New River Gorge-ous Trail Half Marathon, Minden WV-Aug 22, 2015

Stay tuned for race update and fun adventures of WVA!

I am currently running a half marathon a month and also running a half marathon in each state all to show support and raise awareness for breast cancer via The Donna. Please consider showing your support by making a donation today!
www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2016-marathon/melissajohnson

Presque Isle Half Marathon, Erie, PA-July 19, 2015


(pictures to be updated, stay tuned)

This year (my 5th year of running a half marathon a month, as well as hitting my 'half way' mark of the 50 states) I have been very lucky on receiving some complimentary stays for race events. So when I came across a comp stay at the Ritz Carlton Cleveland, OH, I snagged it up. No races in PA have really struck an interest the past few years. My trend (being a Florida beach gal) has been trying to stay along coastlines and/or flat races. So when I stumbled upon small town Presque Isle PA half, I knew this would be my PA race. Presque Isle in Erie PA is a State Park that is a peninsula on Lake Erie. I went into this race thinking it was super small (no real race website, no real race Facebook page), however I quickly learned the day before and on race day it was about 2,000 runners!

So why did I stay in Ohio to run a Pennsylvania race?!.....
-flights were the cheaper into Cleveland OH
-my friend that went with me is from Cleveland and we could visit her mom who still lives there
-it was her moms birthday
-I could get a free hotel stay at the Ritz Carlton downtown Cleveland

It really was only a hour and half drive to Presque Isle so all signs were pointing "why not?" However, as the race day approached, I started feeling bad running a PA race, staying in OH, and not really experiencing what PA has to offer.

PARKING AND PACKET PICK UP
Race Start time was 645 with same day packet pick up starting at 545. I arrived at 6a and the lots were already filling up. (note for out of towers, park before the entrance to PI park. The walk seemed shorter than going to the lots within the park). I ended up parking about a mile away.

By the time I parked, there was about 15 minutes til start, so I started running. The Packet Pick up line was a good size, but not nearly as ridiculous as the porta potty line. Later I learned they were expecting the bath houses to be open, but they were not, which made the lines ridiculous. After getting my packet, I realized there was no gear check. So they were expecting us to go back to the car and back to start all in time? Wasn't going to happen, so I stuck it behind a tree and hoped it would still be there after the race. (it was)

COURSE
It was going to be a warm and sunny day with temps reaching the 80s, but luckily most the course was in the shade. We ran the peninsula and on the return it seemed to be windier which helped keep it cool(er). All the water stations were properly stocked and they even handed out wet towels on the second half. I did see one person being taken away by ambulance for heat related issues. The flat course stays on paved road and paved bike path. With the water views and abundance of trees it is a pretty course. There were plenty of bathhouses as well as a few porta potties set out. This flat course was highly enjoyable, but time of year is hot.

RESULT
The night before I had little sleep and for some reason had some allergic reaction and first my right eye swelled and by morning both eyes were overly puffy. Luckily it calmed down by race start time. I got little sleep as the walls at the Ritz were fairly thin and with a casino next door, winners were coming back at all hours excited they won!

I went into the race exhausted just wanting to survive and that is basically what I did. I used my pace alert and had it set to a 3x1 (run 3min, walk 1 min) for the first half and basically 1x1 on the return. I did not see anyone else with a pace alert and was questioned about it after I passed a couple people towards the end. Its fun to not only talk about the Galloway, but to show that it actually does keep you strong to the finish and have a good recovery time as well!

FINISH
The after party had really good (real) food.... boxed lunches with a choice of wrap. I was disappointed in the drink selection (all sodas and no beer or recovery drinks). I grabbed my food and headed over the lake (right across the street) where everyone seemed to have the same idea of jumping in the cold water to ease the muscles.

It was a mile walk back, but was cool because I got to cheer on the last runners. One group of women were dressed as different super heroes.

SHIRT AND MEDAL
I am disappointed with both the shirt and medal which are generic in style...no race name, no date.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
I really loved the location, the course, and food afterwards. There were campgrounds at the entrance, so I definitely would have done that if I didn't stay in Cleveland. There were lots of recreation activities to make a weekend out of it.

