Monday, December 26, 2011

Spandex Doesn't Lie

Shakira may sing that the Hips Don't Lie, but let me tell you that spandex doesn't lie either! I had gotten lax about exercising during December due to a pulled hamstring. While babying that muscle, I pretty much turned into a bowl full of jello. Today, after a 2-month hiatus, I returned to spinning. When I packed in my jello into the spandex cycling shorts, it was quite evident that I'd been packing a lot more than fruits and vegetables into me lately! Yikes - time to get back to business.

Here's to hoping that you were less indulgent during the holidays!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I know, right?! Who doesn't want this under their tree?! I'm pretty sure Meg wrote to Santa and asked for this very thing!

May you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Last of the 24 Days of Christmas

Alternate title: How I Wore Myself Out Over Christmas!

Seriously, this was so much fun, but I did learn that it's ok to have a super simple activity like coloring in a coloring book. A few projects took too much time and it was difficult to plan around the trips that I had scheduled on the fly. But we had fun and I will definitely do this again next year - with modifications, since Meg will be on college (cue the tears!).

December 22: Make a gift for the squirrels and hang it outside. We found pinecones, tied a string at one end, coated the pinecone in peanut butter, then rolled it in bird seed. Very easy project.

December 23: Have a candlelight dinner with family and name one thing you love best about each person. Today was also 11 years since my first date with the hubs. The date last 11 hours - 5 of those hours being spent in an Irish pub :)

December 24: Wrap all the presents and put them under the tree. Off to bed so Santa can visit!

Friday, December 23, 2011

24 Days of Christmas: Week 3

This has been so much fun enjoying a different activity each day with my girls.

December 15: Sing Christmas carols in the car and drive around. I must polish up on the lyrics next time!

December 16: Bake Cookies. We made sugar cookies and gingerbreak cookies. Now don't think I've gone all Martha Stewart over here. They were prepared mixes which required adding 2 ingredients and they were shaped into circles. Yep, couldn't find the cookie cutters.

December 17: Christmas Scavenger Hunt. So much fun! The hunt started with a story of how Santa needed Bridget and Megan's help to find Rudolph. Both girls had to solve a series of clues, leading them to Rudolph (a stuffed animal that plays music). I'm not sure which one had more fun!

December 18: Bridget and Megan made a beautiful gingerbread house (scroll down to see how wonderful it turned out!).

December 19: Make a Christmas drawing using glitter pens to make the picture twinkle with instructions to hang the pictures up for me to see when I got home from my race. I came home to pictures of a snowman and a Christmas tree that were absolutely perfect masterpieces!

December 20: Dance class recital, then ice cream with family. We were lucky enough that Grandma, Aunt Kim, Uncle George, Ben, Maeve and Quinn were able to join us and see ballerina Bridget. Meg had a swim meet and had a great performance!

December 21: We made ornaments out of pre-made Crayola clay. I couldn't believe how much fun.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ole Man River Half Marathon Race Report

As I've said numerous times, I truly do prefer smaller races. This race was just awesome in every way. I'll make the race report short, but the race was big on fun and a good overall race experience.

First, and most importantly, ALL body parts worked! Since Vegas, I had not completed a single run - nope, nada, not a single mile. I was jonesing for a run like a crack addict needing a fix. But I held off because my right hamstring was sending me daily nastigrams that first week after the Las Vegas Rock n Roll half marathon. But more on this later.

Race morning, we had a taxi pick us up at the hotel. The trolley wasn't running at 7am on a Sunday morning - go figure, right?! When we got into the taxi, we ended up having a seriously sketchy experience, but comical in the end. I am so grateful that I have a bright, plan-ahead kind of husband. The cab driver asks us where we want to go. We tell him Tad Gormley Stadium at City Park. He asks US how WE would like to get there. Wtf? He's the cab driver living in New Orleans and he asks two Clevelanders how to get to a park we've never been to. We tell him to go whichever way is fastest. He says, "No, you tell me. I drive where you want me to take you." Dude, we want to go to the f-ing park and we'd like to get there BEFORE the race begins. Greg pulls out his iPhone and google mapped us there. Talk about a little stress. Then he goes all Evangelical on us and talks about religion. I actually pondered jumping out of the car and tried to remember if I'm supposed to land on my arm, tucking in the shoulder and just keep rolling or was there another way to bail! Too damn funny.

We made it with a little time to spare for a quick potty trip. Phew!

The start was outside the stadium and the first three miles was outlined by someone who obviously was a fan of etch-a-sketches. Oddly enough, it was so much fun weaving in and out of the park for the first three miles. We passed the art museum, wove around little ponds, over bridges...just a nice view overall. The spanish moss dripping from the trees really made you feel like you were in the south.

I felt good for the first 5 miles and kept my effort pretty consistent knocking out the miles at 10:44, 10:28, 10:43, 11:03 (water stop walk), 10:45. I continued on clocking in the next 4 miles at 10:49, 10:53, 10:38, and 10:56. I started to get tired as I was heading toward mile 10. I stopped to liberally apply some Biofreeze and, would you believe, my right side was fine - my left side was angry this time. The problem with taking 2 weeks off and no running is that you start to lose a little endurance. I had been running fairly conservatively for the first 9 miles trying to keep the pace even. Mile 10 came in at 11:49 - yikes. I manage to pick it up a bit to 11:03 for mile 11, but mile 12 barked at me and brough 11:46 thanks to run/walk breaks. I scooted in mile 13 at 11:19 and finished overall in 2:24:07 - just 37 seconds slower than Vegas two weeks earlier. My Garmin measured the course at 13.21 miles.

The finish line was on the track/football field of the stadium, which was pretty cool. A kids football game was being played at the same time as the race finish. I have no idea how those kids managed to concentrate on a football game when hundreds of people are dragging in at various times!

Afterwards, we got to hand out around the edge of the field and watch the game while hydrating. Kind of cool, if you ask me.

The weather was great. It was low 50s with sunshine and an occasional wind. Couldn't have asked for better weather - and seriously, how better to spend a weekend in December?!

Greg had an even better story. He was sitting in the stands for the last hour before I finished sitting near some parents watching the game. This larger than life mother stood up and started complaining that she couldn't see her son playing because something was blocking her view. She yelled back to her husband to pull his gun out and take care of the obstacle. Now, don't get me wrong. The park is in a pretty nice neighborhood in New Orleans, yet I'm pretty sure Greg was ready to run far away from those parents after hearing that comment!

We then hopped on to the trolley and rode it the length of Canal Street. Got off, headed straight to Cafe DuMonde and enjoyed ourselves with some amazing beignets and cafe au lait.

And the 40th state was knocked out just like that :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ten Years Later, He Still Loves Me

Back in September 2001, Greg had promised me a trip to New Orleans. Everything was booked - flights, hotel. Then 9/11 happened and our trip was cancelled. He promised me a raincheck. Ten years later, I cashed in that raincheck and even managed to knock out another state while doing so.

This was a great weekend to a great town. And it was worth the wait.

