Run Laughlin 2017 – I’m in!

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Run Laughlin Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

I remember the first time I went to Bullhead City, Arizona. The night started in the New Hampshire airport, my mom and grandmother telling my brother and I we were going somewhere, but not telling us where. We landed in Detroit and headed to our gate for Las Vegas. 2nd grade me screamed “BUT THAT’S WHERE OLD PEOPLE GO” for like, 2 hours. Little did I know we were headed to Arizona, where my aunt and uncle lived, and where my best friend had moved to months before. It was amazing. Across the river, in Nevada, was a little, “mini Las Vegas” called Laughlin. I loved the lights and I definitely  loved the buffet at Harrah’s.

I went to Bullhead City, Arizona and Laughlin, Nevada twice growing up, the last time being when I was 13. I loved it there – I loved the heat (but it’s a dry heat), the red clay, the desert that stretched out for miles, and nearby Las Vegas. I seriously considered going to college out there (but the threat of snakes deterred me, seriously).

A couple years back, I saw an advertisement on twitter for the Run Laughlin 13.1 race. It started in Laughlin, ran through two states (Nevada and Arizona) and two time zones. And it was scheduled for the weekend before my birthday. I was in grad school so it wasn’t the year, but I knew I would be there some day.

Some day is December 2, 2017. I’m finally going back to Laughlin for the Run Laughlin Half Marathon! I’m excited that Bib Rave is sending me to experience the beauty that is this race.

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Photo credit: Run Laughlin

Some awesome things about this race:

  • As this is a relatively new race, it is rather small in participant size. This can be a curse for some, but I appreciate a less-crowded course
  • They added a 10K this year – so there is a 13.1, 10K, and 5K
  • The half marathon course is a net downhill. There are two significant climbs on the course, with rewarding downhills.

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  • You run in two states and TWO TIME ZONES. YASSS. #bucketlist
  • The race will end along “Casino Row” with free beer (and for me, blackjack)

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  • You can get hotel rooms in Laughlin less than $40 a night.

This race will fall at the peak of my training for the 2018 Goofy Challenge and I’m dreaming of an amazing run. Will you join me in Laughlin? Save 20% off entry with the code BibRave20.

Have you ever ran a destination race? Disney 2017 didn’t work out so well for me…let’s hope this one is better?

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2016 Running in Review

I feel like these “look back” posts always creep up on us, while realistically, we all know the end of the year is here. I love this time of the year as a runner – looking back on the year and forming goals for the year ahead. By the time 2016 is over I will have put in almost 900 miles, as opposed to about 675 in 2015. I’ve run the healthiest I’ve ever ran *knock on wood* and finally saw some improvements.

January-March: I put in two months of training in preparation for the Half at the Hamptons. Most miles were completed on the treadmill in the twilight zone that is otherwise known as a New Hampshire winter. January was great however February was plagued with a flare-up of my ITB syndrome and the beginning stages of a weird hip/quad injury. I finished the Half at the Hamptons in 2:19:35, running a very consistent race and meeting all the goals I set!

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April-May: After March’s half, took it easy before my second half of the year. My ITB problems subsided, but my hips/quads were all kinds of messed up (from sitting in child sized chairs, I believe, as it still bothers me at work sometimes). I ran the Vermont Half Marathon Unplugged again, which I should have DNS’ed. It was a horrible experience and taught me to listen to my body. I took the next 5 weeks off to heal and to focus on finishing my Master’s program. I slowly returned to running when I moved to Maryland, enjoying a 5K with one of my best friends.

June: In June, I considered myself almost fully back from my hip/quad injury. It still felt wonky at times, but I was managing. I began running using Jeff Galloway intervals and by following a loose “heart rate” plan. I was able to build my miles back up in time to start marathon training. June included two fun races with friends, the Zooma Annapolis 10K  (1:04:30) and Baltimore Women’s Classic 5K (29:30).

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July – September: July started with a 4 mile race, my last race for a while. After that I started marathon training with a coach. She truly led me though a great training cycle that I followed as closely as I could – very well during the summer, but struggled once I started my full-time job. I continued running with intervals and with prescribed heart rate zones, which I attribute to my running injury free. I was seriously loving running in a new way. I ran the Parks Half Marathon (2:22:xx) in early September and finished off the month with my first 20 miler -a huge feat!

