Denver Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon

With a 7:15 start time about 2 miles from my house, I did not have to get up super early for this race. My friend Tera was in town from Tulsa and had decided to run it on a whim with a two week training plan consisting of a 5, 7, and 10 mile run at Tulsa elevation (i.e. 700 ft as opposed to 5K ft). So I knew we were not going for any records here. By 6 am, we were gathering our things together and at 6:15, David got up to drive us to the start.

I was all bundled up in a hat, jacket and sweatpants, but it was surprisingly warm out. Once we got to the start, we decided to get our pink coloring out. When I had run a color run earlier this summer, I got some extra pink color at the race finish. I had no idea what to do with it until Tera and I were deciding on costumes. We were not feeling creative, so we decided to go with pink. Easy enough. We were wearing pink shirts and could color our hair/face/body pink.

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Easy enough. We then had to look all over Civic Center Park to find the gear check and hurry back to the start line. The race was a little late starting, but we were not cold so it did not matter. And we were off. I had told Tera we should stick to 11 min miles to begin with because I did not want her to crash too early in the race. Our first mile was just under 10, but it was the first mile and we were having fun. Tera actually saw her one other friend who lives in Denver during the first mile. She called out to him and I was so confused: “how does she know someone here?” We laughed about that.

Then the bridges and the hills began. I knew there was a big steep hill around mile 3-4 and had warned her about it. What I had not realized was that the course split this big hill up several times, so we went up, then over, then up and over, etc. I think Tera kept thinking the hill was done and then there it was again. I felt bad for not realizing this. Luckily, we saw porta potties at one point and we both needed to pee. So we wasted a good 5 minutes in line, but it was worth it as we felt much better afterwords.

By mile 4 we were done with the major hills and we were entering my neighborhood. I looked for David and found him right where I expected him to be. I asked how our friends were doing, who I assumed were ahead of us after our long stop at the bathroom. He said everyone was doing great (two friends were running their first marathons) and that he would catch us on the other side of the lake.

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Not from race day, but a view of the Denver skyline behind Sloan’s Lake.

We were running along Sloan’s Lake, where I run all the time. But now we were on the road (17th Ave) instead of the bike path. I never realized how slanted the road was. By the time we got to the end of 17th, Tera was struggling. I think the hills had been rough on her and she was complaining about her ankle. We pulled off to the side so she could stretch her ankle; the slanted road bothered it.

By the time we got around the lake we were near the halfway mark. Tera seemed to be doing better. I was feeding us orange Honey Stinger chews and we were feeling OK. Except that I had to pee again. What? I never have to stop in half marathons, but I guess taking it at an easy pace allowed me to drink more and feel my body more. I saw David and his friend Mark around mile 7 and I stopped this time to complain about my bladder. When I saw Mark and Tera introducing themselves and shaking hands, I remembered we had a race to run. We were off again. We ran up a little hill on Federal and went past North High School. We were done with the hills for real this time and came across an aid station with porta potties. Yes!

At this point, we were starting mile 8 which was downhill. We managed to drink a few Gatorades as we were in line. I told Tera we only had 5 miles to go and no more hills. We had a major downhill ahead of us and we could do it! We were so ready to run after our second break of the race. The downhill was nice and soon we were back downtown. We headed into the industrial part of town where there was no one cheering for us and maybe only one band between miles 9 and 12. The only thing of interest we passed was Coors Field:

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Again, not on race day and this is the inside of the park. We only passed it on the outside.

Mentally, it was a little rough. Tera stopped to stretch her ankle again and I was counting down miles. Only 2 more to go!

By the time we hit mile 12, I was ready to push it, but Tera was struggling. I hung back with her even though she kept telling me to go. With about a half mile to go, I realized she was going to be fine and was not really in the mood to talk. So I ran ahead so I could grab a picture of her finishing. As I was in the finisher’s chute, I saw David again! I told him to check on Tera since I felt bad for leaving her. I finished and got my camera out to get her, but then I got pushed through the line. The photographer was not happy I was standing there and volunteers were leading me out. Boo! I just wanted to see my friend finish! She finally found me a few minutes later in the chute. She was feeling great, despite slowing a lot at the end. We had done it!

