Decker’s Creek Half Marathon, Year Two

Let’s kick this baby off with an official (pre)race picture!


Jill & I at the start

We had to buy this image from the race photographers because our selfies were frightening.  (We were a couple of “handsome” women in those.)  I think it was totally worth it to commemorate the best race ever.

Although there were several others who were supposed to join us this year, this was the second year that it was just Jill and I going to this race together.  I was a little bummed the others couldn’t make it – I was hoping to bring a group this year, because the race is so fabulous – but Jill and I had a blast.

I raved about this race last year, so I’ll skip the specifics (all the same things apply this year, including the banjo playing).  But let me get into why I went to this race even though I was absolutely, positively, not-at-all-prepared to run 13.1 miles.

I had a lousy training season, due in part to injuries, which were likely due in part to lousy training – it’s a vicious cycle!  But I could not, would not miss this race.  And had it been any other half, I would not have been able to go.  The fact that it is downhill is the only thing that permitted me to participate.  Even if it had been just plain old flat, I couldn’t have covered the distance.  Since I was there last year and knew exactly what it was like, I knew I could handle it with the right plan.

I shared with Jill that I was still planning to run – in spite of the fact that I hadn’t run more than six miles since January – but that would have to do deliberate run/walk intervals.  I was planning to run a mile and then walk for a quarter or even half a mile.  Jill suggested that I shorten my interval to 5 and 1 minutes, instead.  She said that even when I got tired, when it was time to run, I would be able to think, “Well, I only have to run for five minutes.”

What I actually did was set my watch to beep after the first mile – I figured I’d like to run at least a mile to start – and then beep for 1 & 5 minute intervals after that.  That worked until the second round of 1 & 5, and my watch quit beeping on me (I even verified when I went home that I didn’t ask it to stop after two rounds, so I don’t know what went wrong).  Then the challenge became winging the intervals and not looking at my watch every seven seconds.  So I made it kind of a game with myself during run intervals where I’d say, “I can’t look at my watch until at least this song is over.”  What would happen would be one of two things.  One, I’d look and I would have run for four minutes.  At this point, I’d tell myself, “Okay, I’m going to run a little faster this last minute.”  Two, I’d look and I’d have run for just over five minutes, at which point I’d decide to run out the 6th minute.  That is, I pushed myself a little, but within the framework of the plan I developed for the race.

I feel like this is insane to say this, but I was actually very, very pleased with my 2:38 finish time.  Even though that’s 14 minutes slower than I ran it last year, I’d been expecting it to take me at least 2:45.  So I was truly thrilled to be under that time.

The other thing that I was proud of myself for was the fact that I just stuck to my plan, I never felt like I wanted to die, and I simply enjoyed the race.  It’s gorgeous there, so I just took in as much of the scenery as I could.


See? Pretty place. Happy me.

I also repeatedly reminded myself that I was grateful to be there, with a friend, in a pretty place, and that I was capable of carrying my body over 13.1 miles, no matter how slowly I was doing it.



Decker’s Creek Trail Scenery

Race bonuses:  Instead of gels, this year’s race offered free Clif Bars.  We also again got a nice cotton t-shirt (I’m wearing it now!) and a couple of the typical goodies.  But this year, the race added finisher medals, and I thought they were nice and “just right” for this type of race.  Specifically, they were “real,” designed medals (v. those domed jobs) of a weight and size fitting the venue.  I was tickled to add this one to my display.

Finisher Medal

Finisher Medal

I think I loved this race even harder than last year, and I absolutely intend to be back again next year.  I’m starting a new training program, so I am hopeful that will return in 2016, feeling healthy and running faster.

As a final note, I’ll add my photo of this year’s crazy good food that was again offered.


Cookie, pizza, pulled pork sammie, pita chips & hummus, and COLD water and Gatorade

I’m now “behind” on my “Do Summer” challenge, but I’m not giving up!  I’m not sure what my next race is, but I’m planning some updates soon that will include how my new training plan is going.



Girls on the Run IS so much fun!

I just have to tell you how much I hate this post.  First, it’s harder than I thought to cram the whole season into one blog post.  Next, it’s really difficult to get the other inhabitants of this house to stop talking to me for more than 90 seconds.  (I guess it’s good to be liked.)  However, losing ALL of the changes and additions I made today – in spite of  several clicks of the Save Draft button – has to be the most exasperating delay.  Enough of that now; let’s get to it!

My friend Letty – one of my key running friends, one who really converted me from ‘someone who runs’ to ‘a runner’ – and I have daughters the same age.  We had been waiting until the girls were in third grade so that we become Girls on the Run (GOTR) coaches, as the program serves girls in grades 3-5.  We started all the planning to become a new site for a GOTR back in October.  With two coaches for our site, we were permitted to register up to 15 girls.

