{Liebster Award-Part 1}

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I was nominated for a Liebster Blog Award which is super exciting. Thank you to JanaBananaRD for nominating me.

If you haven’t heard of this award, it’s an award for bloggers given by bloggers. When you are nominated for the award, you answer a set of questions asked by the blogger who nominated you and then nominate 11 other bloggers, and give those bloggers a set of questions to answer.

Below are the Q and A.

1. Why did you start blogging?
At first I started blogging to share my journey of training and running 50 marathons in 50 states. After catching up with the states I’d run, I found I really liked writing and sharing information about the sport I love with others. Writing has become a great creative outlet for me and place to not annoy my family and friends (most non-runners) with too many running conversations. I’ve also been reminded of how great and supportive the running community is. Running is like a secret club where everybody gets in by simply running some miles. It’s the best.

2. What is your favorite way to stay fit?

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Based on the previous question it is probably obvious that running is my favorite. I’ve always loved the freedom, problem solving, stress relieving, and energizing properties of the sport. I do love to watch any sports Wisconsin, and love to do outdoor sports, too. Hiking and biking are other favorites of mine. I’m also falling in love with yoga and how it makes me feel better as a runner.

3. Where do you live?
I live in the great state of Wisconsin. The state of cheese, beer, and extreme winter running conditions. I live where it can be 60 one day and snowing the next. I live where summer humidity can be just as brutal as winter windchills. I live where nature’s beauty is always steps away and the biggest freeway is only two lanes wide. I live where people are kind, passionate about their Wisco teams, and we have amazing seasons to run, hike, and bike through.

4. Who is your biggest inspiration?

Hmmm… This is a challenge for me. I get inspired by people everyday-my students, husband, other bloggers, quotes on pinterest…I guess I’m easily inspired. Perhaps the most inspiring people throughout a consistent period of my life was/is Suzy Favor Hamilton. As a young runner growing up in Wisconsin, Suzy Favor was the running hero. She won the state championship four years in a row and ran in multiple summer Olympic games. Despite her recent activities I still consider her an inspiration. We all have imperfections and challenges that we work to overcome. When I met her for the first time with the cross country kids I coached, she was nothing but sweet, patient, and kind. Today I consider Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan both inspirations, too.

5. What is your favorite food?
Do coffee and Diet Mountain Dew count? If not, then pizza. There are so many ways to change it up, make it healthier, or vary the flavor.

6. What’s the farthest that you’ve run (for fun or a race)?
26.2 miles plus some small negligible amount that is totally not negligible when you are in that position. That is until June 2014 when I attempt my first 50k.

7. What’s your favorite recipe to share?

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Cowboy Caviar. I simply love the stuff. It is delicious, healthy, and brings back fond memories of summer grilling, no snow, and warmer temperatures. Plus, I haven’t met someone who doesn’t love it.  I usually follow the above recipe and use half the sugar.

8. Who’s your favorite team to cheer for (any sport)?

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Any Wisco teams. Right now…the Badgers. Final Four, Baby!

9. What’s the best group fitness class you’ve tried out?
Where I live fitness classes are very limited, but I’ve loved both the spinning and yoga classes I’ve taken. Both are great forms of cross training and make me feel stronger and healthier as a runner.

10. What’s your favorite thing about blogging?
Having a written record of the challenges and successes of the my journey and “meeting” other who love the sport as much as I do-that is not something I find often in my group of in person friends. Being able to gain ideas and insights as well as share them is invaluable. In a way we are all our own coach, so we help coach each other.

11. Are you going to pass on the torch and nominate 11 other bloggers?
Yes, but give me a few days. I’ve been really busy and like to make careful decisions. I will nominate 11 other bloggers in the next few days.

Thanks again to JanabananaRD for the nomination!

THE RULES:

1. Thank the blogger who has nominated you
2. Answer the questions given to you
3. Nominate 11 other blogs with less than 500 followers
4. Post 11 questions for your nominees to answer
5. Tag your nominees & post a comment on their blog to let them know that you have nominated them.

Sneaks & Stilettos

{Apostle Island Ice Caves}

Our cave adventure began after a half day at work on Friday. First order of business once on the road-caffeine!  Caribou Coffee is one of my favorite’s after Starbucks.

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After checking into our hotel, it was time for dinner at the Pier Plaza Restaurant, which was recommended to us from some locals.
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The apple vinaigrette was amazing, and keeping in faith with my list of 30 things to do leading up to and during my 30th year, I had to sample some local beer. The South Shore Nut Brown Ale hit the spot with the fresh Lake Superior Trout and Whitefish fish fry. Yum!

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The next morning we were up by 6:00 a.m. as friends of ours had told us to get to Meyer’s Beach early (where the hike to the cave begins.)  With the ice caves being completely frozen for only the second time in over a decade and the polar vortex weather adding to the awe-inspiring frozen beauty, the ice caves are attracting people by the thousands.  I hate crowds when enjoying nature, so it was time to haul butt to the lake.

