2017 in Review

2017 wasn’t my year for blogging, my last post was from January of 2017 and here we are in January of 2018. While I’m not blogging as much, I’m not quite ready to leave this corner of the internet. After reading some blogs today I thought I would write my own thank you letter to 2017 presented as the top 5 of 2017.

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5. Friends and Family- The picture above is from Savannah, GA where I had my bachelorette party. I was lucky enough to have five of my closest friends and my two sisters celebrate for a weekend with me in Savannah. Due partly to moving and getting married, the first part of this year involved lots of fun with friends and the whole year has included a lot more family fun than previous years.

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4. Travelling- From our honeymoon in in Dubrovnik, Croatia to a weekend in Richmond, Virginia we have continued to put a priority on seeing the world and it’s been a lot of fun. I love experiencing how other people live whether its eating a fish with its eyes intact on a boat in the Adriatic sea or drinking sweet tea while shopping in Nashville.

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3. National Parks- Our road trip this summer deserved its own number even though it could be filed under traveling. We took six weeks to drive around the United States checking out natural beauty. We visited 16 states, 12 National Parks, and 3 National Monuments. We hiked over 100 miles and camped in our tent 17 nights. We encountered a few bears and we had a fox run right up to our campsite. Some days the hikes kicked our butts, some days the drives between parks were long, and one day I may have picked a terrible hotel, but overall the trip was amazing. You can look at a map and look at pictures all day long, but you can’t grasp the grandness of the US till you drive and hike the miles.

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2. Moving to KC- We took a big leap and decided to leave DC. I loved the friends I’d made there, but couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t where I wanted to live forever. We both enjoyed our trips to KC and decided to give it a chance. After our road trip and a month of living in my parent’s basement we moved in to our new home. Moving from a junior one bedroom to a two story house with 3 bedrooms has been an adjustment. We are slowly filling the space and having fun decorating without worrying about landlords.

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1. Getting Married- Planning a wedding was rougher than I expected, but the actual wedding was just what we wanted. We had our close friends and family, BBQ, beer, and dancing. All the things I worried about smoothed themselves out and I was surrounded by awesome ladies who helped with everything. We wrote our own vows and while I worried about reading them in front of a crowd, I saw Brian and everything was ok. Seven months in and we are basically marriage experts. haha. We’ve had a lot of change this year and I couldn’t ask for a better partner for it all.

gait: pacing Never Summer 100k

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Kristen and her friends picked me up at the Denver airport and we started driving towards the mountains. As soon as we got to Ft. Collins she pulled over and let me drive. She must of known that the next few hours would be through the very windy roads of the canyon. Every turn was gorgeous. When we pulled in to the Gould Community Center parking lot, we all thought… this is it? We were in the wild!

Kristen checked in and I went with her to the Park Ranger table. He asked if we had any questions so I asked what to do when we saw a bear. He didn’t think bears would be much of a problem. And to just make noise and back away. What we should really be cautious about was the MOOSE. He said slowly back away while keeping your eyes on them and if they start to charge, weave in and out of trees so they would get stuck.

With that advice we headed in to Walden to check in to our hotel and get dinner. Thats when we ran into this guy-

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Apparently Walden is the Moose viewing capital of the US! After dinner we got to bed early as we had to get up at 3:30 AM! I woke with the runners and drove them to the starting line. Along the drive we saw a Moose crossing the road! When we arrived it was still dark, but there was a full moon.

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I watched the runners check in and helped where I could (I couldn’t really).

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They were excited… nervous… and ready to run!

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This was the second year of the race and they had about 300 starters! A small crowd for a road race, but a big crowd for a crazy hard 100K.

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And they were off!

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After the runners were off they had a pacers and crew meeting. The meeting was mostly useless. They talked about where we could meet runners and that was about it. I had been tasked with getting to the Canadian Aid Station without the car, but they were little help with this. I asked around for rides, but no one seemed to be able to help. I did get some help reading the park map and finding out how to get to the mountain lake to see Kristen at mile 10. After the meeting was over I headed up to the lake.