Overall I would recommend this race and give it an A-

13.1-2:38
State #22
Half Marathon #52

I am currently running a half marathon a month and also running a half marathon in each state all to show support and raise awareness for breast cancer via The Donna. Please consider showing your support by making a donation today!
www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2016-marathon/melissajohnson

4th Annual Thelma and Louise Half Marathon-June 6, 2015



MOAB, UT...... who would guess that this would end up being one of this travel agents favorite places to visit in the world!

It all started when I stumbled upon Thelma and Louise half marathon. Being a favorite movie of mine, how could this race not be perfect? Well, I convinced my running buddy to join me not only for the half marathon, but to take on the adventures of what Moab has to offer as well!



We flew in to Denver from Florida and decided to rent a convertible for one of the most scenic drives in the West! It was a planned 5 1/2 hour drive, however with a stop for lunch at Colorado Bistro (a hidden gem off I70) and a stop at Walmart to pick up supplies, our total drive time ended up being closer to 8 1/2. It was still worth every minute! (if you take the drive, make sure to get off 170 and take UT128 along the Colorado River for the most jaw dropping welcome in the Moab area!)



The Goldbar Campground hosts the Thelma and Louise Half, however, we decided to step it up a notch and go 'glamping' at Moab Under Canvas (highly recommended!) I couldn't imagine spending my time in Moab any other way! I only wish the pictures of the stars and Milky Way would come out, as it is an awesome experience!





We arrived on a Wednesday, with the race being Saturday, which I think was well planned for these sea level girls to get acclimated to the elevation (Moab is located at 3800ft).

Our first day we went out hard and did our first outdoor rock climbing experience ever at Looking Glass Rock with Cliffs and Canyons adventure guide Chris. Lets just say, with rattlesnake warnings, 40mph winds, and shaking nerves, we still survived our 300ft multi pitch climb and a 135ft rappel in a natural amphitheater and arch!
 
 
After our exhilarating morning of climbing, we took the convertible for a drive through Arches National Park. You can literally see most of the park without leaving the car! (it was close to 95 degrees that day) Being in the convertible we felt immersed in the natural beauty 17 miles point to point and back! We did do one short hike to Landscape Arch which was cool to see as it is the biggest.
 


 
 
 
 
Our 2nd day in town (day before the race) we took it easy and drove the convertible around to check the other surrounding parks. 
 
Dead Horse State Park (where Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff in the moie)
 

Canyonlands National Park

 
 
Tushers Tunnel




EXPO
This was the 4th annual Thelma and Louise half marathon with about 630 runners, 430 of them being half marathoners, the others doing the 2person Relay. The Expo was held at the Moab Rec Center with an optional pasta dinner right after. There were lots of cool official race items for sale, but unfortunately I did not see any fuel type items or actual running supplies.

Packet pick up included a reusable bag and race shirt. I also purchased a cool trucker hat.

NIGHT BEFORE 
The night before the race was definitely a night to remember. We were warned earlier in the day that a big downpour storm was on its way. It seemed to stay away all day, but it found us in the middle of the night. We woke in the middle of the night to 40+ mph winds shaking the tent, torrential downpour, and lightning that seemed to be striking right next door! Ive been camping in storms before, but not quite like this, and definitely not the night before a race! Thankfully we were at Moab Under Canvas and their tents were Amazing! No leaks at all, surprisingly! (we did have a wet front door rug in the morning, but realized it had come in thru the fireplace hole. After they removed the rug, it was fine).

























COURSE
The course starts and finishes at the Gold bar Campground. The campground is basically just an open area next to the river, but also next to the main road. (seems all the campgrounds in Moab are like this) The course is pretty flat, but for those like us 'sea level Florida girls' there is a slight incline. (although me and my friend argued the entire race on if it was actually inclining or declining!... must have been the lack of oxygen! lol)

It is basically an out and back course along the river. I knew it was going to be pretty, but I really didn't realize how pretty it was going to be. It is very peaceful. There was also an arch right off the road and a waterfall (or mudfall from the storm the night before) Adding to the 'scenery', they had Cute Cowboys manning the first (and last) water stop! There were also drummers at one of the stations that brought unique entertainment.


