Monday, April 30, 2018

I’ve got the Mississippi Rainy Day Blues

I took to Jackson, Mississippi at the end of January with the hopes of leaving behind some holiday lbs at the Mississippi Blues marathon.  Instead I literally left my blood, sweat and tears that even the rain couldn’t wash away. Actually, it was the rain that caused most of them. Never have I experienced so much chafing in a race. For all 4 plus hours of this race, not once did the rain stop. For anyone thinking of this race as an option, it seems that historically the weather is complete shite on race day (last year it was cancelled due to ice). But I digress. Let me tell you first about visiting Jackson.

The race took place on a Saturday so I arrived Friday to pick up my race packet. Of course, Friday was a sunny, beautiful day, perfect for running. I stayed at the host hotel so didn’t have far to go to pick up the race packet. Runners were welcomed with a live blues band rocking the convention hall. Afterwards we walked around downtown to grab some lunch and see whatever there was to see in Mississippi's capital. Surprisingly, downtown Jackson, Capital City, home to trial and appellate level courts and presumably other governmental offices, was virtually empty. We there wasn't a lot to do right downtown except visit he Capitol Building, which has a pretty remarkable dome on it.

After the dome, we stopped at a bar behind the main courthouse, the Ole’ Tavern on George Street. Hoping to meet some fellow esquires, I instead ran into some fellow runners, also on the quest to finish a marathon in all 50 states. They were quite a few beers into the afternoon, impressively. We had a great conversation taking about different races we’d done and as we left to grab dinner, I wondered if they’d make it to the race the next day. (I did see them in the first few miles and it seemed they had some second thoughts on their life choices from the day before. They still finished ahead of me though).

I honestly didn’t know what to expect of the dining in Jackson, MS but was pleasantly surprised. Dinner was downtown at a pretty good place called Parlor Market, and I had an octopus dish with squid ink linguine. I have a fairly low spice tolerance, so to me this dish had a bit of a kick. Fortunately, that didn’t have an impact race day. Phew! Sorry, TMI?

Ok, so for the race itself....ugh. Rain, rain and more rain. It was horrible. And somehow, we always seemed to be running uphill, although I don’t know how that is possible. But I still haven’t figured out how the wind in Chicago can blow all directions at once, but yet it still does. And as some sort of sick joke, around mile 18 or so, you run through the “agriculture museum” which was a nice muddy path at that point. I've never had so much chafing ever, and stopping at the port-a-johns, well that was interesting. If you've ever worn a wet suit, gotten it wet, taken it off and then put it back on, well the going-to-the-bathroom experience was pretty much like that.

The only saving grace of this race were the few blues bands that stuck it out in the rain to play to us and the AMAZING volunteers who were just as cold and wet but NEVER stopped cheering us on. Thank you race volunteers, you were incredible!! You deserve all the love!

As in usual post- race tradition, oysters were had at a great seafood place, Saltine. Great for oysters and dinner!

That's about all I have to say about Jackson. As I post this, I'm gearing up for the next race in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Fingers crossed for no rain and mild temperatures!  But might have to forego the post-race oysters there!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Tupac (West Coast) vs. Biggie (East Coast)

Like the age old rivalry between L.A.'s Tupac and NYC's Notorious B.I.G., so is the battle between the San Francisco west coast marathon and Baltimore's east coast marathon.

Before the Golden Gate fog
In the Golden Gate fog
As they say, there ain't no party like a West Coast party because a West Coast party don't stop.  And the party started in San Fran with one of the earliest start times I've ever had the displeasure of experiencing with a 5:00 am start at the Bay Bridge. I was able to find Sangeeta who was running the first  half of the marathon course. Thanks Geets for keeping me entertained for the first 10 miles! We did get to run through a cloud together over the Golden Gate bridge (as you can see,
not good for your hair).

