Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dela-where? In Decem-brrrrr?

 The two most asked questions when I told people I'd be running a marathon in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware the first weekend of December. "Where?" And.... "Won't it be cold?"  Well, I can now tell you that Rehoboth Beach is on the coast of Delaware and you go through pretty much nowhere to get there when you drive from Baltimore.  I can also tell you that the temperature couldn't have been more perfect for running a marathon. 

I rejoined Miri in Delaware only a few months after attempting the Marathon du Medoc.  She may also write about her own experience with the race, so sorry if this is redundant.  We were joined by Miri's friend Laird, who is also tackling the challenge of a marathon in every state.  He's part of a more official group called Marathon Maniacs and this was his 15th state.  He's done about 20 marathons just this year, which I think is completely remarkable.. and a little bit crazy.  Great job though, Laird, keep it up!  And thanks for sharing some of your course photos with me!

The Sands; as it was 30 years ago
It was a small race, only about 2000 runners, including the half-marathon.  The course started a super short distance from our very retro hotel The Atlantic Sands, right on the boardwalk.  Much of the course was a lot of loop-dee-loop and I was passing either the people in front of me or the people behind me for much of the course (it's way more fun when you pass those behind you. : ) )  There were some really scenic parts running through Cape Henlopen State Park, like this picture below, where I almost slipped down into a hole while looking out over this great view.  Fortunately, we got to run past this twice.  Another cool part was the part of the park where we were running on paths winding through a bunch of sand dunes.  Plus, there was a special treat in the park...We got to run up to an overlook point where we could finally see the ocean! An even better treat was running back down!  Whee!

Worth a slip down an embankment, isn't it?
The race finished a little bit farther away from the start, but still a very walkable distance from the hotel, even after running a marathon.   I didn't finish as fast as I would have liked, but it was still the fastest race I've run this year.  So at least I finished 2012 strong!  Plus, it was the only race in 2012 that I ran where the temperature was below 85 degrees.  Hooray for that!

Reheboth Beach was a bit sparse since it was the off season, and many restaurants, hotels and stores were "Closed for the Season."  However, I have to give a shout out to the Cake Break, who opened up at 5:00 a.m. race morning to provide us runners with bagels, bananas, coffee and oatmeal.  We, of course, had to repay them for this great kindness and go back later for a post-race cupcake.  It would have just been rude not too! I highly recommend the Black and Tan, which is a Guiness Stout cake with Bailey's frosting.  Delish! 

Oysters - 0; Miri & Kristine - 16
We tried to have a post race lunch at Dogfish Head Brewery, which is local to the area, but apparently everyone else had the same idea and the wait was over an hour. Sorry folks, but when you've just run a 26.2 miles, you cannot wait an hour for food.  We ended up a an English/Irish pub next door.  Lunch was followed by an afternoon nap back at the hotel.  Before we resigned ourselves to bed for the night, we regrouped to head out to dinner.  It seems that I have developed a recent race tradition of rewarding myself with a plate of oysters.  Maybe you remember the delicious array following our race in Bordeaux.  Miri and I shared an equally delicious sampler of very fresh oysters at Henlopen City Oyster House.  Laird was adventurous and tried a rack of elk, which looked delicious.  If you're ever in Rehoboth, I highly recommend this place.  Sadly they don't take reservations, but we didn't have to wait long. 

Since much of the action was gone for the winter season, there wasn't much left to do after running around the area for 4 plus hours.  So the day after the race, Miri and I headed back to Baltimore and took in some of the sights of downtown.  We got to go up to Baltimore's panoramic viewing point (every city has one) for only $1, since it was $1 weekend for all sites in the city.  Unfortunately, this also made our potential visit to the Aquarium impossible due to insanely long lines.  So instead we wandered a bit along the Heritage Walk into Little Italy (oddly did not see any Italian spots) and historic Jonestown. 

