Summary: Totally beautiful course through downtown San Antonio, the leafy canopy at the zoo and the Riverwalk; well organized, post-race food included Krispy Kremes; free pictures; plentiful water stops. Highly recommend.
Lifetime – 57, 2017 – 5 , States – 11, Countries – 4
I have been absent from my blog for four months; more on that in another post. This post is about the totally enjoyable Alamo 13.1 half marathon I did March 19, 2017.
My friend Candace recently moved to San Antonio and we decided to do this half marathon together – I needed Texas in my state collection and she wanted to do a half. Her first. Nothing like your first!! I also wanted to see the LBJ Library in Austin to begin my collection of visiting presidential libraries. (Our political climate made this visit poignant and uplifting and worthy of a separate post.)
Seattle-San Antonio non-stop on Alaska Airlines – what was not to love about that?
I read good reviews on this race and we signed up in January. I knew it was the right one when the race director stepped up to make sure I received the 100 Half Marathons Club discount.
My favorite race weather is overcast and 65 degrees. Since this was Texas, I prepared for sun. Sunscreen, hat, buff, sleeve warmers (I found these great ones that are light, stay up, and are inexpensive.)
Candace’s husband Brian was the designated driver, parking finder, and picture taker. I reveled in that luxury; I forgot how wonderful it is to have someone drop you off at the start line!
Packet pickup was easy and in a lovely venue somewhere in San Antonio. (Brian drove so I didn’t need to know exactly where!). They gave us a very nice bag with Alamo 13.1 on it.
Race weather forecast was OVERCAST!!!! I was so excited!! Texas and sun go together for me. To have a race in Texas where the sun was not beating down on me was totally unexpected and such a bonus!!
The Alamo was lit up, as guys dressed in period costume – complete with rifles – milled with the crowd!
The Alamo has such a deep lore attached to it, with tales from Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, John Wayne, and “Remember the Alamo.” Interesting that it is such a small building. The surroundings seem a bit meager, even imagining the vastness of the Texan landscape in 1836. Where did two thousand Mexican soldiers get ready for the final battle? Well, for sure we were certainly shorter in 1836. And the Alamo was a fine start and finish for the race!
Starting at the Alamo, the course first wound through downtown San Antonio streets and showed off the period architecture of this beautiful city. They have done a remarkable job of preservation and restoration and reuse.
We went through the zoo. Didn’t see any animals but the shade was welcome.
Temperature was in the 70’s but still overcast. Humidity was high and I was having trouble breathing. Couldn’t get a deep breath. I drenched my pink Half Fanatics buff with water at each stop and that helped a lot. About mile 8 I started pouring water down my back. Mile 9 poured water down my front, too.
Mile 10 the sun came out …
Since blatant sun and I are not best buddies I was very glad the next two miles of the course were on the famous Riverwalk. It was pretty and shady most of the time, and on well maintained sidewalks.
After the race
The food consisted of a huge half baked potato with trimmings, a rice-black bean-chicken combo, two Krispy Kreme glazed donuts, chocolate milk, and bananas. Brian had made us post-race smoothies with fresh pineapple and other healthy stuff. Went well with the Krispy Kremes and chocolate milk.
Good race with good friends. I did tell Candace several times that not all races have water stops every mile, lots of food at the finish line, free pictures, or a gorgeous medal.
Blooms and Brews in Woodland, WA, then to Las Vegas for another run down Mt Charleston. Michigan and London both figure into my 2017 plans, and the Havana Half in Cuba in November is strongly calling to me. So we shall see!
I got to see my first rodeo!!
Visiting Texas for the Alamo 13.1 Half Marathon afforded me the opportunity to attend a rodeo in Austin with my friends – and it was a kick!
There are the cowboys, and the bronco riding, and the calf roping, and the cowboys ( I just want to emphasize the cowboys!) and all the stuff that make rodeos.
But for this first-timer, these are what stood out – and I don’t forget I am in Texas!!
