Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A look back at the year

It's kind of hard to believe that 2010 is almost done. Personally I'm still trying to figure out what happened to the month of January. Or March. Even July. It just seemed like the year flew by. It was full of some exciting moments and some great opportunities yet at the same time there were a few disappointments and struggles. But overall it was a pretty good year. Let's take a quick look back at some of the highlights:

I said hello to my 30s and celebrated by completing an indoor triathlon and picking up some first place hardware, going out for some tasty Mexican with friends and catching a Division III college basketball game.

There was a new man in my life. OK. Not a man of the human kind. I finally caved and used some birthday money to treat myself to a Garmin 305, which I named Gus. We feel in love instantly.

I recorded my highest mileage month ever when I logged 72.5 miles.

I got locked up. Well not literally, but I did spend an evening at Alcatraz when I flew out to San Francisco to visit my college roommate. There was also wine tasting in Napa Valley and a 4-mile run through a very hilly cemetery. It was a great trip. And one that I'm glad I took since my friend recently left California behind and moved back to Chicago!

My dad caught the walking bug. His company was a major sponsor of the Sole Burner, a 5K in my hometown that raises money for the American Cancer Society, and since they were paying for employees' registration, he decided to walk the 3.1 miles. It was cute. Dad was worried about being able to cover the distance. But he rocked the 5K. I was glad I got the chance to do it with him (well, I ran). It was the first of three 5Ks my Dad did this year.
I tackled the half marathon for the first time since battling The Monster. I finished the Green Bay Half Marathon with a lap around Lambeau Field and set a new personal record in the process. I'd say that was a good way to reintroduce myself to half marathons.

I survived swimming through whitecaps, biking into a nasty headwind and running up a cliff road at the High Cliff Sprint Triathlon. And set a new PR at the event in the process.

Looking back, July could be remembered as the month of racing. There were three races - the Firecracker 5K, the Trek Women's Sprint Triathlon and the Scheel's Sunset 5K - all within a two week period. Of course the highlight might just be finally getting my picture taken with Bucky Badger at the Firecracker 5K. Seriously. How can a Badger fan go 30 years without getting a picture?

It was hot. And humid. And the thought of running long distances outdoors wasn't appealing. So I decided to take my long run indoors. But not on the treadmill. Nope. Instead I ran 9 miles on the indoor track at the YMCA, where 11 laps equal a mile. For those keeping track that's 99 laps. A lot of running in circles. Maybe I should just learn how to get up early during the summer.

I became one of Lady Gaga's little monsters when I drove my dad and cousin down to Milwaukee for her concert at the Bradley Center. The concert was actually pretty amazing and well worth the trip down. And most importantly, my dad had a great time.

September was also the random meeting of an elementary school friend at the expo for the Fox Cities Half Marathon. It was a great mini-Columbus Elementary School reunion among three good friends and the race wasn't too awful either. Set another PR.

 While I could make the argument about the Badgers being a highlight for the entire year (hello, Rose Bowl?) I'll stick them in the October slot. Because after opening the Big Ten season with a loss at Michigan State, Bucky came on strong with back-to-back wins against then-No. 1 Ohio State at Camp Randall (so wish I could have been there) and then on the road at Iowa. Those were the two games when I first looked at the schedule that had me worried. I was thinking best case scenario they'd split. But Wisconsin pulled it out. The magic continued through the rest of the season, where the Badgers ended up outscoring their opponents 235-84 over their final four games on their way to an 11-1 record, a No. 5 BCS ranking and a chance to take on TCU in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. Magical. (Note: The picture is actually J.J. Watt after the Badgers beat Northwestern in late November.)

The Santa Scamper is supposed to be a fun run. It's held every year before my hometown Christmas parade and it's a one-mile run down the parade route so there's a ton of crowd support! I'm not sure if it's because I was so freaking cold or if all the running I've been doing this year has paid off, but I posted my fastest mile time ever, 8:56. I hope to lower it even more at next year's edition.

