Friday, September 13, 2013

Spectating at Ironman Wisconsin

 Good morning, Madison. Looks like a great day for an Ironman.

It's become a September tradition. Take the second weekend of the month, head down to Madison and cheer on athletes as they tackle the 140.6 miles of the Ironman Wisconsin course.

This was my third year down there and the second that I've been down there to cheer for my good friend Myriah's husband, Josh.

I headed down to Madison Saturday afternoon. The original plan was to get a 12-mile run in before I left, but I woke up to a pretty constant downpour with thunder and lightning for the 3 hours or so that I had blocked off for the run. So no run, but I'd be doing plenty of running around during the race Sunday.

Plotting a spectating plan.

I met up with my friends at their hotel, we got food and then plotted our spectating plan for Sunday. Like last year, Myriah and Josh would be leaving the hotel early and I'd be in charge of getting their families (about 15 of them) from the hotel to the Monona Terrace in time for the swim start. And for the second year in a row, I'm proud to say that I got them all there and no one was lost in the process!

Unlike last year, we decided to stake out spots on the upper level of the Monona Terrace for the swim portion. While it wasn't as crowded as the helix, it kind of lacked the energy that the helix has. But on the plus side, it was easier to make it from the upper terrace to where you could see the athletes running to get their bikes in transition (which is a nightmare if you're on the helix).

 Josh heading to his bike.

After Josh was off on his bike, we rounded everyone up and grabbed the shuttle bus back to the hotel. We then loaded up the three vehicles and headed out on to the bike course.

 Bikers coming up the hill on Timber Lane.

We first caught Josh around Mile 45 on the hill at Timber Lane and he looked like he was having a blast on the bike. And he was flying. As in, going so fast we didn't make it to stop #2 in time. We were getting out of our cars as we saw him fly around the corner. Oops. So it was back to Timber Lane - a little past the hill - to wait until he passed the Mile 90ish mark. And yup, he was still looking good and having fun when he flew by us.

Josh smiling and waving on his bike.

Then it was back to the hotel. Everyone else got on the bus to head back to downtown and I jumped in my car to head downtown to find a place to park.

Then the fun part started. I met up with my friend Jeff and we chased Josh around the run course on our bikes. We caught up with Josh about 6 times on each loop. He looked great on the first loop and went through some ups and downs on the second loop, but Josh still finished strong.

Eventual men's winner heading out for the second loop of the run.

I met up with Myriah and Josh after he crossed the finish line and then I was off to try to find my friend Steena, who was tackling Ironman Wisconsin for her first time. I saw her somewhere around Mile 15 and while I would have loved to stick around to watch her cross the finish line and become an Ironman, I knew I needed to take off. I had a long-ish drive ahead of me and I was starting to get tired. And I was hungry. So I headed home.

But it was another great day at Ironman. So many stories. So much inspiration. People just like me who put in the training, the ups and downs, the sweat, the aches, the pains. The good runs and bikes, the bad ones. All of it came together for them on Sunday.

The tackled the 140.6 miles and they became Ironmen. And once again, I'll take that experience with me and remember it when I get to Mile 11 of a half marathon and start hurting.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 years

12 years.

That's a lot of days, hours and minutes. Yet, I can clearly tell you where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news about the attacks. I can remember the thoughts that went through my mind that day as the picture became clearer about what just happened and all the questions the events of that September day raised.

Over time, memories are supposed to become fuzzy.

But 12 years later, my memories of Sept. 11, 2001, remain crystal clear.

I thought about writing something, but I really can't put it into words any better than what I wrote in a 2007 post, six years after that day.

Go read it here.

And whether it's been six years, 12 years or 30 years after those twin towers fell, I'll always remember where I was.

And I'll remember those who lost their lives that day.

I will never forget.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

August Reading Recap

August was a busy month, but I still found plenty of time to read. Granted, I did have a week's worth of vacation where I could literally sit with my book on the patio for an entire afternoon.

In August, I read eight books for a total of 2,371 pages. Wow. That's more than I thought I read. But I'll take it. That brings me to 52 books and 17,646 pages (give or take a few pages since some were Kindle books that I don't have page number information for). Compared to last year when I'd finished 30 books and 10,577 pages by the end of August. Heck, I should just stop with the comparison to last year since I've already read more so far this year than I did during the entire 2012 calendar year.

I may need to revamp the reading goal. Remember, I've now got it set at 60 books (I think that was Reading Goal Version 3.0), but I was reminded that it's now football season, which means my reading may decrease a bit. Maybe. I may just leave it at a goal of "read as much as you can" in 2013. I do like having a number to aim for though. We'll see at the end of September.

So what'd I read in August?

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
Eden by Jamie McGuire
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Prince by Kiera Cass
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger by Beth Harbison
On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
The Racketeer by John Grisham

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.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris  ****
This was the final installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series and I liked the way it wrapped it all up.

