New Orleans-Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon

The following entry is our last post about a race that we ran prior to starting this blog. Although it is ridiculously belated, our trip to New Orleans was one of our absolute favorites on this quest so I am sharing our adventures to perhaps inspire others to add it to a travel checklist.

We figured that running in New Orleans would be fun.  And it was.  But experiencing NOLA, as we learned it was referred to, went beyond our expectations.  In keeping with our goal of escaping from Maine winters, Mike had proposed the Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans in February 2014.  We dutifully put in our long miles despite desperately cold temps and snowy roads.  As we trudged along, visions of a warmer climate kept us going…literally.

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We arrived at Hotel Provincial on Rue Chartres and were delighted to find that the city was decorated for Mardi Gras although the height of the season was still a few weeks away.

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After a few minutes in the room, we hopped on the elevator to head out to the packet pick-up.  We were excitedly chatting when we realized the elevator wasn’t moving. Pushing buttons did nothing to change this.  We were stuck in the elevator.

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I snapped a photo while we waited in the elevator to capture this moment…and to help distract me from my impending claustrophobia.  I had the hotel number in my phone and amazingly there was service in the elevator

“Hello, I’m calling because my husband and I are stuck in the elevator and we wondered if you could help us out.” They said they would call the elevator repair people and offered to send someone over to us while we waited. Shortly, we heard the pleasant voice of the lovely employee dispatched to attend to us.  She kindly offered to sing to/with us but we opted for small talk. In a surprisingly reasonable amount of time, the elevator repair people arrived.

They worked for a while but we remained contained in our little space. Eventually, after some movement, the doors opened and we found ourselves at eye level with the floor. Although we could have hoisted ourselves up and out, they cranked some more and the next time the doors opened we walked right out – back at the floor where we had started. We took the stairs down a flight and saw the employees that had been sent to keep us company chatting outside the closed elevator doors. We introduced ourselves as the couple that had been stuck in the elevator, thanked them for their help, and left the building.

We boarded a trolley for the Convention Center where the packet pick-up was located.   Another couple about our age sat across from us and mentioned that they were running the race.  We told them we were running, too. They told us that the woman was trying to run a marathon in every state.  We told them that we were trying to run a race (albeit not a marathon) in every state, too. As we chatted, they told us their son was getting married on June 7th and we said our daughter was getting married on June 7th, too. At this point I began to worry they thought we were some sort of copy cat weirdos despite the fact it was all coincidentally true.

After picking up our packets we returned to the vicinity of our hotel to look for a place for dinner.  The Palm Court Jazz Cafe  looked intriguing and they had a table available so we went in.  We were exhausted, having begun our travels from Maine before the crack of dawn, and gratefully relaxed with a drink while a band assembled on the stage just feet from our table.  When we heard the first notes of jazz music I began to realize just how integral music is to New Orleans.  The music was absolutely phenomenal.  We truly couldn’t stop exclaiming over our good fortune to have happened into this spectacular restaurant with amazing food and unexpected and absolutely fabulous live jazz.

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We returned to our hotel, took the stairs to our room, and fell into a blissfully deep sleep.

The next day we walked the few blocks from our hotel to Jackson Square. Those blocks were lined with quintessential New Orleans architecture.

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Jackson Square was filled with artists, performers, and musicians.

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As we strolled along we encountered a young man sitting behind an old-style typewriter perched on a tiny table.  His sign said, “Pick a subject. Get a  poem.”  We, of course, told him about our quest.  He told us to come back in half an hour and he’d have a poem for us.

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This is one of our most unique and cherished travel mementos.

A number of canine friends caught our attention.

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This dog lay perfectly still and drew a great crowd and plenty of donations for his “proper burial”. When I bent over to add my dollar he turned his head and opened his eyes which elicited a laugh from the spectators.

Although we didn’t venture into the Lower Ninth Ward where Hurricane Katrina had wreaked the most devastation in New Orleans nine years earlier, the impact that catastrophe had on the city was still widely evident. Artisans in Jackson Square used materials salvaged from the wreckage to create works of art.  Bookstores sold reading material on the subject. The event was mentioned in conversations. Virtually every aspect of the city offered a reminder of what the residents had endured but also reflected their strength in rebounding from this tragedy.

