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Disclosure: I received a free entry to the Sedona Marathon because I am a BibRave Pro. (Per usual, all opinions are my own–you should know by now I don’t need any help with that, I’ve got plenty of ’em!) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Read and write race reviews at BibRave.com! It’s a great way to choose between conflicting races, to help runners find the best races, and the help race directors improve each year.

The Sedona Marathon taught me this: if you live on an island that is 6’ above sea level, running a marathon at 4500+’ just might not be the best idea.

I worked Friday, and missed the expo. Sedona offered race-day pickup with almost no lines, so it took about five minutes to get my bib. My friend Jackie had come along to be my race crew, so I put what would have been my checked bag, as well as my race shirt, in her Jeep. (The shirt is great—a royal blue Greenlayer brand tech shirt—a classic run shirt design with a line drawing of the scenery, sunrise, and some runners. During the pre-race, there were also various vendors of running gear, natural foods, and Sedona-themed merchandise. Race staff announced interesting facts about the race, including that there were 47 states represented (note to South Dakota: time to represent!) and 80 runners from Japan!

After posing for a quick selfie with Emily (running the 10k), I hopped into the corral for the final announcements, a few dynamic movement warmups, and the national anthem. (Does anyone else want to yell “Play Ball!” at the end?) Then we were off!

BibRave Pro Emily pre-race
BibRave Pro Emily pre-race (thanks to Emily for the pic!)

I spent the week before the race waffling about whether to drop back to the half marathon. This was in large part due to my late realization at the elevation of the race (hey, I’d never been to Sedona!) and the fact that a hectic work schedule to got in the way of training. After weighing the merits of both options, and of course taking a poll on facebook, I decided to stick to the marathon. First, I’d accepted a bib to the race on the premise that I’d run the marathon. Second, I’ve only ever technically DNF’d one other race (The New Year’s Double marathon on New Year’s Day) and I still finished, which is more important to me than pretty much anything else. Finally, I figured if I got swept it would just give me more to blog about, right?

So I took off with the marathon start, with very good intentions and the knowledge that I was probably about to get my butt handed to me. The first little piece was downhill and I tried to pace myself. I once ran the fastest mile of my life at the beginning of a race—caught up in the excitement!—and regretted it about eight miles later. The course turned a few times, spent a block on the main road through Sedona, and then turned towards the hills. Uphill, naturally.

The starting line (see the lady dressed like a cactus)
The starting line (see the lady dressed like a cactus)

I am not a fan of running uphill. I am REALLY not a fan of running uphill at elevation. It quickly became apparent that sticking to a 1 minute run/1 minute walk interval was not happening, so I adjusted to a terrain-based interval: run downhill, walk uphill, do intervals on the flat pieces. By the first aid station, I was almost the last marathoner.

We passed the 10k turnaround, and I wondered if Emily wasn’t the smartest person I knew running this race. The half marathon runners caught up with me around mile 3 or 4 or so and I got another burst of energy from being in a crowd again. Jeremy came up from behind me, and then snapped an epic selfie.

Faux-to Bomb!
Faux-to Bomb! (thanks to Jeremy for the pic)

Despite my newly-made terrain-based plan, my lungs were really unhappy with me. My legs were fresh and eager to run, but my lungs were on fire. I shortened my flat intervals from 1/1 to “until my lungs start to smokle”/the remainder of that 1 + 1. I attempted to distract my lungs by looking at the gorgeous scene unfolding before me. Scenically, you could not ask for a prettier desert-mountain course. The “urban” portion was less than a mile of the course, and even then it was set against the majestic backdrop that is Sedona. I’d never been to Sedona before, so I spent a lot of time gawking at the red and white striations in the rock formations. The greenery was pretty much all foreign-to-me desert-y stuff, so also fun to look at.

Scenery and runners
Scenery and runners

As I approached the half marathon turnaround, I looked for Jackie. The plan had been for her to camp out near that aid station. I didn’t see her, which turned out to be a good thing—I had planned to shed my long-sleeved base later at that point (the sun had come out and unlike the Arizona natives I was no longer cold). Later on as the chilly breezes came through I was glad to have the sleeves!

At half marathon turnaround the course shifted from paved to dirt roads. The paved section was the nicest pot-hole-free blacktop I’ve run on in quite some time. The dirt road entrance was flanked by U.S. Park Service (or was it U.S. Forest Service?) signs warning “primitive road” that is “not regularly maintained.” They totally overstated it—I’ve run on paved roads in California that aren’t as nice. The road was open to traffic, and multiple ATVs, Jeeps, and other vehicles passed while I was running. (Jeep tours are A Thing in Sedona.) For the most part this was no big deal, as most drivers were courteous and went rather slow. I was glad I had a Buff with me, as I used it over my nose/mouth when drivers kicked up a little too much dust.

The crowd had thinned out completely by mile 7. I had two runners in sight ahead of me, and one close behind. As I ran-walked-woggled I heard the sound of ice cracking where the sun hit the frozen water drainage at the side of the road. Sedona rocked my concept of Arizona; first it was “cold” (the Arizona runners all had on winter gear!), and then I saw cactus surrounded by snow!

Believe it: snow on the cactus!
Believe it: snow on the cactus!

As I passed the spotter at mile 8, I overheard his radio: the lead marathoner had just passed mile 17! We exchanged pleasantries and he clapped and said, “I’m proud of you!” as I passed. That reminded me of Mom, and I powered on to the next aid station. The aid stations were the best! All of them were staffed by themed-groups, including “run from the zombies” and a group with big flowers on their heads.

The majority of the marathoners passed me on their way back as I hit miles 10 and 11. Everyone with breath to spare told me to keep it up and encouraged me onward. One of the last inbound marathoners passed me at mile 12.5—in a particularly hilly section of the course—and I’d bet she was old enough to be my grandmother. Inspired, I ran down the hill to the marathon turnaround and did a funny little dance as I went around the cone. There was a runner there awaiting transport back to the start, which I wished I’d noticed before I danced around the cone. Then it was back uphill towards the start.

A few miles in, I found Jackie! Or rather she found me. If you’re running a marathon and suspect you’re doing to DNF or otherwise come in close to the end, I cannot recommend this highly enough: bring a chaser! First, it was great to see a friend encouraging you on. Second, Jackie had gone absolutely nuts and brought enough snacks, drinks, and treats for pretty much the entire field of runners. She said the Japanese runners were confused by red vines (I guess those don’t exist there) and she had to explain that they were food. “Sugar?” one asked. Anyway, from that point forward, Jackie met me every mile or two. In addition to providing moral support, she also refilled my water bottles, mixed Nuun for me, and had every snack imaginable on hand. While I had put snacks in my Orange Mud vest, knowing I’d be out on the course all day, the Honey Stinger gingerbread waffle was the perfect treat when she offered.

"sedrona"? Completely blue skies made for good photo drone weather at the start
“sedrona”? Completely blue skies made for good photo drone weather at the start

By that time there were only two runners behind me. The famous Pink Jeeps that I’d recently seen on an episode of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” drove up and down the course checking on us back-of-the-packers. At several points the Pink Jeep crew or their leader pulled up and offered me bottled water or Clif Shots. Around mile 22 or so, the crew leader tol me the crew was starting to close down the course. I said if course policy was to sag-wagon/sweep the last runners, I would completely understand, but I did have my own race crew to watch over me (and sweep me if necessary) and would prefer to finish. The Pink Jeep crew leader obtained the “a-okay” to carry on, once all were assured that I knew what I was doing and would be safe. The U-Hauls taking down the course also offered me water and provisions. Part of their job was also to sweep any trash that had landed on the side of the road. (Aid stations had garbage bags, but some runners forgot that when running through a National Park, you don’t drop your snack wrappers on the ground.) I let them know I had talked to the Pink Jeep crew leader and that I had my own crew, and was going to carry on.

Which I did, meeting Jackie every mile or so for more water, Nuun, and at times a snack. My pace was somewhat erratic, with little bursts of run until my lungs got fiery again. The Pink Jeep leader vacillated between thinking I’d hit the finish line before it closed at 4:00 and assuming I wouldn’t. At mile 24 I must have been looking somewhat pathetic. Jackie asked, “do you want to go another mile?” I said OH HELL NO, I’m going to finish this race.

The last 1/4 of the course returned to pavement
The last 1/4 of the course returned to pavement

Less than a mile before the finish line, I hit the intersection of the highway that is the main road through town. I sent Jackie a text to try to figure out whether to turn right or go straight and then realized that DUH I had the course map on my phone. As I turned, a woman in a Sedona Marathon shirt came running up. “Finish line is this way!” Sadly, I have forgotten her name, but she is definitely The Spirit of Running embodied. Having finished the half marathon, she had showered, changed clothes, and come back to first cheer, and then help the last marathoners find their way to the finish line! As we walked/ran small spurts toward the finish line I learned that she had flown in earlier in the week (a smart thing to do, as it gave her time to adjust to the elevation). Jackie met us a few hundred feet from the finish line.

Just before the finish line there is a little hill, and most runners take off from the top and run to the finish. I gave it a shot, my legs willingly and my lungs grudgingly, and crossed under the finish line truss as the race director and his crew were removing the signage. Everyone cheered, which was pretty cool. Even though the timing mat was gone—as were all the non-race-personnel, the finish line festival, and pretty much any other trace of evidence that a race had happened—The Spirit of Running made sure to present me with a finisher’s medal and some cookies.

