Friday, September 30, 2016

LEGO my goody bag!

I'm running in a little 5K race in my hometown tomorrow, and I'm really looking forward to it despite the fact that the weather isn't looking great. The race is hosted by LEGO which houses its U.S. headquarters in my little town. I've heard good things about the race from other runners who have participated in it in the past, but this is my first time joining in.
Lightning McQueen LEGO statue.
Yesterday, my youngest daughter and I dropped by their offices to pick up my number for the race and numbers for her and her sister for the kids race. It was so much fun going there! I tend to forget that this company is right here where I live and is only about three miles from my house. We pulled into the parking lot, and to our delight, we were met with all kinds of LEGO sculptures. We saw Lightning McQueen, Cinderella, the Harry Potter kids, a Ninjago guy, Indiana Jones, Po from the newest Star Wars movie and some other guy we didn't really know who looked like some kind of sword-wielding knight. Total coolness. We took a few photos with the LEGO statues and then headed in to the building to pick up the numbers.
Ella with Cole the Ninjago guy.
Hanging with Hermione, Harry and Ron.
Star Wars Jedi pilot...we think it is Po.
First of all, it is delightful to actually live in the town where the race is being held. No major travel or worry about not getting there on time for number pick up. I picked my number up on a Thursday, so no crowds or traffic to get through. Then, we get our numbers and a huge goody bag with two GIANT sets of LEGOs in it and a race tech shirt and t-shirts for the kids! Mother lode! My daughter was overjoyed (as was her sister when she eventually got home later that night)! Total coolness, LEGO people! You rock for providing the world's best race goody bag ever...and for a 5K no less. 
Goody bag haul. Totes awesome!
Immediate gratification. 
Thank you for making our pre-race build up so fun (pun intended :)). We can't wait to hit the race route tomorrow...rain or shine!
LEGO t-shirt models.

