June 2010 Archives

With the new iPhone firmly in hand and an invitation to partake in a fish fry with my friend Jed, I hopped in the truck and made the short jaunt down to Oregon, WI where I found Mulligan's.


A few weeks ago, Jed texted me from Mulligan's to report that the fish fry was "decent" and the Old Fashioneds were "perfectly muddled." Sounded like a winning combination, so I was pretty excited to give this fish fry a shot - especially after last Friday's less than fantastic fish fry at Feiler's.

Mulligan's was a busy place - the patio was filled, the bar area was packed, and the dining areas that flank either side of the bar were also well attended. Jed had arrived before me and as such put in a request for a table, which we were told would take about an hour to become available. No worries - the bar featured a nice selection of tap beverages and huge bowls of complimentary Gardetto's snacks.

I grabbed a Supper Club and a handful of snacks and then went about chatting with Jed and Jamie. Jed also introduced me to a friend of his who happened to be at the bar with his wife, and before we knew it, the table was ready.

While we were seated promptly, our server took a good 20-30 minutes before making her first appearance. Apparently (according to the hostess) the server was "brand new," so we cut her some slack - besides, it was Friday night, the work week was behind us, and a fish feast was eminent.

We ordered some cheese curds; several folks ordered clam chowder, and I sampled the Old Fashioned (whiskey sour). It was indeed muddled (extra points) and was crisp and refreshing - score one for Mulligan's.

The curds and soup arrived - the curds, while not homemade, looked to be well prepared and tasty.


After downing a few curds (which were quite good, with nary a sign of grease or sogginess), we put in our orders for fish - Mulligan's offers two choices of fish, both of which are served "AYCE" (All You Can Eat): battered cod or baked cod. Potato choices included: garlic mashed potatoes, baked potato, french fries, waffle fries, onion rings, or cottage cheese - quite a diverse selection to say the least.

I went with the battered cod and waffle fries; I was absolutely floored (and pleased) to learn that I could also order baked as part of the AYCE option - not too many places offer that service, so it was greatly appreciated.

After a brief wait, the fish arrived:


And I'm pleased to report that the battered cod was excellent. The batter, while slightly heavy, was crisp, tasty, and perfectly applied. It clung nicely to the delicate, moist, flaky, and fresh tasting cod. I quickly downed the two piping-hot pieces of cod and put in an order for the baked cod.

The waffle fries featured a mild spice and were superb. According to Jed, the garlic mashed potatoes were stellar - they looked fantastic, so I have no reason to doubt his assessment.

The baked cod arrived, and before I even took a bite, I knew this would be a win:


What? It looks plain? Simple? Clean? Perfect - that's exactly how baked cod should be. It shouldn't be doused in dill, paprika, or butter - no sir, just hit it with a light dusting of spice and serve it so that the fish is the star. Mulligan's did just that - the baked cod was delicious: moist, fork-firm, flavorful and unabashedly delicious.

The bill arrived and again - good news: the fish fry was reasonably priced at $9.95! An absolute bargain when you consider how delicious it was and that you could swap between fried and baked "at will." The dinner didn't include the typical supper club fare (dinner roll, carrots/celery/radishes), but it didn't matter - it was great on its own.

Mulligan's = WIN

Service = 2 stars (new waitress; I'm sure other tables were better served)
Food = 4 stars (excellent fish, great fries, decent curds)
Value = 4.5 stars ($9.95 for AYCE??? Yes please!)
MISC = 4 stars (great bar area - large (but slightly noisy), free snacks, nice patio)

Summary: I would happily return to Mulligan's in a heartbeat. Not quite a top-10 finisher, but a very solid fish fry.


After the fish fry, we headed down to Oregonfest to listen to a band and to catch-up with some of Jed and Jamie's other friends. As we were making our way to the park, we met this little guy - a two-year-old boxer by the name of Reggie - he was a real cutie!


I swung through my old home town this weekend to spend some time with my friend Dan, and it just so happened that there were a couple of major events taking place in the 'ole home town: a small summer festival known as "Town and Country Days," and my 20-year high school reunion.

I didn't go to the actual reunion, but I did run into a few classmates from my old alma-matter while visiting the festival - it's amazing to me to think that 20-years have passed since we were in high school... I had a chance to talk with some friends that I've kept in contact with over the years (Dan, Dan, Chris, and Goose) and I also had a chance to see some people that I hadn't seen since 1990 - Liz, Serena, Warren, and Jason, and I also ran into a couple of folks that were a few years older than me but that I spent a lot of time with as I grew up, and that was fantastic.

Just prior to stopping at the festival, Dan, Jason and I visited the Tyranena Brewery, where I spied this little guy sitting on a couch. He looked as if he owned the place - I figured it would make a good picture:


So there you have it. An interesting weekend, catching up with some old friends, and yeah - I'm officially old.

iPhone 4 - Yep, I scored one!


Unless you've been living under a rock or in a cave (or just don't care about technology), you've probably heard all about Apple's new iPhone.

And that means you've probably also heard about how ridiculously difficult it is to get one - when the phone was made available for pre-order on June 15, it literally crashed both Apple's and AT&T's web servers - their systems couldn't keep up with the demand for pre-orders. AT&T's web servers took several days to recover from the hit.

I tried to pre-order a phone on June 15, but didn't have any luck; by the time I was able to login to see if I could even attempt to place an order, Apple had sold out of phones and was predicting that the next batch would be available by July 14. AT&T announced that it wouldn't be offering any phones for sale in its stores to "walk in" customers, and worse yet, pre-ordered phones wouldn't be available until late June at best.

I wasn't too concerned; my current iPhone (the 3G) has served me very well - it's been ultra-reliable, handy, and I've really enjoyed it. So, if I had to wait for the 4, no biggie.

