Frenetic Fitness

fre·net·ic /frəˈnetɪk/ done very fast and with a lot of energy, often by someone who is in a hurry.

Archive for the category “Arkansas”

Give a Little Bit

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Give a little bit
Give a little bit of your love to me
Give a little bit
I’ll give a little bit of my love to you
There’s so much that we need to share
Send a smile and show you care ~ Supertramp

One week from today is Giving Tuesday. For weeks we’ve been inundated with advertisements for Black Friday, which seems to be Black Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday these days, and Cyber Monday. The media and corporate retailers have convinced us that we need several $100 40 inch TVs in our homes. We need these things so much we are willing to stay up all night in line, trample over our neighbors, and act like deranged fools to get to those things a few bucks cheaper than buying it on any other day. But this isn’t the soapbox I want to be on today. Tuesday December 2nd is a chance to give back after all the getting of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It is a global celebration of generosity. While our eyes are open to needs around the world, we often fail to see the need of our own neighbors. They are not in the national news, you will not see their plight played out on television. They are single parents who need a hand through the Single Parent Scholarship Fund and the kids who benefit from AR Kids Read, helping Arkansans reach their educational goals and intellectual potential. They are our aging kin who get help from the Project Compassion as they live out their lives in nursing homes. They are the kids who benefit from Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch and Big Brothers Big Sisters. They are my sweet friends at World Services for the Blind who are making a huge difference in the lives of visually impaired adults.

I first became involved with World Services when I found out they had a group of runners. I tried to get involved by leading blind or visually impaired runners at organized race events. They also meet twice a week to run, about thirty minutes before I get off work and it was impossible to join in the weekly runs making it more difficult to lead during races. Instead I started volunteering to take on the duties of shopping guide on Thursdays at the Target near my house. It should have been easy, a couple of hours of my day at a place I probably had an errand to run anyway. But, I found myself making excuses like it’s at the same time as my favorite yoga class or there’s this other event I want to attend. This weekend I found out that they have had to cancel that day of shopping for lack of volunteers. It made my heart sink. I failed my fellow-man. This Tuesday is my chance to make it up to them and to myself by committing my time and my money to people who deserve my time and my attention not because of what I can give them, but because of what being with them does for me. It is utterly selfish, the opposite of what people think volunteering is. One of WSB’s clients, a PhD animal scientist who is losing his sight, once asked me why I volunteered to shop with them. It took me less than five seconds to answer “because how else would I get to meet all these cool people?”

Take the chance to make a difference on Giving Tuesday. There are many ways to Share the Bounty, as P. Allen Smith would say. You can find many of them on the Arkansas Non-Profit Alliance  #GivingTuesdayAR facebook page.

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College: It’s always something

Mac Fail

This morning I got a call from the small one, not terribly unusual, she texts or calls quite often. Today she was in a panic that she had fried her Mac desktop. I’m no good at tech support and I’m really no good at Mac tech support. The incident led to a discussion about the very good, very fast, very reliable and very heavy laptop her grandparents gave her for Christmas last  year. It’s so heavy that she’s having difficulty lugging it around campus and she’d like to have a smaller notebook. We aren’t even to her first winter break yet and I can tell we are headed into four years of issues that will require the shuffling of money and reorganization of our payment plan for college. Fortunately I recently attended a day long session about the Arkansas 529 college savings plan also known as The GIFT Plan. Less fortunate is the fact that I have not made the most of that savings option over the years I’ve had the account. I’ve heard stories of parents completely funding their children’s higher education and even having funds left over while taking advantage of being able to deduct their principal deposits to the account off their Arkansas state tax returns. I have not come close to saving that much, but this weekend I learned that I can still take advantage of many of the benefits while saving as she’s still in school.

Four year university study has been the choice of all our kids, the youngest is just beginning her journey. Adults with a bachelor’s degree earn 62% more than peers with a high school diploma. But, if any of them had shown interest in a trade or apprenticeship program, we would have encouraged that too. The beauty of the GIFT Plan is that it will help save for many education options including trade school, community college and traditional university study. There is easy online enrollment.

I’ve done some things right, I’ve used the option of saving through Upromise and shopping through the website when I make purchases online. I wish I would have set up more regular deposits into the account to build principal faster. I also wish I had asked friends and family to make contributions to their future with UGift on birthdays, holidays and special occasions.