START
The race started at 630a. We had a 20 minute drive, so we were up at 430a. We arrived with plenty of time to spare. There was coffee served and plenty of portal potties. (there are 2 real bathrooms too that barely anyone recognized to use). It was an honestly system line up and a real shotgun that started the race!

HYDRATION STATIONS/SUPPORTERS
The aid stations were all set up properly. There was enough water and Gatorade to go around as well as 2 options for a GU of sorts. Because of the location you do not have spectators lining up cheering you on. There were some family members at the end and at the turn around point, but that was about it

RESULTS
Thankfully because of the storm, the temps stayed lower than I believe is normal (under80) and it stayed overcast til the very end. Having such an awesome PR last month in Ocean City MD, I decided I was going to go out for a repeat and tried to stay with the 2:10 pacer. My running buddy quickly was struggling with her breathing because of the elevation (she is usually a much stronger and faster runner than I am). We split up, but within 3 miles I knew I would not be able to keep the pace, so I stopped and waited for her to catch up. It was, after all, the Thelma and Louise half marathon.... seems like one you run 'with' a friend. The majority of the race we 'leap frogged'  with a girl from Napa, CA who was also complaining about the 'slight incline'. After the turn around point, my friend had gotten her breathing under control but I ended up losing my strength and was slowing down considerably. It was funny how complete opposite runners we are. I told her to kick it into high gear the last mile and beat our 'competition', the Napa girl. We all finished within a minute or two apart.















































FINISH LINE
The after party was right on the water. The cold water was awesome on the feet. I would have liked to have gotten my legs in, but the current was fast. Two (big) local beers were given and there was a slew of snacks to munch on. Awards were given and then they had a Trivia game related to the movie with some awesome prizes! (bib numbers were drawn). It was quite entertaining!
























SHIRT
The shirt is awesome and sans sponsor logos splattered all over the back! The fit was perfect.


MEDAL
The ribbon for the medal is cool, however I am very disappointed in the lack of color on the actual medal itself. I do give them props for being creative in making the medal an actual belt buckle, however you would have to cut the ribbon off if you did use it that way.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
Kudos all around! I love the theme and that the race director actually tried to incorporate the theme in all areas of the race! The scenery and surrounding area is spot on! This is definitely one to grab a girl friend or two and plan a week getaway! There is so much to do in this active hotspot!

DAY AFTER
The next day we woke early for another adventure with Cliffs and Canyons Guide, this time with guide Riley who escorted us through Fiery Furnace of Arches National Park (this is by permit/guide only. And you must make reservations at least ahead of time). We were one of the first to arrive in the area (highly suggest) and we got up close and personal with the amazing structure of the land. It was completely silent so early, you were completely immersed in the quiet beauty). The walking, scrambling, and slight climbing definitely stretched out the tired legs!


That afternoon we had to squeeze in one last adventure with Red River Adventures and did 2 rappel and a hike over near Slick Rock and Negro Bill Canyon (Ephedras Grotto and Morning Glory)

Morning Glory (yes, I'm rappelling!)
 

Monday was our adventure drive back to Denver for a flight home. (and yes, the drive was just as beautiful and worth it the 2nd time too). We were very sad to leave Moab and looking forward to another adventure trip there as there is more to explore! .....Moab ROCKS!!


State #21, HM#51
13.1-2:24

I am currently running a half marathon a month and also running a half marathon in each state all to show support and raise awareness for breast cancer via The Donna. Please consider showing your support by making a donation today!
www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2016-marathon/melissajohnson


Island to Island Half-Ocean City, MD-May 2, 2015

 
 
I am currently 50 half marathons in....20 of them being out of state.... it was bound to happen...
 
