Running in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Me running in Arkansas, circa 2013

You wouldn’t think that a farm country, southern state city like Fayetteville, Arkansas would be all that runner friendly, but you’d be wrong. It hasn’t always been runner¬†friendly, but It has come a long way! I even think there’s been a Runner’s World “rave run” article from the area (but I couldn’t find it by google-ing it; so maybe not).

I’ve been to Fayetteville my fair share of times. My extended family lives there, my Dad lived there for awhile a couple years ago. Recently I had to go back for a funeral, ūüė• ,¬†so I brought my running shoes with me hit the familiar trails.

As I grew up and became a runner, I watched the city (and surrounding areas) expand and change. One year, I ran the winding country roads near my Grandparent’s farm as huge pickup trucks weaved around me, looking shocked to see a tiny girl running along the road.

Another year, I ran a Turkey Trot 5k in a suburb of Fayetteville! I never ended up publishing my race recap for whatever reason (I probably got busy and blogging got pushed to the back burner and when I finally came back, I thought it was overdue and irrelevant) but it was a fun race and a PR at the time.

NWA (North West Arkansas) Turkey Trot

If you live there or are ever visiting, check out these awesome places to run!

1.The University
Located in the heart of Fayetteville, I think the University of Arkansas¬†has a beautiful campus. There are plenty of sidewalks and a lot of shade trees. I recommend running over to Senior Walk where every graduate’s name is carved into the cement.

2. Meadow Valley Trail
Running east and west, I could access this easily from where my Dad lived and my Grandma currently lives. This section of trail runs behind the Agriculture centers of the University and is surrounded by fields of greenhouses and cows. Doesn’t sound appealing? It’s actually pretty relaxing to look at. The best part about this section of trail is that it connects to the main Razorback Greenway that runs north and south to even more places to run.

3. Scull Creek Trail
This trail is part of the Razorback Greenway (basically it IS The Razorback Greenway). This north and south running trail is a safe and scenic as it follows the creek. If you run north, you eventually connect to Lake Fayetteville and if you run south, you can get to the University. I remember running this trail and discovering where the cross country meets take place (as a newbie coach at the time, I was enthralled and thought it was so cool!)

4. Lake Fayetteville
I have not actually run here but it looks amazing! There are concrete and dirt trails for runners and bikers to use and runners for the area rave about it!

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Whether you plan on running in Fayetteville or not, you HAVE to check out this awesome video made by the City!


Races in/near Fayetteville, AR by RunningInTheUSA.com

City of Fayetteville Parks Website Рthey have an awesome interactive map of all the areas trails and bike paths.

Trail Running Near Fayetteville, AR

Red Rock Canyon Half Marathon – Post Race Review

 

It’s been a couple weeks since I checked off Nevada from my 50 States list. That makes 15 states that I’ve run a race in – although I did not do a half marathon in all of those so I may go repeat some states later.

My boyfriend and I had already planned a mini vacation to climb in Red Rock Canyon. Later, I was scrolling through RunningInTheUsa.com, like I normally do, and started looking at Nevada races for 2018. It just so happened there was a half marathon the same weekend, in the same park(!), when we were already planning on visiting! Serendipitous? It was just too perfect.

I “begged” Ben if I could run it and he worked in a “rest day” into our climbing schedule. Although I do really like climbing, running (and checking off a state) is a huge passion of mine and it was just so perfect to have a race the same weekend.

It was truly a unique experience to vacation and explore the Red Rock National Conservation area to its full potential by climbing, hiking, running a race and camping all in one trip.

As much as I want to do a whole blog post on the entire trip, this post’s focus is on the race.

Pre-Race
When I found the half marathon on the calendar, I wasn’t training for anything in particular. I was still about 6 or 7 weeks from race day so I decided to increase my mileage every week. Essentially, I did a very basic, beginners half marathon training plan. I ran 10 miles a week and a half before the race and I felt relatively prepared for a half marathon.

Goals
Since I only had a short, low mile base built up, I didn’t have any big goals for this half. I just wanted to finish, not push too hard, and still be mobile after the race since we had a few more days of climbing afterwards.