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For many of them it would have helped with their tax savings while doing something good for us. One of the many benefits of the GIFT Plan is the Arkansas state tax deduction and estate tax advantages.

“If you’re an Arkansas taxpayer, you can deduct up to $5,000 (up to $10,000 for married couples) of your GIFT Plan contributions from your Arkansas adjusted gross income.
You can contribute up to $14,000 (up to $28,000 for married couples) per designated beneficiary each year to your GIFT Plan account without incurring federal gift tax consequences. And you can contribute up to $70,000 per designated beneficiary in a single year (up to $140,000 for married couples) to take advantage of five years’ worth of federal tax-free gifts at one time. Withdrawals used to pay for qualified higher education expenses are free from federal income tax, so more of your savings can go toward paying for college instead of toward taxes.” from the GIFT Plan 

My plan for the next few years is to save as much as I can in my 529 account. I also plan to give every new mom I know an information packet and a check to start an account for their new little bundle of joy.  I’m going to shop through Upromise to get cash back on the purchase of the long-johns the kid needs because it’s colder where she is than it is here at home and then I’ll research laptops through the cash back options on RewardU through Upromise that includes vendors like the Apple Store, HP, and Best Buy.

 I participated in a free educational financial planning workshop sponsored by the Arkansas State Treasury and Arkansas529, but all opinions and recommendations in this post are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out

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My own attachment to Red Ryder began long before Ralphie’s mom responded to his Christmas wish, “I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!” with “No, you’ll shoot your eye out.”  When I was a little girl, my dad collected films from the 1940’s and 1950’s. He owned an extensive collection of serial Westerns, like Red Ryder and Little Beaver, Gene Autry, Zorro and Lash LaRue.

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During a trip to Rogers, Arkansas last year, we visited the Daisy Airgun Museum which houses decades of Daisy memorabilia. Displays chronicle the company’s early days of  manufacturing windmill blades in Plymouth, Michigan at the end of the 19th century before switching to making air rifles in 1886. The company enjoyed the success of manufacturing BBs and selling promotional novelties as the age of Hollywood gave them a national audience not to mention their part in  manufacturing for the war effort in the 1940s.  The small museum is located in the lovely downtown square at 114 South First Street, the address the museum has called home since 2000.  The company’s ties to Northwest Arkansas began in 1958 when manufacturing moved from Michigan to a Rogers plant.

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Times, they do not change, even in the 1930’s when movies like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century were popular, kids and adults bought up toys, lunchboxes, books and novelty items based on the movie. That included the Atomic Pistol, made by Daisy. The company continued its close relationship with Hollywood producing the Red Ryder BB gun during the 1940’s, except for the three years when Daisy used their metal and manufacturing expertise for the war effort. In 1949 the company sold more than a million Red Ryder BB guns, a phenomenal sales record for the time. As I walked through the museum’s display of movie posters and models, I was transported back to my own childhood. Ralphie wanted to be like his hero from the big screen. I watched the movies with my dad, wanting to be like his hero from the big screen.

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I went for a run through town the day after we visited the museum. I couldn’t help but stop to snap a photo of the Red Ryder window mural, one more moment of nostalgia, reliving those Saturday nights when we’d set up the retractable projector screen and pop the corn.

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Spring Break is coming up. If you’re planning to be in Northwest Arkansas, perhaps visiting Crystal Bridges, take a couple of hours to visit the historic downtown square in Rogers and the Daisy Airgun Museum. Find more to do on the Visit Rogers Blog. Share your memories with the young ones and build a few new ones.

My Everything Hurts

My friend Stephanie turned her head as we ran down the trail during the Sylamore 25K and said, “My everything hurts.” I knew exactly what she meant. Some days there are those runs when there is not a specific pain, no calf cramp or side stitch, not a burning hamstring or a blister. There are days when so much hurts that the pain can not be specified.

