From Mississippi to Europe

How we have made it to mid-October is beyond me. It’s still 90 degrees outside, and while fall has arrived in Mississippi, it is ever so confused. I have just returned from The Netherlands and Belgium where fall was at its best, with leaves crunching under my feet and the cool breeze calling for leggings, boots, and sweaters for all.

Delft architecture

This year’s Memphis & Mississippi International Sales Mission took our group to Europe for sales calls, media appointments, and two unveilings of a mobile blues marker representing the Mississippi Blues Trail. We began our journey in Delft, a picturesque Dutch town an hour’s drive outside of Amsterdam. They are known for Delftware, the blue and white ceramic pottery that is hand-painted and glazed in a process that has been used for centuries.

City Hall in the Delft Square

 

I enjoyed getting to run through the cobblestone streets of Delft, exploring the canals and architecture of the town. On my Saturday morning run, I discovered a market that was set up throughout the city center that included fabrics, Delftware, antiques, and just about anything else people were willing to buy. The shopaholic in me couldn’t wait to get back and grab my purse, but the runner prevailed and I finished three miles in the heart of this charming town.

 

USA Go Wild Event

 

Delft was our home base in The Netherlands because of the USA Go Wild consumer event that we worked, sharing Memphis and Mississippi directly with people who were interested in visiting our area. To kick off the show, we hosted our first blues marker unveiling for over 150 tour operators and journalists complete with live blues music from Mississippi bluesman Vasti Jackson, a Southern barbecue-style supper, and “Mississippi saxophones” for everyone to play a little blues of their own.

Zach’s Dutch birthday celebration

 

My dear friend and “partner-in-crime,” Zach Holifield, turned 30 as we were in the air headed to Holland. We celebrated with birthday crowns and a birthday boy button over breakfast boxes on the flight, but it wasn’t until Friday night that we truly got to celebrate with a proper dinner, toast, and Dutch-themed cake. I will forever remember Zach’s 30th when I see bread baskets, cumquats, and carafes.

 

Stock exchange in Brussels

 

Our next stop on the mission was Belgium. We hit the ground running in Brussels, immediately upon arrival, splitting into sales and press teams, dividing and conquering. That night we met back up for a walking tour of Brussels’ city center and dinner at Chez Leon, a restaurant known for its mussels and pommes frites. Oh, how I love the abundance of french fries in this part of the world!

 

City square in Mechelen

 

In Belgium, one of my favorite days included media visits in Mechelen, a Flemish city between Antwerp and Brussels. We explored the city on foot between appointments and had coffee in the beautiful town square that sits in the shadow of St Rumbold’s Cathedral. I love people-watching and there is truly no better place to gaze than in a city’s square with an exceptional cup of coffee. That goes for the Deep South just as much as Europe!

 

Hanging with Vasti Jackson before the Brussels event

 

Our last night in Brussels included another blues marker unveiling at The Music Village, a cool music venue in the heart of the city. Tour operators, media, and representatives from the American Embassy joined us for a night of blues that only Mississippi can provide. Vasti mesmerized the crowd with stories of our state and tunes to go along with them. Music really is a great equalizer and it is such a joy getting to share Elvis, Tupelo, and Mississippi with music lovers from across the world.

 

Memphis & Mississippi Delegation

 

It was a productive, fun trip and my hope is that both the fall weather and all of the wonderful people we met and shared Memphis and Mississippi with will make their way to see us very soon.

 

Unveiling the Blues Marker

 

Windmill in Delft

 

Press Event at Cannibale Royale in Amsterdam

 

Mussels and French Fries in Delft

 

Cappuccino and Portuguese pastries in Brussels

 

My Nutella Belgian waffle

 

Memphis & MS crew in Brussels

 

2016 Miles to Go: 799

The Countdown is On

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New York City

Two weeks. The TCS New York Marathon is 14 days away. Our flights have long since been booked, hotel reservations made, and theatre tickets secured. I am totally ready for our trip to New York! But, this trip is in no way about me. John has been training for twenty-three weeks and is finally in the homestretch.

Two Saturdays ago marked his first twenty-mile run. He did this long run on the Tanglefoot Trail and it went really well. John felt strong and was trying to mimic the elevation of the New York marathon by running on this flat, fast trail. He fueled properly throughout the week, didn’t go too fast out of the gate, and never hit a wall during his out and back jaunt.

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John put in 15 miles yesterday and will start tapering this week. He’s excited. He’s nervous. But, most of all, he is ready! He’s got his outfit ready to go, which, as it turns out, is not nearly as important to this race as it was for my Princess race, but I don’t think anyone is surprised about that.

John’s ankles are sore. He had a bone spur in his heel and tendonitis in his achillies. He has beaten up his body to train for this race, but like I said, he is ready. He stuck to his training plan and is prepared for what lies ahead. I asked him what he has learned from this process and he shared several keys to his success.

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1. You have to be flexible with your training plan and modify as it meets your needs.

John had a strong training plan that was put together for him by Lynn Holland, a great running coach and friend of John’s. There have been days that he hurt and rather than running just because his plan said to do so, he listened to his body and took a day or two off. This has kept him free from any major injuries and has enabled him to rest when he needed it without straying too far from his plan.

2. Run with a Group

John is a member of Team X. Because he runs with this group of men and women, he has accountability, safety, and interesting conversation. He has made new friends and pushed himself more than if he had just been training alone. Because of Team X he has joined the Tupelo Running Club and has met even more folks in the running community, including the skunks at Ballard Park.

3. Cross Train. Cross Train. Cross Train.

Cross training keeps you healthy and less prone to injury. John loves to swim and has enjoyed swimming laps at the Tupelo Aquatic Center as part of his cross training. He also does yoga for runners to stay loose, as he is prone to stay tight. Make all the jokes you want. I always do. While it is time consuming to add more training on your running days off, he is committed to this race and has done a great job of putting in the work that needs to be done.

4. Summer miles bring fall smiles.

If I’ve said it once on this blog, I’ve said 100 times. It’s been a miserably hot summer. The vast majority of John’s training has taken place during the summer months and even the fall months have been sweltering thus far. But, two Saturdays ago when he ran 20 miles, it was 54 degrees, was one of the best training runs he has had at an 8:58 pace, and he never looked back. It looks like the weather in NYC is going to be similar to what we are experiencing now, with marathon temps hitting the mid to upper 50’s. Because of the miles John has put in, he’ll be ready.

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We are excited about our trip to New York in two short weeks. I’m signed up to run the Abbott Dash to Finish Line 5K, which takes you on the final three miles of the marathon with the same finish in Central Park. I can’t wait to experience the same thing that John will get to do the next day, minus the first 23.1 miles. Some fabulous friends of ours are coming to the city to help cheer on John, so we’re looking forward to a wonderful long weekend in the Big Apple.

Have you run the New York Marathon or been a spectator during the race? I’m still researching where to go to make sure I get to see John other than just at the finish line, so I would love to hear about your experience.

2016 Miles to Go: 799