Off-the-Beaten Path Things to Do in Del Mar, California

Del Mar is a small town in San Diego County most famous for its horse track and fairgrounds. Just south of Del Mar and north of La Jolla lies Torrey Pines State Park, with one of the most beautiful beaches in the area.  Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has several trails with mostly short distances but many gorgeous views. We went on several trails before finally taking the Beach Trail, which not surprisingly leads to the beach at the bottom. If you make it to the beach at low tide, you can check out Flat Rock just south of the bottom of Beach Trail, just be sure you get off the rock and back to the beach before high tide.

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Going to the horse races and fairgrounds for events in Del Mar and hiking in Torrey Pines are popular things to do in the Del Mar and La Jolla areas, but if you’re looking for something a little different, I have some suggestions.  For starters, go to Torrey Pines Gliderport.  This is a city-owned private-use glider airport in La Jolla, just a short drive from Del Mar. It is on the cliffs above the clothing-optional Black’s Beach and affords exceptional ocean views and of La Jolla. People have been launching sailplanes, paragliders, and hang gliders here since 1930. The Gliderport also offers paragliding and hang gliding lessons and tandem flights.  Torrey Pines Gliderport

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I suggest going to the Gliderport even if you have no intention of doing a tandem paraglide. This place is beautiful to just walk around and admire the view. When we first arrived at Torrey Pines Gliderport, there was no one gliding off the cliff. However, after walking around for a bit and going down to the beach and back, we saw three people who were suiting up to launch their paragliders. There was a small group of others watching as well, some of whom knew the jumpers but many did not. It was fun just to watch them prepare their suits and check and re-check all of the lines. Finally, the first one started running then jumped off the cliff and was gone just like that.

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To get even further off the beaten path, check out Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary in Del Mar. The mission of Free Flight is “to maintain a sanctuary that shelters, nurtures and re-socializes parrots, while educating the public to inspire a lasting concern for the well being of exotic birds.” What that really means is you get to handle birds one-on-one such as parrots, cockatoos, and macaws and be a part of helping these animals socialize and interact with people.

After paying the admission of $7 for adults and $3 for children, you disinfect your hands and are given instructions on how to handle the birds. You are not only allowed but are encouraged to handle the birds and interact with them. This is no zoo where the birds are locked up in cages. With a couple of exceptions, if a bird is in a cage, it is only because hawks are in the area and they don’t want the smaller birds to become dinner for a hawk. You can open a cage and let out a bird then put it back in the cage when you’re ready to move on.

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We loved the concept of this place and the idea of helping to socialize these beautiful birds. No one in my family has ever had a bird or had much interaction with a bird so this was all new to us. We learned a lot about birds from the people working and volunteering there and our interactions with the birds themselves. We loved how much personality many of the birds had and how unique they all were. One bird, “Peanut” was a real talker and once when she was singing and talking, a bird beside her started dancing, then another bird joined in and was also dancing. It was hilarious!

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We spent an hour and a half at Free Flight but I would plan on staying at least 30 minutes if you intend on interacting with the birds at all. You can also purchase food to feed the birds or fish for a small fee (but you don’t have to; there’s no pressure from anyone there). Oh, there are also Koi fish in a pond near the entrance.

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Just Checking In- One Week to Go

It’s just a little over a week until my next half marathon which will be my 41st half marathon in state number 39. The race is in Utah and I’ve never been there but am hugely excited about all of the hiking my family and I have planned to do after the race, so yes, it will be another racecation for us. With only one week to go before the race, how am I doing?  Well, for some reason it feels like forever since I’ve ran a race, even though I ran a half marathon in San Diego in November- Silver Strand Half Marathon, California-38th state so it really hasn’t been that long.

My training plan, which I’ve just cobbled together myself based on other training plans I’ve read about or otherwise came across consists of running just three days a week.  I know some of you may be gasping and saying to yourself, “Only three days a week?  That’s crazy!” When I was younger I would run four or five days a week depending on what I was training for, but for the past several years I’ve just been running three days a week.  However, I also ride my bike outside (or indoors if it’s too cold outside) one day a week, go to yoga class one day a week, go to core class one day a week, and lift weights one day a week. That leaves me with doing some form of exercise every day of the week. I feel like yoga, cycling, and maintaining muscle are all extremely important for runners and I just don’t have enough time in the day to do all of that plus run massive amounts, work full-time, take care of my daughter, and do all of the other million things I need to do. I can get by with it by running half marathons but I know I would need to add another day or two if I was training for marathons.

