Horses, History, and a Hot 10,000 in Kentucky

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When we realized that we had signed up to run a race in our 39th state on our 40th wedding anniversary it became clear that we needed to squeeze in another race before then so that we could keep the numbers copacetic. A stash of Southwest Airlines gift cards and some travel tips from our friend, Erik, convinced us that Kentucky would be our 39th quest state.

A quick perusal of Running in the USA brought us to the Bluegrass 10,000. This was just what we were looking for. We reserved an Airbnb within a mile of the race, booked our flights, and we were set to run in our 39th state.

Because we had taken a painfully early flight, we arrived in Lexington after our 1.5 hour drive from Cincinnati too early to check into our Airbnb.  A stop at DV8 for a quick, totally southern immersion lunch revived us.

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I had a fried chicken and marmalade sandwich which was decadently delicious.

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With more time to kill we opted to visit the Mary Todd Lincoln House.

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The tour was fascinating and provided a wealth of historical information.  We were so pleased to have spent the time here.

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When we arrived at our Airbnb we were delighted with our accommodations. The spacious two room apartment was filled with antiques and period artwork giving it a very regal but still comfortable vibe. We soon found the location to be an easy walk to all of Lexington’s attractions and restaurants.

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The next morning we enjoyed a leisurely warm-up walk to the start of the Bluegrass 10,000.  We joined hundreds of other runners in the especially festive crowd on this Fourth of July morning.

After the “Star Spangled Banner” was sung a bugler played “My Old Kentucky Home” which we found especially moving. And to completely solidify the fact we were in Lexington, Kentucky, the heart of horse racing country, the bugler played “Call to Post” (AKA what they play at the beginning of the Kentucky Derby) when it was time to line up for the race. That little burst of horse racing stayed with me throughout the race and helped me access my inner Thoroughbred to push my pace every once in a while.

The course ran through downtown Lexington and through picturesque historic neighborhoods.

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Mike was particularly intrigued to be running past Transylvania University prompting a number of vampire jokes.

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I seldom like photos of me running but I do like how this one shows Mike’s and my stride perfectly synchronized (thanks Amelia for pointing that out).

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We were pleased with our race and after the requisite awkward selfie

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and coercing an innocent bystander to take yet another post-race photo,

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we happily participated in Lexington’s Fourth of July festivities, which we kicked off by sampling some local brews.

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Later in the day we strolled just a few blocks from our Airbnb to watch Lexington’s Fourth of July parade.  It was stunningly hot and we were in bourbon country so pretty much all we could do after the parade was to try some bourbon ice cream at Sav’s Chill.

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It was a perfect decision.

The next day, fortified by a scrumptious breakfast at Doodles,

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The side order of beignets was not necessary but absolutely savored.

we popped into the Lexington Visitors Center where we learned tons of intriguing facts about Lexington’s history and why it’s called the “Horse Capital of the World”.

Mike convinced me to pose with “Big Lex” who legend says turned blue from eating all of the region’s bluegrass.

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We left with a few souvenirs and a map that directed us to the Bluegrass Country Driving Tour.  This drive meanders down tree-lined roads and past multiple horse farms and miles of Kentucky’s trademark dark wooden fencing.

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After I got home I realized I took a photo with what was probably the only leafless tree in sight.

We opted for a short detour to Georgetown where we enjoyed a great lunch at Broussard’s Delta Kitchen, perused a few antique shops on my quest to find mint julep cups (no luck), and recharged at a terrific coffee shop, A Cup of Commonwealth, which we found in other locations, as well.

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After returning to our Airbnb for a bit we ventured out into the heat again and ended up at the cutest coffee and tea shop, Lussi Brown Coffee Bar where I had an amazingly refreshing concoction of iced tea, lemonade, muddled strawberries, and mint. We spent awhile playing games, sipping our drinks, and taking in the varied art displayed throughout the cafe.

