Monthly Archives: June 2013

Race Medal Personalization—Beyond the Norm…

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Back when I was in high school and had a letter jacket, my parents always took my medals to Alberti’s in West Allis, Wisconsin, to get sewn on. If you know anything about West Allis, Alberti’s is just what you would expect—-a local trophy and award shop that is always kind of in disarray, doesn’t have a website, but has been opened for years and operates efficiently, with great prices and excellent service. When I started running road races in university, I wanted my medals to be engraved with my finishing time. Alberti’s did that too!

Below is an image (best I could take) of a mess of my early medals with the times engraved. Alberti’s charges about $3 or less per medal. They are very clear and aligned!

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This was fine for my first 7 medals. These were all races I ran back home while in the Midwest. Thing is, I moved to Alberta in late 2008 and still continued doing races. As I completed these races I would take a piece of masking tape, stick it to the back, and put the time on it. I had been in Alberta for about three years when I decided to try and find my own Alberti’s here in Lethbridge. I did some research, found a trophy store, and headed over. They seemed so confused on why I wanted them to do this, and did not even have a standard price to give me! I know the amount they quoted per medal was around $8 each, and many depended on the surface they would engrave on. The thing that threw them the curveball was this beauty below:

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Only in Calgary would the full marathon medal be a belt buckle. It always is. And it’s awesomely ridiculous. Anyway, this shop that won’t be named said their machine could not do the curve of the buckle. I left beaten and unsure what to do. Will my medals ever be engraved?

Fast forward to the next time my mom visited. Well, lets say her suitcase was a bit heavier on her way back to Wisconsin, as she was taking the medals back with her. A few months later during my next trip home, there were my medals, all engraved. Even the belt buckle! (I know it’s very hard to see in the picture with the glare, but below the date is my god-awful time from that race. Mountain elevation caused major upsets in my stomach that day!)

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Now, I have my collection of medals I have been getting so far this year. As I am typing this today, I message my mom for the Alberti price information….she warily answered, and then asked “are you telling me I have to bring more medals home in July?” (She is coming out to visit on Saturday for a month). No, I won’t do that to her this trip…I am just going to wait until I go home next and bring home quite the box myself!

What have I decided to do while I wait for all my medals to be engraved? My future step is to have a display built in the guest bedroom for the medals to hang nicely—-many online shops make these, and so do sellers on Etsy. I am opting to have my husband build me one with reclaimed lumber. There will be pictures when that is done, but probably won’t be until landscape season is over, as that’s when he will have time to make it to my specifications! Until then, I decided to start embroidering my times on the ribbons of the medals. Sure, my earliest medals already are engraved, but by embroidering the time in you can visibly see it as it hangs. And since I haven’t been able to run since my Septoplasty surgery, I had some time to kill and decided to go back to my Girl Scout arts and craft roots.

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To quote my husband, after he saw my first medal I embroidered “that looks a lot better than I expected!” I’ll take that as a compliment!

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Ten Years of Ink—How it began, and what it has become.

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Everything below I wrote first, and now I am just writing this intro. The paragraphs below flow chronologically, as I am trying to talk about my tattoo story, but it does get kind of long-winded. There isn’t really a nicer or “neater way” to put this story into written form. So, I am just giving a heads up that this is a bit all over the place, but in the end, I hope you get what I am trying to convey.

My dad had a tattoo. On his left bicep. What was it? Well, it was supposed to be a snake and an eagle. But it ended up looking like an eel and a weird polygon. He got this tattoo while he was enlisted in the Marines. My mom thinks he had to be 19 or 20 when he got it, as he was born in 1952, graduated in 1971, and then was off to boot camp. He was stationed on a boat in the Philippines for some time, and it was at a sketchy island tattoo shop that he got this done. In theory, I think he was going to go back and have it finished. But, even though my dad looked like someone who could handle any level of pain, he really had a pain tolerance of zero!
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My dad obviously had this tattoo on his arm for all to see my whole life. He never hid it or said he regretted it. I grew up seeing it was acceptable to have a tattoo, albeit an unfinished one. I honestly don’t remember when I first started thinking about getting a tattoo, but I knew I wanted one. I got my first tattoo about a month after my 18th birthday. I was dead set on getting a Snoopy on my lower back—but, my mom had an opinion about that. Her worry was not that I would be old and wrinkly and not want a tattoo there, but that I would someday be old and wrinkly and regret having a Snoopy. Her wise suggestion?—a butterfly. OK MOM, HOW CLICHE DO YOU WANT THIS TO BE?!? Anyway, my dad was fine with me getting a Snoopy, because it was my body and that was something I have always loved, so I made an appointment and all was said and done.