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The park ranger had asked what type of vehicle I was in so I got a little nervous to continue up the dirt road. So I parked at the second lot and started walking up the hill. Soon I discovered that the hill was a mountain and it kept going. A car came up the road and I asked for a ride. They were more than happy to give me a ride and it turned out it was a father/daughter spectating crew also from Washington, DC! Once we got to the top parking lot it was another mile hike up, but it was worth it. The lake was beautiful! There were some spectators there and they said that only about 10 people had gone by. So I posted up and cheered for runners in the most beautiful spot.

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Soon enough I see Kristen running around the bend. She stopped to chat a minute and I realized she was very muddy. I asked if she fell. Nope, just lost her shoe in mud and had to dig it out and clean it up before putting it back on. After a picture she was back on her way.

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I chatted with some other spectators and made some more friends for a ride back down the hill. They then offered me a chair to watch the runners pass by at about mile 18. It was still before noon, but already getting hot in the sunlight. Kristen came running down the hill and kept going… little did she know within a mile she would have to run straight up a mountain.

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It was now around noon and I since I woke up at 3:30 am knew I would be up until at least midnight I decided to grab lunch and take a nap back at the hotel. I felt kind of bad as the runners were running and I was going to go eat and nap, but I wanted to be the best pacer I could be and the other places to crew were not as easy to get to. I stopped at the best gas station ever and filled up on gas and water. People said hydration helped with altitude so I wanted to drink up. After a sandwich and water I tried to take a nap… it was more like laying in bed, but I think I slept for 20 minutes or so. Then I packed up my running gear and headed to the Finish/Start line to try to find a ride to the Canadian Aid Station. I pulled in and saw an older couple I had seen earlier in the day. I asked if they were going up there and they were not. Then I see a guy sitting in a pick up truck. With all hope gone I ask him if he was going up to Canadian. HE WAS! I jumped in and we rode about a half hour up to the Canadian.

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Once we parked it was a mile walk in to the station. I arrived a little before 5. Kristen told me to be there by 5:30 so I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I’m not one to talk to strangers and I had been making friends all day. When I arrived there had only been a handful of runners pass through, so I knew Kristen would be a few hours later at the earliest. I settled in and enjoyed nature and the occasional runner passing through. There were quite a few people there both volunteering and crewing. I kept eating and drinking water so I would be ready at any time, which lead me to having to find the bushes a few times.

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Then the sun began to set. The mountains lit up, I heard someone call it mountain glow. By this point I had learned that both of Kristen’s friends had dropped from the race. One had called up to get the car keys and the other came through the station in a pickup truck. All reports were that it was a tough race. A few runners came through talking about how they had sat on the trail for a half hour waiting for a bear and her cubs to move along!

Once the sun went down it got cold fast. By cold I mean around 50 degrees, but it felt COLD. I was wearing shorts to run in, but had packed my jacket and gloves and quickly put them on. I moved over by the grill and warming candles to stay warm. I found two other pacers also trying to stay warm. Around 10 pm I decided maybe I should eat some real food and had one of the cheese quesadillas they were preparing, then some pretzels and some chips. I guess when I got cold I went full out ultra.

After it got dark all we could see coming down the hill was the headlamps. Which could be confusing, sometimes four lights turned in to one runner. And then out of the darkness came three runners… and one of them was Kristen! It was so dark that I had to walk right up to make sure it was her. Kristen looked at me and said “It is so HARD” and gave me a hug. If you know Kristen she never says things are hard, she usually says “suck it up” so I knew it must have been hard.

My adrenaline was pumping at this point. I had thought about what would happen if she came in and wanted to drop from the race since I had seen so many people going down the mountain in the back of a truck, but ultimately I wanted to help her finish and was excited when she was ready to keep going after only a few minutes and a few bites of food.

