Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Another year complete, a new one to conquer!

Here we are at the end of 2015. Amazing that this year is gone and another one is about to whisk us away! Looking back at my running year, I am very pleased. This year was the first year that I decided to keep a mileage log, thanks to my friend Scott here in town who often posts his mileage milestones on Facebook. Although my first couple of months (January and February, 2015) were less than what I had hoped, I will end the year over 1200 miles logged, approximately 100 miles a month. Having not kept stats on my mileage before, I'm happy with this. And I'm looking forward to what next year will bring. 
As far as this year's running travels go, what a fun journey it was! I ran in Birmingham, AL; Olathe, KS; Rexburg, ID; Spearfish, SD; Fargo, ND; Frankenmuth, MI; Boulder City, NV. Thinking back, I have such fond memories of each place and each race, with the standouts being the Dakotas with our friends Pat and Patti and Michigan with the terrific running group I met and had the privilege to hang with. I am still, of course, grateful and amazed at the folks in Kansas who bought me dinner! Thank you again, Land of Oz friends! And I am still soaking up the beauty of Lake Mead and the canyons in Nevada, just a stone's throw from Las Vegas if you are ever out there. The beauty in our country, both in landscape and humanity, is bountiful and staggering. I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to experience these wonderful people and places along the way. 
Birmingham, AL
Olathe, KS
Rexburg, ID
South Dakota
North Dakota
Frankenmuth, MI
Lake Mead, NV
Having mentioned the positives of the past year, unfortunately this last week (my holiday vacation from work) hasn't been so great. I came down with strep throat and have been laying low for the last few days, plus with the Christmas hustle and bustle I missed a couple of running days, so I still have 12 miles to churn out before year's end two days from now. I'm hoping my body will cooperate, and I can end the year with another 100 mile month. Even though I hate being sick, at least it has forced me to rest, and it has killed my holiday (sweets & bad stuff) appetite. Time to get back to the real food, slim down, eat right diet again. Needless to say, I'm happy all the Christmas cookies are gone and that  Weight Watchers has announced its new plan changes. I'm ready for action!
Looking ahead, I'm excited to head to Austin, TX. I've never been to Texas before, and I'm especially excited about going to Austin because my childhood best friend lives there. I will get to see her and meet her 7 children! We haven't seen each other in years, but thanks to Facebook, we've been in touch for quite some time. I can't wait! Cousin Andrew will be there with me, too, which is great, as we can check out the city together. I've heard such great things about it, and I can't wait to visit. It will be a great start to my running/travel year, I'm sure! 
I hope my running friends and readers had a wonderful holiday season. I wish you all a peaceful new year and success in all your running challenges! It is a blank slate, so get out there and fill it up! Happy 2016!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

