Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lessons from my Spartan Sprint Race

What has happened to humanity? On any form of social media, or in the news all we hear about are violent attacks. Orlando. Baton Rouge. St. Paul. Dallas. Nice, France. And that's just to mention some of the most recent attacks/shootings. What is going on? When is enough enough? It is incredibly disheartening to hear about all of this violence and negativity. I've considered deleting Facebook because all the posts right now are focused on how horribly we treat each other. And the comments people write? Unbelievable what people will say to one another through the distance provided by the internet. The media makes it so easy to see how horribly we can treat one another and I don't know about you, but I'm really tired of it. Enter the Indiana Spartan Sprint race.

This was the second time I've tried a Spartan race and with a new venue I was looking forward to attempting to be as Spartan as I could be for a day. I am not the smallest or fittest of individuals, but I love challenging myself and Spartan races are challenging. This one took place on some ski slopes. Now I know you're thinking... "You're in Indiana, how bad can a ski slope there be?". It was intense! 1800 feet net elevation. That was plenty for me, especially when you throw in the obstacles. 

So first piece of advice for running a Spartan race... sign up as a team! Having people to help you through obstacles is absolutely wonderful. Going into the race I was on a team of 8, so I knew when I hit the 7 or 8 foot walls and couldn't just scoot on up and over, I'd have people to throw me over. But here's the absolute best part of the Spartan experience... your teammates aren't the only ones that want to see you succeed; EVERYONE is out there to make sure EVERYONE finishes. There were a few women I don't know that were there to help me over some of the early obstacles. Just after the halfway point, a woman eating those amazing energy beans offered me half of her bag of them! I owe that woman my post-race beer!! Of course in that moment everyone is helping everyone and I gave some of my gift beans to my teammates, but that boost of energy helped me to climb that dang mountain (used loosely) for the (I don't know, I'd lost track by this point) 4th time! And at the end of the race as i was climbing the slip wall and was close to making it over but needed a little help. Sure enough there was one of my teammates along with a complete stranger telling me to grab their hands so I could make it over the very last bit of the course. The entire race people were there helping, supporting, and encouraging one another. And for those few hours I was able to forget how terrible the world has been lately. In those moments I was able to see the good and I can't begin to tell you how refreshing that was. So as I'm still recovering from the bumps and bruises I've earned from the race, I hope that I never recover from the mindset of the race. AROO!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How Do You Measure, Measure a Year?

When you have an eclectic Spotify account sometimes songs come up that you may have forgotten you added to the playlist. Enter “Seasons of Love” from RENT. Great song. Also if there’s ever a trivia question about how many minutes there are in a year… I will nail it. For those of you who don’t know the song (really?), I’ve placed a link right below. Enjoy!

RENT SONG!!                                  Image result for rent

After listening to the song, it’s probably fairly obvious where the title of this post came from. So how do you measure, measure a year? I can reassure you my counting technique definitely does not include minutes (except maybe the countdown minutes to the end of a work day), midnights (trying to be asleep by then if at all possible!), or cups of coffee (that’s right, still don’t drink that stuff unless it’s winter time and the caramel brulee latte is available at Starbucks). Now, inches and miles and laughter and strife? Hmm.... Now this sounds more like it, actually sounds kind of like a race to me! But who would measure a year in races? Why me of course!

I noticed that instead of breaking down a year into months, seasons, or semesters I tend to break down a year by races. Let’s look at this year for example. In January I realized that I needed to start training for my Asheville halfie that was in early March.(Note: Don’t sign up for a race in March if you live anywhere cold and despise running in the cold.) Looking ahead at my next race (and to see how long my break in training would be) I realized I wouldn’t have a break because I’d be jumping into training for the Indy Mini in May. Surprisingly I was okay with this because once you start running those long distances it’s really not fun to lose the distance game.

Image result for Indy Mini
No need to look for me in this picture. I am NOT running with the Kenyans!

Alright so if you’re keeping score at home that’s two races and we’re not even halfway through the year. Well since we’re doing every other month, why not sign up for a Spartan race in July! This shorter distance gave me time off after those halfies and and reason to start worrying about my lack of ability to lug myself over walls, across monkey bars and up ropes (really Lauren? Why do you do this? Oh yes the strife part!). Not only was the Spartan race a good way to stay motivated but it runs right into the beginning of marathon training! That’s right. No better way to finish the year then with a full marathon in Savannah in November!
Image result for savannah rock n' roll marathon   Image result for dublin rock n' roll half
Note: When you run 2 of these in 2 different countries you are officially a "world rocker" (read bonus medal!!)

