Along My Run | 20 - Running in Madison, WI

Following up on my weekend trip to Madison, Wisconsin, I am highlighting the two beautiful runs I enjoyed while visiting. Yeah, I run even when on vacation - because us crazy runners have to get our miles in or else we get cranky.

Really, I didn't have any excuses not to run - I was on my own in the mornings, (those college kids still sleep in until noon) and the weather was perfect - sunny with very little wind. Prior to the trip, I did some research for running routes and found a 6 mile loop around the UW Arboretum. I knew it would be a nice route with options for trail running. The Arboretum is 3 miles away from campus and while I initially considered running there, I'm glad I didn't - the route there was basically city streets. Once I entered the park it felt like another world - lush tree canopy, adjoining forested lands and a winding asphalt road. I saw several runners and groups as I made my way to the parking area, so I knew it would be safe for me to run by myself.

The route was perfect - rolling hills under the trees that opened up to a small lake. The path took me around the lake and adjoining golf course before rounding back through prairie lands and the parking lot where I started. I then opted to explore the running / hiking trail that took me directly into the prairie. I've embedded the route below:

If that doesn't work on your mobile device, here's a simple screen shot of the map:

Of course, I captured the scenery I got to enjoy while running the loop - so much variety to take in.

This section of the trail was unbelievably gorgeous:

After I completed the loop, I added on 2 miles of trail running in the prairie.

On Sunday, I decided to run from the hotel to the Wisconsin campus and along the Lakeshore Path. This route follows the banks of Lake Mendota, which is a great backdrop for any run, walk or bike ride.

Another gorgeous fall day!

On the way back, I came upon Wisconsin's Porter Boat house, something unique to this school.

Here's the general route I took. The city has done a great job adding bike lanes so there are a myriad of options to explore along Mendota and Monona Lakes and around campus.

Finally, since November is running safety month, here are my some comments regarding the subject specific to running in a new city. Of course, personal safety is paramount and is trickier when running in a new town or unfamiliar territory. Prior research of running trails can facilitate this. Before setting out, give your travel mates or family a general idea where you will be running and the expected duration of your run. If possible, run with a partner or in a group. Stick to daylight hours and well populated areas. My rule of thumb - if there are other runners, walkers or bikers on the trail, it's ok. If I don't see another soul on an isolated path, I turn back. Take your cell phone! I always run with my cell phone, even at home, even if I'm simply running up the street and back. You just never know. Carry a form of personal identification on you, especially if you have a medical condition. I have Road ID tag that attaches to my shoe. Finally, listen to your instincts - if an area makes you feel uncomfortable, leave it immediately.

I really enjoyed my two runs in Madison and if you are a runner or biker visiting the city, there are plenty of options around town to explore, so get off the treadmill and go run outside!


Down State Street in Madison, Wisconsin

While I recognize the city of Madison might not be considered to be a traditional touristy hot-spot, it is the home to the University of Wisconsin and the state capital with plenty of sights to take in. The city is flanked by two large lakes, with several smaller bodies of water nearby, so the area almost feels coastal even though it is really landlocked.

My daughter and I visited Madison for the first time last weekend, as her best friend from high school is a student there and they both had a weekend free of college obligations. She stayed in the dorm with her friend, while I opted for a less communal hotel room (taking one for the team). The weather was unseasonably warm for November (normally there's snow on the ground) which allowed me to wander around the city and take in the sights. There's plenty to see and do in this college town / capital city:

1. The Wisconsin State Capitol House:
This impressive structure anchors the city, and with the city ordinance that no building (within a mile) shall be built taller than its 285 feet, it clearly gets your attention upon any approach.

Served on a Platter

2. Monona Terrace - Community and Convention Center
Too Late for Picnics
Even though the sun was shining, I was the only soul on the top of this Frank Lloyd Wright designed building that stands on the shore of Lake Monona. Inside, the convention center was bustling due to the Saturday morning Dane County Farmer's Market (I bought cheese of course!). The second photo of the State House above was taken from the top of the terrace. Based on the web site, the outside areas are heavily used during the summer months - its proximity to the water makes it ideal - just not so much on a crisp, breezy November day.

3. The Madison Contemporary Museum of Art
Glass Tower
I didn't have time to visit the museum exhibits, but loved its modern and open atrium architecture.

4. The Overture Center for the Arts
Glitters Gold
The Overture Center houses several performance venues and performance companies. From dance to music to theatre, the Art Center provides vibrant, cultural experiences for all. There were performances scheduled over the weekend and the energy from the center was palpable.

5. The University of Wisconsin
Well, that's embarrassing - I didn't take any photos of the European themed, brick facade buildings of The University of Wisconsin.
Here is one of the famous Bascom Hall, taken by Randy Scherkenbach

Bascom Hall.jpg
The photo doesn't show that this hall sits atop a HUGE hill - a 100 foot incline to climb. But worth the views at the top as you are gasping for air!