I have claimed in the past that I would never run a road marathon yet found myself attempting a third road marathon within 65 days this past weekend. For marathon #1, the starting temp was right at freezing but the day warmed up to the 50s and partly cloudy. For #2 the weather was slightly colder and stayed cold but we did have a little sunshine. On the morning of #3, the temperature was 56 degrees when we arrived in the parking lot about 45 minutes before start time. By start time the temperature had started to fall. By the time our corral made it to the starting line 45 minutes after start time, the temps had fallen about 15 degrees, there was a cold spitting rain, the winds had picked up, and we had stood shoulder to shoulder for nearly an hour. We were cold, our muscles were tight and we couldn’t wait to get moving. Ashley and I had looked forward to the day, our 3rd of 3 marathons we needed to become Marathon Maniacs, a goal she set for herself and I agreed to join to share the joy of her journey. Rain, cold, sleet or wind would not stop us from reaching the goal. We set off at a pace that was a bit ahead of our earlier finish time paces. We agreed that we would also try to limit our stops and not stop to take photos or chat with friends as we had been prone to do in our previous races. This was the race we’d been looking forward to, this was to be the crown.

We're off!

We’re off!

Every few miles we would see my sweet hubby who was riding his bike around the course taking photos and checking on us. We also ran into our friend Christine who was out cheering her spouse and his pace group, the one we meant to be in but got in front of at the start.

Hi! Can I stop for a kiss?

Hi! Can I stop for a kiss?

By mile 12 the temperature had dropped 20 degrees, the wind was gusting up to 20mph, and we were wet. I’m not going to say we were all happy happy joy joy, but we were still determined to finish and told each other that we could take it easier in the hills of the Heights neighborhood that were coming up. Then as we rounded a corner, we saw a policeman jump out of his car so quickly he left the door open and he began yelling at us to stop. We were right at a point where the half marathon was heading down for their last mile to the finish line. The policeman told us the course was closing due to severe weather and we were to immediately go to the finish line. We only got to complete 14+ miles. We went to the finish, collected our unearned medals, and in our disappointed and unbelieving state, wandered past all the people celebrating their finishes with photos and cheers and sat huddled under the only protection we could find from the wind and rain for 30 minutes while waiting on a ride. We had nowhere to go since we were forced to  finish in less than half the time we projected. I could not think of how to comfort Ashley. We sat shivering in the cold, our fingers frozen, still in a bit  of denial of the day’s events. My everything hurt, including my heart.

Upon reflection, though that moment of being handed the giant medal was undeserved and unearned,  it was also unimportant.  I have  a wonderful experience of my very first road marathon to hold on to. I have a great weekend of travel that included a big batch of off-site cheerleading from my sweet blogger friend Delta Moxie and a wonderful finish to my second marathon with Ashley. And this weekend, I got to spend an afternoon with my friend, shopping and talking at the marathon expo where we met the badass  mother runners who were so funny and encouraging.

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We heard Bart Yasso share some stories, inspiring us to continue seeking adventure, not just finish lines and had our moments of “ohmygod Bart Yasso just retweeeted us!”. We had a beautiful dinner at one of my favorite restaurants before crawling into bed. I spent the next morning running with my favorite running partner and fellow porta potty enthusiast. It may not have ended the way we planned but that doesn’t diminish the journey.

The Trifecta

The Trifecta

Amen.

My Valentine Had Icicles

There were no roses wrapped in tissue or lilies in a vase, there were no reservations for a fancy meal. There were no packages with fancy ribbon to open, there were no chocolates unless you count the fun size Snicker bar I put in my race pack just in case. This year my Valentine drove me 2 1/2 hours to Mountain View, Arkansas, spent the evening picking up my race packet and perusing the local WalMarts for items I’d forgotten, got up before dawn and stood out in the freezing cold for hours while I played in the woods with my friends. Again. But I did get a sweet valentine magnet on bark.

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I’ve wanted to do the  Sylamore trail run. With choices of 25 or 50K, I could have gone either way IF I hadn’t agreed to do three marathons in 65 days with my runnin bud Ashley. Of course, I may not have been able to do it at all since this year the race sold out  400 slots within 20 minutes. But I wanted the race hoodie. Some folks are medal hoarders and I like tech shirts, but a hoodie? Yeah I want that.

