Race Recap: Virtual Race Run for the Zoo!

Disclaimer: I received free entry to review and race the Run for the Zoo Virutal Race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Run for the Zoo Virtual Edition!

I think this goes without saying, but like most races in 2020, the “Run for the Zoo” Race has gone virtual. That means being able run when ever my schedule permits, and having the luxury to run on my time makes things a lot easier to plan and execute. Virtual runs also give me an opportunity to get my miles in and get on with the day, without having to travel to and from the race.

Obviously, there are some drawbacks – if you are a people person, running in isolation is no fun, and not having a support team along the way can make things slightly more challenging. However, since we’re all professionals of running over the quarantine, this virtual race was business as usual for me.

Race day highlights!

Since I ran the streets in my backyard, I got to take in the beautiful scenery and wonder of an Amish Countryside- complete with farm animals! The cows were very encouraging… the horse and buggies didn’t want to race though.

I also timed my run to fall in the late afternoon, when the temperatures were most likely to dip- and the forecast was calling for rain, so the motivation to finish with haste was present!

Overall Impression

I’m glad I was able to Run for the Zoo and bring awareness to my social circle about this race. The Lincoln Park Zoo relies on various fundraising events (like this race) to support their operations.

If you’d like to support the Zoo, they have numerous exciting programs (virtual and in-person) shared on their website: HERE

The added benefit of having a Trainer

Make no mistake, you can find just about everything on the internet. So it should come as no surprise that when looking for a run coach, the internet has that too!

But who can you trust? If you search for an online trainer you’re bound to be flooded with results, each and every one claiming a specific speciality or goal pace they can help you achieve. When I first started looking for help, I found countless training plans and all sorts of conflicting advice. The process was overwhelming.

Enter: The Power of Social Media

Just when I had basically given up in finding a trainer, a fellow BibRave Pro Janell reached out to me through Twitter and offered to take me on as a client.

It was during a weekly Bibchat where a lot of the questions were based on goals and how we work on achieving them. I saw a few of Janell’s replies and got the immediate vibe that she knew what she was talking about.

After a quick email exchange we got setup and within a few weeks training began.

Personalized Training Plans

One thing I noticed off the bat was the personalized training plans that actually made running really fun and enjoyable. Gone were the days of me hitting the pavement and just running as hard and as fast as I could. With structured plans I was hitting the road with purpose and a set goal in mind.

For a beginning runner the tactic of just going hard every time will yield results… but also lead to injury and burnout. Speaking from first hand experience, the all-out method I employed before coaching made running more about punishment than accomplishment.

Lesson learned: Get a trainer and get specific plans just for you that make running fun again.

The Importance of Rest Days

Resting wasn’t a concept I was familiar with, even though it’s covered in the numerous running books I’ve poured over during the last 4 years. Rest was a concept that I thought only elite athlete’s required, surely not a novice runner like myself.

When I saw “rest” on my training plan I struggled with not being able to run, but after a few weeks of training, rest days were a reminder that everyone needs a break now and then.

Lesson learned: Everyone needs rest, not just the elite.

Accountability is Paramount

If anything else, having a trainer carries the added level of accountability. There were days when the sun was blazing and the humidity was oppressing and I would look at my training calendar and frown.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to run, it was just easier to sit on the couch and procrastinate. But when I would wake up before the sun, or decide to run later in the evening I would notice the cooler temps that came with it, and I knew I could tackle my workout. Most importantly, I couldn’t let my trainer or myself down for not getting in that workout.

Throughout the entire process Janell would check in and it was a much needed boost to keep me going!

Lesson learned: find a trainer that’s encouraging and supportive, but knows how to push you to achieve your goals.

So, Now what?!

Anyway, by now you’re probably wondering where to turn, and you’ve probably got a ton of questions. First and foremost, where can you find a trainer?

Well that’s one question I can answer! Janell is a wonderful trainer and she cane get you on the right track! You can find out more by visiting: https://runcanvas.com

Oh, and tell her Ken sent you!

Race Recap: The Frozen Snot

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Holy s*** that was intense! Honestly, I’m completely at a loss for words, that was by far the most intense race I have ever run. I should preface this by saying I’m not a hardcore trail runner, I’m mediocre at best, this was my first time in the big leagues.

Despite all of the heartache, the views were out of this world.

