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Race recap: Music in Motion 5K

6 Aug

I know what you’re thinking: Another race recap? I promise this will be the last one for a while. The weekends from now through the end of the month are booked, and as it is, only a few local races are going on between now and the half marathon Sept. 28.

But, we ran a 5K on Saturday, and I must tell you about it.

We ran the Music in Motion 5K, a run that raises money for the orchestra program in the local schools. The course begins and ends at the big sports complex on the far west side of town and makes a big out-and-back L on country roads bordered by cornfields.

Unlike any of the other races we’ve run so far this season, we got to take the girls along in the jogging stroller! Christopher agreed to push them so I could chase a good time.

We gathered at the starting line, sang the national anthem and took off at the shot of the starting gun.

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The course headed west, just out of town, and then north on a country road, past cornfields, pastures and farms. It was a rolling course, surprisingly enough, and made more challenging by the sun and humidity.

I struggled with my breathing and a side stitch almost right away, but I pushed through and eventually got comfortable. I didn’t run with the intention of blowing away my new PR, but I wanted to at least finish under 30 minutes, if not closer to 29 minutes. I knew that was possible if I just kept going.

The girls were a welcome distraction; they giggled and sang through much of the race. Christopher offered words of encouragement, too, which helped; he reminded me that while a new PR wasn’t possible, something close to it was.

We turned back onto the road that leads to town and to the sports complex, and we did our best to turn up the pace a bit. We crossed the finish line and got gummed up in the chute thanks to the stroller and a rather unpleasant volunteer, who was collecting the tear strips from our bibs, then we grabbed a couple of bottles of water and caught our breath.

We were able to hang around a little bit, because we didn’t have to hurry home to put the girls down for their nap, so we grabbed some goodies and all four of us had a nice breakfast.

The Music in Motion 5K is a local favorite; it’s organized by a longtime runner and president of the local running club. It’s small (about 300 runners) and affordable (no chip timing, but a technical shirt). I definitely think we would do this one again.

Here’s the part you’re waiting for:

Distance: 3.1 miles
Duration: 28:47 bib time (28:52 RunKeeper time – forgot to hit stop until we were through the chute)
Average pace: 9:13 per mile
Mile 1: 8:57
Mile 2: 9:14
Mile 3: 9:24

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Race recap: 5K for the Knockout

28 Jul

I don’t know whether it was the impassioned pre-race speech or the familiarity course…or just my lucky day, but I shattered my personal best this past weekend.

Christopher and I tackled the 5K for the Knockout, a local run in celebration of a local girl, 18, who died of rare form of childhood pancreatic cancer last summer. The course was through The Meadows and on the Lowell Park bike path, which we used to run all the time when we were training for the Wisconsin Marathon.

The morning kicked off with a fiery speech about how running a race is much like making your way through life—how some of us start out strong, while others finish with a good kick, but that it is crossing the finish line with grace that is most important.

We made our way toward the front of the very loosely organized pack of runners, leaving the girls with my dad, and took off at the command of the race organizer. Christopher and I ran separately.

The course wound through The Meadows, on a gravel trail, and the Lowell Park bike path, a paved trail. It was a relatively flat course, save for a downhill at the start and an uphill at the end; it also was a quiet course thanks to the woods on either side of the trail.

I felt really good through the whole race. I went out too fast and got a side stitch, but then I settled in and relaxed my body into a comfortable, yet maintainable pace. I walked only through the water stops.

I absolutely blazed through the first mile at about 8:18 (my first two-thirds of a mile were done at less than 8-minute pace) and then settled into a more manageable pace; the second mile was 9:49, and the third was 9:46.

My RunKeeper app alerts me of my time, distance and average pace every 5 minutes. I knew, at 25 minutes, that I had about four-tenths of a mile to go and about 4 minutes in which to run them in order to beat my (pre-baby) personal best. I knew that a new PR was mine for the taking; I just had to run faster than a 10-minutes-per-mile pace.

I approached the finish line and could hear Christopher and see my dad and the girls in their big, red double jogging stroller. I ran my heart out. I crossed in record time—but I failed to look at the clock that entire stretch.

I caught my breath and wandered toward my family. I looked down at my phone and saw 27:50. I couldn’t believe it.

Christopher set a PR, too. First in his age division (11th overall) at 23:32. For those keeping score at home, that’s an average pace of 7:35. Say what?

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I was sixth in my age division. 11th among females, and 38th overall.

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The 5K for the Knockout, now in its third year (?), is a really nice race. It’s small but it’s got the perks of a larger event—including chip timing and post-race bagels and bananas. The course is wonderful—beautiful and peaceful—too.

