Our 2014 vacation to The Basque Country, Spain

Girl knows how to fly!

Girl knows how to fly!

Amsterdam Monday, Bilbao – arrival at the airport and picking up the car. This trip just got real! The flight was uneventful (a good thing when flying) and I was able to catch up on all the latest movies. We’ve been through Amsterdam airport before but we’re always too worn out to really enjoy the different shops so we quickly make our way to the transfer to Bilbao. Another uneventful flight to one of the smallest international airports we’ve ever seen! Our first interaction with the local native speakers as we check out the rental car (upgraded to automatic). Somewhat confident of our directions to the hotel we leave for Meliá Bilbao Hotel. Thanks to driving apps on the smart phones, we’re feeling comfortable driving here. Our first impressions of the city is how clean it is. The architectural style of the city buildings are pleasant to the eyes, and the modern mixes well with the historical. We pass by the Guggenheim museum on the way to the hotel and we’re excited to see it the next day.

Welcome!

Welcome!

Our room with a view at Melia Bilbao Hotel

Our room with a view at Melia Bilbao Hotel

Meliá Bilbao 4 Hotel – we check in, park in the tight underground garage (our upgraded vehicle almost doesn’t fit) and take in the modern elegance of the Meliá. The hotel is beautifully designed and our room view over the park is fantastic. Waiting for us is a chocolate plate and welcome message! Wonderful! The only complaint we would have is the ‘queen’ bed is actually two twin beds pushed together. This made our night sleeps a bit uncomfortable. The hotel location is perfect for walking around the city, parks and local museums. We could have spent the entire trip here and been happy. We would have missed a lot however so the two days spent in Bilbao were wonderful, restful and prepared us for the next steps of our adventure here.

Melia Bilbao Hotel

Melia Bilbao Hotel

Melia Bilbao Hotel

Melia Bilbao Hotel

Our room with a view at Melia Bilbao Hotel

Our room with a view at Melia Bilbao Hotel

Tuesday, Guggenheim museum and city strolls. I am fully recovered from the flight and ready to explore every corner of Bilbao but Mihaela is still feeling the jet lag. We shop briefly at the only mall in Bilbao (very small mall by American standards) which is conveniently located across the street from the hotel. Next we wander over to the Guggenheim and circle the incredible structure, totally amazed and we haven’t even entered it yet. Inside we see some really cool art pieces we love, some we scratch our heads about and some we wonder just what was the artist thinking! All and all, lots of interesting fun. But we’re hungry and held out to find what would turn out to be our most favorite thing in Spain – Tapas! These little shops serving small ham sandwiches, beer and fresh squeezed orange juice are really one of the surprising highlights of the trip. We spent many hours searching out little eateries to experience the many different Spanish appetizers.

Breezeway view of Guggenheim

Breezeway view of Guggenheim

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

The Puppy in front of the Guggenheim

The Puppy in front of the Guggenheim

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Downtown Bilbao

Downtown Bilbao

downtown Bilbao

downtown Bilbao

Downtown Bilbao

Downtown Bilbao

This looks good!

This looks good!

Our first Tapas bar!

Our first Tapas bar!

Wednesday, Vitoria. Starting very early one of our most fun days of the trip! We enjoyed a delightful final breakfast at Meliá Hotel before checking out and squeezing our rental car out of the cramped underground parking. Parking the rest of the trip was a breeze after this garage! We travel south to Vitoria making good time on the well maintained toll roads. Only one wrong turn in Vitoria but I quickly navigate to the parking garage (much bigger thankfully) and we go to the meeting point for our bicycle tour. We met our guide, Aitor Delgado Morales, and spend the next few hours cycling through Vitoria and the beautiful city parks. Aitor is a well-travelled local guide and we really enjoy his company, stories and the easy rides. Afterwards Aitor took us to three different eateries to try the local quinine, tapas and wine. So tasty and fun! Time is too short and we run to our next tour meeting point, The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria. This historic cathedral is just too amazing and we spend several hours in the great halls, steep and narrow stairway passages, and narrow ledges along the roofline. Honestly, we didn’t understand half what our tour guide was telling us but she was so pleasant we had to smile, thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Finally, it was time to find our home for the night, La Casa de Los Arquillos Boutique Hotel, or what we Americans call a Bed and Breakfast. This amazing little B&B is right in the heart of historic Vitoria next to ‘The White Virgin’. Our hostess/owner took great care of us and we had one of the best night’s sleep in the updated modern rooms hiding within the historic building. The evening was spent wandering round and round the central square, shopping and enjoying the occasional Tapas. We wish we had another day here to explore the city further! DSC00256

Our bicycle tour starts nearly in front of our B&B. Behind us is the White Virgin.

