Tag Archives: race

Rainy Portland Marathon 2016

Time for a race recap of the Portland Marathon!

First, I kind of wanted to sue weather.com for false advertising.  The weather report for Portland all week called for 72 degrees, partly sunny, and no rain.  48 hours before the race, that changed to 80% chance of rain.  24 hours before the race that changed to 100% chance of rain.  Well, ok then.  I had no idea how my body would feel about running in the rain for four hours, but it looked like I was going to find out.

It was lightly sprinkling in Seattle on Saturday (the day before the race), and I did a short run to loosen up my legs Saturday morning in the drizzling rain, and I felt strong!  Strong and prepared for a marathon the following day!  I listened to ‘Til I Collapse by Eminem and Eye of the Tiger from Rocky, and I was feeling ready to go and very antsy to get to the start line.  My typical night-before-a-long-run snack consisted of two coconut milk yogurts and either one or two peanut butter and jelly Larabars (depending on the length of the long run).  Then the morning of the long run, I typically had one more yogurt and one more Larabar before the run.  It’s important to replicate your training as much as possible in your race, so Mike and I stopped at a Fred Meyer grocery store on the way down to get a little cooler and ice for my coconut milk yogurt.

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Mike saving the day by getting ice for my yogurt

I had my Larabars and my yogurts.  And one of basically every type of running outfit available, including both my pairs of running shoes.  (I couldn’t make up my mind what I was going to want to wear, so I brought literally everything.)

Mike and I were initially planning to drive down with my running buddy and her husband, both of whom were also running the marathon, but at the last minute her husband got a bad cold.  It was up in the air whether or not he would be able to run the race, but he decided he was up to it.  However, in an effort to stay healthy the day before the race, Mike and I drove down separately.  The drive was pretty much constant (I always forget how much traffic there is between Seattle and Portland because we actually haven’t been to Portland many times… maybe 4?).  We found the hotel without much difficulty, but it was pretty packed since we were staying at the same hotel the race expo was at.  Mike and I walked over to the race expo and picked up my race packet.  We also looked for a very lightweight running rain coat that I could wear the following day, but we really didn’t see any.  Maybe everyone else had the same idea and they were already all taken?  My right hip flexor was feeling tighter than I knew it should feel (maybe from the ride down in the car?  or the cold and rain?).  Regardless, Mike and I had a quiet dinner at the steakhouse across the street from the hotel where we were staying.  My treat, since I had basically dragged Mike down to Portland to stand out in the rain taking pictures.  Mike got a steak and I got a giant plain baked potato.  Perfect race fuel!  Then we went back to the hotel, went over the race course so that Mike could decide where to take pictures.  Then I ate two yogurts from the cooler and two peanut butter and jelly Larabars.  I was ready.  I went to bed and slept like a LOG.  I know a lot of people can’t sleep the night before a race because of nerves, but I have never had that problem.  I can basically always fall asleep.  Most of the time that’s awesome, but sometimes it’s not.  Like when I’m in uninteresting meetings at work.  Anyway, I slept really soundly, and my alarm went off at 5:00am.  We were meeting my friend Anna and her husband Nick at 6am, so that gave me plenty of time to think about my race outfit.  I thought about it while I retrieved one more yogurt from the cooler for breakfast and munched another Larabar.  (People think that you run so you can eat whatever you want, but I actually find that when I’m seriously training I have to be way more careful what I eat…. the last thing you want is an upset stomach or overactive digestion during a long run or a race!  So I tend to gravitate towards the same tried and true foods.)

After sticking my head out the window to verify that, yes, it was raining, I went through all the running clothes I’d brought to try to choose what I wanted to wear.  I settled on my thinnest capri pants (which were purple, so made it easier for Mike to spot me during races… bonus!) and a running T-shirt.  I woke Mike up to help me choose which running shoes to wear.  My options were the lighter, faster, but less supportive pair that had fewer miles on them or the heavier, slower, more supportive pair with more miles on them.  I put both pairs on multiple times and jogged across the hotel room trying to make a decision.  Mike just watched me.

“You think I’m crazy, right?” I asked.

Mike shrugged.  “I’m pretty OCD actually.  I’m like this about most stuff.”

I eventually decided on the lighter pair.  I put them on, attached my bib to the front of my running capris and my timing chip to my shoe.

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Timing chip ON!  Ready to go!

 

We met up with Nick and Anna outside of our hotel and walked the few blocks to the start line.  There was a really weird corral setup where different corrals entered from different streets, so Anna and I were a little confused looking for our corral C.  We were already wet and there wasn’t much we could do about that, but on the way to the starting line Anna accidentally stepped right in the middle of a big puddle and soaked her sock and her shoe.  Running a marathon with a wet foot right off the bat sounded miserable, so we went to a little running shoe store near the start line that was open early to accommodate the marathon runners.  While Anna bought a new pair of socks and changed into them, I listened to one of the store employees stand on a bench and give a short, inspiring speech about running and having fun and focusing on the nice temperature instead of focusing on the rain.

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Focus on the temps instead of the rain?  Sure.

Then Anna and I found ourselves at the start line and I queued up my marathon playlist.  Ready to go!

And now for a rabbit trail.

As (some?  many?  most?) of you know, I have approximately a 7 year history trying to get a marathon time below 4 hours.  I started training back in 2010 for my first marathon.  It didn’t go well.  I registered for the Detroit marathon (why Detroit and not Chicago?  Why??  Chicago is a much better race.) and got IT band pain and ended up not being able to complete the marathon.  I had another false start that ended in IT band pain before finally getting to the start (and finish) line of my first marathon in Seattle in June of 2011.  I fought IT band through the race, it was miserable, I was in pain the whole time, and I limped across the finish line with a time of 4:22:14… over 22 minutes shy of my goal.

