10th Annual 26.2 with Donna-Feb 12,2017





I have never walked away from a DONNA race weekend with such mixed emotions. It was a roller coaster kind of weekend; one I never dreamed would take place. Yet Im still perplexed on the meaning of it all. Hopefully by the time this blog is complete it will bring clarity to all.

As the 10 years of The DONNA have quickly flown by, there secretly has been extra pressure building up inside me. One that maybe I wasn't even quite aware of until race weekend had come. The first year of The DONNA was my first half marathon ever, then my first marathon was the following year. From there, my focus was always about beating the 5 hour finish time. (If Oprah can do it, why cant I?) On the 4th Annual DONNA, (my third attempt at the marathon) I downgraded myself from marathon to half marathon because I was scared my training was not good enough. I regretted that decision instantly and 'punished' myself by saying I would run a half marathon a month for a year and come back even stronger the next year's marathon. And I did just that. Six years later I am still running a half marathon a month and completing the full marathon every February. I did finally beat that 5 hour finish time (it took 4 attempts), and every single year of The DONNA I have had a PR (personal record). This would be my 8th marathon attempt for a PR and the pressure was unbelievable as the days got closer.

I just wish I had felt that pressure sooner. Lets take you back to 2016 DONNA. ....the week following the DONNA marathon, we did the Gasparilla Ultra Challenge (33+miles in 2 days), and two weeks later I did the Treasure Coast half marathon. I was burnt out. I didn't want to run. I didn't want to work out. I wanted to rest. I wanted to eat what i wanted, when I wanted and I wanted to do what I wanted when I wanted. And I did just that.

I still completed my monthly half marathons, allowing myself to not care about times and just finish them. And let me tell you, there was a lot of walking. Five months later, it was time for marathon training again. I knew I had to re-establish my 'base' mileage and even training. Little did I know exactly how out of shape I was and how hard that would be. I had gained about 15 pounds and I couldn't even complete my run 3/walk 1.

I kept telling myself the speed and endurance would naturally come back, like it always does. I stuck with the training program, did my multiple long distance runs, lifted weights once a week, did yoga/pilates once a week, and even included hill work once a week to help with speed. But with every month that passed, my speed and endurance was still not there. I kept telling myself just get in the weekly/monthly mileage and it will come. Overall training included three 20-22 mile runs, and average 28-35 miles weekly.  It was soon January and although I originally planned to do the normal 'dry January' (no drinking), it quickly dissipated when we went on a ski trip. Even though I did get a long distance run in, January ended up being my least amount of miles run ever for the month before marathon day. I was disgusted. And I still needed to lose 5 more pounds to get to ideal running weight. But then I completed the Celebration half marathon 2 weeks before marathon day and my time/endurance was like a sigh of relief making me feel like I still had a chance to PR The DONNA.

I knew I could complete the distance of the marathon, that wasn't the problem, but the pressure to PR for the 8th time in a row was overwhelming. So many people have witnessed these past 10 years of me progressing from an overweight smoker to a healthy strong runner and I've convinced so many people that if I can do it, then you can do it too. So what would they think if I didn't? What would "I" think if I didn't? Everyone I vented my concerns to all came back with the same response...."One day every one hits their plateau. Maybe this is the best you are going to be." Instantly I knew this could not be true. There is still more left in me. I want more. I can do more. I knew that it was not a healthy way to put the pressure on myself, so I tried to turn it all around and put a positive spin on it. I decided this 10th Anniversary was the perfect time to 'celebrate' everything that I have done and how far we have come in the breast cancer community. 'Celebrate' would be my race motto. I would run every mile celebrating how awesome this race is and yes, how awesome I am too!
MY RACE MOTTO


ABOUT
This was the 10th Annual DONNA Marathon. To make it extra special, they not only created a 10k but also the Booby Trap Challenge which consisted of the 5k and 10k on Saturday and then the half or full marathon on Sunday. If that is not enough miles for you, there is also an Ultra 110 miles! Or take on a coast to coast challenge and run the Treasure Chest Challenge; The Donna half marathon and two weeks later, the Gasparilla half marathon!


COURSE
The point to point beach community course is absolutely amazing! Maybe not for the views of the ocean (yes, they did take away the stretch that was run ON the sand. We basically run the streets right next to the beach and you will get small glimpses of the ocean), and maybe not for the entirely flat course (yes, we do have a bridge at your last mile).

But the course is amazing because of the COMMUNITY. Every step of the way you have people lining the course cheering you on, putting up massive decorations, bringing out bubble machines, covering the streets with motivating words in chalk, playing the guitar and drums in their driveway, setting up their own fuel tables, handing out beer and mimosas to celebrate, saying "THANK YOU" for running for THEM or someone else they know that has battled breast cancer. The love is there and you feel it the entire course! The community knows what the race has become over the years and they support it in more ways than you can ever imagine. Words can not explain the feeling you get when you run your first DONNA.

