Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Drumstick Dash "Move your feet so others can eat"

"Sure, spin the wheel, maybe you'll win a prize" is what I told Kylie when she asked to spin a prize wheel at the Women's Half Marathon expo in September.  Well, lucky girl won a free entry into the Drumstick Dash, a Thanksgiving morning race in Broadripple, a trendy neighborhood in Indianapolis.  I've run it a few times before but have opted the last 2 years for the more local and much smaller 5k in my town.  But, free entry is free entry so Drumstick Dash it was.   We both entered for the shorter route, 2.7 miles instead of the 4.5 mile full length route.
Thanksgiving morning came and we were out the door by 7:15.  Broadripple is in the middle of the city, not convenient in the slightest from our town so I wanted to leave plenty early.  Plus, parking is always an issue and we needed to get our packets.  The drive into BR was easy and I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of street parking and even more surprised to find that the meters were free because of the holiday!  This day is turning out better and better!  
We walk about 1/2 mile to the high school to pick up our packets.  This was very well organized, which is good since 17,000+ runners/walkers were pre-registered for this race!  It's the second largest race in Indiana!  And certainly the biggest that Kylie's ever run in.  We stopped for a quick picture and hit the gear check tent to store our packets.  Temps were mid 40's so we went back into the gym to stay warm.  Kylie proceeded to "vlog" (video blog) for the next 20 mins while I watched the crowd. 

About 8:30, I got us up and outside to find the starting line and our pace area.  Kylie was very surprised at the size of the crowd and started to get really excited about the race.  We ran into some of her friends from school and hung out with them while we waiting for the start.  A lady near me recognized my Ink N Burn Holiday shirt and we struck up a quick conversation about our shared love of the brand.  I was super excited to wear my new Holiday shirt and cable knit tights.  Aren't I festive?!

Soon we heard the announcer count down and we were off!  Kylie ran like a bat out of heck, as usual, and I just tried to keep her in view, not an easy task.  Her shoe came untied so we pulled over to tie it and then kept running.  About a 1 mile into the race, she started getting really hot (she was wearing a long sleeved tech shirt and a short sleeved on under it) so we stopped again to take off the long sleeved shirt.  She's doing pretty good, running most of the way.  The course turns off of the main road and into a neighborhood, so there was some crowd support along the way here.  Several playing loud music for us runners to enjoy.  About mile 2, we saw a sign for "Selfie Station" ahead so we knew we had to stop for that!

Soon after our quick selfie, we saw the turn for the short course and took that side street.  I was surprised to see Scott, one of my Hood to Coast teammates, here so we did a quick catch-up (hope you get into Western States, Scott!)   Kylie started to walk again here but her friends caught up to her and they all ran to the finish together.  The short course is untimed but according to my Garmin, we finished at 27:50, not bad for a very crowded race and several stops along the way.  
We grabbed our banana and other snacks and I got a free Starbucks (thanks for sponsoring!) and we walked around to cool down and grabbed our bag from gearcheck.  Ran into another few friends and decided to walk back to the car.  
So, all in all, it was a well-organized race with proceeds going to Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis.  I'd recommend it to anyone.   And I think Kylie has caught the Thanksgiving race bug with me.  Yea!    

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Indy Women's Half Marathon or was it???

So I've been working very hard to run 2015 miles this year.  It's been an adjustment, running 6 days a week instead of 5 and staying focused on a 12 month long goal, which isn't easy.  Anyways....things were fine until I noticed my hamstring really hurting me over Labor Day.  Visited my chiro, as my lower back hurt as well, he worked his magic and I was feeling better.  But, I wanted to ease back into running as my biggest goal is actually running the Goofy Challenge in January.  I grudgingly but wisely gave up my 2015 miles goal.  So....this explain why on  Sept 19th I downgraded my Indy Women's Half race to the 5k race.  I didn't want to push myself and possibly really injury myself for a half that wasn't any kind of goal race.

I've run this race every year since it started, 5 years ago.  It started as a small half marathon, just a few hundred runners (it was so small the first year that towards the end I had no one in front of me and had to rely on spectators to know where to go on the course!) and has grown every year.  I saw on their FB page that they were giving special medals to all 120 girls/women who have finished each of the past 5 years.  So, I was going to run this race, even if it was just the 5k.  PLUS, if I ran the 5k, I could run with my daughter, who also is a 5 year streaker!

Early Saturday morning, I wake up to thunder and lighting and heavy rain.  Great.  The race was doing a good job with keeping people informed on their FB page, that the race was on unless there was lighting in the area.  So, Kylie and I leave on time and get downtown.  It's not rainy but it's very humid.  Kylie wanted to run on her own so as we were getting close to the starting time, she scooted towards the start line while I stayed a little further back.  
Both ready at the start!

 I'm anxious to give my new Ink N Burn chameleon capris (aren't they so cool looking!?!) a good run so I wore those.  I normally would have dressed in shorts or a skirt for this weather but I wasn't worried about overheating in a 5k.

Race starts and Kylie is off like a lighting bolt!  Honest to God, this girl was running with the starting pack.  I know she can't keep that pace up but man, it was really cool to see her as she went around corners ahead of me.  She has a very graceful, natural stride.  No wonder she's won her age group at this race every year but one.

I settle in, faster than I should be running but figure what the heck, it's only 3.1, how bad can that be?  LOL!!  There's a reason I don't run 5k's any more, you go out fast and just have to get faster!!  They are painful!

About 2 miles into the race, the clouds are really dark and it's not looking good, weather wise.  I see Kylie get passed by two girls around her age and know this will crush her spirit.  She starts to walk a few yards later and I catch up to her.  She's crying, complaining about her shoulders and back hurting her.  I know she's very disappointed, thinking that she won't win her AG.  Lots of women are saying words of encouragement to her as we walk.  It starts to rain, pretty hard at this point.  We decide to run the rest together and get moving.  We hit the 5k split and turn a corner and I see lighting, right in front of us.  I try to stay calm for Kylie but I encourage her to keep moving as we really needed to get finished now.   The rain is pouring now, hard, heavy rain, more lighting and thunder as well.  We're running in a lane parallel to but against the other runners who hadn't hit the split yet.  It made it a little confusing, especially with the rain and I could hear the police talking on their CB's about black flagging the race.  We did have to cross in front of the back of the pack runners to turn on the road to the finish which wasn't great planning for the RD.  I guess they figured the bulk of the runners would be past that  point before the faster 5k runners needed to cross over.  Again, I'm glad I'm with Kylie as she could easily have gotten confused in this area and ended up who knows where.  We needed a few walk breaks for Kylie but once she saw the finish line, she didn't want to run with me any longer and she took off!   I ran it easy in behind her, just enjoying the fact that we had been able to run some of it together.  And as a mom, I was so thankful that the timing of the storm and her walking lined up.  I think we both would have been freaked out if we hadn't been together when the sky opened up!

