Saturday, April 26, 2014

Race Report: Spectator Edition!

This is one I never expected to write - my experience at a race from the sidelines. Thanks to the stress fracture in my foot my quest for Maniac Gold was cut short, but I chose to still go to Raleigh, because the weekend was about much more than running a marathon.

Having said that, it was still a weekend about running, because eleven of my classmates were lacing up on Sunday morning for either the half marathon or the full, and I decided that this was my big opportunity to set a P.R. in ringing my cowbell!!
Extra bonus: Julie, my dear friend and roommate from my first two years at West Point, joined us in Raleigh as a non-runner, too, and having seen each other exactly one time since the day after graduation 17 years ago, it was an awesome opportunity to just hang out for a few hours and enjoy being together again.

The first thing I learned about being a proper spectator at a race: it takes serious preparation. Before I headed to Raleigh, I got as far as making enlarged copies of everyone's Firstie pictures from the Howitzer. My plan was to make a sign for everyone, so I spent 30 minutes at the copier giggling at how hilariously funny I am!

Unfortunately, that was about it for preparation. Oh, wait, I also remembered to grab Sharpies and glue sticks to take with me, and my two cowbells. Okay, now I've covered it. That was it for my preparation.

Fast forward to Saturday night, and Julie and I are in the hotel room talking and talking and talking and... then it was midnight, and I realized we hadn't made the signs yet! Spectator Fail #1: staying up until 1:30 in the morning because you haven't done the signs!!! Of course, in trying to figure what to write on the signs that was just the right balance of funny and motivational without being the corny, overused race sign cliches, we realized that is also harder than you would think it is. Luckily, at 1AM, everything is funny, so we managed to finish them up, turn off the lights, and get some sleep ahead of the big day.

Sunday morning, briiiiiiight and early - race day!!! We had planned to meet in the lobby with the whole group to get a group photo, but dang y'all, 6:00 is early. We didn't get the whole group together, but I managed Race Day Spectator Success #1: I was there, on time, with my camera!
We got some great shots of the group, showed them the awesomely hilarious race signs we made, and then the runners made their way to the start line while Julie and I hung out for a bit longer in the hotel lobby. As luck would have it, we randomly ran into another classmate and his wife who were down for the race. Winning! Definitely have to get a photo - and then not long after that, Spectator Fail #2: I inadvertently deleted the picture from the camera. DOH. Sorry, Kelly and Pete!!!!

The rest of the girls showed up, we took our last photos, even got face tattoos (Go Army!), and then... then we realized that the glue stick we used had apparently been in my desk drawer since the last time Julie and I had seen each other twelve years prior, because the pictures starting peeling off the signs. No need to panic - the front desk had tape! Problem solved, signs ready to go, and we were out the door to the start line.

There is nothing like the energy of a big race at the start line. Raleigh had over 12,500 runners between the half marathon and the full 26.2 distance, and the air was electric. With friends in lots of different corrals, I did my best to find them, and managed to capture a little bit of the fun of anticipation:
It was also my first time seeing the actual start of the race from the vantage point of a spectator, and that was really, really fun. As a runner, I definitely feed off the vibes from the crowd, and am always so thankful for those who line the streets to yell words of encouragement and make noise for the competitors. But there is an energy for those of us on the sidelines, too, and the cheering from one person to the next builds and builds throughout the crowd until it's a veritable frenzy of positive energy. What I've never appreciated before Raleigh, though, was how hard it is to pick our your friends in the crowd of a huge race. Even with the corrals releasing with time between, we only saw a couple of the folks we were looking for, so after getting our first cowbell ringing in, we decided to get going.
The plan: hop in the car, get out on the course, and find our friends on various points along the way so that we could cheer and take pictures.

Spectator Fail #3: we were parked at a point that made it impossible to get outside of the course.

It had never crossed my mind that we should look at the map ahead of time, pick specific spots to park and cheer along the route, and know at about what time we should be at each spot. Lesson learned (the hard way)! We had gotten in the car, of course, and didn't figure out that we were stuck until we'd driven in circles for about 30 minutes. At that point, we couldn't even get back to the hotel without risking missing our friends along the way - some of those ladies are wicked fast - so we parked and started hiking to where we thought we could catch a glimpse of the runners. We got LUCKY - we did see two of the women, but Spectator Fail #4: I got so excited to see Christie and Heather I forgot to take pictures!!! DOH!!!

