Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fitting Remarks: Fulfilling My Summer Bucket List: The Minnesota State Fair!

"Eat something on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair." 

This is one of the items on my Summer Bucket List. So this past Saturday, Dustin and I put on our comfortable walking shoes and headed to the Great Minnesota Get-Together! (You can read past recaps of the fair HERE and HERE.)

Speaking of walking shoes, Dustin decided to wear his Garmin while we were at the fair. Guess what? We covered over SIX miles of walking! I couldn't believe it. Add that to the 17 mile long run we did in the morning, and I think we covered a lot of ground!

Anyways, back to the fair. This post is going to be very picture heavy. We brought our "good" camera to the fair and I went a little crazy taking pictures of all of my favorite fair activities. But we squeezed a lot into one day, and I'm here to tell you all about my favorite things to do at the Minnesota State Fair.

1. Visit the alpacas.
A visit to the state fair must include a visit with my favorite fair animals, the alpacas! Not to be confused with llamas, though alpacas can spit like a llama.  The biggest difference between alpacas and llamas is their coat. Alpacas have a very fine, soft, single coat, whereas llamas have a course outer coat and soft inner coat. 

I just love their adorable faces. And I'm still wearing my alpaca slippers that I bought last year at the fair. So comfy!
"Alpaca fiber is almost as strong as silk and highly durable. It's also soft, lightweight, lustrous and highly thermally efficient. When made into garments it doesn't pill or provoke any kind of skin reaction in people who are allergic to the lanolin or guard hairs in sheep's wool." source

2. Check out the butter busts!
The Minnesota State Fair is known nationally for the butter busts that are created in the images of the fair princesses, "Princess Kay of the Milky Way!" <-- famous enough that there was a movie with Jennifer Garner loosely based on this. 

We made our requisite stop in the dairy building for a shake and a peek at this year's princesses' butter replicas.

*Does anyone know what the princesses do with their butter busts after the fair?

3. Taste some Minnesota craft brews:
In the horticulture building, you can purchase a 4-sample taster of a variety of local craft beers. This is a great addition to the fair, especially as our local beer scene continues to grow. I tried the hoppy set of four and they were all quite good.

4. Check out the crop art!
The crop art is always impressive and every year there are new and often funny pieces on display. This artwork is all made entirely out of seeds. I can't imagine the patience that goes into these items.

5. Try to understand the Creative Activities displays...
The displays in the Creative Activities building always confuse but fascinate us. There's the cooking competitions, the scrapbooking pages, and plenty of random collections- stamps, postcards, etc.

The top left picture below is an award winning box of straws collection<-- yet there weren't any other similar collections? So confusing. How is this judged? We never really understand these displays, but we try to come up with explanations...

6. Try one of the hot new novelty items at the fair!
We achieved this by trying out the blueberry beer at the Schells Brewing Booth (read all about it HERE). We tried this Japanese style foam beer on top of a Schell's Oktoberfest. 

The blueberry foam beer was decent, but I enjoyed the s'mores beer more. It was a porter served with a marshmallow and a graham cracker crust on the rim. 

We also tried the pretzel curds, which were amazing, and the walleye mac'n'cheese, also very good.

7. Watch the parade
I'm not sure what it is about a parade, but I always have to stop what we're doing and watch it go by if I can. I don't know the schedule, but we always catch some of it while we're at the fair.

8. Ride on the Giant Slide
It's tradition. We take a ride or two on this slide every year. Simple good old-fashioned fun.

9. Admire the flowers in the Horticulture Building
Some years its roses, some years its dahlias, and this year it was orchids. The display was every type of orchid available. Fascinating.

10. Take a break on the Sky Ride
This is a newer tradition for us, but I think between the 17 mile long run that morning and the 6 miles of walking, a quick break on the Sky Ride was just what we needed. We really enjoyed the view of the fair from up above. We will definitely keep this as part of our must-do list!

Honorable mentions: 

Visit Any of the Animal Barns. 
The rabbit barn and/or the chicken barn, or any of the animal barns actually...last year, I milked a goat. This year, we caught a bit of the goat competition. All good fun.

Miracle of Birth Center: The Miracle of Birth center is also usually interesting, but it was just way too crowded yesterday to fight our way through.

All-You-Can-Drink-Milk: Dustin loves the all-you-can-drink milk, but we opted for a shake in the dairy building instead yesterday.

