Pure Michigan Running

Over the Fourth of July, I headed to my home state, Michigan, for a quick visit. While in town, I couldn’t resist a few races. First up was the Volkslaufe. Volkslaufe (German for “the people’s race” is one of my favorite Fourth of July traditions. What started as a small, hometown race has grown over the years. This year, the race was featured in Runners World Magazine. What I love about the Volkslaufe is that, despite its growth, it hasn’t lost the hometown charm. For example, a giant tractor greeted runners at packet pick up, held in a local event hall.

Volkslaufe packet pick up

My siblings and I were able to easily pick up our packets without waiting in line, and quickly made our way through the tiny expo. The Volkslaufe includes 4 races, a 20k, 10k, 5k, and 2k children’s race. The races are all held on July 4th every year.

This year I chose the 20k, with a course that winds through some of the best Michigan farmland. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees and sunny. I had on my Fourth of July best, and was ready to run with my sister-in-law (who raced her way to a HUGE PR, by the way).

Volkslaufe

Runners exit town almost immediately and head out past corn fields, soybean fields, and pretty much every other crop Michigan has to offer. The views are stunning and the farmhouses are well-maintained. I loved running through the countryside. The breeze was blowing, the birds were chirping, and the course was smooth. The course began to loop back towards town, over a gorgeous old bridge and along a short dirt road. About 10 miles into the 20k, the course heads back in towards town and through lovely, mature neighborhoods. Spectators were few and far between, but those that were out were enthusiastic. Running behind the classic restaurant, Zehnder’s, the course geared up for its big finish. The last mile or so is run along the Cass River, over a classic, wooden covered bridge, and into Heritage Park. The course is one of my favorites and this year was no exception. The weather was perfect, the course was pretty, and the small-town hospitality was in full effect. It was a great day for a run!

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Volkslaufe 20k Elevation

Race Recap: Worcester Running Festival

My running mom came to my house for my birthday. It was a great week, and we decided the best way to finish the week was with a half marathon. After doing a little research, we found the Worcester Running Festival. I communicated with the race director and determined that walkers were welcome and ensured that mom and I could finish well within the time cut off. We signed up and were looking forward to the opportunity to do a half marathon in a new area.

Race morning we got an early start to head up to Worcester. We were using the map provided by the race organizers and got to Worcester easily. Once we got to Worcester, finding parking was another story. We randomly drove around the city. The parking map didn’t include addresses for the parking lots, so we couldn’t GPS the parking lots and the map wasn’t to scale, so it was very difficult to find the parking. Add to that the massive construction zone around the race start area, closed streets, and streets with different names than the map and it was chaos. Luckily, we drove past a parking garage. We pulled in and didn’t care that we would have to pay. We had been driving for 20 minutes and hadn’t managed to find any of the free lots suggested by the organizers. Our parking garage was just feet from the race start, so it seemed like a perfect parking spot.

Wrocester Finish Line

We headed to the race start area to pick up our packets and use the bathrooms (it was a long drive). Upon arriving, we saw that the porta potty line was already ridiculously long. We were there more than an hour before race start – the volunteers were still setting up the finish line – but the line for the porta potty was wrapped around the block. There were way too few potties for the number of people. The line got long and stayed long.

Wrocester bathroom line

After waiting about a half hour, it was nearly time for the race to start. We hustled to the start to get in line. At start time, the bathroom line was still around the block. Nothing happened. Five minutes after the start, someone announced that the race would be starting in five more minutes. Ten minutes later, nothing had happened. Finally, 15 minutes after the scheduled start, announcements began. The race got underway about 20 minutes late. It wasn’t terrible considering that the temperature was good and the sun was shining, but I would have been irritated had I been warmed up and planning to race.

The race course exited Worcester proper pretty quickly and entered an area of neighborhoods with historic homes. It was lovely. The course had some rolling hills and was generally shady and quiet.

Photo credit: Cynthia T

Photo credit: Cynthia T

There were a number of walkers and we were in good company at the back of the pack. The course wound through neighborhoods and past several interesting parts of Worcester. I had not heard the most flattering things about Worcester, so I was pleasantly surprised. Mom and I enjoyed seeing the homes and parks. The volunteers were supportive and cheered wildly when we passed. After the neighborhoods, the course went out into the far reaches of the city and took a T up and down what looked like a minor highway. Though the scenery wasn’t particularly interesting, the road was mostly flat and passed a nice reservoir. We headed back into the neighborhoods, heading toward race finish. Back in town, the course went through the main part of Worcester. This was the Worcester I had heard about. Trash blew around our feet. Broken glass littered the sidewalk and houses had broken porches, bars on the windows, and long grass. Several individuals were drinking from paper bags while sitting on the streets. We drew comments from a few such individuals and hurried along. There was a lot of traffic on the main road, so we were eager for a turn off the street. It finally came, and we headed into the deserted business area. Soon, the finish line was upon us. It was well marked and the finish line announcers were upbeat and fun.