Frustrated but determined, I trained for the Las Vegas marathon in December of 2011.  It was the first year they were doing the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series in Las Vegas, and it was rough.  My training runs had gone great with little IT band pain, but I started getting sick around mile 11 of the race.  Like really sick.  Like I wasn’t able to keep the energy gels coming in fast enough to balance the speed at which they were coming out.  Sorry, TMI, but totally the truth.  As it turned out, the race organizers were using Las Vegas city water at the water stations on the course, which made a lot of runners sick.  If I thought the Seattle marathon was hard, it was nothing compared to the Vegas marathon.  Running down the strip was awesome, but I was so sick to my stomach I couldn’t think about how awesome it was.  I was too busy looking for the next bush by the side of the course.  I basically limped weakly across the finish line of that marathon with a time of 4:35:43 (and I felt lucky to even have that time), limped right back to my hotel, fell into the tub, and lay there in the warm water trying to figure out what on earth had happened.  (I didn’t find out about the water situation until later, so I didn’t realize I wasn’t alone in getting so sick.)  The best part of that race was hanging out with my bestie Lia (who lived in Vegas) the day after and eating as much of a giant Whole Foods salad as my touchy stomach would allow.

At that point I swore off marathons.  Every runner has heard about “marathon amnesia” (i.e. you forget how terrible a marathon was and sign up for another one anyway).  I did not have amnesia.  I remembered exactly how bad it was to run FIFTEEN MILES while looking for the next bush and trying to force down energy gels that my stomach was rejecting.  Since 2011 I had run a couple of half marathons a year, lots of 15ks, 10ks, and 5ks, but I was steering clear of marathons.

Until I joined the Seattle Green Lake Running Group in April of this year.  They were encouraging, helpful, and coincidentally all training for fall marathons.  I became friends and running buddies with Anna through that group.  She had run one marathon previously and basically had a terrible experience as well (super rainy, hilly, muddy course).  Together we decided that we could run a marathon together.  After all, we couldn’t have a worse experience than our collective previous marathon experiences, right?  After checking out a couple of local-ish races we decided on Portland, an old race celebrating their 45th year this year.

And that was how I found myself at the start line of the Portland marathon at 7am on a dark, rainy morning.  My right hip flexor still felt tighter than I knew it should which wasn’t a great sign.  I heard some runner say at some point that if you’re already feeling problems before mile 8 of a marathon you’re in real trouble.  Where did that leave me, given that I was already feeling muscle tightness before I started?  Anyway, not a very encouraging thought, but I decided to be positive.  Negative thinking would get me nowhere.

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Anna, Nick, and I staying as dry as possible before the race.  Those orange ponchos ROCKED!  And were only $4.

When our corral started off, I just focused on taking it slow-ish and fell into step with Anna.  The first couple of miles we were mainly hitting our pace.  We started out a little fast according to our GPS watches, but when we hit the 5km (3.1 mile) sign on the course, our watches showed that we’d gone 3.5 miles.

“It’s going to be a long course,” Anna said.  “That’s discouraging this early in the race.”

I agreed.  If it’s a long course (even if just by 0.4 miles) that tacks on extra minutes to your final time and make it harder to hit a sub 4 hour goal.

We kept running.  The first five miles or so was running around downtown Portland and the surrounding areas.  Then we started to head north towards St. John’s Bridge, and the rain started to come down harder.  My right hip flexor had progressed from tight to painful by this point (maybe because of the cold and rain?), but I was concentrating hard on keeping good running form, and the pain was manageable (unlike IT band pain which is basically impossible to run through).  One thing I have 100% learned during years of running is that good running form can help you run through a lot, and bad running form will absolutely lead to pain.  I knew that if my form suffered early in the race I would be in a lot of pain by the end.  Around mile 11, we passed Mike and I flashed him some bright smiles for the camera even though my hip flexor was painful and the rain was getting pretty old.

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Mile 11… still smiling.  And twinning.  Total coincidence that we both wore the same shirt!

Around mile 15 we started up a long slow hill taking us up to St. John’s Bridge.  We were running into a strong headwind, it was really rainy, and my hip flexor pain was starting to be harder to manage.  It was pretty clear at this point that Anna was having a better race day than I was, given my hip flexor.  She ran on ahead, and I stayed back, going at my own pace, knowing that if I kept below a 9 min/mile pace I’d finish under 4 hours, even given the long course.  The hill up to St. John’s Bridge was about a mile and a half long, but it actually felt pretty easy.  Yay for all the hill training I did in Seattle!  Running across the bridge, I was actually able to pick up my pace and my hip felt a little better.  Back to being tight instead of painful.

Once across the bridge, I hit mile 18 soon after and told myself at that point I only had 8 miles left and I just had to hang on to a 9 min/mile pace (normally really easy for me, but I was still feeling tightness in my hip).  The next two miles went by quickly and actually felt pretty pleasant.  The rain had backed off a little, so even though I was fully drenched, at least I wasn’t actively getting so much more drenched.

They say that the first half of the marathon is 20 miles and the second half is 6.2 miles.  It was with great trepidation that I hit mile 20. My hip flexor was back to being painful, and the 3:45 pace group passed me, so I knew my shot at a 3:45 time was gone (not that I was really fazed by that given that I was only shooting for a sub 4, but it was still a little discouraging).  Mile 21 was HARD.  Everything hurt.  The bottoms of my feet, there were twinges in both my IT bands, and my right hip flexor continued to be in pain.  And then Til I Collapse by Eminem came on my playlist.  I remembered running to that almost exactly 24 hours earlier and feeling so strong.  Time to keep running strong.  I picked up my pace a little and was thrilled to discover that mile 23 was mostly downhill and I managed an 8:12 min/mile pace.  Sub 4 hours was looking really attainable unless something really went wrong.  I was just about to the bridge that would cross the Willamette River back into downtown Portland.  I knew that at the end of the bridge, I would hit mile 25 (well, actually more like mile 25.5 because the course was too long), where Mike was planning to be stationed again with a camera.  I wanted to hit that point strong, but I was struggling during mile 24.  I had very little left.  Everything hurt (not just the hip flexor anymore), and I’d been pushing through rain and wind and pain for 3+ hours at that point.  But I knew I was going to finish.  And I knew I wanted to finish as strong as possible.  I crossed the bridge, holding on to my pace, and then saw Mike up ahead.  That gave me a boost, and I gave a bunch of happy smiles for the camera.

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Victory arms UP!  Only a mile to go!  Or, you know, a mile and half because of the long course.  Whatever.

It’s hilarious, because looking at those pictures from mile 25 it’s not at all clear that I was struggling to maintain pace.  I look surprisingly happy.

