Winter Trail Frosty half marathon – Indianapolis, IN (2017)

 I signed up for this race after seeing the medal in an ad on my Facebook account. Last year I did the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot half marathon in North Carolina and I loved my big red WTF 13.1 sweatshirt, so adding another WTF race this year sounded like a good plan, especially after I realized it would let me check off state #25. This weekend called for a 22 mile run, so originally I was planning to run from my hotel to the race venue and then back to the hotel, but with the drastic weather changes (and after I saw the roads I’d have to run on), I decided to forgo that plan and just head to the venue early to get some miles in before the race started at 10:00 am.

When I picked up my rental car, I laughed a little when I saw they had included an ice scraper in the back seat. Race morning came and now it wasn’t so funny… the high 60’s from Friday had turned into some nasty thunderstorms followed by an extreme temperature drop and some overnight snow / ice accumulation on the car. The roads ended up being fine, but it took me several minutes to get the car ready to go. It was snowing as I got to the venue but being there 2 hours before the race started allowed me to get an amazing parking spot near the finish line and gave me plenty of time to get out on the trails before the race actually started.

The race was held at Eagle Creek State Park which has a lot of different trails. My goal was to get 9 miles in before the race, so I headed out to take the trail on the farthest perimeter, following the Red loop to the Blue loop back to the Red loop, then back to the Blue loop, more Red loop and then a detour onto the Orange loop before finishing up on the Red loop back to the starting line. I ended up seeing mile markers 3, 2, 6 and 1, as well as the guy who was marking the trails with orange ribbon, on my way to getting 8.5 miles in before the race. I had started to run out of time, especially since I wanted to hit the porta-potties before the actual race started, so instead of getting that last .5 in before the race, I just added it onto the end (definitely not the way to go!).

Here comes the snow!

Snow caught in a spider web

The race itself was capped at 600 participants and they did sell out. This was only the second year for this race, but the turnout was impressive – the super awesome finisher medals may have something to do with that… I know I signed up after seeing the medal and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one! I got a little cold waiting around for the start, but it wasn’t too bad until I got back to the land bridge around the bird sanctuary where there was very little to break up the wind. I was glad I ran the loop the opposite way the first time, keeping the wind at my back instead of running into the wind 3 times.
Views from around the Eagle Creek Reservoir bird sanctuary

After we got to the land bridge, the race spread out quite a bit as the trail was a little wider and allowed more people to pass and get into their own running pace. I had run through most of the race course before the race actually started, but one of the sections that was new to me was around the Ornithology Center where they had a plaque where you could test your wingspan against the various birds that call Eagle Creek Park home.

As I was doing my first lap around the bird sanctuary, I actually saw a bald eagle flying across the lake. Unfortunately it was flying away from me and by the time I realized what it was it was too far away to get a picture, but it was really cool to see in person!

This was somewhere in the first lap – you can see the snow whipping through the trees!

Even though thunderstorms had come through the day before and it was snowing on and off throughout the race, most of the trails were hard packed and there were only two sections that were really muddy, like running through peanut butter muddy. For my second race lap (third lap total through that section), I just walked through it trying not to fall!

Overall, I think this was a very good race. The trails weren’t very technical, and I actually ended up with my fastest trail half time (2:28:54) which was pretty awesome considering I did an 8.5 mile “warm-up” prior to starting.

The not-so-good
Too many people starting at the same time. There are pseudo-wave starts with the announcer letting a group of people go, then stopping and waiting for 30-45 seconds before letting another group of 30-ish people go. In theory this would work, but in reality, the first half of the trail (at least the full first two miles) was really congested. Since there is a half and a quarter marathon and it seemed like most of the people were running the quarter marathon (though I did hear the announcer say there were still about 70 people left on the half course when I finished), I think it would be great to split the start times for these races to allow the half marathoners to get 2-3 miles in before letting the quarter marathoners start. There’s a lot more room to get around people from miles 2-5, so that would theoretically spread out the field a bit more.