Just the two of us. Bourbon Street. Loads of window shopping. More food than I thought a hungry truck driver could eat. And a half marathon around scenic City Park. Damn fine coffee and beignets at the famed Cafe Dumonde post-race. Listening to carolers in the historic french market district where they passed out sheet music and candles. Perfect.

Cafe Dumond post-race for beignets piled high with powdered sugar and cafe au laits. Mmmm!

Christmas card-worthy picture at The Roosevelt Hotel. Wow, what a beautiful place!

Bourbon Street lit up at night - just magical!

Race report will follow soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

24 Days of Christmas: Week 2

The girls and I have enjoyed doing this little project. Every morning Bridget gets excited to open the day's activity before going to school and then repeats it to me on the drive home. I was clearly a bit too ambitious when I started this project as I didn't factor in how tired I might be after a long day at work! So I've had to substitute a couple of days with silly, little things. Oh well, it's still been a blast!

December 8: We were supposed to make an ornament, but instead we just colored in a coloring book. I forgot to buy supplies and this one sneaked up on me way too fast! Thank goodness, substitutions are allowed.

December 9: Write your letter to Santa and mail it to the North Pole. I used parchment paper and let Bridget stamp Santa's picture on the top of card, then write inside. Easy project!

December 10: This was a travel day to see my brother and his family, so the girls just received a small piece of candy.

December 11: Spend time doing a family activity. We visited the Children's Museum with my brother's family and had a great day. Check out the fun photos!

December 12: Make snowflakes and hang them up. Thanks, Aunt Char, for the wonderful craft project! I even had a blast making snowflakes.

December 13: Movie night! Make popcorn and watch a movie with family. We watched Beauty and the Beast Christmas. What's not to love about Belle!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Family Fun During the Holidays

Another wonderful trip visiting my brother and his family. It was awesome to see how much Meg and Bridget enjoyed spending time with their cousins. Zoe and Bridget were inseparable and we couldn't believe how much Marcus is growing up. And Megan and I enjoyed catching up with Scott and Char!

These pictures taken at the Children's Museum. So much fun!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

HBBC Weeks 3 and 4

Coming off Vegas with a pulled hamstring, Week 3 of HBBC didn't result in cardio points. Instead, I focused on eating more fruits and veggies and strength training, resulting in 5 points. Week 4 points totaled 18 for a half marathon, eating better and mini yoga sessions.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Interview with My Girls

One of my favorite bloggers interviewed her friend, asking several holiday/winter-related questions. I thought what a great idea and a neat way to journal from year to year about what my girls enjoy about the holiday season.

If you could go anywhere this winter where would you go?Meg: Rockefeller Center to go ice skating. 
Bridget: To go ice skating with Megan. 

What is your favorite holiday food treat?Megan: peanut butter/reese cups thumbprint cookies. 
Bridget: candy canes and lots of them. 

What gift are you asking Santa for this holiday season?Megan: to get into Miami University and endless Q'doba meals.  
Bridget: Rapunzel baby and the Soothing Spa. 

What is your favorite holiday tradition or thing to do?Megan: going to Arlo's house on Christmas Eve. 
Bridget: going to the town tree lighting and seeing Santa. 

I can't wait to ask these same questions next year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

24 Days of Christmas

A few years ago I bought a new Advent Calendar for the girls. It's a giant stocking with 24 little pockets for treats or notes. This year, I decided to mix it up with fun stuff (treats/jokes), family activities and giving/spreading goodwill. Below is from our first week:

December 1: decorate the Christmas tree.

December 2: go to the town gathering for the lighting of the tree and meet Santa afterwards.

December 3: what do Santa's elves learn at the North Pole school? The ELFabet! Reese's trees as a treat for each daughter.

December 4: what do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite! Small Activity/coloring book for Bridget and Vogue magazine for Megan.

December 5: what do snowmen eat for breakfast? Snowflakes! Santa bubble gum tape (both my girls love it!).

December 6: drive around enjoying the Christmas lights while enjoying Mitchell's ice cream. Mmmm!

December 7: gather two used toys and two good books to donate to a shelter.

So far the first week has been so much fun! Love the holidays and I love my girls!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rock n Roll Vegas Race Report

Quick 2-day trip in and out of Las Vegas, Nevada to complete the Rock n Roll Vegas half marathon and to check off our 39th state. Isn't it dangerous to spend longer than that in Sin City?!

After landing, we checked into the chic Aria hotel. I would highly recommend staying at Aria - spacious, clean, nicely-furnished rooms with state-of-art technology. Grabbed lunch while waiting for Kim's plane to land, then headed over to the expo extravaganza for packet pick-up.

The gratuitous showgirl picture!

I only had two things on my expo checklist - a sparkly headband and a Clif Bar for pre-race fuel. I hadn't been to a gigantic expo in quite some time and quickly realized that BIG isn't always BETTER. The take home stuff included a Brooks tech shirt (nice), a headlamp provided by Everready Battery, and Gu chomps. Cab line at the Venetian was more than a 30 minute wait so we walked back - probably too much walking the day before a long race. But we'll see. When a town has 44,000 runners and their families and/or friends descend upon it for the weekend, cabs are at a premium.

Kim and George headed to Garth Brooks afterwards while Greg and I enjoyed a slow, leisurely dinner at Firefly, a tapas bar and restaurant off the strip. Outstanding food and probably the best Sangria I've had. Highly recommend this restaurant for your next Vegas trip.

Sunday morning required the standard buffet trip. We figured brunch was a smarter choice since the race was at 5:30pm and lunch can be dicey on the stomach. I loved having an omelet with a side of broccoli and carrots and a peanut butter blonde brownie. Mmmm!

Here's where an evening race gets complicated. What do you do with yourself in Vegas that doesn't require walking or drinking. I couldn't go window shopping at the Palazzo shops or the Forum Shops at Ceasar's. I know, right?! We were bored out of our minds. So we hung out in the room, watched a movie and relaxed. I so prefer morning races where you knock out the event and then have the rest of the day to be dangerous!

We left the hotel a little before 4:00pm to take the shuttle from Aria to Mandalay Bay. We stood in a ridiculously long line that wrapped around and around feeling like it was never-ending. We were glad we made the choice to leave a little early and not cut it close for this very reason - 44,000 people were trying to get to the same start line during the same period. Several buses showed up and we didn't quite make it. Rats! We were a bit concerned about having to wait till the next group of buses come back. But wait. Three limos provided by Aria magically appeared. Can this really be true? That's right - we traveled to the start line in VIP style! The limo dropped us off right next to the port-o-potties, which had short lines. Bonus! This was appreciated considering how cold it was (low 40s). We ambled over to our corrals and tried to keep close to our new friends in Corral 15 to maintain some warmth.

Trying to stay warm!

Mike McCready, Pearl Jam's lead guitarist, played the National Anthem. And then we were released by corrals to start the race. Just another reason I don't like big races - the long wait to cross the start line. For us, it was about 20 minutes. That's 20 minutes standing in the cold. Let me tell you, that does NOT help race day performance. We both commented how stiff and heavy our legs felt.

Cool light show pre-race.