2016 Parks Half Marathon - Photo by Dan Reichmann, MCRRC

October was THE month. A second 20 miler, my 10th half marathon, and my first marathon. I killed my 20 miler. I had a good Baltimore Half Marathon  (my last long run) on a hard course and set a course PR (2:25:11). (Actually, at first I thought I didn’t beat last year’s time. But I DID and realized it when I went through last year’s recap and remembering I started my watch late. I need to edit my 2016 recap!). The Marine Corps Marathon was a bittersweet experience, with many ups and downs. No matter how it went, nothing can take the pride away of finishing my first marathon!

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November-December: These two months have been full of recovery and running when I want to. There has been a lack of any structure to my runs and I’ve just done what has felt good. Unexpectedly, I set a big 10K PR at the Annapolis Running Classic  (1:00:20) and a huge 13.1 PR at the Race 13.1 Half Marathon (2:09:05). I have one race left for the year, a 5 miler on Saturday. Like the last two races I just plan to have fun, and if I have a good day I’ll maybe push myself a little. It’s my first 5 mile race, so it will be an automatic PR.

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2 weeks. 2 races. 0 expectations. 2 goals and PR’s CRUSHED.

In 2016 I completed 1 marathon, 5 half marathons, 2 10K’s, and 5 races shorter than 10K. In just 6 weeks I set 3 PR’s (+1 more if you count this next race)! Part of me is a little stumped about where I should set my sights yet, but I’m also very optimistic about what 2017 will hold!

What were some of your running highlights this year? What was your favorite race?

Race Recap: Annapolis Running Classic 10K 2016

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of being chosen to be an ambassador for the Annapolis Running Classic in Annapolis, Maryland. This had been on my radar as my first race post-Marine Corps, and I was so excited to run the 10K as part of their “A-Team”.

Friday night: I headed straight to Annapolis right after work, and with traffic it took me about 1:15. The Navy-Marine Corps Stadium was easy to get to. I got in and out of the “expo” with my bib quickly and painlessly. There wasn’t too much for the expo, just a few vendors and some race merch. I spent the night with friends who live a mile away. It was a much needed night of friend time, chicken parm and wine, and games. My boyfriend even made an unexpected appearance! I got to bed around midnight – later than I had hoped but not the end of the world.

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Brooks top (Dash 1/4 zip, I think), Balega Enduro socks, Janji capris, Brooks Pure Cadence 5. Not pictured: Garmin 235, Nathan handheld bottle, sweaty band, momentum jewelry sparklets

Pre-race: I was up and out of my friend’s house by 5:45 and parked at the stadium just 10 minutes later. In hindsight, I probably didn’t have to leave so early. But I’d rather be early than sit in traffic. I took a short nap and had my UCan before heading out. I first tried a porta jon that was FULL. I mean, FULL. It must have been from the last Navy football game. After meeting some ambassadors at the Blue Angels plane (it was great to meet you, Jenny!), I was happy to find the race’s porta jons. I waited for just a few minutes, but they were fresh and still had *TP*.

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Some of the A-Team ambassadors. Thanks for the photo, Jenny!

Corral thoughts: The corrals were self-seeded and I seriously had no idea what to do. I was completely winging this race. The furthest I had run since the marathon was 5 miles, and my intention was to just have fun and finish with a smile. I ended up lining up just behind the 2:15 half marathon pacer (approx 10:15 mile) to see if I could stay with them for a bit.

Miles 1-2: I caught right up with the pace group after the start, and aimed to stay with them for as long as I could without needing to start the intervals I used for marathon training. The first mile was fast (9:40) but I trusted the pacers. (The back half of the half is hilly, so they needed to bank some time). At first I felt like I couldn’t keep up, but about midway through mile 2 I realized that my body wanted to run. I left the group right around the 2 mile mark (10:10).

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Free race photos? Sure, I’ll cheese it up.

Miles 3-6.33: I didn’t even think when I first left the group, I just went. This portion of the race brought us down a slight downhill, around the state Capitol and into Downtown. It was so beautiful, and the downhill was welcomed. This is where I started to struggle during  the Zooma 10K, but here I kept feeling like I could go faster. I hit mile 3 (9:38) and knew I would be close to a PR if I could hold that pace. Miles 4-5 were a series of out and backs though town. I didn’t mind it, as it allowed me to see the people in front of me. Mile 4 was a bit of a mental struggle due to a slight uphill. Mentally, I wanted to walk so badly, but all of the stairs at November Project made my legs feel untouched going up that hill (9:40). I had a GU that I nibbled on not because I needed the sugar, but because I was hungry in general.