Well, then I started visiting forums and reading the preliminary reviews. People were getting their phones earlier than the official launch date (today - 6/24). People were reporting that Apple stores would have anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred phones available for "walk in" sales (people who didn't successfully pre-order).

So last night, at about 8:55pm, I decided to race over to the Apple store in Madison to see if there would be a line of people. With new Apple product releases, the faithful (or nutty, depending upon your point of view), often camp out the day before the product launch. Apple was going to open its stores at 7:00am on 6/24/10 to offer the new iPhone for sale.

When I arrived at the store, there was a line of about 10 people - these folks were committed to standing in line, overnight, for at least 10 more hours... just for a phone. I figured there was no way I was going to spend all night in line; if anything, I would come back early in the morning and re-check the line - but I wasn't keen on that, since I wasn't sure if the store would even have any phones available.

I didn't sleep much last night and found myself wide-awake at 4:00am, so I hopped into the truck and took a spin down to the Apple store where I found about 200 people waiting in line. YIKES!!! "No thanks," I said as I turned around and drove back home.

I had another opportunity to drive past the Apple store at noon and again, the line was massive - at least 200 people were still waiting. I was doomed - no shot of getting a phone today, but oh well.

And then at around 4:00pm, I checked the Macrumors.com website to see if anyone had information about the Madison Apple store's stock of iPhones. And wouldn't you know it, someone posted at 3:15 and stated that they had just left the store. There were apparently "at least 400 phones" on the counter. I figured, "What the heck, I'll go check the line once more." So, a 4th trip to the Apple store led to me standing in a relatively short line of about 100 people.


The line was divided into two groups: "Reservations" (meaning you had a pre-order) and "Walk-in" (meaning you might get lucky enough to get a phone). I stood in the "Walk-in" line and was immediately annoyed by the guy in front of me - he wouldn't stop fidgeting, shifting around, craning his neck to see "how much longer" the wait would be, calling his buddies and saying, "Dude, this line is so long - it's not moving - the other line is flying, but this line is slow," and so on...

He even started pestering the Apple store employees, whining about how slow our line was moving, wondering why it was taking so long, and all sorts of other annoying stuff. The staff was getting perturbed, as were the other folks in line. He tried to talk to me a few times and I dismissed him with a, "Complaining about the line isn't going to make it move any faster - it is what it is."

Well, after about an hour and a half of waiting, I was 4th in line - only 4 "walk-ins" to go and I'd be in the store. An employee came out and looked perplexed. She studied our line and then went back inside. Now we were getting nervous, and the annoying dude was really starting to redline - I thought he was going to explode like a piece of popcorn... he was bouncing up and down, rocking back and forth, and repeating, "No, no, no, no - don't run out, no, no no, no - don't run out."

She came back out and asked the first person in our line how many phones they were buying. "One." She asked the next person. "Two." She asked the nervous guy. "One - just one - all I need is one." She asked me. "One." Then she went back inside.

She came back out a third time and said, "We might have enough for you. It's going to be close." Well, now I started to get nervous... I was so close - but yet so far.

Thankfully, after another 15 minutes or so, I was inside of the Apple store with this sitting next to me:


According to the associate who was assisting me, I scored the 3rd-to-last "walk-in" phone they had. There were seven phones left when they asked how many phones we needed - oh man, that was close! I feel bad for the other folks that were standing in line behind me.

The purchasing process was painless, quick, and very enjoyable. Apple had their system down to a "T." I was in and out within 10 minutes - they managed the entire transaction from a modified iPhone of their own (it had a barcode scanner and a credit card reader built-in to it), e-mailed me the receipt, established the AT&T service, and sent me on my way.

I got the phone home and here are some comparison shots to the iPhone 3G. The old phone is on the left, the new one on the right:


And here they are stacked on-top of one another (new phone on top):


And the desktops compared, side by side (old phone on left, new on right):


And finally, a sample web-page (old phone on left, new on right):


So, what are my initial impressions (not that you care)?

The phone feels heftier and more solid than the old 3G - it just has a more "precise" feel to it, even though it's lighter and slightly smaller than the old 3G.

The screen is definitely much improved - the text is sharper, the colors are more accurate, and the feel is better.

The speed is greatly improved - applications launch instantaneously. The extra storage capacity (32GB vs 16GB) is appreciated - I was nearly out of room on the old phone, so now I've got some space to grow into.

And that's about all that I've tested so far. The camera is supposed to be much better (it includes a flash and will also shoot HD video), but I haven't snapped any photos with it yet. Maybe I'll break it in on a fish fry tomorrow night... :-)

Would I go through the trouble to buy it again? Hmm. I don't know. It is just a phone, afterall - it's not going to change my life, make me run faster, or help me win any popularity contests... it is a nice piece of hardware, but I don't know if it's as revolutionary as the hype has made it out to be.

So long as it serves me as well as my old iPhone did, I'll be happy. I guess that's all that really matters.

Fish Fry Review: Feiler's


Greetings, fish fiends! While I had vowed to lay-off from the fish frys for a while (and to help recover/reset my diet a bit), I couldn't help but seek out a fish fry just for the sake of spite - I wanted to take some more pictures and share my experience with you, my friends. :-)

I considered my options - folks have been sending tons of great restaurant suggestions (thanks very much, by the way!) and all have sounded interesting for one reason or another. My original plan was to drive to Lodi to check out a place on the lake, but the weather was looking rather unstable, so I decided to stay local.

And so I "threw a dart" at the list and it landed on Feiler's. Feiler's is a classic supper club that's located on Verona Road, near the Home Depot. It looks like it's been there for years, and the menu backed-up my hunch: they've been around since the sixties.

