Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lake Michigan Trail Half Marathon race report

I was totally unprepared, but I went and ran a half marathon last weekend.

Last winter, it was announced there was going to be a new race in Milwaukee that was going to utilize county parks and trails. Along with a bunch of friends, I signed up. At that point, I figured it was going to be half marathon 2 of 3 during a one month period for me.

Well, it's turned into my first half marathon of the year since I was in a car crash the day before the Green Bay Half Marathon and I decided to take a DNS at the Madison Mini in mid-August because I didn't want to hate the race that I love so much.

So the Lake Michigan Trail Half Marathon was going to be my first attempt at 13.1 miles this years. The race also offered a full marathon, 50K and 20-mile training run option, so there was no worry about coming in dead last.

But still. I was woefully under trained. Oops.

I went to the starting line with no expectations other than to eventually finish and have a good time.

That lack of expectations was a good thing since it was super warm and humid. As in, just standing at the starting line I could see the salt crystals starting to form on my arms. Oh boy.

And did I mention it was foggy? Yeah. A good portion of the route was along Lake Michigan (hence the name), but given the amount of fog, if you didn't know you were running next to a big ole lake, you would have never realized it. So much thick fog.

Kind of made it a little eerie, but oh so cool at the same time.

So like I said. No expectations. I just decided to aim for getting 7 or 8 miles in without feeling like I was going to die and then just coast until the finish line.

The first five miles were on a pave multi-purpose trail that ran through some of the parks. Then we got to play on the trails in the woods. And oh my gosh. Was it gorgeous. Even with all the fog.

Somewhere around mile 8.5ish, the wheels started to fall off. My legs were getting cranky and tired, it was hot and I was rationing water because I wasn't quite sure when I was going to be coming up upon the next aid station. So I started adding in more walking. On the final back portion of an out and back, I ran into my friend Erica, who was struggling with an injury. We walked it in the final three-quarters of a mile and called it a day.

 In the end, it was my worst time ever for a half marathon. But I enjoyed my time out there. The route was gorgeous, it was a good weekend with friends and after we had some food and drink, Erica and I went to go float in the pool at her condo for a good chunk of the afternoon.

I'm hoping to go back next year and actually be prepared to run the race for a decent time.

Friday, September 5, 2014

August Reading Recap

OK. I may have been on vacation for a week in August, but even I have to admit. My reading totals? Kind of out of control.

I finished 13 books in August for a total of 3,859 pages. That brings the yearly total to 61 books and 20,859 pages. The average length of a book I read last month? 297 pages. Needless to say, with 61 books already read, I'm well on my way of meeting my goal of 77 books for the year.

I admit, it's not like the books I read last month were very taxing on my brain. I mean, seriously. They were the definition of mindless, summer vacation reading. So what'd I read? Take a look:

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich
4:09:43: Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of Runners by Hal Higdon
Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher
Down London Road by Samantha Young
Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Yes. Yes. A lot of Stephanie Plum. The good news? I've only got three more left in the series. And honestly, I'm kind of glad. While they're quick, fun, entertaining reads, I'm a little Stephanie Plum-ed out at this point. But I need to finish them.

And now for the brief reviews, complete with number of stars given out on GoodReads. Follow me here if you’d like a more timely update on what I’m reading, what I think and what’s been added to my to-read list.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart  ****
I liked this. It was different and kind of kept me guessing until the end.

Twelve Sharp ****, Lean Mean Thirteen  ***, Fearless Fourteen  ****, Finger Lickin' Fifteen  ****, Sizzling Sixteen  ***, Smokin' Seventeen  ****, Explosive Eighteen  **** by Janet Evanovich
Short, fun, entertaining reads. Perfect for summer vacation. Which is why I really should have finished the last three of the series before September started.

4:09:43 Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of Runners by Hal Higdon  ***
Not bad. Of course I know the story of Boston 2013, but it was kind of interesting to read it through the minds of those who were actually out on the course that day.

William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher  ****
The final installment of the Star Wars trilogy written in the style of Shakespeare. How can you possibly go wrong with Shakespeare speaking Ewoks?