The only other “complaint” is really more of just a trail hazard that can’t be avoided – there are several sets of wooden stairs on the course which turn nice and slick with snow and mud covering them, so they were a bottleneck at the beginning of the race and certainly an area where most people slowed to a walk to stay upright. I heard a few people went down on these sections and that will certainly be a hazard in future races (it is February in Indiana after all), so that’s certain something to be aware of when checking out these (and any) trails.

The stairs don’t actually look as steep from the bottom, but they were very steep and slippery!

The good
The trail was extremely well marked. It’s a two-loop course for the half marathon, coming through the finish line area around the halfway point before heading back out again and even when I was running backwards on some of the course before the race started, it was really easy to tell which was the race was going to go. I think you would have to actually try to get lost on this course.

There were several times where the course crossed the road within the park and there was always at least one volunteer flagging traffic and making sure runners had the right-of-way. I was cold while running, so I really appreciate those volunteers staying out there for several hours to keep us safe.

The awesome
Cake! They had tons of cake for runners at the end of the event, and I’m not going to lie, it was definitely a motivator for me in those last few miles. It was delicious!

Free race photos! Who doesn’t love free race photos? It’s actually kind of funny scrolling through the pictures because you can see how much the weather changes and how heavy the snow got at some points.

As I’ve mentioned a few times already, I did this race for the bling. The shirt and medal for this race were really nice. The shirt is actually a long-sleeve thermal shirt that’s more like long-john material which is really appropriate considering the likelihood of cold temperatures.


Blue Ridge Marathon – 2 months to go!

Last month’s update was about everything new – I had just officially registered to run the double marathon, so I was finalizing my training plan and getting energized with the prospect of running over 50 miles in one day. This month has a bit more about really getting into the rhythm of training, and the highs and lows that come along with that.

Last week was a rough week for me. I felt pretty good finishing the Fellowship of the Idiot run, but I didn’t do those extra few miles to get up to my planned 22 miles for my long run and then had a lot of trouble getting back into the swing of things Sunday and Monday. I’ve been trying out some new shoes, trying to break them in to use in the second marathon, but it’s a new brand and a new drop (with a ton more cushion), so it’s taking a little longer than I hoped it would to transition into these shoes and it’s more painful that I was expecting.

My calves have been tight when I first start running and usually give me some pain, but these new shoes seem to be exacerbating that issue. So after the major elevation on Saturday’s run, I took it really easy Sunday, only going out for a mile and a half and then following up with some yoga. I felt better on Monday, so I headed out around the neighborhood again and did another 2-ish miles. My legs still felt really tight and after some pretty good 800 repeats on Tuesday morning, my Wednesday night was another flop coming in at 3 mostly painful miles. Thursday started a turnaround as I was able to get almost 8 miles in with my running group followed by another rest day on Friday. Saturday was the last of my taper week and only called for 10 miles, but since I had skipped quite a few miles throughout the week, I decided to do the full group run and hit 11.6 and felt really good throughout. It still fells really funny to say that my “easy run” is in double digits.
Having gone through this process multiple times, I know that there will inevitably be highs and lows throughout the training cycle and it’s just a matter of getting through them to the other side. Having a group to meet multiple times a week has helped with that accountability – even when I don’t feel like getting out of bed or running loops, I know I need to go and at least give it a try and then once I’m out there, it’s a lot easier to keep going when you’re with a group of people!

The next few weeks will be busy with races the next two weekends which will then take me to another taper week, before the final big push at the end of March. I’m excited about the next two races – I’ll be checking off two new states, Indiana and Arkansas – and since I’ve got to add 10+ miles onto each race, I’ll definitely have some exploring to do. I still need to add in weekly yoga / additional stretching and core exercises, so I’m going to work on making those a priority over the next few weeks to really get into a routine as my mileage continues to increase. I’m also thinking of adding in a sports massage or two to really help loosen everything back up – sitting at a desk all day certainly doesn’t help my sore muscles.

