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 tag “Arkansas”

Peace Beneath the Stars

Sixty-one days after we drove away from the Sunderlin Hall dorms and the campus of our youngest child’s college home, the child returned home and she and I were sitting in camp chairs beside a fire that took far too long to build and stoke. We roasted hotdogs and talked about all that has transpired in the sixty-one days since we last sat down to eat dinner together. There was no wait staff, no noise from the kitchen, I wasn’t busy running back and forth between the stove and the table. Serenaded by the crackle and pop of the fire, we marveled at the sizzle of the grease droplets as the hot dogs oozed down to the burning wood and anticipated the much looked forward to ceremony of The Blowing Out of the Fiery Marshmallows. We needed this because sometimes in our hustle and bustle world it’s necessary to stop and listen to nothing more than the crackle of the fire and to each other. We were hoping to find a piece of peace in our busy lives. What better place to find it than under the stars?

Want S'more?

Want S’more?

We were only an hour from home, surrounded by the rich Ouachita National Forest and the Flatside Wilderness Area. Being the first weekend of muzzleloader season we were concerned enough to find a place to camp that is far off the Ouachita Trail, hoping to avoid most of the hunters.

The other girl of the house, our dog Hobo, was with us too. Luckily Hobo is not much of a barker. Most of her intrusions on the peace were due to us calling her back when she wandered a bit too far for comfort. We talked about school, studying, bonfires, creek swimming, classes, fear, roommates, jealousy, rats, bus schedules, the future, and cafeteria food. Just the normal conversations one has with a new college student.

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Hammocks were hung, dog beds were made, fire was roaring, and it was just us girls with a few bugs, crawly critters, probably a few hunters not far away, and one scary something that half barked half screamed in the wee hours of the morning resulting in a barking dog with her fur up. She tried to crawl into the hammock with each of us in turn, but eventually the scaredy-dog went back to sleep in between her protectors.

We woke to a crisp fall morning. I made hot cocoa in no time with our trusty Jet-Boil. Then I got the bright idea to heat up our now stale donut holes in it. It worked. Hot stale donut holes were much better than cold stale donut holes.

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We took our time packing up, planning to attempt a hike on the OT with an orange vest at the ready for the dog and orange flags for our backpacks. Alas, as we traveled down closer to the trailheads near Lake Sylvia we could tell by the number of vehicles and full campsites that the woods were full. We chose instead to follow the Flatside Wilderness Scenic Drive, much of which is familiar to me from the Full Moon 25/50K Trail Run and from our mountain bike forays in the area. The roads are rough, the hills are steep, and driving can be a challenge. I let the small one take the driver’s seat and we drove on, stopping at the overlooks to check out the views. We talked about “going off the grid” and living a less hectic lifestyle. I doubt that will ever be in the cards for me, but for my kids, I hope they find a way to escape if not as a full-time lifestyle, at least on occasion. How else will they find peace?

 

 

 

 

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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.

Wordless Wednesday

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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

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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Crunching Snow

A few months ago, when it was desperately hot and humid, I was at a blogger conference where I was introduced to a few very cool people who just happen to work in the arena of visitors bureaus and city advertising and promotion type stuff. These folks, they do good work trying to get more people to find, try and love the gems they already know are in their towns. It just so happened that one of them was giving away a two night hotel stay with a few other goodies thrown in. It just so happened that it was in a town we frequently visit for races. I was covetous. My inner Gollum revealed himself “ME WANTSES IT, the precious.” My Gollum won and in my dirty little hands was laid an envelope full of promises for a great weekend in my future.

It is no longer hot and humid in Arkansas. We had snow and ice 2 weeks ago and the weather cooperated with the Snow Miser to keep a lot of that snow and ice on the ground with periods of freezing precipitation into the next weekend. This was no good. The final cyclocross race of the season, the state championship race, and our planned weekend of promise from the summer winnings was at hand. It was cold and blustery and we were on a mini vacation. And worse, I needed to run. NEEDED. Work, weather, family and side business duties have been hacking away at time for my long runs and I’m supposed to be training for two marathons and a 50K between Christmas and April. After a day and a half of site-seeing, shopping and shivering, I sucked it up, bundled up, tucked a map and my new yaktrax in my pocket, and set out to discover Rogers, Arkansas on foot.

