2016 in Review- A Year of Running and Traveling

2016 is just about over and I feel the need to summarize my year, especially since I’m a new blogger.  I’ll spare you the month-by-month blow, but just focus on the highlights.

My first race of the year was the MacKenzie River Half Marathon in Eugene, Oregon on Easter Sunday in March, see my post:  McKenzie River Half Marathon, Oregon- 36th state. As you can see, it was the 36th state I ran for my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states.  I’ll let you read the post if you haven’t already for the details.  After the race, my family and I drove to Bend and my post on our adventures there can be read here:  Central Oregon-Eugene and Bend.  We also saw tons of waterfalls at the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area; see my post here:  Enjoy waterfalls? Try Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon.

One of many waterfalls in Columbia River Gorge in Oregon

Just about the only significant thing I can say about May is that’s when I started my blog at WordPress.  Yay!  I officially became a blogger then.

Straight after the race in Oregon, I had to start training for my next race, The Boulder Rez Half Marathon in Boulder, Colorado in June; post here:  Boulder Rez Half Marathon, Colorado- 37th state.  This was my 37th state and one of the hardest half marathons I’ve ran because of the high elevation.  We also had a nice vacation after this race and you can read all about that in my post on Boulder here:  Colorado in June- Hiking in Boulder and my post on Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park here:  Colorado in June- Estes Park and RMNP.  I highly recommend spending some time in all three places (Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Estes Park) especially if you enjoy hiking and nature.

Lake Estes in Estes Park, Colorado

Two days after we returned home from Colorado, we left for Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia for the weekend.  I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and as you can guess from my blog post title, I had a fantastic time.  My post can be found here:  5 reasons Busch Gardens Williamsburg has something for everyone.  We also went to Colonial Williamsburg for a bit and you can read about that here:  Colonial Williamsburg without a ticket.

Still in June, two weeks after going to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, we went camping in Asheville, North Carolina.  I love going to Asheville and hadn’t been camping there in several years so it was good to get back and do some hiking and enjoy the beautiful parks there.  See my post on that here:  Camping in Asheville, North Carolina.  No surprise that June was a total whirlwind.  Fortunately I didn’t have any races coming up soon so I took a break from training and just did some shorter runs when I could.

Asheville, North Carolina

In August, I went back to one of my favorite southern US cities, Charleston, South Carolina.  I love so many things about Charleston, from the people to the historical buildings to the beaches and the incredible food.  I highly recommend going there if you haven’t before.  See my posts about Charleston here:  Top 5 Things to Do in Charleston, SC with Kids without Spending a Ton of Money and Charming Charleston- How to visit without breaking the bank.

Charleston, South Carolina

Also in August, I started training for my next half marathon, The Silver Strand Half Marathon in Coronado, California in November.  Fortunately, September and October were fairly uneventful except for my daughter’s birthday and some school-related events and swim meets for her.  I needed that time to focus on my training plan so it was good to not have a lot else going on.

I left for Coronado, California on Veteran’s Day in November and ran the Silver Strand Half Marathon two days later.  You can read my post on the race here:  Silver Strand Half Marathon, California-38th state.  I have posted some of my favorite things we did in California and have more coming.  We spent almost three weeks in the San Diego area and it was absolutely fabulous.  My first two posts are:  Is San Diego Paradise? Not Quite… and Planning a Trip to San Diego? How to Choose Where to Go.


Finally, in December, I started training for my next race, Dogtown Half Marathon in Washington, Utah in February.  I came down with a cold while in San Diego (toward the end of our vacation) that unfortunately turned into a sinus infection and bronchitis after I got back home, so my training has gotten off to a rough start but I am putting in the miles. I dread running my long runs in January because I’m just not a cold weather runner, but I’ll have to deal with that when it comes.

Happy running and happy travels to you all!  Donna





Planning a Trip to San Diego? How to Choose Where to Go

According to this Wikipedia page, there are 85 neighborhoods and communities in San Diego.  That’s a lot to try to sort through if you’re planning a vacation to San Diego and don’t know where to start.  At least for me, it was a bit overwhelming at first.

The Basics

Most first-timers usually plan on going to the usual spots:  Downtown San Diego (Centre City), Old Town, Pacific Beach, Balboa Park, possibly La Jolla, Ocean Beach, and Mission Valley depending on how much time you have.  I’m certainly not saying to just go to these places.  They just seem to be the more common places for first-timers to San Diego.  Here’s a brief description of each of these areas.