Edit: If you don’t know what the Frozen Snot is, it is the toughest race, mile for mile in the WORLD. Source and image: Frozen Snot

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Just Announced: BibRave Pro

Guys I’m super stoked to share that I’ve partnered up with BibRave as an ambassador for 2019! I can’t wait to dive in and really put my talents to work.

I’ve got a lot of plans for 2019, and I’m really hoping to kick things off on the right foot! What you can expect to see from me in the near future:

  • Race Reviews and Promo Codes
  • Product and gear Reviews
  • Interactive Runs
  • Podcast updates
  • And much more!

To all my friends and family: Thank you all for your support! And to all my runner friends and fellow BibRavePros here’s to a successful and wonderful year ahead! Also, if anyone wants to collaborate and join in the podcast, the more the merrier!

My BibRave Reviews

Trail Running the Conestoga

As the Frozen Snot lingers in the distance, my good friend and I headed out for some much needed training with an 8-mile point-to-point trail run. Our initial plan was to hit up a familiar trail, but decided to work on better elevation challenges with a more difficult trail (as suggested by his wife and fellow runner). We dropped off my friend’s brown truck at the finish and made the drive to the start.

Difficult is a bit of an understatement. The fact that we couldn’t find the trail start should have been a sign of things to come. After driving around for a bit and doubling back a time or two, we located the trail head.

The weather was cold with rain in the forecast. At 40°F I decided to wear shorts, along with a tech shirt and light running jacket. The plan was to cover 8-miles of fairly difficult terrain with lots and lots of hills. I decided to tote my Ultimate Direction running vest, with a hydration pack full of Tailwind nutrition.

Since the weather was cold, gloves were a must. However I must say, in the end it didn’t matter, it was cold, it was wet, we finished soaked to the bone and freezing. But, I digress.

Mile 1 was quick and easy, and it was swiftly followed by 2 miles of the complete opposite; slowly climbing and punishing terrain. The climbing must have jostled my hydration pack, because (I don’t know how) the top came loose and I ended up dumping half its contents all down my back. Sweet sweet Tailwind Nutrition, just wasted. I cried. I cried inside. It was painful and bitterly cold.

I nursed what little Tailwind I had for the remainder of the run. Thankfully, I had a Honey Stinger gel in my front vest pocket, which came in clutch later on.

The creek crossings in the beginning felt refreshing and were a welcome treat. Given the weather was a steady light rain, everything was wet and slippery so I felt very much in-tune to what and how I was navigating the trails. By mile 4, I was relishing in the fact that we were half-way done and felt strong.

At some point I remember mile 5 having a decent downhill cruise, which was somewhat pleasant. Pleasant as you can be while watching your footing and avoiding slipping on leaf covered dangers.

At mile 6, we stopped for a quick break. We were soaked to the bone, creek crossings were less enjoyable and I mentioned 2 miles was all I had left in me. Everything was wet, and my phone managed to call home 15 times within 15 minutes. My wife left me a lovely voicemail. We were having fun.

Mile 8 came and went and we realized we were no where close to our finish as the brown truck was no where to be seen. We called and got some much needed guidance on how to get back to the truck, a “short” trip down a lone service road was all we needed. I got to thinking we weren’t too far off, but as we rounded corner after corner, the brown truck was no where in sight. Either we were wrong, or just not listening, but that darn truck wasn’t even close. The truck was another 2 miles from where we were.

Miles 9 and 10 were brutal and angry miles. I don’t remember much, the sight of the brown truck was an instant relief. I never thought I’d be see happy to see that truck in all my life, but there it was just beckoning us with its dry interior.

All-in-all, it was 10 miles of perfect training. The weather was garbage, the terrain was tough and technical, but in the end we made it and learned a little bit more along the way.

Race Recap: Hex Hollow Half

It was oddly warm for a rainy and dreary December Sunday, but a bunch of us felt it necessary to run in the woods along some of the gnarliest, muddy, hilly, soggy, soul-crushing trails in York, Pennsylvania in a 6.66 mile race known as the Hex Hollow Half. The race is held at Spring Valley County Park, in Glen Rock, PA.

Now it’s called a half since it is a 13.1 mile race if you decide to run the 6.66 mile loop twice. But let’s be honest, only the crazies attempt that. Since this was my first year, 6.66 miles was just enough for me to handle. So I guess I technically ran the Hex Hollow Half-Half.

