Running Places: Downtown Dallas


This wasn’t for a race (I wish!), but I was in Dallas on a work-related trip this past week. It was getting to be dusk and I didn’t want to run alone in a new place, so I visited the gym at the hotel where I was staying on the first evening. The second day, I put in a couple miles of walking to get to know the area (because… on this kind of trip, there’s not so much time for exploring!).

I was excited because the following morning, a mini-group run had been coordinated with others. I ran the mile or so to the meet-up point, then joined the group for 3-4 miles to and from the Katy Trail. This is a paved, multi-use (former rail) trail that would be great for running or biking. I’m not sure of the total distance, but it looked like it covered quite a bit of the Dallas area.

The next two mornings, I put in a few miles solo in the areas surrounding my hotel. This allowed me to find the Dallas Farmer’s Market (I returned after breakfast and a shower–funny how I have to wait for things to open–and browsed a bit) before I flew out. I also got to run past some nice parks and other areas that would be worth exploring on a more vacation-oriented trip.

Overall, I’d rate downtown Dallas as a fairly running-friendly area. There were some other early morning runners out (especially as it got closer to 7:30-8:00am on the weekend), and pretty intuitive street layouts. The signage for the Katy Trail was helpful and there are plenty of DART stations around town if you get lost/need a ride back to a starting point. There were some other people around town and on the sidewalks, but I didn’t feel unsafe while running (there were also police officers and safety patrol bikers throughout the town).




Race Recap: Run for Puerto Rico 5K

On Sunday, November 5, we ran in a 5K hosted by the Ithaca High School class of 2018 as a benefit for Puerto Rico.

Registration Cost: This race’s registration cost $20, with the proceeds being directed toward Puerto Rico disaster relief. Ithaca High School students and staff prices for registration were $10. The registration was easy; we signed up yesterday (we just heard about the event earlier this week).

Packet Pick-Up: Race numbers were distributed on the morning of the race, with payments also being taken (cash or check) in person. Runners were directed to arrive 30 minutes early in order to have this take place, even if you pre-registered online. There were shirts, but we aren’t sure what the cut-off for getting one of those was.

Pre-Race: There was water available and music playing. The 5K started and finished in Ithaca’s Stewart Park, which is right by Cayuga Lake. There are public restrooms open and sheltered areas.

Course: The course was an out-and-back on the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, with an extra loop in Stewart Park. There were volunteers at the turns and cones to help with two-way traffic. There was one water stop at the turn-around point.


Finish Line: The finish line was marked and there were several people around. Rather than having a chip time, this race used the bibs’ tear-off portion. This took a couple extra seconds at the finish line to get those off. The bibs were then stapled on a board for the results.

Post-Race: There were bagels (with cream cheese, peanut butter, and two types of jam), apples, water, hot water for cocoa and tea, Gatorade, and coffee. For being a small 5K, the food spread was pretty good! We did, however, see one competitor double-dip in the peanut butter after eating a glob off a spoon (ewww, glad we stayed out of the peanut butter!).

The finishers’ bib pieces were being stapled to the board when we left, but the coordinators said they would email the final results to everyone.

Weather: The temperature was in the upper 50s, but with the wind it felt colder. There were some clouds, but it was a nice morning for a run.

Apparel: Charcoal wore a pair of C9 running tights, a Hot Toddies technical long-sleeved t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and a running cap. For shoes, she wore Newton Kismet 2s.

Violet wore C9 running tights, a C9 long-sleeved t-shirt, a Columbia 1/4-zip long-sleeve shirt, and a running cap. She wore her trusty Saucony Guide 9 shoes.

Race Recap: Niagara Falls International Marathon

On Sunday, October 15, we did the Niagara Falls International Marathon. This was our second, and final, marathon of 2017 (and our second total).

Registration Cost: We were on the fence about registering for this race, due to having completed our first marathon in the end of May. Once we decided to enter, the race registration was about $100 (USD) by the time we were done (tax and processing fees), though we did have a $10 coupon code.

