5K in Every State: Georgia!

The second stop on the great tri-state 5K tour was Georgia. We had lunch in Chattanooga Saturday, and as scheduled, hit the road to Stockbridge, GA (just outside of Atlanta) at 1:30. Hotlanta, ready or not!

Saturday’s schedule looked like this:

9:00-1:30 Explore Chattanooga & Lunch
1:30 On the road to Stockbridge, GA
5:00 AWARE Panola Mountain State Park Night Owl 5K
6:15 On the road to Atlanta
7:00 Check in at hotel
8:00 Dinner reservation with a friend in Atlanta

We hit traffic again through Atlanta, but got to Panola Mountain State Park in plenty of time for me to check in and pin my bib. This run was put on by AWARE (Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort), and there were a few critters there to welcome us–a barn owl, a hawk, and something in a cage I didn’t get my eyes on. These birds were impressive creatures.

Windy Sue Whoo is a Barn Owl whose right wing was permanently injured by a homeowner who thought she was a threat to the family cat. Windy now lives at the AWARE center.
Windy Sue Whoo is a Barn Owl whose right wing was permanently injured by a homeowner who thought she was a threat to the family cat. Windy now lives at the AWARE center.

It is an understatement to say that Panola Mountain State Park is picturesque. It is a 1,600-acre park with pavilions, picnic shelters, campsites, fishing lakes, bridges, and flat out breathtaking natural beauty. It’s a quick 30 minutes South of Atlanta, and I highly suggest you check it out. There are paved trails, so you don’t need to be a seasoned hiker to enjoy the beauty.

Paved trails at Panola Mountain State Park. I had hoped the entire course would be flat like this, but it was not so!
Paved trails at Panola Mountain State Park. I had hoped the entire course would be flat like this, but it was not so!
There were volunteers stationed along the run with more wildlife. How cute are these two?
There were volunteers stationed along the run with more wildlife. How cute are these two?
Picture-perfect views at every turn.
Picture-perfect views at every turn.

For an experienced runner, this course was probably cake even in the rain. For little old, non-runner me who had fully run only her second 5K the day before, my legs said it was out of the question. So I ran the flats and the downhills, walked the uphills, and stopped to take lots of pictures. My time was 44:59 (6th of 10 in my age group–not too shabby), which is about what my time was the first time I completely ran a 5K (without walking or taking pics). Hmph.

Feeling pretty darn good post-race!
Feeling pretty good post-race!

It was nearly 6:30 by the time we hopped in the car (15 minutes behind schedule–gasp), but we had a dinner reservation and I surely wasn’t going to show up rained on and muddy. We checked into the hotel, I showered myself back to human, and off we went to dinner at Lure, a seafood restaurant to please even the foodiest of foodies. I had the Whole Bramlett Farms Trout which was done to perfection. Trout is a tricky fish to prepare, in my opinion, because when it is filleted in half, it is thin and there is a fine line between fully cooked and over cooked. It’s easy to end up with a slightly dry, but still tasty, piece of fish. The chef at Lure prepared the Trout whole, which allows the fish to be cooked through and retain its moisture. Our server de-boned it table-side, which was a show in and of itself, and the result was a flaky, tender, and tasty fish that wasn’t even in the neighborhood of dry. It was a treat.

It was good to catch up with my Atlanta peep. The three of us ate, drank, talked, and laughed. It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so much, and it was good for my soul. But after one large fish, a little dessert, and a couple of libations, it was once again time to rest my aching bones–remember, this was my second 5K in as many days. The AWARE Night Owl 5K was by far the coolest run I’ve done so far, and there’s nothing better than spending time with friends. This crazy trip was turning out to be pretty darn good.

My head no sooner hit the pillow and I swear it was daylight and time to find our way to some breakfast. Kathy suggested we do the old fork-and-knife-icon-on-the-phone trick, and we hit the jackpot at an awesome little place off the beaten path. We weren’t too far outside of Atlanta when we happened upon the Thumbs Up Diner. If you lived there, this is the place you’d have breakfast every Sunday. I had the Greek Scramble which checked off both of my breakfast boxes: delicious and big. Bonus: my tab was $7.44. Seriously. This is the kind of place where the servers wear their street clothes and the only thing that distinguishes them from everyone else is how quickly they’re moving.

Thumbs Up Diner. No-nonsense good food!
Thumbs Up Diner. No-nonsense good food!

Our bellies were full, and Atlanta was in our rear view. Next stop, Birmingham!