Did I mention it was muddy?

The race begins on a downward trail that run along the border of the park’s woods. You feel great, the air is cool and damp, your footing is strong and the slight drop in elevation teases you into thinking Hex Hollow is a nice and easy quick race. I saw my 9:30 pace and chuckled as I jumped over some course obstacles. I left my Ultimate Direction hydration pack in the car, I mean it’s only a little over 6 miles, did I really need it?

The answer was yes. I’m an idiot. And it’s not because I needed hydration per se- it’s the fact that I started the race wearing too many layers. The pack would have been ideal for toting all my junk versus me awkwardly carrying everything the entire race.

Mile 1 was a freaking tease. The course never got any easier after that. What’s the saying? “What goes up, must come down.” Yeah, we went up alright and some sections we came down, but it never was easy either way. Going uphill seemed to be the theme of the day, and my heart rate was at maximum threshold the entire time. I would walk when the incline was just too much, but it didn’t seem to help the mental games the course played. I doubted myself in some spots, stopping was never an option because if I did I was calling it quits.

Miles 2-3 were tough. Coming down to the aid station at mile 3 was tricky. The trail was wide and looking inviting, it was a downhill section that was asking for trouble. The leaf covered ground hid rocks, twigs, and ankle twisting moss covered roots just salivating at the sight of runners. My quads burned as my internal Jake-brakes kicked in and I jarred and jolted my way down the hill. I’m not sure if I drank the water or just poured it all over my face, either way it was ice cold.

Most of the race was single track, sopping wet and muddy with no room for mistakes. The mud did everything it could to suck the shoes off your feet.

Miles 4, 5, and 6 weren’t any better. The stream crossings were refreshing and fording the knee deep water at one point was the highlight of the race. The air was cold, damp, and foggy, but as soon as your heart rate increased you could feel the humidity and weight on your chest. At mile 6 in a sharp incline an older woman passed me and grumbled something to God that there were no more hills. She hexed us, as we rounded a corner the hill only kept rising and if I had a rock I would have thrown it at her.

This race was a humbling experience. Beyond humbling if that. As I ran up to the finish line at 1:30:05 the race director asked if I had fun as he put his arm around me and matched my weak jog. I looked him in the eyes and said, “how do I politely tell you that I hate you guys? I’ll see you next year, I’ve got unfinished business.” He laughed and told me that is what he loves to hear, so many people have a love-hate relationship with the race that it draws them back for more. He’s right. I’ll be back, it was an awesome race and a great experience I’ll remember until next time.

https://www.bibrave.com/races/hex-hollow-half-reviews/11306

Race Recap: iCare 5k

Every year a nearby food bank hosts a 5k almost in our backyard. Blessings of Hope has a huge yard sale, auction, food vendors, activities for kids, and of course a 5k race in beautiful Lancaster County. The company is predominantly Mennonite so it attracts the local Amish and Mennonite community at large. Turn out is always HUGE.

This year the 5k drew a much larger crowd as well. The course was the same as the previous year, a nice easy run on the back roads of Amish Country. There is a slight incline, at the very start, but for the most part it’s nothing too crazy and very runner friendly.

At the very beginning I noticed a lot of kids hanging around the starting line- in fact there were a lot of kids and I thought how fun it will be to blow past them at the half way mark. The announcer’s voice boomed over the handheld speaker as she yelled “GO!” and we were off. Truth be told: those Amish kids took off and I didn’t see a single one after that. Even though my first mile was complete in 7 minutes, and my second mile at 7:20, those kids were fast and long gone.

The course was beautiful as always, and the atmosphere and iCare event was a lovely experience. Even though I hit a few PRs, fastest mile (7:11), fastest 2 miles (14:31), I still finished 25th overall. I placed 3rd in my age group and received a fidget spinner medal- all-in-all, it was pretty fun.

Last year I ran a lot slower, with an average of 9:00 min/miles and placed 2nd in my age group. So this year I’d say the amount of competitors was a lot higher and the skill levels were just as high to match. This is a fast course and we saw some really fast times! Looking forward to next year!

