Friday, August 30, 2013

5 for Friday- all things Minnesooooooota

I've officially been in the North all week- first was racing in Fargooooo, then been chillin with one of my best friends and family up in the land of 10,000 lakes. Luckily for work, I'm able to do it from home if I want, so I've been able to take minimum time off while still being able to enjoy myself,  double bonus, "you betcha!"

1.  In Ohio we call the game corn hole, some other places call it "bags" "bean bags toss" etc. It's really big where I'm from.
My brother is extremely talented with making things (he was an architect), so in college he made me boards to have as a staple lawn ornament in my front yard, and even went on to make these gems for himself. (our last name is Jameson and this was at my sister in law's bachelorette party 4 years ago right before she became a Jameson herself)
Fast forward to the point I'm making... I'm okay at cornhole. I'm not terrible, but I'm also not consistent. Last saturday I was the 3rd wheel for a blind date with my bestie and her potential new boyfriend and I freakin' KILLED it. I beat them 3 times and was so proud I felt compelled to share my accomplishment since its so rare.

2. Yesterday I had mentioned that BOTH South Dakota and North Dakota have a thing for buffalo / bison... well my gf  Jenna that I was staying with happens to live in Buffalo, MN. As you guessed it, they have TONS of Buffalo statues.. I was in freakin' heaven.  4 of my favorites below, but there were many many more. 
I have to ask... is there anyone out there who loves statues like I do? I cannot be alone on this...

3. Monday Jenna and I visited the coveted Minnesota State Fair. It's a REALLY big deal here. For 2 years I coached University of MN employees and that is all they talked about once summer hit. One year there was even rumored deep fried butter. Although I didn't see any butter (believe me I searched), there were these special gems among all the other random items to eat. Aside from everything you could imagine fried, its also popular to eat things on a stick- fried walleye on a stick, they got it. (gross) 
I really wanted to 'be on vacation' and try something, but it was so freakin' hot, all appetites for fried food was non-existent. We ended up being so miserable, that we left the fair around 2:30, so we did get in about 5 hours worth of sights of animals, knick knacks, bazaars, people watching and sweating.

Photo: Checking out the piggies at Minnesota state fair
Looking at some pigs

4. A few days spent with Jenna then it was off to Minnetonka to visit with my family for a few days before race day. My uncle was nice enough to open his home to me so I could not only work from it for 3 days, but also  catch up with my 3 cousins, all of whom I haven't seen in at least 2 years. All 3 are stark white blonde, skinny as a rail, and no taller than 5'3- hence the sit down photos so I don't look like an awkward giant! 

5. Tomorrow is state #45 (Minnesota obviously) featuring the Women Rock half marathon with none other than Kim (of course) and Run with Jess.   They're promoting the event with a sterling silver necklace (although in the photo it looks gold), jackets, bubbly in champagne flutes you can keep at the finish, as well as hot men. Sounds like a solid line up to me!
This is the HOTTEST week Minnesota has had all summer, and the trend will continue into tomorrow. I received this email last night on what changes they have made to accommodate heat:
We have added wet towels at the finish for all runners, on-course sponges for half marathoners and we have increased our water supply.
I checked the course map, and 9 water stops- not too shabby. I'm still going to take it super easy and slow, and will most likely still melt, however it sounds like I'll be decently hydrated while doing it. 

Anyone else running this weekend? Ya'll, sorry i'm still in the north "you guys" are all probably too smart to race in August ya?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Battle of the Dakotas... South kicks the North's butt

The past 2 weekends in a row I've had the pleasure of touring the Dakota's to knock state #43 (south)  and #44 (north) off my list. Kim was with me for both weekends, and we generally try to 'experience' the city we're in, even if its just for a small period of time. Not ever having visited either, you would think they would both be similar, however what we found that South Dakota was HANDS down better than North Dakota as there was much more to look at and experience.