On a much lighter note a bonus of our trip was an opportunity to visit with Victoria, a great friend of Matt and Amelia’s who would be a part of their upcoming wedding. Not only had she provided us with a fabulously detailed list of possible places to visit and things to do while in the city, she also arranged to take us out to dinner at a popular seafood restaurant, Superior Seafood.  Mike and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening and Victoria’s gracious company and conversation.

It was still dark the next morning as we left our hotel to walk to the race. The streets were foggy as other runners silently joined the stream of people heading to the start until a veritable parade of runners poured into the staging area.  The race was organized by corrals and we walked several blocks and turned down another street before reaching our starting spot.

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The scenic course traveled through various New Orleans neighborhoods with musical entertainment including jazz, rock, Cajun, blues, country and high school bands lining the course.  We particularly appreciated the sense of divine support from the gospel singers clad in choir robes as we approached the finish line.

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We crossed the finish line in our traditional hand-in-hand fashion.

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Although there was some post-race entertainment, we were ready to hit the town to truly embrace NOLA after having refrained from all of the “fun” the city offers prior to the race.

We  celebrated with po’ boys and a Hurricane,

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a drink that the day before we had enviously watched people sip while strolling through the streets.

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Our spur of the moment decision to take a pedicab tour provided us with an unexpectedly rich insight into New Orleans.

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Our driver recommended Three Muses on Frenchmen Street for dinner.

027 (3)The restaurant was cozy and lively, offering a variety of music, delectable food, and opportunities to easily converse with fellow diners seated inches away. We loved it. On our walk back to our hotel we gathered with others to watch several boys tap dancing on the sidewalk. This was one of many impromptu performances we enjoyed during our stay.

We loved immersing ourselves in New Orleans.

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This description of a potential residence caught our attention.

The food,

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the architecture,

and the culture

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created an experience that made our run in Louisiana particularly fabulous.

As we reluctantly checked out of our hotel the next morning we were amused that the desk clerk encouraged us to write a review of our stay on an online site.  We thought that perhaps she was a tad optimistic given our elevator adventure. But actually that experience had just added a fun story to be woven into the myriad of others that are giving dimension to these quest journeys.

State: Louisiana

Quest Race #: 16

Date: February 2, 2014

The Bottom Line: The Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon was a flat, festive race but New Orleans itself was the true prize in this trip.

 

 

She won!

I heard the text ping as Mike and I headed into the second mile of the Shamrock Run in Richmond, VA.  Although I didn’t look at the message then, I was pretty sure I knew what it would say. When Amelia ran back to us from the direction of the finish line she confirmed what I had quietly been anticipating.  She was the first female finisher!

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We had known that Richmond would be the site of our Virginia race ever since our niece, Annie, moved there a few years ago. When we chose this race in late January, Amelia signed up for the race, as well, and Hannah and Todd signed on for the trip. Having run the majority of our quest races on our own, it was such a treat to have Amelia’s husband, Matt, Hannah and Todd, and Annie and Sam braving the chilly temperatures and cheering us on.

Having personal photographers was an added bonus. Annie snapped this shot of Amelia at the start.

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And Hannah captured this photo as Amelia zoomed to a win and PR finish. I love the outline of her shadow.

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Amelia had been putting in the miles and hard workouts to attempt a PR.  We were thrilled that she had accomplished her goal and that we were all able to celebrate with her.

My winter training was decidedly less stellar but we had a good run and were pleased with our finishing time.  I even ended up with third place in my new age-group.

Hannah took this photo of Mike and me finishing. We’ve decided she should always come along.  We love her company and she took one of my best finish line photos.  Plus having her take pictures alleviates the need for our signature awkward post-race selfie.

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I think that the person behind us looks a bit like a leprechaun, albeit a big one.

We were a bit dismayed to hear the announcement at the starting line that they wouldn’t be holding an awards ceremony after the race as they had advertised on their website. They had also promoted post-race live music at the brewery.  That didn’t happen either. But since we had our own enthusiastic crew to celebrate with we toasted Amelia’s win and enjoyed having the opportunity to share our race experience with family and friends.

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We had plenty of time for other fun throughout the weekend. Annie and Sam provided outstanding hospitality and expertly steered us to one perfect restaurant or activity after another.