Las Vegas. Need I say more? There was sightseeing. A ton of walking. A moment when I straddled the state line and the right side of my body was in Arizona while the left half of me was in Nevada at the Hoover Dam. And oh yeah, that whole half marathon thing. Even though I was sick and my legs were dead tired and decided to revolt at Mile 10, I still had a blast. Great trip.

And I'm crossing my fingers that everything goes to plan today and I'm able to sneak in a 9.7 mile run, which would put me at 600 miles for the year. That would be the most miles I've ever run in a year before.

Overall I'd say it was a good year. But I'm looking forward to seeing what 2011 has in store.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Three Things Thursday

1. After essentially taking last week off, I've gotten in some pretty good runs this week. Six on Tuesday with an extra mile walk - what, I couldn't leave the treadmill with the Badgers hold a 3-point lead over Minnesota in the Border Battle and 2 minutes left in the basketball game. And yes, those 2 minutes took 15 minutes to play with all the fouls, free throws, time outs and commercials. Add in another 6.15 tonight with an added 2 mile run/walk at the end just because it was still early and I didn't want to go home.

Here's the problem though. With one day left in 2010 I'm 9.7 miles from hitting the 600 miles I was aiming for this year (well, originally it was 750, then 1,000, then 750 and finally 600. It's a goal that's been adjusted a few times). Not knowing if I can handle almost 10 miles on the treadmill at once, do I attempt to do two runs tomorrow? One before going into work at noon and one after work before the clock strikes midnight? I dunno. My legs might hate me.

2. I forgot how nice it is to be able to be able to leave work early. I had to use up an extra 2.5 hours of vacation time today, which meant I got to leave the office at 3:30 p.m. Heaven! If there wasn't a dense layer of fog and freezing drizzle coming down, I would have headed outdoors for my run. But since I didn't want to get hit by an inattentive driver who didn't quite understand the concept of headlights in nasty fog or fall on my tush due to ice, I went inside. And was done with my extra long workout by the time I'm usually first getting to the gym.

3. Twitter has been utterly distracting this week. All those #RoseBowlUW hashtags? It's like a play-by-play of what's going on out in Pasadena as the Badgers get ready for their Rose Bowl showdown against TCU this weekend. And even though I was lucky enough to have a Rose Bowl experience, reading about everything that's going on out there? Makes me wish I was there again. Next time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Three Things Thursday: The Kind of Random Edition

1. I went out for a little girl's night dinner with my friend Jess tonight after work. We ended up at a Mexican place in town. And the special tonight? Just happened to be 2 for 1 margaritas. And while I don''t drink a ton, a margarita sounded mighty tasty tonight. So that's what we got. I'm not sure if it's due to the fact that other than my $6 Miller Lite in a plastic cup I had in Las Vegas earlier this month I can't honestly remember the last time I had an alcoholic beverage. I'm not sure if it's because of that, drinking them through a tiny straw or the possibility the bartender made them super strong, but for some reason those two drinks? They left me feeling a tiny tiny bit tipsy.

2. I still haven't completely unpacked from my trip to Las Vegas earlier this month. I don't have a ton left to put away though. I've just got a few small piles, mostly of stuff I picked up at the expo or at the sight seeing places we went. I'll get it done after Christmas. Hopefully.

3. I'm considering signing up for a Netflix account. Yes. I'm a bit behind on the times. No. I do not rent movies from the Blockbuster, Family Video or Red Box. Rather I usually just put in my request and the library and wait. And wait. And wait some more. Eventually they get to me. Netflix would be a lot faster. Plus there's old TV episodes. Hmmm. Tempting. Anyone have Netflix? Thoughts? Is it worth it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's crazy, but I love the holiday season

Don't get me wrong. I love the Christmas season. The lights. The family gatherings. The snow.

But this year? It just seems to be crazy hectic. Maybe part of it is due to the fact that I spent the first week of December in Las Vegas. That was seven whole days that I could have at least been thinking about how to attack the to do list that inevitably comes with the holiday season. Instead I was running around Las Vegas (literally) and the last two weeks I feel like I've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to finish everything.

