Race Review: Kutztown Fool’s Run

imageWhat. A. Race. I’m glad to be on the other side of this one – it’s the first race this season that I regarded with fear and anxiety rather than excitement.

Not because I had a lot at stake in terms of performance. I already earned a 10 mile PR a few weeks ago. Considering it’s close proximity to Boston, I was never planning to race this for a PR. That was not the focus here. In Week 16 of Hansons, it calls for a run with 10 miles at marathon pace. This would be a great way to break up the monotony of doing solo tempo runs and get on some challenging terrain. I always do my tempos on the Plainfield trail, which is flat, flat, flat. Another factor that motivated me to keep my pace in check was my dumb big toe. At the beginning of the week I screwed up my big toe pretty badly. Most of the week was spent questioning myself: Do I run this, knowing that I could do more damage? Do I back out?

The reason I didn’t automatically back out was because Charissa was coming in from Jersey to visit and run the race. I figured I was going to the race either way. I planned to go and warm up with her. If it didn’t feel like a good idea, I’d cheer her on at the start, do a few easy miles while I was waiting for her, and cheer on her finish.

Putting my toe issues aside, I had several goals for this race. The theme of this race was “Don’t breathe. Back off. Slow down.”

  • Pace: Shoot for marathon pace (7:03/mile). My last 10 miler was 6:33 pace, so I thought this was a realistic goal.
  • Effort: In the event that I get competitive on the course (who, me?) and found myself running faster than marathon pace, practice running on effort. The advice I got on a recent long run from my speedy friend Megan: run on effort, “don’t breathe”. If I’m breathing heavy, I’m running too hard.
  • Injury: If my toe became an issue at all, back off. Drop out if it’s doing more harm than good. Btown > Ktown since I ultimately trained for Btown!

Charissa came over on Friday. We got pizza and had some wine and caught up. I’d been on edge all week about this race because of my dumb toe, and felt physically drained. We went to bed early, around 9pm. It’s a local race and we didn’t have to get up until at least 6am, so I was thankful for the extra rest. I still felt tired when I woke up, but better than I’d felt in the past few days.

I made coffee, and had my sweet potato waffle with Just Great Stuff chocolate peanut butter. I grabbed a banana and water with a Lemon Tea Nuun tablet and we headed out. We made a quick Starbucks stop (because coffee) and got to Kutztown around 7:45. It was pouring rain, which I was not expecting. I hadn’t been watching the weather too closely (all focus had been on my damn toe) and had no idea rain was in the forecast. I was wearing a tank top, but had a backpack full of random running clothes and quickly decided on a thin long sleeved top. I’m a baby about being cold when rain is involved.

We begrudgingly got out of the car for our bibs, and went out for a quick warm up. I did 2.5 miles and noticed I felt okay. My heart rate, however, was through the roof. My Garmin informed me that after our 2.5 mile warm up at something like a 9:30 pace, I needed 57 hours of recovery. You might say I was a little anxious. My Garmin also tells me my heart rate was operating in zone 5 for 87% of my warm up. In the actual race, it was only in zone 5 for 47% of the run. The effect stress can have on your heart is unreal and I never realized it until I had a way of tracking heart rate.

We lined up at the start and another speedy local runner, Carolyn, came to say hello to me. Carolyn came in ahead of me at the Super Bowl Sunday 10K this year, so I assumed she’d win this race.

The race began, and as usual I shot out quickly – mostly to get away from the crowd. I found myself running with the lead men, with no other women in close proximity. I backed off a bit and watched the lead men take off. I settled into a pace and focused on my breathing, my foot, and the music on my iPod. The effort for miles one and two felt very comfortable, but were much too fast for a tempo run. I just kept repeating to myself, Don’t breathe. Back off. Slow downMile 1 & 2 splits: 6:21, 6:38.

At the end of the second mile we began to climb…and the climb didn’t stop:


See that huge hill? The whole thing happened between miles two and three. I got off pace for that mile but I stuck by my mantra: Don’t breathe. Back off. Slow downMile 3: 7:11.

The downhill hit and I took full advantage of it to make up for the time I’d lost on the uphill. We had a nice flat/rolling section for the next few miles so I continued to run on effort and not “breathe”. I seemed to be running alone. I could still see one of the lead men in the distance when we would hit an open stretch of road, but at this point I was the first female and the fifth overall runner. I settled into a pace for the next few miles and took a GU at 4.5. These miles were comfortable and relatively uneventful, and my toe seemed to be cooperating. Each time my Garmin beeped, it was apparent that I was not running marathon pace and I was running on effort. Miles 4-6: 6:16, 6:20, 6:30.

