Race Recap: 2017 Vacation Races Rocky Mountain Elk Double

For the third consecutive year, I ran my favorite race; the Vacation Races Rocky Mountain Half in August. Because I am an ambassador for the race series, I did receive a free entry in exchange for this post, so let me tell you allllllll about it! If you’ve been reading our little blog for a bit, you’ve likely seen my previous recaps of this race here and here. But this year was different for a few reasons, and none of them were easy.

Lake Estes and the glacier topped peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park

Like last year, I completed the Elk Double, which means I did the 5k race on Friday evening and the half marathon on Saturday morning. About a week before the race, I was told my beloved dog, Archie the Pug, had a spleen tumor and might only have thirty days left with us. All my race plans and thoughts went out the window. I almost decided not to run the race at all in favor of spending every minute with Archie. The problem was that after all these years of running, I had inspired some family members to sign up for the 5k too (a post about that is in the works, because it’s the coolest feeling). All of this meant I had an obligation to them to be there, they were counting on me. My husband and I decided that we could maybe include Archie in the race by buying him a bike trailer/pet stroller and we would push him through the 5k and dedicate our race to him.

A few days before the race, we decided to get a second opinion about his tumor because it just wasn’t adding up with what we knew about him and his symptoms. He’s been struggling with some other serious health issues this summer, and we wanted to be positive about his prognosis. Low and behold, he didn’t have a tumor at all, but an enlarged liver! Not a good thing, but certainly not terminal! THERE WAS SO MUCH REJOICING.

At that point, we were all in for the race weekend we had planned months ago with family. I knew this race weekend would be pretty pathetic for me as far as performance was concerned. As you may have heard me say previously, Archie’s health issues require 24-hour care and that means my time for training over the summer vanished when he got sick in June. Although, carrying a 32-pound dead-weight dog to get water, to potty, and to eat does work the core and back muscles.

I had NO expectations for myself other than to finish the races in the allotted time, but a last-minute half marathon course change an unexpected foot issues had other ideas for me, but more on that in a sec. Race weekend arrived and we excitedly departed for a weekend of camping on our property, racing. And of course, looking cute on the course.

Flat me for the weekend, and all in Skirt Sports, of course!

We arrived at the expo and met up with my sisters-in-law and their husbands. After chatting for a few, I headed off to volunteer at the expo. Since all Vacation Races events are cup free, I pitched in at the Hydro Pouch booth to give runners their pouches they’d bought in advance. Showing people how to use the nifty little Hydro Pouch was fun, and I got to encourage lots of runners and welcome them to Colorado and Estes Park. After my stint at the booth finished up, I swung by the merch booth to buy another patch for my Toasty Girl Vest. I can’t wait to add all the Vacation Races patches eventually!

2 down, many more to go!

The 5k followed the same course it has since its inception and took us around Lake Estes’ paved bike path at sunset. One of the things I like about this race, and all Vacation Races, frankly, is the race size. There are usually around three thousand runners give or take, and it makes for the perfect level of comradery between runners and a comfortable race experience. No waiting too long for port-a-potties or being packed in your wave like a runDisney runner.

On the course, Archie was a big hit in his stroller, but my goodness, he HATED being pushed. He actually howled and whined and cried and made other runners laugh, and look at us funny, and some, I’m sure, wondered if we were torturing him. It was pathetic, and funny, and slow going. My husband, who never runs, kept outpacing me with the stroller and at one point was far ahead of me. After playing catch up to him, we kept a brisk walking/running pace, which was a mistake I paid for the next morning. Through it all, Archie looked cute, as he does, and when we finished with a horrible time, we gave him our medals.

Archie’s a finisher! I think he just wants my banana, and Lily (left) just wants a ride.

The half is not only my favorite race, but now it’s also my ‘hometown” race since it’s the biggest race near where I’m building my house. It was so awesome to get up pre-dawn and drive the beautiful drive from my property in Allenspark to the start line Estes Park, a distance of about 20 miles. I saw deer and elk on the drive, and it was so much better than getting up a 3:30 to drive an hour and a half like I had to do in previous years. I’m claiming this race as mine!

My strategy with this race is always the same; run the downhills, walk the uphills, especially the big hill that lasts foreverrrrrrrr. I knew they had changed the course, but the announcement went out the same week as the race and I didn’t have a chance to see what changed.