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Zion National Park awaits! Photo credit NPS

So how do I get enough miles in by only running three days a week? Obviously there is zero room for any “fun runs” or any other kind of easy or recovery run days. I run either hills or do a tempo run one day, speed work another day, and a long run, a.k.a. a “leg strengthening run” on the third day. Why do I call my long run my “leg strengthening run?”  I just started calling it that recently because although my legs surely get stronger on my speed work days, I feel like putting in the miles is what really strengthens them and gets them ready for a half marathon. I’ve seen training plans where they’re called “long slow distance” runs, but I prefer “leg strengthening run.”

But back to the original question- how am I doing with only one week to go? I’m not sure, to be honest. I had a rough start in my training because of a cold that turned into bronchitis and once my cough finally went away after weeks, just when I was finally feeling better, I got another cold. The second one wasn’t nearly as bad as the first cold but it did put a damper on my running.  I remember having to stop running multiple times on one of my long runs to blow my nose in the tissues I had thankfully brought. I’m over all of that but I’ve also had this strange pain in my right leg that I’ve had a hard time figuring out what the cause is. The best I can determine, it’s a knot that firmly wedged itself in the soleus muscle of my calf. Anyway, it hurts, sometimes a lot, sometimes not as much but the pain does seem to come and go.  I’ve been foam rolling, rolling on a lacrosse ball, and getting massage therapy. Last night when I did speed work, my leg started to hurt and after I was done, my leg hurt a lot.  If this happens during the race, I’m not sure I’ll be able to run through the pain for that long. We’ll see, I guess.

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Bryce Canyon; photo credit Warren Russell

I will be in a new age group for this half marathon, as my birthday is two days before the race. I’ve checked last year’s results, though, and there’s no way I’ll be anywhere near the top three for my new age group. This is a downhill course and either that’s why the previous times are all so fast, or else women from this part of Utah are just super-speedy!  I’m definitely looking forward to the downhill course. The last downhill course I ran was Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state and I loved that race, and it was my fastest finish time to date, so who knows what might happen at this one.

Finish times aside, I’m just looking forward to running a race in a new state and having tons of fun with my family in Utah and Arizona and seeing the sights including Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park (our National Parks Pass will come in handy!).  My daughter is also running a 5k, while I run my half marathon.  I wish I could watch her but the start times are the same so I’ll miss it but my husband will be with her, photographing and videoing it for me.

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Grand Canyon; photo credit Rob Parsons

Does anyone else have any races coming up?  I know a bunch of you have been racing a lot this month and I’ve enjoyed reading about your experiences.

Knott’s Berry Farm, an Amusement Park in California

On a recent vacation to San Diego, we decided to include an amusement park in our plans. In the greater Los Angeles area, about a one and a half to three hour drive from San Diego are the following amusement parks:  Universal Studios Hollywood, Pacific Park, Disney California Adventure Park,  Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Adventure City, and Disneyland. There’s also LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad and SeaWorld in San Diego. With so many to choose from, how do you choose just one?

It really depends what you’re interested in. My daughter is a huge roller coaster fan so I was looking primarily at roller coasters in making my decision. It was a tough decision between Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Knott’s Berry Farm is only about an hour and a half from San Diego but Six Flags Magic Mountain is about 3 hours from San Diego, so I chose Knott’s Berry Farm largely on proximity. However, Knott’s Berry Farm has eight “aggressive thrill” rides, so I knew it would be a good choice for our family.

Roller Coasters

There are ten roller coasters at Knott’s Berry Farm, six of which are rated “5, Aggressive Thrill,” with 5 being the highest and the other four are rated “4, High Thrill.”  To me, one of the most crazy was Montezooma’s Revenge, which goes from from 0 to 55 mph in just 3 seconds, travels through a giant, seven-story loop — once forward, then again backwards.

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Montezooma’s Revenge
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Sierra Sidewinder takes you backwards up the first hill

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Xcelerator’s top speed is 82 mph, which you hit in only 2.3 seconds!

