Up and Down…Travels in Idaho, Running in Utah, and the Arrival of an Angel

When we thought of Idaho, we thought of potatoes.  That was our uninitiated impression of the state. After our great race in Idaho Falls we made a beeline for the Idaho Potato Museum…of course!

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We had no idea that there could be so much to learn about potatoes! This expansive potato masher display was just a fraction of what we found inside.

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As riveting as the museum was we were anxious to get on the road. My childhood friend, Amy, now lives in Hailey, Idaho and had graciously offered to host us at her home.  She had warned us that the drive from Idaho Falls to Hailey offered few options for food or other services so we had planned ahead.  But we were stunned to encounter miles of dramatic lava fields along the way. We had no idea that lava fields are a major part of southern Idaho.

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We encountered Hell’s Half Acre Trail not too far out of Idaho Falls. A walk along the trail was informative but sweltering.

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As we continued our drive we passed miles of what looked like low rolling hills of crumbling asphalt studded with sage brush.  The lava fields were immense.

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Eventually we headed north and the landscape changed to ranch lands and finally mountains.  We arrived at Amy’s in Hailey, a picturesque mountain town south of Sun Valley, in early evening.  Amy had arranged for dinner at The Grill at Knob Hill Inn. Our dinner could not have been more perfect.  Sitting in the garden on that balmy evening we caught up on each other’s lives as we savored a truly fabulous meal.  And if that hadn’t been enough, Amy had also gotten us tickets for the outdoor Sun Valley ice showNathan Chen, the Olympic skater, was the headliner.  Our seats were so close we could hear the skaters’ blades on the ice as they whizzed by just feet from us.

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The show was mesmerizing.  It was a spectacular way to cap off our day which had begun with running our Idaho race, included driving through miles of unexpected lava fields, and ended with a sumptuous dinner and a perfect evening of catching up with our long-time friend.

The next day was spent exploring the area surrounding Amy’s home and Sun Valley.

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We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and enjoyed lunch and fabulous views.  We asked our waiter to snap a photo of us and he rapidly dipped and darted around us and in less than a minute he had taken an array of shots from various angles.  It was obvious that he was well practiced in accommodating guests.

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That evening we were able to walk along the river from Amy’s home into town for dinner.

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Amy pointed out the “heart tree” where people leave heart-shaped river rocks.

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After several wonderful days of reminiscing and touring we hit the road to head to Utah. The drive south to Salt Lake City brought us through acres of ranches and fields of  soybeans and corn.

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Once we arrived in the city we picked up our race packets, had a quick lunch and drove by Temple Square and the Salt Lake Temple. Ready to get to our hotel, I clicked the address link in our hotel confirmation email and we set off. More than an hour later we had repeatedly arrived at an address that was clearly not our hotel. We tried all sorts of routes and maps and finally, feeling utterly exasperated, we pulled over into a parking lot.  We were completely immersed in perusing our maps when suddenly I looked up and a woman had appeared at my window. She said she was about to close up the building at the head of the parking lot and wanted to be sure we hadn’t needed to go in.  We confessed we were lost and were just trying to figure out how to get to our hotel.  After we shared the address she assured us we were not far and gave us directions.  We gushed our relief and gratitude and drove off hoping to be at our hotel momentarily. After a few turns we pulled into a gas station to get gas and confirm the rest of the directions. As Mike pumped gas and I checked my phone I glanced up to find our guardian angel standing at my window! Once again, I hadn’t seen her approaching and she had just materialized.  She apologetically assured us she wasn’t stalking us but had second thoughts about the directions she had given us.  I showed her my phone with the hotel address and she informed us that after all of our travels we were not even in Salt Lake City anymore.  Well, that was obviously the first problem!  She gave us new directions and with immense relief we soon pulled into our hotel.  Ironically, a bit later as we were heading out to dinner we passed a gentleman who asked if Mike could assist him with a seat that he was struggling with in his rental car.  Mike worked with him to figure it out and as we continued to the restaurant we were pleased that we had been able to “pay it forward” a bit, too.

We had been surprised to find a Tuesday race in Utah when we had been scanning the Running in the USA website. A midweek race is really helpful when we are trying to run in more than one state on a trip.  We had read that the Deseret News Marathon (which also includes a half marathon, 10k, and 5K) was held on Pioneer Day, which is celebrated on July 24th to commemorate when Brigham Young and his Mormon pioneer followers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.  It is a BIG holiday! There is a huge parade and lots of celebrating.  On the night before the Twenty-fourth (as we learned they refer to the day) we walked past a liquor store where there were so many customers streaming in, they needed a traffic officer to manage the crowds.

