Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Summit2Summit Half Marathon Race Report

Way back in early April I signed us up for a swing of three races over our anniversary. The southeast was pretty empty, and this set of races would allow me to pick up Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama over a long week. It would have been challenging enough without my knee playing a factor. 

I've told the story before: I managed to do something to my knee at the very beginning of April, but thought it would "heal itself" if I just rested it. It didn't. I hobbled through all the hoops -- getting the initial doctor's appointment (6 weeks) to get the physical therapy referral (4 weeks) to complete physical therapy (6 weeks) to get an MRI appointment approved by my insurance company. I had the surgery at the end of July, by which point I needed crutches to get around. Not a great summer for my running fitness!

Post surgery it took a long time to get cleared to run again -- 12 weeks. A few very tentative, very short runs later, and it was nearly time to go on this trip. I decided that my 50 states project was about completing races, not necessarily having great performances. I mean, six states in six days wasn't exactly the correct scenario for PRs, right? So I set out on this trip with the goal to at least get myself to the starting line in each state, and ideally to all three finish lines. That was all I needed to do. 

First up was the very well organized Summit2Summit Half Marathon, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We decided to fly in the night before race, then spend a total of three nights in a very cute AirBNB. Even though they allowed packet pickup on race morning, we arrived into town just early enough to hustle over to the very cute race expo in the convention center and picked up our handsome swag. 

Race morning, cold but bright, we walked the short distance to the start line. As we got ready to go, I put on a running vest. Wil said, "Aren't you going to wear your special jacket?" and I got all embarrassed. See, I had purchased a track jacket from the 50 States Marathon club and, because my painting skills are less precise than my stitching skills, I had embroidered in the states where I had run a race. I am both wildly proud and slightly embarrassed by this. But I still feel like it's one of the best things I have ever made:

Wil's instincts were perfect -- wearing the jacket made for some good icebreaking conversation in the starting area, as well as during the race, with people asking which race I ran in a particular state, or recommending ones in "blank" states. 

The race wasn't a big one -- capped at 500 for the half -- but it was a chatty, lively group in the starting chute. An announcer was calling out various runners, music was playing, and all was right with the world. There was a slightly rambling prayer (I think the leader got a bit lost, mid blessing), a singing of the national anthem, and then we were underway, right on time. 

We ran past the convention center then looped around to get on Central Ave for a quick run down Bathhouse Row. A quick turn onto Fountain Street, then another turn onto the old carriage road up to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. 

Now, I half joked at the idea of a "Summit2Summit" race -- imagining Arkansas as flat. I was wrong. The road was steeply panked hairpin turns, a long slow switchback up the hill. 

We just kept going up and up. I had this idea that the Hot Springs Pagoda was the summit of the first mountain. Nope. 

It did, however, offer a lovely view of the valley below. 

Nearly a mile later, we crossed the timing mats just shy of mile 4 and started heading down. One summit down, one more to go. 

The way down was pretty speedy, even if my knee wasn't particularly happy about it. We popped back out on Fountain Street and then made a right past the Arlington Hotel to run up the other stretch of downtown Hot Springs. During this stretch we joined up with a large group of people at the back of the 5K pack. We followed them around a left turn onto Whittington and noticed that we weren't seeing any half marathon bibs in the people headed back after some turnaround. This made us worry a little, but we kept on. 

Eventually we reached a sign that said, thankfully, "5K Turnaround, Half Marathon Straight On". So on we went, making a loop on Whittington around a little park, and then turning up on West Mountain Drive to head up to our second summit. 

If anything, this was worse -- though it might just have been my tired legs. By this time I was just walking and had long since decided that that was fine with me. Still, the day was gorgeous. 

And the higher we climbed, the more frequently we saw signs like this: 

I liked almost everything about this race -- even the hills. The two tiny criticisms are the lack of confirmatory "you're still on the right track" signage (though I might have missed them), and the fact that we saw a sign saying "It's all downhill from here" when we were still a good half mile from the second summit. Cruel, that. 

But the elevation meant that we had great views of the valley -- what our friend Jenny Hadfield calls "earned views":

At one point we had a fine view over to North Mountain and the Hot Springs Tower at the top: 

But, again, we were still headed up up up. 

Finally, however, we hit the second summit just after mile 10, and then had three fast miles to the finish. Well, "fast"...

The finish area was well organized, with lots of pizza, hot soup, and both meaty and veggie burgers, plus a crazy array of snacks. Oh, and chocolate milk, which is the best post-race treat in the world. 

We stood around, eating pizza and a burger, and admiring the day and the other finishers. Eventually -- so that we didn't get caught up in the "Squirt Dash" for kids -- we headed home to our AirBNB for hot showers and a nap. 

