Tag Archives: Race Review

18 Mile Tune-Up – 18 Miles is a Lot of Miles – Sept 17, 2017

In the corral behind the 12:00 pacer – look at the hazy sky!

Yesterday I ran one of my favorite NYRR races – the NYRR 18 Mile Marathon Tune-Up in Central Park.  It’s three full 6-mile loops of the park and geared towards runners with fall marathons.

 

Although it’s supposed to be specifically timed for the NYC Marathon, because of my “beginner” training schedule it was 4 miles more than I was scheduled to run.  My trainer said it would be ok if I ran it, and that I could lower my mileage earlier that week and/or just bail after 14 miles and not finish the race if I didn’t feel like it.  “You’re the boss!” she wrote.

 

I tried to keep that in mind as my nerves got the best of me in the week before this race.  I’ve been having some left calf cramping issues (that’s the leg I broke last year which withered away) and I still can’t quite mentally believe I can run long distances after being a gimp for so long.  So my mantra heading into this race was “go slow, don’t step in a pothole, and you can always stop.”  Not very catchy but it was effective.

 

I stuffed my running belt and bra with Gu, gummies, and a last minute addition of candy corn pumpkins (which turned out to be really great since they were a tasty way to get sugar that didn’t stick in my teeth like the gummies always do!) and hopped in a cab to the upper east side.  I wasn’t going to exert any more energy than necessary that morning!

 

I lined up in the last corral so I wouldn’t feel pushed to run too fast at the start.  That strategy didn’t work as well as I had hoped, as many late, fast runners blew past me during the first mile or so.  But it wasn’t just the super fast runners blowing past me – for some reason my stupid calf decided to seize up right at the start of the race.  Maybe it was because the first thing we had to run was down the Harlem hills – not an ideal way to start any race.  Whatever it was, I had to walk and even stop and stretch my calf several times, being careful not to overstretch it and send it into a real spasm.  Eventually I felt like I could run a few steps on it, and a few steps evolved into a few more, and after about 1.5 miles it finally started to loosen up and feel almost normal.  By mile 4, I finally felt pretty good and was even cautiously optimistic about my chances of finishing the whole race.

 

 

It was a hot, humid day with a “real feel” of 86 degrees by the time I finished running.  It was so humid you couldn’t even see the skyline in midtown from the park!  At least it was overcast, and one could even argue the heat and humidity helped keep me honest and slow.  I would argue my out-of-shape body helped keep me slow, but whatever.  I plodded along mile after mile, sometimes hurting, sometimes feeling ok, but mostly thrilled that I was out there actually doing what seemed impossible only a few months ago.

 

A couple of random things I saw/heard on the course:

  • A man in a business suit on a Segway with giant tires, speeding up Cat Hill, with spectators laughing at him behind his back.
  • A runner so sweaty that his legs had soap bubbles all over them – maybe from the detergent still on his shorts?  It was unclear and I didn’t stop to ask.
  • At the start of my second loop, the announcer saying “That’s a big smile!  That is a… big smile…”

 

And just like that, I was finished.  Haha, no, just kidding, it was endless and took me almost four hours.  But yes, eventually I finished with a big smile still on my face and a bagel in my mouth.

So happy I found the finish!

Along the 6-mile looped course, they had water stops at every mile (aka 6 times), Gatorade twice, and PowerGel once (so you passed the Gel station three times during the race).  At the finish, however, they only offered cups of water and Gatorade, cut up bananas, and plain bagels.  Luckily I had a ton of food waiting for me at home (ground beef burrito for the win!), along with a massage and a lot of Netflix to catch up on.  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

 

In other news, the tech shirt for this race was quite a bit larger than the tech shirts earlier this year.  Maybe they got the memo that a woman’s extra large shouldn’t be skin tight on a size 10?  There’s no medal besides your aching legs.

The tech shirt for the race (front and back, women’s XL). It’s nice!

Today I have done a lot of nothing except realize that I have three NYRR races in three weeks – this one, the Bronx 10 Miler next Sunday, and Grete’s Great Gallop the Sunday after that.  Hope to see you out there!

 

Have your legs ever gotten soapy while running?  What’s your favorite thing to eat after a long run?  Have you ever tried the Trader Joe’s Pita Chips with Cinnamon & Sugar?  Share in the comments!

NYRR 1 for You 1 for Youth 4 Miler – I Have Friends – Sat, July 8, 2017

Now, he is known only as… the Falconer!

Despite it being 1000% percent humidity (not a typo), this morning my friends and I had a great time at the NYRR 1 for You 1 for Youth 4 miler in Central Park.  I originally signed up for this race because instead of a race shirt you got a free* pair of shoes!  Despite it being a smaller race (for NYRR – only about 1900 runners instead of 5000+), I was able to run with 3 of my friends – two who I knew were going to be there, and one that I found along the way!

 

But first, the shoes.  Every entrant got a pair of shoes, and for each entrant one pair was donated to a child in the NYRR youth program.  That’s a lot of shoes!  When you first signed up, you had to indicate your preference between two different pairs of New Balance shoes – the Fresh Foam Zante v3 (neutral, men’s here ($64-$129) and women’s here, $80-$105) and the 860v7 (stability, men’s here ($112-$178) and women’s here, $110-$190).  I chose the Zante because… well, it was cuter, and I knew I probably wouldn’t run in either pair since you can pry the Hokas off my cold, dead feet.

The Fresh Foam Zante v3 (it comes in other colors but we only had this option).

I think they are nice-looking shoes, but they feel like… nothing – no arch support and very little cushion.  After trying them on I described them as “cardboard.”  Hopefully when I actually wear them more I’ll like them, but I’ll stick to (very) short walks in them first.

 

When you picked up your shoes you also got to measure your foot on this high-tech machine that worked no better than a standard brannock device, but it still was a nice reminder we’re living in a pointlessly high-tech future.

They only had people stand on the machine, no running involved.

When my friend picked up her shoes, they didn’t have anymore Zantes so she got the 860s, but luckily they still had some in her size (which was incorrectly measured by the fancy machine).  She also said they had good arch support, so maybe she was spared the pain of the cardboard Zantes.

 

Have I mentioned the new NYRR digs yet?  Last (?) year they moved from an Upper East Side brownstone to a temporary location on the Upper West Side, but now they’re in their new permanent location in midtown west.  It’s big and nice, but part of me misses that old brownstone charm.

It’s a big HQ! There are bathrooms (no showers) and lockers, plus places to charge your phone.

