Sunday, March 20, 2016

Shamrock Shuffle Half Marathon + GIVEAWAY!

Happy Monday everyone!  This weekend I ran a half marathon in the nearby town of Harmony, Pennsylvania.  This was actually my first time visiting the town, and I'm absolutely in love!  The town is so adorable and full of history, so I know that I'll have to come back again.  The race gave me a great chance to see the beautiful sights of the town, but now I want to explore all of the cute little stores.  Today, I'll be sharing my race recap (and there's also a giveaway at the end of the post!)


There are three different distances offered in this race, and you have the choice to run all three!  There's a half marathon, 5k and mile, but I decided to just stick with the half.  The race is advertised as one of the hardest courses in the Tri-State area, so I wanted to play it safe.

The race bag was absolutely amazing!  Along with the normal flyers and coupons, we also got a long sleeve cotton shirt, green gloves, Cocoa Elite protein powder, and a loaf of homemade cinnamon swirl bread (which is AMAZING).  


This is by far the smallest half marathon that I've ever run.  There were 199 finishers, so this was definitely a different experience for me.  Just a few things to note if you ever plan to run this race:

- There are no pacers or clocks out on the course
- There were no bathrooms along the course
- The roads were all still open, so occasionally a car would drive by.  This wasn't really an issue since it's a small town and there weren't a lot of cars, just something to keep in mind and keep an eye (and ear) out while you're running!
- I didn't see any gels at the water stops, but there was plenty of water and sports drink available.  The volunteers were all great!
- There's also a unique water stop at the top of the "big hill" at the halfway point in the race.  Not only was there green beer, but also jell-o shots and keg stands available!
- There is a lot of parking available all around the town square.  We parked in the Grace Church parking lot (where the packet pickup was) and there were plenty of spots available when we got there around 6:30.  Before the race started, I hung out inside of the church to stay warm, and also use the porta johns that were outside.  There were about 4 of them and no mat at the starting line, so plan accordingly and make sure you get to the starting line when the gun goes off!
- The finish line area had tons of food and drinks!  There was the usual water and Gatorade, along with French Toast, hot cocoa, and random snacks.  It was a great spread!


Overall this race was organized extremely well and all of the volunteers were so enthusiastic which is so important for runners.  There was always clear communication from the race director as well so there were no surprises or confusion on race day.  It was really different for me to run a smaller long distance race, but it was a really relaxing and enjoyable experience and I think great preparation for the Gettysburg Marathon, and I would highly recommend this race!  Now, let's get into my mile-by-mile breakdown.



Miles 1, 2, 3
[8:44, 8:34, 8:40]
Listed to : Modern Love podcast
Fuel : None


The race started right on time in the town square of Harmony, and does a few loops around the "downtown" area.  There are quite a few out and back areas in this first section, but luckily it's relatively flat.  I knew that there were hills in the middle portion of the race, so I tried to start a little faster to build up time.  I know this isn't always the smartest race strategy, but luckily it worked out!  There were a lot of turns in this first section, but the course was well-marked and every intersection had a volunteer to point you in the right direction.


Mile 4, 5, 6
[8:53, 8:36, 9:36]
Fuel : Water @ Mile 5



Around mile 4 , we headed out a country road that bordered a golf course and a little creek.  This is also where the course started to get a bit hilly and challenging (as you can see by my slower miles!)  Climbing up Textor Hill Road was really challenging, but the amazing view made it worth it.  Just check out the mountains in the background!  It was absolutely gorgeous. 


Here's a shot of "the hill" that everyone talked about.  It was super steep- the kind of hill that's just as hard running down because you constantly have to brake when you run so you don't lose control and fall!  A few of the sections were really steep and I walked up them, but in general I tried to keep running even if it was really slow.  This was pretty much the only section of the race where I was passing people which kept me motivated!


Mile 7, 8, 9
[9:47, 8:45, 8:34]
Listened to : This American Life podcast
Fuel : Water @ Mile 9


We got to the final turn-around at mile 8 and headed back down that monster hill.  We also passed by the jell-o shot/keg stand water stop again and I used all my will-power to pass it by.  After the huge down-hill, it was mostly rolling hills to get back to the start.  All of the hills that seemed so large on the way out seemed tiny now after tackling The Hill!  I also enjoyed the beautiful scenery at this point of the race.  Harmony is in such a beautiful area with rolling hills and fields all around and bridges that cross over the Connoquenessing Creek.  This is definitely my running happy place, so it made me fall in love with this race (despite the steep hills!)




