Monday, October 21, 2013

Runner's World Half and Festival

Steel Stacks in Bethlehem

It was a no brainer for Emir and I to decide to run at the Runner's World Half and Festival again this year.  We went last year which was the first year ever for this event.  We had hotel points and Bethlehem is only about an hour from us so it was a perfect chance to have a weekend away alone and do LOTs of running.  We had such a blast, even more than we even thought we would so when registration opened for this year, we said "hell yeah!"  Last year we had decided to go all out and run the Hat Trick which is 5K and 10 K on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday.  Obviously we were doing that again this year! ;-)  The nice thing about the Festival is that you can choose whatever combination of things you want to run whether it's just one distance, two or three.  Each race comes with it's own swag and finisher medal.  This year if you ran the 5K and 10K (five and dime) you got a tech shirt and gloves.  If you ran the hat trick, you got a hat and two tech shirts.  The hat this year is very nice and what I thought a big improvement from last year's.  My only complaint is I wanted the gloves too!!! ;-)  hehe

Bar at the expo
I'm pretty sure despite how close it is to where we live, that I had never gone to Bethlehem prior to last year's Runner's World Festival.  It could not be a better location for this event.  The artsquest center, steel stacks, casino and historical sites all just create an awesome backdrop and space for the festival.  My personal favorite is the steel stacks lit up at night and the firey arch, awesome! This year they opted to move the expo inside the artsquest center rather than in the giant tent as they did last year.  Not only did this make for a much nicer environment but we could tell it was a bigger expo as well.  There were more vendors, free food, swag and a BAR to buy BEER!  Unlike last year Emir and I both made purchases at the expo due to the great discounts that were being offered on some items.  I also found out from one of the Altra guys (Altra is the main sponsor of the festival) that my Torins come with two insoles unfortunately since mine were a sample given to me, I only have the completely flat insoles.  I knew that the completely flat insole was what was causing me pain in my instep which disappointed me because I am a big Altra fan so even though he didn't have any extra insoles to give me, I am glad to know that most likely I would be able to successfully run in Altras.  Of course Emir has been dying to buy a pair of The One so when they said they were 20% off at the expo, SOLD! 

Aside from the location of the expo, there were some other changes this year.  I have to say that I felt that the majority of the changes were for the better.  On Friday when we went to the expo to pick up our bibs and gear, there was a kids band playing on stage outside by the finish line.  There were tons of kids in racing bibs jumping up and down, singing along.  Being a mom, I just thought it was fantastic.  We also watched part of the kids race.  The kids had a blast and they all received finishers medals.  Niko will be 5 next year so we are seriously considering bringing the kids up on Friday afternoon for the kids race and expo since it's only about an hour away.  There were also a couple running movies playing Friday night in the movie theatre that's inside the Artsquest building.  I just think it's so awesome that they have a real movie theatre right there to show the movies with popcorn and everything!  We didn't stay for any movies Friday night since we were crashing for the weekend at my co-worker's parents' house.  Got that?  Her parents are away for the month in California and she was running the hat trick with us as well so she invited us to stay there since the house is in Bethlehem barely 10 minutes from the steel stacks. 

Saturday morning was a bit chilly but a perfect temperature for running a couple of races.  We hit up dunkin donuts on the way and parked very easily in the free lot within walking distance of the start line.  Another benefit to the festival centering in the steel stacks area is that there is a large visitor's center with nice, big bathrooms with many stalls.  Did I mention it's heated?!  We were easily able to use these bathrooms several times before the start of the 5K and in between the two races.  We also hung out in there to keep warm between the 5K and 10K.  Oh and these amazing bathrooms is also where I found our friend Rebecca Shaefer!  We have become friends with Rebecca over #ultrachat which takes place on Sundays at 9pm on Twitter only to find out we ran a fatass style run with her last year on the trail near us.  As we are getting more and more into running we are definitely feeling like part of a community.  It's just great to now go to races and see people you know or to go on twitter and other runners you follow are at the same event and you can discuss it with them.  I just can't say enough about how much I love the running family!