So you can see my year is truly measured in races, whether that be the training for the race or the actual race itself. But these races are definitely translated into inches and miles, and laughter and strife! Especially when running with friends (um… for the laughter part)! So far the first two races of the year have been great (Lots of laughter, only minimal strife). I can’t wait to see where the next 3 take me! Oh yeah that’s right I said 3. I might be sneaking in a 3rd halfie in Dublin in August. (Yeah I try to play it cool when I drop that fact but really I want to add !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

So how do you measure a year?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

You learn something every day...

I just wanted to take some time out and share with you a few of the things I've learned since my last post:

  • Berry Plastics make some cool things. Yes, I got a new job with them and my first day there was nothing like my first day of my first job (if you don't know... ask, because it's a doozy of a story). I got to basically tour a display house with all these products by companies I've heard of. And now when I get testing requests in the lab, I'm always checking to see what company it's for. (P.S. check the bottom of any cup you may have gotten at a sporting venue... Bet Berry made it!)
  • Evansville... How are you the 3rd largest city in Indiana? First of all, could you try not to flood when it starts sprinkling outside? Also where do all the people live? I've run downtown right after work several times and seen practically no people. I'm a huge fan of exploring and trying new places, but there is a significant lack of places to try 'round here. Step up please! (Saving grace... the field used in A League of Their Own is  here.)
  • The Blackhawks can't win every year. I'll be more than happy to settle for the Cubs winning the World Series on this off year.
  • People of Indiana pay attention to this one: Indianapolis has an open container law! You heard me. This gem was dropped on me as my friend and I hem-hawed over a second beer and were offered a to-go cup. Excuse me? Yes to-go beers are a thing thanks to the Super Bowl a few years ago! Welcome to the New Orleans of the midwest!
  • Hattiesburg, Mississippi is the same but different. It has this fantastic So Pro tasting room with 6 beers for $8 place that was not there when I left. I highly recommend it. Oh and Hattiesburg is finally getting a Panera. (Good work!) It still has the classic go-tos of Glory Bound, Mugshots, Half Shell Oyster House and Raisin' Canes. (Way too many places to eat when you're only in town for a weekend.) Andt there are a lot of really cool people still there. And I still (sorta) got it when it comes to roller hockey.
  • That life is short.
  • My new dream job is marathon race director. I have no doubt in my mind I could totally "run" a fantastic race.
  • If I ever had a doubt that I would eventually stop running these crazy races (halfies, fulls, Spartans, etc.) that is all but gone. I know way too many people that are all about the runcation life and I will keep doing it as much as I can. (This is some major foreshadowing to a big announcement coming soon!)
  • My cats super love celebrating their birthday, as displayed in the picture below.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


What happens when things line up in such a way that you end up with an adult spring break? ROAD TRIP!!! Yes, you heard that correctly. A road trip through the Carolinas! And I couldn't have asked for a better trip. So what follows are some of the highlights from the trip.

I had to drive the longest leg of the trip right off the bat as I decided to drive straight through to Charleston. While it was a long drive, it was broken up by the driving through the Smokies, which was fantastic! The mountains and streams made driving a lot more scenic than the flat farmland I'm used to in the Midwest. Charleston had perfect weather and I knew the trip was going to be lovely when the first thing I saw after getting out of the car was a dolphin! Spent the first day walking around Charleston realizing that basket-weaving is the art of the city and eating as much seafood as I could possibly get my hands on. That was followed up by a trip out to Fort Sumter where I learned a bit of Civil War history. Overall, Charleston was a lot of fun and very different from most other cities. In the city proper there were no big skyscrapers, which made for a very unique skyline filled with old houses and churches!

Rainbow Row! While the houses on this particular block were all different most of the houses in the area looked like this. I probably could have spent a few more hours just roaming around taking in all the houses. Ghost tour next time? I think so!

 Fort Sumter as we approached by boat. Cool fact: Sumter was built on a sandbar that at low tide was still 10 ft underwater! They had to bring in rocks to build up the land before they could construct the fort!