I was quite impressed by the University and the city - the people were friendly, the streets were clean with a young, urban vibe. The city's mix of buildings makes the walk down State Street from Bascom Hall down to Monona Terrace interesting from an architectural view. These eclectic elements, coupled with the presence of college students really drive that young-but-old city feel. I will definitely visit again.

Shared with Five on Friday


Peace, Faith, Grace

Three words, simple sentiments for this world. It's a new day and even in the chaos of world events, may you find and give peace, faith and grace in the simplicity of the earth's beauty.

Last Sunrise in Kauai

I;ll Fly Away


Along My Run | 19 - Perfect Fall Weather

There's so much to love about October - the leaves start to render their colorful coat, the air is fresh and crisp and the warm sunlight casts a perfect glow. It's my favorite time of year for running - most days are warm enough for shorts and a tee shirt but cool enough to be perfectly comfortable while crunching through the leaves.

We were spoiled this October. It's been dry and warm. I've got a group of friends to share my Saturday long runs with, and I've convinced several others to run with me in the dark during the weekdays.

October Running - Perfect Fall Weather
1. Daydreamer, 2. Fall Perfection , 3. Instead of Running the CM, 4. Big Sky Morning , 5. Nothing But Blue skies , 6. Pop! , 7. Under the Canopy, Enjoying Our Fall Run, 8. Hello From the Outside

October Stats:
Distance: 135 miles - my biggest monthly run volume of the year, just shy of my 2014 max.
Average pace: 9:23 minutes / mile

I didn't train for a fall race, but my running friends were training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, so most of my Saturday runs were in the 15-17 mile range. I had deferred my entry to the Chicago Marathon, felt (slight) twinges of remorse as I tracked my friends running on race day. My goal is to run it in 2016 with a bunch of friends in tow. I just need to convince them to sign up!

This month's running quotes:
Running isn't forced. You have to relax and let the run come out of you.
– Desiree Linden

Setting goals requires gazing way out at the horizon of your life. But once you set your course, most of the time your awareness should be on the trail under your feet.
– Lauren Fleshman


Singing Out Loud - Five on Friday

Five Music related Musings, just in time for Five on Friday

Hello and Adele…..Released two weeks ago, everyone is buzzing about the Adele’s new recording in over 4 years. I was immediately drawn to the melancholy, the yearning lyrics, and the timbre of her voice in the haunting melody. Adele’s music pulls out emotions and paints a story of the time you were experiencing exactly the same situation and feelings. Emotions sell songs and this one is no different.
I only have one qualm about the song – it is missing a bridge. You know, the transitional ditty that connects the second refrain to the refrain’s reprise. OK, I’m sure most people don’t even notice…

Sounds Like Me and Waitress….. Sara Bareilles is back on the scene with a triple play – a book, a Broadway musical and new album. I’ve already read the book - a memoir that reads like her songs - totally relatable and down to earth, like a high school friend. She reveals her insecurities, how she grapples with her self-image, and the foibles (good and bad) while maneuvering the music industry landscape known for creating a “commercial artist” instead of fostering authenticity. She's a reminder that even the uber talented and successful people in this world are fallible, imperfect beings facing the same life difficulties as the rest of us. Her album “What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress” hits stores today. I’ve already downloaded the song She Used to Be Mine. And if somehow a trip to NYC drops in my lap, I’ll do my best to catch Waitress: A New Musical on Broadway

Photograph and Ed Sheeran ……. In September I had the opportunity to see Ed Sheeran in concert. The outdoor venue was close to Chicago on a balmy, perfect fall evening. We bought lawn seat tickets on sale (a mere $20 bucks) and managed to secure a decent view of the stage (arriving early does make a difference). Even though most of my exposure to the goofy, ginger artist has been his mainstream (read: for commercial consumption) stuff, I knew that his show would not be a pre-packaged regurgitation of his radio presence.
Ed Sheeran Concert

I was right - his performance was amazing. I appreciate artists who allow their music to breathe and flow differently with each performance- that's the beauty of live music. It is always changing. Sheeran mans the stage completely alone yet creates the sound of a full band - he achieves this through the use of recording and playback equipment right on stage. He lays down each layer (percussion, bass line) recording it live then continuously looping it back and singing over the layers. The concert was amazing, with tons of energy from the stage and the huge crowd. Towards the end, after darkness revealed an inky, starry sky, the stage lights dimmed and Ed asked us to turn on our cell phone flashlights. The effect was magical - like the stars fell from the sky and enveloped the crowd. I'm pretty choosy when it comes to concerts and this one was worth it. The next time, I'll pay more to get closer to the stage.
Amazing Performance Under the Stars - Ed Sheeran #concert #music #edsheeranconcert

