Thursday, April 25, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. The calendar may say it's only Thursday, but in my mind it's Friday. That's because today is the last day of my work week. Granted I earned the upcoming three-day weekend by working on Sunday. Actually by working eight of the last nine days since I got back from vacation. That just doesn't seem right in my mind.

2. It's going to be a fun weekend though. Friday will be full of errands, you know, things I've been putting off doing for weeks. But Saturday? Saturday I get to jump in a car with some runner friends and do Runaway to the Bay, a 55-mile relay from Oshkosh to Green Bay. I did it last year with friends and it was tons of fun (also profitable since I made money selling tutus). Since two of my teammates are getting ready for the Green Bay Marathon, they both need to do 18-20 miles, so I'll only have to run like 8 miles, broken up into two legs, Saturday. Fun!

3. Apparently Mother Nature finally got the memo that's nearly the end of April. We finally get a weather forecast with 60s in it! And sunshine! Thankfully that includes this weekend. Should be great weather for Runaway to the Bay and I have a feeling I'll also be pulling my bike out of my parents' basement for a spin. Can't. Wait.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Rest of the Raleigh Adventure

 Hello from Raleigh, NC!

And now for the final installment of my trip to Raleigh, NC.

First I talked about the half marathon I went out there to run with my BFF Jess. The time on the finish line clock? Not so pretty. But it was 13.1 miles of fun. Then there was the Saturday night we spent at a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game. A little bit of hockey, fist fights, an introduction to the beast called an ice hog combined with $1 hot dogs made for a good way to relax before the next day's half marathon.

So what else did I do while I was #GoingToRaleigh?

Before I was able to even get on an airplane and leave Appleton, I got to sit and wait for an airplane to show up. At least I had good reading material for the weekend. The not cool part? My planned 75 minute layover at O'Hare turned into 7 minutes. And yes, I was the last passenger to board my flight to Raleigh.

Once I landed in sunny Raleigh, NC, my first task was to ditch the old pair of running shoes I was wearing and throw on my flip flops. Needless to say, my toes were happy. Then we hit up the liquor store, or as Jess called it, a package store. I dunno. All I know is that was where they had the makings for margaritas. Armed with alcohol and way more tasty goodies from this bakery next door, we headed back to Jess' apartment where we settled in for pizza, margaritas and girl talk.

Exploring a trail at William B. Umstead State Park.

Saturday we headed over to William B. Umstead State Park. It's like a freaking forest smack dab in the middle of Raleigh. OK. Maybe more like the outskirts, but still. It's right there! So many trails. I seriously could have spent the entire day there exploring. I told Jess if we weren't running a half the next day, I would be insisting on taking my running shoes out for a trip on those trails. But we only had enough time to head out for a 2-mile hike on one of the trails.

Then we went and picked up our packets, did a little window shopping and grabbed lunch with Jess' mom and some of her friend.

Oh yeah. I guess I really do have to run.

And well, you've already heard about our NHL adventure. Hockey, fighting and ice hogs, oh my!

Sunday was race day. You know how the race itself went.

But a highlight of the weekend trip? I got to meet Carolina John!

We've read each other's blogs for a few years now and when Jess first threw this idea out there, he was the first one I went to to find out info on this event. And of course once I decided to head down, we made plans that we MUST met up.

I got to meet Carolina John!

So plans were made and phone numbers exchanged. After hanging around in the parking lot area, Jess and I headed over towards the starting area, but I kept my eyes peeled, hoping I'd see him. And lucky me! There I spied him near the front of the starting pack. I have to admit, it was the tattoos that I recognized.

After the race we made plans to meet up with John, his wife and one of his daughter's at Ruckus, this pizza place near Jess' apartment. It was this little hole in the wall joint at a strip mall. But guys. It was so good! We put in our orders and nabbed a table outside (because have I mentioned that the weather in NC was flip flops and tank top weather the entire time I was there?) and when the guy brought our food out? OMG. Seriously. It took THREE plates to bring out each order. I swear. The pizza was the size of my head.

Seriously. Pizza the size of my head.

So good food, good friends, good conversation. It had all the makings of a great lunch. And I was so psyched to get the chance to meet up with John during my weekend visit!

We ended Sunday with a trip to the movie theater to catch "Silver Linings Playbook," and more margaritas and an early bedtime.

 Museum adventures. The dinosaur edition.

After helping Jess corral her two black cats for a trip to the vet Monday morning, we headed downtown to check out some museums. We wandered around, learning some about natural science, dinosaurs, bugs and even some North Carolina history.

 More museum fun. No dinosaurs, but a semi-grumpy looking turtle.

After a full day of museum wandering, we were headed back to Jess' car when I first caught site of the news of the Boston Marathon bombings. I was uploading a photo to Instagram when I caught a tweet. I causally mentioned it to Jess, but didn't think it was super serious.

