Weekend in Houston & the ABB 5K

On Friday afternoon we headed down south to Houston for the weekend. We should have been pulling into the race expo around 4pm but due to congested highways and the population of Houston being incapable of operating a vehicle correctly, it ended up being just after 5. When traveling somewhere new, you should definitely experiment with using the maps app on your phone without turning the GPS on. Turns out all of the GPS usage and iHeart radio streaming on our road trip to/from Florida in December drained the crap out of our data for the month and we had to navigate downtown Houston GPS-less. It was REALLY fun.

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The expo was massive and super organized. I loved how a volunteer could scan the barcode from my confirmation email on my phone rather than having to print out a hard copy. We picked up our 3 (5K x2 & the half for me) race packets in less than five minutes and were released out into the sea of vendors. I chatted all things Oiselle with Sara at the Fleet Feet booth, browsed the USTAF merchandise, and pretty much breezed through the rest. Skechers, a new sponsor for this year, provided all of the official race merchandise. The LE shoes created specifically for Houston were pretty cool and a lot of the apparel looked great too, but I wish there would have been other items like pint glasses or magnets. Something cheap that wasn’t clothing-related. A Skechers employee working the area said they’d keep it in mind for next year. Luckily on our way out I saw Chevron putting free magnets out on their table so I snagged a couple.

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I saw the Nuun booth but it was pretty busy so I skipped over it, only to realize later that night they were giving out Texas-specific water bottles with the purchase of two tubes. Now I need another water bottle like I need a hole in the head, but guys: this one said Texas on it. Somehow this justified the purchase and we went back the next morning to grab one.

Nuun Hydration - Run Texas

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After the expo we made our way to the hotel. Initially I booked the Residence Inn downtown so we wouldn’t really have to drive at all and could walk to the race start both mornings. After a little research, I realized I could move us out to a SpringHill Suites near Reliant Park and save $300 on the hotel/parking. It was about 10-15 minutes away and only two blocks from the rail station. I don’t regret this decision at all – $300 is $300.

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The next morning was the ABB 5K, which was by no means a goal race for either of us since Brad was coming off a sprained ankle and I had the half the next day. We grabbed coffee in the lobby and took the rail downtown.

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The race was a super flat out-and-back and the weather was perfect. Beautiful morning for a run! We were pretty surprised with how many spectators were out cheering but it got me excited for crowds the next day. The National Guard handed out medals at the finish, which I thought was pretty cool.

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We had lunch at Freebirds and then went to see Lone Survivor. Okay, so I had heard this movie was pretty intense. I imagined intense like Act of Valor. Definitely teared up at the end and it was sad, but I was able to compose myself in less than five minutes. Let me just say that “pretty intense” does not even begin to describe Lone Survivor. I don’t cry at anything (owner of a black heart) and no amount of sniffling or deep breaths could get me back to normal before the lights came on. It was heart wrenching. Incredible movie, but heart wrenching.

For dinner I had my heart set on Italian and luckily there was a Carrabba’s only a few blocks from the movie theater. Once we cracked open the menus I realized we were at the most expensive Carrabba’s in all the land. Had I done a little research I might have noticed that this was the original restaurant and not under the same management as the chain. But since we were already there and every other Italian restaurant in town was probably swarming with runners, we stayed. At a normal Carrabba’s our exact dinner would have cost us $54 plus tip but at the original we were hit with an $85 bill. Good thing I saved a few bucks on the hotel.

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After dinner we returned back to the hotel so I could buy more songs on iTunes, tweak my playlist for the billionth time and try to get to bed early. Pretty sure Brad fell asleep before I did, but what else is new?

Next up, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon Race Recap

Running on a Formula 1 Track

This recap will be short since we didn’t actually “race” the 5K but I thought the newest race to hit the Austin area needed a little attention. HITS Endurance may have held its first event in Austin last weekend, but this wasn’t their first rodeo. They have many other events, including Napa Valley, OKC, Lake Havasu, and New York.