Friday, September 16, 2016

State #31 Brewers Mini-Marathon, Milwaukee, WI, September 10, 2016, Part Two

I “awoke” slightly before my 5 am alarm, if you can even call it waking, as my sleep was completely horrible. I felt sluggish and tired from the first morning moment. Ugh. My first two hours or so of sleep were fine, but sometime after midnight, I became restless, tossing and turning and taking many bathroom trips. My stomach was gurgling all night, which I figured was due to the pasta dish. The sauce was mostly made from chopped tomatoes, red peppers and onions. It wasn’t a pureed marinara, but rather it was a chunky vegetable sauté, and it really made my digestive system work all night long. 
I tried not to think about the lack of sleep and just started about my morning routine. I drank my first coffee and hit the bathroom. Then again. And again. And again. Oh lordy, this wasn’t good. I felt like I was pooping my brains out. All I could hope was that it all passed through prior to the race start. I managed to eat my oatmeal, but when I opened one of the packages of blueberries I bought at the market the previous day, I saw mold and didn’t feel like sorting through that to get at any “good” fruit. I decided to play it safe and stick with just the oats, water and some Gatorade. 
The weather was pretty good. No rain, which was originally in the forecast, 66 degrees and some humidity but not as bad as what we’ve had in Connecticut all summer. I stretched, gathered my things and hit the road back to Miller Park where the starting line awaited. 
Looking toward stadium in corral area.
The race set-up was pretty good. It wasn’t too long before I got through the entrance traffic to the parking area. Since we were at the stadium, there was plenty of parking. It was a short walk to the race area where the corrals were clearly labeled and there were plenty of porta-potties. Thank goodness. One last stop there, and I was good to go (I hoped!).
Quick photo before line up began.
I lined up with the 1:45 group knowing I’d never keep their pace, but figuring I might fare a little stronger if I tried to align with a quicker group. We stepped off exactly on time. Woo hoo!
Moving up toward starting line after 10K runners took off.
Our first bit of running brought us around the exterior of the stadium and out along an industrial-ish stretch of road. There were some large businesses in big warehousey buildings, then we went out along a highway bridge and down by some train tracks. It wasn’t very picturesque, but quite often these races center around industrial areas that are desolate on the weekend so as not to create complete traffic snarls. So onward we went. 
I passed a couple of charity teams running with wheelchair participants. My heart always goes out to those folks. It is such a wonderful thing to behold. I high-fived a young man who was riding in one of the wheelchairs. His name was Cody (if I remember correctly) and he was the captain of his team. Outstanding.
Around this area, we passed by our first landmark on the course, the Potawatomi Casino. It wasn’t much to see, just a big hotel and casino building with a flame statue behind it that wasn’t lit. It didn’t look very lively at 7:30 in the morning, but I’m sure there were folks in there shoving their dollars and coins in plenty of slot machines. 
As we continued along, the next section of the course featured a cable bridge, similar to that new one in Boston, but much smaller. It had begun to mist at this point which wasn’t a big deal, but the bridge was medal, so I was worried about slipping with it being wet. We ran over the bridge and made a quick turn around before running back over the bridge. As bridges go, this one was angled in an arching form over the river, so it was a hill both out and back. On the way back some schmo on the bridge remarked, “It’s all downhill from here…” I wish I never heard that comment because I believed that fool.
Around mile 4 we ran a loop around the Harley Davidson Museum. It was fine, but with the now steadier rain, humidity and loopy turns, I stopped at the water station and took a walk break. Mostly I just grab a water and keep running, but this time I walked while drinking to give my legs a moment of recovery. I jumped back in to the line up a few moments later, but unfortunately I was already starting to feel sluggish. Damn lack of sleep!
The next part of the race made its way through another industrial area in the city and then we turned and ran past part of the Marquette University campus. This was pretty cool. The university is huge, and actually my hotel was quite close to the campus as well. We ran past the law school building and gym on our way out of the city.
We left this area and headed away from the city over a flat bridge (thank goodness!). At the end of the bridge, we passed our next landmark the Three Domes. I wasn’t really sure what these were about, but I think they are some kind of garden? The official name is the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory. (I fact checked that post-race.) The domes were interesting to look at, and just past this point we started to get in to a more residential area. There were a few more spectators in this area which was nice. We turned the corner slightly after the domes and in to more hills. None of the hills in this race were huge, but they were plentiful enough to really become exhausting. I wasn’t really in the mood for hills. Plus, I was still thinking “it was all downhill” at this point. Liar.
Sometime after this the 2:00 pace group passed me which I wasn’t surprised about, as I felt myself slowing down a little. I just hoped that I could finish respectably around the 2 hour mark. We ran along, and I tried to keep pushing as much as I could. Miles 8-10 were kind of a blur. It was just slight hill after slight hill. Clearly that guy back on the bridge at mile 3 never ran this race. There was one cool spot though where we crossed another flat bridge and caught a great view of the city skyline in the morning sun. A guy running next to me remarked that it wasn’t too shabby. I agreed saying that it was a fine morning workout. He commented on the view indicating that it was cool to see how far we’d gone. Not being familiar with the area, I didn’t really have that perspective, so it was nice to see it through his eyes and think about it in a different way.
The landscape here was a mix of homes and small businesses, corner stores, food markets and such. We ran past a high school football game being played at Marquette University High School which was fun to see.
The next landmark could be detected by scent long before we reached it. As I ran along sometime after mile 10, the unmistakeable odor of hops was in the air. It actually smelled pretty good at this point in the morning. I was pretty spent and hungry, and the hops smelled kind of like a pungent loaf of bread. Mmmmm….bread. Ok, so my mind was wandering. Anything to distract myself from the last few miles, right? 
We rounded the corner on a lovely DOWNhill (finally!) that ran smack in to the Miller Brewing Company brewery. The scene was actually kind of cute and there were some cobblestone streets throughout this stretch. I’m sure it is a big tourist attraction, but at 8:30 or so in the morning, it was pretty deserted. The big Miller sign on the building was a sight to see, and running up the next hill out of the brewery area, I turned around to see a large Miller mural painted on the side of the building. It was pretty cool, even though I’m not really a Miller Beer fan.
Up the hill we went and in to mile 11 where we faced another hill. This one looped up and around on a highway on-ramp. It was pretty steep and I made it about halfway up before taking a walk break. At this point in the race, I needed to conserve a little energy, and expending it all on the hills wasn’t wise. We got to the top and flattened out with our route heading back toward the stadium, at last!
The last couple of miles seemed to go a little quicker. There were a couple of downhills, and we finally entered on to the stadium property. We ran along the footpath, around a parking lot and up in to the lower level of the stadium. This was so cool! We were entering the stadium where we ran around the perimeter. I got my phone out and took video as we entered. This was something I wanted to remember and share. 

