Sunday, August 30, 2015

Marathon Training Week 6: Don't Stop Believin'

I may have been guilty of singing along while on the run...just sayin'....
So after my epic struggle to get my runs done last week, I took Monday to regroup. I was off work, and I spent some time catching up on the blogs. After reading a few, I soon learned that I wasn't alone in my struggles last week. There were a lot of defeated runners. And some with answers. As it turns out, this is all part of the process:

Ashley at Running With Skissors wrote a post titled "The Battle Between I CAN'T and I CAN". She said it, I didn't, so no burpees were involved. Just some wisdom and a "doh" knock to the forehead for me. Hello, marathon training!

Laura at This Runner's Recipes wrote about Cumulative Fatigue. I had never heard of this before, but apparently bodybuilders use this concept all the time. As do devotees of the Hanson Training Method. And, apparently, my coach. Mile 20? Bring it on....

So, with all that in mind, how did week 6 go down?

Monday was a scheduled rest day. I decided to take another yoga class. Best.Idea.Ever. Before class, the instructor, Megan, talked a lot about staying in the present moment. She told us that a person has between 50,000 and 80,000 random thoughts per day, and that 80% of those thoughts are negative. This was an aha moment for me! I have been working hard on staying positive even when I'm struggling with a run. For this yoga class, I set an intention to stay present. Staying focused is not an easy process for me, particularly in a balance pose. We did a few of them today. She also did some great calf, achilles, and foot stretches. My heel was so much happier at the end of this class.

King dancer. Natarajasana. Quad stretch. Balance. Day 1 of #7daystretch #liveinprana
Tuesday: I had a 6 miler on the plan. At marathon pace. When I headed out, the temperature was a runner's dream...60 degrees. And I took full advantage of it on light legs. I'm participating in a yoga challenge this week, Prana's #7daystretch, and I felt so good that I stopped at mile 4 to do upward bow. Yep. It was one of those runs that made start to believe...

Upward facing bow. Day 2 of #7daystretch. The cement was really hard, btw.
Wednesday: I do yoga on Wednesdays, but I had to go into work early for a meeting, and so I couldn't make it to the studio for a class. No worries, since I did 3 yoga classes in the past week. I pulled out one of my favorite videos, SeaWheeze2014, and worked out all the kinks.

Trikonasana. Day 3 #7day yoga challenge. Inspired by that triangular shaped tree behind me. Cheesy, right?
Thursday: I had speedwork, 2 mile repeats x3, on the plan. I hadn't done these since last summer, and as always, I wasn't quite sure how to pace my first outing with this distance. I decided to shoot for an 8:10/mile pace and see what happened. I couldn't have been happier with the outcome. Again, the temperature was a favorable 60 degrees when I started, and my legs felt light. First 2 mile split was 16:01. It started to warm up, but I still felt great, and the other two splits were 16:08 and an astonishing 15:58 for the last. Clearly, I was thrilled. I so needed this to go well, and I couldn't have been happier. Oh and by the way...no heel pain. At all. That's a huge win! Oh, one more thing. I hit 800 miles for the year! That made me jump for joy! Really!


After that, I went to see Becky for CrossFit. She was all about the lunges today. Ouch. Two sets of 3 different lunges. First set was lunges carrying 20# kettlebells. Followed by GHD situps. Next set, I had my nemesis, that 50# so called "wreck bag" on my back. I never knew that the bag had a name until recently, but hey, if the shoe fits...anyways, Becky wanted me to "clean" the sack up to my shoulders, but I just couldn't do it. But I didn't tell her that I couldn't, for fear that she would make me do burpees! I was frustrated about my inability to clean the sack, but she told me that I could be creative, and I did get the sack up there, albeit awkwardly and very uncrossfit-like. I did lunges with the wreck bag on my shoulders. Followed by atomic situps. For my last 2 sets, I did lunges holding a plate overhead, followed by leg lifts. Holy hamstrings.

Me and the wreck bag. I was wrecked after this one.
At the end we did sidesteps and monster walks with the resistance band. Becky did them with me, which was kind of fun. She was thrilled about my speedwork, and once again reminded me:

Trust the Plan!