Worcester Running Festival Elevation

Worcester Running Festival Elevation

We next headed over to the main square for some food and water. The water was warm and the food selection was less than appetizing – pizza that had been sitting out for hours and warm yogurt. We passed on the food, took our water, and headed for home.

Mom had raced well and the real disappointment came when results were posted. She wasn’t listed in the results. According to the results, she didn’t cross the finish line or the start line. I immediately emailed the timing company and provided the verification – mom was in the start line video crossing the start right next to me, wearing her number, and in the finish line photos right next to me. Three days later I got an email back that said the problem I reported had been corrected. Mom still wasn’t in the results. I emailed again, and emailed the race organizers. I haven’t heard back and mom still isn’t listed in the results.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this race. The race itself was ok – the course was well-marked and the volunteers were nice. Unfortunately, the course wasn’t pretty. The start wasn’t well organized, amenities were lacking. The shirt was hideous, and medal a bit on the cheap side. And, there was nothing edible at the finish line. It wasn’t the best. I’m glad mom and I had fun together, but I won’t be back.

Beat the Heat!

As I write this post, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the mercury is climbing. It’s humid, hot, and I’m running tonight. In a futile effort to stay cool, I’ve collected some of the best hot weather running wisdom.

1. Modify your runs. First, and most importantly, modify your runs and make adjustments to accommodate the heat. Don’t expect blazing fast times on boiling hot days. Save speed work for cooler days, and cut back on your pace when running in the heat. Consider modifying your training plan to run fewer miles at slower paces for the duration of a heat wave. Be patient and allow yourself to adapt slowly to the heat.

2. Mix it up. Take your runs inside. In the worst heat, consider running on a treadmill or indoor track. Runners World magazines’ online resources include some great suggestions for excellent treadmill workouts, perfect for the hottest of days. Taking speed work inside in hot months ensures that you’re training well, and safely. Consider including more cross training with swimming, surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and cycling. Pool running is a great option for those with handy pool access.

3. Think shade. When the weather’s hot, run your runs in the shade and at the coolest times you can manage. Run early in the morning when the weather is the coolest, or in the evening when breezes are more likely to come up. Run on shaded paths or in neighborhood with trees. Consider plotting a route that takes you past shops or big box stores so you can duck in for a little air conditioning – or bail on the run entirely. Run on the grass or on a trail if you can.

4. Chill out. If you’re planning to run in the heat, take precautions. Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Wear loose fitting clothing made of wicking material, and as little of it as is reasonable. Wear a hat or visor to keep sun off your face. Some evidence suggests that cooling the extremities before and during hot runs can help, so consider wetting your head, carrying a wet cloth, or even putting ice in your clothes. It’s crazy, but it works. Some runners also swear by drinking an ice cold drink just before the run.

5. Carry water. Hydrate early and often with water and, if necessary, an electrolyte replacement product. Consider your individual hydration needs and plan accordingly. Not sure how much you need to drink? A quick consultation of google will tell you everything you need to know about how to hydrate and what to avoid.

6. Consider your non-running activities carefully. Alcohol, antihistamines, and antidepressants can all have a dehydrating effect. Using them regularly, or before a run, can put you at greater risk of heat-realted illness due to dehydration. Talk with your doctor about how to take your medication, and stay safe in the heat.

Finally, protect yourself. Know the signs of heat-related illnesses and take steps to prevent problems before they start. Here are some of the basic heat-realted illnesses, including their signs and symptoms. As always, consult with your medical professional with regard to heat safety.

Heat cramps:

When dehydration leads to an electrolyte imbalance, large muscles cramp. Restore balance with good hydration and stay well hydrating during runs.

Hyponatremia:

When excessive water intake dilutes blood-sodium levels, headache, disorientation, muscle twitching can result. Emergency medical treatment is necessary. To prevent problems with hyponatremia, don’t drink more than about 32 ounces per hour and consider a sports drink over water. Talk with your medical professional about your hydration needs.

Heat exhaustion;

Dehydration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance that results in a core body temperature of 102° to 104°F. This causes headache, fatigue, profuse sweating, nausea, and clammy skin. Restore balance with good hydration and stay well hydrated during runs. Slowly cool down by applying cool water the the head and neck, seek the shade and get out of the heat.