Our bicycle tour starts nearly in front of our B&B. Behind us is the White Virgin.

Small park donated to the city by the Jewish community.

Small park donated to the city by the Jewish community.

That is actually an office building behind us!

That is actually an office building behind us!

Murals decorate this street.

Murals decorate this street.

Our guide in Vitoria is Aitor Delgado Morales.

Our guide in Vitoria is Aitor Delgado Morales.

town center

town center

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after bicycling it's time for wine!

after bicycling it’s time for wine!

Hunting tapas in the streets and alleys!

Hunting tapas in the streets and alleys!

Yum! Fresh squeezed OJ every day!

Yum! Fresh squeezed OJ every day!

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

You have to wear a hard hat on this tour. You never know when a piece of the old ceiling could come down!

You have to wear a hard hat on this tour. You never know when a piece of the old ceiling could come down!

Deep under the cathedral there is a lot of restoration and foundation work being done.

Deep under the cathedral there is a lot of restoration and foundation work being done.

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

Between the walls there are many passage ways.

Between the walls there are many passage ways.

Some passages are secret!

Some passages are secret!

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

The Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria

Our end of day reward!

Our end of day reward!

Thursday, Rioja Alavesa Region. We enjoy a small but tasty continental breakfast at the La Casa de Los Arquillos Boutique Hotel before collecting our car from the garage and driving further south over a mountain range with beautiful vistas even on this cloudy morning. We arrive in Samaniego and all our maps and GPS fail us. We cannot find our next stop, the Bodegas BAIGORRI Winery. After several turn circles of the same town we decide to drive to our hotel, Viura Hotel in Villabuena de Álava. Wow, I can’t say enough about this hotel but I will get to that shortly. The kind receptionist quickly points out the location of the winery on a map for us, then calls the winery to let them know we’re running a few minutes late. All the maps and GPS were off by a kilometer! We easily find the Bodegas BAIGORRI Winery and join the tour. We are blown away by the unique winery! Built into the side of a hill, levels of cement and steel flow along with the hill from the top vista-viewing reception area, down through the office and showrooms where a very nice and pretty tour guide tells us about the products. The tour continues down into the production areas which are sparklingly clean and highly organized. We are off-season so no wine is being pressed but you can still smell the sweet, dry aroma of fine wines. Next we enter the wine barrels holding area which seems to go on forever with stacked wooden barrels, including some barrels big enough to have a small party inside! Finally, to top it all off, the bottom level overlooking the valley of vineyards is a gourmet restaurant. We are treated to one of the best meals yet on this vacation! Served with matching wines, each course is a delight upon delight! The service is tops as well. Each course tops the last and the desert is dreamy. After several hours and much wine we head back to the hotel, the Viura Hotel. This hotel is an architect’s dream, uneven boxes appearing stacked haphazardly create a building that gives you a sense of wonder and inspiration that is only matched by the interior of the hotel which incorporates elements of the local winery culture throughout it. Our room is a modern delight with unique design touches including a purple glass wall separating the bedroom from the bath! At check in the receptionist gives us a wine cork and informs us we are invited to a wine tasting that evening. More wine, yay! The village here is small with narrow streets and appears to have only one shop next to one beautiful old church. We discover the hotel has complimentary bicycles and we head bike around the village before heading to the vineyards for several hours of fun. We even discover a stone park with apricot trees bearing fresh ripe fruits, yum! We return our bicycles and go exploring a bit more when we hear heavenly singing. A small mass is being held in the old church and seems every woman in the village is present. We take a peek inside to see when a man tells us that women must sit on one side and men on the other. We tell him we’re just curious and not going in but we strike up a conversation with the man who turns out to be a local wine producer himself, Pablo de Simón of the Bodegas De La Marques creating the Valserrano line of wines. He leads us over to where we are set to have our wine tasting. Pablo is friends with the wine master of course! We spend a highly entertaining and enjoyable evening peppering Pablo about the local area, customs and history of the region’s wineries. Finally tiring we thank Pablo and tell him we’re going to the hotel restaurant for dinner. To our surprise (again), he takes us there through a tunnel entrance below the wine tasting building through to the hotel restaurant! Wow! Saying our goodbyes to Pablo we have a quick dinner and go up to our very comfortable room for a very good night’s rest. Sadly we must check out the next day and start our next leg of the journey.

