Tuesday, June 5, 2018

State #39, Skidaway Island Optim Orthopedics Half Marathon, Savannah, GA, 3/24/18, Part 2



Thankfully, my pre-race sleep was much better than the previous night, and I woke after a pretty solid 7 hours of rest. My morning routine moved along nicely with coffee, stretching, dressing, packing, breakfast…the usual. I realized about ten minutes before I planned to leave that I needed to call the front desk to have my rental car taken out of the valet lot (the hotel was valet parking only). Of course, I couldn’t find the valet ticket with my claim number on it! Grrrr! Now I was worried I’d leave late and miss the start of the race. Thankfully, they were able to sort it out for me, but it was a little bit of a challenge due to the fact that there was another car that looked just like mine. The parking attendant asked me what year mine was (like I knew that! Or if mine was a newer model…again no clue.) Luckily he figured it out in the end and I was on my way.
Skidaway Island is about 15 miles or so from downtown Savannah, but the drive takes a little over a half an hour. Leaving just past 6 am, that would put me at the race location by 6:30 with a start time of 7:00 am. The drive was easy, but as I got within a mile of the parking, traffic was backed up, and the minutes were ticking away. Having eaten my breakfast on the road, I also was feeling the uncomfortable effects of that along with the three cups of coffee I’d had back at the hotel. Let’s just say that I needed to park my car and get to the porta potty fast! 
It seemed to take forever to get in to the parking lot, but I finally did. I grabbed my stuff and jogged over to the bank of johns. Not a moment too soon, either. Grateful that I averted that crisis, I headed to the starting corral. 

Starting line view.
The line up for the Skidaway Island Optim Orthopedics Half Marathon was pretty informal. Group 1 was the “fast marathoners” who stepped off at 7:00 am sharp, followed by my group the “fast half marathoners"—2:15 and under who went off two minutes later. Just before we started, the race director, a lovely young fellow named Dan, read a runner’s prayer and also sang the National Anthem. He did a great job, too! Off we started.
It was pretty dark out right up to the start of the race, and then dawn started to show up just enough to help us see where we were going.The first three miles of the race were along the main road we drove in along, which was pretty desolate but was lined with forest on both sides. The trees smelled delicious. I’m not sure if they were pines or cedars or both, but the air was so lovely. The temperatures were cool in the low 50’s, and the woods were just awakening with the sounds of birds. It was magical. Add to that a canopy of trees heavy with the quinticential swamp moss and a sprinkle of palm trees and you can just imagine the beauty I was experiencing. 
Mossy tree near race area.
At about mile 3 we took a left turn in to The Landings property. This is a huge residential gated community. The surroundings were similar, almost making me think of a nature preserve, but with a paved walking/running path that ran through the property. Large, beautiful ranch and plantation style homes lined the streets in the community, but because the trees were so large and established and lush, it felt like a magical and enchanted land. 
The running path snaked along and eventually left its parallel of the main street to instead run along a creek that lined the back yards of many homes. It was serene and beautiful (and completely flat!) all along this way, and the creek led us to a golf course that was equally beautiful. We carried along in this way until about mile 5. 
Mile 5 brought us out to the water and a combination of dirt/paved path. The views here were stunning. We popped out of the golf course at the edge of a large marshy expanse that led to the water and on the horizon an amazing pink sunrise was just starting to show. We were still running along a path that led along several homes. What a lucky view they have every morning! It was an extreme pleasure to run this stretch.
Mile 6 took us away from the water and back into the neighborhood area, largely on streets for this bit. The homes were lovely and were varied in style, making it interesting to view all along the way. Somewhere around mile 8-9 we got back on to the snaking paved path and golf course area. I read after the race that there are 5 golf courses in The Landing! I have no idea if this was the same course we saw on the way in or not, but it was still so beautiful. By mile 10 we were heading out of the The Landing and turning right on to the main road back the way we came. 
I was feeling pretty good, as I hadn’t seen the 2 hour pacing group pass me by yet. Hoping for the best, I tried to keep my stride short, my steps quick, my breathing rhythmic, and my shoulders tall and back straight. Paying attention in this way, I cruised to the finish line to see 1:55 on the finishing clock. Yahoo! 
Just in the last little stretch before the finish line, a woman came sprinting past me. I yelled to her to kick it (she already was). I pushed a little harder at the end, too, and was just thrilled to be sub-2. Safely sub-2. I got my medal (super nice one) and progressed through the finisher’s chute. The other great finish line goody was a towel that converts in to a car seat cover. It was the perfect thing to wrap up in to stay warm in the cool temps. I did a bit of walking then had to hit the porta potties again—crazy day for pooping! 
Waterfront views near finish area.