Downtown San Diego 

This area includes 7 districts, the most popular ones with tourists are Gaslamp Quarter, Horton Plaza, and Little Italy.  The 16 1/2 blocks of Gaslamp Quarter mostly contain night clubs, shops, and restaurants.  94 historic buildings, built mostly around 1870, in Gaslamp Quarter put it on the National Register of Historic Places and make it San Diego Historic Landmark #127.  Many events and festivals are held here.  Horton Plaza is a small city park that is also a historical landmark, designated by the city of San Diego in 1971.  Little Italy is full of (not surprisingly) Italian restaurants, Italian shops, art galleries, and apartments. There are many events and festivals throughout the year in Little Italy.

US Grant Hotel behind fountain in Horton Plaza Park
Davis House, the oldest house in “New San Diego”

Old Town

Old Town is the oldest settled area in San Diego and is the site of the first European settlement in present-day California.  It contains Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and Presidio Park, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Old Town is also huge, with 230 acres of land.  There are many restaurants, shops, art galleries, and historic buildings and sites.  Old Town State Historic Park is free to tour the buildings which include 5 original adobes, San Diego’s first newspaper office, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and many others.

Old Town



Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach runs from Mission Bay to La Jolla and has a very long boardwalk (3 miles) that goes along the beach into Mission Beach, ending at Mission Bay.  You’ll usually find PB pretty crowded with people shopping, rollerblading, cycling, and walking.  This area is also a popular spot for nightclubs and bars.  I found it interesting that Eddie Vedder, the musician most famous as the lead singer for Pearl Jam is originally from Pacific Beach.

 Ocean Beach

This is an interesting area in San Diego.  It is home to the longest concrete pier in the West, Ocean Beach Municipal Pier, coming in at 1,971 feet (why they chose that distance is beyond me).  You won’t find many chain stores here because the residents have led several protests of chain companies through the years.  You will find many bars and a thriving nightlife scene here however.  Fun fact:  Ocean Beach and Point Loma are home to a large population of feral parrots that are mostly active at sunrise and sunset.

Balboa Park

In 1835, 1,400 acres of land in San Diego were set aside for the public’s recreational purposes, making it one of the oldest places in the United States dedicated to public recreational usage.  Balboa Park has an incredibly detailed history, much of which you can read on the Wikipedia page here if you’re interested.  In my opinion, Balboa Park is beautiful and I enjoyed just walking around here taking in the scenery.  In addition to several museums, there are 10 gardens, multiple theaters, the San Diego Zoo, the Naval Medical Center San Diego, playgrounds, walking trails, and an enormous sports complex with a golf course, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, swimming pool and more. You could spend weeks at Balboa Park and still not see and do everything, it’s that enormous and that complex.


Balboa Park

La Jolla

This community in the northern part of San Diego is perhaps best known for its beautiful views and beaches.  Surrounded on three sides by ocean bluffs and beaches, people aren’t the only ones to have taken up residence in La Jolla.  Hundreds of seals have made Children’s Pool Beach and Seal Rock their home, making the area a popular tourist hangout.  La Jolla is an expensive resort area full of art museums, high-end shopping, and some of the most expensive homes in the country, with a median home price of close to $2 million.  The Torrey Pines Golf Course, Torrey Pines State Reserve with some great hiking, and the famous Black’s Beach (a nude beach) are also in La Jolla.  Finally, La Jolla is also home to University of California, San Diego and numerous scientific research facilities.

Seals at Children’s Pool Beach
La Jolla

Mission Valley

One of the most historical places in San Diego, Mission Valley was the first Spanish settlement in California, in 1769.  Today Mission Valley uses its prime location in the middle of San Diego for the placement of apartments, hotels, and retail shops.  Although the Presidio of San Diego and Mission of San Diego de Alcalá were established in 1769 in present day Old Town, the Mission was moved in 1774 to its present location in Mission Valley.  The general boundaries of Mission Valley are Interstates 5 and 15, making for easy access to other parts of San Diego.  The green line of the public trolley system also runs through Mission Valley and the main hub for buses is at the Fashion Valley Transit Center and Mall.

