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  – 5/5 – The 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

Advertisements

Backpacking in the Grand Teton National Park (attempting to climb the Grand)

Backpacking is like day hiking on steroids. The load you carry is considerably larger and the trails tend to be longer and much, much more steep. It seems there’s no in-between.


After a few friends of ours wanted Ben’s help to climb the Grand Teton, we decided to make it a mini vacation for ourselves as well. The plan was for Ben to take me up the Grand to get to know the route better than he could from just reading about it and talking to people. Then, the next day, he would take up our two friends. That was the plan.

As an old friend used to say, “the only sure thing about a plan is the plan will change.”


Sunday afternoon, after I got home from working a race, we loaded up the car as fast as we could and hit the road heading toward the northwest corner of Wyoming. Driving through the barren landscape, I took a nap in the passenger seat as Ben drove on.

We arrived in Jackson, WY around 8pm, checked into a hotel and searched for some food while walking around the cute town. After looking around for quite a while, we finally found an affordable place to eat at a local pizza and pasta joint, Pizzeria Caldera. My baked ziti was delicious and Ben ate his whole pizza.

The next morning, we drove up the highway into Grand Teton National Park, checked in at the Ranger’s station to get our back country permits, and off we were to the trailhead. It took us awhile to get organized and ready to hike (partly due to a leaky camel-bak), but eventually we made our way onto the trails.

Super hazy from all the nearby (ish) fires

This is not the grand. This is a ridge right in front.

With a short misleading beginning, the trail starts off flat and into a gradual incline, but once it started to incline, it never stopped! The 6 or 7 miles (Ben keeps telling me something different) was the hardest trail I’ve ever hiked, let alone with 45 pounds on my back. A seemingly endless climb, loose dirt and rocks, boulders to scramble over…. 6 miles over this varying terrain challenged me beyond my ability.

This IS the trail….just right over those giant boulders…

Still looking generally happy….

With about a mile left, and at least 1000ft, I was reaching the end of my energy levels. Crying and struggling to take steps, my trekking poles kept getting stuck. With a small temper-tantrum, I chucked the poles up hill while Ben snapped some photos of my hissy-fit. I was so done with that hike. I was crying because I was tried, feeling defeated, under trained and my thoughts kept drifting  to my life and why I was feeling so out of shape!

You can’t see, but I’m definitely crying in the pictures and have just thrown my poles.

After one more tantrum (I’m not making this up), we made it closer, but still had half that ground to cover, but not really knowing how much was left (Ben didn’t even know, having never been there), I was finding it hard to keep moving. I kept looking up and no matter how many steps I took, the peaks didn’t seem to get any closer!

I look PISSED!

Not even bothering to use my poles, I dragged them behind me. Ben took this moment to go ahead to the camping spot (how he can just trek up mountains like their nothing, I’ll never know). He dropped his bags, turned around, came back to grab mine and we finished the quarter-mile to where we would set up camp.

After a quick dinner, I was asleep in the tent before the sun went down. Justly so, we had an early wake up call at 1:00 am the next morning. We woke up with an almost-full moon overhead lighting up the whole mountain corridor. With a much smaller pack, we left camp and started out on the last bit of the approach to the climb.

The view in the morning…

It was painstaking work to me. More steep hills, loose dirt and rocks, large rocks to step over… I was breathing hard within the first few minutes. This was hard. REALLY HARD. Harder than anything I’ve every tried before. And I’m not sure why.

As the hike went on, there was more scrambling, short-roping and slippery boulder stepping than I wanted to deal with. The higher we went the more nauseous I felt. Altitude sickness? Maybe. Nerves thinking about what lie ahead? Maybe. Exhaustion? Probably. A mix of all the above? Most definitely.

Trying to look happy after turning around

At a place called the Needle, I sat there thinking about the amount of rope work ahead of us and the tall peak we were about the climb. I felt like I was going to throw up.  Ben thought I looked pale. I started to get a headache and we decided to turn around before the harness needed to come on.

