Tag Archives: travel

Mad Half Recap Part I

Well it is safe to say that “The World’s most beautiful marathon” (as it is described on the website) was also the hilliest half marathon my mom and I have ever run! The world's most beautiful marathon- the Mad Marathon in Waitsfield, Vermont. Despite all the crazy changes in elevation on the course, my mom and I had a FANTASTIC weekend and successfully bagged another state! 🙂 We kicked off the trip by first stopping by the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont. There was a bit of a summer crowd and we probably waited on line for 30-45 minutes, but our ice cream was well-worth the wait. Our visit to the Ben and Jerry's Factory in Vermont. After that, we got back on the road to go to Waitsbury and pick up our race packets before navigating our way to the little bed and breakfast we were staying in, the White Horse Inn. This little inn was adorable and so reasonably priced that we were able to stay for two nights, rather than just the one. There was a white carousel horse statue in the foyer, freshly baked cookies at all times (which were almost too yummy!), and a warm, cozy atmosphere that you just can’t get at a hotel. The owners were very friendly and gracious, and gave us a heads-up to keep our eyes out for bears! Apparently for the last month or so, bears had been visiting their dumpster, tempted by all the delicious smells. My mom was very excited when we realized our room had a nice view of where the backyard met the forest- and the dumpster. A prime bear-spotting location! After settling in and unpacking our things, we set out to explore the little downtown area and to drive the half marathon course. mad elevation I had looked at the elevation map provided on the race website, so I knew we were in for some hills, but boy oh boy, driving that course really brought those hills to life! The worst hill of the Mad Half! Are you seeing this hill?! My reaction on seeing this as we drove the course – “Are you KIDDING me?!” Sure, it had this nice downhill bit, but after that, it just goes up and up and up. Basically, we were going to have to run up a mountain.

There were some scenic views along the Mad Half course too.

the Mad Half Course

I will grudgingly admit that it was pretty darn beautiful, despite all those stupid mountains.

After seeing that course, we knew we were going to have to take it easy and not make the same mistakes we had made during the Heartbreak Hill Half (namely, getting a little too excited and going out too fast). We decided to try to stick to a run six minutes-walk one minute plan. By inserting more walk breaks earlier on, we hoped to maintain a strong pace through to the end.

Once we had finished driving the course (and thoroughly psyching ourselves out!), we grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant, where we sat outside, enjoying the beautiful Vermont weather.

The all-important pre-race dinner.

The all-important pre-race dinner.

I’m not usually a burger person – but this burger, topped with bacon, cheese, and caramelized onions served on a pretzel roll drew me in. I can honestly say it was probably the best burger I’ve ever eaten. My mom had steak with a creamy cheese sauce, and she said that was really good too. For two people who generally stick to a more veggie-based diet, we sure enjoyed our beef! We went to bed early that night, since we had our race at 7 am the next morning. Thankfully, the inn was pretty much full with runners, so everyone was very quiet and respectful, and we slept wonderfully in our big, comfy beds (quite a step up from the freezing cold Boston College dorms we stayed in for the Heartbreak Hill Half!).

Stay tuned for Part II to hear how the Mad Half went (and how we survived all those mountains/hills!)

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Shamrock Half Marathon Recap Part I

Hey there!

WHAT AN ADVENTURE.  My mom and I just returned from successfully crossing off another half-marathon in another state!  This time we tackled the Shamrock Anthem Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach.

Let me tell you, the travel elements that went into this race were pretty darn exciting! The race happened to coincide with my spring break, so the plan was for me to get picked up a couple days before the race by my aunt and to then take the train home the next day. Well that would have been fine and dandy if not for a serious last blast of winter! The day before I left was sunny and mild, in the mid-forties. I went for a last run in shorts! The following day – the worst blizzard in decades. My school even cancelled classes for the first time in years! Luckily, that meant my aunt was able to come pick me up first thing in the morning, rather than waiting for me to finish up my classes. The conditions were becoming slippery fast. By 3 PM, the county closed the roads for travel, and if I hadn’t gotten out earlier, I would have been stuck! It was a crazy way to start the journey.

snowstorm edit

The day after the blizzard, I took the train home. It would have been smooth sailing… except for the 3 hour delay.  Ugh…  It was rough, but I finally made it home, where my parents picked me up and had homemade pizza waiting for me! That sorta made up for the long day of travel.

