Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And 2014 is in the books

Hard to believe 2014 is done. It was a year full of memories created with friends and family. Some good stuff and some bad.

It was the winter of the Polar Vortex. So dang cold I pretty much only left my apartment to go to work.
 Ragnar Florida Keys #Whale Van 1 girls!

Soaking up the Key West sunshine with Mo and Erica.

Goodbye, Florida Keys. It was fun.

But for the first time ever, I planned a winter vacation and it couldn't have come at a better time. In February I boarded a plane bound for Miami for Ragnar Florida Keys. After two days of running, I spent a few days soaking up the sunshine and warmth in Key West.

Who can forget the Badgers run to the Final Four? That was spectacular.

I was supposed to run the Green Bay Half Marathon in May, but a teenager from Kimberly had different plans for me when she ran a stop sign and crashed into my car when I was on my way to packet pickup. My little blue Ford Focus died. It was a good 12 years with that car.

 Ragnar Chicago Eve with Erica and Renee.

Another Ragnar Chicago in the books!

June brought another Ragnar adventure with a van full of 5 friends during Ragnar Chicago. I still say Ragnar is the best 36 hours of little sleep a person can have.

A foggy run on Milwaukee trails.

 Madison, one of my favorite cities.

The rest of the summer was spent recovering from a pesky back injury, exploring state parks, wandering amongst thousands of airplanes, "running" a half marathon on trails through Milwaukee parks and more.
 Badger football tailgating with Sara, Renee and Erica!

There were trips to Madison for Ironman Wisconsin spectating and Badger football.

And suddenly, it's New Year's Eve. Looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tyranena Beer Run race report

The calendar says I'm getting this race report written before the race was technically a month ago, so that's a win, right?

I went into the Tyranena Beer Run with absolutely no expectations. I mean, I hadn’t run in a month. I was going to be fighting a steady 20 mile per hour wind. I didn’t have a clue what to expect on the course since I’ve never run the sixth-barrel at Tyranena before. Lots of unknowns.

All I wanted to do was finish. And have fun with my friends.

And I did.

But if you really want to know, I finished in 54 minutes, a solid 12:00 minute/mile pace. Which yes, is a little slow. But remember, no expectations. And that does include a couple of walk breaks. I’m proud to say I ran most of the hills.

Like I said, the route was new to me. It started out the same 1.5 miles or so through downtown that the half marathon runs, but then it makes a left hand turn uphill into a neighborhood. This was the only hill that I walked in its entirety. It was long. And kind of steep. The course stayed in neighborhoods, winding its way passed some pretty houses to a lakeside park, where there was a water stop at Mile 2. I then ran along the lake for a bit more and eventually ran back up a long hill into some more neighborhoods and suddenly found myself running passed Lake Mills High School, the site of Exchange 6 for Ragnar. Unlike the half marathon route, we never got dumped into the industrial park, and the one small section where it had that little bit of an industrial park feel, it was still pretty. If that makes any sense. Then one last turn and I was back at the brewery.

Can I let you in on a secret? Yes. I didn’t get a medal and there was no unofficial beer stop on the race route. And yes, it was kind of annoying that we had to wait an hour after the half marathoners started before we could run, but I liked this option.

So many times I say I’m going to keep training after Fox Cities, but I always end up going into Tyranena kind of undertrained and not quite in race shape. So it takes me longer than normal to finish. And by that time, my friends have all been done for up to 45 minutes, they’ve inhaled their post-race lasagna and are nearing the time when they pack up and are getting ready to go home.

In other words, I miss out on some of the post-race fun.

This year? We all finished within 15 minutes of each other. So we were all basically sitting down to enjoy our beer, lasagna and post-race fun at the same time. It was great. If I had to register tomorrow for the 2015 race, chances are I’d sign up for the sixth-barrel option, unless I am certain that I’m going to be in race-ready shape to run 13.1 miles. It’ll be a decision I’ll make next summer though.

Friday, December 5, 2014

November reading recap

I always have good intentions to blog, but apparently I've become a once or twice a month blogger. Eh. Someday that might change.

At least I'm consistent with coming back at the beginning of the month to tell you what I read the month before. In November I read a lot. Like 11 books or 3,758 pages a lot. It brings the yearly total to 87 books and 29,124 pages. Yup. That 77-book goal I set way back in January was crushed. And I'm still reading.

What'd I read?

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young
Dare to You by Katie McGarry
Fall From India Place by Samantha Young
The Burning by Jane Casey
Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Reflected in You by Sylvia Day
Entwined in You by Sylvia Day
Captivated by You by Sylvia Day

Apparently I wanted to read multiple books by single authors this month.

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.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel  ****
I honestly can't remember how this ended up on my "to read" list. I didn't know a whole lot about it going in, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It was different. And I liked it.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin  ****
I had heard some good reviews of this one and I liked the cover. It was a good, quick read

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks  ****
A typical Nicholas Sparks book. I think it's really a 3.5, but I was feeling generous and rounded up. Always a good option when you want quick and mindless.

Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young  ****
I like the series and while they all have followed the same basic plot, they're different enough that they're still enjoyable.

Dare to You by Katie McGarry  ***
Still trying to remember why I even bothered. Kind of predictable and honestly, a bit too long.

Fall From India Place by Samantha Young  ***
As much as I like this author and this series, this was just kind of "meh."

The Burning by Jane Casey  ****
Another one that I don't remember how it ended up on my list, but I'm glad it did. If you like Tana French, chances are you'll like this. It's a murder with a female detective trying to figure out what's going on. Good stuff.

Bared to You  ****, Reflected in You ****, Entwined With You  **** and Captivated by You  **** by Sylvia Day
I've read the first three, but I read them one to two years ago. When the newest installment came out earlier this fall, I knew I would have to reread the first three in order to refresh my memory about what's going on with Eva and Gideon. I still say while similar, this is far better series than 50 Shades of Grey.

With one month to go, I'm still going with the goal to "read as many books as possible" before the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. While I think it would be cool to hit triple digits, that would require a lot of reading and I know December will be a busy month. I'd be happy to finish somewhere in the 90s though.

What have you got on your "to read" list before 2014 is done?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's Tyranena week

My last run

It's been four weeks and one day since I last decided to go for a run.

I'm not hurt. I just don't have the motivation to lace up my shoes and head out the door. I've missed some pretty spectacular fall running days, but I've also missed some terribly miserable fall weather. There's part of me that just can't quite face the idea of running to nowhere on a treadmill yet.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem.

But I'm actually registered for a half marathon this weekend. It's Tyranena Beer Run weekend. And I'm all registered to run the half marathon for the third year in a row.

See how the four weeks and one day since my last run is a problem?

Actually, it's not quite so problematic. During that run a month ago, I was running on the WIOUWASH Trail, which is quite similar to the Glacial Drumlin Trail where a good chunk of this weekend's half marathon is run, and I came to a realization.

I didn't want to run long distances in an attempt to get myself somewhat ready to tackle 13.1 miles. I just didn't want to. So on that bright, sunny, early October day, I decided to drop down to the sixth-barrel race, which is 4.4 miles. Much more manageable to wing it for that distance.

And then I stopped running.

So this weekend will be interesting. The weather is looking less than ideal, but I just keep telling myself that other than the turkey trot on Thanksgiving, this is my year-end race. But more importantly, it's a race weekend with my running friends. So we'll run, we'll eat, we'll drink the post-race beer and we'll have a good time.

Last year at Tyranena.

Because even though there are many times that I (along with so many other people I know) think running is completely stupid, it's connected me with a really great group of friends.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

October reading recap

Another month, another round of books that I read.

In October I finished seven books for a total of 2,456 pages. That brings the yearly total to 76 books and 25,366 pages. Yup. I'm definitely going to hit that 77-book goal for the year. With two months to go, maybe I should consider revising it. One hundred seems like a scary number and that would mean I'd have to read 12 books a month for the last two months. Maybe I'll just aim for the "read as many as you can" kind of goal. Although it would be pretty cool to hit triple digits.

So what'd I read?

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich
Instant Attraction by Jill Shalvis
Instant Gratification by Jill Shalvis
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes
The Secret Place by Tana French

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.

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich  ****
Not going to lie. I'm glad to be done with this series. Well, at least for now. It was OK. A typical Stephanie Plum book.

Instant Attraction  **** and Instant Gratification  *** by Jill Shalvis
Total chick lit. Girl meets boy in remote mountain village. Fast and enjoyable reading. I did enjoy the first one more though. I've got a request in at the library for the final book in the trilogy.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub  ***
I'm not sure why I picked this up. Or kept reading it. It was a fairly short book, but it dragged. I didn't really get where it was going. My recommendation? Pass.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty  *****
One of my favorites this month. Think chick lit with a murder thrown in. I liked this one even more than The Husband's Secret, which a lot of people raved over. A must read.

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes  ****
I didn't have any intention of reading this, but I saw it was offered through a program at the library for everyone (as in, no holds necessary). Plus a few friends were also reading it at the same time. I struggled for a bit with this book, wondering where it was going. But I definitely had one of those "a-ha" moments during the last quarter of the book and everything finally made sense.

The Secret Place by Tana French  *****
I really, really like this author. I had been waiting to get my hands on this so I was excited when I finally did. It's your typical French book. A murder to be solved full of twists and turns throughout the investigation that keeps you guessing up until the very last pages. A definite must read.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fox Cities Half Marathon race recap

I guess I should write something about my sixth attempt at the Fox Cities Half Marathon. After all, it is my favorite race.

The race was on Sept. 21 and even though I had told myself earlier that month that I was going to get a long run or two in between the Lake Michigan Trail Half and Fox Cities, I didn't. So it was another race that I was super under trained for. Oh well. At least I knew it wasn't going to be fast.

The forecast for race day wasn't all that ideal, with rain chances in the morning. When I woke up at 5 a.m. I could hear the rain falling. Great. Thirteen miles in the rain and slightly chilly temperatures. Wonderful.

