Welcome to PinkFeet! 
Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 7 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  






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3rd Annual-Shark Bite Half Marathon-New Smyrna Beach, FL-Jan 14, 2018



This was the 3rd Annual Shark Bite half marathon and 5k located in New Smyrna Beach, FL produced by Red Pointer Production. Ive been following this race since its inception and it just keeps getting better! There were 943 half marathoners and 770 5kers.

I was supposed to camp for just $16 only 20 minutes away at Lake Ashby, but as race day drew closer, the temperatures dropped drastically. (de ja vu from MS last month?!) This is not an inexpensive lodging type of town, so I had to fork over 100x what I was expecting to pay and got an Airbnb (receive a $40 credit with this link).....but boy, did I luck out! The apartment I rented was just a block from the race start, right smack in the middle of all the restaurants and shopping! I didn't have to use my car the entire time! New Smyrna is pretty pet friendly so I was able to have dinner with my pup with oceanfront views at Ocean Breeze Grille! (But pay attention, there are no dogs allowed on the beach!)

PACKET PICK UP
Me and the pup drove down, just an hour and half from Jacksonville, and arrived perfect timing for packet pick up at New Smyrna Brewery Co while a Classic Car Show was taking place right out front! They had 2 vendors there as well selling stickers (which is weird because the race gave you one for free) and socks. I would have liked to have seen more fuel type options, although they did have a packet pick up on Friday at a running store.



START
Being so close to the Start, I stayed warm in the apartment until the very last minute. It was 39 degrees and windy! I do know that parking was basically just where ever you could find it in the city. Looking at the porta potty lines last minute, they didnt seem that bad. The half marathon started right after a nice viewing of the sunrise over the ocean and then the 5k was 15minutes later. With a pirate as a race announcer, and runners dressed up as sharks, this race instantly put you in a good mood!



COURSE
This is a loop course with the Start and Finish located at the Flagler Boardwalk parking lot right next to the beach. We ran straight through downtown New Smyrna Beach, over a small bridge, through Historic New Smyrna, past beautiful homes along the intracoastal, then over another larger bridge back to the beach with the last two miles on infamous A1A.

WATER STATIONS
The volunteers at every station just were not prepared fast enough. Each station was barely set up and they were more busy filling up the cups, than passing them out. Thankfully, it was not bad enough to have to stop and wait. GU was passed out at M8.

SPECTATORS
There are not a lot of spectators despite being in prime location for them, probably because the race is fairly new, and it was super cold.

RESULTS
I went into this race wanting it bad. Last months attempt at the MS Gulf was a flop when I had some weird pains from my back to my toes. I'm in the middle of training for the DONNA Marathon, and knowing my times, I knew I wasn't going to PR (2:14) this race, but I wanted to attempt a nonstop half marathon, as it has been about 4 years since the last time I tried.

I have never been a runner my entire life. Even as a kid, doing the 'mile' test in grade school, I was always last and couldn't even run 1 lap around the track without stopping. I've always been embarrassed at how, even though I was skinny as a kid, I just could not breath when I ran. When The DONNA came around, I learned about the Galloway program, where you run for only a short amount of time, then take a walk break, and repeat it consistently throughout the race. The theory is, your body recovers so much quicker, leading to less injury. And the truth be told I've realized over the years, you can actually run Faster doing a run/walk than just a nonstop run. (Jeff Galloway actually qualified for Boston doing this!)

For the past 11 years I pretty much have been a 'wogger' (walk/jogger). I have pushed myself 3 times to run the half marathon nonstop, just to prove to myself that even though I take walk breaks normally, that I am still a 'Runner' and I can do it! Well, the past two training weeks before race day, I just felt like not stopping. When training alone, I usually only do a mile nonstop as a warm up and then start the run/walk. Well, one day I just decided to keep going. I ran 4 miles nonstop and it felt amazing! It was like my legs/feet had a mind of their own. They were in a rhythmic pattern that felt so good, I felt like I was floating on air. And amazingly, I was able to breath normal maintaining the pace! Anxiously, I tried it again the next day, and the next, and the next. And each day I experienced that same meditation. My legs were in a rhythm, my mind was clear, my breath was solid. Did I finally discover what a 'Runners High' really was? So going into the Shark Bite half marathon, I knew I wanted to complete the race nonstop.

I felt amazing the entire race....bridges and all. It was a beautiful perfectly weathered race day....39-49 degrees, sunny, breezy only at the coast. My lungs not once begged for air (I probably could have pushed it more) and my body never said 'You can not do this.' I stayed slow and consistent and found that runners high. There were 5 water stations and I did allow myself a few steps of walking at each as I chugged a couple sips. At about M10 my knee started to ache, but nothing like the month before. I knew it was just my body adjusting to this new mentality of nonstop running. It dissipated in about a mile. I like to call those pseudo pains. Its a mind game where your brain tries to convince you, it is all wrong, you shouldn't be doing this, and you must stop. Pushing through something like that and coming out on the other side is an amazing experience.  The last two miles were in strong cold head wind and it was a bit miserable and slow. There was most definitely some yelling at myself, but I did it! I crossed the Finish line and ran a half marathon nonstop!