Every runner has had the nightmare they over slept the alarm and missed race day. There have been my share of times I have forgotten something like an IPod or Garmin on race day. Ive always thought one day I would forget to pack my sneakers for an out of town race, but I've always said, I would probably still run it.... barefoot...if I did. Little did I know that one day I would actually forget my ENTIRE BAG!!
 
I know, sounds impossible right? I mean how does one get on an airplane without their BAG? Well, lets explain. I have been doing a lot of traveling lately. The trip the prior week my friend made me check in our bags, so I only carried a large purse as a carry on. This trip I brought the same large purse and then my roller bag as a carry on (I really hate paying for and wasting time on a checked bag!) Well, having only gotten about 4 hours of sleep the night before this butt crack of dawn flight, I ended up grabbing my large purse, laptop, liquids and shoes off the TSA belt, but left my roller bag sitting right there!!  DOH!!! And didn't realize it until I LANDED in MD!!! DOUBLE DOH!!
 
Luckily, I was wearing my sneakers that day! Double Luckily, I found an Outlet Mall with a store that had some really awesome sales for a running outfit, as well as a couple days worth of clothes!
 
Ok, so on to my race report.....
 
 
ABOUT
This event was hosted by OC Tri Running Sports which hosts a series of races around town.
Worcester Youth and Family counseling was the beneficiary, but it seems it changes yearly.
The day consists of a 5k and half marathon. There were about 2000 half marathoners and 670 5kers.
 
THE COURSE
The course was an A to B, which seems to change yearly. This year we started from Assateague Island and ended on the boardwalk of Ocean City, MD.
 
PACKET PICKUP
Packet Pick up was located in a huge tent in the City Parking lot right at the end of the Ocean City Boardwalk. It was a very windy, cold, and dreary day, so it was just a quick hop in and out of the car to grab the stuff and go... unfortunately. I did stop at Harrisons restaurant for a bowl of crab chowder for lunch. We were provided the usual tech shirt and bib and they had minimal race items to buy. No ID was checked. I mention this, because I did not realize it until I was back in my hotel room (an hour away, because I received a free stay at the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay) that I had a completely different persons bib with the same exact name!! AAAHHH!! Luckily, they had same day packet pick up as well and the other girl had not picked up her bib yet, so I was able to change it out!
 
PARKING
Parking basically is a first come, first serve in any of the city lots, which unfortunately means you are left with a hefty parking fee for the amount of time needed to arrive early for the shuttle, race, and enjoy the after party.  I ended up parking a couple blocks away and paid $12.
 
SHUTTLES
Shuttles started at 515a in the same lot as packet pick up. They assigned times based alphabetically by last name, which was interesting, because no one checked when you arrived or what bus you got on. There were tons of buses though. They warned us several times in the prior weeks about missing the bus, but I don't see how that could even be possible. 
 
Unfortunately we drove the entire course to get to start. I don't like to review the race map that much before a race. I like it to be a surprise. So driving the course, I was a little disappointed. I was also concerned to see the road was completely open to traffic and the cones set up was not going to be wide enough for the amount of runners. 
 
Some people were dropped off at the Start instead of taking the shuttle. Some people parked at Start, and had their own transportation back. Either way, I was there when they told me to be there and everything was very seamless. No lines, no waiting. 
 
START
We arrived at Assateague State Park, not to be confused with Assateague National Park, right next door. I did learn on my visit back to the National Park later that it really is a rip off ($15) unless you are camping or have a vehicle that can drive on the sand. The majority of the park is access for those vehicles only. Also, before you get to the 'paying station' there is a huge area of wilderness, which is actually where I saw all the horses and deer, NOT inside the paid for section! Go figure.
 
Anyways, I arrived right at sunrise, which was awesome over the beach! I walked up the dunes and calmed my nerves taking in the scenery. It was Gorgeous! You could even see Ocean City in the very far distance! It was pretty cool to see that is how far we were about to run!
 
It was cold and windy (40s) so I hung onto my gear bag and waited inside the large warming tent for the hour we had before start. There was a DJ which was nice and made the time pass.
 