Highlights from the 'non racing' part of both states:

South Dakota
Naturally when you think of South Dakota, first thing that should pop in your mind is Mt. Rushmore. We originally were going to go into the park and see it, but instead, we just pulled off to the side of the road and had a stranger capture this gem. Sure beats the $11 parking to get the same photo op!

En route to Mt. Rushmore we had seen a billboard for the Naked Winery. Kim had sampled their wine the week before at the taste of Oregon (they have a branch in Bend, OR), so we decided it would be worthwhile and funny to see what the winery itself had to offer. How random that not only had Kim been introduced to them just the week prior, but out of their 3 locations, one of them happens to be near our destination in Custer, SD... its a sign we HAVE to drink there.

They have a 6 glass wine sample for $3- what a steal! I loved how all the names of the wine were naughty- perfect for a girl's night out. Despite it being 1 in the afternoon, there was a bachelorette party celebrating here with all the puns and witty names. I took a few photos with me and a shirt that says Climax, unfortunately my face is not appropriate for public view, so instead, enjoy these signs below... 

Although we didn't see any bears, we were promised it was Bear Country... and here I thought that was Alaska.... 

Despite lack of bear sighting,  I DID happen to see and go inside a teepee outside the Tatonka reservation. 
Apparently Kevin Costner owns this Bison attraction  that teaches you all about the difference between bison and buffalo, along with some sculptures of the animals as well. When we first stumbled upon this attraction, we were headed to expo and didn't have a lot of time, so we never ventured back to see what all the fuss was about. 

Before heading back to the airport after the race, Kim surprised me with a trip to the Berlin Wall. Sioux City, SD is a sister city to one of the German cities, therefore they were sent 2 pieces of the wall along with a lot of different signs to read about this historical point in time.  For those who aren't aware, I grew up military and was in Germany when the wall fell. I've always had a love for the country, so this was a real treat to further my knowledge. It's crazy to re-live history from a totally different perspective and at an older age who can now better comprehend what was going on. 

North Dakota 
When I think of Fargo, I immediately think of the 1996 film with their thick accents

My cousin lived in Fargo the past 4 years for school and SWEARS up and down its exciting, however Kim and I managed to mostly see strip malls and food chains. Unlike SD which has the Black Hills, gorgeous greenery and hills, ND is pancake flat with not a lot of vegetation. I was informed yesterday that due to the flatness of  the area + extreme conditions in winter, the winds get so high they blow down trees, move grills across patios, and make it difficult to be outside. Suspicions of never wanting to live here confirmed.

Immediately leaving the packet pickup we headed to Scheels (similar to Bass Pro Shop) and we found bronze statues of Abe Lincoln, Ronald Regan, George Washington, and one more who I can remember but that is who Kim took a photo with.  I went for my tallest option, honest Abe. It's really sad when you get excited by statues, but I'm pretty sure Kim is starting to share in my fascination. 
 Inside of Scheels there was a ferris wheel that you had to be a certain height to ride, if I bent down, I'm almost there.
 After race we were searching for something to do so we figured we should head to the downtown area- I saw this bison from the car so I made Kim pull over (Bison is North Dakota State University's mascot) So I've learned they are popular in SD AND ND.
The colorful bison was on top of the hill, and when we looked down we saw a huge art fair going on, so we decided to stop by.  I know I said there isn't a lot of vegetation in ND, which is why I took this photo- it was the exception to the general rule.

 Despite the ridiculous heat, I had fun and even picked out my own letters to spell out travel. They framed and mounted it for me and I have big plans for choosing favorite photos from certain races to make a memory wall.
The other major score was finding these flavored mixes that you either add 1 bottle of white wine or 1.5 cups of vodka to, add to a giant plastic bag, freeze for a few hours and voila, adult fun slushie. I bought 2 at the art fair and happened to find another vendor when I went to MN state fair few days ago that had some flavors you add red wine too. Looks like I'm in for some fun times ahead! 