I stretched a bit after that and then did a bit of walking around the finish line area. We were staged in the marine biology research area. I walked down to the water where a dock and some boats were located. It was a beautiful vista, and all along the way were the trees laden with the spanish moss. It was such a lovely surrounding. 
I checked the race results a bit after that and found that I finished 4th in my age group. I had just missed a third place prize…only to find out that the woman who sprinted past me was the one who beat me out! Well, good for her and better luck for me next time. 
Finish line selfie.
I stopped to let the race director know that it was a first for me to see the race director sing the National Anthem. He laughed saying that it was an easy way to save money! Too funny! I congratulated him on a fantastic race, and it was. What a beautiful area Savannah is. When I eventually arrived back home, I remarked to my husband that I could easily retire there. Yup. Could.
Pano shot of finish area waterfront.
One last bit of note on this trip…I arrived at the airport and returned my rental car, and as I was leaving the parking garage, walking toward the terminal, I spied a familiar face. Cute as a button, I smiled and walked up to this fellow and said, “Are you Vern?” He answered, “Yes,” and girl geeking out, I managed to to tell him how much I have enjoyed his work on HGTV over the years. Vern Yip. Outside the Savannah airport terminal. Just standing there. Adorable Vern. He was probably a little freaked out by my babbling, but I’m just glad I had the courage to say a few words to him. What a fun way to end the trip!
Georgia/Savannah was such a great place to visit. I’d definitely travel here again to take more time to soak up the downtown area and historical information. The Skidaway Island half marathon is a fantastic way to get your GA mark in for the 50 states club. Fast, flat, scenic as can be! Highly recommended! Thank you, Savannah, and I will be back!
Official race results.

Towel, number & finisher's medal.


State #39, Skidaway Island Optim Orthopedics Half Marathon, Savannah, GA, 3/24/18, Part 1

I arrived so late in Savannah due to some major issues with flight delays. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that if the airline promises they will put you up in a city you weren’t planning on staying in, don’t walk away without some kind of written proof. Misinformation, delays, new connections and hours later, I thankfully arrived in Savannah unsure that I’d get my original hotel room. (I had canceled it on the way thinking I’d be stuck in Charlotte for the night. Rookie mistake.) Thankfully the folks at the Hilton had me covered. I slept the best I could given the very late arrival.
My rental car was a Mustang. Look at the horse light on the ground!
I'm not a car person, but it was a pretty cool ride.

Next morning, I wanted to get in as much of Savannah as I could. but first I had to go pick up my number at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store a drivable distance away. It went well, and I grabbed a hydration belt while I was there, as I had read in the race write up that there weren’t tons of water stops in this race. Better to be prepared, but I have NEVER run with a hydration belt before. 

I got back to the hotel just around lunch time  Arriving back at the hotel, I brought my groceries to my room, and then started out on foot.

A very dear friend of mine, Terry, who frequents Savannah due to family connections gave me all kinds of recommendations of things to check out. But seriously, this city is filled with amazing things steps from every hotel doorstep! I walked around the immediate block(s) of my hotel and found countless boutiques filled with clothes, jewelry, artwork and all kinds of other artistic endeavors. Cute cafes and restaurants were sprinkled in, and on nearly every corner was a city square or park honoring or memorializing some famous Georgian and/or Savannah native. It was all so charming and lively! 
One of the art museums in the area, Telfair Academy.
I walked along the shops, making purchases here and there, and then found a terrific sandwich shop, the Goose Feathers Cafe. I enjoyed a delicious lunch and then decided to seek out the Italian restaurant in the area Terry recommended for dinner. As I walked around the corner to where the restaurant was, the street was blocked off for filming. I learned from the restaurant staff that Will Smith was filming his latest movie just a few doors down! I booked a reservation for later that night and continued on my exploration of the city. 
Movie set.
I decided to head toward the waterfront area next. 
Scenes along the Savannah River. 


The waterfront area runs along the Savannah River. More shops and artisan markets are located along this stretch, as well as a self-guided historical walking tour  that you can make as you follow along the placards that line the river. Lots of Civil War history was detailed, such as Sherman's march to the sea, as well as other historical facts about the area. My timing was great, as I was able to watch an enormous container ship head up the river. Now that’s not something I see every day!
Container ship on the river.
Riverboat.
I walked out to the famous statue of the “waving girl” who welcomes the ships in to the harbor, then I turned around and walked the length of the river back to the hotel area near where I was staying. 



