So, this was originally going to be two separate blogs. I was going to use one blog to talk exclusively about the race and another blog to talk about the incredible time that I had meeting up with my friends from The Extra Mile Podcast (http://theextramilepodcast.com). However, the more I thought about it, the more I realize that it would be nearly impossible to separate the two. With that said, this may be a bit longer than my normal race recap, but if you stick around and read the whole thing and enjoy the photos that are included, I think you will find it worth your time.
I think the best way to approach this recap is to try my best to give a chronological account of the weekend starting from Thursday morning. Just before lunchtime on Thursday, September 9, Carrie and I set out from Virginia Beach for Finksburg, MD. We would crash at my Aunt and Uncle’s house for the evening. Carrie would stay with them while I was at the race and then we would head home together Saturday evening. It’s always great to see family. We hadn’t seen Aunt Patsy and Uncle Ronnie since Christmas of 2019 so this visit, while brief, was long overdue. I was incredibly grateful to have Carrie’s company in the car. She’s growing up so quickly and I know that before I know it she will be out there starting her own life, so I will always cherish these times together.
On Friday morning, I got up fairly early so that I could take care of a few things and get to Bird in Hand at a decent time. It’s only about an hour and a half from my Aunt’s house, but having grown up in this area, I knew that traffic between the Baltimore and Lancaster areas can sometimes be a bit dicey. I got the oil changed in the car (couldn’t get it done in Virginia Beach the day before because they didn’t have the right oil filter), got a quick haircut from Jessica at Alter Image (https://alterimagehairsalon.com), bought a new pair of Altra running shoes from Steve at RunMoore (https://letsrunmoore.com) and got on the road. Now before you ask, I did NOT run the half marathon in brand new running shoes. I knew that my current shoes were on their last leg (more on that later) and I am a huge proponent of supporting local businesses.
Traffic was certainly no fun getting to Lancaster. The normally ninety minute drive took me a little over two hours. I realize that’s not terrible, but when you’re excited about seeing friends, those extra thirty minutes seem to take forever.
When I did finally arrive at packet pickup, I very quickly got my shirt and race bib and started looking around for other Extra Milers. I knew that our official first meetup wasn’t scheduled to start until 4 at a local park, but I was hoping to run into a few of them before that. I did. Within moments of picking up my shirt, I ran into Chris Russell and his lovely wife Yvonne. While we were chatting and making formal introductions, Scott Perkinson joined the conversation. I’ve met Scott before and it’s always great to catch up with him and his wife Kristen. Finally, before leaving the packet pickup area, I ran into Nate Wagner. Nate and I had also previously met (at Bird in Hand, 2018). We chatted for a few minutes and I slipped out to put gas in the car and make my way over to our official meetup.
At the meetup, which was organized by my friends Duane, JD, and Anthony, we had the opportunity to hang out and get acquainted with so many ‘virtual’ friends that we had never met in person and we were also treated to a fantastic pasta dinner with some of the best homemade Alfredo sauce that I’ve ever tasted. It was such a cool experience to just be able to chill and hangout with these folks that I felt like I had known for several years.
Around 6pm I left the picnic area and went back over to the race to cheer on a few of the folks from our group that were running the 5k. Back in 2018 I did the 5k in addition to the half as part of what they call the Fireman’s Challenge. I opted to not do that this time around so as to be totally focused on the half marathon and not do anything stupid by pushing too hard during a 5k the night before. The evening weather was spectacular (so much so that I had to fight the urge to register for the 5k on the spot) and was just a wonderful preview of what was to come the next morning.