Tip: Take a stroll through Panola Mountain State Park and bring your camera!
Tip: Stay at the Atlanta Marriott Suites Midtown. Modern, spacious, clean, and a full-service lobby bar.
Tip: Breakfast at the Thumbs Up Diner. Great breakfast/cheap eats.
Tip: Dine at Lure. Excellent seafood, and you must sample the pistachio ice cream. Out. Of. This. World!


5K in Every State: Tennessee!

I’m on this quest to run a 5K in every state, and I’m not really a runner. For those just tuning in, I was diagnosed with Stage IIB breast cancer, which was a frightening and life-changing event, but I’m now 2 ½ years cancer-free and working on my Life List. Most would call it a bucket list, but that term doesn’t sit right with me, so Life List it is. I needed to inject some exercise into my sedentary life, and I missed traveling something awful, so I decided to throw “5K in every state” on the List. Stay physically fit and see the entire country while I do it. Super!

I knocked out a few states right off the bat: my first 5K was in my home state of North Carolina, next was a nice little trail run in Wisconsin while visiting family, and then I took a long weekend to South Beach with a friend and did a 5K through the Miami Zoo. How cool is that? But that was all a while ago, and if left unchecked, I’ll fuse to the sofa before you can say Netflix. A good friend told me I better get moving, and so I did.

My Wisconsin run near Madison was beautiful!
My Wisconsin run near Madison was beautiful!

I planned a ridiculous “three 5Ks in three states in three days” trip, and I actually convinced a friend to join me. Truthfully, she took pity on me. This junk isn’t even on her list, so she’s crazier than I am, right? I joke. Kathy made it clear she was not running anywhere, but she was coming along to have fun (yay!), and to be sure I didn’t get lost somewhere on my way from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Chattanooga to Atlanta, or Atlanta to Birmingham. Basically, to be an awesome friend.

So I sent her the itinerary and off we went. Kathy confessed at the close of our tour that she thought I had lost my marbles and there was no way that schedule was going to fly, but it did. Mostly. The one fault in my planning was not allowing enough time for the beast that is called Atlanta. The airport. The Disney-long line at Thrifty car rental. The TRAFFIC. So we were behind schedule from the get-go. Here’s what the first day was supposed to look like:

1:15 PM Land at ATL
1:45 On the road to Chattanooga, TN
4:00-6:45 Check in at hotel and explore Chattanooga
6:45 On the road to Dayton, TN
8:00 YMCA Funky Monkey 5K in Dayton
9:00 On the road to Chattanooga
10:00 Dinner in Chattanooga

Since we were a couple of hours late out of Atlanta, we didn’t get to see Chattanooga at all on Friday. We blew into town and barely had time to drop our bags at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, change into running gear, and hit the road to Dayton 45 minutes North for the YMCA Funky Monkey 5K Glow Run. The Choo Choo was a disappointment, but the only let-down of the entire trip, so success in my book. I had great expectations for the train depot once called Terminal Station turned vacation complex in 1973 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The lobby, which is what used to be the old train station, is gorgeous. Hotel 3—not so much. Once you are welcomed into the grand opulence of the hotel lobby, you are given a map, directed to get in your car and travel to Hotel 1, Hotel 2, or Hotel 3, none of which looked anything like a train station. Hotel 3 brought to mind “Orange is the New Black.” But we weren’t spending much time there anyway, so what the heck.

Hotel 3
Hotel 3. How’s that for warm and inviting?

We drove into Dayton with just enough time to circle around town searching for the race, to ask directions from folks who could not comprehend that we were not from there and had no idea where 3rd Street, the florist, or the funeral home were, and finally made our way to the event. Persistence. I got my glow on (one yellow tube around my neck—the Y kids wrapped themselves head-to-toe), and pop went the start gun! This was an 8pm run on a flat course with a cool temp. I ran the entire 5K (only the 2nd time ever) and came in with my best time ever by 10 minutes with a time of 33:57! I never thought I would do better than 40:00. I struggle that much. But, no time for celebrating–I caught my breath, and we high-tailed it back to Chattanooga to the Terminal Brewhouse for some food and drink. After running 3 miles, inhaling a hefty black bean burger and a glass of red wine, Hotel 3 didn’t seem so bad.

Terminal Brewhouse in Chattanooga
Terminal Brewhouse in Chattanooga

The next morning we finally saw a little bit of the city. Chattanooga is nestled in a valley between the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau with a population of about 175,000. We checked out Coolidge Park which is part of the Tennessee Riverwalk, a 15-mile long public greenway that runs along the Tennessee River. The park is beautiful with a 100-year-old restored carousel and an interactive water feature. The Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge is near the park entrance, and you get a great view from the bridge.