I stopped in a terrific shop called the Savannah Bee Company that sold all honey related products. Since our school theme is bees, I had to check it out. They sold every type of honey, flavored and natural, as well as many products made with honey (soaps, lip balm, hand lotion, candy, etc.). Everything was amazing! I ended up purchasing an edible honeycomb square that I thought would be awesome with cheese and crackers at our upcoming Easter celebration. I also picked up some lip balm for my principal and Tupelo Honey for my husband. The shops all along this area were really fun to check out.
After the shopping, I went back to the hotel to relax for a bit before dinner. The restaurant I chose, Bella Napoli Bistro, was only a short walk from the hotel. When I made my way out, I made sure to leave a little early so I could check out the movie filming. I watched from across the street for a little bit. They were filming in a storefront that looked like it was a coffee shop or maybe a bike shop. It was hard to tell with all the scaffolding and lighting that was set up. I didn’t see Will Smith or any other actors I recognized (which isn’t saying much, as I never know who anyone is…). So I headed to the restaurant.
Park across the street from the movie set.
As luck would have it, I ended up being seated at a table in the front window, so I could keep an eye on all the action outside while I had dinner. It was fun to watch all the comings and goings of the various workers. It really is amazing how many people contribute to the making of a film. There were people everywhere outside manning various posts and taking on countless responsibilities. Since I was dining alone, it made for a more interesting time. 
When I finished and paid, I headed outside and watched the filming again from a corner across the street. Eventually, the folks helping with crowd control made us leave, probably because they were finishing up for the night. No spotting the stars for me tonight. Oh well. It was still cool to watch how they did everything. 
I walked back to my hotel a different way to see some other streets in the downtown area. I passed by parts of the art college and Leopold’s Ice Cream where the line was long. Must be a good spot…someplace to try next time around, as I was plenty full from dinner. 
Line outside Leopold's.
I stopped in to a couple more boutiques on my way back to the hotel, and in one I struck up a conversation with the shopkeepers. I told them about the race at Skidaway Island, and they mentioned that some of the Vietnam scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed out there. Cool. In fact, they said that Savannah is known as “Hollywood South” because so many movies are now filmed there. Apparently, there are tax breaks for filmmakers to come to Georgia, and since the weather is really nice most of the time, it makes for ideal conditions for filming. Who knew? I ended up buying some earrings for my mom and a bracelet for myself in their shop. It was a fun stop.
After that, I walked back to my hotel. Along the way, I passed by some of those dreadful bicycling bar trolleys (Ugh!). The gangs pedaling them were loud and obnoxious, and I thought if that was going to continue all night long, I’d have some sleeping issues. 
Luckily it turned out that wasn’t the case, or if it was, they weren’t pedaling outside my hotel window. Thank goodness. It had been a terrific day exploring Savannah, and I was looking forward to a great race in the morning. 

Three months away from the blog!

I'm just logging in today for the first time since February! Holy cow, I feel so horrible! I didn't mean to be away from blogging for so long, but the March-April-May time frame has been ridiculously busy for my family and I. Don't worry...I've been keeping up with my running, thank goodness, but my food plan has strayed quite a bit with all the family events we've had this spring. Not a great excuse, but let's just say I'm feverishly trying to slim down this week before my monthly WW weigh in. I am looking forward to getting back on track and really following the program. It has been awhile since I have. With all the great summer produce coming soon, I'm excited to load on the fruit and veggies. 
So, I've run two more half marathons in two states since February, and I've got my posts for those in progress. I'll be posting a barrage of race write ups right after this post, and hopefully after that I can keep up with the blog at long last. Now that all of our springtime events are over: Easter, golf committee meetings, First Communion & party, school golf tournament, Mother's Day, anniversary trip, and family trip (and with the end of school and softball season coming), I think I can finally devote more time to health, wellness and blogging. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

