Do you have any nectarines?

-That was what one of the triathlon finishers asked as they crossed the line. Those triathletes are a fussy lot!

So, this morning I was up bright and early (the briefing was at 7am) to marshal the Hertfordshire Triathlon. The company (Active Training World) organise lots of local races, and so had asked our running club if they could provide marshals for the event, as they had done for previous running events.

We were sent a lot of information before the race, and a link to the guidance that the competitors receive. My first thoughts were “triathlons have so many rules”-  I think I would have trouble remembering them (swim hats on/ wet suits on/ in the water/ in the transition area/ helmets on/ foot down places/ numbers on the back for the bike ride/ front for the run…).

I knew I would be somewhere on site (some marshals had to go to parts of the 20/40km bike route)- between the run and bike bit, so I had time to soak in some of the atmosphere. It was exciting to be there at the start, to see all the bikes in their racks (along with piles of clothes/ trainers/ drinks etc). I did not envy the people about to swim in the lake though! The briefing was thorough and I was stationed at a “foot down” point (it’s all new to me, so I am going to explain it as I understand it, apologies to any triathletes wincing as they read this)- basically the cycle route was on open roads, so as a safety precaution where they entered the main road (just after the swim) there was an orange line on the floor- they had to come to a complete stop, and put one foot on the floor, before checking for traffic and entering the road. It was explained to us that it was for their safety, but we were to note down the numbers of anyone who didn’t adhere- either by not stopping, by not putting their foot down, or by stopping beyond the line.

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The lake did not look inviting at all!

There were two distances going on- I think the longer ones went off first, but they all did the same, but if you did the longer distance you did 2 laps of the lake, 2 laps of the bike course, and 2 laps of the run course (don’t know the length of the swim, but the cycle was 20/40km, and the run was 5/10k).

I thought I would have loads of time, because the swim race started at 7.15, and of course they have to change too, but it wasn’t long before the first cyclists started coming. Another marshal was with me, and in the end we got in a good routine, with one of us shouting “slow down, stop before the line” and then one warning them “look over your right shoulder for traffic”- so many of them were looking left and not looking at the cars on the road at all. The stop was clear- there was a marshal about 10 metres before us, a big yellow sign, us two marshals on the line, and an orange line on the floor (and they had been told about this in the briefing and in their event pack)- it did surprise me how many people were not stopping until we shouted. Not long had gone by before the official referee (or something, whatever they are called) came and watched us for a bit- that was a bit stressful! I hope we were doing it right! We had to report any non-foot downs to her, and she would decide on time penalties, or disqualify people. It felt a bit awful to think about people being DQ’d, but she explained that they all know the rules, and it is for their safety. One guy didn’t stop at all, and then we realised he didn’t have a number, so we had to describe him to her- he was about 4th I think, and I suppose they could see he had no number when he came back in again. A few people skidded to a stop as we shouted, but the official said they would get a time penalty (which I was relieved about- I know it isn’t down to me but I felt a bit responsible)- but on guy didn’t stop at the line and sort of skidded to a stop in the road, as a car was coming- it was not safe at all and the official said he would be disqualified. What a silly mistake to make, as I don’t think he would have found out until after finishing all three disciplines.

Anyway, after the final cyclists left, we could leave our position. I took down some sign for the car park (I say some, because when I was going home I noticed a few more further away) and then headed over to the run finish line. A lady from the club was there, with her daughters, giving out medals, removing the timer chip (they have fancy ankle straps for them), hanging out medals, water bottles  and bananas, so I joined in with them, although I mostly just clapped in the runners.

2015-08-30 08.42.45Hard to see, but they had to run around this field and it is fairly hilly- I did not envy them running that course especially after the swim and bike ride!