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The chute at the end went on forever with lots of food/drink options. We grabbed a few handfuls and shoved them in my pack. Then we were off to find the gear check again. David was checking in on his friends at the 19 mile marker and was then biking home. We would take the bus and meet him at home. Unfortunately the bus took forever. We stopped at a stop for a good 5 minutes. Tera got up to stretch and made friends with the entire bus (they were all curious why we would want to run 13 miles for fun).

We got home and showered the pink out of us. That felt good and we waited for our friends to finish the marathon and be ready for food. Before long, we were headed to Hamburger Mary’s for a good burger and fries.

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This was only Tera’s second half and the first one she ran on little training and at altitude. She rocked it with a 2:40 finish (I was 2 minutes ahead of her at 2:38). I really thought she was not going to make it at mile 5 and she proved me wrong! We were actually proud of ourselves for listening to our bodies and taking rest and stretch stops. That is the way to take a half marathon easy!

My Birthday

Yikes! Things got a little busy last week and I am behind on the blog. Well, my birthday was Thursday (October 16) and I had a great day. It started with pancakes and cranberry juice in bed.

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With a slab of butter and no syrup–just how I like them (I hate sticky maple syrup, even if it is real and fresh from Maine or Vermont. Call me crazy.)

I had not been feeling well and David wanted to take me to dinner that night. I told him I would see how I was feeling by the middle of the day and then make reservations. Luckily, I was feeling ready for a good meal. Even if I was not feeling 100%, I was not about to take a rain check for a good dinner. I made reservations to Table Six for that night.

We had been to Table 6 one other time when we first started dating and I love the atmosphere. You can watch the chefs making the meals (it is an open kitchen) and the walls are all made of brick. Although there is not a full bar, the beer/wine selection is pretty decent (I went with water, of course, because I had not been feeling well).

The menu sounded delicious and I had a hard time choosing, but I settled on lamb with a deconstructed shepherd’s pie. It was worth it and I was so glad I was feeling better!

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We decided not to eat dessert there because we had ice cream at home. We came home and watched some Thursday night football before I crashed. It was a perfect, relaxing birthday :) And my weekend was even better! More on that later this week…

A Weekend in the Delaware Water Gap, PA and NJ

Last Friday David and I rented a car from Newark Airport to take us west to the mountains on the PA/NJ border. We had rented a small little apartment from Air B&B (highly recommended!) in East Stroudsburg, PA in the Delaware Water Gap. The apartment was just off of a couple’s house and they have been renting the apartment for the past 4 years. They showed us around their property and even gave us access to their kayaks since we were right on the Delaware River.

We were excited, but by the time we had gotten there and settled in, it was dark. We were tired and the apartment was cozy, so we pretty much spent the night inside (minus stopping for some excellent, cheap Jersey-style pizza!).

The next morning we woke up to rain, sadly. It was the pouring east coast rain that did not look like it would ever stop. Since we did not want to get too cold and wet before the wedding that night, we waited inside until it calmed down later in the morning. We waited until 10 am before we grabbed a map of the Delaware Water Gap and took off. We stayed on the Pennsylvania side and headed north. Within five minutes of being on the road, we came across this guy:

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I HATE that it turned out blurry. I was in a hurry and tried to zoom in on my iphone (bad mistake) but I caught him before he scampered into the woods. Bears have been very active in this area and just a month ago, a Rutgers student was killed in NJ by a bear, the first human death since the 1850s in NJ. We were in the car and scared him off before we could get a good look at him (her?).

So that was our excitement as we drove north. We stopped at the visitor’s center but it was closed so we decided to head north to some waterfalls. When we got there, we found the road was closed to cars. So we parked the car and hiked in. It was so nice to be alone on this road with the colorful leaves surrounding us.