Down London Road by Samantha Young  ****
I liked this. A good friendship into lovers kind of story.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith  ***
It was OK. At least it was a fast read. I read a lot of young adult stuff, but this kind of felt young adultish.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty  ****
This took a bit to get into and to figure out how the characters connected, but once it did. Man. It was one of those books that I didn't want to put down until I finished. I definitely recommend this.

So, yeah. I was a bit out of control in terms of reading last month. Now wonder my running and biking numbers were so freaking low. I always had my nose in a book apparently. Oh well. It was worth it.

What are you reading this month?

Monday, August 11, 2014

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

In grade school fashion, I give you my essay: What I did on my summer vacation.

I went kayaking.
Watched five of my 7-year-old nephew's baseball games over the span of two days.
Went for four bike rides, totaling 33.5 miles.
Thought about running multiple times, but only logged one 3.6 mile run.
I binge-watched 12 episodes of Chicago P.D.
I read 5.5 books (finished the last half of a book I started Sunday today during lunch).
Enjoyed one fire in the backyard.


Went exploring at White Fish Dunes State Park.
Met my high school BFF's new baby daughter, whom I've been meaning to meet for the last four months.
Watched the Packer's practice, err, preseason game with friends.
Thoroughly enjoyed not having anything that I absolutely had to do.

And now it's back to the working world. Yuck. When's my next vacation?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

July reading recap

I may  have binged on Stephanie Plum last month. Why do I say that? Well, just keep reading and you'll find out.

I finished eight books in July that totaled 2,530 pages. That brings the yearly total to 48 books and 17,000 pages. I'm not kidding. It comes out to exactly 17,000 pages. For giggles, that means the average length of a book I read has been 354 pages. Anyway. Safe to say I'm well on my way to finishing my goal of 77 books in a year. Four more months to read 29 books. I think I can do it.

So what'd I read?

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich
Seven Up by Janet Evanovich
Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
To the Nines by Janet Evanovich
Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich
Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich
Paper Towns by John Green
Stronger by Jeff Bauman

I told ya I went on a Stephanie Plum binge. I can't help it. Those are fun, easy reads. Notice I did take a time out from Stephanie after I finished up No. 11. That's called restraint. I have it.

And now for the brief reviews, complete with number of stars given out on GoodReads. Follow me here if you’d like a more timely update on what I’m reading, what I think and what’s been added to my to-read list.

Hot Six ***, Seven Up ****, Hard Eight ****, To the Nines ****, Ten Big Ones *** and Eleven on Top *** by Janet Evanovich
These are short, fun and easy reads. They take me an average of three days to read.

 Paper Towns by John Green  ***
I like John Green's stuff, but I have to admit. This was not one of my favorites. Don't get me wrong. It was still good, but I've just read better.

Stronger by Jeff Bauman  ****
This is the story of the guy everyone remembers from the Boston Marathon bombing. We all saw the photo: The guy in the wheelchair with no legs being pushed away from the scene with the guy in the cowboy hat running alongside him. Jeff Bauman was the guy in the wheelchair and this tells his story, from the time leading up to the bombing to his recovery.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I'm on vacation this week and I've got a stack of books just waiting to be read. And yes, a few of them may feature Stephanie Plum. What are you reading?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I went flying with eagles

It's my favorite week of the summer as far as work goes.

It's EAA AirVenture week. Also known as the week airplanes and pilots from around the globe converge on Oshkosh for a week of all things aviation-related. There are the military aircraft, the vintage aircraft, the Warbirds from World War II and other conflicts and the new advances in aviation.

It's also the week I really don't need an alarm clock. Seeing as my apartment is right behind the airport where all the action is happening and the loud rumbles of the Warbirds usually fill the skies around 8 a.m., although today I swear they were taking off at 6:57 a.m.

I. Love. It.

And for work, I get to spend an entire week on the grounds, finding the great stories and listening to people talk about their aircraft.

It's been no different this year.

Today I got a pretty spectacular assignment. EAA has a program called Young Eagles, which aims to give kids a free airplane ride as a way to introduce them to aviation. The chairman of the program is Sean D. Tucker, this crazy aerobatic pilot who is amazing to watch. But Tucker's also pretty cool when it comes to Young Eagles. As chairman, at each air show he performs at Tucker gives one kid a Young Eagles flight.

Today was that flight.