First there was a birthday party for my 6-year-old nephew that resulted in me shopping for a birthday present at 11 p.m. the night before. There was a party, followed by a foot of snow. A week of driving on near undriveable roads. Throw in a full work week (the first since early November) and three trips to the YMCA for a sanity-saving run.

And this weekend? The craziness came full force.

The annual cutout cookie baking extravaganza. 350 cutout cookies were mixed, rolled, cut and baked by me, mom my, aunt and my niece. Add in starting and finishing all of my Christmas shopping on Sunday topped off with frosting the cutout cookies while watching the Packers almost beat the Patriots on Sunday night football. Monday night was spent wrapping Christmas gifts and although I could have made it to the YMCA for another sanity-saving run tonight after work, I opted to come home, thrown on my sweats and catch up with blog reading and a book.

But tomorrow's a late shift at work, so I'm pretty sure there will be a trip to the YMCA in the morning to get some miles in on the treadmill. Because the rest of the Christmas craziness I love so much is just starting.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Three Things Thursday

1. I been a bit AWOL in blogland this week. Both on the reading/commenting front and the posting front. But I blame it on the library. See they sent me an e-mail on Monday and told me there was a copy of Glee, Season 1, Vol. 2 waiting for me with my name on it. Even since the end of October when I finished up with the first half of Season 1 I've been waiting patiently for the next chunk. And now that I have it, I love it. The Madonna and Lady Gaga episodes were amazing. I've got 2 episodes left to watch of Season 1 before I'm done. Then comes the question. Do I wait until Season 2 is released on DVD, cross my fingers it's available somewhere on the Internet or do I just cave and order the season pass on iTunes? I'm leaning towards the iTunes option at the moment.

2. Even though I've been slightly obsessed with Glee I have managed to run. I went for my first run post-RnR Las Vegas on Monday. I didn't have any set plan as to how far I'd go. I just wanted to run to see how it felt. And you know what? It felt good! I ended up doing 6 miles Monday and a 4 mile tempo run on Wednesday. My legs were a little tired tonight, but I pushed through for an easy 3.5 miles.

3. It's weird not having any races penciled in my calendar at the moment. I've got ideas swirling around in my head though. Maybe after the holidays and I get my fill of Glee I'll sit down and write about a tentative 2011 race schedule. Maybe.

Monday, December 13, 2010

RnR Las Vegas in pictures

On last post on the Rock n Roll Las Vegas half  marathon. And this one will require very little reading. I promise :)

I don't normally order race photos. I can't usually justify the cost, especially since my Mom is usually at my races with me and acts as my own personal photographer. But my Mom wasn't in Las Vegas with me. So no photos. When I got the e-mail from the RnR Las Vegas folks telling me race photos were up, I kind of cringed. Who knew what they were going to look like.

I was pleasantly surprised though. They turned out pretty well. So I decided to splurge. It's not often that I end up with good race photos. Add to it that these are good race photos of me running a half marathon in Las Vegas. Sold. So have a look.
Pretty early in the race. Just after the starting gun went off. Still feeling good obviously.
 Around Mile 2, just passing the Eiffel Tower outside of Paris.
Somewhere in the middle of the race, probably around Mile 6 or 7 since I've taken the arm warmers off.
Heading down the home stretch. The final half mile and so ready for the race to be done. But still have enough energy to give the photographer a thumbs up, because even though my legs revolted I did have a good time.
 Crossing the finish line. Done!
 You can't run a half marathon in Las Vegas without getting the finisher's photo with a Vegas showgirl. Should have stood in line for the picture with the showgirl decked out in red though.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I didn't just run in Las Vegas