All in all, a nice race and a nice weekend with old and new friends.  I finished off the year checking a 14th state off of my list.  So far, 2013 looks like it will bring me to Fargo, North Dakota in May.  As 2012 comes to a close, I'm not sure what else is in store for 2013, but I know that I can't wait to find out.  There are a lot of states left and race-cations to be had!  Thank you for reading our blog and for your support and encouragement over another year of running.  I encourage you to donate to worthy causes like Don't Bully My Breed and Girls on the Run during this season of giving!  Happy holidays everyone! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Le Marathon du Medoc.... Je ne sais quoi.

Less than elaborate costumes.
Translated from French, this means "I don't know what."  It's used colloquially to mean "a certain something."  Le Marathon du Medoc... Je ne sais quoi.  I don't know what to say about it, it definitely had a certain something, though I'm not sure what.  I know that it's over and that I've never been so happy to see a finish line.

[Disclaimer: Sorry Francophiles, my computer doesn't have the fancy accents to go on many of the words, so pardon my  misspellings.]

Where to begin?  I'll start with the race I suppose.  So, if you're not familiar with this race, it is a race through the Medoc region of France, which is near the city of Bordeaux. The race starts and ends in the village of Pauillac.

As usual, the day before we had to pick up our race packets.  The expo had beer for only 2 euros and wine for only 1 euro!  Sweet deal!  We drank some, of course, while we tried to make sense of our race guides, all in French.  We didn't get very far with that, but did enjoy looking at pictures of the race theme from last year, Animals.  Our theme was History.  The costume possibilities are endless.

Also better than ours
Better than ours
Speaking of costumes, everyone is encouraged to wear a costume.  Of course Miri and I planned ours last minute so were dressed as opposing Greek Goddesses, Harmonia (goddess of harmony) and Eris (goddess of chaos).  I admit, our costumes are a bit sad.  There were definitely some pretty cool and wacky costumes, which was fun to see.  Case in point, the blue haired British guy to the left and Japanese samurais to the right.

Miri's view while "working"
After packet pick up, we radomly came across Fort Medoc, so decided to pay for the tour.  FYI, it was self-guided.  Miri also had to make a conference call for work, so she set up shop at a shady spot along the River Garonne while I explored the fort.

View from inside the gun powder building.
The fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and some of the original structures still remained, like the gun powder building.  Guess they needed to make that thing sturdy. 

And now...  Race day.

Sunrise at the start
The race had a late start, or what they call a "civilized" start time of 9:30 a.m.  Normally, I'd be pretty excited about this, but considering the high on race day was 35 degrees Celcius (95 Farenheit), I was not excited about giving the temperatures more time to creep upward.
The acrobats. And they had a soundtrack.
The start was pretty amazing, I'm not gonna lie.  We did get there early to make sure we could find parking for our incredibly fuel efficient rented Renault (Some advice: book a rental car in advance, oh and make sure someone can drive a manual).  I recall cannons of confetti and acrobats hanging from a dome.

Had some of this...it was good
Our only source of shade

The really cool part about this race is, about every 2 kilometers or so, you arrive at a beautiful chateau, which so kindly has tastings of their wines out for the runners to sample.  However, I think because of the high temperatures, runners who arrived at these chateaus earlier than Miri and I did seemed to have nabbed all the water.  So while I tried a few glasses along the way, (and they were delicious) most of the time we were focused on finding water, sometimes to the point of looking for half-full or full bottles of water discarded along the course.  Not a proud moment, but seemingly necessary at the time.  But, at least we had some good scenery to look at as we were baking in the sun.
Unidentified chateau

Another unidentified chateau
The last 7-10 kilometers of the course also had food along with the wine to sample.  Oysters, cheese, ham, steak, and ice cream.  Sadly, by the time I got there, the thought of eating was not really appealing because I was so stinking hot.  I would have gladly taken some ice cream, but it was all gone. (Insert wha-whaa trombone here).

My personal experience with this race, because of the heat, was not as good as it could have been, I think.  Many people seemed to be having an awesome time, and maybe that was because they were more drunk than I was.  Note to self, next wine race, drink more wine!  I'm not going to mention my finish time, because it's embarrassing, but we'll just say that I did not make it in time to get a goodie bag, which had a bottle of wine it it!  Gasp, the horror of missing this!!  However, I did receive a medal for my efforts.  (Wine would have been better).   I made up for this sadness though during dinner back in Bordeaux where I had a huge tasting platter of 3 different kinds of oysters, 14 in all.  When in Bordeaux, eat oysters and drink wine. 