We were so happy to be given the special 5 year streaker medals, given to us by uniformed soldiers.  Kylie heads immediately to the medical tent as she was convinced that her lungs were bursting.  The medical lady was actually concerned about how cold Kylie was (she has like zero body fat and the rain really was cold).  So Kylie got bundled up under some blankets while I headed for the results tent, hoping that she would have still placed in her AG.  I find out that the race had been black flagged.  The finishing chute that we had just breezed through minutes before was a congested mess of runners.  Basically the RD told the police to have the runners "shelter in place" until they could safely come back to the finish area, that the race was over, there would be no official results.  Very disappointing for everyone, it's never a call that a RD wants to make but you just can't take any chances with that kind of weather.  But, in a weird way, it worked out for us because Kylie didn't lose her AG award either!

I get Kylie from the medical tent, she's feeling much better, and I give her my dry long sleeved shirt that I had in my gear check bag.  We also dig out all the medals that we had earned at the other 4 races and posed for some really cool pictures!

 We were planning on staying in the finishing area for a while because it is a good atmosphere but the weather wasn't allowing that so we walked back to the car.   It was so weird to see women running from all directions, on the sidewalks, to get to the finish area.  I guess if you were 4 miles out, you would just take whatever way you could back to the finish.  Talk about a mess!  But again, not much that could be done about it.  I did find out that some people sheltered and then continued to race, knowing that the course wouldn't be supported at water stops or by police.  If I had been running the half, I probably would have done that as well, I mean, running in the rain is fun and you don't need water when it's coming down from the sky!

All in all, everything lined up so well for us that neither of us were disappointed.  We did get an email a week or so later, offering a discount on our next years race as well as letting you know that you could get your medal mailed to you if you hadn't gone to the finish line.  Again, I think everything was handled as well as it could have been and we will be back for year 6 next September!!
Monumental Marathon race report
 Back ground:  I’ve been increasing my mileage this year in the attempt to reach 2015 miles this year.  My PB for annual miles before was 1800 last year so this was a real effort for me.  I started running 6 days a week instead of 5.  Monthly miles were between 165-200 miles.  But longest run was 18 miles.   Then, Labor Day brought a hamstring strain that sidelined me for a few weeks.  I initially figured I’d downgrade to the half instead of the full for this marathon and focus on healing and preparing for the Goofy Challenge (with Damaris!!) in early January as that’s my ultimate goal right now. 
But….then I starting feeling better and more confident.  I ran a 16 and 18 mile LR in October, feeling really good during those ones.  I finished out the month with 170 miles so I thought I’d give the full a shot, see what happens. 
4 days before race day:  My former favorite running buddy, Anais, texts me that she’s running Monumental as her first full and wanted advice as she was having some ITBS issues.  After discussing her goals, my experience (this would be my 4th time running this race) and my uncertainty about what I could do, we decided to run together for as long as we could, with the understanding that neither would be upset if the other went ahead. 
Race Day:  Up at 5:45, out the door at 6:30 (after wishing my daughter a happy 12th birthday).  It’s 41* at the start with a expected sunny day of 55*.  I wear my new Ink N Burn skirt and a favorite classic InB top.  New Feetures socks and Saucony shoes that I’m testing out.  Drove 20 minutes to downtown, found parking quickly in a parking garage next to the finish line and gear check.  I met up with Anais and two of her other friends who were also marathon virgins at 7:15.  We all chatted some, grabbed some pics and got into the corrals about 7:50 for the 8:00 start.  Corrals were very crowded so we did our best to line up about the 4:15 pace group area.  Anais wanted to finish a sub 4:30 and I know that she’s a bit of a jackrabbit so I wanted to keep her under control for at least the first eight miles.   Race starts and we walk to the starting line and are running by 8:05.

Miles 1-3: 10:04, 10:02, 9:52 CONGESTION is the issue here.  This race is getting more popular and the congestion through downtown proves it.  We are running around walkers, groups and the like, trying to stay together as a group (I didn’t really care about staying with the other two in our group, just my friend, but I also didn’t want to be a jerk).  Skip the first water stop as it was a nightmare.

Miles 4-7: 9:31, 9:47, 9:41, 9:43  We settling into a comfortable pace but I keep telling Anais to slow down as I wanted us to say 9:50ish, hoping that would benefit her in the last 8 miles.  About mile 5, one of the friends who didn’t train for the marathon, just thought since she’s done some halves and is a fast 5k runner, decided we were too slow and dropped us.  I reassured Anais that we would be passing her before we hit 18 miles.  You can’t have your longest run in your life be 13.1 and expect to finish a marathon well.  The race splits at mile 7, with the halfers heading south to the finish and the fullers continuing north.  The congestion really let up here, as you would expect.

Miles 8-11: 9:46, 9:45, 9:49, 9:52  Things are going smoothly as we run past the state fairgrounds and down a very nice residential area.  The crowd support is light but we were enjoying our conversations.  I continue with my established marathon plan of walking the water stops so I would walk and then catch Anais and her friend within .25.  I like doing this as it gives me a chance to catch my breath and actually get water/Gatorade in me, instead of on me.  Her friend decides to slow down at mile 11, which Anais said was their usual training pattern.  So it’s just her and I now.

Mile 12-14: 9:56, 9:33, 9:59  Things get congested again here as we are running in an older neighborhood with narrow streets.  Anais gets a treat by seeing her family at the half way point so she had some extra pep in her step for the next mile or so.  But we were both feeling the miles by 14.  I’m not really paying much attention to the math for a finish time as I was mainly focused on keeping her encouraged.  I’d talk about the course, what we’d be coming up to, what we could expect ect… basically  just keeping her mind occupied.  It was a blessing for us both as it kept my mind off the upcoming miles as well.

