Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Favorites

Hello and Happy Friday!

I'm looking forward to a nice, long weekend. Hopefully it will be a productive one as well. My plans are a 10 mile run with my new running group, and decorating for Fall! Hey, Labor Day weekend is the start of the Fall season so this is perfectly acceptable in my opinion. Plus I'm ready to break out some pumpkin and apple smelling candles.

I have to tell you about something I am totally loving on right now. Salad Pizazz!

I found this at Walmart on an endcap, so I'm not really sure where you'd find it in the normal aisle. This was on the end of the very first aisle where the produce is. Like the salad. Makes sense, right?

Anyway, I typically eat a salad for lunch at work 3-4 times a week. That can get a little boring, so I'm always looking for ways to jazz things up a bit. Or should I say, pizazz things up? Hahaha...I'm so funny!

Can you see the cranberries and pecans? This stuff is so good, I could eat it plain by the handful. At only 30 calories per tablespoon with 3 g of sugar and 2 g of fat, I think that's perfectly acceptable!

What are you loving on right now? Please share!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coffee Date

There's been a lot of hub-bub over coffee on my Facebook feed. Specifically a pumpkin something or other from a major chain coffee house. It's bad, it's good, it's bad for you, it's too early for pumpkin, yada yada yada, blah blah blah.

Really, it's just making me want coffee. A nice cup of coffee, heavy on the cream, a good book, or maybe some good conversation. That sounds nice, right?

Right. So, let's have a little virtual coffee date. I'll tell you the randomness that's on my mind right now, and you can tell me what's on yours if you'd like. I'd like that.

My favorite travel mug. I bring it to work every day.

If we were having coffee, I'd ask that you kindly not laugh at the copious amounts of creamer I put in my coffee. But it's ok, everyone laughs at me. I like a little coffee with my creamer, ok? I'd ask you how things are going in your life. How's work? How's family?

I'd tell you that I think I'm maybe going crazy. Full crazy. Full marathon crazy, that is. I'm very seriously considering registering for the Detroit Free Press Marathon in 2015. It's in October, so the 2014 race hasn't even happened yet. Registration begins in January. Also, I have to get a passport to run it, because it goes over into Canada. But that's pretty cool, right? I still have a couple of months to think about it, but I'm getting my passport now anyway. Just in case.

I'd also tell you that I'm thinking about changing Emily's daycare again. I'm not really loving the one she's at for a host of reasons. But I feel bad about turning her world upside down again so soon. We're on the wait list at a really good daycare in town. I've heard lots of good things about this one, which is at a church and so has Christ centered learning as well. Big plus. The fact that there is a wait list is a good sign too, right?

I'm sure we'd talk about work a bit, too. I'm scared to admit that I'm not sure about my job. I'm feeling unfulfilled and stagnant at work. I ask myself quite often "this is what I went to college for?". But small towns are hard to find good jobs in, and the pay is pretty impossible to match. So I'm feeling a little stuck.

But I'd also want you to know that despite feeling down about work, everything else in my life is pretty great right now. Honestly. Emily is doing fabulous, and we're really getting the potty training thing down. She even made a point of going by herself last night, in her little potty in her room, because I was concerned that she couldn't get out of her footie pajamas. She's totally Ms. Independent and out to prove me wrong about everything. Sigh.

Travis and I would love to have a few more date nights now and then, but we're really good too. We're all healthy, and what more could you ask for?

It's a beautiful day outside today, and I fully intend to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing a cup of coffee with me this morning!

What's going on in your life right now? 

Monday, August 25, 2014

DIY: Antique Milk Can Re-Purpose

I'd like for you to think I'm pretty crafty, and that I have other interests besides running. I'd love for you to think I'm the next Martha Stewart. Sadly, this just isn't so. Typically, I'm more of a buy-it-new type of girl, even if it's an antique. I'm just not all about getting down and dirty with sandpaper, paint brushes, and all that sorts of stuff.

But every once in awhile, I get an idea. A light bulb goes off and I think "that can't be so hard, even for me."

Our house is a 2-story with kind of a weird upstairs. Actually, my whole house is kind of odd, but that's what you get for a house built in the early 1900's. We have a very small landing at the top of our stairs that opens to a very skinny hallway leading you to our bedrooms. This landing is not grand in any way, but I wanted to add a little something to make it feel cozy, rather than just be cozy.

An old milk can was what I had in mind, with some stuff coming out of the top. You know, branches, some flowers, and whatnot. Stuff.

This was just an idea until I finally decided to go to my favorite antique shop in town. It's in an old train station, and I always know they'll have what I'm looking for.

Favorite store did not disappoint! They had no fewer than three old milk cans. The first one I spotted looked pretty rough, so I kept looking. The other two had lids on them that would not come off, and were $30 & $40 each. No bueno.

I went back to the first one. $12. Now that's a price I can dig.

Meet my new friend.

This sad little gal has obviously seen some better days. It looks like someone tried to paint it a silver metallic color, and under that was green and an ugly red rust color. Under that was actual rust. Lovely. There's also a few small holes in the sides, but what do I care about holes? I'm not filling it with milk.