My friend Kelly, who joined as a supporter and spectator, was another friendly face on the course. Her hair held up much better, but she pretty much always has good hair.
Obligatory selfie
While the race was hilly, it was not nearly as hilly as one might expect for San Fran. I survived the race and joined fellow runners, Bethany, Gilly (who ran her first half!!) and Sangeeta at the finish line. 
Gillian's excitement is the cutest!
The best part of the San Fran marathon was the post race fun.  Oysters of course! 
Kelly and I took in the Full House house. We also took the required tourist street car ride the day before the race, with  the Rice-a-Roni jingle in our heads the entire time.  But even better was our tour to wine country the next day!
Hey Tannerinos!
Red wine, white wine, bubbles....we tried it all.  We ended our day staying in Bodega Bay, setting of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." Although the town was quaint, our accommodations unfortunately were not. At least we got to see baby goats, which sometimes make everything better. And at least it was only one night. (By the way, no one tell Kelly there was a wolf spider on her shoulder!

The birds are coming! 
After wine country, birds and baby goats, we headed up north to stay in Fort Bragg and see the Avenue of the Giants (i.e., giant redwood trees).  The drive up the coast is not for the faint of stomach! Winding roads had all of us feeling queasy and ready for a straight stretch of highway.  But it certainly was scenic! 

Yep, we drove through this.

In the Avenue of the Giants

Gone 'Squatchin!
Our album cover (if we could sing and had a band)
 There were lots of memories made, wine drank, food eaten. Debates over whether these fat rodents were squirrels, naming the seagull who stared at us during our picnic on the Glass Beach, August.

Sangeeta riding to the Glass Beach
And with that, we bid adieu to Northern California. 

So 3 months later, with not a lot of training, aside from running a marathon in San Francisco, I headed east to Baltimore, Maryland to check off my 30th state. Having only been to Baltimore in passing when traveling to Delaware, I had some more time to check things out. Definitely a big fan of all the markets where you can get lots of great yet different food in one place. I did hit up one of these markets for post-race oysters and crab cakes (when in Rome). Oh, and let's not forget the "crush" drinks that they make from booze and fresh citrus. 
Race weekend weather was sunny and warm.  The harbor area was beautiful, which also hosted the post-race party. It was a getting a bit hot by the finish, but I still finished one second faster than my time in San Fran. 

Baltimore was surprisingly just as hilly as San Fran, with miles 16-20 pretty much all up hill. I was so not expecting that. But there were penguins on the course, and the crab-shaped medal at the end was sorta worth it. 

So which was better? Maybe my trip to California wins this one, but because everything is better with good friends and support along the way! 2017 closed out with my 40th birthday and my 30th marathon, which gives me 10 years to finish the remaining 20 to hit all 50 states by the time I'm 50! Easy, right?  Looking forward to what 2018 holds (as of now Jackson, Mississippi, Lincoln, Nebraska and potentially Wyoming in the fall!) Stay tuned, and as always, thanks for all your support!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Liberty Bell, Mission Bells and Jingle Bells

Independence Hall
After a much needed 4 months of marathon training hiatus, I doubled down with 2 marathons over 2 weeks, starting in Philadelphia and ending in San Antonio, with a turducken sandwiched in the middle.  (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the turducken, this was my brother-in-law's request for Thanksgiving dinner, and it's a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken.  Personally, I found the chicken to be unnecessary.)

Luckily for me, I had friends traveling along for both of these races.  A huge thanks to Sangeeta for supporting me on both trips and coming out in the cold wind in Philly and the wet, endless rain in San Antonio to cheer me on!  You are the best!  

We arrived in Philadelphia to sunny, 70 degree weather, unseasonably warm for the weekend right before Thanksgiving.  We ran into our old friend Ben as we walked around town and enjoyed the beautiful day.  He looked surprised to see us.  We took in some American history with a glance at Independence Hall and took a peek at the Liberty Bell.  When one does not want to wait in an incredibly long line to see a bell, one finds a view outside through a window.  I feel like the Founding Fathers would have understood.  I mean, when you have such a rare day of beautiful weather, you don't waste it inside museums and waiting in lines.  You waste it siting in a bar drinking Ben Franklin beer.

The weather quickly turned as a cold front moved in.  Even before we made it to dinner, the wind was picking up, with 25-30 mph winds predicted for the race.  Fortunately, as we walked through the courtyard of City Hall, we happened upon the Christmas Village where we could warm up with some hot, spiced wine.  Onto dinner at High Street on Market where I did some massive carb loading and had some of the best pasta ever.  My mouth is watering now thinking about it.  The staff and management were also amazing.