The course is also amazing because it is SYMBOLIC. It is a point to point course starting at TPC Sawgrass and finishing at the Mayo Clinic. Seventy percent of proceeds from this race benefit the Mayo Clinic for breast cancer research. So when you approach that bridge in that last mile and dont think you can make it up that hill, all you have to do is look up and see that Mayo Clinic sign glistening over the intercoastal waterways and how can you not smile knowing that you have just completed a marathon and you helped change someones life? ...and possibly be a part of helping to find a cure for breast cancer?! Amazing!

FUNDRAISER EXPERIENCE
Being a Streaker for The DONNA (someone who has run every year), naturally fundraising is what keeps me dedicated. It is not mandatory to fundraise to run The DONNA, but how could you not since they created the Fundraiser Experience Package?....

Register as part of the Fundraiser Experience, commit to raise at least $1,000, and be treated like VIP all weekend long!
-Get your own VIP EXPO line (wait, I mean NO LINE!) and receive Awesome Swag! This year we received a cool duffle travel bag!
-Get Starting Line VIP parking on Race Day!...This is front row baby! No walking needed, no trying to find your car after running.
-Get VIP Starting Line warm up tent and porta potties! No need to wait in long lines or huddle shoulder to shoulder in tents waiting to line up to Start. (note, they shared it with the Galloway group this year, and no one manned the entrance, so as the time got closer to start, the lines got longer with people that were not just VIP)
-Get Finish Line VIP parking on Race Day!....parking at the finish is not open to the public, so this is huge! Spectators have to shuttle in, and runners have to shuttle out. So having a spot for someone to park right there at the finish and watch you cross the finish line is prime!
-Get a Finish Line VIP Party!...free hot food and all you can drink beer just steps away from crossing the finish line for you and 3 friends!...ON TOP of what you already receive with everyone else in Runners Village!


EXPO/FUNDRAISER EXPERIENCE GOODIES


EXPO
The two day expo was held downtown at the Prime Osborn Convention Center on Friday and Saturday. This is convenient for those participating in the 5k and 10k which is held at the same place on Saturday.
EXPO

The expo is packed full of vendors selling tons of race stuff and also local companies promoting and giving away tons of information and swag! There were at least 3 spots to take complimentary souvenir photos which are always fun and there were Inspiration Signs that you could write on that they would place on the race course.

Registration was still open for those making a last minute decision to jump in on the fun, however the line was terribly long on opening day.
























VIP RECEPTION
On Friday night the VIP Reception took place at the Sawgrass Marriott. This is a by invitation only cocktail hour with sponsors, organizers, ambassadors; everyone who makes this race possible. They really went all out this year with the sunset backdrop over a lake, bonfires to cozy up around, aerialists to entertain you, and of course the awesome food and drink!


MAYO CLINIC TOP FUNDRAISER DINNER
On Saturday night was the Mayo Clinic dinner for top fundraisers and other VIPs. 92 year old Guest Speaker Gerald Jampolsky; author of Love is Letting Go of Fear; was the reason I finally attended. I have been invited several years now, but with it being the night before the marathon, Ive always hesitated. It was a casual lecture, but the main thing I took away was to stop creating 'to do' lists and start creating 'to be' lists. We all have a choice in life. It is YOUR life afterall. So what is it you chose to be today?

We also had some words from one of the Mayo Clinic doctors and the progress they have been making and then Donna told her emotional story.

Unbeknownst to me, they ended the night announcing the top fundraisers and I ended up getting a standing ovation for all the donations and volunteer work I have done over the years. It was a perfect night for me to have chosen to go and had definitely helped with my 'celebration' motto.

WEATHER
The weather was predicted sunny and upper 70s. The race starts right after sunrise so temps can rise quickly. Previous years have been anywhere from 30s to 80s; got to love unpredictable Florida winters! This year the first half of the marathon was in a light fog which kept the temps low for a while. I kept telling myself this is so much better than anticipated! The second half of the marathon though, the sun came out increasing the temperature quickly. The humidity did stay on the lower side which was good, but i definitely could still feel the heat taking its toll. The race volunteers pass out ice cold pink sponges frequently along the route which helped tremendously.



START
I picked up the girls and we made the easy 15 minute drive to Ponte Vedra. TPC Sawgrass is a ginormous parking lot and there are two entrances to get in. Fundraiser Experience VIP parking was a breeze. We were about an hour early; plenty of time to check the place out and use the porta potties before it got busy. We hung out at the car for a bit waiting for the sun to come up, and bats starting driving at our heads. I was praying this was not a bad omen!

The starting area is huge. You have tents for coffee and donuts and dont forget your sunscreen! There are warm up tents and a slew of porta potties. A dj keeps you entertained and preps you for the race. Gear Check was also a breeze with tons of UPS trucks.

