I just got back to New York after a long weekend spent in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania…it feels like I haven’t been in my apartment in forever! I was invited to Pennsylvania as a blogger for the Runner’s World Festival, which is a weekend full of running goodness including a 5k, 10k, and half marathon. If you’ve been around the blog long enough, you would know that I have a bit of a grudge against the state of Pennsylvania, but you do not (I repeat…DO NOT) turn down Runner’s World. I love to run and I get invited to the headquarters of running? Yes, please.
The weekend was nothing short of amazing, as I got to spent time geeking out about running, hearing influential people in the running world speak, visiting Runner’s World HQ, hang out with bloggers (some who I have read for years!), see Jocelyn who
abandoned me moved to Oregon a month ago, and do what I love best…run!
I’ll talk about all the fun stuff we got to do and see while in Bethlehem, but let’s cut right to the chase…the races! Back when I was invited, the race options were presented to us, including the Hat Trick. If you’re a sports fan, you’d know that a “hat trick” is when a player scores three times in one game or has three successful victories…translate that into running, and that’s three races in one weekend! Since it was a few weeks after my goal marathon and a couple weeks before NYC, I decided to give it a shot.
Note: I think the last time I ran a 5k was maybe ten years ago, and I’ve only run a handful of 10ks and marathons. Minimal speedwork was done this training cycle, so let’s wing it! I had no idea what I was getting into, but you have to run a lot in the land of running, so count me in.
Runner’s World knows how to put on a race…bag check super close to the start, a warm building with real bathrooms to hang out in before/after the race, and finishing through an arc of fire. And they call your name at the finish line…I like it.
Hanging out with JB and Heather (!!) before the 5k and 10k.
I planned to take these races easy and enjoy, but since I haven’t run a 5k in years upon years, I thought it would be fun to go out and just see what would happen. So I lined up around the 7:00 group and took it from there. I don’t really know how to run a 5k, but all I know is this:
In mile 1, you go. In mile 2, you keep going. In mile 3, you keep going until the finish. It’s three miles, you give it all you’ve got. My plan was to keep a fast pace, but keep in mind that I have two more races coming up. I kept my watch on the mile pace just to have an idea of what I was doing. The course looked a little bit like this:
One big hill, then you’re in the clear. It may have been handy to know that beforehand, but oh well. I just went, held on, and finished. I think being in the dark about the courses actually helped this weekend. Anyway, looking at my watch, I got nervous about the paces since I really have run fast in a long time, but you can’t argue with the watch, and these splits are pretty nice…
Also, as a side note, you run across bridge with about two miles to go, and I spent the entire time scanning the running crowd heading the other way (my favorite thing to do). Amber, who I know through Sara, ran the 5k for her first race back post-baby (little boy is super cute too!), so I wanted to keep my eye out to cheer for her. I missed her, but she finished, so high fives, friend!
My only regret about the race was that I left it on mile splits the entire time, and with less than 100 yards to go, the clock read 19:50. I knew I was further than nine seconds away from the finish. I’ve never run sub-20 (possibly because I never run 5ks…), and if I had seen how close I was, maybe I would have pushed it earlier. But…that’s still a PR so life is good.
The 5k started at 8am and the 10k started at 9:30am, so there was a bit of rest time between the two races. We hung out in the warm buildings before getting ready to run again. I wasn’t sure what to do for the 10k and kind of planned on taking it easy, but I don’t really ever run races just to run them, and when that gun goes off, it’s a race. So the gun went off, and I took off. Oops.
Since we had just run the 5k course, I knew that this would probably be a hilly race. (I mean, you could see the hills without running at all, but running on them is totally different.) However, it was helpful to know the course a little bit, as it ended about the same and there’s a really nice hill with about two miles to go. Handy information to throw your back pocket. A giant hill (or at least a climb that seemed long at the time) in mile three made me rethink that knowledge, but I figured I should just go until I couldn’t go anymore. What’s the worst that could happen? Push onward…
I have no idea what went through my mind at this point other than to hold on, but I remember focusing on keeping my pace under seven minute miles (why not?) and took in a little bit of the scenery. Bethlehem is a cute city with houses, leaves changing color, and people coming out to cheer. I ran with my phone, but I can’t take pictures at that pace, soooo sorry I can’t show you the prettiness. Just think “perfect fall” and you’ve got it down. Anyway, back to the race! I held it together fairly well and just kept thinking of the finish line. I think I did a pretty good job:
Fairly even splits with that 6:41 including a giant downhill. The finish not only is under an arc of fire, but it’s right next to the steel stacks, which makes for quite the iconic finish. And again, they call out your name as you cross the finish line which is super awesome.
You know what’s also awesome? PRing in the 5k and the 10k on the same day. I apparently need to race more.
I ended up sticking around for awards hanging out with Jocelyn and Megan (she ran Hood to Coast with Nuun this year and I thought she looked familiar after the finish…). I knew I was up near the front, but wasn’t totally sure how many people were in front of me, so why not?
