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heartland road runners club

The Heartland Roadrunners at Bridge the Gap 2013

You know, I owe my readers a race report for the Bridge the Gap Half Marathon that I ran with my training partner Doug this spring, and I’ve been thinking a little about it.  My summary of the race would go:

jjk

Jackie Joyner Kersee and I after Bridge the Gap 2013

– Jackie Joyner Kersee (who gave out the medals) was AWESOME.  If there’s something better than getting a half marathon medal from an 8 time Olympic Gold Medalist, I can’t think of it.

– Crossing the bridges over the Mississippi in the beginning of the race is BEAUTIFUL.

– The support was pretty good, though they were out of water at the first 2 stops and I don’t drink Gatorade because the sweetness gives me a tummy ache during races (And that’s why I love Nuun…!)

… and that’s about it.  Oh, I would probably mention that it was the warmest day Doug and I had run so far for the year and that was a little tough on us.  Despite the heat, I cut 9 minutes off my time from the Allerton Trails Half Marathon a few weeks before.

Now readers, don’t get the wrong idea when I tell you my feedback about this race, because I don’t want you to think it was a negative experience!  The entire staff of Bridge the Gap does a terrific job of putting together a solid run and should be congratulated for raising a lot of money for MedAssist and for growing the sport of running in Quincy each and every year.  The beef I’ve got with BtG as compared to any of the other half marathons I’ve run in the past 2 years is:

Where were all of the spectators?!

I’m not going to lie, when we were hot and exhausted in the endless bottoms of mile 9, I could have really gone for a, “Your feet must hurt from kicking this much butt!” sign.  Or how about a poster reading, “Run Faster! Zombies Don’t Like Fast Food!”  Or my training partner’s favorite sign, “Worst. Parade. Ever.

occupy finish line

“Occupy Finish Line” at the Occupy Little Rock Protests.

You see, I love the crazy spectators.  It’s my favorite thing about a large race.  Without the spectators, it’s just another training run out a long and lonesome road.  I hit low spots. I want to give up.  I want to walk the next 4 miles or perhaps steal a car.  I need the energy of a crowd and the encouragement of an electric race environment to keep my mind off my sore knees and to keep me moving forward.

When I was in Little Rock, AR doing my first half marathon, a random person in mile 11 yelled, “Yeah Laura! Doing Great!” when they read my name off my bib.

the course is strong

My husband can draw Darth Vader. It is the only thing he draws.

When I was in Lexington, KY for Run the Bluegrass half marathon there were bands around every corner and crowds of people chanting, “Go, Stranger, Go!”

For the half marathon in Illinois, there was a spectator with a table full of Dixie cups with a sign that said, “Free Tiny Beer for You and Steve!” (I don’t know who Steve is, but I bet he enjoyed his mid-race tiny beer as much as I did.)

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Bike rides can use signs too! My friend Jen at the RAIL (Ride Across Illinois) ride

At the Allerton Trail Half Marathon (Decatur, IL) – even on a decidedly quieter trail course – there was a section late in the race where a line of 15 people were lined up giving a row of high-fives to the runners who went past.

I love you, crazy fans. I really, really do.

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My stick zombies could use some work, but rider Gary Clay still got a smile out of this one!

Here’s my suggestion for BtG 2013: We need to get more spectators and awesome signs on the half marathon course!  I’m not talking about fans at the start/finish (there were a good number of people in that area) but I’m talking about some hard core, awesome, “Pain is temporary, finishing is forever” sign holders sitting out on lonely mile 8.  If at all possible, I’d suggest that said sign holders also dress like 80’s hair bands or perhaps Batman.

Yes. That’s it.  I would like 15 people dressed as Batman at mile 8. 

whoop azz sign

Quincy Sketch Club Members Jamie Green and Charlie Martin helped me make signs for an Ultra Marathon in Vermont.

So next Spring when you’re asking a friend if they want to run Bridge the Gap with you and despite your pleading they turn you down, tell them they can still help with the race. As a matter of fact… don’t wait.  Tell them now.  Maybe they can pick up their Batman costumes at an after Halloween sale! Hook them up with a pack of those huge, smelly magic markers and a pile of neon poster board.  Get them a cowbell and a tambourine and tell them to go nuts.

This one goes out to you, Crazy Marathon Sign Holder Person.  Thank you for all that you do!

