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Friday, 22 March 2013 12:00

Washington, D.C.

Date Race Name Mike's Time Kristin's Time

Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon

1:44:27 1:44:26

Race Comments:

Race recap: We arrived at the race with plenty of time to warm up and stretch, but neither of us expected it to take 20 minutes to drop our bags off at gear check, so even though we arrived early we were still forced to run to the start...and into the race. We somehow managed to step into our corral right as our wave was released, but not before someone side stepped in front of me, causing me to pull up short and causing Kristin to twist her ankle on the curb seconds before the race. Thankfully the adrenalin was pumping and Kristin ran really well even if she was hobbling something fierce that night. The first 3 miles of the race are pretty cool, we got to see a few of the major monuments from a distance as we headed east towards Virginia. After crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge and briefly stepping foot in Virginia we were enjoyed the next 3 miles as we ran on Rock Creek Parkway. Even though the race was pretty huge ~30,000 runners, there were several spots during miles 3-6 that our surroundings just overshadowed the sound of pounding footsteps around us. At times it was eerily quiet too, which seemed odd given the huge group of runners. The elevation chart was a total joke, as it showed an increase of ~75 feet between mile 6 and 7, but in reality it was much steeper than that and a good number of runners either slowed to what looked like a walk. The one huge plus was the massive crowd support on this hill - the race organizers may not have claimed it to be a tough climb, but the community obviously knew it was a doozy. Around mile 8 a spectator spotted our festive race gear and yelled "you need a beer" and actually ran on to the course and handed me a can of Budweiser. Nothing like a roadie to keep us going. We both enjoyed a few swings, but ultimately around mile 11 I had to ditch the last few sips as it had basically turned to foam from being jostled around and was nearly impossible to drink without choking. A few rolling rolls in the final miles, but nothing too crazy. Despite the ups and downs, all in all it was a good course and we enjoyed the race, even if we ended up running over 14 miles (including our run from gear check to the start).

Highlight: Several options here, but I think I have to go with enjoying a road beer while taking a running tour of DC!

Tip: Gear check was a disaster - drop your bag off before your pre-race stretch (it took ~20 minutes for us to just drop a bag off - pretty awful).


Lucky Hat Rockin DC Thumbs Up


Day 1 (Friday):

Nothing beats catching up with a friend on a trip and we were fortunate enough to see our good friend Katie for lunch at Luke's Lobster shortly after we got in to DC. As always, it was really great to catch up with Katie and the fantastic lobster rolls were just icing on the cake.

Tip: The restaurant is pretty small and gets fairly crowded, but the lobster rolls are really good.

Luke's Lobster Luke's Lobster


After grabbing our race packets we decided to rent a pair of bikes from the Capital Bikeshare and road back into the city. What an awesome and relaxing ride! Absolutely a highlight of our trip to DC - just cruising the streets of DC on our hogs. There are a lot of dedicated bike lanes and I think all the miles we've spent riding and training for triathlons really made us comfortable on these rented bikes. If the weather's nice this is a must to see the city in a unique and fun way.

Whheeeee Mike with the capital Together in DC


After returning our bikes to a nearby drop-off location, we took a quick tour of the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Most people have heard the story of how I donated the prototype tin of Silly Putty to the Smithsonian a few years back (yes, seriously), so whenever we're in DC it's always a treat to visit the Smithsonian just in case it's back on display. After checking out a number of exhibits, including the revamped Star Spangled Banner and Dorothy's ruby red slippers from the Wizard of Oz, our stomachs were growling so we headed out for a snack.

Quick Museum Tour


Kristin had spotted Teaism in her sleuthing and we just had to stop in to sample the chocolate salty oat cookie and the salty oat cookie. YUM - the chocolate cookie had chunks of dark chocolate throughout and was really good, especially with just a sip of Kristin's natural ginger ale or my ginger limeade.

Ginger ale and cookies Very happy


Next up was the Museum of Crime and Punishment. We had a great time going from exhibit to exhibit - it follows somewhat of a chronological time-frame from medieval to present-day and has a number of interactive exhibits. We spent about 90 minutes here, but could have easily spent another 30 minutes as we rushed through the back half of the museum and missed our chance to play Crime Scene Investigator. We both really enjoyed this museum and would highly recommend it!

