Race Recap: Vacation Races Yellowstone Half

Last weekend, amazing races took place all over the country. Maybe you even participated in one. (If so tell me allllll about it in the comments!) I was lucky enough to be one of those people, and I can’t wait to show you all the pictures from  the Vacation Race Yellowstone 5k and Half Marathon. I had dreamed of doing the Caldera Triple this year, but other obligations (tickets to see Roger Waters) kept me from the mother of all medals. Next year, it’s on!

Disclaimer: while I am a Vacation Races Ambassador, I did pay for my registration for this race and I didn’t receive any compensation for this race review.

I live about ten hours from Yellowstone. Honestly, when the scenery is as beautiful as it was and you’re driving your Mustang, ten hours feels like five.We drove up last Thursday and got into Yellowstone at around seven o’clock in the evening. Along the way, we stopped at an overlook to take in the most beautiful mountain range I’ve ever seen, and keep in mind, Rocky Mountain National Park is my backyard. If you’ve never been to the Grand Tetons, you need to add it to your bucket list.

Jackson Lake and Grand Teton

We came from the south which meant we had to drive through Grand Teton National Park to get to Yellowstone. We decided to buy an annual park pass since we’ll soon be living so close to a national park ourselves. Eighty bucks to support our national treasures was money well spent in our book.

I had signed up for the Bison Double, which meant I was running the 5k Friday night and the half marathon on Saturday morning. My husband and I decided to get up before dawn on Friday to see some of Yellowstone while the light was still good for photography. It was the right choice!

He was the only other guy on the road at 5:30 am. Also, he wasn’t moving for us.

Sadly, the Grand Prismatic Spring was too steamy to see.

Kepler Cascade

Yellowstone Lake and Thermal Vents

A real life postcard.

After a morning of exploring the park, we headed back to the hotel to take a nap and prep for the 5k. The weather forecast at race time was less than dry. I was volunteering at the race expo before the start, so I headed over a little early and met up with the rest of my team at the start. My husband, sisters-in-law, and their husbands all ran the 5k, and exactly none of us were looking forward to running in rainy drizzle and 42 degrees.

There’s some first timers in this pic!

The course was beautiful despite it being wet. I don’t have many pics of this race because the conditions made it hard to snap shots. We started on paved town roads for the first mile then transitioned to gravel trail riddled with puddles and mud for the rest of the race. We had to watch where we stepped so we didn’t slip in the mud. I’m glad I’d packed so much gear, options are so important when the weather is unpredictable. Plus I’d bought an emergency poncho for which I was so grateful! I was slow because of the conditions and I wanted to be sure I was okay to do the half the next morning. My husband and I crossed the finish, then waited for the rest of our team. We were disappointed to learn that the 5k medals had been lost in shipping, but we were assured that they’d be mailed to us once they were located.

The next morning, I woke up to a weather forecast calling for hail and more rain before the half marathon. Yes, hail. Well, tiny little pellets, but still, when they hit your cold cheeks, it hurts! I shook out my disposable poncho and layered up. With some fleece lined leggings, a Lioness skirt from Skirt Sports, and three layers on top, I was as ready as I could be for my first wet, cold trail half.

I knew this race was going to be my hardest one yet going into it. I knew the elevation gain was no joke, and that it was mostly on a trail. I also knew I wasn’t able to train for this race like I wanted to. Since February, I’ve had to focus on selling my house, moving, and finding a new place to live.  Doing all those home improvement projects did get me into better shape than I was in after the holidays, but I was no where near where I wanted to be for this race. Getting a PR wasn’t my goal, not getting hurt was. My strategy was to do walk a brisk pace with some splashes of running until the big hill. Then, I’d walk as briskly as I could up that bish.