Packet Pick-Up: We went to the expo on the afternoon before the race, located at a convention center in Niagara Falls. Getting there was pretty quick and easy, even with crossing the border. It cost $5 to park for the event, but they did make change (in Canadian coins) for the currency exchange, which was unexpected.

For the marathon, we needed to show our passports to border crossing guards before picking up our numbers. This allowed us to cross the Peace Bridge from Buffalo, NY to Fort Erie, Ontario during the race. The process was very quick and easy, with the guards just checking the passports.

The numbers also needed to be scanned to verify our information and (maybe?) activate the timing chips. Shirt pick-ups were done at a separate table, but that also went easily. An exchange table was available if needed for a different size.

We browsed some in the expo, which included trying some shoes. We ended up leaving without any purchases.

Pre-Race: We had a friend pick us up and take us to the race start location, near the Albright-Knox Art Museum. This was because we had left a car on the NY side of Niagara Falls on our way to packet pick-up. Getting dropped off made it so we only needed to retrieve one car 🙂

The museum had a lobby open for people to enter, but they couldn’t get further into the building. Porta-potties on the lawn were the only option for restroom facilities. The pre-race area had bottled water, bananas, and some donut holes available. There was also a lot of room to wander as this is near the Delaware Park area in Buffalo, with some pond-side seating.

Course: The course was pretty well-marked, with volunteers and/or police officers at most of the intersections. The roads were mostly closed throughout, as well. The highlight was getting to run across the Peace Bridge, therefore crossing an international border en route. This was probably the only time we will do that–especially with the border guards out applauding for us as we crossed.

Charcoal’s big excitement on the Peace Bridge was seeing a tractor-trailer full of celery! She wanted to chase that with peanut butter 😀 (Violet didn’t have as exciting of a time there… just ran across, even though it was time for a walk-break! It seemed fitting to run across and not walk until getting to the other side!)

Once we were in Canada, the course went mostly along the Niagara River and Parkway. This provided a scenic route that was relatively flat, too. The roads were a bit slanted in the earlier portions of the race, which we felt in our knees and ankles for a while. Overall, it was a good course that offered some scenic areas in both Buffalo and the Niagara-Fort Erie region of Ontario.

The aid stations had several volunteers. The offerings included water, Nuun, and Clif Blocks (at some); toward the end of the race, some of the water stations had run out of water. The stations’ spacing was about every 2km. Near the end, one of the stations had bananas and oranges available. At the half-way point, one of the stations had baby wipes available.

Porta-potties were available along the way. There were also some musical performers along the way and some crowd support, but not as many spectators as there are at some other races.

Finish Line: There was an announcer at the finish line and crowd support for the final turn. The announcer left at 6 hours on the dot. There were mylar-type blankets handed out right after crossing the finish line, along with the medals. Water and cartons of chocolate milk were also given in the finishers’ chute.

Post-Race: There were bagels, Nuun, and more bottled water near the finishing area. A tent with results, awards, and beer was nearby. Tim Horton’s was one of the race’s sponsors and was giving away coffee and hot chocolate near the finish line as well.

At the end, they were trying to clear out some of the extras so we ended up with a couple spare bags of bagels and a case of water. We were offered bananas, but declined due to having to cross the border with them (U.S. customs is fussy with produce)!

Weather: This was a challenging element! In the week leading up to the race, the weather reports had been forecasting a warm, windy day with an 80% chance of rain! By last night, the forecasts were predicting temperatures in the upper 70s with a wind advisory from 2-11pm. The rain was supposed to roll through with a thunderstorm in the late afternoon. This made deciding what to wear a tough call.

Apparel: Charcoal wore a pair of C9 compression shorts with Nike running shorts and a tank top, with an Old Navy 1/4-zip shirt for the first 4ish-km (after that she rolled it up and tied it around her waist). For shoes, she wore Saucony iSO Triumphs with Balega socks. She also used her Nathan Trail Mix water belt, her Roo Sports pocket, and a running cap.