The coveted hoodie

The coveted hoodie

So for Valentine’s Day I got a night at the Ozark Folk Center where we were able to relax and enjoy a couple of night before the race beers while watching TV and foam rolling my hips. Sitting in the car for long periods always makes my hips hurt. It was a quiet night and I couldn’t help but think of our friends, many of whom were sharing houses with 8 to 12 people. I always question if by missing out on the “party” in favor of peace, quiet and a good night’s sleep, I’m not missing out on figuring out how to make the best of a rough race day. Because making the best out of race day, having all the fun and none of the pain, that’s just how we like to do it. So when we came to the cold as icicles down your pants creek, we danced through it. Do-do-do-humming a tango as we went. There was even a twirl or two in there. My partner, Cassandra, my Sunday afternoon running buddy, is a great dancer. Her birthday was the day after the race so this turned in to a bit of a celebration run/jog for her birthday and her very first 25K.

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After the toe numbing stream, we spent a couple of singletrack miles held captive by a long line of women who were going just fast enough to keep our group from passing but not quite as fast as we would have liked. We finally got ahead of that pack just in time to spend a couple of miles on steep trail completely covered in snow and ice, singletrack with two-way traffic made for some interesting contortions. We picked and danced our way through that section too. When we reached the turnaround, we met a four person group from Memphis and we exchanged the favor of taking photos of each other. My friend Skip spent the race surrounded by women. We started calling ourselves Skip’s Harem.

Skip with part of his running harem

Skip with part of his running harem

With the crowd thinning out on the return trip of our out and back, we could spend a little more time enjoying each muddy stretch, each cold creek, and took a minute to enjoy the waterfall and icicles at Roper Hollow.

Stephanie takes a minute to showcase the ice

Stephanie takes a minute to showcase the ice

I had my phone out snapping photos of the huge icicles when I heard a voice say “Or you could just turn around and let me take your picture.” My Valentine was standing on the trail taking photos of runners under the icicles and I didn’t even see him until he spoke.  Steph and I posed for this great photo in which the jacket tied around my waist needs its own zip code.

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And what’s the best thing about finishing a race? Recovery. Not only did we collect the hoodies to keep us warm, we got a glass to fill with our favorite recovery beverages.

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I’m already looking forward to next year. If this year was any indication, I’ll need to be signed in and at the ready 5 minutes before race registration opens.

Embrace the Crazy, Be a Marathon Maniac

This is a blog about fitness, the successes and the failures. I just ran my second marathon in less than 2 months. I could write about the course or the weather; I could write about my time, my training schedule, or my nutrition. But I won’t because training schedules and nutrition advice are not my strong suit. I’d rather write the story you won’t find in a Runner’s World article.

A little more than 3 years ago my husband introduced me to a blog written by the wife of one of his Arkansas State Parks colleagues. The Park Wife and I became blog buddies. Before I knew it she was inviting me to be a part of this cool collective she was orchestrating, the Arkansas Women Bloggers. At the time I thought it was an interesting idea, a way to search and share blogs that were local and written in a variety of women’s voices. Little did I know the impact it would have on my life. It took a couple of years but Stephanie, AKA The Park Wife, convinced me that I needed come face to face time with these women I’d come to know through words and the perfect forum was the  Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference. I needed a roommate so I asked Stephanie for help. She said, “I know the perfect person.” That is how I met Ashley and that weekend is the cornerstone upon which the madness has been built.

Vintage Ashley and Lisa Shenanigans #RunBloggerRun

Vintage Ashley and Lisa Shenanigans #RunBloggerRun

Ashley and I keep in touch but we don’t run or train together. She lives an hour away and she runs on the pavement, I prefer the dirt. The one time we tried running together on dirt it ended in disaster for Ashley. But this year something possessed me to register for a road marathon. I blame the Little Rock Marathon Chicks in Charge for coming up with such an epic theme that I had no choice. Then there was an email from Ashley, asking if I would consider running the inaugural 3Bridges Marathon with her. Peer pressure at its finest, I acquiesced. I went from saying I’d never run a road marathon to signing up for two just ten weeks apart. And then Ashley dropped the bomb on me, she said “Sign up for the Mississippi River Marathon, I want to be a Marathon Maniac and I want you do to it with me.” The requirement to be a Maniac is three marathons completed within 90 days, we would be doing it in 70 days, plus I would have a trail 25K in the middle and a 50K six weeks after marathon #3. “Are you insane?” I had to ask her. I think the answer was something like, “yes I am and so are you, embrace the crazy.”
Spiderman Lunchbox. Don't ask, just accept the crazy