Turns out I was wrong. So wrong.

The rest of the afternoon we hung out at Jess' apartment, me looking for any news I could find on my phone of what was going on in Boston, Jess doing the same thing on her laptop. It was definitely an odd vibe that afternoon. We ended my vacation with some Netflix (I think we were watching Flashpoint episodes), some margaritas and early bedtimes.

Somewhere at 30,000 feet.

Because the next morning was an early wake up call so I could catch a flight back to Wisconsin.

It was a great weekend. I had such a good time, whether it was wandering through the woods, watching brawls break out on the hockey rink, running a half marathon or eating pizza the size of my head while chatting with friends.

Thanks so much for a memorable weekend Jess!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A little NHL action is the perfect way to prepare for a half marathon

When I was first figuring out how to how write about my time in Raleigh, I really was just intending to write two posts: RunRaleigh Half Marathon race report and the remaining fun in Raleigh. But then I got to thinking and realized I really needed a third post.

One dedicated solely to NHL hockey.

 Hockey. The perfect way to rest up for a half marathon!

 Jess and I decided to head over to PNC Arena on Saturday night to catch the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Boston Bruins. As much as I love watching Badger hockey, I'd never been to a NHL game.

We got to the game Saturday night and parked in a lot right next door to Carter-Finley Stadium, where North Carolina State plays its home games. Yes, the same university that gave us Badgers Russell Wilson. Thank you.

Thank you NC State.

Not only did we park next to a football stadium, but it felt like we were at a football game. Looking around I noticed something. People in Raleigh, NC tailgate. Before hockey games. This was odd to me. But I guess, other than college football, Raleigh doesn't really have a baseball team or NFL team, the prime tailgating spots. But we kept walking and eventually got into the arena and found our seats. I promptly started scanning the rosters and I hit jackpot. I found myself a former Badger, Jamie McBain, on the Hurricanes roster.

So hockey.

I guess Carolina was in the midst of a multi-game losing streak and looking at their record, they didn't look like an amazing team. So I wasn't surprised when Boston jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

Then the fun started.

Or should I say the fighting. Let's just call the last 5 minutes and 46 seconds of the first period fairly entertaining hockey.

First there was this:

And then this one:

At some point Carolina tied the game up and we thought we'd head into intermission after watching two goals and two major fights. But the hockey boys weren't done yet. One more fist fight:

So in 20 minutes of play, we saw 2 goals scored and three fairly major fights. In rewatching the footage of the scuffles, not only do I still chuckle when I see the rest of the players just hanging around, watching the other two go at it, but I also realized the refs basically just let them fight it out until they hit the ice. Then they stopped it. Must be the rule. Sadly, the coaches must have lashed out at the players in the locker room during intermission because there were no more fights during the last two period. A couple of more goals, but no fights.

I was, however, entertained by the somewhat lame spectator games during the commercial breaks. But perhaps the most entertaining sight? Stormy, the mascot of the Carolina Hurricanes. But it's not a weatherman or even a cartoonish hurricane. Nope. Stormy is an ice hog. Say what? An ice hog.

Needless to say the appearance by this ice hog character - who apparently enjoys "shaking his bacon" - contributed greatly to the draining of my cellphone battery. Because really, an ice hog?

When all was said and done, Jess and I enjoyed our $1 hot dogs - although in hindsight, probably not the best pre-half marathon fueling option, I guess we should have gotten the beer too, more carbs - got to see some pretty good fights, some good hockey and even were introduced to this beast they call an ice hog.

The only failure? We neglected to get a photo of ourselves at the hockey game. What? There were much more important things to drain our cellphone batteries for, like tweets about ice hogs, hockey and fist fights.

Monday, April 22, 2013

RunRaleigh Half Marathon Race Recap

Times don't matter when you get to run 13.1 miles with your BFF.

Piece of advice, if you're going to set a personal worst for a half marathon time, make sure you're running the race with one of your best friends.

Trust me. It makes the result a little less painful.

Yes. The RunRaleigh Half Marathon? My worst half marathon ever. Timewise. But in terms of fun? Oh, yes. So much fun.

Jess and I came up with this great idea back in February of me going out to visit her in Raleigh and we'd run the RunRaleigh Half Marathon while I was there. At that time, we had like 11 weeks until race day, plenty of time to train, prepare for the hills and get into half marathon shape.

Well, first the hill work outs vanished. And then I started missing some long runs. And, well, let's just say I was woefully unprepared. But the plane ticket had been purchased and I hadn't seen Jess in over a year, so I HAD to go. Thankfully we weren't running for any kind of time goal. Just to finish. And have fun.