Three dollars pays for your parking at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  The rest of nature’s display is free!  The distance to the first cave is just over a mile.  From there you can trek across frozen Lake Superior another .6 miles and see cave after cave. The total out distance you can travel is three miles, which is what we did.  We of course stopped along the way to take photos, play in the caves, and enjoy the best beauty you can find-nature’s!

If you live in the area and are thinking about visiting the Apostle Island Ice Caves, then be sure to call their ice line found on the link for current conditions.  The ice was between 16-18 inches thick when we visited making it likely they will remain open through March 17 (according to their website as of today).  This is obviously highly dependent on Mother Nature herself, so check in advance.

Apostle Island Ice Cave Tips:

1) Arrive early in the morning; no later than 7:00 a.m. to beat the crowds.

2) Where Yak Traks or something of the like.  Boots are not enough if you really want to get out on the ice and climb, crawl, and explore.

3) Pack a snack and some water if you plan to spend hours enjoying the sights like we did. Bring your own breakfast, too.

4) Bring something to put your wrappers in.  I saw people leaving their dog’s business behind and tossing their cigarette butts on the “ground”, which means this will all be in Lake Superior when it melts.  Stupid people!

5) Dress warm!  Nothing ruins winter fun like not dressing for the weather.

6) Bring ski poles if you want extra support or might have difficulties walking in snow and ice.

7) Bring a camera!  I keep looking at my photos over and over reliving the morning.

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After enjoying the ice caves we were starving so we headed to The Pickled Herring for some lunch, also inside the Pier Plaza Restaurant. After lunch we enjoyed a bit of sunshine in Bayfield before heading home on the 4.5 hour drive. The drive was so worth the beauty, and I am so glad we made these last-minute late winter plans. To not see the ice caves as they are this winter would be a shameful thing to pass up.
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Nature always leaves me feeling rejuvenated, humbled, and grateful for the things I have.

Thank you nature!

{Friday Fab 5-La Crosse Edition}

Since La Crosse was recently names the number two best small town (70,000ish) to live in, and the fact that we are there all the time it is the focus this week. Over the past six days we have drove there and back 3 times. Why? Because La Crosse is just that awesome. What makes it so great? Well… Not in any special order. This week we…

{#1-planned to go to 4 Sisters}

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But they were closed for a holiday party. So instead of our annual tradition of wine, amazing tapas, and views if Riverside Park decked out in millions of holiday lights…

{#2-Good Eats at Buzzard Billy’s}

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We headed over to a yummy Cajun restaurant. Ever since going to New Orleans his summer I can’t get enough of the Cajun spice.

{#3-Jambalaya}

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I had delicious jambalaya. Buzzard Billy’s is located right beneath the amazing retro martini bar, The Starlite Lounge. Martinis and I are best matched for a weekend night, so we had to pass on those.

{#4-Rotary Lights}

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Then it was time to get bundles up and head over to the millions of lights, now LED, to round our our holiday tradition.

{#5-Never get sick of these light}

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Each year they add in some changes. With all LED lights the colors are so vivid now. They also collect food and monetary donations for local food pantries. Other than your donation, the lights are no cost to viewers.

Oh, I did run this week continuing my Runner's World streak. Check out my Instagram feed for more run streak photos!

Happy Weekend!

{Honky Tonk Half Marathon}

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It was an early and cold start to the morning in preparation for the Honky Tonk Half Marathon. I woke up to my alarm at 5:45 a.m. tired and so cozy warm in my covers. You know the feeling; the air in your bedroom is cold and the covers are oh, so warm. It’s that amazing feeling where you never want to get up and feel like you could stay in bed for hours. Who are we kidding, I would actually never do that for fear of wasting my day, but sometimes I might spend 30 minutes slowly waking up. Well, hours for me this a.m. meant ten minutes. I checked the Weather Channel hourly forecast in hopes that it hadn’t actually gotten as cold as they’d said it would. It had. I scrolled facebook to see if there was anything super exciting in my news feed, although at 5:45 a.m. that is not usually the case. Then when I’d stalled past the point of leaving on time, I got up, showered, and got dressed for the race I wasn’t feeling so much.

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From earlier this spring!

I really wasn’t ready for running in pants, layers, and a headband. You see, it seems it wasn’t so long ago that this was an everyday thing. That’s because last winter lasted FOREVER and EVER, Amen. With snow flurries still flying in early May and a cold, rainy June I am just not ready for winter running yet. Fall is my favorite time of year to run ,but it seems we are already in colder than fall temps. It was 28 degrees when I woke up-not acceptable. But, what can I do. Put on my big girl running tights and suck it up I guess.

Enough complaining already! Or is it. I was in a grouchy mood on the drive to Wisconsin Dells. I pulled off the interstate and realized I was almost out of gas, but really didn’t have time to stop for gas, so I took a chance and pulled into the parking lot with 40 minutes before the race began. Because I’d payed extra money to pick up my packet race morning, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get my race gear, use the bathroom, and get to the starting line on time.

The race was low key, fairly organized, and there was no waiting in line for restrooms or navigating through crowds. Aside from logistics, I was not really sure how I’d run. I knew I was treating this race like a longish training run, and that I had only run one 8 miler since the Big Cottonwood Marathon 5 weeks earlier. The 8 miler had been awesome, but sometimes one run is great and the next one is terrible.

