The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the tag “Travel”

Run Wild Missoula Race Review, Part 2

I had asked Jen 527 times how we were going to get to the start line on marathon Sunday.  So patient, my friend Jen.

The Missoula Marathon starting line was somewhere outside of town, (for a moment I thought we were in Idaho, but whatever), and everyone was required to ride the provided buses from downtown Missoula to the starting line.  This was nice for those of us that were visiting from out-of-town because I would have never found this little place off the freeway on my own at 5:00am.  That’s right, I said 5:00am.  Due to the intense heat Missoula has been experiencing this summer, they moved the start time to 6am.  Smart move.

As I do every race, I had a plan. And I must admit that I giggle a bit calling what I do a “race” because I am only competing against myself, but you get the point. Plan A is a “stretch’.  Meaning if everything goes exactly perfect – legs feel great, no tummy trouble, weather is good, course is agreeable – I just may make Plan A.  Plan B is the more realistic goal. Looking at training, weather forecasts and all that, a finish time goal is named. And, Plan C. Plan C (for me, anyway) is always to finish upright, smiling, with no poop in my pants or vomit on my shirt.  Thankfully, I have always been able to do Plan C.

So, the starting line.  When we arrived the sun was just starting to peek over the mountains.  It was cool and dry outside. The morning was perfect, full of promise.  I joined the others at the start line. A man next to me was looking around.  He asked, “how long is this marathon, anyway?”, which got a chuckle from many of us. I looked for the pace group I was hoping to run with that morning, but did not see anyone with a 4:00 balloon.


We started off with canons and fireworks promptly at 6am. The fireworks were awesome.  They also woke up every part of my body.  I kept my race pace for a bit and gradually met up with the 4 hour pace group.  The pacer was tall, energetic and wearing a cowboy hat with his five fingers shoes. How I missed him at the start I simply have not a clue.  The course went through farmland and ranches.  Many cows and horses greeted our group of runners with curious looks.  Their owners were also out, lining the road with their coffee and lawn chairs.  It was nice to see so many people out at the early hour.  About kilometer 12.5 there was a scary looking house befitting Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird.  It was grey, broken windows and a big sign stating, “KEEP OUT”. Duh. I looked for a message in the knot of a nearby tree (just like Scout) but found nothing.  Continuing on…

We crossed the Bitterroot River and I sang John Denver songs to myself.  The one sung most often? Wild Montana Skies, of course. This became an earworm for the entire race.  I have the late John Denver to thank for staying with me along the course. (Oh, Montana, give this child a home… Give him the fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes, give him the Wildman for a brother and the Wild Montana Skies!)

Bragging time.. I killed the first half in 1:58. My legs felt great, my body was warmed up and I had a thought that I may just make Plan A of a sub-4 hour finish time. Then, just past the half way mark, the Hill. Or, as our ever sun-shiny pacer stated, “We are coming up on a little bump in the road. Mind your legs and stay hydrated!” It was about 500 yards long and got steep for a small part. The pay off was the view from the top.  There were ranchers on their horses that had come up to say “Good Morning” and green rolling hills all around us.  Though I felt good as I reached the top of the hill, still with the pace group, I knew the Hill had taken a lot of my energy. Thankfully, there was also a downhill.  It got steep at times as well.  Again, the pace leader let everyone know ahead of time the downhill was approaching.  He reminded everyone to keep their legs under them to avoid slipping and we carried on.

As we came up to the next aid station, I decided to walk through and take more nutrition and water. The pace group did not walk through. I thought as long as I kept the pacer in my sights that I still had a chance to finish at about 4 hours, but over the next 8 kilometers, I lost the group. I simply needed another walk break and could not maintain the pace of the first half of the marathon. No matter, as Plan B was to PB (personal best) at around a 4:10 finish time. Feeling good about my adjusted goal, my pace quickened a little. The next part of the course brought us into town.  The neighborhood was full of mature trees, stately homes and flowery roundabouts in many intersections. I took walk breaks when needed and carried on at a pretty steady pace.  People were outside lining the streets. Many had their lawn sprinklers turned into the street and due to the rising temperature, I ran through almost all of them, (thank you, people of Missoula).  The signs were a source of amusement as well. My favorite was worn by a man riding a bike alongside the course. He had music blaring from his backpack and his sign stated, “Psychotic Wife Support Crew”.

