3rd Annual Lighthouse Loop, Port Orange, FL-Oct 26, 2014

Event photo for Lighthouse Loop Half Marathon & 5K

The Lighthouse Loop is a half marathon and 5k ran in Port Orange, FL just south of Daytona. Proceeds benefit athletic programs in local high schools.

I had spent the prior week on vacation in St Lucia and the week before that in Jamaica, so needless to say, there wasn't a ton of training going on in the weeks leading to the race. One of the last days of my trip, I fell down a few wet cement steps. It was probably the worst fall of my life (it sounds silly saying that, as it seems like a small ordeal), but it was so hard, I just sat there for a bit speechless. When I finally was able to stand, I could not speak as people were asking me if I was ok. And then the tears came, and the dizziness. To wrap it all up, I ended up bruising my coccyx. Lets just say, after a week when the pain was still there, I was scared. Was this going to take weeks off of my marathon training?? Was I going to be able to race the Lighthouse Loop? The pain was slow to go, but it was very minimal by race day.  So much so, I couldn't tell if it was the bruise on my bum that I felt when I ran or the coccyx itself. I decided the worst comes to worse, I would just walk the half.

You had the option of packet pick up the days leading to the race, or on race morning. I decided to save the money and drive in race morning. I woke about 3a and drove the 2 hours from Jacksonville, arriving at 530. I was feeling pretty good (bum wise). We were warned there was lots of scattered parking, but limited early bird spots and it would take you 30 minutes (1 mile) to walk to the start (over the bridge). I saw very few people as I got out of my car to try to find the Starting area. There were cars but only 1 other person walking, someone else that was crazy enough to drive in from a couple hours away!

Finally finding the bright lights/Starting area, I was so happy to see coffee. Unfortunately I was quickly told it was for a running group only. :(

The packet pick up included a drawstring bag, bib, shirt, a really disgusting protein energy shots, and a handful of advertisements. Luckily they had a gear truck (suv) to get what you needed out of the bag (bib) and then throw it in the truck so you didn't have to walk all the way to your vehicle. Unfortunately, the line was ridiculously long as there was only 1 person handling all the name writing on tape to put on each bag.

The starting area was outside a local restaurant DJs Deck. I always find these situations funny, as the race directors always brag about so and so restaurant helping out. It seems though, if a restaurant wanted to help out a race, they would have it opened or have some employees there serving up some hot coffee, or chocolate, or breakfast of sorts. Just my humble opinion. 

Porta potty lines were short. There were no refreshments nor munchies as we waited at the start, but luckily I found some water.

There was a slight delay to the start because of the gear truck. However, the Start line was fun. There was a dj and good music and some party lights. They had pacers for this race and I lined myself up with the 2:30 finish. They had a recorded national anthem right at sunrise and then we were off.

This is a Point to Point race, but the Start and Finish are in a walkable distance and you can walk back to your car (within a mile or so). The Start is on one side of the Dunlawton Bridge and the Finish is on the other side of the bridge. The course takes you straight to the beach community. You get small glimpses of sand and water in between the houses. The course then enters a park and you run around (well, half way around) the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and back into neighborhoods, then over the bridge to finish. It is a pretty course and flat. And with the perfect FL winter running weather, it could easily be a PR race.

High school volunteers manned the stations and they did well. Gu was even provided at one point.

I felt good in the first few miles. I felt real good. There was no pain and I was happy. That meant this could mean PR with the perfect racing weather in the 50s and sunny, so I left the 2:30 Pacer and caught up, and even passed the next pacer. I however, had to make a quick stop as we entered the Ponce Inlet sign around M3 (of course). Unfortunately my camera was acting up and it took much longer than I would have liked.
Everything was going well, I was definitely in a pace to PR and I was in good spirits.... until about M10. Slowly by surely I was getting a weird feeling all the way from my coccyx down my right leg to my toes. My foot almost felt like it was numb. My leg felt like it was 'dead' and heavy. My hip was sore. My knee was getting a sharp pain and my coccyx felt like it was bruised again. Ugh. I started taking more walk breaks. But every time I started running again, the pain was miserable. I stopped to sit and adjust my shoes and stretch. It didn't help. My knee was starting to really hurt which was throwing off my stride.

I started worrying again about what this meant to my future marathon training. A coccyx injury is not something to laugh at. There is absolutely nothing you can do, except minimal movement. And that is nothing a runner wants to hear. Did I really screw up by racing today? As the tears were coming, I pushed myself to accept 'just do what you can do to cross the finish line, even if that means walk.' However, when I hit the bridge, I realized the 2:30 pacer had not yet passed me. (2:30 is my absolute worst I wanted to accept). And then there he was. So I ran, or hobbled. I put the pain aside and dug deep. I would deal with the recovery later. I ran with probably the ugliest face, but I ran across the finish. I finished at 2:28 with 3 stops, which was amazing to me. But I would have had a PR. That race was supposed to be mine. I don't know if I was crying more because of the frustration of the injury, or because it is race #8 of the year and I STILL have not had a PR this year at all! And this one was supposed to be it!

