Saturday, September 28, 2019

Georgia Jewel 100

The Georgia Jewel 100-mile race is based on Dalton.  Nice little town with a wonderful park/trail system above it.  I'd originally signed up for the UTMB points, although now I don't actually need them, but it was also good timing as a last long training race before the Big Dog.

Also - some heat training for good measure.

Let's do this:

Across the parking lot and into the darkness...

I focused my attention in the first couple hours on learning the course so I'd have some idea what awaited at the end of this out-and-back journey.  Let's see... Mount Baker first - I'd tried to figure out where "Mount Baker" was on the map with no success before the race.  Turns out it's a short but crazy steep little drop right off the end of the parking lot and down to the highway.  Too funny, no wonder it's not on a map.

Then through a neighborhood, up a narrow trail with a rope for assistance (seemingly in the way at the time but very helpful on the way back), past the Powerlines aid station (howdy!), and up toward the radio towers on an actual mountain.  A group of us was briefly stymied by the lack of directional flagging at the top but someone else who knew the course came up behind us and verified that the little trail heading into the woods was indeed correct.

From there it was almost all singletrack trail.  As promised, the first few miles of the Pinhoti Trail were pretty rocky.  Not as bad as some "rock garden" trails I've been on, but not so easy to run with any momentum.  No worries, just taking it easy this morning.  I let a bunch of people go on ahead of me and enjoyed the cool air while it lasted.

Eventually there was sunshine, which did help in figuring out which way we were going.  The course does some major zigzagging along ridgelines without much for identifying features.  Nice pleasant wind blowing, a few sorta-views down into valleys on both sides, trees overhead the whole time.

My main goal for the daytime on Saturday was to not overheat and not go out too hard.  I started focusing on efficiency, and even just thinking the word "efficient" (generally in the voice of Seven of Nine) helped me relax and run more smoothly.

Through a couple aid stations, over another ridge.  We met all the 18-mile runners coming toward us, as we would soon with the 36-milers and eventually the 50's.  Almost everyone was super friendly, encouraging, and willing to work together to find the easiest way to pass each other on the singletrack.  I'm not a huge fan of having to meet a bunch of runners coming toward you on a narrow trail during a race, but in this case it wasn't too bad (only a couple of them seemed disgruntled or unwilling to yield half of the track) and I knew this would be the least of my challenges of the weekend.

Plus I got some good intel.  After seeing John for the first time at the Snake aid station, in the next section a couple 36-milers told me I was the 3rd place woman.  Really?  That was news to me.  Cool, I was hoping for some motivation to keep running all the way to the end on Sunday, that should about do it.  As long as I kept things reeled in at least until the halfway point.  Consistency, my next focus.

The trail gradually got more runnable, less rocky, more flowy in some places.  I found John at the Pocket aid station, drank some more Spiz, and started the climb up John's Mountain.  Oooh, this is not going to be great (or fast) coming down later.  It was technical and occasionally there was a tree limb over the trail.  On the bright side, it had an interesting section of stone stairs leading to an overlook (where I guess sometimes there's a waterfalls to see when it's not dry).

One 50-mile woman runner excitedly told me I was in third place, cheering and urging me on.  That made me smile  :)  and I actually remembered her comments later in the race, thinking she would be disappointed in me if I didn't keep moving.

The backside of John's Mountain was much better than the front, a long kinda gentle downhill with some runnable sections.  One section was a doubletrack traverse that I would have prefered as a dirt road instead of the tiny gravel rocks - not sure how my feet are going to like that later.  For now things were still going OK.

Oh, a creek crossing at the bottom, hmm, didn't know about that.  It was wide and shallow, basically easy but unavoidable.  I decided based on all the rocks (and with memories of foot pain toward the end of Massanutten) that I'd go ahead with a sock change at the next aid station.

John was hanging out at Dry Creek where I'd see him 5 times over the next few hours.  This was a nice arrangement of loop trails for our middle third of the race.  Even better, those loops were mountain bike trails.  Have I mentioned that I like running on mountain bike trails?  We would run each of 2 loops 2 times.