warming up

This year was no different that last year in that Emir and I swore we wouldn't race the 5K and 10K to save ourselves for the Half.  HA!  Apparently that is really hard for us to do.  While we didn't PR in the 5K, we definitely would have if we had placed ourselves better in the starting corral.  We just weren't even thinking about it or that it really would matter where we stood.  It was definitely more crowded than last year which probably also played a factor.  We were in the middle back somewhere and for the first mile, we were almost trapped.  We just couldn't really go anywhere.  We weaved in and out a bit, took sidewalks but it was really hard to get to our pace.  Our second two miles we ran pretty fast.  We ended up with 26 minutes which is fine but it was a bit frustrating about the first mile however we really only had ourselves to blame.  Luckily sometimes we use our brains so for the 10K we moved up way towards the front.  I don't like to be in the way of people faster than me however the front is so thin with people that it's much easier for people to pass.  Both Emir and I were glad to see that the 5K and 10K courses were different this year.  Last year they were essentially the same course just with 3 more miles added to the 10K.  It was nice to have two completely different courses.  Also I should note that if you are not familiar with Bethlehem it's a hilly area so if you want flat races, these are not the ones for you.  The 10K went really well for Emir and I.  We felt strong and steady the whole time even up the hills.  At one point during mile 3 or 4 a fellow runner approached us.  We had chosen to wear our "you run hills, I run mountain" shirts from the Blue Ridge Marathon.  Pretty appropriate for a hilly course plus we like to advertise for the race since we love it so much.  Anyway this fellow runner started asking us questions about the Blue Ridge marathon and training during the winter.  Turns out this gentleman's name is Gary Richter and he works for Icebug. Icebug is a company that makes shoes for running in slippery conditions such as ice and snow.  We had such a great conversation with Gary and agreed to meet up after the race.  Due to conversing and just not really feeling overly strained, I really did not think we were running anywhere near the pace we were.  The 5th and 6th miles I did start to feel a bit like I was losing it and the last .75-.5 miles into the finish I slowed.  Emir stayed strong to the finish.  When I crossed, I checked my watch and couldn't believe that it said 51 minutes!  That was a good 6 minutes faster than last year's time and definitely a big PR for me.  Later when I checked my splits I couldn't believe 3 of my miles were 7:45, 7:53 and 7:55!  The only reason a couple miles were in the 8:30s were because of hills.  I was definitely VERY HAPPY!  I was just hoping I hadn't killed my legs too much for Sunday's Half.  The other reason I wasn't the happiest I could be was because Emir had hurt his foot.  He had some minor aching on the top of his foot earlier in the week however after running the 5K and 10K, it was throbbing.  We both had serious concerns about it and what he would do for the half. 

After we gathered our two medals we met up with Gary and he introduced us to his son Kai.  Kai is only 13 and is FAST!  He was talking about his splits very maturely with his dad, discussing future strategies and not going out too fast.  We were definitely impressed by both of them.  Gary gave us a few Icebug goodies, we took a picture but then we had to part ways since Emir and I had a few seminars we wanted to attend.  I'm hoping to connect with Gary and learn more about their shoes and maybe try some out, Gary??? ;-)  I did find out later as I was walking to my one seminar that Kai had taken first place in his division for the 5K which comes with $100 prize.  When I was walking by, he was up on stage donating his prize money so that he can keep running for his middle school.  Wow!

Gary and Kai

 Emir and I spent Saturday afternoon attending a few of the different seminars offered for free.  I attended a nutrition talk, speed and distance and one about women.  There was also a fun dog race going on Saturday afternoon. Even ahead of time, I knew that I had a solid 45 minutes alone between my first two seminars since Emir was going to different ones.  After my first one I just so happened to be strolling through the downstairs of the Artsquest center and who do I run into but Rebecca and her friend.  They were in line for something.  I asked them what they were doing and they said they were in line to meet Summer Sanders.  "WHAT?!  Oh I'm definitely joining you guys!!"  My sister had texted me the instant she heard that Summer Sanders was going to be at the Runner's World Festival.  Despite what you may think due to my intense love for running, I actually used to be a swimmer and a very dedicated, intense swimmer.  Summer was one of our swimming idols, we love her!  Unfortunately my sister couldn't make it to the festival.  One of the main reasons I signed up for the seminar about women and running was to see Summer.  But then here she was ready to meet people, take pictures and sign autographs!  I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty sure talking to Summer, wearing her gold medal and getting a picture together was more exciting than my PR :-D  Emir and I finished up Saturday watching the movie "In the High Country."  It was definitely an interesting film.  I really enjoyed the Q & A with the director afterwards.  It really intrigued me how someone would discover they are a really good technical runner and good at filmmaking.  It's an interesting combination.  Even more interesting/impressive is how steady the shots of Anton flying down incredibly technical descents in the mountains considering the director was also flying down the same terrain at the same time!

Summer Sanders!!!