Kristen wasn’t able to run anymore at this point, but we were fast hiking and I warmed up pretty quick. Even though it was dark it was fun and we saw varied landscapes. Like the rest of the race, the race wasn’t always on actual trail. We went through tall grass, tall trees, water crossings, muddy paths impossible to go around and straight up 2000 feet. I kept seeing shadows moving only to find out that it was just me moving and the shadows of little shrubs on the trail. Luckily the only wildlife we saw was a small mouse.

I sang and told stories and got Kristen to tell stories. For me the time passed fast. We were keeping to around 18 min miles, which doesn’t sound fast but try walking a mile straight up hill in two inches of mud! I did the math in my head and knew if we kept the same pace Kristen would have no trouble finishing in 23 hours, which was the cut off for qualifying for Western States Lottery. So we kept going. A few people passed us looking strong, but we also passed several people who were really struggling. One guy said he hit the wall… this was around mile 62… I think he did pretty good holding of the wall till then.

Kristen didn’t take much time at the aid stations we passed though. I grabbed some gummy bears at one but otherwise didn’t eat much. The final station was a little over 2 miles to the finish and we didn’t stop at all.

We ran a little in this last section, but I think this section lasted the longest for Kristen. It started to rain a little and we were so close but we couldn’t really see any signs of the finish. It was also the least interesting terrain because it was along the road and a more accessible path.

After five hours of speed hiking we finally saw the lights of the finish line and we started running again. I started cheering and broke off to the side as Kristen made her way through the finishers shoot in around 22 hours and 13 minutes.

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We went inside the rustic community center for a bit, but soon headed back to the hotel because it was 4 AM and the finishers breakfast and awards ceremony was at 9 AM. Although I showered that night, my toes weren’t quite clean for a full week after.

I know this was a long one, but it was a long race! If you ever have the opportunity to crew or pace at a ultra trail race I highly encourage it. Its motivating and inspiring to see all the runners and you get to hang out in beautiful places while congratulating yourself for not being quite as crazy as all of those runners. Check out Kristen’s race report here.

take: 3 ways I’m like my Mom

  1. I like to make things.

When we see things we like we try to figure out how to make them ourselves. My mom is very talented in all things sewing and quilting and most other handicrafts. One year for  Christmas I received balls of yarn, needles, and an instructional CD-rom. I didn’t know how to knit, but my mom was right in guessing I would enjoy learning how. Then two years ago I received fabric and a pattern for my birthday, now I have a new wall hanging!

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Preparing to celebrate my brother’s graduation back in 2007

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Showing off handmade items at the Chilhowee Fair

 

2. I like denim.

My mom has always had a thing for denim. Denim jeans, jumpers, dresses, capris, and shirts. While I’ve always liked denim jeans recently I’ve acquired several denim shirts and just the other day my mom told me about the new Gap denim dress she got while I told her about my new Gap denim jacket.

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Posing at the State Fair with her award winning denim skirt

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Wearing a denim shirt while touring around the National Mall

 

3. I can’t say no.

We are both hesitant to say no to anything. From helping a friend with a sewing project to volunteering. But I also think that is where my willingness to explore new places and try new things comes from (and willingness to sing with the band).

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Singing along with the band 

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Traveling through Germany, one Christmas Market at a time

 

take: Nashville

A few weekends ago I headed to Nashville with seven friends to celebrate our friend Jenn’s upcoming nuptials. We got an amazing Air BnB in East Nashville that was retro cool. I really liked the East Nashville area, some of the spots we checked out:

  • The Pharmacy, Burger Parlor and Beer Garden– Great burgers and beer in a casual cool setting. We sat on the porch which was great, half inside and half out. The staff was great too our waitress gave us suggestions on going out in the area.
  • Lockeland Table– This was our nice dinner out. They had great cocktails and delicious food. Another awesome waitress. She gave us detailed descriptions of most of the drinks and food and told us of a dance party going on that night in the area, which we hit up and had a great time.
  • No. 308– We stopped here on our walk home from the dance party. The music the DJ was playing pulled us in. Great atmosphere and great dancing.
  • Barista Parlor– I went with one friend early Sunday before the rest of the house got up. The whole side of the parlor opened to the outside and it was a beautiful day. We both got ice coffees and shared a doughnut and breakfast bagel. They were both delicious and the place had so much character.

