Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009!

With only a few hours left in the year, it is time to say goodbye to 2009. I hate to see it go, 2009 was a good year for us. Sadly, I know several peoples who are glad to see the year end. After we had a horrible 2008, I can understand what they are feeling. either way, I am looking forward to the promise of 2010.

2009 started poorly (I had food poisoning last New Year's Eve ans spent New Year's Day in bed), but got better quickly. Bill started the year with a new job after about 6 months of unemployment. I started the year with the same job, but spent 2009 really appreciating what a good job I have. We travelled to Orlando, Virginia Beach, Asheville, Quebec City, Charlotte, Charleston, and Philadelphia. I went to California to attend my high school reunion, and reunited with some of my best friends on the planet. It was a year for racing - Bill and I each completed 11 races, from 5Ks to my first marathon.

All in all, I have no complaints. 2009 treated me quite well. I end the year happy with goals accomplished. I just hope that 2010 will be as good or better. I think it will be.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lucky Girl

I am a very lucky girl. I had an absolutely wonderful Christmas this year. My sweet husband did his very best (and succeeded) to make it a wonderful holiday. He got up some time in the middle of the night and turned on all of the Christmas lights downstairs so I would see them first thing in the morning. He also got me everything I had on my wish list, plus a few surprises. One of the sweetest surprises was a DVD of the movie Eloise. He bought it for me because he knows the book Eloise at Christmastime is very special to me since it was a book I read at my grandparents house every year over the holidays. I was so very touched by his gift.

I am also lucky because I have the ability to spoil my husband, friends, and family at Christmas. I enjoy picking out gifts for people, and I am glad that I don't have to worry about a particular budget for gift giving. We had a great Christmas afternoon with Bill's family. It was fun to see the nephews with their gifts, and I think my sisters-in-law (we drew their names in our annual gift exchange) enjoyed their gifts as well. We all shared a lovely meal together and just enjoyed the wonderful, albeit rainy, day.

I have also had a streak of luck lately. I won free passes to see the movie Sherlock Holmes. Bill and I went to see it last night. It was pretty good. I think Robert Downey, Jr., is a wonderful actor, and I really like both Jude Law and Rachel McAdams. I also won a contest for a DVD giveaway on Christmas Eve. I had been entering the contests all week (there was a different giveaway each day), but the one I really wanted was on the last day. I won it! It is the complete first season of the TV show The Mentalist. I have heard it is a good show, and I look forward to checking it out. Now, it I could only keep the lucky streak going and win the lottery...that would be a great way to start 2010!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I love everything about the holidays. I have been baking like crazy (and eating the fruits of my labor). I have sent out Christmas cards and gotten many in return from friends near and far. I have decorated every room downstairs in my house with Christmas cheer. I have been to parties and celebrated with friends. Tomorrow, I get to spend the day with family.

I hope that you are having a wonderful holiday season. May peace and joy be with you today and always. Merry Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Race Day, 11/22/09-The Philadelphia Marathon, Part III

I had just made the turn away from the finish line and started heading in the direction of mile 14. A woman appeared next to me and suddenly stated "Where the hell is the damn finish line?" I looked at her, and asked if she was doing to half marathon. She was. I told her she had missed the turn and needed to go back. I don't know how anyone could have missed it. There were so many signs and announcements. I guess she was pretty darned tired.

I left the yelling supporters and headed up a hill. Soon, I was in total quiet. I didn't see anyone. I was a bit nervous that I had somehow gotten off the race route, but I soon saw the sign for mile 14. I headed down a hill, then I was on a four lane highway running along the river. From there, the race was an out and back to a small town called Manayunk. I was seeing all the runners heading toward the finish, and hearing people say things like "Don't worry, you will be in Boston." I, however, would not be in Boston as I still had half a race to finish.

I was nearing mile 15 when I heard the ambulance. I never did see the person who needed the ambulance, but I did run past the emergency workers and volunteers. I was just happy it was not me needing medical attention. It was a long boring road out to Manayunk. There were not many spectators along this road, so it was harder to stay running. I did soon see our friends Gary, Kari, and Chris as they headed back to the museum. I still had miles to go.

The town of Manayunk was so cute. All of the local bars and restaurants were open and many had outdoor seating. People cheered us runners as they enjoyed their brunch. I saw several of my Galloway friends, including Eric who had run a marathon in Delaware the day before. He yelled so loud when he saw me, it really made me feel great.

I had been calling Bill all through the race giving me updates to my position. I called him again around mile 23 where I needed yet another rest stop (I swear I have never had to go during a training run, but I went twice in this race!) There was a man shouting at the runners "Pain is weakness leaving the body!" It is one of my favorite quotes, and I had to chuckle. I told him I must have a lot of weakness. A female runner next to me said that wasn't true or else I would no longer be running. She was right.