A pulse start is used for the DONNA, so you basically line up (preferably based on your finish time) and they release only a pace group at a time to space out the runners so the streets do not become over packed. The DONNA uses the Galloway Pacers (run/walk). Although I usually do this method, I always prefer to run without them. I prefer the solitude over the sometimes large pace group.

This year I decided I was going to start after the 5 hour pace group so I wouldnt be stressed out constantly looking over my shoulder to see if the group was coming; meaning I would not PR. So I put myself with the 6 hour group, which was also where my half marathoner friends were starting.

GOAL
I went into training season wanting a 4:30 finish (13 minute PR), but I quickly realized that wasnt going to be possible, so I settled....
Goal A -perfect race day- 4:45 (2minute PR).
Goal B -not perfect, but manageable- 4:47 (same as last year)
Goal C -not my day- sub 5:00
Regardless, I wrote on my hand to remind myself this race I was just there is 'celebrate!'

RESULTS
Because I wanted to get rid of that 'pressure' to PR and just focus on 'celebrating,' I ran sans Garmin and Pacer. I placed myself with the 6 hour pace group thinking it would motivate me as I pass by runners, and I wouldnt have that constant stress of looking over my shoulder to see if the 4:45 pace group was going to pass me or not. Little did I know that my Garmin would still flash the 1 mile lap times every mile, the course would have big timing clocks at every mile, and that the RaceJoy app would be so loud I could hear it announcing my pace and expected finish time every mile. So  much for that plan!

I ran the first 3 miles pretty much nonstop except for the water stops. I got to see Toni, Allison, Bernie and Vicki around M2. Bernie having to sit out due to a bout of skin cancer. I hugged him so hard as I have not seen him in a while and he said he will be back next year!

After M3, I just ran by feel and tried counting out 30 step walk breaks. At M6 I got to see Roger and Norma, my old neighbors, who had posters and even a coat with PinkFeet on it! I was surprised to see them, but unfortunately the joy did not last. This was the turn around point for the half marathon and it was hard to not do just that. My stomach was a mess for some reason. Nausea had already taken over. I still have no idea why.

The road had cleared out tremendously now that the half marathoners were gone and I was conflicted on why I felt so bad so soon. Right then Rob, the ultramarathoner decided to show up. He got me running again and decided to tell me about how he just threw up yesterday running, but he kept going and is going to complete those 110 miles anyways! I knew I either had to throw up or eat some oranges like he suggested. I opted for the latter.

From the beginning I was making sure to take a water and either dump on my head or wipe my face and I think that helped a ton throughout the entire race with the heat. I started taking fuel at M3 and took one every 3 miles (or when it was offered as I relied on the race this time). This year they used Accel gel and and BodyArmor drink, both more protein based. I stopped drinking the BodyArmor probably about mid way through the race, but used the caffeine chocolate Accel gels throughout. I had taped up my right glute and hamstring ahead of time and ended up using 3 packs of Biofreeze on my legs and shoulders mid race. My muscles felt good for the most part throughout the entire race. I did take a muscle cramp pill at M21; more as a precaution than anything. Not once did I feel pain. Only nausea and exhaustion.

I caught up to the 5 hour pace group much quicker than anticipated, around M10, and decided I would run with them for at least a few miles. They were doing a 2x30 which made at least 1 mile go by in a blink of an eye. But I quickly decided I had a faster pace and wanted to bank some time, so I went on ahead. M15 they passed me. I felt miserable. I grabbed a krispy kreme donut to get some solid food into my stomach.

The RaceJoy app had several cheers from friends following my progress. I had to pull my phone out of my fuel pack to listen to them, which I did at the point. Michelle texted me appropriately "dont be skered" (an inside joke we have had since day 1). But I was. My pace was on point for a PR, but I knew I wouldnt be able to maintain it for another 12 miles. I texted Chris and told him today wasnt my day. A mile later his response was so loud through the RaceJoy app "dont focus on the time, focus on the finish." I just burst into tears. I cried for a moment feeling confused, frustrated, disappointed, upset, every negative emotion ran through my body. How have I come to this point? Some people say, 'everyone reaches their plateau in their running career at some point,' yet i witness others much older than me make unbelievable bounds. I am not ready for my plateau. I have not peaked. Today may not be my day. But today sure as hell is going to make me stronger! I remembered the year I gave up and downgraded from the full to half marathon. And i remembered the fire that stayed with me ever since. And i believe that this moment right here is going to make that the same impact. It was decision making time. By M16 I had pep talked myself out of feeling miserable. I mean, who wants to be miserable for 10 whole miles? Thats when a light bulb went off! This is the 10th Annual Donna Marathon, and I have 10 miles to go. I went into this race wanting to celebrate, but everything I tried before then wasnt working so well. For that mile on, i decided i would dedicate it to each year that I ran and volunteered with The DONNA. One mile at a time, one year at a time I remembered my journey. I remembered The DONNA's journey. I remembered the sole purpose of this race. The wind picked up and I knew that Memaw was with me on this one. I looked down at her photo on my pack and kept going. It didnt matter how fast (or slow) I went for those last 10 miles, i would appreciate every thing about the race and I would celebrate with someone at every single mile.


