Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lost & Found

Cleaning out the pockets of a suitcase for the birthday girl's trip this weekend, I came across something I'd thought lost a couple years ago. At the Free State Project's PorcFest in NH, I'd purchased a couple of bumper stickers from Liberty Stickers. I'm not big on sticking things of a permanent nature to my vehicle, and the fellow at Liberty Stickers had this nifty little plastic sleeve with magnetic backing, to offer someone like me the ability to vent without worrying about my truck.

I had a Ron Paul Revolution in rotation, along with a got liberty? I'd picked up somewhere else, and an anti-government snippet. Anyway, some lovely passerby decided to liberate the magnetic sleeve, along with my anti-government sticker. I tried using the magnetic backing which runs through the printer to make the refrigerator magnets out of kids art, but those never really stuck to the tailgate very well. I was cranky, but got over it.

But now that I've found this little gem, I think it might be time to order up a couple new stickers, along with the magnetic sleeves. A new got liberty?, of course, and a new version of this:

Maybe I should get two, just in case.

Two-wheeled grocery challenge

This week and next, I'm taking a slightly different path on the grocery challenge. Not only will I still be trying to lowering the average weekly shopping bills (currently @ $153 for five people), I'll also be doing as much grocery shopping as possible by bike. I haven't picked out and installed a rack on the rear of the bike yet, so will be limited to what I can carry between front basket and backpack. It's not actually all that limiting, as you can see by this photo from last Thursday:

With Publix, Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, a bakery, and the pet food store all within 2.5 miles of the house, there's really not many reasons to get in the car, now that the weather is so nice. (Ooh! That reminds me - it's almost time for the two fruit & veggie stands to re-open for the summer. Yea!)

There will be a couple of exceptions. This Monday, I swung by the store on my way home from the middle school media center and picked up a gallon of milk while getting a container of fruit salad for lunch. Thunderstorms are out, too. I don't mind riding in a gentle rain, but darker skies, distracting flashes and heavy downpour just doesn't feel terribly safe. I'm not worried about being struck by lightning. It's the cars. Atlanta drivers go a bit... nutty when it rains.

The early shopping this week has gone pretty well. Both trips were TJs/Bakery combos. Felt a little odd carrying the bag from the bakery into TJs with me, but the only question I got was the clerk asking me which bakery I'd gone to, because the ciabatta looked wonderful.

Finally, for the last few days' Things People Yell Out The Window:

Where's your helmet?
This one didn't bug me, as I should be wearing my helmet. I smiled, took it out of the basket and put it back on. I'd just taken it off to adjust my ponytail at the red light.

I didn't catch the first part, so am not certain they were berating me for being poor. It's possible they were asking if I was a member of the world's oldest profession. I could have asked the young men (late teens/early 20s) when I passed them at the next intersection, but was too busy trying to avoid the bare foot dangling out of the passenger window of the SUV. Yeah, they were classy. Gotta love the suburbs. If you're on a bike while wearing street clothes, you're a bum.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Milestones for my budding cyclist

This photo is from April 18th, which marked the first road ride for DD. She & I took it pretty easy, starting with the straight shot down Columns Drive, a 2.5 mile road which ends at a section of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area. Columns has clearly marked bike lanes, and often has more bike and foot traffic than cars, which makes it the perfect place to start.
Went over all the rules in advance. Don't panic, was my first one. I knew she'd be nervous and trying to turn around to look at cars she could hear behind us. Cars go around us; we go around pedestrians. Always a helmet, no headphones, and the signal for a left hand turn, which was the one we'd be making at the top end of the street.
Full length of Columns, one complete loop of 5k sand/gravel path at Cochran Shoals, followed by a second, smaller loop of 2 miles, then back down Columns to the parking area. Total trip, 10.25 miles, five of which were road.