So after a frustrating day at work, I came home and went to town on the can. I started with a wire brush, getting the big paint chunks off. Then hubby lent me his electric sander and I made a huge mess. But I got most of the old paint off! I had to go back in with sand paper to get in the smaller crevices and on the handle. 

Then I bought a bottle of Rust-Oleum Metallic finish and Rust-Oleum clear coat. I ended up doing about 2 1/2 coats of the spray paint, and 2 coats of the clear to seal it up. I bought some pretty Fall-ish foiliage to go in it, and voila!

Ain't she purdy? I think so. I'm pretty happy with this small touch that adds some character to our little landing.

Are you a DIY'er? What kind of projects are you working on?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Runners Tell All: Favorite person to train with or favorite training routine

Hello all! It's time again for the monthly Runners Tell All link up, and this month I'm super excited to be a sponsor! Runners Tell All is hosted by The Lady Okie and Sunshine to the Square Inch. For a list of our monthly topics (only 4 more months to go!) go here. Big thanks to these ladies for letting me join in on the fun this month!

This month we're talking about our favorite person to train with, or our favorite training routine. Since I typically run alone, favorite person is kind of hard for me. However, I know for sure I have a favorite training routine. Cool Running's Couch to 5K. I know you may be thinking "well gee, Alison, you're a little beyond training for a 5K, aren't you?" Yes, probably true, but without Couch to 5K (C25K), I would never have even started running.

Here's what I love about it:
- C25K is a 9 week program that gets you ready for a 5K. Plus! also has a bunch of other training plans to take you beyond a 5K. I used their plans to train for my first 10K and half marathon.
- C25K gets you ready with just 3 workouts per week, 30 minutes each. That's what the doctor prescribes anyway, so how could that be any less perfect?
- C25K works. I swear to you, it does. Just stick with the program. So many people that I know, including myself, had trouble with the first day the plan calls for 20 minutes of running with no walking. (In week 5, I don't want to scare anyone off here!) But we can do it! Trust in the training, it doesn't lie.

Want proof? Here I am about to cross the finish line after my first 5K, using and sticking with C25K. I ran the whole thing! My time was 30 minutes and some change.

I was so proud of myself! 

Look how little Emily is here! Awww!

Some tips to starting and sticking with it:
- Run outside if you can. The treadmill just isn't the same. Yes, you will hurt for the first few days as your legs build up some muscle, but your body will adjust.
- Write the instructions on your hand so you know when to walk and when to jog. 
- Keep going! Just do it!

I never, ever thought that I'd be a runner. That is 100% true. I used to hate running. Honestly, it took a good 2 1/2 to 3 years of running before I could actually say that it's something I enjoy and need in my life. But finishing that first 5K opened so many doors. Now I believe in myself and that I can do the longer distances if I just stick with the training. 

Want to hear more tips and training advice? Join up here and check out what the other runner's have to say this month!

Also, there's a giveaway! This month's give away is an Under Armour fitted Heat Gear tank and headband, modeled by lovely Beka from Sunshine to the Square Inch. Who doesn't love Under Armour?

Enter the giveaway here!
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Ragnar Relay Recap

I'm still having trouble really digesting what I just went through, even two days later. How does one really describe running over 200 miles with 12 people for 31+ hours in the hottest month of the year?


That's truly the only word I can use to describe it. It was crazy, fun, horrible, exhausting, grueling, and hilarious all in one. But awesome is the word I would pick to best describe Ragnar Relay Great River.

Get ready for some picture spam...

We all met up Thursday night in Minneapolis to get the vans, and then we trekked another 2 hours south to Winona where the race would start the next day.

Here we are, excited and naive to the adventure we would soon embark on.

Our team started running at 7am on Friday morning. Since I was in Van 2, we were able to sleep in a little and do our grocery shopping that morning. We arrived at Exchange 6 around 10:30 am, which was still too early but it was nice to not feel rushed.

The parking area at Exchange 6. Cornfields and hills as far as the eye could see.
Our first runner didn't start off until around 1:30 that afternoon. Our van got the unfortunate pleasure of running in the heat of the day. That's what we get for sleeping in, I guess! Ragnar Great River is known for being a very hilly course. I think that is pure understatement! It was nothing but hills and hills and hills. Our poor first runner had a hill that topped off the elevation chart!

This is the top of the Hill from Hell. It went down for about another mile or so. Horrible!
I finally got to start my leg around 3:45 that afternoon. My legs didn't have many hills, but I really paid for it. My first leg was 8 miles along a blacktop highway in 85 degree weather with no shade. Grueling!

Trying to have a positive attitude. "This is fun, right?!"
I did stop a few times to walk and cool off for a minute. Thankfully there were 3 water stops along the way, so I could grab some water and pour it over my head and shoulders. Whenever you pass someone, it's called a "kill". Because of the heat on this leg, I "killed" 23 people. A Van 2 record until our 12th runner got 25!

This probably looked pretty gruesome to someone not in the know.