Mike - In the Doghouse Sharp Shooter McGee Clearly state


Apparently sushi has become our new pre-race meal. Odd, I know, but it seems to work. We crashed the trendy SEI for a sampling of interesting sushi rolls, with some traditional favorites and new-age creations like the "fish and chips", which reminded me of the tuna casserole topped with crushed potato chips my mom used to make (in a good way). A bit trendy, but good sushi. The DC Brau beer we tried was easy drinking and smooth, but the back of the can really nailed the driving force for our trip to DC:

"New Columbia is the name of the proposed U.S. state that would be created by the admission of the District of Columbia into the United States as the 51st state according to legislation offered starting in congress in 1983."

Pre-race sushi


Day 2 (Saturday - Race Day):

After biking back from the finish (yes, we once again avoided the Metro and decided to hop some rental bikes for our trip back to the hotel, which was especially awesome as most of the roads were still closed from the race, but all the runners were long gone) we cleaned up and headed to Coco Sala for a great chocolate themed brunch. The french press coffee was a huge plus and helped to keep us warm. We split the French Toast S'mores (decadent) and the breakfast flatbread of hash-browns, chicken sausage, eggs and bacon. The flatbread was huge and I'm glad we split to entrees so we could get a broader sampling of their interesting menu choices. Nice brunch stop, especially if you are in the mood for chocolate.

Coco Sala Great french press coffee


Decatur House was...ummm...closed. Whoops! No worries, we were close to all the action near the Whitehouse so we headed to close museum to kill a few minutes.



We had a few minutes to kill, so we headed to the Renwick Gallery for a free self-guided tour of some interesting art. Everything from traditional 1600's oil paintings to a giant swordfish made from baby doll parts and other plastic toys, we both enjoyed this brief stop.

Interesting artistic fish Clock made from wood - unreal Crazy teapot


We joined up with Matt and took the free (tip based) American Scandal tour around DC. Even though our bodies were pretty sore from running earlier in the day - even more so for Kristin who was starting to hobble a bit by this point - the tour was very well thought out and talked about scandals from hundreds of years ago to present day. Really a worthwhile walking tour.

Tip: The tour begins just north of the White House and ends at the steps of the Capitol (the website didn't include that, but it would have been nice to know).

Kristin and Matt on tour The Boys at the Capitol! Unnamed Sailor


Dinner, drinks and some more drinks at the DC Chophouse. It was really great to kick back, relax and just chill. The lower level bar was full, but the upstairs bar was awesome and complete with super comfortable leather couches, which provided a perfect spot to camp out and enjoy a black IPA while we waited for a table. The beer was fresh and the food was plentiful. Ahhh...that was a good time.

Relaxing It went down way too easy Pile them high - we've been running!


After dinner Kristin was really struggling to walk on her ankle but refused a cab and we set off to meet the whole Bollenbacher family for a drink at Capitol City Brewing. Great chance to catch up and chat over a pint at the bar. Now that's what I call a night cap!


Day 3 (Sunday):

We had planned to do a 4-5 mile run around the Tidal Basin (near the Lincoln Memorial), but our bodies were really sore, so we decided to take it easy and headed for a tour of the Newseum. There were a lot of interesting exhibits in this museum devoted to news and new distribution, but the Berlin Wall, complete with the only Checkpoint Charlie in the US, and the 911 exhibits were the most powerful. If I had a class of middle-school students, I think I would take them here. It's very informative, but still somewhat interactive.

Newseum Berlin Wall & Checkpoint Charlie


Before we headed to the airport, we made one final stop at Ford's Theater. I expected to just see an out-of-date stage and maybe a plaque showing the box where Lincoln was assassinated, but I was way off. The Theater has a pretty extensive museum in the basement, including the gun and bullet that John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate Lincoln. Also, the theater is fully functional and had a series of shows the week we were in town. It's pretty cool that such a historic place is still being used for its intended purpose, when gobs of tourists aren't taking photos of an empty stage that is. This turned out to be a really great final stop on our visit to DC.

Huge credit to Kristin for pulling together an awesome itinerary - you really outdid yourself!