It was a bit strange because people were finishing in dribs and drabs- I suppose with a running event, everyone starts at the same time so you tend to get a steady stream at the end. But here, by the time they even started the run they were very spread out, so we seemed to have long amounts of time with no-one finishing at all. It gave us time to organise the medals on the table (and they were nice medals too- I didn’t take a photo but they were chunky landscape rectangles, with 3 stars containing engraved symbols- a swimmer, a cyclist and a runner, and the event name. A nice thick ribbon too.

One runner, when he was offered a banana, took it and then asked “do you have any nectarines?”- a slightly random request. I have never seen nectarines at a race!

They presented the winners of the shorter distance with medals- one lady (who I think won the 60-65 category) was so chuffed to have won!

When some people finished they looked so fresh (especially the winners- they didn’t have red faces at all!) but some people really looked like they were about to collapse and it was quite alarming- there was an ambulance right by us and luckily it wasn’t needed. I am not surprised because it is tough, but it was still worrying to see. Lots of them were very polite to- a few even came back to thank us, and one guy came back and asked us to pass on that the event was really well organised, which was always nice to hear.

At one point a guy came to ask for some water- he was doing it as part of a relay (and as he put it, had drawn the short straw) so didn’t actually get to the finish for the goodies. Later, the one who cycled joined him, and they cheered in their runner- a team seemed a good way to go.

When the final runners were coming in, they presented medals to the winners of the longer distance, plus the club trophy (a massive cup)- a fairly local club (Hoddeston Tri) won it- they had a huge group of people and seemed quite a competitive, serious (and very male dominated) club.

There were loads of spare t-shirts, so all the marshals were asked to take one home (at least- I ended up taking some for my dad and brother too, as they can wear them cycling). They are nice technical tops, and I even managed to find a small.

That is sort of what the medal looked like too, with the symbols on the stars.

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Before I left, I had one more job to do. All the competitors had an envelope with their chip, strap, map, swimming cap and t-shirt. Lots of people (I would guess around 30) hadn’t turned up, so I had to go through the envelopes and take out the chips and straps (apparently the race is charged £25 for each chip not returned)- while I was going through the envelopes I picked up a lot of the swimming hats – I will take them into school and so if children forget their hat for their swimming lessons they can have one of these- it seemed a shame to let them go to waste.

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My pile of swimming hats!

By this time it was nearly 12- I had been up since 6 and not even had breakfast- I had packed a cereal bar but had not really had time to have it. I was ready for lunch when I got home, but I suppose not quite as tired as if I had actually competed in it!

I did enjoy it, but I must say it does not make me ever want to “tri” one (see what I did??). If you could be in a team, which part of a triathlon would you choose?

 

 

A summer visit to Yosemite

A few years ago, during the Easter holidays, we had an awesome trip around the west of the USA, taking in a few National Parks (we had a year’s pass, so it was rude not to) including Yosemite. It really was amazing. Breathtaking views, fantastic hikes, waterfalls, ancient redwood trees, mountains, valleys…

Anyway, when booking our trip to Hawaii, the cheapest way turned out to be via San Francisco, so we decided to have a few days at the start to revisit the park (and a few days in the city at the end).

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We flew, picked up the car, drove a few hours in rush hour traffic and checked into our hotel, partway there, 4.45am UK time. A long day. The next morning we had another few hours to get to the park, but it was all worth it (and once you get to the park, the time it takes to get anywhere is huge- from the entrance to the valley in the centre must be well over an hour of driving still). As we arrived early, we could not check in so headed to the valley for a walk (and lunch). Last year there were very bad forest fires, and the lack of trees at some viewpoints were in stark contrast to our last visit.

After checking in, and getting some dinner, we headed along to a high point in the park (Glacier point I think)- it was closed at Easter due to snow, so we wanted to see it. On the way, we were lucky enough to see a black bear with two cubs. Amazing.

We found a great place to watch the sunset, and the colours were just wonderful. This was just taken on my mobile phone- no filters or anything like that. It looks more like a painting I think.