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At least my form at mile 25 was still great

And then I was past Mike and I had a little over a mile to go.  I had to stop quick once or twice just to stretch out my hip flexor for a second, but I made it through the last mile.  I kept waiting and waiting for the finish line to show up.  It didn’t show up and didn’t show up.  But Eye of the Tiger came on my playlist, which was more than enough to keep me moving.  My watch showed that I’d already gone 26.2 miles, but I knew I wouldn’t be done until mile 26.7 ish.  Finally I turned a corner and saw the race finish line and the giant LED digital clock.  The hour’s place still showed a ‘3’, and I knew I hadn’t started right when the clock started so I was going to come in under four hours easily.

I ended up crossing the finish line in 3:51:14.  Anna was about three minutes ahead of me with a time around 3:48, and her husband Nick had a blazingly fast, amazing race despite his head cold and ran a 3:24!  (For anyone interested in numbers, here are my final stats.)

I found them and the three of us collected our race medals, finisher’s shirts, and struggled back towards the hotel.  Ideally we would have hung out, waited for Mike, gotten him to take our pictures, celebrate in our successes, etc.  Practically, our legs were seizing up, my hip flexor now refused to contract at all, and it was continuing to rain and now that we were no longer moving we were drenched and chilled.  We limped back into the hotel, and Anna and Nick caught an Uber back to their hotel about a mile away and I forced my chilled, numb fingers to text Mike to let him know I was back at the hotel.  My hands were so cold that I had to put my race medal, bottle of water, and finisher’s shirt on the floor of the hotel so that I could use two hands to get the key card into the door slot.  Once inside, I struggled to get my drenched clothes off without flexing any of the muscles in my legs and then stepped into the hot shower.  Mike came back to the hotel a few minutes later, not quite as drenched, but still really wet.  Even his raincoat was completely drenched.  He had been out in the rain for so long that the rain literally penetrated the raincoat.  I didn’t know that could even happen, but Mike explained to me that rain coats are really just “water resistant”, not “water proof”.  Good to know!

After both Mike and I had taken hot showers we walked over to take a look at the indoor mall that was a few blocks from our hotel.  I was feeling surprisingly pretty good.  I had a bottle of water and was drinking regularly, but definitely felt like my sodium levels were out of whack.  I remembered that after my long training runs I typically ate soup, or something else high in sodium, and I hadn’t done that after this race.  Mike and I went to a middle eastern place in the food court and I ordered two fattoush side salads and also surreptitiously took 8 of their little salt packets.  I ate two salt packets just plain (yup, this is what being a runner does to you… you are completely oblivious to the strange stares you’re getting as you toss back salt packets in a mall food court), and I sprinkled the rest on my two side salads which I ate with gusto.

Although Mike and I were planning to stick around in Portland for an extra night, it remained so rainy that we were just kind of over the whole thing.  We were out of towels and out of soap in our hotel room after all our showers, and our wet clothes were dripping all over the bathroom floor from their spot on the shower curtain rod in the bathroom.

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Yup, pretty much sums up my thoughts

On the drive back, I was recapping part of the race to Mike.

“It was pouring rain, we were running into a headwind and up the hill to get us to St. John’s bridge, and my right hip flexor was in pain pretty much constantly even though it was only mile 15 and I had over 10 miles to go, and I was asking myself, Why am I doing this?

Mike’s eyebrows raised as he kept his eyes on the road.  After a brief pause he said, “And what did you come up with as a reason?  Because I can’t think of one.  I mean, sure… this time it was for the sub four hour time.  But what reason will you give next time?”

I sat back in the seat and tried to think of a good reason.  And I couldn’t come up with one.  I really couldn’t.  Not a single one.  I wasn’t even sure why the sub four hour time was important to me except that I’d started trying to hit that seven years ago.  It has something to do with the rush of accomplishment, of doing something today that seemed impossible yesterday, of breaking through self-imposed boundaries.  Ultimately, why does a man climb a mountain?  Because it’s there.  And maybe there is no other reason.

Quick addendum: The Portland Marathon officials actually came out and apologized for the long course a couple days after the race; it was a mistake on their part and they sent the runners through the wrong course in the first couple of miles that tacked on an extra 0.4 miles so they’re correcting everyone’s time.  I’m still waiting to hear my “new” official time.  Probably somewhere in the 3:48 vicinity.

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Filed under Pictures, Running, Weather

Races, family, and getting back in the blog-posting saddle

Somehow my puzzling has fallen by the way side.  I’m not sure what happened.  I bought two puzzles at the same time around Thanksgiving, and had so much fun putting the first one (a gnome castle) together.  The second one (a view of Venice at night) has just been languishing on the dining room table for over a month.  I dutifully assembled the border and a few small chunks of pieces, and then it’s just sat on the kitchen table.  I’m honestly not sure what happened.  My best guess is that a gnome castle is somehow inherently interesting.  And maybe a picture of Venice isn’t (although the real experience of going to Venice definitely is).  Regardless, I disassembled the little bit of puzzle I’d done so that we have more dining room table real estate back since I don’t seem to be getting puzzling traction.  Mike is trying to be sorry that the puzzling isn’t working out, but it’s hard for him because he’s looking forward to having a full dining room table again.

I ran a really fun 15k race a couple weekends ago.  The route was scenic and went along the waterfront downtown and then north all the way up SR-99 right past Mike’s and my house before turning around and heading back downtown again.  There were 12,000+ people signed up for the race, so it was recommended that you arrive early.  I used to be so conscientious about getting to races early, and now I count it a victory if I arrive just as the start gun is going off.  It took me about fifteen races before I realized that if you get to a race early all that earns you is the right to stand in the cold (and usually wet) morning for an extra forty-five minutes.  Oh, and it also gives you the right (the need, actually) to use the port-a-potties at least twice before the start of the race.  And, really, who wants to use a port-a-potty even once (much less twice)?  So now I try to time my arrival so that I’m barely in the nick of time and I’m completely happy.

When I woke up to an almost sunny morning the day of the race, I was optimistic that I would get out of the whole race dry.  I hopped a bus downtown (picking one that wasn’t on a re-route schedule for the race).  The race started and ended at Seattle Center, which is an area where a lot of Seattle events take place.  There are two main advantages to running races that start at Seattle Center.