On race morning I texted my two friends who were running the race and we met up in the corrals.  I was already sweating like a pig from my warm up mile that I ran at a blistering 12-minute-per-mile pace.  Pretty sure I frightened them.

I think they were pretty excited to start running away from me ASAP.

Because it was a relatively small race, the corrals were close together and we crossed the start in only about three minutes.  I wasn’t running with my friends because they’re both much faster than me, so I lost them in the crowd almost instantly.  A little less than a mile from the start, however, I saw a very familiar back ahead of me.  After I checked to see if he was wearing minimalist shoes, I felt bold enough to try calling out his name (and steeling myself for the possibility it wasn’t him and I was just going to be some jackass screaming a name out in the middle of a race).  But it was him!  I have friends!

At the start of the race on the 72nd Street Transverse- can amazingly almost see the starting line.

I spent the next three miles running as fast as I could while pretending it was no big deal, and chatting about this and that with my running friend who I hadn’t seen in ages.  I felt bad because he’s training for Berlin (he ran 8 miles today, no big deal) and he’s much, much faster than me, and I didn’t want to ruin his race, but he stuck with me until the end (which was really good because I felt like I might die at the end – there was only water and pollen in the air at this point – no oxygen – which made breathing difficult).

 

But after sitting in the shade for a while, we all recovered and had a huge brunch/lunch at Fred’s.  It was an amazing morning and a super nice way to (1) get some shoes, (2) get some exercise and (3) eat a bacon club sandwich and then buy ice cream on the way home.

Proof we survived the race. My other runner friend is not pictured. But I swear he’s real.

*Free with your $50 race entry fee – but still not bad considering a typical NYRR race is $18-23 anyway.

 

Do you wear New Balance shoes?  Have you ever run a race with friends?  Do you watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?  Share in the comments!

Achilles Hope & Possibility 4 Miler – A Hot & Sunny Return to Racing – June 25, 2017

😀

Today I ran (actually ran!) my first race since my injury last May!  It was a relatively hot and sunny morning, but Central Park was beautiful as usual and the crowd was energized and inspiring.  My goals were to hit 10:15 to 10:30 per mile and to not break any bones.  Mission accomplished!

 

Achilles International is an amazing organization that helps runners with all types of disabilities participate in road races.  Years ago, before various injuries kept me sidelined, I volunteered as a runner guide on a couple of training runs with Achilles.  It was amazing to run with blind athletes who ran better than I did with sight.  If you have any interest, I highly recommend checking them out.  I also wanted to return to running with this race, since it helps put my (relatively) small injury in perspective (especially as I get smoked by blade runners!).

 

This morning I scarfed a nectarine and headed out to the park.  According to my training, I was supposed to run a 1 mile warm up and a 1 mile cool down.  I actually managed to do a slow 1 mile warm up, which is honestly shocking to me because I never do those sorts of things.  Run more before a race?  No thanks.  If I wanted to run more, I would have signed up for a longer race.

These hot dog vendors know their audience.

After plodding around “warming up” in the hot sun and stretching like I had accomplished something, I got into my corral and listened to Jon Stewart (yep, that Jon Stewart) joke that he would need to be carried across the finish by his son.  I looked around to see who I could get to carry me, and cursed my lack of foresight on this important issue.  My starting corral was so far back that multiple waves went off before we even moved, and I wondered if the winners had finished the 4 mile race already.

Several waves had gone off and I’m standing here taking pictures.

I ran the first mile in about 10 minutes, which was faster than I thought I’d run and pretty exciting.  I guess I got too excited because my next mile was about 9:30, which is much faster than I had intended and I still had 2 more miles to run in the 83 degree heat.  I slowed down on the third mile and then picked up the pace again for the last mile, sprinting through the finish chute like a total poser.  I beat my time goal and averaged just under 10 minute miles, which at this point in my training I will accept!  I collected my medal and an apple, but I did not pick up a bagel because I have the iron willpower of champions.  Plus I still felt guilty about the pizza, cheesy polenta, meatballs, and frozen yogurt I had the day before…

 

All-in-all, I was really happy with the race and my run in general.  I’m so happy to be back out there running again, even if it is for only 4 miles (and slower than I was a year ago, let alone a few years ago).  I’ve also noticed the runger is back (i.e. the “running hunger”) as I want to consume everything in my kitchen all at once like a fat tornado.  So are the blisters on my toes.  And the stupid calf tan lines.  Welcome back to running!

It’s thin, white, see-thru, and small. 😐

I’ve also officially started the NYRR 20-week online marathon training program, finishing the first week today.  Yes, that means the NYC Marathon is only 19 weeks away!  Eeep!

 

How was your weekend?  What are your tips to beat the heat?  What do you like to eat when you feel unstoppable hunger?  Share in the comments!

Bronx 5K – Beautiful Day – Sun, Sept 25, 2016

The finish area of the NYRR Bronx 5K leads to this track in the shadow of Yankee Stadium.

The finish area of the NYRR Bronx 5K leads to this track in the shadow of Yankee Stadium.

On Sunday, September 25, 2016, I was supposed to be running 26 miles at the Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene, New Hampshire.  Because of my injury, I was instead walking 3 miles in the Bronx.  Surprisingly, I was not terribly depressed about this, partially because it was a perfect fall day, partially because my ankle amazingly didn’t hurt too much during or after, but mostly because the rest of my weekend was so fun, I wasn’t disappointed that I wasn’t in New Hampshire.

 

There are two things I don’t recommend doing before the Bronx 5K – getting only 3 hours of sleep and taking the A train.  I don’t have much advice about how to avoid the former, but the latter can be avoided by either doing whatever you can to take the D train straight to 167th Street, praying to the MTA gods that another train will be in service that weekend (like the 2), or take a taxi or an Uber.  I waited so long on a hot, crowded platform for the A (and the D) that I actually arrived after the start of the race, despite allotting an hour and 15 minutes travel time for an estimated 40 minute journey.

I seriously thought I was going to die waiting here.

I seriously thought I was going to die waiting here.

Despite the transportation hassles, I perked right up when I finally got into the Bronx and had to hustle a few blocks back past the start and slip through a barricade so I could get into the chute and cross the starting line (about 10 minutes after the official start at 7:30).  There were still quite a few stragglers who began even after I did, probably also due to train delays and/or excessive Saturday night celebration.  Still, my slow pace and late start made for a blissfully empty course, which I enjoyed all the way to the finish.

I was just heading out when most of the pack was heading back in to the finish.

I was just heading out when most of the pack was heading back in.

Due to the pain I felt during and after my last attempt at walking a 5K, I forced myself to slow down even more than usual (to about 18 minute miles) which seemed to help.