State #26, Nevada, Hoover Dam Half Marathon, December 12, 2015

I took Friday off from work to fly out to Las Vegas for this marathon. I spent a busy morning getting the girls off to school, fitting in a frenzied bit of Christmas shopping, dashing in for my monthly Weight Watchers weigh in, purchasing my preferred GU, packing, and taking care of some banking before getting to the airport. Whew! What a whirlwind!
The flight out was fine. I sat with two men, who were cousins, heading to Las Vegas for a fun weekend of gambling. They were entertaining, and we discussed our families, my running, healthy eating and Las Vegas. The flight was very long (more than an hour longer than normal) due to extremely strong headwinds. Needless to say, we were all relieved to finally arrive in our destination and be able to deplane.
I picked up my rental car and just barely made it in time to the bike shop where I needed to pick up my number. Thank goodness the plane wasn’t any later in arriving, as I made it to the number pick up with only 20 minutes to spare. The bike shop was in a suburb of Las Vegas called Henderson, and I quickly found a grocery store nearby where I grabbed my last few necessities for race day. Conveniently, I spied a pizza restaurant across the street from the grocery store and decided to give it a try for dinner. Metro Pizza served up a delicious plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Just the perfect thing after a long flight and before a long race.
I then made my way out to Boulder City to retire for the night. It was dark outside at this point, so the views on the drive out were lost to the darkness. The historic district of Boulder City was super cute to drive through. It had just the perfect combination of kitschy 1950’s architecture and feel, alongside some cute restaurants, shops and homes, all decorated with Christmas lights. I knew I probably wouldn’t have time to explore it on this trip, unfortunately, due to the quick out and back travel plans, but it is on my list for the next venture out to Las Vegas for sure.
I couldn’t easily find my hotel, as my GPS didn’t recognize its street address, but I knew the hotel was near the Hoover Dam, so I just went according to that landmark. I made it to the Hoover Dam Lodge eventually, thoroughly exhausted.
Upon entering the hotel, I was reminded why Vegas isn’t my favorite place. The hotel had an attached casino (a requirement in the area), and the smell of stale cigarette smoke greeted me. Almost instantly I felt like I had a headache, and the smoke only made breathing the dry air even worse. I got my room keys, but when I got up to my door, it wouldn’t open. Long story short, a security guard had to come and forcefully open the door for me. Lovely. If you are ever headed out to the Hoover Dam, I do not recommend the Hoover Dam Lodge. I won’t go in to tons of details about it, but it wasn’t so lovely. I chose the hotel because it was the main sponsor of the race was close to the starting line. But for friends who run on location, I'd recommend looking for a more standard chain hotel maybe in Henderson, which is a short drive away. Also, the race offered a shuttle bus from the strip if you wanted to check out that scene on race weekend. 
Thankfully, I managed to sleep pretty well, and due to the time difference and late race start time (9 am), I was able to sleep for a good long time. The redeeming thing about the hotel was that it was very close to the race start. I drove there in minutes, and as I made my way to the entrance to the Lake Mead recreation area, I was blown away by the incredible view.
View of Lake Mead from the entrance to the Lake Mead Recreation Area.

This is the view I didn’t see the night before as I drove in. It is just magnificent! I drove down to the Boulder Beach area with about 30 minutes to spare before the race start time. I chatted with a few folks as we waited, and met a woman from Edmonton who had run the race before. She gave me a run-down of the race topography. It was hillier than I expected. The weather was good (about 50 degrees at race start time), but the winds were very strong. It wasn’t going to be an easy run.
Lake views from parking area near Boulder Beach.
Panoramic view of Lake Mead from Boulder Beach area.
Starting arch and finish line with lake in the background.
More gorgeous views of Lake Mead.
Heading to the starting line near Boulder Beach.
The starting command was given and we were off exactly on time, uphill. The first 3 miles of the race led uphill, mostly in a gradual grade, but definitely in a noticeable way. The route at this point was a paved path, fairly wide that led along the lake and up in to the rocky hills. The wind seemed to die down for this portion of the run, but the uphill nature made for slower than usual pacing. The landscape was just gorgeous though. We were surrounded by large canyonesque rock formations, desert flora, blue skies and abundant sunshine, and of course, the vista of Lake Mead. 
Approaching first railroad tunnel.

View of Lake Mead from Railroad Trail. 
After mile three, we progressed on to a gravel path/hiking trail. Things flattened out a bit here and an amazing view of the lake appeared on my left. This path was called the Railroad Trail, as it had apparently been an old railroad route. The tracks are long gone at this point, but the railroad tunnels carved through the rocks were a marvel to experience. All I could think about as I ran through them was John Henry and his hammer smashing through the mountains. Exiting each tunnel was like stepping in to a framed photograph of a gorgeous landscape. It was truly breathtaking.
This flat gravel path lasted until about mile 4 and a half or five, and then we started to head downhill a bit. This was a nice change of pace for my legs, but  I knew I’d have to run back up on the return trip after the turn around. This part of the path was a bit more serpentine, winding this way and that and mixing some uphills with downhills. But mostly this portion was downhill. As we got closer to the dam, power lines became more prevalent. It looked pretty industrial in the hills at this point, and then we came to the part of the path where we had to run in single file. It was paved again at this part, a sharp downward ramp of a sidewalk that zigzagged in switchback fashion down to the observation area near the dam. It was really fun to run down, and I grabbed at the railing alongside the path as I whipped around each u-turn of the corners. At the bottom was the incredible Hoover Dam. Wow! What a wonder. I stopped along with some other runners to snap a photo. I wish I’d had a chance to tour it this trip, but I’ll have to put that on the list for next time, too.
Me and the Hoover Dam!