Sadly that was about the extent of the fun had in ND. I dropped Kim off at the Fargo airport so I could make a headway on the long drive to Buffalo, MN to stay with my bestie, so I was only in the city for a grand total of 19 hours... I guess when you look at it that way we did have some fun. 

Someday I'd like to go back and explore the Black Hills in SD some more, however I'm pretty confident there is no need to ever go back to ND. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Go Far Woman 1/2- Fargo, ND State #44

The Race:

State #44
Lifetime 1/2: 54
13 in 13 Progress: 12/13
Official time: 2:06:30 

Pre Race:
Ever wonder what happens when you realize WHILE you're in the security line at the airport that you don't have your license?!?! Well let me tell you- you break down in tears thinking you're not going to get on your flight, beg the security guard that your work badge and credit cards are enough proof you are who you are, and then get escorted to the front of the line by a TSA agent saying you're "high security risk and to move out of the way", capped off by a cavity search and all your bags riffled through. This set the tone for the weekend....  (to avoid this when I head back home this upcoming saturday, I had my roommate overnight my passport to my friends place where I am staying) 

Originally Kim was going to fly into Fargo and kill time while I fly into Minneapolis (got a r/t for $230, HUGE savings) and drive a rental to meet her. Thank the lord she had changed her mind to fly into Minneapolis to keep me company, and out of Fargo on way back. I was able to switch rental to her name since I was sans license- crisis averted.

The 4 hour drive from Minneapolis to Fargo is anything less than exciting, especially when due to large amount of traffic getting out of the city turned the trip into 5 hours.  

Packet pickup was held at the mall (also where the race start would be) and it was open till 9pm... I'm pretty sure this is the latest packet pickup I've been to and we needed the extra time as we got in shortly after 8pm. Quick trip to Scheels to see if they had compression shorts (one more thing I forgot- its always something) and then we're at our hotel which is within walking distance to race start in morning. 

Go Far Woman 5k and half marathon is the first annual race and I was thoroughly impressed with the turn out for it's first year. There were ridiculously good looking firemen at the start who would be handing our medals out at the end (2nd week in a row we get our awards from cute men,  Kim has been on the ball and scored a photo op twice, next week I'll work up the nerve to ask a hunk to pose with me so I can be cool like her...) 

State #44 for me and #25 for Kim... she had it backwards and it reads 52

You know you're far up north when you have to sing the Canadian National Anthem in addition to The U.S anthem... I have to say that this was a race first for me, especially because it was sung by an all female "mature" capella group.

The race itself started and finished in the local mall parking lot right out of Sears (out and back) No fancy corrals or designated pace groups, just a "on your mark, get so go" and all the ladies took off, or in my case, took it easy.

I'm dead center in the blue socks and shirt going crazy fast... 

From the get go this race was proving to be a challenge. Since June I have run 3 half marathons and all 3 I have been miserable with debilitating calf / shin / achilles pain (mostly in left leg) and then normally around mile 8ish or so it goes away. I haven't been running that much (i.e. anywhere from 0-15 miles / week), so self-diagnosis / confirmation from roommate is that I"m trying to go out at speeds that I was once running when I was putting in the miles and my body just can't go from stationary (i.e. no warmup) to race speed like it once could.  Since the temps were pretty balmy and I could care less the outcome of this race, I decided to see if starting out slower right from the beginning would allow time for my muscles to 'warm up' and be pain free. 

I'm normally not great with sticking to plans, but with the temps in the mid 70s with high humidity at the start, it made taking it slow that much easier to adhere to, and although no pain ever set in, there was no desire to go any faster because I kind of like running pain free and I didn't want to push it. 

 Since the course was an out and back, there were only 3 aide stations along the way- The Average Joes, Firemen, and body builders, very clever.  I almost always skip the first water station, however today I needed every ounce of fluid I could get. By the time we ran back and the first station was now the last, all the men (the body builders) had taken their shirts off--- if they're hot handing out water, imagine how we felt! 