AltNation ……. I got a three month trial subscription to Sirius/XM radio and I’m hooked on the AltNation channel. Satellite radio gives the listener more variety (because I am sick of hearing certain songs. Like TSwift’s Bad Blood – what a terrible song! And even Walk the Moon’s Shut up and Dance with Me, because I downloaded it way back in April and would like to move on. ) Here's a song destined for my running playlist - Run by Coin

A Song For Someone and U2 …… I’m not sure why I’m digging this one by U2, but it always draws me in.
If there is a light
You can always see
And there is a world
We can always be
If there is a dark
That we shouldn't doubt
And there is a light
Don't let it go out


November 2015 Desktop Calendar - Prairie Sunset

November marks the end of Daylight Savings time in the US, which means earlier sunsets. Many people dislike the earlier onset of darkness, but hopefully we get to witness the spectacular skies before starting the evening's activities. Personally, I am looking forward to the brighter mornings.

This month's calendar features such a sunset.

Photography captures a specific point in time that can not be replicated. Soon after I shot this, a cluster of high voltage towers and power lines were erected in the background field. This scene, with its empty expanse of sky, can never be captured again. I remind myself of this whenever I'm out with my camera and find myself uninspired.

The same analogy applies to each day, each passing minute - it can't be replicated - so cherish it, embrace the good with the bad and be grateful of it. I continue to remind myself of this, fitting for the month of Thanksgiving and Gratitude.

To download the November 2015 calendar for free at, click on the link:
Free November 2015 Calendar - Prairie Sunset

Have a wonderful, gratitude filled month.


Back to Kauai – Scenes from the Air

Disclosure – we visited Kauai back in June and I’ve been recapturing our trip, bit by bit.
Previous posts:
Arrival to Kauai - Poipu Area
Boogie Boards and The Grand Hyatt Luau
Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail
Running in Poipu Kauai

It’s Friday and today’s adventure is a Helicopter ride to see the remote parts of the island. As most of Kauai is not accessible by auto, a bird’s eye view allows a unique look into the island’s beauty. We chose Sunshine Helicopters and there are many other great helicopter tour companies to work with.

As we have two teens who don’t really like to get up early (even while surrounded by so much beauty – their loss), we chose an afternoon timeslot for our tour. The tour office sits in a little strip mall by airport in Lihue - we are getting really good at navigating the roads in that direction. Each person is weighed (yup, on a digital scale, with all your “stuff”, so for me, that included my big camera and lens) and based on the weights, assigned to a flight. After reviewing the procedures and safety briefing, we loaded into a van which took us out to the helio pads, adjacent to the airport (of course).

The ground crew makes sure each passenger is loaded into their assigned seat, one at a time. Our family sat in the second row seats, but really, there are no “bad seats” here.
The Black Bird
Side note: The information packet we received after booking our reservation listed “dark shirts” as an item to wear for the tour. I understood this suggestion once we got in our seats. If you wear a light shirt (like the dude who paid extra to sit up front), the windows reflect that light color, making it harder to see through the windows. It didn’t affect my view, but it probably impacted white shirt guy up front.

The boy is ready to fly!
Ready to Ride

But first, Let’s take a family selfie:
Family Selfie

Taking off into the air!

The flight took us clockwise around the island, and immediately we got a glimpse of the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge and the Huleia Stream, flanked by the Hap'pu Mountains.
The Garden Island

The Famous Jurassic Park Falls
Manawaiopuna Falls (Jurassic Park Falls)

A Double Waterfall and shadow of us:

We caught sight of the southern part of the island – Poipu beach before heading north to Waimea Canyon – quite a change from all the lush greenery:
The Canyon

Approaching the NaPali Coast:
Glimpses of Na Pali

For picture taking, I relied upon my iPhone for the wide angle shots and my big camera with its 70-200mm lens for mid-angle views. I ran into some trouble with the physical lens length in the chopper, since space is tight. I guess if I had to do it over, I might have gotten better results with a small 50mm prime lens. The scenes go by so fast, though, and I started to get motion sick viewing a zoomed in, shaking version of reality through a camera viewfinder.

The finale of tour – into the Mt Waialeale Crater, with its mist and cascading waterfalls
In the Mist

Scott and I had taken a helicopter ride once before – in Alaska, in our “BC” (before children) days and like our last experience, you can’t beat the views. Our daughter was a little wigged out about the whole experience as she conjured up images of helicopter crashes. The boy got a little motion sick by the end, but overall it was an excellent way to see the island, especially since we would be seeing many of the same sights again, but at ground level.



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All images on this blog (unless stated) are the intellectual property and copyright of Shirley LeMay Photography and Shirley Behind the Lens (© 2005-2014). Do not steal, borrow or pirate the images here.

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