State #38, Mississippi Blues Half Marathon, Jackson, MS, 1/27/18, Part 2

I woke up slightly before my 5:30 am alarm after a night of tossing and turning. I know I slept in-between my restlessness, but I still didn’t feel super refreshed. First thing I did was peek out my hotel window to check on the weather. The streets were wet below, but it didn’t look like it was raining, so that was pretty good. I turned on the television to the local news channel (16) to watch the weather reports. 
Race morning weather.
The local channel was also fully covering the marathon and half marathon which was fun to see. 
The weather forecast wasn’t good. Although the rain in Jackson was light now, a huge swath of wetness was heading up from the Delta area with reports indicating a total of 1-3 inches of rain for the area by the time it ended. Great. Oh well. I didn’t have much choice but to buck up and put on my rain/windbreaker and get that 13.1 miles done.
Morning selfie just before leaving the hotel.
I left the hotel at about 6:40 am for the 7:00 am start. I figured I’d try to minimize my time out in the rain. It was an easy walk to the start, and once there I huddled under the overhang of a large building alongside the corral area with loads of other runners. We chatted a bit and then headed to the line up for the National Anthem. This was really cool. A guy with an electric guitar played the National Anthem in the style of Jimi Hendrix’s version. I would’ve snapped a picture, but with the rain, I kept the phone mostly tucked away. The race started promptly at 7:00 am, and we were off.
The temperatures were in the low 50’s, which was good for running, and the rain was pretty light at the start, so it really wasn’t too bad. I’m not one who likes running in the rain, but I knew I had to deal with it. At least it wasn’t freezing. All in all, it wasn’t so bad. 
View of starting line...wet and windy.
Starting line selfie, then I put my phone away.
The first few miles of the race took us around the downtown area of Jackson. The initial onset was a little bit desolate with some warehouse type views, but this gave way to more interesting surroundings soon enough. One of the most exciting moments of the race was in this first bit. We ran through the campus of Jackson State University where we were met by the amazing marching band playing a huge, loud, killer piece of music to help us charge on through. Known as the “Sonic Boom of the South,” this marching band was beyond amazing! The sound was deafening, and I couldn’t help but laugh about the fact that all that music at 7 am on a college campus on a Saturday morning might not be popular with the rest of the school’s residents. So much for sleeping in, college students! Hee, hee! The marching band really helped quicken the pace. 
After the campus loop, we turned back toward the downtown area. I really like the Jackson downtown. I feel like it is a city that is on the verge of a comeback. There are some really nice buildings there, like the Governor’s Mansion. We ran by most of the sites I walked by the day before. We ran by the Old State Capitol, the Civil Rights Museum, the infamous Municipal Library where the read-in took place years ago, and on along State Street where many old, beautiful houses turned businesses lined the streets. The rain was steady, but still not super downpour-y, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other avoiding puddles as best I could. 
My biggest fear as I maneuvered the ups and downs of the pavement was slipping and falling in the wet conditions. I did my best to be mindful of each footfall. The first of the hills started around mile 4 on State Street. A steady uphill climb along the straightaway was tough, but not impossible. I much prefer early hills to late ones. Kate, who I had met at dinner the night before, said that the course had rolling hills with one of the toughest ones around mile 8 or so. I knew I had more to come. 
The State Street stretch was a few miles long, and the street was lined with a combination of homes and businesses. We passed Milsaps College and the University of Mississippi Medical School. The gentle hills continued all along this stretch. 
Around Mile 7 we ran through the only non-paved part of the race. We ran a loop through the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum which was a little historical looking farm-related area. It reminded me of a small, southern version of Sturbridge Village, but with fewer exhibits and on a much smaller scale. Unfortunately, at this point in the race the rain was much steadier, and the farm road we were running on was all mud and rocks. Yuck. Each step was a smush of muck. Part way through the farm loop, I spied a man sitting on one of the front porches of one of the farm houses. I yelled to him that this must be the part of the race dedicated to Muddy Waters. He laughed, and I did, too. I had to keep some humor about all this rain and mud. 
Finally escaping the mud, the next part of the race brought us through a beautiful old neighborhood. There were gorgeous old established trees and other plants in this area and lovely homes of varied architectural design. I spied a gorgeous, tall, shiny magnolia tree along the way that made me smile. Residents of the neighborhood were scattered along this stretch to spectate and cheer us on, but only sparingly, most likely due to the rainy weather. It was a delightful experience to run through this area. 
Directly after this, we ran along a major parkway where the Mississippi Children’s Museum and Natural History Museum were located. We could see the freeway from this part of the route, too. The park that ran along the museums was pretty, but it wasn’t my favorite part of the race running along the interstate. There were more steady hills here, too. Not easy with the rain still hammering down and my shoes feeing heavier and squishier by the second. 
We crossed over the interstate and entered into another old, established, beautiful southern neighborhood. These houses were just as lovely as the others we had passed earlier. The hills rolled on through this neighborhood as well, but I hardly noticed for looking at all the lovely scenery. Near the end of the stint through this area, I spied a sign in front of one of the brick houses announcing that it was formerly Eudora Welty’s home. Super cool! 
Ten miles down, we were nearing the end, but of course, not without a challenge. Not surprisingly (as I swear, race directors are EVIL!) some of the biggest hills were still to come. I pressed on as best I could. Just before mile 11, the two-hour pacing group passed me by. I was hoping to finish with them, but oh well. As long as I was close to them, that was good. Mile 11 brought a crazy-steep final hill. It looked like one of those steep streets in San Fransicso. STEEP. I ended up walking just a tad bit of it to keep myself from completely burning out. 
Oh, I forgot to mention, I neglected to bring my GU with me to the starting line, so I didn’t have that little extra push of energy this time around either. I was hoping they’d be handing some out along the course, but no luck. I knew I just had to give it my best effort. 
The final hill behind me, it was back toward the downtown area to State Street and then to the finish line. I crossed the line just a tad over the 2 hour mark: 2:00:21. I was soaked and tired, but felt surprisingly good. No aching injuries to speak of. I collected my medal and beelined it back to my hotel. I had a 12:50 plane to catch! No finish line after-party for me, but from what I've heard, they have awesome food and music post-race at the Mississippi Blues marathon. 
I made it through the rain! Finished!