Experiences

There are many different kinds of things to do including Pan For Gold, the Blacksmith Shop, the Old Schoolhouse, Snoopy/Peanuts Gang Meet & Greet, Western Trails Museum and more. Plus, there are several live entertainment shows throughout the day including Camp Snoopy Theater and Frontier Feats of Wonder! Stunt Show.  I personally love the Snoopy/Peanuts theme throughout the park. Some other aspects of the park reminded me a little of Silver Dollar City, an amusement with a “wild west” kind of feel in Branson, Missouri.

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I love the Snoopy theme at the park!
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Stagecoach ride anyone?  You don’t see these at most amusement parks!

Thrill Rides

If roller coasters aren’t enough for you thrill junkies, there are two more rides that are considered “aggressive thrill rides.” Supreme Scream rockets riders straight up to a record-breaking 252 feet in midair, before blasting them straight down in three seconds at gravity-defying speeds topping 50 mph and after experiencing three seconds of total weightlessness. You bounce halfway back up the ride’s structure before returning to the launch pad. La Revolucion swings you 64 feet in the air (over 6 stories high) to 120 degrees in both directions, while spinning you continuously at up to 9 RPMs. Between the inward-facing inverted seating and the combination of the swinging arm and rotating gondola only people with iron stomachs can ride this one!

Children’s Area

The Children’s Area is a generous 6-acres full of more than 30 rides and attractions. One of my favorites is Woodstock’s Airmail, a child-sized version of the park’s Supreme Scream (mentioned in previous paragraph).  Obviously, Woodstock’s Airmail is much tamer than Supreme Scream, and it’s cute to watch.

Other Rides

Voyage to the Iron Reef is a 4-D interactive ride where you shoot at creatures with your “freeze ray” and it’s a fun ride for the whole family. There are also two water rides, Timber Mountain Log Ride and Bigfoot Rapids, a whitewater river raft ride.  Also a family-friendly ride, Calico Railroad departs daily from Ghost Town Station for a round-trip tour of the park.

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The Christmas decorations were nice and not overly done.

With all of these options, it’s hard to fit everything you want to see and do in one day.  We arrived at the park shortly after they opened and stayed until they closed and still didn’t do many things.  I was surprised at just how much there is at this park.  You could easily stretch it out to two days and not be so rushed and you would definitely be able to see and do everything that way. We only had one day and had to prioritize what we wanted to do.

Bottom line, would I recommend going here?  Absolutely.

Admission Tip:  buy your ticket online 3 or more days in advance online and save $31 per ticket off the front gate price of $75.  Adult tickets are $44 if purchased three or more days in advance and $49 if purchased 2 or less days in advance online.  Single day tickets for children ages 3-11 or adults 62 or older are $42 if purchased online, saving you $3 over the gate price.

Knott’s Berry Farm

How to Run With Your Dog

My dog is a better runner than I am.  I’ll admit it freely.  She has perfect form and looks beautiful when she runs.  I, on the other hand, have a grumpy right leg that causes me to look more like I’m hobbling than running half the time. If only I could run as naturally as my dog does I would surely be a better runner.

If you’re a runner and you just got a dog (or you’ve had a dog for a few years but just never ran with them) and are interested in running with your dog, where do you get started? Just pick up the leash and take your dog out for a run? Well, you could, but I don’t advise that. There are some things to keep in mind when training your dog to run with you.

To begin with, let’s take a look at your dog. If you have a tiny little pup, chances aren’t great you’ll be able to run with your dog. They just won’t be able to keep up. If you have a dog with a pushed-in snout like a pug, they most likely won’t be able to breath well enough when running since they’re prone to breathing problems anyway. Older dogs aren’t a good choice especially if they have arthritic hips, legs, or feet. If you’re unsure if your dog would be able to comfortably handle running, just ask your veterinarian. For puppies, the age range when they’re ready to go running varies by breed, so you should definitely ask your vet to be sure.

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If you have a dog that’s a good breed and age for running and you’re ready to begin, just remember to start slowly and gradually add miles. This is the same advice for any runner, really. You wouldn’t just go out and run 5 miles without any prior running experience so you shouldn’t expect your dog to do the same. Nor should you just step out your front door and start off at a fast pace.

