15: Virtual Race (Amerithon Challenge)

Goals, goals, goals. I gotta have them and I gotta work towards them or I get bored, bored, bored. I especially like to track progress and check boxes, so this challenge is right up my alley!

On July 4, 2018 I started a virtual race to run, bike, or walk [the distance] across the United States, from just outside the Bay Bridge in California to the Washington Monument in DC. The event is called the Amerithon, and participants can start whenever they want (though a big class of us started July 4), finish whenever they want, and complete the distance in whatever manner they want. There is a Facebook group for participants and everyone is sharing their own rules and strategies and the timeline in which they hope to complete the challenge. Here’s how I plan to tackle the challenge!

Total Distance: 3,521 miles

Goal Finish Date: July 4, 2019 (one year)

To Meet Goal:

  • Monthly average distance: 293 miles
  • Weekly average distance: 68 miles
  • daily average distance: Just under 10 miles.

Mileage That “Counts”:

  • All running
  • All biking (my first recorded mileage was a bike trip to the donut shop!)
  • Intentional walking (hiking, walking the dog, going for a walk, etc.)
  • Canoe paddling

I am not counting my “steps” mileage, i.e. the normal walking I do as part of my day. Also, I’ve decided to only count activities in which I travel at least a mile, which will actually exclude most of my dog walks unless we step up our game. Obi and I are usually going about 0.8 miles in the afternoons, so I think we could stretch that to a mile most days– which is probably good for both of us!

So far, I have completed 13 total miles– the donut shop ride and one bike commute in to work– so, 0.3 percent of the way done, 99.7 percent to go!

All my miles are being tracked on their website, and a sweet box of swag is being mailed to me as we speak. It includes a map and stickers for tracking progress and an epic medal.

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This is the tracking page. There are 37 total badges on the journey to mark the distance in smaller chunks and give you some sense of victory along the way.
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The medal. The four pieces that make up the Lower 48 actually come out, and you add them to your medal as you complete the section. I might be biased, but I think the Great River and Great Lakes section is the prettiest, so I am looking forward to getting that far! The little shoe that clips on is mailed to finishers after they complete the full distance. It says “Amerithon” on one side and “Finisher” on the other. Hoping to see that in my mailbox in a year!
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A paper map for tracking progress!

I think the mileage is a stretch, but doable. I have definitely racked up either as much or close to as much mileage in the past, but maybe not super recently. I am hoping to bank some miles in the remaining months of summer, because I imagine winter will bring a slowdown. I do plan to include snowshoeing miles, but I am probably not going to snowshoe 300 miles per month!

Seems like a fun challenge and fits well in my current state of working out– less running (still coming back from a spring injury), less running events, more biking and other fun things, and always going at my own pace!

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14: #YurtLife

Thou shalt not covet. 

Well, I had coveted something.

And now I have had it, and I hate to admit it, but… the coveting doesn’t seem completely, 100 percent unjustified because it was amazing. 

I had been coveting #yurtlife. The chance to live, even for a short time, in a yurt. And that desire of my heart came true on a rainy mid-June weekend when just none of our other plans to manage to come together.

In fall 2017, after a very difficult 18 months in my life, I decided I needed to do A Big Thing and I decided to return to the marathon and run Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in June 2018. But, despite a very strong start to the training, a perfect storm of injury and legitimately unhealthy pre-occupation with marathon training (there were spreadsheets; a lot of spreadsheets) made it clear that this was (again) not going to be the year I returned to the marathon. I knew it was the most right choice and my heart has never wavered from knowing that, but I also knew sitting at home that weekend would bring me immense sadness. So, we planned a weekend backpacking trip– a thing I knew would keep my mind off the race and my eyes off the social media updates from everyone who had done it.

And then the weather forecast predicted a weekend of non-stop rain. At first I thought this was The Universe literally adding insult to injury, but it was really just The Universe re-aligning my stars. Some days you truly must just trust the way the wind blows.

My husband is unrelentingly thoughtful and creative and found us a yurt just outside of Bemidji, MN we could stay in for the weekend and immediately I felt our weekend plans go from zero to hero.