Traditional Fair Food: Pronto Pups, Sweet Martha's cookies, Deep-Fried Candy Bars (way too rich for me, but Dustin likes these), and of course, anything on a stick. It's true, I spent 6 hours at the fair, walking over 6 miles, but I didn't consume ANYTHING on a stick. We kept meaning to get the mango on a stick at the Midtown Global Market, but we never made it over there. So technically, I didn't cross this item off of my summer bucket list this year...  But nonetheless, we enjoyed a lot of our Minnesota State Fair traditions, while making some new ones!

Did you make it to the fair this weekend?
Tell me what are some of your state fair traditions?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fits on the Road: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

This past weekend, we travelled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota!

We were in Sioux Falls for our friends Paul and Laura's wedding. I wasn't really sure what to expect in Sioux Falls...I mean, it's a town of about 160,000. I suppose I thought it would be a lot of farmlands and chain restaurants.  And there was some of that. Yet I was pleasantly surprised by the charm of Sioux Falls, and I wanted to share all the details of our short weekend trip to this city!

We took Friday off of work to get in our long runs, and then we hit the road a little before lunch time. Sioux Falls is about a 4 hour drive from Minneapolis. We made a stop in Mankato for lunch, eating at Pub 500 the same place we ate back when this same Paul who was getting married won the Mankato Marathon in 2012! (Did you miss that post? Be sure to catch up HERE!)

We arrived in Sioux Falls around 3:30 pm and we checked into our room at the Sioux Falls Clubhouse Hotel and Suites. Our room was quite large, with two separate rooms- one with a king bed, one with a pull-out couch, small kitchenette, and living room area.

After we settled into our room, we had some time to kill, so we walked across the street to check out "The Little Cellar Wine Company." This wine store and cafe was really cute. We received a "card" to use with the self-serve wine stations, where 4-5 whites and 4-5 reds were "on tap." You could order a taste, a half-pour, or a full glass, and you used your card to keep track of your purchases.

Dustin and I each did a few half-pours to try out a few different wines. We enjoyed hanging out on the patio before some of the other wedding guests arrived. Eventually, more people made their way to Sioux Falls. We were getting hungry, so after a few quick Yelp searches (as well as referrals back to the bride's recommendations on the wedding website) we decided to head to "A Taste of the Big Apple." The pizza here was decent and there were some locals brews available. We thoroughly enjoyed the warm August night on their patio.

Eventually, we made it back to the hotel for the Wedding Day 5k packet pickup (read more about that race HERE)

Saturday morning, we were up early for the 5k. After showers and a little lounging around, we decided it was time to explore Sioux Falls!

Our first stop, of course, was the falls after which the city is named!

The falls were much more expansive than I expected. The surrounding park was also very well-maintained. I was impressed!

After getting our fill of the falls, we headed to the historic downtown area of the city. Again, I was impressed by how well-maintained this little 3-block area was. There were lots of really cute boutiques, including the 605 Running Store.

Other mentionable boutiques included Engage Paperie, Half Baked bakery, Man Code, and CH Patiserie.

We grabbed lunch at M.B. Haskett, which was a cute little delicatessen. Dustin had a brie and prosciutto sandwich and I had a savory crepe.

After lunch, Dustin shopped a little at Man Code and found a cool sweater. This store carried a lot of upscale brands and trendy pieces and it seems like a real gem in Sioux Falls for menswear.

One of our favorite stores was CH Patiserie. We all purchased some of the colorful and flavorful macaroons from this tasty pastry store to enjoy later. They were so good!

After exploring downtown Sioux Falls, Meggan and I headed to A Perfect 10 Nail & Beauty Bar, Sioux Falls' first blow-dry bar. Nothing against this salon, as it was cute and the stylists were really nice, but I just didn't love my blow-out. The stylist tried to "pin" my hair to add the curls, and I should have been more adamant when telling her that doesn't work on my stick-straight hair. My hair NEEDS a curling iron. Yet she did the pinning method and my hair fell flat immediately. I brushed it out when I got back to the hotel and just used my flat iron quickly instead. The salon was still a nice place, with relaxing looking pedicure/manicure chairs and an affordable menu of wine and cocktails while you get pampered.

Okay. now onto the wedding!

