A much needed "vacation"

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I had a chance to take a few days off from work, so I took advantage of the free time by loading up the car, dropping off Shiloh with his original foster mom, and driving down to Arkansas. 700 miles and 11 hours later, I found myself back at the house on the Thursday before Thanksgiving - a whole week of relaxation awaited. ...or did it?

It was great to see the "kids" back home - here's Squid (real name: Monica) sitting in front of her couch. She's getting to be an old lady - her back legs shake a lot, and she's looking a bit thinner than she used to be. Come to think of it, she's probably about 9 years old by now...


And here's Regis - crazy as ever, but with a distinguished grey beard. Poor guy - he means well, and he is such a sweet and caring boy, but he really does have a screw loose somewhere in that head of his...


And last but not least, Riley - the "spark plug" of the group. She's always at an "eleven" - ready to rock, rowdy, and rambunctious. Yet pull out a blanket and she'll be more than happy to settle down, burrow underneath it, curl up against you, and snore for hours.


With the animals fully greeted and reacquainted with their "out of state Dad," Amy and I hit our old "stand-by" for my first meal back in Arkansas: Maria's Mexican Restaurant. Nothing beats Maria's - it's cheap, it's good, it's fast, and there's nothing like it in Wisconsin. Yummo. We both ate burritos de asada, shared a queso, and had two large diet sodas. Total cost: $15, and we were in and out within 30 minutes. Absolutely stellar (no pictures, sorry).

Friday came, and the weather was fantastic, so I headed east to Pea Ridge for a riding and running session at the Pea Ridge Military Park. I've talked briefly about this place before, but I really can't say enough great things about the place.

The 4,300 acre site played a pivotal role in the Civil War; had things gone just slightly different there, odds are that the confederate forces would've won the war. The park features a small museum with some really cool memorabilia and a superb documentary film about the history of the location. There's also a 6.65-mile paved "trail" that circles most of the park and features some nice hills, tons of scenery, and a whole slew of wildlife. I must have seen 20+ deer, including some massive bucks, a dozen fox, countless hawks, a handful of turkey vultures, and an eagle. It's breathtaking to say the least.

I took a few pictures of the trail - these don't do the place any justice; I was on my bike, riding along at about 20mph and trying to snap a photo with my phone... so, take them for what they're worth - just trust me that it's a great, great place.





And here's a self portrait of yours truly, while riding on the bike at the trail. The weather was for the most part absolutely perfect - most days the temps were in the mid-to-high 60s, with a few days reaching into the 70s. The weather only turned "bad" around Thanksgiving, when it struggled to hit 30 (more on that in a bit). When I took this photo, it was about 8:30am and right around 55-58F. Not bad for late November, eh?


Truth be told, I had ventured down to Arkansas with the intention of running in the Tulsa Route 66 Marathon, which was scheduled for Sunday, November 21. I wasn't sure if my legs would be feeling up to a full marathon, so I went for a light run at Pea Ridge on Friday as a final "shake down" run. My legs absolutely didn't feel up to running a full marathon - I suspected they wouldn't be - so, I decided to skip the race. I hadn't registered for it (they allowed registration on-site during packet pick-up), so I wasn't out any real money. And I figured it would be better to avoid a longer-term injury than to force things just for the sake of it. Mentally, I was ready for the race, but my legs (mostly the thigh bones) wanted nothing to do with it - they've been really achy and sore for the past 6+ weeks. I suspect it's related to over-training, but attempts to recover/relax haven't proven to be of much help, so I'm "stuck."

So, I decided to make the most of the nice weather and rode an easy 36 miles around the trail (6 laps) and jogged a single lap. Not much rest, eh? :-) I then went home and cleaned the house - some of my old pals from the bank - Karl, Mandy, and Nat were due to come over for some pizza and a movie.

They all arrived by 7:30pm or so, and we promptly ordered a Gusano's pizza, enjoyed some New Glarus brews, sampled some Monroe cheeses, and then watched Zombieland in the theater. It was excellent to see them all and I forgot how fun the home theater is. Man, I miss that thing! Karl and Mandy stayed over night as they had a trip scheduled for Springfield, MO, and our house happens to be about "mid-way" between Springfield and Fort Smith. So, they crashed at the house while I went out and ran a 10K race in Bentonville on Saturday morning.

I figured that since I wasn't going to be doing the marathon, I could sneak in a smaller race or two. :-) A local organization was hosting a "girls on the run" 10K race, with the proceeds benefiting a local women's organization. I was able to register on Friday and secured a spot at the starting line for Saturday morning. Here we are, about to take off on our 10K jaunt:


...and some 48 minutes later, I crossed the finish line in 22nd place (out of an even 100 racers) and snapped this picture, back at the Bentonville town square. I was pretty shocked with my time - my legs had been aching all along, but for some reason they felt really strong for this event. Go figure. Maybe the aching is mental??


The event was well organized - there was a nice finish chute area, complete with Sam Walton's original "red truck":


And there was even a band, along with a small farmer's market and food court. I didn't really stick around for any of the festivities; I wanted to get back to the house to say farewell to Karl and Mandy before they headed north.


