Posts Tagged ‘swag’

Park City Trail Series 10K

Date: July 8, 2017

GarminConnect_20170709-182235Distance: 10K (6.2 miles)

Time: 1:15:33

What a great race! I loved this second race of the four-race Park City Trail Series and already can’t wait for the 15K next month.

The weather was perfect, I got to run with my daughter and one of our dogs, and we had a really great time.

I don’t do a lot of trail running, but I am really enjoying it. It feels more “fun” than a road race even though I have to really watch my footing (or perhaps because of that). The course included two main elevation gains and drops, and the last mile-and-a-half was the fastest part of the course–which I loved. I was also reminded of the increased technical skills needed–I saw two people fall during the course and a woman had to visit the medical tent at the end of the race due to a huge gash on her forehead. Yikes.

I must also give a shout out to The North Face. They are a sponsor of the series and have IMG_20170709_183820-1been very generous with their give-aways. After the 5K race, I was lucky enough to win a drawing for one of their backpacks. This race, they were giving out free dog collars to all of the dogs who ran the race. Awesome.

The aid stations were very dog-friendly as well–with bowls of water for the pups who were running.

Thank you to Salt Lake Running Company for always putting on such great events. I’m grateful to live in such a great place for outdoor activities and people who encourage others to get outside and be active in our beautiful state. There are lots of ways here to #havemorefun





I’ve got the blues. Mississippi Blues Half Marathon Report

Date: January 9, 2016

Distance: 13.12

Location: Jackson, MS

Time: 2:41:16

Denise and I had plans to run the MS/AL back-to-back races last year but, as luck would have it, we were both injured so we weren’t able to run the series. Months ago, I signed up for both races again (Mississippi Blues and First Light), expecting that 2016 would work. Unfortunately, Denise is still rehabbing and wasn’t ready for the timing of these again. As much as I hated to do these by myself, I really didn’t want to forfeit the race entry fees AGAIN, and my Mobile hotel reservation was non-refundable so I decided to go ahead and knock these out by myself. This gave me the blues.

Getting There & Race Packets–To save money, I decided to use flight benefits to fly non-rev to these races. This plan worked getting there–as long as I got a bit creative since all of the SLC-ATL flights were oversold. (On Delta, one must fly through Atlanta in order to get to Jackson). To get there, I had to fly through San Diego, then Atlanta, then Jackson. A pretty circuitous route to take, but I couldn’t see any other options. That made for a very long travel day on Friday–the day before the race–and I arrived to the race expo with only minutes to spare before they closed. Still, I got there.MississippiBlues

The race packets, by the way, were nice. Not only did they include a solid, reusable tote bag, but–in honor of the race theme–they also included a B.B. King CD and a harmonica. Nice touch and very unique as far as race packets go. The race shirts, too, were a nice long-sleeved tech material. The race medals, too, were great.

The Race–The weather forecast warned of rain and possible thunderstorms which, unfortunately, turned out to be accurate. This really gave me the blues. Luckily, I had brought a throw-away rain poncho to wear as I was waiting for the race to start so I wouldn’t be drenched and freezing before the race started. Also, about three miles in, the rain started to subside. That was great for me, but the runners completing the full marathon were not as lucky because even more forceful rain–including lightning–arrived as almost all of them were still completing the course. We were warned ahead of time of possible race delays or even a cancellation if the lightening created dangerous conditions, but luckily, the race went on as scheduled for everyone.

The course was deceptively hilly, which I wasn’t expecting. The course map showed elevation changes of about 500 feet total, throughout the course, but there was a lot more up and down than I expected. That, too, gave me the blues. My race strategy, then, was to take things really easy–particularly since my training regimen included about 10% of the long runs I SHOULD have run in preparation for the race, but didn’t. I also didn’t want to be completely spent for the next day’s race.

While I started with a very defined run/walk strategy, that went out the window about four miles in when I pretty much started walked up the hills and through the aid stations but ran when the course was flat or downhill. I really liked that the course took us through the downtown area and some nice residential areas. That’s always a great way to see the local architecture and get a feel for the city.

I finished in a fairly respectable time, considering my lack of preparation, the race day conditions, and the course. Good race–definitely recommended. I was also particularly happy about the fact that the hotel was so close to the starting/finishing locations. That’s worth a lot.