Tuesday morning we left the hotel before dawn. The race website listed a descriptive starting spot but not an address.  Unfortunately, not being locals, finding this location proved elusive.

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Eventually we did track it down but unfortunately it wasn’t until the race was close to starting.  It was clear that our chances of making it through the port-a-potty line before the gun went off were non-existent. Since our 10K course also ran along the marathon course, there were bathrooms along the route.  Problem solved.

The course started with an invigorating downhill stretch.  The pastel early morning sky against the dark mountains was beautiful. I felt great! And then I didn’t. An unexpectedly long wait to make a pit stop at mile 2 seemed to derail me. When I started up again I had no energy. I began taking walking breaks. Mike valiantly stuck with me despite my snail’s pace.  Even the throngs of spectators who lined the course waiting for the parade to start couldn’t rally me. I truly had never felt this awful in a race. Eventually the finish line appeared and Mike and I joined hands for the last several feet for our traditional finish.   This time although it may have looked charming, that physical connection helped get me over the finish line.  I am seldom pleased with race photos but the shots from this race are epically awful-but accurately depict how I felt at that moment. (The omission of a photo here is deliberate!)

After crossing the finish line I felt so ill it took me a bit to regain a semblance of normalcy.  My typical post-race enthusiasm was tempered by disappointment over my lousy race.

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But eventually I perked up enough to ask Mike to take our requisite awkward documentation selfie. And we bolstered our thoughts by reminding ourselves that we had just completed our run in Utah and our 37th state race, even if it hadn’t turned out as well as we had hoped.

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As we rode the shuttle bus back to the start we chatted about the race and we laughed at my possibly delirious thoughts as I took the bunch of grapes handed to me by gloved young men in black pants and white shirts just past the finish line. First, I thought what a good idea it was to avoid having sweaty runners reach into a pile to pick up their own grapes.  And secondly I marveled that this race was being catered and we were being served by smartly dressed wait staff.  And then when I had looked closer and read their name tags, I realized that we were in Utah and these helpful young men were members of the Mormon church.  Oh, brother!

With our races behind us we were ready to switch into vacation mode.  We packed up the car and traveled south to begin exploring several of Utah’s iconic National Parks.

Quest Race #: 37

State: Utah

Date Run: July 24, 2018

Bottom Line: Spending a few days reconnecting with our generously welcoming friend, Amy, was a true highlight of our trip.  Although my Utah race experience was not what I had hoped for we were happy to have completed another state race and we still have fond memories of our angel.

For Goodness’ Sake

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A hydrangea bush laden with melon-sized blossoms and our desire to support an important cause along with a general wish to send some good vibes out into the world prompted my “Flowers for Goodness’ Sake” pseudo-flower cart at the end of our driveway.  The chalkboard sign and framed note encouraged people to “Take what you want – Leave what you’d like” and explained that all donations would go directly to the Cady Tucker Run in the Spirit Race that we had signed up for in Idaho.

Running the Head for a Cure race last summer in St. Louis solidified our commitment to choosing races that support a meaningful cause. So when we searched for a race in Idaho this summer we were immediately drawn to the Cady Tucker Run in the Spirit 5K. Their website has an eloquently written tribute to Cady who was tragically killed in an auto accident. It also outlines the race’s excellent mission which includes purchasing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for area schools.

So in the week before we traveled to the race I started my day by cutting fresh flowers and setting them in old sap buckets by the edge of the road.   And as the days passed we received generous donations and thoughtful notes from our friends and neighbors.

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We arrived in Idaho late the night before the race and appreciated the 9:15 start time and the two hour time zone difference the next morning as we headed to the race. When we arrived we were impressed by the number of runners, volunteers, and supporters in attendance.  The sense of community and passion for the cause was clearly evident.

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The event included a 5 mile relay, 5K and 5 mile races, and a kids’ fun run. We opted for the 5K race which was run along a quiet paved path lined with waterways, greenery, and occasional residences.  The course was tranquil and flat-just perfect!

The after-race refreshments included a delectable array of fruit and artisan breads which were sliced to order by an enthusiastic crew of volunteers.

