Touring Detroit, MI

*This is about touring around the City of Detroit, MI and Windsor, Canada prior to the Detroit Free-Press Marathon.  The next post will concern itself entirely with just the marathon.  **

Friday.

We arrived in Detroit, Michigan, mid-morning.

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It wasn’t too chilly, not warm… just right for a fall race.

I’ve never been to Detroit. In fact, in making my plans for being there and in requesting the time off for a vacation, when I told people we were heading to Detroit, the question was always, “Why, though?”  An understanding seems to hold over people that Detroit doesn’t actually have much to offer tourists.  At least, not beyond the criminal dangers.  I was even asked if I was going to make sure I brought my gun along.  My husband cracked jokes that we were going to see that Robocop wasn’t just a fiction movie, but a documentary of Detroit.

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Let me say, first impressions of the town made me worry that my husband and friends were right.  The first few buildings we passed were abandoned and decrepit.  There were fenced-in, empty lots, with trash bags and trash piling so high along the fences in areas that the trash was tumbling over to the sidewalk and streets. And many of the streets into town were hellishly potholed.

I fretted as we checked into the hotel – the Double Tree at Fort Selby…  it’s the choice hotel for being in town for the marathon, really.  Mere blocks from the start and finish lines, blocks from the convention center, and not so deep downtown that you fight traffic to get in and out of the City from it. Valets accost you from the get-go, advising that the only way to park for the hotel is by valet.  It’s not true, but the hotel also did not recommend using the nearby lots for security reasons.  Valet said they’d be $32/night, and charged to the room as part of the stay, but that was a lie.  In fact, it was cheaper!   At $25/night for our stay at least.  Even the charge for the hotel was proposed to be higher than it was when we actually checked out.  I have no complaints about this hotel.  Well. The faucet in the bathroom leaked a lot and the water pressure in general was mostly non-existent, but the staff was nice and the host on our first day gave us a post it note containing all the places he recommended we go to eat.  He was the one who clued us in about Detroit’s big secret:  It’s a foodie town now.

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We set out around noon to grab our kits from the expo.  The expo hadn’t opened yet, and wouldn’t for another hour or so, but there was a line forming already.  We opted to grab some lunch and come back.

At this point, I’m torn…. Do I turn this into a blog about the amazing food and people in Detroit?  Do I wax on about how pleasant people were and the surprise friendliness in a very northern city?  Or do I stick to the point of the blog in general and just talk about the marathon itself?

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The fact is.  I have to tell you all of it.  Because if we were just there for the run and gone, the experience of that City would be cheapened.  I think a lot of that marathon that I enjoyed was because of how I enjoyed the town before I went into it.  Otherwise, folks, this was a quiet marathon…. nothing like the big city stuff you get from Chicago or New York….  And nothing like the dying city you get from Tulsa’s Route 66 Marathon.  No.  This city is still kicking, and to know that, you have to be here for more than a quiet marathon.  You have to see the city as well as run through it.

The Expo wasn’t anything special.  Typical expo setting.  My husband and I signed up for international events, so we were expected to show our passports to get our kits, which was no big deal for us.  The most notable thing about the whole situation was the amount of police in the area while getting our kits.  There were clusters of them everywhere in that part of the event.   The stick guy wanted to demo the stick for me, but I told him I have one and Love it…and he gave me a sticker… they have a sticker specifically for if you say, “I love the stick”.  Guys.

After the expo, my husband and I decided to wander the City for some food.  With our car safely tucked away in whatever pocket realm the valet shoves the vehicles in here, we would determine a heading for wherever we were going to go and just walk.  On our way in, my husband noticed a large building bearing the signage claiming to be Michigan’s oldest, and one of the largest used and rare bookstores.  We decided a couple hours spent wandering in this shop would give us something low-intensity to do and keep us out of the cold.

Marathon-wisdom and unwritten (Though often, over-written by any and every magazine) rules of marathoning will tell you don’t spend too much time on your feet the days before a marathon. I’m here to tell you that maybe that is a true thing… if you’re aiming for Boston times or to win or PR.  But my training season has been probably the shittiest I’ve ever run.   I had my brain set on an outcome of “hopefully it’ll only be 4 hours and 45 minutes for this one…” and I was fearing entirely that I would run a 6-hour marathon sufferfest.  After all, that’s what all my training was pointing toward.  Both of my 20-mile runs took 5 hours or more to do.  True, I didn’t just go out and run them, I opted a run/walk group to start one with and an ultra-runner who hates going the full distance in one go to train with on those runs.  But I still struggled, and that hurt my confidence a lot.  I confided a lot of concern about the distance to my husband in the build up to the marathon.  And doing these walks through the city to our destinations actually did help keep my nervousness in check.  Moving would be better than laying around reading – or just thinking about how much I expected my marathon to suck on Sunday.  No.  We needed to tour.

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The bookstore was five floors of “holy hell are they for real?”  It was like something out of a movie or novel itself.  While my husband paced through the various floors and looked at all the offerings, I found myself sitting on the floor in the back of a dark 2ndfloor paging through magic books to see if any were worth picking up. Books and magazines from the 1920s on with magic tricks and notes on how to present the tricks…  I was super tempted.  There were signs everywhere about “no professional photography” so I figured I was safe to take a couple photos of the place.  Lemme tell you.  I almost suspect that this bookstore exists in every City, at every time. That you could go through the wrong door and end up not in the City you started in.

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The bookstore was a good diversion, but it did not protect us from the chill as the cold settled into the air of Detroit.  It doesn’t matter that most of my training was in 90-degree days, or that up until the last week, the temps have been in the 70-80s (F).  No.  We were suddenly going to have 30s and “feels like temps” in the 20s for race weekend.

As we paced the many, many stacks, the cold seeped into the building.  Maybe it was me, sitting in that dark back corner, but it only added to the place’s mystique.  To be fair, back on the 1stfloor, where people were more available to be observed as they entered and left, and where the lights were on full blast, and they had what they called “comfy chairs’ for people to sit and relax and read. Here, I found my space to people watch. Everyone, from customers to workers were so kind and smiled as our eyes caught.  Maybe the exterior of this building fit the theme of what I expected from Detroit, but in the end, the people were not dilapidated.  The people were not spent and torn.  The people, were the experience.

When I finally convinced my husband that there was more to the world than this bookstore, like… food… we were able to leave.  We headed into downtown, taking one of the recommendations from the list given us by the hotel host.  Wright and Co. was a small plate, steam-punkish, and almost hidden away gem for our first dinner in Detroit.  My husband and I laughed over the negative reviews we found – one lady proclaiming that the place was awful because she couldn’t find the entrance….  Okay, she may have been onto something.  The entrance being a rear building side door used for residents of the apartments as well.  I did stare dumbly at the elevator buttons for a long time before my husband located the actual elevator buttons and got us started up.

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Wright and Co, sits on the second floor, has a dark atmosphere, and serves amazing food and drinks for sharing. Another poor review was from a man who bemoaned that this was the worst place to go on a date because the plates were so small and “you’ll never get full.”

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Readers.  This is the ideal place to take someone for a date. Women don’t want to feel or look like they’re overeating on a date, and they want real food more often than not – not to feel obligated to have salads.  It’s a bit pricey… but if you want a special night, of really good food and drinks… then this is a perfect date night spot.  My husband entertained ourselves over the amazing food trying to guess what that bad rater thought he was getting into with this place…. And how badly his date night must have gone.

Our date night, on the other hand, went beautifully.  We were entertained by the atmosphere, and the people around us, and the staff were excellent.  We left the place for our walk home in the brisk air.  Brisk.  Soberingly brisk.  With rain drops.  Our weekend was turning cold.

Our first night proved two points:  one, that it is excellent to be so near the race event placements because trying to get the car in and out of parking is lame as helllll.   But also.  It’s lovely to sleep until the last minute and then still make it to the race start without issue or concern.  But. On the other side of this coin, we have the overnight pre-race set up.

Friday into Saturday, the crews worked all night long, dropping things, backing up beepy trucks, and yelling at each other.  All. Night.  Long.  After all, they had to set up for Saturday’s 5 and 10ks.  Which I thought were farther away from our hotel than the marathon and half marathon, but in a city, sounds echo.  In the end, it was a long, very unrestful night.

Saturday.

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Saturday, we slept in a little, and woke for an easy shake out run of a little more than 2 miles.  We made our way to the river front, where we determined, based on the statues there, that Detroit is really a crashed space ship… and we had found the Stargate.

 

The riverfront was actually quite pretty.  And, as we made our way back toward our hotel, was full of other runners out getting the traditional miles before the race run in.  I think I had more fun with the run than my husband, but he did appreciate being out there for it.  It was perfect weather for being out on a run.  And it was a beautiful sun rise over the river and viewing Canada.