Before - minus a couple I ate pre-photo

Cotes de Bourg
The day after the race, Miri and I went to nearby Bourg en Gironde/Cotes de Bourg and sampled some wine.  I brought back a really cool bottle for my roomie since she took great care of my buddy Dean while I was gone.  It was from Le Chateau Lamblin, and the wine guy also hand made this super cool box which had landmarks of Bordeaux painted on the box using the wine as paint. Cool, huh?  We also hit up Le Chateau Croute Charlus.  We had a hard time finding the entrance to go in and taste the wine, but some little grandma came out of the house and showed us where to go.  I think she was concerned by us creepily peering in the windows.  The wine maker was so friendly, although didn't speak English well, which is fine, because I also don't speak French well.  But between my limited French and his limited English, we did ok. His wine was also pretty amazing and totally inexpensive!  Plus, I liked that he tasted each wine along with us. (I wonder if he's tanked by the end of a busy tasting day).  Sadly, he does not import to the U.S. and I only had room for 1 bottle of wine in my suitcase which was filled by the prior bottle.  Miri did bring a bottle back and it's unfortunate that I don't live closer to her so I can sip some out of that bottle.  But he does import to Prague, so if you're ever there, hit up Chez Marcel and have some. 

So that was the race experience.  Here's what else I did on this trip that I'd recommend.

1. Paris - duh. 

A wistful walk along the River Seine

 2.  Perpignan and Le Petit Train Jaune -  The train goes into the Pyrenees and all the way into Spain.  Plus, there are some cool sites to see along the route.  It's like 100 something  years old, with an open air car (awesome, but bring sunblock and line up early).  The train line begins at the UNESCO World Heritage site Villefranche-de-Conflent, which is an old fortified city.  If you miss the early train like we did, you can kill some time shopping and eating in the fortified city or in the caves nearby, both in walking distance from the train station.
Le Petit Train Jaune

In Perpignan, eat at Le Divil.  You can select your own steak (also called entrecote en francais) if you want and they had great mussels (moules et frites).  I'd also recommend La Table, which is hidden away on Rue de la Poissonerie. The owners were incredibly accommodating and slight perfectionists.  The presentation was immaculate as  you can see by these photos.

Le Cite at night
Garden of La Maison Vieille
3. Carcasonne - It has an old medevial Cite (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that was reconstructed to make it look even more medevial.  It sits up on the hill looking pretty awesome when it's all lit up at night. Tons of places to eat and shop to your heart's content inside the walls of the Cite.  And there is no shortage of fake princess and knight gear if you are so inclined.

If you want a great place to stay, that isn't too expensive, in a great location, and pretty, stay at La Maison Vieille, a incredibly quaint B&B.  Travel note: cash only.  But they have free wifi!

OK, so I know this wasn't a race in the good ol' U.S. of A; but since this was such a unique experience, I thought it was worth sharing.   I hope you enjoyed reading about it my trip almost as much as I enjoyed experiencing it.  Bon voyage!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Out of the city... to the beach!

Gross Point Beach
Similar to my trek several months ago to Oak Park, this weekend, I took to running out of the city, this time to Evanston.  It's a little farther away than Oak Park, so I didn't run round trip, but I did put a long 13 miles in to get there. 

By the way, I'm currently training for Le Marathon du Medoc, which takes place in the Bordeaux region of France this September.  I know, I know... It's not one of the 50 states, but this race just seemed too cool to pass up.  I'll be running it with fellow RUS blogger, Miri Frankel, although I am using the word "run" pretty loosely.  We have no intentions of running it fast as we want to take in all the beautiful scenery and the costumes that many participants wear.  (This year's race is history themed, so if you have any costume suggestions let us know.)  Plus, I hear that there might be a bit of wine and/or oysters here and there at aid stations, especially towards the end, so running fast may not mesh well with that.