Steep switchback path leading to and from the  dam.
As expected, the climb back out was steep and difficult, and I needed to take a couple of short walk brakes. I didn’t mind, as I knew that this wasn’t a PR kind of race. It was a challenging race, but not so challenging that it felt discouraging. On the contrary, all the unique aspects of this race kept it fun, exciting and very memorable. The uphills back from the dam were tough, but luckily the wind wasn’t too much of an issue. Yet. Once we got back to the flatter portion through the train tunnels that all changed. 
The phrase “wind tunnel” has taken on a whole new meaning to me. As I started on the flat gravel  path on the return trip, the wind kicked in…right in my face. I felt about as battered by the headwind as my flight had been the night before. Up ahead, as I approached the first tunnel, I figured I’d get a little break, thinking the tunnel would protect me; rather the wind came whipping through that tunnel like nothing I’ve ever encountered before. Holy crumb! I could barely move my body forward. It was killer, but somehow I made it through. Luckily, the remaining tunnels weren’t as bad, but the wind stayed in my face from basically mile 8 through 12 and a half. Bleh.
What should have been a nice, easy downhill path toward the finish was instead a difficult push against the wind. I kept on as best I could, until around mile 10 when I had to remove the ankle strap timing device, as it was killing my left ankle. I stopped at a water station to switch it to my right side, and although it helped a bit, my left ankle sustained the pain for the rest of the run. Ouch, ouch, ouch!
I could see the parking area near the beach and finish line, but as the woman I met before the race warned me, the race runs past the turn where the finish line is for one more out and back (uphill) stretch. Still pushing against the wind, this was the greatest challenge for me. When you are this far along in the race, you just want to be finished. It is such a mental blow to have to run an extra mile beyond where your eyes know the finish line is. I swear, it felt like that last turn-around was never going to come, but eventually it did and I powered on with the wind finally at my back.
I crossed the finish line with no fanfare, but happy to be finished, collect my medal, ditch my ankle timer and drink a nice cold chocolate milk. Mmmmm. I walked a bit to let my legs shake out and then headed to the results board. My official time was 2:07:17—disappointing on some levels, as I always try to beat the 2 hour mark, but considering the terrain and conditions, I felt ok about it. Then I saw the finish line stats…I finished 6th in my age category, 19th for the women overall and 56th for the whole half marathon field. That cheered me right up! 
Race number, t-shirt and finishers medal.
I had to high-tail it out of there after a bit of stretching to get back to the hotel to shower up and catch a 3:15 pm flight back home. As I drove out, I soaked in the magnificent view one last time. It would be great to come out here as a family and bring the girls hiking here. They would love it. Plus, apparently you can kayak and paddle board and enjoy the lake in the warmer weather. That would be a blast, too.
I made it to the airport with about an hour to spare, so I grabbed lunch before the flight home. The tailwind on the return trip made for a faster flight which was a welcome end to all that other wind. Nevada is in the books. I’m officially more than halfway done, and that feels DAM amazing. 

My Strava app record of the 1500+ ft race elevation. It was no joke!
P.S. The next morning I reviewed the information from my Strava app that tracks my runs, and the official distance was 13.5 miles, so I guess I fared a little better than I thought. (I knew that last turn-around sign felt farther away than it should have!!!)