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The Formula 1 track in Austin hosted their first US Grand Prix in 2012. RunTex launched a Formula Run race several weeks before the Grand Prix where runners could do one full lap around the F1 track [slightly under 3.5 miles]. The race didn’t fit in with my training for Philly so I figured I’d run it in 2013. When it came time to register, the fee was $50 or $60. I get that you’re paying for the experience, but that still hurts the wallet a bit for such a short race. Austin Runners Club was promoting the HITS Endurance race and I ended up only paying $25 for pretty much the same course as Formula Run.

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HITS had multiple distances [1M, 5K, 10K, Half & Full Marathon, Sprint Duathlon] and the start was staggered. The half / full marathon started at 7am, the 5K / 10K started at 11am, and the duathlon started at 2pm. I really thought I’d love the delayed start but it ended up throwing off my day. I wanted to enjoy my coffee and relax, but instead I was trying to chug the coffee and chase it with Nuun.

We left the house around 9:45 to head out to Circuit of the Americas in Del Valle. It was a windy and chilly morning, bringing back painful memories from Shiner. Parking was plentiful [the venue does host the F1 race, after all] so that wasn’t an issue. We found an area to huddle inside near the start to get a break from the wind. That was definitely a nice perk!

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At quarter to 11 everyone began lining up at the start. The 10K runners were released slightly earlier than us since both distances were an out-and-back and they needed to get a jump start on the course. Just as the 10K was about to kickoff, a marathon runner came flying into the finish. It was weird to see an athlete running towards us, but I guess that’s what happens when using the same area for start/finish.

The course had a fair amount of hills, including a killer climb the second you crossed the starting mat. Although since this was an out-and-back, it gave you a super fast downhill finish. There was a water stop just before the turnaround which had water, gatorade, and candy – yes, candy. Pretty strange, but I’d be lying if I said I turned down that KitKat.

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One thing I thought was cool for this race was that a checkered flag was handed to the lead runner for each distance in the final 800m so they could cross the finish line with it.

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I will say that the medal for the aforementioned Formula Run race was much cooler than the one for HITS, which was a little generic. But $25 cooler? I’m not so sure. In any case, it was pretty awesome to run on a track where cars race at 200mph!

Better than a PR

Saturday morning I willingly popped up out of bed at 6:25 and got dressed to run. This hasn’t happen since, oh I don’t know, maybe April? I was quite enjoying my lazy weekends “sleeping in” until 8am and spending quality time with my couch. After a solid nine months of early morning training runs, I needed that break.

Unfortunately now that I’m ready to start running as the sun rises, Texas is transitioning into summer. This means 4:30-5:00am wakeup calls, 80 degrees/100% humidity at the beginning of my run, and hydrating like my life depends on it. Wait, why am I training for a fall marathon again? Oh, for the fantastic food, delicious cocktails and the glory of nailing that 26.2 PR on my 2012 Goals list.

Philadelphia Marathon

Anyway, back to the story…

Saturday morning I got dressed and pulled on my Mizunos (what a decision this was, choosing a pair of shoes to wear), but I wasn’t alone. Brad was getting ready also. We were about to run our first 5K race together. This isn’t the first race we’ve done side by side, but it was the first where he had been running with me on a fairly regular basis AND where he had proper running shoes. A few weeks ago we went to a local running store and had him fitted for an obnoxiously bright pair of Green Lantern Saucony Ride 4s.

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We met up with my friend Leslie and her boss and headed north to Georgetown to run Vern’s No Frills 5K at Berry Springs Park.

Verns No Frills 5K

Leslie and I had run it back in January and we both really enjoyed it. Hard to beat a monthly 5K race for only $1! All proceeds go to back to the park, which is pretty cool. It really is a “no frills” race but an awesome one nonetheless.

It was a warm and humid morning surprise surprise so Brad and I started slow, running 3:1 intervals and getting our legs loosened up. The first mile was pretty slow but once we found our stride, our pace quickened and we were cruising. This is seriously a dream come true for me, to be running with my boyfriend and have him actually enjoy it. He even mentioned to me the other day “I like that we’re doing stuff together and getting out of the house at the same time. I’m really warming up to running” Cue my happy dance.