I grabbed my medal and ran (yep, more running) back to the apartment to change into dry and warm clothes and grab the pup so we could properly celebrate oceanfront!

FINISH
The Finish Line party was fun. Not only did you get a medal, but you received a Shark Bite pint glass for your New Smyrna Brewery beer! Located oceanside, you could kick back and enjoy the view (if only it wasn't so cold this year! Last year it was warm). They had a mechanical shark to ride for fun. There were vendors available to shop. They had pizza for the food. The only thing I could think of to add on, would be an actual band.



SHIRT
Gender specific cotton blend shirt. The color is pretty, the design is consistent between glass, shirt, and sticker, and the sponsors on the back are not obnoxious.

MEDAL
Good size, heavy medal and even has engraving on the back

AWARDS
The top 10% Finishers in each age group received a cool truckers hat.

Something I did not really see, and they even admitted it wasnt advertised well, is a Team Challenge for this race. Not only did the winning teams get a huge cool plague, but they also received a cash award! Keep your eyes peeled for this again next year!

PICTURES
FREE pictures loaded on Facebook! Need I say more?

NEW SMYRNA BEACH
I would have stayed longer to explore, but this was a super quick in and out visit because of the cold and I had to get back home to dad to watch the Vikings kick butt!

However, I did do some research and will most definitely be back to visit.....
Accommodations-There is a brand new Springhill Suites located oceanfront-this seems like an awesome place! Black Dolphin was a super cute little hotel I kept eyeing, but just out of my price range.
To Do-Smyrna Dunes park is your pet friendly beach area with trails to explore, New Smyrna Surf Museum, Norwoods Treehouse and Bar

OVERALL THOUGHTS
I really enjoyed this scenic race. It probably helps that I had a fantastic run as well and I am a biased beach girl, so anything at the beach is usually up my alley. However, Starting and Finishing at the beach is always a plus! Yes, there are bridges, but that just make it even more beautiful with the the intracoastal waterway. For a pretty inexpensive registration, they provided extra swag, and a good time! New Smyrna Beach is a super cute small beach town with friendly (and pet friendly) people!

13.1-2:22
HM#82

Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 7 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  

2nd Annual Mississippi Gulf Coast-Dec 10, 2017



This was the 2nd Annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon consisting of both a full and half marathon with a 5k the day before.

I came across this race last year after I was already signed up for a December race, so waited an entire year to come! I was super excited for a super flat, scenic, coastal race in prime running weather time of year and all of their gear/logos were super cute!


TRAVEL
I drove straight across from Jacksonville to Biloxi. It was a super easy 6.5 hour drive with the pup! We arrived in perfect time for the last of the snow and sunset! Mississippi Gulf Coast-one of the few places you can watch both sunrise and sunset over water!



ACCOMODATIONS
I had planned to camp at Buccaneer State Park which has tent spots right along the coast, however, the weather had another plan. Super cold temps came in that week and snow actually made an appearance (a rarity) so I had to cancel the camping and splurge on a room at the Hyatt Place. The Hyatt Place is the newest property in the area and was absolutely perfect! This pet friendly hotel has awesome ocean view rooms with a heated pool/hot tub, and complimentary breakfast! It was also only .7mile walk to the Start Shuttle/Finish area.







EXPO
The Expo was held at the Convention Center, where unfortunately the city did not waive the parking fee of $5. Thankfully, the race director advised us of this and told the secret of parking on the main street and walking in if you wanted to save. There were enough vendors to get your race supplies and I picked up a super cute Soak up the Run tank top!













COURSE
The point to point course runs right along the gulf coast from Gulfport to Biloxi with constant coastal views of sugar white sand, a gorgeous sun rise, beautiful art sculptures, and even a Christmas tree on the beach! For most of the course some people (me) ran on the wide sidewalk/boardwalk and others on the partially closed road. Because the Finish is across a busy street, the course does take you off the scenic path the last mile, goes up a highway ramp (not too bad) and then turns around to finish at the MGM Park.

PARKING/SHUTTLES
Because it is a point to point course, shuttles are used to get to the Start. There were two locations, one at MGM Park and one at IP Casino. If you used the IP Casino on, there was another shuttle at the Finish to get you back if you didnt want to walk the mile. The Start Shuttle was pretty far since its an out and back course, about 15+ minutes for half marathon and 30+ minutes for full. The half did have an option to park at the Start, but no way to get back to your car after you finished. The full did not have any parking.


START
The most disappointing part was the race started right after sunrise and the Starting Line was on an open road, so you really could not get across the road ahead of time to watch the sun rise over the water. I would suggest starting the race earlier so we can run with the sunrise, or to have the shuttle drop us off on the beach side so we can watch the sunrise.























WATER STATIONS
All of the stations were set up properly but one. One was completely empty. There were a ton of stations along the course, so there was still plenty of fluid. Fuel was also passed out.

SPECTATORS
Im not sure if it was because it was so cold, or the race is kind of on a busy street, but theres not a lot of spectators cheering you on for this race.

RESULT
I went into this race super excited. It has been a while since I have had a PR as a lot of the courses I have ran lately have been challenging or hot. As the temps were dropping approaching race day, I knew this was going to be 'the one.' A super flat scenic course in cold temps! I slept and woke feeling awesome. I even had a great and motivating conversation with a girl on the shuttle talking about my goal and The DONNA.

