Saturday, October 27, 2012

Revolution Run Homecoming 5K

This morning, Seth and I headed out bright and early to take part in UMass's Revolution Run Homecoming 5K

We had been looking forward to being back on campus and taking part in this race. 

We arrived on campus at around 8:00 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. race start. We had pre-registered but had to pick up our bib by the library. Registration was very well organized. We got a great swag bag that included a course map and t-shirt.


After registration, we had plenty of time to drop stuff off at the car and then walk around to warm up for the race.

At 8:50 a.m., the race organizers gathered everyone at the start line, right near Bartlett Hall, our old stomping grounds and the English Department building. After brief announcements, the race started at 9:00 a.m. sharp -- smart organization and planning. The race, unlike last weekend's, featured electronic timing, so my time didn't start until I crossed the line. I always appreciate this because I like to start at the back of the pack. This means that I don't get in anyone's way, plus I get to start by passing a lot of people -- a trend I continued through much of the race.

The race started by running towards Whitmore and down through the Southwest underpass. We then took the bike path and crossed the street where we continued behind the stadium. After running around the parameter of the stadium, we looped back to the bike path and Southwest underpass. We then climbed a small rise from around 400 meters to 200 meters away from the finish line. We concluded the race back where we started, between Bartlett and Memorial Hall. It was great fun to run through UMass and see campus again.

I felt strong running the race. It started with a slight downhill drop, which helped me gain momentum. I passed a lot of people throughout the race and kept a strong pace of around 9:30, which is a fairly fast speed for me. Overall, the race was mostly flat. However, it concluded with a slight hill; I was so focused on my goal of finishing in under thirty minutes that I did not let that slow me down.

I hit my goal, finishing the race in 29:31!

After walking around to cool down, I headed back towards the finish line to see Seth conclude the race.

He finished in 36:12, over a minute faster than his time last weekend -- amazing! We were both very excited at how we did during this race.

We walked around the pond area of central campus a little bit after the race, but left pretty quickly because it was cool and misty out. It was great to be back on campus, and the run was a lot of fun. It was well organized, had a good course, and, of course, was at UMass, which was part of the charm. We'll definitely want to do this run again next year!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

ABC Fall Foliage 5K

Yesterday, Seth and I headed out to downtown Amherst for the Amherst A Better Chance Fall Foliage 5K

The race started at a very civilized 10:30 a.m., which gave me ample time to have an excellent breakfast. Ezekiel bread toast (carbs) with peanut butter (protein), and some chai tea (because a little caffeine can be good before a run).

Seth and I had decided to sign up for this run together. For both of us, this would be our first 5K. Seth had done the 3K at the Bridge of Flowers. I had done the approximately 5 mile Lake Wyola Road Race, the Bridge of Flowers 10K, and the Hogsback Half Marathon. We were excited to do this race together!

They even gave us consecutive bib numbers. 

When we arrived at the Town Commons to register, it was a breeze. This was going to be a fairly small race of only around 100 people or so.

It quickly became clear that this race was not as well organized as some of the previous races that we did. The race started quite a bit late and, it turned out, that we were running along the same course as they were having walkers go along. This led to a lot of traffic. Many times during the run, there were people in my way. Also, they had decided to use clock time to track the runners instead of electronic chips. I started towards the back of the pack and am not sure if they accounted for when I crossed the starting line to start my time.

The race course was very interesting. We started by heading out from the Commons and then running down through the back of the Amherst College campus. We then met up with a trail running through Amherst conservation land. The amount of trail running on this 5K was unexpected to me -- they had posted course details online but not a map, so this wasn't very clear. I would say around a third of the face was on trails. However, the trail run portion was beautiful. The trail crested at the top of a hill and there were wonderful views of the fall foliage and the Pioneer Valley for miles. The trail met up with the bike path, which we took past the Farmer's Supply to meet up with 116 right by the Amherst College gym. From here, there was a significant uphill climb. I had really wanted to do this 5K in 30:00 or better. The uphill climb towards the Amherst College octagon was quite a challenge to this goal (as was the unknown start time calculation, trail running, and walkers on the course). I did my best to power up the hill, my breath very hard. I crossed the finish line at 30:12. Just over my goal time, however eighth out of eighteen in my division -- pretty exciting.

After collecting myself, I headed back up towards the hill to cheer Seth on. He ran hard at the end finishing in  37:24. I was so proud of him for making it!

After the race, we went back to the Commons. They didn't have any traditional race snacks, just a bit of BBQ food, which we didn't want after running hard. We decided to head home.

While this was not my favorite race because of the lack of organization, I did like getting to see new running trails in my local area.

Today, I decided to do a brief morning run. I was able to find the trail that we took during the 5K. It is about a 3 mile run from our house. I was able to take it and loop around. I passed some beautiful areas of Amherst.

Seth and I have fun plans to celebrate the 5K, especially since it's Seth's longest race to date. We have some limited edition Pumpkin wine from the local Amherst Farm Winery that we're very excited to try tonight.

We're also looking forward to our second 5K next weekend, the Revolution Run Homecoming 5K. This race is at UMass Homecoming and will be run through through the UMass campus. The course is mostly flat and all on the road. The course is USTAF certified and they will be using electronic timing. I am hoping that I'll be able to make my 30:00 5K goal next weekend.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Columbus Day Weekend

This weekend was Columbus Day weekend. While Seth and I don't usually get Monday off from work, we had both taken the day because  there had been a planed trip to Maine with Seth's parents. Unfortunately, the trip got postponed, however, we decided to keep the three day weekend. We made the most of it and had a weekend of family fun!