The Night Before
Ben and I were just planning on camping the whole time in the park. However, since we weren’t quite sure if the race was going to shut down roads or the entrance to the park, race morning logistics were becoming difficult. The race company did have a free bus shuttle from the race’s host hotel to and from the race, but if we were to camp, we would have had to get up all that much earlier to get ourselves to the hotel (driving back into the city) and on the bus. I decided to just rent a room in the hotel for the night before to make everything easier. This way Ben could sleep in and then get on the bus, which was free for spectators as well (and I could get in a shower afterwards)!

Packet Pick Up
Since we were in the hotel already, it made packet pick up SUPER easy, as we took the elevator down 5 floors. With time to spare and nothing to do, we took advantage of the bowling, bars and amenities of the Sun Coast Hotel and Casino.

Race Day
Maybe because I wasn’t worried about anything not having many goals, this seemed to be the easiest, least stressful race mornings I had ever¬†had. I got dressed (my clothes laid out the night before), grabbed my food (I packed myself a breakfast bag the night before), and caught the elevator to the first floor and boarded the bus (benefit of being in the host hotel).

Race Start
After reading their million warnings in email and on the website, they STRONGLY suggested getting on the bus really early. That left me with an HOUR to wait, standing, in the cold at the start line. Luckily the bathrooms were heated and there was plenty of people to chat with. Actually, now that I mention it, racers were so friendly at this race and I got to chat with so many people that morning. It was quite refreshing. Besides the local company I work for, many of the most recent races I’ve gotten to actually run haven’t had all that friendly of people.

Finally, the gear drop bus showed up, and I had to strip off my layers with 5 minutes to spare before the race. Not that I minded, it was a chilly morning, only 35 degrees at the start, so keeping my layers on as long as possible was desirable. After lining up and cueing my music, I anxiously awaited the start, but there was no gun or whistle, and it seemed in mid-sentence to another racer, we were running! It was a very strange, uneventful start.

The Race
Holy HILLS! This was probably the hardest race I’ve ever¬†run. The hills were never ending and even though I knew that the biggest hills were over by mile 7.5, the little rolls in the road felt like monsters near the end.

Nevertheless, I trucked along, keeping steady. I didn’t walk until mile 5 and then only a couple of 30-second walking breaks every other mile or so! For not being that trained, I was feeling good. It wasn’t until mile 10, as expected, that I felt DONE. My feet seemed to be the limiting factor and were hurting with every step. I kept going, even up the hill that put you into the finish line, and Ben was right there, running with me up the last two-tenths of a mile.

Overall – 3/5
If it weren’t for the amazing views, this race wouldn’t have much going for it. I’m guessing the location itself is really the only reason people keep running this race. Yeah, sure, everything was organized and in place. Things were started on time (sans a huge production or announcement). The course was marked and coned appropriately and safely. There was plenty of water stations….. But, to me, those are all things that SHOULD go with ANY race. I have very little money and when I choose to spend my money on a race, I’d like it to be on the best event it could be. Yeah, I’m picky and have high expectations, but for $90 – $100, I expected a lot.

There was no bells or whistles with this race EXCEPT the constant view to distract you from running up so much elevation gain.  The swag was alright (not being advertised ahead of time, I had no idea what I would get), there was no expo (none at packet pick nor at the finish line), there was bare minimum communication and the medal was, frankly,  just a medal with the race name (I like unique and fun medals).

Also, on top of all that, photos were NOT free. I’m a little spoiled in Colorado I guess because almost every race I run has FREE photos for download. I’ve already paid this company $100 to run, $130 to stay in a hotel and now there’s more money for photos of me. Geez!

The one other thing that made this event worth my money is the finisher food. They had OPTIONS! All the options. Bagels, candy, pastries, chips, chocolate milk, hot drinks and PANCAKES. You betcha, I got a pancake.