10 weeks in:

  • Total mileage: 262.1
  • Expected mileage: 292



Fellowship of the Idiot – Albemarle, NC (2017)

In hearing about this race, I thought the “idiot” part was because it was a 19.7 mile race going up to the top of Morrow Mountain and back down again… turns out that wasn’t the whole story. The race started at 5:30am at the YMCA in Albemarle. I was supposed to go with a few other people from the running group, but that fell through on Thursday night, so I hit the road from my house just after 4:00am. This was a race, but in name only, really – there were no bibs, no timing and minimal course support. There were 4 water stations – 2 that you passed twice – which also had Gatorade and GU at some of the stops.

I heard from someone that there were over 230 people who showed up to do the race and since there wasn’t any official timing, it was really just like a big group run. The start was the RD coming over a loudspeaker, saying a few words and saying “Go!” Being out in the middle of the country in North Carolina, it was really dark to start the race, so I was glad I had my knuckle light with me. There was a fairly steep hill near the beginning of the race which was really just a preview of what would be coming, so I took it slow and the runners spread out pretty quickly into a long line heading down the road.

I did a race up to the top of Morrow Mountain in 2014, so I knew what I was getting myself into with this race, and I wasn’t really surprised by the terrain too much, though we did start / end in a different part of town, so the beginning and end felt very different than my first race, but once we got to the State Park, it was all familiar territory.

The climb up Morrow Mountain was brutal – in about 3/4 of a mile you go up about 330′ – but it’s good training for my upcoming double marathon in Richmond. The entire course had 2437′ of elevation change, so about a third of what I can expect in each of the marathons… hmm, I may be starting to have some doubts about this… but, back to the current race!

As I was heading up the mountain, I could see the sun coming up through the trees and knew I would miss the official sunrise at the top of the mountain, but even so, it was very pretty!


When I made it to the top of the mountain, I was greeted by lots of volunteers, music and my favorite sign of the day.

There’s an overlook where you can go out and see across the mountains and I may have been a little later in getting there than my compatriots, but it was a beautiful morning in the mountains!

Heading back down the mountain, the sky had lightened up considerably and you could see for miles across the countryside.

Finally at the bottom of the mountain, we got back onto the rolling countryside, complete with ponds and cows enjoying their early morning.

And now for the rest of the race…
By this point, the runners were really spread out and while I could see people every now and then, we were all pretty much running on our own. I actually felt really good in the second half of the race and was able to pick up some speed (yay downhills!). We stay on the country roads for awhile, but soon ended up on a 4 lane highway. As it turns out, running on this type of road at 5:30am doesn’t make much of an impression – 8:30am is a little different story. There were directional signs to let us know where to turn, which was really helpful at this point since there were very few people around. When we got onto the 4 lane highway, I could still see someone a bit ahead of me and they had crossed over to run with traffic. At first I thought there may have been a sidewalk over there, but not seeing anything definitive, I stayed running against traffic.


I thought the idiot part had to do with climbing a mountain before sunrise… at least there wasn’t much traffic to dodge, but 55mph cars aren’t much fun to run around

Eventually I had to cross all 5 lanes to make a right turn onto Main Street which was another fun adventure because there was no crosswalk to get to the correct side of the street, so I had to walk with traffic up a hill until I could see far enough in both directions to cross and get on the sidewalk.  The rest of the course I was able to either run on a sidewalk or against traffic and only had one other minor issue where I had to wait for traffic before getting onto the correct street.

By the time I finished the race, there were only a few people left at the “finish line” but I was able to get my official certificate of completion and my shirt for completing my very first Fellowship of the Idiot race. There was also a table with some snacks and the all-so-important chocolate milk! When I got my certificate, the person told me to make sure to take it with me if I ever leave the country as it will be much easier to get back in if I have that document with me – they were certainly having fun with handing out the certificates to all the newbies.

Overall, I think this is a fun concept, but the logistics of it (especially with how big this race has become) is a little too sketchy for me to fully endorse it. The other race I did up to the top of Morrow Mountain was put on by the same company but I think the route they chose for that one had less traffic to contend with. Maybe I’m getting picky after having done so many races – based on the Facebook comments, everyone else seemed to love everything about the race – so take this review as you will and just know what you’re getting into if you decide you too want the official title of “idiot”!