Hershey Half Marathon, a Wrapup

Well another year has come and gone and another chance to hit a PR was on the line. The Hershey Half Marathon is one of my favorite races of all time and continues to serve as a benchmark for the race season ahead. So how’d it go? Here’s the nitty gritty.

Did I PR? Why Yes, Yes I did!
I managed to snag a course PR… by 9 seconds. I guess I shouldn’t complain because a PR is a PR is a PR. My finish time was 2:13:51 and I’ll take it.  My goal was to hit 2 hours even, by the start of the race I was held up by some slight congestion with the mass of runners and the first two miles were averaging around a 9:30 pace.

I knew from the start that if I wanted a 2 hour finish I needed to dig deep and push hard.  Unfortunately my body had other plans, and rather than injure myself I decided to run at the race my body was telling me.  The first 5 miles I was running a comfortable 9:30 average pace and if I held that pace I knew I would hit a 2:04ish finish time.

Learning from Last Year:
Last year I had to stop twice to pee – which cost me precious time.  So taking a note from last years race, I made, what ended up being a crucial mistake, by deciding to not drink a lot of fluids the night before and the morning of the race.  I figured I’d carry my own water (infused with Nuun) and would make due on the course.

Mile 6-7 proved my no fluids tactic was dumb and my left leg revolted in the worst cramps I have ever experienced! I ran into some friends that could see the struggle in my face, however their encouragement pushed me to press onward and run through the pain.

I could feel the tension in my left calf muscle, but as long as I put most of my weight on my right leg it wasn’t horribly bad. And the fact that I had some friends nearby I felt the need to keep up. I held an average 10:30 min/mile for as long as I could. By mile 10-11, I knew the race was almost done, but my calf was just not in the mood. I slowed down, got to the side of the course and stopped- a cardinal sin in my book of running. I stopped and evaluated my situation, I ran both hands down my legs to make sure they felt the same. My thigh muscles and calf muscles were identical so I knew I hadn’t done serious damage. My left calf muscle just felt tense- so I took the opportunity and massaged it firmly while stretching it out a little. The brief stop was relief enough for me to bounce back slightly and maintain a 10+ min/mile pace.

As I rounded out the course there were kids from the Children’s Hospital there cheering us on and the emotional experience took my mind off the pain and I pressed on.

I finished the race, grabbed my medal, my snack bag and headed right for the infield of the stadium. I collapsed and immediately began stretching and massaging my left calf in an effort to rid the pain. After about 10 mins I got up and at that point noticed walking was out of the question- the stiffness was too great. Walking was out of the question, but as long as I kept my heel up, jogging back to my car was still in the cards.

As I jogged back to my car I overheard some people saying “that guy is still running- guess he thought this was a Marathon…” I laughed in my head as I returned to my car. I guess from someone else’s prospective it would appear that way- which made me stop and think for a brief second: Should I run a full marathon next?

Crazy right?

Great Pumpkin Run, a Wrapup

Well, another fun 5K in the books.  The Great Pumpkin Run, held at Savidge Farms by Sour Fish Events, proved to be another interesting race experience.  And since we are such good parents, we enrolled our children to tag along as chaperones.  The course was a winding adventure through corn fields, some woods, fields again, a pumpkin patch and wrapped up with a cattle chute finish through a narrow corn maze.

The good stuff:
The event itself was fun and family friendly. Make no mistake, we enjoyed the atmosphere and thought all-in-all the course was challenging and exciting.  Our chaperones did okay considering this was their first “off-road” course.  It my rookie mistake only training with them on smooth paved trails. The rocky fields and wild corn husk now and then of Savidge Farms, proved to be a little more tricky than dodging cyclists on our home training grounds.  Despite having to stop to fix a shoe, walking in sections that were deeply rutted by farm equipment and my irritating words of encouragement, the kids maintained a 14 min pace.

If you read my previous post about 80/20 running, my slow runs are around 11:30-12 min pace, so this was a good test of remembering to slow down.

The not-so-good:
The course was fun, but certain sections bottle necked runners close together. (Small rant Warning) I’m all for loving thy neighbor, but there seemed to be a lot of people in a hurry to catch a PR and made for rude attitudes, yelling, and a few elbows in the way.  Now, mind you, this race has your typical waves, so the more “advanced” runners should have put themselves in an earlier wave or at least started at the very front of the slower waves.