Around mile 7, you resume climbing. I believe this course is more difficult than Quakertown from a few weeks ago because there’s a huge climb at the beginning of the race, and then a net uphill at the end of the race. In Quakertown, the majority of the climbing happens in the early miles, and then it’s mostly downhill from just past the halfway mark. In Kutztown, the hills show up later in the race and stick around right through the end. I still felt good, I still wasn’t breathing, and still hadn’t seen another person on the course (other than the volunteers) through miles seven eight. Miles 7 & 8: 6:43, 6:32.

The course boasts that the last “hill” is in mile 8, so imagine my surprise when my Garmin indicated I’d reached mile 9 and I turned a corner to find a HUGE incline. On the elevation chart, you can see it – it’s the hill that kind of looks like it’s giving you the middle finger at the end of the course:


At that point, I felt good. I hadn’t “breathed”. So I relaxed up the hill, and then I picked it up on the way down to make up the time. I went back to “not breathing” after I got my pace under control. Miles 9 & 10: 6:42, 6:41.

Why am I not talking about the finish line yet? Oh, because the course was LONG!!! By .07! I ran the tangents. I wasn’t dodging other runners. An extra .07 meant an extra 24 seconds on my time. Mile 10.07: 5:24 pace (I was a little ragey). Overall time, 1:06:22 (6:35 pace), 1st place female, 5th overall runner.

Had the course been an accurate 10 miles, I would have broken 1:06. Had the course been accurate and had I pushed the climbs and “breathed” a little, I likely would have run a PR. This makes me happy for several reasons: I didn’t feel like I was working as hard as I had for Quakertown, and I didn’t have someone to push me like I did at that race. In Quakertown, I was truly racing – Kristen K and I were duking it out right until the last .25, when she dusted me. This time around, I had a bum foot so to be able to run that pace on those hills without sacrificing my form or feeling discomfort made me over the moon happy. Sure, as I cooled down my foot didn’t feel AMAZING but it didn’t feel like I did more damage. Did I set back my healing time a little? Probably. But again, knowing I could push the pace with it was a huge confidence booster and made me feel a whole lot better about Boston.

Another big positive was that I was mentally not “in it” until about mile six. At first, I was anxious and scared that at any moment my foot would make me have to drop out. I still felt a bit tired and drained – even after the good night’s sleep. I started to relax and enjoy myself around mile three when we were cruising down Crystal Cave Road (which happens to be a favorite of mine for biking), but I was still leery of my foot. Around mile six, it was like I was suddenly sold on running the race since I was closer to the finish line and perked up. For all of the variables that were not going my way – the weather, the foot, and my body/head not showing up – to be able to run that way was a huge, huge confidence boost.

As I came through the finish line, the spectators and lead males were standing by and cheering. I felt great as I handed in the tag from my bib and went to cheer on the other runners. I was expecting to see Carolyn on my tail, but found the second female crossed 1:18 seconds after me in 1:07:40, and it was a girl named Alysha. I congratulated her and learned she’s new to the area as we chatted. We exchanged contact information so we could get together for a few runs. She was five months postpartum and threw down a 1:07 – what?!?! What a huge inspiration! Carolyn ended up being the 4th female in 1:11, but that isn’t like her at all. She’s more like a 1:05-1:07 10 mile runner and had an off day.

After I saw Carolyn and a few local men cross, I headed back on the course for a cool down and to catch Charissa on the course. I ran with her until we got close to the finish, and then I veered off the course to continue my cool down. I looped back to the finish line and she did an additional mile with me, making my cooldown 2.5 miles. With warm up, the race, and the cool down I ended up with 15 miles for the day.

We grabbed our dry clothing (the rain had lessened for the race, thankfully) and headed to the building where the post race food and awards were. We warmed up, got some soup and waited for the awards to start. Don’t mind my completely ridiculous outfit choice. It’s what happens when you don’t prepare for a cool, rainy day.


I won’t tell you about Charissa’s race (you need to read her recap for that!), but I won a $100 gift card to a local running store called The Emmaus Run Inn! I usually get my sneakers at their competitor, Aardvark, but I wasn’t going to discriminate for a free pair of shoes. I headed to the store the next day and grabbed a new pair of Pure Flows to have on hand for when my current ones wear out. For what started out as a rough day, it definitely ended on a positive note 🙂

Ever run a race as a training run? Ever run a race with an injury (come in, we’re runners – spill it!)?


