Orlando and I don’t do gifts for birthdays or Christmas for each other. We opt for a night away or a fancy dinner somewhere new. This year Orlando’s birthday fell on a Sunday and it also happened to be my weekend off. Perfect! I asked him what he might like to do and you know what he said without any cajoling or bribing? He said he would like to run a race! Well who am I to deny that wish?!! A quick search of races in New England on that weekend revealed a 5K and a half marathon in Waterville Valley, NH. The Black Bear Half Marathon and 5K description boasted “a scenic tour of one of New Hampshire’s most beautiful towns, along quiet country roads, finishing in the center of the quaint village.” We had never visited before and it gave me the option of running a half if I needed to for marathon training.
As the day neared I was doing well with marathon training, but suspected that running a half marathon might be too much on that particular weekend. After careful consideration I opted to run the 5K alongside my husband. He really wanted to run it together and agreed to help me run a strong 5K. I really dislike 5Ks because it means basically sprinting at a fairly uncomfortable pace.
Anyway I’ll get to the race in a minute. Let me just take a moment to discuss the lovely Waterville Valley. It is a ski resort by winter and a family vacation site by summer. We got to our hotel in early afternoon. The day was gorgeous so we hopped on the bikes provided by the hotel and toured the property. There is a golf course, tennis courts, a playground, an adventure center, a beach with a volleyball net, shops, restaurants and kayak, canoe and paddle boat rentals. We saw a wedding party taking photos before heading to the reception. The resort is nestled below Mount Tecumseh and provides beautiful views in every direction.
We stopped in the adorable town square for an afternoon snack of local homemade ice cream. We meandered back to the hotel on the bikes to relax and prepare to go out to dinner. We made reservations at Lantern in the town square. We got a table overlooking the pond in the center of the village. The town square was bustling with activity at night. There was a band playing. People were hanging out eating more casual fare like pizza and burgers. Others were enjoying a beer or beverage down by the pond. We loved the vibe of the area. It was extremely family friendly. Kids were everywhere on scooters, roller blades, running around. It was such a lively environment. Of course we kept saying, “Carlos would love this.” It’s nice to have time alone, but we sure miss Carlos when we go somewhere without him.
We had a nice drawn out 4 course dinner including wine and dessert. This was a real treat for me. I enjoyed every delicious bite.
The next morning we were up bright and early to prepare for the race. I knew that morning that running the 5K was the right decision. We picked up our bibs and went for a little walk to kill time before the race. As we lined up at the start we realized there was only a small group running the race. The race organizer told us he would lead us on bicycle, and with that he counted down 3-2-1 and off we went. We ran through the resort, over a small bridge, past a small waterfall and back through the village to finish across from our hotel. There were some people cheering us on along the way which is always nice.
Orlando insisted on running the race with me. Now he is significantly faster than me so I told him to push me a little bit. It’s always nice to PR whenever possible, but as I was nearing the last weeks of marathon training I also didn’t want to risk injury so I told Orlando just to stay a little ahead of me at all times. The race course was scenic as promised and the weather could not have been more perfect. I felt really good throughout the run. I worked hard though as I always do during the shorter distances. Orlando’s long stride kept me reaching. The race ended on an uphill which is pure evil. I powered up the hill with Orlando next to me. He pulled back as I tore through the finish line. He now tells everyone that he “let me win!!” We were surprised with medals as finished. I’ve never received a medal for a 5K. I didn’t really know my time because the clock was reading the half marathon time. They said there would be an awards ceremony in about 20 minutes, but we had to check out of the hotel within the hour and still needed to shower. We knew we didn’t win! We grabbed a snack and some water and returned to the hotel to get ready and pack up.
On the way home we stopped at Lake Winnipesaukee for lunch and a little walk to check out the lake. It was beautiful. The day was perfect for swimming and boating. We took some photos and then hit the road.
Carlos stayed with my mom for the night and we couldn’t wait to see him. When we pulled into my mom’s driveway I spotted the balloons. We were greeted with sombreros and margaritas at our surprise birthday fiesta! Orlando’s birthday was that day and mine was three days later. My sister came out for the party which was a huge surprise because we had just seen her a few days earlier. It was just my immediate family there to celebrate. The evening was wonderful. Year after year we have had the same cook out for our birthday. I constantly beg for something different, but my stuck in her ways mom won’t budge. My sister planned the menu which included all the fixings for tacos along with guacamole, a corn and avocado salad, shrimp and fresh salsa. This took pretty much everyone except my husband, sister and me outside of their food comfort zone. It was comical. My mom and her husband were not thrilled, but my aunt and uncle seemed to enjoy the meal. Orlando and I were in heaven.
After dinner Carlos took us over to the piñata. He couldn’t wait for that part of the party. My mom and sister filled it with things you might find in a Christmas stocking like gum, lotion and chapstick. It was hilarious. We had fun going through everything once we managed to break it open.
No birthday party would be complete without cake. Again after pleading for many years for a cake I could eat without splurging on all of my calories for the day I was treated to angel food cake and fresh berries. It was delicious. I smiled thinking of how my grandmother would have loved the party as different as it was from years past. It was truly a wonderful weekend and a beautiful way to usher in a new age.
Oh sorry I forgot to mention my race results. So I killed it! Not only did I set a PR of 26:52, I also came in 2nd for the females overall and 1st for the females in my age group. OK I should probably mention that there were only 42 runners in the entire race. The first female actually won the race with a time of 20:55. It’s been a few weeks, but I’m still smiling about this race every time I think about it!