Race Recap: HFHM Part II

Wet. Puddles. Rain. Mud. Hiiiiiiillllls. Fun.

I suppose I’ve waited too long to give this race a proper recap. It was hard, but silly. The environment was stellar. My husband was with me to push me — and I didn’t get TOO mad at him for it. The river was rising to scare me, and for the first time ever at a race, I knew several of the volunteers. Can’t express how much more fun it is when your kids’ rock climbing guru is there to give you a hearty high-five and a cheer when you’re halfway up only just ONE of the hills that seem to go on for miles. Or how fun it is to sprint down them.

I’ve had writer’s block since this race. In the days leading up to and after it, I had some personal stuff going on that made my mind foggy and challenged me in many ways. The race was an accomplishment, it was fun and I want to do it again. But I had other stuff that trumped that and made me question everything. When it comes to running, that meant finding the clarity to be able to say, “You know what, I don’t want to spend the rest of this summer doing hours-long training runs in the heat!”

So, I have slacked way off on running, spent more time contemplating the future. We backed out of the Miner’s Lady race, which is coming up on Saturday. I’ve never quit a race before it started. The name pulled me in immediately, but I can’t fool myself into thinking I’m an endurance runner … yet. Not sure I want to be.

So … this turned into not much of a race recap, but now that I’ve broken the dam, hopefully I can get back to sharing our adventures more regularly. We’ve had some great ones this summer!

Coolest medal ever, right?! I want to wear it as a necklace!

Race Recap: Harpers Ferry Half Marathon, May 19, 2018 – Part 1

This race has a lot of meaning for me. I’ll start way back in the beginning. When I first started running, I did my first 5K in March of 2013. In May of that year I signed up for the 4-mile event at the Harpers Ferry Half. It would be my second race ever, and I hadn’t ever run more than 4 miles. The day turned out to be also a million other things for me: I was having my first postpartum period, my aunt had just died unexpectedly, and I was going to leave the next day alone with my kids to go home for her funeral. I also agreed to write a freelance story about the race for a local paper, marking my return to writing after being a stay-at-home mom for about a year. For all those reasons my run was miserable. I walked – or I could say dragged myself – up the hill to the finish line, and then I watched the half marathoners tackle the same hill during their 13+ mile race. I remember thinking some of them didn’t look all that different from me, and I just could not even begin to wrap my mind around such an accomplishment. I was very nearly on the brink of never wanting to do another race.

Somehow I kept going and eventually I did finish two half marathons. But the Harpers Ferry hills still seemed pretty out of reach. When 2018 began and I pondered what my goals would be, I kept coming back to this race. Then Two Rivers Treads, who sponsors it, put out a call for ambassadors. Those chosen would gain free entry. Without hesitation or overthinking anything I applied and was selected. So I trained for the Harpers Ferry Half. I did my first bonafide trail runs this year, and weekly hill workouts on the treadmill. I ran more than when training for any other race, though admittedly I feel like I slacked a bit in the home stretch.

My husband agreed to do it too, and in his last month a busy work schedule meant he didn’t get in much training at all. We made a pact that he would stay with me (I’m much slower) and we would finish together.

Race day dawned chilly and rainy, and with the forecast we knew there was no escaping getting wet.

Now let me tell you an important thing about my running philosophy: I really can’t stand the major name brand races that cost a ton of money and are all for profit. The Harpers Ferry Half is NOT one of those races. It’s a hometown event, money goes to support local organizations and the medals are handcrafted and GORGEOUS. As all the runners huddled under the tent at River Riders, Dr. Mark, the founder of the race as well as Two Rivers Treads (more on him will come in future posts!) advised us all to not think of it as a race but as a fun run, especially with the wet (near flooding!!!) conditions. He said we should be thankful we can run, and think of those affected by recent tragedies including the latest school shooting. These words really got to me, and I was feeling pretty choked up with emotion as a local girl took the mic to sing the National Anthem. I was deep in thought when I realized she was fumbling the words or losing her place, and that’s when she stopped singing and apologized. She explained it was her first time singing in front of a group and she was nervous. She asked to start over. Then a really cool thing happened: all the runners, wet before the race even started and about to head out for 13.1 waterlogged miles on a dreary morning, sang with her. I totally admit to being the biggest sap ever, but it was really a special moment. This community of runners that I felt so out of place in before is just such an awesome group of good people, and I was so proud to even be standing there among them.

When it ended, we shuffled to the start line where with little fanfare the race director counted us down and we were off.

Race recap: Race for the Birds 10K

I’d heard of this race, which is a fundraiser for the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, ever since I started running several years ago, but we’ve always had other plans on the date. I love the idea of contributing to PVAS in any way – it’s an awesome organization with great nature programs and summer camps for kids that all three of my boys have taken advantage of. I was happy that this year I managed to not be booked and could tackle the 10K as a training run for the upcoming Harpers Ferry Half. I heard the course, which was new this year, was hilly, and I need all the practice I can get for the notorious hills on the Harpers Ferry course!

The setting for the race was Broomgrass, which I believe is some type of farmland community/preserve. Aside from a few houses very spaced out, the course was definitely undeveloped and scenic. The drive was nice, and it was one of the first truly hot days of spring.

The course consisted of a 5K loop that went on the gravel roads of the community, on a single-track dirt path through the woods and on a mowed field. All good practice off-pavement!

The start was pretty level with one minor hill before we dipped into the woods, where it was gorgeous running but impossible to pass. This wasn’t as much an issue on the second lap but during the first I felt a little held back. Much of the rest of the course was manageable excepting two major hills that were so steep I didn’t see anyone else running them, and truth be told it was all I could do to even walk them. Between the heat and the hills I had a much slower time than I wanted but it sets realistic expectations for the half, so that’s good.

From the moment I arrived until I left, this was an extremely organized race – parking went smoothly, and it was easy to get in and out, the course was extremely well marked, and there were plenty of cheering volunteers. Tons of post-race snacks and cold water, too!

It was my first race using the Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek running belt, too. I loved having water with me, and I even more loved having my bib pinned to it instead of my shirt! One problem was that it kept twisting sideways on me which made the pockets rub my arms, so I kept having to straighten it – not a huge issue and might be solved by tightening it more.

This was a pretty small race but super well run, challenging and local and for a good cause, so I’m glad I got to be there.