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Yes, there’s the warning people with tattoos give out that you “won’t end up with just 1. They are addicting!” In my first year at college, I got two more pieces inked for life—-Another Snoopy, on my right lower hip, and a set of flowers on top of my foot. I will touch back on those flowers later, as that is the one tattoo I had gotten that really didn’t have a meaning:

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When my dad passed away in April 2004, shortly after the flower tattoo, I began to think about a way to ink his memory. This was done in the fall of 2004, during my sophomore year at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I found a document at my mom’s house with his signature, so it could be replicated on the lower right side of my back. Angel wings were added, along with a Canadian maple leaf, since he was from Canada (Ironic how now I live in Canada, eh?)

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My final Peanuts tattoo (for now) was added a short time later. I had a tiny Woodstock flying around under my left ankle bone added.

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I started to step it up a notch in Spring 2007. This was my senior year at UWL, and I wanted to do something more with honoring my dad. Even though it had been three years since his passing, I was still not really dealing with his death that well. I was angry, confused, mad…it was unfair. I still didn’t deal with it properly and talk about it, but I booked an appointment and had three stars inked on my right rib cage—-1 for me, 1 for my mom, and 1 for my dad.

This held as my sixth tattoo for five years. I had said I was done. But a lot changes in five years. For instance, I had moved to Alberta. It is funny how things work that I meet a guy, my husband, on vacation while in the Bahamas, and he lives in Canada. So then I move to Canada, and the move was easier than it should have been, since I could get Canadian Citizenship, since my dad was born in Quebec. So thank you Dad for being born in Canada! Also, I finally started to confront the fact my dad was gone, and while it wasn’t fair, I had to deal with it appropriately. I started talking—not yelling or crying, but talking with people who are well-versed in this area.

In August 2012, I got the largest piece put onto my body—a fleur de lis with the inscription “je me souviens.” I have clung to this quote once finding out it is the motto for the province of Quebec. It translates to “I Remember.” The motto has helped inspire me to do this site, among other things. This piece was so large that we linked it with the stars already in place and the signature. In a way, it mad three individual pieces work together as one.

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In December 2012, I had the simple words “Blackbird Fly” placed on my left wrist, as a reminder to shed away all the negativity and unhappiness. I had had my friend Melissa sing the song “Blackbird” at our wedding as I walked down the aisle in December 2010. I was flying away from the wings of my mom and dad, to my new life as a “mrs.” The song can take on all sorts of personal meanings, depending on your interpretation, but I saw it as a symbol of living the next chapter of my life proudly, full of love, full of appreciation for the past, and full of happiness.

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Now lets go back to that flower tattoo on my foot. All my other tattoos have deep meaning—-sure, Snoopy images may not seem deep, but it is of personal value and importance. I had images on my body either related to Snoopy and the gang, or for the memory and love of my dad and my family. But I had nothing to do with running, a passion I took to the next level of road racing back in Spring 2004, shortly after my dad passed away and ironically shortly after this flower tattoo.

I decided I wanted this tattoo to be “enhanced.” It had faded over 9 years and need to be brought back to life. I also wanted more vines to be added and some shading to make it look more embedded onto my foot, rather than a stamp. But most importantly, I wanted a simple 13.1 and 26.2 hidden somehow within the vines, to signify the race distances in miles of a half and full marathon.

