10 Reasons to Do A Quest

Doing this quest to run a race in every state has literally been life-changing. When Mike suggested it at the Philadelphia Marathon seven years ago we had no clue what an amazing adventure this would become.  We have become passionate about sharing our experiences and encouraging others to join the fun because we LOVE it!

If you’re intrigued by this concept but running doesn’t appeal to you don’t dismiss the idea. There are a multitude of ways to approach this goal.  My friend, Anita, has begun her quest to hike in every state. We met someone who has their sights set on playing golf across the country. Others are planning to visit every national park.  The great thing about a personal quest is that you can mold it into whatever inspires and works for you.

For us this quest has given our lives a whole new dimension.  It has added a fun spark to everyday life. So regardless of how you approach this endeavor, we would like to offer 10 reasons why we think you might want to launch your own quest.

  1. Increase your geographical knowledge  Although Mike’s geographical skills definitely exceed mine, I will confess that given a blank map of the United States a few years ago I would have failed miserably at filling in the location of many states.  Now I can solidly fill in virtually all of the states with confidence. Of course, spending a little time memorizing a map could have had the same result. However, the spots on the map wouldn’t be associated with actual visual images and memories of each location.
  2. Take part in regional activities When we chose our race in Alabama we had only a vague idea that Mobile had any connection to Mardi Gras.  But we got to experience an incredible Mardi Gras parade and atmosphere first hand in what we learned is the first official city to celebrate Mardi Gras.  It was fabulous!flowers float    We specifically went to Iowa during a presidential primary season since its first in the nation caucus is so famously a part of the political process.  By chance we had an opportunity to go to a Bernie Sanders rally and concert right next door to our hotel!IMG_5615We also got to observe portions of an intriguing event in Iowa called the Tweed Ride. We had no idea such a thing existed!IMG_5639.JPG

When we ran in Seattle we were able to see the famous flying fish in Pike Place Market.

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IMG_6841And these are just a few of the experiences we’ve encountered.

3.  Conversation Starter Whether it’s telling race organizers that we’ve chosen their race to check that state off our list, chatting with fellow runners after a race, or conversing with a waitress during our travels, we’ve loved the conversations that have followed. I’m pretty sure we’ve sparked the urge to try this quest in a number of people. We have been amazed by the enthusiastic responses we receive when we talk about our experiences.

4. Try Local Foods and Drinks  We are devoted to trying local cuisine when we arrive at a new destination.  Cheese curds in Wisconsin were delicious.  Eating them the night before the 13 Dot 1 Half Marathon, may not have been such a good idea, however.

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Po’boys, hurricanes, and beignets in New Orleans were basically a requirement of visiting NOLA.

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Gumbo in Alabama was incredible.IMG_6071

Bill and Terry took us to one of their favorite BBQ joints when they hosted us in Houston.

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We had our first taste of a Waffle House breakfast in Mississippi.  I think the waitress was puzzled by my inordinate level of excitement at dining in a restaurant that is as common as Dunkin Donuts are up here in the north but I was thrilled to experience this icon of the south.

Sampling local beers has also become an integral part of our travels. IMG_5633

5. Experience the beauty and diversity of the country  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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Deception Pass, Washington

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Green Lake, Wisconsin

Baroda, Michigan

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Mississippi River- Davenport, Iowa

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New Orleans, Louisiana

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Mount Rainier, Washington

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Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

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Cliff Walk- Newport, Rhode, Island

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Portland Head Light- Cape Elizabeth, Maine

6.  Meet Incredible People This benefit has truly been one of the most rewarding parts of our quest. The people we met in Maryland couldn’t have been more welcoming and encouraging once they heard about our quest. Multiple people approached us to wish us luck and ask about our adventures-even as we began to drive away!

The couple we met in Michigan after the 13.Wine Half Marathon gave us terrific tips for the rest of our trip. The fellow runners we chatted with at the awards ceremony in Ohio were so congenial we were disappointed not to be returning to visit with them again. And when we gave our name at the packet pickup in Wisconsin the woman at the table exclaimed, “You’re the people from Maine!’ and promptly took our picture.

7. Long Run Conversation Topic Many miles of running have been spent reminiscing about races we’ve done and places we’ve visited.  Debating which race was our favorite or how many half marathons we’ve done has kept us occupied for miles and has provided us with the fun of reliving our adventures.

8. Reward for training in winter We have frequently tried to schedule a winter race in a warm(er) climate.  Since we live in Maine that is not too difficult.  As we crank out our snowy miles we try to keep images of warmer, non-snowy destinations in mind.