Around mile five, it started to get steep. The course was still thick with mud, and I tried to stay on the edge of the trail to keep from getting bogged down. Mile six is where it started to get nasty. Hence my face in the photo below. It was yucky, but at least the sun had come out and the rain/hail stopped! Once I got over that hill, I found one of my Skirt Sports sisters on the course, and I couldn’t have been happier! Kim is the best. We’d run the Skirt Sports 13er together last year and running with her is always so much fun.

After I’d made it over the hill and found a friend, the race took on a new feel. The course turned technical with large rocks as we began to descend in elevation. I took my time through the rocks but still stumbled a few times. The views were completely worth it, though, as the course took us beside the river and through pristine forest.

As I was out there feeling better than I expected to be at mile nine, I took a moment to appreciate my body. I have ridiculous expectations of it. I ask it to do amazing feats of endurance without ever putting in the 100% training I should. As I climbed that hill and listened to those around me struggling to breathe due to the altitude, I sent my body some messages of gratitude and I promised to not ask it to do this again without the proper preparation.

We counted down the miles together, stopped for orange slices at the mile 11 aid station, and were fueled by the thought of our medals waiting for us. Unfortunately, the Bison Double medals and the Caldera Triple medals were lost in shipping along with the 5k medals. But we did get our half marathon medals, so it was great to have that waiting for us at the end along with the always yummy post race fuel box and bananas.

It hurt so much but we did it!

Kim and I hugged goodbye before I took a few family photos with our race team. I think some of them may have caught the race bug! I’m already planning to come back for the Caldera Triple next year, maybe we’ll make it a tradition!

It was a fabulous race in one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. Aside from the medals being lost, everything went smoothly and we all had a blast. This race may not be an annual one for me due to traveling, but it’s certainly one I’d like to do every few years. Vacation Races didn’t disappoint, they really now how to pick their locations! It was so gorgeous everywhere you looked that I wanted to share a few last photos with you of your Yellowstone National Park.  Enjoy!

Elk buck

At the Grand Prismatic Spring

Bison herd

You could literally reach out your car window and touch them. But DON’T.

Half medal with Old Faithful erupting in the background

 

As a safety reminder, I ask that when you read my recaps of high altitude races to not underestimate the affects of altitude. I’ve lived at over 5000 feet elevation all my life, and soon I’m moving to 8500 feet. My lungs and muscles are acclimated to the elevation despite having asthma. If you do a race at altitude and you aren’t already acclimated, be sure to train appropriately, take precautions against altitude sickness, and be kind to yourself on the course if you don’t hit your pace goals.Save

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She can fly!

When I signed up for the Disney Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend months and months ago, I had big plans.  The Tinkerbell Half was my first Disney race with Meri and Vic so it holds a special place in my heart.  I had been promising my daughter a Disney race for awhile so back when I was feeling super motivated, I signed myself up for all three of the Tink races and signed up my girl for the 5k.  I had high hopes of training and PR’s and what not, but you know how it goes.  Sometimes you accidentally get pregnant.

Luckily, I was able to get a refund for the half and 10k, which, by the way, I thought was super understanding of the peeps at RunDisney.  We decided to go ahead and run the 5k together.  I thought a Disney race would be perfect for Sophie.  Disney races are super family friendly.  There’s always runners of all athletic abilities and all ages.  Sophie’s a very active 11 year old, she plays soccer and runs a lot at practice so I had no doubt she could do this race.  I was more worried about being able to keep up with her!

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She was so excited to have a bib with her name on it. 

We stayed the night close to the park before the race so we could make the 5 am start time and so we could pick up our bibs and hit the expo the night before.  We didn’t plan costumes, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything pregnant friendly that wouldn’t be suffocating. Also, the more pregnant I get the less motivation I have to do stuff.  So when we got to the expo, Sophie found a Tink tee from Raw Threads that she just loved.  Obviously, a girl can’t run her first Disney race without some kind of sparkle, so Sophie got a sparkle skirt and some fairy wings to go with her shirt.  Because that’s how we roll!