Sunday rolled around and it was time to head to the race.  Emir kept saying he didn't know what he was going to do.  We ended up in the same parking lot as the day before since it's close to the finish.  We were expecting there to be shuttles around that would take us to the start but this year, none to be found.  We ended up walking about a mile to the start area which actually is a really good warm up however Emir's foot was hurting.  I know it was an incredibly hard decision for him not to run.  I'm pretty sure it's way harder to make that decision than to try and run injured.  I know he was devastated and actually so was I.  In all honesty, I'd rather have that happen to me than him.  I just hate to see him so disappointed and upset.  But I didn't have time to sit around and dwell on it, I had a half marathon to run.  In my head the last week or more, I have been planning on trying to really run well in this race.  I haven't run a half marathon since last year's Runner's world half and my time was just ok to me, 2:01.  I was not even 6 months out from baby and C-section #2 so it wasn't expected I would be able to do amazing but still I wanted to prove that my rock and roll half marathon time 1:53 from 2011 wasn't a fluke.  Now I didn't have my running/pacing buddy not to mention my depressed feelings in general for him about his pain.  Emir encouraged me to start near the 1:50 pacer which is 8:25/mile.  He said why not just run with him and if you can't keep up, just drop back.  I thought about it and decided he was right.  I've never run with a pace group before and in the past I kind of felt like maybe it's not right.  By that I mean that pacing is a huge part of running.  I feel like it's a skill that needs to be developed just as much as speedwork, hill work, etc.  No one else can do your hills or sprints for you, so why should someone else be able to do your pacing?  Nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot and use this as my opportunity to really form an informed opinion on the use of pacers.  Since I had kind of just snuck into the group, I hadn't talk to Doug our pacer or anyone else in the group to find out what the strategy for the race was.  For the first few miles I just kept right up with Doug.  It didn't feel too bad and actually a couple times I felt like I could go faster than what he was doing.  Despite my urges to push forward I remembered in the one seminar from Saturday a quote. I think it was something like "money in the bank is gas in the tank"  I think, I'm really bad at remembering stuff like that.  They were talking about going out too fast and then having no control over how you finish.  Whereas if you control your start and keep it in check, you can control how you finish.  So that's what I did and boy was I glad for that later!  All of the emails and info on twitter and facebook kept claiming this year was a flatter, easier course.  I suppose to a certain extent that may have been true due to one hill being taken out at mile 10.  However all the other hills WERE THERE including a descent one that occurs just before that other one at mile 10, sneaky Runner's World ;-)  Anyway I'm not as great at climbing hills as I am at descents.  When Emir and I run I usually let him go a bit on ups and then I catch up on downs.  Turns out that same strategy worked out for me and pacer Doug.  He was pretty quick up the hills but would slow it down on descents.  After one or two times of freaking out that I was losing him on the uphills, I realized just to let him go a bit and then catch up.  I was going to tire myself out way too much trying to keep up on the uphills.  Mile 8 and 9 were my slowest.  I remember a couple of times during those miles feeling a bit sluggish and felt that I was losing Doug a bit.  All of the sudden around mile 10, energy kicked in again plus there was a couple downhills and I caught up.  At the mile 12 marker, I was right with Doug and another runner.  We chatted for a minute about me doing the hat trick and how I was feeling after doing two races yesterday.  Next thing I knew I was flying ahead of Doug.  My legs felt almost detached from my body.  It literally felt like seconds later I was crossing the finish line, checking my watch and realizing I had just PR'd big time with a 1:49.14!!!!!!  Later when I checked my splits, mile 13 was my fastest at 7:53!  It's one thing to PR but to PR on a course as hilly as this knowing it's a much harder course than my previous PR, well that's icing on the cake!  My co-worker who we were staying with called out to me and we hugged and congratulated each other.  She told me she couldn't wait to do the hat trick again next year and that she was so happy we had asked her to do this with us.  Then I found Emir.  I know he was so happy for me but at the same time disappointed because he knew if his foot was better, he would have run that PR as well.  It's so hard to feel happy with an accomplishment when your partner is so down and wasn't able to compete with you.  Also I know Emir was disappointed that he didn't get a picture of me finishing.  Honestly, I was kind of proud of that because the reason he didn't get a pic was because I came in faster than my predicted time at the halfway point.  I was projected to come in at 1:51.  So don't worry!

Me and my co-worker Becky

Despite Emir's disappointment and our first experience for either of us with a DNS, it was an outstanding weekend once again.  Everyone was super nice, friendly and helpful.  We got to hang out with friends and meet new friends.  The expo was good, the seminars and movies were great.  The races awesome!  The aide stations in all three races were well staffed with people, water and sports drink.  My one regret of the weekend is not grabbing a running skirt at an aide station in the middle of the half marathon!  There were ladies helping people put them on quick as they ran through.  I was so paranoid about losing pacer Doug or messing up my rhythm by having to completely stop to put a skirt on.  It's one thing to grab a water or GU on the way by but another to completely stop.  UGH, oh well.  Do I REALLY need a running skirt???  While I'm mentioning it, I did not use Tailwind this weekend.  Sorry Jenny!  However I did use my awesome Tailwind bottle as a handheld for all 3 races.  I don't know really what I was thinking.  For some reason I didn't think I needed Tailwind for just a half which apparently is incorrect since I ended up doing 4 gels during the half.  Emir said that's ridiculous and also that I should have stopped for the skirt. I however said in the words of Lenny Dykstra "Whatever it takes Dude!"  If that means not stopping for a skirt, eating 4 gels and chasing a pacer, so be it! ;-)

Next up for us is New York City Marathon!  Only 2 weeks away!!  After seeing how fast I could run this weekend, I'm definitely getting excited.  I want to beat my 3:59 so bad.  I wasn't sure where my speed was at due to just running a 50K two weeks ago and never really going faster than 8:50s in training.  This weekend really showed me how much I've improved over the last year or so.  Now I just need to stay healthy for the next couple weeks and work some healing magic to Emir's foot!!!!!


  1. Way to go, Amy! Just finished reading the post (saw it on the RW FB site) and am glad you had such a great race . . . and PR!
    Pacer Doug

    1. Awww Pacer Doug Thanks!!! You did an awesome job!!! Thanks for your help!!

  2. Great job Amy, congrats on a huge PR on a tough course!! Good luck in NYC.