  1. They have a huge auditorium (several actually), and they always open up the main one before races.  So if you don’t want to stand around outside freezing to death waiting for your race to start, it’s very advantageous to pick a race like this one that has a giant heated space to do your stretching in prior to the race.  Literally the trickiest part of any race is to arrive early enough to get a parking spot while also being late enough so that you aren’t standing outside forever waiting for the race to start.
  2. Bathrooms!  Lots and lots of them.  It’s somehow in a runner’s psychology to decide fifteen minutes before the start of the race that they should use the restroom one last time.  This causes literally huge and terrible lines at all the port-a-potties stationed at the race start lines.  However, when you have a giant auditorium you have (you guessed it!) INDOOR bathrooms.  And a lot of them!

I arrived plenty early, so I hung out inside stretching.  All was well until about ten minutes before race time when people started crowding to the windows and I saw that it had started pouring rain.  I really hadn’t dressed specifically for rain.  I had a running coat on, but it wasn’t waterproof, and I didn’t have a hat.  I did have a wide headband that I figured would help a little though.  I watched as some of the more prepared people around me started pulling out disposable glorified garbage bags to slip over their heads like ponchos to keep the rain off.  I watched as some of the less prepared people wearing shorts and tank tops shifted from one foot to the other.  We all headed out en masse towards the start line and fortunately the rain already seemed to be lessening.  We headed off down hill towards the waterfront.  That was nice from a scenic perspective, but I’m always suspicious of races that start off with a mile of down hill running.  What goes down must come up (at least where running races are concerned), and I knew I’d be seeing those same hills later in the race but I’d be headed up instead of down.  We ran down along the water front for a mile or two and then turned and headed back up towards Seattle Center.  The rain had cleared and the sun was actually out.  I was getting overly warm and contemplated tying my coat around my waist but ultimately decided against it since I didn’t feel like stopping.  We ran past Seattle Center and headed north on Aurora all the way up past Mike’s and my house and almost to the zoo.  When we got close to the turnaround point to start heading back south to Seattle it started to rain again all of a sudden.  When we turned south, I realized that there was a strong south wind that I hadn’t noticed before because it had been at my back but now it was in my face in full force.  At least it was mostly downhill headed back to Seattle!  After about half a mile of running south, the skies opened up and it started pouring rain.  I tried to check the time on my running watch, but it was raining so hard that I couldn’t wipe the water off of my watch fast enough to see the time (while running anyway).  At that point I was committed.  I was already soaked so I had nothing left to worry about.  I tore back down Aurora, looking forward to seeing Seattle Center, a finish line, and a warm building (not necessarily in that order).  The rain finally let off a few miles later, and I ran the final couple of miles in only a sprinkling, misty rain.  Since I was already soaked, though, it almost didn’t matter whether it kept raining hard or not.  At some point your clothes physically aren’t going to absorb any more water.  When I finally hit the place where we turned west to go to Seattle Center I tried to kick up my pace a notch and was surprised that my body didn’t want to go any faster.  Maybe I had been running faster than I’d realized given that I didn’t have anything extra left to give at the end?  I managed to keep up my pace through the last quarter mile, but I definitely wasn’t able to speed up at all.  The finish line (with the big warm auditorium behind it) was a welcome sight, and I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:18:12 and an average pace of 8:24 min/mile.  Definitely better than I was expecting, especially given the weather and the hills.  Or maybe the weather actually helped, because I was motivated to get the race finished.  😉

The same weekend of the race, Mike did a lot of landscaping work.  He pulled weeds in the front and along the side of our townhome and then laid down “beauty bark” which is apparently something that helps prevent weeds from growing in the future, although I’m a little unclear how that works.  I did lots of cooking while he did that.  I have been getting bored of cooking variations on the same things, so I made up some different dishes this week.

I started with smoky chicken with crispy chickpeas, and then made an eggplant coconut curry and a maple chicken with roasted squash.  Everything turned out surprisingly good.  I am loving Clean Eating magazine and am now getting my recipes almost exclusively from there.

Despite all my cooking, Mike and I felt like going out to dinner one night a couple weeks ago, so we went to a Taco Bar that was only a few blocks from our house but somehow we had never been there.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  I have literally never had tacos that good in my entire life.  I had the black bean sweet potato tacos and they were phenomenal.  They took tacos to an entirely new level.  I was already contemplating how soon we could return as we left.  Afterwards we went to a whiskey bar conveniently located only a block from the taco bar.  I enjoyed some scotch while Mike opted for Old Fashioned’s.  It was all entirely too good.  And it being only a four minute walk from our house?  Amazing!  How are we somehow blessed enough to live close enough to all of this stuff??  Then we came back to our house and started watching an episode of Suits, a law show that we’ve been watching off-and-on, but we were too tired to finish it.

I have been in a ‘second cat’ mood these days, so much so that I got Mike to go with me to the Seattle Humane Society last weekend to look at cats.  However, I had already poured over all the available cats on their website prior to going, so I already had one specific one that I wanted to see.  Unfortunately he wasn’t actually at the Humane Society… he was at a Petsmart in Issaquah to get more exposure.  Darn.  Again, Mike tried to be appropriately sad for me even though he doesn’t want to get another cat.  He even offered to go to the Petsmart with me to see the cat, but I declined.  Issaqah is a ways away and it was a pretty rainy day.  And I didn’t feel like I was actually going to get a cat that day so it would have been a rather futile effort.

My music choices have been beyond bizarre lately.  I’ve been alternating between old Celtic folk music, 90’s rock/alternative, modern rap, and he new Chris Cornell album (because I think Chris Cornell basically deserves his own genre).

This past week, Mike’s parents were here visiting from Michigan!  What a treat!  We got to hang out with them and with Mike’s sister Catherine and her two daughters over the weekend.  It was a whirlwind weekend that started with a ferry ride to Whidbey Island followed by a little shopping and a long drive to Deception Pass.  We were attempting to get there before dark and didn’t really manage that.  However, it was surprisingly gorgeous at night, especially with the full moon overhead illuminating the gorge and water below the bridge.  So that actually worked out well.  We ended up getting back down to Everett late, and Mike and I went out to dinner with his parents at an Irish pub close to their hotel (really about the only place we could find that was still open at 11pm).  The food there was good, though, so it turned out to be a good choice!  The next day we went on an abbreviated trip to the zoo.  I say ‘abbreviated’ because we didn’t really get to the zoo very early, so we skipped parts of the zoo and just focused on the animals that the kids especially wanted to see.  It was a nice day for walking around the zoo regardless, though, and we enjoyed it!  The following day was filled with some shopping and some wine tasting in Woodinville.  We went on a short tour of Chateau St. Michelle and I was impressed with the lineage of their wines and interested to hear about how they create their wines.  It was fun to hang out with everyone for a few days!  Going back to work after such a full weekend to a day packed with back-to-back meetings definitely felt like a change!  But at least the day flew by!

