Reverb16 | December 24 |Traditions

It’s Christmas Eve, and Hanukkah starts tonight. Show us a photo of your favorite family traditions, decorations, or a special moment from the day if you celebrate.

As I posted on Instagram, Christmas Eve:

One of the hardest parts of marriage is combining/balancing our existing holiday traditions. One of the best parts of marriage is starting new ones. A few hours on the slopes and a couple of beers with this dude is pretty special. 

Image may contain: 1 person, sunglasses

Several years ago, I would have not been caught dead downhill skiing. Now this is part of the holidays I look forward to the most.

Love is weird like that.

Advertisements

Reverb16 | December 22 | Anchor

Today’s prompt is supposed to be about a holiday party gone wrong, but I don’t really have a distinct story and I think this post would then just become a long, sad rant about how hard it feels to make anyone happy over the holidays. So, I picked a different prompt from year’s past.

Anchor. What kept you tethered in 2016?

The most awesome part of my marriage is that it is to a man who is always redefining himself and striving for better, faster, stronger in himself and in our relationship. You will often hear us say the phrase “hashtag, no plateau” to each other. It is a reminder to each other and ourselves to never get too comfortable, to never stop, and to always want what comes next.

For us, the saying “the only thing that is constant is change” is very real.

And in the midst of all that change– some unexpected and turbulent, and some quieter and planned– he remains my anchor. This year maybe more than any other. Thank God for his candor, his patience, his ambition, and his subtle love.

aaron-kate-dylan

 

Reverb16 | December 19 | Littles

Little Ones. Whether you have kids of your own or not, there is likely a small person about who would like your attention. Tell us about what the kids in your life are asking for this season. Do you have any rules about how much to gift?

There’s a new Little in town this year.

ingrid.jpg
Bah. She slays.

This Spunky Brewster is my niece and she joined the family in February, making this holiday season my first real opportunity to spoil her until she bursts get her a few gifts. At 10 months old, she is getting SUPER fun so all I want to do is buy a bunch of stuff so we can have a SUPER fun time together. But my sister and I are cut from a similar cloth when it comes to our opinion of Stuff & Things: less is more, experiences are better. I followed that (more or less) this holiday season and tried to keep the amount of Stuff & Things to a minimum. And compared to what I wanted to buy this little lady (the moon, the stars, a screen-accurate Yoda costume), I think I did pretty well. I can’t say exactly what I got her, because she might be reading this (she’s super intelligent and she gets it from her auntie), but, based on my complete lack of knowledge about babies, I tried to stick with things that are:

1) good for brains,

2) fun today and could be fun still in 2-3 years, and

3) one sentimental, but useful!, thing from the heart.

I avoided things that make any outrageous sounds, because at my wedding 3 years ago I learned that my sister is better at revenge than any of us ever knew. I do not want that exacted on me with an army of light up, noisy toys.

Reverb16 | December 11 | Favorite Things

Favorite things. Post a photo of your favorite things– it can be holiday related, or just something you are really fond of year round.

I know that people and places and experiences are always supposed to bring us more joy and happiness than our Stuff and Things, but sometimes a Thing brings you closer to those people and places and experiences, so you can’t help but love the Thing quite a bit, too.

img_20160921_114214499

That is how I feel about her.

I don’t know if it is customary for people to name their canoes, but this one is called Antelope Wells, after the name of the outpost at the terminus of The Bike Trip That Should Have Been But Wasn’t. We took her out to a little urban lake near our home, christened her with some Glenlivet from a tiny travel bottle, and promised ourselves that the adventures weren’t over.  The heartbreak of the canceled bike trip was still sharp, and I can’t speak for Aaron, but it would at times wave over me unexpectedly and in ways so profound I was unprepared. Bringing her home helped channel that into learning something new and planning for a new expedition, albeit of smaller scale.

We spent all summer paddling around the local lakes. Aaron learned some useful canoe strokes, I learned that the large pocket of my life jacket held a 12 oz. can of beer perfectly, like a beer coozie you wear. I carried around a half-empty travel sized bottle of Glenlivet in the other pocket.

We planned a four night trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for late September. A place relatively close to us that we visit all too rarely– our last trip being in 2011 when we were newly dating, inexperienced campers. In the intervening years, we have gotten a lot smarter about outdoor living, picked up some excellent gear, and gotten into a campsite rhythm (Aaron sets up the tent alone, Kate does most of the kitchen and water-fetching duties and I know it all sounds very Traditional Gender Roles and I don’t even care because I have a 0% success rate of keeping the tent pole out of my eye when setting it up).