When I arrived at 7:00, the parking lot looked quite full; but when I stepped inside the wood-paneled, low-ceilinged, and very dark supper club, I was surprised to find only one table with diners. The rest of the people were drinking at the horseshoe-shaped bar.

I asked the hostess for a table and that's when things went downhill. "How many in your party?" she inquired.

"Just one - I'm flying solo," I said.

"What? You're going home?" she asked, looking really confused.

"No, sorry, I'm alone - just me - 'flying solo' - just trying to add a funny comment," I clarified.

"Oh," she said.

And that was it - I was left to follow her to a table in the corner, near the back of the restaurant portion of the supper club. She told me that my waitress would be back to take my order.

I'm not sure why, but it took about 20 minutes for my waitress to make her first appearance. Two other waitresses stopped by in the meantime to assure me that I would be taken care of "in no time," but apparently "no time" translates to twenty minutes at Feiler's.

I eventually met my waitress who took my drink order and then asked if I needed more time to decide on my dinner. I told her that the 20 minutes of waiting had afforded me plenty of time to come to a decision: battered cod with the homemade hash browns. I inquired about the cheese curds and she assured me they were homemade, just like the hash browns. I decided to try an order.

She left with my order and returned about 5 minutes later with my diet pepsi. My water glass remained empty. The cheese curds came out after another 5 minutes or so:


Sigh. Do those curds look familiar? They should - they're clearly what I refer to as "catalog curds," meaning they're no doubt sourced from a Sysco catalog, delivered frozen, and dropped into the fryer upon order. ARGH. To add insult to injury, they were $6. I ate six of the uninspired curds and pushed the plate away. Hopefully the fish would be better.

My waitress came back after another 15 minutes or so to tell me that the fish was "almost ready." Crikey - this place had the slowest service ever, especially since there were only three occupied tables: mine, the original table that I saw with diners, and a new table that had arrived about 10 minutes prior to my last update. They too were still waiting for their waitress to arrive...

The cod came out and here's what it looked like:


Three pieces of battered cod with hash browns and a big 'ole slab of Velveeta. A small bowl of really dry "toasted garlic bread" also accompanied the meal - try to imagine a big slice of an old crouton, and that's about what the bread was like.

I quickly sampled the fish - the first piece was nicely prepared - crispy and perfectly battered. The fish, however, was watery and mushy, and featured lots of the dreaded "dark meat" that cod sometimes has. All things considered, that first piece wasn't too bad... but the second and third pieces weren't quite as lucky - the batter was soggy, the fish watery, and again - lots of dark meat. Ugh.

The hash browns were uninspiring as well - largely flavorless, even with the huge chunk of Velveeta. I'm told they had onions and peppers in them, but I couldn't find (or taste) any. The potatoes didn't feature any char; it's as if they were diced, microwaved, and thrown on the plate.

The bill came - $21. Wow. I paid and left.

Feiler's = FAIL

Service = 1.5 stars (dreadfully slow and inattentive)
Food = 1.5 stars (could've been great; poorly executed, mediocre fish)
Value = 1 star (way too expensive)
MISC = 3 stars (great supper club atmosphere)

Summary: I think I may have had too many fish frys that are "world class" - I may have peaked too early. A few years ago, I probably would've enjoyed this fish fry... but, I've had so many outstanding fish frys that I simply didn't enjoy this one all that much. Factor in the inexplicably slow service, and it was a recipe for failure.

Drinking Made Easy: The Tour



So I was minding my own business late last week when I received an e-mail from the Majestic Theater - Zane Lamprey, comedian and host of Three Sheets was going to be playing a show on Friday, and tickets were still available.

With nothing else on the evening docket, I figured it would be worth my time to make the short drive downtown to check out the show. The Majestic is a storied theater that's located about a block from the capital building - it's also not too far from The Great Dane or the Monona Terrace.


Problem #1: I didn't have a ticket to the show. The box office opens an hour prior to show time, so I figured I would get into line early and buy a ticket. Just as I was nearing the box office window (the line wrapped around the block), a guy walked by asking if anyone needed a ticket - he had an extra and wanted $10 for it. I flipped him a $10, got the ticket and saved myself $11 (face value on the tickets were $20 + $1 service fee).

Once inside, I quickly found a small two-top table in an ideal location - dead center of the stage, about 15 rows back, directly in front of the sound board. Win! Problem #2: I didn't have anyone with me, so I wasn't sure how I would "hold" my table while using the restroom or grabbing something to drink... and that's when a waitress came by and asked if I needed anything to drink. Win! I probably should've bought a lottery ticket as well!

So, I had my beverage, and a great table. The place was starting to fill up; the music got a little louder, camera crews buzzed around (they were filming the show for Zane's latest television series called "Drinking Made Easy"), and I was.... getting tired.

The show didn't start until 10:00pm, and I've come to realize that I may be too old for such late night ventures. The first comedian, Marc Ryan, got onto stage promptly at 10:00 and did a great job - he entertained us for about 25 minutes, and then introduced the second "comedian," Steve McKenna.

Steve didn't do much other than drink a handful of beers and tell a few jokes. But, he did bring out Zane's "drinking character/buddy," Pleepleus.


Pleepleus has developed a bit of a cult following; Zane usually takes the much smaller, stuffed-animal version along as he tours the world and then strategically places him in various shots/scenes during filming. I'm not 100% familiar with the entire story behind Pleepleus, but I believe it's a vague reference to "getting that monkey off your back."

