Sunday, August 27, 2017

I just want to eat! Conference food & race

Last month I said to myself, "you need a new fighting cancer shirt".  The one I had was the basic gray with white lettering from RaygunShirts in Des Moines Iowa.   I asked them to make the print on a black shirt for me, me Melanoma color.  They said "Sure". 
The note they sent along was so wonderful. It made my eyes leak.  
 Stage 1a Acral Lentiginous Melanoma or my "toe cancer" as I called it. I'm at a higher risk to have regular sun melanoma as well.  As a result, I took advantage of the sale Athleta had last month and ordered more of the UPF swim shirts they have (Pacifica, long sleeve and short sleeve).  I wear these out mowing, and in the car on road trips, and for the pool/ocean too. The guy at the camping store said the UPF protection is usually good up to 50 washes.  
A fellow Melanomie shared that Rit Sun Guard can be used to put sun protection into clothing. However,  does say that it's works best on cotton and not synthetics.  j
I was excited for the conference, but also for the race on Sunday. It turned out that America's Finest City half marathon would be on the Sunday after the conference, so I stayed an extra day to run!  I haven't been doing running in training. It hurts to run on the treadmill, even though the pain doc said that the treadmill would be better than running on asphalt. Running on asphalt is slightly better than concrete. I've been working on keeping my head/chin in a tucked in position, so as to not extend my neck in a fashion that pains me post car collision.  I ran a 10K in mid July and was feeling good about it--I even biked to and from the race!  However, I still stuck with weights, yoga and walking for training of this race. I was using it as a guideline for how my body was feeling all over, and gauging if I could work towards running in training too.

I packed single packets of Sunbutter for breakfast on race day, as well as maybe the flight home.  I also had my Tanka bars, cheese sticks, and my 'granola' mix as I call it (sunflower & pumpkin seeds, Guittard chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and Trader Joe's dried coconut flakes).

The flight out was fairly boring.  There was so much cloud coverage for most of the flight, that I kept my window shade closed. I had a Mamma Chia drink before leaving the house in the morning, and then my packed snacks.  

After checking into the hotel and for the conference, I met up with some other folks and had a cheese appetizer. The bread went to someone else who could eat it, and I enjoyed the cheese, olives, and dates. Later I went out and enjoyed a raspberry Mojito, and a huge Paella dinner. I shared the lobster (too much) and the mussels (I don't care for them).   

Paella, SO GOOD!  

The conference started the next day and I was hungry.  I took a packet of Sunbutter down to breakfast with me, and some of my Canyon Bakehouse mountain bread. I had fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, and a Chobani yogurt. However, the bread, as usually in a catering event, was served on top of bread to absorb the grease.  **Always be on your toes at a conference!   Their sign said gluten free, obviously it wasn't.  When I said something to the staff, I was told "eh".  Different chain than we've been at before, and I can say the Marriott folks were very accommodating and said, "oh, I see, yes. Let me get you some fresh bacon."  NOT this place though.

There was a mid morning snack. I had the fruit. I have to wonder why they served fruit ninety minutes after breakfast that had fruit.

Lunch. Failure.  Complete failure.  I had a sticker on my name tag that was suppose to mean "go to the catering staff, show them, and ask for your gluten free and soy free meal".  In reality, when I did that, I was directed to the buffet. After standing in line for twenty minutes, I saw this dish and tag: 
Being a farmer's daughter, I knew that Farro was NOT gluten free. I pointed this out to the catering staff and was told "it is gluten free, we checked everything."  After I sat down with my lettuce and parm cheese, the catering staff gave me a gluten free meal from the kitchen. I was SO mad and upset that I could barely eat, but I needed to eat something, so I ate the chicken only.  
The afternoon snack was not much better. I was jealous because I thought everyone had donut holes, but it turned out they were pretzel balls with cheese for the side, and then packages of nuts (which had soy).  I guess I don't even know why nuts would be served as they are a major allergen for so many people.  I ran up to my room and grabbed a Tanka bar and cheese stick.  

Dinner that night was a mixer which was another buffet. I ate some plain rice and a piece of fish, literally was trying to not cry from being sooooo hungry. I stayed for a bit to socialize, and then left for the grocery store a few blocks away. Hormel ham slices, cheese, crackers, chocolate milk, avocado, and a few other things.

The next morning I found someone from the conference and let them know of the issues. They were shocked to hear this.  I know I am not the only celiac at the conference, and I know there are others who have more restrictive food needs than I have (some are gluten, dairy, and nightshade free, some are vegetarian, some are vegans, etc).  The person told me to know that I will have food for lunch and dinner, and that I can send in the receipt for reimbursement.