And on that trip I drank whiskey while my husband fished.

img_20160920_165902524

I sat cozy in the canoe, floating on glassy lakes, talking about everything and nothing; the only sound punctuating our conversation was the gentle whirring of the fishing reel and resident loon calling.

img_20160920_191505645_hdr

I got be in this sunset. And just minutes after this shot, I got to hear the wolves howl.

img_20160920_191135930_hdr

I got to follow moose tracks down a muddy portage trail, watch an eagle dine on a fine fish breakfast, swing in my hammock on the shore of a silent lake, paddle through a gentle rainstorm, build fires every evening, and talk (or not talk) to my husband late into the night until the sky was so spotted with stars you could hardly see the space between them.

Favorite people (well, person). Favorite place. Favorite experiences. All brought to me by this Favorite Thing.

 

Birthday Post: 28 Awesome Things from My 28th Year

The best part about getting older is that every year gets more awesome than the one before it. In honor of my 28th birthday, let’s celebrate 28 awesome things that happened since my last birthday!

  1. I ran my second Great River Ragnar Relay. 195 miles, 2 days, 12 friends, 2 vans. I slept on a football field, I cursed the hills of Stillwater, I bonked. And yet, it was still awesome and I might be considering a 2015 team.
  2. My bridesmaids threw a phenomenal Mad Hatter’s Tea bridal shower and a great bachelorette party. I have some excellent women in my life.
  3. I attended the Internet Cat Video Festival at the State Fair. So did 10,999 other people. It was awesome.
  4. We went to a Mumford & Sons concert. I don’t go to very many big concerts in big venues, not because I am a music snob but because I kind of don’t like traffic and crowds and concerts are always too loud and [insert other old-ladyish excuses here]. I am glad I was able to put most of that aside and attend this concert because Mumford is one of my favorite groups and their concert did not disappoint.
  5. I tried single-track mountain biking for the first time. Thought I maybe liked it, then Aaron told me the course I was on was the “adaptive” course. The “easy” course would be harder. Went over one large rock placed unfortunately close to a stump on the easy track and decided my career as a single-track mountain biker had come to an end. Bike commuting/touring is where my bespoked heart lies and where my bespoked heart will stay.
  6. I took a new job at MDH. I love where I work, but I was not loving always being in grant-funded positions and the fear that if the money ran out, the job would too. So when a health communications job opened up on a team I was already working with, I gobbled it up. And I love what I do. I feel challenged but confident in my work, I am given a lot of opportunities, and I work with a huge variety of people. All in the name of a healthier Minnesota. So cool.
  7. I ran the Big Gay Race. I took a light running load last summer, after feeling a bit burnt out after training for the Fargo Half, but I knew this was a race I had to be a part of. Earlier in the summer Minnesota had legalized gay marriage, and that felt so significant to me in the year we were getting married that I wanted to do everything I could to support it and the legislators, community organizers, and activists that made it happen. With almost no training, it was one of my faster 5K times ever! That’s the power of love.
  8. Friends Emily and Sean took us to the Autumn Brew Review, which is maybe akin to an adult playplace in that, once you get in the door, it is sort of a total free-for-all. $50 gets you a small beer sampling glass and access to dozens of breweries. Unlimited pours. This is the event I think of when I tell people, “You have to live your real life while you are wedding planning. You have to sometimes drink 40 samples of beer the week before, wake up the next morning wickedly hungover.” Well, maybe not that exactly but I was so grateful for this day in so many ways.
  9. Surrounded by my favorite friends and family, I married my better half. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    1393707_10100321891743499_1804019590_n
    Lightsaber candlesticks. Using The Force to light the unity candle.
  10. We honeymooned in Hawaii, which is perhaps the most peaceful place on the earth.

    At Hanalei Beach, after learning to surf/survive.
    At Hanalei Beach, after learning to surf/survive.
  11. We hiked the Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast. Sure, there were some tears. And sure, I told my husband of 10 days that I hated him. But when we finally got to the Kalalau Beach, it was entirely worth the 11 grueling miles.