At least we rang the cowbells, though, and I think we managed to grab the right posters for each of them. Of course, at this point Julie and I had driven in circles; rang the cowbell; missed breakfast; and had no coffee. Eesh. Coffee - that was a priority at this point. Thank the good Lord it was a beautiful day, and Raleigh is a beautiful city, so other than my broken foot, it was the perfect morning for a stroll around downtown. We turned a corner to head back toward the finish to make sure we didn't miss our fastest friends and found... *insert choirs of angels singing here*...

KRISPY KREME!!! Spectator Success #2: we had coffee and donuts in the down time between seeing friends on the course. And based on the line, I think that particular Krispy Kreme location had record sales that Sunday morning!!

We were on a roll at this point - we had our coffee, we were headed back to the finish line, and the timing was excellent. We got to see the fastest of the fast - which included Jim, the intrepid husband of our classmate Heather, who had so graciously welcomed us into his home and been the uncomplaining photographer for all of our group photos.

Turns out, dude has some WHEELS.
1:35:59 - in top 1% of finishers!!
Julie and I kept our eyes peeled, and it wasn't long until Julie ran by, then Heather:
Julie ran a 1:50:09 and Heather a 1:53:26... smokin' fast...
At this point, even as a spectator, I was hot and thirsty. Spectator Fail #5: I hadn't brought any water out on the course with me. I didn't account for the fact that I would be on my feet as long, or longer, than the runners, and there are no aid station for the cowbell ringers! 

Lucky for us, spectating didn't require going up and down all of those hills - we had driven part of the course the night before, and I had looked at the elevation chart, and I knew this was a tough one. Tougher, I think, than the Hogeye Marathon I had run a couple of weeks before. Throw in the temperatures approaching the high 70's, and it was a very tough day on the course.

After Julie and Heather ran by, the finishers began to come fast and furious. Julie and I yelled and rang the cowbell for as many as we could, knowing that this last corner to turn toward the finish line came at the top of yet another hill, and it was getting hotter and tougher out there for all of the competitors.
Spectator Success #3: setting up camp near the finish line is awesome. The smiles and determination I saw on the faces of the runners gave me chills, even moved me to tears a few times. 

The half marathoners continued to stream by, and despite Spectator Fail #6, somehow missing two of our friends in the crowd, we yelled and held the signs and rang the cowbells and took pictures and in general had a blast. 

Spectator Success #4: I got some great photos. Of all of the pictures I manage to get during the race, there were none better than when Missy and Ali ran by. The spirit of the weekend could not have been better expressed than by the joy on their faces and the victory in their body language!!
The runners were coming fast and furious now; we kept our eyes peeled for the friends still on the course. They came by one by one, and I felt like I shared the joy and triumph with each of them. 
As my friends finished, they returned back to hang out and enjoy each other's company: 

We laughed about the signs, and reveled in each others' company and accomplishments. The joy and elation was a palpable thing!

The half marathoners had all finished. Now... now it was time for the two intrepid marathoners to make their way to the finish line. Jason and Rachael, Rachael and Jason... we had spent months sharing our stories of miserably cold winter training runs; dealing with injuries; and learning how to mentally prepare for a race. 

Jason is a seasoned marathoner - in fact, he's an ultra marathoner, having run the JFK 50 miler last November. I knew he had a time goal for finishing this one, but nobody counts on hills like Raleigh had and temperatures approaching 80 by the time you finish. As he came up that last hill, he looked strong, but I could tell from the look on his face he had already mentally accepted that he wouldn't hit his time goal. I think, though, that runners never forget that the gift is truly in the ability to run. 
This was Rachael's first marathon, inspired to honor Jaimie's life and memory, and nothing about getting to the start line had been easy. Knee pain had almost hobbled her during her training; Aleve and ice packs had become constant companions. The strength and grit she showed just getting to the starting line was such an inspiration. As I saw her in the distance, coming up that hill, I was overcome - pride in her doing this thing, sadness that I couldn't be out there with her, love for all of the friends who had come together this weekend. I yelled for all I was worth, and the look on her face as she saw all of us waiting for her will always be with me.
She had made it - everyone had. It was time to make our way back to the finish line, to celebrate, relax, recover.