The only women in the rodeo events were the young women who did barrel racing. They rode their horses so fast that their hair flared like a flag and my camera couldn’t catch them. That was my favorite event. There is a women’s professional rodeo but I don’t think young men do the barrel racing for them.
Texans like their prayers. There was a prayer before the national anthem. It was not a little “Bless us, Amen” kind of prayer. It was more like “All the cowgirls and cowboys are here to ask …” and gave me enough time to look around and see everyone was deadly serious about this. It also prepared me for the prayer before the race the next day. In 56 half marathons this was a first. But I was in Texas and that is what they do and I said “Amen,” too.
Then there was the Star Spangled Banner, done with majesty and another lovely young woman carrying the flag.
We saw a pretty popular country singer named Randy Rogers. Considering I am not inclined toward country music, this was pretty good music and I enjoyed it.
Bling was ubiquitous as it should be at a rodeo in Texas.
Hand sanitizer in portable toilets does not seem to be needed in Texas. Neither does recycling.
This is who I enjoyed eyeing all evening as he wound his way through the stands selling cotton candy. He sold a lot of cotton candy.
Now for sure I can say “This is not my first rodeo”! Okay, bad joke, couldn’t help it 🙂
Summary: Organized, well run, great community support, nice expo, loved running on the beach for three miles, water stops frequent, I Dream of Jeannie theme fun, love the medal. Highly recommend.
Lifetime – 50, 2016 – 7 , States – 10, Countries – 4
I admit that I love the medals that come with finishing half marathons. Right now 2015 and 2016 are displayed so they are the first thing you see when you walk in my front door.
Last year I dipped further into this madness when I flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma because I wanted the Flying Goddess medal from the Route 66 Half Marathon. A favorite of mine.
Then six months ago Cocoa Beach Half Marathon in Florida posted a picture of their medal for their October race.
I needed the state of Florida for my 50 state quest. Alaska Air had a sale on a nonstop Seattle – to Orlando. The parents of a colleague live in Cocoa Beach and she gave me a detailed CB map and told me the best hotel. I was going.
The expo was very nice, very organized. Shirt easily changed to a size that fit. Chamber of Commerce gave out dinner discounts. I matched the bottle!
Got to the start 1/2 hour before and the temperature was 64. Loved it!!! I found it amusing that the natives were wearing long sleeves and complaining how cold it was. What a difference 2549 miles makes!
First time I have ever seen 3:00 and 3:20 pacers. I am a plus three-hour finisher and we never get pacers; in fact, I didn’t even know what you do when you have a pacer. Just follow, I guessed. I was so excited!
I started out with the 3:20 pacer, but my shins quickly went sideways. I had to stop several times the first three miles to stretch them out and lost her. But having a pacer made me feel like I was with the big boys 🙂
Since this was my 50th half marathon, I printed out a sign from the 100 Half Marathon Club and pinned it to my back. It was so nice to hear all the congratulations as people passed me. Another bonus from being part of this community.
I didn’t identify any Half Fanatics until just before the course veered onto the beach, when a woman called out to me saying she was an HF but she had to wear pink in October. We had a nice chat, thank you, Shari Sussman!
I didn’t get to enjoy the finish line activities because I had one hour to check out of my hotel and get on the road to Orlando to catch my flight home. Lesson learned: Do not do a half marathon and then sit for five hours in a plane!
But I have my Jeannie bottle medal!!
Little bit of history …
My first half marathon was in 2007. My second was in 2008. Then I did one during my training for the 2009 Inaugural Seattle Rock and Roll marathon.
After I did that marathon (still my one and only) I realized that my body liked half marathons better. That 26.2 miles was excruciating!
2010 and 2011 were taken up by breast cancer; I did a few halfs, most notably the 2010 Seattle Rock and Roll Half six weeks after I had surgery. The doctor told me I shouldn’t, but I knew myself. I wrapped up tight and had a great race.
