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  • About VJ
  • April 26, 2024 5 min read

    Initially I was not planning on running Sheetz to Sheetz this year. My Girlfriend Denise and I were doing the Cherry Blossom 10 miler the next day in DC.

    One day Michelle Tritt, the Fredericksburg Ambassador of Ainsleys Angels, posted in the Facebook group that they were in need of runners. 

    I love doing races with Ainsleys Angels. I’ve done many! I started back in 2018, I signed up for the Running Gives you Wings 5k in Fredericksburg VA with Team Tommy. Chris Rhinehardt was paired with me and showed me the ropes. I got my wings and I was hooked. 

    Since then I’ve been an Angel Runner pushing chariots for many teams out there.

    Helping people experience running and races is very important to me because running has made me a much happier person in life. I feel like a kid with so much joy when I run that I want others to experience this and have the absolute best day possible. There’s no better feeling! 

    Team Katherine 

    Michelle teamed me up with Team Katherine. I had never pushed her before and I was so excited! In addition, Amber Hayghe, a fabulous runner I know from the Fredericksburg Area Running Club, was paired with Team Katherine as well! We were a great mix all around! I was so excited!!


    We got a lot of rain leading up to the race. I saw photos on Facebook that showed the trail looking messy. Sheetz 2 Sheetz is a 14 mile race that runs through the Dahlgren Heritage Rail Trail. Also you guessed it, you start at a Sheetz and end at a Sheetz! T

    his trail doesn’t usually get messy, but because I would be pushing Katherine’s Chariot, I wanted to be safe. I chose to wear the VJ MAXx trail shoe. That shoe has already served me well on 2 different rough and rainy mountain ultras. 

    Race morning 

    My girlfriend Denise was volunteering at the Bull Run Run 50 mile race the same morning with The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, so we both had an early wake up. Denise had to get up slightly earlier than me and made me oatmeal and coffee, it was very nice of her.

    We also both had to be extra organized because immediately after our volunteering/ race we were meeting in DC for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler packet pickup. Our buddy Tracy Cooley really helped us be able to pull this off and it was going to be an epic day! I left the house around 5:30 am. My plan was to get to the shuttle area and be on the first one over to help Katherine if she needed anything and to hang out. I got there on time and made the first shuttle. I hung out with Katherine and Woody, both being Angel Riders.

    I hyped them up as we talked food, racing, 80s music and I talked some sports with Woody. He’s big time into Penn State, and he was rocking the gear head to toe. I kept asking him about other college teams and he would give disapproval but when I asked him about Penn State he got fired up! It was so much fun hanging out with them! Amber came over and we started getting organized and we tested out pushing the chariot and then helped move Katherine into her chariot.


    We all joked around some then listened to Race Director Chris Chalkleys prayer, jammed out to Chris Rhinehardt play the opening song. Then the national anthem and away we went! The first mile or so of this race is on road so we ran about a 10 min or so pace mainly because we could use this time to get a feel for things with the chariot before we got on the rail trail. Amber and I traded off and all 3 of us were in great spirits. Both Amber and I made it clear to Katherine that this was her day and whatever she needed, we got her!

    Trail time! 

    So both Amber and I thought the trail was going to be slower moving than it was. We weren’t running extremely fast but much faster than anticipated. A motivator with this race we constantly talked about was the aid station food. This race has awesome snacks. If you know me, you know I don’t play around with snacks. So all 3 of us were motivated by this to get to the food and just enjoy it out here.

    Aid station 1 - Pie time

    We got Katherine some Pie and some water. I ate one too. It was awesome, and I did not want to go but the next aid station had s’mores so we had to get a move on!

    We can’t miss the s’mores! 

    We were on the move and we couldn’t be stopped. We had big dreams of melty s’mores. We were so happy and goofy during this stretch messing around it was a quick 3 miles.Aid Station 2 - just like heaven  When we got there we needed lots of snacks quick. My buddies from Virginia Happy Trails Running Club were there and they helped get Katherine all the foods while Amber toasted her a s’more. Teamwork! 

    Sugared up and on the move!  We were in great spirits and thinking about the pretzels coming soon. Auntie Annes pretzels. So buttery. So delicious. Just great stuff. We started to encounter more mud but Katherine’s chair was fitted with something awesome I forgot to mention. Big rugged trail tires! With that said we knew there was a section that was really bad before the pretzels but we weren’t scared. Katherine told me that she loves adventure and that’s why she signed up for this! 

    Aid Station 3

    This aid station was kind of quick we got a bunch of fruit snacks. We all crushed them. Amber poured 2 packs in my mouth while I was pushing Katherine… it was awesome. We were working together like the 85 Bears, Brady era Patriots or the Jordan Bulls teams. Just living our best lives.

    Everyone is Team Katherine 

    We get to a real muddy area with lots of plank bridges that the chariot doesn’t fit really well on. This was where something awesome happened. The Happy Trails friends from earlier and many other runners got on all sides of Katherine and me made sure she was okay. It was so nice of them!I love seeing when runners all work together. I feel like whenever you run as a team it’s never limited. Everyone helps. Motivation, helping with safety, just anything that occurs you see the absolute best in people on races. 
    Running can be an extremely self absorbed sport but one of the reasons I love Ainsley’s Angels is because it’s selfless. I am an avid runner and I definitely can be selfish and I feel like being on a team helps me work through some of these things. I love helping others and seeing people do the same. That’s why I do this. 


    We got a nice downhill into Aid station 4 and pummeled Auntie Anne’s pretzels. They were so delicious. We talked to the aid station volunteers about our epic adventure and how everyone helped us! Katherine said she loved it and I got really happy hearing her say that. She loves adventure and I really like helping her!

    Home stretch

    We were all ready to for giant hot chocolates. We pushed it and ran faster than we had done for awhile all the way to the finish!  We all celebrated with giant coffees and hot chocolates. We took lots of pictures and celebrated heartily. 
    I had an absolute blast on this run with Katherine, Amber, the runners, volunteers and everyone involved with this race. I highly recommend running Sheetz 2 Sheetz!!
    Also please consider becoming an Angel: https://ainsleysangels.org/
    Here’s a link to a review I helped write on the MAXx2: https://believeintherun.com/shoe-reviews/vj-maxx-2-review/
    This is my favorite trail shoe right now! 
    Sheetz 2 Sheetz Trail Run website: https://www.sheetz2sheetz.com/-

    John Calabrese @breezytrailhead