The following day was low key and I was able to explore the small town of Summerville, the place where sweet tea originated. Born as a northerner, I can't say I completely understand the hype of sweet tea. I've tried it a few times and never been overly impressed. This didn't stop me from trying a glass since I was in it's hometown. (Honestly, I've had much sweeter tea in Mississippi, so this particular glass was pretty good!) I followed the sweet tea up with a shot that contained an OYSTER! While I don't recommend the shot (see the garnish in the picture? yes, that's old bay seasoning!), I was happy about getting an oyster!

The last day in Charleston was by far my favorite. Before heading down there I did some research and discovered that there was a blackwater swamp kayak tour. Sign. Me. Up. The swamp that we were kayaking was on the grounds of a plantation. So the only people in the swamp were the group of five of us signed up for the tour and the tour guide. It was the most relaxed kayaking experience I've ever been on. Not to mention it was gorgeous. Cypress trees are not something I get to see like ever (living in Indiana) so I was just soaking in this completely different environment. The water was dark but really clear! If you have a chance to get out to Charleston, definitely try the swamp kayak tour.

Next stop was a micro-distillery (I'm talking like only 4 bottling lines micro). But the guys working there were great. And I now have a new back up plan to life. Anyone want to be a backer? :-) But really, this place had great gin, rum and spiced rum. Following the distillery, we headed off to the beach to catch the sunset. And I really wanted to make it to the beach so that I could say this trip had it all... swamps, beach, and mountains! The beach was a great way to close out the first leg of my trip. 

Soon I was driving back west on my way to Asheville. The beauty of this entire trip was that I had been planning to run a half marathon there with some friends, so Charleston just became a fantastic bonus trip! Not even half an hour of being in Asheville, plans for the next major run-cation were being formed! (Stay tuned... I can't give it away already!) After checking in for the half and catching up with both grad school and college friends, we were calling it an early night. A very early wake up call had us on the grounds of the Biltmore by 6:00 am. There were many perks to this half:

  • Only 1700 runners which made for less crowded bathrooms and not too terrible traffic.
  • The Biltmore house was about the halfway point (important since the first half was solid hills).
  • Enthusiastic volunteers at the waterstops between miles 9 and 10.
  • Girl scout cookies on the course!
  • Not only did you get a medal for finishing, you also got a blanket.

I'm such a serious runner. :-) 

After the race, we had plenty of time to catch up and hang out. It was very refreshing to know that this whole run-cation sickness is indeed contagious and I'm pretty sure all of my friends have a case of it! We spent the night walking around the downtown area of Asheville hitting up micro-breweries. If you are a craft beer fan, head to Asheville! We probably went to/passed 5 (and we weren't walking that fast given the morning activities!).

Post race picture as well as showing how well we can clean up for the brewery!

Most people needed to take off the day after the race, but a college friend and myself stayed in Asheville for an extra night. The extra day lead to being able to hike at Chimney Rock, eat solid Carolina bbq and hang out in a hot tub drinking gin from the previously visited distillery!
The view from Chimney Rock overlooking Lake Lure. The trails are pretty short in the park, but it was exactly what we were looking for the day after a halfie. There might have been one too many steps though! 

Now the name Chimney Rock makes sense. Yes, there were stairs that took us up there from the parking lot. 

On the last day of the Asheville leg of my trip, we went to tour the Biltmore. All I can say is if you haven't seen the Biltmore, you need to. Each room that we went into had a unique story or feature. I can't even begin to tell you how much I learned. Oh and we only had time for the basic tour. If I had the chance to go back, I'd definitely try the Butler tour, so that you can learn about the back passages of the house. Some of the thoughts I had while walking through the house:

  • Can you actually use all 250 rooms of this mansion?
  • The entire place is decorated so ornately, how long did it take to do all of the decorating on top of building it?
  • What would it be like to sit in front of a triple fireplace?
  • I could probably sit on the back loggia for forever.
  • 7 story tall banquet room?
  • Were there guests here all the time? Seems awfully big for 3 people!

The Biltmore with mountains in the background. 

The view from the loggia that I mentioned before. Could have sat there all day! 

 One of my favorite rooms. The indoor pool in the basement with the original underwater lighting! And because it was located in the basement the pool was only filled when it was in use, then had to be drained because there wasn't a good understanding of pool chemicals.

So overall it was a great trip. It did exactly what I expected it would do, which was fuel the fire for more run-cations! I'm excited that there's already another one planned for this year! Savannah in November!! If this trip sounded amazing to you, feel free to join in for the next southern adventure!