I joined Half Fanatics on New Year’s Eve 2011. I saw the world of half marathons laid out on a website and Facebook – people do one in each state – people do one each weekend – or two or three! But I didn’t think that was me, because I am slow and I was last to be picked for a team in PE … and, well, you know. But it was still nice to belong. I bought the shirt and buff and wore them proudly to the races.
Then something amazing happened. The shirt made me part of a community that was the friendliest and most supportive I had ever experienced. No one cared if I was slow, or where I finished. I met really interesting, colorful, and just plain nice people who shared their knowledge and enthusiasm. I had fun. I got medals. Which made me want more medals.
Aside on the medals: Half Fanatic Sunny Delaney entered her collection of medals and bibs at this year’s Western Washington State Fair and won the People’s Choice award. We do like our medals!
I only did a couple of races in 2012, including the Inaugural Rock and Roll in Lisbon, Portugal, held ON MY BIRTHDAY, which fueled my desire to do more international races.
In 2013 I did nine races, including one I dedicated to my dad who had died a couple of months earlier.
By 2014 I was determined to get to Jupiter status in HF and I ended the year with 12 completed halfs including my second international race running along the Caribbean in Belize.
Which brings me to now
Early on I marked the halfs I did on a little scrap of paper I kept on my refrigerator, but when I joined HF I started keeping them online. In May I celebrated a good running friend’s 100th, and it dawned on me that I had no idea how many half marathons I had done. So I found the scrap of paper, then counted the ones I had tracked online and I was at 45. OMG, 45? Amazing for the girl who was always picked last.
I had already registered for the Cocoa Beach Half in October (I want the I Dream of Jeannie bottle that is the medal, and I need Florida),
so if I played it right I could make that one my 50th. One thing about Washington in the summer and fall, there are a lot of half marathons! I found the four I needed, finished, and added them to my count and voila! Cocoa Beach will be number 50!
So my new goals are to do one in each state and in as many countries as my life allows. I have a milestone birthday in 2017, and it is actually on a Saturday, so I want to find a spectacular way (read: race) to celebrate it!
I have signed up for four more 2016 half marathons after Cocoa Beach, and one more may make it in. It will take me a lot less time to get to 100 than it took to get to 50!
2017? Already registered for my second Nevada race (I love going downhill!) and now that my life has made a sudden left turn towards retirement I have no doubt I will have a very interesting year!
Last night I spent an hour researching races in China (there are a bunch). Thank goodness for Google Translate. Yes, I would like to do one on the Great Wall, but the hill training you have to do is a little disconcerting to me. See above statement where I like going downhill!
Other possibilities? The Race Director from Kuwait told me I had plenty of time to finish their race. I love the idea of doing five halfs in five days in five states with Mainly Marathons. There is the race in Myanmar where you wind your way around Buddhist temples. My cousins live close to this one in Michigan where you cross thirteen bridges in 13.1 miles. I found one in the Iowa town where I started kindergarten so may go there in November. I need Iowa, too:)
So many choices! So exciting! Where will I go next?
Back to Half Fanatics
In the HF community I discovered a lot of people my age who are totally crazy about doing the races. A lot of them. One amazing guy is on his 113th country. I know several who are on their second or third go around for collecting states. What about doing 4 races in 4 days in Kaua’i, Hawaii? I know if I ask, people will give me their opinion on the best race to do in China. Or Kansas. Or anywhere!
I am looking forward to being just as crazy! Thanks, Half Fanatics! Couldn’t be doing this without you!
The flight from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg was only a couple of hours, but to me it seemed a world away from Zimbabwe. It felt like I was coming into a first world city in a third world country.
I had 30 hours in Johannesburg before I flew home to Seattle. I researched online using search words like “things to do in Johannesburg in one day” and there were so many ‘must-sees’ I had no clue how to narrow things down to 30 hours of manageable.