Knowing I only had two more Sunbutter packs left, I saved then for race day and travel home day, and had the eggs, fruit, and yogurt for breakfast.  Lunch was plain and I did not care. I had something to eat. I had salt and pepper to add some flavor to it.  

Veggies, beef, chicken.  Simple. Edible. Needed 

The afternoon snack was like the hotel didn't even try. I don't get why they had sandwiches only. 

NO thank you.
They kind of look good, but they also look like a whole lot of bread. 

I'll have my usual: 
Rice crackers, cheese, Tanka bar. 

Dinner was hilarious.  I let the catering staff at the table know I was gluten free. I didn't feel I was understood. I wrote on the back of the printed menu, "Gluten Free and Soy Free".
"My" meal was served.

Vegetarian is not gluten free. 

A table mate said, "that'd be gluten free". 

I hope they didn't serve it to someone else. I turned on my phone light and picked it apart. Beans, greens, and squash is not the gluten free meal when others have the meat and fish. 


Frustrated, I said, "I'm going up to the room to get my ham, cheese, crackers".  On the way out of the dinner room, I saw a head catering man. [He had a different jacket on than others]. I showed him the photo and he said, "I will get you your meal. That is not it."  I came back to this:
MUCH better!  Slightly different than every one else's. I was still a bit worried about eating it, but I needed food, I had a race in the morning, and I knew there'd be portapotties on course.  

I stayed for a little dancing, and then headed to the room. I had to be up around 3:30am to dress, get a Lyft, and head to the park for a shuttle to the start.  

Flat Quirky: 

Raygun printed design on my own running tank, and my new Sparkleskirts skort.

I knew the course had a hilly/downhill start and a hilly/uphill finish.
I knew some of the course, as I had run from the Cabrillo Monument back to the hotel two years ago.
I thought I remembered it.
I didn't.
The weather was also muggy/humid. For some reason we in the flyover states haven't had much of it. 

The start was a bit of an undulating road for the first couple of miles. We also didn't actually start at the monument/statue, but in the parking lot of the monument.  I loved the downhills. FLYING. I was FLYING.  The incredible feeling of flying.

Then we got to the Sheraton where the course was a turn right for a loop, and then go the other way for a loop.  With the humidity and sweating, my Glide had worn off. Thankfully there were running paramedics on the course and I asked a couple of them for some Vaseline or some such. 

I've never heard of 2Tom Sport Shield before, but I am a firm believer in them now. The paramedic unfurled it, and then said just to rub it all over. She was going to throw the package away, but I took it and the wipe and put it in my sparkleskirt skort pocket for use later if I needed it. That stuff stayed on and only came off with soap and water.  It was awesome.   

The wipe was still very 'slippery' after the race. I put it in a ziploc and am wondering if I can get another use out of it.  I put an order in for some from Amazon though.  

Race on. We had to get to the 10K by a certain point. I did it, with time to spare! More time than in my July 10K.  The downhills may have had something to do with that, but I was elated nonetheless.  

I had to stop and get a photo at the Cancer Survivor's Park.  The sculpture in the background (blocked off) depicts many entering treatment, but fewer exiting.  I am one of those who exited!

I took excitement and inspiration where I could, because I forgot how long running 13.1 can be.  Running a race with 7,000 friends is different than walking Williams Route 66, or Little Rock half when there are a lot of people around!  

Then the hills started. . .  gentle climbing, and I enjoyed seeing T-Rex for some laughs.   

and the hills just kept coming. A gradual one to start, and then we turned the corner and it continued to climb. We passed an intersection that reminded me of a San Francisco hill. Then we just continued on this long, so long, a climb. Up and up and up. I was hurting up the hill. I'm not sure I could have run that whole stretch even in my best shape! Up to Balboa Park.  Then we turned on a flat road. Such a beautiful flat road! (Except everyone kept trying to shove gluten pretzels at me).  We went past the Museum of Man.  Beautiful architecture, and I knew we were almost at the finish with all of that.  A turn here, a curve there, a straight away and the finish.  

The beautiful, beautiful finish line!   

I may have burned some calories.

You know I don't post my times, because my time is for me, not for anyone else. Knowing Quirky's time doesn't mean anything when we are racing against ourselves. I am not an elite runner!    
The beautiful disco ball 40th running medal.
It's so much fun to spin! 