Near the end of the final mile we decided to ignore the beep of my Garmin and continue running. Once the finish was in sight we picked up the pace and kicked it into high gear, crossing the finish line in 36:01. It wasn’t my slowest race, nor was it my fastest. That’s not what was important that morning.

I crossed the finish line with my boyfriend, who is not a runner, but slowly warming up to the sport.

And that is much better than a PR.

Round Rock Resolution Run 5K Race Recap

After a PR fail at the Reindeer Run two weeks ago, I tacked a sub-30 5K onto my goal list for 2012. I also took a page out of the Sarah OUaL / Paula rulebook and planned a race on the DL.

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Today, the first day of the new year, I ran a 5k with every intention of cruising across that finish line in anything resembling 29:XX.

I picked up my shirt & race bib on Friday afternoon. I was less than thrilled to see my bib number was the exact same as Reindeer Run. Bad omen? I think so.

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Since the race was at 2pm, there wasn’t pressure to get to bed early or the need to abstain from enjoying a few glasses of bubbly to celebrate New Years Eve. Breakfast was eggs, bacon and toast, with a tall glass of Nuun and a large mug of coffee. At noon I had a couple pieces of thin crust pizza, and another glass of Nuun. I was ready and out the door by 1:15.

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I made it to St. Phillips United Methodist Church in plenty of time. I stretched out my tight right calf and then we were herded towards the starting line. The wind was at our backs, which would be awesome on the way out but brutal on the return.

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After the National Anthem and prayer, we were off!

I had positioned myself pretty close to the starting mat but once we crossed  I was being passed by tons of people. I refused to look at my pace, running simply on effort alone. About a quarter mile in, I glanced down at my Garmin to see how slow I could possibly be going to be passed by that many people. It was 8:15.

Apparently no one had gotten the memo saying you shouldn’t go out fast. Just before the first mile marker all of the sprinters had either slowed down considerably or were walking. I picked them off one by one and kept cruising, hitting mile 1 in 9:25.

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The second mile was mentally tough for me. I was going back and forth between “you can definitely go sub-30” and “who are you kidding? you drank champagne last night! Just finish this out and you can PR in a later race”

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I gave myself a pep talk “you want this PR? then suck it up and RUN” and increased the volume on my iPod to drown out my negativity. I let myself slow to a comfortable pace to conserve energy for mile 3.

Mile 2 – 10:05

Once I was in the home stretch I focused on turning my legs over as fast as possible. I tried to think about anything and everything except for the race.

At mile 2.5, my right shoelace came untied. Nooooooo! You have GOT to be kidding me! I made the executive decision to not stop to tie it, and to increase my cadence to decrease the chance of my left foot stepping on it. Face planting most certainly would not be ideal.

Mile 3 – 9:16

When the finish line came into sight, I took off and burned through all the gas I had left in the tank.

Mile .1 – 1:02

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Official Finish: 29:46, 9:34 pace

I am absolutely ecstatic I was able to cross one of my 2012 goals off of the list on the first day of the year. I think it’s a sign of great things to come.

Finally, I was able to escape the curse of 30:XX!

2011 Reindeer Run 5K Race Recap

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The Austin Reindeer Run 5k was my final chip-timed race of the year. (I have Operation Jack coming up next week but that is a satellite run).

This race was also my last chance in 2011 to crush the sub-30 goal that has been taunting me.

 

The race was at 9am which equals SLEEPING IN! Awesome. I left the house around 8:15 and made it to Camp Mabry in plenty of time.

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On the way to the parking area you ended up driving part of the race course. It was at this point when I realized it may not be a PR day. There were a few decent hills that could certainly give my legs some issues.

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I hit up one of the tents to grab my timing tip and strapped it around my ankle.

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Yep, the fun socks made an appearance at this race as well.

I searched high and low for reindeer antlers but surprisingly couldn’t find any. I settled on an old festive tee I found in my closet instead, which prompted many compliments. And because 50 degrees is a bit chilly to me I rocked the arm sleeves as well.