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We then made our walk toward another one of our hotel host’s recommended food spots.  It’s a good thing we made the journey on foot again, since parking is a serious premium in this City.  There was a tailgate party for the big rivalry sportball game that would be played that day.  There were people everywhere.   And the breakfast spot we chose, a place called Park and Rec was starting to get crowded all over for the brunch hour rush.  We managed seats pretty quickly, despite the crowd, at the “bar”, and with coffees, menus, and a mimosa ordered, we were comfy to watch the crowd flow around us.  The restaurant was very small, for the amount of people there – both serving, served, and waiting to eat.  We were lucky getting in like we did.  The menu was a bit…  specialized… which isn’t bad, just, be sure about what you want.  I ordered the avocado toast – which is usually my solid jam – with a poached egg added to the dish.  They cover the avocado toast with a super sweet candied pistachio… and it turns the dish from something savory to something a bit too sweet.  And.  It is small. Even with the egg it was not so much a filling meal, but it was a delicious one.  For my day, it was fine, but it wasn’t what I expected from ordering avocado toast in the past.  The mimosa was wonderful, and the coffee were also delicious.  In all, the atmosphere here and the food was great, but be sure to choose your food appropriately.

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We wandered back to the hotel, packed some snacks, and decided to make our way across the boarder for, as sad as it may be, our first trip out of the US together.  Now, we’ve both been to other countries on our own while we were dating.  He’s gone to Paris and England, and I’ve been to Ireland a couple of times and Canada a few times before.  But this, this was our first time with each other, leaving the US.  And it was to Windsor, of all places.

I’m telling you guys, a trip across that bridge into Canada is worth it!  That view, though!  And, while true, we would be running that bridge the next day, it was still worth seeing from the car as well.  Who doesn’t like a tour of the course before race day?  Though, our plan was not to check out the course – I actually think I do better when I don’t know what’s facing me.  The course becomes a surprise that way.  We found a national park – “the southernmost point of Canada” – called Point Pelle.  It was supposed to have all manner of wildlife and birds and whatnot and we were excited to get there.

Except that getting there was a bit of an adventure.  Between not thinking about getting a map prior to leaving the US, not having international data plans for accessing directions on line, and the many, many, many detours that Canada had set up taking us away from the main routes and what our screen captures of directions were telling us to do – it was an educated guessing game to get to the park.  But it was WORTH IT!

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Seriously folks, if you ever get the chance to head out to Detroit, and you can swing a day trip into Canada… it’s about an hour, but it’s completely worth it if you like natural sights.

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While there, a storm blew in and terrorized the area, bringing the temps down even lower than they were to start, and dropping hail on us.  We puttered the gift shop before turning back to US soil.

Back in Detroit, we headed to another location on the list from our Hotel Host.  Lumen was busy as we (over)paid to park in the lot beside it. Hail was screaming down on us now, and it looked like snow, with it collecting all over the roads and other vehicles.  Full disclosure, readers?  I didn’t want to run this marathon.  My training was absolute shit all summer coming toward this race, and I was honestly worried that it would take 6 or more hours for me to do this run.  I kept trying to talk myself into believing that even if it went down to a sufferfest, I’d still manage about 4:30 hrs…   Watching that hailstorm from the car outside our dinner spot, I knew…I knew that if I woke up and the weather was the same in the morning, I would not be running.

Dinner, like every other meal we went for in this City was delicious and wonderful.  The staff at Lumen were very kind and pleasant – the manager allowing us to squeeze into a table between reservations on it.  My husband was blown away by his pot roast.  My gnocchi was pretty much the best thing I’d ever had. We shared an appetizer of the fries, and that was unbelievable.  It was just fries for the love of God, but they were delicious!

Fully carbed and ready to … fall completely asleep…  we went out into the very, very cold night and drove home to try and get as much sleep as possible before the start of what would be my 24thmarathon.

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To Be Continued….

 

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The Greatest

Muhammad Ali.
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Everyone knows the name…especially after this week, with his death.

I knew he was a great boxer.  I knew he was a solid athlete and that he had brought the gold to USA in the Olympics once.  I don’t know the year.  I didn’t even know he was from, let along had been living, in Louisville, KY until a couple days ago….and I got invited to go to the memorial after his burial.

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I learned a lot yesterday.  About the brilliant athlete who came home wearing the Olympic gold, walked into a restaurant, and was still denied service on the color of his skin.  A man who was pushing so hard to create an identity that his fellow Americans, no matter the color of skin, would recognize as “somebody” and having “worth“.  I learned about the Olympic champion who left that restaurant, without his cheeseburger and coke, and threw his gold medal into the river.  His name was known everywhere.  He was the greatest.  And yet, he was still being judged as “lesser” because of his skin.
Anyone would be frustrated in that.

Hell, I found common ground in that story.
I worked and proved myself to be very good at what I was working in….  I was repeatedly recognized, by outside groups and individuals, for the things I achieved .  Repeatedly touted as “great” at what I was doing. Only to be treated as “incapable” and “weak” by my own workplace for no other reason than my gender.  Now, I’m not saying I know the struggle of the Blacks, or the Jews, or anyone else our Country gets up it’s ass to treat like shit at any given time.  I don’t.  That’s a different level of struggle.
But I do know what it is to show up, do the work, excel or be “great” at what I’m doing – bringing honor to a place, and then return to that place only to have them remind you that “you ain’t shit”.  I understand that struggle all too well.

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Ali’s struggle went to a bigger scale.  He stood against the segregation.  He stood against the maltreatment and violence among religions.  He stood against a war he didn’t believe in and that his religion forbade him from.  (“No ‘Cong ever called me a Nigger, I don’t have any fight against them”).  He called for America to fix the problems at home first…to find peace.  He made a number of friends, spanning all over the faiths, all over the races…all over the world.

Ali wasn’t about just the struggle of the Blacks.  He was about everyone’s struggle.
The People’s Champ” …  Such a fitting title, for such an amazing person.

And then I learned about Mohammad Ali, the person beyond the athlete.

I learned that he was such an inspiration to this City, that even the “ordinary”…meaning not famous… people felt comfortable around him.  He was always gratuitous with his time, and his fame, and especially with his love and encouragement.  He inspired the African American race, yes.  There’s no doubt about that.  Dr Kevin Cosby, a speaker at the memorial, pointed out that Ali gave the Black People a sense of “somebodyness”.  A sense of worth.  And it’s true.  He showed a down-trodden and abused class of people that they were still people.  And that they deserved rights as well.  images-2But it wasn’t just Blacks that found Ali’s inspiration in life.  All races were inspired by the man.  He showed the inner city youth that they could get somewhere in life if they worked at it.  He showed all of us that great things could be achieved through peace.  Through communication and working together…. never  through  violence and oppression.

Ali the person made connections and brought people together.  He wanted everyone to find goodness, give goodness, and grow the world in peace and cooperation.  He had athlete friends.  He had politician friends.  He had friends that spanned the cultures, the world, and the religions.  This was so very apparent at the memorial.

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The memorial was beautiful.  As was the funeral procession.
Ali’s daughter posted on social media about the outpouring of love the family saw from the City, as so many people lined the streets and chanted “Ali!  Ali!  Ali!” or threw flowers on the cars.

My Dad finally got to experience his dream.” She wrote, continuing, “He had a reoccurring dream he would tell us about.  He dreamed that he was running down Broadway in Louisville, and that all the people lined the road and cheered for him, and he would run, taking off in flight as the road stretched on.  Thank you all.

The image that sticks out to me so vividly from watching the funeral procession was the little kids who jogged along behind the hearse, shadow boxing.
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It was so beautiful, the inspiration and the love that the City felt from Ali…and to see that heaped back toward the family in this time of loss was more than inspiring.  It was beautiful.  It gave hope.  Hope that Ali’s dreams for a more unified and peaceful world could be found.  That injustices would someday come to an end.  That America would become, as one speaker at the funeral said: “A world leader, not through the already tried and failed tactics of domination and weapons, but through becoming a safe place; A country that welcomes people and allows them the freedoms already promised.  Lead the world through peace, rather than war.” (Paraphrased)

The memorial service consisted of a collection of religious leaders, famous individuals, and the Ali family coming together to share the heart of Ali’s dreams: That we all recognize that it doesn’t matter what color our skin is, what religion we pray through, what name we call God, or how much money we have.  We are all together, and we should be together as we work toward a great future.

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Rabbi Lerner – who called for Peace.  Peace among religions, among races, and for the people to demand that the in-coming president Drive that peace.