After a Lyft ride back to the hotel and a quick clean up, I went to the pool and hot tub to relax and stretch the muscles.  I also had a fabulous Margarita and a bunless cheeseburger with fruit at the pool. Salt tasted fabulous!   I let the jets of the hot tub pound on my feet and thighs, and up my spine. I did lunges and bends in the hot tub and the heated pool. I thought I was feeling pretty good.

A group of us headed over to Coronado Beach and played in the surf. My blister on a blister was popped after the surf play. I usually try not to pop the blisters, but this one was right on the side at the base of the toes and rubbed against the Birkenstocks.  I couldn't travel like that the next day.  I just popped it, kept the skin there, and put a bandaid over it.

That night I wasn't too hungry, and had a cheese and meat tray at the hotel restaurant again. 
It was simple and I had salt :D
Cheese, cured meat, fresh olives, and dates. I didn't have the pickled onions or cauliflower. 

Monday flying home day was also the day of the solar eclipse in the USA. I thought we'd be in the air when the eclipse was happening, but it turns out it started as we were waiting in the airport.  I tried the hole in the paper part and it didn't work too well. A nice young woman had some eclipse glasses she let us use.  I got a nice photo through those glasses. Then the clouds covered the sun and moon, and I could see it with my Maui Jim sunglasses (not that I stared at it), and I tried to take a photo through my lenses.  I think it worked well for being a guessing photo.  

I was a little stiff when I woke up the day after the race, but I stretched and thought I was doing well. I thought wrong.  Even waiting at the airport for a couple hours wasn't bad.  I had a window seat on the plane. The folks next to me didn't get up at all, and one fell asleep. I didn't want to wake him up, and since I'm short, I was able to do some stretching in the chair. Arms up and forward. Legs down and under the seat. After getting off the plane in Chicago, I headed to the yoga room to stretch.  Afterwards I thought I was doing well.

Then our flight was delayed due to a computer glitch malfunction.  I improvised using my orange juice bottle to rub out the muscles like "The Stick". It worked.  I stretched some more and walked a bit. We were finally able to board, two plus hours later.  

I did some yoga on Tuesday and stretched. Wednesday resumed with yoga class and some light walking. Yesterday I signed up for the Williams Route 66 in Tulsa in November.

Run on. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

What was I thinking? A marathon. . at this point in my fitness comeback? I don't want to admit this, but. . .

When I started putting things on my calendar for June, they started to snowball.  something this day and that day, then this week and that week.  Of course I didn't want to eliminate anything! Only one was a race, too!  
 I got to see U2 (and the Lumineers) in concert at the start of the month.  
Then on two hours of sleep I had my six month check up for my Melanoma (mine was acral lentiginous, not thought to be sun related).  The nurse said my blood pressure was high, and I said, yes of course. I'm running on two hours of sleep and am dehydrated.  

Elevator Alphabet Soup at the hospital.  

I felt special at the hospital when, for whatever reason, my name tag wrist band had a gem stone on it.  I did manage time to smell the flowers (these are the wildflower Spiderswart).  My neighbor, when we moved in, told me they were weeds. I said they were wildflowers, but he was free to pull them on his side of the fence!  Haha.  
I did also manage to get in a walk in the middle of the week.  I did have to beg permission from the old cat.  21 year old felines don't like to move.  Okay, they like to move even less than regular felines. 

I hadn't been on this route in several months and I was happily surprised to see it was repaved and the crown removed from the roadway.  Reminds me of Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down A Dream" song.  Or U2's, Where the Streets Have No Name.
Being out in nature is always a good way to recharge.  

Which brings me to the second part of "what was I thinking?". . . a marathon.  I haven't run a marathon since three weeks before my car collision.  That was about eighteen months ago.  I've been walking. I'm actually starting yoga again later this month since the wrist is sort of up to it.
After a long day of convoluted driving, I arrive just before the end of packet pickup.  It's the end of the road for this marathon, so it wasn't like I could wait another year to be in top form. I *had* to do it now!  Small towns love to draw people in with activities, but sometimes it's hard to get people to volunteer for a full day of activities.   
Flat Quirky.  Sunscreen shirt, Waist pack for sunscreen, water, shirt, nutrition, and food. 