The following morning, my mom and I got up bright and early to begin our long drive down to Virginia. After a few cups of coffee, we were ready. Apart from some serious traffic on the George Washington Bridge in NYC, it wasn’t too bad. With a few pit stops, it ended up taking around 11 hours. A long drive for sure, but I was excited at the prospect of the fun weekend to come.

I would have to say the prettiest part of the trip was driving over the Chesapeake Bridge at sunset. Not being from the area, we didn’t really know what to expect, but the 20 mile long bridge really took us by surprise. I was able to snap a few pictures of the gorgeous sunset as we drove along.

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Another fun part of the trip were the sealed boxes of surprise goodies my dad packed for us to open over the course of the trip. Each box was labeled with when we were supposed to open. We opened the first one at a rest stop in Connecticut and got… snickers and trail mix!! Nothing like some yummy road trip snacks!

Even with the snacks, music, and good company, it was a long drive, but we finally arrived at our hotel around 8 pm. After bringing our bags to our rooms and getting settled, we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. I had some pasta with veggies (I was in a carbo-loading frame of mind!).

Tired and full from our late dinner, we went back to our room to catch some Zzz’s.

Check back later for Part II on the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon and Half-Marathon Expo and the race recap!

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Monadnock Half Marathon!!

Time to cross off the state of New Hampshire! 

That’s right- my mom and I knocked off another state this morning by running the Monadnock Half Marathon. And despite our anxieties about this hilly, challenging course, we killed it.

Quick recap of our pre-race carbo fueling dinner from the night before-

pre race dinner2

 

Zucchini pasta with chicken and pesto. Delicious, healthy, and a perfect pre-race meal. 

Today, it was another early race morning for us- up at 5:45, a cup of coffee, and a little toast to get us going. My mom also had to put on her “tattoo”. This was her little cheat sheet for where the hills were in the course, where aid stations were located, etc… It actually lasted pretty well through about mile 10, and that’s when the sweat got it. But overall, it was pretty darn helpful!

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The only little hiccup we experienced was some issue with the address for the race packet pickup and our GPS. Basically, it told us we had arrived at our destination at some warehouse. There were no runners in sight, and the building was obviously not the Jaffrey Bible Church (where the pickup was supposed to be) so we were confused, to say in the least. My dad even pulled up the GPS on his iPhone, and it also said we were at the address that had been posted in the emails and on the website. At this point, we were starting to get a bit frustrated and anxious.  Luckily, we drove down the main road another mile or two, and happened upon the church, so we lucked out and still arrived with plenty of time to spare. We got our numbers and shirts (which are green again! I swear, it’s been the summer of green race shirts for us), and proceeded to hang out for a bit. My mom and I both had a Clif Bar (White Chocolate Macademia Nut, obviously) for a little more fuel and then we headed over to the porta-potties about 25 minutes before the start.

porta potties

The line had gotten really long, but we ended up chatting a bit with the women in front of us, bonding over our desire for more porta-potties. Isn’t it great when you get to chat with some new people at a race? I also spied on people’s running outfits. My personal favorite were the running tanks that two women had puffy-painted with their race motto- “WTF; Where’s The Finish?” I love a good running pun.

When we finally got out of the line, it was just about time to start.

the crowd

 

We're ready to go!

We’re ready to go!

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We lined up… and headed out!