Mile 5 is when I started to get competitive with myself. I knew a PR was in reach, and I was feeling good. Like, real good. I had a fire that I don’t normally feel during races. I started focusing on people ahead of me and kept passing them, left and right. It felt so good. I hit mile 5 in 8:58. This is when I knew a sub-1:00 was in reach, and I was going for it. The last mile was tough. There were slight uphills the whole way, with a short, steeper one as you entered the stadium parking lot. I kept checking my watch, and when my mile 6 chimed in at 9:14, I knew I would be so close.

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Apparently I run with my eyes closed.

Unfortunately, the course was a tad long (6.33 mi), and that cost me my sub-1:00. My watch was right on with the markers until the parking lot. I saw 6.2 come up with a time of 59:17, but I was just breaking away from the cars and nearing the chute. I seriously could have cried! Nonetheless, I finished with a time of 1:00:20, a 2:19 PR.

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SINCE WHEN DO I FINISH IN THE TOP 25% (25.4% to be exact…)

 

 

Finisher’s party: The Annapolis Running Classic is known for their great afterparty. The dozen oysters is super unique, although not to my liking. I did LOVE the unlimited beer. However, one beer at 8 AM after a hard run left me with a headache, and I had to drive home anyways. The band that was playing was fantastic and if I didn’t have somewhere to be I would have stayed all day to listen to them. On another note, I liked that the premiums were picked up AFTER the race – so that you had to finish to get your shirt (#sorrynotsorry). The 13.1 runners received a sweatshirt while the 10K runners got a t-shirt.

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Post-race thoughts: I was so high on emotions after this race. I earned a PR for the first time since April 2015. This wasn’t a PR by being my first race of a certain distance, I worked hard for it. I felt so much redemption after running a 1:02:39 at the Wildman Biathlon and coming in dead last in the 10K leg of the race.

Most importantly I felt like all of my hard work was finally worth it. I often put so much pressure on myself at races, and when I flop I hate myself and consider giving up. I went into this race with zero plans or expectations. Actually, the night before, I told my friend “The night before races I always get lost in dreaming that I’ll wake up and be fast.” While I may not be “fast”, this was the fast I have been waiting for and knew that I was capable of. And it felt awesome. 

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Verdict: This race had some flaws, but all in all, I really liked it and will be back. It’s a great fall race to either finish off a racing season with, or to do just for fun. A review of the race itself (not just my experience) will be up on BibRave.com soon.

Disclaimer: As a Annapolis Running Classic A-Team member, I received a complimentary entry into this race. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Zooma Annapolis 10K Recap

This past weekend I had the great opportunity to run at the Zooma Annapolis Women’s Race Series in Annapolis, Maryland. I had initally looked forward to this race as my first “goal” half marathon of the year, but moved down to the 10K due to the quad/hip issue I dealt with throughout the spring. While I was at first disappointed this wasn’t going to be half marathon #9 for me, I was happy I was able to downgrade.

Packet pickup: I got my packet on Thursday at a running store in downtown Baltimore, which was a very easy experience. I was given my number, shirt, and a small keychain. I didn’t expect to go to the expo on Friday, but made it with my friend and her aunt. It was teeny tiny, but their packet pickup was easy. I was disappointed that they had a bag with samples but those who picked up their packets early didn’t. Barefoot wine was there for a “party” but by the time we got there there wasn’t much left – but the sparkly wine was good!

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Pre-race: We stayed up a little late on Friday so the 5:00 alarm came really early. I was a little spontaneous and had 2 pieces of cold pizza for breakfast and headed out! Thanks to easy traffic and parking, my friend, her aunt and I got to the Naval Academy Stadium at 6:15. There were plenty of porta-johns (for once!) and there was morning-of packet pick-up, which is a nice touch. I joined up with the ambassadors for a photo before it was time to get into the corrals (self-seeded). It was nice to get to talk to a few of them!

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Miles 1-3: The first half of the course brought us around the Naval Academy stadium and then into downtown Annapolis. There were a couple of gentle hills, but it paid off when right before mile 3 there was a good downhill going into the harbor. Right off I realized it was humid. Oh so humid. I was running at a hard, but challenging pace, saving some energy in case the heat and humidity killed me.

Miles 4-6.2: This is when the heat/humidity and then the hills started to get to me. I walked for a quick minute to take an unplanned Gu (Thanks, AK!) and was still able to keep along, just a little bit slower. The hills were long and gradual, but I was happy to be passing plenty of people who were walking up them. The worst was running up the Naval Academy Bridge! It was just straight up at around mile 4.75, when I was starting to struggle a bit. The last .5 mile was uphill too, which was rough!