The finish line at Aunt Catfish's on the River restaurant, was 2 sharp turns at the end of the bridge, which made it a little awkward.  There was a dj and music and massages, and beer, and a Real Breakfast! ...it was on the inexpensive, not something I would usually eat type of fake eggs breakfast, but it was a full meal, it was hot, and it hit the spot after running....and with a beer of course!

The shirts were gender specific, but ran a tad small on the womens side. They did allow a shirt swap weeks later if you need to change or buy another shirt


This is a little local race that helps out the community. They manage to keep their registration cost down, but still provide everything that every other race provides, if not more! And that's what I love. This race falls in a perfect time of a year in FL for PRs. With the flat and scenic course, it is one to be loved. As long as you are mentally prepared to handle the 'warm up' bridge walk to start, then you will enjoy this race. This is also a great location for an extended weekend vacation! There was a shuttle of sorts to get to the Start for some of the hotels. And that shuttle then looped around to pick up last minute stragglers walking as well.


I am on a mission to run a half marathon in all 50 states. On my journey, I race a half marathon a month and a full marathon in February at 26.2 with Donna which is the only national marathon where 100% proceeds goes to breast cancer research and care (Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation). Please consider making a donation to show your support www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2015-marathon/melissajohnson

Talladega 21000-Sep 14, 2004

This was the 6th Annual Talladega Half Marathon and 5k. The race takes place on and around the Talladega Nascar Superspeedway! This is a capped race and proceeds benefit prostate cancer through the Urology Health Foundation.


A couple weeks before the race, I received an offer from work to travel to Rome for a week. I of course couldn't pass up this opportunity, even though it was a packed itinerary, and would bring me home only 36 hours before race time and I would still have to drive from FL to AL. Little did I know, that our return flight home would be several hours delayed, making it a close call on even being able to make the race.

I ended up back home Friday around 11p, woke up Saturday at 7a and me and the pup drove 7 hours to Talladega. Luckily, there was a time change, so I gained an extra hour of rest....every. hour. counts.

They provided both before the race, and race day options to pick up your packet. The day before was at the Motorsports Museum, right next to the Superspeedway. I made it in time to get my packet the day before. There wasn't much to the packet, just your bib and gender specific shirt and a few ads. But we did receive a cool race koozie as well. I tried to pry some information about the race from the solo person, stating Im from out of town, but there really wasn't much to that either. I was too tired to do the museum, but think it would be cool to do before the race. There were no shopping options here, so make sure you have all your race supplies.

After that, it was straight to the hotel to rest. Late lunch/dinner was a salad with chicken, and then a late snack of a Lara bar and banana. Just enough to get me by without getting out of bed. I was asleep by 10p and slept like a baby til 530a.

We were warned of several things (1, do not, I mean do not bring your dog.... ok, how many times?) and 2, be prepared for traffic if you arrive after 630. So I arrived around 615. It was a breeze. Race was to start at 730a. It was cool to drive in the stadium as Talladega is spelled out in the stands and the seats are also colored to look like it is packed with people.

Parking was easy and I realized there was a real bathroom right there near by spot. It wasn't a bad walk to the Start area, but they had a shuttle system for those that did not want to walk (mainly spectators).

Even at the Starting area, they had real bathrooms in a couple areas as well as portal potties. I think most people didn't now about the real bathrooms in the pit garage.

There was coffee set up, but I couldn't find any water. I finished half a banana and a Lara bar for breakfast.

This was the first race I had been to where there was an actual worship service. Ive seen prayer groups before, but this was an actual tent with chairs and a preacher with a bible, preaching for about 15 minutes. I walked over and listened to the motivational words. It was about belief and he related a lot of it to racing.

The weather was almost perfect. It was in the upper 60s and overcast with a slight breeze as we waited to start. People were actually complaining they were cold! I thought it felt great. Except it seemed the breeze stopped after we started running. The last mile or two the sun did finally make its appearance and it warmed up quickly.

We ran the 'flats' of the speedway. It was really cool to see the turn walls.... they are a LOT steeper in person than on TV! But no worries, you dont run on the steep turn walls. We also got to run the wall above the track, and through the parking/tailgating/camping areas. We ran passed a few houses and on the main road to the entrance of the speedway. We then ran through the concession area/grandstands, on the wall above the track again, and then back on the track, through the middle/pit area, and down the straightaway to the Finish Line. The straightaways were so much longer than it looked to make it to the turns. One lap around the track was about 2.5 miles.

The water/Gatorade stations were properly stocked. However, the sheet they gave us the night before listed there would be THREE GU opportunities. When I first saw this I thought it was a ridiculous amount for a half marathon. However, after having a hectic travel week, I was super excited and was going to take advantage of every one of them. One of these days I will learn to not rely on the races promises. But at the same time, I paid for this, so they should own up to what they promise. It ended up being only 2 spots with GU. I don't know if it was mental, but I was exhausted and dying for the 3rd.