Race day was cold and windy, but overall, a fun day.  Although there was a long stretch of course into the wind, the plus side of that was, for the last 6 miles, the wind was at my back.  The fastest pace I had the whole race!  Weeeeeeee!!!

The lovely Sangeeta was a real trooper and was out there in the freezing cold and wind to cheer me on along the course and to meet me a the finish.  Well, I thought she was lovely until she made me visit the Museum of Art, which was right by the finish line.  You know, the one best known for those  steps that Rocky Balboa runs up when he's training for the big bout against Apollo Creed.  Yeah, I had to walk up those. That actually was the easy part, it was the coming back down them that was painful.  I did draw the line somewhere though, and did not agree to walk up the additional steps inside the museum, regardless of the beautiful statue at the top.  (In all honesty and to set the record straight, I did visit the museum willingly (sort of) and Sangeeta is still lovely in my opinion!)
For those of you who follow my race rantings and writings, you know I like to celebrate with post-race oysters.  And I had my oyster bar all picked out in the Reading Terminal Market, near our hotel.  Sadly, they close early on Sundays and they were cleaning up when we arrived.  Gladly, I had the persuasive Sangeeta with me who talked the shucker into just one oyster for this tired, cold runner.  And it was one of the most delicious oysters I've ever had.   The long day ended fabulously with seeing a friend and former colleague (who also ran the race) for drinks at his fundraiser benefitting the American Heart Association.  I'm not sure either of us had entirely thawed out by that time, but nothing a few cocktails can't remedy! 

Pause for two weeks... Eat a turducken...And Sangeeta and I reunite with friend Bethany deep in the heart of Texas for the San Antonio Rock-n-Roll marathon.

Now we are talking about a whole new weather situation.  Rain, rain and more rain.  Did I mention it was raining?  Despite the rain, our Saturday started of fantastically with a visit to a Tamale Festival!  

Yes, that is a giant tamale behind us
Although challenged to eat the Atomic Tamale, which is tempting if you have a competitive streak, the consensus was that this pre-race decision would later be deemed a poor life choice during a marathon.  Pass on the Atomic Tamale.  

Meats and pickles.
Pickles and meats
If you like cured meats, do not pass on Cured at the Pearl.  We dragged our vegetarian friend there to try some of the food at this James Beard semi-finalist. The meats were delicious as well as all the pickled accoutrements that came with them, including watermelon rinds.  Thanks for indulging our meat cravings, Sangeeta! 

The rain did let up in the evening long enough for us to catch a glimpse of the Alamo and take a nighttime stroll on the River Walk, which was lit up with extra lights for the holidays. 

No sign of Pee-Wee's bike

Others were still blurs, moving
much faster than us, even when
were running and not posing.

Now it's race day and.....still raining.  The was Bethany's first marathon and far from ideal running conditions.  I don't think we'd have been anymore wet if we had been snorkeling.  But Bethany was a trooper and we persevered to finish the race and claim our Rock-n-Roll Marathon Finisher jackets.  Finally, something dry to put on!  Sangeeta was, as usual, amazing and cheered us on early in the course and was there just before the finish.

While we didn't finish in time to see the headlining band, Guster, we did get a personal congratulations from the drummer (When you roll with Sangeeta, you roll with people in high places).  Clearly the Rock-n-Roll race administrators cater to the half-marathon runners with putting the headliner's performance less than 4 hours after the start time.  I mean, who finishes a marathon on that amount of time? Elite runners?  Well, the elite runners are already home, showered, and having lunch 4 hours after the start.  Regardless, there were a lot of us marathoners out there who would have enjoyed hearing a little Fa Fa along with our post-race Michelob Ultra (basically a can of water).  

After meat-filled pre-race dining, we hopefully made it up to Sangeeta with a veggie extravaganza at Supper, in the Emma Hotel in the Pearl District.  Awesome Brussels sprouts and an amazing ginger bread dessert.  Also a beautiful hotel lobby from what Sangeeta told us. We were too tired to take the extra tour of the place.  Of course,  this was after Bethany and I had our obligatory post-race oyster party at Luke.  First time I've had Texas gulf oysters.  I've had better, but definitely have had worse.  