Just a side note: If you want to catch a PR, sign up for the first waves dedicated specifically for Running. Leave the Run/walk waves to those of us with kids that just want to have fun.

I realize I’m just complaining about circumstances out of the event organizer’s control, so take everything I’m saying in strides.

The race metals were pretty sweet, (see picture above) but I think the shirts lacked a little something.  The screen printing on some of the shirts were damaged and I noticed a few people went to Facebook to complain about the quality of the tech shirts.  Again, all minor details, we had fun and that’s what counts.

Family Finish Time: 44 mins 40 seconds

Hot Chocolate 15k – Follow-up!

Oh man, I’m I excited to share with you all my Race-recap of the Hot Chocolate 15k in Philadelphia! This is the second year I’ve run this race and I have had a great time so far!  Oh and best of all, this race counted as my long run prior to my half marathon so I basically got rewarded for training.

If you are planning on doing the HC15K in Philly, here are my tips for the newcomers:

  1. Parking is a horrendous nightmare! Get there early and look for parking near the backside of the art muesun. If you are daring, feel free to park on the street, bonus points if you make your own parking on the concrete islands that serve as lane dividers. Tip: This seems like a no-brainer, but- Get there early.
  2. The inflatables attract a lot of attention, so if you want your picture with the giant marshmellows, do it first thing when the crowds are small. Again, early bird gets the worm.
  3. If you arrive early and want to stock up on Merchandise- buy gloves and hats before the race because these are the first things to sellout. Tip: Wait until after the race to buy clothing (sometimes they’ll have a discount rack to move product faster).
  4. Bring layers! April in Philadelphia can be unpredictable, but so far every year it’s been biting cold and rainy in the morning and then getting nicer at the conclusion of the race. Tip: Wear old clothing you don’t mind discarding, they’ll donate discarded clothing to the local shelters. 
  5. When you have to use the bathroom, the port-a-johns closest to the starting gates are always packed. Tip: Take a few extra steps and walk toward the end of the long line of facilities and you’ll either have a short wait or not wait at all. 
  6. At the end of the race, collect your medal (you deserve it!) and head to the tents to collect your finishers mug! Tip: Again, take a few extra steps and walk away from the crowds to the lines furthest from the finish line- there’s usually never a wait.

Cheerish these tips, they have served me well! Now, about the race: the course is fairly flat, so this is a great time to turn up the speed! In my case this counted as a long training run before my half marathon next week, so I took it easy. I ran at an average 10:22 pace but found myself passing a lot of people along the way. If your like me and carry your own hydration, stay to the outside of the course and just keep moving along. There are several hydration stations and bathrooms along the way, and also the park is alongside the entire course so if you want to avoid the crowds or take a break there is a walking trail that parallels the course.

There were over 6,000 participants so the event can seem a bit crazy at times. Kudos to the event organizers for keeping things moving and keeping the crowds under control.

I usually start in the corrals near the back: One, I know I’m not super fast runner so starting in the front doesn’t mean much to me. Two, I like to pass people vs. getting passed repeatedly. 🙂 Lastly, it gives you a chance to walk around and take it all in.

I started off nice and slow, with an average pace around 11min/mile just to get warmed up and a feel for the pack I was running alongside. After the second and third mile I picked up the pace and started to focus on my cadence and breathing. In through the nose and out the mouth, feeling good. Miles 4 and 5 were closer to 10 min/mile pace- I wanted to go faster but just didn’t want to over do it.

Mile 6 into 7 I started to hydrate – I didn’t feel thirst, but I could tell my mouth wasn’t was moist and my nose wasn’t as runny as it normally was during the beginning of the race. My pace slowed slightly because now I was catching the large crowds that were in the corrals ahead of me. At some points during the congestion I was trying my best to navigate through the walkers and abrupt stoppers.

Mile 7 into 8 I started to feel a little tightness in my calves, but nothing that warranted stopping so I pressed on and picked up my pace a little.

Coming into the final stretch I realized that the course barely had any photographers- in fact it wasn’t until I approached the finish that I saw the event photographers. Not that I wanted photographers catching me every 10 minutes, but just an observation I picked up on from last year. The last and final approach is on an incline, so just remember to save a little bit of extra umph for a strong finish.

I had a great time, picked up a little extra swag afterward and enjoyed getting out and running the 15k for another year.