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Paddle Agate Lake!

Paddle Agate Lake!

So…

I’ve been reading blogs about blogging.  Don’t laugh at me.  You’re reading blogs about me reading blogs about blogging… so really, who is crazier here?!

The blogging about blogging crowd suggests that readers love lists… and I know that I fall for the flashy list headlines all the time.  It’s nice to think that life can be “3 Simple Steps” or “Top 10 reasons.”   Lists rarely have much depth though, and can’t do their subjects a whole lot of justice.  That lack of details annoyed me… until I had an epiphany!  My whole blog is like a Top 10 list!!  It’s supposed to be one big spring board for you to go and have an adventure!  I don’t have to tell you how every hill on my last bike ride felt (tough going up, amazing coasting down) or how the water temperature was at the lake last weekend (brisk, but refreshing).  I just have to give you ideas and then you can go fill in the details for yourself!

So today, I’m embracing the list and presenting the

Top 7 Ways to Follow Your Adventure Foot This Weekend!

  1. Paddle Agate Lake!  Wyconda State Park near LaGrange, Missouri just added a fleet of 12 sit-on-top kayaks last year, and my husband and I had the opportunity to go try them out last weekend.   For only $5 an hour (or $20 for the day), you get access to a boat, a life jacket, and a paddle.  There are 2 kayak boat houses at the park; each holds 6 boats right at the waterline of Agate and Wyconda lakes.  We paddled a couple of hours, chased some geese around, saw some deer and even spotted a thirsty raccoon at the water’s edge.  The boats are super easy to paddle, are very stable, and even have a nice little storage bin to toss some snacks and your car keys into.  Kids are welcome with parents along and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
  2. Last year's Running Raider Classic

    Last year’s Running Raider Classic

    Running Raider Classic!   A Quincy tradition is THIS WEEKEND!  Saturday, June 22.  You can still sign up the day of the event.  The RRC is A 5K run/walk & 10K combination road race/cross country race that begins and ends at Quincy Notre Dame High School.  The races will take you through one or two of Quincy’s most beautiful and historic river bluff parks.  Participants will enjoy the challenges presented by either course.  There are several beautiful views of the Mississippi River Valley along this route.  The 5K course has rolling hills and is suitable for all.  The long hills throughout the 10K course will challenge you! The Raider Classic is a great follow-up event for those who have competed in the Bridge the Gap and is a perfect companion event leading to the Hannibal Cannibal. There is also have a 1 mile FUN run for youth under the age of 13 who aren’t quite ready for the 5 or 10K events.  This is an event for the entire family

  3. Hike!   It’s a short drive to get to some beautiful hikes; throw on your favorite old tennis shoes and get out there!  If I were planning a hike this weekend, I’d head to Siloam Springs State Park or maybe up to Argyle Lake State Park (near Colchester, IL).   If you’ve got kids in tow and want something a little more low-key, there are lovely short trails at Quincy’s Gardener Park.
  4. Photo Safari!  Photo Safari is one of my favorite pastimes in Quincy.  The riverfront is chock full of birds, amphibians, flowers and more that are perfect for the
    Great Blue Heron on Photo Safari

    Great Blue Heron on Photo Safari

    budding or seasoned photographer.  Make this idea even more fun by going to the Quincy Public Library and checking out a bird or flower ID guide to bring along.  Also, click here to find my FREE PRINTABLE BIRDING CHECKLIST for ILLINOIS. 

  5. Bike Somewhere  If you’re a frequent reader, you know there’s nothing I like more than getting on my bike and
    Riding with the Quincy Bike Club near Hull, IL

    Riding with the Quincy Bike Club near Hull, IL

    going for a ride.  If you’re looking for a little ride about town, you might check out the “Looking for Lincoln” trail that begins in Quincy’s Washington Park and visits historic sites throughout Quincy.  For those more experienced, check out any of the scheduled rides for the Quincy Bike Club.  There’s a group for everyone from beginner to advanced, and the weekly rides and events are now on the new Quincy Bike Club website www.quincybikeclub.org

  6. Swim! And I’m not talking about going for a swim at the public pool.  That’s not an adventure so much as it’s a headache.  Check out public swim areas at Cuivre River State Park in Troy, Missouri (1.5 hours from Quincy… this park also has great hiking trails and camping areas!)  You won’t miss the pool chemicals at all.
  7. Get Some Herbs: You know what I’m talking about.  This weekend is the Four Winds Farm Herb Festival!  The event features herbs, locally grown food, vendors, educational demos, garden tours, herb theme gardens, children’s activities, music and more.  Admission is free.  Event is presented by the Western Illinois Sustainable Agricultural Society (WISAS) and will be held Friday, June 21 from 5-9 and Saturday, June 22 from 9-4 at Four Winds Farm, 3729 North 36th Street, Quincy.  For more info, email dlee@adams.net.
Herb Festival this weekend!