Blue Ridge Marathon – 3 months to go!

Today I’m hosting a link up with some of the other official bloggers for the Blue Ridge Marathon. We’re all doing different distances and I thought it would be fun to see where everyone is at now that we have 3 months of training left. So keep coming back and check out the links below as others add their updates on how they are progressing on their training.

Until a few weeks ago, I was missing my weekly mileage pretty significantly. Lots of reasons why this is true – holidays, away from home, just getting back home, cold, work, etc, etc, etc. But, I officially started a new training group on January 12 and am definitely back on track. My weeks now include speed work on Tuesdays, tempo runs on Thursdays, long runs on Saturdays and shorter recovery runs on Sundays and Wednesdays. I still need to incorporate some strength training and core work, but I’ll definitely be adding that in as well.

After signing up for the Blue Ridge Marathon, I started thinking about a plan to join Marathon Maniacs. I’m already a member of Half Fanatics and would love to achieve Double Agent status this year. I’ve been working on a plan to qualify by doing 3 marathons in 90 days (Bronze Level), but as of this week, I’ve got a new plan…

Yes, it’s official – I’ll be joining the ranks of 59 other people who will be doing a marathon before the marathon. I plan to start my first marathon at 1:00 am and run the marathon course mostly self-supported, finishing in time to start my second marathon at 7:30am. Given the drastic increase in mileage and elevation, I’ve spent the last few days research how I should update my training plan for this race, including adding a new race in March to test out my legs on the trails at the Whitewater Center here in Charlotte.

52.4 miles and over 14k feet of elevation change! 

I mentioned this plan to a few people in my running group yesterday and got several “you’re crazy” responses, which might be true, but a lot of people just want to know more about it. There’s a lot to be said for surrounding yourself with people who will continue to push you beyond what you think you can do! Already the group has shown incredible support in the training runs and I’m excited for the journey and now I’ve got 3 months to prepare myself to run twice as far as I’ve ever run before…

7 weeks in:

  • Total mileage: 103.8
  • Expected mileage: 124



First Light half marathon – Mobile, AL (2017)

After my “fun” trip from Jackson to Mobile, I headed to the expo for the First Light full / half. It was a small expo, but I got my bib, shirt and a special handmade plaque for doing the back-to-back half marathons. Race morning was cold! It was 24 degrees, but the weather app said it felt like 14. It was really easy to get parking close to the start line and I killed some time waiting in my car since it was so cold. I had long pants, compression socks, t-shirt, windbreaker, buff, hat, gloves and some hot hands and it was still cold at the start! As I got out of my car and started my walk to the start line, someone passed me on the street and said, “Go get ’em girl, go get ’em baby!” I told him thanks and made my way the two blocks to the start line ready to embrace the cold!

There were a ton of people from Half Fanatics, Marathon Maniacs and the 50 states clubs who were in town attempting the same back-to-back that I did – this is a really popular back-to-back trip for those groups since the races are so close together and there is even a bus you can sign up for to transport you between the two races. I opted not to do the bus this time, but if I decide to attempt this one again, I may do that to get to meet some more people.

The race itself was pretty small, with just over 900 finishers between the two races. The course itself winds through downtown Mobile and takes you past beautiful houses and the quintessential moss covered trees. Around mile 2, we went past the Magnolia Cemetery and it was really pretty seeing the sun come up across all the gravestones and trees.

It was nice when the sun was out, warming up all the runners. The course itself was really flat with only a few small hills in some of the neighborhoods. Based on my Garmin, the overall elevation only went from 10′ to 33′ so super flat!

Around mile 8, the half and full marathon split off from each other and there were several people who were holding huge signs directing runners to the right course. I had to take a picture of the couple holding the sign for the half marathon – who could say no to taking pictures while wearing a dress in 20-something degree weather?