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I had turned on my Garmin on the drive down to the race to eliminate the satellite location problem that plagued me before the Jingle Bell 5k.

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I spied a lot of people with coffee mugs not quite dressed to run so I positioned myself in front of them at the starting line to avoid the old bob-and-weave issues.

The first mile was flat as a pancake. I kept my pace fast but comfortable to keep some in the tank for the rest of the race.

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I passed the Mile 1 marker in 9:46.

Shortly after that marker, we hit a water stop followed by a small downhill stretch. Part of me welcomed it while part of me knew this only meant the hills were about to start.

And they did.

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I cursed every step of the long, steady incline. It was at this point where I realized the course was an out and back. My freakin’ favorite.

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I hit Mile 2 in 10:10. Obviously the hills slowed me down.

Why don’t the hills look as bad in photos as they do in real life?

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At this point I could see the finish line across the field. It was SO. FAR. AWAY. A quick glance at my Garmin showed I was two minutes from the elusive 30 minute mark. I picked up the pace, but realistically knew it was probably too late.

Mile 3 in 9:48.

I had fifteen seconds to make it across that finish line, which was still SO. FAR. AWAY.

I was hauling ass but felt like I was running in slow motion. I just couldn’t turn my legs over as fast as I wanted.

.1 in 0:36. Not quite fifteen.

Official Finish Time: 30:20, 9:47 pace

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I was halfway through a banana when I came across this glorious sight:

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Yes please. I’ll take two.

I also grabbed a chocolate Zico.

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Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with my time. I’d also be lying if I said I thought not doing any speedwork would have helped me get in under 30 minutes. Oh and that 7 mile run from the day before probably didn’t help either.

Oh and maybe I should have looked at the elevation map on the website:

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It wasn’t as bad as it looks – it was scaled a little poorly. But there will hills – you get the idea.

So, sub-30 5K goal will be accomplished in 2012. I’ll getcha next time.

2011 Jingle Bell 5K Race Recap

Two things I realized running the Jingle Bell 5K: I really love this distance and I really love racing in cooler weather.

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Let’s back up for just a minute to packet pickup. It was held at the Westin in the Domain. No frills, quick and painless. Parked, asked the front desk for directions, picked up the packet, and was back in the car in less than five minutes.

The race bag included a cotton long-sleeved tee, bib, course map, and jingle bells. Let it be noted I did NOT attach the bells to my shoes for the race, although everyone else seemed to have done so. Nothing a cranked up iPod couldn’t fix…

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Austin hasn’t been blessed with a solid bout of rain since May.

Until last weekend.

I was up most of the night prior to the race listening to the wind howl and rain pound against my bedroom window. From 3-5am the thunder and lightning were pretty intense. Part of me hoped it would carry on through the morning and cancel the race since I hadn’t had much sleep at all.

Event is rain or shine.  Cancellation will only occur if conditions are deemed a safety hazard.  At that time, all registrations will be considered a donation. Thank you.

But part of me REALLY wanted to rock these socks for 3.1 miles.

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After lounging around in bed until 7am, I began pulling myself together. Before the rain entered the forecast, I had planned on running in a Santa hat. The thought of wearing it soaked with rain was less than appealing.

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The game plan was to avoid cotton at all costs (too heavy when wet) and dress warmly, in festive colors.

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Mission Accomplished.

I made my way down to the Domain around 7:20. I stayed warm and cozy in my car until finishing my Nuun a little after 8. My stomach was killing me and I would have loved nothing more than to go home and get back in bed. Of course, this wasn’t an option since I was already there. The only option was to suck it up and deal. Surely I could power through 30 minutes of running.

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The race was chip-timed, but not with the usual disposable B or D Tag. It was a Velcro neoprene strap you claimed at the start line, wrapped around your ankle, and returned after crossing the finish.

Picking up my chip took a few seconds and afterwards we were herded to the starting. There were probably 5 people in between myself and the start, which is easily the closest I’ve ever been in a race.