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Despite being described as “very rustic” it had everything you could possibly need and we lived a delightfully comfortable weekend– sheltered from the rain– enjoying books and whiskey by candlelight and listening to Aaron play guitar under the little twinkle lights.

From the home base of the yurt we took a bog hike, enjoyed a block party in downtown Bemidji, went to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and hiked in the region’s last remaining old-growth forest.

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13: Hockey Hall of Fame (Eveleth, MN)

Two years ago, we strung together a great trip that included a camping trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, staying at a fishing lodge just outside Voyageurs National Park, and some general tromping about Minnesota’s history-rich Iron Range, which included visiting Bob Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing and visiting an active mine in the same town.

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While on that trip, we passed the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minnesota and I remember us remarking how great it would be to go but we just didn’t have the time on that trip. So when we got invited to a wedding on the Range this summer (ski resort, ski-themed wedding, nicest humans in the entire world– we had an inappropriate amount of fun, but that’s a story for another day and not to be committed in writing for the entire internet), we were pretty adamant that we were not going to let the Hockey Hall of Fame slip through our fingers.

And, ladies and gentlemen, it did not disappoint.

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We are not good at hockeying, but we had a ton of fun trying!

I expected the Hall of Fame Museum to be kind of hokey or lame, but it was actually really cool and does a great job educating visitors about the history of the game and the amazing contributions many Minnesotans (especially from the north) have made to hockey. We spent a couple of hours reading and marveling at some old artifacts. And I am happy to report they seem to be making real effort to capture more of the history of the women’s game as well.

When you find yourself visiting Bob Dylan’s hometown or skiing in Biwabik, this is definitely worth the stop!

And now, a bonus photo from the weekend:

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12: Actually Do More Than Admire the Rhubarb

We moved into our house in Fall 2012, after much of the growing season in Minnesota had ended. Also, I was 200 percent doe-eyed about buying our first house and, as far as I was concerned, this little mid-block bungalow was The World’s Most Perfect Home.

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These people look like babies to me.

 

But then, in 2013, spring did come (even though Minnesotans often lose all hope somewhere around February) and then All The Things Started Blooming.

Once upon a time in our sweet home’s history, a Master Gardener worked her magic on this 0.14 acre city parcel. It is part of the lore of the neighborhood, and I hear it often in the wistful, “Oh, these gardens used to be so magnificent.” It’s true, several owners since the original gardens were lovingly tended, we’ve all done our part to destroy her hard work. It’s not that I want to destroy anything, or that I even like our backyard dirt patches, better than what I sure were the Garden Glory Days, but what we’ve got here is a massive variety of unidentified greenery that I cannot keep up with unless I quit my full-time job.

That first summer, I noticed a miserable tangle of vines growing all over our side yard. Filled with violent rage about how they were overtaking my yard, I tore them from the ground.

And uncovered a beautiful, robust rhubarb plant.

That I have now more or less ignored for five years. And she keeps coming back, year after year, to her little spot alongside the house below the office window.

But adventurers, rhubarb is delicious. So it was high time to turn her from friendly yard plant to a delicious yumthing.

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So far, I’ve made two things.

A rhubarb crisp, which was delicious but decidedly unpopular in our home. We ate half of it with ice cream and then left half of it in the fridge for days at least a week.

A simple syrup. Which I promptly mixed with vodka, club soda, and some fresh mint from our garden. A more successful endeavor!

 

 

11: Travel With My Sister

At Christmastime, my sister (TheKim) and I were having a hard time thinking of gifts to ask for/give each other. I definitely already have more things than I need, and at some point I can’t ask for more socks and books for another year.

A few weeks before Christmas, TheKim and I had lunch and I said, “What if we went on a trip instead of getting each other stuff?”

And before hardly any time had passed, flights to Denver were booked and a beautiful loft apartment was rented for a long weekend was rented in Fort Collins.