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About a mile in, we reached the first of the falls, but the water level seemed a bit low. They were still impressive and the vegetation was so lush compared to what we get in CO:

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We continued hiking in to see the next waterfall, which was a little more impressive:

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We noticed some stairs off to the side and took them up. The stairs led us on a maze up and over water so we were standing just on top and behind the falls where we saw more falls: IMG_1467

 

We then had to turn around so we could shower and get ready for the wedding that night. The rain had stopped, but it was still chilly outside.

We got dressed and we were ready to go. The ceremony started at 4 and was about 20 minutes from where we were staying. We got there right at 4 and realized it was an outdoor wedding (I missed that detail and while I had a warm coat on, my legs were completely exposed. Most of the other women were in a similar position and luckily, they were serving hot cider as we waited for the ceremony to begin. As we all sat down, I warmed up because of all the body heat. The ceremony did not start until close to 5 so we chatted with the people sitting around us. It is always so fun to learn how other people are connected to the bride and groom.

The ceremony started and was a fun ceremony with a rabbi who knew the bride and groom well. We learned a lot about the couple and their families. The bride is a doctor and the groom is a film-maker (who was David’s first roommate when he moved to Boulder ten years ago), so the theme of intelligence meeting creativity came up as family members and close friends came up to bless the couple. It was really fun.

After the ceremony, we stood around in a small house as drinks and appetizers were served. Even though we were inside, my feet were freezing, making standing in heels uncomfortable. I managed to sneak out to the car and change into my boots and that made all the difference in the world! We had dinner in a heated tent and I was much warmer then. We sat with a couple who was from Boulder, so we had plenty to talk about. Then we danced and had a blast for the rest of the night:IMG_1477

They had an after party with a bonfire, sparklers and s’mores, which was just the right way to end the night.

The next day, we headed back to the inn for brunch with the couple. It was so nice to be able to talk to them. Even though it was a large wedding, we had plenty of time to talk to the bride and groom throughout the weekend.

After brunch, we headed back to the NJ side of the Delware Water Gap. We had planned to hike on the Appalachian Trail, but the parking lot was a zoo. It was way too crowded so we headed north to Mt. Blue Lake where we had about an hour to wonder in the woods before catching out flight home.

IMG_1482I loved walking along with the leaves crunching under my feet. There is something so peaceful about the sound and smell of crunchy fall leaves. It was a weekend with the perfect combination of city time, outdoor time and celebrating with good friends.

 

A Day in NYC

Although I have never actually lived in NYC, I know the city pretty well and kind of feel at home when I am there. It is a familiar place and each neighborhood has its own little memories. Last Thursday-Friday, we were able to spend about 24 hours in the city and we took advantage of it.

We flew into LaGuardia in the early afternoon and then took the train to our hotel in lower Manhattan. We were starving and almost considered running to grab lunch before checking in to the hotel, but knew it would be a pain if we had our luggage with us. We checked in and ran down the street to Vanessa’s Dumplings (thank you, Yelp) for some dumplings and noodles.

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Between the two of us, we ordered a lot of food for under $10. Oh, how I love you, Chinatown.

After our stomachs were filled, we wondered what we should do with our day. I realized I had never been to the High Line. The last time I had a chance to check it out, it was only partially finished and I decided to wait to see it once more was added to it. And I am glad I waited! It was extremely well done. If you are not familiar with the High Line, it is a public walkway made on an old (no longer in use) rail line on Manhattan’s West Side. It is completely outdoors and a few stories above the streets. It has been made into a green space really well with plenty of vibrant garden plants and flowers growing alongside it.

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I had originally envisioned the High Line as a new space for running, but once I saw the number of tourists and others walking it, I realized running should remain on the designated paths in the city. There were too many people here.

We walked to the end (1.45 miles)  and found ourselves with tired legs (I was not wearing the right shoes) in Midtown. Nothing sounded better than sitting down in a quiet place with a happy hour drink. So we walked from the West Side to the middle where we could hopefully grab a good drink. Unfortunately, the place we wanted to go was packed and standing room only. My legs were not happy.