And, this past weekend, the newly minted 8-year-old gained serious bragging rights over her older brothers with a 20.23 mile ride on the Silver Comet Trail. Only complaining was about not being able to snack on her pack of Soda Shop Jelly Belly Beans except when we stopped for breaks. We also talked about getting her a kids pair of cycling shorts, since she wants to do more 2-3 hour rides with me in the future. (And, she wants a cupcake jersey.) Next year, she'll need to be on her own bike, or we'll need to purchase an actual tandem cycle. That trail-a-bike is awfully heavy, especially once you add 60 lbs of girl.

Next weekend, B2 and I will be running in the Big Peach 5k while the rest of the family is out of town. He's not a fan of the 1-mile fun runs at many of the 5/10k races, but we found out the day of the Run the Reagan Half Marathon, 10k & 5k that he enjoys the 5k distance. Both of us are looking forward to Saturday.

Which reminds me, I need to hop onto and get him signed up. (I signed up several weeks ago, before travel plans for the spring birthday trip were complete.)

Grocery Challenge & Supper Wars - Week 17

Week 17 Shopping:
Publix - $46.67
Whole Foods - $54.87
Trader Joes (Bike) - $31.75
Euro. Bakery (Bike) - $11.75
Trader Joes (Bike) - $8.46
Total - $153.30
Year to Date - $2,520.95
Average weekly spending - $153.30

I'm missing one of my receipts from this week, so my list isn't complete. Used the total charge as the amount, so it's just the items missing.

I needed to take goodies into classes @ school, and there are peanut allergies. The bakery nearest our house runs a peanut-free kitchen, so nobody was left out, as they would have been with anything either home-baked or from the grocery bakery. We tried a loaf of the whole wheat sandwich bread, and will let the kids try the buttercrust this week. With prices of $1.75-$3.50 for the various breads, I think I may be shelving my bread pans for the duration of the hot summer months. It's not quite as low as the per loaf cost of ingredients for homemade, but once you include the extra cost of cooling the house on a baking day when it's 85+ degrees, it's probably pretty close.

With the return of gorgeous weather, I'll be trying something new for Week 18. Info. later today, but a quick glance at the ( ) on Week 17's list ought to give it away.

Supper Wars-

New stuff this week:

5 Spice Chicken with Vegetable Stir Fry,
Veggie Fried Rice
Didn't add as much 5 Spice Powder as recipe called for. Figured the flavor might be too intense if I did. Odd reception of the veggies. Carrots are always a fave. Noses were turned up at the normally loved broccoli, but yellow squash was embraced. Celery got by for the first time, but mushrooms and zucchini were still on the "no eat" list.

Braised Lamb in Beer & Onions, Whole Wheat Rolls,
Mashed Garlic Potatoes, Orange Cauliflower & Broccoli
Kids helped with this dinner, peeling potatoes and garlic cloves. Nobody but me knew it was lamb. This was possible because of the Whole Foods labeling, "New Zealand Boneless Shoulder Roast."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Grocery Challenge & Supper Wars - Weeks 15 & 16

Now that I'm playing catch up after the chaos of the last couple weeks, I'm taking a close look at my receipts for the first time. The numbers are up. Week 15 was a bit of a stock up week, but there was extra spending that can only be due to shopping with 1-3 children tagging along. One child, not that tough. All three of them, and my brain ceased to function.

It was spring break, two of them are hitting a growth spurt, they were all feeling snacky, so were their friends, we were having company for a birthday, etc... I know, enough excuses.

Week 15 Shopping:

Publix - $46.54
Trader Joes - $47.42
Farmers Mkt - $93.98
Costco - $22.07
Total - $210.01
Year to Date - $2,180.39
Average weekly spending - $145.79

The following week was a little better. Between birthday dinners, but a pressed schedule (no baking time) and a pantry which had been cleaned out of all the things I normally package in lunchboxes made for another week where I bought more snacks than usual.