This Friday is my mother's birthday. As I am working all next weekend, Seth and I took the opportunity to travel down to Connecticut this weekend to celebrate Mom's birthday. Seth brought down some amazing doughnuts from Atkins -- I have a humongous glazed red velvet one (basically as my lunch). 

Mom, Greg, Seth, and I decided to make a trip up to Clinton Crossing to do some outlet shopping in the afternoon. They have a Nike store there, and I wanted to see if I could snag some running tights for cheap, like I did with the fall/winter running tops I found. 

Success! I found two pair of tights, which Mom very generously got me as an early holiday gift. (Thanks, Mom!)

The first pair of tights I got were a set of dri-fit women's tights. They are perfect for the weather right now. In fact, today, when I went out for my run, it was 43 degrees out, and I got to run in my new tights. They were perfect for the chilly and damp fall day. My legs felt very comfortable. The tights were warm enough at the start of the run (when I was cold) but breathed well enough so that I wasn't too hot towards the end of my run (by which time I had heated up). Perfect!

I also got a pair of Nike Element Thermal Running Pants. I'm hoping to use these pants in the slightly colder temperatures. They are less snug than the tights, so I could even layer the tights with the thermal pants in really cold weather.

While this was not at Clinton Crossing, I made my final athletic-wear purchase of the year with a pair of Nike Livestrong Pacer Shorts, on clearance at Dick's Sporting Goods. I wanted to have a pair of shorts as an option to pull over my tights in case I go running with others and want more modestly. The shorts can also be used on their own at the gym (or outside during the summer).

We continued the celebrating for Mom's birthday with a quick snack at FroyoWorld on our way back from Clinton. We then finished up the day at home in Bethany with a home-cooked meal. Knowing the crazy work schedule I have this week, Mom sent us home with tons of food: half a roast, over a dozen eggplant rollatini, and a container of beef stew. We are well appointed for this week. 

Sunday, we had another fun family day, this time with Seth's family. We wanted to do something fun and special to take the place of our intended vacation. One fall tradition that Seth and I love is going to Mike's Maze, a large corn maze in Sunderland, near where we used to live. We decided that this would be something fun to do with Seth's parents. 

We had a great time at the maze!  

I navigated us through using the small map we were given. The goal was to find numbered stations throughout the maze (marked on the map) and then answer questions on each. This year's maze was agricultural themed, and the questions were in keeping with that theme.

This was the most successful year yet -- we didn't get lost once as we made our way from station to station. 

At the end of the maze, as a prize for completing the game, we each got a little gourd.

Following the trip through the maze, we noticed that a man was giving horse-drawn carriage rides. We took advantage. The two lovely gentlemen horses that pulled us were George and Charlie, two Belgians. The horses weighed over 1,000 pounds.

The carriage ride was lovely and took us back behind the far side of the maze along the Connecticut river. It was a fun time! 

After the maze, we headed back to Seth's parents' house for a nice dinner and some visiting. All in all, a lovely weekend -- it was great getting to visit all the family!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Early Fall

I have to admit that, in all honestly, the fall bums me out. The weather is getting colder, we wake up in the dark, and October is the rainiest month of the year. And, of course, there is a reminder that winter is coming -- always a downer. 

Obviously, feeling sad about the fall is not very productive, so I've been trying some exciting new things to keep the season fun. After all, fall has it's pluses: comfortable temperatures for outdoor exercise, cooler nights for sleeping, fun seasonal activities (like fairs and apple picking), tasty fall-specific foods, and the beauty of the leaves changing. It is a lovely time to live in New England!

I started the fall with an exciting project: I made pancakes. Making pancakes might not sound too adventurous for most people, but, as anyone who knows me would say, I'm not super keen on cooking. I would, in fact, say I dislike cooking. I try to avoid the kitchen unless absolutely necessary. When I do prepare food, I keep it simple. I can, for example, make a most excellent salad.

I was inspired to make pancakes after reading an article in Runner's World called "The Ultimate Guide to Pancakes". The article included a multi-grain pancake recipe, Pam Anderson's Multi-grain Medallions, and options to mix it up with added ingredients. One delicious-looking option was to add cocoa and chili powder with chopped up dark chocolate to the recipe. The picture looked amazing -- I had to try it.

The multi-grain pancake recipe was fairly straight forward and had detailed ingredients, but there was no information about how much of each ingredient to use for each of the add-on recipes. I played it by ear and added cocoa until the batter looked an appropriate color. 

Then, over the course of thirty minutes, I made pancakes one-by-one in our little pan.

The results were excellent. A cooking success. The pancakes were lightly sweet from the cocoa and had a little zing from the chili powder. 

Next time I have an hour free, and the wherewithal to spend it in the kitchen, I want to try another one of the Runner's World pancake recipes!

I've also been embracing the fall with a little bit of trail running. Living in Amherst, there are loads of trails right near my house. It is the perfect place for someone who wants to exercise outside. 

About a quarter mile from our house is the 47-mile Robert Frost Trail. For my Tuesday morning run, I headed back into Echo Hill and pick up the trail. It was lovely!

I was able to take the Robert Frost Trail back into the nearby Amherst Woods residential area and then along the K.C. Trail to meet the Norwottuck Rail Trail.

I always love running along the rail trail. I can get to it by running about a mile from my house. The rail trail goes all the way into Northampton where, I believe, you can connect to other rail trails. Some day, I want to run the rail trail from home to work. It's around ten miles, so I know I could manage it.

If the rain clears up, I plan to attempt to further embrace the fall season and do more trail running. (I fear going out into the woods when it's wet, especially considering I am running in street shoes, as I don't have a pair of trail running shoes.) 

This weekend, if the weather turns out to be nice, I'll definitely have some fall activities planned!