The start was chilly, it was in the low 50’s, and the music was loud. Coffee, hot cocoa, and bananas were staged at the start for runners and spectators. Warm drinks are always welcome at pre-dawn starts, especially at 7500 feet elevation where there is always an early morning nip in the air. I was feeling good and was ready to walk/run the race. I was having no pain as I waited, and no concerns about my race at all. I expected I’d finish around 3:20. Runners from all over the country come to this race, and their excitement is catching. People posed for photos while they moved around to stay warm.

Finally, my wave started and I was right behind my pacer. Almost immediately, I knew there was a problem. Not even a quarter mile in, the top of my left foot was not having it. I could feel a pinching pain deep in my foot with every footfall. The impact of running was too much. I was in trouble, and started to wonder if I would finish at all. It hurt, and I wasn’t even up the first hill yet.

This is the kind of selfie I take at 5:30 in the morning

About that hill. Remember all the folks from out-of-state who were so excited at the start? Those same folks are walking up the first hill too, angry with themselves that they’re already walking and that the elevation is more of a challenge than they expected. I see it happen every year. This is when I try to engage with them and ask where they’re from. No matter what their reply, I reassure them that the elevation is hard for locals like me, too, because it is. 7500 feet of elevation is no joke, and no amount of training can fully prepare you for it. When you take on challenges like this, be kind to yourself when things don’t go as you hoped or planned.

Just keep smiling!

The half course is all on paved surfaces, and follows the 5k course for the first mile which takes runners on the wide bike path that hugs Lake Estes. The course was the same as previous years for the most part, but in order to avoid having runners cross a major highway, they routed us a little differently. Now, we used a new bike underpass under the highway that took us to the beginning of the dreaded long hill. This course change made the race more safe, but it had a drawback mentally for those of us who’d run this race before. What used to be mile six was now mile two.

I made it to mile three where an ambulance and two EMTs waited to help runners in distress. Unfortch, they didn’t have any Biofreeze for my foot. I stopped for a potty break and to fill my hand-held. Before heading out again, I ran into two of my Skirt Sisters, Deb and Jennifer, who nursed me through the race. Deb was also recovering from an injury so the three of us stuck together the rest of the way. Honestly, without them, I doubt I would have been able to finish. Going it alone and in pain was getting to be totally not fun at all.

We kept trucking along and made our way through the race. Aside from my foot, this was the most mentally tough race for me to date. The reason was the course changes. As we came down a slope that used to lead to mile marker eleven, I could see the aid station next the new mile marker; mile seven. I’ll tell ya, when you’re brain sees scenery it remembers from last time and thinks you’re almost done, but you’re not, it’s a punch in the gut. We trudged on, talked a lot about running injuries and treatment, how much we love the scenery, and of course our devotion and love for all things Skirt Sports. Having friends to race with is always so much better.

Mt. Meeker on the left, Longs Peak next to it.

Fighting through the pain was tough, and after describing my symptoms to Deb and Jennifer, we concluded it sounded like I had pulled a tendon in my foot. Not much I could do but bear it. Luckily, Jennifer did have a packet of Biofreeze that she gave to me. Oh, what a wonderful, cooling miracle that green goop is! It helped me finish for sure.

The new route had us backtracking a bit to get back to the underpass and the lake. Mile eleven was finally in sight! We turned onto the Lake Estes bike path and followed it around the western curve of the lake. For me, this was the longest part of the race. You can see and hear the finish line, and it seems like these last two miles are never going to end. We kept asking (rhetorically) where the heck the finish was. That’s what happens when you take almost four hours to finish, you just want it to be OVER.

Worst race time ever, but worth every moment with great people.

 

Still love Vacation Races medals most!

I was never so happy for a race to be over, and although it was a terrible showing on my part, I’m proud of myself for sticking it out. I’ve been known to quit things, and I didn’t quit. I may have hobbled and grumbled a smidge, but that’s okay. I made it, and had to remind myself that even though this is my “hometown” race and in my backyard, it’s the most challenging course in the Vacation Races circuit in terms of starting elevation and hills. Plus, there’s always next year to chase that PR!