The ceremony was held at the chapel at Augustana College and then we were shuttled out to Calico Skies winery in Iowa.

This reception setting was unbelievable- so gorgeous, and definitely worth the 40 minute drive from Sioux Falls!

I think the pictures tell a better story that I ever could. The tables in the dining room were so colorful. The photos for the table numbers were so fitting and coordinated very well with everything else.

Toasts, first dances, a bouquet toss...all the traditional pieces were there, as well as a live band. The wine was flowing as well as the beers. Such a fun night...

Big D!

Sioux were a pleasant surprise. Paul and Laura, congrats!

I was so happy to be a part of such a special night. Cheers to the happy couple!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fit Tip Friday: Are You Ready to Train for a Marathon?

Last Friday's Fit Tip was How to Pick Your First (Or Next) Marathon, but how do you know when/if you're even ready to train for a marathon?

Notice that I didn't write are you ready to "do" a marathon, but rather whether you are ready to "train for a marathon." This is because the hardest part of a marathon is the training and that statement is coming from a girl who really loves the training.  Yet there are a lot of things to think about before you determine that you are ready to train for a marathon.

Of course, you don't have to train. Nope. You could "run" a marathon without training, but I wouldn't recommend it. Sure, it’s possible, but why? I would much rather train so that the experience is a positive one. You only have one "first" marathon experience, so I highly recommend that you train for it to make it a good one.
My first marathon finish line at TCM 2005 with my little sister Laurie
There's a big difference between finishing and running a marathon.  I’m not trying to be a snob about it. In fact, I’m sure some people think that my pace (around a 4 hour marathon) is not “running” either, but I do train for every marathon. In the end, it is all about what YOU want out of your first marathon. With that said, these are my tips for determining if you are ready to train!

Have you been running for at least a year?  
Some people say six months of consistent running is enough, but I would say it makes more sense to consistently run for a full year, with weekly mileage somewhere around 15-25 miles. This will get your body used to the pounding on the pavement and will hopefully allow you to work through any potential injuries, shoe problems, etc. before you make the commitment to train for a full marathon. This year of base building will give your body time to make some adjustments to prepare you for the training. It’s also a good idea that you vary your running terrain during this year, meaning that it shouldn't all be on the treadmill- try to make sure at least half of it is on pavement.

Do you have previous experience with races?
I had never run any half marathons before attempting my first full marathon, but I don’t think that was the smartest thing to do (I mean, just look back to see how that worked out)  You'll be better prepared for the marathon if you have run 1-2 half marathons first, or at least a handful of 10k's.  This experience will help you figure out if you actually even like training and racing before making such a huge commitment as a full marathon.  You will get a better sense of what’s involved with the training and race itself and to decide if you truly enjoy long distance running!

Do you have the time to train?
I could go on and on about how to fit in your training with working full time (it’s not always easy, and I don’t even have kids!) But really, you need to look at your personal life and determine if you can make the 18 week commitment to train (which is really how long you should train for to have a good first marathon). If your wife is about to have a baby, or you’re balancing school and work, or you know you have a few really big trips coming up, maybe now is not the time to register for a marathon. Some people don’t realize that marathon training is very time intensive. At times, it may even feel like a part-time job! It’s safe to assume whatever training schedule you follow will probably ask for at least 4-5 days a week and one of those days will involve hours of running (i.e. your long run).  You have to be realistic about your other responsibilities to determine if you would have the time to commit to the training. You will need to get family members on board before committing if you're going to need help with childcare and/or household responsibilities
Supporting my husband on one of his long runs. It's important to get the support
of your friends and/or family or a run club.

Can your lifestyle support it? 
Besides the time commitment, you will have to make other sacrifices to train. The long runs will take up a lot of time on either your Saturday and Sunday morning, and then there’s the recovery after the long runs. You won't be able to party hard the night before your long run, so if you're not ready to sacrifice your social calendar, you might not be ready to train for a marathon.
Don't can still have a beer or glass of wine when training...just don't go crazy on a Friday night!

How is your diet?
I’m the first to admit my diet isn’t perfect, but it’s relatively healthy (not a lot of processed food, plenty of fruits and vegetables). Unfortunately, you can’t expect to lose weight when you are training for a marathon, because you will need to eat. You’ll be hungry. A LOT.  You’ll need to eat, but you’ll need to eat well in order to train well. If your diet is pretty poor but you’re not ready to make some healthy changes, you may not be ready to train for a marathon.