And me? I got a spot in the chase plane so I could get video of the flight.

How's that work, you say? Well, the plane was missing a pretty important piece. It's called the side panel. Yup. There's a big gaping hole cut out of the side of the airplane that allows people to have a great vantage point to shoot video or photos. Normally I'd so, heck no. I'm not going up in a plane that's missing large chunks of siding. But this was an opportunity I couldn't miss.

So I strapped myself in, made sure the cord attaching me to the inside of the plane was secure and said, let's fly.

I admit, it was a little hairy at first. I mean, there I was, flying way above the ground (who knows how many feet) and there was nothing solid to my left. Just an open hole and the ground, really far below. But the view? Amazing. The shots I got of the aircraft (there were four planes that flew in formation during the Young Eagles flight)? Spectacular. Find the story I wrote here, the video is below.

So much fun and such a great experience.

Now I just count down the days until the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds get to town on Thursday. So. So. Excited for them.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chickenfest 5K Race Report

In another installment of "race reports from a month ago," I bring you the Chickenfest 5K.

Every year, there's a  small community festival called Chickenfest in my parents' neighborhood. It's held at the park that's a 5 minute walk from my mom and dad's. It's your typical Wisconsin festival. Beer, food, music, kids' rides and (because we're lucky) fireworks. Oh, and they do the chicken dance every hour, on the hour.

Fun times.

This year, they added a 5K run and since it's Chickenfest and the route is on roads I run regularly when I'm at mom and dad's, I had to do it. Plus it was cheap.

Going into the run, I was a bit worried. Remember, car accident. Hurt back. And heading down to the park and walking on the uneven, muddy ground for the fireworks the night before didn't do it any favors. In other words, it was already angry with me.

Dad was walking the race and I was running, so we headed down to the start line. It was pretty low key start. A state trooper who lost his leg when he was hit by another car while responding to an accident earlier this year basically yelled "go" into the bullhorn. And we were off.

And pretty much immediately I thought I might have to pull out. My back hurt so bad. Like, sharp, throbbing pain. When I got to my mom, who was standing at the end of her block less than a half-mile into the race, I briefly considered stopping. But I kept running.

About a mile in, the pain subsided a bit and I was able to run a bit more comfortably. But it still hurt a bit. I ended up finishing the race, grabbing my cookie and water and went to wait for my dad.

It was a fun little community 5K. I kind of hope they bring it back next year.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ragnar Chicago recap

If I don't write this soon, I should just wait until next year's version of Ragnar Chicago.

For the third year in a row, I packed up my duffel bag and embarked on a 36-hour journey in a big white 15-passenger van with five of my running friends, set out to run the 200ish miles from Madison to Chicago.

Because it's been almost two months, I'm going with the short and sweet version.

I met up with my friends in Milwaukee on Thursday night. We had beer and pizza and then set off for Madison, where we checked into our hotel for the night and were greeted with hotel rooms the size of matchboxes.

Sure. Three people. One bed. And barely any floor space? And they called this a handicapped accessible room. Ummm, no. But I like these girls. And all we were doing was sleeping.

The next morning Ragnar started bright and early. I think we had a 6 a.m. start. Or maybe 6:30. I told you, it's been a while.

I was in Van 1, a first for me at this race, so I was excited to see all the new areas that I hadn't seen before. As Runner 3, my first leg was just a short 2.7 miles jaunt with some baby hills. In the sun, with no clouds and it was starting to get a bit warm. I managed to forget to hit start on the Garmin, so I have no idea how long this took me.

After all of our runners were done with their first legs, we took off to get some food. And make a backup plan just in case that stabbing pain Renee was feeling in her foot meant she wouldn't be able to run the rest of her legs. (Spoiler: She couldn't run.) After that we headed to the next major exchange and hung out in the grass underneath a tent. It was glorious.

Our second set of legs were our night legs. Mine was 5.5 miles through Waukesha and New Berlin. Let's just say it really seemed like I ran uphill for all those miles. So many uphills, but not downhill. What the heck? But I ran. Even when I was trying to run on the tiny little shoulder of the road and I feared for a few minutes that I was going to get schmucked by the the cars, which were driving really fast and coming straight at me.