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And our art perusal didn’t end there.  When we were planning our trip to Lexington, Pinterest had supplied me with a plethora of touristy tips including one that mentioned an art gallery in the lobby of 21C Museum Hotel.  There was nothing about this entryway that would have caught my attention as we walked by.  In fact, we walked by it even when we were looking for it!  But once inside we felt like we had found a hidden treasure.

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We wandered through two floors of intriguing, eclectic artwork.

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This is made out of sequins.

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We walked back out into the heat feeling a tad dazed and pleased to have added this unexpected experience to our visit to Lexington.

Perhaps our favorite experience in Lexington came very early on our last morning in town.  Acting on another tip from our friend, Erik, we drove to Keeneland Race Track, just outside downtown.  We had learned that the track is open to the public during morning workouts.

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As we walked to the track the sun was just rising.  Only a handful of spectators had gathered along the rail but the track was full of horses in various phases of their workouts.

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The jockeys frequently greeted us as they waited along the rail.

IMG_6898I could have watched the horses thunder past in that quiet early morning light indefinitely but part of this venture had included the promise of breakfast at the Track Kitchen which is on the Keeneland grounds.  Friendly staff greeted us as we entered the cafeteria-style restaurant and filled our plates with more eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy than I could eat.

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Keeneland offers a self-guided walking tour as well as a group tour.  Initially we had figured we’d DIY it but for a reasonable fee we signed up for the narrated tour. After just a few steps into the tour it was clear that we had made the best choice  Our guide was an absolute wealth of knowledge.   He told us fun facts about the places he took us including which celebrities (including Queen Elizabeth) had been in an exclusive club room, brought us to the area where horses prepare just prior to racing, and showed us the chair that Bob Baffert sits in when bidding on horses during Keeneland’s legendary race horse sale.

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Being a huge fan of the Triple Crown races in which Bob Baffert always has horses entered, seeing his chair made me feel like I had met him in person! (Fellow horse racing fans may understand this slightly obscure excitement.)

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We left Keeneland with a much richer knowledge of horse racing in general and some fascinating facts about this legendary race track.

Having gotten such an early start to our day, we still had a bit of time before we had to be at the airport.   As we traveled north we had an opportunity to swing into the Old Friends Farm in Georgetown which offers a wonderful home to retired Thoroughbreds.

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Our timing was off and we missed the official tour but the kind woman at the gift shop brought us out back with a bucket of carrots and lured this handsome guy to the fence for us to fawn over.

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This is Nicanor who is Barbaro’s full brother.  (Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby in 2006 but tragically broke his leg while running the Preakness which eventually resulted in his death).  However, on a happier note, Nicanor couldn’t have been sweeter.  He let us pet him, gobbled the carrots offered to him, and struck this photogenic pose.

We left Kentucky with our 39th state race completed and our minds filled with history and horses. What had begun solely as a plan to squeeze in another state grew into one of our favorite trips. Definitely a win!

State: Kentucky

Race Quest #: 39

Date Run: July 4, 2019

The Bottom Line:  Having the race begin with a bugler serenading us with “My Old Kentucky Home” and hearing the “Call to Post” as we lined up at the start couldn’t have been a more quintessentially Kentucky experience. Immersing ourselves in the horses and history of Lexington rounded out a trip to this classic city and helped put us on track to run in our 40th state on our 40th anniversary. Stay tuned for upcoming posts about this adventure!

 

 

 

True Love in Tennessee

After considering a number of options for our run in Tennessee we decided the Zen Evo Chocolate Lover’s 5K  would be a good choice.  Our goal was to coordinate so that Amelia could run a race with us.  Knoxville is about a 3.5 hour drive from their home in North Carolina so it was a good option.  We met Amelia there and drove to Knoxville along with their sweet pup, Jameson.

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We took turns snuggling with him in the backseat.

We had booked a house for the weekend through Airbnb and couldn’t have been happier with our decision.  The home was spotlessly clean, cozy, and full of welcoming details.