Let's do this!   
 End of the Line for the Marathon.  This was it's twenty-second running on the mostly flat course.
This day started out windy, with winds of 20mph and were told they would climb to 30 and possibly 40mph gusts. I could definitely believe it. Thankfully, it was a full southerly wind, and the course stairstepped east and north, so the couple sections of a mile or two west to east were rough.  They got rougher at one point when there was a hog lot right by the road. Pewwwweeeee.  That's the smell of bacon being made though!   It was also hot.  It'd been hot the previous week and we were looking at 70ish at the start and up to 90s by the end.  
So not use to seeing this road in the state. Usually I'm on bicycling road race course where there are the Caution signs. 
The first couple of miles were great and I was chatting with some other walkers, feeling good about being at the back of the pack.  Then they mentioned that some people had asked the race director if they could start early, so even though there were more "back of packers" they weren't actually with us.  It never entered my mind to ask for an early start.  We had a couple slight inclines in the first half.  I say that as someone who has lived in this state, and as someone who currently lives on the river bottom. (I learned after the race that there were some racers who had complained of the hills. I'm not sure what course they were on, but a twenty feet of climbing over a few miles isn't hills!).
I see people!  
This race is well stocked.  Water stops every 2.5 miles with it more frequently at the end.  Volunteers, ambulances, and the sheriff department were out in force going up and down the roads making sure all were okay and well hydrated.   
A sight that drives me nuts.
Not only were there runners littering, but they also did it within approaching sight of the aid station.  Multiple times.  I supppoooose that the stuff could have been there from people not racing this day, but the likelihood of that. . .

I did really well up to mile 15. I was on pace for a 6:30 finish.  Then something happened and I slowed down a bit. I don't know what it was.  I thought I might have been walking a little slower--I was.  Then I was on pace for 7 hours.  I was feeling good. In addition to having packed HUMA and GU to alternate, I had also packed a sunbutter sandwich figuring I'd actually be able to eat real food at some point. I had my flask for water which I refilled at every chance too.

Somewhere around mile 15 I did a squat in the road to stretch, stood up and then pulled on each capri leg fabric just a bit.  WRONG thing to do. . . my left leg capri started coming apart at a seam on the thigh (not a sewn seam, but one of those melted/melded ones). I made sure to put sunscreen on that spot!   I did reapply sunblock three or four times in the duration I was out there. I never did put on my spf/sunshirt. I figured it was too hot to put something like that on against my skin.  I faired pretty well. I was a little pink (hanging my head) along the tank top arm area, I suppose it rubbed off there.

In addition to the people who were suppose to be checking in on us, we also had some random people driving down the road deciding to stop us to chat and ask questions.  Not wanting to be rude but also needing to keep moving. It seemed odd.  I've had this happen in another race as well--one that takes place on a rails to trails course in January.  We have race numbers on--yes, of course we're racing--it's the same course as every year--no we are not nuts--yes, it will take us a while.  Sometimes I wish I gave off the "I'm from NYC" vibes of "leave me alone"!  

Mile 20 my feet were hurting, and not in the "of course they hurt, I've gone twenty miles", but rather in the "uh, I'm getting a blister or four".  By mile 23 I felt like I had a blister on a blister in one spot.  The inside of both heels had blisters, and the inside of the foot below the toes had a blister on each side.  I was definitely walking slower by this point.

Mile 20, 21, and 22 were slower than I'd have liked, but were reasonable.

Miles 23 was my slowest.  How is it possible that I sped up after this mile?   Maybe it's because I had an oasis appear before me?  
My oasis
 Okay, there was actually ice from mile 21 onward at every stop.  By this time on the course, the volunteers at aid stations had been given leave to go home, which is understandable when only a handful of people are left on the course and PROVISIONS are made for them.  (not understandable when they just abandon racers, which I've heard some races do).  Not only ice, but iceees and cold water too!  I may have spent a few minutes here instead of walking right away

Mile 24 and 25 were 3mph miles.  My right hamstring had random twings and pains running up through it which I'd never experienced before. I assumed it may be dehydration,  so I took some salt pills someone had given me. I was able to keep moving.  The ambulance guy came along and asked if we were okay. Yes, but I actually said, "If the race director needs to DNF me, it's okay, but I'll keep going otherwise". I was told "you're fine. keep going. no worries."  That is always a HUGE thought for any racer to consider, and it was a hard sentence for me to say/offer.
The final stretch, sort of.  
 Down this mile, turn the corner, straight ahead.  
Hey, as long as I'm going to be taking a long time, I might as well take this photo!   

Another oasis. . . cold water for us!  
Turn a corner, go straight, turn a corner, and go straight to finish!   
Ice cold water, ice packs, bananas were available for us. I've seriously finished a race in a faster time and had less offered to me at the finish line. These race folks were so kind and welcoming!  