Days later, I’m still disappointed in myself and going over my thoughts. Was I scared? Was it all in my head? Or did I really have the onset of altitude sickness? I don’t know. I’ll never know.

After we hiked back to camp, I curled up, back in my sleeping bag again. As it turns out, a thunder-storm rolled in and that would’ve meant we would have been stuck on the summit during the storm. I guess it all works out for a reason. See, the plan always changes.

The storms raged off and on throughout the day. We found a nearby cave that we could stand in (rather than being scrunched up in the tent). We caught bits of conversation with the area guides stopping in for a reprieve from the rain while we waited for our friends to hike in.

The cave…bigger than it looks!

Eventually the rain stopped and our friends reached camp. We helped them set up camp, go over what they needed for their next day’s summit attempt, and cooked some dinner.

The rest of MY journey from here is pretty boring (except the storm on the way out, but more on that later). Ben and our two friends hiked and climbed for 11 hours to and from camp and made it to the summit! Their journey sounds amazing and I am super jealous. These two ladies from Golden wanted to do something BIG for their 50th birthday and they accomplished it all, putting me to shame!

I slept in, sat in the tent, read a book, hiked the little bit to stream to get water, read some more, ate food, and waited around. But at least I had some fresh mountain air and beautiful views!

Waiting in the tent for them to come back

The fresh water stream we got our water from…yes, we boiled it or used a Lifestraw!

Once they came back to camp, we packed all our gear back up, only a few pounds lighter from eating food, and hiked out. About half way down, a storm thundered nearby and got closer and closer. Terrified of lighting and since Ben was staying with our friends, I picked up the pace, running between clearings, catching my breath in the forested areas but banging my poles together in the woods, attempting to scare away any bears since I was hiking by myself.

Yes, there were really bears in the area and we got many reports of sightings on our way up. However, the only wildlife we saw were pika, marmots, deer and chipmunks.

Hiking out

A marmot, posing for me

It was probably a hilarious sight to see, me careening down the trail with a 40 pound bag on my back. Getting tired of running and still nervous about the lightning, I slowed my pace, feeling exhausted when I heard the magical sounds of…. A CAR HORN! I was close, I must be! I picked my pace back up, escaping the confine of the woods to the safety of my car!

This was actually the start of the hike but thats my sweet Jeep!

After dropping off our bear cans at the ranger station, we celebrated an incredible journey at the Snake River Brewery back in Jackson! The next day, we slowly got up, had breakfast at Cafe Genevieve and drove north again for some sightseeing in the rest of Teton National Park and a little bit of Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone Lake

The BEST New Mexico Road Trip – EVA!

20161205_161237

Between all my jobs (yes, plural), I don’t get much free time. I do, however, take advantage of every spare second I can do get. My boyfriend and I regularly go climbing, running, hiking and do mini-vacations (#weekendwarriors). When we do get a chance to plan a longer break from work, we make it worth it!

December happens to be a slow time between ALL jobs (that’s lucky) so we decided to take a road trip and visit a state that neither of us has had a chance to spend a lot of time in: New Mexico! I’ve personally been to Albuquerque to run a race and Ben (my boyfriend) has visited the state a long time ago as well, but I forget why he was there. With it being super close to Colorado (and has a TON of National Parks/Monuments) it made it a perfect place us to take a road trip.

new-mexico-trip

We saved money by “camping” in my Jeep (i.e. we put a mattress pad in the back and slept in Walmart parking lots). It was free, convenient and free.  Did I say that already? Yes, we would have loved to camp in actual campgrounds, in the wonderful outdoors, but during the day we spent a ton of time in nature and it left us with extra money to enjoy other things.

Here’s the highlights of the #MostEpicNewMexicoNationaParkRoadTripEVA

1. We left late on a Monday and made our way south, first stop: Roswell! It was NOT everything I hoped it would be. Picture a dirty, run down town that has a UFO museum. There is also a free zoo, that is closed on Tuesdays (the day we were running around), Bottomless Lakes State Park (that we did check out, but didn’t stay. I bet it’s really pretty in the summer), and a space walk I read about in a travel book (but it was super run-down and gross so we didn’t do it).   Needless to say, we could have done without the stop in Roswell. Tip: They apparently have a really cool world-famous contemporary art museum that people recommended after the fact.