Appropriately my work volunteer water station came up and they had a special mimosa water bottle waiting for me! I took the biggest chug (I needed the orange juice for the nausea) I could, gave some high fives, and carried on! It was a slow next few miles. My dad barely made it to M23 (he was stuck in traffic for 2 hours) just in time to wave at me from across the street as I went by.

JTB is always an interesting part of the race. Your legs are so burnt out sometimes you dont even know how you are still moving forward. You pass people that are still walking the half marathon. You pass people that are struggling worse than you are with their marathon. Each one of those people I feel their pain and I try to let them know we are in this together. This year a watched a guys legs buckle under him. He told me how baffled he was as he was hydrating the whole marathon. It didnt matter, the heat had won. I handed him the last of my Biofreeze and wished him well.

The sun was blazing but I saw the bridge. I knew Toni said she was going to be up there cheering this year as well, but I also knew I was much later than I told her I would be. Mid way up the bridge I went and I surprisingly saw her and Allison still there holing my signs! I was speechless. I went to give them hugs and she kept yelling and pointing something. I couldnt quite understand what she was trying to say. Then I realized there was a billboard right there with my picture on it saying "Top Fundraiser Ever!!" WHAT?! What IS that?? My heart sank and I began to bawl. Why am I so worried about finish time? THIS! THIS right here is what is it all about! Its not just about todays performance. It not just about how I feel walking about today. It is about what we have done together throughout the years. That is what will leave the impact.

The pain escaped me that last half mile. I ran all the way to the finish line with a smile on my face. I may not have been anywhere near any of the goal times I wanted, but my heart was happy.



FUNDRAISER EXPERIENCE AND VIP FINISH LINE
My girls were waiting for me right at the finish line and we partied in the VIP tents. We had hot pasta and unlimited beer with the Fundraiser Tent. Then we had steak, potato casserole, cake, and mimosa in the VIP Tent! I am so thankful that they wanted around so long to make the finish line a real celebration!

RUNNERS VILLAGE AFTER PARTY
The Runners Village After Party is huge...theres massages, hot soup and cold beer, vendors giving away freebies, this year Venus gave water bottles and free pink panties!

SHUTTLE
Buses take you back to the Start parking lot. This is a good 20 minute ride back since the main road is closed. So make sure you back a good change of clothes before you load, or anything that will keep you comfy as you head back!

SHIRT
The shirts are gender specific and long sleeve. The sleeves are consistently too short for tall people, so order a Mens size if you like your sleeves long. I like how the shirt design matches the medal this year.


MEDAL
For the 10th Anniversary, they changed the medal design up and added in the sun....how appropriate for Sunny Florida! The dolphins and running ribbon are consistently represented, but I wish they had incorporated the blue stained glass for the water.


AFTERWARDS
Once we got back home, we decided it was much appropriate to jump in the ocean to celebrate on this gorgeous Florida day!

OVERALL THOUGHTS
Looking back, maybe I did reach a plateau of sorts in my running career after all....one in which I finally realize maybe life isn't always about being perfect, or always being better. Life isn't about just one performance either. Life is learning to not only accept, but to love every moment you experience; the good and the bad, and realizing it is the end result that really matters.

I've done what I've done every year with The DONNA (fundraise and volunteer) because I just feel that is just the right thing to do. I've never thought twice about it. I'm in a position where I can help and can make a difference and so I do. I know people are following me on this Pink Feet mission and I know I get kind words every now and again on how I have motivated or inspired them. But never have I ever taken a moment and realized just how big this has become over the years. Just how much it actually does matter. Chris pointed out to me when discussing all the grants that I help obtain, "if it wasn't for you, then who? No one, that is who." I guess my finish time really doesn't even compare when it comes to that. I have raised over $50,000 for The DONNA and that billboard they placed on the bridge on that last stretch of the marathon put it all into perspective. We must 'find the FUN in EVERY run' and 'CELEBRATE' our accomplishments. Together we will #bethefinish.

I later looked up that meaning of the bats flying over our heads while we were at the Start. A "bat flying into your life signifies that transformation of the ego self is about to occur, the end of a way of life and the start of another." Here I was with five girls who are running The DONNA; three of them for their first half marathon ever, one about to push her body to limits she has never felt before with the Challenge, and one about to complete the journey on her own for the first time; all because not only have I faithfully spoke about how wonderful this race is every single year, but I've shown them that it can be done. And here I was learning myself that just because I am not perfect one time, doesn't mean that I am not still making a difference.

Marathon #8/26.2 MILES-5:07
DONNA#10 COMPLETE!





Welcome to PinkFeet! 
Follow as I run a half marathon a month, completing the 50 states! 