Heat stroke:

Heat stoke occurs when exertion and dehydration prevent your body from being able to regulate core temperature. Core body temperature can exceed 104° or more. Heat stroke is usually accompanied by headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse and disorientation. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if heat stroke is suspected. Emergency personnel will cool and rehydrate the individual safely. While waiting for help, get out of the heat and cease activity.

Stay cool, my running friends.

Race Recap: Runners World Heartbreak Hill Half Festival

Mom and I always do something fun for my birthday and this year was no exception. We decided to participate in the Runners World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Festival (HHHalf for short). We signed up ages ago, thinking that with Runners World magazine and DMSE as hosts, it would be a great weekend. Unfortunately, like many other back-of-the-pack athletes, we didn’t have the most wonderful experience.

The pre-race communication was excellent. Mom and I were sure we had all the details and were ready to go come race day. We had booked a nice hotel on the Charles River and decided to spend the whole weekend. We got to our hotel easily and from there navigated the few short miles to Boston College, where packet pick up was held. At the pickup, we easily found our numbers and headed to the bib and shirt pick up area. There, we encountered our first problem of the weekend. I was handed two shirts, a hat, socks, a bib, four safety pins, and a race information booklet. And no bag. We were told that the bags would be handed out at gear check in the morning. That was a fine strategy, but there was no way for me to carry my goodies. Had I known, I would have brought something larger than my purse. Luckily, my hat made a handy bag and I shoved everything in as best I could. Later review of the race information booklet would note that for gear check I should use the bag I was given during packet pick up. Hmmm. We made our way around the expo, but didn’t spend much time there thanks to a tuna vendor. Both mom and I can’t stand to be around fish and the tuna smell was wafting around. We made our way to one of the suggested dinner locations – Lee’s Burgers. It was delightful.

Newton burgers

Lee’s is a tiny cafe with all the burger basics. Mom and I enjoyed our burgers, walked around Newton a bit, and headed back to the hotel for an early bed time.

Bright and early Saturday morning, mom and I prepared for the 5k. We would have the 10k later that day. We knew that we would pay for parking, but we didn’t know that there would be no re-admittance. That meant that if we wanted to stay for any speakers or other fun events, we had to wait on campus all day, without food. While we had wanted to see the speakers, that didn’t seem like fun, so we parked and planning to head back to the car after racing was over for the day. Parking was close to the race start, and we made our way to the start and got lined up. The race was mass-start, but people generally seemed to have lined up well and it went smoothly. The 5k course was well marked and wound around a nice little lake. The hills were small and the views were lovely, so we were happy. As soon as the 5k was over, we grabbed a water and bagel (no yogurt for us and the bananas were gone) and lined back up for the 10k. The 10k was a big disappointment. Mom was planning to do her first race with hills. Being from Florida, she has only ever raced flat courses. The 10k had a posted cutoff of 15 minute miles – no problem for mom. I had inquired early in the registration process about the 15 minute miles time cut off and was told that there would be a mass start and 15 minute miles counted from the gun. The printed material also noted that the 15 minutes would be counted from the gun. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a mass start. There was a wave start and the 15 minutes was counted from the start of the first wave, not the last. We started 11 minutes after the gun, effectively making the cut off 12 minute miles – and we weren’t the last wave. We were shocked. There was no way mom could do 12 minute miles with the hills. It was disappointing and unexpected. We are very careful about the races we choose and this one, given its advertised openness to back of the packers seemed like a good option. Soon enough, we were asked to move on to the sidewalk. That was fine, but what really bothered me was that the race officials were cleaning up. There wasn’t much assistance at water stops and all the signs were either gone or being removed. The course wasn’t well marked – luckily it’s pretty easy to go out and back on Commerce Avenue.

HHHalf 10k Elevation

HHHalf 10k Elevation

The course had the famous hills and was an enjoyable course. I liked that much of it was on the shady path and I liked seeing the famous Newton scenery. Overall, it was a great race – just one detail that impacted our enjoyment. At the end of the race, we got a water and a bagel. We were offered a bag of chips and a yogurt, but took neither. Both of us were hot and hungry, so we went to a local restaurant for lunch. Not wanting to pay to park again, we went back to the hotel to rest.

The next day, I ran in the HHHalf half marathon and mom cheered. I was in the midst of a major allergy attack and had taken a massive quantity of allergy medicine, so I wasn’t the happiest of runners. I felt lethargic and hot. And, that whole bit about allergy medicine plus running equals heart palpitations – totally true. Luckily, I found a nice lady from Kentucky, who I ran with most of the race. The course headed out into Newton, through some lovely neighborhoods, and up several of the famous Newton hills. When I signed up what I hadn’t thought about was that I would go OUT via the hills AND back via the hills. It was crazy hilly! It was pretty hot, so I ran a conservative pace and had a great time. I chatted with folks around me and enjoyed the camaraderie of the group of runners. It was a fun race.