The thing about running in unfamiliar territory is that you’re not sure what to expect. Where is there another turn? how much further? any more hills? and, of course, where is the finish line anyway?  In this case, the finish line is on the Higgins Avenue Bridge in downtown.  Rumor had it the bridge will be lined with people and the air will be electric, (totally true). I saw a sign stating 4 MORE TURNS UNTIL THE BRIDGE.  So helpful.  I had something to count, something on which to keep my mind occupied other than my legs, which were starting to ache from my hips downward.

3 MORE TURNS. I start to wonder if JB and the kids went for a hike in the morning and if I will see them on the bridge.

2 MORE TURNS. Muscles in my legs are starting to get tight. I question, for the first time, why I am running this marathon anyway.

1 MORE TURN. I remind myself how much I love to run and that I want to be a good example for my kids. Also, almost done!

LAST TURN. The bridge! I could hear the festivities going on around the finish line area.  I wanted to be there SO BAD. And then, I turned on to the bridge. In my mind I was sprinting (totally not the case). The bridge was lined with people, all yelling, and I felt like a rock star. I heard Jen’s husband yell out to me. I smiled and waved. Then I looked to my right. There was my husband and kids, all cheering. JB took a few pictures. I raised my hands in the air.  A personal best on a glorious sunny, cool morning in Missoula.

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Montana, if only for 4 hours, 8 minutes and 53 seconds, had indeed given me a home. So grateful.


Run Wild Missoula Race Review, Part 1

Summer marathon weekend! Hooray!

My husband had mapped out hiking and other activities for him to do with the kids while we spent a long weekend in Montana.  We had plans with my running partner and her family for the weekend.  We packed the car and drove off.

The drive went well.  We stopped for some photo opps in Glacier National Park and continued to Missoula.

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Upon arriving at our home for the weekend, we settled in, ate dinner and took a walk around the neighborhood.  Missoula is a lovely city.  People were welcoming, polite, helpful.. all good things.  My husband mapped out a hike for the next morning.

When the sun rose the next morning, I was tempted to join JB for his morning hike but decided not to risk it.  Besides, Jen and family were arriving that day and I wanted to be sure that we had food for everyone.  Also, I had to check that we had not sprawled throughout the entire house, leaving no room for her family. JB had a great time on his hike and took the boys with him the next day.

Friday evening came and the grown-ups went out for the Missoula Beer Run.  I understand it is a bit of a tradition the weekend of the marathon.  Tour guides from the community welcome any runners to the Iron Horse Brew Pub.  We divided into groups by the distance we were planning to run and headed off, (after downing a delicious beer from Iron Horse).  Our tour guide was full of information about the city.  He told us stories about the parks, the university, restaurants and local folklore during our short run. Very nice (free) event put on by the running club in Missoula.

Missoula Hammock

Saturday was the usual prep for Jen and I.  We ate, rested, went over our race plans and such.  A good sleep and then..  Part 2.

Back on Track!

Or, the Art Classes that helped to get my training back on track and the vacation that threatens to ruin it…

I have noted previously that the kids and I have gotten into the habit of a bike/run. Each time has been a little more successful and I am really enjoying it. However, I have to begin training for the next race. It’s not a full marathon, but I need to start focusing my runs, (or at least some of them), so that I am ready to put into gear for 21.1k. Or, just keep up enough that I don’t injure myself when the hard-core stuff starts.

Last week I had an opportunity, as there was a free program put on by the city at our neighborhood park. All the kids could go and I was counting on them being there for at least a few hours so that I could get the usual glamorous errands, cleaning and laundry done and sneak in a couple of good runs. Problem was that it was hotter than Hades. The kids wilted after being outside for a while. There was also the problem that the games they were playing at this program were “lame” and “babyish” (their words, not mine). So last week was shot.