Medal Haul

I’ll do it again next year. The challenges I faced were mine, and part of that is learning how to mentally deal with curve balls like course changes. Even though I didn’t finish like I wanted to (my goal back in February was to beat my PR for the race by ten minutes), I learned some great things about adversity and how to listen to my body. This race was a great experience this year. I always recommend Vacation Races events!

Race Recap: Vacation Races Inaugural Shenandoah Half 2017

A race recap of the Inaugural Shenandoah half marathon, hosted by Vacation Races.

I’ve had my radar focused on Vacation Races for quite some time. Jenn is our resident Vacation Races ambassador and she swoons about their races.

Seriously.

She’s done multiple challenges, including their Rocky Mountain race and Yellowstone race. My plan is to eventually get out to Colorado to run with her. But in the meanwhile…

My local pal, Rachel, received a race entry for herself and a friend after a registration mix-up at the 2016 Yellowstone race. She reached out to me in February with a “What do you typically do over Labor Day weekend” message.

I responded with “Not a whole heck of a lot!”

So then she said, “Let’s take a road trip to Virginia, do this half marathon together, and have a blast!” Well, how could I say no to that? I was in!

Except the code they provided didn’t work! Agh, maybe I wasn’t in?

There was about a week of back and forth emails with a few people being looped in along the way. I’ll be honest, it was frustrating and we even questioned if it would be worth the time and effort (this was after a registration snafu for Rachel the first time around, so you can see why we were disappointed). I was given a few different codes to try before finally being manually entered into the system.

THEN I was officially in. Rachel and I were able to breathe easy once more and looked forward to our September trip.

As our trip grew closer, we ironed out travel details and of course, kept our eyes on the weather. Which wasn’t looking great. Rainy. However, the temperature was cooling considerably and I’d much rather run in 55 degrees than 80. We had high hopes that the rain wouldn’t be too bad.

Rachel drove to NJ from PA and our road trip, which we affectionately called “Meatball Road Trip 2k17 (if you watch Big Brother this season, you’ll understand where this originated) officially commenced.

We talked, sang and car danced all the way down through Delaware, Maryland, and into Virginia. The ride was about 4 hours and we went straight to the expo to grab our shirts and bibs.

Of course, it started to rain, which we were less than impressed with… but it was expected.

Shenandoah Half Marathon expo

Rachel’s face accurately captures our unimpressedness. Why do I look so happy?

The shirt reminds me of St. Patrick’s Day, which is probably when I’ll wear it. Sadly, green is not my color.

Shenandoah Half Shirt 2017

The expo was small but fun. I think we would have spent more time there had it not been raining but we decided to save up our rain time for the half.

Shenandoah Half Expo - Vacation Races

After learning how to turn a t-shirt into a bag (totally going to do this activity with our Cub Scout den), making s’mores, and finding our names on the inaugural Shenandoah design, we took some time to ask a few questions to announcer/race coordinator, Kaelee. She’d run the course in the morning so she was able to give us some pointers and let us know what to look forward to the next day.

We took the time to be tourists and visited Luray Caverns, which was pretty amazing (and of course we commented how cool it would be if we could run through it).

From the get-go we knew we wouldn’t be racing this half. Our mantra was “have fun and get it done.” This was going to be a “mullet crew” experience – as in, a party in the back! No shame! After a delicious dinner we decided to hit the sack, knowing we’d be waking up at 5am.

The race began at 7am and was a point to point race and almost entirely on road, save the first and last 10th of a mile. You could park at either the start or finish and they had school buses to shuttle runners from one point to the other. We decided we’d rather shuttle before the race than after; we parked at the finish and shuttled to the start.

As we made our way from the parking lot to where the shuttles were, it was before sunrise and I found myself wish that I had brought my Knuckle Lights, just to see where we were going. We shuffled to the shuttles and were able to grab the last two seats on the bus heading toward the starting area.

At the start, there was coffee and hot chocolate. They also offered bananas and things like Vaseline and thoughtful touches that runners might find useful.

Just as we got our beverages, huge raindrops started plopping on us. At first, neither of us could comprehend what was happening, our brains weren’t full awake yet! We quickly found shelter nearby and chatted with other runners as we did our best to stay dry. We both had plastic rain ponchos yet neither of us had them on when the rain had started. It caught us all by surprise!

Rain at the Shenandoah Half Marathon.

It’s raining, it’s pouring.