Our tour continued the next day with visits to the historic San Juan and San Jose Missions.  There was a nice path between all 5 of the old Missions (starting at the Alamo) which in other weather conditions would be really nice to rent a bike and cruise along.  Unfortunately, the path was closed due to all the rain, and let's be honest, we were too sore to hop on a bike.  

What we weren't too sore for was a drive to Fredericksburg and a visit to a few wineries.  First stop, Armadillo's Leap where we were fed full of "reindeer mix" (aka puppy chow, if you are familiar with this treat) buffalo and dill pickle flavored popcorn, along with some wine, of course.  

Bill No. 1
Bill No. 2
From there, onto Four Point Cellars where we met the first of 2 interesting men named Bill.  Bill No. 1 allowed us to sample some delicious wines along with all the remaining cheese samples since we got there just before closing time. (Impecible timing if you want free snacks!)  After we finished there, that Bill referred us to Bill No. 2 at Andreucci wines. This guy had such an interesting story!  He and his wife spent several years running a cooking school in Tuscany, where he met the maker of the wines he now has brought to Fredericksburg, Texas. If you are ever in Fredericksburg, stop by and say hello to both these guys.  Thanks to both for their hospitality!  The day wrapped up with some German-inspired fare at Otto's and free pool at Buc's. Watch out for that Sangeeta, she's a hustler!  

Of course, the sun came out as we headed out of town, and we made a last effort to enjoy it with an al fresco luncheon after a visit to the Western Art Museum.                                             
So I'm wrapping up 2016 with marathon numbers 27 and 28, and checking Pennsylvania and Texas off of my list.  As I write this, halfway through the holidays, having done absolutely zero running since San Antonio, I'm looking forward to taking some time off during the winter months to rest up for the events of 2017.  With my 40th birthday approaching, I'm left with 22 states to run in over the next 10 years to achieve my goal of 50 by 50.  That is totally feasible, right? 

As always, thank you for reading and sending messages of support and motivation throughout the year! An extra special thank you to Sangeeta and Bethany for your race support services over this past year and a huge congratulations to Bethany on finishing your first marathon!  I also need to give acknowledgement to Sangeeta for forcing me to photographically document the trips so well (you know I secretly appreciate it later)! 

Wishing you all a happy holiday and a wonderful New Year! 

Still no sign of Pee-Wee's bike under the tree at the Alamo

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"I'll get you my pretty (medal)"

One of the creepy life sized
figures at the Oz Museum
Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore... but we were!  We were there at the end of March to run the Wicked Marathon in Wamego, Kansas (yep, this blog entry is really late).  I was joined by fellow runner Bethany who opted for the half-marathon. Unfortunately we didn't get to run together since there were different starting lines for the half and full marathon, but we did high five when we passed each other going opposite directions on the course.

This is me running in
the wicked rain
The race was accompanied by some wicked weather as it rained pretty much the entire first half of the race.  Plus we were already wet from waiting for the race to start in the rain.   This might be one of the smallest races I've done but a perk of that is if everyone is at the start line early, you can get started early which is exactly what we did. The sooner we start the sooner it's over with, and the finish is my favorite part!

The course was a bit of an out and back type course, but this wasn't as annoying as I thought it might be.  Plus there were some cows mooing us on along the way.  But other than that, not a lot of crowds out there. Maybe it was the rain, or maybe this is typical for this race.  But you do get some motivation from the other runners on their way to the finish (or if you are a fast runner, unlike me, on their way to the turnaround).

Costumes are encouraged, and while we did bring some, we opted to not wear them in the rain.  I didn't think the polyester Dorothy dress I ordered from Amazon would be very comfortable.  I do have to give huge kudos to a man I was running along with for much of the race who did the entire full marathon in all out Glinda gear (poofy pink dress, crown, wand, everything).   I don't even want to imagine the chafing, ugh!