Spectator Success #5, and this one trumps all of the fails: I was there. It's a powerful thing to be a spectator of strong, beautiful women as they complete a journey - not of just 13.1 or 26.2 miles, and all of the training that led up to it, but also in finding some closure from a loss and the advent of a new journey of friendship and rediscovery of the bonds of the Long Gray Line.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Feature: Bunny ears and big kid shoes

While at school for a Family Fun Night a few weeks ago, I stopped to look at the artwork from John's class on the board. They had obviously been learning to tie shoes with shoelaces, that momentous point in a child's life when he graduates from velcro.
Bunny ears, Bunny ears, playing by a tree. Criss-crossed the tree, trying to catch me. Bunny ears, Bunny ears, jumped into the hole, popped out the other side beautiful and bold.
I kind of feel like I should have been the one to teach John how to tie his shoes, but honestly, he's still in velcro. The need hasn't arisen yet. When it does, though, at least he'll have a head start on knowing how to do it, even if he needs a little bit of practice.

He just may not have such fancy shoes.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The smallest sorority in the world

It's been almost a year since my West Point class lost Jaimie. It was a stunning, heart wrenching moment for each of us when we learned of her death, but time has a way of marching on, of continuing its inexorable journey forward. Losing her all these years after graduation, when our friends still in uniform are senior officers who we don't expect to be in the direct line of fire while deployed, was different than when we lost Eric, Matt, Phil, Michael, Mark, Ian. There's a somber understanding that as lieutenants and captains, your friends are the ones on patrol; the ones manning the forward units. We thought we were past that; we had come through the killing years with irreplaceable losses but with fewer than some of the classes that followed us.

As with all sorrow, though, hope and love can bloom. Our entire class felt the loss, but inside the much smaller circle of women from the Class of '97, a seed was planted that has bloomed into something more. It began with flowers for the funeral, and continued with a dinner gathering in Washington, D.C. The camaraderie and the voices of support gained momentum, and we settled on a date to reconnect again, a mini-reunion of the women of '97. After months of anticipation, over the course of the weekend, 14 of the 94 women that graduated together got together in Raleigh to run, to celebrate, to laugh, to support each other, and to even get to know those with whom, up to this point, we had only shared the bonds of the Long Gray Line. 
L to R: Karen, Giselle, Dana, Julie, Rachael, Leah, Julie, Melissa, Heather, Ali, me, Heather & Christie
And Jason in the back - he had a few hours to see what it was like for FOUR YEARS for us, ha!
I've said for many years that as a veteran of the United States Army, I'm a member of the biggest fraternity in the world. Last weekend, though, I realized something far more powerful, and much closer to my heart: as a West Point woman, I'm a very proud member of the smallest sorority in the world. 

It is no secret that the young men and women who enter West Point are some of the brightest our country has to offer. Less often discussed is the fact that these are also some of the most competitive people you'll ever meet. That desire to compete and to win is heightened in the crucible of the cadet experience, further amplified amongst many of the women of the class who not only intend to prove themselves broadly, but within the smaller peer set of women. It was often a zero sum game; for someone to be the best, she had to do so at the expense of someone else. 

I'm not convinced that atmosphere is unique to West Point, but I cannot imagine that any other institution of higher learning had the ratio, the pressure, the culture of competitiveness quite like ours. It was hard just to make it, and frequently, we made it harder on each other. 

As we've aged, I think we've all grown into our own skin. We have become confident, successful women who measure our success not in others' failings; not in physical appearance; not in class rank. Our success lies in being the best versions of ourselves we can be, in striving everyday to be that better person. The strength of our character now shines in our support for each other, in our refusal to judge and our insistence on being each others' most vocal cheerleaders. 

We spent much of last weekend together laughing and telling stories from school, sharing the latest on our girlfriends who weren't there, and celebrating who we've each become. It was an energizing, affirming weekend like I've never had, and I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I wish we had done this years earlier. It's a catch 22 though, I think. Years ago, I don't know that we would've been in a place to understand why we're so important to each other. 

My friend Melissa summed it up perfectly when she said:
"We spent four years trying to be one of the guys, only to realize now that our strength lies in being one of the girls."
Jaimie will always be missed; the loss will always be felt. But with her passing, the West Point women of the Class of 1997 received the priceless gift of understanding just how important we are to each other. 
Heather, Giselle, Melissa, Ali, Julie, me and Rachael
Proudly wearing our shirts to remember our USMA '97 fallen
With Pride We Defend. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Feature: My Future Scientist

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, maybe a thousand times: my kids can be anything they want to be when they grow up.

As long as it's a scientist or engineer.

I've been delighted with Caroline's recent stories about what they're learning in GT. Most recently, she came home totally enthused about an experiment in circuitry that involved C batteries; aluminum foil; and a light bulb. She was the first one in her class to get the light bulb to light up, and I've taken to calling her my little Electrical Engineer.