HHHalf Elevation

As a long time runner, the joy of seeing all the famous Boston Marathon landmarks. I enjoyed the race and found the course well-marked and the volunteers mostly helpful. At the end, I was once again treated to a bagel, water, chips, and yogurt. As hungry as I usually am after a long run, I headed straight for BoLoco Burritos. I had seen their restaurant and recognized it from Ragnar, so we treated ourselves to a huge burrito and headed home.

All in all, it was a fun weekend. As far as the races, they were less wonderful than expected, but still a great experience.

HHHalf

Race Recap: Round the Lake 5k

I love small races and, living in a rural area, I get an opportunity to run a lot of small races. Just a week post marathon, I was barely back into running when a friend suggested a local 5k with a “interesting” course. I wasn’t doing anything else and the weather was expected to be wonderful, so I committed to the race. The race in question was the Marlborough Lions Club Round the Lake 5k. Honestly, had my friend not told me about the race, I might never have found it. They don’t have the best website presence and what’s there leaves a lot to be desired in terms of information (Was there race-day registration? If sure hoped so!). The race application wasn’t much more helpful. I had no idea how much the race was and wether I might even be able to register, but I knew where the starting line was and crossed my fingers on the rest.

Race day was clear and bright and I headed over to the park at Lake Terramuggus for the 5k. There were a few people mingling around, runners on the road warming up, and no lines to speak of. I didn’t wait at all to register and walked right up to the table. There was indeed race day registration and it was a bargain price of $20. I gathered my number, my much too big tshirt, and some pins and set off to warm up. The setting was lovely for a spring race – the start and finish line were on the road in front of a small park on a lake.

Blish Park

It was a lovely view, and I kept my warm up to a minimum so I could spend more time enjoying the weather and the view. This would later turn out to be a mistake, but I wasn’t planning to race a week after a marathon.

I lined up with a few hundred others on the country road near the park for the race start. It was perfect weather – 68 degrees, sunny, and breezy. The race began and immediately runners were greeted by a hill. the course featured a significant hill in the first quarter mile. Not great for those of us who hadn’t really warmed up, but excellent for the hill runners in the group. Several speedy folks shot to the top of the hill. The course leveled out and wound through the countryside. It was well marked, but sparsely populated. There were plenty of runners, but few spectators. The road was either closed to traffic or such a small country road that no traffic needed to pass by during the race. In mile two, the course started a small descent and I picked up speed. I was running well, but getting quite hot in the warm air and sun. Volunteers called out mile splits and the course went on. Near the middle of the second mile, the course turned into town and began a long, steady climb up one of the gradual hills in town. At this point, the road was open to traffic and it got a little tricky thanks to sidewalk construction in the area.

5k construction

Despite some cars and bumpy footing, the runners made their way down the road and back towards the park. The views along the way were lovely, classic New England. I enjoyed looking at the lake and the small salt box cottages. There was one small, not that well organized race stop at mile 2.6, where a nice older couple passed out water in tiny paper cups (the kind my grandmother kept in her bathroom). I did take the water, a few sips worth, and it was warm and clumsily passed. Had there been a few more volunteers, the water stop might have been more effective. The race finished on a bit of an uphill on the road. There was chip timing, so there were timing mats and a small finish line area, but nothing else. Runners had to head back down the hill to get a bottle of water and a few orange slices.

There were few amenities at this race. Runners got a bottle of water and sliced oranges. What the race lacked in post-race food, it made up for in the view. A friend and I sat on the beach until it was time for the awards. It wasn’t a particularly fast race and my slow, post-marathon legs carried me to third place in my age group.

Round the Lake Prize

Overall, I would recommend the Round the Lake 5k for the runner looking for a no-frills, low key, local race. It was a fairly ordinary 5k with a nice lake view finish, but little else in terms of race support or amenities.

Ragnar Cape Cod 2014

No one loves an overnight relay more than this girl, so I jumped at the opportunity to run Ragnar Cape Cod this year. Most of my team from last year was back, and we were ready for fun! This year, there were some changes to the course, including a super long “Wicked Hahd” leg that I was set to run. To make things even more interesting, our team was running short a few runners, so we each had 25 miles or more to run.

We got the van packed up at our rental house and we got to decorating.