Viura Hotel in Villabuena de Álava

Viura Hotel in Villabuena de Álava

Friday, San Sebastian. Driving from Rioja to San Sebastian is uneventful but the tolls are adding up! We pass beautiful mountains and go through many tunnels which are large, brightly lighted and very well maintained. Signage is making navigation so easy. We arrive and drive directly to our hotel, The Astoria 7. This movie stars theme hotel is really fun and interesting. We find ourselves in the ‘Antonio Banderas’ room. Photos of the actor adorn the modern and comfortable room. The hotel includes DVDs you can check out (free) of actors and actresses best pictures. More movies than we could possibly watch! Also, we are impressed by the parking garage below the hotel. It is by far the largest, cleanest and easy to navigate garage on the whole trip. We explore the city which seems to be endless streets of fashionable shops, Tapas bars and bakeries all wrapped in historic buildings and squares. We are due for our next tour at the local produce shop Lurlan which specializes in locally produced vegetables, cheeses and meats. We meet our tour guide Amaia and sit down for a two hour feast of all of these plus local tapas of sardines with peppers and olives on skewers. We can’t eat it all so the shop owners, two lovely ladies who speak fluent Basque, wrap it up for us to enjoy later. This little shop was a delight! We walk off the meal on our own further exploring the city, its famous beaches and water fountains. Sadly, the weather is turning cooler and have to duck into shops to avoid rain clouds. By the time we’re back to the hotel the rain really starts up and grab ‘Breakfast at Tiffanies’ DVD to watch in our room (which has a great view of the area). Saturday, San Sebastian. The Astoria has a wonderful breakfast for us in the morning but we try not to overeat so we can enjoy our lunch at lunch at the 3 Michelin Starred Restaurant AKELARE, DE PEDRO SUBIJANA. We take the local bus up to the hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and find the restaurant down a short drive. This restaurant serves food as art and each dish is a master piece. Our waiter tries very hard to explain each dish but between his accent and the exotic names of the plates, we hardly know what it is before putting the fork to the mouth! The final deserts are nearly beyond description and we take many photos of each plate to show our friends back home. While we enjoyed this 4 hour culinary experience, a huge wind storm has blown in and our view out the windows from our table is spectacular but we know we are also going to have to brave it to return to the city below! Wow, what a weather-full experience that was! Back in town, we hungry again. Those fancy restaurants put on a good show, but you’re still going to be hungry soon! We hunt out interesting tapas bars and try to go to every clothing shop in San Sebastian! With the spotty weather we can’t explore as much as we want to but we still go up the canals and around the old churches and bridges. The waves are crashing dramatically on the ocean breakers as clouds fly by. We take our last photos and head back to the hotel for our last restful evening in The Basque Country, Spain. DSC00512 DSC00514 DSC00518 DSC00519 DSC00523 DSC00524 DSC00525 DSC00532 DSC00545 DSC00556 DSC00557 DSC00561 DSC00567 DSC00573 DSC00575 DSC00578 DSC00579 DSC00580 DSC00583 DSC00584 DSC00589 DSC00591 DSC00594 DSC00596 DSC00610 DSC00620 DSC00626 DSC00633 DSC00634 DSC00637 DSC00639 DSC00642 DSC00647 DSC00648 DSC00651 DSC00657 DSC00663 DSC00665 DSC00674 DSC00685 DSC00686 DSC00698 DSC00700 DSC00702 DSC00705 DSC00709 DSC00710 DSC00725 DSC00728 San Sabastian End Notes: Tour and travel; http://basquetour.net/index.aspx http://www.hagoos.com/en Airline; http://www.klm.com/home/us/en Wineries; http://www.bodegasbaigorri.com/ http://valserrano.com/en/ Tour Guides; http://www.aitordelgado.com/ Shops; http://www.lurlan.org Museums; http://www.guggenheim.org