The course was a mixture between park paved trails and neighborhoods, both pancake flat. There was zero shade, only a slight breeze every few miles, but THERE WAS sprinklers. I made it a point to run through every one ( I counted 8)

Don't let this photo fool you, I don't recall any shade ;)

 My favorite part in the race was around mile 5.5 / 7.5; there was a sprinkler and a guy spraying runners with a hose. What I assume was his dog was running back and forth through the water and alongside runners... with a tutu around it's neck. This was so stinking adorable and luckily I spotted him / her on the out and again going back back... somehow Kim missed this? (we decided that we ran different races as she also didn't see all the gu they were handing out, or the giant male genitalia that was drawn with chalk on the sidewalk) 

Although I live in Nashville and I'm used to heat and humidity, I do try to avoid running in it by choosing earlier or later running times- despite being 'acclimated', it was still pretty hot. The sunglasses I normally run in were not with me on this trip, so I felt that it made it that much more hotter by having to squint the entire time (or I could just be making that up). I was absolutely DRENCHED and I was having a very difficult time keeping the sweat from my eyes.

 Early on I had told myself I would run for 4-5 min, then walk (about 30 sec to 1 min), so during those little breaks I kept lifting my shirt to wipe myself off- it was pointless. In conditions like these I would normally take my shirt off and use it as my sweat rag, however as mentioned above, I haven't been running or working out, but I HAVE been enjoying my beer, so my stomach is not something I want to be showing off right now while running. 

Regardless of how a race is going, I generally try to put forth a valiant effort for the last 2 miles and pick it up- today it never happened. The speed was potentially there, however running 11 miles at a 9:20ish pace then with walk breaks built in made it difficult for the body to even try to pick it up at that point, so I just kept chucking along. I told myself not to walk during the last mile, but alas I took 4 walk breaks. (I hate when I stop caring because it makes the task of finishing that much more anti-climatic) Eventually I did finish, and it was the first time in a LONG time I didn't have a kick.

Although I was miserable from heat / sweat/ going slow and constantly getting passed, I was ECSTATIC about the no pain and not a single amount of chaffing. (body glide has become my best friend now after proving itself in swampy conditions)

  I understand that I can't fairly judge the race itself based on the weather, because the conditions today were not indicative of normal weather in Fargo, so that aside, I'll list the cons and pros. 

  • Not very scenic. When I think of ND, I think of nature. I got the feeling this race was just mapped out on where they could fit a 6.5 out and back and decided to make it a race. I could have been in any state with the views I saw. 
  • Wasn't a fan of having to start and end in a mall parking lot- not a deal breaker, just blah
  • Finish line refreshments were okay, but I always LOVE to have some type of fruit afterward and unfortunately the only thing to quench thirst was a smaller than normal size water bottle, orange juice, and a freeze pop. 
  • There was a relay option where the exchange was at the turnaround point. I thought for sure there would have been an aide station. There was not so that meant we had to go back to the "last station" before getting fuel again... from mile 5 to mile 8 were unsupported
  • Medal was nice, but it didn't say city or state on it... must be a Dakota thing since that happened last week too?
  • Didn't really feel like a first year race since there was no major snafus that were apparent
  • Really liked all the sprinklers and even a misting tent you could run through, made the heat that much more bearable. 
  • Markers every mile and for once my garmin was pretty in sync with theirs... so rare these days I thought it deserved a mention. 
  • Firemen handing out the medals at finish line- enough said. 
  • Logistics of this race- host hotel was across the street, and the hotel Kim and i stayed at was a quick 10 min walk away. 
  • Although course support wasn't huge, it is a smaller race (305 finishers for the half) and it WAS its first year, so the amount of people that were out, was pretty significant.
  • EXPO open till 9 (consistent with mall hours), if it hadn't been open that late, we would have just defaulted to packet  pickup in morning. 
Soaked to the bone (sweat and sprinkler water) but happy to be finished.

