April

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I have a love-hate relationship with April. Most people have this love-hate thing with March. The whole in like a lion, out like a lamb part drives people crazy. Thing is with March, I expect it. I anticipate that type of behavior. In April I do not.

Things I love about April

  1. Spring – The weather in April should be changing to the warmer side.
  2. Flowers – I love seeing crocuses, tulips, daffodils popping through the ground.
  3. Easter – While it can sometimes be in March, I love the feeling of Easter, of new birth.

What I hate about April

  1. Weather – While I would love for the weather to be warmer, there is always a good chance of snow in April where I live.
  2. The truth about why I hate April – anniversaries – April has it rough.
      • 4/3/2009: The American Civic Association mass shooting in Binghamton, NY
      • 4/15/2013: The Boston Marathon bombings
      • 4/16/2007: The Virginia Tech shootings
      • 4/17/1995: The Oklahoma City bombing
      • 4/20/1999: Columbine school shootings
      • 4/22/1993: The deaths at the Branched Davidian compound in Waco, TX

 

 

Holy Week is Here

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As a Christian, the most important week of the church year is Holy Week. This is the week that falls between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. There is celebration as Jesus heads into Jerusalem on Sunday, followed by intense sadness by Friday. True believers all know that the real celebration comes on Sunday when Christ is raised from the dead. Christians are a people of the risen Lord and so this tie in the liturgical year is more important than any other time.

As with all parts of life, Holy Week makes me think of music. There’s that Kenny Chesney song, “I Go Back,” that says “We all have a song that somehow stamped our lives” and I think that times in our lives all have different songs. Advent finds me wanting to hear the soundtrack to Godspell. Lent, and Holy Week in particular, scream out for me to play the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar. And so I did. I am going to find the original online and stream it this week if I can find time.

As the week approaches, the church will celebrate Holy (in the Anglican church sometimes called Maundy) Thursday. This celebration is a commemoration of the Last Supper and the birth of the Eucharist. I love this Mass. It may be my favorite Mass all year.

Good Friday is the one day in the liturgical year a Catholic priest does not celebrate the Eucharist. A communion service will be held along with veneration of the cross. There is no consecration of the hosts.

Then, the most impressive Mass of the year is the Vigil of Easter. While I have, as my children were growing up, gone to other Masses for Easter, this one is my favorite. At the Vigil, new adults, who have been going through the process of Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults, are welcomed into the church. The reason I may be drawn to this Mass is that 31 year ago this Easter season I became a Catholic.

I’m wishing all my Christian readers a blessed Holy Week. Happy Passover to my Jewish readers.

Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler – Race Recap

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Partially written on paper as I waited with my daughter’s car to get a new rim on. I have had some horrible cell phone issues and just now managed to get the photos off the phone. I have had problems getting this done as I had such a great weekend in DC that I didn’t know what to say here. 

Sunday was the 41st annual running of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. With the half marathon distance being my favorite, running a 10 miler makes sense and is something I’ve done twice previously – Mountain Goat in May 2010 and Ithaca 5 & 10 in September of the same year.While Sunday was not my best time, it fell solidly in the middle.

Sunday morning started chilly. I am still living proof of that as I brought home a cold that does not seem to want to go away. My son dropped me at Union Station about 5:15 and, in retrospect, I could probably have had him drop me later. Good news for him is that driving in DC at that time was easy. I took the train to Metro Center – felt like I was back in Binghamton – and then switched lines to the Smithsonian. I love – possibly because we do not have real public transportation where I live – taking mass transit when I can. The DC Metro system, once I got used to it, was great.

Upon getting to the start area, I did what I always do. I found the porta-potties. Having done sightseeing in the area the day before, I thought I knew right where everything was. I also took some “night” time monument photos. After walking around, race start was 7:18 and it wasn’t even 6 when I arrived, I noticed an actual bathroom so got in line. Truthfully, the porta-potties were cleaner but it was nice to be in heat as the morning was chilly.

 

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Sunrise while awaiting race start

Sunrise while awaiting race start

 

While waiting, I was found by Meredith, one of my Ragnar teammates from last September. I was the only team member not living in the Albany area at the time so do not see these women often enough. We got caught up and hung out together pre-race and the first five miles. I am really unsure how this race would have gone without those first five miles with Meredith.