Mile 15-20: 10:13, 10:38, 10:19, 10:37, 10:18, 10:07  You can see now that my walk breaks at the water stops were lengthening but I never, ever allow myself more than one minute.  That’s a mental contract I have!  But, my breaks are working for me, I’m actually surprised at how well I’m feeling considering I haven’t run more than 18 miles in a year.  It hits me that all the wisdom I’ve learned on the old BF forum is true, more miles = stronger legs = better races.  We pass the girl we first started with who dropped us early on at mile 18.  She’s death marching on the side of the road.  We don’t say anything to her and I let Anais know that she’ll probably finish 30 mins ahead of her, if we stay strong (the girl finished just under 5 hours).  We run through the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which is my favorite part of the race during this point as well.  Once we hit the 20 mile mark, I decide that I’m going to finish under 4:25, no matter what.  Anais is still running strong, slower but her mentality is really good.  We’re in a boring area, not much support.  We aren’t talking as much either but every ½ mile or so, I update her as she’s not wearing a Garmin.
Mile 21 – 26.2:  10:57, 10:28, 10:20, 10:43, 10:36, 10:20, 2:55 (.3 miles)  So, at this point, Anais is slowing down but I’m still feeling strong.  I let her know that she can totally finish under 4:30 if she keeps it together.  She encourages me to continue on and I have no doubt that she wouldn’t hold it against me so I continued on.  She did pass me once during my walk break at the next water stop but I passed her again and didn’t see her again.  But I knew that she was going to be fine.   I re-center and concentrate on my sub 4:25 goal.  I haven’t been under 4:38 in a few years, not since I started running Ultra’s.  I make the turn on Meridian and see the downtown buildings.  I know it’s deceptive because we’re still 3 miles from the finish so I just keep pushing myself.   Quads are sore but not painful.  No issues from my hamstring.  Temps are good, I’m very comfortable in my clothes (skirt was totally amazing, it was so light, I honestly felt like I had nothing on).  I’m passing plenty of walkers but I really just went internal, ignoring everything around me, checking those mile markers off.  Mile 25 and my Garmin reads 4:12. Hmmm, maybe a 4:20?  Ahh, no, my legs weren’t feeling that good!  But, I did pick it up because I really, really wanted sub 4:25.  Make the turn at 25.5 and start to see the running group tents that are set up at mile 26.  I dig deep and make the next turn, knowing that I’m nearly done.  I hit 26 miles and start to sprint but quickly slow as I got nauseous (I sometimes throw up from adrenaline rushes at finish lines).  I make the final turn and the crowd support here is awesome.  I hear my name and see my parents, cheering me on, totally unexpected!!!   I push hard, see 4:25 on my Garmin and charge as hard as I can to the finish line.  I cross at 4:25:46, 10:06 pace. 
I stumble through the chute, finding my parents, thank them numerous times for being there.  Anais found me, she finished at 4:28:something and was in very good spirits.   We thanked each other repeatedly for running with each other.  I know that I would probably slacked off and been ok with finishing worse since it wasn’t a “goal” race.  But man, I’m so glad that I didn’t. Goal race or not, it was the best marathon I’ve run in 3 years and actually, as far as running a consistent race, I think I really did well. 
I cooled down and had a quick meet up and beer with Brad.  Then I caught an Uber and met Rick and Jenny for a burger on the other side of downtown.  I really enjoy post race meet ups with my Runners World forum friends, even though I’m not active on the boards anymore. 

Next up, recover and prepare for Goofy Challenge.   Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Pamplona round two

Brett had such an amazing time running with the bulls that he really wanted to do it again, this time having a little more experience and a different game plan.  So, we were awake again at 5:30 and on the 6:00 bus to downtown.  We found the route with no difficulty this time.  I decided that I wanted to watch the festivities from inside the arena this time so we went our separate ways and I got in line to buy my arena ticket.
I get my ticket and file into the arena.  I'm on the upper deck but it's a small arena so I can still see very well.   There were some bands playing to entertain the crowd, even a traditional mariachi band.  The crowd got more and more crowded around me.  About 10 mins before the start of the race, the medical crew walked across the arena floor to thunderous applause!  They exited the arena to get to their positions along the route.  Next up, they start introducing the bulls, by name and weight (just like a boxing match), which we can see on the big screens in the arena.  The crowd is getting really excited and I'm hoping that I can see Brett running on the screen at some point.  The TV shows the runners chanting the traditional San Fermin prayer, and we hear the fireworks go off, signalling the release of the bulls from the corral.

Brett's plan this time was to start a little further up the route, just past "Dead Man's Curve", where he thought he would have a longer, less crowded route.  His plan was to run more in the center of the road, closer to the bulls.  Sounds like a great idea, right?

So the running starts and I'm watching the big screen and feeling the excitement building around me.  Within just a few minutes, the runners start to come into the arena.  You can tell that the first ones actually hadn't run with any bulls, because they were jogging, looking backwards and certainly didn't look out of breath.  But very soon, the tempo changed and the looks on the runners faces were of terror so you knew the bulls were right behind them and they were!!!  It was so exciting to see the bulls and steers come running into the arena and herd themselves to the opened gate on the far side.  Runners were still pouring into the arena but I don't see Brett anywhere yet.  And he was wearing a black long sleeved shirt so would be easy to pick out of the sea of white shirts.  But, after my experience of freaking out for no reason yesterday, I decide to just chill and enjoy the moment.  After about 10 minutes of the runners hanging around the arena floor, the announcer introduces the first bull with lots of fanfare and theme music and the bull is re-released into the arena!  The runners still on the floor either stick to the safety wall or surround the bull, egging him on, trying to get him to charge.  This just blows my mind.  They are actually pulling his tail, smacking his rump, getting right in front of him.  Insane!!  After about 5 minutes, they bring out a steer which herds the bull back to the corral.  Then another bull is released!  All this goes on for about an hour.  Now I understand why Brett stayed in the arena for so long yesterday, it was really pretty neat.  I did see many people get thrown by the bull's horns and at least one guy knocked unconscious.

After about 45 mins of this, I decided to leave to find Brett, as I never saw him in the arena.   I walk out over to our meeting spot and see him standing there.  He wasn't a happy camper either.  Apparently the police came through the area of the route that he was waiting in and cleared it of all runners.   The police basically herded all the runners past a certain point into an alley and closed a large metal door behind them, preventing the runners from getting back on the course.  Brett followed a group of guys that he thought were locals to another possible entrance but only found more locked doors and gates.  There was no way for him to get back onto the route to run.  He was really disappointed.  He tried calling and texting me so I would know not to expect him but I had my phone on airplane mode so had no idea.  Oh well, I think it's just another reason to return to Pampolna!