And if there comes a day that I’m not running in the race, I’ll still be down there.  Look for me at mile 11.  I’ll be holding the, “I Think Chaffed Nipples are HOT!” sign.  🙂

Also check out this Buzzfeed article of more fun signs!

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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!

earthday

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Doug, Glenn and I show off our medals after Run the Bluegrass

Doug, Glenn and I show off our medals after Run the Bluegrass

When I signed up for the Run the Bluegrass half marathon in Lexington, Kentucky, I had many lofty expectations that probably seem silly.  I pictured rolling green pastures, enormous old estates, chickens in the yard, babbling streams, horses running the fields, and miles and miles of white fence framing it all in the perfect picture of the South.

As it turns out- I was spot on.

Pre-race Sponsor Pics! It's Nuun Hydration and VFuel! Love it! Click here to enter my contest to win both!

Pre-race Sponsor Pics! It’s Nuun Hydration and VFuel! Love it! Click here to enter my contest to win both!

I came to this race by way of another race selling out really fast. I had originally intended to run the Quivering Quads half marathon through Cuivre River State Park, but when it was full in a day, I did what any red-blooded American would do: whined about it on Facebook.  A high school friend who once lived in Lexington posted a link to what was billed as “One of the prettiest half marathons in America,” and I was sold.  I quickly talked my training partner Doug into the race, and not long after that- primarily by reminding him that Kentucky was the heart of bourbon country- I had convinced our friend Glenn from the running club to join us too.

Training for this race didn’t always go smoothly.  The first few months of this year, our hometown was blanketed by over a foot of snow not once, but three separate times. It seemed like our choices for times to run revolved around which was worse: freezing temperatures or freezing rain. But we slogged through long runs and hoped for spring to relieve the need to run bundled up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Night before the race drinks in the hotel lobby. My first ever bourbon. When in Kentucky...

Night before the race drinks in the hotel lobby. My first ever bourbon. When in Kentucky…

Due to a death in the family and an unexpected trip to Chicago, I arrived in Lexington late Friday night, after 10 hours in my car, having missed the expo.  My friends Doug and Glenn were already there, and I was barely in the door before Glenn had his expo prize out to show me: a bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon that was specially-selected for this race which he had gotten signed by Runner’s World’s Hal Higdon.  The guys had also each purchased an etched Run the Bluegrass rocks glass, and Doug had kindly picked one up for me too.  Happy to finally be out of my car, we all went to the lobby to have a nightcap and then were off to bed at a pretty decent hour.

We woke up at 6 am for the 9 am race.   We stayed at the race hotel, the Hyatt Downtown, so we were pretty close to the race start.  We grabbed breakfast at the hotel lobby. I had hot cereal and some fruit, which is evidently my pre-race ritual now.  Then we were off to the race.

Beautiful drive to the race.

Beautiful drive to the race.

The drive there is worth mentioning actually.  There was a low fog hanging over the low spots of the farms along the way, and temperatures just around freezing had frozen the fog in spots and added a gorgeous sparkle to the landscape. The sun was working hard to burn the fog away and the scene was another perfect picture of the South.

We arrived at Keenland Thoroughbred Race Track over an hour before the race.  Walking up to the spired main building I could see the finish line off to my right.  Perhaps the little detail of pre-race that made me the happiest is that the racetrack had plenty of inside bathrooms.  There is nothing in this world better than knowing you don’t have to go to the port-a-potty before a race.  I popped a lemon-lime Nuun Hydration tablet in my water bottle (what, you didn’t think I was going to mention my sponsor!?  CLICK HERE to see my brand new Ambassador Page!!) and then it was time to go.

I'm betting on the right horse to win!  These ladies did the whole race in costume. Awesome.

I’m betting on the right horse to win! These ladies did the whole race in costume. Awesome.

We made our way down to race start about quarter to nine, and maybe it’s just the speed of the South, but no one seemed in much hurry to get to the start.  We found our spot in our corral among the other 4000+ runners and chatted with the people around us.  Mainly, I talked to a guy named Andy, who was funny and kind and kept my mind off of the 13.1 hilly miles in front of us.  The race started just a little late and by the time we hit the start line, the temperature outside was absolutely perfect.

