Subaru Distance Classic-Thanksgiving 2014


















This was the 31st Annual Distance Classic Half Marathon held in Jacksonville Florida. It is a long running tradition for this Thanksgiving Day race, which has been sponsored by different groups. Currently it is Subaru and 1st Place Sports. There is a half marathon as well as a 6k. (I have yet to figure out why it is 6 and not 5k)




This is a very simple type of race, as most 1st Place Sports races are. There is no glitz or glam about their races.  But then again, the registration prices reflect that as well. I took advantage of their 'test drive a Subaru' deal and got in the half for only $15!! You really cant complain about that! Unfortunately that is one of the only few things I cant complain about for this race.










REGISTRATION
So doing the Subaru test drive (which was a very simple and painless process, as long as you don't mind follow endless emails and phone calls asking you to buy a new car), I was forced to register by a tiny piece of paper and was told to drop it off at 1st Place Sports. I headed right over to the running shop, paper in hand, and the non customer service oriented teenage punk at the register instructed me that 'all registrations HAD to be done online' and waved me over to a computer to start typing.  So I start filling out my now Second Registration form.  Almost finished I asked what promo code I used for the test drive, and he then proceeds to tell me they have to enter the registration form for the test drives, not me on the computer. SMH....3rd registration form is a charm right? ...we'll see...


COMMUNICATION
There is a Facebook page for 1st Place Sports, but not so much hype or communication the weeks leading up to the race, since they are involved in so many other races and events around town. There was no email communication except the week of the race, which had very limited info (no bib info, and basically just directed you to see their website). I went online to check my confirmation and bib number and low and behold, my name is not there. By a quick response from Facebook (kudos) they advised my name was misspelled with 3 s's. Ok, simple human error I guess, but still it provided a mini panic attack.




PACKET PICK UP
Since 1st Place Sports has multiple locations across the large Jacksonville city, you have your choice of picking up your packet at any location, or race morning, you just put your selection on your registration form. I of course, choice Jax Beach because it is practically across the street from where I live. So I arrive and low and behold, was told it was at another location. Seriously? So I got to leave empty handed and had to rework my evening/morning plans to make sure I arrived with extra time to spare on waiting in line in the cold in the morning. Not a happy camper.






PARKING




The only instructions for parking was the shopping center of Pickwick Plaza. Unfortunately, once the navigation system got me there, I realized that lot was actually the starting area and there was no parking. Already in the left turning lane into that center, I realized most people were parking across the street at another shopping center. Unfortunately no one was directing anyone, not even the 2 cops standing partially in the intersection.  The turning lanes were backing up, and there was no way I would be able to get across the street easily. After a few loops around the only small lot on that side of the street, I finally decided to jump the curb and park in a small patch of grass and squeeze under a tree, which I scratched the hood of my car to fit into.


STARTING AREA


Luckily I got to the packet pick up line with only about 5 people ahead of me. Unfortunately there were about 8 boxes of bibs with only 2 people working them, and it seemed everyones numbers were in the same box! What should have taken about 5 minutes took over 20 min. I grabbed my bag and headed back to the car to warm up and put on my bib, except they didn't put the pins in the bag!


So back into the cold I go. Oh hell no, im not standing in what is now a 30 person deep line. I warn everyone in line to ask for pins, and skipped to the front to grab what I needed. What was included in the packet bag?....last seasons local magazine (yep, advertising races and events that already passed) and a handful of flyers.





So now I am fully dressed, bibbed up, selfie taken, I put on my Shuffle and try to test it out (since Ive had issues the past several races) and of course it doesn't work. ARGH! Its ok, I really am used to running without music. But the question was, could I PR without music?? (The weather was definitely PR weather ~50degrees).




I sucked it up, and back to the starting area to find the porta potties. Except, where the heck were they?? Finally I saw.... all FIVE of them!! WHAT?! Ok, whew, no, theres a sign that says more this way. But wait?...Why would they put all 50 of them right BEHIND the shopping center in such an  incredibly small space between the building the porta potties? There was absolutely no space to create lines. People were creating one unnecessary line to get to 50 porta potties, when all the ones in the middle were open!




Heading to the Starting Line, I search everywhere for my friends, but without luck. I put myself at the 9minute pace flag. Unfortunately there were no Pacers.
The starting time was delayed a few minutes. The National Anthem was sang....well, played....with a mechanical error at the last verse. Everyone looked around for minute. All I could think was recently in the news at a Canadian hockey game, the same thing happened and the Canadians just sang out loud and finished it. So I started singing and the people around me did too. I don't think it was as moving. Oh well.


COURSE


The course is good, im not going to lie about that. Its very pretty with huge mossy trees that overhang the street. We run practically next to the river most of the course through neighborhoods, but of course all the mansions block the view. I think we had one glimpse of the river the entire course. The 6k and half run together and then split off. Before we started, there was a warning about the opposite turns for each course. Im going to give it to them, there was a pretty tall sign right in the middle of the road that said 6k this way, half this way. However, there must have been AT LEAST 10 people that I saw do a turn around, even up to the next mile or 2 after the sign. And that was just in my pace. Obviously, they have had this happen in previous years if there was a warning at start. Obviously, that sign is still not working. Why not put signs on the SIDES of the street as well?? Why not put cones out that make the two separate lanes? Why not put chalk writing on the street, so when those looking down while running can see it too?? Why not have different courses or start times??