I planned this tattoo around a Septoplasty surgery I was going to have done. On June 17th, I went in for a day surgery to have a deviated septum taken care of, and I will now hopefully breathe easier out of my right nostril when I run and do day to day activities. (I have had a scab on that side for 7 damn years….it bleeds and forms again and makes breathing a pain. This was a possible solution that will hopefully work!). This surgery was set after my last half marathon of Spring, and since I can’t run for about 5 weeks from the surgery, I thought having my foot touched up during the time would be smart, as flip flops are a must as it heals. So, in celebration of my running (and the two month break I will be having from running!) I went to Peppermint Hippo Tattoo in Lethbridge, Alberta, on June 21st.

Carla was my tattoo artist, and she drew right on my foot her ideas. She decided to hide the numerals in the vines! She would re outline the whole old tattoo, along with the new additions, and then starting shading and coloring. The finished product is more than I could have hoped for! You can see from a onlookers view how my foot looks now—-the 13.1 is hidden near the bottom by my toes, while the 26.2 is a little trickier to see near my ankle (tilt your head sideways and turn it a bit and you’ll see it weaving.)

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So that is my tattoo story. Yes, it doesn’t really flow linearly, and it kind of goes all over the place. And I know there are people out there who do not understand why people get tattoos. But they are all important to me, and I am proud of every single one. And I realize I will become old and wrinkly at some point, yes, but at least I will have some beautiful art to look at on my body! If you are considering getting a tattoo for the first time, make sure it is something you have always loved or has a special meaning to you. and don’t worry about what others think—you aren’t forcing them to get it on their own body!

Race Recap-Millarville “Run to the Farmers’ Market”

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Firstly—Happy Father’s Day! I hope everyone who had the chance to see their father today gave him a huge hug and told him how much they love him. I thought about my dad all day long, and celebrated him by going golfing with my husband. My dad would have loved to be out there with us golfing on a day like today. I also found this gem, which was hand crafted by myself in 1992 (I clearly remember bringing it home from school and realizing after it was laminated, that I forgot my dad’s beard….Oops! Love you Dad!)

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Now onto my race recap! Yesterday, I ran my fifth half marathon since the beginning of March-the Millarville Run to the Farmers’ Market. It was my first experience with a true “rural” route, and it was fantastic. Below are two shots of the landscape right near where the race route was! The way the day before was going, though, I wasn’t so sure how it would be. Note the hail that was smashing my car windshield as I was traveling up to Millarville:

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I made it to the package pickup, which was at the Millarville race track. This is where the largest outdoor market in Southern Alberta would be kicking off the 2013 season the following day, and where the half marathon would be finishing.

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I then took off towards Black Diamond, Alberta, which was where the start if the race would be and where I would be staying for the night. I booked a room at the Black Diamond Hotel & Bar. The check-in being at the bar didn’t turn me off, but when I went outside to find the access to the hotel rooms, I admit being a little hesitant:

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Have no fear, though, as the rooms were actually very nice! They were huge too, and had a fridge, microwave and Keurig, with K-cups! That made me very happy because I knew I wanted a cup of coffee in the morning and wasn’t sure where I would get one! I went through a walk down Centre Avenue, where there were your typical small-town coffee shops, barber, thrift store. There was a perfect little gem across the street from the hotel—Blue Rock Gallery. I was in this store for about 30 minutes. They bring in work from close to 200 regional artists and craftspeople. You would not have expected a store like this in a town like Black Diamond—it was incredible. If you want to check it out, go to Bluerock Gallery

Alarm went off at 6 am, and I was psyched and ready to go. I had seen a portion of the course as I made my way from Millarville—a rolling country highway. The hills weren’t anything I hadn’t experienced before, so I felt confident as I walked to the start. I got to the start with a little over ten minutes until the 7:30 am gun time. This is where I made my first mistake—I went in line for the porta potty. Now, anyone who does any type of race knows if you need to go, you have to make sure you do this well enough before race start. I didn’t really have to go, but I thought I may, so I wasted 8 minutes in line,and didn’t even get close to the front. The announcer over the loudspeaker was announcing “2 minutes till start time!” when I decided to forget about it and get ready to race. I think this mental block threw me off as I began running!