Celebration Half, Celebration FL-Jan 29, 2017


ABOUT
This was the 4th Annual Celebration Marathon weekend located right outside of Disney in the charming little community of Celebration, FL which hosts both a marathon and half marathon with a total field of approximately 2,100 runners.

The buzz was brewing about this race at one of the previous races I had done in Central, FL the prior year, so I had to check it out. Online I had found information that they offered discount codes to running clubs/organizations, so I sent off an email and I quickly received a PinkFeet discount code!

HOTEL
Celebration is an easy drive from Jacksonville, so we drove in the afternoon before and stayed at the Radisson Celebration. This is a 3star property so I was a little hesitant, but with the travel agent rate, there was nothing in comparison in price. I honestly wasn't disappointed, except for the fact that after explaining my traveling companion was running the full marathon and would need a shower before driving home, and would probably be finishing after the late 1p check out, the representative told us the pool had a shower, however we later learned it was an OUTDOOR shower! Thankfully a quick complaint and we were let back into the room for another hour.


COMMUNICATION
There was lots of communication on the Celebration Marathon Facebook page, website, and emails, except there seemed to be a couple of different email lists, as I was left out on one of final emails.

PACKET PICK UP/EXPO
Packet Pick Up was a breeze. We were given the typical resuable drawstring bag but also given a pretty awesome traveling mug as well as a lite up arm band and race rag!

The Expo was held in 2 small rooms and had enough vendor options in case you forgot to pack some sort of race supplies
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PRE RACE
We decided on Disney Springs for our evening entertainment and dinner which was just a short drive from Celebration. This place is packed full of restaurants, bars, and tons of shopping! We had dinner at Portobello which had amazingly tasteful food and fun friendly staff.

WEATHER
Race day came and it was cold (40s) and rainy. Weather in January in Florida is so unpredictable. It could be warm one year and freezing the next. The rain is the part that threw us off, not sure on how much colder it will feel because of being wet and what clothes will keep us the most dry, etc.Thankfully we had ponchos and mylar blanket as we waited for the start (actually, my friend ran her entire marathon in hers).

PARKING
There wasn't a designated parking lot or shuttle for this race. They did warn ahead of time, to plan to walk up to 1.5 mile to the starting area. We arrived about an hour before start and were able to secure a neighborhood spot on the street just a block away.
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STARTING AREA
Because it was raining and cold, we waited in the car for a while before heading over to check out the starting area. Most people were huddled under the one building there that protected you from the elements. There were plenty of porta potties and we had no issue waiting. There was a dj, but really we just wanted to get this thing started.
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COURSE
This is a loop course, with the Start and Finish just 1 block from each other. I truly did enjoy the course. The neighborhoods are very pretty (and look brand new) and we ran through a lot of parks. There were a lot of sidewalk and boardwalk running, but I never felt over crowded and the wooden boardwalks were not as slippery with trail shoes on. The half and full marathons run the same course up until about M12 when the full marathon continues on and basically does another loop.

HYDRATION STATIONS
Everything was well stocked and properly manned. They even offered GU on course.
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SPECTATORS
Because of the rain, its hard to tell if this race would usually have more spectators. There are a lot of areas where spectators just wouldn't be (like in the parks/boardwalks), however there was also a lot of neighborhood running too. There were a handful of supporters out and my favorite was a little girl sitting at her door step with about 5 of her stuffed animals lined up, all cheering us on!

RESULTS
I started very slow as I needed a warm up being in the cold rain. I ran with my mylar for about a mile, then the poncho for another mile. By mile 3, I was able to take my jacket off, but I still had arm warmers on. About half way through I was able to take the arm warmers off and felt good and thought this was perfect racing weather! Then it started raining again. I pulled my arm warmers back on, but never needed my jacket again. I think with the gradual increase of speed helped me feel good. We also started towards the back and I think mentally it made me feel confident passing so many people. My runs were longer than normal and my walks much shorter. I did not use a pace alert and instead just ran by feel. There were a lot of people doing the run/walk and there were official pacers as well. I ended up finishing with my fastest time of the year, but still 5 minutes short of a PR.
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FINISH/AFTER PARTY
Right after receiving your medal, you were given a tiny wrap, cup of pasta, and a brownie. There were also Cliff bars readily available.

The Finish Line was pretty hoppin as the half marathoners finished, but because there were less than 500 full marathoners, it became pretty sparse over time. When I had finished, it was still drizzling and I was soaked and cold. I decided since I had to wait for my friend to finish the full marathon anyways, I would go back to the hotel and shower, put on warm clothes and come back.

The concept of the after party was a great idea. They gave punch cards to each runner and you got a sample of food or drink at each of the 10 (?) tents, in which two were the Columbia...perfect! You also received 2 beers and a mimosa.

The only way I would see to improve that, is to give the punch card in your packet pick up, or to mark your bib when you get one. It seems you could have easily gone back and got more than one card, or passed your bib to a nonrunner and get one as well. I only say this, because by the time my friend came through, a couple of the tents had run out of food.