I want to share some statements from the speakers that really stuck with me…  Some spoke to me because my struggle finally came to a resolution and I felt that the sentiments matched my life on a level, some struck me because of what is important to my life and character, and some struck me because of the beauty and power they evoked as the life of this great person was shared with all of us.

One of the most powerful speakers was Dr. Kevin Cosby (Who sparked the MC to comment, “Never give a teenager a phone, and never give a preacher a microphone” jokingly, when he retook the podium).

Dr Cosby, like almost all of the speakers, was passionate when he spoke about Ali the person, and about the dreams Ali had for the world.  But what struck me was his point when he said:
“Louisville is known for two things, mainly:  Muhammad Ali and the Derby.   … We want you to come back, the first weekend in May, and we want you to visit us for the Derby.  We want you to bet on the horses.  But you have to know the rules… you have to know how a race works.  First, the horses are lined up in the pens at the start.  Everyone is in, and the horn sounds, and the race begins.  The horses run in a circle for two minutes.  Two minutes!  For Two minutes, they run in the mud.  They run in the mud and one will win.  And the winner is taken over to the winner’s circle, where a wreath is put around their neck.
You have to know the rules to bet on a horse race.  The rules are this:  You cannot bet on the horse after he is in the winner circle.  You have to bet on the horse while he is still in the mud.
That last sentiment…just that… That was powerful to me.

Among the religions and people present were the representatives of the Native American Nations:  Owen Lyons, Sidney Hill & Ernie Stevens, Chiefs, each one of them.  Sidney Hill said, “Values and principles will determine a person’s destiny.  And the same is true of nations.
He shared a story about how in the 90s, a Washington State Senator proposed a bill that would nullify all the agreements and treaties signed by the US Government with the Native American Nations.  And when that happened, Native Peoples walked from the west to DC…and Ali walked with them.

Ali was the type of person who stood with anyone who was oppressed.
He also stood with his friends when they were honored.

Billy Crystal shared a story about how Ali, this famous Muslim, went to see his friend (“little brother”) Crystal being honored as a Jew by the Jewish Community.  He talked about how Ali going to that event helped Crystal raise enough funds that he could start a program at the Jewish University that promoted peace among traditionally violent religious through the arts.  Crystal noted that Ali had a great sense of humor.  Important, I felt, given that he had to face so much adversity to get to where he could make differences and inspire people.
Crystal then described Ali as a lightning bolt.  Beautiful and powerful.  And in the moment it strikes it lights up everything.  Ali, according to Crystal, struck America in a dark time, and was able to illuminate the wrongs at the time…the discrimination, the hatred, the pride.  And by his beauty in how he struck, he was able to inspire us to do better.

Funeral Held For Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali In His Hometown Of Louisville, Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, KY – JUNE 10: Lonnie Ali speaks during a memorial service for boxing legend Muhammad Ali on June 10, 2016 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali died June 3 of complications from Parkinson’s disease. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Ali’s widow, Lonnie, spoke.  She spoke that Ali wanted more than anything, peace.  She said that yes, there were bad cops (And that’s so true), but she said this,
America must never forget that when a cop and an inner city kid Talk, miracles happen.”
And I loved this sentiment.  It spoke to how a white cop stopped an upset kid on the street, sat down and spoke with him, and encouraged the kid (who’s bike was stolen) not to seek revenge, but rather to join the cop at a gym…where the kid learned boxing… Where that poor inner city kid started on a path to make such a huge difference in the world.  Sociology / Criminology will show any of its students that the police are the “gate keepers”, and that how they handle a young person in a difficult situation in the ghetto can make or break an amazing future for that kid.

With regard to the police and segregation and brutality… the message was clear that, yes it does happen (Again.  YES!  It is still rampant), but that there are still good people wearing those uniforms who want to help make the change (YES!  Very true).  All the speakers made it clear that everyone needed to remember that when it came to Muslims, Christians, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, or Police – there will be bad people, but a few bad people do not spoil all of the people.

Lonnie Ali also said, “It is far more difficult to give up one self in the pursuit of peace, than it is to take up arms in violence.”  She said this, remarking upon how despite all the bitterness that Ali could have taken on through the hardships – through being stripped of his titles and imprisoned because he disagreed with a war in a different country when there was a war on race happening hourly on the streets of America.  Despite all that, he held on to peace and worked through the difficulty to earn his place back.
He disagreed with the government, but he didn’t fight it and he didn’t run from it.

Then a young woman took the podium.  Not a relation of the family, not a famous movie star or politician.  This girl, I suspect, won the opportunity to share what the legacy of Ali brought to her life, and how learning his story and struggles helped her to feel proud in her skin and how it inspired her to move beyond “the rocks thrown” by her haters and detractors.  Natasha Mundkur said in her speech, “Impossible is not a fact.  Impossible is an opinion.  Impossible is nothing.”  Then,   “Impossible is not enough to knock us down.  We. Are. Ali.

I think it’s important to note a very big similarity here, between young Mundkur and our current POTUS, Barak Obama, who wrote in his statement (delivered on his behalf by a woman associated with the Ali family) about how watching Ali in the ring and in society, fight for the win and achieve all that he did, “inspired a young mixed-race boy to believe that even he could become President of the United States of America some day.”

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John Ramsey (I think someone told me that he’s a local sports announcer) told a story about how he was announcing a fight and Ali was there.  Ali was taken to meet the winner of the fight, and after that turned to Ramsey and said, “I wanna see the looser.” The idea was foreign to everyone.  Ramsey led Ali to the other locker room, where, sitting alone in the corner on a stool looking all the world like the lowest point on Earth was the kid that lost.  There was no crowd.  There was no one else there but him.  And he wore this expression that just “showed that he felt like he had let his people down, his country, and his dreams.”  The minute Ali entered that room, the kid lit up.  Ali joked a little with the kid, threw a couple easy punches, and then put his arm around the kid’s shoulders and said, “I watched you out there.  You looked good.  You’ve got the moves.  Don’t give up.  You could be a champ!”
Ramsey said that, “in seconds, Ali took this kid from down here” (He indicated the low) “to here.” (raised his hand).  Ali knew how to inspire.  He was inspiration.  He also knew how to make people feel good about themselves.

Bill Clinton related some stories about how Ali just had the knowledge, “you don’t learn this from a book” – the “how” in knowing when someone is down and needs some encouragement.  Ali knew it.  Clinton said, “In the second half of his life, he perfected gifts we all have… We all have gifts of mind and soul.”  Clinton said that to honor Ali, we should all “give our gifts” and live how Ali lived.

Want to see who all the speakers were and some of the other statements made?  Maybe watch some of the videos and hear the full speeches?  Go HERE to read the LA Times feed.

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We all know that Ali was an amazing boxer…athlete… And after what I witnessed all over Louisville, KY yesterday…  Ali sounds like an amazing person.  And I wish I had known his story before all of this.  I wish I had had the chance to be introduced to his philosophies and his humor earlier in my life.  I was going through a hard time where having known this story and this struggle would’ve helped me keep things in perspective better…would’ve inspired me to handle some things better, and let me know that I was doing it right: how I stood my ground for my morals and my ethics.

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We really lost something, someone, special.  I can only hope that Louisville, and the Ali family, continue to work together to strive and push Ali’s goals for the world.

We all need so much more kindness.  So much more greatness.  So much more peace.
Ali knew that you achieved greatness only by building bridges… NOT by building walls.” – Billy Crystal.

 

– I Am Ali.

Cheers.

Wanderlust, and the Search For Happiness

I pulled into the parking lane, where the parking meters were all covered with “No Parking” bags…. Ooops.  I wasn’t parking anyway.  I was firing off a text message to a local friend:
“Hey…So… I’m in your town…and have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going.  Where’s this doughnut supposed to be?”

Within seconds my phone was ringing
Me: “Well, hello.”
Her: “I love you so much!  You drove all the way down here just for a doughnut!  But, I guess since you run so much you can afford to drive around and eat doughnuts!”

  
Yesterday I toyed with the idea of driving about an hour and a half south of my home to one of the largest cities in my state…just to buy a doughnut.  Yes.  One doughnut.  When I approached the idea to my Husband he stared at me hard and I thought, “is this really the first crazy idea he’s going to bulk at?  Really?  Because surely I’ve come up with weirder…Haven’t I?  Surely.  Surely I have.”  Instead, that intense look he gave me was because I said “one doughnut”.
“You’re going to be buying more, right?  Like, for example, to bring home and share?  With your husband?”
I thought about it a moment…  I really hadn’t put that much thought into it, and was already considering that this was a stupid idea and I should just figure something else to do with my day.
“I suppose I could if I must…”  I hedged.  Then I sent a message to a friend that lives in that town: “I’m coming down your way!  Where do I buy one of those doughnuts!?  You know?  The bourbon-ball one?”