Herb Festival this weekend!

So there you are. No excuses! Go follow your Adventure Foot!

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Earth Day 2012! On far right is Ashley, who organizes this event each year!

Earth Day 2012! On far right is Ashley, who organizes this event each year!

Save the planet, one park at a time!

Quincy’s Harrison Street HyVee store is once again hosting an Earth Day Park Clean up at South Park (12th and Harrison) this Sunday, April 21st starting at 3pm.  Last year, I was fortunate enough to be able to help with the clean up at Quincy’s Gardner Park.  The event was fun and we all felt like we had made a real difference at the end of the day.

This year, organizer Ashley Hibbard, has planned an extra special event.  HyVee will be providing food, bags and dumpsters for both trash and recycling.  Local musicians Esther Moore, Beau Becraft and Cheeks McGee will be providing music.  All you need to provide is yourself, your friends, a pair of work gloves and a great attitude!   This event is a positive way to impact our community and celebrate Earth Day- and it’s a lot of fun too!  I hope to see lots of Adventure Foot readers at the park!  Happy Earth Day!

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Doug and I take in the view from the top of Monk's Mound at Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site.

Doug and I take in the view from the top of Monk’s Mound at Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site. You can see the St. Louis Arch in the background.

Have you ever dreamed of visiting something iconic, inspirational, and culturally significant to the history of humanity?  The Pyramids of Giza. Persepolis in Iran.  The archeological remains of Pompeii in Italy. The Temple of Apollo Epicurus in Greece.  The Taj Mahal in India. Stonehenge in Northern Ireland.

In 1994 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched an initiative to compile a list and work on the preservation of the most important cultural and natural sites in the world.  This list of World Heritage Sites is awash with one jaw-dropping wonder of the world after another.  It includes all of the sites I listed in the paragraph above and more.

Stone artifacts/axe heads found in various burial pits near Cahokia.

Stone artifacts/axe heads found in various burial pits near Cahokia.

Now to visit the amazing sites I listed above would take a whole lot of time and a whole lot of money.  But what if a true wonder of the world, a record of the technological achievements of man, a significant stage in human history preserved in the archaeological record, and an exceptional example of a civilization that has disappeared was located just two hours from where you’re sitting now?  Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to go and check it out?

Ladies and gentleman, I give you: Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois.

Recreated village scene at the visitor's center museum

Recreated village scene at the visitor’s center museum

My own trip to Cahokia (pronounced Ka-Hoke-ee-ah) came from one simple truth: we were tired of being in the car.  My friend Doug and I had just run the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Lexington, Kentucky and were headed home.  Over 5 hours into our trip home, I spotted a brown historic site marker on the highway and exclaimed, “We’re right by Cahokia Mounds! I’ve always wanted to see it!”  Doug made an impressively quick decision and an equally quick lane-change with the car, and just a few miles down the road, we arrived at the park.

Cahokia Mounds is the largest prehistoric Indian site north of Mexico.  At its height, the chiefton-based civilization covered 4000 acres, included numerous villages around the main city structure, and was home to nearly 20,000 people.  These Mississippian people flourished from 800 AD to approximately 1200 AD and had highly structured communities with a complex social system which included art, agriculture, community, trade networks, and many scientific and engineering achievements.  In AD 1200, Cahokia was larger than London.

The Cahokia Mounds site today, as it was in AD 800, is organized around a central Grand Plaza and the largest earthen pyramid in the US, Monk’s Mound.  Monk’s Mound and the 100+ surrounding mounds are made of earth and wood using stone and wood tools.  The earth was transported primarily on people’s backs in woven baskets.  It is estimated that Monk’s Mound- with a base that covers 14 acres and a height of 100 feet- is comprised of over 22,000 cubic feet of earth.  Anyone else’s back sore thinking about moving that much dirt?