Enter this week. The kids are in an art class in the afternoons. Perfect! Running in the afternoon once again! The kids love the art classes, (huge win), and I enjoyed a run or two on my own. Thursday morning, however, the kids all looked at me and asked when we were going for a ride/run again. Also, could we do one after breakfast? I hate to say no to a productive activity, so after we were cleaned up from breakfast we headed out on our usual route. It was a beautiful morning, sun shining, nice breezes and not too hot. Truth be told, though, I was a dripping mess upon our return home so stepped in for a quick shower. My queue was Jaybird asking, rather dramatically, “what’s that smell?” when we got in the house. Turns out, it was me.

Anyway, this art class for the kids has been a godsend for me to get back into some regular training. Looming on the horizon, however, is our vacation to the Badger State, full of all its microbrews and crafted spirits and fried food and….

So, friends in the US, hear my plea. I am going to say things like, “I have to get a run in so need to stay hydrated” and “can’t stay out too late tonight, need to run in the morning” and post things like “anyone up for a run today?” Please be gentle. I will have only a few weeks to get ready for a half marathon upon returning home and keeping disciplined while on vacation may prove to be a huge challenge for me. Hell, staying focused during the summer is a challenge for me without a vacation thrown in the mix.

Thanks for your help. Now, who wants to meet for a beer? Or a run? Or both?

Roland Garros, Mom and Me

Due to the French Open championships this weekend, it seems timely to come to terms with something that has been on my mind for a while.  It happened years ago, February 2004, in fact, when I left JB with two children to go to Paris with my mom, her sister and friend.

We play tennis is my family.  While other girls may have had posters of Scott Baio or John Stamos in their rooms, (its was the 8os, no doubt), I had pictures of Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Gabriela Sabatini.  As a result, it only seemed natural to visit Roland Garros while in Paris.

Let’s back up..  as I noted in a previous post, (click <HERE> ), one of the most dangerous things my mother can say is, “I’ve been thinking…” because it usually means that we are getting on plane and going somewhere.  Okay, so maybe not dangerous, really, as I have benefited a few times from her, um, thoughts.. but you get the idea.  So she calls me in the winter of 2003-04 and says she found a super great deal to go to Paris for five days and wants to know if I will go with her.  Her sister and friend may be in as well.  I ask JB if he minds flying solo for a few days while I skip about Paris, eating crepes and drinking wine.  He agrees.  WOOT!

I had never been to France and did not (do not) speak French, so I bought some CDs to learn some basics of conversational French.  I listened and learned while commuting to work and felt like I could reasonably get along in Paris.  At least, I knew how to ask for directions, greet people and read a map.  A little nugget for all those traveling to France – learn some French.  Be polite.  It goes along way.

So anyway, about a week before we set off on out little adventure, Mid became sick.  Actually, alot sick with RSV.  Any parent knows of which I speak.  It’s a respiratory virus that you can’t treat with antibiotics.  Mid, then all of 7ish months old, sat and wheezed.  He had a fever.  I was nervous about leaving the country.  I took him to our (totally awesome) pediatrician.  He made the diagnosis and gave me the treatment plan.  I asked, feeling all sorts of mom-guilt, “I have a trip planned to Paris in a few days.  Should I still go?  Will he be OKay?”  SO MUCH GUILT.  Assured by the physician that Mid would be over this wheezing, feverish yuckiness within a week, I pressed on with the planning.

The day arrived for us to leave Chicago and head to Paris.  I felt guilty.  I had never left my children for this long and although I know that JB is perfectly capable of caring for our children on his own, I was afraid I would simply miss them too much.  My mom continually offered me an out.  I did not have to go, she understood, she is a mother, too.. all that.  We boarded the plane in Chicago.  I looked out the window.  The plane backed away from the jetway.  I started to cry.  “It’s too late,” Mom said, “we are on our way.  JB is going to be fine.  You planned for every minute of every day.  He is a good father.”  I nodded.

