I always bring my running gear when I travel. I like to keep up with my training, plus I like to run new trails, see some new scenery and run with friends if possible. I recently travelled to San Juan Island to visit a friend and to attend the San Juan County Fair.Who does not like a fair – all those flowers, jams, photos, chickens, cows, etc. My husband and I attended the Fair on Thursday and while we were eating our lunch (so many choices in the Food Court), I scanned the Fair Guide. There, amongst the ads for local car dealerships, grocery stores, real estate agents, and the fair schedule, was a small article about the 37th running of the 8.8 Loop Run on the upcoming Saturday. I was practically jumping for joy… this is my perfect race distance! As I said, I had my gear and I had even been training for and teaching a 10K class. I signed up immediately at a booth at the Fair (très convenient… like it was meant to be). They must have known I would be coming. My husband was even happy for me and he took all these great photos. I did a nice easy run on Friday and picked up my race package: a lovely green t-shirt, a cow themed wrist band to get into the fair after the race, and a lucky 13 bib number. We even drove the course so I got a feel for the terrain. Humm, a few rolling hills – probably equal number of ups and downs, but a killer hill just before the finish line. That was the so called Heartbreak Hill, but it was less than half a K long, so I predicted that it would be manageable. I minimized my rosé intake on Friday evening and woke up early on Saturday, did my 4Cs (I’ve added a 4th – clothes) and headed to the course. The race started a 9am and we all lined up in the middle of Spring Street in Friday Harbour. How cool is that to have a race start right in the middle of the main drag? Luckily there was not much traffic that early on a Saturday morning. I started in the front row – of 179 competitors – and bolted at the word “GO” (downhill and lots of adrenaline) as did everyone else or so it seemed from my perspective. During the race I passed a few folks and a few passed me along the beautiful meandering course through the country-side. I rocked the downhills and rolled the uphills all the while trying to keep a sub 5 minute pace. I mostly did, except I found I dipped above 5 minutes on the uphills and in the middle of the course (must work on that). Heartbreak Hill was not too bad and I was especially motivated when a fellow from the sidelines practically jumped in front of me as he looked at my bib (where my name, sex and age were recorded on the tear-away portion) and told me I was on my way to winning my age division. Woohoo… turn on the rockets… I crossed the finish line at 45:30 min (5:10 pace – dammit I can improve that!) and 34th overall. Oh and, yes, I did win my division and a lady who also ran the race came up to me and congratulated me saying that I was “really fast” and that I “took off like a shot at the start of the race”. Blush, blush… it was nice to be called fast – for an old lady! I was actually 11th female out of 96… also not too bad for an old lady. If I run this race again, and I think I might, I hope that I’m in the next age category against the lady 5 years younger than me and who beat me to place 4th overall in 40:09 min. Awesome for her! So it paid to have my running gear while on vacation. It paid to go to the fair. And it paid to read the Fair Guide. These small races are such confidence boosters and are perfect training grounds for future races. And you never know if you will win a prize. Just like the lottery… you don’t win if you don’t buy a ticket. Then again, I know that not everyone goes in a race to win.