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I opted for a slice of lemon blueberry bread and Mike was in heaven with his choice of whole grain bread with natural peanut butter-his absolute favorite! These options were clearly a notch above most race fare.

During the race we had run near a couple and their two young children-one in a stroller and the other a little guy who zipped past us repeatedly. We had a chance to chat with them after the race and it came up in conversation that we were from Maine and had chosen this race for our Idaho race.  We were encouraged to meet Pat Tucker, Cady’s mom, whom I had communicated with online prior to the race.

It was a true honor to meet Pat.  After a few photos she kindly introduced us to the crowd as the couple that was trying to run a race in every state and then asked us to say a few words. Although public speaking is not my forte I was happy to express how much it meant to us to be a part of an incredible event that honored such a special person and that had an outstanding mission.

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After we had left the race and continued on our travels I emailed Pat to tell her about our Flowers for Goodness’ Sake endeavor and to let her know a check would be on its way.  Her reply was incredibly gracious as she expressed her gratitude for the additional donation.  I replied that it had truly been our great pleasure to have been part of their race and to send along some additional goodness from Maine.

Adding this new activity to our racing gave it a whole new dimension beyond our own personal quest.  Although this action was small we hope that perhaps those who contributed as well as those who may benefit enjoyed the spirit in which it was offered…for goodness’ sake.

Quest Race #: 36

State: Idaho

Date Run: July 21, 2018

The Bottom Line: We will remember this race as one of the most poignant and meaningful races we have done in our quest.  Our connection with the people involved with the race as well as the kindness shown by our neighbors and friends at home in Maine will remain a highlight of our adventure. Thank you!

 

Running in Two States (Actually, Three) in One Weekend

With a hand shake, the deal was sealed.  Mike and I were enjoying drinks at our hotel in Boston the night before we were due to fly to Pensacola to begin our trip to run races in Mississippi and Alabama.  But the forecast was predicting a winter storm to begin the next morning pretty much at the moment our plane was due to depart. Mike was so sure that our flight would be delayed at least 2 hours that he wagered footing the bill for lunch the next day.  I was betting we would be able to escape just in the nick of time.

 

When we arrived at the airport early the next morning (or what seemed like the middle of the night), our flight was still on time. The plane was boarded on schedule just as the snow began.  The pilot informed us that we just needed to go through de-icing and we’d be on our way.  After an interesting but slow de-icing process we finally took off…about an hour late.  We had about an hour layover for our connecting flight in Charlotte so this delay did not bode well for making this connection.  Throughout the flight I was able to monitor the status of our next flight (on time, of course) and determine which gates we would arrive at and depart from (different terminals, of course). We landed with 20 minutes before our next flight was due to depart.  Figuring we had nothing to lose, we opted to try to make it to the plane before it left.  We bolted from the plane and began running through the terminals to our next gate.  You might think that as runners, we’d be all set for this type of challenge.  Our problem is that we had not had the foresight to include running with a backpack and pulling a suitcase into our training.  We did learn that you can make really good time when you run on the people-mover conveyor belts.  Once we were in the right terminal we only had to run past 28 gates before reaching ours.  As our gate came into view the area was alarmingly empty with the exception of the gate attendants at the desk.  I waved to them as we careened up to the desk “Home Alone” style. They greeted us by name and called down the boarding tunnel to alert the crew that we were on our way.

As we boarded the plane, the flight attendants pointed out the two remaining seats. I settled into my seat beside a gracious stranger, gratefully caught my breath and said a silent thank you that I had remembered to apply deodorant after I showered at 3:00 a.m.

IMG_6063We had signed up for the Bob Coleman Winter Run 10K in  Mississippi on Saturday so planned to drive to Jackson on Friday.  Our route went right through Mobile, Alabama where we were running on Sunday so we decided to stop for lunch there on our way.  The Dumbwaiter Restaurant came up as a good option on Yelp so we decided to give it a try.

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This gumbo was divine.

 

Mike, being the gracious gentleman that he is, made good on our earlier wager and paid for lunch since we had miraculously arrived on time.