Go ahead. Count the hills. But it will only make you cry. (chart from Taz Running.com)

Go ahead. Count the hills. But it will only make you cry. (chart from Taz Running.com)

Now, dear readers, I’ve been thinking for 5 days what to tell you about the race.  You see, I don’t want to scare you off because you should definitely do this race.  I’m not going to lie to you though, it’s hilly.  Real hilly.  And if I do this race again next year, I shall never, ever skip one of Brian Pahlmann’s hill repeat training sessions down at the river. Ever.

I noticed the first long hill we climbed had a name: Songbird Hill.  It was a good name, since I could hear some meadowlarks off in the field. The next hill was also graced with a sign at the top dubbing it Rose Hill.  And at the top of the next hill there was another sign and another name and I remembered what someone in the bike club once told me, “It’s only a real hill if it’s got a name.”  Well looking from the crest of the hill we were on across the rolling landscape in front of us, I thought, “Gosh, there are going to be a lot of names.”

Kim and Laura and myself at around mile 8...we stopped for a picture!!

Kim and Laura and myself at around mile 8…we stopped for a picture!!

In spite of the fact that we were woefully underprepared for a course like this, both Doug and I were surprised to see the first several miles melting away.  The course was very well-marked and large flags called out each mile.  Intermittently along the course there were bands playing a wide variety of music (Seriously: there was some screamo at one corner and a bluegrass band at the next.  WIDE variety…) but mostly the course was a quiet country road with little to hear aside from footfalls.

Another post race pic!

Another post race pic!

Near the bluegrass band was one of those scenes I’d clearly imagined before the race- a yard full of chickens and one proud Tom turkey out strutting his stuff, wearing his feathers tall like royal regalia.  Not far up the road was the first close-to-the-fence horse, a big black and white draft horse who stood by the fence waiting for the next runner who would come over and give him a scratch on the cheek.  He was very sweet and made me smile.  That sort of thing really helps me get my mind off the primary problem: the hills.  My god, the hills.

We were struggling mightily up one hill that Doug named, “The Widow Maker,” when (now don’t miss the irony here) a little old man came by us and said, “You know what a little old man once told me about hills?  It’s just ground!”

Somewhere just past the halfway point, I called out, “Well there’s no turning back now; it’s further to turn around!” which drew a laugh from a couple of girls in the vicinity.  The girls were named Kim and Laura and we ran with them on and off for the rest of the race.  Kim is also a blogger and writes one called This Healthy Endeavor.  It’s got recipes and race reports and more. You should go check it out. Half way is also the point I chose to eat a second V-Fuel Endurance Gel. The VFuel really helped me get through this tough race and didn’t give me any tummy problems at all.  That’s why I love it.  (Click here to see my contest to win Nuun and VFuel!!!!!)

My race goodies! Yeah, I splurged for the bottle of bourbon.

My race goodies! Yeah, I splurged for the bottle of bourbon.

Probably the most beautiful moment of the race for me was at mile 8.  We crested *another* hill and at the top there were 3 sets of mares and foals running wide arcs around their fenced pasture.   It was breathtaking to watch, and even though I was getting pretty exhausted, their enthusiasm for running returned the spring to my step and the smile to my face.

I’m not going to get too much into the end of the race… it was hilly, I was undertrained, and I did a lot of walking.   That’s okay though. Doug stuck right by my side and we did the thing together.  Then, just past a little marching band stationed at the last corner (WIDE variety of music…) the finish line came into sight.  We ran out the last “point-one” as quick as we could and were presented with what is probably my favorite half-marathon medal to date.

Sorry this blog got so long folks! Thanks for sticking with me! Run the Bluegrass was a terrific race.  I posted a personal worst time- but I also feel like I worked really hard for it and was super proud anyway.  I couldn’t have done it without my training partner Doug, who helped me through the long, bleak winter training and shared in the fun in Lexington.  Glenn finished in front of us, but he was great to have around and was fun the entire trip.

Doug, Glenn, Race Director Eric and I after the race (and after a Kentucky Ale!)

Doug, Glenn, Race Director Eric and I after the race (and after a Kentucky Ale!)

Special thanks go to the race director Eric Marr and his team for making every part of the race beautiful.  From the specially chosen barrels of Knob Creek Bourbon, to the ribbons based on the silks of the famous thoroughbred filly Genuine Risk, this was a race with an eye for the details that make an experience special.

Also, a big shout-out to Andy, Kim, Laura, Amanda Jones and her friends, and Lisa- new friends from the race.  I absolutely loved the size of this race. It made it easy to meet people, share a Kentucky Ale, and lament the hills like we’d been running together forever.  Lisa if you’re reading this: I’ll see you this weekend in Allerton. I can’t believe we were both silly enough to sign up for the same two half marathons on back-to-back weekends.