And we were off! I spent the entire race dodging people and being hit, bumped, pushed or stepped on. This race was larger than even the Marine Corps Marathon and much larger than Grandma's marathon. As I've said, BIG is not BETTER, except with my husband (TWSS).

The first 4 miles were on the newer part of the strip. The lights were exciting, although at times hard on the eyes. I remember thinking the Christmas tree outside the Venetian was simply spectacular.

At mile 4, we veered off into the seedier side of Vegas. As Greg pointed out, people cheering you on in new Vegas were different socio-economically than those in old Vegas. We all agreed that we didn't like this part of the course since it was uneventful, full of potholes, cambered, and, unfortunately, this section lasted for about 5 miles.

I enjoyed passing the Wynn and the Venetian on the way back. However, it was outside the Palazzo/Venetian that my right hamstring started talking Russian to me, a language I do not understand. Next thing I know, my hips were the kind of sore I've not experienced before. Thank goodness I carry trial size packets of Biofreeze with me or I would have had to walk it in. After the race, all three of us compared course notes and we all had aching hips, which was odd because none of us had experienced that kind of pain or ache before. The only thing we could attribute it to is all the starting, stopping, and abrupt turns of dealing with so many runners. It was a frustrating obstacle course, to say the least. This must be how Josh Cribbs feels when he's running down the field trying to avoid being tackled.

As I was wallowing in my broken lower body, I caught the beautiful water and light show at the Bellagio. Just a wonderful sight to see. I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't have to dodge so many camera-wielding runners who came to sudden, abrupt stops.

Crossing the finish line was typical at a large-scale race. I'll be surprised if the Photographers can pick me out of the crowd of 50 of us crossing the line at the same time. As a result, the crowd of runners was too tight and people weren't moving forward to keep the flow going (in spite of volunteers yelling to keep moving). Medals were given out (cute nightime skyline of Vegas) and volunteers threw out in the air the space blankets. I felt like I was at a CAVS show hoping to catch a t-shirt thrown in the crowd. Seriously?!

So glad to cross off the 39th state!

We got a bottle of Cytomax (both Greg and I thought it was yucky), a bottled water, a FROZEN banana (I kid you not), and a Marathon bar. They had go-gurt yogurt, but my stomach told me that would not be a wise choice. We finished at different times and found each other post-race at the Family Reunion area. And then began the cattle call trek back to our hotel. We couldn't find the shuttles (no markings or signs) so we walked through Mandalay Bay to the tram. Took the tram to Excaliber, then walked back to Aria.

We reunited with Kim and George at the Todd English Pub at our hotel for some grub and good beer as well as post-race commiserating and cheers. It's always good to have a destination race, especially one where you were part of making history by being in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest nighttime race, but I'll gladly take my small town races.

2:23:30 (5 minutes faster than Wichita just 6 weeks ago!)
14,298 out of 33,123 half marathoners (crazy!)
7296 out of 21051 in gender (top third-woohoo!)
719 out of 2238 in my division

Had a great little escape with the husband, but it's always nice to be back home!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

HBBC Week 2

Loving this program and how it motivates me to focus more on building points and less on piling on pounds. This week consisted of a 3 mile run on Tuesday (where I experienced major hamstring issues) and the Vegas half marathon on Sunday. I only had one day of strength training. Total points for the week = 17 points.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hello, Old Man Winter

After my lunch time chilly run, I'm pretty convinced Old Man Winter pulled up a chair and decided to sit a spell! It's been a long time since I had to wear a warm running hat, gloves and full running tights. I miss fall temps already! Brrrr....

Monday, November 28, 2011

HBBC Week 1

Week 1 (Nov. 19-25) of the Holiday Booty Buster Challenge is off to a great start! Sunday was my 12-mile long run, Tuesday and Friday I added in 20 minutes of strength, and Thursday was my exciting 5-mile run that turned in to a PR! 19 points by my calculation for this "doer".

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A New PR!

My previous 5-mile PR was a 52:49 in 2010 running the Bill Luti 5-Miler in Concord, New Hampshire. Today, I shattered that number and managed to finish the Hermes Turkey Trot here in wonderful downtown Cleveland in 47:52!!!!! Holy crap, Batman, that's a minute faster per mile! Woohoo!

So today, not only am I grateful for a wonderful husband/kids and family, a good job with challenging work and enjoyable co-workers, fun friends, but I am also grateful for having good health and that I am able to do something I love - running.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This Weekend's Temptation

Before dinner last night I popped in to my favorite running store to pick up some gels and drink mix. As I walked in the back door with my youngest, a girl greeted me and asked me if I was pre registered. I looked at her with the same level of excitement as a 5-year-old on Christmas morning. A race? Here? In my backyard? I asked if it was a half marathon and it was. Oh dear. I love running half marathons. And I do have a long run I need to knock out this weekend - a 12-miler to be exact...which is uhmm pretty darn close to 13.1 miles. I held tough and continued on to the gels, but I did think about how nice it would be to run with a thousand of my closest friends, to have water stations, post-race goodies. I don't need another shirt nor should I spend the money on entry fee. Devil-Angel. Both were talking to me at the same time. In the end, I held strong. I bought my gels and went next door to have a wonderful dinner (and a Bear Republic Racer 5) with my daughters.

I still need to get in my long run. So I'll be carrying my own drinks and I'll put that entry fee toward a new pair of running shoes instead.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Working on Year 9

2011 will be my 9th Turkey Trot here in Cleveland. I just love this race. Last year, it was just me and the girls. The rain was so heavy that I finished the short 1-mile race sans jogging stroller. Since having Bridget, I've been running the 1-mile race with Greg and Megan while pushing Bridget in the jogging stroller. This year, I convinced Greg to join me in the 5-mile race. Can't wait! This is one tradition I love keeping up!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Newest Guilty Pleasure

Thanks to my hubs and daughter, I have entered the world of Twitter. Who am I following? Why, Barbie, of course! And you should, too. I mean, come on, with tweets like below, how can you not wonder what Barbie is doing today?!

After a few days of rain in Malibu, this doll is ready to enjoy the sunshine! Hopping on my pretty pink bike and going for a ride.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Good Week of Running

For the most part, Mother Nature was kind to us Northern Ohio runners. I enjoyed the sunshine for my 3-miler on Monday and had a comfortable 10-miler today. Wednesday's 4-miler was in the pouring rain, but it was 60 degrees - so I'll take it. I'm going to try to fit in a quick 3-miler with B in the jogging stroller on Sunday (and maybe even meet Greg during his long run!) to round out an even 20 miles. What a good week!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

RunToTheFinish: Yuengling Shamrock Marathon (Entry Giveaway)

RunToTheFinish: Yuengling Shamrock Marathon (Entry Giveaway): Go over to Amanda's blog so that you can enter for a chance to win an entry in the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon and 1/2 Marathon in Virginia Beach. If I win the entry, it will give me another excuse to hang out with my brother and sister-in-law!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Autumn Bucket List Progress

In September, I posted our family's Autumn Bucket List. It's been so much fun checking to-do items off this list!