Side note- on the way we had stopped at a shop (a Trader Joe’s- it was a very nice shop indeed) to get water, bananas and cereal bars, and I had bought some trail mix. It sounded brilliant- cashews, almonds, pistachios, cherries, cranberries and dark chocolate chips. But it was in the boot, and the temperatures were 100F on our journey. So when I unpacked it in the evening, the chocolate had melted (luckily I had not opened the packet yet). The room was so warm it didn’t even solidify again!

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Our hotel was lovely, but over 100 years old in parts, so fairly basic. 

Day 2 and we headed out to another part of the park closed in the winter (Tuolumne meadows)- we got there in time to hear a ranger talk- I love these. We had a walk around the valley fields, but we were a bit late in the year for the main wildflower display.

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After that, we drove to a small redwood grove (the main one, Mariposa Grove, which we visited last time, was closed due to work going on). It was a very steep walk downhill, and that uphill walk on the way back was so tough!

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It is hard to describe just how huge they are, and of course hard to photograph too!  It was another fantastic part of the park to visit. Even though we went to Muir Woods (near San Fran) several years ago, and the grove on our last visit, they are still just amazing to see.

We drove back to the valley for a more gentle (flat) walk around, and to get some dinner from the cafe there.

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A deer ran across the path in front of us!

The biggest change we noticed was the size of the waterfalls. They were huge when we visited at Easter, and you could hear the roar of the main one from inside buildings. This time, they were just a trickle in places, and other waterfalls were dry (we were comparing photos of both trips once home). It was also baking. On the day we drove in, the car temperature display said 100F, and hiking up and down steep paths (and at a fairly high elevation) is pretty tough in that heat.

On Day 3, we had to get back to San Francisco (staying in a hotel near the airport for the night) so we went back into the valley for some more walking. They have free shuttles that travel around the valley floor, so after walking for a bit, we caught one and walked up towards a waterfall (and the stair case of terror, although we didn’t go up all the way this time).

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After catching the bus back to the valley and walking to another view point, we got some late lunch and then had to head back to the car for the long drive back.

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I am really glad we went back. We had a fantastic few days with lots of walking and sightseeing. Yes, the waterfalls were not as spectacular, but more of the park was open, and when we visited before, the bears were still sleeping. What can I say, I love the American National Parks.

A Golden Gate parkrun

Hey peeps, I hope you are all well. I am back home now, and trying to battle the jet lag (so apologies if I end up with weird typos)- I have been awake since 1am!

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Anyway, after Hawaii, we had a few days in San Francisco before coming home. I think I saw they had a parkrun because Tom Williams (from marathon talk) put some photos of him there, but equally it might have been the Did You Run Today facebook group. Who knows. All I remember is that once I realised that we were there on the Saturday morning ( we got there Thursday night, and left Sunday afternoon) I knew I would have to do it.

The parkrun is in Crissy Field, an area of marshland next to the bay. On a previous trip to San Fransisco, we had been there, but either cycled or got a bus- it was a bit too far to walk from the centre. I did look into bus routes, but they were confusing, and seemed to take ages. The journey was only about 4 1/2 miles (and none of that is flat!) which was too far for me to run really, plus the navigation wasn’t that easy so I thought I might get lost. In the end, I signed up to Uber, because that, apparently, is what all the locals do. We used one to get from the airport (as we didn’t fancy the underground at nearly midnight) and it was brilliant.

If you don’t know, Uber is a sort of taxi app (there has been fuss about it costing real taxi companies business). I am converted. I hate getting taxi’s, and avoid it as much as possible. The thing is, the firms are so hit and miss. After the WR10K last year, I got one into the town centre and it was great, I got a text saying the number plate of the cab etc. But then in London after doing a 15K, I had awful trouble even finding a firm, and then it took ages to arrive and didn’t know where I was. Plus you never know how much the fare will be, and the drivers always huff and puff so much if you try to use a card. With Uber, all my stresses were gone. You load the app which uses GPS on your phone to show you your location, and all the cars nearby (it is quite fun to just watch the cars move about the streets). You move the pin on the map to show where you want to be picked up, and you can either get a fare estimation, or straight away book one and enter where you are going by typing in the address (I had made sure to print off the parkrun info so I had that to hand). Then, you get a message saying the make of the car (mostly Prius!), the number plate, the name of the driver and a little photo, and how long they will be. You can even watch the map to see where the car is. Amazing. Then, when you get in, they know where you are going- their phones show the GPS route to your destination. And, when you get there, the fare is automatically debited from your account, so no need to frantically find cash, or try to pay quickly while they are stopped along a busy road….All my taxi worries are sorted with this!