Here’s where the trip turned really interesting. When I made my hotel reservation, I discovered that Lancaster was home to The Cartoon Network Hotel. Let’s face it. I’m just a big kid and I thought that this would be a fun place to stay even if just to have a place to sleep for the night. Well, the theming was great and the hotel certainly looked the part. However, there were two big problems. At a certain price point I no longer expect to have exterior access to my room. I was paying for a hotel, not a motel. Overall, since I was traveling alone that was minor. What wasn’t minor was the paper thin walls that enabled me to hear every conversation in the adjacent room all night. You would think that when a hotel is built that is meant to cater to families with children, they wouldn’t leave the walls so poorly insulated. I guess it’s a good thing that I sleep pretty hard because once I fell asleep, it was no longer an issue. That said, I will not be returning to that hotel.
Race time for the half marathon was 7:30 AM on Saturday, September 11. Our group had decided to get there around 6:30 to give us a chance to meet up, take some photos, use the porta-john (this is weird, but these were the best smelling portable bathrooms anywhere – literally smelled like roses), and be ready to run. I had only one goal for this race besides having fun. I wanted to beat my time on this course from 2018. That meant I needed to come in under 2:24:54. I basically needed to have a pace of just under 11 minutes per mile to reach that goal. Why didn’t I go for a PR, you ask? To begin with, I’m not in PR shape. Secondly, this is not a PR course. I live in Virginia Beach (aka Flat Town, USA) and this course is in the middle of Amish country in south-central PA. In other words, there is no flat ground to be found.
After talking with a few friends to see what their game plan was, my friend Anthony McCann said that he would run with me and we’d see how he we felt as the day went on. He felt undertrained to run his normal race (he went sub 2 hours on the course in 2018) and while I felt trained, my last couple of long runs weren’t exactly smooth sailing. I thought I could get in under that time mentioned, but we would play it by ear.
If you follow this blog you know that I train and run using the Galloway run/walk/run method. Anthony has used that method before, but he also does a good bit of straight running. We decided to use a run/walk interval of 90 seconds running and 30 seconds walking with the flexibility to adjust if needed. I am thrilled to say that we never had to adjust during the entire run and we were able to maintain conversation the whole time. There were a couple of times where we skipped a walk break due to being on a downhill and wanting to take full advantage of the gravity that would be helping us out. We had a great time out there together and came in a full 2 minutes and 8 seconds faster than my 2018 time. My official finish time was 2:22:46 and I felt fantastic afterwards.
The Bird In Hand Half Marathon features one of the most unique medals I’ve ever seen. The medal is literally a used horseshoe taken straight off of an Amish man’s horse. They then weld a plaque to the horseshoe to commemorate the race and use a thin piece of leather strap to hang the medal around your neck. In addition to being one of the most unique medals I’ve ever seen, it is easily the heaviest. After about 30 seconds, I was ready to have it off of my neck.
Now wait a minute. I spent a good bit of time at the beginning talking about the amazing friends that I got to meet up with and I really haven’t gone into any detail or shared any photos of them yet. Relax. I’m about to do that now. Let me start by mentioning a few folks that for some reason I did not get photos with this weekend.
Steve Hailstone – It was such a pleasure to meet you. You are just so pleasant to be around and the demeanor that we hear in your voice when you are on the podcast, is exactly who you are. Thanks for snagging the photo of Anthony and I turning for home on Saturday morning.
Duane Hespell – How did we not get a photo together, my friend? Your humility shines through and you are simply a joy to be around. Seeing how much you loved the place you call home and were so proud to show it off to your friends was really cool to watch.
If I leave anyone out, believe me when I say that it’s not intentional. I had a wonderful time meeting and interacting with all of you.
‘Just Plain Dave’ and Chris Russell – these two guys are running podcast royalty. Dave’s podcast is called ‘Running Virtually’ (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/running-virtually/id1492929378) and Chris hosts a show called ‘Run Run Live’ (http://runrunlive.com/category/4-0). Dave is one of the best storytellers out there and Chris’ show is incredibly informative and entertaining. Dave is not on social media, but we follow each other on Garmin Connect and he has been so encouraging during this training cycle. He always seemed to have encouragement when I most needed it. Chris is just an all around good guy (even if he did threaten to take my man card for being a Toto fan). I truly hope to get to hang out with these guys a bit more in the future.
