Monday, May 30, 2011

Proud of my Country

Today, as I rode through the small rural towns of Iowa,  I was extremely touched and humbled by how the citizens of the communities honor those who have fought for our freedom, for our 'God given rights' and the rights of others.  In small cemeteries throughout the entire area, Old Glory stood guard above the graves of those who had passed, watching over them. Not just one flag, but many, many  waved in the morning sky, the wind blowing them to attention in tribute to our soldiers.  In town after town, cemetery after cemetery, the gravesides were lovingly decorated with flowers and flags, and tombstones decorated with commemorative plaques.  The flag-lined streets were also lined with townsmen, all waiting for the parade of veterans to lead them to these cemeteries and participate in a ceremony of remembrance--- a solemn service of respect and honor for those that fought for our freedom, and our ideals of those freedoms.

Living in a large city, in a fast paced life, it is very easy to forget what this day is truly about. To many, it is merely a day off work, it's origination and meaning lost.  Today was truly a day to reflect what it is to be an American, and to be in gratitude for those who protect that privilege.

'And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!'

Thank you.....

One of many celebrations of honor, remembrance and gratitude.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Up and Over

I went birdwatching today.  I saw scarlet tanigers, gold finches, robins, titmouses, lots of redwing blackbirds, towhee, and a Baltimore oriole.  Unfortunately, this was all roadkill! I've never seen so many birds on the side of the road before.  Given the chorus of different songs I hear as I ride along, I know the area is thickly populated, but usually these flying Pavarottis manage to avoid moving vehicles.  One bird  I saw today that was especially exquisite, and alive, was a bald eagle.  He circled over head for a while, looking for prey...we didn't qualify....was attacked by a smaller bird, then winged away, looking for richer fields for hunting.  What a majestic bird; I am so glad it is our national bird instead of the turkey.  I saw several of those yesterday; they were scratching in the dirt looking for comparison.

Today we rode from LaCrosse to Prairie du Chien...the town's name literally means dogs of the prairie...or prairie dog.  I haven't seen any, dead or alive.  It was an unexpected challenging 70 mile ride, and yes, I did get lost...but only because the cue sheet was wrong.  I appreciate the mistake as I rode down into McGregor, WI... the home of the Ringling Bros.  What a cute town!  They were having a big street fair.  I saw some 'interesting' sites there, but the pictures below best illustrate them.
A clown, of course, since this is the home of the Ringling Bros.
This little house was built into rock on the side of a bluff (aka a cliff). It was used for a jail, among other things
So after browsing around there for awhile and checking out the street fair, I pulled my Iphone out and got directions to the hotel.  It was back the way I had just come, and across the bridge over the Mississippi River. (Oh, gads, another bridge!)  Even with the detour, I was in long....long before anyone else, even the van and guides.  So with nothing to do, I went to a pub and had a Bud Lime and cheese curds, (I am in Wisconsin, after all....when in Rome...).

It's not surprising that no one else was in.  It was a tough day; it was very windy, and in the morning the rollers were gentle, 2-5% grades.  After about mile 45, though, those climbs turned into 6 miles of 8-10% grades, and my bike would not shift into my 'granny' gears.  (The easiest of the three chain rings).  So I muscled my way up. My legs felt like rubber.  I did stop a the Effigy Mounds.  The ranger said it was about a mile walk to the mounds, and I said....well, you can guess what I said....I'll look at them on the internet.

Good scenery today....enjoy the pictures.

Interesting yard art.  I loved the contrast of the rusty bikes and sandstone.
The Mississippi is a little high.  

At one time, this was someone's pride and joy.  Wonder what stories it could tell.
Honoring our Fallen in Harper's Ferry
One of many smaller roller we shared with farm equipment
Wild flowers along the railroad track
Tree that looked like something out of Wizard of Oz.  
Unusual, yet striking church in the middle of nowhere.

The ride was tough....I was hallucinating. 

Enjoy---SAG duties call.  See you tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Path Less Travelled.