A view of Coolidge Park from the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge
A view of Coolidge Park from the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge
Looking across the Tennessee River from Coolidge Park
Looking across the Tennessee River from Coolidge Park

While we were at the park, we happened upon the Skyhoundz Word Championship disc competition, which had me beside myself, and then one of the competitors was a rescue dog! I had to take a moment and pull myself together. Seriously. Those dogs were incredible!

One of the competitors at the Skyhoundz World Championship disc competition
One of the competitors at the Skyhoundz World Championship disc competition

From there we walked to an adorable little art gallery, Tangerinas, and then drove to the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar. If you remember nothing else, remember this. We dined on the deck overlooking the Tennessee River and the Riverwalk. The menu was vast, with lunch options from a $6 Wedge Salad to a $30 Wood Grilled Rib Eye. The Catfish Poboy dialed my number. It was served with slaw and fries, and I added Wood Fired Okra. You need to pay attention here: if anyone ever offers you wood fired okra, you take it and you never look back! That stuff was plain good food. It had the smokey wood-fired flavor, was slightly charred, and had a pinch of salt and olive oil. It was tender, it was flavorful, it was delicious. I can’t say enough about it. The catfish was excellent, and my meal was around $15 (because I added the okra). The place was fairly busy, yet the owner came over to check on our food and ask if we had been before and where we were from. He then came back a few minutes later to chit-chat, and then the chef came out to see if we were enjoying our meal. For $15! Repeat in your mind over and over “Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar…Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar…”

Catfish Poboy with Wood Fired Okra at the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar
Catfish Poboy with Wood Fired Okra at the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar. If you are in Chattanooga, you need to check out the Boathouse!

No sooner did we finish lunch and it was time to make our way back to Atlanta because the itinerary said so. I can’t say enough about Chattanooga and wish we had more time to take it all in. It is gorgeous! I’d love to go back some day, but I’ve got 44 5Ks in 44 other states and just two legs. Next up is Atlanta!


Tip: Eat at the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar and the Terminal Brewhouse, but if you must choose, definitely the Boathouse.
Tip: Check out Coolidge Park along the Tennessee River with a restored historic carousel and interactive water feature. It sits below the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the park and the city.
Tip: Check out Tangerinas studio across from Coolidge Park. An aunt/niece duo making art from recycled materials. I little piece came home with me!


5K in Every State: Florida (welcome to Miami!)

My first 5K of 2015 was in Florida–at the Miami Zoo. I was super excited to pull out my Life List and knock out another race in another state! I invited one of my friends to join me, so off to Miami Beach Mel and I went.

Before I get too far into this story, let me come clean about something. I went to Florida to do a 5K, and these are the things I forgot to pack:

Sport bra, arm band, ear buds, mini backpack
Things I forgot to pack. For a race.

No arm band or ear buds for music, no sport bra (a must-have; there was shopping), and no micro pack. Do you know what that means? I carried my purse. I carried my purse while interval running 3.1 miles. What is wrong with me?

Back to the story.

We stayed in the historic Art Deco District of Miami Beach, and the architecture was beautiful. Miami Beach was beautiful. The weather was beautiful! My opinion of Florida has forever changed. I have been to Orlando several times and never saw the draw, but I should know better than to judge an entire state based on one city. Shame on me. Anywho, as soon as we dumped our luggage at the hotel, I started snapping some photos.

The Kent Hotel on Collins Avenue, built in 1939, is one of my favorites. I love the right angles, smooth planes, and softly curved corners. Gorgeous!

The Kent Hotel on Collins Avenue
The Kent Hotel on Collins Avenue
Mural on building on Collins Avenue
Mural on Collins Avenue
Condos at 226 Ocean Place
Condos at 226 Ocean Place

On our second day, we got up long before the crack of dawn, rustled up the valet to fetch the car, and headed to the race at the Miami Zoo. We arrived under the cover of darkness and yawned as the sun came up. I don’t think the animals were even awake yet. It was a small group for the race…maybe 50 runners. We saw gazelle, rhinos, and tortoises. And a couple of zebras in the parking lot.

Mel and Kelly wearing zebra masks pre-race
Zebras in the parking lot!