But a casual conversation with a close friend provided the answer to my dilemma. My friend D’Arcy has been blogging for a while about renovating her 100 year old house in Auburn, WA. She writes funny – yet educational- posts about all the trials and hassles and compromises that are part of renovating. She made a potentially boring topic about picking paint colors quite interesting to someone who let the next door neighbor pick the paint color for her house (I said “surprise me” and went on a trip). But I digress …
One of D’Arcy’s blog followers is woman who lives in Johannesburg and also writes about renovating her home. So D’Arcy put me in touch with Jacqui who invited me to her Johannesburg home for dinner. How cool is that?
What was more intriguing is that months earlier I had made a reservation at a hotel in the suburb of Rosebank only because I liked the sound of the name – Rosebank. I imagined Orson Welles intoning “Rosebud.” Turns out Rosebank is where Jacqui and her husband live. Meant to be.
Once the driver got into Johannesburg I started noticing the walls. Walls were everywhere, surrounding everything. Around homes and businesses and whole neighborhoods. Around my hotel. Electrified concertina wire was usually on top of the walls.
Security guards were everywhere, too, even at my hotel. Security cameras were on every street corner. Not just one corner, but all four corners. I first thought these must be remnants from apartheid, because I thought apartheid was over. But the cameras and walls looked taken care of; in fact, I saw new walls being built.
Jacqui came to my hotel to pick me up and take me to her lovely home for a wonderful dinner. She and her husband were attentive and gracious to a complete stranger, and it didn’t take long for us to be friends. It is truly amazing the connections we make because of the internet!
Jacqui is a native South African (she and her husband’s families go back several generations) and I am so glad she felt comfortable sharing what it was like growing up in South Africa during the apartheid era. I realized my knowledge on Nelson Mandela and Soweto and apartheid is from a distance and therefore sparse. Being raised there gives Jacqui a perspective worthy of her residence as she helped me understand the walls and cameras. She also writes an intimate and genuine blog about transitions in the country. This post I particularly appreciated because I am always wondering about unacceptable and acceptable words – and how both keep changing. But I digress again …
And as seemed like the theme throughout my trip, we had a great discussion about Trump! Who we have for president really matters to the rest of the world.
The next morning my mission was Starbucks. I collect Starbucks mugs, but only of the older design. Do not like the new one; the design or the mug. For some reason Starbucks is still making the old design for overseas sale, so I get one when I can. Turns out the first Starbucks on the African continent had opened the day before in Johannesburg – two blocks from my hotel!
My plane for home left at 10 pm, and Jacqui had offered to let me stay at her home for the afternoon and then take me to the airport. I was able to see more of Johannesburg this way, including a nice outdoor café where we had lunch.
Caught my plane home. They sprayed insecticide in the plane as we were taxiing off, and that made two insecticide sprays (normal practice when flying in and from Africa) in 30 hours for me. The flight attendants hold both arms straight up, both hands spraying from bottles of insecticide as they move down the aisles. My 22 hour flight home was miserable. I developed the worst case of hives the emergency room doctor had ever seen. I am not allergic to anything so this was a surprise, and I asked the doctor what I could do in case it happened again – because I will be going back to Africa. She said I needed to get an Epipen. I am not even going to go there with what I think of Mylan Pharmaceutical.
I loved South Africa and want to go back and spend more time there. Jacqui calls it a kaleidoscope of contrasts. There is so much history and beauty and heartache. I think those three words permeate all of Africa.
And I had a lot of fun!!!
Playing in Victoria Falls, part 5
The Batoka Gorge Swing
I saw this gorge swing on the Amazing Race last year when the show went to Victoria Falls. I figured if it was safe enough for a television show it was safe enough for me! You can see on the map above where it is located and how close it is to Victoria Falls. The other side of the gorge is Zambia.
The staff are very experienced with crazy tourists from across the world who want to do this, and are experts with making sure you are strapped in correctly. The directions were quite simple: Just hang on to the rope. So I did!
Jumping off that platform was the most adrenaline rush I have ever felt, and that includes when I went skydiving over Lake Mead in Las Vegas. It was AWESOME!!!
I pared this video down because it took a few attempts before I finally jumped. Actually, I kind of just tipped over. The guy said “One, two, three, jump” at least three times before I finally moved. It was a 70m (225 feet) free fall and it was such a thrill!