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9. Chance to Visit Family and Friends Some of our most favorite trips have been ones that have included an opportunity to visit family and friends.  Janet and John and Bill and Terry provided southern hospitality when we ran in Houston. We paired our Vermont race with a visit with Katie, which is always a treat. Annie was a superb tour guide for our whole family when we ran in Virginia.

Attending our nephew, Branden’s, graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy allowed us an opportunity to run in Maryland.

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When we traveled to Pittsburgh for our son-in-law, Matt’s, graduation from Carnegie Mellon we popped over to Ohio for a fun race with the added bonus of having his parents join us on our side trip.

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The opportunity to spend some time with Jessey when we were in Washington ended up truly being a highlight of a trip that is one of our very favorites.

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10. Really Making a Difference Some of the races we have run have been very small but have been among the most meaningful events. The Hope for Hunter race in West Virginia was a tiny local race that was organized to support children with Hunter Syndrome, a genetic condition that primarily affects males for which there is currently no cure.  An absolute highlight of the event was meeting a young boy with this condition.

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We ran a similar type of race in New Jersey to support research for ALD.  The daughter of the gentleman who founded the Run for ALD foundation and who sadly had passed away from this condition spoke eloquently about her passion for supporting research for a newborn screening that could save hundreds of lives each year.  Mike and I left feeling so pleased that we had contributed to this effort.

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Our most recent race in St. Louis, Head for the Cure, is devoted to raising awareness and funding to support the brain cancer community. Listening to incredible tales of people impacted by brain cancer once again confirmed that signing up for races that had a direct impact on others has truly been one of the most fabulous outcomes of our quest.

We began our quest seven years ago and have run in 34 states so far.  Although we are hopeful that we will cross the finish line in our 50th state race at some point, we can unequivocally state that the journey itself is actually what it’s all about for us. We wish you safe travels and memorable adventures no matter what your journey may be.

Would you like to do a quest?

Are you working toward a goal?

What’s your favorite part of traveling?

February- “Do Something New for 30 Days” Recap

When I chose going someplace new each day as my “try something new for 30 days” plan for February, I assumed it would be a breeze.  We were already planning to travel to Houston for four days to visit family and friends and to run the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon.  Since we had never been to Houston, I figured that would easily take care of four days. I imagined filling the other 24 days of February with visits to new restaurants, shops, museums, and even just detouring from my normal routine to a slightly different path as I traveled along my everyday routes.

February 1st was easy.  Mike and I went to Portsmouth to Runner’s Alley to pick up a few things and stopped at The Fresh Press for hot chocolate and a coffee.

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The atmosphere was neat and it was fun to try a new spot.  So far, so good.  Easy!

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The next day we had another Nor’easter so I barely left the house.  Traveling to the barn to feed the horses seemed like an accomplishment.

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Bentley was the only one who seemed particularly happy with the weather.

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My only travel that day was virtual when we watched the movie, “Chef”.  It was fabulous, by the way.

The next day was a work day and by evening I hadn’t ventured to anywhere new.  No problem!  As I drove to a neighboring town to do an errand, I turned off the road I’ve driven on literally a hundred times onto a side road.  It had just snowed which made this new neighborhood look even more unfamiliar.  I was truly surprised to come across a large, old brick building beside the river that appeared to be some sort of old public water works building.  It was dark, so I wasn’t able to see it completely but I was so intrigued that this significant, interesting building was about a block from my usual path and I had no idea it even existed. I was enjoying this going somewhere new plan.

We had yet more snow that week which left the roads snow covered.  Eager to maintain my “going somewhere new” endeavor, I decided to take a slightly different road home from work.  The roads were still sloppy and I did have a tiny nagging thought that this might not be the best day to venture into uncharted territory, but the road I had chosen was (I thought) well-traveled and I convinced myself that it should be fine.  I had front-wheel drive and snow tires, which seemed sufficient for this plan.  So off I went, turning off the main road onto another road that was notably more snowy than the previous one. Undeterred, I  continued on with my plan.  The next intersection was where I would take a left and head off onto my new path home.  The moment I made the turn I realized how awful this decision was. Looming ahead of me was an immense, snowy hill!  Alas, there was no turning back because if I stopped or tried to turn I would immediately be stuck in the inches of slushy snow that covered the road.  There was nothing to do but floor it up this mountainous hill.

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This photo was obviously taken after the snowy road adventure. It looks completely benign. But it wasn’t!

