I ran the Marathon du Médoc- the world’s craziest (and most fun) marathon

I heard the singing behind me getting louder and louder. Suddenly a man, singing loudly in French, squeezed between my friend and me. We laughed when we realized he was wearing nothing but a wig and thong along with his running shoes. I moved over to give him more room, but quickly jumped back over as I realized that I was about to get run over by a large number of people dressed as chickens pushing a giant chicken float. And this was just the first kilometer! Welcome to the Marathon du Medoc, I thought as I smiled and picked up my pace.

My friend Amy and I for years would joke that the Marathon du Médoc was the only marathon we’d ever run. It’s 26.2 miles through the vineyards of Bordeaux, France featuring 23 stops for wine tasting and food like oysters, steak, and ice cream. Oh, and all this has to be done in a costume based on the year’s theme. I mean, if you’re going to run a marathon this should be the one, right?!! Then last year the joking became serious; let’s do it! we said to each other.

Continue reading “I ran the Marathon du Médoc- the world’s craziest (and most fun) marathon”

Ironman 70.3 Traverse City race review and why you too should do a relay

Guys! Traverse City is going to host a half Ironman next year! Who’s going to sign up?

That’s the text message that started it all over a year ago. Nicole, my trainer, had just found out that Traverse City, Michigan would be hosting an Ironman 70.3 in 2019 and wanted a bunch of us who train with her to sign up. But most of us, having never completed a half Ironman before, weren’t too quick to jump on that and, as it was Traverse City’s inaugural Ironman, the race sold out very fast. Nicole was in, we were out.

Fast forward to June 2019 and we received another text from Nicole:

Continue reading “Ironman 70.3 Traverse City race review and why you too should do a relay”

Stay off Strava: the rollercoaster ride of an injury

It was just a short easy run. Our big race was over and we were enjoying a few weeks of easy. My friends and I, having just finished a swim, set off on a 5 mile run. We ran together, joking and reliving all the fun moments of the Ironman 70.3 we had all completed just two weeks earlier. On a long flat section of sidewalk, I stepped on a rock and slipped off of the sidewalk which was raised about three inches off of the ground. My ankle twisted off the sidewalk and I fell, seemingly in slow motion, down. All the way down. And in that quick few seconds, my life changed.

Continue reading “Stay off Strava: the rollercoaster ride of an injury”

Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga- and I Didn’t Drown!!

This is a much longer post than normal, but I wanted to record my thoughts. I also spent a lot of time reading blogs about other people’s experiences leading up to this race, so I hope this might motivate someone or help them feel less nervous about their first race.

After months of training the day was finally here; I was about to do my first half triathlon.

My nerves were high as I walked the few blocks from my hotel room to the transition area of the race. When I arrived the whole scene had an otherworldly feel to it. At 5am, it was still very dark, so temporary lights had been set up to illuminate the entire transition area which held 2700+ bikes. A man with a megaphone announced over and over “you must be marked before you can enter transition”, while a seemingly never-ending line of people quietly boarded buses that would fill and pull away. It all had the feel of something much more sinister than a race!

Continue reading “Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga- and I Didn’t Drown!!”

My First Ironman and my Biggest Surprise

“Is this your first time? Oh, you’ll always remember your first one!”

I have received questions and comments like this quite often over the past few weeks. People are very excited when they realize I am about to do my first half Ironman. This first Ironman, the Chattanooga 70.3, is coming up – this Sunday in fact. I’m excited and nervous and scared and really, just ready to get it over with!

Last August I was running with my trainer Nicole and she encouraged me to sign up for a half Ironman. “I know you can do it”, she said. The swimming portion scared me to death, but I was in. My heart pounded and I felt sick to my stomach as I registered for the Ironman 70.3 in Chattanooga, but I was excited to have a real challenge. With the right training I was pretty sure I would survive it…hopefully.

Continue reading “My First Ironman and my Biggest Surprise”

There’s always time for a cave adventure

The cave we were exploring made a sharp turn to the left and narrowed so that we had to crawl through this new passage. We continued down it, my son going first. Soon we came to a room large enough to stand up in. My son went in and, just as I was about to enter, he turned around and began crawling out crying, ” Quick! Turn around!”

Earlier that day my oldest son and I met in the kitchen, each looking for something eat. We realized that we were both home for the rest of the day; me with a day off from work and he had finished a final at school and was home early. The December day, which had started off with bright blue skies, was now gray but fairly warm. We decided then and there that it was time for a mini adventure, so we did a quick wardrobe change and 10 minutes later we were off in search of a couple caves we had heard about.

Continue reading “There’s always time for a cave adventure”

Mountains: Eastern or Western, which is your favorite?

I step out of the car, ready for a short hike. Immediately soft, warm air wraps itself around me; a silky hug as if to say “welcome back”. I take a deep breath of cedar-scented air and smile. This is home. This feels right.

This is my first hike since returning from a vacation out west in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s beautiful there and we had such a great time. Every turn as we drove and hiked those mountains was awe-inspiring. We used words like “dramatic”, “breathtaking”, and “majestic” to describe what we saw. I think of those mountains as I begin my hike.

Continue reading “Mountains: Eastern or Western, which is your favorite?”