Today, some other GT work came home, and I feel like I may need to alternate between giving her Juice props and encouraging a field that mostly eluded me in my academic career: Chemistry.

The GT unit they've spent several weeks on is called "Science on a Shoestring," but it has included some pretty advanced topics, including an overview of the periodic table. Chemistry was never my strong suit. Physics? No problem. Chemistry? Never could get those equations to balance quite right. So I'm pretty excited that it's been introduced in third grade, and far more excited that Caroline is so interested in it.

Part of the unit was learning about famous scientists, and you can see here that Caroline chose Marie Curie:
We stand on the shoulders of giants, the women of the 21st century. I hope that Caroline is inspired to someday join their ranks.

The Things They Say: car shopping

I have the day off for the Easter weekend, and Justin and I are headed out to go car shopping this morning. We have narrowed down our options and were discussing them on the way to mass last night in the car. The kids (amazingly) didn't interrupt or voice their own opinions, but that's probably more related to their focus on their Happy Meal toys than on not having an opinion. They always have an opinion.

As they say, little pitchers have big ears, and Caroline clearly heard the car discussion, because this morning she asked:

Caroline: Mommy, do you know what kind of car you're going to get yet?
Mommy: No, not yet, but we know which ones we're going to look at.
John: You should get a limousine!
Caroline: John, that wouldn't even fit in the garage.

But for the garage, it would've been a great idea...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Feature: May the Force be with you

When it comes to crafting, I have a bad habit of buying cool supplies without a specific project in mind. That typically results in piles of cool stuff that have no use.

I did that in a trip to the fabric store while home in Houston last year, when I came across some Star Wars fabric that had John's name written all over it. 

It took me six months to figure out what to do with it, but several weeks ago I finally figured it out:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Gratitudes: Finding the silver lining

Not going to lie: I was NOT planning on this again:
It hasn't even been a full year since I broke my ankle, and here I am, back in das boot. This time, it's a "stress reaction" in the third metatarsal, and I ain't playin'. No running 18 miles on a broken bone this time. It was straight to the doctor, paid attention to the pain signals my body was sending me, and waited hopefully for a diagnosis that would allow me to do Raleigh on Sunday

You know, a diagnosis like 1) a bruised tendon or 2) severe tendinitis or 3) arthritis. 

Runners be crazy. 

It all started last Friday morning during a routine run, when right around the halfway point as we were headed back, I got this really weird, shooting pain right through the middle of my foot. I mentioned it to my buddies, and one even asked if I wanted to stop and walk, but I said "nah, let's just keep going." It hurt badly enough by midday that I figured I wouldn't do my Saturday run, and then I woke up Saturday with bruising and swelling, and couldn't put any weight on it.

Not good. I had an epic meltdown worthy of a seven year old around noon, then pulled myself back together for the rest of the weekend.

Unlike last year when I wanted to just gut it out and wait it out, I called my ortho over the weekend, left a message for an appointment, and called again first thing Monday morning. I got an afternoon appointment for X-rays and was encouraged when they came back "without an obvious break," as the doc said:
I know, that's some bunion, huh?
To which I responded immediately, "so I can run!"

Bless his heart, he has so much patience with idiot runners like me. 

No, no running. Now you can go get an MRI. So I dutifully made the appointment, got the MRI done yesterday, and headed back for the consult on the results today. I'm clearly no doctor, but even I could tell right away that my third metatarsal just ain't right:

And when the orthopedic surgeon tells you that a bit more running could've snapped it, and snapping it could've meant surgery and a screw in your foot, you get a little bit more motivated to be a compliant patient. So into the boot I went, and weirdly, I'm handling it without even the thought of another meltdown. 

In fact, I've decided that there are Gratitudes to go with what I could call a series of unfortunate events, but which instead I'll call "just my life."