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My first mile was ridiculously fast. But it didn’t feel great, something was wrong, and I slowed myself down for mile two. We had already found ourselves on some long straight aways with some slight inclines, and the weather was a bit warm and sticky. I felt off. For miles 3-5, I kept talking to myself, trying to convince myself that going slow would be ok—that maybe I should just take this one as a jog. But then I started getting mad at myself, slightly disappointed. I had felt ready to go at 6 am, and now that I wasn’t mentally into the race, I was letting my mind play tricks with me, trying to convince myself to take the easy way out.

It was at 6 miles that I got my shit together. All of a sudden, I was able to dig out that energy and gusto I had thought I lost. As I approached the turn onto the country highway, Racetrack Road, I honestly told myself out loud that I could beat my Calgary time from three weeks ago, of 1:54:22. This was the first big straight away on rural road, and I had guessed it to be around 2 miles of visibility in front of me. I let myself focus on the last visible point, the top of a hill, and kept checking the mileage on my watch, it kept me distracted, as I wanted to see how close I was to my guess. Turned out to be approximately 2.5 miles of straight visible road! By then, I had started counting down my miles….only 5 to go…4….3. When I got to the final 3 miles, I started to race and push myself. I gave myself the challenge to do a better 5k time in this final stretch than I did out of the gate. I pushed through and finished the race in a time of 1:52:10!

I didn’t let the fact that I didn’t get a personal record this race bother me. I was proud of my time, as it was the second fastest half marathon time I have ever run. My 1:47:22 from Red Deer is going to be tough to beat, so I need to just be happy when I know I finished a race strong. I was even more happy with that I was able to push through and make the last half of the half count! My final 5km was what I needed to feel confident, and the race ended on a huge high note. Plus, knowing that I would be receiving an incredible handmade finisher’s medal really did keep me moving even when I was feeling a bit off! It was overall a fantastic race—a beautiful course, great swag, excellent volunteers. I would recommend this race to any runners next year, and I would also recommend checking out the market in Millarville—-I wandered through it after finishing, and it was superb! Dare I say it would be worth driving two hours on a nice Saturday in the summer to spend a morning at…it runs from 9:00-2:00 every Saturday this season!

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I have not mentioned this on here yet, but I am now taking about three weeks off from any running, and do not have a race until August 18th. Tomorrow, I go in for a Septoplasty turbinate diathermy. This is basically an “inside nose job” as I have a slightly deviated septum. The major issue is a scab that has housed on my septum for approximately 7 years. It is difficult to breathe out of my right nostril, and if I attempt to leave the scab alone, my nose hurts, is dry, and I am overall miserable. I will be posting more about my surgery, the aftermath, and if it makes any changes in my physical activity abilities. Until later—-thank you for reading and supporting me in my endeavors!

Medals and Race Bibs are NOT Created Equal, but I have Started Saving them Anyway!

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My first ever race I registered for was the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis 5km in December 1999. A team from my high school was always formed through student senate, so I took part. When I first started doing these shorter 5km races, I always looked forward to the usually long-sleeved t-shirt that came with registration. When I started doing longer races, shirts were always part of the entry fee, but they got more prized—they would say “marathon finisher” on the back, or they started to be made out of sweet tech material. The finisher medals took over as the thing I looked forward to at the end of a race, and these were sometimes reasons I would or wouldn’t register for something. The one thing that all these races share that I never looked forward to, though, was the race bib.

The race bib is your number for the race, and really it is a way for the race organizers to label you as a participant. It helps with organization on the day of the race, as sometimes different colors or number ranges signifies the race you are in (10km, half or full). Now in the digital age, these bibs help photography websites identify the runner if they take pictures at the event.

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In my early years of running, I never thought of hanging onto the race bib. It usually got tossed straight in the garbage after I was done. It was until my first race in Canada, the Calgary Full Marathon in 2009, that I for some reason decided to save my race bib. I think part of my reason for saving it was because it was my first race in Canada since moving here, but it was also a different bib other than the generic ones you would normally get. Ever since that race, I would come home with my bib, head downstairs to the guest bedroom, write my time on the back, and file it behind the Calgary bib, which was ironically placed behind my old Wisconsin license plate.