And now, the deets:

Distance: 3.1 miles
Duration: 27:53 chip time (27:50 RunKeeper time)
Average pace: 9:00 per mile
Mile 1: 8:18
Mile 2: 9:49
Mile 3: 9:46

Valley Orchard

29 Sep

Our little family of four (!) ventured to Valley Orchard in Cherry Valley, just east of Rockford, on Saturday afternoon to pick some apples, get our hands on some apple cider doughnuts and a caramel apple and enjoy the autumn summer weather.

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We picked a little less than 10 pounds of apples—Cortland, Empire, Fuji, Jonamac, Senshu and Snow Sweet varieties. We also picked up a half-dozen cinnamon-sugar apple cider doughnuts and a caramel apple.

The orchard is large and very family friendly. (The owners are parents of grown twin boys.) There’s an area for kids to play on hay bales and families to pose for photos. There’s rows and rows and rows of apple trees and a large patch of raspberry bushes. There’s a small store, too, filled with apple goodies from butter and cider to doughnuts and pies.

We opted not to bring the stroller, and instead to keep the girls in their carriers. I think it might have been nicer to have them in a stroller or to have each of them in a body wrap/carrier, but we didn’t really know what to expect or how to plan. Either way, we had a nice time, and the girls slept soundly as we traipsed through the orchard.

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Clips from the first month

6 Dec

Six weeks ago, I said goodbye to working part time at a ho-hum job and hello to writing for a daily newspaper. And in that time, I’ve written dozens of stories–some straight, hard news and some fun, descriptive features.

Here’s a sampling of my favorites:

  • “Few local schools hit targets”: Only two school districts in the Sauk Valley met federal No Child Left Behind standards, even though benchmarks were frozen at last year’s level, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. And more than 40 schools, including every high school in the area, failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward those goals.
  • “Shaking on top of the world”: Brayden Porter shimmied atop the Cascade mountains in the Pacific Northwest and twisted in the Andes in South America, mimicking the action of earthquakes along Ring of Fire, the most seismically active area on Earth. Porter isn’t a jet-setter; he is a fourth-grader at Washington Elementary. He wasn’t really high atop a mountain or deep inside a trench; he was standing on a 26-by-35-foot map of the Pacific Ocean on loan to the school from National Geographic.
  • “A chance to horse around and learn”: Xavier Buhlman made a new friend. He’s short and stocky. He’s got shaggy, brown hair and big, brown eyes. And he’s really smart. Xavier and Destiny won’t sit next to each other on the bus or chase after each other on the playground, though, because Xavier is a fifth-grader and Destiny is a 17-year-old pony.
  • “Lessons learned on way to top”: Driven – adjective; relentlessly compelled the need to accomplish a goal; very hard-working and ambitious. See also: PJ Caposey, principal of Oregon High School. Caposey is just 32 years old, but already he has accomplished more than some educators twice his age. But his rapid rise from unprepared sociology teacher at a rough, South Side Chicago high school to respected principal at a nationally recognized, small-town high school has not been without its trials.
  • “Turning in her keys after nearly 50 years”: Velma Quest has dozens of grandchildren. Only a few of them are really hers; the rest are the children she drives to and from school on a big, yellow school bus. Quest has driven a bus for the Amboy School District since 1965. She’s hauled hundreds of students and logged thousands of miles over her nearly 50 years behind the wheel. But she’s ready to turn in her keys – in 2 weeks, just 2 days before her 80th birthday.
  • “An experiment in education”: In this classroom, there are no desks, no chalkboards, no textbooks. In this classroom – a long, narrow room with brick walls and high, cathedral-style ceilings – there are folding tables pushed into the corner, drawings taped to the wall and measuring tapes, wrenches and bolts strewn about the floor. In this classroom, students are conducting scientific research and experiments and trying, often failing, and trying again.

Only the most recent seven days of stories are available on our website for free; older stories incur a small charge to retrieve them from our archive. (I have mixed feelings about newspaper website pay walls, but I will save that opus for another time.)

To access the older articles, e-mail me at kaylabee18 [at] gmail [dot] come or kheimerman [at] saukvalley [dot] com, and I will give you a username and password.

A very happy Thanksgiving

22 Nov

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been busy with my new job and some weekend adventures (some of which even have supporting photographic evidence that should have made it to this blog). So, I just wanted to pop in and share some pictures from Thanksgiving which included all the things this blog usually includes: running, cooking, eating, spending time with family and general Midwestern goodness!

We started the day with the St. Anne’s Turkey Trot 5K, which winds up and down the roads and trails through Lowell Park along the Rock River on the north side of Dixon. More than 450 people showed up!

Christopher and I fared well on the tough, hilly course; he finished in about 27 minutes, while I finished in 31:30 – without a walk break! I felt a little nauseous at some spots and wanted to walk, but I convinced myself to just go slow and put one foot in front of the other. We treated this “race” purely as a fun run and a means to stay active on the biggest eating day of the year. We’ll be back next year.