The highlight of the race was seeing two of my friends who were running the 10 miler option.  Because I was so slow, I was walking towards the starting area when the 10 miler took off.  I got to see the elites sprint by and the rest of the hoard heading out strong – the sound of feet on pavement was stunning.  Because there were so many thousands of runners (about 10,000 total that day), I walked past several blocks of runners still waiting in their corrals to cross the start.  I’m still amazed I saw my two runner friends in that crowd!

The finish line is down on the left, Yankee Stadium is hulking on the right.

The finish line is down on the left, Yankee Stadium is hulking on the right.

I had a huge grin on my face for most of this race – the weather and taking my time really seemed to help.  Also, I love the Bronx 5K and 10 miler series!  Food afterwards included the standard apples, pretzels, a bagel, and a PowerBar protein bar.  There was a medal for the 10 miler but not for the 5K.  However, we did get an excellent (although unisex) technical New Balance race shirt included in the $15 registration!

A nice tech shirt? Yes, please!

A nice tech shirt? Yes, please!

Since my ankle held up so well for the race, after some stretching and PT work, I was able to walk another 5+ miles around Brooklyn that afternoon and night (not continuous, but still!).  And yes, the rest of these photos have nothing to do with the Bronx 5K, but my outing put me in a good mood so I’m gonna count it as part of my running life… (ok, yes, it’s a stretch…)

Sunset under the Williamsburg Bridge.

Sunset under the Williamsburg Bridge.

So, despite my ankle, it was a great weekend.  Today my ankle seems no worse for wear, so I’m cautiously optimistic about what the doctor will tell me on Wednesday… (knock wood!!)  Plus it’s fantastic because I clearly deserve at least 5 million dollars from the city for my injury – mine sounds much worse than hers!

 

How was your weekend?  Have you ever run the Bronx 5K or 10 miler?  Do you love, hate, or hate to love Williamsburg?  Have you ever sued the city?  Share in the comments!

France 8K – May We? – Aug 21, 2016

The announcer and a French cheer squad at the start!

The announcer and a French cheer squad at the start!

I just finished my first race since spraining my ankle back in May!  I walked the entire thing (couldn’t even run a few steps at the end because it hurt too much), and it took a long, long time, but I finished!

 

I've had a bad summer, so I get one free attempt of a glamor shot of my costume for the race.

I’ve had a bad summer, so I get one free attempt of a glamor shot of my costume for the race.

The NYRR France Run was an 8K (4.97 miles) loop of Central Park, starting on the east side south of the 72nd Transverse, continuing up and around Harlem Hill, then back down and finishing on the 72nd Street Transverse.  In the middle of the night I decided to wear a “French costume” for the race, which meant that in the morning I cut my red buff from the Philly Marathon, French-braided my hair, and put on a lot of red lipstick.  Once I got to the park I realized nobody else was wearing a costume except for the women who were forced to by Air France.  C’est la vie!  I started in the very back since I was planning on walking the entire thing.  I might not have mentioned doing this race to my physical therapist but since she ok’d me to walk a 5K a week ago I figured this would be ok, too…

I'm 98% sure this is the pothole that got me back in May!!!

I’m 98% sure this is the pothole that got me back in May!!!

I was pretty nervous before the race since Central Park is hillier than what I’ve been walking during recovery, and this would be by far the farthest I’ve walked since May.  When I got to the start it had just begun lightly raining.  After crossing the start the rain picked up, and pretty soon it was a total downpour for miles.  It was some of the hardest rain I’ve ever run (walked) in, and I was totally drenched in minutes (shirt soaked, shoes wet, hair looked like I took a shower).  Luckily it was warm and it was only a 5 mile race instead of a marathon (ahem Jackson Mississippi Blues Marathon).  I was mostly just worried my phone would get soaked even inside my waist belt (since my shirt and tights were totally soaked through).  When I did risk taking my phone out to take a picture of the pothole that felled me, there was no dry spot of clothing to wipe it on!

 

My favorite race photo ever - if you don't recognize this guy, you don't run NYRR races.

If you don’t recognize this guy, you don’t run NYRR races.

After about 30 minutes of hard rain it started letting up, and for the last couple miles the sun even came out (and reminded us just how scorchingly hot it would have been had it been sunny the whole time).  Besides getting my favorite race photo ever with an icon in NYRR, I was mostly wondering if the bagels would be dry by the time I got to the finish.  I was also pretty determined to win the free trip to Paris, although I was so slow I didn’t even get to enter the raffle.  🙁

 

The little Air France cheer area about 400 meters before the finish.

The little Air France cheer area about 400 meters before the finish. No free tickets, though. 😐

Snacks after the run - bagel not pictured, as it was in my stomach.

Snacks after the run – bagel not pictured, as it was in my stomach.

Post-race, my ankle started hurting more (during the walk home) and I noticed it was a bit swollen after my shower, but now I’m icing and elevating and plan on having a lot of quality couch-time this afternoon now that I have a new A/C (it broke earlier this week, which was pretty dreadful).  Perhaps time to start a new Netflix series?  I’m considering Black Books or Father Ted (both from the creator of The IT Crowd), or maybe Wentworth, or Stranger Things, or The Fall, or W1A… So many options to be lazy!

The race shirt (front and back).

The race shirt (front and back).

 

Have you ever run an 8K before?  Have you ever walked an entire running race?  Have you ever been to France?  Share in the comments!

NYRR R-U-N 5K – Lightning the Load – Aug 11, 2016

Fun acrylic glass and temporary tattoos for the NYRR R-U-N 5K.

Fun acrylic “glass” and temporary tattoos for the NYRR R-U-N 5K.

My plan to triumphantly return to road racing tonight by walking the ironically named R-U-N 5K was, as many of my race-related plans have been recently, foiled, this time by heat and then severe thunderstorms.  At about 3:30 pm, the race officials emailed us saying the race would be an untimed, unscored fun run due to the weather (it’s about 1,000 degrees and very humid here).  The good news was that runners would get a marathon credit whether we ran it or not.

 

I debated on whether to still walk it because as much as I wanted to get back out there (even just walking), it was also as hot as heck and I have an early morning flight tomorrow and didn’t want the hassle of getting to/from the park and stressing my ankle before a special getaway.  Luckily the decision was made for me at about 6 pm when officials told all runners and volunteers to seek shelter immediately due to severe thunderstorms.  As I’m sitting here guilt-free in my air-conditioned apartment, I can hear nasty cracks of thunder and am waiting for the deluge.