  1. If I had actually gotten into Boston with my BQ instead of what I thought at the time was a major disappointment, I'd be infinitely more crushed right now that I got in and couldn't run because of injury. 
  2. If I had decided to train hard core and requalify for Boston with Raleigh or Garmin as my qualifying attempt and then couldn't race because of injury, I would've been just plain mad. 
  3. This weekend, I had planned to run Raleigh as part of a reunion weekend with some of my female West Point classmates. Instead, I'll get to relax, enjoy their company, cheer them on, make race signs, and ring that cowbell for all it's worth for each one of them who makes it to the start line. 
  4. I don't have a total "no workout" ban like last summer, so I can try once again to do some upper body and core work, two things that are woefully lacking from my fitness routine and that could, ultimately, actually make me a better runner. 
  5. Speaking of things that could make me a better runner, a bum foot means I can get back in the pool earlier than planned. I love to swim - so much that I swam Masters when we lived in Ohio - but have pivoted to running so much that I haven't been in the pool in months. This gives me the time to rediscover the joy of swimming. 
  6. I won't be gone two weekends in April, and won't be running a marathon the morning of John's 7th birthday. While I was looking forward to all of my planned races, the kids are definitely excited that I will be home those days!
I'm not going to pretend I'm not disappointed or upset. I love to run marathons; I really had my heart set on Going for Gold; and there's money already spent on race fees, though the amount pales in comparison to out of pocket costs for, say, foot surgery. There's also the little voice inside my head that surfaces from 20 years ago at West Point telling me to suck it up and work through the pain, that sitting out is for soft people and if I was really hard core, I'd gut it out and get it done. 

Thankfully, there are far, far more voices right here with me at home, at work, via text, email and Facebook messages telling me to stay off of it, rest, and heal. I'm grateful for those voices, and they easily drown out the one in my head.

So four weeks of no running, and then I'll reevaluate my running routine from there. I have a feeling my 30-40 mile per week days are over; the pool and the bike will get more attention, and I'll be better for it all around. I'm super excited about seeing my girlfriends this weekend, and there will still be a race report - it will just be from a different point of view. In fact, I think my vantage point shifted just a little bit with this diagnosis, but from here, it all still looks good.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Race Report: The Hogeye Marathon 2014

Hometown races: you can't beat 'em. No travel, no sleeping in a hotel bed, no taking a chance on restaurant food, no navigation of unfamiliar city streets at 4:30am on race day. Packet pick up can be accomplished as part of Saturday's errands, you run into friends at the expo without prior planning, and even get to meet an NFL Tight End because he's home during the off-season, helping coach at a Razorback football clinic.

The Hogeye Marathon is the oldest marathon in Arkansas, and has quite a history. Its course has changed over the years, no longer going to the town of Hogeye and back (and if you think Hogeye is an unusual name for a town, then you need to do a little more research, because there are some awesomely crazy town names in Arkansas). It is run fully inside the city limits of Fayetteville, mostly on our amazing trail system.

Before we get to that, though... the start line. Race day weather was perfect, which after Louisiana I couldn't believe I'd get lucky enough to have two races in a row with beautiful weather. The 36 degree temperature let me enjoy the start line just waiting, hanging out with friends and making some new ones, too. In my first race for Gold, it was fun to see a few other Maniacs ready to take on the Hogeye!
The only pre-race mishap I made was not starting my Garmin early enough. I figured it wouldn't have a problem finding the satellites - downtown Fayetteville isn't exactly crowded with concrete and glass skyscrapers - but I figured wrong, and when the gun went off, my Garmin wasn't ready. Everybody knows that if a run isn't on the Garmin, then it doesn't count. I couldn't start the race without my Garmin!! PANIC!!!! The crowd began moving forward, and though it wasn't a very big crowd (the entire race, marathoners, half-marathoners and relayers together, was about 1,700 strong), I kept slipping back in the pack while I waited for my watch. FINALLY it synced with the satellites, I began moving forward, and hit start as I crossed the start line. Crisis averted!

I mentioned that the race is largely run along the Fayetteville trail system,  which I run almost every single time I go out for a run, four or five times a week. You'd think I'd remember just exactly how H-I-L-L-Y that dang course is. I mean, we're in the foothills of the Ozarks, and just north of the Boston Mountains. I run up and down hills on just about every run I do because there's no avoiding them. The thing is, most of my runs typically go just six to eight miles, so while there might be a wicked hill in there, you get it done, and the rest is a bit of up and down, total elevation gains in the 100-200ft range for a typical run. When you're running 26.2 miles, though, you encounter a lot more than just one wicked hill. This particular race course puts the most challenging hills at the beginning.
And that's where my story of "Oops, I did it again" begins... with the first hills.

Knowing that I have a tendency to go out too fast, I made it a goal these past two months to work really, really hard on negative splitting my long runs. Start my Saturday morning runs with a pace of 9:00 per mile or slower, and then gradually get faster over the course of the run to finish with an average pace of somewhere between 8:45 and 9:00 per mile for the entire run. The theory was to create a habit so that, come race day, I would have the discipline and experience to hold back when the adrenaline of the start line kicks in. I did pretty well, keeping my weekend long runs close to goal pace, and negative splitting most of them.