2. Now, time for the exciting stuff! Next stop: Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We spent three days exploring the caves and could have spent more! It was amazing, mind-blowing and the pictures can’t even do it justice. We can’t wait to come back and do more ranger led tours (we really want to do one when you free climb in the cave and have to crawl) and see the bats. Tip: Definitely do a range led tour!

3. City of Carlsbad – There is a lot to do here, and I want to come back, but we did do Christmas on the Pecos, a beautiful christmas light tour via BOAT! Houses that line the river decorate their back yards for people to see. It was such a unique way to see Christmas Lights and well worth the $30 ($15 each). Tip: They provide blankets!

4. We attempted to see Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We wanted to camp (for real) and hike the tallest point in Texas, but as you can see from the picture, that would have been miserable.

20161208_142834

5. Onward to Las Cruces, our favorite city of the trip! Delicious food, good beer and really nice people (seriously, everyone was really nice in New Mexico).

6. If you head northwest from Las Cruces and up the road a little, you’ll find a road less traveled (this a BEAUTIFUL drive) to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and some hot springs. We camped (for real), got a personal tour of the cliff dwellings (it was a really slow day) and soaked in the natural hot springs that came with our camp ground.

7. Back toward Las Cruces, we briefly stopped at City of Rocks, caught a quick glance and left. It was cool looking, just not much to do except look at the rocks.

20161210_135901

8. We spent another night in Las Cruces the started to make our way back north via a bunch of stops. The first of which was White Sands National Monument, my second favorite stop on our trip.

9. Our next night was in Alamogordo. If that name sounds familiar to you but you can’t remember your history, this is close to where they tested the first nuclear bomb. While you can’t go to the actual site (only once a year), we did go to the space museum, ate awesome frozen custard and saw the movie “Arrival” (mind-blowing) to kill time.

10. The drive up to Albuquerque involved a lot of stops. The Smokey the Bear Museum, Fort Stanton, Three Rivers Petroglyphs National Monument, Valley of Fire, the Salinas Pueblos Missions National Monument and a spectacular sunset.

11. Petroglyph National Monument is a National Monument nestled right in the city. Literally, they had to act fast in the 80’s so people wouldn’t start building where the petroglyphs are.

20161213_121023

12. Our last night was in Sante Fe when we found delicious food and Bandolier National Monument.

13. Finally (yet too soon) we were homeward bound:, but not with some stops at more National Monuments, Fort Union National Monument and Capulin Volcano National Monument.

Fort Union

Fort Union


Things I want to check out in the future:

-Tent Rocks (near Bandolier), the whole NorthWestern corner, Montezuma Hot Springs, Cloudcroft the city, the Cat Walk Trail, Sandia Mountain Wilderness and climb in The Oregon Mountains near Las Cruces.

New Mexico has A LOT to do! I highly recommend a road trip if you haven’t done one there yet!

20161112_152244

Planning it all out. My planning usually involves getting a general idea from websites and travel books. Check out the two I used:

New Mexico Off the Beaten Path®: A Guide To Unique Places (Off the Beaten Path Series)


What we spent:
-Lodging: $12 total (Gila hot springs resort and including soaking in the springs)
-Food (groceries): $80.50
-Gas: $189.22
-Attractions/Tours: $114 (this does not include admission to the national parks and monuments since we have an annual pass)

TOTAL: $395.77 (That’s all you need for the Most Epic New Mexico Road Trip EVA!)