I felt great (but cold... no freezing) at the Starting line. I ran almost the entire first mile still wearing a foil blanket and had the perfect 'warm up' mile....not too fast so I wouldn't cramp....then each mile after improved faster and faster. Those first few miles I felt wonderful. It was such a pretty day and my body felt good, my lungs felt good. About mile 4 I realized the times were a little slower than I needed for a PR. But I was still okay. It was a gorgeous race day. I had not stopped for a walk break yet because it felt so easy to run in this cold, so decided I would shoot for my back up goal of running the entire course, which I hadn't done in a couple of years either.

About Mile 6 I suddenly got a sharp pain in my right knee. I was surprised as I know knee pain. Usually it comes and goes and its more of a mute pain. But this was sharp and it wasn't going anywhere. And it was more on the outside of the knee than top or bottom. I then starting feeling my lower back aching. Again, Ive felt that before, but it was weird it was happening with the knee. Then I realized my right foot was kind of numb. But its cold out....its got to just warm up!

I pushed through that mile, slowing down, really not wanting to stop, but by mile 7, I had to take a walk break to see if the knee pain would go away. To my surprise it hurt transitioning from running to walking. Devastated I missed out on both goals, I tried not to think about that and was confused on what I was feeling. I tried to do the run/walk. I would run until I would feel my knee again, then walk to make the pain go away. That worked until about M10 when the pain just wouldn't leave no matter what. I was getting scared. It is 2 months til DONNA marathon and I can NOT be injured for a full marathon! I made it to about Mile 11 when it still was not going away and I just lost it.

'Why was this happening? Why am I still not good enough? I am in year 7 of doing a half marathon a month, why am I not getting faster/better? I have not PRd in 2 years! And I didnt even PR the DONNA last February like I do every year! Today was supposed to be the day! Today was supposed to be my confidence booster that I still have what it takes. That I can prove to the world that someone that never could run one lap on the track can now run half and full marathons and improve every year! How am I supposed to motivate people if I cant even improve myself? Whats the point of people following PinkFeet if Im so pathetic I cant even PR? and now, what, I might be injured? 7 years Ive gone with no injuries. I only have 3 more years of this mission. Why is this happening now?'

I was a mess. I mean, hyperventilating sobbing, down right mess. I walked pretty much the entire last mile (it was an incline and decline, which didnt help the knee). My mind had given up, my body had failed me. I got to the Finish line stretch in the Stadium and trotted across the line, head hung low.

I got ice for my knee, and texted my friends and called my boyfriend sobbing away about how Im not good enough and thankfully they all slapped me back into reality.

"Missy, Nobody Cares! You are the only one that cares about the numbers. That is not what motivates people. You motivate people because you are out there doing it, and you never give up. You keep going and traveling the world, mostly alone, and you don't care what others think. You do it because you want to! And you are making a difference raising so much money for breast cancer."

Why do we put such Expectations on ourselves (or even others)? Expectations is an imaginary perfect world that only exists in your head. The world is not perfect. When one part of your expectation does not pan out, you are disappointed. If we just stop and appreciate and enjoy what is actually happening right in front of us in that very moment, we could feel amazingly blessed instead of upset. The race day was perfect! It was fun and gorgeous and easy to run along that scenic flat coast! I had run a distance nonstop that I have not done in a long time and even at close to PR time! If I hadn't gone in with an expectation, I would have walked away from this race proud and happy, even despite the knee issue. (which thankfully subsided the next day)

Why do we think that 'Best' means 'Better'? What does Best really relate to? Times, Statistic, People, the Past? Again, we are comparing and setting expectations when we relate Best to being Better. The problem with Best is the world has to be aligned to have those perfect conditions, many of those out of your control, and there you go creating Expectations again. Shouldn't Best really be a feeling inside? If we look at Best as the effort we gave that day, mentally and physically and appreciate what just happened in that moment, then we can walk away feeling proud and accomplished. Every day, every race will be different, but your insides will tell you if you are giving it your all. We are so lucky to be out there even running at all. We had the encouragement to sign up for the race. We had the motivation to train and show up at the Starting line. And we had the determination to finish the Best we could for that given moment. Best should come from your heart. Maybe if we didn't put Expectations on Best, we would always be doing our Best in one shape or form.



FINISH
The race finished inside the MGM Park (a baseball stadium) broadcasting your epic finish line crossing on a jumbo tron! The vendors are located upstairs so you can have views of runners on the last mile. Your bib came with 6 tabs which were to be redeemed with the vendors, however, only the beer station was checking them off....so, basically you could have had 6 free beers! Super yummy BBQ sandwiches, chicken pasta, and gumbo were also provided! There was plenty of space to relax in the stands, or sprawl out on the grass! It was a beautifully sunny and warm winter finish!



MEDAL
I love the medal, but seems the stained glass could either be more see thru in the sunlight or brighter colors.


SHIRT
The gender specific shirt is made of some awesome super soft material and not splattered with sponsors logos all over the back.

