Violet wore Marika compression shorts with Asics pocket shorts over them (with the pockets full of nutrition), a mesh-backed tank top, with another C9 tank top over it. She had a zip-up long-sleeved shirt that she got from the Salvation Army to wear and toss when it got too warm–this morning, that was at the first mile! Her footwear included injinji 2.0 women’s toesocks and Saucony Guide 10 shoes. She also carried her Nathan ExoShot bottle.

Race Recap: Queen City Women’s Half Marathon

On Sunday, October 1, we did the Queen City Women’s Half Marathon. This was our final half marathon of 2017 (we think!).

Registration Cost: The race registration was about $65 and we had a coupon code that gave us $10 off (which was about the cost of the online processing fee so that evened out quickly!). For early entries, the cheapest registration cost was about $50.

Packet Pick-Up: This was held the afternoon before the race at a local Cabela’s store, which was an unexpected location for this type of event. The pick-up times went from 3-5pm and there were no lines when we arrived (at about 4:30pm). The pick-up process didn’t require ID or any paperwork, just telling the person running the table our names. From there, things became a bit more disappointing as they had run out of shirts in the size that Violet had specified at registration.

We were assured they would have the shirts at the pre-race pick-up. There were some shirts in the next size up and Violet would have been happy to take one of those (because these shirts seem to run rather small, even for women’s cut shirts), but was told that was not an option.

Also, the race website and information stated that participants would receive a “high tech t-shirt” for completing the race. When we were registering, the sizing options included only women’s-specific Small, Medium, and Large. We heard several comments about how small the shirts were, along with the discrepancy in shirt materials. Specifically, the shirts that were given out are 100% cotton and white (not our favorite shirt color!). The shirt and numbers were the only items included in the packet.

Pre-Race: Parking was close and free, and there was plenty of room in the parking garage–that was a nice bonus! It was also nice that the parking was close to the start and finish lines.

We went to the pre-race packet pick-up area and were able to get a shirt for Violet. We were also able to switch sizes without a problem. There wasn’t a bag check for this race so thankfully we were early and close enough to take the shirt to the car. We decided to go back to the building with the pick-up area to use the restroom. The lines were moving slowly and we ended up not having enough time for that.

Course: The course was probably the best part of this race–it went through the harbor areas in downtown Buffalo, including near Canalside, the Erie Basin Marina, and also went to the outer harbor area. This gave some variety in Buffalo’s scenery as it went through some parts of the area that aren’t covered during the Buffalo half-/full marathon.

One downside was that the mile markers seemed a bit off, probably by about half a mile. This threw us off a bit, especially during the first few miles. There were water stations at about every two miles and course support from police officers and other race officials at intersections and road crossings.

Finish Line: There was an announcer at the finish line and lots of crowd support for the final turn. Upon crossing the finish line, we received our medals and there were bottles of water/energy drinks and some fruit. The medals can double as a wine bottle stopper.

Post-Race: Based on the race’s publicity, we were expecting a big post-race party… but we were wrong! There were apples and oranges at the finish line, along with some gluten-free nut crackers (that tasted better than they sound). There had been bagels and bananas earlier in the day, but we didn’t get there in time for those.

As promised, there were finishers’ wine glasses, which could be filled with red or white wine. Beer and water were also options, although we were told they ran out of beer at some point. There were picnic tables and shaded areas for eating, but no food! Haha!

Weather: It started out with frost on the windshield and temperatures in the 40s this morning. By the time we started, it was sunny and probably close to 50 degrees. By the time we finished, it was likely approaching 60 or slightly above. Altogether, the weather was pretty nice, especially considering the heatwave we could’ve been running in last week!

Apparel: Charcoal wore a pair of capri running tights, a tech t-shirt, and a quarter-zip long-sleeve shirt (though she took that off at about mile 5). For shoes, she wore Saucony iSO Triumphs. She also carried her Nathan quickshot insultated handheld water bottle and used her Roo Sports pocket, and running cap.

