Tag Archives: Huntsville

Lots of Miles and More

SelfieJanuary has always been a very busy month for me. January 2016 was different in many ways. However, I still did a lot during the month. I ran five races and volunteered at two other races. This compared to never racing in January. My focus has typically been pencil and teaching about astronauts. In January of 2015, I ran a total of 20.26 miles. This year, I beat that mark by 73.43 miles, for a total of 93.69 for the month. That is not my best month, however it shows what a difference a year can make. I wanted to share a few of my favorite things after running and volunteering for some epic races!

I started the month off in recovery mode and quickly shifted gears to Disney for Dopey. It is interesting to think running four races during four days straight wouldn’t be the most epic thing during the month? Running around Walt Disney World was fun, but how can a mouse beat a hound dog named Ludivine. The very next weekend after Dopey, I ran my second half marathon of the month. The Trackless Train Trek was a small first of the year half marathon in the rural community of Elkmont, Alabama. Race with a difficult name to pronounce, produced a world record for the half marathon distance and hundreds of social media posts about a random dog running 13.1 miles. The story made the Today Show, Good Morning American and written articles from every news outlet with a URL. But wait this wasn’t the most epic thing I did!

When snow hits the ground in Alabama, all heck breaks loose! Add to that craziness one of the best known 50K trail runs in the southeast, Mountain Mist. Hundreds of people were trying to make their way to the event which was scheduled to be held on Saturday. The snow fell on Friday. Guess what didn’t happen on Saturday? The race directors convinced the city police, the state park officials and the local community of volunteers to reschedule their Sunday brunch from the comfy confines of their homes to the trails of Monte Sano State Park & the Land Trust of North Alabama. I volunteered and loved every moment of the day. Maybe one or two moments I could forget. The race is epic all by itself. Add snow and ice with a skeleton crew of volunteers. It adds excitement. I applaud everyone who finished and who helped reschedule Mountain Mist.

I volunteered for one more race, The Mardi Gras 5K. The race featured a charming and hilly course through historic downtown Huntsville. I didn’t run the race and this afforded me front row seats to the finish line. It was a glorious day where hundreds of participants ran, walked and danced their way to the finish line. I also got to hangout with my buddy Marcia! I would clean toilets in a prison if I got to hangout with Marcia. Volunteering on a chamber of commerce day in downtown Huntsville… BONUS! There was one downside, the finish line arch was blown over by a strong gust of wind… lesson learned! 

The first of the month started with me running races and ended with me volunteering. There is sweat and toil in both roles. But I really loved the last two events more than the first five events. Yes, volunteering is more fun than running through the “happiest place on earth”. The bigger take away from running or volunteering at an event is the adventure along the way. No matter what you find yourself doing, enjoy it!

PS – Since I did talk a lot about about numbers, I should point out… This is my 200th blog post!

Running Stinks

War Eagle & Hail StateHave you ever wanted to be a super hero?  Well, I have!  Unfortunately, if asked for super powers, I would ask to spell every word correctly and run a six minute marathon pace.  These are my choices because I can’t spell and only molasses in Juno, Alaska is slower than me.  Tonight, I won’t talk about the words I can’t spell.  I will talk about my four favorite races that didn’t envolve other people, swimming or biking.  Here are my Mount Rushmore of races!

Scenic City Half Marathon in February was my first run of 2014.  This Chattanooga run laid the foundation for my whole season.  I am a multi-sport athlete, therefore I like events which give me some other variable than just sneakers on pavement.  In 2013, Scenic City was my first half marathon.  I ran the course in 2:25:02 which was epic for a slow fat, pasty white kid.  I ended 2013 with a trip to Baku, the flu and a long Christmas season.  February came early this year and so did my first road race of the season… Scenic City.  It was not pretty, but I ran the course in 2:24:05, a course PR and a shot of confidence for Ironman Chattanooga which would run some of the same streets and highways.  I love Chattanooga!  How could I not pick this race for my Mount Rushmore.

Cotton Row 10K on Memorial Day in Huntsville is a treat for any distant runner in the Tennessee Valley.  I finally got the guts to run the 10K version of Cotton Row.  I simply love saying I ran Cotton Row since I have a full size bale of cotton sitting in the front room of my home.  There is a little hill you must run up along the 10K version of Cotton Row that could be intimidating for most… it intimidated the crap out of me!  I enjoyed Cotton Row and recorded a 1:06:51 time, however, I hadn’t really started training in 2014 yet! Vic Balch kicked my ass in 2014… I am looking forward to 2015!