Ragnar decoratingI was in a van with three boys and lots of food. We were ready. Since we were Van 2, we had a nice leisurely morning, then got running. I had the “Wicked Hahd” leg, a 12.8 miles jaunt on the worst road ever. The first 7 miles of the leg were on sand. Not sand as in this is a sandy beach, but sand that had been pushed to the side after being used in the winter on the road. It was rocky, loose sand. My poor calves were killing me. Then, we headed uphill. The last four miles of this crazy leg went uphill. And, to make it more interesting, nearly all of it was on a very busy highway. It wasn’t my favorite leg ever. In appreciation of my efforts, the nice Ragnar people gave me a medal.

After our first runs we ate a nice dinner and prepared ourselves for our night runs. I love night runs and was thrilled with my quick, four miles that I had planned.

Night run

My night run was over quickly and we were off to the rental house for a rest. I got three luxurious hours of sleep. It was wonderful. In no time at all it was time for our third run. I was scheduled to run two legs, running through the exchange. Luckily, my runs were partly through the Cape Cod National Seashore. I was treated to gorgeous views.

Cape Cod views

At the end of my runs, I found myself on the most wonderful beach. We were almost to P-Town!

Cape Cod finish

I was having a great time. I loved being in Van 2 and loved my runs. Even though we were missing a few runners, I found the mileage manageable. Our last runner was out and we were tired, hungry, and ready to see the finish line. We pulled up to Provincetown and found our way to the finish.

Ragnar Cape Cod finish

The energy was great. There’s nothing like a Ragnar finish line – the spectators, the teams, the fun atmosphere. It’s great! We finished as a team and had a great time at the finish line party. Overall, it was another great Ragnar. I love Cape Cod and this year was no exception.

 

Race Recap: First Watch Sarasota

Now that mom’s a half marathoner, we’ve been on a quest to find interesting races that we can to together. Given that mom is a walker (granted, a fast one, but a walker), we are always searching for races that advertise as being walker-friendly, or that have a good cut off time suitable for walkers in interesting locations. In our quest to find interesting races that fit the criteria, we identified the FirstWatch Sarasota Half Marathon as a contender. Once we leaded about the area, we signed up immediately. A run over a bridge, on a key, and through stately homes, all ocean-front? Yes, please!

Mom and I decided that the best plan was to stay overnight in a hotel in Sarasota (terrible, I know) and enjoy the area before the half marathon. We found our place easily and set off to check out the area. It’s gorgeous. For those of you who haven’t been to Sarasota, look it up on a map. The whole city is right on the water, with keys along the coast. It’s amazing. The city also seems to enjoy art, as evidenced by the amazing art installations all along the city sidewalks.

art

After enjoying some time in the city, admiring the enormous statue of the kissing sailor, it was time for our early bed time. Race morning dawned early, with clear skies and crisp air. It was approximately 68 degrees at race start, perfect racing conditions. Mom and I snapped a few quick pictures, then set off.

Before Sarasota

The course went along Route 41, the waterfront main drag and immediately headed out toward the Ringling Bridge. The view over the bridge was amazing – stately homes, bobbing boats, and water as far as the eye could see. Next, the course wound through St. Armand’s Circle, the little shopping area and center of St. Armand’s Key. It was lovely, old Florida style. Next, it was back up and over the bridge. By this time the sun was up and the day was bright and clear. The course continued back along the main drag, past several well-staffed aid stations, and right past the Ringling art museum. It’s a funny pink building nestled in the midst of a small neighborhood. The neighborhood was an eclectic mix of beach cottages, vacation homes, and lovely waterfront mansions, complete with their associated compound behind firmly closed gates. Each section of the neighborhood had its own little park, all of them water front. As we wound through the homes and past the parks, we were treated to great views and friendly spectators. About halfway through the neighborhood, we passed a fabulous art deco school. Sadly, I wasn’t fast enough to snap a picture, but it was a great piece of Florida architecture. The neighborhood section was calm, quiet, and shady. All along the way we encountered great characters – only in Florida does a race marshall bring his own parrot.

Parrot

Once out of the neighborhood, it was just another mile or two to the finish line. Both mom and I loved the course. It was perhaps the best designed course I’ve ever run. It was just perfect. The hills were manageable, even for Floridians, the views spectacular, and the shady neighborhood positioned at just the right spot. There were cheering fans, great water stops, and friendly people all along the way.

At the finish line, volunteers greeted us with our medals (a lovely abstract dolphin) and water. There was a huge finish line party with a live band and tents on the water’s edge. Perhaps the only thing not wonderful about the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon was the post-race food. It was not good at all. There were bagels (plain and raisin), a few muffins that looked like they wilted in the heat, and a disgusting-looking melted yogurt parfait. There were lots of parfaits left over. The yogurt was warm and runny and even these starving half marathoners couldn’t bring ourselves to eat it.