Lunch at Union Market,

fabulous ice cream at Charm School,

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Charm School is filled with nifty old school (literally) touches.

cocktails at  the Quirk Hotel

 

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and dinner at Vagabond on Saturday topped off with a leisurely visit to Carytown on Sunday provided us with a well-rounded sampling of some of Richmond’s delights.

Sure, venturing to unfamiliar locations, exploring the local venues, and chatting with strangers on our own has resulted in many memorable adventures on our quest. But having the opportunity to spend the weekend with people we know and love and celebrate Amelia’s win truly made completing our 28th state race awesome.

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State: Virginia

Quest Race Number: 28

Date Run: March 12, 2017

The Bottom Line: Running a race accompanied by family and friends is something we hope will happen again.  With 22 states left on our quest list there should be plenty of opportunity for more festivities, great photos, and fast finishes.

Seattle and Lake Union 10K

 

While the iconic Space Needle is synonymous with Seattle, flying fish, a ferris wheel that soars over Puget Sound, and a phenomenal blown glass exhibit were what really made our Seattle trip memorable.

Having checked all but four states east of the Mississippi off of our quest list but only three to the west we signed up for races in Washington and Oregon.  We flew from Boston to Seattle on Virgin America.  This was our first time using this airline and we had a great experience.

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The cool purple lighting added a neat ambiance.

Strangely, one of the highlights of our flight was their safety video.  And stranger still, when we got on our connecting flight we were actually excited that we would be able to watch the video again!.

We  headed directly to Pike Place Market on Saturday morning following a tip from some Washington runners that we had met in Maine earlier this summer.

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As soon as we entered the market we knew we were in the right place because the fish market was surrounded by scores of tourists with their cameras poised to snap a picture of a flying fish. When a customer chose a fish the fish monger at the front of the display tossed it to the guys behind the counter.  Often the fish flew back and forth a few times accompanied by a distinctive call.  I wasn’t able to capture this on video but this excerpt from YouTube depicts it perfectly.

The market is also known for its flowers.

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Everyone seemed to be walking by with giant, gorgeous bouquets. One man told us he had paid only $10.00 for his stunning collection of blooms.

We walked a mile from the market to the Space Needle but after discovering that there was a two hour wait to take the elevator to the top we opted for the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit adjacent to it. We paid our admission and planned to wander around the display for a bit.  But we were immediately transfixed by the overwhelming color, design, and extravagance of the creations. We truly could not refrain from taking photo after photo.  I don’t think  I’ve ever been somewhere where so many observers also seemed to be overcome by the magnificence of the exhibition.

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We left the exhibit a bit stunned by our unexpectedly fabulous experience and made our way back to the market.  We were tired, thirsty, and hungry so after climbing a small mountain of stairs back up to the Market we arrived at Red Cedar and Sage.

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Just sitting down at the bar felt great but sampling two local beers accompanied by a remarkably delicious egg salad sandwich felt even better. When we were joined by a pleasantly chatty  fellow traveler we couldn’t resist convincing him to venture to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit. As we conversed, two complimentary orange rosemary sorbet mimosas were placed in front of us. They were fabulous.

It would have been easy to have wiled away the afternoon drinking and conversing at the bar but we departed and walked the short distance to the Seattle Great Wheel.

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The views as we rode over the water were spectacular.

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The almost surreal sight of Mount Rainier never failed to thrill us-even when it was more than 60 miles away.

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We left downtown Seattle to pick up our race packets and shirts for the Lake Union 10K which we were running the next day. We loved the gender-specific race shirts.

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Finding the race location the next morning was a breeze. We thought it was fitting that we could see the Space Needle from that location, too.IMG_6845

As the name suggests, the race takes place around Lake Union. While we waited for the race to begin we wandered down to the waterfront where we were pleasantly surprised to find a display of historic boats.

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Strolling along the dock learning about various noteworthy vessels was certainly a new but entertaining way to spending the pre-race time.  We encountered a local couple and when they noticed Mike’s Beach to Beacon volunteer shirt we began talking about running in Maine.We urged them to attempt to get into what we think is one of the best races ever.

When the race started we joined about 1200 other runners on the course around the lake. The mostly flat course traveled through lake-side neighborhoods, across two draw bridges, and along various paved trails.

We were pleased with our finishing time and the completion of our 26th state.

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Notice the Space Needle popping up behind my head.