We caught the bus back to the hotel and packed up, grabbed a taxi to the train station.  It was pretty crowded with people so we got our tickets for the French boarder and waited.  We knew that we would need to change trains to get to our next destination, Bordeaux.  Train shows up and we pile on.   We end up sitting near a few English and Americans so I share our experiences from the weekend.  The American couple had stayed in the Hostel for the weekend and said it was completely crazy and no way to get any sleep.  I'm so glad we stayed out of the city!

The train ride was about 2 hours long and then we arrive at the end of the line.  Brett and I had assumed that we would literally just get on another train at that station to get to Bordeaux but nope, we were wrong.  The info desk lady didn't speak any English but gestured for us to go up some stairs and across a platform so we just start walking.  There are other travelers so I suggest to Brett that we just follow them so we do.  We all end up at the "colon" station (what?!) which was a metro that went to the next town where we would get on a train to Bordeaux.  Now, we actually are standing there, trying to figure this all out when a really nice young man turned to us and asked if we were Americans which of course we said yes.  He was so excited and said "Finally, someone I can talk to!!"  Jett, we found out, was from California and was backpacking his way around Europe with a friend from Nice, France.  So, we let his friend handle all the translations and directions and just followed along.  Jett and his buddy were really nice and very helpful.  We chatted a lot about his trip so far, how he liked running with the bulls this morning (he was also ushered off the course but somehow found a way to get back on) and just heard about the experience from a young person's perspective.  He slept in the park the night before and was just soaking in all the energy.  We exchanged FB info and I followed his progress the next few weeks as he basically circumnavigated the European continent.  It looked like a really amazing experience.  I did encourage him to call his mom so she would know he was safe after running with the bulls.  Brett gave him 5e as a thank you for helping us out.  
The train from the boarder to Bordeaux was another 2 hour ride and unfortunately, we were seated at a table, facing two French women who were backpacking themselves and must not have showered in quite some time.  And they kept stretching out their legs under the table, pushing our feet and legs out of the way.  It got annoying really fast so we were happy to arrive in Bordeaux.
We decided to just cab it to the hotel since we had no idea where it was.  This was the one hotel that we went pretty economical on and it showed based on the location.  But the room was clean and quite so we were fine.  
It's early evening so we walk a mile or two into the city center.  This area was very busy with tourists and shops.  The town seemed like a picturesque French town.  We found the palace, a restaurant for dinner a wine shop for a tasting.  It made for a very nice evening.  Brett also found a little restaurant that he bought a Kabab at.  We thought it would be meat on a stick type kabab but it wasn't.  It was like a steak burrito with chips inside.  Crazy looking but he really liked it.  
Drinking wine at dinner in Bordeaux!  Wearing my InB Flutter top, of course!

I liked the wine shop that we did the tasting in.  Most were closed but this was still open.  They were very busy so we didn't get to actually taste much.  I asked for a bottle of sweet wine which we bought and walked back to the room, with the intention of going back to that shop in the morning.
Walked back to the room and popped the bottle of wine open (after Brett went looking for a store that sold a corkscrew).  The wine was so sweet and thick it was nearly like drinking honey!!  But, we're not ones to let alcohol go to waste so we finished it off anyways and went to bed.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Running with the Bulls!!

Our big day started before the crack of dawn at 5:30am.  We got ready quickly and walked to the bus stop.  Even at that early  hour, we weren't alone.  And we were shocked when the bus pulled up and it was nearly full!  But most people got off, or actually stumbled off - lol!  It seemed so crazy to see people wrapping up their night at 6:00am but they were all in good moods.
We got off the bus and grabbed a baget for breakfast and followed the crowd into the mess of humanity.  BUT, we got really turned around and couldn't find the race route.  We were starting to get a little panicked when we noticed some familiar sites and found the right road.  Brett hopped the fence and I followed, kissed him and we went our separate ways.  This was the first time on our trip that we weren't together!  and it felt a little weird.  But I made my way through the massive crowd to the Arena area.   It got really mob-like and kinda scary to get out of the way but I finally found a small area that I could see the race route through the people sitting on the fence.  Speaking of people on the fence, I got there at 6:30, 90 minutes before the race was scheduled to start and could hardly find a place to see.  People must have been sitting on the 6 foot high fences for hours.  I decided that I couldn't move or I would lose my spot so I just planted my feet and stood there until the race started at 8:00am.  I updated my FB page a few times as I knew my brother and a few other people were going to be watching live on the Esquire channel, in hopes of seeing Brett.
Just call him "Brett - Bull Runner"

 This is my view.  I ended up cramming my phone between that guy's knees to video during the race.
Waiting for the race.  Glad I brought my Ink N Burn long sleeved top because it was a little cool.  Plus, I looked really cute!

The time passed pretty quickly and the crowd started to get excited.  The news crews and cameras were on, police and EMT's were stationed between the two sets of barriers and the air felt alive.  Suddenly, we heard a loud firecracker go off, which signaled the start of the race.  Eight seconds later, the six bulls and six steers (male bulls that have been castrated so they are more domicile but still HUGE) were released.  The bulls are trained to follow the steers so they all stay in somewhat of a group.  The crowd pushes forward and we start to see some people jogging on the course. But within a minute, the pace quickens and we see bulls!  I couldn't really see the bulls because of the crowd, but I could see their legs and hoofs running by.  I also saw a young lady fall against the fence and then the crowd around her stopped running and  push up against the fence.  I later found out that a bull turned around here and gored a guy in the gut!!!  And within 3 minutes, it was all done!  The bulls were herded in the arena, the police opened the road and I made my way over to our meeting spot.
I never saw Brett run past me.  I knew it would be tough to see him but I had hoped I would get a glimpse to see him.  But, looking at the video later, I could pick him out, running past.  But I never could have seen him from where I was.
A view of the crowd post race