Ford Theater


Washington, D.C. Half Marathon Medals:

March 16, 2013: Rock n' Roll USA Half Marathon

Rock n' Roll USA (DC) Half Marathon Medal 2013


What are the odds that Kristin's race bib would end in "50" and my bib would end in "51"? Seems fitting in case DC ever does become the 51st state!


Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 April 2013 19:16
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Sunday, 22 January 2012 12:00

2012 - A Year in Review

2012 Running Statistics:

Total running miles: 1,508.9 miles (average: 4.12 miles per day)

Days running: 232 (average: 4.44 days per week)

Monthly maximum: 160.1 miles (December)

Monthly minimum: 100.0 miles (February)

Weekly maximum: 46.5 miles

Weekly minimum: 17.4 miles


2012 Race Statistics:

Marathons (26.2 miles): 1

25K (15.5 miles): 1

Half Marathons (13.1 miles): 20 (14 different states)

10 Nautical Miles (11.5 miles): 1

10K (6.2 miles): 1 Mike, 0 Kristin

5 mile: 1

5K (3.1 miles): 2


Half Ironman Triathlons (1.2 mile swim, 56.0 mile bike, 13.1 mile run): 1

Olympic Triathlons (0.9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, 6.2 mile run): 2 Mike, 3 Kristin


2012 was a very good year, and with our 50 state journey scheduled to conclude this coming October in Maine, 2013 looks to be a memorable year as well.

Happy Running,

Mike & Kristin

To 2013!

Last Updated on Monday, 31 December 2012 15:32
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Sunday, 22 January 2012 12:00

Grand Rapids 25k - A Lesson in Late Race Running Form

Other than not knowing a 25k is actually just shy of 15.6 miles (I mistakenly thought it was 15.3 miles and Kristin thought it was 15.0 miles), the Grand Rapids 25k was a lot of fun and a highly recommended race.

Instead of recounting the race, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on proper running form. The picture below is a perfect example of good versus bad running form.  15 miles into any race (especially when you think the finish line should be in sight) your body begins to tire and your form begins to suffer and break down. Take a look at the woman in purple and you see a massive heal-strike, wildly flailing arms and a pained look on her face.  Take a look at the woman in red and you see a calm, collected and experienced runner with a perfect mid-foot strike (her feet are actually both off the ground in the photo), arms tucked and a focused look on her face.  I may be biased as I am married to the runner in red, but I am pretty confident I know which runner was hitting the roads the next day and which was at home with an ice-pack on both knees…

Grand Rapids - Form

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 16:44
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Sunday, 22 January 2012 12:00

Arizona Rock n Roll Marathon Blog: 1-15-12 "The Bucket List"

The Bucket:

Have you ever had a little burning in the back of your head?  No, I’m not talking about dandruff, I mean that one item on your bucket list that eats away at you because you know with some hard work that you could finally cross it off your list?  After a little more than a year of concentrating on half marathons (we’re up to 27 states and on pace to run all 50 states in under 100 hours – woo-who!) and completing our first half ironman (double woo-who!) we decided to step up our mileage and take another stab at the elusive sub 4 hour marathon.  We’re a bit of an anomaly in that we run 99% of our races and training runs together.  We don’t always have the same natural pace, but we push each other to be better and honestly no run feels quite right or satisfying without Kristin running on my right side.


The Training:

When we first talked about running another marathon we agreed that we would only continue to train as long as we stayed injury free and enjoyed our training runs.  Unlike the first 3 marathons we ran, our running base was much stronger and we actually looked forward to our weekly long-runs runs with anticipation rather than trepidation; big word which hopefully means something like approached with sheer terror and dread :). And unlike our 1st marathon, where our goal was to complete 26.2 miles, this time we were in a race against the clock. In keeping with our goal of having fun during our training we found a 40 mile relay in Charleston, IL that was absolutely fantastic – great people, good challenging course and the most enjoyable 20 mile run we have ever done (the 2-person course record was just icing on the cake)!  Not only were our bodies becoming stronger, but Mother Nature was also on our side – while we had a few spouts of freezing weather (on at least 2 occasions we ran more miles than degrees outside; do the math on that one!) the snow and ice Chicago is known for in December and January was basically non-existent.

