Lehigh Valley Half Marathon

A couple of weekends ago, we took a little road trip down to Pennsylvania with some friends for the Lehigh Valley Via Marathon.

6 of us rented a quaint 1700s farmhouse in the quiet town of Barto for 3 nights and had a really fantastic time. The shenanigans on the road and at our little “home away from home” made for a truly memorable experience, and more than made up for what turned out to be a fairly suck-tastic race for most of us (foreshadowing).


732136134The race is point-to-point with the half starting at the mid-point of the marathon route, so there some logistics involved in getting us all to the right place at the right time on race morning. Thankfully our wonderful friend Ueli was not racing and offered to schlep the rest of us all over the place so we didn’t need to worry about shuttles. We had a bit of a drive to our respective start lines and were on the road dark ‘n early by 5am.

course_map_bigSomehow I managed to tweak my back after climbing out of the van and reaching back in to grab my water bottle. It was so painful that for an instant I thought I was going to have to climb right back in the van and scrap the race. Luckily it felt slightly better after a minute and I decided to at least see how it felt during the hour we had left before the start. My friend Patti massaged it a little and I just tried to stretch it out lightly. It felt kind of okay unless I bent forward at all so I ended up taking an Advil and hoping for the best.

It was still pretty chilly as we waited for the 7:10AM start and felt like a good day for running. We spent most of our time waiting in line over and over again to use the (limited) port-o-potties; there were only 12-15 for the ~900 people running the half and the line was still several blocks long when the fire engine horn blared to signal the start of the race.

And then we were off!

It was very crowded to start so I just tried to relax and settle in without worrying about weaving all over the place. Thankfully my back felt fine once I got going – phew! We started out on the streets of Bethlehem but soon hit the pathway along the Lehigh Canal. One thing I noticed right away was that it was hot – well, muggy. What happened to the nice, cool forecast with no humidity?? I was dripping already.

The crowding was tough when we first entered the trail – there were some puddles and mucky areas from the all-day rain on Saturday and it was hard to see where we were stepping among the masses. We eventually spread out after a couple of miles.

I didn’t love the path and found it difficult to run on. There were long sections of loose stone and also some dirt sections through more wooded areas. It was along one of these stretches between 2 and 3 miles when ZING! I felt a sudden stabbing in my calf. At first I wondered if it was some kind of crazy cramp, until I noticed others around me grabbing their legs. We had been stung by wasps – right through my sock! It hurt like hell but I kept running until the next aid station where I pulled off to have a quick look. It was red and a bit swollen and the medic offered me some ice, saying “That always happens through there.” That really caught me off guard – if wasp stings are so common, a little warning would have been nice. What about people with allergies? Anyway, nothing to do but carry on.

pic taken 4 days later, still looking angry and itchy/stinging

pic taken 4 days later, still sore and itchy

It felt like the pressure from my sock was making the sting feel worse so I ended up running the rest of the race with one sock to my knee and one rolled half way down. It would continue to burn and throb, but I sucked it up and grumbled about it in my head. (Is that still considered sucking it up?)

Eventually we left the path and hopped on the paved bike trail. It was much easier to run on, but I was fading fast already with more than half of the race left. I realize this recap sounds like a big whine-fest so far… I was not having the best time. I was also thinking about hubs and friends running the marathon, worrying about how they were making out on the sketchy footing and with the weather, also hoping none of them got stung! (It turned out that Patti did as well, several minutes ahead of me in the same area.)

By about half way, I knew I had no shot of making my goal time of sub-2:00 and gave myself permission to pull back. I still suffered, but a little less so. Once I stopped worrying about the pace, I tried to zone out, listen to music, enjoy the scenery and make the most of it. Any day that I get to run is a good day, right? Yeah, I wasn’t buying it at that point and it still pretty much sucked. I was hot and sore and tired and uncomfortable and my calf was hurting and I was ready to be done! I slogged through the second half with a lot of walk breaks watching my splits get slower and slower.

The last KM or so of the race was pretty evil. We were forced to run PAST the road toward the finish for a final loop which seemed to take forever, as illustrated in the fancy map below. See the blue location marker? That was a water station about 500m from the finish and I walked through it. That’s how rough this race was for me!

441/894 overall
212/544 females
39/88 F30-34

UntitledIt turned out that hubs and friends running the marathon all had very tough days out there as well. I’m so proud of them all for gutting it out. And maybe I should stop whining so much about the half! I think we all agreed that we would not return to the race, mostly due to the rugged nature of the course.