San Diego Presidio Site

Of course these are just some of the most-visited areas in San Diego for first-time vacationers.  Depending on your situation, you may choose to go to other areas.  You may only have time to visit one or two areas.  I know someone who went to San Diego for a work conference and only saw the Gaslamp Quarter downtown.  She greatly missed out on other areas of San Diego obviously, but her conference was downtown and she only had time for that brief glimpse of San Diego.

What if you only have time to see one or two areas of San Diego?

I personally would recommend going to Balboa Park, La Jolla, and Point Loma.  OK.  That’s three areas.  It’s really hard to limit it less than that.  If I was hard-pressed to choose just one place I think I would say go to Point Loma.  The views from Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument are stunning.  That’s what I think of when I think of San Diego- ocean bluffs with views like nowhere else in the world.

For those of you that live in San Diego or have been there before, where would you recommend?



5 Tips How Runners Can Stay Safe and Healthy When Traveling

As someone who has been bitten by the travel bug, I’m an avid traveler and often travel for both fun and for races.  I’m running a half marathon in all 50 states and am up to 38 states completed.  In addition to traveling for races, I try to squeeze in at least one non-racing vacation a year, two if I can manage it.  Just because I’m on vacation doesn’t mean I don’t run, though.  Many years ago when I started traveling often, I had to figure out how to run safely in strange places.

In February, I will be traveling to Utah and among other places Las Vegas.  When most people think of Las Vegas, they think of gambling, partying at clubs, going to shows, eating out, and basically indulging themselves.  Most people don’t equate Las Vegas with running.  In fact, other than gambling, this can be said of many vacation spots.  So what do you do when you’re on vacation and need to go for a run?  How do you stay safe when running in a place you’re not familiar with?

1. Map out your Run

There are several options for mapping out a running route.  Map My Run is a popular site for runners where you can of course map your route but also track your activity and share with friends.  You can also ask the concierge at your hotel for suggested running routes.  Often the concierge is a better option than asking front desk personnel, at least in my experience.  Another option is Walk Jog Run which allows you to find or create a route based on where you are.  Unlike Map My Run, Walk Jog Run does not require you to sign in, but Walk Jog Run is perhaps not quite as comprehensive as Map My Run.  No matter what option you choose, let someone know where you will be running and what time you expect to be back.

Me feeding an ostrich in Aruba.  Did I run there?  Absolutely!

2. Carry a Phone

Although this may seem obvious to runners that always have their cell phones with them, not everyone runs with their phones.  While that may be fine if you’re just running a few miles from your neighborhood, if you’re running in a strange area it’s a whole different story.  You never know what might happen when you’re out on a run- you might get lost, injured, or have some other kind of accident.  Without a cell phone, you can’t immediately call for help.  I don’t know about you, but if I need help, I don’t want to first have to find someone that will let me borrow their phone.

3. Stay on Guard

Your instinct is extremely valuable and should never be ignored.  If you suddenly find yourself in an area where it seems unsafe or you just have a bad feeling, immediately turn around and go back to where you were.  Don’t worry about following your route or anything else.  Your safety should always come first over anything else.  If things go really badly, call for help immediately.

Did I run while vacationing in Austria?  You bet I did!

4. Eating and Drinking

This isn’t necessarily a safety tip, more of a general health running tip, but an important one nonetheless when traveling.  Most of us are guilty of over-indulging in food and drinks when we travel.  Las Vegas is well known for its endless buffets at restaurants and drinks at bars and casinos.  Just be sensible and try to plan ahead.  Check out these great deals to help you plan your next Vegas trip with this link.  You wouldn’t want to go for a run the morning after partying late at night clubs, so make sure you plan out the days you’ll be running so you know to plan your pre-running activities appropriately.  If you don’t make running a priority, it simply won’t happen.

You probably wouldn’t want to eat a beignet and go straight for a run!

5. Watch Where you Run

You always want to run facing traffic, no matter where you are in the world, if there are no sidewalks you can safely run on and you are running on the roads.  If you’re running with your back to traffic and a car comes up behind you and you can’t see it, you can’t be pro-active and get out of their way if necessarily.  Also, never assume someone in a car sees you.  I always assume they don’t see me to err on the side of caution, especially if I’m crossing a road or anywhere near an oncoming vehicle.  If the sidewalk is crowded or is full of cracks and ruts, either run in the grass or the road.  Just use your best judgement.