Post-race margarita and hard-earned bling
Post-race margarita and hard-earned bling

As I pointed out in my BibRave.com review, in addition to having no reason to complain, I have extra reasons to be thrilled with race management. First, after assuring themselves that I would be safe, they allowed me to finish even after the course officially closed. Second, as I turned the last corner off the main out-and-back portion, The Spirit of Running made sure I found my way and got me to the finish line. While I didn’t get an official time (the timing system was shut down after 7 hours, well beyond the 6.5 hour limit advertised) I was presented with a medal and allowed to raid the snacks. Finally, the race staff taking down the finish line and packing things up thanked me for coming out to run the race and were sincerely interested in what I thought of the race. It felt like pretty amazing hospitality for one of the very slowest runners out there.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary bib to run The Double Your Luck Challenge because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Find and write race reviews at BibRave.com All opinions in this review are my own. (There is no “sponsored content” or advertorial here!)

BibRave Pros + Bling
BibRave Pros + Bling

While I originally planned to show up Friday night so I could check out the Sin City Shootout opening night parties after I picked up my packet, my elderly cat has been refusing to eat and is now on steroids…combine that with the week I was just out of town for the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge, and I didn’t want to leave the poor meow alone for more than a night. So I flew in Saturday evening. While the Tropicana was the official host hotel for the Sin City events, I had a friend in town who already had a room at Harrah’s, and I love me some free crash space. The main advantage of packet pickup on Friday is the ability to purchase the special Sin City Shootout mug, which comes with a slew of drink specials at the various affiliated parties over the weekend. There was no pickup Saturday, and I wasn’t about to go out drinking the night before a race, so no parties for me!

I got up early Sunday and went down to hail a cab. The one thing I disliked about this event is that there was no transportation provided, and facebook group or other way to arrange a ride share. The Sin City Shootout host hotel is the Tropicana, though I stayed at nearby Harrah’s. My taxi out to the event cost around $30, and I wasn’t the only one who took a taxi—it would have been nice to have a way to coordinate rides. Some people did drive, but since I was just staying overnight the cost of a car rental was crazy. There was ample free parking right by the start/finish, so locals scored a great deal.

Start/Finish pre-race
Start/Finish pre-race

While I had planned an hour before the race for packet pickup, I think it took more like 10 minutes. There was a line, but it moved rapidly. The Sin City Run packets were small but mighty! I really like it when a race packet has minimal paper (like flyers and stuff) and only runner-related items. Packets contained your race bib, a discount on EnergyBits, samples of gummy vitamins, Clif Bar minis, and samples of BioFreeze, in addition to safety pins. Unfortunately I didn’t get to pick up my shirt because two of the boxes of shirts were stuck on a UPS truck somewhere, so I’ll be getting mine in the mail. (They only had small, and I’m not small.) The shirts are cute, a grey basic cotton tee with the Sin City Run logo on the front. I know I’ll wear mine.

BibRave: #OrangeIsTheNewFast
BibRave: #OrangeIsTheNewFast

Initially, I was freezing cold—it was in the 40s, even though I’d checked the weather report and it said 60s!—and I really wished I’d brought a heat sheet or a long-sleeved shirt. Before the 5k, BibRave Pro Laurel (aka Running to Happiness) and I huddled in her car and had some BibRave Pro bonding time prior to the start. Both of us happened to wear our 2XU winter-weight Hyoptik compression tights, and I for one was VERY pleased for the warmth. For the 5k I pulled my Buff up like a balaclava to cover my neck and head, and give me a little extra heat-retention until the sun came out. Eventually the sun did come out, and I started to warm up quite a bit.

The course was flat and as I mentioned 100% blacktop. There was the most minor of downhills at one point in the course, but you really had to be paying attention to notice it. Both courses run through Sunset Park, a protected wildlife dune just past the airport. The 5k race course takes one loop around a portion of the blacktop-paved trails, and the 10k race takes that loop twice, plus a little mini-loop to add the mileage. (Given the layout of the trails, I suspect there were few options for adjusting the course length.)

For the 5k, I ran with Laurel. She was running 2-1 intervals at a pace of about 11 minutes/mile. (I think I remembered that right.) She was kind of kicking my butt, actually, but I wanted to try the 5k as a challenge. This seemed like a good idea for the first 2.6 miles or so, then I started lagging. Frankly, my legs were pretty leaden from last weekend’s running-of-the-Dopey. I made it anyway, of course, but my legs were very cranky.

IMG_3137
Bunna-Bunny Big Ears–desert hare or blacktailed jackrabbit?

Despite being right in the middle of Vegas, the race course seemed very nature-y and not particularly urban. I spotted at least two dozen bunnies, and during the 5k Laurel taught me that the ones I call Bunna-Bunny-Big-Ears are not bunnies, but hares. (Yes, I still make up names for cute animals I see while running. I blame the lack of oxygen to the brain.) Well, they might be blacktailed jackrabbits. But she also told me she learned that they can control their body temperatures with their ears. Very cool. I wish I could do that.

 

 

I was a little disappointed to not see any lizards while I was running, but it occurred to me that while lizards can be desert-dwellers perhaps they don’t like dunes?

Sin City Run Aid Station--yes, thats just water
Sin City Run Aid Station–yes, that’s just water

The course had one aid station with water (and music and cheering) which each runner passed twice during the 5k run and four times during the 10k run. The course was marked on the blacktop with chalk, with cones and XXX where appropriate to make sure runners didn’t stray from the path. There were volunteers at every point where the course might have been even a little bit confusing, as well as at the few places where the course crossed a road open to vehicles. The volunteers were really great, cheering for every runner who went through the course. In the beginning this might have been so they could stay warm, but they kept up their enthusiasm even after the sun came out.

Bunnies!
Bunnies!

For the 10k, I decided to switch back to my usual 1-1 intervals (which later degraded to 30 seconds and 1:30 intervals) since my legs were just not feeling it. The sun came out, and the sky was blue, so it was gorgeous out, pretty much the perfect day for a run.  I tried to photograph my new “friends” during the 10k but they wouldn’t hold still. Every time I heard a new bird I stopped to see if I could find him, since I’ve never lived in the desert. I’m not sure how to describe the landscaping, but it was a natural mix of yucca-like stuff, a few cactus, and the usual desert-like trees. I could see mountains (and snow!) in the background.

The finish line had someone to announce each finisher, which I thought was a nice touch for a smaller race. There is a single finisher medal for either 5k or 10k, though if you do both you get a bonus medal. The race medal is poker-chip-themed, and double-sided enamel. The bonus medal is also poker-chip-themed, and is a spinner. Both feature wide colorful ribbons. Overall, I thought these were executed beautifully.

Why yes, that was a rumbly from my tumbly...
Why yes, that was a rumbly from my tumbly…

A few steps beyond the finish line runners had an assortment of post-race snacks, including a beverage called rumble that I’d never tried before. (The vanilla maple is delicious.) Other offerings were water, bananas, Clif organic trail mix bars, pretzels, and tortilla strips.

Post-race snacks? Yes, please! #EatAllTheFoods
Post-race snacks? Yes, please! #EatAllTheFoods

As I wrote on BibRave.com, this is less of a “destination race” and more of a “race in a destination.” It was small but mighty! This is the complete opposite of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas runs (which are huge, urban, and at night). This would be the perfect race for someone who wants to go to a small but extremely well-managed event. This would make an ideal race for a friends’ getaway weekend; I could see combining running these events with a longer weekend in Vegas—maybe go to the opening parties Friday, see an afternoon show Saturday, run Sunday morning, and then head to a champagne brunch buffet.

After my race, I convinced Laurel to drive me back to Harrah’s. I grabbed a shower, changed clothes, and put almost everything back in the suitcase. I met my roommate down in the high-limit room, and we headed to lunch and caught up. (I had almost convinced her to run with me, but since she was in town for a poker tournament she quickly came to her senses and decided staying out late and getting up early were not a recipe for a winning poker tournament.) When we said goodbye, I stopped to get a fruity frozen drink (because hello, Vegas).

Doesn't everything in Vegas merit a fruity drink?
Doesn’t everything in Vegas merit a fruity drink?

According to Runner’s World, Thanksgiving day is the most popular day to run in the United States. I’m not surprised, since it is a holiday that tends to center around food, and the start of the holiday season (read: Season of Unlimited Feasting) for many. Personally, I think it’s nice to have an active activity that the whole family can enjoy.

This years shirt is definitely on trend, as current running styles favor neon for visibility
This years shirt is definitely on trend, as current running styles favor neon for visibility

My first turkey trot was in Austin, back in the late 1990s. I didn’t so much “run” as “walk and shuffle” it, but that’s part of the beauty of the turkey trot–most of them are relatively short distances, and welcome participants of all abilities. The largest events have multiple distances from as short as a mile to a 10k or longer.

Historically, my family has celebrated both Thanksgiving and Christmas (and usually Dad’s birthday) over Thanksgiving weekend. For me, this meant going back to my home town, leaving all my healthy eating and exercise habits at home, and laughing with my brothers while consuming mass quantities of carbs and diet coke.  Three years ago one of my brothers and his wife happened to have a membership to a tricked-out Lifetime Fitness and took me as a guest. That was the first “turkey trot” of my current running career.

Detroit Turkey Trot 2014 gear
Detroit Turkey Trot 2014 gear

Last year, I decided to convince my family to run the Detroit Turkey Trot. It was an epic failure in that regard, as every single one had an excuse not to run. I decided that even though it meant getting up before the sun and running in weather colder than what I’ve run in since moving to California in 2008, I was going to get in a run. (I may have had delusions of participating in the Runner’s World runstreak. We’ll pretend that didn’t happen.) I drove down to Cobo Hall to register, grab some selfies with The Parade Company giant heads, and hatch a race-day plan.