Outside, there were definitely not enough porta potties. The line was ridiculously long, and for some reason they only had 1 line for the 10 or so porta potties, which made no sense.
It wasn't until the last 15 minutes before start, they decided to let us know there were bathhouses in the camping section right next door that we could use for a bathroom.  
 
The bag check was 2 school buses in which you passed your bag through the window. I really liked this idea.
 
There wasn't an official line up. There were pacers, so you basically placed yourself according to them. After seeing how tight the course was going to be, I decided to place myself with the 2:10 pacer (7min PR), instead of having to be stuck bobbing and weaving with slower runners.
 
COURSE/RESULT
The National Anthem was played and then we were off.  The pacer ended up being really consistent (at least it felt like it since I wasn't wearing a Garmin) and the group staying with her was small.  I felt really good at the 9:50 pace. Surprisingly good since I have not been running nearly as much as I should be since the marathon in February!  I told myself I would stick with her for at least 6 miles.
 
The course quickly takes you out of Assateague and over a small bridge. I was disappointed they didn't utilize more of the park for the race. I did see, or think I saw, one horse in the very far distance.  
 
The course was still so tight as this pace, at certain times I kept kicking the people in front of me, or someone behind me would do the same to me. But it made me stay consistent in pace.
 
It was basically a straight shot back to Ocean City. They utilized a small neighborhood to do a loop and then back out onto the main road to the OC Boardwalk. It was cool you could see the Ferris Wheel in the far distance. Once we crossed over the waterway to the beaches, we were so close to finish, I asked the person next to me if I had missed seeing M12. There was no way we still had 2 miles to go. Ends up, the course takes you right by the finish line, to do an out and back on the boardwalk! Oh those courses make it miserable for the last mile!! It was fun to be on the boardwalk and that is where most of the people were, but to see the finish when you are exhausted, yet you can not stop yet!.... miserable!
 
In the final stretch in, I heard a girl motivating her friend telling her the 2:10 pacer just crossed the finish line. I got super pumped, because I thought I was a lot further behind than that! At that point the three of us got silly and tried to make each other get energized! We saw the Ripley Believe it or Not sign and we all started saying 'believe it or not, but...."..... mine was 'believe it or not, but this is my 50th half marathon, and 20th state!!" and then my last one was "believe it or not, but I am going to PR this race!" and then I kicked it up into high gear and busted out a 2 minute PR making my first 2:15 finish!
 
HYDRATION STATIONS
Unfortunately the water stations were spaced out over 2 miles apart and they were not properly stocked. Cups were not filled and runners were pouring their own water for a lot of the stations.  Fortunately the weather was pretty perfect conditions, so there wasn't a need to quench dehydration too badly.We were given 1 energy gel at M6
 
SPECTATORS
The majority of the spectators were at the boardwalk. Unfortunately I had to entice them to actually cheer. The rest of the course were random groups here and there. There were a lot of children participating in the cheering which I liked. One holding a 'high five here for power' sign and another actually passing out the water (both were definitely under 5yr)
 
FINISH LINE/AFTER PARTY
The Finish was the same place as packet pick up and where the start shuttles were. After crossing the finish line and being handed your medal by a hot fire fighter, there were the traditional running foods.... bananas, bagels, cookies, bars, etc.... unfortunately you had to pour your own water.
 
At packet pick up you were given 2 drink tickets and 1 food ticket which gave you one slice of cold pizza and 2 Michelob Ultras. I really would have loved to have seen more options. There were 2 beer lines, which made it faster, and there was no wait for the cold pizza.... no figure. The Awards ceremony was inside the big tent. It was still cool outside, but the sun was out and it was warming nicely.
 
MEDAL
 I like the medal, I do. Its an exact replica of the entrance to the boardwalk. My picky side just wishes MD or Maryland was on it somewhere.
 