The race started right on Main Street, which I haven’t ever experienced in a Disney race before.  There aren’t Corral placements for the 5k, it’s first come, first Corral, and we ended up in Corral C.  Sophie couldn’t contain her excitement.  She whooped and hollered when the MC’s roused the crowd.  She danced and cheered for her favorite songs.  And she was mesmerized when Tinkerbell flew around Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

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Not bad for a last minute costume!

As our Corral moved toward the start line, Sophie was ready to run.  We planned to meet at the finish if we got separated.  I told her about pictures with characters and so she decided she would stop and get pictures and maybe I’d be able to catch up to her.  However, when we finally started, she took off!  I didn’t even get one picture of her running.  There weren’t many characters out for the 5k, so that plan blew.  The whole race I expected to see her walking or at a bathroom or something, but nope, that girl left me in her pixie dust and never looked back.

 

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Our only picture together!

 

I walked my way to the finish and looked for Sophie.  She was no where to be found.  I began to slightly freak out, trying to ignore every worse case scenario that popped into my head.  I decided to check the post-race area before I panicked, and that’s exactly where I found her.  Shoe-less and fresh out of snacks, she flagged me down with a wild wave.  She finished in 38 minutes. It took me at least an hour, so she just hung out for twenty some minutes.  I had no idea she was so responsible and independent!  We headed back to the hotel with our medals proudly displayed.  She wore that medal later that day when we visited the park until she left it in the seat pocket on Big Thunder Railroad.  Luckily, a cast member found it for her and she promptly stowed it in my bag for the rest of the day.

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Best medal ever! 

 

To be honest, I would have skipped the race if it weren’t for Sophie, but I’m so glad we did this.  She made it magical and I love that I get to share this part of my life with her now.  So many changes are happening in her life this year.  She’s getting a new sibling, she’s going to middle school, we’re moving (again!!!), but I hope these races are something we can share for as long as we’re able.  She even wants to do a Ragnar!  Like she said, this can be the start of a family tradition.  She already has costume plans for next year.  That’s my girl!

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Run for Rowan 5k

When I first started running in 2011 I looked for races that would entice me to run because, to be honest, running was not enticement enough. Shirts, medals, runner camaraderie? That’s what I was looking for. That’s what I needed.

Meeting up with friends, traveling, eating, and a side of running. It was more about the first three and the running just gave me the excuse. Mud runs, Disney races in both California and Florida, Color Runs, I was drawn to them all. The further from New Jersey, the better!

I came to enjoy running somewhere along the way and within the past year and a half, I’ve settled into doing races that are more “local” to me. If I can drive or take a train to the start the morning of the race, I don’t deviate too much from my daily routine with my family. Certainly, I still love to travel and race but there’s a comfort that comes along with running on familiar turf.

Pretty sure that 20 years ago Jay piggybacked me across this very spot when my heels got to be too much after a date party.

Which is why when I heard about Rowan University’s 5k (and the early bird rate of $20 per person) I registered myself and my husband, Jay!

When we graduated from school we planted roots not too far from the campus so it was not only convenient but also familiar. We’ve done training runs though the campus and it’s less than 10 minutes from home.

It was gray and rainy on Saturday morning for this 5k and I knew that I would be running the AC April Fools half the following day so I figured Jay and I could run together at his pace. He hasn’t been feeling well nearly the entire month of April so he hasn’t been training much (read: at all) but he was ready to do his best.

We caught up with old friends and then lined up to run. I’d wager a guess there were around 200 participants. It had a later start than most races I do; it began at 10am.

The route for the 5k was through the campus, to the perimeter of the campus, and then back through the campus. Since it’s hosted by the Rowan Alumni Association, they did a good job of highlighting all the newer buildings on the campus. There’s been a lot of changes since I graduated nearly 20 years ago!

It was all sidewalk running so it was a little tight for the first mile as people tried to figure out their pacing and where they landed within the pack of runners.