I was never happier to get to the "finish" line, or the next exchange and send out our next runner. That check mark felt pretty good. 1 of 3 done!


After our van completed the first of our legs, we were able to rest for a few hours. The high school hosting that major exchange had showers we could use for a small donation of $2. Best $2 I ever spent! They also had a meal we could purchase and a gym we could use for a fee. We had a couple of food sensitivities in our van, so we went to Subway for dinner then made our way back to the exchange to sleep. I was the only person that wanted to pay to sleep in the gym, so we ended up sleeping outside in the grass. Correction, I ended up laying there for an hour not sleeping, then going in the van to try to sleep and not sleeping there either. Too noisy!

As close to camping as I've been in many, many years!
If you know me even a little, you know how much I dislike camping. This was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I was trying to go with the flow and be a good team member! I'm pretty sure everyone was laughing at me by this point. 

The night runs were definitely the craziest. Two of our runners had to run 9 miles and 10 miles, respectively. This was along back country roads, darker than pitch black. Ragnar is really on top of safety, and requires that all runners run with a headlamp, reflective vest, and a blinking tail light. We also included some fun glow bracelets so we could identify our runners and provide them some aid. 

Sexy and they know it!

My night run, at 3:00 am, was thankfully short. It was scary though! I've run at night plenty of times, so that didn't bug me so much. What freaked me out was being the only runner out there, for some bizarre timing reason, and running past a bunch of drunks. It definitely made me run faster!

We finished up our 2nd legs somewhere around 5 am and made our way to the next major exchange to rest. That high school thankfully provided their gym to sleep in for free. I almost demanded that we sleep inside, but I think everyone was on board with that. We all got some much needed rest, but only 1.5-2 hours at that. 

The craziness that is Ragnar

Even sleeping on a hard gym floor, with nothing other than my foam yoga mat, my pillow, and a small blanket, I was thankful to not be running at this point. 

Our last legs were all mostly short except for our 11th runner who had nearly 7 miles to go, again in the heat. We got lost getting to one of the exchanges and our runner had to wait for us there, which was a little embarrassing but kind of funny! That was really the only hiccup we had though, so I think our van did great! 

My 3rd leg was kind of unremarkable, except that I really thought I got lost until I saw another van along the route. They had jumped out to push one of their runners down a hill in a shopping cart. Maybe cheating, but it looked like fun! There was a giant bridge to run up, then running along a bike path along the Mississippi River. I walked twice on this leg as well because of the heat, but really took some time to look around and enjoy the scenery. It was pretty!

We sent off our last runner and had to hurry to the finish line so that we could find parking, and get to the finish line on time. Ragnar is pretty cool in that they let your whole team run across the finish line. So we met up with Van 1 and waited for our runner to get there.

Trudging to the finish line. Everyone was just exhausted at this point. 

We beat him there, surprisingly. He only had a 4.5ish mile leg to go and said he was just going to book it. We lost him at one point on his first leg because he was running so fast, so we were all worried about getting there too late! 

I don't think you could find a group of happier, more exhausted runners than our team. Well, maybe all the other teams, too. I was so happy to be done!

The D'range'd Dozen

When we finally got home that night, I slept for almost 11 hours. The best sleep of my life, I'll tell ya! Right after we finished, if you had asked me if I would do this again I'm pretty sure my answer would have been no. But now that the discomfort is wearing off a little, I say yes. I will likely do this again if given the chance. I'd really like to be in Van 1 next time, just to see more of the race course. 

Van 2 after our adventure

One thing that I didn't love was that there really wasn't a lot of opportunity to visit with Van 1. We saw each other at the major exchanges, but inevitably the "on" van needed to hustle out so they could support their runner and get to the next exchange. So we ended up kind of feeling like different teams. But, I'll tell you what. There's no way we could have done this without all 12 people. There's no way I could have done this without the support of my van members. Seeing them cheering for me on the side of the road, and at the end of each leg, was really the best feeling. Knowing that you're part of a team, and each of you has to give it your all so that everyone can finish, is really something special. Major kudos to our van drivers, as well. They went without sleep just like we did, and still were able to get us from A to B safely. We'd really be stuck without them! All in all, a very successful Ragnar Relay Great River 2014!

Have you run a relay? Are you considering doing one? 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Packing for Ragnar

In a little over 24 hours from now, I'll be setting off for Southern Minnesota with 11 of my closest, newest friends to start the craziest thing I think I've done to date. Running 3 times over a period of 36 hours with little sleep, and who knows what for food, is a little out of my comfort zone to say the least. But I'm pretty excited about the experience, and I cannot wait to go!

I thought I'd share a bit of my packing ideas. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel here; a lot of my ideas came from other bloggers who've run Ragnar before.

Like putting your clothes in ziplock baggies. The idea here is that they're easy to grab, should contain everything you need to put on your body for that run, and easy to then put stinky clothes in after your run.

I added my leg maps to each bag, as well as labeled each bag with the leg number, miles, and time of day I think I'll be running.

I'm also bringing grocery store plastic bags and a few trash bags, too. I think the plastic bags will work better for containing stinky clothes, since these ziplock bags aren't huge. 