So far, we have:

Gone Apple Picking at Patterson Fruit Farm and visited their Pumpkin Patch

Carved a pumpkin

Made Fall Cookies (pre-made Pillsbury count, right?)

Took a nature walk (and got to pick up one of those Horseapples)

Went trick or treating and entered a Trick or Trot race

And now, we can add having a "Photoshoot in a Leaf Pile, then jumping in" to our list!

Maybe this weekend, we'll have to tackle baking pies and s'mores and, if the weather allows, squeeze in an outdoor picnic!

Monday, November 7, 2011

No Longer a Minor

How can she be 18? Time flies way too fast! Yesterday, we celebrated Megan turning 18. As a special way to celebrate, Meg enjoyed opening 18 gifts for 18 years over 18 hours. At 6am, she woke up to her first gift. Her last gift was supposed to occur at 11pm, but we were too tired ad #17 and #18 were received at 9:45pm! What a wonderful kid to raise and be with. Time needs to slow down because I don't want to share her with college! No way, no how! Love you, Pumpkin!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Retiring an Old Friend

We all have wardrobe pieces that we hate to give up - something that either holds special memories or is so instrumental to your success as an athlete. For me, it was my armband. I have used this darn thing for 2 years, wearing it during almost every race I entered. The first time it started falling apart was at the Stowe 8-Miler in July 2010. I went to the medical tent to ask for tape and got lectured on how runners shouldn't be listening to music while running due to the safety risk. I carried my phone, not for music, but in case my daughters had an emergency back in the hotel room. I didn't need a lecture on safety - I'm old enough to know that - doy! Eventually, I started using duct tape...because duct tape is like miracle tape.. Then, during my Alaska race, the duct tape started having more and more trouble sticking. I just couldn't give up the armband yet - it had never given up on me. But with 5 races in October, the armband needed to be retired. I loved that thing :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thank Yous All Around

Thank you Mother Nature for providing such spectacular colors and autumn temps.

Thank you Metroparks for providing me with a well-maintained all-purpose trail to run.

Thank you to my husband for the massage gift certificate that I used last night. It gave me the needed flexibility to knock out an amazing and enjoyable run today.

Hope your week was just as great!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Morning with George Hincapie

Let's begin with arriving in Charleston. After a wonderful morning in Savannah, Georgia, we headed out for our 2-hour drive to Charleston to check off our 38th state. Our first stop was at a local, reputable bike shop that rented road bikes. I had pre-reserved a road bike for this event. I had exchanged emails and phone calls, but still had that feeling in my stomach that they would drop the ball. And drop the ball they did! I arrived to pick up my bike and it had no pedals. Are you freaking kidding me?! The person in charge (and who I had been communicating with) said I should have brought my own pedals. I reminded him that I had explained I needed clipless pedals and I'd be bringing my shoes. Long story short, he tried arguing, I politely stood my ground with details of our exchanges, Greg came to my aid, and eventually bike shop guy relented and did the right the end...and almost an hour later. He even gave me three samples of Hoo-Hah cream (as if that helped my near panic attack...well, eventually it was helpful!). At any rate, I had my bike WITH PEDALS and that's what mattered.

If you've never been to Charleston, you really must go. The town is beautiful with all the Southern mansions. It is full of amazing history. We were impressed with the restaurants, the shopping, and the large number of dessert places! The night before my ride, we had a delicious meal at Coast. The lobster ceviche as incredible, all our meals were rave-worthy, and the service was outstanding. After dinner, we stumbled across a cupcake shop, while looking for a macaroon shop, where we indulged in a few (hundred) extra calories.

So the night before the race, I had I was so anxious about meeting this Metric Century Ride goal and even more excited about seeing George Hincapie. How could I sleep knowing that I was meeting one of my cycling crushes in the morning?!

Before the Ride. Would you believe it was warmer in Cleveland than in Charleston? Uh oh. I had been watching the weather with more obsession than Megan watches the Kardashians. It was supposed to be pleasant - low 50s to start and ending with mid 60s - perfect cycling weather. As I lined up, it was a frigid 37 degrees. The ride was delayed by 15 minutes to allow all riders to assemble. That was 15 additional minutes for my thighs to turn bright pink. My legs looked like a Lilly Pullitzer Christmas tree! My ensemble included the most heavily ass-padded shorts I could buy, my white long-sleeve Nike running top, a blue sleeveless cycling jersey (yep, Meg said I looked liked Alice in Wonderland on a bike), with a last-minute add-on of Greg's brown NF long-sleeve. I then looked like a petite Chewbacca! As my fingers were going numb from the cold, I panhandled till I found a kind soul who loaned me his spare gloves. He did so only after telling this Cleveland girl he was a Steelers fan! Whatever, my fingers felt much better.

As I was lining up, George Hincapie arrived. It was my kind of red carpet experience. He was dressed in BMC clothing as if he had just finished a ride in the Alps alongside Cadel Evans. SWOON. I am such a cycling dork that I began smiling like a teenager with a crush. He is as marvelous in person as you'd expect. I did not have the cycling speed to ride alongside him for the event, but I did see him pass by me on the return loop and I grinned all over again!

The Ride. The Ride was advertised as a 100k+ event since it was measured at 67.61 miles. However, all road markings said 70k! I know, right? What's 3 more miles when you're already doing 67? This charity ride was a smallish group of riders who mostly maintained speeds of 25 mph. No worries, I was here to test my limits, to burn a few calories, and to have fun. I did all three with an average speed of 14.7mph (when you subtract the rest/water stop time).

The first 20 miles I rode by myself. It was so freezing cold, I was more concerned with trying to keep myself warm that the miles ticked by fairly quickly. I couldn't believe the sign that read "15 Miles". And I had to keep my focus and not let myself realize that I had 55 more miles to go! As we know, the mental challenge always outweighs the physical.

The first rest stop came at 20 miles. It was here that I ran into two wonderful ladies, Beth and Jan. Beth regularly competes in triathlons and Jan had just finished a 1600 mile trek on her bike from Portland, Maine. The three of us spent the next 47+ miles together. So glad to have company and both ladies were incredibly interesting. Beth shared my passion for the Tour de France and she even had a fantasy TdF team!

The route was mostly scenic, offering great views of old oak trees dripping with spanish moss. We crossed a draw bridge (thankfully, down) with the water glistening and even seeing a pelican diving to catch food. At one point, we were stopped behind an old pickup truck for about 5 minutes while waiting for a train to finish crossing. The pickup truck had a bumper sticker about eating Yankees. If questioned, I was going to keep my hometown to myself!

We passed by a road named Dolly Dimples and, of course, that provided a good laugh for a bit. At one point, Jan asked me what my longest ride had been so far. I asked her how far had we gone already. She said 45. So I said my longest ride was 45 miles!