There also were complimentary massages at the Finish. I usually do not partake in these because I feel like my muscles are too tired and I dont want anyone touching me, or the lines are always too long. However,we were able to walk right up and lay down. I was already refreshed from going back to the hotel and showering, so it worked out perfectly! It was probably one of the best massages Ive ever had! She definitely knew what she was doing for a runner and even gave recommendations for masseuse and book!
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MEDAL
The medals are super cute! The full and half are the same, but the full being larger
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SHIRT
The shirts are gender specific and short sleeve. I would have liked it to have matched the medal. I am not sure where a tree came from.
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OVERALL THOUGHTS
I would highly recommend this race. The registration fee and what you received for it, was definitely well worth it! ....especially still being in the Disney area, but not having to put up with the outrageous Disney prices! You are still very close to Disney and can make this an extended weekend to visit the parks.

Half Marathon #70
13.1-2:20
I am on a 10 year mission to run a half marathon a month as well as run one in each of the 50 states, all to help spread the word of breast caner prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle. Please consider making a DONATION today to show your support. 100% net proceeds go towards the Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.



Hillsborough River Half Marathon-Dec 10, 2016




This was the 5th Annual Hillsborough River Marathon, Half Marathon, and Quarter Marathon held in Hillsborough River State Park just outside of Tampa directed by Endeavor Racing Inc. They host mainly trail races and their theme is 'Dare Greatly.' I was hooked as soon as it mentioned the course was within the state park where you could also camp.

I was super excited as I kept hearing great things about their events. However, this was one of the few, or maybe only, time I walked away feeling a little ripped off.


CAMPGROUND
The campground is great and is pretty large and spread out. They accommodate Rvs and tents, so if you are looking for quiet, Id suggest to maybe inquire who is reserved next to you and/or ask where the more remote/less reserved portion is. I unfortunately was next to an obnoxious family that stayed up past midnight with screaming kids and movies projecting with surround sound outside. There are bathhouses that also have laundry facilities. They are also pet friendly

PARK
The park itself has multiple trails to walk, run, bike, mostly along the river as well. There are playgrounds for the kids, and one of the largest pools I have ever seen for a campground! They rent all sorts of different styles of bikes and kayaks to explore. The only thing I didnt like is the main road is one way and is a very large (and slowly driven 10mph) circle. If you pass something, or forget something, you have to loop all the way around again. I must have driven that loop 20x in the 24hours i was there. There is a small independent cafe where you can grab a bite to eat and last minute supplies.

COMMUNICATION
There was an Endeaver Facebook page as well as the event itself. I did a mail in option for registration to save on the fee, but never received any email confirmation until the week of the race. Most communication was done on Facebook, including the last minute cancellation of food. (say what?!)

PACKET PICK UP
There was an option for packet pick up the day before the race or morning of. Because I was already there, I opted for the day before. Unfortunately though, they did not have the chips yet, so we all had to come back early before the race anyways.

RACE MORNING
The 3 different races started at 3 different times, which I liked, but unfortunately the fast marathoners had to come running through our half marathon line up because we were about 10 minutes late getting started. The gentleman tried to gather us and run through the directions of the course on a megaphone, but it was very hard to heard.

It was a cold morning, temps right below 50, so it was hard to tell how hot this Florida race was going to end up being. I finally decided on short sleeves, pants, gloves, and ear warmer/headband and was perfect.

COURSE
The course itself had 2 loops in the beginning on pavement and 2 loops in the middle on the trail. The start and finish was walking distance from each other. The trail itself was a mixture of gravel, sand, tall grass, tree roots, branches, etc. I never felt it was too out of control and a lot of it was very hard packed.

AID
There were about 3-4 aid stations with water/gatorade and one station had mms, gummie candies, fruit.

SPECTATORS
Being a trail race, there were no spectators to cheer you on. There were a couple points were cars were able to share the road though.

RESULTS
Unfortunately I didnt realized until too late that I did not bring breakfast food. The cafe was already closed and the park was in the middle of nowhere, so not sure how far a store was. I took my chance and prayed the Cafe would be open before the race. Unfortunately it was not. I had one pack of GU gummies on me for the entire race. Thankfully I actually felt fine. I did grab the mms one my first loop and craved them the next several miles until I came back to them. I felt strong running the entire course. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down as this was not a road race and no one needs to break anything with this being The Donna marathon training season! On the hard packed section was when I was able to make up my speed, and then the section with the tree roots, I just kept it slow and steady.

FINISH
The night before the race there was an email post that the breakfast buffet at the finish was cancelled because of vendor/management of the park issues. Though disappointed, I was ok, because they said they would have regular race food after. Unfortunately, after I crossed the finish line, there was only water and apples left. Completely unacceptable.  At this point I was starving and upset. I had to walk over the cafe and spend $10 on a (fabulous) breakfast burrito.

