Thursday, September 21, 2017

Race Recap & Review: 2017 Harrisburg Half Marathon

Two weeks ago, on an almost perfect Sunday morning, Matthew and I ran the 2017 Harrisburg Half Marathon.

We're always smiling at the end of a race.

Since first running this race three years ago, a new course route was adopted and I loved about 85% of it. What didn't change was the easy packet pick-up, the small, not-at-all crowded field, and the awesome food/swag at the end of the race. 

On race morning, Matthew and I arrived on City Island around 6:45 am. With an 8 am start time, we wanted to make sure we got a good parking spot and were able to get our bibs without feeling rushed. Packet pick-up was a breeze and we got a primo spot in the lot- mission one accomplished. 

After hanging out in the car keeping warm for a bit (it was a little breezy and cool), we walked to the start at 7:45 am. Because this is a small field (less than 800 runners), there weren't any corrals- we just lined up towards the back. There were pacers available for several finish times up until 2:30.

View from the back of the pack.

Before the race, I had connected with Matt (on instagram as @tallguyruns) as he was training for the Harrisburg Half as his first-ever half marathon. Because this is such a small race- and because Matt is like seven feet tall- I spotted him waiting for the start and we were able to wish each other luck before the race. 

Matthew and I decided to run this race separately so we could use the results as proof of time for our upcoming races in Walt Disney World. My race strategy was pretty simple- finish under 2:40. As pneumonia had kicked my ass all summer, my thoughts/plans for a sub-2:30 went out the window months ago. I hoped to keep my pace hovering between 11:30-12:00 minute miles and finish feeling strong and under 2:40. 

With the new course, we started out on the market street bridge and actually ran on the other side of the Susquehanna River for about a mile. Coming back across another bridge (no clue of the name) into downtown, we had a stunning view of the Harrisburg skyline for at least another mile. It was one of my favorite parts of the race. 

The course took us along Front Street and into the Greenbelt- a trail that runs through part of the city. I was thankful for the shade- as the morning went on it started to heat up quite a bit. Just before we entered the trail, I got to see my friend Scott handing out beer at mile 4. Of course I stopped and had some. 😄

Friends with beer are the best.

This was a nice change of pace from the city streets.

After the greenbelt, we headed back downtown along the river to my least favorite part of the course. Basically, this was an out and back that felt like it went on forever. I hate courses like this because they really mess with your head. You watch all the runners going in the opposite direction for miles knowing that you have to eventually reach the turn-around point and then come alllllll the way back. 

My lack of training also showed up around this point in the race- my legs and hips were just screaming at me to stop. That's what a summer of barely-running and battling lung issues will get you. 

But there was one cool aspect of this part of the race- I got to see Matthew flying down the road! He was in between the 2:10 and 2:20 pacer and I knew he was going to be close to reaching his goal of 2:15 (he finished in 2:17). 

Heading towards the long stretch of the out and back section of the course.

Hi, Matthew!

Eventually, I made it to the turn-around and finished those last few miles along the river. Scott showed up again around mile 12 with more beer. Obviously I drank some more. 😄

Is there really anything better than mile 12 beer?

With my sore legs and aching hips, I was ready to be done with this race. I had been watching my time and knew that I would be able to finish well under 2:40 as long as I didn't give up and kept pushing.

Another back of the pack benefit? No crowded race pictures! Photo: Penn Images

I rounded the last corner and headed onto the Walnut Street Bridge back to City Island and the to the finish- my official time was 2:35:53 with an overall pace of 11:54/mile. 

Last bridge!

Beer me.

Directly after getting my medal, I was able to stop at a computer/printing station and get a little print-out of my results from the timing company- that was pretty cool. After catching my breath and finding Matthew in the crowd, we headed back to the pavilion (where we'd picked up our packets) for a full-spread of Panera sandwiches, cookies, and other snacks. We also bumped into my blogger friend Lindsay who I've known for about four years but never officially met in real life which was pretty neat. 


Check out that bling. And those shoes! 😍

After hanging around for a bit, Matthew and I left the race for a visit to Troegs Brewery for a celebratory beer and ridiculously large soft pretzel.

A post shared by Sarah (@sparklyrunner) on

All in all, this was a really well-organized, fun race. I love the small field, the ease of parking and packet pick-up, and the relatively flat course. While the out and back section isn't my favorite, it was still pretty cool to see the runners in front of you. And of course, when you've got friends on the course with beer, that makes it a good race all around. 😉

This is a great, small, simple half marathon so if you ever find yourself in south central PA in September, you should definitely check this one out.

Do you have a favorite local race? What do you love about it?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Accountability Monday: 9/18/17

Good morning! How is it already mid-September already?!