If you think that first picture is all I'm bringing, I have to apologize now for misleading you. That's not even a third of it!

Here's my complete list:

- 3 running outfits (capris/shorts & tops)
- 4 sports bras
- 5 pair of socks
- 3 pair of compression socks
- 5 pair of undies
- 1 lightweight zip-up for running at night if it's cool
- 1 rain jacket
- Clothes for hanging out in between runs (2 pair of yoga pants, 3 t-shirts)
- 1 sweatshirt
- 2 hats
- 1 Bondiband
- 1 pair of flip flops

- Garmin watch & HRM
- Fuel belt with bottles
- 2 pair of running shoes (in case of rain)
- chargers, including van plug in for chargers
- Extra thick yoga mat to sleep on
- 1 Chawel
- 3 towels & 3 washcloths
- 1 pillow
- ear plugs
- Reflective Xinglet, headlamp, tail light

Personal Items
- Shampoo/conditioner
- Deodorant
- toothbrush/toothpaste
- hand sanitizer
- hair brush
- extra pony tail holders
- Body glide
- Salt stick tabs
- Nuun electrolyte tabs
- Ibuprofen/allergy meds/immodium
- baby wipes
- sunscreen & bug spray

For the van:
- window markers to decorate the van
- sharpie pen
- duct tape (you never know!)
- garbage bags & plastic bags
- flashlight
- camping chairs
- Ragnar Bible w/pace predictor printed out
- Glow in the dark bracelets (mostly for fun)
- Essar magnets (my employer donated money to our team, so we're using that money for gas. In exchange, we had magnets printed to put on the side of the van)
- van tagging magnets with team logo 
- Febreeze
- paper plates, plastic utensils
- paper towels
- toilet paper

Other members are bringing a first aid kit, a large cooler for food, and a water cooler for each van. Since we're the second team, we have a good chunk of time on Friday morning to do some grocery shopping for food and water before we have to start running. At Exchange 18, and then at every major exchange after that, there are showers offered. I fully intend on taking advantage of those. I'm also hoping to be able to get some sleep in at one of the indoor sleeping areas. We'll see about that! Hopefully those ear plugs work. 

At this point, I feel like I have everything I could possibly need or want with the exception of bringing my bed or entire house along. With this being my first Ragnar, I'm not really sure what to expect so I'm just trying to be a good planner. No surprise there, right? I'll have to update next week with a "used/didn't use" post. 

Since we start running on Friday, I won't be around until next week. See ya on the flip side!

What do you think of my packing list? Am I forgetting something or completely over doing it? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Interview with a Hardrock 100 Finisher

If you haven't heard of it, the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run is one of the toughest ultra marathons in the country. Set in the Colorado Rockies, the trail boasts a total elevation change of 67,984 feet at an elevation of over 11,000 feet. This is not something your average runner is willing to tackle, and it takes a special person to even consider running it.

Bill Geist Gallery (Photo JH)
I am lucky enough to know one of these people. On July 11th, my coworker Joe Winch, set off to run the Hardrock for his second time. Hailing from Southern Wisconsin, and now living in Northern Minnesota, this 58 year young runner is no stranger to endurance runs. Having first run the Hardrock in 2010, he's been in the lottery of runners to compete again for several years, but this is the first year where his stars aligned and he was able to get back to Colorado to run it again.

Joe did indeed finish in 57th place with a time of 41 hours and 56 minutes. Out of a field of 140 racers, only 100 people finished this grueling race. He graciously agreed to sit down with me to answer a few questions so that I could share his amazing experience with you, dear reader.

A: A little background first. How long have you been running?
J: Since high school. I was a fat kid in junior high, and one way around that was I picked up running in 8th grade and ran on the cross country team in high school.

A: What other memorable endurance races have you run?
J: My first ultra marathon was in 1980, a 50 mile road run from Laramie to Cheyenne, WY. I've done about 25 100 mile races, and some 24 hour races. So total that were 100 miles or more, probably 30 races or so.

The first one is probably the most memorable, that was Western States 100 in 1981. The reason that one was so memorable was that I went in to it so confident in my condition. I went out pretty hard and didn't exercise any caution. My quadriceps were so shot by the time I got into Michigan Bluff at about 62 miles. I was on a table working on my blisters, and my hamstrings were already cramping at that point, and I remember going down into one of the canyons where it was over 100 degrees, the hottest I've ever felt, and coming back up I was reduced to doing a lot of walking. I heard a voice behind me say "hey could you use a pacer". He really got me through the next 30 miles or so. My quads were so badly shot, and by this time it was nightfall, I had the flashlight over my shoulder as I walked down the hills backwards. He got me through to about 93 miles, and then I just laid down and said I was done. I was at 21 hours, and only had to average 3 miles an hour to get a 24 hour belt buckle. I had conceded defeat at that point. My pacer went off somewhere, and I crawled into a sleeping bag and asked for a ride to the finish. No one was going to the finish yet so I just waited. 24 hours came and went. The medical director for the race came by and saw me laying there. He asked what I was doing, and I said "I dropped out; I can't make it." He had his teenage son there and sent him out with me, telling me I could walk to the finish. So I got out of my sleeping said and said I could barely walk, but he told me to toughen up. So I figured I could try, and we set off at a walk. I figured I could do a little painful shuffle in the last mile or so, but I decided to save that for the last quarter mile of the track. I ended up with a 27 1/2 hour finish, so not a DNF, but one reason that is so memorable was that when I got into other races I knew I could suffer that much and finish so I could get through. It gave me a whole different perspective that most ultra runners don't get that early in their career.