The race from Brett's perspective:  Brett started the race about 100 yards from the starting line.  He said pretty quickly that the you could hear the bulls running and the bells on the steers ringing loudly.  He took off running and ducked around a group of people so he could safely look behind him, to see where the bulls where.  He said he looked between two people and all  he saw was a huge bull head!!!!  He jumped out and ran next to the herd for about 20 seconds or so.  He said it was Trula a "every man for himself" situation.  He kept hearing the police yelling "uno mas, uno mas" meaning 1 more so he waited for the last bull. ---  Turned out for the first time in the history of the run, a bull turned around at the starting line and ran back into the corral!  It was actually the top story on the local news, the bull that turned around and they had to put him in a truck and drive him to the arena!---

Anyways, Brett waited about 30 seconds or so for the missing bull but decided to start running as he didn't want to miss out on getting into the arena.  Once he got into the arena, he got some pictures and the bulls started being released one at a time for five minutes or so. ( I didn't know that the "party" continued with the bulls inside the arena.)  Brett said the other people would run up behind the bull and smack it or pull it's tail so the bull would turn and charge!  He started next to the wall for safety but decided it was actually safer to move into the less crowded, center part of the arena where he could move easier.  He was charged a few times but ran out of the way!  I  guess bulls really do dig their hoof into the ground before charging!  He did get tripped up a few times by others and skinned up his shin.  He stayed in the arena until the last bull finished being displayed and then left to find me.

Meanwhile, like I said, I didn't know that the party continued inside the arena so I was in our meeting area about 100 yards from the arena by 8:15 or so.  I just waited there, with a small group of drunk guys.  They kept trying to talk to me but as the time kept passing with no sign of Brett, my patience with those guys was wearing thin.  One older man named Alfredo told me to leave the area because those "guys want to make you their husband!" but I insisted that I needed to stay where I was so my husband could find me.  Alfredo even found me a seat in the nearby bar and asked me to come sit there to wait but I stayed in my spot.  The crowd was getting less dense but there was no sign of Brett (who was wearing a purple shirt to stick out from the crowd).  I send him a text to let him know I was waiting....no answer. It's 8:30 and our pre-determined "met up here or you've been gored" time was 9:00. I'm not panicking but I do start to wonder what he's doing.  I wonder how I would even know if he had been gored? How would I find out where he was if he didn't show up at 9:00??  I send another, more urgent text. It's now 8:45 and I'm really worried. And I look up and there he is, arms wide with a huge smile on his face!  I run to him and hug him so hard and just start crying!!!   Then I yank him to the bar and introduce him to Alfredo to show him that my husband was safe.  Oh and buy him a big beer to celebrate and hear his story!!

We walk and talk and talk some more.  He was so happy and excited, it seemed like he was walking on the moon.  As we walked around, we noticed the crowd was still pretty heavy but lots of people were sleeping any place that had grass and space!  It was so surreal to see and it didn't seem to be any big deal.  After all, the city doesn't have enough hotels for the crowd so sleeping in parks is the norm during this festival.  But I was glad that we could hop on a bus back to our room, which we did and took a quick nap.

After our rest, we walked around the suburb we were in and grabbed some lunch.  Then back to the city center for more partying and crowd watching and souvenirs shopping.   We went back to the good Wifi bar and they had dancing going on this evening so we enjoyed some great music and crowd watching.  Brett had another workout just trying to get drinks at the bar with the crowd!  Back to the hotel for a very, very good dinner at their restaurant (actually nearly all our meals have been really good, every place.  and the Wine.....goodness is so good!!!)

Brett had such a good time running that he wanted to go for round two the next day so we decided to do it all again Sunday!

Pamplona = bulls and booze

Up early and on the train to Pamplona!!  This was it, this was the reason we were in Europe, so Brett can run with the bulls during the San Fermin Festival , which is a major bucket item for his life!
We hopped on the train for Pamplona.  The train was super easy to find and get on and pretty comfortable.  It was really nice to just sit back and read while someone else handled the travel.  After about 2 hours, we were in Pamplona.  Our hotel was out of the main town area so we took a cab there and got checked in.  We noticed that everyone around was wearing white shirts, white pants and red scarves and sashes.  Like, EVERYONE was wearing them!
We hopped on the bus and took that downtown to the city center.  It didn't take long to find where the action was, we just followed the massive crowd!  We quickly found a souvenier shop to get the traditional outfits so we wouldn't feel out of place (it almost felt disrespectful to not be wearing the clothes!)  Brett wanted to walk the course so we wandered around the found the start line.  He was really surprised to see the uphill start so we came up with a game plan for the morning race.  We walked the 1/2 mile course which took a long time as we hit lots of shops and the crowds were insane.  At the end of the course is the Arena so we decided I would watch the race from there and we decided on a set meeting place and time as well so we could find each other.
Now, the crowds.  Man, it felt like spring break mixed with Mardi Gras mixed with NYE Times Square.  It was wall to wall people.  Everyone drinking and having a greaqt time.  Singing, chanting, pouring drinks down from the 3rd floor balcony into people's mouths, crowd serfing....basically insanity.  But the crowd was very well behaved, we saw no one get into a fight or even arguing.  The smell wasn't too pleasent as there weren't many trash cans or public bathrooms and it was at least 90*.  But, man, it was fun!!!!

We found a nice bar with really good Wifi and semi-clean  restrooms so we stayed in there for a few hours.  Made some friends with 3 guys who drove 12 hours from southern Spain for the weekend.  Between hand gestures and poor English/Spanish, we were able to have a fun time with them.
We headed back to the hotel later and were very thankful that our hotel was out of the way but comfortable and most importantly, quiet!  After all, Brett needed a good nights sleep for his run the next morning!  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hola, Barcelona!

Have I mentioned how much we loved our hotel in Barcelona?!  Well, again, we really loved it.  Slept great the first night and were up early for a short run.  I really wanted to run those steps that we had seen people the night before running so we did a quick 3 mile run in that area and back to the hotel to shower and get ready for our day.

We decided to purchase our train tickets to Pamplona first thing so we walked to the train station and found an information desk.  We told that lady that we needed 2 tickets to Pamplona for tomorrow (Friday).  She looked at us like we were crazy and shook her head saying no tickets available for direct to Pamplona.  Apparently, this festival is a big deal and many, many people go to it (sarcasm).  We had no backup plan, we didn't expect to not be able to purchase tickets.  She did suggest going to a row of ticket booths and asking them so we waited 20 panic filled minutes for our turn.  The man at the ticket window was very helpful and found us tickets for 8:15 am without any problem, whew!
Waiting for the ticket window with "Flat Mary", something my daughter made me to share in my pictures.