This grand idea of running to Evanston was the brain child of my boyfriend's friend, who felt like a beach day.  I realize there are great beaches in the city, but he's a big fan of the Gross Point Lighthouse beach.  It's apparently been named as one of the best beaches in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine, which also called Evanston one of the coolest burbs.  I mapped it out and it was just the distance I needed to run.  So I sent my swimsuit & flip flops with my boyfriend and headed northbound.  Oh, and I made sure to have some cash with me, as it's $8 to use the beach up there.  I'm sure the ticket guy was excited about my sweaty-ass-pocket cash.  Which reminds me of something that I know my roommate will appreciate.  So I paid my $8 to the money guy and was handed two tickets that looked like raffle tickets.  One ticket read "Ticket."  The other read "Keep This Coupon."   I then walked approximately 3-5 steps and then handed a ticket to another person to gain entrance to the beach.  Yep, only a few steps away, to hand a ticket to a person who just saw me purchase the ticket.  Ahh...brings me back to Vietnam! (GB, I know you are loving this part!).   Ironically, the ticket taker took the ticket that read "Keep This Coupon" and I was given the "Ticket."  Weird...

OK, back to the run... Some of the route was my usual route, but as I got farther north, I started to feel like I was no longer in the Chicago-land area, but instead, in some coastal town.  I ran past a couple of  huge universities with gorgeous old buildings (Loyola and Northwestern).  Northwestern had some seriously nice fraternity houses.  I mean, they looked like mini-castles.  Compared to the old apartment building turned Chi-Omega sorority house I lived in at Illinois State, this was pretty impressive.  I wonder what the annual dues are for going greek at Northwestern, sheesh! 

Gross Point Lighthouse
I also ran by the Calvary Cemetery, and while I do love cemeteries, I was too busy looking out over the beautiful rocky lakefront to my right to pay much attention to the huge cross gravestones in the cemetery to my left.  The cemetery was pretty close to Loyola, and I couldn't help wonder how many college pranks take place in that cemetery. 

If running along rocky shorelines didn't make me feel like I was in Maine, the Gross Point Lighthouse surely did!  Although, I think this lighthouse might have actually been bigger than the one I saw in Maine (refer to the disappointment expressed in my Oct. 2010 post Most Scenic = Most Hilly).  Tours of the lighthouse are available, which claim to have city skyline views, but we didn't make it up there. 

The boys and I had arranged a time that we would start looking for each other at the beach.  I was running a little faster than usual since it wasn't nearly as hot as it has been, and felt much easier to pick up the pace, so I beat them there.  It truly was the perfect summer day.  Sunny, not too hot and humid, but warm enough you wanted to get in the water after sitting in the sun for a short bit.  And the lake was even a perfect temperature; cool at first, but after a minute, felt nicely refreshing. 
Evanston Arts Center

Next to the lighthouse is the Evanston Arts Center.  True to the theme of the day, I felt, again, like I was far away from the city just by looking at the building.  It looks like a place that would be fitting in the English countryside, doesn't it?

No complaints about my training run this past weekend.  In my book, any run that takes you away, literally or figuratively, is a good run.  It's better than Calgon, that's for sure! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Don't cha know, Minnesota is great, fer corn sakes!

Downtown Minnie
I've now checked off 13 states on my list of 50.  Lucky number 13?  Well, I did set a new PR.... for my slowest time yet.  Two days later as I write this, I'm still incredibly sore.  And really for no particular reason other than... I think I must simply be tired.   There were some gentle hills (with the exception of a short steep one that was faster to walk up than run), most of the course was in the shade, and the heat wasn't too bad until about mile 21 when the shade disappeared and the temperatures were in the 70s.  Not sure why I was so slow, except for a few times I just felt like walking, so I did.