 

The race was advertised as a “social” race – when I signed up I had to select whether I wanted a corral according to my time or if I wanted to be “social.”  I chose “social,” although to be honest I think I would have gotten the same corral anyway since I’m so slow.  It was supposed to start at 7 pm in Central Park, with drink specials for the runners at various restaurants after the race.  It would have been my first race that started in the evening (not counting Ragnar, since that lasts multiple days) and of course my first race since The Injury.  Ah, well!  There’s always the France Run (8K) in a little over a week!

 

Have you ever had a race completely cancelled?  Have you ever done an evening race?  Have you ever been to Nashville?  Share in the comments!

NYRR Gridiron 4M – Race Recap

Before the start of the NYRR Gridiron 4-miler.

Finding my corral before the start of the NYRR Gridiron 4-miler.

The NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler and Longest Football Throw was this morning – it’s a good way to motivate yourself to run 4 miles in the cold before stuffing your face with chips and pizza and wings later.  I can’t remember the last time I ran this particular race (if ever), so it was fun to see all the runners in their football jerseys and team colors.  Are the Giants in the Superbowl this year?  Because it looked like it out there…  (And fyi, I think I saw more Broncos jerseys than I did Jets, despite the NY location…)

Lining up in my corral!

Lining up in my corral!

Before the start of the race they announced the winners of the football throw (held one hour before the race).  The woman threw over 30 yards and the man threw over 50 yards.  That sounds like a lot to me, as I’m pretty sure I’d have trouble throwing a frisbee more than 5 yards. Good for them!

 

The course itself is the inner 4-mile loop in Central Park, skipping the Harlem Hills and the lower portion of the loop.  I started in my proper corral (K, the last corral), but not at the very back, and it still took me about 9 minutes to cross the starting line.  The bad thing about short NYRR races like this is that it was really crowded the entire time (there were over 5,000 finishers).  I ran my heart out but was still quite slow compared to actual fast people (averaged about 10:15 pace), yet I swear I passed over a thousand people.  It was a little frustrating to weave in and out so much, but if I wanted to run on an empty road I wouldn’t do a NYRR race.

I "voted" for the Broncos, but sadly I think the Panthers will win.

I “voted” for the Broncos, but sadly I think the Panthers will win.

There’s also a fun spot along the 72nd Transverse where you can “vote” for your team by running under their banner.  It seemed like a surprisingly even split amongst the runners, but I’m not sure if people were voting for their favorite team, the team they thought would win, or if they simply didn’t care and didn’t change lanes while running.  NYRR reports that a majority of the runners chose Denver, because runners respect their elders.

 

There were a few water stops along the course and at the finish you got more cups of water, a large bagel (plain or cinnamon raisin), and a red delicious apple.  The shirt is a white (ugh!) cotton long-sleeved shirt with a logo on the front and sponsors on the back.  Overall, this is a fine race, nothing special, but good if you’re looking to do a 9+1 to qualify for the marathon, and it was 100% effective in getting me to run outside today, which I definitely would not have done on my own.

Whhhhiiittte!

Whhhhiiittte!

Who are you rooting for in the Superbowl today?  What are you planning to eat?  Do you enjoy the commercials more than the game?  Share in the comments!

Marathon Recap – Twin Cities Marathon, Oct 4, 2015

Welcome to Minneapolis!

Welcome to Minneapolis!

 

The first time I visited Minneapolis I didn’t really visit Minneapolis – my brother and I had a long layover at MSP and he took me to the (then) brand-new Mall of America to ride the (only) roller coaster there.  The second time I visited Minneapolis I was a jury consultant conducting research and Mambo No. 5 was the number one song.  The third time I visited Minneapolis I ran a marathon.  This is that time.

 

I flew in Saturday morning, arriving a little after 10 am and hopping onto the Metro light rail blue line to downtown Minneapolis (very cheap and easy!).  I planned on simply dropping my bags off at my hotel (the Aloft Minneapolis) but my room was actually ready at 11 am so I rested in the room a bit before taking the Metro green line to downtown St Paul for the expo.

 

The expo was unexpectedly unpleasant.  It was incredibly crowded and very difficult to navigate.  I’ve done enough big city marathons to be familiar with big, crowded expos, but this one was really chaotic.  Plus the branded merch was ridiculously expensive – we’re talking $100 for a nothing-special, long-sleeved tech shirt.  (Worse than NYC Marathon prices!)  And since they give you the finisher shirt at the finish line, the only thing in your packet was your bib and a buff.

 

I struggled to buy some extra gummies and snag two freebies (a piece of fruit leather and a box of rice), gaped at the branded merch prices, then headed to a drugstore for some water and Pop Tarts before taking the train back to Minneapolis.  I was pretty exhausted from the expo experience and I knew I’d never leave my hotel room again if I went back, so first I hit up Kindee Thai Restaurant.  Best decision I made all weekend.  I went during their happy hour special, so I had tempura green beans with sweet chili dipping sauce for $3 (better than french fries, just incredible) and a pumpkin chicken curry with squash strips and jasmine rice (normal price of $11).  As I ate I fantasized about going there again the next day.  My second biggest regret of the trip was that I didn’t manage a second visit.

 

My absolute biggest regret of the trip is missing the flour museum (Mill City Museum).  I should have gone that Saturday afternoon, or even after the race on Sunday, as it was closed on Monday.  I’m seriously upset I missed it, as I love flour and what it turns into when sugar and yeast is added.

 

At the start with the hat that got so much attention during the race.

At the start with the hat that got so much attention.

I didn’t do anything else that evening except rest in my hotel room and watch Elysium on TV (how I’ve never heard of that movie is a mystery, but a mystery I wish had continued my whole life (i.e. the movie was not good)).  I woke up early the next morning to eat as much as possible (I’ve never regretted eating too much before a marathon, but I’ve frequently regretted not eating enough) and get dressed in all my many layers (long-sleeved shirt, light windbreaker jacket, and fleece).  I also donned my normal hat onto which I had pinned a giant pink fake flower, which ended up getting a lot of cheers during the race!

 

In the shadow of the still-under-construction U.S. Bank Stadium.

Peeing in the shadow of the still-under-construction U.S. Bank Stadium.  ALL of the potties were removed that same day, btw.