    Hiking. For a long time.
    Hiking. For a long time.
  12. When I was a kid, we used to play in my grandparents’ barn. In the workshop/tack room part of the barn, my grandpa kept a beer can collection. Many memories from my childhood include sneaking in there and hearing my sister or cousin yell after me, “Don’t touch those! Those are Grandpa’s!” But as a kid, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the bright colors of the cans’ designs, how the size, shape, and design of the can changed over time, and how my grandpa knew something about every can. I remember telling my sister, “Someday, I want Grandpa’s beer cans.” But I had never told my grandpa. So when I heard he was considering selling them, I knew they had to be mine. So a few years ago I said I wanted them. Then I looked around the spaces I was living: a small 3 bedroom apartment with roommates, my sister’s basement, and then a smaller 500 sq. ft. apartment… none seemed suitable to host 3800 beer cans (yes, that number is correct). Finally having our own house with a little bit of storage space, the beer can collection came home in November. It is awesome.
  13. I didn’t quit skiing and I actually even, might kind of like it a little bit.
  14. Drove (well, Dad drove and I talked) 10 hours round trip to eat at a Pizza Hut buffet with my grandparents. In a snowstorm. And I would do it again.
  15. I ran the TC Valentine’s Day 5K as part of the TC Summit Challenge. Besides that it was not above 0 degrees for the entirety of the race, I loved running it and I put up a decent time for the first race of the season.
  16. Then I ran the 100% Irish for a Day 5K and shaved almost a minute off my 5K time in the course of a month. Still working hard(ish) to get a sub-30 5K.
  17. Philip Glass concert in Decorah. Not only is he an amazing pianist, he’s Ira Glass’s cousin!
  18. I ran Goldy’s 10 Mile.And then ate donuts.
  19. I attended my very first opera and it was not outdated, stuffy, or weird. It was awesome, modern, and weird. I loved it.
  20. We went to Portland and had beer and donuts and rode bikes. Which is the same stuff we do in Minneapolis.

    pdx
    Watching soccer in Portland. Those stands were FILLED for the women’s team!
  21. I re-started taking art classes again. I like dedicating time to painting again and I like having a class to give feedback and challenge me. Some days are hard– my classmates are are incredibly talented, hyper-realistic painters and I… I make a lot of bold moves with the paint brush. paint
  22. Nothing says, “1/32nd Norwegian!” like hosting a Syttende Mai party.
  23. I got Harvard educated in Boston. trip highlights also include dinner with Amy (see items 24 &25) and seeing the Boston Marathon finish line.
  24. We celebrated Amy’s bachelorette party with wine tasting at 2 local wineries. I even took home some tips for caring for our grapevine!

    I just sometimes get SUPER excited about things.
    I just sometimes get SUPER excited about things.
  25. I traveled back to the East Coast to celebrate the wedding of Amy and Denny in Nanagassett Nagganassett Narranseggit Rhode Island. They hosted a beautiful beachside weekend and I got to spend some much-needed quality time with my bestie, Bridget. And if one is to measure the quality of a party by the hangover it leaves in it’s wake, then this party went all the way to 11. Uff dah.
  26. Aaron and I took a spur of the moment camping trip in Jay Cooke State Park, including a mini-brew tour of Duluth. This was my first time doing a hike in campsite, and let me tell you, things I did not miss about drive-up sites include: other peoples’ rude kids, RVs, televisions playing from RVs, slamming car doors, the wafting scent of a community bathroom, and yappy dogs.
  27. I ran my 2nd ever half marathon, the Red, White, and Boom! TC Half, and set a PR by 11 minutes. ELEVEN minutes. That is huge.

    Happy? Exhausted? Hapausted.
    Happy? Exhausted? Hapausted.
  28. I would love to say I don’t get sentimental about very many things, but I do. But some things just really get you, right? I kicked off birthday week this year getting to celebrate one of my most favorite couples, Shivan & Travis. I have known them for only 6 years, but I have lived with them, camped with them, gotten drunk with them, wallowed in hangovers with them, celebrated graduations and weddings and birthdays with them, learned from them, admired them, (tried to) entertain them, and loved them fully and completely. Everyone deserves a great wedding day, but no one more than these two, who- even on the day meant to celebrate themselves- were treating their bridal party to special surprises and including a million thoughtful details in their day meant to honor or highlight the people around them. Holy love buckets, ya know?

Let’s raise a toast to another race around the sun!

Reverb 13 | December 2 | Shine

Shine: What was the best moment of 2013?

I had pinned exactly 237 beautiful images of brides, bridal gowns, hipster table arrangements, simple cake designs, and program layouts.

I had read at least 10 wedding blogs daily for no less than 6 months.

I had created, sorted, color-coded, crossed off, and relabeled no fewer than 5 spreadsheets.

I blogged every. single. week. for 6 months on the hilarious, dramatic, heartbreaking, and silly ins and outs of my own wedding planning adventures.

I remained uncharacteristically cynical right up to the night before, telling everyone (but mostly myself), “Well, certainly something is bound to go wrong. It won’t be perfect, but it will be good. I don’t think it will be, like, the best day of my life because the stress, and the this, and the that…”

wedding

But this? This was the best moment. Or really, the best series of beautiful moments strung together like perfect twinkling lights.

The people were perfect and surprised us in beautiful and hilarious ways throughout the day– a gift we had unknowingly given ourselves when we decided we didn’t have to control every detail.

The week after our wedding, I was struggling as much as I am now to put the whole day into words, but I wrote this:

I have never felt more loved, more beautiful, more blessed, more certain, or more excited. I kept wanting to tell people, “Life has never been this good!” but that’s not true. Life has always been this good. It is so good.