Instead, we gave up on Midtown, took the Subway back to our hotel and enjoyed a nice roooftop happy hour drink with views of the city and made dinner plans. We decided burgers sounded great and found a unique, Hungarian twist on burgers in the Lower East Side. The Korzo Haus offers burgers wrapped entirely in Hungarian bread and fried together. It took a while for the food to come so I did not get a picture, but it looked like this:

I had a vegetarian beet burger and it was delicious. We stopped for gelato on our walk home. I crashed in bed and slept through the night. Yay.

We woke up on Friday and decided to walk across the Manhattan Bridge to get a better look at the city. We have been across the Brooklyn Bridge several times, so this was a fun alternative and really close to our hotel. It was a beautiful morning for a walk.

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We then decided we needed to go to Katz Deli for an early lunch before leaving the city. I have never been to Katz before, but it is the seen of the infamous When Harry Met Sally scene and David swears the pastrami sandwiches are the best. So we went and it was a good experience. We split a sandwich.

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We then walked all the way to Midtown (I was wearing running shoes this time) with our luggage to check out some shops (no real purchases but looking around is fun if you can stand the crowds) before getting on the NJ train to start our weekend in the NJ/PA woods.

My Denver Rock ‘N Roll Confession

I have been running quite a few races this summer, but when I look at them, the last road race I ran was the Colorado Marathon in early May. And that race was a near disaster. And the half marathon I ran a month before the marathon did not go as planned, either. The half I had run 3 weeks before that one in Moab, Utah was a great race that built my confidence. But each road race after that did not turn out as planned. I was hoping to make the Rock ‘n Roll Half on Oct. 19 my redemption race. I wanted to train well for it and run a solid effort.

While I have been hitting the track or running tempo runs fairly consistently since July (minus the last couple weeks as I was focusing on trails and hills for the Bear Chase Race), I am not feeling entirely confident about this race. And I know that is OK and that just a solid effort race would be fine. But I also am not exactly feeling excited about this race. I love the trails and this won’t have any. I also know the entire course all too well. I thought it would be fun to run right where I live, but there is nothing new or exciting about it (except maybe the music?).

Earlier this week, I got a text from a very good friend of mine who I knew in China and now lives in Oklahoma. I do not get to see her very often. She said she is coming to Denver for work for a couple days and then wanted to spend the weekend exploring Denver. It happens to be the same weekend as the race. I told her she should absolutely come and stay with us.

Then I remembered that when we lived in China, I would sometimes go to my friend’s apartment by the river where we would run along a river path. I was training for my first marathon (Beijing!) and appreciated the company of not being the only white girl running and getting all the stares. I knew she had run a half marathon a couple years ago, but had no idea if she was in running shape. So I decided to throw it out there and ask if she would be interested in running the Rock ‘n Roll half with me. She was so excited, but said she may have to walk after 9 miles.

For a minute, I pondered whether or not I should run with her. I wondered if I was giving up on a race because I was afraid I would not meet my expectations. But then I said “forget it!” I needed something about this race to be excited about. I do not have many real life (aka not bloggers) friends who are runners. Of my seven marathons and ten halves, I have only run 18 miles of one of my seven marathons (the best one! MDI in Maine) with a very close friend (until I left her at a water station at mile 18 and we were still friends after the race). I have never run a half marathon alongside a friend. And here was one of my best friends that I never get to see excited to run 13 miles and explore Denver with me? Yes, I will do it. I can run races for fun, I can point things out to her and she can be entertainment for me. Heck, we may even run in costumes!

Fall Leaves

Fall is probably my favorite season. I do love seeing the aspen trees in Colorado at this time of year. Last year, we headed to Crested Butte to see the leaves, but sadly this year, we have been stuck in the city.

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On a hike last year with Shrek and Sydney, a dog we were watching at the time.

But I do miss the east coast at this time of year because the colors are so bright and contrasting. Instead of just the yellow aspens, there are many different shades of red, pink, orange, and yellow. I have always said that the weekends around my birthday (Oct. 16) are always the best time for hiking on the east coast. When I lived in Maine, I made it a point to always hike on my birthday in Acadia.