So really, there’s no reason why runners can’t still run while on vacation and stay safe. Now, if you don’t have an upcoming race and you simply don’t want to run during your vacation, that’s a whole other story!

Is San Diego Paradise? Not Quite…

Paradise.  That’s how my husband would describe San Diego in the months leading up to our vacation there.  This is a place neither he nor I had ever been to so our ideas and descriptions were based primarily on things in the media and online photos and articles we had read online.  I’ve been to Los Angeles, Long Beach, Ventura, Anaheim, Napa Valley, San Francisco, and Yosemite so although I have spent some time in California over the years, I had previously never been much further south than Los Angeles.

I had seen photos like this one taken in La Jolla and this is what I had pictured in my head for San Diego:


I wanted to go to San Diego for years but just hadn’t made it until November. I am running a half marathon in all 50 states and hadn’t ran one in California. For years I had thought my race for California would be the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay but then I heard about the Silver Strand Half Marathon in Coronado, just outside San Diego and thought that would be my ticket to San Diego. San Diego is a very hilly city and none of the races appealed much to me until I found the one in Coronado.

The Silver Strand Half Marathon is about as flat as half marathons come, perhaps a little too flat even, but it sounded like a good race so I signed up. I had heard the weather in San Diego is pretty consistently around 60 to 70 degrees F for the highs most of the year so I didn’t think weather would be a factor in the race in November. I was wrong, but that’s another story. Silver Strand Half Marathon, California-38th state

I knew San Diego has a lot of people since it’s the 6th most populated US city, but it kind of hit me like a brick when I actually went there.  Six lanes of traffic on both sides of a highway divider are common (for 12 lanes of traffic!) for the highways all over San Diego.  This makes for a constant hum of traffic from all of those cars and is worse in some areas than others. Plus, depending on where you are in the city, it’s not uncommon to hear airplanes (military and commercial) flying pretty low overhead steadily throughout the day.

Some desert greenery at Presidio Park in Mission Valley
It’s not all palm trees in San Diego

Houses and apartments seem to be piled on top of one another in places, as everyone is scrambling to get the best view.  Finally, San Diego is expensive!  Housing, food, gasoline, utilities, parking, and just about any other expense I can think of is much more than where I live and many other parts of the United States.

Don’t get me wrong.  San Diego is undeniably one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  It’s just not quite the paradise I had thought it would be.  Perhaps it’s my own fault.  Maybe I just hyped it up too much and it could never live up to such high expectations.  After all, when you dream about going to a place for years, and see all of these idyllic photos online, how could any place ever really live up to that?  I would happily visit San Diego again and again, however, and hopefully will in my lifetime.  I just couldn’t justify paying the high price to live there.  I’m sure if I was born there or if I moved there before I had a family I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, though.

The views don’t get much better than this

I spent almost three weeks in this vibrant city and will be writing about my adventures in upcoming posts here.  My family and I started our vacation in Coronado, as I mentioned above, then moved to the middle of San Diego in Mission Valley, and finally to Del Mar, just north of San Diego.  We planned activities based on suggestions from friends who live in San Diego as well as things I found on my own.  I found the area to be very inspiring to me as a writer and would constantly be jotting down notes to remind myself to write about when I got back to my room.  Hopefully these posts will inspire others who have not been to San Diego to visit and see for themselves what an awe-inspiring place it is.  It may not be paradise but it’s pretty close.



Top 5 Running Memories

Recently I started thinking about my running and racing history.  To date, I’ve ran two 5k’s, a 10k, a 10 miler, a 15k,  40 half marathons and one marathon.  This is all within the last 20 years.   I ran on my elementary school’s track team but after that only ran for fun until I finished graduate school and had settled into my life as an adult.

My first race as an adult was a 5k.  There was certainly nothing particularly memorable about it, even though it was my first race, but I do remember certain details about it.  It was on July 4 and it was in the evening but it was still hot and humid, as one would predict. Probably the biggest thing I got out of that race was the desire to do more.  I began running more and more races with longer distances.

I wanted to run a marathon by the time I turned 30.  I ran the Long Beach Marathon when I was 31 years old so I wasn’t off by much.  Just training for the race was like having a part-time job, with all of the time I spent running.  After I would run for my longest runs of up to 18-20 miles I would be totally wiped out for hours afterward.  The worst of it was I felt like I was always either sick or injured.  My immune system was being compromised and my body just couldn’t take all of the pounding on the roads.  The Long Beach Marathon leads me to my top five most memorable running experiences.