We did run through an area that was covered with cherry trees. I loved the entire course, not many hilly parts and a bit flat for me training but lovely course.

Along the course, maybe near mile 8

Along the course, maybe near mile 8

 

I highly recommend the lottery process for running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. The distance is just right and the course is wonderful.

Have you ever run this race? What did you think of it? Do you want to run this race?

 

 

 

 

 

Balance

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I’m not talking about inability to stand on one foot for very long. I’m also not talking about the fact that if I were to take a field sobriety test I would likely fail it stone cold sober. I have no balance.

Today, as I was looking over where I am on my goals for the year, I realized I have no balance in my life. When I run close to 200 miles a month, I do little else besides eat, sleep and maybe occasionally mow the lawn. When I read 20 books in a month, I manage to squeak out 60 miles of exercise but I do not manage to sleep enough or get other things done. I love to run. I love to read. So how do I find the balance?

My annual reading goal has been demolished already this year. I can blame this on the weather. I have not wanted to run a lot in January or February. The brutal cold and the amount of snow this past winter has deterred my running. This has given me all kinds of time to read. I was set to read 50 books this year. I have read 56 to date. I am also in the middle of three others.

My annual running, on the other hand, is not going all that well. I have not hit 100 miles a month in months. I like running 100 miles in a month. I really liked that 194 mile month. I tend to average between 125 and 150 miles a month. I need to pick it up. Hopefully, this will happen.

My other goals are getting done but not through intentional doing. They are just happening. I really want to work on things more intentionally.

Time to start is now.

Do you track your annual goals with monthly check-ins? Do you adjust if you have met or are set to surpass your goals? Do your goals just happen?

41st Annual Forks XV – Race Recap

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Sunday was my fourth Forks XV. I love this race and would run it all the time if possible. This particular year I did not run to best my own time but to pace a friend. Helen, while a one time marathoner, has recently just started back running. She had run the route before but I told her I would run the whole race with her.

Forks XV

Forks XV

Before she and I had talked, she ran the course the Sunday before the race. In an area of the country where the Boilermaker is the 15K that is usually being talked about, I truly think the Forks XV course is actually harder than the Boilermaker. First and foremost, the weather is always an issue, it seems, on the last Sunday of March. I have run the race in snow, rain and sun. This year it was about 36F and windy. The wind, especially during miles seven to nine, was brutal and cold.

Courtesy of Lori Haskell - Not my fav race photo but it is what it is.

Courtesy of Lori Haskell – Not my fav race photo but it is what it is.

When Helen ran the course on her own the week prior, she had finished in a certain time. I told her we would be that with no problems at all. We did! We cut just over 20 minutes off her time from running the course on her own. She is going to be able to use this work we did to rock her running of the Bridge Run, our local half the first weekend of May.

Will I run this race again? You know it. If I am in this area, I run this 15K.

Hiking and the Blue Ridge Parkway

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I have always looked back at my time in Roanoke last year with only one regret. I ran on the Blue Ridge Parkway but didn’t get to drive any of it. If it had been a different season when I was in Asheville mid-March, I would have driven the Blue Ridge between the two cities or at least for a 100 miles or so.

Forecast snow prevented that on my trip home but Friday I drove about 10 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, heading south out of the Asheville area. I stopped at one overlook and headed down the hiking trail at the one location. It was amazing to go hiking. The only issue was I didn’t take my Garmin with me so had no idea how far I went. Here are some of the 50+ photos I took that day.blueridge1 blueridge2 blueridge3 blueridge4 blueridge5 blueridge6

I've always had a thing for shadow shots.

I’ve always had a thing for shadow shots.

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There were parts of this trail where I had trouble finding a footing. I couldn't believe people mountain biked here.

There were parts of this trail where I had trouble finding a footing. I couldn’t believe people mountain biked here.

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Asheville Marathon and Half at Biltmore Estate – Race Recap

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Grab a snack and cup of coffee. This one’s a long recap. I loved this race and there will be more coming about the trip to Asheville. I do want to say that I was part of a group of 18 ambassadors for this race and did receive my race entry free due to helping with promotion of the race and other help on race weekend.

The trip to Asheville will take up a few days of writing. I went hiking in two different locations, on a beer run in downtown and, of course, there would be the expo, pre-race dinner and the race itself. I am going to concentrate on the race here but will be sure to post the other items later in the week.