Prior to reaching the third water stop, we crossed a beautiful marsh where we saw a family of turkey vultures. The crosswinds were tough, but the natural beauty of the marsh was a treat in itself. At the third water stop (around mile 52-ish), the volunteers were outstanding. One guy held my bike while I stretched and he told me that he had been a Browns fan since the Brian Sipe days. He shared that his college roommate had graduated high school with Brian Sipe and he had been a fan ever since. It was a nice story that took my mind off all the pedaling for a few minutes. I do love hearing stories from people about their Cleveland experiences or connections.

I won't lie. The last 10 miles took a hundred years to finish. At least it felt like a hundred years. I will tell you that working in a team makes all the difference. Because Jan had just come back the previous week from her 1600 mile ride, Beth and I took turns pulling. Working in a team also makes you work a little harder so you don't let down the others. I really think this helped me finish as well as I did. And it was during this final stretch that Jan saw me squirming for comfort and she yelled out that, at this point, changing positions in the saddle wasn't going to help me. She was right. It was a "soreness" that I cannot describe, but does rival childbirth. Ouch is all I'm going to say about that!

As we rounded back into Park West I began to get excited because everything looked familiar. It was so cool when the firefighters at the station cheered as we rode by! But how is it possible that the beginning miles are quick and light and the final miles are long and hard?! Fortunately, I was full of a sense of accomplishment and that amazing feeling carried my sore ass and tired legs to the finish line! I even finished a full hour sooner than Greg predicted. Yay me!

Jan, Me, and Beth Post-Ride

At the finish line, Beth, Jan and I enjoyed a plate of pasta. Because we had finished so late, the dinner forks were gone so we had to use those big catering forks. Hysterical! As wonderful as a pasta dinner seemed, I couldn't really eat because I was plum tuckered out!

Greg and the girls had spent the morning at the Charleston Aquarium and joined me shortly after I finished. Some tots at Sonic for Meg (what would a trip to any southern state be without a stop at Sonic?!), a quick shower for me, then off to historic King Street for some window shopping. We stumbled across a great little college bar, plopped ourselves down, and enjoyed a celebratory ale. Dinner topped the evening with ribs and pulled pork at Sticky Fingers. I had collard greens and Carolina baked beans with my dinner. I'm pretty sure my dinner had the same number of calories that I burned earlier in the day!

And with the help of family and friends through their generous donations to the Jerry Zucker Charleston Ride for Hope, the 38th state was checked off!

Kim, are you ready for the next adventure in Vegas?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Podium Finish for My Pumpkin

As usual, the Clevelanders brought the rain again. And, as usual, this race is another example of why I love small town races.

A Halloween race has become a tradition. I am all about strange or silly traditions. Since moving to Cleveland, I have not missed a single Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day, running either the 5-mile (if alone) or the 1-mile (if with family). Even 6 months pregnant with Bridget, I still ran the 1-mile race earning me a Pregnancy PR. This month will make my ninth Turkey Trot in downtown Cleveland.

The new running tradition is that I run a Halloween race with Bridget in the jogging stroller. Last year, she and I ran the Day of the Tread 10k in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This year, Meg surprised me by agreeing to run with us (she might tell the story differently, you know). We truly made the Savannah Trick or Trot 5k A FAMILY AFFAIR!

The morning of the race, it rained. No worries as we don't mind a little of the wet stuff. The race was held at the May Howard Elementary School in Wilmington Island, a few miles from the center of Savannah, Georgia. Costumes were encouraged and, of course, we wore ours! Bridget and I were witches while Meg donned her cheetah outfit.

The course was a nice loop around stately plantations, opening up to breathtaking views of the water, passing s beautifully landscaped golf course and country club. And best of all, Meg won third place in her age group! This was her first AG medal and, as you can see from the picture, she was proud! She wore that medal all day like it was a prized heirloom piece of jewelry. Even at dinner Saturday evening, she was still sporting her medal. Awesome day with my girls!

We celebrated completing our 37th state at a great little brunch spot in the historic district. Such a small world as we found out our waitress had recently been to an outdoor concert in Logan, Ohio. Afterwards, we walked around the town, enjoyed ourselves sampling 5 different kinds of honey at the Savannah Bee Company, picked out handmade soaps at Nourish, eating ice cream at the famed Leopold's, then got in the car for our 2-hour ride to Charleston, South Carolina.

Great day - and congratulations Megan!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fundraising Update and Thank You

I cannot thank everyone enough for their generous donations and support of my bike ride and for supporting the fight against cancer. I not only met my fundraising goal, but exceeded it! Now I just have to meet that dastardly physical goal - yikes!

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Here's to a safe ride on Sunday. Can't wait to share the details when I return.

Until then, I will leave you with a funny (and clean) cycling joke:

A nerd was walking down the sidewalk one day when his friend, another nerd, rode up on an incredible shiny new bicycle.

The first nerd was stunned by his friend's sweet ride and asked, "WOW! Where did you get such a nice bike?"

The second nerd replied, "Well, yesterday I was walking home, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up to me on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, 'Take what you want!'"

The second nerd nodded approvingly, "Good choice. The clothes probably wouldn't have fit."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sweet Caroline - or Carolina, in this Case

Our 38th state may be my most difficult challenge as it will (hopefully) result in a 100k bike ride. In keeping with the educational side of this blog - you know, hoping that my daughters will learn something from this experience other than how to pack - I'll leave you with some fun facts about South Carolina.

1. The walls of the American fort on Sullivan Island, in Charleston Harbor, were made of spongy Palmetto logs. This was helpful in protecting the fort because the British cannonballs bounced off the logs.

2. South Carolina entered the Union on May 23, 1788 and became the 8th state.

3. The state dance of South Carolina is the Shag!

4. Before being known as the Palmetto State, South Carolina was known as, and had emblazoned on their license plates, the Iodine State.

5. Tyler Brothers Work Shoe and Boot Company in Wagener produces 8 major brands of OSHA approved safety footwear, including such famous brands as Redwing, Georgia, Northlake, and Wolverine.

6. The Edisto River Canoe & Kayak Trail covers 66 miles of the river for which it's named. The Edisto is reputed to be the world's longest free-flowing "blackwater" stream. "Blackwater" is a term that not only describes the color of the tannin-rich water, but also refers to the peaceful rate of flow that characterizes such rivers.

7. The Isle of Palms was originally named Hunting Island and then Long Island, it's thought to be at least 25,000 years old, and was first inhabited by the indigenous Seewee Indians.

8. Sweetgrass basket making has been a part of the Mount Pleasant community for more than 300 years. Basket making is a traditional art form that has been passed on from generation to generation.

9. Fountain Inn is proud of the town's most famous native son. Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates lost his leg in a cotton gin accident at the age of 12; he overcame his tragedy to become a famous dancer. His signature step was the "Imitation American Jet Plane," in which he would jump five feet in the air and land on his peg leg, with his good leg sticking out straight behind him. During his career, Bates performed more than 20 different times on the Ed Sullivan television show more than any other artist.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Georgia On My Mind

Not just an amazing Ray Charles song, but the sight of our next state destination. Can't wait. Until then, here's some fun facts about Georgia:

1. Georgia was named for King George II of England.

2. The pirate Edward "Blackbeard" Teach made a home on Blackbeard Island. The United States Congress designated the Blackbeard Island Wilderness Area in 1975 and it now has a total of 3,000 acres.