Testing the grip

Testing the grip

I find maps helpful and I came to Rogers armed with a few. A street map and a trails map gave me a pretty good idea of areas I could easily get to without being on roads that might be dangerous on foot.

I wound my way from Veterans Park to the downtown area via the quaint neighborhood with porches and eves decorated with wreaths and lights, and sidewalks decorated with piles of leftover snow. I considered avoiding snow piles, ice patches and puddles as a bonus workout. Snow and ice patches crunched under the tread of my trail shoes as I zigzagged my way through the streets with only a few funny looks from residents. After a few miles of zigzags, I found the street that would lead me to the Lake Atalanta trails. The sun had come out to play and the temp was rising but the ice still coated the eastern side of the lake. This looked like a great place to test those yaktrax. Instead of slipping and sliding I was running full tilt, sure footed. I am so happy I bought these puppies, they might be the handiest gear I’ve purchased this year. Looping around the lake to get mileage in, I stopped to enjoy the light skipping on the water and to look for the eagle a walker told me liked to frequent a particular point on the lake.

Sunshine on the water

Sunshine on the water at Lake Atalanta

I never found the eagle but I still enjoyed the scenery as I toddled past all the fishermen. I was shedding layers while at least one of them was retreating to the warmth of a running vehicle. Maybe he should’ve taken a lap with me?

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Crossing Walnut Street I hit the still very icy trails at Diamond Springs Park that connect the lake to downtown Rogers where I halted my run long enough to read about the Frisco Spring. What better way to learn about a town than running through its history? The spring was a water source for the Frisco Railroad. The town of Rogers sprang up as a stop on the rail route and the rest…is history. To get back to downtown, I had to take the 3/4 mile trail section with 300 ft of elevation change. Those yaktrax came in handy again as I navigated the slick natural terrain.

I zig zagged through town again, fighting the urge to stop in at Iron Horse Coffee Company for a cup, finally deciding to head back to Veterans Park in time to see at least part of the cyclocross racing. The nice couple at the concession stand in the park stayed open to provide frosty spectators and racers who were done for the day with hot cocoa and other provisions. I took advantage of that option, twice. I have to throw in a kudos to them, it is unusual to have a concession open during these races and they were there for another reason when they realized an opportunity to warm up some cold folks.

Snow didn’t slow down the race at Veterans Park

When I asked if the day had been worth it to them, the response was “Yes, and we’ve really enjoyed talking to the people who’ve come in today. We’ll be sure we’re here next year.”  That’s what I’m talking about, community givers. And with Arkansas weather patterns, I hope they’re prepared with popsicles for the next one. One never knows what December weather will be in Arkansas.

This trip was sponsored by the Rogers Convention and Vistors Bureau, all opinions expressed are my own. We packed a lot more into the weekend and will be posting more about it. Thanks for a great visit Rogers!

Peer Pressure to Run

A few months ago I was paying attention when “all” my friends were getting excited about the Little Rock Marathon’s 2014 Superhero theme. I signed up. I was paying attention when a long sold out inaugural winter marathon reopened for another round of registrations. I signed up. And when a few friends started talking about the Runner’s World Holiday Running Streak that lasts from Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Day, requiring at least one mile of running each day, I got sucked in to that too.

For Day1 I participated in a Turkey Trot sponsored by local running store Go!Running, appropriately called the Go!bbler. The next day I had planned to go to the Sunset Lake Endurance Run. The options for that run are as many miles as you can get in 6,12,or 24 hours. The 24 hour participants could start at 7:30 pm Friday while the 6 and 12 hour could wait to start until 7:30 am Saturday. I wanted to participate unofficially and run a few miles on each day just to see and encourage my friends. Instead we ended up in the urgent care clinic getting the man’s head stapled after a spill on his mountain bike drove a pointy rock under his helmet. Glad he was wearing a helmet or that freak fall could have been devastating. Instead, I got a 2-fer in on Saturday and

Getting right back on the horse

Getting right back on the horse

it didn’t stop Joe from riding again the very next morning.

A group in Conway, Arkansas is trying to raise funds to build multiuse trails on top of an old city landfill. A great use for land that can’t be used for much else and has been proven to be a boon in other cities like the Cedar Glades trail system-disc golf course-and pavilions. I think the plan for the landfill in Conway is similar with a great recreation area for the community. On Saturday morning there was a fundraiser for the project via a Poker Run/Ride. Joe and I went to the Cadron Settlement Trails, he with his mountain bike and me with my running shoes. Each of us purchased one buy in which gave us 5 cards to be collected at stations along the 5 mile route.