Monk’s Mound was a cultural focal point and once was topped with a massive building where the most important chief would run the government and conduct ceremonies. Other mounds were built for other purposes.  Most contained burials, and some may have just been built to elevate the residence of important figures in the society.  Today some of the mounds have been excavated and amazing artifacts have been recovered and preserved.

Infographic at the main plaza. Monk's Mound can be seen to the left in the distance.

Infographic at the main plaza. Monk’s Mound can be seen to the left in the distance.

All of the mounds have been cataloged and numbered.  Of particular interest is Mound #72.  The excavation of this small mound found over 300 ceremonial burials, mostly of young women in mass graves.  Atop of this, an elite male, estimated to be 45 years old was buried on a platform of flat beads made out of shells.   The shells were arranged around the body to resemble an eagle or hawk.  There is a recreation of this chief’s burial inside of the park’s interpretative center which is truly amazing.

The interpretive center of the park is very nice and the displays are engaging for kids and adults alike.  There is no admission to the center, though there is a suggested donation of $4 for adults, $2 for kids and $10 for families.  Along with many wonderful artifacts like tools, beads and pottery, there is an auditorium which shows a film every hour as well as a recreated village to explore.

Since Doug and I had stopped on the way home from an exhausting weekend, we did not have the time to explore the true breadth of the park, however we did take the opportunity to climb to the top of Monk’s Mound.  Under cloud dotted skies, the view from the top of the mound was vast and gorgeous.  The St. Louis Gateway Arch and skyline, 7 miles away as the crow flies, was clearly visible to the southwest. Farm fields and lakes spread out to the north.  And all around, you could see tops of the mounds which made up this ancient city.  It was easy to imagine how inspiring this vantage point would have been to the people who lived here.

"Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi" by Timothy R. Pauketat is available at the Quincy Public Library.

“Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi” by Timothy R. Pauketat is available at the Quincy Public Library.

The top of Monk’s Mound is made even more significant by its placement in relation to the rest of the structures in the society.  Its crest falls at the point at which the sun rises during the equinox, making a strong connection between the chief and the life-giving sun.  Another unique structure at Cahokia is a sun-calendar known as “Woodhenge.”  This site, discovered in the 1960’s, was built of concentric circles of enormous cedar posts that aligned with the sun at the equinox, and would have probably been important as both markers in the calendar and for ceremonial gatherings.  One of the rings of “Woodhenge” has been recreated at the park and can be viewed both up close and from the crest of Monk’s Mound.

Now listen, AF readers… I don’t normally get bossy with my advice, but I’m telling you:  Go to Cahokia. 2 hours from Quincy lies a site of significance to the whole world, and you shouldn’t miss it.  I’m glad I finally had the chance to visit, and I plan on returning to walk more of the grounds and explore.  For further reading on Cahokia, visit:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/198

http://www.cahokiamounds.org

And check out this book (also available at the Quincy Public Library): http://www.amazon.com/Cahokia-Ancient-Americas-Mississippi-American/dp/0143117475

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO ENTER MY ADVENTURE FOOT PHOTO CONTEST! WIN AMAZING PRIZES FROM NUUN HYDRATION AND V FUEL ENDURANCE 

Also, a special hello to Amanda… who we met on the top of the pyramid.  🙂  Hope your adventure was fun and educational!

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Hey Adventure Foot readers! I’ve got some fun news!

Nuun Hydration before my long run! These flavors are grape, fruit punch and tropical!

Nuun Hydration before my long run! These flavors are grape, fruit punch and tropical!

Adventure Foot is now an ambassador for Nuun Hydration!  I was introduced to Nuun out on RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa.)  It was one of those days over 100 deg. and over 80 miles, and another rider noticed that I looked exhausted and that I’d sweat so much that there was salt dried in my jersey and my shorts.  He asked me if I was staying hydrated and I replied, “Yeah, I’ve had like 8 bottles of water!”   And he said, “Well you can’t just drink water! You need electrolytes too!” and he popped a Tri-Berry Nuun in my water bottle.  Not much later, my headache had subsided, I felt much better, and I became a real believer in Nuun!  Anyway, I’m sure I’ll tell you much more about Nuun over the next year of my ambassadorship, so stay tuned for more!  I’m also planning a give-away, so now would be a good time to “like” Adventure Foot on Facebook, and while you’re at it, like Nuun Hydration too!