State #44 - North Dakota- complete. 
Next up is this weekend, Women Rock! in Minneapolis MN. (another all women's race...)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Leading Ladies 1/2 (South Dakota)

The Race:
State #43 - South Dakota

Lifetime 1/2: 53
13 in 13 Progress 11/13
Official time 1:47:52

Practically twins....

Last  year this race fit nicely by having a double header in North Dakota the day prior- I tried to convince Kim to do it as SD and ND are not cheap to get to, however she already had racing plans that weekend in VA and promised we'd do it for 2013. We stalked and stalked this weekend waiting for dates to be announced, but sadly, the ND 1/2 might have been disbanned as there was never any updates for 2013. 

We decided to do this one and ND solo and the main clencher... downhill hill course (a first for both of us)

Kim had big goals for this race, and I originally had the brilliant idea to do a full. When that didn't pan out I decided it would be my shot to break 1:40-- laziness, hectic work schedule, travels, and injuries has kept my weekly mileage under 20 miles for the last month, so most of my ambitions were just lost. 

As suggested by the name, this was an all ladies race. I'm going to be honest here, all that 'girl power' and 'empowerment' annoys me and I try to avoid them.... what's ironic is this race followed by ND and MN the following consecutive weekends are all female races as well...

Pre- Race
We decided to skip the hotel shuttles to the race start and instead drive our rental to the finish and catch those shuttles up the canyon- best idea ever considering we left shortly after race, stopped for coffee / food, AND sat in hotel hot tub before the shuttle even brought back the first round of ladies. 

A wrong turn on the bus drivers part once we got to the top of the canyon yielded us to spot hidden port o potties before we were dropped off at our location... We were the only ones apparently who saw these as most just waiting in long lines at the start. . 

We stayed up by the lodge till the sun came out and mildy stretched and talked to kill the hour before our 6am start time. I kept trying to get into Pandora (since I lost my ipod this is how i've been listening to music the past 3 months)- unfortunately no internet on top of Spearfish Canyon = no music 

The lodge

The race
We all kind of half-hazardly line up for the start and my lack of motivation is kicking in as I have no idea what I could do. My make-shift plan was to just go out easy / fast and just see how it feels. I have a rule of thumb that my first mile will make or break my race- from there I would then decide how the rest of the 12 miles were going to go. 

I could be making this up, however I felt like the first mile was the steepest or largest amount of loss, thus resulting in an almost effort-less 7:15 pace. I say almost effort less because even though my breathing was fine, my shins and calves were already hurting. The calf pain I can mildly deal with, but shin pain really bothers me because I have no idea what is going on. From a stamina standpoint, I felt like I could continue with this pace for a bit, however from the "I have 4 more half marathons in the next month" stand point, I really can't afford to push too much. A decision was made to just go easy and have 'no goal'. Man is that hard for me to do. I guess I had a mini goal- since I had no music and this is my first half without it, I could hear myself breathing--- goal was to not sound like a fat kid in need of an inhaler. I guess it worked because one of (the many) ladies who passed me halfway had said good job and when I responded with a "thank you you look great," she shouted back, "you sound like you're not working very hard" to which I replied "ya, no goal for this race" - she is only 1 or 2 people that I ended up passing back the ENTIRE race.

I took my time at the aid stations which were spaced out about every 2 miles. They had an assortment of goodies, so I tried peanut m&ms... I am not great at multi-tasking and trying to eat these while running was miserable. I managed to eat 2 and then threw the rest of my handful off the side of road. Although I love chocolate, it does not bode well while running. 

Although the scenery was gorgeous, it was really hard to keep my mind occupied because it all looked the same

I kept reminding myself how breath taking the hills and rock formations were, but then negative nancy reared her ugly head and starting vomitting about how I didn't care, I'm sick of running half marathons, can't wait to be done, I hurt, this sucks blah blah blah. This was not one of my best mental race days and I just felt like I was going through the motions and was checked out.