THINGS TO DO
Mississippi Gulf Coast is filled with cute small beach towns. This race is lined perfectly to experience some Holiday Spirit, especially the Winter Lights at Gulfport. Because it was so cold, the beaches were completed empty, but they were cute because there were swings and bonfire pits you could use! (note, you have to get a permit for the bonfire pits). If it was a tad warmer, I had planned to visit the Davis Bayou State Park. Casinos are located in Biloxi if you want to try your luck


OVERALL THOUGHTS
I love any race that is scenic. It just makes the time go by that much faster! And I am a total beach girl, so I may be a little biased on this race. However, for it being only the 2nd Annual, I believe this race knows what they are doing! With that said, there was some confusion on the full marathon distance and the course ended up not being Boston certified. The full and half had the same ending, and my Garmin was right on par for the distance, so it had to be something about the first part of the full course. With that said, I think the Mississippi Gulf Coast half marathon should be highly recommended. It is easy to rent a beach house pretty cheap this time of year and kick back and relax, or if you like the liveliness of entertainment, the casino hotels will fill your desire.

This race was definitely a life lesson for me. I went into this 10 year, run a half marathon a month while completing the 50 states mission without any expectations at all. Shoot, my original goal was to do only 1 year of half a marathon a month. But it just kept going when I realized I could travel for races! I still never really put expectations on myself. (of course I secretly hoped I would magically turn into a Kenyan and be able to qualify for Boston...I mean, who doesnt?) The 10 year goal just materialized when I realized the trend of how many states I could afford a year. The $100,000 goal just materialized when I saw it could actually be realistic. I've never really put too much pressure on time, because to be honest, I am still just amazed to this day that I used to be a 15 year smoker who never could run 1 lap doing the mile test in grade school. I've naturally progressed in my times over these 7 years, but I still go to every race trying to give it my all, and trying to find the fun and beauty in every run. It doesnt matter about the times, or even the medals. It just matters that I did it and found something to enjoy about it. I lost that feeling this race. But these weeks since, I have regrouped, refocused, and realigned with what is really important in life, which is a positive outlook on all outcomes. Live life through your the love in your heart. I have been so blessed to be able to do this mission and I have loved every single moment of it!

13.1-2:25
State #34
Half marathon #81

Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 7 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  

Spa Running Festival-Hot Springs National Park, AR-Nov 18, 2017




Hot Springs National Park, one of the very few locations where you can run a race inside National Park borders. This race is timed perfectly with the beautiful Fall foliage as you run up and down (and back up and down if you chose) the West Mountain that overlooks the city. The race consists of a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and Little Squirts runs.




EXPO
The expo was held at the Hot Springs Hotel right downtown. There was a variety of vendors available to shop. They also offered race day pick up option.


START/PARKING
Parking was literally right next to the Start/Finish Line at the Convention Center, which was convenient for real restrooms (no lines waiting here!)

COURSE
The half marathon starts at the Convention Center, runs through Bathhouse Row and then into Hot Springs National Park boundary going up and down West Mountain twice, runs back through downtown finishing back at the Convention Center. Its a pretty intense incline with about 1,500 elevation gain but the Fall foliage and overlooks over the city made up for it. Plus that just meant you got to test your speed 'flying' down the mountain.

WEATHER
This was almost perfect race day weather. Overcast and cool in the 50s is how we started, a little warmer but windy is how we finished.

WATER STATIONS
The stations were properly stocked and manned, but only provided water and Gatorade.

RESULT
I felt pretty good going into race day. I had just completed the TrailFest 44 miles in elevation and I had been practicing bridge repeats, so I wasn't too worried about running up the mountain twice. However, I also knew this wasn't going to be a PR.

As we entered the mountain, I was so happy it was still Fall Colors time of year! It really was a pretty sight! It was definitely a steep incline, but I was like "Its Do-able!" Then after a couple miles, we made a turn and my stomach dropped as I saw the rest was twice as steep! It was definitely brutal so I just took my time doing my own run/walk pace of however long my body felt it could handle.

Because it was an out and back on the mountain, you constantly were watching other runners run towards you, which helped the time to pass. I also just kept telling myself, what comes up, must come down, and I knew it was going to be a fast one! Little did I know just as fast that I could let myself go! Looking at my Garmin afterwards, I had made it into the 6minute mile range! After doing one full mountain, we lapped around a neighborhood block and went back up to do another, literally laughing  and someone asking "why did we sign up for this?"

My second incline, I was definitely over heating even though the temps were still low. I opted to just run in my bra. This was the first time I have done this in a race where there was an out and back so I knew people would see my bouncing belly as I ran. But I just held my head up high. I felt strong. As I got a couple of smiles, I was hoping I was giving motivation for anyone to do anything that makes them feel happy and free regardless of what people think! We should love ourselves and our bodies for what they can do for us and today this strong body was tackling a mountain!

The second decline was just as fun if not more because I was more confident on how to handle the speed and I felt at one point I was just flying! Then came the last couple of miles to the finish on flat ground and I was exhausted! I let out a few loud groans (hey, its a proven fact they make you stronger!) and made my way in, finishing surprisingly at my average finish time despite two intense inclines!