The Light at the End of the Tunnel 2014

Things don’t always go as planned and that can be a good thing sometimes. Two months ago I was planning a sub 4, maybe PR attempt. Two weeks ago I decided I would be happy with a 4 to 4.5 hour run. With the heat wave this weekend, I knew hitting sub 5 was going to be the goal. Last night while at a pre-race pizza party my wife started telling people I wouldn’t let her sign up for the race because I wanted to run fast (not entirely true, not entirely false). Well one of the gals there had injuries preventing her from using her bib and offered it to my wife who excitedly said ‘Yes!’ I only shook my head and said I would happily pace her. Now I wasn’t against her racing, I just knew the battle ahead. The course is down hill 26.2 but at a slight decline which wears on the quads. The course trail is also gravel and dusty, things she doesn’t like. And of course there is the 2.25 mile train tunnel we start through which gets very dark in the middle! She handled that better than I would have given her credit for actually. Finally minimal aid and facilities on a trail run. I would be packing water, carbs and gear for both of us in a hydration backpack instead of the single handheld bottle I planned on. We started last behind everyone but managed to pass a dozen or so runners by the finish. It was hot, dusty and mostly really fun running with my best friend in the world. But she says she won’t run this race again and now understands why I didn’t recommend it for her. Next year maybe I will go for that PR!

Left turn toe – a dislocated story

It’s April 5th, 2014, 7 AM, myself and a handful of others, 25 runners in all, start the Cottontail 6 & 12 Hour run in Seattle’s Carkeek Park. The single track trail course has two loop options, one loop is 1.93 miles and the other loop is shorter at .84 miles. The “gotcha!” on this run is elevation gain, from the race web site “Each loop contains 436′ of vertical gain (or 170′ for the short loop).” Yeah, and a lot of that vert is steep, wooden train trestle stairs. So without any specific hill or stair training the past couple months, I went into this race expecting last place and maybe a marathon distance. I got neither. I signed up for the 6 hour run with the thinking I would upgrade to the 12 hour depending on if I was making my marathon distance goal or not and if I just ‘felt it’ to run all day. And I did feel good, wasn’t in last place and was fully intending to run the whole 12 hours. That was until the 5th hour. I was missing my distance goal but not too worried about that. I started a new loop and was heading up the trail again. Runners were trying to avoid the stairs by climbing up the side of the trail where there was a very narrow space. So I’m working the side, not using the stairs and whack my left foot up against the stair. I don’t trip and that was a good thing but the foot feels ‘off’. Sure enough, I look down and see the little toe is not happy. I pull off the sock and dang if my toe isn’t fully dislocated, the other toes nicely inline with the foot and the left toe seems to have decided to take a left turn. This looks terrible but to my surprise, doesn’t hurt. You see on TV where the hero will grab the dislocated limb, give it a yank and presto, everything is back into place. This doesn’t work in the real world. I tried. No matter how I pulled or massaged, the toe insisted on pointing off to the left. Crap. So I have to continue on but I take the short trail option for the first time this day (side note, I should have been alternating loops from the beginning. This really would have helped me get more miles in without as much climbing). Back at the start/finish/aid station I grab some tape and wrap the pinky toe back in to the rest to straighten it out. I still had 40 minutes left to the 6 hour race, but I decided the 12 hour option was now closed to me. I continued on and did two more short loops to finish the 6 hour run. Luckily the toe didn’t hurt but I was concerned that if I continued on, I would damage it further and blow my entire race season. I was already very concerned about that as it was. I mean I have seven registered races and a dozen more that I was thinking about doing! Being out for an injury would really, really suck! I finished in 10th place from 16 runners who did the 6 hour run which was a pleasant surprise but didn’t make my marathon distance goal coming up just short of 22 miles total distance for the run. Dang those verts! Now the hard part. How to tell my wife? She does not like injuries, especially on me! She’ll hurt herself and never mention it but I if do something dumb (and I do quite often) she will let me know I effed up! Sure she cares for me, treats me, but she gets mad at me too! I really don’t understand women. Anyhow, I get home and tell her I dislocated my pinky toe. I’m dreading pulling off the tape and showing her the left turn toe. So I remove the tape, and what’s this? The pinky toe has decided to rejoin it’s friends. It is back in place, inline with the rest of the toes. I figure taping it up and running a couple more miles pushed it back in. Now wife is mad at me for scaring with my ‘story’ of dislocated toes! Yes, it’s bruised and swollen, but she doesn’t buy that it was pointed off in some direction other than what is normal. Oh well. I’m just happy to be healthy, still good to run and looking forward to my next race.

