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!)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Oktoberfest 5k Makes 34 States

No matter how detailed I am with travel plans, something always goes awry. Luckily, my girls and I have learned to deal with these little setbacks and make the best of it. We were supposed to fly out of Pittsburgh (which cost $118/rt vs. $300+ out of CLE). We would connect, oddly enough, in Cleveland, then fly off to Boston. We got to PIT only to find out that our plane was delayed already. I checked my iphone Continental app only to find out that the plane arrived in CLE on time, but wasn't leaving CLE for some reason. Having just come from that area, I knew it wasn't weather related. When the second delay came in, I went to the counter because I knew we could not catch our connector out of CLE to Boston. I also knew the delay was most likely due to mechanical, which the attendant confirmed. Fortunately, we were able to get a direct flight out of PIT and dinner vouchers (yay!). Unfortunately, the flight was 4 hours later (boo!). We made the best of it. We marched up to the President's Club for snacks and water, then darted into a couple shops at the airport. Bridget was able to go into a toy store for something special while Meg and I scored two great deals at GAP. Best of all, dinner was free due to our vouchers. Lemonade out of lemons is what I say!

Saturday was so much fun with my girls. We started off sleeping in, then going downstairs for a wonderful breakfast. We like staying at Embassy Suites due to larger room size, having an in-room fridge, the wonderful free breakfast and they generally do not charge for parking (all this for $134/night). We then headed out for our little adventure. First stop was Walden Pond. We walked the 1.7 mile path around the pond, stopping to see the site of Thoreau's house. It was so neat to see several people swimming across the pond. Meg and I told Bridget that when she got older, the three of us would swim across the pond together.

After Walden, we drove to Nathaniel Hawthorne's Old Manse and the Minute Men National Park. Meg had recently read The Scarlet Letter in English class, so it seemed appropriate to visit his home. We learned that Thoreau gave Hawthorne a garden as his wedding gift. Come on, it was the 1800s afterall.

At the Minute Men National Park it was humbling to see where history was made - the shot that was heard around the world. We saw the timeline of troops riding from Boston to Lexington-Concord. The bridge in the background of this picture was where the epic battle took place against British troops.

We were starving at this point. Thank goodness for Helen's. I had what was called an ABLT - avacado, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich...Mmmmm! We all had ice cream afterwards and felt much more fueled for the next stop. On to Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House. The tour guide, I'm pretty sure, was from that era. She was long, slow, and deliberate in her responses. And there was no air conditioning in this house. After a big lunch of sandwiches and ice cream, coupled with fatigue, excess heat and a dry speaker, we were doomed. I think I retained half of what she said. As Meg put it: at least our donation went to preserving a valued part of history (so $9/person wasn't wasted, in other words).

Sunday was the other reason for our trip to Boston - to run the Cambridge Oktoberfest 5k and to check off the 34th state. We had eaten at the Cambridge Brewing Company the night before so I could pick up the race packet. While there, I had a most delicious Pumpkin Ale. Smooth and not overly sweet or too packed with a pumpkin taste - perfectly subtle. As luck would have it, that wonderful liquid was served as post-race refreshments. I met two guys at the start, and shared a beer with them at the finish. Such a small world - Paul was originally from Cincinnati. Juan told a great story about running in Curacos, where his family is from. That's what makes traveling so wonderful - learning interesting stories about other people and sharing it all through running.

I finished the race in 30:40 (9:53/mi) and 16/41 in my division. Let me just tell you that wearing a dirndl is a bit restrictive and, for $22 on Amazon, let's just say that one doesn't get wicking material! But I was in costume and enjoyed all that Oktoberfest in Cambridge had to offer! Prost!