After seeing them off, I loaded the bike into the car and headed back to Pea Ridge for a nice 60-mile ride (10 laps). The weather was so incredibly great that the time and miles just flew by. I could've kept riding, but Amy had a birthday party for some coworkers, and I was lucky enough to score an invite to the event, so we car-pooled to the local Irish Pub and had some dinner, drinks, birthday cake, and good times. Here's the crew from the animal shelter, all assembled for the party:


Not much took place on Sunday - a light run around the walking trail followed by some grocery shopping and washing of the dogs (they'd been pretty stinky, so Amy and I took them down to the shelter and gave 'em a good sudsing). We wrapped-up the evening by watching the Simpsons, Cleveland Show, and Family Guy.

Monday included more riding and running, doing some "remote" work, and running some errands. Nothing too exciting. I did get to catch-up with some friends from my previous job at the bank, which was really great, but only made me miss "the good old days" even more than I already do.

Tuesday was a repeat of Monday - lunch with friends from the bank, riding, and running at Pea Ridge.

Wednesday saw some amazing weather, so, naturally I rode and ran a bunch at the military park. Why is it that my legs felt so stellar after I decided to forego the marathon??? I suppose it didn't hurt that the temperature was well into the 70s for most of Wednesday:


We also prepped some things for Thanksgiving - I made the stuffing on Wednesday night, along with the beer bread. I also brined the turkey so that come Thursday, all we'd have to do was roast the turkey, reheat the stuffing, and make the potatoes and gravy.

I also caught wind of a 5K race on Thanksgiving morning, so I decided to brave the elements and drove down to Springdale's Arvest Ballpark for the 3rd annual Springdale Turkey Trot.


The weather wasn't nearly as nice as it had been... in fact, it was downright nasty - 32F, raining and sleeting, with 25-35mph winds from the north. Here's a shot from inside of the car, just before the race started:


And surprise, surprise, I had an absolutely great race. I finished the 5K in just under 23 minutes, which was good for 4th place in my age group... I missed a medal by 14 seconds. Had I known the guy in front of me was in my group, I would've kicked-it in earlier and tried to pass him rather than just trying to "survive" the elements. Oh well.

Thoroughly frozen and soaked well to the bone, I drove home (windows fogging the entire way), and promptly fired-up the thanksgiving feast. We decided to be a bit conservative with the turkey this year... :-) If you'll recall, I usually like to buy a turkey that's quite "oversized" - I believe we've had 18-20lb turkeys for previous meals... this year, we went with a modest 11-pound bird, and it turns out it was just about perfect.

It cooked in just over 2 hours and we still had enough left-overs for a few extra sandwiches. :-)

Here's the bird, after spending a few hours in the 'ole roastification machine:


And accompanying the fowl was my infamous sage sausage apple walnut stuffing:


And last but not least, the garlic gorgonzola mashed potatoes:


We assembled it all together with some corn, beer bread, and a really decent merlot to make a rather tasty plate:


Here's a close-up of my plate - I can't describe how great it was. The smaller turkey seemed to really take the brine a lot better than the larger turkeys did - it was so tender and packed with flavor. It's quite honestly one of the best turkeys I've ever had, if I do say so myself... and those potatoes - wow. Roasted garlic + gorgonzola + russet potatoes = WIN.


For dessert, we debated about doing a pie (apple), but then figured it would just get "scarfed" down and lead to an over-full belly situation. So, we opted for something a bit unusual: gourmet cupcakes from a new local cupcakery in Bentonville. We went with a pumpkin with cream cheese cupcake and an Oreo cupcake:


Turns out the cupcakes didn't really satisfy my insatiable sweet-tooth, so we ventured over to WalMart and grabbed a few cookies to help finish things off. I later complained about being too full and swearing that I'd never eat another sweet ever again. We'll see how long that promise lasts... :-D (I'm guessing it won't last too long)

We also went to a movie and went for a walk to help work off some of the turkey. The weather was still cold for most of Thursday - I think it barely hit 35F, as evidenced by the ice on the trees in our backyard:


Friday came much too early, and I was back at the park, running and riding while Amy went to work. I ran a few errands that afternoon, did some more work, and called it an early evening. Saturday was more of the same (riding/running), and then we headed over to Nat's house to watch the Razorback/LSU game - which was a phenomenal game. We also got to see Nat's dog Tanner, who promptly made herself comfortable on Nat's "big red chair":


We not only got to see Nat and Tanner, but we also got to hang out with Tonia (aka "T-bone"), another friend from the bank. I hadn't seen her in over 2-years, so it was cool to catch-up and to hear about everything that's gone on since 2008. After the game, Amy and I headed to dinner and then called it an early night. My plans for Sunday included getting up by 3:00am and hitting the road back to Wisconsin... boo.

And, so, there you have it. Here I am in the trusty Prius, watching the sunrise somewhere in northern Missouri:


Not a bad vacation, even if I didn't really vacation much. I did a bunch of work remotely, but for some reason, I enjoy working remotely. I'm now back in Wisconsin, where it's 31F outside, windy, and apparently about ready to snow (lightly). Nice.

So, despite my best intentions to give my legs a rest, I somehow managed to run for 9-consecutive days with total mileage of 56.08, and riding totals that included 7-days of riding for a total of 216.7 miles. Not bad for a guy whose legs have otherwise failed him. I guess it was the nice weather and the awesome environment? I also noticed that I had little-to-no achiness the entire time, so now I'm really stumped.

Oh, and here's the customary t-shirt and race bib(s) photo. Enjoy - I'm off to bed - been up since 3:15am today, drove 700+ miles, picked-up Shiloh, unloaded the car, cleaned the apartment, and did some light grocery shopping. I'm beat!


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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on November 28, 2010 10:03 PM.

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