Hiking with boys

The other day I found myself on a hike different from any other I’ve ever taken; I went on a hike with just my two boys. We are a family of six with two boys and two girls, alternating boy-girl-boy-girl, so it’s just not a combination that has happened in the past.

I’m used to hiking with our entire family, the kids running ahead while my husband and I lag behind until our youngest usually ends up joining us. Or sometimes it’s just the kids and me, off on some adventure. On these hikes, my oldest daughter often hikes with me and we have civilized girl-type conversations or, often with her, just walk along in silence enjoying the day and scenery. But, hiking with just boys is…well…let’s just say different!

Continue reading “Hiking with boys”

In search of frozen waterfalls

I stood on a narrow strip of ground and looked at the ice beneath my feet. The ravine was deep here. On one side of me was the creek, snow and ice covered cliffs on the other. I gingerly stepped forward and began to slip. Inhaling sharply, I grabbed at the rock next to me only to get a handful of icicle. “Mom!”, came a yell from behind me and I realized that the kids had followed even though I had told them to wait while I checked things out first. “Well, were all in this together now”, I thought and continued to gingerly make my way forward.

Continue reading “In search of frozen waterfalls”

The secret of Old Stone Fort State Park

Early American hunters and traders traveling ancient, well-trodden paths in what is now Middle Tennessee, came upon a stone structure built on a peninsula created by the confluence of two rivers. Rock and earthen 4-6 foot high walls boarded the entire peninsula. This “old stone fort”, as they believed it to be, sat high on bluffs carved out by fast moving rivers and was protected by a moat on one side. They wondered who had built the impressive structure; thinking perhaps it was Buccaneers or Vikings or some other group of early Europeans, but no one knew for sure. The answer, when it was learned, shocked everyone.

January 1st, 2018. Everything always seems so new and fresh and hopeful on January first, as though anything’s possible. I like to start the year with an adventure, hoping it will set the tone for the rest of the year. So, each year, our family does a First Day Hike. State Parks across the country offer these ranger-led hikes as a way to get out, explore, and start the new year right. This year we chose Old Stone Fort State Park.

The day was bitterly cold; wind-chills hovering in the single digits. Usually our entire family goes, but this year because of some sick kids and husband, only my 16 year old son and I ventured out. I bundled up- long underwear, multiple layers of clothes, wool socks, hat, two pair of gloves, face mask, boots, and hand warmers- so that when I was finished, only my nose was showing. My son threw on a fleece, hat, and gloves because he “doesn’t get cold”, and we were off.

I had often passed the brown signs on the highway for Old Stone Fort State Park, but this was our first time at the park. We arrived and went into the museum where I was surprised to see so many people waiting to go on the hike on such a cold day. We all signed in, finished putting on hats and gloves and scarfs and boots, met the ranger, and were off, back into the cold. There ended up being 41 people and 1 dog on the hike which made me happy to see that so many others liked the tradition as much as we did, cold and all!

The hike was a 3 mile loop that followed the rivers. The peninsula that the park is created around is formed by the confluence of the Duck River and Little Duck River. This river system spills over a shelf in the Cumberland Plateau known as the Highland Rim and rapidly drops in elevation as they approach their convergence. This has led to deep gorges cut in the limestone around the peninsula. There are a series many rapids and waterfalls, one of which was our first stop. This was the site of one of a few mills and factories that were built along the river in the 1800s, harnessing the Duck River’s power. We all took picture as the biting wind blew off the water, and then quickly moved along.

The hike continued, heading down now out of the wind, to the fork of the Duck and Little Duck River. We turned to now follow the Little Duck River whose banks were edged with ice as were rocks protruding from the middle of the river. Yet it was a beautiful location. High bluffs behind the river gave privacy to the boulder and tree lined river. It was the perfect spot to wile away a warm summer day- hammock strung between two trees, fishing, napping, and enjoying the peaceful sounds of the river and forest. But not on January 1st! My son and I vowed to come back in the summer!

The Little Duck turns sharply here, forming a horseshoe. We followed it until we came to the base of a narrow ridge. The trail turned and we began to climb away from the river up the spine of the ridge. We could now see why the trail we were on is named Backbone Trail. We hiked along the narrow ridge, the river far below us on both sides. Then it was back down the spine.

Back in the bottom of the forest again, we reached the Moat Trail; a narrow flat open section. This was where early settlers thought the ancient moat that protected the fort was located. But it never was a moat at all! Our ranger told us that they actually think the Little Duck River once flowed here before, at some point, it rerouted to where it is now. We followed the moat/riverbed for awhile and then the trail turned and climbed sharply. This is the steepest section of the trail, heading up and out back to the Old Stone Fort high on the peninsula. The trail continued with the open grassy area that was the supposed fort on our left and the river flowing through rapids and more waterfalls far below us on the right.

And then we learned the truth! This was not an old stone fort as was once thought, but rather an ancient ceremonial site dating back to 30-430AD. Native Americans, not Europeans, had built this gradually over several hundred years. This was before the tribes of Native Americans that we know today even existed. It is thought that no one ever lived here, but would journey to the location for ceremonies. They have found that the sun rises perfectly down the center of the path into the site during the Summer Solstice. A very sophisticated design well before it was thought there were sophisticated people in the United States! Now a great state park with a completely misleading name!

You can learn more about the park here. Go and visit it, you won’t be disappointed!