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Finish Line: I finished at 1:04:30, which I was a tad disappointed with. However with the hills, heat, and humidity, I’m just happy I finished and that I did so without pain! The finish chute was easy – medals and water was given to us and it was just a short walk to the food. I had Pirate’s Booty for the first time and boy was it good! There were a few vendors out, but you know me – I headed right to the wine with my friend and her aunt! There was a great band playing and we were given two small (and I mean small) “glasses” of wine. I wish we could have stayed for longer but I had to be at work for 11!

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Verdict: The race itself was pretty good. The 10K course was challenging and everything was well organized, aside from the water stops. They weren’t well spread out which lead to a lot of congestion. For the (few) people that choose to run through them, it really slows you down! (I lost at least 30 seconds from congestion).  I would have liked there to be more wine available at the end, as that was a big promotion for whole “girl’s weekend” aspect of the race. The medal is cute and while the shirt isn’t a typical “tech tee” it is a nice tri-blend shirt that I’d wear on a short run. And there were free race photos!! Would I do it again? Yes! Will I do it every year? Probably not. It’s the same day as the Baltimore 10 Miler, which I also love.

I’d like to thank Zooma for having me as an ambassador! I had a great time at the race and can’t wait to be back again. Don’t forget that you can continue to use the code SAMANTHA16 for Zooma Cape Cod or Zooma Amelia Island!

Disclaimer: I am a Zooma Women’s Race Series ambassador and received a complimentary entry into this event. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Zooma Run Love Challenge

Now that the new year is approaching, I’m truly starting to plan and look forward to my training for early 2016 races. Whether you’re looking for some motivation to make it through the cold winter or simply looking for a supportive way to start running as a new year’s resolution, I have the perfect event to share with you all today.

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The Zooma Run Love Challenge is the first virtual event put on by the ladies of the Zooma Women’s race series. Starting January 4th, you will receive a training plan for either a 5K or 10K, a weekly newsletter and access to an online community with great ideas and guidance, an exclusive podcast bonus, and of course swag! (We all love swag!)

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The swag includes this super cute sweatshirt, a medal, and gear from Zooma sponsors including Feetures! socks. The easiest part of a virtual event is that there’s no traveling involved. You can sleep in, run where you want, and run alone or with your running buddies! This is especially nice for those of you who, like me, live where it’s cold and you otherwise wouldn’t do a race in the middle of Feburary.loverunmedal

I have never done a virtual race before and I’m really excited for this event. The February 14th date is at a nice place in my half marathon training. It also gives me something to look forward to on Valentine’s Day as I’m single as can be. I love running more than I could love a man right now anyways 😛

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I hope you all are now just as excited about the Zooma Run Love Challenge as I am. While training starts on January 4th, registration is available until January 11th. For $50 you get all of the great things I mentioned above, as well an opportunity to fall in love with running if you haven’t yet. Either check out the last link or click here to register!

Have you ever done a virtual race or training event? Does the Run Love challenge sound right up your alley? 

**Disclaimer: I am a Zooma ambassador, and have received free entry into the Zooma Love Run Challenge in return for promoting and participating in the event. However, all opinions shared here are strictly my own.**

 

2015 Running Recap

This year brought a ton of ups and downs. From PRs to injuries, to the beginnings of faster paces to being brought back to where I was; I felt like every time I gained control I lost it. I set goals at the beginning of the year that were too lofty when I look back at them. However, looking back on this year it’s important to remember that 2015 was my first full year running. I truly believe that running is a lifetime sport, and it may take me a few years before I reach my potential. Despite all of that, I had some incredible times running and want to look back on them…

PR Race: Plattsburgh Half Marathon, 2:15:35. I ran two half marathons in two weeks, and both were PRs. I felt SO great throughout this race until mile 10. I was one with running this day, and this particular day will always feel like victory to me.

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My mom saw me at mile 10, and I was feeling great. At mile 11 (shown) I was riding the pain train HARD.

Hardest race: Wildman Biathlon, uphill portion (leg 2). This almost 3 mile mountain climb tested me in so, so many ways. I was injured and had already run a 10K that morning. But the feeling that I just ran/quickly walked up a mountain to where my family was waiting was the greatest feeling ever.

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Favorite race: Baltimore Half Marathon, 2:25:48. Time wise, this was my worst race of the year. This half marathon was supposed to be a full, but after having to stop running for about 1.5 months due to a mysterious injury, I moved down to the half. I was thrilled to raise $250 for the Kennedy Krieger International Spinal Cord Institute so I could make the trip to Baltimore. I didn’t fuel right the morning of the race and ended up feeling miserable. I still felt so proud of finishing after all I went through to get to that starting line healthy and running through the city I call home.