Friday, November 27, 2015


Today is Thanksgiving, and I cannot believe we are already at the end of November! Where in the world has this month gone? I certainly intended to have another post or two this month, but somehow it just didn't happen. I've been thinking about this post for quite awhile though. As I am halfway through my 50x50, I thought this would be a good time to reflect back on all the race experiences I've had on this journey to date and list them superlatively. Here's the list: 

  • Fastest finish: Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon, Utah (1:43:34)
  • Slowest finish: Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon: Dundee, Oregon (2:08:27)
  • Coldest temperature: Wolf Hollow Half Marathon, New Hampshire
  • Warmest temperature: Naples Daily News Half Marathon, Florida
  • Best starting line feature: Boston's Run to Remember, Massachusetts (fly-over by police helicopters)
  • Most picturesque: Sedona Half Marathon, Arizona
  • Closest Brush with Celebrity: Williams Route 66 Half Marathon, Oklahoma (met running legend Bart Yasso)
  • Worst porta-potty lines: Philadelphia Rock N'Roll Half, Pennsylvania
  • Best pre-race organized dinner: Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont
  • Most fun race-organized after party: 13.1 NYC Half, Queens, NY (dancing with disco ball masked dancers and drag queens)
  • Biggest hills: Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon, Oregon
  • Most interesting course: Rehoboth Half Marathon, Delaware
  • Least interesting course: Olympia Lakefair Half Marathon, Washington
  • Most difficult to find starting line: Chi-Town Half, Chicago
  • Longest bridge in a race: TCS Annapolis Running Classic Half, Maryland
  • Perfect weather day: Surftown Half Marathon, Westerly, RI
  • Best finisher's medal: Garmin Land of Oz Half Marathon, Kansas
  • Smallest number of participants: Teton Dam Half Marathon, Idaho
  • Largest number of participants: Philadelphia Rock N'Roll Half, Pennsylvania
  • Best hotel sleep before a race: Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon, Alabama
  • Best goodie bag: Maine Half Marathon, Portland, ME
  • Best finish line swag: Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon, Virginia
  • Best finish line amenities: Leading Ladies Half Marathon, South Dakota
  • Best finish line food: Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Vermont
  • Nicest people: Bruckelaufe, the Bridge Race, Michigan
  • Craziest weather: Fueled by Fine Wine, Oregon
  • Best pre-race expo: Williams Route 66 Half Marathon, Oklahoma
  • Best finish in my age group: Bruckelaufe, the Bridge Race, Michigan
  • Nicest surprise at a race: Garmin Land of Oz Half Marathon, Kansas
  • Best downhill finish: ING Hartford Half Marathon, Connecticut
I am thankful for all of these races and incredible experiences that came with them. I am thankful for my supportive family and friends. I am thankful for a strong body and for few injuries. I am thankful for the ability to run and fill my lungs with delicious fresh air. I am thankful to be on this journey and so see where it will take me. Thanksgiving is a nice time to pause and reflect on the special things in life that bring joy and happiness and to share them with those you love. 

P.S. One more thing to note...I have reserved one of the display cases in the Enfield Public Library for the month of January to display my first 25 race medals. If you are local or in the area, stop in and see them when they are there. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

It was a dark and tiring month...

