A Different Kind of Race Recap

Why is this a different kind of race recap?  It’s because I wasn’t a runner during last night’s Davis Moonlight run.  Instead, I was a volunteer.  The best part about it all was that I had a BLAST!

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The evening started with Kelly picking me up at my house. The race was about an hour away.  We made it to the starting location with about an hour to spare.  Kelly needed to pick up her bib and I needed to check in to the volunteer tent.  She dawned her race bib and I, my bright neon vest.

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A race organizer quickly gathered myself and two other volunteers as he told us, “Follow me,” and made his way quickly down the bike path.  He told me my station was to tell the 10k runners to go right and the 10 mile / half marathoners to go straight. First, however, I was to stand about 100 yards from the finish line to help direct the kids to the finish line of the kids race.  It was so much fun to get to cheer all of the kids on as they bravely made their way to the finish!

Soon, it was back to my other post where I’d be for the next 2.5 hours!

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I was really surprised by the number of people who stopped to ask me race course questions.  Even though I ran this race last year, I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t really remember the course that much.  Not to mention, I am not familiar with the area.  People were asking me questions such as, “Do the runners run all the way down to Target?  Which direction is 5th street?  Where else can I cheer on the half marathoners?”  I did not have a course map on me and proved to not be very helpful with bystanders’ questions.

For the runners, however, I think I did a pretty good job of directing the blue colored bibs (10k runners) to the right and the red colored bibs (10 milers) / green colored bibs (half marathon runners) straight.  All of the aforementioned runners actually ran past me twice.  First, they ran south of me and then they ran north.  The first run by, Kelly captured this picture of me (be sure to pay close attention to the size of the 10k turn-off sign)…

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I captured these pictures of Kelly and Rachel as they ran past the first time.  I was very proud of them for braving the 100 degree heat!

While waiting for the runners to pass me for a second time, I enjoyed talking to some bystanders around me.  One gentleman walked up holding a delicious-looking piece of pizza.  My volunteer shift was from 6:30 – 9:30pm and I had not eaten dinner.  (Yes, not very smart on my part.)  With a salivating mouth I asked, “Where did you get that pizza?”  He pointed to a tent that was set up at the finish line about 150 yards away.  There were two teenage girls standing nearby.  I pulled out some cash and asked the girls if they’d be willing to go buy me a piece of pizza.  Fortunately, they obliged.  (I pulled off the pepperoni and enjoyed every last, delicious bite!)

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Not too long after enjoying my $5 piece of pizza, the first place 10k finisher came whizzing past as he made his way to the finish line.

I was very blessed to have been placed in a location with shade.  I brought two water bottles, sunscreen, bug spray, a hat, a fan, and a spray bottle in preparation for the worst.  Fortunately, I didn’t need the fan at all since I was both in the shade and there was a breeze all evening long.  As the runners came past me for the second time, I decided to mist them.  Most runners were quite ecstatic and profusely thanked me.

Overall, I had a fantastic experience volunteering at the Davis Moonlight run.  There was one runner though who totally left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.  Remember when I told you to pay attention to the size of the 10k sign I was standing near?  Well, there was a 10k runner who somehow missed the turn-off, ran past me, and then came back my direction to make the correct turn.  As she did so, she proceeded to point to me while yelling, “Bad job!  I missed the turn!  Bad job!”

I was so taken aback by this woman for many reasons.  1) As a fellow runner, if I miss a huge, obvious turn off sign, I will laugh it off and place the blame on myself, not someone else.  2) She thought it was okay to point a finger at me and tell me I was doing a bad job. 3) How could she miss the turn off sign AND me pointing while telling all of the runners, “10k to the right”?  4) She was not vying for first place.  She was a middle-of-the-pack runner.

Sure, she was probably embarrassed, but that’s never an okay reason to place the blame on someone else for your own error.  What I learned from this woman was that words hurt.  Lift others up and never berate a race volunteer.

As I look back on this experience, I will choose to remember the positive.  I will remember my hands hurting from clapping so much as I cheered all the runners on.  I will remember the many runners who thanked me for volunteering, for my smiles, and for my misting.  I will remember the high fives and all of the inspiring runners I saw out on the course.

What are the phrases you enjoy volunteers shouting out to you during a run?  Have you ever volunteered at a race?  If so, what was your experience?  

Until next time,

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Race Recap: Rina’s Run Half Marathon

May 13th, Mother’s Day weekend was my third weekend in a row to race (or pace). This time I was pacing the 10th Annual Rina’s Run.  After a busy Friday evening at a work related event, I got home and set my alarm for 2:55 AM.