So, by around 11:00pm, Zane came onto stage (there was a minor set change after Steve finished), and by now I was really getting tired. The crowd was also becoming quite rambunctious and a bit restless. Zane came out and the first thing that people "demanded" was that he imbibe a bit:


Zane told a few jokes, shared some stories, and then transitioned into an educational bit about various alcoholic beverages. It was really quite interesting - he talked about various types of wine, whiskeys, beers, and so on. But, he was really losing the crowd... I wasn't sure what to expect from such a show; it became clear that most of the people there didn't really want to be "educated" about the fine differences between an Anejo and Reposado Tequila.

And so, I left early. I was simply too tired to hang around, which was a shame because I also scored a free pass to the "meet and greet" after the show. I think I would've passed out had I stuck around much longer - by the time I got home, I could barely keep my eyes open. I guess I'm not much of a party animal these days. :-D

So, I'm glad that I went to the show; I just wish they wouldn't start them so late! Had the show started around 8:00 or 9:00, things would've been perfect. But alas, I'm just an old fogey - the kids probably enjoy those later start times.

I spent the rest of the weekend doing the usual: riding and running. I've found that I seem to run better after a ride... not sure why that is, but my legs feel better when I run immediately following a ride. In fact, I'm pretty certain that my Saturday morning ride (65 miles) helped me recover from the Chicago race.

My legs had felt pretty sore all week; I didn't run on Sunday or Monday, and then I ran "lightly" on Tuesday through Friday (averaged about 5 miles per day). But after my Saturday ride, I felt brand new - I ran 9 miles without any problems or difficulty. It's so odd... I also got one heckuva sunburn on my arms - I forgot to wear sunscreen... yikes!

I rode and ran this morning (45/10, respectively) and have spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on the couch, reading a book and "watching" a little television. The cats have been keeping me company - here's Shiloh as he sits next to me:


And Mack has been watching/hunting a chipmunk that keeps running around on the patio (if you look carefully, you can see her behind the bike):


I've been debating dinner options... I'm still not certain what I'll have. Nothing really sounds good, and I'm not terribly hungry, but I've only had a bowl of Fiber One and a protein shake today, so I should eat something... pizza? Thai? Sandwich? Argh - nothing sounds good.

Fish Fry Feuds - seriously?

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A little fishy e-mailed me yesterday to say, "... prominent fish fry review site doesn't like that you post pictures of food on your blog."

Apparently this other site considers it "pretentious" that I prefer to document my experiences with both words and photos. The informant went on to say the site suggested that anyone who takes photos of their food "deserves an @ss kicking."


I had to laugh. And after a hearty chuckle, I wondered why anyone would get their undies in a bundle because someone documents, validates, and clarifies a review with the use of a photo. Heck, newspapers review restaurants and regularly include photos of the food, right?

Honestly. Would you call Consumer Reports pretentious for including photos of the dishwashers they review? Or how about Car & Driver? Do they deserve to have their butts kicked for taking a photo of the Kia they recently test drove?

Man has been documenting his adventures through pictures since the beginning of time. Cavemen drew pictures of a big hunt on animal hides and cave walls. Artists captured wars, prominent families, and common events with oil and canvas. Photographers took things a step further. Videographers another step. Today, thanks to the internet, we share photos of everything from family vacations to lobsters fighting with knives...

Anyone who's spent any time on my blog knows that I like to use photos to help clarify, communicate, and share my experiences. I guess I'm a jerk for doing that - oh well. Based on the feedback that countless people have sent, I'll keep including photos because you don't seem to be threatened or offended by them.

Color me skeptical, but a "review" without a photo is sort of like telling a story about "the big one" that "got away." Anyone can throw together a story with colorful descriptions; I'd rather share a photo to clarify and demonstrate such adjectives as "miniscule" and "mountainous" any day.

Finally, I've never considered my reviews to be in any type of "competition" with anyone else. The primary reason I started sharing my fish fry experiences was because many of my friends live in locations outside of Wisconsin and as such, they've never sampled a fish fry. Since I can't very easily send samples of the fish and I've not quite perfected "smell-o-vision" via the web, a photo is probably the next best thing to help share the overall experience. In fact, I think it's hilarious that anyone would "compete" over a fish fry review - what's the point? It's like arguing that chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla...

Anyway, that's it for now - I'm going to go make sure my camera batteries are charged - I smell a fish fry coming this Friday... ;-)

Weekend trip to Chicago


Greetings and apologies for not having updated the blog in some time - things have been quite busy, between work, training, and weekend activities (which have not included fish frys - sorry again).

I just got back from a quick run down to Chicago, and boy are my feet tired. (insert rim-shot and cymbal crash)

But seriously, I really did run (by foot) to Chicago this weekend! I was invited to participate in the Madison-to-Chicago-200 or "MC200" race by one of my coworkers, Karl. Karl is the Director of our Enterprise Architecture and Security group and an avid runner. He's also a details-oriented-and-loves-an-extreme-challenge type of guy, so he decided to form a relay team to participate in the MC200. AND he's also one of the best people I've ever met - super helpful, very thoughtful, intelligent, funny, and just plain "nice." (He's also leaving our company to start his own venture - I wish him the very best, and I know he'll do great with his new opportunity!)

The MC200 race is a team-based relay event that covers 200+ miles of continuous running over a single 30-hour block of time. Teams are categorized by a variety of methods - there are "ultra groups" that consist of teams with six (6) or fewer total runners, there are "masters groups" that consist of teams that have an minimum age of 50 or older, there are "corporate teams" that consist of teams where all members work for the same company, and finally, there are "mixed groups," which is where our group landed - we had nine (9) men and women of all ages, and we didn't all work for the same company. The maximum number of runners that any team can have is limited to twelve (12).