It was chilly, even by Maine standards, the next morning when we arrived at the start of the Bob Coleman Winter Run 10k in Clinton, Mississippi.  The drive from Jackson along the Natchez Trace Parkway was beautiful and serene and gave us a preview of our course since the race is run along that road.  As we picked up our numbers and shirts and made the inevitable trip to the (amazingly short) port-a-potty line I was struck with the thought that no matter where we are running, runners are always the same.  It was somehow reassuring to be surrounded by a group of like-minded, enthusiastic, pleasant individuals even though we were in a completely unfamiliar location.

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Somehow Mike ended up being #1, confirming what we’ve known all along.

 

The relatively small group of 10K runners gathered at the start and after a few announcements we were on our way along the scenic route.

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We ran along the side of the road since the route was not closed to traffic. Several police cars traveled up and down the course to ensure that drivers were cautious as they drove past us.  The biggest obstacle for us (me) was watching out for raised reflective markers along the painted line.  We don’t have these very helpful traffic markers in Maine due to repeated plowing of the roads so it was a bit of a new experience.

We felt great as we ran along the route.  Although it was chilly and there were no leaves on the trees, the sound of songbirds definitely made it feel more spring-like than the weather we had just left.

The race benefited CARA-Community Animal Rescue and Adoption which is a local no-kill animal shelter. Having adopted many animals over the years from shelters in our area, we were pleased to be able to support this cause. Mike continued his lucky streak and won a nifty neon orange knit cap in the after-race raffle.

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Here is our requisite awkward post-race selfie.

 

After quickly showering and packing up we left our hotel and headed to the nearest Waffle House for our post-race breakfast. Being Northerners,  we had never been to what I’ve heard is a veritable institution in the south.  Bon Appetit had a great article about Waffle Houses and I had heard on NPR that FEMA actually rates a disaster based on the level of operation at the local Waffle House. Getting to the closest one meant driving about two miles. They are everywhere, not unlike Dunkin Donuts in the north.

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I’m blaming it on the post-race high but I was almost giddy to be eating at a Waffle House. I could hardly keep from blurting out that I was a newbie to our waitress.  (Well, I think I may have actually told her but, like everyone else we encountered on our trip to the south, she was very friendly and hospitable despite having an endorphin-crazed Northerner on her hands).  Pathetic, I know, but true.

Because Mobile was in the midst of its Mardi Gras, we had decided to head back there after the Mississippi race in order to experience more of the festivities. Once in the city we noticed that the majority of people were carrying empty bags. We knew that beads were often thrown off of floats but we were intrigued that spectators were clearly anticipating some significant loot.

We hadn’t eaten since our Waffle House experience so happily returned to the Dumbwaiter Restaurant.  Since we just wanted a drink and appetizers we sat at the bar where we chatted with the bartender who filled us in on the Mobile Mardi Gras,  which is actually the country’s original Mardi Gras.

Mike sampled a couple of beers including a Lazy Magnolia that he loved.

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We liked this glass so much I bought one to add to our collection.

 

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The Dumbwaiter’s green tomato stack and baked oysters bienville were a perfect pre-parade indulgence.

The Dumbwaiter Restaurant is just around the corner from the parade route so finding a spot to view the parade was easy.  As we waited for the parade to begin we were surprised to be entertained by the Mobile motorcycle police officers as they drove in circles, zoomed up and down the road, and generally “cowboyed around” (Mike’s phrase) as they patrolled the area prior to the start of the parade.  I later wondered if the Mobile police department is able to recruit new officers readily when young parade spectators are inspired to join the force after watching the fun the department exhibits during the parades.

Once the parade began, Mike and I were stunned by the incredible floats that the Mystics of Time presented.

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Masked riders on horseback preceded most floats.  As horse owners,we were truly impressed with the calm, steadfast horses that didn’t seem phased in the least as their riders flung strings of beads into the screaming crowds, while marching band drums beat so loudly they reverberated in our chests, and spectators hung from open second floor windows and called for things to be thrown to them.

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You can see the masked throwers on this float.

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People were at every second story window.  Some even held nets out in order to collect the flying goods.

The high school marching bands were plentiful and impressive.

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As the parade continued we went from casual spectators to completely enthralled participants as we waved and yelled to encourage them to “Throw me something, Mister!”. We were rewarded with beads, Moon Pies, a glow stick, giant sunglasses, a huge plastic toothbrush, a plastic oinking pig, a ball, and a plastic cup which conveniently listed the next five Mardi Gras dates. Luckily, a small boy was standing next to us so we were able to share/unload the items we didn’t want to pack into our suitcases.  But we left the parade festooned with beads and more.