It’s already almost April…. I literally have no idea how that happened!  My goal for April is to post more blog entries.  I’ve really been letting that go lately because it literally feels like I am always 100% busy.  However, it’s important to keep the blog posts coming… I sometimes think  that writing is about the only ‘creative’ outlet I have these days, so it’s definitely important to keep it up!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!  And my mom reminded me that Easter Sunday is this weekend.  So Happy Early Easter to everyone!  (How is it already Easter?  It must be here early this year!)

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Filed under Cooking, Family, Life in Seattle, Rain, Running, Seattle, Seattle Restaurants, Visitors

Good races and bad directions

Here we are at the beginning of another week, and it is definitely a fall-feeling week in Seattle!

Our temperatures had started to gradually creep back up and late last week we were back with 80 degree sunny days.  Saturday was also a beautiful day, although a little bit colder.  Mike and I went to the birthday party of one of my friends from work.  It was really great to meet his family and his other friends.  And it was amazing to hang out with his two dogs… a 10 year old Great Pyrenees (which is literally the size of a small bear and the most relaxed, laidback, sweet, amazing dog) named Cleo, and a 16-week old Corgi puppy named Benito.  Seeing the two dogs playing together was just amazing.  Cleo is SO motherly towards little Benito.  It is so sweet to see how protective she is of him.  They are absolutely too cute for words!

Sunday morning I had a 10k race planned.  The weather forecast called for clouds, but 0% chance of rain.  I got up, got ready to go, and literally walked out the door when I realized there was a misty rain going on.  Ok, no big deal.  The name of this blog is rainy day runner, right?  Not like I was going to let a little rain deter me.  Nevertheless, I did go back inside and change from a short-sleeved shirt to a long-sleeved shirt, and I also put on a running hat.  It was designed to keep the sun out of the eyes more than the rain off of the head, but I decided it might be able to at least deter much of the rain.  I had a couple mile walk/jog to get to the start line of the race, and the rain continued just doing its misting thing.  I was perfectly happy with that and figured it would keep me cool while I ran.  At the start line I picked up my race packet which I had forgotten to pick up the previous day because of the birthday party, and I headed for the start line.  I wasn’t sure what to do with the T-shirt they gave me since I was of course already wearing a shirt.  I considered just not taking a shirt, but it was a really pretty aquamarine color so I kind of wanted it.  I ended up stuffing part of it in the back of my running pants and letting the rest hang out behind me.  I had seen lots of other runners do that before, so I figured it was valid even though it probably meant that I would look like I had a plume sailing out behind me as I ran and it might even be comparable to running 6 miles with a giant wedgie.  I figured I was about to find out.  I met a friend from work at the start line to say ‘hi’ since we were both running the race.  The interesting thing about this race compared to other races is that this was a women-only race.  It was a little weird lining up and only seeing women around me… a little weird, but kind of cool!  The race horn sounded and we were off!  The race had both a 5k component and a 10k component.  I was doing the 10k, which meant I would do two loops of the 5k.  The first 3/4 of a mile was PACKED!  In the future they should probably consider using corrals to group runners of like paces so that they can get the event off and moving faster, but it was still fun and kept me from starting out too fast.  I started my running playlist and zoned out and started to cruise on auto-pilot.  After 3/4 of a mile the crowd thinned out a lot!  The rain also started to get more intense.  By that point I was already pretty wet, so I didn’t really care except when there were slight hills because my sneakers slipped a little on the pavement.  I just kept running.  I had ‘live tracking’ turned on on my Garmin watch so that if Mike was awake he could track my progress.  After I passed mile 2, Mike texted me and said, “Hey you ran the last two miles at 8min/mile pace!  You’re running fast!”.  That was fast for me, so at that point I deliberately tried not to slow down.  I tried to keep track of my pace on the Garmin but by the time I reached mile 3 the rain was coming down hard enough that my Garmin screen was wet and hard to read, so I just kept going.  When I passed the halfway point and started around the loop for the second time, the crowd had thinned out a lot and I could basically run at whatever speed I wanted.  Which was definitely nice compared to the much more crowded races I’m typically in.  As I rounded the west side of the loop around the lake I realized I was almost done, and kicked it into high gear.  When I passed the 6 mile marker I realized I still had a lot of energy, so I started running even faster.  My final time when I crossed the finish line was 51:05 and my splits are below.

DISTANCE PACE ELAPSED TIME
1.0 mi 08:08 min/mi 00:08:07
2.0 mi 08:03 min/mi 00:08:02
3.0 mi 07:59 min/mi 00:07:58
4.0 mi 07:58 min/mi 00:07:57
5.0 mi 08:02 min/mi 00:08:02
6.0 mi 07:59 min/mi 00:07:59
6.3 mi 07:37 min/mi 00:02:16

I do not usually run that fast!  In fact, that’s the fastest 10k I’ve done to date!  My next goal is going to be to break 50 minutes (even though that means knocking more than a minute off of my time.  Given how much energy I still had at the end of the race, I really could have been running faster.)  I called Mike and he generously came and picked me up with two big towels since by that point it was pretty much pouring rain.  After a shower, I felt much more like a human being and less like a ball of rain-soaked race clothing.  (Moisture-wicking clothing only wicks to a point… after that it starts absorbing!  There’s everyone’s fun fact for the day!)

I checked the final stats for the race, and there were 283 participants in the 10k, and I was the 22nd to cross the finish line!  Shocking!  Again, I’m not usually this fast.  Except that this summer, somehow I have been.  I’m loving it!  🙂

Mike has been busy wiring ethernet through our house.  Well, I should clarify.  The ethernet was already in the walls, but wasn’t actually wired into the jacks… the phone cables were wired into the jacks instead.  Mike’s been taking out the phone wire (since we haven’t had land lines for over 10 years!) and is replacing them with ethernet.  That project alone has required three trips to Home Depot over the past week.  Sometimes I wonder if Mike mostly enjoys projects or mostly enjoys trips to Home Depot.  😉

In other news, Mike and I went to the Bellevue Mall on Saturday afternoon.  It was ok.  The Bellevue Mall is frankly not my favorite mall.  The whole ambiance just isn’t my thing.  However, one thing that I did very carefully was note our parking spot when we went in the store.  We were in section R1.  The Bellevue Mall parking area is big enough that it’s easy to forget where you parked.  When we exited the mall, I headed toward the right.