FINISH
The Finish Line had a few different options of food from different vendors: pizza, some sort of gumbo, and a broth soup, as well as granola bars and banana. Unfortunately they had the beer area roped off in a location you couldnt even watch the Finish Line nor little kids races. The Awards were inside the Convention Center, good to be out of the cold, but I had no energy to walk back and forth, so I just grabbed my food and headed to camp for a long hot shower!


SHIRT
A long sleeve gender specific shirt was provided. However, I liked the race shirt design of the one their were selling better. Maybe they should give you an option of design if they were going to have two.

MEDAL
I absolutely love the medal featuring Bathhouse Row and West Mountain! The little runner guy moves up and down the mountain too!

ABOUT HOT SPRINGS
The only way to get into the hot springs is via a bath house. Luckily you can do that fairly inexpensively and also combine it with a great massage! I went to Quapaw Bathhouse was able to purchase a bathing suit (since I forgot mine) go in the public pools (4 off them at different temperatures) and get a thirty minute full body massage all for under $100. They also have private spa bath tubs if you don't want a bathing suit, want a couples experience, or just want privacy.

Bathhouse Row is the main street of Hot Springs with all the restaurants and shops so make sure to park and stroll.

The springs water fountains are located throughout the city. People literally line up and fill jugs of this natural water to take home! There are some that are hot and some that are cool. Pick up a map for locations at the Visitors Center.





ACCOMMODATIONS
Being a very old town, there's not much for accommodations that was very tempting, so I opted to camp at Lake Ouachita which was about 25 minutes outside of town, and definitely the best camping spot I have had yet! There are about 12 tent sites located directly next to the lake, but still have plenty of trees to hang a hammock and enjoy the Fall foliage. There a rock beach you can walk down to for a direct sky filled sky at night. There is also a natural hot spring here too called The Three Sisters. Although not potable or something you can bathe in, it was still cool to see. There's one short hike and about a 4 miler around the park.
Crater of the Diamonds State Park
Ron Coleman Crystal Mine
SURROUNDING AREA
Hot Springs is also a prime location for day trips. Located right outside of Little Rock if you want to explore a big city, or just thirty minutes away you will find yourself able to go crystal mining or up the anty and try your luck at diamond mining just an hour and half away! Ron Coleman mining was where I explored for crystals. For twenty bucks you are guaranteed to find crystals and take as much as you want. People were there literally filling their truck bed with huge boulders that had crystal formations on one side. It was pretty cool to witness. Bring a garden tool and gloves is all you really need, or you can rent/purchase tools there. After my fun with the crystals, I was sure I would get a diamond at Crater of the Diamonds State Park! Unfortunately, it was definitely a more time consuming and energy taxing process to try to find something the size of a pen head. Diamonds here are brown, yellow, and clear. Although several people a year find diamonds (the sign read 500 for the year when I was there) even by just walking around, it was definitely harder than I thought, thus I walked away empty handed. For $10 and several different tool rentals options(add on at least another $20) you are given a first hand demonstration on how to dry shift and wet shift thru the dirt. There are several other different rocks in the ground as well and they have rock specialists there that tell you exactly what you found before you leave. It was definitely a unique experience I would suggest especially if you are a rock lover, or have kids that like to play in the dirt.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
This was a definitely a unique action packed race weekend! The course was a great challenge and the steep declines made it fun! The town was cute, the campground was gorgeous, the hot springs were rejuvenating, and the crystal and diamond mining was entertaining! No wonder they call Arkansas the Natural State!

13.1-2:27
State#33
Half Marathon #80


Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 7 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.  


Grand Circle Trailfest Oct 5-7,2017



This was the 2nd Annual Grand Circle Trailfest, hosted by Vacation Races, which consists of a three day trail running event taking place in three of the most scenic National Parks:Bryce Canyon (13.1 miles), Zion (12 miles), and Grand Canyon (19 miles), with a base camp community located centrally in Kanab, UT.


This years event consisted of 47 states, 6 countries, 520 females, 321 males (majority age 40-49 for both sexes), and 76% of the runners signed up for all 3 races with only 73% that completed all three.




*It is something to note, that although claiming these National Parks in their descriptions, None of the races actually run within the National Parks themselves. They highly and repeatedly suggest you visit the parks after your run, but the start/finish can be up to hours away. Plan accordingly.


COURSES
These are no joke true technical trail courses and each ones terrain is vastly different than the others. There's No road. Just Dirt, Rock, Sand, Cliffs, Boulders, Tree roots, and occasional cactus. Everything you can think of that a trail can have and more. You are completely embraced by the most beautifully unique terrain in the US. Utilizing poles may be something to contemplate, especially if you are like me and scared of heights and/or falling. There are No cups, No timing mats, No photographers, No spectators or No Civilization. This is as real as it gets if you want to test your ability off road!



ARRIVAL
Most major airports to Kanab, UT are 3-5 hours away. I chose Salt Lake City as it was nonstop and least expensive overall. It was a gorgeous drive with the fall colors and snow topped peaks! Las Vegas would be your other airport option. I arrived late into SLC, so I rented an Airbnb for the night and left first thing in the morning. My flight back was a redeye, so I had plenty of time to make the trek back with even a quick visit to Zion NP.


