So, to Paris.  We had a blast.  We did almost the whole city in five days.  Notre Dame, River boat on the Seine, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Basilique du Sacre’-Coeur (highly recommend, feels like you are getting hugged by Jesus Himself), Moulin Rouge, Bastille, a bunch of other museums, a little art fair along the streets of Ernest Hemingway in Montparnasse..

And then Roland Garros, the site for the French Open tennis tournament.

“Do you think we can just walk on to the grounds?”

“Of course,” replied Mom.  The gate was open so we wandered in.  The site was much smaller than I had imagined.  I had goosebumps. I was standing on the very ground where tennis greats have walked, played, won championships.. it was almost too much.  We walked up to the entrance for Centre Court.  It was just.. open.  There was no gate, no lock, it was just open.  The court was not set up and you could tell they were doing some construction.  Nevertheless, we walked toward the entrance.

A delightful British woman came out of nowhere and greeted us.  Or, more likely that she came out of the offices located on the right, but I didn’t see the offices until later.  We were totally busted.  I mumbled to Mom that no way we were going to be able to walk on to Centre Court.  She mumbled back, “nobody is scared of a grey haired woman, just let me talk with her.”  This made me a little nervous, as I am pretty sure that she offered me up to a French Police Officer in order to get to the top of the Arc de Triomphe as it was closing just the day before, but I went with it.

A couple of minutes later we were standing the middle of Centre Court at Roland Garros.  Are you kidding me?  The net was not up and there was construction equipment stuff in the stands, but I did not care.  I stood with my eyes closed.  I imagined a crowd and Chris, Martina, Gabby and I playing doubles.  So cool.  The British woman returned and let us know that we would need to get back to the public areas.  As we left, I lifted my arms to the roaring crowd empty stands and smiled.

We returned to the United States tired and pleased with our trip.  I had a couple of bottles of wine with me a little Eiffel Tower I bought at the street art fair.  All was well on the home front as well.  Mid was over RSV without implications and Girl had barely noticed I was gone.  JB took a much-deserved nap.  I went through pictures with my daughter and showed her the stuff I had bought for her.  Someday I hope to take the kids to Paris and show them the Champs-Elysees and all that is the grandeur of Paris.  Especially Roland Garros.

So there.  My last post was about how I have lied to my kids to get them to eat healthier.  Today I tell you about the time I left the country when my baby boy was sick (and he will someday remind me, to be sure).  I am glad that is out in the open.

Guilt?  What guilt?

DogSledding, part 1

My daughter had a group trip to Banff for dog sledding and other fun activities.  Would I chaperone?  Are you kidding?  I jumped at the chance.  First, I had never been to Banff.  Second, we are in a new country, where we have not yet developed close relationships and therefore not comfortable sending my daughter on a camping trip to the mountains.  Not comfortable because, third, we are not camping people.  So, this is how the weekend went.

Friday – we head off in our car to the designated shelter.  The Girl turns on the radio to a station I usually do not listen to, (I am a public radio kind of woman).  In a few minutes, we are jamming out to Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” like nobody’s business.  The radio stations eventually go away and we switch to my iPod.  The jamming continues, only now we are singing along with the Wicked Soundtrack, (she’s Glinda, I’m Elphaba).

Saturday – early wake up for breakfast and getting ourselves ready for dog sledding.  I can’t speak for any of the girls in the group, but I am totally psyched.  The morning is clear, crisp, and with the right gear, toasty warm.  Perfect.  The Howling Dog Company ( comes to pick us up and we are off to the site for some fun.  Our team was Dixie, Wyatt, Hailey, Pine, Gabby, Clyde and Maggie.  Great dogs.  Upon our arrival, they are jumping around and barking, begging to harnessed up for the run.  Our musher showed the girls how to harness the dogs and then allowed them to do one of the dogs. The Girl got Gabby all harnessed up, but to be honest, I think that Gabby could have probably done it herself and then harnessed a couple of kids along with her.  These are clearly well cared for, smart animals.  Along with Phil, our musher, they took us along trails in the mountains to a lake where we shared hot cocoa and cookies.  Who doesn’t love hot cocoa and cookies?  The scenery is breathtaking.  The weather is perfect for some singing and dancing on the ice, (really? yes, really), before heading back to our vans.  When we return from the dogsledding, my daughter starts in, begging for a dog. 