Our race venture began about 3 months ago when Karl reached out to us on an individual basis to determine if we would be interested in running with him in the MC200. I jumped at the chance and within a week or two, Karl had assembled a small group of runners. We had our first conference call as a group, introduced ourselves, talked about the event, and contemplated some initial strategy and support options.

On paper, the event seems daunting - begin the race at the Sheraton Hotel on John Nolen Drive in Madison, WI and finish the race some 205-miles and 30-hours later at the Monterey Beach Park in Chicago, IL. Things get even more complex and challenging from there... with 36-hand-off points (relay or transition areas), we had to make sure that the appropriate runner was at the correct transition area by a certain time so that the incoming runner could hand-off the "baton" to the outgoing runner; we had to make sure that runners had time to recover, eat, rest, use the bathroom, shower, and so on.

Our vans had to know where to go, when to be there, how long to wait, who to pick-up, who to drop-off, and a whole lot more. We had a crew of nine (9) runners and zero (0) dedicated drivers/crew members/support staff, so that introduced another challenge - as runners, we not only had to worry about the actual running, racing, recovery, eating, resting, and other stuff; we also had to take turns driving and navigating our way to the various transition areas.

Thankfully, Karl is quite literally a genius and master organizer, so he made quick work of the logistics. Within no time, we had spreadsheets with our race segment assignments, van transition schedules, and so on. Karl was able to calculate how long it would take each runner to complete each of their race segments (segments varied in length from 3.10 miles to 8.77 miles); he then assembled a van rotation plan so that runners were in the right place at the right time, and then figured out how long each van could remain "inactive" so that we could grab some rest. It was an impressive effort to say the least, and our race went off without (well nearly) a hitch!!

We were thrown a curve at the last minute when two of our original team members dropped out of the race with less than a week before the start. Talk about a frustrating and scary situation - we were faced with the threat of having to race with only 8 people (our team originally had 10 runners); our miles were going to increase dramatically, as we "lost" about 40-miles worth of "segments" by losing those two runners.

We were fortunate enough to secure a new team member for our team, which took our total to 9 runners; each of us would average approximately 23 miles of running. Our "new" team met via a final conference call on Wednesday night (1.5 days before the race was due to start).

So now that you have some background information, let's dig-in and find out how the race went!

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 10:00pm - Middleton, WI

Preparation for the event is critical. Training was just one thing to worry about; there were logistical things to consider: changes of clothing, managing dirty clothing, nutrition, sleeping gear, safety equipment, recovery gear, and so on.

I was assigned to run four segments of the race for a total of 24.35 miles. This meant I'd need to plan for changing clothes, re-fueling, and resting at four different opportunities. Here's what I packed for nutritional goodies:


I've got 4 packets of Recoverite (for use after each run), some Clif bars for meals, some Justin's Nut Butter (all natural, no extra ingredients peanut butter), some vitamin supplements, Nuun electrolyte mix, Ibuprofen, and a little "pick-me-up" of GU Chomps, just in case I need a little extra energy. This is what would fuel me for the event - I didn't want to risk eating at a restaurant and being tempted to overeat or eat the wrong things or get sick from eating too much "prepared" food while running.

It turns out that I "over-packed" with food - I brought home 2 packets of Recoverite, 2 packets of peanut butter, all of the Ibuprofin (didn't need it), the GU Chomps, and 3 of the Clif bars. I probably could've ate more while on the trip, but I really didn't feel hungry and I didn't want to overeat.

I also packed 3 sets of running clothes (shorts, wool t-shirt, wool socks), an extra pair of shoes, rain gear, visor, hat, number belt, SPI belt (for holding the team cell phone while running), two water bottles, a gallon of filtered water, a 64-ounce Gatorade G2, sleeping stuff, 2 towels (one for sitting on, one for showering), sunscreen, bug spray, lip balm, sunglasses, iPod, GPS, my watch, my LED headlamp and taillamp, reflective vest, flashlight, and a mesh bag for dirty clothes.

Everything was organized and packed into separate zip-bags; each set of running clothes (shorts, socks, shirt) went into their own bag. Night-time running equipment (headlamp, taillamp, reflective vest, flashlight, extra batteries) went into its own bag. Accessories (number belt, iPod, watch, SPI belt) went into its own bag, and so on. This made it very easy to manage everything - I could dig through my small transition bag and find exactly what I needed without messing up everything else.

I did pack a separate suitcase for my sleeping gear - the pillow, foam bedroll, and blanket were bulky, so I used a carry-on bag to hold those. I also threw-in a set of "post race celebration" clothes, just for safe measure.

After a triple-check of everything, I went to bed at around midnight - I had to be awake and on the road by 8:00am the next morning at the very latest. Oh, did I mention that I carb-loaded on Thursday as well? And not the good carbs - pizza, beer, etc... we had a going away party for the manager of our department, so I joined the festivities and ate waaaay too much pizza. (insert uneasy stomach gurgling reference here)

Friday, June 11, 2010 - 8:30am - Sheraton Hotel, Madison, WI. Total Race Miles: 0.00

Our team, Sole2Soul, assembled at the Sheraton Hotel, signed-in for the event, filed our waivers, showed our safety equipment (for night running purposes), and posed for a quick team photo. Here we are in the lobby of the hotel:


We look so happy and excited - from left to right we are: Karl, Anja, Cindy, Kimberly, Teresa, Becky (in blue), Steve, Heidi, and Katie. Immediately after we took this photo, we made our way to the starting line of the event, where they held a 10-minute informative safety meeting.


The organizers of the event reviewed with us the importance of wearing your reflective vest, headlamp, and LED taillamp when running at night, talked about the transition areas and safety rules, and a few other important details. Common sense stuff, for sure, but it was worth mentioning and making people aware.