The rain tapered off just in time for the National Anthem and I really loved that this guy got to stand on top of the box truck and hold the flag.

Mother Nature couldn’t decide what she wanted to do – one minute it was drizzling, the next it wasn’t. Rachel and I kept muttering to each other “this is stupid” as we lined up near our pace sign. Seriously, sometimes I question my sanity. My socks were already wet and it was cold! I knew once I started moving I’d be fine, it’s just getting to that point.

There was a guy near the start that was telling us, “It’s just a really long 5k” which made us chuckle.

Sure enough, once we started moving, we were good to go. Actually, really good. Actually, really, really good. As in, we hit the mile marker and were shocked that we were already at a mile.

You guys, this continued for miles 2-8. We would come to a mile marker and be amazed that we got there as quickly as we did. Which, for the record, wasn’t quick; we were having conversational miles. But we were feeling good and powering up the uphills/taking advantage of the downhills.

Virginia was lovely, with lots of local flair that we northerns aren’t accustom to seeing on a daily basis.

Shenandoah Half Course

We saw llamas (or were they alpaca?), plenty of cows, and were graced with the presence of a kitten in the middle of the road near mile 7. This kitten sat smack in the middle of the road and got attention for each and every single runner that came through. He had life all figured out for such a little guy.

If the kitten didn’t have a collar on, I’m pretty sure that Rachel would have a third cat right now.

The aid stations were perfectly placed. Vacation Races is a cup free race, so they offer hydropouches or you can bring your own hydration system. I opted to get a pack (I’ve been considering it for awhile and this was the perfect reason) and ended up not needing to fill the bladder of it at all – it was the perfect amount for the half distance. They had Honey Stingers available at every aid station, as well as cut up bananas and orange slices at the later stations.

At the mile 3 aid station they even had a bin where runners could drop clothes that they’d then drive to the finish line of the race! I didn’t need to take advantage of that but they really seemed to think of everything.

The course was quiet, although it was on an open road so cars were allowed to drive along the course. In the early morning, there was not much traffic. We all looked out for each other, calling “CAR!” when there was a car either behind or coming toward us. Some runners had their earbuds in and couldn’t hear the warning until the cars were right behind them and honking. Yikes!

Locals sat on their porches, watching the spectacle. It was an endless parade of over 1,100 people streaming by. We waved to people as we passed.

The hills were alive with the sounds of music.

I think this was around the time we started singing “HandClap” by Fitz and The Tantrums. The first time. There were multiple times.

Mile 10 onward felt like a continuous uphill. I know that there was some downhill too but I don’t really remember much of that. It just felt like we were constantly climbing. Having looked at the elevation map ahead of time, we knew that it was coming but, whew, my hamstrings and glutes acted like they weren’t made aware of the situation!

You better believe we flew down that last hill!

We turned into Lake Arrowhead Park for the last stretch of the race. The support here was incredible with lots of finishers cheering us. Volunteers pointed us in the right direction since it was along grass and gravel. We turned for the last 10th of a mile and crossed the finish line with huge smiles on our faces!

Shenandoah Half Marathon finishers medals

We did it! Check out those AH-MAZING medals!

Immediately after crossing the finish line we were able to get our medals and our snack boxes that were filled with lots of delicious treats.

From start to finish, this getaway was an awesome! Despite some reservations at the beginning with registration, everything else was absolutely flawless. Vacation Races knows about hosting a quality event and they’ve zeroed in on the things that stand out to runners. I’m grateful to Rachel for inviting me to join her and I’m definitely impressed by Vacation Races!

Inaugural Shenandoah Half medal - Vacation Races #Shenandoahhalf

Next race for me is the Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia half marathon on September 17th. Then in October I’ll be at Run the Vineyards, Enoteca 5k and Run Inspired 10k in DE (code BibRave saves 10%). Fall racing, you have arrived! What do you have on tap this fall?

Fall Racing – VA, PA, NJ, and DE

I know, I know. Summer just started. So why, oh why, am I writing about fall racing? Well, quite frankly… I don’t race in the summer and there aren’t all that many races in my area at this time of year.

The one summer race I’m doing is on the 4th of July with my older son. ‘merica!

If a summer race comes along that woos me with fun stuff (wine, amazing medal, friends participating) I’m sure I’ll sign up. That’s just how I roll. Other than that I’ll be embracing summer training (and praying that I don’t melt along the way) in preparation for the fall!