When you head out the door, walk for a few minutes to warm up and get your dog to use the bathroom then gradually increase your pace. If your dog is having trouble keeping up, slow down and stop if necessary. It could be they just need to use the bathroom, or maybe they truly are tired and need a walk break. Go by your dog’s cues and pace for the first several times you take them out running. 10 minutes is a good start for a first-time run with your dog. If that goes well, gradually increase that amount to a distance your dog can easily handle.

Also, your dog should know some basic commands before you attempt to run with them. They should know how to walk calmly on a leash, not dragging you to every tree or squirrel in sight. If they can’t walk on a leash they’re certainly not ready to run on a leash. “Leave it” is immensely useful when walking and running with your dog, as is “wait” or “stay.” If you’re at a crosswalk waiting for a traffic light to change, “sit” can be helpful. I like to use a command to let my dog know it’s time to start running, “ready.” When I say “ready” she knows right away that’s her cue to start running.

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I like to use a 4-foot leash because I feel like I don’t have control of my dog when I use anything longer than that. Your dog should not be pulling you, just as they shouldn’t pull you when you walk them. Use a corrective command if they start to pull to make sure they’re close by your side. You also don’t want your dog to charge at someone else who walks or runs by you.

Weather is also a huge factor when running with your dog. If it’s hot and humid, you shouldn’t be running with your dog. Likewise, if it’s been snowing and the areas where you’re running have been treated with salt, it’s not a good idea to take your dog there, as the salt can hurt their feet. On the subject of feet, check your dogs feet and pads when you get home to make sure there are no cuts or other damage.

If your dog is panting more heavily than normal, starts acting lethargic, vomiting, or drooling heavily, call someone to come and pick you and your dog up and take you to a vet if necessary. Dogs can experience heatstroke and overexertion just like humans. Don’t ignore the warning signs and don’t just give your dog a ton of water hoping that will be enough. Again, like humans, dogs can also drink too much water and this can be detrimental.

Running with your dog can be a fun way to add some variety to your runs. My dog is a wonderful running partner in that she never complains about how hard it is; in fact she never complains about anything ever. She’s always happy and excited to be outside and the sheer joy she experiences when running is palpable. If only I could be more like my dog!

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How many of you run with your dog or have been considering running with your dog? What kind of dog do you have? Any and all comments are appreciated!

On a totally unrelated note, I’d like to share a code from Nuun hydration for 25% off through Valentine’s Day, “nuunlove25.” Just order through their website here.  If you’ve never tried Nuun, here’s a nice opportunity.

 

How to Get From San Diego to Mexico if You’re a Tourist (and an American Citizen)

If you’re ever visiting San Diego and are curious about going to Mexico for a day trip, it isn’t quite as easy as you might think, or at least that was my experience. My husband suggested we go to Rosarito, Mexico one day while we were on a recent vacation in San Diego. He had heard that Rosarito is a nice resort area and wanted to go walk along the beach and spend the day there. San Diego is only about 30 minutes by car to the border and just another 30 minutes from there to Rosarito. We thought, how hard can it be to drive there?

Here is an image from the internet of Rosarito, Mexico.  This is what my husband saw when he looked it up online.  It looks pretty fantastic, doesn’t it?

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When we asked some of my husband’s friends who live in San Diego the best way to get there, we were told they hadn’t been to Mexico in years and couldn’t remember. We stopped at a visitor center and were again told by both people they hadn’t been in years. Next we stopped at a trolley information center and were told by the woman working there she had no idea. My husband asked the manager of the bed and breakfast where we were staying. She called her sister who takes people on tours of wineries in Mexico, who told her she could take us there for $150 (not sure if that was total or per person), but that wasn’t exactly what we wanted either.

Just about exasperated by this point, we searched online and found conflicting information about both driving from San Diego to Mexico and taking public transportation there. My husband called our car insurance company and was told we would not have coverage if we drove into Mexico. Finally my husband called Hertz, the rental company we had rented a car through for our vacation in San Diego. He was told we could purchase insurance coverage for Mexico for $38/day. This seemed to be our best option.

The following morning, he drove to the Hertz office where we had previously picked up the car and we bought the extra insurance. Finally we were off to Mexico! It only took about an hour and a half to drive from Coronado to Rosarito. The roads there were in decent shape and it was simple enough to get there. Going over the border into Mexico is a non-event and it’s really no different than driving from one US state to another. We were never stopped by border patrol or anyone else going into Mexico.