66 Replies to “Race Review: Kutztown Fool’s Run”

  1. I’m (kind of) going to be doing this next week! I signed up for a half marathon ages ago, thinking I’d be in great shape to get a good time after training for my marathon this winter. Then with my IT band I wasn’t sure if I should run it at all. Now I’m tentatively planning on running it, but I have *no* idea how it will go since I’m still a bit iffy about my knee and I’ve been working to change my running form some and I’ve lost more (running) fitness than I planned on… so who knows?

    I’ve just been trying not to think of it and pretending it doesn’t exist!

    1. That was kind of how I went into it! I was half treating the toe and half pretending like it wasn’t going to be a problem. I was also half pretending there was no race. I did really want to not do it because I was scared, but I am glad I did. My toe is still not healed. There is still some swelling. Most likely, not running it would have not made a difference because I would have done a tempo run (or tried) anyway, so that would have aggravated it just as much. I recommend going and starting the race but mentally prepare to back off or drop out if you feel too much pain. Remember as you are racing: Ironman > Half Marathon! You want to be healthy for Cour D’Alene! But I do think you should show up because if your knee feels good, it could be a good day/workout! GOOD LUCK!

      1. Thank you! I’m definitely trying to keep my priorities straight– but it’s so hard because it’s technically a race! I have a 90 minute run scheduled for tomorrow, so I’ll probably make the final determination about the half marathon once I see how my knee feels during that run. It hasn’t been hurting lately, so I’m feeling pretty positive about it.

        Regardless, I know I won’t be able to run my potential for the half, and I’m pretty okay with that. It’ll just give me the chance to get a monster PR at some point within the next year or so! 😉

      2. HEY never say never. Sometimes, those are the races where you surprise yourself. Two of my past marathon PRs came after a HUGE rest from injury and MINIMAL training. I’m talking like 4-5 weeks of zero miles followed by a ghetto taper and then BOOM. You really never know!

  2. I’ve run a race (10k) as part of my training and then finished the distance I really needed to do shortly after the race (another 6k). The best part was my 10k was a PB and the night before was a 5k PB (double race weekend).
    Congrats on 1st place female!

  3. Oh I ran multiple races with IT band syndrome. The nice thing about that injury is that you really have nothing structurally wrong… you just need to keep your stride normal. I basically ran through the injury like I didn’t have it and it went away. Maybe not the smartest thing, but whatevs!

    Congrats on a great race!! That’s awesome that you won. Apparently a beat up toe isn’t going to stop you!! 🙂

  4. Congrats on your win!!
    Awhile ago, I twisted my ankle while on the Plainfield trail (elevation wise it’s flat but I swear the path itself is so slanted and uneven) and kept running. I used k-tape fora few runs before I had to give it a few days rest. Ohmigoodness, way to go Alysha!! I a so struggling with postpartum running. I really want to run Quadzilla again, but will have to wait to see how getting back into shape goes…..

    1. AH! We should run on the Plainfield trail together. That’s where I do all of my tempos!!!! It’s awesome. But I totally agree – slanted and uneven FOR SURE. I am all over the place when I run there! I also want to run Quadzilla. I have a few summer races on my radar. Jacobsburg 10 miler, but it’s kind of in the middle of my recovery and the day after my pole competition. The Funk 5 Miler? Never heard of that but looks cool. The ODDessy Half if the weather looks good, Race St. Run (Jim Thorpe), Bath Community Days 5K (my parents live there), Perk Up Half. All depending on how my recovery goes from this season and what I decide to do for the fall. I’m leaning towards the Lakefront Marathon in Wisconsin!

  5. That race sounds like so much fun but Allison, I had NO IDEA you ran those kinds of hills!!! They are HUUUUUGE!!! OMGGGGGG!!!!!! And you STILL ran it that fast?! That’s a little bit insane. You’re an absolute beast!!

    1. There is almost no avoiding the hills where I live – I have to seek out flats for my tempos and my strength/track wos! That’s why I opt for the trails I run. They are typically flat rail trails and some are cinders, which make it a little harder but it’s still easier than the hills!!

      And, THANK YOU!!! ❤

  6. Congratulations on your win and getting a $100 gift card for it! So cool that you could just take it and buy a new pair of shoes on the spot, it is always good to win something nice like that.

    It says a lot about your training that you managed to do so well despite being in marathon training and the big toe issue. I do love that you’re finding races to do while marathon training and fitting them into your schedule too. And yeah… I have a bag of running clothes in the car in case I need last minute changes before races too!