The Big Heads are made of paper mache; according to The Parade Company, Detroit has the largest collection in the world
The Big Heads are made of paper mache; according to The Parade Company, Detroit has the largest collection in the world

The Detroit Turkey Trot is one of the largest turkey trots in the country. Events include a 10k Turkey Trot, 5k Stuffin’ Strut, the Drumstick Double (run the 10k then the 5k), and the Mashed Potato Mile. The 10k route largely follows the Thanksgiving Day Parade route, lined with spectators (some of whom camp out in RVs all night to save their spots!) and through the gorgeous architectural reminders that Detroit was once one of the greatest cities in North America.

One of my favorite downtown Detroit buildings. Nobody builds like this anymore.
One of my favorite downtown Detroit buildings. Nobody builds like this anymore.

About two miles from the end of the course there is a Christmas cookies and candy canes aid station, and when the weather gets cold enough there are volunteers designated at each water station to throw rock salt and gravel to prevent ice from forming! There are shirts for all participants and medals for the 5k, 10k, and Drumstick Double, as well as what might be the world’s most efficient post-race food stations. (Yes, better than Disney.)

This is the first time we'd seen each other since...like 1996.
This is the first time we’d seen each other since…like 1996.

This year, I convinced Dad to join me. (His fiancee, worried he’d repeated his “I haven’t trained, but I think I’ll go kill this race” stunt from the Detroit International Half Marathon this October, made me promise not to let him get hurt.) My master plan was to have a good time, get a little exercise, and hit some unique portals in Ingress (my latest semi-fitness-related obsession, but more on that later.) So I set my Garmin for 1 minute intervals, with the intent to stroll a minute and jog at an easy pace for a minute.

Sporting my BibRave orange at the Detroit Turkey Trot.
Sporting my BibRave orange at the Detroit Turkey Trot.

The weather was warmer than last year (no ice danger at the aid stations!), and though there were a few sprinkles in the beginning, it turned out to be a gorgeous day for a run. There were a bunch of cute costumes, from turkeys to Santa suits. At the end of the run, we had some snacks and drove home to the Thanksgiving feast in Dad’s new condo. After a shower and a quick nap (being on “west coast time,” I had stayed up WAY too late), I felt great and was ready to celebrate with my family.

Speaking of family, my less-curmudgeonly brother went for a run. He’s about to turn 40, so he’s freaking out about “not getting fat” (and not being 30!). Though he refused my invitation to the Turkey Trot, he ran 6.3 miles–just because he always has to one-up me.

IMG_2846
The 2014 finisher medal! Different colors of ribbons indicate which race you ran

If you’re interested in running a turkey trot in 2017–hey, it’s not to early to think about it!–a quick google search for “turkey trot” and the name of your town or the nearest large-ish town will likely get you a handful of results. BibRave.com, a race review website, has participant-written reviews of many turkey trots.

You probably can't register today for a 2016 turkey trot...but soon!
You probably can’t register today for a 2016 turkey trot…but soon!

Naturally a ton of my friends and fellow run-bloggers also ran this year. Here are just a few of their turkey trot reviews, for your reading pleasure. Running With Ollie chose the Cox Running Club Thanksgiving Day 5k in Fort Worth. My friend Andrew ran trails with Brazen Racing at the Nitro Turkey and Quarry Turkey (check out the bling!). Running on Happy ran the Cleveland Turkey Trot and had a different experience this year compared to last year. My First 5k and More did the Troy (NY) Turkey Trot 10k AND the 5k (check out the holiday presents, oh my!). Marcia’s Healthy Slice pointed out that races like the Mount Prospect Jaycees Turkey Trot are often at bargain prices. Chocolate Runs Judy did a turkey trot in Cohoes (NY)(see? they are everywhere!). Lauren Runs tackled the Suntree Turkey Trot. Weight Off My Shoulders did a race with a cute name, the Gobble Gobble Gobble Four Miler in Somerville (MA). The Tiny Terror ran her second turkey trot in Florence (SC). Finally, not every turkey trot is a shorter distance–Runspirations by Melissa did a full half marathon! (I love the medal for that race–what a great reminder of blessings all year.)

Mashed Potato Mile-rs get the same bling, different ribbon
Mashed Potato Mile-rs get the same bling, different ribbon

Did you run a turkey trot this year? A gobble wobble? How about a stuffin’ strut, mashed potato mile, or other holiday event?

It was a dark and foggy morning...
It was a dark and foggy morning…

If you run and have internet access, you’ve probably heard of The Oatmeal and the book, “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.” (If you haven’t, hie thee to the website and go read it already!) After the book was released last year Mr. Inman (that’s The Oatmeal, and the author of The Oatmeal) announced a trail race in Washington state. The 2,000 available slots sold out so quickly he added a second day. While there was also a virtual option for the inaugural Beat The Blerch, there is nothing like being there–virtual racing is not virtual reality.

Appropriately decorated starting line!
Appropriately decorated starting line!

For 2015, Beat the Blerch became a series: two days in Carnation, WA plus a race in Sacramento and another one somewhere in New Jersey. While Sacramento is closer to me in terms of travel, it happened to conflict with another event I’d already registered for, so it was off to Carnation for me! My friend Jennifer asked if I’d like to share costs on a hotel and car, and just go for one night. It might seem goofy to fly up on one day and fly back the next, but I’ve done so much travel for running and work this year that I am starting to cherish the nights I get to sleep in my own bed.

It’s just a quick hop from Oakland to Seattle (I #LUV Southwest Airlines!) and we packed in carry-ons only, so we were quickly at our destination. Jennifer introduced me to the game Ingress (another post for another day) as we grabbed a quick meal and then headed off to bed.

 

As promised, there was cake
As promised, there was actual cake on the course.

 

One of the things I love about run travel is hanging out with other runners. When sharing space to prep for a race, I often find I learn sweet new running tips, and this race was no different. Race day morning we laid out our stuff, grabbed some items from the hotel’s breakfast buffet, and headed over to Carnation. We we’re sure about parking and logistics, so we arrived super early. Like I think we were the fifth car parked in our lot. It was a quick maybe five minute walk over to the packet pickup area, where we got bibs, shirts, and other Blerch-based swag in our runner packets (packaged in a Zappos bag with an adorable Blerch right on the front).

 

 

 

Mugs, water bottles, books! Christmas in September!
Mugs, water bottles, books! Christmas in September!

 

Exploding Kittens: Kickstarter Edition
Exploding Kittens: Kickstarter Edition

Naturally we also had to check out the Blerchandise. In addition to water bottles, coffee mugs, Oatmeal graphic novels, stickers, shirts, and socks, runners could also get copies of the newly released Exploding Kittens card game. I already had mine–and the NSFW edition–since I participated in the KickStarter. These were the last of the KickStarter edition decks, so any runners who missed out had one last chance…

 

 

 

 

 

Who knew a pre-race donut could be so relaxing? (Probably my friend Angie, but that's another story)
Who knew a pre-race donut could be so relaxing? (Probably my friend Angie, but that’s another story)

After dropping our stuff in the car and putting on the bibs, it was time to loll around in the Zappos lounge. I was glad we were early enough to enjoy the pre-race festivities! In addition to the soda and junk food buffet, there were warm grilled cheese sandwiches and a DIY marshmallow treat station. After indulging we lounged on some giant airbed sofas with furry cushions while watching junk TV.  I’m not going to lie, I was a little worried about eating half a grilled cheese right before the race. (To save you the suspense: I’m now wondering whether I can hire a grilled cheese truck to follow me to races.)

 

 

 

 

Marshmallow creation station--who knew whipped cream on a marshmallow could be so good?
Marshmallow creation station–who knew whipped cream on a marshmallow could be so good?

Actually I had no desire to eat most of the things inside the Zappos lounge. The lounge staff encouraged us all to languish on the fuzzy sofas and watch just a few more episodes of Real Housewives. (“You don’t really want to RUN, do you? It’s so cozy and relaxing here!”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffet pants!
Buffet pants!

Over in the Zappos tent, I also learned something new: “buffet pants” (and bought a pair, of course). Buffet pants are for post-race loungewear….or lazing around the house, or perhaps on the way to a basketball game. (I’ve actually never worn mine outside the house…)

 

 

 

 

The buffet: part two, baked goods
The buffet: part two, baked goods

 

Not the "boob wizards" of the NSFW edition of Exploding Kittens, but pretty good wizards
Not the “boob wizards” of the NSFW edition of Exploding Kittens, but pretty good wizards

Prior to the race I indulged in not just the grilled cheese, but also a donut, and a marshmallow covered in chocolate sauce, and a few other carbolicious snacky items. I decided not to eat the packaged candy, passed on the chips, and left all of the soda in the cooler. Past races have taught me that carbonated beverages before a race–no matter how tasty and appealing they may be–BAD IDEA. (Save the champagne for after the race. Or practice belching. ’nuff said.) Seriously though, the grilled cheese was a great idea. The truck just kept bringing them out, and I’d watch to see if there was a plain cheese (some had bacon in them, of course). I was trying to figure out how I could make my own grilled cheese on race day mornings, but frankly I hate mornings and usually  barely get up in time to press play on the coffee pot. So until I manage to find a grilled cheese truck to follow me around, this is likely my last race with tasty gooey cheesy goodness for breakfast.

 

 

Blerchy advice
Blerchy advice

As promised, the aid stations featured cake. Nuun was a great stand-in for the magical purple fizzy beverage. (Seriously, just go read “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.” You might just want to buy the book, too–then you can bring it to the 2016 Beat The Blerch race to have it signed.) There were also multiple photo opps with Blerches, Sasquatch, and sofas. Shenanigans ensued. Some actual running happened as well, but I was busy taking pictures and enjoying myself, definitely not gunning for a PR or an age group award. For the most part, people seemed to be having a good time. The only drawback is that when you put cake in a Dixie cup, it sticks to the sides, and you have to either pull apart the cup or use a finger (questionable when running) to pry it out. The forks were at the finish line.

 

 

 

On-course Blerch!
On-course Blerch!