I left the hotel relatively early (7:20 for an 8:00 start time) because I wanted to make sure to have enough time to get to bag check before it closed at 7:45.  I shouldn’t have worried because it took no time at all, and I was left to stand waiting in the corral that had zero porta potties.  Should I have left the corral and waited in line for the potties?  Absolutely yes.  But I didn’t.  And because I had hydrated well that morning, I needed to pee almost the second after I started running.  I stopped at the first bank of potties at mile 1.  There was a long line but I waited because I wasn’t sure where the next ones would be (turns out less than a mile later, dammit!).  I waited so long to pee that the sag wagon, several school buses, and all of the runners ran by.  By the time I got back on the course, I could barely see anyone and I “raced” (10 min mile pace vs the 12:30 I was aiming for) to catch up to the school buses and sweep vehicle.  Later I learned from my Garmin that I was waiting for four and half minutes (!!!) for the bathroom.  Ugh.

 

Most of the early miles wound past lakes like this.

Most of the early miles wound past lakes like this.

Other than that disaster, the race went pretty well.  The weather was perfect (mid-40s to mid-50s, partly sunny) and the course was not crowded (there were no half marathoners or relay runners).  I struck up a conversation with a lovely Marathon Maniac and we chatted for a long time, making miles 3-10 fly by.  She peeled off to wait with her boyfriend who was taking a rest stop and I thought I’d see her again later but I never did.  I slowed down a tiny bit after she left (I was doing around 11:40 miles with her and 12:05 miles afterwards), but then I sped up again for miles 17 to 19.  I can honestly say I enjoyed the running for the first 19 miles, but then all of a sudden I wanted the race to be done.  Yes, I realize this correlates pretty closely with “the wall” but once again I didn’t really realize it at the time.  I just agreed with the woman next to me who said “this isn’t fun anymore.”

 

Crossing the Mississippi River!

Crossing the Mississippi River!

The three-mile hill at mile 20 wasn’t really a hill.  There were slightly more significant rolling hills near the end, but it wasn’t the climb I was expecting.  I still slowed down to about 12:30 for those final miles, finishing in about 5:20 (but if it hadn’t been for that bathroom stop, my time would have been almost exactly the same as my time from Chicago last year).  So while I was certainly not fast, I wasn’t sick/injured, I finished exactly where I had expected/hoped, and I finished strong (and with only minor soreness that night and the next few days).  My several weeks of somewhat training really did help this time – imagine that!

Saint Anthony Falls from the Stone Arch Bridge.

Saint Anthony Falls from the Stone Arch Bridge.

I did less than nothing the rest of that day (boy I wish I had gone to that flour museum!), but the next morning I walked over the Stone Arch Bridge (built in 1881) and did a little flour walking tour myself.  Then I packed up and hopped on the light rail down to the Mall of America, where I stashed my luggage in a jumbo locker ($13 for an all-day rental, with unlimited ins and outs) and rode the roller coasters (I ended up buying a $31 all-day ride pass, which you can buy on the same day online with your phone to save $6, and they’ll just take your confirmation code and print out your bracelet).  I rode the Spongebob Squarepants Rock Bottom Plunge, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock, and the Pepsi Orange Streak (“Orange you glad you rode the streak?”) multiple times.  The other rides looked too spinny for me not to curse the day I was born (I’m looking at you, Avatar Airbender).

Because everything should be measured in volumes of New York City attractions, the Mall of America could fit 7 Yankee Stadiums or 258 Statues of Liberty.  But how many Empire State Buildings??  And how many Brooklyn Bridges?!?!  It’s gotta be a lot, because I walked around that mall so much I’m pretty sure I covered another marathon.  Luckily the food was much better (I want need a Tollhouse Cookie Kiosk in my apartment).  I also wandered into the See’s Candy where I ate two huge free samples and almost had a sugar shock.  I did have a real meal at Cadillac Ranch, which I would not recommend (if I had to do it over I’d get burgers at Johnny Rockets or cobble something together at the food court – or I’d go to the Rainforest Cafe, which hadn’t opened yet).

 

I didn’t buy much at the mall, but I did get some costume items for my upcoming Rocket City Marathon.  The funny thing was I finally visited the home of Target and it was one of the few times I didn’t actually go to one!

Breathtaking view of NYC during my flight home - the picture doesn't do it justice.

Breathtaking view of NYC during my flight home – the picture doesn’t do it justice.

 

As for my packing, I think I did a pretty decent job.  I’m glad I brought a rolling bag and didn’t have to carry everything all the time.  One thing I forgot (and should always bring) – dryer sheets.  (My toss fleece was a little musty.)  But I used every item of clothing except for the hat/gloves I brought just in case for the race.  I definitely could have skipped the thick scarf and used one of my fleece jackets as a blanket on the plane, and I definitely packed too many sweet things and not enough salty snacks.  I was craving salty treats after the race but was too lazy/tired to go get any.  I’m not sure how I’ll pare my items down more for Philadelphia, but I’ll try!

 

About to cross the starting line!

About to cross the starting line!

Thinking of Running the Twin Cities Marathon?

 

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.  Note that this review is based on running as a “back of the packer,” with a finish time of over 5 hours.  Your experience may vary.

 

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 10/10 – MSP is a major airport, so you can probably find a nonstop fight there wherever you live (my nonstop Delta flight from LGA was $303).  Once there, you can take the Metro light rail from the airport to downtown Minneapolis and from Minneapolis to St Paul (for the expo).  The Metro is only $1.75 one-way anywhere during non-rush hours, although I was never asked for my ticket (just like in Houston!) so I ended up buying a lot of “unused” tickets.  Don’t make the mistake I did and buy multiple tickets at one time – not only will you probably not need them, but they’re only good for the day you buy them so you can’t buy a bunch for future use.  At any rate, it was still probably the cheapest and easiest ground transport I’ve ever had for a marathon.
  • Staying There – 9/10 – I stayed at the Aloft Minneapolis, which was clean, very quiet, and at a great location only 3 blocks from the train and about 5 from the marathon start.  It was $159/night but make sure to book early (I tried staying at the marathon host hotel (Hyatt Place Minneapolis Downtown for $139/night) but it was already fully booked in April!).  Note they are doing a major construction project behind the Aloft slated to finish late 2016.  Also note there is a small grocery store, liquor store, and pizzeria just past the hotel (on Washington at 11th), but the best place to eat nearby has got to be Kindee Thai Restaurant on 2nd and Chicago.
  • Cost & Registration – 6/10 – The lowest registration price ($149 with processing fees) was still way too much for what you get – a see-thru white tech shirt (with lots of sponsors on the back – and you know how I hate white tech shirts!!), a buff, and not much food at the finish (a half-cup of chicken broth, small roll, fruit cup, banana, mini luna bar, and potato chips – all handed to you without a bag so you kinda had to pick and choose what you grabbed).  Oh, and you do get one can of beer, too.  But $149 is still a lot for a non-Disney, non-Majors, non-RnR race.
  • Organization – 6/10 – I’m dinging them a couple points here because the expo was one of the biggest sh*tshows I’ve seen, for no particular reason.  It was just so crowded and unnavigable, and I can’t figure out why.  They also lose some points for not having porta potties in the corrals.  Ugh!  Otherwise communication was decent and the course itself had good volunteers keeping it clean and always passing out the Poweraid before the water.
  • Course – 8/10 – Very nice.  I don’t know if it really was “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America” (it looked more suburban than urban), but it was pretty, runs past several lakes, fairly flat, and I always love a point-to-point.  Many of the early miles were also on this funky red asphalt that reminded me of a track – very nice to run on!  It was also blissfully free from half-marathoners as the 10-miler started and finished well before us.  Unfortunately the leaves were still mostly green this year so it wasn’t as spectacular as it could have been, but the weather was perfect so can’t complain.
  • Crowd – 10/10 – The spectators couldn’t have been better.  Lots of them, cheering, offering food, waving signs – and never getting in the way or blocking the course.
  • Other Factors – 7/10 – Fall in Minneapolis plus The Mall of America = good times.
  • Overall Rating – 7.5/10 – The nice course, ease of navigation, and (probable) perfect weather make this a very nice marathon to try!