Friday: Rest day. I have to share that I was incredibly sore from Thursday's CrossFit session. As a matter of fact, the soreness progressed as that day went on. I'm lucky I have a job that keeps me on my feet because if I had to sit for any length of time, I would have gotten stuck in the chair. When I got home from work, I did foam rolling, which was nearly brought me to tears. It hurt like a mother... But I knew I had a 7 mile run on Saturday, and that wasn't going to happen if I didn't loosen up my muscles.

Saturday: I woke up to the sound of pouring rain, but I was committed to running my 7 mile virtual run. Becky had 5 miles on the plan, but I figured that 2 extra miles wasn't a big deal. I'll recap this run on Tuesday in a separate blog post, but I will share that I'm really glad I did that foam rolling the night before. I was still pretty sore, but managed to run it at marathon pace. My legs felt pretty good. But it never stopped raining, and I was soaked when I got home.

I was the only person at the pond today.
Sunday: Still sore, I was really happy to have a bike ride on the plan this week. Although it is done raining, the weather is still gloomy. The temp was about 68 degrees with 80% humidity. I rode out to the forest preserve for a 30 mile loop. Besides being sore, I also struggled a little bit with the humidity and decided not to push my pace. This was my "long run" and I would have done the same thing had I been running. There were a lot of runners on the bike paths this morning and I was a little annoyed by 2 groups that would not move over to let me pass until I repeated "on your left" quite forcefully (and somewhat rudely) multiple times. What the hell, people? I'm one of you... I wasn't feeling very zen-like, having to do that. But once I got past them and was able to open it up a bit, my mood lifted. I stopped to take my final #7daystretch pose, which was all about being zen.

I don't normally stop for yoga mudra in the middle of a ride, but there was plenty of inspiration along the path. 

So, as corny as it seems, I picked Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" as my theme song for the week. Because I really felt like maybe things are starting to fall into place. It was a great week of training. I hit all my paces and my legs felt good. I'm excited again!


How was your week? Are things starting to make sense? Sticking to the plan? Ever had muscle soreness that gets worse as the day goes on? Has your foam roller ever made you cry?

I'm linking this post with HoHoRuns and MissSippiPiddlin for their weekly wrap!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Runfessions for August


Once again it's time for runfessions, that monthly chance to 'fess up, to do your 'splainin...Marcia at Marcia's Healthy Slice hosts this link up where bloggers bare all. It feels good. And there's no penance. Try it, you'll like it!

Anyways, on with the runfessions!

******************************************************
This isn't too far from my skill level.
This mama can't dance. Or carioca. Becky has me warm up before CrossFit with a variety of exercises, including hamstring kicks, skips, side steps, and yes, carioca. Which I cannot do. She has shown me a few times and I just can't get it. I was talking about this to my youngest son, who apparently can carioca, since that move is used at football practice. He looked at me incredulously. "You can't do that?" he said. And I lost a lot of points on the cool mom scale. That was until I made those amazing peanut butter protein cookies last week. Those cookies put me back on the charts.

***************************************************************
Speaking of being a bad mom, I just got back from a mission to Target. School started this week, and I don't know how it is at the high schools your kids go to, but it isn't until the first or second day of school that the teachers at ours give a list of things they want the kids to purchase. So off I went to pick up binders and folders. I was stunned to find all the shelves bare. No folders. No binders except for these crazy Yoobi ones. I didn't think the boys would like them, and clearly no one else did because that is all that were left. Anyways, I found a few binders that will have to do. At least they were better than the Justin Bieber folders I bought last year. Hey, it's the price you pay for making mom pick out your school supplies, right? School supply shopping was fun when the boys were little, but you know what? I'm over it.


****************************************************************
I needed this guy.
Last week, I almost killed my blog. Seriously. I thought my blog was a goner after trying to add a "print" button to my HTML code. I put a recipe in a post, and wanted my readers to be able to print it easily. I've added code before without a problems, so I added the code for the print button, but the blog went crazy. It looked like a web page from the 1980s. I actually started to sweat. I tried not to panic. I tried not to cry. I sent a message to the Blogger help forum (and I've never heard back from them). I had no idea I was so attached to my blog. I didn't know what to do but I couldn't go to bed, leaving my blog looking so ghetto. So I went back to square one, reformatting the whole thing. I started from scratch with the layout. As I played with the layout, I was happy to see that all my posts were saved. All my badges were there. I continued to dig, and I found my Chicago Marathon background. I fixed my blog. All by myself. It looks a little different, but it was time for a cleanup anyways. Holy you know what! I'll probably continue to tweak things but for now, I'm breathing a sigh of relief that everything is still there. But it will be a while before I insert any code into the HTML.