 
 
SHIRT
 I love the short sleeve gender specific race shirt that is not too overly obnoxious with sponsor logos. HOWEVER, 'marathon' is the main eye catcher, and this was a half marathon. Yes, I know, I really need to work for a race one day! ;)
 
OVERALL THOUGHTS
 Of course the destination makes this race very attractive. A majority of race day was seamless and enjoyable, I give them that. With only a few adjustments it could be a fantastic race. I would still recommend it as a destination race. There's a lot to do around town for an extended weekend with the gorgeous beach, the wildlife at the parks, the tourist attractions on the boardwalk. And its easy to drive around the rest of Maryland as well. I flew in and out of Baltimore. I stayed at the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay about an hour away and highly recommend that property! I also stopped at Annapolis on the way back to the airport and that was a super cute, fun town to check out!
 
 13.1-2:15
HM#50, STATE#20
I am running a half marathon a month while I complete my goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, all to raise breast cancer awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle through running and walking. 100% of donations raised goes towards 26.2 with Donna (70% Mayo Clinic and 30% Donna Foundation). Please show your support by making a donation today! www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2016-marathon/melissajohnson


Harbour Heights Half-Port Charlotte, FL-April 4, 2015

This was the Inaugural half marathon of the Harbour Half in Port Charlotte FL, benefiting Autism Awareness. The yearly event is usually just a 5k, but decided to expand the field. The half was limited to only 400 participants.

I drove into town the day before with the pup. I decided to stay at the Four Points right on the bay in Punta Gorda, and I was not disappointed! It is a wonderful pet friendly hotel (even allowing pets to dine with you!). They have a really cool tiki bar/restaurant right on the water and a fun sunset happy hour with live entertainment! I highly suggest this property!

We spent the day resting on the dog beach in Venice, which was a good 45 minute drive away, but definitely worth it. The drive in the morning to the race was a quick 12 minutes.

PARKING
Parking was easy peasy... The school lot was easy to find and there were plenty of signs and escorts with lights to direct you. You were then shuttled over to start on a trolley, which were very prompt.

PACKET IPCK UP
Packet pick up was available race morning and was very simple. They did allow for a bag drop as well.

PORTY POTTIES
Since the start was at a public park, there were real bathrooms, and I arrived early enough to not have to wait in line. There were also potty potties for the event, which I never had to use. At the boat ramp next to the back of the line of Start, there was another public portal potty which I used right before starting.


START
We started and finished at a public park in Harbour Heights. Unfortunately the park was under construction, so there were some areas where you really needed to watch your step before you twisted an ankle, or filled your shoe with sand.

The National Anthem was sang by a group of kids, which was really cool.

There was a slight delay on the start of the race of about 10 minutes. The race was already starting after the sun rise, so this was just added to the time in the heat.

We arrived at dark and it was a full moon which was cool. We then got a peek of the sunrise as well over a small lake.

Unfortunately right before we started, I realized I left my Garmin in the hotel room. At that point, I decided to just turn off the pacer as well and just run by feel.

COURSE
Honestly, there is not much to remember of the course. It went through a lot of neighborhoods and was very quiet. There were a couple of peeks of lakes, but not much. There was at one point an elderly lady taking what looked like her daily morning walk and was shocked to see all of us running right by her. She was very friendly and was waving and walking right along with us! It was very cool.

There was also a large group of pink runner skirt ladies (and a man) that were all doing the Galloway run/walk and wearing pacers and a couple of them were even wearing step alerts (not sure of the actual term, but it was constantly beeping to tell her when/how fast she was supposed to be taking each step)....SO ANNOYING!... I understand this could help with training, but you've got to be more considerate during a race with people around you! Honestly, the one lady I was with a good portion of the race, the noise was so annoying, it made me run faster just to get away from her. However once it started getting hot, she gained back on me and at that point I had given up and let her pass.

The weather started off a little cool, but as soon as that sun was high, it turned hot quick.

HYDRATION STATIONS
Stations unfortunately were only offering water. Not once did I see Gatorade. This is definitely not acceptable for a long distance race. They did offer a gel, but they have got to get more fuel to the runners. I know, I know most people say to carry your own. However, I strongly believe if I am paying for a race, that is what I should be paying for.... at the minimum!