It'll be winter before we know it! ❄❄❄ Speaking of winter... some exciting news- I got asked to be on the Cold Conqueror Team again for winter 2017/2018! I'll be partnering with Yaktrax and some other awesome brands to review the coolest winter running products right here on the blog. Luckily, we still have a few more weeks before it gets cold here in the mid-Atlantic and I'm really looking forward to my next fall race- in peak leaf-changing season!

In just four-ish weeks, I'll be toeing the line of four races in Bethlehem, PA as part of the Runner's World Half & Festival weekend. I'm signed up for the Grand Slam- trail run Friday, 5k and 10k on Saturday, half marathon on Sunday. Wanna come run with me? Use code "SPARKLYRUNNER" at checkout to save 10% on any race registration! 

Check out all this bling! ✨

Tuesday: 3 miles of speed work, 33:16 overall, 11:04 pace
Sunday: 3.56 miles, 41:48 overall, 11:38 pace

Can you tell that I've still been insanely busy at work? I have almost zero time- or energy- during the week to run. However, having a training journal again has helped me feel a bit more accountable. I like that I can write something in it everyday, even on rest days. It helps me feel more in control of my training and my nutrition.

Best Run
The speed work session I did on Tuesday was pretty awesome. I made up my own workout- easy run warm-up, 30 seconds all out sprint, 2.5 minutes of easy run, 30 seconds all out sprint, repeat- for three miles. During the sprints, I was running as low as a 5:55/mile pace! My legs definitely felt it the next day, especially coming off last week's Harrisburg Half Marathon.

I also got to try out a new pair of Altra Paradigm 3.0's as part of the Runner's World Half Run Crew Program. Two years ago, the Paradigms were the first pair of Altras I'd ever tried so I was excited to get another pair of the newest model to try out. We sent all our information to Altra (injury history, shoe preference, size, etc.) last week and they sent us a pair of shoes on Monday. It was super fun not knowing what shoes I was getting- kind of felt like Christmas morning!

I took the Altra Paradigm's out for speed work and they reminded me why I fell in love with the Altra brand in the first place- so cushion-y and responsive- I felt like I was bouncing along during my run. I will definitely be rotating these in with my beloved Olympus during the next few weeks of training.

Bravo Moment

After what has felt like forever without a weight loss, I finally saw the scale move down! This is definitely the most motivated I have felt in a while- I'm looking forward to seeing more of this in the coming weeks.

This felt as good as losing 10 pounds ☺

Quote of the Week


Have a wonderful Monday and a great week!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Accountability Monday: 9/11/2017

Hi, friends! I hope Monday is being kind to you!

Please excuse my absence for the last two weeks; our semester started on August 28th and since then I've worked over 60 hours of overtime. Yikes. Because work is so busy, it's hard to me to find the time to blog. But, things should start to calm down here soon so there will hopefully be more posts in the near future.

Sunday- Harrisburg Half Marathon, 2:35:53 (unofficial time)

Whoops, I probably should be doing more running if I'm actually supposed to be training for fall races! This week was nuts with crazy overtime hours and other commitments and I just didn't make the time for any running or strength training. But, I did run my third-fastest half marathon and didn't feel too awful afterward. I've got five weeks until Runner's World Half & Festival and I intend on making them count. The older I get, the less my training goals revolve around time and the more they revolve around how I feel during/after the race.

Best Run
Well, that would have to be yesterday's half... since I didn't run any other times last week. Ha! The half marathon was awesome- great weather, new scenic course, and a great spread of food after the race. Matthew did awesome and got a great qualifying time for Dopey in January. After the race, we went to one of our favorite breweries to get a little food (basically a giant soft pretzel) and some celebratory beers. Nothing makes a run better than a cold beer at the end. :-)

A post shared by Sarah (@sparklyrunner) on

Bravo Moment of the Week
As you know, I've been struggling with my weight and lack of training pretty much since last spring. One of the techniques we use in Weight Watchers is to look back at a time when you were being successful with weight loss and try to recreate that helpful environment.

I was in the best shape of my life in May 2015, when I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon. I had been training consistently, fueling appropriately, and was at my lowest weight while also feeling super strong. One of the things that I did differently was keeping a written journal of all my training. Back in 2015, my sweet friend Stephanie sent me the Believe Journal after my stress fracture as a way to track my comeback. And man, did it work like a charm!

However, once it was filled (it holds about a year), I never bought another one. So this week, I ordered a brand new journal and will make my first entry today. My hope is that by manually writing and tracking my training, I'll be motivated to stay on plan and reach the goals I have set for myself. And, fingers crossed, lose the weight that I've gained.

a fresh start.

Quote of the Week

Persist in the pursuit of your goals this week, friends! Have a great week!