T-Shirt/Swag – 2/5
For being such a great location, the swag sure was ‘eh. Seriously. The t-shirt was just the race name (white, long-sleeved with too short of arms), same with the medal and there was virtually nothing in the goodie bag (except a flyer from their on-course nutrition, Hammer – which I tried and promptly spit out! That stuff is gross!)

Aid Stations/Support – 5/5
Like I said before, course marking and water stations are critical to ANY race. This one was no exception and they had plenty of water stations along the way, about every two miles or less. There was water and HEED (from Hammer) at all the stations and snacks at some (probably for the marathon distance runners). Due to the nature of a national park, there were restrooms throughout the whole course.

Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty – 5/5
I’ve already touched on this. The course scenery was GORGEOUS! I think this is the most scenic and pretty race I have ever run. The course followed the scenic drive of the¬†National Conservation area which just so happens to be about 13 miles. How convenient for them! We had already driven this road a few times before race day, so I knew what to expect, but those hills just kept going and going and going!

Expo Quality – 1/5 (if that)
There was no expo. Not at the packet pick up and not at the race start or finish. It surprises me that this is the second race in less than a year that has virtually no sponsors. Don’t they know they can MAKE MONEY from sponsors!?!?! As a race director/marketing coordinator for a running company, I know that,¬†for fact, you can get people to PAY YOU to come to your race because you are bringing in a specific market of people, i.e. runners, and if someone has a product that appeals to that target market – it’s a no-brainer! As a racer, I like expos because I like to see the lastest running gear, trends and local businesses.

Parking/Access – 4/5
There was no parking allowed at the start or finish of the race. Obviously, not everyone follows the “rules” and people still parked at both locations (and paid the National Park entrance fee) but because of this, the race provided buses to the start and from the finish and buses for the spectators to/from the finish for FREE from the host hotel. I think that is AMAZING and actually makes things easy. If we hadn’t stayed at the host hotel, thinking like a local racer, It would have been just as easy to park at the hotel and get on the bus as well. There was another option if you were staying in a hotel near the Vegas Strip for an affordable fee.

Race Management – 4/5
Even though I’ve knocked the company for not having all the bells and whistles, they still get a 4/5 for race management because things were in place and on time. It does take a lot of coordination to get the bus to/from the hotel and to the race location. Plus, they did have all the info you needed on the race website. The thing that knocks off one of the points is timing and post-race communication. It took three days to get our results and it wasn’t until day three that anything was even acknowledged. There were no live results, even though it was chipped timed. When I looked later that evening after the race and didn’t see results, I was a little irritated, but when I got back to town on Monday after climbing and there was STILL no results, I was bothered. I finally checked my emails and saw one email at noon on Monday saying the timer was working on results but there was a bug in the software. Then email #2 came at 2pm saying preliminary results were up, but they weren’t 100% correct. And finally, email #3 at 8pm, a FULL TWO DAYS (not including race day) AFTER the race stated that the results were final and online. Being a race director and timer, I was irritated at the format of results as well, being a stationary PDF that you can’t easily search. I know the systems they were using for timing and the software; plus the registration platform was on Run Sign Up which is so user-friendly that results could have easily been integrated and searchable by name. Oh well. There goes my nit-picking.

My Race – 4/5
I achieved my goals and wasn’t completely wrecked after the race! Sure, it was my slowest half marathon time probably ever (which is why I dock one point), but it was the prettiest (and hilliest) half marathons I had ever run as well. Plus, I got to rep 3W Races, Legend Compression Wear and Golden Mountain Guides while running around Nevada, so can’t be a loss there!

After
The afternoon after finishing, we checked out of the hotel, picked another campsite at the park and then recovered by walking parts of the Vegas Strip. The day after, I was only a little sore in my shins and feet and ended up climbing 1090 vertical feet with a hike in and out, 12 hours car to car…but more on that adventure later!

Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon – Race Review

At the end of October and into the first week of November, my boyfriend Ben and I took a much-needed vacation to Florida and then got on a cruise. While the cruise itself seemed to be more stressful than relaxing since we were involved with a wedding party, we are really glad to have gotten a few days beforehand in Florida to check out the National Parks.