Although the day was gray and dreary, overall the campus was a lot prettier than I remembered. It seems like there’s been a lot of attention paid to beautification projects and updating sitting areas and gardens. Every time I visit, there is something new!

The engineering building was brand new 20 years ago. Now it’s expanded to a second building with a walkway connecting the two.

This walkway as not quite as extensive when we were students.

We even got to run past the building we met at as Resident Assistants (so romantic!).

At that point we were about a 10th of a mile from the finish so we didn’t get too wrapped up in nostalgia, we just pushed to the finish line. We finished in 37:36, which was what we expected.

Look, it’s the Rowan Prof!

Thanks to Rowan University for hosting its running alumnus. No matter how many changes have been made, returning to campus is like going home.

I’ve decided that I should focus more on the 5k distance. My body and mind are so conditioned to running longer races that when I run shorter distances; I don’t know exactly how to tap into the speed. I think it comes down to training and speed work.

Of course, that’s not exactly what I was trying to do for this race but looking ahead, I would like to sign up for more 5ks and finally break my 2012 PR. It’s time.

Speaking of PRs, I achieved a significant PR the follow day at the AC April Fools half marathon! Recap of that race is coming up on Friday. Woohoo!

Any advice on how I can work on my 5k speed?

Vacation Races, Here I Come!

Sometimes, begging actually works. I don’t recommend you use the tactic often, but I’m not above begging for something I really want, even if that something doesn’t exist. Believe it or not, begging can be a very effective tool. Case in point, after running the 2016 VR Rocky Mountain Half Marathon, a.k.a, my favorite race, I basically begged the Vacation Races race series to let me be an ambassador even though they didn’t have an ambassador program.

Pro Tip: When begging, bargain by making promises to spend money on their races. 😉

When I heard from the Race Director a few days later, I was ECSTATIC.  After applying and hoping, it’s official, I’m a VR Ambassador!! I can’t wait to represent the series at this year’s Yellowstone Half and the Rocky Mountain Half. Maybe (hopefully) a few more!

 

I wanted to be an ambassador for Vacation Races because I think they put on the best races in the country. The courses are spectacular, the race organization is top-notch, the medals are absolutely THE BEST, the aid stations are the best I’ve ever seen (water, energy drink, bananas and oranges), and I feel that you really get your money’s worth with a fantastic overall race experience. Honestly, I’d take a VR race over one at Disney any time. I can’t say enough good things about VR, and I can’t wait to share more stuff from my favorite race series with you. Details about the program are still coming out, so I’ll share any codes I get in a future post.

 

Have you ever done a VR race? How did it go for you?  Is one of their races on your bucket list? 

A Walk in Her Shoes Feeds a Village

We love doing good, don’t you? We knew you’d say yes! We knew that because our readers are the kindest and sweetest. It’s true. Pat yourself on the back.

We know you like to give back, especially when it’s super easy to give. And we especially love when our training miles count for something. That’s where this fantastic charity event comes in. It’s called the Walk in Her Shoes Challenge, and its goal is to bring awareness to the struggle women and girls face in some of the world’s poorest communities. The Challenge’s goal is to bring equal opportunity and human dignity to women and girls in developing countries. Here’s a quick video to learn more.

One of my Skirt Sport Sisters started a team called the Sole Sisters, and we’d love to have you join us. It’s free, and you don’t have to donate or raise funds if you don’t want to, but your walking and running miles are valuable and count toward the Challenge. You can join our team here. We have already raised enough to build a well for clean drinking water! What I love about this Challenge is that it helps women and girls get access to necessities like clean water, good hygiene and basic medical care so that they can spend more time in school and earning a living than gathering food and water. It’s an empowering program that helps enrich communities around the world.  If you’re so inspired, you can donate to our team by clicking on the graphic below.

I hope to call you teammate soon! Do good, feel good, always, Scooters.

What are your favorite charity events? Have you ever participated in a virtual fundraising event before? Tell me all about it!