There were 200+ teams that entered the event this year, and the start of the race is staggered by your projected finish time - the goal is to get all of the teams to Chicago at around 6:00pm on Saturday night so that the event doesn't drag-on indefinitely, so that transition areas can open/close with some predictability, and most importantly - everyone can celebrate the completion of the event at around the same time.

We projected that we would complete the event in 31 hours and 38 minutes, so that meant our start time was going to be 10:30am. Our team would have to depart Madison in the 10:30am "wave"; the faster your team ran, the later you would start... the Ultra groups (smallest teams with the fastest runners) started as late as 5:30pm on Friday.

With the safety meeting complete, our gear packed-in to the vans, and anxious energy abound, we moseyed our way to the starting line where we posed for one last group photo:


Teresa was our first runner - she was responsible for completing the first 5.24 miles of the race, which would take her from The Sheraton to Olbrich Park, where she would hand-off the baton to Anja. Here's Teresa (in the pink top, closer to camera) getting ready to take off:


With the race officially underway, we got into the van and promptly... drove to Lake Mills - the first of six van transition areas. There are 36 transitions in the race, but at six points along the way, both vans end-up in the same spot at the same time. So, our van ("van #2") of runners (Cindy, Karl, Katie, and me) started the race by "resting" for a good 5 hours.

To get from Madison to Milwaukee, runners followed the Glacial Drumlin bike trail. This trail is closed to motorized traffic, runs nearly parallel with I-94 East, is semi-flat, and stops in numerous little towns along the way, including Lake Mills. Here's the Lake Mills bike depot building, which would serve as the host for the transition area:


The transition areas are pretty interesting - people just hang out, which includes everything from laying around to sleeping to playing card games to eating to stretching to - well, whatever! Here's the group of folks that we spent most of our race hanging around with, since we all started at about the same time:


As you can see, it was fairly sunny, and that meant shade was a valuable commodity. The temperatures hovered into the high 80s, humidity followed suit. As such, a bunch of people had to be treated for heat exhaustion... not a good thing to have happen so early in the race. Thankfully, our team stayed healthy and safe - a tribute to the preparation that we all put into proper training, hydration, and support.

Since I had time to kill, I walked over to my friend's business (Topel's) and hung out with Dan and Tara. Dan and Tara are superheroes - they lent us the use of their conversion van so that we wouldn't have to rent two vans (Karl rented a van for us, but more on that in a bit). THANK YOU, Dan & Tara - you rock the block!

Here I am, leaving Topel's - my segment was due to start in about 30 minutes, so I had to stretch and warm-up.


Just after taking that photo, we received a panicked call from our team - they couldn't find us, and they were already at the transition area, ready and waiting for us! We looked everywhere, but couldn't find them, and that's when we discovered our one and only "glitch" in the plan - we were at the wrong transition area!

We had somehow misinterpreted the transition plan and had jumped too far ahead - our van should've been at the 5th transition area in London, WI - not at the 6th area in Lake Mills. So we hopped in the van and raced over to London, where I met Becky and picked-up the baton. We lost about 20 minutes due to this mistake; I figured I'd have to really "hoof it" to try and make-up some time!

Here I am, leaving London - I'd be in Lake Mills some 5.44 miles and 40-ish minutes later!


My first segment went well - despite the heat, full sun, no-shade, and humidity, I managed an 8:00-mile pace and arrived in Lake Mills, where I handed-off the baton to Cindy. Here I am meeting Cindy and exchanging the baton:


Cindy rocked-it 3.10 miles to Highway Q, where she handed-off the baton to our other vanmate, Katie. Katie ran back-to-back segments; she flew through the Jefferson transition area (3.84 miles from Highway Q), and met Karl at the Helenville Bike Depot. Katie ran her 12.24 miles at a blistering pace; equally blistering was the sun and heat, but she managed a great average speed.

Karl took the baton and set-off at a sprint; we would pass him as we drove the van to the next transition area - he was looking really strong, so we gave him a cheer and then sped over to Sullivan's transition area (5.76 miles away).

Karl was also running back-to-back segments under brutal conditions - high heat and killer humidity; here he is coming in to the Sullivan transition area.


We freshened-up his water supply, wished him well, and jumped back into the van so that we could make it to Dousman, some 5.74 miles away.

Dousman served as the second major transition area - Van #1 with its runners would be waiting for us there and would assume running duties at that point. I realize all of this sounds confusing, but there isn't a better way to explain it - this is a complex and challenging event!

Here's Karl handing off the baton to Teresa, who would start her second segment and run 6.35 miles from Dousman to Wales. As you can see, it was getting dark, and rules dictated that we would have to wear reflective vests, headlamps and taillamps during the period between dusk and dawn. Teresa was all decked-out in her gear and ready to rock:


With our van's segments complete, we took a few minutes to cool down before heading to Carroll College (transition area #14). Our van had just run a total of 32.8 miles; our team had completed 59.28 miles. And, we were quickly recovering our lost time, so things were looking good.

Unfortunately, things weren't smelling good - we'd all run during the heat of the day and a such were sweaty and stinky... Carroll College was the first transition area that offered showers, so we decided to make a quick stop to freshen-up before heading to the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, which is where we would meet van #1 and begin our second segment of the race. Here we are, about to head off for Carroll College.


While on the way to Carroll College, we decided to stop for a quick bite of food from Perkins. Katie and Cindy had a bowl of chicken noodle soup, Karl ate some breakfast, and I sipped on a Diet Pepsi. Here we are at the table, enjoying a bit of a break and eavesdropping on an unusual conversation between a drunken plumber and his motorcycle-gang-member wife (I love Cindy's cheesy "I'm about to gobble down some soup" pose):


All I can say about the Perkins stop is "interesting." Not because of any of my team members, but because of the folks around us... I could probably write a book with all of the stories we overheard.