Doug at the Town Branch distillery tour.

Doug at the Town Branch distillery tour.

If you make it down for this race next year (and you totally should) make sure you take a little time to explore Lexington. It’s an awesome town with lots to do.  We toured the Town Branch Bourbon Distillery after the race and also got a taste of downtown at a really great creole joint called Bourbon and Toulouse for dinner.  Then we treated ourselves to pie by the famous Missy’s Pies at Ramsey’s Restaurant for desert.  I had coconut cream.  Wow.

Just remember: If you sign up for this race next year… don’t skimp on the hill training.  🙂

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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!

thanks-for-reading

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Hey Adventure Foot readers!

You must be wondering what I’ve got on my docket for the first half of 2013! Okay, maybe you were and maybe you weren’t.  But I’mma share the list with you anyway.  The important thing to know about these events is: YOU are invited!   So hop on a bike, lace up your shoes or grab a paddle and follow your Adventure Foot this year!

February 2013

Feb. 16     Fight for Air Stair Climb, Springfield, IL- to benefit the American Lung Association

March 2013

March 30      Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon or 10K, Lexington, KY

April 2013

April 6      Allerton Trails Half Marathon Monticello, IL or 10K to benefit Make a Wish Foundation

April 6     Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon, Springfield, IL (I’m not doing this one, but if you’re looking for a  nearby half marathon that’s affordable, you should check this one out!)

April 13     Race for HOPE 5K, Palmyra, MO  To raise awareness of suicide risk.

April 20     Abe’s Mini or Sprint Triathlon, Lake Springfield, IL

May 2013

May 4  Quad Cities Bike Club Tailwind Century

May 11/12  TOSRV– Columbus, OH to Portsmouth, OH and back. Tour of the Scioto River Valley- Century or half options each day.

May 18     Bridge the Gap Quincy, IL  5K, 10K and Half Marathon to benefit Med Assist

May 25/26     Pedaler’s Jamboree  Columbia, MO  Bike on the Katy trail for two days… with lots of live music!  I’m actually planning on pedaling the entire Katy Trail this weekend- but I’ll catch the Jamboree in the middle section.

June 2013

June 8/9  TOMRV– Starts in Bettendorf, IA 2 day cycling event with Century or shorter routes. Read blog from last year! 

 

As always, all of these events can be found on my events calendar.

Other things, both big and small, I hope to do this year:

 

  • Explore Maquoketa Caves State Park

 

  • Ride Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

 

  • Ride my bike to Mark Twain Cave and get them to let me explore “off tour.”

 

  • Kayak.  A lot!  And get people to kayak with me.  And enter another kayak race.

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nufit-headerJust before I sat down to write this blog, I stumbled across an article about how 1/5 South Korean women have had some kind of plastic surgery.  Often it’s to lighten their skin, widen and round their eyes, and even to shave their jaw bones to make their chins come to a heart-shaped point rather than look square.  They basically want to look more western and go to great lengths to achieve this arbitrary standard of beauty.

original

From the gawker.com article on South Koreans and plastic surgery.

I think the knee-jerk reaction to an article like that is, “Thank god we don’t live in a crazy country where those kind of extremes are so common!”  But really when you think about it, American women do go to some pretty amazing extremes and hold ourselves up against standards of beauty that are pretty much impossible.

Some of the things we’d like to change about ourselves can be addressed in healthy ways.  Each time we eat some veggies and not a Snickers, we’re making a healthy choice to change the way we look and feel.  Each time we choose a bike ride over a TV show or a video game, we’re choosing to honor ourselves and add to our fitness.   And all that’s great, but too many women, especially young women, get so caught up in the pursuit of beauty that it becomes destructive.  These women might be suffering from diseases like anorexia, bulimia, or depression.  They might have internal struggles with weight and beauty that cause a lifetime of self-doubt that affect every facet of their lives from relationships to careers.

Prevention of those kind of struggles is exactly why I’ve never more strongly endorsed a program than the one I’m about to tell you about.

A local fitness facility called NuFit for You is offering a new pilot program called the Mirror Image Project.   Owner of NuFit Angie Asmann explained, “The purpose of the project is to focus on building healthy body image and self-esteem in women of all ages. Total wellness starts from within. We plan on revolutionizing the way women view themselves internally and externally, and to raise awareness on what a healthy women is supposed to look and feel like.”