3. The official state fish is the largemouth bass.

4. Georgia is the nations number one producer of the three Ps--peanuts, pecans, and peaches.

5. Known as the sweetest onion in the world, the Vidalia onion can only be grown in the fields around Vidalia and Glennville

6. Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River.

7. Coca-Cola was invented in May 1886 by Dr. John S. Pemberton in Atlanta, Georgia. The name "Coca-Cola" was suggested by Dr. Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson. He penned the name Coca-Cola in the flowing script that is famous today. Coca-Cola was first sold at a soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta by Willis Venable

8. The popular theme park - Six Flags Over Georgia, was actually named for six flags that flew over Georgia. England, Spain, Liberty, Georgia, Confederate States of America, and the United States.

9. Savannah was the landing site for General James Edward Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia.

10. Wesleyan College in Macon was the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women.

So here's to a weekend of pecans, peanuts and peaches!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thank You, Mother Nature

Not only did I have a great 4-mile run during my lunch, but I was treated to the most beautiful colors of leaves that Mother Nature could provide. Spectacular!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Was Your Weekend Busy, Too?

GNO.  Friday night was Girls Night Out and we enjoyed a nice little meal at Sweet Melissa’s.  Our food was great and Meg even tried tempting me by reading the beer selections off the chalkboard.  When she read “Lagunitas” out loud, I thought I was going to have to cover my ears! I had a very busy Saturday planned, including a long-ish bike ride, and didn’t need a drink (or two!) to slow me down.
Cycling.  That darn learning curve is huge!  I am glad I had such a good cycling partner and friend, Karen, to ride with Saturday.  Here is a sampling of things I added to my list of things I did not know:
1.      You don’t need to look at the person behind you while talking.  It’s hard to stop doing this because I’m all about eye contact.
2.      If you go off the edge of the road (and you will), don’t jump back quickly.  Find a gentle spot to re-enter. 
3.      Don’t shift to an easier left side gear until you go to the middle tension of your right side gears.  I did this and it looked like my chain had parted because I was spinning air.
4.      Tucking in saves you effort.  It’s not a natural feeling position for me, but worth the “saved” energy.
5.      Damn good cycling shorts are worth the investment.  Your ass and girly parts will thank you.  And hello chamois cream!
6.      It’s good to have a go-to friend who will indulge you in all the endurance events craziness.  Thanks, Karen!
College Visits.  Meg is a senior and until Sunday wasn’t sure of where she wanted to go to college.  She had narrowed down her choices, but was finally able to rank them as of 4:00 p.m. Sunday.  Greg and I have laughed that, when these visits first started a year ago, she didn’t want to go to a small, quaint school. She preferred large, urban settings.  Funny what a difference a year makes.  Now, her top 3 schools are neither large nor urban.  So we’re crossing our fingers that she gets in to her top 3 choices!
HBBC Progress.  The weather here in Northern Ohio dampened my outdoor workout attempts, although I did manage to fit in a very wet 3.5 mile run during lunch Thursday, a beautiful long bike ride (before another flat tire happened!) on Saturday, and 3 strength training sessions during the week.  I think that gives me 12 points for the week.
Phew, what an exhausting three days!

Monday Morning Laugh

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Running in the Dark - Be Safe Out There

For Christmas last year, my wish list consisted of running gear requests. I scored several wonderful (and safe) items for running during those early morning, and often dark, hours. Below are a few items I've used and recommend if you're an early morning and late night runner.

Nathan reflective tri-color running vest.

Nathan reflective ankle bands.

Lululemon reflective arm sleeves.

Unfortunately, they are no longer in stock at Lululemon (online or in the store), but Ebay seems to have them. I love mine. Just used them over the weekend for my long bike ride and loved them. They stayed put the entire time, provided just the right amount of warmth, and were reflective.

Even with the appropriate gear, keep in mind the following tips:

1. Choose a well-lit route. It's safer and you have a better chance to be seen.
2. Run against traffic. It's easier to dart out of the way of oncoming traffic if you see them first.
3. Be visible. Wear reflective gear and preferably bright colors.
4. Have Identification with you. I wear a Road ID and carry my iPhone (with ICE listed) on my arm band.
5. Run with a partner. We've always been taught that there's safety in numbers.
6. Be aware of your surroundings. Have a plan B - a porch to run to. Don't wear earbuds so that you can hear and be aware of what's going on around you.

But most of all, get in that run and enjoy your run/ride during this wonderful fall weather (minus the rain)!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Patterson Fruit Farm Afternoon

Rain, rain, go away...

In spite of the downpour, we still managed to have a fun afternoon at Patterson Fruit Farm. As with tradition, the middle of October calls for a trip for apple picking and selecting a pumpkin or two for carving. Both Bridget and Megan selected their own pumpkins - carving will take place next weekend! Apple picking was fun albeit freezing cold. The Ida Reds were especially delicious as you get to taste or sample each of the apple varieties. We came home with a wonderful haul of Ida Reds, Jonathon and Golden Delicious apples. Can't wait to start baking!

We're soaked in this picture and had to take it under a tent because the rain was falling too hard!

Thank goodness we wore our rain boots - the mud around the apple trees was thick and slippery. But just look at how delicious these apples are - well worth the rain!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Caution: Learning Curve Ahead

Last week, while riding my bike during my lunch, I had a flat tire. I always carry a tube with me, but have no idea how to change a tire. I was able to inflate the tire enough with my CO2 cartridge, but little else. After watching a you tube video, though, I decided I was ready to tackle this challenge. I even made a small note card to insert in my Banjo Brothers attachment! It took a ridiculous amount of time as I didn't fully understand or appreciate how to use tire levers. And to make matters worse, I somehow broke off part of the valve stem. Damn! So back to Century Cycle to make another tube purchase and I gave it another try. Perfection...and in record time!

Since I needed to get in a 2 hour plus ride, I decided to take my chances and test my craftsmanship. Thank goodness everything held together. Long ride accomplished and a new skill learned! And what a great display of beauty by mother nature! A good Saturday, if I may say so myself.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Holiday Booty Buster Challenge: Are You In?

Amanda at Run to the Finish is hosting her fourth annual Holiday Booty Buster Challenge. Since I am new to her blog, I decided to jump in with both feet and give it a try. The plan is simple and will hopefully keep me mindful of those dreaded pounds that find their way to my hips and thighs between Halloween Candy, Thanksgiving sweet potato pie, and Christmas everything.

Go check the HBBC out. First you select whether you are a Builder (beginner), Doer (Intermediate/Regular Exerciser) or Advanced (you know, fanatic). It's based on the following point system:

1 Point per mile (run/walk/snowshoe)
1 Point per 3 miles biked
1 Point per 20 minutes of weight lifting, Pilates, yoga, stretching or abs
1 Point per 15 minutes of low impact cardio (i.e. low impact aerobics, easy biking, skiing, skating)
1 Point per 10 minutes of high impact cardio (i.e.spinning, kickboxing)
1 Per day where you reach a minimum of 7 servings of fruits and veggies

These are all the things we should be doing regularly. So how cool to score points for it and have a chance to win some awesome schwag.