We did run/walk intervals, me carrying my purse, and my time was right on par with the one instance when I ran the entire 3.1 miles. So, you know running just went out the window. I struggle in humidity more than if I’m back home in dry Wisconsin. Not to be confused with the alcohol situation in Wisconsin–I am not saying it is a “dry state.” It is #3 in the nation for bars per capita, but I’m getting off topic. My point is, the air in Miami was moist and it made for a soupy run. Regardless, I’m just happy to have crossed the finish line!

Once the race was done, we motored back to the beach. I had no idea when I booked the trip that we were hitting South Beach during Gay Pride weekend. What a parade! Literally! We had a front-row seat, complete with fishbowl drinks, to a two-hour rainbow parade. Now that’s a mini-vacay! It was heartwarming to see the many banks, medical facilities, travel agencies, realtors, schools, churches, and so on marching in support and showing a whole lot of respect and kindness.

Shirtless man with life size blow up green alien
I love a parade!
Kelly with a fishbowl margarita glass of beer
My beverage for the parade. You can take the girl out of Wisconsin…

After the parade we hit the Lincoln Road Mall, which is a pedestrian-only shopping area that covers approximately six blocks. Shopping, cafes, and bars. I scored a chicken empanada at the farmer’s market–a scrumptious little treat between boutiques.

Chicken empanada with glossy pastry crust
Look at the glossy pastry crust on that empanada!

We had some good and tasty meals, but the place that won’t leave my mind is the Puerto Sagua restaurant on Collins Avenue. An authentic Cuban diner with food that’ll make you miss home even if you’re already there. Know what I mean? It is comfort food all. the. way. Expect a line stretched out the door, but it is worth the wait. I had the daily special which was baked chicken with rice, beans, and fried plantains. I don’t think I spoke the entire meal. Mel and I split an order of yucca fries, and they were served with garlic sauce that was so good it was startling. I mean SO good! This is not a fancy joint; it’s what I call a greasy spoon. If you’re squeamish about that stuff, get over it because you are missing some good nosh.

Bottle of cervesa hatuey, cuban beer
My first Cuban beer (although it has been brewed in the U.S. since 1995). It was a little heavier than I prefer.

This was a quick weekend trip, mostly for the purpose of checking off another 5K from my list, but also for a little R&R. Miami is a late city–most folks rise late and stay out late. We hit the beach one morning and got to relax in the sun with the ocean sounds lulling us into a sedated-like state of being. We were nearly the only ones out there.

Feet in sand, ocean, sunshine
Post-breakfast relaxing

I have to give a shout out to my friends and family for all of their support already through this crazy Life List of mine. My friend, Kim, ran next to me through my first 5K in North Carolina; my nephew and his family cheered for me at the finish line in Wisconsin; and my friend, Mel, hauled herself to Florida to run with me. I predict I’ll do some races solo, but I see many more friends and family members hitting the pavement with me in the days ahead. If you know me, get your running shoes on, because here I come!



On your left! Basic cycling etiquette

Sometimes I forget my manners–hopefully not often. I say please and thank you, write thank you notes (I’m old-fashioned and still love a hand-written note), allow people to exit through a door before I enter. I don’t consider myself a stickler about manners, but having them is definitely helpful. It makes interacting with others run smoothly. After all, everybody can’t fit in the revolving door at once.

With Spring upon us, a topic that comes up often among my group of walking, hiking, and running friends is cyclists giving the courtesy of an “on your left” call or ring of a bell. The greenway is filled with every type of forward-moving athletic modality imaginable, and for the most part it’s all rainbows and butterflies. Until you’re walking along, in my case with my dog, and suddenly a cyclist whizzes by without warning. It startles me to pieces, which I do not appreciate. My dog doesn’t react, but I know many, many dogs who lose it when buzzed by a bike. It’s incredible how soundless a speeding cyclist can be when approaching from behind.

Cyclists in Raleigh
Cycling for a cause in Raleigh

Not only is it courteous to call out or ring, but it’s also a safety issue. As a cyclist, you don’t know what the person you’re approaching is planning to do. My dog, strongly driven by her nose, could suddenly dart to the left. Now my dog is in your path and it’s not going to be good for either of you. If I know you’re coming up behind us, I’ll be sure we both stay put. You give the call-out, and I keep out of your way. See how that works?

For the bikers who don’t think the on-your-left call is necessary, think how motor vehicles don’t always safely share the road. Walkers and runners bemoan cyclists for the very same reason. Before you complain about not enough road space, about vehicles passing too closely, drivers simply being rude, perhaps you should pony up those same manners to pedestrians. “Share the Road” is applicable to you too.