Because I was waking up so early, I decided to sleep in another room so that my husband could sleep in. After getting up, taking a shower, and getting ready I finally left the house at about 3:40 AM. According to GPS, it was going to take me about an hour and 40 minutes to get to Ripon High School. I knew that would give me a few minutes to stop and get a coffee along the way. My favorite place to stop for coffee is Starbucks. Unfortunately, Starbucks was not open because it was still too early in the morning.

After driving in the dark for an hour, I was in desperate need of some coffee and so I finally found a McDonald’s that was open to get coffee and some breakfast.

I arrived to Ripon high school at 5:30 AM to pick up my bib and to meet my fellow Pacers at 5:45 AM near the starting line. After picking up my bib and goodie bag (which check out the awesome goodie bag) I really needed to use the bathroom! I asked where the nearest restrooms were and the ladies pointed to a small building.

I walked over to the building and found a man trying to open the restrooms. He was unsuccessful in opening the restrooms because he didn’t know which key (out of the million on the key ring) opened the bathroom. At this point I was getting pretty desperate to use the restroom. Fortunately, there were a line of Porta Potties across the football field and so I quickly made my way over there.

At this point it was 5:45 AM and I was supposed to meet my fellow  beast pacers near the starting line. When I walked over to the starting line, there was no one there. It was cold and I needed to put away my goodie bag,, so I headed back to my car.


On the way to the car I texted our pace leader to see where she was at. She said that she was about 10 minutes away so I took my time getting my things ready in my car while appreciating the warmth of my car.

At 6 o’clock I headed back over towards the starting line to meet up with the pacers. I found our pace leader and she asked if I wanted to switch to the 2:45 pacing time from the 3 hour pacing time since the 2:45 pacer wasn’t going to be there. I happily accepted the faster pace time and then found a paper to hand write out my new mile splits. I then went back to my car for a SECOND time to tape on my new mile splits. Note to self: always bring extra tape.

At 6:30 am we gathered for a group picture, I made one more trip to the bathroom, and then we lined up in our corrals to start the race.

Lining up in the corral and getting to meet new runners is one of my favorite parts to pacing a race. I like to try to ease their nerves because perhaps they are first-time half marathoners or I have those who are trying to go for a PR. This is also a good time to talk about my strategy and how I’m going to get us to the correct finishing time.

Before I knew it, we were off and running. One of the tricks to racing is not starting out too fast. It’s very easy to do because at the start you feel great! Running slow at first may not sound difficult but it can be quite difficult. At the 1st mile marker I was already 15 seconds ahead of pace my average pace per mile of 12:35. By mile 2, that doubled to 30 seconds. I was going to try an interval strategy where I’d run one minute walk two minutes, but since I didn’t really know the how that would work for timing, I decided just to keep with running slowly.


From the start to mile eight, I had two girls behind me. One of the rules as a pacer is that we are not supposed to listen to any music. We’re supposed to be there for encouragement and to give updates to those around us. Since I didn’t have anyone running next to me and talking to me, the two girls who ran behind me for 8 miles provided me some entertainment. I didn’t really mean to eavesdrop into the conversation, but it was very difficult to not listen. I finally told them that I was listening in on their conversation at about mile seven. They laughed and said it was fine. I was sad when they started walking at mile eight because that meant that I was losing my entertainment. I tried to get them to keep a running slowly with me, but neither one of them had trained for this half marathon and I could tell that they were done.

For the next 5 miles I basically ran on my own. There were two ladies ahead of me that I tried to pass at one point but the one woman said, “Oh no! Please don’t pass us!” I laughed and replied, “Ok. I will stay behind you.”

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From mile 8 until mile 10.5, I stayed behind them until they began to slow down. During the final few miles I took selfies, took in the sights, and appreciated the signs on the road.  When I passed by aid stations they would laugh and say, “I think you lost your group.”

I smiled, looked around me, and replied, “They’ll catch up.”  Sadly, that never happened.

On the bright side, however, I came in at my assigned time!  Even with changing times at the last minute, I was able to stick with my pace and finish with a gun time of 2:44:38!  As a 2:45 pacer, it is acceptable to finish between 2:44:00 – 2:44:59.  I took some finish line pictures, grabbed some post-race grub, and headed to the car.

After making a quick detour to Starbucks to finally get my venti iced coffee and to change into some dry, clean clothes, I drove to church to catch the tail end of the ladies tea my mom was hosting.  Yes, I most certainly attended the tea with my Pro Compression neon socks!