A signature feature of this race is the post race breakfast provided by Portage Bay, also the major race sponsor.

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We were thrilled that the beneficiary of this race is Girls on the Run. I even chose Girls on the Run on my Charity Miles app and wracked up an additional donation while I ran.

We left the race feeling delighted to have completed another state and eager to continue with our traveling adventure.

The story continues in our next post-Whidbey Island and Mount Rainier National Park.

Have you been to Seattle?  What was your favorite part?

Do you use the Charity Miles app to earn money for terrific causes?

State: Washington

Quest Race: #26

Date Run: August 14, 2016

The Bottom Line: The Lake Union 10K was a pleasant, scenic race in Seattle which provided us with the opportunity to explore Seattle and support a fabulous cause.

 

 

 

Halfway To 50 States!

With only a couple of weeks to go before Amelia and Matt moved away from Pittsburgh, we finally arranged a race in nearby Ohio. Matt’s M.B.A. graduation from Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University offered the perfect opportunity to coordinate a visit and a race.

Perusing our traditional trusty race resource, Runningintheusa.com  failed to locate any Ohio races in the area close to Pittsburgh.  But after doing a little research, I found the Austintown Lion’s 21st Annual “5K in May”.  With less than an hour and a half drive from Pittsburgh and a 9:45 a.m starting time, this seemed like exactly what we needed to check Ohio off of our quest list.

Matt’s parents, Bill and Terry, kindly offered to accompany us to the race.  We all enjoyed the scenic rolling farmland and the opportunity to visit during the drive to Austintown. Thanks to excellent details on the race entry form,  we arrived exactly at the starting location right on schedule, thus sparing Terry and Bill the “excitement” of navigation challenges that we have endured when traveling to a few other races.

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The rainy forecast made us particularly thrilled to discover that registration and other race activities took place in an attractive heated building with indoor facilities. It proved to be the perfect spot for our spectators to be able to watch the race and stay cozy and dry.

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We seldom have companions for our races so this was a real treat. Bill had the foresight to take a photo of us before we headed out into the rain to document our pre-race status.

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He even got a shot of us at the starting line. Normally if we have any visual documentation at the start it’s an awkward selfie or a random shot of the crowd.

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The group of runners who lined up at the start may have been small but it was undeterred by the weather.  After a few brief announcements, we were off and running.

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The race took place at the Austintown Township Park and was run on a pleasant gravel trail that wound through woods and past a small pond.

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The person in the bright jacket ahead of us was a lovely woman whom we chatted with who ended up winning our age group division.

The route  is a double loop that goes past the main building where registration and awards took place. Terry and Bill were able to see us four times during the race without having to leave the building. But being the great sports they are, they even popped out to cheer us on as we ran by.  There was excellent volunteer support along the route, including a water stop which we ran past twice.

We loved the course, despite the rain, and were pleased with our time.  Here is our post- race shot where we are looking (and feeling) decidedly soggy.ohio after

Numerous door prizes were distributed and Mike and I were lucky enough to both win something.  I  won a bucket packed with Avon treats.

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The prizes also included many gift certificates to local restaurants. Since we were all getting hungry we were keeping our fingers crossed that Mike would receive one of those…and he did, which allowed us to later redeem his prize at the Korner Restaurant on our way home.

I was thrilled  to win second place in my age group.

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As I went up to receive my medal I commented to the announcer that we had chosen their event for our Ohio race in our quest to run a race in every state.  There was a kind response from the other runners and spectators when he shared this with the group.  I think it drives Mike crazy when I do this but I can’t resist sharing our enthusiasm for our adventure. I also have found that people seem to appreciate knowing that their race had a special attraction.

What started out as a random race to check Ohio off of our quest list, once again became an event filled with unexpected bonuses.  It was a well organized race with a pretty course and generous awards and prizes. We had an opportunity to meet wonderful people, including the woman who won my age group who is on her own quest to run twelve races this year. Having Terry and Bill join us made the trip much more fun and provided vastly better race photography!

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We nabbed another runner to snap a shot of us with Bill and Terry after the race.

Ohio is the 25th state in which we have run. It seems fitting that rather than marking this halfway point milestone with a fancy race in a flashy destination, we once again were treated to the unexpected pleasures of a small race in a less famous location. Our experience here solidified the philosophy that has emerged during our adventure. It is the journey, not just the destination, that truly matters.