It’s worth note that the race really was walker friendly. Mom and I were far from the last walkers and the spectators and water stop volunteers were cheerful, plentiful, and happy to see us. We enjoyed all the same amenities as runners. I felt welcomed and encouraged as a walker.

Overall, I loved the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon. Not only would I do it again, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a well designed course with great views. And though it’s hilly for Florida, anyone who conquers the bridge is rewarded with a great view.

Sarasota Half Marathon Elevation

Sarasota Half Marathon Elevation

Sarasota Half Marathon Course

Sarasota Half Marathon Course

 

Mom’s First Half Marathon

This weekend, my mom completed her first half marathon. I couldn’t be happier for her! What’s even better is that I got to complete the whole thing with her. Being together every step of the way for her first 5k, then her first 15k, and now her first half marathon has been one of my greatest running joys.

More than my own PRs, seeing my mom finish her half marathon and cross that item off her bucket list has made me proud to be a runner. It all started a few months ago. While at the Gasparilla Distance Classic race festival, we saw a little booth for the Frankenfooter races put on by Big Dawg Runnin’. My mom was instantly interested in the medals (seriously, they’re cool) and confessed to me that a half marathon was on her bucket list. We walked by the booth and mom admired the medals. We walked on by. At the end of the row of booths, we turned back. Mom wanted to do the Frankenfooter but was worried that, as a race walker, she might be too slow for the race cutoff times. The race director was at the booth and said she would be sitting at the finish line until the last runner crossed – no matter how long it took. That’s all we needed to hear. Mom said that if she survived the 15k that we would do the Frankenfooter. The next day my mom crossed the finish line of the 15k at Gasparilla feeling strong. We signed up for the Frankenfooter the next day.

I always love a good race festival. Why do just one race when you can do multiple races in one weekend? Mom agreed and we signed up for the Living Dead 16.2 Challenge – a 5k Saturday night and the half marathon Sunday morning. Mom started on her training plan and I counted down the days until another Florida trip (shameless plug – if you want me to coach you as your train for your first half marathon, check out my “coaching” page).

Race weekend, we headed over to New Port Richey. Packet pick up was at a small marina on a little river that connected to the Gulf of Mexico. Packet pick up was no-frills – just one person sitting behind a desk, the race director next to her, and a few bags full of shirts. No line. No fuss.

The Bride of Frankenfooter 5k course wove through a local park and down the city streets in Port Richey. As one might expect in a costal area, the course was completely flat. The course left the park, went along a back street, then along a little spit of land stuck out in the Gulf of Mexico. It was gorgeous. Never ones to pass on an opportunity to run in costume, mom and I went as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (complete with spinning propellor hats).

Frankenfooter 5k

We had fun at the 5k and headed back to the hotel early to rest up for the big day in the morning. Race morning dawned cool and clear, with temperatures in the 60s to start. Race day temperatures were expected to be around 80 degrees, so we dressed for a warm race and headed to the start line.

Frankenfooter half marathon

After a delay and some lengthy course instructions (honestly, it seemed we were all waiting for the timing company to get set up), we were off. The completely flat course ran along back roads in Port Richey. The race course was really what I consider “old Florida” – older homes, some not-so-great areas, but lots and lots of Gulf views.

Gulf View

Mom and I walked along at a good clip as the course looped around a park, then back the way it came, past the start/finish and then on to the 5k course from the night before. Mom and I had fun, talking and enjoying the view the whole way. We saw a cool historic site – one of many mounds across Florida – and I took lots of pictures.

Mound

Around mile 8, mom started to feel the effects of the race. I don’t know about all of you, but I remember mile 8-9 of my first half marathon vividly. I was in a lot of pain and swore the suffering would never end. Mom might have been in pain, but she persevered. Around mile 11, poor mom had terrible calf cramps. It had been hotter and sunnier than we expected, so I don’t think either of us took in enough fluid. Despite the cramps, mom soldiered on. She was completely amazing!

Mom wearing Lock Laces

We crossed the finish line together. Mom is a half marathoner! We found the nearest chair, a padded deck chair (and possibly the best chair in the history of chairs) and mom had a few cups of Gatorade (the best drink in the history of drinks) and we went to the finish line party. There was food, music, super interesting awards, and really cool medals.