Highlights–I wouldn’t say there was a lot of crowd support at this race, but that would be expected because of the weather. The people who were out cheering the runners, though, were among the best. A few people were having all-out parties on their front lawns as they watched the runners. One group even had a bonfire going and had set up a table–similar to an aid station–that offered free beer. I passed on that offer, but was amused nonetheless. A couple of other families offered donuts to runners as they passed by. One sign read, “Sorry for all the potholes–have a donut hole.” Clever.

Travel Between Races–I could have signed up for bus service that shuttled racers between the races, but I decided I really didn’t want to have to follow other people’s travel times so I rented a car and drove the three-and-a-half hours to Mobile. I really missed Denise during this part of the weekend. She’s always a great navigator and helps me decide when to listen to the navigation instructions offered by my phone and when to ignore them. We also use that travel time to talk and catch up. I missed that. I’m also really glad I decided to drop off my car in Mobile rather than return it back to Jackson. After driving that route once, I really didn’t want to do it again the very next day.

Race Etiquette/Tips–This race and the Mobile race the next day, prompted me to think a lot about how so many people have taken up running and are new to racing. I’m really happy about this because that means more and more people are seeing how enjoyable races can be. Because so many are new, however, it’s pretty clear they are still learning some generally accepted race protocols. Here’s what I wish everyone knew.

  1. Your race number goes somewhere on the FRONT of your body–not the back. It needs to be visible to race officials and photographers at all times during the race, otherwise they cannot identify you. This can be a little tricky when you dress in layers. In consideration of this, when I start with a top layer and expect to remove it at some point during the race, I will usually attach my race bib to my shorts or other race bottoms instead of my shirt.
  2. Be considerate of everyone else and keep your noise to yourself. That means: don’t have your headphones turned up so high everyone around you can identify the song and artist you are jamming out to. Even worse, don’t be that person who listens to music without headphones at all. No, we don’t all love your playlist selection. Please don’t share. Also in the “too noisy” category? Runners who wear bells on their shoes. Really? People do that? Yes. And it’s downright annoying.
  3. Not everyone likes conversation. Be mindful of the fact that while some people might appreciate your company and conversation during a race, others will find it irritating. If in doubt, ask or learn to read body language.
  4. Spectators and their pets are not there to receive unsolicited hugs or attention. For some reason, I see more and more runners who act like they are celebrities on stage–out there to greet their adoring fans–to the point where they feel a need to pet every dog they see or hug every child or person in uniform along the course in a much-too-enthusiastic way. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I’m pretty sure not all of the people (and pets) on the receiving end don’t enjoy it. A quick wave, smile, or “thank you” to volunteers along the course is a nice courtesy. An all-out hug may not be appreciated. You also don’t know how a dog might react to your invasion of his/her space.
  5. Signal your fellow runners when you are about to slow down or change course. When you stop running and decide to walk instead, remember there are people behind you still running who may trip over you or plow you over. Before you decide to abruptly change pace, move over to the side of the course and signal those behind you. The most common signal I see is a raised hand to indicate you are slowing down. To those of you who use some sort of “I’m getting out of your way and slowing down” signal–I thank you. (I know, as if I’m a fast runner and can’t possibly slow down in time). That’s rather funny.
  6. Don’t block the course. This applies to walkers who insist on walking right down the middle of the road, but even more so, this applies to pairs or groups of people. If you are walking two or three abreast, the middle of the course is NOT where you should be. In fact, some courses really aren’t good for walking in groups at all, depending on how wide the course is. Think about this when you go through aid stations too. Get your beverage and keep moving. You don’t want to make faster runners have to constantly swerve and dodge you and your pals.

Thanks for considering these etiquette tips. As more of us are sharing race courses, these are ways we can make the race experience a better one for everybody. Happy (friendly) running!

Mainly Marathons Independence Series Day #1-Elkton, MD

V__DE4EDate: April 29. 2015

Distance: 13.38

Time: 3:15:58

My slowest time ever for a half, but that was part of my longer-term plan to get through four races in four consecutive days. What a new experience! Denise joined me for this adventure, which will allow us to knock out four additional states that we haven’t yet done: MD, DE, PA, and NJ. The series also includes a fifth day–in NY–but since we’ve already completed a half marathon in New York state, we get to skip day #5. What makes this race experience different from most races?