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We had chosen to run in Mobile after reading about the Joe Cain Classic 5K race.  The Mardi Gras theme appealed to us (even before we knew there was a full-fledged Mardi Gras in the city, as well). So it was not surprising to find the race volunteers dressed in extravagant Mardi Gras attire.  Mike and I adorned ourselves with the beads we had nabbed the night before and felt ready to join the festivities.

The out and back course is billed as flat, fast, and ugly…and I don’t think they were just referring to me in this photo, although that certainly is awful! We ran past the jail and as the race website describes it, “a scenic scrap yard”.  The proceeds from this race benefit challenged athletes.

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We had a good run and were pleased with our efforts.

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But the best part of the race was the block party after we ran. We have run a LOT of races and we’ve decided this was definitely the best after-race event we’ve ever been to. The block party was held on a little side street a few blocks from the end of the race.  Houses were decorated for Mardi Gras.

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The non-stop music was fabulous and absolutely added to the very festive vibe.  There was a huge array of food including Southern treats like grits and pimento cheese sandwiches. We had enjoyed two beers by 9:30 a.m. and it seemed perfectly normal given the party atmosphere.

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“Joe Cain” was at the party, as well!

partyWe would have loved to stay longer and hang around for the official Joe Cain Day parade but, alas we had to head back to Pensacola to catch our flight. It was tough to leave such a great party but we consoled ourselves with lunch at Felix’s Fish Camp on our way out of town.

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IMG_6130This provided us one more chance to drink sweet tea and sample more Southern cuisine. The atmosphere was fun and the service was excellent.  We left Mobile reluctantly but grateful that we had, once again, had an opportunity to explore a new region with all of the varied food, drink, and experiences that it had to offer.

States: Mississippi and Alabama

Dates Run: Bob Coleman Winter 10K-February 6, 2016

Joe Cain Classic 5K  – February 7, 2016

Race #: 23 and 24

The Bottom Line: Arranging to run two races on consecutive days took a bit of planning but the effort was totally worthwhile.  The Bob Coleman Winter Run was a lovely 10K along a scenic, quiet historic route.  We were pleased to be able to support CARA, the local animal shelter, with our registration fees.

Serendipitously ending up in Mobile during the height of Mardi Gras was a true highlight of our adventure.  Although being on this quest to try to run a race in every state tends to interfere with our desires to return to places we have visited, we have already earmarked the Joe Cain Classic as a race we truly hope to run again.

 

 

Volunteering at the Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race

After we decided we wouldn’t try to sign up for the Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race this year, we realized we could still be a part of this incredible event by volunteering.  We have been involved in developing and organizing several small, local road races but we had never volunteered for a race of this magnitude.

We signed up to help at the mile 5 water stop. Having run this race, we remembered how crucial this water stop is.  As the weeks went by, we became more excited about our volunteering adventure. We received emails asking us for our shirt sizes, providing us with general information, and keeping us updated about our duties.

When our invitations to the Volunteer Appreciation Party arrived we were completely surprised.b2b inviteWho knew volunteers got a party?

It was a beautiful, balmy night when we arrived at the stunning ocean-front location for the party. As we walked up to the tent we marveled at how impressively the Beach to Beacon organizers were treating its volunteers.
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We were served drinks and then strolled to the beach to enjoy the view while great live music wafted from the tent.

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We returned to the tent to mingle before dinner.  The first person we spoke to told us that the mile 5 water stop is the best one. How exciting! Everyone that we chatted with was incredibly welcoming and cordial.  We later commented that we shouldn’t have been surprised about that because we were dealing with runners and volunteers-two groups of people that I believe are particularly pleasant.

As we waited in line for the buffet dinner, we were thrilled to have Joan Benoit Samuelson, the founder of the race and the gold medal winner of the first women’s Olympic marathon, stop by to thank us for volunteering.  She was gracious and unpretentious. Having a chance to meet this incredible woman who is a true icon in the sports world and beyond was an immense honor and the highlight of an already terrific night for us.

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During the evening we heard from Dave McGillivray, the director of the Beach to Beacon, as well as the Boston Marathon.  The beneficiary of this year’s Beach to Beacon is the Good Shepherd Food Bank.  Their director spoke to us about the incredibly important work that they are doing, including providing food to children during weekends and holidays when they don’t have access to school meals. This made us more excited about being a part of this phenomenal event.

