Hill…I mean, Hershey Half Marathon

The weekend started out a little crazy. That’s kind of status quo in a house with young children with sports and activities though, right?  My daughter had her exercise class in the morning and she had already missed the previous one, and since she loves it so much, I didn’t want her to miss another.  The hubby dropped her off so I could get stuff ready for the weekend because, for some reason, I thought it would be o.k. to save everything for the morning we were leaving!  Luckily, my older son didn’t have a soccer game (well, he did, but not until the evening so he was missing it).

I had to go to Target to grab some last-minute items (something else I shouldn’t have waited on). I got my stuff at Target and then picked my daughter up from her class and then it was a mad dash getting the kids ready and finishing up with packing.  The kids didn’t know where we were going so everything was also being done kind of on the down-low.  We pulled out of the driveway about 45 minutes later than I had wanted to.

The drive from Jersey to Hershey, PA was torture for me.  There was a bunch of traffic and we had left later than I had wanted.  The Expo/packet pick-up was until 5:00 but I was just so anxious!  We arrived at 3:45 so I had plenty of time to get my stuff and get the two older kids their shirts and bibs (with my wonderful hubby’s help) for the Fun Run that was taking place at 5:15.

It was starting to rain but by the time the kids were lined up for the Fun Run, the rain had stopped.  The kids were excited and it was so cute!  My son had sought out a boy while we were waiting under a tree in the rain before the race and talked to him the whole time and managed to line up next to him at the race 🙂  My daughter was just glad that the distance wasn’t as long as the Daughter Dash she had run the week before!

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Next up, Chocolate World for dinner and then the Chocolate Factory ride.  Our park tickets, which we got two for free from the half marathon, were also good for the last 2.5 hours the park was open that night.  We were undecided and my feet were already hurting from walking/standing around the Expo and Fun Run and Chocolate World.  Then, it started to pour.  We decided to just go to the hotel so I could get to sleep!

I slept pretty well, which I usually don’t do the night before a race, and I awoke at 5:40am.  The plan was to get myself out of the room by 6:20 but that turned into more like 6:30…and I woke up the baby and my daughter.  My hubby texted me later on that he had a non-sleeping girl and toddler in bed with him…oops!

I’ve never seen such a line-up of cars going into a race.  I’ve done bigger races but I guess I always get there super early or I stay over and I’m walking to the start line.  Again, I was anxious that I hadn’t left when I wanted and was so worried I wouldn’t get into the park before they closed the road!  Of course, I made it in 🙂  I parked right near a restroom in the parking lot and, when I was ready, I ran/walked to the start area to keep myself warm.  I was very happy I had gone with the long-sleeve shirt!

Everything is all ready to go the night before!

Everything is all ready to go the night before!

Hubby snaps a pic before I leave :)

Hubby snaps a pic before I leave 🙂

On my way over to the starting area.

On my way over to the starting area.

I didn’t have to stand around and wait too long before it was time for the race to start, although, it seemed like a long time because I was cold.  Once it was time, the sun was out and it didn’t take me too long to warm up some.  The announcer for the race said there were 5,000 runners/walkers.  I feared it would take a while to finally cross over the start mat but it only took a few minutes and I was off!

I had mixed feelings.  As some of you may recall, I’m still recovering from a toe “injury”.  It’s called turf toe and it will most likely be an ongoing issue and I’m supposed to stay away from hills.  I found a video on how to tape my toe and it has helped…and I now tape both big toes because it is affecting the other foot now, too 😛  I was so nervous because I knew this was a hilly course and the last half I had done was Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly which hadn’t been a great run for me.  On the other hand, I had just done the Perfect 10 a week before and, yes, the race had made me sore like I hadn’t been in a long time, but I really kicked butt and ran my fastest 10 miles…not really too many hills, though.  I hadn’t been training on hills because I was supposed to stay away.  In the back of my mind, I wanted to beat my time from my first half marathon but I didn’t know how the hills would treat me.  I definitely wanted to beat my time from Philly and I figured, even if I had to walk most of the hills, that would still be possible.

A lot is a blur but I’ll try to recap some.  We started out running around the parking lot of Hersheypark and the Giant Center before heading down a road and through a small opening in a back gate to Hersheypark itself.  Now, for those that have been to Hersheypark, you know that even that has a lot of hills!  Running in the park was fun though 🙂  It was cool to run by all the rides thinking that I’d be going on some of them later in the afternoon and running by runners going the other way (I never quite understood how that happened because it was a part that I don’t remember running but I think maybe they were runners doing the relay).  Running in the park was a bit difficult though.  It was tight in areas and people couldn’t quite decide which big planter sections with big trees and plants to go between because there would be 2 or 3 in a section.

Course map with elevations.

Course map with elevations.

Then, there was the run through the town and Milton Hershey School area.  Yup, more hills!  Every time I turned a corner, I swear there was another hill.  There were also spectators yelling that we were almost to the top of the hill, though, and running through the school area was fun because tons of kids were lining the streets giving high-fives!

Somewhere along the course.

Somewhere along the course.