1. Size. Large destination races can attract thousands of runners. This race, however, drew about 100.

2. Swag. We get one shirt for all five races, but we got to choose the color we wanted–wow. And, the medals are quite unique. We were given an “Independence Series” medal and with each race we complete, we get awarded an attachment that hangs off of the main race medal. That’s unique.

3. Course. These races, we’ve learned, are set up as out-and-back courses. That’s not the unusual part. The unique thing about these out-and-backs is that runners complete several loops to get their mileage in–6 to 10 loops for the half marathons. Granted, that gets a bit boring, but it also allows for one aid station and never feeling like you are running alone.

4. Aid Station. Speaking of aid stations, this one was AMAZING. At most races, aid stations consist of your choice of water or Gatorade (or Powerade). If lucky, the volunteers might hand out Gu packets at about mile 8 or 9. If really lucky, they might also offer bananas, oranges, pretzels, or Gummy Bears at some of the stations. In THIS race series, there is a massive spread of food, including: potato chips, BBQ potato chips, Fritos, Cheetos, pretzels, Rice Krispy treats, pickles, Gummy Bears, oranges, bananas, apples, granola bars. ham and cheese paninis, olives, jelly beans. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Oreos, licorice, M & Ms, Reeses Peanut butter cups, miniature candy bars, hard-boiled eggs, Fig Newtons, Gatorade, chocolate milk, Coke, and water. As one racer pointed out about Mainly Marathon races, “Where else could you run five full marathons in a row and still gain five pounds?”

5. Runners. I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of participants. What kind of crazies show up to run a race series like this? Denise and I found out today. With few exceptions, we were among the youngest participants and we are pushing fifty. Far more runners are also planning on running the full marathons instead of the half marathons. Those facts made us feel like slackers. We are only running the first four races–and we are only running the half marathon distance. LAZY, eh? We also got the distinct impression that most of the runners have completed several of these race series and most of them also know each other from having met at previous races. Despite that, we felt very welcomed. Everyone was friendly and upbeat.

6. Competitive Level. ZERO. The races are not officially timed and most of the runners didn’t seem to care about their finish times at all. The number of loops runners complete is tracked by how many rubber bands you have on your wrist (one rubber band is added after each loop). Very few people were listening to music during the run and very few people seemed to be tracking their times at all. Rather, lots of people were taking a lot of walking breaks (or walking the whole way) and carrying on non-stop conversations about previous race , their training plans, their travels, and almost anything else. This non-competitive vibe made me feel perfectly comfortable with the fact that I probably walked half of this race. In fact, I went into this race planning to walk a good portion of it, but I found myself trying to devise “the perfect walk/run strategy.” Once I got started, though, any formalized strategy went completely out the window. I ran when I felt like it and I walked when I felt like it. How freeing! I really enjoyed this race and look forward to the remaining three days. I have no idea what to expect, but I’ll keep you posted…

Not a new state, but a new PR!

Date: September 14, 2013Big Cottonwood

Distance: 13.1 (13.15)

Time: 1:52:33 (PR!)

What an amazing day. After seven years of running half marathons, I finally broke the sub-two hour time I’ve been coveting.  I wish I could attribute my accomplishment to following such an intense training regimen and impeccable diet, but I can’t. I give full credit to the really fast course.

This was the second year of the Big Cottonwood Canyon full and half marathons, and because I’m focusing on running races outside of my home state, I’ve been avoiding almost all Utah races for the past four or five years. The race is near my house, though, and it fit well in my race calendar this year. The website, too, showcased the beautiful course and promised very fast times.

The race certainly delivered.

The half marathon race begins about eight miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon at an elevation of 7200 feet.  (Big Cottonwood is the same canyon where Brighton and Solitude Ski Resorts are located). The course follows the very scenic, winding, paved road down the canyon and then becomes somewhat flatter and crosses into the city of Murray–just south of Salt Lake City–and ends at Cottonwood High School (elevation-4400 feet).cottonwood

In my previous post, I wrote about the possibility of getting a sub-two hour time because a recent training run down the canyon showed me that a fast time might be possible. Today, with the adrenaline and crowds, I ran even faster than I did during my training run. I felt as though I were flying down the canyon during those first eight miles and my internal mantra was, “open up and relax.” I gave myself permission to let the gravity simply pull me down the hill and I knew that, by taking full advantage of the fast downhill portion at the beginning, I would possibly shave off enough time up front to allow for a fast final time even though the course wouldn’t continue to be so steep at the end. That strategy worked, but it was exhausting.
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Colorado is done and three reasons why I hate the Denver airport