Dizzy Daze Endurance Run 2014

Dizzy Daze 12 Hour run is a 3.2 mile loop course around Green Lake in Seattle. Perfectly flat, gravel trail and passes no less than 5 coffee shops. Today was perfect distance running weather, dry, cool temps and no wind. Two aid stations (the second one set up around the 6 hour mark) with lots of munchies, friendly volunteers, and more munchies. If not careful, you can gain weight on this course! My run was exceptional today as well, only felt bad once around the 20 mile mark when calf cramps and slight nausea got to me. So I walked one lap. After that I seriously had the best 30 miles of effortless running ever! I ran with dozens of friends today as well, making this a joyous day!

Dizzy Daze 2011

I just finished the Dizzy Daze marathon in Seattle circling Green Lake. I ran 4:02:43 clock time, 3:57:22 GPS time which is a personal record either way! What is even cooler is I stopped every 3.2 miles for cookies, drinks and short conversations with the great volunteers. I ran it in my Vibram Fivefingers which was my first full marathon in those shoes. I was very happy with them. Met up with Steve W. at the end of the race and said Hi. The rain held off right to the end of the marathon. Those folks running 50K and 100K are getting it! Fun race overall and Green Lake is beautiful. Final stops before leaving Seattle? Starbucks and Super Jock ‘n Jill.  Oh, I need to also mention my loving and beautiful wife who drove me there, patiently waited for me to finish and took me home with a warm cup of Starbucks in my hands! Thank you Mihaela!

Tacoma City Marathon 2011

TCM rocked! I pulled 3:38 which is a huge PR for me. My last chip timed marathon was 4:48 nearly one year ago! I just missed a BQ by 8 minutes so that gives me a goal for Seattle RNR! I placed 45th overall and 6th in my division. As I walked to the start of the race, I struck up a conversation with a couple other maniacs and guess what? It was #1 and #2, Steve and Chris! What a couple laid back guys! Steve even remembered my name and called out to me when he was taking photos along the race course. At the last 100 yards I got into a sprint race with a young lady maniac (#761 Ashley K.) and the spectators loved see us tear down to the final finish (she got me in the last few steps as I started to cramp up – hey, she’s half my age!). Definitely a maniac moment! This was the first race in my short racing history where I actually knew a few other racers including my manager who was running the marathon relay. That was great having my boss cheer me on at every relay point.

Seattle Rock’N’Roll Marathon 2011

I am very happy that I didn’t bonk, didn’t crawl to finish line, didn’t puck afterwards, but I did feel like doing all of the above. I started feeling great for the first 3rd of the marathon until we hit I90 Bridge. From that point on I took a beating from the cement roads in Seattle. I seriously underestimated how much a beating I was going to take! Not a VFF friendly course. So did I successfully cut more than an hour from my finish time from last year’s RnR, but no personal record finish time (6 minutes off), no Boston Qualifying time today (14 minutes off). On a more positive note, I  met a lot of great people today!

Born To Run Trail Run 50k at Soaring Eagle Recreational Park, Sammamish, Washington. Race Report October 9, 2011

First thing first, we were so lucky with the incredible weather that was unexpected and a beautiful blessing. The large blue sky with creamy white dollops of clouds dotting the canvas promised a dry morning of running. We enjoy mild temperatures that didn’t chill you but certainly didn’t let you overheat while going through the paces. I knew all my friends running Portland Marathon on Sunday would not be so fortunate!

This was a minimalist footwear race. I didn’t see any barefoot runners but there might have been a couple. The 50k runners started at 8 AM and the 25k and 10k each started 30 minutes after. I didn’t really see every runner like you can on a flat course. Most of time I was alone on the trails, I only saw less than 10 other runners during the entire race. I did talk to several of the 50k runners for a few minutes before the race started which was easy since there were only 3 of us! They were both much younger than me so my joke of the day was I had age group win in the bag. There was 1 more 50k runner who started late and got lost on the trail more often than not.

The race director blew into a bull’s horn (a real bull’s horn, not a bullhorn) and we took off down the trail. The leader was wearing Nike Free or something similar, I followed in my Vibram Fivefingers KSO Treks and the 3rd runner was wearing Luna sandals. The positions would not change the entire race and 6 hours later I would finish 2nd overall. If my wife would let me, I would race in Luna sandals too, however I am pushing the limits of her fashion sensibility with my KSOs and the Luna’s just go too far. I did see one woman wearing Ecco sandals for the 10k and those looked fine. Maybe I will try those later.

I wasn’t planning on spending 6 hours on this course but the trail was a bit more technical (read lots of ups and downs) than I counted on. Next week I celebrate my 49th birthday and I was feeling those years by the end of the race for sure! But my slowest miles were the first 8 miles which I spent talking to the 3rd place 50k runner before he dropped back. Maybe that will be my new racing strategy, talking so much that the other runners drop like flies!