“Whoa,” Mike said.  “Where are you going?”

“To our car.”

“Our car’s this way,” Mike said, pointing in the opposite direction.

“Nope,” I said, sure enough of myself to be emphatic.  “It’s this way.  I took careful note before we went in.”

Mike shrugged and followed me.  I led him proudly to the area where our car was.  Except that the sign said ‘A4’ instead of ‘R1’.  What in the world??  I paused and looked around, trying in vain to get my bearings and hoping that there was an ‘R1’ sign around somewhere close by.

“It’s not here, is it?” Mike said.  “It’s back the other way.”  Apparently so.  I could have sworn (and would have sworn up and down if asked) that I knew where our car was, but apparently not.  After following Mike’s lead, we found our car several minutes later, but I was still convinced that somehow the car had migrated to the opposite end of the parking garage by itself.  There was really no other explanation for the car having moved.  And the ‘R1’ sign was moved as well, I guess.

On Sunday afternoon Mike and I went to a store that sold coffeemakers.  My job was to get us directions there since it was 20 miles outside of Seattle.  I had the GPS on on my phone and traced our progress up the I-5 interstate.  Once we exited the freeway, Mike made a left onto the street at the end of the exit ramp.

“Wait!” I said.  “We have to turn around and go the other way on this street.”

“Really?” he asked.  “I thought it was west of the freeway.”

“It looks like we should have made a right based on the map,” I said.  Mike shrugged, found a place to turn around and a few minutes later we were heading down the street in the other direction.  We’d driven about a mile when I looked at our GPS dot and saw that it was moving in the opposite direction of the coffee store.

“Aaaahhh!  You’re going to hate me forever!!” I said to Mike.  Possibly a little dramatic, but I felt it was warranted given that this was my second navigation mistake in the same weekend.  “We actually need to go the other way after all.”

Mike rolled his eyes as he looked for a place to turn around on the busy street.  “All right, Karena,” he said.  “But it’s important that you understand that we only have six hours until the store closes.  We can’t just drive up and down this street all day.”  I meekly sat back against my seat and decided that it was just not my weekend for directions.

I hope everyone else had a great weekend!  Mike’s and my weeks are off to a busy start… lots of stuff going on at work for both of us!  But at least it makes the days fly by!  🙂

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Filed under Birthdays, Life in Seattle, Running, Seattle, Weather

The Ring of Kerry

We woke up on Friday morning pretty early, but Mike felt pretty tired so he decided to rest in bed for a little while.  I went down to the breakfast room and had a delicious homemade breakfast of soft-boiled eggs, assorted fruit, and dried apricots and prunes, and fresh coffee.  Mike was still resting when I finished, so I walked down the street a ways to get some bottled water to take back to Mike.  On the way I noticed a poster for a Good Friday race.  I vaguely remembered looking up races in Ireland before I left and seeing something about that.  I was pretty sure it was in Tralee, which was about twenty miles from Killarney.  Intrigued, I went back to the hotel.  Mike was still resting, and he drank some of the water and then headed off to take a shower.  I looked the race up online and saw that it was in Killarney, not in Tralee, and it was at 6:30pm that very day.  Excitingly possible, depending on when we got back from our trip around the Ring of Kerry.  Unfortunately the website said that they didn’t take day-of-race registrations.  Nevertheless, I emailed the organizer asking if it would be possible to run the race.  Meanwhile, Mike took his shower, and we went down to the breakfast room for Mike to have breakfast.  The woman working in the breakfast room recognized me from coming down before and still brought me coffee so that I could drink that while Mike had his coffee and breakfast (very similar to mine except minus the prunes and plus bacon.  I even convinced him to try an apricot, which he was not enamored by but thought was ok).  Then we prepared to head out.  The receptionist at the front desk was so helpful and let us know how to get out of town. “Once you’re on the N-72, it’ll take you all the way around the Ring o’ Kerry,” she said.  “And there’ll be lots o’ turn-offs and areas to take pictures.  But apart fr’m that, it’ll take you right around and bring you back into the south end o’ Killarney.  It takes most folks 4-5 hours to go ’round.”  She paused and glanced out the window.  “It’ll be a beautif’l day f’r seein’ the Ring.”

We started out headed west on N-72 towards the start of the Ring of Kerry peninsula around 11am.  The town was still relatively quiet as we drove through on our way out of Killarney to the north.  As we drove away from the town, we were almost immediately greeted by the mountains that filled the peninsula.  A grey set of clouds hung low over the Macguillycuddy’s Reeks mountains that the sun hadn’t yet burned away.

Macguillycuddy's Reeks

Macguillycuddy’s Reeks

The further we drove away from Killarney the more the wildness of the surrounding countryside seemed to envelope us.  We drove for about twenty minutes before we hit Killorglin, the first town on the Ring, which was close to the Atlantic Ocean and the start of our journey around the peninsula.  According to one of the books of maps I had with me, there was a turn-off from N-70 onto R564 which would lead us out to a look-out point across Dingle Bay to the Dingle Peninsula.  We decided to take it.  We almost didn’t see the tiny turn-off for R564, but Mike managed to take the slight right turn at the last minute.  We drove for several miles on a very narrow, windy road.  We came to a bridge over a rocky narrow stream which had only one lane (not one lane per direction of traffic; just one lane). Mike stopped the car dead in the middle of the road and turned to look at me.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.  One lane?  What if someone else is coming from the other direction?”

“I think whoever gets on the bridge first gets to go first,” I said, comfortable in the knowledge that I wasn’t driving.  And that the car was fully insured.  “Kind of like the bus we took up to Lake Como.”

Mike shook his head, clearly not liking this blatant violation of the rule that every direction of traffic gets at least one legal lane.  Mike proceeded across the narrow stone bridge with caution and we didn’t run into anyone coming from the other side. Although the road was a little sketchy in places and one-way anytime we crossed a bridge, the look-out point we reached was amazing.