State: Ohio

Quest Race #: 25

Date Run: May 14, 2016

The Bottom Line: We loved everything about this race!  We only regret that it’s unlikely we will have a chance to see the people we met again and that Bill and Terry aren’t going to be able to accompany us to and provide outstanding support at the next 25 races.

 

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.

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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.

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I took a few photos on the plane to send to one of my small clients who loves planes.  (I do, too!)

We 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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We loved the cool atmosphere and the excellent service.

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This gumbo was divine.

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The chocolate bread pudding had Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Heath Bar pieces in it. Oolala!

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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flowers float

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knightMasked 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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This building was lit up in changing Mardi Gras colors.

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 extravagent 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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Photo credit: Tim Ard

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.

 

 

Vermont-Maple Leaf Half Marathon and Kotler 5K

Considering that my sister, Kate, lives in Vermont and that it is an easy three hour drive from our home in Maine, it was surprising that we didn’t run a race in Vermont until three years into our quest.  However, we eventually chose the Kotler 5K which is part of the Maple Leaf Half Marathon event.  Running in Vermont gave us the chance to visit with Kate at her spacious country home in the quiet village of Windham.

katie lrBecause her home is just a few doors down from the town church which has the distinction of being the church situated at the highest elevation in Vermont, running from her home offers a wicked hill workout.

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The view from her home across to the mountains is gorgeous.

On the day of the race, we made the scenic half hour drive to Manchester, where the race took place. It is a terrific Vermont town that offers a multitude of restaurants and shops in a stunning valley setting surrounded by the dramatic Green Mountains

We arrived at the Dana Thompson Recreational Park in Manchester where the race began and enjoyed the lovely amenity of ample on-site parking.  As we waited to begin the race, a young trumpeter played the national anthem which provided a truly moving send-off. Our 5K course went through the town and down pleasant residential side roads. At one point, a string trio serenaded us at the side of the road. Near the end of the course we ran on a gravel path through the woods.  As we approached a small wooden bridge we could hear the familiar notes of “Anchors Away” wafting towards us.  Crossing the bridge, we spotted the trumpeter from the start tucked down beside the stream  It was such a fun surprise at the end of our course.  We crossed the finish line hand-in-hand back at the recreational park and were surprised to be presented with this gorgeous pressed-glass medal that was crafted by a local artisan.

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We hadn’t anticipated a medal for completing a 5K and we certainly had not expected the bonus of this exquisite craftsmanship.  At the awards ceremony, winners received slate squares and age group winners were given wooden cutting boards.  (I was 4th in my group…so close!)

As we waited for the half marathon runners to come in we enjoyed an extensive spread of yummy food including cheddar cheese, fruit, made-to-order sandwiches, bagels and assorted spreads, and more. It was truly a scrumptious after-race “buffet”. Instead of a t-shirt we received a spiffy nylon backpack that we have since used multiple times.  We decided to treat ourselves to matching hats, as well.

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You get a glimpse of the mountains in the background (and the strap of my backpack on my shoulder).

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If there was a dialogue bubble over Mike’s head, I’m pretty sure it would say, “WHY is she making me pose for another photo?”  But since he is an unfailingly great sport, he played along.

Because Kate was still busy selling her famous focaccia at the West River Farmers’ Market that morning we stopped at this adorable bistro in Manchester for coffee before meeting her.

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We were able to make it back to Londonderry to the farmers’ market before it was over. It’s a superb market situated along the West River offering a multitude of food and craft vendors.  Live music and a convivial vibe create a fun and festive atmosphere.

When we met Kate, we couldn’t stop exclaiming over how much we had enjoyed our race. The course, swag, and refreshments were awesome.  It is one of our favorite races and we would highly recommend it.  The chance to spend the weekend with Kate was a huge added bonus.  It is possible for others to enjoy that perk, as well, because Kate is now offering rooms through Airbnb at Windham Maples. Her guests have raved about their stays and although we may be a tad bit biased, we wholeheartedly agree.

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We love sitting on the back deck which overlooks a small ravine.

