Leaf Peepers Half Marathon

Leaf Peepers Half Marathon as part of Rise Run Retreat 2016 | happyfitmama.com

“And in this moment I am happy. Happy.”

I scanned my surroundings and took it all in. It was breathtaking. Not just because I had run (and power hiked) up a 17% hill and was gasping for a full breath, but because the world around me was nothing but vibrant shades of orange and red peeking out behind the fog. This is why I run. This is what makes me happy. That lyric from the Incubus’ song always seems to pop into my head when I’m happy. In that moment, I most definitely was happy.

This past year, I had kind of lost my running spirit. Well, not my running spirit, but more of the racing spirit. Picking a goal race, following a training plan, gunning for a PR – it just didn’t excite me. After spending so much time NOT running in 2015, I wanted 2016 to be the year of a running reset. To be able to run because I finally could.

The Leaf Peepers Half Marathon was just the thing I needed to reignite that racing spirit.

Flat Angela | happyfitmama.com

It wasn’t because I had the race of a lifetime, I PR’d, or because I felt amazing through the whole thing.

It was one of the slowest half marathon times I’ve ever run. I had massive calf cramping the last 2 1/2 miles. Sounds like a blast, right?

Actually, it was a combination of being surrounded by strong, powerful, and motivating women during the Rise.Run.Retreat and the race that kicked in that spirit.

Going into the race, I had zero expectations. Everyone kept asking what was my plan. Like everything this year, I didn’t have a plan. I was going to go by feel.

The first three miles were definitely hills. Not gently rolling hills but holy sh!t HILLS. I had Mount Washington flashbacks as I puffed up Perry Hill Road. When I saw a sign about 17% incline, I laughed – this was more than most of Mount Washington. No wonder my heart rate was through the roof! I pulled out my Mount Washington ratio – Run 200 steps/Walk 100 steps – to make it up and over.

Once at the top, I soon found myself alone. I could see runners ahead a bit but there was no one around me at all. I found myself fading and kind of settled into an easy long run pace.


Thankfully, two runners caught up to me at one point and woke me up – HELLO! THIS IS A RACE! I latched on to them and settled into a good pace. I was the creepy stalker that listened in on their stories. I was so entertained with the man retelling the story of a ultra mountain bike race that went wrong that I never realized we were cruising along at a 7:50 pace. And it felt really comfortable.

Around mile 5, Jes spotted me and gave me a shout out. Seeing friends on the course always helps for a little boost.

My boost didn’t last too long. My running buddies decided it was time to pick up the pace. NOOOOOO! I knew that I wasn’t going to hang on for too much longer.

Sadly, they left me in the dust as they powered up yet another hill. This was an out and back section that kind of sucked the life out of me. I can’t stand out and backs. The good thing was that I got to see all the girls – Allie looking relaxed and casual (was she even sweating?!?!), Sarah smiling with her signature braid tailing behind her, Laura and Sandra running together (so jealous that they had company!). I finally made the turn around and soon saw the other girls – Christine looking focused, Kara cruising along, and then Natalie and Sue smiling and encouraging.


I passed Jes again at around the 10 mile mark feeling pretty rough although I tried to put on a happy face. I had been milking a GU for almost the whole race. I just could not get it down. I knew that it wasn’t going to cut it. Soon after that, my calves started to cramp up. It was the kind of cramping that happened mid stride while my back leg came around. I would land on the cramped leg and it would give out. I then would have to stop, try to stretch it out and then walk before running again. This was the routine for the last 2 1/2 miles of the race.

That happiness from before? Completely gone.

I finally made it to the turn into the parking lot for the finish and tried to pick up the pace. My calf cramped up one more time in that short stretch as I gimped it into the finish with a 1:58 time.

Truthfully, I was quite disappointed in my time. Like I said, it was one of my slowest half marathon times ever. It was my own fault though for not following through on fueling during the race.

Post Leaf Peepers Half Marathon | happyfitmama.com

And then I felt like crap afterwards and was totally out of it. I was totally throwing out the fake laugh for the above picture. I’m so out of practice with fueling. I hadn’t been practicing my mid run fueling at all. Remember when I said I didn’t have a plan? That goes for fueling too.

I know every race can’t be a PR. I know that I can’t compare myself to where I was fitness-wise 2 years ago when I ran my last half marathon.

It’s hard to let go where you were before and where you are now.

Post Leaf Peepers Half Marathon | happyfitmama.com

After shaking my pity party, my perspective changed.

I felt happiness again. Happy to have been able to run this race with so many talented runners that I call friends.

I felt a fire growing. A competitive fire. I’m done with winging it. I’m ready to challenge myself again. I’ve spent too much time worrying about the potential of another injury. We all need to start somewhere. This was my starting line.