Now, on to adventure!

Cross country skiing at Wakonda State Park

Cross country skiing at Wakonda State Park

It’s funny to have just told you about one of the hottest days I can ever remember, seeing as the last few weeks around central Illinois have been so cold and snowy!   But like any good adventurer, I like to follow my foot no matter what the weather.

Wyconda State Park

Wyconda State Park

Quincy took on a pretty deep coat of the white stuff in two big snow events in the last couple of weeks, and it seemed like it was the perfect time to try out some winter sports that we normally don’t have enough snowpack to support: snow shoeing and cross country skiing! The only problem?  I don’t have gear.  Luckily though, my very sweet friend from the bike club, Deb Esnault, had both and was willing to let me borrow them.  Also lucky for me: we wear the same shoe size!

I headed over to Wakconda, our nearest Missouri State Park.  Wakonda State Park in LaGrange, MO is reclaimed land which was once a series of quarry pits.  Now, the quarries are 6 deep lakes surrounded by nicely groomed hiking trails, camp grounds, and swimming beaches.   I’ve spent plenty of time hiking and kayaking there in the summer, but I’d never been over in the winter before.

Adventure Foot Cross Country Skis!

Adventure Foot Cross Country Skis!

My friend Karen and I were going to cross country ski together, but our schedules didn’t work out, so my Wakonda trip turned into a solo expedition.  I pulled up at the park and unloaded my gear.  Save one man setting up to ice fish, I had the entire 777 acre park to myself.

I decided that I was going to cross country ski the 3.5 mile trail around Agate Lake first.  I’d run on that trail before, so I knew it was wide and not too hilly.  Since this was the first time I’d tried cross country skiing, I spent a little time at the beginning of the trail trying out the skis and learning what they were capable of.  The first big difference I found between these and downhill skis is that it was surprisingly easy to move uphill.  That’s primarily due to the way the boots are attached at the toe but not at the heel.  The heel detachment allows for a more natural foot motion when walking uphill.

581867_616430828371818_2096944925_nThe second difference I found was that though these skis were much better at making it up hill, they were much worse at making it downhill!  The shape makes turning the skis difficult and their textured surface doesn’t slide as well down a hill.  That’s okay though, because cross country skiers are often bringing gear and things along, so controlled slow descents are probably preferable.

Once I had the hang of things I set out around the lake.  It wasn’t long until I’d found a good rhythm and was scooting right along the trail.  The day was gray, but the trail was still very beautiful.  I watched a few immature bald eagles dive in the open water at the center of the lake and the only tracks in the snow besides mine belonged to coyotes.

About half way around the lake there is a camp shelter, which I used to prop up my camera for a quick blog pictures. Though cross country skis allow you to stay on top of the snow, it’s still a big cardio workout, and I had really worked up a sweat!  On a longer trail in rougher conditions, I might have really been in trouble since I was so wet.  It would be bad news to have bad weather or cold wind set in if I were too far from shelter.  Anyway, since this wasn’t an episode of Dual Survival…

The beautiful trail around Agate lake.

The beautiful trail around Agate lake.

I really enjoyed the rest of my time on the trail.   The hills the lake offered were gentle and rolling, and just enough of a challenge to keep it interesting.  I liked how quiet the skis were on the undisturbed snow, and it was nice to have some time by myself.  I was back at my car in no time at all.

Showing off my Adventure Foot by the start of the Jasper Lake trail!

Showing off my Adventure Foot by the start of the Jasper Lake trail!

Like I said before, we have so few opportunities to play in deep snow around here, so even though I was pretty worn out from the skis, I decided I was still going to snow shoe for a little while.   I switched gear and headed off towards the smaller Jasper Lake trail.

Snow shoeing was much slower going than the skis, but it had its own charms.  Snow shoes have large flat bottoms called “decks” for staying on top of the snow, but also have metal cleats called “crampons” on the bottom for gaining purchase on slippery rocks or ice. The bindings fit around a regular pair of hiking or snow boots and are attached to the deck by bolts that rotate and let your feet move in a walking motion.

