Now that I’ve talked about everything else I did in Bird in Hand, it is time to talk about the reason I went there… the races. I took part in the Fire Company Challenge which was a 5K on Friday night followed by a half marathon the next morning. Turns out the biggest “challenge” was going to be the weather.
I had been obsessively checking my weather app starting the week before. It kept saying thunderstorms and high humidity. Nothing really changed as it got closer except that it looked like we might escape the thunderstorms. We were not going to beat the humidity though.
Before the 5K, there was a hot air balloon launch. It was really cool to see them being inflated and sailing off as we were waiting for the race to start. There was even more that were launched before the half the next morning.
As I went to line up for the start, I was able to find two of my teammates. We were chatting and Matt mentioned he had been sick for a few weeks and was planning to just walk the 5K since we had the half the next morning. I hadn’t really decided what I was going to do for the 5K so this sounded like a great idea. We walked and chatted and took pictures. It was great to take in the surroundings of the Amish farms and pass the time chatting. It was also really great that there was no pressure from race personnel to hurry up and finish. This was a trend that continued the next day.
We crossed the finish and my Mom and I headed back to the hotel. While it was definitely humid, walking along it didn’t seem too bad plus it was close to sundown so we didn’t have the sun to contend with. All of that would change in the morning.
I got up around 5 the next morning to start getting ready. Even though I know I’m just going to get all sweaty and need a shower later, I have to shower before I head out to a race. It wakes me up and gets me going. I had my traditional corn muffin which I had brought from home and a bottle of water with electrolyte tablets in it. I got all of my stuff together and my mom dropped me off at the race site by around 6:10.
The race didn’t start until 7:30 so I had plenty of time. All of the tables and chairs from the dinner the night before were still there, so I was able to have a seat, eat my half a bagel and drink a bottle of beet juice. Yes, beet juice… a nutritionist suggested this for energy and I have found it really helps. I drink a bottle about 45 min before a race and for longer distances, like today, I carry a second bottle with me.
More hot air balloons were being filled and I went out to take some pictures. I met up with teammates again and we all chatted while we headed towards the start line. It was HUMID and sunny. We were all discussing the weather and how we were going to change our plans for the day.
Now, I had trained all summer to try for a PR (personal record) at this race. When I made my training schedule, I was concerned about the long mileage runs that I had planned for late August. I never thought that the weather would be beautiful for those runs and awful for the actual race. I knew a PR wasn’t going to happen and that it wouldn’t even be smart to try for one. My plan was to use my :30 / :30 run / walk intervals for at least the first half of the race, take it nice and easy, and see how I felt.
Besides trying to work on time while I trained this summer, I also focused on a few other things that needed improving. Mentally I had been having a tough time in training runs. I would get a mile or so into a long run and already start thinking about if I should cut it short. I was also having a hard time with hydrating and nutrition and was really working on getting that right. In my last 12 mile run, I thought I had it all worked out. I would use a gel every 2 miles and mentally I would focus on getting to each 2 mile point instead of thinking of the mileage as a whole. It was really going well until mile 10.5 when I completely fell apart. I could barely walk and lost all my energy. I finished the 12 miles but it had me wondering what went wrong. It was time to see how that was going to go today.
The race started and we were off. First thing to notice – it was HOT!! I was quickly dripping with sweat. It was very humid and the sun was just blazing on us. We were out on roads with almost no shade for the entire course.
By mile 3, it was time to change my intervals to :15 / :15. I figured if I felt like I could run 30 seconds I would use 2 of the intervals. If not, I could stick to 15 seconds. By mile 3 we also started to hit some hills. I train around my neighborhood which is completely flat, so it doesn’t take much of an incline for me to fill it. My strategy is usually to walk up and then run the downhill and that usually works out.
By mile 6 or so, I was feeling the heat and I was pretty much done running. There was a small out and back section so on the way back I was able to get a sense of how many people there were behind me and if I had time to walk the rest. The official race information said there was no time limit but I have heard that before at other races and haven’t had the best experiences.
There was at least 20 people still behind me and again there was no race official behind the last person or any push to get people moving along so I decided a brisk walk was the way the rest of the race was going to go.
Race support was excellent! There were aid stations with water and powerade frequently that were run by Amish children. There were also coolers with ice in them. I took handfuls each time and would suck on the ice, hold it in my hand or rub it on the back of my neck. There were also several Amish children along with way with hoses and sprinklers to cool off under. And around mile 10.5 there was Rita’s ice! I am not a fan of Rita’s normally but it was the best thing I had seen all morning!!
And the scenery along the course… beautiful!! I thought that maybe after the novelty of the farmlands wore off, I would be bored. But that was not the case at all. You would come over a hill or around a corner and see a new landscape. I thought it was beautiful and it was a great place to run.
Despite the heat, I was actually feeling pretty good. I was keeping up with my gels and hydrating. I had no foot pain or knee pain and no blisters (which have all caused problems in the past).
Just before mile 11, I caught up to a woman who was walking. I was going to pass her and as I did I said something like “we are almost there” and turned to look at her. She did not look good at all. She said “I think I’m just going to lay down and stop right here.” I said “oh no, there is no stopping now. Let’s walk along together and chat and we will be at the finish before you know it. And if I’m annoying, just tell me to go away.” She said she would really like that so we started walking together.
I offered her everything that I had left in my belt.. a gel, a mini Clif bar, electrolyte drink. She said all she usually drinks is water and she didn’t want anything else. We walked along and I thought of every question I could to keep her talking. We were doing fine until we got to around mile 12. Then she really started to have a hard time. She kept saying she needed to stop and take a break and when we did she would say she felt dizzy or like she was going to vomit. She was also complaining of being short of breath. I asked if she wanted me to try to call someone for medical help but she said no. She said her daughter had run and finished so she would be at the end. I just kept trying to encourage her and keep her moving.
When we saw the finish chute, I asked if she saw her daughter anywhere. She said she didn’t. I told her that when we got to the chute, I was going to run ahead. I ran down the chute and was happy to see some spectators still there cheering and my mom was there as well. I finished, received my medal and immediately told them that the woman behind me needed medical help. The EMS worker came over and I described how she had been for the last 2 miles. He went right to her and took her right into the medical tent. That was the last I saw of her. I knew her daughter was there and that she was in the hands of the medical staff so I felt fine that she was being taken care of.
They had cold chocolate milk at the finish and water and I chugged down both, met up with my mom and headed back to the hotel to shower.
As difficult as the race was, I have really only been thinking of it positively. First of all, I finished! That is half marathon #6 for me. Also, I didn’t have any pain or blisters. I kept myself hydrated and feeling pretty good. The race course was beautiful and you couldn’t have asked for better support. I am slow, even on a good day. So to not feel any pressure and have the full support on the course and at the finish that everyone else received who is faster than me is just awesome. Should that be the case at every race? Yes. Is that the case at every race? No. It was a well run event from start to finish.
I am definitely planning to return next year!
I have been a huge Disney and travel fan since childhood. I love going to new places and, of course, heading to Disney as often as I can.