Also while we were there, I decided to check off a state in my 50 states running goal. I ran the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon the morning of the day we were getting on the cruise.

The night before, I tried to relax a bit and not stress about the race the next morning. Ben was off on a bachelor party with the other groomsmen and I planned my outfit and tried to get to sleep was the band outside the window played on into the night.

I woke up for the race just shortly after the groomsmen were done with their night out.¬† I got dressed in my “costume,” dressing up like one of my high school runners I coach. Since I already knew I would be unable to attend¬†State before the season even started due to the Cruise Wedding, and I told the girls team that if they qualified, I would dress like them at my race. I did as promised, braids and everything, and I think I did pretty well!

The race was set to start before the sun rose, and for good reason, as it usually gets pretty warm, even this time of the year. I hailed an Uber to go to the race while others climbed in their awaiting cars to go home. #runnerslife.  I made my way to the starting line and joined in with all the costume glad runners to wait until the whistle was blown.

Overall – 4/5 – I did enjoy this race for the most part. I could really see the locals having a blast at this event with all their friends and spectators cheering them on. A few things took away from my general experience; some race management related and some personal, as described further on. However, I did love the theme, the participation by the racers as most people dressed up, and the support along the course.

T-shirt/swag – 4/5 – The shirt was high quality and fit well. The artwork was fun, I just didn’t like the BIG plastic feeling of the sublimation. The medals were¬†HUGE and had a unique Halloween design.

Aid Stations – 5/5 – They were great! Each one had water and Gatorade. There was one about every mile with plenty of volunteers.

Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty  Р5/5 РThe course was easy with only one tiny hill. It was fun to run along the bridge where the cruise ships were pulling right into port. After the bridge, you wound around to a concrete and boardwalk trail that was along the beach with beautiful views as the sun rose.

View of the road I ran on from the cruise ship!

Miami Beach

Expo Quality – 1/5 – If that. There was not a real big expo beforehand (like those of Rock n’ roll and such), but even at the finish line, there was barely anything except the food. Now, I didn’t go to the after party that was at the local bar, so maybe there were some booths and vendors there. For most people, this probably isn’t a low point, but I like expos and booths to see new running gadgets/trends and the local businesses.

Parking/Access – 3/5 – I stayed at a hotel right in Miami Beach. It was about two miles from the finish line and about 4 miles to the start line. They did have good instructions for parking on their website and in emails as well as a shuttle service from the¬†finish area to the starting line (and vice-versa). I had already returned our rental car the night before (on purpose) and took an Uber to the finish area to catch the shuttle. I’m glad I did it this way because the Uber car would have gotten stuck in traffic trying to get me to the starting line.

On the bus

When the bus dropped us off, we had a tiny walk to the starting line. Now, the starting line was right outside a parking garage that was open for parking. People were warming up and waiting in the chute while cars were¬†driving in. SUPER DANGEROUS! There were a few police officers just telling cars to turn into the garage but no other way to block cars from runners. I found it super curious the way they had an¬†open lane of traffic next to so many racers. I know people aren’t driving fast, but still!

Race Management – 3/5 – This is where I get to be the pickiest and only because I am a race director myself and notice things that not everyone notices. In addition to the parking/access situation, there were a few other things that took away points from this rating. First, I read online and in the emails that there was a bag drop. I had brought a bag that I placed my small jacket and my cell phone in. Upon getting to the start line, I could not figure out where the bag drop was. I couldn’t even see any booths for registration tents and there were no¬†signs or any sort of communication. I asked the DJ, other runners and the kids at the water station. No one knew. I was starting to get concerned I’d have to run with my phone with nowhere to put it (my costume shorts did not have pockets). Finally, I overheard someone say they got their bib in the parking garage. To get there, the ONLY way to get there, I had to cross traffic, while police yelled at me to stay out of the way, walking alongside driving cars pulling into the parking lot, and around the corner were the tables for registration and alas… the bag drop!