Giving Thanks

These people:

aaron_people
Aaron, in Des Moines. Though I am thankful for him even when he isn’t in Iowan modern art.
dad_people
Dad.
kim_people
The Kim.
happy gnome_people
My bridesmaids. Seriously, these ladies are amazing.
mom-people
Mom.
god squad_people
The God Squad.

These places:

kalalau sign_places
An adventure I probably would have never taken on my own. What an amazing place.
home_places
Our home.
deck_places
And, specifically, the deck with a beer, book, and snoozin’ dog.

These pets:

jasper_pets
The best cat of all the cats.
basil_pets
The sleepiest dog of all the dogs.

These events:

wedding kiss_events
That one time we got married.
RTG_events
Rock the Garden. This year, including an impromptu Rock the Ramp and the annual BUCKET OF FRIES.
ragnar medal_events
Ragnar Relay.
love is the law_events
When love became the law in Minnesota.
llama contest_events
Llama costume contest at the State Fair.
gay race_events
The Big Gay Race.
fargo_events
Fargo Half-Marathon.
brew review_events
Autumn Brew Review.
bike camping_events
Bike camping.

These little things that make the world go ’round:

rubio bobblehead_things
Ricky Rubio bobble head. I use him at work as my editor. I ask, “Ricky, does this website look good.” He always agrees with me.
maple bacon_things
Maple bacon donuts. Well, all donuts, really. But especially this one.
coffee_things
Coffee. From the source of The Coffee.
cat mug_things
And a kitty much to put all your coffee in!
bike coffee_things
And a bike to carry your coffee around!

Married Mondays?! No, Not Really.

I am not really going to do a Married Monday series. Realistically, Aaron and I have perhaps 60-75 years of life ahead of us and at 52 Mondays apiece, I would be writing about 3,120 to 3900 posts about married life. At first I doubted my ability to even complete such a task, but I think we all know I am rarely at a loss for words. But I think one Married Monday is in order. It’s sort of a Wedding Wednesday: Special Edition. Or maybe, if this were MTV, it would be called Wedding Wednesday: Where Are They Now?

I am not really sure I can totally comprehend the awesomeness of Saturday. I know I only tasted a slice of the whole experience and I am loving hearing the stories and seeing the pictures that are trickling in from our wedding guests and bridal party in the days after. I know that if I don’t get at least some words down now, the memories will quickly fade and I am still wanting to just soak every tiny detail in and hold on to it as long as possible.

I just want to start with saying that I know throughout the Wedding Wednesdays I was adamant that this would not be the best day of my life, sort of taking the cynical approach and considering the stress and the responsibilities and the nerves and so on. Read carefully here, because I am not admitting to being ‘wrong’ per se, but I will declare that Saturday was likely in the Top 3 Most Awesome Days of Katie’s Life.

Rehearsal Dinner 

Friday afternoon was all about final touches and doing some last minute decorations for the rehearsal, which I was hoping would include some fantastic outdoor lighting. Friends, my career as an exterior illumination specialist began and ended on Friday afternoon. And ended with a Bang!– no lies. Things working against me in the set-up:

  • The light string was too heavy for the bamboo rods we planned to string the lights on.
  • The gale force winds of the Ides of October compounded the previously mentioned situation by about a magnitude of 1000.
  • One of the light bulbs fell out of the string of lights while they were plugged in. In the process of bending down to pick up said offending bulb, I dropped the exposed socket into the wet, wet grass. A Bang! and some smoke and an extremely elevated heart rate followed, and I decided that this scenario (i.e., potential electrocution) was the exact last thing I needed to do to myself the day before my wedding.

Then it went from “already not that great” to “are you kidding me?!” when I brought the offending light string into the house and accidentally dropped it on the dining room floor, shattering three extremely delicate glass bulbs. I mean, seriously. I cleaned up the glass and haphazardly shoved 2 of the 4 remaining healthy strands of lights into Aaron’s artificial tree in the entry way and called it good enough.

I wrote a few weeks ago that I thought hosting the rehearsal dinner at our home was both the craziest idea we had and also the one I was most sure and confident about. I won’t lie, when we first arrived back at the house after rehearsal I was still thinking, “I am not sure this was a good idea. Also, it’s really dark in the back yard.But after a little shuffling, an extremely crowded dining room during the blessing, and some beer and wine, things settled in quite nicely. Quite perfectly, in fact.

It was a little crowded. It was a little loud. The dog did drink someone’s wine and was hungover the next morning. It was incredibly surreal to have all these people from different parts of our lives together. In our house. But the food was amazing, the company even better, and I loved seeing my home filled with the noise and the love of my family and friends. I loved when my mom said to me, “What a wonderful world you two have made for yourselves and all these people who love you.” That is exactly how I wanted people to feel.