Beginning in February, we met up with 5 third graders, 1 fourth grader, and 5 fifth graders twice a week after school for life lessons and running.  Although two coaches were enough to support 11 girls, we lucked out and had a third coach assigned to our site.  Coach Kayla is a recently education graduate, a high school sprinter, and collegiate cross country runner – and she was a Godsend.  She really helped us hold it together on more than one occasion.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, we had the opportunity to get to know these great girls by working a curriculum of “life lessons” – activities geared around important topics like gossip, positive self-talk, healthy eating and movement, bullying, and friendship.  After the lessons, we’d run.  For every lap of the run, there would be something the girls would do to reinforce the lesson (e.g., stopping to jot down one idea for how to snap out of negative self-talk).  Each lesson was wrapped up with the giving of an “energy award,” for which one (and sometimes 2-3) girl was selected.  Kind of like the day’s MVP, the recipient of the energy award would get to pick a little “cheer” which we’d all perform in a circle, the awardee standing in the middle.  We’d complete each day by putting our hands into the middle of the circle and chant, “GIRLS ON THE RUN IS SO MUCH FUN!”

GOTR Nicely, going "Bananas"

GOTR Nicely, going “Bananas”

The program was twelve weeks long, included a community service project (which our girls rocked – we were so proud), and culminated in the GOTR 5K.  The 5K took place in Pittsburgh, and girls from all the area’s GOTR sites (a couple dozen or so) ran together and earned their medals.



There were two unexpected challenges to being a GOTR coach.  The first was snack time.  We decided to feed the girls their snack at the beginning of practice 1) to get it out of the way, and 2) because kids are always starving right after school, yeah?  Well, they acted like they were literally starving.  It was difficult to get them to stop, and even though we tended to bring “more than enough,” there were seldom any left over snacks.  I started calling it “the feeding,” instead of snack time.

I think the social nature of snack time also made it difficult to get the girls to transition from snack to session.  Which brings me to the second challenge:  keeping the girls moving / getting them to pace themselves.  There were times when it felt like they were just being lazy, but more than that, they just seemed to be way too easily distracted.  The girls also seemed to be overly interested in what everyone else was doing, despite us repeatedly telling them to focus on their own efforts and performance. For example, if one girl needed to stop to tie a shoe, the couple of other girls would stop with her.  Of when the girls needed a water break, they’d tend to linger by the water bottles.  It was like it just took them a moment to remember again what they were supposed to be doing, as they’d sip and talk.

We took to calling them “Girls on the Chat.”

ANYWAY!  It was a fabulously rewarding experience to coach – the girls were sweet and fun, and they all seemed to enjoy the whole experience and to get something out of it.  AND we realized at the race that we weren’t the only Girls on the Chat chapter.  There were more than a few other, slow-moving (and somewhat whiny) groups of girls on the course.  (We overheard one dad who seemed to be particularly irritated that the girls weren’t running the whole time.  He ended up taking off, telling a couple of girls that he’d see them at the finish line!)

Here are a couple of my favorite race day pictures:

three girls

Emily (center) with two of her 3rd grade buddies


My favorite, candid picture of Emily & Ella – BFFs!


Our team (and my niece, in pink, who was on another team) after the race

A final note.  One of our girls missed the race due to illness.  Although I’d have been upset for any of our girls to miss out on the race, it seemed particularly unfair, as the girl in question was possibly the “best” overall girl in the group.  I’m not talking about being the best runner (or even chat-er).  She was just the one kid who was always doing what she was supposed to be doing, who always had something positive to contribute, and who was always doing her best.  Basically, she was the embodiment of GOTR.  It broke my heart that she couldn’t make the race and earn her medal.  So the following week, we made arrangements for her, my Emily, and one other girl from the group – plus Coach Kayla* – to run a Memorial Day 5K right here in Greensburg.  I was able to get the GOTR office to send me her medal, which they said she was still eligible to earn for completing a race.  Setting this up made the season finally feel complete to me.

SAS finish

GOTR finishing Memorial Day 5K with Caoch Kayla


Emily at the end of her second 5K in two weeks!

On a “mom” – not coach – note, one of the very best things for me was how pleased Emily was with herself.  After both races, she said over and over, “I can’t believe I ran and walked over three miles.”  I’d reply with something like, “Yes, you’re really amazing because you have now done, twice, what most people can never say that they did.”  For such a chatty bunch, it really is a big accomplishment.

I can’t wait to coach again next spring!


*I was registered to run this race, but Kayla – saving the day at the last minute! – ran in my place because I woke up the day before with some right thigh/hip issues that made it difficult to walk.