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A local mother/daughter pair who will be participating in the program. Also: some of my best friends!!

This initial program is designed for mothers with daughters ages 8 to 12 years old.  The best part is that the program will be FREE for these mothers and daughters.

“8-12 years old is a crucial time for young women,” Asmann explains.  “It’s when they’re really developing a sense of who they are and who they want to be.  It’s the right time to teach them positivity about who they are.”

Tiffaney_Rains_1_p

Tiffaney Rains, of NuFit

The program will be led by Tiffaney Rains, a personal trainer and Master’s Degree in Community Counseling candidate at Quincy University.  She’ll be teaching classes on Understanding Self Image, Learning about yourself, Media Messages and Myths, Beauty Within and  Positive Self Image Lifestyle Choices.   The course begins February 3rd and lasts for 6 weeks (meets every Sunday 7pm).

If you know a mother/daughter pair who would benefit from these important classes, DO NOT DELAY!   Since I was writing this blog today, I talked the NuFit crew into extending the deadline to apply to the program through Monday, Jan. 21st at 8 AM!   All you or the mother need to do to apply is write a paragraph about why you should be considered for the Mirror Image Project and email it to angie@nufitforyou.com   This first program will be limited to between 6 and 8 mother/daughter pairs. (I should say, if you’re an aunt/niece or … you know, any other arrangement of important woman to important young woman, I’m sure you can apply too.)

I think it’s wonderful that NuFit is helping young women to find their voices and believe in their own beauty.  I hope this program really blossoms and that all the women of the area can learn just a little more self-confidence because of it.

“Throughout a daughter’s childhood, mother and daughter become like mirrors for each other’s sense of self.”  – Doctor Laura Arens Fuerstein, author of “My Mother, My Mirror.”

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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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Mid-race going under the bridge to Quinsippi Island

It’s been a hectic week, but I’ve just been dying to write a race report from the 1st (or 63rd) Annual Quincy 5 Miler Hand Powered Boat Race!

Justin and I before the race.

The Quincy 5 Miler is a revival of a race first held in 1872 along the same route as we traveled last weekend.  Quincy, once known as a national rowing powerhouse, hosted the event 62 consecutive years until the race was discontinued because of transfer of interest to louder, more motorized modes of transport along the river.

Ray Heisey, of Portland, Oregon by way of Quincy, saw the opportunity to partner with Kevin Dempsey of Kayak Quincy and several other local organizations (Including me, here at Adventure Foot) to revive the race.

When I was approached about the race this spring, I agreed to help with publicity and prep work, but I told the team that I was unable to help on race day itself, because I really wanted a chance to put my paddle to the water and see what I could do in competition.  Here is a shortened version of one of my KHQA TV interviews regarding the Ladies Night Kayak events I hosted in the run up to the race.

Safety paddler Ryan Craven.

So that brings us to race day!

I woke up to weather that simply couldn’t have been nicer.  It was cool, the breeze was blowing lightly, and as I drove up to the Knapheide Landing at the Canton Chute Public Use Area, the backwaters of the Mississippi looked like glass.  In the grassy clearing near the ramps, over 70 kayaks, canoes, race shells, rowboats and more were laid out in kaleidoscopic rows.   I made my way over to my 17’ Valley Avocet kayak and proceeded to ready my boat for the race.

My husband and our friends Ryan and Adam had volunteered to be safety crew for the race, so while I got ready, they helped other boaters ready their crafts and worked on adorning their own kayaks with orange safety flags.

After a brief safety meeting, all of the boaters made their way down the ramps and took their places out in the starting area.  The safety boaters separated the racers from the recreational paddlers, and after some directions about the route from the loudspeaker, there was a count of three and the race had begun!

To assure an exciting start for the television cameras, we all took off quite fast and water was splashing everywhere.  A 5 mile race is a decently long way to go on a kayak though, so everyone slowed down not far from the start line and began to find their groove.

Dan Vale and I before the race. Dan paddled SUPER fast and will be in the competitive category next year!