The miles from 23 to 26 went by so quickly. I was back at the museum, knowing that my goal was within reach. I saw my step brother, Jamie, waiting for me with a huge grin on his face. He ran with me and took a video of my finish. I saw my step mom, then Bill taking pictures right near the 26 mile marker. My dad, aunt, and uncle were there, too. By then, I knew there were no more walk breaks, so I just kept running. I finished in 5:54, beating my goal by 6 minutes. I was so happy to receive my medal - it is beautiful.

My family took such good care of me after the race. After all of the hugs and kisses, they went to get me water, broth, fruit and a famous Philly pretzel. I had my picture taken by the marathon sign, and even got to see my friend Hardin. It was such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. I am so happy that I was able to share it with my family.

After a stop back at the hotel to clean up and a good bye to my family members, Bill and I head out in search of every runner's favorite post race refreshment, beer. We went to a bar called Monk's where we had some great Belgium beer and burgers. We later met our friends for dinner and we all celebrated a great race day by eating more food and drinking more beer.

I so enjoyed the Philadelphia Marathon. It was a great race in a wonderful city. The route was good, the people were wonderful, and there are so may things to do and see. I would recommend this race to anyone. Thank you, City of Brotherly Love. I had a fantastic time!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Race Day 11/22/09-The Philadelphia Marathon, Part II

I was off on the biggest race of my life to date. We started down Benjamin Franklin Parkway away from the museum. Before my group arrived at the starting line, we saw volunteers unwrapping the medals for the finishing runners. I kind of wondered why they were hanging medals from their arms now - it would be at least 2 hours before even the fastest runner finished the race. I heard the runner next to me say that he would just go ahead and take the medal now. I chuckled, but I wanted to earn the medal. See you in a few hours, guys!

I was less than a half mile into the race when I started to feel the Nano slipping down my arm. I also noticed that I was hearing the same group, and wondered if I would hear the same album on rotation for the next 6 hours. I let the distraction of my music problems get to me. I almost missed seeing Independence Hall and Benjamin Franklin's final resting place. I got my stuff together, my I will never, ever try something new on race day. Lesson learned!

We ran through Chinatown, then turned to go on a road near the Delaware River. With about 2 miles in, people were starting to shed clothes. I was not one of them. We were given throw away gloves in our race bag, but how could I toss cute gloves with the marathon name, logo, and date on them? Nope, that's a souvenir I am keeping.

We hit the first water stop, and headed back into center city. People were out in on the streets cheering for the passing runners. We were greeted by a couple welcoming us to famous South Street, home of bars, stores, and Jim's Steaks where I would be eating a celebratory cheesesteak on Monday. We turned toward Society Hill, and were again greeted. A man dressed in colonial garb shouted welcome at us and informed us we were at mile 5. Five miles, that's it?

Luckily, we had much more of downtown to distract us during the run. I saw Boyd's menswear store. I used to go to Boyd's with my mom and dad when I was a kid. We would shop for suits for my dad there when I was 5 or 6 years old. That is why I picked this race. It is like coming home for me.

We started to leave the downtown area and head to the campus of Drexel University. We ran past many frat houses with blasting stereos and lots of guys checking out the female runners. Apparently, guys were giving out food at some point, but I was too late for it. We went past the Philadelphia Zoo, and then up the worse hill of the race (which honestly wasn't all that bad).

I realized that I had a problem at that point. I needed to pee. I never pee while running. I have never peed during a race. Heck, I didn't have to use the bathroom during my 20, 23, or 25.5 mile training runs. I reached to top of the hill and saw a row of port-a-potties. I went for it. I walked right up and into a stall, took care of my business and got back on the road. I probably lost a minute tops, but it was worth it. Gross, but worth it.

We went down the hills, and had a little bit of course were we ran down one direction of the street, then doubled back on the same road. I saw several folks from Raleigh there. It was so nice to shout encouragement to them, and get kid words back. It kept my going on the road along the Schuylkill River. I saw the museum looming ahead.

I could hear the roar of the crowd. There were hundreds of people at the museum cheering on their friends and family members. There were even marathoners finishing by then. I saw the fork ahead. Half marathon finishers to the right. Mile 14 to the left.

I took a deep breath and went left. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Race Day 11/22/09-The Philadelphia Marathon, Part I

I am very good at denial. If I am faced with something difficult, I just don't allow myself to think about it. It is with that attitude that I can tell you that I had no problems sleeping the night before the marathon. I did not panic when I woke up, either. I had all of my things perfectly laid out on our dining table. I simply and methodically layered on my clothes and all of the necessary accessories (it seems strange that people used to run in a just a T-shirt, shorts, and shoes!), and prepared to meet our friends in the lobby of the hotel.