Shenanigans continued for the remainder of our trip, including a lot of food, a lot of laughs and a champagne toast for our 10th wedding anniversary where I tried to make everyone pick which one of us they like better.

Other than that, what happens in Pennsylvania….

Update + Barrie Waterfront Half Marathon Race Report

Tap, tap, tap. It’s been a while…

My training this year has been littered with hiccups, from injuries (heel fat pad syndrome in February, patellar tendonitis in March) to random accidents (stepping on a nail in our home reno zone in May), and I just haven’t felt the desire to write through these challenges. It has been impossible to get any traction beneath me and I’ve spent a lot of time feeling defeated and frustrated.

Thankfully, things have taken a turn for the better recently. I’ve slowly been able to get back to running and added a new fitness component to my life by joining Crossfit Newmarket Central. I’m going 3x per week to supplement 4 days of running, and juggling the schedule week-by-week.

After 3 DNS’ this year (Chilly Half, Sporting Life 10K, Goodlife Toronto Half), I had my eye on the Barrie Waterfront Half Marathon and didn’t want to miss another race. Toward the end of May I was able to put in a 15K and 17K, my only long-ish runs since March 8th. They were both struggle-fests but I knew I could finish the distance and so Barrie Half was on.

And that brings me to Sunday, June 7th – my first distance race in 20 months, and first race of 2015!

(Official photos included herein are courtesy of Cllik Photography. They were just indexed and published yesterday, but downloads were free so we can’t complain.)

We lucked out with fantastic weather – it only got up to about 20C with sun but no humidity, and a cooling breeze most of the way. In our usual race day style, our group arrived obnoxiously early and had plenty of time for multiple bathroom stops and to wander around shaking out the legs.

We had a big group of Newmarket Rogue Runners at the race – excellent company before/after and lots of familiar faces along the double out-and-back course.


My friend Patti offered to keep me company/pace me through the entire 21.1, which was a relief for my nerves and also guaranteed it would be fun. I knew she could offer just the right amount of support and whip-cracking. We had a loose pace target of 6:00/KM with short walk breaks at water stations (we ended up skipping many), which I thought would be challenging but doable.


I remembered (from when I ran it in 2013) the first half being fairly hilly and then flattening out on the waterfront trail after that. There were a few significant climbs and I expected to struggle since hills have been kicking my ass on training runs lately. Surprisingly I felt really good tackling each one, which gave me loads of confidence – must be that race day magic!

KM 1 – 5: 6:05, 5:58, 5:57, 5:55, 5:47


Patti took a pit stop at the first turn-around point so I slowed down and then decided to stop and wait (it was less than a minute). We were about to head uphill and I didn’t want her to have to bust ass to catch up. We were then on our way back toward the start/finish area, tackling all the hills in the opposite direction. The half and 10K runners merged along this stretch, but didn’t cause any crowding issues since we were all fairly spread out by this point.

KM 6 – 10: 5:47, 6:30 (pit stop), 5:58, 5:42, 6:07 (gel)

Around the 10K mark, we veered off the road onto paved paths through the park. It was my turn for a necessary pit stop so I picked up the pace to run to port-o-potties up ahead while Patti took her time through the water station before we re-grouped.


We were now running along the waterfront trail where we would remain for the duration. It felt good to know we were past half way with just one more out-and-back to complete. I remember feeling strong – the pace was just beyond comfortable, the breeze off the water felt amazing and I was in a good place mentally.

KM 11 – 15: 5:33, 6:13 (pit stop), 5:41, 5:43, 5:47

We hit the gravel portion and I broke it down in my head to 4K out then 4K back to finish. I remembered sloshing along this trail and getting covered in muck during the downpour of 2013. The trail was much easier to run on this year!

We spotted hubs who was on his way to a great finish (1:24:33 for 6th overall and his 2nd fastest half marathon time). Meanwhile, I still had plenty of race left…


Looking out and cheering for other other friends was a great distraction. I was getting noticeably tired, as expected, but just kept plugging along and chatting (mostly listening) with Patti.

There was a short, steep hill just before the turn-around (evil) but it felt great to know we were turning around to head toward the finish. I was counting down the kilometres in my head by this point. Passing the 17K mark felt like a milestone since I hadn’t run farther in many months. It was just about hanging in there now.

KM 16 – 20: 6:09, 5:49, 5:52, 5:52, 5:47


I took one last walk break at the final water station around 18K and knew that I was really, truly almost done. Patti was telling me “just 15 more minutes” which was a lie because we weren’t running 5:00/KM, but I didn’t argue. 😉 She offered to carry my empty water bottle which felt like unloading 10 lbs.