Violet wore running tights, a tech t-shirt from a prior race, a quarter-zip long-sleeve shirt, and a running cap. In the morning, she also wore “sock gloves,” that she made from old, holey socks… those stayed on until about mile 6 and then ended up balled up in the sleeve of her Nathan ExoShot bottle. Her footwear included injinji 2.0 women’s toesocks and Saucony Guide 10(!) shoes.

Doing a Duathlon

On Sunday, September 10, we did something that we don’t often do–a duathlon! We started the morning with a 3km run/walk, then did a 15.5 mile bike ride, and finished off with a 5km run/walk. We did this race because we were going to be in the area that weekend.

Registration Cost: The race registration included a coupon code so it was a good deal for us. Overall, the registration price is pretty fair.

Packet Pick-Up: This was easily done the day before.

Pre-Race: There was a pre-race meeting the morning of the race in which directions were given. The course guide was posted online prior to the race, also making it easy to look at beforehand. The transition area was marked and easy to navigate.

Course: The first run section was scenic, but could be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the area. There was a lead biker to help lead the pack. The bike course was well-marked and scenic. It had some hills and was challenging, but was doable. The traffic control was also nice and helpful in the areas where there were road crossings. The second run was marked well and provided a water stop along the way.


Finish Line: There was an announcer at the finish line and volunteer support there to help with removing the ankle band timing chips.

Post-Race: There was a pavilion right by the finish line, which was nice and there was music playing to add to the atmosphere. There were subs (the big, party-sized subs) at the finish line, with several options for toppings. For beverages, there was water and soda. There were also some sandwich cookies.

Weather: It was sunny and in the 60s? Nice weather for being outside.

Apparel: Charcoal wore capris, a tech t-shirt from a previous race and a hooded long-sleeve t-shirt. She wore Saucony Guide 9 shoes for the day.

Violet wore bike capris, a tech t-shirt from a previous race and a quarter-zip long-sleeve shirt. She also wore Saucony Guide 9 shoes for the day.

Trying a Tri

This morning we did something new—a triathlon! It was on our list of things to try this summer, so when we had the opportunity to sign up for a small, local race we jumped on it. Because we don’t have much to compare with, we decided against doing a full recap. Instead, we opted for a quick overview.

Registration: This was completed online and relatively easily. Signing in at the race was also easy. There was a brief meeting before the race began in which we received directions for each of the routes.

Swim: This was in a pool, whew! Violet almost lost her swim cap and needs to practice getting out of pools without using the ladder 😉 . Charcoal was on her toes and enjoyed the swim.

Transition 1: Charcoal was crafty and ready to go with her shorts already on for the swim. Violet wasn’t that prepared and added a few minutes in the transition in order to wrangle some bike shorts.

Bike: This went smoothly. We didn’t get lost or have any accidents or flat tires. The traffic was manageable and the course was pretty well marked (even though we remembered most of the route from the meeting earlier in the day).

Transition 2: This was easy–just put our bikes back on the rack and changed headwear.

Run: This also went smoothly. The course was well-marked, although we remembered this well, too.

Finish: The finish line was casual, but still had some spectators and course support on hand.

Race Recap: Gorges Ithaca Half

On Saturday, June 17, we did the Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon. This was the second year we ran this race, making this our first repeated half marathon! (But it was a different course, so it may not fully count?)

Registration Cost: The race registration was $70, regardless of when you registered. We did have a coupon code for $5 off and there was an incentivized date cut-off for registering with a t-shirt guaranteed.

Packet Pick-Up: This was easy and done on the day before the race, with packet pick-up being held at the Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company Store in downtown Ithaca, NY. The packets came as reusable drawstring bags, Gorges Ithaca Half magnets, some promos/coupons, t-shirts (there were three design options to choose from), and wristbands for the after party.

