Sunday, May 7, 2017

Race Recap: Door County Half Marathon

Seven years ago, I ran my very first half marathon in beautiful Door County Wisconsin. Regular readers know this is a place where I spend several weekends every summer and have since I was a child. Last fall, I decided that I wanted to run this race again this year. I asked friends and readers to join me. I was excited when Holly, of HoHo Runs, decided to take me up on my offer. Along with 6 other bloggers, we spent a long weekend together in December when we ran the Panama City Beach Half Marathon and I knew we would have a good time!

I was a little nervous about how the race itself would go for me--between my RA and that epic chafing I experienced the weekend before, I wasn't sure what to expect! But as Holly said to me, "you can plan for everything and then the unexpected happens!" That was my mantra going into this race.



I picked up Holly at the Milwaukee airport and we headed north for the 3 hour ride to my parents' place in northern Door County. The ride went by quickly as we talked the whole time. We dropped off our luggage and went to dinner at JJ's La Puerta for an early Cinco de Mayo celebration. There were very few people in the restaurant. Normally, in the summer, the place is packed. But the season doesn't really get started until Memorial Day. In fact, a lot of places weren't open yet. I enjoyed the slower pace of the offseason in this very popular destination. After dinner, we drove to the beach to see the sunset. It was cold and windy but beautiful.

Sunset at Porcupine Beach
The next day, I took Holly sightseeing. We also drove the race course in Peninsula State Park. From our perspective in the car, the hills didn't seem all that intimidating. I kept comparing the hills to Big Sur, which were, of course, epic. These? Little mounds of dirt, really. We were also pleasantly surprised by the beautiful sunshine and that the strong north wind blowing off Green Bay seemed to be blocked by the trees.  It was going to be a great day for a race!

We tried so hard to get a picture of us standing in the curvy road! Timing is everything, right? Here we are running to beat the timer, with really humorous results. Our efforts were also stymied by the ferry boat arriving and disembarking. 
After lunch, we went to pick up our race packets. The pickup process was very well organized and there was a little expo with last minute items for the racers as well as race merchandise. Both of us purchased a half zip pullover, which I decided I was going to wear to the race. Yep, I was breaking the cardinal rule of racing: nothing new on race day.

Packet pickup. I just noticed that guy in the photo behind us peeking over my shoulder!
The race didn't start until 10 am, so there was no early wake-up call for us. We had coffee and breakfast, and at 9 am drove to the park. We scored a great parking spot right by the runners' village. There were shuttles for runners from local hotels as well. I wanted a pre-race beach photo. The wind was whipping off Green Bay and it was cold! We kept telling ourselves that the sun would warm us and we would have protection from the trees. We hit the porta-potties--there were plenty-- and walked over to the starting line.

Pre-race photo at Nicolet Beach
Holly wanted to hang back, so we lined up behind the 2:25 pacers. Once the gun went off, the course was quite crowded and I found myself weaving in and out of walkers and slower runners. So much for my run/walk intervals! After 2 miles, the crowd thinned out and I was able to start the intervals. At that point, I was pretty winded, but I was pleased that I was able to run continuously up until then. The course ran along the shoreline, the wind was at our backs, and I was able to settle in and enjoy the view. I observed that I wasn't the only person doing intervals since I kept passing the same runners over and over.

Mile 4 was where the course began to go uphill. This hill was short but much steeper than I recalled from our preview ride. I was expecting the Taiko drummers to drumbeat us up the hill like they did at Big Sur. I adjusted my walk interval to coincide with the hill. I found that I did a lot of adjusting from then on as the course became quite hilly. Obviously, we weren't thinking clearly when we drove the course.

At the top of another steep climb at mile 6 was an aid station staffed by the Peninsula Parrot Heads. They were dressed as pirates and there was a pirate ship parked next to the aid station. I've seen these guys in the local parades. I stopped here to use the portapotty.

Once I resumed run/walking, Holly caught up to me. We quickly checked in with each other and she ran forward. We played cat and mouse for the rest of the race. Run, walk, run, walk. Up and down, up and down. The hills were tough. I sipped my Tailwind through most of the race, but after mile 8, I just couldn't drink anymore.

At the end of mile 9, the course started a decline back to the shoreline. That was a relief. I tried running fast on the downhills but was surprised to find that I couldn't push my pace as hard as I wanted. Short of breath on a downhill? That's new.