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Favorite Swag + Afterparty: Harpoon Octoberfest Race, 34:45 (3.6 mi). I got a beer mug accompanied with free beer and my first Octoberfest celebration. The race was fun and challenging, but the post-race party sealed the deal for me. I may be moving to Maryland in May, but I would travel back to Vermont for this race in a heartbeat.

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OOMPAH!

That time I came in last but didn’t let it destroy me: Wildman Biathlon 10K (leg 1). Coming in last in the first leg of this race was hard. It was my first 10K race, and while I didn’t do as well as I had hoped (10:05 avg. pace) I was able to keep it in perspective. This race was small and competitive, and there are very few races someone will hold that pace and come in last.

Favorite race outfit/shoes: Brooks Launch 2, ProCompression socks (or sleeves with other socks), Skirt Sports Lionness skirt

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Flat Sam for my last half!

Races I’m most looking forward to in 2016: Half at the Hamptons (3/6), Zooma Annapolis (6/4), Rock N Roll Philly (9/17).

In total: 12 races run for 88.95 miles,  including 4 half marathons, 1 “mini” triathlon, 1 relay (run-bike-run), 4 states raced in

I’m linking up with Courtney at EatPrayRunDC to share my year in running. Head over to her site to check out other’s recaps or even add your own. Thanks for hosing, Courtney!

Eat Pray Run DC

Race Recap: Wildman Biathlon (Part 1)

Like I shared last week, I was heading home to New Hampshire to participate in the Wildman Biathlon with my Uncle Denis. I was happy to get Friday off from work and was able to head home Thursday night. It was a last minute shift change, so I set out my outfits quickly, packed up, and hit the road after getting dinner with a friend!

Flat Sam.
Flat Sam.

On Friday evening my mom and I went to pick up the race packets, and she found out where she would be volunteering the next day. While we did that my uncle drove the bike course to “feel the hills” for the next morning. We had a not-so-typical pre-race meal of pizza, because whenever he comes home he has to have it. It hit the spot, but I was a bit nervous about not having pasta the night before a race.

I was up at 5:45 the next morning for a breakfast of a banana, a slice of cold pizza (a must), and a Red Bull (I was hardly awake). We were told to be at the race for 7:30, and got there around 7:20. It was a small race this year, with only 50 individual athletes and 13 teams (14, but 1 DNF’d) so the start area was pretty calm. I definitely waited a little too long to go to the port-a-pot and was really rushed at the start!

See me in the skirt? Taken from the Wildman's facebook page.
See me in the skirt? Taken from the Wildman’s facebook page.

Let me start with going into the 10K, I knew I would come in close to last, if not last, especially when I saw how small the field was. The Wildman is a competitive race and I know that I’m not a “fast” runner. I knew that all I could do was my best, and hopefully there would be someone slower than me in the field…When I took off on the out-and-back course, I waved goodbye to my family, knowing that I would have to fight alone for 6.2 miles.

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The course was relatively flat with a few short, steep hills. There were no spectators after the start aside from the 4 water stations. Very quickly I found myself alone with two older men, one ahead of me and one behind me. I don’t know when, but at some point the one behind me must have dropped out. I ran straight through the first 4 miles, then really focused on trying to catch the person ahead of me. Around mile 4 I started doing 4:1 intervals, hoping I would be able to gain some speed with some little walking breaks. I did speed up a little in the last mile, but not enough.

I fought to pass the man ahead of me, but he ended up winning the battle. He was 80 years old and I give him major props for doing the race as a solo entrant. I wish I can be in that kind of shape when I’m 80! So yes, I came in last for the 10k portion, however, this was my second fastest 10K time, and the fastest in a year. It was only about 20 seconds off my fastest time. There’s not many races where you can run a 10:08 avg. pace and still come in last. It stunk, but it didn’t hurt my spirits. It couldn’t – I had another leg to run!

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Right as I crossed the timing mat, my uncle took off on his 22.3 mile bike. My grandma and I hopped in the car and passed him on his first loop of the course. I had just enough time to go home and change and have some solid food (goldfish!). Just as my grandma and I were heading out to the mountain, my uncle passed by at the end of my street (about mile 15) as he was reaching his 45 minute mark. He was killing it! Once we got to the mountain we just had to wait for him. He finished in 1:26 and then I was off on my journey up the mountain!

Denis coming in on the bike.
Denis coming in on the bike.

Since this is getting long, I’ll be back tomorrow with my trek up the mountain and our final results!

Have you ever come in last in a race? Someone has to be the one…and it was me.