This spot was a toss up between the Liz Hurley 5K Ribbon Run and the Monte Sano 15K which are both Huntsville Track Club races.  The winner was, Monte Sano!  The winner was the 15K!  Monte Sano is my favorite place to run!  This year I have had dozens of training runs atop of Monte Sano.  This 15K was my first long run after Ironman Chattanooga and it was on the same day as the MSU vs. Auburn football game.  I ran this race with my Auburn friend Jen DiCarlo.  She wore Auburn attire and I had on maroon & white! How could a little 5K top this unique and special race.  Heck, I got an awesome photo along the 15K course which I finished in 1:44:48.  It was a great day and a fun race. (Photo credit We Run Huntsville)

Last, but certainly not least would be my most recent race, the new and improved, Rocket City Marathon.  I ran this race with Jen DiCarlo in 4:58:20.  This race is a taste of Huntsville, Alabama.  The new Rocket City Marathon course shows off the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and the majestic Saturn V.  I felt, honored to help in the process, volunteer during packet stuffing, and then ran the 26.2 mile course! I look forward to running this course again in the future, but next year, I promised Shaggy he could run RCM and I would help at the Rocket Center!  Big thanks to Shaggy, Katie and Will for watching over the logisitics so I could run this race!

After all the miles, this year was a good year for running, but running really does suck!

Single Again

In my Blogging for Blog Sake I recalled a trip to Jack Daniels and Miss Mary Bobo’s that resulted in a job change for my husband Chris. He moved from the prestigious firm which counts the Oscar ballots to Booz Allen Hamilton which forced us to be married for the first time in five years. Don’t get me wrong, with the exception of the in-laws, I love being married to my wonderful husband! However, today I am here to report that we are single again. Chris is back working for PwC and traveling around the country in search of platinum status on Delta and to find the perfect concierge lounge. Unfortunately this break up will not keep me form Christmases at the Key’s, though it does mean my husband gets chocolates on his pillow each night.

To look back at out brief life together, living each day under the same roof, sharing the same shower, and using the same toilet paper, I will give you the five things I will miss having Chris around and the top five things I will enjoy being single.

Things I will miss while Chris is traveling…

1.  Dinners with my Chris! I know Chris will enjoy having chicken fingers from room service, but I will miss cooking meals from him. I would make chicken and rice, or pot roast, or PB&J. He wanted to take leftovers to work to save money, because Booz Allen didn’t pay for him to eat out in Huntsville. See PwC pays his expenses while on the road.

2.  I will miss having someone bring all the stuff I left at home to me at work. See, I forget stuff all the time. It was nice that my husband left for work after me. Hey Punkin, can you bring my keys, badge, or phone to me when you come in? It was wonderful! God bless my pokey little husband!

3.  My Bartender! I will miss having someone to make my Jack & Coke. True, this will mean I won’t drink as much, but it is always nice to have someone to make a drink for you after a long day. Especially when the drink comes with a kiss.

4.  I will miss having someone to watch Glee with! Yes, it is a morally bankrupt show about teenagers who can sing and dance. However, having someone to get addicted to the show with is worth something in the world of 10,000 TV channels. Remember, I only watch one TV show per season.

5.  Cuddling… enough said!

Things I will enjoy while being left all by myself…

1.  I will really enjoy parking in the middle of the garage. I know this seems like a small thing, but having to squeeze on one side of the garage is a strain on my free spirit. I want to park wherever I want.

2.  I will enjoy not having to fight over the TV. I, like all women should, enjoy watching Sport Center in the morning, Mike Rowe whenever I can, and the Food Network in between. Heck, I bought Chris a TiVo and Sling Box, does he really think I should watch Chuck with him every Monday night?

3.  I get to have the whole bed! Which means no one is snoring in my ear… well, there is the dog.

4.  I will enjoy be able to keep the house clean during the week. Unfortunately, I haven’t cleaned the house for the ten months Chris lived here.

5.  All the Marriott points which will lead to great hotels in cool vacation destinations!

Good luck Chris! I will miss you during the week, but I know you are really happy at PwC. Heck, they count the Oscar ballots!

The Tide Outside

Note: Please understand that the images depicted in this blog of redneck Alabama fans are only of those who are on the outer fringe, over the top, houndstooth clad, bandwagon followers; not the truly dedicated, highly intelligent fan base who visited with me at the Barn today. Please read this for the humor we all saw today! The point I am trying to make is this isn’t all Alabama fans, heck I married an Alabama Alumnus!