SPECTATORS
This is a very quiet race, even though we run through neighborhoods. Maybe once the community catches on that there is a half marathon going on, they will come out and support more

FINISH LINE
Unfortunately there wasn't much at the finish line except cold bagels, peanut butter and granola bars.

AFTER PARTY
There wasn't beer at the finish, nor live entertainment, but they did do something unique and gave everyone a raffle ticket for a chance to win some great prizes, including airfare, bikes, gift baskets, etc. You could also buy additional tickets to better you odds.

RESULTS
Once I started getting really hot around M8 or so, I pretty much gave up and was just going to finish. I had no idea what my time was since I didn't have the Garmin, so that didn't help much. When I came around to the finish line and saw the time was under 2:30, I was super surprised and happy. However, I later heard a few people say that their Garmin were all short of 13.1 miles. So again, I don't know.

MEDAL
I do love the medal and how it has the Autism Awareness symbol on it, however I wish the name of the race would be a little larger


SHIRT

OVERALL
I think the race is great and supports a great cause and I would suggest it once it gets some experience under its belt.



 HM #49
13.1???-2:27


I am running a half marathon a month while I complete my goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, all to raise breast cancer awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle through running and walking. 100% of donations raised goes towards 26.2 with Donna (70% Mayo Clinic and 30% Donna Foundation). Please show your support by making a donation today! www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2016-marathon/melissajohnson


Tomoka Half Marathon-March 29, 2015





This was the 2nd Annual Tomoko Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5k with 314 marathoners, 669 half marathoners, and 225 5kers, benefiting Halifax Health in Ormond Beach, FL




THE COURSE
We started and finished at the Casements, winter home of John D Rockefeller, in Ormond Beach. We would tackle the Granada Bridge (apx 65ft incline) within the first mile or two and of course finish it within the last. Once over the bridge, we run along some homes on the intracoastal. It was perfect timing with the sun rising in the distance beyond the bridge. We then head into Tomoka State Park, where the road turns to a hard packed sand. I have to say, I'm not sure if my time significantly dropped because I was tired, or the loss of traction. (prob both). I do have to admit I wasn't overly impressed with park. We really didn't see anything but trees. And trail. And runners. Which is nice and all, but I guess I was just expecting more beauty.
 
 
 

COMMUNICATIONS
There is a Facebook page for the race as well as the Live Your Life Well page which are active. There were only a couple emails sent out the week of the race with basic information. The website had just enough information.


PARKING
With Ormond Beach being only an hour and half away, I decided to wake early and drive in race morning. (there was a host hotel and shuttle for those wanting to stay in the area).

There were warnings about parking in designated spots only in Ormond Beach to prevent ticketing, and a strong suggestion was to park at the Elementary School, which is what I plugged into my GPS.  However, I pulled up to a locked and dark school. Luckily there were a few other cars that pulled in at the same time and I was able to follow them on the back roads, as there was another entrance completely on the other side. Disappointment set in, as I would have never figured that out on my own.

After we finally found the parking area, we were once again confused on which way to walk to start as there were no volunteers and limited signage (we actually did not see the sign until daylight on the way back after the race). Its never a good feeling, being out of town and feeling lost trying to find a race on time.



START and PACKET PICK UP
Each race started in 30 minute increments starting at 630a with the full, half, then 5k. There were a couple vendor there and you were able to pick up your packet before the race (you also had the option the day before at the Y). We received a reusable grocery bag and short sleeve gender specific race shirt. That's it, no tons of useless flyers, which is good. However, no samples either. Boo. Halifax Health though, was handing out free Live your Live Well headbands, which was neat.

There seemed to be plenty of porta potties, with the lines being less than 10 deep. Dunkin Donuts was there with coffee and donuts holes. There was a gear check which was a pretty quick drop, despite there being only one volunteer having to write each persons bib number on duck tape to put on each bag.

There was some sort of military drill that you couldn't see, and then the national anthem was sang, and we were off.