I’ve got goals and dreams floating in my head. I’ll be using the last months of 2016 to work with a sports nutritionist (Jamie who spoke with us at Rise.Run.Retreat) to find the root of my calf cramping (I almost always get it either during or post race) and how to fuel properly for optimal performance. I’m also looking for a coach. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for some time.

Now’s the time to start again.

Btw – Congrats to all who raced over the weekend!

Laura had a HUGE 10 minute PR at Steamtown. I can’t wait to read her recap.

And a special shout out to my coaching client, Dawn, who ran Chicago and scored a gigantic PR by taking 27 minutes off her previous marathon time. Congrats on your 3:36 marathon Dawn!!!!

Have you ever had a race gone bad but still happy about the outcome?

Would you rather run a hilly race or pancake flat?





18 comments on “Leaf Peepers Half Marathon

  1. I’ve been waiting for this post since I saw a remark you left on Christine’s. In my world it’s more bodybuilding than running โ€“ โ€“ but it’s all the same. It’s far harder for me to not compare myself to old me โ€“ โ€“i’m really good at not comparing myself to others

  2. I love this look at what racing can do for us–so often we just want to run (or at least I know that I do!) and then racing is a nice perk, but especially after you have been hurt (in my case), you just want to know that you CAN do it. It can be hard to reignite that spirit, and sometimes you just need to feel challenged again!

  3. Thank you Coach!!!! I’m still shocked it happened! You have pushed and challenged me so much this year! I am so glad you got all those happy racing feels back! woo hoo!
    Now that I ran so fast do I still have to do fartleks? ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I’m sorry you had to go though all of that during the race BUT it prompted you to all the good things – coaching, nutrition and the beginning of some new running dreams!! A year from now you will look back to this as “where it all started” and will smile at the memory.
    I think you have a lot of greatness ready to be tapped mama and I’m so happy I can be along for the ride.

    And big congrats to everyone this past weekend, especially Laura!! I’m so excited for her and her recap does not disappoint!
    Allie recently posted..The Rundown – OffseasonMy Profile

    1. I thought I was content with running whatever I wanted and not training for a goal. I was beginning to wonder if I was over the chasing PR’s thing. Guess not! Although I’m not going to jump into the Tri pool yet. I think I need to get past the doggie paddle before I give that a go! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I am so glad this lit the fire for you again! Obviously it’s not all about pr’s but it’s so awesome to enjoy the run and racing again. And to be considering a coach- that’s so exciting!

    I wish we could always run races with running friends- it makes such a difference. Even though you weren’t feeling awesome, you look so strong!

    And thank you so much for the sweet should out and messages this weekend! It meant so much to me!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Steamtown marathon recap and new pr!My Profile

  6. I know what you mean about not having a plan and just wanting this year to be a good old reset. I think that I kind of mentally freaked once we were at the start of the race and starting running because I had no idea what was going to happen and I felt so mentally unprepared. But like you, there’s a kindling fire now in my belly. I’m so excited for you to work towards you goals.

    1. I really wasn’t nervous for the race because in my mind, I was going in NOT racing. But I still wanted to do well. Like a really good training run. But I’m glad it sparked something in me. I was beginning to wonder if that was ever going to come back. I’m glad it did for you too!

  7. Congrats on your race and getting it done. It’s good to see that you are looking forward to racing again, and catching some goals! My most recent half was a training run for my marathon plan and even though it was 10 slower than my PR, I felt like I had just won the Olympics because I negative split the course and cruised into the finish like I was on fire! I really could have cared less about the time on the clock because it felt so good. You just need a race like that every now and then!
    Lisa @ TechChick Adventures recently posted..A 10K for the win, MacQueens race recapMy Profile

  8. I’m sorry you had to go through so much in a race, but I think that fire it lit is going to lead to many, many good things for you! In my (not very many years) of running experience, I’ve decided that every breakthrough race or season comes after a rough race. Like you said, something needs to spark the competitive desire again. So I think 2017 will be a breakthrough year for you, especially with Jamie and a potential coach! I’m excited to follow your journey and see what you achieve.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted..California International Marathon Training Week 10My Profile

    1. I knew that I wasn’t going to have a stellar race because of my training and the whole weekend. I kept forgetting that there was indeed, a race coming up. But I needed this year to chill and recollect myself. I’m excited for 2017 and the possibilities it holds.

  9. Sometimes I think we need to really struggle to be able to see things more clearly and find the motivation to make a change. Its always helpful to have a plan like working with a sports nutritionist and a coach! That half marathon sounds really challenging but looks like an amazing experience. I am sure you are on your way to great things!
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted..I Take It All BackMy Profile

  10. I love this race recap so much. This line >> Itโ€™s hard to let go where you were before and where you are now. >> resonates with me so much. It is pretty much the way I have been feeling for the past two years. Being pregnant it is even harder to imagine how I ran like I did and how I will ever get back … but we can and we will. I loved cheering for you out on the course. Can’t wait to do it again soon. xoxo

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