Archive | April, 2015

2015 Hershey 10K Race Weekend Recap

20 Apr

Hershey 10K 2015Standing at the starting line in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 11th, all I could think was this seemed like a much better idea in January when I signed up for it. But there I was, at 7:30 AM in somewhat chilly weather with my Disney sister, Catherine, waiting for the Hershey 10K to begin.

Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself in this story, let’s start with the drive to get there on Friday. I live roughly 5 hours from Hershey Park where the race was taking place, a drive that would consist of nearly 300 miles on the Toll Road through the winding mountains, and decided to use my Easter holiday at work so I could make the trip earlier in the day. I planned to arrive around 2:30 PM, which meant I would need to leave around 9:00 AM, which meant that my family had already left for work and school when I came downstairs around 8:00 AM. but much to my surprise, my little sister had left this very sweet note for me to find taped to the kitchen cabinet.

good luck letter from my sister

I have driven through the Pennsylvania mountains only once before when Catherine and I met up with a third Disney sister, Lisa, while she was attending Penn State a couple of years ago. From the trip, I already knew mountain driving terrified me as I live in the relatively flat mid-west. Now, to add to my anxiety about this long drive, as soon as I cross the state border I enter into a torrential downpour that does not let up until I am 10 minutes from my destination, Catherine’s boyfriend’s (Matt) parent’s house. It was raining so hard, I could hardly see five feet in front of my car while twisting and turning around these mountains and because that just wasn’t scary enough, there was this section that according to the signs is a terrible fog area. I felt like I was driving blind. I could see nothing to my left or right, nothing in front of or behind me. I have never held so tightly to the steering wheel before.

At this point, I would say my stress level is a 7 but it quickly rose to a 9 when I had to drive INTO the side of the mountains. Typically I’m not a claustrophobic person, but driving in those tunnels (and there were 6 total) my heart was pounding so hard in my ears I could hardly hear anything else. Deep breathing and pep talks got me in and out safely. Reflecting back what I find interesting is that I have driven through mountain tunnels before as the passenger and I’ve never had a problem with them so I wonder why being the driver in a tunnel makes me so nervous.

Just when I was beginning to think I was never going to get to Matt’s house and that I would be driving around lost in the Pennsylvania mountains forever, I heard the most beautiful words coming from my GPS “arriving at destination on right.” In that moment I could have cried I was so grateful to be done driving and to see Catherine waiting for me in the driveway!

Excitedly she tells me she has a surprise! Much to my amusement and Matt’s dismay, we found ourselves at a Disney outlet store, because where else would two Disney sisters go for entertainment?! We had a blast looking at all of the Disney merchandise, and as you can probably tell, we did not leave empty-handed! She walked away with some cute pjs while I bought an adorable Duffy pillow-pet that was 50% off – I couldn’t believe it! Mickey Ear hats

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After the Disney store, we drove around a bit looking for the Amish farm that sold milk and cheese, then it was dinner and back to Matt’s for some much-needed shut-eye. At dinner we determined that because the race started at 7:30 AM, we wanted to be at Hershey Park around 6:30 AM since Matt and Catherine had pick-up or packets already. We allowed for 45 minutes to get there from Matt’s house, which meant leaving at 5:45 AM. To make sure we didn’t sleep through the race, I set a first alarm for 4:45 AM and Catherine set a second alarm for 5:00 AM. And when that terrible sound pierced through my dream and startled me awake, I really wasn’t excited to be a runner, all I wanted in that moment was to be a sleeper. But I pulled it together, checked the weather like the non-newbie runner that I am and decided on pants and a jacket for the morning’s race.

Amazingly, Catherine and I stuck to our time schedule very well and only had a tiny bit of excitement in our journey to Hershey Park when my GPS apparently got a bit confused and started sending us in circles. But not to worry, we found our way and made it to the starting line with plenty of time to spare. And before we knew it, it was race time!

All 3,000 runners packed into the starting corral. It was exciting for me to see that some of the other runners were wearing race shirts from runDisney races I had also done in the past! I felt connected to these people, like we shared a bond of not only racing, but of Disney as well. Silly what your mind thinks about at different moments.

And just like that, we’re off! Now for those of you who may not be familiar with different race distances, a 10K is 6.2 miles – half the distance of a half marathon, which I completed in November. So with my music blaring in my ears, Catherine and 2,998 of my running buddies at my side and chilly mountain air in my lungs, I felt ready to tackle the course. However….there was one thing I forgot to plan for in my not-so-decent training for this race (hey, we had multiple blizzards this winter, made running outside a bit challenging!), ALL THE HILLS NEARLY DEFEATED ME!