That was a huge thing that made me give lower marks to the race management. Second, was just the advanced packet pick up. There were a couple of location and date options, and I chose the one that was closest to our hotel the day before the race. For a non-Miami beach resident, the traffic is HORRENDOUS. We had a hard time finding the Dick’s Sporting Goods store even with the navigation on my phone. Then once inside the store, there was no employee or race person directing us to where to get my stuff (which was way in the back of the store). I would recommend investing in a lot more signage for ALL areas of their race from packet pick up to race morning.

And the third reason I score this part pretty low is that I had emailed the race directors about a month before the race to ask a question. I never got a response and found my answer, not on the website, but searching the visitor posts section of their facebook page.

MY RACE – 3.5/5 – I’m super frustrated with my personal race. I didn’t really have any goals except, always in the back of my mind, I have a sort-of goal. You know how it is. This time, my sort-of goal was to finish around two hours. Now, I wasn’t really doing any specific half marathon training but I was running with the cross country team I coached and hiking long miles for my 10hikes.com job. I actually felt pretty fit.

I started off with a 2-hour pace group and was keeping up just fine. I felt good! I wasn’t struggling to stay with them, the pace felt great and the pace group leader was very nice. It was around mile 3 that I started noticing the dreaded chafing. Dun, dun dunnnn……..

Now, I’m aware that this does, in fact, happen in humidity. I’m not a completely naive Coloradan that’s used to the dry climate. However, I totally thought the shorts I was wearing for my “costume” were plenty long enough. Oh boy was I wrong and oh man did it HURT. I had 10 more miles. TEN.

So, I did what I could, constantly pulling down my shorts, looking completely foolish, praying that my thong wasn’t showing in the back and pretty convinced I looked like Burt in Mary Poppins.

I was altering my running form to try and avoid the chaffing (unsuccessfully). This led to really sore muscles and back for the following couple of days. I was kicking myself for my outfit and not bringing any “glide.” I was super upset that I felt so good cardio wise and couldn’t finish right with that pace group!

I managed to finish just seconds under a 2:15. Which put me at 12/59 in my age group. After checking the results, and wondering what I would have placed had it not been for the chafing, I decided not to go to the after party and called an Uber to bring me back to my hotel. No way was I walking the short two miles with caffing legs. I still have scars.

Besides all the running stuff, I think one of the most memorable parts of the race is that right after I dropped my stuff in the bag drop, I came out of the parking garage to see a HUGE cruise ship coming into port. It was looming over the bridge that the race was queuing up on. It was enormous, beautifully lit up and sure enough, I saw the words, “The Escape” painted on the side. That was the boat I was going to be getting on later! It was pretty intimidating to a newbie cruise goer that wasn’t so sure about the whole idea.

After the race and returning to my hotel room,  I showered, packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel. We caught a ride to the cruise ship and I hobbled around the decks in my new Halloween Half T-Shirt.


Race Website

Run Like the Wind – Pre-Race Prep

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This weekend, I’m tackling race number two for 2016. I’m also checking off state number 13 and half marathon number 13! That’s pretty awesome, but I’m not sure how the race itself will go.

On Sunday, I am taking on the trails of Ellensburg, Washington. As many times as I’ve been to Washington I have yet to run a race there.¬†¬† There’s a ton of great ones, yet the timing has never worked out.

Growing up, my Mom and I went out to Washington to visit my Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles about once a year. At the time, my Grandparents lived in Snohomish, a small town outside of Seattle. As I got older, the trips weren’t as often, but I’ve still been out there a quite a few times, visiting Ellensburg instead, when my Grandparents moved to the other side of the mountains.

Visiting my grandparents as a kid. That's at Mount Saint Helens

Visiting my grandparents as a kid. That’s at Mount Saint Helen’s

Last year, if you remember I went out there sometime at the end of the summer to see my family.¬†This time, my visit comes in conjunction with my Grandpa’s ¬†memorial service. My Grandpa passed away at the end of last year. ¬†We decided to hold the memorial service until his birthday so that it would not coincide with the holidays and give people time to plan the trip.