So I guess it is really lucky that we are flying the New York City tomorrow. Our flight leaves early, so we have the majority of the day to walk around the city on Thursday and Friday. Friday night we are renting a car and driving to western NJ/eastern PA, so we can hike/run through the Poconos on Saturday morning. Our friends are getting married Saturday night and we cannot wait to celebrate with them. They picked a gorgeous location for their wedding at a wonderful time of year. So hopefully I will be back next week with great picture of the leaves on the east coast.

In honor of the wedding, I got a long-overdue haircut last night:

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I think she cut about 5 inches off. It feels amazing! But it is still ponytail length, so that makes me happy. I ran with a short ponytail this morning and it was so great not to feel it flopping around. Plus, it is so much easier to wash and wear down when it is shorter. I feel like a new person.

Bear Chase Photo Contest

Well, you all know how much I loved the Bear Chase Trail Race. I happened to take a picture in the morning before the race and it is now a finalist in a contest and I could win a gift certificate to a local running store. I have NEVER asked you guys to vote for me, but now I am. Please. You know I would vote for you if the chance arose :)

So if you are on Instagram, you can vote for #2 on this photo.

Or on Facebook, you can go here (also #2).

Thank you, guys! I will find a way to pay you back (if I win, of course).

To Track or Not to Track?

Like most trends, I am a few years behind. I kind of rolled my eyes a few years ago as Fit Bits and other fitness trackers came out. Ever since David surprised me with my Garmin, I felt that was all I needed. Before the Garmin, I had been fine with using my phone for most runs. Before that, I never needed anything. I trained for my entire first marathon based on time, not distance. I have resisted electronic tracking because I know what makes me feel good or not. But I do get curious sometimes.

Now that is is October (yay!), David asked me what I wanted for my birthday and my answer surprised even me: a FitBit. It was kind of a joke and I honestly do not think I want to invest fully in one. After I answered (to which he responded you have a nice Garmin, you don’t need anything else!), I pondered why I wanted one. I came up with the following reasons:

1. I want to see what it does take to reach 10,000 steps a day. I have run with Paige in the evenings a couple times when hers went off at the beginning of the run, alerting her that she had hit 10,000. And I know Paige is active all day, so I do think 10,000 steps would be a challenge for me on my non-running days. When I take Shrek and Zoey on a 20 minute walk, how many steps am I really taking?

2. Motivation for aforementioned rest days. When my legs are tired and sore, a long walk really does help them. But sometimes I need that extra push to get out the door. Even after a run in the morning, I tend to be lazy that evening and skimp the dogs on a good walk. This may be motivation.

3. Sleep tracking. Two to three days a week, I do not sleep well. I fall asleep with no problem and then sometimes between 2 and 4 am, I am wide awake again. It is frustrating, but I can deal with it. It would, however, be nice to see how much deep sleep I do get and how that makes me feel.

{If you are interested in GPS watches and fitness trackers, here is a great article highlighting the latest trends}.

I have come to the conclusion that I want to try one out for a few weeks or a month or so. I know people that get one and use it for a few months and then it sits in a drawer. Can you rent one of these? Because that would be perfect for me. Seriously: Who uses one? Would you recommend it or is it just another gimmicky thing?

My Relaxing Weekend

Remember last weekend when I was supposed to have my quiet time? Well, I certainly have it this weekend. And it has been with not one, but two 4:30 am wake-up alarms. Now, I only wake up this early on the weekends when I have something fun to do, and indeed I have had fun!

Saturday began with a 10 mile trail run in Castle Rock with Mary. It was cool and crisp and DARK when we met in the parking lot at 6 am. I forgot a headlamp, but I had Zoey with me. So Mary was able to keep the trail lit for the first 15 minutes and Zoey was able to keep the predators away. This was by far Zoey’s longest trail run. I usually cap her at 5 miles during the summer unless there is plenty of water around. But she has backpacked with us in the cool mountains and gone on for miles and miles, so I knew that she could do ten in the cooler weather. She was a champ! But she was definitely tired for the rest of the day (good!). Zoey is definitely becoming a good trail running companion!

