"Mother Road Run" Race Report 
Thursday, June 10, 2010, 08:03 AM
Posted by Administrator
When I realized that our cross-country trek would fall over Memorial Day weekend, I decided to hunt for some races. It would be a great way to squeeze in some exercise while on the road and it's always fun to experience racing in a new place. What I found was the "Mother Road Run" Route 66 5K in Springfield, Missouri.

We pulled into Springfield the evening before and had enough time before bed to taste a local favorite, frozen custard. The best part was the free sample cones for the dogs. Rex and Molly wolfed theirs down while Mielo politely licked his.

We gathered the next morning with 124 other racers for the 8am start. It was a pretty casual group and I was surprised to find that they had chip timing for an event this small. However, they didn't capture your chip time at the start, rather only at the finish.

While the course was flat, it lacked much personality. It wound through some generic-looking neighborhoods and there was absolutely no indication that we were in "the birthplace of Route 66" as touted on the race literature. I was looking forward to diners, old-time motels and other Mother Road kitsch, but it really could have passed for any American neighborhood.

After about 3/4 of a mile, I got behind two women who were keeping a good pace and decided to try to stick with them. It wasn't long before one dropped back and I was running shoulder-to-shoulder with the other one. We ran silently, side-by-side, until she pulled slightly ahead at the 2-mile marker. I tucked in behind her and just focused on her back.

I started this race without a good idea of how I'd do, especially after spending most of the past three days sitting in a car. My PR to date was 28:39 and, after running the first two miles at just under a 9-minute pace, I realized that I could beat it if I kept pushing it. My legs felt great, but my breathing was ragged.

When I caught sight of the building at which we started, I knew we were close to the finish and so I took advantage of a very slight downhill to pick it up and pass my running mate. However, and I hate when this happens, the course took an unexpected turn. Hoping to see the finish line, I saw the 3-mile marker up ahead instead. One-tenth of a mile is not much, except when it's at the end of a race, you're trying to PR and you started your finishing sprint a little too early.

My running mate passed me for the final time, but I was thrilled to see that the time on the clock started with "27." I pushed as hard as I could to make sure it didn't change to "28" before I crossed the line and I made it with 4 seconds to spare. There's no triumphant finish line photo as Paul hadn't been expecting me for another minute or two. I love it when I can surprise him like that!

I grabbed some water and a bagel and then discovered two differences between desert and non-desert races:

1. Grass. I plopped myself down on a thick, soft carpet of green grass. In Tucson, you typically rest your tired body on a curb, rock or, if you're lucky, some hard, crunchy, brownish grass.

2. Sweat. I'm accustomed to a little sweat and lots of caked salt. At this race, I sweated buckets out of every pore on my body. I made a mental note to wear a cap for future runs as the sweat had washed the sunscreen I had put on my forehead into my eyes.

I placed 5th out of 15 in my age group, which is an unusually high ranking for me. We hung around for the awards ceremony as Paul had placed third in his age group (and 15th overall) with a time of 20:28.

As the runners gathered, the race director explained that he had forgotten to pick up the plaques for the award winners, and so each winner should just take a bow when their name was called. He assured us that the awards are very cool Route 66 plaques and that they'd be happy to mail them to the out-of-towners.

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Friday, May 21, 2010, 01:11 PM
Posted by Administrator
Apparently, I was a little blogged out after 31 days of blogging during the west coast adventure. But I'm back! So, what have I been up to the past month?

1. Packing, packing, packing. However, with time on our side, we've been able to do little bit each day and still enjoy this much-appreciated sabbatical.

2. Cleaning house.Our load was significantly lightened after a yard sale, a trip to Bookman's, a few visits to Goodwill and some Craig's List and Facebook postings.

We also attacked the outside of the house which resulted in a very full roll-off dumpster and Paul and I taking turns pulling cactus needles out of each other.

3. Exercise! With the summer heat upon us, we've still be getting up early most days for a run or bike ride. And, since I'm not going into an office these days, I've had time to hit the gym later in the day for some strength training or my new favorite thing - yoga!

What's next? Well, I'm currently waiting for a moving trailer to be dropped off in our yard, at which point, we'll start filling it up. Like the packing of boxes, this can be a leisurely endeavor as they won't pick it up until Tuesday.

Then, next Wednesday, we'll hit the road for 6 days of books-on-tape, doggie pit stops and Motel 6's - because dogs stay free! Oh yes, in the midst of all of this, Paul and I will continue looking for jobs.

I'll try to blog as we make our way across the country. It's sure to be another great adventure for the Vyriotes family!