This morning I didn’t pause long enough to think about it.  I hurried through breakfast, took the pup for a quick jog around the block – at least until he didn’t want to run anymore, and then I grabbed the essentials for an unplanned adventure with no more than a rough destination in mind.

My friend gave me a quick run-down of where a location of the mythic doughnut was supposed to be.  She even laughed as she told me, “You’ll likely see some characters in that spot too…you’re right in the middle of everything there.”  I told her, “If you weren’t aware that this is the main drag through the center of town, you’d know it by the traffic for sure.”

I entered the gas station…haha, yes.  The mythic “limited time only, made special for the Derby, bourbon-ball doughnut” is sold out of a gas station chain.  I plucked four of those, and then two of their cookie-and-creme doughnuts.  

 

Mission accomplished. Target is in hand.
 
Now.  Lunch?  My friend recommended a sweet-sounding riverside seafood place across the river in a different state.  It was a beautifully sunny day, not too warm, but getting there, and the sky was brilliant blue.  Granted, the river is ugly as fuck, but it’s better than most views I would have for lunch…why not?  I texted my friend that the “item was procured” and then asked “why don’t you join me for lunch?”  She agreed and gave me a quick run down of directions.

 

Guys! Hush puppies! HUSH. PUPPIES. I love these things. Also. They don’t mess around here…these were amazing.
 
Listen.  The lunch spot was delicious.  And the view was good.  And seating outside was so nice.  But there was no doubt that I was sitting in the mid-west of the U.S.   Country accents so thick you couldn’t tell if they were talking or just humming; a guy complaining about his parole time requiring him to get a real job with real pay-stubs, rather than one that would pay under the table and he could smoke pot on; a middle-aged man tossing pieces of his lunch to the ducks on the patio; and the flagrant use of the endearment “Honey” no matter who was addressing who.  It was fun!  The food was good too.  Highly recommended.  Really.

  
My friend and I caught up.  She got to hear why I had all the time in the world to search out meaning and happiness in life. I got to hear about her business and life.  It was fun, sharing this time.

  
“Where are you heading to now?”  She asked as our waiter endlessly filled our drinks, even though we already paid the bills.
“I dunno.  I was reading the signs on the way down here… I suppose I could just go all the way to Nashville.”
“Yeah!  You could meet up with [Another friend of ours].  Do a tour of friends!”
“Hey, yeah!  But…Nah.  I did see signs for something called the “Falls of the Ohio”?  I thought I’d head that way…do some sight-seeing.”

Then I got a great history lesson.  The town we were sitting in was the actual starting point of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
“St. Louis gets all the hype and attention, but it was really here.  Clark’s family lived here…his sister lived over in Louisville, and his brother’s home was just up the road here….  They actually met there.
Meriwether Lewis committed suicide after they returned.  I didn’t know that until my daughter got heavy into the history of those two and we did all this research.  Makes you wonder, what did they experience out there in the wilds of the uncharted West?….”

We parted ways, and I followed the signs along the river toward the “Falls of the Ohio.”  For anyone interested, there’s a seriously awesome bike path along here.  I pulled off at what seemed like the right spot, but was clearly just the stoppage point for all the drug-addicted people to hike down and fish while they got high.  I wore sandals.  I had to step carefully to avoid broken glass, bright yellow-colored wet mud, and a couple of needles.  This was neat…but it was also vile…in a way that shocks you into wanting to take up the charge of “save the Earth” and “Recycle, Reuse” and even further, “Stop dumping trash and shit into our waterways, Holy Fuck!”.   I’m big in photography, so I tried to get a couple good shots here, but gave up and hiked back up to my car.

 

It took some moving around to get a shot that wasn’t full of trash…
 
A little farther down the line and I found the education center.  Now, this was more like what I expected.

 

Mandatory mammoth. Its how you know theres’s a museum…
 
I went to school for Geology.  I spent time in the mountains of Montana at the “Mother’s Day Site” digging up dinosaur bones.  There’s a foot that I found actually on display in a museum.  I’m big into (though, not remotely as big into as my Husband, who did all these things with me – and more…sans the Geology background) fossils and rocks.  There are some serious fossils along this area.

 

What about fun? Is fun also prohibited? sheesh…
 
  
  *Seriously.  No one is going to collect and sneak out with that boulder, Park Rangers.*

  
I wandered and looked at everything I could before deciding I should move on to heading home.  I mean, I figured I should go home….but I didn’t really want to.  The gift shop lady started chatting with me and I mentioned that I had just been given a “Crash course” in the history of the area with Lewis and Clark.  She sparked to life almost immediately.  Telling me about the falls, and how they were once a natural feature that represented the only obstacle to travelers.  They’ve since been removed, by erosion and growth along the waterway, but there are locks there now, which represent the only way through.  Now it’s a dam, used to generate power.  She gave me a pamphlete…and drew a map to take me to the home of Clark’s brother, George Clark, and the site that everything started from.

So I went there. 

  
 A small snafu of not understanding the roadways in that spot meant that I did a glorified box and ended up where I started, but I figured it out and headed out on this task.  A few moments later (If I had a bike I could have just taken the bike path straight there, I guess) I had navigated the small town grid and was back along the river and at the homestead.  There wasn’t really a lot more to it, than an old cabin and a boat dock.  I snapped a few photos and got swarmed by a half-billion bees!

Ok.  Not a half-billion.  Twelve.  Like, twelve bees.  They were mating and fighting and buzzing, and getting in my hair… and I think they count about 100x per each one on account of the stingers.  Stop judging me.

  
I won’t lie.  I toyed with the idea of driving to St Louis.  It’s only a couple hours away to the west…  I haven’t been there since I was a kid.  In the end I opted just to drive home.  After all, despite things in life that are driving me to realize that I’ve thought about “running away” more as an adult that I ever did as a child… I still have things to do.  I have a battle to win.   Life to get on with and a Husband and dog to love.  Oh, yeah, and a hallway to finish painting….I mean start… start painting… yeah.

  
My drive home had me contemplating Meriwether Lewis.  His big adventure over with, and back home where things are normal but he’s no longer the man that he was when he started.  Sure, its completely likely that he saw some heavy shit or experienced something that could’ve given him a case of what we now classify as PTS (Post-traumatic stress).  Who knows?  Maybe he had nightmares.  Maybe he did things he couldn’t live with.  Maybe they had to eat the dog.  Life was hard at the best of circumstances in that time, going out into the uncharted for years and being presumed dead for that time was a helluva task.

But I can’t help but wonder if he came home and was so profoundly changed by it.  Maybe going from being something and knowing your place, to coming back and not knowing how you belong anymore is the hardest part.  I think of it like the end of “Cast Away” starring Tom Hanks.  When he finally gets rescued and he’s at a party and everything he had to work so hard for in order to survive is just laid out in plenty before him, and he can’t wrap his brain around it anymore…

                                                          The overwhelming ease of normalcy.  

Maybe that’s what got M. Lewis.  That post-travel experience high…followed by that drop as you settle back into accepting your place in normal life.  Only for M. Lewis, it was so much greater a drop than just coming home from a great trip to OBX…  It’s going from experience, and excitement, and wonder back into day-to-day grind.  You go from the opportunity to introduce yourself as whatever you wish you were, back to settling for what you’ve managed to achieve so far.

It’s sad…. 

No.  It’s heartbreaking.  

How we settle into this.  

I’m sad for how I’ve settled.  How my dreams have been blown…shrunk to dust and scattered to the ether because someone else with more power and control than me told me that I wasn’t important enough to earn those dreams…let alone hold them in private as goals I’d like to achieve with my life.  I grieve with a Broken. Heart. This fucked up situation where I once wanted to be something, and set out to it…and someone else was allowed to stomp on those dreams.

Never put down anyone’s dreams.  They are more fragile and as rare as a full sand dollar on the beach.  It takes so much hope to make a dream.  And it take such intense strength for someone to share their dreams with someone else.  God!  Even the amount of guts it takes to dive into the pursuit of a dream!
Please, please, please.  Be careful with it when someone opens up and shares a dream with you.

For me?  I’m coming up with new dreams.
It’s slow.  It’s hard.  I’m still hurt over the destruction of my dreams before.  But it’s okay.  Because I learned.  Hard, but I did.  And I’ve been given a chance to reflect on nothing but myself, where I am, and where I want to be.  I have no answers for this, but I’m getting there.

Cheers, you beautiful dreamers.
Thanks for reading.