Grown Woman with a Spiderman Lunchbox. Don’t judge, just accept the crazy

Luckily, the Arkansas Women Bloggers group has other members who have embraced the crazy or are at the very least, supportive of the crazy. During our second Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference, Ashley and I were race directors for a 5K run. Kellee Mayfield, the Delta Moxie, ran the whole thing holding her iPad to capture as much of the crazy as possible. Because you have to capture everything when you’re with a group of bloggers and social media hounds who tweet, instagram, facebook, vine, vlog and G+ the heck out everything, including our #RunBloggerRun 5k.  She’s also the beautiful creature who wore a hippopotamus swim ring to our canoe trip on the Mississippi River. Crazy has been wholly embraced y’all, and she wears skinny camo pants from JCrew, with pearls. She is perfectly Southern.
Camo Skinnies, pearls and a PFD. She's set.

Camo Skinnies, pearls and a PFD. She’s set.

Before we decided to run the Mississippi River Marathon, Kellee encouraged us to sign up and invited us to stay with her since her house is just a short distance from the starting line in Lake Village, Arkansas. It’s a  town known far and wide for the largest oxbow lake in North America, Lake Chicot, the decorating heaven that is Paul Michael Company, and Ms. Rhoda’s tamales.
Unfortunately, Kellee was unable to be home at the time we needed to arrive to pick up packets and get to bed. Instead she gave us access to her home stocked with kale and avocado salad, homemade marinara, pasta, and red wine for an incredible pre-race dinner. She made us a good luck #RunBLoggerRun banner and left little hot pink post-its all over the house for us.
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I wouldn’t expect Delta Moxie, the woman who makes triple strand pearls and statement necklaces not just a fashion Do, but a Must Do, to use anything other than hot pink post-its.
This is how we build a community. This is how Stephanie’s vision spread out in waves to touch hundreds of other women, and a few of us lucky ducks have embraced each other, crazy and all.
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Race day dawned with a sprinkle of leftover snow. Ashley and I had our usual issues with which one of us was going to say “I have to pee!” the most times within that 26.2 miles. The cold air only made it worse. Six stops during 3Bridges turned to eight stops and one “I might have to stop because I’m not sure if that’s gas or marathon poops.” I’ve never sugar coated anything, why start now? One beer stop turned to two and we were about three minutes slower at marathon #2 than we were our first marathon together. I wrote more about the race for Arkansas Outside. We had fun, all the fun, more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Except for mile 25. Mile 25 sucked.
New Skitch

Flowers Can’t Talk

The contest is closed and we have our winners. Don’t miss the show this weekend Friday February 21 – Sunday February 23

Alice: Oh, but that’s nonsense. Flowers can’t talk.

The Rose: But of course we can talk, my dear.

Orchid: If there’s anyone around worth talking to.

Daisy: Or about.

Ingredients for a Beautiful Tablescape

Ingredients for a Beautiful Tablescape

Giveaway tickets were provided by the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Of course they can talk, flowers can say so much about us. Years ago when my sweetness and I were on one of our first dates, we were at the Arkansas Arts Center playing that game, “what do you see?”, while trying to get to know one another. We came across a painting of a pansy with a face. The title card said Self Portrait of Morris as a Flower. To this day we refer to pansies as Morris. Sweetness turned to me and asked, “if you were a flower, what flower would you be?” Without hesitation I answered “venus flytrap”. Two extraordinary things happened after that: he didn’t even blink and he asked me out again. He continues to be a very brave man.

Earlier this week I was invited to join a group of my favorite blog writing gals from Arkansas Women Bloggers for a kick-off shindig celebrating the upcoming Arkansas Flower and Garden Show. Colonial Wine and Spirits was on hand to provide a lovely array of wines to pair with scrumptious food while we learned about this year’s theme from some of the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show board members.

Gardening: That’s Entertainment

It is true that more and more of us our opening our homes to the outdoors with decks, french doors, large patios and outdoor kitchens. We’re taking the indoors outdoors and still bringing the outdoors in when we arrange fresh flowers, plants, branches or found objects into our decorations.