I posted a few pictures online for my friends, and the ones who are not runners were notably confused. (“I’m not judging,” wrote one, “and I’m willing to be educated, but…why does that giant marshmallow have nipples?”)

 

 

 

 

Every race should have sofas at the aid stations.
Every race should have sofas at the aid stations.
Shade on the course
Shade on the course

The trail run was pretty cool. It’s an area I’ve never run, so all new to me. There was plenty of shade, and the terrain wasn’t particularly crazy or steep. I’ve never fueled with cake, and expect most of the other runners hadn’t either. The hardest part is that the icing sticks to the inside of the dixie cups, so you have to either tear the cup open or use a clean finger to swipe the cake out. Much to my delight, I did not see piles of churdle on the trail, which means people were not over-caking themselves. (This was, by some reports, a problem last year.)

At one point I high-fived The Oatmeal himself. Naturally I had no idea who he was at the time. (“Um, why is that dude running in an inflatable green suit?) Oops. Fortunately he didn’t seem to remember when I had him sign my book after the race, or if he did he didn’t hold it against me. Probably the former, since there was a giant line of people who wanted him to sign things.

 

 

Crossing the finish line
Crossing the finish line

 

Clif Bar & Company, a little business from Emeryville, CA
Clif Bar & Company, a little business from Emeryville, CA

The start and finish area did have a few of the normal race booths, including Clif Bars, Naked juices, etc. (but that’s not really why any of us went to Beat the Blerch). Just in case some real runners showed up an expected to see race-related types of things.

 

 

 

 

 

Blerch love
Blerch love

 

 

Moment of transparency, I can’t seem to get these freaking photos to behave themselves. Argh. If you happen to be reading this and are a WordPress ninja, please let me know! I need some help wrangling photos and layout, and I suspect that is going to require me to change the template (which I don’t have the mad skillz to do personally).

 

 

 

 

While we didn't eat directly from the buckets, there were Nutella sandwiches to be had at the aid stations and finish lines
While we didn’t eat directly from the buckets, there were Nutella sandwiches to be had at the aid stations and finish lines

We did stick around to take some photos with the absurdly large Nutella buckets. One nice perk of this race: free photo downloads. (You can also buy copies for a pretty reasonable price.)

Then it was off to Starbucks for some real coffee. I don’t know about you, but hotel breakfast buffet “coffee” doesn’t really do it for me. While waiting for the taste lattes to appear, we ducked into the restroom for a hobo bath. I am ever so thankful to Shower Pill for making this much easier–and I am sure those who shared the flight home with me were also thankful! (Shower Pill is like a baby wipe, only made for adults and intended to tide you over until you can take a real shower. The wipes are stronger than baby wipes, maybe the thickness of a washcloth, and one wipe is enough to do an entire adult body.) I’m a packing ninja, so it was a quick Shower Pill, face wash and rinse, quick pat down with a towel (you don’t need one with the Shower Pill, but I’d used regular face cleaner to do my face/neck), lotion, deodorant, and fresh clothes all around.

 

The sun came out, and it was a beautiful day to run
The sun came out, and it was a beautiful day to run

Did you run in one of the Beat The Blerch races this year? I’d love to hear what the California and New Jersey events were like!

Disclosure: I’m a member of the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Blog Team. In exchange for helping promote the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll race series, I received some swag and a discounted Tour Pass. To save $15 on any race in 2015 (other than Vegas), use code TrainWithBain. 

Gratuitous shot of me with a turtle mascot. (Seemed appropriate, since I ran with a group called the Running Turtles.)
Gratuitous shot of me with a turtle mascot. (Seemed appropriate, since I ran with a group called the Running Turtles.)

After running that mile in the sand, I was both thankful it was just a mile, and ready to run on pavement again. (By the way, if you go run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mile in the Sand, or any sand race, a few tips for you: take a Buff to cover your nose and mouth, be prepared to rinse/wash your sunglasses due to salt water mist accumulation, and buy sand socks.) Saturday night my hostess Meghan introduced me to a crowd I’m affectionately calling “the pod people” because  John Thompson recorded part of Episode 44 of his podcast, Runner of a Certain Age, at dinner. Several of them are part of Team Shenanigans, which I’d describe as fun runners who are all about being encouraging and following good racing etiquette.

To find Runner of a Certain Age, you can go to the facebook page, the podcast blog page for this specific episode (see pictures of me and the crew at dinner, me and John before the race, and the “unofficial Fireball aid station” from Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego), or right to where you can play the podcast itself.

Dinner was great (Sirena EATalian, if you’re looking for good food; sorry but you’ll have to find your own good company). After dinner Meghan and I went over to the end of the Team RWB pre-race dinner (which was BBQ, so definitely not for this vegetarian–and I’m not sure about the wisdom of fueling a half marathon with massive quantities of meat, but hey…). I met some really cool people (re-met a few from the morning’s pre-Mile in the Sand photos) and cooed at a few cute babies. Since Virginia Beach has a big ol’ Navy installation right there, Team RWB is gigantic. If you’ve never heard of Team RWB, you should check them out–it’s all about camaraderie and integrating members of the military, who are often on the move, into community and fun. Anyway.

We got up early on race morning, to avoid traffic and make sure we got to parking and all of the pre-race photo meet-ups. There was more than ample parking at the ampitheatre, and then a free shuttle over to the race staging area. Some people didn’t read their pre-race emails and ended up driving around confused they couldn’t get into the parking lot for the convention center, which was CLEARLY explained in the pre-race emails (that was the VIP parking area). Seriously people, don’t be that runner–read all the pre-race emails. (If it turns out they are just ads or whatever, go ahead and delete them, but at least read them, there might be important information in there.) The free shuttle was easy and dropped us off right at the start.

After dousing myself in sunblock, eating a banana, and checking in my bag, we walked across the parking lot to the memorial near the convention center. Conveniently, this is where everyone plans their photos, so as long as you can move fairly quickly, it’s a simple matter to get into pictures for the Sparkle Skirts lovers, Half Fanatics/Marathon Maniacs, etc.

Rain clouds and wind at the Veteran's Memorial (aka group photo meet-up spot for every running group)
Rain clouds and wind at the Veteran’s Memorial (aka group photo meet-up spot for every running group)

Then we wandered over to the convention center near the VIP entrance for some snaps with the pod people, and I attempted to meet up with the Rock ‘n’ Blog team and local Ambassadors of Rock. Sadly, that was a Facebook fail; only three of us managed to find each other in the designated location. The only people in front of us were either in handcycles, or in race chairs, or pushing race chairs, and two of the three of us we wearing Rock ‘n’ Blog shirts, so it should have been fairly idiot-proof. Nope. Oh well. I blame the clouds.

"Hey, where is everyone?"
“Hey, where is everyone?”
Suddenly there were three of us!
Suddenly there were three of us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this, I learned a handy safety tip: if you’re getting photos taken in a shirt you haven’t run in yet, get the pics done early enough that you can change shirts–put the photo shirt in your gear bag and check it.

Speaking of the clouds, it started to rain during the starting actions. Since I was in corral two thousand, I sat down under a tree on the grass and waited for the first dozen plus corrals to go by, while keeping my glasses dry. (I hate running with my eyeglasses, but until I get the new contact lenses, I hate colliding with inanimate objects more and so I wear glasses.) Then when it was my turn, I hopped into my assigned corral and started the run.

It was a dark and stormy morning...
It was a dark and stormy morning…

The rain actually felt quite good, and I think it kept the feeling of humidity down for the first part of the race. It was still more humid than my body likes, so I was trying to be conscious of my running pace as I did my 1 minute intervals. At the halfway point, I was on pace to be able to match my PR, but then the rain had stopped and I felt the full effects of heat and humidity. Since no race is ever worth hurting myself, I decided to back off a bit to make sure I didn’t feel horrible or get sick before the end of the race.

A view of the marina, on the way to the finish line!
A view of the marina, on the way to the finish line!

Since I had never run in Virginia Beach, every piece of the course was brand-spankin’ new to me. I understand some of the locals regularly run parts of the route, and that parts of it are used in other courses, so it might not have had the same effect on everyone. I liked getting to run through both the street-side part of the first block away from the beach, and on the boardwalk-type area next to it.

Now that I play Ingress, I am sure this is a portal.
Now that I play Ingress, I am sure this is a portal.

 

I also enjoyed running through so much lush and green! Since I live in California (and psst, in case you are living under a rock and haven’t heard, we have a mad drought going on here) I don’t see a lot of lush and green of the wet and squishy kind. Part of the course runs through Camp Pendleton, which seriously confused me because in my head, Camp Pendleton is in California. (By the way, THAT fact took my brain a while to assimilate because actual Pendleton–like Pendleton blankets–is in Oregon.) Also I was at that point in the course where the really obvious becomes profound. Example thought: “running negative splits is so simple–you just have to run faster on the second half of the course!” (No kidding. Good thing they don’t let me play with the science after a long run.)

Course support!
Course support!

One road has runners going out down one side, and back up the other (after completing a loop beyond the street). I was surprised and super happy to see No Meat Athlete, Team RWB, and others had set up unofficial aid stations. I had a tasty vegan cupcakelette from No Meat Athlete on the way out, and the squeeze ice from Team RWB I had really helped with the heat on the way back. (To find a No Meat Athlete running group near you, choose the “running groups” option in the menu. Most of the links go to group Facebook pages. To find a Team RWB chapter, choose “get involved” and then “join the team.”)

The rain did not return, though some really nice people cheering and/or brunching outside provided some sprinklers for us to run through.

Not going to lie, I DANCED through every garden hose and law sprinkler possible!
Not going to lie, I DANCED through every garden hose and law sprinkler possible!