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We came home, cleaned up and prepared the turkey, which sat in a brine (in a cooler on the back porch) of vegetable broth, water, salt, brown sugar, lemons, oranges and spices from late Tuesday night to this morning. First, we thoroughly rinsed the bird in cold water, then patted it dry. Next, we placed cut carrots, onions, apples, lemons and oranges in the bottom of the roasting pan and in the cavity of the turkey, along with (in the cavity only) fresh rosemary, sage and thyme, as well as some garlic. Then, we rubbed compound butter (basil from our garden, chopped and frozen in the butter after the last harvest, plus some rosemary, sage and thyme) and oil all over the bird. Last, we put it in the oven, 30 minutes at 500 degrees, then 2 hours at 340 degrees.

The family arrived and contributed their dishes. We noshed on a caramelized onion, gruyère, and bacon dip, as well as an eggplant-walnut pate, both of which my dad made. We had a couple beers, which my brother brought. And we watched football.

My mom and I made gravy from the pan drippings, turkey stock and heavy cream, and we heated up all the side dishes. Christopher carved the turkey.

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Everyone filled their plates, gathered around the table and toasted each other and the day.

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We feasted on:

  • Turkey

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  • Apple-cranberry-mushroom dressing
  • German-style red cabbage
  • Bacon-wrapped asparagus bundles with a sweet-and-savory butter sauce)

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Christopher and I made pumpkin crème brûlée for dessert, and everyone loved it as an alternative to pumpkin pie!

All in all, we have a lovely Thanksgiving, full of football, food and family (human and canine). I am so very, very blessed to have a loving husband, a caring and supportive family that doesn’t mind make the trek to our house for the holiday and a wonderful home. I hope you had a great day, too!

Biking on the Dixon trails

2 Oct

We are blessed with a beautiful trails and parks near our house.

We have used the paved Lowell Parkway Trail many, many times during marathon and half-marathon training. It is paved and well maintained, partially shaded and has a water fountain and outhouse along the way.

We only recently “discovered” the gravel trails (meant for horseback riding, cross-country skiing, biking, hiking and snowmobiling) in The Meadows Park but used it several times during half-marathon training. It is hilly and winding with varied terrain.

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Now that racing season is pretty well over, we’re getting back to other forms of fitness. Christopher is working on building his push-ups and sit-ups, while I’ am working on overall consistent strength training. We’ve played tennis a few times already, too.

And with the change in the weather, we’ve been itching to dust off our bikes and explore our beautiful surroundings a bit. Christopher surprised me yesterday by pulling my bike out of the corner of the garage, filling the tires and taking it for a test spin. And I fulfilled my end of the deal today by taking it for a 9-mile ride on the trails.

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It was breeze blowing, leaves crunching, squirrels chirping, crickets humming, branches rustling perfect…

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My legs were tired and my bum was sore, but my heart was so happy just being outside and soaking up the sunshine and surroundings.

Fall is so wonderful—perfect for playing outside during the day and snuggling up inside at night.

Christopher and I are planning to go to the pumpkin patch this weekend to pick up pumpkins and apples. We’re also thinking of brewing a batch of beer. And we’ll probably get out for a ride.

It should be absolutely perfect.

The Eternal Indian and Lowden State Park

21 Sep

The Eternal Indian sculpture that towers over the Rock River in Lowden State Park in Oregon, just north of Dixon, is perhaps one of the most recognizable “attractions” in the Sauk Valley.

Christopher and I had only seen it from Route 2, so we took the opportunity of showing my aunt around the area to see it up close via a hike through the park.

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The statue, also known as the Black Hawk statue, was created by Lorado Taft in 1908. Taft was the founder of an arts colony of Chicago painters, sculptors, poets, architects and other artists, who summered in the area that now is the state park from the turn of the century to the early 1940s. The majority of the statue is hollow; only the head and shoulders of the chief are solid concrete. It is said to be the second largest concrete monolithic statue in the world.

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The statue stands 125 feet above the Rock River, and the bluff on which it is perched offers a beautiful view of the area.

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Lowden State Park is among the most picturesque spots in the Sauk Valley.

Christopher and I got a taste of the area during the Run-A-Muck in July, so we wanted to “hike” through the park while we were there.

The park sits on more than 200 acres and is named for a former governor. It was founded only a few years after the art colony vacated the land. It offers camping, picnicking and fishing, as well as almost 4 miles of good foot trails through the woods.

We walked some of the Black Hawk Trail and some of the Heckman Trail, for maybe about a mile total. We navigated some steep grades, where crude stairs had eroded away, and plowed through some narrow paths, where bushes and trees crowded the walkway. We all enjoyed the scenery (We even stumbled upon three turkeys!), and Dexter loved the nature walk.

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We hope to do a lot more exploring this fall, as we’ll be done spending Saturdays in the garden and Sundays on long runs.