Chris Olsen of Botanica Gardens was there to help me hear what the flowers had to say to me and what they said was “even a few cut flowers from the grocery can make a room feel like an adventure awaits, or can soothe a restless spirit, or provide a conversation starter.” That’s what they said to me. After a quick lesson in tablescaping and how to “jhemajang”, his own personal version of arranging/changing/ assembling with PIZAZZ, Chris  reminded us that even if we’ve owned tchotchkes or momentos for years, moving things around keeps life interesting and we wouldn’t want to be bored now would we? I swear I’m going to figure out a way to make a vase or flower pot out of the running medals that are in my drawer. I’m sure there’s a photo on Pinterest somewhere.

The Arkansas Flower and Garden Show has become an annual mother-daughter tradition for me and my mom, the gardener. She humors me and my not quite black but more of a gray-green thumb. If you have a gardener in your life, take them to the show and check out some of the great offerings that will help you decorate and entertain even if you aren’t a Master Gardener. I picked up this great swag from show vendor The Good Earth Garden Center

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If you’d like to learn more about planting and gardening in Arkansas as well as get design and decore inspiration, consider attending the show on one or all three days of the big event February 21-23. Check out the schedule of great events and demonstrations on their website and plan to visit the Good Earth and many other area vendors like Antique Brick and Outdoors and Horticare at the show. Not only will you learn, but you’ll be helping others learn as well since proceeds from the show go to college scholarships in horticulture and and help fund The Greening of Arkansas grant program providing resources for community beautification projects around the state.

A huge thanks goes to Colonial Wine and Spirits, the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show Board of Directors and Chris Olsen for entertaining a large group of photo snapping, giggling and social media addicted women. You get to reap some of the reward too. I have three pair of one day passes to the show to give away.

Comment by clicking the comment box at the top right of this post. Tell us your favorite flower, feel free to include what that flower says to you, and three random winners will get a pair of tickets that will open the door to new ways to enhance the beauty in their lives with flowers. Winners will be announced on Friday February 14th just in time to share with someone you love.

Family Hikes

When I find myself needing to calm my soul and bring balance to my life, I go outside. Nothing creates peace and reminds me of the insignificance of the daily grind like a really good sunset. You know, the ones that set the sky on fire?

It’s a rare treat to have three working people, including the working student in the family, with the same day off work but it happened on Martin Luther King Day. Family hike time! Several ideas on trails to hike were tossed out over dinner Sunday night. We finally decided to head out west of our house to part of the Ouachita Trail and the Flastside Wilderness that we’re familiar with. This area is home to one of our favorite mountain bike training rides when we’re up for gravel, hills and more hills and the Slobberknocker Mountain Bike Race. It’s also home to favorite runs: the Full mOOn 50K, the Catsmacker and the Arkansas Traveller 100. We started our afternoon by loading the car with two dogs, three people, three water bottles, a dog bowl, flashlights, a big camera, a tripod and a backpack with hard salami, fresh mozzarella and cookies. Sustenance, it’s an important part of a successful hike. We parked at the trailhead just past Lake Sylvia for a quick, flat trip around the short paved trail to get our legs moving. Then we headed across the street to the Ouachita Trail knowing we had about an hour to hike before we needed to get in the car for the drive to Flatside. Though the trees are mostly bare this time of year, it gives the forest a unique, desolate beauty. At least that’s the way I think of it.

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The line of sight from the top of Flatside Pinnacle, looking west over the Ouachita National Forest, offers one of the most spectacular sunset views in the state. As we drove up the forest road alongside Brown Creek, we were discussing the 223 miles of the Ouachita Trail, and the fact that the small one has only hiked about 30 miles of it. Her response? “Only 190 to go then.” A good attitude, one that has inspired plans to return this weekend and hike a few more miles of it.

The photographer and the sunset lover, waiting.

The photographer and the sunset lover, waiting.

The sunset calendar told us we’d need to be at the top by 5 p.m. We settled in about 4:45, fed the pups and laid out our own little dinner on the rocks as Joe set up the tripod and camera to capture the experience. There was discussion about the need to put the technology away and just enjoy the view but bloggers and photographers don’t do that.  I tried, I put the phone in my pocket and got it back out several times. As the sun kissed the mountain range, I couldn’t help but watch my daughter, a halo of fading sunlight around her curly hair. These are the moments I want to remember, the ones I want her to remember. Having photographic evidence never hurts.