A frozen corner of Jasper Lake

A frozen corner of Jasper Lake

I used the snow shoes to explore the lake shore and generally poke around a little.  The park looks so much different in the winter and a little sunlight showing through the clouds added a lovely sparkle to the snow.  The snow shoes were fun to try and really did save energy when compared to just trudging through deep snow.

Wyconda State Park Map (Click to view larger)

Wyconda State Park Map (Click to view larger)

I really enjoyed my solo trip to Wakonda and am looking forward to visiting this nearby park for more adventures, no matter what the weather.  I hope you find ways to follow your Adventure Foot this spring! There’s so much to explore!

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Best day ever?!! Greg Davis and I pose by my brand new Trek Madone!

Best day ever?!! Greg Davis and I pose by my brand new Trek Madone!

I’ve been trying to think of a good analogy about buying a bike since last night, and the best I’ve come up with is shoes.  I briefly entertained one based on eating spaghetti at Fazolis versus eating spaghetti in Italy, but it fell apart after I ate dinner and was no longer so fixated on food.  So wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah…

Buying a bike is a lot like buying shoes.  Maybe you stroll past the clearance rack and you see a cute pair of pumps at 80% off and they’re not your size but they’re kinda close so you buy them.  Then you wear them to the wedding reception and you’re miserable all night. By the time the DJ starts playing “Old Time Rock and Roll,” your “great buy” shoes are under the table and you’re wearing a hole in your pantyhose.  And the shoes?  They’re going straight to the back of your closet never to be seen again.

Listen, I understand the temptation to look for a used bike or to go out to Walmart and buy something for $200.   I really do.  My first bike as an adult was bought second hand, but as it happens, I just got extremely lucky and could make it work for a while.  When I bought it though, I didn’t know what a difference the right bike could make.

It's me and my bike again! Notice the matching Bontrager jersey!

It’s me and my bike again! Notice the matching Bontrager jersey!

The past couple of weeks, at least 4 different people have asked me to be on the lookout for used bikes for them.  I’m not saying there might not be a decent used bike out there for all of you, but buying used is much harder than buying new if you really want to get lots of use out of your new bike.  If you don’t want to banish your bike to the back of your garage like a pair of clearance shoes to the back of your closet, you’ve got to find a bike that fits YOU!

Let’s put it in perspective.  I rode my bike 2500 miles last year.  If I average 15 mph, hat’s 166 hours in the saddle.  6.94 DAYS on my bike.  Do you think I could have done that on a bike if it wasn’t super comfortable and built for me?!?!

Even if you don’t plan on riding thousands of miles, it’s easy to see you’ll get more enjoyment and more use out of a bike that works with your body instead of against it.

Your best bet is to go to a bike shop with knowledgeable people and learn about what type of bike you should buy.  There are two shops here in Quincy.  My personal endorsement goes to Madison Davis, a Trek retailer.   Gamemasters also has a nice department though, and carries Specialized bikes.

People can (and have) written whole books on choosing the right bike, but let me give you my two cent guide on what you need to do if you want to start riding road with me this year.

  1. I organized a Bridge to Bridge (Quincy to Hannibal and back) ride for the 4th of July, and despite the high temps, attendance was GREAT!  I'm so happy so many people came out for this and I hope we do it again next year!

    I organized a Bridge to Bridge (Quincy to Hannibal and back) ride for the 4th of July, and despite the high temps, attendance was GREAT! I’m so happy so many people came out for this and I hope we do it again next year!

    Get measured.  DO NOT just go a-Googling and find some height chart on the internet.  Your friendly bike shop will measure you for free and will tell you what size you need.  It’s worth noting that different brands measure bikes in different ways.  For example, I ride a 52 cm Trek or a Medium Women’s Specialized.