If one were to put a gps on me to track my path, I am afraid it wouldn't make much sense.  I truly don't understand how someone with above average intelligence can have so much trouble following directions!  I even argue with the Garmin and, deciding that I am right, take the wrong turn.  (That truly is something that makes you go 'hmmm')  Obviously, today was no exception.  Our route should have only taken us 70 mile; I logged 85.  Sigh....  Thank goodness I can ride fast to compensate for the extra mileage.

It all started when I decided to ride the Great River Trail instead of sticking to the road. (We had a choice of two routes today).  I entered the trail at the Marshland trail head a few minutes behind Bev.  I could see her in front of me, but chose to hang back so I could experience the sounds and sights of nature alone.  The road was a loose gravel, but enough was worn away to make it ride-able, even on a road bike.  It was a feast for the eyes and ears.  
 The feeling of ecstasy described in that video clip was short lived. Bev and I wound our way through the park; coming to yet another fork in the road, we referred to the gps on my bike computer, and went left.  Soon, however, we realized that we were back where we had started....we had been going in circles, and I had not idea how to get to where we needed to be.  At that point, I knew how to get back on the road at the point at which I had left it.  I told Bev I was going back that way and taking the road into the hotel, (which was still was still about 35 miles away).  Bev, on the other hand, chose to continue trying to find her way on the trail.  I just felt like Hansel and Gretel in the evil woods, except I wasn't dropping bread crumbs.  So down the road I went, alone.  Somehow everything seems further and harder when cycling alone.  I rode without seeing anyone for so long that I began to wonder if I was lost, but finally, after making the last turn before coming to the SAG stop, I ran into Mary and Jeanette puzzling over the cue sheet.  None of us knew exactly where we were, more specifically, where the SAG was.  We knew where the hotel was, so that's where we headed...down a busy highway.  As we passed a Dairy Queen, out came the group with whom I had been riding before I decided to go on the trail.  We regrouped, and darn if we didn't get lost!!!  We rode the bike paths of most of LaCrosse, I think, before we found our way.  And that only happened because we got off the bike trails we were supposed to take, used my map app on my Iphone, and rode in on the street. 

Still no sign of Bev.....   She did come in some time after us, and said the trail was wonderful.

Marsh grasses in protected area

Turtle Crossing

Another Turtle crossing
For Diana....only the best designers in Winona
Beautiful county courthouse in Winona, MN
Gargoyle on the courthouse
Houses on docks on the Mississippi
We had to cross the bridge over the Mississippi to cross over to Wisconsin.  Anyone that knows me, knows how terrified I am of high bridges. This one had me in tears as we had to take the pedestrian walk way right next to the edge.  Even though there was no way I could fall in, I was hyperventilating and crying....a big thanks to Donna who walked beside me so I couldn't see the edge, and made me laugh all the way across.
Wheat...the variations of green were beautiful
Feminist movement in reverse.....
Going to bed...not going to proof read.  Let me know of any errors you might find.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Should I Call This Post?

I had a lot of time to think about what to write about today.  I was the SAG driver, and the riders were very strung out on the 84 mile route--often two hours or more between when the first ones left and the last ones arrived. That was a lot of 'wait' time, and hence, time to think.  What did I come up with to write...........I forget.  Whatever it was, it seemed like a good idea at the time, though!

It was a perfect day to ride--beautiful weather, beautiful roads beautiful countryside.  Hopefully all will be duplicated tomorrow when I am back on my bike.

What I missed today while I sagged, besides the picture perfect riding were:
  1. Riding the Afton Alps
  2. Seeing the widest  point in the Mississippi River--6 miles across. I may have seen it, but I am not busy looking for my 'sheep' and watching traffic.
  3. Seeing the world's largest boot in Red Wing, MN.  (but I've seen the big shoe in front of Brown Shoe Co, so anything else would pale)
  4. Visiting the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, but I did see wild turkeys--they look just like the Thanksgiving pictures!
  5. Eating lunch....lots of food in the SAG wagon though. 
  6. A train the had a sign on it that said 'No Humping"  (things that make you go 'hmmm')
All in all, though, it was a lovely day, whether in the car chasing riders or on a bike.  I am looking forward to riding tomorrow; cross your fingers that I will get the same weather we had today!!