Through the middle of the race I was leap-frogging with a group of kids (maybe middle school, but definitely young) and at one point I heard one of them say “I can’t wait until we finish this race, we’re going to get so much food!” – he certainly has the heart of a runner with that statement! I laughed when I heard that and told him, “Yes we will!” I ended up getting and staying ahead of the boys shortly after the half marathon split, so I’m not sure if they were able to get all the food they wanted, but the finish line food was pretty good – it was a hot meal of rice, beans, corn bread and some other food with lots of hot chocolate and coffee available for everyone too.

After a few more miles of tree-lined residential streets, we headed back into downtown Mobile and past a lot of buildings that had graffiti designs across the sides of the buildings, we soon came upon the last street where we could see the finish line in the distance. There were mile markers throughout the course, but as we got close to the finish, they marked the 13 mile mark on the street in chalk – only .1 to go!

This wasn’t a very fast race for me, but I had fun just taking everything in and listening to the other runners. I ended up finishing in 2:21:08 and headed to get some of that good food at the finish line festival. Even though the Mississippi Blues race was cancelled, the race director for the First Light race decided to go ahead and give out the back-to-back medals for anyone who had registered for both – that medal has the race logo and state outline on each side, one for each race with the middle part spinning.

The race medal and back-to-back plaque were both hand decorated by local Alabama residents who are part of the L’Arche Mobile Thomas B. Barnett Activity Center. The back of the plaque has a picture of the artist as well as a short story about her and some background on the activity center. Each year there is a different design for the race sticker (lower left, same as the design on the shirt) which is designed by a member of the community. It’s a really cool way to bring the local community into a race that brings in people from all across the country and even the world, as the winner of the marathon was from London!

I was definitely disappointed to only come away with one race finish after this weekend, but I wholly understand why it happened and the weather in the south is very unpredictable in the winter – it went from high’s in the low 20’s in Charlotte on Saturday / Sunday to a high of almost 70 by the end of the week – crazy!  I’ll keep this duo on my radar and may try to head back to do the official back-to-back in the future, but I’m not 100% set on that yet, so time will tell which will be my first “official” Mississippi race!

Mississippi Blues half marathon – Jackson, MS (2017)

Is it an official DNS (did not start) if the race was cancelled due to weather? Probably… but, with the winter storm that hit the east coast this past weekend, there wasn’t much to be done other than cancel the race. As it turns out, Mississippi gets snow like Charlotte gets snow, which is to say, it comes in the form of ice.

I flew into Mobile Thursday night and rented a car so that I could wander around Mississippi and Alabama for the weekend. I spent Thursday night in Wiggins, MS with the intention of checking out De Soto National Forest on Friday and I did head to Airey Lake for a short walk. It was raining and quite cold, so I didn’t venture too far, but the fog coming off the lake was beautiful!

Some of the trail had wooden bridges along the path to help people over swampy land, but with the additional rain, the boards were nice and slick!

From De Soto, I headed to the expo in Jackson and then on to Vicksburg (more photos coming soon) to wander around a bit before heading back to Jackson in the late afternoon. By the time I started heading back the rain had turned into sleet / ice balls and traffic had slowed down considerably. I passed one tractor trailer accident that has blocked the entire other side of the interstate because it was jackknifed across the road. By the time it got to the hotel, the ice was starting to pile up a bit, so I attempted to order take out online and was promptly called and told they weren’t delivering because of the weather. Luckily the pizza place was only a few blocks away, so I slowly made my way over there and successfully made it back to the hotel without sliding anywhere.

Just after 10:00 p.m. we got an email from the race director letting us know that the race was cancelled due to the icy conditions. it was definitely disappointing, but checking out the road conditions in the morning made it easy to see they made the right decision. There was some confusion on the Facebook page about earning our medals through a virtual race, and there are still rumors that this might still be the case, but the RD did offer anyone who still needed to pick up their packet or wanted to pick up their medal could come downtown and pick them up on Saturday morning.