My finish time isn't something I'm proud of, but in ways I should be. I haven't done something like this in eighteen months. I knew I probably shouldn't be doing it on such a hot day, but I was going to do it anyway. I put in a good showing. I have not raced/walked/exercised on such a hot day in seven years. I thought of my second marathon which was in March and had a 90degree day as well.  I thought of one of the Hospital Hill Runs I did in KC, MO on a hot and humid day while The Mike was off racing his bike on the Dirty Kanza adventure.

The ride back to the hotel town was given by a very nice man who shared with us that his son started the race early in the morning with a ruck sack on his back to honor a military friend,  and that his parents are the ones who thought up this event!  It was great to talk to someone from the community and from the race too. Since I'm from a farm background we talked about the local economy, and the turkey and hog farms we saw on the course (a lot more than I'm use to seeing).
My blister on top of a blister
I waited until after the waterpark to pop these

We had checked out of the hotel that morning, but since it was a water park, we had wrist bracelets to get in.  We headed to the hotel water park, showered, sat in the pool for a bit and then we headed out for some food (a cute little local Mexican place), then got on the road to get closer to our destination. 

I still think "What was I thinking".  

One foot in front of another is the best way to keep moving.  
Dedication, perseverance, and a bit of nuttiness help too. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Life is living, exploring, being passionate.

One thing is certain in life, and that is death.
I have people question why I run on the roads. Technically, I run on the shoulders, per state guidelines which are to run facing traffic. Thus, I can see oncoming traffic and if it'll be a hazard (driving erratically, etc) . Technically, now I'm 'just' walking since the car collision, but I'm moving!
I have people question why I bike. You know the drill: biking isn't safe' they say. Again, be aware of your surroundings, follow the law of the roads, and ride where traffic is not heavy. Also, don't be a dingbat and wear black when you're riding at night or on asphalt.

I have people question if I should even do these things with my autoimmune diseases. I suppose I shouldn't. I mean, I lived my twenties on prednisone (yes, all my 20s were on Prednisone), and on other medication, that made me gain weight and have other issues. Why shouldn't I just live the rest of my life curled up on the sofa. Oh, right, because I want to see things and explore, and have fun, and feel the energy one gets from being out doing things! Especially if I have spoons available. (See Spoon Theory). If you've ever had to sit down to have the energy to brush your teeth, you'll understand. That was me in 1993, and 1995. I haven't had to do that in a long time, but I remember how shattering it was to realize I didn't have the energy to stand and brush my teeth. I've been low on energy these last several years (to the point I quit my part time and full time jobs) and my doctor has nothing to offer except to say I was training/running too much. I felt a little better after my Melanoma surgery. Then I had the car collision and haven't been able to run. So I went back in saying "yeah, it's not the overexercising issue". I have been having random bruises showing up and she's like "well, what are you hitting". Not sure what part of "these random bruises are showing up and I'm concerned " she doesn't understand. She finally referred me to someone , but only because she thinks my real issue is that I'm "sick of being sick". yeah, I don't think that's it lady. I'm looking at it as "I have a referral out of there and maybe this other doctor (a gastro) at the University Hospitals will able to help me".

People question being in the sun after I've had [Acral Lentiginous] Melanoma. Are you sure you should be in the sun? Actually, people forget the type of Melanoma and focus on the common cause: the sun! The answer is yes. It will always be yes. Plus, my melanoma wasn't caused by the sun. It was "most likely" caused by being on immunosuppressive medication for half my life at the time I found it. Also, it doesn't matter. We should all remember to be proactive. Wear your sunscreen/sunblock, wear your clothing with SPF/UV protection, wear your Lip balm with SPF, wear your hats. But the reality is, when our time is up, our time is up. None of us know when or how or why. When I read stories of people being able to say "only on my terms" I am happy for them, and hope they know how wonderful it is that they are being given the chance to say those words (Re Norma Bauerschmidt's story). This wasn't meant to be a morbid post, because I don't think of death as being morbid. Death is reality. It's tragic when death doesn't happen from living to a ripe old age (like my grandfather who was 94 and laughing with nurses and went to his room, where he was found shortly thereafter, having slipped from this world). However, life and death are still constants, neither should be feared. This was written out of heartache to hear another bicycling genius is gone. Not from a car/bike collision as took Mike Hall just last week (March 31, 2017) (Watch Inspired to Ride if you can. He's highlighted in the documentary about the inaugural Trans America bike ride) This was written after reading accounts of Steve Tilford's passing. Two articles are here (CX Magazine) and here (PVCycling.wordpress. The Mike called me last night to share that Steve had passed. The Mike knew him from around the midwest cycling scene. I knew his name from being at races and listening to others speak. You may ask why I'm sharing stories of bicyclists on my running page. I was a bicycling cheerleader long before I was a gluten free runner. Reading the articles about what happened April 5, 2017 is heartbreaking, but it's also part of our journey.