There were a few more uphills and then we ran downhill to mile 12. I knew then that we were done with the hills, and I decided to ignore the intervals and try to beat my goal finish time of 2:15. I was working hard, and I had to stop briefly to catch my breath. I picked it back up again and chugged towards the finish line. I spotted my mom and dad along the chute. My legs wanted to go but my heart and lungs weren't having it. I could not run any faster! I crossed the finish line and wouldn't you know it, Holly was right there with me! We both stopped and put our hands on our knees to catch our breath.




"You are a beast," Holly said. She told me she pushed hard to the finish to catch me. We put our arms around each other and walked over to Miss Door County, who was handing out medals. At the end of the chute, my mom and dad were waiting for us with hugs and congratulations.

10 on the medal because it was the race's 10th anniversary
We went back to my car to get jackets and put our race items away. We got in a very long line for our free beer, but not until we checked our race results. I wasn't exaggerating about our identical finish times! Really, what are the chances of that happening? Remember, we didn't run together.


We sat on the curb, listened to the band, drank our beer, and recapped the race. By the time we stood up to look for food, the band was packing up and all that was left were a few bananas and cookies. We had another free beer coupon for a local bar, Husby's, with an outdoor patio, so we drove there.

This Belgian-style Wit beer from the Door County Brewing Company was just the thing for a thirsty runner!
At Husby's, Holly and I found a table on the upper balcony and settled in to enjoy the band. We weren't sitting there very long when the band made a comment about "the first place ladies up there on the balcony". We stood up, held up our medals, and everyone laughed. I commented that she was from Alabama, and before you knew it, they were singing Sweet Home Alabama. So were we. It was like karaoke night in Panama City Beach all over again! We whiled away the afternoon there and even though it was cold, the bright sunshine, the beer, and the music kept us warm. We may have danced a little too....


This is what it's all about. Sure, I loved those fast races of the past couple of years. But I'd gladly trade them all in for a day like this one. I never want to walk away from a race feeling disappointed because I didn't meet my goal. Because any day you get to run, it's a good day. Running with friends? That's a great day. Running is hard and the reward comes knowing that you left it all on the course--even if you didn't run the way you wanted to. Good beer at the finish line? There's your reward, right there.

I always say that running isn't about finish times, it's about finish lines. This race was a victory for me--a month ago, I didn't even know if I'd be running this race. With Holly coming to run with me, I had a lot of incentive to figure out a way to get it done. I wasn't going ruin our weekend by DNSing this race. The run/walk intervals were a game changer for me. Not only did I find that I could get the distance done using the intervals, but I also think they helped me get some endurance back. My last mile was my fastest of the race. I still get gassed but it's happening less often.

photo courtesy of Holly
I had a great time, both at the race and throughout the weekend. The race was well organized--probably one of the best I've run and the course is beautiful. I may have exaggerated a bit by comparing the hills to Big Sur--this is the midwest, after all--but don't discount the hills. This is a tough course. The afterparty is well worth sticking around for. Any time of year, Door County is a great place for a weekend getaway. Since the race takes place before the summer tourist season, it's less crowded but keep in mind that not all the businesses are open. It was fun to introduce Holly to some of the local beers--Spotted Cow, anyone? She tried walleye for the first time, and of course, she had a slice of cherry pie made with locally grown cherries.

I may just have to go back next year and do it again!

Are you a one and done racer or do you repeat your favorite races? Finish times or finish lines? What's your favorite race?

I'm linking up with Holly and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap and with Marcia, Erika, and Patti for Tuesdays on the Run!




102 comments :

  1. Congrats on a great race! That sounds like a tough one too, with all those rolling hills. You're so right- there is a time for chasing prs, and a time for really soaking up the race experience and celebrating the finish line. One is no better than the other.... it's an important reminder!

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    1. This is a tough course, but if you train for the hills, you've got it made! Otherwise, just have fun. You can't lose!

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  2. That is so awesome & funny that you finished in exactly the same time.

    I'm lucky, I guess, that I'm still new enough to running that I can (maybe) expect some improvement. But everyone slows down eventually, one way or another. And I hope to be seeing finish lines for the rest of my life.

    I didn't think Austin was all that hilly, really, although I wasn't a runner when I lived there. Yet my Austin half was definitely one of the hillier ones. You can't tell hills in a car.

    Great job, Wendy!

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    1. Apparently, Holly and I missed that car/hill lesson! LOL!