  2. Think about your goals.  Are you going to ride some 10-20 mile routes or do you hope to work your way up to riding centuries (100 miles)?  Do you want to be able to tow cargo and camp?  Or do you want to race and try triathlons?  If you’re just club riding and aren’t going super long distances,  things like carbon seat posts (which reduce road noise) might not really be worth the extra cost for you.  Buy the options you need!
  3.  Think about your budget.  Yes, I know. This is the least fun part.  If my budget was unlimited, I’d buy a beautiful Trek Project One Domane and I would customize the paint job myself and have all the bells and whistles.  But alas, my pocketbook has limits.
  4. Are you a lady???  In road bikes, the main differences in a women’s specific bike are the length of the top tube (from your seat post to your handle bars) and the angle at which you sit on the bike.   There are very good graphics on the Trek website that illustrate this. The advantage to a women’s fit bike is that you won’t be reaching as far to the handle bars and therefore will put less strain on your back and shoulders.  If you’ve got a nice long torso, this might not be an issue for you, but for me, the women’s fit really feels nice.  The disadvantages of women’s design are that the women’s bike geometry isn’t as aggressive (which is important to racers) and they tend to feature pastel colors or flower graphics.   The girly color/graphic package is a whole other rant though.
  5. Don’t fear the saddle!  I’ve seen it before.  People take one look at those skinny, rock hard saddles on road bikes and demand that it’s switched out to something with gel in it.  Don’t do it, my friend!  I should probably write a whole other blog post about saddles, but the short story is: they can be measured too.   You sit your cute little bottom on a piece of foam, the foam measures your sit bones, and then you get the right size saddle for you.  Let the bike shop show you how to position your saddle for maximum comfort and in just a few rides, you’ll like a road bike saddle too.
  6. Understand your bike and what it’s made of.  I suggest this blog post which I wrote last year on the subject!
I never get tired of bike pictures.

I never get tired of bike pictures.

In conclusion- even if you don’t buy a new bike, start your research by looking at new bikes.  If you know what you want is a Trek 1.2 in 54 cm, you can go look for that bike.  Then you can do your comparison pricing and see if it’s worthwhile to buy used.

If you’re wondering about my bike and the thought process I went through to buy it…

I have a Trek 3.1 WSD Madone.  I bought it because:

  1. It’s an entry level carbon bike.  Carbon is a tough material and it’s good at reducing road noise.  It’s lighter than aluminum and since I knew I’d be a long distance rider, I thought carbon was the right choice for me.
  2. I almost bought a Lexa, which is an aluminum bike with carbon seat posts and forks. I probably would have been happy on this bike too (and would have saved some money) but I knew I loved to cycle by this point because I had already put over 1000 miles on a steel bike.  So, I decided I wanted to get the best I could afford so that I wouldn’t want to upgrade in just a few years.  I wanted something that could grow with me.
  3. My bike has 105 Shimano shifters/derauillers etc.  That’s the middle of the Shimano line.  I don’t feel like I’m a biker who has to count every little ounce yet, so I didn’t want to upgrade to the Ultegra or Dura-Ace level sets, which are extremely light weight but also very pricey.
  4. I’ve got a short torso, so Women’s Specific Design was the right choice for me.  It’s plenty aggressive for the type of riding I do.
  5. The base price of the bike I picked is right around $2000.  After adding pedals, shoes, a helmet, computer, etc, it was more of course, but I didn’t purchase all of the accessories all at once.  It’s worth it in the long run!
  6. Trek and Specialized (and other major brands) often offer financing on bikes, and I took advantage of that.  I believe I had zero interest for 12 months or something.  It was a great deal.
  7. Most importantly: I have never regretted a dime I spent on buying the right bike. I love The Dream Machine! 
This is the 2013 Lexa.  It's a nice bike!

This is the 2013 Lexa. It’s a nice bike!

If I had to make a recommendation for a good all-around bike at a good price for anyone just getting started, I think I would recommend the Trek 1.2 (called a Lexa for women).  It’s their aluminum road bike with carbon fork and seat post and it’s a good compromise between the features of a more expensive full carbon bike and the aluminum frame.  (The Specialized equivalent is called an Allez. Other brands make something similar.  Felt and Giant are good brands to check out but you can’t buy them locally.)  The 1.2 is a great quality bike you can ride in the club rides, take on a triathlon, or commute to work on.  The 1.2 list price is $999 (and the 1.1 is $799.  This is a solid aluminum bike.)

So, there you have it.  Buy a bike! Come ride with me!!  I PROMISE cycling will make you smile.

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Pre-Climb at registration!

Pre-Climb at registration!