There was an extensive raffle that included coveted Beach to Beacon beach towels, Fitbits, signed Boston Celtics items, Boston Marathon shirts, and much more.  Although we didn’t win a raffle item, everyone was given a nifty B2B 10K car magnet which made us happy.

IMG_5151We left the evening dazzled by the level of indulgence that the Beach to Beacon organizers bestow on their volunteers.  We had no idea that any of these perks came with the volunteer job.

On race day we arrived at the designated spot to begin volunteering at the famous mile 5 water stop.

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We were met by Connie who has hosted the mile 5 water stop with her husband, Dick, at their home for the 18 years that this race has been run.  She gave us our cool technical style volunteer t-shirts, credentials to wear around our neck, and a bonus Dunkin Donut gift card that we received because we had signed up early.

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Connie and Dick were warm and welcoming.  Everything was calmly organized and there was a lively sense of pride and enthusiasm among the volunteers. We all enjoyed the pot luck breakfast which is a Mile 5 tradition. It was a great opportunity to speak with the other volunteers before the excitement of the race began.

It was calm and quiet on the course early in the morning.

IMG_5182We began to set up the cups and filled them with water.

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Here’s Mike hard at work (in the white hat).

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One more layer to go!

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We had 4 large tables stacked with 3 layers of filled cups!

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Everyone seamlessly found a job and worked together to accomplish this in no time at all.

Then the waiting began.  The wheelchair participants came by first followed by 90 year old, Dottie Gray, the oldest finisher of the race.

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We could tell the front-runners were coming as the cheers and cowbells down the road became intense.

Stephen Kosgei Kibet of Kenya was the leader at the 5 mile mark and ended up winning the entire race. It was fabulous to be able to witness the elite runners in action just feet from us. In the past, our only glimpse of these world-class runners had been on stage at the awards ceremony.

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Within a few minutes there was a steady stream of runners zooming by.  We were a bit stunned by the intensity and speed with which they snatched a cup without the hint of slowing down.

Soon the course was packed with runners who were running at impressive paces.  These runners mostly dashed by with their eyes straight ahead.  A few nabbed a cup and sped off.  But shortly, the number of runners increased notably while their pace became slower.

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IMG_5198These were the runners that were more familiar to me.  They are the ones that surround me when I run.  Their pace is slow enough that they can easily grab the cup.  They attempt to put their empty cups in the trash. They may even take a brief walking break while they drink their water.  They said, “thank you” and seemed especially appreciative (although sometimes confused) when we called out their names and some encouragement.  Every bib number has the runner’s name printed in big letters so that it’s easy to yell out specific encouragement.  I know I was at mile 5 the last time I ran the race when I heard someone call my name.  I looked up, stunned, to see who knew me.  It was just a kind stranger who had read my name and yelled out to give me a boost.

Soon, the flow of runners had dwindled to more of a trickle but the shouts of encouragement stayed strong.  Some of these runners were struggling but they were doing it.  Step by step they were getting closer and closer to crossing the finish line of the Beach to Beacon.

There was now time to begin the clean up of the hundreds of cups that made the road look like it had snowed, as one volunteer observed. Again, everyone just pitched in and the course was cup-free in an astonishingly short time.

Before we knew it, we were having a group photo taken and everyone was heading their separate ways.  Mike and I absolutely agree that the mile 5 water stop is unquestionably the best!  The warm welcome we were given as newcomers and the excitement of seeing the runners of all levels “up close and personal” was terrific. We were stunned by the extraordinary gratitude that the organizers and participants showed the volunteers. We loved having the chance to give back a little after being on the receiving end of countless volunteers’ efforts. The entire experience, set to an incredible soundtrack that played throughout the day, made this a fabulous event that we can’t wait to repeat next year!

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Have you volunteered at a race?

What was your favorite part?

Tibbetts Point Run 10K- Cape Vincent, NY

When Mike and I started making plans to run our New York race, we decided we wanted to do a race that was not in the city. After scanning our trusty Running in the USA website, Mike found the Tibbetts Point Run. We were drawn to the location which is on the St. Lawrence River where it meets Lake Ontario. My mother and her parents and grandparents used to summer on the St. Lawrence Seaway, so being in that area had an additional appeal. We signed up for the 10K but there is also a 5K that is run at the same time.