People in the Lookout Café (above picture) said they heard me scream. Don’t doubt it!
I wanted to do it again. I still want to do it again!
Sunset dinner cruise on the Zambezi
What a lovely experience! Dinner was prepared by a local chef and the South African wine was delightful. We came upon a group of elephants playing on the water, and saw lots of birds. Everyone was friendly.
Couldn’t get away from Trump
What was most interesting was the subject that had dogged me the whole trip. When people found out I was American, they only thing they wanted to talk about was Donald Trump. This evening was no different. I drank a lot of South African wine as I reassured several Australians (“When the U.S. sneezes, Australia gets pneumonia” was a comment from one Aussie), Germans, and South Africans that Trump wouldn’t get the nomination because we Americans were too aware of the global implications to let that happen.
I am glad I visited Africa during the American election primary season and not later, after he became the candidate. I don’t know how I would have explained that!
I had become pretty good at bartering but since I was limited to what I could carry home, I didn’t purchase much.
I really liked the tall giraffes like in the picture, but I couldn’t see carrying one all the way to Seattle. But I thought about it! This is one slice of the fairly large market in Victoria Falls. The artifacts really are hand made.
I did carry home in my backpack a big hippo made of ironwood. His name is Horace and he now resides on my fireplace mantle.
On to Johannesburg
After four days in Victoria Falls I flew to Johannesburg, South Africa for a quick 30 hours before I flew back to Seattle. The power of the Internet played a huge role in my being able to really get a sense of this edgy, interesting, and beautiful city. It is worth your time, as my next post will reveal.
Next – Johannesburg, South Africa – Fascinating city
Victoria Falls Part 4 – A day in Chobe National Park in Botswana
Chobe National Park in Botswana
I was on a boat for the morning trip down the Chobe River in the park, had lunch, and then was in a jeep for the return, driving the land side of the river. Game viewing was fantastic from both sides.
Before you can cross the border into Botswana, you have to step on an insecticide wash. Guess they figure that will do it!
After your shoes have been rid of all diseases, you go into the passport office to pay money to get your passport stamp. That required a lot of waiting in line – first the stamp line, then the pay money line (USD cash only), then the line to validate you have done both. And then the last line as the guy at the door checks to make sure all the other lines have done their job!
Botswana is not computerized. It was indeed a throwback of at least 30 years for me, watching the stamping and shuffling of papers as we moved from line to line!.
This sign was inside the customs office. If this agenda is what they aspire to, I can tell you that from my experience they are doing very well on the second bullet!
But it was worth it!
What I saw
Elephants – I think April is baby elephant month in Africa
I cannot believe I got the babies so perfectly in this video. This is probably my favorite of the whole trip.
My one and only lioness. She was tagged and sleeping under a tree, but I still saw her!
Birds – lots and lots of birds, but this is the most interesting bird behavior I have ever seen.
What a great picture I took of the yellow-billed stork.
Helmeted Guinea Fowl
On the way back to Victoria Falls, a mile of trucks were parked as they tried to navigate going from Botswana to Zimbabwe. They can wait days for permission.
I only saw a sliver of Chobe National Park, and could easily spend days there!
Next! A sunset cruise on the Zambezi and how to have an exceedingly steep adrenaline rush!
Playing in Victoria Falls, part 3
Walking along Victoria Falls and a 1950 video of my parents doing the same thing
Entering Victoria Falls was a bit pricey, I thought, for a non Zim, but then non Zims are a captive audience. I noticed they took credit cards, a rarity in Zimbabwe, so I thought I would pay that way … but what the sign doesn’t say is they charged 5.00 USD for that privilege … so I paid cash.
In front of the Main Falls.
The walk along the falls was a couple of miles each way. I was not inconvenienced!
This walk along Victoria Falls was truly awesome. I got wet in some places, and I was amazed that you could get pretty close to the edge.