1. The day of the Long Beach Marathon in California was unseasonably hot when I ran it.  It was in the 80’s and people were quite literally dropping out of the race all around me, passing out from the extreme heat.  I must have been severely dehydrated myself because I experienced tunnel vision, where I had no peripheral vision; I could only see straight ahead of me, with only blackness in my periphery.  When that started, I did what any stubborn runner like me would do and walk.  I knew if I stopped moving that would be the end and I would drop out. I did not want my first marathon to be a DNF (did not finish). Somehow I managed to keep it together and crossed the finish line.  The first words I said to my husband were, “I don’t ever want to do that again.”  And I didn’t.  Instead I choose to stick to half marathons.  While the Long Beach Marathon may not be a pleasant memory for me given the race conditions, I still felt a sense of accomplishment just for finishing it and it’s definitely one of my most memorable races.

2. My fastest half marathon was at Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state.  By this point I thought I had probably peaked as far as my finish times but I proved that even someone in their 40’s can still PR!  The course was slightly downhill but not so much that it felt pounding on my quads.  The race began at the top of Spearfish Canyon and finished at the bottom, basically.  I remember running through the canyon thinking, “This is so amazing that I get to run through this!  How many people get to do this?”  Running that race felt like a privilege indeed.  Perhaps my positive attitude effected my time as well.

The top of Spearfish Canyon

3. Vermont was my first foray into the New England states and I was instantly in love with the area.  Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont-9th state.  This was a hilly race for sure but it was one where the people running around me gave off such positive vibes that it was one of the most fun and memorable races I’ve ran.  I remember many times during the race that people would crack jokes and everyone around would laugh out loud. Vermont is one of the greenest states I’ve ever seen as far as the trees and grass. The course runs through lovely green pastures and fields and is truly beautiful.  Plus, as you might guess from the name of the race, you get to run through or past several covered bridges.

One of many covered bridges in Vermont

4. The only time I’ve won first place in my age group was at the Roller Coaster Half Marathon, Missouri- 32nd state.  The course wasn’t particularly scenic, but it wasn’t bad.  It was two loops, which I certainly wasn’t crazy about but in hindsight it was kind of good to know exactly what I was in for the second time around.  When I finished, my husband (who is not a runner and is my photographer and support crew along with my daughter) said, “I think we should stick around for the awards ceremony.”  I said, “Really?  OK.” When they gave the award for second place in my age group, I said to my daughter, “I remember passing her.”  My husband replied, “What does that tell you?”  Tears started to well up in my eyes.  As I type this, tears are starting to well up again, honestly.  Then the announcer called my name as the first place female in my age group and it was all I could do not to cry like a baby.  I was shocked.  I was elated.  I felt so incredibly proud and yet humble at the same time, if that makes sense.  This was definitely a highlight of racing for me.


5. When I signed up my daughter for Girls on the Run (see my post on that here Girls on the Run Interview), a running group that introduces girls to running and healthy lifestyles, culminating in a 5k, she had a love/hate relationship with running.  She would say she’d want to go running with me but when we got out, she’d whine and complain how hard it was until ultimately we ended up walking or just going back home.  I always told her we would go completely at her pace, too, so I definitely wasn’t pushing her.  The frustrating part of it for me was I could see the potential in her as a runner.  She’s a natural.  She’s one of those people that just looks like a gazelle when she runs.  However, she could not see the potential in herself, that is, until she started running with other girls in the Girls on the Run program.  I could see her confidence gradually gaining and by the time of the 5k she had completely changed her attitude.  I remember being so proud of my daughter when we ran the Girls on the Run 5k together and thinking that someday we may even run a half marathon together.  How cool would that be?



What are your most memorable races?



Silver Strand Half Marathon, California-38th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. California was my 38th state.

While technically not in San Diego, Coronado, the location of the Silver Strand Half Marathon, is a suburb just a short drive from San Diego. I had heard great things about San Diego and wanted to go and see it for myself for years. When I saw this 2016 race and realized it fit into my daughter’s school schedule perfectly, I signed up and planned a vacation for my family.