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Have you ever packed a change of clothes and forgotten something important?  I’d love to hear about it!
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Race Recap: Modesto Marathon (Part 2)

The morning of my 13th full marathon and my 33rd birthday had finally arrived!  My alarm went off at 5:15am to give me enough time to shower, get ready, and eat breakfast.  I toasted myself a piece of bread in the hotel’s continental breakfast area and added the peanut butter and bananas I had brought from home on top. For an added bonus, I drizzled on some honey too.  Sometimes my pre-marathon breakfast includes coffee, but this morning I decided to skip the coffee.  Instead, I added a caffeinated Nuun tablet to my water.

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Kelly and I drove over to the marathon start line, used the restroom, stretched, and took some pre-race pics.  I saw Daniell and went over to wish her “good luck” on her first full marathon!

Before lining up with our pace groups, Kelly and I said our good-byes since we knew we wouldn’t be seeing each other again until the end of the race.  On my wrist was a 4:25 pace band.  I was hoping for a 3 minute PR. I knew, however, that this would most likely not happen since I hadn’t been putting in the training for a PR.  I still decided to go for it and I lined up with the 4:22 pace group.

Both the marathon and the half marathon started at the same time, so intertwined with the marathon pace groups were also the half marathon pace groups.  As I was looking around I saw the 2:10 half marathon pacer and realized that it was fellow Beast Pacer, Stacy Anderson!  To help ease my nerves, I went over and started talking with her.

In no time at all, the National Anthem had been sung and we were off!  At first I stuck with Stacy, but then when the 4:22 full marathon group came up and passed Stacy within the first two miles, I decided to jump in with them.

A little after mile 2, we came up on our one and only hill, Mt. Modesto.  Yes, as you can tell in the picture below, this was not actually a hill.  Instead, this was an overpass.  Although this hill was nothing the first time around nor anything compared to Lake Tahoe’s elevation change, when coming up to it at mile 24, it seemed huge!  (More about mile 24 later.)

By mile 5, I needed to go to the bathroom.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have stopped to use the bathroom during a race.  I normally only stop if I think it’s going to be extremely uncomfortable and nearly impossible to hold it for the duration of the race.  This time around, it was both uncomfortable and nearly impossible to hold.

All of the port-a-potties I spotted within the next couple of miles were taken.  Finally, at the half marathon turn off I spotted a vacant port-a-potty and made a run for it.  I purposely did not stop my watch so that I could calculate how long my bathroom detour took.  I am proud to report that I was in and out of the “john” within only a few minutes.

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Now came the difficult part… catching back up to the pace group.  I picked up my pace and within a mile and a half I was able to spot the pace group about 100 yards in front of me.  I was able to hold that pace for a couple of miles, but by mile 13 I knew that I was not going to be able to hold the pace.

The turn around point for the full marathon was at mile 14.  As much as I don’t really care for out and back courses, there are some positives in regards to these types of races.  1) You are inspired by the faster runners ahead of you coming back your way. 2) You get to see the runners behind you and realize that you are not last.  (A side note about mile 14 aid station…  They were seriously SO sweet!  I was feeling quite down at this point and when they started to sing happy birthday to me as I ran through, I started crying.  Thank you mile 14 aid station for your sweet gesture!)

At about mile 15, I spotted Kelly on the other side.  Here’s the video she took of me….

Although I am “running” and give her a thumbs up, I am clearly not in high spirits. When Kelly asks, “How are you doing?”  I respond, “Ok.”

In reality, I was a mess.  I was kicking myself for not training more, kicking myself for thinking that I could possibly pull off a PR, and kicking myself for losing the pace group.  I was already a hot mess and this was only mile 15!

I turned off my running music playlist and turned on the Run, Selfie, Repeat podcast instead hoping Kelly Roberts would have some words of wisdom for me.  As she spoke about her own struggles with trying to BQ, I started feeling a little better.  Soon I came up on the aid station at mile 19 and they were JUST what I needed!

When I first came into the aid station I asked, “Do you have scissors?”  All I wanted was to cut off my 4:25 pace band and burn it!  I could not stand to look at it any longer!  As I was ushered over to a man with scissors they saw my “it’s my birthday” sign on my back and asked, “It’s your birthday today?  Would you like a cupcake?”

A smile came across my face and I eagerly replied, “Yes!”  They then went on to explain that it was one of the volunteers’ birthday too so that’s why they had cupcakes.

I went over to him and said, “Happy birthday!  Can I get a picture with my birthday twin?” And with that, I was off with a cupcake in hand and a restored spirit.  (This was the BEST tasting cupcake EVER!)

At mile 20, the 4:52 pacer came up behind me.  (The 4:37 pacer had already passed me back at mile 17 or so.)  When I saw the 4:52 pacer come up behind me, a fire was lit.  I thought, “No!  I WILL cross that finish line in under hours!”  I was able to successfully stick with the 4:52 pacer until mile 23.