Today, while I was at the Barn, there was definitely more craziness out in the pasture than inside the corral. Walking through the parking lot I saw dozens and dozens of Crimson Tide fans. They were making their way into the mall to stand in line for an autograph by Mount Cody! For those who don’t live in Alabama or don’t know anything about college football in the south, Mount Cody’s real name is Terrence Cody, number 62 on the BCS Title winning University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa football team.  He helped the Tide beat Lame Kiffin’s Vols in October to keep his team undefeated.

So he was there signing autographs. I have never felt like I worked in a real Barn until today. Other than the county fair, I didn’t know there could be more mullets, rat tails, and bearded women in one location. I have waited in line at a Jack Daniel’s bottle signings for a few hours in my time. The difference is I get to met people from all over the United States. Today, it was really just a family reunion. Most everyone there were cousins! Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, because there were a few baby strollers in the crowd. To my knowledge Alabama hasn’t legalized marrying your cousin just yet.

The first person in line arrived at three in the morning. He was there with iPod and his encyclopedia of Alabama football lore. He had plenty to keep him busy. When I arrived at 11:30 am, the line stretched to the escalators near Belk’s. When I went on break at 2:30 pm, the line was at the Cookie Company near Dillard’s. The line went from the escalator at Dillard’s to Belk’s wrapping around to the DMV and then back to Dillard’s and down that hallway.  At three o’clock in the afternoon they cut the line in half by telling everyone who hadn’t made it to Gymboree to go home – bye-bye, go home! When I left the Barn at 7 pm the last person in line had been waiting since 2:15 pm. She just so happened to be one of my favorite Christmas shoppers at the Barn!

Wow, all of this for a college football player. A senior consumer science major who blocked two field goal attempts against Tennessee. Not Mark Ingram, the Heisman trophy winner. Not the Pope or even the President of the United States of America. All these fanatical Alabama fans were standing in line for six to eight hours for Mount Cody to write his name on a photo, helmet, or football. Heck, he probably wrote more today than he has ever taken notes in class. He is just a guy, not the Lord All Mighty. True the crowd didn’t number five thousand and Sbarro’s was still open, so we didn’t need a miracle. However, he couldn’t perform one even if we did need some food. It was just a crazy day at the mall!

To top all the craziness on the outside we had all our favorite loons visit inside the Barn! Cameron Drape had to pay a visit to purchase things that she will return next Thursday. I don’t care how much she loves the bird plates. Once she gets those precious birds home she will want to visit us again. Cameron’s crazy red-headed kindred spirit walked in proclaiming she “wasn’t one of those D*&% Alabama Fans” I knew this would be an eventful transaction. She wanted something like vase fillers, but not fruit or candles. She wanted something that she wouldn’t knock over. I was left to think she was a blousy drunk; someone that Josh Groban would like. If you don’t get that comment, please start watching Glee, Golden Globe winning Glee. She didn’t want to give me her address, because she lives in a cardboard box.

To top it all off my table cloth lady finally returned! Well she didn’t, but her really confused husband with her receipt and minus the debit card stood steadfast cursing all Alabama fans and proclaiming War D&^% Eagle! It was a calamity! He wanted to return the table cloth that I had sold in early December after an hour of deliberation. Is it too large, it is the correct color, or will my daughter like this table cloth? Magnolia Garland was helping Mr. Auburn. He didn’t really comprehend what we were saying. He felt that we wanted to just say no to his return. This blog has gone too long, but trust me when I say it was a wild day inside and outside of the Barn.

I was thankful to work today and enjoy the carnival like atmosphere with my Barnyard friends! Manhattan, Magnolia, and all the others! The fun of working the Barn is 1 part customers, 1 part product and 1,000 parts associates! Manhattan said it best when we all had headaches from the ruckus outside, we had seen someone try to sell his place in line for $70, and all of our most special guests visited. “I am glad I could share this day with you!” This is true; if Hudson had been working we would have had to call HEMSI after his brain hemorrhaged. God bless the Barn!

Another Benton Blog

Saturday afternoon Chris and I saw a white F-150 truck with a blue and yellow Jeff Benton Homes tag on the front. I grimaced at my dear husband and said a few words I will not repeat in print. I expressed how frustrated I was at Jeff Benton and our legal team. Chris and I are seeking some justice in the lies told to us by Jeff Benton and his minions. We and a few fellow other homeowners are trying to find some justice through the legal system. I have found another outlet for my frustrations with Jeff Benton.

I wrote a blog in November titled, Will the Trees Stay. The Internet and Google Analytics are amazing things. This morning Chris and I were poking around seeing who has been looking at my blog site and what they have been looking at. Google’s search engine has brought people to my website and the blog entry discussing my trees and how we were mislead during the building of our home. The readers were led to my site through a tag for a subdivision currently selling homes. After reading my blog 25% of the readers left my site through a Ken McDaniel’s link and others going to Woodland Homes. Maybe, just maybe, someone will choose not to purchase a Jeff Benton Home because of my blog. It is a small victory, but a victory none the less.