I attempted to do a treadmill run Saturday morning to make up some of the mileage I would be missing and ambitiously set it up for an hour, but quit after 2 miles because running on a treadmill is so boring! I’d rather brave the weather later in January during one of my scheduled training runs to do my redemption / virtual MS Blues half than do it on the treadmill! After my two miles, I packed up my stuff and hit the road just after 9:00 a.m. and headed downtown. Google maps didn’t know what the Jackson Arts Center was, but I headed to the Convention Center and then walked a bit before I found other runners and was able to figure out where to go. The sidewalks and streets were extremely icy and certainly unsafe for runners and cars to try to share the road, but it was very quiet downtown, so I took a little bit of time to wander around and take a few pictures.


I saw the courthouse on my drive in and thought it was a really cool-looking building.

This medal is super awesome and I will “earn” it with a virtual half soon enough, but I’ve also heard that this same design will be used next year since it will still be the 10th anniversary of the race given this year’s cancellation.

A little after 10:00 a.m. I started my trek out of town towards Mobile, AL to head to the First Light expo and was concerned it would end up being a 5 hour drive instead of just 3 with how slow it was going in the beginning. Going over 20 mph was very limited, but the only trouble I had was merging from one interstate to another. I was behind a tractor trailer truck and the road we were on was just pure ice, but luckily the other interstate was much more clear – unfortunately this meant making a turn on the ice. I gave the tractor trailer plenty of space and he started to jackknife a bit but was able to straighten out and get on his way. I did a little bit of sliding getting onto the other interstate, but otherwise didn’t have much trouble. It took about 30 minutes before the majority of the ice turned to slush and just wet roads and shortly thereafter the roads were bare and there was barely a trace of ice on even the sides of the road.

So, the good news is that the First Light race didn’t seem to be impacted at all from the winter storm, but they did offer a discount to anyone who was planning to run the Mississippi Blues race who wanted to add their race due to the cancellation. It’s great to see the cooperation between the races!

Ring in 2017 17k – Rock Hill, SC (2017)

I signed up for this race on a whim after a friend told me about another race hosted by the Rock Hill Striders and since it was at the Anne Springs Close Greenway, I figured it would be a great way to kick off the new year. The weather was in the high 30’s and rainy with the rain expected to last most of the day, so I knew it would be a cold morning. I ended up overdressed so I took off my lightweight rain jacket after a couple of miles and didn’t really notice the rain since we were in the middle of the woods for the entire race. The race was pretty low-key with runners congregating under a pavilion (with an awesome fire to huddle around) where volunteers checked us in, gave us our bibs, a race bag and bells! I loved the idea of the bells and they worked much better than when I tried to sew bells onto my hula skirt as part of my Hawaiian Santa outfit a few years ago. The next time I want to make some noise on a run, I’ll be sure to break these out again.

We started out at the Rush Pavilion and headed down to do the full School Loop then back around the Grist Mill back up Muscadine trail and around Lake Haigler for a good 10.5 miles. When I first got to the venue and went to pick up my packet, I talked to one of the greenway workers who told me I was hardcore for running in the rain and cold. Certainly put a smile on my face to start the day!

I loved the trail directional signs around the course. 

During the opening remarks the RD told us that part of our loop would take us past the millstone and while he didn’t know what would happen if we didn’t touch it when we ran past, but why risk it. Makes sense to me.

I love the tunnels on the School Loop!
When I finally made it to the Haigler Lake loop, I was excited to be almost done!
The geese didn’t seem to care that it was a cold and rainy day.
I was one of the last runners to come in, but I really enjoyed this race. It was a tough one to start off the year given the lack of training I did over the holidays, but it was a good kick in the butt to get started on more serious training for my April marathon. Plus, I was able to kick off Ragnar’s annual January 30-day challenge by spending a few hours outside which was really nice.

Spoiler alert: I’ve already broken the streak, but I’m catching up by doing two on some days.

After the race I got some food, warmed up by the fire and talked with the RD about the Rock Hill Striders race series. They’ve got a 50k, half marathon and a 12-hour race all at the greenway, so even if I can’t run any more of their races, I definitely want to get involved where I can.

Official time: 2:18:21