Plans for the trip included:

  1. Mostly sleeping (TheKim)
  2. Mostly drinking (TheKate)
  3. Hiking (everyone)
  4. Eating (everyone)

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Bright and early on a Thursday morning, we filed in to the very last row of our airplane. No one was sitting between us on the plane, and still TheKim turned to me and said, “Don’t touch me!” #siblings

Fort Collins is, like, the Craft Beer Mecca of America, so we ate a delicious cheese plate lunch and headed straight for a FoCo classic- Odell Brewing. Weeks prior I sold this idea to my not-very-beery-and-definitely-not-hoppy-beery sister by saying, “Oh no worries! Odell has a huge variety of beer–you’ll totally find something not that hoppy!”

And then the first words out of the tour guides mouth were, “We’re a pretty hop-forward place. If you don’t like hops, you’re probably not going to like it here.”

Thanks, Andrew. Thanks.

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Friday was supposed to be all about the hiking, but after some rain the entire state of Colorado was… closed.

We asked one guy at a county park, “Hey, since the park is closed, is there anywhere else near here we might find hiking? Or is there anything else great to see in the region?”

His response? “Nope.”

But we did find some hiking– some really great hiking, in fact, at a nearby state park. Sometimes detours are the best way all along!

We maybe found too much hiking, because between Minnesota’s stupidlong winter and the altitude, we ended our day WHUPPED. We found ourselves in bed by 9PM on a Friday night, like the #thirtysomethings that we are.

On Saturday, we took a more leisurely, flatter hike, but with about 9+ creek crossings, one way.

Then we ended the day shopping and checking out another craft brewery.

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I did buy a book, but unfortunately not this one. No fame and fortune for me and J-Tuna. Yet.

On our final day, we fought exactly as siblings ought to– with indignation, silent treatment, and door slamming. It was perfect.

It is funny traveling with your sibling as an adult– you easily slip in to some of the same patterns your relationship has had your whole life, and it was at times remarkable to me that any such quirk could last for 30-some years. We are, in many ways, each who we have always been. Was I surprised that she leaned her body halfway over a cliff? Maybe I would have been, except I wasn’t because she did it to take a picture of a tiny purple flower. Because of course she did.

I’ll probably make her do it again someday.

9: Watch MY TEAM in the NBA Playoffs

It’s possible my family took my to a Timberwolves playoff game deep in the history of the team, back in the days of Kevin Garnett. I think I was in kindergarten or first grade? I spent the majority of the time obsessing over these toy binoculars I got in a Happy Meal at dinner. So, that doesn’t count.

MY TEAM went to the NBA Playoffs.

MY TEAM.

Clinching the #8 seed in the final game of the regular season, a “winner-moves on, loser goes home” match with the Denver Nuggets, MY TEAM went to the NBA Playoffs.

And, of course, I was prepared to take out a second mortgage on our home to go to the games. Luckily, since the Timberwolves spent the last two decades kicking around the absolute bottom of the league, tickets to their games– even playoff games– remain reasonably priced.

Game 3 (First game at home)- April 21, 2018

Pre-game Beer-Brat-Shot at Butcher and the Boar:

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At the game:

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And they won. MY TEAM won a game in the NBA Playoffs.

Game 4 (Second game at home)- April 23, 2018

But then we went again two days later and they did not win and it wasn’t even fun to watch them not win because it was a terrible, very bad, no good basketsport game.

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And then there were no more home games because Houston was the #1 seed and of course the destroyed us in the rest of the series.

BUT! There’s always next year, Timberwolves Nation!

8: Play Pull Tabs

You probably thought I gave up on my new things. But I haven’t. I’ve just been super busy doing some new things, and some favorite old things, that I haven’t gotten around to documenting them all. The next several might be sort of out of chronological order based on the ways my memory serves (or does not serve me).

I never play pull tabs, or really gamble at all, because I don’t really like chance or surprises. I like to methodically earn and spend my money.

So when Aaron played a few weeks months ago, and I said, “I’ve never played pull tabs” he said, “God, that’d be an easy thing to put on the New Things List.”

He was right– easy!

(I lost. But he won $2!)