  7. Great job, Allison! You are definitely improving and I can’t WAIT to see what you do at Boston! Last night I was getting giddy, thinking about all my running friends I get to track at Boston! My phone is going to be beeping all day long and I am going to have to explain to my students what the hell is going on!

  8. Wow, congrats!! Another great, and inspiring race. Kudos to you! You will do fabulous in Boston. I’m getting so excited to be heading to Boston next Saturday. The weather is looking decent too (for spectators that is!!).
    I raced a local race a few weeks ago and I actually got *exactly* on my marathon pace overall. I impressed myself, that usually never happens! I am not that good at pacing. It was a 25K, but sadly it felt harder than it needed to. Hopefully that is not a premonition!!

  9. I’m glad it all worked out for you. I was questioning how last weekend would go for me as well. I had been having those hamstring issues that seemed to have gone away since. Thankfully. I’m glad you had a good race and I’m super excited to see how Boston goes.

    1. Yeah, I wasn’t as nervous because I knew I was not going to go “race” it. Although it was not far off of my PR, I felt like the effort was what mattered here. I hope it is a good indication of how Boston will go!

  10. awesome race Allison…your speed is incredible, wow!! i have ran races as training type runs with mixed results – the last one was a half-marathon last year in Boise 2 weeks before the Chicago marathon and it worked out great, ran my second best ever half then PRd in Chicago! if i could just hit the repeat button on that!

    1. Thank you James! It was a great day, even though I was a little concerned about what the outcome would be for my toe (non running related) injury!!! Races as training runs are awesome. I love it. It’s like a catered training run!

    1. Thanks, Russ! It was definitely an unexpected outcome but I’m thrilled with it! I have the Garmin FR 235. I got it in January because my trusty 310xt died on me after 6 years! The new watch syncs wirelessly with my iPhone, so the Garmin Connect app looks like that for me now. I think it looked different with my 310xt. The elevation charts were always white and green, rather than black and green. However, the second picture where I highlighted the end of the course – I did that in Photoshop. I teach Web Design and Graphic Design at a high school, so I am a bit of a tech geek 🙂

      1. Ah cool…and how could I not have the Garmin Connect app yet?!?!?! I use the 910XT and have only downloaded data to web but I am getting the app tonight on the phone. I’ll be sure to fire my tech Q’s your way.

  11. Ha! That course profile is totally giving you the middle finger.

    Congratulations on your win! You success this spring has been so inspiring. I feel like with every race review I am finding little things that I can use to improve my own training. During my last speed session when I wanted to bail because I was certain that I would never go sub 20 so why even bother training, I used “Why not me?” I’ll definitely be tucking this “no breathing” rule away for running tempo runs based on effort not watch data. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Heather!! It makes me so happy to hear that some of my experiences are helping. I know my posts can be wordy and lengthy but there are so many aspects I don’t want to leave out! You CAN get that sub 20! I am absolutely certain of it. Why NOT you? 😉

  12. Congratulations! I love reading about your training and racing because it lets me imagine what it’s like to be a fast runner! I cannot imagine what it’s like to run 6-something miles at all let alone not be breathing heavy. But I can imagine how awesome it would feel to run a great race with so many cards stacked against you. What a confidence booster! So excited for you for Boston!

    1. Thank you Jennifer!!! It was definitely a great feeling to feel good at that pace. A year ago, I was battling an Achilles injury and could not run this race even though I so badly wanted to. I never could have touched that pace last year, so this was a really big confidence booster!!

  13. Great job! Can’t wait to read how you do in Boston!!

    As for your warm up heart rate, if it was at all cold or you didn’t have the watch sealed to your wrist, it’s likely that it was a misreading and not that you were in zone 5 all that time. Unless you felt like you were breathing hard and your heart was working at maximal. I get misreads all the time, especially early in my runs. Usually a little sweat will make it stop (or if I’m smart, I actually make sure the watch is snug enough).

    1. Thanks, Judith! You know, I bet you are right. My Fitbit gives me weird readings when I am wearing it too loosely. Good call! I do think some nerves definitely played a role, but I certainly was not breathing hard at all during my warmup. I even commented to Charissa while we warmed up that I felt good, so I found that reading to be really odd!! Thanks for the tip!

  14. Congrats Allison! You are having such a great spring racing season! I have definitely run races where I’m not sure it was the best idea, not necessarily because I had a crazy bad injury but had something that wasn’t quite healed. Not smart but normal running brain right?

    1. Thank you!! It has been a great season. We all definitely have that normal running brain! I’ve run races with injuries in the past and it’s probably never a good idea, but how can we pass up a good race?!