Before I knew it, we passed that 20K sign and made our way toward the cheering crowds. We had to run a small loop away from the finish first (also evil) but I knew we were so close, and picked up the pace as much as I could.

KM21 – 21.1: 5:14, 0:12* (*my watch measured slightly shy of 21.1)


It was such a victory to race again and finish this distance. I was well and truly spent and sore everywhere, but finished strong with a negative split and feeling so happy. The Barrie Examiner captured this moment just after the finish perfectly.



192/330 overall

74/169 females

8/20 category 



As of this morning, I’ve wrapped up week 3 of my new training plan for the upcoming season!

123As you can see, weekly total is holding steady for now. Since I’m focusing on half marathons this spring and don’t plan to increase beyond 75K, I am not in a hurry to build the overall mileage. This gives me a chance to get used to following a plan again (it’s been a long time!) and for my body to adjust to two workouts every week without the strain of added mileage. This number will start building after our upcoming vacation.

This week required some creativity since I have a spa day and girls night out of town tomorrow, and wanted to get all of my planned runs in before that. This involved a light workout on Tuesday morning (30 second sprints), my primary workout on Wednesday (6K tempo – nailed it), a 10-mile long-ish run this morning before work and a couple of double-days to add some miles so I could cut back on the long run.

407201045Cramming is not something I would typically recommend, but I’m able to get away with it now since I am very comfortable at my current mileage. Sure I could have afforded to skip the long run for one week since my first race is not until March, but when I have a plan I like to follow it as closely as possible. I’ve always found that consistency in weekly mileage is one of the biggest factors that brings results.

And now, I am going to enjoy some much-needed R&R this weekend!

Boxing Day 10 Miler

Snowman Logo My fifth and final race of the year was the 94th Annual Boxing Day 10 Miler in Hamilton. I’ve done it a couple times in the past (hard to believe it’s been 4 years!) and have been meaning to get back, so we jumped at the opportunity when we found out that some friends would be participating this year.

UntitledThe run has a fun and festive feel, starts at noon to allow for some time to recover from the turkey-hangover and helps with motivation to keep the mileage up over the holidays. Runners can keep warm and use facilities at the YMCA before and after the race (with hot soup offered after, although our group headed straight to Tim Horton’s instead), receive a cute snowman finisher’s medal as well as a unique race item which changes every year – this year it was a cozy sweatshirt. #winning

shirtThe route started with a good climb on some pretty rough road. It was pretty crowded to start and I was a little worried about tripping or twisting an ankle, looking down to avoid mis-stepping in a large crack or hole, but also trying not to run into anyone or get knocked over. Luckily things spread out pretty quickly on this first hill. By mile 2 we were running around Bayside and along the waterfront trail, and I was happy to be off the city streets.

KM 1 – 3: 5:25, 5:08, 5:24

By this time I was also over-heating and already desperately shedding layers. We had a beautiful, sunny, 5C day and I severely over-dressed, especially for the 12 noon start time. Running along the lake on this gorgeous afternoon made it feel more like spring than the end of December and I was only wishing I had dressed accordingly. I managed to tie my jacket around my waist and rolled the sleeves up on the 1/4-zip underneath to feel much better…. only to realize I needed a quick bathroom stop!

KM 4 – 8: 5:21, 5:17, 5:18, 6:16 (bathroom), 5:48

At the end of the trail around the half way point, we ran a short residential loop which was about a kilometre uphill followed by a kilometre downhill. This hill was no joke and I was a huffing, puffing, sweaty mess by the top. It was nice to have a long downhill to recovery, followed by the flat stretch along the waterfront trail again.

KM 9 – 12: 5:29, 5:25, 5:19, 5:25

I was pretty tired on the way back and had to work at holding the pace. I hadn’t set a time goal for myself and planned to run by effort, but I started trying to do some math in my head with about 5K to go, to figure out what kind of finish time I was working for. I calculated that I would be looking at about a 1:27 if I could hold on. I played leap frog with a few runners along this stretch which offered another good distraction to keep working and ignore the urge to slow down.

KM 13 – 14: 5:29, 5:27

Finally we were off the trail and had less than a mile to run on the streets toward the finish, including a couple of short-ish steep-ish hills. I spotted one of our friends plus hubs and found a little sprint in my legs for the home stretch.

KM 15 – 16: 5:25, 5:01