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My mom was clearly excited

My mom was clearly excited

The first mile literally flew by, and felt like nothing. Just after the end of the first mile, we hopped on the rail trail, which was a nice gravel-packed trail through shady woods. This stretch of the race was nice and flat, and my mom and I settled into a consistent pace of 9:52 min/mile. Not super fast, but we didn’t want to risk burning out before we got to the really challenging hills in the course later on. For about 4 miles in this section, my mom and I were behind a group of friends who would cheer and give each other high-fives every time they passed one of the mile markers. It really added to the cheery atmosphere, and their optimism was absolutely infectious!

in the woods

Around mile 4.5, we left the rail trail and entered a residential area with rolling hills. We passed the one station with a porta-potty… And didn’t need to stop! Yay. Our pace slowed down a bit to 10:28 min/mi. for mile 5, but we picked it up again at mile 6, going back to 9:53 min/mi. Around this time, I had my GU. The flavor this time? Lemon Sublime! And it truly was sublime. It was the first time I tried this flavor, and I loved it! It reminded me of the filling of this lemon tart my mom makes for dessert sometimes. Yum.

My GU, now empty!

My GU, now empty!

Mile 7 was tough, as we came upon… Draag Hill. *insert ominous music here*  It was just as bad as the course description had led us to believe, and we went into our power-walking strategy. This worked amazingly well. First off, we were moving about the same speed as some folks who were still attempting to jog- and we were reserving energy. By the time we got halfway up the hill, every single runner that I could see was walking. That’s how steep and long it was.

BUT WE MADE IT TO THE TOP! There was another aid station there with some good signs- “This is a motivation poster!” and “Stop being distracted by this sign- keep running!” were two that I liked a lot.

We entered a section with more rolling hills, but the scenery here was beautiful! We got some good views of lovely farms and green fields, and the air smelled wonderful here. There was a cool breeze and the scent of pine trees was very calming. We cruised along this section, running roughly 10 min/mi.

Just keep running...

Just keep running…

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*As a sidenote, I took these pics while running, which I discovered, is not an easy task! So, I apologize if they are a little blurry.

There was a scary moment just after mile 11. We were running along, and I heard someone yelling, “Lexie!”. Half-wondering if someone was mistaking me for their friend, I turned, and saw a fluffy, white dog hurtling out of a yard straight for us. A car was just about to pass us, and I freaked out for a second that the dog was going to get hit by the car right there. The car passed just in time though, which was lucky because the dog ran straight into the street, heading towards us. I stopped, not wanting the dog to chase us down the road. The dog stopped too and stared at us, tail raised. My mom grabbed my shirt, panicking for a second that the dog was about to attack us. This actually wasn’t much of an overreaction. We have two dogs and generally consider ourselves “dog people”, but this dog wasn’t looking too friendly. Finally, it turned and trotted back to its owner (who had chased it down to the edge of the yard) and we continued on. The whole situation could have ended quite badly, so overall, I guess we were pretty lucky.

In the last 3 miles, we really cranked it up, running our last mile in 9:05. By this point, we were eager to be done. Both of us still felt great too, which was a major change from the end of the Shipyard Half Marathon. We had felt pretty awful at the end of that one and both of us had ended up walking more than planned. I think the breeze, cooler temps, and low humidity played a major role in helping us with the tough course we had today.

Finally, we reached the finish! In just about 2 hours, 11 minutes. A really solid time, and much better than we had anticipated!

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We grabbed some watermelon and chunks of banana, but skipped the pizza. My dad, our personal race photographer, managed to catch both my mom and I making a variety of strange faces. Apparently, one’s ability to control facial muscles is also affected by running 13.1 miles. Who knew?

I don't know what I'm doing...

I don’t know what I’m doing…

What is my mom doing?!

What’s with this expression?!

Yay! Normal smile!!

Yay! Normal smile!!

I also got a nasty little blister on my big toe. Sorry for the disgusting photo, but hey people should know the risks associated with running, right?

post race blister

After relaxing a bit with the other runners, we headed over to nearby Kimball Farm for some ice cream. My dad and I both got “Moo Tracks”- vanilla ice cream with chocolate swirls and chunks of Reese’s peanut butter cups. In our professional ice cream connoisseur opinions, it is the best ice cream there is. It was complete perfection after having run for 2+ hours.

moo tracks

kimballs

Then, it was time to head home. After a long shower, I put on my new race shirt and relaxed with some iced coffee.

post race iced coffee

It was a perfect race day and SO SATISFYING knowing my mom and I have just crossed off another state! I know we’ll be sleeping well tonight.  Good night folks!