 

18 down, 32 to go!  My next marathon is Philadelphia in November.  Cue the Rocky theme song again!

 

Have you ever been to Minneapolis?  What’s your favorite roller coaster?  Have all your favorite TV shows come back from hiatus?  Share in the comments!

Marathon Recap – Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, June 7, 2015

A couple miles to the finish of the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon

A couple of miles from the finish of the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon

The Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon in South Dakota was the most beautiful marathon I’ve run yet, and one of my very favorites overall (a very close second to Hatfield McCoy).

 

I flew into Rapid City on Friday afternoon, made a quick stop at Walmart for water and snacks, then drove up to Deadwood (on Hwy 14/90 to 85) which took me past the the host hotel (The Lodge at Deadwood).  Since the expo was there I decided to stop and get my materials so I didn’t have to worry about picking them up on Saturday before Sunday’s race.  The expo was a little larger than I expected, with a couple areas featuring items for sale and a couple other local stands advertising races and massages and whatnot.

 

Expo!

Expo!

 

I had chicken fingers for dinner there at the bar and grill (not bad) before driving down the hill and through town to my hotel, the Deadwood Gulch Resort.  Both the Lodge and the Gulch were full-blown casinos, but the Gulch was particularly depressing, kinda old, and not very nice.  The staff was friendly but the rooms smelled musty, which I thought was smoke but could have been just a weird carpet cleaner.  I even tried switching rooms but the other room smelled just as bad so I stayed put and ran my window A/C unit on “fan” mode the entire weekend, which helped a lot.  At least the room was quiet and faced a little stream, although since it was an old hotel and the room was on the first floor it sounded like the ceiling was cracking down every time the person above me walked around (which luckily was not often).  I would definitely not stay there again, even with the direct race shuttles – I’d rather spend the extra time to use the trolley to a race shuttle and enjoy a nicer hotel (even the Holiday Inn looked nicer!).

The rooms weren't terrible, just kinda old and musty.

The rooms weren’t completely terrible, just kinda old and musty.

 

On Saturday I started the morning with a horseback ride with Blacktail Horseback Tours.  While I didn’t ride the actual “Bachelor” horse, I got to meet him, which I suspect was more exciting and more interesting than meeting the Bachelor who rode him.  The owner was a delight and her horses were well-trained, and she takes you up some steep sections for some great views.  If you’re a fan of horses or if you’d like to try them out, I’d recommend this short (1-2 hour, $40) ride.  If you’re a fan of The Bachelor, you can gossip about the contestants, too.

 

 

This is the famous Bachelor Horse, the biggest celebrity in Deadwood.

This is the famous Bachelor Horse, the biggest celebrity in Deadwood.

 

The ranch owner also had several great suggestions for the rest of the day.  First she suggested I go to Cheyenne Crossing for an “Indian Taco,” made with Indian Fry Bread smothered with ground beef, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream.  (Delicious, as was the carrot cake I had afterwards!)  Then she thought I should do a short (2 mile roundtrip) hike to Roughlock Falls (on Hwy 14a between Cheyenne Crossing and Spearfish) before continuing the scenic drive along the highway.  (It was a nice, easy hike that surely negated the taco and cake.)  She also suggested a hike to Roosevelt Tower, which is the only thing I didn’t do because I ran out of time and energy.

Instead of that second hike, I strolled down the main street of Deadwood and pretended I was on a reality TV show.  The best thing I saw in Deadwood was the Deadwood Model Train.  It gets a high rating on Trip Advisor and I’d agree with those ratings – it’s meticulous, funny, and free.  Plus you’ll be reminded of it whenever you see the opening sequence to Wayward Pines on FOX.  Note that you can’t walk inside the train room (everything is walled off with protective glass) but you’re still afforded good views and there’s plenty to see.

Downtown Deadwood or model train set?  Hard to tell...

Downtown Deadwood or model train set? Hard to tell…

Two things I wanted to mention about the area – one, it’s full of bikers and cowboys (so many!), and two, what the area considers to be a close neighbor is a lot farther than what East Coast states or even West Coast states consider “nearby” – for example, if you ask someone if they’re from there, they might say “yes, Nebraska.”  The “local” news coverage also seems a lot broader than normal, with coverage spanning from Colorado to Minnesota.  But now it makes even more sense that the Bachelor from Iowa visited South Dakota, because it really was like his backyard.  Finally, South Dakota has two time zones (Central and Mountain).  Deadwood is in Mountain, same as Denver.

 

I found the bar where the Bachelor made the girls sing before “stealing” Britt off to another “concert,” but since I didn’t see my husband in the room I kept walking.  Downtown Deadwood is an endless strip of tourist gift shops, bars, casinos, and ice cream shops, so it’s easy to indulge any number of vices there.

 

It's the bar!

It’s the bar!

 

You totally recognize this bar.

You totally recognize this bar.

 

I limited my vices to my favorite (candy) with a trip to The Best Restaurant In DeadwoodChubby Chipmunk, for some expensive but delicious truffles (and as the many reviews said, even if you don’t normally like truffles you’ll probably like these).  Fortified with fancy chocolates plus a treasure trove of junk food I bought earlier (popcorn, trail mix, and 3 (!!!) flavors of Pop Tarts), I tried to get some rest despite some wicked race nerves.

 

Hanging out at the start.

Hanging out at the start.