Packet pickup for the race was Friday and Saturday at Roadrunner Sports before the race on Sunday (Veteran’s Day weekend). It was well-organized and efficient. We received our shirts, technical tank tops for women and technical short-sleeve for men, bibs, and a few coupons and samples. There were plenty of volunteers so everything went quickly and efficiently.

Packet Pickup at Roadrunner Sports

Other than a half marathon, the race also included a 5k, 10 miler, and half marathon for skaters, handcyclers, and wheelchair racers. The 5k started at Imperial Beach but the rest of the races started at Sunset Park and finished at Imperial Beach. There were over 3500 runners in the half marathon alone, so this was not a small race. Roadrunner Sports Pacing Team was also on the course.

When the race began at 7:30, it was 63 degrees and partly cloudy. Within 30 minutes, the sun was out in full force and it was quickly heating up. The course was crowded and I had to constantly jockey for a spot for the first mile, while I got bumped by others and tried to avoid bumping others. By San Diego standards, Coronado is flat, and I was glad I didn’t have to run hills on top of the heat. My quads took a pounding, however because of the flat terrain. The race was mainly along Silver Strand Boulevard and was a point-to-point course.




I stayed at my goal pace for the first 5 miles or so but then the heat really started to get to me. Despite drinking fluids and dumping ice cold water over my head, I just couldn’t keep cool. I slowed about 15 to 20 seconds per mile for the next 6 miles. The last 2 miles were my slowest of the race. There was a hill at 11 miles that I had heard locals talking about and I was a bit concerned. It wasn’t a steep hill but it seemed to go on forever especially given my tired quads. At this point all time goals went out the window and the goal was just to finish without walking.

There were 5 bands on the course, all of which were really good. Because most of the course was on a road that was closed off to traffic for the race, there were almost no spectators until we got to the Imperial Beach area. There were aid stations every 2 miles with ice cold water and Gatorade. There were also volunteers handing out gummy bears along the course in a couple of places.

At the finish there was the usual:  orange slices, bagels, a variety of mini muffins but sadly no chocolate milk, only water. There was a beer garden supporting the Challenged Athletes Foundation at the finish. They were asking for donations from runners. There were several vendors giving out free samples such as protein drinks, aloe water, Naked juice, water bottles, and more. The medals were cute and pretty hefty. My finish time was 2:06:46.

The finish was just around the corner!
Imperial Beach pier

Parking was a challenge since the only parking was off-street, which was limited and difficult to find. I stayed in Coronado the night before the race less than a mile from the start (at Cherokee Lodge Bed & Breakfast) so I just walked to the start but my husband had to park several blocks from the finish. Since it was a point-to-point race, I couldn’t just walk back to my room. It felt like a very long walk to the car because I was so tired and dehydrated after the race.

All in all, this was a scenic race and pretty well-organized but I have mixed feelings about it and am not sure if I would recommend it. I’ve heard it’s a bit cooler in June, so maybe that would be a better time of year to run a race in San Diego. But then again it would most likely be hilly, so I guess you have a choice of hot and flat or (a bit) cooler and hills if you’re going to run a race in this area.


Silver Strand Half Marathon

Boulder Rez Half Marathon, Colorado- 37th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Colorado was my 37th state.

I don’t know anyone from a lower elevation who would set out to run a race in Colorado with the intention of setting a PR (personal record). Running at a higher elevation decreases the amount of oxygen that gets to muscles. Low atmospheric pressure makes the blood less oxygen-rich as it goes to the muscles. Quite simply, your heart has to work harder and it is more difficult just to get your breath at a higher elevation. After much debate and consideration I signed up for the 2016 Boulder Rez Half Marathon.

I researched elevations of cities in Colorado with half marathons (some of them are no joke!) and with an elevation of 5,430 feet Boulder is one of the lower ones. I ran the Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state, which is about 5,000 feet above sea level, so I thought I would be alright. I wasn’t considering the fact that Spearfish Canyon was a downhill course and Boulder Rez is not; apparently that made a huge difference as I would find out first-hand.


Packet pickup was the usual only my bag included some unique things like a book- “Oola. Find Balance in an Unbalanced World.” I also received a full box of cereal and two small sample sized boxes of cereal (Mighty Flakes, made from beans) among the other usual free samples and coupons. The shirt was a nice technical short-sleeve fitted gender-specific-sized.