So I told you about the half marathon in Las Vegas. Now it's time to fill you in on what I spent the other four days doing.
I flew into Las Vegas with my sister-in-law Thursday late afternoon. After checking into the Excalibur (the resort we were staying at), we decided to explore The Strip. We grabbed some food at a Subway and walked around. We went up into the Eiffel Tower at Paris and took in the views of The Strip and watched the Bellagio fountain show from above. After we came down from the Eiffel Tower, we took in the fountains at street level. Pretty amazing from both vantage points.
Friday we hopped on a tour bus and headed out to see the Hoover Dam. We took a tour of the dam, learned why it was constructed and how it was made, and got to go inside to take a peak at the generators. Then we spent some time walking around and taking pictures. And during this walk? I managed to walk from Nevada to Arizona and back. And it was a long walk :) Actually, not really since the state line runs right down the middle of the dam.
After getting back to Las Vegas that night - and surviving the tour bus driver who liked to take huge speed bumps at 25 mph and didn't see the need to stop for stop signs - we headed over to The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. We wandered around there for a while, looking at all the fish and sharks. I even touched a sting ray. Multiple times! He (or she) was kind of slimy. And spongy feeling. Lucky for me there were no stingers.
While walking back to our hotel room I got a text message from Jeri! I've been stalking her blog since the spring. Las Vegas was actually the second time we were running the same event. Back in May I saw her while she was hanging out at Curly's Pub prior to the Green Bay Half Marathon (where she ran the full), but I didn't have the guts to go up and talk to her.

We decided to meet up in our hotel for a drink. We talked about racing, running and triathlons. And then a random cowboy sat down at our table. (Note: There were a ton of cowboys in Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo) And of course we took advantage of it and peppered him with a bunch of cowboy questions. We almost had him convinced to run the race, but then he realized he wouldn't be allowed to be chased by an angry bull in order to make him run fast :)

The sad thing? Both Jeri and I had a major blogger failure! Neither of us thought to take a picture (of us or the cowboy) for our blogs. Even though both of us had cameras in our purses! Blogger fail! Still had a great time meeting up with her though!
Saturday was expo day. This was the biggest expo I had ever been to and I made sure to take my time. I didn't do too much damage in terms of purchases, but I did treat myself. I figured I earned it. I got myself a hooded sweatshirt, visor and pint glass with the race logo on it and picked up a pair of green CEP compression socks (since the ones I ordered online two weeks prior to leaving for Las Vegas didn't show up in time) and a pair of arm warmers.

I also picked up a copy of Meb Keflezighi's book Run to Overcome, which he signed for me when I met him during a meet 'n' greet. I haven't started reading it yet, but it's one of the next ones on my list!
I also got a chance to meet Josh Cox, the American 50K record holder who won the marathon on Sunday in 2:25:05. Crazy. He was using RnR Las Vegas as a "training run" for RnR Arizona. Read about his come from behind marathon victory here.
The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing. Sunday there was that half marathon thing. After sticking around to watch Bret Michaels and cheer on some of the marathoners who were finishing up, I headed back to the hotel to shower and grab some food. Decked out in my Green Bay Packers T-shirt and my new green CEP compression socks, I then recovered by watching football in the sports book area at Excalibur. Let me tell you, even though the Packers had already beaten the 49ers, I was in heaven. So many TVs! So  many football games to watch!
And Monday? After losing my $20 in my one and only attempt at Las Vegas slot machines, the rest of Monday was mostly spent either in the airport or in an airplane, heading back to reality.

Thanks for the memories Las Vegas. I had a blast!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Race Report

It's kind of hard to believe Rock n Roll Las Vegas is over. And while I didn't end up with the result I was hoping for, I don't know if I would change a thing. I had fun. And that's what counts.

Race day dawned bright and early at 4:45 a.m. OK. Maybe not bright since it was still dark out. I hopped in the shower, woke up a bit and got ready for the day. Since I was running in Las Vegas, I decided I wanted to represent my stomping grounds. I put on my black capris, my red Wisconsin football T-shirt (fitting since the Badgers were "officially" invited to the Rose Bowl later that day) and a pair of black arm warmers while munching on my pre-race breakfast of donut holes from Krispy Kreme. What? You've never fueled with donut holes before?