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The Big Apple!

I’m back! 

Sorry for the little break- I was visiting my college roommate in Long Island (hi Nicole!). It was such a fun trip, and I had a blast hanging out with her and her family.

Aaaaaannd, she took me into New York City- my first time in the Big Apple! I really got the full New York experience- I rode a taxi, chatted a bit with Kelly Rippa, spotted the boys of One Direction, and got to meet Taylor Swift!!!!!

taxi

me and kelly

one D

taylor and me

Well… not really.  But, we did go to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Times Square so it was almost the same thing. I also took a pic with N’Sync (I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve got a few of their songs in my running playlist!)

me and nsync

The hustle and bustle of New York was sooo different to me! I have been in cities before, but New York was bigger, louder, and brighter! I probably looked like the ultimate tourist, craning my neck to look up at all the skyscrapers surrounding me.

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I also got to experience delicious Long Island style pizza and bagels, which really were pretty awesome. As a student at a New York college, I have listened to an extensive amount of bragging about the wonders of Long Island bagels and pizza (and I always wondered to myself if they were all that special). Well, both the bagels and pizza lived up to the hype!

I also got to see Despicable Me 2 on the trip, and it was hilarious. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie, go see it. I have become a big fan of minions- anyone know where I can get one? 

minion

I came home Saturday evening, and got back into my running Sunday morning with a beautiful mid-distance run of just under 7 miles. The weather has been feeling really fall-ish lately. It’s been great for running, but I don’t want the summer warmth to disappear just yet!

sunday aug 13

This week, I’m hoping to squeeze in one last long run before the half-marathon on Saturday (8/10). The course for this one is going to be interesting (aka hilly), but more on that later!

 

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Shipyard Old Port Half-Marathon

So we’re back with another half under our belts!

Saturday morning, my mom and I went for our last 3 mile run before making the drive up to Portland, Maine to pick up our race bibs and t-shirts. We’ve been looking forward to this race for a long time, so we were pretty darn excited. We have family friends (and former neighbors) who moved up to Maine so our plan was to spend the night at their house before making the drive into Portland for the race in the morning. So, we got to catch up and visit with them AND run a race – you can’t beat that for a good time!

I had made numerous lists to make sure we wouldn’t forget any valuable supplies at home, and thankfully, we remembered everything- iPods, GPS watch, gels, Clif bars, and of course, our sneakers (I was really paranoid about forgetting these!)

Our extensive supply of GU gels and energy chews!

Our extensive supply of GU gels and energy chews!

After picking up our bibs at a local running store, we had lunch in Portland, putting some of the finishing touches on our carbo-loading plan. I had a delicious pastrami sandwich and my mom had a black bean and chicken burrito. And then, of course, we had to top it all off with some of the best gelato I’ve ever had. Pure perfection!

We explored some of the cute, local shops and then met up with our friends before heading back to their house to relax and cook up some dinner- homemade lobster rolls, potato salad,  corn on the cob and a little green salad (my mom and I tried to go a bit light on the vegetables since it’s not a great idea to eat too much fiber the night before a race!).

Dinner before the race!

Dinner before the race!

All in all, I think my mom and I did a good job maximizing our carb intake and hydrating in the days leading up to the race. This was only my 3rd half-marathon (#4 for my mom), and we’re still experimenting a bit with nutrition and trying to find out what works best for us.

Race Day Recap~

The alarm went off very early on Sunday- 5 AM! We had to get ready, eat our breakfast (a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clif Bar for me and a PowerBar for my mom), and grab our travel mugs of coffee for the drive into Portland.

My mom drove, I took pictures!

My mom drove, I took pictures!