A: What made you decide to run the Hardrock 100 this year?
J: I lucked out that I wasn't eligible to meet the original criteria, because you had to have run Hardrock in the past 3 years and finish to be eligible. But they changed the criteria, and I had an opportunity to get in. If I didn't run it this time, I would have to run another qualifying race to run. The qualifying standards to even get in the lottery is that you have to have completed one of a short list of other difficult races that simulate the Hardrock trail with the high altitudes and a lot of vertical gain and loss, and those types of factors. There's not many of those. So when I threw my hat in the ring, I had a 30% change of getting in. So when my name was selected, this wasn't an opportunity I could pass up. I was 2nd on the wait list last year, but I was injured and could barely run more than a mile at that time.

A: So I'm sure that everybody wonders how you train for such a long race?
J: Make it a point to get out for a training run on the weekends, at least 20-45 miles, something like that, at least 3 times a month. Then maintain a basic base through the week so that the mileage will average about 80-90 miles a week. Time on your feet is really important. The longest training run I did was 45 miles, but I had  a 50 mile race 6 weeks before Hardrock so that served as a training run as well.

A: I'm sure a lot of people wonder what you think about for all those hours. How do you keep mentally occupied and mentally strong while running?
J: I was probably maybe one of a dozen people that didn't have a pacer or a crew, so it's sort of an old school perspective, but I've enjoyed the aspect of relying on the aid stations obviously, but really relying on your own means, if you will. I've never had a problem staying mentally focused, I think I'm pretty good at staying focused. I don't want to sound like I'm bragging but I've got a really good sense of pace, so I don't tend to go out hard like I did at Western States. The wheels don't generally fall off for me.

A: So you've never had any of those crazy hallucinations that some runners report having?
J: I've never had hallucinations. I started falling asleep on my feet at Hardrock in 2010 and another 100 mile race where I've started to nod off. But no, no hallucinations.

A: There were articles about the two runners, Adam Campbell and his pacer Aaron Heidt, that were caught in that bad storm and struck by lighting. Where were you on the course then?
J: They were actually going up Handies Peak, one mountain ahead of where I was when the lighting storm came through. This really caught me by surprise. The weather pattern the whole 2 weeks before the race was clear skies or if it rained, it would rain for 3 or 4 hours in the afternoon. Before the race, you have the aid stations where you drop the supply bags the day before, and I was prepared for running in the rain for 2 afternoons, But when I was coming up out of Ouray at 9 at night and heard the thunder I thought "uh oh" because that wasn't something I had anticipated. So I didn't really have the rain gear with me, and it's a long distance between aid stations, it can be 3-4 hours between aid stations. I came into an aid station just before Engineer Pass, it's 13,000 feet just before Handies Peak. I remember ambling into an aid station just before, just about 12,000 feet before the final push up the pass. It was a sloppy, wet area and I remarked to one of the other runners "boy aren't we a sorry sight." Neither one of them said anything, and then one of them promptly puked. was pretty grim. When I crested Engineer Pass, the wind had really picked up and the area was socked in with fog. It was about midnight or so, and I could barely see 15 feet. I thought I knew the course pretty well because I had trained on various sections, but I got confused at this point. But there were 3 other runners huddle together, and one was taking the lead. I latched onto him and his crew, behind them but close enough to see their light. I had a rain jacket in my pack, and pants, but I didn't want to take the time to get them out because I was afraid of losing the other runners. So I was just getting soaking wet in this rain, and I just followed them down until we got to a lower elevation. I passed them but I didn't want to get too far ahead, but kept checking behind to see their lights because the last thing I wanted to happen was lose my way in the rain, and fog. Once I got into the aid station, I thought I had a dry shirt in my pack but I didn't have one.

At that point at Grouse Gulch, which is about 62 miles, you have 2 choices: either go down the hill to have someone take you into Silverton, about 20 minutes away, to a warm bed and dry clothes, or go the other direction and continue in the race up to Handies Peak, a 14,000 peak. I ended up staying at that aid station for an hour and 40 minutes to get my clothes warm enough because I wasn't about to go out in wet clothes. I didn't know if another rain storm would come through, and I really didn't want to put a burden on the race crew to have them rescue me in a hypothermic state and in a very remote wilderness state. Then any ambitions I had about a sub-40 finish...I adjusted my level of effort at that point. I knew I had plenty of time to finish so I didn't panic; I knew I would just finish a bit slower which, that's fine. Lots of other runners were in the same position. I thought I could finish in under 40 hours, I thought that was a stretch goal, and up to that point it was very realistic.