Although the course is downhill, its a LOT of winding as you can see from the photo- this took a toll on ankles making those sharp turns, but also from going back and forth between the main road and on the left of white line. The main traffic on the road was actually spectators in the cars driving up and down cheering on the runners, so I didn't mind too much getting over for them. Call me crazy, but prior to this race, I thought that running a downhill course meant:
  • I would be able to go faster (nope, robot pace up until mile 11)
  • I would feel it in hips, quads, calves (although quads and calves are sore NOW, they were fine while running)
FINALLY at mile 8 everything stopped hurting. Since I already committed to not pushing it, I remained at robot place (8-8:15) until I happen to notice at mile 11 I had internet so I turned on m Skrillex pandora and was rejuvenated. I'm the classic case of pavlov's dogs- I hear music and I immediately go faster. Since my headphones were actually around Kim's Ifitness belt I borrow (thanks Kim!) I had to just hold my phone in my hand while running to hear the music. I found it funny as I was catching up "you look great" girl that Skrillex was blaring from my phone, if I were her I would have been annoyed. When I finally passed her I apologized about my music blaring and she laughed and said it was okay. I ended up beating said girl by 3-4 min so she must have really died down after I passed her. 

Once I passed my 'friend', the rest of the race was pretty uneventful other than I finally picked up my pace so I could just be done already. It wasn't that I was hurting, it was more mental than anything. Looking back conditions were perfect- zero uphill with mostly downhills / flats, overcast, low 60s with a slight breeze, no humidity, no large crowds to bop around, perfectly placed aide stations- yet I was just not into the race. 

The last 1/2 mile was on a path that led to the park where we finished. There was an annoucer shouting everyone's name as they turned the corner for the last 100 m  and she got really excited when she read where I was traveling from (mostly a local race). Upon finishing I received my medal and rose from a ridiculously good-looking minor in a fake tuxedo shirt.

I grabbed a fruit pizza and a can of coke and went back to cheer Kim. We took a few photos, checked our results (got 5th in my age group), and then headed for some caffeine, food, and quality time in our hot tub. 

hard to tell, but there are roses in our mouth 

Despite what Kim says, I actually like my gray and purple shirt 

Medal was quite large yet it didn't say anything about South Dakota on it, which I find strange. 

Despite my lackluster attitude during the race, I would recommend it to cross off South Dakota. Although it wasn't fun getting up at 3:30, it WAS nice being finished by 8am so you have the rest of the day to yourself. The scenery is gorgeous, the temperatures were perfect, and it was extremely easy with logistics to get in and out of the state and race- as an added bonus I'm pretty sure I paid less than $50 for registration. 

State #43 complete- next up this weekend, #44 with Kim again in the 'other Dakota'

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Favorites

Although life has been very busy and running has equated to 1-2x / week, lots of fun things happening.

1. Ragnar! (TN)
Tennessee Ragnar is approaching and since our company is the corporate sponsor, I had the privilege of working alongside race direct, Jesse, on having him come out for an information session and to go over logistics. He gave out a bunch of free swag which I ALWAYS welcome with open arms.
Our team is S L O W L Y getting together, but I'm super pumped that after 2 years in van 2, I'll finally get to be in van 1 so it will be a whole new relay for me!

2. Ragnar (CA)
Originally I was hoping to join Elizabeth for the Nuun Adirondacks Ragnar team, however due to timing with deadlines at work it was a no go. As divine intervention would have it, yesterday my trusty relay buddy Scott asked if I wanted to join their Ragnar Trail Vail Lake team Nov 15/16 in CA--- naturally I immediately looked at my race schedule to make sure it didn't conflict with Oklahoma's Route 66 (state FREAKIN 49!) , whew week after, and said yes. I've never done the trail series (8 people vs. 12 and no vans) so I'm excited for something new!

3. Now that summer is winding down, our 6 week Thursday night free concert series, Live on the Green, has kicked off in Nashville.