October has come and nearly gone, and it seems impossible for this to be so. While I have kept up with my goal of meeting 100 miles per month, it has become so much harder for me. 
As I mentioned in an earlier post back in September, I started a full-time job at an elementary school, which is great! However, the new schedule of waking up at 4:30 am, 4:45 am or 5:00 am (depending on my workout each day) isn’t easy. So far, I’ve kept up with it, as I know I will feel better if I get that run in compared to what I will feel like if I don’t. With fall in New England, darkness comes earlier and lingers longer in the morning (at least until the time change happens), so many of my October miles have occurred in the dark with a headlamp on. 
Me and my headlamp and attractive crossing-guard vest.
This has been a new experience for me, and not an entirely awful one (except for the ungodly wake up hour). Once I’m out there running along, I feel privileged. Privileged to be among those who are awake and doing something good for my health. Privileged to have fresh air and a safe place to exercise. Privileged to have woken up at all that morning. It is a weird feeling to be all alone in the world (sort of) and out on the streets when so many others aren’t awake yet. There are a few lights on in a few houses and a few cars starting up, but mostly the city sleeps. It is both eerie and invigorating. But still not easy.
I notice that my pace is slower. I think this is because my sight is hindered with only a small circle of light in front of my feet to light my way. I worry about stepping in potholes (no shortage of which exist in my area) or twisting an ankle on a rock or some other item (acorns, anyone?). I’m not overly concerned about running more slowly, but my competitive self is annoyed. 
Then there are the night critters. It is unsettling to be running along in the dark and smell skunk. You can’t tell where it is coming from or if you are about to land upon it up close and personal in your path. Dogs barking at you in the dark are kinda scary, too. Again, not sure if they are outside or in, chained, fenced or free. One morning I had the great pleasure of stepping out of my door and hearing the gorgeous sound of an owl in a tall nearby pine tree. What a delight and an early morning thrill! (And something I surely would’ve missed if not for my new schedule.)
Luckily, the temperatures have been pretty warm all month, so I’ve been able to largely stay outside. I just started back at the gym this past week, though, as I think it is safer than the dark. That’s been ok, too, but boy am I exhausted by the time I get home from work every night! So far, so good with one month of school/work down. I just hope my stamina lasts until school ends in June. I will do everything I can to ensure it.
On the flip-side, it is such a treat to have a weekend run now. I don't have to wake up so early, I get to soak up some sun, and the fall foliage this year has been so spectacular to view while out there. I had to stop the other day to take a panoramic photo while out on my route. It really has been incredible running this month, and I can only hope and wish it continues throughout November. Wouldn't that just be great?! Run on, my friends!
Panoramic view of my route on a gorgeous fall day.