Final results.
Back at the hotel, I peeled off my super saturated running clothes and jumped in to a hot shower. I stretched out after that, once I was dry, and tuned in to the news channel to watch the race coverage. It was great that they were covering the whole event. I packed and relaxed a bit before checking out and driving back to the airport. 
My flight from Jackson to Charlotte was quick and easy. I tried to hydrate and just relax as much as I could. Once in Charlotte, I grabbed a late lunch/early dinner. I ended up sitting next to an older couple from Vancouver, Canada who were headed to Florida for a Caribbean cruise. We traded travel stories, as they were trying to visit all 50 states. They were fun to chat with and were a nice diversion during my somewhat lengthy layover. 
Once onboard my flight to Hartford, I sat with a fellow named Michael Miller who was such a terrific seat mate! He  and I ended up having so many things in common: running, Weight Watchers, working at Bentley, and more. We had a fantastic time chatting, and the flight felt like it was so fast. Michael was a motivational speaker and he was headed to CT to visit various New England colleges for work. He was also making an appearance on Better Connecticut on local WFSB channel 3 to do a segment on travel deals for school vacation. I couldn't wait to watch the show later in the week. It was a pleasure to sit with him on the flight.
I made it home by around 8:30 pm on Saturday night, and my husband and I stayed up talking and catching up for a while. 
Blues Half Marathon finisher's medal.
Despite the rain, the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon was a great race, well-organized, in an incredibly friendly city. And best of all, the guitar-shaped medal, one (I confess) I've had my eye on for some time now. Jackson is a city with lots of history and pockets of fun interesting things to see and do. The more the Blues tradition takes over this town, the more it will grow and attract more visitors. I wish this marathon continued years of success, as the city benefits tremendously from the event. 
Thank you, Mississippi, for a moving and meaningful visit.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