The race was well organized, the director sent plenty of clear informational emails leading up to the event, the course was interesting and highlighted the town, and there were plenty of well stocked and staffed water stations, plus abundant food at the finish. The shirt was nice, the medal unique and interesting and HUGE. And of course... state 39!

Summit2Summit Half Marathon
15:04 pace

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Great Wave Stitch-a-Long, part 30

Hi everyone! I’m writing this post really early — it’s actually November 8 as I type — because I’m headed out on vacation and won’t be bringing Great Wave with me. Do I wish I could tell you I had finished it? Yes. Have I? No. 

Here’s where I was last time, just starting to stitch the crest of the wave:

And as of right now, I have finished the backstitching apart from the title and signature area at the top left of the image:

It’s true, like everyone said last time, the backstitching really makes the piece!

I made the mistake, a moment ago, of counting all the tiny French knots I have left to do. I’m afraid it is many more than were in the bottom of the piece. How many? 278. They’re so tiny — just one strand of floss — I keep asking myself if it’s “worth” it. But I know it will be. 

By the time you read this I’ll be on my way home, giving me a full three weeks to get those pesky French knots done.

Looking for some crafty inspiration? Be sure to check out the projects my fellow stitchers are working on. They're all different and all amazing: Avis, Claire, Gun, Constanze, Christina, KathyMargaret, Heidi, JackieMegan, Deborah, Sharon, Daisy, AJCathie, LindaHelenConnieCindy, and Mary Margaret.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

13x13, November 2022 edition

Hi everyone. Welcome to the second installment of my 13x13 project! In October 2022 I pledged to make the Raven Ornaments Mosaic Kit by Northern Whimsy Studio.  It was my first time attempting mosaic in a very long time. The kit was perfect, and the instructions were nicely detailed. So I’m happy to present the result:

Let’s be honest — there’s one that I managed to forget to leave space for a hanging hole: 

That said, I’m really happy with how the little fellows turned out — they’re small — only about 3x5 inches. 

But I do like the look of them, and managed to hang one (the one with the hole…) on my Halloween tree. 

Now, what’s my next project? I have several Halloween kits from the fine folks at Mill Hill Beads. Moonlight Ghost apparently is set up as a magnet, but I see no problem in turning it into an ornament. 

This little Moonlight Ghost (and his “treasure”, a star…) will make a super cute addition to next year’s Halloween Tree. I’ll check back in on December 13 to share my progress as well as my next spooOOooooky project!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Suminagashi class with Robert Mahar

 It’s been a couple of weeks since I took this class, and I’m sad to say I haven’t made the time to either go back and do more, or even write this post up. But I enjoyed this class so much I want to spend the time (and hopefully inspire myself to get back to it!).

My favorite local shop, Monster, also hosts a busy number of creative classes. I’ve taken a few — a block printing course where I made an amusing stamp or two:

A patch embroidery class where I ran out of time but really enjoyed it:

A map embroidery class that I can’t wait to tell you about:

And this: suminagashi. 

Suminagashi 墨 流 し or “floating ink” is the process of marbling plain paper with water and ink. Like many things, the simplest version is incredibly easy… but I can imagine it taking years to really master the art. 

Lovely Robert Mahar, on whom I have an artist crush, was offering this course. It felt like the universe was answering a request — I wanted to work with him on embroidery, and I also wanted to learn how to make suminagashi. And there it was, a class at my favorite store, on a weekend where I was home. Perfection. 

I was a little nervous about it — would I be able to make the patterns? Would mine turn out nicely? But Robert was soothing and encouraging and enthusiastic… and did I mention if felt like magic?

A little tub of water, two paintbrushes, and some oily ink or paint. You put one brush in each hand, soak up some ink in each, and then just touch the tip of the brush onto the water, You alternate the touches — left, right, left, right — creating concentric rings. Moving air, a slightly bumped table, nervous hands create some motion. And then, you have this. 

The ink floats on the surface, looking a bit pale and transparent. You can see the shadow of the dark rings on the bottom of the white tub of water. 

Then you take non-glossy paper and gently lay it on top of the water. You can actually see it absorb the ink, which lets you know when you can pick it up. And then, this:

I love seeing the ink as well as the print — now it changed, slightly, when I imperfectly lay the paper to pull the print. So satisfying!

The act of dipping the brushes in the water, watching the rings form, changing the amount of ink on the brushes or the time you left them in contact with the water and seeing the effect that had on the rings. It was soothing and fascinating and completely, totally magical. 

After pulling a print, you simply brushed paper towel across the top of the water bath and started again. I played with colors (not traditional in Japan, mind you, but fun as they were available) and feared that they weren’t very vibrant … until I pulled the prints. 

I didn’t really do much to manipulate the inks; though one can use air or “combs” to move the floating ink. Each print was pulled, then layered with paper towels to keep them separate. I took them home damp but was thrilled when I saw that the yellows remained so vibrant after drying. 