Week 16 Shopping:

Whole Foods - $28.69
Kroger - $95.45
Whole Foods - $63.12
Total - $187.26
Year to Date - $2,367.65
Average weekly spending - $147.97

Supper Wars -

I have very little memory of cooking dinner for much of these two weeks. The new things, and what we had for supper when Grandma & Grandpa were over are a bit more memorable - some good, some not so good.

Lobster Ravioli, Salad, Oat/Wheat Dinner Bread
The children acted like I was trying to kill them. Even the teenager, who tried it and liked it, decided I was evil. He apparently felt betrayed I didn't tell him it was lobster before he sat down to supper. (I did.) I think I was supposed to stand between him and the television screen, waving my arms and speaking slowly, until he broke away from Halo Wars. (Ugh.) Anyway, lots of salad & rolls for the kids.

Penne w/ Vodka Sauce
Made this sauce with homemade tomato sauce. So. Good. Have two more pints of the tomato sauce in the freezer, just waiting to be turned into something delicious. Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis.

Sweet Potato Curry w/Spinach and Chickpeas, Basmati Rice
Amazing, but only from the grownup perspective. Two kids tried it. One liked it. Middle child refused to eat anything but rice and green peas. (Recipe for curry dish here.)

Dahl Curry w/Couscous, Naan
After the earlier curry, I expected a big fight on this one. Didn't get one. They picked out the grape tomato halves and peppers, but admitted to rather liking this dish. Since DD helped wash & rip up the parsley & coriander, there was no suspicion of the "green stuff" in the dish. (Some of which was spinach.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Almost out of the weeds

I'm a bit overwhelmed this last week and a half. No bad stuff, just lots of regular stuff. Between having to completely redo everything about the medical and HSA account on the taxes at the last minute, two family birthdays, emissions testing & registration on vehicles, and volunteer time at both schools, there has been almost no time left after normal work and family activities. When I did manage an hour or so of me time, I chose to use it for exercise. Running/cycling out the crazy, I suppose.

I'm almost afraid to say this... but I think things will start to calm down over the next day or two. But for today, I've already used up 10-15 minutes of the one hour I've carved out of today's schedule. This afternoon, it's off to clean and pack books at the school media center, for next week's big move.

If I hurry, there's still time for about four miles of sanity.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ironing out the wrinkles

A little steam and starch makes everything better. Sunday, the kids were in bed at normal time for a school night, after much complaining and backpack prep. The kitchen and house had been put back in order from the big Easter dinner with company. I spent a couple of hours with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency on HBO while ironing. (Can't tell you how much I enjoy that show. It's rare to see a show that is uplifting.) By the time I'd pressed the kids' uniform slacks, shirts and skirts and starched the shirts Dad would need to take for the week, my sense of peace and calm had returned.

Spring break was fun, but I am so glad it's over. I know that makes me sound like an awful mom, who doesn't want to spend time with her children. That not it. Summer will be much longer, and yet is always so much smoother than short school breaks. We need fresh air and exercise. Lots of it. The weather was actually worse for outdoor play much of last week than during the Winter holidays, which made for more bickering than usual. The age differences which don't matter during a hike, or a day at the neighborhood pool, or on a family bike ride become big problems when trying to get everyone to agree on a board game. Or a video game. Or a movie. Or which child(ren) should be responsible for washing out a big bin of Legos after "somebody" spilled hot cocoa in it.

At any rate, this morning is wonderfully quiet. I'm on my third cup of coffee, and have almost caught up with the email and blog reading from last week. And, after a couple hours on a map project, I'll be off for a run. It'll probably be raining, but I don't mind a bit. I won't have to worry about what's being broken while I'm out... and I rather enjoy splashing through puddles.