Suzanne Edler – Suzanne is a cancer survivor from Lexington, Kentucky. We were both supposed to be at Bird in Hand back in 2019, but when a hurricane kept me from attending and life kept her from attending, we made a virtual pinky swear that the next time the race was held, we would be there. I’m so excited that we kept that promise and got the chance to meet up this weekend. The cowbell you gave me will sit on my shelf in my office as a reminder of a promise kept.
Nate Wagner – This dude is one of the most encouraging people I’ve met. It’s not uncommon to get a text from him in the morning shortly after completing my run where he’s congratulating me on a good run or encouraging me to hang in there after a bad run. I actually hope to see Nate a couple of times next year as I would like to run the Garden Spot Half as well as the Bird in Hand Half to get the infamous Road Apple Award. Nate also paced a fellow Galloway Customized Training Runner, Greg, to a half marathon PR this weekend. Well done Nate and Greg!
JD – I could say so much. Your friendship is one that I treasure. You get the credit (or blame) for me becoming a marathoner. Even after I had to bail on Richmond in 2017 which would have been my first marathon, you came back to Richmond in 2019 and paced me to a PR in my 2nd marathon. The few chances we’ve had to run together and hang out have been incredible and I look forward to more in the future. You truly are Superman.
Chris Twiggs (aka Super Coach Chris Twiggs) – So glad that we finally got to meet in person after all of the phone calls, Zoom Meetings, text messages and FB messages. You got me trained up to run my 2 marathons and I have no doubt that you will get me trained up to run my first sub 2 hour half marathon in the near future. Beyond all of your running accomplishments and your willingness to help and encourage other runners, you are truly just an incredible human being. It’s a privilege to call you my coach and an honor to call you friend.
Roxanne Baggott – When you come on the podcast your voice is so soothing. I remember listening to your Marine Corps Marathon rain story while out on a run. Hearing about your perseverance in ankle deep water at times on that course literally brought me to tears. Congratulations on your recent retirement from the NICU. I have no doubt that you were truly a blessing to all of those families that you encountered in some of their most harrowing moments. You are an inspiration.
Chad Schwendemann – Brother, you are an inspiration. The miles that you log in training and in races boggles my mind. Then to watch you pace your wife Amanda to her first half marathon finish this weekend was really cool. Also, there aren’t many people that make me feel small in stature. You’re one of them. lol. Hope to meet up again. Maybe at Garden Spot next year.
Katy Theroux – We didn’t get much of an opportunity to talk this weekend, but what little bit we did was certainly a very pleasant experience. Now if we could just do something about the baseball team you cheer for. Ha! Definitely a pleasure and I hope we meet again.
Caroline Heller – I’ve watched you fight through the injury bug on the weekly Customized Training Zoom calls. You have persevered and come out on the other side. It’s been inspirational to watch you not throw in the towel. You even completed your first marathon virtually. Wow! Not sure I could’ve talked myself into that. It was a pleasure meeting you and Peter this weekend.
Kevin Gwin – Last but certainly not least for this writeup. Five years ago when I started running, I looked for running podcasts that someone like me could relate to. That’s how I found The Extra Mile Podcast. I haven’t missed a show since then. I certainly never expected a podcast to bring not just acquaintances into my life, but actual friends. What a blessing you have been to me. It was a highlight of my weekend to finally shake your hand and hug your neck this weekend. I really hope we get to do it again in the near future. Love ya, brother!
Well, that’s it. I warned you that this would be longer than the usual recap, but this wasn’t your typical race. This was a family reunion of sorts. I almost failed to mention that this was my 10th completed half marathon and what a perfect way to hit a milestone race. Beautiful course, perfect weather, but best of all, great friends.
The journey home included a little bit of adventure seeking on my part….stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll recap my drive home after the race.