Frankenfooter Awards

Frankenfooter medals

Overall, we had a great time at the Frankenfooter. In the interest of full disclosure, there were some things about the race that could be improved. First, the wait at the starting line for both races was frustrating. Both races started about 10 minutes late. It isn’t too much of a problem in Florida, but could be improved. I know some Floridians were freezing in the 60 degree temperatures. I did not like running past the finish line at mile 9. With my mom, we passed the finish line at a time when lots of people were finishing. To be in pain, with 4 miles left to go, passing the finish line was not ideal. Finally, the traffic was a problem. I don’t usually mind open roads during a race when I’m expecting it. I realize that smaller races just don’t have the resources to close roads and that’s ok. What bothered me at this race was that the traffic was NOT runner-friendly. One car actually swerved toward us, with the driver laughing. A couple cars honked at us to get off the road and one driver gave me the finger. During a race. The local community just didn’t seem supportive of the race and that makes for a difficult situation, safety-wise. The parts of the race that had police support were much better. I would suggest that the race director arrange for more police presence to keep some of the jerks in check.

Despite a few snags, this was a well-run, nicely organized race. The perks were excellent – races got a great shirt and a really cool medal, and the post-race food and drink was tasty. There was plenty of food and plenty of space and no line for anything. I could tell the race director is a runner herself and she certainly thought of all the details important to runners. Overall, a nicely done race that I would definitely recommend for someone looking for a flat, fast course with a small-race atmosphere.

Details for Rachel’s (and mom’s since we match) outfits, above:

Note mom’s awesome Lock Laces. Want to win some? Check out my giveaway here. 

Tweedle Dee: Tweedle Dee shirt from Raw Threads (love them!), Brooks Visor, Tifosi sunglasses.

Cat: Lululemon Run: Swiftly Short Sleeve in pop orange, Lululemon Groovy Run Short in black.

Race Recap: Wineglass Half Marathon

This weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to be an official pacer for Marathonpacing.com for the 2013 Wineglass Marathon half marathon. The Wineglass Marathon Weekend events included a 5k, half marathon, and marathon. This year was the 32nd running of the marathon and the third year of the popular half marathon. The Wineglass Marathon is advertised as “flat, fast and scenic 26.2 miles starting in Bath, NY and finishing in Corning, NY on historic Market Street”. I had never been to the Finger Lakes region of New York, so I signed up immediately when the opportunity to pace the race presented itself. I love traveling and I love racing, so it was the perfect combination.

On the way to the Wineglass races, I made an overnight stop in Binghampton, NY. It was an adorable little college town that just happened to have a tiny, local 5k Saturday morning. I couldn’t help myself and signed up on a whim. I ran in the Run for Our Futures 5k. I wanted to practice my race pace for Sunday (pacing 2:30 half marathon), so I ran a quick 4 miles before the 5k at my race pacing pace to warm up. The 5k itself was in a lovely park, the Otsiningo Park.

NY park

The park had lovely paved trails, playground areas, and soccer fields. The 5k was run on the paved trails and it was a lovely, but humid fall day.

Otsingingo Park trail

I didn’t run my fastest 5k, but I did win a prize, so I was happy. After the 5k, I hit the road for Corning, NY, home of the Wineglass Marathon.

Corning is an adorable small town. With only about 10,000 residents, it’s a small town with a big river through the middle of town. The town was bustling with marathon activity.

Corning NY

I enjoyed a few hours walking around Corning’s old fashioned downtown and taking in the local sights. I ate at an excellent deli and then headed over to the race expo. The Wineglass Marathon expo was in the local YMCA, a large new building on the river. The expo was well organized and efficiently run. I got a lot of great swag – a string pack bag, a pretty purple long sleeve shirt, a wineglass, and a tiny split of champagne. The expo didn’t have many retailers, but they made up for that with Bart Yasso, the mayor of running, who was on hand to sign books and take pictures.

It rained off and on overnight before the Sunday race. Sunday morning, I woke up at 4:50am to the sound of pouring rain beating against my hotel room window. Not exciting for marathon/half marathon day. But, the weather cleared and left us with a warm and humid, but rain-free start. The races are point-to-point, so race morning involved a short bus trip to the half marathon start. At the start, gear check was well organized and there were ample port-potties. I didn’t have to wait in line for a porta-pottie for perhaps the first time ever at a race. A starting line announcer offered continuous instructions for runners. I found the start to be well organized and efficient.

Wineglass Marathon pacing

The race course itself was well marked and easy to follow. The half marathon course was a straight shot from Campbell, NY through Painted Post, and on to Corning. It is a fairly flat course. Coming from hill country, I was impressed by how flat the course was. There were only a few inclines on the course, one at mile 1.25, but it was otherwise flat or downhill.