Many thanks to those of you who give a heads-up as you approach. I want to shout a thank you, because that’s the polite thing to do, but don’t want to break your concentration, mess up your pace, or whatever it is that y’all chase. Know that your good manners are appreciated.

Have you been buzzed by a cyclist? Are you a cyclist? What has your experience been?

Cheers, and Be Safe!

Skinny is Not a Compliment

A Calvin Klein ad portraying a size 10 model as ‘plus size’ has people riled up, and rightfully so. I’m sure there will be much discussion about CK and its bothersome campaign, but I’m irked about more than the ad. The conversation it started went from double zero to ugly pretty darn quickly. In a matter of minutes the conversation turned to hating the thin people.

It’s time to stop the double-standard. I can be referred to as skinny (which is not a compliment), but you can’t be called fat?

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Let’s start with the definition of skinny. Dictionary.com notes this:

  1. very lean or thin; emaciated
  2. of or like skin
  3. unusually low or reduced; meager; minimal
  4. (of an object) narrow or slender

I don’t appreciate being likened to terms such as emaciated, like skin, or meager. Surely you all teach your children not to tease others based on how they look. You would hopefully be appalled if your little one harrassed another about the size of their nose or back side. Why, then, is it okay to ridicule people based on their small size?

I’m a small-framed woman, I eat well, and I’m a healthy weight. I know this from just about every medical chart, from every BMI index, and from my own physician. I am a size 0 by American standards (depending on the brand I could be a 00 or a 2), and if you have a problem with that, get over it. More importantly, it’s time you think about what your words do to others.

The range for healthy is pretty wide. According to the CDC, for an adult who is 5′ 4″ tall, a healthy weight is from 108 to 145 pounds. That sounds like a lot of different sizes and shapes to me, and more power to you wherever you land on that chart. I would not say to someone, “wow, you’re so big.” If I were to be so callous, I would likely be stoned for it. Yet it’s socially acceptable for people to comment on my size and how I look.

News flash: your words have chipped away at my self-esteem too.

For years, I thought my legs were too skinny and my chest too flat because of what other people said to me. ‘Skeletal’ is every bit as offensive as ‘fat.’ It took a lot of work, and despite your words, I love the way I look. Sadly, not everyone is fortunate enough to recognize what judgment from others can do to them.

A few things people say that are wildly inappropriate:

  • Oh my gosh, you’re so skinny. Think of this statement in the opposite. Pretty awful, huh? Might make you feel badly about yourself. It runs both ways.
  • You need to put some meat on your bones. Actually, I don’t. Unless you have something kind to say, honor what your mother taught you and zip it.
  • You eat like a bird. You’ve just affirmed your own ignorance on the subject of my eating habits, because I probably eat more than you do. Furthermore, what I eat is none of your business. I don’t comment on the contents of your plate–that would be rude.

People suffer from eating disorders, health issues, are underweight, are overweight, and need help. We should not be insensitive to those struggling with weight issues on either side of the matter and should not judge. There are sincere and tactful ways to raise the subject with someone you love. Categorically spewing cavalier and hurtful comments about how others look, no matter their size, is rude and reckless. It’s time we all check ourselves before giving an unsolicited opinion on someone else’s appearance.

Consider how you want your child to be treated at school. Should he or she be teased for being too thin or too big? Let’s treat each other with the respect and kindness we preach. Join me in learning this lesson we teach our children, about how our words effect others.

Cheers to your health!

5K in Every State: WI (and a trip to Door County)

~update at bottom of post~

Long story short, I finished the 5K! Woot woot! And even better, no search & rescue! BUT, before the running there was camping. I know, you’re thinking either I really hit my noggin or had some bad mushrooms on my salad. I’m not a camper; I pretty much have a no-camping rule, but I can be talked into just about anything once. So off I went to Door County to camp with my nephew and his family. In Wisconsin. In October.

Although I don’t see myself doing the camp-out thing again, I had a great time and it was good to see the fam. It was simply too cool for my comfort. The verbiage was different when I stepped out of the shower on day 2, but for the purposes of this blog, it was “too cool for my comfort.” Cell signals don’t exist out there, so I wasn’t able to check the temp, but I took a peek at the forecast before I arrived which said 50 daytime and 30s at night. I’m pretty sure we didn’t hit 50.

Keeping the fire burning
Nephew keeping the fire burning

The campfire was stoked, food grilled, and beer sipped. We even had live music with my niece playing guitar and singing. I brought my ukulele and she had that sounding sweet in no time too. Two more nieces arrived the next day and more catching up, singing, and a sitting-around-the-camp-fire-game I readily put out of my mind. I was already in Auntie heaven when things got really crazy and the holy grail of Auntie-ness was bestowed upon me: I was told I am hip. I’m HIP! That’s like having your selfie get a 100 likes. A HUNDRED!