My Mom, who was playing photographer and chauffeur, and I headed out at 5:30 to pick up my brother and sister-in-law and two of my nephews. My brother was going to be running his first full marathon that day.

We did the typical pre-race stuff. Port-a-potties, stretching, photos. The rain had died down a bit, but it was sill kind of windy and chilly and misting, making it hard to decide what to run in. Long-sleeves? Arm sleeves? Just my tank top? I ended up going with my arm sleeves, but tossed those to my mom when I went past her at the starting line.

Like I said, I had no expectations for time since I wasn't prepared for this. So there was no pressure. I planned on walking the aide stations and whenever I needed to. I just wanted to run, finish the race, collect my medal, have a good time and cheer on my brother to his first marathon finish.

Thoughts from the course:

Mile 1: Running feels hard. This is going got be a long day.
Mile 6ish: Oh, great. The first race walker just passed me. Usually that happens around Mile 7.
Mile 6-7: This is the worst stretch of the course. I hate it.
Mile 7.5: "Eye of the Tiger" comes on my playlist. Reminds me of Lake Michigan Trail Half Eve with my friend Erica. Alabama Week! 

Mile 8: I see my mom and two nephews. This is the first time I've seen my family since the start and makes me happy. Also get an update that my brother's through Mile 10 and doing well. Then I get told that I need to beat him to the finish.
Mile 8.3: Oh. It's starting to rain harder.
Mile 8.5: Menasha is a freaking long city. That, or I'm running really slow.
Mile 9: Still raining. The drips off the brim of my hat are coming faster.
Mile 10: There's Mom and the Rugrats again. Three miles to go.
Mile 11.5: There goes the marathon pace car. Kind of thought the leader would have passed me sooner.
Mile 12.25: Oh, it's the Capt. America-clad Rugrats again. I wasn't expecting to see them, but then I glance left. There's the finish line and I've still got to run around the park. Sigh.
Mile 13.1: Finish!

Overall, I never really felt bad during the race. Sure, I got into a few mental dark spots, but they were short lived. My legs? I think I did a good job of mixing in the walk breaks with my runs to keep them somewhat feeling fresh given the lack of training.

It was my fastest half of the year (OK, OK, so I only ran two of them), but the finish time (2:47) gave me hope that if I just buckle down and actually, you know, train next spring, I can maybe be "fast" again next spring/fall.

After I finished, it was time to get some food, change into some dry (although not much warmer) clothes and wait for my brother to come in. And the wind? Let's just say I was glad I finished when I did, because holy windy.

Soon my brother came across the finish line, crossing it in around 4:15, looking great for his first marathon finish. After pictures it was time to head home, shower and then over to his house for some pizza and Packers. It was a good day.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

September reading recap

Another month, another recap of what I read. Which, let's be honest. That seems to be the only blog posts I actually write anymore. That may change someday, but for now. Let's talk about books.

I finished eight books in September for a total of 2,051 pages. That brings the yearly numbers to 69 books and 22,910 pages. I'd say I'm well on my way towards hitting the yearly goal of 77 books. Heck, at this point, there's a little piece of me that kin of wants to try for triple digits, but at this point it might turn into a "read as many books as you can" kind of goal.

What'd I read? Take a look:

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Until Fountain Bridge by Samantha Young
Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich
Castle Hill by Samantha Young
So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America by Brian Benson
Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich

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.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell   ****
I didn't even leave a review on GoodReads about this book. While I gave it four stars, I think it was more of a 3.5 and I rounded up. It was decent, but definitely not my favorite book by this author.

Until Fountain Bridge by Samantha Young  ***
Castle Hill by Samantha Young ***
As general rule, I don't read those "in-between" numbered books when it comes to series. I kind of think if it isn't an important enough storyline to include in the main books of the series, why bother? That being said, I did read these. Filler. Eh.

Notorious Nineteen *** Takedown Twenty *** by Janet Evanovich
Good, light, mindless reading. That being said, I'm glad I'm nearing the end of what's been published in this series.

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffmann ***
This is been on my "to read" list forever and I'm not sure how it got there. It was really, really hard to get into. The last 80 pages or so were pretty good, but I'm not sure they were worth the struggle it took to get into this book. Probably wouldn't recommend it.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway  ****
This counts as my classic this year. I decided to read it since you hear the title tossed around a lot and I was in Key West and walked by Hemingway's house earlier this year.

Going Somewhere: A Bicycle Journey Across America by Brian Benson ****
I stumbled across this one as a giveaway on GoodReads. I didn't win the giveaway, but I still put in the request at the library. It was decent, probably a 3.5 but I was feeling generous. Let's just say reading this left me thinking I'd probably NEVER ride my bike across North Dakota, but some areas sounded pretty gorgeous.

So that was September. Spoiler alert. It's five days into October and I've already finished the last Stephanie Plum book. Well, the last one that's been published. I'm sure there will be more since there's been no nice, wrapped up conclusion to the series.

What's on your to read pile for October?

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.