Wineglass Half Marathon Elevation

The course featured well-maked mile markers and lots of water stops. Each water stop was staffed by cheering volunteers and everyone seemed organized and prepared for the runners. My pace group and I had a nice run through the countryside, through the small town of Painted Post, and on to a bike path. All the roads were even and the varied scenery was enjoyable to run through.

The real highlight of the Wineglass half marathon and marathon is the finish line. The last little bit of the race winds through Corning and across a large bridge. In the last half mile, the course turns on to Market Street, the anchor street in the old fashioned downtown, and finishes right in front of a cute clock tower on a little square. There are tons of cheering spectators and it’s a great finish. The finish chute was well organized and the food was amazing. There was soup, fresh pizza, cookies, fruit, and Coke products all delivered by friendly volunteers. In a nod to Corning’s glass making industry, the medal was beautiful, hand shaped glass.

Wineglass Half Marathon medal

Overall, I loved the Wineglass Marathon half marathon. As promised, it was a flat, fast, and scenic course. It was a well organized race and a friendly location. I highly recommend the Wineglass Marathon, particularly if you’re looking for a BQ or PR race!

Lake Winnipesaukee Relay Replay

Once again this year, my team and I made the trip to New Hampshire for the Fred Brown Lake Winnipesaukee Relay. This was the 25th running of the relay and a great excuse for some fun on the lake with friends. Most of the team had run in 2012 (here’s our team recap Part 1 and Part 2, with descriptions of the legs) so we were prepared for a fun weekend.

Last year, the weather ranged from 95 and sunny to 45 and raining, so I packed an entire running wardrobe. I wanted to be prepared for anything. We arrived Friday night and had dinner at a local restaurant, Sandy Point Resort. The food was basic but delicious and the service was outstanding. I never get tired of the lake views.

Lake Winnipesaukee View

Bright and early Friday morning, my team and I departed for the start at Weirs Beach. We stopped on the way at our favorite little shop/bakery in Alton Bay and got some snacks. I got my favorite, cake donuts! Yum!

Lake Winni Donuts

Once our first runner was off, my car (the second group to run), went off for breakfast. This would turn out to be a fateful decision. Since you’ve already had one recap of the race itself, I will skip ahead to the key points. Our team supported each other, offering water and moral support all along the race course. The day heated up from 45 at the start to 80 and sunny by 2pm. Around that time, it was finally my turn to run. I ran Leg 5, 10.6 miles through “beautiful countryside”. I was looking forward to the run, but not to the mental struggle I knew it would be. At the start of my leg, my team was about 15 minutes behind the next closest runner. All day long, we had been the last people in the exchange and the race staff had cleaned up around us. I felt badly for our runners, who had run just as far and worked just as hard as everyone else, but who didn’t get the support other runners got. The race organizers cleaned up, packed up, and basically ignored us. It was really too bad.

Nothing - where there once was an exchange.

Nothing – where there once was an exchange.

Nonetheless, I was ready to run and do my best to chase the person who had a huge head start. Imagine my surprise when I entered my exchange and found that another team was still there! Their runner had gotten lost and I would likely have someone to run with. I left the exchange first and headed out along a very rural, winding route. The road was surprisingly busy and there was no shoulder, so I ran the whole thing on the very edge of the road with a steep camber. It was brutal on my ankles and cars were not going slowly, nor did many yield to me. It seemed a little scary. It was hot and hilly, but I moved along at a good clip.

Leg 5 Elevation

About 5 miles into my run, the runner from the other team started to run near me. It was nice to have some company, but he wasn’t the most chatty gentleman. Onward we ran. At that point, I began to experience the first signs of GI distress. This was not good. I instantly regretted the eggs I had for breakfast (a previously untested food and, clearly, a stupid move on my part). I felt horrible, but pressed on and held pace. After about six miles, I began to see the same U-Haul taking down the directional arrows. They waiting until I was in sight of the arrow and then took it down. In front of me. How demoralizing. I get it. I’m last. But, seriously, you couldn’t wait five more minutes. As the U-Haul jumped ahead, the driver kept checking in with me. At first I appreciated the sentiment, but over time, it became irritating. I am FINE. I was running at a good clip, with no signs of struggle. I understood that I was last, but it was a team race. It wasn’t as if I had been struggling. I had to look at every single street sign to make sure I wasn’t lost. Mentally, it was a challenging run. Finally, I made the last turn on to the final road. I was so happy to see the run come to an end. And even happier to see a porta-potty at the exchange. I hustled directly to the facilities. Whew!

Dr. Rachel Winni

Overall, I had fun running with my friends and a great time at Lake Winnipesaukee. I hope we’ll be back next year.