Campfire music
Campfire music
LOVED the Auntie time
LOVED the Auntie time

Door County was either on the upside or downside of peak Fall colors, but I still got a pretty show on a morning run–which was cut short because I was startled terrified by a deer (another reason I’m not a camper).

People were actually tent camping
People were actually tent camping. Brrr!

On the spur of the moment my niece and I ran through the woods to catch the back side of a sunset. We got there maybe 5 minutes late, but it was worth the sprint!

Tail end of a sunset
Tail end of a sunset

We checked out a couple of towns in the area. Fish Creek is adorable with lots of little shops and places to eat. We had some tasty burgers and of course, cheese curds, at the Bayside Tavern. On my way out of town we stopped at the Wood Orchard Market in Egg Harbor where they put out samples of just about every food item they sell. Apples, jellies, pumpkin butter, salsa, and stuff I didn’t even look at. They got me on the apples, pumpkin butter and cheese curds. Could not resist. Then we hit Egg Harbor’s quaint downtown for their annual Pumpkin Patch fall festival. It was pretty darn cool.

Scored some hot tea at the Chocolate Chicken in Egg Harbor
Scored some hot tea at the Chocolate Chicken in Egg Harbor

But this was a three-pronged trip, and I had to say my farewells and be off. It was so nice to see my nephew and his family and sad to say goodbye. I don’t get to see them near enough.

Stopped in Green Bay to lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in 10 years. We talked about old times, caught up on the present (a whole lot of medical talk at this point in our lives). Lots of laughing and not much eating. We picked up right where we left off when we last saw each other. A sure sign of a true friend.

Then I made my way further south to the Madison area where I have more family (another nephew and his family), and it’s also where I booked the 5K. The Trample the Trails run at Donald Park in Mt. Horeb slapped me in the face with a starting race temp of 36 degrees. Geez! About half of the run was through grass, so the feet got right dewey wet and then the toes went a little frosty. It was a beautiful run through the park though.

Donald Park, Mt Horeb WI
Donald Park, Mt Horeb WI
Donald Park, Mt Horeb WI
Donald Park, Mt Horeb WI

The scenery was gorgeous and I couldn’t help but take some pics. Probably not what the typical runner does, but then again, I lean toward atypical most days. Ha! My two little nieces ran out about 50 yards from the finish line and crossed with me–my all-time favorite running moment! I’d like to bottle that and keep it with me forever. They were too cute for words and later gave me a mani/pedi, and special up-do, and made me bracelets. There is nothing like being pampered by the littles. I finally get Tina Fey’s toddler yogurt facial commercial.

Hair by Nine-Year-Old
Hair by Nine-Year-Old

Madison is a great little capitol city/college town, but the surrounding area is really interesting. Mt. Horeb is a Norwegian settlement, and the Chamber of Commerce has kept true to its heritage with the giant “Velkommen” sign out front. It’s also the troll capital of the world. Who knew? I had no idea the Duluth Trading Company was there. I’ve been all over their site and assumed the store was in Duluth. Makes sense, right? It’s like a Great Outdoor Provision Company, but more focused on clothing than gear. I’m glad my backpack was full when I arrived as I’m still trying to get to that minimalist state of being.

We checked out New Glarus, which is “America’s Little Switzerland.” Authentic Swiss bakery, shops, restaurants, and painted cows. Even on the bank.

You thought I was joking
You thought I was joking

My favorite part of New Glarus was the New Glarus Brewing Co. I’m not a craft beer kind of girl, but these I liked. Maybe it was the post-run high talking, but the Spotted Cow hit the spot. Beautiful place to taste some brews, and they even provided live alpenhorn music. It doesn’t get much better than sitting in the sun, catching up with family, and sipping a beer with the alpenhorns in the background.

New Glarus Brewing Co.
New Glarus Brewing Co.
Alpenhorn players
Alpenhorn players
Staghorn, Raspberry Tart, and Spotted Cow
Staghorn, Raspberry Tart, and Spotted Cow
Our view while sipping beers
Our view while sipping beers

So my first out-of-state run is on the books and only 48 more to go! Was a great trip, especially spending time with family I don’t often get to see. The littles are adorable, and the older nieces are growing up. It’s cool to see them becoming young adults; to hear them talk about their ideals and the decisions they’re making now that will shape the rest of their lives. I kept it together while I was there, but now I get a little teary when I talk about them or replay the videos. I’m so sentimental over these moments now. All part of my much better perspective.