SHIRT AND MEDAL




















For this being on the smaller and more inexpensive side of races, the shirt and medal represent exactly that. I would have preferred a tech shirt vs cotton. I do like the uniqueness to the wooden medal being a trail race.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
For an mid registration of $57, here is what the race promised (and what is still on their website)
   • Custom Race Shirt
   • Post-Race Buffet and Drinks
   • Awards for all Finishers 
   • Post-Race Raffles
   • Park Entry Fee
No food, no drinks, no raffles. For $57 I got to run a trail that is open to the public, no traffic diverted, no city official regulating or securing the course, a generic unisex cotton tshirt, an inexpensively made medal. Where exactly did the money go??

Update-The race director did respond right away and apparently there was only a break in time where they were out of refreshments and offered a discount to those affected for next years race.

Overall, I did thoroughly enjoy camping and exploring the State Park and I did enjoy running the course. The race director seemed genuine in his response, so hopefully future races will not be impacted the same way.

HM#69
13.1-2:36

I am on a 10 year mission to run a half marathon a month as well as run one in each of the 50 states, all to help spread the word of breast caner prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle. Please consider making a DONATION today to show your support. 100% net proceeds go towards the Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.


13.1 Fort Lauderdale-Nov 13, 2016







ABOUT
Run 13.1 Race Series hosts races in Chicago, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, also being part of the Florida Storm Series which is a 3, 4, or 5 race challenge throughout the year. They pride themselves on their after race/finisher experience.

COURSE
The A to B course takes you through the neighborhoods of Las Olas which were beautifully shaded and drops you off at an out and back along the gorgeous white sand beaches!

PACKET PICK UP
The packet pick up was at a local running store which made it convenient to pick up last minute running supplies. However, when asking volunteers questions about the race course/parking they did not know any of the answers

PARKING/SHUTTLE
Because this is an A to B course, you have to park (AND PAY-GASP!) for start and then take a shuttle back after the finish. There were 4 parking garages that were listed as options to park near the Start. Please do your research ahead of time on parking, or look around. I ended up following a large group to a lot and we had to pay $15. Walking over to the start, there was another lot only charging $5!!! This really should be communicated better from the race director for those of us that are out of town and do not usually deal with parking fees!

To catch the shuttle back to the Start area was pretty much a mess. It was a long walk first of all to even find the buses. Then, they drove what seemed forever to get just a couple of miles away. At this point it seemed running back would have been faster. Then, the driver dropped us off in the middle of nowhere (because there wasnt just one parking lot for Start) and most of us had no idea where we were. I do not understand why they couldnt at least drop us off at the Starting Line and then it would look familiar. I couldnt get a signal, so I literally walked in circles around the blocks trying to find my car. No bueno.

START

The race started right after sunrise, so it was cool to still be able to see the full moon waking up and getting ready. The porta potty situation was insane. There were about 20 of them for thousands of runners and the line (no lie) went straight through the Starting Line up. The announcer kept trying to get us to line up for start, but there were more people facing the opposite way (towards the porta potties) than towards the Starting line. Then because of the U Shape line up of the porta potties, people were sneaking in the side and cutting the outrageously long line. Which, in turn lead to people yelling at each other. Not a good way to start your morning!

RESULTS
This super early start helps control the heat of Southern Florida, but it still came out when we were in the pure sun along the beach. I felt good the entire race until those last few miles.




PERKS
At the Finish Area, Michelob Ultra provided a bag of goodies with your beer, which included a visor and sunglasses! There also were free race photos that were sent to you, or posted on Facebook.


AFTER PARTY
After you cross the finish line, you could literally kick off your sneakers and put your toes in the sand (or ocean!) There was Pollo Tropical for food, as well as lots of samples of nutrition bars. Michelob Ultra provided you with one beer, but you could not leave the beer area to visit the vendors they had set up. There was even entertainment to enjoy.


SHIRT
The gender tech shirt is unique with not only the map of the course, but the runners and palm trees in the design. I just wish it wasnt a weird green color.


MEDAL
This medal is one of my favorites, being a spinner with the moon and sun, which is cool because the race took place during the full moon phase. Im not quite sure though, why the moon is in the resting position up top, instead of the sun, since we ran during the day, not night?


OVERALL THOUGHTS
Overall, the best thing about the race was running along the gorgeous white sands of Fort Lauderdale. For the price of registration, I would want things to be a little more included (parking) and organized (shuttle).

TRAVEL
I drove down from Jacksonville, but ended up staying in Hollywood, FL due to a comp agent stay. This was only 20 minutes away, so was a breeze to and from. The Diplomat hotel is run by Hilton and has some cute rooms. The tall building will give you excellent views of the sunset on one side and sunrise on the other. Both sides will give you water views. They are connected to a convention center and have a huge self parking garage as well as valet. There is a marina where the local water taxi stops and also the trolley stop is right outside the door. The multi leveled pools will give you a great view of the beach, which is on the smaller side and could get packed. I would recommend this hotel if you are looking to get to a more quiet side of South FL.