I was nervous because I really didn’t know what to expect with regards to the trail itself.  I knew it wasn’t a “technical” trail where I’d have to jump over branches or streams, but beyond that I was clueless.  Turns out it’s an abandoned railroad line, so it’s a really wide, very finely crushed stone path that’s smoother than the Bridle Path in Central Park (although not quite as wide as that), with a grade so gradual you barely notice you’re going uphill except for the fact that you’re breathing really hard and life seems more difficult.

Typical scenery for miles along the Mickelson Trail Marathon.

Typical scenery for miles along the Mickelson Trail Marathon.

 

But it was beautiful.  We lucked out on the weather and had mostly sunny skies for the entire race, with highs reaching about 70 (two days later it was in the 90s, so we not only dodged the rain bullet but also the heat bullet).  The aid stations along the course (about every two miles) were really well-stocked with water, Poweraid, bananas, and pretzels at every single one, and occasionally M&Ms.  Since I didn’t like the Poweraid I ate my weight in bananas.

Pretty as a picture!  Also maybe I was hallucinating at this point!

Pretty as a picture! Also maybe I was hallucinating at this point!

I almost stepped on this sucker.

I almost stepped on this sucker.

 

As you know from my expectations and from the course description, the first mile is paved, then the next 13 miles or so are a gradual uphill climb from about 5,500 feet to 6,200 feet, and then the second half is mostly downhill or flat.  You really notice the change from the uphill peak to that first downhill mile, despite both being such a gradual grade.  The “super steep downhill” section around mile 19 wasn’t nearly as steep as I expected (I was envisioning having to use my hands to pick my way down – it wasn’t anything like that), but I did walk it as my legs were pretty trashed by that point.

Nearing the peak of the course

Nearing the peak of the course – I’m not actually dead, I’m just not wearing the heart rate monitor.

 

I was really enjoying the race until I hit the wall at mile 22 and bonked harder than I’ve ever bonked in a race.  I can’t remember being so tired in a race; even walking was a monumental effort.  I was both starving and nauseated, a really fun combo.  I finally ate some M&Ms (and another caffeinated Gu) at mile 25, which is maybe why I got a bit of a second wind and was able to trot the last .2 miles into the finish.  It took me about 6 hours, which is a really long time, but was 45 minutes faster than I actually thought it would take me, and only about 15 minutes slower than the flat, sea-level Wisconsin Marathon a month ago.  So, I was happy to finish, and within few minutes I started feeling much better and wanted to do another marathon (although not that day).

Around mile 25 I ran right past my hotel room & rental car (seen in white).  The temptation to stop has never been greater.

Around mile 25 I ran right past my hotel room & rental car (seen in white). The temptation to stop has never been greater.

 

At the finish you get your medal and a bottle of water – and not much else.  Other runners described the medal as “ugly” and they’re not entirely wrong.  With all the possible themes for this medal (Old West!  Bikers!  Cowboys!  Guns!  Gambling!  The old railroad!), and the incredible natural beauty of the course itself, I don’t know why they chose such a boring, garish design.

At least it's really clear about the distance...

At least it’s really clear about the distance…

I’m glad I didn’t wear my gaiters, although I did get several tiny rocks in my shoes.  I was also nervous I didn’t put on enough bug spray, but that wasn’t an issue since most of the trail was exposed and sunny – very little was through any sort of “forest” so there weren’t a lot of bugs to deal with.  My hydration vest ended up being ok, gradually getting less annoying as I drank some of the water.  I’m glad I wore it, though, as it was a psychological boost to know I had water available at any moment.  It also made using my camera phone incredibly convenient.  I didn’t even have to put my phone in a plastic baggie, so it made taking pictures 100 times easier than normal.

 

All the finishing food that awaits you at the Deadwood Mickelson Marathon!  (Pack your own snacks.)

All the finishing food that awaits you at the Deadwood Mickelson Marathon! (Pack your own snacks.)

There were 358 full marathon finishers, with times ranging from 2:47 (men’s winner, women’s was 3:20) to 7:37 (the official cut-off time was 7 hours, so it’s nice to see they kept the finish line open well past that).

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking of Running Deadwood?

 

Race shirt & checked bag (shirt has some logos in white on the back).

Race shirt & checked bag (shirt has some logos in white on the back).

All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.  Note that this review is based on running as a “back of the packer,” with a finish time of 6 hours.  Your experience may vary.

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 5/10 – The closest airport is Rapid City (RAP) (ticket was $440 from NYC, with one stop), which is a little over an hour drive from Deadwood.  Technically it’s possible to do this race without driving (you can get a shuttle from the airport to Deadwood for $105 each way, and once in Deadwood you can ride their trolleys, walk, and use the race shuttles), but it’s cheaper and easier to rent a car (my rental was $112 for 3 days plus another $18 in gas).  The race runs shuttles to the start in Rochford and from the finish (in downtown Deadwood).  I was worried I’d miss the finish line shuttles since the website said they stop the shuttles 6.5 hours after the start (vs the 7 hour cutoff), but one of the race directors said someone would drive the later finishers to their hotels if they needed it.  It’s a small race!
  • Staying There – 5/10 – I didn’t have the greatest experience in my hotel, but the host hotel was already full when I registered back in January!  I should have tried harder to stay at the host hotel, or just found another hotel anywhere in town, really.  The shuttles seemed to work well so I should have trusted those and found the best hotel without regard to direct shuttle access.  However, I’m not sure if any hotel is all that nice in the area – I think they’re all casinos and all a bit old/dingy.
  • Cost & Registration – 8/10 – I paid $97 for registration which seems a little spendy but at least it was easy (and might not have sold out, but they did increase the price as the date approached), but again the host hotel was already booked in January.  For the registration price you get the race with excellent on-course support (so many bananas!), race shuttles, a short-sleeved tech shirt (that feels like cotton), and a sorta tacky medal.  Finishing food was almost nonexistent.
  • Organization – 8/10 – Plenty of communication from the race directors before the race, but I wish they had more photos of the trail itself and warnings about the possible extreme weather conditions than they do.  Packet pickup was very easy, shuttles worked well, and even the truck that took the bags from the start to the finish was super easy and low-key (just one simple pickup truck for everyone’s bags!).  Each aid station was set up differently, but they were all well-stocked, except at the finish line, which I had expected from previous reviews so I packed a bunch of snacks in my checked baggage.
  • Course – 10+/10 – Beautiful!  Yes, the elevation might leave you breathless, and yes you climb about 1,000 feet, but it’s not exactly “hilly” in the traditional way.  Not much shade and weather can vary from 20 degrees to 90 degrees, from bright sun to thunderstorms, so be prepared for anything.
  • Crowd – 4/10 – As expected, very few spectators, but those who were there were fun and friendly, and as always, the volunteers were great.
  • Other Factors – 8/10 – If you’ve never been to that area of South Dakota, it’s a worthwhile trip.  I wished I had stayed a few extra days to do more sightseeing.  Plus you can ride a horse and pretend to be on The Bachelor.  Win win!
  • Overall Rating – 9.5/10 – The amazing beauty of the course, the friendly runners, and the easy and manageable size make this an excellent race.