I initially thought my time for the 5K was over an hour, but thank goodness I was wrong! The official time for my first trail run was 53:29. Considering my times have been hanging around the 45 minute mark (and that I stopped to take photos), I am down with the digits, diggin’ the duration, copacetic with the clock…ok I’ll stop!

C25K – Can I Finish?

I ran the Mucus Mile last night – woot woot! Here’s how you sign up: get a nasty chest cold, don’t go to the doctor but rather be miserable and subject your friends and coworkers to incessant, unmannerly coughing for about a month, and then go for a run on a brisk evening. Voila!  You’ve got your own phlegm-filled, coughing, runny-nose Mucus Mile.

Seriously though, I’m in week 15 of a 9-week program. Makes perfect sense, right? It was October 6 when I started Couch to 5K…pretty much on a whim. The idea literally crossed my mind that morning and I ran out the door. Much like I’m a slow reader, I guess I’m a slow C25Ker too. Ideally, you do three runs a week, but sometimes I was doing two and then the third would fall into the next week, which eventually put me behind a week or two. Then I got the nasty chest cold and couldn’t run for a month.

Add to that my plan to repeat week 8 because it was so difficult (just before I got sick). I struggled through that week, and moving on to week 9 seemed like pure foolishness. So here I am, a month later, in week 15. AND, after not running for a month, I started at week 6 to ease back into it. So if I stick to it, I’ll have completed this 9-week running shuffling odyssey in just 18 weeks. See how I did that?

I sure hope this isn’t how the actual 5k plays out. The average female runner finishes in 29 minutes – that puts me at about an hour and a half. My first official race is February 9, and I’m just hoping to run the entire 3.1 miles. I don’t like stuff (like goals) to be half done – I prefer to keep my mental checklist in motion. As tumultuous and disconcerting as the past couple of years have been, I could really use this little accomplishment. To simply finish.

What have you accomplished that made you feel good or that you were happy to have finished? Your stories and inspiration are most welcome!


A Run Cut Short and What Lit the Fitness Fire

Thursday was supposed to be my final workout of week #1 in the C25K program, but it was not so. Everything was going well and then I felt a pull in my left calf. It was on the inside of the leg, about half way between knee and ankle. It didn’t feel like a cramp; it felt more like a tendon was being pulled. It was pretty darn painful. So I cut the run short and limped home with all the resolve to have a do-over. And I did – two days later my second try went just fine. No pulling, no pain, and I completed week #1! Woohoo!

One suggestion from you all was to invest in, and be properly fitted for, a good pair of running shoes. I went to Fleet Feet Sports on Wade Avenue and did exactly that. The sales associate measured my feet both sitting and standing, watched me walk, and spent a lot of time talking with me about my running experience, daily routine, and what shoes I wear on a regular basis. After all of that, he brought out a pair of shoes that he felt would work best for me. They felt great! I tried on four different pairs of shoes, all of which felt like fluffy little clouds on my feet. I bought the pair with the most cushion beneath the arch. We talked a lot about my arches and the plantar fasciitis thing. It boiled down to doing everything to prevent that from ever happening again.

So many pretty colors!
The newbies. The appropriately-named Cumulus 15 by Asics.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we? I’ve made it no secret that I do not like exercising. Not even a little bit (so noted in this post). It has always bored me, been too difficult, or I just plain would rather be doing anything else. So how is it that I’m suddenly getting all fit up in here? Exercise is a huge piece of the cancer prevention puzzle, and once you’ve had cancer, your goal is to prevent a second cancer in another part of the body (2nd cancers are typically treatable but not curable).

We’ve been told and retold that we should maintain a healthy weight and get cardio and strength training on a regular basis. I emphasize the ‘and’ there because we often fall under the false perception that if someone is not overweight, well they must be physically fit (i.e. healthy), right? Not so. Read this now and hate me later: I am naturally thin. I’ve told you about my crazy metabolism. I have never dieted, and I have seldom stuck to an exercise routine. Lucky? Absolutely. But even though being overweight is a risk factor for breast cancer, look who was just as susceptible. Simply being thin does not mean you are fit (insert raised eyebrows and pursed lips). Exercise is important for everyone.