Fancy church with a  huge line!

So, first stop was Sagrada Familia, the famous church that has been under construction for over a hundred years.  It was very simple to find, right off the metro.  But...my God the line to enter wrapped around the building and the entrance fee was 15e.  Now, we can be cheap and thought that wasn't too bad but the potential 2 hour wait to get in killed it for us.  It would be another thing if we had a few days in Barcelona but we really just had today to do everything we wanted to do.  So, we snapped a selfie outside it and found a cafe/bar next to it for lunch.  Worked for us.

Well, this is about as good of a pic we could get.
Next up on my to-do list was to tour the Guell Park, a very famous park that featured mosaics designed by Guell.  It took a while for us to get there as it was on the outskirts of the city but we found it.  And then were told that you have to have a ticket to enter the mosaic area of the park and tickets were sold out until 3pm (it was about noon).  Talk about disappointed.  I had really, really wanted to see this park.  But I hadn't researched and had no clue that there were limited tickets available.  So, we walked around the free area, took some pics and bought some ice cream.  What else are you going to do??

We decided to take the metro back to our hotel and man, the air conditioning felt so good.  And the room was so comfortable and the Wi-fi was so fast.....we decided to stay in for the afternoon and made reservations for a very fancy dinner at the hotel's top floor restaurant for 9:30.  We had been running pretty non-stop for 7 days at this point and really needed some downtime. That evening we returned to the very excellent hotel bar that was playing VH1 videos, texted the kids a few times and enjoyed some yummy tapas and sangria.  I told Brett that I love goat cheese to which he replied "I love Kraft Singles."  You can take the man out of Indianapolis but you can't take the Indianapolis out of the man.

We had been told to check out the Magic Fountains which were near our hotel.  They light up and make a big display Thursday-Sunday, starting at 9:00.  Well, we weren't paying much attention to the time and suddenly realized that it was nearly 9:00 so we rushed out and down the road.  Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was my heels, maybe it was the sangria but when we got to the fountains, they didn't seem to magical.  So, we walked back to the hotel and went to dinner.

Wow.  The restaurant, named Visual was amazing.  360* view so we asked to be seated near a window, in view of the magic fountains.  We were sat in our own, private section.
I don't remember what we ordered but I know it was delicious (maybe duck?  or lamb?).  We enjoyed some wine, appetizers, main course and dessert as well.  It felt very nice to be fancy.  Back to the room for another good nights rest.  For tomorrow, we cross an item off Brett's bucket list!!! 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Country 3 - Spain!

We started our day early, with a run through Venice.  I wasn't going to miss out on this chance!  Brett and I were dress and ready to run by 7:15.  I knew it would be hot so I wore my Ink N Burn Wildflower tank and shorts.  And was I right!  Brett and I were sweating before we even started running!  We followed the signs for Rialto Bridge and then looked for signs for St. Mark's Plaza, which we found with no difficultly.  I had been wondering where all the runners were as I always look out for runners when I travel and now I found them.  We saw many runners along the coast by St. Marks.  This run was beautiful but man, it was not easy!  All those stairs and uneven surfaces made for a slow but memorable run.

After we finished our run, showered and enjoyed another delicious breakfast, we finished packing up and got on the Water Bus to the bus station.  We were flying out of a different airport this time, one about 45 mins from Venice.  The ticket guy asked twice if we had the right airport, Terrizo Airport, and we did.  We bought our tickets for 18e and found the bus.  We were ready to board in just a few minutes.  The driver checked our tickets and saw that they were for the town of Terrizo, not the airport in Terrizo.  He told us we could buy tickets from him for 20e but we only had 18e left (Brett had just bought a large bottle of water for 3e!)  We must have looked desperate because he let us on with the intention that we would get money at the airport.  We were so thankful for his kindness!
The bus ride was quick and painless.  We arrived at the airport and Brett found the ATM, which was out of service!  The driver at this point was pretty frustrated and just let us pay 15e and walked away.  Brett felt really bad so we found the currency exchange, got completely ripped off by the high commission and I searched for and found the driver at the cafe.  He gestured that I didn't need to pay the remaining 5e but I insisted and he relented.
Our flight to Barcelona was on Ryan Air which must be the Southwest of Europe!  No frills!!  The flight attendants were even selling scratch off tickets in the aisle!  But it was a smooth flight and on-time.
We landed in Barcelona and found the metro to the city.  It was a nice train but it didn't have a map of the line!  I had gotten a map at the airport and I knew about where our hotel was.  But we had no idea which stop to get off on.  And we couldn't understand the intercom, she was talking much too fast.  But the man next to me understood where I needed to go and he was also getting off at the same stop so we just followed him.
Our stop was actually a very, very large station.  We wandered the streets for a few minutes but found our hotel pretty easily.  And what a hotel it was!!!   Gran Hotel Torre Catalunya was one of the best hotels that we have ever stayed in and we've been lucky to stay in some very nice hotels (even a castle in Ireland!)  Brett had booked a suite and we were on the 17th floor, corner room, so we had an amazing view.  Two bathrooms with the biggest shower I've ever seen.  The bed was huge, I could roll over 6 times from end to end!  The wi-fi was free and really good (we've learned to really appreciate Wi-Fi) and the air conditioning was working.  We decided to explore the area around us and found that the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games were held nearby.  So we walked to the ground, up tons of stairs, past the National Museum and found the Olympic Village.
I couldn't help it, so many nude statutes!  Ink N Burn Pink Ink skirt.
The Olympic Flame
Some of the many, many stairs.  Plenty of runners getting their workout done here!