This past weekend my husband, Justin, my friends Jeremy and Adam, and I all participated in the Fight for Air Climb to benefit the American Lung Association.  I’d like to start this race recap with a great big THANK YOU to the friends and family that made donations to our team.  With your help, we raised over $600 to help the mission of the American Lung Association.  The ALA supports anything and everything lung related- including research, smoking prevention and cessation programs and screening programs for cancer, asthma, and rare lung diseases.

I decided to form a team for this event back in October after a good friend suffered a spontaneous lung collapse. Then my dad was diagnosed with primary lung cancer.  What can I say?  It was a bad month for lungs.  As members joined my team, we added some “reasons to climb” for friends and family with conditions including asthma, sarcoidosis and a recent lung transplant recipient.  The one thing we know is this: no one should have to fight to breathe!

ALA Fight for Air Climb events are held at prominent skyscrapers and stadiums throughout the country. Participants basically just climb the stairs as fast as they can- kind of like a vertical road race!  There are different categories at each race including a first responder division where firefighters and other first responders run the stairs in 70 lbs of full gear, and a category called “The Ultimate Climb,” where climbers complete the course as many times as they can within a set time limit.

The Hilton in Springfield, IL

The Hilton in Springfield, IL

We signed up for the regular single climb in the Springfield, IL event.  So, on a cold Saturday morning, we made our way over to the tallest building in Springfield: the 34 story Hilton hotel.  The Hilton sticks out like a sore thumb in downtown.  There’s just no other building around it even half so tall.  It really adds to the intimidation factor to see this one tower dominate the skyline.

We arrived about 45 minutes before our scheduled climb time and went straight to registration.  I get the feeling that locals took advantage of the early registration the night before, because it took no time at all to get in, get our numbers and our tech shirts, and get ready to climb.  And it was good that registration was so fast, because the event was running ahead of schedule and our wave was already being called.

The volunteers directed us toward the basement where we got chip timers for our shoes and where we saw the beginning of the climb.  Yep.  It was just a regular old stairwell.  The team before us exchanged high-fives and took off up the stairs.  We didn’t know really what to do, so we all kind of stretched our calves out for a minute and then walked up to the door.  A very nice volunteer checked off our numbers and then we were off!

The stairwell is pretty narrow, so our team took off more or less single file.  I could hear Adam hootin’ and hollerin’ as we began… and so could everyone else in the stairwell!  You have to love his enthusiasm echoing through the halls!

Personally, I didn’t have any expectations for how long climbing this building would take me.  I just kind of took off as fast as I could go without tripping over my own feet and started knocking out floors.  I didn’t do much stair training for this event since I’m in the middle of my half marathon training plans, but I figured the cardio should transfer… right?

Top of the Hilton with our medals!

Top of the Hilton with our medals!

Wrong! Well, maybe the cardio transferred some, but it was still harder than I expected.  I think it was around the 6th floor where I first felt winded.  It was a surprise to be that out of breath!  There wasn’t anything else to do but keep going though, so that’s what I did, albeit a little more slowly.

Some other women from the team before me were also finding this climb a little harder than expected and were taking a break on a landing.  I high-fived them and yelled out something encouraging as I passed.  Through the climb I passed several other groups- getting around them was not always easy in the little stairwell- but everyone seemed like they were having a good time.

I looked up somewhere around floor 20 and was really proud of myself.  This was going pretty fast, even if I was winded!

My Fight for Air Climb Medal

My Fight for Air Climb Medal

There were volunteers standing at some of the doorways along the way up handing out water or yelling encouragement, and the man at the 28th floor yelled out that I was almost there!  I scurried up the last couple of steps and then it was over.  My time for the climb was 7:30.

The rest of my team were already there waiting for me at the top.  My husband put up our team’s best time: a scorching 4:35.  Adam ended in 5:00 flat, and Jeremy came in at 5:20.  It was kind of strange to be done with an event so quickly.  We didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves… so we snapped a few pictures and headed to one of the best restaurants in Springfield, D’arcy’s Pint, for a victory beer.

The event was a fun time for a good cause. It was also incredibly well-run and well-staffed with helpful volunteers   We all decided if we did this again next year, we’d try the Ultimate Climb.  Our friend Brian Pahlmann participated in this grueling event last year and logged 11 climbs in an hour.  Amazing! I also think it would be fun to try the same event in Chicago at the Sears Tower.  It’s, ya know, just a little more iconic than the Springfield Hilton.

