Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I went flying with eagles

It's my favorite week of the summer as far as work goes.

It's EAA AirVenture week. Also known as the week airplanes and pilots from around the globe converge on Oshkosh for a week of all things aviation-related. There are the military aircraft, the vintage aircraft, the Warbirds from World War II and other conflicts and the new advances in aviation.

It's also the week I really don't need an alarm clock. Seeing as my apartment is right behind the airport where all the action is happening and the loud rumbles of the Warbirds usually fill the skies around 8 a.m., although today I swear they were taking off at 6:57 a.m.

I. Love. It.

And for work, I get to spend an entire week on the grounds, finding the great stories and listening to people talk about their aircraft.

It's been no different this year.

Today I got a pretty spectacular assignment. EAA has a program called Young Eagles, which aims to give kids a free airplane ride as a way to introduce them to aviation. The chairman of the program is Sean D. Tucker, this crazy aerobatic pilot who is amazing to watch. But Tucker's also pretty cool when it comes to Young Eagles. As chairman, at each air show he performs at Tucker gives one kid a Young Eagles flight.

Today was that flight.

And me? I got a spot in the chase plane so I could get video of the flight.

How's that work, you say? Well, the plane was missing a pretty important piece. It's called the side panel. Yup. There's a big gaping hole cut out of the side of the airplane that allows people to have a great vantage point to shoot video or photos. Normally I'd so, heck no. I'm not going up in a plane that's missing large chunks of siding. But this was an opportunity I couldn't miss.

So I strapped myself in, made sure the cord attaching me to the inside of the plane was secure and said, let's fly.

I admit, it was a little hairy at first. I mean, there I was, flying way above the ground (who knows how many feet) and there was nothing solid to my left. Just an open hole and the ground, really far below. But the view? Amazing. The shots I got of the aircraft (there were four planes that flew in formation during the Young Eagles flight)? Spectacular. Find the story I wrote here, the video is below.

So much fun and such a great experience.

Now I just count down the days until the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds get to town on Thursday. So. So. Excited for them.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chickenfest 5K Race Report

In another installment of "race reports from a month ago," I bring you the Chickenfest 5K.

Every year, there's a  small community festival called Chickenfest in my parents' neighborhood. It's held at the park that's a 5 minute walk from my mom and dad's. It's your typical Wisconsin festival. Beer, food, music, kids' rides and (because we're lucky) fireworks. Oh, and they do the chicken dance every hour, on the hour.

Fun times.

This year, they added a 5K run and since it's Chickenfest and the route is on roads I run regularly when I'm at mom and dad's, I had to do it. Plus it was cheap.

Going into the run, I was a bit worried. Remember, car accident. Hurt back. And heading down to the park and walking on the uneven, muddy ground for the fireworks the night before didn't do it any favors. In other words, it was already angry with me.

Dad was walking the race and I was running, so we headed down to the start line. It was pretty low key start. A state trooper who lost his leg when he was hit by another car while responding to an accident earlier this year basically yelled "go" into the bullhorn. And we were off.

And pretty much immediately I thought I might have to pull out. My back hurt so bad. Like, sharp, throbbing pain. When I got to my mom, who was standing at the end of her block less than a half-mile into the race, I briefly considered stopping. But I kept running.

About a mile in, the pain subsided a bit and I was able to run a bit more comfortably. But it still hurt a bit. I ended up finishing the race, grabbing my cookie and water and went to wait for my dad.

It was a fun little community 5K. I kind of hope they bring it back next year.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ragnar Chicago recap

If I don't write this soon, I should just wait until next year's version of Ragnar Chicago.

For the third year in a row, I packed up my duffel bag and embarked on a 36-hour journey in a big white 15-passenger van with five of my running friends, set out to run the 200ish miles from Madison to Chicago.

Because it's been almost two months, I'm going with the short and sweet version.

I met up with my friends in Milwaukee on Thursday night. We had beer and pizza and then set off for Madison, where we checked into our hotel for the night and were greeted with hotel rooms the size of matchboxes.

Sure. Three people. One bed. And barely any floor space? And they called this a handicapped accessible room. Ummm, no. But I like these girls. And all we were doing was sleeping.

The next morning Ragnar started bright and early. I think we had a 6 a.m. start. Or maybe 6:30. I told you, it's been a while.

I was in Van 1, a first for me at this race, so I was excited to see all the new areas that I hadn't seen before. As Runner 3, my first leg was just a short 2.7 miles jaunt with some baby hills. In the sun, with no clouds and it was starting to get a bit warm. I managed to forget to hit start on the Garmin, so I have no idea how long this took me.