The afternoon is spent wandering the streets, attempting to complete a scavenger hunt.  This was a lot of fun with the girls, especially for a first-timer in Banff.  We learned about the city, the sights within it, and all talked about what to do the next time we visit. Great job to the group leader that put together the hunt.  And huge kudos to all those throughout the city that assisted us with our quest.

Sunday – after a brief stop at one of the candy shops in Banff, we head for home.  The car ride home was a bit quieter than the car ride to Banff, most likely due to the fact that the Girl had been up late (WAY past her bedtime) both nights and was tired.  I am so excited about the entire experience that I am planning a trip in my mind for our entire family.

All in all, a well-organized outing with a terrific group of girls and parent helpers.  She will say that I am just sucking up, but the leader and her organizational skills are amazing.  Everyone was well-prepared, due to her instructions and when we had hiccups, (which always happen with a large group), she involved the girls on how to solve the problem.

Clyde says, "let's gooooo!"


I received tweet from Jim at letting me know that he had awarded me the Kreativ Blogger.  WOOT!  It totally made my day, because I was having trouble getting motivated to write a post for the week.  Then, BAM! an award, a mention, a subject!  Jim is a good fella.

In any case, “the rulez” in accepting this award are that I need to post 10 things about myself that you may not already know, and that I will tag 6 bloggers in the post.  I am working on the 10 things, (will most likely have to call my mom), and tag the bloggers I can think of, because I really only know of a couple.  If you have read this blog before now, you know I am rather new here.

1. Most of my followers are family or friends of my mom.  I am not sure what this says about me.  When we told folks we were moving they said to keep in touch, but I am too lazy busy to get with each of them individually and have too much to say for Facebook, so blogging seemed like a nice way to let folks know what we are up to. And, apparently my mom has alot of friends and talks alot.  In any case, I appreciate all of you!

2. When I was much younger, all I wanted out of life was two great danes and a BMW.  To go even further, I bet a good friend $50 that I would not be married until after the age of 40, because I did not want any husband to expect me to have children.  How did all that turn out?  I married one year after graduating college, have a great husband, three wonderful kids, drive a minivan (that is NOT a BMW) and the thought of cleaning up after a dog… well, let’s just say I don’t see any pets in our future.

3. I am a feminist.  Many women’s issues are big hot buttons for me and I have not yet decided if I will post about them here.  See #1.

4. I did not change my name when I married.  At the time, I was militantly against it and JB did not care either way.  After our second child was born I thought about it, but two things held me back.  First, JB questioned why after so many years I would do it, because who really gives a shit, its just a name, and, second, it costs, like, $150 or something if you don’t do it right away.  So, still thinking that it is a silly tradition and being cheap, I kept my original name.

5. I used to do volunteer work for Planned Parenthood.  Not alot, a few times I made phone calls to donors and once handed out condoms at a Bonnie Raitt concert.  We got to meet Bonnie Raitt afterward.  She was wicked cool.  Bruce Hornsby had opened for her that night and although I did not get to meet him backstage, I did meet his parents.  Nice people.

6. When I was a kid and the other girls were frothing over David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, John Stamos or whoever, I wanted to be Jane Pauley.  To me, she was IT.  Successful, smart, the whole package.

7. Perhaps not a surprise because of #6, two of my favorite movies are Working Girl (Sigourney Weaver and Melanie Griffith) and Baby Boom (Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard).  True, Melanie Griffith’s character takes down the bitch character that Sigourney Weaver plays, but I really like the bitch.  And I was seriously pissed when Melanie Griffith “did it” with Harrison Ford.  Cheapened the victory for me.