The Final Prep

On Saturday morning, I woke up at 4AM from a combination of cold/allergies/hangover/excitement. Had we not stayed up all night enjoying whiskey, I think this would have turned out differently, but once I was awake there was no way I was falling back asleep. Instead, I took a 45 minute shower, had a donut for breakfast, and spent the better part of 3 hours reading/cuddling with the poor hungover hound. It was actually very calming to not be rushing around or worry that I was running late for my ride to the salon with bridesmaid Shivan.

When Shivan did arrive, she handed me a coffee. With some Kahlua in it. Goin’ with The Hair of the Dog Strategy- I like it. We picked up bridesmaid Melissa at her hotel and arrived at the salon for hair and makeup. I had decided at the makeup trial run a few weeks earlier to go with some fake eyelashes and friends, they did not disappoint. I mean, at first the stylist glued my eyes shut and then I thought I looked like a cartoon character, but after I got used to them I totally loved them and it was a special treat. How often do you get to have a really good reason for fake eyelashes? Another very special treat was that our photographer arrived at the salon to take some candids of us getting ready. I totally thought she would just meet us at the church, and I loved this surprise.

The rest of the bridesmaids joined us and our hair went from ‘fresh out of bed’ to ‘teased and tangled’ to ‘Shirley Temple’ to ‘wedding party.’ My bridesmaids looked lovely (as they always do) and just like letting them choose their own dresses, it was so fun to see how they all chose to have their hair done and how it complemented their personalities.
We enjoyed a brief coffee break and headed to the church.

At the church, I spent the first 45 minutes or hour eating lunch (thanks to the church ladies who helped with that!) and playing with toys in the nursery while the bridesmaids did their make up and got into their dresses. Bridesmaid Amy treated us to a great playlist just for this day and I previewed some of my special dance moves for my special ladies. All was well and calm even as I was putting on my own dress with my sister’s help. Bridesmaid Amy tried to cause a ruckus by being the first to cry, but I held it together.

But as we buttoned the top button, my mom came in the room. All hell broke loose. Because if you can stand in your own wedding dress in front of your own momma with all your favorite lady friends around you and not cry, you have no heart. So I cried like a little girl. Like her little girl, really.

A Moment

Back in the depths of wedding planning, I said I wanted to just take a moment with Aaron before the Wild Rumpus began, in our wedding clothes, to just have some calm time together. This was with the assumption that I would be a total wreck on my wedding day. But I wasn’t (save for the momma part), and Aaron is Mr. Unflappable. But we still decided to capitalize on a minute together in the quiet of the sanctuary before schedules and photos and all of that began. And since on this Saturday we couldn’t do bikes, donuts, and coffee together like we normally do, we talked about it instead. There was no “Aha!” moment, no clouds parting, no angelic choir. We just talked about bikes.

Perfect.

Photos

We took some. And then we took some more. I cannot say enough amazing things about our photographer, Brianna, who I met when we were both schleppin’ lattes at Caribou Coffee back in the day. She is creative and silly and fun and her personality and vision (and not forcing us to do cheesy poses) were perfect for our wedding day and I cannot wait to get the photos back. Additional kudos to her, because after spending all day with us, she ran the Twin Cities Marathon the following day!

We had about 45 minutes between the end of the photos and the wedding where we were back squirreled away so guests would not see us. This was the longest 45 minutes of my life and my poor little stomach went topsy-turvy constantly.

The Wedding

The Main Event. Before I knew it, I was arm in arm with my dad, walking down the ‘powerline’ (this is a softball reference, of course), and trying not to look at bridesmaid Amy because she was causing another teary-eyed ruckus again. There was some lip-quivering, chin-trembling, and some puddles of water pooling in my lower eyelids, but all-in-all, I still held it together. Because when it is The Most Right Thing, there is nothing to cry about.

To say that our wedding ceremony was perfect is a total understatement. The music was perfect. The readings were perfect– and it is different to hear them out loud than to read them. As I was listening to Aaron’s cousin recite selected verses from Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of the Open Road,’ I thought to myself, Wow. This is so us. One of our readers, and groomsman Benjamin’s wife, surprised me by sharing with our guests what I had shared with her about why we had selected that reading. That was a very special treat to us and made it all the more meaningful. Our pastor is officially the funniest person ever and surprised us with a thoughtful, personal, and hilarious sermon. It perfectly set the tone for the rest of the evening as well– that we were happy to host a fun and silly event for everyone to celebrate our mutual weirdness and joy.

It wasn’t until the receiving line that I realized exactly how many people 200 people is. It is many. I realized we were in big trouble in getting a chance to talk to everyone throughout the night. Then we gave almost all of those people a metal bicycle bell and you have never heard such a noise! It was a great send off.