Each time I meet a Jeff Benton associate out in public at the mall or the grocery store, I want to ask them if they enjoy working for an allegedly fraudulent company. Honestly, they probably don’t even know Benton’s pending legal issues. Hopefully my little blog will help. I am not just making this stuff up. Jeff Benton Homes isn’t hassle free!

Will the Trees Stay?

DSC00032-800x600Five years ago Chris and I closed on our first home. We were so proud of our jewel, our palace, our home. We were very detailed in the selection of our home… we thought. This blog is the good, the bad, and the ugly of our home building experience. I want everyone who reads this blog to understand this is from my point of view and my opinion of the situation. There are things that I am very pleased with and things I am bitterly disgusted with about my home. So read and take whatever you will from this tale of a first time home owner and a small creek which flows into the Flint River.

In May of 2004 Chris and I started looking for a house to buy. We had both lived in an apartment before getting married. We looked around at all the Huntsville area real estate. I didn’t want to live in Madison and he wanted to live near the mountains (they are really just hills). We became interested in the Jeff Benton neighborhoods around the valley. Jeff Benton was known for spec homes and low cost for nice homes. Seemed like a perfect deal for a first time home owner. True, Chris had owned a home in Jackson, Mississippi. However, I was new at this and it seemed like a great place to start.

Privacy gained from our trees

We signed our build contract on Chris’s birthday. I remember asking a few questions about the lot that we selected and the position of the house. We had selected to build on lot number 27 along a small creek; the same creek that gave the subdivision its name, Creekstone. Chris and I were both interested in the trees and the privacy they would give us. Our sales agent assured us that the trees would remain on our lot. “Oh, we love our trees in Creekstone”, as if Al Gore was the president of the home owners association. Even before we selected our lot we asked about the trees because they were so attractive to a farm kid.

In the summer as the plans were being finalized we were informed of an easement on our property. I asked right away, “Is there a project planned for this easement”? “No, it is just a standard U&D easement that is there just in case,” was the answer we were given. We were suckers; a sixty foot U&D easement is not standard not even in Texas where everything is big! Other families were moving in along the creek. They too had no clue of the impending destruction that awaited all of us.

Track hoe removing trees

We didn’t know about the plans to clear cut our trees and widen our creek until six months into our residence. Chris was out back cleaning brush from the creek and I was cleaning on the inside. Our neighbors told us of a meeting in the summer with Jeff Benton around the same time that we found out of the easement. They told us how they found out about the future project. There were some smoke and mirrors involved, but I am sure of this, there was a ditch improvement project coming, our trees would be cut down and Jeff Benton knew about it before we closed.

Chris stopped his cleaning of the ditch and we started investigating the planned improvement. We found out it was true. We would lose our trees and there wasn’t much we could do about it. The lessons learned are twofold, always do your homework on a piece of land in a real estate deal and never do business with Jeff Benton. The summer of 2007 in a cloud of dust we lost our trees and gained a wall in our back yard. This wall serves as a retaining wall for the ditch. The simple little country creek was transformed into an industrial looking drainage waterway with all the mosquitoes, snakes, and critters that come along with such a ditch. The city of Huntsville came though our yard with bulldozers and track hoes.

Frontend loader carrying away our trees

Some people would try to blame the city for building the monstrosity in my back yard. Some people would blame the buyer for not doing their homework. And then some people would call Jeff Benton the villain. There is truth in all that I said. But when you sign a contract with the builder and the purchaser stating that all pending public projects have been disclosed you would think you were safe from surprises. Jeff Benton was not up front about the future construction plans. The city of Huntsville has been very helpful to us. The ditch had to go in to help with drainage all throughout our valley. It is a fact of life. As for us doing our homework, we are very good at doing research now.

What remains of the creek

This is my way to vent. It is my way to shake my fist as the situation. If you don’t like what I have said, please let me know. If you are in the market to build a home and are looking at Jeff Benton, please consider other options first. I love my home and its construction is sound. But would I do business with Jeff Benton again? I wouldn’t even play bingo at the same table as him and I sure wouldn’t purchase a home from his company again. Point is, Creekstone has been transformed into Ditch Wall subdivision. I didn’t get to keep my trees, but I did get flooding to replace the trees.

If you are a part of BRAC’s relocation to Huntsville or just curious about living in our part of the world here are a few suggestions before you buy a Benton home.

Ken Mcdaniel Homes

Magnolia Village

Woodland Homes