A: Do you think that was the one moment out of the race where you felt like you couldn't keep going, or did you ever feel that way?
J: There wasn't a single moment where I had any doubt that I could finish. I remember coming into the first aid station at about 11 miles and thought "this is in the bag, I'm going to finish." There's no doubt about it, and I really maintained that perspective the entire time and there was really never any doubt.

A: Did you celebrate when you were finished, or do anything special? Did you kiss the rock?
J: I kissed the rock - I gave it a big hug. You don't know what sort of reaction you're going to have at the end. I expected a highly emotional reaction, but there was no emotion other than elation that I was done. The race director stays up for every finisher, and these are finishers coming in over a 26 hour period between the first finisher and last, and he's there for every one of them. That's really neat.

A: Did you eat or sleep first?
J: Good question. I went into the gym and had something to eat. That seemed really attractive. They had some vegan stew - anything tastes good I suppose, but at that point it really tastes good. Not a lot, because my stomach wasn't settled enough to handle it, but that warm soup there - that was just the bomb. It was awesome. I was staying at a hostel only 3 blocks away, so I ambled over to the hostel, took a shower - I was looking forward to that over the last 40 miles - and then I could go to sleep. That was the longest I've ever been awake, for about 46 hours. I only slept for about 4 hours, and then they had the awards ceremony at 9 am. Then there was a series of naps in the afternoon.

A: What was the best, or most memorable part of the Hardrock for you this year?
J: Certainly the most memorable was coming through that storm, absolutely that's the one part I can really remember. Being up there in the fog, and wind, and rain. The best part, obviously finishing was a really good part. The whole experience. It's one of those races where...most races really focus on just the event and the peripheral things going on. The race director handed us our awards individually, but he had something to say about each individual finisher. That really lent a personal touch to the race. There's respect all the way around, all the runners, whether you're first or last. I had the opportunity to stay in a hostel before the race and I met some of the other racers. I had dinner with Joe Grant, who finished second in this race a couple of times. I had dinner with his mother, and his wife, and some of his crew. We just sat down together and had a meal. That part of if, staying in the hostel those 2 weeks, really adds to the whole Hardrock experience. .

Two weeks before the race, I had an opportunity to run with the crew marking the trail. I was just about ready to start running from Telluride, and the marking crew just showed up about the same time and they asked if I would join them. We went and hiked up 2 hours or so to get up to a certain point. Clouds were starting to clamor, and the rest of the group just went to the top of the pass and then turned around to go back to Telluride. But I wanted to go over the pass and hit another spot down another 1500 feet, and then I was going to come back to join them but I ended up getting caught in a sleet storm. This was after coming down a large snow field. I was already wet, and the other runners were chiding me because I was in a t-shirt with holes. (Laughs) It wasn't your tech fabric. But when the wind picked up, the temperature dropped, it had to be in the 40's, and I got to an old mine opening. I stayed in there, it wasn't very wide but I could run in place for awhile to stay warm. I was going to have to go back over to get back to where my car was parked. So the wind died down a bit, and I had gloves, and I had poles, and at this point I was really motivated to get back to my car. I was really planting my poles. When I got to the top, and made that 1000 feet ascent, I crested the top and I saw that a couple people had waited for me. That was nice. Now I knew once I got to this side that I would be ok, it got warmer as you went down. I had more fun that day than any other day, except for the day of the race. You know, to meet all those people, it was really special.

A: What's next? Another endurance run?
J: I did a 50 mile trail race 2 weeks after Hardrock, that was a really good run. I've got some knee tendinitis, and if I can get it under control, Sawtooth 100 on the Superior Hiking Trail, I'll plan to do that. That's a local race so it's easy to get to. We'll see. I'm hoping a few days off will help.

A: Do you think you'll try for the Hardrock lottery next year?
J: Definitely. The race goes clockwise and counter clockwise alternating years, and because I ran it in 2010 it was the exact same course. Next year goes in the opposite direction, and to be a "true Hardrocker" you have to have one finish in each direction. So I'm just a "wannabe apprentice"...I'm a Hardrocker in training.

A: Do you have any advice for other runners, regardless of mileage goals?
J: Don't set artificial limits on yourself. Ken Chlouber, the previous race director at Leadville Trail 100 gives a speech every year, he says "you can do more than you think you can do."

I feel really honored to know Joe. I know that sounds maybe a little hokey, but really. He is one of the most humble guys, which most ultra marathoners are. It's just another race for Joe, another distance that he does. There are a lot of stories about the top finishers and the elite runners, like Kilian Jornet, Adam Campbell, and Tim Olson. The rest of the finishers go on their way to run more races and live their lives with little to no fan fare involved. I really felt like Joe's story should be shared and celebrated, and that his achievement should be recognized. I hope I did a good job documenting a little of his story for you!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Behind the Blog - Husband Edition

I write this blog from my perspective, mainly about myself and my interests. Narcisism at it's best, truly. But I like to include things about my family because I know my only followers are my mom and my brother (hi guys!) But for those of you stopping by to check the place out, I thought I'd give you some insight into my hubby.