John helped me with the sock change and I was ready to see the next 7 miles of the course:

It was the warmest part of the day so that tempered my enthusiasm, but I did enjoy the bike trails.  Especially the 2nd/4th loop, which had lovely flowing (and very shady) curves through the woods, great for real running.  I counted the hours until the sun went down, managing to get to 50 miles without hitting a low point like I have in other 100-miler races.

I see you John!

Ice, ice, baby... in my bottle, on my head, a bit in a towel to wipe my face...

Eventually it did get dark, yay!  John ran with me during my last bike trail loop and we had a great time chatting about our respective experiences that day.  It's wonderful to be running with you again, John!

He told me I was now in 2nd place.  What!?  Apparently I passed 2nd in the aid station (I was doing better with reasonably quick aid station visits for once).  Well, how about that for even more motivation.

Now for the journey back to the finish line...

Power walking and jogging in the dark.  Shallow creek crossing.  Long climb up John's Mountain.  Happy that my feet aren't hurting on the rocks yet.  Losing a bit of my climbing legs but still putting in a focused effort.

The guys at the aid station on top of the mountain jumped at the chance to help - almost too much help, as they all seemed to talk at once.  I must have looked a bit dumbfounded because one asked if I had crew waiting at the next station?  Yes, I nodded, so that seemed to make them feel better.  I got some water and was eating watermelon when I heard someone say that the next section was very runnable.

No, it most certainly is not! I countered.  I saw that trail coming up, you can't say that's runnable.  He admitted that the first mile was pretty rocky.  I offered that the 2nd mile was steep and technical.  Another guy said that the 3rd mile wasn't runnable either.  Exactly.  The last 0.3 miles, OK, that part is nice.

Well, it was a fun little conversation in the middle of the night on the top of a mountain.  Time to go!

And no, there wasn't much running going on, at least during my descent.  Picking my way down, I actually passed a guy going slower than I was.  Right before I got passed myself.

I felt bad waking up John at the Pocket aid station but I needed to tell him that I was dropping my running vest there and switching to my pack at Snake.  Sorry, honey!

The next section seemed like a good place to try ramping up the effort.  That started well, on the road and flat doubletrack.  Then the rolling section lasted a while but that was OK.  Then up to the ridge, which went on... and on... and on... and I got hungry for the first time, which didn't help with all the little climbs.  Slower and slower, crap.  So much for that push.  Then my left hamstring gave me a bit of backtalk during the downhill.  I just never know what my legs will do these days, good and bad.

I oozed down the hill to finally reach the Snake aid station where John was waiting.  He helped so much here, with extra Spiz, some food, a sock change, a rest in a chair to recover.  That was my low spot, at 81 miles.

OK, well, nothing to do but keep walking.  I started up the hill slowly, gained steam, and eventually felt much more normal.  The next section had several parts, which helped me know where I was and helped pass the time.  My iPod was still working, happy day.

They asked at the next aid station if I wanted some coffee?  Um, yes please!  Just a little - it was like a Trader Joe's sample cup, perfect size.  And some ramen/broth.  Very nice.

Next up... rock garden city.  Oh yes, it was not great, but hey, when you're mostly speed-walking anyway, the relative drop in pace wasn't as much.  Eventually the sky got light.

The last few miles weren't much fun either - steep drops, then one steep climb back up Mount Baker.  John had come to find me so he got to experience Mount Baker as well, almost like we were back up on the steep snow slopes from earlier this summer!  Except not really.

The crew at the top was totally fun and encouraging, then they played the song I had requested - "What doesn't kill you makes you Stronger" - indeed!  Here's to persistence!

Actually running to reach the finish line, woo hoo!

Another podium, this one a bit harder to climb up onto but we all made it:

Congrats, y'all!

Fun finish line, great folks (all the organizers and volunteers), and we enjoyed our weekend in the Georgia woods.  Thank you!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Running and Rivian

Catch up time!  Follow us on our recent journey south from Illinois, through several states and partway back again.

Into Kentucky for our first Waffle House in months - always worth a photo.  Hey Waffle House, we were blue without you too!

We camped for two nights at Hillman Ferry in the Land Between the Lakes, beautiful area.  So many trees and lots of water.  There's a trail running most of the length of the National Rec Area, so of course it has an FKT posted for it.  With an upcoming 100-miler I figured I probably shouldn't cover the entire 59 miles.  But it would be nice to see some of it for future reference.

