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?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Three letters: DNS


As in, did not start.

That's all you really need to know about the Green Bay Half Marathon. But of course I'll tell you more.

Sunday I was supposed to toe the starting line for my fourth Cellcom Green Bay Half Marathon. It's quickly become my favorite spring half marathon. I mean, who can argue with a race that finishes with a lap around Lambeau Field? After a lackluster spring training cycle - one with a few too many missed long runs and the cruddy weather - I knew I was prepared to "race" the 13.1 miles. But I knew I could finish it. So my goal was merely to go out, cover the distance and have a good time.

I never even got to the starting line.

Saturday I was in my car heading up to Green Bay to wander the expo, pick up my race packet, drive the new course and then meet up with friends for a pre-race dinner. I was driving. I hadn't even gotten 5 miles from my parents' house when it happened.


I found myself in a car accident. Long story short, I was driving (and had the right-of-way) when another driver pulled out from a stop sign and turned in front of me, hitting my car in the process.

So instead of heading up to Green Bay, I watched my little blue Focus get loaded up on a tow truck and hauled away. And I was left pretty sore and stiff in my back, neck and chest. Obviously in no condition to run 13.1 miles the next morning.

I pulled the DNS. It's only the second time I've ever done it (the other was Thanksgiving 2010 when it was pouring rain and I didn't want to get sick 2 weeks before Rock n Roll Las Vegas). And I'm not going to lie, it was hard seeing all the happy Tweets, Instagrams and Facebook posts of happy runners after Green Bay. Still stings a bit.

But I'll be back in 2015 for a lap around Lambeau. And if anything, it should give me the kick in the butt I need to have a decent training cycle for my fall races. No faking it for me this fall.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

April reading recap

One-third of the year is done. That's kind of crazy.

The weather remained pretty cruddy in April. Cold. Windy. An entire weekend where it was a monsoon. Perfect reading weather. Which would be great if I could come here and tell you about the amazing books I read last month.

Except my April reading books? Kind of eh. Nothing spectacular.

I did finish seven books last month for a total of 2,334 pages. That brings the yearly total to 27 books and 9,571 pages. Remember my goal is 77 books this year, so with 27 done, I'm at 35 percent, which is ahead of schedule. Yay!

So what'd I read?

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
The Ex-Debutante by Linda Francis Lee
Defending Jacob by William Landay
William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher
Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo
Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand
The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

I guess you could say it was also the month of extremely long titles.

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.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand  ****
This has been made into a movie and World War II history has always been pretty interesting. Plus I'd been hearing rave reviews about the book. So I picked it up. Not going to lie, there was some heavy stuff in this book, but it was a fascinating read.

The Ex-Debutante by Linda Francis Lee  ***
It was a fluffy piece of chick lit. A former debutante comes back home for family reasons and ends up organizing the debutante ball. And of course there's a love story involved too.

Defending Jacob by William Landay  ***
I read a lot of legal thrillers, which isn't surprising since I write about crime for my day job. This one? Not my favorite. A prosecutor finds himself seated at the other table when his son is charged with murder. Like I said, not my favorite. It was OK though.

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher  ****
You really can't go wrong with hearing words of wisdom from Yoda in the style of Shakespeare. Seriously, this book and the first book (Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope) are pretty fantastic.

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo  ***
I think this is the first book in a long time that I didn't write a short sentence or two on GoodReads about what I thought. It was kind of preachy. Kind of unbelievable. And just a bit too much religion for me. Another one that was made into a movie. I will not be watching it.

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand  ***
I didn't have high expectations for this, I think I picked it up off the new release shelf at the library. But it was fluffy chick lit, which is exactly what I was looking for. Would make a good beach or vacation read.

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin  ***
I liked parts of this, but then there were other parts that I completely lost interest. In my opinion, there were sections where she quoted too many blog comments from the blog she was writing during this year, but I guess it's her book, she can do what she wants. By the end of it, I was doing a lot of skimming.

So what'd you read last month? Any suggestions?