Thursday, November 19, 2015

UK Weekend

When Josh was at UK, I started what has become a tradition (in 2010). I end up going to the first UK home game of the year. It’s become my birthday present each year since it’s always close to my birthday. The earlier games in the season are generally easier to get tickets to. Josh was able to swing tickets for me the years he was there. Last year, I was able to get Lower Level seats via Ticketmaster. This year, Josh’s former roommate (the recently married Bryant Clemons) got tickets for us. This year for the first time I ever remember, UK had two home games on two consecutive days to start the season. Bryant got us tickets for both games so we were set! Josh and Shelby would get there Friday and Jonathan and Cheyenne on Saturday, so we’d get to have our whole family together.

Donna and I left out Friday morning. The trip up was pretty uneventful. The one big change on the trip is the interchange for the Western Kentucky Parkway and the Pennyrile Parkway (well, now it’s called I-69). I don’t really know how to describe it other than to say it’s no longer a simple interchange and you should really pay attention when you get close to make sure you go the way you want to go. There was some road construction and New Circle Road was busy as usual, but we made it fine. I had found a new Towneplace Suites over in the Hamburg area that I decided to try. It was about 15 minutes from Rupp Arena and about 5 minutes from where we’d be going to church Sunday. I rented a two room suite so we’d enough room for Donna and I, Jonathan and Cheyenne and Josh (Shelby would be visiting with friends and her parents). The hotel was very nice but the suite only had one bathroom which concerned me a bit for getting ready Sunday morning. Josh and Shelby got there about 4:45 and we headed out to eat dinner. We went to one of my favorite places to eat – BDs Mongolian Grill. You fill up a bowl with as much stir fry stuff as it’ll hold. I usually go heavy on the meat, but there are vegetables and sauces you can add as well. You then take it to be grilled and take it back to your table. The server brings rice and tortillas to wrap your food in. I had a coupon for a free bowl for my birthday so it was even better. We got done eating and headed for the game.

Our hope was to park in our usual spot at Memorial Coliseum. When we got there, the lot was completely full and we didn’t know why. We ended up having to park over by the K-Lair, so it would be about a mile walk. Fortunately, the weather was fine for walking and a lot of the walk was through campus. I found out later that the Lady Kats had a game at Memorial that night as well. We managed to make it to Rupp Arena a few minutes before tipoff. Our seats were excellent. We settled in to enjoy the game against the Albany Great Danes. Kentucky played OK but you could tell they weren’t a cohesive unit yet. They won by 13. We stayed for the Star of the Game interview (Derek Willis) and for Coach Cal’s post game show and then headed back. Josh took Shelby to a friend’s house to spend the night and we went back to our hotel for the evening.

We got up the next morning to have the hotel breakfast. I was not impressed by the choices so I made a side trip to Krispy Kreme. Jonathan and Cheyenne had left early that morning and got to Lexington after noon. We decided to go to Canes for chicken tenders. Bryant met us there. We had a really enjoyable time catching up with him. We went back to the hotel to rest a bit. There was a Culver’s within walking distance of our hotel so we went out for ice cream later. I kept up with the UK Vandy game on WatchESPN (amazingly enough I couldn’t find it on any of the cable channels in the room). It was just as well, UK played pretty poorly. Jonathan, Cheyenne, Josh and I headed to Chick-Fil-A to eat and then to the game. We were able to park in our usual Memorial Coliseum spot this time. Kentucky played NJIT this time. They had beaten Michigan last year and were one of the top three point shooting teams in the NCAA last year. They jumped on top 16-10 in the first four minutes hitting just about every shot they took. UK came back and ended up by 8 at the half. UK played much better in the 2nd half and ended up winning by 30. We didn’t stay for the post game shows since the game started so late (8) so we went back to the hotel.

The next morning we got up and went to North Lexington church of Christ (sharing the bathroom to get ready didn’t end up being an issue like I feared). This is where Josh attended while he was at UK. It’s a special place to us; they took really good care of Josh while he was there. It was good to see many of our friends there – it had been two years since we last visited there. One of Josh’s buddies – Davey Moster – came down from Cincinnati to see us. His brother Jake is a current student at UK and attends there. After services and taking with several people, we decided to go to one of our eating institutions – Five Guys. We had a great time there and posed for our usual Five Guys photo. But alas, all good things had to end. We all had to head for home. Our trip home was uneventful and we got back in plenty of time to go to services at our home congregation.

We had a great trip as usual, I am already looking forward to next year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Marathon Man Comeback

I had run my first marathon right after I turned 50 in 2011 (has that already been four years ago?) and had planned to run another. With the problems with my aging parents, I had to skip 2012. Jonathan and I planned to run the St Judes again in 2013. However, a freak ice/snowstorm blanketed the south and forced it to be cancelled. So, we decided to line up one for 2014 a little earlier in the year. We settled on one in Southern Illinois at the end of October. I didn’t blog about that one because it was an epic fail for me. The course was really hilly, I went out way too fast (especially given the hills) and I ended up cramping up severely with a couple of miles ago. I limped my way to the finish with a much worse time than my first. Josh did complete his first marathon with Jonathan and I so that made it a good day.