*******************************************************

Last year, I wrote a post about running etiquette, which included sharing the running path. Last week, while I was doing speed work, there was an asshole walker who felt the need to "toe the line". Mr. Path Hog walked right down the center of the path on the dividing line and would not move. On my first pass, I was forced into oncoming bike traffic in order to avoid him. On my second pass, I pulled out my secret passive aggressive weapon. Since I run with my hands open, it isn't hard to access the business fingers. Which I did. I don't know if he noticed but it made me feel better. After I passed him, I realized that he was the same dude who did this to me last year. Guess he feels like he owns the path. You know, taxpayer and all. Don't even get me started on Speed Racer. Old dude rides his bike like the path is his own personal Bikebahn? Cyclebahn? Or according to Google translate, Fahrrad Autobahn. The posted speed limit is 8 mph, but you can tell he's riding his own Tour de Lake Arlington. All while chewing gum. Cooler than cool. No helmet, of course. For sure his hard head would protect his pea sized brain. But I bet he wears a cup. Safety first! And he hugs the middle line too. Can't we all just get along?

******************************************************

I'm going to finally confess admit that yes, I have an injury. Denial is a powerful force. I've been ignoring it, and now it's speaking quite loudly to me. My old friend, plantar fasciitis, is back. When the heel pain first started, a few weeks ago, I pulled out my PF sleeve, and began doing all the work to try to keep it at bay. But after Saturday's long run, I can no longer keep it a secret. As I like to joke, all the cool kids have PF these days. But it's no joke. It hurts. The funny thing is, once I get running and it gets warmed up, it doesn't bother me. Which apparently is a good thing. I'm going to continue to do what I've been doing, and hope that I can get through the next 6 weeks of marathon training. If you have any magical powers, please direct them to my left heel.

Got any runfessions to share? How was back to school shopping for you? Any problems sharing the running path?


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ambitious


Who me? 

Ambitious?

Driven?

Determined?

Energetic?

Bossy?

I've been called all of these things. My motto is go hard or go home. It's how I live my life. I never take no for an answer. It's all part of the Type A++ personality that I've been gifted with. For better or for worse, I've learned to live with it. I never do anything half assed. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. Right?

It's not always easy being such a perfectionist. When I fall, I fall hard. I tend to sabotage my best intentions. Sometimes I overreach. Sometimes I'm not realistic about my expectations--for myself, and sometimes for others.


I tend to get disappointed when people around me don't work as hard as I do. One of the medical assistants I work with just does the bare minimum that is expected of him. If you want him to do anything extra, you have to ask him. There's no initiative. That's hard for me to understand. I've been told that I have to "let it go" when it comes to my expectations for this guy.

But as hard as I can be on other people, I'm ten times harder on myself. Look at that long run I did on Saturday. I stopped several times--the portapotty, the side stitch, the iPhone glitch. And yet I finished with a respectable average pace time. Sure, I would have loved to run the whole thing without stopping. But really? Bottom line...it was a good run.


The struggle is real. I went back and read last year's blog post for week 5 of marathon training and got a reality check. I'm doing better this year than I was last year. A few bad runs does not ruin a marathon.

I need to get a grip on my ambition for this race. I know what I can do. It's time for me to step back and let all the training do what it is supposed to do. Yeah, I'm ambitious. I'm determined. But I'm not going to ruin this for myself. It's time to accept where I'm at. Trust the plan. It's a good one.

And what happens if I don't meet my goal? Oh, sure, I'll be disappointed. But it will still be a good run. I'll remind myself that I gave my all.  Because more important than hitting the goal is the knowledge that I tried my best.

Do you set high goals for yourself? And what happens when you don't meet your goals?

I'm really glad for these Wednesday Word prompts. Although Deb doesn't pick them specifically for me, the words always seem to fit what I'm thinking. Don't forget to check out her post and see what the other bloggers are saying!




Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bulu box review and an awesome recipe! #LoveBulu


How fun and motivating is the box? All my favorite mantras--well, at least some of them, right there. I couldn't wait to open it up!
I was pretty excited to receive a Bulu box to review. It seems like everyone is talking boxes these days...snack boxes, fitness boxes, clothing boxes...I was happy to be included in this fun trend! Bulu box is a monthly subscription box that comes with 4-5 samples of health related products chosen specifically for you. If you like the products, you can order the full sized items on the Bulu box website. Bulu works all the top brands to bring subscribers top products!

Disclaimer: I received my Bulu Box free in exchange for my review. All opinions are, of course, my own!


The enclosed card described all the products to me. There were 2 packs of Quest protein powder in peanut butter flavor, Yerba Prima Daily Fiber Formula, Movit Energy Gummies, and Earth's Care Anti-Itch Cream. See that empty space in the box above? The card also listed a Mediterra Bar, but there was none in the box. Ruh roh. I was a little disappointed about the missing bar, because I do love my nutrition bars. I like to snack on them at work when I feel my energy dipping in the middle of a busy clinic day.

Anyhoo, I was really excited to try the Quest Protein Powder. I've seen a lot of bloggers posting recipes about Quest bars and powder. When I saw that I had the peanut butter flavor, I combed the internet for recipes. I had my heart set on peanut butter cookies. Overall, I couldn't find a lot of recipes using the peanut butter protein powder, so I decided to do some research on baking with protein powder and develop my own recipe. I'm not a food blogger but I do like to cook--something you might not have known about me--and I have boys who like to eat. I learned that in a higher fat recipe, such as peanut butter cookies, you can completely substitute the protein powder for flour. And that's what I did. I threw in some chocolate chips because, well, chocolate.

Here are the results:


My youngest son gave me the thumbs up. Even my oldest son, Mr. Cynical, told me they were "really good". He wouldn't pose for a picture, though. Still, I puffed out my chest a little bit.
You can find the recipe for the cookies at the bottom of this post.

What else was in the Bulu Box?

I have to admit that I was a little hesitant to try the Yerba Prima fiber powder. I have IBS, or as I like to call it, "I'll Be Stopping", and my GI tract has not been behaving well during this marathon training cycle. Not sure if I wanted to throw something new in there, I went to the manufacturer's website to learn more. The product contains soluble and insoluble fiber, and is completely vegan. The main ingredient is psyllium. Reviews on multiple websites were overwhelmingly positive. Since most reviewers commented on the "rapid effectiveness" of this product, I put this one aside for another time when I don't have to worry about stopping on the run. As if my GI tract needs any more encouragement to move it, move it. And speaking of moving it....

These Movit Energy Gummies are the happiest gummies I've ever seen!
Movit Energy Gummies are purported to combat fatigue and help athletes move at the optimum level. The gummies contain less sugar than conventional energy chews. They also contain caffeine, taurine, CoQ-10, and B vitamins which are thought to enhance athletic performance. For me, I thought they were the tastiest chews I've ever had. They were also the cutest--the smiley face is sure to turn a frown upside down! The size was perfect--I was able to chew them one at a time, very quickly. And my dental work stayed intact while I tested them. Which is a plus, because who wants to pull off a crown during a race?

Earth's Care Anti-itch cream could not have come at a better time. The mosquitos have been just terrible this summer. I imagine that you could also use the cream for other itchy conditions, as well as for skin irritations like sunburn and HELLO! chafing. The main ingredient is camphor, which is an external analgesic. Meaning it numbs the pain. I don't know about you, but there is something comforting about that smell. And the camphor feels cool on the skin, which is very soothing.

Overall, I thought the Bulu box was fun. I like the idea of trying samples of a product before you commit to buying. I really hate being stuck with a product that was hyped and I didn't like it. For sure, I'd buy the Quest protein powder! It was fun baking with it, and I love the idea of high protein cookies.

So what do you think of the Bulu box? Would you want to try it? If you do, there's a special discount code! Use the words SWEATPINK to get a discount of 50% for a 3 month subscription! Go to BuluBox to check it out!

🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪
And here's the recipe. You could probably substitute any protein powder for the peanut butter flavor. But boy, were these cookies good! I'm going to apologize in advance that I don't have the recipe in printable format, but I crashed the blog trying to do that...I'll keep working on it, but in the meantime, feel free to cut and paste! You won't be sorry...

Better than Your Mom's Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 scoops Quest Peanut Butter Protein powder
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • sugar for rolling the cookies
Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Beat all the ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips. The mixture should be somewhat crumbly, but should stick together.
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Form the dough into 1-2" balls depending on preference.
  5. Roll the dough balls in the sugar to coat. Place on the cookie sheets.\ about 1/2" apart.
  6. Press the cookies down with a fork in a criss cross pattern.
  7. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned.
  8. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes
  9. Enjoy!
Have you ever tried BuluBox? Any other boxes? What kind of items would you want to receive via box?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Marathon Training week 5: 99 problems


So after all was said and done, after that bad long run last Sunday, I decided to stick to my training plan. I got up early Monday morning to run 6 miles at marathon pace. Miles 1-4 were good. I started to struggle with the humidity about mile 5, but I pushed myself hard. And mile 6 was my fastest mile of them all. I needed this run and I'm glad I did it. I don't think I could have run 12 at this pace in those conditions, but I was glad to battle through this one. Average pace was 8:43min/mile.



Tuesday was CrossFit/MetCon with Becky. She gave me a little lecture on sticking to the plan, and that Monday's run was important for me to do after the long run. She also talked to me about not letting a bad run get in my head. As far as mental toughness goes, she told me that yes, mental toughness comes from pushing through a bad run but also pushing past a bad run, letting it go, and moving forward to the next workout. She reminded me of the importance of recognizing when I've had enough. That was the boost I needed.


For this workout, I first did 3 minute intervals of jumping rope, lunge steps with an overhead plate, and push-ups. The remainder of the 3 minutes was on the rower. After I completed the interval, I got a 3 minute rest period. I needed to improve my calorie burn on the rower each time. Which I did. Then she had me row for 500 meters.

Wednesday was yoga. The theme for the class was shakti. Anyone who does yoga has heard of shakti, which is sanskrit for power. More specifically, shakti is the female embodiment of power. Shakti is the power behind the power. The Yin to the Yang. The female to the male, Shiva. Shiva is energy, Shakti is power. Without power, energy is nothing. So everything we did was the power behind the pose. I'm way in over my head here. We did a lot of deep stretches. And it was awesome.


Thursday was my usual double workout of speed work and CrossFit. I woke up with a migraine and nausea, which was not good. I had a couple cups of coffee, and the headache wasn't going away. I decided to tough it out anyways. The temperature and humidity had dropped, and it was 60 degrees when I got to the retention pond. It was also very windy. I knew that half of my trips around the pond would be with the wind at my back, and I decided to make the most of that. But my splits were actually pretty even! I was happy and surprised at how well I did. The running took my mind off the pain in my head, but when I stopped, there it was. When I got home, I took my ibuprofen and zofran, and hoped to get the headache down to a dull roar before CrossFit. Plus I was having lunch with Marcia, and I needed to feel better!


At CrossFit, Becky first had me pick up two 35# kettlebells, and instructed me to carry them around the block. The goal was to keep my shoulders up and engage my core. It was much harder than it sounds, and I had a sensation of sinking down while I walked. I'm pretty sure my arms are a few inches longer now. I had to set the kettlebells down 3 times to catch my breath and shake out my arms. After that, I did box steps with a bar, followed by hamstring curls on the ball. And then came the fun part.

We went back outside. First I had to throw a shot put forward followed by the backwards toss of a slam ball. Then Becky strapped a parachute to me and had me sprint across the lawn. I did this 3 times. I repeated the cycle. After the final parachute sprints, she had me sprint all out x 3. I was amazed at how much faster I ran without the parachute. This workout put a huge smile on my face! And how many people can say that about their marathon training?

Do my arms look longer than usual?