HM#68
13.1-2:33

I am on a 10 year mission to run a half marathon a month as well as run one in each of the 50 states, all to help spread the word of breast caner prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle. Please consider making a DONATION today to show your support. 100% net proceeds go towards the Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.


Key Biscayne Half Marathon-Oct 2, 2016







The Key Biscayne half marathon and 10k is hosted by MultiRace, the 'Race Happy' group that puts on several races and triathlons throughout South Florida. This years race benefited the Camillus House which helps the homeless.


LOCATION
Key Biscayne is only minutes away from downtown Miami and South Beach, but this peaceful little island is worlds away from the hustle and bustle. The island is home to several active biking pathways, Bill Baggs State Park and Lighthouse which is one of the top US beaches, as well as popular Crandon Beach park.

There is a toll to access the causeway to Key Biscayne, but every moment spent there is worth it.

COMMUNICATION
Probably due to all the different events MultiRace hosts, there wasn't a lot of information being shared the weeks leading up to the race. Facebook questions did not seem to be addressed promptly, and the website even had the prior years information still listed.


COURSE
There was a new start/finish at the old abandoned Marine Stadium parking lot. The first two miles takes you up and over the steep Rikenbacker Causeway twice. You then head to Crandon Beach Park where you have views of lush foliage, wildlife, and white sand beaches. You then pass by the Stadium around mile 10 and do an out and back on a dirt path in the woods around the bay.


HYDRATION STATIONS/SPECTATORS
Stations were well stocked with plenty of volunteers. There were not spectators besides the volunteers. Key Biscayne has a ton of bicyclists and have awesome bike lanes for them. Still confused as why, but the race course blocked the regular bike lane, and instead put up cones on the opposite side of the street for the bikers to ride in. Unfortunately this was not communicated well to the runners, so a ton of runners would run on that side of the cones and the bicyclists would head straight into them and yell to get out of the way..... not a pretty experience.


RESULTS
The race starts an hour before sunrise which is absolutely perfect for Southern Florida. Even still, temps were in the 80s and humid. It took a lot of energy with the bridge being the first part of the race. I took it nice and slow in the back of the pack. Once we headed towards Crandon Park, the wind picked up and it started to sprinkle right as the sun was rising. It was absolutely perfect for me! Unfortunately it didn't last long, and the sun came out in full force, but that also meant a rainbow made its appearance! Thankfully the course was in as much shade as possible on this island and there was only a few spots where we were in pure sun. Around M10, we passed right by the finish line to head into the woods to do an off road out and back around the bay.


I knew the heat was going to take its toll on me, so I just took the race nice and easy with a 1x1. My Goal=Just Finish. I carried my Camelpak and took water and Gatorade at every station. With the race being so early, it was hard to eat breakfast, so I relied on gels packs every 30minutes that were provided at the stations. This turned out to be a mistake as I am not used to that much gel in 13miles, plus the mixture of flavors, one being peanut butter, made me nauseous around M9.





















FINISH
The simplistic finish line had bagels, watermelon, bananas, muffins, chips and muscle milk. No alcohol, no entertainment.

After my fast friends received their awards, we headed across the street  to jump into the bay with the Miami skyline and the bridge we just tackled into he background! Lunch was had a tiki bar at Whiskey Joes next door.


SHIRT/MEDAL
The shirt and medal match, but are also very generic without dates. Overall awards also looked exactly the same. All of them had a lighthouse, but we never saw the lighthouse on the course.

OVERALL THOUGHTS
If you love running in heat, then Key Biscayne is one to check out. You can not beat the views and the course has a variety of scenery. Make a long weekend out of it and you can celebrate the night away in Miami, or kick back and relax on the sandy white shore.



TRAVEL
I stayed at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, a 90 year old luxury property, located just 10minutes from Miami. This property has so much history, being an old WW11 hospital, and also where Al Capones bodyguard was shot and stories have it his ghost haunts the property. The Olympic sized pool used to host famous diving shows and the platforms remain today. Make sure you check out their list of daily activities and sign up for one of the chefs cooking classes!

For the best sunset view, head into Bill Baggs State Park to the southernmost point. You will find several fisherman and a walking path. The sun will technically set behind Miami skyline, but the distance makes it seem over water.

Biscayne National Park is a close drive away, where you can find some awesome snorkeling. The park operates a boat ride to the different islands on the weekend, or you can take a guide to explore.



HM#67
13.1-2:41
I am on a 10 year mission to run a half marathon a month as well as run one in each of the 50 states, all to help spread the word of breast cancer prevention, early detection, and living a healthy lifestyle. Please consider making a DONATION today to show your support. 100% net proceeds go towards the Mayo Clinic and Donna Foundation.