We had the luxury of stopping to stay with my sister, Kate, in Vermont on our way from Maine to New York.  That visit and the picturesque views made the long drive much more pleasant.

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We stopped in Sackets Harbor, NY where they happened to be having a Canadian-American Festival. We had no idea we would be lucky enough to witness the fire truck pull!

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It is a charming town with beautiful views of the lake.

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Cape Vincent, where the race is held, is about 25 miles north. After reviewing the somewhat limited lodging options in town I had chosen the Buccaneer Motel for our accommodations. The fact that I had chosen it is significant, because it meant I couldn’t complain. There is a rumor among my family that I have been known to emphatically voice my, shall I say, “not always enthusiastic” opinion when our room didn’t meet my discerning (they say fussy) standards.  You would have to confirm that with them.

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Although the motel itself was not fancy and offered limited frills (such as soap or shampoo), it was just a few blocks from the race and it was right on the water.

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We loved watching the boats on the river heading to or from Lake Ontario and I was completely enthralled with the wind turbines across the river on Wolfe Island.

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As we finished dinner the night before the race, I realized that there would potentially be wonderful sunset views at the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse that we had stopped at earlier that day. We raced over just in time and joined lots of others who were there for the same reason.

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It truly was stunning.

The race the next morning traveled on a flat course through town and out to a gorgeous route right along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. The 10K was an out and back course that looped around the lighthouse. After the race we returned to the lighthouse for a few photos

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and then decided to take the ferry across the river to Wolfe Island in Ontario.

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Fifteen dollars and 10 minutes was all it took to get us and our car across the river and voila’! We were in Canada!

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Wolfe Island is the largest of the Thousand Islands. We loved the quiet, rural feel of the island and the transfixing wind turbines that have such a majestic presence on the island

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We wished we had brought bikes to explore the miles of bike-friendly roads.

On the ferry ride back to Cape Vincent we met a cyclist who was heading to Acadia National Park in Maine (our favorite place) and we excitedly shared our suggestions for his visit.

The next morning we followed this small furry creature for a bit

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on our way to this coffee shop.

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After a tranquil start to our morning, we ended our visit to Cape Vincent and headed home.

State: New York

Date Run: July 21, 2013

Quest Race #: 13

The Bottom Line: This relatively small race features a flat course with a stunning view of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Its proximity to Wolfe Island, Ontario provides an opportunity for a fun, easy trip to Canada.

Market Square Day 10K

Although the majority of the races we sign up for these days are in a new state, when Mike suggested we run the Market Square Day 10K again in nearby Portsmouth, NH, we decided it would be a good training run at a festive event.

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The morning of the race was sunny with comfortable temperatures. After a light breakfast on the porch we headed to Portsmouth.

Market Square makes a picturesque starting line.

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Just under 2,000 runners finished this year’s race which travels through downtown Portsmouth and quiet neighborhoods. Enthusiastic spectators offered encouragement and welcome mistings from garden hoses along the course.

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The race finishes at historic Strawbery Banke Museum.  Mike and I were happy with our pace and loved the festive feel to the race. Todd and Hannah were at the finish and obligingly took our post-race photo.

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We celebrated at our favorite after-run breakfast place, The Friendly Toast and then ventured into the throes of Market Square Day.

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River Run Book Store offered people passing by an opportunity to win a prize if they could type a sentence correctly on this typewriter. There was no time limit and since I have had lots of practice with this type of machine (i.e. these were the norm in my childhood), I did it!

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I took my ticket to the book store to claim my prize.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that my prize was this wonderful book, Wine and Dine in New Hampshire by Carla Snow.

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We continued meandering down the row of vendors until my attention was caught by the Portsmouth Harbor Cruises booth. As I stood there holding my book, one of the women at the booth exclaimed, “That’s my book!”. She was the author of the book I had just won!  We chatted about the cruises offered by her company and she signed my book.  How serendipitous was that?

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We spent some more time leisurely soaking up the music, atmosphere, and fun of Market Square Day.

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We love our traveling adventures but we remembered how nice it is to run in our local races and embrace the familiar events of home.

Do you have a favorite race or local event?  Would you rather try something new or stick with the familiar?