There are always 2 openers and a headliner. Last week was the ever energetic and entertaining Matt and Kim (LOVED them) If you have the opportunity to see them, and you like to dance and have a good time, you will not be disappointed. Last night was Matt Nathanson... he was hilarious, but his music was okay. My highlight was having fried chicken and waffles for the first time
Photo: My first chicken and birthday cake waffle experience #worththewait\
and hanging out with two of my highly entertaining friends- I haven't laughed that much in a long time. (apparently I don't clap on cue and they were secretly taking videos of my non rhythm. 

4. My calf has been going back and forth in the pain and tightness department... hence the barely double digit weeks over the last month. Luckily, my roommate is a PT and she is willing to do what she can to make me run again. This is the 2nd time she has done dry needle therapy on me (first time was back and June), and this time the results were MUCH more positive. My foot started tingling and going numb, my whole lower leg was achy,  and I had difficulty walking... thats how its working doncha know? No really, the next day my leg felt SO MUCH better. I've only ran on it once since then, but I have confidence it will be fine this weekend... 

5. Tomorrow I leave to meet up with Kim for state # 43, South Dakota. This is the first week of 5 in a row where I knock out some states. Originally I had secretly planned to do the full for this race because it starts at 6,000 ft and ends at 3,000- thought this would be a BQ friendly course. Then training slacked off and I realized it wouldn't be pretty, so I decided to remain just running the half. Its still downhill starting at 5,000 and ending at 2,000, so now I'm torn if I want to shoot for sub 1:40 if my leg will cooperate. Kim's been taking names and kicking ass with her training plan... mine has been non existent as running has taken a backseat the last month or so.

 A few weeks ago, I was informed B wasn't able to  make Maple Leaf 1/2  which is in Manchester, Vermont with me. I was a little concerned because most of the other VT races conflicted with my schedule, and I AM finishing in January so I NEED to do VT this fall. Finally I just said screw it and I would do a quick in and out solo on this one. As I was getting ready to book my flight I thought maybe mom would want to come for another mini mom/daughter vacation? I'm pretty sure she hasn't been to VT and it will be gorgeous beginning of september. She agreed and so now it will be 2 days in VT vs. just the race. I think she may do the 5k option as well... I swear if her medal is bigger than mine AGAIN, I will be disappointed.
I think they are both the same glass with maple leaf imprint, but 5k and half marathon are different colors?

Anyone out there run a trail ragnar or trail relay race?
This will be my first trail anything race!

Any recommendations on what to see in or around Manchester, VT? (its southern part of state) 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Exploring in Alaska

Last week of July was spent exploring and crossing #42 of my list in Juneau, Alaska.
I'll be honest, I had WAY more fun than I anticipated and I learned a lot. I don't want to do several posts, so you just get one giant recap.  Below are my highlights:
incase you ever wondered where Juneau is on a map

Random facts I learned about Juneau. Alaska
1. It's landlocked thus the water keeps it mild- in the winter it never gets below 20 degrees.
2. Since its extremely south, it isn't that whole 6 months of light 6 months of dark, however its still much different from we're all used to. While there it was 16 hours of daylight (4:30am-9:30pm) and in the winter they get about 2 hours of daylight (although not pitch dark, more dusky when sun goes down)
3. Population of Juneau is about 30,000... the state of Alaska, 700,000.
4. Surface area of Alaska is larger than the distance from west coast to east coast
5. There are NO moose in Juneau. There was one spotted a few years ago, and it was the first sighting in over 100 years.
6. You won't find brown bears (grizzlies) in the city- there is an island called Admiralty Island that has 1600 grizzlies and only 500 people- I would NOT want to live there. Grizzlies will harm and eat humans, whereas black bears stick to salmon and berries.
7. We bought Alaska from Russian for just over $7 million back in 1860s
8. Kids (at least in Juneau) are in school from 7:30am - 6:30pm... after school activities are built into curriculum to make kids want to stay in AK after graduation.