    1. Thank you, Fallon! Ughhhhh what the heck! A sore ankle? I like your strategy though. I try not to think about whatever is bugging me and it really does help. GOOD LUCK THIS WEEKEND!

  15. hah! the middle finger hill–classic. Last spring I ran the delaware 1/2 marathon with a messed up IT band. So I understand that holding back feeling, kinda waiting for the pain to show up. I had a dull pain the entire race, definitely felt worse through it, but I don’t believe I did further damage. I took off several weeks afterward to fix it up and haven’t looked back since!

  16. Wow fantastic race and first place! Way to go. You are so ready for Boston. You got the speed and you got endurance!
    I love how you set up goals for yourself with every race. I think for Boston you should have the following :
    Goal D – finish to continue your streak, Goal C – 3:13 to PR in Boston, Goal B – 3:05 – marathon PR and what you train for, Goal A – break 3: 00.
    Looking at your recent times in shorter distances, I think that with little bit of luck on race day and good race strategy, you can run under 3h. I heard somewhere that a marathon is a 10K race with 20 mile warmup, so don’t start too fast and you should do great ;-).

    1. Thank you so much!!! I’m not going to lie, you are pretty spot on with your goals that you listed here 😉 I agree – totally a 10K with a 20 mile warm up. I love that saying!!!

      1. YUP! I’m telling myself: no breathing heavy until mile 20 and under no circumstances should my first mile be faster than a 6:50 🙂 Be conservative through the half marathon and then if I feel good, pick it up. Once I pass Heartbreak Hill, everything I’ve got. I want to run on effort. It worked well at Kutztown!

      2. Good plan! Running on effort is a great idea. If you keep your pace just under 7:00 for the first 20 miles ( which shouldn’t make you breathe heavily ) you will put yourself in a good position to break 3h.
        It’s been great reading your blog this spring. I’ll definitely will be checking results live from Boston ( I won’t be able to wait for your recap to know your time ). Good Luck!

      3. I don’t like to do goal posts before a race on here, but ultimately I was training to PR, which would be to break 3:06. I do think a lot of my training has been on point for a sub-3, but I have been schooled many times by that 26.2 distance. It’s a long way and it demands respect, so I am going to remember my original goal at the start and not get too wrapped up in hoping for that sub-3. I do want it. Badly. But I also don’t want to blow the race. However, many of my PRs have come when I hadn’t been training for that specific goal that day. So I need to figure out where that line is on Monday and not cross it – at least not until mile 20! Thank you so much for following me, and thank you for your kind words!!! I really appreciate each and every comment 🙂

      4. Yes it’s a fine line between running your best (spending all your energy just the right way ), and over reaching your goals. I hope you can find that line and have a great race regardless of your time.
        I hope you don’t mind me suggesting goals for you, but I think that if everything works out just right you have a chance to have your marathon time start with number 2. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you :).
        It’s definitely been a pleasure reading your blog. It’s very inspirational and entertaining, funny and informative. I have benefited from it in many ways, so thank you for writing it and sharing your experiences.

      5. Thank you! I’ve had some fast finishes in Boston, and some rough times there but I have always enjoyed the experience. Even when the weather has been less than ideal! I definitely did not mind you suggesting goals for me at all – you were right on point with where my thinking was. I’d love to see a 2 on that clock as I cruise down Boyleston Street. It’s a pretty amazing finish line and I usually tear up anyway, but I think that would just take it over the top. Thank you for reading!!

  17. I PRed a half marathon with a stress fracture. I deliberately didn’t go to the doctor until a week or so after the race because I didn’t want to hear that I shouldn’t run. 🙂

    1. Now you are speaking my language 🙂 I did that with the 2013 Boston Marathon. I knew SOMETHING was up with my groin area. Waited until after. Boom, femoral shaft stress fracture. I didn’t PR that day but I did get close. Maybe the fear of doing more damage made us run faster 😉

  18. You are so fast. I’m planning another 10 mile race in the fall and I’m shooting for the 1:06s. But that feels a long way off!

    1. Which 10 miler? You can TOTALLY go 1:06!!! Oley Valley is in the fall and that one is a great course! I am unable to do it this year but it’s so awesome. Rolling hills and a bit challenging but I’ve PR’d there before!!!!

      1. I’m not sure yet! Right now I’m working on getting up to 60 miles/week and increasing my long run. And reading your blog for inspiration. 😄

      2. You are soooo close to 60 mpw! You’ll be there before you know it. I know you like to increase slowly to be careful. So smart. You are doing great!!!

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