State #38, MIssissippi Blues Half Marathon, Jackson, MS, 1/27/18, Part 1


I arrived in Jackson really late on Thursday night and wanted nothing more than to absolutely crash in to my hotel bed. Which I did, and thankfully I had an amazing night of sleep.
Friday morning, I felt refreshed and after a nice breakfast of cheesy grits, poached eggs, sausage and fruit, I was ready to take on the city of Jackson.
At first glance, Jackson looks like a city that has gone through some hard times. There were quite a few boarded up storefronts/buildings near my hotel, bit it also looked like a city trying to make a comeback. The hotel I stayed in was a grand old hotel formerly known as the King Edward Hotel. It is now a Hilton Garden Inn, but the building has been restored to its former beauty. It is certainly a cornerstone in the city that is helping to revive that part of the area. Located not far behind the hotel is a new convention center which is located next to the art museum, making a really nice area to explore. The Jackson State University campus is also nearby with various university buildings peppered throughout the downtown area, so it is a nice mix of usefulness. A few restaurants were nearby as well, and they looked really good.
I made my way down West Capitol to the Marriott Hotel where the marathon expo was located. I easily found my number and collected my goody bag. A woman overheard me talking to the people at the bib number pick-up and asked where in Connecticut I was from. She and her husband previously lived in South Windsor. He works for Pratt and now works out of home down in Mississippi. She was a runner in the 50 States Half Marathon club and encouraged me to join them for dinner. As I had already made myself a reservation, I declined but thanked her. We had a nice chat recommending races to one another. I'm sure our paths will cross again. Thanks for the chat, Jennifer!
Historical Blues placard at race expo.
Blues backdrop at expo.
Blues musicians jamming out at the expo.
On I went through the expo, but I didn't really need to buy any supplies. I made it out with just a Blues Marathon sticker and a few freebies for my kids. In the hallway outside the expo, some Blues musicians were jamming out, getting the runners all jazzed up. It was fun, but I didn't stick around long. I was heading to the newly opened Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.
As I headed up Capitol Street,  I passed by some pretty interesting sights. First, I found the Governor's Mansion which was a beautiful building near the Old Capitol Building. Across the street from the Governor's Mansion was a really cool building with a clock tower on it. I'm not sure what it was, but I bet it had some kind of interesting history behind it.
Governor's mansion.
The end of Capitol Street intersects with State Street, and at the intersection was the Old Capitol Building. I wasn't originally planning on stopping there, but I had enough time, and I figured I'd give it a go.
Clock tower across from Governor's mansion.
Old Capitol Building
The building has been completely restored since it fell in to serious disrepair prior to the Civil War, and the results inside are beautiful. There were various rooms that gave the history of the building and its importance in the city. Some rooms showed exhibits such as the living quarters of "keeper of the capitol" (who was also the state librarian) and the former office of the governor. In the upper levels, I was able to visit the former Senate and House of Representatives chambers as well as the State Supreme Court chambers. All of these functions are now housed in the new capitol building, but it was interesting to view the old facilities. The House chambers were especially large and impressive and are now used to house a gallery of portraits of famous Mississippians.
Description of the Keeper of the Keys.
View inside dome.
Senate chambers. 
House chambers.
State Librarian job description.
Original state library.
On the third floor was the former State Library collection area along with some history of the first female state librarian. Women exclusively held the position after 1872. That was pretty cool to read.
WWI monument next to Old Capitol Building
After I finished my self-tour of the Old State Capitol, I walked a couple of blocks to the new Mississippi History/Civil Rights Museum. This museum just opened last month, so it is the newest place to check out. The two museums are connected, but each has separate exhibits. I bought my ticket and headed to the Civil Rights side of the museum, which was the side I was most interested in. 
Mississippi History and Civil Rights Museum.
The Civil Rights museum is set up in somewhat of a circular manner with curving spokes that are arranged chronologically around a central rotunda. The first spoke began with slavery; its history, horror and eventual repeal. The museum continued with different areas focusing on the Civil War, Reconstruction, White Supremacy, the fight for Civil Rights throughout the 50's, 60's and 70's. The exhibits included the stories of all the major freedom fighters and all the most significant events of the eras. So many times I was overwhelmed by the amazing struggle that has been fought in this country by people of color. So many parts of the museum were so poignant. One section had floor to ceiling panels, double sided, at least 5 in number listing the names and dates of death of all the people who had been lynched. Another area showed a movie about the senseless killing of Emmett Till, and his mother's decision to show his body in an open casket at his wake to show what his killers had done to him. All because he supposedly (no proof) whistled at a white woman in a store. He was 14 years old.  I learned about the freedom riders, the sit-ins, read-ins and wade-ins. Brown vs. Board of Ed was represented as were the Little Rock Nine. All the heroes and victims of the Civil Rights era were included. 
The culminating part of the museum was when I reached the rotunda. Throughout my tour of the exhibits, I could hear various songs coming from the rotunda, slave songs, protest songs, gospel songs, etc. It was background music to the exhibits and certainly helped set the scene. But as I entered the rotunda itself, I was blown away. A soft sculpture hangs from the ceiling, looking almost like a swirling ribbon. It pulses with light, changing colors and brightnesses along with the music. As I entered, a gospel choir's version of This Little Light of Mine was playing. The amazing thing about the area is that as more people enter the rotunda, the louder and more intense the music and lighting become. As I stood there and others came in, the music swelled, as if to symbolize the greater the numbers, the more powerful the movement. Surrounding the walls of the upper rotunda were the names and images of all the Civil Rights pioneers who lost their lives fighting for the cause. Wow. Just wow. 
I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I had to walk away to keep from crying. It was such an impressive and powerful experience. I wish everyone in this country could visit this museum. It is such an important piece of American history that, I think, now more than ever, needs revisiting. I was truly moved by all of it. If you are ever in the Jackson area, it is a must see. 
Mural on my walk back to the hotel.
As I walked back to the hotel, I realized that so many of the events I read about in the museum took place right in that area. In fact, the location of the Woothworth's lunch counter sit-in was only a few blocks from my hotel. So incredible. 
I walked back to the hotel by way of the race starting line. I was glad to find it was right behind my hotel by a few blocks, and I caught a glimpse of the city hall building, too. 
Jackson, MS City Hall.
I got back to the hotel and decided to head to the grocery store to get a few necessities before heading to dinner. I booked an early dinner reservation at a restaurant called the Parlor Market which was just a few doors down from my hotel. I headed there after my jaunt to the store and took a solo seat at the bar. I had a chat with the bartender about how amazing the museum had been. He asked if I was in town for the race, and I told him I was. At that point, two other women who were also sitting solo at the bar struck up a conversation with me, as they were also both running.
Placard recognizing the former location of Ace Records. Right next to my hotel.
One woman was from Atlanta (Laurie) and the other was from Durham, NC (Kate). The three of us traded stories of races. Kate, who actually grew up in Jackson, had run the Blues Half ten times! Laurie and I eagerly listened to her recount the race course so we knew what we had in store; however Laurie was running the full marathon, so she would have much more ground to cover. She was trying to finish 50 fulls by 50. So we connected on that, which was cool. I had a good meal of my traditional spaghetti and meatballs, and at the end of the meal, Kate and I walked back to the hotel together, as she was also staying there. 
I was thrilled to walk with her, as it was like having my own personal tour guide to the area. She grew up there and was able to tell me about the area around the hotel. The neighborhood is definitely in transition, but seemingly it looks like it is on an upswing. She pointed out various restaurants or former restaurants, a place where her grandfather had an office and the area where many black businesses were back during the 60's. I loved hearing all about it. 
We parted ways at the elevator, hoping we'd see each other in the morning. Off to bed for me after getting all my gear ready for the morning. Forecast was for rain in the morning, but I was hoping for it to hold off...

Absentee blogger

Gosh, I’ve really been away from the blog for some time. It is the end of January 2018, and I haven’t even posted my last November race yet! Life has been busy, but really that’s no excuse. I should’ve made time to write about running. 