Race sponsor Humana provided wet-down sponges and a mist tunnel to try to help keep runners from overheating. The mist tunnel faked out some runners, who saw it and thought it was the finish line (despite being tiny, inflatable, and announcer-less). I hit the finish line, collected a bunch of bling–half marathon medal, remix medal, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Heavy Medals series “Stairway to Seven.” The finish line was well-stocked with water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, Power Bars, bananas, and chips–the usual Rock ‘n’ Roll past-race fare.

I collected my bling for the half marathon, the remix challenge, and the Stairway to Seven “Heavy Medal.”

This Stairway to Seven is brought to you by Crazy Richard's Peanut Butter Burst
This Stairway to Seven is brought to you by Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter Burst

There was a Remix medal too, of course (otherwise why run in the sand?). Bling collecting was followed by brunching with my new running buddies. I don’t remember what I ate, but I had two of these really fantastically tasty brunch beverages. Eventually, the drive home, showers, and–to the great puzzlement of the three-year-old living in the house–voluntary napping. But first, one mug shot for posterity (because in the age of the internet, it’s all “selfies or it didn’t happen”):

Proof I went to Virginia Beach and ran with Meghan!
Proof I went to Virginia Beach and ran with Meghan!

Overall, I really enjoyed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Remix experience. I swore I’d not do another mile in the sand, but I think now I would if I had the proper gear (Buff to keep sand out of nose/mouth; “sand socks” for running, so my feet didn’t get filled with sand; and pack a spare cloth/towel for wiping the glasses after rinsing them in the drinking fountain). I’d run the half marathon again for certain! The course support from neighbors/residents and local running groups definitely rivals San Diego (minus the unofficial aid stations offering some questionable hydration strategies).

Next in the Rock ‘n’ Roll series (at least for me): Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose! Not quite my home-town race, but within driving distance. The only drawback of running races is the travel costs. I was really lucky to be able to run Virginia Beach, and look forward to returning for one of the locally produced J&A races next year.

Disclosure: I’m part of the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Blog Team.  Each team member received a 3-pack TourPass (I used mine to upgrade to the TourPass Unlimited) and other perks in exchange for promoting the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series. All opinions are my own (and I’ve got plenty of them!).

Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach bling!

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach event celebrated a 15th birthday this weekend! It was my first time at the event, and I am very thankful to my friend Meghan (and her husband) for letting me crash at their house (thereby saving the entire cost of a hotel), and to Southwest Airlines (for having an awesome loyalty program that let me use my points for the flight to Norfolk). Even with the Tour Pass to eat the race entry fees, flights and hotels are not cheap!

Since there was a nationwide “slow down” on Friday (something about East Coast weather), my flight–like every other flight–was late. There was just enough time to drive to Meghan’s and catch a nap before we were up (before the sun!) to drive over to the Mile in the Sand. As we parked at the convention center, there was a veritable downpour.

Fortunately, it only lasted a minute or two–just enough time to wet down the sand, but not long enough to make mud. (Now that I’ve run the event, I know I should have wished for a bit more rain.) We met up with friends and walked down to the beach. Hooray! My first time in Virginia Beach! At first glance, it actually looks quite a bit like every other beach with significant tourist traffic: boardwalk lined with hotels, with the next street up covered in casual and fast food, and shops selling t-shirts and inflatable beach toys.

It was a novelty to see the sunrise over the ocean (since I now associate sunsets with oceans) as I walked over to pick up my Mile in the Sand bib. The wind was whipping through the kiosk tents so hard that the bibs were clipped together with binder clips, and it almost took two people to wrangle one. After running from 17th to 20th to 19th for various pictures–Meghan knew all but two people running the event–everyone piled onto the sand into a single, giant corral. While there were some mile times posted in a corral-like fashion, that didn’t really dictate where people ended up standing.  I’m betting this is largely due to the fact that running in the sand is an entirely different beast–making it hard for us non-sand-runners to estimate–but more on that in a moment.

The giant corral was released to the race course, a simple out-and-back, in waves. This was a great idea, as there were a ton of people on the beach, and releasing all of us at once would have given Competitor Group’s insurance underwriters all fatal heart attacks. (The potential for tripping hazards was huge.) I’d put myself in the 10 minute corral, thinking it was just a mile and I could bust it out.

Runners on the Sand

Right. So remember how I said running in the sand is an entirely different beast? Yeah… So I’d decided to run barefoot, after assurances from the locals that the beach is raked daily, and knowing in general that I hate having sand in my shoes. Tevas in one hand and the other on my head to steady the hat, I took off from the corral. I was prepared for the softness of the sand, which means you have to pick up your feet a bit more, and when you land the ground is unstable. (It had not occurred to me until I was running that the real trick is to run more on your forefoot/toes than on the midfoot and heel. Because sand.) I was not prepared for the lateral movement every time my feet landed. On the one hand I was thrilled I’d chosen not to wear running shoes–part of the structure of which is to prevent lateral movement–but on the other hand I felt like a tool for not considering movement in every plane while choosing a corral.

Another thing I failed to consider: “over-spray” sand from runners sprinting past me as the breezes came across and directed the sand into my face. This changed my breathing strategy (in through the nose, out through the nose, lips sealed tightly) which slowed me down even more. Wait, make that two other things. Since the great contact lens incident (long story) last year, I’ve been wearing glasses. (I miss running in my Oakleys so, so, so much.) Even with no rain and no perceptible ocean spray hitting me, my glasses accumulated a ton of salt. So much that at the end of the race it looked like I was wearing scratched Plexiglas-ses instead of clear ones. The boardwalk drinking fountains provided a convenient rinse.

While it was fun, definitely a novel experience, I was definitely over it by the time I hit the end of the mile and collected my medal (and water and chips). Then I turned back to the kiosk where I’d picked up my bib in order to pick up my beach towel. That’s right, beach towel–no race shirt here. From there I returned to watch the final finishers, every last one cheered in by the staff, volunteers, and a pretty big crowd. One was a member of the local running group, the Running Turtles, and other turtles ran back to help bring her to the finish and make sure she was okay. Another was Derek, a member of Team RWB who has made it his goal to complete a 5k every month this year.

 

Pretty awesome, right? After we cheered in the finishers, we headed over to the beer garden. Rock ‘n’ Roll’s beer sponsor, Michelob Ultra, always has one beer for each runner after the race. I don’t drink beer, but I was happy to retrieve mine and hand it off to one of the Running Turtles. (Hey, it’s part of my registration fee!) Dusted off my feet, put on my sandals, and we hiked back over to the Convention Center for the Expo, since I still had to pick up my bib for the half.

Per usual, pretty much no line to pick up my bib. As I wandered through the Brooks gear at the Expo, I paused to take a selfie!

Left Shark!

We were hungry after the mile on the sand (mainly because we got up super early and hadn’t eaten breakfast), so we didn’t spend too much time at the Expo. Just enough for me to stalk some shoes, snap pics for a few tweets, and buy another Buff. (I’m in love with Buff.) Then it was off to #EatAllTheFoods.

To be continued…with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach half marathon! In the meanwhile, see what Kathryn over at Dancing to Running thought of the Mile on the Sand!

 

 

Eeek! I wrote this post months ago and thought I had published it…must have been runner’s brain. Disclosure: I’m a member of the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Blog Team. In exchange for helping promote the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll race series, I received some swag and a discounted Tour Pass. To save $15 on any race in 2015 (other than Vegas), use code TrainWithBain. To bring the cost of the Las Vegas half or marathon down to $145, use code TrainWithBainLV.

This is my second year doing the Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland course. In 2013 I ran a PR on a course I swear they made by linking up every hill in the immediate downtown-to-SE area. I used to live in Portland, I know it is flatter than that course! This year it was a new course and a very different trip (I usually try to go for a long weekend, but this was strictly overnight). I flew in early Saturday, returning to my favorite airport: live music, local eats, art…and everyone’s favorite airport carpet!

The old PDX carpet
The old PDX carpet
The NEW PDX Carpet!
The NEW PDX Carpet!

At the expo, I spent a good deal of time with the super nice people of Portland Running Company talking about the Garmin Forerunner line. I’ve been trying to decide what to do about tracking my running since the Nike+ app decided to stop synching with the website and Bia closed their doors. Ultimately, I decided I really don’t want a heart rate monitor on my running watch (I already own one, and don’t need another), and they only had the 220 with HRM. After the expo I did track down a 220 without the HRM at another running store nearby (the better to buy it on sale, not pay sales tax, and get it during the rebate period).

Most brilliant display, hands down, goes to Toyota.

Toyota basically made a mini-expo right in the middle
Toyota basically made a mini-expo right in the middle

They made an interactive set-up out of multiple vehicles and assorted iPads and techie stuff. Each car had an activity with it, including one that was a photo booth! (The kid in the picture above this paragraph is looking for accessories.)

No, you don't get to see the selfies.
No, you don’t get to see the selfies.

Each vehicle also had information about the car, geared towards potential buyers. Once you completed all three activities (there was a “tour pass” you got punched at each station) you could return to the tent and collect your prize: a car charger with adapters for various phones. Brilliant, since Toyota is a car company and you’ll keep this gadget in your car and see it daily.

I also finally tried on some Altra shoes. Since I have a shoe problem, I try not to put them on my feet unless I could buy them. Most running shoes that fit my feet are over $100, and I currently have three pair in rotation (well, one is in reserve right now), but since they had “open box” shoes for $59 (and remember, Oregon has no sales tax), and they had many in 10-11 sizes, I decided to try them on. I’ve been eyeing them for awhile, wondering how much different the zero drop base would feel since I’m already running in Brooks Pure Cadence most of the time. Answer? A LOT DIFFERENT. Apparently I got a dopey grin on my face, probably because it felt like I was walking on pillows! I haven’t taken them out for a run yet (um, they look so clean and tidy…) but I will, soon.

