Friday, August 30, 2013

Gone Country (loaded with pictures!)

August 24, 2013

Through my husband’s work we were able to get box seats and VIP parking for the Little Big Town & Keith Urban Concert.  I must admit that VIP parking is the only way to go.  You can get out of the Klipsch Music Center with a lot less hassle that way.

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Since we live nowhere close to the venue we left very early, especially since we weren’t sure of the road construction situation.  Thus we got there about 30 minutes too early.  But I’d rather be early instead of stuck in traffic and pressed for time.  Once the gates opened we went in and claimed a table and my husband had a beer or two.  We were meeting one of his clients (& his wife) there and once they arrived we ordered some dinner.  We stayed in the VIP lounge and didn’t go out to listen to Dustin Lynch but got to our seats just in time for Little Big Town to take the stage.  They played for about 45 minutes and put on a great show.  They killed Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”.  It was amazing.

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Keith Urban took the stage about 30 minutes or so after Little Big Town.  I’ll admit that initially I was there mostly to see Little Big Town. But Keith Urban really surprised me. Not that I don’t like him but I guess I was just mostly indifferent.  I really liked that he started the show with the house lights still up and he just walked out on stage with a banjo and started playing.  Then one by one, his band joined him.  Eventually the house lights were off and it was on.  I didn’t realize how good he is.  He is really talented and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire set.  It was nice that for one song he brought Little Big Town back on to sing with him and then later he did the same thing with Dustin Lynch.  AND…since he was in Indiana, he brought Larry Crane out (from John Mellencamp’s band) and they played the Authority Song.  It rocked!  He and the band transitioned twice during the concert out to the B-Stages in the lawn as well.

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With Little Big Town

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With Larry Crane

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With Dustin Lynch

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And when he was done – after his encore – he stayed on stayed and signed autographs for the people up front.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a big time star do that.  Class act, Mr. Urban.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Parkersburg News & Sentinel Half Marathon…aka that time I ran happy!

August 16-18, 2013
zLogo News & Sentinel (WV)
I learned about this race via another blog that I read.  In my quest to do a half marathon in every state, this seemed like a good option in West Virginia since the drive was doable (5 1/2 hours from home) and it didn’t appear to be too hilly.  The race has a half marathon run option and a walk option and also a two-mile run or walk option.  They are very insistent that if you are signed up as a walker, you MUST walk or be disqualified.  Walkers are also given bibs to wear on the front AND back of their shirts.
Friday, August 16, 2013
We left the house pretty close to what we had “scheduled” which was between 10:00am & 10:30am.  We ran into some completely stopped traffic near Clayton, OH and could never determine the cause.  It was so stop & go and often just stopped.  Then construction in Columbus, OH.  And then a few more construction areas along the way.  So annoying.  All of this added about another 1 1/2 hours to our drive.  We had plenty of time to get to Parkersburg; packet pick-up didn’t close until 9:00pm but I wanted to get settled and check out the “lay of the land” without feeling frazzled.  I was super excited when I saw the Welcome to West Virginia sign!  It was just a short drive later (we passed under the start banner!) and we were arriving at the Blennerhassett hotel. 
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This hotel is 125 years old but was in pretty good shape.
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While this wasn’t the cheapest hotel, it was the closest to the start and finish line and when we’re in an unfamiliar city that is a key determining factor to where we stay.  Plus we were staying an extra night so we didn’t really want to be in some dump. While my husband coordinated with getting our luggage out and having having the car parked, I went in to check us in.  Since we were both running, we received two gift bag for the race.
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We unpacked some of our stuff and then walked over to the packet pick-up building.  It was literally less than 2 blocks from the hotel.  We noticed that there was some sort of fair/carnival going on down by the river and decided to check it out later.  Packet pick-up was at the Parkersburg Municipal Building; super easy to navigate through and not crowded.  We asked one of the guys there wearing an event shirt about the pasta dinner and he told us it was just 3 1/2 blocks up the other direction.  We dropped our stuff of at the hotel, read that we needed to show our bib for the dinner and headed that direction.  The pasta dinner was included in the entry fee price.  I think I paid $40 each for this race. 
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Municipal Building – Packet pickup
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There was a car show going on so hotrods & vintages cars were parked along each side of the street and on the way to the dinner, we saw the finish line.  It is painted ON the street.  The dinner was nothing spectacular and even though I’m a big fan of eating “where I know” the night before a race, it was good to not have to find someplace.  It was all you could eat and the best thing was that there were cookies and ice cream with toppings for dessert!  I think I ate 3 no bake cookies.  SO GOOD.  After eating we, checked out some of the cars, walked down by the carnival area and back over by the start line. 
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Not sure if he’s creating the “runner” or a crime scene victim!