I ended up placing first in my age group in both the 5k and 10k! Bart Yasso called my name, and I got to run up on stage and receive my plaque from David Willey, editor of Runner’s World. Life is pretty awesome.
THE HALF MARATHON
The half marathon was on Sunday, so was it the same morning routine for the race. I woke up with some soreness in my legs, but it was time to run so we headed out. It was definitely a little bit chillier (windier?) for half than for the Saturday races, but oh well. I ditched my arm sleeves and just ran in gloves instead. Bag check was about half a mile past the start, so we dropped our bags off and had to jog back to the start area to make it to the start in time. I ended up lining up between the 1:30 and 1:35 pacers (oops?). Someone in the corral came up to me and said hi, and it was Joe! He claims we met in a corral at Chicago 2010, but I have no recollection of that. (Sorry!) We said hi and got ready for the race. Since the 5k and 10k went well, I figured I might as well go out and see what happened.
The race starts with a nice downhill, so the pace was fast from the start. However, the hills hit early so that definitely drew it back in. I decided to stick near the 1:35 pacer, and he was giving some good tips. He told us to keep the effort the same, so it was okay to go faster than goal pace during the downhills and slower on the uphills. After an uphill followed by flat, we headed downhill and he said, “Okay, 1:35, time to get it back.” It also helped that he seemed to know the course really well, telling us what was coming up after a hill or turn. I probably should have stayed with him longer, but I ended up going ahead after about three miles…so I learned a lot in those three miles!
A few things went through my mind through this race:
1. When are my legs going to die?
2. Just get to mile ____. (Whatever mile marker was coming up next.)
3. OMG ANOTHER HILL?
4. Can we have that downhill again?
5. When are my legs going to die??
This was a hilly race as evidenced by the elevation map:
Usually, what goes up must come down, but sometimes, what goes down must come up, and that’s not nearly as fun. I told myself to stride it out on the downhills and do work there, but keep it easy on the uphills. (Keep the effort the same!) It worked out pretty well, and my pace was fairly even overall despite the hills. A few miles were off due to big hills, but not bad. After the races yesterday, I got really nervous that my legs would just be done at some point, but that point never really seemed to come. At every big climb, I thought the race would be over, but we would head downhill and a little life came back into my legs, so I just focused on a mile at a time. It’s the best way to do it.
At one point, a spectator yelled, “Last big hill!” and I was waiting to yell bad things at her in my mind when the next big climb came, but it never did. So thank you, spectator, for being truthful. Also, thank you for the hills being OVER.
We came back down a giant hill and across the bridge. The only criticism I have of all three races is right at this point. You come down a hill and over the bridge, and right before you start the bridge, huge speakers are playing music. In the 5k and 10k, it was some sort of pump up music. At this point (mile 11-ish) in the half, it was some sort of slow music. A guy was running next to me, and I said to him, “They need different music here, it doesn’t make me want to run faster!” At which point he told me to run the Lehigh Valley Marathon, as it has great music. Then I think he ran behind me until the finish at which point I think he finished half a step ahead of me. He actually kept me going for the final two miles since I knew he was right behind me, and I meant to thank him at the end of the race, but I didn’t see him. So thank you for the motivation, guy in the neon orange singlet!
I counted down the entire rest of the race by tenths of a mile with about 1.5 miles to go. The course was the same as before, so I knew exactly what was coming, I just needed to get there. Somehow, my legs never gave out and I felt about as strong as you can feel at mile 12 of a half. I came back through the steel stacks, and the hat trick was complete!
David Tratner, director of communications/PR for Runner’s World, was at the finish line for each race, so I got a high five each time I crossed along with a “great race!” Thanks David, always good to see a familiar face right away!
This wasn’t a PR, but two out of three ain’t bad, and that’s a solid race for PRing in two races the day before. I made my way to bag check and ran into Joe and Heather after their races. Heather and I represented the bling.
It was a bit chilly out, so we hung out inside for a bit until people starting heading back to the hotel on the hotel shuttle. I thought I may have placed, so I decided to stick around to find out. Joe was nice enough to stick out with me and give me a ride back to the hotel, and I’m glad he did! I ended up with second in my age group for the half and told David Willey it was great to see him again:
As I was walking off stage, they told me that I had gotten fourth in the hat trick. So close! But seriously happy with these runs, so that’s awesome.
Apparently I’ve been doing all my training wrong, since I’ve done nothing right in the past few months and have run really well! I think the key was that I never really had goal times, I just ran…and it worked! I seem to run better when I’m not constantly worrying about hitting a pace. As much as I didn’t like the hills in this course (does anyone like hills?), it made for a varied course and gave me something to focus on in the moment. Plus, apparently I’m not a terrible hill runner? And lastly, apparently I need to race more because if I can do all that in one weekend, what could I do in one race??
Super, amazing, bazillion thanks to Runner’s World for putting on a great race, a great weekend, welcoming runners into their territory, and treating us the best. I love to run, I love people who run, and I couldn’t have asked for better races. Thank you so so much!