    Blippity, blip, blip

    I just lost the whole post I had nearly completed, so, dear reader, tonight there will be a big fat nothing in my blog!  It was a long day of SAG driving, so I will sign off instead of trying to duplicate my witty writing....   Perhaps, in my dreams, I will compose the blog to end all blogs.  Night all!

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Things that Make You Go "Hmmm"

    Call it a curious mind, call being cynical, but sometimes I run across things that seem to defy logic, (my logic, anyway) and I can't help but to mentally scratch my head and go "hmmmm".

    One such incident occurs in the picture I took below.  Take a close look at it and see if you can figure out why I would label it "Things that make you go 'hmmm'

    It's a sandal, right? what is wrong with this picture?  (Besides wearing socks with sandals, but in this case it is ok because they are riding sandals)  Give up??  Scroll down and take a closer look.
    Waterproof sandals!!!!  Why?  Things that make you go hmmmmm.

    I saw this sign at a grill where we stopped for lunch.....
    Really?  Parents have to be told not to drink and drive with their children???   Things that make you go 'hmmm'

    Minnesota truly promotes wild life and has bird houses on every fence post a long the Nature Rd.  Take a look at this bird house.....specifically, look at the post
    The post was all burned did that happen?  Things that make you go 'hmmm'.

    This is the back of the SAG wagon...BoPeep, we call her because she gathers up all the 'lost sheep'.  Look at all the food in there.

    There was more on the hood.  How am I ever going to lose weight on this trip?  Things that make you go 'hmmm'.

    This sign just made me laugh......
    The restaurant posted all the returned checks here......things that make you go 'bahahahaha'.

    Got any good things that make you go 'hmmmm'?  Leave'em in the comment area so we can all ponder the irony.....

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Of Mice and Men

    Today was our first long ride of the trip--106 miles of smooth roads, nice weather and beautiful country. Last night,  I carefully laid out my biking clothes and all the paraphenalia that accompanies a ride of that mileage. (electrolytes, cues sheets, bike get the idea).  I was ready; I was organized and my execution of the ride well planned.  I expected it to be about a 7 hour trip and went to bed knowing I was well prepared.

    Ah..."the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry".... This phrase, originates in a poem by Robert Burns. It tells of him plowing a field, and accidentally destroying the nest of a field mouse in the process. The phrase illustrates that despite careful preparation, things don't always go as planned.

    I experienced that this morning when I awoke at the sound of my alarm and found my back in spasm.  Moving gently, I stretched and flexed to loosen it, then slowly got out of bed. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I turned around to answer a question my room mate, Rita, had asked me, and winced as pain shot through my lower back, radiating across my hips. I had had soreness the last couple of days, and yesterday had experienced electric like sensations down my left leg as I rode, but chose to ignore it, thinking it would work itself out.  Clearly, today, I had better listen to what my body had been trying to tell me.  So the well laid plans from last night changed....I decided  that I was not going to ride today, but rest my back instead.  I suspect the pain is not the result of cycling, but the lifting involved with moving my luggage and lifting heavy items while SAGging.  (I have a bulging disk, L5 on S1)  With the next three days out of the saddle (today, a rest day, then a day of driving SAG), I should be ready to resume pain-free pedaling on Friday without losing much mileage.  (As long as I am throwing cliches around, let me just say that 'it is not the destination but the journey, right?)   I learned on last year's cross country ride to listen to my body when it talks to me....a little preventative pampering now will avert much more misery later!  So here I am, actually having some free time!  Woohooo!!

    I spent part of the morning navigating for the SAG, Karen Cooper.  She should have left me at the hotel; I got her lost TWICE in 20 miles!  I don't know why I am so directionally challenged and dyslexic.  I always managed to get where I want to go; sometimes it just takes a little longer....remember, 'it's not the destination, but the journey', right?  It's a good thing I didn't have to take a cue sheet reading test before I signed on to be a SAG driver.   Anyway, I figure those wrong turns were a good way to make sure that none of the riders were off course.... (believe that and I have some land in Florida I can sell to you...)  We did see some interesting sites on our off beaten path. 
    Pretty, but abandoned barn in the early morning light

    A boat with little dingies that we saw while 'lost'.  Whose dingy?