Thankfully, we had zero navigational issues getting into Portland and found parking easily. Lots of runners were milling around, and it suddenly felt very real- we were going to run 13.1 miles!!

We dropped off our supplies at the bag drop area, and went outside to warm up. The sun was starting to come out in full-force, and it was already beginning to feel warm- a little foreshadowing of the race we were in for!

Before we knew it, it was time. We lined up in the starting chute around the 9:30 min/mile pace group. I was hoping to run roughly this pace through the first 5 miles, before increasing my speed to between 8:30 and 9 min/mile for the last chunk of the race. This strategy has worked well for me in the past, so I thought it could be done. I was a little too ambitious.

The vibe was cheerful and excited, and everyone was ready to go. The gun went off, and we were on our way! Everyone was packed together through the first 2 or 3 miles and in the excitement, I think our 9:30 min/mile group was doing a pace closer to 9 min/mile. But me and my mom felt good, so I wasn’t super worried.

The only problem was that early on, we both realized we were going to have to stop and use a porta-potty. This was frustrating, but I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Around the mile 5 marker, we stopped and had to wait in line for the 1 porta-potty that was stationed next to the water-stop. This probably added a solid 4 to 5 minutes onto our time, which made me anxious. We had been making great time up to that point! Oh well, I thought. You gotta do what you gotta do.

After the little pit stop, I felt better, and ran a bit like a crazy person to make up for the lost time. I’m not sure, but I was probably doing around an 8 min/mile pace at this point. I caught back up with my mom, and she told me to run ahead- she needed to go a bit slower.

So I continued on by myself, immediately tackling an intimidatingly steep hill. I was proud of myself for running up it (tons of runners were walking), but when I got to the top, I was out of breath, and needed to walk a little to recover. The worst of the hills were done by this point, but now the heat was ratcheting up. It was well into the 80s with high humidity- basically, anti-running weather.

By mile 10, I was dying. In my previous 2 half-marathons, I had barely walked at all, but this was a whole different story. I would tell myself I only had 3.1 more miles to go- I could easily run that, right?! Wrong. I tried to limit my walking breaks to around 50-100 feet before running again, and this worked fairly well. I was a little bummed that my aggressive pace had fallen off so sharply, but eventually, it just became about finishing. I passed a biker who was being attended to by paramedics- he was lying down in a shady spot with an IV in his arm! My mom told me later that when she passed, he was being put on a stretcher to be taken to the hospital. And he wasn’t the only one- 5 runners had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for heat exhaustion!

I felt like crap and started wondering if I was going to throw up and/or collapse. Not an awesome mindset to run the last 3 miles of a half-marathon with…

FINALLY, I passed the marker for mile 13, and I told myself to limp on just a little bit farther. By this point, I had 2 giant blisters- one on each big toe- that throbbed painfully with every step. Let me tell you, that last tenth of a mile felt like the longest distance in the world. I finally crossed the finish line at 2 hours, 11 minutes (about 10 minutes off my PR). I was handed a cold, soaking wet towel, which I draped over my shoulders and I hobbled away to get some water.

I went back to the finish line, and cheered for my mom as she crossed the finish line soon after at 2 hours, 19 minutes. We had both finished without any serious bodily harm, and that was what mattered.

Post Race~

After drinking tons of water and allowing our stomachs to settle a bit, my mom and I tried some of the free food they had for us runners. We tried the strawberry-flavored Yasso frozen Greek Yogurt Bars- SO GOOD! And just what we needed after that crazy run in the heat. We purchased a little race merchandise, and headed out to a nearby Starbucks for some post-run refueling.

It felt good to finally sit down and change into flip-flops

It felt good to finally sit down and change into flip-flops

Happy to be finished!

Happy to be finished!

We chatted as we walked, and I heard about my mom’s experience of the half- not good. Like me, she had to walk WAY MORE than usual, and also felt pretty darn horrible. But as we talked about it, we realized there was really nothing we could have done different. We had trained for it, and were definitely fit enough to run the distance. The heat and almost-complete lack of shade really messed with us. We’d also had to stop to use the porta-potty which added time. But, you can’t run a PR every single race. For the conditions, we had actually done pretty well.

