Suz's love for COWS + Allan's work with LASERS = one unique blog name! Welcome to our blog filled with race recaps, pictures of our labs, and everything else we share with blogland!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Viola Valley Half Marathon

Viola Valley Half Marathon is one of those races that I'll probably never set a new PR at and it's a challenging course or at least it is for me. Taking place in May in TN means that even at 7AM it can be pretty hot and after a few miles of rolling hills small inclines start to feel like you're hiking rather than running. However, I love this race! Last year was the first year they held the race and in the last year it's evident that they listened to the runners and started the race an hour earlier and offered a tech shirt instead of a t-shirt. I believe they also added at least one aid station as well.

Pre-race in downtown Viola

Tech shirt and medal

It takes place in a really small town and the race draws the support of so many of its residents. People had their sprinklers going for us to run through and many residents sat outside their homes cheering us on. The entire race (minus the start and finish) take place in the countryside and as you can imagine I had some cows to look at during several parts of the race.

viola start
Off we go!

Coming up on the first nice downhill followed by our first big uphill

Even though it started out overcast it was humid and I felt overheated pretty early on. I took a couple of longer walk breaks and had a couple cups of water in addition to the Gatorade in my handheld and I started to feel better. Once I passed mile 5 there was a downhill section that turned to a long straight portion so I took off passing several runners and feeling really good.

One of the many farms along the course

Around mile 7 another runner and I started to chat and run/walk together since we seemed to be doing the same run/walk pattern. It continued to feel hotter and we did a good bit of walking from that point on.

MY favorite aid station of the day!

There was one spot where I wanted to stop to take a picture and I realized that I rarely have a picture of myself during a race because I always run alone. It was nice to be able to stop, snap a couple of pictures, and then carry on. Another runner stopped and offered to take a picture of my new runner friend and I and it's probably one of my favorite photos from a race.

New runner friend (Kade) and I

We continued our run/walk but mostly walk from there until the finish. My hip was bothering me and I didn't want to risk hurting myself by pushing it. As we neared the finish we began our sprint to the finish and that sprint to the finish is featured on the photographer's site here. I look awful but nonetheless I'm pretty sure I've never had a race photo of me featured anywhere. My official time ended up being 2:57:40 which I can live because I had a great time!

viola finish
This is very similar to the one featured on the photographer's site but this is the one Allan took

This race just so happens to fall right before our anniversary so I was very excited when we arrived at Holiday Inn Express and were immediately upgraded thanks to Allan's platinum-I-travel-so-much-that-hotels-are-my-second-home status.

Couldn't have asked for a larger or nicer suite!

Is there a race you love to run that's always tough and one that it's tough to PR?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oak Barrel Half Marathon

Half marathon, good friends, Jack Daniel visitor center, and my favorite race of the year are a recipe for a great weekend! Oak Barrel Half Marathon is still my favorite half marathon and this year was extra special because it's the first half Allan and I have run together from start to finish. It was also my friend Alyson's first half and we ran the last 6-7 miles alongside her. You can read her race recap here.

Somehow I managed to not take a picture of the shirt but the swag for this race is amazing: a tech shirt, Swiftwick socks, running hat, and a medal made from a whiskey barrel!

Quite easily my favorite spot on the course
There are a ton of pictures that I had to chose from for this race so I'll apologize now for the numerous pictures to follow.

Alyson and I

Brian and Allan

On race morning we drove up extra early to pick up our packets, stretch, and make a stop at the bathrooms. As soon we got in line my good friend Ryan came over to say hello. I knew he was running this race but I always have the worst luck finding people I know at races so I was afraid we would miss seeing him but we actually saw him before and after this race and had a few minutes to catch up.

Ryan and I post-race

When we rejoined the guys we did a little more stretching, took a picture, and got ready to run. As soon as the race started Alyson and Brian were off. That was the last we saw of Brian until the finish and we didn't see Alyson again until the halfway point.

The crew just before the start

Allan stuck with me and we ran a good bit only taking a few stops to walk or drink Gatorade before reaching Whiskey Hill. Now after running this race last year and walking the entire hill and ending the race with a PR I was sticking to what worked for me.

Allan and I during the first part of the course

Walking gave me a chance to take some pictures to try to capture how steep this hill truly is. We also had our picture taken by Gregg who takes pictures at so many of the local races and posts them on the We Run Huntsville Facebook group.

The beginning of Whiskey Hill where you can see the steep turn you make to the left

Looking back from the top (note: the shirt that the girl in the very front of this photo is wearing was the race shirt)

One of us was much more excited than the other to be trudging up the hill

Shortly after Whiskey Hill we ran across Alyson and ran the rest of the race with her. Allan kept us from taking walk breaks that were a little too long and three of us kept each other entertained.

Alyson and Allan running

One of the downhill sections

The rest of the race went by slower than I remember from last year and it seemed like there weren't as many downhills as I thought there were. Regardless we kept on going and pretty soon we were nearing the finish.