Since I neglected to snap a pic of the shoes, here's the event shirt
Since I neglected to snap a pic of the shoes, here’s the event shirt

Also at the expo, the Church of Scientology. Ah, Portland. I guess it was to be expected, given that the currently unaccredited Delphi High School–a breeding ground for future Sea Org members–isn’t far away, that Portland is home to a pretty, renovated, historic building turned into an Ideal Org, and that Multnomah County is home to all sorts of fun suits against Scientology/ No, no thank you, I do not want to take a fake “stress test” with your non-scientific gadget that originally used Campbell’s soup cans and must carry a label stating it is not a medical device in multiple states. Thanks for keeping it weird, though. (P.S. The OTO wants the boat back, okay?)

Seem to have lost the Scientology photo. So here is me with a giant panda!
Seem to have lost the Scientology photo. So here is me with a giant panda!

The remainder of the day (and there wasn’t that much left) was a mini-nap with two cute chihuahuas, dinner, and an evening in Portland with some of my Portland peeps, doing stuff I love and miss doing.  Sunday morning came way too early. Yikes.

I’d planned to run, but then discovered my friend Holly was doing the event too. I see her once a year (or less) so I wasn’t about to run just to run–WAY better to hang out with her and walk.

Why yes, we ARE near corral 17!
Why yes, we ARE near corral 17!

Only it turns out that woman walks fast. So fast that I was actually sorer from walking than I was from the last event I did running! Very glad the weather was cool and I had my compression tights on for support. The course was not the same as the one I did in 2013, but instead spent more time in the neighborhoods.

NE Portland selfie
NE Portland selfie

We almost went by my old building, just missed it by two blocks. Spring in Portland is gorgeous, and I really enjoyed retreading my old stomping grounds. Except for the big hill.

Thought Portland was flat? You've been lied to!
Thought Portland was flat? You’ve been lied to!

We finished in a relatively un-speedy time, crossed some of the old PDX carpeting made into the finish line, and grabbed snacks and beverages. To my absolute delight, the finish line concert was still going strong! As a slower runner, I am frequently crossing the finish line within a song or two of the concert ending, sometimes after it is over. Not this time–I got to sit on the grass, refuel, and rock out!

Portugal, The Man
Portugal, The Man

Near the end of the concert, I met up with fellow BibRave Pro Allison. This was my first event after joining the Pro team, so it was great to get to meet another Pro in real life! Turns out Allison also lives in an area without a lot of Pros, so it was her first meet-up too.

#BibRave Pro team in PDX
#BibRave Pro team in PDX

Just like every trip back to my adopted home, I didn’t want my time in Portland to end. After a shower, and snacks with friends, it was time to hit the airport. Luckily there is now a Cafe Yum! so I grabbed a Yum bowl to accompany my Coffee People mocha, and headed home.

Bling and bib in airport-carpet colors
Bling and bib in airport-carpet colors

Rock ‘n’ Roll “Groupie” Bling unlocked! Stay tuned for Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, where I run another Remix and pick up the “Roadie” bling.

 

If we’ve met in person, you probably know I travel for work. Sometimes I travel a lot. Usually it is to exciting places like Lakeview, Oregon and Clearlake, California–not exactly vacation-like destinations. Every once in awhile I’m assigned to a more interesting location, and there are some places I will jump at the chance to go. Central Florida is one of those places, in large part because I have family there. (My family isn’t particularly large, and since I’m the only one on the West Coast I take advantage of every opportunity I can to see them.) Central Florida in August isn’t exactly my first choice but hey, sometimes that’s how the chips fall.

This time around, I was in Melbourne, Florida. That’s about an hour from the Orlando area (two hours if it happens to be back-to-school sales-tax-holiday weekend, which it was on my way back). My initial plan was to meet a friend and hang out with Mickey Mouse on Saturday, but when work spilled over into Saturday that wasn’t an option. What’s a girl to do? Sign up for a 5k, of course!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Bib, race shirt (optional), and the Bondi Band I selected (strawberries!)

First, I tweeted Running Zone to confirm their hours. (It was Friday afternoon, I was still in a meeting…so a phone call wasn’t an option. By the way, if you are ever in Florida, this is a great running store, staffed by runners. You need it to run, they have it.) Fortunately they tweeted right back and confirmed I’d make it to the store before it closed.

As soon as the meeting ended, I drove over to Running Zone. (Seriously, why not do a 5k? I had shoes and gear, and the run was football-themed, supported the local cheerleading programs, and advertised pizza at the end. How could I go wrong?) The store has a designated window/counter inside for race registration. When I looked up and saw the Space Coast series medals, I was like “oh! It all makes sense now!”

Is it Cyber Men?!??
Is it Cyber Men?!??

Bib and shirt in hand, as well as a few goodies and a stack of race flyers and some local discounts (standard issue, one per runner, pre-bagged), I headed off to carb up with a calzone. (Yes, I know, no science backing that a runner doing a spur-of-the-moment 5k “needs” carbs. Back off.) Fortunately one of my running tweeps lives in the area, and we met up in person! Unfortunately we were both wiped out from the week and forgot to selfie. So here’s a picture of a lizard instead:

Since the Running Zone mascot is a lizard, it made sense, right?
Since the Running Zone mascot is a lizard, it made sense, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the hotel for an early bedtime, since I knew I had to get up early to drive, run, drive, and shower (and coffee!) before the race so I didn’t scare anyone at work. Finally I realized the true benefit of staying in a double-queen room: an entire bed to lay out Flat Bain!

Flat Bain (and yes, I did rock two kinds of sunblock!)
Flat Bain
       (and yes, I did rock two kinds of sunblock!)

The next morning I peeled myself out of bed, plugged the address into my iPhone, and drove off to the race. It was really easy to find, with plenty of parking. Though I initially found the shopping complex confusing–there were cones and signage up for the race course, and I wasn’t sure where to drive–I eventually parked, coated myself in SPF5000 for the pale to glow-in-the-dark skin tones, and followed the crowd over to the starting area.

Sunrise over Runners!
Sunrise over Runners!

Ordinarily I complain about being up so freakishly early in the day. While I was yawning (no pre-race coffee here), I noticed that unlike pretty much every other race I’ve done, I was not at all cold. Uh-oh. I’m about to run in Florida in the summer! I must be nuts!

photo 3 (5)
Otherwise gratuitous palm tree, acting as a lighting post and bird perch

The corral was self-seeded, and people pretty much spaced themselves out appropriately. There were a pretty wide variety of runners and walkers, from the “uber-serious about a PR” to the “just out for a walk” and everything in between. There were also people of all ages, sizes, and experience levels. I was leap-frogged several times by kids who couldn’t have been older than 10.

As we crossed the starting line, there were cheerleaders making a victory tunnel on both sides, cheering on the runners. It was a really fun way to start a race!

The course itself was nothing fancy, just an out-and-back that left the mall property and went past this lake/pond. There were exotic-to-me birds, including what sounded like (but were most likely not) peacocks. I imagine I looked rather strange photographing these things (the birds managed to evade).

photo 4 (7)
This is the lake/pond/thing we ran past. The birds flew away before I could get a proper portrait.

Of course stopping to take a picture or two also gave me a chance to catch my breath. It was super-duper humid out there. (Or as Floridians call it, August.) It had rained a little on Friday, and enough on Thursday night that the local run club had cancelled the run. I spent most of the rain looking at the window and wishing I could pack it up and take it back to California.

The course had sufficient hydration stations, well-stocked and staffed, and some people also carried water. Overall, it wasn’t too bad, even though it was definitely heating up by the time I finished. Despite my total aversion to getting up before the sun, I started to see the wisdom of getting up and starting to run (heck, finishing the run!) while it is still dark.

 

Did I mention it was hot? Hot temps = I’m a hot mess. (So sorry. It’s proof I was there though, right?)

So after the race, I got an email with a link to the photos. Check it out, an unexpected race perk: free downloads! (There were also good deals on prints.) Unfortunately I hadn’t packed any super running outfits and I was sweating sweating sweating, so this is about as cute as it gets.

Finish line rules: always run, and always smile at the camera! #orangeisthenewfast

 

Part of the cheerleader line
Part of the cheerleader line

As the runners came back through the chute, the cheerleaders cheered us back in! (This is one of the Running Zone download photos. I kinda wanted to take a picture while they were all cheering, but then it occurred to me that it might be creepy to have some random adult who does not have a kid in the cheer program snapping pictures.) Immediately at the finish line, more water!

 

 

 

Big Box o' Bondi Bands
Big Box o’ Bondi Bands

 

Every finisher also got a Bondi Band. (There was an email about that too.) It’s a nice perk–a sweatless stretchy hair-tamer. There were volunteers lined up with bands on both arms, and a giant box so you could pick exactly the one you wanted. If you’re not familiar with Bondi Bands, some of them are solid colors, others are prints, and others have cute runner sayings on them. It was fun to see the kids wearing them like ninja-style headbands after the race.

The "normal" post-run food
The “normal” post-run food

 

In addition to water, there were also cups of Gatorade. Planet Smoothie dished out dixie cups of something cold and icy–it tasted good too, but the temperature was divine!–and there was a genuine runner buffet set up right in front of Pizza Gallery & Grill, conveniently alongside a shaded courtyard-style gathering space.  Of course the spread included the usual “normal” runner foods, such as sliced oranges and bagels.

As runners walked past the breakfast food side and passed the center piece, there was a pizza buffet!  As a vegetarian I was really only interested in the cheese pizzas, but there were a variety of different types of pizza toppings available. Even though I came in towards the end of the pack, the Pizza Gallery continued to dish it out, slinging hot pizzas until all the bellies were full! Since I wasn’t the last to finish, and I’m sure those adorable cheerleaders were hungry, I thought that was pretty cool.