Eden by Jamie McGuire  ***
It was a decent ending to the three-book series, but there a bit of me that thought there was a lot of build up and then, BAM, it was all over. Almost like the author ran out of pages and had to finish the story up quickly.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan  ****
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this up, but I was pulled into a fun, quirky story that wove together books, technology and friendships. A good read.

The Prince by Kiera Cass  ***
This almost doesn't count as a book, since it's all of 64 pages. It's one of those mid-series novellas that it seems like a lot of Young Adult authors are fond of writing. It was a decent lunchhour read though.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes  ****
Yes, I almost cried in parts. Take a controversial topic - assisted suicide - and throw in a little bit of a romance angle and one person's attempts to "save" a person.

Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger by Beth Harbison  ***
So many people were reading this and it seemed to get a lot of good reviews. So I tried. And honestly, the first three-quarters of the book were decent. A cute, fluffy beach read. But the ending? It felt rushed and left a little to be desired.

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young  ****
I read most of this in one sitting. Story pulled me in.

The Racketeer by John Grisham  ****
I haven't read a John Grisham novel in years, but I've always liked his writing style. This was a good crime/legal thriller that kept me guessing.

I'm not exactly sure what's next on my reading list. At the moment I have NO books checked out from the library. This never happens to me. I guess it's time to scroll through my "to read" list on GoodReads and pick out a few titles to get my hands on. Because, really, being with out a book is unacceptable.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I'm sick of my running routes lately.

So tonight I headed here. It's a bit of a drive, about 20 minutes from my office, but it's a 3.6 mile trail that is mostly along a breakwater in the lake. And tonight? No diving seagulls to avoid. That was worth the drive itself.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

College football has returned!

In case you missed it, college football is back!

I'm happy. So, so happy.

I made the trip down to Madison Saturday to meet up with my friend Renee and we took in the Badger game. Yes, it was hot, as in, so hot I could feel the sweat dripping down my back.

But it was worth it. In his first game as head coach Gary Andersen coached the Badgers to a 45-0 win over UMass. Forty-five points score? Yes. Three 100-yard rushers? Yes please. Watching as the players themselves took the field and jumped during the traditional pre-fourth quarter "Jump Around?" Yes. And listening as the team huddled near the end zone and sang "On, Wisconsin" before heading into the lockerroom? Loved. It.

Is it Saturday yet?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Madison Mini Marathon Race Report

This was my third time heading down to Madison for the Madison Mini Marathon. And let me tell you, it's always a great experience.

I mean seriously. A course that starts in front of the Memorial Union, takes you up past the Capitol, down State Street, through campus down to the Henry Vilas Zoo and then the rolling hills of the UW Arboretum. Then it's through some neighborhoods, back out by the UW Hospital and then it's onto the Lakeshore Path for a two-mile run back to the finish line in front of the Memorial Union. What's not to like? Oh, the post-race party on the Terrace is pretty fabulous as well.

I got down to Madison Friday night, met up with my friend Jodi and we headed down to campus to pick up our race packets. And I needed to stock up on some fuel, since I had none at my house. Nothing like breaking that cardinal rule, nothing new on race day, since I would be going with Shot Blocks. Then it was off for a pre-race meet up with more friends for dinner.

Pre-race with Jodi.

I had no goals heading into this year's race. It would be my longest run since Green Bay and I just wanted to enjoy myself. I ended up meeting up with my friends Erica and Aaron and we ended up running together. We kept a nice easy pace, chatted, threw in some walking when needed. Erica started cramping somewhere in the Arb and she kept telling us to go on without her, but we stuck with her.

Dear Runner 3770, you ruined what would have been a perfect picture.

Somewhere around Mile 10 it started getting warm and they told us the race was raised to a yellow flag, or one of those, "Hey, it's getting warm. Be careful and remember to drink fluids" levels.

With two miles to go, Aaron and I decided to split off from Erica. We knew she'd be able to handle the last two miles just fine. We started to run. Right after the UW Boathouse, with about 0.75 miles to go, I was the silly one who looked at her Garmin, noticed we could hit 2:55 if we pushed it. And then I mentioned it out loud and Aaron was all for it. D'oh. I should have kept my mouth shut.

So we ran. Pushed the pace. Actually, Aaron pulled me at times. And when we got off the path and made the turn on to Park Street, where's there's this little uphill, my legs revolted. They'd had it. No more. As much as I didn't want to. I walked. Yes. I walked a block from the finish line. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that. But my legs were done.

Before we made the final turn, I started running again, turned and I have to say, had a pretty decent kick to the finish.

2:55:18. Not bad.

Then it was time for the post-race festivities on the Terrace with friends and beer.

And it was races like the Madison Mini that reminded me how much easier it is to run long distances with friends, when the chatter can keep you occupied or they can push you to a finish.

Not surprising, it was a good day.