As I write, I’m on a flight to Charlotte, NC and ultimately to Jackson, MS for the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon this weekend. I’m pretty excited for this run, as it has been on my “to do” list since the start of my 50x50. When I read about the Blues race, way back when, I knew it was one I wanted to do for sure. The race celebrates the tradition of Mississippi Blues music with a portion of the funding going back to that community. Very cool indeed. From what I understand, there is Blues music along the route and various events after the race that are music related. Regrettably, I’m flying home right after the race, so I won’t be able to attend any concerts, but I hope to at least soak up whatever Blues I can while I’m there. Plus, they always have really cool guitar shaped medals, so there's that, too.

Since I haven’t posted in such a long time, I should backtrack a little. Before I publish this post, I will undoubtedly post my final write up from the Halfsy in Lincoln, NE. You can read that one just prior to this post if you want. Since that race, I’ve just been doing my regular mileage, surviving the holiday season the best I could. When it was all said and done, 2017 ended up really well. I surpassed my 100 miles a month goal, which was so fantastic, considering I missed it a bit the last couple of years due to being sick around the holidays. My total mileage for 2018 was 1348.03 mi.

I also managed to map out the beginning of 2018 race-wise. Mississippi in January, Georgia in March and Indiana in June. Only two more for the second half of 2018, most likely being Minnesota and either New Orleans, California or Tennessee. The end is coming quickly. Only 13 to go as I sit here typing today, and at the end of 2018 it will be only 8 states to go.

Another really cool thing that happened just after the holidays was that I heard from Jacquelene, who was my seat mate flying home from my Nebraska race. She sent me a lovely New Years email saying that she and her niece were planning on heading to Hawaii for my 50th race and for a nice vacation, of course. What an amazing bit of news to hear! Here is a virtual stranger, who became a friend over the course of a flight, who now plans on helping me celebrate my final state race. I’m overjoyed at this news, and I can’t wait to see her again! She’s from Australia, so this is a huge commitment on her part. Thank you, Jacqueline! I can’t wait to see you in Maui in 2021!

What a wonderful journey this 50x50 has been. So many of the interesting people I’ve met are in my head and in my heart. I can’t wait to see what the next 13 states have to offer. Who will I meet? What sights will I see? What will the races be like? Only time will tell, of course, but I can’t wait to find out!