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  3. I really love to run the St. Jude Half Marathon in Memphis. I was able to run it 2 years in a row and missed last year. So far I've run only about 3 half marathons two times in a row. Great job on your race and your time was amazing with all those hills!! You are strong! I hope I can meet both you and Holly one day! It looks like y'all had a blast!

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    1. We had a blast! We saw that you crushed that Magnolia Meltdown! What a great weekend for racing. I hope that when I come to visit Holly we can meet up with you!

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  4. What a fun weekend - I love this. So glad y'all had a great time!

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    1. This is a great race! I thought of you DC runners--the cherry blossoms aren't out in Door County yet...

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  5. I am just so happy for you. You need this. And you needed the Spotted Cow (who doesn't). You needed to fight and win. And you did!

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    1. Isn't it funny what you can accomplish after you adjust your expectations?

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  6. Congrats on a strong race! Thats crazy that you guys had the exact same time. Ive done alot of repeat races. I ran the Baltimore half in the same exact time in 2007 and 2011! Glad you have a fun time and a good weekend with Holly!

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    1. I ran 2 10ks last summer and had the exact same finish time. So weird!

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  7. Great race Wendy! I loved going back to the same race each year. One was a local 5K fundraiser for the school and the other was a destination half marathon on the Cape. We always made it a weekend trip!

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  8. I knew you'd figure this out and you did! Congrats on a great race with a great friend. So crazy that you both have the same finish time!

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  9. What a fun weekend and race! Congrats! I repeat a lot of races as there aren't so many here but that's okay as I get to see a lot of running friends that way!

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    1. It was fun to go back and do this one as an experienced racer instead of the naive runner I was the first time!

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  10. Oh my gosh! This is SO awesome! I am so happy for your. And Holly finishing at the same time -- that's icing on the cake! :-)

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    1. Isn't that the craziest?! We came in sequentially in PCB as well.

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  11. Amazing job! Both of you did well, and it's great that you finished together ;-) Repeat racing? oh gosh...I'm guilty of that on many counts!

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    1. I thought of you when I posted that question!

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  12. Awwe! I had a huge smile on my face reading your race recap. You are such a fighter and try inspiration! I'm glad that you had a good race!

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    1. Never give up, right? Altho RA has given me a run for my money!

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  13. I was so happy for you when I saw your photo yesterday. Congrats to you Wendy that look on your face says it all. You never fail to amaze me!

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    1. I'm so happy about this! Thank you for all your support.

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  14. Congrats! Sounds like an amazing weekend. I'm so glad you had a good race. Must be a huge weight off your shoulders.

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    1. This felt good. As I crossed the finish line, I did have the realization that there is no way I could do a marathon right now. I kind of knew it, but this sealed the deal.

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    2. Gah, that's so sad!!! :( So Grandma's is out for sure?

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    3. Yes. I'm sure I could do it but it would be tough. I don't think right now that it's a good idea.

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  15. Awesome job and congrats! Glad the intervals are working! So cool you and Holly ran the same race and even ended up finishing together! So much more fun having a friend to enjoy the race with!

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    1. I don't know that I would have run it if she wasn't there!

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  16. This race sounds amazing. I'm so happy your body cooperated enough for you to not only race but have a great day! :) Springtime in Wisconsin is so nice. Would you believe I went to college in Green Bay and have never been to Door County?

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    1. You should do this race! It is a fast field--did you see that Holly and I came in 19th in our old lady age group?

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  17. AWESOME recap, awesome race!!! Unbelievable that you and Holly had the EXACT same times!! This sounds like the perfect race day!

    I'm all about finish lines. I have had races that I wanted to PR (and did) but MOST of what I run is purely because I can. I run for that finish line and that's it. I had a great race a few years ago with my running pal Babette - she brought me not only through a tough race on a hot day but to a PR at the finish line. Those beers afterwards were the best tasting beers ever :)

    So glad you and Holly had a great time together!!!

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    1. I believe that my PR days are behind me--but I'm ok with that. The idea that I may not have been able to run at all really reset my brain. I'm grateful for any and all finish lines!

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  18. Congrats on your race! That is crazy that you both had the exact same finish time! Sounds like a challenging race with a lot of up and downhills, but like you said nothing compares to Big Sur and those hills!

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    1. I can only compare it to Big Sur--we don't have much in the way of hills around where I live. But those Door County hills are epic!