Running in under the lights was so fun! The place felt enormous and looked very green. I ran through narrating my video as best I could with my tired breathing. Halfway through I passed a guy who I thought was trying to be funny in front of the people in the stands. I thought he was taking goofy steps. In fact, just as I passed by him, he fell down. Scary. I yelled for medical staff and immediately notified safety personnel as I exited the arena. I hope he was ok. You can kind of see him stumbling along in the video I took. He is wearing a dark yellow shirt and black shorts and is visible along the dugout wall area about halfway through my trek in Miller Park. It has to be a complete bummer to get that far and have to drop out.
As we came out the other side of the stadium, the finish line was right ahead, which was a welcome sight! So often at races there's one last loop around the area or something, but not this time. There were a bunch of spectators at the finish line cheering for the runners, and as I crossed the finish, the time on the clock was 2:03. Not bad considering my summer training was so abysmal. I was happy with that and the efforts I made to earn it. I walked through the finishers' chute and collected my Milwaukee Brewers themed medal (a very nice one!) along with some water and a KIND bar. Yum. I found a small patch of green grass near a playground on site and started my stretching. 
Outside the major league park, there is a little league stadium and playground. How cool is that?! As I was stretching, the rain started back up again, just as a mist. By the time I finished though it was really starting to come down steadily. I checked in at the results table to get my official time (2:03:03), gave my beer tickets to some other runners to enjoy, and hi-tailed it to my car to get back to the hotel. 
Preliminary results as viewed before all racers finished.
The race organizers put together a post-race tailgate for the runners and their families/friends which was super cool. A band was just starting to play and there was food and beer. But since my flight home was at 1pm, I really couldn't stay for any of that. I needed to shower, pack and hit the road. Plus I didn't really feel like hanging out in the rain feeling all stinky and sweaty and gross. 
My plans worked out perfectly, as I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I grabbed some lunch (a chicken and kale wrap) and just relaxed until my flight boarded. Unfortunately, there was a woman on the plane who almost fainted, so we ended up being delayed until they could get her some medical help off the plane. Luckily, the delay didn't cause me to miss my connection in Minneapolis, but that flight was boarding when I arrived. No long layover wait there! I made it home to my family by 7 pm on Saturday night (crazy, I know!), and they ordered some pizza for dinner, which was just delicious after a long day. I was exhausted by the time I hit the sack, but it was a great quick trip to Milwaukee. 
Shirt, number, medal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

State #31 Brewers Mini-Marathon, Milwaukee, WI, September 10, 2016, Part One

I just got back from a quick overnight trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to run in the Brewers Mini-Marathon there. I flew out on Friday morning, catching a 9:20 am flight after dropping the kids off at school. I arrived around noon time there, secured my rental car and headed straight to the running expo to pick up my race number. The packet pick-up was held at the Milwaukee Brewers baseball stadium, Miller Park. This is also the location of the race start and finish, so it was a fitting place to pick up our garb, too.
Miller Park: baseball stadium for the Milwaukee Brewers.
My first impression of the Milwaukee area, as gleaned from the airport, drive to the city and arrival at Miller Park baseball stadium was that this city was all about cheese, sausages and beer. Not a bad thing. Just from my short arrival time, it seemed that my eyes were bombarded with those three commodities nearly everywhere. 