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7: Wintersport in April

Y’all.

Minnesota’s weather this winter.

Snowpocalyptic.

And never ending. Like Prince said, “Sometimes it snows in April.” And snow is a bit of an understatement of what we have received in the first 18 days of this month. On April 3rd we got an appetizer with a snowfall that forced me to work from home and then this past weekend we got a big, beefy main course with a juicy blizzard that started early Saturday and didn’t really stop until Monday morning.

I spent approximately 44 hours inside my house. And I went so stir-crazy at one point I vacuumed our bedroom standing fan. Which of course, we’ll never use because it will never be summer.

But, by the time we were able to resurface on Sunday afternoon, conditions were actually perfect for some mid-spring snowshoeing at our neighborhood golf course!

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Here’s we go!
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Making the most of the weather!

We made it just shy of a mile before the falling snow started to soak and chill us.

But! We did see every single duck in South Minneapolis in one spot.

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You can’t really see it, but there is more than 100 ducks here. Loud!

6: Go To Dinner By Myself

“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do,” says Three Dog Night.

And, generally, I’d agree.

This year, when we did our Myer-Briggs types at work, I essentially scored off the charts in extroversion. And exactly zero people were surprised by that.

Which is why, of all of the things I considered for 30 New Things This Year, this maybe scared me the most (so far).

I intended to take this evening on a night while Aaron was out of town, but I accidentally overbooked myself and while time would have allowed a late evening dinner, nothing seemed “stress-free” about frantically running between work, a doctor’s appointment, a church meeting, and then dinner, all while trying to figure out where in that mix to walk the dog and feed the cat. So I took it a night later, while Aaron was in town but busy. He gave his blessing, reminding me that he absolutely loves eating dinner alone, but also… introvert.

After a challenging day at work (in a couple of months’ worth of unusually challenging days), I came home wound up, irritable, and anxious. I sort of wanted to just stay home, but I also didn’t want to cook for myself. And I didn’t want to be a quitter.

I have literally been thinking about this dinner for weeks. I Googled “How to go out to dinner alone” which is a sort of depressing search and also full of all the worst advice. I had very specifically selected a restaurant that was close to home, but not a place we go often, was a place where portion sizes meant I could enjoy more than one course, and was an overall small(ish) restaurant. The bad work day felt more like a sign that I had to do it than a sign that I shouldn’t do it.

So, I did what I would do for any date.

I showered. And I used the lavender soap. Because fancy. I did my hair. I put on make-up. Which I essentially never do. I put on shoes that tap loudly when you walk across a floor because that sound makes me feel confident.

(Turns out, those shoes are terrible for icy sidewalks, which Minneapolis is FULL of right now. Nothing says confidence like clumsily shuffling for two blocks, right?)

I drove myself to a quaint little French place in South Minneapolis called St. Genevieve. It is a place we’ve gone for drinks, but never for a meal. It does have a bar, but:

Kate’s Rule # 1 of Dining Alone: No One Puts Baby at the Bar.

I didn’t want to eat at the bar. I wanted to eat a table. And be served by a waiter. At a table. Eating at the bar is not the full experience I was going for. So, I walked up to the hostess stand and confidently said, “Hi! Just one tonight, but I’d prefer a table.”

And, even as I heard it, it sounded confident but inside I was dying a thousand deaths by the paper cuts of social awkwardness. Of course, I silently begged for ANY of the corner tables and instead she put me right in the middle of the booth that runs along an entire half of the restaurant.

The waitress approached immediately, before I even oriented my upside-down drink menu correctly, and asked if there was “anything you need right away?”

“No, of course not. Just a moment to look at the menu.”

And for the earth to actually swallow me whole right here and now, thanks.