    Karen, still smiling after I got her lost.  Lifting that full water cooler has played havoc with my back.

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Gray Overhead with Blue Skies on the Horizon

    Woke up this morning to the news of the devastating tornadoes in the surrounding areas.  We had thunder, lightening, and rain during the night, but not tornadoes, thank goodness.  The morning was cool and glum, which made me indecisive as to how to dress.  When in doubt, under dress and be slightly cold before 'take off'.  Today, was a recovery day....a day to ride gently and let the muscles relax and, well, recover.  It was a 56 mile day, with some added bonus miles because I missed a turn.....seems to be a reoccurring theme, doesn't it? 

    My first stop was once again to the flood gates to watch the gushing water of the Mississippi River.  Because of the ran, the engineers were opening more gates while we were there.  Warning whistles and red lights flashed in preparation.  It was an incredible sight.  A local told us that in July the water is so low that one can walk across it on rocks and not get your feet wet.  Not today! If you compare the video on yesterday's post to this one, I think you will be able to see how much the water rose overnight.

    My bike at the flood gates
    The summer home of Charles Lindenberg is located here in Little Falls, MN, right on the Mississippi. It is now a state park.  His father immigrated from Sweden, where he was a big wig in the Swedish government and quite wealthy.  So his son was born with a silver spoon.  Do you suppose if his son,  the Lindenberg baby,  hadn't been kidnapped, he would be so well remembered?

    Anyway, the weather was perfect and the ride down The Great River Road and Nature Rd was very pretty,,,and easy. 

    Early morning spin down the Great River Road, which runs parallel to the Mississippi.

    A Mississippi tributary swollen over its banks.

    Blue skies on the horizon

    On the road, dogs often chase us.  Some just bark at us from a distance, some run to the property line and stop there to bay at us, others chase us snapping furiously.  Today, a german shepard mix bounded out from a yard.  He didn't bark, but did chase us.  At least, I thought he was chasing us.  Instead, he ran beside us for over two miles; he wanted to be part of the fun!  We stopped at a restaurant, and he tried to join us there, too.  He was a young dog, very sweet, very friendly and well trained.

    I asked some locals that came in behind us if the dog was still out there, and they answered, "you mean the speed bump?".  Not funny.

    Gotta get to bed.  106 mile tomorrow....I'm not even gonna proofread this--I should, though.  I've had a lot of interruptions tonight.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.....

    You know what I said yesterday about enjoying the arrival of spring in Minnesota....forget I mentioned it.  Today I rode 82 miles, most of it in the rain.....sometime very hard rain, with thunder rumbling in the distance and tornado warnings in neighboring counties.  The first 20 miles, however, were ridden in beautiful weather, at a conversational pace, enjoying the company of some of the fine ladies on this tour.  We even had took time to pet some horses.  Check out this beautiful Appaloosa...
    That's our Aussie feed the Appy an apple.

    I rode with my good friend Karen for a while.......that's a shower cap she is wearing over her helmet to keep her head dry.  Unfortunately, less than an hour later, we were in heavy rain, and the shower cap didn't make much difference.

    The scenery is breathtaking in its pureness.  The aspen woods are filled with blooming trillium and wild daffodils.  

    As always, loose dogs are a hazard and prevalent in the country.  Had it not been for one particularly noisy, but lazy dog, I would never have noticed this Amish farm.  I had to stop and take a picture.  As I did, I noticed the curtains moving, and realized I was being watched.  I am not sure what the inhabitants thought of us  spandexed clad women out riding on a Sunday morning instead of observing the Sabbath, but then again, they weren't in church either.  (Unless they had gone and come home already, but it was only around 9:30)  I thought it was particularly sad that this homestead was up for sale.