We certainly can’t chalk this up solely to my sedentary lifestyle though. There are likely multiple contributing factors here. Poor diet, never had children, age, just to name a few. But even though I’m not pinning this fiasco entirely on the lack of exercise, I’m sure as heck not going to take the chance of that contributing to a second cancer. In addition to completely changing my diet (I eat clean these days), I’m also injecting a good dose of physical fitness – forever. There is no better motivator than serious contemplation of your own mortality. It’s quite a kick in the pants.

Props to the YMCA for jump-starting my exercise program. I know you totally just sang Yyy Mmm C-A, Yyy Mmm C-A-A! A fellow patient at the cancer center mentioned a program the Y was doing for survivors. I got out the Google and found they were offering the program right here in Raleigh – super! I emailed the contact person and wouldn’t you know they were starting a new session in a couple of weeks – even better! And the news just kept getting better. The LiveStrong program through the Y is free to any cancer survivor at any time in their life – score!

Post-workout chair stretching.
I look freakishly happy about it!

So I did the 12-week program and we met twice a week for a one-hour workout. There were five of us who completed the whole shebang. There was a bit of support group time incorporated into the “stretch and reflect” period at the end of each workout. It was good to spend time with folks who were navigating the cancer path too.  It was a wonderfully positive experience and it allowed me to sample different types of exercise, equipment, and classes. My favorite was restorative yoga – no surprise there (low impact, not strenuous). I think it pairs well with the running too. Good stretching is so important if you’re going to do any running. And when I say running, you know I mean jogging (sometimes shuffling).

It turns out the LiveStrong program was the transition I needed into my newly found healthy lifestyle. Isn’t it nice how so often just what you need is placed right in front of you? Folks, I think that’s called grace.

Will running & yoga be my “thing” forever? Probably not. I’m sure right about when I get all comfy and settled into it I’ll change it up. I’ll keep you posted!


No More Running from Running – Working My Way to a 5k!

For those of you who find running easy or enjoyable, you may not get this post. If not, I hope you are at least amused. I have tried to be a runner a couple of times over the past decade and have failed both times. Yes, I have asthma, but it is well-controlled and, in my opinion, should not keep me from running a 5k. Yep, that’s my goal – a simple 5k. No long distances, no half-marathons, and certainly no marathons, just a little 5k.

The best I’ve done so far was about 10 years ago when I was able to run a mile. That was after “training” for a year. That’s no typo folks, I trained for a year and was able to squeak out only a mile. It was at least something, but then plantar fasciitis hit hard. I hope to never experience that pain again. It felt like I had a nail driven into the bottom of my heel, and just for fun there was an invisible troll who would send excruciating electrical shocks along the arch of my foot and into the heel. Not fun. It took years to heal. Physical therapy, ultrasound, electrical pulsations to the foot (oh, the irony), orthotics (real sexy), foot braces, sleeping braces (again with the sexiness), and finally a hard cast for several months. I think it was all a result of years of wearing high heels combined with not stretching. Lesson learned.

So with that healed and behind me (it took about 4 years), I tried again about a year ago when we adopted the Fabulous Miss Phoebe. What better motivation to get out and run than to do it with your pooch! Within a couple of weeks I considered myself again defeated. I was gasping for air, my lungs felt like ice chambers, and my knee hurt. Poo.

But here I am today, another year later, and this morning I started the Couch to 5k program – yippee! I’m so excited to see if sticking to a tried and true program can get me to a 5k. In the past, I just ran willy nilly and called it “training.” No more!  It’s all business this time. In eight weeks I should be able to run 5k or 30 minutes without stopping. I’ll keep you posted.

Since I don’t own a stopwatch, I used the feature on my phone. It was bulky and
tough to see in the sunlight. What’s your preference? Is a stopwatch worth having?
Another must-have before heading out is pepper spray. Sadly, that’s the world we live in.
But, safety first! If running solo, I recommend some kind of personal protection.

Today’s workout was to alternate between 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes. Sounds simple, right? I am embarrassed to say that it kicked my behind! Pitiful, but not surprising. The take-away is that I did it. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it! Although I’m taking the high road and not blaming asthma for how difficult this is, I will say it was quite humid today. Perhaps I should plan my future runs a bit earlier than 10am? It should be easier each time I run, and I’m thinking that since I’m starting at rock bottom, there is only room for improvement, right?

The welcome mat that doesn’t actually say welcome
was never so welcoming after my run!

I know there are runners out there who likely have been where I am now – at square one. Any tips? How did you get beyond the gasping for air? What distance are you running now? What’s your favorite time of day to run? I’m so happy to be doing this, not only to maybe build some muscle, but also to strengthen my lungs. There are so many benefits to working out – I hope this third time is truly a charm!