My head wasn’t really in the game at the start- I spent a lot of time adjusting my foot braces and just kind of paddling along straight ahead.  Most of the boats were behind me, so I just took my time.  About a half mile into the race though, the course turned left on to the main channel of the river and I first noticed that there was another female paddler out in front of me.  In fact, she was way out in front of me (far enough that I was only about half sure it was a girl out there).  I’d estimate the distance at about 300 yards or better.   I was kind of shocked to see that someone had opened a lead up that was that large in the first half mile of the race.

Now listen, in a foot race, it’s never really in my nature to get competitive about it.  I’m a slow-and-steady runner who just tries to enjoy the experience.  I’m never even close to contention for placing in races and such so really racing anyone doesn’t often cross my mind.  It was almost a surprise to me when I felt a surge of competitive spirit and decided I was going to catch that girl.

I gave myself a pep talk thinking- “Hey, this is my home water where I paddle all the time.  It’s just a stone’s throw from the place I’ve spent most of my life.  And moreover, I don’t get a chance to be competitive in a race for speed ever…this is my race to lose.”  So with the new goal of, “Catch the woman in the blue boat with the black hair,” I really set to paddling hard.

With no distractions, I concentrated on form. I worked on pulling with my core instead of just my arms and using my brace leg to add power.   I paid special attention to evening out my strokes to maintain my line and none of the drifting off to the left that plagues my recreational paddling seemed to be a problem.  Normally I do a lot of daydreaming and bird-watching from my kayak, but this time around I focused on strokes, watched each paddle pull through the water and even counted sets of four to myself.  It was exhausting.

Right after the win!

Two miles and at least twenty minutes of focused paddling later, and I had to have a break.  I sat my paddle across my deck, grabbed a drink of water and as I stretched my sore shoulders, I realized I had really closed down the distance between the blue boat and myself.  She was just about to turn into the backwater area we call the “Cut” which leads to the regular bay, and I was only 3 boat lengths behind.

With renewed energy, I went back to paddling and, because I was familiar with the route, I took a better line in the curve and passed the other female boater before the Cut emptied into the bay near the Quincy Ski Club ramp.

And that, my friends, is where the wind really picked up.  The breeze out of the South had turned into a steady wind, and with little to block it, the paddling got really difficult.  The other female boater was only a couple of boat lengths behind me, so I decided on a risky strategy.  I figured that paddling in the shallow water near to the island on the west side of the bay would offer the most protection from the wind.  It would add some distance since we would have to cross the finish line on the east side, but I was hoping that avoiding paddling into the direct wind would help me to have some energy left near the finish line.

Kristen and I after the race.

Sensing the end was only a mile away, the other female paddler and I were suddenly and simultaneously sprinting toward the finish.  I was already very worn out from the struggle to close the distance and catch her in the beginning, and she closed the lead I had opened up surprisingly fast.  I dug deep and decided that I wasn’t going to be happy with second place and I got down to business.

I didn’t really look up at her much- I was too worried about my paddling.  My stroke, which in the beginning was fluid and graceful, had become ragged and formless.  I was very aware that my tired muscles were causing me to change what had worked this far, and I’m pretty sure my paddling started to look more like a canoe stroke than a kayak one there towards the end.

We passed the Pier Restaurant and then the Northside Boat Club in rough waves and whitecaps.  I couldn’t believe we were still neck-and-neck.  I spotted the flashing lights of the finish line and ferociously paddled the last few yards until we heard the bullhorn.

I’d won… by half a boat length.

My first trophy since high school??? 🙂

My husband was at the finish along with my friends Jon, Adam and Ryan, and I pumped my paddle in the air once, very excited about the win.  The second place boater (named Kristen, I later found out) and I brought our boats close together and snapped a picture.  We both agreed that without the other, we wouldn’t have pushed so hard.  I’d have never paddled so hard or so fast or so long without someone to really race.  It was awesome!  My finish time was 1 hour, 11 minutes and 15 seconds.  Kristen’s was listed as 15 seconds behind me.

I talked a little with Kristen after the race.  She’d had a baby a few months ago and was just getting back in the swing of racing. She’s done a lot of neat kayak races including an incredible 340 mile Ultra Paddle Race across Missouri.  I guess we’ll put that on the list of things I need to try!  She was an incredible competitor and an amazing paddler.  I was very impressed!

Anyway, the race was super tough, and while I’m stoked to have won first overall female, the thing I’m most proud of is finding out that it’s in me to really RACE!  I realized that even though I’m not in place contention in the 5k/10k/half marathons that I’m entered in this fall, there is enormous satisfaction to be had from just trying to find someone in the race to work hard to close distance on.  Not to necessarily target someone to beat, but to challenge myself to do better than I would have done without a worthy opponent!