    Once the rain began, my little internal voices were again telling me that I didn't have to do this....that I could take it easy and catch a ride in the van.  I read an interesting essay a few weeks ago that talked about quitting mentally or physically.  The mind gives you a choice, and you choose; when the body quits, however, it can go no further....  Today was one of those days.  Though I was getting tired, my mental atittude was a tug of war of continuing or quitting.  Riding in the rain is not pleasant, unless I choose it to be.  Making that mental shift from one of drudgery to pleasure makes a huge difference.  So I shifted my attitude.  If the cows and horses can stand in the rain all day and not mind it, then so can I.  Those animals, however, have fur that keeps them warm...perhaps I should stop shaving my legs.  Anyway, accepting that I was going to get wet, be wet and deciding 'so what' made all the difference.  The ride was very pleasant once that was done.

    happy cows.         

    I crossed the Mississippi for the first time today.  We are close to the headwaters,  where it begins.  The river is very swollen and angry; I feel for those living down river as the rain keeps coming and the river keeps getting bigger and faster.   The floodgates were open in the town of Little Falls, and despite the pelting rain, I took a short detour to look at it. The following video doesn't not show the sheer power  and rush of the escaping water. I wish the video was longer, but I was out of battery power.  The constant clicking you hear in the audio is rain hitting the mic.

    I have to apologize for this somewhat lame post.  I am tired, short on time and not putting in my best effort.  Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy it.  Now, to take some Aleve and go to sleep.

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    April May?

    April showers bring May many times have we said that ditty as children.  I don't think they know it in Minnesota.  Here, spring seems to be showing it's first blush, and the weather is cold, wet and windy, though the Northerners have chided me for my thin Texas blood; they think this is a warm spell!

    Yesterday's ride was relatively short, only 58 miles.  The night before I expected to  ride it in three or four hours.... the roads are wonderfully smooth, lightly traveled,  and with long rollers....a fun ride through beautiful countryside. The weather, specifically the wind, made this one of the more challenging rides I have ever done.  I think the only ride that was tougher was Alp d'Huez!  The winds howled straight into our faces at 20 mph all day, carry rain with it at times.  The short ride ended up being almost 7 hours, though true moving time was around five and a half.  It was one of those days when mental toughness prevailed.  Several times that little voice in my head told me to save my strength for another day and catch a ride, but I continued to pedal. If not for my riding companions, I might have caved in; it is so much easier to keep going when there is moral support.  Or perhaps misery loves company, or no one wants to be the first sissy, but whichever way, it's a lot easier to keep going when in the company of others.  Besides, the world was supposed to end today, and since I was the SAG driver today, yesterday might have been my last ride!

    Today, the winds were much, much calmer, but it rained almost constantly.  As I said earlier, I was the SAG driver today.  Since it was such a wet ride, SAG stops were every 15 miles instead of 20.  It is a great feeling to see the riders coming in, and excited to see me.  Now, in reality,  it wasn't me that they were thrilled to see, but the opportunity to stop for a rest, get some food, and some hot coffee! ?   Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed being in support.

    I had forgotten what spring smells like and was delighted to be reacquainted with the scents of my childhood.  There is an indescribable freshness in the air of land that is just waking up from a long winter's nap. The dark, rich soil, punctuated with shoots of green as crops begin to push through the earth, emits a rich, clean fragrance.  The green that is just is truly a different shade than that found later in the season or in other parts of the country.  Its color and saturation yanked me back to second grade when I perused a friend's box of 64 crayola crayons for that perfect color.  I vividly remember a 'spring green' crayon.  It was a rather odd color--not green, not yellow, but somewhere in between.  I understand the name was the color prevalent in the budding trees and the sprouting crops. ( do you say that word, you say 'cran' or 'cray-on'...things that make you go 'hmmmm').  And fishing worms....they were everywhere....and the air smelled like them, too.  I haven't seen a fishing worm in a long time.  Texas doesn't seem to have them--at least, not where I live.  I learned today, however, that they stick to one's bike like glue once they dry, and are hard to get off.  That might explain the thorough cleaning going on late in the afternoon today.

    It was a nice day.  Whether because I was nice and dry in the SAG car, or because I was supporting my fellow riders, or because I revisited part of my youth, I don't know, but it was a thoroughly pleasant day, nonetheless.