Guess you could say my Spring Break starts today.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spring Break 2009: Snowflakes & Snakes

What a truly odd weather week this is turning out to be. Sunny shorts weather Sunday, followed by plummeting temps Monday and flurries on Tuesday. We got out of the house to walk around the farmers market one day, and did a little bit of patio cleanup, mixed with soccer, all bundled in winter coats. (Did I mention we're in Atlanta?) While sweeping up some leaves under the basketball goal, my sons found this little fellow:

He's a harmless brown snake, and eats the sorts of bugs which I'll be hoping to keep out of my herbs and tomato plants this summer. Nobody hurt him.

Temps are climbing above 60 degrees, so our normal gardening, hiking, biking and general outdoor play will be picking back up today, just in time for national Start! Walking Day.

Off to play outside!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The tortoise and the hare

Patty (my commuter/hybrid) isn't exactly a tortoise, but she is slow-ish and green. So, for the sake of the goofy race our family held on Sunday afternoon, we'll call her The Tortoise. The role of The Hare will be played by the old Mercedes sedan.

It was a lovely day, and I like doing the shopping by bike on lovely days. But we needed a few things which are not terribly compatible with my current cargo set up (front basket). A gallon of milk and mega pack of trashbags and 20 lb bag of dog food were beyond me.

As I sat with the list, trying to figure out how I could divide it up for only what was needed immediately, to make the short list for a bike trip to Trader Joes, I heard
"If you don't want to go to the store, I can go for you."

"It's not that I don't want to go. I just don't want to take the car."

"So, don't take the car."

"But we need some big stuff. And Publix has some stockup type things on sale. And we're out of coffee. So I have to go to more than one store."
"So give me that list. I'll take the kids, and you go to Trader Joes."


"No. I'm lying. Give me the list. We'll be back in no time."
After a skeptical glance - I don't think he's been in the store with all the kids before - a light bulb pops up above my head.
"Wanna race?"

I gave him the list for one store, arranged by aisle. Scribbled my list on an index card, grabbed a light jacket and hopped on the bike, as everyone else climbed into the car.

Falling cherry blossom petals, clusters of wisteria, bright sunshine, blooming dogwoods, tire tracks in the yellow pollen - such a beautiful Spring ride.

Did the shopping. Got a little distracted in the dried fruit and nuts section. Couldn't find dates for granola, though I did find something new to me. Sweet apricot kernels, called "poor man's almonds" on the package. (Pretty good, even if I'm not quite over the feeling that I'm eating almonds which have maybe gone a bit off.) Sorted through the packs of strawberries for the freshest. Spent a few extra minutes perusing the flowers, to get the right color combo of daisies and lilies, with lilies which were just starting to open. As I waited in line, I realized I might be having too much fun. Didn't want to lose the race. (Nah. Didn't care. Was thoroughly enjoying the time.)

Rode home at my normal leisurely pace, sniffing the flowers at both traffic lights. Got to the driveway... nobody was there. Snapped photos, and sent with a "hah!" message to the competition. (Thought they'd appreciate knowing I'd taken their parking space in the carport.) They didn't get home for about 15-20 minutes. Something about long red lights, parking lots and shopping carts? I'd have paid attention, but was too busy doing a victory lap around the kitchen with the bouquet, showing off my already put away groceries.

2.5 miles @ 8-10 mph. Two bags & bouquet. 32 minutes, total.

1.5 miles @ 25-35 mph. Three bags. 51 minutes, total

No. I didn't actually win anything for being first. Will have to plan better next time we pull a silly challenge out of thin air.

Being Ourselves

The fabulous & inspiring MizFit had a wonderful video post Monday about being unapologetically ourselves. It's so easy to forget about this in the middle of being what everyone else in our lives needs/expects us to be.

The comments sections after her posts are always fun, but Monday's is even better than usual.

Unlike MizFit, playing the clarinet well is not part of my true self. But...playing the clarinet badly, along with many other instruments, is something I feel no need to apologize for, as I thoroughly enjoy it. (I do play the flute and saxophone rather well; the guitar, piano and others are just for fun.)