Things started becoming kind of fuzzy from like mile 8 to mile 12.5.  Around mile 9 I actually started questioning myself and why I was doing this.  I was by myself, nobody I knew was running and this course was really messing with my mind!  There was the section behind Chocolate World.  Yup, let’s throw in another big hill!  At mile 11 there was a chocolate aid station, which was a mini Hershey bar, which I took and stowed away because I knew I couldn’t get down a chocolate bar.  Right after the chocolate aid station there was a really big hill and a guy behind me chanting over and over, “hills are awesome…I eat hills for breakfast” and I muttered, “hills suck!”  Towards the end, I thought it might be possible to beat my time from my first half marathon in Atlantic City (a very flat course) but when I finished with this hill I was really tired.  I almost walked that hill, but I’m proud to say, I didn’t walk any of the hills…no walking at all 🙂

We made our way back into the parking lot and it started to seem like the never-ending 13.1 miles!  There was a long stretch in front of the stadium with a lot of crowd support.  I had really started picking up the pace with hopes of still setting a PR but it started making me feel a bit queasy and then we just kept going!  I was hoping my watch was off.  It seemed like we should be finishing…but we just kept going!  We went back around to the back of the stadium and then into the stadium and then the finish line still seemed so far away.  After running around 1/3 or more of the track, I crossed the finish!!!  No PR but much better than my last half marathon.  I collected my medal, water and little cooler bag of goodies and then nothing.  I was proud of myself for running the entire thing with all of those hills but my family was back at the hotel waiting on me to get back and shower so we could go to the park and ride rides (and walk more hills).

DONE!

DONE!

Would I run this race again?  I really don’t think so.  It was well-organized with very friendly volunteers and the two free tickets to the park were a nice perk (although, I was very disappointed that they didn’t have the 13.1 sticker with the Hershey kiss as the “.” in the bag this year).  Maybe I’d do it again to prove something to myself but I am just now able to walk down a flight of stairs and feel normal…4 days later 😉

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Fueling Your Run

I’m slightly obsessed when it comes to food and running.  Not just food before or after a run, either…but fueling during and thinking the day before a long run, “how is this going to make me feel while I run tomorrow?”  I used to think about it a lot more than I do these days but I really need to get back to how I used to fuel my body.  I used to have so many healthy things in the fridge and pantry, and I still do, but it’s just easier to reach for the not-so-healthy stuff.

I have some races coming up in October.  I’ll be doing the Perfect 10 Miler; a race for women that I’m pretty excited about because, like Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia, a large number of women from Southern Ocean Ladies Running Club will be running it.  The week after, I will be doing the Hershey Half Marathon.

With two more big races coming up very soon, I’ve been trying to get back to eating healthy and trying out different fueling techniques while I run.  When I started training for my first half marathon at the beginning of January, I read a ton of articles on nutrition and different ways to fuel your body during a long run.  I found things that worked well but I don’t know that I ever found the one perfect thing for me.

I started out using Clif Shot Bloks.  They were very tasty but big and sticky and hard to deal with while running.  I tried some different gels but my taste buds were shocked by the salty flavor…and my stomach didn’t like them much, either.  Don’t remember exactly which ones I got but they were gross.  Then, I started using Honey Stinger pink lemonade chews.  YUM!  They are smaller than the Clif Shot Bloks, a little less sticky and so yummy.  They worked very well for me!

My BRF had also given me one of her Clif Shot Energy Gels in mocha (+ caffeine).  I was nervous to try it because I hadn’t liked other gels and I wasn’t sure how my stomach would do with the caffeine.  I enjoyed it very much and it worked very well and this was now my go-to fuel.  That is, until I started training for Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia, my second half.  What had been working for me for quite some time was now upsetting my stomach so it was back to the Honey Stinger chews.  I wasn’t too upset because these things are delicious.  It’s like eating candy while I run!  I also branched out to a new flavor.  Their pomegranate chews are very yummy, as well.

I’m not completely satisfied though.  I’m always looking for that product to make my runs feel a bit better.  One of the girls in the running club recently started working with Shaklee.  I had heard about them a tiny bit from the president of our running club because she uses some of their products but I hadn’t really checked them out.  Kim starting her business with them was the push I needed to finally look into them more and try some products.  I ordered the Energy chews and Performance sports drink in orange.

I waited anxiously for my opportunity to try the products out for a run!  That opportunity came when I was running the Cape May Winery 5K put on by Good Day for a Run.  I brought two Energy chews along with me, intending to eat them both 20 minutes before the race.  I got caught up in all of the excitement of race morning though and I forgot to eat them.

It turned out o.k., though.  I started out way too fast and after the first mile, I felt like I didn’t have much left in me and I thought I might need to walk some.  I was disappointed because I had yet to do a 5K in under 30 minutes and I wanted this to be the one!  Then, I remembered I had the chews so I decided to eat one.  After pushing through the next mile, I felt like the chew really kicked in and gave me the boost I needed to finish the last mile of the race…under 30 minutes…28:22!!!

The sky on the way to the vineyard. Running has really made me appreciate nature's beauty more!

The sky on the way to the vineyard. Running has really made me appreciate nature’s beauty more!

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Smile of a girl who finally ran a 5K under 30 min. :)

Smile of a girl who finally ran a 5K under 30 min. 🙂

I needed fuel after my PR ;)

I needed fuel after my PR 😉

The Tuesday following the 5K, I was running in the morning with my BRF.  I was tired and didn’t know if I even wanted to go.  I ate two chews, and by the time we were off and running, I felt more energized!  I have since also used them on a 10 mile run.  I ate one about 15 minutes before the run and one halfway through.  I also brought along the Performance sports drink on this run.  Ten miles was tough because it had been awhile since I had run 10 straight miles and I probably could have used one more chew but I am happy with the way the two products are working for me!  They don’t upset my stomach, they taste great and they seem to be doing what they are meant to do.

What are some ways that you fuel before or during a run/race?

If you missed my recap of Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia, check it out here!