Then we got to sleep. Like 3 hours next to the lake in Racine. The rhythmic blowing of the light house put me to sleep and I was dead to the world. Also, this sleeping thing during Ragnar? Fabulous. Before Key West I had never really gotten to sleep. Amazing.

Way too soon we had to wake up and run some more.

Sunrise in Racine. Not quite Key West, but still beautiful.

My final leg was another 5.5 through Kenosha. I'm not going to lie. This sucked.

I think 24 hours of running and sitting in a 15-passenger van was finally starting to make my back mad. Remember, I was in a car accident 3 weeks before Ragnar and was still dealing with a fairly messed up back.

During this run through Kenosha, it reminded me it was still hurt and it was getting angry. I ran the first half of the run, being distracted by the ginormous houses along the lake was helpful. But sometime around Mile 3 I just couldn't do it anymore. Every step hurt my back. And it didn't help that I hadn't had decent food since lunchtime the day before.

So I walked. I tried to run at times, but it wasn't going to happen. Too bad I was running through a commercial district, so I didn't even have pretty scenery to distract myself. Oh well. I eventually finished and got some food and water in me.

After our last runner finished, we headed off to a swanky Chicago suburb for this amazing breakfast at a waffle house. So much food. So many dishes. Really. They brought our drinks to us in a glass, in a small (warm) bowl. What? But so, so good.

After we were in a food coma, it was back to the van to navigate our way to the finish line, where we got our free beer and pizza and then found ourselves a spot of grass to hang out and chat with other friends until our team came running in.

Overall, another great Ragnar Chicago is in the books. Can't wait for 2015.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Double the reading recaps!

Yup. I disappeared for a month.

Let's just say when you're working long hours to make up for missed time at work for chiropractor appointments, coming home at night and sitting in front of a computer to blog isn't on the top of my list of things I want to do.

So I didn't.

Which means you get a double dose of a reading recap today. Go grab yourself a drink, because this is going to be long.

I read 13 books in May and June. I finished six in May and seven in June. I read 2,633 pages in May and 2,266 pages in June. That brings the yearly total to 40 books and 14,470 pages. Remember, I'm aiming for 77 books for the year and after six months, I've read 51.9 percent of my goal. I'd say I'm on track.

So what'd I read?

Inferno by Dan Brown
Love in the Time of Algorithms: How Online Dating Shapes Our Relationships by Dan Slater
Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich
Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
The Selection by Kiera Cass
The Elite by Kiera Cass
The One by Kiera Cass
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
High Five by  Janet Evanovich
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Where You Are by Tammara Webber

And now for the brief reviews, complete with number of stars given out on GoodReads. Follow me here if you’d like a more timely update on what I’m reading, what I think and what’s been added to my to-read list.

Inferno by Dan Brown  ****
Dan Brown puts lots of twists and turns into his stuff, so even when you think you know what's happening, you get surprised. The end did drag a little bit.

Love in the Time of Algorithms by Dan Slater  **
It's about online dating. Parts were interesting, parts were just boring. Jumped around a lot.

Two for the Dough and Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich  ***
These are just good summer reads. A few parts had me chuckling out loud.

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin  *****
Game of Thrones. I love these.

The Selection and The Elite by Kiera Cass  ****
These were a re-read in preparation for the final installment.

The One by Kiera Cass  ****
Nice way to wrap up the series.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson  **
I'd heard mixed reviews about this one. Once I started reading it, I almost quit. But I didn't because I had a policy where I don't give up. It had potential, but it got confusing at times skipping around to the different versions of Ursala. Just didn't enjoy it much.

Four to Score and High Five by Janet Evanovich  ****
Still like these

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent  ***
Interesting read. A decent story about an Icelandic woman sentenced to die and her last days. Dragged a bit in the beginning, but it picked up over the second half.

Where You Are by Tammara Webber  ***
Eh, it was OK. I didn't have high expectations. I generally don't have a problem with YA, but this was really young adult-y in my taste.

And there we go. I've caught you up on my reading progress. I have no worries about finding stuff to read right now. In true library fashion, about a million holds came in all at once, so I've got quite the stack sitting on my table. And that doesn't even include all the unread goodies that are sitting on my Kindle. So many books. So little time.

What are you reading?