Grocery Challenge & Supper Wars - Week 14

Week 14 Shopping:
Publix - $31.64
Trader Joes - $20.35
Publix - $41.96
Total - $93.95
Year to Date - $1,970.38

Average weekly spending - $140.74

Until I sat down with the receipts yesterday, I was sure this week would show up as a step backward in budgeting. Didn't follow any of the normal guidelines. I shopped without a list. Picked up a bit of junk food. Bought bread, instead of baking. Plus, everyone was here this week. When I took off the non food items - vitamins, allergy meds for the whole family, ibuprofen for the post-half legs - the total for the week was under $100. Taking advantage of a few of the Buy One, Get One specials at Publix definitely helped.

I'm starting Week 15 completely out of meat, poultry, milk, rice, couscous, oats, etc., so this week will definitely be higher as I restock. With the kids out of school for Spring Break, the food cost may end up being higher for lunches, too. The weather stinks, and cold temps are sparking requests for hot lunches and cocoa.

A good thing about the lousy weather these first few days of break - I'll have enthusiastic participants in the Farmers Market trip. They'll be completely sick of the house, not long after using up all their video game time. Time on the Xbox360 is earned by physical activity and chores. I'm going to guess that, for the kids, walking around the farmers market trumps cleaning out under their beds.

Supper Wars-
Flatbread Pizza, Salad & Fruit (Kids)
Leftover Sw. Potato Curry & Flatbread
This was after getting up early for the trip downtown for the ING Half-marathon. Nobody was terribly motivated, and we were all very happy with our dinners.

Chicken Fried Rice, Garlic Green Beans

Turkey Tacos, Black Bean, Corn & Mango Salad

Baked Mac & Cheese, Broccoli (Kids)
Quinoa Salad w/Feta & Avocado
The kids sampled the quinoa before I mixed it into the salad. DD is convinced the little string-like centers are worms, thanks to the comments of big brother. (I refrained from murdering the boy in question.)

Pork Chops w/Mango & Roasted Red Peppers
Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
Liked the flavor left by roasted peppers, but wouldn't eat the actual peppers, yet. When I puree the peppers with more mango and onion, making a BBQ sauce for chicken, they'll eat them.

Garlic Chicken, Dahl Curry w/Couscous
Cornbread, Salad
Once they learned dahl was related to the lentils and chickpeas they work so hard to avoid, the eating of dahl & couscous stopped. It was expected, but still disappointing. (I'm pretty sure they're not actually my children, having been replaced by alien clones at some point.) The cornbread was a non-dairy experiment. Used olive oil and soy milk, instead of melted butter & whole milk. It was good, though a bit drier on day two than the dairy version would normally be.

Spaghetti w/ Pistachio Pesto, Salad, Rustic Italian Bread
The pesto was amazing. Modified the recipe from one out of the Splendid Table host's How to Eat Supper cookbook. Used the food processor, instead of doing the rough chop, figuring it best if the onions blended with the basil and pistachio. It worked.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Planning for a Summer roadtrip

We canceled our cross country trek over this past Christmas. Scheduling would have meant I'd have been driving alone with three kids and dog, with Dad flying in to join us for just a few days. Turned out that the cancellation was a good idea. The weather would have made the long snowy drive even longer, due to short driving days - not to mention the short fuse I'd have had from dealing with dangerous driving conditions during the latest round of "she took my gameboy - he's using my pillow - the dog won't stop breathing on me..."

It's rescheduled for this summer. I'll still be doing the driving, but only by myself one way, with long days, warm weather for leg stretching at break time, and hotels with open pools for kids to exercise before eight hours of driving.

Our time in CO is fixed (more on that later), but we'll be able to spend a little over a week each way, exploring on our way to and from Colorado. We'll be seeing two sets of grandparents, as well as spending some time with the two great-grandparents. We'll take a southern route through Arkansas, Texas & New Mexico one way; Nebraska, Missouri, Southern Illinois and Tennessee the other. (Don't know which is which yet.)