If you are a runner, we would encourage you to consider adding the 38th Maple Leaf Half Marathon or Kotler 5K to your race calendar on Saturday, September 10, 2016. This year the race is partnering with Make-A Wish.  As of this writing, the half marathon registration is a very reasonable $55.00 and the 5K is $25.

Whether or not running a race is on your calendar, if you are looking for a wonderful Vermont get-away, we’d suggest you consider a trip to Windham Maples.

katie treesThe foliage in the fall is spectacular.  In the winter there are major ski areas close by as well as lovely quiet cross country ski trails just around the corner from Kate’s home. Venturing to Vermont in the late winter and spring offers an opportunity to experience maple sugaring. Kate’s trees are tapped by a local sugarer. And of course, summer in Vermont is fabulous and will allow you to add in a trip to the West River Farmer’s Market, as well.  No matter when or why you go, it’s sure to be a treat.
katie flowers

State: Vermont

Date Run: 9/7/13

Quest Race #: 14

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a terrific fall half marathon or 5K or even just a lovely destination for a weekend trip, we highly recommend venturing to Vermont.  The race was well organized, offered wonderful perks, and was held in a beautiful location. If you want to be guaranteed top-notch hospitality, I can also personally recommend staying at Windham Maples.  A post-race trip into Manchester followed by a visit to the West River Farmers’Market will round out your weekend experience

Women's Running Community

 

 

Wisconsin-Green Lake Area 13 Dot 1 Half Marathon

A couple of years into our quest, when we  needed to venture further from home in order to reach a new state, we figured Labor Day weekend would offer us an extra day for travel without dipping into limited vacation time.  We decided that Wisconsin would be a cool place to spend the weekend and settled on the Green Lake Area 13 Dot 1 Half Marathon.  I love the name!

As with many of the new states we have visited, we had only a vague sense of what Wisconsin was like.  We flew into Madison and drove past scores of farms and hundreds of acres of soy beans and corn.

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We were surprised to frequently see wind turbines in the midst of all of these fields.

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When we arrived in Green Lake we settled into our lovely room at the Heidel House Resort and Spa which had been recommended by the race website.

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There was an option to pick up race packets on Friday afternoon, so we drove the short distance into the picturesque town.  When we gave our names to the woman at the desk she exclaimed, “You’re the people from Maine!” and promptly nabbed her camera and snapped a shot of us.  We felt like celebrities!

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying the town and Heidel House.  I tried the traditional Wisconsin treat of fried cheese curds.  Interesting and yummy but possibly not the best choice for pre-race fare.

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Early the next morning we drove the few blocks to the area where the race began.  It was a gorgeous, cool morning.  We enjoyed the quiet as we waited for the race to begin.

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Eventually we were off, running along the lake for a while before heading into the beautiful, quiet, wooded Green Lake Conference Center. There were numerous stone bridges and historic buildings along the route which kept the course interesting.  The first 10 miles were great!  We felt terrific and our time was good.  We spent quite a bit of time chatting with a fellow runner who was very congenial.

As we headed up the hills during the last three miles I suddenly felt completely drained and seemed to have an unquenchable thirst.  Sadly, I definitely slowed us down but Mike was my unfailingly faithful running partner and husband.  He encouraged me as we covered the last miles but never abandoned me.  I rallied some at the end and we crossed the finish line hand in hand.  Shortly after we finished we heard the announcer mention our names and that we were from Maine and were trying to run a race in every state. People cheered and they took our picture. It was a completely unexpected but greatly appreciated bonus to our race.

green lake

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The after-race event took place right by the water.  There was plenty of great local beer which was a definite bonus since sampling local beer has become an integral part of our quest!

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As we walked back to our car we passed a vending machine selling bait.  We had no idea such a thing existed.

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We basked in that post-race feeling during the afternoon, soaking up some sun at the pool, and generally enjoying the Heidel House grounds.

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We went to their more formal dining room for a wonderful dinner that night and returned to our room in time to catch a stunning sunset over the lake.

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We left the next day having experienced an unexpectedly warm welcome, a beautifully scenic race, and a treat of a mini vacation at the Heidel House Resort.

State: Wisconsin

Date Run: September 2, 2012

Quest Race #: 10

The Bottom Line: The 13 Dot 1 Half Marathon was scenic and very well organized by incredibly friendly people. Green Lake is a charming lake-side town and the Heidel House Resort  offered a luxurious addition to our experience.