Mike - 40 Mile Relay Kiss of Death!

The Race - It's a long recap, but its a long race too! :-)

We took a long weekend to visit my parents in Surprise, AZ (outside of Phoenix) and coupled the trip with the Rock and Roll Arizona Marathon.  While it felt like every ache and twinge in our bodies was magnified the week of the marathon, we knew we had done the necessary training to meet our goal and were excited to start the race.  The night before any major race we have come to grips with the fact that we likely won’t get much sleep, but surprisingly we both slept fairly well.  In the morning, we were pretty rested and excited to see the forecast for the day was mid-50’s to low-60’s with clouds the entire day.  I’m pretty sure we are the only people who travel to Arizona in the winter hoping for unusually cool and cloudy weather!


Race morning we were faced with a critical logistical decision.  Marathon runners had the option of parking at the start (downtown Phoenix) and taking a shuttle back to your car post-race or parking at the finish (Arizona State University campus) and taking a shuttle to the start pre-race.  Given that the half marathon, and over 20,000 expected participants, started and ended at Arizona State we opted to park at the start line and take the shuttle back after the race.  Our experience with races led us to the right decision and we were parked with plenty of time to stretch and use the ‘facilities’ before the race.  As usual, about 20 minutes before the race began we each took a gel with a last sip of water.  What we didn’t know at that time was that the start of the race would be delayed 30 minutes due to “massive traffic” at the finish line and marathoners not being able to get to the start line.  I’m glad we took that stress out of the equation.


After a second trip to the ‘facilities’ we gave each-other a pre-race smooch and excitedly crossed the start line.  Less than 0.5 mile into the race, a gel from Kristin’s spi-belt (running belt which holds gels) fell to the ground.  Kristin attempted to grab it but missed and shrugged it off.  Normally, I would have just let it go too – but losing our nutrition so early in a marathon made me nervous. When I looked back and saw a clear opening, I took it and grabbed the gel. In no time I was back with Kristin and happy to have all of our nutrition in hand (literally).

AZ - Nice Mountain Shot

At mile 1 we both questioned the necessity of a water station – even for a marathon this seemed really early and almost every runner around us agreed (almost no one stopped at this station).  Around mile 3 we chatted with a woman from Michigan about what percentage of runners we thought were running the marathon with headphones.  We settled on about 60%.  When Kristin and I first started running, I used music to block out my surroundings, but as we have grown in running (and gotten more interested in triathlons - which don’t allow headphones) I have found that I really enjoy listening to my surroundings more than blocking them out. Kristin still enjoys running with headphones from time to time – especially on the treadmill, and maybe just to block out my voice ;-) – but I give her a lot of credit from running her first marathon headphone free!


At mile 5 we found our stride and were enjoying the run.  At some point a few members of the crowd started yelling “Go Mike, Go!”  I loved it but was unsure of how they knew my name until I saw the runner next to me had “Mike” written in large black ink across his shirt.  I joked with Mike that I was going to run the entire race next to him to “steal his cheers.”  Funny enough, we ended up running with Mike again from 12 to 15, 22 to 24 and even reunited at the finish line!


Our game-plan was to take our first gel just past mile 7, but given the delayed start our stomachs were pitting (i.e. feeling really empty) just past mile 5.  At the 10k marker (mile 6.2), Kristin wisely said that we needed to take our gel early.  Our experience had taught us that we needed to alter our plan because if you don’t maintain your nutrition and hydration early you have no chance of making it up at the end of a race.


At mile 8.5 we began a 3.5 mile gradual 160 foot uphill climb.  Mile 9 provided the most entertaining cheer station on the course.  A high school cheerleading squad decked out in full disco attire was dancing and cheering to the classic “Staying Alive” blasting from an on-course stereo.  This course support was pretty great and helped us forget that we were still climbing a never ending hill.

Keep on Rockin'

Just past mile 10 we needed to use the facilities again.  While normally we can ‘gut it out’ for a half marathon without a bathroom break, we knew we still had more than 15 miles to go and that a stop now would pay dividends at the end of the day.  Luckily, two porta-potties were open when we arrived at the aid station, so our stop was quick, and without going into too much detail told me I needed to increase my hydration - which was critically important at this stage in the race.