Constant Virtual-ness!

My lucky day came a few weeks ago when I won a race entry! Yes, I won something, an entry for the Mad Eye Moody Virtual 5k, sponsored by Hogwarts Running Club! I was all,

Of course I immediately texted Meridith to share the good news and of course she decided to run it with me. Because friends. And Harry Potter. We get bibs to print out, and we got to list our House and pick our bib number. Being that I only recently read the series, Meri played Sorting Hat for me and to no one’s surprise, I’m in Slitheryn. I was kinda like

Then she reminded me that Draco and Snape turn out okay in the end, and I do have a dark streak. So, yeah, let it be known once again that Meridith was right as usual.

Our favorite thing about this race is that the proceeds go to a fantastically fitting charity, Limbs for Life, which provides free prosthetic legs to those who cannot afford them or who have used up what insurance or their state health agencies can provide. This incredible organization utilizes gently-used prosthetic legs and parts in conjunction with prosthetic clinics and skilled clinicians nationwide to provide freedom and mobility to hundreds of amputees every year.

I would tell you to sign up, but it’s sold out! But never fear, they are sure to have many more virtual races throughout the rest of the year. Their events from last year make me wish I could accio all the medals right to my medal rack, and in 2016 they raised almost half a million dollars for charity.

Half a million, folks. That’s some impressive Muggle magic and dedication!

Meri and I are running this on 2/4, and I’m sure we will be Instagraming and Tweeting our “race”. Our medals should be arriving in the mail any day now, and I can’t wait.

The eye moves in a circle!

This will be my first virtual race and I’m excited to see how I like this format. I kick off half marathon training soon, so using virtual races as a way to earn medals for long training runs might be a way for me to stay motivated. I’ll keep you posted!

 

Do you like virtual races? Why or why not? Share your spells for a successful virtual run in the comments1

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Building Each Other Up

I met Nicole DeBoom when I stopped in the Skirt Sports warehouse to pick up a Christmas gift for Mer last year, and my girl crush started then. Not because she’s the Ironman winner, a successful entrepreneur, or because she is hilarious, but because she is real. Authentic. I know that word gets thrown around a lot these days, but you know when it’s genuine and when it isn’t. Nicole is the real deal, and so is her message.

At a recent event, she shared a few stories. Stories about how she made her first running skirt an wore it as she won 2004 Ironman Wisconsin, and of her calling to help women change their lives. And in this video, she shared the story of her daughter’s birth, and, trust me, it was one for the books. My sides were aching by the time she finished. She is the cutest.

Earlier this year, she started a Podcast called “Run This World” where she talks with “…visionaries who are creating change in the world”. Nicole and her guests go deep, and they aren’t afraid to be honest about the struggles they’ve had on their journey. They share their stories with us, and in doing so, empower us to tackle our own challenges with grace and self acceptance. This is why I enjoy working with Skirt Sports, because they are genuine in their goal to help women feel feed good in their skin and in life.

Nicole in the skirt that would inspire Skirt Sports

Nicole in the skirt that would inspire Skirt Sports

My favorite episode so far was an interview with Kara Burns titled “From Prison to 26.2”. By the title you can guess what it was about. I was so touched by Kara’s forgiveness of herself and her determination to move on from her past. Kara reminded me that no matter how hard we think something is, it can be overcome with discipline and determination. She was so honest about her mistakes and their consequences, and she didn’t shirk from  the pain she caused those she loves the most. She is a beautiful soul, and I hope to meet her at a Skirt event one of these days. Her positivity and was truly inspiring.

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Every episode has the same root message, love and positivity. We can always use more of that! Nicole and her guests inspire us to pursue our goals and keep sight of what’s truly important.  Next time you go for a run, check her out. Each episode lasts about 45 minutes, so they’re perfect for tuning in while you get in a few quick miles. I highly recommend it!

 

What do you like to listen to while training? What’s your favorite Podcast?

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