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Oh my god it’s squirting all over me!

In the midst of a run things are said, that if taken as a sound bite, are funnier than hearing them in context. As my sweet friend Katy and I listened to the thick mud suck at our shoes like a junior high boy who still hasn’t figured out that whole kissing thing, “oh my god it’s squirting all over me!” was a perfectly reasonable exclamation.

Shoe Sucking Mud

Shoe Sucking Mud

I had a chance to participate in another inaugural run this past weekend, The Fit4Life Village Creek State Park 10K/25K Trail Run. I love that clubs and companies are filling in the usual lull in winter races with great events. It was a cool, but thankfully not cold, damp morning at Village Creek State Park in Wynne, Arkansas. The biting wind was making it a bit worse but considering temperatures had dipped into single digits the previous week, the weather was cooperating. If only it hadn’t been raining for four days! I think everyone was prepared for a little mud, but a little mud was not what they got, there was a lot of mud: trail disguised as big, wide, long, open fields of mud and ankle to calf deep creeks that in summer would be hard packed double track. I LOVED it. I admit it, I’m a dirty girl. I love mud runs and never hesitate to run straight into water barriers that others might term “cesspools”.

Cesspool of Joy

Cesspool of Joy

Fulfilling my desire to continue running with friends who keep things interesting and fun, I was lucky that another dirty girl had chosen to get up long before the sun for the drive from Little Rock. I clung to her like I was the new kid at school and she dared to make eye contact with me. Despite her protestations that she was “too slow” for me and warning that she was a cranky pants, I was staying with her. This girl doesn’t know from cranky pants. Six morning miles in a little mud is nothing. So we plodded our way in the mud, sometimes if she slowed, I stomped in puddles and glissaded the mud down steep inclines, daring my balance to fail and face plant me in the muck. Didn’t happen. We talked about our mutual friends which could be construed as gossip but I like to think of it as “discussing their life situations and deciding if/when intervention is necessary.” Really, we talk out of concern for those we care most about. Those we want to rag on, we do it to their face.

Dirty Girls

Dirty Girls

We finished in due time, muddy, a little sweaty and ready to cheer for our friends who had run the full 25K. I even waited about an hour before I cleaned up. I’m that girl, the one who walks around wearing her mud splattered clothes and shoes that have enough dirt to plant a small garden on them. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

3 Bridges, 26.8 Miles, 18 Potty Breaks

The day of the inaugural 3 Bridges Marathon arrived to find me under-trained. I had missed more than a few short runs in favor of lifting or spinning and the long runs were interrupted by weather, travels or trips to the urgent care to get Joe’s head stapled because while mountain biking, sometimes rocks happen. Life happens. My plan was to run a little, walk a little, repeat until the finish line even if it took all day because I didn’t want to be too sore to walk down the stairs the next day. But then the woman who talked me into doing 3Bridges after I said I would probably never do a road marathon, showed up next to me at the starting line and the plan changed.  Instead, we spent the next 5 hours and 40 minutes jogging at a relatively slow pace, singing, dancing, posing for pictures and stopping at almost every aid station and porta potty on the route.