Whale Watching
Mom and I had a whale watching tour scheduled first thing on day 1. I went whale watching this past October in San Diego, it was windy, rainy, and I got really sick. We only saw 1 whale, and a plethora of dolphins... kind of a bust. The waters in Juneau were extremely calm and there were a TON of whales out to view.  

  • Juneau Alaska is apparently the only place in the world where humpback whales bubble feed. In short, a bunch of whales get together, blow some bubbles to catch the krill they eat, bubbles float to top, whales all come up and eat them. It was a sight to see and we were lucky enough to witness 8 of them doing this. Below is a video of them just passing through RIGHT next to my boat.  Our guides said they've never been that close in all their years, so I guess there is no need for me to ever go whale watching again!

Alaskan Brewery (for all my beer lovers) 
  • Only brewery in Juneau, opened in 1986. It's one of the top 10 companies in US to work for.
  • Every employee has the opportunity if they choose to try and create a beer- they get 1-2 months off their work duties and that is what they focus on. 2 of the current beers they sell were made by employees and not the brewmaster. If yours gets selected, you get to name it and design the logo.
  • One of, if not, the greenest brewery in US. They patented a technology to take all the excess grain, filter it, and reuse it again for energy to continue brewing- nothing is wasted. Several other breweries have purchased this process to install as well. They also figured out how to re-use the CO2 emitted- don't remember that process, but their in works of patenting this as well. 

  • Below is the small tasting room- throughout the building the walls are lined with unique beers that are no longer in production, and of course some that you can still purchase in the store. 

Mendenhall Glacier
Photo: Absolutely GORGEOUS day for hiking and photos. With any luck we will spot some black bears! #alaska #nature #glaciers

  • Glacier is behind us (obviously) The red and yellow lights from the sun are reflected off the ice, however the blue is absorbed, so when you're staring at the glacier it looks blue, however it is infact clear. Found out on the last day there are certain mountains behind the glacier you can hike up and actually walk on the glacier... next time. 
  • Next to the glacier is Nugget Falls- the glacier is receding about 150 ft per year, so 4 years ago these falls were not here. 

  • The lowest rainbow I have ever seen- simply gorgeous. 
  • My attempt at testing out a panoramic app on phone to show falls and glacier  by merging two photos together that weren't necessarily lined up to do a panoramic. App is called Panorama. (and water is from the glacier, so it is FREEZING) 

Mt Roberts
  • We took a tram up 1800 feet to Mt. Roberts- restaurant, nature center, gift shop at the 'base' and from there were trails you could climb to top
  • Still some snow that hasn't yet melted (they had some snowfall in May) 
  • TONS of other hikers out there- was envious of the men who were shirtless, it got so hot out and jeans were a bad choice 
  • Mom and I in front of Father Brown's cross, overlooking the Gastineau Channel 

Glacier Gardens
  • Gorgeous gardens at the base of a rainforest- took 4 years from the time of purchase, till the time it was opened to public 

  • Inside the gift shop

  • On the last day of the owner using an  excavator, something got jammed up causing it to jam.  Owner was so mad he used the excavator to pick up a tree and threw it--- it landed upside down and he has the imagination to see how it would make beautiful holders for hanging plants- thus idea was born. 

  • Mom and I under one of the upside down trees

  • Gorgeous waterfall, rocks, flowers--- truly sensory overload and photos just don't do it justice

Black Bear sighting

I always thought it would be cool to take an Alaskan cruise (and I'm sure it would be), however I learned that you only dock in a city for 8 hours then leave. I like how everything for my  mom was laid back and how we were truly able to explore lots of different aspects of Juneau. If I ever find myself back there, the only left to do would be to hike the other mountains and of course go dog sledding on the top of some of the said mountains. I'm so glad we chose Juneau as our Alaska trip and maybe some day I'll travel to another city within the Frontier state.