The Hash House Harriers (a drinking club with a running problem) put up their own hydration table. I had read they would be out there, but little did I know, it was the first mile! Of course I had to partake in the alcohol with my fellow hashers!....they were of course, how I started getting into running...plus who goes to a Nascar speedway without a beer in hand??. They were also at the last couple miles as well.

There weren't that many people out there beside the runners. Mainly some family members here and there. The scenery and excitement of the speedway was pretty much enough to keep your mind sidetracked and motivated.

Survival was my only goal for this race. I had been fighting a cough all week, traveling all over Rome, and then driving from FL for this race, I am extremely lucky my body did not crash on me! On top of that, my performance was the fastest of this year so far! There was only one moment where I thought I was crashing (when I learned there wasn't a 3rd GU station) but that was already so close to the end, I pushed through.

The finish line was just slightly off from where the start was on the straightaway on the track. Once you crossed the finish line, you were welcomed with water and an ice cold chamois towel, as well as the traditional bananas and oranges. You then walked through Victory Lane for photos and back to the pit garage for the after party.

The after party was sponsored by Jim n Nicks BBQ and it was probably some of the best bbq I've had! Besides the BBQ, there was slaw, chips, ice cream, and unlimited beer and soda. They also had a really good band playing. The sun had finally come out, and it was becoming a gorgeous day. Too bad I had to hurry back to the hotel before check out time and drive back home.

I really had no expectations for this race. I hadn't come across many Alabama races in my search, and this one stood out to be the most unique. This was just a quick in/out, checking off the state of Alabama for my race bucket list type of trip for me. However, with all that said, this was definitely a top favorite race of all times! It is by far the most unique I have ever done and I would highly recommend it to others. Im not sure there is much else in Talladega, but Birmingham is not far away, and looking back, I would have spent some time there after the race.

State #19
HM #42

I am on a mission to run a half marathon in all 50 states. On my journey, I race a half marathon a month and a full marathon in February at 26.2 with Donna which is the only national marathon where 100% proceeds goes to breast cancer research and care (Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation). Please consider making a donation to show your support www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2015-marathon/melissajohnson

3rd Annual 13.Wine, Michigan WineTrail Half Marathon-Aug 24, 2014

This was the 3rd Annual Michigan Wine Trail Half Marathon, aka 13.Wine, held in Baroda, MI, population 869. (aka South West MI otherwise known as Lake Shores region). This is a capped race and this year there were 366 half marathon finishers and 78 5kers (The Galloping Grape 5k).

When I came across this race on the internet, of course the name itself had me intrigued. I’m on a trend of trying (and liking) small town races and this fit nicely into my summer schedule. It was an easy flight into Chicago, just an hour and half drive north, Exit #1 across the Michigan border. When I told everyone where I was going, of course no one had even heard of it, not even my friends from Michigan. Most didn’t even know that Michigan had a ‘Wine Country.’ As I did more research, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was this Florida beach girl going to be close to the shore line and beaches of Lake Michigan, but I would get to run through the local vineyards and farm land. To add the cherry on top, they promised a 13.Wine logoed wine glass at the Finish Line! How could one pass this up?


The course had constant rolling hills, and held up to its ‘challenging’ promise, with one minor killer hill (is there such a thing?) at M8. We basically ran in a square and passed by several wineries along the Michigan Wine Trail. The grapes were even large enough to even see their beauty from the road….as well as the corn fields, apple orchids, and pea crops, all ready to be harvested soon! We had a glimpse of a lake, and a couple ponds in peoples yards as well as some cool log cabins with beautiful flower filled yards. The course went in the perfect direction too, as our last couple miles, the hot sun was at our backs, not faces. The majority of the road was closed or partially closed. With only a rare passing car from a local resident.


There was not an Expo for this event, per se but they did create the 1st Annual ‘Party at the Pavers’ which was a local music and wine/beer tasting event with a couple crafters and food vendors. It was nice to have a little celebration to kick off the weekend, however, it was a little disappointing as there was a $5 'suggested' donation at the door just to get our bib, and those ladies were hard sellers! I would have liked to have seen a little more running oriented options. For those of us out of town, I never saw any sort of running store to pick up anything you may have forgotten on your travels. 


The weather was actually almost perfect for a mid summer race! We received warnings of a heat advisory the day before from the race director, but I guess this IS Michigan and not Florida. Temps ended up being the lower 70s with partly cloudy sky. The best part? There was almost a consistent breeze! And a pretty good breeze, almost so much that it took a little effort at one stretch.


The starting line was in an open wet grassy field close to the parking lot. There were plenty of portal potties. They also gave an option to do same day bib pick up. There was a call over a microphone to line up, a few good advisement of the course, and then a 1,2,3 Go! Nice and simple. 


The water stations were manned by cheerleaders and Boy Scouts and were properly stocked with Gatorade first and water following. M8 had a fuel of some sort (not GU) which did a number on my stomach, as I am a regular of the GU brand. One of the last stations had wet towels which was perfect as it was starting to warm up.