Knowing when I’d be traveling, I looked for a race in Washington. Bingo, I found one the weekend before, in the same town my Grandparents live in! The Run Like the Wind Running Festival¬†is actually in Ellensburg, WA. It was a sign;¬†I just had to do it! My Grandpa wasn’t a runner (that I know of) but running is¬†my way to cope with life so I’m running this race in his honor. It might not mean much to any one else, but that’s how I can process him being gone and remember him.

My Grandpa and I were buds! I'm a lot like him now as I've gotten older!

My Grandpa and I were buds! I’m a lot like him now as I’ve gotten older.

My boyfriend is joining me, along with one of his friends. We have taken this week off from work to make it all around trip. I will fly out while Ben and his friend drive out.¬†This whole trip will consist of me running a race, Ben and his friend climbing Mt. Rainier, family time, Grandpa’s memorial service and a road trip back to Colorado. ¬†Knocking off a lot of things with one stone!

The Race Prep:

They call this a trail running festival. We’ll see how their trail race compares to¬†those¬†out here in Colorado. ūüėČ The course description says there’s still about 10% on the road so I’m not sure if my Roost MUT Team (the Mountain and Ultra race team I am on) will be impressed our not. Either way, trail race or not, it looks like a fun event..and hard!

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The race is hosted on the¬†Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, hence the name Run Like the Wind. The trail description says you wind through the facility and get to run right next to the turbines! Cool, huh!? They also “promise” gorgeous views! Don’t worry, I’ll be running with my camera (mainly so I have a phone for when I die on the course).

I’m really excited about the course, even if it is hard, because it looks really cool judging from the description and the pictures on Facebook. I’m also really excited about the finish line for a few reasons:

1. I’ll be done with another state checked off.

2. There’s beer, a band and a wide array of finisher’s food!

3. The finisher’s medal looks SWEET!

4. My Grandma and Uncle will be waiting for me! That’s a new experience for me!

Now, just have to get through the actual 13.1 miles…

5d29f3393a55ec10c8982120a306e32f_1aj5The Actual Race Prep:

So…¬†my training hasn’t been that great. Actually it’s been pretty awful. In fact, it’s pretty nonexistent. Don’t judge me. I’ve been lucky to get in three days a week of running and my longest run was about 8 or 9 miles, about a month ago. This is has been a lot to do with my schedule (working four jobs) and a couple of teams I have joined (my running team has obligations and I joined a volleyball league).

The lack of training is¬†largely due to me being exhausted from doing all that. To be completely fair, if I was slightly more motivated, I’m sure I could have squeezed a full-fledged training program in there, but ¬†that would have meant me being¬† even more exhausted (if that’s even possible) and less time to spend with my boyfriend.

I’m not here to play the “I’m busier than you game.” It is what it is.

The good thing: I did get in a 2 hour run (only 7.5 miles but on an intense trail) about two weeks ago. Take that however you want.

My plan:

Since I’ll be lucky if I have any sort of long distance endurance¬†built up, I plan on taking it easy. My goal is to JUST FINISH. Oh, it’s going to hard to not go out strong in the beginning. There’s alway that little competitive me in the back of my head urging me to burn myself out, but I’m going to have to duck tape that little competitive me’s mouth shut.

I’m not going to like time. It’s going be painfully slow. I’m going to cringe when I see it. It’ll most likely be the slowest I have ever been.

But I’m going to have to just accept it.

I plan on going out at a nice steady pace; maybe even taking a one to two-minute walking break every mile. That way I don’t completely exhausted myself, or injure myself, before I’m walking the whole second half of the race!

There’s no sense in hurting myself just to get a good time. I can still get a new state, sweet medal by taking it easy and just finishing.¬†I’m not going to drop down to a shorter distance because, frankly, I want a medal from the state of Washington!

At least I’ll come away with good pictures!

So if you would like to follow my clumsy journey in Washington, follow me on Instagram or Twitter. I’ll be sure to bring you up to date info of my race! ūüôā

Your turn:¬†Would you do this race, given a lack of training, to reach a goal (racing all the states)? Or are you super competitive and if you can’t do well, drop out?