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