So are you in? Head over to Amanda's and sign up. And good luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Running Traditions

It seems that we're taught that you must carb load on pasta the night before a race and abstain from all alcohol. A new tradition for this running family began while we were in Iowa and we've been continuing it since.

It was two years ago when we checked in to our hotel in Iowa, which by most standards was supposed to be on the nicer end. The same hotel here in Cleveland is one of the finest in their brand. But this particular hotel in Des Moines was tiny. And I mean super duper, how are we going to sleep here, tiny. When we walked in to the room, there was the bed with a desk on one side of the bed, a nightstand on the other side of the bed, and a dresser at the foot of the bed with the TV on top of the dresser. You could NOT walk AROUND the bed. There was no door on the closet because the bed was too close. Greg immediately went downstairs and asked for a larger room. The clerk told him it was "European style" and asked if he was familiar with that style of room. Clearly, the clerk thought that all Europeans are only slightly larger than dwarfs. When we found out we were not going to be upgraded, he asked for the refrigerator (which was previously requested and nowhere to be found in our room, but needed for Bridget's bottles) and a small microwave. The hotel delivered the refrigerator, placing it in the closet! The microwave was placed on top of the nightstand and then the lamp was placed on top of the microwave. Hilarious! Except Greg did not find it funny. So we went to get a drink. We found a great little Mexican joint, plopped ourselves down, gave Bridget some rice, and Greg and I had the best tasting (and therapeutic) margaritas. And thus began the tradition of a margarita the night before a race.

While in Wichita, having our chips and salsa and salt-rimmed margaritas, we laughed about our Des Moines experience and how a new tradition began!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

And the Clevelanders Brought the Rain: Kansas Race Report

Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas had been having one of the worst summers and early fall on record without rain. Wouldn't you know it that as soon as we set foot here that a monsoon must befall us! As soon as I finished the Oklahoma race, and started heading North on I-35, the rain came falling. Oh no, I thought, would I be running a cold, wet race Sunday morning? What do you think the answer is?

Prairie Fire Half Marathon
As far as half marathons go, this race will climb into my top 5 for best overall experiences. It wasn't my fastest race, nor my slowest race. But it was total enjoyment all the way through!

Greg dropped me off about an hour before the race while the sun was not yet sure it would make an appearance. The weather called for rain and thunderstorms and the 7:00am morning temp was already at 64 degrees. Time to channel some positive thoughts. I certainly needed positive thoughts because I had made a terrible decision to eat chili Saturday for lunch, and the chili had not left the building (if you know what I mean). So my thoughts were volleying between am I going to poop or is it going to rain (or will both happen)?

One of the things I've found I enjoy about all this race travel is that I love being a stranger and taking everything in new and fresh. I can roam around and just people watch, which really helps relieve those pre-race jitters. As a wandered, I came across a tent with free capuccinos and coffee for runners provided by Prairie Fire Roasters, a local Wichita roaster. Now that's one service this runner loves! I poured a half bold cup of joe, took in a little more water, stretched and stared (and nope, the bathroom fairy was not visiting-argh).

Then it was time to line up. There's so much energy at start lines. I love this part. Even though I have completed more than 60 races in Ohio and elsewhere, I still get to excited and pumped up at the start line and ask myself the same questions - have I trained enought to tackle this long of a race? Am I hydrated enough? Will all body parts function like they're supposed to or will my mind have to tell my body it's going to be ok? Am I going to need to poop and there's no port-a-potties? And will there be beer - good beer - not Michelob Ultra at the finish line?

And we're off!

Time to jockey for a spot. I finally settle into a rhythm. My goal for this race was to strive for 10:30-11:00 minute miles for as long as I could hold. I hadn't had a long run for 3 weeks, and it had been 4 weeks since I had done 12 miles. We traversed in and out of neat little neighborhoods. At the start, there was no rain. By mile 2, it was a steady drizzle. By mile 4, my shoes were squishy because the rain was strong and steady. In spite of this, people were all over the course cheering on runners. Many had made wonderful homemade signs. Families were handing out water cups from impromptu water stops, and kids were sitting in the back of SUVs screaming for runners. It was beautiful. Around mile 8, I think, the rain was briefly very heavy. This Cleveland girl didn't mind. The rain kept the humidity in check and, besides, what Clevelander hasn't endured his/her share of cold, wet training runs?!

I ran alongside some great people. One father/son team was especially neat. It was the kid's first half and he had just celebrated his 12th birthday this past week making him eligible to run this race. We ran off and on throughout several miles together and the father told me his son had run a few 5ks and felt it was time to tackle a half marathon. Awesome!

The neighborhoods were stunning and for a couple of miles, we ran on brick streets, reminding me of Athens. One thing I thought was clever is that we ran in the middle turn lane along one of the busier streets and it was fully coned and policed. This kept runners protected while allowing traffic to flow (just no turning).

Around mile 10, my quads were whining. A very nice runner in a bright yellow shirt came out of nowhere and said, "Hey pretty lady, we are blessed to have such a good day to run!" And she was right. So I kept on running. Around mile 11, the first wheelchair marathon athlete passed - so amazing. It was about this time that I ran alongside a girl who was completing her first half marathon. We chatted for a bit before I moved on. Do you remember how incredible you felt when you finished your first half marathon? She was going to have that feeling in just 2 more miles!

Right before mile 12, we crossed one of the most beautiful pedestrian bridges. I pulled to the side to snap a picture. I wasn't going to PR, so I might as well enjoy all this wonderful town had to offer us runners on race day.

As we got within the last half mile, the race organizers had lined the course with speakers about every 10 yards or so. We could hear the announcers saying each runner's name as he/she crossed the finish line. It's easy to forget about the finish around miles 11-12 when you're tired and ready to be done, so this was a nice touch. I managed to sprint to the finish because it was exciting to see all those spectators. I tried to get Bridget to cross the finish line with me, but she's not a fan of screaming people at the finish lines. That's ok, I am!

I gathered my medal (love it!), my space blanket (tossed it!), and a finisher's shirt (which I'll actually wear because I love the graphic and it's a great fit!). Found my family and walked back to that coffee tent. Even though I ran the Taco Bell half marathon course, there were no chalupas at the finish line (phew!), but there were yummy Krispie Kreme donuts, which tasted just perfect with my cup of coffee!

Stats: 2:28:35 (11:21 average)
59/90 in my division
1196/1549 overall

36 states completed!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas All on a Saturday

Night Before Oklahoma Race
Talk about a whirlwind of a trip! We landed Friday in Dallas, just in time for lunch at Sonic for our beloved tots! Greg changed our reservations and instead of a chain hotel, we stayed at Tanglewood on Lake Texoma, near the border of Texas and Oklahoma. Great choice! Bridget was immediately thrilled when she saw a large playground and pool! Us Girls had spa time, while Greg made a quick trip to pick up a 6-pack of Shiner Family Reunion (an amazing sampler pack of my favorite texas beer).