While I may have eluded to a pretty medal in my blog title, this race actually didn't have a very pretty one.  I was hoping for some Emerald City sparkles or something like that. Nope. I suspect that the medal may have been designed by a local artist (although I can't confirm this), and while I can appreciate the talent that went into the depiction, it wasn't the bling I was hoping for.  Nonetheless, it is a unique medal in it's own right and I welcomed it at the finish line!

I always mention food and/or drink in my blogs and this one is no different.   Bethany and I started our carb loading at a local brewery in Manhattan, Kansas... Wait, let me back up a minute.  First, I have to tell the story of how I got to Manhattan, Kansas.  I did take a flight there from Chicago, which was uneventful, as I prefer all of my flights to be.  However, when I arrived at the airport, there was the task of making my way to Manhattan where we were staying.  I thought, well this is a college town (Kansas State is here), so they probably have Uber, right?  And they did.  So I requested an Uber.  The Uber driver appeared to be on the right track, so I figured no problems here.  Well, that was until he called me and asked where I was. By the looks of the app, he was behind the airport, like where the plane landed.  I informed him I was at the terminal; there was 1 terminal with 1 gate, how hard could this be?  Apparently very hard.  He just could not figure it out.  Fortunately, I've always relied on the kindness of strangers (I know, different movie),  and a friendly woman Janice mentioned her friend might be able to give me a ride to my hotel.   Her friend arrived to pick her up, and Berga was just as nice and agreed to give me a lift.  Well, she wasn't really much of a talker actually, so I think she agreed to it, at least that was the impression Janice gave me.

Look how happy 6 tiny beers
made us! 
Ok, so now I've made it to the hotel and Bethany has arrived!  So we're off the brewery to carb load! First stop was the Tallgrass Tap House.  We both had samplers, and I think that we would both agree that the beers were hit and miss.  But still worth a visit if you're in the Little Apple.

I guess if you're running a marathon the next day, you can't just have beer for dinner, so we moved a few doors down to a place called Bourbon and Baker.  If my memory serves me, I believe we had the chicken & waffles as well as shrimp étouffée.  Seriously, why is that the first time I've had chicken & waffles? Why has no one forced me to eat this amazing combination before?  Who are you people who consider yourselves my friends?!  You've failed me for 39 years! So flipping awesome.   As for the shrimp étouffée, save that for your next trip to Louisiana.

Am I right?
Post race carb reloading occurred at a great little spot right near the finish line called Toto's Tacoz.  This place was amazing. Picture the Wizard of Oz if it took place on Gilligan's Island, with a Mexican flair.  I recommend the Dorothy Quesadilla.  I can never eat right after I run, so while I worked up an appetite for Toto's, we perused the Oz Museum.  This place plays the Wizard of Oz on a loop all day long in a room in the back!  They also have life sized replicas of all the characters in the movie (note the witch above).  You'd think the Wicked Witch of the West would be the creepiest, right? Nope.  I have to give that award to Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.  Yikes.

Post post-race nap, we had dinner at the Little Apple Brewing Co.  Although it was located in a strip mall, it was not as bad as it sounds.  The beer was good, cold, all of the things you want in a beer.   I can't speak to the food, because at this point I can't recall what I had for dinner.  I guess it was unremarkable, which can be a good and bad thing.

For dessert, Bethany's friend had supplied her with a bounty of delicious cookies, which we enjoyed back at the bed.
This is basically what we looked like.
Bonus blog!   About a month after Kansas, I headed to Cali to run the Tinkerbell Half Marathon with my friend Jen in Disneyland.  Such a fun race, but don't run it for a PR, because there are some bottlenecks on the course that will kill that.  Still a good time as you get to run through Disneyland and the California Adventure park right next door.  A few Disney characters spattered here and there. Tutus and fairy wings were abundant but Jen and I also added some flower power giant sunglasses.  And finally a medal with some sparkle! Tinkerbell even spins!

So that was my last race until the end of November when I take on the Philadelphia Marathon.  I'm out of training mode until August so will be (and have been) enjoying the weekends free of 12+ mile runs. Maybe my toenails will actually grow back now!  Just in time for flip flop season!

Happy summer everyone!