The Stone Arch Bridge, with science project pools
The course started near Minneapolis' Stone Arch Bridge which had a deep Jack-Handy-esque message on it; "Think and Wonder."  And this course was great for thinking and wondering.  Really, it was a beautiful course, running along the Mississippi River, past some cool old saw mill ruins, through a forest preserve and through Fort Snelling. Quiet and serene; great for thinking and wondering.  I thought about all the generous people who contributed to my fundraising efforts for Girls on the Run (thank you, I raised $859!!!).  I wondered how a 50-something Indian man develops an affinity for B.o.B., Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine (he was playing music sans headphones from his phone attached to his belt).  I will say for first time runners or if you're someone who thrives on crowd support this course may not be for you.  But if you don't mind some silence and enjoy running through forest trails and along rivers, then I really recommend the Team Ortho Minneapolis Marathon.  They have some areas they could improve upon, like I had no idea when I had passed the halfway point, since they didn't have the mile markers in the dense forest part.  And they could  have passed out full bottles of water at the end of the race rather than handing out those small Dixie cups of water.  I mean, come on, I just ran a marathon, I need more than a couple cups of water!  But overall, I was having a good time while I was out there. 

Ignore that finger that tainted an otherwise cute photo.
I also had the pleasure of visiting fellow RUS runner, Miri, in her hometown of Minneapolis.  Thank you for your hospitality Miri!  And true to crazy RUS runner form, Miri signed up last minute to do the half-marathon when we went to the Expo on Saturday to pick up my race bib. 

Look, I'm in front of the Falls!

Prior to Miri's temporary moment of insanity (I love that she signed up the day before), Miri showed me around her town a bit.  We had a nice lunch al fresco looking at Lake Calhoun, one of the 10,000 lakes.  Who doesn't love a cold beer on a sunny day overlooking a lake?  We visited an area across the river called Saint Anthony Main, which has quaint cobblestone streets, cafes, and some great access to view the Saint Anthony Falls, which my research (Wikipedia) tells me  used to be the only natural major waterfall on the Mississippi.  There was also some kind of science lab out there too.  I'm not sure what those mad scientists were growing in all those buckets I saw sitting in pools of water.  I also had a chance to meet Miri's cousin, Karen, who was totally cool, and I was able to see again on the race course handing out water at miles 14 and 18.  She welcomed me with a ice cold hand to the forehead, which felt amazing, of course, and I couldn't help thinking, wow, she sure is a dedicated volunteer to touch my sweaty, salt-crusted forehead.  To carb load, Miri and I had dinner at a place near her house, called McCoy's Public House, which had a deliciously cheesy and customizable mac-n-cheese.  Of course, the portions were way to much for one human being, especially after downing a pail of truffle parmesan tater tots.  Oh, how I love tots!  
Like my sausage?

After the race, she took me to Hell's Kitchen for brunch, a really cool joint in downtown Minneapolis.  Sadly, both of us were feeling less than stellar after the race, so didn't have much of an appetite.  I did, however, manage to try one of their famous bloody marys, which lived up to the hype. I actually think the sodium in that thing might have helped me out a lot.  And I also had some of their homemade peanut butter, yum. 

I enjoyed my relaxing weekend in Minneapolis, well, relaxing except for that pesky marathon. The only annoying thing about the weekend was my flight delay getting home due to a bomb scare at the airport.  Unfortunately, I spent a long hour sitting in a parking garage waiting for the OK from the bomb squad for people to be allowed back inside.  Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to visiting Miri again so we can do a few more fun activities we couldn't cram in this time, like the sculpture garden with the famous Spoon and Cherry sculpture, or maybe kayaking on one of the 10,000 lakes.  And with the sweet low fares on Spirit Airlines from Chicago to Minnie, I might be able to make this happen sooner rather than later! 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fargo? You Betcha!

Oofdah! I conquered North Dakota! This weekend, I traveled to Fargo with my friends Laird and Heather to take part in Fargo's marathon weekend. 
I chose to run the 10K, as I'm just building up my mileage after a winter break.  Since the 10K started at 7 am, and the marathon started at 8:15, it meant that I had time to run the 10K and then hightail it to an intersection along the marathon course to cheer for Heather and Laird.

The weather was a cool and rainy as I made my way to the start line. Thankfully the rain stopped before the race started! The course wound through the streets of Fargo near the Fargodome. It was nice to see spectators cheering for us even on parts of the course that diverged from the marathon route. Thanks Fargo residents! The finish line was actually inside the Fargodome - it was fun running into the stadium and seeing lots of people sitting in the stands cheering. Now that's a fun way to make every finisher feel like a rock star!
Laird and Heather midway through
Mile 18 and still smiling!