The Post-Wedding Pre-Party

celebrate

We took our bridal party to the Happy Gnome in Saint Paul which is where Aaron and I had our very first date on January 8, 2011. This was one of my favorite parts of the day. We were cheered by the other patrons, treated to drinks, and got a chance to just enjoy the company of our close friends.

The Party

Incredible. We joined our guests at dinner by being introduced like an NBA team about to take the court. Then we ate, we drank, we toasted, we danced. Our DJ was phenomenal and everything we asked for and he delivered the “pumpin’ party” that he promised us. The view of the state capitol building was stunning, and the love and excitement in the room was completely palpable.

Of course, we regret that we didn’t get nearly enough time to talk to everyone but just hope that all enjoyed the night as much as we did. A few people said to me things along the lines of “Wow, you really know how to throw a party!” or “You have set the bar really high” and my response to this is so simple: This was not hard to do. Yes, at times it was stressful. We’ve been busy with planning. But it wasn’t hard. We did it from a place of love for all of our guests and with the idea that we wanted it to be as simple and carefree as possible. If you keep your eyes on the most important prize– the joining in marriage between the two of you– the rest of the prizes will unfold in front of you. It was a fun party because we had a fun time throwing it.

The Takeaway

I am sure there is more to be said about this weekend, and I didn’t even tell you about our ridiculously awesome hotel upgrade but this post is getting super long. Rest assured, the top of the cake is in the freezer, the dress is hung in the closet, and the sun has officially set on this day of the journey. It was incredible.

I have never felt more loved, more beautiful, more blessed, more certain, or more excited. I kept wanting to tell people, “Life has never been this good!” but that’s not true. Life has always been this good. It is so good.

Love love love,

Kate

wedding kate

Race Recap: Ragnar Relay- Great River 2013

Holy bananas, how long has it been since we had a race recap up in here? Since May, the last race I did, actually. After a pretty packed running schedule last year, I decided to take this year much easier. I really did it because I was nervous that wedding planning would be so time consuming (hint: it’s really not). How fortuitous of me, though, because after the Twin Cities 100% Irish for a Day 10 Mile and the Fargo Half, I had created for myself quite a monster injury by ignoring all of the warning signs of plantar fasciitis (and a sprained ankle). I was able to safely take some time off to heal that foot and instead put in just a gazillion miles on the bike commuting to and from work. Several weeks before Ragnar, I had a bit of an “ohmygod I have to train for this moment” and put in some practice runs leading up to this past weekend.

What is Ragnar?

Really stupid. A relay event with 12 runners, 2 vans, 200 miles to run. Day. Night. Hot. Cold. Rain.

Here, their video sums it nicely:

There are teams and costumes, van paint and “kills” (runners you pass on the course). It is an insane amount of fun. It is zero amounts of sleep.

Basic Info for Great River Relay 2013

Start: Winona, Minnesota

End: Minneapolis, Minnesota

My Team: Lumberjack Heroes (#103)

My Runner Position: Runner 12, “The Caboose”

Team Start: 8AM Friday, August 16

Team Finish: 4:26PM Saturday, August 17

Leg 1212

Let’s all take a moment to give Runner 11, Andrea, some mega props on this. If you look to the right hand side of that map, you will see that the exchange between her leg and mine was a “soft exchange.” Instead of a set location with a staffed exchange chute, we were instructed to just park somewhere along this 1.5 mile stretch of road (in the boonies, by a llama farm) and do a hand off. Andrea was a total trooper and ran an extra 0.5 miles (which might sound like not a lot, but dudes, when you are running Ragnar, every tenth of a mile you have to travel makes an impact) to meet me right where the course turns north. Who has 2 thumbs and 2 sore legs and loves Andrea for doing this? THIS kid.

My experience on this leg can be summed up in some pretty basic thoughts:

  • Gravel roads: no bueno.
  • (Look at the elevation chart under the map) A 2 mile uphill from 2.5 to 4.5 miles: no bueno.
  • A two mile downhill: Wheeeeeee! I went down this hill pell-mell and this is where I logged 3 of 4 roadkills for that leg. Others be careful running down that hill, but not this lady.

The gravel definitely rocked me (see what I did there?!) and I was swiftly reminded that what my Minneapolitan, lake-circling leggies think is a hill is like pocket change compared to the hills in southern Minnesota/Wisconsin.

We drove on to the next major exchange (#18) in Ellsworth, Wisconsin where Van 1 would meet us after they finished their 2nd legs and tried to catch a little sleep on their high school football field. Turns out, you can’t sleep on their football field and a perfectly polite volunteer told us we would have to move– 30 minutes into a pretty solid sleep which is a sacred amount in Ragnar. I have not disliked a nice person so much in a very long time.