    I better get to bed--we have 80 miles a head of us tomorrow, and it is thundering outside right now.  More rain in the forecast, so it could be another long day in the saddle.  But, at least the world didn't end, and I get another day of riding.


    Thursday, May 19, 2011


    Today was the kick off and orientation for my ride from Fargo, ND to Bar Harbor, ME.  This year's ride will look a little different from last year because:
    1. I am no longer a multi-day touring virgin, having last year's ride under my belt (No pun intended.ok, maybe it was)
    2. I will be riding much slower; I have been coached to keep my heart rate under 124 bpm to build cardio endurance so I can become a stronger rider.
    3. I am going as a support driver, meaning every fourth day I will drive the SAG wagon, (not to be confused with the paddy wagon)   I addition to being support for the other riders, I also have to do dishes....this is sorta akin to not having enough money to pay the dinner bill..... I got a substantial discount for doing these duties
     With the extra duties, I may find it challenging to blog, but I will do my best to keep you entertained and amused as I pedal through the bread basket of America, sail through the steel belt, past Niagara Falls and into New England, where I will gorge on lobster.  This will be like a roving geography lesson!

    Getting ready and the days leading up to this trip have left me wondering if my angels aren't watching over me and trying to send me a message.  On a training ride a few weeks earlier, I was about to tackle a big...big hill, and just as it started getting really tough, and my heart was thumping out of my chest, my pedals froze.  Unclipping quickly to keep from tipping over, I thought I had dropped my chain.  That was my first lucky break--being able to dismount before falling;  my second break wasn't so lucky as my chain had actually broken.  So that ended the ride for me.....can't ride with a broken chain.  Darn--I so wanted to climb that really, really big hill....that really BIG hill....

    Not long after that, I rolled out for a ride, only to get a flat a few miles out.  Then last Sunday, I was out on a Chick Clique ride, and could not get my shoe to unclip from the pedal.  I finally yanked it off and came to a skidding halt, narrowly missing a nasty spill.  Removing my shoe, I discovered two of the four screws that hold the clip on had fallen out, and the remaining screws were barely still threaded. Examining my other shoe, I discovered that those screws were extremely loose also.  I stole from one shoe to fix the other, and went on my way.  Another accident averted, but unsettling enough to make me wonder about the rash of mishaps.

    Yesterday I arrived in Fargo, and planned to join the local bike group for the Ride of Silence, then their regular bike ride.  I picked up my helmet to put it on, and it fell apart.  It literally fell apart. The cage, or the part that cradles my head, disintegrated in my hands.  Had I worn that helmet and been in a crash, it would not have protected my head, and I kinda like my noggin. (How did noggin ever become a synonym for head?  Things that make you go 'hmmm')

     I bought a new helmet, and rode with the group.  I was the only woman to continue with them after the Ride of Silence, and they did their best to shake me off the back.....and they did.  I couldn't hang with them, and got pathetically lost as I rode back to the hotel alone. (I think the ladies on this tour should be very worried about me being their SAG....I do seem to have a tendency to get lost.)

    So, with all these odd mishaps occurring, do you think someone is watching over me?   I feel as though I am and it serves to remind me that life is fragile.  I will be careful.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Blond and Menopausal

    If you know anything about menopause, you know all about hot flashes....power surges.....force fields.....  I have started wearing a bodybugg to measure my caloric output; I was fairly certain that all the heat my hot flashes generate also burn a lot of calories.  To my  dismay, I discovered that these high heat levels, that occur almost hourly, do nothing to increase my calorie consumption...just my discomfort!   Worse yet, in comparing my sleeping/at rest measurements with my daughter, I found she expends almost twice the number calories I do while she is slumbering....the same number that I burn when I walk the dogs!!!  Sigh....  Getting older isn't for sissies.