  

Spring and the Wanderlust

This post could also be called,
“That Time I Was Lost on a Run and Got Chased by a Goat in Ireland – A True Story.”

We’ll get to the goats and Ireland in a moment.  First- what brought this story to mind:

The weather this past week and a half was pretty bonkers!

not Ireland. we’ll get to it soon
Start of last week had us sliding through snow (You’ll recall I was on a treadmill running out 20 miles like a crazy person…who is still less crazy than anyone who was out in the white-out conditions pumping out similar or more distance.  So.  There.).   By that Tuesday we were slushing through melting snow and running in weather topped at the low 60s(F).

 

even plants are ready to get on with spring
The rest of the week was “just perfect” for running outside.  The sun was warm, and the temps were “high”, but there was still that soft chill in the air and wind because the Earth wasn’t buying into an “early spring” just yet.

I love those kind of days.  Sitting or running out in the open air and dragging in deep, whole breaths of just so super-fresh air.  It’s wonderful….and, for reasons I can’t explain, it always fills me with excitement – like I’m about to embark on some adventure somewhere.

 

Now. This is Ireland
When I was young I would get such a devastating wanderlust.  And though my parents didn’t have a lot of money, we did go on trips…but they were canned trips…the usual tourist stops, some but little exploration.  My parents were never very healthy, or fit, and they were actually quite a bit older than normal when they had me.

   As a result, on those early trips in my life, we would hike, but that died down after some years because my Dad started hurting too much to do it.  So many trips of my Mom and I walking around a tourist shop center and my Dad just staying in the hotel to watch TV and sleep.  When I was young, I watched so many adventure movies, like Indiana Jones, and documentaries about Egypt, and I would dream about that kind of travel and sights.   When I was young, my wanderlust wasn’t fulfilled.  I wasn’t without travel…I just wasn’t getting what I craved.

There was no way I was going to get to Egypt then.   Years later, my then-boyfriend’s Mom took me on a trip of a lifetime to Ireland. Ireland Connemara Mountains It.  Was.  Amazing.  We explored, we followed a path but not a plan.  We made friends and spoke broken French to other travelers.  I sat in on a jam session in a castle!   This was some of what I craved.

A few more years after that I got to watch my Mom meet a life-long dream of hers – to travel overseas.  We went to Ireland together.

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Beautiful is what you get when you go for a life-long dream.
Although it wasn’t all that fun a trip for me, we did get to see a lot of beautiful scenery and I got to watch my Mom enjoy something she never thought she would be able to do in her life time.  We spent an inordinate amount of time in the car though, and I don’t sit well…  I needed more adventure…to do more…get out and experience, rather than stare from afar.

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A short stop to take photos….I’m the one halfway up the rcoky (and pointy sharp, and slightly painful) hillside…
I found my adventure then by going out for runs (My travel companions weren’t that into me doing this: “If you run you can’t have breakfast.  We don’t have the time to wait around for you”).  I always opted the run over breakfast (And Mom always made sure I had breakfast).  It kept me centered – and awake despite jet leg – and it allowed me to tour the area freely…  to get that adventure i needed.

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The downside to exploring alone beyond the tour stops is that there’s no one to take great photos of you doing great things in beautiful places…
I got chased by a goat in Ireland on one such adventurous run. (See, I told you we’d get to it)

 In my defense, I didn’t work in kilometers for distances at the time, so when the desk lady at the place we were staying said,
“Go about 7 kilometers ’round that way, there’s a fence, hop it , there’s a bit of a bog, and then it’ll rise to a disused train path….follow that west and you’ll come on a ghost town.  It’s pretty neat.  No one knows its there.”

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Granted, With this view from the roads, why should I want to find a ghost town?  BECAUSE IT’S AN IRISH GHOST TOWN!  Who wouldn’t want to find that??!
I was so down!  100% for seeing an Irish ghost town!  …and had no idea how I was going to judge that distance.  You see, I didn’t have a phone, let alone one that could track distance for me… and I didn’t own a GPS watch at the time.  I was confident that since I knew that 5k was 3 ish miles, I could “figure it out by feel”….  hahaha… 

 Nope.

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Beautiful… but not what I was looking for…
I jumped one gate a while later…thinking, “this feels like a little more than three miles…”
I have no idea how far it was.  I high kneed my run through some kind of boggy mess….which made me think I was on the right path…but it went on forever…and got worse.  Mud and water streaked my legs and up my back…  I gave up, thinking it was the wrong path.  Back on the road I ran for a bit longer and saw another gate coming up.  “I could have been wrong about the distance to the last one… This could be it.” I thought.

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I hopped the gate and started a slow, soggy jog.  Suddenly,  I heard an angry noise to my left.  Looking over I saw a goat that did not seem too pleased to see me. 

 I stopped and the goat lunged toward me.  With a yelp, I reversed direction and sprinted hard, splashing mud and water (and likely goat poop..ugh…) everywhere as I aimed my body hard for the gate.   I’m certain I was muttering “no. no. no. no.”  internally… probably outloud too.   I hit the fence like a pratfall, and after picking myself up from the grass, I pulled myself over, landing hard and falling to my side on the roadway.  The goat hit the fence and backed up, glaring.  I was panting and shaking, but I was safe.  I know goats don’t eat people, but honestly readers, have you ever been rammed by one of those shits?  I have.  It is not fun.  They can be fucking mean.

I watched in horror, as the gate swung open slowly…  and I think the goat huffed something that meant, “And now you die”.  I jumped up and pulled the gate closed again before the goat could get through.  It gave a loud gobbling yell that only goats can get away with… and then trotted back up the little hill.  I took off, intending to just do the loop of roadway around the place I was staying.  Really, i was trying to figure out how to get into the fancy castle hotel we were staying at without drawing attention.  (I ended up finding a gravel road that turned into a dirt trail, and that got me lost but gave a wonderful view of the mountain range “The Bens”).

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I had to face the hotel and my family at some point…  so I returned to the posh place we were staying, mud all over me.  I stopped to take my shoes off outside the entrance, and I used my wet socks to try and mitigate some of the awfulness of my feet and legs.  It did not work.  One guest saw me, did a full up-and-down look over and asked, “Have a nice run?”  I blushed and hurried up to my room to shower.  

My Mom thought it was funny as hell that I was covered in mud.  Later that night, the guy that asked about my run joined me at dinner (my travel companions opting out because they wanted to “save money” and “weren’t hungry”).  He introduced himself and told me about his triathlon training and about how seeing me come in covered in water and mud made him a little jealous.  If I wanted, I had a run companion for the next morning.

Travel is wonderful – when you explore…break the normal route that everyone else is taking.  Shows and websites always say to “go where the locals go”, and there’s a huge call for that.  It makes the whole adventure more authentic.  There’s also nothing wrong with being the blundering tourist who gets lost…who…unwittingly… finds themselves facing off with goats and enjoying a private, lost view of a sunrise over mountains.

Running really helps me contain (or fulfill some) this wanderlust.

tour of the subway system Cincinnati didn’t quite finish
Especially when I get out and explore my own hometown as though I’ve never been there.

exploring a park I go to all the time and finding new sights
My running group has really built the experience up as well – taking tours of the different areas of our towns.  Finding the random oddities, like a replica of the “Tomb of Jesus”, or a UFO… Or traveling to a race.


My husband also feeds this desire to travel and explore.  He hates tourist spots, he hates having a plan, he loves the journey and the experience.

 

Although, there was that trip to Florida where he wouldn’t let us stop at the abandoned shopping center/tourist trap to see the “giant mysterious sea creature”. he quoted scooby doo at me. I think we really missed out on something there….  He won’t admit it though.
So come on spring.  Quit fooling around with winter and lets get some adventures started!

A Day in the Fall

Its recovery day for me here in the world.

Post-marathon worst nightmare

Yesterday I ran the 40th Marine Corps Marathon.  I had an excellent first half… I even was on PR-breaking pace.  But, like they usually do, things came crashing down.  I know what  I did wrong.

Namely:
1.  Poor training season (I had my Mom spend time in and out of the hospital until she died…  her death, two weeks after my wedding, wasn’t unexpected, but it still hurt),
2.  Lack of training at the level I needed to be at for the PR attempt (I refer above),
3.  I was an idiot and, although it felt amazing at the time, running super fast times at the Bourbon Chase a week before attempting PR times at a marathon is a bad strategy (For injury-prone me, at least).
4.  Poor choice of shoes.  I wore a newer pair.  They were field tested, yes, but not at the long distances.  I think the longest I put in them was about 8 miles.  26.2 was too much, and my muscles and ankles took the beating for it.
5.  High stress from work, which was compounded by false accusations on the day before I left for D.C.
6.  And poor sleep the days leading up to race day (Because, although I am working on it, and getting better, I do have a serious problem just letting things go.  Especially when I feel wronged and hopeless).