We never know. So enjoy what we time we are given.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Half crazy in Little Rock--tour guide Quirky with race review

Last year I got myself talked into signing up for the Little Rock (Half) Marathon.  I've had the full on my radar because of the giant medals (are women really the only ones interested in the large medals?).  I had hoped to be up to power to do the half and was hoping, when I registered, I could do some running.  The docs still say I shouldn't be running. Since I've lost so much of my fitness level over the last eighteen months since the collision, I am okay with that.  After Tulsa Williams Route66 in Nov I pretty much didn't do much treadmill walking.  I started January thinking I'd try to do at least five miles on the treadmill a day, but three on the treadmill. Let's face it, walking is slower than running and there's only so much treadmill time any of us can do.  I use to put in long runs in the winter/ice/rain on the weekends on the treadmill watching a Jet Li movie or documentary, etc, but I haven't found my groove yet with walking.  And there I go, getting off topic.  I was hoping to be able to run some at Little Rock, but instead I walked.

Road tripping:  I was debating on driving to LR and was convinced to fly instead.  (After a conference later in March, I think I'll stick with the "drive under twelve hours" philosophy).  I flew in on Friday, got the rental car and headed over to the hotel.  I didn't actually research Little Rock before heading there, something I normally do. This lead to discoveries like "Little Rock is a tiny big town".  I was expecting it to be on the scale of Omaha, or Kansas City or Chicago, but it is smaller than Des Moines! (193K versus 203K population). It's easy to navigate. We stayed at a hotel west of downtown as we wanted to be able to use a hot tub after the race and there are few hotels in the city that have a hot tub.  Luckily, a race hotel was nearby and we took a shuttle from there on the race mornings. Race morningS you ask?  Yes, LR has the option to do a 5k or 10K on Saturday with the Half or Full on Sunday.  Since surviving 13.1 on Sunday, when my feet haven't done much in the last few months, was my goal, and running a good time in the Full was my friend's agenda, we did the 5k together. We headed to packet pickup, got our items and planned to head out to do some things.  
Chihuly glass artwork at the race expo convention center
"Peace" by Lori Acott
This was outside the parking ramp when we headed to the expo. Unfortunately, with all the buildings around it was hard to get a great photo of the statue.  Late afternoon, the sky, clouds, and contrail (jet plane vaportrails)

Inside the expo, there was a lot of good looking candy decorations. I'm sure I'm not the only racer who was glad these were decorations and not real sugar the day or two before a race!  
I want candy.  I want candy.
At the expo, I was asking locals, "If there was one thing you'd have an out-of-towner do for the one day they're in town, what would it be".   Answers ranged from Presidential Library, to a park, to head out of town, party at the nightclubs and several people were stumped with what to suggest. When I picked up my friend from the airport, she said "Little Rock Central High".  I was surprised no one locally suggested it, especially since it's a National Park Historic Site.

The end of our first day had us shopping at some one of a kind stores, and finished with a late dinner at Outback (why are we eating at 8pm?) which is one of the safe staple restaurants I can count on in a large town/city :-) Back at the hotel, we set out our running attire and retired.

Saturday morning the phone app said it was cool and suppose to warm up.  We walked over to an official race hotel (with a shuttle bus) and headed downtown. It was a gorgeous morning, about 36ºF at the start, but the sun was out, shining, and it warmed up.   The bus dropped us off a few blocks from the starting area where there was water and photographers.  I wanted to get a photo of the sign:
At first, I was hoping the two officials/workers behind the sawhorses would move so I could get a good shot, then I just asked if I could go behind the sawhorses to take a photo. The woman said yes, the (tall) man said no.  The woman again said yes, the man said no. The woman said, "I'm a race director and it's fine". Cool, I talked to one of the race directors. She was very nice on the morning of the mini race day.  

The 5k/10k was great. The only thing I was surprised by was the number (few) of people who were there.  There were about three thousand people on Saturday, but I remember being surprised at how few people were doing a Saturday run with a Sunday run.
Posted Tree
Metal Tree
Tongue Tree
Handle Tree
Teapot Tree

Any other possible names? 
After the race, we cleaned up and then headed out to explore. By explore, I mean explore! Let's forget that we have a long race tomorrow. Let's be on our feet (okay, we were in a car too).

First stop:    Little Rock Central High School Historic Site 
Little Rock Central High School. This place is HUGE 

Like really huge. Over 2400 students are enrolled today, and the top floor and parts of another floor are not used today.  My K-12 school was smaller than one wing of this school.