While at the spa, we learned that Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton actually live on the other side of the lake. Meg wanted to stalk, but there was no time for that (plus, why give them more material for a country song!). Dinner at hotel, which was awesome because we dined outside while Bridget played on the playground. As cheesy as it sounds, we all went back to the room to relax and veg with TV - Bridget watched her movie on her portable DVD player, Meg watched the Kardashians in the living room and Greg and I watched back to back episodes of Pawn Stars. Yep, the glamorous life!

Oklahoma Race
This race is why I love small town running events. I actually finished third in my age group. And yes, there were more than three ladies!

Madill, Oklahoma is a little town north of Texoma Lake, but it sure is big on hospitality. For a $17 race fee, I had the great experience of spending my morning running a challenging 10k through the little town of Madill, which also served as a championship race for Oklahoma cross country. I also scored a fantastic long-sleeve t-shirt of Alice in Runner-land, a pancake breakfast free to all runners and just $3 for guests, a trophy, Texoma Peanut Inn peanuts, and the standard H20 and banana (love me some fruit!). For such a small race, organizers had a photographer on hand capturing finish line shots and immediately uploading them. About 10 yards away and for only $4, you could purchase your picture and have it printed on the spot. What a great service - and priced right. Another cool feature: finishing times were posted within minutes of finishing on an adjacent corkboard.

The course was challenging. We had long inclines to tackle with the sun and humidity teasing us. Then came the strong headwinds. People were losing their hats and headbands (kind of funny, actually). Since I was in prairie land with wide open spaces and no buildings to be found on the course, my body absorbed the whole wind force. I had been maintaining steady 9:40-9:42 miles, then whack! I found myself struggling for 11s! In spite of this, I was treated to some beautiful scenery and great volunteers.

Funny story at the start line. I had asked the guy next to me why his bib was pink - which race was he running. He responded, "the long one." Uhmm, okay. He then said it was the half marathon. I kind of giggled to myself because even though I was running what he thought was the short race, I would be running a half marathon the following morning. I wished him luck anyway. He tapped my shoulder a couple minutes later and told me to cover my ears because the race was about to start. They actually had a pistol to fire to start the race. Gave new meaning to gun time!

While I was running, my family dined at Hobo Joe's I only got to hear their stories and see the outside of this place to know that I missed out on a helluva good greasy spoon. But that's ok because I was fortunate to have my own Madill experience.

And now State 35 is done! Best of all, we woke up Saturday morning in Texas, drove across the border to Madill, Oklahoma for a 9:00am race, then checked in at the expo in Wichita, Kansas by 3:30pm. All in the same Saturday. Funny side story: Meg carried her styrofoam to-go container of leftover pizza through these 3 states. We laughed that her to-go container needed patches like a backpack to show where it had traveled!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fun 50 States Picture

My husband found this painting of the United States on a local playground last year (see the arm cast on Bridget?) and, I agree with him, it's a perfect setting for this family!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Carry On Wayward Son

Back-to-back racing weekend includes not only a 10k in Oklahoma, but also a half marathon in Wichita, Kansas. Believe it or not, I am running the half sponsored by Taco Bell, and my instructions say to follow the Taco Bell signs along the route. I find it humorous that Pizza Hut (marathon course and Pizza Hut opened their first store in Wichita) and Taco Bell (Half marathon course) are sponsoring a running event!

So here we go. Kansas was so interesting that I included extra fun facts about the 36th state that this family is tackling!

1. A ball of twine in Cawker City measures over 38' in circumference and weighs more than 16,750 pounds and is still growing. How is this even possible?!

2. A grain elevator in Hutchinson is 1/2 mile long and holds 46 million bushels in its 1,000 bins.

3. South of Ashland the Rock Island Bridge is the longest railroad bridge of its kind. It measures 1,200 feet long and is 100 feet above the Cimarron River.

4. Kansas won the award for most beautiful license plate for the wheat plate design issued in 1981. Wheat is such a big deal here that in 1990 Kansas wheat farmers produced enough wheat to make 33 billion loaves of bread, or enough to provide each person on earth with 6 loaves.

5. Dodge City is the windiest city in the United States. You know I'm going to have to check this out for myself!

6. At one time it was against the law to serve ice cream on cherry pie in Kansas. How is this even possible?!

7. The first woman mayor in the United States was Susan Madora Salter. She was elected to office in Argonia in 1887. And to think, this was way before women had the right to vote!

8. The first black woman to win an Academy Award was Kansan Hattie McDaniel. She won the award for her role in "Gone with the Wind."

9. Smith County is the geographical center of the 48 contiguous states.

10. Amelia Earhart, first woman granted a pilot's license by the National Aeronautics Associate and first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean was from Atchison. There's actually a neat Century ride held in Atchison in her honor.

11. Dwight D. Eisenhower from Abilene was the 34th President of the United States.

12. Wyatt Earp, James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok and William B. "Bat" Masterson were three of the legendary lawmen who kept the peace in rowdy frontier towns like Abilene, Dodge City, Ellsworth, Hays, and Wichita.

I'm looking forward to visiting this great state!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Next up: Oklahoma

October is always a busy racing season for me. I have noticed that in 2009 and 2010, I ran the most number of races in October. This year will keep that autumn running tradition alive.

Our next stop: Madill, Oklahoma for Alice in Runner-land 10k. For a little education, here's some information you may or may not have known about Oklahoma:

1. The world's first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935.

2. Turner Falls Park in Davis is the oldest park in Oklahoma. Many springs from the world famous Arbuckle Mountains form Honey Creek that cascades down a seventy-seven foot fall to a natural swimming pool making the majestic Turner Falls the largest waterfall in Oklahoma. Might have to check this out!

3. There is an operating oil well on state capitol grounds called Capitol Site No. 1. How weird is that?!

4. Phillip H. Sheridan, George A. Custer and William T. Sherman were the founders of the USA's main artillery fort at Fort Sill.

5. Born in 1879 on a large ranch in the Cherokee Nation near what later would become Oologah, Oklahoma, Will Rogers was first an Indian, a cowboy then a national figure. Will Rogers was a star of Broadway and 71 movies of the 1920s and 1930s, a popular broadcaster and wrote more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns.

6. Boise City, Oklahoma was the only city in the United States to be bombed during World War II. On Monday night, July 5, 1943, at approximately 12:30 a.m., a B-17 Bomber based at Dalhart Army Air Base (50 miles to the south of Boise City) dropped six practice bombs on the sleeping town.

7. An Oklahoman, Sylvan Goldman, invented the first shopping cart. think of him next time you see one miles from a Target sitting all alone on a sidewalk.

8. Tahlequah, Oklahoma is the Tribal capital of the Cherokee Nation.

9. Bob Dunn a musician from Beggs invented the first electric guitar 1935.

10. Oklahoma is bordered by six states: Texas to the south and west, Arkansas and Missouri to the east, Kansas to the north and Colorado and New Mexico at the tip of the northwestern Oklahoma panhandle. Do you know which state is bordered by more? (Jeopardy question, come on!)