Hopeless is not a good emotion to go into a marathon with.

I’ll have a recap of the race – which was a good one, though not at all to the level I actually expected.  Today’s post is about my recovery day.  I’m pretty sore and beat up…walking is a bit hard, but I need to do it.  So I took the pup, Dante the Dog (He’s world famous in Cincinnati), for a walk in a new to him park.  He’s a cheeseball and knows a photo op when he smells it.

The trees are changing color here, and the sun is rising at just the right angle now that it hits the world and the color just… pops.  Wonderful.

Eden Park is a wonderful overlook, and, up those stairs in the first photo is more overlook and park.  I guess they’re working on the ponds, since the water was all drained out.  Want to see this park?  Come visit Cincinnati!  Even better, come run the Flying Pig half or full marathon.  It passes right through here.

I hate to have to say it, but it’s not legal unless it’s put there:  All photos are copyright folks, and these are property of me.  Wanna use or buy one?  Hey, drop me a note.  We can chat.  🙂

Enjoy!

The Bourbon Chase Relay – Recap part 3! The finish line

12108060_551508324999590_7577999699909835096_nThe time spent with 7 wonderfully hilarious and kind people, cramped within a vehicle for over 30 hours created some wonderful memories.  It also created stories that want to be told but would take more than one entry to share.  I ran three legs of the relay.  Each one was beautiful in it’s own way, each one taught me something about me as a runner.  And each was it’s own experience, bundled up under the umbrella of relay racing.

For this reason, each leg has it’s own entry here.
Part 1 is HERE
Part 2 is HERE

Part 3 – my run through Midway and the van shenanigans before and after, and, BONUS: The finish line jog, follows below.  Enjoy!

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Here’s the map again, to give an overview of where everything is and what we ran.

Part 3.  The search for more sleep.

My second leg was complete:  A little over 6 miles at 0330 AM – dark hillsides, and long hill climbs to the stars.  I had views of the sky that were, frankly, moving.  I experienced all kinds of ‘the feels’ (probably exacerbated by the theory that I was actually still sleeping while I ran).  I’m sure anyone running that portion of the race (a 4-lane highway) in the daytime would’ve felt cheated.  There’s no way it was as pretty in the sun as it was in the dark.

After I took my seat on the van, I plunged into a restful position, my eyes closed and earbuds in.  Like the rest of my team, we were trying to get as much rest as possible.  I dozed, but never quite fell asleep.  The sleep isn’t all that important, but the rest is.  I opted to sleep through the next two runner exchanges.  Mostly because it was feeling bitter cold out and I didn’t pack anything really warm enough for it, and because with the van mostly empty (another runner remained behind to doze too) I was able to stretch my legs out – and that was the most comfortable thing about it.

I do regret skipping the runner exchange at Four Roses Distillery.  Apparently they gave out bourbon balls.  Luckily, our Captain deemed that there was “too much bourbon” in the treat and gave me hers.  Silly, Captain.  There is never too much bourbon!

The next exchange I woke for, and participated in (Mostly because of a need to hit a restroom) was at Wild Turkey.  This was a big exchange, where we handed off to van 1 and they made their final cycle of runners before the finish.  After pushing a van out of a ditch and wandering toward the runner exchange, I was treated to a beautiful sunrise, complete with fog.  It. was. stunning.

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Around that factory-like distillery was the runner exchange and the gift shop.  I almost felt really jealous for the first runner in van 1, who would get the timer thingy from us here and take off into this beautiful morning.  Alas.  With the beauty comes the suffering.  It’s also one of the shortest but most difficult legs in the route.

Still,
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We poked around the distillery a little.  I considered buying something for my husband (again) and decided against it (again).  Prices and logistics just didn’t work for me on this trip.

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All back together, we wished van 1 good luck, hit the real restrooms at the distillery (yay) and piled back into the van for a real breakfast (super-yay!).  We pulled into town at Versailles and plopped down at Madison’s on Main.
Lemme tell you about this place.
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From the eclectic dishes, to the waitress bringing one of our guys what amounted to a bowl to drink coffee from (because he kept saying “more coffee”), to her telling us about how the place was haunted and joking with us, and on to the elderly waitress being motherly over our Captain when she put her head on hands to rest.  This. Place. was lovely.  This place was wonderful.  The food was…it was food.  But the staff?  Perfect.  Just perfect for a group of tired, stinky runners among dozens of the same.  Food took a while, but we weren’t in a hurry and they were so swamped that one waitress didn’t even work there!  She was a family friend who came out on her Saturday morning to help out.

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photo from Bourbon Chase Facebook Page. Not my photo.

After breakfast we, like every other team out there, tried to find the right place to settle in and get some sleep.  People were out in sleeping bags everywhere.  I felt pretty rested – having actually done better about getting sleep when we were at the lake house, and then resting during the dark hours in the van.

Soon enough we were gathering everyone into the van and heading out to meet up for our final legs.  Van 1 had some runner issues, and so they swapped out runners and were going a little slower coming in.

I read the description on my route while we traveled to where we were going to meet up with runner 7.  As we passed her we saw that she was “chatting it up” with a guy, and so hollered appropriately at her as we passed.  We are terrible people.  🙂

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The route description said that I would be running past limestone fences and thoroughbred farms, making me wish I were one of the horses.  I believe it.  Waiting for our runner at the exchange, I was looking down a tunnel of autumn trees and limestone walls.  I couldn’t wait!

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When I got the timing chip, I slapped it onto my wrist and took off, quickly overtaking three runners.  Look.  It didn’t escape my attention that I was listed on our team roster as the fastest-pace runner.  I didn’t intend to be like that.  But I have since figured out a few things about myself as a runner:
First.  I do not like running in silence and alone.
Second.  Music moves me.  Normally I listen to audio books, but on occasion, when I’m just doing something “as fast as possible to get it over with”, I play music.  I guess my body just responds to music as, “go fast” now.
Third.  I feel good when I pass people.  I try to chat some, but I like going past folk.
Fourth.  I don’t handle being passed very well.  I got passed by a speedier runner, and he was very polite about it, but I caught myself trying to speed up, up hill,  to keep up with him.  There was no way.  I was already killing my pace prediction, running 7:34min/miles.  The Captain was going to strangle me.

I couldn’t help it.  I couldn’t stop.  And the route description was right.  It was freaky how beautiful it was out there.

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I also wanted very badly to be like the horses.  The horses I saw were leisurely wandering their fence lines, enjoying the scenery…eating the scenery… not running a hilly route.

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This run was a 4.8-ish mile leg, with a “difficult” category on it.  Yet, it felt like the easiest run I had the whole time!  I heard myself over and over, “You can do anything for four miles”.  Unlike all the other times, I wasn’t nervous about this run and I wasn’t feeling any concern for how fast or slow I would run.  In the end, my average pace was a stellar 7:27 min/mile pace.

Fifth lesson?  I run faster when my muscles are tight.

I rolled into Midway 12 minutes faster than I was predicted.  I got guilted by the team that I couldn’t have a video of that hand-off because I was so early.  I didn’t care.  My runner’s high was all-encompassing.  And I was hungry.  Very hungry.  And very thirsty.

I popped into line for the free massage (What a mistake!  I hurt so badly after that!) and finally bought something for my husband!  Bourbon honey.  I asked the lady selling it which bourbon she used and she simply stated, “We’re in Woodford County” (That means Woodford Bourbon, for you lovely readers not steeped in Kentucky Bourbon knowledge.  Woodford is not a brand you mix with Cola, fyi.  Or, at least, you shouldn’t.  It’s too good for that).

Sixth lesson?  I had no idea where I was for the entirety of this run.

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good thing the signs pointed the way. I’d still be running those hills.  Not my photo.  Photo from Bourbon Chase facebook page.

We made our way, runner by runner, up to Lexington, where we met our final runner about a quarter of a mile…probably much less… away from the physical finish line.  There we ran as a group across the line and cheered ourselves into a frenzy.  The time?  5-something PM.

After the group photo, and obtaining our “Bourbon Trail Passports” and our t-shirts for completing the full trail, we headed over to the party area and obtained our free bourbon shots (we got 4).  I had three – my favs:  Woodford, Bullet Rye, and Maker’s Mark.  By the time I got most of the way through the third one, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast that morning.