I'm taking requests from everyone (kids & grownups) for things they'd like to see and do along the way, and working a few of them into the driving routes. So far, I have general requests for horseback riding, rafting, lots of hiking, and ice cream. For specific locations, I have:

St. Louis Gateway Arch. All three kids are interested in this stop. Not just because we've driven by it before, or because I told them about going to the top as a kid. We read The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan last year (read to 4th graders at school this year), and the Arch is the setting for a big battle with Echidna, the mother of all monsters, and the Chimera. Percy Jackson, the hero, is blasted from the arch and falls into the river. The children are dying to look from the top to see exactly how far the drop into the Mississippi River would be.

Capulin Volcano National Monument, in New Mexico. We passed it pretty late in the day on our way back from Colorado a few years ago. The boys kept the idea of a hiking down into a volcano crater tucked away, and brought it up as soon as they heard we'd be back through NM again this time.

And, thanks to blogger Slamdunks' Off the Beaten Path series, I'll be adding a second geologically-themed stop to our southern route. Last time we passed through Arkansas, we stopped once for breakfast and gas, and once at a rest area. This time, we'll be stopping either in Murfreesboro, at Coleman Mining (quartz), or at Crater of Diamonds State Park, in Hot Springs. Even though it's the boys who are into geology, the little girl in our group will be more than happy to climb around looking for rocks which might turn out to be sparkly.

I'm really looking forward to the trip. Heck, I'm even looking forward to the planning. I get to pull out state guidebooks, loads of maps, and work with the kids to build our very own little atlas for the trip.

For right now though, I need to get back to building an area map for a retail district.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

As GM goes, so goes the nation

And don't forget...What's good for GM is good for America. I like those phrases less each time I hear them. Even more, now that GM and Chrysler both are becoming nationalized companies. Government officials are now not just bailing out the companies, setting salaries and making management hiring decisions, they're also going to guarantee warranties?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Carmageddon '09 - Lemon Aid
Daily Show Full EpisodesEconomic CrisisPolitical Humor

And, from the folks at Reason:

As one fellow said after seeing the piece from Reason...
GM + Government Motors. If Amtrak is any guide, future cars will break down often, get bad miliage, and cost $100,000 each.

Grocery Challenge & Supper Wars - Week 13

A few days late posting this, but it took me a while to figure out where the receipts were and what we'd eaten for dinner. Sunday was a lot harder on my brain than I thought it would be. Not the run, but the part about getting up at 4:00 a.m. after a restless night of paranoid dreams about sleeping through the alarm.

Week 13 Shopping:
Whole Foods - $26.20
Publix - $50.34
Trader Joes - $26.81
Total - $103.75
Year to Date - $1,876.43

Average weekly spending - $144.34

Another good week with the shopping budget. Almost made it to another $100 grocery week. Biggest reason for this was the small stockpile of meat and poultry in the freezer. The weekly average is continuing to drop, even if only by a few dollars each week. This week's spending will be higher, as I'm having to pick up the protein from the regular stores, instead of the farmers market. Was planning to make a trip out to Dekalb this week, but there's a lot of work on projects I'm trying to get finished before the kids are out for Spring Break.

Next week, we'll be taking a half-day trip to the farmers market. Whichever day is not suited to outdoor play will become our food adventure day. I'll figure out some sort of scavenger hunt to keep them occupied. Maybe the search for everything we need for a three course pizza dinner. Wonder if I can steer dessert away from the normal peanut butter and chocolate this time?

Supper Wars -
Cheddar Stuffed Burgers, Green beans
Roasted sweet & russet potatoes
Easy win. Burgers were chicken & turkey combo, prepped & frozen last week.

Parmesan Chicken, Salad
Roast Winter Vegetables
The kids like parsnips when mashed, but not so much when roasted. General kid consensus? Creepy. Squash, potatoes & carrots all okay though.