At mile 24, we came back to Mt. Modesto (the overpass).  I walked up the hill while texting Kelly to check on her.  At the top, I put my phone back in my SPIbelt (use code STEPHANIE17 for 15% off) and enjoyed the journey down Mt. Modesto!

One of the things that motivated me to keep going in the dark moments of the final few miles was 1) the thought of being done and sitting down 2) the idea of possibly placing first in my division, the Athena category (more about this in my moment) and 3) trying to stay in front of a fellow female runner who I thought was in the same Athena division.

“What is “Athena”?” you may be asking yourself.  As stated at Runner’s World.com, “The Athena (women’s) category weight cutoff ranges from 145 lbs to 160 lbs.”  Yes, that’s right.  Instead of being in a category based upon age, there are also categories based upon weight.  The Modesto Marathon set the weight minimum for the Athena division to 160 pounds.  I was excited for the chance to be in the Athena division because then I had a higher likelihood of earning a division award.  (Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that I am quite competitive.)

Yes, I actually had to get weighed at bib pick up to confirm that I indeed qualified for the Athena division.  When I went over to the health booth and said, “I am here to be weighed for the Athena division,” the women looked at me and replied, “You better hold on to your purse.”  She looked at me and assumed I weighed under 160.

I stepped on the scale and it read 162 pounds.  The women then commented, “That was close.”  In my mind I thought, “Close?  That’s not close.  160.2 pounds, now that’d be close!”  Instead, I took my sheet of paper that had my weight written on it stating that I qualified for the Athena division and I walked it over to the timing booth so they could officially change my division.

Am I a little disappointed to be labeled “Athena”.  Yes and no.  Yes, only because I have gained a little over 10 pounds over the last year.  No, because I have still maintained a 50 pound weight loss since 2012 and I run marathons.  I am strong!

Back to the marathon… I successfully stayed in front of the runner who I assumed I was racing against and I successfully crossed the finish line under 5 hours.  Yes, it was over 30 minutes slower than what I was hoping for, but I finished.  I raised my hands and face to the sky in gratitude to God.  He has brought me from couch potato to marathoner.  He has brought hope and joy to my life.  He continues to bless me with a body that can run.  With God all things are possible!

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Once I crossed the finish line, I grabbed some ice cold water, some chocolate milk, and some ice cream.  I then made my way slowly around the finishers area.  I checked my results via a computer and saw that I indeed came in first for the Athena division… yay!  (We won’t mention that I was first out of two.)  I collected my first place division award mug and sat down near the finish line waiting for Kelly.

Soon she too came across the finish line and in a much faster time than what she was expecting!  We took some finisher pictures and headed back to our hotel to shower.

Once we were all clean, we packed up our belongings, checked out of the hotel, and decided it was time for lunch.  We ate some well-deserved burgers and french fries, took one last picture, and began the two hour drive home.

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All in all it was an amazing birthday weekend!  Working the expo was SO much fun, spending time with Kelly was SO much fun, and I am now a 13 time marathoner!  Not every race is going to be a PR race and not every mile is going to be pretty.  There’s truth in the saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I will move on from the Modesto Marathon stronger knowing that in order to see improvements in my running, I must put in the training.  Now, on to the next race…

Race Recap: Modesto Marathon (Part 1)

My marathon weekend, which just so happened to be my birthday weekend was a whirlwind and it started with this…

Yes, that is a picture of my car being towed away.  I had just picked up the CIM (California International Marathon) booth gear from Sacramento and was on my way to Roseville to drop off the daughter when all of the sudden my check engine light went off.  I was rounding a roundabout, so I was braking.  When I tried to press on the gas pedal to accelerate, nothing happened.  Yes, nothing.

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Race Recap: Frost or Fog 10 Mile Trail Run

One of my favorite January races is the Frost or Fog trail run located in Upper Bidwell Park in Chico, California.  It is a fantastic race to help show me my level of fitness at the start of a new calendar year.  This year I had the great privilege to run “virtually” with runner Jenna Powers of 40bibs.com as she ran the Dubai Marathon. She is running 40 races this year to celebrate her 40th birthday.  She is also gifting 40 bibs to fellow runners in the running community.  I, fortunately, am one of those runners.

As a runner, every year you hope to get faster.  I am slowly realizing, however, that if you don’t put in the work, then you can’t expect to get faster. (One of my goals for 2017 is to finally add in speed work.) With that being said, this year’s Frost or Fog 10 mile trail run was three minutes slower than last year’s run.  I will, however, accept my slower speed and walk confidently knowing that I gave it my all, got out there, and moved my body!

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