I turned on my Garmin, and it proceeded to try its damndest to locate satellites. The high-rise buildings and apartments apparently were making it difficult so I hopped out of my coveted starting position to find a more open area.

No such luck.

Runners had officially taken off and I decided to ditch the Garmin.

Once I crossed the starting mat I immediately regretted stepping out of my original spot. While this was a super small race (less than 200 runners) it was incredibly congested and I was bobbing and weaving my way around walkers for a majority of the first mile.

I was thankful for my hat which shielded most of the rain from my face. I was also thankful for the arm warmers I grabbed at the last minute before leaving the house. I would have been FREEZING without them. The wind was miserable.

The course was pretty basic (two out-and-backs) and luckily I had it memorized because there wasn’t a mile marker until mile 3. I had no idea how fast I was going or how far I had ran until the race was nearly over.

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My previous 5K PR was 36:13. I wanted to beat that time and/or go sub-30. Considering the weather and the way my stomach was making me hate life, I would have settled for ANY time as long as I crossed that finish line.

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Official Finish
30:08, 9:43 pace

Carly and I have the Reindeer Run 5K on December 18th and I WILL break that 30 minute mark!

Five for Friday

1. I am oh so jealous of everyone running Vegas this Sunday.

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Good luck to Paula, Michelle, Cely, Ali, Ashley, and all of the other runners dominating the strip at night!

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I wouldn’t mind joining in on Sarah & Emily’s sparkly mimosa spectating extravaganza. Those that can’t run, drink. They’ve got the right idea.

2. I’m really looking forward to my 5K this weekend.

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While perusing the race website yesterday I discovered all participants receive long sleeved shirts and  … jingle bells! I honestly can’t tell you what I’ll do with them but I’m pretty damn excited. Christmas related items rank incredibly high in my book, and jingle bells are no exception.

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Some say rain is what PRs are made of, and since See Jane Run ripped the opportunity out from under me to see if this statement was true, I’ll be testing my luck on Sunday. In holiday attire. Here’s a sneak peek:

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3. These cookies are EVIL.

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Sugar cookies with a chocolate coated bottom and sprinkles. Sound pretty innocent, right? Please don’t be fooled. I bought them a couple weeks back for $2.99 at Target not expecting much. But once that last cookie was gone, we were distraught. I’ve never been impressed with sugar cookies but these stole my heart.

Then we went to Target earlier this week to pick up a few necessities. On display right in front of the store were many, many packages of these cookies for $0.99. Ninety-nine cents! Before I even knew what was happening, there were two packages in our basket.

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I want to tell you to buy them, but don’t want you to hate me when you realize you just.can’t.stop.eating.them. Seriously.

4. My office holiday party is tonight.

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Dueling piano bar, casual attire, open bar, and free cabs home. Does it get better than that?

Don’t think so.

5. We’ll FINALLY be decorating for Christmas tomorrow. And by finally I mean I still can’t believe we didn’t do it on Black Friday like the past few years.

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Once the decorations are up I bounce around the house like a five year old.

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Something about twinkling lights, sparkly garland, and Christmas Cookie candles make me giddy. And seeing our dog pose next to the tree Winking smile

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And once the decorations are up, it gives me an excuse to watch Elf every day and tell everyone around me that I like to smile because smiling’s my favorite.

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We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.

 

Your turn: what’s something you’re excited about this weekend?

ESPN the Weekend

Vacation is just around the corner! Initially this vacation began as a weekend getaway for Brad and I, but it slowly morphed into a fun vacation for Carly and I too. While he is preoccupied with the bachelor party and rehearsal dinner for the wedding, the girls will wining, dining, and running.

Another highlight of the weekend is ESPN the Weekend at Hollywood Studios.

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In addition to a day full of theme park rides, pro athlete sightings (maybe meeting?!) and delicious lunch at Mama Melrose’s, we also have this:

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While Brad sleeps off his hangover from the bachelor party, Carly & I will be up bright and early to run the 5k race on Saturday morning. And, most importantly, earn another medal to add to our growing collection.

We’re pretty excited, only 4 more days to go!