I picked up as much speed as I could/dared and gripped the steering wheel as I climbed the hill.  Things started off fine but I quickly began to lose speed.  My wheels were slipping and the car was going slower and slower.  My heart was pounding and my palms were sweating as I silently prayed (literally) that I would make it up the hill.  As my forward motion steadily decreased, I began to downshift my automatic transmission, hoping that would give me a little more umph.  My mind was reeling with questions about what I would do if I couldn’t make it.  Who do you call?  “Hello, AAA?  I’m stuck half way up a hill in the middle of the road and I can’t get up.”  My car slipped more and more as I inched up the hill.  The accelerator was pressed to the floor as I willed the car to keep creeping forward. Miraculously, I crested the top of the hill going about 20 mph.  I was shaking and my heart was thumping when I turned the corner onto a relatively flat road and headed for home.  Well, that was exciting!

Not every foray into a new place was quite so dramatic.  We tried some new restaurants including 7th Settlement , a fantastic brew pub in Dover, NH that brews their own beers on the premises and serves locally sourced food.  We loved the lively, welcoming atmosphere. Our service was stellar and the food was exceptional.

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I couldn’t stop exclaiming over the Harvest Salad of baby kale, roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, blue cheese, and dried cranberries.

A couple of days my new place was simply a different trail in our woods.  When the temperatures finally edged above the teens, Hannah and I ventured out on snowshoes.  The snow was so deep that the fencing around the pasture was literally ankle high as we walked by on top of the packed snow.  As the horses watched us travel beside their pasture we commented on how lucky we were that they didn’t want to venture anywhere beyond their mere suggestion of a fence.

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My snow shoes are ancient but excellent for forging a good trail.

 

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Hannah shot this photo.

We loved being outside and trekking through a new portion of the woods. Our trip was relatively short because it was almost dusk. As we returned to the house we commented on the unusual, wide tracks that we hadn’t noticed on our way out.  We have had a porcupine living under the barn that makes a similar track.  But somehow it seemed different. Then we noticed that it seemed to originate in the field where the horses were….but were no longer! Realizing that we had inadvertently inspired them to try going somewhere new also, I tried to rush back to the barn to see if they were there.  Hannah retraced our path back into the woods. It’s hard to convey the feeling of desperation that wafts over me when I realize the horses have disappeared.

The snowshoes that minutes ago had handily tromped out a broad trail were now unwieldy as I tried to run (not possible) along a narrower, bumpy path.  I eventually pulled them off and made my way back to the barn.  Relief washed over me as I saw Molly standing at the barn door. However, that was fleeting because she darted down the driveway and Chelsea was no where to be seen.  I dashed into the barn to nab a scoop of grain- my only hope to lure them back to the barn.  Thankfully, our ponies are huge fans of grain.  A few shakes of the grain scoop and they trotting into the barn and all of our adventures had a happy ending.

Another late afternoon I set out into the woods on snowshoes on my own.  It was just beginning to snow (again) and the woods seemed especially inviting.  The snow was crisscrossed with a myriad of tracks, making me wish I could have seen the creatures that had been traveling throughout the woods.

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The snow made interesting formations on the fallen trees and beside the streams.

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Another day, I traveled to Portland with Hannah and enjoyed an hour of doing work in a new coffee shop while she was at a meeting.

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On the last day of February, Mike and I spent some time in the Old Port section of Portland.  We braved the still shocking cold and walked to the ferry terminal where we wistfully imagined a summer trip to the surrounding islands.  We contentedly immersed ourselves in a bookstore and then met Hannah for lunch. She suggested going to Duckfat which turned out to be a marvelous little restaurant that served scrumptious, unique food in a spiffy setting. It was a perfect way to end my month of going somewhere new.

I  loved consciously thinking about going somewhere new all month.  Whether it was traveling across the country to Texas where everything was new, driving down a different road, or just literally, taking the path less traveled (to paraphrase Robert Frost) this venture has provided some unexpected adventures as well as lovely moments of change, beauty, and enjoyment.

My plan for March is to experiment with photography by using different settings, filters, and apps for both my iPhone and my digital SLR camera.  I’m looking forward to honing my skills and learning new techniques.

Although I have only completed two months of doing something new, I find that I am carrying over the activity from the previous month into my actions and thoughts as I move into the next month.  It seems that it really is true that doing something new for 30 days can make a change in your life. Making a deviation from my normal routine has added a welcome spark (and sometimes even a jolt) to my life.

Texas!

After weeks of training on snowy roads

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in single digit temperatures,

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clad in our special winter running gear,

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with our bodies covered in snow and our faces numb from the wind

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we were rewarded with 13.1 miles of running in nearly perfect racing conditions.

The Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon provided this much needed respite from our extra intense Maine winter.  Mike and I chose this race for our Texas race because it gave us a wonderful opportunity to visit with great friends, Bill and Terry (who also happen to be Amelia’s in-laws), another dear friend, Rebecca, and my cousin, Janet, and her husband, John.  As an added bonus, Amelia signed up to run the race, too.  When Mike and I have traveled to new states to do races, we have often traveled by ourselves.  Having family and friends to visit on this trip truly made it much more enjoyable.

We flew into Houston

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 and immediately understood why they say “everything is bigger in Texas”.

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Stepping out of the airport into the sunny 70 degree weather started the thawing process. We traveled to Bill and Terry’s lovely home and eagerly ventured out for a walk, daringly leaving our boots and coats behind!

One of the aspects of traveling that we love is having the opportunity to see regional architecture, landscaping, and sights. Finding palm trees lining the spiffy retail area virtually around the corner from their quiet neighborhood was really unexpected.

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Bill and Terry took us to Central Market which is a short stroll from their home. We enviously surveyed the vast array of fresh produce, meat, fish, bread, cheese, wine, beer, and so much more that the market offers.

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 We bought a local beer and some Texas grapefruit to bring home to Hannah.

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 Dinner was at the renowned Goode Company where we enjoyed some authentic Texas BBQ.  This photo isn’t too great but the food certainly was!

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The next evening we were enjoying a glass of wine in the living room when four tuxedo-clad men walked into the house and announced that they were there to serenade Amelia with love songs!  Her husband, Matt, had arranged this special Valentine’s Day gift.  It was a charming experience to listen to this a capella quartet sing beautiful songs just feet from us. Afterward we were treated to some of Bill’s exquisite cooking as we savored a delectable Mexican dinner.

Our race was the next day.  Amelia, Mike, and I couldn’t stop commenting on how novel it was to be outside dressed in only shorts and a shirt.  The weather was perfect for our half marathon.  Cloudy skies and low 60 temps were just what we had dreamed of as we had pounded the pavement slogged along on snowy roads in Maine while training for this event.

The half marathon course was a double loop which was mostly flat.  The only hills occurred when the road dipped under overpasses.  There were several bands along the route which made for a festive run.  We loved being able to see Amelia three times when she ran past us on the other side of the course. She looked awesome each time we saw her which was especially terrific since it was her first race after coming back from a serious injury after running a marathon.

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Bill and Terry had biked to the course and cheered us on each time we ran past.  This was such an added treat since we are almost always running in areas where we don’t know anyone. They even took pictures!

It looks like I’m praying but I was actually just clapping.

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Here Mike has apparently abandoned me and has taken up with some other women!

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One of the perks of this race is that you can download all of the professional photos for free. This is one they took of Mike.

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Amelia finished first and took some photos of us as we neared the finish line.

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Amelia had a great race, missing a PR by just a few seconds.  Our race started out strong but I faded near the end of the race. Mike gallantly slowed his pace and stuck with me till the finish.  We nabbed our spiffy spinning guitar medals

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and headed to the food and beer tents with out little “good for one beer” ticket that had came with our race bib.  BUT they were out of beer!  How could that happen?? It seemed that everyone would be guaranteed their token (literally) beer with the ticket system.  Alas, this was not to be.

Although I was not thrilled with my run, we did get a snazzy shirt

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a bonus hat,

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and the especially terrific treat of having Amelia with us.

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Later that day we were greeted with more Texas hospitality when we arrived at Janet and John’s beautiful home on the outskirts of Houston.  They more than made up for the missing race beer by providing us with a vast array of new beers to sample.  Dinner was an “epicurean triumph” to use our grandfather’s famous phrase.  Once again, having a chance to visit with family added a wonderful new dimension to our racing quest.

A visit to the St. Arnold Brewery the next day continued to compensate us for our missed race beer. We signed up for the tour which includes tokens to sample four of their numerous beers.

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Although all of their beers were fantastic, Janet and I enjoyed their Weedwacker brew, Amelia loved the seasonal Spring Bock, and Mike and John seemed to be especially fond of Ale Wagger Brown.  St. Arnold Brewery donates a portion of their proceeds from Ale Wagger sales to local animal rescue organizations.

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We flew home on Fat Tuesday which was highlighted by our gate attendant’s attire.

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Our flight was delayed several hours due to weather-related issues but we were generously compensated with vouchers for use on a future flight.  This was a perfect way to end the trip to our nineteenth quest state as we look forward to our next adventure.

Where should we run next?