National Museum

It was getting late so we went back to the hotel and found their AMAZING bar!  The bartender made the best Sangria for us and even got me a big spoon to use to dig out all the alcohol infused fruit.  So good.  They were playing great music on the TV's and we even met someone from Carmel, a town about 15 miles from our home.  We did wander the streets again to find dinner and ate at some street cafe, Brett really enjoyed his rice/meat/bean/seafood type food served in a skillet!  We were pretty tired after getting up so early so we returned to the room for a very good nights sleep.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Venice Day 2

Day two in Venice.  We are up early, enjoyed a large and very good breakfast and decide to take the long way to St. Mark's Plaza, only like the largest plaza ever.  We did well getting there, got to share the roadways with mainly local commuters, walking to work.  As we got closer to St. Mark's, the stores became more and more expensive.  Prada, Gucci, Louis V....  We made a few wrong turns but found our way eventually.  The plaza was very, very large and had so many pigeons hanging around.  We walked the perimeter and decided to wait to tour St. Mark's Basilica until some of the tour groups left (we've learned to avoid tour groups!).  We found the road that goes alongside the Adriatic Sea and were soon overwhelmed with tourists.  Plenty of vendors selling things, people dressed in opera outfits charging 5e for a picture and plenty of gondolas (although those rides didn't look very relaxing as they were on open water!).  We did pass the famous Bridge of Sighs that goes between the palace and the jail, named Bridge of Sighs for the sounds the inmates would make as they were taken to prison.
Upper left - lunch next to the Grand Canal, Bridge of Sighs,
 Lower left - view from St. Mark's Campanile (bell tower), St. Mark's Campanile

It's so hot here, they had record breaking heat.  I'm so thankful that I work an Ink N Burn shirt that kept me much more comfortable than a cotton shirt would have.  I had back sweat by 9:30am!!  But this just allowed me to have gelato 3 times this day.....  
We decided not to tour the Basilica as we were just too hot for the line.  We did go up into the bell tower and got some great views of the entire city.  We wandered back to the Rialto Bridge area and ate some lunch on the Canal again.  I had been admiring the glass jewelry that is made at a nearby island and decided to purchase a nice necklace, earrings and ring set.  They are simple and I think I'll wear them a lot. Then it was back to the air conditioned room to rest up.
After showers, we found a little place for dinner.  I don't remember what I got but I do remember that Brett ordered a beer and got the 25cl size, which is basically the size of the juice glass!  My wine glass dwarfed his beer glass, it was pretty funny.

After dinner we took our gondola ride!   I had been told to take one on the smaller canals as it wouldn't be as rough as the Grand Canal.  We had passed a "stop" several times near our B&B and decided to stop this time.  Our gondolier has been a gondolier for 41 years!  He no longer lived in Venice, he said it has gotten too expensive and most locals lived on the mainland now.  He said the plazas used to be filled with kids playing soccer during the evenings but they were all empty now.  He was very good at maneuvering this 30 foot gondola around tight, 90* turns, I was very impressed and told him so.  He did say that the younger kids like the Grand Canal area but he prefers the smaller canals because they are more interesting to sail on.  I enjoyed our ride but probably wouldn't need to do it again, unless we split with a couple as it was 80e.
See my new necklace?!

 We were let off on the other side of the Grand Canal so we just used this time to do some more exploring.  I was happy to recognize some places that we had seen earlier in the day, it almost felt like we knew where we were going.  We did find where we would get on the water bus (much cheaper than the water taxi) the next day and ended up eating another late dinner at a family run restaurant that was delicious.  Brett had the best lasagna I've ever tasted, it had a yummy cream sauce instead of tomato sauce.  So good.  We found our way back to the B&B, petted the alley cats and fell into bed.

Day 3 - Venice!

The next leg to our adventure was Venice, Italy, the city with all the canals.  Woo-hoo!!

We got a late start due to the extra bottle of wine at the Eiffel Tower (ugh) but took the metro to Charles de Gaul airport where we flew to Venice, Italy.  It was a short flight, only a few hours.  We landed at Marco Polo airport just outside Venice.  It's a very small airport so I talked to the bus ticket lady while Brett got the luggage.  She said we could take the bus to the terminal in Venice and then take a water taxi right to our B&B.  Sounds good to us so we do that.  Bus ride was simple and we get let off at the edge of Venice.

Now, looking back at our planning, we should have researched how to get from airports to hotels better.  Or at least had maps.  But we didn't.   So, we are standing in the 95* heat with our bags at the edge of a canal connected town, without a map or any clue how to get to our B&B.  We do find a water taxi and show him the address.  He quotes us 60e!!!  What!!!???  We walk away to regroup and find an ATM.  This is when an English couple approaches us and asked what he had quoted us.  They had just been told 50e.  We debate and decide to see about riding together and splitting the cost.  Now the taxi guy wants 80e because it's two stops, even though both stops are in the same "neighborhood", San Paolo.   We argue some to which Mr. Water Taxi informs us that "walking is free."  Huh.  Well, the lady in the couple and I look at each other and basically tell our husbands that we're not pulling luggage behind us, up and down bridges on cobblestone streets,  searching for our hotels.  So, we pay up.

We are dropped off right at the dock that's at the end of the alley that our B&B is located at.  It felt a little weird to wander down the alley but the addresses were right and we soon found the Ca' Angeli B&B, a very nice B&B run by two brothers.  We were warmly greeted (by the owner and the local cats) and showed our room, which was on the top floor and had a private roof top patio.  
The private rooftop patio at our B&B

We unpacked and freshened up.  I talked to the owner about what he recommended that we do in our short time in Venice.  He recommended St. Mark's Plaza and the Rialto Bridge area.  So, we set off to explore.  
Venice is made up of 6 neighborhoods and like 200 islands.  The Grand Canal separates the two sides of Venice and there are only 3 bridges that cross the Grand Canal.  But each little island is connected by 180 smaller bridges.  This is not a city that is handicap accessible, not a ramp to be seen and each bridge had at least 10 stairs up and down!  They don't allow bikes, skateboards, roller skates or cars.  Nothing with wheels.  The roads are maybe 8 feet wide and most are narrow enough that you can touch both sides with outstretched arms.  There are so  many dead ends and T's that you really feel like you're in a maze!!  And I loved it.  I really, really did.  I have a good sense of direction and am really good with a map so this was like the ultimate test for me.  It was awesome.   
We decided to explore  and find some dinner.  We soon found our way to the famous Rialto Bridge.  I was so disappointed that it was under a major re-construction project so we didn't get a good view of it.  So here is a picture of what it normally looks like:

 We figured we'd be very touristy and pay the premium to eat at an outdoor cafe' on the canal.  I mean, come on, we are tourists and we wanted to do it!  I ordered spaghetti, which came in a garlic butter sauce (so good!!) and Brett ordered what we thought were scallions but ended up being very thinly sliced pork chops with ham on top.  He was disappointed but drowned his feelings in his very large beer (even after the waiter asked twice if Brett was sure he wanted the large beer).  I got a Spritz, which was like orange fango with white wine mixed in.  It was ok.