After all of our runners were done with their first legs, we took off to get some food. And make a backup plan just in case that stabbing pain Renee was feeling in her foot meant she wouldn't be able to run the rest of her legs. (Spoiler: She couldn't run.) After that we headed to the next major exchange and hung out in the grass underneath a tent. It was glorious.

Our second set of legs were our night legs. Mine was 5.5 miles through Waukesha and New Berlin. Let's just say it really seemed like I ran uphill for all those miles. So many uphills, but not downhill. What the heck? But I ran. Even when I was trying to run on the tiny little shoulder of the road and I feared for a few minutes that I was going to get schmucked by the the cars, which were driving really fast and coming straight at me.

Then we got to sleep. Like 3 hours next to the lake in Racine. The rhythmic blowing of the light house put me to sleep and I was dead to the world. Also, this sleeping thing during Ragnar? Fabulous. Before Key West I had never really gotten to sleep. Amazing.

Way too soon we had to wake up and run some more.

Sunrise in Racine. Not quite Key West, but still beautiful.

My final leg was another 5.5 through Kenosha. I'm not going to lie. This sucked.

I think 24 hours of running and sitting in a 15-passenger van was finally starting to make my back mad. Remember, I was in a car accident 3 weeks before Ragnar and was still dealing with a fairly messed up back.

During this run through Kenosha, it reminded me it was still hurt and it was getting angry. I ran the first half of the run, being distracted by the ginormous houses along the lake was helpful. But sometime around Mile 3 I just couldn't do it anymore. Every step hurt my back. And it didn't help that I hadn't had decent food since lunchtime the day before.

So I walked. I tried to run at times, but it wasn't going to happen. Too bad I was running through a commercial district, so I didn't even have pretty scenery to distract myself. Oh well. I eventually finished and got some food and water in me.

After our last runner finished, we headed off to a swanky Chicago suburb for this amazing breakfast at a waffle house. So much food. So many dishes. Really. They brought our drinks to us in a glass, in a small (warm) bowl. What? But so, so good.

After we were in a food coma, it was back to the van to navigate our way to the finish line, where we got our free beer and pizza and then found ourselves a spot of grass to hang out and chat with other friends until our team came running in.

Overall, another great Ragnar Chicago is in the books. Can't wait for 2015.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Double the reading recaps!

Yup. I disappeared for a month.

Let's just say when you're working long hours to make up for missed time at work for chiropractor appointments, coming home at night and sitting in front of a computer to blog isn't on the top of my list of things I want to do.

So I didn't.

Which means you get a double dose of a reading recap today. Go grab yourself a drink, because this is going to be long.

I read 13 books in May and June. I finished six in May and seven in June. I read 2,633 pages in May and 2,266 pages in June. That brings the yearly total to 40 books and 14,470 pages. Remember, I'm aiming for 77 books for the year and after six months, I've read 51.9 percent of my goal. I'd say I'm on track.

So what'd I read?

Inferno by Dan Brown
Love in the Time of Algorithms: How Online Dating Shapes Our Relationships by Dan Slater
Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich
Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
The Selection by Kiera Cass
The Elite by Kiera Cass
The One by Kiera Cass
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
High Five by  Janet Evanovich
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Where You Are by Tammara Webber

And now for the brief reviews, complete with number of stars given out on GoodReads. Follow me here if you’d like a more timely update on what I’m reading, what I think and what’s been added to my to-read list.

Inferno by Dan Brown  ****
Dan Brown puts lots of twists and turns into his stuff, so even when you think you know what's happening, you get surprised. The end did drag a little bit.

Love in the Time of Algorithms by Dan Slater  **
It's about online dating. Parts were interesting, parts were just boring. Jumped around a lot.

Two for the Dough and Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich  ***
These are just good summer reads. A few parts had me chuckling out loud.

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin  *****
Game of Thrones. I love these.

The Selection and The Elite by Kiera Cass  ****
These were a re-read in preparation for the final installment.

The One by Kiera Cass  ****
Nice way to wrap up the series.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson  **
I'd heard mixed reviews about this one. Once I started reading it, I almost quit. But I didn't because I had a policy where I don't give up. It had potential, but it got confusing at times skipping around to the different versions of Ursala. Just didn't enjoy it much.

Four to Score and High Five by Janet Evanovich  ****
Still like these

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent  ***
Interesting read. A decent story about an Icelandic woman sentenced to die and her last days. Dragged a bit in the beginning, but it picked up over the second half.

Where You Are by Tammara Webber  ***
Eh, it was OK. I didn't have high expectations. I generally don't have a problem with YA, but this was really young adult-y in my taste.

And there we go. I've caught you up on my reading progress. I have no worries about finding stuff to read right now. In true library fashion, about a million holds came in all at once, so I've got quite the stack sitting on my table. And that doesn't even include all the unread goodies that are sitting on my Kindle. So many books. So little time.

What are you reading?