HYDRATION STATIONS


The hydration stations were well stocked and manned except for one at about M9. The course took you by this station twice. There were 2 tables on each side of the street, but there were only about 6 volunteers. There were no cups ready. Unfortunately this was also the gel station, but you didn't realize it unless you saw the box sitting there on the table. I believe it was a Poweraid gel. I have no idea what flavor it was, but I seriously asked the person next to me if they thought it tasted like tequila as well!


SPECTATORS


There were a good amount of spectators out, as the course takes you through neighborhoods. You were constantly being told Happy Thanksgiving which was fun, and some people were even dressed up.


RESULT


I felt really strong the first few miles. I had planned to run the first 6 without stopping, but I actually ended up blazing through the first 3 a lot faster than expected. When I looked at my Garmin at M1 and it said 9:05, I knew I had to push it for the next 2miles to try to break 30min for the first time ever! I officially ran 28:53!! Im so ecstatic, except there wasnt a 5k mat to record it!! (they did have a 10k mat....weird to have 1 and not the other). My Garmin records every mile for me, so to record 3.1 (5k), I had to press the lap button to record it, then lap again at M4 to get me back on course recording every mile. Except somehow I ended up stopping the Garmin all together. I didn't realize this until after about 3 minutes or so. So the rest of the course my timing and distance was completely off and I was constantly doing calculations in my head (which ended up not being right). I did the run 3minutes, walk 30seconds from M4 until about M8, then I went down to 2min:30sec. Im not going to lie, pushing it for the first 3 miles really took it out of me. Around M10 or 11, I had calculated that there was no way I was going to PR, so I kinda gave up on the hopes and dropped to 1min:30sec. When all was said and done and calculated, I actually was only 12 seconds off from a PR!! I could really kick myself for giving up at the end. But im still happy for my 5k time!




FINISH LINE
I crossed the finish, grabbed my medal and water, and was looking for a beer. It was after all a day of celebration. I saw people with mimosas, I saw people with beer bottles. I did not however, see any table handing any of that out! I was told by someone, that since Subaru took over, they stopped serving alcohol! WHAT?! If I didn't have plans to go to the Petes street party, I would have really been disappointed. But I did, so I grabbed the banana, muffin, and crackers they were passing out and I hightailed it out of there!





SHIRT
We received a gender specific tech shirt, which finally had the first glimpse of the holiday spirit. However, it was this strange shade of grey, that is almost green in the light.Also, the screen print is one of the worst quality I have seen. There were several 'cuts' in the print, as well as 'bubble's. 





MEDAL
The medal is one of the most disappointing I have seen. I guess because, again, Where's the Turkey?? One would think doing a Holiday race, there would be something involved on the medal with that Holiday. It really is a generic medal and has little to do with anything except the sponsor and race names.




PHOTOS
There was a TON of free photos loaded on 1st Place Sports Facebook page. Which is a huge plus. However, there wasn't much organization of them, distinguishing between half and 6k.
There were also the usual overpriced photos for sale by Speedy Banana, organized by bib numbers on their website.


OVERALL THOUGHTS.
I am extremely disappointed all around with this race. Would I do it again? Probably not. I really signed up for this race for a little healthy Holiday spirit. However, there was very little to make it feel that way.





HM#44
13.1-2:8


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 Lighthouse Loop, Port Orange, FL-Oct 26, 2014

Event photo for Lighthouse Loop Half Marathon & 5K

ABOUT
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.


WEEK BEFORE
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.




PACKET PICK UP
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.


START AREA
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.


COURSE
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.


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


RESULT
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!


FINISH LINE
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!


SHIRT
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


MEDAL
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OVERALL THOUGHTS
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.

HM#43
13.1-2:28

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









ABOUT
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.





WEEK PRIOR

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.










PACKET PICK UP
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.










STARTING AREA/PARKING
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.



WEATHER
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.




THE COURSE
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.




HYDRATION STATIONS
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.




CROWD SUPPORT
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.





GOAL/PERFORMANCE
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.





FINISH LINE
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.




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.




OVERALL THOUGHTS
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
13.1-2:24


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?

COURSE

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.

PACKET PICK UP

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. 


WEATHER

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.

STARTING LINE

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. 
 

HYDRATION STATIONS

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.

CROWD SUPPORT

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!’

FINISH LINE

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!

RESULT

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.

SHIRT

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.  


MEDAL

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.

TRAVEL

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!


SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

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
13.1-2:28

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.
http://www.atlantatrails.com/atlanta-running-walking-trails/tribble-mill-park-trail/#.U9UiRtjD_ec

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)

 
 

13.1-2:43
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.

PRE RACE
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.
 
 COURSE
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.



 RACE MORNING
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

FINISH
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.


COMMUNICATION
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.
 

 MEDAL/SHIRT
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
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.
 



HM#39
STATE#17
13.1-2:27

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!
FRIDAY

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.


SATURDAY
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!


EXPO
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
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




THE GOAL
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!

COSTUME CONTEST
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
Aaarrrggghh!!!


THE RESULT
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.

SHUTTLE
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.

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!

HYDRATION STATIONS/AID
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! ;)

SPECTATORS/CHEERLEADERS
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 FINISH
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.


MEDAL





AFTER
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.

OVERALL
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!


STATE #16

HM #38

13.1-2:39