I mentioned it once, where I live is really pretty flat in the grand scheme of things, sure we have some hills, but they are NOTHING compared to running on the side of a MOUNTAIN!

Hershey 10K 2015 course map

Catherine and I started off together, but eventually the hills and the chilly air got the better of me, and so I told her to go ahead, I’d catch up. I ran when I could and walked when I needed to, but I never once stopped moving. I knew that I needed to keep a 14 minute/mile pace or I would get detoured around the park and wouldn’t be able to run through – I wasn’t about to let that happen. About 2 miles in I settled on a rhythm – jog a little, walk a little, just keep breathing, jog a little, walk a little, just keep breathing. I had found “my people” – runners who shared my pace, runners who fought with every step to be runners, runners who didn’t “look like runners” but were, runners who kept me moving forward.

By the time we came to the first of two water stations, we had already gone under an over pass, up a small hill and crested a large hill to get up onto the main road. My energy levels and my spirits were beginning to drop. but then I heard someone cheering my name, telling me specifically great job, you’re almost halfway there. At the time I couldn’t figure out how they knew who I was – I was 5 hours from home, I didn’t know these people, it wasn’t until after the race it dawned on me, my race bib had my name printed under my number! Those volunteers with the cups of Gatorade and water will never know how much they encouraged me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Up another hill, around a corner and through a shopping plaza. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever see mile 4. Just as I was losing hope I spotted a fellow runner who had finished cheering us on! From her Minnie Mouse ears and Sparkle skirt I wondered if she was also a fellow runDisney fan! As I went past her I heard her say one more turn and you’ll be in the park! One more turn, just one more and I would get my first glance of Hershey Park. I pushed a little harder and by golly if there wasn’t ANOTHER hill once I passed through the back park gates! Ugh! But the coasters – holy cow!!

With only 2 miles left on the course I was doing good until, you guessed it…MORE FREAKING HILLS and would you believe it, the beginning of a terrible Charlie Horse! But, at least the race photographers got some great photos of me in action! So glad I bought these!

With only a quarter-mile and two turns between me and the finish line, there was Minnie Mouse ears and Sparkle skirt again! How did you do that?! Didn’t I just see you about a mile and a half ago?! Once again she cheered “Mariah, two turns and you’re there! You’ve got this!” I was so tired and emotional I almost burst into tears! With pain shooting through my leg and the finish line in sight, I dug a little deeper and gave it my all as I completed my race with an official time of 1 hour 29 minutes and 34 seconds! It was great having Catherine, her boyfriend Matt and his dad there cheering me on at the end! This is what complete exhaustion and accomplishment look like!

And so, yet another race is in the books – this one however I have dubbed a one and done kind of race. I’m not meant to be a mountain race kinda girl and that’s okay! Finally it was time for some much earned breakfast (Catherine and I had split an English muffin before leaving for the race, but it was long gone by now!) I had the pleasure of enjoying the most delicious sourdough french bread at this cute little diner while we waited for Hershey Park to official open for the day.

Since I had a long drive home ahead of me that evening I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time exploring Hershey Park, but I did have a chance to go on the Hershey Chocolate World Factory Tour ride, Skyrush, Lightning Racer, and Wild Mouse. All day long I had been wearing my Fitbit Charge HR so it was fun for me to see what my heart rate was when we go off each ride!

And before I left on my long journey home, Catherine and I took a couple of celebratory photos with our shiny new medals!

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On the road again by 2:45 PM, this time in beautiful, sunny weather. Still hate mountain driving and tunnels, but way less stressful when you can actually see the winding roads you’re driving on. One insensitive to get home quickly was the large chocolate chip cookie that was in the snack pack bag racers received at the finish line. When I finally got home at 7:30 and went to take a big bite, much to my disappointment I discovered it to be a RAISIN COOKIE masquerading as a delicious Hershey Chocolate Chip cookie. What a let down! But cookie mix up aside, the weekend was a blast on so many levels! I got to add racing in a new state to the list, hung out with one of my wonderful Disney sisters, explored a theme park I’ve never been to before and once again proved to myself that while running may not come as easy to me as it does to others, with a little determination, training and a supportive running community, there’s nothing that will stop me from crossing the finish line of any race I commit to!   

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