State: Texas

Quest Race#: 19

Race: Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon

Date Run: February 15, 2015

The Bottom Line: It was worth training in tough conditions for the reward of running in a warm climate.  But the truly best part of running in Texas was having a chance to visit with family and friends!

 

 

Winter Running in Maine

Mike and I have signed up for the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon in February.  Texas will be the 19th state in our quest and we are thrilled that Amelia will be joining us.  Running in Houston will also give us an opportunity to visit with family and friends.  We can’t wait!

For the past three winters we have chosen races in warmer climates so that we have a chance to escape the cold and snow in Maine.  However, that means that we are training in the snow and cold. But it makes us feel tough and that we have earned our trip.

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Not all of our runs have been on snowy roads.  And so far it hasn’t been unbearably cold…on too many runs.

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It has actually often been quite stunning.

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Since we live in a hilly area, when our long run mileage increases we sometimes head to the coast to run on a flatter course.

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We love the change of scenery.

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One week when it was bitterly cold we saw only four other runners on a course where there is typically a virtual parade of runners and cyclists in the warmer weather.  But the next week it was about 20 degrees warmer and we encountered tons of runners and cyclists. We even came across these hearty souls who were out in their tiny wooden boats.  Mike called to a man who was just launching his boat to ask what they were called and he replied, “Frosties”…of course!

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This weekend we were due to run 11 miles. After calculating the best time and route to run in order to encounter the least impact from an imminent snow storm we opted to run locally. As we left the house there were only a few flurries in the air and the roads were completely dry.  Within two miles the snow was heavy and the roads were covered. And so were we.  Mike was sporting some impressive frosty eyebrows which I thought captured the essence of our experience.  He told me I was, too.

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Undaunted, we continued.

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The roads got more slick.  But we traveled on what we felt were the least treacherous paths.  By the last two miles of the run the snow was coming down in big, fluffy flakes and everything was silent except for the squeak of our shoes on the snow. It was truly gorgeous.  We congratulated ourselves on persevering and thought about our upcoming reward of running in flat, warmer Houston.  We think we will have earned it.

How is your winter going?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visions of Sugar Plums…well actually just a few photos from this past week

It has been a wonderful week of preparation, festivities, relaxation, and runs.  Here are a few tidbits of what’s been happening.

This little guy came right up to the fence as we went by on our long run on Sunday.

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During the week, Bentley was uncharacteristically excited about me doing Pilates. Having an enormous, slobbery, furry friend excitedly hover above you as you try to do leg lifts is actually quite alarming. Eventually he just plunked down on my mat which was also less than helpful.

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Abby, on the other hand, is happiest when she’s sitting by a blazing fire. We call her our little “heat seeker” and figure she loves the warmth because she was a rescue from Tennessee.

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Mike and I went out to do a little shopping last weekend and stopped for a delicious lunch at When Pigs Fly. This special was listed as “soup” (their quotation marks).  It had clams, sausage, fennel, Meyer lemons,  broth, and fingerling potatoes.  It was divine!

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Their extensive beer list is one of the reasons we love to go there.

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I did an early Christmas Eve morning interval run. The weather was drizzly but the temperature was relatively mild.  Amelia’s Spotify Christmas playlist was the perfect soundtrack for this holiday run. I couldn’t resist snapping a couple of photos. It’s been unseasonably warm here in Maine so the snow is dwindling and the ice has melted.

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I thought this wreath on the wrought iron fence surrounding a historic town cemetery was picturesque and festive. I returned home feeling strong and pleased with the run.

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I have realized that I am a big fan of presents when they are still wrapped.

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Christmas Eve was very quiet-just Mike, Hannah, and I.  But we made the best of it and enjoyed trying out a new-to-us cocktail, a Moscow Mule.

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I liked the drink but I really loved the traditional copper mugs that they are served in.

Christmas day was quiet and relaxed.  We missed having Amelia and Matt here but we are working on adjusting to the new “normal”.  Having our long-time friends join us for dinner was perfect.  I was slightly alarmed to realize that my shoes matched the tablecloth! But, I do LOVE plaid!

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The day after Christmas Mike and I  headed out for our weekly long run.  We are in week two of our half marathon training for the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon which is on February 15th.

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We did eight really hilly miles and felt terrific about our efforts.

This morning the sunrise was spectacular.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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I walked up into our top field to get a new perspective.

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The clouds were beautiful.

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On my way back to the house, Hannah’s pony, Chelsea, called to me as she looked out of her window.  She may have been a little miffed that I had put photographing a fleeting sunrise ahead of her breakfast. Poor Chels!

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We hope your week was warm and festive.

What was the best part of your holiday week?