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Judy, our host, even left a goodie bag of treats for Jameson, as well as goodies for the humans in our group.  The pint of Bluebell ice cream in the fridge with a note saying “in case of emergency” really made us feel pampered-and luckily we did experience an ice cream emergency. Thanks, Judy!

Since the race didn’t start until 10:00 on Saturday morning, I had plenty of time to put the finishing touches on our couple’s costume.

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Mike’s enthusiasm for wearing any sort of costume is non-existent. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight and he worried that agreeing to run with 6″ conversation hearts on his back may not allow that anonymity.  Undeterred, I persevered with my project in case he relented but I, uncharacteristically, refrained from pestering him into agreeing.

When this wording popped into my head I thought I might have a chance.

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He decided with that disclaimer he would go ahead with yet another of my whacky plans…definitely “true love”.

The race was held at the Victor Ashe Park which was about a 20 minute drive from the house. The forecast sounded dire.

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It is was dark and threatening rain when we arrived.

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We opted to take our requisite awkward selfie before the race.

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Although he had relented and agreed to the hearts on the back of his jacket, I didn’t even ask him to add the heart headband.

The course was an out and back on the paved path through the park.

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We appreciate out and back courses when we run with Amelia because we can watch for her on her way back while we are still heading out.  When we found her she was the third woman but she pushed it up the last hills and ended up coming in as the overall second place female finisher! After completing her race she looped back to us on the course and then dashed back to the end to snap a few photos of us finishing.IMG_0786

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We’re crossing the finish line hand-in-hand as we do with all of our quest races.  Besides being kind of special, it keeps me from lagging too far behind.

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The rain picked up after we finished so we were grateful the awards ceremony was held under a pavilion.  We thought the addition of several heaters was brilliant and wished more races offered this luxury.

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Apparently stuffed bears are a signature feature of this race.  We were handed a bear after we finished. We received one for placing 4th in the couples’ costume contest. Mike placed second in his age group and I got third-and we each got another bear.

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But even more exciting was Amelia placing as the second overall female and receiving this gigantic bear.  It plays a Shakira song and has flashing red lights! I love the sequence of her expressions as she received the bear.

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There was a post-race party at the Hexagon Brewery later in the day which we happily attended.

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Although the crowd was a bit small when we were there we enjoyed talking to the bartender/owner who impressed us with the number of activities at the brewery and with the variety of  beers they are producing.

Our plan was to venture out into downtown Knoxville for dinner.  When we inquired about restaurant recommendations our bartender had enticed us with a multitude of options.  However, as we drove back to the house for the afternoon through a downpour the thought of walking around the city in the rain became less appealing despite our sincere desire to explore and experience Knoxville. Eventually we somewhat reluctantly conceded that the option to have dinner in our cozy house and watch the Olympics sounded the most appealing.

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We awoke the next morning confident that our decision to stay in had been the right one but feeling really disappointed to be heading home without having visited the center of Knoxville.  A quick trip into the city for donuts and coffee gave us a tiny (and sweet) taste of the city.  Thanks to Amelia’s research we arrived at a perfect donut shop, Makers Donuts.

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They had a delectable array of options.

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Although they didn’t sell coffee they were connected to another hip establishment that did.

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Amelia and Matt drove us back to Charlotte while we enjoyed some more quality time with Jameson.IMG_2950

As we waited in the security line at the airport Amelia sent us this shot of Jameson looking out the car window after us.

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We were sad to be leaving, too.

State-Tennessee

Quest #-35

Date: February 10, 2018

The Bottom Line: Although our plans to experience Knoxville didn’t transpire as we had hoped, we loved having a chance to spend the weekend with Amelia, Matt, and Jameson.  Our Airbnb home made the weekend exceptionally comfortable.  The race was fun and filled our suitcase with more stuffed bears than we’ve ever traveled with.  Mike was a great sport by once again putting up with my crazy ideas and showing his “true love”. What a guy!