8. I tear up.  Alot.  Over all kinds of things.  Certain songs, when I finish a marathon, when reading posts about friends and family that are battling cancer, all kinds of stuff.  Remember that song “Bringing You Home” by Don Henley?  Its about the birth of his daughter.  It came out when I was pregnant with my daughter.  When painting the entryway to our house (at the time) it came on the radio and I bawled like a baby right in front of the open front door,  The neighbors must of thought I was nuts.

9. I started running a few years ago after seeing a poster for the Chicago Marathon.  At the time I was on the home stretch to finish my MBA and was seeking for “what to do next”.  JB and I were in Chicago to see Wicked, (highly recommend), I saw the poster, turned to him and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to run a marathon?”  He replied, “Sure”.  To be honest, I don’t think he thought I would actually do it.  Next thing we know I am training for my third marathon in as many years.

10. Back in the day, I played tennis with my dad.  Like almost every day.  My dad has only a couple of speeds.  We kid that if he is not moving he will fall asleep.  Actually, this is not only kidding, and I have the pictures to prove it. Another thing about Dad.  Not only did he play tennis with my brother and I whenever we wanted, he drove school bus for many of our sports activities.  I played alot of tennis back in the day and it was nice to have him courtside.

Whew!  Therapy session is over.. So the second part of “the rulez” is that I reveal the blogs that I like reading and provide links to each. (Right?)

For running – I like a few, but here are two –  and  For politics and family all rolled into one, I like  For family, I love, her humor and ability to turn everyday events into a cute/sensitive/meaningful story is always a good read.  For travel, I like  I regularly read many blogs, just cannot think of them on the spot.  There are so many good ones..  Of course, I also read religiously.

So thank you, Jim, for bestowing this award upon me.  I will work to live up to it.

World Traveling Grandma Strikes Again

Those of you that read this blog and also know my mother are aware that she is a traveller.  Not a tourist, but a traveller.  She takes everything in, enjoys every moment and finds humor in some really strange circumstances.  She reads about the places she is going so to be aware of customs and respectful of the people guiding her.  She will talk with about anyone about just about anything.

I had no idea she would consider the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die a checklist.  Nor did I think that watching “The Amazing Race” would give her ideas about places that she simply must visit.  She has been on all seven continents at least once and every time she embarks on a new adventure we hear the same story.  “After this, I am done travelling.  I have seen everything that I would like to see.”  Inevitably during her trip she makes a new friend and gets a new idea about somewhere else.  By the time she is on her way home, she is starting to plan her next adventure.

Case in point, she and I traveled to China a couple of years ago.  The plane ride from Chicago to Beijing was brutally long and she talked about how this was the last long plane ride she could do because she was “getting too old”.  We had a great week exploring Beijing and Xian and as we had our last breakfast in China, she informed me that I need to pack my kids and get them to Europe before her and my dad get too old to travel with us.  JB and I joke that whenever she starts a conversation with “I’ve been thinking…” or “Say, I have an idea….” someone is going to be boarding a plane, train or boat in the near future.

She has become quite adept at seeking out a place where she can check email and send me a message of her whereabouts and how things are going.  Even somewhere in Zimbabwe she was able to find an internet cafe and shoot me an email about Victoria Falls.  I love getting these emails, not because they are tales of exploits from faraway countries, but because they are so brief and to the point.  Most recently I received this email..

Good morning, We arrived in Ecuador last pm.  Everything is going well.  Mom

The past emails have been just as concise.

Hope all is well with you and family.  We made it to Ireland without any problems.  Driving a straight stick on the wrong side of the street can drive you CRAZY.  This is great.  The castles are fabulous.    Love Mom

We are headed out on the boat tomorrow to Antarctica.  Very windy, waves up to 30 feet high.  I’m scared.  Love Mom

and my personal favorite from Jamaica..

Had a nice lunch with a Vince Neal person.  He is a singer in a band called “the Crue” or something?  Have you heard of him?  He’s quite nice.  Love Mom

Here’s to my awesome mom.  She continues to teach me about testing my comfort levels, exploring new places and making new friends.

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