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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

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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 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.  At packet pickup at the Hilton Garden Inn in Springfield, 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. 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 starts at Emerald Dance Center in Springfield (with shuttles dropping people off here due to limited parking) and ends inside Armitage Park in Eugene.  The course goes through the Hayden Bridge neighborhood then to Old Mohawk Rd and McKenzie View Dr. before ending at Armitage Park.

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.  Despite all of the hills, I managed to finish third in my age group, winning a nice beer glass.

Shirts were available for purchase (not included in the registration fee) and I chose not to get one this time.  The medals were unique and nice, however.  There was a lot of food and drinks at the finish from the usual bananas and fruit to pizza, soup, Gatorade, and beer.

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.

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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.

From my post-race notes:  “McKenzie River Half Marathon started in Springfield and finished in Eugene.  Was flat for the first 2 miles and last mile, but was uphill for the rest. Was extremely difficult because of the hills but was pretty scenic, going past farms with glimpses of the river here and there.  The weather was good- overcast and in the low 40’s at the start and upper 50’s at finish.  No spectators and only a few aid stations along the course.  Didn’t receive a shirt since it wasn’t part of the entry fee (could have bought one but I didn’t) but did receive a nice medal.  Finished third in my age group so I won a beer glass.  Very nice array of food and drinks at the finish- pizza, beer, Gatorade, fruit, energy bars, soup.  Was one of the toughest races I’ve ran.  Finished in 2:02:32.”

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McKenzie River Half Marathon and 5K

Central Oregon-Eugene and Bend

Portland, Oregon had almost 9 million overnight visitors in 2015 according to travelportland.com.  On the other hand, in central Oregon, Bend had roughly 2-2.5 million visitors that same year.  While I couldn’t find an estimate for annual visitors to Eugene, I would guess it’s even lower than for Bend.  When I was planning a trip to Oregon, I chose the less-traveled areas of Eugene and Bend for the majority of our time in the state.  Although we would be flying into Portland, I left zero time there for exploring that area, and we picked up our rental car and drove promptly to Eugene.  I was going to run my 36th half marathon (leaving only 14 more to go for all 50 states) in Eugene so we were going to spend a few days in Eugene then drive to Bend to spend a week there.  Nothing against Portland but there’s only so much you can see in 10 days.

Eugene, Oregon is famous for being the birthplace of Nike and is nicknamed “Track Town, USA.”  They were the hosts for the Olympic Track and Field Trials for 2016 and many other years.  If you’re a runner, chances are pretty good you’ve heard of Steve Prefontaine.  While in the peak of his running career, he was killed at the young age of 24 in a car accident.  “Pre,” as he was called, helped spark the city’s running boom in the 1970’s.  Ask just about any Eugene resident about Steve Prefontaine, and they’ll tell you an earful.  Running is in these people’s blood.  I was seriously nervous about running a half marathon here (I might be dead-last running against all of these die-hard runners) but I somehow managed to win third place in my age group.

If you’re a runner, a must-do in Eugene is to run on Pre’s Trail, a nice loop on chipped wood in Alton Baker Park.  You can run past many water formations including a pond, creeks, and river as well as the famous University of Oregon stadium.  There are also many wineries in Eugene with not only tasty wine but also great people working there as well.  Everyone we spoke with at the wineries were all very friendly, down-to-earth, and not at all snobby like you find at wineries in other parts of the country.  Cascades Raptor Center is also a fun place to visit, even in the rain (Eugene experiences an average rainfall of 46 inches per year).  The Raptor Center is a working rehabilitation center and the birds on display could not be returned to the wild. Birds with the right disposition are used for educational exhibits.

When our time was up in Eugene, we drove to Bend and saw the landscape change from lush and green to dry, high desert.  The contrast was stark.  While Eugene is often rainy and overcast, Bend has an average of 158 clear days and 105 more that are mostly sunny, making it the city with the highest average sunny days in the state.  Bend has many places to hike and bike in warmer months and ski in the winter.  The largest beer trail in the West is also here, the Bend Ale Trail.  This is my kind of place!

For something other than the aforementioned activities in Bend, check out the High Desert Museum.  It’s like a zoo, history museum, and science exhibits all rolled into one place.  I always like checking out local history when I’m traveling and this was a good place for history of the Pacific Northwest.  There are temporary as well as permanent exhibits, some indoor and some outdoor.  Some favorites include the Miller Family Ranch, Autzen Otter Exhibit, Desertarium, and the Birds of Prey Center.

For some hiking, it’s hard to beat Smith Rock State Park and Tumalo Falls.  Smith Rock State Park is near Terrebonne and Redmond, Oregon and is a popular climbing spot.  One of the best trails here is Misery Ridge which takes you over Smith Rock, with a view of Monkey Face and views of the canyon and Crooked River.  To reach the viewpoint for Tumalo Falls you can walk 5 minutes from the parking lot and then there are multiple trails from here if you so desire.  The Tumalo Mountain trail is classified as moderate/difficult and is 1.75 miles one way.  It is a steep climb from 6400 feet to 7775 feet with a beautiful view at the top.  The trail starts at the Dutchman Sno-park on the Cascade Lakes Highway.

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Smith Rock State Park
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View from the top of Misery Ridge
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Tumalo Falls

It’s  easy to spend a week in Bend, but 2-3 days in Eugene is plenty.  It seems that so many people overlook these areas when planning a vacation in Oregon and just go straight to the ever-popular Portland.  They would be missing out on some unique scenery and fun things to do for the whole family in by-passing these areas.