P is for Pizza, that's good enough for me...
P is for Pizza, that’s good enough for me…

No, I did not eat an entire pizza pie. There was plenty of pizza to go around, so I did eat more than one slice. By that point I knew I had time to shower, and I’d decided that grabbing a fancy coffee drink (we don’t have Dunkin’ Donuts out west) was going to take priority over getting the hotel’s breakfast before work. I continued to drink water, and had planned ahead (I had a waterbottle and Nuun waiting for me in the car).

Since I had to get back to get to work, I didn’t hang around for all of the festivities. I did see the stage set-up for the awards ceremony (which happened after all the runners finished–something I find really fantastic, as I am usually running when the awards ceremony happens!). There were a few vendors in the area too, including the mall owner/manager who had a table with maps and other information. I picked up a mini football from this table because it was cute, and then I set it right back down. (Part of my goal to NOT bring home All The Things.) A girl, maybe 10, who had run, came over and picked one up, thanked the lady behind the table and turned to leave. She then turned around and said, “May I please have one for my little brother, too?” How awesome is that?

The Running Zone lizard!

Have you ever been on a work trip (or other non-runcation) and signed up for a run? Have you run any of the other Running Zone races? I looked at the flyers, and I have to say, I’m a little jealous of how much awesome is going on down there!

Disclosure: I presented Legal Advice for Bloggers at IDEA World BlogFest 2015 and am a member in good standing of IDEA. This post and the accompanying giveaway are unrelated to my presenter duties, and are not sponsored by IDEA, Sweat Pink, or any other entity. All opinions are my own–you know I’ve got plenty to go around!

BlogFest and IDEAWorld gave me enough to write about for a year (but not the extra hours in the week to #writealltheposts). This is just a re-cap of my top take-aways from the BlogFest portion.

Be your own flower
Be your own flower

#1: Authenticity is the new buzzword.

The word “authenticity” must have come up at least as many times as I am years old. As an undefined intangible in a culture that highly values individuality, it’s a perfect addition to the word collection that includes “disruptor” (formerly known as “paradigm shift”). Everyone said “authenticity” and no one defined it. At the risk of being glib, I would say it is now-speak for “be honest.”

One of my great teachers once said, “Be yourself. All the other jobs are taken.” (Yoga, philosophy, and Sanskrit expert and academic, Douglas R. Brooks.) It is just as true in the blogging world as it is in every other part of the world. The world is filled with blogs, but trying to imitate another blog (or another blogger) is pointless. You can never be as good as they are at being them. Why not be yourself? When I created my blog, I sat down and thought about what is important to me, who I am, and how to keep my blog in line with me.

For example, I’m not obsessed with partnering with brands or accruing swag (not going to lie, I do like both), and it doesn’t make sense to me to pretend to be something or someone I’m not in order to land a partnership. Seriously, if a brand wants a hardcore dedicated runner, they’re going to be disappointed. Even if the brand and product seem like a good fit, I will only promote products and services I use and truly believe in (my recommendation is my reputation, so why would I throw that away for someone else?). Another example is that I don’t like reading “breakfast lunch and dinner” posts (it seems we are calling them “lifecasting” today) so I’m not going to write them. I just don’t enjoy it. If you do, that’s fine–go be you!

Not everyone is going to love you, and that’s okay. Love yourself, be yourself, and remember that what other people think of you is largely none of your business.

Just like lunch, there is plenty to go around.
Just like lunch, there is plenty to go around.

#2:  Stop living in a scarcity mentality.

No one expressly stated this during BlogFest, or at any session I attended at IDEA, yet I thought about it all weekend.

There is enough of EVERYTHING to go around. No matter what you hope to get from your blog–a job, an ambassadorship, a certain number of regular readers, a pat on the back–there is enough for you, and me, and every other blogger. (This is, in part, because we are all different–that pesky “authenticity” thing–so we’re not really competing against each other.)

When I started teacher training at Yoga Kula in Berkeley, one of the teachers there used to collect information on all of the yoga classes in that style taught all over the Bay Area and put them into a single schedule including all teachers and all studios and locations. Some people thought she was nuts (“won’t that drive students to other classes?”) but she explained that (1) that is a scarcity mentality, based on the assumption that there are not enough students to fill all those classes, and (2) there is no “my students,” because you don’t own or control who decides to come to your class. The same is true of blogging. Sharing, promoting, or helping another blogger is not going to drive “your readers” or “your partnerships” away, and you know what they are not really YOURS in the first place! If anything, helping someone else benefits you; you look good for being kind and helpful, and you stick to being who you are and what you do best. Everyone wins.

I regularly tell my yoga students, “hey, I’m an acquired taste. If you don’t like me or don’t like my class, come talk to me. I’ll help you find another teacher and another class that better suits your needs.” Trying to keep every single student happy and returning to my class is exhausting and doesn’t serve me, but more importantly it does not serve my students. There is lots of yoga in the world. To help more people do yoga, the best thing I can do is help them find their yoga. The same is true in blogging. Sure, I know I’m going to keep evolving over time and things may change, but it’s not in my nature to write very short posts (I have Twitter for that!), I don’t rock a highly artistic and sensually beautiful design, and I’m not going to promote meat-based recipes (dude, I’m a vegetarian). If that means my blog is not for you, thanks for visiting. There’s a blog out there for you to read. If you tell me what you’re looking for and I know where you might find it, I’ll tell you.

A rising tide lifts all boats, says the proverb. As the blogging community grows and each of us gets better at what we do, we all win.

Rise and shine!
Rise and shine!

#3: Commit and Follow-Through:
Hard work is always in style.

Ignore the “under promise and over deliver” mantra of the “I’m too cool to sleep” decade. Instead, do what you say you are going to do. If you have time to throw in some bonuses, great. If not, don’t fret.

Personally, it is important to me to follow-through on what I say I am going to do. It is like keeping a promise: the best way to ensure you keep it is to think carefully about what you are committing to do before you make the promise, and then creating a plan to get it done. I’m always surprised when I hear that bloggers who committed to a campaign, or event, or whatever, simply flaked and didn’t do the work. What the what? Guys, unless something truly serious and unanticipated happens–thing emergency, injury, computer goes for a swim in the ocean–follow through on what you say you will do.

It’s ridiculously easy. For example, as a member of the BibRave Pro team, I am sometimes given the opportunity to test out products or services (or run races) related to running. If I accept an assignment, I know that means I am responsible for tweeting about the item/event, attending the #bibchat sponsored by that item/event, writing a blog post, and tracking my social media engagement. If I can’t do those things for whatever reason (maybe the time frame is wrong, for example), I don’t accept the assignment.  Going back to point #2, there is plenty to go around. I don’t need to do everything, but the things I do, I need to do well.

#4: So are genuine kindness and generosity.

This weekend many people generously shared their stories, their advice, their experience, and their knowledge. “Generosity” means freely giving what you are able to offer, without any expectation that the recipient(s) will reciprocate. Mom used to explain to me that life puts you in situations where you are absolutely forced to ask for help or rely on others. (This was definitely true when I was in high school and in a serious car accident that put me in the hospital for two weeks. My terrified parents came to visit me every day. While they were away, other people cooked meals for the family, did the laundry and the dishes, drove my brothers to sports practice and to pick out a new coat; it was actually Mom’s first day at a new job, and the man she was to replace stayed on longer in order to let her spend her time with me. Some of these others were neighbors and close family friends, but even people we did not know well at all–people who were friends of friends of friends–stepped in and did things.) Realistically, there is no way you will ever get to pay back all the people you “borrow” from, and in many cases you won’t even know who they are. Instead, Mom would say, you “pay back” by lending a hand to anyone who needs it when you are able to offer it. (This was long before “pay it forward.” I guess it is a similar idea though.)

During BlogFest, bloggers taught how to do many things (grow a social media following on different platforms, optimize SEO, work with brands). In most cases, this was less textbook information and more “secret sauce”-like things that these bloggers learned by trial and error and trying again. Sometimes it was specialized knowledge from experience in a specific industry, such as my presentation on basics of law for bloggers.

When I first started blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t have a technical background, and each new thing I try to do still involves some learning and moments of painful frustration. Heck, I still run into “why does the picture keep doing that weird thing?” and “how do I do that?” I’m fortunate to have developed a nice network through Sweat Pink, FitBloggin‘, and groups like Rock ‘n’ Blog, and when I have a question, I ask.  If by some miracle there is a question I can answer, I do.

My favorite slide from BlogFest. Thanks, Melissa Burton!
My favorite slide from BlogFest. Thanks, Melissa Burton!

#5: Page Views and Followers: Not The Only Thing (Maybe Not A Thing)

If you are a blogger, you know that any discussion of blogging inevitable includes at least some mention of SEO (search engine optimization), promoting your blog, and analytics. It kind of makes sense, because most people writing a blog would like it if other people read the blog. New bloggers often find this aspect overwhelming (especially if the actual blogging is already more than enough work!). Going back to that scarcity mentality, many bloggers also worry that their low page-views will prevent them from getting the “good” opportunities.

Seriously, that can’t be the case–because I’ve scored some great opportunities and I don’t have a huge readership. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to try and review new Clif Bar products, serve as a Nuun ambassador, and be on Team Rock ‘n’ Blog. If all opportunities were based just on page views, I’d probably never have any of that because when I applied I didn’t even have an analytics widget installed.

Several of the presenters at BlogFest brought up the idea that bloggers and companies are catching onto the reality of blogging: it’s not a numbers game. One of the presenters, Katy Widrick, asked, “would you rather inspire 10 people, or have 10,000 pass through your blog?” Sure, we’d all like BOTH. But if you had to pick, which would you choose?