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This was in one of the cars.  Looks like he carb loads the way my husband does!
Everything is so within walking distance from our hotel.  This means extra sleep in the morning!  We went down to the hotel outdoor patio area (Spats) and listened to the jazz ensemble while my husband “carb loaded” with his traditional pre-race beverage.  We went back up to the room around 9:30pm and got things ready for in the morning and then went to bed.
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Jazz ensemble at Spats
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He LOVES his carb loading!
Saturday, August 17, 2013
I set my alarm for 6:00am.  Although the race started at 8:00am and we were only a 5 minute walk to the start line, I like to give my “breakfast” enough time to process.  This would be the second race where I was going to have tea for my caffeine instead of a Starbuck bottled Frappuccino.  Its easier to travel with a teabag.  I woke my husband up at 7:00am (which was “early” for him) and he got ready as well.  The weather was unseasonably mild for this time of year but I was NOT complaining about that – although HE was!  And when he said that he was ready to go and a check of the temperature showed that it was 59 degrees, I was worried he’d be cold.  But once we stepped outside, it was actually perfect.
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We got to the start line in plenty of time, sang along with the National Anthem and cheered on the start of the wheel chair race.  We then decided to go ahead and get in line.  There weren’t any corrals; this is a relatively smaller race than what we are used to.  While waiting for the gun to go off, I spotted a girl with a Half Fanatic shirt on and went over to see if she wanted to do a photo.  She & her friend we both Fanatics!  Made my way back to where my husband was and spotted another Fanatics shirt on the opposite side but sadly didn’t have time to try to get a picture with them.
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The two Half Fanatics I spotted in the crowd.  Sadly you can’t really tell that I’m wearing my HF hat because of my sunglasses.
The gun sounded and we were off.  Of course the first part of the route was up hill!  But then it was a nice downhill until we headed out of town and had to run up an exit ramp.  That was a long uphill and so boring.  The rest of the race had us running through little neighborhoods.  It was fun because there would be a gathering of 5-9 people at the end of one driveway, sitting in lawn chairs cheering us on.  I tried to say good morning to most of them which then prompted them to say good morning back to me, cheer me on and say “good job” or “looking good”, “keep going”  You have no idea how this lifted my spirits while I ran and it seemed to help the miles tick away.  There were several “rollers” on this course but nothing insane during the first 10 miles. 
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The top of the exit ramp and the 2-mile marker.
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Basically that was what we just ran up!
Around mile 7, on my left was this HONKING sound.  I noticed that there was a lawn goose with a sign around its neck.  At first I ran past it but when I realized what was going on, I went back to snap a photo.  I think the guy on the porch had a honking machine or something because it was non-stop honking.  It made me chuckle.
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Heading back in to the downtown area
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Plenty of aid stations along the way.  The stop at the United Methodist Church had the volunteers dressed up in western attire and they were playing country music.  There was another stop around mile 9, that was a “tropical” theme, with grass skirts, pink flamingos and palm trees.  Sadly, they didn’t have any pina coladas or margaritas…yes, I asked.  These were only 2 of the 17(!) aid stations they had along the course.  Now I didn’t count them along the way but I still can’t figure how they could have had that many.  If you have one at every mile marker, count one at the start line and one at the finish line…you don’t have to be a math genius to know that adds up to only 15.  Maybe they were spaced closer together; maybe every 3/4 of a mile?  What I will tell you is that for the first time EVER in a race, I had to pass up stopping at an aid station.  I usually always stop, even if I’m just taking a sip of water or Gatorade.  But I was starting to get bloated!  And each station had water, Gatorade and cups of ice.