State #37, The Good Life Halfsy, Lincoln, NE, 10/29/17, Part 2

I stayed at the host hotel for the Halfsy, the Embassy Suites in Lincoln, which was a perk because shuttle buses were there bright and early race morning to bring us out to the starting line of the race. This is always key in a point-to-point race. However, if you’ve ever stayed at the Embassy Suites before, you know that their architecture features rooms that surround an indoor courtyard that spans the height of the building. The night before the race, apparently the Nebraska Cornhusker football game was on the big screen down in said courtyard, so falling asleep was difficult as I tried to drown out the screaming fans below. Didn’t these footballers know that the hotel was full of runners who had to get up at a ridiculous hour to run 13.1 miles??!! Sheesh!
After a less than wonderful sleep, I woke to my alarm at 5:30 am and took my time getting up. I warmed up my coffee and got dressed, the usual routine, but I noticed my stomach was a bit out of sorts. I figured I just needed a good egress (as this Runner’s World article calls it) and hoped it would happen before gun time.
I gathered all my gear, ate a quick oatmeal and raspberries breakfast, tossed back a second coffee, stretched and headed to the bus. I caught the 7:00 am bus without any trouble, and about 20 minutes later, or so, we were at the starting area. 
The weather was cold. Just above freezing with a light wind, so I stood behind one of the tents where they were handing out bib numbers to latecomers to help shield me from the wind. I was really happy that I had my winter running cap and gloves and a garbage bag to wear. I ended up chatting with a woman from Missouri who drove a couple of hours with her family to do this race. She more often was a full marathon runner, and we traded some stories of races we had done. Her husband and son were there with her, but they were trying to figure out how to get back to downtown Lincoln, as they had hopped on the bus with her and were now stuck at the starting line! Yikes! Not great planning.
Here I am not enjoying the freezing cold weather.
We chatted until about 8:00 am, and then thinking it a smart idea to visit the porta potty one last time, we wished each other well. Thankfully, my egress finally arrived, and I was feeling better about the thirteen miles ahead of me. I lined up around the 9 minute mile pace sign and shivered for the last fifteen or so minutes before starting. Dang, was it cold! I should be ready for this, but the weather in CT has been so unusually warm this fall, I’m just not seasoned for it yet. 
After the National Anthem played, we were off. The first part of the race was fairly quiet spectator-wise. We started out near East High School (I think) and ran some loopy streets in that area. I can’t really recall what was out there, probably because the cold air was making my eyes water, but I think it was mostly retail and commercial type streets in the neighborhood. I stopped once to use the bathroom because I could feel my bladder becoming a bother. I HATE having to stop, but as I ran by the early porta potties, I spied an open one and jumped in. It cost me a couple of minutes on my time, but I knew I'd be uncomfortable if I didn't stop.
Around miles 4-5 we came to a park where there were some bigger crowds spectating along with a dj. One cool thing at this point was that we ran alongside a pond and off in the distance I could see the state capitol building. That was pretty much where I had to run to...at least it was in sight. 
I felt pretty good for miles 5-8. The route ran through some neighborhoods and some retail areas. The road we were on was a pretty major road, and cars were still allowed on it, with one lane closed off for runners. The two-hour pacing group hadn't passed me yet (to my knowledge), which meant I was still good with my 2 hour or less finish goal. 
The next section of the run entered a corridor park of sorts. It ran along a small small brook with nice sculpted gardens and hardscapes along it. It was a pleasant area, and things were going well until suddenly I felt my running bra come unhooked! Oh no! How is it that this phenomenon is a new talent of mine??!!! Just about the time that this happened, a water station appeared, so I veered off the path and ducked behind a tall tree to try to fix my situation. My bra was a front closure, so I tried my best to reach up my shirt and re-hook it. Fortunately, the water station that I stopped at was staffed by all women (presumably from the university), so I wasn't too worried about anyone seeing me. One woman at the water table saw me ducked behind the tree and asked me if I was alright. I yelled to her that I was fine and that my bra had come unhooked. The whole table heard me, of course, and started laughing. Oh well. It could've been worse. At least I didn't poop myself.
I lost a few more minutes with the bra incident, and unfortunately, I also lost my rhythm. The next couple of miles felt slow, but I pressed on and tried to keep to my 2 hour time goal. We got to the end of the corridor park and crossed over the water and up the other side, under a bridge and on to the final bit of running. 
We ran through a small, dense neighborhood between miles 11-12 that gave way to the footbridge over to the university stadium. As I came around the corner to head up to the footbridge, an older woman (older than me) grabbed me by the arm and yelled to me "Us old ladies need to stay together!" I said back to her, "We're not old!" Geez, how old did she think I was? I had a hat on, so my grey hair wasn't even showing. Guess I was looking kinda rough at this point in the race. 
Once on the footbridge, I could see the finish line area. It was just down the ramp to the chute. I crossed the finish line to 2:01 on the finish clock, but my net time turned out to be 1:59. Just squeaked in under my 2 hour time goal! Hooray! I collected my medal and pretty much headed back to the hotel. I didn't have loads of time to hang around, as I had a rather early afternoon flight home. I will say though that the race organizers had a fantastic finish line party atmosphere going. 
Halfway finisher's medal 2017.
I got to the airport without any issues and had some time to kill before boarding. I tried to nap a little, but I didn't really work out. The flight out of Lincoln was short and my stopover was Chicago. While waiting for my next flight, I met a woman named Jacquelene in the lineup to board. She had been traveling for more than 24 hours from Australia and was enroute to Connecticut to visit her daughter, son-in-law and grandson. We chatted about Australia and about the bad weather that Connecticut was getting. I expressed my concerns about getting in to Hartford on time. The flight before ours to LaGuardia had been canceled, but luckily, our flight was still on. 
We boarded our plane and by some stoke of luck Jacquelene and I were seat mates. It was great to be able to continue our nice conversation.
When we finally got to Hartford, we said our goodbyes. A short time later as I was waiting for my luggage, Jacquelene came back to tell me that her daughter's car had broken down on route 95. The weather was vicious, with driving rain and gusting winds. What a night to have your car break down! We discussed her options of getting a cab (expensive) or Uber. She was going to try for whichever one she could get. I offered to take her to the train station in Hartford (although on a Sunday night at 9 pm I wasn't sure if any were even running...). I asked if she was sure she would be ok. She said she was. I grabbed my bag and made my way to the parking garage. 
As I got to the upstairs level in the airport, my conscience just didn't feel right about leaving this lovely woman stranded at Bradley airport. I called my husband (the traveling guru) and asked him how I might best advise her. He suggested Uber over a cab, but he also suggested that she might just want to get a hotel room. I made my way back down to the lower level to offer her this idea. I could easily drop her off at a local hotel where she'd be safe for the night without paying a fortune. I found her and gave her the new information. She had tried for Uber, but no cars were available, so she had decided to go via cab. Her daughter gave her the address they were at in Milford, CT! (Ouch!). She just wanted to get there, regardless of the cost. A very nice cab driver helped her, and she was on her way. At least I knew she would be safe and with her family after such a long day of travel. She was grateful for my concern, but really, if it had been one of my relatives stranded in another country, I'd want someone to stay with them, too.
I made my way to the parking garage and arrived home after a slow drive through the crazy rain. I ended up getting home later than I expected, but I was glad to have helped Jacquelene. It was a relief to be home and hanging out with my husband. Thank you, Nebraska, for the Halfsy experience!
Nebraska card.
As a bonus (sort of), school was canceled the next day in our town due to the wind damage and loss of power at some schools, so I didn't have to work after all. Extra day of rest for me! Woo hoo!