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 31 
Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 10:09 PM
Posted by Administrator
We had two items to check off our list before leaving Phoenix:

1. Stop by REI to return the “waterproof” gloves I bought at the Bend REI. Those things didn’t even stay dry for one hour of snow shoveling in Mt. Shasta!

2. Enjoy lunch at Picazzo’s!

We cruised down I-10 and were thrilled to pull into our driveway. Click here for the wonderful greeting we received.

In a nutshell, this trip was AMAZING! Not wanting to take a single day for granted, I often reminded myself that this was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that holds a spot on many people’s bucket lists. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to enjoy the journey at this point in my life and with an incredible partner.

Thanks for sharing in the journey with us!

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West Coast Road Trip – Days 29 and 30 
Monday, April 12, 2010, 09:22 PM
Posted by Administrator
I started the day with a short run followed by a hot springs soak. Doesn’t get much better than that.

After packing up and hitting the road, our first stop of the day was the China Ranch Date Farm whose dates are sold at the Sunday farmers' market at St. Philips Plaza. I absolutely LOVE them and so was excited to see that the farm was on our route. I was doubly excited when we got there and found that they sell the dates for half the price that I usually get them. We bought 6 pounds for later and a date shake for right then. Mmmm…

Our next destination was the Mojave Desert National Preserve, but we made a pit stop in Baker, CA for lunch at the Mad Greek. You’ve gotta love a Greek restaurant that sells both gyros and horchata amidst lots of tacky, naked statues. Paul was quite proud.

Baker is also home to the world’s tallest thermometer. Sadly, we didn’t have more time to spend in this cultural mecca.

We cruised through the Mojave Desert National Preserve fairly quickly and continued on to the north entrance of Joshua Tree National Park where we caught the sunset and then set up camp at Ryan Campground.

We thought we’d be soaking up the desert warmth by this point in our trip…but, no. A storm was passing through and, while we curled into little balls in our tent, temperatures dropped into the upper 20’s. Here is out frost-covered car the next morning.

We drove up to Keys View for some early morning photography and then warmed up with a 7-mile hike on the Lost Horse Mine trail.

While hiking, we saw a number of these cocoons filled with crawling caterpillars. Fascinating, yet gross.

From there, we drove to the southern end of the park and did the same hike that we did the very first day of our trip. How's that for coming full circle? This time, we were treated to lots of wildflowers!

We had told our house-sitter that we would return the following day, but, driving out of Joshua Tree, we realized that we could actually make it home by mid-evening if we just kept driving. We were dying to see the furkids, but, not wanting to spring our arrival on him with just a few hours notice, we opted to spend our final evening in Phoenix.

While this felt a little silly, we attended an injury prevention talk at a Phoenix running store and actually both got a lot out of it.

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 28 
Sunday, April 11, 2010, 05:03 PM
Posted by Administrator
Seeing that there was some nice color over the mountains when we opened our eyes around 6:00am, we hopped out of the tent and headed for Zabriskie Point. Unfortunately, it was overcast and so we missed out on the spectacular morning colors for which this lookout is famous. But, Paul still got some great shots.

From here, we took a drive through Twenty Mule Team Canyon and stopped to hike up some of the hills. The colors are so different than what I'm used to seeing that some of the photos actually look like paintings to me.

Next up was a drive up to Dante’s View, supposedly the most scenic viewpoint in Death Valley. It did not disappoint. We could see Badwater one mile below us, as well as mountain peaks one mile above us.

(Note that that is not water in the photo - it is salt.)

As everything we wanted to see was on the way out of the park, we packed up camp, hit the visitor center, grabbed some lunch at Furnace Creek and then began making our way south.

Our first stop was for a hike in Golden Canyon where I decided that school truly is wasted on the young. Geology had never interested me and yet I found it fascinating how the levels of rocks and sediment clearly told a story.

(Again, that's not a beach in the background - it's a salt pan.)

We drove through Artist Drive which has some of the most colorful rocks in Death Valley.

And we stopped at Devil’s Golf Course which was bizarre and fascinating. This is all salt that was left behind from evaporated water and has now crystallized.

Our final stop might have been the most anticipated of this portion of the trip, Badwater.

Sitting at 282 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point on the continent. We walked out on the large salt pan and marveled at all of the salt!

On the way out of Death Valley, we were treated to some wildflowers. It's amazing that such beautiful things can grow in this climate

That night, we stayed at Delight’s Hot Springs Resort in the tiny town of Tecopa. Lest you thing we're getting all fancy on you, I should explain that by “resort” they mean RV and mobile home park.

As tent camping was not permitted, we settled on a motel room and thoroughly enjoyed a hot spring soak before bed.

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