Hank Aaron commemorative statue outside Miller Park.
The stadium looked impressive, and as I walked around the outside of the building, I noticed some statues honoring Hank Aaron, Robin Yount and Bob Uecker. They were nice tributes to those important members of the organization over the years. Once inside, we were directed to the second level for the packet pick up. There wasn't much of an expo up there, basically just packet pick up and a few vendors selling things or giving things away. I left pretty quickly and headed to my hotel to check in.
Downtown Milwaukee seemed nice. I found the Hilton where I was staying and parked my car and headed out on foot to do some exploring. I walked along Wisconsin Avenue in the direction of Lake Michigan. The weather was sunny, warm and perfect for a stroll around. Along the way, I stopped in a few shops and wandered down Water Street to the public market there. The market was filled with food stands and tons of goodies for purchase. I don't think I've ever seen so many chocolates and cakes all in one place! Oh the temptations! I made it out of there only buying blueberries to include in my breakfast for the morning.
Entrance to Historic Third Ward neighborhood.
As I exited the market, I could see the Historic Third Ward neighborhood up ahead on Water Street, so I went to check it out. I don't know the background of this area, but it is super charming and filled with boutiques, pubs and restaurants and trendy stores. It is an artsy neighborhood, boasting the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Along my way, I encountered a historical marker telling of a shipwreck in Lake Michigan that greatly affected the Irish community that lived in the area. According to the Third Ward Neighborhood website (linked above) there was also a devastating fire that destroyed much of the area back in 1892. It is a beautiful area now, and I enjoyed taking it in. If I lived in the city, I think I'd want to live there.
Historical marker in Third Ward neighborhood.
I continued walking around, eventually getting down to the lakefront area where the Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World (a science museum and aquarium), and the Betty Brinn Children's Museum are located. 
Milwaukee Art Museum and iron sculpture.
The area was gorgeous, and I imagine it is lovely having all those museums right next to each other. The art museum looked like a whale or a ship, and I found out later that the part of the museum I thought looked like a whale's tale is actually supposed to represent a bird. It also opens and closes slowly throughout the day to alternate between being a bird and part of a ship. So, I guess I was pretty close. I took in the amazing views for a bit and then headed back down Wisconsin Avenue toward my hotel.
Milwaukee Art Museum from footbridge.
Discovery World from footbridge.
Park and water feature below footbridge.
Lake Michigan view from back side of art museum.
Along the way, I hit TJ Maxx (to look for some new jeans--unsuccessfully) and a Walgreens (for water). There was a really cool river walk area on the way that was lined with restaurants and shops and apartments. People were beginning to gather for happy hour or dinner, so I decided I should head back to do the same. I stopped in a small park to take a call from my family, and the park just so happened to have been yarn bombed. The trees looked like they were wearing colorful sweaters. How cute!
Knit bombed trees... 
And light pole...

This one was my favorite!
I ended up back at the hotel and decided to check out the Miller Time Pub (when in Rome...) that was in the lower level. I had a local Lakefront IPA and chatted with the bartender and her family who happened to be sitting next to me. She filled me in on the bird/ship change that the art museum makes and also told me about the "Bronze Fonz" statue down in the river walk area I had just passed. Apparently he is there sort of as an homage to the Laverne & Shirley/Happy Days connection to Milwaukee.
Room service rigatoni & meatballs and salad. Perfect for tonight.
I decided to order room service this time around, as I hadn't found an Italian restaurant in the area that would fit the bill for my traditional pre-race dinner. A nice plate of rigatoni and meatballs along with a salad arrived at my door, and I enjoyed it while catching up on some Modern Family reruns that were new to me.
Brewers mascot "Hank" bobblehead that was in the packet pick up goody bag. 
All in all, the day was fun. It is always a pleasure to explore a new city and see what I bump in to. I wish I had more time to hang out and go to one of the museums or take a run in the lakefront area, but I guess I'll just have to save those things for another time. 
Race shirt & number, ready for the morning.