We had a little trouble finding a parking spot in Rosarito but we finally figured out the spaces with the curb painted green are OK to park in. Spaces with red are not OK to park in. We parked and went straight to the beach. What a disappointment! The beach was dirty, littered with trash, and smelled bad. It was not a place we wanted to stay for long so after a quick walk along the beach we made our way back to the main street.

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There was trash littered all over Rosarito Beach
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Rosarito Beach smelled like trash and raw fish- yuck!

At this point we had been in Rosarito for less than 30 minutes and had been harassed by multiple people at the beach trying to sell us something or get us to eat at their restaurant. We thought we would do a little shopping but we had a hard time even finding shops to go in. Many weren’t open despite it being 11:00 on a Wednesday morning and there weren’t that many to choose from open or not.

We did end up finding a couple of nice art galleries, one of which had excellent prices and quality. There were some other shops full of touristy items and even some Donald Trump piñatas. In the end we didn’t buy anything but walked around some more to find a restaurant for lunch. We had a tasty lunch of burritos and enchiladas but it wasn’t exactly cheap.

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Our lunch spot was like eating in a garden with all of the greenery

After lunch my daughter said she wanted to find a bakery so we found a shop that sold only cupcakes and bought 3 for about $2.50 total and they even came with a free cup of coffee with each cupcake (which we declined). The woman working here spoke no English, so I was glad I had so much Spanish in high school and college. In contrast to what we paid for lunch, these cupcakes were a great deal. Just two days prior we had bought cupcakes in San Diego for $3.50 each. Big difference.

After eating our cupcakes we decided we had seen enough of Rosarito and started the drive back to San Diego. I wish I could say it was a nice scenic drive back but it really wasn’t. On the drive there we took highway 1D/Scenic Road, which ran along the ocean but my husband wanted to try a different way back and it wasn’t nearly as scenic. I guess the lesson here is stick to the scenic route.

Then we came upon a sight unlike anything I had ever encountered. Close to the border to enter the United States was the biggest spectacle of street vendors I have ever seen. There were people selling everything from blankets to Jesus statues to snacks to hats to cooking pots and more. I’ve never seen so many baby Jesus statues in my life!

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The vendors began here under this bridge underpass
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This is just a fraction of the vendors you will pass on your way into the US

After sitting in traffic at the border for an hour and a half we finally made it to border patrol for passport check. Then we were told we had to go to a secondary checkpoint which we were randomly chosen for (Yay! This meant an even longer wait time). The secondary checkpoint took another 15 minutes, for a total of 2 hours just to drive through border patrol.

Would I recommend driving into Mexico from San Diego if you’re just curious about what it’s like and want to spend the day there? Absolutely not but I didn’the go to the more popular Tijuana or anywhere else so I can’t speak for anywhere other than Rosarito. Now I see why everyone we asked about it hadn’t gone in so long they couldn’t even remember or had never been. Save yourself some hassle and just stay in beautiful San Diego. Then again, maybe you should go now before the wall goes up!

Planning a Racecation

Racecation, while not in the dictionary (yet), is when you combine a race with a vacation.  Racecations have become fairly common, especially with the longer distance races like the half marathon and marathon.  Since I am running a half marathon in all 50 states and am up to my 38th state, I have planned my fair share of racecations.  Obviously I love racecations but I know many people may be anxious about running a race that’s far from where they live.  If you’re one of those that’s on the fence about it, read on.

Why should you do a racecation?

If you choose your race within a reasonable drive of a scenic area, you can follow up a race with a fun vacation, a sort of celebration or party if you will.  While you can do it in reverse, with the vacation first then the race at the end, I don’t advise that if at all avoidable.  I have had a few racecations this way because of my daughter’s school schedule (she’s never missed a vacation, racecation or otherwise with my husband and me), or a holiday that I didn’t want to be traveling during, or some other logistical reason.  One thing to know about my family’s vacations are they are rarely the kind where we lounge around in hammocks for half the day.  We have active vacations that include hiking, swimming, taking walking tours, etc. Not exactly the kinds of things you want to be doing right before a race, though.