Date: July 27, 2013

Distance: 13.1 (13.23 actual)

Time: 2:14:44

In what turned out to be one of the quickest trips on record, state #23 is done. Dog days

I left Salt Lake City on an 8:30 Friday morning flight and was back home by 2:30 p.m. the next day. The race was great, but events leading up to and following the race were a series of inconveniences. Luckily, those inconveniences did not have anything to do with missed flights or an inability to fly non-rev. For that, I was thankful.

The race was a small, local race in the Westminster, Colorado City Park–about half an hour from the Denver Airport. I needed to get Colorado done because my other 50-states running buddy, Denise, has already run a race in Colorado and I needed to catch up with her. The race appealed to me because of the timing but also because it was a fundraiser for Colorado Canine Rescue–a great cause. Plus, since I work for Westminster College, I couldn’t resist the idea of earning a race shirt that not only had a cool picture of a dog with sunglasses, but also said, “Westminster” on it.

I caught the first flight out–a general rule when flying standby–so when I arrived at the Denver airport, I had some time to kill before picking up the rental car. (I was trying to keep my rental to a 24-hour time frame so as to save money). To burn some time, I decided to catch breakfast at one of the restaurants at the airport.

Inconvenience #1: The server (or the cooks, according to the server) lost my order and I wasn’t informed of this until after I had waited about 45-minutes for my Eggs Benedict. When the server had realized that no one was cooking my breakfast, the menu had switched over to lunch. No eggs for me–I ordered a Chicken Caesar salad instead. No huge deal. I wasn’t in a rush and I had lots of extra time anyway. Besides, the manager graciously comped my meal, which I thought was nice.

After finishing my salad, I headed down to meet the car rental shuttle. (Reason #1 why I hate the Denver airport–the car rentals are miles away from the airport). Reason #2 why I hate the Denver airport–the airport is miles away from ANYTHING.

I arrived at the car rental place only to see the longest rental line I have ever seen–four rows of people in those cattle-type mazes like they make you go through at airport security. Airport security is reason #3 why I hate the Denver airport, but I’ll tell you more about that later.

It took me almost a full hour to get to the front of the line at Dollar Rental. After declining all of the suggested upgrades and insisting that I wanted an “economy” car despite the agent’s persistence in trying to convince me that I needed something with a V-6 for my drive “all the way over to Westminster,” I was finally released to go find my car. “Select anything from the E row,” I was told. I trekked all the way to the last row only to discover that there were no cars in the E row. Not only that, there were no cars in the C (compact) row, either. The agent’s hard-sell approach was apparent–I was going to get a mid-size car anyway–but at the “economy” price. Vindicated. Never fall for the up-sell. Half the time you end up getting a bigger, better car anyway.

The drive to the hotel was uneventful, thankfully, but as I entered the hotel lobby, I was met with the longest hotel check in line I’ve ever seen. Inconvenience #2. Evidently, all the swing dancers there for a weekend convention all decided to check in at the exact same time. This line, too, took almost an hour. But, again, there was nowhere I had to be, so it was no big deal for me to wait. Plus, I ended up getting a really great room with a good view, so all was good.

View from Westminster Westin

View from Westminster Westin

I’ll call the fact that I was alone and bored “inconvenience #3.” One of the best parts about knocking out this 50-states goal is that I’m usually running the race with other people. Most of these weekend races trips allow me to spend time with friends or family and play tourist a bit. Not this time. Instead, the highlight of my day was walking across the street to get take out Thai food that I took to my room and ate in bed while I watched the local news. I couldn’t even get my race packet–as is the custom the day before the race. Instead, this race only offered two race packet pick up times–Thursday evening or Saturday before the race–I call THAT “inconvenience #4.” That meant having to get up even earlier for the race. Oh, well. Again, not a huge deal.