Shortly before 6 a.m. my sister-in-law and I headed out for the starting line.We were staying at the Excalibur, about 3/4 of a mile from the starting line. And since there was a connecting walkway between our resort and the Luxor next door, we didn't have to actually walk outside until we got across the street from Mandalay Bay, where the start/finish line area was. And it was easy to get to. Just follow the endless stream of runners and watch the sunrise over the mountains.

We got near the start corrals and my sister-in-law decided to hang out in her corral. I had to drop my bag off at gear check, so I left. After dropping my bag off I hit the lines for the port-a-pottys. Even though the lines were massive, they moved somewhat quickly. But wouldn't you know it, by the time it was my turn, I couldn't go. Apparently I'm not able to pee under pressure. Yes, I knew I'd have to go. No I couldn't. Ugh. Not wanting to hold up the lines, I left and made my way over to Corral No. 23 and waited for the race to start.

About 30 minutes after the national anthem was sung and the first runners started, it was go time for me. Both time for the half marathon to start and time for me to have to pee. Ugh. Too bad. No time for a pit stop.

I started to run.

I've never run a race this big before. Depending on who you listened to, there was between 28,000 and 30,000 people running the half and full marathons. Crazy. Yet, it wasn't unbelievably crowded. Yes, there were a lot of people, but not so many it was hard to move. I settled into a comfortable pace fairly quickly.

Miles 1-5
The beginning miles felt really good. I was keeping a steady pace, right around 10:30 minute/mile. I felt good. I was running, taking in the sights along the strip. I passed the Excalibur, MGM Grand, the Statue of Liberty outside of New York, New York and the Monte Carlo. Then it was passed the Eiffel Tower outside of Paris and the fountains at Bellagio. Next up was Caesars Palace, the Mirage, Harrah's and the run-through wedding outside of The Venetian before passing Treasure Island and Wynn before nearing the north end of the strip and Circus, Circus  and Stratosphere.

Miles 6-9
Somewhere right after Mile 5 I decided to ditch my arm warmers. At this point I was only walking through water stations, so that's when I got rid of the arm warmers. I was still feeling pretty good. Miles 6 and 7 took us up through the Fremont Street area. I was a little discouraging at this point, just because we were nearing the turnaround point, so you'd see runners going in the opposite direction. I thought we were close, but then we'd make another turn away. A bunch of turns later, I was finally heading south again. Back towards the finish line. My pace had dropped a bit and I was adding in an extra walk break each mile, but I was still feeling pretty good.

Miles 10-13
Then Mile 10 hit. I was seriously on pace to hit the 2 hour, 30 minute half marathon I've been coveting all year when I hit Mile 10 at 1 hour, 58 minutes. Then all of a sudden my legs starting revolting. It's like they decided at that point they'd had enough and didn't care that I was still 3.1 miles from the finish line. They just wanted to be done. Add to the sudden dizziness and light-headed feeling I got and it was a little bit scary. So I slowed down and walked. Some of it probably had to do with the fact that I managed to come down with a cold on Monday and it only got worse as the week went on. Add in the insane amount of walking I did in the three days I was in Vegas before the race (yes, yes not very smart). Sickness and tired legs? No wonder they decided they were done.

Mandalay Bay parking lot and the finish line was in sight. It hurt, but I made myself run the final tenth of a mile.
I ended up crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 52 minutes, 36 seconds. By far my slowest half marathon of the three I've run this year. But you know what? I'm OK with it. Yes it sucks that I didn't get that 2:30 I was aiming for and was almost on track for. But when I take into account the bathroom break, the fact that I was sick and somewhat silly when I did all the walking in the days leading up to the race, I'm not completely surprised I crashed and burned over the last three miles.

Besides I had a good time. Seriously. How could you not have a good time while running up and down the Las Vegas Strip? And what better ending to a half marathon in Las Vegas than a free concert by Bret Michaels? I'd say it was a good morning.