The Dingle Bay, and the Dingle Peninsula beyond it

The Dingle Bay, and the Dingle Peninsula beyond it

 

We didn’t get to the Dingle Peninsula itself during our trip, but we saw it across the Dingle Bay.  The water was so turquoise blue we almost couldn’t believe we were in a real place.  Ireland had the most magical, ancient, wild feel to it… with each new landscape we saw we admitted to ourselves that it didn’t seem real.  It seemed magical and other-worldly and ancient.  So, so ancient.

So much blue sky and blue water... breathtaking

So much blue sky and blue water… breathtaking

Everything felt surreal.  We couldn’t still actually be in our world, right?  Not with sky and water and rocks like that.

Back on the R564, we made our way back to N-70 and continued on our journey. We continued to pass beautiful scenery, and the road was clearly winding up, and we were clearly headed into the mountains.

Towns in the mountains

Towns in the mountains

 

The towns we started to see looked so small against the giant mountainous background.  Shortly after 1pm we stopped for lunch at a beautiful cafe by the side of the road with a gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean.  I had the vegetable soup, and Mike had fish ‘n’ chips.  I had lots of vegetable soup in Ireland.  It was very good, and the vegetables were pureed rather than left chunky the way most vegetable soup in the U.S seems to be.  Mike had lots of fish ‘n’ chips in Ireland; all of the fish there was very fresh!

 

A brief break from driving manual on the left side of the road

A brief break from driving manual on the left side of the road

As we got farther up into the mountains, the sky started to cloud over.

Dark and wild mountainous countryside

Dark and mountainous countryside

We passed through one of the main market towns of Kerry named Cahirciveen.  The streets of Cahirciveen were very narrow and the one we were on was one-way.  There were so many little stores just crammed together along the street… it felt like there were hundreds although I’m sure there weren’t actually that many.  🙂

 

Crowded steets of Cahirciveen

Streets of Cahirciveen

 

There were so many lookout points along the way for us to stop and look… it was beautiful!  Mike has lots more pictures to show (which he will hopefully be posting soon!)

We stopped in Waterville, another little town, to take some pictures… both pictures of the town full of colorful buildings and of the Atlantic Ocean.  We were never very far from the water!

Waterville... and everyone looking out to sea

Waterville… with everyone looking out to sea over the rocky beach

 

The beaches were all very rocky.  There were also waist-high stone walls everywhere, sometimes used to show property lines and sometimes used to fence you out of an area with a steep drop below it.  (I appreciated those!)

 

Stone walls

Stone walls… and the Atlantic

The roads were very narrow, full of twists and turns, and very close to steep cliffs in places.

Lots of twists and turns

Lots of twists and turns

 

We also definitely saw that Ireland is, in fact, the Emerald Isle.  Even after we got up into the mountains and the sky became cloudy, the green of the farmland throughout the area was striking.

Farms separated by stone fences with the Atlantic beyond them

Farms separated by stone fences with the Atlantic beyond.  The Atlantic was always close by.

 

We saw quite a few other cars on the road, but since apparently it’s well known that you’re supposed to drive around the Ring of Kerry in the counter-clockwise direction, almost all of the cars were going in the same direction as us (which was particularly nice since we were still getting used to being on the left side of the road).  I kept getting nervous at the speed we were going, given the twists and turns in the road, the mountainous landscape, and our proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, but Mike assured me that we weren’t going very fast and he had a handle on the car.  He was already bonding with our car and was starting to feel like it was a friend.  Ah, Mike.  Always bonding with heavy pieces of machinery, but unable to understand the draw of stuffed animals.  (On a side note, I mistakenly typed in the last blog post that our rental car was a Mini Cooper, but it wasn’t.  I asked Mike yesterday what kind of car we had, and he told me we had a Fiat Panda.  I had a feeling Mini Cooper was incorrect, but somehow Fiat Panda wasn’t leaping to my mind.)  🙂  So we were in a pretty tiny car traveling over those roads, and we could feel every bump of the road. We could tell that at the beginning of the Ring we were traveling upwards into the mountains, and throughout most of the Ring we were far above the Atlantic Ocean.

 

This doesn't seem like it could be real...

Even looking at this, it didn’t feel real.  It felt thousands of years old.

 

Waves have been crashing against the rocky Irish coast since long before we were born and will likely continue until long after we die.  Everything we saw reminded us of how young we are and how old the world is.

After several hours and miles of breathtaking scenery had gone by, we realized that we would soon be reaching Sneem, which was one of the last towns on the Ring, and then we would be descending out of the mountains into the Killarney National Park, which was supposed to be beautiful but was supposed to have a very different landscape than the rest of the Ring of Kerry.  (It didn’t border the Atlantic Ocean for one thing!)  Sneem was a delightfully colorful town!

 

One of the more famous bars in Sneem... and it's pink!

One of the more famous bars in Sneem… and it’s pink!

 

It seemed as though every shop and restaurant in Sneem was painted a different color!  We saw bright blue ones, bright red ones… and of course the pink one above.  🙂  We stopped there for a snack and ran into our first person who didn’t speak English and spoke only Gaelic.  Mike had ordered an apple tart from him by pointing at it, and then we realized we had left our Euros in the car.  We tried to tell him we’d be right back with money, but he didn’t understand us.  So we just hightailed it back to our car, retrieved our Euros, and then returned breathlessly.  When he saw our Euros, he smiled and understood what had happened.  He seemed very nice, and it was so cool to hear him talk in his lilting Gaelic.

After our snack, we were back on the road, this time winding down the mountains and slowly edging away from the Atlantic Ocean back towards Killarney.  As the last part of the Ring of Kerry, we drove through Killarney National Park.

I honestly wasn’t thinking much about it one way or the other; I knew it was supposed to have a lot of walking trails in it, but I also knew it wasn’t along the Atlantic Ocean so figured it wouldn’t be stunning the way the Ring of Kerry had been.  It was beautiful!  Although we were certainly not strangers to rocky landscapes by this point, Killarney National Park was much more rocky and much less green than the Ring of Kerry.

Very rocky!

Very rocky!

 

There were some amazing look-out points along the road through Killarney National Park, so I can only imagine what it’s like if you’re actually on the hiking trails deeper into the park.  Ladies View is one of the more renowned lookout points… it’s lovely!

All of the water in Ireland was SO blue

We stopped for a rest at Ladies View… so beautiful!  And you can see the shadows from the clouds on the mountains.