But a Bachelorette party to Nashville is not complete without heading down to Honkey Tonk row. Broadway. We didn’t realize when we booked the trip, but Nashville is currently the bachelorette party capitol of North America. You couldn’t turn around without seeing three or four groups of ladies. We didn’t have matching shirts, but everyone else did. Our favorite places downtown were:

  • Acme Feed & Seed– We stopped here for lunch and drinks and they had a live band and we liked it so much we came back later for drinks on the rooftop and then dinner again downstairs. You order at the counter and they bring your food to you. They had a great selection of southern food with creative twists.
  • Robert’s Western World– The Bride-to-be had good memories of this place from a prior visit so we headed back. It was dirty and gritty and great. The band on stage was dressed in retro country attire and they played one of my favorite songs “The Battle of New Orleans”.
  • Johnny Cash Museum– It was a little expensive, but a nice museum. They kind of glaze over the bad times of Johnny, but also focus on some other little known facts. I liked how they had lots of interactive exhibits.
  • Mike’s Ice Cream– A few of us stopped in here one day because it was HOT out. We all got two scoops, but quickly figured out that one would of been enough. The ice cream was delicious and we all finished, because we didn’t want to throw any of the deliciousness away.

gait: Charlottesville Half Marathon recap

Hills. Everyone warned me of the hills. I misread the elevation chart to read around 300 feet of elevation gain, but really it was 872 feet of elevation gain and 870 feet of elevation loss. To picture what that looks like think of a hill you wouldn’t want to stop on with a stick shift vehicle, that lasts for a half mile and then repeat that a few times. There was a reprieve on the river front path, but that only lasted a few miles.

When we arrived in Charlottesville I already knew I was in trouble. While I incorporated hills into my long runs and a few of my shorter runs, I didn’t do any true hill workouts. As we drove around the hills grew. The packet pick up was at the start/finish of the race. The pre-race material said there would be an “expo” but it was more like packet pick up plus some boyscouts handing out safety material

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My race day started like many of my recent race days- early and rainy. The rain chances had come and gone many times and when I woke up at 5:30 it was gone, but then by 6 when we were heading to the starting line it was raining.

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The advantages of a smaller race is we could park in the parking garage a block from the start. Brian was able to hang out with me until a minute before the start and it wasn’t hard to find each other along the course.

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The race started on time and the rain let up a little right before 7. Soon we were off and running around downtown. Soon I realized I didn’t really practice running down hill either. With the wet and rainy roads I was probably a little too cautious but I tried to just let go and fly down the hills.

After downtown there were some Monster Hills, both up and down. I tried to stay steady up the hills and enjoy the down hills. Around mile 3 we arrived at the river and onto a fairly flat trail through the woods. It was nice of the race organizers to add this two mile section for a little rest before some more big hills. Right before the turnaround Brian saw me and cheered, which was good because I had my head down trying to get up the hill. On my way back from the turnaround I had to yell at Brian as I was running faster than my tracking app thought.

From this point we retraced our tracks. I thought I remembered where I had been, but everything looked different when I headed back. I still felt pretty good at this point, but my watch was telling me I was slowing down. I started doing the math to finish in 2 hours and knew I needed to speed up a bit, but nothing was working. Then once I hit the last mile the road headed straight up at 90 degrees. Ok I’m exaggerating a little, but it was steep. I started doing this weird race walk thing that I hope was not caught on camera.

That last mile killed my chances and I finished in 2:02. I’m pretty proud of my race though. I’ve never seen so many hills. At the finish line there was water, milk, bananas, and some pinwheel sandwiches. I thought we were going to get medals, but when I didn’t I didn’t worry about it too much because I don’t really need another medal. However I got an email the day after saying they are mailing the medals!