And 2:30? You've been warned. In six months you're going down.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'd say I had a good time in Las Vegas

So I've been back in Wisconsin two full days. And I know I owe a race report. And a run down of what I did in Las Vegas for five days. But I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything. Lame excuse. I know.

But it's all I've got right now.

So I'll leave you with this. Some video footage of the end of the free concert Bret Michaels put on in the parking lot at Mandalay Bay after the race Sunday. I apologize for the random arms that take over the video frame. Needless to say, people were having a good time. And I think Bret Michaels summed up the weekend pretty well...

"Ain't looking for nothing but a good time / and it don't get better than this."

I hope to get a race report and more Vegas stuff up by the end of the weekend. Bear with me.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Waiting for the gun to go off

It's half marathon day! And right now? I'm probably waiting amongst a huge crowd of people in Corral 23, super nervous and just waiting to start this 13.1 mile run up and down the Las Vegas Strip.

And yes, I put this post together before I left and scheduled it to post this morning!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Three Things Thursday: Vegas!

1. OMG! It's finally here! At this point, I'm most likely sitting in an airplane (hopefully with my requested window seat) flying somewhere over the Plains. Or if it's later in the day, the Frontier Airlines jet I've been flying on has landed at the airport and I'm in Las Vegas! So excited.

2. I've got the race day outfit planned. And of course I'm breaking one of those cardinal rules: Never try anything new on race day. But I had issues with my first attempt at my race shirt and didn't have time to send it back for a different size. But Scheel's had a similar one that I picked up Wednesday afternoon. So yes, I've never actually run in this shirt. But yes, it fits. I'm crossing my fingers I don't get to Mile 3 on Sunday and realize I can't handle running in this shirt! I'd show you pics, but of course I forgot to take any before I packed it in my suitcase. Guess you'll have to wait for the race report. Sorry!

3. Speaking of clothing. Do you know how hard it was to pack for this trip? Let's just say this. It's cold right now in Wisconsin. Lower 20s. Heck, it was snowing yesterday as I was packing. And the forecast for Las Vegas? Low to mid-60s. Sunny. Normally not a problem. But folks I've talked to (thank you for the power of Twitter!) have told me that layers are key - mornings start out "cold" and then it warms up in the afternoon. Not sure what they're definition of cold is though. I'm guessing it's a bit different than the cold I'm used to in Wisconsin! So layers it is. Of course that means I've got a lot of clothes in my suitcase.

Bonus: I won't have access to Internet while in Las Vegas. So you won't hear any more from me until I get back to Wisconsin. I will probably be updating my Twitter feed at points throughout my trip (including that important Tweet about how the 13.1 mile run down The Strip went). If you want, follow me on Twitter @BadgerJen2002.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reading was done

I can't believe it's already December. Not sure where the other 11 months of the year went. This year has flown!

I was able to get some good reading in during November. And no. The pages I read didn't consist entirely of vampire books. In fact there were NO vampires this month :) I finished 4 books in November for a total of 1,075 pages. That brings the total to 36 books and 12,367 pages for the year. For comparison's sake, at this point in 2009 I was at 33 books and 10,931 pages, so I'm doing better than I was at this point last year. And with two long flights on an airplane included in December, I'm feeling pretty confident I'll hit that 40 book goal I've got.

But I've still got 30 days left to do it. Let's take a look at what I read in November.

The Long Run by Matt Long w/ Charles Butler
A Perfect Match by Shelley Bradley
Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I totally recommend The Long Run. It's about the NYC firefighter who was severely injured when he was hit by a bus while riding his bike during a transit strike in NYC a couple of years ago. The book looks at his recovery and how he trained for, and ran, the New York City Marathon and later went on to finish an Ironman. Inspiring stuff. The middle two were pure fluff and it's taken me years of hearing rave reviews from friends, but I finally got around to reading The Lovely Bones. Not bad.