Allan looks super serious and ready to be done

Allan and I just before the turn to the finish line

Allan and I crossed the line at 2:41:02 but honestly I could have cared less about my time. Alyson had just finished her first half marathon and Allan and I were there to share it with her. Brian was waiting for us at the finish and we also saw Ryan cheering us on as we crossed. Those guys are super speedy and had been done for a long time.

We Run Huntsville tech shirt, Gap capris, Wrightsocks, and Mizuno Wave Inspires made up my race day outfit

Once we all cooled off and had something to eat and drink we decided to walk over to the Jack Daniels Visitor Center so Alyson and Brian could do some Christmas shopping. Meanwhile I stood in line with all of our medals to have the Master Distiller sign them. He and I had a lovely conversation about the race and cows.

Yes, hoe cakes do exist

Pretty excited that I got my medal signed this year

Finally we made the long walk to the car and headed back home for showers, Mexican food, and a nap! I'm already looking forward to running Oak Barrel again next year.

Have you run Oak Barrel?
What's the most interesting race medal you've received?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Scottsboro Half Marathon

*This is the first in a series of race reports I'm waaay behind on so yes this race was on March 30. That's not a misprint. Scottsboro Half Marathon is a new race in our area and only an hour away so it was a given that I had to run this race. I've driven through Scottsboro several times but never been to the town itself so I was anxious to finally take in some of the beautiful views I have heard this area is known for.

I really liked this design that they used on the shirts, medals, and marketing materials
I had picked up my packet the day before at Fleet Feet but I still left really early since I wasn't familiar with where I was going once I got into Scottsboro. I arrived with almost an hour until race time so I walked around, went to the bathroom, stretched and still had some time to kill. Somehow I managed to completely miss Paige and her husband Geno. I saw both of them on an out and back during the race and they both looked strong and speedy!

Ducks swimming around

Once the race started I settled into a comfortable pace planning to take walk breaks as I needed to and then I just enjoyed running. I stopped to take pictures when I saw something particularly beautiful and I was really having a great time and felt like I was running a pretty decent pace.

Nice downhill to start the race but this section was a small out and back so we got the chance to run right back up this hill a few minutes later

Another pretty section of the race

Around mile 7 I caught up with two runners who were talking about running Oak Barrel the next weekend and I had to chime in since it's my favorite half. We started chatting about running and introduced ourselves and before I knew it we had run a couple of miles together. The three of us ran the rest of the race side by side taking walk breaks when we needed them and enjoying each others company. I NEVER run with anyone during a race without feeling as though I'm slowing someone down so it was nice to run with people who enjoy my leisurely pace. It was while we were all running together that we got to run through a residential area with some gorgeous houses on the water.

Wounded Warrior Project shirt, GAP capris, Wrightsocks, and Mizuno Wave Inspires make for a great race outfit (note that I'm firmly clutching a post-race Coke-there's nothing more delicious after a race except maybe chocolate milk and even then it's a tie)

We crossed the finish at 2:38:30 and I couldn't have been happier with my finish time. I dropped a few things off at my truck, took a few pictures, grabbed some food, and then got in line for a post-race massage. While in line several door prizes and awards were handed out and I was lucky enough to snag a t-shirt as well as some blue bunny ears. The bunny ears came in handy for the Easter picture of the dogs.

Sasha and Lucky will do anything when there are treats involved

If you are looking for a good half to do in the early spring I highly recommend the Scottsboro Half Marathon and with a price tag of $30 if you register early you can't beat that. Did I mention that the shirt and the medal were pretty amazing too?! This one is already on my calendar for 2014 and hopefully many years to come after that.

I love that it's NOT a white shirt

I really love the medal!

Have you run an inaugural race?
If so do you feel more obligated to continue running it each year?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rosemary Cottage-Book 2 of the Hope Beach Series

Rosemary Cottage by Colleen Coble is the second book in the Hope Beach series. The first book, Tidewater Inn, came out last year and you can read my review on that book here. If you really loved Libby and Alec from Tidewater Inn then you'll have a chance to learn more about them in this book. Although I have read Tidewater Inn I felt this was a stand alone book and you didn't need to have read Tidewater Inn to follow along with anything that happened in Rosemary Cottage.

In our second trip to Hope Island Colleen Coble introduces us to Amy and Curtis. Amy has recently lost her brother and Curtis has recently lost his sister so in many ways their grief bonds them before they ever get to know each other well. It's Amy's unwillingness to believe that Ben's death was an accident that drives her to return to the cottage that they've been summering at since they were children. Even as adults they continued to return in the summer to vacation at Rosemary Cottage together. In no time at all Curtis finds himself agreeing to help Amy look into the death of each of their siblings to see if there's something that the authorities missed. Amy and Curtis find themselves in harm's way on more than one occasion as their independent investigation proceeds.

Between the suspense of Amy and Curtis searching to find out what really happened to Ben (Amy's brother) and Gina (Curtis's sister) and the drama surrounding Gina's daughter Raine the story just seemed to get better and better as I read on. It seems as though the more Amy and Curtis worked to find the truth the more questions that were brought up concerning both Ben and Gina and their respective pasts. I can't wait to see who we get to meet in Book Three of the Hope Beach Series!