 Travis patiently puts up with all of my craziness. Whether it be running, reading, cooking random recipes off Pinterest, or just getting a wild hair up my butt to go do something, he's my willing side kick. I asked him some basic questions so you guys can get to know him a little, too.

Trav's answers are in italics, my responses are in normal font. 

1. Favorite Food to eat and/or make: "To eat? Hmm...I would probably say Cuban food in general." Can you be more specific? "No." about to make? "Hmm...probably stuffed peppers." Why stuffed peppers? "Because I like eating them."

Simple enough, I guess!

2. Favorite Band - (I guessed Deftones before I asked him this question) "There's quite a few, but I'll go with Deftones."  

For Christmas he asked for a complete Deftones fan pack including shirt, poster, and new CD.

What did I tell you?

3. What is your favorite memory as a child? As an adult? - Lots of thinking on this one, I didn't know it was so deep! "I don't know, that's kind of a hard one! Well, I would say my most favorite memories would be family trips like Maryland, Michigan...mostly the trips to Maryland (Lots of family in Maryland). I remember the plane we flew on you could watch the pilot fly because there wasn't a cabin door. Playing Nintendo." Favorite memory as an adult? And don't say our wedding day, that's cheating! "Maybe when I was playing in the band and we played at Fortune Bay with ZZ Top. That was pretty fun." So not like, you know, the day your daughter was born? "Well that's a big one, but I don't think you can count that because everyone would answer that." Ok, I'll give you a pass.

Playing at the Fair in 2011 with the band. This is the night before I had Emily!

4. What do you think about my blog? Do you read it? "Uhm, I read it sometimes? Heh heh..." So that's a no. "But I think it's good that you do it, and...I don't know."

5. Is there anything you want my blog readers to know? "No, because I don't know who your blog readers are!" 
Like he should talk about weirdos?!

That's my husband - clearly a man of many words. But a private one? Not private enough to be bothered by my airing of our life into the internet, though. So basically, he's just weird. But I love him!

Travis posed a good question: Is there anything the blog readers want to know about him or us? Ask away!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Day the Maple Tree Died

Two years ago, this happened:

In the middle of a torrential storm, this huge branch from one of our maple trees fell down. Lucky for us and our neighbors, it fell right in between our two houses. Not on our house, our neighbor's multiple sheds and/or garages, or anywhere else where it could have caused major damage. God was really looking out for us that day!

It took out the corner of our family room addition, but the damage was so minor that Travis was able to fix it without any trouble. You can see from this picture that the rest of the tree limbs stand precariously close to our house. This picture was taken from our 2nd story deck. So any other tree limbs to fall down would land either directly on our house, our deck, or the neighbor's sheds. 

We hemmed and hawed for 2 years on whether we should cut it down. Should we have a professional service do it? Could Travis just cut it down? What should we do?

Our yard definitely has it's share of trees. We have no fewer than 19 trees on our property. In town. On less than an acre. That's craziness.

So this summer, we finally called around to get some bids on taking this tree down. It was time. The bids we got ranged from $575 to $1300+. For $1300, you better be hauling all the wood and grinding the stump up but that's not what their bid included. We decided to go with the cheaper service, which used a crane, and clean up the remains on our own.

The tree trimmers put us on their list, and I figured they would call to let us know when they'd be coming by. Imagine my surprise when the tree guy randomly showed up on Saturday morning! Luckily we didn't have any plans, so he got started right away.

 We had to get permission from the neighbors for the truck to sit in their yard, since our family room addition pretty much goes right up to our property line.

He was way up there!

The sad remains of our tree:

We were worried about getting in and around the fencing, so Travis is going to cut this part down on his own. I'm kind of sad about losing the shade from this tree; it really helped keep our family room cooler in the summer. Buuuuut...I'd rather not have a branch come down and ruin said family room.

It only took the tree trimmer about 3 hours to cut everything down, including two smoke breaks (I counted). However, it then took Travis the rest of the day to clear all the brush and larger logs out of our neighbor's side yard. I tried helping for a bit, but with Emily it was hard to really be of much help. He did get it all cleaned up though, and now we have to figure out how to get the rest of this ugly tree down. Not exactly how I planned on spending my Saturday!

Are you working on any home projects, planned or unplanned?

Monday, August 4, 2014

2014 Book List Check In

I meant to do this post at the end of June, as that would have been a full 6 months into the year. But with vacations, holidays, and you got a bit delayed.