Optional Stuff (This is all stuff you can do without if you’re going even cheaper than we did):
-Souvenirs/Christmas Gifts: $100 (most of that was gifts. My souvenirs are usually those squished penny machines)
-Restaurants/Breweries: $124 (roughly)


Disclaimer: We love to travel,  experience new things and places and enjoy the outdoors through a variety of activities. I really have a strong desire to check out every inch of this planet. Unfortunately, travel can be expensive. I am a big proponent for doing what you love and if one of those loves is travel and exploring, then you have to make it happen. I don’t have much in terms of money and finances, but I have never let that stop me from doing what I enjoy. I choose to spend what little money I do have on things I enjoy and eliminate unnecessary expenses. I’m not always the best at this, but I’m trying. I hope that through my posts now and in the future, I can give you tips and ideas to make travel happen for you, if that is your thing.

Life is not meant to be just working and sleeping. We’re not meant to just pay bills and die. Find your passion and figure out a way to live it.

img_0994

Happy Birthday, National Parks!

Hiking to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo Credit: my friend Katja

Hiking to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo Credit: my friend Katja

(If you’ve been following me over the last few weeks, I have been doing a series of National Park Posts. It’s all culminating to this one post, celebrating the Centennial of the National Park System and showing my National Park Pride! Official turning 100 this Thursday, August 25th, I wanted to write about them to show different ways you can enjoy the parks.

Through my posts, I took you Hiking in Rocky Mountain and Arches, Climbing in Joshua Tree, Wandering in Death Valley and Exploring in Mt. Rainier.

I absolutely love and respect the National Park Service and when Cotopaxi reached out to me to help show my National Park Pride, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to write about them. I want to encourage you to find your closest National Park and explore, learn and discover what nature has to offer.)

Christine Falls in Mt. Rainier National Park

Christine Falls in Mt. Rainier National Park

When I was younger, I used to take yearly road trips with Mom or Dad. Many of these road trips were around Colorado and some were out of the state, but a lot of them ventured into National Parks.

Picture from my scrapbook...Yellowstone National Park with my Mom.

Picture from my scrapbook…Yellowstone National Park with my Mom.

As I’ve gotten older, my love for the outdoors and exploring has grown exponentially but it has only been in the last couple of years that I have had a lot of opportunities to get out and travel more; many times into National Parks. I’m super grateful that I had met my boyfriend, Ben, who shares an equal love for adventure and travel.

20160107_145606

Climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

This year alone, Ben and I have ventured into five national parks! We’re also in the process of planning out a New Mexico/Texas road trip for the end of the year that will check off another two National Parks (Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe National Park) and several other National Preserves and Monuments (in addition to going through Roswell, NM…. yes….aliens!).

There’s a TON of National Parks all across the country, and I bet there is one close enough for everyone to get to.

cotopaxi_national_parks_list_v02

There are a million ways for you to get out and enjoy a national park…. Climbing, hiking, driving, camping, running, star-gazing, canyoning…… the list could go on and on!

2013, Acadia National Park! Explore by myself before my best friend's wedding.

2013, Acadia National Park! Explore by myself before my best friend’s wedding.

I know what some of your are thinking….”All that travel is expensive! Plus they raised their prices for National Parks! BLAH!”

Exploring in Arches National Park

Exploring in Arches National Park

Well, thankfully, the money does go to a good cause (ya know, like preserving the place) but there are many ways to travel cost-efficiently. My boyfriend and I bought a season pass and it has saved us literally hundreds of dollars. In addition, we are very cheap travelers: we don’t eat out much, camp instead of stay in hotels (yes, even in the winter), and don’t splurge on souvenirs (I collect those squished pennies you get from the crank machines. 51 cent souvenirs!).

Now, hopefully I have sparked a little inspiration for you to start planing your National Park trip and don’t forget to wish them Happy 100th Birthday!

cotopaxi_national_parks_x2_v04

Links:

National Park Centennial Information

FindYourPark.com

Cotopaxi – an outdoor gear company that cares. Check out their travel backpacks to support their fight against global poverty

I know you can get in FREE to Colorado’s National Parks Aug 25th-28th…I would assume that’s the case across the nation! 

Rocky Mountain National Park...check out that air I got! I'm on the left! Photo credit to Katja again!

Rocky Mountain National Park…check out that air I got! I’m on the left! Photo credit to Katja again!