Race day, according to the local forecast was supposed to be rainy. I had heard intermittent showers would start about 3 am. When I left the hotel, it was 5 am and still no rain. I started thinking maybe I would be thanking the weather gods and there would be no rain. I drove about a mile and a half to one of the race hotels and parked in the garage to take the shuttle to the race. I had purposely gotten to the shuttle early but that was for naught. The bus driver would not leave until the bus – a school bus – was full. I didn’t look but estimate I sat on the bus for a half hour.

Upon getting to Biltmore Estate, I did some normal pre-race items. On the extremely nice side, only a short wait for an indoor bathroom with heat and running water. Temperatures were holding, according to my phone, around 47F. As the race will progress later, temps actually fell. I put my jacket on. I had opted for a running skirt and short sleeve tech shirt. I was going to wear the jacket until closer to race start and the stuff it in my bag. If it started to rain, I’d run with the jacket. Of course, there was always the chance rain would start between bag check and race start.

I texted Mindy and met up with her and Tim. She and I were running the half while Tim was running the full. Mindy and I decided to start together. Her goal was about 15 minutes faster than mine but it is always nice to start off with someone you know. The whole starting together didn’t last. Mindy is really good at getting through the crowds. I lost her before I hit a mile.

Let me also say you should have a race plan. I failed on this for Asheville. I had gone hiking on Friday and then was on my feet most of Saturday and figured I’d just run on Sunday. Not my best idea but I’ll get to more of that later.

Somewhere between mile 1 and 2 (I think)

Somewhere between mile 1 and 2 (I think)

I decided I would run a mile and then walk a minute. I had been doing this for most of my runs since Richmond in November so it seemed like a plan.

Mile two is a hill for the entire mile basically. It is not steep but it is long. I am used to these types of hills. I really wouldn’t have realized this was that much of a hill if I had not heard Danny Dreyer of Chi Running at the dinner go over the course in detail. At the end of mile two was the first water stop and I grabbed a water from one of those cute little Girl Scouts and kept going. The rain was more than a mist now but was not hard yet. I was, though, wet.

After leaving that first water stop, the course took a little downhill run. I picked up some speed and watched to make sure there was nothing on the pavement to make it slick. I worry, more so in a city setting, about markings on pavement as they are slippery when wet. I really wanted to get through all 13.1 miles without hitting the ground. This would definitely become more of a challenge when the dirt roads come into play at mile 8.

I believe we are running under the Blue Ridge Parkway but may be not. Just a cool bridge.

I believe we are running under the Blue Ridge Parkway but may be not. Just a cool bridge.

Coming up a little after hitting mile 4 was another hill. It was somewhere between 1.5 and 2 miles long but again, not really steep. There were a few steep portions but for the most part, just a gradual slope. The good news is that the Biltmore Mansion is around the 10K mark.

Biltmore Mansion

Biltmore Mansion

And a closer look at the mansion

And a closer look at the mansion

I was really excited to stop and take these photos. There was also an official photographer on the leaving side of this little loop. There is a photo with the mansion in the background. Woot!

Next through the Estate were the gardens. While there were not many things blooming yet, I did get to see daffodils. People probably thought I was crazy stopping for this photo but it could still be months before these little guys pop through the ground here in upstate NY.

Roadside across from the gardens

Roadside across from the gardens

I could hear a band playing off in the distance, even with my earbuds in my ears. I will, when allowed, run with my mp3 player on but I keep it rather quiet so I can talk to others and can hear wildlife and such. That is just a normal thing due to where I live.

Band around mile 7 (my guess)

Band around mile 7 (my guess)

Mile 8 saw the loss of pavement. Normally running on dirt or service roads or gravel is not a big deal to me. Unfortunately, with the rain, the dirt became mud and there were definitely spaces that were slick. We ran along the French Broad River for a mile or more and it was wonderful. The river is so scenic.

French Broad River

French Broad River

Special thanks to Clear Channel’s 99.9 FM for music around mile 9. I am a huge music on the course fan so was excited that the guy who was looking for media passes at the expo was on the race course to supply music. Mile 10 saw the full marathon runners break off but, unlike in many races, it seemed that there were still plenty of people around where I was. It was somewhere between mile 9 and 10 that the race leader passed me on his mile 22. I later found out he was from upstate NY also, about two hours from where I live.