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We opted not to purchase the extra card option. He rode and I ran and we both had a great time. If only our card hands matched our enjoyment of those trails.

Even a combination of our cards didn't help

Even if we used a combination of our cards, it wouldn’t have helped

By the time we finally made it out to the Sunset Run, the time clock read 20+ hours passed and there were only a few people still out there. Lucky for me, I recognized almost all of them. Elaine and daughter Susy were going for 50 miles and had about 16 left when I arrived. David, president of the Road Runners Club of Arkansas was still going strong, also hoping for a 50 mile finish. And I jumped in to run with my oft times running buddy at other events, Josh, and his son. Josh’s family had been at the site for the entire event. His daughters had run 19 and 26 miles, and his son was going for 31 when I arrived. Josh met his 50 mile goal and they did a great family photo shoot at the end with a sign listing all their mileage. What an incredible way to spend the post Thanksgiving days with your family, not shopping or laying about watching TV, but running together.

Getting in a second 5 mile run at Sunset Lake

Getting in a second 5 mile run at Sunset Lake

Why do I need pressure to get it done and run more? I need to be training and I’ve been shorting myself on weekday runs, replacing them with spin, bootcamp or crossfit classes. Rest days on the Runners World Running Streak now equal at least a one mile run. How hard can that be? I’ll let you know.

Kudzu, Contraband and Cannons

Veteran’s Day weekend was filled with reminders. I thought of family members who have served and those who are planning to serve. I thought of friends I’ve lost, and friends who have losses of their own to remember. I saved my long run for Monday and the route took  me past the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum where I was met with a “Good afternoon, how’re ya doin’?”  by a gentlemen wearing his service on his ball cap, a simple word: Marines. When I went out to work on trail on Sunday, I grabbed one of my race shirts and it happened to be one from an all time favorite race, the Run Thru History 10K that takes place in Vicksburg National Military Park. The park is one of my favorites and is a beautiful place for a run. I love running past the cannons and and kudzu, the markers and memorials. Recently I had a chance to visit another beautiful southern town that was in the depths of a battle to defend itself on the very same day as Vicksburg was surrendered to General Grant, July 4, 1863.

Unlike Vicksburg, Helena was not defending itself against the Union and Grant’s relentless progression to control the Mississippi. The Union army had marched into Helena, Arkansas with 12,000 soldiers and 2,000 freed slaves in July of 1862, facing little or no opposition from the small port town. The landscape of the town was changed forever as the population of about 1500 residents was overrun by troops and “contraband” as the freed slaves were called. The Union Army marched into Helena taking over private homes, occupying churches, stables, or any shelter they could find. They built fortresses and battlements to protect the treasured port along the important water passage of the Mississippi, blocking Confederate troops trying to relieve the pressure on Vicksburg which was still in Confederate hands but under threat.

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Freedom Park

One of the goals of the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission is to support “efforts to preserve and interpret the state’s Civil War sites and documentary heritage and artifacts.” During this time of celebration and reflection that started in 2011 and will last through 2015, the commission has supported efforts in Helena-West Helena to continue to preserve the town’s unique place in Civil War history. I had the chance to enjoy many of the significant sites around town. When our small party of ladies arrived at Freedom Park, Delta Cultural Center employee and historian Jack Meyers was in full blue regalia, marching toward us, his bolt action rifle with bayonet at shoulder arms, the 35 star U.S. flag whipping in the breeze above him. The 35 star flag was made official on the day of the Battle of Helena after adding a star for the admission of West “by God” Virginia. The public park, open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset, has exhibits representing the experience of the freed slaves that came to Helena with the Union troops and is Arkansas’ first National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.

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We also stopped at Fort Curtis, also open to the public from 8 to sunset, where we were met by historian Ron Kelley who explained the strategy of the fort and the four earthen batteries that protected Union occupied Helena from Confederate hands. From Fort Curtis we could see the southern edge of Crowley’s Ridge where Battery C was located. It was the only Battery to be captured by Confederates and was quickly and decisively taken back during the hours long Battle of Helena. Atop the ridge of Battery C, I was stuck by the beautiful view as I looked down on the town, the rebuilt Fort Curtis, the church steeple at the site of the original Fort Curtis, the sliver of the Mighty Mississipp where the gunship USS Tyler  was positioned in order to shell the battery as the Confederates tried to take the ridge. I looked at the ravines filled with green kudzu and my thoughts turned to running. How cool would it be to have a run through Helena that passed by all these beautiful sites and the many I didn’t get to enjoy on my short tour?