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We came home and gathered Shrek (who preferred to sunbath in the backyard while we were gone) and then proceeded to spend an embarrassingly long time on the couch watching Gilmore Girls.

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True fact: I started watching GG in the winter of 2009 when I was living in China and was a bit lonely. The Gilmores and the entire Stars Hallow community became my friends for way too long when I was there. I watched the entire series more than once or twice. Usually I would run or swim in the afternoons, come home to shower, eat a quick dinner and then veg out on my bed for hours watching this series. I bought all the DVDs in China and brought them home with me, but I have not really watched it much since then. Because it Gilmore Girls just came to Netflix streaming this week, I had to take advantage of it. It was like old friends were reunited.

Sunday morning was another early morning wake-up. This time it was to get downtown to volunteer for the Denver Hot Chocolate race. A few weeks ago, I received an email requesting volunteers for this race. They promised a nice, fluffy hoodie for volunteering.  Well, the race started about 2 miles from my house and I am in need of a new hoodie to wear all the time this winter. I requested to be a course marshall so I could be out on the course directing runners. I was placed at the first turn for both the 5K and the 15K runners, so my job was finished after about an hour.

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Not quite the same as handing out medals to ultra-marathon finishers, but still a lot of fun. I got to keep the cattle bell, but the good part is that the hoodie did not disappoint; it is super soft and comfy. Oh-and the hot chocolate they had was really good!

On tap for the rest of the day? Maybe some football and some more Gilmore GIrls? Walking the dogs? Making more tomato sauce from the garden? Who know? But I guarantee it will be easy and relaxing.

Our New Front Yard

Well, if you have been following me since August, you will know that we tackled a large project that has provided me with plenty of hours and days of cross-training. This past weekend, David and I finally completed our front yard transformation. I documented the first part of the project here. We did this entirely by hand (no machines involved) and spent many long weekend days moving dirt and digging up grass.

When we bought the house in January, we were not entirely impressed with the “curb appeal” of the home. Not that we really care about appearance *that* much, but we wanted a yard that was not more weeds than grass with plenty of brown patches in between.

IMG_1014Also, our house a duplex with a shared wall next door. The houses are separate properties and each has the feel of a single family home, as many houses built in our neighborhood in the 1920s are. We wanted to separate our lawn, so it looks distinct from the one next door.

So we read a bit about xeriscaping and building a retention wall. We have a bit of a hill in the yard, and I advocated for a wall to go there. So we got a lot of heavy stone and built a wall.

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Then we leveled the ground, covered the dirt and lay mulch. We liked the big pieces of bark to serve as mulch and it was cheap enough from Home Depot.

The fun part was choosing plants to put in. We have a basement window that was pretty exposed (see in the first picture). That window is to our guest bedroom, so we wanted to give it a bit of privacy. When we first moved in, we planted that spruce that you see in the top picture. But we decided we would rather have a couple shrubs there. So we moved the spruce and bought two yews, which we hope will grow together to form a bit of a shield over the next few years.

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We then wanted these yellow mooncreeper shrubs to lighten up the yard. We got three of them; two went on one side of the yard and one on the other.

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Then we wanted another layer. We were thinking we would go with decorative grasses, but we also really liked the russian sage. So we decided to get some of each to add diversity. Plus, they both have a bit of a silvery look to them so they complement one another.

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In front of the retaining walls are our flower beds. We will plant annual flowers each year. Because it is fall, mums are are out in full force. so We bought some mums to fill the beds and add more color for the next month or so. And here are the final pictures:

IMG_2577 IMG_2580 IMG_2576We still have the area between the sidewalk and the front curb to do. We plan to take the grass out of them, but we will wait until next spring to do that.

Oh and David wants to add a small layer of groundcover just above/behind the wall. I was hesitant that it might be too much, but maybe in the spring, we will add some flox. I do love the way flox hangs over walls, but I want to see how I feel about it after I have gotten used to it for a while.