A few of us piled into one of the two team vans and traveled back north, to our homes and our lives.  Just before we turned onto the lot where we met to carpool down, one of the women said, “Look!  That car has writing all over it! I wonder if they were in the race too!”  We all watched, on the edges of our seats, as the SUV passed- it’s windows proclaiming, “GO UK”.   I leaned back against my seat  and commented, “It’s sad, coming back to real life.”  The van hummed with everyone’s agreement.

_ucjbDwrWnoJNQiun6WPz91mrohBmQqyORU-dvGxw8sqrEoXoOhwtnpM77hK3Iwbc4LblCpcLabU=w1178-h554So.  I’m here.  Back in real life.  With all these wonderful memories and stories and jokes!  And not a single co-worker who cares.  haha.  I think it was record-breaking, watching the eyes of the guy who asked about my weekend glaze over so fast…  He had so much hope when I said bourbon…

If you get the opportunity, I’d recommend putting serious thought into doing a relay.  But.  And that’s a big BUT (So I cannot lie).  You need to know what to do to mitigate things that annoy you.  Me?  I get super grumpy when I don’t sleep.  I made an effort to at least relax and rest.  And it paid off.  You also need to be with the right mix of people.  That makes all the difference.

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Thanks for reading.
Happy Running!

The Bourbon Chase Relay Recap – “State of Mash Confusion” – Part II

This is a three-part (One for each leg of the race I ran) recap.  The whole process of team relay racing is so involved, I didn’t want to drown you lovely readers in a giant post…. and I didn’t want to leave anything out.  The course was so beautiful, and the weather was perfect for running, and I found many things on this run – I felt each run was due it’s own story.

Ergo, Part I can be read at this link.  Part III is here.

After the first run; a “behind the scenes” of van 2’s down-time adventures:

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The Doctor doing some work on our glow sticks

I snuggled up under a sweatshirt and rested, wondering about how we were going to pull off dinner.  The rule was that the van didn’t stop until everyone was back on board.  Runner 3 for our van had a long haul of a run – about 8 miles, I believe, and when he made his way to the next exchange point, the sun was already setting.  Race rules required lights and reflective vests.  So as the sun set, the glow sticks went up.  So.  Many.  Glow sticks.

We also experienced a bit of “van envy” for team Moofia’s van.  I think I mentioned this, but you have to understand.  They went all out.  Eyes that were spot lights, disco lights, a loud speaker that moo’ed…..   even an udder.

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Team Moofia’s van at night. Overachievers.

As we waited for the fourth runner out of our van (Runner 9), the driver (pilot) and navigator (co-pilot) along with runner 7, hopped out of the van and started applying glow sticks to the exterior with reckless abandon.  Soon the loud talking from outside became a sort of hysterical laughter and giggling that could only indicate one kind of joke:  Penis jokes.  All three, all women, had applied a rather large glow stick and deemed it to be…uh…much like the male anatomy part…and then continued to decorate it as such.

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Sorry kids.

I went in search of chap stick and available bathrooms…finding a gas station with a huge bonfire set up in front of it near the exchange point…  Yes.  I was only mildly apprehensive about this arrangement – as the prospect of food trailer food to satisfy my serious hunger overrode any sense of not wanting to be blown up.

Runner 7 and I purchased two $3 cheese burgers and were instantly in heaven.  Then it was back into the van (newly adorned with what we referred to as its “strap on”) and on to the next spot.  Our Captain was out, runner her leg of the race, and things in the van only continued to “flow in the gutter”.   The Captain’s husband, the Doctor, spelled out “That’s what she said” on the side of the van.  After all, this was the phrase that rang out 200 times if 10 during the short ride from the gas station fire to this strange field.

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Our Captain exchanged the timing wrist slap with our final runner out of van 2 and we were quickly making plans for figuring out our way to our lodging for the short break we had.  Runner 12 came in and we handed the timing thing off to van 1 again.  A quick meal of good, but terrifying, chilli dogs near the exchange point in town and then it was off into the sticks to find a cabin on a lake.  The bridge that normally takes vehicles to the cabin was out, and the instructions actually said, “Go straight, follow road around, do not drive into water”.  It was 11PM, darker than good black coffee, and the road was…uh…tight.

No worries, dear reader, we made it to the lake house and split up quickly to crash for sleep as fast as possible – hoping to get as much as possible.  Luckily, thanks to my husband, I was exhausted to start the whole trip, so once the Captain pointed me to a place, I was OUT.  A solid 1.5 hours of sleep and it was time to get up and head out for the next major exchange.  There was no grumbling, no fighting, and no issues with sharing the single bathroom among 8 people.  We quickly back out into the now freezing world.  The temps dropped low in the night and were at frost levels when we got back onto the roadway, again doing a good job of not ‘driving into the water’.  Our driver, a seasoned veteran of the Bourbon Chase method, quickly mixed her specialty, a concoction called “go-go-juice” (She said she got the idea from some awful-sounding TV show called honey-boo-boo).

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Go-Go-Juice:
Red Bull, Giant pixie stick, and mountain dew.
This truly is not for the feight of heart….or the easily affected by caffeine…. and probably not meant to be used as an every-day drink.  I’m not exactly sure yet that it should be used in moments of extreme exhaustion either.  But!  As our navigator pointed out, the red bull was sugar free…so….

Juice mixed, and, I assume, sipped upon, we were enroute to the exchange.  I was still pretty out of it, from sleeping, and so kind of have no memory of the exchange.  I know I headed out with the group to see runner 7 off.  She’s my friend after all.  And I knew she had a 3-ish mile DOWNHILL course, meaning I didn’t have a whole lot of time to contemplate my run before it would be my turn.

I was feeling nervous.  That is a fact.  It was dark out, and I kinda do suck at running by headlamp.  I get all disoriented and weirded out when other headlamps are bobbing around behind me and I have a serious concern for rolling my ankle…or worse… in unseen pot holes.  After all, I have a marathon coming up next weekend.  I couldn’t afford a serious injury this late in the game.  It was also cold.  But I didn’t pack anything beyond gloves, ball caps, and a bright yellow jacket.

At the exchange for my run, I waited wrapped in the fuzzy brown blanket affectionately called “Chewbacca”.  We only waited a few moments for Runner 7.  She came down the hill at a good clip, looking pleased with herself – after all, she did 9:30min miles, which was great for her!

(There are no photos for this part of the story.  It was dark.  My hands were in gloves.  And, as you’ll read, I don’t think I was actually conscious for the whole running bit….)

I took the wrist slapper timing thingy and headed into the darkness, struggling a little with my gloves and the phone to turn on some music.  That’s right.  I wasn’t going to suffer another bought of running with nothing but my thoughts.  I don’t like myself that much.  The race had vetoed any and all headphone use, but they didn’t outright deny runners music…  so long as it came from a speaker….  I tuned into what few songs on my phone actually had a good beat for running and turned my attention upward.  My thighs burned some from the cold, and I could see my breath puff out ahead of me in the headlamp light.  Red lights (runner’s lights) blinked onward, stretched ahead of me in almost even intervals, until disappearing into the horizon.

My course was another hilly one.  Rolling, and a couple of longer climbs, into the darkness from some small town.  Luckily, there were no turns or curves to the route….just run straight…no chance to get lost.  Which is good.  Because I don’t actually think that I was really “awake” for my run.  As I started to get out of the “town” area and into more country side and darker roads, the ambient lights along the side of the road were fewer and farther from the road.  In the country, its common for homes to have a giant and bright light placed over top the property, illuminating the area.  These were distant and shown just enough light to cast long, wicked-look shadows from the runners.

I passed a couple of runners – a phenomenon we noticed toward the later runners from our van the evening before was how uniformly the runners seemed to spread out, and aside from me, this pretty much was true for my run too.  Soon, I was on my own and I found myself going into hyper-vigilance (A state of awareness I have cultivated and require for my day-job).  At one point I thought that someone was running directly at me – Attacking me – from the right!  I sped up a little (A feat, considering I was working up the first long climb), threw my arms up to defend, and quickly glanced to see what the person’s deal was. Only.
No one was there.
Just my shadow.
On a rock wall across the four lane highway from me.

Soon the light that was casting that shade was blocked by trees and I shook my head wondering what was going on with me.  I tried hard to focus on being in the moment, and being aware of cars.  As I crested the hill, ran down a short one, and started back up the next, I realized that the complete black of the surrounding hills and trees, all funneled head of me, pointing me toward the top of this hill and the stars, made it feel like I was being shot in the space!  The stars people!  It was so dark out and there were so. many. stars!  It was beautiful.  I latched onto this concept of being shot into space as I climbed at a steady 8 minute pace.  I latched so hard that I think I was audibly making rocket ship noises as I passed a fellow runner.  I remind you, I don’t actually think I was awake for this run.