There were a couple of people at a couple of corners, but other than that, your motivation had to come from within. This was definitely a serenity run, as I tried to stay focused on the beauty of the fields and fields of farmland. There was however, a good 10 or so signs posted at the first/last mile or so with some clever/funny sayings. My favorite and most appropriate being 13.Whine crossed out and edited WINE! The second best sign being at the top of the biggest hill-‘stop complaining about this hill, its great for sledding!’


Before heading to the free flowing local wine and beer tent, there were ice cold popsicles to cool down with. As well as Oreos and Twizzlers for sugar, potato chips of sodium, banana for potassium were the other food items.

We received our 13.wine logo seamless wine glasses and the age group winners received a logoed wine decanter!


I knew going into this race, I wasn’t going to PR with the hills, so I didn’t really have much of a plan, other than just getting out there and run listening to my body. I left the pace alert behind and with that said, I never found my rhythm. I had bad cramps from about M8-11 and the final stretch I was simply hot and exhausted. I still managed to run around a normal time for me, so I'm not too disappointed.


The shirt is basic tech shirt. It has a small simple logo on the front and the usual huge ugly sponsor names splattered all over the back. The only thing that makes the sponsors different on this one, is they are the wineries we ran by. So that is cool. Women came in a nveck and mens crew.  


The medal is a cool stained glass, shaped in a wine glass and it even says Michigan on it. I believe this is my first of 41 half marathons were it has the state name.


For anyone thinking of traveling to Michigan for this race….there aren’t many hotels to chose from and those that are in the near vicinity are quite pricey for summertime. It is best to split, or even look into renting a condo/house near the lake. There are several airports to chose from, all within a reasonable driving time. Just remember, if you fly into Chicago, it is CST, and Michigan is EST. That was the most stressful part of my trip…making sure I made it in time for my flight! There is plenty to do in the surrounding lake shore towns, so make sure to plan this as a long weekend!


Parking-There seemed to have been some confusion on race day with parking. Despite the detailed map on the website and in the email communication from the director, there still ended up being a random ‘empty field’ with a handmade ‘parking’ sign in the same vicinity, just a mile or so further down the road. When I pulled into it, I found it very strange there was not a single race volunteer around to ask the direction to start and there were multiple cars that kept driving by. As I started walking, someone was coming back and advised there was a whole other lot at start, aka where we should have been parked! Not knowing the area, and if anyone was going to be towed, we moved our cars, but a whole lot full stayed. I can only assume the signs were left over from the day before Party on the Pavers event.

Photos-there was not a single photographer on course or even at the Finish Line. That’s just always disappointing not to have action shots from something monumental. There are too many amateur photogs out there….I think that with just a little inquiry out to the public, someone would volunteer their time and post photos on Facebook at minimum. I did see some random photos posted on the Midwest Race FB site, but it seems it was someone running the race theirself and capturing friends or those around them only.

Start/Finish-I’m not sure that it rained, but there was a mud pit, or two, or three, which meant we had to be overly cautious starting so we didn’t twist an ankle, and there was no way to kick it up a notch to sprint across the Finish line at the end. I’m not quite sure why we didn’t start on the empty road to begin with. I am sure it has something to do with closure of the street with the city, but it still would have been nice not to be on a bumpy muddy field….also getting your shoes wet as you wait to start.

Roads- The roads were consistently warped. I’ve heard this is of the norm for snow states though?? There was also a loose gravel section we ran on for a bit. Yes, I know this is overly picky of me, but some people may just want to know.

Fuel-They promised some sort of fuel on course, so of course frugal me did not bring any. Unfortunately it was ‘after’ the major hill on the course. It would have been nice to have the bit of energy ‘before’ the hill so it could have been attacked better.


This was my first time to Michigan and I would surely come back to explore some more! I tried to make my way up the coast, and actually hit up 8 lake shore towns all the way to Ludington! I would have liked to have made it to Traverse City or even Mackinaw, but time did not permit. All of what I did see was Gorgeous though and the beaches got nicer the further north I went. This could be a nice girls weekend get away, as there are tons of wineries to explore! Or make it a family weekend and spend some time on the beaches!
I would highly recommend this race. It is in its early years and already well organized! I can only imagine how well oiled of an event this will become over the years! And with the scenery, challenge of a course, and distinctive perks, this race definitely stands out from many!
State #18
Half Marathon #41

I am running the 50 states and a half marathon a month in support of the 26.2 with Donna, a national marathon who donates 100% proceeds to breast cancer research and care! Please consider a donation today! Www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2015-marathon/melissajohnson

Run Thru the Park, Lawrenceville, GA-July 20, 2014

Looking for a simple, small town race that embraces nature? Check out one of the Deborah Montgomery races which run in local parks in the areas right outside of Atlanta.

This was the Run Thru the Park half marathon held at Tribble Mill Park in Lawrenceville, GA. The course is a 2.8 mile paved multi purpose trail around the Ozora Lake. To see pictures and elevations, check out this awesome link.

The Deborah Montgomery races are not Boston certified and don't even use chips. They keep them so small (cut off at 60 runners) they can clearly keep track of each runner at each lap. This race had 39 half marathoners, six 5kers and seven 10kers.