 

By the time we drove back into Killarney it was around 4pm, and we were tired.  I was not too tired, however, to stop in at the running shoe store (since it was coincidentally right around the corner from our hotel) and ask about race entry for the race at 6:30pm that day.  The woman I talked to told me it was fine to register, even though it was the day of the race.

“Ye just go down to the old monastery near wh’re the race will start,” she said.  “Ye know it?  Ye just tell the woman there that Bridgit from the runnin’ store sent you.”

As soon as I’d started looking up the race that morning, I’d already figured out where it started and ended, and had discovered that the old monastery where it started was actually only a few blocks behind our hotel.  I thanked Bridgit, and then Mike and I walked several blocks to the monastery.  There were already people there in race gear warming up even though the race wasn’t starting for another two hours.  I paid for my race entry while Mike, who had brought his camera along, started snapping some preliminary pictures.  We walked back to the hotel to rest for an hour until we had to head back for the race.  Mike wanted to shower and I wanted to do some warm-up stretches.  After so many hours in cars, trains, and planes over the past week and a half, my legs were feeling pretty tight!  I checked my race “goodie” bag back at the hotel and saw that there was an adorable little egg holder in it, since this was a Good Friday/Easter run.  I loved it!  There was also a chocolate egg so huge I knew it would be futile to even think about trying to get it back to Seattle in my luggage!  🙂

An egg holder... with a giant chocolate egg in the background!

My egg holder… with a giant chocolate egg in the background!

Some resting, some stretching, and an hour later found us walking back to the monastery.  It was a little chilly out, particularly for me since I had opted for cool, racing clothes.  It was so exciting to see so many people there and ready to run!  There was lots of energy and excitement, and it seemed like a lot of the participants knew each other as there was lots of back-and-forth conversation before the race.

I lined up with the rest of the participants while Mike went on ahead to see about getting some good pictures.

He got some great pictures!

And it starts!

And it starts!

Mike told me that the guy in the orange shirt ended up winning the race, and based on this picture he looks like he’s practically catapulting off of the starting line!

I really didn’t have a good enough sense of Killarney to understand the race course.  I just followed everyone else.  We ran out the north end of town and seemed to be running through a park that had wide bike/pedestrian paths in it.  It was lovely!  And it had such an old feel to it… very different than the races I do in the States!  Everyone had so much energy and seemed so excited to be running that I was too.  And I was running in Ireland!  In Killarney which wasn’t more than fifteen miles from the town my ancestors came from!  Crazy!!  What an awesome connection with the past!  Although I didn’t have a good handle on the route, I did know we’d be passing down Main Street twice, and shortly after we exited the forested bike trail, we ran down Main Street the first time.

And Mike was right there waiting to wave and take my picture!  What a guy!  🙂

Running down Main Street in Killarney!

Running down Main Street in Killarney!  If I look happy, it’s because I am!

 

Once down Main Street, we veered off into an unknown (to me) direction, and I just followed the excited happy Irish runners.  There were lots of spectators along the sidelines cheering enthusiastically, which made for even more excitement.  When we passed by the old monastery, I got my bearings again and knew that I was close to running down Main Street for the second time and then around the corner to the finish line.  I kept running strong since I knew I’d be seeing Mike on Main Street again and wanted to be able to pass him with lots of energy!  Sure enough I saw him again, he snapped my picture again, and then I was around the corner turning off Main Street, and I could see the finish line!  I tried to put in a final burst of energy, and managed to cross the finish line with a chip time of 43:53 for the 5-mile race, which comes out to a pace of 10.9km/hr.  Hard to do the math on that to turn it into mph, so I didn’t try.  😉

It was an amazing race, and I loved every minute of it!  🙂  I grabbed some bottled water and two bananas from the post-race food area, and then Mike found me.  The band was still playing loudly as more finishers crossed the line, and Mike and I slipped down one of the side streets to head back to our hotel.  It was already getting dark, and it was a cool, crisp, still twilight.  We could still hear all the music and yelling and cheering from the race behind us as we walked the couple of blocks to our hotel.  I took a shower and got cleaned up, and then Mike and I headed out for a late dinner.

We went to the Danny Mann Inn, which was one of the pubs we’d passed just off Main Street while walking back to our hotel from the race.

The Danny Mann Inn

The Danny Mann Inn

 

Although it would have been a great night for a Jameson, we discovered that there is exactly one day of the year on which it’s illegal for Irish pubs to serve alcohol, and that day is (you guessed it!), Good Friday.  We didn’t mind at all though.  Their stew was tasty and hearty, and the restaurant manager and the waitresses were open and friendly so we thoroughly relaxed during our dinner regardless of the lack of alcohol.  Interestingly enough, it wasn’t enough that they didn’t sell it; they had to actually cover all the taps in plastic tarp.  Wow!

After our late, relaxing dinner, we strolled slowly back to our hotel in the dark.  There was still a lot of music playing from pubs in the area and lots of talking and laughter coming out of the restaurants.  Interesting how late everyone was out given that there was no alcohol being served!  🙂

Back at the hotel, we were both tired and content after having gazed at amazing, fairy-tale worthy landscapes all day followed by an Irish evening race and lots of Irish culture.  (I’ll go easy on the words “beautiful”, “gorgeous”, and “amazing” in the next blog post… I realize I’ve overused them pretty badly in this post!).  We were tired, but not in a go-to-sleep way… it was more like a completely relaxed way.  We watched a Game of Thrones episode on the Kindle Fire using the wireless in the hotel and listened to the host of birds singing outside.  (The birds in Killarney seemed to sing constantly, not just in the morning!)

One thing I have to say… the pictures don’t do the Ring of Kerry justice.  The words don’t do it justice.  Nothing can express how ancient the Ring of Kerry feels.  All around you, three-hundred and sixty degrees, all you can see is a giant sky and giant mountains flanked by a giant ocean.

It is the beauty of a land aged gracefully by time, and it is the wisdom of a land who remembers her past.

It has to be experienced first-hand to be understood.  So I would definitely recommend going.

And back to Seattle… the weather here has been warm and sunny!  We’ve been enjoying our gym memberships, but balancing gym time with time outside enjoying the Seattle summer!  I hope everyone had a good weekend!  We actually spent most of the weekend cleaning, so it wasn’t particularly fun but our apartment is much cleaner.  🙂

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Filed under England Ireland Trip, Running, Travel