I'll keep my opinions brief since it's a long list already. Some I've reviewed and linked back to previous reviews. So here's what I've read so far:

  1. Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson - I love all things Joshilyn Jackson, 'nuff said.
  2. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg - Good book if you're looking to empower yourself a little more in the workplace (and you're a woman). Some common sense stuff, but sometimes we need reminders of that. 
  3. It Looked Different on the Model: Epic Tales of Impending Same and Infamy by Laurie Notario - Funny, quick read with lots of short stories. 
  4. Emily & Einstein by Linda Francis Lee - Not my typical cup of tea, but a cute story. 
  5. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson - This bored me to tears! Given the title and subject matter, it could have been so much better. But par for the Larson course, he weighs his books down with tons and tons of details that get a bit exhausting.
  6. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn - Yes. Just yes. Read this and Flynn's other 2 books. 
  7. Triangle by Katharine Weber - Interesting book about a time period I knew nothing about.
  8. Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani 
  9. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber - Another book I probably wouldn't have picked up on my own if it weren't for book club. Really though, this is a great book about how God loves all of us, how he works in everyone, and how Christianity doesn't always look like Sunday morning khaki's.
  10. In the Woods by Tana French - I really enjoy reading French's Dublin Murder Squad series. They can be read together or alone, as some characters show up in each novel but each book is entirely independent of the other.
  11. Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick - Not my favorite thus far. A little slow at times, but interesting enough.
  12. Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich - Pass. Don't waste your time. If you've seen the movie "One for the Money", then you've read all 20 of Evanovich's books.
  13. Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah - Really interesting story about a daughter growing up in China.
  14. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger - This was a good mystery, but I only gave it 3 stars on Goodreads and now can't remember why.  
  15. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling - I so wanted to love this book. I could hear Kaling's voice in each story, and I think she is so, so funny but this one was a miss for me.
  16. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - So trippy! Gaiman takes your imagination on a wild ride with this one.
  17. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - Unbroken has received rave reviews by so many sources; I cannot speak badly about it. At times it was a little slow, but also riveting in other chapters. A must read!
  18. Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler - I liked this short novel a lot more than I thought I would when I picked it up, although I don't know why. A story about forbidden love in the South during the Civil Rights Era. What's not to like? 
  19. Orphan Train by Christa Baker - Another really good historical read about a time period I really knew nothing about. I could have done without the "present day" part of the story, but overall it was really interesting. 
  20. Outside - a post-apocalyptic novel by Shalini Boland - Interesting read. I had some issues with the writing style in the beginning, but it tied together nicely at the end.
  21. The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal - Kind of a chick lit, feel good book.
  22. Trafficked by Sophie Hayes - Probably a must read for any woman or mother, but I really wanted to reach in and shake Sophie for her stupidity in so many situations.
  23. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty - Goooood read, a real page turner. I was so into this book that my husband even noticed and said "so what's the big secret?"
  24. Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl by Susan McCorkindale - Skip it. Boring and self-indulgent.
  25. Welcome to the Great Mysterious by Lorna Landvik - Yet again, a feel good type book picked by book club. We needed something like this after all the heavy reads we've gone through. 
Right now I'm reading It by Stephen King. Is it weird that I just felt like reading a scary book? I'm just about halfway though (at 1100 pages, that's some feat!), and so far it's not so scary. But I read 11/22/63, and it had some scenes in Derry, Maine where It takes place so it got me interested. Since this one is so long, it'll take a little while for me to get though it. 

I made a goal of reading 24 books this year, which I have clearly blown out of the water. We'll see how many more I can get through by the end of the year! If you'd like to read more of my reviews and see what else I've read in the past, or future books, or just keep track of your own books, check out Goodreads

What are you reading now? Any suggestions for me?

Friday, August 1, 2014

3rd Birthday Recap

Get ready to be spammed with cuteness.

Emily's 3rd birthday was Wednesday. I can't even believe she's that old already. But time really does fly! Two more years and she'll be starting Kindergarten. Yikes!

I was so sure that Emily would want a Frozen themed birthday party.  I started pinning all sorts of cute ideas, and really had everything coming together. Then I thought "hmm, maybe I should ask her just in case." To my complete surprise, Emily said she wanted a Cinderella party. Well then! Back to the drawing board...

We ended up just having family over for BBQ on her actual birthday. I hung up some balloons, bought Disney princess plates from Walmart, a cake with the princesses on it, and called it good. Way easier than all my original planning.

I mentioned in my last post that we surprised Emily first thing by hanging balloons on the outside of her door.

She was so surprised!

At first, she didn't really know what to make of that. Then she laughed and played with the balloons for a few seconds before she declared that she was going downstairs for breakfast. Alrighty then.

Here's the birthday girl before everyone arrived. I started running out of room for all of her presents at one point. Why yes, my daughter is slightly spoiled. But not by me! It's all the Grandma's fault.

In fitting with the princess theme, Emily received no fewer than FIVE princess dresses. Five. Here she is holding up the Snow White dress, and you can kind of see that she's wearing her new Cinderella dress. She also received Ariel, Queen Elsa, and Princess Sophia. Since we already have a Belle & Rapunzel dress, I told Travis he's going to need to build her a small wardrobe for all her play dresses!

Wal-mart provided this awesome cake for us. I was really quite impressed with this because although I willingly ordered the cake, I was expecting something from Cake Wrecks as the final product. It's pretty tasty, too!

All in all, Emily had a great birthday. We are still cleaning up all the wrapping paper and balloons, but my little girl is happy and that's all that matters.