Half at the Hamptons and a Whole Lot More

When we began our quest to run a race in every state, we had already run multiple races in New Hampshire.  So as we thought about our quest, we chose the Half at the Hamptons as our official New Hampshire race. Although we have both run the race, we have never actually run it together or on the same day.  I first ran it in February 2009 with Amelia when we signed up for the Will Run for Beer race series.  Mike ran it the following year on his own after I was unable to run due to coming down with bronchitis/pneumonia thanks to one of my lovely (but germ-ridden) little clients.

The course is scenic and quite flat.  There are stunning views on portions of the route that travel along the ocean. Runners are treated to hot soup and beer after the race. This event takes place in February, so training for it is a great way to keep running during the winter months.

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Mike is finishing his Half at the Hamptons run in 2010.

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Amelia and her dad after the race.

A few years ago we completed two race series in the New Hampshire Seacoast area. They were the Will Run for Beer series which always, of course, offers beer at the end of the races and the Seacoast Road Race Series. Participating in these series offered us an opportunity to run lots of new races.

These are some of the New Hampshire races that we have enjoyed over the years.

Market Square Day 10K in Portsmouth is run in conjunction with the Market Square Day Festival which is a large event in downtown Portsmouth on the second Saturday in June.  The race starts in the midst of the festival in Market Square and travels through various neighborhoods.  It ends at Strawbery Banke, which is an historic village museum.  This is a very popular race that sells out before the race date.

Great Bay 5K is held in October in Stratham.  This is a point to point race that seemed to be pretty much all down hill. We got a great long-sleeve technical t-shirt the year we ran it.

Children’s Museum 5K will be held in Dover in May.  The course is somewhat hilly but includes a run across a small wooden bridge which is a fun twist.  I remember a great selection of food at the end of the race, including local chowder and ice cream.

Red’s Shoe Barn 5 Mile is in April in Dover.  The website describes this as a “challenging” course and I concur! There are lots of hills along the route but it does end on a long, well-deserved downhill stretch.

Runner’s Alley/Redhook 5K is a really festive, flat race that ends at the brewery with great food, live music, and Redhook beer.

Saunders at Rye Harbor 10K is held on a Thursday evening in August in the coastal town of Rye.

Great Island 5K in New Castle is a nice race that winds around narrow seacoast streets, beginning and ending at The Great Island Common.

Margaritas 5K takes place in Exeter.  One of the fun things about this race is that the year we ran it with Amelia she won a sombrero for placing in her age division. Running this race also makes it completely reasonable to drink a margarita at 10:00 on a Sunday morning at the post race Mexican event!

Fox Point Sunset 5 Mile Road Race, as the name suggests, is run in the evening in Newington.  There is a big barbeque following the race.  The t-shirts for this race usually have really pretty sunset-themed artwork and I’ve enjoyed the evening racing.

All of the races I’ve mentioned so far are part of one of the race series that we’ve done.  However, there is another race that is not part of a series but is in a class of it’s own.  The St. Charles 5K is organized by the Running Nuns of Rochester.  Their website states, “We especially focus on running for children and beginners and ways running can help heal from grief, trauma and abuse as well as enhance well being and self esteem”.

We have run this race several times and find it especially poignant to see nuns running in full habits with their young running friends. We lived in Rochester where the St. Charles home is located and would often seen the nuns and children out for their daily runs.

The race is held in Newington on a very flat course.  I have found the prayer that is said before the race begins particularly moving.  Once you complete the race there is a big cookout and tons of food available for runners.  This is definitely a race that makes you feel wonderful about the cause for which you are running.

Since we live on the border of New Hampshire, we haven’t traveled far in order to check New Hampshire off our quest list. However, we would highly recommend joining the vibrant running community here and checking out one or more of these races. But if you prefer to visit without racing, the Seacoast area of New Hampshire is lovely and offers a multitude of diversions. There are quaint towns, beaches, great dining, lots of recreational activities, theater, music, and more to enjoy.

As we travel to new states for our 50 state quest we are always amazed at how much we love exploring a new area.  A trip to New Hampshire will offer you an opportunity to experience a fabulous area and perhaps it will inspire you to begin your own quest.

 

State: New Hampshire

Quest State #: 2

Dates Run: 2/15/09 (Karen)  2/22/10 (Mike)

The Bottom Line: The Half at the Hamptons half marathon is a great mid-winter race in a coastal setting.  The Seacoast region of New Hampshire offers a multitude of other exciting, fun races throughout the year. It is a wonderful destination for recreation and running.