The course is open to the public as well as their bikes, kids, and pets. Luckily it was a dreary and slightly drizzly morning, so I think that kept most locals home and off the wet pavement, otherwise it could be a more crowded course.

The course runs around the lake with scenic views and has almost constant tree coverage, which is perfect for a summer race in the south! There are 4 laps and an out and back to create the 13.1 mile distance. Surprisingly (I don't know why this surprises me every year in the Atlanta area) it was constant rolling hills. Race day was absolutely perfect weather for a mid summer race, overcast the entire time and temps under 70 degrees!

Packet pick up (a generic Deborah Montgomery Racing tshirt and bib) is 30 minutes before race time. There is no starting line, no national anthem, no starting gun. Just a 'ready, set, go', and a camaraderie of runners that want to get out into nature and enjoy the run. Think of this as your local running club getting together for one of their weekly runs, but you get a medal at the Finish!

I did enjoy the race, despite going into it with lack of training, and walking just about all of the uphills by M8. I was scared going into it that I would be last, but that was not the case. After doing 40 half marathons, its nice to get back to small local races.  Its nice not to have to deal with butt loads of people, being stuck in traffic, fighting for porta potties, tripping over feet trying to navigate the course and water stations. This race is the complete opposite. It was simple. It was calming. It was beautiful. No iPod needed to enjoy this serenity!

Despite all of that, there are things I would like to see improved since the registration is still $50.
The shirt is not 'race specific.' I feel it is more of an advertisement for Deborah Montgomery Racing than anything. Don't get me wrong, it was warned repeatedly on the website they are generic shirts, but c'mon.

Most of us that ran the same pace, ended up being a full half mile short on the distance. (of course, I had to pass the Finish and keep running to get my full 13.1!) This course has been used for previous races, so I'm not sure how the out and back was not placed correctly.

There were only bananas and pretzels at the Finish. I would love to see some improvement on fuel options at the Finish, like chocolate milk, and something hardy like bagels, at minimal. A celebratory beverage wouldn't hurt either. ;)

The medal could use a bit of improvement. I was impressed it at least had a spinner, but it looks like a sticker was just stuck on both sides of it. (pic to be posted later)


HM #40

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24th Annual Covered Bridges Half Marathon-June 1, 2014

So this race was on my calendar a couple years ago, but without realizing they sell out in literally minutes, I missed out. I strategically had it planned for this year and was lucky to make the cut off! Registration takes place in December, and they sold out this year in 14 minutes!
This is a small town race with only about 2,000 runners. There is no 5k, there is no full marathon. Just the simple 13.1 miles that takes you through a few small towns of Vermont.

There is no Expo or Packet Pick up. There is however, a QnA with the race directors at the local library the afternoon before, and a pasta dinner in Woodstock.

I was thankfully given a comp stay at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, which was gorgeous, but unfortunately an hour and half away from the race. Therefore, I did not get to partake in the pasta dinner.
This is an A to B course with a shuttle from the parking lot to the Starting Line and a shuttle from the Finish back to the parking lot. The Starting line was at a very small ski resort called Suicide Six and the Finish was at Quechee Polo Field.
Technically the majority of the course is on a slight decline, but don't get that wrong, there are still rolling hills throughout and a doozie of a hill at M8!  
The course follows a stream for a good portion of the course making it very beautiful with lots of tree coverage as well. We ran by 3 covered bridges, but unfortunately only crossed over one. And very unfortunately, they did not place the professional photographer at this point, so there are no bridge photos.

I left the hotel at 430a and what should have been a simple drive was a little stressful as there was a heavy fog cover. The fog broke for just a moment as the sun rose over the mountains at 530a, but then was quickly back.

I arrived to temps in the 40s. Luckily there as a bag drop at the Start so I was layered a bit, but still cold. It was easy to jump on the shuttle, as I planned to arrive for the first bus. Bib pick up was at the Start. Shirts were to be given at the Finish.

Most of us huddled close to the building to try to stay warm and block any wind. It seemed like the longest wait for the Starting time. I had absolutely no service on my phone, so there was little entertainment besides mingling with other runners. Breakfast provided at the start were cold hard bagels, bananas, and water.

I decided to go without my IFitness belt as I wasn't bringing my phone and decided against the pacer. Because of the anticipation of downhill running, I decided I would run by 'feel' instead. However, not meaning to, I left my one packet of GU in my gear bag. And there were no plans of them passing any out on course.

Portal potty lines didn't get long until the last few moments, but never seemed like there weren't enough.

The sun came out right as we lined up to start and was warming up to the 60s. It was a simple start, with no national anthem.

Its a pretty course and I almost forgot there were covered bridges until we approached the first one. The 2nd and 3rd ones were pretty cool as they had some sort of dam/waterfall next to them. I have to admit though, being that covered bridges are completely foreign to me, I was completely disappointed that we ran by them and not over them.

There were local musicians on course, which I was surprised about. There was a huge Team Alzheimer's group, and a Hash House Harriers team in Pink.

Hydration stations were spaced about every 2 miles and were properly stocked.