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My racecation in Colorado allowed me to catch up with a long-time friend

It’s not the best idea to follow up a week of hiking with running a half marathon or marathon, but it can be done.  The best way to plan this kind of racecation where the race is at the end of your vacation is to make absolutely sure you stay off your feet as much as possible the day before your race (two days prior is even better).  So if your race is at the end of your vacation, go hiking, swimming, playing with your kids outside but then watch a movie and lounge by the pool the day before your race.

How to Choose Where to Run

Assuming this isn’t your first race (I’m not sure I would recommend a racecation for someone’s first race ever), you hopefully know by now what kind of races you enjoy.  Do you like big races?  Choose one of the Rock n Roll Series races or see my post on one of my favorite big races, Shamrock Marathon, Virginia-24th state.  Although I have not done any of the Disney races, I know they are hugely popular. Prefer small races?  One of my favorite small races was Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state.

Unless you are running a race in all 50 states, I would say just choose a place where you’ve always wanted to go (or go back to) and see if there’s a race at that place.  If there is, do a little more research to see if it’s one that’s doable, which brings me to my next point.

Do a Little Research on the Race

I have some websites I go to for choosing races.  They are halfmarathons.netrunningintheusa.comhalfmarathonsearch.comcoolrunning.com for starters.  If I’m looking for a specific race in a specific area, I would just google it and find information that way.  Also remember that races come and go, so a link could be outdated.  I signed up for a race that was last spring from a website that was outdated, only to find out the race had been canceled after I had already made my travel plans.  In place of the canceled race I ended up running the McKenzie River Half Marathon, Oregon- 36th state.  In my case, there was no way to know the website was outdated without contacting someone from the site and getting a response back, which fortunately happened to me.  I think this is rare, however and it’s the only time something like this has happened to me.

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Horsetail Falls in Oregon

Before you hit click to enter a race electronically, do some further research first to avoid disappointment or at least know what you’re getting yourself into.  First see when the race is going to happen.  Is it in Florida/Georgia/Mississippi/Texas/Louisiana in July or August?  You should pass on that since that’s one of the hottest months in the south and you’d likely be miserable running anything longer than a 5k at the crack of dawn.  Minnesota in February?  No thank you.  Personally I’m not a glutton for punishment.  Rhode Island in October?  Now you’re talking.  Perfect weather and peak foliage for the leaves in the New England states.

Check out the day and time of the race.  If it starts at 5:30 am and you can barely drag yourself out of bed to run at 8 am, you might want to think long and hard before signing up for an early-morning race, especially one that early.  Remember, that’s start time, which means you’ll have to be up and at the race way before then.  Also, if it happens to fall on a day when you or your family have plans, that won’t work for a race that’s in another state.

Click on the elevation chart (if there is one).  If you despise running hills and this course is straight up a mountainside and back down, I wouldn’t advise running that.  Or, conversely, if you really enjoy some small to moderate hills to break up a marathon and this course is pancake flat, it might not be the best choice.  Often, there is no elevation chart or it’s misleading more often than not, de-emphasizing the hills along the course.  That’s happened to me more than once where I checked out an elevation chart of a race, only to find it loaded with many more hills than I thought it would or the hills were much steeper than I thought they would be.  All you can do is make the best of it if that happens.

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My half marathon in Knoxville, Tennessee was one massively hilly race but we loved the sidewalk chalk art displays afterwards!

Look at the race course.  While it likely won’t mean much to you since it’s in a place you’re not familiar with, it’s still a good idea to see where you’ll be running.  Sometimes you can gain a little insight like if you’ll be running past ocean views which will help pass the time and keep you preoccupied with the view.

Racecation Packing List

For a racecation, your packing list is a bit more complicated but doesn’t have to be daunting.  Yes, weather is often unpredictable, more so in some parts of the country than others.  My best advice is to pack for what you expect the weather to be like (shorts if it will be warm, pants if it will be cold) and then add in a couple of extra items “just in case.” For instance, if it’s supposed to be warm where you’re headed, pack shorts, short-sleeve shirt or tank top, and running capris or a long-sleeve shirt (your preference), just in case it’s cooler than predicted.