Monday, October 12, 2015

October 3, 2015, Bruckelaufe Half Marathon, State #25, Frankenmuth, MI

After a decent night's sleep, I woke up for the Bruckelaufe race and went through my usual pre-race routine. The coffee from Tim Horton's worked out just fine as a morning pick-me-up-and-get-me-going measure. My usual breakfast of champions, oatmeal, chia seeds and (Michigan) blueberries sufficed nicely. Although, I have to say, my stomach wasn't very hungry, and as such it wasn't easy to finish it all, but I managed.
Breakfast of champions, or at least non-frontrunners. 
I left the hotel and made my way to Heritage Park to the starting line. It wasn't very crowded, despite my late departure time from the hotel. I decided to wait as long as possible to leave my room, as it was only about 45 degrees out and quite windy. I figured it would be better to hang out in my warm room rather than the cold outdoors. 
Starting area selfie.
The start of the half marathon was on the grass along the Cass River, a very picturesque spot. This race started with a prayer (a first for me at any half marathon) and then the National Anthem. Right after that, the starting gun went off and the crowd of runners surged onward!
Gorgeous sunrise at the race start. 
Starting line runners.
We ran a loop around Heritage Park before exiting along the road and out to the main street via the Zehnder's Holz Covered Bridge, our first bridge of the 13. The next bridge was immediately after...a concrete, flat bridge on the main road...nothing fancy to speak of, but a bridge nonetheless. We veered in to a residential neighborhood and then out in to the farmland nearby. I was quite surprised at the expansive farmland in this region. I didn't really think of Michigan as a large farming area, but we ran past several corn fields along the race. The area was rural and lovely.
The third bridge was another flat concrete road bridge, but the fourth one was a surprise iron trestle bridge down a dirt road. When we turned down the dirt road from the paved road, I was a bit apprehensive due to the "Dead End" sign at the top of the road. I wondered where we'd end up. The answer was running over this lovely little bridge literally in the middle of nowhere. There was a small picnic area near it, so it must be a sweet little place to hang out in the summer time.
The temperature was quite perfect for racing, but I wore long pants and a long-sleeved half zip and winter cap anyway. I was plenty warm along the way, and since the wind was so strong, I was glad I dressed warmly. Most of the first part of the race had the wind at our backs, so that was good, and by the time we hit the halfway mark and started heading back to the finish area, it was warming up a bit, so the wind (although strong) wasn't killer. Somewhere around mile 4 or 5 a gentleman named Bill Hart caught up with me and we had a nice chat. He complimented me on my strong pace and asked about my running. I told him that I was on half-marathon #25 in 25 states and that Michigan was a big milestone for me. He was so friendly and nice, asking me about my journey. He told me that he was a runner with a local running club and invited me along to join them for lunch after the race. I told him that I'd check in with him at the finish line, but that I'd be glad to join in the fun. Thanks to Bill's chat, suddenly I found myself at mile 6, nearly halfway. And somewhere in that stretch, we ran past some alpacas. You never know what you're going to see when you are out running!
Bill got ahead of me, and it was fun to watch him chat with other runners along the way. He is just one of those friendly folks who truly enjoys talking with others. He is a fantastic motivator on the course...someone who helps you along and keeps you strong without you even realizing it. I kept up with him the best I could. We traversed through more farmland and made a cute detour through an actual farm and its pumpkin field, rooster coop, horse pasture and fields. The race alternated between paved roads and dirt/gravel roads in some of these farm/rural areas. I'm no trail runner, so I'm not all that used to gravel underfoot, but I did my best.
We were somewhere between miles 9 and 10 when I caught up with Bill again. We were both still running pretty strong. I didn't know what my time was, but I felt good with plenty of energy left to finish. I ended up passing him, and we promised to meet up at the finish. The last few miles were flat, and even though the wind was still strong, I didn't feel like it was as much of a hindrance as it was in Fargo. As I ran on and made my way closer in to town and the finish area, I ran over a pedestrian bridge at the River Place Shops. Just around the corner from there was the covered bridge again, and not far past that was the finish line.
Pedestrian bridge at shopping area.
I ran on in to Heritage Park thinking that the finish line was on the main road, but alas, at the end of the road we had to run a lap around the grass of the park to finish. As I turned the last corner and saw the time clock, I could see I'd finish in 1:53 something. Not bad. Not my best, but it was a time I was happy with. I crossed the line and headed in to the sports pavilion there for finish line food, stretching and results.
Some of these smaller races don't have instant online results. They rely on computer printouts on paper that they post on bulletin boards and update constantly as finishers cross the line. I posted my unofficial results on Facebook as "1:53 something." My husband texted me shortly thereafter to tell me he couldn't find my official time online. I told him they were posting paper results. I went to check my official time, and to my utter disbelief, there was my name as #2 finisher in my age group! 
Wow! Second place in my age group!
I placed high enough to win an award! Woo hoooooo! I was so excited! Just then, I bumped in to Bill and told him my good news. He introduced me to some of the other runners from his group and updated me that they were meeting up at the Frankenmuth Brewery for lunch. I'd be there, I told him.
I stretched out, met the local Frankenmuth High School mascot, a large eagle, and then waited for the awards. I won a nice growler from the brewery as my 2nd place trophy. Hot damn!
Meeting the Frankenmuth Eagle.
My beer growler trophy. Not filled with beer by the way.
I walked back to my hotel to shower up and then met the Cass River Runners at the Frankenmuth Brewery for lunch. What a lovely group of people. Bill's wife, Jeanette was there, along with other runners...Danielle, Vicky, Marcia, Brenda, Gordy, and a real "character" of a guy as Bill described him, Riley. 
Exterior view of Frankenmuth Brewery.
The Cass River runners at lunch.
Riley McLincha was a true renaissance man, having kayaked/ran to Niagara Falls from Frankenmuth, run marathons while dribbling 3 basketballs, achieved Guinness World Record fame for memorizing pi to the greatest number of places, playing music and performing as Johnny Appleseed, writing his memoirs in a published book, and singing the National Anthem at this morning's race. He was so much fun to talk to...everyone was, and I had a delightful time sharing lunch with them. Here's a link to his Runyaker blog: Lunch consisted of a couple of farmhouse ales and a bratwurst sandwich. I figured I had to order some German food while here in Frankenmuth.
My new pal, Bill Hart from Frankenmuth.
Dog signs at the Frankenmuth Brewery.
Dog taps at the Frankenmuth Brewery.
We said our goodbyes after lunch, vowing to meet up at another run sometime (either in Frankenmuth again or perhaps in Kentucky...). I left the brewery and spent some time in the Frankenmuth Historical Museum. The museum features information about the fifteen original German Lutherans who came to the area as missionaries to convert the Native Americans. It is actually a really lovely little museum with lots of artifacts and photographs of Frankenmuth and its early inhabitants. They also had a special exhibit about the Grimm brothers. I didn't realize Jakob Grimm was a librarian.
Scenes/photos from the historical museum. 