John offered to help crew so I could run as far as I felt like that day.  Thank you John, you're the best!!

The start of the North-South Trail through LBL:

Occasional glimpses of Kentucky Lake to the west:

It's a well-designed and maintained trail, at least the northern section that I covered.  Mountain bikes are allowed, and I'm starting to really appreciate all the work the cyclists put into the trails they ride.

There were so many fewer spiderwebs compared to my recent FKT run at Chief Illini Trail, it's hardly worth mentioning.  The gathering of strands on my face eventually did get a bit old, making me think I should maybe plan these kinds of things when there are likely to be more (any) people on the trail.

Surprised to see little corn fields tucked in between the wooded areas:

John's aid station setup - why yes, I'll take a couple Dot's pretzels, thank you:

Usually I have to search a lot more to find one of these:

The day was quite warm, and while the tree cover helped a lot, I didn't feel the need to overdo anything.  I made it to the visitor center/highway crossing at the halfway point and decided to do one more section.  This part I enjoyed less - horses are allowed here instead of bikes, and horse people seem to care about different things in their trails.  Sounds like a good place to call it a day (and an excellent training day it was).  We'll be back for sure!

We continued our travels south to Nashville, which turned out to be a nice place to hang out for a week even though we did very little sightseeing there.  Our campground had live music in the evening, which was great!  One of these visits we'll actually get downtown to listen to music, but until then, music that came to us was a good substitute.

The next big event - a Rivian gathering!  It was in Atlanta, which made us pause only briefly to consider whether we should drive all the way to it.  Eventually we'll have an electric truck and we can worry less about our carbon footprint in the driving decisions (and more about charging station locations).

Speaking of electric trucks!

We would like one, please.  It has enough power to tow our trailer, which will drop the range from 400 miles (non-towing spec) but hopefully will still be workable for our purposes.

And it has a gear tube  :)

We had a great time at the preview, checking out the truck (and SUV across the hall), and most of all meeting designers and engineers that work for Rivian.  They were all friendly, helpful, wonderful to talk to.  We dug into lots of questions and ideas, and if one person didn't know the answer they referred us to someone else.  We've never been a part of a pre-release of a product, and this was a really good one to experience.

And we got to meet the Rivian company founder, R.J. Scaringe!  Super cool.

Since we were in Atlanta anyway, we decided to drop by a presidential library to learn about a former leader (one who is, happily, still alive!).  A photo from his early days in the Navy, on his wedding day to Rosalynn Smith:

It's Jimmy Carter, in case you haven't figured that out yet  :)

Fun to see some Hawaiian writing and leis:

Presidential campaign items:

Replica of the Oval Office:

We just saw this photo recently at the Gerald Ford museum, too funny!

Reading about everything Mr. and Mrs. Carter have done since being in office was so inspiring - working toward peace, fair elections, health campaigns and disease eradication, Habitat building, wow.  So impressed and grateful.

And now for something completely different - the special exhibit was about movies and shows that were filmed in Georgia (and there have been a lot of them!).  I believe these are actual items from the set of Stranger Things:

National Public Radio graffiti?

Not long later we were on our way back south, and anytime we get a chance to stop in at Aretha Frankenstein's in Chattanooga, you know we will.  Best Pancakes Ever.

We were on our way back into Georgia for a 100-mile race.  Stay tuned for the details on that one...

Monday, September 16, 2019


One day in July we were driving down the highway, possibly in Nebraska, listening to one of our favorite podcasts, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.  It occurred to us that we were going to be visiting Illinois in August, and isn't Wait Wait normally taped in Chicago when they aren't on the road?  Maybe I should check ticket options, just on the off chance, wait! wait! they are on sale RIGHT NOW!

I quickly verified that the date would work and grabbed two seats before they sold out.  Woo hoo!

Eventually we ended up in Springfield for a couple weeks, set up train tickets to Chicago (I do like Amtrak a lot), and here we were.  In the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago on a Thursday evening.

We were pretty stoked.  Bill was there!  An all-women panel was there!  Including Paula Poundstone!

Peter Sagal was on vacation, but Tom Papa did a great job as substitute host.  The panelists were so much fun, also everyone who called in.  We would go back to see a taping of this show anytime.