As entertaining as Perkins was, we continued on to Carroll College where I chose not to shower, much to the chagrin of my vanmates, I'm sure. The time was nearing 9:30pm, and my next segment of running started at 11:51pm, so I didn't see much value in showering, racing to my starting point, and then getting sweaty all over again. So, I stuck (or is that "stunk") it out while Katie, Cindy, and Karl enjoyed a refreshing shower and change of clothes.

The runners from our team in Van #1 (Teresa, Anja, Kimberly, Heidi, and Becky) FLEW through their segments and actually arrived into transition area #17 ahead of our original schedule. Rather than having lost 20+ minutes, we were now ahead of our projected finish time - another indicator of how dedicated our team was and how great everyone did.

At about 11:40pm, I met Becky, got the baton, and began my second segment - a short 3.43 mile sprint through the streets of Milwaukee, from State Fair Park to Nathan Hill High School. I ran it in about 25 minutes; handed off the baton to Cindy, who would run two segments back-to-back for a total of 13.75 miles (or about two hours).

While Cindy was out running, we back-tracked to Martin Luther High School, where they had hot and cold food, showers, and a rest area. I hadn't showered yet, so Karl happily drove us back to MLHS where I was greeted by some of the best race signage I ever saw:


I'm not one who enjoys a public restroom or a public shower facility, but wow - was this a great stop. I cleaned-up, changed clothes, put my stinky gear into the mesh bag, and then went about finding a place to lay down for a bit. Unfortunately the sleeping area was full, so I had to grab a few minutes worth of rest in the first available spot:


I wasn't the only one who tried to sleep outside - Katie grabbed 15 minutes worth of sleep outside, as did about 200 other folks - the school grounds were literally covered with people plopped about, trying to catch a few winks of sleep between their running segments.

After our brief rest, we headed to Franklin High School, where Katie would take over running duties. She ran her 7.55 mile segment, then handed-off to Karl who would complete our van's second segment with a 6.46 mile stint. If all went according to plan, we would meet Van #1 at transition area #22 in Oak Creek, WI at around 4:15am.

Day One summary:
Hours run - 18:53
Miles covered - 116.46
Segments / Transitions - 21

Saturday, June 12, 2010 - 4:15am - Oak Creek Community Center, Milwaukee, WI

As mentioned, our teams met at transition area #22 at the Oak Creek Community Center in Milwaukee, and things were quite different now. We were tired - none of us had managed to get much (if any) sleep. We were cold - the temperature dropped from 84F at midnight to 61F by 4:00am. The wind had picked-up, a fog was setting in, and it was misting rain. Not a great environment to be dealing with to say the least.

Adding insult to injury, the bathroom situation for an event like this is never good, as it's mostly porta-potties and public restrooms. Factor in a lack of sleep, bare-bones nutrition, lots of hydration, 100+ miles of running, and being awake at 4:30 in the morning, and this is what you get when it's time to use the restroom:


That's Cindy as she prepares to venture out to one of the porta-potties at the Oakbrook stop. Both Katie and Cindy were hilarious - they kept Karl and me in stitches for most of the race. That's probably what made the event extra special - our team was really fun to hang around with, and we all seemed to get along great.

Oh - I should also mention that I spied this little gem while at the Oak Creek Community Center... guess we'll have to add this location to the fish finder list:


With Karl back in the van, we headed to the St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Racine; Van #1's runners would be on the road for a while, and the church offered food and another rest area. We arrived to the church at about 5:00am, cleaned-up a bit, and tried to grab a little bit of sleep.

Sleep wasn't on the menu; I couldn't find any spots to lie down - all of the rooms were packed, and I definitely couldn't sleep outside as it was cold, windy, and misting. So, after searching high and low for a sleeping spot, I worked my way into the corner of a little hallway and did my best to relax for a bit.

I was startled by a phone call at 7:00am - Becky was about 20 minutes from being ready to hand off the baton to me; our runners in Van #1 absolutely cooked through their third segment - they managed to make-up nearly an hour's worth of time! So, now we were almost a full-hour ahead of schedule - holy cats!!

We raced over to transition area #26, the Dr. Beatrice O. Jones School in Kenosha, where I managed to throw on my running shoes, grab my iPod, and stretch for about 2 minutes before Becky came racing in to hand me the baton. At around 7:25am, I hit the road for segment #3, which consisted of 6.71 miles of running on trails and sidewalks. I averaged a flat pace of 8:15 per mile, and handed the baton to Cindy at the Pennoyer Park.

After handing the baton to Cindy, we drove to Southport Beach Park, where we had a little time to relax. Here we are in the van, driving over to the park - you can see I'm a little sweaty...


The girls commented that the van had begun to smell like "a lumberjack and rotten cheese," which I presume isn't a pleasant odor... but it stands to reason that the van would stink; we sat in it for hours on end after having ran for lengthy periods of time, and we also stored all of our stinky clothes in the van - not a good combination. The girls weren't complaining by any means; in fact, I think they were proud to having contributed to the quickly growing state of "van funk."

Without the assistance of Febreze, I did my best to "clear the air," so here I am, stretched-out in the van, using everything imaginable to help air out my stinky gear:


Cindy made quick work of her 4.01-mile segment, so there wasn't much time to relax (or air out the stinky stuff); here's Cindy coming in to the park and handing off the baton to Katie:


Katie ran a brief 3.04-mile segment over to Anderson Park - true to her previous segments, she flew right through it, and in no time was racing down the street to hand-off her baton to Karl. Here she is coming in to the park:


Karl took the baton from Katie and set-off on the final leg of our third running segment. He was scheduled to complete a 7.76-mile run, and according to our projections would arrive into the next major transition area (#31) by around 11:15am. Here's Karl heading out on his run - by this point, he had run a total of 18 miles on zero sleep.