Mile 12 felt great – we finally hit the highest elevation marker of the course and enjoyed a 75 foot downhill reprieve for the next mile.  We crossed the half-way mark (mile 13.1) in ~1:54, which was about a minute faster than our plan but well within our goal.  This was the first time in over a year that 13.1 didn’t mark the finish line.


The next 6 miles were an out and back which looped through downtown Scottsdale, which looks like a cute little town of shops and restaurants.  We talked for a bit with a woman from Utah who had just run 18 miles in the Florida Ragnar Relay the week before (teams of 12 run 200 total miles over a 2-day span), which helped to distract us from a group of 6 bikers who were peddling along on their 'beach cruisers' talking with one of their friends running the marathon.  I’m not sure why the bikers bugged us so much, but I think it was just frustrating seeing people leisurely biking along on the same course that we were trying to run.  We also ran with our ‘old acquaintance’ Mike for a few miles and chatted about his family and our respective race endeavors. Mike seems like a pretty cool cat.


At the mile 15 aid station we grabbed a few cups of Gatorade and pulled off to the side of course to enjoy a package of crackers with peanut butter we brought along.  While some runners think it is insane to stop for a few minutes to enjoy a snack during a marathon (from both a time and digestion perspective), we relied on the experience of our long training runs, which always included a stop at the local gas station to split a Gatorade and package of crackers before finishing our final 5 to 8 miles.  The stop was really nice and time well spent.

Still Having a Great Time!

After the aid station at mile 17, and sucking down another gel, Kristin took an extra second of walking to stretch her right leg.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, we were ahead of our goal pace and sometimes one of us just needs an extra second or two.  When the words “my knee really hurts” came out of her mouth I was immediately worried.  Kristin doesn’t complain about much if anything, so for her to say that she was in pain with about 10 miles to go in the race was not good.  I asked if she wanted to stop and walk and she said “No, just start off a little slower and let me see if I can get my knee to warm up.”  I followed directions as well as I could, but when I looked over and saw my running buddy literally biting her finger and grimacing with pain I thought the day might be over.  After seeing her anguish I said “I’m only going to ask once: should we stop and drop out of this race?”  I said I would only ask once because we had discussed in previous races how defeating it is to have someone constantly asking “Are you ok? You don’t look so good.”  Kristin looked me square in the eye and said “No, just keep going.”


Just before mile 20 we passed through a gauntlet of crowd support, which was completely awesome and very timely.  Our bodies were getting tired and there were so many people on the road that we nearly had to run single file, which was more than ok with us as their energy and cheers really energized us. We crossed the 20 mile marker in ~2:58, a bit slower than our first half pace, but it told us we needed to run the final 6.2 miles in about an hour (~9:50/mile pace) to break our 4:00 goal. On a normal day this pace would hardly seem daunting, but after 20 miles and with Kristin’s knee flaring up I knew we had a good chance but that it would be close.


At mile 23 we approached the final climb (~60 feet over 0.5 miles) and Kristin grabbed her knee and cringed as she said “I need to stop.”  Without a moments notice we slowed to a walk and I grabbed her hand to let her know that we were finishing this race together, whether it was under our 4:00 goal or not. After about 10 steps, Kristin said she was ready to run again and the last hill on the course was soon in our rear-view mirror.

Keep on Keepin' on

Unlike the previous 3 marathons we had run, which all had aid stations every mile for the final 5 miles, the last aid station on this course was at mile 23.7 – a full 2.5 miles from the finish line.  Luckily, Kristin had pointed this out pre-race and I developed a somewhat McGyver-esque plan to fill a quart sized zip-loc bag with a few cups of water at the last aid station and carry the bag for the next mile or so in my hand (we kept the empty bag rolled up in a pocket during the race, which worked really well). After taking our last gel and filing my zip-lock bag with some quality H20, we were running again - with me holding what must have looked like a prize gold-fish from a local carnival.