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  19. OH OH OH SEEEING THIS MAKES ME SMILE SO BIG.
    You did it and had fun in the process <3

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  20. You nailed it! Any day you get to run or race is a good one and, running with a friend? It really doesn't get much better! I love that you had this whole fantastic experience and that you KNOW this is what it's all about. Great, great recap and great job Wendy!!

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    1. Yep! It's a whole new world for me now! I kind of like this "fun" aspect to running! I miss my speed, but I would have missed running more. I'll take what I can get.

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  21. I'm so happy that you had a great experience. The whole weekend sounds like it was a great time.
    I do like to repeat races,it makes me feel more comfortable knowing what to expect with parking/packet-pick-up/course/etc. But,I did feel spontaneous and signed-up for a duathlon this December. New racing format in a new destination. I'm excited to give it a go. Have you ever done a duathlon?

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    1. I haven't done a duathlon--I would be tempted! But not until I get back to form. This race was hard for me, even with the intervals! I know now that the marathon is out of the question.

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  22. Gosh this sounds like the perfect weekend/race! I am so glad you had such a good experience and were able to finish strong. Way to go, Wendy!!!

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  23. Yay! I'm so glad you had this great experience! It was just the lift you needed. And yes, I'm more about finish lines these days (though I think my answer would have been a bit different 10 or so years ago).

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    1. Ha, my answer would have been different 6 months ago! Funny how things change...

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  24. Great job, to both of you! I loved doing my half in Oregon with my high school best friend. We didn't run together either, but it was a great weekend!

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    1. I like to run by myself--I like to get in my head, so this was really the best of all possible scenarios!

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  25. That's nuts about the identical finish times. The race sounds like so much fun and man an I ever glad you had such a good experience, and an after party to boot! You look like you're wearing a lot of clothes--was it cold?

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    1. It was so cold--probably about 45 at the start. That would have been ok with the strong May sunshine but the wind off the water was brutal!

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  26. So happy that you had such a great day, Wendy! Congrats to you both. And that finish time? Amazing!

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  27. What a great recap! and I loved hearing from you over the weekend! You know I am all about finish lines and good times! and well, if I have a great finish time then that means one more cocktail or 12 for me! LOL! Amazing finish time! Congrats sista!

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    1. This would have been right up your alley, my friend! Good times!

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  28. Running with friends is truly the best! It looks like you two really had a blast, and I love that you ended up with identical times! Friends that run together stay friends forever! haha

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    1. I like to think that! It's fun to find someone you really click with.

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  29. Thanks for the great recap - I felt like I was running right beside you! I'm glad the run/walk method is working for you. It just might open up a whole new opportunity for continuing to race for you; and perhaps I should give it a try... I've done many repeat races: Marine Corps Marathon - 10 times, Baltimore Marathon - 5 times, Thanksgiving Day 5K/10K - 8 times, etc. etc. I have too many "favorite" races to pick just one, but the Firecracker 5K ranks up there as most fun and the Boston Marathon ranks as just overall sheer coolness.

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    1. I wouldn't mind going back to just running--but I won't lie that having a break coming up every 4 minutes is pretty sweet! I'm pretty surprised by the results I'm getting from the intervals.

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  30. Yay! SO glad you worked the intervals and felt good at the end. I find it helps me to finish strong, and that is always a great feeling at the end of run.
    It sounds like a great course and I like that is so late in the day. Sleep and fun is win! and of course the company was top notch ;) Congrats Wendy!

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    1. I liked the late start! Then I didn't feel so guilty about that post race beer, since it was technically lunchtime! Not that I would have felt guilty, anyways...

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  31. What an amazing race with a friend! Hills are rough! To me, they always look steeper when I drive them, than when I run them. Almost impossible on car, but totally doable on foot...

    Finish lines all the way! Time is time, I'm not there to win the race, I'm there to remind me of the feeling of being so alive!! Sometimes I get competitive about times, but then I remind myself that I'm only doing it for fun.

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    1. We drove Big Sur before I ran it last year, and I started having a panic attack about the hills! I'm not sure why I was so delusional in Door County!

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  32. Congratulations on your race!! I'm so glad you had a great time and wow, you and Holly had the exact finishing time! Meant to be :)

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    1. Don't you love when things work out like that?

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  33. I repeat my favorite races. I loved all the photos you/Holly posted this week. How wonderful you two finished right next to each other!