Now here’s where things go well. The race itself was great. Normally, I hate out-and-back courses, but this one was nice and very well-organized. We went 1.5 miles out and back, then went just over 5 miles out and back the opposite direction. Here’s what that allowed for:

  • lots of aid stations–at almost every mile
  • a great running surface the whole way–either paved or fine gravel running trail that was wide and well maintained, with nice views
  • close proximity to my hotel for the start and the finish

Additionally, the swag bags were nice–they even included dog treats for my dog. I liked the finisher medals, post-race grub was plentiful and good, and the event, overall, was very well-organized. To top it all off, the weather was great and the people were all very friendly. Plus, it was, of course, dog friendly! Dogs lined the course and some were even brave enough to run one of the three race events (5K, 10K, or Half). I’m really going to give my running-challenged dog a hard time–he can barely get through three miles and I saw one Yellow Lab run the entire half marathon. I was impressed.

I had a decent finish time, even with the higher elevation and rolling hills, and I felt good the whole way. Very enjoyable race.

Inconvenience #5: I was unable to stay to find out if I was the winner of any of the $5000 worth of donated stuff (had to be present to win), nor could I simply hang out a bit to enjoy the post-race happenings because I had to rush back to the hotel to shower, check out, and return the rental car before my 1:00 flight.

The car rental return went well (thank you, check in lady) but I can’t say the shuttle driver was all that helpful. He neglected to include “Delta” in his announcement that the first stop was for Southwest and Jet Blue flights, so I remained on the shuttle for an extra stop longer than I should have. That was the reason for inconvenience #6–I had to walk quite a bit further than I should have on my achy, tired feet. Instead of saying I put in 13.23 miles–it was more like 16 after I added up the hotel and airport treks. Still, I was happy that I was still okay on time at that point.

from Google images

from Google images

Here’s where I get to reason #3 why I hate the Denver airport. AIRPORT SECURITY!!!!

I travel a lot. I know all the TSA rules about liquids, shoes, laptops, nothing in back pockets, etc. etc. etc. Getting through TSA at any other airport has been pretty much a non-event for me. I do what I’m supposed to, I get through the line rather expeditiously, and life goes on. Not at DEN. Today’s experience was typical of what I’ve previously enjoyed at the Denver airport and the encounter with the TSA Nazi guy actually put me in such a state of frustration that I actually shed a couple of tears as I hurried to make it to the airport shuttle–tears that were most likely brought on by a serious lack of sleep from the night before, the exhaustion from having just run a half marathon, and the stressful state of being in such a rush immediately following the race. But, in all honesty, the way I was treated by the TSA agent was ridiculous and, alone,  justified my response.

My carry-on innocently ambled along the conveyor belt, just as it had going through security in SLC. This time, though, I was informed that an agent had to look through my luggage in more depth. The Blue-Shirt noted, “there’s something sharp in your bag.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I have a pair of scissors in there, but I’m certain they meet the length requirements.” He opened my suitcase, saw the 3-inch blade scissors that I use for cutting my PT tape and he agreed with my assessment. Seemingly unsatisfied with not being able to bust me for anything, he proceeded to rummage through everything else in my bag too. I hope he enjoyed pawing through my sweaty running gear.

He then pulled out my bag of toiletries–which included the normal items–deodorant, toothpaste, lotion, etc. He suddenly seemed puzzled when he got to more unfamiliar, running-specific liquids–my off brand lube stick, Gu packets, a 5-hour type energy drink that was part of the race swag, and my beloved “Rock Sauce.”

Never heard of Rock Sauce? Think of a more liquefied form of Ben-Gay muscle rub, and you’ve got it.  I’m guessing the menacing skull logo initially caught his attention, but what he really focused on was the “4 oz.” size of the bottle.

Everyone knows that TSA rules only allow liquids up to 3 oz. max. Duh. So, in order to needlessly delay me further, which seemed to be his goal, he informed me that he had to x-ray all of my liquids AGAIN and he would then return. I sat there for several minutes waiting and watching the clock as my flight’s departure time was nearing.

When he returned, he almost gleefully told me he needed to take my Rock Sauce because it exceeded the 3 oz. limit.

He quickly disappeared and I asked another nearby TSA Agent, “What if the amount of liquid in the bottle is less than 3 ounces?” He asked if I was sure, and I responded, “Most definitely.” He faltered, and said I could choose to press the issue with a supervisor, but at that point I was more concerned about being to my gate on time and chose not to argue. I am well-aware of the potential for TSA encounters to go very wrong very fast. That was not a battle I felt like starting.