Baked pasta & broccoli (kids)
Butternut Squash & Mushroom Risotto
The kids tried the risotto, and thought it was okay... except for the mushrooms, which are apparently even creepier than roasted parsnips. (Figured this, which is why there was pasta for them.)
15 Bean Soup, Fresh Whole Wheat Bread
Don't want to talk about reactions to this meal. Not a win with the kids, even though it's one of my favorite soups.

Beef in Beer & Onions, Brown Rice, Broccoli
Used guinness instead of lager, so there were a few faces made upon sight of the very dark gravy. Until they tried it. B2 declared it the best ever.

Garlic Ginger Baked Tofu, Veggie Fried Rice, Salad

Brinner - Bacon, Eggs, Fruit (kids)
Sweet Potato, Spinach & Chickpea Curry
The curry was not for the kids. That wasn't a battle I was interested in fighting Saturday. Found the recipe for the curry here. Modified it slightly by making my own curry paste (onion, jalapeno, grape tomatoes, garlic, ginger, spices), and it was delicious. Plenty of leftovers, which made for the perfect hot food to warm me from the inside out after Sunday's run.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Half #4

Sunday was the ING Georgia Marathon & Half Marathon. I ran in the Half, but will get to that in a few minutes. Let's start with my not-so-little kid:

B1 participated in the ING Run for Something Better Half Marathon through his middle school. The kids had several weeks to build up miles, then were able to run the final mile of their half marathon on the official course. They received wristbands at four, eight and twelve miles, a t-shirt to wear for Sunday, and a medal upon finishing the final mile.

Sunday night, B1 and I added up his miles for the time of the challenge, and he was at a total of about 23.25, once we added in the mile on the course. I looked at the total and remarked how proud I was of him... not only did he finish, he was almost at a marathon distance. He's asked me about which races are coming up over the next few months, so I think I'll have a running buddy for at least a couple of them.


Now, my race. The course was beautiful. The hydration stations were perfectly spaced. The volunteers were amazing. The neighborhood cheering areas were great. (Favorite was the costumes, punny signs and pep band at Poncey Highlands.) But, it was not my best race.

Chip time - 2:23:48; 10:58/mile
Watch time - 2:17:35; 10:30/mile

My official time was 2:23:48, far slower than what I'd hoped. There are several lessons learned from those numbers though, that I plan to carry forward for next year.
  • Unless it's an emergency, don't stop at the portaloos before the Half and Full courses split. The lines are too long, and chances are the conditions are disgusting. Almost 10 minutes waiting at last stop before the split. Of the four, only two units were usable. Had I waited two miles more, there'd have been no line, and much less time lost.
  • Plan for constant hills. I knew it would be rolling hills, just really hadn't occured to me how very many there were.
  • Ignore the weather report. Dress warmer than I need to, and toss items in gear bag, last minute. The sun never came out, the wind picked up, and the temps dropped, instead of climbing into the low-mid 50s. (Next couple things stem from this.)
  • Wrap my knee. If it's warmer than 50, I probably won't need it. But on a long run, on the chance that it stays cold, it's going to hurt a lot more if I don't wear it on all those downhills.
  • Take body glide along, or wear capris. Goosebumps chafe more than regular old skin.
Good news:
  • The practice at pacing paid off. Starting off with a warmup pace of 10:45-11 for the first few miles meant keeping a 27/3 for run/walk intervals was perfect. The transition to a pace around 9:30 went smoothly. Just couldn't make up the time lost in line for the "nature break".
  • Recovery is getting easier. I was wiped out Sunday afternoon, but didn't feel the overall stiffness Monday, other than in left knee. Was able to do an easy three on Tuesday at a 9:15 pace.
  • Even at 2:23, I beat my time from the comparably cold and hilly TWC Atlanta Thanksgiving Half of 2:24.
  • Since the average finishing time for women in my age group (30-39) was 2:24:09, I am slightly better than average; which I'll combine with all the learning experience for an overall win.