HYDRATION STATIONS
There were plenty of fluid stations that were properly stocked. There was 1 stop with Hammer Gels as well as oranges and bananas.

SUPPORT
Besides the volunteers, there were no spectators for this event. We did run by some homes before entering the park, but no one was out. One road is still open in the park, but there was only 1 car that was actually trying to drive through, which didn't seem to impact many.

RESULT
The weather was quite perfect for a race day. We started in the upper 40s and it wasn't expected to warm much more than mid 50s. (even if it was a hot day, its mostly shaded, except the bridge portion). It was a gorgeous clear and sunny day.

March had been a very stressful month for me with my dad being in the hospital and then just a couple weeks ago, a good running buddy had suddenly passed away. I had run very little anyways since Gasparilla at the end of February (maybe 5 miles.....a mile at a time) and I just couldn't get myself to take those steps again, feeling I was going to complete break down mid run. As race day approached quickly, I decided to just wait and just leave it all out there on the course.

I decided to push it and try a 4x:30 (run 4 minutes, walk 30seconds). And I felt really strong for a PR for the first half. Around M6, I had to downgrade to a 3x:30, and it wasn't too far later that I went to a 2x:30. Despite the little training I had done, I felt strong the entire time, my endurance was (understandably) just not there.

I thought about my friend the entire race, and how she had so many more races she wanted to complete. I just can't get over how incredibly unfair it is how someone as special as she was has to leave this world so soon. She was my energizer bunny on finding new races. I could count on having a text at least once a week asking about a new race. She was my motivation to keep going as we were always sharing healthy lifestyle tips and running stories. She was my competition to push harder as I could see her getting stronger and faster with each run. She was my encourager to experience new things as I had many 'firsts' with her and her family. She was a complete stranger I had met at a random race and she welcomed me into her close circle of friends and family. Instantly she made me feel like I was family. She had one of those happy lives that everyone envies. She extended a loving hand to anyone in need and could make a friend anywhere. She has taught me many lessons in all aspects of life and she will forever leave her footprint on my heart. She appreciated every moment and enjoyed life to the fullest, and that is what will bring me comfort through this difficult time. I know she will continue to be racing with each and everyone one of us Running Buddies as we continue our adventures.
















FINISH
The Finish Line was a quick loop after descending the bridge. It was an awkward set up, as the timing mat was before the inflatable 'finish line' and a lot of people were stopping before you actually had to turn sharply to run under the inflatable.

After you were handed your medal, there were bananas, chips, and more Hammer Gels as well as water. There were some local beer samples (shot size) and then Michelob Ultra cans. Cold pizza was handed out as well. There were complimentary massages (for a strongly suggested $5 tip) set up, as well as a finish line photo op.

It was a beautiful day and you could now see the beauty of the Casements in the daylight, located right on the water. It was fun to watch the marathoners cross the finish line, especially those qualifying for Boston.




SHIRT
The gender specific short sleeve race shirt is pretty cool and fits well, however, its one of those tacky race colors (neon green) and is plastered with sponsor logos all over the back.



MEDAL
I love the sponsor/slogan for this race, "Live Your Life Well", which is on the medal with a spinning tree, which makes this medal unique. I do wish the tree was bigger though and the race words smaller. Minimal critiques.


OVERALL THOUGHTS
The entire time I was running this race, I felt like I was repeating a race I've done before. (Ft Myers Beach came to mind, starting and finishing right at a bridge at the beach). As well as the Reindeer Half that runs through Ft Clinch State Park. (road and trees, road and trees). Its a good run, but there isn't enough that makes it stick out as its own. I would recommend it if you are looking for a new race, as all the logistics are spot on and the surrounding Ormond Beach area is beautiful.

HM#48
13.1-2:21


I am running a half marathon a month while I complete my goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, all to raise breast cancer awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle through running and walking. 100% of donations raised goes towards 26.2 with Donna (70% Mayo Clinic and 30% Donna Foundation). Please show your support by making a donation today! www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2016-marathon/melissajohnson