And afterward!  We didn't know there would be a autograph session, now that was even more worth going to Chicago for.

Thank you Bill for your autograph and the little chat about living in an RV:

Paula stayed late to give every one of her fans personal attention and a chance at a photo - we love you Paula!

Also thank you Bim and Amy!

The next morning we took an architecture river cruise - not something we would have thought to do, but it was highly recommended by one of our friends.  And Amy Dickinson at Wait Wait the night before  :)

Cruising on the river, checking out all the interesting buildings - what made it so good was the continuous commentary by an architect from the Chicago Architecture Center.  She was wonderful!  Lots of great stories, explanations, making the buildings "talk", pointing out things we'd never have noticed.  If I had her commentary on tape I'd be able to better explain some of these photos!

Kayaking in the river - that looks like fun too:

A giant skyscraper supported by a crazy-narrow base, not quite sure how this works but it does (and this photo doesn't do it justice):

The "armchair" opera building:

The top of the Willis Tower is almost in the clouds:

A map of the city rivers designed into the side of the building, complete with a red "you are here" marker!

Cool parking garage:

Back on dry land, checking out some fun public art:

We took a walk up the new REI, which has a dock for river access in the back:

Something new - a pizza museum!  Too bad it will be closing soon; we were happy to make it here while it's still open:

Quite the array of pizza-related items:

Star Trek is everywhere!  Best pizza cutter ever.

My kind of artwork:

On Saturday we took the L up to Montrose Harbor for a fun little 5K race.  There's a pretty view of downtown from the harbor:

Something new!  An inflatable colon - well, the race is called "Get Your Rear in Gear," after all (fundraising for colon cancer awareness):

Racing is good for me.  I rarely run this fast in training, but a little competition really does "get my rear in gear" and I just had to try to pass the woman who looked like she might be in my age group (she was, and I did).  Phew.  Nothing like a 5K to work that lung capacity.

Way to run, John!

Having a good time on a Saturday morning:

So that's State #41 in our "race in every state" quest:

Nice beach on the shore of Lake Michigan:

We wandered out to the pier - seems odd that it's not salt water when it kind of looks like an ocean:

I normally try to refrain from posting food porn, but our post-race snacks at the Dollop coffee shop were so good that I can't help it - highly recommend!

Wrigley Field, a landmark that we were excited to see (even being a Red Sox fan):

Neat statue of Harry Carey:

Seats on top of the buildings next door, that's pretty cool:

I don't know what John's trying to say, but I'm like "yeah, Boston's no stranger to these":

John hopped on the L while I jogged over to the path along the lakeshore.  I'd heard that many area runners train here and it sounded like a good place to explore.  First sight along the way, called Kwa-Ma-Rolas - I believe this is a replica:

A beach for dogs, what a great idea!

I enjoyed an occasional detour to the tiered walkway along the lake:

Signal of Peace Monument:

The track is separated for running and cycling, plenty of room for everyone:

Great day for some beach volleyball:

City skyline getting closer:

No trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to The Bean:

A less-visited piece of public art:

We popped in here a couple times - thank you TJ's!

In our AirBnB, someone had left a program from a previous Second City show.  Reading through it, then checking the website to see all the amazing acts they have, we figured we should look for tickets.  So that's how we ended up here on Saturday night, perusing all the old photos and looking for familiar faces on the walls:

More Second City alums - Harold Ramis, John Belushi, John Candy, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd... so much to look at before the show started:

The set, i.e. the iconic sketch comedy chairs:

The show was great fun and hilarious - so much talent and creativity.

Our favorite photo and quote from the program - "Saying 'yes' begins things.  Saying 'yes' is how things grow"

One more bit of wanderings on our last day in the city.  We went back to the architecture center to see the inside, and it was small but packed with great stuff (our favorite type of museum).  Their highly detailed model of the city:

We need to return to Chicago with Kip to see Fulton Market:

They have models of very tall buildings around the world, including this one in Seoul that is covered in solar panels (another place to visit!):

One last look at The Bean, on a gray day that makes it blend in with the sky:

A fitting end - the start of Route 66 as we walked back to the Amtrak station to follow Route 66 back to Springfield:

Thank you Chicago, that was a jam-packed weekend of fun!