CAMP
Trailfest camp was at Jacob Hamlin City Park, in a small town called Kanab, UT, which had a dramatic red rock mountain backdrop. Kanab is the central most city to the three of these parks, so driving to each race was about an hour to two hours.



The Good

-Tents are provided! ...as well as already set up for you when you arrive! They did ask for help taking them down if you had time, but they did have volunteers for that as well. AND you had the option during registration to chose a 4person or 6person tent! (note to those that have never camped before, a 4 person tent is really enough room for 2 people and is only tall enough to hunch over, a 6 person tent is enough room for 3 people and you can fully stand up. It was funny watching people arrive and had no idea). Of course, I chose the 6 person and loved all my space.

-Tents were also placed on fluffy grass of baseball fields, which helped with the cushioning.

-Running water bathrooms and showers were provided, as well as regular and composting toilets. The park has a city pool (wasn't accessible) which had showers we could use or there was also a shower truck available. Surprisingly the truck was better. 

-Massages were pretty organized and quick. 10 minutes for free, 30 min for $50

-Elevated Legs (air compression massage) was an awesome first time experience ($20 for 30min)

-Yoga classes were every so often, and mats/foam rollers provided

-Hammocks were nice to get the legs elevated

-A table was constantly filled with Tiger Balm. This was the first time I used it, and I may actually like it more than Biofreeze

-Meal tickets were provided to redeem for continental breakfast and food trucks for lunch/dinner. There were 4-5 different local vendors which made it a unique experience.

-Charging stations were scattered throughout the camp for your phones, Garmins, etc

-The city of Kanab had a wifi signal available

-Nightly gatherings were held with raffles and review of the next days expectations

-Nightly entertainment included Navajo dancers and blessings, astronomers with huge telescopes (I got to see Saturn for the first time!), movies, bands, and motivational speakers

-a TrailFest weekend guide was printed out for us which included every single detail you needed for the entire event, including directions to each race!


The Not so Good
-Tents are first come first serve, so plan accordingly when scheduling your arrival and meeting friends.

-Cold shower on Day 1 at the pool house. I later found out the shower truck had all the hot water

-Because it is a city park, alcohol is not allowed. However, they did try to get away with this and had a beer tent right off the city park limits. But being over there meant you were not with the rest of the festivities.

-Breakfast should automatically be included, or they should give 3 meal tickets a day, not 2. I ended up eating a meal in town every day. (Maybe that was their intent. The food was great at the restaurants!)

-It was awesome to have nightly entertainment right before bed, but once that sun went down, it was Cold to sit out there and watch! The city park has 3 regular bonfire pits, but you could not see the stage/screen from that area. There was 1 gas bonfire that was in front of the stage/screen, but gas fires do not give off any heat unfortunately. They had electric heaters in the breakfast area only.


The Bad
-kids. I know this is an open to the public event, as well as a family is welcome type of race, but....The hammocks were constantly being taken over by the kids. (can there not be an adult only area?) The playground had screaming kids pretty much until the sun went down, making it hard for us to hear the loud speaker and/or rest.



SHUTTLES
You had the option to 'add on' a shuttle for each race for an additional $25. I opted not to, as they encouraged you to explore the parks after the race, which of course you think you will have energy to at least do a drive through, but after doing those courses, only Super Man would have the energy to go the extra distance. Plus, you want a shower and a hot meal. Also, Bryce was the only race that was even near a National Park entrance. The other two, you had to drive additional hours to get into the parks.

Looking back, I definitely would have paid for the shuttle. I didn't really save money by not doing the shuttle because I just spent it on my own gas. I didn't really save time, because we pretty much had to be at the Start at the same time, and most of us just followed the vans anyways. What I could have done was slept more on the shuttle and/or met more people since I was traveling alone!


~BRYCE CANYON~


Trails-Thunder Mountain and Golden Wall of Red Canyon
14 miles-4:30, Pace 19:19, 528 out of 666 runners
Elevation-7,000-8,300
Overall Elevation Gain-3,951
Weather-26-70 and sunny
























Bryce Canyon-The Good
-The Course-the most gorgeous unique desert scenery around every corner. I kept asking myself, are we really running this?

-Aid Station that includes chips, candy, and Nutella sandwiches?! Yes please!

-there was no wait for the 15 min shuttle to the start line

-the parking area for the shuttle was in a small town that had a hotel (aka real bathroom), stores, souvenirs, and even opportunity to do excursions (4wheeling, horseback riding, etc)

-Finish line recovery boxes and chocolate milk! 

Bryce Canyon-The Not So Good
-the very first part of the trail we were going straight up on switchbacks which led to a bit of a traffic jam.

-the entire course I felt like we were on an incline. Being from Florida, and only having a day and half to acclimate, I constantly was trying to catch my breath the entire trail. This trail was definitely the hardest of the three.

-I was not expecting such slippery loose rock on steep cliffs and seeing people fall on it. I had seen a post before the event asking if poles should be used, and I felt the answer was more of a no than yes. I never even considered training with poles while running. But looking back on it, because of my fear of falling, I definitely would suggest poles for Bryce Canyon. I saws some runners with poles that collapsed down and fit over the shoulder into a backpack for easy access. 