After the race I enjoyed a local beer, Quincy Gems IPA, provided by O’Griff’s Pub and Brewhouse, and got my trophy.  “Another Board Company” from Lake St. Louis was at the event, and Adam, Justin, Ryan and I went out to demo some stand-up paddle boards.  I’m going to write a blog about that later…

I had a great time at the revival of the Quincy 5 Miler Hand Powered Boat Race, and am looking forward to seeing this become a Quincy tradition.  I’m also thinking I should look into some other kayak races in the area, because this was a ton of fun.  It goes to show, you never know what excitement is in store when you put your Adventure Foot out the door!

Here’s my KHQA TV Interview after the race!

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Quincy Ride of Silence- Photo by Brandon Glasgow

The first ever Quincy Ride of Silence was held Wednesday night at Madison Park in Quincy.  The event was just one of 300 similar rides held today nationwide as part of National Bike Safety Month.  Around 40 riders enjoyed perfect weather and a four mile ride across Quincy to promote awareness of cyclists on public roads.

The Ride of Silence near 8th and State Street. Photo by Brandon Glasgow

For this ride, we all wore white jerseys or shirts.  The white jersey riders symbolized the “Ghost Bike” of people who have been killed while riding their bicycles.  There have been several fatalities on tri-state area roads in the past few years, and it was touching to take a moment to remember those riders.  Some of the larger national rides spray painted actual bikes white and placed them at intersections where fatalities have occurred.  I think the Ghost Bike can serve as a very good reminder about just what’s at stake when we’re talking about bike safety.

Since I organized the ride, I thought it would be a good idea to say a few words before we left the park.  I thanked everyone for coming and explained the purpose of the ride was to promote safety for motorists and cyclists.

After the introduction, I asked the crowd if anyone there had been hit by a car.  At least a half a dozen people stuck a hand in the air.  6 out of 40.  That’s an incredible number.  Some later explained to me that they had some incredibly serious injuries ranging from broken bones, major lacerations and concussions.   So how can we be safer on roads?  It’s, of course, the responsibility of both cyclists and drivers to watch for each other, to be conscientious and to follow the rules of the road.

Here are 5 things you need to know to help everyone enjoy cycling this summer!

  1. Cyclists: Bike Safety Starts with the right gear!  Wear your helmet every time you ride and make sure your kids do too.  Wear bright colored clothes and use blinking headlights and tail lights- especially near dawn or dusk.  Mirrors are also very important to see traffic behind you.  There are helmet or handle bar mounted mirrors which are inexpensive and can help you avoid collisions from behind when changing lanes. Also, don’t forget to check that your bike is in good working order, that your tires are properly inflated and that you have tire changing or patching kits in your seat pouch.
  2. Cars: Stay 3 Feet from Bikes!  3 feet is the law around bicycles and is plenty of room to avoid a potentially fatal collision.  Bikes: Stay to the right wherever possible and use the lane responsibly.  Cyclists do have the right to the whole lane, but often there is plenty of room at the side.  Don’t be a jerk just because it’s legal- try to get out of the way of faster moving traffic.  That being said, sometimes it’s safer to be fully in the lane.  Just be aware of your surroundings and make a safe and courteous decision.
  3.  Slow down!  Cyclists should reduce speed in residential areas to avoid cars backing out of driveways, drivers opening car doors when they’re parked on the street, and any debris you might find in the road.  Cars should slow down around cyclists and be patient until they are sure it’s safe to pass a rider.  Some riders and I were already in a very close call this year when an SUV tried to get around us before he had checked for oncoming traffic.  Well, there was an oncoming car, and if that driver had not reacted quickly and driven off road into the grass, there would have been a major head-on collision.  I promise, as inconvenient as slowing down for a few seconds can be, hitting a cyclist or another car would be much, much worse.
  4. Avoid distractions!  Don’t text and drive!  Do pay attention to the road!  Spring and summer are prime time for walkers, runners, cyclists, and kids on and near the road.  It only takes one moment for something to go wrong, and that text message is simply not worth it.
  5. Do unto others…  If that cyclist was your son or daughter- would you drive your car so close or so fast?  If the driver of that car was your husband or wife, would you purposely slow them down?  It’s pretty simple.  Treat each other the way you’d want to be treated.

