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...

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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:

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...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??

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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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

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

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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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":

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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:

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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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