Anyway, after getting ready I called an Uber, which arrived in about a minute! There was not much traffic so I arrived at the start at 8.30am, although I got a bit worried because there was already a race going on (Escape the Rock- a swim and run)- I didn’t want it to be cancelled because of another event.

I took a few photos, and then saw some people setting up the sign, so I was very relieved. It was such a friendly event- the event director was greeting everyone with a handshake, and introducing himself. There were only 31 people running, and most of them seemed to be on holiday from the UK. We chatted for a bit about our holidays and running. Some of them were doing a race on the Sunday morning and were apprehensive about the 7am start- it seems most US races start early. The start was very leisurely- we were walked to the finish line so we knew what it looked like, and then walked to the start line. It was an out and back course- out one way towards Alcatraz, turn around (at the end of a pier- you couldn’t go wrong there!), come back past the start, along by the bay, towards the Golden Gate Bridge, turn around (here, they lose people, although they described it well, and it did have two parkrun signs saying “turn around here” on them, and it was at the 2 mile point for people with GPS), then back to the finish. Because there were so many people running anyway, and the finish was along the main coastal path, you had to wave at them so they knew you were a parkrunner, and finish between cones.

Because the start was in a car park (just for the beach) it was delayed a bit while we waited for cars to move about. In the end we started at about 9.15 I think, but who is counting? I could not decide on what to aim for really- I had run a few times over the holiday, but nothing fast (it was too hot). In the end I thought I would run on feel, but wanted to beat my 5K time from the run in Honolulu, as this was also flat, but also a bit cooler. I set off too fast (it is so easy to go off fast when you are so keen!) and after the first mile (8.40- very fast for me) I slowed down a bit. Running alongside the bay, with the fantastic scenery, was great. Because the final turnaround point was at 2 miles, it was ages before I saw anyone going the other way (4 speedy men all did it in just over 19 minutes). I had a runner behind me who was cheering on all the runners she saw, whether they were parkrunners, racers, or just out on their own. I saved my breath but managed a wave to the parkrunners I recognised. I didn’t look at my watch again, but there was a guy in a bright yellow top who I was trying to keep within my sight. I think that helped, as when I looked later my last 2 miles were both 8.59, with the final bit at 8.44 (seeing the finish cones gave me a final burst!). I was handed chip number 16! I don’t think I will ever finish that high again! I got my chip scanned right away, and then waited with everyone to cheer in the rest of the runners. There was a lady taking photos on the line of everyone, and when one lady finished, she didn’t get a good photo, so asked her to run it again for her photo- if only we all had that chance!

(Taken from the Crissy Fields facebook page)

Enjoying it at the start (well, managing a smile)

I had my waist pack thing on for my phone, tissues, room key etc, but in the end could have left it with my jumper as they locked everything into a car while we were running- it was driving me mad bouncing about all over the place.

The sun came out at the end, which made the final mile feel very hot and tough indeed- my red face! In the final half mile I was overtaken by a lady (on holiday from Ireland) and after we finished she came and thanked me, as until that point she had been right behind me, using me as a pacer. Happy to help, especially when I don’t even realise I am!

It was such a lovely atmosphere on the finish line- everyone waiting until the final person finished- there were a few very diddy children who did really well. Then, the lovely lady (I have forgotten her name) offered to take photos of everyone by the sign, and then she mentioned that she had made lemon bars– amazing. I bought some water from the cafe, but time was getting on (it was gone 10am) and I didn’t want Andy to get worried, so after trying a piece (delicious) and wishing people good luck with their races the next day, I arranged another Uber and headed back to the hotel. I got the email while I was in the car- I was first in my age category! A first for me!