The trail did try to trip me up on a number of occasions and a blackberry bush stole my hat once as well. But I managed to stay upright and did retrieve my hat, only my toes getting the worse of it. The course is 3 loops and the first loop I jammed my toes 3 times, the second loop 2 times and the last loop I was very, very careful and didn’t do any additional damage. A couple hours after the race a large swollen bruise would appear on the top of my right foot, but I suffered no pain or blisters. If I could change the KSO Treks a bit I would add a little more toe protection for trail running. Overall, the Vibram Fivefinger shoes were great at gripping the trail, comfortable and a pleasure to run in.

The course was nearly perfect except for one confusing section which made it very easy to miss a dogleg switch back. Basically the whole course is a series of loops with two out and back doglegs. The first out and back is the start/finish line and the second is what I called the three flags dogleg. The first place runner and I did run the three flags dogleg but no one else did. I even took a photo of the flags just to show I had been there (just for myself). This dogleg was the most technical portion of the course as it was a steep hill; the trail was a loose rocky stream bed which challenged the minimalist footwear runner. The guys who skipped purposely or accidently this dogleg really missed out on the best, most rewarding part of the trail race. Completing this section of the course really made me feel that I had accomplished a difficult obstacle and earned being called a real trail runner.

The run went well and I finished strong, healthy, and happy. Barefoot Ted McDonald of the novel ‘Born To Run’ fame was there at the finish to welcome us. I had brought my copy of the book for him to ‘foot-tograph’ for me. BF Ted signs and then steps on the signature for a unique foot print autograph. I also showed BF Ted the photo of him, me and Caballo Blanco at a potluck party over 2 years ago. I was 30 pounds heavier and hadn’t run more than a 10k then. The run today was my 4th ultra and 12th marathon or greater distance this year! BF Ted was impressed and happy to know he had a part in my success.

Overall I would say the ‘Born To Run Trail Run 50k’ was a success, a fun run, and does have room for improvement. But this is a trail ultra and a good trail ultra is a semi-self-supported, challenging and maybe a bit dangerous race to prove to yourself that you’re more than the sum of your parts, you can do something beyond what you imagine you can, and you can finish what you start.

Carkeek 12 Hour Race Report, Saturday October 29th, 2011

Billed as the hardest 12 hour race out there, it really does seem to live up to just that. If this was a marathon or 50k it would have been my slowest finish by far. This course was 95% up or down and the few level s spots lead right up to the hardest elevations! If you love steps, this was your race. I didn’t count them, but there were a bunch! This was my first 12 hour run and the time seemed to fly by. I was never bored or distracted and was fully engaged nearly the entire time. Yes, my mind did wander at one blissful moment as I charged down a hill happily in the groove when behind me I heard “Right, right! Jules – take a right!” I had run past my turn and gained a few more feet to climb back up! That was the second wrong turn; the first was on the initial loop in the early morning pitch black of the forest. A group of about 7 runners including me were following each other and our leader missed a turn. We blindly followed until the trail narrowed to almost nothing and we realized our mistake. Running by head lamp is very interesting. It is like tunnel vision especially in the complete darkness under the tree canopy.  I have to say the support crew was excellent, very motivated and they were having a great time. They had tents set, endless food and drink, camp fire to warm us up, and blasting tunes to keep the runners peppy.  Most of the crew and about half the runners were in costume (not me, I just couldn’t come up with something I wanted to run 12 hours in). The start/finish area was a very busy place all day with family and friends stopping by to give support to their favorite runners. Some even ran a couple laps! Also about a dozen girl scouts had come to play and they were very interested in the racers, the support crew setup and borrowed our camp fire to cook up their own goodies.  By midafternoon the park was full of families, hikers, dog walkers and non-race runners. Everyone was very pleasant and curious about the event. The weather was perfect all day and the only thing I could have wanted was another hour to continue racing! Despite the challenging course, I did not suffer a single blister, bruise or scrape.  Only my quads are barking at me and I find it easier to walk down the stairs backwards today! I am eager to for my next race in a couple weeks (First Call Veterans Day 50k) and at least one marathon over Thanksgiving break. So here are the numbers;

23 full laps

1 short lap

45.5 miles total in 12 hours

Over 9890 feet in elevation change

Endless fun