Americans, we spent Friday night glued to the television in our hotel room, watching the search and eventual capture, of Boston Marathon bomber Suspect #2.

A cold front had come through overnight and we awoke Saturday morning to temperatures in the low 40’s and wind chills in the 30’s.  Cold, but for any other race it would have been fine. The only problem was, we were running up a mountain. In the first 7 miles, we were climbing from about 930 to over 2100 feet. I’d been up there before, and I knew it was going to be cold. It didn’t help that everybody around me seemed to be wearing tights and hats and coats. I was in a t-shirt and shorts. I did have my gloves, but I run in gloves until the temperature hits about 60.

Luckily, The City Market was open, so we all had a nice warm place to wait for the race to start.IMG_20130420_065823_835

We had to pass through a security check before we were allowed into the starting corral. I’ve never had to do that before, but I was grateful for the extra security. There was a Boston Marathon flag hanging over the starting line, and runners were jumping up and touching it as they crossed the line.

After a week of wanting to say or do something, but not saying or doing anything, I was ready to go out and run a marathon. I wanted to do it for all the people in Boston who couldn’t.

The first mile through town was gently rolling. Spring-green and purple trees lined the streets and the mass of brightly-clad runners against the crystal clear blue sky was breathtaking. I looked up and saw the Roanoke Star nestled on the top of Mill Mountain. We’d be up there at mile 13.


Enjoying mile one! Kurt and I are right behind the two guys in blue.


Mile two started the first climb up Mill Mountain.

IMG_20130420_080119_333 We had run the first 15 miles of the course twice during training. Both times I’d had a pretty hard time, but today I was feeling great. It felt like I made it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in no time at all.

The climb up to Roanoke Mountain is the steepest section of the entire course. Since it comes so early in the race, I had decided to walk the steepest parts. Most people were doing the same thing. My walk/run strategy must have worked pretty well, because I was feeling good and having fun! I had a huge smile on my face when I reached the top. A volunteer looked at me and said I made it look easy. As I turned the corner, I was treated to an amazing, clear mountain-top view.

Kurt snapped this picture from the top.


The road down from Roanoke Mountain was even steeper than the road up, but there were a few more spectacular views to enjoy. I continued to feel good as I ran back up to Mill Mountain. The wind was intense at the Roanoke Star, and I felt bad for the volunteers up there, who were bundled up and having trouble keeping their cups and signs from blowing away.

At the bottom of the mountain, my mood started to change. The runner’s high I’d felt on the mountain was gone. I was at mile 15, and I knew that I still had another big mountain to climb. Mile 26.2 felt really far away. I kept on plugging away, though.

I started the climb up Peakwood, and found myself walking a lot. More than I’d walked on Roanoke Mountain. More than I’d ever walked in a marathon before. I walked so much that I started wondering if I could call what I was doing “running a marathon”.  Almost everybody else was walking, too, though. It was an interesting sight to look up and see everybody walking.

Peakwood had several false summits. It didn’t help that a little boy had told me that I was almost to the top when I was probably only a quarter of the way there. When I finally did get to what I thought was the top I vowed not to walk any more. Then I came to another steep hill. And another. And another. I ran as much as I could, but it was beginning to feel like I would never reach the top.

Eventually, I made it to the top, and was then treated to a fair amount of down hill, with one notable (evil!) exception.

Up until this point, I hadn’t been paying attention to my pace at all. At mile 20, I looked at my watch. I was hoping it would say I’d been running for less than 3 hours and 30 minutes.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw 3:12. I was on pace to finish under 4:15. My goal had been 4:30.

At about mile 23, a lady in front of me fell just as I was running by. It didn’t look like she tripped, it looked more like she collapsed. I stopped and looked back to make sure she had gotten back up. She was trying, but seemed to be having trouble. I went back and helped her up. She said she was fine, but she didn’t look fine. She looked kind of out of it. I ran slowly and kept looking back and asking if she was OK. She said she was. At the next water stop, I saw one of the course officials who was on a bike. I told her that the lady in blue behind me had fallen, and that somebody might want to keep an eye on her. I wondered if I should have done more.

At mile 24 I got a side stitch. It got worse and worse until it felt like my entire stomach was seizing up. I started to wonder if I was having a heart attack or if something had happened to one of my internal organs. It was very painful. I was a little frustrated because I wanted to run faster and knew that I’d be able to if it just didn’t hurt so bad. Luckily, I had fewer than two miles to go. Pain is easier to run through than exhaustion is. Thankfully, the last mile was mostly down hill. I was not moving quickly but I kept moving.

I crossed the finish line and looked at my Garmin. 4:15.


The race director shook my hand. I later realized that he stood there the entire time, shaking each runner’s hand as they crossed the finished line. How cool is that?

A volunteer placed a medal around my neck. The pain in my stomach was making me a little shaky, but, for so very many reasons, I was incredibly happy.

I didn’t feel at all like eating anything. I got some water and walked around and stretched. I made my way back to the finish line and waited for Kurt. Suddenly I was worried. I hoped that his knee was holding up alright. I wanted him to cross the finish line soon and I wanted for him to be happy and I wanted to give him a big hug. A few minutes later I saw him. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that he had two lei’s around his neck and a big smile on his face.


We went and found a spot on the grass. I laid down and closed my eyes, feeling the warm sun on my face. A mellow country band was playing on the stage nearby. The finish area was packed with runners talking about the race, people cheering for loved ones as they crossed the finish line, families with kids running around playing tag. And yes, more police and greater security, too. I was in awe of all of us. Less than a week earlier, this same setting (although, on a much bigger scale) had been the site of two bombings. And yet, here we all were.

Final time: 4:15:36
5th out of 24 in my age group
23rd out of 143 women
134th out of 424 finishers

I later read that a few people had to be treated by medical personnel, but nobody had to be transferred to the hospital. So the lady in blue must have been OK.

My reward:

IMG_20130420_135009_637The best peanut butter cup sundae I’ve ever had.