As a minimalist packer who hasn’t checked a bag with an airline in years (Never Check a Bag with an Airline Again), this may seem contradictory, but trust me, it works.  I learned the hard way at Missoula Marathon, Montana-22nd state that the weather can change drastically the day before your race.  Better to have an extra shirt or pair of pants than be miserable when running your race because you didn’t pack enough.

When I was packing for my Missoula racecation, I checked the weather for Missoula, Montana and the forecast called for warmer temperatures so I packed shorts.  However, a cold front came in the day before the race and the weather the morning of the race was supposed to be much colder than predicted.  I had to find a running store and attempt to find running pants during the middle of summer, which of course they did not have.  Instead I had to squeeze into capris that were a size smaller than I normally would have bought and run a half marathon in clothes I hadn’t trained in.  Normally you don’t want to run in anything you haven’t previously trained in but given the circumstances I felt it was a better option than freezing during the race.

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Kayaking in Missoula, Montana

Your packing list should include:

clothing (as mentioned in the previous paragraphs pack an extra item or two just in case but don’t pack more than one of the same item, such as two pair of shorts)- short-sleeve or long-sleeve shirt, shorts, capris, and/or pants, sports bra, socks, jacket and gloves if it will be cold

running belt and bottles (if used for races or at all)

hat (weather-appropriate)

sport sunglasses

running watch with adapter for charging

sports supplements (Gu, Gels, Nuun, etc.); don’t rely on whatever the race has if you currently train with something specific

wear your running shoes on the plane if you’re flying (pack one pair lightweight shoes); do this going to the race.  Doesn’t really matter coming back home.  This is really about worse-case scenario to me.  My shoes are the one thing I really don’t want to be without.

Choosing a Place to Stay

I learned years ago to try to find a place to stay the night before the race (and also after the race unless you’re moving on to somewhere else for your vacation portion) that’s within walking distance of the race start.  This saves you grief in a myriad of ways.  For one, you can sleep in a bit longer instead of having to get up earlier to take a shuttle or drive to the start.  Also, often a nearby hotel will have a code for runners staying there that will give you a discount.  This information should be readily available on the race website.  If it’s not, contact the race director for suggestions of where to stay the night before the race.

If you are going to stick around in the town where the race is after the race, it is nice to be able to go back to your hotel after the race and take a shower and nap rather than having to check out in a hurry to catch your flight back home.  Even if the race is in a location that’s say a two hour drive from where you planned the vacation part of your racecation, you might want to stay in the city of the race for the night before and night of your race, before moving on.

If You’re Flying to Your Racecation

One thing to be aware of when you’re flying back home, I have been stopped twice at security for having my race medal in my carry-on luggage.  If you check luggage, this wouldn’t be an issue, but if you don’t check luggage like me, this can be an issue.  Believe it or not, I was stopped at Boston Logan Airport after the All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon, Massachusetts- 29th state.  I would have thought that of all places, the security staff at this airport would have seen a medal or two, with the Boston Marathon and all of those medals going through after the race.  My bag was stopped and my family (and everyone else in line behind me) had to wait while the security person pulled out my bag, called for a supervisor, who didn’t respond for quite some time, then a supervisor finally came, pulled out my medal and verified that was the object they were looking at on the x-ray screen, and sent me on my way again.

This happened again at my most recent race in San Diego Silver Strand Half Marathon, California-38th state.  I asked the security agent what I was supposed to do with it and he said, “Wear it around your neck proudly!  You earned that medal!”  I’m pretty sure it would have set off the alarms going through the metal detector, but I guess he meant put it in one of those small round containers for wallets and jewelry before I went through the scanner.  Hopefully I’ll remember to do that the next time.

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Does this medal look like a weapon to you?

If you’ve never done a racecation before but have been thinking about it, my advice is to choose a race that’s about 2 or 3 hours from your house but somewhere you would actually like to spend a few days after the race (and the night before the race).  This way you can drive to the race and not have to worry about the extra logistics that come with flying to a race but the drive won’t be too bad.  Work your way up to farther ones from there once you feel more comfortable.  Racecations definitely require more planning than running in local races, but I find them much more interesting and I’ve gotten to where I enjoy the planning that’s involved.

For those of you that have done or do racecations, what are some of your favorites?  For those of you on the fence about doing a racecation, which one(s) seem most interesting to you?