I thanked the agent for taking the most expensive liquid I had in my bag for no good reason. HUGE INCONVENIENCE because I have to order it online.

So, friends, that is my Colorado race report and I know you are now all feeling much safer in your travels, because I was prevented from bringing home my fancy Ben Gay.


My favorite TSA spoof? Check out the classic 2006 SNL skit about the ban on liquids and gels. Click here. It’s awesome. “Three ounces of liquid can’t blow up an airplane, but four ounces can.”

Cruel Nebraska

Date: October 13, 2013

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:34:27

The inaugural Monument Half Marathon in Scottsbluff, Nebraska was certainly memorable.

Denise with Scotts Bluff in the background–before the skies opened up.


  • Very friendly volunteers and race organizers.
  • Amazing, plentiful swag that included such random items as an air freshener, a bag of pinto beans and a bean cookbook.
  • Hospitable hotel that even gave out its own race swag bag and provided a free, pre-race feast.
  • Nice course that included a portion of the Oregon Trail.
  • Ten hours of road trip, girl time with BFF, Nis.


  • Worst race weather ever!
  • Denise’s calf pain during the race.

Several days before and after the race included cloud-free skies and warm temperatures, but the day of the race (of course) we were met with menacing clouds and winds. The winds were so high that I wasn’t even able to wear a hat because it kept blowing off of my head. The three hundred or so half marathoners gathered at the start and apprehensively looked to the sky, trying to predict what the day would bring. Following the singing of the National Anthem, we made our way towards a famous local landmark, Scotts Bluff–a large sandstone formation that served as a landmark and signal to pioneers who traveled along the Oregon Trail in the 1800s.

The first three miles of the course included the biggest incline of the whole race where we were greeted with (I’m guessing) 30 mph headwinds and the beginning of slight rainfall. The winds were so strong I couldn’t even hear my music through my headphones, despite the loud volume setting. Denise and I both knew from the beginning that this race would not bring PR times. We simply gritted our teeth, put our heads down, and forged ahead at a slower pace than normal, expecting things to get better once we made it to the top of the hill.

Me–windblown and soaked at the finish. Forcing a smile.

We enjoyed the next four our five miles after we were greeted with a gradual downhill descent, subsiding winds, no rain, and picturesque scenery along a gravel and dirt road with sandstone formations all around. At this point, our pace quickened and we realized that 2:20 was well within reach.

Until we hit about mile eight, that is.

Just past the mid-point of the race, Denise experienced severe cramping in her right calf. She was hurting to the point of saying she might not be able to finish. This has been a recent nagging injury for her that she only experiences on long runs and seems to be aggravated by cold and hills–which we were certainly experiencing.

I’m glad she was able to continue running the rest of the way. She did finish, and I’m amazed. I could tell she was in severe pain the whole rest of the race. To make things worse, at this point, the menacing clouds dumped torrents of rain and brought more winds until the end.

The finish line was a more welcome sight than it is at most races and the announcer read our names, where we were from, and announced to the sparse crowd of spectators that Denise and I had both just completed races in eighteen states.

When the race was over and volunteers removed our timing chips, handed us our medals and wrapped us in space blankets (thank goodness), I realized that I was so cold I couldn’t feel my fingers.

No dawdling in the food lines, looking for the free beer garden, chatting with other racers, or savoring the moment for us–we immediately made our way to the parking lot and drove as quickly as we could to the hotel which promised hot showers and dry clothes.

Nebraska is over. Thank you, God.

The first messages I received from Denise after getting home? She’s got a doctor appointment scheduled and she’s found two back-to-back races in neighboring states the weekend of May 4th and 5th.

That’s my girl.


Date: September 8, 2012

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:16:46

Go Cats!

Most races I complete require travel to a new destination and figuring out where to stay, where to eat, and how to travel wherever I need to go.  In this case, I went to Cedar Falls, Iowa—the home of Debi, a long-time friend who has recently started running half marathons. Because the race was in her city, she and her husband, Dave, took care of everything and were amazing hosts.

Deb and Dave’s generous hospitality meant that I had a ride from the Cedar Rapids airport to Cedar Falls, a personalized tour of the race course the night before the race, a top quality Italian meal that evening, and great hotel accommodations. Deb had even upgraded my race registration to VIP—which meant that we didn’t have to stand in line to get our race packets, we received a nicer quality swag bag, and in addition to the great, long-sleeved tech shirt, we also received a beverage glass and hat which commemorated the race—the Trekman Park-to-Park.