The view from Battery "C"

The view from Battery “C”

The weekend after my visit, the Tour de Delta came to town. The tour is a successful cycling event and I can see a run through Helena history centering on the town’s place in Civil War history. I wonder if they would fire of a 2 pounder as a starting gun?

Civil War Helena has an informative website and you can pick up a Guide to Civil War Helena as well as get great information about other things to do and see at the Delta Cultural Center.
Find your way around the sites I’ve described and many more. You can even customize your tour by theme: the Essentials, the Battle, Confederate Helena or the African American Experience.

My visit was sponsored by the Helena Advertising and Promotion Commission but all opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.

A Weekend for New B’s

The light wasn’t even peeking over the lake yet, the only light shimmering on the water was from the outdoor lamps lighting the porches on the Ferncliff campus. The water tower had been filled with ice and water, the race numbers and sign up roster were out for racers to make it official and my hope was high, waiting for women to stumble out of their cozy bunks to meet me at the bridge for the New Balance Arkansas Blogger Bash 5K.
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A few weeks ago I opened my email to find a note from my beloved Park Wife about the possibility of having a 5K Run during the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference. I think she knows this kind of stuff makes my world go round. Without any details, I said “of course, just tell me what you want and need me to do.” Oh and by the way, my BRB, Best Running Buddy, Ashley is going to be my co-director. Score. Over the course of the weeks leading up to the conference weekend, we emailed back and forth about how to invite women to join in, about the involvement of New Balance Arkansas and their desire to engage our blogging community, we talked about prizes and social media and blog-love. I knew we could pull a few runners and walkers from the 100 attendees and I also knew if we gave fun options to participate that didn’t involve running, we could really have a great event. Executive Director of Ferncliff, the extraordinary David Gill, was on hand the day before the race to show me and race co-director Ashley the way. He and his facility will be getting a blog all their own, it’s incredible. The beauty of the campus trails got me so excited, I couldn’t wait to get back and tell the ladies about all the cool things they’d get to see if they ran with us: two lakes, a log cabin, a straw bale solar powered eco house, goats, chickens and some beautiful trails.

Paige runs her way into her first 5K finish with style

Paige runs her way to her first 5K finish with style on the Luke Trail

I hope it was our passionate plea and lively description of the views that inspired 24 women to run or walk and another 10 to come out to volunteer, take photos, Tweet, Instagram and VLOG the adventure.

Showing some New Balance Love

Showing some New Balance Love

Ashley and I hatched a plan to fit in one of the New Balance mottos by having the runners stop at 4 points along the course to perform a task like “do 25 jumping jacks” or “tell me someone you’ve met and the name of their blog”. Each completed task would earn a word tile that would have to be unscrambled to read Let’s Make Excellent Happen before they could officially finish the race.

Fawn finishes with style and excellence

Fawn finishes with style and excellence

Our New Balance Arkansas Blogger Bash 5K had it all: words, pictures, New Balance and newbies. Many of the women were running their very first 5K race! Maybe they had been running for exercise, or running some at the gym, or like my new friend Terra, had planned on walk/jogging but were so inspired by the camaraderie that they ran the whole thing! Our 5K winner was Wendy, who was running her very first “race” and finished in just over 25 minutes. Whitney was testing an injury from her Ironman training and ran with Wendy for almost the entire race. This is what happens when it all comes together: the joy of being outside with friends old and new swirls around us despite the early hour and the mosquitoes that Heather swore might carry her away from her volunteer post.

Terra, Sarah and Mari feeling the afterglow

Terra, Sarah and Mari feeling the afterglow

We learned about each other as new bonds were forged in the pounding of shoes on the dirt. We cheered, we shouted, we hugged and we danced. And that my friends is why we do these things and why we’re so thankful that New Balance Arkansas was willing to support our community of runners who like to use words. We like mottos and themes and instructions. We like to Make Excellent Happen.

For more pictures and words you can search #AWBU or #RunBloggerRun on Instagram and Twitter. I have been loving on the instaphotos BRITTANYLLITTLE of Ramblings of a Little Wife has been putting up.

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