It was still raining a bit and cold so we didn’t stick around the finish line too long, but they were handing out beer and had a band playing (both would be nice on a sunny day).

 

 

gait: Cville training week 8

Monday: rest day since I did my long run on Sunday

Tuesday: 3.8 mile interval workout. Flew to Seattle Tuesday and was looking to do some run exploring. Seattle weather has other plans, rain and high winds made it hard to walk so I decided to run inside the hotel.

Wednesday: 3 easy miles. I knew the time difference in Seattle would help me wake up earlier, but it didn’t help the sun come up any earlier. I still managed to fit in three miles before sitting in meetings from 8 to 5:30. I ran from my hotel to the space needle and on the paths around the space needle and Key arena. Seattle has a lot of interesting architecture, new and old. There were lots of fun signs and sites to look at and I wished I had more time.

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Thursday: all day airplane ride rest.

Friday: 4 miles. Three easy with a faster final mile. I bought trail shoes in preparation for this weekend’s trail race and to prepare to run in Colorado this summer. I hadn’t had a chance to try them out, but didn’t want to wear them for the first time in a race so I wore them on the treadmill. They felt great so I think I’m good to go.

Saturday: rest day to prepare for the race Sunday.

Sunday: 9.79 miles at the Backyard Burn Spring Series Laurel Hill race in Lorton, VA. It was rough, I started too fast. I’ll write a full post on the race once they post the official times.

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Total Miles: 21 miles, I missed one day of running and cut two runs shorter than my training plan called for, but I still did a long run and a workout run so with all of my traveling this week I still call it a success.

gait: Charlottesville Half Marathon

In  June of 2012 I ran my first half marathon, the Zooma Annapolis. Spring 2013 I ran two half marathons, Rock ‘n Roll DC and Nike Women DC, followed by the Woodrow Wilson half that fall. Spring 2014 I again doubled up with Rock ‘n Roll DC and Nike Women DC. Then I was burnt out for awhile and didn’t race again till I tried the Marathon distance Rock ‘n Roll DC in the Spring of 2015. The marathon wasn’t the best experience of my life. Rainy, cold, and 26 miles, woof.

After 4 years of Spring long races I start to get the itch to start training around Christmastime, but after three years of Rock ‘n Roll DC and lots of running the same routes around DC I was looking to expand my racing experience back outside of the city.

I asked one of my coworkers who lives outside of DC and has done more of the regional races what his favorite spring half marathon was. His first suggestion was the Historic Half in Fredericksburg, VA, but it is in the middle of May and I was looking for an earlier race. His second recommendation was the Charlottesville Half Marathon. The April 2nd date not only is in the right time frame, but is also the weekend after my birthday, which makes it a perfect day.

Neither Brian nor I have been to Charlottesville before so exploring a new area for the race and for the weekend is also a big plus. I’ve been told the area is beautiful and hilly. While running hills is not my favorite, they do give me something to focus on while running.

I started my training this week. Other than a lunch time run I cut short on Tuesday due to the 20 degree wind chill I had a solid first week. 12 miles total, an hour of yoga, and a cross training/weights workout. I ran some hills on my four mile “long” run and I’ll definitely need to do that every week to be ready on race day.

 

take: the rest of Paris

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We went to this hipster bar in this hipster neighborhood. Ordered two beers, stared at the bartender blankly when he tried to simply tell me $12 in French. But then we were rewarded by watching the man in this picture dance around for awhile.

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Napoleon never got to enjoy the arch, but we did.

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We ate here on our first night, then realized we could see it from our hotel balcony.

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Somewhere in Paris…

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Sacré-Cœur

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From inside the Louvre

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They removed the love locks from the bridge, but left them on the fence leading up to the Pont des Arts bridge.

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I got all up in the gargoyles of Notre Dame’s faces

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Our walking tour was wet and wild. Ok, just wet.

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Luxembourg gardens

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