Via the National Park app, we knew that Central High was a National Park place. We parked and walked into the visitor center when the Park Ranger inside told us of a tour being conducted over at the high school, so we hurried over to catch up to the discussion.  We went past the historic/preserved gas station and to the center of the sidewalk at the high school. We learned about Elizabeth's walk. We learned more about the Little Rock Nine. We learned about what they had to endure. We learned about the completely different high schools (the whites had a high school as we know it, the black/African American school was essentially a trade school).

We headed back to the Visitors Center and did the Jr. Ranger program. Apparently, a lot of parks let adults do these do!  A lot of information is in the booklet.

This is a definite place to visit when you're in Little Rock.

If these doors could talk.

 Next, we headed out of town, stopping at Wendy's for lunch and on the road to Hot Springs we went.  As I mentioned before, I had not looked at the map beforehand and I had no idea that Hot Springs was just about an hour away (and Crater of Diamonds State Park was about 90 minutes away). 

How different an early 20th century gym looks from an early 21st century gym. 
The gymnasium had some 'clubs' of a sort along the wall. The description of how these were used (different weights) reminded me of today's kettle balls.

At the end of Saturday, I looked at my watch and said, 'oh yeah, not bad at all (eye roll) for a 5k day and a half tomorrow'.  

Sunday morning started out at 40ºF.  Had we turned on the tv to the news/weather, we might have learned something about the day's forecast, but going off the phone app, we said "Oh, it'll be even better than yesterday!".  
(insert laugh)
We were *so* wrong.
40ºF, windy, rainy.  
Did I mention wind?
At least it wasn't like the year the race had rain, sleet, ice, and was shut down during the event.
I looked at my winter run jacket and decided to not pack it (mesh center back for air circulation). #WhatWasIThinking
Thankfully, I had the Tulsa Williams Route 66 mylar blankets in my luggage and we each took one of those to the start.  I thought I'd  toss the blanket at some mile marker and be out in the wonderful sun, enjoying the sights.  We got to the start and it was chilly and sprinkling, and so we headed to the expo/convention center.  It was warm in there, plenty of restrooms, paintings to see (which I'm sure most people walk past without seeing) and places to rest/sit.  
When we went back outside, to the starting area, it was nice to get in among the throng of runners for the wind block.  After a while, I thought it really was warming up, and I tossed my gloves someone on the sidelines without any. By mile three I regretted that decision.  The first mile we started down the street and went up and over a bridge into North Little Rock. I shed my outter layer of throw away shirts, but having learned in Detroit, don't toss a throwaway shirt unless you're positive you won't need it again!  Pretty area to run around. Firestation workers were out along the course cheering, including the first female firefighter I've seen in real life (not on the news). We headed east for a long stretch and I managed to tie my mylar blanket together in three spots so it wouldn't blow away, and it wouldn't gap open in the middle.  I stopped under an overpass to put on the throwaway shirt and a bystander helped me adjust my mylar blanket again (pull it down in back because I wasn't wearing it as a bolero jacket.

We crossed back into Little Rock via a tall bridge (it seemed steep when one is walking it) and the wind was brutal. I felt for the people who were able to run.  The first bridge joint I didn't look down, but the one in the center of the bridge, high above the river, I did and it was an unsettling experience. I do *not* recommend doing that.   Back in LR we traversed President Clinton Blvd and I saw this yogi rabbit, and I had to take a moment to enjoy this whimsical piece of art with a purpose (It's art,and meant for children to climb upon).
"Rabbit Reach" by Tim Cherry
We continued on and ran past the very modern architecture of the Clinton Library and then past a very old building in the same 'block' of property. There were some local breweries out on the course some with music, some with samples (and a security guard).
We walked out by the airport with no windbreak whatsoever. 
Why can't an airport have big giant windbreak trees around it?  (kidding--that'd be a bad idea!)

The course was mostly flat, or nearly with some gentle descents and gentle climbs. We ran past the Governor's mansion and past some big giant sugar:
P.Allen Smith's landscape truck was nearby and I couldn't resist:
I don't watch his PBS shows often, but I do enjoy his show/landscape work. A woman I had been walking with earlier saw me take the photo and was surprised that I'd know of him (we had discussed where we were from). She shared that his farm is not far from Little Rock!