We ended up opting for tech t-shirts with the race logo on the front and sponsors on the back; the shirts are comfy, made from 100% recycled materials, and made in the USA–so pretty fancy for race shirts. The other options included 50-50 cotton-polyester shirts with either the race logo or “13.1” on the front. These were also made in the USA.

Pre-Race: The course featured a point-to-point format. There was an option of purchasing a $10 ticket for a (school) bus ride to the starting line, or you could get dropped off. We got dropped off at the nearest intersection at about 7:15 a.m. for the 7:30 a.m. start. We saw about four school buses, and many other people getting dropped off. The course started on the road, with open fields nearby and some porta potties there, too.

The race start was casual. We were near the back of the starting corral and heard an announcement, but couldn’t hear what they said. Shortly after, people started running so we did, too… except the people who were still in line for the porta potties, but we assumed they got their start, too.

In terms of pre-race communication, there were a few emails leading up to the race, but not many. We had received the info for packet pick-up immediately after registering and didn’t receive other reminders with that file.

Course: The first mile was on the road. For the people in the porta potties, it may have been difficult to make the first couple of turns because there weren’t many officials along the first mile or so.

The next five miles were held on the newly finished Black Diamond Trail, which is a fine crushed gravel trail that connects Taughannock Falls State Park with the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. There were many small waterfalls along the sides of this trail, along with a bison farm. This was a shaded area as well.

The final portion of the course went along the Cayuga Waterfront Trail along the Cayuga Lake inlet and lake itself. The last mile went by Ithaca Falls and ended just shy of the Ithaca Commons.

Overall, this course was downhill and/or flat–which was a big difference from last year’s course that went up a big hill! There were five or six water stops along the way that also offered Gatorade and/or Tailwind or Gu. Two also had strawberries. We both carried a handheld bottle with us and the water stops were all great with refilling the bottles when needed.

For on-course entertainment, there were two bagpipers at about mile 8 (they could be heard for parts of earlier miles depending on traffic and wind). There was also MegsRadio at about mile 11.

In terms of spectators, there were some but mostly looking for specific people. This was also a bit different from last year, but probably due to the change in the course (last year’s went through more of the city).

Finish Line: There was an announcer at the finish line. Immediately after crossing the finish line we were given our reusable Gorges Ithaca Half water bottles that were filled, along with the finisher’s medal, and coupons for an entry for a Saucony giveaway. The finisher’s medals are pretty cool–they look like they could be used as coasters as they are that size, printed(?) with a local scene, and sealed(?) on some type of light wood.

Post-Race: Right across the street from the finish line there was a walk-up food tent that had water to refill your bottles with, along with freezer pops, Ithaca Yogurt (many flavors to choose from!), and two kinds of really tasty cookie bars–one had cranberries and white chocolate chips and the other had chocolate chips.

The rest of the post-race party included pulled pork, salt potatoes, scrambled eggs, and fruit. The wristbands had two tickets attached for Ithaca Beer Co., which we used for ginger beer (yum!). There were also post-race massages, kettlebells and foam rolling, live music, and a Saucony tent with shoes to try on and the giveaway raffle.

This was one of the best post-race events (again this year–we thought the same last year).

Weather: It was sunny and in the 70s to 80s, we think. By the time we were at the post-race event, it was in the mid-80s and getting a bit humid.

Apparel: Charcoal wore one of our special race tank tops, compression shorts, running shorts, Roo Sports pocket, and a running cap. She also carried a Nathan QuickDraw insulated bottle. Her footwear for the day included Balega socks and Saucony iSO Triumph 2 shoes.

Violet wore one of our special race tank tops, compression shorts, running shorts (with a lot of pockets–even though they weren’t as full as they were a few weeks ago!), a Roo Sports pocket, and a running cap. She also carried a Nathan ExoShot bottle. Her footwear included injinji 2.0 women’s toesocks and Asics GT-1000 4 shoes.