I found myself really exhausted on this race. I just wasn't feeling it after being up 2 days in a row at 4am....one flying to VT, and the next driving to the race. The weather warmed up nicely, never too hot or cold

The Finish was a little disappointing without entertainment. We were provided 1 beer each, but lack of monitoring left some runners grabbing double. There was more cold bagels, warm yogurt, stale cookies.

The communication from the race directors is one of the best I have ever seen. You can tell everyone involved is so super proud of this race. There is a website, blog, email newsletter, and Facebook. All the information needed was provided, and provided repeatedly. There was not a way you did not know what was to take place for this race. I give them a huge kudos on keeping everyone involved.

The shirt is given at the Finish Line and is of nice quality. Its gender specific and a cool design.
The medal is on the smaller side, but still pretty cool. I just wish there was something printed on the lanyard

Overall this is a beautiful race. Its a perfect small town feeling race that has great pride in their historic covered bridges and towns.  Keeping that in mind, if they changed much to be like the bigger races out there, it would lose their unique small town vibe. My only major concern was the lack of professional picture as we ran through the one bridge. Good job overall though, everything was highly organized.


5th Annual Flying Pirate Half Marathon, Kitty Hawk, NC-May 3, 2014


This was the 5th Annual Flying Pirate Half Marathon in the Outer Banks, NC, directed by OBX Sporting Events. There were about 1900 half marathoners, 1200 of them being female (Girl Power!). There is a 5k the day before the half. Combine the two and you've just completed the Double Dare Challenge and gained another kick butt medal! Proceeds from the race goes towards the Outer Banks Relief Foundation and the Dare Education Foundation.

I grew up in Virginia Beach where we would drive down to the Outer Banks almost every weekend religiously in the summertime. This is where my best childhood memories linger, so of course I had to jump on it!

I decided to risk it and drove up after work late Friday afternoon. The 9 1/2 hour drive put me into town after 1am. It was an unusually easy drive up I95 from Florida. But it wasn't quite late enough for the hotel to give me a partial night discount!

I stayed at the John Yancey Inn ONLY because it was the cheapest pet friendly hotel available. I must warn, the Outer Banks area is not known for their hotels. If you are going to come, make sure you get a house rental. No matter where it is, it is very easy to access the beach and/or Sound. I knew this, but I could not find one budget friendly for a solo traveler.

my body guard as I air out the room!
Unfortunately, my discounted pet friendly room was a smokers room! UGH! I didnt think it would be that bad, but it was absolutely miserable. The room and hotel was disgusting. The complimentary breakfast was nonexistent. The service was not accommodating. If I knew better, I would have slept in my car. Which I may have been better off, as it seemed everyone at the hotel was waking up at 5am for the 5k, just a couple hours after I got into the room! Everyone was leaving their barking dogs behind. I think I got about 3 hours of sleep. I tried to ignore the situation and focus on making the best of the OBX and the race.

It was a gorgeous day. I headed to the Expo and then did some carbo loading at Duck Donuts, which was one of the best I have ever tasted! Request the maple bacon one!

The afternoon was spent resting on the beach and watching the dolphins and playing with the pup.

I checked out the race start and finish locations, knowing it was going to be super dark in the morning.

I had an early dinner at the Outer Banks Brewing Station, which I was extremely disappointed. Besides the unfriendly pregnant bartender waiting on me, I was surprised the food was served luke warm and without utensils, after they were highly recommended by Guy Fieri and on Trip Advisor.

I grew up appreciating the sunrise on the beach and being able to basically cross the street and watch the sunset over the water as well at the Albemarle Sound. So of course I had go watch the sunset before bed! I walked around the Jockey Ridge State Park Sand Dunes, which I have only done once in my life! These miraculous dunes have to be explored if you are in town, they do go all the way over to the sound to make a perfect sunset location, but it was still plenty of time til then, so I explored the town some more.
sunset over Albemarle Sound

where dreams still take flight!

The Expo was held at a Recreation Center. Packet Pick up was a breeze. The shirt and bag had awesome designs and a 5 year commemorative poster was given. The race group was selling their merchandise and I picked up a really awesome tank top. I was about to buy a hat as well, but was warned we would be receiving one at the Finish!...that was a cool surprise!

They also had a great communications table set up with a layout of the course. I usually, (well, almost never) look at the course before a race. I may glance at it when chosing which races to do during the year, but after registration is paid, I tend to just let race day be a surprise. But for some reason, this table seemed like a great group of folks and they wanted to chat, so I let them explain the course. I was told the last 5k would be on trails and hilly with a brutal one at the end. Ok, thanks for the warning. Save the energy. I was also told there would be GU on course. Awesome!...save some money!

They had some other running companies and cool OBX and pirate souveniors, but being on budget, I just grabbed my free pirate tattoos and headed out.
the Expo Gear!
the back of the race shirt

The course starts in Kitty Hawk neighborhoods, runs along the Albemarle Sound, by the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and  then through the Nags Head Woods Maritime Forest trails.
This is an A to B course with your choice of shuttle provided....either at the beginning or end of the race. This is also announced as the first half of the OBX Marathon held in November. The course is flat and on paved roads until you hit the last 5k which is on a trail and rolling hills, with a couple short brutal hills at the end.

the Wright Brothers Monument

Considering I just completed the Lake Minneola half the weekend before, and drove 9 1/2 hours to NC less than 48 hours before race time, my goal for this race was to just enjoy it!