So, my first real bit of parkrun tourism (as I have only done two before this, both my local ones) and now I am keen to do a few more. We have a few weekends away booked for races (they are all 10K’s) but I might see if I can squeeze in a parkrun at one of them.

Amazingly, because Andy referred me to Uber, my first ride (up to $20, but it wasn’t that much) was free, so it only cost me about £7 in the end for the return journey- not much more than the bus and much less stressful. So, thanks Uber for making my parkrun tourism dream come true!

Where would you like there to be a parkrun? I feel like there should be one in Central Park as so many people run there all the time. Or somewhere spectacular like Niagara Falls would be pretty amazing.

Have you used Uber before? Are you a taxi-phobe like me?

I do have a referral code, which is mariab3614ue  – it means you would get a ride of up to $20 free, and then I would too, although I am not sure when I would use it again, seeing as it is only in London in the UK I think. But anyway, it’s there if anyone would like it. Also, not sure if you sign up in the UK whether it would be in £’s- Andy’s first ride was up to £10 free, as he signed up here. 

Hawaii running

So, even without the race I was taking my running things with me. Last time we came to Hawaii I was training for the GNR, so did a few runs. I don’t normally run on holiday, because we tend to be up and our pretty early, with long busy days and a lot of travelling. But this time we would be in the same place for a while; Honolulu for five days, Kauai for five and Maui for a week.

Due to jet lag I was wide awake at 5 am for our first day in Honolulu, so I went out for a run as the sun was coming up.

IMG_20150804_060315560_HDRJust beautiful.

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That was the Tuesday, and after that we did a lot of walking and hiking ( well over 20,000 steps on the Friday), and my race on Saturday.

Then we flew to Kauai. We had a little condo, but we could not walk to the town from where we were. We did lots of walking and sightseeing, about five miles from us was an eight mile path by the coast for walking and cycling which would have been perfect if it was closer. I did scope out a potential route, but on the Wednesday that I had planned to run, I slept badly and didn’t feel too well, so gave it a miss.

On Thursday we flew to Maui, and again having been here before helped, as I knew there was a long boardwalk by the ocean. Friday morning I was awake early, so headed out. I found the path to the boardwalk half a mile from our condo ( if in doubt, follow all the other runners), and enjoyed a 4 mile run.

IMG_20150814_082050794_HDRI stopped to get Andy a coffee and an iced chai for me, so took the pphotoa bit later. I can’t upload my Garmin bits here so I hope it has all stored properly.

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Gorgeous views!! I was somewhat desperate for water by the end, so took water with me on my next runs. I saw a hotel ice machine and contemplated getting some just to hold.

My next run was shorter- I had entered a virtual run ( virtual runner uk- check out the fab medals)- someone in my running club was supporting the September charity, and when I signed up for that I saw the summer 5k and signed up for that too.

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It was more overcast which helped, although I forgot to put on suncream.

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Again, I picked up drinks after and enjoyed them on our balcony. I packed a tube of nuun with me, and bought some coconut water too.

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My final run was on the Tuesday, I had set my alarm for 6 to see the sunrise, but was awake before.

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I kept stopping to take pictures, and to drink water. It was amazing.

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I even attempted a beach selfie – so much sweat!

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When I finished I stood on the beach and stretched for a good half hour, I was just dropping and could not face going inside!

I got Andy to take my picture on the balcony after I had cooled. Love my new running top!

IMG_20150818_082555637_HDRSo, five enjoyable runs, including one race and one virtual race. Because I run faster than I walk, I get to see more scenery in the same amount of time = awesome.

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Certainly more scenic than Hertfordshire!