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These footprints were all along the course.
There was one killer hill at mile 11.  Its not long but its steep and well, it just cruel to put a hill at the end of the race.  But that was the last one and the finish line is literally downhill.  I knew it wouldn’t be a PR race for me; I hadn’t done a half since June 1st but I was mostly pleased with what my Garmin was showing as I approached the line.  I heard them say my name as I was getting ready to cross.  That’s always fun!  I was scanning the crowd for my husband but didn’t see him immediately.  When we finally spotted each other (he was coming back up toward me) and he said that I must have had a really good race because he wasn’t expecting me for another 5 minutes.   Dang, dude…how slow did you think I’d be!?!?! Smile with tongue out   They were handing out ice cold towel at the finish which was absolutely the best thing at that moment.  I also grabbed some grapes and a water.  I just can’t do bagels at the end.  Too heavy.   We were looking around for some place to have our “finishers” picture taken since there wasn’t an official area and finally found some random person to just take it of us standing in the street.  I’d read that there were some giveaways being done at the end and you needed to check the board in the recovery area to see if your bib number matched any of the prizes and sure enough, my husband won something.  By the way…he never would have checked if I hadn’t told him about it.
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We decided to walk back to the hotel, shower and then go to the post race pizza party (another perk that was available via your entry fee).  When we arrived there was quite the line because they had run out of pizza but more was on the way.  We probably only had to wait 5 minutes to get ours.  And the cookie table was to the left of the line so you certainly didn’t have to go hungry while waiting.  Afterward, we went back to the hotel for a nap.
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After napping we decided to go see one of the local parks, Fort Boreman Park.  There were “markers” around that gave a history of the city and how it came to be.  You really got a great view of Parkersburg and the river from up here and I bet its really pretty in the fall.  We noticed some fireworks cannons (I don’t know if that’s what they are really called but I’m using it) when we drove in so as we were leaving, I asked the guy that was “guarding” them and he said that there would be a big fireworks show later in the evening.  I guess this was all part of the Homecoming celebration.  
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Nothing else really to see so went drove back downtown & walked down to the carnival/fair area.  We wanted to check out the locals and of course I wanted to get some kettle corn!   Then decided to just head back to the hotel to rest some more.  We also tried to get a game plan together for where to have dinner. There weren’t many local options so after a few hours, we opted for the hotel restaurant.  It was good but nothing to write home about. We were there late enough that the jazz band had started up (different from the night prior).  We listened to them for awhile but then went back up to the hotel room to relax and wait on the fireworks show.  There was a beautiful sunset on this night. 
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Since we were on the 4th floor we decided to just watch the fireworks from there…in our pajamas.  WIN!  They finally started at 10:00pm and it was a really good show.  Nice job Parkersburg!  We then went straight to bed.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
We didn’t set the alarm and just woke up on our own.  I think we left for home around 8:00am or 8:30am.  When we got in our car the hotel had left a chilled bottle of water for us.  Nice touch. 
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We drove until we found a sign for a McDonalds..which took longer than expected.  Had a quick bite to eat, the husband needed a sweet tea and continued the drive home.  As expected, no traffic issues on the way back to Indiana.  Its always good to come home to the pooches.
I would definitely recommend this half marathon to anyone.  It isn’t that hilly considering it is in West Virginia.  The entry fee is relatively inexpensive and you get a lot of bang for your buck; the pasta dinner the night before and the pizza party afterward. The town is quaint and if they always hold it during their Homecoming, there are some other fun things to do.
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