We finally came back into the town and ran around the downtown area again.  Dan was able to get this great picture, and I was still feeling good!  I was having a little bit of stomach issues (which is why you see that I didn't take any fuel except for water, even though I brought dates and gels).  This didn't seem to affect me at all, and I had no energy issues during the race!  Overall, I was feeling relaxed and relatively good the entire race.  The main road that we ran on was pretty slanted, which caused some pain in my right leg, but with all things considered I can't really complain!


Overall Time : 1:54:34
Overall Pace : 8:45/mile


This is another confidence-building race!  The past few weeks have been discouraging for me and I've been contemplating not doing the full marathon, but this gave me some hope back.  The fact that I was able to set a new PR in the half marathon on such a challenging course was absolutely unexpected.  Now I'm getting excited to see how I can do in the full.  If you're looking for a challenging but beautiful race to try next year- I would recommend the Shamrock Shuffle!


Giveaway!!

The great people at Case App (check out my review here) have offered to give away a free phone case to one of my readers!  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below and I'll pick a winner on Friday, and announce it in my post that day. (If you aren't interested in the giveaway, just let me know if your comment!)



Anyone else have a race this weekend?
What is your "running happy place"?
What did you do this weekend?
linking up with HollyTricia and Katie

61 comments:

  1. I just got a new phone so this would be perfect!

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  2. Congratulations on a wonderful race and PR, Gretchen. It sounds like a very tough one with those hills too. I like smaller races. I think they are more relaxing. How cool you received a loaf of bread in your race bag. The phone case is a great idea and would be an awesome prize to win. Thanks for linking with us.

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    1. Thank you! Definitely more relaxing..no corrals or long lines to worry about. Love it!

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  3. congrats on a great race! I actually had a friend running this race too, she kept posting the pictures on fb!

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  4. Great race, and rock it out! Seems like marathon training is agreeing with you :D

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  5. Great job girl!! I can see all of the hard work that you have put into training so far paying off.

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  6. Those hills are crazy but it looks like you were able to power through them- congrats on a PR!

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  7. I'm seriously SO proud of you in this race! I love the smaller half marathons because sometimes I just don't need all the bells and whistles. Sometimes it's just easier to concentrate and enjoy the race that way. You are in such good shape right now, keep it up!!

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    1. Thanks Margaret! I agree..the small race made it so much more relaxed and I was way less anxious than I usually am!

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  8. I'm SO happy for you! Well-deserved and earned PR :) My "running happy place" is a local path in Tampa along the water.

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  9. How awesome! To PR on such a tough, hilly course is really impressive! I'm glad it was a confidence building race. :)

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  10. OH MY GOSH what a great race!! Awesome pace all throughout. So proud of you!!

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  11. Congrats on a great race. I have run a smaller half before and I love it.

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  12. That's a great PR for such a hilly course! Glad to hear this gave you a confidence boost. I actually didn't sign up for this race because I didn't think it would make a good goal race...but considering I ran a 13 mile training run this weekend, I should have just done the damn race. Haha.

    If you're ever interested in a triathlon, this same RD runs a tri (sprint, olympic & half) out at Moraine in September, & I believe one in May as well? I did the September one last year & loved it. I got myself a loaf of the cinnamon bread too.

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    1. It was definitely challenging with all the big hills! Might not make a good goal race but definitely good for training! Thanks for the tri recommendation! Definitely a goal of mine for next year.

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  13. I live just outside of Harmony and did the shuffle last year. I had to work this year so I couldn't run. Joella Baker is the race director and her local events are always seamless. Textor Hill is wicked! Last year it was raining so hard that it was actually difficult to run down the hill because the rain was causing run off of rubble making it easy to slip. I'm glad you enjoyed the race, it is great hill practice. I would have said hello if I was able to run this year. They always give out the Five Generation bread loafs at the Cranberry Turkey Trot too!