Leg 2424

Admittedly, by the time it was time to start my second run, I was already feeling a little less than awesome. Stiffness had definitely started to set in to my quads and hammies and (excuse this TMI) something serious had happened to a butt muscle. I got started around 5:15ish AM and was psyched for a great sunrise run in Stillwater. Of course, the sun was rising behind me, so I didn’t really feel it, but still. Friends, sunrise is magic and to greet a new day on your feet is a blessing and then some.

That early downhill (see elevation chart under map) was a doozy and it was not possible to go pell-mell down this one. Took a little roadside bunny path to the lift bridge, crossed it happily, and entered downtown Stillwater. Where I promptly ran into traffic and just gave the oncoming driver some bitchface, put my hand out, and said, “You just STOP. I’m running here.” Not my finest moment as a self-proclaimed Captain Safety.

After that, the fun really began. If you know anything about the cute city of Stillwater, you know that the downtown is right along the Saint Croix River and the rest of the city is up a huge hill. If you are going to get out of Stillwater, you must go up that hill. It’s like that kids song… “Can’t go ’round it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go through it. Must go over it.”

Thoughts along the last mile+ of Leg 24:

  • Wow. I can really feel that elevation change in my legs. Like, wow.
  • I wonder how far this goes? I should have checked the course map before I got out of the van.
  • Man, this is not easy.
  • I do not feel good.
  • (Upon turning a corner) WE’RE STILL GOING UPHILL?!
  • Another (non-Ragnar) runner (going DOWNHILL) passes and says, “Nice morning for a run, eh?” Yeah, screw you, asshole.
  • The “One Mile To Go” appears. I nearly vomit in excitement.
  • I can see the exchange and that there is an ever-so-slight downhill into the exchange. Feels like a slap in the face (and that one butt cheek that has pestered me ALL the way to the top of the world Stillwater.
  • Remind myself that there is no shame in never becoming a mountain climber.

Seriously, 5 days later, I have no nice things to say about Stillwater even though I generally think it is a great little city. I think I have a little PTSD still…

Drove to Park Cottage Grove High School to “sleep” on a gym floor. When I woke up and realized there was free coffee, I made a pretty direct line to that area (now sort of limping/walking like a cowboy without his horse). Volunteer tastes tests the coffee and says, “I don’t know if it is very strong.” Lady could have served me dissolved potting soil and I would have accepted it.

We cheered on Van 1 as they completed their final legs and then around noon our van started the final push to the finish. It was hot and our team had to work hard and some people put up some pretty darn impressive times– super cool!

Leg 36

36

I had nothing left. Nothing. I was tired, I was hungry, it was hot, and the very first GI symptoms* were starting to hit me on the first mile of this leg. It felt long and hot and lonely. There was a water stop that sort of helped, but my mental/emotional state for these 4+ miles took me somewhere else completely. A very not pleasant place. Also challenging: no “One Mile To Go” sign. Throughout Ragnar, there are not regular mile markers (for obvious reasons- the thing is 200+ miles long!) but there is always a “One Mile To Go” sign when there is… well, one mile to go. I kept waiting to see that sign and it never came. It’s hard to guage your effort/the need for a final push without that. Bummer.

one to go

First I heard the finish line, then I finally saw it. Runners along the finish chute were so encouraging and that really made a huge difference. Right at the end I saw the rest of the Lumberjack Heroes and we crossed the finish line together. Excellente.

If I had written this blog post on Sunday, I would have had to dig out from the milkshake cup, pizza box, and trail mix canister I destroyed I would have said “never again.” I was in quite a bit of pain, could hardly do stairs, and thought my butt would never be the same again. And there are a few things I am willing to mess with, but my butt isn’t one of them. However, a few days out, and with most pain gone save for a bit of residual hip tightness, I can say that I had an awesome time and would totally do it again.

Just like we learned so many lessons after doing it the first time in 2009, I learned a lot this time too. I would train better and more specifically next time, and pay more attention to times of day I might expect to run. I rarely run mid-afternoon in the summer because it is too hot. Then I had to run mid-afternoon at Ragnar and it was… too hot. The 3 Ps right there: Piss Poor Planning.

Team running is hard for me. It challenges me mentally/emotionally quite a bit. A lot of what I love about running is the “me-ness” of it. At Ragnar, you might be running alone but you aren’t really alone– your team is cheering you on and depending on you. This is both awesome and awful and I really enjoy that challenge of making myself remember that each run is still for me.

Looking forward to my first post-Ragnar jog (say that with the soft j sound– yawg) as early as tonight or as late as Saturday morning. It is fun to be challenged in so many ways, do something really different, and come out the other side and say, “I still really love this.”

Happy trails, adventurers.