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  34. I just love everything about this post!! I am so glad that you two had this weekend together and that you did well in the race. How cool that you both finished at the same time! #solesisters

    I really, really wish you were coming to Utah ....I am dying to meet you!! :)

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    1. I wish I was going too! I'll be having huge FOMO that weekend.

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  35. Kudos to you Wendy on running such a strong race! And how funny that you and Holly had the exact same finish time. That's absolutely incredible that you both finished in the exact same time, without having run the race together. That must be a sign of a really great friendship. :)

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    1. We had an amazing time! The same finish times was just kismet!

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  36. Congrats on your race! I love how you and Holly finished one after the other!! I may have to join you next year.

    There are a few races I repeat each year because they're lots of fun (Shamrock Shuffle and 4 on the 4th in Elmhurst).

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    1. I've heard a lot of good things about that Elmhurst 4th of July race! I did the Shuffle a few times "back in the day" but it's too big now--just not something I want to do at this point in time.

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  37. Dear Chicago,

    Thank you for the bestest time ever. It was a nothing short of a hootenanny.

    Love,
    Alabama

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    1. Dear Alabama,

      I'll hootenanny with you any day!

      Love, Chicago

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  38. Congrats!! Good to read a personal experience of how the run/walk method worked. I have contemplated it at times. Great job!! Sounds like a fun race during and after. I need to look for your race recap on Big Sur too. I want to do that one but those hills scare me.

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    1. The link for my Big Sur race recap is in this post too. Just click on the Big Sur reference. That was an amazingly epic experience.

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  39. Congrats on your race Wendy! So great to hear you had a great time and on such a hilly course! Way to beat your goal! Sounds like you and Holly had a blast too!

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  40. What a brilliant, brilliant race recap for so many reasons - I love that you did the race with Holly who from her blog sounds like such an amazing person; I love that you didn't actually run together but got the exact same time!!!; I love that in spite of all the daily challenges you face, you always show such strength and you had such a strong race. And I love that it was about the finish line and not finish time. I could go on and on.

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    1. I love this comment! I'm not getting a lot of support from my family, so it's nice to hear such affirming comments from the running community. Thank you!

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  41. Awesome Wendy! I continue to be inspired by your running - sounds like you've figured out the run/walk thing. Perhaps it's something I really need to look at.

    And how crazy that you and Holly finished together?! Great that you two got to hang out again.

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    1. I'd love to go back to all running but for now, the run/walk thing is working well.

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  42. 10am start time... sign me up! Congrats on a great race. I can never judge hills very well by driving.

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    1. 10 am was perfect since it was so cold! In the summer, that would be too late.

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  43. What a great race! It is really crazy that you started differently and finished the same! Match made in running heaven.

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  44. I couldn't wait to hear how the race and weekend went! I know you two had so much fun together! It is simply amazing yall had the same time! I think this was a victory for you both and you each had different challenges going into it! And the both of you walked away with success! Can't beat that at all!

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    1. We thought of you often during this weekend--the state park where the race was held has all kinds of camp sites. You guys would love it (in the summer when it's warm)!

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  45. I'm so happy you were able to run the race, and that you've found a way to keep running for now! It sounds like it was a really lovely weekend.

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    1. It was really great! Fingers crossed that this is a sign of good things to come.

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  46. Congratulations and it's great to hear how you really enjoyed this race and made it all about the experience. Truly enjoying running and appreciating your health is what it's all about.

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    1. I would have been sad had I not been able to run this one!

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  47. Congratulations on a great race and meeting your goal time! Too funny about the same finisher times!

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    1. It's funny how things work out, right?

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  48. I love this.
    I just ran my slowest half in Sav and like you I loved it because it was just all about the experience and just being able to run. Sometimes we just have to forget the times and enjoy that we can be out there.

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    1. That is the truth. We get to run. And we are so lucky!

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  49. Sounds like you and Holly had a great time! That's kind funny about your identical finish times. :)

    I've repeated a few races, but like running new ones, too. :)

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  50. I run the Charleston Half every year. This year, I was too sick to run it, so I walked the 5K at the same race with my husband and our son in the stroller. But I'll be back for 2018. It's my hometown half. I'm also running Kiawah again this year because I was sick when I ran that and it's a beautiful course with good PR possibilities! While I love running races (when I'm well) for faster times, some of the races I've had the most fun with are when I've been running with or pacing friends. It sounds like you and Holly had a great time!

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    1. I'm going to have to let go of finish times--so like I keep saying to myself, it's all about finish lines! This was so much fun.

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