Laird and Heather ran the marathon together, in step, for all 26.2 miles, and had a fantastic 3:50 finish. Way to go! We celebrated our accomplishments with a night out on the town Fargo-style: dinner at Fargo's best restaurant, HoDo, which uses local ingredients to produce food that is "fresh, lively, adventurous and fun." That perfectly describes HoDo's extensive cocktail menu. :)

As always, I am running to support Girls on the Run. I have joined the Fundraising Committee of Girls on the Run Twin Cities, which just wrapped it inaugural season, and I'm the volunteer "director" of the Solemates charity run team, through which runners can raise funds for GOTR TC while training for their favorite races. What better way to lead the Solemates program than by example! So please consider making a donation to GOTR Twin Cities to help us expand our program locations througout the Twin Cities. You can make a donation using this link. If you are a Twin Cities local, we're celebrating our first season with a party and silent auction fundraiser on June 7 called Dollars For Distance. Please consider attending and sharing the invitation with your friends! Tickets can be purchased using the same link.

Also a charity runner, Laird ran Fargo as his 7th marathon of 2012 (!!!) in support of The Alliance for Children's Rights, Activision's Call of Duty Endowment and Children's International. If you would like to make a contribution to any of his charities, you can do so here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Good old fashioned country ass-whoopin'

Welcome to the Grand Ole Opry
Nashville...  The home of country music.... Music City.... A devil city when it comes to marathons.  About a week ago, Nashville's Country Music Marathon took me over its knee and gave me a serious whoopin' with it's never-ending rolling hills and 80 degree heat on race day.  I guess if you train in an area that has some hills, maybe the course isn't so bad.  But I don't.  I train in Chicago.  It's flat.  So for me, this was one of the hardest courses I've ever run.  The rolling hills really never seemed to stop.  And the heat kept creeping up as the race went on.  But I pushed through, motivated to get my sparkly record-shaped medal, and finished that race, even though it was the slowest race I've run yet.  After I finished, a wave of heat exhaustion nausea hit me, and I spent 4 hours back at my hotel lying in bed, watching a different kind of marathon - "Say Yes to the Dress - Bridesmaids" on TLC.  It sucks you in, trust me.

Despite the pain Nashville's marathon caused me, I discovered that Nashville is a really cool city.  The course was fairly scenic, running through the downtown, Germantown, past Vanderbilt, looping around Shelby Park Golf Course and onto the finish at LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play.  The city has a vibe that you can't deny, with it's countless live music venues downtown on Broadway Street.  Even arriving at the airport, you see why it's called Music City, with live music playing throughout the terminal, and people picking up their guitars from the baggage carousels.

The Mansion
Slave house

My first stop though was Belle Meade Plantation.  I arrived between guided tours, so while waiting, I wandered around.  There was a gate with a sign that read: No Entrance Without Tickets.  But I discovered you could actually access the grounds another way, so I ended up doing my own self-guided tour (free of charge).  I toured the old slave house, a masouleum, and the mansion.  There were some novelty bits, like face-painting for the kids, and the always popular fill-in-the-head photo op.  Sadly I was traveling alone so had no one to pose with me. But to ease my pain, I ended my tour at the Belle Meade winery.  
Wine this way!

After some wine tasting, I decided to head downtown to check into my hotel. My room wasn't quite ready yet, so I went to the convention center to get my race packet.  In hindsight, that might have been the worst part of the marathon.  I hate those expos. 30,000 people trying to maneuver their way through mazes and booths, to get a bib, a t-shirt and a bag full of endless coupons. Nothing fun about that, but good for picking up a last minute over-priced hoodie when you forgot to pack one!