At mile 25 we were in stride with a pack of about 10-15 runners when we strategically pulled off to the side of the road and each took a nice sip from our make-shift water station.  After finishing our water we looked at each other and without saying a word mentally exchanged the same thought “one mile to go, no more stopping, no matter what.”  As we started running, I quickly glanced at my watch and knew that our 4:00 goal was in reach – one more mile…just keep going. Even though we were tired and hurting, we really enjoyed crossing the scenic Center Parkway Bridge and knowing we were close to the finish.  Our self-made water stop proved to be a great idea, as we passed every runner from that original pack over the next half mile.


As we passed mile 26 (Kristin swears there was a mile marker, I just remember seeing crowd barricades and thinking we have to be close to the finish) we turned the corner towards the home-stretch to an incredible burst of crowd support and saw the clock register 3:59:42 as the race announcer excitedly called on the crowd to help the runners finish in under 4:00 hours.  Fans and supporters were yelling and frantically flailing their arms screaming “Go! Run, Run, Run!”  “You can still make it!”  As we sprinted across the finish with everything we had, we looked up as the clock registered 4:00:01.  One lousy second, right?  Well, not really.  Fortunately for us, the finish line clock begins when the first professional crosses the start line and our time didn’t begin until we crossed the start line almost 3 minutes later – so we actually finished in 3:57!  We finished the race the same way we started with a little celebratory smooch!

Finish Line!!!!!

Kristin battled some serious demons in this race, but through her determination and focus she was able to overcome every obstacle and persevere. I am humbled by her sheer will power and determination and I am so proud to have finished my 4th marathon with my best friend by my side. No matter what our future running endeavors hold, one thing that can never be taken away from us is that one day we ran 26.2 milesin under 4 hours…together.

Sub 4:00 hours!

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 January 2012 15:43
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Monday, 03 January 2011 12:00

New Mexico Blog: 12-18-10 Lucky No. 13?

Since I was a little tyke I have always liked the number 13 - from my soccer jersey in kindergarten to my volleyball jersey in high school I have repeatedly chosen what some consider to be an unlucky number.   So, would our 13th state half marathon prove to be lucky or unlucky?


Shortly before Christmas Kristin and I ventured down to Las Cruces, New Mexico with hopes of placing a nice green check mark next to another Southwestern state (our goal of completing 50in100 – running a half marathon in all 50 states in under 100 total hours).  Fueled by some amazingly good green chili infused southwest fare we readied ourselves for a race which had provided relatively few details.  Rather than dwelling on the lack of a race website, course map or expo we simply attributed the lack of information to the growing pains of an inaugural race.  While we are used to running in larger races (20,000+ runners) this race was very intimate with about as many people running as we are used to seeing volunteer at water stations.  Don’t get me wrong we like small races too, but sometimes the logistics have a few more kinks.


The first 2 miles were fairly flat and very scenic with mountains on both sides of the road.  Through mile 5 everything was going well and we were on pace to break our two hour goal. However, just past the 6 mile marker we turned on to a dirt trail (uneven and rocky) and the true challenge of the race began.  Due to the lack of race information neither of us was aware that any of the race was on a trail so we figured that the race coordinator had decided to use the trail to cut off some mileage in order to get the race back on to a parallel road.  We were dead wrong.  1 mile on the trail, 2 miles, 3 miles.  Kristin began to struggle a bit as her unlucky decision to wear road shoes, which provide minimal protection off road, was beginning to take a pounding toll on her feet.  As I looked at Kristin’s worried face I reassured her that last 5k had to be on the road.  Unfortunately, I was wrong and it looked like our luck might be running out.  4 miles on the trail, 5 miles, 6 miles.  Turn after turn the trail continued.  After 6 miles of running in loose dirt, which felt more like running in place than running forward, our legs were tired, our feet were sore and our minds were seriously wondering if our 13th state would prove unlucky. As we ran past the 12 mile marker I glanced at my watch, calculated our pace, and said to Kristin “we’ve come too far and run too long not to break 2 hours today.”  With a head nod and no verbal exchanges in the final mile we breathed a sigh of relief as the dirt trail transformed into pavement and we sprinted the final 0.5 mile to the finish.  Worried that we might not meet our time goal we ran the final stretch hard and smiled emphatically as we crossed the finish line in just under 1:57.


After running 13.1 miles in our 13th state I now firmly believe that the number 13 continues to be my lucky number.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 18:53

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