Have you been cleared by your doctor?
Even if you don’t have a pre-existing medical conditions, you probably should get your primary care doctor's approval before beginning a marathon training program.

What are your reasons for training for a marathon?
Think about why you want to do it. Are you trying to prove something? Did someone bet you that you couldn’t? This isn’t necessarily bad, but I really think you need to want to run a marathon for YOU. You need to have the internal motivation. Do it for yourself.

Or..are you doing this because it's the “thing to do?”  I mean, it seems like all “runners” run marathons…right?  Nope. You don’t have to run one. You can still be a runner without ever training for a marathon.

Okay, so that’s a lot to consider…I hope I didn’t scare you off! I still think training for and completing a marathon is an amazing experience, one that I obviously enjoy enough to keep doing over and over again.

For something a little more brutally honest, check out THIS ARTICLE with 26 Reasons NOT to Run a Marathon from the Huffington Post!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fits Do Race Reviews: The Wedding Day 5k

This past Saturday was the wedding of our former running club coach Paul and another good running club friend Laura (So many love stories begin in the Calhoun Beach Running Club  - join today! hehe)

I plan to share more pictures from this beautiful wedding in a "Fits on the Road: Sioux Falls" post later this week, but first I want to share with you the awesomeness that was the  Wedding Day 5k!

Paul was the mastermind behind the Memorial Day Pub Run 5k, so it was no surprise that his  Wedding Day 5k was also exceptionally well-executed. He does not mess around with race planning.

The bride-to-be wore a veil paired with the Sweaty Band I gave her at her bachelorette party. So cute! 

Back to the race... It started with online registration for the low, low price of $8.23 (i.e. the wedding date 8/23!) The race fee went towards the cost of the shirts I believe, but who can argue with $8.23 for registration?? Definitely a price that fits the bill!

There was an official website HERE (<--of course there was!) with course information and more.

Course Information from the website:

The Wedding Day 5k features a flat, fast course that runs on the banks of the Big Sioux River. Along the way, participants will see the river, be tempted by an Olive Garden, probably see some geese, and enjoy the fine engineering marvels that are the 41st and 49th street bridges.
The Wedding Day 5k race committee reserves the right to change the course on a whim if deemed necessary due to trail or road construction, getting a bad feeling about this, or other reasons that we make up.
Official Course Map:
The race started promptly at 7 am right behind the Sioux Falls Clubhouse Hotel & Suites (where most of the wedding guests were staying for the wedding). It was extremely convenient to just wake up and walk out the back door of the hotel to the start line. The hotel was located right by the Big Sioux River trail.

Packet Pickup:
Packet pickup was held on Friday in the late afternoon and again later that night (after the rehearsal dinner of course). The gear bags included pens, pads of paper, course maps, and our official race t-shirts. Packet up was extremely easy- no line!

Race morning:
We woke up to overcast skies but temperatures in the 80's with high humidity. 

Like I mentioned in my weekly recap earlier this week, we were up kind of late on Friday and had a lot of pizza and beer at "A Taste of the Big Apple." It was hard to get up and get moving for the race, but I did get in a very short warmup.
At Taste of the Big Apple on Friday night before the 5k

Then, promptly at 7 am, we were off! 

The miles were clearly and accurately marked (picture below courtesy of Meggan at The Yoga Garage)

There was someone calling out mile splits at mile 1 (i.e. the groom's mom!) and then there was someone calling out your time at the finish line.
Even better, we received "official" results emails within an hour of finishing. And we could tweet or post our results to Facebook with a quick click of a button!

As you can see, I didn't run a PR at the Wedding Day 5k (my PR is 22:46). I wouldn't recommend lots of pizza and beer the night before a 5k. But let's be honest, the Wedding Day 5k wasn't about racing- it was about starting off this special day with running. Running was what brought Laura and Paul together, so it was only appropriate that all of their running friends celebrated by running on their wedding day. Nearly 50 people finished the 5k that morning, with more than that doing a shorter walking option. So fun!

Even though I ran slow (for me), Dustin and I still won a trophy for fastest combined time for a married couple. #proud

Great job to the race directors and planning committee. By far, the best Wedding Day 5k that I have ever done!