Immigrant housing in 1872
After some down time, I headed to Germantown for a walking tour, which I downloaded before my departure.  Nerd alert!!Unfortunately, due to some rain, my walking tour became a walking/driving tour.  It's still a quaint area, even in the rain, with it's cobblestone sidewalks, lazy porches and colorful homes.  It was originally a neighborhood populated initially by German immigrants (obvious from the name) and business merchants back in the 1850s to the 1870s. The neighborhood depleted over time, but in the 1980s the residents of Nashville decided to rehab the run down buildings and more shops and restaurants started to open.  I actually had dinner at the Germantown Cafe, which ironically did not specialize in German food or beer.  They still had delicious food, though. The best part was the bread they served.  It took me a moment to place the familiar flavor, then I pegged it... This bread was basically a doughnut, without the sticky sugar icing.  In other words...fried dough.  PERFECT for carb loading the night before a big race!  But the pork tenderloin medallions I had with plum sauce and mashed pototates were also a pretty good part of my pre-race meal.   The bartender, Jason, was friendly and invited me to visit him after the race at his Saturday night place of employment, Paradise Park, which is apparently a trailer park themed bar on Broadway.  I have to admit, I was intrigued.  Unfortunately, I didn't make it there, but I did walk by and it appeared true to form. 

Copyright, http://www.merchantsrestaurant.com
I already mentioned the marathons on Saturday, ones with and without bridesmaids. So after my 4 hour respite, I decided I should eat something.  I ended up at this cool place on Broadway called Merchants.  I was starving so I devoured a plate of deviled eggs, sitting on top of tiny pickles (I love pickles) and fish tacos.  The bartenders all wore suspenders and vintage styled sort of newsie caps. I always prefer to eat at the bar when traveling alone, it's the best place to meet people.  Unfortunately, as a woman...alone...at a bar, you end up being a target to men who are also alone...at the bar.  This guy from New York who ran the half-marathon came over to talk to me, but then awkwardly wouldn't leave when my food came.  I felt sorta like he was there lurking over my shoulder watching me eat... Creeptastic.  But there were some very fun and friendly ladies next to me at the bar who had also run the race and thankfully started talking to me.  The guy finally took the hint and left.  These women were from Atlanta and one of them had even qualified for the Olympic marathon trials. She only did the half-marathon this time but she finished second for the women, although she mentioned the heat had gotten to her too.  Even though she was an Olympic level marathoner, she still gave me so much encouragement and kudos for completing a marathon, albeit a slow one.  Insert warm fuzzies here.

Old timers with banjos. And sequin trimmed hats!
After dinner, it was off the the show that made country music famous... The one, the only... The Grand Ole Opry!   I will admit, even as a non-lover of country music, the Opry was still pretty cool.  Some of it wasn't quite my style, but when the old-timers were playing their fiddles and banjos, it was pretty impressive. And unbeknownst to me, they had square dancers!  Plus the solo clogging champions were making a special appearance there.  One thing I found really strange about the Opry though, is the parking lot.  The speed limit was 24. Not 25 or 30. 24 miles per hour.  How does someone even decide on that?  I wonder if it was a misprint of the signs and they just went with it.

I would love to return to Nashville when I'm not running, and just take some time to enjoy the live music along Broadway.  Sadly, I didn't really get a chance to do that.  Of course, I will remember to pack my "uniform" for Nashville - cowboy boots and a dress or skirt.  Almost every woman I saw was wearing that combination.  I guess I didn't get the memo.  Next time I'll be prepared! 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Darby O'Gill and the Drunk People

That is what that Disney movie would have been called if it was filmed on St. Patrick's Day in Chicago.  I recall watching that movie in my grade school's gymnasium while sucking on a tootsie pop.  I loved that movie. 

So Saturday was St. Patrick's Day and if you've ever been in Chicago on that day, you know the mayhem that goes on in this city.
Emmit's Pub... Irish Pub at 11 a.m.
But just becuase it was a "holiday" doesn't mean I didn't need to get a training run in.  The weather was a gorgeous 80 degrees, so EVERYONE was out.  Even the kayakers were decked out in leprachaun gear.  Every bit of water was green, from the river, to the fountain in Daley Plaza.  People were already spilling out of Irish bars at 11:00 a.m, if not earlier.

It was rough at times maneuvering through the crowds of people downtown to get a glimpse of the ectoplasm green river, and I got pegged with beads by drunks riding round the city in trolleys, but it was still pretty fun. Great people watching.  Although later in the day when I was the one serving up green beer to these people, it suddenly became a lot less fun. 

Fountain in Daley Plaza
The Green Door - Fun if you're not working on St. Pat's