The race started on time and headed downhill. I remember thinking that uphill finishes are my favorite-NOT. Like I said, I was kind of grouchy. The fall colors were beautiful though. Around mile 1.5 we had gorgeous views of the Wisconsin River and fall colors near the Wisconsin Dells River Walk.

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It was actually cloudy during the race, and I didn’t feel like taking pictures, so I found this one online. It really looked like this though fall color and all. (http://www.flickriver.com/photos/27847413@N00/sets/72157625219745538/)

A mile ahead we turned onto the main street of downtown Wisconsin Dells, crossed the Wisconsin River, and then turned down a country road with rolling hills and lined with trees showing their colors for the miles leading up to the half marathon turn around.

mile 1-9:18

mile 2-8:22

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At mile two I made a mental note that it seemed there would be a lot of uphills on the way back. Still grumpy! Probably good I was alone at this race. I would have been nobodies cheerleader.

mile 3-8:55

By mile three I was not crabby anymore. Imagine that; running improves your mood. I’m feeling a little sassy as I right this report as I had such a great day doing all things active and fall. There were great views of the water, rocks peeking out of the hillsides, and tree lined roads.

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Ditto with this photo (dell.com)

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mile 4-8:16

mile 5-8:47

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At mile 5 I took my first GU, a new flavor I had never tasted before, Salted Caramel, but had ordered just for my fall races. This may be my favorite GU ever. It might have been the fall flavor, the colorful leaves, and cool temperature. Or it might just be these are awesome. Imagine eating a rich caramel; sweet with a hint of salty. It was divine. Cam from Modern Family would be so proud of my word choice.
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Soon we hit the turn around for the half marathon. It is often at this point in a race that I encourage myself to pick up the pace. I also couldn’t believe that we were already half way.

mile 6-8:48

mile 7-8:29

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At mile 8 I was hoping for some water, but the water stop was out of cups. I knew I’d survive, but I felt bad for those full marathoners who would hit that water stop at mile 21. If those volunteers didn’t replenish the cups, then their lives might be in danger.

Getting high fives from the kiddos!

Getting high fives from the kiddos!

mile 9-8:06

mile 10-8:24
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Mile 10 had water AND cups. We climbed the hill and rolled back down (not literally). We then made the turn back down the main street of downtown Wis. Dells before turning back towards the start.

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Once I saw the River Walk and the 5k turn around, I knew that I was going to feel good the rest of the way.

mile 11-8:18

mile 12-7:46

Mile 12 was uphill, then a slight downhill, and then uphill before flattening out for the last 100 meters. Poor marathoners. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

mile 13-7:11

This out and back course had rolling hills, with some that were of medium size. I hate to say this to hill haters out there, but I really didn’t notice the hills. Even though I rarely train on hills, I’ve always considered myself a good hill runner. I always pass a large number of people without much of an increase in my perceived effort, and almost never see those runners pass me in future miles. Today was no different. I ate those hills for breakfast!

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Speaking of hills, the downhills which I had previously not loved in the past-ain’t no thang! After running down a freakin’ mountain last month, I could really tell how much better I was at running downhills. Either that or my pain tolerance has increased to new levels after the pain cave of an experience I had those last 6-8 miles running the Big Cottonwood Marathon in Utah. Maybe it is some of both. Regardless, hills seem a lot easier than they used to.

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I came through the finish, accepted my belt buckle medal, cowboy hat, and banana and water. There was a free beer ticket that came with our race entry, and growing up in Wisconsin I learned that you don’t pass up a free beer even if it is only 9:55 a.m. I’d like to say this is the earliest I’ve ever enjoyed the barley pop, but we all know that’s not the case. I mean some Badger games start at 11:00 a.m. and required tailgating starts long before that. Then there is the Oktoberfest parade that begins at 10:00 a.m. You wouldn’t want to bring beer that went bad to the four hour long parade, so you’d obviously test it ahead of time.

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After drinking up my one whole beer and enjoying the live country band for a few, this cowgirl was onto greener pastures. I had plans that involved Pumpkin, Spice, and Latte followed by a hike.

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A photo from my post-race hike.

I really enjoyed this race course. The country roads in the fall were scenic and the hills were surprisingly a breeze. I’d recommend the race to anyone who lives near or far. The morning logistics were simple with plenty of parking and a warm place to stay inside with restrooms and food/drinks to purchase. The belt buckle medal is unique and the free cowboy hat a fun touch to fit their theme. I’m not sure where exactly the theme fits the Dells, but yeehaw.

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Aside from the race there are so many fun attractions in the area that it is a great race to make a weekend of. With nearby shopping, hiking, and family friendly fun (indoor water parks, Knuckleheads, etc.) there is something for everyone. Literally everyone if you consider Cruisin’ Chubby’s, too. I did’t consider this though.

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Honky Tonk Half Marathon (RunKeeper said 13.56 miles)
Time-1:52:30
Pace-8:35
Overall-88/505
Gender-35/355
Age Group-6/69