If we do that though, we’re going to need to really train.  Stair climbing is some serious exercise, and I can tell that I need to work on my VO2 Max if I’m going to dart up the 110 stories of the Sears Tower next year!

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Ice skating on Quincy’s riverfront. I know what you’re thinking: I’m very graceful. 🙂

It was 60 degrees.

We were ice skating.

Outside.

And it was AMAZING!!

This past weekend, my husband and I had the opportunity to check out Quincy’s newest outdoor attraction, “River Skate.”  The business, owned by Quincy natives Chris and Marion Dye, opened last week on the Quincy Riverfront.

Romantic skate-date!

River Skate is much what you’d expect from an outdoor ice rink.  Patrons are greeted by a friendly staff at a cute wooden warming hut where they can rent hockey-style skates in all sizes and pick up Pepsi, hot chocolate or snacks.  The staff is happy to help you find the right size skates and even help the kids get laced up and moving on the rink.  There are benches to change into your skates and to tuck your shoes underneath.

There’s just one major difference between River Skate and your average outdoor rink- it’s that River Skate has no ice!

River Skate employs a unique synthetic ice surface called Super-Glide.  According to the press release, Super-Glide is, “A specially engineered polymer and lubricant, with precise production methods and an innovative assembly method; which come together to make Super-Glide® an almost magical synthetic ice surface.”

But the real question was: how would the synthetic ice feel to skate on?

The answer: it was great!

Justin was the best skater there… until a 7 year kid old showed up… 🙂

Justin and I laced up some freshly-sharpened skates and stepped tentatively out onto the surface, and after the first ten feet I could tell that River Skate was really on to something great.  The surface felt smooth and unbroken and just like regular ice.  The synthetic surface even peels up a little around your skates and creates a sort of synthetic ‘snow’ that clings to the outside of the blades.  To this untrained skater, there was no noticeable difference between this surface and an ice rink.

Well, that’s not true. There was one noticeable difference: I wasn’t cold!  It was gorgeous outside and we were skating in t-shirts!   Quincy’s climate just isn’t consistently cold enough to freeze an outdoor rink, and refrigeration that’s required of regular ice is both loud and expensive (besides, where would you get a Zamboni in Central Illinois??) so synthetic ice is a great fit for this area.

Justin Gangnam Style Skating

Justin and I really enjoyed our afternoon on the ice.  It’s an innovative use of Quincy’s riverfront area and the Bayview Bridge makes a photogenic backdrop for all the fun.  I loved that the rink pipes fun music out while you skate- you should have seen Justin skate Gangnam Style…!

There were maybe 15 other skaters on the rink when we were there- a good mix of kids and adults- and more arriving when I was finally worn out and ready for some lunch.  Owner Chris Dye explained that there are going to be some great theme-night skates coming up, and that the regular hours will also be expanded while kids are out on winter break.

I hope everyone gets the chance to go down to the river and experience this new Quincy adventure!  It’s inspiring to see a pair of local entrepreneurs bringing a unique activity to this area and to help develop Quincy’s riverfront.  If you’re going, give me a call… you know, I gotta go work on my double axel…  😉

Owner Chris Dye shows off the great new hockey style skates. Patrons are also allowed to bring their own skates (any style) provided the staff checks them for safety first.

WHAT: River Skate, Quincy’s First Outdoor Synthetic Ice Rink

WHERE: Clat Adams Park (Quincy Riverfront between the bridges, or kind of in front of Kutter’s Bar and Grill)

COST: Only $3 for kids and $5 for adults.  Includes skate rental and admission. Concessions available at additional cost.  River Skate accepts cash and major credit cards.  Punch cards are also available.

WHEN: Normal hours of operation are Wednesday through Friday from 4:00 pm until 9:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 pm until 9:00 pm. River Skate WILL be open for Thanksgiving from 4-9 pm.  For complete hours visit http://www.riverskateqcy.com/events/

PRESENTED BY: Title presenter is Refreshment Services Pepsi.  Also presented by Rokusek Design, ABNG CPAs, First Banker’s Trust, Quincy Medical Group, Town and Country Bank, Heetco, Quincy Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Rupp Rental, Mercantile Bank and Blessing Hospital.

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