I ordered a glass of wine (savior!) and perused the food menu. I ordered two courses: the celery soup (with poached apple, macademia nut, and tarragon) and the duck (with hazelnut, a cherry-liver sauce, sprouted lentils, and turnip). And then I just sat there, because:

Kate’s Rule # 2 of Dining Alone: No “Distractions”

A good 90 percent of writers on The Internet, were like, “When I dine alone I like to bring a book or newspaper or scroll through my phone to pass the time.” I think this is the worst advice. You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t!) scroll your phone at dinner with your significant other or a close friend– why would you do it when you are out with yourself? So, I allowed myself nearly no distractions except a small notebook in which I wanted to jot some thoughts on the day in for a few minutes.

I am not on this planet to “pass the time.” Thank you very much.

And it wasn’t until I was about halfway through that first glass of wine when I actually sat back into the booth, let my heart rate return to earth, and began enjoying myself rather than worrying about myself.

I let my attention waft between the conversations, never pausing long enough to eavesdrop but hearing enough to know that the pair of women to my right were long-time friends who raised their children together and were now bragging about their grandchildren, to know that the table directly in front of me was celebrating a 75th birthday, and the table next to them– a group of girlfriends– were celebrating an engagement. A pair of identical twins with identical haircuts laughed together at the bar.

I noticed the way the waitstaff choreographed their every move and how quickly tables moved between courses and then turned over for new diners but how there was not atmosphere of rush or sense of hurry.

The food was divine, and I don’t have the culinary writing chops to do it true justice, so I won’t, except to share how I described the duck to Aaron when I got home:

“And the duck, Aaron! The duck! It had this like, thick, crispy layer of duck fat all the way across it and I realize that this sounds like how a fat kid would describe duck breast, but if the shoe fits… and then there was this sauce and these things and the sprouted lentils! Dude, sprouts are like, exactly how you get a foodborne illness, but I didn’t even care! I ate them!”

And there aren’t any photos of the food because Rule # 2. I only touched my phone once, after the main course, to tell Aaron that this was “fucking delightful.” It’s not the most delicate or literary phrasing I could have used, but it was accurate and to the point.

By dinner, I was finding my rhythm and my comfort. I ordered a second glass of wine (because date night) and enjoyed my meal at a measured pace, because:

Kate’s Rule #3 of Dining Alone: Do Not Race to the Finish Line 

And the longer I sat there, the longer I enjoyed the company of myself. The more comfortable I became letting my attention wave over everyone– I watched buses drive down 50th Street, I watched a woman frantically scroll through her ipad at the bar. She probably never took a chance to notice me, the peaceful thirty-something eating alone, not dying a thousand deaths by the paper cuts of social awkwardness.

I ordered dessert and an Americano.

Kate’s Rule #4 of Dining Alone Rule # 1 of Life: Treat Yo’Self

Eat places with small portions, friends, so you can taste as much of their menu as possible. Taking the time to sip a coffee and enjoy honey cake with poached pears and a scoop of ice cream was maybe the highlight of the night. Maybe it was the two glasses of wine? Or maybe it was that I had the opportunity to pay the check and bolt the minute that last piece of crispy duck fat passed my lips, but I didn’t. I enjoyed a full evening and a full meal, beginning to end.

Though I am sure most of you are coming to this blog via Facebook, I think the way I summed up the evening on Facebook is the most accurate, so I will share that again here:

YOU GUYS.

I just did something brave.

Really, fucking brave (for me).

I got home from work, showered, put on make-up, and took MYSELF on a date.

A NICE date.

I went to dinner alone– ordered wine, had two divine courses, and dessert.

I did not scroll my phone or read a book. I just sat, on a date with myself, basking in the glory of just being Kate.

It took a half glass of wine to get over my anxiety of eating at a nice restaurant alone, but I am sharing this from my car and I am absolutely vibrating with energy. Vibrating!

Probably there is some ancient, life-guiding text that should be reminding me to stay humble, but I will save the humility for tomorrow because tonight I am super, super proud of me.

How often in your adult life do you reach a point where you literally vibrate with confidence despite getting no input from anyone else? Not often, for me. I spend a lot of time seeking the opinions of others to give me confidence. Approval, validation, course-correction, “atta-girls.” But that’s not what I am here for. I am here to bask in the glory of just being Kate. Amen! Hallelujah! Holy shit!