Bryce Canyon-The Bad
-13.1 miles ended up being 14 miles! Mentally and physically depleted way before M13, that last mile was a bit of a buzz kill being on a dirt fire road after we had been immersed in such great scenery. 


Bryce Canyon-Result
Anxiety set in very quickly on this trail as it was extremely steep with switchback cliffs and my breath was almost always nonexistent. Being scared of heights, I had several mini panic attacks because the small dirt pebbles were very unstable in multiple spots. Thankfully my confidence would be restored when I would see the experienced trail runners whip by me without hesitation. However, that also meant that I was almost constantly being passed by runners. With it being a very narrow single track trail, I would have to stop to let people by. I repeatedly had to keep telling myself, this is not about Time. This is about building confidence and appreciating the beauty around us. Survival was the one word that kept popping into my head. Fear would quickly enter my mind as I wondered if all three courses were going to be this intense. But it didn't matter. I was here and I was going to do this challenge and I was going to survive. It was all a matter of 'how' I wanted to survive. Did I want to survive with Fear? With Anger? With Pity? Or did I want to survive with Love in my Heart and Confidence on my mind? 


~ZION~

Trails-Gooseberry Mesa
11.6 miles-3:36, 18:35 pace, 557 out of 629 runners
Elevation-5,000-5,400ft
Overall Elevation Gain-1,157
Weather-54 and sunny






















Zion-The Good
The Course-once again, the scenery was magical! The course was unique with huge slick rock boulders to scramble throughout. We ran most of the course cliffside and had awesome canyon views in the distance. 

-Finish line recovery boxes and chocolate milk! 

Zion-The Not so Good

Aid Station-the shortest of the three races, yet, this aid station placement left them to be hit twice by the runners. I was directed to not stop the first time I passed by and to wait for the return. Understandable. However, it was kinda a cluster fuck with people running in all directions and not listening. By the time I reached it on the return, items were starting to run out, including the salty chips my sore thighs were craving!

Zion-The Bad

-After arriving to Zion, they had us park and load a shuttle to go another 15 minutes up a very bumpy road. Unfortunately they were not organized or experienced in how to expedite the drivers and shuttles on the same very tightly packed road, therefore causing a tremendous back up on loading the shuttles. After parking, it took another hour and half of standing in the cold with no bathrooms to actually get to the official Start.

-Course markings-they told us to follow the pink flags/ribbons (which usually were high up on a tree or bush) and to ignore the white dot markings. However, almost the entire course the white dots and pink ribbons were going the same path. It wasn't until the very end where some people got lost because they finally separated. The markings on the ground are much easier to follow especially on a course like this because you are constantly looking down at your next foot placement, not looking up for a pink flag.

-The course was short by about half a mile. It is one thing to be randomly long or short on trails, but if your award is going to have the distance, then I want to run that distance.

-There was also a line waiting for a return shuttle

-The race start/finish was in the middle of nowhere. The National Park entrance was another hour drive further away from camp. There wasn't even stores or restaurants nearby to grab a drink or souvenir.

Zion-Result
This course went by so much faster than Bryce! In fact, it almost felt like the drive to the Start took longer than actually running this course! I was quickly surprised how similar the canyons looked like Grand Canyon and was confused in which way Zion National Park actually was. We quickly came upon huge white slick rock boulders that you had to scramble up, which continued the entire course! At one point it looked like we were running on the moon with the gorgeous canyon views in the distance! The endless boulders meant that thigh muscles were being worked to the max which were already a little tired from the Bryce trail inclines. This course was definitely fun especially watching the experienced trail runners doing leaps and bounds up and over these boulders! This was a true playground of a course! 

~GRAND CANYON~



Trails-Crazy Jug and Monument Point
19 miles-5:31, 17:24 pace, 449 out of 483 runners
(note, the course was short at 17 miles, but i kept running to 19)
Elevation-7,000-7,900ft
Overall Elevation Gain-2,187
Weather-27degrees and Sunny






















Grand Canyon-The Good
-the Fall Colors! The pictures do not do justice, but the golden colors of the trees were absolutely amazing as the sun was rising

-There was quite a bit of different terrain on this course which made the time go by faster

-Someone was celebrating a birthday, so there was cake at the Finish line!....and chocolate milk. What a great way to celebrate 44 miles! The same Recovery Boxes were there too, but by Day 3, I wish they would have changed up the contents.


Grand Canyon-The Not so Good
-The Course-after completing two truly unique courses the days before, Grand Canyon was a little bit of a let down. I walked away from this course saying it was the easiest, despite it being the longest. There were only 3 views of the North Rim of Grand Canyon, and with the early sun position, we didn't even get the true colors of what the canyon is known for.

-The drive in to our Start was on a pitch black, extremely dusty and bumpy dirt road. There were times there was so much dust I couldn't even see the road.

-Aid Station-there was one mini station at M5 and a second station we would hit twice around M10 and M17. Items were sparse compared to Day 1 and the volunteers were eating the PB sammies which they had run out of.

Grand Canyon-The Bad
-the Course was short by 2MILES! I understand being off my a half mile, maybe even the mile off at Bryce Canyon I can forgive, but TWO MILES. Its just unacceptable. If I am traveling this far and saying I am running 44 miles, I am definitely not stopping 2 miles short!