We proceeded to reward ourselves with some mini (and very melty) Snickers bars with our Starbucks. My mom got an iced coffee and I indulged in a coffee light frappucino with extra coffee. Yummmmmmmm.

Perfect post half-marathon treat!

Perfect post half-marathon treat!

My coffee frappucino!

My coffee frappucino!

Me+Snickers+Starbucks = Happiness!

Me+Snickers+Starbucks = Happiness!

So, it wasn’t our fastest race, but it certainly wasn’t a failure. We triumphed over the crazy conditions and as my blisters heal (and my mom’s toenails grow back!), we’ll soon be ready for our next adventure! I CAN’T WAIT!

*Note: pictures of the race are supposed to be uploaded to the Old Port Half-Marathon facebook page, so I will add some of those when they are finally up!

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Adventures in Maine!

In less than a week, my mom and I will be making the journey up to Maine once again, this time for the Old Shipyard Half-Marathon! We are getting very excited. 

BUT, before that happens, I wanted to post a little update on the mini vacation my mom and I just took up to Booth Bay, Maine. The weather really did not cooperate with us. AT ALL. It was sunny for, oh, the first 30-45 minutes we were there? After that, solid rain, clouds, and fog for the remainder of the stay…

Despite the rain and chill, we managed to have quite a few adventures. We started our trip off with a kayaking tour down the Sheepscot River. My mom and I shared a tandem kayak, as we’re both newbies when it comes to kayaking.

kayak2

(I snapped this picture of her from the front!) Even though it rained on us roughly the whole time we were kayaking, it was still pretty cool- we got to see a bunch of seals, and we stopped off at a little island for some much-needed snacks before making the return trip. By the time we finally got back, our hands were a wee bit water-logged-

DSC02500Between the rain and the dropping temperatures, we were freezing and starving by the time we made it back to our B&B, where we grabbed fresh coffee and some homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. I don’t even like raisins, but these tasted like the best cookies ever. room1

After grabbing a delicious dinner (my mom and I shared an order of pasta with lobster and a vegetable medley), we settled into our cozy room to watch a little trashy TV!

The next day, it was equally cold and drizzly, and we realized we hadn’t packed warm raincoats. So, off we went to shop with an umbrella borrowed from the bed and breakfast. Luckily, one of the first stores we went into had some very nice jackets, and both me and my mom ended up getting one. (Here’s my mom posing in her new jacket with the umbrella, which coincidentally matched!)

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While the weather was horrible, our stay at the bed and breakfast was really, really nice. You could tell that the views would be wonderful on a clear, sunny day (not that we had any of those!)

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The breakfasts the B&B served were also amazing. The first day, we had fluffy, scrambled eggs on a biscuit with a red pepper hollandaise sauce- DELICIOUS!! And the breakfast on our last morning was equally amazing- vanilla french toast drizzled with raspberry and chocolate sauce. Talk about starting the day off right!

Scrambled eggs with red pepper hollandaise on a fresh biscuit!

Scrambled eggs with red pepper hollandaise on a fresh biscuit!

Vanilla french toast drizzled with chocolate and raspberry!

Vanilla french toast drizzled with chocolate and raspberry!

garden2The last day we were bummed about having to head home in the afternoon, but we tried to make the most of our morning (even though, you guessed it – it was a cloudy, cool day)! We spent the last few hours of our trip visiting the Maine Botanical Gardens, which are apparently ranked as some of the most beautiful gardens in the US. Countless people had told us that we had to see the gardens, and they were right!  They really were gorgeous, and there was even a cute garden for little kids (and me )  to play around in.

Then, it was time to head home. *tear… Overall though, it really was a great, adventure-packed vacation, and we sure didn’t let the weather get in the way of our fun!

I can’t wait to get back up to Maine this weekend for a lil’ half-marathon fun!

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