After dinner, we explored the area around our B&B some more. It seems to be off a "major" road with lots of tourist type shops.  I did find some gelato while Brett found some pizza and beer.  We were a happy couple as we wandered our way back to the B&B.  Time for some much needed sleep.   

Paris Day 2

Sunday morning and we are up early.  I knew it would be packed at the Eiffel Tower so we took the metro straight there, grabbed a Nutella crepe from a street cafe and got in line.  After a little debate, we decided to get in line for the stairs rather than the elevator, why not?  Plus the line was shorter....  While waiting in line, I'm amazed by the number of runners that are out for their Sunday morning run, just going around the huge lines, making their way to the park or street or wherever.  As a runner myself, I always notice runners and felt some jealously.  I tell Brett that we're running under the Eiffel Tower tomorrow morning.
We pay our euros and start walking up the tower.  It's not too bad, we are both in really good shape and had good shoes on.  Reach the first floor and continue to the 2nd floor.  At this point, you have to buy another ticket to take the elevator to reach the top.  After a little confusion with this part, we purchase our ticket and get in line for the elevator. Its all pretty well organized.
We reach the top pretty quickly and were very impressed by the views.  It's the tallest structure in the area by far.  You can see the Arc, the Louvre, all sorts of bridges, the whole city was spread out below us.  And we noticed that there was a triathlon going on in the streets directly below us so that was cool to watch for a little bit.  After getting our fill of the view, we took the elevator back to the 2nd floor and decided to grab a snack at the cafe.  Brett got a bretzel, which was a sugary donut shaped like a pretzel.  Weird but yummy.  I got a glass of wine and felt pretty cool sitting on the Eiffel Tower at 9am drinking my wine.  The cafe had a swing area set up so we sat and swung and drank.  Plus, I gotta say, I looked pretty cool and was comfortable in my Ink N Burn black lace top and capris.  I bought them especially to wear in Paris this past spring.
Next we decided to go to the Musee' d'Orsay, which was recommended by several people.  Well, it was packed.  The whole courtyard, plaza was jammed with people.  We decided that we didn't want to spend our day at a crowded museam, which was why we didn't go to the Louvre.  We decided to find the Rodin Museum knowing that was a smaller museum, most of which was outside.  So, we googled and located it and walked there.  But first, we crossed the Lock Bridge and bought a lock, wrote our names on it and tossed the key into the river.  I don't think it was the original Lock Bridge but I think the sales guys and tourists just started a new one.
We enjoyed our walk to the museum, finding a little store along the way for a baguette and 1e beer for Brett (he's still trying to recoup his 50e loss to the gypsies the night before).  The museum was just around the corner and we were very happy to find that it was free admission day!  Just making that 50e back a little at a time!
The museum was cool, we liked several of the sculptures but really were impressed by the "Thinker."  As a kid, my parents had mini Thinker in their house so to see the original one was a really cool experience.
Next up, we got ourselves to Notre Dame Cathedral!  It was packed, as expected, but the line went really fast.  It was so beautiful inside and out.  The stained glass was insane.  I think we both really enjoyed this cathedral.  Pictures can't do it justice.
Next we decided to walk to the Louvre, just to take a look around the grounds.  Holy cow, it's massive.   Unbelievable that it was once a palace, it was HUGE!!!  The courtyard wasn't busy but once we walked to the main entrance area, there were lots of tourists around.  I checked out the glass pyramid entrance area, imagining the DaVinci Code being filmed here.  Alas, I did not see Tom Hanks running around, searching for Mary's bones.....

We grabbed the metro here and returned the to the hotel.  It was about 3:00 and we had been going non-stop since before 8:00am.  Time to shower and decided dinner.  I wanted to take a dinner cruise on the Seine during sunset.  So we dressed up a little and went back to the Eiffel Tower as that seemed to be the main place for cruises.  We found the docking area and asked every company but everyone was sold out.  Totally bummed.  But we did find a company that had dinner at their restaurant next to the dock, followed by the 30 mins cruise.  So, that's what we did.  Our dinner was very good, I had lamb and we split a bottle of wine.  We took our time and got on the cruise after we finished eating.  I LOVED the cruise!  It was too crowded to sit upstairs on the boat so we stayed on the main floor at the back.  That worked perfect, not crowded and we got some great pictures.

After the cruise, we walked around a little bit (I played "Mary had a Little Lamb" on the outdoor piano) and made our way up to the Eiffel Tower.  But, not before encountering more gypsies playing the 3 shell game.  Brett was still steamed about losing this the day before so we just walked up the stairs next to them.  Then I thought, hey, that was a funny story and I didn't even get a picture of the event so I'll get a picture of this group playing instead.  I get my phone out and start to move to the side to take a picture.  The head Cheater notices instantly and completely loses his mind!!!!   He starts screaming, flipping me off with both hands and screaming "No Pictures, No F***ING PICTURES!!!!"  Whoa, talk about a flip out!  I put my phone down (so mad I didn't take the picture) and tell him, "Fine, no pictures" and I turn away.  Brett, being the husband he is and still being steamed about the day before, yells back at the guy, telling him not to yell at me and disrespect me.  Well, Cheater's friend starts to take a step or two towards Brett but backs away, clearly realizing that he can't afford to get into it with a tourist.  Obviously, the shells game is illegal, which is why they didn't want pictures.  Well this just gives Brett more confidence and he and Cheater yell back and forth at each other until finally Brett walks away (I had walked away a few minutes earlier, I didn't want to get arrested!).  Brett gets to the top of the stairs and starts chanting "USA, USA, USA!!"  I'm mortified and pull him away.  What a story we have now....
So, we walk over to the Eiffel Tower, buy a $30 bottle of wine from some guy walking around with a bucket of wine and plastic cups and find a spot to sit in the grass.  The tower is lit up beautifully and even Brett, who didn't even want to come to Paris, admits that it's pretty cool looking.  The park was getting very full with other tourists, waiting for the light show that starts at 11:00.  We took this time to call the kids really quick and tell them what we were doing.  Then, all of a sudden, the tower light show started!  Tons of strobe lights going off, up and down the tower.  It was amazing and totally gorgeous. I'm so glad that we got to see this, it was really, really neat.  A great way to finish off our time in Paris.
Next up - Venice!!!