The hardest earned suncatcher in history

The hardest earned suncatcher in history

It was a chilly morning, nerves and cold air were influencing a lot of people to shuffle between the portable heaters and the portable toilets. I practically stayed in line, making 3 visits within 25 minutes.  Ashley and I lined up toward the back of the 7 a.m. starters along with a few other friends, like my trail running buds Joshua, Skip and Bill who were all lined up with us. We made it over the first of the three bridges, the Big Dam Bridge at about 2 miles in and I was already prepared to sprint across the little parking lot to the bathrooms. This was not a good omen for the day, it was also one of the things that contributed to my Garmin reading 26.8 instead of 26.2 miles, I went for bonus points! We got back in to the pack of runners, really at the back now and set off to enjoy the North Little Rock side of the Arkansas River Trail together. We managed to make it to the aid station at mile 4 before Ashley had to stop at the permanent bathhouse at Victory Lake, the site of the first of our many dance breaks. Why? Because Girls, Just Wanna Have Fu-un. I soon realized that my water bottle was unnecessary, there were so many volunteers we could get water almost every mile. At mile 7 we stopped to use the porta potty and at mile 8.6 we didn’t stop but did show off our dance moves for the Argenta Foundation volunteers. Once we passed over the second of the three bridges, the Clinton Bridge, we were met with mini snickers bars and tissues from the Black Girls Run cheerleaders and we stopped to pose for my husband Joe, a picture with the library behind us while Ashley wondered aloud what she was supposed to do with the tissue. “Wipe your nose with it!” the laughing volunteer said. “Oh” says Ash, “my nose isn’t running, what do I do with it now?”  Humor, it’s what keeps you going when things go wrong, like having to stop to pee every 2.36 miles. Seriously, we stopped again at mile 12 at the same stop we made at mile 7 so at least our intervals were getting longer.  I also  took advantage of the break to eat some Honey Stinger Chews and take a little anti-inflammatory Ash was smart enough to bring for us. We made it to mile 13, we were halfway there and I stopped to pose for photos with friends and to get a few hugs.

A hug and a great photo by Brenda Hansen

A hug and a great photo by Brenda Hansen

We managed to get all the way to mile 15 before I said, “um sorry, but I need to to” and then because it’s contagious, I had to wait while Ash went too.  I took advantage of the time to pull out a few more dance moves for the volunteers from the Hot Legs Running Club and to award their station the best music mix trophy.

Something clicked after that mile and we spent the next 4 miles jogging a fairly consistent pace and getting ready for the challenge we knew was coming: at mile 19.3 we would have to pass the finish line and KEEP GOING! The agony, the cruelty, the inhumanity!  Okay it wasn’t anything like that, we were actually feeling pretty great, I think our strategy of stopping every 15 minutes was not paying off in having a great finish time but was paying off in having a great time. I grabbed another mini snickers from a Black Girls Run volunteer and we just kept moving even though we could hear and see the finishers. With 7 miles to go, we lost our minds and really started singing. I would like to personally apologize to the man who passed us on his way back to the finish line while we attempted to sing the theme song from Fresh Prince. We also scared birds, a dog, and made a kid in a stroller cry with our rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. Again, sorry! At mile 24 we ran into my HASH friends who provided a cup of restorative beer, a multitude of hugs and a few cheers. We were almost there, I was going to finish my first marathon, albeit slowly, with the best possible person for company. Five hours and forty minutes after we started, we skipped across the line. I can’t imagine what the day would have been like without Ashley by my side. Because as she said so many times during the last 7 miles, “this doesn’t suck.”

Winning!

Winning!

Within 45 minutes of finishing the race, we were sitting at a table at Homer’s West with meat and beer in front of us. It was possibly the best day ever.

Ashley handles a big ol burger with bacon

Ashley handles a big ol burger with bacon

Truths I learned during my first road marathon and longest road run to date:

Karaoke must become an integral part of training. While singing our best rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, we realized that we needed a deeper bench for our repertoire. Beats the heck out of an earful of iPod.

At 24 miles, a quarter cup of cheap beer and a grocery store mini cupcake are manna from  heaven. Seriously. As we walked/ran away from the aid station at mile 24, a hug from Katy and a smile from Elaine, the beer, the cupcake and for Ashley, the pretzels, were just what we needed to turn to each other and say “Let’s get this B@$%& done. I got beer and pretzels! Do you know how great this is? Wait, I have to pee.”

Even if like me, you have a bladder the size of a walnut, try not to stop at each and every bathroom/portapotty/hidden copse of bushes along the way. We figured we spent a good 30 minutes, possibly more, using the bathroom. This is unacceptable and I will become a spokesperson for Depends now.

Bra Chafing. Because God was so generous to me, I know this will forever be an issue. There is a certain amount of assistance to be had from products like Body Glide and a foundation garment that fits properly but seriously, if I could do away with the boob chafing I’d be super happy. But, it leads to great conversations about the invention of a sweat wicking lower back tattoo for women, preventing the all embarrassing “ass sweat angel” situation. I do believe Ashley is on to a million dollar idea here.

Also, I may never run again without Ashley beside me.

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