Race morning dawn bright and early. Temps were in the low- to mid-50s, perfect weather for this Wisconsin girl. Although I did have to chuckle a bit to myself. While waiting for the race to start I could totally tell who the true southerners were - long pants, long sleeves and gloves.

The smile is hiding how much I'm struggling. And this is around Mile 2.

The gun went off and we started running. Uphill. I should have been tipped off immediately that this was going to be a rough day. But I thought it was just a short uphill. Well, we kept running and before we even made to the first mile marker this was feeling way too hard. I mean, seriously. I wasn't even a mile in! Well, I glanced behind me. No wonder if felt hard. I'd been running uphill for almost a mile.

Shoot me now.

I sucked it up. Took advantage of a short flat section - very short - and kept running.

For the first 8 miles or so, that's what it was. A constant barrage of hills. A nasty one right around Mile 4, but mostly rollers. And somewhere around Miles 5-7, it was a relatively flat section, but the pavement had this weird camber to it, which made it tough. And made my IT band slightly angry.

Somewhere around Mile 7. Obviously Jess and I have differing views on the hills.

So I had an angry IT band from the road camber and quads that were pretty much trashed from the hills in the first 8 miles or so. I made an attempt to run the downhills, but I caved and started walking the uphills. And then I found myself having to walk in the short flat sections.

Seriously. Had Jess not been by my side, I would have curled up on the side of the road, cried and waited to die. But she wouldn't leave me.

There was A LOT of walking between miles 9 and 12, when we were faced with another nasty uphill (one that was so fun to run down at Mile 4). Ironically, those were the flattest miles of the course. We were on this greenway through the woods, which seemed really pretty. And then I heard someone refer to it as "the woods where the rapists live." Oh. That's great. Or maybe the escaped prisoners. After all, we did pass two state prisons on the route.

I threw in some running, er, shuffling, during the final mile and amazingly had enough in the tank to really run it in to the finish line.


A personal worst in terms of time. Not one that I'm proud of, but I was psyched to run with Jess. And I have to keep reminding myself that that was seriously the toughest half marathon course I've ever run. Even if I had kept up with long runs and been better with hill intervals, I'm pretty sure I would have still struggled. I'm just not sure how this Wisconsin girl could have prepared for that course.

Ooh! And I got to meet up with Carolina John! But more on that meeting later. Because my time with CJ wasn't limited to a quick hello at the starting line.

Up next: What I did during the rest of my vacation to Raleigh, otherwise known as the place where I could wear tank tops and flip flops!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

#BostonStrong at the Oshkosh Half Marathon

Today was the Oshkosh Half Marathon, a race I've done in some capacity the last six years, whether it was running the 5K or running the half the last two years.

But today it was different. Instead of getting up before the sun rose to get ready to run, I woke up before sunrise to go into work for the day. Yup. Reporter duty called.

Midwest Sports Events, which organizes the race, was planning on special tribute in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Organizers reached out to all Wisconsin runners who ran Boston and invited them to come run Oshkosh. Somewhere between 20 and 30 showed up, many wearing their Boston Marathon finisher's jacket. Some ran the half. Some ran the 5K and some where just on hand for the ceremony. They spoke, a moment of silence was observed and finally all 2,700 runners joined in for the national anthem.

My job? Focus on the pre-race ceremony. This is what I came up with video-wise:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013



 More than 48 hours later, I'm not sure if I believe that it really happened. That bombs went off on the streets of Boston near the finish line of the world's oldest marathon

But it did. I've seen the pictures. Watched the video footage. Read the stories.

I don't know what I could possibly say that hasn't already been said in some location on the Internet. But I feel like I need to at least put a few points down.

I can't get over the fact that not only was my country attacked, but also that my sport was attacked. Attacked at the site that most runners dream of making it to. I mean, come on. The Boston Marathon is like the Holy Grail. The place where every runner wants to go and many runners dream of crossing that iconic blue finish line.

But then I read the stories and found out just who those three people that died and 170 plus people that were injured were. In many cases? Spectators. Those friends and family that support our dreams, listen to us complain of aches and pains and hear us rave about a spectacular long run. The ones who cart us to races, only to  sit on the side of the road or drive from location to location just to catch a glimpse of us as we run past.

My heart breaks. For the runners. For the spectators. For our sport.

But I won't let the fact that some coward went and rigged two pressure cookers to explode and cause that kind of damage get to me. I will not be afraid.

I will run.

I will run for myself. I will run for those who lost their lives on Monday and those who were injured. I will run for the running community as a whole. Because we runners are strong. Just like the city of Boston is strong. They will recover.

And next April, there is no doubt in my mind that runners will flock to Boston to cross that iconic blue finish line and snag that coveted Boston Marathon finisher's jacket.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Checking out the CrossFit craze

I stepped out of the box this morning. And stepped right into a CrossFit box.