Grand Canyon-Result
The coldest of all three days, it was almost a little miserable getting started. I had to wear a buff over my face not only to keep my face warm, but to help with the cold air on my lungs. I was definitely sore, but because the other two courses I used more of my thighs than quads, I was a little more confident that I would be okay to finish on time. 

Although there was still a good amount of elevation change, this course was still the easiest of the three. It seemed like we were going uphill forever in the beginning but it was a very gradual incline and it was beautiful through the bright yellow trees as the sun was rising. Once we got off the first incline, it was flat for a few miles and I finally felt like I was running normally. Until the trail decided to have us scale the steep mountainside. We finally got to see the first views of the canyon and had some awesome overlooks for the remainder of the course until the last couple miles. 

I felt so amazingly good this entire course. The miles were just flying by and with every mile I was surprised I was still feeling great! It is like I was on a runners high from the very beginning! I even packed myself a croissant (my fav) and had it at M5! There was almost constant gravel rock that we were running on and I suddenly was seeing rocks shaped like hearts everywhere! I felt so awesome that I was actually completing this 3 day challenge of 44 trail miles! 

The last few miles there was a yellow butterfly that seemed to stay with me for the longest time. I smiled as I knew Memaw was with me and proud of me. As I approached the Finish Line, a lady running the opposite way told me the course was short and she was getting in her last miles. Damn right I thought! So I turned around and did the same. I tried to get everyone I passed to join me, but they looked at me like I was crazy. I was so full of energy I felt like I could have run forever! I not only was able to survive this challenge, but I Finished it a whole new person. I started Day 1 with fear, a lack of confidence, and feeling of doubt in myself. I finished Day 3 with Love, Strength, and a Confident Heart!

When I got back to camp, I learned that a dear colleague had passed away after her very long battle with breast cancer. I knew right then, maybe the yellow butterfly and the overwhelming feeling of love wasn't my Memaw afterall, maybe it was her in her passing. I told this to a close friend and that friend reminded me, it not only was Both my Memaw and our colleague, but it was also every other person that has fought breast cancer that I have been running for over these past 10 years! It all came together that day. I felt them all with me. Every step of the way! It was a magical day I will never forget as I continue on this mission to help find a cure. And as I promised Memaw, I will never give up. 


JACKET
We were given a lightweight Trailfest jacket which was pretty cool







MEDAL
Surprisingly, at each of the finish lines, we received an arrow that had the race name and distance. At the very last race, we received a handmade plaque that held all three arrows. It is definitely my favorite finisher award. Unfortunately I don't think it was thought out to the fullest extent. They did off to ship them for you, if you wanted to pay $5. This should have been included. I figured it would just fit in my checked bag and I would be fine. Unfortunately it did not, but I was able to take the arrowheads off for it to squeeze in. Later, people showed a picture with the arrows in the TSA trashcans. That's disappointing.  




A NOTE ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARKS
If you are wanting to do the parks after the races, you are going to need to do a lot of planning ahead of time. The parks entrances were not close at all to where the races were held. Bryce was the closest and easiest to freshen up before heading to the actual entrance. The other two, you are hours away and not even a restroom or restaurant nearby. My suggestion would be to extend your trip and visit the actual National Parks after completing the Trailfest weekend. Otherwise, you are missing out on the events at the Trailfest HQ and most importantly Rest! If you do decide to visit the parks after each race, make sure you pack a cooler, a portable shower maybe, change of clothes, maps already printed with directions because GPS does not work. 

Zion was the only National Park that I was able to enter and I did that on my drive back to the airport (which by the way is a huge clusterfuck because unbeknownst to me, you can only drive a small part of the park. The rest is on a shuttle. And if their parking lot is full, which apparently that happens a lot, you have to take a shuttle from outside the park, enter the park, then take another shuttle to see the park. I ended up not having enough time to get on the park shuttle even with the 5 hours I had.) I've hiked the Grand Canyon before so was not disappointed with that one and I will be back for Bryce Half Marathon in July to explore.






OVERALL THOUGHTS
This was an experience of a lifetime for me! I've done a few trail runs before, but to run on these type of trails on the outskirts of the National Parks is a whole other level! And then to do it three days in a row, its a challenge beyond belief! I had no idea the the situations I was going to encounter on these trails! And how much stronger and more confident I would come out from all of this! The trails are magical! I literally had to pinch myself a few times to make sure it wasn't a dream! The organizers really thought of everything for you, so all you have to do is show up and enjoy! The festivities were perfect, the small cute town of Kanab was accommodating and friendly, and the time of year was absolutely perfect running weather with the beauty of the Fall colors! 

























Half Marathon #79
Total Miles in 3 Days-44.6 
Total Time in 3 Days-13hours 37minutes

Pink Feet's half marathon calendar runs from March to February with the final race being the full marathon at The DONNA Marathon! I am on Year 7 of a 10 year mission to complete the 50 states while also running a half marathon a month; all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle including running and walking. My goal is to raise $100,000 for breast cancer charities. Current donations are going to The DONNA Marathon whose beneficiaries are The Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.