And I certainly cannot overlook the fact that Debbie somehow arranged to have a John Deere tractor parade for me right at the time of race packet pickup. So, as we walked from Dave’s downtown office to where we picked up our swag, we enjoyed steppers, cloggers, and drummers, along with a steady stream of green farm equipment rumbling down the street. In case you weren’t aware, John Deere headquarters are in Cedar Falls (along with Quaker Oats and Barilla Pasta, I’ve since learned).

The next morning, the VIP upgrade that Debi arranged also allowed us to utilize a parking area closer to the start of the race, and have the use of private porta potties—with no lines to wait in. For anyone who has seen the throngs of people lined up in front of the restrooms during virtually every race, you’ll understand why the no waiting option was such a luxury.

The day of the race could not have been more perfect. Skies were clear, there was no wind, and we enjoyed nice, cool temperatures at the start that warmed to low-seventies later on.

I didn’t break my personal record this race, but Debi sure did—by three minutes—and that’s in spite of the fact that she has been experiencing flu-like symptoms for over a week and has not gotten to follow her training plan as she would have liked.

We ran the whole race with a woman named Susan, whom Deb knows from previous races. We all ran a similar pace so we were well-matched. Agreeing to force ourselves to hold back a bit at the beginning was a very good call (and, we agreed, was a challenge for all of us). For the first three miles or so we kept our pace at around 10:30, then allowed ourselves to creep up to about 10:00-minute miles during the middle of the race. Even though we felt this was a prudent plan, Deb and I were all feeling some aches and pains by about miles seven or eight. For Deb, it was her knee and some slight stomach cramping. For me, I was experiencing new pain in my hip joints. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure it was caused by running on a completely flat course since I’m used to running hills.

Leave it to me to bitch about hills one week and then complain about a flat course two weeks later.

The course itself was beautiful—if not my favorite, at least in my top three courses I’ve ever run. The entire race was run on existing running trails mostly in park areas which were canopied by trees in several areas. We were treated to scenic views of the water throughout the race, and a deer even bounded across the running path about fifty feet in front of me at about mile eleven. That sight was rewarding as I was nearing the end and really having to push myself.

As we crossed the finish line we were given moistened towels and very hefty medals. The announcer also did a good job announcing peoples’ names as they finished and I loved hearing, “Crossing the next of all fifty states off her list” after my name was read.

My only complaint about the entire race weekend was that it was too short. I didn’t get to spend as much time with Debi as I would have liked—we had twenty-six years of catching up to do since high school, and I didn’t get the chance to meet her son. I also missed seeing the Bobcats play football, as I had planned on doing.

I decided to cut my trip short in order to maximize my chances of getting home before work on Monday. A check of available flights showed that virtually all flights out of Iowa were really booked on Sunday and I had a much better shot of getting home if I tried to make my way back on Saturday afternoon. The earlier-than-planned departure meant that, instead of going directly to the Drake football stadium in Des Moines, Debbie’s parents (who were in town for the game) generously took me to the airport on their way to the game.

Deb’s dad, Joe, showed some good old-fashioned expedient Montana driving and got me to the airport about forty minutes prior to my flight. The travel gods were on my side because the airport was virtually empty and that allowed for a quick check in and even quicker trip through security. Amazingly, I arrived at my gate just before they started boarding.

I did end up taking a rather circuitous route home—Des Moines to Minneapolis to Los Angeles to Las Vegas, then home from Las Vegas on Sunday. I decided on this route, after considering several others, because these flights were the most open and also, coincidentally, my husband flew the Los Angeles to Las Vegas leg. That meant I was not only able to spend time with him while he was working but that also meant I had a free room to stay in on Saturday night along with free transportation from the airport to the hotel. Not bad—a very last-minute overnight in Vegas with my husband. That certainly wasn’t planned, but nice nonetheless.

I still have several other Midwestern states to cross off my list and I certainly hope to be able to talk Debi into joining me for at least a few of them.

Next up? Nebraska with Denise and—if we are successful in our negotiations—Caree as well. Maybe that course will be not too flat and not too hilly but just right.