So here's a few of my favorite categories:
- Best race with husband. Hands down it would the Arkansas adventure race. Scared the holy hell out of me. I had never been mountain biking. I hadn't been canoeing since I was 16 (don't even think about doing the math!). And I most certainly was impaired when it came to reading a compass and actually finding my way in and out of a forest. But Little Rock was awesome. We visited the world's biggest nacho cheese festival, watched the Arkansas Razorbacks football game at a local bar listening to everyone say "Woo pig sooey" over and over. And we had fun as a couple.
- Best race with Megan. This is a tough one. I loved running side by side with her in the University of Notre Dame Sunburst 5k race where she complained the whole time until hearing the band playing on the field, sprinted, and beat me by 4-5 seconds! It was also awesome to see her finish 3rd in her age group at the Savannah Halloween 5k race. A beautiful course, but the best part was she wore he medal the entire weekend, except when she showered! Finally, it could have been the Rhode Island 6-hour Ultra race, where she sat in the car between my 2.5 mile laps, came over to cheer me as I came around the corner, and then be greeted by me at the finish line where I said, "Ive had enough of this running. Let's go shopping at Nordstrom's." And that's exactly what we did. She was always my biggest cheerleader, regardless of the race distance or how boring the day would eventually become.
- Best race with Bridget. Along the way, Bridget and I started the tradition of running a Halloween race. We would dress up and, in the beginning, I would push her in the jogging stroller. Our race in New Mexico, the stroller didn't show up in time for the race (no thanks to United!). Greg got on the web, found a jogging stroller rental place, and had a replacement stroller delivered to my hotel. He did all this from Cleveland! In Seattle, she ran her first kids race, which was a 1-mile fun run. We were dressed up as two Draculas and she kicked ass! We've run 3 more races since then and she even completed her first 5k locally and, of course, it was a Halloween race. For race experience, it melted my heart that after I won 3rd place in my age group, I received a trophy for the Alice in Wonderland Little Ruell 10k race in Oklahoma. Bridget carried my trophy around the entire weekend - she even held on to it while sleeping in her car seat!
- Best family vacation. This is a tough one. Hawaii for obvious reasons. Alaska was pretty cool, too, especially being greeted by Bridget at the finish line holding a bouquet of the longest-stemmed dandelions I've ever laid my eyes on. But the funnest of the all was at the most magical place on earth - Disneyworld. I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2009. I wasn't trained properly and that was reflected in my horrible 2:40 finish. But the race opened up the MGM Studio Park for the runners and their families only. We got to meet ALL the princesses, take tons of Disney character pictures, enjoy the rides and eat some of the most unhealthy food on the planet. It was a wonderful family vacation had by all of us.
- Best finish line food. Another tough question. The Ann Arbor 10k had fresh fruit by Whole Foods, which was such a delight, and fresh-baked breads from Zingerman's. Yum! The Des Moines, Iowa half marathon had an amazing smorgasbord of deliciousness as well, but the Prairie Fire half marathon in Kansas had piping hot Krispie Kreme donuts and fresh, locally roasted coffee at the finish line. Now that's why I run.
- Best schwag. Hands down, I loved the Portland, Oregon Freshwater Trust Triathlon for the schwag. Each finisher received a hat (that I still wear everywhere), a stainless steel water bottle, and a pint of Descheutes. Second place would go to the Ironman 70.3 Honu triathlon in Hawaii, where we received hat, shirt, and the best tasting Maui potato chips made on this earth!
- Best scenery. The Crazy Horse half marathon and the Park City Half Marathon tie for this category. Both races took my breath away. We loved Mount Rushmore and Rapid City, South Dakota. Would even go there again! In Park City, I got to watch the Tour of Utah and meet Bob Roll (swoon - if you're a cycling/Bobke fan). They were both had outstanding organization, race volunteers, and amenities. I would run both of these races again and highly recommend others enter as well.
- My favorite race experiences. It wasn't the distance that made the race special. And I've run big races and really small races. I definitely like the small, hometown races the best, without a doubt. I loved the Bill Luti 5-Miler. I ran cross country in high school so this race was even more neat. Bill Luti was the high school cross country coach for 4 decades. He stood at the 2-mile mark and yelled out the time. I heard so many people yell out "Thanks, Coach Luti" that it truly made the race experience wonderful. I also loved the Jerry Zucker Metric Century Plus Ride, where I met George Hincapie. I rode for 69 miles with two wonderful women, who were 20 years older than me and could kick my ass in cycling. Truly humbling and rewarding experience. But I will never forget my first marathon - the PF Chang's Marathon in Phoenix, Arizona. I had no idea what to expect and yet I was nervous and excited at the start line and overjoyed at the finish line. Greg and Megan greeted me and he gave me a beautiful Tiffany necklace to congratulate me.
It's been a wonderful challenge and I count my blessings that I was able to do this with my family and in good health (good health is an arbitrary phrase, you know).