A few days ago I noticed a post on Facebook about a local CrossFit box holding a free community workout on Saturday morning. It’s been something I’ve been intrigued with, so I fired off an email to my running partner in crime Peggy to see if she was game. Turns out her friend Aaron was a member at the CrossFit place and had been wanting her to check it out.

Plans were made. I was going to try CrossFit.

I was excited. And nervous. And scared. But I went this morning.

We got there about 10 minutes before the workout started and there was already a group tackling a workout. Some hardcore dudes doing a bunch of crazy, fast burpees.

Yup. Still scared. And plotting out the best corner to retreat to if I needed to curl up and die.

But I honestly didn’t need to be scared. The coach, a former Army Ranger, was super helpful – whether it was explaining a move or giving you advice for how to tweak a move to modify it for your ability or even giving you pointers on correct form. And throughout the morning he doled out encouragement as well.

After a short warm up, we got set for the workout of the day. It was a partner workout, so I paired up with Peggy. It was one minute of squats, one minute of push ups, one minute of these body rows on a set of rings followed by some side step things over a contraption made of PVC pipe (notice the super technical terms I’m using). One of would start, do as many reps as possible and then we’d switch. After those four minutes, we’d get a one minute rest. And repeat. Four times total. 

Guys. It was hard. And my arms and legs have that good sore feeling tonight. But it was so much fun. It felt good to challenge myself, push myself, see what I could do.

Right now the CrossFit place only offers classes in the mornings, and with my work schedule and it being a 30 minute drive from where I work, it’s not possible for me to do it. The guy who runs the place said he’s considering adding evening classes in the future, and I’d definitely be interested if that happens. Because it was a good workout and I’m pretty sure I could use that kind of structure.

So we’ll see. For now I’ll try to get back when they have their free community workouts on Saturdays.

Now, let’s see how my legs feel for tomorrow’s nine-mile run with Peggy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

March Reading Recap

It looks like I continued to tear through books in March. So much so that I had to up the yearly reading goal, but I already alluded to that in a post last week.

I finished ten, county them, ten books in March. That's never happened before. That comes out to 3,189 pages. And in reality, it was more pages than that since two of the titles I read in March were Kindle titles that I didn't have page numbers available for. So my double digit book haul in March brings me to 22 books for the year and 6,867 pages. Compared to last year at the end of March? Well, I was slacking the first three months of 2012, I'd only finished nine books and 2,955 pages.

Here's the list of what I read:

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Surrendered Hearts by Carrie Turansky
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Requiem by Lauren Oliver
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
The Perfect Game by J. Sterling
Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally
Run by Ann Patchett
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Champagne Toast by Melissa Brown

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.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver  ****
This was actually a re-read of something that I'd read last spring. But I pulled it off the shelf again in preparation for the release of the final book in the trilogy. You know, I had to make sure I had all of my young adult dystopia story lines straight in my head. Good, quick read.

Surrendered Hearts by Carrie Turansky  ***
I got a Kindle this month. But since I'm still somewhat cheap when it comes to actually buying books, I had to take advantage of some of those free Kindle titles that are floating around out there. This was one of them. A quick read. Worth the price: Free.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver  ***
Again, a re-read. Not my favorite of the series, but a good, quick read.

Requiem by Lauren Oliver ****
The finale to the Delirium trilogy. I liked this and thought it was a good ending to the three-book series. Liked the author's decision to tell the story from two points of view.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson  ***
I chuckled at parts, but I spent most of this book wondering when I was going to be done. I know a lot of people really enjoyed this book, but it just didn't do it for me. Might be a sign to lay off the memoirs/biographies for a while.t

The Perfect Game by J. Sterling  ****
Quick, easy read. Baseball and romance. Who needs anything else?

Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally ***
Wasn't bad. A quick, mindless read.

Run by Ann Patchett  ***
Well, after looking over my list of titles that I've read this year, I decided I needed to lay off the YA stuff for a bit. So I picked up Run. Some friends had read other stuff by Ann Patchett and liked it and this book got fairly decent reviews, so I gave it a try. It was OK, but the ending left a little to be desired.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn  ****
This was probably my favorite books of the month. It kept me guessing with plot twists and turns until the very end. This is the second book I've read by Gillian Flynn (she also wrote Gone Girl), and I really like her writing style, so it's a given that more of her work will show up on my reading lists.

Champagne Toast by Melissa Brown ***
Another Kindle freebie. Another one that was OK.

So that's March. And three days into April I've already finished one book. Will I finish another 10 books this month? I dunno about that, but I do have some airplane time to fill, so who knows. And remember, I've upped my yearly reading goal to 52 books. Only 30 more to read in nine months.

What have you been reading? I'm always looking for suggestions!