Unfortunately, theory disproven. Not only was I hopped up on race-day adrenaline, I was far enough back that there was a bit of a crush, and I began weaving and dodging in an effort to get closer to the front where there was more elbow room. That also meant that I picked up the pace intentionally (doh!!) to pass this runner, then that runner, then this pack of side-by-side runners taking up the whole road. I share my wacky splits from the first eight miles as evidence:
It's pretty difficult to negative split a course when you start out with an 8:20. *sigh* At least I was conscious of my mistake this time, rather than thinking this was the easiest-race-ever and I-can-run-this-way-for-hours. I knew I was going to pay for it, and pay for it I did. But at least I got to see my husband, kids, and friends along the way. Hometown race, how I love thee...
Quite a bit of walking in the back half, and there is no doubt - I couldn't have done it without the help of my friends Hollan and Sarah along the way. Hollan ran with me from about mile 16 to 25, and if she hadn't been with me, there is no way I would've run as much as I did. The overly fast start wasn't just hard on my aerobic capacity later in the race; those wicked downhills did ten times more damage than the punishing uphills, and my quads were absolutely shredded by the back half of the race. I had pain in my right quad; pain in my left hamstring; pain on the bottom of my left foot. It's rare to run 26.2 miles and not hurt somewhere, but this one was really tough, because the hills just.don't.quit.

By the time Hollan and I parted ways at mile 25, I knew I was going to make it, but there was one more WICKED hill in front of me: the part of the trail that leads up to Maple Street, and then the final downhill to the finish. Hometown races always come through: there is absolutely nothing like seeing one of your best good running friends and her husband on the bridge above you as you loop around the trail, cheering you on, encouraging you to finish strong. As I came up to the bridge where Sarah and Jeff stood, she came alongside me as I shuffled and barely picked my feet up, step after step. I just said, "get me up the hill" and she did. I walked it; it was steep; but Sarah stayed with me, encouraging me all the way to the top, and gave me that last burst I needed to physically get over the hump.

Then... then, it was quite literally downhill from there. I barreled down that last hill, quads screaming, but thankfully, so was the crowd. The only true downside of a small race is that crowd support is sparse along the way. There were stretches where I didn't even have any other runners around me. But the last 100 feet to the finish line, there were crowds cheering, ringing cowbells, clapping, and encouraging me onward. And how wonderful to be able to see all the way down that last hill to the finish line, my destination in sight.

As I came across the line and looked to my left, there were my husband and kids - my biggest fans - cheering for me. My running twin Shauna and another good friend from my running group, Mary, were there, too, to support me and celebrate the joy of finishing the race. Joy and silliness abound in a hometown race called Hogeye, the place where the Razorbacks call home:
Hog nose on my face and on my medal!
While this race wasn't about time, considering how poorly I executed my race strategy, I think the time I turned in was pretty respectable, especially for the kind of elevation gains this course has:
Official time was actually 4:12:17, but
what's 15 seconds between friends?
This is the third year I've done the Hogeye - I did the marathon in 2012 and the relay in 2013. There is unfortunately some bad press on the race in the local running community for various reasons, but it's my hometown race and I think it's a really important part of life here in NW Arkansas. It is part of what makes Fayetteville such a wonderful place to live, and I want to support it.

It's time to change the narrative - this year, there were no apologies necessary. The race went off without a hitch, and was the best planned and best supported Hogeye I've done yet. The aid stations were top notch - water and Gatorade at every one, Clif Shots and Clif gels at multiple stations on the back half of the course, and medical and support personnel on bikes in various places to make sure everyone stayed safe. The volunteers making sure all of the runners stayed on the course and took the proper turns were wonderful - the only regret I have from the entire race is that I didn't get a picture of the signs that were on some of the city streets warning motorists that they needed to share the road with runners. They stated:
Punctution is everything, no?

If you've read my other recent thoughts on running, then you know this is the first in my quest for Maniac Gold; the first of my "marathon of marathons," if you will. The goal wasn't to run fast; the goal was to have fun.

I can say, without hesitation, mission accomplished.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Feature: Hot Wheels City

When I was a kid, my brother, sister and I would often take his cases of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars out back and build up fantastical cities in the flower beds. We'd make ramps out of mounds of dirt; line streets with twigs; use pine bark to note buildings and garages. My mom never complained about our digging in the dirt around the azalea bushes, and we would spend hours navigating tiny city streets in the back yard.

I had a flashback to that a couple of times this past week when I went out to our driveway to find chalk art covering our driveway. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was the same game, just a different medium. We had a Hot Wheel city out front.