We also printed on some silk hankies — slightly too large for the inexpensive bins we used in class, so they have an un-printed edge. 

(Not the best photos — but these are very pale with subtle patterns and colors.)

It’s been a couple of weeks since I took the class, and as I said earlier, I haven’t gotten back to playing with this technique. I’m thinking about printing on linen and embroidering over it… or printing on card stock and then block printing over it to make Christmas cards, etc. I’ve been working on some paper craft projects lately, so I think I’ll make some “notebook covers” on heavy card stock. 

(Now I’m antsy to get my inks back out — mission accomplished!)

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Great Wave Stitch-a-Long, part 29

Hi everyone! Not sure where the last three weeks have gone. Last time I had finished the stitching and started on the backstitching. 

I've been finding it surprisingly tricky and very slow going, since most of the backstitches are partial stitches -- into the middles, across, say, one and a half stitches, etc. I stitch a few, then have to stop and mark up my chart so I can keep track of where I am. 

That said, I've finished the bottom half of the piece, and gotten a start on the cresting wave. 

I do love the look of the backstitching, but you can see, I think, why it's taking me so long.

In the next three weeks I hope to finish the backstitching and at least get a start on the literally dozens of teeny, tiny French knots. Wish me luck!

Looking for some crafty inspiration? Be sure to check out the projects my fellow stitchers are working on. They're all different and all amazing: Avis, Claire, Gun, Constanze, Christina, KathyMargaret, Heidi, JackieMegan, Deborah, Sharon, Daisy, AJCathie, LindaHelenConnieCindy, and Mary Margaret.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

My new project: 13x13

I love Halloween. Every autumn I start stitching projects to decorate, and I love setting up my glass pumpkin patch and my Halloween tree. 

I really need to do something to holidazzle that thermostat!

In October 2020 I stitched several Mill Hill "calavera" ornaments:

In the last year I've picked up and stitched a number of ornament kits -- and I'm always looking for more. But rather than leave it to a frantic stitch-a-thon in the autumn, I've decided on a project. I plan to stitch (or otherwise create!) one Halloween ornament for the next 13 months, starting now and running through next October. 

On the thirteenth of each month I'll post the completed project, as well as a preview of my next project. 

This month I stitched "Nevermore" by Satsuma Street. I love this designer's patterns -- such a great use of color. And every year they publish new Halloween patterns and kits, even though as of right now everything is sold out. (Because they're amazing!)

Now, what's next? I think I'm going to try something new: the Raven Ornaments Mosaic Kit by Northern Whimsy Studio

I haven't done mosaic in years and years. But I love these little ravens. I am slightly worried that they'll be too challenging, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. 

And before you ask, I've got more than 13 projects waiting for me. Call it a problem, or an opportunity!

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Great Wave Stitch-a-Long, part 28

Hi everyone! Last time I was alllllmost done with the stitching. So close!!!

Well, I'm thrilled to report that -- cue ecstatic happy dancing -- I've finished the cross stitch portion of the project!

I even started work on the backstitching, which is proving more difficult than I expected. I've never done backstitching that wasn't mostly "into the holes" -- maybe the occasional half, but mostly following the stitching lines. 

But this is much trickier -- most of the stitches are partial stitches -- into the middles, across, say, one and a half stitches, etc. It's challenging and I find that the only way to keep track is to mark on the chart every few stitches where I am. 

That said, I've gotten a lot of the bottom left done -- the wave curls are the most complicated. 

I think that, by our next check in, I can have the bottom half done, and hopefully a start on the top left. Exciting stuff!

Until then, why not check out the projects my fellow stitchers are working on: Avis, Claire, Gun, Constanze, Christina, KathyMargaret, Heidi, JackieMegan, Deborah, Sharon, Daisy, AJCathie, LindaHelenConnieCindy, and Mary Margaret!

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Great Wave Stitch-a-Long, part 27

Hi everyone! I keep just moving across the pattern now, and I am definitely in the home stretch. 

Here's where I was last time:

And here's where I am now:

I'm sooooooo close to having the stitching done -- you can see the light blue stitching and the "hard edge" -- all that's left, apart from a handful of blue stitches at the lower right, is to fill in the area with creamy white stitches.

That means there's less than a column left to do! (I thought I might get there before this check-in, but nope...) Yes, there's a ton of sloooooow backstitching ahead of me, but by our next check-in I will have kicked that off.

Until then, why not check out the projects my fellow stitchers are working on: Avis, Claire, Gun, Constanze, Christina, KathyMargaret, Heidi, JackieMegan, Deborah, Sharon, Daisy, AJCathie, LindaHelenConnieCindy, and Mary Margaret!