    A little known fact about menopause is how it messes with a woman's mind.  I am not talking about the PMS type of rages or depression, though it certainly creates those issues also.  I am referring to that which is known as a 'menopausal fog'.  It is a general fuzziness of memory and cognitive functioning--like walking through a mental walking into a room, and having no idea why I went there, or telling a story, then lose track of where the story was going.  Forget about figuring out a tip; it just isn't going to happen without a calculator!   Put that with being blond....and it is a recipe for diaster, or funny stories, depending on what kind of menpausal state one is in at the time.

    Last weekend I ran in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in conjunction with raising money to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I trained for almost six months, and though plagued with bio-mechanical issues, (fancy way of saying my body is falling a part),  I was ready to run the race with relative ease, and pain killers.

    The morning of the marathon was cold and windy, with thunderstorms.  Meeting the Texas team in the hotel lobby, after-race gear bag in hand,  we got word that the race was on a one hour weather delay.  So we waited.  The minutes ticked away. Restlessly, we listened to announcements being braodcasted over the loud speaker in the start area and decided to head over.  Pushing against the wind, rain and crowd, we neared the start, where the 'fast' people were lined up and ready to go.  (In these large endurance races, participants are put into 'corrals' according to their speed.  The slowest are in the back so they don't get mowed over by the fast ones). As nervous participants pushed and shoved to get into the race area, the start buzzer sounded. The marathon had begun; the runners surged forward on the course. Those still trying to get to their start corrals knocked down fences and elbowed each other in desperation; the race had started without them, and in panic, they pushed their way into the melee....taking me with them.   So there I found myself, 8 pound gear bag slung over my shoulder, in the middle of the run zone, causing the racers to part around me like the Red Sea.  Thinking like a pro,  I did what any seasoned marathoner would do;  I turned and ran with these elite athletes, trying my best to look like I belonged.

    That posing was short lived.  My pace was significantly slower than those around me, and skinny little hard bodies passed on both sides as the wind and rain pelted my face and whipped my poncho like a loose tent flap in a hurricane force gale.  To compound my discomfort,  I had a magnificent hot flash, and had to move to the left to shed some clothing.  Already burdened with my 8 pound, makeshift gear bag, I did not want to carry anything else, I left the discarded clothing on the side of the road.  (Rumor had it that it is collected for the homeless.)  My arms and shoulders were also starting to ache from running with my gear bag, which was just a hotel laundry bag knotted at the top like Santa's bag.  There was no effective way carry it, so I kept switching it from shoulder to shoulder, and sometimes gripped it around the middle like a sack of potatoes.  Clothes shed, bag in place and Ipod on, I began to run again, staying to the left, where the slower racers ran. Gradually people stopped passing me; I got into my rhythm and began to let my mind go as my legs carried me forward and my arms toted the bag.    Mind afloat and drifting, I ran like a lemming with the crowd, following  where they went....over the bridge, up a hill, to the left and onward...mindlessly running.

    I must have finally achieved that state of mind called the 'runner's high' because before I knew it,  the finish line appeared in front of me, both sides of the street lined with screaming fans and photographers.  Amazed at how quickly the  miles had passed  and how strong I still felt, I knew that could have run longer and faster...even carrying that stupid bag!   I chided myself for setting such a slow pace when clearly, I was capable of much more!

    As I crossed the finish line, proud of my accomplishment, excited about finally experiencing the runner's high, and already thinking about the next race (if this is how wonderful it can be), the announcer broadcasted across the PA; "Congrats to Sue with North Texas Team in Training for completing the 5K" !

    Whoa~~stop the music!!  What did he say?

    Then if hit me................true to form, I had gotten lost.....and had run the 5K instead of the half marathon.  Instead of turning left, I should have gone straight.  Instead of running 13 miles, I had run 3.5--I was ten miles short!!

    I approached one race official after another, trying to get back on the course, but no one seemed to know the route.  By the time I found someone who could 'sorta' give me directions,  'but you'll have to run some extra miles to get there',  a good half an hour had passed.  It was raining hard by now, with tempertures hovering around 50 degrees; cold and wet, still clutching my heavy gear bag, and with muscles beginning to seize, I threw in my hat.  I was done.

    So this goes down as not just a blond moment, but as a truly blond and menopausal one.....

    No wonder I look so fresh....I had only run 5 kilometers!