*Runners are no stranger to GI issues, particularly over long distances or difficult training regimens. Let’s not go into details, yes?

Wedding Wednesday: Underneath the Tulle and Ribbon*

Could I talk about the wedding all the time? Maybe. In fact, my poor sister calls me about spinach and I manage to squeeze in a comment about the invitations. Bless her and the patience genes she got.

I read a pretty awesome blog called A Practical Wedding and it is a pretty awesome place where lots of ladies share stories about their planning woes, what it’s like to be ‘wife’ and other stories about weddings and marriage. The other day, a post included a great statement:

But what they don’t tell you is that when you’re engaged all that anyone ever wants to talk about are your wedding plans, so for me this was a version of Hell.

Don’t get me wrong– I love to talk about the wedding. Let’s face it, I love to talk about everything. But I think it sometimes overshadows some of the other super-awesome stuff Aaron and I are up to. Wedding planning is not really real life, it’s appointments and decisions we make in between the real stuff. And I would hate to look back at Summer 2013 and remember it only as “the summer we planned our wedding.”

Of course, due to Neverending Winter and Relentless Spring, it hasn’t yet felt much like summer in Minnesota. And it is early in the season, but here’s some of the stuff we’ve been up to:

We Bike. We have been machines on our machines this year. Aaron biked 100 miles at once and I have taken on a new commitment to bike to work more often. We love to bike around town to the store, restaurants, and other events. It’s peaceful not to drive, it’s good for the planet, and we generally enjoy biking places together– except once when I told Aaron I couldn’t keep up with him on hills and he responded, “Really? Because I am going pretty slow.” He’s soooo funny.

Biking the Gateway Trail from Saint Paul to Stillwater and back.

We Rocked the Garden. Hipsters. Yupsters. Democrats. Whatever you call the kind of people who have public radio memberships and go to outdoor music festivals–that’s us. We had a great time standing in the pouring rain, going to an impromptu concert in a parking ramp (Rock the Ramp), listening to a 27 minute instrumental drone, and hanging out with great friends and drinking Summit beer. And, in true Rock the Garden tradition, we took down a 5lb Bucket of Fries.

Bucket of Fries! (Always said with enthusiasm)
Aaron rocking the ramp in true Aaron style– somewhat reserved, very chill, with a barely perceptible head nod.

We Play Softball. Every Friday night we schlep ourselves, some used cleats, and our neon yellow jerseys to Apple Valley for some good ol’ beer league, slowpitch softball as 1st baseman and Shortstop/Leftfield for the Christus Victor God Squad. It is during these games I am perhaps best reminded that God is not always in the business of giving us what we want (like, a win?) and instead gives us what we need (good friends, a lot of laughs, and just enough big hits to keep our heads up). Though, I could have used a little more divine intervention when I got smoked in the back of the head with a ball– not even a gust of wind, God? Really? When players on the team make a big mistake or bonehead play, they have to pay a “kangaroo fine” of 50 cents which we are donating to the Twins Community Fund to build ball fields for kids and communities in need. I imagine we are on pace to build one lucky community this:

The road to community ball parks is paved in strikeouts.

We do lots of stuff.
We hang out in the yard– Aaron mows over everything with an indiscriminating eye and a reign of terror over the hostas and I decide that if something doesn’t look good in the garden it simply comes out of the garden. Efficiency. We hang out with our dog because he is funny and challenges us and is loving and hilarious. We walk to the ice cream shop, we bike to the bakery. Every few weeks we stare at the bikes at the Angry Catfish that we can’t afford. We listen to baseball games. We drink local beers on the local patios of local restaurants (again, because we are hipsters/yupsters/Democrats). We watch movies about adventurers and we curse the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

When I first decided I was going to not write about the wedding on Wedding Wednesday I thought it was because I was running out of wedding stuff to say, but as I have drafted this post I realize that it’s exactly this kind of stuff that the wedding is all about. It’s this kind of stuff that makes us want to do a wedding because it’s this kind of stuff that makes us want to be married. For the rest of my life I will get “Shhh!”ed when I am talking over the Twins game on the radio. A million times we are going to have to make decisions between doing something to ‘win’ or doing something for fun. There are many miles before us and whether we take them by bike or by foot, by car or by plane, by pogo stick or Segway… no, we are not going there via Segway… we have some journeying to do.

In fact, a post about real life might be the most true to Wedding Wednesday than anything else…

… but don’t worry, girl is totally coming back next week with how OMG delicious the cake tasting was and how I actioned the assembly, envelope stuffing, stamping and addressing of 122 invites in 36 hours.

14 Wedding Wednesdays to go!

*There actually isn’t any tulle or ribbon involved in the wedding, but the title “Underneath the Trombone Quartet and Recycled Glass” probably wouldn’t have made much sense.