Friday: I had the day off, and I could have gone kayaking with my friends for Kayak Friday again! But I promised my son I'd take him for his driver's license. First, I went for a yoga class. I love Megan's class--this one is more gentle and less athletic than my Wednesday class, which is just what I needed after yesterday's speedwork and CrossFit. Megan talked about how we have thoughts flitting around, like birds, and we need to try to prevent them from nesting in our heads. That was some good imagery. I felt great after class, and I collected Matthew to go for his license.


When we got to the DMV, the place was packed. We checked in at the front desk and were told it would be a "2-3 hour wait". I was feeling pretty zen from yoga, and I didn't want to disappoint my son, so we sat down. Isn't the DMV the most inefficient place you've ever been? Besides the post office? After an hour, when our number was called, I joked to the employee that I felt like I won the lottery. She just glared at me. "Didn't they tell you it would be a 3 hour wait?" She then proceeded to dress me down because I didn't go to the facility closer to our house. Apparently it was all my fault that her facility was so crowded. Then she unloaded on my son because we came 5 days before he was eligible for his license. 5 f-ing days. Some supervisor came over and told my son that "he should have known better". I believe he said "it's the law" when I asked why they couldn't just let him proceed. 5 f-ing days. Bottom line, we left without a license. My son, who usually lets things go, was really upset about the way we were treated.

The birds were swarming. Trying to nest in my head. Ignore! Ignore!
Saturday: I asked Becky if I could do my long run on Saturday instead of Sunday. The weather forecast was much more favorable on Saturday plus I really wanted needed to have this run done. While my legs felt much better this week than last week, this run was complicated by a portapotty stop at mile 4, an iPhone malfunction at mile 9, and a side stitch at mile 11. The side stitch really threatened to derail me, but I knew I had to power through this run. I stopped once or twice to relieve some of the pain, but when I ran, I really concentrated on the breath and exhaled on the side that didn't hurt. Thankfully, the side stitch only lasted for that mile and finally went away. I was really empowered by that. I so needed this run to go well, and in spite of the glitches, I was pleased. No birds nesting in my head this week. 14 miles in 2:07:27, average pace 9:07. I'll take it.


Sunday: I headed out to do the 5 miles on my plan. Immediately, and I mean with that first step, my side stitch came back. Are you even kidding me? What is that all about? So right away, I worked on breathing it out. It would not go away. Couple that with my heel pain, and it took everything I had not to stop right then and there. I made it to 2 miles, and called it quits. I walked home, really unhappy.


And then, out of the blue, I got a text from one of my friends. She and another friend were going for a walk, and would I like to join them? I haven't seen either of them for a while, and I joined them. Walking and talking with them was the best medicine for my wounded psyche. Sometimes things are meant to be. There is nothing better than time with friends.

So in spite of my "99 problems", it was a strong week of training. I looked back and read the post I wrote one year ago. It was really helpful to do that. In spite of my long run challenges, my speed work is faster this year, and Becky's pushing me harder on my interval training. I need to ease up on myself. Last year, my expectations were much lower. I'm really glad I have last year's posts to refer to. I also wanted to share this graph which was sent to me by one of my running friends this morning.

You know where I'm at right now. There's no where to go but up! And that's my mantra heading into week 6.


Finally, this song by Jay-Z put a smile on my face during the long run. Because yep, I got 99 problems! Don't we all?

How was your week of training? Anything threatening to derail you? Have any good DMV stories to share?

I'm linking up with Holly at HoHoRuns and Tricia at MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap! Be sure to see how every else's week went!


Friday, August 21, 2015

A three hour tour


Last Friday was a running rest day. It was also an impromptu day off from work, due to a conference I attended the Saturday before. My high school friends kayak on Fridays, and I decided to join them. Kayaking is cross training, right? But I wouldn't be using my legs, so Becky would approve, right?

Elaine is the organizer, and she texted me the night before: 


Silly me. I was so excited, I didn't check the map, or I might have been a little more hesitant. We were starting a little bit north of the dam, so it probably was a 5 mile total distance. One way. In a kayak.


I headed out to the river town where I grew up. When I met up with Elaine, she greeted me with a hug and "I'm SO excited!". She had invited a friend of hers to join us. We all headed to Cynthia's house on the river and launched our kayaks. We were off. Our adventure was to begin. 