We took the van to the Christ Community Church in Zion, IL, and waited for Karl to arrive. I also took some time to air out the van - here's our rental vehicle doubling as a clothesline:


While we were waiting, challenge #2 presented itself to us: bad weather. There had been threats of rain for most of the morning, but when reports of 45+ mph winds and golf-ball-sized hail came in, the race officials stopped the race.

So, we waited. And waited some more. And kept waiting - waiting for the rain, the wind, the hail, or whatever was supposed to come through and wreck our race. Karl arrived into the transition area where he would've normally handed the baton to Teresa, but we had to "hold" our runners (as did everyone else) until the race was re-opened.

After waiting for nearly an hour, the rain came - here we are in the van, watching it rain...


With the race delayed due to weather, Karl and I went to the Northern Lake YMCA for another round of showers. This shower was even better than the first - I literally felt like a million bucks after leaving the YMCA.

We received word that the race had re-started, and Teresa was underway after having been held-up by the race delay for more than 1.5 hours. This meant that Karl and I had to make our way down to the Northwestern University football stadium (transition area #35), where I would eventually take the baton from Becky and finish the race for our team.

And that's where we hit challenge #3 - our rental van experienced a flat tire on Highway 41. Thankfully, we found a safe area to pull-off the road from. Here we are changing the tire:



And within no time, we were back on the road, heading down to transition area #35. We had to spend about 4 hours waiting at this final transition area - the runners from our team in van #1 needed to cover more than 32 miles. While at transition #35, we met a lot of interesting folks, including "Kate" who handed out some amazing chocolate chip cookies (for free). At around 4:45pm, we received a call that Becky had just left transition area #34 and was on her way to meet me. This meant I had about an hour to get ready for her arrival; here I am grabbing the last few items from my transition bag:


As more teams began to filter-in to the transition area, the mood became a bit more festive. There was music, laughing, some delirious conversation, and some interesting costumes - we spotted these three folks just before I was about to grab the baton from Becky; we snapped a quick photo of me and the group (and yes, they ran like that):


Becky arrived a little earlier than expected - again, the girls in van #1 were crazy fast runners (great job to all of them!!) - here I am grabbing the baton from Becky:


And here I am, heading out on the final segment of our race. The last segment (#36) was 8.77 miles in distance and basically ran down Sheridan Avenue (along Lake Michigan) from Northwestern University to Monterey Beach Park.


I tried to really push it on that last segment, but with all of the traffic lights, I was only able to manage an 8:00-mile pace. I crossed the finish line at about 6:15pm with the team surrounding me - it was such a great feeling. Here we are at the finish line (Katie and Cindy aren't in the photo; they had to head home early due to family obligations):


Despite the 20-minute mix-up on day one, and despite the 1.5-hour weather delay, we arrived at the finish line just a few minutes behind our originally scheduled time of 6:08pm (our finish time was actually 6:14pm, I believe) - an amazing accomplishment to say the least!!!

Together, our team of nine runners covered 205.24 miles in 31 hours 44 minutes. Wow! We literally ran from Madison to Chicago, by way of Milwaukee. It still boggles my mind.

For our accomplishments, we were given finisher medals - here I am with my medal and our well-traveled "baton" (it's actually a wrist strap):


They had free pizza, beverages, music, and entertainment at the post-race party, but with the rain, hunger, and fatigue, we decided to get out of town sooner rather than later. So with that, we cleaned-up the vans, organized our gear, wished each other well, and hit the road. Karl, Katie, and Cindy all lived in Chicago, so that meant that Anja, Becky, Heidi, Kimberly, Teresa, and me took the Topel's van back to Madison at around 7:00pm on Saturday night.

We did stop for some super yummy Gino's East deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza; oh my gosh, did that hit the spot! We arrived back into Madison at about 11:30pm on Saturday - exactly 37 hours after we began our race.

Day two summary:
Hours run - 14
Miles covered - 85.74
Segments / Transitions - 14

Race summary:
Time running: 31 hours, 44 minutes
Miles covered: 205.24
Segments / Transitions: 36
Time spent sleeping: 45 minutes
Number of runners: 9
Number of teams: 203
Our team's overall finish: 94/203

Runner totals:

Anja: 25.08
Becky: 22.15
Cindy: 19.48
Heidi: 25.77
Karl: 25.66
Katie: 22.83
Kimberly: 20.30
Steve: 24.35
Teresa: 19.56

I can't thank Karl enough for organizing this effort, and I can't thank my team members enough for running so hard and for being so fun to race with. I would do this event again in a heartbeat - it was a blast, even if I didn't sleep for more than 45 minutes during the whole weekend. Note to Karl - count me in for next year, and put me down for 30 miles.

Here's Karl and me at the finish line - thanks again, Karl!


Post-race information

So, once I got home, I unpacked my stuff, and wow - what a mess. Here are the various laundry piles:


And to give you a better idea of the amount of logistical work that had to take place, here's some of what we used to complete the race (I also included my race t-shirt, number, and finishers medal in the photo):


There are maps, spreadsheets, laminated directions organized by segment, van schedules, and so on...

And finally, I didn't do anything today - no riding, no running, no swimming. I slept from about 1:00am until 9:00am, took a shower, threw on my compression recovery knickers and socks, and went to Bluephies for breakfast (figured I could eat bad today, even though I did eat pizza last night), and it was stellar. Egg white scrambler with mushrooms, tomatoes, and broccoli, with pancakes and toast - yum.


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