I had the most difficulty from mile 11 on. First, the mud was bad. I tried to find a place that I could run without slipping. It was also raining harder so I didn’t dare take out my phone to take more photos. Throw in the fact that my calves were knotting up from Friday’s activities. I walked a good portion of the last three miles just to finish. My calves hurt to run but walking was okay. One couple that I would leapfrog with frequently even said they could see the knots in my calves. It was a painful end of the race but I wouldn’t have traded in Friday’s hiking for no pain.

I definitely would run this race again. I loved it and am thinking maybe the full next time around.

Medal made from local wood against finisher's fleece blanket

Medal made from local wood against finisher’s fleece blanket

Pancakes

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Tomorrow starts the church season of Lent. Lent is a season for reflection and repentance. It leads up to the most important Christian observance – Easter. People, especially those who do not associate themselves with a church or with faith, tend to think Christmas is the most important church holiday. No! We are an alleluia people. The resurrection is THE event of Christianity. But today, some pancakes.

Today is Shrove Tuesday. It is Mardi Gras. Both are examples of excess before what has, at least when I was growing up, been 40 days of denial and abstinence, 40 days of reflection, meditation and prayer.

Need some help with all this? Go back and read about Mardi Gras in this post, Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez (my French may be a bit rusty but Let the Good Times Roll).

Want pancakes this morning? Try checking out Healthy Aperture’s 40 pancake recipes.

 

 

Superior Justice – A Book Review

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Years ago, probably more than 16 years, a friend of mine recommended Jan Karon’s novels about an Epsicopalian priest in a small North Carolina town. The setting enamored me and the characters, particularly Father Tim, had me buying the entire series and all those books associated with the series. I think I may have found my own answer to Karon’s novels.

Tim Hilpert’s Superior Justice left me wanted to buy the entire series and find out more about the Lutheran pastor that is the main character. Add to the plots, a touch of preaching and a small Great Lakes town and I could even see myself in the area in which the books are set.

Pastor Jonah is a young widower, his college sweetheart wife having been murdered five years before the book is set. He is a pastor of a Lutheran church in Grand Lake, a small Minnesota town on Lake Superior. He has a family background in law enforcement so tends to get involved in the mysteries of the town. While his normal digging seems to be spot on in this book, he makes one big mistake with one person.

All I can say is pick up the book. Give it a read with an open mind. Particularly, open your mind to the possibility that forgiveness is there for the asking.

Race Schedule

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I think I finally have my schedule – at least my race schedule – figured out for March and April. No, I have yet to make a decision on May yet. There are so many possibilities for May.

March has three races scheduled. The St Pat’s 4 Miler will kick the month off on the second Saturday of the month. This is a local race I’ve run for three years. I’ve consistently taken a little time off my pace each year but am thinking this time it will be good to just hold steady at under 44 minutes.

It’s a nice cool down type of race for me a week prior to my half in Asheville.

Asheville Marathon

Asheville Marathon

While I am not running the full in Asheville, I am looking forward to the trip and the race. I’m going to be helping out at the expo so look for me if you live down there (and Matt and Trish – two friends of mine that live in Asheville – know I will be in touch!). I’m also trying to pick up a freelance assignment while I am there but we’ll see.

Forks XV - which I have run 3 times

Forks XV – which I have run 3 times

Then, after I get back from Asheville, I am helping with bib pick up Friday night before the Forks XV. I’ll run the race on Sunday. Hopefully, and it is truly wishful thinking now, the winter weather will have left us and the race will not be too bad but I have memories of the Forks race being brutal at least one of the years I ran it.

When April rolls around, I will be heading to DC for the first weekend of the month. Instead of staying home and running the Skunk Cabbage – this will be the first year since I started racing I haven’t run the half there – I will be running the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 miler. I’ve run two 10 mile races previously – Mountain Goat my first year of racing and the Ithaca 5 & 10 that same fall. I am hoping to set a PR at this distance in DC. I’m also hoping for a great weekend down there.

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The end of April I am heading back to Roanoke. I absolutely loved running the Blue Ridge Marathon last year, with the exception of running down Peakwood. Since the race was so nice as to put Peakwood in the half, I am running the half this year. I cannot wait. I am also trying line up a few things for while I am in Roanoke.

After this is all over, I am toying with the Bridge run here the first weekend in May but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

What races are you running the next couple of months?

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