My fall race schedule is filling up and I’m excited to say that it’s mostly with new-t0-me races. Which ones? Oh, so glad you asked…

September 2nd – Vacation Races, Shenandoah Half Marathon (inaugural)

When my awesome friend Rachel was looking for a race and travel buddy for the Shenandoah Half, I was happy to join her! Jenn has raved about Vacation Races as an ambassador (here, here, and here).

While I’m a little nervous for the “challenging uphill course” that the race description boasts, I figure that as long as I am with Rachel, it will be all good! I’ve never run a race in Virginia before and if Ragnar, PA taught me anything it’s that the scenic views from the top will be well worth the hills.

If you’re interested in challenging yourself in Shenandoah Valley, registration can be found here.

September 16th – 17th – Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series, Philadelphia Half Marathon

This is a race that I ran in 2012 and am looking forward to returning to 5 years later! I’ll be honest, the first time that I ran this I didn’t train the way I should have so I struggled through the race. It was a tough one for me so this will hopefully be redemption!

Prior to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Series taking over in 2010, it was known as the Philadelphia Distance Run and this will be the 40th consecutive running of the race. Race weekend has been expanded in recent years to include a 5k and 10k (this year is the inaugural 10k) on Saturday, while the half will take place on Sunday. Of course, that means that there’s the opportunity to run more than one race in the weekend. I’m currently floating the possibility of adding another race because GO BIG OR GO HOME, right?

Registration for Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia can be found here. Which distance would you chose to rock? If you go for the half, the code “BIBRAVE15” will save you $15 until 8/27.

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia race as part of being a BibRave Pro. They’re currently looking for more BibRave Pros so feel free to learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. You can tell them I sent you!

October 8th – Good Day For a Run, Run the Vineyards Destination Enoteca 5k

While I have not raced this particular location before, I am a huge fan of the Run the Vineyards series! Not only have I run the Run the Vineyards 5 miler twice, I’ve also volunteered with the race series as well. This local series knows what runners want and it’s always a good time to run and then be rewarded with wine and entertainment. And free race photos!

I’m particularly excited for this race because a group of my local friends have registered for it as well, so I know I’ll be seeing lots of familiar faces during the race and after! Without a doubt, it’s going to be a good time.

The space for the Run the Vineyards events is limited (this one is capped at 300 runners) so if you’re interested in registering, earlier is always the key.

October 15th – Run Inspired 10k for Operation Warm

The 10k is my favorite race distance, which is only one of the reasons why I’m pumped to run the Run Inspired 10k.

Winterthur, DE is less than an hour drive from my home in New Jersey and I’m looking forward to my first ever DE race. This is a young race, last year was the inaugural run. The course will be beautiful and challenging through Winterthur’s 1,000-acre natural preserve and it’s one that I’m really looking forward to running.

Run Inspired supports the Operation Warm which distributes coats to local children living in poverty and the thought of that is something that will keep me pushing over those hills during the race. The Finishers Party sounds like it’s going to be amazing too!

If you’re considering running this race, register now to get the Early Bird registration. Prices jump on July 1st! And you can use the code “BIBRAVE” to save 10% on your race entry.

Disclaimer: This is another race that I’ll be running as a BibRave Pro, I received an entry to the Run Inspired 10k through BibRave. Want to learn more the BibRave Pros (ambassador)? Be sure to click the links and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. You can tell them I sent you!

Will I be seeing any of you in September or October at these races? November and December are usually hectic so I’m actually trying to keep a little less on my plate as far as races are concerned but I’m always open to suggestions!

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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Motivation Monday (and Every Day)

Monday’s aren’t always my favorite but this Monday? This Monday is always a favorite of mine!

Why?

Because it’s Marathon Monday a.k.a. Boston Marathon watching day!

I’ve informed my family that if they need me, this is where they can find me the majority of the day.

I know that I’ll never actually run the Boston Marathon but I love spectating (from my computer) each year. I dream of the day that I can spectate in person. All of the emotions are felt and it motivates me with my own running goals and dreams.

I have a few of my favorite races coming up in the next few weeks (Rowan 5k, AC April Fools half, Run the Vineyards 5 Miler) and then a volunteer opportunity and Ragnar.