I am hoping for one more run, the San Francisco Crissy field parkrun, but the logistics of getting there are a bit tricky. I am not keen on taxis and think I might end up getting an uber…. Depends how much I want to be a parkrun tourist.

We shall see…

 

 

 

 

Hawaii 5-OH k

Status

Hey peeps, I hope you are all enjoying the summer.

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Having a little bit of trouble blogging so photos are in random order! Here is the finish area.

We have been having a fab holiday, first to Yosemite national park and then on to Hawaii. A few weeks before going, I remembered that last time we were here, we had just landed on the Big island, and saw loads of people wearing race numbers, and had thought at the time that a race abroad would be very cool. I had my running kit with me then, as I was training for the great north run after having my op, but because of our flight time it would not have worked.

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Anyway,after a spot of googling,I found a 5k charity run, in Honolulu, the morning we were due to fly to Kauai. The run started at 6 , and our flight was midday, so after some thought I decided to go for it.

It was the Lea Lea charity 5k in aid of Rainbow kids, which supports children affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

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I had not considered getting my number! It turned out you had to collect it from a running shop on the Thursday or Friday before (although on race morning people were picking up their packets). So on the Friday we went to the shop and I was handed a lovely bag for life with my number, safety pins, fan, flannel,fan and the finishers t shirt. I do find it strange getting the tshirt before, but a lot of people wore them to run in so I suppose that is why. Because it was black cotton ( and on our first morning in Hawaii I was wide awake at 5am so had been on a run as the sun rose, so I knew how hot it would be) I wore my club vest.

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Initially I thought I would need to get a taxi there,but the 3.5 miles from our hotel to the start turned out to be more like 2.2 ( we walked back from it on the Friday) plus I find taxis so stressful, so I decided to run there.

With my alarm set for 4.45 am I was questioning my sanity a little! I had half a clif bar, water,got dressed and headed out into the dark. It surprised me how many people were already out at 5.15! Finding the start was OK as I mostly had to follow the sea, although at one point I had to open Google maps as some construction work confused me( I love that the maps can work without the data, so clever ). I arrived at the park with about 15 mins to spare- I was already so sweaty and glad I had worn one of my new sweat bands.

When I signed up it showed me a link to the entry list. I should not have clicked because there were 18 people on it! But there were a few hundred there, phew!

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The run was in aid of a Japanese charity and so the guy giving the briefing gave it in English and Japanese. He described the course- my favourite part of the description was when he said that you would see the finish line but you would have 1 k to go, as you looped around the edge of the park, so don’t run too fast then!

Then, we were off. There were loads of families running together which was so lovely, it felt to me more like a parkrun than a race, although there were some speedy runners warning up beforehand, it didn’t seem competitive.

The run went around Ala Moana park, which is right by the ocean. It looped away from the sea for a bit, before heading back to the start, around the headland of the park with gorgeous views out to sea, before finishing. At the finish a band was playing, and as I ran in they were playing “Brown Eyed Girl” which is so summery.

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I didn’t look at my watch on the way around, as I was running to enjoy, plus conscious that I had to run back to the hotel. There were plenty of friendly marshals on the way around, and even with the super early start time, some spectators too.

At there finish there was water, fresh fruit ( I had some orange slices) and randomly, doughnuts! They kept saying that in a few minutes they would post the finish times on a tree, but after waiting ten minutes I felt I had to head back as we had a flight to catch.

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Later, after some googling I found my time -31.03 ( although I was in age cat v60-65)- good going in that heat.

I ran nearly 2 miles back, stopping at Island Vintage Coffee for two acai bowls to go- an awesome post race breakfast.

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I also had a nuun tab in water, plus some coconut water, so much rehydration needed! In the end I had run nearly 8 miles in that heat. Although at times it was a bit stressful, I am so glad that I did that race. Much less stressful than my only other race abroad (Stockholm marathon).

Have you ever raced abroad?

PS, we saw Hawaii 5-0 being filmed the day before, plus I wore my OH vest, hense the title…