At the launch
We began to paddle south, towards the dam. We got to the locks, and pulled along the side while we waited for our turn to enter. The purpose of the locks is to get boats below the dam. We probably could have portaged our kayaks, but what fun would that be? After about 20 minutes of waiting and chitchatting, the gates opened and we paddled into the locks.

Elaine hanging onto the rope
The sheriff behind me in the locks. Glad I got my kayak stickers!
The water level dropped down to the river below the dam and the gates opened.


We paddled out of the locks and headed downriver. Above the dam, the river is wide and lined with seawalls. The river is much more narrow below the dam, and more natural. It is fairly rural. We began to hum "Dueling Banjos." One of the women, Cheri, had never seen the movie Deliverance. We began quoting lines from the movie: 
"He's got a real pretty mouth, ain't he...?"
and
"Squeal like a pig. Weeeeeee!"
Ugh. What a scary movie. Four guys on a man's weekend in rural Georgia? What could go wrong? Fortunately for us, it is pretty civilized along the Fox River....
 
We didn't go off the river into the woods. Well, one of us did...twice...but I'm not naming names. She came back out without having to squeal like a pig. Or any other animal. Thankfully.


After about an hour and a half of paddling, I did the kid thing. I asked, "how much farther?". Elaine had promised us it would be a 3 hour tour. I checked Google maps, and it looked like we had a while to go. I didn't want to be a party pooper, but I was getting hungry. I drank the protein shake I packed in my cooler. The others pulled out beer and margaritas. I'm so much fun.

We paddled on. 

We talked. We laughed. We shared. We bonded. Time passed without even thinking about it.

Another hour later, around the bend....was The Broken Oar. What a fun place! Sitting right along the river, there were umbrella tables and a large patio. We beached our kayaks and ordered food and drinks. I was famished. A couple of beers for me, and umbrella drinks for the others, and we completely relaxed. 

Fueled up and ready to head back!
The sun was fully out now, and it was hot! We made a plan to stop at another bar we had passed on our way down. Wouldn't it be fun to have a pub crawl via kayak? There's certainly no shortage of places to refuel along the river!

We amused ourselves with sightseeing. A covered wagon in the yard? Why not? It went well with the lighthouse on the other side of the boat. Cynthia called it "Americana".  We passed some beautiful homes and some not so beautiful homes.



Even though we were paddling upstream, there was no wind, and we enjoyed a nice leisurely pace. Soon we came upon another bar, and using the excuse of a potty stop, pulled in. The tiki bar was lined with "older men". Entertaining, until we discovered that we were older than most of them. Reality check. Time for the old ladies to head home.

I think we look the same as we did in high school!
We reached the dam. I wanted to get a picture for this post. Actually, my friends were very happy to indulge my need to take lots of pictures of our adventure. For which I am grateful. 

As a child, I always thought the dam was so big! And I had even been to Niagara Falls! Isn't it funny how your perspective changes once you become an adult? Well, this is no Niagara Falls, as you can see. We probably could have skipped the locks and just whitewatered it right over the dam. A few more cocktails and that might have happened.



It was surprisingly shallow below the dam, and our kayaks kept getting stuck on sandbars. Once everyone dislodged themselves from the muck, we headed back to the locks. Luckily, the gates were just opening as we paddled up. Compared to when we went through in the morning, the boaters were much more lively. One group was going to dinner, and it seemed to me that maybe they had had a head start on their evening. I had plenty of time to consider this since this time, we were in the locks longer because the water took longer to rise than to drop. It started to get hot and steamy, and I was hanging on to a very slimy rope. Note to self: bring gloves next time. After what seemed like an eternity--maybe 15 minutes--the gates opened and we paddled back to Cynthia's dock. Our 3 hour tour was actually a 6 hour tour. 

As the sky began to darken with an approaching storm, we were just awestruck about what we had done and how much fun was had. We were all exhausted and in need of a shower (what was that brown stuff on my feet?). Before departing for home, we stopped to reflect on what an amazing adventure we had, paddling down the Fox River. After growing up in this small town, this river is part of who we are. For me, spending time with the women who probably know me better than just about anyone was the best way to spend a day. The kayaking was the icing on the cake. All of us have memories here. Some memories we share, some we shared with each other. And we made some more pretty good memories out there on our 3 hour tour. 

I can't wait to do it again.