There was after all, a Pirate Costume Contest! Yea, that's right! You know this girl is all about costumes! Unfortunately I missed this announcement until the week of the race, so my 'costume' wasn't as dramatic as my usuals. I was happy though and I ended up in the Finals, where the audience cheers chose the winner, which ended up being a Parrot and 2 Pirates group. The Parrot was super cute and hand made, so Im all for them winning! They received a complimentary race entry for next year. Which is fine with me not winning, because we all know, I don't have time to repeat races (except of course 26.2 with Donna!)
the costume winners

I ran the full first 3miles, with a minute walk break between each mile. I then ran 3x1 until M6, then 2x1 until M10 and 1x1 for the last 3 miles....well, as much as I could on those progressively rolling hills.

It was a gorgeous day and you couldn't really have asked for better. It was very pretty running by the Sound, and then through the neighborhoods with the azaleas in full bloom!

It was cool to run in the Wright Brothers park with the iconic monument. I happened to glance the other way through the open field and saw a huge group of deer coming out of the woods. More and more of them kept coming, and next thing you know, they are running right along side us....at least to the other group of trees! That was definitely one of the best racing experiences ever!
deer racing with us at the Wright Brothers Monument

The trails portion of the race was pretty cool and different, but the biting flies were kinda ridiculous! They weren't really biting, but they would circle around you, even as you ran. More of an aggravation than anything.  They warned us of bugs this time of year being in the woods and suggested bug spray. However, even if I did put on bug spray, it would have sweated off by the time we hit those last few miles. It would be a great idea to have some bug repellent wipes or spray cans to use at the hydration station as we enter the wooded area.

My hotel was about a mile from the Finish, which was also a shuttle location to get to Start. Shuttles were set to start at 530a. The first ones were a little late, but nothing worrisome. Its about a 25 minute shuttle ride to the Start.

Taking the first shuttle to Start, meant there was lots of time before the race time, which meant mingling with the other pirates. I was surprised there weren't as many people in costume as I thought there would be, so I was receiving lots of compliments.

There were plenty of porta potties and I never saw them have a long line, even as everyone was arriving. They had coffee, but no water nor food. My stomach was full when I left the hotel, so I took a risk and didn't eat breakfast. I was starting to wonder if this was a mistake when we lined up, but I think it was more of a hydration issue. Unfortunately the first water station wasn't until M3!

The water stops were ridiculously far apart. The weather was in the upper 60s and sunny. A good portion of the course was shaded, but I still believe water shouldn't be this far apart. They did make up for it in the size of the cups, but drinking that large of a glass of Gatorade or water at a time leads to cramps as you try to continue to run. GU was provided twice on course which was perfect. Aid Bikers paced the course making sure runners were okay.

A couple of spectators had tables set up...one with Bloody Marys and Gummie Bears, another with Mimosas....but now that I think of it, I don't know if the Mimosas were being handed out, or if I just begged for one! ;)

There were a good amount of people cheering on the runners in the first half of the race, for this 2500 runner cap race. There are no spectators in the wooded trail portion. A lot of spectators would yell out "Pirate!" when they saw those of us dressed up! In return of course the sword had to be drawn and yell out an "Aaaarrrrrrrrhhhhh!" Some of the spectators even joined in on the dressing up!
pirate spectators giving high fives!

The very end of the race was a killer trail hill and then down to the line.

We received a hat at the finish line with our medal. They passed out bananas and pbj graham crackers, which I haven't seen in years, but was super excited for!

Over at the Post Party Jamboree, they handed out free egg and cheese biscuits and 2 beers. There was a pretty good band playing as we waited for the awards.

They had a kids activity area and well as corn hole area if you wanted to play.


I took a few hours to rest on the beach and then headed to VA to meet my mom for dinner. After a goods nights rest, I made the long drive back home.

I would highly recommend this race! They have great communication via email and Facebook, as well as on their website. This could easily be a family event with the 5k the day before! The Outer Banks are listed as one of the top beaches of the Nation and you wont be disappointed if you turn this race weekend into an extended vacation to explore this beautiful coastline! (in a house!) If you have time, make sure you go North towards Corolla to see the wild horses! Or go a little south to hang glide off the Jockey Ridge sand dunes!