I went searching for a marathon to run in 2015 that was a bit less hilly and within driving distance. I found the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November that proclaimed itself as “flat and fast”. That sounded good to us, so we signed up despite our bad memories of the city from April. I got us hotel rooms within a couple of blocks from the start and then settled in to start my training. My big changes in my training were I started six months in advance and I did more 20 mile runs than last time (five instead of two). I also increased my other weekly run distances (hills and regular runs) from week to week hoping to build my stamina. The training went really well except for one run in the middle of summer. I started out on a long run on a particularly humid Saturday morning. About 13 miles in, I completely ragged out. I had to lie down and rest and walk the last few miles back. Fortunately, a beautiful angel (my lovely wife) came walking up with a bottle of water. She knew I was late getting back and came looking for me. I managed to do one of my 20 miles runs while visiting Josh in Verona. The cooler and less humid weather there made that much easier. I also slowly acclimated to the humidity plus got a better read on how to hydrate. I started my taper with three weeks to go before the marathon. I ended up with my usual hypochondriac feelings the week before the race thinking every day I was taking ill, but I did not.

We headed out for the race on Friday. We stopped at our usual eating place in Effingham Illinois (Culvers). As we ate, Donna spotted my good friend Chuck Walter with his wife Tonya and son Ben. We laughed about the strangeness of meeting up in Effingham. Chuck was wrestling with a GPS he had purchased which default language was Greek. I tried to help but to no avail. They were heading for Wisconsin to attend a wedding. We finished lunch (and ice cream) and headed out for the remainder of the trip. We had no trouble finding the hotel (Hampton Inn Downtown Indianapolis). We checked in and I headed for the Expo Center to pick up Jonathan and my race packets (he wouldn’t be able to get there til later). Donna and I walked to the downtown mall and got dinner at Chick-Fil-A. Jonathan and Cheyenne arrived about 9:30 and I saw him before I went to bed.

I got up and felt OK except for a little soreness in my right hip which of course threw me into a panic. I had some Tylenol which seemed to help. I ate breakfast (toast, banana and yogurt) and Jonathan and Cheyenne met us and we headed for the starting line. The weather was overcast with temperatures in the low 40s with just a bit of wind. Those were perfect running conditions for me. Jonathan and wished each other luck and I kissed Donna and told her I’d see her at the finish line. I went to the bathroom one last time. I lined up with the five hour pace group. My goal time was 5:15 but I figured I’d stay with the five hour group for at least half the race then drop back to the 5:15 group if need be. The time for the race started and we headed off!

Things were packed at the start. The always present issue of walkers lining up in corrals they have no business in (corrals for runners) forced our group to have to wave in and out around them. Our pacer actually set a pace a bit faster than five hours but I held up fine. The guy doing the pacing was excellent. This was his 48th marathon. He told us he still got jitters before every race. The race broke off at about the seven mile marker with the half marathoners heading back with the rest of us going on out. True to their promises, the course was pretty flat. We kept our slightly faster than five hour pace up. We were able to even walk through the water stations and up the one real hill (at mile 16). We lost a few people from our group on the way but there were about four of us left when we reached the 18.6 mile mark. We were still three minutes ahead of the five hour pace. Our pacer cramped up at about the 22 mile mark and the couple of us that were left went on. I was still able to hold the pace I needed to finish in under five hours. He finally caught up to me at mile 24 and said he was ok. He told me he needed to finish right at five hours but that I should keep pushing to beat that pace. It was an amazing feeling to be able to keep running the last couple of miles and pass quite a few people. As I headed into the final stretch, I heard Donna’s voice call out and I saw her and that encouraged me for the last little bit. I was able to keep up the pace and I made it to the finish with a time of 4:56:47. That shattered my previous best by 35 minutes. I heard Jonathan’s voice calling to me. He’d finished in 3:13 which was easily a personal best for him as well.

I was able to grab some Gatorade and water and I sat down and rested for a few minutes and we headed back to our hotel. As I was getting ready to cross the street, I felt someone touch my arm. I looked and it was our pacer. I told him I had PRed and I thanked him profusely for his help in my getting that. He was genuinely happy for me. I rested at the hotel for a bit and kept up with Kentucky getting beat by Georgia (via my phone). Donna and I went out later to the mall and I got a pretzel and some chocolate chip cookies. Jonathan and I watched college football and then went to Jimmy Johns (for Donna and I) and Buffalo Wild Wings (for him) for food later that night. I went to bed still feeling great from my accomplishment. We had breakfast the next morning and checked out. We went to church at Stop 11 Road church of Christ (where my friend Charles Blair preaches). We then headed for home with Donna and stopping at a Culvers in Indianapolis for lunch and then the Culvers in Effingham for a snack. We made it back to Paducah in plenty of time for evening worship services at our home congregation (Central church of Christ).

The whole experience was excellent. We are planning to run this one again next year. My next planned race though will be the 2016 Iron Mom half marathon in May here in Paducah. Several of my cousins and my sister Melissa are planning on running it so we’ll have a mini family reunion that weekend. I have already made a note to sign up for the Indianapolis Marathon on January 1st though. It'll be tough for us to do better than this year, but that'll be our goal.