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I have now saved my racing bibs since that event. They are mostly now all Alberta races, since I haven’t had many races back in the USA since moving. And while these bibs aren’t as fun as the bling you get at the end of longer road races, they do prove to hold on to memories. I am stuck in how to best display these, if I should at all. This year, I have used the bibs to fill up an ugly empty bulliten board space in my classroom. I have my medals I have earned so far this year below, but every time I do a race and add a new bib to the empty space, it also provides pride in finishing the race.

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Last weeks’ race, the Coulee Cactus Crawl, provided the most generic of bibs. Just a single 1 in the centre. I had seen a fellow blogger’s race bib post a few weeks ago and it got me thinking about my race bibs. I decided I needed to have fun with this one and bling it out.. This gave it more personality and fun! While the bibs may not be as cool as the medals, I have now decided I need to start having fun with them!

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Race Recap-Coulee Cactus Crawl, AKA the Hardest Race I Have Ever Ran

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June 1st marked the fourth race weekend in a row, with myself previously doing the Spartan Sprint, Woody’s RV Half Marathon and the Calgary Half Marathon.. So naturally, I thought it to be a good idea and run a 20+ mile trail race in the coulees of Lethbridge. Yes, I did know what I was getting myself into—-the coulees and landscape of Lethbridge is extremely cross country and challenging. But I figured I was up for the challenge.

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I went into this race telling myself this was for completion, not time.. I was fine with that, as looking at previous years’ results, there were many DNF (did not finish) results in the solo categories. You can enter this race as a solo runner, or as part of a relay team with up to five runners. The way the five legs were set up created a few repeat areas in the course, as relay transition areas were located on flat areas at the top of the coulees. These spots also had water, which I used to refill my hydration belt, and a good resting point, which I took advantage of for a few minutes each time I reach a peak.

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The weather in Lethbridge had been questionable all week and inconsistent—some days reached 80 degrees, and other evenings we would have a hailstorm. The weather at the high noon start time of the Coulee Cactus Crawl was in the mid 60s, reaching the 70s, with very little cloud coverage. For a short 5k, this would have been fantastic. The cloud coverage didn’t show until about 3.5 hours in. But, regardless, the race started at Fort Whoop Up at noon, and away went all the first relay members and all the crazy solo runners.

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I felt pretty strong the first leg and ran all the hills, until I hit the incredibly cruel climb to the college parking lot where relay exchange #1 was located. No exaggeration, but this incline was about 50 meters at a 75 degree angle of elevation.. Once to the top, you checked in with the volunteers, who recorded your time (no chip timing). People in the exchange area then realized how much of an idiot I was, because my bib had a black number that was between 1-30. All relay e members had red numbers greater than 100. Runner #1 checked her sanity level, got some water, and barreled down the hill to continue on leg 2.

The long and short of the race was that as I moved on, I knew for my own survival and wellness, I would need to walk up any steep-grade hills as I felt necessary. Some I could run the first time I met them, and then later, I would have to power walk. Yes, I had done some of these “obstacles” before on marathon club runs (the wooden stairs by the Sugar Bowl are a bitch) but there were some very narrow, unstable areas that I had to be cautious around, mainly because I wasn’t use to these extremes. I did see some fantastic areas of south Lethbridge that I did not know existed. I plan on using these trails in the future with my husband and dog, as the views were gorgeous and breathtaking. I have a new appreciation for individuals who call them selves trail runners, as it takes a different level of athleticism to complete this type of course competitively!

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By the time I finished, 4 hours 56 minutes and some odd seconds had passed. The course totaled 21.5 miles, as told by my Nike+ GPS watch. If you are curious of the route, elevation, and craziness of this route, click the link below, as it shows my turtle-like paces through the terrain:

Andrea’s Coulee Cactus Crawl Run-2013

I ended up not finishing last, which was fantastic. I was one of four women to run the race solo. I even got a medal for finishing 2nd in women under 40! (There was only two of us, but hey, I will take what I can get!)

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This race was a great experience, and I am happy I registered and mustered on through.. I got to see parts of the city I live in that I never knew existed. I gained a new appreciation for runners who partake in trail running and ultra-race events. I also want to thank Runners Soul for putting on this fantastic event, as the concept of being able to do a relay race through this beautiful landscape is fantastic. Also, the chance to run it as a solo idiot is fantastic too 🙂

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