Book Info

About Rosemary Cottage: Amy came to Rosemary Cottage to grieve, to heal, maybe even find love. But there's a deadly undertow of secrets around Hope Island . . .

The charming Rosemary Cottage on the beach offers Amy Lange respite she needs to mourn her brother, Ben. She's even thinking of moving her midwife practice to the Outer Banks community. It's always been a refuge for her and her family. She also wants to investigate Ben's disappearance at sea. Everyone blames a surfing accident, but Amy has reason to wonder.

Coast Guard officer Curtis Ireland has lost a sibling too. His sister, Gina, was run down by a boat, leaving him to raise her infant daughter. If anyone knew who little Raine's father was, Curtis could lose his beloved niece. Yet he can't help being drawn to Hope Beach's new midwife, Amy. He even agrees to help her investigate what happened to both Ben and Gina.

Can two grieving people with secrets find healing on beautiful Hope Island? Or will their quest for truth set them at odds with each other . . . and with those who will go to any length to keep hidden things hidden?

Purchase a copy:

Meet Colleen: Best-selling author Colleen Coble's novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA's RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers' Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana.

Learn more about Colleen:

 Blog Tour Schedule


Water can be calming and healing, but it can also be dangerous, as Amy Lange and Curtis Ireland both found out. Both lost their siblings to the sea, and they hope to find healing on Hope Island. But will they find it, or will their quest to find answers set them at odds with each other and with those who have secrets that need to stay hidden?

Find out in Colleen Coble’s latest book, Rosemary Cottage, which released July 9. To celebrate, Colleen is hosting a 12-day Nautical Summer Giveaway. From July 16-27, Colleen will be giving away a new nautical prize every day. She’ll announce the winners on July 29 on her website, so mark your calendars for that date to see if you were picked as a lucky winner!

Not on Facebook? Enter here.

I received this book free of charge from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Little Slice of Heaven

For the past few months things have been a little quiet on the blog and that's mostly due to the fact that there were things going on in my personal life that I wasn't at liberty to share with the rest of the world. My parents are both retired now and with retirement comes the opportunity for them to enjoy this time by living out their dreams. For Mom and Dad that means moving to the beach and selling the farm. Deep down I want nothing more than complete happiness for my parents and I know taking care of a house that's over 100 years old and the 80 acres attached to it are no small task. However, the farm is my haven from the rest of the world and letting that go feels as though I'm giving away a piece of my heart.

The house was originally a four room shotgun-style house with a large hall running from the front to back door

The road we live on is lined with trees nearly the entire way and it's beautiful

There's a hill overlooking most of our land that has been my favorite spot on the farm since we moved there when I was 6 years old. I've done my best thinking, crying, and daydreaming in that spot. As a little girl it's the first place I ran to when I wanted time to myself with Jill, my Australian Shepherd. It was this same spot that I cried and cried when I had to put Jill to sleep before I left to go to Auburn. The hill is where I've taken the few guys that captured my heart enough for me to want to share this place with them. Many of my biggest decisions have been made while sitting there looking out over the land.

Front pasture with a creek running through the middle

Lucky and Sasha treat the farm as a huge yard perfect for hours of chasing the ball
With this decision to sell the farm came a lot of work. I've spent several weeks on the farm working with my Dad. I have stripped wallpaper, pressure washed the exterior of the house, hung a gutter, cleaned out the barn, put down a bathroom floor, hung curtains, painted floors, stained a deck and a swing, painted the porch and a TON of lattice work, put down a new moisture barrier underneath the house, repaired the front porch columns, shoveled half a truckload of sand, and countless other chores. I have always loved working with my Dad and there's nothing that makes me feel stronger than spending a week day after day working on the farm and being able to keep up with my Dad! I believe I even impressed Allan with my manual labor skills a time or two.

Allan hauling limbs in my truck to the burn pile

Watching the cows before sunset
Obviously this meant that at the end of each day during the weeks on the farm I was tired and computer time wasn't on the radar at all which meant blogging fell to the wayside. Plus I wasn't able to talk about getting the farm ready to go on the market so I decided it was best just to keep quiet for a bit. This also means that running wasn't on my priority list either so any chance of a PR at any distance this summer was out of the question. The farm is on the market now and while there are some smaller projects that my Dad and I have to work on all of the major ones have been completed so I'm at home a lot more than I have been the past few months. There was a stretch during one month when Allan would go on a work trip, fly back, see me for one day, and then I was off again. I would come home, see him for a day, and then he would leave. It was chaos!

Living room

Dining room

I won't apologize for being MIA these past few months because I believe we all know that blogging should never trump living life or helping family. I would ask that you keep our family in your prayers and pray that the right family comes along to buy our farm. Please know that I've thought of you all often and my lack of comments on your blogs doesn't mean a lack of caring on my part. I'm doing my best to get caught up in the next couple of days so thanks for your patience and thanks for sticking around while I've been gone. I promise to be a better blogger friend!

Love a fresh cut field-perfect for running across!

Some of my many iris-we have white, yellow, and purple that my grandfather and I planted