 

17 down, 33 to go!  I don’t have another full marathon until October, so hopefully I’ll train smart over the summer, lose some weight, and ditch the injures.  Or I’ll get busy and keep slogging through 6 hour marathons.  Either way, I have some shorter races coming up, including a 10K tomorrow in the muggy NYC heat.  Fun times!

 

Have you ever run South Dakota?  Have you ever run a trail race?  Are you here for the right reasons?  Share in the comments!

Race Recap & More – ABB 5K, Butterflies, & Burritos

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Today I had a little too much fun running around Houston and eating burritos and chocolate and now I feel like these taxidermied animals, but less mobile.

The ABB 5K was plenty of fun and easy – starting and ending at Discovery Green next to the convention center, it was a flat, looped course out and back through downtown. It had a lot of kid and charity runners but was a wide course so it didn’t feel too congested. At the end you got a medal (from men and women in army fatigues), a bottle of water, a banana, and a mini muffin (had to brave a chaotic line for the food). Post race I had to look up what ABB is – apparently it’s a “global leader in power and automation technologies” based in Zurich, Switzerland. It’s the largest supplier of industrial motors and drives, wind generators, and power grids. It’s also the main sponsor of a 5K in Houston for some reason.

 

The weather today is supposed to be the weather for tomorrow’s marathon – warm and sunny, supposedly in the 50s at the start but it felt even warmer. I tried to hold back but the excitement of the race and the appreciation of my metallic costume got me a little revved up, and I averaged 11:30 minute miles, about 1.5 to 2 minutes faster than I want to go tomorrow. (I freely admit and acknowledge I am too slow for my age and non-injured status – something to work on in 2015?)

Where's the Finish in silver outfit

Channeling my inner astronaut. This is actually a toned-down version of what I wore for the Marshall Marathon at which I got about zero comments on my costume. Today I had many, many glove admirers. They are available at Amazon!

After the race I had a quick shower and some oatmeal at the hotel, where I asked the concierge how to get a taxi to the Museum of Natural History. He told me to take the Metrorail (aboveground light rail) instead. I told him that if I got lost and a missing person alert went out on me it was on his head. He laughed since there is only one track that goes north and south so I’d have to be an idiot to get lost. He didn’t say “idiot” but I saw it in his eyes. He gave me a map and circled the two stops I should use (Main Street to Museum District, easy enough). I asked him how to buy a ticket and he was a little cagey and unclear about that process, even though he said he took the train every day to work. I thanked him and went off to have another public transit adventure in another US city.

Metrorail in Houston

(This was actually the train I took back home (northbound). Trains come about every 10-15 minutes.)

I managed to find the station with one detour (I initially stood at the northbound stop before realizing, but another woman did the same thing and she was a local so that made me feel better. We ended up chatting the whole ride.) I also learned why the concierge was so cagey about the ticketing – there are machines at each station where you can buy tickets ($1.50 per trip) but there is no one on the train that collects or checks for your ticket. I assumed it’d be like a NYC bus – you swipe your metrocard (or give your ticket) as you get on. Nope – you just get on and ride and don’t see anybody official the whole time. I think I was the first sucker all year to actually buy two tickets. That’s three dollars to honesty. Thank god for that gas card.

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I was instantly rewarded for my journey with some beautiful gardens next to the Natural History Museum (the circular hill with a winding path and waterfall is the “Garden Mount,” part of a $31 million 2014 renovation in Hermann Park). I didn’t walk the path or spend much time in Hermann Park (or visit the Japanese Gardens there) because I was desperate to see the butterflies at the museum, and I wanted to spare my legs for tomorrow.

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Before you enter the butterfly garden ($8 admission, separate from the $20 admission to the main Natural History Museum, and you don’t need a main ticket to access the butterfly garden), you walk through some informative exhibits about insects and see some incredible (HUGE) specimens seen here.

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The butterfly garden itself is hot, humid, and filled with greenery & butterflies. They were difficult to capture with my iPhone but they really filled the air. It’s a lovely spot and I’d highly recommend a visit if you’re into that sort of thing.

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When you exit the garden there’s a vending machine that sells edible bug candies and products. (Do those live butterflies know they are bookended by dead bugs? Bit creepy, no?) I got some ant candy for my niece who ate a cricket lollipop once (she said the cricket part was like horrible-flavored dust). This is one candy I won’t be personally reviewing.

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Then I went into the main museum for a whirlwind tour. That place is a labyrinth and I had no idea where I was half the time. I crisscrossed more than I should have and stopped to read (aka learn) almost nothing.

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I’m pretty sure this was a movie.

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This was my favorite part of the museum. It was like being in a really nice Cabelas or Scheels minus the camo clothing for sale. Look at that crocodile pose! Awesome.

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I saw a bunch of other stuff too, but I promise I didn’t learn a thing. The gift shops (two!) were nice but they didn’t sell any pins, just buttons and jewelry (and a million other things, including a lot of dead bugs in lucite). The only food option at the museum is a small McDonald’s (which had a crazy long line at lunchtime, surprise). I’d recommend going to the museum as early as possible as there was a long line at the ticket counter when I left and the place was filling up.

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By noon I was starving and the ladies at the gift shop directed me to a Mexican place two blocks away. I got a burrito and sat outside to eat it while reading texts from my friends who were freezing in NYC.

 

I took the train back to downtown, visited my new favorite grocery store for more treats, and finally headed back to the hotel. I was so exhausted I fell asleep for almost two hours. Oops. Definitely overdid it a bit today, then ate too much candy for dinner, so it was not the most prudent of pre-marathon days but I had a super great time.

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I also got the most amazing souvenir at the Phoenicia – this little gold dinosaur planter. I love it more than a grown woman should love a plastic dinosaur anything. When I feel tired tomorrow, I’m going to draw strength from my gold dinosaur. Wish me luck!

 

What’s your most favorite souvenir ever? Have you ever visited a butterfly garden? What’s your go-to order at a Mexican restaurant? Share in the comments!