The course itself was not what I expected. The info I read said, “This amazing run course around the Boulder Reservoir is astonishing and remains mostly on dirt roads and trails! The course is flat with only 200 feet of elevation gain, and will take you across the Boulder Reservoir and around some beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains.” I guess when you’re at a higher elevation, 200 feet of elevation gain feels more like 500 feet. Or maybe it was just me.

This was one of my toughest half marathons to date. The hilly courses in Tennessee, Maine, and Oregon, just to name a few, were absolutely nothing like this course. I felt tired after running only 2 miles. I also felt nauseous around mile 5 or 6 which I can only attribute to the altitude and I had to really focus just to keep it together.

The course was 2 laps around the Boulder Reservoir. When I signed up for the race and saw it was around the reservoir I thought it would be relatively flat but I was wrong. I would say the course was full of rolling hills. They weren’t that steep or long but were definitely hills. That combined with the heat and elevation made for one challenging course for me.

It was around 60 degrees at the 7:15 a.m. start and quickly heated up so that it was in the 70’s within the hour. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, only a slight breeze, and of course no shade. The views of the mountains and the water along the course were amazing and definitely helped to keep me motivated. There was no crowd support except at the start/finish area. There were plenty of volunteers and water stations along the course however.

I was never so happy to see a finish line in sight! Food at the finish included bagels, hard boiled eggs, oranges, cereal bars, yogurt, and beer. The medals were huge! We also got a free race photo to download. My finish time was one of my slowest of recent races (and certainly of the races where I wasn’t anemic) but as I said, this was one race I was just thrilled to finish, 2:13:17.

Boulder is about a 45 minute drive from the Denver International Airport.  After the race, my family and I did quite a bit of hiking in the Boulder area Colorado in June- Hiking in Boulder. We also drove to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado in June- Estes Park and RMNP and spent a full day there. Estes Park is about an hour drive from Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park is only about 15 minutes from Estes Park.





Boulder Rez Half Marathon

McKenzie River Half Marathon, Oregon- 36th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Oregon was my 36th state.

I thought I had chosen my 2016 Oregon half marathon well in advance and everything was taken care of. About a month before the race, my daughter informed me she would like to run a 5K in Oregon when I ran my half marathon, so I went to the website to register her and myself (I just hadn’t gotten around to registering myself but since it was a small race I wasn’t worried about it) and I had some questions about the 5K. I emailed the race director, who got back to me within a half an hour saying the race was cancelled and wanted to know what website I was getting my information from (since it needed to be updated).

I was in a panic. What do you mean the race has been cancelled? I have my flights, hotel, car all reserved. We’re going there next month! She asked me if I might be interested in another half marathon in Eugene that just happened to be that same weekend, only instead of Saturday like the one I thought I was going to run, this one was Sunday. I looked up the McKenzie River Half Marathon online. It was perfect. I signed up immediately and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

But then I began to realize just how crazy runners are in Eugene, Oregon. Eugene is the birthplace of Nike. It’s where the famous runner Steve Prefontaine “Pre” was from. I would be dead last against all of these die-hard runners. I had to let all of that go and just focus on running my best race, which wasn’t easy.

Shirts were available for purchase at packet pickup at the Hilton Garden Inn in Springfield (not included in the registration fee) but I chose not to get one this time. While I was at packet pickup, I asked someone there about the course and was told, “It’s not bad at all.  It’s pretty flat with some rolling hills.” In my experience, rolling hills = HUGE NON-STOP HILLS. Now that I’ve run this race, I can say my fears were confirmed and that’s pretty much how I describe the course- uphill except for the first 2 miles and the last mile. No downhill at all. Yes, these Eugene runners are crazy.

The race started at Emerald Dance Center in Springfield (with shuttles dropping people off here due to limited parking) and ended inside Armitage Park in Eugene. The course went through the Hayden Bridge neighborhood then to Old Mohawk Rd and McKenzie View Dr. before ending at Armitage Park. Along the route, we ran past farms and had glimpses of the river here and there.

Click here for a GPS COURSE MAP. When I checked out the course elevation profile from the race website, it didn’t look too terribly bad, but when I was actually running the course it seemed pretty difficult. It’s funny how they are often deceptive like that. The weather was good- overcast and in the low 40’s at the start and upper 50’s at the finish. There were no spectators and only a few aid stations along the course.