At mile 4.5ish on this 6+ mile leg, I heard my red rear blinker clatter off my back and shatter.  I was working on another uphill, and, in my sleep-delirium, I realized I HAD to go back and get that blinker so that my team wouldn’t be disqualified.  So I stopped, and ran back down hill a little…and after a moment of staring at the dark, dark, dark grass I came to my senses and realized I would never find all the pieces of that stupid-cheap blinker.  So I huffed up the hillside again.

A short while later, as I watched a pair of headlights make a slow approach toward me (actually, I realized as it passed at normal speed, it was really just far away), I thought that the four-lane highway we were running along was suddenly a two-lane road!  And this car would need space to pass, but there was no shoulder beyond the white line, only dark grass!  I moved to the grass and let the car pass…. in the wrong lane…  and then three more cars drove past in the wrong lane, like there was no concern for on-coming traffic.  I’m proud to say that I realized that the highway did not, in fact, become two-lane.  It was still four lanes wide.  The cars were passing in the inside lane for their direction of travel, and it was only my sleep brain that said the road was suddenly two lanes.

A mile away from the exchange point, I saw a blinking light off the roadway in the grass, and it looked like a runner was doubled over.  I called out, “Are you okay?”  But got no answer.  Then I neared the light, and saw that it was the light indicating the sign that read “one mile to go”.  Embarrassed, and hoping that the last runner I passed was far enough back and far enough in their own head-space that they didn’t hear me just calling out to the sign, I hurried on.

I tore into the exchange and saw the sign for our team illuminated and at the entrance to the chute.  I heard the Captain say, “No that’s not Emily” and I yelled back as I passed them, “Yes it is!”

XXnHPS0v6nEarLr5__nSShg4XMQ4qjToO8O0VRM4o4613K2IY139Ky9szZseRV45DlztUtTFTg6w=w1178-h554The crowd laughed as I handed the timing thing over to the Doctor, our next runner, and was wrapped in “Chewy” for the hike back to the van.  My Captain told me I was wearing green shorts when I left and looked down at my blue shorts, replying “that was yesterday.”
I explained my theory that I slept through the whole run, telling about the stars, the beauty, the rocket ship, and loosing the blinker…. I left out the part about talking to the “one mile left’ sign though.  My driver stopped and gave me a look before saying, “No wonder you don’t like running without people around”.

In the van, I was feeling really good about my pace: managing – despite fear of pot holes, injury, and (as I developed) getting struck by drunk drivers – to maintain an average pace of 8:04 min /mile!  I changed, sprayed some “smell good” stuff on myself, and snuggled into warm clothes.  We were on our way to Four Roses Distillery, to do the next exchange, and I was on my way to dozing off for more sleep.

Come back for Part 3, the final leg of the Bourbon Chase.  🙂   And thanks for reading!

Happy running!

The Bourbon Chase Relay – A 3-part recap…. yes.

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So, um, yeah.   This was an AMAZING weekend!  I can’t think of any better way to spend 30+ hours, sleepless, hungry, and stuck in a cramped van with 7 other people!    We laughed, we dozed, we made “go-go juice”, things got seriously adult-rated pretty quickly after the sun went down.  Hahaha!

The relay itself was such a large event, and there were so many things that happened that I’ve decided to break the recap into 3 parts.  Mostly to give each portion of the relay I did it’s own retelling.  The views and the route were just so stunningly beautiful!  Even the portion of the race I did in the pitch dark of a star-filled sky were amazing.  And I think the only way to do those runs justice is to retell them as their own run.

What is the Bourbon Chase?
It’s a 200 mile relay race that tours through horse farms and small towns of central Kentucky along the portion of the state known for the bourbon distilleries.  It’s typically set in the fall, so the color of the trees along these horse farm and hill riddled country sides are brilliant.
The run itself is broken up into 25 legs.  Each of varying distance and difficulty.  Most of my miles were 4.7-6.3 distances, and two of my runs were rated at as “difficult” and the third was “moderate”.  There were tons of hills, loads of white transport vans, and a lot of inappropriate jokes.  I had a runner’s high that lasted 48 hours.  Fact.  Have you ever had one last that long?

Is there bourbon?
Hell yes.  Though the race rules discouraged us from partaking during the actual race – the distilleries were open at all hours – giving out samples and bourbon balls.  Hell.  I even bought a jar of bourbon honey after my final run.

Leg 1.

I was the second runner in van 2.  That made me runner #8 of 12.  Because our van had the later start, we were able to meet up in Lexington about 3-4 hours ahead of our start time and grab some lunch before heading out to Maker’s Mark Distillery.  Each of the exchanges where you actually trade off from van 1 to van 2 were huge!  Because, duh, there was double the amount of people there at the time.

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van city

We were able to check in, get our race shirts, and watch the safety video, which, although typical goofy for safety video, was actually well done.  We also got to wander around the distillery some.  I toyed with the idea of buying bourbon, but decided against it due to the cost.

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Team “State of Mash Confusion” together…minus at least one – the guy finishing leg 6 of the run

We also had some time to decorate the van.  This is a “thing” for these type of races, decorating the vans to outdo each other…. or maybe just so that you can find which van is yours in the sea of white transport vans.

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Our first runner for van two took off, nerves and all (it was her first time doing this relay, just like me) and we piled into the van quickly – having to rush to the next relay point so she could hand off the baton to me for my first run in the BC.

The day was warming up still as I hit the porta potties at the next check point and watched for runner 7 to come into sight from the hillside.

I also couldn’t have asked for a better day.  Really.  It was so damn beautiful and the skies were a perfect blue.  I worried about missing a turn or getting lost along the route, so I took a picture of the route directions to have handy on my phone, just in case.  I didn’t need to worry, however.  The race did a great job of marking the roadway and the route.  There were constantly signs visible.

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I got the hand-off and took off down the road, struggling with my other worry:  Maintaining the pace that our team Captain had me predicted to run (8:10min/mile).  In a normal race, that’s usually no problem, but like any true worrier, I was looking ahead to the night time run and the run the next day with no sleep and all the muscles tightened up.  I was also so deeply inside my head…it was awful.  I hate running by myself, and I hate doing so where the only distraction is what my brain provides me.  The race restricted headphone use severely.  To the point of disqualification of runners and time penalties.  So for my first 4.8 miles?  I ran in silence.

At the start it wasn’t a big deal, I figured I’d catch up with the two girls who were ahead of me and we’d chat and become friends for the miles.  That’s what I do at races, after all.  Alas.  Within the first 100yards the course took a right turn and started a big hill climb.  The girls ahead of me started walking the hill pretty early on.  And I, ever unaware of my reverse-gravity syndrome on hills, sped up the hill like a dumbass.  I was winded at the top, alone, and looking ahead at three more rolling hills to come.

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hills. hills. hills.

This was going to be a hard run.

Maybe I should have looked at the elevation chart a little bit…plotted out some attack plan for those hills?  Strategy.  Yeah?

Instead, I consoled myself by repeating what I told runner 7 before she headed out on her run:  “you can do anything for five miles.”  I even lied to myself.  Telling my legs that I only had two more miles to go.  When I really had 3.8.   I sucked it up though, and started looking around.  The beauty of the run really stunned me.  This place, though a hell made of hills, was gorgeous.  I felt lucky to experience it the way I was.

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I passed over a small lake, and wound up another hill.  Crossed a busy highway where there were no road marshals to stop traffic for me – just a large fire engine with staff waiting to take action if I got hit by a car…   Then it was a left turn onto a final down hill and into this tiny town.

I felt like I was flying – and really, my splits ( a little off because I forgot to start my watch right away) showed that I managed to meet my Captain’s pace expectations:  7:45; 8:34; 8:25; and 6:55 – the overall pace of 8:06.  The fact that I told my Captain I could guarantee 8:45min/miles and she argued that I said 8:10s became a running argument as the relay went on.  I still doubted that I would pull that time off at 0400 in the morning.

Post-run, each runner marked off the leg they completed, and then tallied up their roadkill spotting.

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And then the van hurried onward to the next spot to change runners again.  I settled into my seat, feeling good and tired…and hungry.  My runner’s high was starting and I kicked back with some music to unwind while we traveled point to point… finishing out each runner from our van…  experiencing “van envy” for the van with team Moofia….  and laughing so hard we all were in tears.

Part 2 will take us through the evening hours, the battle of “not driving the van into the water”, the go-go juice, the moment we all lost our minds and our van got …uh… happy, and, of course, my first time running night time hours in a race.

Read PART 2 HERE 🙂
Read PART 3 HERE

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The Bourbon Chase Relay map 2015