Bonus #6: each one of these points is applicable to the unwritten blog that is your life.

Two winners will share these goodies.
Two winners will share these goodies.

BlogFest “wish you were here” pack giveaway!

Please note that to win this giveaway you must NOT have been at BlogFest. (If you were there, you already have this stuff–so share the love! Invite your friends who were not there to win some swag.) By entering this contest, you expressly and affirmatively state that you were not at BlogFest 2015. I am obsessed with water bottles, and they are starting to take over my kitchen. Because of this, I’m going to give away the two water bottles I got at BlogFest. I’m throwing in a bunch of freebies, coupons, and swag too.

Important tip: if you win, you might have to wait a little while before I am able to ship the goods. Patience, grasshopper!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I am a BibRave Pro and received a free entry to the Foothill 5k Challenge in exchange for helping to promote and review the race. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro HERE and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Beautiful.

That’s the single word that sums up the entire Foothill 5k Challenge this year. Before I became a BibRave Pro, I’d never heard of this race and I’d never heard of Back on My Feet, the charity beneficiary. The fact that there is an elevation gain of over 1000′–and what goes up must come down, so that gain isn’t evenly spread out–might have scared me off. If you’re contemplating this race, don’t make the same mistake!

I made it to the start...now what did I sign up for??
I made it to the start…now what did I sign up for??

The website says, “participants are welcome to run or hike” and they mean it. There is plenty of time for everyone to finish. Also, it might interest you to know that the first person to cross the finish line was a 15-year-old who did the whole thing in just over 20 minutes, but the second person to cross the finish line–just about a minute later–is 59! You definitely want to be there in 2016.

Such tidy penmanship in the chalk
Such tidy penmanship in the chalk

Just over 300 people finished this low-key event in Glendale. Now that I’ve done it, I’m surprised there weren’t twice as many people there. Since I don’t live nearby and was occupied with a conference in Los Angeles on Saturday, I didn’t attend the Saturday packet pickup hosted by Run With Us (one of the race sponsors). Early Sunday morning I packed up my stuff, donned a running kit, and headed over to the Glendale sports complex. Timing being everything, my tiny blue rental brought me to the parking lot just in time to take the last space in the lot (everyone behind me was sent back to overflow parking). I popped out, doused my very-pale-self with sunscreen, and headed in.

Chalk arrows led the way to everything at the start/finish area
Chalk arrows led the way to everything at the start/finish area

Registration and packet pickup at the event took place on one of the baseball fields. There were maybe ten people in line ahead of me when I arrived, and the volunteers doled out shirts and bibs with speed and cheer.

Day of race, Packet Pickup
Day of race, Packet Pickup

They had even connected the safety pins in groups of four (to pin the four corners of your bib). While there wasn’t an official, organized bag check, I had plenty of time to walk my shirt and bag back to my car before the race started. Some other runners handed theirs to family or friends. It was a pretty small field, and I think a few people might have stashed their bags under the Bimbo or YogaWorks tables near the start/finish line.

Near the registration tents, race sponsor Mizuno had a table showing off their newest kicks. I visited my new friends, the Mizuno Wave Enigma 5, since I was wearing my trail shoes. Mizuno had a deconstructed shoe with the layers separated so you can see and better understand the engineering of the soles. (I love that kind of stuff.) They also had wristbands with “Every Mile Changes You” and I added one to the morning’s arm party.

Gorgeous shoes showing off the Mizuno Runbird
Gorgeous shoes showing off the Mizuno Runbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Break it down: the components of the Mizuno sole
Break it down: the components of the Mizuno sole
Mizuno Wave Enigma 5  you read my review, right?
Mizuno Wave Enigma 5
you read my review, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun wasn’t quite out yet, but it was easy to tell it was going to be a humid day. Due to the nature of the course there were no aid stations–there’s literally no place to put them–though the apex backed into a road where volunteers had bottled water. The announcer directed runners to the water and Gatorade table near the finish and encouraged everyone to hydrate.  Most of the runners that didn’t have hydration belts or packs grabbed a bottle of water to take out on the course.

Hydration station, pre-race
Hydration station, pre-race

Before the race, a large number of runners gathered on the baseball diamond. They put their arms around each other and I got a solidarity vibe from the crowd. While I was not close enough to overhear all of the discussion that took place, I did hear someone announce that one specific runner couldn’t be there and ask those running to remember him on their run. My impression that this is a standard Back on My Feet running group ritual was confirmed later as I walked over to the starting line and heard a recent arrival ask his friend, “oh rats, did I miss the circle?”

In addition to thanking the sponsors, and thanking the runners for coming, the announcer took a few minutes to remind everyone of the purpose of Back on My Feet. (If you’re not familiar with Back on My Feet, take a look at the greater Los Angeles area website. Similar to Girls on the Go, Just Run, and Running For A Better Oakland, Back on My Feet uses running as a medium to teach and cultivate goal-setting, commitment, and other life skills leading to self-reliance and independence.)

Camera-shy but microphone-bold
Camera-shy but microphone-bold

As the announcer explained, “the purpose of Back on My Feet isn’t to turn homeless people into runners, but to use running to help those who find themselves homeless learn to see themselves as hard-working, self-reliant individuals.” When I look at all the positive things running has brought to my life, and to the lives of my friends, it makes perfect sense to me. Looking around the group of runners, you couldn’t tell which runners were formerly homeless, currently homeless, or never homeless. There were many people in shirts with the Back on My Feet logo, including the shirts from last year’s events; there were also groups of people in matching team shirts too.

The starting line had one long corral; runners were asked to self-seed based on their expected speed. As more people hopped into the corral, I continued to move back. Minutes before the start, race director Lesley Brillhart took over the microphone to make a few safety announcements: watch for single track areas, pass on the left and announce yourself first, take the switchbacks carefully, alert course monitors to any injuries, and during the two-way traffic sections keep to your left. (Yes, left. It sounded off to me when I heard it, but once I was up on the hills and understood the course better, it made perfect sense.)

View of the starting line, before the runners lined up
View of the starting line, before the runners lined up

The race team set the runners off in three large groups, separating each by about two minutes. Once I got up onto the dirt, I was very glad they had done this, as most of the trail was fairly narrow. Even before I hit the dirt, I saw the faster runners like little white dots streaming across the browns and greens of the San Gabriel Hills.

Runners first circled around the sports fields and then took a hard right to start climbing. Despite the scary-sounding 1000′ elevation gain, the majority of the climb was a gentle up, with an occasional downhill. It would have been pretty easy to stay 100% focused on the trails, but it was just wide enough to comfortably walk while enjoying the scenery. I stopped to take many pictures on the way up. Race volunteers served as course monitors along the route (and as your traversed the course you realized each of them had to hike up to their designated spot).

The micro-view, looking down on the trail
The micro-view, looking down on the trail
Vegetation around the hills
Vegetation around the hills
That tiny bright green spot in the center? The start/finish line!
That tiny bright green spot in the center? The start/finish line!

Near the end of the climbing section there was one bigger, steeper hill; at that point you’d gotten out of bed and schlepped all the way up, so no matter how steep it seemed you just kinda had to keep going.

The final climb
The final climb

As I was making my way up I caught glimpses of the start/finish line, which seemed impossibly far away. On the trail I saw  men and women of all ages and sizes, running, walking, and hiking. The views from the top were beautiful.

Veni, Vidi, Vici!  Now, where's the way down?
Veni, Vidi, Vici!
Now, where’s the way down?

On the way down I paused to read the plaque about the history of Glendale (it’s not like I was going to hike back up to read it after the race). Just because YES, I AM that kind of nerd.

I will stop to pet cute dogs during a race, and apparently I will also stop to get my history on!
I will stop to pet cute dogs during a race, and apparently I will also stop to get my history on!

 

View of Glendale (adjacent to the plaque)
View of Glendale (adjacent to the plaque)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishers were welcomed back, and the hydration station was just past the finish line. YogaWorks led a post-race stretch session, and Bimbo bakeries handed out bagels (enough that many of us took home a whole package).

 

 

Deep, static stretching is for AFTER an event, not beforehand.
Deep, static stretching is for AFTER an event, not beforehand.

Then the winners were announced in a low-key awards ceremony.

Five of the six award winners (top three men and top three women) who scored Run With Us gift certificates and other goodies
Five of the six award winners (top three men and top three women) who scored Run With Us gift certificates and other goodies

I headed back to my car to finish chugging down another bottle of water and grab a wipe for my face. While I had set my phone to get me directions to the after party, it basically wasn’t necessary–pretty much every car from the event was in one big caravan to the Golden Road Brewing Company.

The bar and part of the open-barn structure at Golden Road Brewing
The bar and part of the open-barn structure at Golden Road Brewing

As a race sponsor, Golden Road offered $1 off each of their beers. In addition, 15% of all sales went to Back on My Feet. True confession: I don’t like beer. (No, it’s not “you haven’t tried the RIGHT beer,” because I dislike hops.) Fortunately they had a guest cider on tap, which I enjoyed with a breakfast burrito from the brunch menu.

It pretty much does not matter if you can actually read this, since you could have just pointed randomly and had tasty food appear
It pretty much does not matter if you can actually read this, since you could have just pointed randomly and had tasty food appear

With excellent food and drink, attentive service, and a brunch filled with runners, you can’t lose! The raffle drawings were held outside, though the tickets had a name and phone number on them in case you missed it. Since I was already pretty well sunned, I chose to sit inside.

Excellent advice from the author of 1984
Excellent advice from the author of 1984

Don’t fear the elevation.

If you ran this year, what did you think? (Have you left a review on BibRave.com?) If you’re interested in running this race next year, keep an eye on the Foothill 5k Challenge website.

My new trail attitude
My new trail attitude!