I spent the remainder of the afternoon checking out little shops up and down the main street. I bought some Michigan mittens that are super cute, as well as some souvenirs for my family. I also stopped at a local cupcake shop and had them doctor up a cupcake in honor of my 25th race. It was delicious! I went back to the hotel to rest for awhile and do my laundry before checking out the huge Christmas shop in town, Bronners.
Celebratory cupcake!
The cupcake really wasn't as big as my head. Camera trick here.
Michigan mittens.
Bronner’s claims to be the “World’s Largest Christmas Store,” and according to a statistic I read at the Frankenmuth History Museum, it is the size of five football fields. The outside of the store is nearly as decorated as the inside, with larger than life (or sometimes life-sized) statuary, lights, Christmas music playing and even a “Silent Night” chapel on the grounds. Inside I was met with miles of Christmas decorations. I walked around for about 40 minutes or so, selecting a few new snowman ornaments to bring home to my family for our snowman tree. It was pretty overwhelming in there after awhile…so much to see, and I’m sure I would’ve spent much more money had I walked through the entire facility. It was like the Yankee Candle Headquarters back home, but on steroids.
One outside view of Bronner's Christmas store.
Outdoor decor...maybe a parade float? 
Life-sized Nativity scene.
Silent Night chapel on the Bronner's grounds.
Altar inside the tiny chapel.
Stained glass window in the chapel.
I headed back to my hotel to park my car, then I walked a few doors down to Prost, a wine bar/charcuterie for dinner. I ordered up a delicious plate of charcuterie and a glass of wine, and I enjoyed every bite. I chatted with a nice young couple who sat next to me at the bar. It was a perfect ending to an exciting day. 
Over the bar at Prost.
Back at the hotel, I did my best to organize all my clothes, race paraphernalia, souvenirs and carry on items, as my flight was out early the next morning and the airport was an hour and a half away. I checked the online results of the race, and although my official finish time stayed the same 1:53:35, I was listed as 3rd place in my age group now. Hmmmm? How could that be? Well, I took a look at the listing and noticed the first place woman in the 40-44 age bracket was also the overall first place winner for women in the entire race. My guess is that the race organizers didn’t allow winners to “double dip” in the prize pool, so with that, I’m standing on my 2nd place finish. (Even third place would have been a thrill, so it really didn’t matter.) I have my 2nd place growler trophy to show for my efforts. 
Thank you to Frankenmuth, MI for a monumental halfway milestone race, and thank you to the Cass River Runners for being so welcoming to an outsider who enjoys your sport. Most especially, thank you to my wonderful husband and kids for their unending support. I love you guys! Here’s to the next 25!

Shirt, bib number, finisher medal and 2nd place growler.
Michigan card.