Chris, Gary and Kari were all running the marathon with me, while Bill was running the half marathon. We agreed to meet in the lobby at 6 am to walk over for the 7 am start. Apparently, the denial did not have me thinking very clearly or I would have realized that half the people in the hotel were going to the start of the race. It took us about 10 minutes to get an elevator. I would have walked, but going down 15 flights of stairs before running 26.2 miles seemed like a bad idea. We finally made it to the lobby, and out the door we went.

It wasn't too cold for the start. I took a warming cover from one of the old races I had run to keep me warm. Those things are great for warmth, and so easy just to toss aside when the race begins. When you finish, you get a brand new one to add to your collection for the next race. As soon as we got outside in the semi-darkness, I saw about 6 members of the Raleigh Galloway running group across the street. I raced over to them to say hello and to check with one of my group leaders. He had run a marathon in Delaware the day before and was going to run this marathon as well (yes, there are a few crazy people who do that sort of thing). It was so nice to see familiar faces before blending into the crowd of about 20,000 people. Soon, I lost everybody except Bill. We stayed together through the bag drop off and into my corral (this race was a wave start with small groups of runners starting every 5 minutes or so).

Bill gave me some final words of encouragement and started to show me how to work his Ipod Nano. He loaned it to me since it has more memory than the Ipod Shuffle I usually wear while running. Soon, it was time for him to go, too. We wished each other well and kissed goodbye. I figured I had better turn on the Nano and get it ready for the race.

One of the biggest rules in running is NEVER try something new on race day. It is a rule I had always followed, and I really don't know why I decided to break it for the biggest race of my life. I pushed play, and the music blasted in my ears. It was way too loud. I tried to remember what Bill had said about volume control.

Let's see - run your finger lightly around the dial. Mmmm, nothing happened. OK, well, let's try it a little bit harder. Gosh, this music is really too loud, I have better turn it off. Oops!

Well, I could not see the player since it was strapped to my upper left arm. I had to take it out of the case to get the controls to make the adjustments. The next thing I hear is Elvis singing Blue Christmas. I love Christmas music, but that was not what I wanted to hear while I was running for the next 6 hours. Now, I start to panic. I wonder if there is anyone who can help me fix this thing before the race starts. Too late - the race has started.

Luckily, my corral was far back. I finally figured out how to change the volume, and I got the playlist back to my running music. I was really pissed, though. I knew the rule, and I broke it. I tried to put it out of my mind and prepare for the race start. I was listening to the announcer talk about the race and heard him say that the Mayor of Philadelphia was at the starting line. He was talking with the mayor (who also had a mike) and was teasing him about high fiving the runners who went by him. The mayor said he had worked out with the Phillies bull pen, and that his arm and hand were ready for as many people who wanted a high five.

Finally, my group was at the start. I found myself on the right side of the corral. I always like to stick to the edge so the faster runners can have the middle. I look up and see the mayor is on my side. There were only a few people in front of me, so I decided to wait to high five the mayor. I figured it would bring me luck. Being the superstitious type, I will say that it did bring me luck because I did much better that I expected. So, it you ever find yourself running the Philadelphia Marathon, be sure to high five the mayor on your way to the starting line.

With a quick hand slap, I was off and running. The journey had begun. Stay tuned...

Monday, December 07, 2009

It has been too long...

Well, what can I say? I have been pretty busy lately. It is about time I have updated my blog, so here goes...

I did it. I finished the Philadelphia Marathon. Not only did I finish, I finished faster than I thought I would. At the beginning of this training season, I decided my goal would be 6 hours. In the Galloway program, we do a measure called the Magic Mile where you run a mile as fast as you can. Based on your finish time for the mile, you can predict your finished for every length of race. My Magic Mile indicated I would finish a marathon in 6 hour, 15 minutes. I was a bit bummed because I really wanted to run 6 hours. Well, I finished it in 5 hours, 54 minutes. Ha!

Philadelphia is a wonderful city. We arrived on Friday to give up plenty of time to get ready for the race and to be able to visit my family who lives in the area. We had a great hotel right on Benjamin Franklin Parkway which is the main road that leads to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the race begins and ends. There were several members of the Raleigh Galloway running group in town for the race. Our close friends, Chris & Tara as well as Gary & Kari, were all there as well. We met up with them at the race Expo on Friday, and enjoyed a great Italian meal with them Friday night.

On Saturday, we were able to visit the largest museum of Rodin sculpture outside of Paris in the morning. We also walked up to the museum to have our picture taken with the Rocky statue, and to run those famous stairs. My dad and his family flew down from Boston to spend the weekend with my aunt and uncle. He picked us up around lunchtime on Saturday, and we spent the rest of the day with family. It was so nice to see everyone, and to know that they would be waiting for me at the finish line. My aunt and uncle are great hosts - they served an early meal of spaghetti with turkey meat sauce just for us.

Soon, it was time to head to the hotel to get some sleep before the big race. To be continued...