At the finish, I received my medal that I thought was unique-looking. There was a wide array of food and drinks at the finish- pizza, beer, Gatorade, fruit, energy bars, and soup. Despite all of the hills and the fact that this was one of the toughest races I had ever run, I managed to finish third in my age group, winning a nice beer glass. My finish time was 2:02:32.

Note, my husband, who takes all of my race photos had issues with the camera so I only have two photos from the race and neither are that great.



A couple of days before the race, my family and I flew into Portland and from there it was a little over a 2 hour drive to Eugene. After the race we drove to Bend (about 2 1/2 hours) and did a ton of hiking there. Bend is a really fun place if you love outdoor activities. For things to do in Eugene and Bend see my post: Central Oregon-Eugene and Bend. I also recommend going to Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area before or after the race to see multiple waterfalls.


McKenzie River Half Marathon and 5K

Dixville Half Marathon, New Hampshire- 35th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. New Hampshire was my 35th state.

Before I chose this race, my daughter’s best friend from grade school had recently moved several states away from us to Vermont. My daughter missed her greatly and kept asking when she could go and visit her. I had already run a half marathon in Vermont (Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont-9th state) but I hadn’t run one in New Hampshire. I knew how close parts of Vermont and New Hampshire can be so I started looking up half marathons in New Hampshire. Beyond belief, I found a race about a half an hour from my daughter’s friend’s house- the Dixville Half Marathon in Colebrook, New Hampshire and I signed up for the 2015 race.

Most people probably have no idea where Colebrook is or what there is to do there. Let me save you the trouble and tell you it is in the far northernmost corner of New Hampshire, bordering on Vermont, and about 45 minutes from the Canadian border. It is a very remote portion of the United States, sparsely populated, with not much to do. I had a very hard time finding a decent place for my family and I to stay, with such limited availability, and there are only a handful of restaurants anywhere within a 20-30 minute drive of Colebrook. However, as I mentioned, Colebrook is close to the Canadian border and Montreal is only about 2 and 1/2 hours away by car. I can’t recommend visiting Montreal enough. The architecture, food, and things to do are all unique and well-worth a visit. See Montreal, a City Unlike Any Other.

The Dixville Half Marathon was a very low-key race as you might imagine, being in such a small town. Most years there have been 100-200 runners for this race. Packet pickup was at Coleman State Park the day of the race. We received a long-sleeve t-shirt of nice quality but nothing extraordinary. It was unisex sized and a bit on the large side for me.


Typically, the nights get quite chilly in northern New Hampshire the end of September and I was glad the race didn’t start until 10:30 am, since it allowed some extra time to warm up just enough for nice running weather. The weather was perfect for the majority of the race but it started to get hot by the end, when it was in the mid-60’s.

The race began on Diamond Pond Road but the majority of the course was on Route 26, with parts along the Mohawk River. With the fall foliage at its peak, the scenery was nice as we wound along the countryside at a very gradual downhill descent. Although the course was called “a scenic, downhill course,” there were also many steep uphill portions that were quite difficult. There were views of farms, barns, and pasture but not much else including spectators.


The course dropped by about 1,200 feet in elevation, with the last stretch going through town streets of Colebrook and finishing at the North Country Community Recreation Center. In a quite cruel twist, the last tenth of a mile was up a steep hill. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is this race was so small and low-key it wasn’t even chip-timed. Someone wrote down all finishers’ times, and a portion of each finisher’s bibs were tacked up on a huge board in order. My finish time was 1:57.

All runners had free access to the recreation center to change and take a shower after the race. Since it was a nice day and there was music with a local band playing, I decided to take a shower and change clothes then hang out for the awards ceremony. I managed to finish second in my age group, so I won a silver medal. Medals weren’t given out to all of the finishers; only the top three in each age group.


The finish (the blue tent)!
How many of you have seen one of these at a race?

I enjoyed this race even though it’s super small in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. It was great weather and the people were friendly and it was just a perfect day to run a half marathon in New Hampshire. Just don’t plan on spending much time here because there honestly isn’t much to do!

The 44th annual Dixville Half Marathon was scheduled for September 26, 2020.  It just goes to show even small towns can keep a race going for many years with enough support!

Dixville Half Marathon

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