My parents visited Victoria Falls on their honeymoon in 1950. My dad and grandpa took this video (yes, I know this means Dad’s parents went with him and Mom on their honeymoon, but read this and you will understand) and Dad narrated it in 1980 when he had the 35 mm transferred to VHS.
Here is a picture of my dad at the falls, playing with his camera.
I took way too many pictures of the falls! They are magnificent. Astounding. Awesome. It was very easy to spend several hours just looking and listening and being in wonder.
Listen to the powerful sounds of the falls.
See David Livingston, he who is credited with ‘discovering’ the falls. This was when the British ruled most of the known world.
The walk along the falls ended at this bridge, then I had to turn around and go back. I realized this was Victoria Falls bridge that my steam train ride had stopped on the night before. I got to see the bridge from both sides!
I am going to repeat myself. Victoria Falls are magnificent. Astounding. Awesome. I met some people who had been to Iguazu Falls in Brazil and they said Victoria Falls were better, but they emphasized you still should see Iguazu, anyway. I will.
You can read more about Victoria Falls here.
Next: Chobe National Park in Botswana – on land and on water!
Welcome to Victoria Falls!
Riding the steam train to the Victoria Falls bridge!
Playing in Victoria Falls, part 2
The Steam Train
Being able to ride the steam train to the Victoria Falls Bridge (completed in 1905) was sheer luck. My research had shown this ride was closed, but a week before I left it had reopened and I made the reservation for the sunset trip. I fervently hoped it would still be open when I got there!
The train station is at the venerable old lady, the Victoria Falls Hotel. Built by the British in 1904, it is one of the oldest hotels in Africa with a history that spans the 20th century. The link has fascinating information on the hotel, beginning, as all things in southern Africa do, with Cecil Rhodes.
It was a very old train, (1952 14a Class Locomotive 512) and the inside harkened back to the British times with the wood and velvet, including delivery of a gin and tonic by a waiter!
I stood on the open observation deck at the front so I could see what was coming. When we got to Victoria Falls Bridge we disembarked to take pictures. The engine disconnected and left because the bridge could not handle the load of both the engine and the cars.
I loved watching the nuns take pictures of themselves. What struck me was the iPad; it was the first one I had seen in Africa. On their skirts are pictures of famous nuns in the past.
The train ride is now closed, so I am very happy I was able to take advantage of that small window. It was another great adventure!
Next: Victoria Falls Part 3 Walking the Falls
I did Route 66 in Tulsa, OK last year for the same reason; their medal was so retro!
The medal for Route 66 this year is very tempting. It is a spinner! But back to my story …
I hadn’t given much thought to milestones until I noticed on the Half Fanatics Facebook page that people celebrated reaching 100 – and 50! Of course they do! I realized that if I planned it right I could make Cocoa Beach my 50th Half. I was at #45 so I needed four races.
So the planning began.
There were only two requirements: Cheap and not far away. Luckily in the Pacific Northwest there are tons of races in the summer.
I found exactly what I needed.
Green River marathon series – Race Director Steve Barrick puts these on several times a year. Low key and free! I always donate, though, and I like that donations go to Northwest Harvest. I did the race on June 3 and he let me start at 6 am! So #46 done.
West Seattle Beach Run Half – This was lovely because the course was mostly on the waterfront and the weather was overcast and warm, but not too warm. It was $25.00 (donations to charity) and Race Director Mike Mahanay let me start at 6 am, too! There were lots of folks doing the full and 50K, too. Really nice medal and the great food at the finish line was needed, believe me. July 10 was #47!
Orting Half Marathon – This one starts at 9 am (a bit late for me!) and there are no finisher medals, but it does meet my requirements of cheap and close to home. This one is August 6 and will be #48.
Sporty Divas Half – Rose Coates puts on fun events and she will be doing her Bad Azz Back to Back on the Western Chehalis Trail on Labor Day weekend. I love doing Rose’s events; she has the best goody bags! Last year I did both days to get to my next Half Fanatics level (Jupiter), but this year I will only be doing one day because one is all I need for #49, enough to get me to Cocoa Beach for my 50th!