The summer months are usually less densely populated with races and more about training runs. My goal for this summer is to remain consistent with those training runs because I already have a few fall races lined up!

My buddy Rachel first brought Vacation Races Shenandoah half marathon to my attention. She had a free race entry for herself and a friend and she invited me to join her at the inaugural Virginia race.

After a few snafus with registrations we were both able to get set up so we’ll be traveling there the first weekend of September! The course looks INTENSE, with lots of elevation changes but it also looks beautiful. I know we’ll have a good time together.

Just a few weeks later I’m excited to return to a familiar stomping ground: Philadelphia’s Rock ‘n Roll half marathon on September 17th through BibRave! I participated back in 2012 but timing and other commitments have kept me away the last 4 years.

I’m really looking forward to returning to this series. The race weekend includes a 5k and the brand new, just announced, 10k distance!

The 10k is my favorite distance and I know it’s crazy but I’m considering maybe signing up for that as well. I’ll keep you posted if I decide to take the plunge!

If you’re considering signing up for the half, I have a discount code to share! Woohoo! BIBRAVE15 will get you $15 off the half and is valid until 8/27. Is anyone out there running this one (or another Rock ‘n Roll race)? I’m so excited to return!

Okay, the elite women just started the Boston Marathon so I’m jumping back to that window now! If you need me, I’ll just be over here, being inspired!

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Philadelphia Rock ‘n Roll race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! All opinions are my own.

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? 

Summer Races…and Beyond – The 2017 Caldera Triple

A few weeks ago, I turned forty. Surprisingly, it wasn’t horrible. In fact, it was pretty flippin rad. First, my Subaru that served me well for 11 years decided it didn’t feel like driving anymore. Goodbye, rD magnets.

I loved this car so much.

I loved this car so much.

So I was forced to get a new car.

Hellllooooo, Lover.

Hellllooooo, Lover.

This really was a coincidence. Promise. No for real, though. But in a way, you could say I got a pony for my birthday. (I’ve always wanted to say that!) Since before I had a license, I’ve wanted a classic Mustang. I can’t afford a classic, but my husband agreed to this new one. Because he is the best. (And he liked it a lot, too, truth be told.)

THEN, as if that weren’t enough, my husband (being the absolute best husband on the planet (see above new car)), had arranged a gift for me long before my Subaru died. This was my face when I opened my itinerary to SPACECAMP, something I’ve wanted to do since I was eight.

spacecamp

They do have an adult program and I will have to get in the Multi-Axis Trainer. They claim it doesn’t make you sick. Ummmm-hmmmmm. Anyway, I work for an aerospace company and I’m a space/sci-fi fanatic, so yeah. I’m SO STOKED I CANNOT EVEN.

But birthdays tend to make me reflect on what I’ve accomplished and what I still want to achieve. My birthday did remind me that at 40, I need to focus on fitness. My biggest fitness goal is to not be frail in advanced age. To keep running, I need races to stay motivated. I’m registered for 3 races this summer that I’m excited for: The Skirt Sports 13er, and the Elk Double Challenge hosted by Vacation Races.

Last year I ran the Skirt Sports 10k at the 13er, but this year I wanted to represent with my fellow skirt sisters and do the half. It will be a whole weekend of strong women supporting each other, and that’s pretty hard to beat.

PR of 1:23:42 and I'm thrilled!

PR of 1:23:42 and I’m thrilled!

I loved the Rocky Mountain Half in Estes Park so much last year that I registered for their inaugural Elk Challenge this year. It’s a 5k on Friday afternoon and a half on Saturday morning. My oldest friend lives in Estes Park, so I’m staying with her that Friday night. SLEEPOVER! Seriously, though, last year’s half was my favorite race to date. Yes, even more than runDisney. I know, but it’s true! It’s still my favorite medal.

Poking around the Vacation Races website,  I made a discovery that will likely be the death of me and my pocket book. It’s called the Caldera Triple  because who wouldn’t want to run in view of the Grand Tetons one week, followed by Yellowstone the next? And a 5k in between?? I SAY BRING IT, NATIONAL PARKS.

caldera

Image Credit: Vacation Races

2 National Parks, 3 races, 4 UH-MAZING medals, and some of the prettiest land in the nation. Who’s with me?

Have you ever done a Vacation Races race? What races do you have planned for the summer, or beyond?