Posted On:
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Athlete Race Recap: Philadelphia Half Marathon, IRONMAN Arizona, & Lights on the Lake 5K

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Here’s where Full Circle Endurance athletes were racing this past weekend:

Philadelphia Half Marathon

Leslie (left) and Maureen (right) smile big in the starting corral!

On Saturday, November 19, 2022, Maureen Novak and Leslie Smith ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

Maureen and Leslie signed up for this race weekend together.  I introduced them to each other, so I take full credit for this friendship and how great this weekend went. ;)

Leslie doing exactly what I told her to do - having FUN at the Philadelphia Half Marathon!

Originally, both of these ladies signed up for the marathon, and both of them trained for the marathon. However, a couple of weeks out from the race each of them decided on their own to change to the half marathon.

While this initially felt like a hard decision to come to, both Maureen and Leslie were ultimately relieved and very happy with this choice. I am very proud of them both for making the choice that was right for them, and not sticking with a distance that they didn’t really want to race just because it’s what they had originally signed up for. Remember, things change. It’s also very okay if something seems exciting when you sign up for it and then you later decide that something else is better for you.

On Saturday morning, they had some logistical issues getting through security (this is a BIG half marathon) and getting to the starting corrals, but they didn’t let that deter them from having a good experience.  They started in the final corral and toured the City of Brotherly Love in great fashion.  After the race, Maureen and Leslie took in some sights, ate some great food, and went for post-race massages.

BRAVO to Maureen and Leslie for such a great, fun race weekend!


Susan before bike check-in!

This recap of IRONMAN Arizona will read a little differently than a lot of the race recaps I write up, but it’s an important one to share.

Christina Hotsko and Susan Kulzer were both signed up to race IRONMAN Arizona in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday, November 20, 2022.  Unfortunately, Christina got very sick about two weeks before race day.  She was feeling a little bit better, so she flew to Tempe.  However, two days before the race, she called me and asked me what I thought about her doing the race.

I gave her my honest opinion: Based on how long she had been sick and because she was still not over her symptoms from the illness, racing an IRONMAN would be a terrible idea.  Terrible.  I recommended that she withdraw from the race.

This is a hard recommendation for me to give to an athlete.  I know exactly how much time, effort, money, and resources goes into preparing for an IRONMAN.  In Christina’s case, she had all of that and she had already traveled across the country to the race!  However, my job is to give the advice that is best for an athlete, even if it’s hard or potentially what they do not want to hear.  And so last week, I did my job. 

Christina told me that she was so relieved to hear me say this. She withdrew from IRONMAN Arizona and booked a flight home that same day and focused on healing her body. I was incredibly proud of her for doing this. In all of the years that I’ve been coaching, no athlete has heeded my advice to withdraw from an A-Goal race this close to race day. In the past, not withdrawing when it was prudent to do so has resulted in a DNF on race day. I have no doubt that that’s what would have happened for Christina, and it would have felt far worse emotionally. Additionally, it would have stressed her body so much that her recovery would have taken much longer. Withdrawing was the best option for Christina, and it resulted in a better outcome for her in the long run.

Susan arrived in Tempe ready to conquer the day. We learned a lot from when she raced IRONMAN California just four weeks earlier and we were excited for her to have a strong day implementing those lessons learned.

Race day morning came, and the water temperature was 60ºF.  Susan gave it her best effort, but these water conditions combined with the 2.4-mile distance of swimming in an IRONMAN were too much for her body’s physiology to handle.  Being in the cold water for that long was too much for her body.  The cold water caused her to lose control of her arms, struggle to breathe, and become disoriented.  The IRONMAN water safety team pulled Susan from the water two hours into her swim, thereby ending her day at IRONMAN Arizona.

This was obviously not the result we were hoping for.  A DNF (Did Not Finish) is something that all athletes dread and is an extremely disappointing and frustrating result.  This is true, and it is also true that the IRONMAN water safety team made the right call.  It was beyond unsafe for Susan to continue in the race.  I am so grateful that she is safe and that the worst thing that happened on Sunday for her was a DNF.

It may not be the most popular topic in the world, but a DNF result is something that will likely happen to every athlete who does more than a handful of races during their time as an endurance athlete. That reality doesn’t mean it isn’t disappointing or frustrating. But it is true.

Susan experienced every emotion possible about her day in Arizona. But her result there doesn’t mean that she’s any less of an athlete or that her journey as an endurance athlete hasn’t been worthwhile. Crossing a finish line doesn’t define who you are. Learning, growing, making new friends, and embracing the journey with all of its ups and downs is what makes you who you are.

I am so, so proud of Susan for the athlete she is, but more importantly, for the person she is.  She’s had a long journey to get to where she currently is, and she has so much potential for continued progress and great things in the future.

If I didn’t write this recap of IRONMAN Arizona, it would have sent a message that I only value races that athletes who I coach finish.  And nothing could be further from the truth.  I value the process and journey each athlete I coach goes on, finish line or not.

It wasn’t what they envisioned, but there is still so much for both Christina and Susan to be proud of when it comes to IRONMAN Arizona.  Bravo to Christina and Susan for embracing their experience in Tempe!

Lights on the Lake 5K

On Sunday, November 20, 2022, Lisa Crockford ran the Lights on the Lake 5K in Liverpool, New York!

The Lights on the Lake 5K takes runners through the locally famous annual Lights on the Lake holiday light display along Onondaga Lake. It’s a fun, festive race that Lisa used as motivation to get out on a cold and blustery day!

Way to go, Lisa!


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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