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    1. So cool! Harmony is amazing. I'm glad that it wasn't raining this year..that sounds horrible!

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  14. Congrats on the new PR and it looks like you had negative splits as well. Hills are tough if you don't train on them, but clearly you did and had a great race.

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    1. Luckily all of my routes are hilly so I guess that helped for this race! Thanks so much!

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  15. Contemplating not doing the full?! Why ? you have done all the training, and have been doing really well! I'm glad this race gave you new confidence to keep going !

    I finally signed up for the Gettysburg Marathon last Friday, and after that I couldn't shake off the anxiety all day long, and had to review my next month of training and eating.

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    1. Just the typical self-doubt that comes along with training for something. I don't think I'll ever feel 100% confident going into any race! I guess I just have to suck it up and sign up!

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  16. Congrats Gretchen! I loved reading this and you did SO well! Also, this town looks beautiful too. I love how you got a loaf of bread in your race packet, that's awesome! Good luck in the rest of your training:)

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    1. I think every race should have that ;) Such a delicious idea!

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  17. Congrats on the PR!! That's a super tough course!

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  18. Whoa look at all those goodies! And that HILL. WOW. Yikes. You killed it! Congrats on an amazing race, Gretch! So proud of you.

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  19. Congrats, Gretchen! I'm thrilled that you had a great race, enjoyed the scenery, and got a surprise PR to boot! This just proves that whatever you're doing with your training, it's working! I would be pretty thrilled to get a loaf of bread in my race packet! We've been to Harmony, and I agree it's super cute. I considered doing their New Year's Eve race two years ago but couldn't fit it in. (Please don't include me in the giveaway--I don't use a case because it makes my phone too big.)

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    1. Thanks Jennifer! I thought of you when I saw the bread :) Might be worth it for you to do a race in that area sometime ;)

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  20. Way to go!! That is a tough course I hear so way to crush it!! And that phone case looks awesome!

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  21. Congrats on a PR! All those treats and goodies in the race sound awesome, especially that homemade cinnamon swirl bread. Small races are so fun and I'm glad you enjoyed the experience! And good luck as your training for the full continues - you're clearly doing so well!

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    1. Thanks Laura! If this is what small races are all about I'm all for it! Plus the lower reg price is nice too :)

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  22. Congrats on the PR in a tough race! I am big fan of small races. I find that while you are lacking the crowds, it makes it much easier to run your own race.

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    1. Thank you! I agree- so nice to be able to run actual tangents from the beginning and not weave around everyone!

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  23. Congrats on the PR! I've run two half marathons with very small fields in Virginia, and there definitely is a very different vibe than big races. The course looks beautiful...good luck with marathon training!

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  24. Great race!!! Congrats on the PR! I love that you were able to get back some confidence! And I know that would have done it for me also!

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  25. Congrats on your PR! I have heard nothing but good things about that race, and it's in my neck of the woods too! Harmony is indeed a great little town - next time you go you'll have to get some food (and beer!) at the Harmony Inn - they were bought out and reopened by North Country Brewing a few years ago.

    I definitely think I'll have to add this race to my wish list - I would love to do a smaller race like this (though the idea of running up that hill scares me haha)

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    1. Thanks Lauren! I will definitely be stopping in Harmony again and will take your suggestion on visiting the Inn. It looked amazing from the outside!

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  26. I love running smaller races in local towns! They're so fun and it's nice to get to see a new town that you may have never visited before! Thanks for the giveaway!

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  27. i ran a 5k! :) good job on your race; great time!

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  28. Congrats on the PR on that hilly course!!! It seems like even though the race was small it was put together well. Love the gloves you got in the race packet, and tact bread?! Yum!!!

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    1. Thanks Melissa! I was blown away by how organized it was. Any race that starts right on time and I don't get lost is OK in my book :)

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  29. Congratulations on your race! I always want carbs after a race and bread would be great!!! Thanks Gretchen for linking up with us!

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  30. That's so cool that they placed all of that food out at the end! It all looks amazing and I'm sure it was exciting to have that after a long run :)

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  31. I'm trying to think where Harmony is. I feel like I've heard of it, but now I"m goign to look it up. I totally want that giveaway!! Love new cases haha

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