For more information about the Ride of Silence, please check out my blog from last week or the national Ride of Silence website.   Also, please take a look at this great website which details the most common car/bike accident types.  It has great illustrations and can teach you a lot about what to watch out for next time you’re on the road!  Also check this link to an aritcle I wrote last year after a collision claimed the life of a Ft. Madison, Iowa man.

Special thanks to KHQA TV Channel 7 for coming out to cover the Ride of Silence and for having me back on their morning show.  Also, thanks to Rodney Hart for writing a story about it in the Quincy Herald Whig.  And thanks to photographer Brandon Glasgow for taking some amazing photos.  And a HUGE thanks to all the riders who came to the first ever Quincy Ride of Silence!

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FIT Class participants freestyle with different gym equipment.

This week I had the great pleasure of going to Legacy Martial Arts Studio to try out a few classes.  You might remember just a couple of weeks ago that I was at the studio with the local Army Drill Sergeants for a day of mixed martial arts training.  The owner of the studio, Robert Bentley, invited me back to experience some of his regular programs and learn more about the facility.

The studio is located in the strip behind Blockbuster Video at 36thand Broadway in Quincy, and it brings together some of the area’s best fitness classes for kids and adults.  This week, I was able to try two classes: FIT Class and Jiu Jitsu.  Jiu Jitsu is going to get a whole separate blog because I have a lot to say on the subject (such as: it’s awesome!), but today I wanted to talk about FIT.

FIT class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:15 pm.

Legacy’s FIT Class is a little hard to describe, because it’s designed to be different every time you go.  It’s a fun, 45-minute class that will get you moving and make you sweat.  The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the diversity of the group that was there.  There were teenagers through adults, and people who ranged from super-fit athletes to people who were just getting started on fitness programs.  Many of the people were there for weight loss, and others, like me, were there to add a cross-training component to their normal training schedule.

The class started with a warm-up jog around the outside of the mat.  Then Mr. Bentley announced that we were changing the jog to a high skip.  I can’t think of the last time I skipped, but I defy you to skip anywhere without smiling.  Skipping is a joyful movement, plain and simple.  It also does a good job of getting your heart-rate up and getting you ready to workout  with a good attitude.

After warm-ups, we moved on to partner exercises.   I paired up with Brenda Turnbaugh, who has been doing the class for several months.  I asked her what she liked the most about FIT class and here’s what she had to say:

“I was never much of a fitness “class” person. I workout hard and I like to do different things to keep it fun and keep my body guessing, and so many classes and trainers seem to be cut from the same mold. Same exercises, same reps, same EVERYTHING! In October, I gave in to a friend and decided to try FIT class at Legacy for a 90-day challenge. From the first class, I was hooked! Mr. Bentley said it would never be the same workout twice, and I can say that now after 3 months+, he was telling the truth. Each class is challenging in its own way, and it is now my favorite form of cross-training.”

Brenda Turnbaugh cross-trains at Legacy.

Brenda and I made our way through a variety of pairs exercises- short sprints, jumping jacks, tossing a medicine ball, a wheel-barrow race, and even a fireman’s carry challenge.  We were both having fun the entire time and it’s easy to forget how much you’re working.

One of the best moments in the class for me was the “Countdown Drill.”  The Countdown Drill is where everyone does sets of 10 jumping jacks, 10 sit-ups and 10 push-ups, then 9 of each, then 8 of each, etc. all the way to 1 of each.  I was one of the slower people in the class to do this drill, but when other people were done with their countdown, they would come over and join into my countdown until I was done too.  Then we went to someone slower than me and did their last few sets with them until everyone was done.  This spirit of camaraderie during this drill and other exercises made the class feel extremely welcoming and uplifting.

“Mr. and Mrs. Bentley and the Legacy Family make you feel welcome and wanted.  It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner just starting to exercise or a seasoned pro. Anyone showing commitment to their health is accepted with open arms,” explained Brenda.  I couldn’t agree with her more.

I’d highly recommend FIT class or any of Legacy’s classes for anyone who wants to start or enhance their training program.  It’s fun, it’s different every time, and it’s a great workout.  I can’t wait until next week to see how the workout changes!

FIT Classes meet at 7:15 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  See below for a FREE week offer.  Call 217-221-0700 for details.  There are no session “starts,” you may begin FIT class at any time.

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