I felt like we were almost done with the half when we ran past Central High School, and the wonderful band playing at the historic gas station.  The rain had stopped, the wind had let up by this point, and the sun was actually a little more visible.
We walked over the interstate, the ground was mostly dry, I was warming up, and I tossed my mylar blanket around mile 11 or 12.  My hands were all silver/black. I looked like I'd been playing in lead pencil shavings.   About mile 12, we were given full size lipstick by one of the support tables along the course.  Several of us thought that was hilarious, including the older man in the race.    

I was so excited to see the finish line and wanted to run, but since my low back was very unhappy with me at Tulsa when I was like "I'm going to run the last twenty yards, I just kept on walking--faster though!    I was happy with my finish time. I had wondered if I would go faster than hilly Tulsa, and I did :-)  
With walking in the morning, from the shuttle to the expo, back to the start, I had a lot of steps in for the day so far, but I wasn't done with that!  Of course not! 
The half marathon medal, and the double medal for having done one of the races on Saturday, too.

The after party had some stuff, but not enough for a celiac/gluten free chick with a soy issue. (Pasta with sauce, fruit in jello, bananas, beer, milk and OJ).  I grabbed a milk and OJ, sat down (on the floor) and stretched for a bit, while listening to the cover band playing, and then headed to the hotel to clean up. Saw other folks get up from tables and go back for more milk and juice (which made me laugh out loud when the 5K director last weekend included "the finish line food is not a all you can eat buffet").  Back at the finish line waiting for my friend, I enjoyed the beautiful flowers, saw Bart Yasso who was announcing finishers, and chatted with a couple--she had run the marathon (and others), he had run his first ever marathon--and then another woman, who ended up telling us about the race app new this year. She looked up our racers on the course. It was quite accurate with "this person is at ___ mile. Expected to cross the finish line at ____ time".
There was not much fruit out at the finish line area and since I'd been in the expo before waiting for my friend, I knew there wasn't much left in there either, so we headed back to the hotel. Rested, ate some fruit, meat, and cheese we had gotten the night before, and headed to the swimming pool/hot tub.  It turned out the hot tub was being cleaned/refilled and would take about an hour. The hotel man was actually filling it, from having cleaned it, when we walked in--bonus on knowing it was a clean whirlpool!  My friend hopped in the very warm pool and slowly moved in the hot pool water (It was like 90ºF), I stayed on the sidelines and talked to someone who had run the marathon.  Bonus on waiting for the hot tub (versus going back to the room) is that the jets hitting the hamstrings might not feel the best at first, but it really makes a difference having that nice water massage on the muscles!  

By the end of the day my Garmin was like this:
Definitely would recommend the Little Rock Marathon weekend. There is a lot to do locally in LR, even if the locals can't think of things off the top of their heads ;-)  You can easily make it a week vacation with time in Hot Springs and looking through dirt for diamonds in the rough.  The thing to know is that if you do the Marathon, you need to take your medals out of the luggage for the T S A xray machine.  Also, if you take some yogurt and Mamma Chia along for something to eat during your travel day, you'll be given a search you just wish you'd worn a bikini for.  (Apparently new T S A rules went into effect and it was a bit of an invasive search. On the plus side, at least they scanned my food containers --Ft Myers FL T S A didn't feel that was necessary).

As for flying versus driving. I wish I had just driven. I did a two stop trip and when I got to Chicago my husband was like 'you're not coming home tonight'.  Say what?  So he sent me a nice photo of the red/yellow storm cell that was the complete height of Iowa (top to bottom). I asked the gate agent about any delays and was told no. I showed the photo and was told "There's no weather in the area". Right, not in Chicago, but the fact that this weather was between Chicago and the destination apparently didn't register to the gate agent.  Our gate was changed, and then delayed and delayed before being canceled at the time we should have been landing. The storm finally came through Chicago around midnight.  Most people used the cots the airline/airport set up, but I did get a hotel room at a Holiday Inn Express--they have UDIs bagels or muffins for breakfast. I finally got to the hotel around midnight (because the Holiday Inn Express I was heading to didn't have the address on the side of the bus so I missed looking up at the top--plus the bus driver parked the bus not at the correct door for pickup and hid in the second lane behind other vehicles. I was out of Tanka bars and yogurt and was HANGRY by this time. The nice desk man got me an UDIs bagel to have before I went to bed :-)    Back to the point, it took me sixteen hours to get home from when I got to the airport in Little Rock. If I would have driven, I'd have been home in under ten.

When I was at the Melanoma Advocacy Day conference the following week (in D.C.), a couple east coast folks said they will never fly if the trip can be made under twelve hours. I completely concur after that trip.  I rented a car anyway in LR, I could have rented one at home and put miles on that car, and been tucked in bed the night after the race.