Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Mariachis and Marathons in Lincoln, Nebraska

This post is ridiculously delayed as I ran this race May 6th, 2018. So I may have forgotten most of this race. But let's give it a go.

So this trip was surrounded by back to back work trips for me, so I was hoping for a quiet weekend  in Lincoln (minus running 26.2 miles). I mean, it's Nebraska, how crazy can it be? Very, it turns out. Combine a weekend of Cinco de Mayo, a marathon AND the University of Nebraska's graduation and you get crowds and noise....lots and lots of noise. I arrived and just hoped to have a quiet lunch outside, since the weather was beautiful. The first stop had a nice outdoor space, where we were able to grab a table. Soon we found out why...they weren't serving food at the time. Which was probably better since there were several graduation parties going on there, and in hindsight, it was a total college bar. And at 41, that is not so much my scene anymore. So we relocated to a Mexican restaurant (remember again it is the day before the marathon...May 5th). We grabbed a spot at the bar to wait for a table. When I then remembered I'd left my wallet at the crazy college bar. So I got a quick warm up run in to dash back to see if it was still there. Thankfully it was. Phew.  So back to the Mexican restaurant where our table was now ready. Across the restaurant was a mariachi band..hoping, praying, wishing that it stays across the restaurant.  But in typical mariachi style, they covered the ground across the entire restaurant. Don't get me wrong, they were great. But I just wanted some quiet. Not in the cards for that afternoon, I guess.

Dinner was much quieter thankfully. We dined at Dish, which I recommend if you're in Lincoln to root on the Cornhuskers, or for any other reason. 

Race day was fairly good weather, although by the end of the race it was getting to be a bit on warm side. Crowds were sporadic on the course, but overall it was a pretty good course, and the volunteers were great. The race was sponsored by the National Guard, so there were several members of our military who were participating. I always find the runners in full gear, in boots, wearing full packs, so impressive. Because I'm struggling in shoes and gear made for running without a 40lb pack on my back. So thanks to them for their service and for their inspiration to the rest of us on the course.
That was not my chip time!
The best part of this race was the finish..and not just because it means the thing is over. It's because you finish right on the Cornhusker football field!
Post-race, I didn't really get a chance to see much of Lincoln, as I had to head back to Omaha to fly out for a work trip. Which totally made me realize why I don't normally travel on race days, because sitting on a plane sure does make your legs stiff! 

Since I don't remember a lot of details on the race at this point, other than the cool finish line, I'd say if you need to do a race in Nebraska, go for this one. Just be prepared to pay a lot for a hotel room if it's the same weekend as graduation! The Marriott was the price of the Ritz in some cities! 

OMG, I can't believe I almost forgot to mention the medal!!! Another great part of this race. It looks like a penny! And since I'm a whore for the bling, totally worth it. Speaking of bling, I've registered for the Little Rock, Arkansas marathon this March, and from what I've seen from the 2018 medal, this thing is going to be bigger than the race bib. I cannot wait!!  Well, actually I can, since I've done a sad amount of running since I ran this race in Lincoln.  

I typically run a race in the fall, but this fall, my life has changed a lot. I've relocated from Chicago, the love of my life, to Naples, FL to take on a new job and adventure. So the training and travel have had to go on hold for a bit.  All the chaos with work travel, trying to plan for a move, closing out things at my prior job, has made it hard to even get short runs in, but I've done a few runs to help me manage some personal relationship issues, and as always, running is always there for me when I need it to be. Probably why I keep doing it.  Although I didn't run a race this fall, I was a legit, hard core spectator at the Chicago marathon for my superstar friend, Bethany!  Her daughter and I darted all over the city to cheer her on as many times as we could possibly manage on the course. And we even did it in the rain! If you ever want to spectate with someone, Gillian is the best partner to have!  One of the highlights of spectating is when you randomly cheer for a runner with his/her name on his/her bib, and you get a mix of reactions ranging from smiles, big grins and cheers (the best) or confusion because the person wonders if he/she knows you (also fun).  Watching all of the runners in Chicago did motivate me to get back out there and take on another race sooner rather than later. So I might tackle Alabama before Arkansas, but will have to see how things feel when I start running again, as this would be only 3 weeks before. And I'm not getting any younger folks! But I've got 32 in the books, 18 to go. Let's get this done! 

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