HM #38


Lake Minneola Half Marathon-Clermont FL-April 26, 2014

This was Lake Minneola half marathon located in Clermont FL. (aka Lakes County) There are several small lakes in this part of  Central Florida and I have quickly learned, several local events including Triathlons (which I hope to one day accomplish).  This event was hosted by SommerSports.
I decided to save on the money and wake up Super early to drive the 2 and half hours before race time. It really was an easy drive…..well, it was a little scary when I hit really thick fog after I got off the interstate on the back roads in the middle of nowhere, and then seeing the Bear crossing signs! Whaaa?! 
I arrived a little after 5am. I had made myself an egg Sammie (which I never eat before a race) and ate it around 4am. I forced myself to eat the banana when I arrived. The granola bar I brought as well, had to wait.
Parking was a breeze right at the start! Packet pick up was set to start at 530a…..but we were quickly told it would be at least 30-45 more minutes. Race time was set for 7am for the half marathon, and 730a for the 10k and 5k.
Prior Communication
There seems to be very little activity with Sommer Sports in the social media world. The websites that had the race information was very minimal, and seemed there were a couple other sites advertising wrong info. I was definitely feeling a little confused being an out of towner, and not getting pumped up the days leading up to the race.
Speaking of being an out of towner, everyone I told I just drove in for the race thought I was Nuts! But I actually enjoyed myself. (and driving 5hours just to run 13 miles! HA!)

The positive of being at a recreation park, is there were public bathrooms….Real toilets!  And there were a couple buildings, so really not much of a line.They had porta potties as well if needed.
The race was combined with a city health event called FitnessPalooza. All sorts of tables and trucks and canopies were being set up in the dark. Not knowing the layout of the park, it was hard to figure out where the Start actually was. I quickly found the Finish, and kept walking and walking and walking, and finally stumbled on the Starting Line. It was 5 til 7a, yet there were only about 10 of us!
Considering packet pick up was running late, the race seemed destined to be late. But they actually did ok, we were only about 5 minutes off schedule. (I don’t know if this affected anyone…if we started without them. But then again, you should be on time).

The Course
The course basically loops around Lake Minneola. To make up some distance, for the half marathon, we did about 7 miles off the lake, and actually found some pretty steep hills. I like to call this the Florida Mountains, since it is probably the largest hills I have seen in FL so far (and Ive covered a lot!) It was about 2 or 3 hills…just enough of a challenge to keep you entertained, since there were absolutely no spectators. All of this is hilarious though, because the race description claims the course is Flat…..uummm…. WRONG.    
It was a very peaceful course. We started and finished at the lake. The first 6-7 mile were on some sort of ‘pavement trail’ which also kept it shaded, which was Good!  It was over 70 degrees, humid, and no wind at all!The roads we did run on, were closed on our half so it was fine with the very minimal traffic. When we ran around the lake, there were lots of trees for the first part to keep us cool. The second part, the sun was at our back, which was better than running into it. Still, I did see the ambulance drive by. And I also passed by someone laid out on the ground. Florida races are just dangerous any time of year. (its only April people, yet already 90degrees!)
Regardless of the heat, and hills, the course is beautiful. I kept telling myself, ‘this beach girl could live at a lake!’
There were only about 400 half marathoners, so it was never crowded.
The Plan
Considering I overdid it just a couple days before the race in the weights room,  leaving my left hamstring feeling super tight,  I decided to just enjoy the race and not worry too much about time. I did afterall, wake up at 2am for this race! I would be insane to think I could PR! Especially in this heat! I did a 3x1 for the first 5 miles, a 2x1 for the next 4 miles, and a 1x1 for the last 4 miles. I actually felt pretty good at the end of the race, except for the fact that my leg never really loosened up too much.
Hydration Station
Water and Gatorade was provided and was stocked well enough for this small event. No gu or fuel was provided. The stations were about 1.5M apart. I really wish hot weather events would realize they need to have hydration at every mile. I was actually fine myself, for the most part. I ended up dumping water on my head towards the end to stay cool.

The Finish
We were handed a medal and a water, and all I could see was an Icy Station! Sweet! I walked over and realized they were selling it! Oh, so this must be part of the FitnessPalooza. I walked around to the different vendors and chatted with some. A lot of them were doing challenges to win prizes, which I giggled because who wants to do a burpee challenge after running 13 miles in the heat?

Then I quickly  realized I never saw the finish line food! It was basically hidden. I spotted the Muscle Milk and watermelon (YES!) and bananas and tubs of Pasta. Awesome, I thought, Im starving! Wrong! Absolutely nothing to eat it with! Oh how I almost just stuck my hand in the pasta dish and walked away! Luckily some of the vendors gave away some freebie samples that held me over. 
To cool myself down some more, I walked over to the lake to soak my legs. I almost wanted to jump completely in, but I refrained, basically because no one else was!
I quickly learned the bathroom had a shower as well! Perfect! I could clean up before my drive home. Oh, how little did I know it was only ice cold water!
The Shirt
The shirt is the brightest neon yellow I have ever seen. It almost hurts to look at it. But I guess it will come in hand for night training runs.

The Medal
The medal matches the shirt in design…but not yellow. Lol
There is a challenge that includes this race and the Orange Blossom Half, if you are interested in claiming some extra bling.
Overall Thoughts
I am super please with the race because it was pretty and simple. It was an easy drive from Jacksonville. I love to support smaller events, but not have the proper food at the finish line is just unacceptable. I really hate that it ended that way, because I was super happy with everything else….well, they didn’t have beer either, but you know, I had to drive home anyways. Lol
HM #37